Hindenburg, Paul von (in full: Paul Ludwig Hans Anton von Beneckendorff und von Hindenburg) (1847–1934), a German general and president. He became a popular hero during World War I, but much of the credit for his victories belonged to his chief of staff, Erich Ludendorff. As president, 1925–34, Hindenburg was mainly a figurehead.
Hindenburg was born into a Prussian military family. He distinguished himself in the war against Austria in 1866 and in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71. He retired from the army in 1911 after rising to the rank of general. After the outbreak of World War I in 1914 Hindenburg was recalled and given a command in East Prussia, where he had to face two large Russian armies. He decisively defeated the Russians at Tannenberg and the Masurian Lakes. Hindenburg was promoted to the rank of field marshal, and in 1916 was made chief of the General Staff. He and Ludendorff then became the real masters of Germany.
After the war Hindenburg wrote his memoirs, Out of My Life (1920). He argued that the German army had been beaten by the revolution at home—a “stab-in-the-back” theory later used by the Nazis to revive German militarism. In 1925 Hindenburg was elected president of Germany. In 1932 he won reelection by defeating Adolf Hitler but in 1933 he appointed Hitler, who was leader of the largest party in the Reichstag, chancellor (prime minister).