I arrived unscheduled at Halifax, Nova Scotia in June 1977 (Pakistan Seven Zero Three ) in an aircraft emergency on way to New York; returned in August 1994 as landed immigrant in Montreal. I am a former airline captain.
Montage of some ethnic groups in Bangladesh. Clockwise from top left: Bengalis, Chakmas, Garos, Santhals
Estimates of the Bangladeshi population vary, but UN data suggests 162,951,560 million. The 2011 census estimated 142.3 million, much less than 2007–2010 estimates of Bangladesh’s population (150–170 million). Bangladesh is the world’s eighth-most-populous nation. In 1951, its population was 44 million. Bangladesh is the most densely-populated large country in the world, ranking 11th in population density when small countries and city-states are included.
The country’s population-growth rate was among the highest in the world in the 1960s and 1970s, when its population grew from 65 to 110 million. With the promotion of birth control in the 1980s, Bangladesh’s growth rate began to slow. Its total fertility rate is now 2.55, lower than India’s (2.58) and Pakistan’s (3.07). The population is relatively young, with 34 percent aged 15 or younger and five percent 65 or older. Life expectancy at birth was estimated at 70 years in 2012. According to the World Bank, as of 2016 14.8% of the country lives below the international poverty line on less than $1.90 per day.
Bengalis are 98 percent of the population. Of Bengalis, Muslims are the majority, followed by Hindus, Christians and Buddhists.
The Adivasi population includes the Chakma, Marma, Tanchangya, Tripuri, Kuki, Khiang, Khumi, Murang, Mru, Chak, Lushei, Bawm, Bishnupriya Manipuri, Khasi, Jaintia, Garo, Santal, Munda and Oraon tribes. The Chittagong Hill Tracts region experienced unrest and an insurgency from 1975 to 1997 in an autonomy movement by its indigenous people. Although a peace accord was signed in 1997, the region remains militarised.
Bangladesh is home to a significant Ismaili community. It hosts many Urdu-speaking immigrants, who migrated there after the partition of India. Stranded Pakistanis were given citizenship by the Supreme Court in 2008.
Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh number at around 1 million, making Bangladesh one of the countries with the largest refugee populations in the world.
Dhaka is Bangladesh’s capital and largest city. There are 12 city corporations which hold mayoral elections: Dhaka South, Dhaka North, Chittagong, Comilla, Khulna, Mymensingh, Sylhet, Rajshahi, Barisal, Rangpur, Gazipur and Narayanganj. Mayors are elected for five-year terms. Altogether there are 506 urban centres in Bangladesh among which 43 cities have a population of more than 100000.
More than 98 percent of people in Bangladesh speak Bengali, sometimes called Bangla, as their native language.Dialects of Bengali are spoken in some parts of the country, which include non-standard dialects (sometimes viewed as separate languages) such as Chatgaiya, Sylheti and Rangpuri. Pakistani Biharis, stranded since 1971 and living in Bangladeshi camps, speak Urdu. Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, living in Bangladeshi camps since 1978, speak Rohingya. Several indigenous minority languages are also spoken.
Bengali is the official language. However, English is sometimes used secondarily for official purposes (especially in the legal system). Although laws were historically written in English, they were not translated into Bengali until 1987. Bangladesh’s constitution and laws now exist in English and Bengali. English is used as a second language by the middle and upper classes, and is widely used in higher education.
Montage of religions of Bangladesh. Clockwise from top left: Muslims praying in Baitul Mukarram; a Hindu monk in Dhakeshwari Temple; a Buddhist monk in Buddha Dhatu Jadi; a Bangladeshi Christian cardinal with other cardinals at the Vatican
Religions in Bangladesh in 2011
Islam is the largest and the official state religion of Bangladesh, followed by 90.4 percent of the population. The country is home to most Bengali Muslims, the second-largest ethnic group in the Muslim world. The vast majority of Bangladeshi Muslims are Sunni, followed by tiny minorities of Shia and Ahmadiya. About four percent are non-denominational Muslims. Bangladesh has the fourth-largest Muslim population in the world, and is the third-largest Muslim-majority country (after Indonesia and Pakistan). Sufism has a lengthy heritage in the region. The largest gathering of Muslims in Bangladesh is the Bishwa Ijtema, held annually by the Tablighi Jamaat. The Ijtema is the second-largest Muslim congregation in the world, after the Hajj.
Hinduism is followed by 8.5 percent of the population; most are Bengali Hindus, and some are members of ethnic minority groups. Bangladeshi Hindus are the country’s second-largest religious group and the third-largest Hindu community in the world, after those in India and Nepal. Hindus in Bangladesh are fairly evenly distributed, with concentrations in Gopalganj, Dinajpur, Sylhet, Sunamganj, Mymensingh, Khulna, Jessore, Chittagong and parts of the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Despite their dwindling numbers, Hindus are the second-largest religious community (after the Muslims) in Dhaka.
Buddhism is the third-largest religion, at 0.6 percent. Bangladeshi Buddhists are concentrated among ethnic groups in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (particularly the Chakma, Marma and Tanchangya peoples), and coastal Chittagong is home to a large number of Bengali Buddhists. Christianity is the fourth-largest religion, at 0.4 percent.
The Constitution of Bangladesh declares Islam the state religion, but bans religion-based politics. It proclaims equal recognition of Hindus, Buddhists, Christians and people of all faiths. In 1972, Bangladesh was South Asia’s first constitutionally-secular country.
Bangladesh has a low literacy rate, which was estimated at 66.5 percent for males and 63.1 percent for females in 2014. The country’s educational system is three-tiered and heavily subsidised, with the government operating many schools at the primary, secondary and higher-secondary levels and subsidising many private schools. In the tertiary-education sector, the Bangladeshi government funds over 15 state universities through the University Grants Commission.
Literacy rates in Bangladesh districts
The education system is divided into five levels: primary (first to fifth grade), junior secondary (sixth to eighth grade), secondary (ninth and tenth grade), higher secondary (11th and 12th grade) and tertiary. Five years of secondary education end with a Secondary School Certificate (SSC) examination; since 2009, the Primary Education Closing (PEC) examination has also been given. Students who pass the PEC examination proceed to four years of secondary or matriculation training, culminating in the SSC examination.
Students who pass the PEC examination proceed to three years of junior-secondary education, culminating in the Junior School Certificate (JSC) examination. Students who pass this examination proceed to two years of secondary education, culminating in the SSC examination. Students who pass this examination proceed to two years of higher-secondary education, culminating in the Higher Secondary School Certificate (HSC) examination.
Education is primarily in Bengali, but English is commonly taught and used. Many Muslim families send their children to part-time courses or full-time religious education in Bengali and Arabic in madrasas.
Bangladesh conforms with the Education For All (EFA) objectives, the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and international declarations. Article 17 of the Bangladesh Constitution provides that all children between the ages of six and ten years receive a basic education free of charge.
Universities in Bangladesh are of three general types: public (government-owned and subsidised), private (privately owned universities) and international (operated and funded by international organisations such). Bangladesh has 34 public, 64 private and two international universities; Bangladesh National University has the largest enrolment, and the University of Dhaka (established in 1921) is the oldest.University of Chittagong (established in 1966) is the largest University (Campus: Rural, 2,100 acres (8.5 km2)) . Islamic University of Technology, commonly known as IUT, is a subsidiary of the Organisation of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC, representing 57 countries in Asia, Africa, Europe and South America). Asian University for Women in Chittagong is the preeminent South Asian liberal-arts university for women, representing 14 Asian countries; its faculty hails from notable academic institutions in North America, Europe, Asia, Australia and the Middle East. BUET, CUET, KUET and RUET are Bangladesh’s four public engineering universities. BUTex and DUET are two specialised engineering universities; BUTex specialises in textile engineering, and DUET offers higher education to diploma engineers. The NITER is a specialised public-private partnership institute which provides higher education in textile engineering. Science and technology universities include SUST, PUST, JUST and NSTU. Bangladeshi universities are accredited by and affiliated with the University Grants Commission (UGC), created by Presidential Order 10 in 1973.
Medical education is provided by 29 government and private medical colleges. All medical colleges are affiliated with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
Bangladesh’s 2015 literacy rate rose to 71 percent due to education modernisation and improved funding, with 16,087 schools and 2,363 colleges receiving Monthly Pay Order (MPO) facilities. According to education minister Nurul Islam Nahid, 27,558 madrasas and technical and vocational institutions were enlisted for the facility. 6,036 educational institutions were outside MPO coverage, and the government enlisted 1,624 private schools for MPO in 2010.
A typical ambulance service in Bangladesh
Health and education levels remain relatively low, although they have improved as poverty levels have decreased. In rural areas, village doctors with little or no formal training constitute 62 percent of healthcare providers practising “modern medicine”; formally-trained providers make up four percent of the total health workforce. A Future Health Systems survey indicated significant deficiencies in the treatment practices of village doctors, with widespread harmful and inappropriate drug prescribing. Receiving health care from informal providers is encouraged.
A 2007 study of 1,000 households in rural Bangladesh found that direct payments to formal and informal healthcare providers and indirect costs (loss of earnings because of illness) associated with illness were deterrents to accessing healthcare from qualified providers. A community survey of 6,183 individuals in rural Bangladesh found a gender difference in treatment-seeking behaviour, with women less likely to seek treatment than to men. The use of skilled birth attendant (SBA) services, however, rose from 2005 to 2007 among women from all socioeconomic quintiles except the highest. A health watch, a pilot community-empowerment tool, was successfully developed and implemented in south-eastern Bangladesh to improve the uptake and monitoring of public-health services.
Bangladesh’s poor health conditions are attributed to the lack of healthcare provision by the government. According to a 2010 World Bank report, 2009 healthcare spending was 3.35 percent of the country’s GDP. The number of hospital beds is 3 per 10,000 population. Government spending on healthcare that year was 7.9 percent of the total budget; out-of-pocket expenditures totalled 96.5 percent.
Malnutrition has been a persistent problem in Bangladesh, with the World Bank ranking the country first in the number of malnourished children worldwide. Twenty-six percent of the population (two-thirds of children under the age of five) are undernourished, and 46 percent of children are moderately or severely underweight. Forty-three to 60 percent of children under five are smaller than normal; one in five preschool children are vitamin-A deficient, and one in two are anaemic. More than 45 percent of rural families and 76 percent of urban families were below the acceptable caloric-intake level.
The recorded history of art in Bangladesh can be traced to the 3rd century BCE, when terracotta sculptures were made in the region. In classical antiquity, a notable school of sculptural Hindu, Jain and Buddhist art developed in the Pala Empire and the Sena dynasty. Islamic art evolved since the 14th century. The architecture of the Bengal Sultanate saw a distinct style of domed mosques with complex niche pillars that had no minarets. Mughal Bengal’s most celebrated artistic tradition was the weaving of Jamdani motifs on fine muslin, which is now classified by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage. Jamdani motifs were similar to Iranian textile art (buta motifs) and Western textile art (paisley). The Jamdani weavers in Dhaka received imperial patronage. Ivory and brass were also widely used in Mughal art. Pottery is widely used in Bengali culture.
The modern art movement in Bangladesh took shape during the 1950s, particularly with the pioneering works of Zainul Abedin. East Bengal developed its own modernist painting and sculpture traditions, which were distinct from the art movements in West Bengal. The Art Institute Dhaka has been an important centre for visual art in the region. Its annual Bengali New Year parade was enlisted as an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO in 2016.
Modern Bangladesh has produced many of South Asia’s leading painters, including :
• SM Sultan
• Mohammad Kibria
• Shahabuddin Ahmed
• Kanak Chanpa Chakma
• Kafil Ahmed
• Saifuddin Ahmed
• Qayyum Chowdhury
• Rashid Choudhury
• Quamrul Hassan
• Rafiqun Nabi
• Syed Jahangir
among others. Novera Ahmed and Nitun Kundu were the country’s pioneers of modernist sculpture. The Chobi Mela is the largest photography festival in Asia.
The oldest evidence of writing in Bangladesh is the Mahasthan Brahmi Inscription, which dates back to the 3rd century BCE in the Gupta Empire, Sanskrit literature thrived in the region. Bengali developed from Sanskrit and Magadhi Prakrit in the from the 8th to 10th century. Bengali literature is a millennium-old tradition; the Charyapadas are the earliest examples of Bengali poetry.
Sufi spiritualism inspired many Bengali Muslim writers. During the Bengal Sultanate, medieval Bengali writers were influenced by Arabic and Persian works. The Chandidas are the notable lyric poets from the early Medieval Age. Syed Alaol was a noted secular poet and translator from the Arakan region. The Bengal Renaissance shaped the emergence of modern Bengali literature, including novels, short stories and science fiction.
Rabindranath Tagore was the first non-European laureate of the Nobel Prize in Literature and is described as the Bengali Shakespeare.
Kazi Nazrul Islam was a revolutionary poet who espoused political rebellion against colonialism and fascism.
Begum Rokeya is regarded as the pioneer feminist writer of Bangladesh.
Other renaissance icons included
• Michael Madhusudan Dutt
• Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay.
The writer Syed Mujtaba Ali is noted for his cosmopolitan Bengali worldview. Jasimuddin was a renowned pastoral poet. Shamsur Rahman was the poet laureate of Bangladesh for many years.
• Al Mahmud is considered one of the greatest Bengali poets to have emerged in the 20th century.
Farrukh Ahmed, Sufia Kamal, and Nirmalendu Goon are important figures of modern Bangladeshi poetry.
• Ahmed Sofa is regarded as the most important Bangladeshi intellectual in the post-independence era.
• Humayun Ahmed was a popular writer of modern Bangladeshi magical realism and science fiction.
Notable writers of Bangladeshi fictions include
• Mir Mosharraf Hossain
• Akhteruzzaman Elias
• Syed Waliullah
• Shahidullah Kaiser
• Shawkat Osman
• Selina Hossain
• Taslima Nasreen
• Haripada Datta
• Razia Khan
• Anisul Hoque
• Bipradash Barua.
Many Bangladeshi writers, such as Muhammad Zafar Iqbal, and Farah Ghuznavi are acclaimed for their short stories.
The annual Ekushey Book Fair and Dhaka Literature Festival, organised by the Bangla Academy, are among the largest literary festivals in South Asia.
Women of Bangladesh
Irene Khan, Secretary General Amnesty International 2007
Although, as of 2015, several women occupied major political office in Bangladesh, its women continue to live under a patriarchal social regime where violence is common. Whereas in India and Pakistan women participate less in the workforce as their education increases, the reverse is the case in Bangladesh.
Bengal has a long history of feminist activism dating back to the 19th century. Begum Rokeya and Faizunnessa Chowdhurani played an important role in emancipating Bengali Muslim women from purdah, prior to the country’s division, as well as promoting girls’ education. Several women were elected to the Bengal Legislative Assembly in the British Raj. The first women’s magazine, Begum, was published in 1948.
In 2008, Bangladeshi female workforce participation stood at 26%. Women dominate blue collar jobs in the Bangladeshi garment industry. Agriculture, social services, healthcare and education are also major occupations for Bangladeshi women, while their employment in white collar positions has steadily increased.
The architectural traditions of Bangladesh have a 2,500-year-old heritage. Terracotta architecture is a distinct feature of Bengal. Pre-Islamic Bengali architecture reached its pinnacle in the Pala Empire, when the Pala School of Sculptural Art established grand structures such as the Somapura Mahavihara. Islamic architecture began developing under the Bengal Sultanate, when local terracotta styles influenced medieval mosque construction. The Adina Mosque of united Bengal was the largest mosque built on the Indian subcontinent.
The Sixty Dome Mosque was the largest medieval mosque built in Bangladesh, and is a fine example of Turkic-Bengali architecture. The Mughal style replaced indigenous architecture when Bengal became a province of the Mughal Empire and influenced the development of urban housing. The Kantajew Temple and Dhakeshwari Temple are excellent examples of late medieval Hindu temple architecture. Indo-Saracenic Revival architecture, based on Indo-Islamic styles, flourished during the British period. The zamindar gentry in Bangladesh built numerous Indo-Saracenic palaces and country mansions, such as the Ahsan Manzil, Tajhat Palace, Dighapatia Palace, Puthia Rajbari and Natore Rajbari.
The bungalow, which originated in Bengal, is a common sight. The roof style seen in the picture is common in the hilly areas of Sylhet and Chittagong
Bengali vernacular architecture is noted for pioneering the bungalow. Bangladeshi villages consist of thatched roofed houses made of natural materials like mud, straw, wood and bamboo. In modern times, village bungalows are increasingly made of tin.
Muzharul Islam was the pioneer of Bangladeshi modern architecture. His varied works set the course of modern architectural practice in the country. Islam brought leading global architects, including Louis Kahn, Richard Neutra, Stanley Tigerman, Paul Rudolph, Robert Boughey and Konstantinos Doxiadis, to work in erstwhile East Pakistan. Louis Kahn was chosen to design the National Parliament Complex in Sher-e-Bangla Nagar. Kahn’s monumental designs, combining regional red brick aesthetics, his own concrete and marble brutalism and the use of lakes to represent Bengali geography, are regarded as one of the masterpieces of the 20th century. In more recent times, award-winning architects like Rafiq Azam have set the course of contemporary architecture by adopting influences from the works of Islam and Kahn.
Theatre in Bangladesh includes various forms with a history dating back to the 4th century CE. It includes narrative forms, song and dance forms, supra-personae forms, performances with scroll paintings, puppet theatre and processional forms. The Jatra is the most popular form of Bengali folk theatre. The dance traditions of Bangladesh include indigenous tribal and Bengali dance forms, as well as classical Indian dances, including the Kathak, Odissi and Manipuri dances.
The music of Bangladesh features the Baul mystical tradition, listed by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Numerous lyric-based musical traditions, varying from one region to the next, exist, including Gombhira, Bhatiali and Bhawaiya. Folk music is accompanied by a one-stringed instrument known as the ektara. Other instruments include the dotara, dhol, flute, and tabla. Bengali classical music includes Tagore songs and Nazrul geeti. Bangladesh has a rich tradition of Indian classical music, which uses instruments like the sitar, tabla, sarod and santoor. Musician Ayub Bachchu is credited with popularising Bengali rock music in Bangladesh.
A woman wearing jamdani in 1787. Bengal has manufactured textiles for many centuries, as recorded in ancient hand-written and printed documents.
The Nakshi Kantha is a centuries-old embroidery tradition for quilts, said to be indigenous to eastern Bengal (i.e. Bangladesh). The sari is the national dress for Bangladeshi women. Mughal Dhaka was renowned for producing the finest Muslin saris, including the famed Dhakai and Jamdani, the weaving of which is listed by UNESCO as one of the masterpieces of humanity’s intangible cultural heritage. Bangladesh also produces the Rajshahi silk. The shalwar kameez is also widely worn by Bangladeshi women. In urban areas some women can be seen in western clothing. The kurta and sherwani are the national dress of Bangladeshi men; the lungi and dhoti are worn by them in informal settings. Aside from ethnic wear, domestically tailored suits and neckties are customarily worn by the country’s men in offices, in schools and at social events.
The handloom industry supplies 60–65% of the country’s clothing demand. The Bengali ethnic fashion industry has flourished in the changing environment of the fashion world. The retailer Aarong is one of the most successful ethnic wear brands in South Asia. The development of the Bangladesh textile industry, which supplies leading international brands, has promoted the production and retail of modern Western attire locally, with the country now having a number of expanding local brands like Westecs and Yellow. Bangladesh is the world’s second largest garments exporter.
Among Bangladesh’s fashion designers, Bibi Russell has received international acclaim for her “Fashion for Development” shows.
White rice is the staple of Bangladeshi cuisine, along with many vegetables and lentils. Rice preparations also include Bengali biryanis, pulaos, and khichuris. Mustard sauce, ghee, sunflower oil and fruit chutneys are widely used in Bangladeshi cooking. Fish is the main source of protein in Bengali cuisine. The Hilsa is the national fish and immensely popular across Bangladesh. Other kinds of fish eaten include rohu, butterfish, catfish, tilapia and barramundi. Fish eggs are a gourmet delicacy. Seafood holds an important place in Bengali cuisine, especially lobsters, shrimps and dried fish. Meat consumption includes chicken, beef, mutton, venison, duck and squab. In Chittagong, Mezban feasts are a popular tradition featuring the serving of hot beef curry. In Sylhet, the shatkora lemons are used to marinate dishes. In the tribal Hill Tracts, bamboo shoot cooking is prevalent. Bangladesh has a vast spread of desserts, including distinctive sweets like Rôshogolla, Rôshomalai, Chomchom, Mishti Doi and Kalojaam. Pithas are traditional boiled desserts made with rice or fruits. Halwa is served during religious festivities. Naan, paratha, luchi and bakarkhani are the main local breads. Black tea is offered to guests as a gesture of welcome. Kebabs are widely popular across Bangladesh, particularly seekh kebabs, chicken tikka and shashliks.
Bangladesh shares its culinary heritage with the neighbouring Indian state of West Bengal. The two regions have several differences, however. In Muslim-majority Bangladesh, meat consumption is greater; whereas in Hindu-majority West Bengal, vegetarianism is more prevalent. The Bangladeshi diaspora dominates the South Asian restaurant industry in many Western countries, particularly in the United Kingdom.
The annual Bengali New Year parade
Pohela Boishakh, the Bengali new year, is the major festival of Bengali culture and sees widespread festivities. Of the major holidays celebrated in Bangladesh, only Pohela Boishakh comes without any preexisting expectations (specific religious identity, culture of gift-giving, etc.). Unlike holidays like Eid al-Fitr, where dressing up in lavish clothes has become a norm, or Christmas where exchanging gifts has become an integral part of the holiday, Pohela Boishakh is really about celebrating the simpler, rural roots of the Bengal. As a result, more people can participate in the festivities together without the burden of having to reveal one’s class, religion, or financial capacity. Other cultural festivals include Nabonno, and Poush Parbon both of which are Bengali harvest festivals.
The Muslim festivals of Eid al-Fitr, Eid al-Adha, Milad un Nabi, Muharram, Chand Raat, Shab-e-Barat; the Hindu festivals of Durga Puja, Janmashtami and Rath Yatra; the Buddhist festival of Buddha Purnima, which marks the birth of Gautama Buddha, and Christian festival of Christmas are national holidays in Bangladesh and see the most widespread celebrations in the country.
Alongside are national days like the remembrance of 21 February 1952 Language Movement Day (International Mother Language Day), Independence Day and Victory Day. On Language Movement Day, people congregate at the Shaheed Minar in Dhaka to remember the national heroes of the Bengali Language Movement, and at the Jatiyo Smriti Soudho on Independence Day and Victory Day to remember the national heroes of the Bangladesh Liberation War. These occasions are observed with public ceremonies, parades, rallies by citizens, political speeches, fairs, concerts, and various other public and private events, celebrating the history and traditions of Bangladesh. TV and radio stations broadcast special programs and patriotic songs, and many schools and colleges organise fairs, festivals, and concerts that draw the participation of citizens from all levels of Bangladeshi society.
The Bangladesh cricket team celebrating the fall of a wicket against Zimbabwe
Cricket is one of the most popular sports in Bangladesh, followed by football. The national cricket team participated in their first Cricket World Cup in 1999, and the following year was granted elite Test cricket status. They have however struggled, recording only ten test match victories: one against Australia, one against England, one against Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka, five against Zimbabwe (one in 2005, one in 2013 in Zimbabwe, and three in 2014), two in a 2–0 series victory over the West Indies in the West Indies in 2009. Six of Bangladesh’s ten test match victories came in between the years 2014 to 2017.
The team has been more successful in One Day International cricket (ODI). They reached the quarter-final of the 2015 Cricket World Cup. They also reached the semi-final of the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy. They whitewashed Pakistan in a home ODI series in 2015 followed by home ODI series wins against India and South Africa. They also won home ODI series by 4–0 in 2010 against New Zealand and whitewashed them in the home ODI series in 2013. In July 2010, they celebrated their first-ever win over England in England.
In late 2012, they won a five-match home ODI series 3-2 against a full-strength West Indies National team.
In 2011, Bangladesh successfully co-hosted the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 with India and Sri Lanka. They also hosted the 2014 ICC World Twenty20 championship. Bangladesh hosted the Asia Cup on four occasions in 2000, 2012, 2014, and 2016.
In 2012 Asia Cup, Bangladesh beat India and Sri Lanka but lost the final game against Pakistan. However, it was the first time Bangladesh had advanced to the final of any top-class international cricket tournament. They reached the final again at the 2016 Asia Cup and 2018 Asia Cup. They participated at the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, defeating Afghanistan to claim their Gold Medal in the first-ever cricket tournament held in the Asian Games. Bangladeshi cricketer Sakib Al Hasan is No.1 on the ICC’s all-rounder rankings in all three formats of the cricket.
Women’s sports saw tremendous progress in the 2010s decade in Bangladesh. In 2018 the Bangladesh women’s national cricket team the 2018 Women’s Twenty20 Asia Cup defeating India women’s national cricket team in the final.
Kabaddi—very popular in Bangladesh—is the national game. Other popular sports include field hockey, tennis, badminton, handball, football, chess, shooting, angling. The National Sports Council regulates 42 different sporting federations. On 4 November 2018, Bangladesh national under-15 football team won the 2018 SAFF U-15 Championship, defeating Pakistan national under-15 football team in the final. Bangladesh has five grandmasters in chess. Among them, Niaz Murshed was the first grandmaster in South Asia. In another achievement, Margarita Mamun, a Russian rhythmic gymnast of Bangladeshi origin, won gold medal in 2016 Summer Olympics and became world champion in the years 2013 and 2014.
Media and Cinema
Anwar Hossain in the film “Nawab Sir
The Bangladeshi press is diverse, outspoken and privately owned. Over 200 newspapers are published in the country. Bangladesh Betar is the state-run radio service. The British Broadcasting Corporation operates the popular BBC Bangla news and current affairs service. Bengali broadcasts from Voice of America are also very popular. Bangladesh Television (BTV) is the state-owned television network. There more than 20 privately owned television networks, including several news channels. Freedom of the media remains a major concern, due to government attempts at censorship and the harassment of journalists.
The cinema of Bangladesh dates back to 1898, when films began screening at the Crown Theatre in Dhaka. The first bioscope on the subcontinent was established in Dhaka that year. The Dhaka Nawab Family patronized the production of several silent films in the 1920s and 30s. In 1931, the East Bengal Cinematograph Society released the first full-length feature film in Bangladesh, titled the Last Kiss. The first feature film in East Pakistan, Mukh O Mukhosh, was released in 1956. During the 1960s, 25–30 films were produced annually in Dhaka. By the 2000s, Bangladesh produced 80–100 films a year. While the Bangladeshi film industry has achieved limited commercial success, the country has produced notable independent filmmakers. Zahir Raihan was a prominent documentary-maker who was assassinated in 1971. The late Tareque Masud is regarded as one of Bangladesh’s outstanding directors due to his numerous productions on historical and social issues. Masud was honored by FIPRESCI at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival for his film The Clay Bird. Tanvir Mokammel, Mostofa Sarwar Farooki, Humayun Ahmed, Alamgir Kabir, and Chashi Nazrul Islam are some of the prominent directors of Bangladeshi cinema. Bangladesh have very active film society culture. its started in 1963 at Dhaka. Now around 40 Film Society active in all over Bangladesh. Federation of Film Societies of Bangladesh is the parent organization of the film society movement of Bangladesh. Active film societies include the Rainbow Film Society, Children’s Film Society, Moviyana Film Society & Dhaka University Film Society.
Museums and Libraries
Museum in old Dhaka
The Varendra Research Museum is the oldest museum in Bangladesh. It houses important collections from both the pre-Islamic and Islamic periods, including the sculptures of the Pala-Sena School of Art and the Indus Valley Civilization; as well as Sanskrit, Arabic and Persian manuscripts and inscriptions. The Ahsan Manzil, the former residence of the Nawab of Dhaka, is a national museum housing collections from the British Raj. It was the site of the founding conference of the All India Muslim League and hosted many British Viceroys in Dhaka.
The Tajhat Palace Museum preserves artifacts of the rich cultural heritage of North Bengal, including Hindu-Buddhist sculptures and Islamic manuscripts. The Mymensingh Museum houses the personal antique collections of Bengali aristocrats in central Bengal. The Ethnological Museum of Chittagong showcases the lifestyle of various tribes in Bangladesh. The Bangladesh National Museum is located in Ramna, Dhaka and has a rich collection of antiquities. The Liberation War Museum documents the Bangladeshi struggle for independence and the 1971 genocide.
In ancient times, manuscripts were written on palm leaves, tree barks, parchment vellum and terracotta plates and preserved at monasteries known as viharas. The Hussain Shahi dynasty established royal libraries during the Bengal Sultanate. Libraries were established in each district of Bengal by the zamindar gentry during the Bengal Renaissance in the 19th century. The trend of establishing libraries continued until the beginning of World War II. In 1854, four major public libraries were opened, including the Bogra Woodburn Library, the Rangpur Public Library, the Jessore Institute Public Library and the Barisal Public Library.
The Northbrook Hall Public Library was established in Dhaka in 1882 in honour of Lord Northbrook, the Governor-General. Other libraries established in the British period included the Victoria Public Library, Natore (1901), the Sirajganj Public Library (1882), the Rajshahi Public Library (1884), the Comilla Birchandra Library (1885), the Shah Makhdum Institute Public Library, Rajshahi (1891), the Noakhali Town Hall Public Library (1896), the Prize Memorial Library, Sylhet (1897), the Chittagong Municipality Public Library (1904) and the Varendra Research Library (1910). The Great Bengal Library Association was formed in 1925. The Central Public Library of Dhaka was established in 1959. The National Library of Bangladesh was established in 1972. The World Literature Centre founded by Ramon Magsaysay Award winner Abdullah Abu Sayeed, is noted for operating numerous mobile libraries across Bangladesh and was awarded the UNESCO Jon Amos Comenius Medal.
In these pages the history is not of the Arab movement, but of me in it. It is a narrative of daily life, mean happenings, little people. Here are no lessons for the world, no disclosures to shock people. It is filled with trivial things, partly that no one mistake for history the bones from which some day a man may make history, and partly for the pleasure it gave me to recall the fellowship of the revolt. We were fond together, because of the sweep of the open places, the taste of wide winds, the sunlight, and the hopes in which we worked. The morning freshness of the world-to-be intoxicated us. We were wrought up with ideas inexpressible and vaporous, but to be fought for. We lived many lives in those whirling campaigns, never sparing ourselves: yet when we achieved and the new world dawned, the old men came out again and took our victory to re-make in the likeness of the former world they knew. Youth could win, but had not learned to keep: and it was pitiably weak against age. We stammered that we had worked for a new heaven and a new earth, and they thanked us kindly and made their peace.
All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake up in the day to find that it was a vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did. I meant to make a new nation, to restore a lost influence, to give twenty million of Semites the foundations on which to build an inspired dream-palace of their national thoughts. So high an aim called out the inherent nobility of their minds, and made them play a generous part in events: but when we won it, it was charged against me that the British petrol royalties in Mesopotamia were become dubious, and French Colonial policy ruined in the Levant.
I am afraid that I hope so. We pay for these things too much in honour and in innocent lives. I went up the Tigris with one hundred Devon Territorials, young clean, delightful fellows, full of the power of happiness and of making women children and glad. By them one saw vividly how great it was to be their kin, and English. And we were casting them by thousands into the fire to the worst of deaths, not to win the war but that corn and rice and oil of Mesopotamia might be ours. The only need was to defeat our enemies (Turkey among them), and this was at last done in the wisdom of Allenby with less than four hundred killed, by turning to our uses the hands of the oppressed in Turkey. I am proudest of my thirty fights in that I did not have any of our own blood shed. All our subject provinces to me were not worth one dead Englishman.
For my work on the Arab front I had determined to accept nothing. The Cabinet raised the Arabs to fight for us by definite promises of self-government afterwards. Arabs believe in persons, not in institutions. They saw in me a free agent of the British Government, and demanded from me an endorsement of its written promises. So I had to join the conspiracy, and, for what my word was worth, assured the men of their reward. In our two years’ partnership under fire they grew accustomed to believing me and to think my Government, like myself, sincere. In this hope they performed some fine things but, of course, instead of being proud of what we did together, I was continually and bitterly ashamed.
It was evident from the beginning that if we won the war these promises would be dead paper, and had I been an honest adviser of the Arabs, I would have advised them to go home and not risk their lives fighting for such stuff: but I solved myself with the hope that, by leading these Arabs madly in the final victory, I would establish them, with arms in their hands, in a position assured (if not dominant) that expediency would counsel to the Great Powers a fair settlement of their claims. In other words, I presumed (seeing no other leader with the will and power) that I would survive the campaigns, and be able to defeat not merely the Turks on the battlefield, but my own country and its allies in the council-chamber. It was an immodest presumption: it is not yet clear if I succeeded: but it is clear that I had no shadow of leave to engage the Arabs, unknowing, in such hazard. I risked the fraud, on my conviction that Arab help was necessary to our cheap and speedy victory in the East, and that better we win and break our word than lose.
The dismal of Sir Henry McMahon confirmed my belief in our essential insincerity: but I could not so explain myself to General Wingate while the war lasted, since I was nominally under his orders, and he did not seem sensible of how false his own standing was. The only thing remaining was to refuse rewards for being a successful trickster and, to prevent this unpleasantness arising, I began in my reports to conceal the true stories of things, and to persuade the few Arabs, who knew to an equal reticence. In this book also, for the last time, I mean to be my own judge of what to say.
The southern Pacific was the last habitable part of the world to be reached by Europeans. It was then only gradually explored at the end of long-haul routes down the coast of South America on one side, and Africa on the other. Once inside the rim of the world’s largest ocean, seafarers faced vast areas to be crossed, always hundreds, even thousands of miles away from any familiar territory. So it required not only steady courage to venture into this region but a high degree of navigational skill.
The islands of the South Pacific – tucked away near the bottom of the globe – remained the domain of Polynesian people for nearly 150 years after the Europeans first burst into the western Pacific. Furthermore, New Zealand was ignored for another 130 years after its initial 1642 sightings by the Dutchman Abel Janszoon Tasman.
It was ultimately left to the Englishman James Cook to put the South Pacific firmly on the world map in the latter part of the eighteenth century.
The Dutch Traders
European knowledge of the Pacific Ocean had gradually expanded during the 16th and 17th centuries. This was the era in which Spanish and Portuguese seafarers such as Magellan and Quiros, and England’s Francis Drake, made their epic expeditions.
Then, towards the end of the 16th century, the Dutch emerged as the great seafaring and trading nation of the central and western Pacific. They set up a major administrative and trading centre at Batavia (now Jakarta) in Java early in the 17th century, an operation dominated by the Dutch East India Company.
For the ensuing 200 years the Dutch were a major power in the region, though for most of that period the voyages of exploration were incidental to the activities of trade.
The Dutch ships eventually found that by staying south after rounding the tip of Africa at the Cape of Good Hope and catching the consistent westerlies almost as far as the western coast of Australia, they could make the journey to Java more quickly than by adopting the traditional – sailing up the east coast of Africa and then catching the seasonal winds for the journey eastwards. As a result, islands off the west coast of Australia and stretches of the coast of the unknown continent itself began to be noted on charts.
An ambitious governor of Batavia, Anthony van Diemen, showed a more imaginative interest in discovering new lands for trade than most of his predecessors. In 1642 he chose Abel Tasman to lead an expedition south, to be accompanied by a highly competent navigator, Frans Visscher. The proposed voyage would take them first to Mauritius, then southwest to between 50 and 55 degrees south in search of the great southern continent, Terra Australis Incognita. The expedition, aboard the vessels Heemskerck and Zeeshaen, was then to travel eastwards if no land had been found to impede their progress and to sail across, to investigate a shorter route to Chile, a rich trading area and the preserve of the Spanish. As it turned out, the expedition ventured only as far as 49 degrees south before turning eastwards, whereupon it made two great South Pacific discoveries- Tasmania (or van Diemen’s Land, as he named it at the time) and New Zealand (which he called Staten Landt).
On 13 December 1642, Tasman and his men saw what was described as ‘land uplifted high’ – the Southern Alps of the South Island – and, in strong winds and heavy seas, sailed northwards up the coast of Westland, before rounding Cape Farewell and entering what is now known as Golden Bay. Tasman’s voyage was not immediately regarded as a major success, but ultimately he was given his due for a gallant and well-recorded exploration.
Within a year or two, other navigators had established that New Zealand could not be attached to huge continent which was thought may extend all the way across to South America. The name was therefore changed from Staten Landt (the Dutch name for South America) to New Zealand, after a Dutch province of Zeeland.
TASMAN’s NEAR MISS
TASMAN’S FIRST AND ONLY ENCOUNTER WITH THE MAORI WAS NOTHING SHORT OF DISASTROUS. WHEN A CANOE RAMMED A BOAT THAT WAS TRAVELLING BETWEEN THE ZEEHAEN AND THE HEEMSKERCK, FIGHTING BROKE OUT AND THERE WAS LOSS OF LIFE ON BOTH SIDES. TASMAN CALLED THE PLACE, MASSACRE BAY, AND CONTINUED HIS JOURNEY NORTHWARDS. HE DID NOT LAND AGAIN. WHAT TASMAN FAILED TO REALISE WAS THAT HE HAD ACTUALLY BEEN INSIDE THE WESTERN ENTRANCE TO THE STRETCH OF WATER SEPARATING NORTN AND SOUTH ISLANDS, NOW KNOWN AS COOK’S STRAIT. A VOYAGE EASTWARDS OF ONLY A FEW KILOMETRES WOULD HAVE REVEALED THIS, AND PERHAPS IT MIGHT BE KNOWN TODAY AS TASMAN STRAIT.
Over a century passed before serious exploration resumed in the region. It was primarily to observe the transit of Venus over the disc of the Sun in June 1769 that the English Captain James Cook was dispatched to the South Seas in the 373-ton Whitby built barque, Endeavour. He was instructed to sail to Otaheite (Tahiti) for the transit and then to sail southwards as far as 50 degrees south latitude on another search for the great southern continent, charting the positions of any islands he might incidentally discover.
Cook rounded Cape Horn and entered the Pacific Ocean for the first time on 27 January 1769. After observing the transit of Venus and investigating other islands (which he named the Society Islands), he sailed south and then west. On 6 October, a ship’s boy, Nicholas Young, sighted the east coast of the North Island where it is today called Young Nick’s Head. Two days after this first sighting of what Cook knew to be the east coast of New Zealand, the land reported by Tasman, the Endeavour sailed into a bay where smoke could be seen – a clear sign that there were inhabitants. Their first visit ashore ended with violence when a band of Maori attacked four boys left guarding the ship’s boat; one of the attackers was shot dead.
It was discovered that a Tahitian Chief on board the Endeavour, Tupaea, could converse with the Maori, and he was taken ashore with Cook the next morning. But the Maori were in a threatening mood and Cook ordered one of them shot to make them retreat. That afternoon, the firing of a musket over a canoe (merely to attract attention) brought an attack on the boat from which the shot had been fired; a few more Maori were shot. Cook had quickly learnt that the native population was powerful, aggressive and brave. (Rather then commemorating the bloodshed, the bay was named Poverty Bay to record the fact that the English failed to find the supplies they wanted there.)
THE SON OF A YORKSHIRE LABOURER, JAMES COOK WAS BORN IN 1728. HE SERVED AS AN APPRENTICE SEAMAN ON A COLLIER, AND THEN. VOLUNTEERED AS AN ABLE SEAMAN WITH THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SEVEN YEARS WAR. HE HELPED SURVEY CANADA’S ST LAWRENCE RIVER, AN ESSENTIAL PRELIMINARY TO THE CAPTURE OF QUEBEC BY GENERAL JAMES WOLFE, AND ENHANCED AN ALREADY GROWING REPUTATION AS A MARINE SURVEYOR BY CHARTING THE ST LAWRENCE RIVER AND PART OF THE NEW FOUNDLAND AND NOVA SCOTIA COASTS. IN 1766, HE OBSERVED AN ECLIPSE OF THE SUN, BOTH THE ROYAL SOCIETY AND THE ADMIRALTY WERE IMPRESSED WITH HIS REPORT, AND THIS LED TO HIS APPOINTMENT TO THE SOUTH SEAS VOYAGE.
JAMES COOK MADE TWO CARTOGRAPHICAL ERRORS: ATTACHING STEWART ISLAND TO THE SOUTH ISLAND AS A PENINSULA, AND MAPPING BANKS PENINSULA AS AN ISLAND
First friendly encounter
The Endeavour sailed south into Hawke’s Bay, and then north again around the top of East Cape. It spent 10 days in Mercury Bay, so called because an observation of the transit of the planet Mercury was made there. In Mercury Bay, for the first time, the explorers made friends with the local Maori and traded trinkets for supplies of fish, birds and clean water. They were shown over the Maori settlements and inspected a nearby fortified pa, which greatly impressed Cook.
The expedition circumnavigated New Zealand and with brilliant accuracy made a chart of the coastline which proved basically reliable for more than 150 years. Cook and his crew spent weeks in Ship Cove, in a long inlet which he called Queen Charlotte Sound, on the northern coast of the South Island, refurbishing the ship and gathering supplies. The stay gave the two botanists aboard, Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander, a wonderful opportunity to study closely the flora and fauna of the area, and while the ship was being cleaned, the smaller boats undertook detailed survey work.
The Endeavour left for home at the end of March 1770, sailing up the east coast of Australia, through the Dutch East Indies and then rounding the Cape of Good Hope to complete a circumnavigation of the world. The expedition was an extraordinary feat of seamanship, putting New Zealand firmly on the map and gathering huge amount of data. Cook seemed to personify the Great Discoverer as defined by his biographer, Beaglehole: ‘In every great discoverer there is a dual passion – the passion to see, the passion to report; and in the greatest this duality is fused into one – a passion to see and report truly.’
Cook’s first voyage was one of the most successful and detailed expeditions of exploration in all history.
Cook twice again led expeditions into the Pacific – from 1772 to 1775 and from 1776 to 1780. During the second of those, he twice took his ship south of the Antarctic Circle where no vessel was known to have gone before, but he was unlucky in that he did not become the first person ever to see the Antarctic continent. It was to Dusky Sound in the South Island fiords that Cook repaired for rest and recovery after the extreme hardships faced by his crew in the southern ocean.
During the seven weeks the expedition was there, the crew set up a workshop and an observatory, and restored their health with spruce beer (to defeat scurvy) and the plenitude of fish and birds. They made contact with a single family of Maori, in an area which was never thickly populated then or now. They planted seeds on the shore of the sound, and then sailed for their favourite anchorage in Ship Cove at the top of the South Island.
On Cook’s way home from New Zealand during his second voyage a few years later, he gave pigs, fowl and vegetable seeds to the Maori community near Hawke’s Bay, returning again to Ship Cove on his third voyage. By now he had a friendship with some of the local Maori that had lasted nearly ten years. In his journals, he referred to the Maori as ‘manly and mild’ and wrote that ‘they have some arts among them which they execute with great judgement and unwearied patience.’
CAPTAIN COOK WAS KILLED IN JANUARY 1778 IN KEALAKEKUA BAY, HAWAII, AFTER A SERIES OF THEFTS FROM HIS EXPEDITION LED TO A SKIRMISH WITH THE LOCALS.
By then he had done such a thorough job of charting the coasts of New Zealand that there was little else for explorers to discover without going inland. But a number of navigators followed during the remaining years of the 18th century – Frenchman Dumont d’Urville (who arrived only two months after Cook first set foot in New Zealand) and, later, Marion du Fresne; an Italian, Alessandro Malaspina who commanded a Spanish expedition; and George Vancouver, who had served with Cook.
First European Settlement
In 10 years, within the decade of the 1770s, Cook and his contemporaries had opened up the Pacific entirely, and, in 1788, Sydney, in Australia, was established as a British convict settlement. The first Europeans to make an impact on New Zealand, however, were the sealers, with the first gang put ashore on the southwest coast of the South Island in 1792. There was a brief boom in the early years of the 19th century, but it wasn’t long before the seals were in short supply and the ships had to venture further south to the sub-Antarctic islands.
Next, in the last years of the 18th century, came the whalers – some of them driven from the Pacific coast of South America because of the dangers brought about by the war between Spain and Britain. Ships from Britain, Australia and the United States hunted the sperm whales in this region, and visits brought their crew members to frequent contact with the Maori of Northland at Kororareka (later renamed Russell).
At first relations between Europeans and Maori were friendly. But visits were infrequent for a few years after the burning of the brig Boyd and the massacre and eating of its crew in Whangaroa Harbour in 1809. This was a reprisal against previous punishment of high-born Maori seamen by Pakeha (European) skippers.
The inland exploration of New Zealand took place mostly during the early to mid 19th century, mainly those parts that were fairly accessible from the coast. Vast areas of the South Island, however, were not successfully explored by Europeans until the 20th century.
The third region of major concern, the (largely) Islamic world, also the scene of the Global War on Terror (GWOT) that George W. Bush declared in 2001 after the 9/11 terrorist attack. To be more accurate, re-declared. The GWOT was declared by the Reagan administration when it took office, with a fevered rhetoric about a plague spread by depraved opponents of civilization itself (as Reagan put it) and a return to barbarism in the modern age (the words of George Shultz, his Secretary of State). The original GWOT has quietly been removed from history. It very quickly turned into a murderous and destructive terrorist war afflicting Central America, southern Africa and the Middle East, with grim repercussions to the present, even leading to the condemnation of the United States by the World Court (which Washington dismissed). In any event, it is not the right story for history, so it is gone.
The success of the Bush-Obama version of GWOT can readily be evaluated on direct inspection. When the war was declared, the terrorist targets were confined to a small corner of tribal Afghanistan. They were protected by the Afghans, who mostly disliked or despised them, under the tribal code of hospitality-which baffled Americans when poor peasants refused to turn over Osama bin Laden for the, to them, the astronomical sum of $25 million.
There are good reasons to believe that a well-constructed police action, or even serious diplomatic negotiations with the Taliban, might have placed those suspected of the 9/11 crimes in American hands for trial and sentencing. But such options were off the table. Instead, the reflexive choice was large-scale violence- it with the goal of overthrowing the Taliban (that came later) but to make clear US contempt for tentativeTaliban offers of the possible extradition of bin Laden. How serious these offers were, we do not know, since the possibility of exploring them was never entertained. Or perhaps the United States was just intent on trying to show its muscle, score a victory and scare everyone in the world. They don’t care about the suffering of the Afghans or how many people we will lose. That was the judgement of the highly respected anti-Taliban leader Abdul Haq, one of the many oppositionists who condemned the American bombing campaign launched in October 2001 as a big setback for their efforts to overthrow the Taliban from within, a goal they considered within their reach. His judgement was confirmed by Richard A. Clarke, who was the chairman of the Counterterrorism Security Group at the White House under George W. Bush when the plans to attack Afghanistan were made. As Clarke describes the meeting, when informed that the attack would violate international law, “the President yelled in the narrow conference room, ‘I don’t care what the international lawyers say, we are going to kick some ass.’ ” The attack was also bitterly opposed by the major aid organizations working in Afghanistan, who warned that millions were on the verge of starvation and that the consequences might be horrendous.
The consequences for poor Afghanistan years later need hardly be reviewed.
The next target of the sledgehammer was Iraq. The US-UK invasion, utterly without credible pretext, is the major crime of the twenty first century. The invasion led to the death of hundreds of thousands of people in a country where the civilian society had already been devastated by American and British sanctions that were regarded as genocidal by the two distinguished international diplomats who administered them and resigned in protest for this reason. The invasion also generated millions of refugees, largely destroyed the country, and instigated a sectarian conflict that is now tearing apart Iraq and the entire region. It is an astonishing fact about our intellectual and moral culture that in informed and enlightened circles it can called, blandly, the liberation of Iraq.
Pentagon and British Ministry of Defence polls found that only 3% of Iraqis regarded the US security role in their neighbourhood as legitimate, less than 1% believed that the coalition (US-UK) forces were good for their security, 80% opposed the presence of coalition forces in the country, and a majority supported attacks on coalition troops. Afghanistan has been destroyed beyond the possibility of reliable polling, but there are indications that something similar may be true there as well. Particularly in Iraq, the United States suffered a severe defeat, abandoning its official war aims and leaving the country under the influence of the sole victor, Iran.
The sledgehammer was also wielded elsewhere, notably in Libya, where the three traditional imperial powers (Britain, France and the United States) procured Security Council resolution 1973 and instantly violated it, becoming the air force of the rebels. The effect was to undercut the possibility of a peaceful, negotiated settlement; sharply increase casualties (by at least a factor of ten, according to political scientist Alan Kuperman); leave Libya in ruins, in the hands of warring militias; and, more recently, to provide the Islamic State with a base that it can use to spread terror beyond. Quite sensible diplomatic proposals by the African Union, accepted in principle by Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi, were ignored by the imperial triumvirate, as Africa specialist Alex de Waal reviews. A huge flow of weapons and jihadis has spread terror and violence from West Africa (now the champion for terrorist murders) to the Levant, while NATO attack also sent a flood of refugees from Africa to Europe.
Yet another triumph of humanitarian intervention and, as the long and often ghastly record reveals, not an unusual one, going back to its modern origins four centuries ago.
THE COSTS OF VIOLENCE In brief, the GWOT sledgehammer strategy has spread jihadi terror from a tiny corner of Afghanistan to much of the world from Africa through the Levant and South Asia. It has also incited attacks in Europe and the United States. The invasion of Iraq made a substantial contribution to this process, much as the intelligence agencies had predicted. Terrorism specialists Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank estimate that the Iraqi war generated a stunning sevenfold increase in the yearly rate of fatal jihadists attacks, amounting to literally hundreds of additional terrorist attacks and thousands of civilians lives lost; even when terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan is excluded, fatal attacks in the rest of the world have increased by more than one-third. Other exercises have been similarly productive.
A group of major human rights organizations—Physicians for Social Responsibility (US), Physicians for Global Survival (Canada), and International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (Germany)—conducted a study that sought to provide as realistic an estimate as possible of the total body count in the three main war zones [Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan] during 12 years of ‘war on terrorism, including an extensive review of the major studies and data published on the number of victims in these countries, along with additional information on military actions. Their conservative estimate is that these wars killed about 1.3 million people, a toll that could also be in excess of 2 million. A database search by independent researcher David Peterson in the days following the publication of the report found virtually no mention of it. Who cares?
More generally, studies carried out by the Oslo Peace Research institute show that two-thirds of the region’s conflict fatalities were produced in originally internal disputes where outsiders imposed their solutions. In such conflicts, 98% of fatalities were produced only after outsiders had entered the domestic dispute with their military might. In Syria, the number of direct conflict fatalities more than tripled after the West initiated air strikes against the self-declared Islamic State and the CIA started its indirect military interference in the war—interference which appears to have drawn the Russians in as advanced US antitank missiles were decimating the forces of their ally Bashar al-Assad. Early indications are that Russian bombing is having the usual consequences.
The evidence reviewed by political scientist Timo Kivimaki indicates that the protection wars [fought by ‘coalitions of the willing] have become the main source of violence e in the world, occasionally contributing over 50% of total conflict fatalities. Furthermore, in many of these cases, including Syria, as he reviews, there were opportunities for diplomatic settlement that were ignored. As discussed elsewhere, that has also been true in other horrific situations, including the Balkans in the early 1990s, the first Gulf War, and of course the Indo China wars, the worst crime since World War II. In the case of Iraq, the question does not even arise. There surely are some lessons here.
The general consequences of resorting to the sledgehammer against vulnerable societies comes as little surprise. William Polk’s careful study of insurgencies, cited above, should be essential reading for those who want to understand today’s conflicts, and surely for planners, if they care about the human consequences and not merely power and domination. Polk reveals a pattern that has been replicated over and over. The invaders-perhaps professing the most benign motives—are naturally disliked by the population, who disobey then, at first in small ways, eliciting a forceful response, which increases opposition and support for resistance, the cycle of violence escalates until the invaders withdraw— or gain their ends by something that may approach genocide.
Obama’s global drone assassination campaign, a remarkable innovation in global terrorism, exhibits the same patterns. By most accounts, it is generating terrorists more rapidly than it is murdering those suspected of someday intending to harm us—an imperative contribution by a constitutional lawyer on the eight hundredth anniversary of Magna Carta, which established the basis for the principle of presumption of innocence that is the foundation of civilized law.
Another characteristic feature of such interventions is the belief that the insurgency will be overcome by eliminating its leaders. But when such an effort succeeds, the reviled leader is regularly replaced by someone younger, more determined, more brutal and more effective. Polk gives many examples. Military historian Andrew Cockburn has reviewed American campaigns to kill drug and then terror kingpins over a long period in his important study Kill Chain and found the same results. And one can expect with fair confidence that the pattern will continue.
No doubt right now US strategists are seeking ways to murder the Caliph of the Islamic State Abu Baker al-Baghdadi, who is a bitter rival of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. The likely result of this achievement is forecast by the prominent terrorism scholar Bruce Hoffman, senior fellow at the US Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Centre. He predicts that al-Baghdadi’s death would likely pave the way for a rapprochement [with al-Qaeda] producing a combined terrorist force unprecedented in scope, size, ambition and resources.
Polk cites a treatise on warfare by Henry Jomini, influenced by Napoleon’s defeat at the hands of Spanish guerrillas, that became a textbook for generations of cadets at the West Point military academy. Jomini observed that such interventions by major powers typically result in wars of opinion, and nearly always national wars if not at first then becoming so in the course of the struggle, by the dynamics that Polk describes. Jomini concludes that commanders of regular armies are ill-advised to engage in such wars because they will lose them, and even apparent successes will prove short-lived.
Careful studies of al-Qaeda and ISIS have shown that the United States and its allies are following their game plan with some precision. Their goal is to draw the West as deeply and actively as possible into the quagmire and to perpetually engage and enervate the United States and the West in a series of prolonged overseas ventures in which they will undermine their own societies, expend their resources and increase the level of violence, setting off the dynamic that Polk reviews.
Scott Atran, one of the most insightful researchers on jihadi movements, calculates that the 9/11 attacks cost between $400,000 and $500,000 to execute, whereas the military and security response by the US and its allies is in the order of 10 million times that figure. On a strictly cost-benefit basis, this violent movement has been wildly successful, beyond even Bin Laden’s original imagination, and is increasingly so. Herein lies the full measure of jujitsu-style asymmetric warfare. After all, who could claim that we are better off than before, or that the overall danger is declining? And if we continue, he to wield the sledgehammer, tacitly following the jihadi script, the likely effect is even more violent jihadism with broader appeal. The record, Atran advises, should inspire a radical change in our counter-strategies.
Al-Qaeda/ISIS are assisted by Americans who follow their directives; for example, Ted carpet-bomb ‘em Cruz, a top Republican presidential candidate. Or, at the other end of the mainstream spectrum, the leading Middle East and international affairs columnist of the New York Times, Thomas Friedman, who in 2003 offered Washington advice on how to fight in Iraq on the Charlie Rose show: There was what I would call the terrorism bubble . . . And what we needed to do was to go over there basically, and, uh, take out a very big stick right in the heart of that world, and burst that bubble. And there was only one way to do it . . . What they needed to see was American boys and girls going house to house from Basra to Baghdad, and basically saying which part of this sentence don’t you understand? You don’t think we care about our open society, you think this bubble fantasy we’re going to just let it go? Well, suck on this. Ok. That, Charlie, was what this war was about. That’ll show the ragheads
LOOKING FORWARD Atran and other close observers generally agree on the prescriptions. We should begin by recognizing what careful research has convincingly shown: those drawn to jihad are longing for something in their history, in their traditions, with their heroes and their morals; and the Islamic State, however brutal and repugnant to us and even to most in the Arab Muslim world, is speaking directly to that . . . What inspires the most lethal assailants today is not so much the Quran but a thrilling cause and a call to action that promises glory and esteem in the eyes of friends. In fact, few of the jihadis have much of a background in Islamic texts or theology, if any.
The best strategy, Polk advises, would be a multinational, welfare oriented and psychologically satisfying program . . . that would make the hatred ISIS relies upon less virulent. The elements have been identified for us: communal needs, compensation for previous transgressions, and calls for a new beginning. He adds, A carefully phrased apology for past transgressions would cost little and do much. Such a project could be carried out in refugee camps or in the hovels and grim housing projects of the Paris banlieues, where, , Atran writes, his research team found fairly wide tolerance or support for ISIS’s values. And even more could be done by true dedication and negotiations instead of reflexive resort to violence.
Not least in significance would be an honourable response to the refugee crisis that was a long time in coming but surged to prominence in Europe in 2015. That would mean, at the very least, sharply increasing humanitarian relief to the camps in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey where miserable refugees from Syria barely survive. But the issues go well beyond, and provide a picture of the self-described enlightened states that is far from attractive and should be an incentive to action.
There are countries that generate refugees through massive violence like the United States, secondarily Britain and France. Then there are countries that admit huge number of refugees, including those fleeing from Western violence, like Lebanon (easily the champion, per capita) Jordan and Syria before it imploded, among others in the region. And partially overlapping, there are countries that both generate refugees and refuse to take them in, not only from the Middle East but also from the US backyard south of the border. A strange picture painful to contemplate.
An honest picture would trace the generation of refugees much further back into history. Veteran Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk reports that one of the first videos produced by ISIS showed a bulldozer pushing down a rampart of sand that had marked the border between Iraq and Syria. As the machine destroyed the dirt revetment, the camera panned down to a handwritten poster lying in the sand. ‘End of Sykes-Picot,’ it said.
For the people of the region, the Sykes-Picot agreement is the very symbol of the cynicism and brutality of Western imperialism. Conspiring in secret during World War I, Britain’s Mark Sykes and France’s Francois Georges-Picot carved up the region into artificial states to satisfy their own imperial goals, with utter disdain for the interests of the people living there and in violation of the wartime promises issued to induce Arabs to join the Allied war effort. The agreement mirrored the practices of the European states that devastated Africa in a similar manner. It transformed what had been relatively quiet provinces of the Ottoman Empire into some of the least stable and most internationally explosive states in the world.
Repeated Western interventions since then in the Middle East and Africa have exacerbated the tensions, conflicts, and disruptions that have shattered the societies. The end result is a refugee crisis that the innocent West can scarcely endure. Germany has emerged as the conscience of Europe, at first (but no longer) admitting almost one million refugees—in one of the richest countries of the world with a population of 80 million. In contrast, the poor country of Lebanon has absorbed an estimated 1.5 million Syrian refugees, now a quarter of its population, on top of half a million Palestinian refugees registered with the UN refugee agency UNRWA, mostly victims of Israeli policies.
Europe is groaning under the burden of refugees from the countries it hS devastated in Africa—not without US aid, as Congolese and Angolans, among others, can testify. Europe is now seeking to bribe Turkey (with over 2 million Syrian refugees) to distance those fleeing the horrors of Syria from Europe’s borders, just as Obama is pressuring Mexico to keep US borders free from miserable people seeking to escape the aftermath of Reagan’s GWOT along with those seeking to escape more recent disasters, including a military coup in Honduras that Obama almost alone legitimized, which created one of the worst horror chambers in the region.
Words can hardly capture the US response to the Syrian refugee crisis, at least any words I can think of.
Returning to the opening question, Who rules the world? we might also want to pose another question: What principles and values rule the world?” That question should be foremost in the minds of the citizens of the rich and powerful states, who enjoy an unusual legacy of freedom, privilege and opportunity, thanks to the struggles of those who came before them, and who now face fateful choices as to how to respond to challenges of great human import.
Mercedes-Benz has sold several automobiles with the “280” model name.
280SE Coupe & Cabrio
280SE 3.5 Coupe & Cabrio
280SEL 3.5 (& 4.5-North America only)
280SE 3.5 (& 4.5-North America only)
280C + 280CE
280SE + SEL
The Mercedes-Benz W108 and W109 are luxury cars produced by Mercedes-Benz from 1965 through to 1972 and 1973 in North America only. The line was an update of the predecessor W111 and W112 fin tail sedans. The cars were successful in West Germany and in export markets including North America and Southeast Asia. During the seven-year run, a total of 383,361 units were manufactured.
The car’s predecessor, the Mercedes-Benz W111 (produced 1959–1971) helped Daimler develop greater sales and achieve economy of scale production. Whereas in the 1950s, Mercedes-Benz was producing the coachwork 300 S and 300 SLs and all but hand-built 300 Adenauers alongside conveyor assembled Pontons (190, 190SL and 220) etc., the fintail (German: Heckflosse) family united the entire Mercedes-Benz range of vehicles onto one automobile platform, reducing production time and costs. However, the design fashion of the early 1960s changed. For example, the tail fins, originally intended to improve aerodynamic stability, died out within a few years as a fashion accessory. By the time the 2-door coupe and cabriolet W111s were launched, the fins lost their chrome trim and sharp appearance, the arrival of the W113 Pagoda in 1963 saw them further buried into the trunk’s contour, and finally disappeared on the W100 600 in 1964.
The upgrade of the W111 began under the leadership of designer Paul Bracq in 1961 and ended in 1963. Although the fins’ departure was the most visible change, the W108 compared to the W111 had a lower body waist line that increased the window area, (the windscreen was 17 percent larger than W111). The cars had a lower ride (a decrease by 60 mm) and wider doors (+15 mm). The result was a visibly new car with a sleeker appearance and an open and spacious interior.
The suspension system featured a reinforced rear axle with hydropneumatic compensating spring. The car sat on larger wheels (14”) and had disc brakes on front and rear. The W109 was identical to the W108 but featured an extended wheelbase of 115 mm (4.5 in) and self-levelling air suspension. This was a successor to the W112 300SEL that was originally intended as an interim car between the 300 “Adenauer” (W189) and the 600 (W100) limousines. However, its success as “premium flagship” convinced Daimler to add an LWB car to the model range. From that moment on, all future S-Class models would feature a LWB line.
Although the W108 succeeded the W111 as a premium range full-size car, it did not replace it. Production of the W111 continued, however the 230S was now downgraded to the mid-range series, the Mercedes-Benz W110, and marketed as a flagship of that family until their production ceased in 1968. The W108 is popular with collectors and the most desirable models to collect are the early floor shift models with the classic round gear knob and the 300 SEL’s.
The car was premièred at the Frankfurt Auto Show in 1965. The initial model lineup consisted of three W108s: 250S, 250SE, and 300SE, as well as a sole W109, the 300SEL. Engines for the new car were carried over from the previous generation but enlarged and refined.
The 250S was the entry-level vehicle fitted with a 2496 cm³ Straight-six M108 engine, with two dual downdraft carburettors, delivering 130 bhp (97 kW) at 5400 rpm which accelerated the car to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 13 seconds (14 on automatic transmission) and gave a top speed of 182 km/h (177 on auto).
The 250SE featured an identical straight-six, but with a six-plunger fuel injection (designated M129) with performance improved to 150 bhp (110 kW) at 5500 rpm, which decreased 0-100 acceleration by one second and increased top speed by 11 km/h (7 mph) for both manual and automatic versions.
Both the 300SE and 300SEL came with the M189 2996 cm³ engine, originally developed for the Adenauers. It had a modern six-plunger pump that adjusted automatically to accelerator pedal pressure, engine speed, atmospheric pressure, and cooling water temperature, to deliver the proper mixture depending on driving conditions. Producing 170 bhp (130 kW) at 5,400 rpm the cars could accelerate to 200 km/h (195 km/h with automatic transmission) and reach 100 km/h (62 mph) in 12 seconds. The cylinder capacity of the three litre Mercedes engine was unchanged since 1951. From 1965 to 1967, fewer than 3,000 W109s were produced. However, approximately 130,000 of the less powerful 250 S/SE models were built during the first two years of the W108/109’s existence. By 1967 the fuel consumption of the 3 litre unit in this application was becoming increasingly uncompetitive.
During the winter of 1967/1968 Daimler launched its new generation family of vehicles, called Stroke eight for the model year. The headline was the new W114 and W115 family, built on a new chassis, but the existing models were given an upgrade with a single engine, the 2778 cc M130.
The W108 now included 280S and 280SE, with production starting in November 1967. These replaced the 250S, 250SE and 300SE, however production of export-designated 250S would continue until March 1969. For the W109, the 300SEL finally retired the M189 engine, and received the 280Se’s 2.8 M130. In January 1968, the model line was joined by yet another car, the 280SEL. The car had the longer wheelbase of the W109 but lacked the pneumatic suspension and other features of the 300SEL. Hence the chassis code remained W108.
Performance on the cars improved. On the 280S the two downdraft carburettors produced 140 hp (100 kW) and could push the car to 185 km/h (180 on auto), whilst 0-100 was done in 12.5 seconds. The fuel-injected delivered 160 hp (120 kW) and featured a new pump which was not affected by temperature or altitude. Thanks to the air oil filter and better arrangement of cylinders, cooling and hence economy improved. Performance of the 280SE, 280SEL and 300SEL was all but identical, a top speed of 190 km/h (185 on auto) and a 0-100 acceleration in 10.5 seconds for the W108s, the W109 due to its larger weight, took slightly longer, 12.2 seconds.
Back in 1964, Mercedes-Benz launched its top-range W100 limousine which featured an OHC 6.3 litre V8 engine. However, the hand-assembly of the limousine and its very high price limited the sale of the car, whilst the size and weight affected performance. In 1966 company engineer Erich Waxenberger transplanted a big V8 into a standard W109, creating the first Mercedes-Benz muscle car and Q-car.
Despite the large size of the W109, the automaker claimed 0-62 mph (0–100 km/h) time of 6.6 seconds. Full-scale production began in December 1967. Claimed as the fastest production sedan (top speed of 220 km/h), the 300SEL 6.3, held this title for many years. West Germany’s stringently applied trade description laws and figures resulted in these figures being under quoted. The 6.3 also introduced a new numbering scheme, whereby the model name described the parent model and the engine displacement was separate. This nomenclature was used by Mercedes-Benz until the introduction of the class system in 1993.
A very late 280SE, from July 1972 with a standard straight 6-cylinder engine
The 300SEL 6.3 was a special model and production of the fuel-thirsty M100 engines was limited. As new models were being developed the export markets had to be considered, and the United States in particular. The American car production by the late 1960s has largely switched to V8 powered cars, and Mercedes-Benz had to produce its own eight-cylinder engine to stay competitive.
The new engines arrived in late 1969. The first was the 200 hp (150 kW) M116 3499 cc V8 with Bosch D-Jetronic electronic fuel injection and was shown fitted to the W109 on the Frankfurt Auto Show. The car was christened the 300SEL 3.5. Its performance included a top speed of 200 km/h (124 mph) and 0–100 km/h in 10 seconds. During summer of 1970, the M116 was added to the W108 lineup on both regular and LWB, the 280SE 3.5 and the 280SEL 3.5 respectively.
The next year saw the 2-door W111s and the W113 Pagoda roadsters being phased out of production. This left the W108 and W109 as the sole survivors of the ageing family. However, the arrival of the big-block 4520 cc 225 hp (168 kW) M117 engine allowed for a final set of vehicles to be launched in the spring of 1971, the W108 280SE 4.5 and 280SEL 4.5 and the W109 300SEL 4.5. This was destined solely for the US market. Performance improved, top speed – 205 km/h, 0-100 – 9.5 seconds.
However, as the mainstream V8 models were being introduced, production was already ending. The straight-six 300SEL was finished in January 1970, and in April 1971 the 280SEL followed. The 280SE 3.5 and 280SEL W108s were retired in summer of 1972. In September the last 300SEL 3.5 and the 6.3 rolled off the conveyors. A month later, the final 300SEL 4.5 ended the W109’s output, and in November saw the final models of the W108 280SE and 280SEL 4.5s end a seven-year history.
Although many critics described the car as a “fintail without the fintails”, the vehicle was an amazing success. Mostly, due its simple and square contours, it is not remembered for its looks, though some argue that it was thanks to such design that the car has such a timeless charm, but instead it was very well known for its reliability and durability, as proof of excellent German engineering. Last, but not least, the car ended nearly a full decade of the Ponton family (1953–1962), thanks to which, Mercedes-Benz went from a ruined post-WWII marque to one of European and World leaders in automotive industry. It was succeeded by the W116, a car which brought a new household name for any car, the S-class.
The W108/W109 vehicles carried over many of the basic engineering principles from previous models but had many refinements to make them some of the most well-equipped cars of the era. The 300SE and 300SEL were especially well-appointed, featuring burled walnut dashboards, automatic transmission and power windows. The 300SEL 4.5 featured a sophisticated and advanced 4.5L V8 petrol engine, which was carried over to the W116 S-class and R107 SL roadster, as was the smaller 3.5L unit.
The standard transmission for Europe was a four-speed manual gearbox. A four-speed automatic option was also available. Unusual among mainstream European automakers of the time, Mercedes developed and built their own automatic transmission system. For the six-cylinder models only, a five-speed manual gearbox was also offered, from 1969, though few customers opted for it.
When the V8-engined cars were introduced in 1970, the default transmission was the four-speed automatic, driven via a fluid coupling rather than the more usual torque converter. Buyers could still opt for a four-speed manual box, however, and benefitted from a price reduction if they did so. The 4.5 litre version (offered from 1971 but only in the United States), was fitted with a three-speed automatic box with a torque converter. This engine/transmission combination became more widely available when incorporated in the successor model.
Erich Friedrich Wilhelm Ludendorff (9 April 1865 – 20 December 1937) was a German general, the victor of the Battle of Liège and the Battle of Tannenberg.From August 1916, his appointment as Quartermaster general made him the leader (along with Paul von Hindenburg) of the German war efforts during World War I. The failure of Germany’s great Spring Offensive in 1918 in quest of total victory was his great strategic failure and he was forced out in October 1918.
Quick Facts: Born, Died … After the war, Ludendorff became a prominent nationalist leader, and a promoter of the Stab-in-the-back myth, which posited that the German loss in World War I was caused by the betrayal of the German Army by Marxists, Bolsheviks, and Jews who were furthermore responsible for the disadvantageous settlement negotiated for Germany in the Treaty of Versailles. He took part in the failed Kapp Putsch (coup d’état) with Wolfgang Kapp in 1920 and the Beer Hall Putsch of Adolf Hitler in 1923, and in 1925, he ran unsuccessfully for the office of President of Germany against his former superior Hindenburg.
From 1924 to 1928, he represented the German Völkisch Freedom Party in the Reichstag (legislature). Consistently pursuing a purely military line of thought after the war, Ludendorff developed the theory of Total War, which he published as Der totale Krieg (The Total War) in 1935. In this work, he argued that the entire physical and moral forces of the nation should be mobilized, because peace was merely an interval between wars. Ludendorff was a recipient of the Grand Cross of the Iron Cross and the Pour le Mérite.
Early life Ludendorff was born on 9 April 1865 in Kruszewnia near Posen, Province of Posen, Kingdom of Prussia (now Poznań County, Poland), the third of six children of August Wilhelm Ludendorff (1833–1905). His father was descended from Pomeranian merchants who had achieved the prestigious status of Junker.
Erich’s mother, Klara Jeanette Henriette von Tempelhoff (1840–1914), was the daughter of the noble but impoverished Friedrich August Napoleon von Tempelhoff (1804–1868) and his wife Jeannette Wilhelmine von Dziembowska (1816–1854), who came from a Germanized Polish landed family on the side of her father Stephan von Dziembowski (1779–1859).
He had a stable and comfortable childhood, growing up on their small family farm. Erich received his early schooling from his maternal aunt and had a gift for mathematics, as did his younger brother Hans who became a distinguished astronomer. He passed the entrance exam for the Cadet School at Plön with distinction, he was put in a class two years ahead of his age group, and thereafter he was consistently first in his class. (The famous World War II General Heinz Guderian attended the same Cadet School, which produced many well-trained German officers.) Ludendorff’s education continued at the Hauptkadettenschule at Groß-Lichterfelde near Berlin through 1882.
At age 45 the old sinner, as he liked to hear himself called, married the daughter of a wealthy factory owner, Margarethe Schmidt (1875–1936). They met in a rainstorm when he offered his umbrella. She divorced to marry him, bringing three stepsons and a stepdaughter. Their marriage pleased both families and he was devoted to his stepchildren.
Pre-war military career
In 1885, Ludendorff was commissioned as a subaltern into the 57th Infantry Regiment, then at Wesel. Over the next eight years, he was promoted to lieutenant and saw further service in the 2nd Marine Battalion, based at Kiel and Wilhelmshaven, and in the 8th Grenadier Guards at Frankfurt on the Oder. His service reports reveal the highest praise, with frequent commendations. In 1893, he entered the War Academy, where the commandant, General Meckel, recommended him to the General Staff, to which he was appointed in 1894. He rose rapidly and was a senior staff officer at the headquarters of V Corps from 1902 to 1904.
Next, he joined the Great General Staff in Berlin, which was commanded by Alfred von Schlieffen, Ludendorff directed the Second or Mobilization Section from 1904–13. Soon he was joined by Max Bauer, a brilliant artillery officer, who became a close friend. By 1911, Ludendorff was a full colonel. His section was responsible for writing the mass of detailed orders needed to bring the mobilized troops into position to implement the Schlieffen Plan. For this they covertly surveyed frontier fortifications in Russia, France and Belgium. For instance, in 1911 Ludendorff visited the key Belgian fortress city of Liège.
Deputies of the Social Democratic Party of Germany, which became the largest party in the Reichstag after the German federal elections of 1912, seldom gave priority to army expenditures, whether to build up its reserves or to fund advanced weaponry such as Krupp’s siege cannons. Instead, they preferred to concentrate military spending on the Imperial German Navy. Ludendorff’s calculations showed that to properly implement the Schlieffen Plan the Army lacked six corps.
Members of the General Staff were instructed to keep out of politics and the public eye, but Ludendorff shrugged off such restrictions. With a retired general, August Keim, and the head of the Pan-German League, Heinrich Class, he vigorously lobbied the Reichstag for the additional men. In 1913 funding was approved for four additional corps but Ludendorff was transferred to regimental duties as commander of the 39th (Lower Rhine) Fusiliers, stationed at Düsseldorf. I attributed the change partly for my having pressed for those three additional army corps.
Barbara Tuchman characterizes Ludendorff in her book The Guns of August as Schlieffen’s devoted disciple who was a glutton for work and a man of granite character but who was deliberately friendless and forbidding and therefore remained little known or liked. It is true that as his wife testified, anyone who knows Ludendorff knows that he has not a spark of humour… He was voluble nonetheless, although he shunned small talk. John Lee, states that while Ludendorff was with his Fusiliers, he became the perfect regimental commander … the younger officers came to adore him. His adjutant, Wilhelm Breucker, became a devoted lifelong friend.
Liège At the outbreak of war in the summer of 1914 Ludendorff was appointed Deputy Chief of Staff to the German Second Army under General Karl von Bülow. His assignment was largely due to his previous work investigating defenses of Liège, Belgium. At the beginning of the Battle of Liège, Ludendorff was an observer with the 14th Brigade, which was to infiltrate the city at night and secure the bridges before they could be destroyed. The brigade commander was killed on 5 August, so Ludendorff led the successful assault to occupy the city and its citadel. In the following days, two of the forts guarding the city was taken by desperate frontal infantry attacks, while the remaining forts were smashed by huge Krupp 42-cm and Austro-Hungarian Skoda 30-cm howitzers. By 16 August, all the forts around Liège had fallen, allowing the German First Army to advance. As the victor of Liège, Ludendorff was awarded Germany’s highest military decoration for gallantry, the Pour le Mérite, presented by Kaiser Wilhelm II himself on 22 August.
Command in the East German mobilization earmarked a single army, the Eighth, to defend their eastern frontier. Two Russian armies invaded East Prussia earlier than expected, the Eighth Army commanders panicked and were fired by OHL, Oberste Heeresleitung, German Supreme Headquarters. OHL assigned Ludendorff as the new chief of staff, while the War Cabinet chose a retired general, Paul von Hindenburg, as commander. They first met on their private train heading east. They agreed that they must annihilate the nearest Russian army before they tackled the second. On arrival, they discovered that General Max Hoffmann had already shifted much of the 8th Army by rail to the south to do just that, in an amazing feat of logistical planning. Nine days later the Eighth Army surrounded most of a Russian army at Tannenberg, taking 92,000 prisoners in one of the great victories in German history. Twice during the battle Ludendorff wanted to break off, fearing that the second Russian army was about to strike their rear, but Hindenburg held firm.
Then they turned on the second invading army in the Battle of the Masurian Lakes; it fled with heavy losses to escape encirclement. During the rest of 1914, commanding an Army Group, they staved off the projected invasion of German Silesia by dextrously moving their outnumbered forces into Russian Poland, fighting the battle of the Vistula River, which ended with a brilliantly executed withdrawal during which they destroyed the Polish railway lines and bridges needed for an invasion. When the Russians had repaired most of the damage the Germans struck their flank in the battle of Łódź, where they almost surrounded another Russian Army. Masters of surprise and deft maneuver, they argued that if properly reinforced they could trap the entire Russian army in Poland. During the winter of 1914–15 they lobbied passionately for this strategy, but were rebuffed by OHL.
Early in 1915 they surprised the Russian army that still held a toehold in East Prussia by attacking in a snowstorm and surrounding it in the Second Battle of the Masurian Lakes. OHL then transferred Ludendorff, but Hindenburg’s personal plea to the Kaiser reunited them. Erich von Falkenhayn, supreme commander at OHL, came east to attack the flank of the Romanian army that was pushing through the Carpathian passes towards Hungary. Employing overwhelming artillery, the Germans and Austro-Hungarians broke through the line between Gorlice and Tarnów and kept pushing until the Russians were driven out of most of Galicia, the Austro-Hungarian southern part of partitioned Poland. During this advance Falkenhayn rejected schemes to try to cut off the Russians in Poland, preferring direct frontal attacks. Outgunned, during the summer of 1915 the Russian commander Grand Duke Nicholas shortened his lines by withdrawing from most of Poland, destroying railroads, bridges, and many buildings while driving 743,000 Poles, 350,000 Jews, 300,000 Lithuanians and 250,000 Latvians into Russia.
During the winter of 1915–16 Ludendorff’s headquarters was in Kaunas. They occupied present-day Lithuania, western Latvia, and north eastern Poland, an area almost the size of France. Ludendorff demanded Germanization of the conquered territories and far-ranging annexations, offering land to German settlers; far reaching plans envisioned Courland and Lithuania turned into border states ruled by German military governor commanders answerable only to the German Emperor. He proposed massive annexations and colonisation in Eastern Europe in the event of the victory of the German Reich and was one of the main supporters of the Polish Border Strip. Ludendorff planned to combine German settlement and Germanisation in conquered areas with expulsions of native populations; and envisioned an eastern German empire whose resources would be used in future war with Great Britain and United States. Ludendorff’s plans went as far as making Crimea a German colony. As to the various nations and ethnic groups in conquered territories, Ludendorff believed they were incapable of producing real culture.
On 16 March 1916 the Russians, now with adequate supplies of cannons and shells, attacked parts of the new German defenses, intending to penetrate at two points and then to pocket the defenders. They attacked almost daily until the end of the month, but the Lake Naroch Offensive failed, choked in swamp and blood.
The Russians did better, attacking the Austro-Hungarians in the south; the Brusilov Offensive cracked their lines with a well-prepared surprise wide-front attack led by well-schooled assault troops. The breakthrough was finally stemmed by Austro-Hungarian troops recalled from Italy stiffened with German advisers and reserves. In July, Russian attacks on the Germans in the north were beaten back. On 27 July 1916 Hindenburg was given command of all troops on the Eastern Front from the Baltic to Brody in the Ukraine. They visited their new command on a special train, and then set up headquarters in Brest-Litovsk. By August 1916 their front was holding everywhere.
Military duumvirate with Hindenburg In the West in 1916 the Germans attacked unsuccessfully at Verdun and soon were reeling under British and French blows along the Somme. Ludendorff’s friends at OHL, led by Max Bauer, lobbied for him relentlessly. The balance was tipped when Romania entered the war, thrusting into Hungary. Falkenhayn was replaced as Chief of the General Staff by Field Marshal Hindenburg on 29 August 1916. Ludendorff was his chief of staff as first Quartermaster general, with the stipulation that he would have joint responsibility. He was promoted to General of the Infantry. Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg warned the War Cabinet: You don’t know Ludendorff, who is only great at a time of success. If things go badly he loses his nerve. Their first concern was the sizable Romanian Army, so troops sent from the Western Front checked Romanian and Russian incursions into Hungary. Then Romania was invaded from the south by German, Austro-Hungarian, Bulgarian, and Ottoman troops commanded by August von Mackensen and from the north by a German and Austro-Hungarian army commanded by Falkenhayn. Bucharest fell in December 1916. According to Mackensen, Ludendorff’s distant management consisted of floods of telegrams, as superfluous as they were offensive.
When sure that the Romanians would be defeated OHL moved west, retaining the previous staff except for the operations officer, blamed for Verdun. They toured the Western Front meeting —and evaluating— commanders, learning about their problems and soliciting their opinions. At each meeting Ludendorff did most of the commander’s talking. There would be no further attacks at Verdun and the Somme would be defended by revised tactics that exposed fewer men to British shells. A new backup defensive line would be built, like the one they had constructed in the east. The Allies called the new fortifications the Hindenburg Line. The German goal was victory, which they defined as a Germany with extended borders that could be more easily defended in the next war.
Hindenburg was given titular command over all of the forces of the Central Powers. Ludendorff’s hand was everywhere. Every day he was on the telephone with the staffs of their armies and the Army was deluged with Ludendorff’s paper barrage of orders, instructions and demands for information. His finger extended into every aspect of the German war effort. He issued the two daily communiques, and often met with the newspaper and newsreel reporters. Before long the public idolized him as their Army’s brain.
The Home Front Ludendorff had a goal: One thing was certain— the power must be in my hands. As stipulated by the Constitution of the German Empire the government was run by civil servants appointed by the Kaiser. Confident that army officers were superior to civilians, OHL volunteered to oversee the economy: procurement, raw materials, labor, and food. Bauer, with his industrialist friends, knew exactly what should be done, beginning by setting overambitious targets for military production in what they called the Hindenburg Program. Ludendorff enthusiastically participated in meetings on economic policy— loudly, sometimes pummelling the table with his fists. Implementation of the Program was assigned to General Groener, a staff officer who had directed the Field Railway Service effectively. His office was in the War Ministry, not in OHL as Ludendorff had wanted. Therefore, he assigned staff officers to most of the government ministries, so he knew what was going on and could press his demands.
War industry’s major problem was the scarcity of skilled workers; therefore 125,000 men were released from the armed forces and trained workers were no longer conscripted. OHL wanted to enroll most German men and women into national service, but the Reichstag legislated that only males 17–60 were subject to patriotic service and refused to bind war workers to their jobs. Greener realized that they needed the support of the workers, so he insisted that union representatives be included on industrial dispute boards. He also advocated an excess profits tax. The industrialists were incensed. On 16 August 1917 Ludendorff telegraphed an order reassigning Groener to command the 33rd Infantry Division. Overall, unable to control labour and unwilling to control industry, the army failed miserably (actually the government did control industry with its edicts and orders — and the result was disaster). To the public it seemed that Ludendorff was running the nation as well as the war. According to Ludendorff, the authorities … represented me as a dictator. He would not become Chancellor because the demands for running the war were too great. The historian Frank Tipton argues that while not technically a dictator, Ludendorff was unquestionably the most powerful man in Germany in 1917–18. OHL did nothing to mitigate the food disaster: despite the blockade everyone could have been fed adequately, but supplies were not managed effectively or fairly. In Spring 1918 half of all the meat, eggs and fruit consumed in Berlin were sold on the black market.
In government The navy advocated unrestricted submarine warfare, which would surely bring the United States into the war. The Kaiser asked his commanders to listen to the warnings of his friend, the eminent chemist Walther Nernst, who knew America well. Ludendorff promptly ended the meeting, it was incompetent nonsense with which a civilian was wasting his time. Unrestricted submarine warfare began in February 1917, with OHL’s strong support. This fatal mistake reflected poor military judgment in uncritically accepting the Navy’s contention that there were no countermeasures, like convoying, and confident that the American armed forces were too feeble to fight effectively. Ultimately Germany was at war with 27 nations.
In the spring of 1917 the Reichstag passed a resolution for peace without annexations or indemnities. They would be content with the successful defensive war undertaken in 1914. OHL was unable to defeat the resolution or to have it substantially watered down. The commanders despised Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg as weak, so they forced his resignation by repeatedly threatening to resign themselves, despite the Kaiser’s admonition that this was not their business. He was replaced by a minor functionary, Georg Michaelis, the food minister, who announced that he would deal with the resolution as in his own fashion. Despite this put-down, the Reichstag voted the financial credits needed for continuing the war.
Ludendorff insisted on the huge territorial losses forced on the Russians in the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, even though this required that a million German soldiers remain in the east. During the peace negotiations with the Romanians his representative kept demanding the economic concessions coveted by the German industrialists. The commanders kept blocking attempts to frame a plausible peace offer to the western powers by insisting on borders expanded for future defence. Ludendorff regarded the Germans as the master race and after victory planned to settle ex-soldiers in the Baltic states and in Alsace Lorraine, where they would take over property seized from the French. One after another OHL toppled government ministers they regarded as weak.
“Peace Offensive” in the West In contrast to OHL’s questionable interventions in politics and diplomacy, their armies continued to excel. The commanders would agree on what was to be done and then Ludendorff and the OHL staff produced the mass of orders specifying exactly what was to be accomplished. On the western front they stopped packing defenders in the front line, which reduced losses to enemy artillery. They issued a directive on elastic defence, in which attackers who penetrated a lightly held front line entered a battle zone in which they were punished by artillery and counterattacks. It remained German Army doctrine through World War II; schools taught the new tactics to all ranks. Its effectiveness is illustrated by comparing the first half of 1916 in which 77 German soldiers died or went missing for every 100 British to the second half when 55 Germans were lost for every 100 British.
In February 1917, sure that the new French commander General Robert Nivelle would attack and correctly foreseeing that he would try to pinch off the German salient between Arras and Noyon, they withdrew to the segment of the Hindenburg line across the base of the salient, leaving the ground they gave up as a depopulated waste land, in Operation Alberich. The Nivelle Offensive in April 1917 was blunted by mobile defense in depth. Many French units mutinied, though OHL never grasped the extent of the disarray. The British supported their allies with a successful attack near Arras. Their major triumph was capturing Vimy Ridge, using innovative tactics in which infantry platoons were subdivided into specialist groups. The Ridge gave the British artillery observers superb views of the German line but elastic defense prevented further major gains. The British had another success in June 1917 when a meticulously planned attack, beginning with the detonation of mines containing higher explosive than ever fired before, took the Messines Ridge in Flanders. This was a preface to the British drive, beginning at the end of July 1917, toward the Passchendaele Ridge, intended as a first step in retaking the Belgian coast line. At first the defense was directed by General von Lossberg, a pioneer in defense in depth, but when the British adjusted their tactics Ludendorff took over day by day control. The British finally took the Ridge, it was impossible to stop determined attacks that inched forward for preset, limited gains, but the British paid a heavy price.
Ludendorff worried about declining morale, so in July 1917 OHL established a propaganda unit. In October 1917 they began mandatory patriotic lectures to the troops, who were assured that if the war was lost they would become slaves of international capital. The lecturers were to ensure that a fight is kept up against all agitators, croakers and weaklings.
Following the overthrow of the Tsar, the new Russian government launched the Kerensky Offensive in July 1917 attacking the Austro-Hungarian lines in Galicia. After minor successes the Russians were driven back and many of their soldiers refused to fight. The counterattack was halted only after the line was pushed 240 kilometres (150 mi) eastwards. The Germans capped the year in the East by capturing the strong Russian fortress of Riga in September 1917, starting with a brief, overwhelming artillery barrage using many gas shells then followed by infiltrating infantry. The Bolsheviks seized power and soon were at the peace table.
To bolster the wobbling Austro-Hungarian government, the Germans provided some troops and led a joint attack in Italy in October. They sliced through the Italian lines in the mountains at Caporetto. Two hundred and fifty thousand Italians were captured, and the rest of Italian Army was forced to retreat to the Grappa-Piave defensive line.
On 20 November 1917 the British achieved a total surprise by attacking at Cambrai. A short, intense bombardment preceded an attack by tanks which led the infantry through the German wire. It was Ludendorff’s 52nd birthday, but he was too upset to attend the celebratory dinner. The British were not organized to exploit their break-through, and German reserves counterattacked, in some places driving the British back beyond their starting lines. The local German commander had not implemented defence in depth.
At the beginning of 1918 almost a million munition workers struck; one demand was peace without annexations. OHL ordered that all strikers fit to bear arms be sent to the front, thereby degrading military service.
With Russia out of the war, the Germans outnumbered the Allies on the Western Front. After extensive consultations, OHL planned a series of attacks to drive the British out of the war. During the winter all ranks were schooled in the innovative tactics proven at Caporetto and Riga.
The first attack, Operation Michael, was on 21 March 1918 near Cambrai. After an effective hurricane bombardment coordinated by Colonel Bruchmüller, they slashed through the British lines, surmounting the obstacles that had thwarted their enemies for three years. On the first day they occupied as large an area as the Allies had won on the Somme after 140 days.
The Allies were aghast, but it was not the triumph OHL had hoped for: they had planned another Tannenberg by surrounding tens of thousands of British troops in the Cambrai salient, but had been thwarted by stout defence and fighting withdrawal. They lost as many men as the defenders; —the first day was the bloodiest of the war. Among the dead was Ludendorff’s oldest stepson, a younger had been killed earlier. They were unable to cut any vital railway. When Ludendorff motored near the front he was displeased by seeing how: The numerous slightly wounded made things difficult by the stupid and displeasing way in which they hurried to the rear. The Americans doubled the number of troops being sent to France.
Their next attack was in Flanders. Again, they broke through, advancing 30 km (19 mi), and forcing the British to give back all the ground that they had won the preceding year after weeks of battle. But the Germans were stopped short of the rail junction that was their goal.
Next, to draw French reserves south, they struck along the Chemin de Dames. In their most successful attack yet they advanced 12 km (7.5 mi) on the first day, crossing the Marne but stopping 56 kilometres (35 mi) from Paris.
But each triumph weakened their army and its morale. From 20 March 1918 to 25 June the German front lengthened from 390 kilometres (240 mi) to 510 kilometres (320 mi).
Then they struck near Reims, to seize additional railway lines for use in the salient but were foiled by brilliant French elastic tactics. Undeterred, on 18 July 1918 Ludendorff, still aggressive and confident, traveled to Flanders to confer about the next attack there.
A telephone call reported that the French and Americans led by a mass of tanks had smashed through the right flank of their salient pointing toward Paris, on the opening day of the Battle of Soissons. Everyone present realized that surely they had lost the war. Ludendorff was shattered.
OHL began to withdraw step by step to new defensive lines, first evacuating all of their wounded and supplies. Ludendorff’s communiques, which hitherto had been largely factual, now distorted the news, for instance claiming that American troops had to be herded onto troop ships by special police.
On 8 August 1918 they were completely surprised at Amiens when British tanks broke through the defences and intact German formations surrendered. To Ludendorff it was the black day in the history of the German Army. The German retreats continued, pressed by Allied attacks. OHL still vigorously opposed offering to give up the territory they desired in France and Belgium, so the German government was unable to make a plausible peace proposal.
Ludendorff became increasingly cantankerous, slating his staff without cause, publicly accusing the field marshal of talking nonsense, and sometimes bursting into tears. Bauer wanted him replaced, but instead Oberstabarzt Hochheimer was brought to OHL, he had worked closely with Ludendorff in Poland during the winter of 1915–16 on plans to bring in German colonists, before the war he had a practice in nervous diseases. The doctor spoke as a friend and he listened as a friend, convincing Ludendorff that he could not work effectively with one hour of sleep a night and that he must relearn how to relax. After a month away from headquarters his patient had recovered from the severest symptoms of battle fatigue.
Downfall On 29 September 1918 Ludendorff and Hindenburg told an incredulous Kaiser that they must have an immediate armistice. A new Chancellor, Prince Maximilian of Baden, approached President Woodrow Wilson but his terms were stiff, and the Army fought on. The chancellor told the Kaiser that he and his cabinet would resign unless Ludendorff was removed, but that Hindenburg must remain to hold the Army together. The Kaiser called his commanders in, curtly accepting Ludendorff’s resignation and then rejecting Hindenburg’s. Ludendorff would not accompany the field marshal back to headquarters, I refused to ride with you because you have treated me so shabbily.
Ludendorff had assiduously sought all the credit, now he was rewarded with all of the blame. Widely despised, and with revolution breaking out, he was hidden by his brother and a network of friends until he slipped out of Germany disguised in blue spectacles and a false beard, settling in a Swedish admirer’s country home, until the Swedish government asked him to leave in February 1919. In seven months, he wrote two volumes of detailed memoirs. Friends, led by Breucker, provided him with documents and negotiated with publishers. The memoirs testify to his capacity for work, his intellectual brilliance, and the sweeping range of his involvement: We regarded ourselves as the leaders of the whole nation in arms. Greener (who is not mentioned in the book) characterized it as a showcase of his Caesar-mania. He was a brilliant general, according to Wheeler-Bennett he was certainly one of the greatest routine military organizers that the world has ever seen, but he was a ruinous political meddler. The influential military analyst Hans Delbrück concluded that The Empire was built by Moltke and Bismarck, destroyed by Tirpitz and Ludendorff.
After the Great War In exile, Ludendorff wrote numerous books and articles about the German military’s conduct of the war while forming the foundation for the Dolchstosslegende, the stab-in-the-back theory, for which he is considered largely responsible. Ludendorff was convinced that Germany had fought a defensive war and, in his opinion, that Kaiser Wilhelm II had failed to organize a proper counter-propaganda campaign or provide efficient leadership.
Ludendorff was extremely suspicious of the Social Democrats and leftists, whom he blamed for the humiliation of Germany through the Versailles Treaty. Ludendorff claimed that he paid close attention to the business element (especially the Jews), and saw them turn their backs on the war effort by — as he saw it — letting profit, rather than patriotism, dictate production and financing.
Again, focusing on the left, Ludendorff was appalled by the strikes that took place towards the end of the war and the way that the home front collapsed before the military front did, with the former poisoning the morale of soldiers on temporary leave. Most importantly, Ludendorff felt that the German people had underestimated what was at stake in the war; he was convinced that the Entente had started the war and was determined to dismantle Germany completely.
By the Revolution the Germans have made themselves pariahs among the nations, incapable of winning allies, helots in the service of foreigners and foreign capital, and deprived of all self-respect. In twenty years’, time, the German people will curse the parties who now boast of having made the Revolution — Erich Ludendorff, My War Memories, 1914–1918
Political career in the Republic
Ludendorff returned to Berlin in February 1919. Staying at the Adlon Hotel, he talked with another resident, Sir Neill Malcolm, the head of the British Military Mission. After Ludendorff presented his excuses for the German defeat Malcolm said you mean that you were stabbed in the back? Ironically coining a key catchphrase for the German right-wing.
On 12 March 1920, 5,000 Freikorps troops under the command of Walther von Lüttwitz marched on the Chancellery, forcing the government led by Friedrich Ebert and Gustav Bauer to flee the city. The putschists proclaimed a new government with a right-wing politician, Wolfgang Kapp as new chancellor. Ludendorff and Max Bauer were part of the putsch. The Kapp Putsch was soon defeated by a general strike that brought Berlin to a standstill. The leaders fled, Ludendorff to Bavaria, where a right-wing coup had succeeded. He published two volumes of annotated —and in a few instances pruned — documents and commentaries documenting his war service. He reconciled with Hindenburg, who began to visit every year.
In May 1923 Ludendorff had an agreeable first meeting with Adolf Hitler, and soon he had regular contacts with National Socialists. On 8 November 1923, the Bavarian Staatskomissar Gustav von Kahr was addressing a jammed meeting in a large beer hall, the Bürgerbräukeller. Hitler, waving a pistol, jumped onto the stage, announcing that the national revolution was underway. The hall was occupied by armed men who covered the audience with a machine gun, the first move in the Beer Hall Putsch. Hitler announced that he would lead the Reich Government and Ludendorff would command the army. He addressed the now enthusiastically supportive audience and then spent the night in the War Ministry, unsuccessfully trying to obtain the army’s backing.
The next morning 3,000 armed Nazis formed outside of the Bürgerbräukeller and marched into central Munich, the leaders just behind the flag bearers. They were blocked by a cordon of police, firing broke out for less than a minute. Most of the Nazi leaders were hit or dropped to the ground. Ludendorff and his adjutant Major Streck marched to the police line where they pushed aside the rifle barrels. He was respectfully arrested. He was indignant when sent home while the other leaders remained in custody. Four police officers and 14 Nazis had been killed, including Ludendorff’s servant.
They were tried in early 1924. Ludendorff was acquitted, but Heinz was convicted of chauffeuring him, given a one-year suspended sentence and fined 1,000 marks. Hitler went to prison but was released after nine months. Ludendorff’s 60th birthday was celebrated by massed bands and a large torchlight parade. In 1924, he was elected to the Reichstag as a representative of the NSFB (a coalition of the German Völkisch Freedom Party (DVFP) and members of the Nazi Party), serving until 1928. At around this time, he founded the Tannenberg League, a German nationalist organization which was both anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic, and published literature espousing conspiracy theories involving Jews, Catholics – especially Jesuits – and Freemasons.
As his views became more extreme under the influence of his wife, Mathilde von Kemnitz, Ludendorff gradually began to part company with Hitler, who was surreptitiously working to undermine the reputation of his one serious rival for the leadership of the extreme right in Germany. Nonetheless, Ludendorff was persuaded to run for President of the Republic in the March 1925 election as the Nazi Party candidate, receiving only a pitiful 1.1 per cent of the vote; there is some evidence that Hitler himself persuaded Ludendorff to run, knowing that the results would be humiliating.
No one had a majority in the initial round of the election, so a second round was needed; Hindenburg entered the race and was narrowly elected. Ludendorff was so humiliated by what he saw as a betrayal by his old friend that he broke off relations with Hindenburg, and in 1927 refused to even stand beside the field marshal at the dedication of the Tannenberg memorial. He attacked Hindenburg abusively for not having acted in a nationalistic soldier-like fashion.
The Berlin-based liberal newspaper Vossische Zeitung states in its article:
Ludendorff’s hate tirades against Hindenburg — Poisonous gas from Hitler’s camp that Ludendorff was, as of 29 March 1930, deeply grounded in Nazi ideology.
Tipton notes that Ludendorff was a social Darwinist who believed that war was the foundation of human society, and that military dictatorship was the normal form of government in a society in which every resource must be mobilized. The historian Margaret L. Anderson notes that after the war, Ludendorff wanted Germany to go to war against all of Europe, and that he became a pagan worshipper of the Nordic god Wotan (Odin); he detested not only Judaism, but also Christianity, which he regarded as a weakening force.
Retirement and death Ludendorff divorced and married his second wife Mathilde von Kemnitz (1877–1966) in 1926. They published books and essays to prove that the world’s problems were the result of Christianity, especially the Jesuits and Catholics, but also conspiracies by Jews and the Freemasons. They founded the Society for the Knowledge of God, a small and rather obscure esoterical society of Theists that survives to this day. He launched several abusive attacks on his former superior Hindenburg for not having acted in a nationalistic soldier-like fashion.
By the time Hitler came to power, Ludendorff was no longer sympathetic to him. The Nazis distanced themselves from Ludendorff because of his eccentric conspiracy theories. On 30 January 1933, the occasion of Hitler’s appointment as Chancellor by President Hindenburg, Ludendorff sent the following telegram to Hindenburg:
I solemnly prophesy that this accursed man will cast our Reich into the abyss and bring our nation to inconceivable misery. Future generations will damn you in your grave for what you have done.
To regain Ludendorff’s favour, Hitler arrived unannounced at Ludendorff’s home on his 70th birthday in 1935 to promote him to field marshal. Infuriated, Ludendorff allegedly rebuffed Hitler by telling him:
An officer is named General Field-Marshal on the battlefield! Not at a birthday tea-party in the midst of peace.
He wrote two further books on military themes, demonstrating that he still could think coherently about war despite his political and social prejudices.
Ludendorff died on 20 December 1937 at the age of 72. He was given — against his explicit wishes — a state funeral organized and attended by Hitler, who declined to speak at his eulogy.
Decorations and awards Knight of the Military Order of Max Joseph (Bavaria) Grand Commander with Star of the House Order of Hohenzollern Pour le Mérite (Prussia) Grand Cross of the Iron Cross Knight of the Military Order of St. Henry (Saxony) Knight of the Military Merit Order (Württemberg) Knight Grand Cross of the House and Merit Order of Peter Frederick Louis with Swords and laurel Military Merit Cross, 2nd class (Mecklenburg-Schwerin) Military Merit Cross, 1st class with war decoration (Austria-Hungary) Gold Military Merit Medal (Signum Laudis, Austria-Hungary) Cross for Merit in War (Saxe-Meiningen)
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The Art of War
Erich Ludendorff understood what modern war was like at the top. He did not regard it as field game – as he wrote, having lost two sons, the war has spared me nothing. On the other hand, and again unlike Liddell Hart in particular, neither did he shrink from its horrors. Ludendorff’s post war dabbling with anti-Semitism, anti-Catholicism and anti-Freemasonry (he could never make up his mind which of the three international forces posed the greatest danger to Germany) bordered on the paranoid and has been rightly condemned. However, this should not be allowed to obscure the fact that his vision of future armed conflict was awesome and, what is more important, more nearly correct than any of the rest.
Having spent over two years in charge of the war effort of the most powerful belligerent in history until then, Ludendorff did not believe that a first-class modern state could be brought to its knees rapidly and cheaply by aircraft dropping bombs on its civilian population. Nor could this be achieved by fleets of tanks engaging in mobile operations, however indirect and however brilliant. In part, Ludendorff merely continued the work of some pre-1914 militarist writers, such as Colmar von der Goltz and Friedrich von Bernhardi, who had advocated total mobilization and mass armies. Up to a point, too, Der totale Krieg ( the English translation is called The Nations at War) both recounted his own experience, and also, by attacking many of his less cooperative colleagues, sought to explain why Germany (with himself as its head) has had lost the war. Whatever the book’s precise origins and purpose, Ludendorff’s main thesis was that the developing technologies of production, transportation and communication made modern war into much more than merely a question of armed forces maneuvering against each other for mastery of some battlefield. Instead it was total – the title of his book – basing itself on all the forces of the nation, and requiring that the latter be mobilized to the last person and the last screw.
To be sure, the next war would make use of all available modern weapons, including poison gas. Civilians as well as the armed forces would be targeted, and the resulting number of casualties, the destruction and suffering would be immense. Therefore, it would be all the more important to mobilize not only all material resources but also the people’s spirit, a point on which, the way Ludendorff and many of his countrymen saw it, Imperial Germany with its old-fashioned authoritarian system of government and its neglect of the working classes had been sadly deficient. The implication of such mobilization was an end to democracy and the liberties it entailed, including not only freedom of the press but capitalist enterprise as well. For either industrialists or union leaders (during the war Ludendorff had had his troubles with both) to insist on their own privilege was intolerable; they, as well as the entire financial apparatus available to the state, were to be subjected to a military dictatorship. Nor was Ludendorff under any illusion that the nation’s spiritual and material mobilization could be quickly improvised. Hence the dictatorship which he demanded, and for which he no doubt regarded himself as the most suitable candidate, was to be set up in peacetime and made permanent.
The next war would not be a gentlemanly fight for limited stakes to be won by the side with the swiftness and sharpest sword. Instead it would be a life and death struggle won by the belligerent with the greatest resources and the strongest will power – which incidentally disposed of any childish illusions concerning small, professional and highly mobile, let alone chivalrous, armed forces. Anything not serving the war effort would have to be ruthlessly discarded, and this specifically included playing at politics. Politics would, in effect, be swallowed up by the war; the two would become indistinguishable. All the theories of Clausewitz should be thrown overboard . . . Both war and policy serve the existence of the nation. However, war is the highest expression of the people’s will to live. Therefore politics must be made subordinate to war. or, to the extent that it was not, it was superfluous and, indeed, treasonable.
After 1945 Ludendorff’s military thought was often attacked by featherweight commentators. In addition to taking a justified dislike to his racism and his early support of Hitler, they mistook their world – in which nuclear weapons had made total war as he understood it impossible – for his. During these years it was Liddell Hart and Fuller who, rightly or not, were celebrated as the fathers of the Blitzkrieg (whether Liddell Hart in particular had as much influence on its development as he later claimed has recently become the subject of an entire literature). Nevertheless, the fact remains that it was not their vision of the Second World War but Ludendorff’s which turned out to be only too horribly true.
To be sure, fleets of aircraft did overfly fronts and bombed cities on a scale which, had he only been able to envisage it, might have made even Ludendorff blanch. Other air raft, cooperating more closely with the tanks, helped carry out spectacular mobile operations on the ground. The combination of amour, mobility and wireless restored operational, laying the groundwork for some spectacular victories in which countries the size of Poland and France were knocked down at a single blow. It also did much to re-establish the balance between offense and defense, although events were to show that both tank and aircraft (the latter, thanks to the introduction of radar) were as capable of operating on the defense, and preventing a breakthrough as they were of helping it to take place.
Where Ludendorff proved most correct, however, was on insisting that the Second World War – a term, of course, which he did not use – would be broadly like the first. As with its predecessor, it would develop into gigantic struggle and a prolonged one. It would both demand and make possible the mobilization of all resources under a regime which, even in democratic countries, came close to doing away with politics while putting everybody and everything under its own control (in 1945 the British Ministry of Food alone had no fewer than 30,000 employees). Ludendorff’s posthumous triumph may, indeed, be seen in the fact that, by the time the war was over, a continent had been devastated and between forty and sixty million lay dead. As the coming decades were to prove, the history of (conventional) military theory had run its course.
Courtesy of: The Art of War by Martin Van Creveld, Cassel & Co London