Kurt Ludecke (Berlin, 5 February 1890 – Prien am Chiemsee, 1960) was an ardent German nationalist, a playboy and international traveler who joined the Nazi party in the early 1920s and who used his social connections to raise money for the NSDAP. Before attending a rally at which Adolf Hitler was a featured speaker, Ludecke had assumed that Hitler was simply "one more fanatic" but after hearing Hitler speak at a mass demonstration at the Konigsplatz in Munich, he had adopted Hitler as his hero: "His appeal to German manhood was like a call to arms, the gospel he preached a sacred truth." The next day, he spoke to Hitler for four hours and offered himself to Hitler and the Nazi cause "without reservation.... I had given him my soul."
In the wake of the uproar over the Law for the Protection of the Republic, after the assassination of Walther Rathenau, a rather preposterous plan for a coup d'état in Munich was hatched by an obscure Munich civil servant named Dr. Otto Pittinger. The nationalist organizations (including the Nazis) would overthrow the Bavarian government via a putsch and replace it with a dictatorship under the former Minister President of Bavaria, Gustav Ritter von Kahr. Ludecke's mission was to help coordinate support of the Northern German right-wing revolutionaries, in preparation for spreading the putsch throughout Germany.
Upon his return to Bavaria, Ludecke found that Pittinger was going on vacation instead of running a coup and that Hitler was furious, announcing to Ludecke that he would never again rely on others for help in a coup.
Ludecke offered his services to Hitler as an envoy to Benito Mussolini soon after the Italian dictator marched on Rome and rose to power in Italy. His attempts to raise money from Mussolini were, however, not productive. But Ludecke persuaded Mussolini to send Leo Negrelli to Munich to interview Hitler on October 16, 1923 for the Corriere Italiano, providing visibility for the Nazis in Italy.
Ludecke also visited Henry Ford in Michigan, to see if Ford, a vocal anti-Semite, would contribute funds to the struggling Nazi Party. Ludecke's introduction was provided by Siegfried and Winifred Wagner, who were Hitler supporters. However, Ford declined to contribute.
The reflections and memoirs of Ludecke are sometimes relied upon by historians.
I Knew Hitler
Ludecke's chief work, and major claim to fame today, is his book I Knew Hitler, an early study, and expose, of the German Fuehrer by an ex-Nazi activist (Ludecke himself) who had joined the Nazi movement in 1922. Originally published by Scribners in 1937, the 833-page book, subtitled The Story of a Nazi Who Escaped the Blood-Purge, was reissued by Pen and Sword in 2013. Credit for assistance in writing and editing the book has been given to Paul Mooney (1904-1939), who also served as secretary and literary assistant to famed travel writer Richard Halliburton. The fullest account of the collaboration between Ludecke and Mooney is in Gerry Max, Horizon Chasers--The Lives and Adventures to Richard Halliburton and Paul Mooney (McFarland, 2007). I Knew Hitler is hailed in Horizon Chasers as "a masterpiece of political self-vindication" and, "with its counterplay of fact and aside," a work that reaches "high levels of sociologic contemplation, and, in its studious portraits (of various Nazi leaders), of Tacitean éclat."
- The 16 August 1922 rally attracted approximately 50,000 people. It was called by the United Fatherland League and all the "patriotic" societies were expected to join in a protest against the Reichstag's passage of the "Law for the Protection of the Republic," enacted in the wake of the brutal assassination of Walther Rathenau. Ludecke attended another rally featuring Hitler that same evening at the Cirkus Krone. Toland p. 117-19.
- Ludecke p. 22-25.
- Large p. 199.
- Intellect, Volume 106, Society for the Advancement of Education, 1977, p. 490
- Browder, George C. (2004). Foundations of the Nazi Police State: The Formation of Sipo and SD. University of Kentucky Press. ISBN 0-8131-9111-4. ("Browder")
- Bullock, Alan (1971). Hitler: A Study in Tyranny. New York: Harper & Row. ISBN 0-06-080216-2. ("Bullock")
- Carsten, F.L. (1982). The Rise of Fascism (2nd Edition). New York: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-04643-9. ("Carsten")
- Fischer, Conan (2002). The Rise of the Nazis. Manchester University Press. ISBN 0-7190-6067-2. ("Fischer")
- Grant, Thomas D. (2004). Stormtroopers and Crisis in the Nazi Movement: Activism, Ideology and Dissolution. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-19602-7. ("Grant")
- Hoffman, Peter (2000). Hitler's Personal Security: Protecting the Fuhrer, 1921-1945. Da Capo Press. ISBN 0-306-80947-8. ("Hoffman")
- Kershaw, Ian (1999). Hitler 1889–1936: Hubris. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0-393-04671-0.
- Lemmons, Russel (1994). Goebbels and Der Angriff. University of Kentucky Press. ISBN 0-8131-1848-4. ("Lemmons")
- Ludecke, Kurt (1938), I Knew Hitler, London: Jarrolds ("Ludecke")
- Max, Gerry, "I Knew Hitler," Horizon Chasers—The Lives and Adventures of Richard Halliburton and Paul Mooney (McFarland, 2007), pp. 119–129, quoted at p. 129. Contains photographs of Ludecke.
- Nyomarkay, Joseph. Charisma and Factionalism in the Nazi Party. University of Minnesota Press. ISBN 0-8166-5839-0. ("Nyomarkay")
- Read, Anthony (2004). The Devil's Disciples: Hitler's Inner Circle. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0-393-04800-4. ("Read")