from the book
'Out of My Life '
by Marshal von Hindenburg, 1920

The Memoirs of a German Field-Marshall - part 2

von Hindenburg's fame as used in advertising


Chapter V - The Struggle for East Prussia

The Outbreak of War and My Recall

The unruffled course of my life after the year 1911 gave me a chance to devote my spare time to following political events in the world. What I thus saw was not indeed of a nature likely to fill me with satisfaction. I was not in the least anxious, but I could not get rid of a certain oppressive feeling. I was in a sense forced to the conclusion that we were venturing into the distant ocean of world politics before our foundations in Europe itself had been sufficiently secured. Whether the political storm-clouds hung over Morocco or gathered over the Balkans, I shared with the majority of my countrymen a vague feeling that our German foundations were being undermined. In recent years we had unquestionably been in the presence of one of those chauvinistic waves which seemed to recur at regular intervals in France. Their origin was known. They found their support in Russia or England-or both-quite indifferent to who or what was the open or secret, known or unknown driving force there.

I have never ignored the special difficulties with which German foreign policy has been faced. The dangers involved in our geographical situation, our economic necessities, and last, but not least, our frontier provinces with their mixed nationalities, stared us in the face. The policy of our enemies which succeeded in reconciling all their jealousies against us did not, in my opinion, require a high degree of skill. In the long run it was mainly responsible for the war. We neglected to make preparations to meet that danger. From the point of view of procuring allies our policy seemed to be inspired more by a code of honour than a proper regard for the needs of our people and our world situation.

When, even in the 'nineties, a subsequent German Chancellor considered he had to regard the progressive decay of the Danube Monarchy, our Ally, as obvious it is inconceivable that our statesmen should not have drawn the appropriate inferences.

I have always had the liveliest sympathy with the German-Austrian members of our race. All of us have thoroughly understood the difficulties of their position in their Fatherland. But in my opinion this feeling of ours was exploited far too freely by Austro- Hungarian politicians.

The "Nibelung Compact" was certainly solemn enough at the time it was made. It could not, however, blind us to the fact that in the Bosnian crisis, the occasion on which the phrase was coined, Austria-Hungary had precipitately dragged us after her, without that previous understanding due to an Ally, and then summoned us to cover her rear. It was clear that we could not abandon our Allies at that juncture. It would simply have meant that we strengthened the Russian Colossus, with the prospect of being crushed by it all the more certainly and irresistibly in the long run.

To me as a soldier, the contrast between Austria-Hungary's political claims and her domestic and military resources was particularly striking.

To meet the huge armaments with which Russia had restored her position after the war in Eastern Asia we Germans had certainly increased our defences, but we had not required the same measures of our Austro-Hungarian Allies. It may have been a simple matter for the statesmen of the Danube Monarchy to meet all our suggestions for the increase of Austro-Hungarian armaments with a recital of their domestic difficulties, but how was it that we found no means of presenting Austria-Hungary with a definite alternative in this matter? We already knew of the enormous numerical superiority of our prospective enemies. Ought we to have permitted our Allies to make no use of a large part of their national resources available for the common defence? What advantage was it for us to have Austria-Hungary as a bulwark far to the southeast, when this bulwark was cracked at points innumerable and did not dispose of enough defenders to man its walls?

From the earliest times it seemed to me doubtful to rely on any effective help from Italy. It was an uncertain quantity; questionable even if the Italian statesmen favoured the idea. We had had an excellent opportunity of realising the weaknesses of the Italian Army in the war in Tripoli. Since that war the situation of Italy had improved but little, thanks to the shaky condition of its finances. In any case, it was not ready to strike.

It was along such lines that my thoughts and anxieties moved in those years. I had already had two personal experiences of war, on both occasions under strong and resolute political leadership combined with clear and straightforward military objectives. I was not afraid of war. I am not afraid of it now! But besides its uplifting influence, I knew its wholesale encroachment upon every side of human activity too well not to wish that it should be avoided as long as possible.

And now the war was upon us! The hopelessness of our prospects of compromising with France on the basis of the status quo, soothing England's commercial jealousy and fear of rivalry and satisfying Russia's greed without breaking faith with our Austrian Ally, had long created a feeling of tension in Germany, compared with which the outbreak of war was felt almost as a release from a perpetual burden we had carried all our lives.

Then came the Imperial summons to arms, and with it a proud army of whose efficiency the world had seldom seen the like. The hearts of the whole nation must have beat faster at the very sight of it. Yet there was no vainglorious boasting, in view of the task which faced it. As neither Bismarck nor Moltke had left us in any doubt as to what such a war would mean, every intelligent man asked himself whether we should be in a position to hold out, politically, economically and morally, as well as in a military sense.

But confidence was unquestionably stronger than doubt.

The news of the bursting of the storm broke in upon this train of thought and reflection. The soldier within me sprang to life again and dominated everything else. Would my Emperor and King need me? Exactly a year had passed without my receiving any official intimation of this kind. Enough younger men seemed available. I put myself in the hands of Fate and waited in longing expectation.


To the Front

The Homeland listened in suspense.

The news from the various theatres of war realised our hopes and wishes. Liege had fallen, the action at Mulhausen had come to a victorious conclusion, and our right wing and centre were passing through Belgium. The first news of the victory in Lorraine was just reaching the country, rejoicing all hearts. In the East, too, the trumpets of victory were sounding. Nowhere had anything happened which seemed to justify any anxiety.

At three o'clock in the afternoon of August 22 I received an inquiry from the Headquarters of His Majesty the Emperor as to whether I was prepared for immediate employment.

My answer ran: "I am ready."

Even before this telegram could have reached Main Headquarters I received another. It was to the effect that my willingness to accept a post in the field was assumed as a matter of course, and informed me that General Ludendorff was to be assigned to me. Further telegrams from Main Headquarters explained that I was to leave for the East immediately to take command of an army.

About three o'clock in the morning I went to the station, imperfectly equipped, as time had been short, and waited expectantly in the well-lit hall. It was only when the short special train steamed in that I wrenched my thoughts away from the hearth and home which I had had to leave so suddenly. General Ludendorff stepped briskly from the train and reported as my Chief of Staff of the 8th Army.

Before that moment the general had been a stranger to me, and I had not yet heard of his feats at Liege. He first explained the situation on the Eastern Front to me as communicated to him on August 22 at Main Headquarters (Coblenz) by Colonel-General von Moltke, Chief of the General Staff. It appeared that the operations of the 8th Army in East Prussia had taken the following course: At the opening of hostilities the army had left the 20th Army Corps, strengthened by fortress garrisons and other Landwehr formations in a position covering the southern frontier of East and West Prussia from the Vistula to the Lotzen Lakes. The main body of the army (1st and 17th Army Corps, 1st Reserve Corps, 3rd Reserve Division, the garrison of Konigsberg, and the 1st Cavalry Division) had been concentrated on the Eastern frontier of East Prussia, and had there attacked the Russian Niemen Army, which was advancing under General Rennenkampf. There had been an action at Stalluponen on August 17, and another at Gumbinnen on the 19th and 20th. During the battle at Gumbinnen news had been received of the approach of the Russian Narew Army, under General Samsonoff, towards the German frontier between Soldau and Willenberg. The Commander of our 8th Army had therefore reason to expect that the Russians would have crossed that stretch of the frontier by the 20th. In view of this threat to their communications from the south, the Headquarters Staff broke off the action at Gumbinnen and reported to Main Headquarters that they were not in a position to hold the country east of the Vistula any longer.

General von Moltke had not approved of that decision. It was his opinion that an attempt must be made to destroy the Narew Army before we could think of abandoning East Prussia, so important from the military, economic and political point of view. The conflict between the views of Main Headquarters and those of the Army Headquarters Staff had necessitated a change in the command of the 8th Army.

At the moment the situation of this army appeared to be as follows: It had successfully shaken off the enemy. The 1st Army Corps and the 3rd Reserve Division were moving west by rail, while the 1st Reserve Corps and the 17th Army Corps were marching for the line of the Vistula. The 20th Army Corps was still in its positions on the frontier.

Before long I and my new Chief of Staff were at one in our view of the situation. Even while at Coblenz General Ludendorff had been able to issue such preliminary orders as brooked no delay, orders intended to secure the continuance of operations east of the Vistula. The most important of these was that the 1st Army Corps should not be brought too far west, but directed on Deutsch-Eylau, that is towards the enemy and behind the right wing of the 20th Corps.

Everything else must and could be left for decision when we reached Army Headquarters at Mariehburg.

Our conference had taken scarcely more than half an hour. We then went to bed. I made thoroughly good use of the time at my disposal.

We thus travelled together towards a joint future, fully conscious how serious the situation was and yet with perfect confidence in our Lord God, our brave troops and, last but not least, in one another. From now on we were to be united for years in common thought and action.

At this point I may well say something about my relations with General Ludendorff, then Chief of Staff and subsequently First Quartermaster-General. It has been suggested that these relations find a parallel in those between Bluecher and Gneisenau. I will venture no opinion as to how far such a comparison reveals a departure from true historical perspective. As I have already said, I had myself held the post of Chief of Staff for several years. As I knew from my own experience, the relations between the Chief of Staff and his General, who has the responsibility, are not theoretically laid down in the German Army. The way in which they work together and the degree to which their powers are complementary are much more a matter of personality. The boundaries of their respective powers are therefore not clearly demarcated. If the relations between the General and his Chief of Staff are what they ought to be, these boundaries are easily adjusted by soldierly and personal tact and the qualities of mind on both sides.

I myself have often characterised my relations with General Ludendorff as those of a happy marriage. In such a relationship how can a third partly clearly distinguish the merits of the individuals? They are one in thought and action, and often what the one says is only the expression of the wishes and feelings of the other.

After I had learnt the worth of General Ludendorff, and that was soon, I realised that one of my principal tasks was, as far as possible, to give free scope to the intellectual powers, the almost superhuman capacity for work and untiring resolution of my Chief of Staff, and if necessary clear the way for him, the way in which our common desires and our common goal pointed-victory for our colours, the welfare of our Fatherland and a peace worthy of the sacrifices our nation had made.

I had to show General Ludendorff that loyalty of a brother warrior which we had learnt to find in German history from youth up, that loyalty in which our ethical philosophy is so rich. And indeed his work and his determination, his whole great personality were truly worthy of such loyalty. Others may think what they like. For him, as for so many of our great and greatest men, the time will come one day when the whole nation will look to him in admiration. I can only hope that in an equally critical hour of trial our Fatherland may find such a man again, a man who is every bit a man, a host in himself, unapproachable and uncompromising indeed, but created for a gigantic task if anyone ever was.

See how he was hated by his enemies, who rightly knew his worth!

The harmony of our military and political convictions formed the basis for our joint views as to the proper use of our resources. Differences of opinion were easily reconciled, without our relations being disturbed by a feeling of forced submission on either side. The hard work of my Chief of Staff translated our thoughts and plans into action at our Army Headquarters and, later, at Main Headquarters when the responsibilities of that post were entrusted to us. His influence inspired everyone, and no one could escape it without running the risk of finding himself off the common path. How otherwise could the enormous task have been done and full effect given to the driving force? Around us two gathered the wider circle of our colleagues, filled with a resolute soldierly sense of duty and well endowed with ideas. A feeling of deep thankfulness possesses me whenever I think of them!


3 - Tannenberg

Early in the afternoon of August 23 we reached our Headquarters at Marienburg. We thus entered the region east of the Vistula which was to form the immediate theatre of our operations. At this moment the situation at the front had undergone the following development:

The 20th Corps had been withdrawn from its positions on the frontier by Neidenburg to Gilgenburg and east of it. In touch with this corps on the west the garrisons of the fortresses of Thorn and Graudenz were along the frontier as far as the Vistula. The 3rd Division had arrived at Allenstein as a reinforcement for the 20th Army Corps. After considerable delay the entrainment of the 1st Army Corps for Deutsch-Eylau had begun. The 17th Corps and the 1st Reserve Corps had reached the neighbourhood of Gerdauen on foot. The 1st Cavalry Division was south of Insterburg facing Rennenkampf's army. The garrison of Konigsberg had passed through Insterburg in its retreat to the west. With a few exceptions there were no noteworthy bodies of infantry of Rennenkampf's Niemen Army on the west side of the Angerapp. Of the two Russian cavalry corps one was reported close to Angerburg, the other west of Darkehmen. Of Samsonoff's Narew Army apparently one division had reached the neighbourhood of Ortelsburg, while Johannisburg was said to be in the enemy's possession. For the rest the main body of this army seemed to be still concentrating on the frontier with its western wing at Mlawa.

In the pocket-book of a dead Russian officer a note had been found which revealed the intention of the enemy Command. It told us that Rennenkampf's Army was to pass the Masurian Lakes on the north and advance against the Insterburg-Angerburg line. It was to attack the German forces presumed to be behind the Angerapp while the Narew Army was to cross the Lotzen-Ortelsburg line to take the Germans in flank.

The Russians were thus planning a concentric attack against the 8th Army, but Samsonoff's Army now already extended farther west than was originally intended.

What indeed could we do to meet this dangerous enemy scheme? It was dangerous less on account of the audacity of the conception than by reason of the strength in which it was to be carried out-at any rate strength from the point of view of numbers. We could hope that it would be otherwise as regards strength of will. During the months of August and September Russia brought up no fewer than 800,000 men and 1,700 guns against East Prussia, for the defence of which we had only 210,000 German soldiers and 600 guns at our disposal.

Our counter-measures were simple. I will attempt to make the broad outlines of our plan clear to the reader even if he is not an expert.

In the first place we opposed a thin centre to Samsonoff's solid mass. I say thin, not weak. For it was composed of men with hearts and wills of steel. Behind them were their homes, wives and children, parents and relatives and everything they had. It was the 20th Corps, brave East and West Prussians. This thin centre might bend under the enemy's pressure but it would not break. While this centre was engaged two important groups on its wings were to carry out the decisive attack.

The troops of the 1st Corps, reinforced by Landwehr, likewise sons of the threatened region-were brought for the battle from the right, the north-west, the troops of the 17th Corps and the 1st Reserve Corps, with a Landwehr brigade, from the left, the north and northeast. These men of the 17th Corps and 1st Reserve Corps as well as the Landwehr and Landsturm also had behind them everything which made life worth living.

We had not merely to win a victory over Samsonoff. We had to annihilate him. Only thus could we get a free hand to deal with the second enemy, Rennenkampf, who was even then plundering and burning East Prussia. Only thus could we really and completely free our old Prussian land and be in a position to do something else which was expected of us-intervene in the mighty battle for a decision which was raging between Russia and our Austro-Hungarian Ally in Galicia and Poland. If this first blow were not final the danger for our Homeland would become like a lingering disease, the burnings and murders in East Prussia would remain unavenged, and our Allies in the south would wait for us in vain.

It was thus a case for complete measures. Everything must be thrown in which could prove of the slightest use in manoeuvre warfare and could at all be spared. The fortresses of Graudenz and Thorn disgorged yet more Landwehr fit for the field. Moreover, our Landwehr came from the trenches between the Masurian Lakes, which were covering our new operations in the east, and handed over the defence there to a smaller and diminishing number of Landsturm. Once we had won the battle in the field we should no longer need the fortresses of Thorn and Graudenz, and should be freed from anxieties as regards the defiles between the lakes.

Our cavalry division and the Konigsberg garrison with two Landwehr brigades were to remain facing Rennenkampf, who might fall upon us like an avalanche from the north- east at any time. But at the moment we could not yet say whether these forces would really be sufficient. They formed but a light veil which would easily be torn if Rennenkampf's main columns moved or his innumerable cavalry squadrons advanced, as we had to fear. But perhaps they would not move. In that case the veil would be enough to cover our weakness. We had to take risks on our flanks and rear if we were to be strong at the decisive point. We hoped we might succeed in deceiving Rennenkampf. Perhaps he would deceive himself. The strong fortress of Konigsberg with its garrison and our cavalry might assume the proportions of a mighty force in the imagination of the enemy.

But even supposing Rennenkampf cradled himself in illusions to our advantage, would not his High Command urge him forward in forced marches to the south-west in our rear? Would not Samsonoff's cry for help bring him in hot haste to the battlefield? And even if the sound of human voices echoed in vain, would not the warning thunder of the battle reach the Russian lines north of the Lakes, nay, to the enemy's Headquarters itself?

Caution with regard to Rennenkampf was therefore necessary, though we could not carry it to the extent of leaving strong forces behind, or we should find ourselves weaker on the battlefield than we ought to be.

When we considered the numbers on both sides a comparison with the probable Russian forces showed a great disparity against us, even if we counted in on our side the two Landwehr brigades which were then coming from Schleswig-Holstein, where they had been employed in coast protection (and assuming that they would arrive in time for the battle), and even if Rennenkampf did not move and indeed played no part. Moreover, it must be remembered that large bodies of Landwehr and Landsturm had to fight in the first line. Older classes against the pick of Russia's youth! We had the further disadvantage that most of our troops and, as the situation decreed, all those which had to deliver the coup de grace, had just been engaged in heavy and expensive fighting. Had they not just been compelled to leave the battlefield of Gumbinnen to the Russians? The troops were not therefore marching with the proud feeling of being victors. Yet they pressed forward to the battle with stout hearts and unshaken confidence. We were told that their moral was good, and it therefore justified bold decisions. Where it was somewhat shaken such decisions could not fail to restore it. It had been thus before; could it be otherwise now? I had no misgivings on the score of our numerical inferiority.

He who reckons solely by the visible in war is reckoning falsely. The inherent worth of the soldier is everything. It was on that that I based my confidence. What I thought to myself was this:

The Russian may invade our Fatherland, and contact with the soil of Germany may lift up his heart, but that does not make him a German soldier, and those who lead him are not German officers. The Russian soldier had fought with the greatest obedience on the battlefields of Manchuria although he had no sympathy with the political ambitions of his rulers in the Pacific. It did not seem unlikely that in a war against the Central Powers the Russian Army would have greater enthusiasm for the war aims of the Tsar's Empire. On the other hand, I considered that, taking it all round, the Russian soldier and officer would not display higher military qualities in the European theatre than they had in the Asiatic, and believed that in comparing the two forces I was entitled to credit our side with a plus on the ground of intrinsic value instead of a minus for our numerical inferiority.

Such was our plan and such our line of reasoning before and for the battle. We compressed these ideas and intentions into a short report which we sent from Marienburg to Main Headquarters on August 23:

"Concentration of the army for an enveloping attack in the region of the 20th Corps planned for August 26."

On the evening of the 23rd I took a short walk on the western bank of the Nogat. From there the red walls of the proud castle of the Teutonic Knights, the greatest brick monument of Baltic Gothic, made a truly wonderful picture in the evening light. Thoughts of a noble chivalry of the past mingled involuntarily with conjecture as to the veiled future. The sight of the refugees flying past me from my home province deepened the sense of responsibility that possessed me. It was a melancholy reminder that war not only affects the fighting man, but proves a thousandfold scourge to humanity by the destruction of the very essentials of existence.

On August 24 I motored with my small Staff to the Headquarters of the 20th Corps, and thus entered the village which was to give its name to the battle so soon to blaze up.

Tannenberg! A word pregnant with painful recollections for German chivalry, a Slav cry of triumph, a name that is fresh in our memories after more than five hundred years of history. Before this day I had never seen the battlefield which proved so fateful to German culture in the East. A simple monument there bore silent witness to the deeds and deaths of heroes. On one of the following days we stood near this monument while Samsonoff's Russian Army was going to its doom of sheer annihilation.

On our way from Marienburg to Tannenberg the impression of the miseries into which war had plunged the unhappy inhabitants were intensified. Masses of helpless refugees, carrying their belongings, pressed past me on the road and to a certain extent hindered the movements of our troops which were hastening to meet the foe.

Among the Staff at the Corps Headquarters I found the confidence and resolution which were essential for the success of our plan. Moreover, they had a favourable opinion of the moral of the troops at this spot, which was at first the crucial point for us.

The day brought us no decisive information either about Rennenkampf's operations or Samsonoff's movements. Apparently it only confirmed the fact that Rennenkampf was moving forward very slowly. We could not see the reason for this. Of the Narew Army, we knew that its main columns were pressing forward against the 20th Corps. Under its pressure this corps refused its left wing. There was nothing doubtful about this measure. Quite the contrary. The enemy, following up, would all the more effectively expose his right flank to our left enveloping column which was marching on Bischofsburg. On the other hand the hostile movement which was apparently in progress against our western wing and Lautenburg attracted our attention, as it caused us some anxiety. We had the impression that the Russians were thinking of enveloping us in turn at this point and coming in on the flank of our right column as it executed the enveloping movement we projected.

August 25 gave us a rather clearer picture of Rennenkampf's movements. His columns were marching from the Angerapp, and therefore on Konigsberg. Had the original Russian plan been abandoned? Or had the Russian leaders been deceived by our movements and suspected that our main force was in and around the fortress? In any case we must now have not the slightest hesitation in leaving but a thin screen against Rennenkampf's mighty force. On this day Samsonoff, obviously feeling his way, was directing his main columns towards our 20th Corps. The corps on the Russian right wing was undoubtedly marching on Bischofsburg, and therefore towards our 17th Corps and 1st Reserve Corps, which had reached the district north of this village on this day. Apparently further large Russian forces were concentrating at Mlawa.

This day marked the conclusion of the stage of expectation and preparation. We brought our 1st Corps round to the right wing of the 20th Corps. The general attack could begin.

August 26 was the first day of the murderous combat which raged from Lautenburg to north of Bischofsburg. The drama on which the curtain was rising, and whose stage stretched for more than sixty miles, began not with a continuous battle line but in detached groups; not in one self-contained act, but in a series of scenes.

General von Francois was leading his brave East Prussians on the right ,wing. They pushed forward against Usdau with a view to storming the key to this part of the southern battle front next day. General von Scholtz's magnificent corps gradually shook off the chains of defence and addressed themselves to the business of attack. Fierce was the fighting round Bischofsburg that this day witnessed. By the evening magnificent work had been done on ouii side at this point. In a series of powerful blows the wing corps of Samsonoff's right had been defeated and forced to retreat on Ortelsburg by the troops of Mackensen and Below (10th Corps and 1st Reserve Corps), as well as Landwehr. But we could not yet realize how, far-reaching our victory had been. The Staff expected to have to meet a renewed and stout resistance south of this day's battlefield on the following day. Yet was their confidence high.

It was now apparent that danger was threatening from the side of Rennenkampf. It was reported that one of his corps was on the march through Angerburg. Would it not find its way to the rear of our left enveloping force? Moreover, disquieting news came to us from the flank and rear of our western wing. Strong forces of Russian cavalry were in movement away there in the south. We could not find out whether they were being followed up by infantry. The crisis of the battle now approached. One question forced itself upon us. How would the situation develop if these mighty movements and the enemy's superiority in numbers delayed the decision for days? Is it surprising that misgivings filled many a heart, that firm resolution began to yield to vacillation, and that doubts crept in where a clear vision had hitherto prevailed? Would it not be wiser to strengthen our line facing Rennenkampf again and be content with half-measures against Samsonoff? Was it not better to abandon the idea of destroying the Narew Army in order to ensure ourselves against destruction?

We overcame the inward crisis, adhered to our original intention, and turned in full strength to effect its realisation by attack. So the order was issued for our right wing to advance straight on Neidenburg, and the left enveloping wing "to take up its position at 4 A.M. and intervene with the greatest energy."

August 27 showed that the victory of the 1st Reserve Corps and 17th Corps at Bischofsburg on the previous day had had far-reaching results. The enemy had not only retired, but was actually fleeing from the battlefield. Moreover, we learned that it was only in the imagination of an airman that Rennenkampf was marching in our rear. The cold truth was that he was slowly pressing on to Konigsberg. Did he, or would he, not see that Samsonoff's right flank was already threatened with utter ruin and that the danger to his left wing also was increasing from hour to hour? For it was on this day that Francois and Scholtz stormed the enemy's lines at and north of Usdau and defeated our southern opponent.

Now, when the enemy's centre pushed forward, farther towards Allenstein-Hohenstein, it was no longer victory but destruction that lured it on. For us the situation was clear. On the evening of this day we gave orders for the complete encirclement of the enemy's central mass, his 13th and 15th Corps.

The bloody struggle continued to rage on August 28.

On the 29th a large part of the Russian Army saw itself faced with total annihilation at Hohenstein. Ortels-burg was reached from the north, Willenberg, through Neidenburg, from the west. The ring round thousands and thousands of Russians began to close. Even in this desperate situation there was plenty of Russian heroism in the cause of the Tsar, heroism which saved the honour of arms but could no longer save the battle.

Meanwhile Rennenkampf was continuing to march quietly on Konigsberg. Samsonoff was lost at the very moment when his comrade was to give proof of other and better military qualities. For we were already in a position to draw troops from the battle front to cover the work of destruction in which we were engaged in the great cauldron, Neidenburg-Willenberg-Passenheim, and in which Samsonoff sought for death in his despair. Swelling columns of prisoners poured out of this cauldron. These were the growing proofs of the greatness of our victory. By a freak of fortune it was in Osterode, one of the villages which we made our Headquarters during the battle, that I received one of the two captured Russian Corps Commanders, in the same inn at which I had been quartered during a General Staff ride in 1881 when I was a young Staff officer. The other reported to me next day at a school which we had converted into an office.

As the battle proceeded we were able to observe what splendid raw material, generally speaking, the Tsar had at his disposal. I -had the impression that it doubtless contained many qualities worth training. As in 1866 and 1870, I noticed on this occasion how quickly the German officer and soldier, with their fine feeling and professional tact, forgot the former foe in the helpless captive. The lust of battle in our men quickly ebbed away and changed to deep sympathy and human feeling. It was only against the Cossacks that our men could not contain their rage. They were considered the authors of all the bestial brutalities under which the people and country of East Prussia had suffered so cruelly. The Cossack apparently suffered from a bad conscience, for whenever he saw himself likely to be taken prisoner he did his best to remove the broad stripe on his trousers which distinguished his branch of the service.

On August 30 the enemy concentrated fresh troops in the south and east and attempted to break our encircling ring from without. From Myszaniec-that is, from the direction of Ostrolenka-he brought up new and strong columns to Neidenburg and Ortelsburg against our troops, which had already completely enveloped the Russian centre and were therefore presenting their rear to the new foe. There was danger ahead; all the more so because airmen reported that enemy columns twenty-three miles long- therefore very strong -were pressing forward from Mlawa. Yet we refused to let go of our quarry. Samsonoff's main force had to be surrounded and annihilated; Francois and Mackensen sent their reserves-weak reserves, it is true-to meet the new enemy. Against their resistance the attempt to mitigate the catastrophe to Samsonoff came to nought. While despair seized on those within the deadly ring, faint- heartedness paralysed the energies of those who might have brought their release. In this respect, too, the course of events at the Battle of Tannenberg confirmed the human and military experiences of yore.

Our ring of fire round the Russian masses, crowded closely together and swaying this way and that, became closer and narrower with every hour that passed.

Rennenkampf appears to have intended to attack the line of the Deime, east of Konigsberg and between Labiau and Tapiau, this day. From the region of Lands-berg and Bartenstein his masses of cavalry were approaching the battlefield of Tannenberg. However, we had already concentrated strong forces, weary but flushed with victory, for defence in the neighbourhood of Allenstein.

August 31 was the day of harvesting for such of our troops as were still engaged, a day of deliberation about the further course of operations for our leaders, and for Rennenkampf the day of the retreat to the Deime- Allenburg-Angerburg line.

As early as the 29th the course of events had enabled me to report the complete collapse of the Russian Narew Army to my All-Highest War Lord. The very same day the thanks of His Majesty, in the name of the Fatherland, had reached me on the battlefield. I transferred these thanks, in my heart as with my lips, to my Chief of Staff and our splendid troops.

On August 31 I was able to send the following report to my Emperor and King:

"I beg most humbly to report to Your Majesty that the ring round the larger part of the Russian Army was closed yesterday. The 13th, 15th and 18th Army Corps have been destroyed. We have already taken more than 60,000 prisoners, among them the Corps Commanders of the 13th and 15th Corps. The guns are still in the forests and are now being brought in. The booty is immense though it cannot yet be assessed in detail. The Corps outside our ring, the 1st and 6th, have also suffered severely and are now retreating in hot haste through Mlawa and Myszaniec."

The troops and their leaders had accomplished extraordinary feats. The divisions were now in bivouacs and the hymn of thanks of the Battle of Leuthen rose from their midst.

In our new Headquarters at Allenstein I entered the church, close by the old castle of the Teutonic Knights, while divine service was being held. As the clergyman uttered his closing words all those present, young soldiers as well as elderly Landsturm, sank to their knees under the overwhelming impression of their experiences. It was a worthy curtain to their heroic achievements.


4 - The Battle of the Masurian Lakes 1

The sound of battle on the field of Tannenberg had hardly died down before we had begun to make our preparations for the attack on Rennenkampf's Russian Army. On August 31 we received the following telegraphic instructions from Main Headquarters:

11th Corps, Guard Reserve Corps and 8th Cavalry Division are placed at your disposal. Their transport has begun. The first task of the 8th Army is to clear East Prussia of Rennenkampf's army.

It is desired that with such troops as you can spare you should follow up the enemy you have just beaten in the direction of Warsaw, bearing in mind the Russian movements from Warsaw on Silesia.

When the situation in East Prussia has been restored you are to contemplate employing the 8th Army in the direction of Warsaw.

These orders were exactly what the situation required. They gave us a clear objective and left the ways and means to us. We considered we had reason to believe that what was left of Samsonoff's quondam army was a remnant which had already withdrawn to the shelter of the Narew or was on its way there. We had to count on its being reinforced. But that could not be for a considerable time. For the moment it appeared that all that was required was that this remnant should be watched by weak troops along the line of our southern frontier. Everything else must be assembled for the new battle. Even the arrival of the reinforcements from the West did not, in our opinion, enable us to employ forces in striking south over the line of the Narew.

It was quite clear what the word "Warsaw" meant in the second part of the order. In accordance with the plan of joint operations the armies of Austria-Hungary were to take the offensive from Galicia in the direction of Lublin, exercising their main pressure on the eastern portion of Russian Poland, while German forces in East Prussia were to hold out a hand to their allies across the Narew. It was a largely conceived, fine plan, but in the existing situation it produced grave embarrassments.

It did not take account of the fact that Austria-Hungary had sent a large army to the Serbian frontier, that 800,000 Russians had been sent against East Prussia, least of all that it had been betrayed with all its details to the Russian General Staff in peace time.

The Austro-Hungarian Army, after making a hazardous attack on superior Russian forces, was now involved in critical frontal battles, while at the moment we were not in a position to render any direct assistance, though we were holding up large hostile forces. Our Allies had to try and hold on until we had beaten Rennenkampf too. Only then could we come to their help, if not in full strength at least with our main forces.

As is known, Rennenkampf was then on the Deime-Allenburg-Gerdauen-Angerburg line. We did not know what the enemy had by way of secrets in the region south-east of the Masurian Lakes. The district of Grajevo was suspicious in any case. A good deal of movement was on foot there. Even more suspicious was the whole area behind the Niemen Army. In that quarter there was a continuous movement of trains and marching columns. Apparently that movement was to the west and southwest. Rennenkampf had doubtless received reinforcements. The Russian reserve divisions from the interior were now ready to take the field. Perhaps all that had' hitherto been available were single corps which the Russian High Command believed they no longer needed against the Austrians in Poland. Would these units be sent to Rennenkampf or brought up near him, either to give him direct support or to strike at us from some unsuspected quarter?

So far as we could judge, Rennenkampf had more than twenty divisions, yet he stood still and remained thus, while our army came up from the west and deployed for battle against him. Why did he not use the time of our greatest weakness, when the troops were exhausted and crowded together on the battlefield of Tannenberg, to fall upon us? Why did he give us time to disentangle our units, concentrate afresh, rest and bring up reinforcements? The Russian leader was known to be a fine soldier and general. When Russia was fighting in eastern Asia among all the Russian leaders it was the name of Rennenkampf that rang out over the world. Had his fame then been exaggerated? Or had the general lost his military qualities in the meantime?

Many a time has the soldier's calling exhausted strong characters, and that surprisingly quickly. The fine intellect and resolute will of one year give place to the sterile imaginings and faint heart of the next. That is perhaps the tragedy of military greatness.

We have opened and closed the book of Rennenkampf's responsibility for Tannenberg. Let us now go in thought to his headquarters at Insterburg, not to blame him but to try and understand him.

The disaster to Samsonoff showed General Rennenkampf that the main body of our 8th Army was not in Konigsberg, as he supposed. But he none the less suspected that we still had strong forces in that powerful fortress. It thus seemed venturesome, too venturesome, to mask it and throw himself upon the victorious German army in the neighbourhood of Allenstein. It would be safer to hold on in the strong defensive positions between the Kurisches Haff and the Masurian Lakes. Against these lines the Germans could certainly not try their art of envelopment from the north, and only with much difficulty from the south. If they made a frontal attack he would fall upon their troops, crowded together, with strong forces held back in reserve. If they ventured on the improbable and pressed forward through the defiles between the lakes it would be possible to attack the left flank of their enveloping columns from the north while a newly- formed group was hurled at their right flank and rear from the direction of Grajevo. If all else failed, well and good-he could withdraw into Russia. Russia was large and the fortified line of the Niemen was at hand. Rennenkampf was no longer chained to East Prussia by any strategic necessity. The plan of joint operations with Samsonoff had been brought to naught, and as the army of the latter had gone to its doom even as it pressed hopefully forward, the best course was now to be cautious.

Thus must Rennenkampf have reasoned. And critics have maintained that such was his reasoning. It must be admitted that no great decision could have been born of such thoughts. They did not exactly move on bold lines. Yet their translation into action could have produced many a considerable direct crisis for us and had a grave influence on the general situation in the East. The great numerical superiority of the Niemen Army would have been quite enough to cut our 8th Army to pieces, even after it had been reinforced. A premature retreat of Rennenkampf, however, would have robbed us of the fruits of our new operation and thereupon made it impossible for us to advance on Warsaw and thereby support the Austrians for a long time to come.

We had therefore to be at once cautious and bold.

It was this dual requirement which gave their peculiar character to the movements we now initiated. We first established our front on a broad arc from Willenburg to the outskirts of Konigsberg. This took us until September 5, broadly speaking. Then our line moved forward. Four corps (the 20th, 11th, 1st Reserve and Guard Reserve) and the troops from Konigsberg-comparatively a strong force-advanced against the enemy's front on the Angerburg-Deime line. Two corps (the 1st and 17th) were to push through the lake region. The 3rd Reserve Division, as the right echelon of our enveloping sying, had to follow south of the Masurian Lakes, while the 1st and 8th Cavalry Divisions had to be held in readiness behind the main columns, to range at large as soon as the lake denies were forced. Such were the forces against Rennenkampf's flank. So the scheme differed from the movements which had led to the victory of Tannenberg. This grouping of our columns was imposed upon us by the necessity of securing ourselves against Rennenkampf's strong reserves. In this way fourteen infantry divisions were told off to attack the front, in spite of the fact that its breadth was more than ninety-five miles.

On the 6th and 7th we were approaching the Russian lines and began to see rather more clearly. There were strong Russian columns near Insterburg and Wehlau, perhaps even stronger ones north of Nordenburg. They made no movement at first, and in no way interfered with us as we deployed for battle before their lines.

The two corps on our right (1st and 17th) began to force their way through the chain of lakes on September 7, while at Bialla the 3rd Reserve Division shattered half of the Russian 20th Corps in a brilliant action. We were entering upon the crisis of our new operations. The next few days would show whether Rennenkampf intended to attempt a counter-attack and whether his resolution to do so was as great as his resources. To add to his already formidable superiority three more reserve divisions appeared to have reached the battlefield. Was the Russian commander still waiting for more? Russia had more than three million fighting men on her western front, while the Austro-Hungarian armies and ourselves had scarcely a third of that number.

The battle blazed up along the whole front on September 8. Our frontal attack made no progress, but things went better on our right wing. In that quarter two corps had broken through the enemy's lake defences and were turning north and north-east. Our objective was now the enemy's line of communications. Our cavalry appeared to have an open road in that direction.

On the 9th the battle raged further. On the front from Angerburg to the Kurisches Haft3 it had no appreciable result, but our bold thrust east of the lakes made headway, although the two cavalry divisions were not able to break down the unexpected resistance they encountered with the speed we could have wished. The 3rd , Reserve Division defeated an enemy several times its own strength at Lyck, and thus freed us once and for all from danger in the south.

How were things going in the north? Our airmen believed they could now clearly identify two enemy corps at and west of Insterburg, as well as see another marching on Tilsit. What would be the fate of our corps, strung out fighting on a long front if a Russian avalanche of more than a hundred battalions, led by resolute wills, descended upon them? Yet it is easy to understand what our wishes and words were on the evening of this September 9: "Rennenkampf, come what may, do not abandon this front of yours we cannot force. Win your laurels with the attack of your centre." We had now full confidence that by resolutely pressing home our attack on the wing we could snatch back such laurels from the Russian leader. Unfortunately the Russian commander knew what we were thinking. He had not sufficient determination to meet our plans with force, and lowered his arms.

In the night of September 9-10 our patrols entered the enemy's trenches near Gerdauen and found them empty. "The enemy is retreating." The report seemed to us incredible. The 1st Reserve Corps immediately pressed forward against Insterburg from Gerdauen. We urged caution. It was only about midday of the 10th that we were compelled to accept the improbable and unpalatable fact. The enemy had actually begun a general retreat, even though he offered a stout resistance here and there, and indeed threw heavy columns against us in disconnected attacks. It was now our business to draw the corps and cavalry divisions on our right wing sharply north-east, and set them at the enemy's communications with Insterburg and Kovno.

On we pressed! If ever impatience was comprehensible it was comprehensible now. Rennenkampf was retiring steadily. He, too, seemed to be impatient. Yet our impatience was in striving for victory, while his brought him confusion and dissolution.

Some of the corps of the Niemen Army were marching back into Russia in three columns very close together.

The movement was effected but slowly, as it had to be covered by strong rearguards which kept back the Germans who were following up hard. September 11, in particular, was a day of bloody fighting from Goldap right to the Pregel.

In the evening of that day it was quite clear to us that only a few days more remained for us to carry out the pursuit. The development of the general situation in the Eastern theatre was having its effect. We suspected, rather than gathered from the definite reports which reached us, that the operations of our Allies in Poland and Galicia had failed! In any case, it was no good thinking of our thrust across the Niemen in Rennen- kampf's rear. But if our operation at the last moment was not to prove a failure within the framework of the whole allied plan, the enemy's army must at least reach the protection of the Niemen sector so weakened and shaken that the bulk of our troops could be released for that co-operation with the Austro-Hungarian Army which had become urgently necessary.

On September 18 the 3rd Reserve Division reached Suvalki on Russian soil. Rennenkampf's southern wing escaped envelopment by our 1st Corps south of Stalluponen by the skin of its teeth. Brilliant were the feats , of several of our units engaged in the pursuit. They marched and fought and marched again until the men were dropping down from fatigue. On the other hand, it was on this day that we were able to withdraw the Guard Reserve Corps from the battle-front and hold it ready for further operations.

It was on this day that our Headquarters reached Insterburg, which had been in German occupation once more since the 11th. Moving on the broad East Prussian roads past our victorious columns marching eastwards and other columns of Russian prisoners streaming west, we thus reached Rennenkampf's former Headquarters not only in imagination, but in actual fact.

This first evacuation had left behind remarkable traces of Russian semi-civilisation. The heady odours of scent, leather and cigarettes were not able to cover the odour of other things. Exactly a year later, I was returning through Insterburg after a day's hunting on a certain Sunday. At the market-place my car was turned back, as there was about to be a service of thanks to commemorate the release of the town from the Russian grip.

I had to make a detour. I had not been recognised. Sic transit gloria mundi!

On September 10 our troops reached Eydtkuhnen, firing in the back of the Russian horde fleeing before them. Our artillery blew great gaps in the tightly packed masses, but the herding instinct filled them up again. Unfortunately we did not reach the great main road from Wirballen to Wylkowyszki this day. The enemy knew that this would spell annihilation to many of his columns which nothing now could stop. He therefore scraped together everything he had in the way of battle-worthy units, and threw them against our exhausted troops south of the road. We had only one day more for the pursuit. By the next Rennenkampf's forces would have taken refuge in that region of forest and marsh which lies west of the Olita-Kovno-Wileny sector of the Niemen. We should not be able to follow them there.

On September 15 the fighting was over. After a pursuit of more than sixty miles, a distance we had covered within four days, the battle of the Masurian Lakes had ended on Russian soil. When the fighting concluded, the bulk of our units were fit for fresh employment elsewhere. I have no room here to speak of the brilliant exploit performed during these days by Von der Goltz's Land-wehr Division and other Landwehr formations in their battles with enemy forces many times their own strength in the region of our southern frontier, and while covering our right flank almost as far as the Vistula. By the time these actions were concluded, my command of the 8th Army had come to an end. At that point our troops had pressed forward to Ciechanov, Prassnysz and Augustovo.


Chapter VI - The Campaign in Poland

I Leave the Eighth Army

At the beginning of September we had heard from the Headquarters of the Austro- Hungarian Army that their armies in the neighbourhood of Lemberg were in serious peril and that a halt had been called to the further advance of the Austro-Hungarian 1st and 4th Armies.

Since that time we had followed events in that quarter with great anxiety and received further and worse reports. The following telegrams throw, the best light on the sequence of events:

From us to Main Headquarters on September 10, 1914.

It seems to me questionable whether Rennenkampf can be decisively beaten as the Russians have begun to retreat early this morning. As regards plans for the future there is a question of concentrating an army in Silesia. Could we rely on further reinforcement from the west? We can dispense with two corps from this front.

This was sent on September 10, the very day on which Rennenkampf had begun that retirement to the east which had so much surprised us.

Telegram from Main Headquarters to us on September 13:

Release two corps as soon as possible and prepare them for transport to Cracow, . . .

Cracow? That sounded odd! We thought so, and said even more on the subject. In our perplexity we wired as follows to Main Headquarters on September 13:

Pursuit ended this morning. Victory appears complete. Offensive against the Narew in a decisive direction is possible in about ten days. On the other hand Austria, anxious about Rumania, asks direct support by the concentration of the army at Cracow and in Upper Silesia. For that, four army corps and one cavalry division are available. Railway transport alone would take about twenty days. Further long marches to the Austrian left wing. Help would come too late there. Immediate decision required. In any case the army must retain its independence there.

This was on the day on which Rennenkampf was beginning to vanish into the marshes of the Niemen with the loss of not merely a few feathers, but a whole wing, and grievously stricken as well.

On September 14 Main Headquarters replied to us as follows:

In the present situation of the Austrians an operation over the Narew is no longer considered hopeful. Direct support of the Austrians is required on political grounds.

It is a question of operations from Silesia.

The independence of the army will be retained even in case of joint operations with the Austrians.

So that was it!

There is a certain book, "Vom Kriege," which never grows old. Its author is Clausewitz. He knew war, and he knew men. We had to listen to him, and whenever we followed him it was to victory. To do otherwise meant disaster. He gave a warning about the encroachment of politics on the conduct of military operations. In saying this, I am far from passing a judgment upon the orders we now received. I may have criticized in thought and word in 1914, but to-day I have completed my education in the rough school of reality, the conduct of operations in a coalition war. Experience tempers criticism, indeed frequently reveals how unfounded it has been. During the war we have times without number attempted to think: "He is a lucky man who has an easier soldier's conscience than ours, and who has won the battle between his military convictions and the demands of politics as easily as we have." The political tune is a ghastly tune! I myself during the war seldom heard in that tune those harmonies which would have struck an echo in a soldier's heart. Let us hope that if ever our Fatherland's dire necessity involves a summons to arms again, others will be more fortunate in this respect than we were!

On September 15 I had to part from General Ludendorff. He had been appointed Chief of Staff of the newly formed 9th Army. On September 17, however, His Majesty gave orders that I was to take over the command of this army while retaining my control of the 8th Army which had been left behind to protect East Prussia, but was now reduced by the loss of the 11th, 17th and 20th Corps, as well as the 1st Cavalry Division, which had been given up for the 9th Army. The separation from my Chief of Staff was therefore truly a short one. I only mention it because legend has pounced upon it and exaggerated.

In the early morning hours of September 18 I left the Headquarters of the 1st Army at Insterburg for a two days' journey by car across Poland to the Silesian capital, Breslau. The first stage of my journey carried me over the battlefields of the last few weeks, conjuring up grateful memories of our troops. At the outset we passed through deserted, burnt-out villages, and then gradually entered a region which had not been touched by war, where we passed peasants returning eastwards to find their deserted homesteads. Genuine peasantry, the best foundation of our national strength. I accompanied them in thought to the perhaps smoke-blackened remnants of their homes, a sight from which they had been preserved for more than a hundred years, thanks to our splendid army. Then we made for the Vistula through homely villages and small towns where there seemed scarcely any traces of the splendour of historic Western culture. This was the ground Germany had colonized. Truly she had not given of her worst for it, though herself dismembered. Its greatest treasure is the capacity for work and high character of its inhabitants. A simple, loyal, reflective people. To me it seemed that here Kant's teaching of the categorical imperative had not only been preached, but was understood in the deepest sense, and had been translated into, the world of action.

Almost all the German tribes have contributed to the work of culture in this region-a weary task that took centuries-and thus acquired those strong wills which have rendered priceless services to our Fatherland in its hour of need.

These and other serious thoughts of the same nature passed through my mind as we journeyed, and they never left me throughout the whole course of the desperate struggle. Germans, let me compress them into a warning:

Gird yourselves, all of you, not only with the golden band of your moral duty to mankind, but with the steel band of an equal duty to your Fatherland. Strengthen that band of steel until it becomes an iron wall in the shelter of which you will wish to live, and alone can live in the centre of a European world in flames! Believe me this conflagration will rage for a long time yet. No human voices will charm it away, no human compacts can keep it within bounds. Woe to us if the flames find even one broken fragment in that wall. It will become the battering ram of the European hordes against the last German fortress still standing. Our history has unfortunately told us so only too often!

Once again I said farewell to the Homeland with no light heart. But another farewell was even harder at this moment, the farewell to the independence we had previously enjoyed. However consoling the concluding sentence of the last telegram from Main Headquarters may have sounded, I suspected the fate which was in store for us. I knew it, not because of the pervious campaign, for then we had enjoyed military independence-a treasure of gold-in richest measure. I knew it from the history of earlier coalition wars.


The Advance

We had come to the conclusion that our best course was to concentrate our army in the region of Kreuznach in Central Silesia. From there we thought we should have more room to manoeuvre against the northern flank of the Russian Army group in Poland, the exact position of which had not been established at the moment.

If our army were allowed, we should like to advance with our right wing through Kielce (Central Poland).

We should have liked strong Austro-Hungarian forces to have accompanied us north of the Vistula as far as the confluence of the San.

By the time all this had been pronounced impossible it looked as if the whole operation might be, or become, impossible.

We therefore concentrated our troops (11th, 17th, 20th, Guard Reserve Corps, Woyrsch's Landwehr Corps, the 35th Reserve Division and the 8th Cavalry Division) north of Cracow in that closest touch with the left wing of the Austro-Hungarian Army which Main Headquarters had ordered. Our own Headquarters were fixed for a time at Beuthen, in Upper Silesia. The Austro-Hungarian Command were sending from Cracow a weak army of only four infantry divisions and one cavalry division north of the Vistula. They did not think they could spare anything more from the south side of the river, for they themselves were bent on a decisive attack in that quarter. This plan of our Allies was certainly bold and did credit to its authors. The only question was whether there was any prospect that, in spite of all the reinforcement it had received, the greatly weakened army could carry it into execution. My doubts were tempered by the hope that as soon as the Russians had noticed the presence of German troops in Poland they would throw their full weight against us and thereby facilitate the victory of our Allies.

The picture of the situation which we drew for ourselves when the movements began was somewhat vague. All we knew for certain was that the Russians had only been following the retiring Austro-Hungarian armies over the San very slowly of late. Further, there .were signs that north of the Vistula there were six or seven Russian cavalry divisions and an unknown number of brigades of frontier guards. A Russian army seemed to be in process of formation at Ivangorod. Apparently some of the troops of this army had been drawn from the armies which had previously faced us in East Prussia while others had come fresh from Asiatic Russia. Further, we had received reports that a great entrenched position west of Warsaw and fronting west was in course of construction. We were therefore marching into a situation which was quite obscure, and must be prepared for surprises.

We entered Russian Poland and immediately realised the full meaning of what a French general, in his description of the Napoleonic Campaign of 1806 in which he had taken part, called a special feature of military operations in this region-mud! And it really was mud in every form, not only mud in the natural sense, but mud in the so-called human habitations and even on the inhabitants themselves. As soon as we crossed the frontier it was as if we had entered another world. The question that rose involuntarily to one's lips was, how was it possible that in the very heart of Europe the frontier posts between Posen and Polen should form so sharp a line of demarcation between different degrees of culture of the same race? In what a state of physical, moral and material squalor had Russian administration left this part of the country! To what a slight degree had the civilising work of the over-refined upper social strata of Poland permeated the down- trodden lower strata! My very first impressions made me doubt whether the open political indifference of the masses could be given a higher impetus, through the influence of the clergy, for example, an impetus which might have led them voluntarily to range themselves on our side in this war.

Our movements were rendered extraordinarily difficult by the state of the roads. The enemy obtained an inkling of what we were doing and took counter-measures. He withdrew half a dozen corps from his front against the Austrians with the obvious intention of throwing them across the Vistula south of Ivangorod for a frontal attack upon us.

On October 6 we crossed the line Opatow-Radom and reached the Vistula. We here drove back such portions of the enemy's forces as were west of the river. At this point it was apparent that our northern flank was threatened from the Warsaw-Ivangorod line. In these circumstances it was impossible, for the time being, to , continue our operation across the Vistula south of Ivangorod in an easterly direction. We must first deal with the enemy in the north. Everything else depended on the issue of the considerable actions which were to be expected in that quarter. A curious strategic situation was thus developing. While hostile corps from Galicia were making for Warsaw on the far side of the Vistula our own corps were moving in the same northerly direction but on this side of the river. To hold up our movement to the left the enemy threw large forces across the Vistula at and below Ivangorod. In a series of severe actions these were thrown back on their crossing-places, but we were not in a position to clear the western bank entirely of the enemy. Two days' march south of Warsaw our left wing came into touch with a superior enemy force and threw it back against the fortress. About one day's march from the enceinte our attack came to a standstill.

On the battlefield south of Warsaw our most important capture was a Russian Army order which fell into our hands and gave us a clear picture of the enemy's strength and intentions. From the confluence of the San to Warsaw it appeared that we had four Russian armies to cope with, that is about sixty divisions, against eighteen of ours. From Warsaw alone fourteen enemy divisions were being employed against five on our side. That meant 224 Russian battalions to 60 German. The enemy's superiority was increased by the fact that as a result of the previous fighting in East Prussia and France, as well as the long and exhausting marches of more than two hundred miles over indescribable roads, our troops had been reduced to scarcely half establishment, and in some cases even to a quarter of their original strength. And these weakened units of ours were to meet fresh arrivals at full strength-the Siberian Corps, the elite of the Tsar's Empire!

The enemy's intention was to hold us fast along the Vistula while a decisive attack from Warsaw was to spell our ruin. It was unquestionably a great plan of the Grand Duke Nicholas Nicholaivitch, indeed the greatest I had known, and in my view it remained his greatest until he was transferred to the Caucasus.

In the autumn of 1897, after the Kaiser Manoeuvres, I had met the Grand Duke on the station of Homburg, and entered into a conversation with him which turned principally on the employment of artillery. But it was here in Poland that I had seen the Russian Commander-in-Chief for the first time actually at work, for he seems to have put in only an occasional appearance in East Prussia, and then merely as a spectator. If his plans succeeded, not only our 9th Army would be in danger, but our whole Eastern Front, Silesia, and indeed the whole country would be faced with a catastrophe. Yet we must not yield to such black thoughts but find ways and means to avert the menace. We accordingly decided, while maintaining our hold of the Vistula upstream from Ivangorod, to bring up from that quarter to our left wing all the troops we could possibly release, and hurl them at the enemy south of Warsaw in the hope of defeating him before his fresh masses could put in an appearance.

Necessity lends wings! We therefore asked Austria-Hungary to send everything she could spare in the way of troops in hot haste left of the Vistula against Warsaw. The Austrian High Command showed that they fully realised the situation, but at the same time raised doubts which were hardly in keeping with the emergency. Austria-Hungary, to whose help we had rushed, was quite prepared to support us but only by the tedious method-which involved a loss of time-of taking over from the troops we had left on the line of the Vistula. This would certainly enable us to avoid the mingling of Austro- Hungarian and German units, but it put the whole operation in danger of miscarriage. Counterproposals from our side led to no result, so we yielded to the wishes of Austria- Hungary in the matter.


3 - The Retreat

What we had feared actually materialised. Fresh masses of troops poured forth from Warsaw and crossed the Vistula below it. Our far-flung battle-line was firmly held in front while superior enemy forces, reaching out farther and farther west, threatened to roll up our left flank. The situation could and should not be allowed to remain thus. Our whole joint plan of operations was in danger of not only floundering in the marshes-but of failing altogether. Indeed, it could be said that it had failed already, since the victory we hoped for in Galicia, south of the upper Vistula, had not materialised, although the enemy had brought great masses from there to meet the 9th Army and had therefore weakened himself against our Allies. In any case we had to take the unwelcome decision, a decision which was received very unwillingly by the troops at first, to break away clear of the threatened envelopment and find a way out of our perils by other paths. In the night of October 18-19 the battlefield of Warsaw was abandoned to the enemy. With a view to continuing the operation even now, we brought the troops fighting under Mackensen before Warsaw back to the Rawa-Lowicz line, i.e. about forty miles west of the fortress. We hoped that the enemy would hurl himself against this position, which faced east. With the troops which had been relieved by the Austrians before Ivan- gorod in the south we would then attempt a decisive blow at the main body of the Russian Army group in the bend of the Vistula. A condition precedent to the execution of this plan was that Mackensen's troops should withstand the onslaught of the Russian hordes and that the Austrian defence of the line of the Vistula should be so strong that the thrust we intended would be safe from any Russian flank movement from the east. In view of the strength of the Vistula line this appeared an easy task for our Allies. The Austrian High Command, however, made it much more difficult by their intention, good enough in itself, to attempt a great blow themselves. They decided to leave the crossings of the Vistula at; and north of Ivangorod open to the enemy with a view to falling upon the enemy columns as they were in the act of crossing. It was a bold scheme which had often been discussed and executed in war-games and manoeuvres in peace, and even in war carried out in brilliant fashion by Field-Marshal Bliicher and his Gneisenau at the Katzbach. But it is always a hazardous operation, particularly when the general is not absolutely sure of his troops. We therefore advised against it. But in vain! Superior Russian forces pressed over the Vistula at Ivangorod. The Austrian counter- attack gained no success and was soon paralysed, and finally converted into a retreat.

Of what use was it now to us that the first Russian onslaughts on Mackensen's new front failed? The withdrawal of our Allies had uncovered the right flank of our proposed attack. We had to abandon this operation. I considered that our best course was to continue our retreat and thus break away with a view to being able to employ our army for another blow elsewhere later on. It was in our Headquarters at Radom that the idea took shape within me, at first only in outline, but yet clear enough to serve as a basis for further measures. My Chief of Staff will confirm this. His titanic energy would provide everything for their execution. Of that I was certain.

I must admit that serious doubts mingled with my resolution. What would the Homeland say when our retreat approached its frontiers? Was it remarkable that terror reigned in Silesia? Its inhabitants would think of how the Russians had laid waste East Prussia, of robbing and looting, the deportation of non-combatants, and other horrors. Fertile Silesia, with its highly developed coal mines and great industrial areas, both as vital to our military operations as daily bread itself! It is not an easy thing in war to stand with your hand on the map and say: "I am going to evacuate this region! " You must be an economist as well as a soldier. Ordinary human feelings also assert themselves. It is often these last which are the hardest to overcome.

Our retreat in the general direction of Czenstochau began on October 27. The thorough destruction of all roads and railways was to hold back the solid Russian masses until we had got quite clear and found time to initiate fresh operations. The army pressed behind the Widawka and Warta with its left wing in the neighbourhood of Sieradz. Headquarters went to Czenstochau. At first the Russians were hot on our heels, but then the distance between us began to increase. This rapid change in the most anxious situation had to be the solution for the time being.

At this point I cannot help admitting how much the punctual knowledge of the dangers that threatened us .was facilitated by the incomprehensible lack of caution, I might almost say naivete, with which the Russians used their wireless. By tapping the enemy wireless we were often enabled not only to learn what the situation was, but also the intentions of the enemy. In spite of this exceptionally favourable circumstance, the situation that was developing made quite heavy enough demands on the nerves of the Command on account of the great numerical superiority of the enemy. However, I knew that we had our subordinate commanders firmly in hand and had unshakable confidence that the men in the ranks would do everything that was humanly possible. It was this co- operation of all concerned that enabled us to overcome the most dangerous crisis. Yet did it not look as if our final ruin had only been postponed for a time? The enemy certainly thought so and rejoiced. Apparently he considered that we were completely beaten. This seems to have been his view of our plight, for on November 1 his wireless ran: "Having followed the enemy up for more than 120 versts it is time to hand over the pursuit to the cavalry. The infantry are tired and supply is difficult." We could therefore take breath and embark on fresh operations.

On this November 1 His Majesty the Emperor appointed me Commander-in-Chief of all the German forces in the East, and at the same time extended my sphere of command over the German eastern frontier provinces. General Ludendorff remained my Chief of Staff. The command of the 9th Army was entrusted to General von Mackensen. We were thus relieved of direct command of the army, but our influence on the whole organisation was all the more far-reaching.

We selected Posen as our Headquarters. Yet even before we took up residence there we had, at Czenstochau on November 3, come to the final decision as to our new operations, or rather I should say that our further intentions had received their final form.


4 - Our Counter-attack

The consideration that formed the basis of our new plan was this: In the existing situation, if we tried to deal purely frontally with the attack of the Russian 4th Army, a battle against overwhelming Russian superiority would take the same course as that before Warsaw. It was not thus that Silesia would be saved from a hostile invasion. The problem of saving Silesia could only be solved by an offensive. Such an offensive against the front of a far superior enemy would simply be shattered to pieces. We had to find the way to his exposed, or merely slightly protected flank. The raising of my left hand explained what I meant at the first conference. If we felt for the enemy's northern wing in the region of Lodz we must transfer to Thorn the forces to be employed in the attack. We accordingly planned our new concentration between that fortress and Gnesen. In so doing we were putting a great distance between ourselves and the Austro-Hungarian left wing. Only comparatively weak German forces, including Woyrsch's exhausted Landwehr Corps, were to be left behind in the neighbourhood of Czenstochau. It was a condition precedent to our flanking movement by the left that the Austro-Hungarian High Command should relieve those of our forces moving north in the region of Czenstochau by four infantry divisions from the Carpathian front, which was not threatened at this time.

For our new concentration in the region of Thorn and Gnesen all the Allied forces in the East were distributed among three great groups. The first was formed by the Austro- Hungarian Army on both sides of the upper Vistula, the two others of our 8th and 9th Armies. We were not able to fill the gaps between the three groups with really good fighting troops. We had to put what were practically newly formed units into the sixty- mile gap between the Austrians and our 9th Army. The offensive capacity of these troops was pretty low to start with, and yet we had to spread them out so much along the front of very superior Russian forces that to all intents and purposes they formed but a thin screen. From the point of view of numbers, the Russians had only to walk into Silesia to sweep away their resistance with ease and certainty. Between the 9th Army at Thorn and the 8th on the eastern frontier of East Prussia we had practically nothing but frontier guards reinforced by the garrisons of Thorn and Graudenz. Facing these troops was a strong Russian group of about four army corps north of Warsaw on the northern banks of the Vistula and the Narew. If this Russian group had been sent forward through Mlawa the situation which had developed at the end of August before the Battle of Tannenberg would have been repeated. The line of retreat of the 8th Army therefore appeared to be once more seriously threatened. From the critical situation in Silesia and East Prussia we were to be released by the offensive of the 9th Army in the direction of Lodz against the flank of the Russian main mass which was only weakly protected. It is obvious that if the attack of this army did not get home quickly the enemy masses would concentrate upon it from all sides. The danger of this was all the greater because we were not numerically strong enough, nor were our troops good enough in quality, to pin down the .Russian forces in the bend of the Vistula, as well as the enemy corps north of the middle Vistula, by strong holding attacks, or indeed mislead them for any considerable length of time. In spite of all this we intended to make our troops attack everywhere, but it would have been a dangerous error to expect too much from this. Everything in the way of good storm troops had to be brought up to reinforce the 9th Army. It was to deliver the decisive blow. However great was the threat to the 8th Army, it had to give up two corps to the 9th. Under these circumstances it was no longer possible to continue the defence of the recently freed province on the Russian side of the frontier; our lines had to be withdrawn to the Lake region and the Angerapp. This was not an easy decision. As the result of the measures of which I have spoken the total strength of the 9th Army was brought up to about five and a half corps and five cavalry divisions. Two of the latter had come from the Western Front. In spite of our earnest representations Main Headquarters could not see their way to release further units from that side. At this moment they were still hoping for a favourable issue to the Battle of Ypres. The full extent and meaning of the difficulties of a war on two fronts were revealing themselves once more.

The lack of numbers on our side had again to be made good by speed and energy. I felt quite sure that in this respect the command and the troops would do everything that was humanly possible. By November 10 the 9th Army was ready. On the 11th it was off, with its left wing along the Vistula and its right north of the Warta. It was high time, for news had reached us that the enemy also intended to take the offensive. An enemy wireless betrayed to us that the armies of the north-west front, in other words all the Russian armies from the Baltic to, and including Poland, would start for a deep invasion of Ger- many on November 14. We took the initiative out of the hands of the Russian Commander-in-Chief, and when he heard of our operation on the 13th he did not dare to venture on his great blow against Silesia, but threw in all the troops he could lay hands on to meet our attack. For the time being Silesia was thus saved, and the immediate purpose of our scheme was achieved. Would we be able to go one better and secure a great decision? The enemy's superiority was enormous at all points. Yet I hoped for great things!

It would exceed the limits of this book if I were now to give a summary, however general, of the military events which are compressed into the designation " Battle of Lodz." In its rapid changes from attack to defence, enveloping to being enveloped, breaking through to being broken through, this struggle reveals a most confusing picture on both sides. A picture which in its mounting ferocity exceeded all the battles that had previously been fought on the Eastern Front!

In conjunction with the Austro-Hungarians we succeeded in stemming the floods of half Asia.

The battles of this Polish campaign, however, did not end with Lodz, but were continuously fed by both sides. More troops came to us from the West, but they were anything but fresh. Most of them were willing enough, but they were half exhausted. Some of them had come from an equally hard, perhaps harder struggle- the Battle of Ypres-than we had just fought. In spite of that, we tried with them to force back the Russian flood we had successfully dammed. And indeed for a long time it looked as if we should succeed. But in the long run, as in the battle of Lodz, it was seen that once more our forces were not sufficient for this contest with the most overwhelming superiority which faced us in every battle. We should have been able to do more if our reinforcements had not come up in driblets. We should have been able to put them in simultaneously. But the colossal block we tried to roll back to the east only moved a short stretch, then lay still, and nothing would shift it. Our energies flagged. But it was not only in battle that they were dissipated, but also in-the marshes!

The approach of winter laid its paralysing hand on the activity of friend and foe alike. The line which had already become rigid in battle was now covered with snow and ice. The question was who would be the first to shake this line from its torpor in the coming months?


Chapter VII - 1915

The Question of a Decision

The achievements of Germany and the German Army in the year 1914 will only be appreciated in all their heroic greatness when truth and justice have free play once more, when our enemies' attempt to mislead world opinion by propaganda is unmasked, and when Germany's passion for self-criticism to the point of self-mutilation has made way for a quiet, judicial examination. I have no doubt that all this will come in due course. Yet in spite of all our achievements the mighty work that had been forced upon us was not crowned kwith success. Up to this point our battles had saved us for the time being, but they had not brought us final victory. The first step to such a consummation was a decision on at least one of our fronts. We had to get out of the military, political and economic ring that had been forged about us, a ring which threatened to squeeze the breath1 out of our bodies even in a moral sense. The reasons why victory had hitherto escaped us were debatable, and they will remain debatable. The fact remains that our High Command believed themselves compelled prematurely to draw away to the East strong forces from the West, where they were trying to secure a rapid decision. Whether an exaggerated idea of the extent of the successes hitherto obtained in the West had a great effect on that decision must remain uncertain. Whatever the cause, the result was half-measures. One objective was abandoned; the other was never reached.

In many a conversation with officers who had some knowledge of the course of events in the western theatre in August and September, 1914, I have tried to get an unbiased opinion about the transactions which proved so fateful for us in the so-called " Battle of the Marne." I do not believe that one single cause can make our great plan of campaign, unquestionably the right one, responsible. A whole series of unfavourable influences was our undoing. To these I must add (1) the watering-down of our fundamental scheme of deploying with a strong right wing; (2) the fact that through mistaken independent action on the part of subordinate commanders, our left wing, which had been made too strong, allowed itself to be firmly held; (3) ignorance of the danger to be apprehended from the strongly fortified, great railway-nexus of Paris; (4) insufficient control of the movements of the armies by the High Command; (5) perhaps also the fact that at the critical moment of the battle certain subordinate commands were not in close enough touch with a situation not in itself unfavourable. The impartial examination of history and the critics will find here a worthy field for their activities.

May I, however, here express a decided opinion that the failure of our first operation in the West brought us into a position of great peril, but in no way made the further prosecution of the war hopeless for us. If I had not been firmly convinced of this I should have deemed it my duty, even in the autumn of 1914, to make appropriate representations to higher authority, even to my All-Highest War Lord himself. Our army had displayed qualities so brilliant and so superior to those of all our enemies, that in my opinion if we had concentrated all our resources we could have secured a decision, at any rate at the outset, in one of our theatres of war, in spite of the growing numerical superiority of the enemy.

West or East? That was the great question, and on the answer to it our fate depended. Of course Main Headquarters could not allow me a deciding voice in the solution of this problem. The responsibility for that lay alone and exclusively on their shoulders. I consider, nevertheless, that I have the right and duty to bring forward my views on this subject, and express them frankly and openly.

From the general point of view, the so-called decision in the West was traditional. I might perhaps say national. In the West was the enemy whose chauvinistic agitation against us had not left us in peace even in times of peace. In the West, too, was now that other enemy who every German was convinced was the motive force working for the destruction of Germany. Compared with that, we often found Russia's greed for Constantinople comprehensible. Her longings for East and West Prussia were not taken seriously.

Thus, as regards the war in the West, the German High Command could be certain that the governing minds of the Fatherland, and indeed the feelings of the majority of the nation, were on their side. Here was a moral factor not to be despised. I should not like to say whether this played any part in the calculations of our military leaders, but I know for certain that the idea of a decision in the West had been brought before us hundreds and thousands of times, both verbally and in writing. Indeed, when the conduct of operations was entrusted to me subsequently, I found those who suggested the idea of formally sparing Russia. It was commonly believed that it would be relatively easy for us to come to an understanding with Russia by the methods of peace.

Even to me the decisive battle in the West, a battle which would have meant final victory, was the ultima ratio, but an ultima ratio which could only be reached over the body of a Russia stricken to the ground. Should we ever be able to strike Russia to the ground? Fate answered this question in the affirmative but only two years later, when, as was to be made clear, it was too late. For by that time our situation had fundamentally changed. The numbers and resources of our other foes had in the meantime reached giant proportions, and in the circle of their armies Russia's place had been taken by America, with her youthful energies and mighty economic powers!

I believed that in the winter of 1914-5 we could answer the question, whether we could overthrow Russia, in the affirmative. I believe it just as much to-day. Of course our goal was not to be reached in a single great battle, a colossal Sedan, but only through a series of such and similar battles. The preliminary conditions for this were present, as had already been revealed, in the generalship of the Russian Army commanders, though not of their Commander-in-Chief. Tannenberg had showed it clearly. Lodz would have shown it, perhaps on an even greater scale, if we had not had to take the battles in Poland against too great a numerical superiority upon our shoulders, and so to speak stop half-way to victory for lack of numbers.

I have never underestimated the Russians. In my opinion the idea that Russia was nothing but despotism and slavery, unwieldiness, stupidity and selfishness was quite false. Strong and noble moral qualities were at work there, if only in comparatively restricted circles. Love of country, self-reliance, perseverance and broad views were not entirely unknown in the Russian Army. How otherwise could the huge masses have ever been put in motion, and the nation and troops have been willing to accept such hecatombs of human life? The Russian of 1914 and 1915 was no longer the Russian of Zorndorf, who let himself be slaughtered like sheep. But what the Russian masses lacked were those great human and spiritual qualities which among us are the common property of the nation and the army.

The previous battles with the armies of the Tsar had given our officers and men a feeling of unquestioned superiority over the enemy. This conviction, which was shared by the oldest Landsturm man with the youngest recruit, explains the fact that here in the East we could use formations, the fighting value of which would have prevented their employment on the Western Front except' in emergencies. It was an enormous advantage to us that from the point of view of numbers we were so inferior to our combined enemies! Of course there were limits to the use of such troops, in view of the demands which had to be made on the endurance and strategic mobility of the units in the eastern theatre. The main blow had to be delivered, time and time again, by really effective divisions. If the numbers required to carry through some decisive operation could not be obtained by new formations, it was my opinion that they should be obtained from the Western Front, even if it meant evacuating part of the occupied territory.

These views are not the result of a process of reasoning after the event or post hoc criticism. It has been urged against them that the Russians were in a position in case of need to withdraw so far into the so-called " vast spaces " of their Empire that our strategic impetus must be paralysed the farther we followed them. I think that these views were inspired far too much by memories of 1812, and that they did not take sufficient account of the development and transformation of the political and economic conditions obtaining at the heart of the Tsar's realms. I am thinking more particularly of the railways. Napoleon's campaign drove but a comparatively small wedge into vast Russia, thinly populated, economically primitive and, from the point of view of domestic politics, still asleep. What a different thing a great modern offensive would have been! What totally different circumstance's would it find now, even in Russia?

At bottom it was these views which were the subject of controversy between Main Headquarters, as then constituted, and my Army Headquarters. Public discussion has introduced a good deal of legend into that controversy. There could be no question of dramatic action, however deeply the affair affected me personally. I leave a final expert decision to the critics of the future, and am convinced that even these will not come to any unanimous conclusion. In any case, I shall never live to see it.


Battles and Operations in the East

I can only deal in broad outlines with the events of the year 1915 in the East.

On our part of the Eastern Front fighting was resumed with the greatest violence. It had never completely died down. With us, however, it did not rage with quite the same fury as in the Carpathians, where the Austro-Hungarian armies in a desperate struggle had to protect the fields of Hungary from the Russian floods. The critical situation had taken even my Chief of Staff there for a time. The real reasons which led to our separation at this moment I have never known. I sought them in material considerations, and asked my Emperor to cancel the order. His Majesty graciously approved. After a short time General Ludendorff returned, full of grave experiences and holding even graver views of the condition of affairs among the Austro-Slav units.

The idea of a decision in the East must have been particularly welcome to the Austro- Hungarian General Staff. It must have recommended itself to them not only on military, but also on political grounds. They could not remain blind to the progressive deterioration of the Austro-Hungarian armies. If the war were dragged out for a long time the process would apparently make more headway in the armies of the Danube Monarchy than in that of their opponents. Further, the Austrians were fearful that the threatened loss of Przemysl would not only increase the tension of the situation on their own front, but that under the impression which the fall of this fortress must make on the nation the signs, even then quite distinguishable, of the disintegration of the State and loss of confidence in a favourable termination of the war, would increase and multiply. Moreover, Austria- Hungary was already feeling herself threatened in the rear by the political attitude of Italy. A great and victorious blow in the East could fundamentally change the unhappy situation of the State.

Looking at the situation in that light, I took the side of General Conrad when he suggested to the German High Command a decisive operation in the eastern theatre. Main Headquarters considered that they could not place at my disposal the reinforcements which I considered necessary for such a decision. Of the plans proposed, therefore, only one was allotted to my sphere of command, the great blow which we delivered in East Prussia.

At the beginning of the year four army corps were placed at our disposal and transferred from home and the Western Front. They were detrained in East Prussia. Part went to reinforce the 8th Army and part to form the 10th Army under General von Eichhorn. They deployed and separated with a view to breaking out from b'oth wings of our lightly held entrenched position from Lotzen to Gumbinnen. The 10th Russian Army of General Sievers was to suffer deep envelopment through our two strong wings which were to meet ultimately in the East on Russian soil and thus annihilate to a great extent everything the enemy had not got away.

The fundamental idea of the operation was put into the following words for our Army Commanders on January 28, while we .were still at Posen:

" I intend to employ the 10th Army, with its left wing along the line Tilsit-Wilkowischki, to envelop the enemy's northern wing, to tie him down frontally with the Konigsberg Landwehr Division and the left wing of the 8th Army, and employ the right wing of the 8th Army for an attack on the Arys-Johannisburg line and south thereof."

On February 5 precise battle orders were issued from Insterburg, whither we had gone to direct the operations. From the 7th onwards they set in motion the two groups on the wings, a movement recalling in some respects our celebrated Sedan. And it was indeed a Sedan which' finally befell the Russian 10th Army in the region of Augustovo. It was there that our mighty drive came to an end on February 21 and the result was that more than 100,000 Russians were sent to Germany as prisoners. An even larger number of Russians suffered another fate.

On the orders of His Majesty the whole affair was called the "Winter Battle in Masuria." I must be excused a more detailed description. What is there new

I could say? The name charms like an icy wind or the stillness of death. As men look back on the course of this battle they will only stand and ask themselves:

II Have earthly beings really done these things, or is it all but a fable and a phantom? Are not those marches in the winter nights, that camp in the icy snowstorm, and that last phase of the battle in the Forest of Augustovo, so terrible for the enemy, but the creations of an inspired human fancy? "

In spite of the great tactical success of the Winter Battle we failed to exploit it strategically. We had once more managed practically to destroy one of the Russian armies, but fresh enemy forces had immediately come up to take its place, drawn from other fronts to which they had not been pinned down. In such circumstances, with the resources at our disposal in the East, we could not achieve a decisive result. The superiority of the Russians was too great.

The Russian answer to the Winter Battle was an enveloping attack on our lines on the far side of the Old Prussian frontier. Mighty masses rolled up to the enemy Commander- in-Chief for use against us, overwhelming masses, each one larger than our whole force. But German resolution bore even this load. Russian blood flowed in streams in the murderous encounters north of the Narew and west of the Niemen, which lasted into the spring. Thank God it was on Russian soil! The Tsar may have had many soldiers, but even their number dwindled noticeably as the result of such massed sacrifices. The Russian troops which went to destruction before our lines were missing later on when the great German and Austro-Hungarian attack farther south made the whole Russian front tremble.

At this time the most violent fighting was in progress not only on the frontiers of Prussia but in the Carpathians also. It was there that the Russians tried throughout the whole winter at any price to force the frontier walls of Hungary. They knew, and were right, that if the Russian flood could sweep into Magyar lands it might decide the war and that the Danube Empire would never survive such a blow. Who could doubt that the first Russian cannon-shot in the Plains of Hungary would echo from the mountains of Upper Italy and the Transylvanian Alps? The Russian Grand Duke knew only too well for what great prize he demanded such frightful sacrifices from the Tsar's armies on the difficult battlefields in the wooded mountains.

The fearful and continuous tension of the situation in the Carpathians and its reaction on the political situation imperiously demanded some solution. The German General Staff found one. In the first days of May they broke through the Russian front in Northern Galicia and took the enemy's front on the frontiers of Hungary in flank and rear.

My Headquarters was at first only an indirect participant in the great operation which began at Gorlice. Our first duty, within the framework of this mighty enterprise, was to tie down strong enemy forces. This was done at first by attacks in the great bend of the Vistula west of Warsaw and on the East Prussian frontier in the direction of Kovno, then on a greater scale by a cavalry sweep into Lithuania and Kurland which began on April 27. The advance of three cavalry divisions, supported by the same number of infantry divisions, touched Russia's ,war zone at a sensitive spot. For the first time the Russians realised that by such an advance their most important railways which connected the Russian armies with the heart of the country could be seriously threatened. They threw in large forces to meet our invasion. The battles on Lithuanian soil dragged out until the summer. We found ourselves compelled to send larger forces there, to retain our hold on the occupied region and keep up our pressure on the enemy in these districts which had hitherto been untouched by war. Thus a new German army gradually came into existence. It was given the name of the "Niemen Army" from the great river of this region, have no space to deal with the movement of our armies which began on May 2 in Northern Galicia and, spreading along to our lines, ended in the autumn months east of Vilna. Like an avalanche which apparently takes its rise in small beginnings, but gradually carries away everything that stands in its destructive path, this movement began and continued on a scale never seen before, and which will never again be repeated. We were tempted to intervene directly when the thrust past Lem-berg had succeeded. The armies of Germany and Austria-Hungary wheeled to the north between the Bug and the Vistula. The picture that unrolled before our eyes was this: the Russian front in the southern half is stretched almost to breaking. Its northern half, held firmly on the north-west, has formed a mighty new flank in the south between the Vistula and the Pripet Marshes. If we now broke through from the north against the rear of the Russian main mass all the Russian armies would be threatened with a catastrophe.

The idea which had led to the Winter Battle presented itself once more, this time perhaps in yet broader outlines. The blow must now be delivered from East Prussia, first and most effectively from the Osowiec-Grodno line. Yet the marshes in that region prohibited our advance at that point. We knew that from the thaw in the previous winter. All that was left us was the choice between a break-through west or east of this line. A thrust right through the enemy defences, I might say into the very heart of the Russian Army, demanded the direction past and east of Grodno. We put that view forward. Main Headquarters did not shut their eyes to its advantages, but considered the western direction shorter and believed that a great success could be won on this side also. They therefore demanded an offensive across the Upper Narew. I thought that it was my duty to withdraw my objections to this plan for the time being, for the sake of the whole operation, and in any case await the result of this attack and the further course of the operation. General Luden-dorff, however, inwardly adhered to our first plan; but this difference of opinion had no kind of influence on our future thoughts and actions, and in no way diminished the energy with which, in the middle of July, we translated into action the decisions of Main Headquarters, the responsible authority.

Gallwitz's army surged out against the Narew on both sides of Przasnysz. For this attack I went personally to the battlefield, not with any idea of interfering with the tactics of the Army Headquarters Staff, which I knew to be masterly, but only because I knew what outstanding importance Main Headquarters attached to the success of the break- through they had ordered at this point. I wanted to be on the spot so that in case of need I could intervene immediately if the Army Headquarters' Staff needed any further help for the execution of its difficult task from the armies under my command. I spent two days with this army, and witnessed the storming of Przasnysz, for the possession of which there had previously been violent and continuous fighting, and the battle for the district south of the town.

By July 17 Gallwitz had reached the Narew. Under the pressure of the allied armies, breaking in on every side, the Russians gradually began to give way at all points 'and to withdraw slowly ibefore the menace of envelopment. Our pursuit began to lose its force in incessant frontal actions. In this way we could not gather the fruits which had been sown time and time again on bloody battlefields. We therefore returned to our earlier idea, and having regard to the course the operations were taking, wished to press forward beyond Kovno and Vilna with a view to forcing the Russian centre against the Pripet Marshes and cutting their communications with the interior of the country. However, the views of Main Headquarters required a straightforward pursuit, a pursuit in which the pursuer gets more exhausted than the pursued.

In this period fell the capture of Novo Georgievsk. In spite of its situation as a strategic bridge-head, this fortress had certainly not seriously interfered with our movements hitherto. But its possession was of importance for us at this time, because it barred the railway to Warsaw from Mlawa. Just before the capitulation on August 18 I met my Emperor outside the fortress, and later on it was in his company that I drove into the town. The barracks and other military buildings, which had been set on fire by Russian troops, were still blazing. Masses of prisoners were standing round. One thing we noticed was that before the surrender the Russians had shot their horses wholesale, obviously as a result of their conviction of the extraordinary importance which these animals had for our operations in the East. Our enemy always took the most enormous pains to destroy everything, especially supplies, which could be of the slightest use to his victorious foe.

To clear the way for a later advance on Vilna we sent our Niemen Army out eastwards as early as the middle of July. In the middle of August Kovno fell under the blows of the 10th Army. The way to Vilna was open, but once again we were not strong enough to proceed with the execution of our great strategic idea. Our forces were employed, as before, in following up frontally. Weeks passed before reinforcements could be brought up. Meanwhile the Russians were continuing their retirement to the east; they surrendered everything, even Warsaw, in the hope of at least being able to save their field armies from destruction.

It was only on September 9 that we started out against Vilna. It was possible that even now great results could be obtained in this direction. A few hundred thousand Russian troops might perhaps be our booty. If ever proud hopes were mingled with anxiety and impatience they were mingled now. Should we be too late? Were we strong enough? Yet on we went past Vilna, then south. Our cavalry soon laid hands on the vital veins of the Russians. If we could only grasp them tightly it would mean death to the main Russian armies. The enemy realised the disaster that was threatening, and did everything to avert it. A murderous conflict began at Vilna. Every hour gained by the Russians meant that many of their units streaming eastwards were saved. The tide turned, and our cavalry division had to withdraw again. The railway into the heart of the country was open to the Russians once more. We had come too late and were now exhausted!

I do not delude myself into thinking that the opposition between the views of Main Headquarters and our own will have an historical interest. Yet, in judging the plans of our High Command, we must not lose sight of the whole military situation. We ourselves then saw; only a part of the whole picture. The question whether we should have made other plans and acted otherwise if we had known the whole political and military situation must be left open.


3 - Lotzen

From these serious topics let me turn to a more idyllic side of our lives in the year 1915 as I pass to my memories of Lotzen. This pretty little town, lying among lakes, forests and hills, was our Headquarters when the Winter Battle in Masuria was drawing to its close. The inhabitants, freed from the Russian danger and the Russian " terror," gave us a touchingly warm reception. I have grateful memories, too, of pleasant visits to neighbouring properties, which could be reached without too great loss of time when service claims permitted it, visits which brought us hours of relaxation, recreation and good sport. There was also a certain amount of hunting. Our greatest triumph in this respect, thanks to the kindness of His Majesty, was the killing of a particularly fine elk in the Royal shoot of Niemonien by the Kurisches Haff.

In the spring, when activity on our front gradually began to die down, there was no lack of visitors of all kinds, and this was true of the summer also. German princes, politicians, scientists and professional men, as well as commercial men and administrative officials, came to us, brought by the interest which the province of East Prussia, usually so little visited, had acquired in the course of the war. Artists presented themselves with a view to immortalising General Ludendorff and myself with their brushes and chisels; but this was a distinction with which we would have preferred to dispense, in view of our scanty hours of leisure, although we much appreciated the kindness and skill of the gentlemen in question. Neutral countries also sent us guests, among others Sven Hedin, the celebrated Asiatic explorer and convinced friend of Germany, whom I learnt to know and appreciate.

Of the statesmen who came to see us at Lotzen I must give a special mention to the then Imperial Chancellor, von Bethmann Hollweg, and Grand Admiral von Tirpitz.

Even while I was at Posen in the winter of 1914-15 I had had an opportunity of welcoming the Imperial Chancellor to my Headquarters. His visit kwas inspired primarily by his personal kindness, and was not directly connected with any political questions. Nor do I remember that my conversation with the Imperial Chancellor touched on this subject at that time. In any case I had the impression that I was dealing with a clever and conscientious man. At this time our views about the military necessities of the moment coincided at all material points. Every word of the Chancellor's betrayed his deep sense of responsibility. I can understand that feeling, although from my soldier's point of view I considered that in his judgment of the military situation Herr von Bethmann showed too much anxiety and therefore too little confidence.

The impression I had gained in Posen was confirmed at Lotzen.

Grand Admiral von Tirpitz, who was often quoted as Bethmann Hollweg's successor about this time, was a personality of a very different stamp. On a long walk that I took with him he told me all the sorrows which vexed his flamingly patriotic, and in particular, seaman's heart. It was a bitter sorrow to him that the mighty weapon he had forged during the best years of his life should be shut up in its home harbours in time of war. It is true that the chances for a naval offensive on our side were uncommonly difficult; but, on the other hand, they did not improve with long waiting. In my opinion, the very great sensitiveness of the English to the phantom of a German invasion would have justified greater activity on the part of our Fleet, and, indeed, heavy sacrifices. I considered it possible that such a use of the Fleet might have tied up strong English forces at home, and thereby relieved the burden of our Army. It is said that the policy we pursued was intended to enable us to have a strong, intact German Fleet whenever peace negotiations came in sight. A calculation of this kind would be absolutely erroneous, for a power which one dare not use in war is a negligible factor when it comes to the peace treaty.

The desire of the Grand Admiral's heart was granted in the spring of 1916. Skagerrak gave brilliant proof of what our Fleet could really do.

Herr von Tirpitz also gave expression to his views about our U-boat operations. It was his opinion that we had begun to use this weapon at the wrong time, and then, frightened at the attitude of the President of the United States, lowered the arm which we had raised with such loud shouts of victory-likewise at the wrong time. The opinions the Grand Admiral then expressed could exercise no influence on the position I took up later with regard to this question. Almost another year and a half were to pass before the decision was to devolve on me. In that period, on the one hand the military situation had materially changed to our disadvantage, and on the other hand the efficiency of our Navy in the sphere of U-boat operations had more than doubled.


4 - Kovno

In October, 1915, we transferred our Headquarters to Kovno, in the occupied territory.

To the former activities of my Chief of Staff were now added the duties of administering, reorganising and exploiting the country with a view to procuring supplies for the troops, the Homeland, and the local population. The increasing amount of work this involved would alone have been enough to take up the whole time and energies of one man. General Ludendorff regarded it as an appendix to his ordinary work, and devoted himself to it with that ruthless energy which is all his own.

It was while I was at Kovno that in the more peaceful spells during the winter of 1915-16 I found time to visit the Forest of Bialoviesa. Unfortunately, the game had suffered severely from the effects of military operations. Troops marching through and poaching peasants had cleared a good deal of it. Nevertheless, in four days of* splendid deer- stalking and sleighing in January, 1916, I managed to bring down a bison and four stags. The administration of the great forest demesne was entrusted to the tried hands of the Bavarian Forstmeister Escherich, who was a past-master in the art of making the splendid timber supplies available for us without thereby damaging the forest permanently.

The same winter I paid a visit to the Forest of Augustovo. Unfortunately a wolf hunt which had been got up in my honour proved fruitless. The wolves seemed to have a preference for slipping away beyond range of my gun. The only traces of the battle of February, 1915, that I could see were some trenches. Apart from them, the battlefield had been completely cleared-at any rate, in those parts of the forest which I visited.

In April, 1916, I celebrated at Kovno the fiftieth anniversary of my entry into the Service.

With thanks in my heart to God and my Emperor and King, who glorified the day with a gracious message, I looked back on half a century which I had spent in war and peace in the service of Throne and Fatherland.

It was at Kovno that in the summer of 1812 a large part of the French Army had crossed the Niemen on its way east. Recollections of that epoch, and the tragic conclusion of that bold campaign, had inspired our enemies with the hope that in the vast areas of forest and marsh in the heart of Russia our own armies would suffer the same fate through hunger, cold and disease as had overtaken the proud armies of the great Corsican. This fate was prophesied for us by our enemies, perhaps less from inward conviction than with a view to tranquillizing uncritical opinion at home. It is true that our anxiety for the maintenance of our troops in the winter of 1915-16 was not small. For we knew that, in spite of all modern developments, we had to spend the worst season of the year in a relatively desolate part of the country, in many parts of which infectious diseases were rife.


Chapter VIII - The Campaign of 1916 Up to the End of August

The Russian Attack on the German Eastern Front

In my sphere of command the year 1915 had not made its exit with the loud flourish of trumpets of an absolutely complete triumph. There was something unsatisfactory about the final result of the operations and encounters of this year. The Russian bear had escaped our clutches, bleeding no doubt from more than one wound, but still not stricken to death. In a series of wild onslaughts he had slipped away from us. Would he be able to show that he had enough life-force left to make things difficult for us again? We found an opinion prevalent that the Russian losses in men and material had already been so enormous that we should be safe on our eastern front for a long time to come. After our previous experiences we received this opinion with caution, and indeed time was soon to show that this caution was justified.

We were not to be allowed to pass the winter in peace, for it soon appeared that the Russians were thinking of anything but leaving us alone. Things were stirring in and behind the enemy lines along our whole front and, indeed, far away to the south, although at first there was no means of knowing the intentions of the Russian High Command. I regarded the region of Smorgon, Dvinsk and Riga as special points of danger for our lines. To these led the most effective of the Russian railways. But for a long time there were no open signs of an enemy offensive at the three points I have mentioned.

Activity was uncommonly lively in the enemy's back areas. Deserters complained of the iron discipline to which the divisions drawn from the lines were subjected, for the troops were being drilled with drastic severity.

Even in quiet times the relative strengths in the different sectors were extremely unfavourable to us. We could take it for granted that on an average each of our divisional fronts (9 battalions) was faced by two or three Russian divisions (32-48 battalions). Nothing could show more eloquently than these figures the enormous difference between the demands on the fortitude of our troops as against those on the enemy. Of course this difference made itself felt to an extraordinary degree, not only in battle, but in the necessary daily duties and fatigues. To what an enormous scale had these duties mounted, thanks to the immense extension of the front! The construction of trench-lines and roads, the erection of hutments, as well as the amount of work involved in supplying the troops with war material, food, timber, etc., made the .word "rest" practically a mockery to both officers and men. Yet in spite of all this the moral and health of the troops were remarkably good. If our Medical Services had not remained at the level they actually reached we should not, on this account alone, have been able to carry on the war so long. Some day, when all the material available has been scientifically worked through, the achievements of our Medical Services will be revealed as a glorious testimony to German industry and devotion for a great purpose. Let us hope they will then be made available for common humanity.

An unusual amount of activity began to be noticeable in the region of Lake Narocz and Postawy from the middle of February onwards. From the mass of intelligence which reached us, the enemy's preparations for an offensive at that point became more and more obvious. At first I had not believed that the Russians would really select for a great blow a point which lay far from their best railways and, further, gave their masses little room to deploy and the subordinate commanders little chance of manoeuvring, thanks to the nature of the ground. Coming events revealed to me the arrival of the improbable.

As the Russian preparations proceeded, not one of us realised their enormous scale. We should never have believed that we should have to deal with the whole of the Russian forces-about 370 battalions-held ready in the region of Lake Narocz with the 70 odd battalions which we had gradually collected there. Moreover, as is known from a publication which was based on our calculations, this comparison gives only an inexact picture- firstly, because on both sides all the troops were not 4 employed on the first day, and mainly because the Russian divisions did not attack the Germans simultaneously on a broad front, but concentrated in two powerful storming columns on the wings of von Hutier's Corps. The more northerly of these put in seven infantry and two cavalry divisions between Mosheiki and Wileity, in the Postawy sector which was manned by only four German divisions at first; while the southern, comprising eight infantry divisions and the Ural Cossacks, tried to break through our barrier between Lakes Narocz and Wiszniew, which was held by our 75th Reserve Division and the reinforced 9th Cavalry Division. So there were about 128 Russian against 19 German battalions!

The Russian attack began on March 18. After an artillery preparation, the violence of which had not previously been paralleled on the Eastern Front, the enemy columns hurled themselves at our thin lines like an unbroken wave. Yet it was in vain that the Russian batteries and machine-guns drove their own infantry forward against the German lines, and in vain that enemy troops held in reserve mowed down their own first lines when these tried to withdraw and escape destruction from our fire. The Russian corpses were piled up in regular heaps before our front. The strain on the defence was certainly colossal. A thaw had set in and filled the trenches with melted snow, dissolved the breastworks, which had hitherto afforded some cover, into flowing mud, and turned the whole battlefield into a bottomless morass. In the icy water the limbs of the men in the trenches became so swollen that they could hardly move; but there remained enough strength and resolution in these bodies to break the enemy onslaughts time and time again. Once more all the Russian sacrifices were in vain, and from March 25 onwards we could look confidently to our heroes at Lake Narocz.

After the battle was over the German Army Order of April 1, 1916, in the production of which we cooperated, ran as follows:

The following order of the Russian Commander-in-Chief on the Western front of the 4th (17th) March, No. 527, shows what a great objective these attacks were intended to reach:


Six months ago, fearfully weakened and with a small number of guns and but little small- arm ammunition, you arrested the advance of the enemy and took up your present positions after defeating his attempt to break through in the region of Molodetchno.

His Majesty and your Homeland now expect a fresh deed of heroism from you, the driving of the enemy from the frontiers of the Empire! When you start upon this high task to-morrow morning, trusting in your courage, your great devotion to the Tsar and fervent love of country, I am convinced that you will do your sacred duty towards the Tsar and your Fatherland and release your brothers who sigh under the enemy's yoke. God help us in this holy task I

(Signed) EVERT,


To anyone who knows the circumstances it is certainly extraordinary that such an enterprise should be begun at a season of the year in which its execution might be faced with the greatest difficulties from day to day through the melting of the snow. The choice of this moment is therefore due far less to the free will of the Russian High Command than to pressure put upon it by some ally in distress. •

If the Russians try to explain officially that the present cessation of the attack is mainly due to the change in the weather, it is certainly only half the truth. The losses they have suffered in their heavy defeat are at least as much responsible as the soaked ground. At a conservative estimate those losses are at least 140,000 men. It would be more accurate for the enemy commander to say that the great offensive has hitherto stuck fast, not only in|marsh but in marsh and blood.

As my conclusion I will take the following passage from a German officer's description of this spring battle:

Not much more than a month after the Russian Tsar had paraded his storm troops on the Postawy front, Field-Marshal von Hindenburg went to the front to thank his victorious regiments. At Tscherniaty and Komai, Jodowze, Swirany and Kobylnik, only a few miles as the crow flies from the spot where the Tsar had held his review, the Field-Marshal spoke to the delegates of the troops from the front and distributed the iron crosses. For one moment Commander-in-Chief and grenade-thrower stood hand in hand, looking long and confidently into each other's eyes. The spring sun shone like a sun of victory over the Hindenburg front.

That was my share in the battle of Lake Narocz.


The Russian Offensive Against the Austro-Hungarian Eastern Front

"Verdun!" The name was continually on our lips in the East from the beginning of February in this year. We dare only mention it under our breaths and in secret. We pronounced the word in a tone which suggested both doubt and hesitation. And yet the idea of capturing Verdun was a good one. With Verdun in our hands our position on the Western Front would be materially strengthened. It would once and for all remove the salient at our most sensitive point. Perhaps, too, the capture of the fortress would open up further strategic possibilities in the south and west.

In my opinion, therefore, the importance of this fortress justified an attempt to take it. We had it in our power to break off the attack at any time if it appeared impossible to carry it through, or the sacrifices it exacted seemed to be too high. Moreover, had not the boldest and most improbable actions in attacks on fortresses succeeded brilliantly time after time in this jvar?

After the end of February the word "Verdun" was no longer uttered secretly, but loudly and joyfully. The name "Douaumont," like a beacon of German heroism, lit up the far distances of the East and raised the spirits even of those who were now looking with anxious care towards the development of events at Lake Narocz. I must admit that the attack on Verdun was also a bitter disappointment for us, for the enterprise meant that the idea of a decision here in the East had been finally abandoned.

As time went on Verdun was spoken of in yet another tone. Doubts gradually began to prevail, though they were but seldom expressed. They could be summarised shortly in the following question: Why should we persevere with an offensive which exacted such frightful sacrifices and, as was already obvious, had no prospects of success? Instead of the purely frontal attack on the northern arc of the defence, which was supported by the permanent work of Verdun, would it not be possible to use the configuration of our lines between the Argonne Forest and St. Mihiel to cut the salient off altogether? It must be left to the future and unprejudiced examination to say whether these questions were right.

Another word followed Verdun; the word "Italy," which was mentioned for the first time after the battle of Lake Narocz had ended. This name, too, was uttered with doubt, a doubt far greater and stronger than in the case of Verdun. Indeed, not so much a doubt as an anxious foreboding. The plan of an Austro-Hungarian attack on Italy was bold, and from that point of view had therefore a military claim to success. But what made the plan seem venturesome was our opinion of the instrument ,with which it was to be carried out. If the best Austro-Hungarian troops were sent against Italy, troops to which not only Austria and Hungary but Germany as well looked with pride and hope, what was left against Russia? Moreover, Russia had not been so badly beaten as was suspected at the end of 1915. At Lake Narocz the immense determination of the Russian masses had again revealed itself in a fury and impetus compared with which the Austro-Hungarian units, many of them largely composed of Slav elements, had showa themselves even less effective than before.

In spite of reports of victories in Italy, our anxiety increased from day to day. It was justified only too soon by the events which now occurred south of the Pripet. On June 4 the Austro-Hungarian front in Wolhynia and the Bukovina absolutely collapsed before the first Russian onslaught. The worst crisis that the Eastern Front had ever known, worse even than those of the year 1914, now, began, for this time there was no victorious German Army standing by ready to save. In the West the battle of Verdun was raging, and there were signs of the coming storm on the Somme.

The waves of this crisis reached even to our front, but not in the form of Russian attacks, fortunately for the whole situation. We could thus, at least, give a little help where the need was greatest.

Hitherto, on the German front the Russians had remained in their positions, but in the same strength as before. They had therefore obtained their first victory south of the Pripet with relatively weak forces, and not by the immense masses they usually employed. Brussiloff's plan must certainly be regarded as at the outset a reconnaissance, a reconnaissance on an immense front and carried out with great determination, but still only a reconnaissance, and not a blow with some definite objective. His task was to test the strength of the enemy's lines on a front of nearly 300 miles between the Pripet and Rumania. "Brussiloff was like a man who taps on a wall in order to find out which part of it is solid stone and which lath and plaster." So wrote a foreigner about the opening days of Brussiloff's attack. And there is no doubt that the foreigner was right.

However, the Austro-Hungarian wall revealed but few. solid stones. It collapsed under the taps of Brussiloff's hammer, and through the gaps poured the Russian masses, which now began to be drawn from our front also. Where should we be able to bring them to a standstill? At first only one strong pillar remained standing in the midst of this conflagration. It was the Southern Army, under its splendid commander, General Count Bothmer. Germans, Austrians and Hungarians-all held together by good discipline.

Everything that could be spared from our part of the great Eastern Front was now sent south, and disappeared on the battlefields of Galicia.

Meanwhile the situation on the Western Front had also become worse. The French and English, in very superior numbers, had hurled themselves at our relatively weak line on both sides of the Somme and pressed the defence back. Indeed, for a moment we were faced with the menace of a complete collapse!

My All-Highest War Lord summoned me and my Chief of Staff twice to his Headquarters at Pless to confer with him over the serious situation on the Eastern Front. It was on the second occasion, at the end of July, that the decision was taken to reorganise the system of command on the Eastern Front. The German General Staff, in return for the offer of a rescuing hand to Austro-Hungary -in spite of the claims of Verdun and the Somme-had demanded a guarantee for a stricter organisation of the command on the Eastern Front. They were right! My sphere of command was accordingly extended to the region of Brody, east of Lemberg. Large Austro-Hungarian forces were placed under my command.

We visited the Headquarters Staffs of the armies newly assigned to us as soon as possible, and found among the Austro-Hungarian authorities perfect cordiality and ruthless criticism of their own weaknesses. I am bound to say that this knowledge was not always accompanied by the resolution to repair the damage that had been done; and yet, if ever an army needed one controlling and resolute will and one single impulse, it was this army, with its mixture of nationalities. Without them the best blood would run feebly in such an organism and be poured out in vain.

The extension of my sphere of command compelled me to transfer my Headquarters to the south, to Brest-Litovsk. It was there that, on the morning of August 28, I received a command from His Majesty the Emperor to go to his Headquarters as soon as possible. The only reason the Chief of the Military Cabinet gave me was this: "The position is serious!"

I put down the receiver and thought of Verdun and Italy, Brussiloff and the Austrian Eastern Front; then of the news, "Rumania has declared war on us." Strong nerves would be required!


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