Hans von Seeckt was born in Silesia on 22nd April, 1866. At the age of nineteen he joined the German Army where he served in the 1st Grenadier Guards, his father's regiment. In 1897 he was appointed to the General Staff of the 3rd Army Corps in Berlin.
On the outbreak of the First World War Seeckt had reached the rank of lieutenant colonel and in January 1915 he was promoted to colonel. In May of that year he played an important role in planning the breakthrough of the Central Powers between Gorlice and Tarnov and the subsequent invasion of Serbia. In June 1916, he became chief of the General Staff of the Austro-Hungarian Army. The following year he held the same post with the Turkish Army in 1917. He remained in the army and in 1919 succeeded General Paul von Hindenburg as chief of the General Staff.
Louis L. Snyder has argued: "During his war service he acquired a reputation as an able officer who understood the political implications of military problems. Trim, precise, almost dainty in his well-tailored uniform, he became known as the Sphinx with the monocle." He remained in the army and in 1919 succeeded General Paul von Hindenburg as chief of the General Staff.
In March 1920, according to the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, the Germans were obliged to dismiss between 50,000 and 60,000 men from the armed forces. Among the units to be disbanded was a naval brigade commanded by Captain Herman Ehrhardt, a leader of a unit of Freikorps. The brigade had played a role in crushing the Bavarian Socialist Republic in May, 1919.
On the evening of 12th March, 1920, the Ehrhardt brigade went into action. He marched 5,000 of his men twelve miles from their military barracks to Berlin. The Minister of Defence, Gustav Noske, had only 2,000 men to oppose the rebels. However, the leaders of the German Army refused to put down the rebellion. General Hans von Seeckt informed him "Reichswehr does not fire on Reichswehr." Noske contacted the police and security officers but they had joined the coup themselves. He commented: "Everyone has deserted me. Nothing remains but suicide." However, Noske did not kill himself and instead fled to Dresden with Friedrich Ebert. However, the local military commander, General George Maercker refused to protect them and they were forced to travel to Stuttgart.
Captain Herman Ehrhardt met no resistance as they took over the ministries and proclaimed a new government headed by Wolfgang Kapp, a right-wing politician. Berlin had been seized from the German Social Democrat government. However, the trade union leaders refused to accept the Kapp Putsch and Carl Legien called for a general strike to take place. As Chris Harman, the author of The Lost Revolution (1982), has pointed out: "The appeal had an immediate impact. It went out at 11am on the day of the coup, Saturday 13 March. By midday the strike had already started. Its effects could be felt everywhere in the capital within 24 hours, despite it being a Sunday. There were no trains running, no electricity and no gas. Kapp issued a decree threatening to shoot strikers. It had no effect. By the Monday the strike was spreading throughout the country - the Ruhr, Saxony, Hamburg, Bremen, Bavaria, the industrial villages of Thuringia, even to the landed estates of rural Prussia."
Louis L. Snyder has argued: "The strike was effective because without water, gas, electricity, and transportation, Berlin was paralyzed." A member of the German Communist Party (KPD) argued: "The middle-ranking railway, post, prison and judicial employees are not Communist and they will not quickly become so. But for the first time they fought on the side of the working class." Five days after the putsch began, Wolfgang Kapp announced his resignation and fled to Sweden.
The Versailles Treaty limited the German Army to a strength of 100,000 men and as Chief of Army Command he had the difficult task of maintaining morale of the armed forces. Disliking traditional theories of mass armies and trench warfare, Hans von Seeckt remolded the army as a mobile shock force of thirty-five divisions.
Gustav Stresemann, of the German National People's Party (DNVP), with the support of the Social Democratic Party, became chancellor of Germany in August 1923. On 26th September, he announced the decision of the government to call off the campaign of passive resistance in the Ruhr unconditionally, and two days later the ban on reparation deliveries to France and Belgium was lifted. He also tackled the problem of inflation by establishing the Rentenbank. Alan Bullock, the author of Hitler: A Study in Tyranny (1962) has pointed out: "This was a courageous and wise decision, intended as the preliminary to negotiations for a peaceful settlement. But it was also the signal the Nationalists had been waiting for to stir up a renewed agitation against the Government."
Adolf Hitler, Hermann Goering, Ernst Roehm and Hermann Kriebel had a meeting together on 25th September where they discussed what they were to do. Hitler told the men that it was time to take action. Roehm agreed and resigned his commission to give his full support to the cause. Hitler's first step was to put his own 15,000 Sturm Abteilung men in a state of readiness. The following day, the Bavarian Cabinet proclaimed a state of emergency and appointed Gustav von Kahr, one of the best-known politicians, with strong right-wing leanings, as State Commissioner with dictatorial powers. Kahr's first act was to ban Hitler from holding meetings.
General Hans von Seeckt made it clear that he would take action if Hitler attempted to take power. As William L. Shirer, the author of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (1964), has pointed out: "He issued a plain warning to... Hitler and the armed leagues that any rebellion on their part would be opposed by force. But for the Nazi leader it was too late to draw back. His rabid followers were demanding action." Wilhelm Brückner, one of his SA commanders, urged him to strike at once: "The day is coming, when I won't be able to hold the men back. If nothing happens now, they'll run away from us."
On 8th November, 1923, the Bavarian government held a meeting of about 3,000 officials. While Gustav von Kahr, the prime minister of Bavaria was making a speech, Adolf Hitler and 600 armed SA men entered the building. According to Ernst Hanfstaengel: "Hitler began to plough his way towards the platform and the rest of us surged forward behind him. Tables overturned with their jugs of beer. On the way we passed a major named Mucksel, one of the heads of the intelligence section at Army headquarters, who started to draw his pistol as soon as he saw Hitler approach, but the bodyguard had covered him with theirs and there was no shooting. Hitler clambered on a chair and fired a round at the ceiling." Hitler then told the audience: "The national revolution has broken out! The hall is filled with 600 armed men. No one is allowed to leave. The Bavarian government and the government at Berlin are hereby deposed. A new government will be formed at once. The barracks of the Reichswehr and the police barracks are occupied. Both have rallied to the swastika!"
Leaving Hermann Goering and the SA to guard the 3,000 officials, Hitler took Gustav von Kahr, Otto von Lossow, the commander of the Bavarian Army and Hans von Seisser, the commandant of the Bavarian State Police into an adjoining room. Hitler told the men that he was to be the new leader of Germany and offered them posts in his new government. Aware that this would be an act of high treason, the three men were initially reluctant to agree to this offer. Adolf Hitler was furious and threatened to shoot them and then commit suicide: "I have three bullets for you, gentlemen, and one for me!" After this the three men agreed.
Hitler dispatched Max Scheubner-Richter to Ludwigshöhe to collect General Eric Ludendorff. He had been leader of the German Army at the end of the First World War. Ludendorff had therefore found Hitler's claim that the war had not been lost by the army but by Jews, Socialists, Communists and the German government, attractive, and was a strong supporter of the Nazi Party. However, according to Alan Bullock, the author of Hitler: A Study in Tyranny (1962): "He (Ludendorff) was thoroughly angry with Hitler for springing a surprise on him, and furious at the distribution of offices which made Hitler, not Ludendorff, the dictator of Germany, and left him with the command of an army which did not exist. But he kept himself under control: this was a national event, he said, and he could only advise the others to collaborate."
While Adolf Hitler had been appointing government ministers, Ernst Roehm, leading a group of stormtroopers, had seized the War Ministry and Rudolf Hess was arranging the arrest of Jews and left-wing political leaders in Bavaria. Hitler now planned to march on Berlin and remove the national government. Surprisingly, Hitler had not arranged for the Sturm Abteilung (SA) to take control of the radio stations and the telegraph offices. This meant that the national government in Berlin soon heard about Hitler's putsch and gave orders to General Hans von Seeckt for it to be crushed. Although he had mixed feelings about the attempted coup in Munich, he gave orders for the Beer Hall Putsch to be put down.
On 9th November, 1923, Adolf Hitler, Hermann Kriebel, Eric Ludendorff, Julius Steicher, Hermann Goering, Max Scheubner-Richter, Wilhelm Brückner and 3,000 armed supporters of the Nazi Party marched through Munich in an attempt to join up with Roehm's forces at the War Ministry. At Odensplatz they found the road blocked by the Munich police. What happened next is in dispute. One observer said that Hitler fired the first shot with his revolver. Another witness said it was Steicher while others claimed the police fired into the ground in front of the marchers.
William L. Shirer has argued: "At any rate a shot was fired and in the next instant a volley of shots rang out from both sides, spelling in that instant the doom of Hitler's hopes. Scheubner-Richter fell, mortally wounded. Goering went down with a serious wound in his thigh. Within sixty seconds the firing stopped, but the street was already littered with fallen bodies - sixteen Nazis and three police dead or dying, many more wounded and the rest, including Hitler, clutching the pavement to save their lives."
As a result of his willingness to put down the Beer Hall Putsch, Seeckt was described in a Nazi newspaper as a "pawn of sinister Jewish-Masonic elements." He was also accused of being under the influence of his Jewish wife. The government was pleased by Seeckt's loyalty and he was given responsibilty for security against domestic political dangers, especially the Hitler movement. He was dismissed from office in October 1926 after making several controversial decisions. This included offering a senior post to the son of the former Prince Wilhelm and issuing an order recognizing dueling among officers.
In 1928 Seeckt published Thoughts of a Soldier (1928). In the book Seeckt questioned the value of huge conscript armies. He argued that it was technical science and tactical skill that would win the wars of the future. He predicted that "the whole future of warfare appears to me to lie in the employment of mobile armies, relatively small but of high quality, and rendered distinctly more effective by the addition of aircraft, and in the simultaneous mobilization of the whole forces, either to feed the attack or for home defence."
Basil Liddell Hart explained Seeckt's ideas in his book, The Other Side of the Hill (1948): "The bulk of the nation's manpower would be better employed during peacetime in helping to expand the industry required to provide the professional army with an ample equipment of up-to-date weapons. The type of weapons must be settled well in advance, and arrangements for rapid mass production developed. At the same time a brief period of compulsory military training should be given to all fit young men in the country... Such a system would help to link the army with the people, and ensure national unity."
Seeckt initially opposed Adolf Hitler and the rise of the Nazi Party. However, he gradually changed him mind and after being elected to the Reichstag in 1930 he joined up with Alfred Hugenberg, Hjalmar Schacht, Graf Kalkreuth, the president of Junkers' Land League and several industrialists, to call for the uniting of the parties of the right. They demanding the resignation of Heinrich Brüning and new elections to parliament.
Hans von Seeckt died in Berlin on 29th December 1936.
A conscript mass, whose training has been brief and superficial, is 'cannon fodder' in the worst sense of the word, if pitted against a small number of practised technicians on the other side.
In this way a military mass is constituted which, though unsuited to take part in a war of movement and seek a decision in formal battle, " were able to fulfil the duty of home defence, and at the same time to provide from its best elements a continuous reinforcement of the regular, combatant army in the field.
In brief, the whole future of warfare appears to me to lie in the employment of mobile armies, relatively small but of high quality, and rendered distinctly more effective by the addition of aircraft, and in the simultaneous mobilization of the whole forces, either to feed the attack or for home defence.
His vision of the future emerged clearly from the book he wrote soon after he left office - Thoughts of a Soldier (1928). He there questioned the value of the huge conscript armies of the past, suggesting that the effort and sacrifice was disproportionate to their effect, and merely led to a slow-grinding war of exhaustion. "Mass becomes immobile; it cannot manoeuvre and therefore cannot win victories, it can only crush by sheer weight." Moreover, in peace-time, it was important "to limit as far as possible the unproductive retention of male labour in military service".
The bulk of the nation's manpower would be better employed during peacetime in helping to expand the industry required to provide the professional army with an ample equipment of up-to-date weapons. At the same time a brief period of compulsory military training should be given to all fit young men in the country, "preceded by a training of the young, which would lay less emphasis on the military side than on a general physical and mental discipline". Such a system would help to link the army with the people, and ensure national unity.
Hans von Seeckt
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Hans von Seeckt, (born April 22, 1866, Schleswig, Prussia—died Dec. 27, 1936, Berlin), German general and head of the Reichswehr (army) from 1920 to 1926, who was responsible for successfully remodelling the army under the Weimar Republic.
Seeckt entered the German Army in 1885. By 1889 he was a member of the general staff, where he remained for the next two decades. During World War I he became chief of staff of the 11th Army (February 1915) and later served as chief of staff of the Turkish Army.
Appointed in November 1919 head of the Truppenamt (Troops Bureau), the republican successor of the German imperial general staff, which had been proscribed by the Versailles treaty, Seeckt clandestinely became the creator of a small but remarkably efficient army. He recognized that a Russo-German alliance would be an almost unbeatable combination in any general war, and he encouraged the Treaty of Rapallo (1922) normalizing relations between the two powers and promoted other, secret agreements. In return for German training of the Soviet Army and aid in the construction of heavy industry, the Reichswehr was able to train tank and air crews in the Soviet Union and experiment with the latest weapons, thereby effectively circumventing the Versailles treaty.
The heart of Seeckt’s policy was to maintain the power and prestige of the army by avoiding internal dissension. In 1926, however, he made two crucial mistakes in regularizing duelling between officers and approving the participation of a Hohenzollern prince in Reichswehr manoeuvres. The resulting public and parliamentary outcry forced his resignation on Oct. 8, 1926. Thereafter, Seeckt served as a conservative member of the Reichstag (parliament) in 1930–32 and, in 1934–35, as an adviser to the Chinese Nationalist Army. His memoirs, Aus meinem Leben (“From My Life”) and Aus seinem Leben (“From His Life”), appeared in 1938 and 1940.
Hans von Seeckt
Hans von Seeckt (1866-1936) was a German military officer who commanded the Reichswehr for six years during the Weimar period. During this period, Seeckt oversaw the successful restructuring of the army, often bypassing the restrictions imposed by the Treaty of Versailles.
Hans von Seeckt was born in Silesia, the son of an army general. After completing his schooling, Seeckt enlisted himself and obtained a commission in his father’s old regiment. Within a few years, he was being trained for admission to the General Staff.
Seeckt was a lieutenant-colonel at the outbreak of World War I. He proved himself an effective military strategist and planner, rising through the ranks and earning command positions with both the Austro-Hungarian and Turkish armies.
After World War I, Seeckt was one the few German generals whose reputation remained intact. In March 1920, he was appointed the Chief of the General Staff (commander-in-chief of the German army) following the retirement of Paul von Hindenburg.
Seeckt faced two significant challenges. The first was positioning the German military between the unpopular Weimar government and the rising nationalist movement. He did this by walking a cautious middle ground. Seeckt’s refusal to either side with or put down the Kapp putsch (1920) was one example of this.
A second problem was keeping the army strong and formidable in the face of the restrictions imposed at Versailles. Seeckt did this by encouraging and silently supporting the Freikorps or ‘Black Reichswehr’, toughening training procedures and disciplinary standards and encouraging closer military cooperation with the Soviet Union. This included sending German units for training in Soviet Russia.
Seeckt was initially opposed to Adolf Hitler and the National Socialists (NSDAP). When the NSDAP threatened a national revolution in 1923, Seeckt warned that it would be met with force by the Reichswehr. Hitler later claimed that Seeckt was under the influence of his wife, who was Jewish.
In late 1926, Seeckt was forced to resign from his position, following several controversial decisions, including giving one of the Kaiser’s sons an important command position. He then entered politics, serving in the Reichstag between 1930 and 1932 as a German People’s Party candidate. Seeckt’s politics shifted further to the right and he eventually began endorsing Hitler and the NSDAP.
After Hitler’s rise to power, Seeckt was sent to China to advise Jiang Jieshi (Chiang Kai-shek) and the Nationalist army in their struggle against Mao Zedong’s Communist Red Army. He returned to Germany in 1936 and died in December that year.
WI: The Hans von Seeckt coup is attempted?
Do you know the kind of stupid villain that ends doing a positive thing by accident?
So, the DNVP and other traditional ultracon-protofascist parties in the weimar republic were about to attempt their own coup, putting Hans Von Seeckt in power of Germany and maybe trying to restore the constitutional monarchy, when Hitler did the beer hall putsch and inadvertently saved the weimar republic:
From Larry Eugene Jones' The German Right, 1918–1930: Political Parties, Organized Interests, and Patriotic Associations in the Struggle against Weimar Democracy, pages 205-206: "[--] the harshest words by far were reserved for Adolf Hitler. Speaking at a delegate assembly of the United Patriotic Leagues of Germany on 17 November 1923, VVVD chairman Fritz Geisler bitterly denounced the Nazi party leader for having carelessly destroyed months of hard work and preparation with his ill-advised and hastily organized coup on the night of 8 November. Not oly had Hitler's impetuosity prolonged Stresemann's tenure in office, but the Nazi party leader was oblivious to the deep rift his action would leave within the ranks of those upon whom the rebirth of Germany ultimately depended."
Let's say that a bird enters in hitler's office and provockes him enought for him to try to kill the bird with his hands, but the bird runs out of the window and makes Hitler falls from the fourth fourth floor, and thus the coup is attempted, what happens?
New Cleo Genesis
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When Interior Minister Carl Severing formally dissolved right-wing paramilitary associations and ordered the arrest of Lieutenant Roßbach and other leaders of the Free Corps movement, Seeckt’s disgust with the Prussian government mounted to the point where in May 1923 he was preparing for the assumption of executive power by the Reichswehr. [. ]
After the termination of passive resistance [to the Ruhr occupation] on 26 September 1923, Seeckt found himself under increasingly heavy pressure from his military advisors and representatives of the German Right—among them Oskar Hergt and Count Kuno von Westarp—to assume political power at the head of a three-man directorate. With this in mind, Seeckt drafted a “government program” that, in addition to revising the constitution along corporatist lines, called for the exclusion of socialist parties, the elimination of the labor unions, and the rescinding of all wage agreements, as well as for merging the offices of the chancellor and the Prussian minister president. [. ]
As Seeckt was preparing his plans for a dictatorship in the early fall of 1923, he received strong encouragement from Friedrich Minoux, executive director of the Berlin branch of the Stinnes concern. [. ] In a meeting with the American ambassador Alanson B. Houghton, Stinnes outlined the plans for a directorate and revealed the strategy of the Reichswehr command. At the first sign of a Communist uprising, a military dictatorship would, with Ebert’s consent, abolish the parliamentary system and “ruthlessly smash” the Communist movement. This plan, which would mobilize the entire political Right, was predicated upon the assumption that the KPD would indeed attempt to overthrow the system. Stinnes, who earlier in the year had brought Seeckt and Ludendorff together, was concerned that the reaction abroad would be negative if the subversive initiative were to originate in Bavaria. It was with this in mind, therefore, that Seeckt used his close personal relations with Otto Hermann von Lossow and Gustav von Kahr to dissuade them from striking prematurely. Hitler’s abortive putsch of 9 November, however, dramatically altered the entire situation. [. ]
It was particularly alarming that after the withdrawal of the Social Democrats from the Stresemann cabinet in November 1923 Ebert disregarded the chancellor’s emphatic warnings against the establishment of a right-wing dictatorship and gave his tacit approval to Seeckt’s contacts with Otto Wiedtfeld, the German ambassador in Washington, about the proposed directorate. Unlike the Bavarian putschists, Seeckt intended to preserve the external appearances of legality in taking over the chancellorship and governing by means of a directorate. It was, after all, not in the interests of the Reichwehr to support a right-wing putsch that might easily lead Germany back to the brink of a civil war.
(from The Rise and Fall of Weimar Democracy, pp. 141–42)
Seeckt was in the difficult position of trying to keep the grassroots far right on board with the contingency of military rule while restraining them from taking things into their own hands. He was faced with a double preemption: while he delayed and wanted to maintain the appearance of a constitutional transition and avoid an open coup d'état, the Bavarian Reichswehr command, which had ties to the Nazis, pushed to proceed promptly through a putsch with or without Seeckt. Meanwhile Hitler himself moved to preempt the rest of the Bavarian right once he started feeling that he'd be marginalised if he didn't act in time. So in this scenario we'd have to imagine Seeckt acting more decisively, managing to satisfy the Bavarians as well as preventing Hitler's operation, and presumably losing the common sense that led him to reject the plan IOTL.
The results would have been. not good. The directorate couldn't have taken the measures the Stresemann cabinet did IOTL to end the hyperinflation and begin economic reconstruction, which involved heavy influence from the Social Democrats and an eye on keeping the working class at least minimally satisfied. The coup plan in general was tightly connected to heavy industrial interests, and aimed at an economic agenda that would have rolled back all the pro-labour measures enacted since 1918, like the (principle of the) 8-hour workday. In the climate of 1923 this, as well as the general suppression of the socialist parties that was envisaged, would have enormously alienated the working class (similarly to the Kapp Putsch). The directorate would either have been paralysed and promptly overthrown or forced into open civil war against the left.
Then there's the fact that France was breathing down Germany's neck at this point during the Ruhr occupation. The prospect of French intervention was probably the single most important reason that Seeckt never put the plan into action IOTL—unlike Hitler and the Bavarian command, Seeckt realised that the German military in 1923 had no chance of putting up a fight against France. The choice faced by the directorate would have been pretty unenviable. Giving in to the fantastical nationalist demands for protracted resistance and renewed war on France would have led to a predictable defeat and plausibly the disintegration of the Reich. On the other hand, given the plan's ties to heavy industry, which was already in 1923 going behind the back of the German government to work out its own arrangements with France, the directorate could have simply focused on its right-wing economic agenda and given up the Ruhr. In this case it would lose its nationalist support and probably collapse by internal dissension. Either way, it's hard to see this ending up as anything other than a fiasco.
Reichswehr [ edit | edit source ]
As part of the terms of Treaty of Versailles, the General Staff of the German army was disbanded. Seeckt was the last man to serve as Chief of General Staff of the Imperial Army. Ώ] On 11 October 1919, Seeckt became the effective chief of the Reichswehr. Ώ] The Treaty of Versailles greatly restricted the size of the German military. It fell to Seeckt to organize the new Reichswehr within the strict restrictions imposed. Seeckt successfully laid the groundwork. With the General Staff forbidden, a shadow functional general staff was formed and called the Truppenamt or Troop Office. Seeckt never tried to hide his dislike of the Weimar republic, which he regarded as a transional regime which hopefully would end soon. Ώ] In a 1919 memo, Seeckt expressed the widely held anger over the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, but also against the idea of Germany joining someday the League of Nations. Though in favor of peace in general, he doubted that it was a thing which mankind could achieve on its own. He noted that war was the natural state of humanity, and that being the case the duty of a German officer was to be prepared to fight the next war, if and when that time came to pass. Η] Seeckt argued: "My own training in history prevents me from seeing in the idea of permanent peace anything more than a dream whereby it remains an open question whether one can consider it, in Moltke's phrase, a 'good dream' or not". Η]
Seeckt was a firm believer in the "faith of the sword", and despite the devastating loss of the First World War he worked to ensure the German army maintained the defiant, offensive spirit that was its tradition. ⎖] Despite all of the disarmament clauses of the Treaty of Versailles, he did not believe that men could be stopped from "thinking like men". He argued that one of the primary duties of a German officer was to keep the nation psychologically prepared for the next war. Η] Seeckt went on to state: "German officers and especially members of the general staff have never sought a fight for its own sake or been war-mongers. And they should not do so now, but they should also never forget the great deeds achieved by German warriors. Keeping the memory of them alive in ourselves and our people must be a sacred duty. For then neither officers nor people will lapse into enfeebling illusions of peace, but will remain aware that in the moment of truth only personal and national stature counts. If fate once again calls the German people to arms-and who can doubt that day will come?-then officers should not have to call on a nation of weaklings, but of strong men ready to take up familiar and trusted weapons. The form these weapons take is not so important if they are wielded by hands of steel and hearts of iron. So let us do our utmost to ensure that on that future day there is no lack of such hearts and hands let us strive tirelessly to strengthen our own bodies and minds and those of our fellow Germans. It is the duty of every member of the general staff to make the Reichswehr not only a reliable pillar of the state, but also a school for the leaders of the nation. Beyond the army itself, every officer will sow the seed of manly attitudes throughout the population". ⎗] The Treaty of Versailles limited the Army to 100,000 men, only 4,000 of which could be officers.  As the commander in chief of the German Army, Seeckt wanted to ensure that the best officers were retained. The Reichswehr was designed as a cadre force that could be expanded if need be. ⎘] Almost all of the leaders of the Wehrmacht in World War Two were men that Seeckt chose to retain in 1919–20. ⎘]
American historians' Williamson Murray and Alan Millet wrote:
"In reducing the officer corps, Seeckt chose the new leadership from the best men of the general staff with ruthless disregard for other constituencies, such as war heroes and the nobility. The resulting emphasis on the serious study of the military profession, including its history and on honest communication between different levels of command ensured that the new officer corps would not repeat the errors of the last war. General staff officers had been central to the developing the revolutionary tactical conceptions of 1917 and 1918, and the new German officer corps accepted the values of the general staff in way that it had not before 1914." ⎘]
The army that Germany went to war with in 1939 was largely Seeckt's creation. The tactics and operational concepts of the Wehrmacht were the work of Seeckt in the 1920s. In addition, the majority of the senior officers and many of the middle-ranking officers were men that Seeckt had chosen to retain in the Reichswehr. ⎙] Seeckt created 57 different committees to study the last war to provide lessons learned for the next war. ⎙] Seeckt stated: "It is absolutely necessary to put the experience of the war in a broad light and collect this experience while the impressions won on the battlefield are still fresh and a major portion of the experienced officers are still in leading positions". ⎙] The result was the 1923 book Leadership and Battle with Combined Arms that outlined the combined arms tactics and operational ideas that went on to serve as the Wehrmacht's doctrine in the Second World War. ⎙] Seeckt envisioned Germany winning the next war by a series of highly mobile operations featuring combined arms operations of artillery, infantry, armor, and air power working together to concentrate superior firepower to crush the enemy at crucial points. ⎚] Seeing a significant role for air power in the next war, Seeckt kept a large number of officers in the Reichswehr who had experience in air combat. These officers formed the future officers corps of the Luffwaffe in the 1930s. ⎛] Seeckt's political views veered towards the far-right, especially a marked tendency to see the Jews as his enemies. ⎜] In a letter to his wife on 19 May 1919, Seeckt wrote about the new Prussian Prime Minister, Paul Hirsch: "He is not so bad and is an old parliamentarian. For this post he seems quite unsuitable, especially as a Jew not only because this is in itself provocative, but because the Jewish talent is purely critical, hence negative and can never help in the construction of a state. This is no good". ⎝] Seeckt ignored the Constitution of 1919 which prohibited religious discrimination. He ordered that Jews were not to be accepted into the Reichswehr, no matter how qualified they might be. ⎞] Seeckt is known for his hostile attitude towards the Second Polish Republic, which had absorbed German territories. He was in favor of an alliance with the Soviet Union, which had also lost territory to Poland. After seeing encouraging signs from the newly established War Commissar's Office of Leon Trotsky, Seeckt sent out a secret staff to conduct a military alliance with the Soviets, unbeknownst to the Weimar government. In October 1919 Seeckt sent out his close friend Enver Pasha on a secret mission to Moscow to make contracts with the Soviets. ⎟] In the summer of 1920, Enver sent Seeckt a letter from Moscow asking for German arms deliveries to the Soviet Union in exchange for which Trotsky promised to partition Poland with the Reich. ⎟] Though Seeckt did not hesitate to use military force against putsch attempts by the German Communists, this did not affect his relations with the Soviet Union. ⎠] Seeckt regarded his informal alliance with the Soviet Union in purely non-ideological terms. ⎠] Seeckt regarded the efforts of General Rüdiger von der Goltz and his Freikorps to create an anti-communist, German-dominated state in the Baltic as a ludicrous attempt to turn back the clock. ⎡] Seeckt was all for seeing von der Goltz conquer the Baltic states if that was possible, but was very antagonistic towards Goltz's efforts to use his proposed state as a basis for overthrowing the Bolsheviks. ⎡] Seeckt saw Poland as the main enemy and the Soviet Union as a very useful ally against Poland, so he viewed Goltz's anti-Communist schemes with some hostility. ⎡]
von Seeckt together with officers at the Reichswehr maneuvers in Thuringia 1925
After the Allies sent the German government a list of war criminals to be tried Seeckt called a conference of Staff Officers and departmental heads on 9 February 1920 and said to them that if the German government refused, or were unable, to reject the Allied demands, the Reichswehr must oppose this by all means even if this meant the reopening of hostilities. He further said that if the Allies invaded Germany—which he believed they would not—then the German army in the West should retire behind the Weser and the Elbe, as this was where defensive positions had already been built. In the East, German troops would invade Poland and attempt to establish contacts with the Soviet Union, after which they would both march against France and Britain. He added that German war material would now no longer be sold or destroyed and that the army should be reduced on paper only. ⎢] An Interior Minister of Prussia, Albert Grzesinski, wrote that members of Seeckt's staff said that Seeckt desired a military dictatorship, perhaps headed by Gustav Noske. ⎣]
The military refused to accept the democratic Weimar republic as legitimate and instead the Reichswehr under the leadership of Seeckt became a “state within the state” that operated largely outside of the control of the politicians. ⎤] This was most clearly illustrated by Seeckt's role during the Kapp Putsch of March 1920. During the Kapp Putsch of March 1920, Seeckt disobyed orders from the Defence Minister Gustav Noske, the Chancellor Gustav Bauer and the Reich President Friedrich Ebert to suppress the putsch, claiming "There can be no question of sending the Reichwehr to fight these people". ⎥] Seeckt's actions were entirely illegal as under the Weimar constitution the President was the Supreme Commander in Chief, and moreover Seeckt had violated the Reichswehreid oath, which committed the military to defending the republic. ⎦] Seeckt ordered the military to disregard Ebert's orders to defend the republic, and instead assumed a stance of apparent neutrality, which in effect meant siding with the Kapp putsch by depriving the government of the means of defending itself. Seeckt had no loyalty to the Weimar republic, and his sympathies were entirely with the Kapp putsch, but at the same time, Seeckt regarded the putsch as premature, and chose to sit on the fence to see how things developed rather committing himself to the putsch. ⎥] As a result of Seeckt's refusal to defend the government that he taken a solemn oath to defend, the government was forced to flee Berlin, which was taken by the Marinebrigade Ehrhardt on the morning of 13 March 1920 without a shot being fired. ⎧] The putsch only failed after the government called for a general strike, which shut down the German economy. Once it was become clear that the regime established in Berlin under the nominal leadership of Wolfgang Kapp could not function on the account of the general strike, Seeckt send Colonel Wilhelm Heye to meet with General Walther von Lüttwitz, the real leader of the Kapp putsch to inform him that it was time to end the putsch. ⎨] At the same time, Seeckt showed his sympathy for the putsch by arranging with Captain Hermann Ehrhardt that the Marinebrigade Ehrhardt should march out of Berlin with all the honors of war, during the course of which march the men of the Marinebrigade Ehrhardt fired on jeering Berliners, killing a number of them. ⎨] The position of the military as "state within the state" led to only those few officers and soldiers who had attempted to defend the republic being dismissed, and the officers led by Seeckt who had done nothing to defend the republic were allowed to continue with their jobs. ⎩] The same officers who violated the Reichswehreid during the Kapp putsch by disobying Ebert's orders to suppress the putsch were later to claim that the Hitler oath made it impossible for them to resist the Nazi regime. Seeckt's remark to the leaders of the republic, that "Reichswehr do not fire on Reichswehr", was controversial. His reserved attitude towards Weimar Republic is illustrated by a brief conversation held with President Ebert. When asked by Ebert where the Reichswehr stood, von Seeckt answered “The Reichswehr stands behind me”, and after the question whether the Reichswehr was reliable, Seeckt answered: “I don't know if it is reliable but it obeys my orders!”.
From 1920 to 1926 Seeckt held the position of Chef der Heeresleitung—in fact if not in name commander of the army of the new Weimar Republic, the Reichswehr. In working to build a professional army within and without the confines of the Treaty of Versailles, Seeckt advanced the concept of the army as a "state-within-a-state". This matched the conditions of the Versailles Treaty which were aimed at creating a long-term professional army with a ceiling of 100,000 volunteers and without significant reserves - a force which would not be able to challenge the much larger French Army. Seeckt was a monarchist by personal inclination who encouraged the retention of traditional links with the old Imperial Army. With this purpose he designated individual companies and squadrons of the new Reichswehr as the direct successors of particular regiments of the emperor's army.
In 1921, Seeckt founded the Arbeits-Kommandos (Work Commandos) commanded by Major Ernst von Buchrucker, which was officially a labour group intended to assist with civilian projects, but in reality were thinly disguised soldiers that allowed Germany to exceed the limits on troop strength set by Versailles. ⎪] The control of the Arbeits-Kommandos was exercised through a secret group known as Sondergruppe R comprising Kurt von Schleicher, Eugen Ott, Fedor von Bock and Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord. ⎪] Buchrucker's so-called "Black Reichswehr" became infamous for its practice of murdering all those Germans whom it was suspected were working as informers for the Allied Control Commission, which was responsible for ensuring that Germany was in compliance with Part V. ⎫] The killings perpetrated by the "Black Reichswehr were justified by the revival of the Femegerichte (secret court) system. ⎫] These killings were ordered by the officers from Sondergruppe R. ⎫] Regarding the Femegerichte murders, Carl von Ossietzky wrote:
"Lieutenant Schulz (charged with the murder of informers against the "Black Reichswehr") did nothing but carry out the orders given him, and that certainly Colonel von Bock, and probably Colonel von Schleicher and General Seeckt, should be sitting in the dock beside him". ⎬]
Several times the officers from Sondergruppe R perjured themselves in court when they denied that the Reichswehr had anything to do with the "Black Reichswehr" or the murders they had committed. ⎭] In a secret letter sent to the President of the German Supreme Court, which was trying a member of the Black Reichswehr for murder, Seeckt admitted that the Black Reichswehr was controlled by the Reichswehr, and argued that the murders were justified by the struggle against Versailles, so the court should acquit the defendant. ⎮]
In 1921, Seeckt had Kurt von Schleicher of Sondergruppe R, negotiate the arrangements with Leonid Krasin for German aid to the Soviet arms industry. ⎯] In September 1921, at a secret meeting in Schleicher's apartment, the details of an arrangement for German financial and technological aid for building up the Soviet arms industry in exchange for Soviet support in helping Germany evade the disarmament clauses of the Treaty of Versailles were agreed to. ⎰] Schleicher created a shell corporation known as the GEFU (Gesellschaft zur Förderung gewerblicher Unternehmungen-Company for the promotion of industrial enterprise) that funnelled 75 million Reichmarks into the Soviet arms industry. ⎱] The GEFU founded factories in the Soviet Union for the production of aircraft, tanks, artillery shells and poison gas. ⎰] The arms contracts of GEFU in the Soviet Union ensured that Germany did not fall behind in military technology in the 1920s despite being disarmed by Versailles, and laid the covert foundations in the 1920s for the overt rearmament of the 1930s. ⎲]
Seeckt was a leading advocate of the policy of rapprochement with the Soviet Union, which he saw as the best way to destroy the international system established by the Treaty of Versailles. ⎳] Seeckt's pro-Soviet policies caused considerable tension with the former Foreign Minister Count Ulrich von Brockdorff-Rantzau, who was to be sent out as the Ambassador to Moscow. Brockdorff-Rantzau was just as committed as Seeckt to the destruction of Versailles, but rather preferred to accomplish that goal through an alliance with Britain. ⎴] Moreover, Brockdorff-Rantzau feared that a too close rapprochement with the Soviet Union would alienate Britain and drive her into the arms of France. ⎵] In response, on 11 September 1922, Seeckt sent a memo to Brockdorff-Rantzau entitled "Germany's Attitude to the Russian Problem". ⎵] Some of Seeckt's salient points were:
"Germany must pursue a policy of action. Every State must do that. The moment it stops pursuing a forward policy it ceases to be a State. An active policy must have a goal and a driving force. For carrying it out it is essential to assess one's own strength correctly and at the same time understand the methods and aims of the other powers.
The man who bases his political ideas on the weakness of his own country, who sees only dangers, or whose only desire is to remain stationary, is not pursuing a policy at all, and should be kept far away from the scene of activity.
The years 1814/15 saw France in complete military and political collapse, yet no one at the Congress of Vienna followed a more active policy than Talleyrand — to France's advantage. Has the world ever seen a greater catastrophe than that suffered by Russia in the last war? Yet with what vigor the Soviet Government recovered, both at home and abroad! Did not the Sick Man of Europe seem to be dead once more and for all, and buried by the Treaty of Sèvres? Yet today, after the victory over Greece, he stands up to England with confidence. He followed an active Turkish policy.
Have not Germany's first stirrings in active politics, the Treaty of Rapallo, clearly brought her at last nearer to being more respected?.
This treaty splits opinion into different camps when the Russian problem is considered. The main point about it is not its economic value, though that is by no means inconsiderable, but its political achievement. This association between Germany and Russia is the first and almost the only increase in power which we have so far obtained since peace was made. That this association should begin in the field of economics is a natural consequence of the general situation, but its strength lies in the fact that this economic rapprochement is preparing the way for the possibility of a political and, thus also, a military association. It is beyond a doubt that such a double association would strengthen Germany-and also Russia … The whole policy of reconciliation and appeasement towards France — no matter whether it is pursued by a Stinnes or by General Ludendorff — is hopeless as it aims at political success. The question of orientation towards the West, as far as France is concerned is ruled out …
England is drifting towards another historic conflict with France, even through she does not face imminent war. That lurks in the background. A glance at the East is surely sufficient even for those who before Genoa did not wish to use their eyes and ears. The British interests in the Dardanelles, Egypt and India are certainly infinitely more important at the moment than those on the Rhine, and an understanding between Britain and France at Germany's expense, that is, a concession by Britain in return for an immediate advantage, is by no means improbable. Yet even such an understanding would be only temporary. The moment is coming, and must come, when Britain will be looking for allies on the Continent. When that moment arrives she will prefer the mercenary who is growing in strength, and will even have to make him stronger.
A rapprochement between Germany and Russia would not have a decisive influence on Britain's attitude either in making a concession to France or in searching for an ally. British policy is ruled by other more compelling motives than anxiety about some far-distant threat from a Russia made strong with the help of Germany.
With Poland we come now to the core of the Eastern problem. The existence of Poland is intolerable and incompatible with Germany's vital interests. She must disappear and will do so through her own inner weakness and through Russia — with our help. Poland is more intolerable for Russia than for ourselves Russia can never tolerate Poland. With Poland collapses one of the strongest pillars of the Peace of Versailles, France's advance post of power [is lost]. The attainment of this objective must be one of the firmest guiding principles of German policy, as it is capable of achievement — but only through Russia or with her help.
Poland can never offer Germany any advantage, either economically, because she is incapable of development, or politically, because she is a vassal state of France. The restoration of the frontier between Russia and Germany is a necessary condition before both sides can become strong. The 1914 frontier between Russia and Germany should be the basis of any understanding between the two countries.
I will touch one or two more objections to the policy demanded towards Russia. Germany today is certainly not in a position to resist France. Our policy should be to prepare the means of doing so in the future. A French advance through Germany to go to the help of Poland would make nonsense from the military point of view, so long as Germany does not voluntarily co-operate. The idea springs from the notions of our 1919 diplomats, and there have been three years of work since then. War on the Rhine between France and Russia is a political bogy. Germany will not be Bolshevized, even by an understanding with Russia on external matters.
The German nation, with its Socialist majority, would be averse to a policy of action, which has to reckon with the possibility of war. It must be admitted that the spirit surrounding the Peace Delegation at Versailles has not yet disappeared, and that stupid cry of 'No more war!' is widely echoed. It is echoed by many bourgeois-pacifist elements, but among the workers, and also among the members of the official Social Democratic Party there are many who are not prepared to eat out of the hands of France and Poland. It is true that there is a widespread and understandable need for peace among the German people. The clearest heads, when considering the pros and cons of war, will be those of the military, but to pursue a policy means to take a lead. In spite of everything, the German people will follow the leader in the struggle for their existence. Our task is to prepare for this struggle, for we shall not be spared it". ⎶]
Seeckt's memo to won Brockdorff-Rantzau over to his policy ⎠] After Seeckt had met Adolf Hitler for the first time on 11 March 1923 he wrote: "We were one in our aim only our paths were different". ⎷] On the night of 29–30 September 1923, the Black Reichswehr under the leadership of Major Buchrucker attempted a putsch. ⎸] Seeckt was prompt in his response, ordering the Reichswehr to crush Buschrucker's putsch by laying siege to the forts he had seized outside of Berlin. ⎹] After two days, Buchrucker surrendered. ⎹] Seeckt firmly resisted Hitler's Putsch on 8–9 November 1923, insisting that the Bavarian Division of the Reischswehr remain loyal to the state. ⎹] The British historian John Wheeler-Bennett wrote that Seeckt was loyal to the Reich, not the Republic and that ideologically Seeckt sympathized with Erich Ludendorff, Buchrucker and Hitler. ⎹] Seeckt was only opposed to the Munich Beer Hall putsch and Buckrucker's putsch because the stated aim of the Nazis and the Black Reichswehr was to reject the peaceful settlement of the Ruhrkampf that had been agreed to in September and instead go to war with France in 1923. ⎹] Seeckt knowing the most probable outcome of such war preferred that the Weimar Republic stay in existence, at least for the moment when painful compromises were necessary. ⎹] Wheeler-Bennett wrote that if there were any chance that Germany could have defeated France in 1923, then Seeckt would have gladly joined forces with the Nazis. ⎹] Seeckt strongly opposed the Locarno Treaties which he viewed as appeasement of France and was skeptical of German membership of the League of Nations because he believed it was compromising Germany's connections with the Soviet Union. ⎺] In particular, Seeckt objected to joining the League as one of the conditions for League membership was the commitment not to engage in aggression against other League members, something that put something of a damper on Seeckt's plans for aggression against Poland. ⎻] In a 1925 memo, Seeckt declared that:
"We must become powerful, and as soon as we have power, we will naturally take back everything we have lost". ⎼]
The German historian Wolfram Wette wrote that Seeckt did not seek only to overturn the international order created by Germany's defeat in 1918, but rather wanted to see Germany win the "world power status" that had been sought in World War I, which by necessity meant another war. ⎽] Wette also noted that it striking the lack of any sort of economic rationale in Seeckt's thinking for Germany to become a world power, which was presented as a goal to be achieved in and of itself. ⎽]
Seeckt was eventually forced to resign on 9 October 1926 after permitting Prince Wilhelm, the grandson of the former emperor to attend army manoeuvres in the uniform of the old imperial First Foot Guards without first seeking government approval.
While running the military, Von Seeckt only allowed skilled men to be in the 100,000 man army. He locked them into a mandatory 12 years of confirmed military service with full board and pay, allowing for a form of stability that rarely existed in the midst of massive economic depression in Germany. He gained the loyalty of his men by paying them six times the amount of a French army soldier.
Von Seeckt made the training standards of the Reichswehr the toughest in the world. Von Seeckt trained them in anti-air and anti-tank battles by creating wooden weapons and staging mock battles under the guise of training the soldiers for reintroduction into civilian life. Von Seeckt disciplined this small army much differently than past German armies. For instance, rather than the harsh punishments of the Imperial Army, minor offenders were forced to spend off-hour duties lying under a bed and singing old Lutheran hymns. To make the training appear less military, photos were published of recruits being taught topics like horse anatomy and beekeeping. ⎾]
Hans von Seeckt was born on 22 April 1866 in Schleswig, Prussia to an old Pomeranian family. Seeckt held the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel at the start of World War I, and he served as August von Mackensen's chief of staff during the war against the Russian Empire. In 1915, he assisted in directing the successful Gorlice-Tarnow Offensive, and he was sent to become Chief-of-Staff of the Ottoman Empire's army in 1917. He supported the Young Turks during the Armenian Genocide, arguing that the actions were necessary to save Turkey from internal decay.
After the end of the Great War, Seeckt remained an officer in the Weimar Republic's Reichswehr. Von Seeckt was made commander-in-chief in 1920, and he was responsible for choosing the 4,000 officers who would remain in the military. Seeckt chose the best officers to remain in the reduced military, and his monarchist and conservative views led to him banning Jews from serving in the military and favoring an alliance with the Soviet Union to get revenge against Poland. Von Seeckt criticized the Freikorps as a group stuck in the past, and he sought to establish a military dictatorship ruled by Gustav Noske. Seeckt planned out the defense of Germany in the scenario of an invasion from France, hoping to hold the British and French at the Weser River as the Germans and Soviets launched a joint invasion of Poland the Soviets and Germans would then team up to conquer London. Seeckt's reforms of the military effectively led to the creation of Nazi Germany's Wehrmacht, as he built up a strong army. Seeckt later headed to China and advised the Republic of China's generals, hoping to structure the Chinese military in a German fashion. He helped in advising Chiang Kai-shek against Mao Zedong's communists, and he retired in 1935. Seeckt died in Berlin in 1936 at the age of 70.
Seeckt held the post of Iserlohn Stationed Fleet commander since at least 794 UC ( 485 IC / CE ) . ( TBT : ' Part One ')
Admirals Seeckt and Stockhausen were open rivals and held each other in contempt. Their subordinates shared the views of their commanders and a rivalry existed between the fortress garrison and the stationed fleet. The garrison saw the fleet as mobile bait for the mighty Thor Hammer, while the fleet saw the garrison as cowards, cowering behind the fortress's defences. The enmity between the two commanders and their subordinates would be further deepened with the Fifth Battle of Iserlohn, when the Empire won the battle through the indiscriminate firing of the Thor Hammer through both Alliance forces and the Iserlohn fleet.
This enmity meant that Stockhausen urging against a sortie during the initial stages of the Seventh Battle of Iserlohn hardened Seeckt's resolve to do the opposite. ( LOGH : ' The Rosen Ritter ')
When subsequently the Rosen Ritter seized control of Iserlohn's command centre, Seeckt acted against the advice of his subordinate, Paul von Oberstein, and decided to wait and see what would happen, giving Yang Wen-li time to completely pacify the Imperial forces within Iserlohn. With Iserlohn Fortress secured, Yang docked the 13th Fleet. Seeing that he had fallen for Yang's bluff, Seeckt belatedly advanced his fleet toward the fortress and into the range of Iserlohn's main cannon, the mighty Thor Hammer.
Yang destroyed more than 1000 Imperial warships with the first shot, and advised Seeckt to either surrender or withdraw from battle. Seeckt refused to do either, and informed Yang of his intent to fight to the death, even if the battle was hopeless — his personal code of honour demanded as such.
Yang then fired the Thor Hammer specifically at Seeckt's flagship, destroying it completely. With Seeckt dead, the remaining Imperial warships fled the Iserlohn Corridor. ( LOGH : ' Iserlohn Captured! ')
Who's Who - Hans von Seeckt
Johannes Friedrich Leopold von Seeckt (1866-1936) established a reputation for first-rate staff work prior to and during World War One and was Paul von Hindenburg's successor as army Chief of Staff in the wake of Germany's military defeat in November 1918.
Seeckt entered the German army in 1885 while aged 18. From an early stage Seeckt's aptitude for staff work became apparent with the result he was seconded to the General Staff in 1899 while still only ranked a Lieutenant.
Until the outbreak of war in August 1914 Seeckt served primarily in staff appointments, rising to Colonel. With war underway he was assigned to III Corps as Chief of Staff, attached to Alexander von Kluck's First Army. With von Kluck tasked with no less a matter than the invasion of France Seeckt's career quickly burgeoned in his high-profile role.
Newly-promoted Major-General, Seeckt was subsequently appointed Chief of Staff to August von Mackensen and his Eleventh Army, this time on the Eastern Front. Despite Mackensen's deserved reputation for military prowess Seeckt was nevertheless (correctly) credited with masterminding the breakthrough at Gorlice in May 1915, for which he received the Pour le Merite award.
Having also planned the invasion of Serbia of October 1915, Seeckt was assigned a quite different role following the Austro-Hungarian disaster during the opening stages of the spectacularly successful Russian Brusilov Offensive.
In short, he was assigned to a series of roving Chief of Staff positions within various Austro-Hungarian armies, tasked with re-shaping each and improving their battle worthiness a sensitive task that did not always endear him to his Austro-Hungarian counterparts.
Having successfully acquitted himself in this role he was consequently assigned to the Ottoman army in December 1917 and expected to perform similar wonders this however was a task even von Seeckt was unable to perform.
Seeckt was appointed Hindenburg's successor as Chief of Staff in summer 1919 and set about the construction of an elite force of 100,000 men - the maximum allowed under the terms of the Versailles treaty. He nevertheless ensured that the army he fashioned was capable of being rapidly expanded as and when the need arose, and arranged to secretly train German forces in Russia.
Despite failing to support the government during the Kapp Putsch of 1920 he nevertheless remained head of the army until he was pressured to resign in 1926.
Subsequently serving in the Reichstag von Seeckt later aligned himself with Hitler's Nazis. With the rise of the latter to power he was despatched to China in 1934 to assist with the modernisation of the Chinese army.
He died two years later in 1936.
Saturday, 22 August, 2009 Michael Duffy
"ANZAC" was coined in 1915 from the initials of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.
- Did you know?
Hans von Seeckt - History
The Wehrmacht existed from 1935 to 1945 and consisted of the unified armed forces of Germany, including the Heer (army), Kriegsmarine (navy), and Luftwaffe (air force). The Luftwaffe actually had their own ground forces which included tank divisions. Although many people use the word “Wehrmacht” to specifically refer to the German army, originally, the word “Wehrmacht” meant to defend (wehren) and power or force (macht).
This German military force was used to launch offenses against enemy military targets, and to defend Germany when the country was attacked. The Wehrmacht officially began in 1935, and ended in 1945, with the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW) holding supreme command. When Germany surrendered after WWI, the Treaty of Versailles effectively disbanded their armed forces.
Schutzstaffel and Waffen-SS
Many high-ranking military members were members of the Schutzstaffel (SS) and Waffen-SS, which were the armed units of the SS. Waffen-SS field troops were under control of either the Oberkommando des Heeres (Army Supreme High Commander) or the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (Armed Forces Supreme High Command).
The Waffen-SS was considered to be the Wehrmacht’s fourth branch, since it rapidly grew from three regiments to thirty-eight divisions by the end of World War II. Even though the Waffen-SS was independent and considered to be Adolf Hitler’s elite force, it did work concurrently with the Wehrmacht.
History of the Wehrmacht
World War I officially ended November 11, 1918, with the signing of the armistice. In March of 1919, the German national assembly approved a law that would build a 420,000 preliminary army called the Vorläufige Reichswehr. In May of the same year, the conditions of the Treaty of Versailles had been released, and one month later Germany had to sign the treaty that imposed very severe constraints on the size of armed forces they were allowed. Another requirement of the Treaty of Versailles was the abolishment of general conscription or compulsory military service.
Germany’s army was restricted to only one hundred thousand soldiers while the navy was permitted an additional fifteen thousand men. The fleet was limited to six cruisers, six battleships, and twelve destroyers. The air force was eliminated and heavy artillery, tanks, and submarines were strictly forbidden.
On March 23, 1921, Germany instated the Reichswehr, their new post-war military. However, by the early 1920s, Germany began to secretly circumvent the restrictions of the treaty.
General Hans von Seeckt
The various limitations required by Versailles ended up being an advantage for Germany’s military. Since the Reichswehr was restricted to 100,000 men, the new commander of the armed forces, Hans von Seeckt, made sure that the military only kept the most desirable officers and soldiers. Seeckt selected only the best to be the new leaders for his general staff and ignored other constituencies, which included the nobility and many others.
Seeckt was determined that the Reichswehr would end up being an elite force that would function as the nucleus of Germany’s expanded armed forces once the opportunity for reestablishing conscription occurred. During the 1920s, Seeckt designed new doctrines that emphasized aggression, speed, and combined initiative and arms for lower ranking officers so they could benefit from the new training. Basically, this led to the development of a whole new army that was somewhat based upon the old army, but would be run very differently. In 1926, Seeckt retired but, the armed forces that went on to fight in 1939, had been mostly his creation.
Although Germany was not allowed to have a military air force, Seeckt, who understood the many advantages of having an air force, developed a clandestine elite group of air force military officers during the early part of the 1920s. Seeckt’s elite group of air force officers learned that the important role of the air force was to win air superiority, conduct strategic and precise bombing, and to provide any needed ground support. That the Luftwaffe failed to produce a strong strategic bombing force during the 1930s was not due to disinterest, but economic limitations.
Admiral Erich Raeder, who was a very close protégé of Grand Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz, was in charge of developing a new navy fleet. The naval officers that supported submarine warfare under Admiral Karl Dönitz’s leadership were mostly in the minority before 1939. However, after 1939, the submarine warfare program had become an important part of the navy.
Germany and Soviet Union Collaboration
After the Rapallo treaty was signed in 1922, Germany started a covert collaboration with the Soviet Union. Major-General Otto Hasse went to Moscow in 1923, in order to negotiate the collaboration terms. Germany assisted them with their industrialization plans, while Soviet officers were sent to Germany to receive training.
Many German air force and tank specialists were able to train in the Soviet Union. Germany’s chemical weapons manufacturing and research were also conducted there along with other military projects. Approximately, three-hundred German pilots received their training at Lipetsk, while tank training occurred near Kazan and different types of toxic gas had been developed at Saratov for Germany’s military forces.
Reinstatement of Conscription and Führer Adolf Hitler
Following President Paul von Hindenburg’s death on August 2, 1934, Adolf Hitler became the commander-in-chief of Germany. All of the officers and soldiers for Germany’s military were required to pledge their loyalty to the New Führer.
By 1935, Germany started to openly disregard most of the military restrictions established by the Treaty of Versailles, and reinstated conscription on March 16, 1935. The new conscription law was introduced with the name Wehrmacht. Therefore, March 16, 1935, is regarded as the Wehrmacht’s founding date. The official announcement of the Wehrmacht existence was announced on October 15, 1935.
Even though the scale of Germany’s standing army was required to be around 100,000 men, new groups of conscripts that were almost equal to that size started to receive military training every year after 1935. The authority and the organization of the Wehrmacht is viewed by many to be Nazi creations, in spite of the various political affiliations of the high command. The Wehrmacht’s insignia was based on the famous Iron Cross which had been widely used for tank and aircraft marking during the latter part of the First World War.
The Long March describes the relocation of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its Red Army, from their base in Jiangxi to the northern province of Shaanxi in 1934-35. The Long March has become one of the most discussed and celebrated events in modern Chinese history, though its events have been disputed and its significance exaggerated by propaganda.
The Long March was, in essence, a communist flight from one part of China to another. Driven from Jiangxi by an expanded Nationalist army, the Red Army and CCP leadership embarked on a treacherous journey through western and northern China.
During this trek, the communists encountered dangerous terrain, perilous climate, starvation, disease and harassment from warlord armies and hostile tribes. There were also frequent engagements with the Nationalist army.
The Long March was not one single march but a series of marches, undertaken by several branches of the Red Army. It was completed almost entirely on foot and took a year to complete. The journey spanned around 3,700 miles or 6,000 kilometres (the equivalent of return trips from Paris to Moscow, Chicago to Las Vegas or Sydney to Cairns).
Victory or defeat?
Approximately 160,000 Red Army soldiers and CCP cadres embarked on the Long March. Fewer than 15,000 made it safely to Shaanxi. The enormity of these losses suggests the Long March was a failure. It was a military retreat, with little or no forward planning, that resulted in the loss of more 90 per cent of the Red Army.
CCP propagandists quickly manufactured their own account of the Long March, however, portraying it as a tale of inspiring heroism, human endeavour and self-sacrifice. Official histories of the party hailed it as a victory rather than a defeat. They attributed its strategic and military successes to Mao Zedong, who seized control of the expedition from Bolshevik loyalists.
The Long March became the most mythologised and propaganda-laden event in the history of the CCP. It also marks the beginning of Mao’s ascendancy to the party’s national leadership.
The story of the Long March begins with the Nationalists’ Fifth Encirclement Campaign, launched in September 1933.
Jiangi Jieshi’s four previous attempts to disperse communist bases in the south (1930-33) failed for several reasons. The Central Plains War (1930) preoccupied Nationalist forces and left them short of resources.
The success of defensive and guerrilla strategies implemented by Mao Zedong in Jiangxi also allowed the Red Army to withstand the first offensives.
Jiang’s new tactics
By 1933, however, the Nationalist government was prepared for another assault in Jiangxi, Hubei and Henan. Jiang’s strategy shifted after the October 1933 arrival of German military advisor, Hans von Seeckt. A veteran of World War I and one of Germany’s most competent generals, von Seeckt became Jiang’s most influential military counsellor.
Von Seeckt urged sweeping changes to the organisation of the Nationalist military, along with the industrial sector that supported it. On von Seeckt’s advice, Jiang mobilised more than 500,000 Nationalist soldiers and negotiated military alliances with warlords, bringing anti-communist troop numbers to over one million.
Together, these forces surrounded the communist bases in the south and constructed thousands of small fortifications. Rather than engaging with the communist Red Army, Jiang’s forces prepared for a long war of attrition.
Internal power shifts inside the Jiangxi Soviet also led to changes and, arguably, the weakening of CCP and Red Army strategy.
Since 1930, Mao Zedong had been the de facto military and political leader in Jiangxi. This changed in 1932 when the CCP Central Committee arrived from Shanghai. Control of Jiangxi was assumed by the party’s national leadership and by the so-called 28 Bolsheviks, a clique of CCP leaders loyal to ideological and tactical advice from the Comintern.
Despite his success in establishing and defending the Jiangxi Soviet, Mao was sidelined and his military tactics were reviewed and changed. The CCP leadership, overconfident and lacking an understanding of the situation, believed the Red Army was ready to wage a conventional war.
Fifth Encirclement Campaign
Despite its recent growth and improvement, however, the Red Army remained hopelessly outnumbered by Nationalist forces.
When the Fifth Encirclement Campaign commenced in the autumn of 1933, the communists in Jiangxi were blockaded by 60 divisions of Nationalist troops and starved of information and supplies from other provinces. Jiang’s men secured the border regions and captured stronghold towns one by one, a tactic that gradually reduced the size of the Jiangxi Soviet.
By mid-1934, the Nationalists were planning a mass assault on Ruijin, the Jiangxi capital. When CCP spies reported this to party leaders, they decided to abandon Jiangxi and relocate to the comparative safety of northern China. The main Red Army mobilised to leave Jiangxi, while the Fourth Red Army in Henan and the Second Red Army in Hubei made similar preparations.
The Long March begins
In October 1934, the Jiangxi column of more than 97,000 communists, one-tenth of them party officials and civilians, prepared to break through Nationalist lines at Yudu, west of Ruijin.
The marchers carried whatever could be carried: typewriters, desks, furniture, printing presses, chests of currency, more than two million rounds of ammunition. They had neither a predetermined route or a set destination, Shaanxi being one option among others.
The breakout from Jiangxi succeeded but came at a considerable human cost. The Red Army pushed west but endured air attacks from Jiang Jieshi’s 200 planes, along with assaults from small Nationalist and warlord brigades.
Battle of Xiang River
By November, the Red Army had crossed into Hunan province. There they encountered a sizeable force of Nationalist troops.
In the Battle of Xiang River which followed, the communists lost 40,000 soldiers in just two days, its single greatest defeat during the Long March. There were also thousands of desertions or defections to the Nationalists.
By mid-December, the Red Army, which had set out from Jiangxi with around 86,000 men, was down to around 35,000.
The disastrous losses at Xiang River forced the party to review its tactics. This was considered at a January 1935 conference in Zunyi, in the southern province of Guizhou.
The Zunyi conference was a pivotal moment in the history of the CCP. Red Army commanders were replaced with a new trio of Mao Zedong and his allies, Zhou Enlai and Wang Jiaxiang.
Two years after being shelved by the party hierarchy in Jiangxi, Mao was now more prominent and powerful than ever.
Mountains and grasslands
After Zunyi, the Red Army marched on into western China. Now in command of strategy, Mao sometimes ordered unlikely or circumlocutious routes to evade or confuse the Nationalists and their warlord allies.
Travelling through Yunnan and into Sichuan, the Red Army crossed the Great Snowy Mountains. Many veterans later described as the worst part of the Long March. Facing mountainous heights of up to 5,000 metres and low oxygen concentration, thousands of Red Army soldiers died from altitude sickness, exposure, frostbite, avalanches, falls and other injuries.
Thousands more were lost while moving through the dreaded ‘grasslands’: swamps and bogs in Sichuan, close to the Tibetan border. Though seemingly innocuous, the grasslands also proved deadly, as recalled by Long March veteran Xie Fei:
“That damn place was really strange. Just grass, no trees. It wasn’t mountainous, just flat land. It rained every day and the sun came out every day. The ground was all wet. At first, the vanguard troops sank into the bog. If you tried to pull them out, you would sink too. They couldn’t climb out and they couldn’t be rescued either. You could only watch them die. Once we learned this lesson, we let the animals walk first. If the animal sank then the people wouldn’t die. What a weird place.”
The far west
Mao’s unpredictable routes took the Long Marchers into the far west of the country, where they encountered hostility from ethnic groups like Tibetan tribesmen and the Hui (ethnic Chinese Muslims).
The communists also benefited from the support given by sympathetic farmers, who welcomed the Red Army into their villages, gave them food and tended their sick and wounded.
Where peasants were less compliant, the Red Army often stole food or demanded it through extortion, threats and kidnapping. There were also reports of the Red Army replenishing its numbers by conscripting young male peasants and forcing them to join the Long March.
In less populated regions, the Red Army often found itself chronically short of food. Frequent shortages gave rise to malnutrition and starvation. Marchers sometimes boiled boots, gun straps and other leather to make ‘beef soup’. When they had no freshwater they sometimes drank their own urine.
Arrival in Shaanxi
For the first Red Army, their ordeal ended in October 1935 when Mao led barely 8,000 people into the comparative safety of Shaanxi province.
Of the 160,000 men and women who participated in the Long March, fewer than 10 per cent made it safely to the new communist base in Shaanxi. It was there they would establish the Yan’an Soviet.
More than 40,000 marchers were lost in the Battle of Xiang River alone. The rest succumbed to other Nationalist, warlord or tribal attacks, to accidents, illnesses, malnutrition or desertion.
Long March propaganda
By most measures, the Long March was a catastrophic failure, a poorly planned chain of withdrawals and military defeats that decimated the ranks of the Red Army.
Mao Zedong, acutely aware of the value of propaganda, transformed it from a defeat into a victory. Under Mao’s leadership, the story of the Long March was told in the party’s own terms and incorporated into its political and cultural history.
According to this history, the events of 1934-35 marked the CCP’s lowest period but also its rebirth and rejuvenation. The leadership of Mao and the courage of surviving Red Army soldiers, who were hailed as heroes and martyrs, was pivotal to this rebirth.
These perspectives were later echoed by Western writers, like Agnes Smedley (China’s Red Army Marches, 1934) and Edgar Snow (Red Star over China, 1937). Later, Mao explained the importance of the Long March as a propaganda device:
“The Long March is a manifesto. It has proclaimed to the world that the Red Army is an army of heroes, while the imperialists and their dogs are impotent. It has proclaimed their utter failure to encircle, pursue, obstruct and intercept us. The Long March is also a propaganda force. It has announced to some 200 million people in eleven provinces that the road of the Red Army is their only road to liberation. Without the Long March, how could the broad masses have learned so quickly about the existence of the great truth which the Red Army embodies? The Long March is also a seeding machine. In the eleven provinces, it has sown many seeds which will sprout, leaf, blossom, and bear fruit, and will yield a harvest in the future.”
Sculpting this Long March “propaganda force” required a considerable amount of manipulation and distortion. Official CCP histories of the Long March are riddled with gross exaggerations, unverified accounts and one-sided interpretations.
In recent times, historians have sought to penetrate this propagandist shell to discover the realities of the Long March – but with the CCP still in power in China, access to information, evidence and witnesses remains difficult.
Despite this, some historians have found enough evidence to raise significant questions. Much of this evidence has been obtained from oral history and interviews with Long March veterans.
Battle of Luding Bridge
One significant controversy is what happened at Luding Bridge, a crossing over the Dadu River, located just west of Yan’an.
According to official communist histories, Luding Bridge was the scene of a fierce battle with Nationalists in May 1935. Under heavy fire from the other side, regiments of the Red Army stormed across the fragile chain bridge, defeating the Nationalists and securing the area.
Eyewitness accounts collected recently suggest the bridge was manned by a handful of disorganised warlord soldiers, most of whom turned tail and fled after seeing the approaching Red Army.
Accounts of the Long March highlight Mao Zedong’s brilliance as a tactician and military strategist. There is also evidence suggesting the Long March’s meandering route through western China, along with the Red Army’s heavy losses in military engagements, were the results of Mao’s blundering or poor planning.
More than 80 years after the event, the Long March has retained its mythical status in Chinese culture while historians continue to debate its true meaning.
A historian’s view:
“The March became a classic triumph of survival, a picture of stirring memories with 11 provinces spanned, 18 lofty mountains scaled, 24 wide rivers crossed, enemy points stormed by a few commandos, river rafts navigated under heavy fire, rocky cliffs climbed in midnight blackness, a forced march of 80 miles in 24 hours, a struggle through snow blizzards over lofty passes. The Red Army’s Long March bears a romantic history and in China today, its legends are more potent than all the talks by persuasive or threatening cadres.”
Khoon Choy Lee
1. The Long March, one of the best-known events of the Chinese Revolution, describes the forced relation of the Red Army from Jiangxi in southern China to Shaanxi in the north.
2. This march began with Jiang Jieshi’s fifth and most successful Encirclement Campaign, which was launched against Jiangxi in the autumn of 1933.
3. The Red Army and CCP began breaking out of their southern bases in late 1934, then spent a year marching through western and northern China.
4. Mao Zedong had been sidelined by the party hierarchy in Jiangxi, however, the early disasters of the Long March led to the Zunyi conference, which allowed Mao and his supporters to gain control of the expedition.
5. The Red Army lost more than 90 per cent of its personnel during the Long March, yet it was hailed as a victory in CCP propaganda, a testament to the courage of the Red Army and the leadership of Mao Zedong. More recent scholarship has exposed some of this Long March mythology to be exaggerated and possibly fraudulent.List of site sources >>>