No. 004 - The Feldmarschall August von MACKENSEN ( 1849 - 1945 )
back to the Contents of the Uhlan on the web
by colonel Bernard DRUENNE (1979) from "Vivat Hussar", with the permission of theAssociation des Amis du Musée International des Hussards - Tarbes tel/fax 33.(0)18.104.22.168.83
The life of field-marshal von
Mackensen practically covered a century. Indeed, he lived 95 years under four
regimes: been born in 1849 in Prussia he died in 1945 in the ruins of the
nazi Germany. He is the pure product and the symbol of the Prussian soldiery
whose fidelity sworn to his emperor has been steady. This long article (be
brave enough to read it its enterity ! ) is really very interesting by the
appended commentaries developed by the author.
Hussar until the last day, such could be the epitaph of the Fieldmarschall General August von Mackensen, born on December 6th, 1849, eldest of sons of Louis Mackensen, manager of domains, and his wife Marie Louise born Rink, daughter of a forest-guard. Louis descended from André born in 1628, of where Hans and Henri Louis born in 1788 in the kingdom of Hanover, deceased at the age of 94 years elected captain of a Hanovrian Cavalry volunteer group during wars of the Independence. He used to ride until the age of 90 , had two sons, of which the eldest Karl, farmer owner was ennobled in 1888, and the cadet Louis remained commoner. This one is the father of the future General fieldmarshal. He starts like agronomist and intendant of the family's important von Alken domain. Then, having achieved some savings, he acquired in 1887 the noble property of Geglenfeld in the Prussian district of Schlochau. It was the coronation of the career of a hard worker.
The marshal told how he grew between the Elbe and Leipzig region where memories of the liberation war and battles of the autumn 1813 were still very living in the inhabitants memory, and especially of war veterans, as his grandfather himself an old surviving hussar of the crossing of the Berezina to which he had participated in a Prussian regiment of the Grande armée. Finally, the father of the young boy was one of the first subscribers of the "Gazette of the Cross", most royalist of the Prussian newspapers, bearing the picture of the iron cross with the motto 'with God for the king and the homeland'.
Yet, when he will expose his youthful vocation to become an officer, and Hussar officer, his father marks his astonishment and his formal reserves. He knows the caste prejudices that should overcome his son, he knows how expensive is the service for a young officer and cannot wonder to sustain him appropriately to the service.
While waiting, the young man pursues
good secondary studies, then of agricultural management. It, it was the hard
reality. As when to the autumn 1869, he is admitted a a one-year volunteer to
the 2nd Leib-Husaren Rgt. (Life Hussars, so-called Hussars of the Death), he
writes to his parents: " I am to my joy so in my black dolman, under the death
head which are until now my only joys here, that it seems to me that I didn't
feel a transformation. All pleases me, and I do my service gladly and with taste.
.….. I am not soldier by constraint, but by taste ".
He begins to achieve the ideal which will be his own, all his life, but, young poor man, while he serves with goodwill, he doesn't benefit the privilege of his condition to take his meals with officers (he was not yet officer). Without the war, it had probably been harmful to his acknowledment in the corps of officers of the regiment.
THE WAR OF 1870-1871
the war broke out. The 2nd Hussar, receives July 16, 1870, the order of mobilization;
nine days after, July 24, it is completed, ready to march in campaign and intended
to form with the 14th Hussar Regiment (2nd Hessian) the l0th brigade of Cavalry
intended to enter with the 8th and 9th in the 4th division of Cavalry unders
the command of the Prince Albert of Prussia, attached to the III army ordered
by the prince heir of Prussia, later emperor Frederic III.
In the evening of July 25, the
regiment begins its entrainment to Posen. The journey, at the shouts of "to
Paris", "to Eugènie" and songs of the Wacht am Rhein (the guard to the Rhine)
takes place without incidents. The Hussars disembark at Landau on the morning
of 28th, are quartered in the neighbourhood, and the following day one reads
them, the proclamation, written the 23th at the new Palace in Potsdam, by Crown-princess
Victoria their colonel, daughter of the queen of England and wife of the Chief
of this III army. 'A daring enemy jealous our happiness and our glory threaten
the German borders. To the call of his majesty the king, all the people get
up against the hereditary enemy of our country. The touched heart but full of
happy insurance, I take my leave of my brave regiment that comes with my most
faithful wishes. I know it, it will make its duty still and in all places to
add new laurels to its old glory. Forward therefore with God for our king and
the German homeland'.
The first squadron is sent to outposts on the French border. Mackensen counts at the 4th squadron, the captain Ludendorff (the uncle of the general quater-master of 14/18). August 4th, the division is united, reviewed for the first time by his chief and marches on toward Oberotterbach with the 2nd Hussar to the vanguard, without taking part to the battle of Wissembourg given some kilometers away.
August 5th, Mackensen is going to receive the baptism of fire. To take again the contact lost the day before with French, the regiment in saddle since 4 hours, clears outposts of the infantry toward 5 hours to search for the enemy's position. Mackensen is toward noon chief of forefront of the vanguard that enters in Woerth at the foot of the heights which towers above the Sauer river cutting the small city in two parts. The bridge was broken, the withdrawn timbers, used to a barricade, the river with steep banks in the impassable dams, shutters of houses closed; a barricade blocked the main street, all was silent; the main beams of the bridge were still in place, and the young volunteer decided to put foot-to-earth with a hussar, and to enter in the city while passing on beams. Hardly he had put foot-to-earth that he saw a zouave appearing on the barricade. He went up again on horseback under the bullets fired from the barricade and the sudden oppened windows. A horse is fatally hit. A hussar slightly injured, another one dismounted, driven by two comrades, and the patrol assembles under cover at the first crossing. Four cannon-shots fired from the Elsashausen heights confirm the important strength presence. The aim of the reconnaissance was reached. The following day August 5th, the regiment was not involved and the division lost contact with the retreating army of Mac Mahon. This small skirmish highlighted the young daring and happy patrol chief..
division won't have the opportunity to start anything else but patrols in chase
to the French army that led to the surrender of Sedan. 110 000 men have been
killed, injured either caught. Napoléon III in his great cart harnessed in post
carriage, escorted by the black hussars and then by cuirassiers, crosses the
winner's bivouacs, on the way to Kassel where he is going to be interned in
the castle once occupied by his uncle Jérôme, ephemeral king of Westphalia,
and where, terrible test, he finds to welcome him a full-lenght portrait of
his mother Queen Hortense.
Without disabling, the German army marches on to Paris without meeting resistance. The Guard, the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 6th French army corps are shut up in Metz. The 5th, 7th and 12th put down weapons at Sedan. The corps of Vinoy hurries to go into Paris. It remains in province armies formed more or less of march-regiments drawn of depots, of mobile regiments, badly clothed, badly equipped, more or less armed and that have no more one month of service, under a majority of officers and non-commissioned officers, as inexperienced as them. These armies try to continue the struggle.
The division of prince Albert of
Prussia went down to Orleans, to the vicinities of Tours. On October 5, Mackensen
promoted Vize-Wachtmeister (sergeant major in the cavalry) has the opportunity
to distinguish himself during an engagement where, under the fire, he stood
close to his captain. An order arrives to send a patrol on the enemy's rears
to recognize its strength. The captain orders: 'Volunteers for a perilous patrol,
come out'. Mackensen immediately advances, follow-up by 16 hussars, and he chooses
four of them. His officers come to shake his hands, and he confides to one of
them the mission to warn his mother if he doesn't come back. Describing a large
bow of circle around the hostile flank, he passes on its rears and can observe
all its formations and their strength. Gone back without losses, he came to
report to his General major that already knew him for the similar missions,
then to the chief of the headquarter and to the Prince general of the Division.
This one invites the young non-commissioned officer to his table, made ampler
knowledge, recommands him briskly to persuade his father to let it in the army,
and proposes him to the king for the second class iron cross.
Mackensen takes part to the fight of Artenay and to the battle of Orleans on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th December. The 3rd he is promoted second lieutenant; he surprised a convoy, taking 87 men and restocking carts. Then, he passes as orderly officer to the orders in the headquarters of the division from where he can initiate him to the conduct of a great unit of cavalry.
Demobilized in spite of himself, to obey his father, the young lieutenant enters at the end of 1871, to the agronomic institute depending on the Halle university. Outside of this specialty, he follows lessons of Gustav] Droysen on the military history and benefit an initiation to methods of the superior teaching denied to officers coming from the Cadets schools or from the secondary teaching. He doesn't resign himself and writes to his mother: " It is only the passion and the conviction that the military state is my vocation, which pushes me, my dear mom, to this ultimate and decisive tentative ". Mother and sons end up getting the father's consent for his return to the army.
BEGINNING OF CAREER
Mackensen is named, May 13, 1873,
second lieutenant to the 2th Leib-Husar with seniority of December 3, 1870.
He had to be content with a very small paternal pension. This was not the frivolous
and fashionable side of the military life that attracted him, but the theory
and the practice of the profession to which he gives himself body and soul,
in peace as in war.
Noticed during the imperial manœuvers of 1875, by the chief of headquarters the Vth army corps. This one does him to participate in a journey of staff officers, approves his solution to a tactical theme and his writing of the history of the 2th Hussars during the German French war.
This work chosen by Moltke to be published was also appreciated by the colonel since general Pierson, that chooses an excerpt from it for his methods of present war at the end of the XIXth century. Mackensen makes him also well judged by the headquarters of his brigade, and July 9, 1876 he becomes first lieutenant. He is initiated by an officer of headquarters of the lst army corps to the service of the general headquarters, to solutions of themes proposed since 1858 by Moltke to the officers of this H.Q., and to his circulated and printed later Ktitiks. Also, without passing by the Kriegs Academy, Mackensen is named trainee to the Great General Staff. He is appointed to the section in charge of studying armies and the operations of the Russian, Nordic, Balkan and Far-East theaters of operations.
Here too, as he deserves the esteem of Moltke who promises to confirm him to the first vacancy, and keep Mackensen until February 1884, when he is appointed to the staff of the VIIthy corps to Mûnster. To his great regret, he only spent one year, his time of command of a squadron of the 9th dragons in Metz. Commissioned major in October 15 1888, he goes to the regimental staff of the 4th division to Bromberg under three generals of whom the last, von Albedy, close familiar of the emperor is very influential to him.
In a military society as the Prussian world, controlled by hierarchies of birth, rank and function more than by those of money (the son of the banker Bleichröder was rejected by the corps of officers of the guard's regiment against the known will of the emperor), Mackensen in spite of his modest origins distinguished himself advantageously by his brilliant career and by his marriage, November 21st 1879, with the daughter of a high magistrate, first president of the province of Prussia, Miss Dorothée von Horn, sister of the lieutenant von Horn, fallen during the campaign of France and regimental friend of the future marshal.
This brilliant alliance completed to grade socially the young officer. Being descended from the laborious and austere provincial middle class, in which agronomists are close to liberal professions, Mackensen joins to a solid basic education, solid moral qualities. He takes easy uses and manners of the 'Stablers', the officers of the Great General staff who appear at the Court, bind naturally with the high administration where het chose his wife, and form between them in the military world a caste in the caste. Great chief wives who give the tone, preserve the tradition of austere elegance of the 'chic de Potsdam'. A lot of these ladies know how to conciliate their often modest purse with their duties of society women and mistresses of house, putting the hands to the dough as they are shown us in the novel 'The Baron of Heidestam', by the caricaturists of the Simplicissimus or the Fliegende-Blätters, or by Mrs. Ludendorff, daughter of a rich Jewish tradesman in her memoirs.
The Mackensen household had three sons and two girls (see note 1). Two of the boys chose the army. Eberhard remained there, but Georges passed in the diplomacy and Manfred in the civil service. The eldest daughter died and the last been born in 1897, dedicated herself to charity. Their mother died at Dantzig December 4, 1905, and the general married in second wedding Léonie, daughter of count von der Osten, belonging to the first nobility.
The marshal's father bought in Prussia the domain of Geglenfeld close to Hamerstein and died May 11, 1890. His wife then aged of 64, took the direction of the domain and preserved it until her death, May 7, 1916. Mother and son maintained until the end a loving and straight forward correspondence, marked of the best feelings. This one wrote: 'During the campaign of 1870/71, I had felt protected by my mother's prayers as by a breastplate', and as after having received the field-marshal's baton, he could be going to kiss his mother, she welcomed him by these simple words: 'Mein liebes Kind ' (my dear child), and him to comment: 'These three words represent for me, as they were pronounced, the sanction of all my life. They drove me to the highest top of my destiny and my happiness…………... My dear child! Is a Feldmarschall, born out of the royal families, ever been greeted and named thus? '
THE CAREER TO THE SERVICE OF THE KAISER
February 21, 1891, the young major is called to the job of first aide de camp of the chief of the general Staff of the army, Count Schlieffen who has just followed Count von Waldersee. During two years and half, Mackensen is associated to activities of this untiring worker, to the time when, during headquarters journeys, of Kriegspiels, of successive mobilization plans, he matured the drafts of what will be the Schlieffen's plan. The Germans think it would have given them the victory in 1914, if it had been properly applied. This lasting and appreciated collaboration supposes at the aide de camp qualities and uncommon high capacity of work to fit to the exceptional activity a chief' quite exceptional that he venerates and admires. One said fluently in Germany that the function of the Chief of the Great General Staff was most the burdenned responsibilities of Europe, and the future showed that it was well thus. The decision of Schlieffen to enter in Belgium was taken out of the chancellor's opinion, say Bulow and Bethmann Holweg, but probably with the assent of the emperor who could not be unaware of it. This decision dragged the entrance in war of England, without procuring the victory to the army of the Kaiser.
To the maneuvers of 1891, the first
aide de camp had the opportunity to make in front of the emperor an appreciated
talk on the battle of Langensalza, against the Hanoverian army, on June 27,
June 17, 1893, after 24 years of service and at 45 years of age, the lst Leib-Husar Rgt is entrusted to Mackensen and becomes commander of the regiment of which the emperor is Colonel owner, elite corps to traditions and prestigious recruitment that the young Kommandeur, happy to recover the uniform of his youth drives one-handed vigorous to a high degree of instruction and efficiency. January 27, 1894 he is promoted lieutenant-colonel. September 12, 1895, he is named aide-de-camp of the chief of the regiment ) - and March 22 1897 colonel.
In the beginning of 1898, kaiser Wilhelm II calls him close to him as Dienstuender Flüegel Adjutant (aide de camp on duty) and he leaves with regret the regiment, the Barrack built under his eyes, the mess of officers decorated, under his direction, of paintings and memories that made it a real Museum. In short he leaves his life of chief of corps at Dantzig, for the personal service of the ruler and the life of court in Berlin. The following year he receives the hereditary nobility with coat of arms and the motto that he chooses himself "Memini initiie" (remember of your beginnings). Contrary to Frédéric II, anxious to separate settings 'everything that standed the commonalty' except in the artillery and husars, emperors to the XIX and the XX century ennobles. their servants of humble origin, most distinguished.
Under the general von Plessen, general adjutant and. practically chief of the military cabinet of the ruler, Mackensen initiates to his new responsibilities, and to take to the highest level a view exceptional of the military situation, politics, economic and cultural of Germany, as of his outside relations. He informs himself to the best sources of the military state and the situation of the great powers.
He will keep the emperor a recognition and an unfailing fidelity to the future disaster, to exercise his personal action to reinforce the army, and especially to promote the Prussian military mind and the German patriotism.
In the same way the Marshal testifies his deep attachment to the empress for her qualities (?????) as for the kindliness that she testified to him and his family. By the exceptional atmosphere of three and half years of close service to the ruler, the marshal finished a formation which prepares him for the highest charges and responsibilities. In September 1901, Mackensen takes a command, the one of the brigade of the Leib Husars that unites the lst and 2nd Rgts, and comes back to Dantzig. Two years later, he is named, still to Dantzig, to the head of the 36th division, and at the same time General-adjutant of the emperor. January 27, 1908, he is promoted general of the cavalry - generals of army corps are differentiated by their arm of origin- and May 27 placed 'à la suite' (in French on rank-lists) of lst Hussars, that allows him to wear its uniform and then preserve all his life with the distinctive of various ranks of General and Marshal.
Still to Dantzig, he takes the command of his army corps, the XVIIth that, with the one of Koenigsberg and those of the French border, pass for one of the better of the army. One could intend on the new chief of corps to maintain the tradition.
The emperor is going to give him
a particular mark of confidence.
The chancellor von Bulow said that Wilhelm II had a sub-lieutenant's political maturity and to this account his son, the Kronprinz, would have had the one of a cadet. In Berlin, he multiplied sentimental and showy political pranks. Exceeded of these pranks his father decided to move him away the capital and named him to the head of the 1rst Leib-Husar garrisoned to Langfür close to Dantzig, under the iron rule of Mackensen.
September 15, 1911, in a great parade under arms, the emperor and the commander of the army corps attended the presentation of the new colonel, all three in the uniform of the regiment. As leaving Mackensen the emperor tells him: 'I fear that he (the Kronprinz) still prepares us quite a lot of surprises '. He was good prophet. Seven years day for day before the flight in Holland of Guillaume II, from the stall of the court in the public tribunes of the Reichtag, the young colonel showed his support too conspicuously to a speaker of the conservative opposition, criticizing the politics of the chancellor Bethmann Hollweg and beyond, Wilhelm II in the affairs of Morocco. This exceeded the competence of the commander of the XVIIth army corps, and the matter has been settled between the father, the son and the chancellor.
The new colonel didn't linger to show his spite and to criticize irreverently his father gave the measure of the height of his innovative views while not quite the regulation wearing the chinscales of his Kolback, to the English fashion between the lower lip and the chin instead of to putting it under the chin. Finally, on horseback, instead placing his legs according to the regulation, he spread them straight without bending the knee to the manner of certain jumping jockeys. It annoyed the emperor and made chat away in the unconscious of the near cataclysms Europ.
What is more, as the Kronprinz was
well assisted, that his direct chiefs to the brigade and the division were heedful,
that in good Hohenzollern he was all the same a soldier, and that Mackensen
looked out for squalls: his regiment proud of his chiefs didn't slacken of its
After two years of command the prince went back to Berlin, affected to the General Staff of the army, to become in 1914, with an excellent chief of headquarters, commander of the 5th army,.
For a long time, Europe supported less and less the German preponderance. Admiral Fisher suggested king Edward VII to destroy the German fleet at anchor to Kiel, without previous war declaration, as Nelson annihilated the Danish fleet in Copenhagen.
King Edward VII had calmed these ardors, but, for a long time, he led the politics of resistance to the German hegemony that leads to the diplomatic situation of Europe in July 1914.
To the great maneuvers of September 1908, a very great chief well-known for his character, his originality, his knowledge and his demands, historian, theoretician and appreciated instructor, reorganizer of the Turkish army, the field-marshal von der Goltz, awarded by the Sultan of the title of Pacha, is going to judge the commander of the XVIIth army corps: '…….. Mackensen drove it well. He has very great, quick and very beautiful qualities, a wide memory of localities, a clear look and of good eyes, so that I think that he will be capable of important actions as armycommander ….. '.
The general astonishes his subordinates by his detailed knowledge of the territory of his command, including west Prussia and a part of the Pomerania, and not only of localities, but of people, thanks to an excel memory of places and people, what greatly contributes to his popularity. Still slender and vigorous, every day he rides up on horseback hours to inspect troops, to judge manœuvers, in hunting. It is of the time when one said in England 'hunting, three times per week is the best practice for a chief of cavalry '.
The German method to early select futures great chiefs made them arrive early to the high commands that they could exercise enough long-times with the activity of the prime of life, to liven up the training, to deeply mark their great units, well to know their commissioned and non commissioned officers, to prepare the delicate and pitiless elimination of blemishes and especially the worn-out, lazy or mediocre people. Necessary purifications in an army where the seniority remains the rule for the great number. Reforms them, release or withdrawal from duty are frequent and dreaded.
THE WAR OF 1914-1918
Mackensen is to heading the XVIIth corps since six years and half at the outbreak of the war of 1914. He leads two divisions formed of eight infantry regiments, one battalion of riffles (Jägers), 3 regiments of hussars, the 4th Rgt of mounted riffles (Jäger zu Pferde), 2 brigades of field artillery, the heavy artillery of the army corps reinforced of pioneers and the 17th detachment of field aircrafts. This corps belongs to the VIIIth army of the General von Pritwitz und Gaffron, which concentrates in east Prussia.
Since August 7 Mackensen establishes his H.Q.to Deutsch-Eylau then to Darkehnem. The commander of the army came the morning of the 19 to converse with him. The Russian army of Rennenkampf coming from the northeast having arrived within goodof reach, the commander of the army ordered the offensive. The 20 in end of the afternoon, the German under general von François, and the right under general von Below had beaten the enemy; but to the center, Mackensen after having driven back the Russian head elements had knocked himself to a resistance that he cannot overcome.
The day well begun changes of sign
in the afternoon. The attack led thoroughly without a sufficient preparation
of artillery came up against an entrenched enemy and fail under the murderous
riffle fire and the Russian artillery. The infantry loses 200 officers and 8900
men out of fights and 1000 prisoners. Two batteries daringly advanced very forward
and overdraft to sustain infantrymen are annihilated and the artillery loses
13 officers and 150 men. The headquarters itself with its park of cars and horses
of its escort are taken under the fire of the Russian artillery. The general's
composure who rides to the step of his gray horse another height brings back
calmness but the infantry lost more of the third of its strengths killed and
some injured. Russian gathered a thousand of prisoners, but are content with
pursuing by the fire of their artillery the retreating Prussians. To in the
evening of this rough day Mackensen addresses to troops this order of the day:
' The strong and enthusiast will to win drove the XVIIth army body to an ardent fight. The heroic assault of the troops and especially the infantry of the army corps is itself stopped in front of the greatly walled position of the Russians. However each soldier who went to fire, can carry away of the battlefield this feeling to have made his duty until the end. I will give account of it to his Majesty the emperor and King. I also thank you since today all officers and men of troop for the proofs they gave of the Prussian offensive mind; the numerous friends dead in hero for the king and the homeland will survive among us as models of the Prussian military mind. Whatever the future can bring us; for his Majesty the emperor and king. : Hurra !'
This failure, the news arrived to the H.Q. of the army, of the movements of the Samsonow Russian army that passes from South to the North borders behind the Germans facing the North and against the army of the Niemen of General Rennenkampf, make the commander of the VIIIth army fear to be taken in claws by the more important strengths than foreseen. To rescue France, the great duke Nicolas had accelerated to the maximum the mobilization, the concentration and the entry into operation of the Russian armies.
Under these impressions general von Pritwitz warns the imperial H.Q. of his decision to bring back the army behind the Vistule, the left toward Dantzig.
Arrived to the Kaiser's H.Q. the news of this failure, of arsons by Russian in his dear ost Prussia where he hunted so gladly in the great domains and which is the cradle of the flower of his officers, roused the emperor. Sharing the optimism born of the happy fights of the battle of the borders, of the English failure to Mons and the precipitate retreat of the French armies of the left, the high command took a measure to the decisive consequences on the outcome of the war. In spite of the last advice of Schlieffen: ' reinforce the right wing '. Two army corps were withdrawn of right armies to be sent in ost Prussia, with Hindenburg flanked of Ludendorff to replace von Pritwitz and his chief of Staff. General Groener wrote about the responsibility of this decision: ' La recherche de la paternité est interdite ' (in French in the text), what clearly designates the emperor, evidently responsible with von Moltke, it was necessary to take shelter from all critiques. Hindenburg, and Ludendorff and reinforcements arrive the 23 afternoon. After the relief of their predecessors, 22 August afternoon, colonel Hoffmann had prepared the maneuver that approved the new chiefs and that ends in first by the victory of Tannenberg, of the Mazurese Lake then, ending up in the destruction of the Sanzonow army and the retreat of the Rennenkampf army.
An extraordinary imprudence of Russian facilitated the task of the German command. General Hoffmann wrote: 'Samzonow launched an order of pursuit to his army. The Russian radio-telegraphic station transmitted the order not encoded and we intercepted it. It was the first of an innumerable set of orders that was transmitted from the Russian side with an incredible lightness.... This lightness much facilitated us in the conducting of the operations in the East. In much of opportunities it is thanks to it alone that we could have acted '.
When Russian encoded and even changed keys, they were deciphered quickly by two specialists ' who showed genius '. It was the beginnings of this war of numbers where the machine take place of man….. At the H.Q. of VII army, one waited impatiently for messages and their translation. When they made them waiting Ludendorff didn't hide his impatience.
spite of enormous losses, Russians recover and the entrenched war also gets
settled on oriental front, while the Austrian are hit toughly. To clear them,
the German command constitutes a IX entrusted to Mackensen who first pushes
toward Warsaw but that is in fact created on the Wartha at the end of October.
To the middle of November, the offensive of the IX army on Lodz turns to a confused
scrum which stops the weariness of both adversaries. .
The next year the IX army plays a decisive role in the Russian defeat on the front of Galicie, the recovery of Przmysl and Lemberg, the general withdrawal of the czar's armies and the ominous disgrace of the great duke Nicolas. After the capture of Lemberg, June 22, 1915, Mackensen receives to his H.Q. these lines of Wilhelm II: " to testify my imperial gratitude and of my higher recognition for you and the troops placed under your command, I name you Generalfeldmarschall. That God, master of battles continues to lead you on the path of the victory '. And so much on the Bug than the capture of the entrenched Russian camp of Brestlitowsk, August 26, victory will be faithful to the new Marshal. September 16 Mackensen is informed to take the command of the Austro-German army group where entered 9 German divisions in charge, in link with the Bulgarians, to conquer Serbia, which desperately defended itself since 1914, at the price of great and expensive victories.
To assist him in this important command spreading from the Adriatic to the Black Sea, the Feldmarschall receives a chief headquarters of high value, the general-major von Seeckt, future creator of the new German army after 1918.
Having chosen the camp of the Triplice, Ferdinand of Bulgaria joined in the beginning of October his strengths to those of the central empires to attack Serbia. October 7 Serbia is attacked on his East borders by the Bulgarians and to the North by the Austro-Germans of Mackensen. Allied troops retreat off the Dardanelles cannot help the Serbians armies crushed by the superior strengths and of which only 110 000 men will embark to Saint-Jean-of-Medua for Corfu where they will be reorganized to resume the struggle by the side of the Allies in 1916.
Mackensen is associated to projects of attack of the entrenched Camp of Salonika and political actions in direction of the king of Greece, brother-in-law of the Kaiser and German field-marshal. While the army of Orient reinforces itself, Bulgarians take the fortress of Rupel and capture the IVth army Greek corps sent in captivity in Germany. Allies take Florina, enter to Monastir and reach Albania where settles an Italian army corps.
August 27, Romania declared war on Austria. A German army and an Austrian army concentrate in Transylvania; the composite army of Mackensen enters in action on the Danube and in the Dobrudja, the 1st September. September 19 the two armies of Transylvania took the offensive. Rumanians badly assisted by Russians for various blameless and shameful reasons give up Bucharest and withdraw into the line of mountains of the Sereth to Glatz and on the Danube, where the stabilized front in January 1917. Mackensen exercises on the country a real proconsulate, meet the king of Bulgaria, the Turkish sultan and his war minister EnverPacha to whom he gives von Seekt himself as mentor, who will let of his new chief a cruel portrait.
The Russian Revolution ruining the army, Romania left to his only strengths and in spite of the victory of Maresesti that saves honor was obliged to peace of Bucharest signed on May 7, 1918.
Mackensen joins to the command of the south army group become the occupation army of Romania, the military government of the country, of which he tries to exploit the resources to the central empires profit..
THE DEFEAT OF 1918
September 29, 1918, following victories
of the east allied armies, Bulgaria capitulates, Turkey signs an armistice to
Moudros, October 30. Germany collapses in its turn. November 9 kaiser Wilhelm
II takes refuge in Holland. November 11 the armistice of Rethondes comes into
effect. It foresees the liberation of Romania and the German strength return
back their homeland.
But Hungary in full revolution stopped the German transports. Negotiations started since November 5 with the Rumanian government change of tone. The 10 to the news of the flight of the Kaiser the Rumanians show their joy descend in streets singing the Marseillaise. The situation is critical. Gone in the night of November 11 the marshal is gone to Hermannstadt by the Saxons of Transylvania where he receives official confirmation of the armistice and his mission to bring back the army to Germany.
As he lingers, because he wants to avoid to his men to put down arms, and that count Karolyi chief of the Hungarian government is an unmanageable interlocutor, the marshal is at the castle of Forth again, 30 kilometers to the north of Budapest to the East of the Danube, when the Moroccan spahis surround the buildings and make it prisoner December 31, 1918, with his staff reduced to 13 officers, about hundred non-commissioned officers and soldiers, and 40 horses, small troop who is going to be quickly reduced ……….
September 11, 1919, the marshal arrives in Salonika in a house where one had once lodged the dethroned sultan Abdul Hamid. He stays there until November 26, leaves for Germany by railroad and arrive December 2 to Kassel where he is demobilized. December 6, 1919, he celezbrates in his family his 70th birthday, and to this opportunity receives a laudatory letter of the emperor.
THE POSTWAR AND THE III REICH
his return he then devotes himself fiercely to the revenge, by his flaming speech
to the squadron that gives back him honors, by a continuous action.
He works ardently to the raising of the German strength in the setting imposed by the allies but in the traditions and disciplines of the old army, of which he thinks and says that it was proudest of all times. At the bottom of his heart , he believes it was unbeaten by the arms: ' In Felde unbessiegt ' (unbeaten in the fields). For him as for many others, Hitler is the man who reconciled the German people and its army. He probably held for symbolic the handshake of the old marshal Hindenburg to the Bohemian corporal to the day of the German army in Potsdam, evoking the one, in 1806, of the colonel Gneisenau and the brewer Netelbeck on ramparts of Kolberg.
Mackensen actively participated to the patriotic ceremonies and soldieries of the young army of the new regime, forged by his former chief of staff von Seeckt.
According to circumstances and to the complicated ceremonial fixed by Wilhelm II, he appears dressed of his various black or feldgrau uniforms, of black Hussar or Feld Marschall with the parade or service kolback, the cap, the spiked helmet or the steel helmet. His slim silhouette, his vivacity still vigorous became very popular.
Hitler encourages the representative activities of the old soldier, where he cannot lack to see the guaranty of one of the highest moral authorities of the military world. He multiplies courtesies: grant of a domain, and above all of the rank of chief of the 5th Cavalry Rgt. to Stolp, heir of the traditions of the brigade of the I and II black Hussars, he had ordered in the past. He came there in the full dress of General 'à la suite' of the 1st Leib Husaren, and thus realizes in his person to the head of the corps to which he bound since his entrance to the service 66 years earlier, the union of the old imperial army and the Reischwehr.
As he had attended the ascension of Prussia, he attends the III Reich's one, the occupation of the Rhineland, of Austria, of the Bohemia, the victories of Poland and France, then the death of Wilhelm II, the exile of Doorn of which he was the aide-de-camp and the faithful soldier.
The marshal was anxious to attend
the funeral ceremony of the emperor, May 5, 1941. They will be three black Hussars
colonels to follow the mortal remains of the one who wore so proudly its uniform.
The princess Victoria-Louise in mourning veil, and the Kronprinz and Mackensen
in the campaign dress of the regiment.
This one bears the cross of the order "Pour Le Mérite", and next to the highest orders, the iron cross received in France in 1870.
A company of honour of each of the three arms army, air force and marine presented the arms. The old man raised his Feldmarschall's baton solemnly for a last salute to the name of the old faithful army in spite of all. Then, this man of 92 years put knees in earth, and refusing all help, stood up while leaning on his saber.
Soldier he had risen to the rhythm of the young empire in the burst of the Kaiserzeit, of the united and excited homeland by the victory. General, he had known the elation of the triumph of Tannenberg due to the excellent practice, to the high moral and to the conduct of troops that he had trained and led. His victories on the Russian front, Serbia, Romania, followed by a prestigious proconsulate on the defeated nation, had badly prepared him to the defeat, to the flight of the emperor, to the terrifying crisis following the war.
Again, he lived an apotheosis of which his supreme chief had before dying, measured fragility.
And then he feels the tragic tour of operations to the East, where his eldest son leads an armored corps, the disgrace of his other son, the ambassador mocked by the king of Italy who overthrowed the Duce and changes of camp, the Nazi army ebb, from the Volga to the Vistule, to the Oder, in Berlin and lastly the defeat of Germany whose all armies are disarmed and prisoners, the whole territory occupied. Himself to 95 years, is carried away by the debacle in the stream of refugees.
Nothing is saved him, he must drain the cup to the dregs of bitterness, to pay for this apocalypse that writes itself down between the prophecy of Clausewitz: ' there are not any limits to the advent of the violence' ; that we see to achieve.
To the desperate confession of Marshal von Blomberg 'My soldier's career ends by a complete and definitive bankruptcy…………. At hours of grace, I believe to guess that the degenerate nationalism of the last decades, be going to disappear in the sludge and fire. …………. A new humanism is coming on our world, in the middle of cruel pains. We browsed the road that from humanism, leads to the bestiality while passing by the nationalism ".
All this is well and truly, but so much the humanity won't have found his balance in a common ideal, let's not forget that more one moves away the last war, more one comes closer to the next.
colonel Bernard DRUENE (1979)
Note (1) THE MARSHAL'S
Hans Georges von Mackensen, been born in Berlin in 1883, entered in the diplomatic career after World War I. Chargé d'Affaires in Albania in 1929, Plenipotentiary Minister to Budapest where his father had friends, well tought of Hitler, he receives, in 1937, the charge of state secretary to the Foreign Affairs. In April 1938, to the beautiful days of the Nazi-Fascist rapprochement, he becomes Ambassador in Rome and takes part to the negotiations of the Steel Pact. He remained in function after the fall of Mussolini. Relieved of his office, he retired and died in Switzerland in 1947.
The General Eberhard von Mackensen led in Russia, in 1941, the 13th and 14th Armored Divisions and armored elements of the Kleist army. Involved in Italy in January 1944, he did not succeed in chasing hunting allies away of the bridgehead of Anzio then was forced to retire and to evacuate Roma and lastly to give up his command June 6, 1944.