August von Mackensen

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
August von Mackensen
Mackensen.jpg
Field Marshal von Mackensen
Nickname(s) The Last Hussar, The Brain of Hindenburg, "Amerikanerfresser" (Eater of Americans),[1]
Born (1849-12-06)6 December 1849
Haus Leipnitz, Province of Saxony, Prussia
Died 8 November 1945(1945-11-08) (aged 95)
Burghorn, Germany
Service/branch Army
Years of service 1869-1919
Rank Generalfeldmarschall
Awards
Relations Eberhard von Mackensen
Signature German Field Marshal August von Mackensen autograph 1922.png

Anton Ludwig August von Mackensen (6 December 1849 – 8 November 1945), born August Mackensen, was a German soldier and field marshal.[2] He commanded with success during the First World War and became one of the German Empire's most prominent military leaders. After the Armistice, Mackensen was interned for a year. He retired from the army in 1920 and was made a Prussian state councillor in 1933 by Hermann Göring. During the Nazi era, Mackensen remained a committed monarchist and sometimes appeared at official functions in his First World War uniform. He was suspected of disloyalty to the Third Reich, although nothing was proved against him at this time.

Early years[edit]

Mackensen was born in Haus Leipnitz, near the village of Dahlenberg in the Prussian Province of Saxony, to Louis and Marie Louise Mackensen. His father, an administrator of agricultural enterprises, sent him to a Realgymnasium in Halle in 1865, seemingly in the hope that Mackensen would follow him in his profession.[3]

Mackensen began his military service in 1869 as a volunteer with the Prussian 2nd Life Hussars Regiment (Leib-Husaren-Regiment Nr. 2). During the Franco-Prussian War he was promoted to second lieutenant and recommended for the Iron Cross, Second Class. He left the service and studied at Halle University, but returned to the German Army in 1873, with his old regiment. Regarded as among the finest horsemen in the Empire, he was detached from normal duties to serve as a tutor in military history to the future Kaiser Wilhelm II, who would later send his own son to serve in Mackensen's regiment. Close relations between the Emperor and Mackensen would continue for many years.[4] In 1891, he joined the General Staff in Berlin, where he was heavily influenced by the new chief, Alfred von Schlieffen.

Mackensen's coat of arms (uncoloured)

From 17 June 1893 to 27 January 1898, Mackensen commanded the 1st Life Hussars Regiment (Leib-Husaren-Regiment Nr. 1), to which he became à la suite when he left its command, and whose uniform he often wore as a general.[5] He was ennobled on 27 January 1899, becoming August von Mackensen.[6] From 1901 to 1903, he commanded the Life Hussar Brigade (Leib-Husaren-Brigade), and from 1903 to 1908 commanded the 36th Division in Danzig.[7] When Schlieffen retired in 1906, Mackensen was regarded by some as a possible successor, but the job went to Helmuth von Moltke the Younger. In 1908, Mackensen was given command of the XVII Army Corps and commanded this corps until shortly after the beginning of the First World War.[8]

First World War[edit]

August von Mackensen

Already aged sixty-five at the outbreak of War in 1914, Mackensen remained in command of XVII Army Corps as part of the German Eighth Army, first under General Maximilian von Prittwitz and later under General Paul von Hindenburg. Mackensen had his corps moving out on a twenty-five kilometer march to the Rominte River within fifty minutes of receiving its orders on the afternoon of August 19th, 1914 as the Imperial Russian Army invaded East Prussia.[9] Soon after, Mackensen's corps fought in the battles of Gumbinnen and Tannenberg. On 2 November 1914 Mackensen took command of the Ninth Army from Hindenburg, who had been named Supreme Commander East (Oberbefehlshaber Ost). On 27 November 1914 Mackensen was awarded the Pour le Mérite, Prussia's highest military order, for actions around Łódź and Warsaw. He commanded the Ninth Army until April 1915, when he took command of the Eleventh Army and Army Group Kiev (Heeresgruppe Kiew), seeing action in Galicia and assisting in the capture of Przemyśl and Lemberg. He was awarded oak leaves to the Pour le Mérite on 3 June 1915 and promoted to field marshal on 22 June. After this campaign, he was awarded the Order of the Black Eagle, Prussia's highest-ranking order of knighthood. During this period, he also received numerous honours from other German states and Germany's allies, including the Grand Cross of the Military Order of Max Joseph, the highest military honour of the Kingdom of Bavaria, on 4 June 1915.

Serbian campaign[edit]

First World War monument erected by Mackensen to the Serbian defenders of Belgrade

In October 1915, Mackensen, in command of the newly formed Army Group Mackensen (Heeresgruppe Mackensen, which included the German 11th army, Austro-Hungarian 3rd Army, and Bulgarian 1st Army), led a renewed German-Austro-Hungarian-Bulgarian campaign against Serbia. The campaign finally crushed effective military resistance in Serbia but failed to destroy the Serbian army, which, though cut in half, managed to withdraw to Entente-held ports in Albania and, after recuperation and rearmament by the French and the Italian, reentered fighting on the Macedonian front. He stated in his speech to his troops before the departure of the Serbian front: -You are not going either to Italy or to Russian, nor to the French front. You approach this fight against a new enemy, a dangerous, tough, brave and sharp one. You are going to the Serbian front and Serbia, and the Serbs are a people who love freedom and who fight and sacrifice to the last. Ensure that you fight the enemy and do not eclipse the glory and not compromise the current success of the famous German army.[citation needed] During the fight for Belgrade, the troops of the Central Powers encountered a very stiff resistance, so Mackensen erected a monument to the Serbian soldiers who died defending Belgrade, saying, -HIER RUHEN SERBISCHE HELDEN- - "Here rest Serbian heroes", both in German and Serbian.

Mackensen is a figure in Serbian historiography and is greatly respected, the only enemy soldier and military leader to be so treated. He is always mentioned as an opponent who respected the Serbian soldiers and people.

Romanian campaign[edit]

Field Marshal Mackensen reviewing Bulgarian troops followed by Crown Prince Boris (c. 1916).

He followed this up in 1916 with a successful campaign against Romania (under the overall command of General Erich von Falkenhayn). He was in command of a multi-national army of Bulgarians, Ottoman Turks, and Germans. Despite this, his offensives were very successful, breaking every army that faced his own. On 9 January 1917, Mackensen was awarded the Grand Cross of the Iron Cross, becoming one of only five recipients of this honour in the First World War.

From 1917 on, Mackensen was the military governor of the parts of Romania (mainly Wallachia) controlled by the Central Powers. His last campaign was an attempt to destroy the Romanian Army, which had been reorganised after the Kerensky Offensive, and occupy the rest of the country (the north-eastern part). But the attempt failed at the Battle of Mărăşeşti, both sides taking heavy losses, but with the Romanian army victorious. At the end of the war, he was captured by General Louis Franchet d'Espèrey's Allied army in Hungary (namely by the Serbian units) and held as a military prisoner in Futog, until November 1919.

Post-war career[edit]

In 1920, Mackensen retired from the army. Although standing in opposition to the newly established republican system, he avoided public campaigns. Around 1924 he changed his mind and began to use his image as war hero to support conservative monarchist groups. He routinely appeared in his old Life Hussars uniform and became very active in pro-military conservative organisations, particularly the Stahlhelm and the Schlieffen Society.

During the German presidential election of 1932, Mackensen supported Hindenburg against Hitler, but after Hitler gained power in 1933 Mackensen became a visible, if only symbolic, supporter of the Nazi regime. Mackensen's high-profile public profile, in his distinctive black Life Hussars uniform, was recognized by the Hausser-Elastolin company, which produced a 7-cm figure of him in its line of Elastolin composition soldiers.[10] Mackensen's fame and familiar uniform gave rise to two separate Third Reich units adopting black dress with Totenkopf badges: the Panzerwaffe, which claimed the tradition of the Imperial cavalry; and Hitler's "Life Guards," the SS.

Mackensen at the Kaiser's funeral

Although Mackensen appeared in his black uniform at public events organized by the German government or the Nazi Party, he objected to the killing of Generals Ferdinand von Bredow and Kurt von Schleicher during The Night of the Long Knives purge of July 1934, and to the atrocities committed during the fighting in Poland in September 1939. By the early 1940s, Hitler and Joseph Goebbels suspected Mackensen of disloyalty, but could do nothing.[11] Mackensen remained a committed monarchist and in 1941 appeared in full imperial uniform at Kaiser Wilhelm's funeral at Doorn, in the Netherlands.

According to a radio news report dated April 15, 1945, filed by CBS News correspondent Larry LeSueur for World News Today, Mackensen was briefly captured by the British Second Army at his home during the closing weeks of the Second World War. Upon the arrival of the British, rather than making an expected war-like statement, the old soldier merely made the request that newly freed foreign workers should be "kept from stealing his chickens".[12]

Mackensen died on 8 November 1945 at the age of 95, his life having spanned the Kingdom of Prussia, the German Empire, the Weimar Republic, Nazi Germany, and the post-war Allied occupation of Germany.

Family[edit]

August von Mackensen's family at his 80th birthday

In November 1879, Mackensen married Dorothea von Horn (1854–1905), and they had five children:

  • Else Mackensen (1881/2–1888)
  • Hans Georg von Mackensen (1883–1947), diplomat
  • Manfred von Mackensen
  • Eberhard von Mackensen (1889–1969), Generaloberst
  • Ruth von Mackensen (1897–1945)

In 1908, after the death of his first wife, Mackensen married Leonie von der Osten (1878–1963).

Citation[edit]

On 4 February 1940, Mackensen wrote to Field Marshal Walther von Brauchitsch: "As a man becomes older, he has to watch carefully that age has not reduced his creativity. After reaching the age of 90, I have decided not to involve myself any longer with matters that are not concerned with my private life. However, I am still the most senior German officer. Many turn to me, sometimes with wishes, but more often with their concerns. During these weeks our concern is with the spirit of our unique and successful Army. The concern results from the crimes committed in Poland, looting and murder that take place before the eyes of our troops, who appear unable to put an end to them. An apparent indifference has serious consequences for the morale of our soldiers and it is damaging to the esteem of our Army and our whole nation. I am sure that you are aware of these events and that you certainly condemn them. These lines intend to convey my daily growing concern at the reports that constantly reach me, and I have to ask you to take up this matter with the highest authority. The messages I receive are so numerous, many come from high ranking persons and from witnesses. As the most senior officer I cannot keep them to myself. In transmitting them to you, I fulfil my duty to the Army. The honour of the Army and the esteem in which it is held must not be jeopardised by the actions of hired subhumans and criminals. Sieg heil."[13]

Honours[edit]

This article incorporates information from the equivalent article on the German Wikipedia.

The University of Halle-Wittenberg appointed him to Honorary Doctor of Political Sciences and the Gdańsk University of Technology granted him the Dr. Ing

Mackensen-class battlecruiser, named after Mackensen, was the last class of battlecruisers to be built by Germany in the First World War, the lead ship, SMS Mackensen, was launched on 21 April 1917.

Mackensen was an Honorary Citizen of many cities, such as Danzig, Heilsberg, Buetow, and Tarnovo. In 1915, the newly built rural village of Mackensen in Pomerania was named after him. In various cities, streets were named after him. In 1998 the Mackensenstrasse in the Schöneberg district of Berlin was renamed Else Lasker-Schüler-road, based on a stated claim that Mackensen was one of the "pioneers of National Socialism".[14]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Fox, Edward Lyell. Wilhelm Hohenzollern. 1917
  2. ^ Some historians refer to him as "Anton Mackensen", but this is unusual. See Lamar Cecil, "The Creation of Nobles in Prussia, 1871-1918" in The American Historical Review, Vol. 75, No. 3. (February, 1970), pp. 794; Gerard E. Silberstein, "The Serbian Campaign of 1915: Its Diplomatic Background" in The American Historical Review, Vol. 73, No. 1. (October, 1967), 60
  3. ^ Theo Schwarzmüller, Zwischen Kaiser und "Führer". Generalfeldmarschall August von Mackensen. Eine politische biographie. (Munich: Deutsche Taschenbuch Verlag, 1995), 17-29
  4. ^ Showalter, D. E., Tannenberg: Clash of Empires. Hamden: Archon, 1991. p 177
  5. ^ Günter Wegner, Stellenbesetzung der deutschen Heere 1815-1939 (Biblio Verlag, Osnabrück, 1993), vol. 3, pp. 97-98
  6. ^ Schwarzmüller, Mackensen, 65
  7. ^ Wegner, Stellenbesetzung, 131, 463
  8. ^ Wegner, Stellenbesetzung, 80
  9. ^ Showalter 1991, p. 178.
  10. ^ (Figure #651/1)[See: Hausser Elastolin Spielzeug 1939-40 (toy catalog)]
  11. ^ Norman J. W. Goda, "Black Marks: Hitler's Bribery of His Senior Officers during World War II", in The Journal of Modern History, Vol. 72, No. 2. (June, 2000), 430-432.
  12. ^ 1945 Radio News at archive.org
  13. ^ Field Marshal von Manstein, a Portrait (The Janus Head - Marcel Stein)
  14. ^ luise-berlin.de

References[edit]

  • Cecil, Lamar. "The Creation of Nobles in Prussia, 1871-1918." In The American Historical Review, Vol. 75, No. 3. (Feb., 1970), pp. 757–795.
  • Foley, Robert. German Strategy and the Path to Verdun. Cambridge University Press, 2004.
  • Goda, Norman J. W. "Black Marks: Hitler's Bribery of His Senior Officers during World War II." In The Journal of Modern History, Vol. 72, No. 2. (June, 2000), 413-452.
  • Hedin, Sven. Große Männer denen ich begegnete, Zweiter Band, Wiesbaden, F.A. Brockhausen, 1953.
  • Mombauer, Annika. Helmuth von Moltke and the Origins of the First World War. Cambridge University Press, 2001.
  • Schwarzmüller, Theo. Zwischen Kaiser und "Führer." Generalfeldmarschall August von Mackensen. Eine politische Biographie. Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1995.
  • Silberstein, Gerard E. "The Serbian Campaign of 1915: Its Diplomatic Background." In The American Historical Review, Vol. 73, No. 1. (October, 1967), pp. 51–69.
  • Hausser Elastolin Spielzeug 1939-40' (toy catalog)
  • Die Deutsche Wochenschau 16 December 1944 Danish language version. 2:42 min: celebration of 95th birthday of August von Mackensen on December 6, 1944.

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
General der Infanterie Georg von Braunschweig
Commander, XVII Corps
27 January 1908-1 November 1914
Succeeded by
General der Infanterie Günther von Pannewitz
Preceded by
Generaloberst Paul von Hindenburg
Commander, 9th Army
2 November 1914-17 April 1915
Succeeded by
General der Kavallerie Prince Leopold of Bavaria
Preceded by
General der Infanterie Max von Fabeck
Commander, 11th Army
16 April 1915-8 September 1915
Succeeded by
General der Artillerie Max von Gallwitz