Moritz von Bissing

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For the German Olympic tennis player, see Moritz von Bissing (tennis).
Moritz von Bissing
Moritz von Bissing
Born (1844-01-30)30 January 1844
Ober Bellmannsdorf, Prussia
Died 18 April 1917(1917-04-18) (aged 73)
Trois Fontaines near Brussels, Belgium
Allegiance  Prussia
 German Empire
Service/branch Prussian Army
Years of service 1865-1908
Rank Generaloberst
Commands held Gardes du Corps
29th Division
VII Army Corps
Battles/wars Austro-Prussian War
Franco-Prussian War
World War I

Moritz Ferdinand Freiherr von Bissing (30 January 1844 – 18 April 1917) was a Prussian General.

Early life[edit]

Bissing was born at Ober Bellmannsdorf in the Province of Silesia. He was the son of Moritz von Bissing, a member of the landed gentry who was known to speak up his mind to the Kaiser. In 1865 Bissing entered the Prussian Army as a Lieutenant in the cavalry, and he took part in the Austro-Prussian War and the Franco-Prussian War. He raised steadily through the ranks and in 1887 the young Major became Aide-de-camp to the crown prince and later Emperor Wilhelm II. He served in the guard cavalry until 1897 when he took over command of the 29th Infantry Division. From 1901 to 1907 von Bissing commanded the VII Army Corps in Münster. Being promoted to General der Kavallerie in 1902 he retired from the army in 1908. During his retirement, he participated in the 1912 Wimbledon Championships, losing in the 2nd round.

World War I[edit]

Upon the outbreak of the war, von Bissing was recalled to active duty as deputy commander of the VII Army Corps from August 1914 until November 1914. After the fall of Belgium during the First World War, Bissing was promoted to Generaloberst and appointed governor-general of occupied Belgium, serving from December 1914 until his death near Brussels. He signed the warrant for the execution of Edith Cavell.

As governor-general von Bissing executed the German Flamenpolitik during which he netherlandized the Ghent University as the first solely Dutch-speaking university. As German Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg encouraged Flemish nationalist leaders to declare independence and to integrate into the German sphere, Von Bissing convened a commission to organise the division Belgium, and in a decree issed on 21 March 1917, separated Belgium into two administrative areas: Flanders and Wallonia.

Taking into account the 1912 decision by Walloon nationalists to recognize Namur as the most central city of Wallonia, he established the Walloon administration there. Wallonia then consisted of four southern Belgian provinces and one part of the province of Brabant: the district of Nivelles, realizing also another revendication of the Walloon movement: the creation of the Walloon Brabant. The Flemish region had Brussels as its capital, and was made up of the four northern provinces of Belgium, as well as the districts of Brussels and Leuven. This was the first attempt at dividing Belgium along linguistic lines.

A chronic lung ailment forced him to give up his position in April 1917, and he succumbed to his illness the following week on April 18. He is buried at the Invalidenfriedhof in Berlin.


  • Larry Zuckerman, The Rape of Belgium: The Untold Story of World War I, New York University Press, 2004, ISBN 978-0-8147-9704-4.


Regarding personal names: Freiherr was a title before 1919, but now is regarded as part of the surname. It is translated as Baron. Before the August 1919 abolition of nobility as a legal class, titles preceded the full name when given (Graf Helmuth James von Moltke). Since 1919, these titles, along with any nobiliary prefix (von, zu, etc.), can be used, but are regarded as a dependent part of the surname, and thus come after any given names (Helmuth James Graf von Moltke). Titles and all dependent parts of surnames are ignored in alphabetical sorting. The feminine forms are Freifrau and Freiin.