Hans Georg von Arnim-Boitzenburg

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Heliogravure portrait of Hans Georg von Arnim around 1900, after the copper engraving by P. Aubry around 1650

Hans Georg von Arnim-Boitzenburg (* 1583 in Boitzenburg ; † April 28, 1641 in Dresden ), often called Johann Georg von Arnim, was a field marshal and diplomat in the Thirty Years' War . He switched between Swedish , Polish , imperial and Electoral Saxon services and was one of the most important generals and politicians of the time.

The military career

Hans Georg von Arnim, born in 1583 as the son of Brandenburg's Oberhofmarschall Bernd von Arnim and his wife Sophia von der Schulenburg at Boitzenburg Castle , was occupied with military and political tasks throughout his life.

At the age of 16 he enrolled at the University of Frankfurt in 1599 , moved to the University of Leipzig a year later and finished his studies in 1606 at the University of Rostock . In 1612 Hans Georg began his court service in Königsberg . But the following year he left the court because of a duel affair.

In the service of Sweden

In the same year, 1613, he went into Swedish service with German mercenaries because his Boitzenburg estate was badly in debt, and took part as a colonel in the Swedish-Russian War 1610–1617 . For years he was a secret mediator between his employer, Gustav Adolf of Sweden , and his sovereign Georg Wilhelm , Elector of Brandenburg , especially in the recruiting of Gustav for the Elector's sister, Maria Eleonora of Brandenburg . There were frequent arguments between the king and Arnim, some over questions of money, some over political questions; Nevertheless, Arnim rose in confidence and learned in the process, both militarily and diplomatically.

In the service of Poland

Then Arnim served in 1621 Sigismund III. Wasa , the King of Poland-Lithuania , a cousin and archenemy of Gustavus who had been driven from the Swedish throne, with a regiment of 3000 German foot soldiers and 400 arquebus riders and his officers Hans Friedrich von Sparre, Hans von Götz, Hans Caspar von Klitzing and Christoph von Klitzing and another victorious in the battle of Chocim in the fight against the Ottoman Turks . In February 1622, after a successful battle, he received his certificate of discharge from the Polish service, as he had only committed himself against the Ottomans but not against Sweden, which reassured Gustav, and went to his Boitzenburg castle via Neu-Stettin . Briefly he then served the mercenary leader Mansfeld and 1624-25 also briefly once again King Gustav Adolf in Stockholm.

In the imperial service at Wallenstein

1625–26 he received offers from Brandenburg, Denmark and from Wallenstein , the commander in chief of the imperial army . He chose the latter and entered imperial service. He quickly became a close confidante of Wallenstein because of his experience and knowledge of Swedish conditions, but above all because of his confident military and political judgment. In April 1628 he was appointed field marshal and commander of the imperial army that was sent to aid the Poles in the Polish-Swedish war . On June 27, 1629 this army inflicted one of his first defeats on Gustav Adolf bei Stuhm . In the same year, however, Arnim left the imperial service in protest against the edict of restitution issued by the emperor and, in connection with the resolutions of the Leipzig Convention, switched to the service of the Electorate of Saxony .

In the service of Electoral Saxony

Foundation of the Saxon Army

The Elector of Saxony, Johann Georg I , supported the Catholic Emperor Ferdinand II in the battle against the Calvinist King of Bohemia Frederick V of the Palatinate as a Lutheran in November 1620 in the Battle of the White Mountain . Even when the emperor then forcibly re-catholized Bohemia, the Saxon elector remained neutral towards the emperor for several years, although from 1622 the army of the Catholic League and from 1626 also the imperial army under Wallenstein in the west and north of the empire against Protestant imperial princes and against the Danish King Christian IV . In contrast to the Brandenburg Elector Georg Wilhelm , whose principality was very early affected by attacks and marches by all those involved in the war, the Saxon Elector was able to maintain his neutral stance from a stronger position and with more success. This enabled him to largely spare his country the chaos and atrocities of war until 1630. It was only after the destruction of Magdeburg in May 1631 and the resulting change in Protestant public opinion throughout the Reich that Johann Georg could hardly maintain his neutral stance. He finally had to give up the attitude after the emperor had issued the edict of restitution in March 1629 , by which Saxony was badly affected.

When a meeting of the Protestant imperial princes was called in January 1631 at the Leipzig Convention , the Edict of Restitution was condemned and the Leipzig Confederation was founded . The federal government was intended as a military alliance and should therefore also have its own army. Hans Georg von Arnim, the best general of the imperial Wallenstein army, was appointed military commander. The Saxon Protestant army was also intended to compete with mercenaries who, after the outrage over the destruction of Magdeburg, tried in large numbers to be accepted into the army of the Swedish king Gustav Adolf, who landed on Usedom in July 1630. It was clear to Arnim that Gustav Adolf needed the support of the population and the influx of mercenaries in order to be successful in the German Empire. Arnim knew the intentions of the Swedes from personal experience and he knew that the Swedes were pursuing their own interests by participating in the war in the empire, which he did not support. His basic conception was to benefit the "German cause" and to protect the empire against foreign armies. The Saxon army planned by the Leipzig Confederation to compete with the Swedish army corresponded to his ideas, to which he remained true until his death.

Arnim and the Saxon army in alliance with Sweden

Soon after the establishment of the Leipzig Confederation, the Electorate of Saxony was increasingly threatened militarily in September 1631 by the advancing army of Gustav Adolf, especially by the army of the Catholic League under General Tilly . This army, which had destroyed Magdeburg, raided the Electorate of Saxony in September 1631 and threatened Leipzig. The Swedish King Gustav II Adolf used the threatening situation for Saxony to impose an alliance agreement on the Saxon Elector. It was agreed that the new Saxon army would join Sweden and that the Swedish mercenaries would be guaranteed accommodation and supplies in Saxony. The supreme command of the Saxon army, however, remained with the Saxon elector, who was able to break away from the alliance at any time. The Swedish king was well aware of this, with the result that he always mistrusted the Saxon elector, his ally.

In the subsequent battle at Breitenfeld (September 17, 1631) against the army of the Catholic League under Tilly, the Swedish and Saxon armies operated together for the first time and Arnim commanded the Saxon cavalry . The army under Tilly suffered a heavy defeat and lost all of its artillery, although the Saxon cavalry had fled during the battle, led by the Saxon elector.

Arnim, of his own accord, occupied northern Bohemia from November 1st , in order to drive a wedge between the imperial armed forces in the empire and in Silesia , but also in order to obtain ample winter quarters for his soldiers; but since the few imperial defense forces fled from Prague in a hurry, Arnim advanced and occupied the Bohemian capital on November 15th. Wallenstein, who had been dismissed as a general in August 1630, fled to Pardubice , but met Arnim on November 30, 1631 at Kaunitz Castle on an imperial order to sound out a separate peace with Electoral Saxony. Even after Wallenstein had taken command of the imperial family again on December 15, 1631, the contact did not break off. In Prague, Arnim had Friedland's house protected by an honor guard, while the emperor's castle on the Hradschin was less careful. He also tried to spare Wallenstein's Duchy of Friedland and humbly apologized if he didn't quite succeed. For his part, Wallenstein sent him “outstanding pay” from the time of his imperial service. From which moment Arnim only delayed contacts in order to hold off the enemy, to pull his own troops out of Bohemia safely and to delay Wallenstein's expected offensive against Saxony, can only be determined imprecisely.

In December 1631 Arnim defeated an imperial army under Tiefenbach near Nimburg (today: Nymburk / Böhmen). In 1632 Wallenstein pushed Arnim's troops out of Bohemia, but did not follow them to Saxony, which he still hoped to neutralize or move into his own camp, but turned west against Gustav Adolf, whom he besieged in Nuremberg . Meanwhile, Arnim invaded the Habsburg Lower Silesia. His Saxon troops first plundered and devastated Wallenstein's Silesian duchies Sagan and Glogau , then Steinau and Breslau . Wallenstein reciprocated with a “visit” from Holk's riders in Saxony, who set fire to themselves right up to the gates of Dresden. Arnim, who was still in Silesia with his army, did not take part in the battle of Lützen in November 1632, in which Gustav Adolf was killed.

Arnim as a general from Electoral Saxony

On June 6, 1633, Arnim and Wallenstein met again for a meeting, this time in Silesia, about which Arnim then reported to the Electors of Saxony and Brandenburg, while an armistice was agreed at the same time. An envoy informed the Swedish Chancellor Axel Oxenstierna , who was in Frankfurt am Main , who raised the crucial question in a reply to Wallenstein as to whether he intended to be a rebel or an imperial negotiator. Contrary to the hopes of the Bohemian emigrant leaders Thurn (Arnims Intimfeind) and Kinsky as well as the French ambassador Feuquières , Wallenstein did not aim, as in the negotiations of 1632, at a defection to the Protestant-Swedish-French alliance, but at a separate peace with the Protestant ones Electors, in order to subsequently drive the Swedes and French, then perhaps even the Spanish-Habsburg troops, out of the empire; Although that was basically Arnim's intention, Wallenstein's promises were too vague to convince the suspicious Protestant electors to break away from their main allies.

In the critical phase of the disempowerment and subsequent murder of Wallenstein in the spring of 1634, Wallenstein waited in vain in the Pilsen camp for Arnim to come and for the results of the negotiations to be saved. Arnim was disappointed with the unsuccessful discussions the previous year and delayed his departure. When he finally set off, he found out about the murder in Eger shortly before the Bohemian border .

On May 13, 1634 the Saxon army under Arnim defeated the imperial under Colloredo near Liegnitz (Silesia) and devastated Bohemia again in the summer of 1634.

Arnim resigns

Hans von Arnim resigned from the Saxon service on June 19, 1635, in protest over the Peace of Prague , with which the Protestant imperial princes finally broke away from the Swedes and the French. He had not been involved in the negotiations and found that the treaty did not take into account Protestant interests, especially in Silesia, which he had previously liberated; since the foreign powers had not been involved either, he saw that this treaty would not bring about universal peace.

In 1635, Hans Georg was accepted into the Fruit Bringing Society by Prince Ludwig I of Anhalt-Köthen . He was given the company name The Praised One and the motto against poison . The root Contrayerva ( Dorstenia contrajerva L. ) was assigned to him as an emblem . Hans Georg's entry can be found in the Koethen Society Register under no. 255. The rhyme law that he wrote on the occasion of his admission is also noted there:

The root antidote is called Contrayerva,
It grows in the Orient, which recognizes its strength,
You are also in Vnserm land, and drumb praised very much.
Praised I am now hot and honored in the war
I go the path of virtue, there will be weighed up
To be with God the dispute when one has moved out,
Slam his enemy, which then succeeds quite well
And at the victory splendor one also sing him the victory prize.

On March 7, 1637, Axel Oxenstierna had him attacked in Boitzenburg and kidnapped to Sweden, where he had to pass the time as a prisoner of the state. Together with Joachim von Mitzlaff, he was able to flee home in November 1638 with the passport of his valet. Arnim now became the most furious enemy of the Swedes and hatched all sorts of plans how to damage and drive them out, for example by inciting the city of Stralsund against its tyrannical rescuers. He wanted to organize the struggle of the German imperial estates against the foreign armies as generalissimo over a non-denominational army and was about to return to the emperor's service when he died on April 28, 1641.

Arnim was buried in the Dresden Kreuzkirche ; his grave monument was destroyed in 1760 during the Seven Years' War . He left the Boitzenburg reign as mortgaged as he had assumed it.


Hans Georg von Arnim monument in Wuppertal

The unmarried Arnim went down in history as the "Lutheran Capuchin". Throughout his life he strictly represented the Lutheran doctrine and prayed with his soldiers before every battle, although this did not prevent him from taking military action against his Protestant co-religionists if it was of use to the “German cause”. Defending the empire against foreign armies was another premise of his actions. The highly educated Arnim, he spoke fluent French and Swedish and was able to speak Latin, was respected by his friends as well as by his enemies and is considered one of the most important personalities in the time of the Thirty Years' War.

Heinz Gollwitzer finally judged him in his biographical note in the NDB: "Arnim was one of the most characterful figures among the military leaders of the Thirty Years' War and probably the most important statesman and general who was ever in the service of a Saxon elector." Saxon Elector in Dresden a memorial which was destroyed in World War II. Another life-size monument by Hans Georg von Arnim was created in Liegnitz in 1912, saved from destruction during the war and brought to Wuppertal, where it still stands today.

The historian Golo Mann judges:

“From all this one could conclude that Arnim was one of the many who wanted to make fortune in war, no matter where. Nevertheless, he was not one of the many. He lived so piously that he was called the Lutheran Capuchin ; did not drink where his comrades drank each other under the table, did not get rich, or only little where others made huge fortunes; gladly listened to the daily admonitions of his preacher, prayed with his soldiers before every armed conflict what he might have learned from Gustav Adolf; held on to discipline and protection of the afflicted citizens like no other commander. His education played into the aesthetic, his memory was stupendous; in infallible Latin, Swedish, French he could recite the most complicated treaties, article by article, and also give poignant speeches ... He had become a private politician and general agent of the Protestant powers on his own ... Perhaps he just wanted somehow to be there and to be close to a center of power It didn't matter which one, trusting its own diplomacy. "


Web links

Commons : Hans Georg von Arnim  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Enrollment of Hans Georg von Arnim-Boitzenburg in the Rostock matriculation portal
  2. Hans Georg von Arnim, page 35, Georg Irmer, The German regiment of Hans Georg von Arnim in the battle of Chocim
  3. CV Wedgewood: The 30 Years War . Cormoran Verlag, Munich 1999, ISBN 3-517-09017-4 , p. 246f.
  4. CV Wedgewood: The 30 Years War . Cormoran Verlag, Munich 1999, ISBN 3-517-09017-4 , pp. 257f.
  5. ^ Christian Pantle: The Thirty Years' War. When Germany was on fire . Ullstein Buchverlage GmbH, Berlin 2017, ISBN 978-3-549-07443-5 , p. 110 ff .
  6. Golo Mann : Wallenstein. His Life , Frankfurt am Main 2016 (first 1971), p. 754 ff.
  7. The above according to Golo Mann, Wallenstein , p. 784f.
  8. Golo Mann, Wallenstein , p. 821 f.
  9. Golo Mann, Wallenstein , p. 918 f.
  10. Golo Mann, Wallenstein , p. 920 f.
  11. Golo Mann, Wallenstein , p. 1130
  12. Golo Mann, Wallenstein , p. 1134
  13. Findeisen, p. 297
  14. Gollwitzer, p. 373
  15. Golo Mann, Wallenstein , p. 447 ff.