Hans Joachim von Zieten

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Hans Joachim von Zieten
Signature Hans Joachim von Zieten.PNG

Hans Joachim von Zieten , more rarely Ziethen - he rejected the French form of the name -, also called Zieten aus dem Busch (* May 14, 1699 in Wustrau ; †  January 27, 1786 in Berlin ) was one of the most famous equestrian generals in Prussian history and a close confidante of King Frederick the Great .

In the service of the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm I.

Hans Joachim von Zieten, painting by Heinrich Franke after Anna Dorothea Therbusch , around 1780, Gleimhaus Halberstadt

Zieten came as the third of a total of seven children of country nobleman Joachim Matthias von Zieten and his wife Ilsabe Catharina, nee. from Jürgas to Gantzer / Herrschaft Ruppin, to the world. The family lived in modest circumstances, which is why Zieten later referred to the house where he was born as a " Kaluppe ".

Since he was nine years old, the boy had been interested in the military in the neighboring town of Neuruppin. At his urging, his parents managed to get their son to join the Ruppin regiment of yellow cuirassiers as a free corporal in 1715 with the commanding major general Johann Siegmund Freiherr von Schwendy , lord of the Buskow / Ruppin estate . When Zieten's father died in 1720, Wustrau fell to Zieten and his three sisters. The estate was valued at 8,000 thalers, from which the mother's maintenance was secured and the sisters' inheritance was paid out. The young Zieten also took over the legal disputes that had been going on for years from his father for the expansion and use of land, all of which he successfully ended in the fifties of the 18th century.

On July 7, 1722, Zieten became an ensign . When von Schwendy gave up his commanding post to the later Field Marshal Curt Christoph Graf von Schwerin in January 1723 , he described Zieten in a report to King Friedrich Wilhelm I in Prussia as follows: “... is very small and has a weak voice for commanding . ” That was enough for the king to constantly ignore Zieten in the promotions despite all his abilities. On July 28, 1724, Zieten secretly escaped from Crossen / Neumorle , where his regiment was garrisoned , with a request for promotion to the king in Berlin. He then noted on the edge of the request: "... should have its dimension " . His unauthorized ride to Berlin resulted in his discharge from the military, and he retired to his estate in Wustrau.

In 1725, during a stay at a court hearing in Berlin, Zieten learned of the doubling of the "von Wuthenow" dragoon regiment in Insterburg and got a job as first lieutenant . In the following year he was sentenced to a one-year fortress sentence at the fortress Groß Friedrichsburg for disobedience because of constant fights with his Rittmeister for indiscipline . After returning from imprisonment in the fortress, Rittmeister attacked Zieten from behind, who was now blamed; once more he was released from the army and went back to Wustrau .

In 1730 the Prussian king founded an honorary escort with light cavalry; again, Zieten tried to re-enter the royal military and was finally suggested for him on the recommendation of General von Buddenbrock and von Flanß , whether his courage and unconditional loyalty to the king. Zieten was considered a gifted rider and absolutely suitable for the new free company. So he joined the Free Company of Hussars in Potsdam in the same rank as before his resignation . On March 1st of the following year a second company of hussars was set up and Zieten was immediately promoted to their boss and Rittmeister with 50 thalers a month's salary. In 1735 the king appointed Zieten to be the head of a hussar company consisting of Berlin and Lithuanian hussars, and sent him to the Imperial Army on the Rhine ; from 1734 Prussia was in the midst of the European disputes over the Polish succession. The Austrian lieutenant colonel of the Imperial Army, von Baronay, later General of the Cavalry, became his instructor. There were no major acts of war for Prussia, and so Zieten finally asked for his command to be checked. Baronay set him the task of circumventing and attacking the enemy according to his own deliberations and orders. This maneuver was so skilfully carried out that Baronay reported to the king very commendably on Zieten's qualities of military planning and bravery; his next promotion to major took place on January 29, 1736. During the First Silesian War , Zieten took numerous prisoners from an Austrian cavalry regiment in Rotschloß, including his former instructor von Baronay. The later so-called “Red Castle Affair” led to the highest Prussian award in 1741, the Order Pour le Mérite , and a plaque on the Zieten memorial on Berlin's Wilhelmplatz still reminds of this today.

Since returning from the Rhine, Zieten was in the Leibkorps Hussars under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Ludwig Alexander von Wurmb . In the garrison there was an eternal quarrel between the two, which in 1739 led to an armed struggle; both were seriously injured. That this was without consequences was only thanks to the fact that King Friedrich Wilhelm I was seriously ill.

The young hussar officer developed under the ridicule he often had to endure because of his small stature and the many health problems such as long-lasting headaches and gout, a strong self-confidence that he also used in later controversies, e.g. B. not left with the monarch. However, after the various brawls under Friedrich Wilhelm I, the Junkers' son, who advanced to Rittmeister, found a solid understanding of service, which, combined with sincere Protestant trust in God, became the defining feature of his character and his educational ethos. In addition, there was a kindness that was particularly noteworthy in historical comparison to the transgressions of the common man: Zieten categorically rejected the usual flogging and shone as disciplinarian of the always unconventional, as daring as freedom-loving and difficult to discipline hussar troops through moderate severity and fair, comradely disposition . This also applied to the squire Zieten, who spent the years following the Seven Years' War looking after his property near Neuruppin. After all, the less daring than prudent tactician in war and peace was characterized by a more equal, sensitive and mutually respectful relationship with the king.

In the service of King Frederick II.

In 1741 the First Silesian War broke out in the Zieten as major and squadron chief . On May 10, 1741, he distinguished himself in a battle with the Austrians between Strehlen and Nimptsch . For this he was promoted to lieutenant colonel in the body hussar regiment (later H 2). On July 22nd of that year he became a colonel and was given his own regiment of hussars . In the winter quarters of 1741/42, Zieten was busy reorganizing the Prussian cavalry.

In July 1744 there was renewed mobilization in Prussia, and on August 10 the Kingdom of Prussia declared war on the Habsburg monarchy. Zieten advanced with the avant-garde of the Prussian army in Bohemia as far as Budweis . At Moldauthein, Zieten, who was given the major general patent from February 1, 1744, was able to defeat a larger opposing force on his own for the first time on October 9, with his red-uniformed Hussar Regiment No. 2, which was known well into the 20th century. Zieten covered the retreat behind the Elbe and got into a fierce battle near Moldauthein on October 12th. On May 20, 1745 he distinguished himself by a daring nightly crossing of an Austrian corps of 20,000 men with his regiment near Jägerndorf in Silesia , which went down in war history as the "Zietenritt" because it marked the union of the main royal army with the margrave's corps Karl von Brandenburg-Schwedt made it possible. At Hohenfriedberg , the Zietenhusars were able to prove themselves in a major battle for the first time on June 4th. On November 23, his regiments wiped out an outnumbered contingent from Electoral Saxony in a surprise attack near Katholisch-Hennersdorf in Saxony . Since then, contemporaries have respectfully called him the "Zieten aus der Busch".

The Peace of Dresden on December 25, 1745 ended the war. The daily routine of military service began again, which Zieten did not always enjoy; At times he fell out of favor with the king who, in his opinion, did not support him sufficiently and who in turn criticized the too lax discipline of the hussar troops. For many years Zieten withdrew from the court and resented the monarch on his estate. However, he did not receive the requested farewell. On the contrary; In 1747 the Prussian monarch, Friedrich II. In Prussia, approved materials and funds for his loyal follower for his intended expansion of the manor house in Wustrau. An attractive residential building, which the major general called his magnificent castle, with a park and agriculture, was built until 1750; the old house where Zieten was born was included and rebuilt as a "cavalier house".

The outbreak of the Seven Years' War also brought about a turning point between the monarch and Zieten in personal relationships. Frederick II campaigned seriously and presented himself personally to Wustrau to convince the major general; he finally took over a high command in the Frederician army. For the 57-year-old there was now little reason to hesitate; his elder was dead and his wife died on March 19, 1756, a few weeks before the outbreak of war, after a long and serious illness; the estate was administered. For the next seven years he was a reliable commander and, more importantly, became a paternal friend of the king.

Zieten was promoted to lieutenant general, took part in the battle near Reichenberg and the battle of Prague in 1757 . On May 5, 1757 he was awarded the Order of the Black Eagle . In the Battle of Kolín he commanded the left wing and was then assigned to Duke August Wilhelm, Duke of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel-Bevern , who was given command in Silesia. After his capture on November 24, 1757, Zieten led the rest of the army via Glogau to Liegnitz against King Friedrich II and fought with his hussars in the battle of Leuthen on December 5. During the attack at Domstadtl , he could not prevent the loss of a large supply convoy. During the Battle of Liegnitz on August 15, 1760, he managed to keep the main Austrian army in check so that it could not take part in the battle. For this he was promoted to general of the cavalry . In the Battle of Torgau on November 3, 1760, he stormed the Süptitzer Heights and thereby achieved victory.

Friedrich the Great and Zieten in the Bunzelwitz camp

After all, it was Zieten who tore the king out of a deep mental crisis in the fortified camp in Bunzelwitz in 1761 and spurred him on to new initiatives. Until the end of the war, in the absence of the king, he was entrusted several times with the supreme command of the Prussian army. At the end of the war Zieten belonged to the elite of the kingdom and to the sworn circle of friends of the aged monarch.

On April 4, 1764, Zieten asked the king for a marriage consensus and on August 23 of that year married the twenty-five-year-old Hedwig Albertine von Platen. His daughter from his first marriage was then 18 years old; on October 6, 1765 the son Friedrich Christian Ludwig Emil was born, whose godfather was King Friedrich II. Friedrich von Zieten became one of the most successful Ruppin district administrators in 1800. On October 24, 1771, the couple had their son Hans-Joachim Albrecht, who only lived eight weeks. Albertine Magdalene Eleonore was born on January 28, 1773; the later Counts Zieten-Schwerin, lords of Wustrau , descended from her.

Last years of life

Memorial plaque on the house at Rudi-Dutschke-Strasse 28 in Berlin-Kreuzberg
Ziethen sitting in front of his king by Daniel Chodowiecki

The subsequent years of peace saw the old military leader as a cavalry inspector and tireless instructor of his now legendary hussar regiment. Zieten spent the last years of his life alternately in Berlin and on his Gute Wustrau, where he mainly devoted himself to charity. At the same time he worked with great care to raise his property. In 1786 his estate was valued at 65,057 thalers. He was probably the only one of the generals of the time to enjoy a special trust from King Friedrich II, who frequently visited "his old father Zieten" and respected his deep Lutheran piety. This is how the legendary scene came about in Sanssouci Palace , which probably most impressively reflects the appreciation that King Friedrich showed his 13-year-old comrade in arms: after a long conversation, the king had a chair brought to him, on which he sat 85 -year-old old man asked. Since the latter seriously and despite the pain caused by standing for a long time, refused to sit down in the presence of the monarch, the king says with a benevolent expression: “Sit down, Zieten, otherwise I'll go away, because I want him absolutely Do not be a burden! ” Only then did Zieten do what his royal friend wished, who here granted symbolic priority to the man who had fought and triumphed by his side for years.

Grave of Hans Joachim von Zieten in Wustrau

Zieten died on January 27, 1786 in Berlin in his house at Kochstrasse 61/62, which he had acquired in 1763 for 14,500 thalers. On January 31, 1786, Zieten was buried on the Wustrau hereditary burial site next to the Wustrau village church ; here he had initiated and financed numerous embellishments. Apart from the Wustrau estate, he left no fortune. The entire furniture of the Berlin house had to be auctioned after his death, and his widow was only released from debts by a gift from King Friedrich in the amount of 10,000 thalers.

Monuments and names

Bronze monument on Zietenplatz in Berlin-Mitte
Monument in Wustrau-Altfriesack (district of Fehrbellin )
Honor roll for Hans-Joachim v. Zieten on the obelisk in the Rheinsberg Palace Park

Three monuments in the Mark Brandenburg commemorate the general :

On the Berlin equestrian statue of Frederick the Great , he is shown on a horse at the back corner.

In Göttingen , the Zieten barracks , which were inaugurated for the Wehrmacht in 1936, and the Zieten terraces were named after him. Built between 1981 and 1983 NVA - barracks in Beelitz and Zietenstraße in Dusseldorf and the Zieten ring in Wiesbaden , even a street in Luenen , also bear his name. Pietrowice (German: Peterwitz ) in the rural community Głubczyce (German: Leobschütz ) in Silesia had the name Zietenbusch from 1936 to 1945 .


The son Friedrich Carl (1743-1751) and the daughter Johanna (1747-1829) came from the first marriage with Leopoldine Judith von Jürgaß (1703-1756) in 1737. Johanna became a lady at the Berlin court and on October 23, 1776 she married Franz Carl Wilhelm Rudolf von Wahlen-Jürgaß (1752–1834), heir to Gantzer and Trieglitz.

After the death of his first wife, Zieten married Hedwig von Platen (1738–1818) on August 24, 1764 . This marriage resulted in the sons Friedrich (1765-1854) and Hans-Joachim Albrecht (* / † 1771) as well as the daughter Albertine Magdalene Eleonore (1773-1819). Friedrich von Zieten, initially Rittmeister, held the office of District Administrator of the Ruppin District between 1800 and 1841 . In 1840 he was raised to the rank of count and four years later King Friedrich Wilhelm IV visited him in Wustrau. He died unmarried on Wustrau, where he was buried under a large boulder in the church cemetery at his request. The possessions and the title of count passed to the family of Albertine's daughter, Karoline Albertine Luise Wilhelmine Emilie von Zieten (1806-1853). She was married to Albert Ludwig Wilhelm von Schwerin (1801-1865).

Thus, the respective majorate on Wustrau carried the name Graf von Zieten-Schwerin since 1859 .

Another famous Zietenhusar was the Prussian field marshal Hans Graf von Zieten (1770–1840) from the Dechtow house, grand cousin of the district administrator Friedrich von Zieten.

Literary reception

Theodor Fontane : The old Zieten. 1847.
Joachim Hans von Zieten, Hussar General,
To face the enemy he did it a hundred times.
They all learned how he washed the furs
With his body hussars, the "Zieten aus der Busch".
Hey, like the enemy they bleed at Hennersdorf and Prague ,
At Liegnitz and Leuthen and further on in rapid succession;
At Torgau , day of honor, even Fritz rode home,
but Zieten said: “I will first clear my battlefield”.
They never argued alone, Zieten and Fritz,
The thunder was one, the other was the lightning,
Nobody turned out to be lazy, which is why it always hit the mark;
Warm or cold blows, they used to be good.
The peace was closed, but war's pleasure and torment,
The old comrades lived through it again.
As Marshal Daun hesitated, Fritz and Zieten never.
The conversation was now going on at the table in Sanssouci .
One day he didn't like it, and look, Zieten was sleeping.
A courtier wanted to wake him up, but the king cried:
“Let the old man sleep for me, he has some nights
Keeping yourself awake for us, he's been awake enough! "
And when the old hero's time was full,
Once lay, simply wrapped up, Hans Zieten the hussar.
As he himself always took the enemy in a hurry,
So death had come like Zieten from the bush.

The final turn takes up the saying “like Zieten aus dem Bush” (for “out of the blue”) , which was very common at the time.

In Walser's novel Fink's War, the civil servant Fink baptizes one of his colleagues, an FDP member of the Hessian state parliament, "Zieten aus dem Busch".


  • Georg von Alten : manual for army and fleet. Volume XIII, German publishing house Bong, Berlin 1913.
  • Frank Bauer: Hans Joachim von Zieten. Prussia's hussar father and his regiment. Vorwinckel, Berg-Potsdam 1999, ISBN 3-921655-95-1 .
  • Luise Johanne Leopoldine von Blumenthal: Description of life Hans Joachims von Zieten, Royal Prussian General of the Cavalry, Knight of the Black Eagle Order, Chief of the Royal Body Hussar Regiment, and heir to Wustrau. Himburg, Berlin 1797 ( digitized version )
  • Friedrich Förster: Hans Joachim von Zieten. A little biography. Rieger, Berlin / Karwe near Neuruppin 1999, ISBN 3-935231-19-9 .
  • Sigfrid Bruno Hermann: Hans Joachim von Zieten. Hesse & Becker, Leipzig 1936, reprint Melchior, Wolfenbüttel 2007, ISBN 978-3-939102-31-1 .
  • Bernhard von PotenZieten, Hans Joachim von . In: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB). Volume 45, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1900, pp. 214-220.
  • Georg Winter: Hans Joachim von Zieten. A biography. Leipzig 1886, reprint 2003, ISBN 3-935231-49-0 (2 volumes).
  • Irina Rockel: Most gracious King and Lord! I am your servant of Zieten. The Zieten family. Stapp Verlag, Berlin 2012, ISBN 978-3-87776-198-4 .

Web links

Commons : Hans Joachim von Zieten  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files


  1. In the Prussian army tradition it existed until 1918