Supreme Army Command
The Supreme Army Command ( OHL ) was the strategic and operational management or the supreme command of the active units of the German Army during the First World War . This function was practically exercised by the Chief of the General Staff of the Field Army .
The Supreme Army Command was de jure incumbent on the German Kaiser : According to Articles 63 and 64 of the Imperial Constitution and Section 6 of the Imperial Military Law , the German Kaiser was the holder of command and command over the entire armed forces of the German Empire (in peacetime with the exception of the Bavarian army contingent ) and was therefore also the strategic-operational head of the field army. In the event of war, the Chief of the General Staff of the Field Army was at his side to cope with this task. Its function was to inform the emperor about the war situation, to propose measures and to forward the emperor's decisions in the form of orders to the lower level of command and to oversee their execution. However, with the beginning of the First World War , Wilhelm II practically waived this authority by authorizing the Chief of the General Staff of the Field Army to issue orders on his own behalf. He only wanted to be involved in important decisions. At the latest in the time when Paul von Hindenburg was Chief of the General Staff of the Field Army, this position was equated in public with the term Supreme Army Command . Before fleeing into exile in the Netherlands on November 9, 1918, Wilhelm II also formally transferred the strategic and operational management to the Chief of Staff of the field army. The General Staff of the Field Army as the bearer of the Supreme Army Command was demobilized on July 3, 1919. The headquarters of the OHL was the main headquarters .
There was insufficient coordination between the OHL and the admiralty staff responsible for naval warfare , at least in the preparations for the war. The Imperial Navy , for example, was insufficiently informed about the Schlieffen Plan , which provided for an attack by Belgium on France .
First and second OHL
At the beginning of the First World War, Helmuth von Moltke (1848–1916) was Chief of Staff . However, he had to resign after the failed offensive on the Marne (September 5 to 12, 1914) . His successor was the Prussian Minister of War , Erich von Falkenhayn (1861-1922). But his concept of the attrition battle , as used in the Battle of Verdun , also failed.
The third and last OHL was headed from August 1916 by the extremely popular Field Marshal General and later President Paul von Hindenburg and his chief of staff, Erich Ludendorff . While Hindenburg was primarily responsible for public relations, Ludendorff actually pulled the strings. As a special position for Ludendorff, the position of First Quartermaster General was created in order to place him on a de facto equal footing with Hindenburg. The power of the 3rd OHL went so far that the German Reich in 1917 and 1918 bore the features of a military dictatorship . The resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare can also be traced back to Ludendorff , which triggered the immediate entry of the United States into the war on the side of the Entente .
In October 1918, the OHL urged the new German government under Max von Baden to immediately sign an armistice , as it was convinced that the German western front could collapse any day. A few days before the end of the war, on October 26th, Ludendorff was dismissed by the Kaiser because of his order to continue the hopeless struggle after all; Wilhelm Groener was his successor as Quartermaster General .
Under Groener's command, the revolution of the home army fell between October 29 and November 9, as well as the beginning revolt in parts of the field army, including in the headquarters in Spa , Belgium , which resulted in the OHL being completely deprived of power and militarily incapable of acting. Groener and Hindenburg decided to seemingly "down to earth" and to coordinate the liquidation of the end of the war in terms of military technology and bureaucracy, while temporarily working with the socialist government (so-called Ebert-Groener Pact ).
After the war
The medium-term goal, however, remained to win back the support of the troops, to renovate and consolidate the position of power of the OHL and to return to the political stage of the young republic as a domestic political authority - a goal that was achieved by spreading the stab in the back and gaining influence among the first two Reich governments until spring 1919 on the other hand also succeeded. From February 1919, the OHL , which was relocated to Kolberg , acted as the supreme command of the Eastern Border Guard , which led border battles with the newly formed Polish Republic .
With the signing of the Versailles Treaty , the OHL lost its external right to exist as an institution. When the 200,000-man transitional army was formed in September 1919, the Kolberg command post , which had been in existence since June, was finally dissolved. However, personal, ideological and strategic continuities with the increasingly influential successor organizations existed and weighed heavily on the Weimar Republic .
- Erich von Falkenhayn : The highest army command 1914-1916 in their most important resolutions. ES Mittler and Son, Berlin 1920.
- Ulrich Kluge: Soldiers' Councils and Revolution. Studies on military policy in Germany 1918/19. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1975, ISBN 3-525-35965-9 .
- Irene Strenge: Spa in the First World War (1914–1918): military hospital and large headquarters. German occupation policy in Belgium. Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg 2007, ISBN 978-3-8260-3693-4 .
- Gerhard W. Rakenius: Wilhelm Groener as First Quartermaster General. The policy of the Supreme Army Command 1918/19 . Harald Boldt Verlag, Boppard am Rhein 1977, ISBN 3-7646-1685-7 .
- Reich Military Law of May 2, 1874, Reichsgesetzblatt 1874, No. 15, pp. 45–64 Scan on Commons
Wiegand Schmidt-Richberg: The General Staffs in Germany 1871-1945. Duties in the army and position in the state . Pp. 38-40. In: Contributions to military and war history, third volume, ed. v. Deutsche Verlagsanstalt, Stuttgart 1961.
Walther Hubatsch: Large headquarters 1914/18: On the history of a German command institution . Pp. 430-431 and 441-443. In: Ostdeutsche Wissenschaft 5, 1958.
Christian Millotat: The Supreme Army Command from the end of the world war to the dissolution of the imperial army . S. 44. In: Series: Current questions from educational work for the officer, Volume III, Series of publications: Innereführung, Issue 7, ed. v. Federal Ministry of Defense, Headquarters of the Armed Forces I 4, Winder 1669/70.
Gerhard Förster among others: The Prussian-German General Staff 1640–1965. About its political role in history. Dietz Verlag, Berlin 1966. p. 131.
Walther Hubatsch: Large Headquarters 1914/18: On the history of a German command institution . S. 442. In: Ostdeutsche Wissenschaft 5, 1958.
Wiegand Schmidt-Richberg: The General Staffs in Germany 1871-1945. Duties in the army and position in the state . S. 41. In: Contributions to military and war history, third volume, ed. v. Deutsche Verlagsanstalt, Stuttgart 1961.
Gerhard Förster and others: The Prussian-German General Staff 1640-1965. About its political role in history. Dietz Verlag, Berlin 1966. p. 132
- Wiegand Schmidt-Richberg: The General Staffs in Germany 1871-1945. Duties in the army and position in the state . S. 55. In: Contributions to military and war history, third volume, ed. v. German publishing house, Stuttgart 1961.
- Walther Hubatsch: Large Headquarters 1914/18: On the history of a German command institution . S. 424. In: Ostdeutsche Wissenschaft 5, 1958.