The Last Hussar – August von Mackensen I WHO DID WHAT IN WW1?


He was without question one of the most effective
leaders of the First World War on either side, and we’ve seen him and his death’s head
hat again and again in our regular episodes, but he was also quite controversial in his
personal beliefs, so today, ladies and gentlemen, here’s August von Mackensen. I’m Indy Neidell; welcome to a Great War
bio special about August von Mackensen. Well, it didn’t originally have the “von”. He was born Anton Ludwig Friedrich August
Mackensen, December 6, 1849, in the Prussian province of Saxony. His father administered a large estate, but
was not the owner. The family was not part of the aristocratic
Junker class and was, in fact, a lineage of agriculturalists, not warriors, and August
grew up with the sons of peasants and hirelings. Still, his education was very much filled
with the Prussian ideals of being hardworking, conscientious, and subservient to the state
and the monarchy, and after it, with the glories of the Prussian victory in the 1866 war in
mind, August joined the Prussian cavalry in 1869 and served in the Leibhusarenregiment,
a hussar regiment, traditionally open to non-aristocratic men. They had been founded by Frederick the Great
in 1741 and were known as the Black Hussars or the Death’s Head Hussars. The Attila, their uniform, was pitch black
with the exception of the white cords. The death’s head – Totenkopf in German – on
the hat meant “no mercy”. Mackensen was 20 when the Franco-Prussian
war broke out, and he hoped to bring glory and honor to his name from the war, knowing
that without ancestry or social standing, he had to do so to be recognized. After dangerous reconnaissance missions and
fearless cavalry charges, he returned home as a Leutnant awarded the Iron Cross. He then left the army and began studying agriculture,
but he was still a highly esteemed officer of the reserves of the new German Empire,
where an Iron Cross was worth more than most diplomas. He returned to active service in 1873 and
began climbing the army ladder. Over the next 15 years, the ambitious and
dedicated officer rose to major; the same promotion took the aristocratic Paul von Hindenburg
19. Without ever entering the War Academy, he
was called into the Prussian General Staff in Berlin, reporting directly to the Kaiser. His department made plans dealing with Russia,
Austria-Hungary, and the Balkans. He was promoted to Generalleutnant in 1903
and was based in Danzig until 1914 when the war began. The Russian advance into East Prussia brought
with it a wave of panic. Fleeing Prussian refugees met the advancing
German army, and on August 18th, at the Battle of Gumbinnen, Mackensen, commanding the XVII
Corps of the 8th Army, ordered a frontal assault that failed spectacularly. In two hours, he lost 9,000 men; the defeat
would haunt him for years to come. He redeemed himself, though, during Hindenburg’s
counteroffensive and played a major part in encircling the Russian forces. A few months later, he preserved the German
9th army from destruction at Lodz, with a well-timed retreat, and after Germany emerged
from Lodz victorious, on his 65th birthday, was awarded the Pour LeLa Merite – Germany’s
highest military honor – for his actions there. It was then that he began to be a figure in
the public imagination. Postcards and photographs of Mackensen became
popular as the “Victor of Lodz” was celebrated. Thing is, he never really enjoyed the celebrity
or being hailed as some sort of heroic legend, though he hated it when Hindenburg and Ludendorff
were given credit for his victories. Mackensen was anti-Semitic, thinking Jews
embodied anti-German traits, and anti-Catholic, and serving in Poland he had plenty of time
to reflect on Germany’s war aims. He favored an annexation of the Baltic States,
but not Polish territory – because of all the Polish Catholics – which he did not believe
beneficial to the German state. He thought Germany should concentrate on its
future security because a bad peace would only bring about another war. So he never stopped believing in German victory,
though he did, in fact, long for peace, seeing the terrible death and pain of the war first
hand. One of his letters to his wife read: “Everyone expects a great deciding success
from me, but great successes during war are usually only achieved through great casualties. How many death sentences contain my order
to attack? It is this though that bears down on me before
every battle.” He believed that Entente politicians were
at fault for the war, and thus, any peace should be a German peace, worthy of the sacrifice
of his men. In April 1915, Mackensen was given command
of the 11th Army, and his new Chief of Staff was Hans von Seeckt. Together, they planned an offensive to begin
near Gorlice-Tarnow against the advancing Russian army. They then achieved something remarkable, a
total breakthrough of the Russian lines. Using massive amounts of artillery, which
the Russians could not counter, they pushed them back 500km over the summer and recaptured
Lemberg. Such a tremendous victory made Mackensen a
true national hero, and he was promoted to Field Marshal. In September he met Chief of Staff Falkenhayn
and the Kaiser and was given both his Field Marshal’s baton and his next assignment
– the conquest of Serbia. After a huge German, Austro-Hungarian, and
Bulgarian invasion, Belgrade fell, and Mackensen was ennobled. In fact, August VON Mackensen was even considered
as supreme commander of the eastern forces. He had the support of Falkenhayn and the Kaiser,
but they misjudged the situation in the east, not just the hugely successful Russian Brusilov
Offensive in the summer of 1916, but also Romania’s entry into the war. Mackensen did not believe they would join,
and when they did, Falkenhayn was out of Chief of Staff, and Hindenburg was in. Sobered by another nation joining the Entente,
Mackensen put together a rather odd assortment of German, Austro-Hungarian, Bulgarian, and
Ottoman troops to attack Romania. On his 67th birthday, his forces entered Bucharest,
and over the coming months he would kind of be the ruler of 4/5 of Romania, and was even
called Kingmaker. Now, he expected neither Serbia nor Romania
to exist after the war. He respected the Serbs, whom he considered
the best soldiers in the Balkans, but oddly enough, he did not have such respect for his
allies the Bulgarians, whom he considered unreliable. He thought the German alliance with Bulgaria
was just on paper and would not last. One thing he did support was unrestricted
submarine warfare, since his troops had already been fired on by American ammunition and he
felt they were already sort of at war. He had nothing but scorn for the Reichstag
in Berlin, since they were mostly Social Democrats and Catholics, and he was a staunch Monarchist. In fact, he hated Parliamentarianism in general
and longed for a man like former Chancellor Bismarck, the sort of man he thought was direly
needed now. On his 68th birthday, that in 1917, the guns
on the Eastern Front went quiet. While High Command prepared for a 1918 Offensive
in the west, Mackensen helped negotiate the Peace of Bucharest; he had big plans for Romania. Other big plans afoot included the possibility
of an alliance between Soviet Russia and Germany, and Mackensen was considered to lead a combined
force from the two to defeat British forces sent in to fight the Bolsheviks, but the world
war ended and so did those plans. But Mackensen, with his undiminished belief
in German victory, was himself planning a counteroffensive in Macedonia even as German
High Command gave up the war as lost at the end of September 1918. The armistice found him still in Romania. The Allies demanded the retreat of all Central
Powers troops from foreign territory, so the harsh winter of 18-19 found Mackensen’s
men leaving Romania much like Napoleon left Russia over 100 years earlier, pursued by
the French army, leaving the wounded and the sick on the way, and selling their equipment
to make it home. He himself was imprisoned in Hungary and then
transferred to Salonika. It was not until December 1919 that August
von Mackensen was released to Germany. He arrived by train, and a huge crowd of old
soldiers, including Falkenhayn and von Seeckt, were there to meet him. He resigned from the army in January 1920,
unwilling to serve a democratic state, which was against everything he stood for. There was a lot of life left for Mackensen,
his biography is basically half finished after World War 1. You can look it up yourself, for that’s
beyond the scope of this channel, but August von Mackensen died November 8th, 1945, after
the Second World War was over, at the age of 95. By that time, Germany’s most successful
field leader during the First World War had lived a life that spanned Prussia, the North
German Confederation, the German Empire, the Weimar Republic, Nazi Germany, and the Allied
Occupation. It was certainly a life less ordinary. If you want to learn more about another famous
German general that was on a lot of postcards between 1914 and 1918, you can click right
here for our episode about Paul von Hindenburg. Like us on Twitter, follow us on Instagram
and don’t forget to subscribe. See you next time.




Comments
  1. Wow, that Mackensen guy really went far in his military career without any formal leadership training or aristocratic title.

    Napoleon: "Hold my beer".

  2. Hey Gumbinnen, that's were my grandpa is from! His parents (well mother, his father was on the western front) had to evacuate 4 times within a year in ww1, though i never knew that the place actually was the site of a major battle

  3. Going to foreign countries and killing a lot of people who did no harm to others is not great. it is evil.

  4. So sad for him and the rest of Germany… Germany was treated wretchedly after the first war, the treaty of Versailles should have been cause enough for another war… ohps…

  5. Don't know why shitler was so pissed about the 1st war, when they started it and deserved what they got !!

  6. Teutonic vultures. why on earth refreshing such sick things. same like praising islam. till today germans – prussians are manipulating the world.
    Polonia Semper Fidelis.

  7. Eduard von Böhm-Ermolli also has a great Story to tell. He was born in 1856 in the Papal States and died 1941. He was an Austro-Hungarian Field Marshall.

  8. In a World that regularly confuses the German Army and Nazism, it is a breath of honesty to hear the story of a genuine Military hero and leader. No military leader has been perfect, but the rise of a very ordinary citizen to a position of leadership and great national regard speaks for itself. BTW Shame on the Brits for not giving this man his propers.

  9. Death to Prussianism. It has been a curse to Germany. It has been a curse to Europe. And to think that vile deformity that is Prussianism could have been slaughtered in the womb by Sigismund I the Old of Poland had he only expelled his rubbish of a nephew Albert instead of granting him a duchy.

  10. I respect him for refusing to serve in a democratic state… Even if he was an enemy of my people – Romania

  11. Those criminals occupied our country Roumania…. creepy. They occupyed Roumania but still lost when France camed and helped us to retake our country back

  12. I am german but we never learned about such interesting personalities inschool or elsewhere. Thats should say something about the state the german politic system is in.

  13. there is no country called macedonia because macedonia is in greece macedonia is greece like cyprus

  14. The Fall of monarchies is the greatest tragedy to have ever happened to the world. Look at what happens now in the Europe . Sad.

  15. Saxony was not a prussian province. Until 1971, it was a included kingdom being a part of the Norddeutscher Bund, after 1971, it was part of the German Reich , being a Bundesstaat. It was never a part of Prussia.

  16. Around the 7:30 mark the guy talks about a possible "Soviet Russian-German alliance. The was no such thing as Soviet at the time.

  17. WHY DO AMERICANS LIKE PRETTY GERMAN UNIFORMS WE HAVE FAMILY THAT WERE SHELLED BY GERMANS DAILY Dover UK/GROWING UP THERE THE HBR STUKA S DAILY THEY NEVER SPOKE OF IT REALY SO WHY DO YOU GROW UP

  18. Bulgarians unreliable… So interesting why Bulgarian banner has never been captured by enemy. Neither in WW1, nor in any war. Germany is too far away from such an achievement. In WW1 Bulgarian soldiers used to fight bravely in horrible conditions and completely neglected of the German leadership that didn't give a damn about them and how many will die. Tragically Bulgaria was literally sold to the losing side of this war by its king Ferdinand who's got no drop of Bulgarian blood in his veins. Which made the whole thing doomed from the very beginning. Bulgaria gloriously won battles like the Battle of Doiran. But thanks to the choice of Ferdinand couldn't avoid the overall catastrophe.

  19. Mackensen was right, watch the documentary series "Europa The Last Battle". Hands down best documentary series covering War in the 20th century.

  20. VERY BIG CORRECTION! Feldmarschall Mackensen was captured by serbian army!
    He was held in captivity in Futog (Serbia) and has been released in november 2019.
    …!

  21. death to all ANT CHRIST -ie zionist masonic commi jew marxist socialist loyalist !!!!! FOr with Christ and the largest group of people the TRUE CHRISTIAN CATHOLICS the largest bank largest land owner and largest voters we will never allow these scum of satan to exist ever again

  22. The Hungarian hussar regiments' unified team STOPPED the Soviet crusier tank corps' advance in 1944 December. From what chatters this man????

    THE HUSSARS WERE HUNGARIANS, MAYBE POLISHES NOT GERMANS!
    IDIOT.

  23. So the organizer for the Waffen SS got the idea from the Hussars! I am glad Germany kept losing!

  24. During the first world war the German High Command encouraged Scottish soldiers to believe that the hero of the colonial wars Major-General Sir Hector MacDonald (still well known from the Camp Coffee label), who was said to have shot himself in a Parisian hotel in 1903 and been secretly buried in Edinburgh, had actually absconded to Germany and had taken over the identity of August von Mackensen, who had died of some illness.

    Any such conspiracy would have encompassed the Kaiser, whose ADC and adjutant Mackensen had been, if it was the new man whom he asked to keep an eye on the Crown Prince. Some of the Life Hussars might have noticed if the new commander of their division was not the same man who had previously commanded their regiment and brigade. The substitution would most likely have followed the death of Mackensen's 1st wife in 1906 and preceded the new man's marriage to a 22 year old. Sir Hector already had a secret wife and child, who presumably were left unaware.

  25. The death's head on his hat was co-opted by the SS. As this fellow mentioned, it was to signal to his enemies that they would be given no quarter. It was also used for the same purpose by pirates when they flew the jolly roger, skull and cross bones flag. So the pirates, the Hussars, and the SS were all murderers and therefore outside the bounds of law and civilization.

  26. Totenkopf (or death's head) didn't mean no mercy ,it meant that anyone of the hussards are ready to die for the higher goal and for the benefit of others.

  27. Got to bring the isms haven't we? No history from Europe without the bullshit pushed by the propaganda book's! You Americans are next my brother's! We brits and the Germans and Russians have all experience in it!

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