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Verdun

(2,073 words)

Author(s): Krumeich, Gerd
Verdun A French fortress that was continually expanded since the Franco-Prussian War of 1870/1871. With its 20 forts and 40 intermediate redoubts, Verdun was without any doubt the strongest defense work in France. The principal forts in the vicinity of Verdun included Douaumont, Vaux, Souville, and Tavannes. Verdun was considered to be practically impregnable. During the German advance of August 1914, the German Fifth Army (under Crown Prince Wilhelm of Prussia) operated in the sector before Verd…

National Socialism

(2,472 words)

Author(s): Krumeich, Gerd
National Socialism The first industrialized mass war had considerable effects on political and social relationships, and on the mentality of people. Italian Fascism and German National Socialism owe their particular characteristics and their legitimization to the First World War, described by Eric J. Hobsbawm as a “machine for brutalizing the world.” By his own testimony, Hitler himself was a “son of the war.” In repeated references to the war in Mein Kampf and in numerous statements and documented conversations ( Hitler’s Table Talks), Hitler returned time and again to his p…

Gallieni, Joseph-Simon

(365 words)

Author(s): Krumeich, Gerd
Gallieni, Joseph-Simon (April 24, 1849, Saint-Béat [Haute-Garonne] – May 27, 1916, Versailles), French general and politician. Gallieni already had a long and impressive military career behind him when the First World War began. After taking part in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–1871, he soon became probably France’s most celebrated colonial soldier. He was appointed commander in chief in French Sudan in 1886. In 1896 he was employed in the pacification of Madagascar. Back in France, Brigadier G…

Berthelot, Henri-Mathias

(385 words)

Author(s): Krumeich, Gerd
Berthelot, Henri-Mathias (December 7, 1861, Feurs, Département Loire – January 28, 1931, Paris), French general. After a career in the colonial army Berthelot attained the rank of brigadier general when he joined the army’s administrative service at the ministry of war as an adjutant to General Noël Édouard de Castelnau in December of 1913. With mobilization in 1914 Berthelot was named aide-major général (assistant chief of staff ) to General Joseph Joffre, with whom he developed a close working r…

Painlevé, Paul

(466 words)

Author(s): Krumeich, Gerd
Painlevé, Paul (December 5, 1863, Paris – October 29, 1933, Paris), French politician (minister for war, prime minister). Painlevé was not only a politically prominent personality, twice a prime minister and later the minister for war, but also a renowned mathematician. A professor of mathematics in Lille since 1887, Painlevé first came to the attention of the public when in 1890, he received the Grand Prix des Sciences Mathématiques (‘Grand Prize in Mathematical Sciences’) of the Académie Française. His primary research area was related to friction energy. He w…

Lyautey, Louis Hubert Gonzalve

(283 words)

Author(s): Krumeich, Gerd
Lyautey, Louis Hubert Gonzalve (November 17, 1854, Nancy – July 21, 1934, Thorey [Département Meurthe-et-Moselle]), French general and politician (minister of war). A cavalry officer serving at the Saint-Cyr military academy from 1873, Lyautey was politically to the right, but always remained alive to social questions. In the 1890s he produced proposals for reforming the social role of army officers. He was frequently employed in the French colonies in the 1890s, as well as in Algeria. From 1912 he …

War Guilt

(797 words)

Author(s): Krumeich, Gerd
War Guilt The question of responsibility for the First World War was actually the subject of controversial discussion even before the outbreak of war, during the July Crisis of 1914, and was even answered propagandistically, to justify positions taken. Proclamations at the outset of the war, such as the “balcony speech” of Kaiser Wilhelm II on August 4 (“It is not the desire for conquest that drives us . . .”) or Poincaré’s “ Union sacrée” address on the same date (“In the war now breaking out, France has right on her side.”) always emphasize the defensive character of…

Sarrail, Maurice

(322 words)

Author(s): Krumeich, Gerd
Sarrail, Maurice (April 6, 1856, Carcassonne – March 23, 1929, Paris), French general. All his life Sarrail was a politically engaged soldier, close to the republican left. He was involved in the “republicanization of the army” after the Dreyfus affair. During the years after 1905, Sarrail was initially commandant of the Saint-Maixent military academy and from 1907 until 1911, head of the infantry department at the Ministry of War. At the beginning of the First World War he was given command of th…

Poincaré, Raymond

(994 words)

Author(s): Krumeich, Gerd
Poincaré, Raymond (August 20, 1860, Bar-le-Duc [Département Meuse] – October 15, 1934, Paris), French politician, state president. Poincaré came from a prosperous French provincial bourgeois family. Despite a political career that took place predominantly in Paris, his home town of Bar-le-Duc (capital of the Meuse Department) remained for him a haven of social and political retreat. Poincaré became one of the defining personalities of moderate republicanism in France. A lawyer by profession, he wa…

Lanrezac, Charles Louis Marie

(258 words)

Author(s): Krumeich, Gerd
Lanrezac, Charles Louis Marie (July 31, 1852, Guadeloupe – January 18, 1925, Neuilly-sur-Seine), French general. In 1905 Lanrezac, who was known as an expert in tactics, became a professor at the École de Guerre – a function he continued to perform until 1914 when, at the age of 62, he was appointed commander of the Fifth Army. In that capacity he saw action during the French opening offensive into Lorraine and was then exposed to the enveloping German counterattacks near Charleroi (August 22–23, 19…

Castelnau, Noël Marie Joseph Édouard,Vicomte de Curières de

(263 words)

Author(s): Krumeich, Gerd
Castelnau, Noël Marie Joseph Édouard,Vicomte de Curières de (December 24, 1851, Saint-Affrique, départe-ment Aveyron – March 19, 1944, Montastruc-la-Conseillère, département Haute-Garonne), French general. After taking part in the Franco-German War of 1870–1871 and studying at the École Supérieure de Guerre, Castelnau joined the French General Staff, where he became one of the leading figures behind the development of the offensive 1914 mobilization plan known as Plan VXII. Castelnau was a member of the…

Weygand, Maxime

(527 words)

Author(s): Krumeich, Gerd
Weygand, Maxime ( January 21, 1867, Brussels – January 28, 1965, Paris), French general. Weygand’s military career began when he joined the 4th Regiment of Dragoons at Chambéry in 1888. After 1900 he was stationed in Lunéville, where he proved to be one of the most capable officers. In 1902 Weygand became a training officer at the Military School of Saumur. By 1912 he had attained the rank of lieutenant colonel, and as an officer of very promising talent he joined the inner circle of commander in …

Wilson, Woodrow

(808 words)

Author(s): Krumeich, Gerd
Wilson, Woodrow (August 1856, Staunton – February 3, 1924, Washington DC), President of the United States. Nothing in Wilson’s career prepared him for leading the United States into an international political conflict. Born the son of a Presbyterian minister in Virginia, Wilson internalized the Protestant Ethic early. He felt called to commit himself to politics. Wilson was a professor of Political Science at Princeton University when nominated to become the university’s president in 1902. This sm…

Encirclement Concept

(477 words)

Author(s): Krumeich, Gerd
Encirclement Concept The concept of encirclement was coined, or rather applied to the situation in international relations, by Reich Chancellor Bülow in a speech in the Reichstag on November 14, 1906. Reacting to the entente that had just been concluded between England and France, Bülow warned that the German Reich was being encircled “like the beast in the forest.” It is probable that no political conception received such wide currency in prewar Germany as that of encirclement. The mantra circulated not only among nationalists, but also in that portion…

“Stab-in-the-Back” Legend (Dolchstosslegende)

(930 words)

Author(s): Krumeich, Gerd
“Stab-in-the-Back” Legend ( Dolchstosslegende) The claim that Germany’s military defeat in 1918 was not, or not primarily, to be ascribed to the failure of the military leadership, or the exhaustion of the soldiers, but to failure or betrayal on the part of particular persons or groups on the home front. There were a number of quite different variants of the legend. Thus, for example, the inadequacy of supply in the battles for Verdun in 1916 was already referred to in military circles as a Dolchstoss. As early as July 1917, General von Seeckt gave voice to the typical accusati…

Roques, Pierre Auguste

(230 words)

Author(s): Krumeich, Gerd
Roques, Pierre Auguste (December 20, 1856, Marseillan [département Hérault] – February 26, 1920, Saint-Cloud [near Paris]), French general (minister of war). Roques first made his reputation during his service in the French colonial army in the 1890s as General Gallieni closest subordinate in the pacification and development of Madagascar, where he was responsible for the creation of a technical infrastructure. General of a division and responsible in the war ministry for technical troops from 1909…

January Strikes

(1,075 words)

Author(s): Krumeich, Gerd
January Strikes Between January 28 and February 2, 1918, there arose in Berlin and other industrial and economic centers (Kiel, Hamburg, and the Rhine-Westphalia industrial area) mass protests and strike actions, in which between 200,000 and 500,000 workers took part. In contrast with the 1917 strikes, which may be understood primarily as social protest, the January Strikes had to a great extent a direct political motive. In light of the Soviet government’s offer of peace, and the brutally extreme claims for annexation of the German S…

July Crisis

(720 words)

Author(s): Krumeich, Gerd
July Crisis Few topics from the history of the First World War have been discussed more intensively by historians and in the public arena than the July Crisis of 1914. Into the 1930s in Germany, the foremost question was that of the justice of the accusation of “war guilt” as expressed in Article 231 of the Versailles Treaty. In this case the predominant opinion initially, and even after the Second World War, was that all the powers “stumbled” into war. In the 1960s, Fritz Fischer brought to the c…

Kerensky Offensive

(725 words)

Author(s): Krumeich, Gerd
Kerensky Offensive Contrary to the expectations and hopes of the Central Powers, the Russian February Revolution initially brought a considerable improvement of Russia’s political and military fighting morale. Alexander Kerensky, minister of war from May 19, 1917, onward, followed the motto that Russia was by and large in favor of a “peace without annexations and contributions,” but under certain circumstances also ready to fight for a “peace without defeat.” In July 1917, Kerensky toured the fron…

Douaumont

(611 words)

Author(s): Krumeich, Gerd
Douaumont Fort and village to the north of the fortress of Verdun. The fortress of Verdun had been further secured by many forts on the surrounding hills. The largest and most important of these protective forts was the one at DouaumontIn existence since 1885, the original complex had been continually reinforced during the 1890s. Among other measures were additional concrete ceilings, up to 2.50 m thick. The fort had a turret for a 15.5-cm gun, with retractable observation tower. It had been prov…
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