Hans von Seeckt: Wikis


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Hans von Seeckt
April 22, 1866(1866-04-22) – December 27, 1936 (aged 70)
Bundesarchiv Bild 102-10883, Hans von Seeckt und Otto Geßler.jpg
Hans von Seeckt and Otto Gessler, 1930
Nickname 'The Sphinx'
Place of birth Schleswig
Allegiance German Empire German Empire
Weimar Republic Reichswehr
Years of service 1885-1926
Rank Generaloberst
Commands held Eleventh Army
Battles/wars World War I
Awards Pour le Mérite
Military Order of Max Joseph

Hans von Seeckt (22 April 1866 - 27 December 1936) was a German military officer noted for his organization of the German Army (Reichswehr) during the Weimar Republic.


Early life

Seeckt was born in Schleswig. He entered the German Army in 1885 and was seconded to the General Staff in 1899. During World War I, Seeckt served in various high-level staff positions on the Eastern Front, including Chief of Staff to August von Mackensen while the latter commanded the Eleventh Army. He was Prussian in lineage and commonly wore a monocle, giving him the appearance of being a stereotypical conservative.


After the end of the war and the dissolution of the old imperial army it fell to Seeckt to organize the new Reichswehr within the strict restrictions imposed by the Treaty of Versailles. He successfully laid the basis for a strong Reichswehr and disguised the new leadership, the forbidden General Staff, under the name the Truppenamt, or Troop Office. He is also known for his hostile attitude towards the Second Polish Republic, and for seeking an alliance with the Soviet Union against Poland. After seeing encouraging signs from the newly established War Commissar's Office of Leon Trotsky, Seeckt sent out a secret staff to conduct a military alliance with the Soviets, unbeknownst to the Weimar government.

After the Allies sent the German government a list of "war criminals" to be tried Seeckt called a conference of Staff Officers and departmental heads on 9 February, 1920 and said to them that if the German government refused or was unable to reject the Allied demands, the Reichswehr must oppose this by all means even if this meant the reopening of hostilities. He further said that if the Allies invaded Germany—which he believed they would not—then the German army in the West should retire behind the Weser and the Elbe, as this was where defensive positions had already been built. In the East, German troops would invade Poland and attempt to establish contacts with the Soviet Union, wherein they would both march against France and Britain. He added that German war material would now no longer be sold or destroyed and that the army should be reduced on paper only.[1] An Interior Minister of Prussia, Albert Grzesinski, wrote that members of Seeckt's staff said that Seeckt desired a military dictatorship, perhaps headed by Gustav Noske.[2]

Seeckt's role during the Kapp Putsch of March 1920 remains uncertain; he refused to either actively put down the rebellion or co-operate with it. His remark to the leaders of the republic, that "Reichswehr do not fire on Reichswehr", was controversial.

From 1920 to 1926 Seeckt held the position of Chef der Heeresleitung—in fact if not in name commander of the army of the new Weimar Republic, the Reichswehr. In working to build a non-political professional army within and without the confines of the Treaty of Versailles, Seeckt advanced the concept of the army as a state-within-a-state. He was an admirer of the British concept of a small, highly trained regular army within which political activity was forbidden. This matched the conditions of the Versailles Treaty which were aimed at creating a long-term professional army with a ceiling of 100,000 volunteers and without significant reserves - a force which would not be able to challenge the much larger French Army. Seeckt was a monarchist by personal inclination who encouraged the retention of traditional links with the old Imperial Army. With this purpose he designated individual companies and squadrons of the new Reichswehr as the direct successors of particular regiments of the emperor's army.

After Seeckt had met Adolf Hitler for the first time on 11 March, 1923 he wrote: "We were one in our aim; only our paths were different".[3] However he firmly resisted Hitler's Putsch on November 8-9, 1923, insisting that the Bavarian Division of the Reischswehr remain loyal to the Republic. He strongly opposed the Locarno Treaties which he viewed as appeasement of France and was sceptical of German membership of the League of Nations because he believed it was selling out to the West Germany's connections with Russia.[4]

Seeckt was eventually forced to resign on 9 October, 1926 after permitting Prince Wilhelm, the grandson of the former emperor to attend army manoeuvres in the uniform of the old imperial First Foot Guards without first seeking government approval.

While running the military, Von Seeckt only allowed skilled men to be in the 100,000 man army. He locked them into a mandatory 12 years of confirmed military service with full board and pay, allowing for a form of stability that rarely existed in the midst of massive economic depression of Germany. He gained the loyalty of his men by paying them six times the amount of a French army soldier.

Von Seeckt made the training standards of the Reichswehr the toughest in the world. Von Seeckt trained them in anti-air and anti-tank battled by creating wooden weapons and staging mock battles under the guise of training the soldiers for reintroduction into civilian life. Von Seeckt disciplined this small army much differently than past German armies. Rather than beat or shoot soldiers for infractions, Von Seeckt forced minor offenders to spend off-hour duties lying under a bed and singing old Lutheran hymns. The Chief also had his men taught in seemingly useless topics like horse anatomy and the art of beekeeping to allow them to be citizens with skills as well as military support crews.

Later years

From 1930-32 Seeckt sat in the Reichstag as a member of the DVP, after failing to be adopted as a candidate for the Centre Party. In the presidential election of 1932 he wrote to his sister, urging her to vote for Hitler.[5] From 1934-35 he served as an adviser to Chiang Kai-shek. But on returning to Germany from China he became disillusioned with Hitler.


  1. ^ J. W. Wheeler-Bennett, The Nemesis of Power. The German Army in Politics. 1918-1945. Second Edition (London: Macmillan, 1964), p. 71.
  2. ^ Wheeler-Bennett, p. 71, n. 3.
  3. ^ Wheeler-Bennett, p. 118, n. 1.
  4. ^ Wheeler-Bennett, p. 141.
  5. ^ Wheeler-Bennett, p. 223, n. 1.

Further reading

  • Craig, Gordon. The Politics of the Prussian Army 1640-1945. Oxford University Press, 1964.
  • Corum, James. The Roots of Blitzkrieg. University Press of Kansas, 1992.
  • Wheeler-Bennett, Sir John The Nemesis of Power: German Army in Politics, 1918-1945. New York: Palgrave Macmillan Publishing Company, 2005.
  • The American Heritage Picture History of World War II Volume One. New York: American Heritage Publishing Company, 1966
  • Albert Seaton. The German Army 1933-45. ISBN 0 297 78032 9

See also

Preceded by
Wilhelm Groener
Chief of the Troop Office
Succeeded by
Wilhelm Heye

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