The Nemesis of Power: The German Army in Politics, 1918-1945

By John W. Wheeler-Bennett | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2
THE SEECKT PERIOD (1920-1926)

(i)

THE name of Hans von Seeckt is written with those of von Moltke, von Roon, and von Schlieffen in the annals of German military fame. Like von Moltke, he fashioned anew the pattern and the mould of the military machine, starting from very small beginnings; like von Schlieffen, he looked forward and planned and contrived for a day, the exact time of which he could not foresee, when his master plans would be put into effect for the greater glory of Germany. Like both his predecessors, he left the German Army stronger and more efficient than he found it. But, whereas both von Moltke and von Schlieffen based their calculations on the security born of victory and well-being, von Seeckt, like Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, was compelled to build upon the ashes of defeat, yet withal finding them no unsubstantial a foundation for achievement. His genius lay, not in the formation of large armies but in the creation of a military microcosm, complete within itself in every detail, yet capable at the given moment of limitless expansion.

Hans von Seeckt was born in Schleswig on April 22, 1866. His family were of ancient and noble Pomeranian lineage; they had given to Prussia sons who had found distinction both as soldiers and as civil servants. His father, also a General, had been awarded by Wilhelm I the highest Prussian honour, the collar of a Knight of the Order of the Black Eagle. Von Seeckt himself entered the First ( Emperor Alexander's) Regiment of Foot Guards as a subaltern at the age of nineteen and almost immediately became marked for rapid preferment. Not only did he display an ability to handle troops, but, to that lynx-eyed group who were continually on the watch for promising material, he disclosed himself as a born staff officer. As a result, in 1899), at the age of thirty-three, and as a mere lieutenant, he was transferred to the élite of the General Staff Corps. In the intervals of an exceptionally rapid career, he found time to travel widely in Europe and even to Africa and India, where, at

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