August von Mackensen
August von Mackensen (6 December 1849 – 8 November
1945), born August Mackensen, was a German field marshal. He
commanded with extreme success during the First World War and became
one of the German Empire's most prominent and competent military
leaders. After the Armistice, Mackensen was interned for a year. He
retired from the army in 1920 and was made a Prussian state councillor
in 1933 by Hermann Göring. During the Nazi era, Mackensen remained a
committed monarchist and sometimes appeared at official functions in
his First World War uniform. He was suspected of disloyalty to the
Third Reich, although nothing was proven against him.
1 Early years
2 First World War
2.1 Eastern Front
2.2 Serbian campaign
2.3 Romanian campaign
3 Post-war career
7 In popular culture
10 External links
Mackensen was born in Haus Leipnitz, near the village of Dahlenberg
(today part of Trossin) in the Prussian Province of Saxony, to Louis
and Marie Louise Mackensen. His father, an administrator of
agricultural enterprises, sent him to a Realgymnasium in Halle in
1865, seemingly in the hope that his eldest son would follow him in
Mackensen began his military service in 1869 as a volunteer with the
Prussian 2nd Life Hussars Regiment (Leib-Husaren-Regiment Nr. 2).
Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871 he was promoted to second
lieutenant and won the
Iron Cross Second Class for leading a charge
while on a reconnaissance patrol north of Orleans. After the war he
left the service and studied at Halle University, but returned to the
army in 1873 with his old regiment.
He married Doris (Dorothea) von Horn, the sister of a slain comrade,
in 1879. Her father Karl von Horn (de) was the influential
Oberpräsident of East Prussia; they had two daughters and three sons.
In 1891 Mackensen was appointed to the General Staff in Berlin,
bypassing the usual three-year preparation in the War Academy. His
chief, Helmuth von Moltke, found him a "lovable character" He was
recalled from the regiment to serve as an adjutant to the next chief,
Alfred von Schlieffen
Alfred von Schlieffen (in office 1891-1906), whom he regarded as a
great instructor on how to lead armies of millions.
Mackensen's coat of arms (uncoloured)
He impressed Kaiser Wilhelm II, who ordered that Mackensen be given
command from 17 June 1893 of the 1st Life Hussars Regiment
(Leib-Husaren-Regiment Nr. 1), to which he became à la suite when he
left its command on 27 January 1898, so he often wore the distinctive
death's head uniform thereafter. Mackensen was surprised by his
next posting, as an adjutant to Wilhelm II, because he was the first
commoner to hold that position. For the next three and a half years he
shadowed the Kaiser, meeting the high and mighty of Germany, the rest
of Europe, and the Middle East. His sons shared gymnastics classes
with the Kaiser's. He was ennobled on the Kaiser's 40th birthday, 27
January 1899, becoming August von Mackensen. Next he received the
command of the newly created Life
(Leib-Husaren-Brigade) from 1901 to 1903, and from 1903 to 1908
commanded the 36th Division in Danzig. He became a widower in 1905,
and two years later married Leonie von der Osten, who was 22 years
old. When Schlieffen retired in 1906, Mackensen was considered as a
possible successor, but the job went to Helmuth von Moltke the
Younger. In 1908 Mackensen was given command of the XVII Army Corps,
headquartered in Danzig. The Crown Prince was placed under his
command, and the Kaiser asked Mackensen to keep an eye on the young
man and to teach him to ride properly.
First World War
August von Mackensen
Main article: Eastern Front (World War I)
Already aged sixty-five at the outbreak of War in 1914, Mackensen's
XVII Army Corps became part of the German Eighth Army in East Prussia,
Maximilian von Prittwitz
Maximilian von Prittwitz and 21 days later under General
Paul von Hindenburg. Mackensen had his corps moving out on a
twenty-five kilometer march to the Rominte River within fifty minutes
of receiving his orders on the afternoon of 19 August 1914 when the
Imperial Russian Army
Imperial Russian Army invaded East Prussia. He led XVII Corps in
the battles of Gumbinnen, Tannenberg and the First Battle of the
Masurian Lakes, which drove the invading Russians out from most of
On 2 November 1914 Mackensen took over command of the Ninth Army from
Hindenburg, who became Supreme Commander East (Oberbefehlshaber Ost).
On 27 November 1914 Mackensen was awarded the Pour le Mérite,
Prussia's highest military order, for successful battles around
Łódź and Warsaw.
By April 1915 the Russians had conquered all of western Galicia, the
Austro-Hungarian slice of partitioned Poland, and were pushing toward
Hungary. In response to desperate pleas the German supreme commander
Erich von Falkenhayn
Erich von Falkenhayn agreed to an offensive against the Russian flank
by an Austro-German Army under a German commander. The reluctant
Austro-Hungarian supreme command agreed that the tactful Mackensen was
the best choice for commanding the coalition army. Army Group
Mackensen (Heeresgruppe Mackensen) was established containing a new
German Eleventh army, also under his command, and the Austro-Hungarian
Fourth Army. As chief of staff he was assigned Hans von Seeckt, who
described Mackensen as an amiable, "hands-on commander with the
instincts of a hunter.”  His army group, which had an
overwhelming advantage in artillery, smashed through the Russian lines
between Gorlice and Tarnow and then continued eastward, never giving
the Russians time to establish an effective defense, retaking most of
eastern Galicia by recapturing
Przemyśl and Lemberg The joint
operation was a great victory for the Central Powers; they had
advanced 310 km (186 mi), and soon thereafter the Russians pulled out
of all of Poland.
Mackensen was awarded oak leaves to his
Pour le Mérite
Pour le Mérite on 3 June 1915
and promoted to field marshal on 22 June. He also received the Order
of the Black Eagle, Prussia's highest-ranking order of knighthood, as
well as numerous honors from other German states and Germany's allies,
including the Grand Cross of the Military Order of Max Joseph, the
highest military honor of the Kingdom of Bavaria, on 4 June 1915.
Main article: Serbian Campaign (World War I)
First World War monument erected by Mackensen to the
Serbian defenders of Belgrade
In October 1915, a new Army Group Mackensen (Heeresgruppe Mackensen,
which included the German Eleventh Army, Austro-Hungarian Third Army,
and Bulgarian First Army), launched a renewed campaign against Serbia.
The campaign crushed effective military resistance in Serbia but
failed to destroy the Serbian army, half of which managed to withdraw
to Entente-held ports in Albania and, after recuperation and
rearmament by the French and the Italians, reentered fighting on the
Macedonian front. When Mackensen returned to Vienna he was honored by
a dinner, a personal audience with the
Emperor Franz Joseph
Emperor Franz Joseph and was
decorated with the magnificently jeweled Military Service Cross 1, a
unique award for a foreigner.
Von Mackensen appears to have had great respect for the Serbian army
and Serbians generally. Before departing to the Serbian front in 1914,
he spoke to his men:
"You are not going to the Italian, Russian, or French front. You are
going into battle against a new enemy - dangerous, tough, fearless and
sharp. You are going to the Serbian front and Serbia. Serbs are people
who love their freedom, and who will fight to the last person. Be
careful this small enemy does not cast a shadow on your glory and
compromise your successes." 
Main article: Romania during World War I
Field Marshal Mackensen reviewing Bulgarian troops followed by Crown
Prince Boris (c. 1916).
After Romania declared war on Austria-Hungary on 15 August 1916,
Mackensen was given command of a multi-national army, with General
Emil von Hell as chief of staff, of Bulgarians, Ottomans,
Austro-Hungarians and Germans which assembled in northern Bulgaria and
then advanced into southern Romania. By 8 September they had taken the
two major forts on the right bank of the Danube, the first in a single
day by a force that was outnumbered by the besieged, who were
overwhelmed by Mackensen's artillery.  Then a German and
Austro-Hungarian army group, commanded by Falkenhayn broke into
northern Romania through the passes in the Transylvanian Carpathian
mountains, while Mackensen crossed the Danube by seizing bridgeheads
on the left bank to shield the Austro-Hungarian engineers who built
the long pontoon bridge. The Romanian army and their Russian allies
were forced back between these pincers, Bucharest fell to Mackensen on
6 December, 1916, his 67th birthday, he rode in on a white horse and
moved into the royal palace.
For this performance, on 9 January 1917, Mackensen was awarded the
Grand Cross of the Iron Cross, becoming one of only five recipients of
this honor in the First World War. Since now he wore every Prussian
medal, the kaiser decided to name a battlecruiser after him, which
became the first in a new class.  Mackensen became the military
governor of the large part of Romania (mainly Wallachia) occupied by
the Central Powers. He proposed making a German prince king of Romania
but the initiative fell through. His last campaign was an attempt to
destroy the Romanian Army, which had been reorganized after the
Kerensky Offensive. At Mărăşeşti both sides took heavy losses, but
with the Romanian army emerging victorious (see Battle of
Mărăşeşti). Mackensen maintained that he had never been defeated
in battle, and surely was the most consistently successful senior
general on either side in World War I. By December 1917, the Russian
Army had collapsed and Romania was forced to sign the Armistice of
Focșani, followed by the Bucharest Peace Treaty. Mackensen remained
in Romania until the end of the war as military governor and de facto
ruler. After the armistice he and the 200,000 men he was leading back
home were rounded up in Hungary by General Louis Franchet d'Espèrey's
Allied army and he was a prisoner until November 1919. His political
thinking is revealed in his letters home in which he opposed a union
of the Austrian part of the former empire with Germany because it
would increase Catholic power in what should be a Protestant state,
while he regarded the Jews as the core of detested Bolshevism  He
was one of the 896 Germans on the Allied list of accused war
criminals, which eventually was allowed to lapse.
By 1920, Mackensen retired from the army. Although standing in
opposition to the conclusion of the
Treaty of Versailles
Treaty of Versailles and the newly
established parliamentary system of the Weimar Republic, he initially
avoided public campaigns. Around 1924 he changed his mind and began to
use his image as a war hero to support right-wing monarchist and
nationalist groups. He routinely appeared in his old Life Hussars
uniform and became very active in pro-military conservative
organisations, particularly the Stahlhelm and the Schlieffen Society,
Stab-in-the-back myth and openly endorsing the murder
Matthias Erzberger in 1921.
Mackensen and Hitler in 1935 during the Heldengedenktag in Berlin
During the German presidential election of 1932, Mackensen supported
Paul von Hindenburg
Paul von Hindenburg against Adolf Hitler, whose political skills he
nevertheless admired; after Hitler gained power in January 1933,
Mackensen became a visible, if only symbolic, supporter of the Nazi
regime. One of his ceremonial visits brought him to Passau, where he
received a hero's welcome. Occasionally mocked as "Reich
Centrepiece", Mackensen's distinctive public profile, in his black
Life Hussars uniform, was even recognized by the Hausser-Elastolin
company, which produced a 7-cm figure of him in its line of Elastolin
composition soldiers. His fame and familiar uniform gave rise to
Third Reich units adopting black dress with Totenkopf
badges: the Panzerwaffe, which claimed the tradition of the Imperial
cavalry; and Hitler's "Life Guards," the SS. In October 1935, the
government vested Mackensen with the Brandenburg demesne of Brüssow
in recognition of his merits.
Mackensen at the Kaiser's funeral
Mackensen's relationship to the Nazis remained ambiguous: embodying
the Prussian traditions adopted by Hitler's regime, he appeared in his
black uniform at public events organized by the German government or
the Nazi Party, such as the
Day of Potsdam
Day of Potsdam on 21 March 1933. On the
other hand, he objected to the killing of Generals Ferdinand von
Kurt von Schleicher
Kurt von Schleicher during The Night of the Long Knives
purge of July 1934, the Nazi
Kirchenkampf measures against the
Confessing Church, and also to the atrocities committed during the
Invasion of Poland
Invasion of Poland in September 1939. By the early 1940s, Hitler and
Joseph Goebbels suspected Mackensen of disloyalty, but refrained from
taking action. Mackensen remained a committed monarchist and in
July 1941 appeared in full imperial uniform at Kaiser Wilhelm's
funeral at Doorn, in the Netherlands. He publicly condemned the 20
July plot of 1944.
According to a radio news report dated 15 April 1945, filed by CBS
News correspondent Larry LeSueur for World News Today, Mackensen was
briefly captured by the British Second Army at his home during the
closing weeks of the Second World War. Upon the arrival of the
British, rather than making an expected war-like statement, the old
soldier merely made the request that newly freed foreign workers
should be "kept from stealing his chickens".
Mackensen died on 8 November 1945 at the age of 95, his life having
spanned the Kingdom of Prussia, the North German Confederation, the
German Empire, the Weimar Republic, The Third Reich, and the post-war
Allied occupation of Germany. He was buried in the
August von Mackensen's family at his 80th birthday
In November 1879, Mackensen married Dorothea von Horn (1854–1905),
and they had five children:
Else Mackensen (1881/2–1888)
Hans Georg von Mackensen (1883–1947), diplomat
Manfred von Mackensen
Eberhard von Mackensen
Eberhard von Mackensen (1889–1969),
Generaloberst and convicted war
Ruth von Mackensen (1897–1945)
In 1908, after the death of his first wife, Mackensen married Leonie
von der Osten (1878–1963).
Mackensen and his family were
Protestants in the Evangelical
Church of Prussia.
On 4 February 1940, Mackensen wrote to Field Marshal Walther von
Brauchitsch: "As a man becomes older, he has to watch carefully that
age has not reduced his creativity. After reaching the age of 90, I
have decided not to involve myself any longer with matters that are
not concerned with my private life. However, I am still the most
senior German officer. Many turn to me, sometimes with wishes, but
more often with their concerns. During these weeks our concern is with
the spirit of our unique and successful Army. The concern results from
the crimes committed in Poland, looting and murder that take place
before the eyes of our troops, who appear unable to put an end to
them. An apparent indifference has serious consequences for the morale
of our soldiers and it is damaging to the esteem of our Army and our
whole nation. I am sure that you are aware of these events and that
you certainly condemn them. These lines intend to convey my daily
growing concern at the reports that constantly reach me, and I have to
ask you to take up this matter with the highest authority. The
messages I receive are so numerous, many come from high ranking
persons and from witnesses. As the most senior officer I cannot keep
them to myself. In transmitting them to you, I fulfil my duty to the
Army. The honour of the Army and the esteem in which it is held must
not be jeopardised by the actions of hired subhumans and criminals.
Pour le Mérite
Pour le Mérite with Oak Leaves
Pour le Mérite
Pour le Mérite (27 November 1914) - for his work on the Russian front
Oak Leaves (14 June 1915)
Grand Cross of the
Military Order of Max Joseph
Military Order of Max Joseph (4 June 1915)
Grand Commander of the Royal
House Order of Hohenzollern
House Order of Hohenzollern (1915)
Order of the Black Eagle
Order of the Black Eagle (August 1915)
Grand Cross of the
Order of Saint Stephen of Hungary
Order of Saint Stephen of Hungary (September 1915)
Military Merit Cross, 1st class with Diamonds (Austria-Hungary, 6
Commander, First Class of the
Military Order of St. Henry
Military Order of St. Henry (6 December
Grand Cross of the Iron Cross
Grand Cross of the Iron Cross (9 January 1917)
Grand Cross of the
Order of St. Alexander
Order of St. Alexander with Diamonds (Bulgaria)
Grand Cross of the Military Order of Maria Theresa
University of Halle-Wittenberg
University of Halle-Wittenberg appointed him to Honorary Doctor of
Political Sciences and the
Gdańsk University of Technology granted
him the title Doktoringenieur.
Mackensen-class battlecruiser, named after Mackensen, was the last
class of battlecruisers to be built by Germany in the First World War,
the lead ship, SMS Mackensen, was launched on 21 April 1917.
Mackensen was an Honorary Citizen of many cities, such as Danzig,
Heilsberg, Buetow, and Tarnovo. In 1915, the newly built rural village
of Mackensen in
Pomerania was named after him. In various cities,
streets were named after him. In 1998 the Mackensenstrasse in the
Schöneberg district of Berlin was renamed Else Lasker-Schüler-road,
based on an erroneous claim that Mackensen was one of the "pioneers of
In popular culture
In the 2014 video game Valiant Hearts: The Great War, the main
antagonist Von Dorf is a parody of and styled very similarly to
Mackensen, with key physical similarities such as Mackensen's skull
In the grand strategy game Hearts of Iron 4, von Mackensen was
introduced in the 1.5 update as a potential leader of Germany in one
of the possible alternate historical timelines, in which Hitler is
deposed. He leads an anti-Nazi military Junta attempting to
restabilish the German Empire.
In a modification for the same game, "Kaiserreich", a timeline in
which the Central Powers won the First World War, Mackensen can be
used as a Field Marshall with the "Old Guard" Trait.
^ David T. Zabecki, Germany at War: 400 Years of Military History, p.
^ Some historians refer to him as "Anton Mackensen", but this is
unusual. See Lamar Cecil, "The Creation of Nobles in Prussia,
1871-1918" in The American Historical Review, Vol. 75, No. 3.
(February, 1970), pp. 794; Gerard E. Silberstein, "The Serbian
Campaign of 1915: Its Diplomatic Background" in The American
Historical Review, Vol. 73, No. 1. (October 1967), 60.
^ Theo Schwarzmüller, Zwischen Kaiser und "Führer".
Generalfeldmarschall August von Mackensen. Eine politische biographie.
(Munich: Deutsche Taschenbuch Verlag, 1995), 17–29.
^ Schwartzmüller, Theo (1997). Zwischen Kaiser und "Führer".
Generalfeldmarschall August von Mackensen. Paderborn: Ferdinand
Schöningh. p. 34.
^ Schwarzmüller, 1997, p. 49.
^ Schwarzmüller, 1997, p.65.
^ Günter Wegner, Stellenbesetzung der deutschen Heere 1815-1939
(Biblio Verlag, Osnabrück, 1993), vol. 3, pp. 97–98.
^ Schwarzmüller, 1997, p.6 5.
^ Wegner, 1993, p. 131 and p. 463.
^ Wegner, 1993, p. 80.
^ Jonas, Klaus W (1961). The life of Crown Prince William. London:
Routledge and Kegan. p. 70.
^ Showalter, Denis. E. (1991). Tannenberg: clash of empires. Hamden,
CT: Archon. p. 178.
^ Schwarzmüller, 1997, p. 105.
^ DiNardo, Robert L. (2010). The Gorlice-Tarnow campaign, 1915.
^ Schwartzmüller, 1997, pp. 124-125.
^ Stone, Norman (1998) . The Eastern Front 1914-1917. London:
Penguin. pp. 277–281.
^ Gilbert, Martin (1994). The First World War: A Complete History. New
York: Henry Holt and Company. p. 302. ISBN 080501540X.
^ G. Müller, The Kaiser and his court, London, Macdonald, 1951 p. 222
^ Schwartzmüller, 1997, p. 170 and p. 178.
^ Anna Rosmus Hitlers Nibelungen, Samples Grafenau 2015, pp. 111f.
^ (Figure #651/1)[See: Hausser
Elastolin Spielzeug 1939-40 (toy
^ Norman J. W. Goda, "Black Marks: Hitler's Bribery of His Senior
Officers during World War II", in The Journal of Modern History, Vol.
72, No. 2. (June, 2000), 430–432.
^ Anna Rosmus Hitlers Nibelungen, Samples Grafenau 2015, pp. 112f.
^ 1945 Radio News, "1945-04-15 CBS World News Today" at around 14:25,
^ Field Marshal von Manstein, a Portrait (The Janus Head - Marcel
Cecil, Lamar. "The Creation of Nobles in Prussia, 1871-1918." In The
American Historical Review, Vol. 75, No. 3. (Feb., 1970),
Foley, Robert. German Strategy and the Path to Verdun. Cambridge
University Press, 2004.
Goda, Norman J. W. "Black Marks: Hitler's Bribery of His Senior
Officers during World War II." In The Journal of Modern History, Vol.
72, No. 2. (June, 2000), 413-452.
Hedin, Sven. Große Männer denen ich begegnete, Zweiter Band,
Wiesbaden, F.A. Brockhausen, 1953.
Mombauer, Annika. Helmuth von Moltke and the Origins of the First
World War. Cambridge University Press, 2001.
Schwarzmüller, Theo. Zwischen Kaiser und "Führer."
Generalfeldmarschall August von Mackensen. Eine politische Biographie.
Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1995.
Silberstein, Gerard E. "The Serbian Campaign of 1915: Its Diplomatic
Background." In The American Historical Review, Vol. 73, No. 1.
(October 1967), pp. 51–69.
Elastolin Spielzeug 1939-40' (toy catalog)
Die Deutsche Wochenschau 16 December 1944
Danish language version.
2:42 min: celebration of 95th birthday of
August von Mackensen
August von Mackensen on
December 6, 1944.
"Mackensen, August von".
Encyclopædia Britannica (12th ed.).
General der Infanterie Georg von Braunschweig
Commander, XVII Corps
27 January 1908 – 1 November 1914
General der Infanterie Günther von Pannewitz
Generaloberst Paul von Hindenburg
Commander, 9th Army
2 November 1914 – 17 April 1915
General der Kavallerie Prince Leopold of Bavaria
General der Infanterie Max von Fabeck
Commander, 11th Army
16 April 1915 – 8 September 1915
General der Artillerie Max von Gallwitz
Commander, Army Group Mackensen (Poland)
22 April – 8 September, 1915
Commander, Army Group Mackensen (Serbia)
9 September 1915 – 30 July 1916
Otto von Below
Commander, Army Group Mackensen (Romania)
28 August 1916 – 7 May 1918
Wikimedia Commons has media related to August von Mackensen.
Recipients of the Grand Cross of the Iron Cross
1813 Grand Cross
Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher
Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher (Star of the Grand Cross of the Iron
Friedrich Wilhelm Freiherr von Bülow
Crown Prince Charles John of Sweden
Bogislav Friedrich Emanuel von Tauentzien
Ludwig Yorck von Wartenburg
1870 Grand Cross
Albert of Saxony
August Karl von Goeben
Edwin Freiherr von Manteuffel
Helmuth Graf von Moltke the Elder
Prince Friedrich Karl of Prussia
Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia
August Graf von Werder
Kaiser Wilhelm I
Frederick Francis II
1914 Grand Cross
Kaiser Wilhelm II
Paul von Hindenburg
Paul von Hindenburg (Star of the Grand Cross of the Iron Cross)
Prince Leopold of Bavaria
August von Mackensen
1939 Grand Cross
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