Erich von Falkenhayn

Erich von Falkenhayn was one of the leading personalities who led the German Empire to a war against Serbia and thus into the First World War. He led the great general staff, devastated hundreds of thousands of soldiers in the Battle of Verdun and led German troops into Rumania and Ottoman armies.



Origin and teenage years:

Erich Georg Anton von Falkenhayn was born on 11 September 1861 in Belchau Castle as the son of Fedor Tassilo von Falkenhayn and Franziska von Falkenhayn, born Freiin von Rosenberg. By the lineage of his father, Erich was already born into a noble family, which had some estates.




Military career:

In 1872 Erich began his military service at the Kadettenanstalt Culm at the age of 11, from where he subsequently moved to the Prussian main cadet institution Lichterfelde for three years. April 17, 1880, he was promoted to second lieutenant and transferred to the Oldenburg Infantry Regiment No. 91. From October 1, 1887 to October 1890, he attended the War Academy in Berlin and was promoted to the premier lieutenant.

The entry into the great general staff finally took place on March 22, 1891 where he first worked in the Topographical Section, later in the railway department. On March 25, 1893 followed the promotion to captain, on January 2, 1894, the transfer to the General Staff of the IX. Army Corps in Altona and on 9 December 1895 the appointment as a company commander in the infantry regiment of Borcke (4th Pomeranian) No. 21 in Thorn.

From June 1896, Falkenhayn was active in China, where he built a military school after Prussian pattern. In 1900 he returned to the German Empire and served from 24 February again in the General Staff.

By 1913 Falkenhayn changed several times the office or unit and was promoted to lieutenant colonel, then colonel and finally on April 22, 1912 major general.

On July 8, 1913, the surprising appointment was made to the Prussian Minister of War, in whose position Falkenhayn was involved in the implementation of the Decisions armaments of the military.


War Minister Erich von Falkenhayn


When on June 28, 1914, the Austrian heir to the throne Franz Ferdinand was shot dead in the Serbian city of Sarajevo, Falkenhayn spoke to the German Emperor Wilhelm II for a crackdown on the Serbian independence movements. Falkenhayn did not expect that a regional war in the Balkans could spread to the whole of Europe at the time.




Erich von Falkenhayn in the First World War:

When on September 12, 1914, the Battle of the Marne for the German army was considered lost, the Chief of the General Staff Helmuth Johannes Ludwig von Moltke suffered a nervous breakdown and Falkenhayn took over the position. Since no breakthrough was possible for the German army on the Marne, Falkenhayn decided to bypass the opposing troops in the north and thus to fall in the back. However, this tactic was also carried out by the Allies, which eventually led to the so-called "race to the sea" and thus to the congealing of the Western Front. When Falkenhayn became aware that the Battle of the Marne and the Schlieffen Plan had failed, he asked the political leadership of the German Reich for peace negotiations. However, this was rejected and the war continued.

On January 20, 1915 Falkenhayn was replaced by Adolf Wild of Hohenborn in the Office of the Minister of War and promoted to General of the Infantry. The award with the Pour le Mérite Order took place a short time later on 16 February 1915.


Erich von Falkenhayn


On the eastern front, Paul von Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorff were able to stop and force back Russian troops who had invaded East Prussia. When Falkenhayn prepared a counter-offensive to encircle the Russian armies, Falkenhayn refused to provide further troops, not to weaken the Western Front on the one hand, because Falkenhayn feared that the German troops would run into the Russian expanse. In addition, Falkenhayn was concerned that in a victory on the Eastern Front Hindenburg could take over his post as Chief of the General Staff.

Also the relationship with the boss of k.u.k. Troops Conrad von Hötzendorf deteriorated rapidly. Hötzendorf asked for German help to lead an offensive at Gorlice to reorganize the military situation in Galicia. Falkenhayn then decided to give up his plans on the Western Front and send 8 divisions to the Eastern Front. In May 1915, the breakthrough at Gorlice, but Falkenhayn wanted no continuation of the offensive, which met with Hötzendorf on misunderstanding. Since Italy also threatened to enter the war, contrary to the treaty of alliance with the German Empire and Austria-Hungary, Falkenhayn proposed that Trentinos be transferred from Austria to Italy and thus no further front be opened.

In October 1915, although Falkenhayn again German troops available to invade Serbia, but read shortly thereafter stop again to relocate them to the Western Front. In May 1916, another offensive Hötzendorf start, but this time refused Falkenhayn German support, especially since Italy at the time only with Austria-Hungary at war was not, however, with the German Reich.

On the western front Falkenhayn started the offensive at Verdun, which claimed hundreds of thousands of casualties on both sides but did not break through the opposing line. When the Allies began an offensive in return at the Somme, Falkenhayn realized that his attacks were useless and were no longer justifiable at home due to the high losses. On August 29, 1916 Falkenhayn asked for his resignation as Chief of the General Staff, which was granted to him by Kaiser Wilhelm II.


Briefing 6.November 1915




The war in Romania and the Middle East:

After the resignation Falkenhayn as chief of the general staff took this, after the declaration of war of Romania, the supreme command of the 9th Army and led this in several offensives, where he took the city of Sibiu, Kronstadt and on December 6, 1916 Bucharest.

At the request of Enver Pasha, the head of the Ottoman army command, Falkenhayn took over in July 1917 the supreme command of Army Group F which was re-established in the area of today's Iraq and should support the Ottoman troops. In contrast to the campaign in Romania Falkenhayn could now launch no offensive and lost by the end of the year, Palestine and Jerusalem.

After the defeats in the Middle East Falkenhayn took over on March 4, 1918 the command of the 10th Army in the west of Russia to secure the Treaty of Brest Litovsk. This command he led until the end of the war.

After the surrender Falkenhayn retired on February 25, 1919 due to a kidney disease from the service and was sent to retirement.




The end of life:

Erich Falkenhayn died on April 8, 1922 in Lindstedt Castle near Potsdam. He was buried in the Bornstedter Cemetery near Potsdam's Sanssouci Palace.





  • February 3, 1886 Wedding with Ida Selkmann


  • Son Fritz Georg Adalbert, born on September 27, 1890
  • Daughter Erika Karola Olga, born on September 25, 1904






You can find the right literature here:


German Strategy and the Path to Verdun: Erich von Falkenhayn and the Development of Attrition, 1870-1916

German Strategy and the Path to Verdun: Erich von Falkenhayn and the Development of Attrition, 1870-1916 (Cambridge Military Histories) 1st Edition

The term "Battle of Verdun" has become synonymous with senseless slaughter. This book offers a new perspective on one of the twentieth century's bloodiest battles by examining the development of German military ideas from the end of the Franco-German War in 1871 to the First World War. Its use of recently released German sources held in the Soviet Union since the Second World War sheds new light on German ideas about attrition before and during the First World War.

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General Headquarters (German)1914-16 and Its Critical Decisions

General Headquarters (German)1914-16 and Its Critical Decisions

Great War Memoirs of General Erich von Falkenhayn, Germany?s supreme military commander from September 1914, when he replaced Moltke, to Septmber 1916 when he was replaced by Hindenburg and Ludendorff.

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The German General Staff And Its Decisions, 1914-1916

The German General Staff And Its Decisions, 1914-1916 Hardcover – November 20, 2015

This work has been selected by scholars as being culturally important, and is part of the knowledge base of civilization as we know it. This work was reproduced from the original artifact, and remains as true to the original work as possible. Therefore, you will see the original copyright references, library stamps (as most of these works have been housed in our most important libraries around the world), and other notations in the work.

This work is in the public domain in the United States of America, and possibly other nations. Within the United States, you may freely copy and distribute this work, as no entity (individual or corporate) has a copyright on the body of the work.

As a reproduction of a historical artifact, this work may contain missing or blurred pages, poor pictures, errant marks, etc. Scholars believe, and we concur, that this work is important enough to be preserved, reproduced, and made generally available to the public. We appreciate your support of the preservation process, and thank you for being an important part of keeping this knowledge alive and relevant.

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