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Erich von Falkenhayn
Falkenhayn was a career soldier. Between 1896 and 1903, he served in China, and saw action during the Boxer Rebellion. Afterwards, he was stationed in Braunschweig, Metz, and Magdeburg, with ever-increasing rank. In 1913, he became Prussian Minister of War, in which capacity he was one of the key players in the genesis of World War I when the assassination of Sarajevo took place. Like most German military, he did not then count on an overall war, but he very soon embraced it and belonged to those pushing Kaiser Wilhelm II to declare war.
Falkenhayn succeeded Moltke as Chief of Staff after the Battle of the Marne on 14 September 1914. Confronted with the failure of the Schlieffen Plan, Falkenhayn attempted to outflank the British and French in what has been called the "Race to the Sea", a series of engagements throughout northern France and Belgium with the aim to reach the North Sea coast. The Germans were eventually stopped by the British at First Ypres.
Falkenhayn preferred a defensive strategy on the Western Front, which brought him into conflict with Hindenburg and Ludendorff, who favored massive offensives in the east. Eventually, either in the hope that a massive slaughter would lead Europe's political leaders to consider ending the war, or that losses would in the end be less harmful for Germany than for France, Falkenhayn staged a massive battle of attrition at Verdun in early 1916. Although more than a quarter of a million soldiers eventually died — for which Falkenhayn was sometimes called "the Blood-Miller of Verdun" — neither side's resolve was lessened, because, contrary to Falkenhayn's assumptions, the Entente was able to replace their dead with fresh "human material" (the term comes from that time). After the failure at Verdun, coupled with several reverses in the east and incessant lobbying by H-L, Falkenhayn was replaced as Chief of Staff by Hindenburg.
Falkenhayn then assumed command of the Ninth Army in Transylvania, and launched a joint offensive with Mackensen against Romania. Beginning at the end of August, Mackensen and Falkenhayn were in Bucharest by December. Following this success, Falkenhayn went to take military command in then-Turkish Palestine (Turkey being an ally of Germany), where he eventually failed to prevent the British under General Edmund Allenby from conquering Jerusalem in December of 1917. Previously, however, he had been able to forestall Turkish plans to evict all Jews from Palestine, especially Jerusalem. As this was meant to occur along the lines of the genocide of the Armenians, it is fair to say that Falkenhayn prevented the eradication of Jewish settlements in Palestine.
In February 1918, Falkenhayn became commander of the Tenth Army in Belarus, in which capacity he witnessed the end of the War. In 1919, he retired from the Army and withdrew to his estate, from where he wrote several books on war, strategy, and autobiography.
- Holger Afflerbach: Falkenhayn. Politisches Denken und Handeln im Kaiserreich (München: Oldenbourg, 1994) is the modern standard biography.
|- style="text-align: center;"
| width="30%" |Preceded by:
Helmuth von Moltke | width="40%" style="text-align: center;" |Chief of the General Staff
1914–1916 | width="30%" |Succeeded by:
Paul von Hindenburg
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