Falkenhayn, Erich von

Falkenhayn, Erich von
   A Prussian general and chief of the German general staff from 1914 to 1916, Erich von Falkenhayn was born into a Prussian Junker family. His military career began at the age of 10 with his entry in a military school. He interrupted his successful military career and became a military adviser in China in 1896. Falkenhayn came to the attention of the kaiser while working as a general staff officer in the East Asian Expeditionary Corps. The peak of his prewar career was the appointment to Prussian minister of war in July 1913. Following Helmuth von Moltke’s dismissal after the Battle of the Marne in September 1914, Falkenhayn replaced him as the chief of the general staff. He initially attempted to achieve a victory by continuing the campaign on the Western Front but failed in the Battle of Ypres.
   He aimed at a negotiated peace, but was unable to convince the chancellor or other influential military leaders, above all Paul von Hindenburg and Erich von Ludendorff, of his strategy. Their attempts to achieve his dismissal in early 1915 failed, and Falkenhayn continued in his post until August 1916, when Rumania declared war on Germany and he lost the kaiser’s support, which had thus far protected him from his critics. He was replaced by Hindenburg and Ludendorff. His name is closely linked with the disastrous Verdun campaign and with a strategy of attrition aimed at a negotiated peace. After his dismissal he commanded the Ninth Army in Rumania, followed by stints in Turkey and Russia. In 1920, Falkenhayn published his memoirs; he died in 1922 from kidney failure.
   See also German Empire; Schlieffen Plan.
    Afflerbach, Holger. Falkenhayn. Politisches Denken und Handeln im Kaiserreich . Munich: Oldenbourg, 1996;
    Falkenhayn, Erich von. Die Oberste Heeresleitung 1914-1916 in ihren wichtigsten Entschliessungen , Berlin: E. S. Mitter, 1919;
    Foley, Robert T. German Strategy and the Path to Verdun: Erich von Falkenhayn and the Development of Attrition, 1870-1916 . New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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