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Kriegsgeschichte und Geschichtspolitik: Der Erste Weltkrieg


Paul Hederer

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Let me start by writing that I know "Kriegsgeschichte und Geschichtspolitik: Der Erste Weltkrieg," by Markus Pöhlmann will probably not make it into the hands of the average GWF member. On the other hand, I feel the book is important enough to warrant mention here for anyone seeking in-depth information on the writing of various German histories of the war.

Pöhlmann's book is a comprehensive overview of the formation and organization of the various agencies responsible for the writing and study of military history in pre and post-war Germany.

In addition, he categorizes and explains the various works available to us to today dealing with the German Army's participation in the Great War and the period following it. He details the official history, "Der Weltkrieg 1914 bis 1918," providing valuable insight into the purpose of the work overall, and the motivations of the various authors.

The author also covers the various series published after the war, to include "Schlachten des Weltkrieges," which covers various battles of the war, as well as the Regimental histories. From there he moves into a discussion of the personal memoirs, and the post-war "Memoirs War," with participants such as Ludendorff, Hindenburg and von Falkenhayn.

Pöhlmann explains each work in-depth, including its shortcomings. He provides various examples which are quite illuminating of history that was "fudged" to protect the reputation of those involved.

This work is an absolute must for the serious reader of the German Army. Without an understanding as to the significance of the various works, as well as the agendas of their authors, any student of the German Army will be left without the guidance needed to make informed judgments on his sources.

Kriegsgeschichte und Geschichtspolitik: Der Erste Weltkrieg. Die amtliche deutsche Militärgeschichtsschreibung 1914-1956

by Markus Pöhlmann

423 pages

published by Schöningh (Januar 2002)

language: German

ISBN-10: 350674481X

ISBN-13: 978-3506744814

Paul

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Thanks for the mini-review Paul. It rather sounds like the German OHs were every bit as contentious as the British ones with a lot of political infighting behind the scenes. I rather think the Germans got it right with their WW2 official history by employing professional historians, as did the Brits with the Falklands war OH.

Out of interest were Falkenhayn's/Hindenburg's/Ludendorff's memoirs ghost-written, or did WW1 German generals write in the same dry style? I only ask because a generation later the memoirs of Donitz and Raeder were written by the same chap and, in print at any rate, the two admirals were rather magnanimous to each other... unlike in real life.

I'm a big fan of books from the Schoningh stable; some of their WW2 studies of the Heer, such as Klaus Latzel's book on the motivation of the German soldier, are first rate.

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Thanks for the mini-review Paul. It rather sounds like the German OHs were every bit as contentious as the British ones with a lot of political infighting behind the scenes. I rather think the Germans got it right with their WW2 official history by employing professional historians, as did the Brits with the Falklands war OH.

Out of interest were Falkenhayn's/Hindenburg's/Ludendorff's memoirs ghost-written, or did WW1 German generals write in the same dry style? I only ask because a generation later the memoirs of Donitz and Raeder were written by the same chap and, in print at any rate, the two admirals were rather magnanimous to each other... unlike in real life.

I'm a big fan of books from the Schoningh stable; some of their WW2 studies of the Heer, such as Klaus Latzel's book on the motivation of the German soldier, are first rate.

Hello Richard,

I apologize for the delay in answering I didn't see your post until this morning.

The Germans started with a committee, including civilian historians, to advise on the writing of the OH, one member being Hans Delbrück. The group was marginalized over time in a deliberate effort to exclude them from the process.

Ludendorff wrote his own memoirs, as did Falkenhayn. Both were rushed out as soon as possible, to get the jump in the "memoir wars." Ludendorff's were written with no access to official files, mostly from memory.

I guess dry might be a matter of taste in regards to memoirs. I've read all three, and I found them interesting, but not particularly entertaining. None are on par with Omar Bradley's "A Soldiers Story," as a comparison.

Paul

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I think of the three I probably enjoyed Falkenhayn's the most. My view of Ludendorff has always been tempered by the fact that he went a bit bonkers from summer 1918 onwards. I doff my cap to them for writing from memory though... and at least they're not as contentious as French's.

WW2 memoirs are generally more interesting or at least written with a little more panache (Rommel and Guderian spring immediately to mind, although both clearly had access to official papers) but the most disappointing are Manstein's which are very dry for someone who was both so talented and so outspoken.

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I think of the three I probably enjoyed Falkenhayn's the most. My view of Ludendorff has always been tempered by the fact that he went a bit bonkers from summer 1918 onwards. I doff my cap to them for writing from memory though... and at least they're not as contentious as French's.

WW2 memoirs are generally more interesting or at least written with a little more panache (Rommel and Guderian spring immediately to mind, although both clearly had access to official papers) but the most disappointing are Manstein's which are very dry for someone who was both so talented and so outspoken.

Yes, Ludendorff was an interesting character. Some of the lesser known German Generals, von Hohenborn, and Freytag-Loringhoven, for example, wrote very readable memoirs. I really enjoyed George Marshall's "Memoirs of My Services in the World War, 1917-1918." A great book by a great man.

Paul

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