Conrad von Hötzendorf
From World War I Document Archive
Conrad was born on 11th November 1852 in Penzing near Vienna, the son of a retired k.k.(i.e. Kaiserlich-königlich - imperial and royal) cavalry colonel. Kaiser Franz I. had raised his grandfather, an imperial goverment official, to the nobility. Conrad spent a happy childhood with his parents in Vienna. His first three years of education was through private teachers, but thereafter these years he attended public schools. As was usual then, after successful completion of the entrance examination, he entered cadet school in Hainburg at the age of eleven, being granted thereby the right to wear uniform for 55 years. His genius for military soon became apparent.
Private life: As mentioned above Conrad was born 11th November 1852 in Penzing, then a small suburb of the capital Vienna. His father Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf, born 1793 in Klobouk (Moravia), whom he adored, was a cavalry officer who had taken part in the Napoleonic wars. His mother Barbara Conrad von Hötzendorf, nee Kübler, was born in 1825 in Vienna. Though his mother was very much younger than her husband the marriage was a happy one.
In the year of revolution 1848 his father was wounded, broke his pelvis and had to retire as a colonel. In 1854 his mother gave birth to a sister, also called Barbara. His mother wanted him to pass a technical education, but the father insisted he should take up a military career. After the death of his father in 1878 Conrad became the support for both his mother and sister. Conrad was first married to Wilhemine von le Beau, who died in 1905, when he was commander of an infantry division in Innsbruck. They had four sons. The eldest, Kurt, died in Jan.1918 in Davos because of exertion, which he had to endure during the Roumanian campaign. His second son was wounded near Przemysl. His third son Herbert was killed in action near Rawa Russka.
His second wife, Gina von Reininghausan, an Italian, whom he first met during his mission in Trieste, was the wife of an industrial magnate in Graz. When Conrad subsequently met her again, in Vienna, he fell in love with her. Divorce in a Catholic monarchy, like that of Austria, was far from easy. The old Emperor was engaged in this problem. The possibility of converting to Protestantism was refused by Conrad as a free thinker and atheist. Equally he turned down the proposition to become an Hungarian citizen, as many officers did, because Hungarian matrimonial law was simpler than the Austrian. The solution was, that Gina was adopted by an Hungarian fieldmarshallieutenant (Ernst Karasz von Szigetvar), conveying the protection of the Hungarian laws to Mme. Reininghausan. The marriage generally was censured. The couple first lived in Teschen, where the AOK (Armeeoberkommando, Supreme Army Headquarters) was situated. The Archduchess Isabella, wife of Archduke Friedrich, the Supreme Commander of the Army, took no notice of Conrad's wife. Conrad's colleague in the German Headquater Falkenhayn maliciously told the German general at the AOK Cramon on the telephone: "Now you can go to the young groom!". Conrad was at that time, fifty-five years old. Empress Zita later on said, she would not know a Baroness Conrad, only a Mrs. Reininghausan.
While Conrad was happy in his family life, he was not so in his profession. The war was lost and a world broke down. Conrad setteled in Innsbruck and wanted to live on private means. Several publications pressed him to write down his personal view of events. He started to write Aus meiner Dienstzeit 1906 - 1918. He could not finish his writing, because in 1924 Conrad suffered a severe desease of the gallbladder with icterus. He was treated in the hospital in Steyr and finally died during a cure in Bad Mergentheim, Germany on August, 25th 1925.
Austria had lost one of her brightest, but also most tragic sons.
Dec.1st 1918 retirement Decorations and titles:
- 1863-1867 Cadet School in Hainburg
- 1867-1871 Military Academy in Wiener Neustadt, he finished with the mark of "very good" as a second lieutenant in the 11th *Feldjägerbataillon (battalion of light infantry ) in St.Pölten.
- 1874 Staff College (Kriegsschule), the preparatory school preparing for young officers intended for duty in the General Staff. He finished with the mark of "excellent".
- 1876 As Lieutenant in the General Staff with the 6th Cavalry Brigade in Kaschau (Slovakia).
- 1877 promoted to the rank of Oberleutnant (first lieutenant)
- 1878-1879 participation in the campaign in Bosnia and promotion to Hauptmann (captain)
- 1882 participation in the combatting of agitations in Dalmatia
- 1883 Chief of General Staff of Infanterietruppendivision (division of infantry troops) in Lemberg (Lwów, capital of former Galicia, now Ukraina). Here he became acquainted with the future theatre of war against Russia.
- 1887 promoted to Major in General Staff
- 1888 - 1892 teacher at the Kriegsschule for tactics, wrote a book Zum Studium der Taktik (To study tactics)
- 1890 promoted to the rank of colonel in General Staff
- 1892 Field service in the Infantry regiment Nr.93 in Olmütz (Olomouc, Bohemia)
- 1895 Commander of Infantry regiment Nr. 1 in Troppau (Opava, Czech Republic)
- 1899 Commander of 55th Infantry Brigade in Triest ( Trieste, Italy)
- 1901 promoted to the rank of a general
- 1903 Commander of the 8th Infanterietruppendivision in Innsbruck and promotion to Feldmarschalleutnant (fieldmarshallieutenant). In this position Conrad prepared himself for war against Italy. He is an impetuous advocate of the idea of a preventive war against Italy or Serbia. The
- background of this intention is to lead the Danube monarchy out from her inferior situation in the European political interplay of forces.
- 1905 Though Conrad had already a high reputation in the Austro-Hungarian army, it was important for his future career, that Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the successor to the throne and leader of Militärkanzlei (Military Chancellery), began to take notice of him during a maneuver in Nonstal (Southern Tyrol). So Franz Ferdinand persuaded his uncle Emperor Franz Joseph to dissmiss Friedrich Graf Beck-Rzikowsky as Chief of General Staff of all armoured forces and to appoint Conrad as new chief . This took place on Nov.18th 1906.
- 1906 promotion to Feldzeugmeister (A rank of general in the Austro-Hungarian army) and to general of infantery. Because of the wish for preventive war and difficulties with the minister of foreign affairs, Aloys Leopold Graf Lexa von Aehrenthal Conrad had to resign from his high
- post. During maneuveres near the Italian border he had urged the old Emperor to start a war against the "Erzfeind" (archenemy) Italy. The Emperors response:" Austria has never ever started a war". Conrad's answer was:" Alas, Your Majesty"!
- 1911 resigned from the position of Chief of General Staff of all armoured forces
- 12th December 1912 Because of the increasing difficulties in the Balkans and the Balkans wars, he was newly appointed as Chief of General Staff of all armoured forces by Emperor Franz Joseph. In this position Conrad stayed until his replacement in March 1917 and was one of the most powerful characters in the Dual Monarchy. Though Austria was not very successful in the
- beginning of the war the Austrian army could stop the " Russische Dampfwalze" (Russian steamroller) during the battle of Limanowa-£apanow in Dec.1914. This battleplan and that of the battle of Gorlice-Tarnów (which among other reasons started the collapse of the Tsarist empire), arose from Conrad's military genius.
- 1915 promotion to Generaloberst ( General Colonel)
- 1916 promotion to Feldmarschall ( Fieldmarshall)
- 1917 Because of disagreement in opinions about warfare, politics and personal problems with the new Emperor Karl I. Conrad again was released as Chief. As a compensation he got the command of a Heeresgruppe (army group) in Tyrol as well as the title of an Earl. But it was the end of his military career.
- 1917 Chancellor of the Militär Maria Theresien Orden (the highest Austrian military order)
- 1918 Release as Heeresgruppenkommandant
- 1918 Colonel of all Lifeguards
A.) Austro Hungarian
May 4th 1879: honourable mention for participation in the Bosnian campaign
Dec. 24th 1879: Militärverdienstkreuz ( later III. Class)
May 10th 1882:Kriegsdekoration zum Militärverdienstkreuz ( later with swords)
July,8th 1890: Militärverdienstmedaille am Bande des Militärverdienstkreuzes ( later with swords)
Oct.10th 1892: Orden der Eisernen Krone III.Kl
April, 8th 1904: Ritterkreuz des Leopold-Ordens
Feb. 4th 1907: appointment to privy councillor
Aug.,12th 1908: Orden der Eisernen Krone I.Kl.
Aug.,11th 1909: appointment to Colonel owner of infantry regiment Nr.39
Aug.,18th 1910: appointment to a hereditary Austrian baron.
Dec. 3rd 1911: Großkreuz des Leopold-Ordens
Dec., 8th 1914: Militärverdienstkreuz I.Kl mit Schwertern
May 9th 1915: Kriegsdekoration zum Großkreuz des Leopold-Ordens mit den Schwertern und Kriegsdekoration zum Orden der Eisernen Krone I.Kl. mit den Schwertern
Nov.22nd 1915: Verdienstkreuz vom Roten Kreuz mit Kriegsdekoration
May 18th 1916: award of doctorate of law honoris causa at the University of Czernowitz, Bukowina.
Oct.,17th 1916: Große Militärverdienstmedaille am Bande des Militärverdienstkreuzes mit den Schwertern
March 1st 1917: Großkreuz des Militär Maria Theresien Ordens.
March 18th 1917: Award of doctorate of technical sciences honoris causa at the technical academy in Vienna, of technical sciences honoris causa at the Franz Joseph -Deutschen Hochschule in Brünn ( Brno ), and doctorate of philosophy honoris causa at the university of Prag ( Prague ).
May 22nd 1917 appointment to a steady member of the Upper Chamber of Austrian Reichsrat.
June 26th 1917: Silberne Militärverdienstmedaille am Bande des Militärverdienstkreuzes mit den Schwertern
Oct.25th 1917: appointment to Chancellor of Militär Maria Theresien Ordens.
Dec.,6th 1917: Große Militärverdienstmedaille am Bande des Militärverdienstkreuzes mit den Schwertern zum 2.Male
July 15th 1918 elevation to hereditary Austrian count's rank
1908 Preußischer Orden des Roten Adlers, Großkreuz
1909 Rumänischer Orden des Sterns von Rumänien, Großkreuz
1910 Preußischer Verdienstorden der preußischen Krone, Großkreuz
1911 Chinese order of the Doppelter Drachen, and Japanese order of the Rising Sun
1912 Bavarian Militär-Verdienstorden, Großkreuz
1914 German Eisernes Kreuz II. and I.Klasse
1915 Pour le merite, Ottomanian Osmanie order i.KL,Ottomanische große Imtiazmedaille in Gold und Silber,Ottomanische Tapferkeitsmedaille mit dem Stern, Sächsischer Militär-St.Heinrich Orden, Komturkreuz II.Kl., Sächsischer Albrechts-Orden Großkreuz, Württembergischer Orden der württembergischen Krone Großkreuz mit Eichenlaub, Mecklenburg-Schwerinsches Kriegskreuz II. und.I. Kl, Siamesischer Orden des weißen Elefanten von Siam Großkreuz
1916 Oldenburgisches Friedrich August Kreuz II.und I. Kl
1917 Preußischer Orden Pour le merite, Eichenlaub
"Mannschafts-Menage und Offiziers-Mittagstisch", in: Organ der militärwissenschaftlichen Vereine 12, 1876; "The troops menage and officer's lunch" in the organ of the military-scientific associations, 12, 1876
"Einiges über den südherzegowinischen Karst in militärischer Hinsicht" in: ebenda 24, 1882; (Something about the south Herzegovinian karst from a military point of view" in: ibidem, 24,1882
"Über militär-geographische Behelfe" in: ebenda 26, 1883; "About military-geographical expedients", in: ibidem, 26, 1883
"Zum Studium der Taktik", zwei Teile: 1.Einleitung und Infanterie, 2.Artillerie-Kavallerie-Vom Gefecht-Sicherungs- und Aufklärungsdienst, Wien 1891; "To study tactics", two parts: 1. Introduction and infantry, 2. Artillery-cavalry, about combat- security-and reconnaissance service, Vienna 1891
69 landschaftliche Skizzen von Teilen der Gefechtsfelder von Weißenburg, Wörth, Spichern, Vionville, Gravelotte, Plevna,G.Dubnik, Polis, Lovca, Sipka, Slivnika, Nach der Natur gezeichnet; 69 scenic drawings from parts of the battlefiedls of Weißenburg..., drawn after nature.
"Taktik Aufgaben", Heft 1-3 Wien 1892-1896; " Tactical tasks", copy 1-3 Vienna 1892 - 1896
"Vorgang beim Studium unserer taktischen Reglements", Wien 1895; "Proceedings in studying our tactical regulations", Vienna 1895
"Die Gefechtsausbildung der Infanterie", Wien 1900; "The combat instruction of infantry", Vienna 1900
"Infanteristische Fragen und die Erscheinungen des Boerenkrieges", Wien 1903; "Infantristic problems and the events of the Boer War", Vienna 1903
"Meine Rolle vor dem Kriege", in: Danzers Armeezeitung vom 24.1.1919 und (gleichlautend) in: Neue Freie Presse vom 24.1.1921; "My role before the war", in: Danzer's Army Journal , Jan. 1st 1919, and ( with the same title) in: New Free Press , Jan.1st 1921
"Die Kämpfe der 3.Armee im August 1914", in Neue Freie Presse vom 29.6.1919; "The fights of the 3rd army in August 1914" in: New Free Press, June 29th 1919
"Feldherrnkust und Aufmarschtechnik" Über Oberst Straubs Verdienste, in:Reichspost vom 13.7.1919; "Generalship and technique of initial assembly", about the merits of Colonel Straub, in: Reichspost July, 13th 1919
"Meine Stellung zur früheren Kaiserin Zita" in: Neue Freie Presse vom 25.7.1919; "My position on the former Empress Zita" in : New Free Press ,July 25th 1919
"Feldmarschall Josef Metzger" in Neue Freie Presse vom 2.8.1921; "Fieldmarshall Josef Metzger" in: New Free Press, Aug.,2nd 1921
"Über die Entscheidungstage im Juli 1914" in: Neue Freie Presse vom 15.11.1923; "About the decisive days in July 1914" in: New Free Press, Nov.15th 1923 "Gegen die Kriegsschuldlüge", in Reichspost vom 22.2.1924; "Against the lie of war guilt", in: Reichspost, Feb. 2nd 1924
"Aus meiner Dienstzeit 1906-1918", 5 Bände Text und 2 Bände Beilagen, Berlin 1921-1925, 1.Band: 1906-1909 Die Zeit der Annexionen, 2.Band Die Zeit des lybischen Krieges und des Balkankrieges bis Ende 1912, 3.Band: 1913 und erstes Halbjahr 1914. Ausgang des Balkankrieges und die Zeit bis zum Fürstenmord in Sarajevo, 4.Band:24.Juni 1914 bis 30.September 1914. Die politischen und militärischen Vorgänge vom Fürstenmord in Sarajevo bis zum Abschluß der ersten und bis zum Beginn der zweiten Offensive gegen Serbien und Rußland, 5. Band:Oktober-November-Dezember 1914. Die Kriegsereignisse und die politischen Vorgänge dieser Zeit; " Of my time of service 1906-1918", 5 volumes of text and 2 volumes with annex, 1921-1925, Vol.1: 1906-1909. The time of annexions, Vol.2: 1910-1912. The time of the Lybian War and the Balkan War to the end of 1912, Vol.3: 1913 and first half of the year 1914. Outcome of the Balkan War and the time till the murder of the Archduke in Sarajevo. Volume 4: June 24th 1914- Sept.,30th 1914. The political and military course of events from the murder of the prince in Sarajevo to the ending of the first and the beginning of the second offensive against Serbia and Russia, Vol.5: October-November-December 1914. The events of war and the political proceedings of this time.
"Mein Anfang. Kriegserinnerungen aus der Jugendzeit 1878-1882", Berlin 1925, "My beginning. War memories of my youth 1878-1882" Berlin 1925
Gina Gräfin Conrad von Hötzendorf: Mein Leben mit Conrad von Hötzendorf. Sein geistiges Vermächtnis, Leipzig 1935
Ranglisten des k.u.k.Heeres 1918, Wien 1918
Peter Broucek: Ein General im Zwielicht. Die Erinnerungen Edmund Glaises von Horstenau, Böhlau Verlag 1980
Peball Kurt (Hrsgb.): Conrad von Hötzendorf. Private Aufzeichnungen. Amalthea 1977
Dr. Carl Freiherr von Bardolff: Der Militär-Maria Theresienorden, Wien 1944
Steiner, Jörg C.: Schematismus der Generale und Obersten der k.u.k.Armee, Stand 31.12.1918, Wien 1992
Conrad von Hötzendorf: Aus meiner Dienstzeit