Military Wiki
August von Mackensen
Field Marshal von Mackensen
Nickname The Last Hussar, The Brain of Hindenburg, "Amerikaner fresser" (Eater of Americans),[1]
Born (1849-12-06)6 December 1849
Died 8 November 1945(1945-11-08) (aged 95)
Place of birth Haus Leipnitz, Saxony, Prussia
Place of death Burghorn, Germany
Service/branch Army
Years of service 1869-1919
Rank Generalfeldmarschall
Relations Eberhard von Mackensen

Anton Ludwig August von Mackensen (6 December 1849 – 8 November 1945), born August Mackensen, was a German soldier and field marshal.[2] He commanded with success during the First World War and became one of the German Empire's most prominent military leaders. After the Armistice, Mackensen was interned for a year. He retired from the army in 1920 and was made a Prussian state councillor in 1933 by Hermann Göring. Mackensen, a nationalist rather than a National Socialist, frequently appeared at Nazi functions wearing his imperial cavalry uniform and became a major symbol of the integration of the Second and Third Reich.[3]

Early years

Mackensen was born in Haus Leipnitz, near the village of Dahlenberg in the Prussian Province of Saxony, to Louis and Marie Louise Mackensen. His father, an administrator of agricultural enterprises, sent him to a Realgymnasium in Halle in 1865, with the apparent hope that Mackensen would follow him in his profession.[4]

Mackensen began his military service in 1869 as a volunteer with the Prussian 2nd Life Hussar Regiment (Leib-Husaren-Regiment Nr. 2). During the Franco-Prussian War he was promoted to second lieutenant and recommended for the Iron Cross, Second Class. He left service and studied at the Halle University, but formally returned to the German Army in 1873, with his old regiment. Regarded as among the finest horsemen in the Empire, he was detached from normal duties to serve as a tutor of military history to the future Kaiser Wilhelm II, who would later send his own son to serve in Mackensen's regiment. Close relations between the emperor and Mackensen would continue for many years.[5] In 1891 he joined the General Staff in Berlin, where he was heavily influenced by the new chief, Alfred von Schlieffen.

August von Mackensen coat.

From 17 June 1893 to 27 January 1898, Mackensen commanded the 1st Life Hussar Regiment (Leib-Husaren-Regiment Nr. 1), to which he became à la suite when he left command and whose uniform he often wore as a general.[6] He was ennobled on 27 January 1899, becoming August von Mackensen.[7] From 1901 to 1903, he commanded the Life Hussar Brigade (Leib-Husaren-Brigade), and from 1903 to 1908 he commanded the 36th Division in Danzig.[8] When Schlieffen retired in 1906 Mackensen was regarded by some as a possible successor, but the job went to Helmuth von Moltke the Younger. In 1908, Mackensen took command of the XVII Army Corps, and commanded this corps until shortly after the beginning of World War I.[9]

World War I

August von Mackensen

Already aged sixty-five at the beginning of World War I, Mackensen remained in command of XVII Army Corps as part of the Eighth Army, first under General Maximilian von Prittwitz and later General Paul von Hindenburg. Mackensen had his corps moving out on a twenty-five kilometer march to the Rominte River within fifty minutes of receiving its orders on the afternoon of August 19th, 1914 as the Imperial Russian Army invaded East Prussia.[10] Soon after, Mackensen's corps fought in the battles of Gumbinnen and Tannenberg. On 2 November 1914 Mackensen took command of the Ninth Army from General von Hindenburg, who had been named Supreme Commander East (Oberbefehlshaber Ost). On 27 November 1914 Mackensen was awarded the Pour le Mérite, Prussia's highest military order, for actions around Łódź and Warsaw. He commanded the Ninth Army until April 1915, when he took command of the Eleventh Army and Army Group Kiev (Heeresgruppe Kiew), seeing action in Galicia, and assisting in the capture of Przemyśl and Lemberg. He was awarded oak leaves to the Pour le Mérite on 3 June 1915 and promoted to field marshal on 22 June. After this campaign, he was awarded the Order of the Black Eagle, Prussia's highest-ranking order of knighthood. During this period, he also received numerous honours from other German states and Germany's allies, including the Grand Cross of the Military Max Joseph Order, the highest military honour of the Kingdom of Bavaria, on 4 June 1915.

Serbian campaign

World War I monument erected by German general Mackensen to the Serbian defenders of Belgrade

In October 1915, Mackensen, in command of the newly formed Army Group Mackensen (Heeresgruppe Mackensen, which included the German 11th army, Austro-Hungarian 3rd army, and Bulgarian 1st army), led a renewed German-Austro-Hungarian-Bulgarian campaign against Serbia. The campaign finally crushed effective military resistance in Serbia but failed to destroy the Serbian army, which, though cut in half, managed to withdraw to Entente-held ports in Albania and, after recuperation and rearmament by the French, reentered fighting on the Macedonian front. During the fight for Belgrade, the troops of the Central Powers encountered a very stiff resistance, so Mackensen erected a monument to the Serbian soldiers who died defending Belgrade, saying, "We fought against an army that we have heard about only in fairy tales."

Romanian campaign

Field Marshal Mackensen reviewing Bulgarian troops followed by Crown prince Boris (c. 1916).

He followed this up in 1916 with a successful campaign against Romania (under the overall command of General Erich von Falkenhayn). He was in command of a multi-national army of Bulgarians, Ottoman Turks, and Germans. Despite this, his offensives were very successful, breaking every army that faced his own. On 9 January 1917, Mackensen was awarded the Grand Cross of the Iron Cross, becoming one of only five recipients of this honour in World War I.

From 1917 on, Mackensen was the military governor of the parts of Romania (mainly Wallachia) controlled by the Central Powers. His last campaign was an attempt to destroy the Romanian Army, which had been reorganised after the Kerensky Offensive, and occupy the rest of the country (the north-eastern part). But the attempt failed at the Battle of Mărăşeşti, both sides taking heavy losses, but with the Romanian army victorious. At the end of the war, he was captured by General Louis Franchet d'Espèrey's Allied army in Hungary (namely by the Serbian units) and held as a military prisoner in Futog, until November 1919.

Post-war career

In 1920, Mackensen retired from the army. Although standing in opposition to the newly established republican system, he avoided public campaigns. Around 1924 he changed his mind and began to use his image as war hero to support conservative, monarchic groups. He routinely appeared in his old Life Hussars uniform. He became very active in pro-military conservative organisations, particularly Stahlhelm and the Schlieffen Society. During the German elections of 1932 Mackensen supported Hindenburg over Adolf Hitler, but following the latter's accession to power Mackensen became a visible, if only symbolic, supporter of the Nazi regime. Mackensen's high-profile public visibility in his distinctive black Life Hussars uniform was recognized by the Hausser-Elastolin company which produced a 7-cm figure for its line of Elastolin composition soldiers [11] Mackensen's fame and familiar uniform gave rise to two separate Third Reich formations adopting black dress with Totenkopf badges: the Panzerwaffe, which claimed the tradition of the Imperial cavalry; and Hitler's "Life Guards," the SS.

Mackensen at the Kaiser's funeral

Although Mackensen appeared in his black uniform at some public events presented by the German government or the Nazi party, he objected to the killings of Generals Ferdinand von Bredow and Kurt von Schleicher during The Night of the Long Knives purge of July 1934, and to atrocities committed during the fighting in Poland in September 1939. By the early 1940s Hitler and Joseph Goebbels suspected Mackensen of disloyalty but could do nothing.[12] Mackensen remained a committed monarchist and appeared in full uniform at Kaiser Wilhelm II's 1941 funeral (Doorn, the Netherlands).

Mackensen died at the age of 95, his life having spanned the Kingdom of Prussia, the German Empire, the Weimar Republic, Nazi Germany, and post-war Allied occupation.


August von Mackensen's family at his 80th birthday

Mackensen married Dorothea von Horn (1854–1905) in November 1879, they had five children:

  • Else Mackensen (1881/2–1888)
  • Hans Georg von Mackensen (1883–1947), diplomat
  • Manfred von Mackensen
  • Eberhard von Mackensen (1889–1969), Generaloberst
  • Ruth von Mackensen (1897–1945)

After the death of his first wife Mackensen married Leonie von der Osten (1878–1963) in 1908.


On 4 February 1940, Mackensen wrote to Field Marshal Walther von Brauchitsch: "As a man becomes older, he has to watch carefully that age has not reduced his creativity. After reaching the age of 90, I have decided not to involve myself any longer with matters that are not concerned with my private life. However, I am still the most senior German officer. Many turn to me, sometimes with wishes, but more often with their concerns. During these weeks our concern is with the spirit of our unique and successful Army. The concern results from the crimes committed in Poland, looting and murder that take place before the eyes of our troops, who appear unable to put an end to them. An apparent indifference has serious consequences for the morale of our soldiers and it is damaging to the esteem of our Army and our whole nation. I am sure that you are aware of these events and that you certainly condemn them. These lines intend to convey my daily growing concern at the reports that constantly reach me, and I have to ask you to take up this matter with the highest authority. The messages I receive are so numerous, many come from high ranking persons and from witnesses. As the most senior officer I cannot keep them to myself. In transmitting them to you, I fulfil my duty to the Army. The honour of the Army and the esteem in which it is held must not be jeopardised by the actions of hired subhumans and criminals. sieg heil"[13]


The University of Halle-Wittenberg appointed him to Honorary Doctor of Political Sciences and the Gdańsk University of Technology granted ​​him the Dr. Ing

Mackensen-class battlecruiser was the last class of battlecruisers to be built by Germany in World War I, named after August von Mackensen; the lead ship, SMS Mackensen was launched on 21 April 1917.

Mackensen was Honorary Citizen of many cities, such as Danzig, Heilsberg, Buetow and Tarnovo. In 1915, the newly formed rural community of Mackensen in Pomerania was named after him. In various cities, streets were named after him. The Mackensenstrasse in the Schöneberg district of Berlin was renamed Else Lasker-Schüler-road in 1998 based on the attribution of him as one of the "pioneers of National Socialism".[14]


  1. Fox, Edward Lyell. Wilhelm Hohenzollern. 1917
  2. Some historians refer to him as "Anton Mackensen", but this is unusual. See Lamar Cecil, "The Creation of Nobles in Prussia, 1871-1918" in The American Historical Review, Vol. 75, No. 3. (February, 1970), pp. 794; Gerard E. Silberstein, "The Serbian Campaign of 1915: Its Diplomatic Background" in The American Historical Review, Vol. 73, No. 1. (October, 1967), 60
  4. Theo Schwarzmüller, Zwischen Kaiser und "Führer." Generalfeldmarschall August von Mackensen. Eine politische biographie. (Munich: Deutsche Taschenbuch Verlag, 1995), 17-29
  5. Showalter, D.E. Tannenberg: Clash of Empires. Hamden: Archon, 1991. p 177.
  6. Günter Wegner, Stellenbesetzung der deutschen Heere 1815-1939. (Biblio Verlag, Osnabrück, 1993), Bd. 3, pp. 97-98
  7. Schwarzmüller, Mackensen, 65
  8. Wegner, Stellenbesetzung, 131, 463
  9. Wegner, Stellenbesetzung, 80
  10. Showalter 1991, p. 178.
  11. (Figure #651/1)[See: Hausser Elastolin Spielzeug 1939-40 (toy catalog)]
  12. Norman J. W. Goda, "Black Marks: Hitler's Bribery of His Senior Officers during World War II", The Journal of Modern History, Vol. 72, No. 2. (June, 2000), 430-432.
  13. Field Marshal Von Manstein, A Portrait, The Janus Head - Marcel Stein


  • Cecil, Lamar. "The Creation of Nobles in Prussia, 1871-1918." In The American Historical Review, Vol. 75, No. 3. (Feb., 1970), pp. 757–795.
  • Foley, Robert. German Strategy and the Path to Verdun. Cambridge University Press, 2004.
  • Goda, Norman J. W. "Black Marks: Hitler's Bribery of His Senior Officers during World War II." In The Journal of Modern History, Vol. 72, No. 2. (June, 2000), 413-452.
  • Hedin, Sven. Große Männer denen ich begegnete, Zweiter Band, Wiesbaden, F.A. Brockhausen, 1953.
  • Mombauer, Annika. Helmuth von Moltke and the Origins of the First World War. Cambridge University Press, 2001.
  • Schwarzmüller, Theo. Zwischen Kaiser und "Führer." Generalfeldmarschall August von Mackensen. Eine politische Biographie. Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1995.
  • Silberstein, Gerard E. "The Serbian Campaign of 1915: Its Diplomatic Background." In The American Historical Review, Vol. 73, No. 1. (October, 1967), pp. 51–69.
  • Hausser Elastolin Spielzeug 1939-40' (toy catalog)
  • Die Deutsche Wochenschau 16 December 1944 Danish language version. 2:42 min: celebration of 95th birthday of August von Mackensen on December 6, 1944.

External links

  • Wikisource-logo.svg Chisholm, Hugh, ed (1922). "Mackensen, August von". Encyclopædia Britannica (12th ed.). London & New York. 
Military offices
Preceded by
General der Infanterie Georg von Braunschweig
Commander, XVII Corps
27 January 1908-1 November 1914
Succeeded by
General der Infanterie Günther von Pannewitz
Preceded by
Generaloberst Paul von Hindenburg
Commander, 9th Army
2 November 1914-17 April 1915
Succeeded by
General der Kavallerie Prince Leopold of Bavaria
Preceded by
General der Infanterie Max von Fabeck
Commander, 11th Army
16 April 1915-8 September 1915
Succeeded by
General der Artillerie Max von Gallwitz

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