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Rüdiger Graf von der Goltz
Rüdiger von der Goltz
Born (1865-12-08)8 December 1865
Died 4 November 1946(1946-11-04) (aged 80)
Place of birth Züllichau, Brandenburg, Kingdom of Prussia
Place of death Bernbeuren, Upper Bavaria, West Germany
Allegiance German Empire German Empire
Rank Major General
Commands held Baltic Sea Division
Baltische Landeswehr
Battles/wars World War I
Finnish Civil War
Latvian War of Independence
Estonian War of Independence
Awards Pour le Mérite

Gustav Adolf Joachim Rüdiger, Graf von der Goltz (December 8, 1865 – November 4, 1946) was a German Army general during World War I.[1][2] After World War I he was the commander of the army of the Baltic German-established Government of Latvia, which played an instrumental role in the defeat of Russian Bolsheviks and their local allies in Latvia (1919) but was eventually unsuccessful in retaining German control over the Baltic region after World War I.


Von der Goltz was born in Züllichau, Brandenburg. A Major-General commanding the German infantry division of Guards on Foot in France, von der Goltz was transferred to Finland in March 1918 to help the nationalist government in the civil war against the Finnish "Reds" and Soviet Russian troops. He commanded the German expedition unit ("Baltic Sea Division") which landed at Hanko, Finland, between April 3-April 5, 1918, and then marched on the socialist-controlled capital Helsinki, which surrendered on April 13, 1918. The German military intervention aided the nationalist government of Finland to gain control over most of the country by May 1918.

After the November 11, 1918, armistice, the Inter-Allied Commission of Control insisted that the German troops remain in the Baltic states to prevent the region from being re-occupied by the Red Army. As many of the demoralised German soldiers were being withdrawn from Latvia, a Freikorps unit called the Iron Division (Eiserne Division) was formed and deployed in Riga and used to delay the Red advance. New volunteers arriving from Germany and remnants of the German 8th Army were subsequently added to the Iron Division, which was assigned under the command of von der Goltz. Also, Baltic Germans and some Latvians formed the Baltische Landeswehr, led by Major Alfred Fletcher.

Goltz in Finland

In late February 1919, only the seaport of Liepāja remained in the hands of the German and Latvian forces. In March 1919, General von der Goltz was able to win a series of victories over the Red Army, first occupying Ventspils, the major port of Courland, and then advancing south and east to retake Riga. After the Bolsheviks had been driven out from most of Latvia, the Allies ordered the German government to withdraw its troops from the Baltic region. However, the Germans succeeded in negotiating a postponement, arguing that this would have given the Bolsheviks a free hand. General von der Goltz then attempted to seize control of Latvia with the assistance of the local German population. The Latvian nationalist government was deposed while the Freikorps, Latvian and White Russian units moved on to capture Riga on May 23, 1919. The Latvian nationalists sought assistance from the Estonian army which had been occupying northern Latvia since earlier that year. In June 1919, General von der Goltz ordered his troops not to advance east against the Red Army, as the Allies had been expecting, but north, against the Estonians. On June 19, the Iron Division and Landeswehr units launched an attack to capture areas around Cēsis, but in the battles over the following few days, they were defeated by the 3rd Estonian Division (led by Ernst Põdder). On the morning of June 23, the Germans began a general retreat toward Riga. The Allies again insisted that the Germans withdraw their remaining troops from Latvia and intervened to impose a ceasefire between the Estonians and the Freikorps when the Estonians were about to march into Riga. The British insisted that General von der Goltz leave Latvia, and he turned his troops over to the West Russian Volunteer Army. Count von der Goltz later claimed in his memoirs that his major strategic goal in 1919 had been to launch a campaign in cooperation with the White Russian forces to overturn the Bolshevik regime by marching on St. Petersburg and to install a pro-German government in Russia. Goltz also led troops as part of the 1920 Kapp Putsch. In the interwar years he was part of the right wing Harzburg Front, and in 1934 and was leader of the largely politically uninfluential right wing German State Party.

From 1924 to 1930, he headed the German government department on the military education of young German youth. On 17 July 1931 he handed over the command of the Economic Policy Association Frankfurt am Main to the Reich President Paul von Hindenburg.

He was married to Hannah Caroline von Hase (1873–1941), a granddaughter of Karl von Hase. A son of the same name, Rüdiger von der Goltz, was a lawyer. He died in the Kinsegg estate, village of Bernbeuren, Germany.


  1. Goltz, Rüdiger von der: Meine Sendung im Finland und im Baltikum, Leipzig 1920.
  2. Bermond-Awaloff, Pavel: Im Kampf gegen den Bolschevismus. Erinnerungen von..., Berlin 1925.
  3. Bischoff, Josef: Die letzte Front. Geschichte der Eiserne Division im Baltikum 1919, Berlin 1935.
  4. Darstellungen aus den Nachkriegskämpfen deutscher Truppen und Freikorps, Bd 2: Der Feldzug im Baltikum bis zur zweiten Einnahme von Riga. Januar bis Mai 1919, Berlin 1937; Bd 3: Die Kämpfe im Baltikum nach der zweiten Einnahme von Riga. Juni bis Dezember 1919, Berlin 1938.
  5. Die baltische Landeswehr im Befreiungskampf gegen den Bolschevismus. Ein Gedenkbuch, herausgegeben vom baltischen Landeswehrein, Riga 1929.
  6. Kiewisz, Leon: Sprawy łotewskie w bałtyckiej polityce Niemiec 1914-1919, Poznań 1970.
  7. Łossowski Piotr, Między wojną a pokojem. Niemieckie zamysły wojenne na wschodzie w obliczu traktatu wersalskiego. Marzec-kwiecień 1919, Warszawa 1976.
  8. Paluszyński, Tomasz: Walka o niepodległość Łotwy 1914-1921, Warszawa 1999.
  9. Paluszyński, Tomasz: Walka o niepodległość Estonii 1914-1920. Poznań 2007.
  10. Von den baltische Provinzen zu den baltischen Staaten. Beiträge zur Entstehungsgeschichte der Republiken Estland und Lettland, Bd I (1917–1918), Bd II (1919–1920), Marburg 1971, 1977.


  1. Regarding personal names: Graf is a title, translated as Count, not a first or middle name. The female form is Gräfin.
  2. Tucker, Spencer; Priscilla Mary Roberts (2005). World War I. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-1-85109-420-2.,M1. 

External links

  • Wikisource-logo.svg Chisholm, Hugh, ed (1922). "Goltz, Karl, Count von der". Encyclopædia Britannica (12th ed.). London & New York.  The name and pre-1918 data for this article seem to be garbled.

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