Hans von Seeckt

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Hans von Seeckt in 1918

Johannes Friedrich "Hans" von Seeckt (22 April 186627 December 1936) was a German military officer who served as Chief of Staff to August von Mackensen, and was a central figure in planning the victories Mackensen achieved for Germany in the east during the First World War. During the years of the Weimar Republic he was chief of staff for the Reichswehr from 1919 to 1920 and commander in chief of the German Army from 1920 until he resigned in October 1926.




  • You know that my wishes go in the direction of a conciliation with Russia which opens up further possibilities and prepares them. Only we must not try to make Russia too strong.
    • Letter to von Winterfedlt-Menkin (19 July 1915), quoted in F. L. Carsten, The Reichswehr and Politics 1918 to 1933 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1966), p. 105.
  • The Prussian diet has not an ideal composition...but has done useful work; in spite of this it will be necessary to preserve the [general] franchise for the Reichstag and to change the franchise for the diet. I most sincerely regret the announcement of such a change. It is merely a concession to the supposed popular will.
    • Letter (4 February 1916), quoted in F. L. Carsten, The Reichswehr and Politics 1918 to 1933 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1966), p. 105.
  • You recently mentioned a speech of [Chancellor] Hertling to the students. Quite nice, but the one in the Herrenhaus [House of Lords] is very, very bad. This is the worst we have ever heard. So the dynasty is in danger if we do not introduce the idiotic equal franchise, against better conviction? And no Prussian gives him a reply? That is worse than the whole Bethmann and much worse than anything that happens or can happen at the front.
    • Letter to Mrs Seeckt (9 September 1918), quoted in F. L. Carsten, The Reichswehr and Politics 1918 to 1933 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1966), pp. 105-106.
  • Everything depends on our succeeding in making the government firm and keeping it firm; whether it pleases us or not, there is nothing else and whoever can, should help. Who is unable to do so, or cannot bring himself to do it, should at least not disturb. But that is done by stupid newspaper articles which publicize the many weaknesses and ridiculous traits of the republic. That is also done by resolutions and speeches against the military decrees which emanate from the officers' side. It is very easy to say 'This is unheard of', and then to do nothing; it is very difficult to try to find usable timber among the ruins. Politics is the art of the possible, not what is desirable. My world looks different from that of to-day; but I will try and help that the two of us and another few Germans can live in the world of the future. To achieve this will be difficult enough, if it can be achieved.
    • Letter to Mrs Seeckt (12 February 1919), quoted in F. L. Carsten, The Reichswehr and Politics 1918 to 1933 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1966), pp. 31-32.


  • As I consider a future political and economic agreement with Great Russia to be the immutable aim of our foreign policy, we must attempt at least not to make an enemy of Russia...I refuse to support Poland, even if that means that Poland will be eaten up. On the contrary, I reckon with this, and if at the moment we cannot help Russia to regain her old Imperial frontiers, we should at least not hinder her from doing so...The same applies to Lithuania and Latvia.
    • Letter to General von Massow (31 January 1920), quoted in F. L. Carsten, The Reichswehr and Politics 1918 to 1933 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1966), pp. 67-68.
  • Only in firm co-operation with a Great Russia will Germany have the chance of regaining her position as a world power...Britain and France fear the combination of the two land powers and try to prevent it with all their means—hence we have to seek it with all our strength...Whether we like or dislike the new Russia and her internal structure is quite immaterial. Our policy would have had to be the same towards a Tsarist Russia or towards a state under Kolchak or Denikin. Now we have to come to terms with Soviet Russia—we have no alternative...In Poland France seeks to gain the eastern field of attack against Germany and, together with Britain, has driven the stake which we cannot endure into our flesh, quite close to the heart of our existent a a state. Now France trembles for her Poland which a strengthened Russia threatens with destruction, and now Germany is to save her mortal enemy! Her mortal enemy, for we have none worse at this moment. Never can Prussia-Germany concede that Bromberg, Graudenz, Thorn, (Marienburg), Posen should remain in Polish hands, and now there appears on the horizon, like a divine miracle, help for us in our deep distress. At this moment nobody should ask Germany to lift as much as a finger when disaster engulf Poland.
    • Memorandum (4 February 1920), quoted in F. L. Carsten, The Reichswehr and Politics 1918 to 1933 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1966), p. 68.
  • We were one in our aim; only our paths were different.
    • Seeckt upon meeting Adolf Hitler for the first time (11 March 1923), quoted in John W. Wheeler-Bennett, The Nemesis of Power: The German Army in Politics 1918-1945 (London: Macmillan, 1964), p. 118, n. 1.
  • The Weimar Constitution is for me not a noli me tangere; I did not participate in its creation, and it is in its basic principles contrary to my political thinking...I believed that a change of the constitution was approaching, and that I could help towards this by methods which were not unnecessarily to lead through civil war. So far as concerns my attitude towards the international Social Democracy, I have to confess that at the outset I believed in the possibility to winning over part of it to national co-operation; but I have revised this opinion long ago, a long time before our conversation, in so far as the Social Democratic Party is concerned, not the German working class as such...I see clearly that a collaboration with the Social Democratic Party is impossible because it repudiates the idea of military preparedness...I do not consider a Stresemann cabinet viable, not even after its transformation. This lack of confidence I have expressed to the chancellor himself as well as to the president, and I have told them that in the long run I could not guarantee the attitude of the Reichswehr to a government in which it had no confidence...A Stresemann government cannot last without the support of the Reichswehr and of the forces standing behind it.
    • Letter to von Kahr (2 November 1923), quoted in F. L. Carsten, The Reichswehr and Politics 1918 to 1933 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1966), p. 117.
  • The situation has deteriorated considerably since last year. In foreign affairs I consider the Locarno-Geneva policy wrong because it ties us and brings no advantage. We are still too weak to give any direction, and are thus always led by others, never leading, at most a compliant ally whom one can drop when one gets reconciled or can find a better one. We could have waited and become internally stronger first, above all we could have kept an entirely free hand towards the east. This we no longer have. We have succumbed to British influence and are serving British interests. Our representatives are, after all, little men who are no match for British diplomacy and its kind condescension, like the chancellor, and ambitious busy-bodies who must have their fingers in every pie, like Stresemann, the man of general distrust; but it seems impossible to get rid of him...My opposition to our foreign policy is generally known.
    • Letter to his sister (4 April 1926), quoted in F. L. Carsten, The Reichswehr and Politics 1918 to 1933 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1966), pp. 207-208.


  • War is the highest summit of human achievement; it is the natural, the final stage in the historical development of humanity.
    • Militärwissenschaftliche Rundschau, vol. i (1936), p. 2, quoted in J. H. Morgan, Assize of Arms: Being the Story of the Disarmament of Germany and Her Rearmament (1919–1939) (1945), p. 247
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