GENERAL LUDENDORFF'S APOLOGIA.*
GENERAL LUDENDORFF, who was in fact the German " War Lord " from August, 1916, to the autumn of 1918, has written a very able and interesting book on the war. It is not a good military history, though the summary accounts of the earlier Russian campaigns are instructive ; he tells us, for instance, that Tannenberg was an impromptu victory won through the failure of General Rennenkampf to support the unlucky Samsonoff, and that the story of the Russians being drowned in the marshes is, like the similar Austerlitz story, a myth, as there were no marshes in the district. The numerous plans and diagrams by the author are valuable also in their way. But the book throws a flood of light on the hopes and fears of the Great General Staff, and on the relations between the German Army leaders and the politicians in Berlin. To an. English reader, of course, this typical Prussian author must be unsympathetic. He offends at the outset by representing the capture of Liege as an heroic feat of arms, and by candidly admitting that the highly trained German brigades, who overcame the trivial resistance of a few Belgian troops in a night attack, were almost panic-stricken with fear of the darkness and the unknown. It seems ludicrous that a General who has had to command millions of men should boast of his share in this trivial episode—apparently the only occasion on which he was ever under any considerable enemy fire. General Ludendorff evidently has no sense of humour. He glosses over the dreadful German atrocities in Belgium, he justifies the spiteful destruction of the villages and orchards in Picardy and the enslavement of Belgian labour on the ground of " military necessity," and he pretends that unselfish Germany was fighting for the ideal of " universal happiness." But these things are, as the lawyers say, " common form " in German war-books. The English reader can afford to disregard them. What General Ludendorff has to say about his fellow-Germans is much more important than what he says about the Allies. His real object is to defend himself against the charge that he brought Germany to her ruin by pursuing an unduly ambitious policy. Many Germans, in the bitterness of defeat, sought to make him the scapegoat. His book is designed to show that he was not in fault. The German Army did its part ; tire civilians, and more especially the Ministers in Berlin, did not do theirs. The Government did not know how to turn to political account the military successes which the Army gained for them. The Government talked too much about pe,aoe, and failed to concentrate their attention on the task of winning the war. They did not satisfy the demands of the Army for men, munitions, and food. Above all, they did not strive earnestly to maintain the patriotic fervour of the nation at a high pitch. General Ludendorff is never tired of praising Mr. Lloyd George and Clemenceau for their undaunted resolution, and for their incessant and successful efforts to inspire the British and French peoples with their own courage. He praises them in order to a MY war Memories, 1914-1918. By General Ludendorff. London sutde bison. 2 vols. [34e. neta condemn Dr. Bethmann Hollweg and his colleagues and successors. He insists on the importance of the moral side of war. Men and guns alone do.not suffice unless there is the " will to victory " in the nation behind them. We need hardly say that General Ludendorff fails to perceive the true reason why the British and French Premiers could do what the German Chancellor failed to do. Mr. Lloyd George and M. Clemenceau were the chosen leaders of democracies. They represented the peoples whom they led. Dr. Bethmann Hollweg was the mere nominee of a despot. He had no personal popularity and no hold over the masses of his countrymen. Parliamentarism, which General Ludendorff denounces, was indeed his worst enemy, because it is stronger by far than militarism.
General Ludendorff's survey of the war as a whole, stage by stage, is highly instructive. He was, of course, a " Westerner."
The decision could only come in the West, in France." The defeat of Russia was only a preliminary to that. But he understood the significance of the other fronts. The German Headquarters Staff was sensitive to every movement of the Allies on the long battle-line of the Central Powers. Germany's confederates, for whom General Ludendorff shows open contempt —he calls Austria " a corpse "—were always clamouring for German support, and could not be denied it even when things were going badly in France. German reserves had to be sent eastward to stiffen the Austrians, Bulgarians, and Turks lest they should collapse and bring down Germany with them in their fall. Germany feared invasion from the east or south far less than the interruption of the supplies of corn and oil which she drew from Eastern Europe. " In the year 1917 only Rumania enabled Germany, Austria Hungary, and Constantinople to keep their heads above water."
General Dunsterville's expedition to Baku interfered with Germany's oil supply, and also with her policy of supporting Georgia against the Turks, who had to be used to regain Baku. Turkey would have been forced to send men to France as well as to Galicia if we had not kept her armies busy in Palestine and on the Tigris. General Ludendorff declares that, if Russia had held firm in 1917, Germany probably, and Austria certainly, would have had to give in. The folly of the Russian revolutionaries, including M. Kerensky, prevented them from seeing that they could obtain peace most easily by remaining loyal to their Allies. The Italian reverse at Caporetto gave Austria fresh confidence for a few months, but sheer starvation soon compelled the Austrians to renew their demand for peace at almost any price. General Ludendorff says that he put an end to the diplomatic debates at Brest-Litovsk because it was necessary to make some sort of peace with Russia before the Western offensive of March, 1918, could begin. Yet his narrative, in which he repeatedly returns to the subject of the Baltic Provinces as German colonies, suggests that he really wanted an excuse for seizing Esthonia and Livonia before concluding peace. As a German native of Posen, he is bitterly anti-Polish, and he tells us that a few weeks before the Armistice the German Government were discussing means of annexing Lithuania in order to curb the Poles. Incidentally he says that Danzig is a Polish town—a statement which deserves the notice, of those who denounce the Peace Treaty for freeing Danzig from Prussia. General Ludendorff on this point is an unbiassed witness. In regard to the Bolsheviks, he says that " by sending Lenin to Russia our Government had assumed a grave responsibility," and that they underrated the risk of the plague spreading westward. He credits Joffe, the Bolshevik Ambassador in Berlin, with no small share in organizing the revolution of last November. Thus the engineer was hoist with his own petard. But the main instigators of disaffection in Germany were, he says, the Allies. General Ludendorff refers so often and at such length to the effects of Allied propaganda that we cannot help thinking that Ire means what he says. In accusing his own Government of a neglect of propaganda he is of course unjust. The German propaganda was ubiquitous and must have cost millions. Our own propaganda was comparatively a very modest affair. But then we had a good case, and Germany had not. Next to our blockade, to the efficiency of which General Ludendorff testifies in violent terms, our propaganda seems to have impressed him most. But he is of course desirous of suggesting that our armies were after all instruments of secondary importance—a suggestion which is profoundly misleading.
General Ludendorff's account of the final campaign is highly
dramatic, though very far from being complete. It shows that he overestimated the effect of the submarine campaign and underestimated the speed at which America could bring her divisions to France. He put almost his whole available striking force into the March offensive. He speaks of it as a victory, but he was bitterly disappointed with the result. He blames his own troops of the 17th Army for their failure opposite Arras, forgetting that our defences there were much stronger than the line further south. When the April offensive in Flanders proved equally indecisive, General Ludendorff was evidently at a loss to know what to do. He dared not revert to the defensive, but he began to see that tactical successes were of little avail since the Allies stood firm and the Americans were arriving —in numbers far greater than he supposed. His attack in May on the Chemin des Dames was evidently more fraitful than he had expected. It encouraged him to believe that he could do equally well on July 15th at Reims, after which he intended to resume the offensive in Flanders. His failure east of Reims could be represented to the German public as a partial victory, since the French gave up some ground. He had gone to the Bavarian Crown Prince's headquarters to discuss the next move on Poperinghe and Hazebrouck when he heard of Marshal Foch's attack south-west of Soissons on July 18th. " Naturally in a state of the greatest nervous tension," he returned to his own headquarters, knowing that the game was up, and that his last chance of winning the war was gone. There remained the possibility of a draw, if the Allies tired of fighting. But, "as in every other engagement, the losses we had suffered since July 15th had been very heavy." " Our general situation had thus become very serious." The Allies knew this as well as he did, and Marshal Foch was not the man to waste the opportunity. Of the British and French attack between the Somme and Montdidier, General Ludendorff says that " August 8th was the black day of the German Army in the history of this war." He had specially reinforced this part of his front, but the Allies burst through it as if it had been paper. His losses, he says, were very heavy, while ours were " extraordinarily small." He resigned himself to a defensive without hope, but when he found out that the Army was losing its moral he told the Emperor and the Government on August 13th and 14th that they must make peace, through the mediation of the Queen of Holland. The Government, he says, did nothing. Under the repeated blows of the Allies, General Ludendorff fell back, hastily preparing meanwhile new fortified lines from Antwerp to the Meuse Valley.
But the collapse of Bulgaria, which he attributes to treachery, convinced him that the war must be ended. He says that the Bulgarian commander advised his King to make an armistice as early as September 16th or 17th, while the Serbian attach only began on the 15th. General Ludendorff declares that he was not influenced by the breaking of the Hindenburg Line on September 29th. The day before, he had agreed with FieldMarshal von Hindenburg that Germany must offer peace and demand an armistice which " would have to permit a regular and orderly evacuation of the occupied territory and the resumption of hostilities on our own borders." He expected the Allies to regard such an armistice as " a tremendous concession," but he admits that it offered Germany the last chance of evading utter defeat. Fortunately the Allied armies acted more quickly than the diplomatists. As late as October 19th General Ludendorff counted on a revival of the war-spirit in Germany, occasioned by anger at the stern words of President Wilson's second Note. But Prince Max of Baden, the new Chancellor, did not agree with him. Seven days later General Ludendorff was relieved of his office, for his share in issuing a proclamation to the Army, in which the Field-Marshal protested against unconditional surrender to President Wilson. He says that he then told his Staff that in a fortnight there would no longer be an Emperor in Germany. General Ludendorff blames Prince Max and his Ministers for the collapse that followed, and declares that the Army " was withdrawn in good order to the AntwerpMeuse line." He does not admit defeat in the military sense. Nevertheless, if his armies had not been beaten again and again between mid-July and November, 1918, the German Government would not have lost control of the situation at home. General Ludendorff's closing pages depict in terse language the dissolution of the imposing fabric of autocracy which the Hohenzollerns had built up through three centuries. Its external efficiency and its internal bankruptcy are well illustrated in his remarkable book.