Max Hoffmann was a German
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...
officer and military strategist during World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...
. He is widely regarded as one of the finest staff officers of the imperial period.
Hoffmann was born in Homberg (Efze)
Homberg is a small town in northern state of Hesse in central Germany with about 15,000 inhabitants. It is the seat of the Schwalm-Eder district.-Geography:...
. He studied at the Prussian Military Academy and joined the Prussian Army
The Royal Prussian Army was the army of the Kingdom of Prussia. It was vital to the development of Brandenburg-Prussia as a European power.The Prussian Army had its roots in the meager mercenary forces of Brandenburg during the Thirty Years' War...
in 1887. Hoffmann also attended the Staff College and graduated in 1889. He spent six months in Russia as an interpreter and five years in the Russian section of the General Staff where he became a specialist in Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...
n affairs and was tasked with trying to determine Russia's plan of attack in the eventuality of war between Germany and Russia. During the Russo-Japanese War
The Russo-Japanese War was "the first great war of the 20th century." It grew out of rival imperial ambitions of the Russian Empire and Japanese Empire over Manchuria and Korea...
, Hoffmann served as Germany's military observer
Military attachés and observers in the Russo-Japanese War
Military attachés and observers in the Russo-Japanese War were historians creating first-hand accounts of what was arguably the world's first modern war...
At the outbreak of World War I he was the deputy chief of staff of the German Eighth Army stationed in East Prussia
East Prussia is the main part of the region of Prussia along the southeastern Baltic Coast from the 13th century to the end of World War II in May 1945. From 1772–1829 and 1878–1945, the Province of East Prussia was part of the German state of Prussia. The capital city was Königsberg.East Prussia...
. During the opening months of the war the Eighth Army was the only German military unit defending East Prussia from a Russian attack. The remainder of the German Army, as prescribed by the Schlieffen Plan
The Schlieffen Plan was the German General Staff's early 20th century overall strategic plan for victory in a possible future war in which the German Empire might find itself fighting on two fronts: France to the west and Russia to the east...
, was massed in the west attempting to gain the decisive victory that would knock France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...
out of the war. The Russian First and Second Armies scored an early victory against the Germans at the Battle of Gumbinnen
Battle of Gumbinnen
The Battle of Gumbinnen, initiated by forces of the German Empire on August 20, 1914, was the first major German offensive on the Eastern Front during the First World War...
. The alarmed Eighth Army commander, Maximilian von Prittwitz
Maximilian von Prittwitz
Maximillion Von Prittwitz was a German General.-Family:Prittwitz came from an extremely old aristocratic Silesian family in Bernstadt...
, ordered the army to retreat to the River Vistula
The Vistula is the longest and the most important river in Poland, at 1,047 km in length. The watershed area of the Vistula is , of which lies within Poland ....
. This would effectively abandon East Prussia to the Russians. Prittwitz was immediately relieved of his command in favour of Paul von Hindenburg
Paul von Hindenburg
Paul Ludwig Hans Anton von Beneckendorff und von Hindenburg , known universally as Paul von Hindenburg was a Prussian-German field marshal, statesman, and politician, and served as the second President of Germany from 1925 to 1934....
and Erich Ludendorff
Erich Friedrich Wilhelm Ludendorff was a German general, victor of Liège and of the Battle of Tannenberg...
In the interim, the two Russian armies had drifted so far apart that neither could come to the aid of the other if it were attacked. Hoffman knew this from intercepted radio messages. He also knew of the deep mutual dislike the two Russian commanders had for each other which would further disincline them to support one another. Hoffmann was then able to devise a plan for an encirclement victory over Alexander Samsonov
Aleksandr Vassilievich Samsonov was a career officer in the cavalry of the Imperial Russian Army and a general served during the Russo-Japanese War and World War I.-Biography:...
's Second Army in the south; which Hindenburg quickly put into action upon his arrival, leading to the Battle of Tannenberg
Battle of Tannenberg (1914)
The Battle of Tannenberg was an engagement between the Russian Empire and the German Empire in the first days of World War I. It was fought by the Russian First and Second Armies against the German Eighth Army between 23 August and 30 August 1914. The battle resulted in the almost complete...
. After destroying the Russian Second Army, the Eighth Army turned north and mauled Paul von Rennenkampf
Paul von Rennenkampf
Paul von Rennenkampf was a Russian general who served in the Imperial Russian Army for over 40 years, including during World War I.-Early career:...
's First Army at the First Battle of the Masurian Lakes driving the Russians out of East Prussia for the remainder of the war.
After Hindenburg and Ludendorff returned to Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...
in 1916, Prince Leopold of Bavaria
Prince Leopold of Bavaria
Leopold Maximilian Joseph Maria Arnulf, Prinz von Bayern was born in Munich, the son of Prince Regent Luitpold of Bavaria and his wife Archduchess Augusta of Austria...
assumed command of all German armies on the Eastern front with Hoffmann (now a General
A general officer is an officer of high military rank, usually in the army, and in some nations, the air force. The term is widely used by many nations of the world, and when a country uses a different term, there is an equivalent title given....
) as his chief of staff. Hoffmann was able to bring all of the forces on the Eastern front (including Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...
n units) under his command.
Following the February Revolution
The February Revolution of 1917 was the first of two revolutions in Russia in 1917. Centered around the then capital Petrograd in March . Its immediate result was the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II, the end of the Romanov dynasty, and the end of the Russian Empire...
the new Russian government under Alexander Kerensky
Alexander Fyodorovich Kerensky was a major political leader before and during the Russian Revolutions of 1917.Kerensky served as the second Prime Minister of the Russian Provisional Government until Vladimir Lenin was elected by the All-Russian Congress of Soviets following the October Revolution...
attempted to reinvigorate Russian support for the war by attacking along a broad front. Hoffman withdrew for sixty miles, all the while urging Ludendorff, his former superior during the Tannenberg campaign and now Quartermaster-General, to shift men from the Western Front, claiming he could knock Russia out of the war. In mid-July 1917 six divisions were sent by train from Flanders; using these reinforcements, Hoffmann counter-attacked along the entire front and within a fortnight was entering Riga
Riga is the capital and largest city of Latvia. With 702,891 inhabitants Riga is the largest city of the Baltic states, one of the largest cities in Northern Europe and home to more than one third of Latvia's population. The city is an important seaport and a major industrial, commercial,...
. This rout fatally weakened Kerensky, led to the Bolshevik
The Bolsheviks, originally also Bolshevists , derived from bol'shinstvo, "majority") were a faction of the Marxist Russian Social Democratic Labour Party which split apart from the Menshevik faction at the Second Party Congress in 1903....
seizure of power in Russia, and thus to the collapse of Russian resistance and the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk
Treaty of Brest-Litovsk
The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was a peace treaty signed on March 3, 1918, mediated by South African Andrik Fuller, at Brest-Litovsk between Russia and the Central Powers, headed by Germany, marking Russia's exit from World War I.While the treaty was practically obsolete before the end of the year,...
. In December 1918 he withdrew his forces from the Ober-Ost former frontline to Germany, thus involuntarily preparing the stage for the Polish-Soviet War
The Polish–Soviet War was an armed conflict between Soviet Russia and Soviet Ukraine and the Second Polish Republic and the Ukrainian People's Republic—four states in post–World War I Europe...
In his post-war memoirs, Hoffmann was critical of the German High Command including Hindenburg and Ludendorff. Hoffmann was resentful that his two superiors had received the credit for the victories of Tannenberg and the Masurian Lakes when it was really his strategy that allowed the victories to occur. A few years after the war, when touring the field at Tannenberg, Hoffmann told a group of army cadets "See - this is where Hindenburg slept before the battle, this is where Hindenburg slept after the battle, and this is where Hindenburg slept during the battle."
Hoffmann died at Bad Reichenhall
Bad Reichenhall is a spa town, and administrative center of the Berchtesgadener Land district in Upper Bavaria, Germany. It is located near Salzburg in a basin encircled by the Chiemgauer Alps ....
on July 8, 1927.