Groener, Wilhelm

(1867-1939)
   general; best known for his pact at the end of World War I with Friedrich Ebert* whereby the army agreed to support the new socialist regime so long as it did not radically reform the army. Born in Ludwigsburg, he joined the army in 1884 and was assigned to the General Staff in 1899. For most of the next seventeen years he worked with the Railroad Section. It was his expertise that enabled the army to quickly and effortlessly deploy at the outbreak of World War I. By perfecting Germany s military supply operations, he earned promotion to major-general in June 1915.
   By the winter of 1916 the Allied blockade* had generated a nutritional emer-gency. Appointed head of the War Food Office in May 1916, Groener assumed responsibility for food reserves and establishment of a ration system. Over time he became a virtual economic dictator, energetically reshaping all labor and raw materials as well as the production of food and munitions. Significantly, his efforts earned him the respect of the SPD. When Erich Ludendorff* was dis-missed as quartermaster general on 29 October 1918, Groener succeeded him.
   Groener's importance lies chiefly in the secret agreement he reached with Ebert on 10 November 1918. Having told the Kaiser on the ninth that the army no longer supported him, he independently contacted Ebert to help solidify the Republic and ensure continuation of the officer corps. Thereafter he supervised the return and demobilization of Germany s armies, assisted with formation of Freikorps* units, and opposed an officers' revolt against the National Assem-bly.* He advised acceptance of the Versailles Treaty* in June 1919 and then retired from military service on 30 September. The right-wing parties and nu-merous officers never forgave him either his role in the Kaiser's abdication or his pact with the Republic.
   Claiming no party affiliation, Groener served in 1920-1923 as Transportation Minister. When Wilhelm Cuno s* government collapsed, he returned to private life and wrote about the 1914 Marne campaign. When scandal forced Otto Ges-sler s* resignation in January 1928, President Hindenburg* asked Groener to become Defense Minister. Insisting that a soldier assume the portfolio, Hinden-burg also recognized the value of someone acceptable to the SPD. At Hinden-burg s request, and notwithstanding disarmament* talks, Groener secretly worked to rearm the Reichswehr.* In 1931 he was also entrusted with the In-terior Ministry. But his 14 April 1932 attempt to protect the Republic from the NSDAP by banning the SA* was abortive and politically suicidal. Exposed to attack from the Right, which accused him of capitulating to the SPD, and from the officer corps, which had seized upon Hitler's* promise to increase military strength, Groener was unable to bridge his loyalty to the Republic with his bond to the army; he resigned as Defense Minister on 13 May. The 30 May collapse of Brüning's* cabinet brought his removal as Interior Minister.
   REFERENCES:Benz and Graml, Biographisches Lexikon; Craig, Politics ofthe Prussian Army; Dorpalen, Hindenburg; NDB, vol. 7.

A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. .

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