Seeckt, Hans von

   general; Chief of the Heeresleitung during 1920-1926. He was born in Schleswig; his family was not part of the old Prussian nobility but had migrated in the seventeenth century to Pomerania from Poland* or Hungary (his father was a general). Upon graduating from Gymnasium in Strassburg, he began a military career in 1885 by joining his father's regiment in Berlin.* In 1893 he married Dorothea Fabian, adopted daughter of a Jewish merchant and great-granddaughter of Ernst Moritz Arndt. A lieutenant-colonel when World War I began, he was promoted to colonel in January 1915 and major-general four months later. After showing exemplary talent during the invasion of Serbia, he became chief-of-staff in 1916 to the Austro-Hungarian Twelfth Army under Archduke Karl. By war's end he was chief-of-staff of the Turkish army. As commander of East Prussia* during January-April 1919, Seeckt was indirectly involved in Freikorps* actions in the Baltic provinces.* But deeming Russo-German friendship the keystone to German security, he came to view the Baltic adventure as a mistake, despite his aversion to Bolshevism. His opinion was grounded on a wish to eliminate the Eastern European states and restore the 1914 Russo-German border. He always considered France an enemy and England a threat. While he was serving in 1919 as a delegate to France, his censure of Foreign Minister Ulrich von Brockdorff-Ranztau* for using the army as an object of barter sparked lifelong enmity. Convinced that "plowshares are of no avail without swords," he condemned Rantzau for not demanding an army of 300,000. Although they pursued parallel policies, Seeckt expressed contempt for Rantzau when the latter became Ambassador to Moscow in 1922.
   Seeckt was promoted to lieutenant-general and placed in command of the Truppenamt in October 1919; his promotion paralleled the hatching of Wolfgang Kapp's* plot to overthrow the Republic. Although Seeckt was a monarchist, he rebuffed right-wing chauvinism; moreover, his marriage to a Jew* made him contemptuous of anti-Semitism.* His refusal to provide army support for the Kapp Putsch secured his appointment in March 1920 as Chief of the Heeres-leitung (refusing also to act against the putschists, he argued that "troops do not fire upon troops"). Thereafter he was determined to build a Reichswehr* that was efficient and obedient. Because of his distrust of Freikorps troops, he allowed only a limited number of freebooters into the army. When efforts to revise the Versailles Treaty* failed at the July 1920 Spa Conference,* he per-suaded Finance Minister Joseph Wirth* to approach the Soviets with a proposal for constructing armaments facilities in Russia. Designed by the Foreign Office's Ago von Maltzan,* the trade treaty signed with the Soviets in May 1921 laid a basis for extensive military intercourse.
   Called "the Sphinx with a monocle," Seeckt envisioned a nonpolitical army and proceeded to create an army that was "a state within a state." Although he was opposed to confronting the French during the Ruhr occupation,* he advised creation of a Black Reichswehr* in the event that France or Poland were tempted to a broader violation of Germany. But his loyalty to the Republic was suspect during the crisis year of 1923. Questions endure regarding his attitude toward events in Bavaria*: did he hope to profit from Bavaria's insurrection by estab-lishing a "legal" dictatorship? He certainly violated his nonpolitical code when on 3 November he called for Gustav Stresemann's* dismissal as Chancellor because "you do not possess the confidence of the troops." Yet, having been granted dictatorial powers after the Beerhall Putsch,* he asked Friedrich Ebert* to terminate those powers in February 1924.
   The general's enemies were not confined to the Left. In 1923 Heinrich Class* uncovered a rightist plot to assassinate Seeckt. Efforts to sponsor him as a presidential candidate in 1925 were foiled by the parties; indeed, he was not widely popular outside the army. He appeared indispensable in 1923, but was dismissed in October 1926 after naively allowing the son of the former Crown Prince to attend military maneuvers. By opposing the Locarno Treaties,* by treating politicians with disdain, and by alienating Kurt von Schleicher* he un-dermined his position. Even Defense Minister Otto Gessler,* once his unwav-ering champion, demanded his resignation.
   Seeckt represented the DVP in the Reichstag* during 1930-1932. In October 1931 he attended the Harzburg Front* meeting. Never an ardent Nazi, he none-theless supported Hitler* after 1933. During 1934-1935 he served in China as a military advisor to Chiang Kai-Shek.
   REFERENCES:Corum, Roots of Blitzkrieg; Diehl, Paramilitary Politics; Harold Gordon, Reichswehr; Holborn, "Diplomats and Diplomacy."

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

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