Falkenhayn Out; Hindenburg & Ludendorff In
Hindenburg, the Kaiser, and Ludendorff, pictured in January 1917.
August 29 1916, Pless–Falkenhayn’s position as Chief of the General Staff had been insecure for some time. Hindenburg & Ludendorff had been intriguing to have him removed for more than a year, and Germany’s struggles at Verdun and on the Somme had not improved his position. Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg had turned against him as well, and on August 21 had tried to convince “the Kaiser that Falkenhayn no longer enjoyed the confidence of the Army.” Falkenhayn rejected this notion, and defended his Verdun offensive, claiming it had successfully ‘bled France white’ and diverted France from the Somme.
Romania’s declaration of war would prove to be the final blow. Neither Falkenhayn nor the Kaiser had expected it to come before the September harvest, if at all. Romania had been warned that they would face the might of all of the Central Powers should they attack Austria-Hungary, and the Central Powers had more troops in the area now in response to Lechitsky’s advances near the Romanian border. The Kaiser, hearing the news on the evening of the 27th, quickly turned from “calm and cheerful” to despair, telling a friend that “the war is lost.” Falkenhayn’s enemies seized the opportunity, arranging a conference between the Kaiser and Hindenburg & Ludendorff to discuss the Romanian situation. This was out of their remit; OberOst’s command only went as far south as Lemberg [Lviv]. Falkenhayn, realizing he had lost the confidence of the Kaiser, submitted his resignation on the 28th.
The Kaiser was reluctant to lose Falkenhayn, and was understandably fearful that the popular Hindenburg would soon outshine him. However, convinced that this was the only way to save his empire, the Kaiser accepted the resignation and called on Hindenburg to replace him. Ludendorff was given the new title of “First Quartermaster General” and would share with Hindenburg “in all decisions and measures that might be taken.” Hindenburg was given the authority to issue orders in the Kaiser’s name. Falkenhayn was sent off to command the newly-reformed Ninth Army, to assist Austria against the Romanians. The Kaiser would largely be sidelined by Hindenburg & Ludendorff, who would increasingly effectively turn Germany into a military dicatorship.
Sources include: Robert B. Asprey, The German High Command At War.