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Wilhelm Groener

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Title: Wilhelm Groener  
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Wilhelm Groener

Wilhelm Groener
As Defence Minister in 1928
Chief of the German General Staff
In office
3 July 1919 – 7 July 1919
Preceded by Paul von Hindenburg
Succeeded by Hans von Seeckt
Reich Minister of Transport
 Weimar Republic
In office
25 June 1920 – 12 August 1923
Chancellor Konstantin Fehrenbach
Joseph Wirth
Wilhelm Cuno
Preceded by Gustav Bauer
Succeeded by Rudolf Oeser
Reich Minister of Defence
 Weimar Republic
In office
20 January 1928 – 13 May 1932
Chancellor Wilhelm Marx
Hermann Müller
Heinrich Brüning
Preceded by Otto Gessler
Succeeded by Kurt von Schleicher
Reich Minister of the Interior
 Weimar Republic
In office
9 October 1931 – 30 May 1932
Chancellor Heinrich Brüning
Preceded by Joseph Wirth
Succeeded by Wilhelm von Gayl
Personal details
Born Karl Eduard Wilhelm Groener
(1867-11-22)22 November 1867
Ludwigsburg, Neckar District, Württemberg
Died 3 May 1939(1939-05-03) (aged 71)
Potsdam-Bornstedt, Brandenburg, Nazi Germany
Nationality German
Political party Independent
Military service
Allegiance  German Empire
Service/branch German Army
Years of service 1884-1919
Rank Generalleutnant

Karl Eduard Wilhelm Groener (22 November 1867 – 3 May 1939) was a World War I. After a confrontation with the Quartermaster general of the German army and de facto dictator of Germany, Erich Ludendorff, Groener was reassigned to a field command. However, on Ludendorff's dismissal in October 1918, Groener succeeded him as Erster Generalquartiermeister. Groener then worked with the new Social Democratic president Friedrich Ebert to prevent chaos and a left-wing take-over during the German Revolution of 1918–19. Under his command the military bloodily suppressed leftist uprisings throughout Germany. Yet he also tried to integrate the military, which was dominated by an aristocratic and monarchistic officer corps, into the new republic. After resigning from the army in the summer of 1919, Groener served in several governments of the Weimar Republic as minister of transportation, interior and defence. He was pushed out of the government in 1932 by Kurt von Schleicher, who was working on a pact with the Nazis. Groener was an obstacle to the pact.


  • Early life 1
  • Military career 2
    • Pre-war 2.1
    • World War I 2.2
    • End of the war and German revolution 2.3
  • Political career 3
  • Decorations and awards 4
  • Notes 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Early life

Wilhelm Groener was born in Ludwigsburg in the Kingdom of Württemberg as the son of Karl Eduard Groener (1837-1893), regimental paymaster, and his wife Auguste (née Boleg, 1825-1907) on 22 November 1867.[1] After attending gymnasium at Ulm and Ludwigsburg, where his father had been stationed, Groener entered the 3. Württembergische Infanterie Regiment Nummer 121 of the Württemberg Army in 1884.[1] In 1890, he was promoted to Bataillonsadjutant and from 1893 to 1896 attended the War Academy at Berlin, where he finished top of his class.[1] In 1899, Groener married Helene Geyer (1864–1926) in Schwäbisch Gmünd.[1][2] They had a daughter, Dorothea Groener-Geyer (b.1900).[2]

Military career


As a captain, he won appointment to the General Staff in 1899 and was attached to the railway section, where he worked for the next 17 years.[1] This was only interrupted for the usual assignments to other locations: In 1902 to 1904 he was Kompaniechef of the 98t Infantry Regiment at Metz, in 1908 to 1910 he was with XIII Army Corps, and in 1910 he became a commander of a battalion in the 125th Infantry Regiment at Stuttgart. In 1912, as a lieutenant-colonel, Groener became head of the railway section at the General Staff. His plans for the extension of the railway network and for deployment routes were heavily influenced by the Schlieffen Plan.[2]

World War I

The successful deployment of millions of troops and the key role of the railway as a military tool boosted Groener's reputation and he received numerous decorations in 1914. In June 1915, he was promoted to Generalmajor. Due to his organisational skills, in December 1915 Groener was put in charge of food deliveries from Romania. In May 1916, he joined the leadership of the newly created Kriegsernährungsministerium ("War Food Ministry"). In November 1916, as a Generalleutnant he became head of the Kriegsamt and deputy of the Prussian Minister of War.[1][2]

Together with Austria-Hungary and supervising, then reshuffling, the Ukrainian government which needed help against bolshevik revolutionaries.[1]

Groener as deputy war minister of Prussia in 1917 (with his first wife on the left)

End of the war and German revolution

After the dismissal of Erich Ludendorff on 26 October 1918, Groener was recalled and on 29 October appointed as Ludendorff's successor as First Quartermaster General (Deputy Chief of the General Staff) under Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg. Germany′s military situation was becoming untenable under the onslaught of the enemy, and social unrest and rebellion among both the German armed forces and the civilian population threatened to break out into revolution. Groener started to prepare the withdrawal and demobilisation of the army.[2][3]:51 As the revolution spread through Germany in early November, Groener began to see the Emperor, Wilhelm II, as an impediment to saving the monarchy and the integrity of the army. Privately, he felt the Kaiser should sacrifice himself in a hero's death at the front.[3]:75

On 6 November, Groener had reacted indignantly to the Social Democrat Friedrich Ebert's suggestion that the Emperor should abdicate. Yet Groener himself advised Wilhelm II on 9 November that he had lost the confidence of the armed forces and recommended abdication to the monarch, when Emperor Wilhelm suggested to use frontline troops to crush the revolution at home.[3]:76,82 Groener's goal was to preserve the monarchy, but under a different ruler.[2] He was also in favour of accepting the Allies' armistice conditions, despite their severe nature.[2]

On the evening of 10 November, Groener contacted the new chancellor Friedrich Ebert. The two men concluded the so-called Ebert-Groener pact, which was to remain secret for a number of years. For his part of the pact, Ebert agreed to suppress the Bolshevik-led revolution and to maintain the military′s traditional role as one of the pillars of the German state; Groener in turn promised that the still-considerable army would support the new government. For this act, Groener earned the enmity of many other military leaders, many of whom sought the retention of the monarchy.

Over the next weeks, Groener oversaw the retreat and demobilisation of the defeated German army after the signing of the Schloss Wilhelmshöhe from 14 November 1918 to 13 February 1919, were thus moved to Kolberg.[1]

On 23 June 1919, Ebert asked for the OHL's opinion on whether the Reich should sign the Reichswehr), arguing in favour of a high share of former general staff officers among the new leadership including in the Reichswehrministerium. He also supported a senior position for Hans von Seeckt.[1] However, just weeks later, on 30 September, Groener himself resigned from the military. This was against the wishes of Friedrich Ebert, but Groener felt that his pact with the Social Democrat had cost him the trust of many of his fellow officers.[2]

Political career

After his resignation from the army, Groener moved in and out of retirement during the 1920s. Not a member of any party, at Ebert's request he served as Transportation Minister between 1920 and 1923. His main achievement was the rebuilding of the Reichsbahn. In 1923, when the Cuno government resigned, Groener left politics and wrote military and political treatises, such as Das Testament des Grafen Schlieffen (1927).[1][2]

Hindenburg, now Ebert's successor as Reichspräsident, appointed Groener as the successor of Otto Geßler as Defence Minister on 20 January 1928, a post he held until 1932.[1] Besides expanding the Reichswehr, Groener made an effort to integrate it into the society of the Weimar Republic.[2]

In 1930, Groener married Ruth Naeher-Glück (born 1894) in Berlin. They had a son. This second marriage and the early birth date of his son undermined Groener's relationship with the conservative Hindenburg.[2]

On 8 October 1931 he also became acting Interior Minister in the government of Heinrich Brüning,[1] and favoured the banning of the Nazi storm troopers (SA). However, as Interior Minister he was asked to outlaw the SA, whilst his goal as Defence Minister was to integrate it into a national, non-partisan paramilitary force.[1] In April 1932, under pressure from several German states, Groener outlawed the SA and SS. Kurt von Schleicher, his subordinate at the Reichswehrministerium, however wanted to set up a cooperation with these two groups. To that end von Schleicher worked on Hindenburg, trying to have Groener dismissed. He also allied himself with the NSDAP. After a rhetorical defeat in the Reichstag, Groener resigned on 13 May as Defence Minister, urged by von Schleicher who told Groener that he had lost the trust of the Reichswehr.[1] When the government of Brüning fell on 30 May, Groener also lost his position as Innenminister and left politics for good.[1][2]

He moved to Potsdam-Bornstedt in 1934, where he wrote his memoirs Lebenserinnerungen.[2] Groener died in Bornstedt on 3 May 1939. He is buried in the Südwestkirchhof Stahnsdorf, located between Potsdam and Berlin.[4]

Decorations and awards


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t "Biografie Wilhelm Groener (German)". Bayerische Staatsbibliothek. Retrieved 26 June 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "Biografie Wilhelm Groener (German)". Deutsches Historisches Museum. Retrieved 22 May 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c Haffner, Sebastian (2002). Die deutsche Revolution 1918/19 (German). Kindler.  
  4. ^ "Südwestkirchhof Stahnsdorf (German)". Märkische Allgemeine. Retrieved 29 May 2013. 


  • Eschenburg, Theodor "The Role of the Personality in the Crisis of the Weimar Republic: Hindenburg, Brüning, Groener, Schleicher" pages 3–50 from Republic to Reich The Making Of The Nazi Revolution edited by Hajo Holborn, New York: Pantheon Books, 1972.
  • Groener, Wilhelm. Lebenserinnerungen: Jugend-Generalstab-Weltkrieg. Edited by Friedrich Frhr. Hiller von Gaertringen. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, 1957.
  • Groener-Geyer, Dorothea. General Groener: Soldat und Staatsmann. Frankfurt a. M.: Societäts-Verlag, 1955.
  • Haeussler, Helmut H. General William Groener and the Imperial German Arm. Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin for Dept. of History, University of Wisconsin, 1962. Available online:
  • Hürter, Johannes. Wilhelm Groener: Reichswehrminister am Ende der Weimarer Republik (1928-1932). Munich: Oldenbourg, 1993.
  • Rakenius, Gerhard W. Wilhelm Groener als Erster Generalquartiermeister: Die Politik der Obersten Heeresleitung 1918/19. Boppard a.R.: Boldt, 1977.
  • Stoneman, Mark R. “Wilhelm Groener, Officering, and the Schlieffen Plan.” PhD diss., Georgetown University, 2006.
  • Wheeler-Bennett, Sir John. The Nemesis of Power: German Army in Politics, 1918-1945. New York: Palgrave Macmillan Publishing Company, 2005.
  •  Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1922). "Groener, Wilhelm".  

External links

  • Wilhelm Groener Papers at the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library, Princeton University
Military offices
Preceded by
Paul von Hindenburg
Chief of the General Staff
Succeeded by
Hans von Seeckt
Political offices
Preceded by
Gustav Bauer
Transportation Minister of Germany
Succeeded by
Rudolf Oeser
Preceded by
Otto Geßler
Defence Minister of Germany
Succeeded by
Kurt von Schleicher
Preceded by
Joseph Wirth
Interior Minister of Germany
Succeeded by
Wilhelm Freiherr von Gayl
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