Who's Who - Hans von Beseler

Hans von Beseler Hans Hartwig von Beseler (1850-1921) served as the German Governor of Poland following its capture by the Central Powers in 1915 until the end of the war.

Within two years of entering the Prussian army in 1868 Beseler saw active service during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71.  Later serving in the War Ministry Beseler was Deputy Chief of the General Staff from 1899 and was considered the most probable successor to Alfred von Schlieffen upon the latter's eventual retirement.

In the event the post went not to Beseler but to Helmuth von Moltke (whose wartime command was short-lived).  Promoted over time to the rank of Lieutenant-General (1907) Beseler chose retirement in 1910 while Inspector-General of Infantry.

With the advent of the First World War however Beseler was brought out of retirement and handed command of III Reserve Corps attached to the German First Army under Alexander von Kluck.  Beseler was tasked with the speedy invasion of Belgium.

During the course of his appointment Beseler was required to secure control of the fortress at Antwerp, in which he succeeded in October 1914.  This was followed by sharp fighting along the River Yser a month later.

Having successfully tackled Belgium Beseler was despatched to the war's other key area, the Eastern Front, in time for the Gorlice-Tarnow offensive of Spring 1915 with Gallwitz's Ninth Army.  With the German capture of all of Russian Poland Beseler became its German-appointed military Governor in August 1915.

As Governor Beseler developed a pro-Polish policy, an approach regarded with deep suspicion back in Berlin.  Consequently Beseler's recommendation that the Polish state be refashioned along lines agreed during the 1815 Congress of Vienna, the whole to be ruled by an aristocratic assembly, was dismissed.

However the Third Supreme Command - the effective German military dictatorship led by Hindenburg and Ludendorff - nevertheless seized upon Beseler's proposal as an excuse for declaring Poland a Congress state in November 1916 for the sole purpose of military and economic exploitation.

Beseler's continuing attempts to build a delicate alliance with nationalists in Poland - a difficult task given the prevailing attitude in Berlin - was ultimately destroyed by the arrest in July 1917 of Polish Commander-in-Chief Pilsudski for failing to co-operate with German authorities.

Beseler was promoted to full General in January 1918.  One day after the armistice had been signed he abruptly left his post in Poland and returned to retirement in Germany, the form of his departure attracting much criticism from right-wing nationalist groups in Germany.

He died in 1921.

A "dogfight" signified air combat at close quarters.

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