World War I, Diary Notes of Oberst von Thaer, 1 October 1918

Diary Notes of Oberst von Thaer,
1 October 1918

These diary notes are also available in the German original.

Colonel von Thaer

Excerpts of Diary Notes from October 1, 1918

Terrible and appalling! It is so! Indeed! As we were gathered together, Ludendorff stood up in our presence, his face was pale and filled with deep worry, but his head was still held high. A truly handsome Germanic hero figure. I had to think of Siegfried with the mortal wound in his back from Hagen's spear.
He said roughly the following: It was his duty to tell us that our military condition was terribly serious. Any day now, our Western Front could be breached. He had had to report this to His Majesty the Kaiser recently. For the first time the question had been posed to the Supreme Army Command--by His Majesty the Kaiser and the Reichs Chancellor--what the officers and troops were still capable of accomplishing. Together with the General Field Marshal, he [Ludendorff] had answered that the Supreme Army Command and the German Army were at an end; the war could no longer be won, but rather an unavoidable and conclusive defeat awaited. Bulgaria had already been lost. Austria and Turkey, both at the end of their powers, would also soon fall. Our own Army had unfortunately also been heavily contaminated with the poison of Spartacus-socialist ideas, and the troops were, he said, no longer reliable. Since the 8th of August the situation had rapidly gotten worse. As a result, some troops had proven themselves so unreliable that they had had to be quickly pulled from the front. If they were replaced with other troops willing to fight, they would be received with the label "Strike breakers" and challenged not to fight anymore. He said he could not operate with divisions that were no longer reliable.
It was thus foreseeable, he went on to say, that the enemy in the near future, with the help of American troops anxious to fight, would succeed in a great victory, a breakthrough in grand fashion. As a result, the West Army would lose its last hold and retreat in full disbandment across the Rhein and carry the revolution back to Germany.
This catastrophe, he said, must be avoided by all means. For the cited reasons we could no longer allow ourselves to be beaten. Therefore, the Supreme Army Command demanded of His Majesty the Kaiser and of the Chancellor that a proposal for the bringing about of peace be made to President Wilson of America without delay, for bringing about an armistice on the basis of his 14 Points. He said he had never shied away from demanding the utmost from his troops. However, after clearly realizing that the continuation of the war was useless, he was of the opinion that an end needed to be found as quickly as possible in order not to unnecessarily sacrifice the most valiant people who were still loyal and able to fight.
It had been a terrible moment for him and for the Field Marshall to have to report this to the His Majesty the Kaiser and the Chancellor. The latter, Count Hertling, then informed His Majesty the Kaiser in a noble manner that he would then have to resign his office. After so many honorable years, as an old man, he could not and would not close out his life by tendering a petition for ceasefire. The Kaiser had accepted his petition for resignation.
Excellency Ludendorff added: "At present, then, we have no Chancellor. Who will fill this position is yet to be determined. I have, however, asked His Majesty the Kaiser to bring those circles into the government whom we can mainly thank that we have come to this. We will now see these gentlemen brought into the Ministries. They should make the peace that must now be made. They made their bed, now they must lie in it!"
The effect of these words on the listeners was undescribable! As L. spoke, quiet sobbing and moaning was audible. Many, probably most all, had involuntary tears run down their cheeks. I stood to the left of General Director Gen. von Eisenhart. We instinctively grasped one another by the hand. I almost pressed his flat.
After his last words, L. lowered his head slowly, turned and went to his adjoining room.
Since I had an appointment to report to him afterwards, I followed him and -- since I'd known him so long -- grabbed his right arm with both hands, something I never would have done under other circumstances, and said: "Your Excellency, is that the truth? Is that the last word? Am I awake or dreaming? That really is too terrible! What will happen now?"
I was completely beside myself. He remained calm and gentle and said to me with a deeply sorrowful smile: "Unfortunately, that is how it is, and I see no other way out."

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