World War I and the Russian Revolution in the Memoirs of German Officer Wilhelm Wölfing

Nikolai Baranov

Abstract


This is the first publication of the memoirs of W. Wölfing, a German reserve officer and participant in World War I. This unique archival document contains information about his time in captivity in Siberia between 1915 and 1917 and his activity as an official representative of the German High Command in Moscow in 1918. The text of the memoirs is kept in the Federal Military Archive of Germany in Freiburg. It has never been published in Germany or translated into Russian previously. The text has a pronounced anti-Bolshevik tone: equally, its author presents the development of events between 1917 and 1918 as being unsupported by the German government, which makes it possible to consider the position of Wölfing as an alternative to the preservation of the German Empire and the destruction of the Bolshevik regime. The author’s biography combines typical and unique features: a certified lawyer; a reservist on the Eastern front during World War I; an uhlan sent on air reconnaissance; and a German officer who led a carefree life in Russian captivity and made an adventurous escape in 1918. After the signing of the Brest Peace Agreement between Germany and Soviet Russia, he headed the Moscow Office of the the German High Command’s Foreign Policy Department; in this capacity, he was engaged in propaganda work, promoted emigration, and was an advocate of a military intervention in Russia to overthrow the Bolsheviks. His status as a diplomat allowed him to establish broad and diverse contacts. He had contacts among representatives of the Bolshevik leadership, including the Chekists (Radek, Peters), “former people” hostile to the new government (Patriarch Tikhon, Prince Lvov), cultural activists, and many foreigners. The memoirs contain many details of Russian everyday life in the wartime conditions before the Revolution and at the beginning of the post-revolutionary period. They also make it possible to clarify prevailing ideas about the nature of the political processes that took place in 1918, primarily in regards to the extent to which the Bolsheviks influenced the events of the November Revolution in Germany and the possible alternatives to Russian history between 1918 and 1919.


Keywords


World War I; Russia; Germany; revolution; Treaty of Brest

References


Bundesarchiv – Militärarchiv. Sammlung 1. Weltkrieg – Osten 1916/1918. Reg. Rat a. D. Wilhelm Wölfing, s. Zt. Rittmeister der Auβenstelle der OHL in Moskau “Moskau 1918” (Erlebnisse in Kriegsgefangenschaft und während der Tätigkeit in Moskau – Manuskript). Okt. 1955.

Burchard-Motz, H. (1973) Nachruf auf Wilhelm Wölfing. In AHV der Vandalo- Guestphalia. 5. Jan.

Terhalle, M. (2006) Otto Schmidt (1888–1971): Gegner Hitlers und Intimus Hugenbergs : Inaugural-Dissertation zur Erlangung der Doktorwürde der Rheinischen Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität zu Bonn. Bonn. 454 S.

Terhalle, M. (2009) Deutschnational in Weimar : Die politische Biographie des Reichstagsabgeordneten Otto Schmidt (-Hannover) 1888–1971. Köln u. a., Böhlau Verlag. 449 S.




DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15826/qr.2017.3.250

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ISSN 2311-911X (Print)
ISSN 2310-757X (Online)

 

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