A Shift in Priorities

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Going Home

General Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg was the man who had won the war, at least in the mind of most Germans. Only few insiders really knew how things had happened and that Hindenburg’s fame really was based on the performance of Generals Erich Ludendorff and Max Hoffmann and the initiative of men like Colonel Max Bauer. For the broad public, Hindenburg was the saviour of East Prussia and the victor over Russia, England and France.
Having received a considerable estate in East Prussia and a huge monetary dotation, the old man now went back into retirement, from which he had appeared in 1914.
On August 7th, in Berlin there was a huge parade and an immense cheering crowd when he left, and in Hanover a huge parade and an immense cheering crowd when he arrived. He was a living legend, a man as least as big as Otto von Bismarck – if not the greatest German that ever lived…
Compared to Hindenburg, Kaiser Wilhelm II. had become a trivial and marginal figure. No crowd had cheered when he had arrived in Berlin. If anything, the war had shown the Germans how redundant their princes and princelings were – and how little they were able or willing to influence things.

In Berlin, in the red brick building at the Königsplatz that traditionally housed the German Great General Staff, General Erich Ludendorff now worked in the room, which before him had served as study for the brilliant elder Moltke, the genial Count Schlieffen and the unlucky younger Moltke.
Demobilisation was almost complete now, but this was the responsibility of the war minister, General Hermann von Stein, not that of the Chief of the GGS. Ludendorff’s interest was turned on the east, where things still were in abeyance. Neither the Polish question had yet been resolved, nor the issues about Lithuania, the Baltic territories and Finland.
The Ukraine had developed into a true witch’s cauldron. At Kiev, Field Marshal Hermann von Eichhorn and his chief of staff, General Wilhelm Groener, were doing everything to control the situation. They had replaced the unreliable Central Rada by a government led by Ataman Pavlo Skoropadsky and were fighting the Machno bandits with their volunteer units that had replaced the demobilised Army Group Eichhorn.
Further east, the counter revolutionary forces – now openly supported by a Germany that had severed all ties with the Bolsheviks – made slow progress. But that did not worry Ludendorff, a long civil war would further weaken Russia…
To the south east, things were not going well either. The double monarchy was on the verge of breaking up. Kaiser Karl I. proved unable to achieve cooperation of the nationalities in Cisleithania and the Hungarians were now distinctly manoeuvring for an independent Hungarian Empire. – The Hungarian Empire didn’t bother Ludendorff, he always had favoured the stout Hungarians over the floppy Austrians, but the expected turmoil in Cisleithania did. Plans for an intervention had to be developed.

At Wünsdorf, to the south of Berlin, Vizefeldwebel der Reserve Hermann Schultz handed over the battle proven Kanobil “Dagmar” to a young Unteroffizier who yearningly looked at Schultz’ Iron Crosses 1st and 2nd class. Schultz was the last of the “Dagmar” crew to leave service. The others had already gone home, and now it was his time. He looked forward to return to his home town of Thorn and to resume his business as carpenter. It was also time to find a decent wife and found a family. There was a pretty Polish girl in the neighbourhood that already had caught his eyes during the last home leave…
Wünsdorf had been chosen as home of the 7th Kanobils, the 8th were also here, together forming the 4th Kanobil Regiment now. New barracks for them were already under construction. Until their completion, the regiment was housed in the old PoW camp. Just another reason why Schultz was glad to go home.

At Posen, Colonel Max Bauer, decorated with the coveted Pour-le-Merit, was taking over command of the 5th Heavy Artillery Regiment, as the old foot artillery was called now. He regretted to be unable to provide further counsel to General Ludendorff, but becoming a regimental commander was an important step in one’s career. And in one or two years he would return to the GGS…

At Friedrichsfeld near Wesel, Major Willy Rohr watched his men pass the obstacle course. He was glad that the assault battalions finally had been incorporated into the budget. Initially, the idea had been to dissolve them on demobilisation. But that would have meant that all the experience and expertise would be lost. With considerable help from Colonel Bauer and General Ludendorff, Rohr had managed to get one assault battalion per army into the budget.
They had 45 former Naschobils turned into mechanised assault infantry carriers and were experimenting in armoured assault together with the 7th Kanobil Regiment.
His war time soldiers had now all gone home, except the career NCOs and some officers. The new recruits were in no good shape, two years of hunger and depletion had left their mark. It would take some time to cocker them up and form them into an efficient force.
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A Meeting in the Night

On Monday, August 12th, 1918, at 22:00 hours, the leaders of Zentrum, FVP and SPD met at the Imperial Chancellery in Berlin.
75 years old Chancellor Georg von Hertling, himself a member of the Zentrum, sat cushioned in an armchair, covered by a blanket – despite the warmth – and occasionally falling asleep. The other Zentrum men were Matthias Erzberger, Felix Porsch and Konstantin Fehrenbach. The FVP was represented by Friedrich Naumann, Friedrich von Payer and Ludwig Quidde, while Friedrich Ebert, Philipp Scheidemann and Eduard David spoke for the SPD.
They all agreed that on the first session of the new Reichstag on August 21st they would elect the leader of the largest parliamentary party, Friedrich Ebert, as new chancellor.
If Kaiser Wilhelm II. admitted this election, the constitution could be changed accordingly. However, it was almost certain they he would not accept it.
“I will step down on August 21st.” declared Hertling. “But the Kaiser can nominate someone else, you know that.”
They knew. Their answer was: General Strike.
“The Kaiser may use the military!”
“He certainly will order them to suppress the strike” said Erzberger. “The question is: Will they obey?”
“You know our officers and generals.”
“Yes, I know that those will obey. – No, I’m talking about the average soldier. – We have in service the age-groups 1898, 1899 and 1900. The 98er and 99er have all been in the war, as have some of the 1900er. – I doubt that they will shoot on the own population, their relatives and friends. Those 1900er that have not seen the war are too fresh and not yet completely trained.”
“Let us hope, your right, Herr Erzberger.”
“We must take the risk, these antiquated structures of a personal monarchy have proven to be inadequate. – What did the Kaiser do during the war? Battlefield tourism – no, not battlefield, that was too dangerous – rear area tourism, he and all lesser princes indulged in it. Has he led us? Did he make great decisions? Did he choose the right persons? – Undecided Bethmann, incompetent Moltke Junior, the Butcher Falkenhayn… No democratic process of filling top positions can be so catastrophic as Wilhelm’s personnel decisions!”
“What about Hindenburg and Ludendorff?”
“Forced upon him by Bethmann, his wife and some others. – He didn’t want them, was jealous of their popularity.”
“Okay, once we’re on strike, what shall we demand?” asked Scheidemann.
“Change of the Prussian franchise to Reichstags standard. Election of the Imperial Chancellor by the Reichstag. Election of the Prussian prime minister by the Prussian Landtag. The end of Wilhelm’s personal personnel cabinets.”
“But we must keep the Kaiser. Remove him from power, but keep him in position” remarked von Payer. “We need him and the other sovereigns to keep the military in the boat.”
“Well, Ludendorff might continue without him. The two of them are no friends. – But you’re right, for most officers he is the core of their loyalty.”

“Can we already decide who gets which position?”
“Must we?”
“Better to have a plan than being surprised…”
They quickly agreed that Richard von Kühlmann should remain as foreign minister and von Payer as minister of the interior. Erzberger would become the finance minister.
But who should become war minister?
Traditionally, a military had had that position. Was there a general that would accept such a position in a parliamentary government?
“Perhaps Groener” proposed Scheidemann.
“Perhaps, but he’s no senior to Ludendorff. – What about his current boss, Eichhorn?”
“A true Prussian general of the old school, yet very educated. – Certainly better than the ultra monarchists Hindenburg or Mackensen. – Well, let’s ask him. If he says no, we still can ask Groener.”
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A Tempest of Change

The second half of August 1918 would later become known as the “Fortnight of Revolution”.

On August 16th, Gabriele D’Annunzio, a man of letters and politics and an ardent nationalist, led a raiding party of 2,500 so-called “Arditi” into occupied Venetia. His hope was that the population would rise in support of his action and oust the Austrian occupants. The Austrians he considered incapable of action because of the ongoing strife of the nationalities that paralysed public life.
But while Cisleithania in fact was paralysed, the Austrian occupation army in Venetia was not. Field Marshal Count Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf, the commanding officer on the Italian front, had quite distinct ideas how to deal with armed Italian intruders.
D’Annunzio and quite a sizeable portion of his followers were killed in the ensuing fight. In pursuit of the bolting remainder of the Arditi, the Austrians entered Italian territory and showed little respect for life and property of uninvolved Italians.
Although the Austrians voluntarily withdrew after two days of rather indiscriminate killing and looting, the events led to socialist revolution in Italy. In Northern Italy and Rome armed workers dominated the streets. Giovanni Giolitti’s cabinet fled to Naples, then on to Palermo when the revolution spread southwards. In Milano, a provisory socialist government was established by Filippo Turati, Amadeo Bordiga and Palmiro Togliatti. They claimed that right wing irredentist machinations had caused the tragic Austrian invasion and promised peace, social justice and an end to the misery caused by the nationalists and irredentists, which had driven Italy into the war.

On August 18th, Hungarian Prime Minister Sándor Wekerle declared that Hungary would not renew the union with Austria. Emperor Karl was welcome to continue his reign as King IV. Károly of Hungary if he resigned all titles in Cisleithania. Hungary annexed Dalmatia and added it to Croatia. Bosnia, Montenegro and Hungarian Serbia were now under joint Hungaro-Croatian administration.

On the same day, the Dáil Éireaan in Dublin declared Irish independence, the constitution of the Irish Republic and the establishment of the Irish Republican Army. After this declaration, the Irish parliament went underground as the British government showed no inclination of recognising the Irish Republic. The Viceroy and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Field Marshal Viscount John French, the suppressor of the 1916 uprising, alerted the British military and police in Ireland and tasked them to arrest those members of the Dáil Éireaan not yet in jail.

On August 20th, the Czechs in Bohemia, Moravia and Austrian Silesia declared their independence from Austria. A provisory Czech National Assembly based on the Czech representatives of the three Landtage installed a provisory government led by Karel Kramář, whom Emperor Karl had released from prison in 1917. To their displeasure, only the Russian Bolsheviks cared to recognise the new Czech state.
In response, the Germans in the three provinces, a strong minority of 3.2 million people (and in Silesia a majority over the Czechs) compared to 6.2 million Czechs, organised their own assembly, the German Convent at Eger, which did not recognise Czech independence from Austria.
In Prague, bloody street fighting began between Czech and German militias, while the former mixed units of the Austrian Army in the provinces fell apart, each nationality joining its side.

On August 21st, the Reichstag at Berlin met for its first session after the elections.
After the ceremonial opening, Chancellor Hertling resigned and Friedrich Ebert was elected new Imperial Chancellor.
Kaiser Wilhelm II. – by chance in Berlin – immediately rejected this election. Under the constitution of the German Empire it was his privilege to appoint the chancellor. The election was illegal and he would not accept it. He called upon Hertling to resume his office, which the old man declined in a public declaration.
At 18:00 hours, the joint committee of SPD, Zentrum and FVP proclaimed that a general strike would commence the next morning at 8 o’clock. Special edition newspapers explained the aims of the strike.
At 19:00 hours, Kaiser Wilhelm II. tasked Generals von Stein and Ludendorff with the suppression of the general strike in Berlin and the corps commanders all over Prussia to do the same thing in their areas of responsibility.

On the same day, a peace treaty was signed between Bulgaria and the Greek Kingdom, which the Greek Republic did not recognise. Bulgaria acquired Salonika and Southern Macedonia. The northern border of Greece now ran from the southern end of Lake Prespa to the Gulf of Salonika south of the town.
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The Tempest Proceeds

In the morning of August 22nd, 1918, strike pickets went into position all over Germany. During the night, Generals Ludendorff and von Stein had convinced Kaiser Wilhelm II. that they were not in a position to command the troops in and around Berlin. The Kaiser had consequently given order to suppress the strike to Prince Eitel Friedrich, his second oldest son and recently appointed commander of the Gardekorps.
The guards units were comprised of hand picked able bodied young men from all over Prussia. They had no special affiliation to Berlin and neither friends nor relatives in town.
It took Eitel Friedrich some time to get the moves of his corps coordinated and only around noon did the first units move out of their barracks in Potsdam and Berlin.

Also on August 22nd, around 10 o’clock in the morning, did General Maercker‘s Kaukasus Division strike on Baku. The Bolsheviks knew that they didn’t have the slightest chance against the Germans. Thus they had evacuated the town during the night and the Germans could march in completely unmolested. The population seemed friendly and even welcoming.
Maercker was rather pleased. The Turkish army under Nuri Pasha was still bogged way down southeast by incessant guerilla attacks of Armenian rebells. His specialists were already at work and investigated the possibilities to resume oil production. If things went according to plan one could ship some millions of barrels to Germany before the Turks even arrived.

On the Arabian peninsula, the indomitable General Mustafa Kemal Pasha, hero of Gelibolu, started his campaign to pacify the rebellious Arab tribes. He thought this might take him some time but he had no doubt that he would succeed. These people would either submit to him or die. He knew his Turkish soldiers, under his leadership they were invincible. And now that the English were gone, his aeroplanes could scout on the Arabs without any risk.

Still in the morning of August 22nd, Field Marschal Viscount John French’s car was ambushed by IRA fighters when driving from Dublin Castle to the officers‘ mess. The ambush turned out to be a plain success. French was killed by twelve bullets, his driver and his aid de camp died with him. The second car managed to ecape with one dead and two wounded police constablers.

In Central Russia, the Czech Legion changed sides. The news of Czech independence had reached them very quickly. The Bolsheviks offered them free passage to Poland if they helped crush Yudenich’s nascent force. This was the only way to arrive early enough in Czechia to be of help.

In Prague, the Czechs made the unwelcome experience that the Jews were siding with the Germans. The Jews felt no propinquity with Czech nationalism and would be happy to remain a peaceful part of a German dominated society. They did not join the fighting but gave unrestricted non-combatant support to the Germans.
The fighting remained low intensity all through the day, in some places even local armistices came in effect. Both sides were still lacking general direction and operational guidance.
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Germany wins the Great War, and all Hell breaks loose across Europe. Excellent! I especially like the Czech Legion going Bolshi, that's unique. What of France, though? I guess that peace terms were light enough for them to muddle on through in typical 3rd Republic style, and I guess someone has to keep their wits about them about chaos erupts.

With the Tories taking power in Britain in the post-war elections, Ireland could turn into a real meat-grinder...
Germany wins the Great War, and all Hell breaks loose across Europe. Excellent! I especially like the Czech Legion going Bolshi, that's unique. What of France, though? I guess that peace terms were light enough for them to muddle on through in typical 3rd Republic style, and I guess someone has to keep their wits about them about chaos erupts.

With the Tories taking power in Britain in the post-war elections, Ireland could turn into a real meat-grinder...

In our time the Alies won the war and all hell breaks lose too.
Civil war in Rusia, civil war, in all but name, in Germany, unrest in the new created nations on the ruins of the Habsburg empire, as well on the teritory of the former Ottoman Empire.
WW1 is a revolutionair end of the old, aristocratic, absolute order to the new democratic, or to nationalistic or solcialistic dictatures.
My first attempt in map making. Voilà, the new Balkans.

new balkan.jpg
In our time the Alies won the war and all hell breaks lose too.
Civil war in Rusia, civil war, in all but name, in Germany, unrest in the new created nations on the ruins of the Habsburg empire, as well on the teritory of the former Ottoman Empire.
WW1 is a revolutionair end of the old, aristocratic, absolute order to the new democratic, or to nationalistic or solcialistic dictatures.

Of course. What I meant was that most CP-victory timelines tend to wave away the revolutionary elements that had developed in Germany. It's refreshing to see a timeline where Germany wins and still puts old Willy in his proper place: in a gilded cupboard, to be taken out only for special occasions :p.

For Rast: Did the SPD split into Majority and Independent wings ITTL? With the peace, have political prisoners like Luxemburg et al. been released?
Heavy Gales

In the early afternoon of August 22nd the Garde Korps deployed into the Berlin and Potsdam streets. It soon became apparent that the population solidarised with the strikers. And while the guards soldiers did not openly solidarise with the population, they almost all refused to use force against unarmed civilians, women and children.
There was one case, where a NCO fired into a crowd with his rifle, only to be shot by the men of his platoon. In other cases, officers and NCOs ready to use force were struck down or „immobilised“ by their subordinates. In front of the Siemens plant, a platoon did get into a kind of brawl and opened fire, but then, seeing women being hurt, stopped and started to provide first aid.
Everywhere, the populace would approach the soldiers and tell them not to fight against their fellow Germans. Many war veterans among the protesters would show off their decorations. The strikers and protesters remained absolutely peaceful, following the instructions distributed by trade unions, SPD, Zentrum and FVP. Attempts of USPD adherers to create a „revolutionary situation“ remained generally ineffective.

At 17:15 hours, General Prince Eitel Friedrich ordered his regiments back to their barracks. At 18:30 hours he arrived at the New Palace in Potsdam, to which location his father had „retreated“ during the night. He was not a man to hold back in front of the Kaiser. After all, he really had been in the war. His personal braveness was proven. And that was more than could be said of his father or his elder brother, the Crown Prince.
„Forget it. – The army does no longer follow your orders. If my guards units refuse to crush the strikers, I can imagine that in other corps districts units will have gone over to the protesters.“
But because of the strike, there was no rail traffic, no telegram service and only those newspapers that the strikers did want to be released. So, the imperial court was rather uninformed about the general situation. What was known now was that the guards corps had failed in Berlin and Potsdam. That meant loss of control over the core of Prussia and Germany.
The Crown Prince, who was also present, said something about not giving up. The forces loyal to the crown and the traditional order might still gather.
„Rubbish!“ exclaimed Eitel Friedrich. „I’ve seen them in the streets, solidarising with the strikers. – And those I’ve not seen were the ones speaking for the old order.“
„Come what may,“ insisted Wilhelm II. „I will not accept this socialist chancellor, never!“
„Then it may happen that this chancellor, who has at least 75% of the German population behind him, tells you to relocate to some nice cosy place in exile! – What do you think which percentage of Germans still backs you? Three percent or as many as five?“
The Kaiser was obviously shocked.
„Father, be glad that they have not yet opted for a republic. They still want to keep you as emperor, only in a constitutional monarchy – like in Britain. Would that really be so bad?“

In France, people were watching events in Europe with disbelief. Revolution in Germany? Austria-Hungary breaking apart? Revolution in Italy? Civil war in Great Britain and Ireland?
Well, the Germans had meticulously conducted their redeployment to Germany and now were all gone. Some tens of thousands of Americans were still around, but their numbers were becoming smaller by the day.
France had suffered considerably: 1.5 million soldiers and civilians dead, 4.1 million wounded, mutilated, maimed. And a population that was decreasing, and had already been so before the war.
31 billion Francs war debts abroad, total cost of the war 177 billion Francs, thereof 80% financed by war bonds.
So far, the Clemenceau government was still in office, but the calls for new elections grew louder every day.
Georges Clemenceau himself still was wondering about the Treaty of Eindhoven. He knew what he would have demanded from a vanquished Germany. And the victorious Germans? The Lorraine minettes for some years, some minor pieces of colonial estate, that was all. Unbelievable! No reparations, no annexations, no restrictions... What did these arrogant Germans think they were?
But of course they did not have 20.000 destroyed factories, 812,000 destroyed houses, 54,000 kilometres of destroyed roads, 120,000 hectares of devastated territory...
And Alsace-Lorraine was their’s still.
Georges Clemenceau was not prone to tears, but thinking about this damned war and its results he felt a mighty urge to kick someone’s butt.
There had been a strange flu in late June and early July, apparently gone thereafter. People thought the Americans had brought it over. Now, a new outbreak of flu, said to be worse than the earlier one, had been reported from Brest, where there still were many Americans.
They really haven’t helped us in the war, now they infest us with their diseases, thought Clemenceau. If they only would abate our debts...

In a first official statement, the British Prime Minister condemned the assassination of Viscount French at 18:00 hours on August 22nd. Britain would never back down opposite murderers and other criminals. The Irish Revolutionary Parliament was illegal. Ireland would remain an integral part of the Empire.

On the same day at Vienna, the German deputies of the various Cisleithanian parliaments constituted the „National Convent of the German Austrians“. After six hours of debating, a decision was made with 68% majority: German Austria would request admission to the German Empire.
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In the Eye of the Storm

In the evening of August 22nd, 1918, the Joint Committee of SPD, Zentrum and FVP could establish that the general strike was an overall success.
Nowhere in Prussia had the army succeeded in suppressing the strike. While in Berlin and Potsdam the guards corps had been withdrawn to its barracks after the soldiers proved unable – or unwilling? – the remove the strike pickets, in most other Prussian army corps districts the troops had openly fraternised with the strikers. A number of officers and NCOs had been shot, far more had been „isolated“. General opinion of the populace was favourable to the strike. A vast majority of Germans believed that the old system no longer was acceptable. When the whole population was required to fight a war, then the whole population should also decide – and not only some few privileged conservative heraditary holders of offices.
In most other states, the military had remained in their barracks. In Bavaria, Saxony, Baden, Württemberg, Hessen and the Hanse towns no attempt had been made at all to suppress the strike. Some of the minor states had sent out police officers who had achieved nothing.
In Prussian Saxony and adjacent West Saxony, where the USPD had won the 17 seats they held in the Reichstag, the independend socialists had tried to take over control of the strike. This had been spoiled by the trade unions, which succintly followed the SPD course and had no interest in radicalising the strike.
The trade unions, by the way, had done a great job in conducting a strike that paralysed public life but did not imperil food supply to the population. They really had become professional during the war.

In Venetia in Austrian occupied Italy, first elements of the Austrian Army in Italy started to board the trains for the journey to Bohemia and Moravia in the evening of August 22nd. Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf had purged his army from all Slavic elements. The regiments now consisted of Germans only, reliable Tyrolians, Austrians, Styrians and Carinthians. Conrad had decided on his own that his army was more useful in Moravia and Bohemia than in Venetia. His excellent connections as former chief of staff of the Austro-Hungarian Army ensured that trains and supplies were provided as required.
His army was three corps strong, 8 divisions in total. He would need four days to get them to Brünn, Budweis and Eger respectively. Munich had already signalised that the Eger Corps could transit Bavaria, the general strike in Germany would not impede this rail move. The trade unions had agreed to do everything to make it possible in minimum time.
It was unbelievable... Conrad was struggling with the concept that socialists also might be patriots.

At about the same time, the first elements of the Czech Legion at Cheliabinsk and Yekaterinburg boarded the trains that would bring them to Petrograd.
The Bolsheviks had won a strong ally with these Czechs – and now no sizeable White force remained that could hinder Bolshevik spread to the east and southeast...

At Vienna, Empress Zita had finally talked her husband into accepting the Hungarian offer. He could be the independent king of a greater Hungary or a minor king or arch duke of some minor state in the German Empire. Was there any other reasonable alternative?

In Athens, at 22:30 hours, an assassin attacked King Konstantin I and his wife. Two shots hit the King when a left the opera, a third bullet hit Queen Sophia. Konstantin was severely wounded and hurriedly evacuated to the military hospital. Sophia, a sister of Kaiser Wilhelm II., was only scratched by the projectile. Enraged, she assumed regency und swore revenge to the Greek Republic and it’s founder, Venizelos.
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In the Line of Fire

In the morning of August 23rd, 1918, an eerie discovery startled the Czechs in Prague. A mass grave had been discovered in a wood northwest of the city, containing the bodies of 13 woman and 28 children, all identified as Czechs.
Who other than the Germans could be responsible for this?
The combats now assumed a tougher pace when Czech hotheads „in revenge“ indiscriminately shot unarmed Germans and Jews. This, in turn, caused German hotheads to lay fire to Czech houses and then to snipe on the Czech fire brigades.
Until noon the fighting had reached an intensity that convinced a great number of citizens to leave Prague. Subsequently, columns of German refugees moved north or north-west and Czechs columns headed south or south-east, while fires raged in many quarters of the town.
Fighting was now also reported to have started in Pilsen, Budweis and Brünn.

On the same morning, at Agram, a meeting took place between Hungarian and Croat leaders. Gyula Count Andrássy Junior, the designated interior minister of Great Hungary, explained how the Hungarians intended to run business in the Southern Slav regions.
„We trust in you, my friends,“ he addressed the Croats, „to rule over the Serbs and Montenegrins. You speak their language. You can penetrate their secret circles. – We do not object to a Croatia that comprises Bosnia, Montenegro and our part of Serbia. We also do not mind when you rule them with a heavy hand, if need be. We also agree if you enlist the Bosniaks to help you.“

At Athens, the condition of King Konstantin was reported serious but stable. Queen Sophia confered with Prime Minister Spyridon Lambros how to crack down on the followers of Venizelos.
„We need allies in this struggle. Not the Germans, not the Turks. I bear in mind the British. They have what we need: Ships. And we can offer them more than Venizelos can on his miserable island. Try to get us a compact with the Brits. – And, dear Spyridon, have the police and the secret service purged from all Venizelos‘ men.“

In Paris, the authorities now had established that the new flu, which had broken out in the Brest area, was also reported from Sierra Leone and Boston in the USA. They decided to name it „La Grippe Americaine“ – American Flu, and to try to shut off the infected zone.

In Vilnius, designated capital of the Lithuanian state, the Council of Lithuania finally decided not to ask for a German prince. Following the German victory in the west, the pressure on Lithuania to become a German puppet kingdom had been strong. However, following advice by Matthias Erzberger, the Lithuanians had prevaricated successfully. With the general strike going on in Germany they hoped for a democratic Germany that would allow them to become a fully independent state and a democracy, which was what they desired.

Nikolai Nikolayevich Yudenich had been one of the most successful generals of Tsarist Russia, having defeated not only Enver Pasha but also Mustafa Kemal on the Caucasus Front.
Since two months he was in Estonia and Livonia, organising an army that he intended to lead to St.Petersburg (he had never adapted to use „Petrograd“) and thereafter to Moscow, destroying the Bolsheviks wherever he met them. He hoped that the Tsar’s family was still alive so that the monarchy could be restored.
Now he learned that the Czech Legion had changed sides and had been charged with eliminating his army. News travelled fast in Russia, where individuals and units often changed sides and wandered between the fronts.
His army was not yet ready, Yudenich knew. Better to retreat to Courland and build a defensive line behind the Dvina...
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The Kaiser caves in

Until noon of August 23rd, various messengers had arrived at Potsdam by car. The picture of the situation was devastating: The conduct of the Gardekorps had in deed been commendable. Everywhere else, the units sent out had gone over to the strikers.
Pressure on Wilhelm II. was mounting. Now his wife, Auguste Viktoria, Crown Prince Wilhelm and Prince Eitel Friedrich tried to talk him into accepting the conditions of the majority parties – before these changed their mind and went for a German republic…
Only the chief of the Kaiser’s civilian cabinet, Friedrich von Berg, spoke of refusal. But even he could offer no other way out.
At 12:30 hours, General Ludendorff arrived. He had no better information about the conduct of the army than the one already known. But he had serious concerns about the situation in Bohemia and Estonia.
“Your Majesty, you know that I’ve called our army a militia, already some months ago. Now this has been proven as a fact. They may still be good against an external enemy, but they are useless against the own population. This may change over time when discipline can be restored to pre-war standards, but for the next few months we’ll have to accept it as it is.
Nevertheless, we will soon need the army and the rail network. The situation in Bohemia and Moravia is deteriorating. Fighting spreads all over the country. We may soon be forced to intervene.
And the Czech Legion has changed sides, they’re fighting for the Bolsheviks now, which have given them the task to destroy the White forces in Estonia. After that – or even before that, if the situation in Bohemia escalates – the Czechs may try to force passage through Poland in order to support their compatriots.
Now, Estonia and Poland belong to our sphere of influence. We cannot tolerate a Bolshevik or otherwise hostile force there.
We need a functional army and railway. The strike must end.”
“But that would mean that I yield to these insolent demands!”
“Your Majesty, as far as I can see, you will remain nominal Commander-in-Chief of army and navy, as before. You never had direct command of the army, as you well know. You now may lose your privilege of direct intervention in naval warfare. – So what?
You will remain head of state in Germany and Prussia, but you will lose the prerogative of selecting the main players. I think that would be good. Let’s face it, your choices were miserable: Bülow, Bethmann, Michaelis, Hertling, Moltke, Falkenhayn, Ingenohl, Pohl… Should I continue? – And what’s more, once you had chosen an individual, there was no way how you ever could control his actions.”
Wilhelm was staring at Ludendorff in plain consternation. He could accept a lot of truth and a lot of criticism in a tête-à-tête conversation. Ludendorff knew this.
“Your Majesty, I’m no friend of the socialists, but they have loyally supported the war effort, as have done the Zentrum and the FVP. They will form a strong government. And a strong government is what Germany needs right now. We’ve won the war, we must win the peace now.
You can remain Emperor of a strong united German Empire and King of Prussia – or you can become a ruler in exile, once they lose patience and declare republic.”
With this, Ludendorff saluted and left.

On August 23rd, 1918, at 15:15 hours, Kaiser Wilhelm II. formally accepted the concepts of the Reichstags majority and appointed Friedrich Ebert as Imperial Chancellor and interim Prime Minister of Prussia, until the constitution had been changed according to said concepts.

On August 23rd, 1918, at 16:00 hours, the Joint Committee declared the end of the general strike in Germany.

General Jan Syrový, the commander of the Czech Legion in Russia, was driven by inner unrest. His deal with the Bolsheviks had given them control over the Trans-Siberian Railway up to Vladivostok in exchange for transit to the west. So far, so good.
But his objective was not to fight a bloody battle with the Whites that threatened Petrograd. His forces were needed at home. News of the fray in Prague had already reached him. And he had no illusions about the German stance regarding Czech independence.
It would take weeks to assemble his men – at present strung out in hundreds of trains between Chelyabinsk and Vladivostok – in the triangle Petrograd – Novgorod – Narva. He doubted that Czechia could wait that long. But there was no other way.
“Find out” he tasked his staff, “how we can best move from Novgorod to Minsk and from there to Czechia. Take into account that we will have to fight the Bolsheviks in Russia and the Germans in Poland. We must become a moving and fighting camp! – And keep the planning secret! The Bolsheviks must not know about it!”

In the afternoon of August 23rd, 1918, the first units of General Conrad’s army arrived at Budweis and Brünn. This was a major boost for Austro-German morale and a severe setback for Czech aspirations.
At 17:00 hours at Vienna, the National Convent of the German Austrians sent an open address to Berlin asking formally for acceptance of German Austria into the German Empire.

At 18:00 these news reached Rome, where envoys of Giolitti’s government were engaged in secret parleys with representatives of the revolutionary socialist government.
The Italians were deeply agitated by this development. They knew that the Germans had no interest in Venetia and that only Austro-Hungarian pressure had led to the occupation of the province. Now, Hungary had no interest in Venetia either. May be one could re-negotiate the Treaty of Zürich? But better to speak with only one tongue in these negotiations…

At about the same time, the French authorities had to realise that their attempt to insulate the disease had failed. The American Flu was now also reported from Bordeaux, Le Mans and Rouen. With more than 2,000 people already dead they decided to declare national emergency.

The news of the Austro-German address to Berlin did also incite Emperor Karl I. to turn to the public. At 19:30 he issued a statement to the press, announcing his decision to abdicate as Austro-Hungarian Emperor, King of Bohemia and Arch Duke of Austria – and his intention to remain King of Hungary and Croatia.
Little Causes, Big Impacts

In the early morning of August 24th, 1918, a fire broke out in Essad Pasha Toptani’s house in Tirana, Albania. When the strong man of Albania and his family hastily evacuated the burning edifice, a gunman, who managed to escape unidentified, shot Essad Pasha.
As Essad had many enemies, his family and his followers had no clue who might be responsible for the assassination.

On the same day, in Ireland, in the County Tipperary, the dead bodies of three officers of the Royal Irish Constabulary were discovered. In the evening, in front of the barracks of the Royal Irish Constabulary at Limerick a bomb exploded, killing two innocent pedestrians and causing major damage to the building, but leaving all constables unharmed, except for some torn eardrums.

In London, General Sir Herbert Plumer was appointed new Viceroy and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. Prime Minister Bonar Law asserted him that five regular army divisions would be at his disposal, should he deem their use necessary. There was absolutely no reason to accept the ideas of the Irish separatists. Ireland would remain a part of the empire.

In Posen in Germany, a very angry Colonel Max Bauer disbanded the Freikorps, which he had formed from loyal soldiers of the garrison. Now that the Kaiser had caved in and the general strike had ended, the voluntary formation was no longer needed. However, Bauer kept a list of all names of his Freikorps. You never know…

In Copenhagen, Japanese ambassador Maeda received a telephone call from his German collegue, Count Ulrich von Brockdorf-Rantzau.
“Dear Jikiro, my boss is on his way. – What would be a suitable time and proper place for you to sign the treaty?”

In Sortavala in Finland, on the north shore of Lake Ladoga, the first train of the volunteer “East Karelia Force” arrived. Lieutenant Kurt Martti Wallenius and his German trained „Jäger” formed the core of this first trainload.
Their job was now to prepare quarters for the rest of the unit.
Wallenius was confident, he had seen the armoured trains that were currently put together in Vyborg. One would use the tactics that the Germans had employed against the Bolsheviks in February and March: Advance by railway.
But one also had to take care of “Reds” before that, there still were some bands around in the area. They had to be eliminated before they had opportunity to report about the East Karelia Force to the Russian Bolsheviks.
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Trotsky at Work

Lev Davidovich Bronstein, better known as Leon Trotsky, People’s Commissar for Army and Navy Affairs, was not at all surprised when he learned about the planned desertion of the Czech Legion. He never had expected that the Legion would fight for the Bolsheviks. The Czechs had handed over the Trans-Siberian Railway to the Bolsheviks, that was what counted and why he had supported their initial change of sides. Now, they were about to concentrate their units south of Petrograd. His spies told him that Syrový had given order to plan a march to Czechia via Minsk and through Poland. Trotsky had no intention to try to stop them. The Czechs were too strong for the fledgling Red Army anyway, and when they clashed with the Germans that was something to Trotsky’s liking.
The Czechs had another welcome effect: Yudenich was withdrawing from Estonia and Livonia. So, that piece of real estate would become eligible for bolshevikation soon. Best to install an “Independent” Estonian People’s “Republic”. That would spoil the German ideas about a United Baltic Duchy a little bit. Once the Czechs were on the move, the Red Latvian Riflemen could be inserted against Yudenich who was relocating to Courland. One could use the Red Latvian Rifles and the Latvians in Livonia to establish an “Independent” Latvian People’s “Republic”, then the Germans could bury their idea of a Baltic puppet state.

That the Fins were about to invade what they called East Karelia could not be helped. The Bolsheviks had no supplies to expect via Murmansk. One could deal with the Fins later. Better they were kept busy in East Karelia than they got interested in attacking Petrograd.

With the threat of the Czechs and Yudenich removed, the Red Army now had the opportunity to deal with Alekseev and Denikin.
The Germans in Poland and the Ukraine had a defensive stance, they would not attack – or at least not before receiving sizeable reinforcements.
The Germans in Georgia and Azerbaijan were quite a nuisance, Trotsky hoped they would clash with the Turkish Army of Islam. To his knowledge, Enver had composed this force without any German participation and with the possibility in mind to use them against the Germans, if need be. But that stupid Turkish general was still bogged down in Armenia and didn’t move, while the Germans had the railway from Poti to the Caspian Sea running and were shipping oil out of Poti like crazy.
The Germans in the Caucasus could provide a solid base for Alekseev and Denikin to fall back, that had to be kept in mind. The Red Army was not yet capable of tackling the Germans. Trotsky didn’t know this General Maercker, but he seemed to be a vigorous character.
He knew General Hoffmann, however, who had been tasked to coordinate the German effort against the Bolsheviks. He had learned to respect that sottish fellow at Brest-Litovsk. Hoffmann was not to be underestimated as a soldier. He was perhaps the best operational head the Germans had. But he was no politician…

In Germany, a kind of revolution seemed to have happened. The social democrats were now ruling together with the papists and the progressives. Perhaps Georgy Chicherin could talk them into a more accepting mood towards Soviet Russia. – But that was outside of Trotsky’s reach…

He grabbed the telephone. “Ephraim, can you come here? – We’ve got to plan a campaign against Alekseev and Denikin.”
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The Treaty of Elsinor

To avoid confusion with the Treaty of Copenhagen, the German-Japanese Peace Treaty was signed at Kronborg Castle at Elsinore on August 28th, 1918.
Japan at first had been quite reluctant to pay for territory that she had already conquered. Only the German hint that the High Seas Fleet was now – after peace had been concluded with Great Britain – rather unoccupied and that many Japanese cities lay close to the sea had finally led to a change in attitude.
The Germans had supplied coal for the Russian fleet travelling from the Baltic to the Chinese Sea in 1905, they certainly would be capable of supplying coal for the High Seas Fleet as well. The Japanese fleet had only four dreadnoughts and four modern battlecruisers to oppose nineteen German dreadnoughts and five battlecruisers.
These considerations soon brought about a more postive stance regarding the purchase of the German territories.

Japan reimbursed Germany for the infrastructure of the naval base and the city of Kiautchou with 50 million $.
Japan paid another 150 million $ for the right to take over Germany’s role in the lease agreement with China.
Japan bought the German Carolinas, Marianas, Palau Islands and Marshall Islands for 3.8 billion $.

Germany and Japan were at peace now. The Japanese also revoked the declaration of war they had issued to Austria-Hungary in 1914.

Matthias Erzberger, the new German minister of finance, is said to have remarked that this was the first time that any of the German colonies had produced something like profit.
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