Operation Faustschlag – Germany Advances In The East Again I THE GREAT WAR Week 187


After Russia’s October Revolution, the Eastern
Front had gone quiet, as Lenin’s Bolshevik government exited the world war and began
negotiating peace terms with the Central Powers. But those negotiations have failed and now,
this week, the Eastern Front explodes back to life. I’m Indy Neidell; welcome to the Great War. Last week, Ukraine signed a peace treaty with
the Central Powers, but it brought anything but peace. In fact, it caused Leon Trotsky to walk out
of the Russian peace negotiations with the Central Powers and Germany to then decide
to renew the war against Russia. There was new action in the field as well,
as the Ottomans advanced from Anatolia toward the Caucasus. Colonel Morel and his ragtag crew of Russians
and Armenians retreated as they advanced. “The retreat occupied 11 days between 14
and 24 February and was carried out with remarkable steadfastness and skill under bitter winter
conditions – 40-50% of troops and refugees were frost bitten. The retreating columns – as in Ter-Gukasov’s
epic withdrawal from the Eleshkirt Valley half a century before – had to cover thousands
of panic-stricken against repeated attacks from the Dersim Kurds.” The Ottoman 36th and 5th Caucasian divisions
followed the retreat and occupied Erzincan and Mamahatun. By the 18th, the Ottomans were within 15km
of Trabzon. But the main action this week was far to the
north. The 18th was the end of the armistice between
Germany and Russia and the German army crossed Dvina River, marching on Dvinsk, and also
toward Lutsk in Ukraine. These cities were occupied the following day
as the whole line advanced, pushing into Estonia. The suddenly desperate Bolsheviks declared
themselves ready to sign the “unacceptable” peace conditions dictated by the Central Powers
at the Brest-Litovsk conference, but Germany General Max Hoffmann, the military rep at
the conference was in no hurry to accept their concession. He now said the acceptance of conditions had
to be sent in writing by courier through the German lines to Berlin. The German army advances toward Kiev, Moscow,
Petrograd, and Reval with little resistance, occupying Minsk. German troops reach Finland to reinforce the
White Guard. In fact, in 124 hours, they advanced 240km
on the eastern front. Lenin and Trotsky’s written letter reached
Berlin the 21st, but it was rejected and the Germans wrote back demanding even harsher
terms than at the conference. They were well aware that Russia’s territorial
integrity was disintegrating rapidly. Lenin had been advised the whole time that
his army could neither stop the Germans nor defend Petrograd. He had, though, been a bit more grounded in
reality than some of his comrades. Last month he had made very clear that it
was a mistake to bet the survival of the Russian Revolution on the possibility of one happening
now in Germany, which he thought inevitable though not imminent. He thought hoping for such a revolution to
save the day was a romantic dream and would lead to Russia’s defeat. Still, most of the Bolshevik leaders preferred
resistance to accepting terrible peace terms. Last month, 32 voted for a “revolutionary
war” and just 15 for a separate peace. 16 supported Trotsky’s “no war no peace
plan” we saw last week, figuring they’d lose more Baltic territory but that was a
price worth paying. It wasn’t until after the massive German
advance this week that Lenin could actually get a majority for a separate peace. But it wasn’t just the east the Germans
were focusing on. Quartermaster General Erich Ludendorff and
his staff were also making plans for a gigantic spring offensive in the west. The formal decision that it would be Operation
MICHAEL was finally issued February 8th. The basic plan had been issued late last month,
and the operation had to be ready to go around March 20th. The 17th army would conduct MICHAEL I, the
2nd army MICHAEL II, and the 18th army MICHAEL III. Number one was planned as an attack from the
Cambrai front toward Bullecourt-Bapaume, number two an attack toward Péronne and then north. These would cut off the enemy in the Cambrai
salient and then continue northwest and roll up the British. MICHAEL III was to be an attack on both sides
of St. Quentin to throw the enemy back over the Crozat Canal and then cover MICHAEL II’s
flank. That was last month’s plan anyhow, but there
were other side plans still in the works, for example MARS would be launched south of
the River Scarpe a few days after MICHAEL began. Thing is, last week at the big German Bad
Homburg conference, Ludendorff said something that seemed to betray his belief that this
would win the war for Germany, “We must not believe that this offensive will be like
those in Galicia or Italy. It will be an immense struggle that will begin
at one point, continue at another, and take a long time.” But the plans were still evolving – the day
after that conference, the 17th army was told that the main effort of MICHAEL I was on the
pivot of the right wing against Arras, and not on the left wing cutting off Cambrai and
linking with MICHAEL II, two days later this was overruled and the main attack had to be
on the left wing, and the execution of MARS depends solely on the success of the MICHAEL
attacks. Another meeting is scheduled for next week
at Charleville. However the offensive begins, though, Ludendorff
will be facing an army run by a different High Command than before. After a month of political maneuvering to
get rid of him, British army Chief of Staff Wully Robertson resigned this week, rather
than compromise on actions that he felt would weaken the army. On February 16, 1918, then, Sir Henry Wilson
became the new Chief of the General Staff, and Sir Henry Rawlinson became the military
rep at the Allied Supreme War Council at Versailles. Here’s a quote from the Great War Generals
on the Western Front, “Robertson refused to accept the position at Versailles, for
he felt the real power would rest with Wilson in London. Since Wully Robertson lacked the latter’s
talent for “mischief”- Wilson’s own term for his relentless drive for self-advancement
and backstairs maneuvering- he was probably correct.” Robertson was – and still is – the only soldier
in the British army to rise from the rank of private all the way up to Field Marshal. He began his military career in The Queen’s
Lancers 1877 at the age of 17- lying and saying he was 18, and passed his officer’s commission
in 1888. The British army was actually advancing in
the field this week, though far from the Western Front, in Palestine. On the 19th, they were within 12km of Jericho,
which they took the 21st. They were now established on a line that threatened
the Hejaz Railway. General Edmund Allenby had reached the northern
end of the Dead Sea, the lowest part of the earth’s land surface, 1,290 ft below sea
level. The Ottomans retreated beyond the River Jordan. The capture of Jericho not only gave Allenby
access to the River, but also made possible another plan of his. Let me backtrack. Following the capture of Jerusalem in December,
British Prime Minister David Lloyd George had convinced the Allied Supreme War Council
that the British should launch a new offensive against the Ottomans in 1918. He then sent Jan Smuts, from the War Cabinet,
to Egypt to determine if that offensive should come in Palestine or Mesopotamia. So now, while Smuts is touring Palestine,
the fall of Jericho happens, and Smuts endorses Palestine. Allenby said last month that he would like
to destroy 10-15 miles of the Ottoman Hejaz Railway, which was a major Ottoman supply
route, and some of its bridges, and be in direct touch with the Arab Revolt under Feisal,
and then he would accomplish a lot. More and more, Allenby’s plans now, after
Jericho, involved a drive on Amman. And earlier I mentioned the Germans reinforcing
the Finnish White Guard? Their leader, General Mannerheim, was gathering
his army in the north because by the 18th, south Finland was in Bolshevik hands. Mannerheim demanded the evacuation of all
Russian troops – red or white – from Finland immediately, on the 23rd. The Bolsheviks will agree to this, since they’ve
got much bigger headaches of their own. And the week ends, with the Ottomans advancing
in Anatolia, the British advancing in Palestine, and the Germans advancing all along the Eastern
Front. You gotta ask yourself, “how did the Russians
not see this coming?” Well, hindsight is easy, but still – a majority
of the Bolshevik leadership believed, until this week, that either revolution would cripple
Germany, or that Germany would accept “no war, no peace”. I suppose that optimism stemmed from the success
of their own revolution and rise to power, but Russia is now in big big trouble. Will they accept German peace terms? Will they try to fight? Will they submit and then launch a resistance? Will the Bolshevik government survive? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. If you want to learn more about one of the
driving forces behind the German strategy throughout the war, you can click right here
for our episode about Paul von Hindenburg. Our Patreon supporter of the week is the Dead
Baron…… yep. Don’t forget to subscribe, see you next
time.

Maurice Vega

100 Responses

  1. What would happen when someone is taken prisoner? Were there POW camps then? Were prisoners used for intelligence?

  2. Hi Indy
    First of all great job you are a masterpiece about ww1 (I mean it)and keep up the great work
    Well i am concerned about what would had happen if the austro-hungarians had managed to hold their lines(brusilov offensive 1916)And what would happen to The Russian Empire afterwards
    And as always keep up the great job

  3. 100 years ago the finnish civil war came to my home town of Varkaus, Northern Savonia. The whites had lauched a offensive to capture the industrial town that was occupied by the reds since January 1918. The battle lasted from the 20th of February to 20:00 of the 21st. After the reds (about 1000 strong) had surrendered to the whites the executions started. First the red guard leaders were shot and then about every 10th man. Today (22nd of February) a field court was established and under their rule about 80 more were executed. Their ages ranged from 14 to 54. These were called "the huruslahti lottery" and so began the revenge cycle of the war.

  4. Damn with the Germans pushing so well in the east – I am surprised they did not just come to an Armistice on the western front, and just push to take over all of Russia.

  5. The amount of research and the collation of this data seems implausible for a normal human. Your staff must be super-humans performing unbelievable work. You, Indie, are not so bad either. It takes me several days to absorb the information that you have provided. Keep up the great work!

  6. Hello Team! You Really mean dersim kurds? I'm one too haha it would be nice if you could give some more Details about the (dersim)kurds in WW1 and their Fighter.
    Love your Show..

  7. Germany's decision to continue to pursuit the war in Russia likely was the final nail in their coffin, they didn't sent the reinforcements they needed to the Western front.

  8. Kaiser Wilhelm's personal dentist for years was an American named Davis. Davis finally got out of Germany thru Copenhagen in 1918. . When he was back he wrote a book about how he knew the kaiser. And what they talked about (a lot!). Link here to that book easy reading,. Interesting. https://archive.org/stream/kaiserasiknowhim00davi#page/116/mode/2up

  9. You should make a ww2 channel to that would give u most likely double profit and my teacher used one of ur vids has a class instruction

  10. When Will you guy's do a special on Edmund Allenby? Allenby and his various victories were crucial to British home front morale as the Western Front stayed as a stalemate in 1917-18. Also in general Allenby was a very important figure during and post war in helping to shape Middle east troubles seen today.

  11. Hey indy you should make a video about heligoland bight and zeebrugge I wanna know about those navy war battle cuz those battles just got add on battlefield 1

  12. Given that their big offensive in the West is only a month away, the Germans were no doubt irritated to still find the Eastern Front a preoccupation.

  13. I had a question for out of the trenches: we all know about the truce on the western front during Christmas in 1914 yet I hardly found any scources about what was happening on the eastern front during that same time, could you share any back ground or information?

  14. @The Great War Please refrain from calling the Finnish Red Guards "bolsheviks". Though the two factions were definitely allied, the Finnish Reds were organized under their own revolutionary government and received their orders from Helsinki, not Petrograd. Calling them bolsheviks will confuse a lot of viewers into thinking that Southern Finland is now controlled by Lenin, which is just factually incorrect.

  15. This is so exiting, I wish I didn't know how the war ends. Looks like Romania is surrounded by the German Empire now, when the Germans advanced in Russia why they didn't advance in Romania as well? Seems like an easy target, completly isolated from all other allies.

  16. Each episode makes it even more obvious that Communism is one of the worst things that happened to humanity. Poor innocent people swayed by lies of food and equality then forced to live under and serve these maniacs for their own ego.

  17. The Germans had threatened to take by force what they had been demanding at the peace table. General Max Hoffmann, the German military commander at the Eastern Front, stated the following: "This is the most comic war that I have ever experienced-it is waged almost exclusively in trains and automobiles. One puts on the train a few infantry with machine guns and one artillery piece and then proceeds to the next railroad station, seizes it, arrest the Bolsheviks, entrains another detachments, and moves on. The procedure has in any event the charm of novelty."

  18. I forgot to add that General Hoffmann was describing the winter offensive in 1918 following the collapse of peace negotiations.

  19. Whenever I talk about the danger and power of "Reflection" (where one person thinks other cultures view the world the same way they themselves do) it's almost always "enlightened" Western cultures thinking backwards brutish savage-like cultures in Africa, Asia and the Middle East are every bit as "enlightened" and Western as they are. Well here's a stunning case of the reverse occurring! The Bolsheviks honestly thought that Central Europe was stupid enough to chase the Marxist dream off the same cliff they were leaping off of. Did you hear that slap? That was reality smacking them in the face.

  20. Hi indi, can you tell me a bit more about the French and Belgian invasion of the Rhineland in the 1920’s, thanks, love the show!

  21. Hey Florian. I work on commercial ships for a living. I'm getting ready to do a longer trip that might go up to several months at sea.

    How can I bring your videos with me? I'm watching the earlier parts of the series and I want to be able to bring videos onboard where I won't have access to streaming video.

    Thanks.

  22. One correction! Southern Finland was in the hands of Finnish Reds, not Russian Bolsheviks, although they received weapons from them and some Russians were fighting among their ranks.

  23. Indy! You forgot an important event this week – on the 16th of February, Lithuania's representative organ, the Taryba, declared the independence of Lithuania!

  24. I've a question. Before the war in the nations which participated what kind of ideology did they have where there any smatterings of socialism in places such as Germany or France? Where there any socialists or communists during the war perhaps fighting by the government of their nation or refusing and opposing the war either peacefully or violently? Russia we of course now.

  25. Hi Indy and team! Your work is excellent and your channel is second to none! Your coverage of the GreatWar has brought me, and I’m sure countless others great joy! I would like to ask a question for Out of The Trenches if that’s alright. In your humble opinion do you believe that any neutral countries entry into the war could prove decisive for the Central Powers? For example, I believe Spain or Sweden opening a new front for the Triple Entente would tie down vital troops. Anyway, thanks a lot!

  26. This series is better than anything on TV. Better than Westworld, better than GOT, better than the Olympics. Top notch work!

  27. I know you've done an out of the trenches episode about cavalry. how about one detailing the other uses and fates of horses during the war? maybe include other animals used as well. keep up the great work

  28. Please make a special about the german/Central Powers plan for the time after the war.
    Who gets which territory, how to deal with the Bolsheviks and all new upcoming states…
    For example would have happened with Italy? And the Balkans?

    It would be really interesting. So…Please?

  29. Nestor Makhno and the Ukrainian anarchists were a pivotal component of resistance to Austro-Hungarian occupation in Ukraine. Additionally they resisted the nationalist Ukrainians under Petliura, the Bolsheviks, and the Whites. Specific dates of certain actions are hard to come by but this topic deserves covering in an Out of the Trenches/Ether or another special episode. Some of the important works that cover this are Peter Arshinov's History of the Makhnovist Movement (1918-1921) and Makhno's The Russian Revolution in Ukraine (March 1917 – April 1918).

  30. All those talks of surrendering and doing no war, and the Bolsheviks had no idea what they meant by that. Then they tried to incite Germany, and Finland, and attacked Ukraine. F***ing idiots.

  31. Lol socialism 101; "lets propose unnaceptable and over the top conditions with no experience nor analysis and expect the other part to accept it gratefully, if not accepted we can always improvise. Victory is on sight!"

  32. First it was Operation Strandfest (Beach Party) now it’s Operation Faustschlag (Punch) Germany keeps it simple but their language makes it sound so much better haha

  33. Trotsky arrived from Petrograd to Brest-Litovks for negotiations in December 1917 by train, and the train with Soviet delegation had to cross the frontline not far from Minsk. In his diary he mentioned that not more than 15% of soldiers remained on the front line, and they looked more like bands of hungry and ragged robbers, but not like actual soldiers. After it Trotsky made a clear decision for him that Russia is not able to continue the war with Germany and the only hope to safe Russia from disgrace of separate peace is potential revolution in Germany.

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