Arthur Freiherr Arz von Straussenburg

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Arthur Arz von Straussenburg was born on the 16th of June 1857 in Hermannstadt. He was the product of a noble "Seven Mountains' Saxon" family. His grandfather Martin Samuel Arz had been raised to the nobility in 1835 with the predicate "von Straussenburg" as the postmaster of Hermannstadt. His father Albert was an evangelical priest, area curate and member of the house of magnates. After attending the gymnasium in Dresden Arthur took his Matura examination at the evangelical gymnasium in Hermannstadt with great achievement. Following his graduation from the gymnasium he started studying law and became a one year volunteer in the Hungarian feldjäger battalion number 23 in 1876/1877. At the completion of his years service he successfully passed the reserve officers' examination and decided to become a regular officer and by the 1st of May 1878 he was commissioned as a Leutnant. As an Oberleutnant he attended the Kriegschule in Vienna from 1885 to 1887 and again after achieving good results was attached to the general staff the following year. After seeing service as a Hauptmann in the general staff and amongst other positions as a member of 2nd corps staff he was assigned as the adjutant to the Generaltruppeninspekteur - Feldzeugmeister Baron Schönfeld. He served in this position for two years before being reassigned to the general staff at the beginning of 1898 where he would serve for the next ten years.

Having been promoted in the meantime to major, Arz was at first assigned as the second general staff officer to the 2nd corps headquarters in Vienna and was promoted to Oberstleutnant on the 1st of May of the same year. Here in the Archduke Eugens's headquarters he distinguished himself with his broad-minded and clear sighted disposition. Following a short period of troop service with infantry regiment 34 he returned to the management bureau of the general staff having been promoted to Oberst on the 1st of May 1902 and became this department's head in May 1903. He worked to great effect in personnel questions through his conciliatory manner and good knowledge of human nature to the fullest satisfaction of his superiors. In the same year he married the Hungarian noblewoman Stefanie Tomka von Tomkahaza und Falkusfalva with whom they had a daughter - Steffia.

With his promotion to Generalmajor in 1908 followed his assignment to the command of the 61st infantry brigade. During the Autumn manouvres of 1911 he received an outstanding evaluation from General der Kavallerie Erzherzog Eugen and was consequently assigned in 1912 as the divisional commander of the 15th infantry division at Miskolc. Shortly thereafter followed his promotion to Feldmarschall-Leutnant on the 1st of May and a year later an assignment to the war ministry in Vienna as section chief of all the military departments. At the outbreak of the war Arz immediately requested a front assignment and was again given command of the 15th infantry division in which he participated in the latter part of the battle of Komorów. Already by the 7th of September Arz took over the command of the 6th corps from General der Infanterie Boroević which he would successfully command until 1916. In the battle of Limanowa-Lapanów Arz distinguished himself as the commander of the right flank of 4th army. Through his energetic intervention the Russian flank attack against Armeegruppe Roth could be completely intercepted and only through this could the decisive results of the Austro-Hungarian 4th army be achieved. The encirclement of the southern enemy flank as suggested and executed by Arz resulted in the final victory.

Arz with Kaiser Karl. Note the Field Marshals' badge of rank on the Emperor's collar. Click to enlarge.From the end of November until April 1915 he was the sector commander in the Gorlice area and played an outstanding part in the success during the battle of Gorlice-Tarnów in May 1915,  Grodek-Magierow in June and Brest-litowsk in August. As part of the German 11th army under Generalfeldmarschall August von Mackensen he also won the respect of his allies. With the threatened entry of the Rumanians into the war on the allied side, Arz who had been promoted to General der Infanterie in September 1915 was entrusted with the command of the newly formed 1st army. When on the 28th of August 1916 Rumanian troops attacked Siebenbürgen, Arz with his numerically inferior 1st army succeeded in holding out and resisting until reinforcements could be brought up. In cooperation with the German 9th army the Rumanians were thrown back across the border within eight weeks. At that time Arz won from the future Kaiser Karl I, his immediate superior as army group commander the latter's respect and appreciation. But also other senior army commanders were equally forthcoming in their praise: Feldmarschall Conrad wrote "has proved to be an energetic resolute leader in the most difficult situations..." or Generaloberst Boroević in May 1916: "Honorable, noble character....outstanding general.."

Numerous personnel changes followed Kaiser Karl's accession to the throne on the 21st of  November 1916 both in the military and civilian sectors and so followed the relief of Feldmarschall Conrad von Hötzendorf as chief of the general staff. To the surprise of many observers, the young Kaiser Karl entrusted this crucial position to Arz, with whom he himself had become acquainted as a capable leader of troops. However probably also decisive in his appointment was the conciliatory character of the general who gave the Emperor the impression that he was not being patronized. Also contrary to Conrad, Arz, likewise did not suggest lengthy political discussions. Faith in the emperor and loyalty to the German allies were the guiding rules of his actions.

The year 1917 brought the k.u.k. army important successes in the east - the liberation of east Galicia and the Bukowina and particularly the greatest victory - the break-through at Flitsch Tolmein. Arz did not however succeed in inducing the German high command to fully exploit this victory by employing further reserves - there were thus also disadvantages to an affable, conciliatory character. Arz was promoted to Generaloberst on the 9th of February 1918. When the planning of the offensive against Italy began in the Spring of 1918 both Field Marshals Conrad and Boroević demanded to lead it. This resulted in no clear decision from Arz and the AOK. The compromise solution desired by the emperor led to an attack from both directions which resulted in total failure. Arz dutifully took full responsibility and offered his resignation. This was rejected by the Emperor even after Generaloberst Schönberg-Hartenstein had said to the Emperor's face that every confidence of the army would have been lost in Arz.

The collapse of the military forces of the central powers had not found Arz unprepared. In order to avoid unnecessary bloodshed , he strove for as rapid a conclusion of an armistice as possible. This armistice with Italy concluded on the 3rd of November 1918 which came into effect only 36 hours later and although accepted by the AOK resulted in the capture of almost 400,000 soldiers who already believed themselves at peace! The confused position and communication difficulties of the AOK had probably contributed apart from the Italian modification of the schedule to the armistice. During the the night of the 2nd to the 3rd of November 1918 Emperor Karl relinquished his command of the armed forces. In an handwritten note which can still be found in Arz's estate at the Vienna war archives, Kaiser Karl wrote "..Dear Generaloberst Baron Arz. I appoint you to be my supreme commander. Karl"! Arz however refused as he did not want the responsibility for an armistice that threatened an ally and FM Kövess was appointed as the new supreme commander. Arz undertook the position until Kövess could take up his office.

After the collapse Arz lived in Vienna. Since he refused to return to his now Romanian home.  He also received no pension and had to live in poverty on allowances from a support fund from former officer comrades especially created for this purpose to live independently. Only in 1926 did Hungary grant a pension - however with the condition that this be personally collected from Budapest in each case. 

Arz published in 1924 " The history of the great  war 1914-1918 " and in 1935 his war experiences in "Fight and fall of the empires" which contained however contrary to some of the works of other comrades no kind of political manifestation or self justification. He was further involved as a commander of the MMThO as a member (Kapitular) of the medal section of the MMThO which was introduced postwar to scrutinize awards of the order to former officers of the Austrian-Hungarian army.

During a stay in Budapest in order to collect his pension Arthur Baron Arz von Straussenburg suffered an heart attack and died on the 1st of July 1935. He was buried with the highest military honours at the Kerepester cemetery in Budapest.

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