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The Iron Cross Document for Generalfeldmarschall Wilhelm Leopold Colmar Freiherr von der Goltz

A prolific writer and respected military historian/philosopher von der Goltz had retired in 1911 but was recalled at the outbreak of the war and became the first Military Governor of occupied Belgium. His short passage in this role has left him with a somewhat ambiguous reputation. Arriving in Belgium at a time when German „Franktireur“ paranoia was at its height von der Goltz was responsible for a number of decrees which stated Hostages would taken in cases of sabotage which mainly effected the Railway and Telegraph lines. Under certain circumstances the hostages would be executed.  

In “Hitler’s Secret Conversations” published by Farrar, Straus and Young in 1953, Hitler is quoted as saying “The old Reich knew already how to act with firmness in the occupied areas. That's how attempts at sabotage to the railways in Belgium were punished by Count von der Goltz. He had all the villages burnt within a radius of several kilometres, after having had all the mayors shot, the men imprisoned and the women and children evacuated.”  

There was however something lacking in von der Goltz’s “firmness”, and the newly appointed Generalquartiermeister General Adolf Wild von Hohenborn, wrote to his wife on the 28th of November 1914 saying, "It pleases me that Goltz is being sent to Turkey as a kind of "Fetish object", it means I am rid of him in Belgium. This teller of Fairytales/Dreamer, along with Lüttwitz, his “smooth as an eel” chief of staff were a harmonious pair, but too weak. Things will now get stricter in Belgium, my "candidates" Bissing and Kraewel are taking over

Above: The document is a direct communication from the Chef des Militär-Kabinettes in the Kaisers HQ informing von der Goltz that the Kaiser has awarded him the Iron Cross 1st class. The Militär-Kabinett seems not to have issued preliminary award documents, the official award document presumably planned for after the war as was the case for the 1870 Iron Cross. V. d. Goltz received his Iron Cross 1st Class (noted diagonally on the left of the letter) and this letter. This document was signed by General Moritz Freiherr von Lyncker

“Goltz Pascha” arrived in Turkey where he had served as an advisor and military reformer before the war. In October 1915 von der Goltz was commanding the Turkish 5th Army and besieging General Townshend’s troops at Kut. Under von der Goltz’s command three efforts to break the siege were stopped, causing the allies loses of almost 24 000 troops.  

Von der Goltz died of Typhus at the age of 72 on the 19th of April 1916. He did not live to see the victory at Kut which took place two weeks later.  

Von der Goltz entered the army in Infanterie Regiment 41 on the 25th of April 1861 and transferred to the Grenadier Regiment 8 on the 24th of September 1870. He was attached to the General Staff of the 2. Armee Korps and received his Iron Cross 2nd class while serving on the staff.

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