Prince Windisch-Graetz in an 1852 lithograph.

Prague, Barricades during the revolution of 1848, June 1848

Alfred Candidus Ferdinand, Prince of Windisch-Graetz (German: Alfred Candidus Ferdinand Fürst zu Windisch-Graetz) (May 11, 1787, Brussels — March 21, 1862, Vienna) was an Austrian army officer who distinguished himself throughout the wars fought by the Habsburg Monarchy in the 19th century.

Windisch-Graetz came from a Styrian noble family and started service in the Habsburg imperial army in 1804. He participated in all the wars against Napoleon and fought with distinction at Leipzig and in the campaign of 1814. In 1833, he was named Feldmarschall.

In the following years of peace he held successive commands in Prague, being appointed head of the army in Bohemia in 1840. Having gained a reputation as a champion of energetic measures against revolution, during the Revolutions of 1848 in Habsburg areas he was called upon to suppress the insurrection of March 1848 in Vienna, but finding himself ill-supported by the ministers he speedily threw up his post.

Having returned to Prague, his wife was killed by by a stray bullet during the popular uprising. He then showed firmness in quelling an armed outbreak of the Czech separatists (June 1848), declaring martial law throughout Bohemia. Upon the recrudescence of revolt in Vienna he was summoned at the head of a large army and reduced the city by a formal siege (October 1848).

Appointed to the chief command against the Hungarian revolutionaries under Lajos Kossuth, he gained some early successes and reoccupied Buda and Pest (Jan. 1849), but by his slowness in pursuit he allowed the enemy to rally in superior numbers and to prevent an effective concentration of the Austrian forces.

In April 1849 he was relieved of his command and henceforth rarely appeared again in public life.


In assessing the capabilities of warships, the most basic parameter is size, usually given in tons. Unfortunately, pre-modern usage was inconsistent and modern authors all too frequently fail to specify which ton they are using and how. The ton has its origins in the English tun, a barrel with a capacity of 252 gallons used in the French wine trade that became the dominant unit of measure for shipping in medieval Britain and western Europe from Amsterdam south. The equivalent in northern waters was the last, roughly two tons, while the botte, about half a ton, prevailed In the Mediterranean. Capacity was at first given in terms of the number of tuns, lasts or botte that could actually be loaded into a ship’s hold. Later, methods were developed for using hull dimensions to calculate precisely capacities in these units (and their local variants, of which there were many). The results were – and are – economically informative. The sizes of sailing warships were calculated in the same way, but the results are less helpful, for carrying capacity is a poor indicator of military potential. By contrast, war galleys were rated according to their number of rowing banks and oarsmen. In both cases, size was related to combat capability; the question is how best to measure and express it. Most modern authors use tonnage – by definition a measure of capacity – to express the size of medieval and early modern ships, but this can be misleading even when used correctly.

The modern solution is to rate warships in terms of the weight of water they displace, expressed for convenience in long tons of 2,240 pounds avoirdupois. Unlike medieval capacity calculations, the results are not exact, for a vessel’s displacement varies with the load it carries. The results are, however, meaningful and apply to war galleys as well as sailing warships. We must obtain them ourselves, however, for in medieval times only Chinese shipwrights were able to calculate displacements, and their methods were lost with the Ming dynasty’s ban on ocean-going vessels. European shipwrights began calculating displacements only in the late 1600s, and for another two centuries used the results only as part of the design process. Fortunately, medieval and early modern shipwrights – at least successful ones – were systematic and their designs consistent. Knowing the dimensions of a few representatives of a given type, we can calculate the displacements of the rest with reasonable accuracy from one or two parameters: length, breadth and depth of hull or capacity in tons, lasts or botte. We are helped in this endeavour by naval historian Jan Glete who has calculated the displacements of an immense number of early modern warships and published the results in his trail-breaking Navies and Nations: Warships, Navies and State Building in Europe and America, 1500-1860.


Karl Wilhelm von Willisen

The revolutionary crisis of the middle of the nineteenth century which shattered most of the European countries in protest against the political system established by the Congress of Vienna is usually associated with the memorable year of 1848, with the so-called “spring of the peoples.” It was indeed in the spring of that year that the movement started in Western Europe and in the western, German part of Central Europe. In East Central Europe, however, where the tension was deepest and the claims for national freedom even stronger than those for constitutional reforms, the crisis started exactly two years earlier, in the spring of 1846.

It started with the utopian project of a Polish insurrection which would be directed against all three partitioning powers at the same time. From the outset it proved impossible to include any direct action against Russia, which dominated by far the largest part of Polish lands and where the oppression was most violent. For Nicholas I who in the thirties had already crushed all conspiratorial activities of the Poles, now succeeded, and even in the decisive year of 1848, in stopping all revolutionary movements at the border of his empire. It was therefore Prussian Poland which was selected as a basis for the new struggle for freedom. Here the prospective leader, Ludwik Mieroslawski, had already appeared in 1845. The reasons for such a decision must be explained against the background of the general situation in Prussia.

As far as her policy toward the Polish population was concerned, earlier attempts at reconciliation, in agreement with the promises of 1815, had been followed by the systematic repressions of Edward Flottwell who in 1830 replaced the Polish prince, Anton Radziwill, as governor of the grand duchy of Poznan. On the other hand, not only in that purely Polish province but also in West Prussia and Silesia all government efforts toward Germanization met with strong resistance. This was not at all limited to the Catholic clergy and to the nobility, who were considered the main representatives of Polish nationalism, but it was also organized by a Polish middle class which had been formed in these western lands earlier than in any other part of Poland. It was there that the most advanced cultural, social, and economic progress had been made by the Polish people, while such progress was entirely impossible under the regimes of Metternich and Nicholas I. Even under Frederick William IV, new King of Prussia since 1840, who recalled Flottwell, only the methods of anti-Polish policy were changed. But the apparently anti-Russian attitude of the government, and some sympathy displayed by Prussian liberals, created the illusion that eventually the planned Polish action would find Prussian support.

What really happened was, on the contrary, the arrest of Mieroslawski and his collaborators in February, 1846, when their conspiracy was discovered and all attempts to liberate Prussian Poland failed completely. At the same time, however, a real tragedy took place in Austrian Galicia. Alarmed by preparations for a Polish insurrection which had also started there, the Austrian administration incited the peasants to rise against the noble landowners in some districts of western Galicia, promising rewards for the killing or capturing of any of them. The peasants were told by the Austrian bureaucracy that the nobles wanted to restore old Poland only to enslave them, while the emperor was ready to abolish serfdom completely. As a matter of fact it was precisely the leaders of the insurrection who, though of noble origin, like the eminently prominent Edward Dembowski, had the most advanced ideas of social reform. Their radicalism was best evidenced when at the end of February they seized power in the free city of Cracow, where Jan Tyssowski, later an exile in the United States, was proclaimed dictator. But his inadequate forces were defeated by the Austrians, Dembowski was killed, and after a brief Russian occupation the republic of Cracow was annexed by the Austrian Empire.

Even that obvious violation of the treaties of 1815 was accepted by the Western powers which in spite of the aroused public opinion in France and England limited themselves to weak diplomatic protests. And a new wave of violent repressions set in, both in Galicia where the new governor, Count Stadion, tried to play off the Ruthenians against the Poles, and in Prussia, where in December, 1847, Mieroslawski and seven of his associates, after a long imprisonment, were sentenced to death. But before they could be executed, the outbreak of the 1848 revolution opened entirely new prospects not only for the Poles but for all the submerged nationalities of East Central Europe.

As a matter of fact there were several revolutions in 1848, not only in different countries but with different objectives. In the French February Revolution, the issues were exclusively constitutional and social, but just as in the case of the great Revolution of 1789, the general ideas of liberty which were spreading from Paris all over Europe had a special appeal for those peoples who were deprived not only of constitutional freedom—and this in a degree much greater than under Louis Philippe’s French monarchy—but also of their national rights. Hence the growing excitement in various foreign-dominated parts of Italy and particularly in the non-German parts of Prussia and Austria. Not later than in March there appeared in both monarchies a rather confusing combination of nationalist movements and general revolts against autocratic regimes.

In Prussia, in spite of the disappointments of 1846, the situation of that year seemed to repeat itself so far as the Polish question was concerned. The liberation of Mieroslawski and his friends by German crowds in Berlin was very significant in that respect. Returning to Poznan, the Polish leader also returned to the plan of a war against czarist Russia with the support of a liberalized Prussia, whose new minister of foreign affairs, Baron H. von Arnim, was in favor of such a conception. The latter was also supported by Prince Adam Czartoryski who came from Paris to Berlin. But all these plans were doomed to failure for two different reasons.

First of all, a war against Russia was seriously considered in Prussia only so long as there was fear of Russian armed intervention in the German revolution and a prospect of the active cooperation of other powers. But Nicholas I, well advised by his ambassador in Berlin, remained passive, while the ambassadors of Britain and even of revolutionary France made it quite clear that the Western powers did not desire a conflict with the czar any more than Austria, who was involved in her own troubles. On the other hand, the impossibility of Polish-Prussian cooperation became obvious as soon as the “national reorganization” of at least the province of Poznan was considered. Contrary to the initial promises of the government, any administrative reform in favor of the Poles who hoped for complete separation from Prussia was opposed by the German minority. A compromise negotiated by General Willisen, as royal commissioner, was rejected by both sides, and after a decree which announced the division of the grand duchy into a Polish and a German part, open fighting started with the result that on May 9, 1848, the insurrectionary Polish forces had to capitulate.

There followed a violent anti-Polish reaction under the new commissioner, General Pfuel, who was even ready to cede to Russia a part of the Poznan province. Finally such drastic changes were abandoned, but even the Frankfurt Parliament, where a few liberals had spoken in favor of the Poles and the reconstruction of their country, fully approved Prussia’s policy in the name of a “healthy national egoism.” Such an attitude was in agreement with the general program of German nationalism which in 1848 claimed the unification of all German states in one empire, whether under Prussian or Austrian leadership, but which also wanted to include many non-German populations that were under the control of both these powers.

In the case of the Habsburg monarchy, such an approach had implications of a much larger scope, affecting at least all those possessions of the dynasty which in the past had belonged to the Holy Roman Empire and which since 1815 had been included in the German Confederation. For that very reason the Bohemian lands were invited to send representatives to the Frankfurt Parliament, a claim which was rejected in the name of the Czechs by the historian Palacky, who now became the political leader of the nation. Nevertheless, when in March, 1848, almost simultaneously with the revolution in Berlin, a similar movement broke out in Vienna, here too at the beginning there seemed to be a possibility of cooperation among all those who, irrespective of nationality, had suffered under the Metternich regime. This cooperation was to include Austrian Germans, who were chiefly interested in constitutional reforms and other peoples who hoped that under a liberal constitution their national rights would also receive consideration.

In Austria, too, the Polish question, which had received such a harsh blow two years before, was immediately reopened, and in Galicia, as in Prussian Poland, concessions were made at the beginning of the revolution. These included the creation of national committees in Cracow and Lwow, and the raising of hopes for a reconstruction of Poland in connection with the Habsburg monarchy. But there was even less chance of cooperation against the Russian Czardom—the main obstacle to such a reconstruction—than in Prussia. On the contrary, on April 26 Cracow had already been bombarded by the Austrian commander, and when Polish activity was transferred to the eastern part of Galicia, the Austrian government favored the claim of the Ruthenians. This was to cut off that part of Galicia as a separate province with a Ruthenian majority. In November drastic anti-Polish measures also set in there. Lwow, too, was bombarded. The first Pole, Waclaw Zaleski, who had been made governor of Galicia, was recalled, and although the partition of Galicia did not materialize, the whole province was again subject to efforts of Germanization and to strict control by the central authorities.

Here, however, the analogy with the fate of Prussian Poland ends. In the multinational Austrian Empire the Poles did not limit themselves to another abortive uprising in their section of the monarchy, but took an active and sometimes a leading part in all other revolutionary movements, including even that of the Viennese population. A first important step was the Polish participation in the Slavic congress which was opened in Prague on June 2. Like the whole earlier purely cultural phase of Pan-Slavism, that congress, naturally under Czech leadership, had nothing in common with the later development of that trend which was sponsored by Russia. Except for the isolated extremist Bakunin, who hoped in vain to use Bohemia as a basis for a communist revolution, the Russians were conspicuously absent from the congress. There was indeed in Prague a difference between conservative partly aristocratic leaders who were defending traditional regionalism, and a liberal, even radical, majority. There were also individual delegates from outside the Habsburg monarchy. But all of them represented those Slavic peoples who, crushed between German and Russian imperialism, hoped that a reorganization of that monarchy on democratic principles would give them a chance for free development.

In spite of such a positive attitude toward Austria, whose existence even Palacky considered indispensable in that phase of his activity, the imperial authorities were suspicious. In Prague, as in the two Polish cities, the end was a bombardment, the congress being dispersed. In addition to that hostility of the military and bureaucratic elements in the central government, however, there was another difficulty which made the Slavic congress and its whole program end in failure. It had already appeared during the deliberations that the Slavs, though a majority in the Habsburg monarchy, were not the only non-German group which had to be taken into consideration in any reform project. Besides the Italian and Rumanian question of a rather special character, there was the big issue of Hungary with her Magyar leaders and her own nationalities problems.


The origins of Rome’s imperial fleets were in many respects similar to those of the legions and auxilia. In the final bout of civil wars, Octavian’s struggle against Sextus Pompeius and the sea-battle at Actium in 31 bc had highlighted the political importance of controlling the seaways of the Mediterranean, and especially the waters around Italy. At the same time, Octavian had been left with some 700 ships on his hands after the final victory. Much of Antony’s fleet was simply burned, but the rest of the ships were sent with their crews to Fréjus (Forum Iulii) on the southern coast of Gaul (Tac. Ann. 4.5), where a squadron was maintained until the reign of Nero. The main Roman fleets, however, were stationed at Misenum in the bay of Naples, in part to protect the grain transports from Egypt, and at Ravenna at the head of the Adriatic.

These bases were most probably chosen for their large, safe harbours, rather than for strategic reasons, but there were also detachments of the classis Misenatium along the west coast of Italy at Ostia, Puteoli and Centumcellae. The Mediterranean was a Roman lake, known as mare nostrum or ‘our sea’, and the main threat was from civil strife or piracy rather than any external enemy. What mattered was for the emperor to maintain ‘fleets in being’, which could be used if they were needed. In the event they were not required for any major conflict until the civil wars of the early fourth century, and the fleet was mainly used for transport of the imperial family and of troops going on campaign. It is significant that a large detachment of the sailors from Misenum could be kept in Rome to stage mock seabattles (Tac. Ann. 12.56; Suet. Claud. 12.6) and work the sun-awnings in the Colosseum (SHA Comm. 15.6). The sailors of the Italian and other fleets were normally, like the auxiliaries, non-Roman citizens. They even included ex-slaves and Egyptians, who were barred from serving in most other branches of the armed forces. Inscriptions show that the men of the classis Misenatium were recruited mostly from the eastern provinces, especially Egypt, while those of the classis Ravennatium came mostly from the Danube provinces.

A number of provincial fleets were also maintained. One, the classis Alexandrina, was based at Alexandria from the time of Augustus, and was probably a legacy of the war against Antony and Cleopatra. It too was manned by Egyptians, but only those with Alexandrian and Roman citizenship, even though ordinary Egyptians could and did join the Italian fleets. The role of the classis Alexandrina was probably to protect the mouth of the Nile from which the grain ships set sail for Rome, although it also operated on the river Nile from time to time. A Syrian fleet, the classis Syriaca, was probably based at Seleucia at the mouth of the Orontes from some time in the first century ad to protect the coastline of Syria and Judaea. After ad 44 the Alexandrine and Syrian fleets also sent a detachment to Caesarea (Cherchel), the capital of Mauretania Caesariensis in the western Mediterranean.

The other provincial fleets were all based on the northern frontiers and had their origins at the end of the first century bc and in the early first century ad. Several of them were riverine rather than sea-going, including the classis Germanica on the Rhine, with its main base at Cologne, the classis Pannonica on the middle Danube, with its main base near Belgrade (Singidunum) and the classis Moesiaca on the lowerDanube, possibly based around the Danube delta. The duties of such fleets were mainly ferrying and supply, although they did on occasion engage in hostilities on the river. In the Black Sea itself the navy of the kings of Pontus was reorganized as the classis Pontica based on the northern coast of AsiaMinor and in the Crimea. In addition, a British fleet, the classis Britannica, was established when the province was invaded in ad 43, and had its main bases at Boulogne and Dover. Its role, too, was mainly one of transport and supply.

The main capital ship of all the fleets was the trireme, a ship rowed at three levels with a crew of around 200, although the riverine fleets consisted mostly of much smaller biremes and single-level ships. The two main fleets had a few quadriremes (a two-level ship with two men to each oar) and quinqueremes (three-level with one or two men to an oar), and the Misenum fleet had a flagship, named Ops (‘Wealth’) (CIL x 3560, 3611) which was a six (three-level, two men to an oar).We know the names of eighty-eight ships in the Misenum fleet: one six, one quinquereme, ten quadriremes, fifty-two triremes and fifteen smaller vessels (liburnae). Since the names may have been passed down from ship to ship, this may reflect the actual strength of the fleet, and accords with other evidence for its size. For the Ravenna fleet we know the names of two quinqueremes, six quadriremes, twenty-three triremes and four liburnae, which suggests that it may have been around half the size of the Misenum fleet.

Sailors served for twenty-six years (twenty-eight in the third century) and were rewarded with Roman citizenship after that time. They were also organized much like the auxilia. The sailors even call themselves ‘soldiers’ (milites) on inscriptions, and no distinction appears to have been made between rowers and marines. We find the usual immunes, as well as tesserarii, sub-optiones and optiones, signiferi and vexillarii. In addition, however, we also find specifically nautical principales, such as celeustae or pausarii who called time to the rowers, proretae (bow-officers) and gubernatores (helmsmen). Individual ships were commanded by trierarchi and squadrons were commanded by a nauarchus, the senior of whom was the nauarchus princeps. All these last three appear to have ranked as centurions, and may even refer to themselves as such on occasion, although some scholars believe that the fleet centuriones were specifically officers of marines.

All the fleets were commanded by equestrian praefecti, mostly ranking with junior procurators and just above the third grade of the militia equestris (though under Claudius and Nero many procurators were still ex-slaves of the emperor, and some of these were given fleet commands). The involvement of the Misenum and Ravenna fleets in the Civil War of ad 68–9, however, ensured that their special importance had to be acknowledged. Vespasian gave them both the honorific title praetoria, and they were subsequently entrusted to equestrian prefects who ranked only just below the prefect of the vigiles and the other great prefectures. The prefect of the Misenum fleet in ad 79 was the author Pliny the Elder, who died when he took his ships across the bay of Naples to rescue some friends from the eruption of Vesuvius in that year. The dramatic story is told in a letter (Ep. 6.16) written by his nephew, Pliny the Younger.


The same scale, from purely cultural to distinctly political nationalism, can be found among the nationalities of the Austrian Empire. Metternich, more than the emperors themselves, Francis I and after his death in 1835, Ferdinand I, who were rather weak and insignificant rulers, represented the idea of absolute government. He was hardly afraid of the cultural revival of the Czechs in spite of its steady progress. The foundation of the Museum of the Bohemian Kingdom in 1818 was indeed rather an expression of interest in regional studies. But when in 1830 the Matice ceska (literally “Czech mother”) was attached to it, that society also started encouraging the use of the Czech language. And it was obvious that the publication of Frantisek Palacky’s History of Bohemia (though first in German), covering the period of independence before Habsburg rule, would revive a national tradition in complete opposition to all that Metternich was standing for.

Some of the most prominent Czech writers, like the poet Jan Kollár and the historian P. J. Safarik, were of Slovak origin and interested in the past and the culture of all Slavic peoples. They contributed on the one hand to a feeling of Slavic solidarity in the Habsburg Empire, long before that movement was exploited by Russian imperialism, and on the other hand to a national revival even of those Slavs who never had created independent states, like the Slovenes and the Slovaks themselves. Though very close to the Czechs, the Slovaks under the leadership of Ludovit Stur decided to use their own language in literature, thus reacting against the backward conditions in which they were left under Hungarian rule.

Trying to play off the various nationalities against one another, the Metternich regime, for instance, would use officials of Czech origin as tools of Germanization in Polish Galicia, and would welcome the growing antagonism between the Magyars and the other groups in Hungary. In that kingdom, whose state rights even Metternich could not completely disregard, Hungarian nationalism was making rapid progress, particularly in the cultural and economic field, thanks chiefly to Count Széchenyi, called “the greatest Hungarian,” who in 1825 founded the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. The Diet, which continued to function though with greatly reduced power, was slow to carry out the democratic reforms advocated by Széchenyi, but in its session of 1843 – 1844 it at last decided to replace Latin by Magyar as the official language.

At the same time the Hungarian Diet also decided to prescribe instruction in the Magyar language in the schools of Croatia where, therefore, Croat nationalism was more alarmed by the inconsiderate pressure coming from Budapest than by the centralization of the whole empire being promoted in Vienna. Furthermore, under these conditions, the idea of Yugoslav unity, in spite of the old antagonism between Serbs and Croats, was also becoming popular among the latter where the gifted writer and politician Ljudevit Gaj (1809—1872) propagated the “Illyrian” movement and also influenced the Slovenes in a similar sense.

Even in its rather modest beginnings, that movement was dangerous for the unity of the monarchy because it could not find full satisfaction within its existing boundaries. And such was also the case of Polish and Italian nationalism, as well as of the Ruthenian and Rumanian aspirations. The former clashed in eastern Galicia with Polish supremacy, and the latter in Transylvania with Magyar supremacy, while cultural ties were at least established with the Ruthenians or Ukrainians of the Russian Empire, and with the Rumanians in the Danubian principalities. But even more than these international implications, the two big national problems which affected the Austrian Empire alone, the Czech and the Magyar, were a growing source of tension because in these cases modern nationalism found strong support in the historic tradition of two medieval kingdoms. The Pan-Slavic trend among the Czechs was ready to use the Habsburg monarchy as a basis of action, and the Hungarian program did not exclude a dynastic union with Austria. But even so they were directed against the very foundations of Metternich’s system and could not be represented by the chancellor’s police measures.


Clash between Polish insurgents and Russian cuirassiers on bridge in Warsaw’s Łazienki Park. In background, an equestrian statue of King John III Sobieski. Painting byWojciech Kossak, 1898.

Taking of the Warsaw Arsenal. Painting by Marcin Zaleski.

This 1836 map of Eastern Europe shows Poland.

The Polish insurrection which broke out in Warsaw on November 29, 1830, is sometimes called a Polish-Russian war. It was indeed a conflict between the kingdom of Poland, which was supposed to exist again after the Congress of Vienna, and the Russian Empire, to which that separated body politic was attached by a personal union only. But long before the Polish army rebelled against the czar’s brother, Grand Duke Constantine, who had been made its commander in chief, and before the Polish Diet on January 25, 1831, formally dethroned the Romanov dynasty, the whole conception of 1815 proved a fiction which could not possibly endure.

During the fifteen years between the Congress and the Revolution, no little progress had been made in the kingdom, particularly in the cultural and economic fields. A Polish university was opened in Warsaw in 1817, and the most prominent member of the Polish government, Prince Xavier Lubecki, achieved a great deal as minister of finance. But already under Czar Alexander, solemnly crowned in Warsaw as king of Poland, even those Poles who had accepted the Vienna decisions as a basis for constructive activities were deeply disappointed. Alexander’s vague promises that the eastern provinces of the former commonwealth would be reunited with the kingdom proved impossible of fulfilment, even if they were sincere. Although under Russian rule Polish culture continued to flourish there, particularly in the former grand duchy of Lithuania where the University of Wilno was a more brilliant center of Polish learning and literature than ever before, the Russians considered those “West-Russian” lands an integral part of the empire which the czar had no right to alienate. Already in 1823 Prince Adam Czartoryski was removed from his position as “curator” of the University of Wilno, where severe repressions against the Polish youth organizations started at once. The Russian senator N. N. Novosiltsov, chiefly responsible for these measures, was at the same time interfering with the administration of the kingdom where instead of Czartoryski the insignificant General Zajaczek was appointed viceroy. Novosiltsov’s role was of course contrary to the apparently liberal constitution which Czartoryski had helped to draft. The leading patriots in the Diet tried in vain to defend Poland’s constitutional rights on legal grounds, while those who realized the futility of such loyal opposition engaged in conspiracies which even the most severe police control proved unable to check.

The tension rapidly increased when Alexander I died in 1825. After the abortive December revolution in St. Petersburg, whose leaders seemed to favor the Polish claims, he was succeeded by his brother Nicholas I. He too was crowned as king of Poland a few years later. But without even the appearance of liberalism which had been shown by Alexander, he considered the parliamentary regime of the kingdom as being completely incompatible with the autocratic form of government which he so fully developed in Russia. Hence the Polish radicals, under the leadership of young infantry cadets, rose in defense of their constitution. Public opinion was alarmed by the news that the Polish army would be used by the czar as a vanguard for crushing the revolutionary movements which in 1830 had broken out in France and Belgium and which received Polish sympathy.

Even the moderate leaders who were surprised by the plot of the cadets and who considered the insurrection as having been insufficiently prepared, joined it in a spirit of national unity, though much time was lost through the hesitation of those who still hoped to appease the czar and to arrive at some compromise. Among these was General Chlopicki, who was entrusted with practically dictatorial powers. Even later, the changing leadership of the Polish army, which for nine months opposed the overwhelming Russian forces, proved rather undecided and inadequate so that even initial successes and bold strategic conceptions of the general staff were not sufficiently utilized. Therefore the struggle ended in a victory of the Russian Field Marshal Paskevich, a veteran of the war against Turkey, and on September 7, 1831, after a siege of three weeks, Warsaw was taken by storm.

Two aspects of that greatest Polish insurrection of the nineteenth century are of general interest, one with regard to the problem of nationalities in East Central Europe, the other from the point of view of international relations in Europe as a whole. The uprising which had started in Warsaw as an action of the so-called “Congress Kingdom,” had immediate repercussions east of the Bug River, in the Lithuanian and Ruthenian provinces of the historic commonwealth. Particularly in the former grand duchy of Lithuania there was a strong participation in the revolutionary movement against Russian rule, not only among the Polonized nobility but also among the gentry and the peasants of purely Lithuanian stock. And though there were social controversies in connection with the promised abolition of serfdom, there was no Lithuanian separatism on ethnic grounds but a common desire to restore the traditional Polish-Lithuanian Union in full independence from Russia. Regular Polish forces came from the territory of the kingdom, and the movement spread as far as the Livonian border but was unable to liberate the main cities and broke down with the doom of the insurrection in Poland proper.

The leaders of the revolution also hoped to obtain the support of the Ukrainian lands. Here, too, they appealed not only to the Polish and Polonized nobles and to the idea of Polish-Lithuanian-Ruthenian cooperation in some tripartite federation of the future, but also to the peasant masses which, however, remained distrustful and passive. The young Taras Shevchenko, who was soon to become the first great Ukrainian poet, had contacts with some of the Polish leaders. But he was not won over, and later he made the significant statement that “Poland fell and crushed us too.” For the czarist government, after the defeat of the Poles, started a ruthless Russification not only in the Congress kingdom but also in all Lithuanian and Ruthenian lands where not only the Poles and the supporters of the Polish cause, but all non-Russian elements, were also the victims—a situation which greatly contributed to the rise of Lithuanian and Ukrainian nationalism.

While these indirect consequences of the November insurrection appeared only later, the diplomatic repercussions in general European politics were simultaneous. All Poles realized that their fight for freedom could have notable chances for success only if supported by other powers. Therefore, turning exclusively against Russia, which controlled by far the largest part of Poland’s historic territory in one form or another, they hoped for the complacence of Austria and even for some sympathy among the liberals in Germany. Decisive, however, seemed the attitude of the Western powers, France and Britain. Well realized by Polish public opinion in general, the necessity to find outside assistance was the main concern of Prince Adam Czartoryski, Poland’s greatest statesman of the nineteenth century. After years of endeavor toward a reconciliation with Russia he now recognized the hopelessness of such a policy and for the remaining thirty years of his life was to be Russia’s most persistent opponent.

Although Czartoryski never was popular among the leftists led by the famous historian Joachim Lelewel, his authority was so great that he was placed at the head of the national government. As such he made every effort to make the revolution an international issue, and he sent diplomatic representatives abroad, particularly to Paris and London. After the dethronement of Nicholas I as king of Poland, even the election of another king was considered. In order to interest Vienna in the Polish cause, the candidature of an Austrian archduke or of the Duke of Reichstadt, Napoleon’s son who was kept at the Austrian court, was put forward, as well as that of the Prince of Orange or of a member of the British royal family. More realistic was the conviction that all signatories of the 1815 treaties ought to be interested in the violation of the promises then made to the Poles, and that they would therefore intercede in their behalf.

But all the diplomatic skill of Czartoryski and his collaborators proved to be of no avail. Even statesmen who seemed favorable to the Poles, such as Talleyrand and Sebastiani in France or Palmerston in England, wanted them first to gain substantial victories through their own forces. Prospects of a joint French-British mediation, with the possible participation of Austria, vanished when the Belgian problem created a tension between the two western powers, while Austria showed some interest in Poland’s fate only at the last moment when the defeated Polish regiments had already crossed over into Galicia, only to be disarmed there like those who crossed the Prussian border.

As a matter of fact the Polish insurrection had saved France and Belgium from Russian intervention, thus giving evidence that a really independent Poland would be a protection against czarist imperialism, as in the past. Therefore Czartoryski, who after participating as a volunteer in the last fights went into exile for the rest of his life, hoped that the complete conquest of Congress Poland by Russia would again raise those fears of Russian expansion which were so general in 1815 in Vienna. In Paris he tried to convince old Talleyrand that at least a restoration of the autonomous kingdom ought to be requested from the czar, but Sebastiani made the famous statement that “order reigned in Warsaw,” and in London, where the prince made many friends for Poland, he heard the objection that “unfortunately the Polish question was contrary to the interests of all other powers.

To convince the world that this was not so was Czartoryski’s main objective after his final establishment at the Hotel Lambert in Paris from 1833 on. He tried to accomplish his ends by connecting the Polish cause with that of all oppressed nations. Therefore that “uncrowned king of Poland,” with his diplomatic agents in almost all European capitals, was working for the liberation of the whole of East Central Europe. In the belief that the fate of Poland was part of a much larger problem, the whole Polish emigration, concentrated in France and inspired by great poets including Adam Mickiewicz, was united in spite of differences of method between the right and the left. The latter, eager to join revolutionary movements anywhere, was also eager to organize new conspiracies in the oppressed country at once, with another insurrection as ultimate goal, without sufficiently realizing that there was not the slightest chance of success under the regime established by the victorious czar in all his Polish possessions.

In addition to the ruthless persecution of everything that was Polish or connected with Poland in the eastern provinces where the University of Wilno and the Uniate church were the main victims, a period of reaction also started in the so-called kingdom under Paskevich as general governor. Considering that the Poles through their rebellion had forfeited all rights granted them at the Congress of Vienna, in 1832 Nicholas I replaced the constitution of the kingdom by an “Organic Statute” which liquidated its autonomy and made it practically a Russian province, subject to systematic Russification particularly in the educational field. The fiction of a restoration of Poland in union with Russia was now abandoned and the czarist empire advanced to the very boundaries of Prussian and Austrian Poland.

Under these circumstances the other two partitioning powers became convinced that close cooperation with Russia was indispensable. A secret agreement was therefore concluded in 1833 by the three monarchs, who guaranteed one another their Polish possessions and promised mutual assistance in case of a new revolution. Jointly, they also militarily occupied (without however annexing it) the Free City of Cracow where the November insurrection had found numerous partisans. The settlement made at the Congress of Vienna was thus revised in East Central Europe in favor of the imperialistic powers, and it became even more intolerable for the submerged nationalities. For the reaction directed against the Poles, whom Metternich considered the typical revolutionaries, was accompanied, both in the Habsburg Empire which he fully controlled and in the Russia of his ally Nicholas I, by oppressive measures against all other peoples who were dissatisfied with their fate.

Book Review:An der Seite der Wehrmacht: Hitlers ausländische Helfer beim "Kreuzzug gegen den Bolschewismus" 1941-1945.

Rolf-Dieter Müller. An der Seite der Wehrmacht: Hitlers ausländische Helfer beim “Kreuzzug gegen den Bolschewismus” 1941-1945. Berlin: Christoph Links Verlag, 2007. 280 pp. ISBN 978-3-86153-448-8; EUR 24.90 (cloth), ISBN 978-3-86153-448-8.

Reviewed by Jeff Rutherford (Department of History, Wheeling Jesuit University)
Published on H-German (April, 2009)
Commissioned by Susan R. Boettcher

A Reappraisal of Germany and Europe’s “Crusade against Bolshevism”

The most savage and devastating conflict in modern European history was the 1941-45 German-Soviet War. The struggle, however, did not merely pit German soldiers against their Soviet counterparts. Over twenty European countries and national groups sent contingents of troops to assist the German Wehrmacht in its attempt to destroy the communist state. This “crusade against Bolshevism” drew in a minimum of 3,962,000 men from across Europe, organized in both large national armies from states allied to Germany as well as in volunteer contingents integrated directly into the Wehrmacht–both army and Waffen-SS–itself. In a new, badly needed synthesis that focuses primarily on operational events, Rolf-Dieter Müller examines the contribution of these other European states to the German war effort in the East.

Müller, the director of the Military History Research Office in Potsdam and frequent contributor to that institution’s ten-volume “official” German history of the Second World War–Deutschland und der Zweite Weltkrieg, which was completed this year–claims that such a comprehensive examination of Hitler’s allies and auxiliaries is needed due to the persistence of two myths. On the one hand, Hitler’s continual harangues against the alleged poor performance of non-German units on the eastern front have filtered down into the popular consciousness to such an extent that the efforts of allied armies have been nearly completely discounted. On the other hand, the radical Right in Europe continues to loudly proclaim that the entire campaign was one in which the continent rallied around the idea of destroying the Bolshevik threat, and that the experiences of eastern Europe in the subsequent four decades lend credence to the righteousness of Hitler’s cause. Müller effectively destroys the two legends and, in the course of the study, both restores the importance of the Third Reich’s allies to its war effort and highlights the various reasons for the involvement of “Hitler’s foreign helpers” in the war against the Soviet Union.

The contributions of countries throughout Europe ranged from the 800,000-man conscript army of Hungary to 4,000 volunteers from Denmark to some 800,000 Russians who served in various capacities within the German armed forces or occupation machinery. In order to make some sense of these various contingents, Müller breaks the book into three sections: the first examines the formal allies of the German Reich; the second looks at the volunteers from neutral and occupied countries in western Europe; and the third and most interesting part considers the actions of the various peoples incorporated into the Soviet Union, including eastern Poland. Such structuring of the book allows it to be effectively used as a reference; anyone interested in the contribution of, say, Croatia would be able to locate the section on the Croats easily. Unfortunately, such a structure also lends the book an encyclopedic feel; each chapter is so self-contained that the general narrative suffers as a result.

Müller forcefully rejects the premise that Germany’s allies contributed next to nothing to the fighting in the East. Initially the Germans felt no need to request assistance from their allies, outside of the Finns and the Rumanians. Their hubris led them to believe that the campaign would be won quickly and that the spoils should be kept for Germany itself. A strong belief in the inadequacy of their allies complemented this operational arrogance. With the failure of Operation Barbarossa in the winter of 1941/42 and the consequent heavy casualties suffered by the Wehrmacht, it became clear that those countries so disparaged by the Führer and others in the German military leadership needed to be relied upon increasingly to stabilize German lines within the Soviet Union. Müller’s examination of Hungary and Italy detail the evolution of the allies’ contribution to Germany’s war in the East. Initially, Hitler left Hungary in the dark until the last minute regarding his plans for operations in the Soviet Union. Hungary committed forces to the invasion only after one of its border cities was bombed by a still-undetermined attacker on June 26, 1941. This initial commitment of 45,000 men was increased to 200,000 by the end of January 1942; such an enlargement pointed to the Wehrmacht’s inability to launch a second major offensive in 1942 without its allies bearing a much heavier brunt of the fighting. At one point following the Soviet breakthrough during the Battle of Stalingrad, the Hungarian Second Army was responsible alone for a 200-kilometer stretch of the front.

This Hungarian army was supported on its right flank by the Italian Eighth Army. The German High Command had initially decided that the Italian war effort would be more usefully directed towards the Mediterranean and North African theaters of war. Benito Mussolini, however, who was determined to participate in the war against international communism, forced several divisions on the reluctant Germans. By 1942, this reluctance had disappeared and the 230,000-man strong Italian Eighth Army occupied an important position in the German order of battle. Müller concludes that the contributions of the allied armies, specifically Hungary, Italy, and Romania, made possible both the approach to the gates of Moscow in 1941 and the launching of Operation Blue in 1942. While never as well equipped as their German allies or their Soviet adversaries, the allied armies provided the necessary manpower that enabled the Germans to launch successful offensive operations during the early years of the conflict.

Müller also convincingly argues that as early as the “catastrophe of Stalingrad, the Wehrmacht could only delay a breakthrough of the Eastern Front with the help of foreign allies [ausländische Helfer]” (p. 244). Guard battalions from the Baltic States, militias from the Ukraine, Russian civilians and POWs integrated into army units as Hilfswilligen and Russian army units organized under the command of General Andrei Vlassov all provided the Reich with important military, security, and propaganda benefits.

Müller details Hitler’s resistance to employing armed natives from the East, which stemmed from his long-term plans for ruthless colonization. The defeat on the Volga, however, led even the ideologues within the Reich’s administration to realize the necessity of using any and all means to combat the numerically superior Red Army. It was only after the destruction of the German Sixth Army in Stalingrad that Hitler permitted the establishment, for example, of a Latvian SS-Legion. The participation of these countries could reach extremely high proportions: 60,000 Estonians (out of a population of only 1.2 million) waged war with Hitler against the Soviet Union.

The greatest spur to Estonia’s unprecedented mobilization was a fear of being re-Sovietized by the approaching Red Army. The desire to be forever free of Moscow played an extremely important role in leading the peoples of eastern Europe to align themselves with the German army. In this respect, the notion of a “crusade against communism” has some basis and such an idea, in fact, probably provided the stimulus for many western European volunteers as well. Even in the Low Countries, Scandinavia, and France, however, political calculations played the most important role in the decision to support Nazi Germany in its eastern campaign. Here, political movements that styled themselves after National Socialism attempted to impress their German overlords by sending volunteers to the East. In Belgium, for example, right-wing extremists in both the Walloon and Flemish national movements tried to use the occupation to create their own new state; sending troops to the Soviet Union formed part of this ongoing negotiation with the Third Reich. In countries allied to Germany, such as Hungary, Romania, and Italy, it was feared that failure to provide sufficient backing would result in being left out of the final peace settlement. This consideration was extremely important for those southeast European countries looking to expand or at least protect their borders.

According to Müller, these political motivations played an important role in the failure of the Axis powers and other affiliated states to defeat the Soviet Union. German strategy frequently did not correspond to that of its allies, and this divergence caused far-reaching problems. The most noteworthy example concerned the Finns’ desire to recapture territory lost to the Soviets during the Winter War, but not to participate in the encirclement of Leningrad or to sever the Murmansk railroad. Inter-allied tension forced German planners to ensure that Romanian and Hungarian forces were never deployed side by side, as it was feared that they would open fire on one another instead of on the Red Army. Another decisive factor in the Axis defeat was the qualitative inferiority of Germany’s allies vis-à-vis the Red Army. Recent research has emphasized the growing technological superiority the Soviets enjoyed over the Wehrmacht; when one considers that many of the Reich’s allies were outfitted with captured western booty or obsolete German equipment, it should come as no surprise that the allied countries were frequently outclassed and outgunned by their adversaries. One German officer noted that the “medical services of the Slovaks came right out the era of Maria Theresa” and while this case was certainly extreme, it did point to the basic problem of the backwardness that hampered many allied units (p. 101).

One major weakness of the book is found in its treatment of the mentalities of foreign soldiers who fought for the German cause. While Müller provides explanations as to why other European states sent men to fight and die in the Soviet hinterland, he fails to examine sufficiently the motives of the men themselves. This task is undoubtedly difficult, especially for someone who relies nearly exclusively on German-language sources (though a smattering of English, Italian, and Romanian works, among others, are found in the bibliography). It is, however, an important issue, especially due to the war of annihilation prosecuted by the Wehrmacht. Müller notes that diverse nationalities–including Estonians, Ukrainians, Hungarians, Romanians, and Danes–were all utilized in anti-partisan warfare, and when discussing the latter, he states that they did shoot civilians in the course of such operations. Here the question of motivation is paramount: how important were ideological beliefs relative to situational factors in leading allied units to commit war crimes in the East? Were German actions and attitudes decisive in causing such behavior or, as Romanian activities in Odessa suggest, did other nationalities have their own motivations for carrying out such atrocities? These are questions that require much more research before they can be adequately answered, but at least some preliminary discussion of this issue by Müller would have been welcome.

In short, Müller has written a concise yet comprehensive treatment of the military operations of Hitler’s foreign helpers in the war against the Soviet Union, restoring the importance of these countries and their armies to the conduct of war in the East. In writing a work that is encyclopedic in structure and scope, Müller has produced a very handy reference on this topic. Well stocked with useful maps and photos, the work provides a very readable account that effectively dismantles myths and legends that have grown up around an important and neglected subject.