MvR at Headquarters
Event ID: 559
02 May 1917
Source ID: 33
Manfred von Richthofen was in the company of some of the most important people in Germany on his 25th – and last – birthday. In the morning he reported to the luxurious Hotel Oranienhof, which had become the General Staff Headquarters. For an hour he sat outside the office of Gen.d.Inf Erich Ludendorff, watching aides enter and depart with great bundles of paperwork. Albert Ballin, Generaldirektor of the Hamburg-America Shipping Line, sat nearby, completely unaware of Richthofen in his drab service uniform and uninterested in the Pour le Mérite at Manfred’s collar. Ballin was absorbed in a discussion in hushed tones with a high-ranking member of the General Staff. Then came Foreign Minister Arthur Zimmermann, followed by Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg and then Karl Helferrich, Secretary of the Imperial Treasury.
After several generals had been escorted in, it was Richthofen’s turn. With a wave of an adjutant’s hand, he was slipped past the other dignitaries and ushered into Ludendorff’s office. The stern-looking Quarter-Master General had no time for pleasantries, and immediately asked about air operation on the Arras front. As Richthofen recorded in a reminiscence too candid to have been published during his lifetime: “I began to tell him and drifted into a little chat that had little military importance. Then he simply cut off my conversation and came to things I had already mentioned. One noted he went all-out. After he elicited from me what he wanted to know about operations on the main battlefront at Arras, I was abruptly dismissed. I must say that I was quite satisfied, for this serious, professional, dispassionate-thinking person was strange to me.
Richthofen was relieved to leave the Hotel Oranienhof and get out into the sunshine and fresh air of Kaiser-Wilhelmstraße. It was a short walk to Elisabethenstraße, at the end of which was the Kaiser’s residence, with a commanding view of the Nahe river.