Karl von Bülow

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Karl von Bülow
Karl von Bülow c1915.jpg
Karl von Bülow, 1915.
Born(1846-03-24)24 March 1846
Berlin, Kingdom of Prussia, German Confederation
Died31 August 1921(1921-08-31) (aged 75)
Berlin, Free State of Prussia, Weimar Republic
Allegiance North German Confederation
 German Empire
Service/branch Imperial German Army
Years of service1866–1916
Commands held2nd Army
Battles/warsAustro-Prussian War
Franco-Prussian War
World War I
AwardsPour le Mérite
Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order (United Kingdom)

Karl Wilhelm Paul von Bülow (24 March 1846 – 31 August 1921) was a German field marshal commanding the German 2nd Army during World War I from 1914 to 1915.


Born in Berlin to the distinguished Prussian military family von Bülow, originally from Mecklenburg, he enlisted in the Prussian Army and was assigned to the 2nd Guards regiment of infantry in 1864. He saw action during the Austro-Prussian War in 1866 and gained distinction at Königgrätz. Von Bülow served through the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 as a junior officer, winning the Iron Cross Second Class. A Captain of the German General Staff in 1877, von Bülow was promoted to Colonel and assigned to the 9th Guards Regiment in 1894. In 1897, von Bülow was a major-general and became director of the Central Department in the German War Ministry. In 1900 he was promoted to lieutenant-general and in 1901 was appointed general commanding the Guards Division. He was Commander of the German III Corps from 1903 until his appointment as Inspector of the German 3rd Army in 1912.

Assigned to the German 2nd Army at the beginning of World War I in August 1914, von Bülow's army was part of the German force that invaded Belgium. He occupied Liege on 7 August and captured the fortress of Namur on 22–23 August. In France, von Bülow defeated General Charles Lanrezac of the French Fifth Army at Charleroi on 23–24 August and again at St. Quentin on 29–30 August.

Karl von Bülow is considered as a war criminal for the massacres in Andenne (August 20) and a few days later in Leffe (August 23 - 1914): he ordered the killing of men, women and children. In Liege, to keep the population in fear, the Germans hung messages stating: "... With my authorisation, the general who was in command of our troops burnt the city (Andenne) and had 110 victims executed. I bring this fact to the attention of the city of Liege so the inhabitants know what can be expected if they act in the same manner". In fact, more than 260 people were killed in Andenne.

Avec mon autorisation le général qui commandait ces troupes a mis la ville (Andenne) en cendres et a fait fusiller 110 personnes. Je porte ce fait à la connaissance de la ville de Liège pour que ses habitants sachent à quel sort ils peuvent s’attendre s’ils prennent une attitude semblable. von Bulow.

— Jean Bernard, Histoire Générale & Anecdotique de la Guerre de 1914 - Berger Levrault Editeurs.

As the 2nd Army and General Alexander von Kluck's 1st Army neared Paris from 31 August to 2 September, von Bülow, concerned about the growing gap between the two armies, ordered Kluck to turn the 1st Army on his right towards him. This decision, however, resulted in Kluck's advancing south and east of Paris, instead of south and west as specified in the Schlieffen Plan. Von Bülow crossed the Marne on 4 September, but was ordered to retreat to the Aisne after the successful counterattack by combined French and British forces against Kluck's 1st Army at the First Battle of the Marne from 5–10 September. Von Bülow was believed by the German public to be responsible for the German failure to capture Paris.

Von Bülow was promoted to Field Marshal in January of the following year. After suffering a heart attack two months later, he was allowed to retire in early 1916, living in Berlin until his death.

Decorations and awards[edit]


  1. ^ "Court Circular". The Times (36043). London. 19 January 1900. p. 7.


External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Franz Xaver von Oberhoffer
Quartermaster-General of the German Army
8 February 1902 – 15 February 1904
Succeeded by
Moltke the Younger
Preceded by
Formed from III Army Inspectorate
(III. Armee-Inspektion)
Commander, 2nd Army
2 August 1914 – 4 April 1915
Succeeded by
General der Infanterie Fritz von Below