Erich von Falkenhayn is commander in chief of the German army. He wants to concentrate German forces on the Western Front, to win the war there by defeating France and Britain. But Generals Hindenburg and Ludendorff in the east want their theatre to be the focus of Germany’s main efforts. They say that a decisive blow struck here can knock Russia out of the war.
Hindenburg and Ludendorff manage to win the argument. Reserves are sent east and today the Germans attack the Russians near the Masurian Lakes, close to where they defeated the Russians last September. The Germans want to drive the Russians out of their last toehold in East Prussia and cut the enemy’s supply lines into central Poland. The Austro-Hungarians are already pressuring the Russians in Galicia to the south; maybe this German offensive will cause their collapse. Falkenhayn also hopes that a German victory will impress still-neutral Romania and Bulgaria, perhaps even luring them into the war on Germany’s side.
The Germans are attacking in the middle of winter, their men marching through a blizzard. Each side has roughly the same number of soldiers on the ground but the Germans have a massive superiority in artillery. The right wing of the Russian Tenth Army breaks. Germans forces pour into the gap, hoping to surround and destroy their enemies.
image source (World War I Today)