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Battle of Tannenberg
Part of the East Prussian campaign of the
Eastern Front in World War I
Russian prisoners tannenberg

Russian prisoners of war after the battle
Date 26–30 August 1914
Location 53°29′45″N 20°08′4″E / 53.49583°N 20.13444°E / 53.49583; 20.13444

German victory

  • Destruction of the Russian 1st and 2nd Armies
  • Russian Army retreats from East Prussia
 German Empire  Russian Empire
Commanders and leaders
German Empire Paul von Hindenburg
German Empire Erich Ludendorff
German Empire Max Hoffmann
Russian Empire Alexander Samsonov 
Russian Empire Paul von Rennenkampf
Units involved
German Empire VIII Army Russian Empire I Army
Russian Empire II Army
294 machine guns
728 guns and howitzers
384 machine guns
612 guns and howitzers
Casualties and losses
21–30 August:
1,726+ KIA
7,461 WIA
4,686 MIA
30,000–78,000 killed or wounded
92,000 POW
350–500 guns captured

The Battle of Tannenberg was a decisive engagement between the Russian Empire and the German Empire in the first days of World War I. It was fought by the Russian First and Second Armies and the German Eighth Army between 17 August and 2 September 1914. The battle ended with the almost complete destruction of the Russian Second Army.

The battle took place near Allenstein. It was named after Tannenberg by the Germans. They wanted to express that they had made good their defeat at the medieval Battle of Tannenberg or (Grunwald), in which they lost the battle to the Lithuanians. Here The Templar Order were finally defeated.

Before the battle

The Russian Empire's army had been invading Germany. The Russian army used a radio to transmit their attack plan, but they did not encrypt the messages, believing that the Germans would not have access to Russian translators. However, the Germans easily intercepted the transmissions, and were expecting every move of the Russians.

The Russian armies crossed into East Prussia with Königsberg as their goal.


Bundesarchiv Bild 183-R36715, Ostpreußen, deutsche Infanterie auf dem Marsch
German infantry during the Battle of Tannenberg

At first, the battle appeared to go well for the Russians, who pushed westward before a German counterattack on August 20, which was repulsed. The German theatre commander, General Maximilian von Prittwitz, was sacked when he attempted to completely abandon East Prussia to the Russians. Due to the failure of the Germans to effectively break through on the Western Front in accordance with the Schlieffen Plan, headquarters began to panic.

While replacements taken from the West were in transit, the 8th Army's Chief of Operations, Max Hoffmann, redeployed the German forces. Hoffmann's plan left a screening force to delay the Russian 1st Army (under General Paul von Rennenkampf) which was approaching from the east, and set a trap for the Russian 2nd Army (under General Alexander Samsonov) which was moving up from the south.

The German field commander, General Hermann von Francois, allowed the 2nd Army to advance, and then cut them off from their supply route. This forced massive surrenders, and saw the almost complete destruction of the 2nd Army near Frogenau with 30,000 soldiers killed and 90,000 captured.


Tannenberg 001
Russian prisoners of war at Tilsit railway station

Rather than report the loss of his army to the Czar, Samsonov killed himself on August 29, 1914. He would not be found until later the next day by a German patrol.

The German victory compelled Rennenkampf to withdraw his army from East Prussia, and cleared German territory of the invading forces.

In popular culture

The battle is at the centre of Alexander Solzhenitsyn's novel August 1914.

Interesting facts about the Battle of Tannenberg

1998 photo of the foundations of the Tannenberg Memorial, which later served as the burial site of Paul von Hindenburg
  • The Germans translated the Russian's radio messages because they weren't decoded. The Russians weren't able to decode the German's messages.
  • The battle lasted 4 days.
  • The Russians ended the battle with 30,000 casualties and 90,000 captured.
  • It was Russia's worst defeat of WW I
  • The battle was named Battle of Tannenberg at the direct request of Hindenburg. Hindenburg chose the location of Tannenberg because of its historical significance; it is the location were the Teutonic Knights were defeated by the Slavic forces at the Battle of Grunwald.
  • The Tannenberg Memorial was built in 1924 near Hohenstein (Ostpreußen) (now Olsztynek|Olsztynek, Poland). In 1949, Polish authorities demolished it.

Images for kids

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Batalla de Tannenberg (1914) para niños

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