Josef Freiherr Roth von Limanowa-Lapanów

General der Infanterie Roth. Click to enlarge. Copyright Enzo CalabresiJosef Roth was born on the 21st of October 1859 at Trieste where his father, a later Oberstleutnant was stationed. After attending the military college at St. P÷lten and the Theresian Military Academy at Wiener Neustadt he was commissioned as a Leutnant in Feldjńgerbataillon number 21 on the 4th of April 1879. On the 1st of May 1884 he received his promotion to Oberleutnant and after attending the Kriegsschule he was permanently transferred to the general staff corps on the 1st of November 1886. He was first employed with the 71st infantry brigade then he was transferred to the 13th infantry brigade at Esseg and finally to the 12th corps headquarter at Hermannstadt where he received his promotion to Hauptmann 1st class on the 1st of November 1889. In early 1890 he returned to Vienna, first with the 13th infantry division followed by his attachment to the 5th department of the war ministry. In 1891 he married Grńfin Melanie Lasansky and they had two sons and two daughters.

For his performance at the war ministry he received the commendation of the Kaiser, which allowed him to wear the bronze military merit medal (Signum Laudis) on the 22nd of October 1895. Without further duty with the troops he successfully passed his examination and was promoted to Major on the 1st of November of the same year and simultaneously appointed chief of the general staff of the 12th infantry division at Krakˇw. In 1896 he received the Prussian Order of the Crown 3rd class. In 1897 he was transferred with the same position to the 5th corps followed by his promotion to Oberstleutnant on the 1st of May 1898. In 1900 he served a short tour of duty with the troops with infantry regiment number 76 at Graz. In May 1901 Roth, who was commonly considered as extremely well-bred, became the chief of the newly created bureau for "instruktive Arbeiten und ▄bungen" within the general staff where he received the commander's cross of the Order Star of Romania. Josef Roth, who received his promotion to Oberst on the 1st of November 1901, was now responsible for all instructions and orders regarding the Kriegsschule, the annual staff rides of the general staff and the different examinations of the senior officers. For his efforts at this post he was honored with the award of the Order of the Iron Crown 3rd class on the 27th of March 1905 and again with the knight's cross of the Order of Leopold on the 22nd of April 1908. Simultaneous with his promotion to Generalmajor on the 1st of May 1908 he assumed command of the 94th infantry brigade. During the year 1909 he was honored with the award of the commander's cross with star of the Prussian Order of the Red Eagle and the 1st class of the Order of the Sword of Sweden.

Roth and the Japanese General Nogi during his visit to Vienna On the 1st of April 1910 he was appointed commander of the Theresian Military Academy at Wiener Neustadt, following General Arthur Giesl Freiherr von Gieslingen in this important position. When the war started, Roth who had meanwhile been promoted to Feldmarschall-Leutnant on the 1st of May 1912, assumed command of the 3rd infantry division of 14th corps on the 5th of August 1914. He participated in the victory at Komar÷w and successfully extracted his division after the difficult battle at Rawa-Ruska in which the 2nd Kaiserjńger-Regiment was nearly annihilated at Hujcze. In tandem with the rest of the Austro-Hungarian forces in the east 14th corps was compelled to retreat to the west. For his leadership during the fighting in the summer campaign in Galicia he was honored with the award of the commander's cross of the Order of Leopold with war decoration on the 14th of October 1914. On the 1st of October 1914 Feldmarschall-Leutnant Roth took over command of the 14th corps which was then part of the 1st army and saw action in the area along the river San before superior Russian forces forced their withdrawal to Krakˇw. This retirement caused  a gap of about 100km  between the 3rd and 4th army which the chief of the general staff Conrad von H÷tzendorf decided to utilize for a flank attack against the Russian Army south of the river Vistula. For this purpose the 14th corps was enlarged to Armeegruppe Roth, now consisting of 8 infantry divisions, 3 cavalry divisions, the "Polish Legion" and a German infantry division. The Armeegruppe Roth, about 50.000 men strong, had now the main task during the following attack and Conrad gave Roth the utmost possible operational freedom to strike the Russian forces in the area between Wielczka and Docze. During the following battles (1st - 20th December) of Limanowa-Lapanˇw Roth was able to stop the superior Russian forces. They could not breakthrough between the 3rd and 4th army to surround Krakˇw and the marshes into Silesia. Additionally the Armeegruppe Roth was able to create positive preconditions for the later successful breakthrough near Gorlice-Tarn÷w. Josef Roth later received the knight's cross of the Military Maria Theresian Order for this outstanding performance.

After heavy static warfare during the winter of 1914/15 along the river Dunajec the Austro-Hungarian offensive followed in May 1915. During this offensive Roth's corps fought at Tarnˇw and at Lublin. Finally the 1st army (including the 14th corps) was assigned to the German General von Linsingen and fought at Kowel. For his outstanding performance during this offensive Roth was honored with the award of the grand cross of the Order of the Iron Crown with war decoration (9th April 1915), the neck badge of the decoration of the Society of the Red Cross with war decoration (31st May 1915) and the Prussian Iron Crosses 1st and 2nd class. He received his promotion to General der Infanterie on the 1st of September 1915 and was transferred to the Italian theatres where he was assigned to the Landesverteidigungskommando Tirol (Defence Command Tyrol) and took over command of the Rayon (sector) IV (Ostfront) and Rayon V (Dolomitenfront). In November the headquarter was transferred from Brixen to Bruneck. During the month of March 1916 General Roth was appointed Landesverteidigungskommandant von Tirol (Defence Commander Tyrol).This command consisted of all troops which were not under the command of the 11th army at Trient. After the failure of the Southern Tyrol offensive he received the appointment as commander of the 20th corps. Again he held an important post during the stabilized warfare on the Tyrolean front but could not reach a higher command. The reason was that his commanding officer Erzherzog Eugen gave him excellent evaluations (April 1916 and March 1917), as all other superiors before, but considered him as "too friendly with his subordinated troops" meaning "possibly too weak to use them ruthlessly enough".

On the 19th of May 1916 he was honored with the title of Geheimer Rat (Privy Councillor) followed by his ennobling to "Ritter von" on the 11th of June 1916. He asked for the predicate "Limanowa-Lapan÷w" which was granted on the 4th of September 1916. During the following month, especially during the breakthrough at Flitsch-Tolmein, Josef Roth Ritter von Limanowa-Lapanˇw had again the possibility to distinguish himself as corps commander. He received the 1st class of the Order of Leopold with war decoration and swords on the 8th of April 1917 and the bronze military medal with swords on the 16th of October 1917. After the success of Flitsch-Tolmein the immediate defence of the Tyrolean border was no longer necessary and the supreme command now searched for another command for General Roth. Conrad von H÷tzendorf, who mainly agreed with the evaluations of Erzherzog Eugen, had the right idea and wrote in his evaluation on Roth: "A kind, knightly character, more conciliatory than decisive, intrepid and brave, not suitable for army command, suitable for inspector of military educational establishments, has the heart and understanding for the young." and this was the reason why General Roth received his appointment as Generalinspektor der Militńr-Erziehungs- und Bildungsanstalten on the 15th of February 1918. On the 1st of February 1918 he received his promotion to Generaloberst with seniority from the 25th of February.

After the peace agreements with Russian a permanently growing number of former POW's returned to Austria-Hungary. Some of them were convinced Bolsheviks and others simply dubious or questionable characters. The authorities searched for a possible solution for this problem and created the post of a Generalinspektor fŘr das Heimkehrerwesen to look after the problem. On the 21st of March 1918 Generaloberst Roth was appointed to this post in addition to his positions regarding military education. For his efforts there he received the military merit cross 3rd class with war decoration and swords on the 30th of April 1918 - a surprisingly low decoration but understandable as Roth had never received a lower grade of the military merit cross previously! Generaloberst Roth continued at his both jobs until the war ended in 1918. On the 2nd of October 1918 he received the knight's cross of the Military Maria Theresian Order followed by his ennobling to "Freiherr von" on the 10th of October 1918.

After the war he retired to his home in Vienna and was often engaged with several clubs; he was the president of the Verein Alt-Neustadt, the president of the officers' association, 1st president of the Reichskameradschafts- und Kriegerbund and chairman of the Oberster Offiziersehrenrat. From 1925 he was additionally the President of the chapter of the Military Maria Theresian Order. After his death on the 9th of April 1927 Generaloberst Josef Freiherr Roth von Limanowa-Lapan÷w was buried in a honorary grave of the City of Vienna at the Zentralfriedhof.

Title photograph copyright ę Enzo Calabresi - Thanks Enzo!

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