Rudolf Stöger-Steiner Freiherr von Steinstätten
The later Generaloberst was born as Rudolf Stöger at Pernegg (Styria) on the 26th of April 1861. His father died when he was a boy and his mother married a second time Joseph Steiner, an Oberleutnant in the 9th Feldjäger battalion . The stepfather became important for the young mans further development acting as a fatherly friend. Rudolf Steiner was a veteran from the Denmark campaign where he had received two mentions from the Kaiser and the military merit cross with war decoration. For his performance during peacetime he received the knight's badge of the Order of Franz Joseph in 1887 as a Hauptmann with Feldjägerbataillon number 9 - an unusual and high decoration for a simple captain. Finally he commanded the 1st regiment of the Tyrolean Kaiserjäger before he was retired as an Oberst in 1897. Joseph Steiner encouraged the young Rudolf Stöger to volunteer for army service in 1878 and organized a post as a regimental cadet with "his" Feldjägerbataillon number 9. This prevented the boy being sent to the war in Bosnia as a common soldier and war volunteer. Instead of this he was sent to the infantry cadet institute at Liebenau for officer's training. After he had passed through this school with "good effort" he was commissioned as a Leutnant in the 9th Feldjäger battalion on the 1st of November 1880. After attending the Kriegsschule at Vienna he was attached to the general staff as an Oberleutnant on the 1st of November 1886. Rudolf Stöger was employed with the general staff of the 50th infantry brigade, the 8th mountain brigade and finally the 18th infantry division where he received his promotion to Hauptmann 1st class in the general staff corps on the 1st of May 1890. Whilst serving at this post he received the Serbian Takowo order 5th class (October 1887) and the Persian Order of the Sun and the Lion 4th class (1890).
In 1891 he was adopted by his stepfather and further allowed to use the name Stöger-Steiner. His stepfather Joseph Steiner was meanwhile ennobled as "Edler von Steinstätten" and succeeded in getting permission to transfer his nobility and coat of arms also to this son on the 25th of October 1892. In the same year the newly ennobled officer Rudolf Stöger-Steiner Edler von Steinstätten married Maria Link at Graz. They had a son who died as an infant and a daughter.
He held further staff appointments with the headquarters of the1st and 8th Corps with a short intermission as a company commander in the 9th Jäger-Battalion. From 1896 to 1899 he was an instructor in tactics at the Kriegsschule where he received his promotion to Major on the 1st of November 1899. For his efforts as an instructor he was honored with the award of the military merit cross on the 2nd of December 1899 followed by a posting in the rank of major to Infantry Regiment Nr.12. From 1901 to 1907 was attached to the Kommission zur Beurteilung der Stabsoffiziersaspiranten (the commission for determining the suitability of prospective senior officers) and honored for his efforts there with the 3rd class of the Order of the Iron Crown on the 25th of September 1906 and in the meantime promoted to Oberst on the 1st of May 1903 with seniority from the 4th of June 1903. He was appointed to command infantry regiment number 74 on the 30th of March 1907 followed by command of the 56th Infantry Brigade at Görz (Gorizia) on the 18th of March 1909. Promoted to Generalmajor on the 1st of November 1909 he became commander of the Army School of Marksmanship (Armeeschießschule) at Bruck an der Leitha on the 24th of March 1910. During this engagement he was honored with the award of the following foreign orders: The commander's cross of the Order of the Star of Romania (April 1910) and the star to this cross (August 1911) and the 2nd grade of the 2nd class of the Chinese Order of the Double Dragoon (October 1911). On the 22nd of July 1912 he was honored with the award of the knight's cross of the Order of Leopold and received simultaneously the appointment to command the 4th infantry division at Brünn shortly followed by his promotion to Feldmarschall-Leutnant on the 1st November of the same year. In July 1913 he received the 2nd class of the Ottoman Osmanje order.
When the war started in 1914 the 4th infantry division was attached to the 4th army of General Auffenberg. On the 24th of August 1914 Stöger-Steiner successfully engaged his division on his own initiative in the battle of Krasnik. (There are some opinions that say he would have received the Military Maria Theresian Order for this action had he submitted a claim after the war but he died too early.) During the following advance his division took part in the battles at Zamość, at Komarów and the retreat to Tuckow. During the second offensive the division reached the river San. On the 3rd of October 1914 Feldmarschall-Leutnant Stöger-Steiner received the 2nd class of the Order of the Iron Crown with war decoration for his outstanding leadership. In November 1914 his division was transferred to Kraków and near the river Warthe and was engaged, as a part of the 1st army, in the following offensive finally reaching the river Nida where the division was enlarged into the "Kombinierte Division Stöger-Steiner". After the static warfare during the winter months this combined tactical force crossed the Dunajec during the night of 1st to 2nd May 1915 starting the so-called May-Offensive. During the following offensive Stöger-Steiner crossed the river Vistula and captured Annopol and Josefów. He was honored with the award of the military Merit Cross 2nd class with war decoration for successfully leading a division on the 3rd of August 1915 and received the Prussian Iron Cross 2nd class from the German Ally.
On the 26th of July 1915 Feldmarschall-Leutnant Stöger-Steiner assumed command of the 15th corps. This corps was deployed on the Italian front along the defence line Krn-Tolmein-St.Lucia-Auzza. On the 1st of November 1915 he was promoted to General der Infanterie. During the following two years he and his corps took part in 8 of the 12 battles along the Isonzo. At his evaluation in 1916 his superior commander Feldzeugmeister Scheuchenstuel wrote: "A versatile useful senior general with a comprehensive military education with outstanding leadership qualities. Quiet, determined, full of self confidence. Has proved his worth in difficult situations. Owing to his special qualities he is also especially suited for a senior position within the military command." For his outstanding leadership during the several Isonzo battles General Stöger-Steiner received the grand cross of the Order of the Iron Crown with war decoration (2nd March 1916), the 1st class of the merit decoration of the Society of the Red Cross with war decoration (22nd April 1917) and finally the 1st class of the Order of Leopold with war decoration and swords (29th April 1917). On the 4th of June 1916 he was honored with the title of Geheimer Rat (Privy Councillor). The allies honored him during 1917 with the award of the Prussian Iron Cross 1st class, the Ottoman Golden Imtiaz medal and the Iron Crescent and the War cross of Lippe. In 1917 he additionally received the newly introduced swords for all previously given Austro-Hungarian orders with war decoration. On his evaluation in 1917 his commanding general Generaloberst Boroević agreed to the contents of the evaluations of 1916 and again recommended him for a higher post within the military administration, possibly caused be his deteriorating health.
The new Kaiser Karl tried to find "persons not previously involved in any politics" for his administration and General Stöger-Steiner seemed to fit the bill to follow war minister Krobatin in his important post. Without any question the war minister lost power during the war in the same way as the Armeeoberkommando (supreme command) became more powerful in politics, Kaiser Karl had re-introduced a parliamentary form of government and besides this, the Hungarian politicians tried earnestly to divide the whole army into two completely separate armies. Considering all this, the new minister received a nearly impossible mission to execute. On the 12th of April 1917 General Stöger-Steiner Edler von Steinstätten received his appointment as war minister. In line with his personal opinion that the main task of the job was in the field of administration he immediately started the reorganization of the ministry. He disbanded departments, created new ones and amalgamated others to make the ministry fit for it's wartime tasks. Further he created new independent commissions and posts but still subordinated them to the ministry, like the Zentraltransportleitung, (central transport department) the Kriegsüberwachungsamt (war supervisory office), the Kriegsfürsorgeamt (war welfare office), the Zentralevidenz (central intelligence) and finally the Generalinspektorat für das Heimkehrerwesen. (general inspectorate for repatriated POW's). For this successful work he received the commendation of the Kaiser on the 15th of August 1917, which allowed him to wear the bronze Military Merit Medal (Signum Laudis) with the ribbon of the military merit cross. Shortly before, on the 11th of August 1917, he received the Merit star of the Society of the Red Cross with war-decoration.
Regarding the political demands of his post Stöger-Steiner was not so successful. One of his responsibilities as minister was to be present during the meetings of the Ministerrat (ministerial council) and the Reichsrat (parliament) but as a political amateur, handicapped by his ever worsening health, he had no chance against the professional politicians. In view of his health and the troublesome discourses, especially with the Hungarian politicians who blocked nearly everything, he often considered retiring but finally carried on working - in his eyes retirement was incompatible with his oath of allegiance to the Kaiser and the state. On the 28th of April 1918 he was honored with the upgrading of his nobility to "Freiherr von" and with the title of Oberstinhaber of his old unit - Feldjägerbataillon number 9 on the 14th of August 1918. On the 1st of May 1918 he received his promotion to Generaloberst with seniority from the 11th of May 1918. Naturally his post as minister resulted in the award of several foreign decorations amongst which were the 1st class of the Prussian Order of the Red Eagle with swords, the grand cross of the Bavarian Military Merit Order with swords, the grand cross with the Golden Star and Swords of the Saxon Order of Albrecht, the grand cross with swords of the Order of the Crown of Württemberg, the War Merit Cross of Schaumburg-Lippe, the neck badge of the Marianerkreuz of the Deutschen Ritterorden and the Magistral-Großkreuz of the Malteser Ritterorden.
The situation continually deteriorated. The improved provision of food for the army could not be achieved and the supply situation for the civilians, especially in the larger cities of the Austrian part of the empire was ever more desperate which led to strikes and Hunger revolts. On the 30th of October 1918 Generaloberst Stöger-Steiner was on his way to the ministry from the last meeting of the ministerial council when a mob surrounded his car, smashed the windows, grabbed the headgear of the passenger and tore off the royal cockade! This was not an act of violence particular addressed to the minister of war. During these days it was more a common routine whenever a loyal officer was seen by the mob. On the 11th of November 1918 Generaloberst Stöger-Steiner received a hand written message from Kaiser Karl who ordered him to stay on at his post supervising the further demobilization of the army but this was impossible. He was finally forced to retire on the 1st of December 1918 by the authorities of the new republic. Generaloberst Rudolf Stöger-Steiner Freiherr von Steinstätten, meanwhile heavily marked by his illness, retired to Graz where he died on the 12th of May 1921.
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