From Dennis Showalter: Tannenberg:
The roundup of [Samsonov's Russian] 2nd Army’s broken center continued throughout August 31. Skirmish lines and small columns of XVII Corps pushed their way through the forest from the north, collecting stragglers as they went. An Orthodox chaplain negotiated the surrender of several thousand exhausted soldiers to Schmettau just outside Willenberg. At 11:00 a.m. Kluyev himself handed over another thousand men to a detachment of I Corps. Hour by hour the numbers grew. Hundreds, then thousands of men sat glumly under the guard of a few German riflemen. Riderless or unharnessed horses wandered about. The detritus of a broken army, ambulances, supply wagons, telephone carts, piled up on the Neidenburg-Willenberg road.
Farm houses filled with captured officers. A village school saw teachers and pupils give way to a half-dozen Russian generals and their staffs. The plunder of a campaign found its way into German knapsacks or pockets. Every Russian officer appeared to carry his own personal hair-clippers somewhere in his baggage. Linen, lingerie, and silverware, looted from houses on the Russian line of march, called forth ironic admiration for the taste of Muscovites who seldom fell prey to kitsch. Even Martos’s car, carefully searched, turned up a large and expensive silver bowl belonging to the local Landrat. Martos denied any knowledge of the object. His chauffeur was not available for interrogation.
Detachments and individual Russians continued to straggle in and surrender or to lay down their arms after a brief exchange of honor-saving shots. Other parties, bolder or luckier, made their way across the border. But the only organized formation that broke through the German cordon was a cavalry brigade reduced to about two hundred riders—all that remained intact of Samsonov’s main body. The Germans seemed almost as disorganized by victory as the Russians by defeat. The I and XVII Corps in particular had companies and battalions scattered everywhere from Neidenburg and Ortelsburg to the Russian frontier, securing booty and guarding prisoners. Cleaning up proved almost as much a challenge as winning the battle. The sandy roads of the region were blocked in every direction by destroyed or abandoned guns, caissons, carts, and wagons. Dead Russians were beginning to bloat in the August heat. Wounded RussiansR were being combed out of the woods by search parties. Tens of thousands of prisoners had to be evacuated to Germany on a railroad network straining to support a developing two-front war. They had to be fed without drawing on supplies destined for the 8th Army; no one took seriously the kaiser’s shocking suggestion that the captives simply be driven into a barren peninsula in the Baltic and left to starve.
On the evening of August 30 Ludendorff tempered his boasts to OHL with praise for the tenacity of the Russians and warnings that the battle in the south might not yet be over. But by the afternoon of the 31st he was reporting the “complete destruction” of the enemy. Sixty thousand prisoners, he declared, were in German hands, with more certain to come as stragglers were rounded up. Three Russian corps had been annihilated; the commanders of two of them, Martos of XV and Kluyev of XIII, were prisoners. The battle, Ludendorff declared, was over. Eighth Army was ready for new operations. As for Rennenkampf’s army, it appeared to be going nowhere. This did not stop Ludendorff from requesting reinforcements. However strongly he may have denied his need for XI Corps and the Guard Reserve Corps while the battle was going on, Ludendorff on the 31st declared that “in spite of the victory” their arrival would now be welcome. He also requested heavy artillery for use against the Russian fortresses in the interior. Next stop—St. Petersburg.
In response the 8th Army shook off its brief victory euphoria. Staff officers began studying maps and charts, their eye on the next moves. Stragglers rejoined their units, or were delivered by the military police. Replacements arrived from provincial depots themselves often disrupted by the invasion. Lightly wounded men showed off their bandages. Talk of Iron Crosses swept the ranks. The dead were buried in those neat little cemeteries that were the German army’s pride: fifty here and a hundred there, neatly fenced and marked. Not yet for them the anonymity of Verdun or the Somme, where cynics and realists sang to the tune of Zapfenstreich, “Auf Wiedersehen ins Massengrab, wir sehen uns wieder ins Massengrab....” That time was coming.
The German official history gives a total of 92,000 Russian prisoners, plus approximately 50,000 dead and wounded. These are the figures most frequently cited, and while the Germans could hardly be accused of understatement, their numbers are probably reasonably reliable. In operational terms, the Russian 2nd Army had been annihilated. Its center corps were destroyed. Only two thousand stragglers from XV Corps and the 2nd Division escaped the German noose. The XIII Corps had three thousand men left in its two divisions. The I and VI Corps could muster at most the equivalent of a division each, and both formations were badly demoralized. N. N. Golovine gives an elaborate breakdown of the prisoners taken by each German corps in an attempt to prove that the 2nd Army did not really surrender as a unit. But 90,000 prisoners constituted a self-evident fact.
By mid-September, only rear guards and stragglers remained of the great Russian invasion. If Rennenkampf’s army had managed to escape with its structure intact, it had lost 150 guns and all its transport. Its units would need a good deal of work before they would again amount to much as combat troops. But an indication that this double victory was to be something other than an immediately recognized world-historical event came on September 14, when 8th Army’s signal troops opened lines of communication from the new headquarters in Insterburg to OHL and to the Austrian high command. Since arriving in the east, Hindenburg and Ludendorff had been too preoccupied with their own problems to pay systematic attention to developments on other fronts. Now they learned the details of the Schlieffen Plan’s failure, of the French counterattacks and the German withdrawal that constituted the Battle of the Marne....
The Austrian advance into the Polish salient had been a high road to disaster. Conrad had sent four armies marching into Galicia. Successful small-scale battles along the frontier obscured the fact that the Austrian lines of advance were extrinsic, with their armies actually marching away from each other. On August 23 the Russians counterattacked at Lemberg. Within a week the Austrians were in a retreat that by mid-September turned to a rout bringing the Russians almost to the frontier of Hungary. In the process the Austrian army lost a third of its fighting strength—a quarter-million dead and wounded, over 100,000 prisoners. Included in the casualties were a disproportionate number of career officers and NCOs, the cadres on which a polyglot army depended heavily for its cohesion.
While Austria-Hungary was far from the military cipher of legend in the war’s later years, Winston Churchill’s judgment that Conrad broke his army’s heart and used it up in less than a month nevertheless stands as an epitaph for the Habsburg Empire’s status as a great power. The Austrian collapse ended any hope of exploiting the German victories in East Prussia. Instead Hindenburg, Ludendorff, and the bulk of 8th Army—now renumbered the 9th—were transferred south, into Silesia, to support their ally directly and secure their own frontier from invasion...