The conditions of the international situation in the winter 1915/1916 favoured a crucial impact, for better chances of success at the western front. The German supreme command thougt that the Russians were not smashed, Serbia and Italy played as opponents a role, Englands power became less, France weakened through losses already suffered. At the end of of 1915 the german supreme command decided the removal of the fortress Verdun to straighten the salient and to further develop the German position in the west. This project, named as “Unternehmen Gericht” lay in the range of the 5th Army under the command of the crown prince (Kronprinzen) Friedrich Wilhelm.
Falkenhayns tactics planned, the French forces bleeded to death in a wear battle and so got the French army weakenend extremly. The Kronprinz and his head of general staff General Schmidt of Knobelsdorf expected to this project however with skepticism, since its conceptions of the speed of the attack, the room layout and the employment of the forces looked by far differently. On the other side under commander in chief Joffre, one did not want to hear anything of a danger of German attacks at the western front, one played even with the thought, at the seam of the French and British armies “The Somme”, snap if possible a decision to end the war.
The preparations and supplies on German side started meanwhile and were soon full under way.
Since the fights in the year 1914 everyone regarded Verdun as a calm section, the Frenchmen used the place as stage city. Since the French army command was in the faith that there was nothing to fear in this section, the position systems of the fortress with ditches and shelters, as well as the artillery positions all were in a derelict condition. A large part of the fortress artillery, the ammunition and the personnel had been taken off, in order to be used at the Champagne front.
Despite all counter measures, the German attack preparations did not remain thereby hidden to the French and they began again to increase their engagements value by transporting further personnel, weapons and equipment to the field positions and fortifications.
The beginning of the attack on the fortress of the Meuse was specified by the German army command on February, 12 1916, but strong rain and snows prevented own aircraft activities and tidy artillery observation, so that the attack had to be shifted around 24 hours. Also adjusting the artillery and the supply would have been on the soft soil a task, which can be solved with difficulties.
Also in the following days the weather did not improve, the attack was out-continued to hesitate, until it cleared up on February, 20 and the correct conditions for weather were present. But the high command wanted to have certainty and let this day still with “internal service” elapse.
In next morning, in the early morning hours at 08:12 a.m. the attack began with the artillery strike of over 1200 cannons and mine launchers of all calibres on the French positions and the ground backwards, for 9 hours, in order to facilitate for the three infantry corps attacking at 5 p.m. the storm way. This was the beginning of the drama, which still is known as the blood or bone mill of Verdun for a long time. Almost impossible to conceive of distress, anguish and misery that the bravest soldiers of these two nations had to suffer there on this little patch of French earth.