Stöger-Steiner entered the army in 1879, served with the General Staff, and gained a reputation as a ballistics and artillery expert.
In August 1914, Stöger-Steiner received command of the Fourth Infantry Division, which he led during the successful offensive against the Russians at Krasnik. In the early summer of 1915 he was transferred to the Italian front at the head of the XV Army Corps along the Isonzo. In April 1917, however, the new Emperor Charles chose Stöger-Steiner, "more the courtier than a hard-fisted soldier," to succeed Baron Alexander Krobatin as war minister. Stöger-Steiner was a compromise candidate acceptable to both the Austrian and Hungarian governments.
The general faced his first major crisis on December 4, 1917, when the Hungarian minister-president, Alexander Wekerle, as well as the Honved minister, Alexander Szurmay, demanded that Charles honor his previous pledge to establish an independent Hungarian army. Ever the compromiser, Stöger-Steiner argued, on the one hand, that it would be unwise to concede under pressure something that was bound to happen in any event, while recommending, on the other, that the creation of an independent Hungarian army would constitute a "genuine coronation of dualism." Above all, he sided with the majority of Habsburg marshals in stating that any reform would have to await the outcome of the war.
Stöger-Steiner was fully aware of the exhaustion and the lack of supplies that plagued the Dual Monarchy's forces in the field. In August 1917 he had already warned Charles that the army could carry on the struggle only up to May 1918, when replacements could no longer be raised. Moreover, there were severe shortages of food and coal; the rations of industrial workers especially needed to be upgraded. Indeed, in January 1918, serious industrial strikes racked Austria-Hungary and the war minister managed to master the situation only by recalling seven divisions from the front to suppress domestic uprisings. As a result, Stöger-Steiner's belief in ultimate victory was badly shaken: "In Vienna and Budapest great strikes; in Bohemia, Galicia and the South there is great unrest." In addition, the army fell out with the war minister over his failure to return the seven divisions to the front. And to make matters worse, Socialist sympathizers had so fully dominated Stöger-Steiner's house and staff, that he claimed as early as June 1918 that he could no longer discuss secret plans in his own home. On November 5, 1918, the last Habsburg minister of war requested Emperor Charles to sign a demobilization decree, reducing the army to the twenty divisions allowed under the armistice. Even this order proved redun-dant; the Habsburg forces had by then fragmented along ethnic lines and returned to their native homes.
Stöger-Steiner died in Graz on May 12, 1921.
Regarding personal names: Freiherr is a former title (translated as Baron), which is now legally a part of the last name. The feminine forms are Freifrau and Freiin.
It has been claimed that Stöger-Steiner would have received the Military Order of Maria Theresa, Imperial Austria's highest military decoration for his actions in 1914, and in engaging the 4th infantry in the battle of Krasnik in particular had he submitted a claim and not died so soon after the war.
Steiner married Maria Link in Graz, with whom he was to have a son and daughter.