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The Schlieffen Plan

The Schlieffen Plan: International Perspectives on the German Strategy for World War I

Hans Ehlert
Michael Epkenhans
Gerhard P. Gross
English translation edited by David T. Zabecki
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 528
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  • Book Info
    The Schlieffen Plan
    Book Description:

    With the creation of the Franco-Russian Alliance and the failure of the Reinsurance Treaty in the late nineteenth century, Germany needed a strategy for fighting a two-front war. In response, Field Marshal Count Alfred von Schlieffen produced a study that represented the apex of modern military planning. His Memorandum for a War against France, which incorporated a mechanized cavalry as well as new technologies in weaponry, advocated that Germany concentrate its field army to the west and annihilate the French army within a few weeks. For generations, historians have considered Schlieffen's writings to be the foundation of Germany's military strategy in World War I and have hotly debated the reasons why the plan, as executed, failed.

    In this important volume, international scholars reassess Schlieffen's work for the first time in decades, offering new insights into the renowned general's impact not only on World War I but also on nearly a century of military historiography. The contributors draw on newly available source materials from European and Russian archives to demonstrate both the significance of the Schlieffen Plan and its deficiencies. They examine the operational planning of relevant European states and provide a broad, comparative historical context that other studies lack. Featuring fold-out maps and abstracts of the original German deployment plans as they evolved from 1893 to 1914, this rigorous reassessment vividly illustrates how failures in statecraft as well as military planning led to the tragedy of the First World War.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4747-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. General Map Key
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction: The Historiography of Schlieffen and the Schlieffen Plan
    (pp. 1-16)
    Hans Ehlert, Michael Epkenhans and Gerhard P. Gross

    Anniversaries generally provide a good opportunity to commemorate historical personalities or important events of the past. Such a personality is Field Marshal Count Alfred von Schlieffen. Despite the fact that he, contrary to his famous predecessor Field Marshal Count Helmuth von Moltke the Elder, did not fight a battle or directly conduct or win or lose a war, there is no escaping him when considering Prussian-German military history in general and the prehistory of the First World War in particular. Schlieffen and hisDenkschrift für einen Krieg gegen Frankreich(Memorandum for a War against France), which he wrote more than...

  5. The Sword and the Scepter: The Powers and the European System before 1914
    (pp. 17-42)
    Klaus Hildebrand

    When turning to the study of the relationship between the “scepter” (statecraft) and the “sword” (military tradecraft) during the run-up to the First World War, one encounters a dramatic event in connection with the July Crisis that took place on 31 July 1914 at the Ballhausplatz in Vienna. Even while German chancellor Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg was reversing the policy he had been pursuing in the crisis thus far, that of encouraging Austria-Hungary to move militarily against Serbia, he was trying on 29 and 30 July to move the Dual Monarchy toward accepting the British offer of mediation. simultaneously, the...

  6. The Moltke Plan: A Modified Schlieffen Plan with Identical Aims?
    (pp. 43-66)
    Annika Mombauer

    In 1914, Germany went to war with the war plan of the younger Helmuth von Moltke, not with the Schlieffen Plan. An investigation into the nature of the “Moltke Plan” can be based on sources in which Moltke referred to the plan of his predecessor and outlined how his own plan differed from Schlieffen’s, thus enabling us to comment on both plans simultaneously. Such statements by Moltke provide evidence for the fact that he and his contemporaries believed that Alfred von Schlieffen had developed a plan that he had intended to be used in a future war. We can thus...

  7. The Schlieffen Plan—A War Plan
    (pp. 67-84)
    Robert T. Foley

    In an article published inWar in Historyin 1999, Major Terence Zuber set out to challenge one of the longest-held interpretations about origins of the First World War.¹ Zuber set himself the task of reexamining German war planning during the tenures of Alfred Graf von Schlieffen and Helmuth von Moltke the Younger. Using previously unknown documents, he painted a much more detailed picture of this war planning than had hitherto been available. He showed the minutiae of Schlieffen’s deployment plans from 1892 to 1904 and demonstrated how German commentators in the interwar period and later historians, most notably Gerhard...

  8. There Was a Schlieffen Plan: New Sources on the History of German Military Planning
    (pp. 85-136)
    Gerhard P. Gross

    “There never was a Schlieffen Plan.”¹ Several years ago this pointed thesis advanced by Terence Zuber caused a lively debate about operational and strategic planning in the Prussian Great General Staff (Grosser Generalstab) under the leadership of Field Marshal Alfred Graf von Schlieffen and Colonel General Helmuth von Moltke the Younger.² Zuber argued that the generally accepted view that, disregarding all political implications, Schlieffen had planned to circumvent the French fortification systems through the BENELUX states and to envelop and destroy the French Army with a strong right attack wing was wrong. This view has prevailed since 1956, when Gerhard...

  9. “This Trench and Fortress Warfare Is Horrible!” The Battles in Lorraine and the Vosges in the Summer of 1914
    (pp. 137-188)
    Dieter Storz

    In 1977 the major German television network ZDF broadcast a feature on the Battle of the Marne titledGenerals.In the film, commentator Sebastian Haffner uses a large map to introduce the audience to the situation. With his hand pointing to Lorraine, he says: “We may forget about everything that happened here at the southern part of the western front. There was constant bloody and acrimonious fighting, but nothing was decided.”¹ This chapter focuses on those events in Lorraine, and it can be safely said even at this point that there will be no objections to Haffner’s second statement.


  10. Photographs
    (pp. None)
  11. The Military Planning of the Austro-Hungarian Imperial and Royal Army and the Schlieffen Plan
    (pp. 189-208)
    Günther Kronenbitter

    In the second half of the nineteenth century, the Habsburg monarchy, like the other Great Powers of continental Europe, underwent a process of systematization and perpetuation of the theoretical, administrative, and logistical preparations for war. As its primary institution for war planning, termed “specific war preparations” in experts’ jargon, Austria-Hungary too relied on its General Staff. After the wars of the 1850s and 1860s had shown the need for reforms in the armed forces of the Danube Monarchy, the experimental phase of designing military leadership and planning structures came to an end and was replaced by a conscious orientation toward...

  12. French Plan XVII: The Interdependence between Foreign Policy and Military Planning during the Final Years before the Outbreak of the Great War
    (pp. 209-246)
    Stefan Schmidt

    Ever since the operational intentions of the European powers during the final run-up to 1914 became the subject of intensive scrutiny by historians, the Schlieffen Plan has been the focus of interest and criticism.¹ This plan, developed by German chief of the General Staff Count Alfred von Schlieffen between the years 1892 and 1905, and despite all the subsequent modification by his successor, Helmuth von Moltke (the Younger), remained valid as the strategy of the German Reich at the outbreak of the war. Schlieffen was initially criticized for his plan to invade Belgian territory, which many believed was the major...

  13. Russian Forces and the German Buildup at the Outbreak of World War I
    (pp. 247-260)
    Jan Kusber

    In a concise overview of World War I historiography, Gerhard Hirschfeld recently noted a turn toward a cultural historical interpretation of the war events between 1914 and 1918 and the intertwined military and civilian lives of the states and their peoples.¹ One could justifiably say that the research on the war as war experience has become the focus of current scholarly discourse.² And this seems to have shifted the detailed reconstruction of the outbreak of war and the sequence of events into the background, even though there still are a vast number of themes regarding the eastern front and the...

  14. The Southern Envelopment: Switzerland’s Role in the Schlieffen and Moltke Plans
    (pp. 261-292)
    Hans Rudolf Fuhrer and Michael Olsansky

    “We have to admit that we owe our country’s preservation in the World War not only to divine providence, but more especially to the simple circumstance that both warring parties were in equal measure interested in preserving Switzerland’s neutrality.”¹

    These were the words of Theophil Sprecher von Bernegg, chief of the Swiss General Staff, in his famous speech to the Bern Officers’ Association in 1927. Renowned Swiss historians have reached similar conclusions in their evaluation of the events while at the same time emphasizing the importance of military border protection.² It is, therefore, little wonder that World War I is...

  15. The British Army, Its General Staff, and the Continental Commitment, 1904–1914
    (pp. 293-318)
    Hew Strachan

    After the First World War, Lord Haldane, anxious to refurbish his reputation as secretary of state for war between 1905 and 1912, published a selfjustificatory memoir,Before the War(1920). His army reforms were, he claimed, an integrated whole, unified by a single strategic conception. That conception was “how to mobilize at a place of assembly to be opposite the Belgian frontier, a force calculated as adequate . . . to make up for the inadequacy of the French armies.”¹ This was the Continental commitment, and its origins were dated to January 1906, the moment in the First Morocco Crisis...

  16. Belgium: Operational Plans and Tactics of a Neutral Country
    (pp. 319-338)
    Luc de Vos

    On 28 June 1914, six young men armed with pistols, hand grenades, and cyanide capsules were ready to attempt to assassinate Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the nephew of and heir presumptive to Austria’s Emperor Franz Joseph. They wanted the assassination to take place in Sarajevo, the capital of the province of Bosnia-Herzegovina, claimed by Serbia. The assassins, all about eighteen years of age, chose as a symbol not only the person and the place, but also a date that should fire imaginations: June 28 is the Serbian national day commemorating the defeat suffered at the hands of the Turks in Kosovo...

  17. Appendix: Deployment Plans, 1893–1914
    (pp. 339-526)
  18. Glossary of German Military Terms and Acronyms
    (pp. 527-532)
  19. List of Contributors
    (pp. 533-538)
  20. Index
    (pp. 539-578)
  21. [Maps]
    (pp. None)