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Schlieffen Plan (1905)

Schlieffen Plan (1905)

Schlieffen Plan (1905)


German plan, evolved in 1905 by General Count Alfred von Schlieffen, chief of the German General Staff, to deal with a potential two front war against France and Russia. The plan took advantage of their main weaknesses - the slow mobilisation of the Russian army, and the determination to attack at all cost in the French army. Thus the initial effort was to be made in the west, while small holding forces gave way slowly against the Russians. It was confidently expected that on the outbreak of any war with Germany, the French would almost instantly launch an invasion of Germany through Alsace-Lorraine, the best invasion route on the Franco-German border. When was came, both expectations were proved to be true. The German plan was simply to mass 90% of their troops - some 35 corps - to the north, and when war came marching them through neutral Belgium and Holland, and sweeping round to the west of Paris, enveloping the French army, who would have been allowed to make some progress into Germany. The French army would then find itself attacked from the rear, and with Paris threatened or lost.

If this plan had been carried out in its original version, the French might have been defeated in the first few weeks of the war, although in the original memoranda outlining the plan, Schlieffen himself had considered the likelyhood of success to be slim, with three main problems unsolved - how to neutralise the very strong fortifications and garrison of Paris, the inability of the transport network to take the number of troops his plan required, and an unsolvable shortage of troops even after full mobilisation.. However, in the years between the retirement of Schlieffen in 1906, and the outbreak of the First World War, the plan was repeatedly watered down by General Helmuth von Moltke, his successor as chief of the German General Staff. First, he decided not the break Dutch neutrality, only that of Belgium, leaving the important 35 corps struggling through a narrow gap to reach France. Next, loath to allow surrender of German soil, he limited the scope of the withdrawl planed for Alsace-Lorraine. Finally, and for the same reasons, he moved more troops to East Prussia, intending to defend against any Russian attack near the borders. Thus the 2.1 million troops envisaged by Schlieffen as attacking through Belgium and Holland became 1.5 million troops attacking through Belgium, while the French armies, instead of being trapped some way inside Germany when the attack came, were instead close to the frontier and able to be redeployed much quicker. Even so, the German plan nearly succeeded, and was only defeated after the battle of the Marne (5-10 September 1914).

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The Schlieffen Plan

The Schlieffen Plan was a battle plan drawn up by German military strategists. Its purpose was to secure victory in a war against both France and Russia. It formed the basis of Germany’s offensive in August 1914 but its successes were limited.

Avoiding a two-front war

From the 1870s, German strategists had one particular concern. If Germany found itself at war with both France and Russia, it would become a two-front war, forcing Berlin to divide its resources and double its risk. Their preferred strategy was to knock out one quickly before dealing with the other.

This was easier said than done, however. The French had constructed a chain of forts, defences and concrete pillboxes (machine-gun nests) along their eastern border with Germany. These fortifications made any invasion of France a difficult prospect. An assault on French territory would likely be held up, take weeks if not months and probably involve significant losses.

The Schlieffen Plan was devised as the solution to this problem.

Origins of the plan

The plan was named for its inventor, Count von Schlieffen, who concocted it in 1905 after studying the Russian military’s performance in its ill-fated war with Japan (1904-5).

Schlieffen noted that Russia was enormous but lacked a sufficient railway system. The full mobilisation of Russia’s forces would take several weeks, perhaps as long as three or four months.

Schlieffen set his sights on finding a way to invade France, capture Paris and force a French surrender quickly, ideally within two months. After this, Germany could turn its full attention to Russia.

Invading neutrals

Schlieffen’s battle plan involved a wave of German troops entering France through its more lightly-defended northern borders – but most would invade French territory via the small nations of Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. These nations were neutral, lacked sizeable military forces and had largely unprotected borders with France.

Once in northern France, four waves of German troops would sweep south-west and down toward Paris. Most French troops would, in the event of war, be concentrated along the German border, so they would be outflanked and surrounded.

Schlieffen and his planners predicted that this strategy could produce a German victory in as little as 40 days.

It was a bold and daring strategy that reflected Schlieffen’s philosophy: “To win, we must be the stronger of the two at the point of impact. Our only hope of this lies in making our own choice of operations, not in waiting passively for whatever the enemy chooses to do.”

Opposition to the plan

Not all in the German high command supported Schlieffen’s plan. Some thought the invasion of neutral countries risky, provocative and likely to draw in other nations.

Schlieffen’s strategy also required vast amounts of men and material. Many considered it wasteful and over-committed German forces if something went wrong.

Schlieffen’s replacement, General von Moltke, held this view. When von Moltke took command of the German general staff in 1906, he downsized the Schlieffen strategy, reduced troop numbers and removed the Netherlands from the battle plan.

The plan in action

In August 1914, German troops entered Belgium, in line with von Moltke’s modified version of the Schlieffen Plan.

The invasion caught the small Belgian contingent by surprise – but it was in Belgium that the strategy began to unravel. Belgian military forces, supported by civilian militia, held up the Germans for almost four weeks, double the anticipated time.

The attack on neutral Belgium also meant that England, a guarantor of Belgian neutrality, was drawn into the war. Belgium became a ripe source of Allied propaganda about callous German disregard for neutrality, as well as alleged German brutalities against Belgian civilians, women and children.

Evaluating the Schlieffen Plan

In military terms, the Schlieffen Plan was partially successful because it bypassed the heavily fortified French border and allowed some rapid penetration into France.

The nature of this advance contributed to its own problems, however. The speed of the German advance placed great strain on its troops, most of whom were travelling on foot.

Within a month, German divisions had reached the Marne River, north-east of Paris – but they were fatigued, battle-weary and depleted from engagements along the way.

Problems of supply

The speed of the advance placed considerable strain on long German supply lines (the routes by which an advancing army receives its food, munitions, reinforcements and other needs).

The Schlieffen Plan also under-estimated the military capacity, infrastructure and speed of mobilisation of both France and Russia.

On the Eastern Front, the Russians were able to launch an offensive against Germany faster than anticipated. The French also organised and moved their own troops rapidly. Several hundred Paris taxis were even commandeered by the military and used to ferry thousands of troops to defensive positions.

The German advance was ultimately halted at the week-long Battle of the Marne (September 1914). Their inability to advance beyond the Marne contributed to the use of trench warfare and the formation of the Western Front.

A historian’s view:
“Demands imposed on men and animals, the requirement for perfect co-ordination over long distances and the difficulty of dislodging entrenched opponents all suggest that the plan could never have succeeded. Schlieffen’s plan was a brilliant strategy but designed for an era when armies numbered in tens of thousands, not in the hundreds of thousands and millions. Still, the details of planning seem to have provided the basis for a pervasive confidence that they could win the war that they believe would happen, and that they could win it quickly.”
Frank B. Tipton

1. The Schlieffen Plan was Germany’s tactical solution for avoiding a two-front war with France and Russia.

2. Under this plan, drawn up in 1905, France would be forced to a quick surrender by a German invasion in the north.

3. German forces would move through neutral nations like Belgium and Luxembourg, bypassing French fortifications.

4. Schlieffen’s initial plan, modified by General von Moltke, became the accepted strategy in the event of a European war.

5. The plan allowed the Germans to penetrate French territory quickly and with relatively few losses, however, the speed and logistics of the advance meant that it could not be sustained, allowing the French to quickly mount a response.


Shortcomings of the plan: Why didn’t the Schlieffen Plan work?

There were a number of shortcomings associated with the plan. It imposed severe restrictions on the possibility of finding a diplomatic solution to the July Crisis, because of its narrow time-frame for the initial deployment of troops.

The escalation of the crisis to full-scale war was in no small measure due to Germany’s war plans. But more importantly, it unleashed the war with Germany’s invasion of neutral countries to the West.

The violation of Belgian neutrality in particular proved to Germany’s enemies that they were fighting an aggressive and ruthless enemy. It provided the perfect propaganda vehicle for rallying the country behind an unprecedented war effort and sustained the will to fight for four long years of war.

And it provided ample proof, if proof were needed, for the victors to allocate responsibility for the outbreak of the war to Germany and its allies.


Outcome and reputation

The Schlieffen Plan allowed the Germans to occupy a vast region that included most of Belgium and northeastern France. But this is not usually interpreted to mean that the plan was successful. It fell far short of its goal to capture Paris quickly so that the Germans could turn their attention to the east. French leaders at the time stated that if Paris was captured, they would have retreated south and continued fighting. So the expectation of a quick victory was never realistic. Instead, the plan led to the realization of a worst-case scenario: A four-year two-front war with horrific loss of life and ending in German defeat.

In 1919, Delbrück wrote an article in which he argued that an offensive against Russia would have been a more realistic strategy than one focused on France. As the immediate provocation for the war was Russian mobilization, an attack on Belgium and France was difficult to justify in terms of international opinion.

At this time, Schlieffen's name was not yet publicly associated with any plan. His role was disclosed by former General Staff officers who wrote responses to Delbrück's critique. They argued that Schlieffen's original plan would have worked. Moltke was to blame as he had fatally weakened the plan by not putting enough soldiers on the right wing. For this reason, the Germans were unable to envelop Paris as Schlieffen had wanted. Ironically, this criticism originates with the same group of officers who assisted Moltke in revising Schlieffen's unworkable version. Germany needed heroes to serve as examples to its officers, or "applicatory history" as the army called it. Wilhelm Groener, Moltke's railway planner and later the foremost spinner of the Schlieffen myth, wrote, "I do not write for history," but rather to teach officers "strategy in the next war." [11]


The Franco-Prussian War

The French army was no match for the well-armed, well-trained Prussian and German forces. Following the French defeat at the Battle of Sedan in early September, Napoleon III was captured and Paris surrounded. A revolution in Paris overthrew the French government and declared the Third Republic. For four months the city refused to surrender to the Germans. But on January 28, 1871, the starving and cold revolutionaries finally gave up.

The victorious Germans demanded that France pay a huge war debt and give up the border provinces of Alsace and Lorraine. On January 18, 1871, the Prussian king was crowned as the hereditary emperor of the German Empire. Germany had transformed itself from a weak collection of independent states to the most powerful nation on the continent.


In through the borders of Belgium, Netherlands,

In 1905, General Alfred von Schlieffen, who at that time was the Chief of the General Staff of Germany, developed a plan for war in Europe. He developed the plan in an attempt to prepare for the inevitable, a two front war with France and Russia. When he developed the plan he took in account all aspects of the many events that were occurring during that time. “Unfortunately, the plan would involve a violation of the International Agreement, signed by the Great Powers in 1839, guaranteeing Belgiums permanent neutrality.”Schlieffen believed that France would attempt to recover Alsace-Lorraine.

He planned to draw the French into a major offensive battle in Alsace. While Frances attention was turned to that part of the country, 90% of the German Army would storm through Belgium and the Netherlands toward the South of Paris in a sweeping movement. This would allow the German forces to travel through the borders of Belgium, Netherlands, and the surrounding country side toward the South Paris, entrapping the French Army between the two German forces. This would allow Germany to attack the French army from their weaker point in the rear. With the French Army engaged in war with the other 10% of the German Army, the French would not notice the Germans coming from the rear. The Germans coming form the rear would push the French forward, trapping them between the two German forces. William the Second, the Emperor of Germany, replaced General Schlieffen with Helmuth von Moltke, as the Chief of the General Staff of Germany in 1906.

Moltke modified the Schlieffen Plan from the original version.The Schlieffen Plan was a very engenus plan. The plan was devised for the German troops to be dispersed as follows:1) 11 corps and 7 Reserve corps South of Namur2) 6 corps and 1/2 Reserve corps through Mezieres3) 8 corps and 5 Reserve corps through Verdun and Metz4) 3 corps and 1 Reserve corps through StrasbourgThis left no Reserves left to protect the countryside of Germany. Schlieffen had expected the German Army to be at least 41 1/2 Corp of troops by the time war would break out with France and Russia. He was counting on something that would not take place before war would break out.Moltke modified Schlieffens Plan for a reason. The reason being that he believed that Germany did not have the man power for effective protection against invading countries.

Moltke altered Schlieffens plan in 1914, as follows:1) 8 corps and 5 Reserve corps South of Namur2) 6 corps and 3 Reserve corps through Mezieres3) 3 corps and 2 Reserve corps through Verdum and Metz4) 4 corps and 1 Reserve Corp through Strasbourg5) 2 corps and 1 Reserve Corp in Reserve.In the revised Schlieffen Plan, Moltke would abandon the territory of Alsace-Lorraine if the Italian government did not show up to help. The Italian Chief of Staff, General Pollio, had promised that his Italian troops would help the Germans. Until his death in 1914, General Pollio had assured Moltke the Italian Army would occupy Alsace-Lorraine. Moltke felt that it was necessary to hold that Province with the two corps. If the Italians did not appear then the question would arise how would the German Army get to Alsace-Lorraine in time to defend the region. The French attack was directed toward Mulhausen, which delayed German troops transport to the right wing of the attack.

As the Schlieffen plan was drawn up, Russia was still in a weakened state due to the Manchurian War. Russia was still behind the times of regular army operations. They had man power no question about it. However, man power does not make an army great, the leaders and the common sense of the Delegation make the army great. If the Russian Army had sufficient resources, the German Army would have not only had to fight the French, they would have also had to fight on the Russian border. This would have made the Schlieffen Plan just a passing thought because there would have not been enough German troops to carry it through. Russia would have needed the weaponry and a decent mean by which to deploy their troops with the right amount of equipment to defend themselves.

Moltke not only altered the Schlieffen Plan militarily, but politically as well. In the Schlieffen Plan there was not an ultimatum given to Belgium. Moltke thought it was necessary.

In the original plan, German troops were to deploy without any notifications, into the Dutch-Belgium border. The plan counted on the French Army to deploy their troops into the Meuse Valley, which is located south of Namur as a counter-measure. However by taking this action the French Army would be in violation of their agreement with Belgium and Belgiums neutrality. The Germans hoped that the French troops would plan to take over the natural defenses of the Meuse Valley which would have made France be the first to violate the agreement of Belgium to stay neutral. In 1914 the German troops advanced into the Meuse Valley, by that advancement the German troops were the first to actually violate Belgiums neutrality. By this action the British became involved because they were allies with Belgium. The Schlieffen plan according to Schlieffen was not to break Belgiums neutrality.

The first town to be taken by the German troops was Liege, Belgium. Germany wanted to take Liege with the idea of coup de main, which means to take without artillery support, during the mobilization of German troops along the border. The German army asked the Netherlands Government for the right of passage through the Dutch Providence of Limburg, to pass North of Liege. Moltke did not think that the Dutch government would allow him and his troops the right of passage across the territory. The reasoning behind Moltke wanting to pass north of Liege was to position his troops to take Liege over.

Even though Moltke had wanted to take Liege under coup de main that did not occur, artillery had to be used in an attempt to prevent a delay in the advancement of his forces. The Schlieffen Plan had a 42 day dead line. By taking Liege, Moltke and troops were behind time by nine days.

General von Kluck, who led the right wing, was to take his troops through the Netherlands and go to Brussels and use it as a turning point to had south. Already through Belgium, von Kluck marched ahead of General Bulows forces, thus exposing his right flank. Von Kluck had to hold up and let General Bulows forces catch up. This action allowed the French and British forces to stop retreating and set up a defense.

The French and the British “dug in” and what is known as trench warfare began. A projected four month was than took a turn for the worse and became a prolonged four year war.Germany needed to stay with the basic design of the Schlieffen Plan. The time factor was a key factor of the plan. A short time span would not have given the opposing armies the time to fortify their positions. Better communications between the German army divisions would have played a major part in the development of the war as well. If the Director of the German Armies would have followed the Schlieffen Plan as it was written, communication would have been easier.

The Plan might have also helped Germans to win the war. The German Army was better equipped, had more man power, and even a better strategic plan over the other countries. However the lack of communication between the different divisions of the German Troops caused for a massive disadvantage.BibliographyCraig, Gordon A. Germany 1866-1945 New York: Oxford University Press, 1978.Ryder, A.

J. Twentieth-Century Germany: From Bismarck to Brandt. New York:columbia University Press, 1973.Rosenburg, Dr.

Arthur. The Birth of the German Republic. New York: Russell & Russell, Inc. 1962.Orlow, The Schlieffen PlanIn 1905, General Alfred von Schlieffen, who at that time was the Chief of the General Staff of Germany, developed a plan for war in Europe.

He developed the plan in an attempt to prepare for the inevitable, a two front war with France and Russia. When he developed the plan he took in account all aspects of the many events that were occurring during that time. “Unfortunately, the plan would involve a violation of the International Agreement, signed by the Great Powers in 1839, guaranteeing Belgiums permanent neutrality.”Schlieffen believed that France would attempt to recover Alsace-Lorraine. He planned to draw the French into a major offensive battle in Alsace. While Frances attention was turned to that part of the country, 90% of the German Army would storm through Belgium and the Netherlands toward the South of Paris in a sweeping movement. This would allow the German forces to travel through the borders of Belgium, Netherlands, and the surrounding country side toward the South Paris, entrapping the French Army between the two German forces.

This would allow Germany to attack the French army from their weaker point in the rear. With the French Army engaged in war with the other 10% of the German Army, the French would not notice the Germans coming from the rear. The Germans coming form the rear would push the French forward, trapping them between the two German forces. William the Second, the Emperor of Germany, replaced General Schlieffen with Helmuth von Moltke, as the Chief of the General Staff of Germany in 1906. Moltke modified the Schlieffen Plan from the original version.The Schlieffen Plan was a very engenus plan. The plan was devised for the German troops to be dispersed as follows:1) 11 corps and 7 Reserve corps South of Namur2) 6 corps and 1/2 Reserve corps through Mezieres3) 8 corps and 5 Reserve corps through Verdun and Metz4) 3 corps and 1 Reserve corps through StrasbourgThis left no Reserves left to protect the countryside of Germany.

Schlieffen had expected the German Army to be at least 41 1/2 Corp of troops by the time war would break out with France and Russia. He was counting on something that would not take place before war would break out.Moltke modified Schlieffens Plan for a reason. The reason being that he believed that Germany did not have the man power for effective protection against invading countries. Moltke altered Schlieffens plan in 1914, as follows:1) 8 corps and 5 Reserve corps South of Namur2) 6 corps and 3 Reserve corps through Mezieres3) 3 corps and 2 Reserve corps through Verdum and Metz4) 4 corps and 1 Reserve Corp through Strasbourg5) 2 corps and 1 Reserve Corp in Reserve.In the revised Schlieffen Plan, Moltke would abandon the territory of Alsace-Lorraine if the Italian government did not show up to help.

The Italian Chief of Staff, General Pollio, had promised that his Italian troops would help the Germans. Until his death in 1914, General Pollio had assured Moltke the Italian Army would occupy Alsace-Lorraine. Moltke felt that it was necessary to hold that Province with the two corps.

If the Italians did not appear then the question would arise how would the German Army get to Alsace-Lorraine in time to defend the region. The French attack was directed toward Mulhausen, which delayed German troops transport to the right wing of the attack. As the Schlieffen plan was drawn up, Russia was still in a weakened state due to the Manchurian War.

Russia was still behind the times of regular army operations. They had man power no question about it. However, man power does not make an army great, the leaders and the common sense of the Delegation make the army great. If the Russian Army had sufficient resources, the German Army would have not only had to fight the French, they would have also had to fight on the Russian border. This would have made the Schlieffen Plan just a passing thought because there would have not been enough German troops to carry it through. Russia would have needed the weaponry and a decent mean by which to deploy their troops with the right amount of equipment to defend themselves.

Moltke not only altered the Schlieffen Plan militarily, but politically as well. In the Schlieffen Plan there was not an ultimatum given to Belgium. Moltke thought it was necessary.

In the original plan, German troops were to deploy without any notifications, into the Dutch-Belgium border. The plan counted on the French Army to deploy their troops into the Meuse Valley, which is located south of Namur as a counter-measure. However by taking this action the French Army would be in violation of their agreement with Belgium and Belgiums neutrality.

The Germans hoped that the French troops would plan to take over the natural defenses of the Meuse Valley which would have made France be the first to violate the agreement of Belgium to stay neutral. In 1914 the German troops advanced into the Meuse Valley, by that advancement the German troops were the first to actually violate Belgiums neutrality. By this action the British became involved because they were allies with Belgium.

The Schlieffen plan according to Schlieffen was not to break Belgiums neutrality.The first town to be taken by the German troops was Liege, Belgium. Germany wanted to take Liege with the idea of coup de main, which means to take without artillery support, during the mobilization of German troops along the border. The German army asked the Netherlands Government for the right of passage through the Dutch Providence of Limburg, to pass North of Liege.

Moltke did not think that the Dutch government would allow him and his troops the right of passage across the territory. The reasoning behind Moltke wanting to pass north of Liege was to position his troops to take Liege over. Even though Moltke had wanted to take Liege under coup de main that did not occur, artillery had to be used in an attempt to prevent a delay in the advancement of his forces.

The Schlieffen Plan had a 42 day dead line. By taking Liege, Moltke and troops were behind time by nine days.General von Kluck, who led the right wing, was to take his troops through the Netherlands and go to Brussels and use it as a turning point to had south. Already through Belgium, von Kluck marched ahead of General Bulows forces, thus exposing his right flank.

Von Kluck had to hold up and let General Bulows forces catch up. This action allowed the French and British forces to stop retreating and set up a defense. The French and the British “dug in” and what is known as trench warfare began.

A projected four month was than took a turn for the worse and became a prolonged four year war.Germany needed to stay with the basic design of the Schlieffen Plan. The time factor was a key factor of the plan. A short time span would not have given the opposing armies the time to fortify their positions. Better communications between the German army divisions would have played a major part in the development of the war as well. If the Director of the German Armies would have followed the Schlieffen Plan as it was written, communication would have been easier. The Plan might have also helped Germans to win the war.

The German Army was better equipped, had more man power, and even a better strategic plan over the other countries. However the lack of communication between the different divisions of the German Troops caused for a massive disadvantage.BibliographyCraig, Gordon A.

Germany 1866-1945 New York: Oxford University Press, 1978.Ryder, A.J.

Twentieth-Century Germany: From Bismarck to Brandt. New York:columbia University Press, 1973.Rosenburg, Dr. Arthur. The Birth of the German Republic. New York: Russell & Russell, Inc.

1962.Orlow, Dietrich. A History of Modern Germany: 1871-Present. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1995.Car, William. A History of Germany 1815-1945.

New York: St. Martians Press, 1969.Gatzke, Hans W.

Germanys Drive for the West. Baltimore: The John Hopkins Press, 1950.Lyons, Michael J.

World War I: A Short History. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2000.� The Schlieffen Plan” The Army Quarterly (London), July (1929): 286-290.Saleske, Herr Von Below. ” The German Request for Free Passage Through Belgium”, 2 August 1914.Davigion, M.(Belgian Minister for Foreign Affairs).

” The Belgian Refusal of Free Passage”, 3 August 1914.Leman, General, “The Fall of Liege.” 11-15 August 1914.Michael J Lyons, World War I, A Short History(New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2000), 54.

The Schlieffen PlanIn 1905, General Alfred von Schlieffen, who at that time was the Chief of the General Staff of Germany, developed a plan for war in Europe. He developed the plan in an attempt to prepare for the inevitable, a two front war with France and Russia. When he developed the plan he took in account all aspects of the many events that were occurring during that time. “Unfortunately, the plan would involve a violation of the International Agreement, signed by the Great Powers in 1839, guaranteeing Belgiums permanent neutrality.”Schlieffen believed that France would attempt to recover Alsace-Lorraine.

He planned to draw the French into a major offensive battle in Alsace. While Frances attention was turned to that part of the country, 90% of the German Army would storm through Belgium and the Netherlands toward the South of Paris in a sweeping movement. This would allow the German forces to travel through the borders of Belgium, Netherlands, and the surrounding country side toward the South Paris, entrapping the French Army between the two German forces. This would allow Germany to attack the French army from their weaker point in the rear. With the French Army engaged in war with the other 10% of the German Army, the French would not notice the Germans coming from the rear.

The Germans coming form the rear would push the French forward, trapping them between the two German forces. William the Second, the Emperor of Germany, replaced General Schlieffen with Helmuth von Moltke, as the Chief of the General Staff of Germany in 1906. Moltke modified the Schlieffen Plan from the original version.

The Schlieffen Plan was a very engenus plan. The plan was devised for the German troops to be dispersed as follows:1) 11 corps and 7 Reserve corps South of Namur2) 6 corps and 1/2 Reserve corps through Mezieres3) 8 corps and 5 Reserve corps through Verdun and Metz4) 3 corps and 1 Reserve corps through StrasbourgThis left no Reserves left to protect the countryside of Germany. Schlieffen had expected the German Army to be at least 41 1/2 Corp of troops by the time war would break out with France and Russia. He was counting on something that would not take place before war would break out.

Moltke modified Schlieffens Plan for a reason. The reason being that he believed that Germany did not have the man power for effective protection against invading countries. Moltke altered Schlieffens plan in 1914, as follows:1) 8 corps and 5 Reserve corps South of Namur2) 6 corps and 3 Reserve corps through Mezieres3) 3 corps and 2 Reserve corps through Verdum and Metz4) 4 corps and 1 Reserve Corp through Strasbourg5) 2 corps and 1 Reserve Corp in Reserve.

In the revised Schlieffen Plan, Moltke would abandon the territory of Alsace-Lorraine if the Italian government did not show up to help. The Italian Chief of Staff, General Pollio, had promised that his Italian troops would help the Germans. Until his death in 1914, General Pollio had assured Moltke the Italian Army would occupy Alsace-Lorraine. Moltke felt that it was necessary to hold that Province with the two corps. If the Italians did not appear then the question would arise how would the German Army get to Alsace-Lorraine in time to defend the region. The French attack was directed toward Mulhausen, which delayed German troops transport to the right wing of the attack.

As the Schlieffen plan was drawn up, Russia was still in a weakened state due to the Manchurian War. Russia was still behind the times of regular army operations. They had man power no question about it. However, man power does not make an army great, the leaders and the common sense of the Delegation make the army great. If the Russian Army had sufficient resources, the German Army would have not only had to fight the French, they would have also had to fight on the Russian border. This would have made the Schlieffen Plan just a passing thought because there would have not been enough German troops to carry it through.

Russia would have needed the weaponry and a decent mean by which to deploy their troops with the right amount of equipment to defend themselves.Moltke not only altered the Schlieffen Plan militarily, but politically as well. In the Schlieffen Plan there was not an ultimatum given to Belgium. Moltke thought it was necessary.

In the original plan, German troops were to deploy without any notifications, into the Dutch-Belgium border. The plan counted on the French Army to deploy their troops into the Meuse Valley, which is located south of Namur as a counter-measure. However by taking this action the French Army would be in violation of their agreement with Belgium and Belgiums neutrality.

The Germans hoped that the French troops would plan to take over the natural defenses of the Meuse Valley which would have made France be the first to violate the agreement of Belgium to stay neutral. In 1914 the German troops advanced into the Meuse Valley, by that advancement the German troops were the first to actually violate Belgiums neutrality. By this action the British became involved because they were allies with Belgium. The Schlieffen plan according to Schlieffen was not to break Belgiums neutrality.The first town to be taken by the German troops was Liege, Belgium. Germany wanted to take Liege with the idea of coup de main, which means to take without artillery support, during the mobilization of German troops along the border. The German army asked the Netherlands Government for the right of passage through the Dutch Providence of Limburg, to pass North of Liege.

Moltke did not think that the Dutch government would allow him and his troops the right of passage across the territory. The reasoning behind Moltke wanting to pass north of Liege was to position his troops to take Liege over. Even though Moltke had wanted to take Liege under coup de main that did not occur, artillery had to be used in an attempt to prevent a delay in the advancement of his forces. The Schlieffen Plan had a 42 day dead line. By taking Liege, Moltke and troops were behind time by nine days.

General von Kluck, who led the right wing, was to take his troops through the Netherlands and go to Brussels and use it as a turning point to had south. Already through Belgium, von Kluck marched ahead of General Bulows forces, thus exposing his right flank. Von Kluck had to hold up and let General Bulows forces catch up.

This action allowed the French and British forces to stop retreating and set up a defense. The French and the British “dug in” and what is known as trench warfare began. A projected four month was than took a turn for the worse and became a prolonged four year war.Germany needed to stay with the basic design of the Schlieffen Plan. The time factor was a key factor of the plan. A short time span would not have given the opposing armies the time to fortify their positions.

Better communications between the German army divisions would have played a major part in the development of the war as well. If the Director of the German Armies would have followed the Schlieffen Plan as it was written, communication would have been easier. The Plan might have also helped Germans to win the war. The German Army was better equipped, had more man power, and even a better strategic plan over the other countries.

However the lack of communication between the different divisions of the German Troops caused for a massive disadvantage.BibliographyCraig, Gordon A. Germany 1866-1945 New York: Oxford University Press, 1978.

Ryder, A.J. Twentieth-Century Germany: From Bismarck to Brandt. New York:columbia University Press, 1973.Rosenburg, Dr. Arthur. The Birth of the German Republic.

New York: Russell & Russell, Inc. 1962.Orlow, The Schlieffen PlanIn 1905, General Alfred von Schlieffen, who at that time was the Chief of the General Staff of Germany, developed a plan for war in Europe. He developed the plan in an attempt to prepare for the inevitable, a two front war with France and Russia. When he developed the plan he took in account all aspects of the many events that were occurring during that time.

“Unfortunately, the plan would involve a violation of the International Agreement, signed by the Great Powers in 1839, guaranteeing Belgiums permanent neutrality.”Schlieffen believed that France would attempt to recover Alsace-Lorraine. He planned to draw the French into a major offensive battle in Alsace. While Frances attention was turned to that part of the country, 90% of the German Army would storm through Belgium and the Netherlands toward the South of Paris in a sweeping movement.

This would allow the German forces to travel through the borders of Belgium, Netherlands, and the surrounding country side toward the South Paris, entrapping the French Army between the two German forces. This would allow Germany to attack the French army from their weaker point in the rear. With the French Army engaged in war with the other 10% of the German Army, the French would not notice the Germans coming from the rear. The Germans coming form the rear would push the French forward, trapping them between the two German forces.

William the Second, the Emperor of Germany, replaced General Schlieffen with Helmuth von Moltke, as the Chief of the General Staff of Germany in 1906. Moltke modified the Schlieffen Plan from the original version.The Schlieffen Plan was a very engenus plan. The plan was devised for the German troops to be dispersed as follows:1) 11 corps and 7 Reserve corps South of Namur2) 6 corps and 1/2 Reserve corps through Mezieres3) 8 corps and 5 Reserve corps through Verdun and Metz4) 3 corps and 1 Reserve corps through StrasbourgThis left no Reserves left to protect the countryside of Germany. Schlieffen had expected the German Army to be at least 41 1/2 Corp of troops by the time war would break out with France and Russia. He was counting on something that would not take place before war would break out.Moltke modified Schlieffens Plan for a reason.

The reason being that he believed that Germany did not have the man power for effective protection against invading countries. Moltke altered Schlieffens plan in 1914, as follows:1) 8 corps and 5 Reserve corps South of Namur2) 6 corps and 3 Reserve corps through Mezieres3) 3 corps and 2 Reserve corps through Verdum and Metz4) 4 corps and 1 Reserve Corp through Strasbourg5) 2 corps and 1 Reserve Corp in Reserve.In the revised Schlieffen Plan, Moltke would abandon the territory of Alsace-Lorraine if the Italian government did not show up to help. The Italian Chief of Staff, General Pollio, had promised that his Italian troops would help the Germans. Until his death in 1914, General Pollio had assured Moltke the Italian Army would occupy Alsace-Lorraine. Moltke felt that it was necessary to hold that Province with the two corps.

If the Italians did not appear then the question would arise how would the German Army get to Alsace-Lorraine in time to defend the region. The French attack was directed toward Mulhausen, which delayed German troops transport to the right wing of the attack. As the Schlieffen plan was drawn up, Russia was still in a weakened state due to the Manchurian War. Russia was still behind the times of regular army operations. They had man power no question about it. However, man power does not make an army great, the leaders and the common sense of the Delegation make the army great.

If the Russian Army had sufficient resources, the German Army would have not only had to fight the French, they would have also had to fight on the Russian border. This would have made the Schlieffen Plan just a passing thought because there would have not been enough German troops to carry it through. Russia would have needed the weaponry and a decent mean by which to deploy their troops with the right amount of equipment to defend themselves.Moltke not only altered the Schlieffen Plan militarily, but politically as well. In the Schlieffen Plan there was not an ultimatum given to Belgium.

Moltke thought it was necessary. In the original plan, German troops were to deploy without any notifications, into the Dutch-Belgium border. The plan counted on the French Army to deploy their troops into the Meuse Valley, which is located south of Namur as a counter-measure.

However by taking this action the French Army would be in violation of their agreement with Belgium and Belgiums neutrality. The Germans hoped that the French troops would plan to take over the natural defenses of the Meuse Valley which would have made France be the first to violate the agreement of Belgium to stay neutral. In 1914 the German troops advanced into the Meuse Valley, by that advancement the German troops were the first to actually violate Belgiums neutrality. By this action the British became involved because they were allies with Belgium. The Schlieffen plan according to Schlieffen was not to break Belgiums neutrality.

The first town to be taken by the German troops was Liege, Belgium. Germany wanted to take Liege with the idea of coup de main, which means to take without artillery support, during the mobilization of German troops along the border. The German army asked t


Key Facts & Information

BACKGROUND ON THE SCHLIEFFEN PLAN

  • After the Napoleonic Wars, military thinking was dominated by the German Wars of Unification, which occurred following the decentralized German Confederation and Holy Roman Empire.
  • The Unification of Germany, as well as the Franco-Prussian War, prompted countries like Austria and Russia to begin conscription in 1868 and 1874, respectively, just like Germany was already doing.
  • German writers and professors took note of the shifts that were occuring in the way the military was organized and run.
  • They noticed that there was a shift from small, professional armies that made small, quick victories to a larger, more powerful nationalistic militia that fought on a much larger scale.
  • Prussian Field Marshal Helmuth Karl Bernhard Graf von Moltke, referred to as “Moltke the Elder”, recognized the growing number of countries introducing Conscription. He felt that Germany needed to be better prepared for the challenges they may face in the future against these countries.
  • He knew that European armies were growing, so he adopted many defensive and offensive strategies to train the army.
  • He strongly believed that peace would be preserved in Europe by the
    maintenance of a powerful German army, and that any battles fought would mean Germany would be in a great position to negotiate and get what they wanted.
  • Unfortunately, he didn’t consider that the defeated enemy might choose not to negotiate.
  • In February 1891, Schlieffen was appointed as Chief of the Great General Staff, and he was tasked with devising a grand strategy for unifying and strengthening the German state institutions.
  • He wanted to make the army more formidable, increase its size, and introduce new weapons to ensure the defeat of enemies.

DESIGNING THE PLAN

  • Schlieffen faced the difficult decision about what to do regarding the French and Russian armies that surrounded Germany to the west and the east.
  • Schlieffen originally wanted the German forces to defeat France
    quickly, then transfer to the Russian front to fight. He was initially
    unsure about the logistics of the plan.
  • After witnessing Russia’s defeat by Japan in the Russo-Japanese War in
    1905, Schlieffen concluded that Russia’s strength had been Overestimated. Therefore, he felt confident that an attack on France was possible and would allow German forces to reach Russia in time for an attack in the east.
  • He determined to wage an isolated Franco-German war, where Germany would attack France and move through northern Belgium, hopefully securing France within six weeks.
  • Schlieffen then planned to send troops via Germany’s rail system to the Russian front, where they would attack and defeat Russian troops in the east.
  • A holding operation on the Russia/German border would be carried out if it was necessary.
  • In August of 1905, at 72 years of age, Schlieffen was made “incapable of battle” due to a kick from a horse. His successor, Helmuth von Moltke the Younger (son of Moltke the Elder), became Chief of Staff in January of 1906.

DEPLOYMENT OF THE PLAN

  • Moltke the Younger had doubts about Germany’s ability for victory in a European war, but despite these doubts, he continued on.
  • By 1910, the Russian army had reorganized themselves and were far
    more prepared than they had been during the Russo-Japanese War a few years prior. This added a layer of difficulty to the original plan.
  • Due to the likelihood of a longer war with Russia on the eastern front, it was of paramount importance to defeat France quickly.
  • As a result of these changes, Moltke the Younger made substantial changes to the original Schlieffen Plan.
  • Although anticipations and different outcomes were considered, there were no contingencies laid out in case things went wrong.
  • When Germany declared war, France implemented Plan XVII, which included five attacks in August of 1914 (referred to as the Battle of the Frontiers).
  • Within a few days of fighting, the French were retreating and not doing well. Germany advanced through Belgium and Northern France, but by this point, England had gotten involved.
  • Unfortunately, at the first Battle of the Marne in September of 1914, poor communication, the withdrawal of German troops on the Russian front, and no attacks on the French meant that the plan was unsuccessful.
  • The First World War and the onset of trench warfare began shortly after the failure of the Schlieffen Plan.

Schlieffen Plan Worksheets

This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about the Schlieffen Plan across 20 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Schlieffen Plan worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the Schlieffen Plan which was originally created in December of 1905 by General Count Alfred von Schlieffen. It was designed to attack France, then move to the Russian border to attack Russia. The plan’s execution led to the breakout of the First World War.

Complete List Of Included Worksheets

  • WWI: Schlieffen Plan Facts
  • Deployment Plans Snapshot
  • Schlieffen Plan Wordsearch
  • Spotlight On: Alfred von Schlieffen
  • Quote Analysis
  • Schlieffen Plan Crossword
  • Strengths and Weaknesses
  • Design a Commemorative Stamp
  • Map Examination
  • Schlieffen Storyboard
  • HIstorical Perspectives

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The Attack Falters

However, a key vulnerability formed in the German’s attack. During the march south through France a hole formed between the main German forces. They were forced to close the gap, though this meant that the western most army did not go far enough west.

That army was meant to land on the western side of Paris so as to encircle the city. Instead, they ended up east of the city, exposing their right flank to the Parisian defenders themselves.

In addition, as the Germans marched through France, their advance slowed. The German Army was moving too fast for their supply lines to keep up, and the soldiers were weary and underfed.

The slowing advance allowed France time to regroup and organize a defensive stand. France did just that at the Marne River, east of Paris.

At the subsequent Battle of the Marne a heroic effort by the French defenders repulsed the Germans and sent them retreating back. The German offensive and modified Schlieffen Plan had failed.

It is not confirmed, though allegedly after the failure at Marne the defeated General Moltke reported to Kaiser Wilhelm II, “Your majesty, we have lost the war.”

Regardless of whether those words were spoken, the hopes for a quick victory on the Western Front were dashed. The Germans retreated back, settled in, and dug deep trenches in preparation for a long war of attrition.


The Schlieffen Plan

General Count von Schlieffen (1833 – 1913) was Chief of the German General Staff from 1891 until he retired in 1905. As a testament to his work for Germany, he finished an operational plan with which Germany could successfully attack France.

With certain modifications, the ‘Schlieffen Plan’ as it became known, was used as the basis for the massive German attack in 1914. Schlieffen believed a number of things, based on his military knowledge, and general awareness of exactly what was what and what could be done, or not done:

(1) That the war would have to be fought against France and Russia, probably supported by Britain.

(2) That the decisive theatre of war would remain in France, but that Germany must stay on the defensive with Russia.

(3) That in the case of France’s swift defeat, her allies would offer little resistance.

(4) That the French fortifications facing Germany were virtually impregnable, and therefore should simply be outflanked in a great curving, scythe-like movement through Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg, even if Germany had been bound by treaty to observe these countries’ neutrality.

During his retirement, Schlieffen revised these plans with the help of his son-in-law, at the end of each year, coinciding with Christmas celebrations. His successor as Chief of Staff was von Moltke, also a brilliant strategist, who decided to limit the ‘scythe’ manoevre to Belgium and Luxembourg.

The Great War began with the usual German triumphs, but Moltke failed to capture Paris in 1914, experts said, because he not fully followed the plans of the ‘masterly military genius’ – von Schlieffen.

The experts’ view was challenged, however, in 1956 by Dr. Gerhard Ritter who published the text of the full plan, with Schlieffen’s amendments and Moltke’s comments. It then became clear that there was not such a difference between the stategy of Schlieffen and Moltke as earlier historians had maintained.

Since the end of the Great War (1918) an intellectual storm has raged between followers of the original Schlieffen Plan, and observers of the campaigns, defeats and victories that occurred during the War. In the 1990s, readers of The Spectator, an important British political weekly, were entertained during nearly seventeen weeks by a furious exchange of letters on the correspondence pages between modern historians, and someone describing herself as a direct descendent of von Schlieffen himself. Her argument was that had the German high command followed the Schlieffen Plan to the letter, Germany would have won the First World War quickly, and with infinitely less loss of life on all sides.

There remains some doubt as to whether the Plan deserves its high reputation, because von Schlieffen had under-estimated the strength of the Russians, as Napoleon had done before, and as Hitler would do later . Schlieffen had also under-estimated Berliners’ panic as Russian forces drew near, the strength and bravery of Belgian resistance, the effectiveness of the British Expeditionary Force, and the importance and efficiency of the French railway system, bringing up reserves.


SCHLIEFFEN PLAN

The so-called Schlieffen Plan, Germany’s infamous military deployment plan of the early twentieth century, took its name from Count Alfred von Schlieffen, chief of the German General Staff from 1891 to 1905. Its genesis and the reasoning behind it are best explained against the background of international developments in Europe at the beginning of the twentieth century.

INTERNATIONAL BACKGROUND TO SCHLIEFFEN’S MILITARY PLANNING

The Entente Cordiale (1904) between Britain and France had just been successfully tested during the First Moroccan Crisis (1905–1906), and Germany began to feel the full consequences of its own expansionist foreign policy. To Germany, British involvement in a future war now seemed almost certain, and consequently Italy, allied to Germany and Austria since 1882, became a less reliable ally, because it would be unable to defend its long coastlines from Britain and might therefore opt to stay neutral in a future war. The international events of 1905 and 1906 marked the beginning of Germany’s perceived ‘‘encirclement’’ by alliances of possible future enemies.

Between this time and the outbreak of war in 1914, the General Staff became increasingly concerned about the growing military strength of Germany’s enemies. As a result of the Russo-Japanese War (1904– 1905) Russia was eliminated as a serious threat to the European status quo for the foreseeable future. It would first of all have to recover from a lost war and revolution. For Germany’s military leaders who feared Russia as a potential future enemy, this was a perfect time to consider ‘‘preventive war,’’ because Germany still had a chance to defeat Russia. In the not too distant future, Germany’s military planners predicted, Russia would become invincible. The Schlieffen Plan was developed against this background and designed primarily as a war against France (and Britain) in 1905 and 1906.

Schlieffen saw Germany’s best chance of victory in a swift offensive against France, while in the east the German army was initially to be on the defensive. Russia would be dealt with after France had been defeated. In effect, Schlieffen aimed to turn the threatening two-front war into two one-front wars. The plan further entailed that Germany would have to attack France while avoiding the heavy fortifications along the Franco-German border. Instead of a ‘‘head-on’’ engagement, which would lead to interminable position warfare, the opponent should be enveloped and its armies attacked on the flanks and rear. Moving through Switzerland would have been impractical, whereas in the north the terrain was easier to negotiate and the necessary railway lines existed that would ensure a swift German deployment. In addition, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Belgium were not expected to put up much resistance. With these considerations in mind, Schlieffen decided to concentrate all effort on the right wing of the German advancing armies. The plan involved violating the neutrality of Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Belgium, but Schlieffen and his colleagues in the General Staff considered the political ramifications of this act of aggression insignificant.

In his planning, Schlieffen counted on two things—that German victory in the west would be quick, and that Russian mobilization would be slow—so that a small German force would suffice to hold back Russia until France was beaten. After a swift victory in the west, the full force of the German army would be directed eastward, and Russia beaten in turn.

This scheme was the result of years of planning and strategic exercises designed to find the best solution to the problem of a two-front war. Schlieffen put this version on paper in December 1905 in a memorandum written on the eve of his retirement (this document is usually referred to as the ‘‘Schlieffen Plan’’). In subsequent years, the plan was adapted to changing international circumstances by his successor, the younger Helmuth von Moltke. Nevertheless, the underlying principles— trying to fight two wars on one front, wanting to fight against France before attempting to defeat Russia, and attempting to envelop the opponent—remained the same until August 1914, when Germany’s deployment plan (now significantly revised) was put into action.

In 1914 the plan (more aptly called the ‘‘Moltke Plan’’ at this point) imposed severe restrictions on the possibility of finding a diplomatic solution to the ‘‘July crisis,’’ particularly because of its narrow time frame for the initial deployment of troops into Luxembourg, Belgium, and France (the neutrality of the Netherlands was spared by this time). The escalation of the crisis to full-scale war was in no small measure due to Germany’s offensive war plans.

THE MYTH OF THE SCHLIEFFEN PLAN

After the war was lost, Germany’s military leaders initially attempted to keep details of the plan a secret, not least because they might have underlined the war guilt allegations made by the victors against Germany. Official document collections omitted Schlieffen’s memorandum of 1905, although in private correspondence and in their memoirs, contemporaries frequently referred to Schlieffen’s ‘‘recipe for victory,’’ which had, in their opinion, been squandered by his successor. Details of the memorandum did not become public until after World War II, when the German historian Gerhard Ritter published this and other documents. His study of the Schlieffen Plan, and his subsequent publications, blamed German militarism for the outbreak of war.

More recently, however, it has been argued by the American historian Terence Zuber that there never was a Schlieffen Plan. His contention is that the famous 1905 memorandum did not amount to a military plan. Other historians have suggested that it would be more appropriate to use the term Moltke Plan when referring to the outbreak of war in 1914, because by then Schlieffen’s own plan had been superseded by that of his successor. Zuber’s thesis has provoked much debate (see, for example, the journal War in History where much of this debate has taken place), but he has largely failed to convince his critics that there was no Schlieffen Plan. His apologetic interpretation that Germany did not have an offensive war plan in 1914 has similarly found few supporters.

The debate has, however, reemphasized what others had already stressed: that there never existed a guaranteed recipe for victory that Schlieffen’s hapless successor adulterated, and that it would be prudent to think carefully about the terminology used to describe Germany’s prewar military plans. The term Schlieffen Plan as a convenient way of summarizing German military intentions is perhaps not accurate enough by 1914, when Germany put its offensive war plan into action, Schlieffen had long ceased to have any influence on Germany’s military planning. The responsibility for the plans that were put into practice in August 1914 lay with his successor, Helmuth von Moltke, who had adapted Schlieffen’s ideas to changing international and domestic conditions.


Watch the video: Krieg ist das Ende aller Pläne - Der Schlieffen-Plan von 1905 (January 2022).