The Shlieffen Plan

Submitted By joereed12
Words: 1981
Pages: 8

Once the Schlieffen Plan failed, was Germanys defeat in the Great War inevitable?
In the early 20th century, German military and government officials began drawing up plans for victory in Europe should another war break out in the future. The plan came about after the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-1871, in which Prussia (with assistance from German troops) defeated the Second French Empire and Napoleon III. The defeat of the French led to the unification of Germany under King Wilhelm I which also led to the downfall of Napoleon III and the fall of the Second French Empire. After the war, Germany gained vast territorial areas from Prussia, such as Alsace and Lorraine in France. Due to the areas being taken from France and given to Germany, they were highly populated with French civilians. Although France was greatly hampered and weakened by the war of 1870, Germany was still very wary of a retaliation attack from France in an attempt to regain Alsace and Lorraine. During the 1870 war Germany and Prussia joined forces to defeat France and this wartime alliance continued after the war leaving France alone in mainland Europe with no European Allies.
Towards the end of the 19th century Germany maintained a close relationship with both Russia and Britain, yet it would all change with the election of Kaiser Wilhelm II to the throne. Once in charge, Wilhelm began cutting ties with both countries. This increased tension amongst most European countries and politicians as should war break out the prospect of two front war for Germany was becoming highly likely. With France being defeated in just a few weeks during the 1870 war, they weren’t seen as big threat in comparison to Russia in the east. They were seen as a great threat and were expected to be difficult to defeat should the Tsar have enough time to assemble and mobilise the country to its fullest. The Germans believed the Tsar and Russia had the potential to overpower Europe if they felt the need and this worried Germany. Another worry for Germany was the Entente Cordiale, signed in 1904 by France and Britain which was a peace agreement between the two countries that ended almost 1000 years of conflict. A few years later the Anglo-Russian and the Franco-Russian treaties were signed which formed the Triple Entente and peace between Russia, Britain and France. Once the Kaiser heard of the Entente Cordiale and the other peace treaties he consulted Count Schlieffen, a German Field Marshall. He ordered Schlieffen to draw up a strategy which would allow Germany to fight and win a war fought on both the East (with Russia) and west (with Britain and France) fronts. By the end of 1905, Schlieffen had finished his plan and it had been circulated around the senior German military and political officials.
One key point of the Schlieffen Plan was that to achieve victory in the joint attack, France needed to be defeated and taken out of the war rapidly, just like how they’d been defeated in the 1870 war. Count Schlieffen believed that if France was conquered then Britain and Russia would be unwilling to continue the war, resulting in a German victory. He also believed that should Russia get involved in the war it would take them 6 to 8 weeks to mobilise and assemble a strong fighting machine. This estimate by Schlieffen led Germany to believe it was essential to force a French surrender within 6 or 8 weeks before Russia could get involved in the war. The German Plan to invade and defeat France was to move 80% of its troops to into France through Holland rather than attempting to get past the French defences and resistance on the border. The remaining German troops would be moved into defensive positions on the eastern border with Russia to stop any Russian advances once war had broken out in the west. After Schlieffen retired in 1906 he was replaced as German Army Chief by Helmuth von Moltke and the plan to invade France through Holland was altered. Instead the German military would move