Schlieffen Plan

The Schlieffen Plan, the German General Staff's overall strategic blueprint for victory on the western front against France in the years up to 1914, takes its name from its author, Alfred, Graf von Schlieffen. In essence it envisaged a rapid German mobilisation, disregard of Dutch and Belgian neutrality, and the overwhelming sweep of German armies across Flanders towards Paris, pivoting on weakly-held left-wing positions in Alsace-Lorraine. Following the speedy defeat of France, von Schlieffen envisaged switching German concentrations to the Eastern Front.

Von Schlieffen regularly updated details of his master plan as a labour of love even after his retirement from the General Staff in 1905, but von Moltke weakened the plan's execution in 1914 at the beginning of World War I, avoiding invading the Netherlands, weakening the German right wing and maintaining forces in the threatened East Prussia. Stubborn French resistance also contributed to the plan's failure in 1914. However, a modified form of Schlieffen's concept proved effective over the same terrain in the defeat of France in 1940.


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