Why there is historical debate over the use of the term ‘Schlieffen Plan’ to describe Germany’s actions in World War I?

Published: June 29, 2020

Schlieffen Plan was the German plan to avoid a two-front war by concentrating troops in the West and quickly defeating the French and then, if necessary, rushing those troops by rail to the East to face the Russians before they had time to mobilize fully.

The Schlieffen Plan has become the accepted explanation of German tactics in 1914. However, recent evidence suggests that the Schlieffen Plan was not a practical war plan. Historians particularly Terence Zuber, author of Inventing the Schlieffen Plan have argued that what is known as the Schlieffen Plan may not have been an actual plan as such, but instead was laid down in one 1905 hypothetical memorandum and a brief 1906 addition. It was not a plan for a war on two fronts, as occurred in 1914.

He argues that the plan was actually a theoretical training exercise. This argument is based on inconsistencies between the 1905 Schlieffen Plan and the German mobilisation plans implemented in 1914.

Further, Zuber has argued that the Schlieffen Plan was for a war against France on a single front, yet in 1914 Germany was planning for a war against France and Russia. The actual document was also in the possession of Schlieffen’s daughters in 1914, not with the military generals.

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