Of war plans and war guilt: The debate surrounding the Schlieffen Plan

Mombauer, Annika (2005). Of war plans and war guilt: The debate surrounding the Schlieffen Plan. Journal of Strategic Studies, 28(5) pp. 857–885.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/01402390500394009


This article outlines the controversy around the thesis advanced by Terence Zuber that there never was a Schlieffen Plan and that German war planning in 1914, far from having the aggressive edge that historians have attributed to it for decades, was in fact a defensive plan designed to deal with a Franco-Russian attack on Germany. In addition to reviewing the debate precipitated by Zuber’s thesis, this article also takes a closer look at how Germany prepared for war in the years 1906-1914, and particularly how it ended up embarking on that war in August 1914. Such an investigation of German war planning, with particular emphasis on the war plans of the younger Moltke, will serve as a critique of Zuber’s controversial thesis, and it will be shown that while Zuber maintains that there never was a Schlieffen Plan, Schlieffen, Moltke and their contemporaries were certain that such a plan existed. In 1914, Moltke did not shrink from implementing his own version of Schlieffen’s strategic thinking when war broke out.

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