The Schlieffen Plan
Critique of a Myth
Gerhard Ritter, Eva Wilson, Andrew Wilson, Sir B. H. Liddell Hart
The Schlieffen Plan was the name given after World War I to the theory behind the German invasion of France and Belgium on 4 August 1914. In 1905-1906 Field Marshal Alfred von Schlieffen, the Chief of the Imperial Army German General Staff from 1891-1906, had devised a deployment plan for a war-winning offensive, in a one-front war against the French Third Republic. After the war, the German official historians of the Reichsarchiv and other writers, described the plan as a blueprint for victory.
Post-war writing by senior German officers and the Reichsarchiv historians managed to establish a commonly accepted narrative that it was Schlieffen’s successor Helmuth von Moltke the Younger’s failure to follow the blueprint, rather than German strategic miscalculation, that resulted in four years of attrition warfare.
In 1953, renowned historian Prof. Gerhard Ritter Schlieffen’s unearthed Schlieffen’s papers during a visit to the United States, and he published his findings in the book Der Schlieffenplan: Kritik eines Mythos, presented here in its 1958 English translation, The Schlieffen Plan: Critique of a Myth. It proved to be an important historical publication, as it set in motion a period of revision, when the details of the supposed Schlieffen Plan were subjected to scrutiny and contextualisation.
In Der Schlieffen Plan, Prof. Ritter presents the full text of Schlieffen’s military testament, and the relevant parts of other memoranda which shed light on the evolution of the Plan. They are preceded by Professor Ritter’s masterly exposition of their content and significance, while his accompanying notes add to the illuminating effect.
“FOR two generations the Schlieffen Plan has been a magic phrase, embodying one of the chief mysteries and ‘might have beens’ of modern times. The mystery is cleared up and the great ‘If’ analysed in Gerhard Ritter’s book—a striking contribution to twentieth-century history.”—B. H. Liddell Hart