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5.0 out of 5 stars "There is no mention of the Schlieffen Plan before 1920" page 5, 4 April 2011
This review is from: Inventing the Schlieffen Plan: German War Planning 1871-1914 (Hardcover)
Dr Zuber's thesis is that the Schlieffen Plan was created after the event by "the General Staff to explain away their failure to win the 1914 Marne campaign".

Page 5:
"This book intends to prove that there never was a Schlieffen Plan. It will present recently discovered documents from the Reichsarchiv, as well as previously neglected exercises from other German archives, to show that far from being the final expression of fifteen years of Schlieffen's military thought, the so-called 'Schlieffen plan" bore no resemblance to Schlieffen's war planning at all. Schlieffen's foremost concern was that the Austro-German armies were seriously outnumbered by those of the Franco-Russian alliance. To compensate for this numerical inferiority, Schlieffen intended to fight a defensive war using the mobility provided by the German rail network to defeat each of the Entente armies in turn, in the immediate vicinity of the German border, and not throw the German army into a desperate invasion of central France. The 'Schlieffen Plan' was invented by the General Staff to explain away their failure to win the 1914 Marne campaign. in fact, the German army never had nearly enough troops to execute an operation as ambitious as the 'Schlieffen plan', and Schlieffen himself said so. This has not been recognised because the 'Schlieffen plan' debate was in fact not really about military planning, but politics and 'militarism'.

Chapter 1 - Inventing the Schliefen plan - looks into the origins of this debate, and how it came to dominate writing about Germany and the Great War.
Page 23: "The General Staff's counterattack ... was not long in coming. In 1920, Hermann von Kuhl published [in German] 'The German General Staff in the Preparation and Conduct of the World War'. Kuhn had been one of Schlieffen's prize pupils. His last two assignments before the war were as chief of the western intelligence section and then as an Oberquartiermeister on the General Staff. On mobilisation he was made chief of staff of the right-wing 1st Army."
Basically, in his book, "he was defending the intelligence estimates that he had helped write. Kuhl also had to explain why the German army failed to win a decisive victory in the west in August 1914."

Kuhl was chief of staff of the 1st Army, the one which by any normal criteria, would carry the blame for defeat at the Marne. Page 27: "...the German campaign in the west, in spite of forty years of preparation, was a failure. This failure could only be due to errors committed both by the General Staff as an institution and by individual senior officers. Kuhl, for one, had every prospect of going down in German military history alongside the Duke of Brunswick in 1806 or General Steimetz in 1870. He would almost surely be held at least partially responsible for the 1st Army's failures on the Marne, at Le Cateau and at Mons. To avoid such a fate, Kuhl found three scapegoats, all of whom were conveniently dead in 1920: Moltke, Bulow, and Hentsch."

The German Official History published in 1925 then went along with the Schlieffen Plan excuse. Ludendorff joined in the debate to muddy the waters. Argument went on until 1933, after which divisive arguments were no longer permitted. A couple of the participants in the debate were executed after the July Bomb Plot (but not for their part in the Schlieffen Plan, we assume).

Chapters 2-5 examine the various chiefs-of-staff and their war plans, exercises and war games, and the changing political and military situations they had to contend with, and shows what Moltke was most probably trying to achieve in 1914. They also examine what the French were up to. There are many interesting facts and figures discussed here. In 1894 Schlieffen was examining plans to defeat Russian armies near the Masurian Lakes by manoeuvre and envelopment. After 1905 French war plans were expecting the Germans to invade via Belgium. The Germans assumed that if the British were involved in the war, Belgium would side with them. If there was an Anglo-German war, the French would likely use it as an opportunity to invade Germany, so the plan was to invade France first. The Russians and the French could mobilise faster then the Germans, and therefore would probably make the first move.

Chapter 6 - Excuses and Accusations:
P281: "Lyncker's Diary entries show that the race to assign the blame was already on by September 1914."
"It should come as no surprise that the first organisation to write its version of the battle was 1st Army HQ which had a report ready on 19th October 1914, a truly remarkable achievement under the circumstances".
P304: "Faced with professional extinction, the General Staff decided to explain its failure in 1914 by maintaining that it had an infallible plan, which was spoiled by by the actions of three dead officers, Moltke, Hentsch, and Bulow. After the Second World War historians took this explanation at face value."

However, at the end of the day, the German army was defeated, so Moltke must take the blame for not controlling his subordinate army commanders.

This is an extremely interesting and well-written book, highly recommended. Dr Zuber's sources, as cited in his footnotes, are primarily German language, with a few French language ones. There are merely a handful of English language sources cited.

I borrowed this book from a library.

The Reichsarchiv in Potsdam, which held the pre-war plans treated them as classified documents, allowing access only to 'reliable' officers. Very little for the period 1891-1905 was ever published, so discussion could only centre about what the General Staff wanted the public to know. Unfortunately, much of the Reichsarchiv was destroyed on 14th April 1945 (allegedly) by the RAF. I say allegedly; I don't know if anyone has ever checked the RAF history, but then, what possible reason would the German army in April 1945 have for destroying its own records?

Since this book was written, some new documents have become available - see Dr Zuber's The Real German War Plan, 1904-14.
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