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The Schlieffen Plan was originally created in December of 1905 by General Count Alfred von Schlieffen. It was designed to attack France, then move to the Russian border to attack Russia. The plan’s execution led to the breakout of the First World War.
See the fact file below for more information on the Schlieffen Plan or alternatively, you can download our 20-page Schlieffen Plan worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
BACKGROUND ON THE SCHLIEFFEN PLAN
- After the Napoleonic Wars, military thinking was dominated by the German Wars of Unification, which occurred following the decentralized German Confederation and Holy Roman Empire.
- The Unification of Germany, as well as the Franco-Prussian War, prompted countries like Austria and Russia to begin conscription in 1868 and 1874, respectively, just like Germany was already doing.
- German writers and professors took note of the shifts that were occuring in the way the military was organized and run.
- They noticed that there was a shift from small, professional armies that made small, quick victories to a larger, more powerful nationalistic militia that fought on a much larger scale.
- Prussian Field Marshal Helmuth Karl Bernhard Graf von Moltke, referred to as “Moltke the Elder”, recognized the growing number of countries introducing Conscription. He felt that Germany needed to be better prepared for the challenges they may face in the future against these countries.
- He knew that European armies were growing, so he adopted many defensive and offensive strategies to train the army.
- He strongly believed that peace would be preserved in Europe by the
maintenance of a powerful German army, and that any battles fought would mean Germany would be in a great position to negotiate and get what they wanted.
- Unfortunately, he didn’t consider that the defeated enemy might choose not to negotiate.
- In February 1891, Schlieffen was appointed as Chief of the Great General Staff, and he was tasked with devising a grand strategy for unifying and strengthening the German state institutions.
- He wanted to make the army more formidable, increase its size, and introduce new weapons to ensure the defeat of enemies.
DESIGNING THE PLAN
- Schlieffen faced the difficult decision about what to do regarding the French and Russian armies that surrounded Germany to the west and the east.
- Schlieffen originally wanted the German forces to defeat France
quickly, then transfer to the Russian front to fight. He was initially
unsure about the logistics of the plan.
- After witnessing Russia’s defeat by Japan in the Russo-Japanese War in
1905, Schlieffen concluded that Russia’s strength had been Overestimated. Therefore, he felt confident that an attack on France was possible and would allow German forces to reach Russia in time for an attack in the east.
- He determined to wage an isolated Franco-German war, where Germany would attack France and move through northern Belgium, hopefully securing France within six weeks.
- Schlieffen then planned to send troops via Germany’s rail system to the Russian front, where they would attack and defeat Russian troops in the east.
- A holding operation on the Russia/German border would be carried out if it was necessary.
- In August of 1905, at 72 years of age, Schlieffen was made “incapable of battle” due to a kick from a horse. His successor, Helmuth von Moltke the Younger (son of Moltke the Elder), became Chief of Staff in January of 1906.
DEPLOYMENT OF THE PLAN
- Moltke the Younger had doubts about Germany’s ability for victory in a European war, but despite these doubts, he continued on.
- By 1910, the Russian army had reorganized themselves and were far
more prepared than they had been during the Russo-Japanese War a few years prior. This added a layer of difficulty to the original plan.
- Due to the likelihood of a longer war with Russia on the eastern front, it was of paramount importance to defeat France quickly.
- As a result of these changes, Moltke the Younger made substantial changes to the original Schlieffen Plan.
- Although anticipations and different outcomes were considered, there were no contingencies laid out in case things went wrong.
- When Germany declared war, France implemented Plan XVII, which included five attacks in August of 1914 (referred to as the Battle of the Frontiers).
- Within a few days of fighting, the French were retreating and not doing well. Germany advanced through Belgium and Northern France, but by this point, England had gotten involved.
- Unfortunately, at the first Battle of the Marne in September of 1914, poor communication, the withdrawal of German troops on the Russian front, and no attacks on the French meant that the plan was unsuccessful.
- The First World War and the onset of trench warfare began shortly after the failure of the Schlieffen Plan.
Schlieffen Plan Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about the Schlieffen Plan across 20 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Schlieffen Plan worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the Schlieffen Plan which was originally created in December of 1905 by General Count Alfred von Schlieffen. It was designed to attack France, then move to the Russian border to attack Russia. The plan’s execution led to the breakout of the First World War.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- WWI: Schlieffen Plan Facts
- Deployment Plans Snapshot
- Schlieffen Plan Wordsearch
- Spotlight On: Alfred von Schlieffen
- Quote Analysis
- Schlieffen Plan Crossword
- Strengths and Weaknesses
- Design a Commemorative Stamp
- Map Examination
- Schlieffen Storyboard
- HIstorical Perspectives
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Link will appear as Schlieffen Plan Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, June 1, 2020
Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.