Sketch 2. French Concentration, 1914. Schlieffen Plan


This map is a simplified illustration of the plan devised by Alfred, Graf von Schlieffen (1833–1913), Chief of the German Imperial General Staff, for winning a quick German victory in what became World War I. As a military strategist, Schlieffen was principally concerned with Germany’s vulnerable geographic position. Situated between France and Russia, which were allied under a treaty concluded in 1894, Germany was certain to face a war on two fronts should trouble arise with either power. Schlieffen concluded that Germany should first fight France, the more militarily capable of its foes, by sending troops through neutral Belgium to circumvent a large portion of France’s defenses, while Russia, which would take weeks to mobilize, was to be held at bay with minimal forces in the east. The so-called Schlieffen Plan, originally created in 1905, won the confidence of the German high command under Schlieffen’s successor, Helmuth von Moltke. The plan was reworked and fine-tuned until the Germans were certain that victory over France would be achieved in six weeks, after which troops would be transferred by rail to defeat the Russians. The plan failed for a variety of reasons, and Germany soon became bogged down in a bloody conflict that lasted for more than four years and that ultimately ended in defeat. The map is from the collection made by General Tasker Howard Bliss (1853–1930) during his service with the United States Army in World War I and at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919.

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  1. Ryan Moore, Maps of The First World War: An Illustrated Essay and List of Select Maps in The Library of Congress, Occasional Papers Series, no. 7, Philip Lee Phillips Map Society of the Library of Congress (Washington: Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division, 2014).

Last updated: September 22, 2015