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To what extent did the Schlieffen plan cause Germany's defeat on the western front?

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Introduction

To what extent did the Schlieffen plan cause Germany's defeat on the western front? The Schlieffen plan can and will never be dismissed from the reasons behind the German defeat, not only for the loss on the Western front but the war itself. It would be easy to say that even if it had been successful that Germany would have won in a quick conflict. The Schlieffen plan was literally built on a minefield of assumptions and with little reality it was blind to carry it out. The key parts of the plan had ninety percent of the German army marching for three weeks through Belgium. Then surrounding Paris with three weeks allotted for the cities capture. By this time they expected the Russians would have mobilised, and the remaining eight divisions not needed in Western Europe would confront the Russians in East Prussia. Some of Alfred Von Schlieffen's mistakes were amended after he was replaced as the German Chief of Staff in 1906. Helmuth Von Multke still kept the basic principles of the plan, which contained many fatal flaws. The Germans had overlooked the 1839 treaty between Belgium and Great Britain; probably since at the time Belgium was worried about the threat from France. ...read more.

Middle

In Germany, the longer the war went on their situation got worse. As early as 1915, things got tough. A third of the pigs in Germany had to be slaughtered, as there wasn't any imported food, to feed them. It wasn't only the sinking of ships containing food, which caused the civilian population hardship. The blockade stopped vital supplies of nitrate reaching Germany. Without these Germany could not make any explosives, and farmers could not fertilise their crops. It was slowly getting worse, by 1916 the adult meat ration in Germany was so little that nowadays McDonalds could barely make two hamburgers with it. Cheeseburgers were totally out of the question, and this amount was for a whole week! From now on Germany was looking for a change. People wanted Kaiser Wilhelm II to leave the country while the Social Revolutionaries encouraged the overthrow of the monarchy. Thus a struggle for power occurred when the Kaiser's support for the Spring Offensives backfired. Protests were widespread and there was anarchy in Berlin. Eventually late in 1918 the Kaiser fled to Holland. Throughout the war Germany had severe problems with its allies. ...read more.

Conclusion

The Germans did have their mighty storm troopers equipped with flame throwers, but their successes were only really isolated incidents. The Germans were steamrollered by more sophisticated, armoured caterpillar tractors (tanks) with some help from the US. I think it unfair to say that either the spring offensives or the failure of the Schlieffen plan were the main reason for the German defeat. In reality the former only occurred as a result of the change in strategy. In conclusion I feel it would have been incredibly difficult for Germany to emerge victorious after the Schlieffen plan failed especially as later its allies more or less totally capitulated. The Schlieffen plan had been designed in an attempt to avoid a war of attrition. The plan was novel and looked good on paper but had too many unrealistic assumptions. What the Germans lacked was the ability to consider all possibilities or more simply to think negative thoughts. This war was won on back up and the Schlieffen plan had none. The same was true for the German strategy and so the once proud military machine ground to a halt. Some brains would be good with all that brawn Mr. Kaiser. Their assumptions shot them in the foot, and the heart. ...read more.

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