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The Septemberprogramm (German: "September Program") was the plan for the territorial expansion of Imperial Germany, which was prepared for Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg, in the early weeks of the First World War (1914–18). The Chancellor's private secretary, Kurt Riezler, drafted the Septemberprogramm on 9 September 1914, at a time when the Germany expected to readily defeat France, after a few days of warfare. The great territorial gains proposed in the Septemberprogramm required making vassal states of Belgium and France, in Western Europe, and seizing great stretches of Russia, in Eastern Europe. The conquests failed in the west, because the French defenders successfully repelled the Imperial German attacks; consequently, the programm never became operational.[1]

The Septemberprogramm detailed Imperial Germany's ambitious plans for territorial gain upon winning the war, as the military expected. After the War, the historian Fritz Fischer discovered documentary evidence of the programm, and concluded that territorial expansion was Germany's primary motive for having launched the First World War.[2] Moreover, the historian Jonathan Steinberg said that if the Schlieffen Plan had worked, a German victory, like that in the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, might have occurred on the Western Front, and Chancellor Bethman-Hollweg’s Septemberprogramm would have realised Imperial Germany's ambitions for territorial expansion.[3]

War goals[edit]

  • France should cede some northern territory, such as steel-producing Briey and a coastal strip running from Dunkirk to Boulogne-sur-Mer, to Belgium or Germany. A war indemnity of 10 billion Reichsmarks for France, with further payments to cover veterans' funds and to pay off all Germany's existing national debt, should prevent French rearmament. The French economy would be dependent on Germany and all trade with the British Empire will cease. France will partially disarm by demolishing its northern forts.
  • Belgium should be annexed to Germany or, preferably, become a "vassal state", which should cede eastern parts and possibly Antwerp to Germany and give Germany military and naval bases.
  • Luxembourg should become a member state of the German Empire.
  • Creation of a Mitteleuropa economic association dominated by Germany but ostensibly egalitarian. Members would include newly created buffer states carved out of the Russian Empire's west such as Poland, which would remain under German sovereignty "for all time".[4]
  • Expansion of the German colonial empire with, most importantly, the creation of a contiguous German colony across central Africa at the expense of the French and Belgian colonies. Presumably leaving the option open for future negotiations with Britain, no British colonies were to be taken, but Britain's "intolerable hegemony"[citation needed] in world affairs was to end.
  • The Netherlands should be brought into a closer relationship to Germany while avoiding any semblance of force.


The "September plan" was drafted by Kurt Riezler, a staffer in the office of the German Chancellor, Bethmann-Hollweg, based on the input of Germany's industrial, military, and economic leadership.[5][6] However, since Germany did not win the war in the west, it was never put into effect. As historian Raffael Scheck concluded, "The government, finally, never committed itself to anything. It had ordered the September Programme as an informal hearing in order to learn about the opinion of the economic and military elites."[7] The Plan indicated the aspirations of the top German leaders in the early months of the war.

In the east, on the other hand, Germany and her allies did demand and achieve significant territorial and economic concessions from Russia in the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk and from Romania in the Treaty of Bucharest.[8]


  1. ^ Edgar Feuchtwanger (2002). Imperial Germany 1850-1918. Routledge. pp. 178–79. 
  2. ^ Fischer, Fritz. Germany's Aims in the First World War (1967).
  3. ^ Steinberg, Jonathan. "Old Knowledge and New Research: A Summary of the Conference on the Fischer Controversy 50 Years On", Journal of Contemporary History (April 2013) 48#2 pp. 241-50, quotation in p. 249.
  4. ^ Tuchman, Barbara, The Guns of August (New York, New York: Macmillan Co., 1962), p.315.
  5. ^ Wayne C. Thompson, In the Eye of the Storm: Kurt Riezler and the Crises of Modern Germany (1980). pp 98-99
  6. ^ Raffael, Scheck. "Military Operations and Plans for German Domination of Europe". Retrieved 31 March 2014. 
  7. ^ See Raffael Scheck, Germany 1871–1945: A Concise History (2008)
  8. ^ Raffael, Scheck. "Military Operations and Plans for German Domination of Europe". Retrieved 31 March 2014. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Thompson, Wayne C. "The September Program: Reflections on the Evidence." Central European History (1978) 11#4 pp: 348-354. :
  • Thompson, Wayne C. (1980). In the Eye of the Storm: Kurt Riezler and the Crises of Modern Germany. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press. ISBN 0-87745-094-3. 

External links[edit]