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The Septemberprogramm (German for "September program") was a plan drafted for the German Empire's Chancellor, von Bethmann-Hollweg, in the early weeks of the First World War. Bethmann-Hollweg's private secretary, Kurt Riezler, drafted it on 9 September 1914 at a time when Berlin expected to defeat France in a matter of days. It called for satellite status for Belgium and France in the West, and large territorial gains for Germany in the East, seizing parts of Russia. However, the French defenses held and the program never became operational.[1]

It detailed Germany's ambitious plans for territorial gains should it win the war, as it expected. The plan was only discovered long after the war by historian Fritz Fischer, who concluded that the expansionary goals were Germany's motives for going to war in the first place.[2] Jonathan Steinberg has argued:

Had the Schlieffen Plan worked, a German victory like that of 1870 might well have occurred on the Western Front and Bethman Hollweg’s September Memorandum would have been realized.[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. ^ Fritz Fischer, Germany's Aims in the First World War (1967).
  3. ^ Jonathan Steinberg, "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 241-250, quote on 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]