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The Septemberprogramm (German: Septemberprogramm) was the plan for the territorial expansion of Imperial Germany, 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, in the early days of the German attack in the west, by which Germany expected to quickly and decisively defeat France. The extensive territorial conquests proposed in the Septemberprogramm required making vassal states of Belgium and France, in Western Europe, and seizing much of European Russia, in Eastern Europe. The territorial-expansion program of Imperial Germany was not effected because the trench-warfare stalemate, which ensued the initial action of the War, occupied most of the German army in Western Europe to realise the Septemberprogramm .[1]

As geopolitics, the Septemberprogramm (1914), itself, is a documentary insight to Imperial Germany's war aims, and shows the true scope of German plans for territorial expansionism in two directions, East and West, upon winning the First World War. The book Germany's Aims in the First Word War (1967) indicates that the Septemberprogramm is a Lebensraum philosophy that rationalises and justifies German territorial expansion, Imperial Germany's primary motive for having launched the First World War in 1914.[2] Moreover, the essay “Old Knowledge and New Research: A Summary of the Conference on the Fischer Controversy 50 Years On” (2003) proposes that if the Schlieffen Plan had worked, and produced a decisive German victory, like the one in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg’s Septemberprogramm would have been implemented, thus realising Imperial Germany's long-thwarted geopolitical ambitions for expanding the territory of Germany; and thus achieve and establish a German hegemony of Europe.[3]

War goals[edit]

war goals in Europe
  • 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 German Marks 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 (Mittelafrika) 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]

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]