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Possible outcome of the Septemberprogramm in Europe

The Septemberprogramm (German: [zɛpˈtɛmbɐpʁoˌɡʁam], literally "September Program") was a memorandum authorized by Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg of the German Empire at the beginning of World War I (1914–18). It was drafted on 9 September 1914 by the Chancellor's private secretary, Kurt Riezler, in preparation of peace negotiations at a time when Germany expected to defeat France quickly and decisively on the Western front. The territorial changes proposed in the Septemberprogramm included making a vassal state of Belgium, annexing Luxembourg and portions of France, expanding German colonies in Africa, and increasing German influence in Eastern Europe at the expense of the Russian Empire.

The Septemberprogramm gained great notoriety after it was discovered by historian Fritz Fischer, who wrote that is was based on the Lebensraum philosophy as well as the Drang nach Osten nationalist movement of the 19th century, which made territorial expansion Imperial Germany's primary motive for war.[1] This interpretation has been controversial. The modern consensus among historians is that it was more of a discussion document, written well after the start of the war, and not a formally adopted government policy.[2]

War goals[edit]

Possible outcome of the Septemberprogramm in Africa. German pre-WW1 possessions in dark blue, gains in medium blue.

The Septemberprogramm was a list of possible goals for Germany to achieve in the war:[3][4]


The Septemberprogramm was based on suggestions from Germany's industrial, military, and political leadership.[5][2] However, since Germany did not win the war, it was never put into effect. As historian Raffael Scheck concluded, "The government, finally, never committed itself to anything. It had ordered the Septemberprogramm as an informal hearing in order to learn about the opinion of the economic and military elites."[2]

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.[2] Both treaties were annulled with the Armistice of 11 November 1918 that ended the fighting in World War I.


  1. ^ Fischer, Fritz (1967). Germany's Aims in the First World War (PDF). New York: W.W. Norton. pp. 98 ff. ISBN 978-0393097986.
  2. ^ a b c d Scheck, Raffael (2008). Germany, 1871–1945: A Concise History. Oxford: Berg. ISBN 9781845208172.
  3. ^ a b Tuchman, Barbara (1962). The Guns of August. New York: Macmillan Co. p. 321.
  4. ^ a b "The September Memorandum (September 9, 1914)". German History in Documents and Images (GHDI). Retrieved 19 December 2022.
  5. ^ Thompson, Wayne C. (1980). In the Eye of the Storm: Kurt Riezler and the Crises of Modern Germany. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press. pp. 98–99. ISBN 978-0-87745-094-8.

Further reading[edit]

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