Alfred von Schlieffen

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Alfred von Schlieffen, 1890

Alfred Graf von Schlieffen (born February 28, 1833 in Berlin ; † January 4, 1913 there ) was a Prussian field marshal , chief of the general staff and author of the Schlieffen Plan .


Alfred came from the Pomeranian noble family von Schlieffen and was the son of the Prussian major Magnus Graf von Schlieffen (1796–1864) and his wife Auguste, née von Schönberg (1808–1890), a daughter of the Chief President Moritz Haubold von Schönberg .


Schlieffen completed his Abitur at the Joachimsthal Gymnasium , then began to study law and initially joined the infantry of the Prussian Army as a one-year volunteer . Shortly afterwards he joined the cavalry and was assigned to the General Staff in 1863. In 1866 he took part as a captain in the battle of Königgrätz and in 1870/1871 as a major on the staff of Grand Duke Friedrich Franz II of Mecklenburg in the Franco-German War . From 1876 to 1884 he was commander of the 1st Guards Uhlan Regiment and a member of the General Staff .

In 1884 he became head of department in the General Staff and in 1888 senior quartermaster and thus deputy to the chief of staff Alfred von Waldersee . In 1891 he was followed by Waldersee at the top of the bar in 1903, he was appointed Colonel-General conveyed. In 1904, on the occasion of the Herero and Nama uprising with Kaiser Wilhelm II and Chancellor Bernhard von Bülow, he was an advocate for Lothar von Trotha's genocide, which he commented on with the words "The racial struggle that has flared up can only be ended by destroying one party."

In 1905 he presented the strategic plan, later called the " Schlieffen Plan ", which was intended to prevent the German Reich from being wiped out in a two-front war against France and Russia . The plan was based on a rapid attack on France, which was to be carried out via the right wing through neutral Belgium and Luxembourg in order to fall on the flank of the expected attack by the French in Alsace-Lorraine . The aim was to cut off France's armies from Paris and take the French capital within 6 weeks of the start of the war, which should end the war against France. At the same time, only one army was supposed to defend East Prussia and put up slow resistance until the troops freed in the west by the victory over France were available. The subsequent attack on Russia, for which the entire strength of the German army would have been available by rail transport to the eastern front, was intended to defeat the second enemy.

The key points of the plan were the massive concentration of troops on the right German wing against France (the plan was to have a 7: 1 superiority in team strength over the defenders), a violation of the neutrality of Belgium and Luxembourg, and exposure of the eastern front, since the Russian mobilization was called very slowly expected.

In order to redesign the army according to the requirements of his plan, Schlieffen had the heavy artillery ready for the field, set up transport troops and improved the supply structures.

In military reality, however, the Schlieffen Plan could not be implemented during the First World War : the attacking German armed forces came to a halt on the Marne . The planned war of movement was so over the trench warfare finally to grave war . Historians, however, are critical of whether the Schlieffen Plan was implemented: Schlieffen's successor Moltke attacked with a strong right wing through Belgium, but the ratio to the security forces in Alsace-Lorraine was only 3: 2, not as planned by Schlieffen 7 :1. In addition, due to the situation in East Prussia, Moltke ordered two army corps to go to the Eastern Front before the first Marne battle, although they only arrived there after the decision had been made.

Schlieffen's grave in the Invalidenfriedhof , Berlin

Schlieffen himself did not live to see the failure of his strategy . He was put up for disposition in 1906 and promoted to Field Marshal General on January 1, 1911. Alfred Graf von Schlieffen died on January 4, 1913 in Berlin. Wilhelm II honored him with a wreath at the grave in the Invalidenfriedhof .


He married Countess Anna von Schlieffen (1840–1872), a daughter of Count Albert von Schlieffen, in Hanover in 1868. The couple had two daughters:

  • Elisabeth Auguste Marie Ernestine (born September 13, 1869 in Groß-Krauscha ( Neißeaue ), Saxony; † September 23, 1943 in Neubrandenburg , Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania) ∞ Wilhelm von Hahnke (1867–1931), Prussian major general and son of Field Marshal Wilhelm von Hahnke
  • Marie Luise Philippine Katharina


Schlieffen stood à la suite of the Great General Staff of the Army and the 1st Guard Uhlan Regiment. He was the holder of the highest orders and decorations . So z. B .:


  • Klaus Jürgen Bremm: Alfred Graf von Schlieffen. in: Military & History. Issue 71, Oct. 2013, p. 2632.
  • Wilhelm Hartmut Pantenius: Alfred Graf von Schlieffen. Strategist between wars of liberation and steel thunderstorms. Leipzig 2016.
  • Petter, Wolfgang:  Schlieffen, Alfred Graf von. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 23, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2007, ISBN 978-3-428-11204-3 , pp. 81-83 ( digitized version ).

Web links

Commons : Alfred von Schlieffen  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Dominik J. Schaller: I believe that the nation as such must be destroyed: Colonial war and genocide in “German South West Africa” 1904–1907. In: Journal of Genocide Research. Volume 6, No. 3, p. 398.
  2. a b c d e f g h Wolfgang Petter:  Schlieffen, Alfred Graf von. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 23, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2007, ISBN 978-3-428-11204-3 , pp. 81-83 ( digitized version ).
  3. a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Ranking list of the Royal Prussian Army and the XIII. (Royal Württemberg) Army Corps for 1911 . Ed .: War Ministry , Ernst Siegfried Mittler & Sohn , Berlin 1911, p. 6.
  4. Court and State Manual of the Kingdom of Württemberg , 1907, p. 49.