Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Septemberprogramm vs.Brest-Litovsk


Septemberprogramm (German for September Program) was a plan drafted by the German leadership in the early weeks of the First World War. It detailed Germany's ambitious gains should it win the war, as it expected. The plan was never officially adopted or put into practice and was only discovered long after the war by historian Fritz Fischer, who concluded the expansionary goals were Germany's motives for going to war in the first place. That interpretation has been very controversial. The modern consensus is that it was more of a discussion document and not a formally adopted government policy.  


Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg, Chancellor of the German Empire from 1909 to 1917


Its recommendations included:

  • France should cede to Belgium or Germany some northern territory such as steel-producing Briey and a coastal strip running from Dunkirk to Boulogne-sur-Mer . 
  • 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, and 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".
  • Expansion of the German colonial empire with, most important, 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" 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 Program was drafted by Kurt Riezler, a staffer in the chancellor's office. It was a proposal that was under discussion but was strongly opposed by powerful political elements in Germany. It was never adopted and no movement of people was ever ordered. As historian Raffael Scheck concluded, "The government, finally, never committed itself to anything. It had ordered the September Program as an informal hearing in order to learn about the opinion of the economic and military elites."

Source: World Heritage Encyclopedia at Gutenberg.us

BUT SUPPOSE GERMANY HAD WON THE WAR?

Well they didn't win the war, but they did defeat the Russians, then led by the Bolsheviks, in the east. Despite Trotsky's artful negotiations, the Germans imposed some terms that seem consistent with this section of the Septemberprogramm scheme described above: 

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".

Signing of the Peace Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, 9–10 February 1918


The actual terms imposed on Russia at Brest-Litovsk were harsher that what was suggested in the Septemberprogramm:
  • Russia gave up close to half its European territory. Russian Poland, Lithuania, and part of Latvia were ceded to Germany and Austria. 
  • The Ukraine, Finland, Estonia, and the rest of Latvia were transformed into independent states under German protection. 
  • Bessarabia was to go to Romania, and the Ottomans took the Armenian areas in the Caucasus. 
  • Russia lost huge areas of prime agricultural land, 80 per cent of her coal mines, and half her other industries. A follow-up agreement in August committed the country to pay six billion marks in reparations.  (Source:  History Today)

This approach suggests that had the Hindenburg-Ludendorff team triumphed on the decisive Western Front, the defeated Allies may have had terms imposed on them consistent with the Septemberprogramm, or worse. It's one of those questions that will forever remain unanswered.

5 comments:

  1. This reminds me of Napoleon's Continental system:
    "The French economy would be dependent on Germany and all trade with the British Empire will cease. ..
    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"."

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    1. The creation of a puppet Polish state, ruled by an Austrian Archduke, was one of the last problems Franz Joseph was working on in the days leading up to his death in November 1916.

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  2. And so it came to pass after two world wars that a European Union was created which is dominated by Germany in partnership with France.

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    Replies
    1. And with the collapse of the Soviet Union, Germany dominates economically all of the small states of Central and Eastern Europe.

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  3. BUT what has come to pass was not the result of the dictates of a Kaiser, but decisions from a European market and now union. As in any free associations, the industrialized nations of economic strength that seek to work will always play a greater role than the smaller or laissez faire nations that seek to have a slower economy.

    ReplyDelete