Even though the native population of occupied Belgium was not to be deported, it was to be used as an inferior workforce.
The regions to be conceded by France were to be entirely depopulated and used as a special military zone (Militärstreifen).
The question of the German Reich’s “real” war aims during the Great War has been brought up ever since the war itself.
Especially in the course of the discussion on the question of responsibility for the war (Kriegsschuldfrage), which vitally shaped the perception of the Great War during the decades between 1918 and the Fischer controversy in the 1960s, it was considered as vitally important: Was the First World War the result of a systematic and conscious plan for conquest on the part of the German leadership from the very beginning, or did more defensive deliberations predominate, which merely anticipated an inevitable declaration of war by its enemies?
On 1 August 1914, the government of the German Reich declared war on Russia.
Directly afterwards, an intense debate over its war aims flared up.It was, rather, a conflict between moderate and extreme positions calling for a “German peace” (deutscher Frieden), in which even the moderates did not categorically exclude territorial gains.Radical annexationists eventually dominated the public war aims discussion, however, while proponents of a negotiated peace were increasingly put on the defensive.Encouraged by early military successes, boundless plans for annexations were drafted, which were to become the main focus of public interest and to determine the opinion of large parts of the bourgeois middle classes.Calls for a victorious peace (Siegfrieden) and global dominance of the German Reich, territorial and economic expansion, as well as strategic and military protection (Absicherung) of the German borders enjoyed vast popularity far beyond the lines of the radical nationalist camp.Against the backdrop of growing tensions and the looming military breakdown of France at the height of the Battle of the Marne, Bethmann-Hollweg eventually composed an agenda of war aims that clearly reflected specific internal concerns.Current research thus often emphasizes that the so-called Septemberprogramm of 9 September 1914 does not constitute a coherent concept, but rather a loose array of demands attributed to various groups.Territorial claims in both eastern and western territories went hand-in-hand with calls for a large-scale expulsion of those regions’ established residents in order to settle them with German soldiers and farmers and thus exploit them economically.Similar demands were made by business leaders and politicians like Ruhr valley industrialist August Thyssen (1842-1926) and Center (Zentrum) politician Matthias Erzberger (1875-1921).At no point, however, was the belief abandoned that Germany had itself become the victim of aggression and encircling (Einkreisung).Still, a vast public debate over the war aims already developed during the first days of August 1914.