The ADV’s main objective, however, was the eastern expansion of the German Reich, which was to be used to satisfy the “German hunger for territories” through large-scale settlement measures to “make the East German”.
Preceding this settlement policy was a broad “ethnic separation” (ethnische Entmischung) of East Central Europe.
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.
This article traces the development of the war aims discussion: The nationalist War Aims Movement (Kriegszielbewegung) and the Supreme Military Command (Oberste Heeresleitung, OHL) pursued ever-more excessive war aims, which eventually led to the revocation of the prevailing truce (Burgfrieden) with the Social Democrats (SPD) and to the latter's eventual split in 1917.
Russia’s October Revolution represented the apex of the annexationist war aims, which was, however, followed shortly by the German defeat.Bethmann-Hollweg also added the concept of a coherent Central African Empire, which, however, was never specified in this context.The plans concerning Russia and other Eastern European states also remained conspicuously indeterminate, possibly because only a victory in the western parts of Europe seemed tangible at the time.Belgium was regarded as another centerpiece of the program and was to decline to a kind of vassal state and to be closely economically affiliated with the German Reich.Significantly, none of the politically responsible parties ever distanced themselves from the demand for the control of Belgium, just as they seemed unanimous with regard to a more or less direct subjection of Poland.During the second half of the war, the shift in power relations within the German Reich in favor of the Supreme Military Command paradoxically led to a gradual “totalizing” (Totalisierung) and dissolution of boundaries with regard to German war aims, even though the prospects for a German victory were becoming slimmer and slimmer after the Battle of the Marne.Aiming at a purely defensive war in the beginning, the German command lacked a coherent agenda with regard to its war aims during the early days of the war.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.All of them, however, advocated German hegemony on the continent and relied on a firm belief in a German victory.One central idea pervading the program was the creation of a customs and trade association, which conformed to the demands of large-scale agrarians and due to which France in particular was to be made economically and politically dependent in the long run.