Why Hitler Lost the Second World War
“Germany will either be a world power or will not be at all,” declared Adolf Hitler on his aspirations for Germany. In looking back at history, much can be said about Hitler and the most destructive war to ever be waged, but perhaps what drove Germany from prosperity and might to oblivion and shame was this simple conviction of Hitler’s; to raise Germany from the ashes and dominate the world, or literally die trying – taking his nation down in flames with him. Despite Hitler’s charms and charisma, he was in fact a disastrous leader whose follies in leadership and command led Germany to her absolute defeat.
However, this beckons the question of exactly how Hitler managed to squander the economic, political and military advantages Germany held over so many of her enemies. Even during the opening years of the war, which are typically associated with resounding success for Germany, Hitler was already making grave mistakes. His failure to smash the British Expeditionary Force at Dunkirk and the subsequent failure to invade Britain were the first among many. Soon after, his decision to invade Russia, while understandable, was disastrous in its long-term execution. Finally, his handling of political and economic situations during the war drove his war machine into the ground while allowing his enemy’s to flourish. Ultimately, it was these many follies of Hitler’s command that lead him down a singular, inevitable road to defeat.
Interestingly, the years leading up to the war had Hitler seen by many as a brilliant politician to be respected or even esteemed. "Yes, Heil Hitler. I say that because he is truly a great man," said David Lloyd George, Prime Minister of the UK in 1936, just one of many European and world leaders who supported, or at least appeased, Hitler before the breakout of the war. But once the opening days of the war began, Hitler’s follies already began to reveal themselves. Blinded by the stunning victories in Poland and France, few realized at the time that vital mistakes were already being made. In retrospect however, it is not difficult to observe that the missed opportunity to destroy the BEF (British Expeditionary Force) at Dunkirk, the defeat at the Battle of Britain and the failure to invade mainland Britain all led Germany uncomfortably closer to her ultimate demise.
Dunkirk, 1940: The First Blunder
In September 1939, Hitler invaded Poland, initiating World War II. The invasion was by and large a celebrated success. However, it was later that year in May, during the invasion of France, when Hitler’s first strategic mistake was made. Hitler and his advisors, or more accurately the maverick general Erich von Manstein, came up with a brilliant invasion plan for France. Instead of thrusting through Belgium while exerting force along the French boarder, as Hitler and many generals initially planned, he proposed a bold advance through the supposedly impenetrable Ardennes forest, which was essentially unprotected. The manoeuvre was an unqualified success and the British and French armies found themselves in a general retreat, if not a route. However, this is where Hitler made his first decision of folly. With the BEF scrambling to avoid total destruction or mass surrender, the small port of Dunkirk found itself the only escape for approximately 350, 000 of these soldiers. Their neutralization would have proven crippling if not war ending for the British, as the Expeditionary Force was composed of Britain’s best units.
With the BEF trapped at Dunkirk (due to the slow process of ferrying the soldiers across the Channel), it was the perfect opportunity for Hitler to deal a final blow, consolidating his victory in France and leaving Britain defenceless in one swift coup de grâce . Inexplicitly, however, instead of ordering the final strike, Hitler let timidity get the better of him. He stopped the advance, and ordered a tactical retreat . Hitler left staff officer and foot soldier alike stunned. General Guderian, whose spearheads would have been the first to meet the British at Dunkirk, recalled simply that, “we were speechless,” and was so enraged by the decision that he threatened to resign on the spot. The strength and speed of the Germany military was left idling inanely while much of the BEF and remaining French forces were able to slip away.
The reason the failure to crush the BEF at Dunkirk was one of Hitler’s major follies as a commander is two pronged: there was the immediate reality that 350, 000 soldiers could have been captured which in and of itself would have been a huge success. But an underlying reason is that all those soldiers would have been withheld from any future defence of Britain had they been captured, leaving only second rate units and the British Home Guard – little more than farmers, sometimes with pitchforks – to defend against the world class Wehrmacht. Therefore Hitler’s lack of action at Dunkirk was his first of many follies as a commander.
Operation Sealion: Opportunity Squandered
Soon after Dunkirk the invasion of France came to a close, and there was relatively little land combat in Europe. But the skies over Britain were ablaze. With France neutralized, Hitler shifted his focus to Britain. However, an amphibious assault on Britain would have been disastrous if the British RAF (Royal Air Force) was not eliminated. Thus began the Battle of Britain, which also was to be his next major blunder.
The German Luftwaffe, headed by Air Marshall Hermann Göring, was tasked with the responsibility of destroying the RAF. This was an essential objective, and Hitler was by no means making a mistake during this next phase of the war. However, in a twist of fate, a German bomber accidentally bombed London and in retaliation for having a civilian target bombed, the British led a bombing raid of their own on Germany. Hitler, who had vowed German cities would never be bombed, now decided he had to subject British cities to a full fledged bombing campaign. This was a fatal mistake which sealed the fate of Germany in the Battle of Britain. The Luftwaffe, for its part, would never fully ecover from the monumental losses it would suffer suffered in the waste of a campaign. Hitler’s decision to switch from demolishing the RAF to bombing cities simply made no sense. It allowed for the RAF to continually be able to strike back every time the German’s flew in, as their airfields were no longer primary targets, and since the RAF had advanced warning radar and excellent fighters and pilots, they were able to batter the Luftwaffe. The actual bombing of the cities did nothing but strengthen moral in the British people. In the end, all that Hitler achieved with this disastrous air doctrine was to dramatically weaken the Luffewaffe and buy time for Britain to shore up defences against any future invasion. Moreover, it led to Hitler’s next major tactical folly: his failure to launch Operation Sealion, otherwise known as the land invasion of Britain.
An invasion of Britain was essential to an ultimate German success for a number of reasons. A German victory over mainland Europe, which he had already largely accomplished through a series of easy conquests, a few annexations and the cooperation of a number of smaller powers, such as Italy, would simply not be complete without Britain as well - and not just because of symbolic reasons. If Germany had to constantly be on guard because of a lone deifier, she would never be able to fully consolidate her power as there would always have to be heavy costal defences along the shores as well as anti aircraft, fighter patrols and heavy navy presence. If Britain was occupied, all that would be needed is an occupying force on the island, and since there would not be any major European powers left to deal with, the diversion of resources for costal, air and sea defence and presence would no longer be necessary, allowing Hitler to either consolidate his new empire or turn his eyes - and full arsenal of resources - on new targets in the east.
Another reason why Hitler’s failure to invade Britain proved to be a major folly was that, later in the war when America had joined, Britain became a staging ground for the largest seaborne invasion in history – Operation Overlord, more commonly known simply as ‘D-Day’. Such a massive operation would never have been possible without a secure staging ground with airbases for air cover. If Germany occupied Britain, America would not have been able to just sail over and land her armies in France. An invasion of that scale would simply be impossible without a staging ground. Howeve,r because Hitler failed to take away this foothold, Britain in 1944 became the staging ground for the opening of a second front – a second front which sealed Germany’s fate as soon as it was secured.
History Doomed to Repeat Itself...The Long March to Moscow
Hitler’s next disastrous folly of leadership took place not in France or over the skies of Britain, but in Eastern Europe, where Hitler made the fateful decision to invade Russia. His treatment of potential allies, his decision to try to blitzkrieg through the steeps of Russia, and his complete failure to take into consideration the terrain and weather in Russia, all lead to dire consequences for Hitler’s Germany, and created an enemy that would end up fighting Hitler to the bitter end, literally hand to hand in the streets of Berlin.
The decision to invade Russia is generally considered to have been the biggest mistake Hitler made during the war, but the idea itself was perhaps not actually entirely flawed. Russia was ripe with resources; endless wheat and oil fields could have kept both Hitler’s people and war machine well fed and the manpower would have provided a major industrial boost. However, Hitler’s flaw was in how he went about the invasion.
In 1941, Hitler assembled what is considered to be the most powerful invasion force ever wielded for the invasion of Russia. Over 150 divisions, numbering over 3 million men, supported by thousands of tanks, artillery and aircraft assembled along the Eastern Front. The initial invasion was a resounding success, with Russian armies being smashed and captured by the hundreds of thousands. As Germany began to liberate the Ukraine, and interestingly, they found a population that greeted them with flowers, as liberators. This is where Hitler made his first major mistake during the invasion. Instead of taking advantage of their good will (and large stockpiles of grain), the Germans implemented harsh military rule, sending S.S. death squads and killing Ukrainians for even the smallest infractions. The result? The people of Ukraine turned on Germany, forming stiff partisan groups which fiercely combated German units through the rest of the war.
When Blitzkrieg Ran Out Of "Blitz"
The next major mistake Hitler made in his ill fated invasion of Russia was to try to blitzkrieg through Russia. Blitzkrieg, by nature, works very well in smaller areas, such as France, because surprise and speed can be maintained, and contact with logistics can be easily held. The tanks can smash through defences, the infantry don’t have as far to follow and therefore can keep up, and the air support is close enough that it can be relied on. But when taking into consideration the thousands of miles between Germany and the ever expanding Russian front, blitzkrieg became much less effective. Furthermore, Hitler had no extended plan for the invasion. Initially a drive for Moscow was planned, but then Hitler changed his mind and decided to split his armies and advance towards Kiev and Leningrad – north and south. And then with the winter of 1941 approaching he changed his mind again and decided to once and for all drive towards Moscow. But it was too late. Hitler had wasted too much time fumbling with his armies and by the time they reached the gates of Moscow, winter had come. And with winter, Hitler’s final major blunder on the Eastern Front revealed itself.
Hitler did not account for the terrain, the logistical difficulties of such a protracted invasion, or the frigid Russian cold. The mud slowed tanks to a crawl, supplies had difficulty keeping up with the advance (the use of airplanes to fly in supplies proved limited, even though it was promised by Göring to work) , and the frigid Russian cold for unprepared German soldiers proved often lethal. Now, instead of taking Moscow and crushing the head of the serpent, Hitler found his armies slowed to a crawl, struggling just to get food and warmth, rather than charging forward and taking ground.
As a result, Russia was able to recover from her initial defeats. Hitler’s treatment of potential allies, his utter tactical indecisiveness, and his failure to take into consideration the terrain, weather, and sheer logistical scope of an invasion of Russia all made it difficult for German advances to gain much ground after the initial successes. Russia gathered her forces, and soon Hitler found his armies being battered by an insurmountable numbers of tanks, planes and men. In Stalingrad a bloodbath where nearly a million German soldiers died took place, and on all other areas on the Eastern Front the German’s found themselves in a slow retreat. Instead of Hitler’s planned quick campaign, he instead found himself with a raging bull which he could not put down. A bull which did not stop thrawshing at Germany until the country was ruined and her armies smashed.
Further Proclivity Towards Disaster
Hitler’s final set of blunders were more political and economic than tactical, but were none the less severely damaging to Germany. Hitler’s provocation of America, his failure to keep the German economy at its most robust, and his frivolous spending on ill fated super weapons while ignoring other true innovations were his three of some of his most damaging mistakes as leader of Germany.
Hitler knew that America did not want involvement in another European war, yet he did nothing to make sure America stayed that way. For example, Hitler allowed for the sinking of American ships, eventually even sanctioning free reign to sink anything with the American flag, military or not. Yet America remained neutral. When Pearl Harbor was attacked, America declared war on only Japan, many Americans still seeing no reason to engage Germany. Yet Hitler still provoked America, officially declaring war on her. America then had little choice but to go to war with Germany by this point. What was the consequence of this? Hitler now had to contend with another superpower and since Hitler was already barely holding ground on the Eastern Front, the threat (and eventual reality) of a Western Front lead by America diverted badly needed resources from the East. It was a very poor decision on Hitler’s part to coax America into war the way he did, and it can be seen as one of the weakest political moves he ever made.
In terms of economics, another major folly of Hitler’s was that he did not take full advantage of what his country could have being producing. Instead of having just one main model for a tank or a plane – as the Russians and Americans often did - there were many, sometimes dozens or more for any given technology or piece of equipment. Therefore, instead of being able to mass produce tanks or planes, factories had to fiddle around with separate models and fumble around with incompatible parts. By contrast, the Russians had a single main battle tank model which they were able to easily produce and they quickly grossly outnumbered the Germans in tank numbers. Despite Germany having very high quality tanks, she simply didn’t have the system in place to produce high volumes of them, and soon the Germans found themselves massively outnumbered every which way they turned. The quality of a tank means little if it must contend with half a dozen enemy tanks, no matter their quality, every battle it fights.
A Failure in Budgeting
The final disastrous folly of Hitler’s was in the realm of economics where Hitler had terrible foresight when it came to weapons production and technology. He embraced the useless and all but trashed the revolutionary. For example, Hitler sunk incredible amounts of time and resources into the V2 rocket. While the concept of a rocket that could strike hundreds of miles away would later become very useful, at the time the V2s were simply too primitive and proved all but useless. Yet Hitler persisted with their production right up to the end of the war. On the other hand, weapons such as the ME 262A Messerschmitt – the first jet – were all but ignored. The Messerschmitt – if mass produced – could have reclaimed the skies of Europe from the all but total air superiority of the allies; yet Hitler sanctioned the production of only one fighter squadron and had the rest of what Messerschmitts there were outfitted as dive bombers, which did not at all take advantage of what they were truly capable of.
The result of these political and economic follies of Hitler was that Germany now found herself against another superpower but had not the means to deal with it as Germany’s struggling industrial system simply could not mass produce the required numbers, and any resources that could have been used on cutting edge weapons was instead used on ‘super weapons’ that did nothing but suck up manpower and time.
By the end of the war, all of Hitler’s follies as a leader had built up and lead to a complete, crushing defeat of Germany. If any of his poor decisions had been the only mistakes he made, then the power that was the Nazi war machine would probably have recovered. But it was the relentless failures of Hitler that built up over time that brought Germany to her knees. Hitler’s tactical mishandling during Dunkirk and his strategic failure during the Battle of Britain meant he failed to crush the BEF, disable the RAF and subsequently invade and capture England, thus removing a staging ground for any future allied invasion. Hitler’s decision to invade Russia was not in and of itself flawed - Russia’s vast oil and wheat fields would have been important assets to Germany – but his execution of the invasion doomed any chance of victory from very early on. Finally, a combination of follies which proved perhaps the most deadly of all, were his political and economic follies which resulted in bringing another superpower into the war against Germany, while at the same time limiting her production capacity due to the lack of mass producible tanks and planes, and all the while burning massive amounts of resources on useless technologies while ignoring the important ones.
Ultimately, it was Hitler that brought Nazi Germany to such initial great heights, and – almost poetically – it was Hitler that dragged her spiralling down in the end. Had there never been a war, he may have been remembered as the man who lifted Germany from economic ruin and social shame. But there was a war, and his numerous blunders and follies as a tactician and politician – in combination with his crimes – have history remembering him as an unforgivable madman as well as a complete failure as a leader, tactician, or strategist. Despite the terrifying strength of the Nazi war machine, Hitler still somehow managed to lose it all to his series of follies and failures – a testament to his disastrous nature as a leader. “Germany will either be a world power or will not be at all.” Hitler was at least not mistaken in that.
do you think? Was Hitler's thousand year reich doomed from its
inception regardless of Hitler, or was Hitler the one who steered the
Nazi warmachine to ruin? What was his biggest blunder? Could Operation
Barbarossa have been successful if properly executed, or are the
Steppes of Russia forever a graveyard of armies?
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Hamish McGeach on June 18, 2019:
Was listening to Rob Nankivell's mix "Never Surrender" which had me thinking along these lines. What if Hitler had forced the BEF to surrender. Churchill surely couldn't have made that speech. And the British morale? i read here the blitz actually enhanced it, but Britain would possibly have had to come to terms if not for Dunkirk.
MG Singh emge from Singapore on June 10, 2019:
I read this article more by chance then design.I must say it's one of the very good articles that I have read on the blunders committed by Hitler during World War 2. I think Hitler followed the famous adage "power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Hitler thus lost the war as he concentrated power in his hands. I do feel that his biggest blunder was not to invade the United kingdom. Had he conquered England in 1940, the West could never have defeated Germany.
Al Shikuts from Republic of Belarus on June 29, 2017:
A person can not know everything about everything. Adolf Hitler lost the war because he did not create an information filter. I invented an information filter and I offer it to the Americans.
I believe the winner of the Third World War is a country that has an information filter. Any mistake in the definition leads to suffering.
Ed Schofield from Nova Scotia, Canada on February 10, 2017:
Eric, not a bad article. Some things I would like to add though. Hitler was a gambler, rolling the dice with everything riding on it. When Guering could not subdue the RAF he decided against an invasion. This was not a mistake, the Royal Navy was perhaps 3 times larger or more than the German Navy, so the risk would be very high for a sea-borne invasion, even with the RAF knocked out. So the Germans would have been pounded from two sides by hundreds of ships from the sea, and guns on land- not a winning formula. In Mein Kampf, Hitler had set his sites on the East, England was a distraction in his mind, since they were defeated on the continent. Another mistake he made was to bail out his Italian friends in North Africa and the Balkans, diverting resources from the main invasion of Russia. But the worst possible mistake he could have made was to appoint himself in charge of the Military. He was a gambler and a meddler, deciding plans at such a level of detail that it shocked his experienced Generals. After you become a brutal micro-manager and fire a few generals, the others are too afraid to offer suggestions. Those who were too forceful were fired, such as Guderian, who wrote the book on tank warfare but was sacked after a shouting argument with the boss. He very often rejected the advice of generals and asked them to split up his forces to accomplish tasks of symbolic significance rather than strategic. The bombing of English cities instead of the RAF was one, but also the taking of Stalingrad was another symbolic diversion. It was a city named after his adversary, and he split off forces to the Crimea, and the oil fields of Baku from Army Group South, then sent the 6th Army to handle Stalingrad. The war was essentially lost at Stalingrad, which consumed enormous resources for Germany. Being unable to admit a mistake,Hitler gave orders that no retreats would be allowed. The city became rubble, so inaccessible to tanks. It was on the bank of a river, which the Russians used to supply their troops at night. Hitler believed in his own propaganda, fired his best generals, and through gambling, refused to admit defeat at Stalingrad which consumed 500,000 men. The Russians had lost 5 million soldiers, but transferred men from Siberia when they were certain that Japan would not attack them. In a miracle of Russian organization, the armament manufacturers were moved East of the Urals, another thousand miles away. The Germans were doomed. One other mistake that he made was to begin the murder of civilians. It demoralized professional soldiers. Although one doesn't think of Nazis having a conscience, many a soldier forced to shoot civilians was demoralized to the point of contemplating suicide. They developed a fatalistic attitude to fighting and knew their cause was wrong.
Stalin also credited American aid, specifically 20,000 Studebaker deuce-and-a-halfs for helping the Russians with mobility over vast distances. It is not a well-known fact, but the German army was largely supplied by horse driven supply wagons and trains. Trains were of a different gauge in Russia so all trains had to be unloaded and reloaded onto the Russian trains. Stalin also gave credit to the British for their intelligence reports, sometimes telling them the exact hour when to expect an attack. They didn't tell him where it came from. It was Ultra (Enigma decrypts). At the end of the war the British were reading German High Command orders before the intended units received them. But Hitler had supreme confidence in Enigma, since he had a propensity to believe Germany's infallibility, didn't believe it was the source of leaks. It's very good though, to see people interested enough to dig, dig, dig into the topic. Can I suggest Anton Beevor's work 'Stalingrad', and books on 'Operation Barbarossa'.
AaronD on November 02, 2015:
Good reading and some good comments. Seems to me Hitler had many problems quite a few mentally and internally.
Almost egotistical in a way, power hungry for world domination.
Seems like he was involved or had his war machine in too many ideas of his. Stretching that might across the world. Failure to secure Europe properly. Picking on some super powers. Fighting at the wrong times when there were chances to finish the job on his enemies let them off the hook.
Rommel was his trump card at times and played him in campaigns that were successfully easy but could've not posted him to other battles but the more important ones. Hitler misused his war machine and the intelligence of these decorated commanders badly.
Not to mention all them bad decisions based upon his impatient need for speed and turn around.
With his over the top expectations on his commanders and highly experienced war leaders... He pissed them off with his beyond Germany's resource means to achieve such.
With all them blunders he lost the confidence in almost half of his war machine commanders. Then a coop forms to take him out of power.
Himmler was just as crazy but also contradicting of himself running the SS. If Germany's army wasn't so occupied all over the place and getting bashed around in the major battles hitler may have achieved more success.
He did too much and beyond in the end he became frail but remained stubborn. He lost the faith of his own.
He would've been over powered or killed by a coop. Perhaps Himmler by the sound of his intentions probably would've been another crazy mind in power. The SS played out the realities of an Adolf Hitlers mind. Himmler just as evil if not more.
Alan R Lancaster from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on October 24, 2015:
Hello Eric, the writing and the reasoning are faultless. A few maps would have put the icing on the cake though. It's easier to understand the relationship between different elements of Hitler's 'strategy' with the use of maps to show the way a) his armies over-ran the Western Allies (France and Britain) and the rest of western/northern Europe to the border with Spain; b) his campaigns in the Balkans to protect his flanks (Yugoslavia, Greece, Albania) and the alliances he made with Bulgaria and Romania to ensure against interference with c) his belated invasion of Russia, 'Operation Barbarossa' in June 1941 (originally planned for May).
Just one or two issues: It was Stanley Baldwin who was PM in 1936, David Lloyd George was involved with Ramsay MacDonald's 1931 government; the Home Guard ('Dad's Army') drew in all males over school leaving age below military service age (18) or exemptions and over military age (41 at the time, raised later to 42/44), not just farmers. Many had fought in WWI and had battle experience, weaponry was basic at first, but farmers and farm labourers usually had shotguns and 'fowling pieces' (try picking shotgun pellets out of your backside), and of course there were poachers, given an amnesty in return for service; the Ukrainians welcomed the Nazis as saviours against their Soviet neighbours, handing them bread and salt (welcoming gifts) on their entry. The Germans then told them only those who worked for them would eat, the rest would starve. Belarus (Byelorussia) was given the same conditions. Nevertheless there were many Ukrainians in the SS after 1941 in the 'Galicia' regiment along with Russian deserters under White Russian officers, who made off south-west to southern Austria to surrender to the British Army in 1945. Brigadier Toby Law, regional commander based at Klagenfurt was obliged to put them on trains to the Russians further east (near Spielfeld-Strass in Styria). The alternative was all Allied troops (US, Commonwealth, Free French etc) freed from German POW camps in Poland would be sent to Siberia. Stalin wasn't joking.
Just thought you'd like to know.
Kulbak on May 11, 2015:
@Adam Goodfellow, the jews can built their state in Germany, or the US, since you have large uninhabited areas, which aren't desert.
The Palestinians have no beef in all of that, what a pathetic excuse.
PS. judiasm is built on bigotry.
Adam Goodfellow on April 05, 2015:
Shakeel, your comment is staggeringly bigoted. An incitement to racial hatred (which is illegal) if ever there was one; I am sure the moderator will remove your comment presently. Not only that, but your argument is shockingly ignorant. The creation of, and aggression of the Israeli state are direct consequences of Hitler's attempt to destroy European Jewry. Any anti-Israeli should have Hitler right at the top of their list of enemies.
Eric, your article and argument's [sic] would appear stronger if it were not littered with grammatical and spelling errors (e.g. Russian "steeps", "thrawshing"). It looks like you did not even read your work before you posted, so it begs the question, how carefully did you formulate your arguments?
Nevertheless I consider the bulk of your article to be accurate, perceptive and in places excellently argued. A couple of important points you missed: had Hitler not decided to shut off all long term investment in 1940, he could have had superweapons such as the V-2 and ME 262 early enough to make a difference. You also fail to mention that the propaganda value of the imminent arrival of these weapons was a major factor in the astonishing resilience of German morale in the late stages of the war. Most importantly, you ignore the fact that the nuclear bomb would have been his had he not stopped the funding in 1940, and alienated and excluded the most brilliant German physicists (such as Einstein) from his war effort through his obsessive persecution of them because of their ethnicity (most were Jewish). Of course, from his point of view the whole point of the war was to exterminate them in revenge for his mistaken belief that they had been responsible for the "stab in the back" of the German army in WWI- this being a myth created by those soldiers, most notably Ludendorff, who were not prepared to admit they had been defeated in the field in 1918.
The most important point you fail to emphasise or state with clarity is the following. Utimately, had Hitler been prepared to listen and act on the advice of his many excellent generals, the outcome of the war might have been completely different. His refusal to listen and defer to tactical, strategic and industrial advice was the biggest single cause of his, and his beloved Germany's downfall.
shakeel ahmad on February 10, 2015:
when it comes to the Jews atrocity now days, i just miss Hitler badly. alas why he didn't killed all of them... the only mistake of Hitler was his fighting from all fronts. it the same times he was fighting against half of the Europe. plus the attack he made on Russia was late. all because according to Napoleon one can attack Russia only for 3 to 4 months, while the Russian have whole 12 months to attack you back.
Robert Sacchi on November 02, 2014:
You are right about the German mistakes in World War II. The Me-262 issue may be a bit overstated because there were other technical issues and other considerations that came into play. The big mistake was attacking The Soviet Union. It was too big. It also had a ruthless dictator that would not yield. Of course unknown to the Germans, or just about everyone else in 1941, the US would have atomic weapon capability by the summer of 1945. Even a winning Axis could be turned into a defeated enemy with the judicious use of atomic weapons.
Lee on February 26, 2014:
For clarity, Lloyd George was no longer Prime minister in 1936.
Don on February 24, 2014:
Operation Barbarosa was delayed because of events in Yugoslavia. The reason it was so important to capture Moscow is that all of the Soviet rail lines intersected just east of the city. Hitler never fully mobilized the German economy, In 1941 he was still building Opera houses, and stadium. During WWI German women went to work in the factories, Hitler didn't believe in that and as a result the German's produced less munitions in the second war than they did in the first.
allen on February 24, 2014:
As blunders go, I remember hearing that the DDay invasion might have been defeated if Hitler had allowed reserve tank divisions to attack.
Bill M on February 24, 2014:
Underestimating the colossal capacity of the former Soviet Union, over ruling his better generals, not forgetting the arrogance of believing their superiority in enciphering their own communications!
Peter Krieger from Brooklyn, New York on February 22, 2014:
One more detail to keep in mind: Some people have postulated that Operation Barbarossa was a pre-emptive strike against Russia. I am not certain of the details, but Hitler feared that Stalin would want to invade Eastern Europe, and then Western Europe.
There is some controversy to this position, and from what I have read, the middle ground (Stalin wanted to options, but no clear plans put into effect) seems plausible.
firstname.lastname@example.org on February 22, 2014:
Please correct the numerous spelling mistakes. They detract from an interesting article.
DonAZ on February 22, 2014:
I had heard one reason the invasion of Russia was delayed was because Hitler used troops to support Italy in Greece. Had the Russian invasion taken place as originally planned, the objectives might have been met before the onset of winter.
Corneliusz on February 22, 2014:
The allies made also mistakes, but only a few minor ones, the fact that it where not really big ones is probably due to the more democratic way of decision making that gives a bigger change for better solutions. But one mistake is clear and very important: the unwillingness to oppose Hitler when he took several countries surrounding Germany.
CH on February 21, 2014:
"beckons the question" -- I see what you did there, and support it wholeheartedly! Thank you.
Gino marchese on February 21, 2014:
I watched the "battle of Britain" from my home in southern England and it was obvious the Luftwaffe had excellent machines and highly trained pilots but two things they lacked were auxiliary fuel tanks so they could remain active for more than ten minutes and of course a competent commander instead of a retired WWI fighter ace.
An inexplicable decision was not to destroy our Radar control system which played an important part in deploying our defence
ka9q on February 21, 2014:
The article entirely omits one of Hitler's best-known activities that I've heard some historians say contributed significantly to his military defeat as well as his reputation in history: the Holocaust. It diverted a non-insignificant amount of resources away from fighting the actual war.
Andrew on February 21, 2014:
It is often forgotten that Barbarossa actually kicked off weeks later than first intended. That was the biggest issue in the invasion of Russia. It was taken into account that it must take place early as to avoid the Russian weather than was a well known ace in the Soviet house of cards - those extra weeks, if occurred, would have led to its success truthfully and Moscow would have been taken. The problem, was that the Russians had already moved their factories beyond the Ural mountains as they expected the capital to fall and did not want their production suspended. Even if Moscow fell, the Russians were not going to give up, they never do, a quite commendable trait they have.
Despite the failure in the east, the war was over in 1940. Failure to eliminate the British not only kept HMS Great Britain afloat allowing the US bomber campaign plus Bomber Command the ability to eventual cripple German industry, but it also meant that Germany not only had to keep large amounts of Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe units in the west, but also in the mediterranean. Rommel was kept off the eastern from as he was preoccupied in Africa, strong Luftwaffe units were also in Africa as well as in France and the low-countries. All these units would have been brought to bare on the Russians in an eventual onslaught they could not have stopped even in the long run. If Britain was taken out of the war, then it was simply Germany against Russia and in 1940/1941, the Russians did not have the quality military equipment needed to stop the German war machine as weapons like the T-34, SU-85, Yak-9, La-5/7 etc. etc. did not come into service till much later. Great read for sure.
Corneliusz on February 21, 2014:
Maybe it was just the fact that Germany is a small country compared to the USA and Russia. Yes, Hitler made mistakes, maybe more than the USA, I do not think more than Russia because Stalin for example killed half of his officers during a "political cleansing". Hitler made a few very poor judgements, but getting the USA into the war was also because the English terribly wanted them to, and Roosevelt already had a lent and lease construction of war material, and was basicly willing to help. Futhermore, the enormous production capacity of the USA was also helpful to Russia, about as much resources (fuel, food, clothing, trucks) went to Russia via Murmansk as did go to the UK, this is often forgotten. Would England have surrendered then all the force of the USA would have gone through Russia against Germany. And one last important point: the USA made the first nucleair weapon and started with the project to do so in 1940.This was a consequence of America's wealth and safety, and would have defeated Germany anyway, if the other things didn't. Of course we don't know what would have happened had Hitler defeated the UK, it would have changed the whole dynamics of the war. We can quite simply in hindsight make an optimal strategy for Germany to win the war, but to be willing to wage such a war takes a certain mindset, maybe the same sort of mindset that leads to its defeat. But that is psychology. Anyway, let's be glad democracy won.
Viti on January 04, 2014:
Hitler was just a poor minded man that had to be in mental hospital, and instead lead his country to chaos,,,,,,,
In every single period in history we had this poor minded men,,,,,,,
Nowadays we have it in North Korea ,
We have to learn from history in order to stop this kind of people to try to destroy this beautiful world
Rafi on September 26, 2013:
Another tactical blunder was invading Yugoslavia and Greece in the late spring of 1941. The two fought back vigorously and this delayed his attack of the Soviet Union, which ended in the Wermacht getting mired in the rains and mud of autumn and ultimately the bitter frost of the Russian winter, ushering in Germany's defeat at Stalingrad, turning point of the war.
J. Magoro. on April 18, 2012:
Hitler was completely out of his mind. To me it seems that his main plan was to rule the whole world! He was a thief, looting treasures from other countries. He was a murderer, killing innocent Jews like flies just because they were making a good living in Germany. Leaders like him don't fit in our modern world because countries today help each other in times crisis. If he has killed 3 million people, then he deserve to stay in the burning hell for 3 million years!
Heike Winnig from Richmond, Virginia on July 31, 2010:
I think I like you Eric:) Your intellect, curiosity and appreciation of people are smart traits to have.
Unfortunately, Hitler's legacy seems to have non-favorable fans, who literally are followers of his ideals for a "perfect race" and relentlessly pursue the objective of a totalitarian regime for their countries.
Pretty ominous for the future of human rights in our world, I think.
Eric Deslauriers (author) from Cambridge, Ontario on July 31, 2010:
Thank you for your comment! I think what we can learn most from the curious tale that is the rise of Hitler is that if it could happen in a modern, indutrialized European nation, it could happen anywhere. I have always found Hitler to be a fascinating figure...not just because he was in such an obvious position of power, but because I think the man himself was an enigma...no pun intended :)
Heike Winnig from Richmond, Virginia on July 30, 2010:
Very well researched and detailed piece. Thank you.
Hitler may have been "charismatic" but he was insane, and as the years went by from the beginning of the Third Reich to its demise, he became more ill and was incapacitated and drugged much of the time. His henchmen did more leading toward the middle to final stages of the war than Hitler did. He became a puppet on a string and actually didn't have all that much control over his regime toward the end.
You might want to read "Mein Kampf" and learn to realize Hitler's initial goals may have not been so bad, but his conceit and neurotic narcissism got the better of him and brought about the imminent demise and ruin of my Fatherland.
Germany was a country in desperate need when Hitler came to power and his promises brought much hope. We'll never know if things could've worked out differently.