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The Russian Invasion: The German View

A senior air warrior, graduate from the Staff College and a PG in military studies. He is qualified to write on war and allied matters.

the-russian-invasion-the-german-view

Introduction-The Generals should have listened to Hitler

The German invasion of Russia is one of the top topics in the history of WW II. Most western writers have concluded that the war in the East was lost because Hitler did not listen to his generals who had the correct perspective. This is far from the truth and the reverse is probably true. The generals had very little respect for the military knowledge of Hitler and at a number of places and times, sabotaged efforts and his plan of invasion as well as the order of battle. This had a deleterious effect on the campaign and resulted in the offensive grinding to a halt and finally being pushed back.

The refrain is that Hitler should have listened to his generals. I find this argument specious and out of tune. Many historians have now concluded Hitler's plan for operation Barbarossa was quite sound, only if it had been followed in detail. Specifically, there were some generals namely Halder and Bock who fouled up what in reality was a good plan.

the-russian-invasion-the-german-view
The Cavalry Division "Florian Geyer"  formed in 1942 from a cadre of the Cavalry Brigade which took part in Bandenbekämpfung ("bandit-fighting")  behind the front line.

The Cavalry Division "Florian Geyer" formed in 1942 from a cadre of the Cavalry Brigade which took part in Bandenbekämpfung ("bandit-fighting") behind the front line.

Hitler's view

Hitler's plan had two basic ingredients which form the Principles of War, namely surprise and speed. It must be understood and Hitler also realized that even if there was a flawless execution of his plan, the chance of victory would be missed by a hairs whisker because the enemy facing the Germans had much more manpower and depth. Stalin could easily fall back into the hinterland of Siberia, hence it was imperative that the Russian army is finished in one massive blow.

Most Western historians notably, JFC fuller and Liddle Hart have questioned the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. They see it as a part of Hitler's philosophy to gain land in the east - Lebensraum. They opine that with the Battle of Britain going on, an invasion of Rusia had ideological overtones. They conclude it as a foolish decision.

Contrary to this view Hitler’s fundamental motive in 1941 was not to gain the Lebensraum about which he had written in 1925. At that time ideology had very little to do with this invasion because German intelligence reports have been received by Hitler that Stalin was only playing the stalling game and was getting ready within a year to attack Nazi Germany on the side of the British.

At that time there had been a secret meeting in Moscow between the British ambassador, Sir Stafford Cripps, and Stalin, and the Russian leader had pledged that under no circumstances he would join Adolf Hitler but partner Great Britain in the war. The minutes of this meeting had reached Adolf Hitler and he realized that it was imperative to neutralize Russia as early as possible. If he had waited for another year there was every chance that Russia which had three times the manpower of Germany would be able to win the war in conjunction with the British. Credit for this change in the thinking of Joseph Stalin must rest with the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill who laid the foundation of the Russian- British alliance. Winston Churchill had decided the greater evil was Nazi Germany and he was prepared to go to any extent to see that Germany should not rise again in Europe for the next 100 years.

The seeds of divorce from the European Union lie in the above-mentioned thinking of Winston Churchill. One of the main reasons for the UK to leave the EU is that it wants breathing space without Germany being the economic powerhouse.

Stalin was just playing a waiting game. As part of that, he had concluded the Non-Aggression pact with Hitler in 1939. Czechoslovakian President Edvard Beneš has clearly stated in his memoirs that Russia concluded the “non-aggression pact” only to gain time The aim was to enter the war later and smash Germany. The question many ask is as to why Stalin preferred Churchill to Hitler. We must remember that Hitler and Stalin were on two different ideological planes and just like Hitler, Stalin had decided that the enemy of communism is National Socialism and for communism to survive, National Socialism must be eradicated.

With these inputs, one can realize that Hitler really had no choice. He had to attack the Soviet Union before Russia attacked Germany. He was thus right in shifting focus from Britain to Russia.

Many people have questioned the fact that why did Germans did not build up effective defenses against the Russians instead of attacking them. During the various interrogations and trials at Nuremberg, it came out that a preemptive strike was necessary.

General Jodl has stated that to cover the defense of 2000 km at least 300 divisions were needed and the German did not have that many. Dr. Exner one of the defense attorneys has stated during the trial that a preemptive strike was both necessary and essential. It must also be mentioned that during the buildup to Operation Barbarossa Hitler never discussed his race theory and the policy of Lebensraum and concentrated only on one blow to finish the Soviet Union.

German Troops painting their tanks white for winter camouflage.

German Troops painting their tanks white for winter camouflage.

Epilogue

On 22 June 1941, Operation Barbarossa got underway. During meetings to discuss the invasion the German General Staff opposed Hitler's plan to attack the Soviet Union and felt it was better to attack after a year after Britain was finished. But perhaps they were being a little too simplistic and never had the strategic picture that within a year Stalin would have beefed up his army and the Germans would have to face the brunt of an attack. Hitler overruled his generals, many of who with decades of experience were miffed but finally all signed on the line but they were diffident and that spelled doom for the Wehrmacht.

Field Marshal Von Manstein and others at Nuremberg had stated that they were not in favor of the Russian invasion. But in hindsight with the latest facts available it is crystal clear that Hitler really had no choice at that particular moment except to attack the Soviet Union; that he failed is another matter.

References

Operation Barbarossa and Germany's defeat in the east- David Stahel ( April 2013).

Memorandum Dictated in 1946 by General Alfred Jodl on Hitler's Military leadership-to the wife of his defense counsel while he was a prisoner at Nuremberg. The last 2 paragraphs were sent to his wife after he was sentenced to death.

Lost victories - Erich Von Manstein.




Comments

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on October 08, 2021:

Peggy, thanks a lot for your comment.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on October 08, 2021:

Thanks, I was missing the name.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on October 08, 2021:

You always fill us in on facts of which we may never have been familiar. Thanks!

tom on October 08, 2021:

book is hms ulysses ,i have read all maclean novels and films

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on October 08, 2021:

Thank you, Tom, if the Japanese had attacked Russia in 1941 from the East and with the Germans coming on the west, Russia would have been finished. This is a historical blunder. Germany would've still won the war in case they had treated the occupied people properly I remember reading that in Ukraine the peasants bless the Germans when they came there but very soon they became opponents when their women were taken and raped. Stalin was a very shrewd man and he made the alliance with Churchill who had a one-point plan to defeat the Germans. Royal navy carried out convoys with supplies and weapons to arctic port. Excellent book by Alistair Maclean on it.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on October 08, 2021:

Bill, thank you, so nice that you commented.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on October 08, 2021:

As always, a thorough investigation of historical events by you. Always interesting to hear your views on these events. Well done, sir!

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