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The Generals Should Have Listened to Hitler!

by Hadding Scott

IT HAS LONG BEEN a facile judgment of semi-informed people that Hitler lost the war in the east because he was a megalomaniac who would not heed the advice of his experienced Prussian generals. “Hitler should have listened to his generals!” However, as the moral obligation to find fault with Hitler fades into the past, eroded by easily available historical truth in the Age of Internet, one begins to hear more and more that wisdom was on the side of Hitler in that disagreement, that Hitler’s strategic plan in Operation Barbarossa was quite sensible, and that it was the generals — specifically Halder and Bock — who fouled up a good plan.

Even with flawless execution of Hitler’s plan, a victory over the Soviet Union would have been remarkable, due to the enormous imbalance of quantities favoring the Soviet side, but it was some generals who made this difficult situation even worse. 

Why invade the Soviet Union at all? Contrary to what the old propaganda says, Hitler’s fundamental motive in 1941 was not to gain  the Lebensraum about which he had written in 1925. To the extent that people are willing to believe that Hitler undertook an unnecessary invasion of the USSR with the war against Britain still ongoing, they have assumed that Hitler was very foolish. Hitler was not so foolish, and the invasion of the USSR in 1941 was not optional. It was necessary. It had to be done because the Red Army was deployed for attack in 1941, and the best hope for saving the situation was a war of prevention. See “Hitler’s Policy toward the USSR Justified,” republished below.

* * *

Hitler’s Policy Toward the USSR Justified
(abbreviated version)

Passages from Heinrich Haertle, Freispruch für Deutschland (1965), translated, redacted, rearranged, and somewhat rewritten by Hadding Scott, 2010. (To read a fuller presentation of Haertle’s writing go here.)

Hitler’s Calculations in 1939

Hitler as chancellor assumed that a clash between National-Socialist Germany and world-revolutionary Soviet imperialism would be inevitable, and that he must do everything to prepare for this danger.

The gathering of all Germans into a Great Germany (Großdeutschland) and Hitler’s policy of reconciliation with the West, especially his offers of friendship to England, served this purpose.

However, when England and France had demonstrated through their guarantee to Poland that they were unwilling to tolerate a Germany that would have been strong enough to stand up to the growing Soviet colossus, Hitler began to reorient his foreign-policy overtures from West to East.

In mid-1939 when England and France were trying to complete their encirclement-policy by enlisting even the Soviet Union in an alliance against the Reich, Hitler saw only one escape from the trap: conciliation with Russia. Through that alone, he believed that he would be able to avert a two-front war.

Stalin’s Calculations

Meanwhile, Stalin was counting on the certainty of a war waged by England and France against Germany, from which he could at first remain aloof so as to prepare his military might, and at the favorable moment enter the war and win, either with the Reich against the capitalist West or, even more advantageously, with the capitalist West against the national-socialist Reich. It turned out that Stalin had much less time to prepare than he could have expected, because Germany conquered Poland and France with unprecedented speed.

Stalin’s calculations in 1939-40 were based on hostility between Germany and France and England. When, however, Stalin saw Germany making peace-offers to France and England in late 1939 and 1940, the Bolshevik dictator began to ally himself with England and America against the ever-stronger Germany, so as to expand the Soviet dictatorship into Europe and Asia with the help of “democracy” and “capitalism.”

Precisely on account of the repeated German peace offers to France and England, Stalin feared the end of Europe’s fratricidal war and therefore from fall 1940 directed his aggression  also against Germany, in violation of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. The American Secretary of State Byrnes writes in his memoirs: “It is obvious that the Soviet Government has concluded this pact with the clear intention of breaking it.” Even [Czechoslovakian President Edvard] Beneš affirms in his memoirs that the Soviet Union concluded the “non-aggression pact” only to gain time, i.e. so as to enter into the war later, when the warring parties had been weakened.

Molotov’s November 1940 extortion attempt in Berlin already practically signaled Stalin’s determination for war. He was pressuring Germany, which was still at war with England and already in a de facto war with the United States, to hand over to the Soviet Union the Balkans, the Baltic Sea, and above all the war-deciding oil supply in Romania, thereby making it clear that he would stab Germany in the back at the first opportunity.

Already in 1940 Stalin had begun negotiations in Moscow with the English representative Sir Stafford Cripps, thus with the enemy of a still allied Germany.

In spring 1941 the anti-German coup in Yugoslavia, which mortally threatened Germany’s position in the Balkans and therewith its oil supply, had been instigated and supported by Moscow together with England.

The Red Army increased its divisions in Germany’s rear from 65 divisions in September 1939 to 153 divisions and 36 motorized brigades in 1940-41.

The Preemptive War

Germany’s preemptive war forestalled a gigantic Soviet offensive. The Bolshevik danger was even greater than could even be reported previously. One of Hitler’s enemies, Chief of Staff Franz Halder, demonstrates that. He affirms that Hitler’s conviction “that Russia was preparing for an attack on Germany” was justified, and declares, “We know today from good sources that he was right about that.”

At Nuremberg General Winter testified under oath: “We had at the time the subjective impression that we were striking into an offensive deployment in progress.” Field Marshal von Rundstedt is also a witness to that.

In a secret session of the House of Commons in 1940, Churchill rationalized his rejection of the German peace offer and his decision to broaden the war, with the affirmation that he had at that time, because of the negotiations conducted by the ambassador Sir Stafford Cripps in Moscow, obtained the explicit pledge that the Soviet Union would enter the war on the English side.

Jewish journalist Alexander Werth, who was a correspondent in Russia and in his heart still stands on the Soviet side, reports about Stalin’s speech of 5 May 1941:

All my sources agree in fundamental features with the most important points of Stalin’s speech: the conviction that the war “almost unavoidably” would be decided in 1942, wherein, if necessary, the Soviets must seize the initiative.

The testimony of Senior-General Jodl at Nuremberg is thereby proven correct on all essential points by the Soviet side.

In his conversation with Hitler, in fall 1940 when the possibility of a preemptive war against the Bolshevik threat first came up, the motive of acquiring Lebensraum was never mentioned.

At Nuremberg Senior-General Jodl testifies: “The Fuehrer has never named in my presence even just one hint of a reason other than the purely strategic.” For months on end Hitler continuously repeated to Jodl’s face:

“There is no doubt now that England puts her hopes in this last mainland proxy; otherwise she would have already called off the war after Dunkirk….  Agreements have certainly already been made. The Russian deployment is unmistakable. One day suddenly we shall be either coldly blackmailed or attacked.”

What Germany Gave Up for the Preemptive War

Jodl himself had placed great hopes in the famous negotiations with Molotov, since with a neutral Russia in the rear — which furthermore would help Germany with economic supplies — the D-Day Invasion would never have been possible. No statesman and no field-marshal could sacrifice such a favorable situation without being forced by circumstances. It is a fact that Hitler “for months struggled inwardly in the most serious way with this decision, certainly influenced by the many opposing pictures that both the Reichsmarschall and the Supreme Commander of the Kriegsmarine as well as the Foreign Minister raised.”

That the actions of 1941 were a preemptive strike in defense of Germany, permitted under international law, is most strongly proven by the strategic situation. It would have been political and military madness that contradicted all accomplishments of the German leadership up to that point, if one had given up the victory over England, certainly possible at the time [by pushing British forces out of the Mediterranean, which would have caused Britain to sue for peace], in order to attack Russia, if the German leadership had not been compelled first to fight off the threat in the east.

How the Final Decision was Reached

The foreign-backed coup that overthrew the pro-German government of Yugoslavia, the hostile doings of the Soviet Government in combination with England, compelled the final decision. Jodl testifies:

“Until then the Fuehrer still had doubts. On 1 April and no sooner … his decision to conduct the attack stood firm, and on 1 April he gave the order to expect the launch of Operation Barbarossa for approximately 22 June.”

Why Didn’t Germany Simply Prepare a Defense?

To his defense-attorney’s question, whether later discoveries had proven the military necessity of this decision, Jodl testified:

“It was without a doubt a purely preemptive war. What we later established was in any case the certainty of an enormous Russian military preparation facing our borders. I want to forgo details but I can just say that we succeeded in achieving tactical surprise with the day and hour of attack, but not strategic surprise. Russia was fully prepared for war.”

Continuing, Senior General Jodl again named an essential reason for the preemptive war:

“We were never strong enough to be able to defend ourselves in the East; events since the year 1942 have proven it. It may sound grotesque, but in order to cover this front of over 2,000 kilometers we would have needed at least 300 divisions, and we never had that.

“If we had waited until we had been caught perhaps in the pincers of a simultaneous Allied invasion and Russian attack, with certainty we would have been lost….”

Nuremberg defense-attorney Dr. Exner argued that a preemptive war was justified:

“The true preemptive war is one of the essential means of self-preservation. It was also indisputably permitted according to the Kellogg-Briand Pact. Thus was the right of defense of all signatory states understood.”

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Source: National-Socialist Worldview

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Ulysses Freire da Paz JuniorAngelicusarcherccMicB Recent comment authors
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Chandala
Chandala

Excellent article.

victor
victor

Awesome article. Always wondered why they captured or destroyed so much equipment on the frontiers. And why the soviet rail system was undetgoing massive movements. The russians wouldve attacked in summer of 1941. also russians developed tanks to be used on good roadways, like in germany. russia itself had a primitive road system.

George Wright
George Wright

Some internal Soviet military communiqués from October 1940 support the idea that Stalin was planning to conquer Europe at least as far as the Rhine River.

Truthweed
Truthweed

Hitler never wanted a war with anyone. He did everything possible to prevent wars. He attempted to compromise with Poland. He waited for eight months to retalliate after France invaded the Saar territory of Germany. After Britain carpet-bombed several German cities, targetting civillians, he bombed London with peace pamphlets. He made a truce with Stalin’s USSR but discovered Stalin was preparing for an attack against Germany (see Suvorov, ‘Icebreaker’), and then ALL of Europe. Stalin had 23,000 of the world’s fastest tanks but no Russian roads could hold them – they could only be driven on Germany’s autobahns. He began building them before the war. Hitler was reluctant to invade Greece but was compelled to because Churchill wanted to open a second front there to distract Hitler from Russia. Hitler… Read more »

archer
archer

I’ve read recently the tanks you mention were lighter and faster than the newer T-34’s, they were meant to lose their tracks after leaving Soviet territory and be replaces with wheels to take advantage of the German and European road network.

Angelicus
Angelicus

Trutweed you have been spot on in your analysis, just an important detail, you said that Hitler was compelled to invade Greece because Churchill wanted a second front; well it was Mussolini who actually spoiled everything by invading Greece and thus opening a second, if not a third front. Now the question is: Did Mussolini attack Greece driven by his ego, or was he lured into it by the British? I know that there is no evidence of this but it has been suggested that the British intelligence service manipulated Italian generals who hated Mussolini to propose the invasion of Greece as an easy opportunity to achieve a glorious victory, something that must have appealed to the egotistical Italian leader. What do you think? Churchill always had a soft spot… Read more »

Truthweed
Truthweed

As I understand it, Mussolini wanted to establish a military base in Greece but the Greeks refused so he invaded them. The Greeks were successfully defending themselves and winning. Hitler was compelled by his alliance with Mussolini to aid him. Hitler regretted invading Greece and stated that he considered himself to be “an Helene”, that is, someone who benefited from the culture created by the ancient Greeks.

Hans Schneider
Hans Schneider

read the interesting books from David Irving (England) about WW2 and gain a new realistic view of history.

Paul
Paul

In this case as all during war , time is critical. The Third Reich had little time . They agreed they had to win before a year. They were before Moscow in 6 months. Then turned against better judgment south. The Ukraine. This was reasonable only for a long war and because the goal of Barbarosa was the mouth of the Volga at Astrachan . Did Hitler believe Russian in north collapse was imminent? The South armies success were contingent upon the great front all the way to north ports of Murmansk. Never forget that General Stab and Hitler himself were receiving disinformation. Central control was fatal. This false information left Hitler optimistic that Russsians would collapse because of political reasons . Political and ideological doctrines were his enemy. This… Read more »

MicB
MicB

Revisionistic. Hitler stalled Jet-engine progress for over a year with an order (insane). This while knowing how big the Soviet Union is (thus innovative Jet aircraft’s being essential for long-range attacks against them) and this while knowing the Brits could primarily only hurt Germany with air attacks at that point in time. Air supremacy was key to winning the war. The Soviets were easily overrun initially aka not well prepared for war at all with Germany early on. They had a hard time with Finland, let alone attacking the Axis without having full mobility of their tanks and men near their borders. They were also scared of Japan eastwards. It’s false to suggest they would have attacked Germany in those years at least. Hitler cared little for the East-Baltic Eastern-Slav… Read more »

archer
archer

According to a book I read circa mid 70’s written by Adolph Galland, who was chief of fighter forces, called “the first and the last”, Hitler stalled the jet fighter development for two years because he insisted that it have “fighter bomber” capabilities. According to Galland this presented a big problem at first and the necessary resources weren’t committed to solve the problem, in other words it was put on the back burner.

cc
cc

Germany was smothered by an international army.

People should be talking about why Germany is under perpetual occupation. The Federal multi-racial army (compliments of the 19th century Black Republicans) have been in Germany for so many years the numbers lose their meaning.

Angelicus
Angelicus

The man presenting the video made a very important mistake at the beginning when he said that Halder tried to apply the concept of the campaign of France against the Soviet Union. Halder was an unimaginative officer that opposed to Manstein’s brilliant plan that led to the spectacular victory in the West. It was Hitler’s support of Manstein’s idea that secured victory, something that also showed Hitler’s strategic wisdom. Halder was not the chief of the Army’s High Command (OKH = Oberkommando des Heeres) but field-marshall von Brauchitsch, but as chief of staff of the OKH, it was Halder who presented the plan to Hitler. According to this plan, the principal goal was the capture of Moscow. Since the Soviet government was highly centralized with Moscow as his headquarters it… Read more »

Ulysses Freire da Paz Junior
Ulysses Freire da Paz Junior

Heil, ANGELICUS Again, a seemingly irrational decision. However, if we consider that Hitler had been at loggerheads with his generals for quite some time, it all makes sense. And if we consider that his generals were not considering the strategic picture (as mentioned in the video) then again, it adds weight to the idea that Hitler was actually making rational decisions. Hitler may have been evil, but he was not mad, nor stupid. He was on a whole making very good decisions – even better than his generals at times – and was frustrated when his generals failed to obey his commands because they were tunnel-visioned by training and philosophy into looking at the tactical or operational level. Again, given the context, it makes sense. I absolutely recommend Citino’s “Death… Read more »