This is an apolitical forum for discussions on the Axis nations, as well as the First and Second World Wars in general hosted by Marcus Wendel's Axis History Factbook in cooperation with Michael Miller's Axis Biographical Research and Christoph Awender's WW2 day by day.
SO it is vital too look back why Germany is accused of starting the war (WW1 and WW2)...Because, of all nations, it was Hitler and Germany who had the vision to knew the threat posed by Bolshevism long before America and British realised..And the heroic struggle of volunteers of many nations, but one motto of the world's first international and multinational and multiethnic force, Wehrmacht and Waffen SS.
It was clear to me that a conflict with Poland had to come sooner or later. I had already made this decision in spring, but I thought that I would first turn against the West in a few years, and only afterwards against the East. But the sequence cannot be fixed. One cannot close one's eyes even before a threatening situation. I wanted to establish an acceptable relationship with Poland in order to fight first against the West. But this plan, which was agreeable to me, could not be executed, since essential points have changed. It became clear to me, that Poland would attack us in case of a conflict with the West. Poland wants access to the sea. The further development became obvious after the occupation of the Memel region, and it became clear to me that under circumstances a conflict with Poland could arise at an inopportune moment.
For us it is easy to make decision. We have nothing to lose; we can only gain. Our economic situation is such, because of our restrictions, that we cannot hold out more than a few years. Goering can confirm this. We have no other choice, we must act. Our opponents risk much and can gain only a little. England's stake in a war is unimaginably great. Our enemies have men who are below average. No personalities. No masters, no men of action.
Besides the personal factor, the political situation is favorable for us; in the Mediterranean rivalry among Italy, France, and England, in the Orient tension, which leads to the alarming of the Mohammedan world.
The English empire did not emerge from the last war strengthened. From a maritime point of view, nothing was achieved. Conflict between England and Ireland. The South African Union became more independent. Concessions had to be made to India. England is in great danger. Unhealthy industries. A British statesman can look into the future only with concern.
France's position has also deteriorated particularly in the Mediterranean.
Further favorable factors for us are these:
Since Albania there is an equilibrium of power in the Balkans. Yugoslavia carries the germ of collapse because of her internal situation.
Rumania did not grow stronger. She is liable to attack and vulnerable. She is threatened by Hungary and Bulgaria. Since Kemal's death, Turkey has been ruled by small minds, unsteady, weak men.
All these fortunate circumstances will no longer prevail in 2 to 3 years. No one knows how long I shall live. Therefore conflict better now.
The creation of Greater Germany was a great achievement politically, but militarily it was questionable, since it was achieved through a bluff of the political leaders. It is necessary to test the military. If at all possible, not by general settlement, but by solving individual tasks.
The relation to Poland has become unbearable. My Polish policy hitherto was in contrast to the ideas of the people. My propositions to Poland (Danzig corridor) were disturbed by England's intervention. Poland changed her tone toward us. The initiative cannot be allowed to pass to the others. This moment is more favorable than in 2 to 3 years. An attempt on my life or Mussolini's could change the situation to our disadvantage. One cannot eternally stand opposite one another with cocked rifle. A suggested compromise would have demanded that we change our convictions and make agreeable gestures. They talked to us again in the language of Versailles. There was danger of losing prestige. Now the probability is still great that the West will not interfere. We must accept the risk with reckless resolution. A politician must accept a risk as much as a military leader. We are facing the alternative to strike or to be destroyed with certainty sooner or later. viewtopic.php?p=573344#573344
I have always accepted a great risk in the conviction that it may succeed.
Now it is also a great risk. Iron nerves, iron resolution.
The following special reasons strengthen my idea. England and France are obligated, neither is in a position for it. There is no actual rearmament in England, just propaganda. It has done much damage that many reluctant Germans said and wrote to Englishmen after the solution of the Czech question: The Fuehrer carried his point because you lost your nerve, because you capitulated too soon. This explains the present propaganda war. The English speak of a war of nerves. It is one element of this war of nerves to present the increase of armament. But how is British rearmament in actual fact ? The construction program of the Navy for 1938 has not yet been filled. Only mobilization of the reserve fleet. Purchase of fishing steamers. Considerable strengthening of the Navy, not before 1941 or 1942.
Little has been done on land. England will be able to send a maximum of 3 divisions to the continent. A little has been done for the air force, but it is only a beginning. AA defense is in its beginning stages. At the moment England has only 150 AA guns. The new AA gun has been ordered. It will take a long time until enough have been produced. Fire directors are lacking. England is still vulnerable from the air. This can change in 2 to 3 years. At the moment the English air force has only 130000 men, France 72000 men, Poland 15000 men. England does not want the conflict to break out for two or three years.
The following is characteristic for England. Poland wanted a loan from England for rearmament. England, however, only gave credit in order to make sure that Poland buys in England, although England cannot deliver. This means that England does not really want to support Poland. She does not risk 8 millions pounds in Poland, although she put half a billion into China. England's position in the world is very precarious. She will not accept any risks.
France lacks men (decline of the birth rate). Little has been done for rearmament. The artillery is antiquated. France did not want to enter on this adventure. The West has only two possibilities to fight against us:
1. Blockade: It will not be effective because of our autarchy and because we have sources of aid in the east.
2. Attack from the west from the Maginot line: I consider this impossible.
Another possibility is the violation of Dutch, Belgium, and Swiss neutrality. I have no doubts that all these states as well as Scandinavia will defend their neutrality by all available means. England and France will not violate the neutrality of those countries. Actually England cannot help Poland. There remains an attack on Italy. A military attack is out of the question. No one is counting on a longer war. If Mr. von Brauchitsch had told me that I would need 4 years to conquer Poland I would have replied: then it cannot be done. It is nonsense to say that England wants to wage a long war.
We will hold our position in the West until we have conquered Poland. We must be conscious of our great production. It is much bigger than in 1914-1918.
The enemy had another hope, that Russia would become our enemy after the conquest of Poland. The enemy did not count on my great power of resolution. Our enemies are little worms. I saw them in Munich.
I was convinced that Stalin would never accept the England offer. Russia has no interest in maintaining Poland and Stalin knows that it is the end of his regime no matter whether his soldiers come out of a war victoriously or beaten. Litvinow's replacement was decisive. I brought about the change toward Russia gradually. In connection with the commercial treaty we got into political conversation. Proposal of a non-aggression pact. Then came a general proposal from Russia. Four days ago I took a special step, which brought it about that Russia answered yesterday that she is ready to sign. The personal contract with Stalin is established. The day after tomorrow von Ribbentrop will conclude the treaty. Now Poland is in the position in which I wanted her.
We need not be afraid of a blockade. The East will supply us with grain, cattle, coal, lead and zinc. It is a big arm, which demands great efforts. I am only afraid that at the last minute some
Schweinhund [literally, swineherd's dog; figuratively, filthy person] will make a proposal for mediation.
The political arm is set farther. A beginning has been made for the destruction of England's hegemony. The way is open for the soldier, after I have made the political preparations.
Today's publication of the non-aggression pact with Russia hit like a shell. The consequences cannot be overlooked. Stalin also said that this course will be of benefit to both countries. The effect on Poland will be tremendous.
Goering answers with thanks to the Fuehrer and the assurance that the armed forces will do their duty. viewtopic.php?p=573344#573344
It was clear to me from the first moment that I could not be satisfied with the Sudeten-German territory. That was only a partial solution. The decision to march into Bohemia was made. Then followed the erection of the Protectorate and with that the basis for the action against Poland was laid, but I wasn't quite clear at that time whether I should start first against the east and then in the west or vice-versa. Moltke often made the same calculations in his time. Under pressure the decision came to fight with Poland first. One might accuse me of wanting to fight and fight again. In struggle I see the fate of all beings. Nobody can avoid a struggle if he does not want to lose out. The increasing number of people requires a larger living space [Lebensraum]. My goal was to create a logical relation between the number of people and the space for them to live in. The struggle must start here. No people can get away from the solution of this task or else it must yield and gradually die out. That is taught by history. First migration of peoples to the southwest, then adaptation of the number of people to the small space by emigration. In the last years, adaptation of the people to insufficient space, by reducing the number of births. This would lead to the death and weakening of the blood of the people. If a people chooses that course all their weaknesses are mobilized. One yields to the force of the outside and uses this force against one's self by killing of the child. This means the greatest cowardice, decimation of the number, and loss of value. I decided a different way: adaptation of the living space to the number of people. One acknowledgement is important. The state has a meaning only if it supports the maintenance of its population potential. In our case 82 millions of people were concerned. That means the greatest responsibility. He who does not want to assume this responsibility is not worthy of belonging to the mass of the people. That gave me the strength to fight. It is one eternal problem to bring the number of Germans to a proper relationship to the available space. Security of the needed space. No calculated cleverness is of any help, solution only with the sword. A people unable to produce the strength to fight must withdraw. Struggles are different than those of 100 years ago. Today we can speak of a racial fight. Today we fight for oilfields, rubber, treasures of the earth, etc. viewtopic.php?p=573038#573038
For the first time in 67 years it must be made clear that we do not have a two-front war to wage. That which has been desired since 1870 and considered as impossible of achievement has come to pass. For the first time in history we have to fight on only one front, the other front is at present free. But no one can know how long that will remain so. I have doubted for a long time whether I should strike in the east and then in the west. Basically I did not organize the armed forces in order not to strike. The decision to strike was always in me. Earlier or later I wanted to solve the problem. Under pressure it was decided that the east was to be attacked first. If the Polish war was won so quickly, it was due to the superiority of our armed forces. The most glorious appearance in history. Unexpectedly small expenditures of men and material. Now the eastern front is held by only a few divisions. It is a situation which we viewed previously as unachievable. Now the situation is as follows: The opponent in the west lies behind his fortifications. There is no possibility of coming to grips with him. The decisive question is: how long can we endure this situation? Russia is at present not dangerous. It is weakened by many incidents today. Moreover, we have a pact with Russia. Pacts, however, are only held as long as they serve the purpose. Russia will hold herself to it only so long as Russia considers it to be to her benefit. Even Bismarck thought so. Let one think of the pact to assure our back. Now Russia has far-reaching goals, above all the strengthening of her position in the Baltic. We can oppose Russia only when we are free in the West. Further Russia is striving to increase her influence on the Balkans and is striving toward the Persian Gulf. That is also the goal of our foreign policy. Russia will do that which she considers to benefit her. At the present moment it has retired from internationalism. In case she renounces this, she will proceed to Pan-Slavism. It is difficult to see into the future. It is a fact that at the present time the Russian army is of little worth. For the next one or two years the present situation will remain. viewtopic.php?p=573038#573038
Everything is determined by the fact that the moment is favorable now; in 6 months it might not be so anymore.
As the last factor I must name my own person in all modesty: irreplaceable. Neither a military nor a civil person could replace me. Assassination attempts may be repeated. I am convinced of the powers of my intellect and of decision. Wars are always ended only by the destruction of the opponent. Everyone who believes differently is irresponsible. Time is working for our adversary. Now there is a relationship of forces which can never be more propitious, but can only deteriorate for us. The enemy will not make peace when the relationship of forces is unfavorable for us. No compromise. Sternness against ourselves. I shall strike and not capitulate. The fate of the Reich depends only on me. I shall deal accordingly. Today we have a superiority such as we have never had before. After 1914 our opponents disarmed themselves of their own accord. England disregarded the construction of her fleet. The fleet is no longer sufficiently large to safeguard the shipping lanes. Only two modern new constructions: Rodney and Nelson. New construction activity only in the cruisers of the Washington class, which were, however, an unsatisfactory type. The new measures can become effective only in 1941. In the Abyssinian war England did not have enough strength to occupy the Tana Sea. At Malta, Gibraltar and London little anti-aircraft protection. Since 1937 a renewal of rearmament. At present however, only a small number of divisions, which must form the nucleus of new divisions. Material for the army being gathered together from all over the world. Not before next summer is a positive action to be expected. The British army has only a symbolic meaning. Rearmament in the air is proceeding. The first phase will end in the spring of 1940. Antiaircraft has only guns from the last war. A German flyer is safe from English anti-aircraft fire at 6000 meters altitude. The navy will not be fully rearmed before one to two years [1-2 Jahren]. I have the greatest experience in rearmament and I know the difficulties which must be overcome therein.
After 1914 France reduced the length of service. After 1914 decrease of military might. Only in some special branches are we inferior. Only the French Navy was modernized. In the time after the war the French army deteriorated. There were no changes until Germany rearmed and announced her demands. viewtopic.php?p=573038#573038
England cannot live without its imports. We can feed ourselves. The permanent sowing of mines on the English coasts will bring England to her knees. However, this can only occur if we have occupied Belgium and Holland. It is a difficult decision for me. None has ever achieved what I have achieved. My life is of no importance in all this. I have led the German people to a great height, even if the world does hate us now. I am setting this work on a gamble. I have to choose between victory or destruction. I choose victory. Greatest historical choice, to be compared with the decision of Frederick the Great before the first Silesian war. Prussia owes its rise to the heroism of one man. Even there the closest advisers were disposed to capitulation. Everything depended on Frederick the Great. Even the decisions of Bismarck in 1866 and 1870 were no less great. My decision is unchangeable. I shall attack France and England at the most favorable and quickest moment. Breach of the neutrality of Belgium and Holland is meaningless. No one will question that when we have won. We shall not bring about the breach of neutrality as idiotically as it was in 1914. If we do not break the neutrality, then England and France will. Without attack the war is not to be ended victoriously. I consider it as possible to end the war only by means of an attack. The question as to whether the attack will be successful no one can answer. Everything depends upon the favorable instant. The military conditions are favorable. A prerequisite however, is that the leadership must give an example of fanatical unity from above. There would not be any failures if the leaders always had the courage a rifleman must have.
Individual acknowledgments: The enemy must be beaten only by attack. Chances are different today than during the offensive of 1918. Numerically we can use more than 100 divisions. With respect to men, reserves can be supplied. The material situation is good. Moreover that which is not ready today must be ready tomorrow. The whole thing means the end of the World War, not just of a single action. It concerns not just a single question but the existence or non-existence of the nation.
I ask you to pass on the spirit of determination to the lower echelons.
1. The decision is irrevocable.
2. The only prospect for success, if the whole armed forces are determined.
The spirit of the great men of our history must hearten us all. Fate demands from us no more than from the great men of German history. As long as I live I shall think only of the victory of my people. I shall shrink from nothing and shall destroy everyone who is opposed to me. I have decided to live my life so that I can stand unshamed if I have to die. I want to destroy the enemy. Behind me stands the German people, whose morale can only grow worse. Only he who struggles with destiny can have a good intuition. In the last years I have experienced many examples of intuition. Even in the present development I see the prophecy.
If we come through this struggle victoriously -- and we shall come through victoriously -- our time will enter into the history of our people. I shall stand or fall in this struggle. I shall never survive the defeat of my people. No capitulation to the outside forces, no revolution from the interior forces. viewtopic.php?p=573038#573038
Pat D wrote:One reason that AH gave for attacking Russia was that he felt eventually that Russia would be strong and bold enough to attack westwards themselves. I have never seen or heard any evidence from Russia that Stalin had any such ideas. Has anuyone else seen any documentation on this, maybe some post-1991 revelations?
The contents of this Memorandum are for the personal attention of the Commanders-in-Chief, and of the Chief-of-Staff, OKW, only.
They are responsible for its secrecy.
1. C-in-C, Army, Col-Gen. von Brauchitsch.
2. C-in-C, Navy, Grand-Admiral Dr. (honoris causa) Raeder.
3. C-in-C, GAF, Gen-Fieldmarshal Goering.
4. C of S, OKW, Col-Gen. Keitel.
Berlin, 19 October 1939.
The dissolution of the First German Reich as ratified by the Treaty of Muenster (1648) resulted in that arrangement of European States, known as the "balance of power," which made possible the formation of the French and, above all, the British Empire. The decisive factor of this state of affairs (also desired by England) was the disintegration of the mass of the German people combined with the prevention by treaty-terms of its later reunification into one uniform state. Every attempt to form the German people into such a new state was therefore considered upsetting to the European equilibrium and was attacked. Even the British friendship with Prussia, for what it was worth, cooled off the moment the latter became conscious of its German mission and attempted to reconstruct a Prusso-German Reich. The farsighted Bismarck and Moltke recognized the probability of again having to defend their newly formed Reich at a later stage against those interested in maintaining the European "balance of power," and the necessity of carrying this through. World War I, set in motion by a minor external event, was therefore supposed to divide the unity of the Reich again or to remove possible preconditions for a future greater unification. The present war of the Western Powers against the new Reich also serves the same ends. The aim of the Anglo-French conduct of war is to dissolve or disintegrate the 80-million state again so that in this manner the European equilibrium, in other words the balance of power, which serves their ends, may be restored. This battle therefore will have to be fought out by the German people one way or another. Nevertheless, the very great successes of the first month of war could serve, in the event of an immediate signing of peace, to strengthen the Reich psychologically and materially to such an extent that from the German viewpoint there would be no objection to ending the war immediately, so far as the present achievement with arms is not jeopardized by the peace treaty.
It is not the object of this memorandum to study the possibilities in this direction or even to take them into consideration. In this paper I shall confine myself exclusively to the other case: the necessity to continue the fight, the object of which, as already stressed, consists so far as the enemy is concerned in the dissolution or destruction of the German Reich. In opposition to this, the German war aim is the final military despatch of the West, that is, destruction of the power and ability of the Western Powers ever again to be able to oppose the state consolidation and further development of the German people in Europe.
As far as the outside world is concerned, however, this internal aim will have to undergo various propaganda adjustments, necessary from a psychological point of view. This does not alter the war aim. It is and remains the destruction of our Western enemies.
The German situation
The German people enter this battle with a population more than double that of the French, and almost equal to that of France and England together.
The military application of our people's strength has been carried through to such an extent that within a short time at any rate, it cannot be markedly improved upon by any manner of effort. Any increase in military power which is to be expected in the next few years will not be compensated by France, but by England, which is constantly growing stronger. France alone, on account of her weak call-up classes, is not in a position to undertake the setting up of new formations beyond a certain limit, unless she dispenses with all useful forms of replacements for incidental battle-casualties, which is improbable. England is able, within the next few months or years, to set up a comparatively large number of formations, whose value however will be more defensive than strategically operational.
Time in this war, as in all historic processes, is in itself not a factor of intrinsic value, but one of which full account must be taken. In the present situation, under these conditions, time may be reckoned more probably as an ally of the Western Powers rather than of ours.
The successes of the Polish campaign have made possible first of all a war on a single front, awaited for past decades without any hope of realization; that is to say, Germany is able to enter the fight in the West with all her might, leaving only a few covering troops.
The remaining European states are neutral either because they fear for their own fates, or lack interest in the conflict as such, or are interested in a certain outcome of the war, which prevents them from taking part at all or at any rate too soon.
The following is to be firmly borne in mind:
By no treaty or pact can a lasting neutrality of Soviet-Russia be insured with certainty. At present all reasons speak against Russia's departure from this state of neutrality. In 8 months, 1 year, or even several years this may be altered. The trifling significance of treaties of agreement has been proved on all sides in recent years. The greatest safeguard against any Russian attack lies in an obvious display of German superiority, viz: in a prompt demonstration of German strength.
As long as the Italian Government sees the future of Italy as a reproduction of a great imperial Roman Empire, its trend of politics will, in general, fit in with Germany's. For this imperial conception is only to be realized at the expense of France or England. The realization itself is probable only with the help of Germany, or is dependent on German success. Fascism is the bearer of this imperial idea, and in the front rank stands its creator, Benito Mussolini. A weakening of the Fascist influence in Italy, or even the death of the Duce, would lead to a strengthening of the influence of the Crown, and thus finally to the forsaking of these aims, inspired by the people, but dangerous and therefore distasteful to monarchies. As surely as Mussolini heads for a fight with the democracies and will take it on under generally favorable conditions, so non-Fascist Italy, and the Crown in particular, will turn aside from these and similarly dangerous ideas. They will at least not be prepared, ever to take any active steps in the matter themselves. At the most, and in the most favorable circumstances, they will wait, and let events pass by. For a trifling payment or reward however these powers will also be prepared, merely because of their own stupid short-sightedness, to sell the birthright of the Italians in the Mediterranean, and then fall in with the enemies of Germany. The hope of Italian support for Germany in its fateful battle is therefore dependent on the continuation of Fascist influence in that country, and therefore largely on the Duce's remaining alive. Time, here, can therefore under no circumstances be considered as an ally of Germany's. It can, in this case, at most, be a danger.
Belgium and Holland
Both countries are interested in preserving their neutrality but incapable of withstanding prolonged pressure from England and France. The preservation of their colonies, the maintenance of their trade, and thus the securing of their interior economy, even of their very life, depends wholly upon the will of England and France. Therefore, in their decisions, in their attitude, and in their actions, both countries are dependent upon the West, in the highest degree. If England and France promise themselves a successful result at the price of Belgian neutrality, they are at any time in a position to apply the necessary pressure. That is to say, without covering themselves with the odium of a breach of neutrality, they can compel Belgium and Holland to give up their neutrality. Therefore, in the matter of the preservation of Belgo-Dutch neutrality, time is not a factor which might promise a favorable development for Germany.
The Nordic States
Provided no completely unforeseen factors appear, their neutrality in the future is also to be assumed. The continuation of German trade with these countries appears possible even in a war of long duration.
The South-Eastern States
At the moment their neutrality appears very probable but cannot be prophesied for the future with absolute certainty. Not only psychological and propaganda influences, or general economic factors, but also financial personal bribery can lead to a change in the attitude of these states at any time.
The attempt of certain circles of the USA. to lead the American Continent in a direction hostile to Germany, is definitely unsuccessful at the moment, but could still in the future lead to the desired result. Here, too, time is to be viewed as working against Germany.
Japan will definitely act according to her own interests. It will be her aim to make use of every weakening of the European states in Eastern Asia with the minimum expenditure of her own power. Here, too, time cannot be considered as an ally of Germany; only success will be.
The Dangers of the German Position
The first danger for Germany lies in the fact that in a war of long duration under certain circumstances, states may be drawn to the opposite side for reasons which may lie in their economic needs, or in the weakening of particular interests.
The second danger is that, through a war of long duration, states which in themselves might be inclined to take sides with Germany, might, in retrospect of the last war, think that they see a warning in the duration of the war itself, and therefore abstain from a positive course of action favorable to Germany.
The third danger, in a lengthier war, lies in the difficulty, owing to the limited food and raw material basis, of insuring the food supply of the people, and of finding the means for carrying on the war. The morale, at least of the people, will be affected by that.
The greatest, and most difficult danger lies in the following:
The essential factor for each victorious conduct of the war is to safeguard Ruhr production. Each serious stoppage in production in this area cannot be made good elsewhere. Sooner or later this must lead to the collapse of the German war-economy, and thus of the capacity to resist.
But the enemy knows this too.
The first danger to the Ruhr is that of stoppages caused by air attacks. The possibilities of defense by day by means of AA and fighter aircraft are still present in a high degree. The possibility of defense by night is a limited one even now. The possibility of defense by reprisal at present seems to be the safest. It must, however, be taken into account that in a war of long duration any belligerent who considers he has attained absolute supremacy in a certain arm of the service will use this supremacy regardless of reprisals thereby incurred. The longer this war lasts, the more difficult will be the preservation of German air superiority. And of offensive air superiority in particular. As long as neutral Belgium and Holland remain as protective zones in front of the Ruhr, attack by aircraft is still somewhat difficult, bombardment by long-range artillery impossible. But, in the event of the cessation of Belgian-Dutch neutrality, the military boundary would be withdrawn to a distance which would bring at least the South-West Ruhr,zone within the range of super-long-range guns, and Dusseldorf, even within the range, even of long-range batteries. From this moment the Ruhr, as an active factor of the German war-economy, would either drop out or at least be crippled. There is no means of replacing it.
As this weakness is recognized just as clearly by England and France as by ourselves, an Anglo-French conduct of war aiming at the utter destruction of Germany will strive to reach this goal at all costs. Indeed, the less hope England and France have of being able to destroy the German armed forces in a series of actual battles, the more both states will strive to create the conditions for an effective long drawn-out war of attrition and annihilation. But this condition requires the moving up of Anglo-French forces to the German frontier with a consequent termination of Belgian-Dutch neutrality.
The possible course of action
Under no circumstances are France and England compelled to violate the Belgian-Dutch frontier by attack, thereby attacking these countries. Their means of exerting pressure are, as already indicated, so vast and so forceful, that they will succeed at any time in causing both countries to give up their neutrality at any particular moment which seems suitable, or necessary to the English or French Governments.
As a motive for such a course of action in the eyes of the rest of the world (as far as that may be considered necessary at all), it is sufficient to portray the dangers of a German breach of neutrality and to make full propaganda value of that in order to cause Belgium and Holland to declare that they are threatened and to request Anglo-French assistance. And first of all, in such an event, Belgian forces will be transferred from the Belgian-French to the German-Belgian frontier; the defensive front, which would thus be gradually built up, could, without difficulty and in the shortest space of time, receive Anglo-French reinforcements which would cause any German counterattack which might be undertaken to fan. Then, within a few days, an extensive deployment of Anglo-French forces on the German-Belgian-Dutch frontier could take place thereby bringing the war near to the heart of our armaments industry.
The probability, indeed the certainty of such an Anglo-French decision is strengthened by the indisputable fact, that, from the opposite point of view, the possession of this area by Germany would be one of the few factors that would at all be of help to Germany in the event of a long war.
German Possibilities in the event of a long war
Germany's military means of waging a lengthier war are, as far a our main enemy is concerned, the Air Force and the U-boat arm.
The U-boat can, even today, if ruthlessly employed, be an extraordinary threat to England. The weaknesses of German U-boat warfare lie in the great distances to the scenes of action, in the extraordinary danger attached to these journeys and in the continuous threat to their home bases. That England has not, for the moment, laid the great minefield, as in the World War, between Norway and the Shetland Isles is possibly connected -- provided the will to wage war exists at all -- with a shortage of necessary barrage materials. But, if the war lasts long, an increasing difficulty to our U-boats must be reckoned with in the use of these only remaining inward and outward routes. The creation of U-boat strongpoints outside these constricted home bases would lead to an enormous increase in the striking-power of this arm.
The German Air Force
The GAF cannot succeed in efficient operations against the industrial center of England and her South and SW ports, which have increased in importance in wartime, until it is no longer compelled to operate offensively from our present small North sea coast, by extremely devious routes involving long flights. If the Dutch-Belgian area were to fall into the hands of the English and French, then the enemy air forces would be able to strike at the industrial heart of Germany and would need to cover barely a sixth of the distance required by the German bomber to reach really important targets. If we were in possession of Holland, Belgium, or even the Straits of Dover as jumping-off bases for German aircraft then, without a doubt, Great Britain could be struck a mortal blow, even if the strongest reprisals were attempted.
Such a shortening of air routes would be all the more important to Germany because of our difficulties in fuel supply. Every 1000 kg of fuel saved is not only an asset to our national economy, but means that 1000 kg more of explosives can be carried in the aircraft; that is to say, 1000 kg of fuel would become 1000 kg of bombs. And this also leads to economy in aircraft, in mechanical wear-and-tear of the machine, and above all in valuable airmen's lives.
These very facts are reasons for England and France to secure for themselves these regions under all circumstances, just as they compel us, on the other hand, to prevent such an occupation on the part of France and England.
The German War Aim
In the event of a final clash with France and England, the German war aim can consist only in the annihilation of Anglo-French forces, which is desirable in all circumstances. Territorial gain will be of importance only to the extent and measure in which it helps to make possible the destruction of our enemies or because of its strategic importance for the same purpose in a prolonged war. The destruction of enemy forces is therefore to be aimed at primarily, the occupation of enemy territory comes only second. There is of course a compulsory relationship between both these aims.
The Possibility of a Military Clash with France and England
The German soldier was always superior to the French. The historically recognized defeats of Germany by France were the exclusive result of the necessity for isolated German cities or states, unaided by a Reich, to fight alone and to depend entirely on their own resources against the French centralized state. German lack of unity was the only reason for all French victories. On the other hand, the German people, particularly in the last war, proved its soldierly superiority countless times.
The achievements of commanders on the German side have also been greater and more obvious in their results than on the Anglo-French side. The German collapse which took place in spite of this, derived from weaknesses which may be regarded as having been better overcome particularly in the present Reich than in the present day in France or England. This feeling of superiority is not only mine, personally, but is peculiar to all German people and German soldiers. This feeling of superiority is justified. It does not merely depend on the evaluation of earlier historical achievements, but also on the actual course of history in the last few years. The warlike equipment of the German people is at present larger in quantity and better in quality for a great number of German divisions, than in the year 1914. The weapons themselves, taking a substantial cross section, are more modern than is the case with any other country in the world at this time. They have just proved their supreme war worthiness in a victorious campaign. In the case of the armaments of other countries, this has yet to be demonstrated. In some arms, Germany today possesses clear, indisputable superiority of weapons.
The tank-arm and air force, at the present time, have not only achieved technical heights unattained by any other state as weapons of attack, but also in supplementary defense. Their operative commitment potential is insured by means of their organization and well-practiced leadership, which is better than in any other country. Their ammunitioning cannot be judged from an absolute, but only from a relative standpoint. Even today, after the conclusion of the Polish war, it is at least two or three times as great per gun as at the beginning of the year 1914. The AA ammunition supply for AA can be described as overprosperous. There is no evidence available to show that any country in the world disposes of better total ammunition stock than the German Reich. The preponderance of weapons that France today possesses lies exclusively in the province of heavier, but also older, mortars; and heavier, but at the same time mostly older, long-range artillery. These weapons are of no decisive significance whatsoever in mobile warfare. The superiority of Germany, on the contrary, consists as far as weapons are concerned, in its new light and medium caliber field artillery, in the great number of heavy infantry weapons, and in the overwhelming superiority in numbers of equipment with antitank weapons and devices, as well as the new machine gun and excellent ammunition.
The tank arm during operations in Poland surpassed the highest expectations. The air force at present is numerically the strongest in the world; the standard of training of the pilots is a maximum one. The superiority of German aircraft has not only been demonstrated in Poland, but is also being revealed by the battles in the West. The AA artillery is not equaled by any country in the world. Its supply of ammunition is, as already indicated, more than ample.
If it must be the aim of the German conduct of the war to destroy the active offensive and defensive forces of our opponents, then time is mostly in our favor so long as the development of British fighting power does not bring to France a new fighting element which would be psychologically and materially of great value to her. What must be prevented above all is that the enemy should make good the weakness of his own armaments particularly in antitank and AA, thereby creating a balance of power.
In this respect the passing of every further month represents a loss of time unfavorable to the German power of offensive. Also, from the psychological point of view, speed of action betokens a momentum, not to be underestimated, which is favorable to Germany and terrifying to her enemies. At present the German soldier is again the best in the world. His respect for himself is as great as the respect he commands from others. Six months of delaying warfare and effective propaganda on the part of the enemy might cause these important qualities to weaken once more.
The course of the campaign in Poland has not caused any kind of serious losses to the formations concerned. The losses in any unit do not even approach the average losses in one of the offensive or defensive battles in the west. This easily replaced casualty figure of at the most forty thousand men (of whom part of the wounded will soon be fighting fit, and which in any case is easily replaceable), is offset by war experience of both officers and men which never could be learned or replaced by any amount of peacetime maneuvers. As regards numbers, the strength of the German army forming up in the West is more favorable in proportion to that of the Anglo-French forces than was the case in the year 1914. This proportion, as already mentioned, can hardly grow less favorable to us in the future, as far as France is concerned, but it may well do so by the gradual arrival of English formations. Much as I refuse to overestimate the value of the present French army, I must at the same time issue a warning against underestimating the British formations. After a certain time their armament program will be accomplished by the demands upon the International industry at their disposal. At the very worst, there is the possibility of their being able to fall back on stocks of weapons remaining from the world war. That they can be employed in a defensive role is certain; for this purpose the English mentality is particularly suited in practice. Practically the appearance of numerous formations of English origin will make the withdrawal of the French people from the war more difficult and above all will weaken the argument, at present so effective from a psychological and propaganda point of view, that France's sacrifice in human lives is greater than that of England.
Therefore, in all circumstances, attack is to be preferred to defense as the decisive war-winning method. The start, however, cannot take place too early. The coming months will not lead to any important increase of our own offensive strength, but an important strengthening of the defensive strength of our enemies.
The German Attack
The German attack is to be mounted with the object of destroying the French army; but in any case it must create a favorable initial situation which is a prerequisite for a successful continuation of the war. In these circumstances the only possible area of attack is the sector between Luxemburg in the South and Nijmegen in the North, excluding the Liege fortress. The object of the two attacking groups thus formed is to attempt to penetrate the area of Luxemburg-Belgium-Holland in the shortest possible time, and to engage and defeat the opposing Belgian-French-English forces. Meanwhile an attempt should be made to maintain the assault on such broad fronts as will deny the formation of a coherent Anglo-British defensive front with their available forces. The policy will be to occupy only those towns and fortresses which are essential for the continuance of operations. The armored forces must be allotted tasks which will yield the best results, bearing in mind their characteristics. They are not to be lost amongst the maze of endless rows of houses in Belgium towns. It is not necessary therefore for them to attack towns at all, but it is essential for them to maintain the flow of the army's operative advance, to prevent fronts from becoming stable by massed drives through identified weakly held positions.
In view of the latest experiences gained in the Polish campaign I consider it valueless to launch an armored formation about in a northerly direction toward Antwerp as suggested. The task of the armored formations breaking through East and West of Liege will be one of mutual support, that is, by using their mobility either for the Southern column to facilitate the canal crossing for the Northern one, or for the Northern armored formations to assist the breakthrough of the armored divisions perhaps struggling South of Aachen by attacking the pillbox lines from the rear, after having achieved their own break-through. More important than the assault on Antwerp appears to me to be a rapid bypassing of it to the West, thereby preventing the withdrawal of the Belgian armed forces presumably concentrating there and thereby also severing the link between the British Expeditionary Corp probably operating there and the Belgian forces. As soon as Antwerp is cut off from the Wet, the city will be forced to capitulate in a very short time. Its closing off can be left to second- or third-rate troops.
It is impossible at this early stage to work out a more detailed plan of operation or to envisage or lay down ensuing events and the subsequent decisions and actions to be taken. It is, however, possible and imperative to be aware of the major objective right from the start, namely, to concentrate solely on the annihilation of the living enemy resources. If this should not succeed for reasons not clear at the moment, then the secondary objective will be to attempt to secure an area possessing favorable conditions for the successful conduct of a long drawn-out war -- if possible -- not only for the German Air Force, but also for the U-boat arm. Decision for the distribution of forces is, firstly, the realization that this plan of action under certain circumstances may result in a most rapid conclusion of the war, and that therefore there should be no limit to the number of troops employed in the operation and that, second, that third-rate troops will be required to fulfill many of the tasks originating during the operation. Secondly, that particularly in order to mount large-scale counterattacks, the enemy will be forced to employ only his really first rate formations and that after their subsequent repulse or even defeat, he will dispose of second- or third-rate divisions only. Finally, German forces are to be disposed so far as possible from the start with due attention to identified, estimated, or even likely enemy defenses or to the confirmed or estimated concentration of his defensive power. The holding and breaking of these counterattacks is to be considered and insured right from the planning stage of the complete operation, as far as personnel are concerned, by the allotment of weapons. The peculiar nature of this campaign may make it necessary to resort to improvisations to the uttermost, to concentrate attacking or defending forces at certain points in more than normal proportion (for example, tank or antitank forces), and in subnormal concentrations at others. If necessary, mass commitment of AA for defense or attack must be used. The effect of such a concentration of massed effort -- particularly of 8.8 cm -- will be terrible on attacking enemy tanks, advancing infantry or artillery. The execution of the actual operation demands the highest protection of our own skies by AA defenses and air cover. The conditions experienced in Poland are not to be compared with those which will occur in the West. On the other hand it will be the German Air Force's task not only to destroy or at least put out of action enemy air forces, but also primarily to hinder or prevent the enemy High Command from putting its decisions into effect.
To this end, thorough planning for a scheduled employment of ammunition is to be made. In general, enemy transport will not be attacked at the stations but on open lines, where a maximum effect can be achieved by low-level attack and minimum of explosive. In this way the object can be attained without the destruction of rolling stock, which is undesirable from our point of view. Repair possibilities on open stretches of line are incomparably harder than in stations because alternative tracks are lacking, and attacking aircraft are not subject to so much danger from AA fire. For this type of target the fastest types of aircraft, employed singly, if no others are available, are to be loaded with only few 10 or 50 kg bombs. The certain interruptions of a railway route is of more value than the shooting down of an enemy aircraft. Attacks on dense columns moving up from the rear, which are of no battle value but merely of supply value, do not need to cause demoralization but only the destruction of the columns themselves. 10 kg bombs suffice to destroy vehicles, to damage or wound wagons and horses, thereby creating blockages on the roads and obstructing the supply system. The demoralizing effect of bombs is to be employed mainly where required to break the enemy's offensive or defensive spirit. 50 kilogram or heavier bombs are to be used primarily in attacking gun positions, enemy infantry concentrations identified strong points, crowded woods, and columns moving forward to the attack. Attacks on actual towns are to be limited to an absolute minimum since it is not the intention to capture towns or fortresses immediately at all costs; artillery and bombers are to be employed with a maximum of economy. The object of all attacks is not the destruction of inert installations but the annihilation of living offensive or defensive forces. Reprisal raids for attacks on German cities will, initially at any rate, be carried out with very small numbers of aircraft. All those in charge of these impending operations must keep firmly fixed in their minds the fact that the destruction of the Anglo-French forces is the main objective, the attainment of which will enable suitable conditions to obtain for later and successful employment of the German Air Force. The brutal employment of the GAF against the heart of the British will-to-resist can and will follow at the given moment.
Time of Attack
The attack is to take place in all circumstances (if at all possible) this autumn. It is essential, therefore, to press on to the utmost with the refitting especially of the armored and motorized formations. It must be realized that in actual warfare in the future it will be impossible to lay up motor vehicles for 3 months after they have been in action for 4 weeks. Similarly, the replenishment of normal infantry divisions, with such small casualty losses as was the case in Poland, is to be limited to the shortest possible time. The advantage gained from a long rest period, in spite of all the training possible, will be less owing to the lack of actual battle-usage which would set in. The fresh "running-in" of formations by their staffs, and the embodiment of fresh personnel, is not to take longer than a fortnight in any division.
Most important is the maximum speed in setting-up the new formations already envisaged, risking the danger that they will not come up to standard of normal first-rate troops. One only needs to recall the condition of even first-class divisions after a long drawn-out battle, to be prepared to expect more modest requirements of newly set-up formations without at the same time doubting their employability in the field. The immediate withdrawal of the so-called fortress regiments and the Fortress Division Trier is essential, to be followed by their conversion into six infantry divisions, if need be on only 2 regiments each, or 3 regiments of 2 battalions each, if the third regiment cannot be formed by increasing or reorganizing the existing ones. An expansion of this sort may not be turned down by any formal objection; it is the same as the replacement of an infantry division which has been badly knocked about in major operations, with one difference only -- that during the World War these had to receive not just a third, but often two-thirds of replacement personnel within a fortnight, with officer casualties far exceeding this proportion. The establishment of division artillery has to be effected in a similar manner if necessary, by completing several companies of the army artillery with men and material from the reserve army, so that such a process requires only a small percentage of the army artillery itself.
To facilitate the assembly of a material reserve to meet any eventuality, the Eastern Army in particular is to be rapidly equipped with captured Polish and Czech weapons.
Preparation and disposition for this attack will be camouflaged by use of proven World War methods. For this purpose an accurate study of the methods used at that time and of the corresponding orders issued is recommended.
The time for the attack will be laid down according to the number of available formations and approximately suitable weather, the decisive factor being suitable conditions for tank and air warfare during the opening weeks. A successfully introduced offensive may be executed right into severe winter. The weather endurance of the French soldier is no better than that of the German. So far as the campaign does not assume, or if it loses, the character of positional warfare, the ideas "defender" and "attacker" cease to apply and instead there are left on both sides only marching and fighting soldiers. The employment of colored troops is absolutely impossible in the bad season. The German Air Force will lose operational importance the moment the enemy air forces as such will have been badly hit or destroyed. Otherwise the climatic conditions will have an equal effect on both sides. But the German is still the best bad-weather airman.
An offensive which does not aim at the destruction of the enemy forces from the start is senseless and leads to useless waste of human life. To attack with weak and insufficient forces is equally useless. In spite of this in the event of an early surprise attack by French formations against Belgian or Dutch territory -- a line North of Aachen and in Holland offering better defensive possibilities will be reached at all costs.
Finally at every hold-up, even during the big attack, construction of a defensive line in the rear will be begun, using the materials which otherwise would serve to reinforce the West Wall.
To be transmitted by officer only
Minutes of a Conference on 23 May 1939
Place: The Fuehrer's Study, New Reich Chancellery.
Adjutant on duty: Lt-Col. (G.S.) Schmundt.
Present: The Fuehrer, Field-Marshal Goering, Grand-Admiral Raeder. Col-Gen. von Brauchitsch, Col-Gen. Keitel, Col-Gen. Milch, Gen. (of Artillery) Halder, Gen. Bodenschatz, Rear-Adml. Schniewindt, Col. (G.S.) Jeschonnek, Col. (G.S.) Warlimont, Lt.-Col. (G.S.) Schmundt, Capt. Engel (Army), Lieut-Comd. Albrecht, Capt. v. Below (Army).
The Fuehrer defined as the purpose of the conference:
1. Analysis of the situation.
2. Definition of the tasks for the Armed Forces arising from the situation.
3. Exposition of the consequences of those tasks.
4. Ensuring the secrecy of all decisions and work resulting from these consequences.
Secrecy is the first essential for success.
The Fuehrer's observations are given in systematized form below.
Our present situation must be considered from two points of view:
1. The actual development of events between 1933-1939;
2. The permanent and unchanging situation in which Germany lies.
In the period 1933-1939, progress was made in all fields. Our military situation improved enormously.
Our situation with regard to the rest of the world has remained the same.
Germany had dropped from the circle of Great Powers. The balance of power had been effected without the participation of Germany.
This equilibrium is disturbed when Germany's demands for the necessities of life make themselves felt, and Germany re-emerges as a Great Power. All demands are regarded as "Encroachments". The English are more afraid of dangers in the economic sphere than of the simple threat of force.
A mass of 80 million people has solved the ideological problems. So, too, must the economic problems be solved. No German can evade the creation of the necessary economic conditions for this. The solution of the problems demands courage. The principle, by which one evades solving the problems by adapting oneself to circumstances, is inadmissible. Circumstances must rather be adapted to aims. This is impossible without invasion of foreign states or attacks upon foreign property.
Living space, in proportion to the magnitude of the state, is the basis of all power. One may refuse for a time to face the problem, but finally it is solved one way or the other. The choice is between advancement or decline. In 15 or 20 years' time we shall be compelled to find a solution. No German statesman can evade the question longer than that.
We are at present in a state of patriotic fervour, which is shared by two other nations: Italy and Japan.
The period which lies behind us has indeed been put to good use. All measures have been taken in the correct sequence and in harmony with our aims.
After 6 years, the situation is today as follows:
The national-political unity of the Germans has been achieved, apart from minor exceptions. Further success cannot be attained without the shedding of blood.
The demarkation of frontiers is of military importance.
The Pole is no "supplementary enemy". Poland will always be on the side of our adversaries. In spite of treaties of friendship, Poland has always had the secret intention of exploiting every opportunity to do us harm.
Danzig is not the subject of the dispute at all. It is a question of expanding our living space in the East and of securing our food supplies, of the settlement of the Baltic problems. Food supplies can be expected only from thinly populated areas. Over and above the natural fertility, thoroughgoing German exploitation will enormously increase the surplus.
There is no other possibility for Europe.
Colonies: Beware of gifts of colonial territory. This does not solve the food problem. Remember -- blockade.
If fate brings us into conflict with the West, possession of extensive areas in the East will be advantageous. Upon record harvests we shall be able to rely even less in time of war than in peace.
The population of non-German areas will perform no military service, and will be available as a source of labour.
The Polish problem is inseparable from conflict with the West.
Poland's internal power of resistance to Bolshevism is doubtful. Thus Poland is of doubtful value as a barrier against Russia.
It is questionable whether military success in the West can be achieved by a quick decision, questionable too is the attitude of Poland.
The Polish government will not resist pressure from Russia. Poland sees danger in a German victory in the West, and will attempt to rob us of the victory.
There is therefore no question of sparing Poland, and we are left with the decision:
To attack Poland at the first suitable opportunity.
We cannot expect a repetition of the Czech affair. There will be war. Our task is to isolate Poland. The success of the isolation will be decisive.
Therefore, the Fuehrer must reserve the right to give the final order to attack. There must be no simultaneous conflict with the Western Powers (France and England).
If it is not certain that a German-Polish conflict will not lead to war in the West, then the fight must be primarily against England and France.
Fundamentally therefore: Conflict with Poland -- beginning with an attack on Poland -- will only be successful if the Western Powers keep out of it. If this is impossible, then it will be better to attack in the West and to settle Poland at the same time.
The isolation of Poland is a matter of skillful politics.
Japan is a weighty problem. Even if at first for various reasons her collaboration with us appears to be somewhat cool and restricted, it is nevertheless in Japan's own interest to take the initiative in attacking Russia in good time.
Economic relations with Russia are possible only if political relations have improved. A cautious trend is apparent in Press comment. It is not impossible that Russia will show herself to be disinterested in the destruction of Poland. Should Russia take steps to oppose us, our relations with Japan may become closer.
If there were an alliance of France, England and Russia against Germany, Italy and Japan, I would be constrained to attack England and France with a few annihilating blows. The Fuehrer doubts the possibility of a peaceful settlement with England. We must prepare ourselves for the conflict. England sees in our development the foundation of a hegemony which would weaken England. England is therefore our enemy, and the conflict with England will be a life-and death struggle.
What will this struggle be like?
England cannot deal with Germany and subjugate us with a few powerful blows. It is imperative for England that the war should be brought as near to the Ruhr basin as possible. French blood will be spared (West Wall). The possession of the Ruhr basin will determine the duration of our resistance.
The Dutch and Belgian air bases must be occupied by armed force. Declarations of neutrality must be ignored. If England and France intend the war between Germany and Poland to lead to a conflict, they will support Holland and Belgium in their neutrality and make them build fortifications, in order officially to force them into cooperation.
Albeit under protest, Belgium and Holland will yield to pressure.
Therefore, if England intends to intervene in the Polish war, we must occupy Holland with lightning speed. We must aim at securing a new defense line' on Dutch soil up to the Zuider Zee.
The war with England and France will be a life-and-death struggle.
The idea that we can get off cheaply is dangerous; there is no such possibility. We must burn our boats, and it is no longer a question of justice or injustice, but of life or death for 80 million human beings.
Question: Short or long war?
Every country's armed forces or government must aim at a short war. The government, however, must also be prepared for a war of 10-16 years' duration.
History has always shown that the people have believed that wars would be short. In 1914, the opinion still prevailed that it was impossible to finance a long war. Even today this idea still persists in many minds. But on the contrary, every state will hold out as long as possible, unless it immediately suffers some grave weakening (e.g. Ruhr basin). England has similar weaknesses.
England knows that to lose a war will mean the end of her world power.
England is the driving force against Germany. Her strength lies in the following:
1. The British themselves are proud, courageous, tenacious, firm in resistance and gifted as organizers. They know how to exploit every new development. They have the love of adventure and bravery of the Nordic race. Quality is lowered by dispersal. The German average is higher.
2. World power in itself. It has been constant for 300 years. Extended by the acquisition of allies. This power is not merely something concrete, but must also be considered as a psychological force, embracing the entire world. 'Add to this immeasurable wealth, with consequential financial credit.
3. Geopolitical safety and protection by strong sea power and a courageous air force.
If in the World War I we had had two battleships and two cruisers more, and if the battle of Jutland had begun in the morning, the British fleet would have been defeated and England brought to her knees. It would have meant the end of World War. It was formerly not sufficient to defeat the fleet, landings had to be made in order to defeat England. England could provide her own food supplies. Today that is no longer possible.
The moment England's food supply routes are cut she is forced to capitulate. The import of food and fuel depend on the fleet's protection.
If the German Air Force attacks English territory, England will not be forced to capitulate in one day. But if the fleet is destroyed, immediate capitulation will be the result.
There is no doubt that a surprise attack can lead to a quick decision. It would be criminal, however, for the government to rely entirely on the element of surprise.
Experience has shown that surprise may be nullified by:
1. Betrayal from the wider circle of military experts.
2. Mere chance, which may cause the collapse of the whole enterprise.
3. Human incompetence.
4. Weather conditions.
The final date for striking must be fixed well in advance. Beyond that time the tension cannot be endured for long. It must be borne in mind that weather conditions can render any surprise intervention by Navy and Air Force impossible.
This must be regarded as a most unfavourable basis of action.
1. An effort must be made to deal the enemy a significant or the final decisive blow right at the start. Considerations of right and wrong, or treaties, do not enter into the matter. This will only be possible if we are not involved in a war with England on account of Poland.
2. In addition to the surprise attack, preparations for a long war must be made, while opportunities on the Continent for England are eliminated.
The army will have to hold positions essential to the Navy and Air Force. If Holland and Belgium are successfully occupied and held, and if France is also defeated, the fundamental conditions for a successful war against England will have been secured.
England can then be blockaded from Western France at close quarters by the Air Force, while the Navy with its submarines can extend the range of the blockade.
England will not be able to fight on the Continent;
Daily attacks by the Air Force and Navy will cut all her lifelines;
Time will not be on England's side;
Germany will not bleed to death on land.
Such strategy has been shown to be necessary by World War I and subsequent military operations. World War I is responsible for the following strategic considerations which are imperative:
1. With a more powerful Navy at the outbreak of the War, or a wheeling movement by the Army towards the Channel ports, the end would have been different.
2. A country cannot be brought to defeat by an Air Force. It is impossible to attack all objectives simultaneously and the lapse of time of a few minutes would evoke defensive counter-measures.
3. The unrestricted use of all resources is essential.
4. Once the army, in cooperation with the Air Force and Navy, has taken the most important positions, industrial production will cease to flow into the bottomless pit of the Army's battles and can be diverted to benefit the Air Force and Navy.
The Army must therefore be capable of taking these positions. Systematic preparation must be made for the attack.
Study to this end is of the utmost importance.
The aim will always be to force England to her knees.
A weapon will only be of decisive importance in winning battles, so long as the enemy does not possess it.
This applies to gas, submarines and the Air Force. It would be true of the latter for instance, as long as the English Fleet had no available counter-measures; it will no longer be the case in 1940-1941. Against Poland, for example, tanks will be effective, as the Polish Army possesses no counter-measures.
Where straight forward pressure is no longer considered to be decisive, its place must be taken by the elements of surprise and by masterly handling.
This is the plan of attack.
The plan demands:
1. A correct estimate of weapons and their effectiveness: e.g. (a) Battleship or aircraft carrier; which is the more effective? Individually or considered as a whole? The aircraft carrier is the better protection for a convoy.
(b) Is air attack more important on a factory than on a battleship? Where are bottle-necks in production located?
2. Immediate preparedness on the part of the Army. The Army must move straight from its peace stations to overrun neighboring states. [Literally: Neighbouring states must be overrun direct from barracks.]
3. A study of the enemy's weak points.
These studies must not be left to the General Staffs. Secrecy would no longer be guaranteed.
The Fuehrer has therefore decided to order the formation of a small planning staff at OKW. It will keep the Fuehrer informed and report to him.
The planning staff is responsible for the planning of operations on the highest level and of the technical preparations and organization necessarily required by the decision taken.
The purpose of certain regulations concerns no-one outside the staff.
However great are the increases in the armaments of our adversaries, they must, at some time, come to the end of their resources, and ours will be greater. French recruiting120000 men in each age class.
We shall not be forced into a war, but we shall not be able to avoid one.
Secrecy is the decisive requirement for success. Our object must be kept secret even from Italy or Japan. The break-through through the Maginot line is still a possibility for Italy, and must be studied. The Fuehrer considers that such a break-through is possible.
The close combination of the services, for the study of the problem in its entity, is important.
1. Study of the problem in its entity.
2. Study of the procedure.
3. Study of the necessary requirements.
4. Study of the necessary training.
The staff must include men with great imaginative power and the best technical knowledge, as well as officers of sober and sceptical judgment.
1. No one must be admitted who is not concerned.
2. No one may know more than it is necessary for him to know.
3. When must the person concerned know, at latest? No one may know of a matter earlier than is necessary for him to know of it.
At the request of Field Marshal Goering, the Fuehrer decrees that:
a. The various services shall decide what construction is to be undertaken.
b. There shall be no alterations in the shipbuilding program.
c. The armaments programs are to be considered with regards to 1943-1944.
Certified correct record
(Sgd) Schmundt, Lt Col.
9. A document introduced in evidence at Nuremberg purporting to be a record of a Hitler conference of May 23, 1939 (IMT, 79-L, 37:546-56) makes it appear as though Hitler had definitely decided on war by this time—against Poland, if he could be sure Britain and France would remain neutral; otherwise in the first instance against the West. The authenticity of this document is suspect, however, in particular its date, which was written on a covering note listing the names of the participants at the conference, some of whom, as was proved later, were not present. The document is typewritten and unsigned; it is not entered in the government document record, as was customary; and Hitler's statements recorded therein are at variance with other expressions of his opinions at this time found in documents of proven authenticity. See Hans-Günther Seraphim, "Nachkriegsprozesse und zeitgeschichtliche Forschung," in Mensch und Staat in Recht und Geschichte. Festschrift fur Herbert Kraus (Kitzingen am Main, 1954), pp. 448-50. Admiral Raeder, General Mulch, Captain von Below (Hitler's adjutant), who admitted being present at this May 23 conference, all testified after the war that the existing record of the conference was spurious. Their testimony does not mean much in itself, but it helps substantiate suspicions raised by the nature of the document. 1MT 14:38-39, 134; NOKW 3518.
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