(11/6/01 8:42:19 pm)
Reply Bartov's "Hitler's War": A criticism of some aspec
I read Bartov's book back in '94, and came away from the experience with highly mixed feelings. Some of his points are strong and original, and I believe he's barking up a lot of right trees. On the other hand, many aspects of his methodology and some of his conclusions I find open to strong criticism.
Bartov can be said to present at least three main theses:
1. The belief that the Wehrmacht was fundamentally unimplicated in nazi policies in the east, to a significant extent obstructed Fuhrer orders and generally fought a clean war is mythical
2. Both the officer corps and the rank and file of the Wehrmacht were generally deeply imbued with nazi ideas and ideals
3. The primary groups theory is untenable, and the chief cause of German military tenacity was draconian discipline and (nazi) ideology.
1) I agree with (and this IMO constitutes the chief contribution of the book). 2) I consider to be basically justified as a strong theory to a considerable degree, but I have strong objections both to Bartov's methodology and the logic of his argument. As regards 3) I find Bartov's case entirely unconvincing.
1. Not much to add really
2. As said, I consider the view that nazi ideology was to a considerable degree prevalent among broad sections of the Wehrmacht to be likely. Some of the examples cited by Bartov is convincing in this respect, and the strongest basis would perhaps be of the more general nature, above all the fact the army was bound to mirror the attitudes of civilian society to a large degree. I am however not impressed by Bartov's analysis, which makes an unconvincing argument for a largely credible case.
One of the main problems with Bartov's argument here is his definition (or rather lack of definition) of his object of inquiry, from which the logic of his argument proceeds. What exactly does it mean to say that the Wehrmacht was "nazified"? Logically, such an argument can only be made by demonstrating that the Wehrmacht possessed certain characteristics that it could not be convincingly expected to have had if Nazism had no strong influence on it. If not, the concept loses its meaning, becoming basically a tag applied to whatever traits the Wehrmacht can be shown to have possessed. Consequently such an analysis can only be carried out successfully in a comparative context - i.e., by also considering other factors of influence and determining to the extent possible their relative weight.
On page 107, Bartov writes: "The central themes of Nazi ideology......had much affinity with the army's own modes of thinking....This was no coincidence, for just as many of the Nazi ideas originated in the military, so it seemed to a growing number of officers only natural to reintroduce them back into the army in the more radical, Nazified form".
With the exception of the more debatable last point, this is of course basically true. What Bartov fails to see is that this is in fact an obstacle to his analytical task rather than an asset. It requires the difficult task of trying to differentiate between ideas who in some respects possess many striking if sometimes superficial similarities. If that task is left unpursued, you will end up describing as "nazi" traits which the German military possessed before nazism existed and would in all likelihood have possessed if nazism never got beyond the beerhalls of Munich. In such a case, the term "nazi" will tend towards synonymity with the term "German military", which basically empties the former term of meaning and fundamentally defeats the basic aim of the whole analysis. This is precisely what Bartov proceeds to do, and the resulting flaws become apparent in a number of instances.
One is his use of quotations from letters etc. - basically a methodology of textual interpretation. Since my academic background is in history of ideas, I am accustomed to this sort of activity, trying to trace the impact of ideas on individuals and searching for traces of their influence in texts. It is by nature a delicate analytical task, and as anyone with broad experience of it will know, it requires constant vigilance and self-discipline to avoid distortion, because similarities that may easily be incidental can always be interpreted as essential. The presence in any given text of thoughts or ideas that corresponds to ideas held by a certain other body of thought does not neccessarily imply any strong kinship, and ultimately, a thesis of such kinship can only be convincingly established either through recourse to biography (such as person A being known to explicitly state his admiration for X body of thought) or by a thorough demonstration that the similarities are too many, too fundamental and too characteristic of one assumed source of influence as distinguished from others to allow any other conclusion. A certain tentativeness will in any case always be present in any conclusions.
By these standards, Bartov's analysis is an absolute nightmare. I realise that the ideological outlook of millions of soldiers cannot possibly be subjected to anything like the same close scrutiny as, say, the influence of Nietzsche on Heidegger, but this should also call for a certain humility in the conclusions reached.
In the chapter "The demodernization of the front", Bartov cites a number of passages from soldier's letters. To anyone familiar with German literature, philosophy, politics and military thought, these abound in wholly unsurprising passages evoking immediate associations to the traditional military ethos, to the influential heroic vitalism of Jünger and Nietzsche, to the sort of national idealism that was a mainstay of German identity and education since 1870 - in short, with the exception of some allusions to the Fuhrer and the concept of "race", they are passages typical of the idealistic and reflective terms in which German writing about war, personal as well as literary, had persistently been couched for 150 years. Most of them would not have looked out of place if attributed to an officer of the Napoleonic wars or a volunteer of 1914. Bartov's wholly unconvincing summation is the following: "German soldiers now accepted the Nazi vision of war as the only one applicable to their situation. It was at this point that the Wehrmacht finally became Hitler's Army". The point at which one could have BEGUN to make a useful analysis of nazification is where you get passages that are atypical of this historic normality or where historically typical ideas and phrases displays a significantly changed emphasis or tone that is attributable to nazi ideology.
The same basic problem pertains to the nature of German anti-partisan operations, who certainly were ruthless, brutal and involved reprisals and killing of civilians on a large and consistent scale. While this was certainly a policy that would be expected of a nazified army, it was also in fact basically the policy of the Kaiserheer. The experience with Franc-tireurs (partisans) in the 1870 war, which enraged German concepts of military legitimacy, led the German Army to rely on ruthless retribution in the face of such opposition, as evidenced by the many savage acts of reprisal carried out in Belgium and France during WWI, including the infamous "sack of Louvain". The policy in WWII was different in scope (as was the partisan menace), but to a large extent not in nature. This does not amount to saying that the Ostheer's anti-partisan operations were wholly unconnected with nazi ideological beliefs, but it does put certain limits on invoking them as proof of nazification, as operations along the same basic lines would have been expected of any German army, nazi or not, of the time. Bartov does not consider or mention this at all. Again, a more meaningful approach would be comparative: How did the anti-partisan operations in the east significantly differ from those of the Kaiserheer, and which of these differences can be convincingly shown to be fundamentally attributable to nazi ideology?
My basic accusation against Bartov is thus that he carries out a crude analysis using an inadequate methodology, leading him to draw conclusions who are more sweeping than his material allows. The problems this causes is compounded by the fact that he proceeds to use these conclusions as the basis for a further argument which stretches simplicity dangerously close to misrepresentation. His basic argument: The views expressed by German soldiers on the nature of the conflict and specific aspects of it have (he claims) been demonstrated to be ideologically founded. "Ideological" in this case is fully equated to "nazi", and thus also to "distortion of reality". He points to a number of statements, beliefs and facts to justify the pervasive presence of truth-distorting ideology. Some of these are explicitly nazi, others clearly owe much to nazi influence. Several however are of the following character:
- The belief that a Soviet advance into Germany would mean frightful consequences for German civilians
- The conviction that Soviet captivity entailed terrible consequences, and should be avoided if at all possible
- The greater willingness to surrender to western troops than to Soviet
- The belief that defeat would mean the dismemberment of Germany and the collapse of Germany as a great power
All of the above beliefs would be wholly unsusprising in a nazi. However, they also happen to be largely true, even if partially exaggerated and accompanied by stereotyping, and it hardly seems reasonable to simply assume, as Bartov seems to do, that they can have no justification whatsoever beyond ideological indoctrination. Could a German soldier who could not be called a nazi be expected to possess these views? IMO, it is fairly obvious that the answer would be yes. In this aspect, Bartov actually turns the whole argument around. The presence of beliefs attributed to nazi ideology on insufficiently justified grounds is in itself invoked as proof of the pervasiveness of nazi ideology. Again, a good analysis would need to dispense with the axiomatic equation of prevalent beliefs with "Distortion of reality", and take into account other possible and likely motivating factors beyond ideology.
to briefly sum up: Bartov's failure to invoke any kind of comparative context fatally undermines his analysis, and fundamentally does not allow him to discuss the degree of nazification in the Ostheer in a meaningful way. He becomes a victim of the "closedness" of his model. This is all the greater pity as his subject is well worth analysing, and all the more wasted as I believe a better analysis would to a considerable extent have yielded conclusions not too dissimilar to his own in this particular area.
This has become an extremely long post already (and I don't know if anyone will be able to bear working through it), so Bartov's treatment of the primary groups issue will have to wait.
(11/6/01 8:44:07 pm)
That should, of course, have been "Hitler's Army", not "Hitler's War". One gets sloppy after the effort of writing too long posts.
(11/7/01 7:11:12 pm)
Reply Re: whoops
Thanks for the excellent analysis of Bartov's book, with which I mostly agree.
I also consider Bartov's theses on the destruction of primary groups in the Ostheer and the nazification of the armed forces to be somewhat beyond the conclusions that his evidence would justify.
Where I largely agree with Bartov, on the other hand, is in his considerations in Chapter 3 - The Perversion of Discipline. I think that Bartov has made a good point in showing that both the wanton and the systematic brutality of the German Ostheer towards prisoners of war and the civilian population, which went far beyond what could be explained by the brutality inherent to the battlefield or by the partisan menace, were the product of a system of command and indoctrination that condoned and even encouraged the soldiers' seeing their enemy and the civilian population as devilish Untermenschen and treating them accordingly. I would also agree with his assessment that the coherence of the Ostheer was largely due to the unrestricted license to kill that the soldiers enjoyed, coupled with the severe punishments for failure to show proper performance in combat that they were subject to. The key passage expressing this assessment is on page 71 in chapter 3 of the 1992 Oxford University Press edition of Hitler's Army:
"The tough demands of the fighting made for a growing incidence of attempts to evade the battlefield, while the view of the front as the spearhead of a quasi-religious, anti-Bolshevik and 'racial' crusade meant that such offenders came to be considered as the personal enemies of the Führer and the betrayers of the Volk, therefore deserving punishment by death. Because they were fighting against Untermenschen, the troops were allowed to treat them with great brutality; but because these same Untermenschen threatened Germany, indeed the whole of Western culture and civilization, with a diabolical invasion, refusing to confront them relegated one to their own level. These two spheres of the troops' conduct in the East were physically and psychologically connected. Under permanent threat of draconian punishment by his superiors if he shrank away from the lethal realities of the front, the individual soldier's compensation was his ability to wield the same destructive power against enemy civilians and POWs. To his officers, he was expendable the moment he ceased to fulfill his functions; to the population, he was the embodiment of the Herrenrasse, standing above the law, deciding about death and life according to the dictates of his whim."
(11/10/01 11:50:29 pm)
Reply Bartov pt II: Primary Groups
Roberto - thanks for your comments. Sorry for not addressing them directly in the following, I will try to get back to that. But for now I'm sticking to the originally envisaged plan of progress.
1. "The demodernization of the front".
Here Bartov introduces what is in many ways a useful concept. It captures well the way in which the nature of the fighting in the east changed from late autumn 1941 and onwards. There is nothing in the outlook of the Ostheer as such to suggest it - indeed, the army started Barbarossa with a significantly increased number of motorised formations compared to the camapign in the west in 1940. But as the German advances ground to a halt, the motorised formations ceased to dictate the tempo and nature of operations, and to bear the brunt of the decisive fighting. Increasingly, it became the case that the outcome was settled by the large number of foot infantry divisions manning the German line. Indeed, even mobile formations were in many cases deployed in much the same role. Thus the basic nature of the fighting in the east derived from the experience of what was basically a somewhat less static form of trench warfare. The harsh conditions of Russia added to this picture.
Bartov seems to assume that this, together with the casualties issue which will be addressed later, works against the formation and maintenance of primary groups. I would argue that the opposite is likely to have been the case as regards demodernisation.
In chapter 2, Bartov presents a picture of the fighting in the east as a constant whirlwind of supremely costly actions. Needless to say, this was not always or even generally the case. Significant parts of the front remained more or less static for very long periods of time, and even in sectors where the fighting was intensive, periods of hard fighting were broken by prolonged lulls. Typically, units would spend very long periods in the front line, in prepared positions under difficult physical conditions with varying degrees of combat intensity. This is in fact exactly the kind of circumstances under which strong bonds within small groups are most likely to develop. Day-to-day survival under harsh circumstances in static positions, where danger is ever-present but fighting only sporadical, will tend to foster strong group loyalties for obvious human reasons. The simple task of making life bearable under primitive conditions requires the submission of the individual to the greater good and co-operative effort, the combination of monotony, hardship, separation from loved-ones and relative inactivity is best and most intuitively dealt with by belonging to a small community, and these factors are a stronger and a more direct impetus towards development of small group loyalty than combat efficiency is. Stephen G. Fritz's "Frontsoldaten", based largely on research into soldier's letters as well as memoirs (and which is IMO a far more insightful analysis of this kind than Bartov's), is one work that bears out this point. IMO, the demodernisation of the front is in itself an argument in favor of the continued relevance of the primary group rather than the opposite.
2. East vs West
Another argument of a more indirect nature that Bartov advances against the primary groups theory is a comparative one between the eastern and western fronts. In the east, says Bartov, the casualty drain was much stronger than in the west, thus permitting a greater degree of primary group survival in the west. And yet, there was less last-ditch resistance there than in east. This indicates that ideology and draconian discipline must have been the stronger factor.
Let us examine this supposition. Bartov claims on p.45 that while the eastern front claimed an average of over 200,000 soldiers per month in the last six months of 1944, only about 8,000 men on average were lost in the west, which seems to provide a solid foundation for his claims (and which constitutes his only attempt to back up this particular assertion with figures). His source is the OKW war diary. Consulting the reference he provides in fact makes it clear that while the western number of 8000 is correct as far as KIA is concerned, the corresponding figure for the east is 20,000 (20,611 to be precise), not 200,000! A slightly more benevolent reading would assume that the figure 200,000 is derived from total average monthly casualties (KIA+MIA+wounded, which works out to ca. 205,000) in the east. If this is the case, Bartov is comparing total casualties in the east with the number of German soldiers KIA in the west during the same period... The corresponding number for the west is ca. 100,000. This is of course still significantly less than in the east, but relative to the size of the forces deployed, the loss ratio is actually higher in the west, as Nicklas Zetterling has also pointed out in his "Normandy 1944". So much for Bartov's claim about the qualitatively different intensity of the fighting in the east.
But the east/west difference is important to Bartov in more ways than this. He makes much out of the fact that resistance in the east was significantly more determined in the final months of the war than was the case in the west, and that German units went to great lengths to surrender to western units rather than the Russians. As pointed out in my first post, there were relatively good reasons for this beyond ideological stereotyping, and I don't think any intelligent person has ever claimed that most German soldiers did not feel a more fundamental sense of enmity towards their enemies in the east than was the case in the west. But this is far from sufficient to serve as a general theory to explain the fundamental cause of the Ostheer's continued cohesion. Especially as there is little if anything to support any notion that the Wehrmacht fought with less determination in the west than it did in the east prior to the final months of the war.
This is the crux of Bartov's argument, which is basically that losses were so high and so constant in the east as to make it practically impossible to maintain any primary group identity over significant periods of time. German losses in the east certainly were heavy - more than 6 million up until the end of March 1945 (although by far the largest category is wounded, a large proportion of whom can be expected to have returned to duty, 4 million seems a more reasonable number for total write-off losses). His argument is difficult to get a clear handle on, making it difficult to assess either way. His arguments are of an almost entirely incidental nature - he cites various unit reports and details several individual cases that may or may not be representative. In some of the instances he cites, such as 12th Infantry Division's loss rate at Demyansk and the attendant troubles of fighting with large numbers of recently arrived replacements, it is clear that primary groups must to a large extent have been destroyed. Again, it is more questionable whether this is a representative case. It really only shows that in periods of very heavy casualties, problems of combat efficiency ensue. The war in the east was not of a uniformly intensive nature everywhere and at all times, and while it taxed the German replacement system beyond it's capabilities, it remains unproven, and IMO unlikely, that it generally made the maintenance of effective small unit cohesion impossible. I also think Bartov seriously underestimates the ease and speed with which primary groups reestablished themselves whenever the fighting died down sufficiently to allow it, like any social structure will when there is a strong mutual need for it.
Perhaps the strongest argument against discounting primary groups is the continued fighting efficiency of the Ostheer, understood as the ratio in which it inflicted casualties on it's opponent relative it's own. While this ratio drops as the war progresses (reflecting both the increasingly unfavourable general situation and improved Soviet combat skills), it is still 3.53:1 in 1944 (source; Zetterling, Normandy 1944, who bases his numbers on Krivosheev and a report of the Heeresarzt OKH). Even Operation Bagration, possibly the worst catastrophe to engulf the Ostheer during the course of the camapign and in which a whole army group was destroyed, claimed roughly twice as many Soviet casualties as German. While ideology and draconian discipline could conceivably account for German tenacity, they cannot account for German skill, which were ultimately grounded in the kind of tactical flexibility that to a large extent depended on small-unit cohesion. It is in this context worth noting that the emphasis the German system placed on primary groups was not simply due to its motivational effects, but also because it was a indispensable prerequisite for the functioning of fighting methods to which flexible cooperation on all levels were an inherent neccessity.
Generally speaking, I think it is safe to say that the picture that emerges from any wide-ranging study into the subject of the German Army is that it fought with tenacity, determination and skill, in the east as in the west. Bartov's theories, even without considering the weaknesses in his arguments, simply does not account adequately for this fact. It cannot explain why the German Army fought with consistent determination in the west prior to the final months of the war (and with occasional determination even then), in spite of casualty ratios comparable to or exceeding those in the east, or why it continued to fight with such skill everywhere. The primary groups theory can.
That being said, I do not believe primary groups to be the whole explanation either, and while I think Bartov clearly fails in his critique of this theory and that it reamins a far more useful explanatory framework than his own, some of his ideas have some merit. However - all posts must and should come to an end eventually, and this one does so here and now.
(11/20/01 2:32:28 pm)
Reply Re: Roberto
Hello Roberto, it's been a while since this was posted, sorry for taking some time to reply.
You wrote: "Where I largely agree with Bartov, on the other hand, is in his considerations in Chapter 3 - The Perversion of Discipline. I think that Bartov has made a good point in showing that both the wanton and the systematic brutality of the German Ostheer towards prisoners of war and the civilian population, which went far beyond what could be explained by the brutality inherent to the battlefield or by the partisan menace, were the product of a system of command and indoctrination that condoned and even encouraged the soldiers' seeing their enemy and the civilian population as devilish Untermenschen and treating them accordingly."
I am currently looking into this aspect (as well as the one mentioned below), but I would agree that to the extent that Bartov's assumptions about nazification are correct, this is the area where one would expect it to manifest itself most clearly.
Furthermore, you wrote: "I would also agree with his assessment that the coherence of the Ostheer was largely due to the unrestricted license to kill that the soldiers enjoyed, coupled with the severe punishments for failure to show proper performance in combat that they were subject to."
This is a different matter. The discipline aspect first: I am sceptical towards the idea that what Bartov calls "draconian discipline" really warrants the special emphasis he places upon it in a specifically eastern context. It was obviously an important factor in the maintenance of coherence (as it generally is in all armies in time of war to a considerable extent). Linking strict punishments with a licence to kill and deriving from this positive motivation immediatly appears to me to be a somewhat perverse conclusion, and to put it gently, a highly speculative one. Regarding brutalities against prisoners/civilians as a compensatory phenomenon, a way to let off steam so to speak, as a way of dealing with an environment that was perceived as fundamentally hostile and alien in every way - now that is one thing, considered as a plausible starting point. But to derive from this the basic will to fight amounts to postulating that what basically drove the German soldier in the east was a fundamental and heart-felt active desire to commit as many and as terrible atrocities as possible. I am not much prone to delusions about the inherent goodness of man, nor about his powers of resistance against indoctrination and group pressure, but the counterintuitive nature of such a notion is so strong as to almost warrant it's dismissal on the grounds of inherent unreasonability. It is a far-fetched notion employed to explain phenomena that can far more plausibly be explained differently, and on top of that, unconvincingly argued. One flaw that can immediatly be pointed out from the section you quote, is that by the logic Bartov employs, it would be frontline troops who to the greatest extent would "need" to commit atrocities against POWs and civilians. This does not tally well with the fact that atrocities by and large were far more likely to take place behind the front line, and to be committed by troops not in front line service (the majority of whom were not combat units on temporary R&R) . If Bartov's explanation holds good, you would expect the picture to be the reverse.
(11/20/01 5:47:01 pm)
Reply Mistreatment of POW's
"atrocities by and large were far more likely to take place behind the front line, and to be committed by troops not in front line service (the majority of whom were not combat units on temporary R&R)" .
Mistreatment of POW's is in 90% of the cases commited in the rear areas, IN ALL armies. In fact, war memories of former POW's , all along widely different periods since the Napoleonic Wars, systematically show that POW's were usually decently treated just after capture, but that their condition worsened when they were moved to the rear. 'Real' front line soldiers, even if they happen to be enemies, tend to become a different breed, even in the Ostfront. And this applies to Heer and Russian soldiers as well as British or American.
(11/22/01 5:01:42 pm)
Reply Batov is apologist for Stalin and Beria
1-many documents on which Bartov based his claims are soviet especilly NVKD forgeries(infact after capture of Berlin Headquarters of German army NVKD destroyed many important Heers Document and placed them with forged documents and many nuremburg judgement were based on it)
2-The real purpose of Bartov is not of Historical research but to Supress Soviet War Crimes and he has success to large extent.infact critical examination of bartov's book it appears that he is nothing but apologist for beria and stalin.
3-The nazification of german army is nothing but communist propoganda it is a sheer fact that most of top core of Heers was opposed to hitler and it is proved by Colonel stauffenbergs unsuccessful coup on contary it was stalins purges which had politised soviet army which was reason for soviet forces committing crimes on vast scale in Germany in fact Bartov here is quiet successful in supressing this fact by using bogey og nazification of heers.
4-Wehermacht was much better force when it came to treatment civilians than soviet red army in fact on eastern front wehermacht punished some 40,000/- of its men for commiting crimes against civilians compare this with red-army how many red army men were punished for commiting crimes against german civilians -the answer is none.
Infact i would regard Bartov as nothing but apologist for Beria and Stalin than a serious scholar of Wehermacht.
(11/22/01 6:49:03 pm)
Reply Re: Batov is apologist for Stalin and Beria
1. I have read Bartov's book, and I found nothing there to support your assertion that his intention is to suppress Soviet war crimes, for which you seem to hold a rather bizarre obsession. On the contrary. If he points out that even
the Red Army was more successful in controlling its men once they entered German territory than the Wehrmacht had been in Russia - the only reference to the Red Army that I found in his book - he is acknowledging that the Red Army was a rather wild bunch, isn't he?
2. I would like to see the source of your assertion that "on eastern front wehermacht punished some 40,000/- of its men for commiting crimes against civilians". That would be about 10 % of the Wehrmacht soldiers who were involved in atrocities according to Rolf-Dieter Müller - he gives the percentage at 5 %, which assuming 8 million German soldiers fighting on the Eastern Front would mean that 400,000 were involved in atrocities (the percentage is Müller's, the subsequent calculations are my own), but I still find your figure hard to believe in the face of the Fuehrer Decree of 13 May 1941 on Regulation of Conduct of Troops in District "Barbarossa" and Handling of Opposition, which contained the following key passages:
"For offenses committed by members of the Wehrmacht and its employees against enemy civilians, prosecution is not compulsory, not even if the offense is at the same time a military crime or violation."
If I well remember, there was an order by Keitel dated 16.12.1942 which went even further: It stated that in fighting partisans the German soldier was entitled to employ without restriction any means, even against women and children, and expressly forbade the prosecution of German soldiers on account of atrocities committed against civilians in the course of anti-partisan actions. An earlier order from Keitel, dated 16 September 1941, had already been quite explicit in this respect:
"To nip the plots in the bud the most drastic means are to be employed immediately at the first provocation in order to make the authority of the occupation force prevail and to prevent further spreading. Attention should be paid to the fact that a human life in the countries concerned often means nothing and only by unusual severity can a deterrent effect be achieved. In these cases the life of one German soldier must be atoned for by the death sentence for 50 to 100 communists, as a rule. The manner of execution shall further increase the deterrent effect."
Emphasis is mine.
As to the Red Army, do you have any data about how many soldiers were punished for crimes against German civilians? I don't think you have. Neither have I, but I know the Red Army was proficient in shooting its own soldiers for even minor offenses, and I assume that, as soon as the Soviet high command realized that the wild orgies of plunder, rape and murder threatened troop discipline and fighting capacity, it stepped in with its usual draconic measures. I know of one instance, it happened in Leipzig shortly after the war, where a Red Army private was court-martialled and summarily shot for having taken a bicycle away from a young girl.
If the number of punishments was smaller, so was the number of atrocities. How many German civilians were killed by Red Army troops when they entered Germany? The highest figure I've been able to find is 200,000 (whether for the whole Reich or only for East Prussia, site of most killings, seems to be unclear) according to Nikolai Tolstoy - so quoted by R.J.Rummel on the table under
The number of Soviet civilians killed by German forces, including Wehrmacht units, was many times higher.
The partisan war alone accounted for about 1,000,000 victims in Russia, Belorussia and the Ukraine, mostly civilians (Richard Overy, Russia's War, page 151). 345,000 people were killed in the course of anti-partisan actions in Belorussia alone, according to Christian Gerlach's Kalkulierte Morde.
The number of Soviet civilians who starved or froze to death because German troops deprived them of the basic essentials for survival - food and clothing - ran into millions.
So did the number of Soviet prisoners of war who were either executed or died of starvation and exposure in German camps, mostly in the winter of 1941/42. The mass murder of Soviet prisoners of war was mostly a Wehrmacht matter.
Wehrmacht troops also assisted the Einsatzgruppen in the slaughter of the Jews, by rounding up Jews and sealing off the killing areas, and they killed at least 60,000 Jews on their own.
These are the facts, and I would like to make very clear that I'm not trying to play down or condone the horrible atrocities committed by Soviet troops on German soil towards the end of the war. Neither is it my intention to demonize the Wehrmacht, 95 % of the soldiers and officers of which were not involved in atrocities. I just don't like this "noble Wehrmacht vs. evil Red Army" distortion of the facts. It was a merciless, atrocious ideological war on both sides, with the lion's share of atrocities on the side of the German forces, Wehrmacht included.
(11/22/01 6:54:23 pm)
Reply Re: Roberto
After this long speech to wildboar, I'll make my reply to you very brief.
You have convinced me that Bartov does not provide an adequate explanation for either the fighting cohesion of the German army on the Eastern Front or the atrocities committed against prisoners of war and the civilian population.
As a matter of fact, most German atrocities in the Soviet Union occurred in the rear areas and not at the front line, which runs contrary to Bartov's theory that draconian discipline coupled with the possibility to "let off steam" against POW's and civilians was what kept the front-line troops going.
(11/22/01 7:03:07 pm)
I'm mainly with Roberto on this one.
1. On what do you base the assumption that Bartov is operating mainly on NKVD-forged sources? As far as I can see, his primary sources are mainly German, mostly from the Bundesarchiv, and to some extent from the OKW KTB and reference works.
2. I see no reason to assume that Bartov's real reason is to excuse soviet crimes, especially as this is a subject he barely touches upon, at least as far as HA is concerned.
3. I think there is somewhat more to the thesis of nazification than "communist propaganda", and however important Stauffenberg's coup, it is clearly not a sufficient illustration of this aspect alone.
4. "Wehermacht was much better force when it came to treatment civilians than soviet red army". Well, I'd like to see some serious evidence for that claim. I think it would be hard to find.
and Roberto - I'm still waiting with some interest for your comments to my comments to your comments
(11/22/01 7:05:15 pm)
You must have posted while I wrote my reply to Wildboar. Thanks for your comments. That goes for Wildboar and Fridolin as well.
(11/28/01 12:08:14 am)
Bartov has another book:
"The Eastern Front, 1941-45 : German Troops and the Barbarisation of Warfare"
Which apparently came out in September of 2001; maybe he addresses the issues in question there.
(11/28/01 12:46:56 am)
I know, i have it on order from amazon and await it impatiently. Thanks anyway.