valadezaj wrote:I don't see why Hitler's words are worthless.
Easy, my dear friend. Because to his inner circle and the commanders of the Wehrmacht he said something other than what he told the public.
[...]From the captured Nazi documents and from the testimony of many leading German figures in the great drama that was being played over the vast expanse of Western Europe that year, it is plain that at the very moment of Stalin’s monumental complacency Hitler had in fact been mulling over in his mind the idea of turning on the Soviet Union and destroying her.
The basic idea went back much further, at least fifteen years - to Mein Kampf.
And so we National Socialists [Hitler wrote] take up where we broke off six hundred years ago. We stop the endless German movement toward the south and west of Europe and turn our gaze toward the lands of the East ... when we speak of new territory in Europe today we must think principally of Russia and her border vassal states. Destiny itself seems to wish to point our the way to us here ... This colossal empire in the East is ripe for dissolution, and the end of the Jewish domination in Russia will also be the end of Russia as a state.
This idea lay like bedrock in Hitler’s mind, and his pact with Stalin had not changed it at all, but merely postponed acting on it. And but briefly. In fact, less than two months after the deal was signed and had been utilized to destroy Poland, the Führer instructed the Army that the conquered Polish territory was to be regarded “as an assembly area for future German operations.” The date was October 18, 1939, and Halder recorded that day in his diary.
Five weeks later, on November 22, when he harangued his reluctant generals about attacking in the West, Russia was by no means out of his mind. “We can oppose Russia,” he declared, “only when we are free in the West.” At that time the two-front war, the nightmare of German generals for a century, was very much on Hitler’s mind, and he spoke of it at length on this occasion. He would not repeat the mistake of former German rulers; he could continue to see to it that the Army had one front at a time.
It was only natural, then, that with the fall of France, the chasing of the British Army across the Channel and the prospects of Britain’s imminent collapse, Hitler’s thoughts should turn once again to Russia. For he now supposed himself to be free in the West and thereby to have achieved the one condition he had laid down in order to be in a position to “oppose Russia.” the rapidity with which Stalin seized the Baltic States and the two Romanian provinces in June spurred Hitler to a decision.
The moment of its making can now be traced. Jodl says that the “fundamental decision” was taken “as far back as during the Western Campaign.” Colonel Walter Warlimont, Jodl’s deputy at OKW, remembered that on July 29 Jodl announced at a meeting of Operations Staff officers that “Hitler intended to attack the U.S.S.R. in the spring of 1941.” Sometime previous to this meeting, Jodl related, Hitler had told Keitel “that he intended to launch the attack against the U.S.S.R. during the fall of 1940.” But this was too much even for Keitel and he had argued Hitler out of it by contending that not only the bad weather in the autumn but the difficulties of transferring the bulk of the Army from the West to the East made it impossible. By the time of this conference on July 29, Warlimont relates, “the date for the intended attack [against Russia] had been moved back to the spring of 1941.”
Only a week before, we know from Halder’s diary, the Führer had still held to a possible campaign in Russia for the autumn if Britain were not invaded. At a military conference in Berlin on July 21 he told Brauchitsch to get busy on the preparations for it. That the Army Commander in Chief had already given the problem some thought - but not enough thought - is evident from his response to Hitler. Brauchitsch told the Leader that the campaign “would last four to six weeks” and that the aim would be “to defeat the Russian Army or at least to occupy enough Russian territory so that Soviet bombers could not reach Berlin or the Silesian industrial area while, on the other hand, the Luftwaffe bombers could reach all important objectives in the Soviet Union.” Brauchitsch thought that from eighty to a hundred German divisions could do the job; he assessed Russian strength at “fifty to seventy-five good divisions.” Halder’s notes on what Brauchitsch told him of the meeting show that Hitler had been stung by Stalin’s grabs in the East, that he thought the Soviet dictator was “coquetting with England” in order to encourage her to hold out, but that he had seen no signs that Russia was preparing to enter the war against Germany.
At a further conference at the Berghof on the last day of July 1940, the receding prospects of an invasion of Britain prompted Hitler to announce for the first time to his Army chiefs his decision on Russia. Halder was personally present this time and jotted down his shorthand notes of exactly what the warlord said. They reveal not only that Hitler had made a definite decision to attack Russia in the following spring but that he had already worked out in his mind the major strategic aims.
Britain’s hope [Hitler said] lies in Russia and America. If that hope in Russia is destroyed then it will be destroyed for America too because elimination of Russia will enormously increase Japan’s power in the Far East.
The more he thought of it the more convinced he was, Hitler said, that Britain’s stubborn determination to continue the war was due to its counting on the Soviet Union.
Something strange [he explained] has happened in Britain! The British were already completely down. Now they are back on their feet. Intercepted conversations. Russia unpleasantly disturbed by the swift development in Western Europe.
Russia needs only to hint to England that she does not wish to see Germany too strong and the English, like a drowning man, will regain hope that the situation in six to eight months will have completely changed.
But if Russia is smashed, Britain’s last hope will be shattered. Then Germany will be master of Europe and the Balkans.
Decision: In view of these considerations Russia must be liquidated. Spring, 1941.
The sooner Russia is smashed, the better.
The Nazi warlord then elaborated on his strategic plans which, it was obvious to the generals, had been ripening in his mind for some time despite all his preoccupations with the fighting in the West. The operation, he said, would be worth carrying out only if its aim was to shatter the Soviet nation in one great blow. Conquering a lot of Russian territory would not be enough. “Wiping out the very power to exist of Russia! That is the goal!” Hitler emphasized. There would be two initial drives: one in the south to Kiev and the Dnieper River, the second in the north up through the Baltic States and then toward Moscow. There the two armies would make a junction. After that a special operation, if necessary, to secure the Baku oil fields. The very thought of such new conquests excited Hitler; he already had in his mind what he would do with them. He would annex outright, he said, the Ukraine, White Russia and the Baltic States and extend Finland’s territory to the White Sea. For the whole operation he would allot 120 divisions, keeping sixty divisions for the defense of the West and Scandinavia. The attack, he laid it down, would begin in May 1941 and would take five months to carry through. It would be finished by winter. He would have preferred, he said, to do it this year but this had not proved possible.
The next day, August 1, Halder went to work on the plans with his General Staff. Though he would later claim to have opposed the whole idea of an attack on Russia as insane, his diary entry for this day discloses him full of enthusiasm as he applied himself to the challenging new task.
Planning now went ahead with typical German thoroughness on three levels: that of the Army General Staff, of Warlimont’s Operations Staff at OKW, of General Thomas’ Economic and Armaments Branch of OKW. Thomas was instructed on August 14 by Göring that Hitler desired deliveries of ordered goods to the Russians “only till spring of 1941.” In the meantime his office was to make a detailed survey of Soviet industry, transportation and oil centers both as a guide to targets and later on as an aid for administering Russia.
A few days before, on August 9, Warlimont had got out his first directive for preparing the deployment areas in the East for the jump-off against the Russians. On August 26, Hitler ordered ten infantry and two armored divisions to be sent from the West to Poland. The panzer units, he stipulated, were to be concentrated in southeastern Poland so that they could intervene to protect the Romanian oil fields. The transfer of large bodies of troops to the East could not be done without exciting Stalin’s easily aroused suspicions if he learned of it, and the Germans went to great lengths to see that he didn’t. Since some movements were bound to be detected, General Ernst Köstring, the German military attaché in Moscow, was instructed to inform the Soviet General Staff that it was merely a question of replacing older men, who were being released to industry, by younger men. On September 6, Jodl got out a directive outlining in considerable detail the means of camouflage and deception. “These regroupings,” he laid it down, “must not create the impression in Russia that we are preparing an offensive in the East.”
So that the armed services should not rest on their laurels after the great victories of the summer, Hitler issued on November 12, 1940, a comprehensive top-secret directive outlining military tasks all over Europe and beyond. We shall come back to some of them. What concerns us here is that portion dealing with the Soviet Union.
Political discussions have been initiated with the aim of clarifying Russia’s attitude for the time being. Irrespective of the results of these discussions, all preparations for the East which have already been verbally ordered will be continued. Instructions on this will follow, as soon as the general outline of the Army’s operation plans have been submitted to, and approved by, me.
As a matter of fact, on that very day, November 12, Molotov arrived in Berlin to continue with Hitler himself those political discussions.
Source of quote: William Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich
, New York 1960, pages 795 and following
Emphasis are mine.
How Hitler could have felt menaced by Soviet military power is also hard to understand in the face of the military intelligence he had available, such as the following assessment by the Wehrmachtsabteilung Fremde Heere Ost
Feindbeurteilung vom 20.5.1941:
"Die Rote Armee steht mit der Masse der Verbände des europäischen Teils der UdSSR, d.h. mit rund 130 Schützendivisionen - 21 Kavalleriedivisionen - 5 Panzerdivisionen - 36 mot.-mech. Panzerbrigaden entlang der Westgrenze von Czernowitz bis Murmansk...Die Tatsache, dass bisher weit günstigere Gelegenheiten eines Präventivkrieges (schwache Kräfte im Osten, Balkankrieg) von der UdSSR nicht ausgenutzt wurden, ferner das gerade in letzter Zeit fühlbare politische Entgegenkommen und festzustellende Bestreben der Vermeidung möglicher Reibungspunkte lassen eine Angriffsabsicht unwahrscheinlich erscheinen... Grenznahe, zähe Verteidigung, verbunden mit Teilangriffen zu Beginn des Krieges und während der Operationen als Gegenangriffe gegen den durchgebrochenen Feind...erscheint aufgrund der politischen Verhältnisse und des bisher erkennbaren Aufmarsches am wahrscheinlichsten."
(Quelle: BA-MA Freiburg, RH 2/1983)
Source of quote:
Assessment of the Enemy, 20.5.1941:
"The Red Army stands with the mass of its units in the European part of the USSR, i.e. with about 130 rifle divisions - 21 cavalry divisions - 5 tank divisions - 36 motorized – mechanized tank brigades, along the western border from Czernowitz to Murmansk. The fact that hitherto far more advantageous opportunities for a preventive war (weak forces in the East, war in the Balkans) have not been taken advantage of by the USSR, furthermore the political condescension that has made itself especially felt more recently and the apparent endeavor to avoid possible points of friction, let the possibility of an attack seem improbable[emphasis mine]... Tough defense near the border, combined with partial attacks at the beginning of the war and during the operations as counterattacks against the enemy who has broken through ... are what in the face of the political situation and the so far recognizable order of battle seems most probable."
(Source: BA-MA [Bundesarchiv-Militärarchiv = Federal Archives-Military Archives of the FRG], Freiburg, RH 2/1983)
That German military intelligence saw Soviet military preparations as a defensive
reaction to the German troop concentrations along their border becomes apparent from an earlier report by the same department:
Lagebericht Nr.1 vom 15.3.1941:
"Seit der erkennbaren Verstärkung unserer Kräfte im Osten wurden folgende russische Maßnahmen festgestellt und bestätigt: 1.) Durchführung einer Teil-Mobilmachung...2.) Truppenverlegungen...sowie Marschbewegungen im Baltikum in Richtung auf die deutsche Grenze zeigen, dass die russischen Truppen z.Zt. an der Westgrenze aufschließen...Beurteilung: Teilmobilmachung und Aufschließen russischer Truppen zur Grenze ist Defensiv-Maßnahme und dient lediglich zur Verstärkung der Grenzsicherung."
(Quelle: BA-MA Freiburg, RH 19 III/722)
Source of quote: as above.
Situation Report No. 1 of 15.3.1941:
"Since the recognizable reinforcement of our forces in the East[emphasis mine] the following Russian measures have been verified and confirmed: 1.) A partial mobilization...2.) Transfer of troops...as well as marching movements in the Baltics in the direction of the German border show that the Russian troops are currently concentrating on the western border...Assessment: partial mobilization and concentration of Russian troops at the border is a defensive measure and is aimed merely at reinforcing border security[emphasis mine]."
(Source: BA-MA [Bundesarchiv-Militärarchiv = Federal Archives-Military Archives of the FRG], Freiburg, RH 19 III/722)
That Hitler did not
feel threatened also becomes apparent from the following entry that Goebbels made into his diary on 16 June 1941:
Der Führer schätzt die Aktion auf etwa 4 Monate, ich schätze auf weniger. Wir stehen vor einem Siegeszug ohnegleichen.
Source of quote: as above.
The Führer estimates that the action will take four months, I think it will be less. We are on the verge of a victory without parallel.
A pushover, in other words. A piece of cake.