German generals' warnings to Hitler about overconfidence in German victory over UK and USSR

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Peter89
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Re: German generals' warnings to Hitler about overconfidence in German victory over UK and USSR

Post by Peter89 » 21 May 2021 20:13

historygeek2021 wrote:
21 May 2021 16:23
Peter89 wrote:
20 May 2021 18:14

Long story short: even it is uncertain, IF the Germans are able to protect the Soviet foodstuff and agricultural machinery from destruction, and able to reap a 70% harvest, and the foodstuff quotas of 160 million of Soviet people are lowered, THEN can be a significant quantity of food obtained from the Soviet Union. Under these prerequisites is it possible, to cover the German needs for 1941-1942.

Your translation of the quote is far more pessimistic than that given by the source you cited:
Even if it appears uncertain as to whether the M.T.S. [Machine and Tractor Stations] and supplies can be protected from destruction in large amounts, if, moreover, as a result of the effects of war, a harvest of 70% at the most can be expected, it must be considered that the Russian is accustomed to adapting his needs to poor harvests and that with a population of 160 million, even a small reduction of the consumption per head would free up considerable quantities of grain.

Under these circumstances, it could be possible to meet the German shortfall for 1941 and 1942.
https://books.google.es/books?id=2rJqy2 ... &q&f=false

It doesn't seem like there are any actual warnings in the memo, at least none that you've quoted. The above quote is saying that even if things go bad (e.g., even if Germany is unable to capture Russian farming equipment and even if the Russian harvest is at most 70%), then Germany's food situation will still be fine. That isn't a warning. That is an encouragement for Hitler to invade the Soviet Union so that Thomas can be made economic dictator in the east.
We have a very different view of that document, which is fine.
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historygeek2021
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Re: German generals' warnings to Hitler about overconfidence in German victory over UK and USSR

Post by historygeek2021 » 21 May 2021 21:01

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
21 May 2021 20:10
While Blau was a deeper offensive than German logistical resources could justify, to the extent that Fromm implied a 1942 defensive on the Eastern Front he's just wrong. Nothing would have been more disastrous for Germany. They would not have inflicted Blau's massive economic/demographic damage and would have forfeited >1mil PoW's. By the end of 1942, RKKA would have been massively stronger and Ostheer would have been back at least to the Dniepr.

Blau was a bad plan but Fromm's strategy was worse.

Interesting. Can you refer us to any authors who elaborate on this view? (Yes, I know you can think for yourself, I'm just asking if there are any secondary sources that explore this scenario for my own casual reading.)

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Re: German generals' warnings to Hitler about overconfidence in German victory over UK and USSR

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 21 May 2021 23:43

historygeek2021 wrote:
21 May 2021 21:01
TheMarcksPlan wrote:
21 May 2021 20:10


Blau was a bad plan but Fromm's strategy was worse.

Interesting. Can you refer us to any authors who elaborate on this view? (Yes, I know you can think for yourself, I'm just asking if there are any secondary sources that explore this scenario for my own casual reading.)
I can't think of any published authors who explicitly address the counterfactual "Ostheer defensive in '42."

For discussion of the non-battlefield damage inflicted by Blau, Harrison's Soviet Planning in Peace and War has points about the '42 evacuations and decline in industrial output.

Of course many historians will say or imply that Blau was quixotic, pointing to the relative numerical weakness of Ostheer in '42. But they won't say what else should have been done.

History is the only intellectual genre in which one can say "X was a bad decision" without feeling any responsibility whatsoever to defend the choice "not X." Indeed the hostility to counterfactual reasoning within the profession is intended, I suspect, to protect historians from doing difficult analysis and from being evaluated on terms as exacting as other intellectuals. Historians' ranks include some some very dim bulbs.
https://medium.com/counterfactualww2
"The whole question of whether we win or lose the war depends on the Russians." - FDR, June 1942

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Re: German generals' warnings to Hitler about overconfidence in German victory over UK and USSR

Post by historygeek2021 » 22 May 2021 00:13

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
21 May 2021 23:43

History is the only intellectual genre in which one can say "X was a bad decision" without feeling any responsibility whatsoever to defend the choice "not X." Indeed the hostility to counterfactual reasoning within the profession is intended, I suspect, to protect historians from doing difficult analysis and from being evaluated on terms as exacting as other intellectuals. Historians' ranks include some some very dim bulbs.
As a history buff who might have been a history professor in another life, I find this a very mean thing to say and completely without merit. Every field of study has its easy parts and its hard parts. Most people don't go into history to think about counterfactuals. They do so because they're interested in what actually happened. Criticizing historians for not being interested in your area of interest is toxic and offensive to the history buffs on this forum.

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Re: German generals' warnings to Hitler about overconfidence in German victory over UK and USSR

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 22 May 2021 03:22

historygeek2021 wrote:As a history buff who might have been a history professor in another life, I find this a very mean thing to say
Odd thing to take personally. You're not the only history buff (who considered being a history academic) in this thread, ya know.
https://medium.com/counterfactualww2
"The whole question of whether we win or lose the war depends on the Russians." - FDR, June 1942

Sid Guttridge
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Re: German generals' warnings to Hitler about overconfidence in German victory over UK and USSR

Post by Sid Guttridge » 22 May 2021 17:10

Hi TMP,

I would suggest that it is difficult enough for historians to reach a consensus on the one course of events that actually did happen, without encouraging them to pursue the virtually infinite number of "roads not taken".

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: German generals' warnings to Hitler about overconfidence in German victory over UK and USSR

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 22 May 2021 22:39

I personally enjoy counterfactuals. The but is the inability of many in these discussions to apply any sort of useful critical thinking to proposals and data presented. Theirs or anyone elses. This turns most of the proposals from a interesting idea into a train wreck of opinions and badly substantiated remarks. Its the equivalent playing a war-game & one of the players constantly insists of spurious rule changes.

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Re: German generals' warnings to Hitler about overconfidence in German victory over UK and USSR

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 23 May 2021 10:47

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
21 May 2021 23:43
History is the only intellectual genre in which one can say "X was a bad decision" without feeling any responsibility whatsoever to defend the choice "not X." Indeed the hostility to counterfactual reasoning within the profession is intended, I suspect, to protect historians from doing difficult analysis and from being evaluated on terms as exacting as other intellectuals. Historians' ranks include some some very dim bulbs.
Interesting comment, although I would argue that politics is a much better example of an "intellectual" genre in which criticism of decisions without offering reasoned options is widespread. And, of course, the legal profession seems to encourage "intellectual" criticism in hindsight of those making often difficult decisions in a haze of uncertainty and emotion.

I would suggest that the hostility of some in the historical profession to "counterfactual reasoning" is due to the fact that they see the historical record as a kind of winding footpath though an avalanche of different possible outcomes and doubt the validity of stepping off that path into a morass of "what-ifs" that are all possible 'past-futures'.

Personally I find the most enjoyable historical accounts to be those that try to avoid the danger of using hindsight to nit-pick historical figures as they attempt to navigate the on-rush of events or use hindsight to pick "technological winners" from the deluge of possibilities available to historical figures.

Regards

Tom

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Re: German generals' warnings to Hitler about overconfidence in German victory over UK and USSR

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 23 May 2021 17:26

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
22 May 2021 22:39
I personally enjoy counterfactuals. The but is the inability of many in these discussions to apply any sort of useful critical thinking to proposals and data presented. Theirs or anyone elses. This turns most of the proposals from a interesting idea into a train wreck of opinions and badly substantiated remarks. Its the equivalent playing a war-game & one of the players constantly insists of spurious rule changes.
Good counterfactual reasoning requires at least as much discipline and rigor as normal historical analysis; I agree that published/posted counterfactuals often fail this test.

A good counterfactual should clearly state a thesis ("Germany would have won, had it taken the SU seriously") and then constantly test whether counterfactual events flow directly from the counterfactual point of departure.
https://medium.com/counterfactualww2
"The whole question of whether we win or lose the war depends on the Russians." - FDR, June 1942

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Re: German generals' warnings to Hitler about overconfidence in German victory over UK and USSR

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 23 May 2021 19:45

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
23 May 2021 17:26
A good counterfactual should clearly state a thesis ("Germany would have won, had it taken the SU seriously") and then constantly test whether counterfactual events flow directly from the counterfactual point of departure.
Hi,

Well that's OK as far as it goes, but my point is that as soon as you leave the winding and somewhat overgrown path of historical events at your "counterfactual point of departure" you immediately encounter a huge range of possibilities.

So, if Germany takes the SU seriously it must have a range of options open to it any of which are perfectly valid and any of which immediately open up another infinite variety of responses. For example, if Germany takes the SU seriously and ramps up tank production, field artillery ammunition, forms additional railway units, etc, etc does that open up more opportunities for Stalin to "wake up and smell the coffee"?

Regards

Tom

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Re: German generals' warnings to Hitler about overconfidence in German victory over UK and USSR

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 24 May 2021 04:48

Tom from Cornwall wrote: as soon as you leave the winding and somewhat overgrown path of historical events at your "counterfactual point of departure" you immediately encounter a huge range of possibilities.
Sure, many possiblities, including:
  • 1. A comet hits Germany and only Germany.
  • 2. Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and Turkey declare war on Germany in ATL 1941.
  • 3. Stalin successfully preempts a stronger Barbarossa because Germany raises 185 instead of 180 divisions.
Life always requires making judgments; counterfactual reasoning is part of life. Possibilities 1-3 above are IMJ not worthy of serious consideration.

The response to a counterfactual is not to say, "There are many possible arguments." It is rather to make, and sustain, an actual argument.

The process by which we judge such counter-counterfactual arguments is not inherently different from the process by which we judge arguments generally.
https://medium.com/counterfactualww2
"The whole question of whether we win or lose the war depends on the Russians." - FDR, June 1942

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Re: German generals' warnings to Hitler about overconfidence in German victory over UK and USSR

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 01 Jun 2021 12:49

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
28 May 2021 14:34
TheMarcksPlan wrote:
28 May 2021 07:58
The only immediately-available hypothesis for me is massive confirmation bias, especially in a context where not confirming the biases of higher-ups could be literally deadly.
Hi TMP,

It does seem that the likelihood of Soviet intelligence reporting on anything happening in Nazi Germany that would make Stalin "wake up and smell the coffee" before 22 June 1941 was very unlikely. Certainly not just finding out that the Germans were giving any greater priority to tank production. That's OK, I'll just have to change my mind about that. :D

Regards

Tom
Thanks for the intellectual honesty.

This is how counterfactual analysis should go, rather than:
Tom from Cornwall wrote:
23 May 2021 19:45
as soon as you leave the winding and somewhat overgrown path of historical events at your "counterfactual point of departure" you immediately encounter a huge range of possibilities.
I.e. we analyze feasible alternate outcomes according to the fundamentals of the dynamics at play. To state, "well something we're not considering could have happened" is merely to state that we don't have a good grasp of the fundamentals, which should be addressed via discrete arguments about those fundamentals.

Now sometimes history doesn't turn on fundamentals. Sometimes it's contingent - Hitler not taking the SU seriously; a few lost dudes landing here instead of there in the Age of Exploration (my other favorite ATL subject). We could insert contingencies into any ATL but that's not counterfactual analysis in the sense I'm using: applying OTL fundamentals to a single change in contingent historical facts.

BTW - there are conditions under which Stalin would have woken up, IMO. Had Hitler given Mussolini the green light to invade Yugoslavia in August '40, for example, it's feasible there'd have been a confrontation in which both sides reveal their intentions.
https://medium.com/counterfactualww2
"The whole question of whether we win or lose the war depends on the Russians." - FDR, June 1942

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Re: German generals' warnings to Hitler about overconfidence in German victory over UK and USSR

Post by VanillaNuns » 15 Aug 2021 09:38

Sid Guttridge wrote:
14 Mar 2021 21:38
Far from being recognised as prescient, Fromm, whose only son had died during the debacle, was damned as a professional Cassandra and Speer was instructed not to bring him to Fuhrer headquarters again.

Fromm continued to attend Fuhrer conferences as head of the Ersatzheer, but thereafter lost direct access to Hitler.

Colonel General Fromm was arguably more important than any single German field marshal. Probably the only reason that he wasn't made a field marshal was that this rank could only be held by someone in command of troops in the field, which he wasn't. We could do with a good English-language biography of him.

Cheers,

Sid.

Good post Sid. A fascinating read and you've made some excellent points. I didn't realise how important Fromm was. I agree a biography would be welcome.

His downfall after the July plot was rather unfortunate and tragic. From what I know, the worst he did was "sit on the fence" at a difficult moment which is something others excelled at throughout the entire war.

Damned by the German state in 1944 for being a traitor to the Reich. Unfairly IMO.

Damned by history for being the "plotter" who changed his mind at the last moment. Unfairly IMO.

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Re: German generals' warnings to Hitler about overconfidence in German victory over UK and USSR

Post by Sid Guttridge » 15 Aug 2021 10:53

Hi Vanillnuns,

Such a book already exists in German: Der starke Mann im Heimatkriegsgebiet - Generaloberst Friedrich Fromm: Eine Biographie by Bernhard Kroener (https://www.amazon.co.uk/starke-Mann-He ... 5067173400). It just hasn't been translated into English yet and, given its size and specialist interest, probably never will be.

Cheers,

Sid

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