The Job in the East - Rolf-Dieter Müller's Barbarossa '39

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The Job in the East - Rolf-Dieter Müller's Barbarossa '39

Post by wm » 07 Dec 2023 00:53

Rolf-Dieter Müller in his "Enemy in the East" writes that on 28 May 1938, according the report of his personal adjutant, Fritz Wiedemann:
Hitler is said to have approached Generals Brauchitsch, Keitel and Beck, and explained:
‘So we’ll do the job in the east, then I’ll give you three to four years and we’ll get down to the big job in the west.’
and then:
What did Hitler mean by ‘the east’? Applied only to Czechoslovakia, this statement makes little sense.
It is more probable that he was referring to an idea he had been thinking about and repeatedly sketching out for years, and which the Wehrmacht was already preparing for: using ‘favourable opportunities’ to overrun Czechoslovakia and so gain a southern avenue for attacking the Ukraine, as well as to secure Danzig and the Memel Territory as a northern avenue for an advance against the Baltic states and north-west Russia.
If Poland participated in an interventive attack on Bolshevism, so much the better; if it stayed neutral and covered the centre, then the Wehrmacht – in the best-case scenario, supported by parallel Japanese intervention in the Far East – would decisively defeat the Red Army near the border and speed up the disintegration of the USSR by deploying various political measures.
Poland’s interest in having French protection was understandable from a German perspective, but ultimately irrelevant, because Germany was steering towards a war not with France, but with the USSR, expecting that Poland would at least remain neutral and that the Soviet–French–Czechoslovak mutual-assistance pact would therefore not be activated.
So the questions are:
- is anything more known about that "job in the east"?
- was the 1939 Wehrmacht capable of defeating Soviet Russia - especially advancing on such a narrow front (about 100 miles)?
- was that even possible, considering that strategic surprise wasn't even achievable?
Barbarossa 1939.jpg
As to the "southern avenue for attacking the Ukraine":
- Czechoslovakia didn't have a common border with Soviet Russia - so no.
- Russia was protected by the 100-kilometer-wide Carpathians (the Ardennes was punny in comparison) - so no again.
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Re: The Job in the East - Rolf-Dieter Müller's Barbarossa '39

Post by wm » 10 Dec 2023 01:37

There would be a problem at the Latvia–Lithuania border, Lithuania's rail network was standard-gauge, Latvia's broad-gauge.

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Re: The Job in the East - Rolf-Dieter Müller's Barbarossa '39

Post by Steve » 11 Dec 2023 00:58

What Hitler said makes sense if you believe that his main objective was to obtain lebensraum in the east. Before commencing the main drang nat osten he needed to sort out the minor obstacles on the way which were Czechoslovakia and Poland. Czechoslovakia was not likely to agree to what Hitler wanted so would have to be destroyed and planning began after Austria. Once he had removed his Czech problem it would be the turn of the Poles.The two countries could perhaps be thought of as stepping stones on the way to the main objective the USSR. If Britain and France had not given Poland a guarantee would Hitler have done the deal with Stalin? If he destroyed Poland without Stalins help would he have then moved east in 1940 followed by “the big job in the west”?

To only attack through the Baltic States makes no sense. Would the rail traffic necessary to support a large army have received permission to cross the Polish Corridor? If it did would Hitler have trusted the Poles? The Japanese had received a bloody nose at Khalkhin Gol in September 1939 which put them off the idea of attacking the USSR. This though was not a typical Red Army performance because as the Finns showed the Red Army in 1939 was basically a fierce beast with a brain the size of a pea.

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Re: The Job in the East - Rolf-Dieter Müller's Barbarossa '39

Post by wm » 11 Dec 2023 21:46

Even more, the idea that a major power could be defeated in weeks (e.g., France) was unknown and incomprehensible at that time.
It took almost four years to defeat the Russian Army during WW1, the Army that was additionally stabbed in the back by the revolution. Hitler was an adventurist, but such a war was way too much even for him, in my opinion.

The stepping stones plan seems plausible, but I think there is little evidence for it. Göring tried to convince the Poles to do "something," but his efforts were inept and even farcical.
And the Plan Z (1939) is a direct evidence against it. What's the point of building almost forty large ships and four aircraft carriers in a hurry? To conquer Moscow?

Many historians noticed that although the British guarantee gave some political security to Poland, it actually gave political and military security to Stalin. It made the German invasion of Russia impossible.
So, without the guarantee, Stalin would certainly have been much friendlier toward the Allies and Poland.

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Re: The Job in the East - Rolf-Dieter Müller's Barbarossa '39

Post by Steve » 12 Dec 2023 04:18

During WW1 most of the German army fought in the west but in 1914 it was still able to hold and later push back the Russians. The Russian army was falling apart after the Kerensky offensive of July 1917. I don’t think that there was anything in WW1 that would have caused the German army to think it could not beat the Russians one on one.

There is no evidence for the stepping stone plan. However if Hitler’s ambition was to gain lebensraum in the east and wipe out communism then how else could he go about it? He assiduously courted Poland but she rebuffed him and took up with another suitor. He had to put his ambition on hold while he dealt with Poland and the problem in the west but as soon as that seemed sorted he immediately turned east.

If he had intended to first go east before turning west then saying “So we’ll do the job in the east, then I’ll give you three to four years and we’ll get down to the big job in the west.” fits in quite well with plan Z. It would be about half completed by then.

Was it a mistake for Britain to give Poland a guarantee? Would a better course of action have been to encourage Hitler on his messianic march east?

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Re: The Job in the East - Rolf-Dieter Müller's Barbarossa '39

Post by wm » 13 Dec 2023 01:26

Although even Kerensky's Russia didn't have to ask Germany for peace, Russia (supplied by the Allies) was way too big to be conquered by the Germans. However, the Germans could have easily defeated the Bolsheviks.

This is why the Bolsheviks had to sue for peace. They had to save themselves and needed time to conquer Russia.
The Germans didn't defeat Russia; Russia was defeated by Germany (and Austria-Hungary) and the Bolsheviks - acting together, joined by a common goal.

The problem with Plan Z was it was approved as early as January 1939, months before the British guarantees. In January, Hitler had no reason to plan for war with Britain.
After all, Hitler said many times that in politics, he needed only two things - in Europe, normalization with Poland; in the world, understanding with Britain. Anything else was secondary.

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Re: The Job in the East - Rolf-Dieter Müller's Barbarossa '39

Post by wm » 13 Dec 2023 04:08

Steve wrote:
12 Dec 2023 04:18
Was it a mistake for Britain to give Poland a guarantee? Would a better course of action have been to encourage Hitler on his messianic march east?
A better question is, would the British people, their elites, accept the alternative?
Chamberlain could have delayed the guarantee and blackmailed Stalin with, "You're with us, or we'll leave you with Hitler alone." But Stalin probably would be able to weasel out of such a forced commitment eventually.
And there was no guarantee Hitler would march east. With neutral Poland, his best choice was to attack France. France was the only obstacle on the road to German-dominated Europe. Russia wasn't. Russia could wait.

And the purpose of the guarantee was to discourage Hitler from aggression. Not to save Poland or wage war on Hitler. The alternative couldn't achieve that.

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Re: The Job in the East - Rolf-Dieter Müller's Barbarossa '39

Post by wwilson » 13 Dec 2023 13:54

wm, my question about a 1939 campaign against the USSR would be if the Wehrmacht was large enough for such an endeavor.

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Re: The Job in the East - Rolf-Dieter Müller's Barbarossa '39

Post by wm » 13 Dec 2023 15:21

This is from "Enemy in the East"
Admiral Carls at the end of the 1938 war games:
I am also of the opinion that neither Germany nor Russia is in a position to undertake operations of a decisive scale against the other.
German operations into Russia will peter out in the vastness of its territory, while Russian operations against Germany, which I do not consider the Russians presently capable of mounting, would shatter on Germany’s defences.
assuming that neither France nor Britain:
currently had any interest in war with Germany.

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Re: The Job in the East - Rolf-Dieter Müller's Barbarossa '39

Post by Steve » 13 Dec 2023 16:47

The Poles did not ask for the guarantee it was offered them. Its purpose was to discourage Hitler from aggression but also to stop a possible Polish German agreement. Polish German relations seemed friendly to outsiders in early 1939 perhaps too friendly.

Churchill would write that Poland had behaved like a hyena for taking advantage of the Czech crisis. Danzig was a German city not a Polish one. The British government could have played its cards differently and perhaps portrayed the Polish crisis as a falling out of thieves. However it may have been a difficult sell.

Hitler was not going to attack France till the West Wall was completed so not in 1939. He was not going to attack France with a supposedly French allied Poland behind him perhaps hoping for an opportunity to knife him in the back. Poland had to be dealt with first and if France had not declared war on Germany would he have attacked France in 1940?

With the benefit of hindsight Eastern Europe was going to fall into either Hitler’s hands or Stalin’s. It is unlikely that Britain and France could have defeated Germany by themselves. Were they being unrealistic in their ambition when declaring war on Germany? Was stopping Hitler in Poland worth the hundreds of thousands who did die from the two countries or if it had turned out like WW1 perhaps two million dead?

I think 1939 was the year for settling the Polish problem so a German attack before 1940 was unlikely given the preparations that would be needed.

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Re: The Job in the East - Rolf-Dieter Müller's Barbarossa '39

Post by ljadw » 14 Dec 2023 07:58

Steve wrote:
13 Dec 2023 16:47
The Poles did not ask for the guarantee it was offered them. Its purpose was to discourage Hitler from aggression but also to stop a possible Polish German agreement. Polish German relations seemed friendly to outsiders in early 1939 perhaps too friendly.

Churchill would write that Poland had behaved like a hyena for taking advantage of the Czech crisis. Danzig was a German city not a Polish one. The British government could have played its cards differently and perhaps portrayed the Polish crisis as a falling out of thieves. However it may have been a difficult sell.

Hitler was not going to attack France till the West Wall was completed so not in 1939. He was not going to attack France with a supposedly French allied Poland behind him perhaps hoping for an opportunity to knife him in the back. Poland had to be dealt with first and if France had not declared war on Germany would he have attacked France in 1940?

With the benefit of hindsight Eastern Europe was going to fall into either Hitler’s hands or Stalin’s. It is unlikely that Britain and France could have defeated Germany by themselves. Were they being unrealistic in their ambition when declaring war on Germany? Was stopping Hitler in Poland worth the hundreds of thousands who did die from the two countries or if it had turned out like WW1 perhaps two million dead?

I think 1939 was the year for settling the Polish problem so a German attack before 1940 was unlikely given the preparations that would be needed.
A Polish-German agreement was considered as very good by Britain AND by France (it is as if France did not exist in this thread ).
Eastern Europe was going to fall into either Hitler's hands or Stalin's WITHOUT hindsight and Britain knew it : in December 1937 Halifax told Hitler that Britain had no objection if Eastern Europe fell in his hands,as long as it happened without war .
Hitler would not attack France ,even with the Westwall being completed and Poland neutralized :in Mein Kampf he attacked Imperial Germany because it had done this .
Hitler was focused on Eastern Europe with the restriction that an attack on the USSR was something for the far ,very far future and I am convinced that it would never have happened .

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Re: The Job in the East - Rolf-Dieter Müller's Barbarossa '39

Post by wm » 14 Dec 2023 13:58

Steve wrote:
13 Dec 2023 16:47
The Poles did not ask for the guarantee it was offered them. Its purpose was to discourage Hitler from aggression but also to stop a possible Polish German agreement. Polish German relations seemed friendly to outsiders in early 1939 perhaps too friendly.

Churchill would write that Poland had behaved like a hyena for taking advantage of the Czech crisis. Danzig was a German city not a Polish one. The British government could have played its cards differently and perhaps portrayed the Polish crisis as a falling out of thieves. However it may have been a difficult sell.
If the British wanted to leave Europe and Europeans to their own devices and do nothing, they simply needed to do so, and morally, nobody would have any right to complain whatsoever.

They didn't have to justify their decision with the false claim that the Poles were impure and not worthy.
After all, it was the British special envoy in Czechoslovakia, Walter Runciman, 1st Viscount of Doxford, who demanded that Sudenteland be handed over to Germany ("that these frontier districts should at once be transferred from Czechoslovakia to Germany") and the Munich agreement was the direct result of that.

The British (or anybody else) did nothing when the Bolsheviks enslaved country after country.
From Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Kyrgyzstan to Belarus and Ukraine. They (or anybody else) did nothing to help the millions of innocent victims of that.
In the twenties, they even massively helped the Bolsheviks to rebuild their economy.

The British did nothing when the Japanese invaded China and started slaughtering the Chinese by hundreds of thousands.
The same happened when the Italians invaded Ethiopia and committed their massacres there.

Morally, it made no sense to unleash another world war because of largely victimless quarrels over Sudenteland, Cieszyn - tiny pieces of land nobody could find on the map and couldn't even pronounce their names.
I would even say Britain and France, two world-spanning colonial empires, had no moral standing in such land disputes at all.
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Re: The Job in the East - Rolf-Dieter Müller's Barbarossa '39

Post by wm » 14 Dec 2023 14:07

Steve wrote:
13 Dec 2023 16:47
With the benefit of hindsight Eastern Europe was going to fall into either Hitler’s hands or Stalin’s. It is unlikely that Britain and France could have defeated Germany by themselves. Were they being unrealistic in their ambition when declaring war on Germany?
I don't think Eastern Europe was in danger of being overrun by the Soviets. Stalin would be against the entire Europe.
But a weakened or destroyed Eastern Europe certainly would be.

As to the "unlikely that Britain and France could have defeated Germany by themselves," I don't know. Why not? With American money and mass of new weapons in, for example, 1942?
And even if - Britain and France (or even Britain alone) could afford not to win the war. And they could afford an endless war.
Subjected to blockade and, in comparison, economically backward, Nazi Germany couldn't.


Steve wrote:
13 Dec 2023 16:47
Was stopping Hitler in Poland worth the hundreds of thousands who did die from the two countries or if it had turned out like WW1 perhaps two million dead?
I don't know. Would it be worth watching from the sidelines the dismantling of (imperfect but beneficial) Pax Francia in Europe? The rising of brutal Pax Hitlerum there? The loss of prestige all around the globe?
Would John Bull be able to look his children straight in the eye?

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Re: The Job in the East - Rolf-Dieter Müller's Barbarossa '39

Post by Steve » 15 Dec 2023 01:09

There is not much about France in this thread because Britain was the senior partner. For example France would never initiate military action against Germany. In 1939 it waited till just after Britain declared war before declaring war in case Britain didn’t. I think obtaining lebensraum in the east was always on Hitler’s bucket list it was though a question of when.

If the British government had decided it was not going to go to war over Polish issues it needed to justify such a decision. There had been very little support for war over Czechoslovakia but the mood was now different. Chamberlain gives the impression he was not keen on going to war over Poland but he had to do something. He hoped the guarantee would act as a warning to Hitler he hoped it would stiffen the Polish will to resist Hitler he hoped the Poles would make concessions. He tried to word the guarantee so that the British would decide if Polish independence was threatened. But he failed and a dispute over who controlled a German inhabited city and building a railway and autobahn plunged Europe into war.

Britain did try to stop the Bolsheviks; it supplied military equipment to the Whites and according to Wikipedia sent 59,000 troops. When the Japanese invaded China should the British have sent some battleships to Japan and perhaps shelled Osaka into ruins? Nothing much was done by anybody about Abyssinia and that includes Poland.

Stalin was nibbling away at Eastern Europe, he took part of Finland all of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia eastern Poland and a chunk of Romania before the German invasion. Only Hitler could have stopped Stalin if he had wanted to liberate the toiling proletariat of Eastern Europe.

Chamberlain was aware that defeat of Germany may not be possible without American aid. He thought that when Germany was defeated the price of this aid would be American domination. He was right.

There are of course very good reasons for stopping Hitler at Poland. But this thread is about him saying “So we’ll do the job in the east,” and as he thought this could take “three to four years” it is very unlikely he was referring to Poland.

P.S. While having a cup of tea which greatly refreshes the little grey cells I thought to check on what Halifax actually said to Hitler in 1937. I used Hitler by Ian Kershaw and his source was Halifax’s papers and his diary.

Referring to Austria, Cz and Poland Halifax told Hitler “fell into the category of possible alterations in the European order which might be destined to come about with the passage of time” That quote is from his papers, in his diary he wrote “on all these matters we were not necessarily concerned to stand for the status quo as today, but we were concerned to avoid such treatment as would be likely to cause trouble”. The rest of the conversation was apparently about Austria so it is possible that Halifax was not referring to all of Eastern Europe but only to Austria, Cz and Poland.

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Re: The Job in the East - Rolf-Dieter Müller's Barbarossa '39

Post by wm » 15 Dec 2023 02:02

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