michael mills wrote:Hoffmann believes that the German Government gravely miscalculated the Soviet strength, and received a nasty shock when it began to realise its true extent. He quotes Goebbels to the effect that if Hitler had known the true strength of the Soviet forces, he would probably not have unleashed Barbarossa.
What exactly did Goebbels say or write, according to Hoffmann?
michael mills wrote:Whatever the failures of German military intelligence, Hoffmann shows that Soviet intelligence was very good, and that the Soviet Government was well aware that Germany was gearing up for an attack in 1941. He contends that the Soviet Government undertook two measures to counter the impending German attack. These were:
1. Trying to delay the German offensive by getting it tied down elsewhere, for example in Yugoslavia. The Soviet Union helped to mount the Serb nationalist coup of 27 March 1941 that brought an anti-German government to power, and immediately signed a treaty of mutual assistance with it. That attempt to get Germany tied down was foiled by the rapid German defeat of Yugoslavia and Greece. Most historians appear to be agreed that these delaying measures were undertaken.
Who are “most historians” ?
michael mills wrote:2. Bringing forward an offensive planned for 1942,
In order to have been “brought forward”, such a plan must have existed, first of all.
What evidence – if any – does Hoffmann provide in this direction?
michael mills wrote:for the purpose of launching a pre-emptive strike against Germany, before the German offensive, delayed by the first set of counter-measures, could begin. This is a more controversial thesis, but it is one held not only by Hoffmann but by a number of Russian historians, whom Hoffmann quotes in his book.
The tenor of these Russian historians’ theses seems to be "If only Stalin had authorized Zhukov’s and Timoshenko’s plan of May 1941 for a pre-emptive strike!"
Well, it seems he refused to listen to his generals.
And the sorry state of the Red Army in 1941 makes the high hopes placed by Karpov et al in that pre-emptive strike look somewhat unrealistic.
michael mills wrote: Hoffmann has in my opinion adduced quite a deal of evidence in support of his thesis, but there is currently a debate going on the issue, and I dare say it will be quite some time before the truth is definitively established, depending on when the material in the former Soviet archives can be thoroughly analysed.
The debate seems to be between Hoffmann, “Suvorov” and a few others with their “controversial” thesis and the majority of historians, German and Russian, who consider that such theses have no solid evidentiary basis while there is a lot of such evidence speaking against them.
michael mills wrote:Although the German Government gravely underestimated Soviet military strength, its intelligence was good enough to realise that Soviet strength was concentrated in the south, covering Ukraine, and was superior to the strength of Germany and its allies in that sector. For that reason, the centre of gravity of the German attack was in the north and centre, and that is what enabled the initial breakthrough.
I took down the following data from an online source featured under http://www.shortway.to/1941/
Opposing forces as of 22 June 1941 North Direction
Item; Soviet; German
Divisions; 21,50; 21,50
Men; 426.230; 407.440
Guns and Mortars; 9.589; 3.084
Tanks; 1.857; 192
Aircraft; 2.104; 424North-West Direction
Item; Soviet; German
Divisions; 24,00; 29,00
Men; 375.863; 787.500
Guns and Mortars; 7.467; 8.348
Tanks; 1.514; 679
Aircraft; 1.814; 830West Direction
Item; Soviet; German
Divisions; 54,00; 51,50
Men; 791.445; 1.455.900
Guns and Mortars; 16.151; 15.161
Tanks; 3.852; 2.156
Aircraft; 2.129; 1.712South-West Direction
Item; Soviet; German
Divisions; 91,50; 61,50
Men; 1.412.136; 1.508.500
Guns and Mortars; 26.580; 16.008
Tanks; 8.069; 1.144
Aircraft; 4.696; 1.829Whole German-Soviet Front
Item; Soviet; German
Divisions; 191,00; 163,50
Men; 3.005.674; 4.159.340
Guns and Mortars; 59.787; 42.601
Tanks; 15.292; 4.171
Aircraft; 10.743; 4.795
michael mills wrote:
Here is what Hoffmann says about the German underestimation of Soviet strength(pp. 67-68 ):
Under the influence of such reports, the Oberkommando des Heeres (OKH: German Army High Command) did not anticipate the use of strong armored units by the Soviets for intensive
aggressive operations [Source: BA-MA, RH 20-9/247a, 16.5.1941].
It would be interesting to know if there’s something about “intensive aggressive preparations” in the source invoked by Hoffmann, or if that’s just his own assumption.
Hoffmann wrote:The armored arm was, moreover, viewed primarily as only an auxiliary arm of the infantry, although tank attacks with limited objectives, or counterattacks against an enemy breakthrough, appeared quite conceivable.
That view seems to have coincided with the view of the armored arm by the Soviets themselves.
Richard Overy (Russia’s War, page 190) wrote:In the summer of 1941 Soviet air and tank forces, though numerically large, proved incapable of inflicting more than local damage on the concentrated tank and air forces of the enemy. Tanks were divided up to support infantry regiments in small numbers and as a result lost the advantages of striking power and mobility that they should have offered
Hoffmann wrote:Since the Germans did not know about the existence of approximately one hundred armored and motorized divisions before June 22, 1941 [my emphasis] - rather, they assumed only seven armored divisions and thirty-eight motorized, mechanized brigades [Source: BA-MA, RH 20-6/487, 17.6.1941; BA-MA, RH 20-9/247, 17.6.1941; BA-MA, RH 20-18/951, 18.6.1941; BA-MA, RH 21-1/470, 19.12.1941] - they were very surprised after the onset of the war by the huge mass of armored divisions that suddenly confronted them [Source: BA-MA, RH 24-28/10, June 1941; BA-MA. RH 21-4/266, 10.7.1941; BA-MA, RH 20-17/282, 11.7.1941; BA-MA, RH 21-1/470, 19.12.1941]. It "soon appeared obvious that the Russians had many more divisions available than had been assumed by the OKH before the beginning of the eastern campaign", noted the 1st Panzer Army on December 19, 1941. "Throughout the entire section, the enemy was obviously stronger than had been assumed at the beginning of the operation", stated Panzer Group 3 as early as June 23, 1941 [Source: BA-MA, RH 21-3/v. 423, 23.6., 8.7.1941]. This astonishment not only related to the numbers of tanks and aircraft, which exceeded all expectations, but also to the quality of Soviet weapons and equipment. To some extent, the Soviet leadership even received a word of praise, and was described, for example, in the appraisal of the enemy situation of Panzer Group 3 of July 8, 1941, as "extremely skilful, energetically active, and deliberate".
Whatever. If the data in the table transcribed above are accurate, the Red Army was still equal in numbers at best and outnumbered at worst, thus far from achieving the numerical superiority of at least two to one that Stalin considered mandatory to launch a successful offensive. Which may have been the reason why Stalin rejected the proposal forwarded by Zhukov and Timoshenko in May 1941.
Hoffmann wrote:The admission of a crass underestimation of the Red Army is also found in Dr. Goebbels's diaries. Looking back, he noted on August 19, 1941:
'We obviously quite underestimated the Soviet shock power and, above all, the equipment of the Soviet army. We had nowhere any idea of what the Bolsheviks had available. This led to erroneous decision-making.....' [Source: Goebbels, Tagebuecher, vol. 4, pp. 1,655 ff].
Is this were Goebbels is supposed to have stated that Hitler might not have launched ‘Barbarossa’ if he had been aware of the true strength of Soviet forces?
Hoffmann wrote:The High Command of the Wehrmacht, on the other hand -perhaps because of its wider horizon - had drawn considerably more realistic conclusions from reconnaissance in the Spring of 1941 than the competing High Command of the Army. The Chief of the Operations Staff of the OKW (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht; High Command of the Armed Forces), Lieutenant General Jodl and the Chief of the OKW, Field Marshal Keitel, sent several letters to the Foreign Office and to the Reich Government between April and June 1941, in which, with increasing concern, and, finally, in almost imploring tones and with "the strongest emphasis", they drew their attention to the fact that Soviet Russia "was conducting the most gigantic military deployment force in its history, directed against Germany" and that "a huge Soviet troop force" to the west could be set in motion "at any moment" [Sources: Jodl to Ritter, 1.3., 23.4., 6.5., 8.6., 20.6.1941 (attached: "Zusammenstellung der Grenzverletzungen durch russische Flugzeuge und russische Soldaten. Grenzzwischenfaelle Winter 1939/40");
Given that Jodl had every interest in sucking border clashes and violations of German airspace by Soviet planes out of his thumb, it would be interesting to know in what other source, if any, such occurrences are reported.
They would have gone against the grain of Stalin’s interdiction of anything that might be seen by the Germans as a “provocation”.
They are also not mentioned, for some reason, in the cited report of 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: http://hometown.aol.com/wigbertbenz
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 fare 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... 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)
Hoffmann wrote: Were these warnings part of an attempt to protect the now completed and planned "Operation Barbarossa" by means of propaganda, in which the German attack was described as a response to an increasing threat from the Soviet Union, or were they motivated by true concern? The usual interpretation by Stalinist-influenced "anti-fascism", particularly in Germany, is that such warnings can only have constituted a preventive propaganda maneuver to justify German attack, stereotypically characterized by these groups as "the treacherous fascist attack on an unsuspecting, peace-loving Soviet Union". If one, however, considers the facts of Soviet preparations for a war of conquest, which are obvious today,
Obvious to Hoffmann and his followers, perhaps. We have seen the evidence he has offered in support of such “obvious” conclusions, and it’s nothing to write home about, unless of course you interpret it in the right faith and ignore all evidence to the contrary.
Hoffmann’s slandering his professional colleagues who don’t think much of his theses as inspired by “Stalinist-influenced ‘anti-fascism’” does not exactly recommend the fellow either.
Hoffmann wrote:these warnings appear in another light, particularly in view of the still incomplete state of knowledge of the OKW. Thus, for example, the Chief of the Wehrmacht Operations Staff, in his letter to Ambassador Ritter on June 20, 1941, could only discern one armored division and five armored brigades in tank forces in the salients projecting far to the west around Bialystok. This alone was sufficient cause for concenr, however, in reality, no fewer than three mechanized corps, each one numbering a minimum of 1,030 tanks, were concentrated in the semi-circle around Bialystok, and another mechanized corps was in service of the salient between Brest and Kobryn. Although the German reconnaissance findings might still have been defective, the situation reports of the OKW, nevertheless, added up to an overall picture of an already menacing nature.
And the Nazi leadership seems to have accordingly felt menaced as hell. So menaced that on 16 June 1941 Goebbels wrote the following into his diary:
Der Führer schätzt die Aktion auf etwa 4 Monate, ich schätze auf weniger. Wir stehen vor einem Siegeszug ohnegleichen.
Source of quote: http://hometown.aol.com/wigbertbenz
The Führer estimates the action will take about 4 months, I estimate it will be less. We are on the verge of victory without parallels.
Hoffmann wrote: According to the state of knowledge of the OKW, "the Soviet Army leadership had systematically employed all the methods of reconnaissance available to them"
So far we have a statement from the OKW.
Hoffmann wrote: in the service of offensive planning.
While here again we seem to have Hoffmann’s unsubstantiated conclusion, for I presume that if the OKW had written anything about “offensive planning”, Hoffmann would have triumphantly quoted it.
Hoffmann wrote:This included the "deliberate use of the Soviet Air Force over the sovereign territory of the Reich", the "almost daily incoming reports of additional border violations by Soviet aircraft", and "deliberate provocations". In the same vein belongs "the methodical surveying of terrain and reconnaissance activities in German territory by Soviet military commissions", "sometimes by top officers with large staffs".
Rather bizarre phenomena, at a time when Stalin had interdicted any move that might be taken as a “provocation” by the Germans.
Harrison E. Salisbury (The 900 Days, pages 90-92) wrote:[…]On June 3 a meeting of the Supreme Military Council was convened in Moscow to approve a draft of instructions for the army’s political workers which would emphasize the need for vigilance and the danger of war. Stalin’s closest associate, Georgi M. Malenkov, attacked the draft in the sharpest terms, contending that it sought to prepare the troops for the possibility of war in the nearest future. Such a presentation, he said, was entirely unacceptable.
“The document is formulated in primitive terms”, Malenkov sneered, “as though we were going to war tomorrow.”
Stalin supported Malenkov’s opinion, and the instructions were not issued. The official attitude was unchanging: all rumors and reports of war were but a British trick to sow trouble between Russia and Germany.
The consequences of Malenkov’s intervention against realistic political instructions for the army quickly assumed a sinister aspect. Officers who continued to warn about German attack or speak of the danger of war were branded as provocateurs. Some were arrested. Others were threatened with arrest. Political commissars were sent out from Moscow. They described Stalin as carrying out the most delicate act in order to avoid war. “Stalin”, one said, “can walk so quietly he doesn’t even shake the china”. They referred to Bismarck’s dictum that Germany could not fight a war on two fronts.
Colonel-General M.P. Kirponos, the Kiev commander, ordered some of his troops to occupy sections of the frontier fortifications which had not yet been completed. This move had hardly started when the Chief of Staff, General Zhukov, telegraphed peremptory orders from Moscow: “The chief of NKVD border troops reports the chief of the fortified region has received orders to occupy the forward works. Such action may quickly provoke the Germans to armed clash with serious consequences. You are ordered to revoke it immediately and report specifically who ordered such an arbitrary disposition.” According to one version, this intervention was directly inspired by Police Chief Beria.[…]
Hoffmann wrote:Victor Suvovrov has drawn attention to these as unmistakable characteristics of a forthcoming offensive.
As I presumed, Hoffmann also refers to “Suvorov”. I wonder if he also took the citations about the "deliberate use of the Soviet Air Force over the sovereign territory of the Reich", etc., from one of Suvorov’s screeds.
Hoffmann wrote:The constant shifting of Soviet units to the border, in fact, all along the front line from the Baltic to southern Bessarabia, was perceived by the OKW as a "serious threat";
What’s the source?
Hoffmann, otherwise fond of throwing around references to Germany’s military archives, here seems to be reluctant to tell his readers where to look up that statement.
Hoffmann wrote:yet the scope of these movements was still far underestimated. A matter of entirely justified concern, as we know today, was the rapid progress in the development of the ground organization and the filling up of "air fields near the border containing strong units of the Air Force", as confirmed by the OKW. These measures were accurately interpreted as "preparations for extensive bombing attacks on the German Reich by strong combat aircraft units".
Whence does Hoffmann draw his conclusion that the OKW’s interpretation of detected Soviet measures for the eventuality of war breaking out was accurate?
Here’s what those “preparations for extensive bombing attacks on the German Reich” (I didn’t know the Soviets even had a significant force of long-range bombers) looked like in the eyes of the Soviet High Command:
Harrison E. Salisbury (The 900 Days, page 98 ) wrote:[…]The chiefs of the Soviet air force and the air construction industry were hastily summoned to the Kremlin in early June and denounced for failure to develop a system of camouflaging Soviet planes. Stalin had learned, through a letter from an aviator, that air force planes along the Western border were parked in parade formation at the airdromes, gleaming in aluminum, beautiful targets for attack. No one had ever given the question of camouflage the slightest thought. The Air Construction Commissariat was ordered to come forward with a comprehensive plan for camouflage within three days. The plan was submitted in early June but had not been carried out, except in part, by the time the attack started.
Hoffmann wrote:This assessment was all the more so reliable as there were numerous known statements of leading Soviet officers that "openly spoke of a forthcoming Russian offensive".
Again, it would be interesting to know the source where a historian known for invoking documents he didn’t show in order to accuse a colleague of manipulating figures drew this quote from.
Talk about the upcoming outbreak of war was common among Soviet officers, as Salisbury tells us, to an extent that Stalin, as becomes apparent from the above quotes, considered it necessary to take measures against such “provocations”.
It is also not surprising, giving the Red Army’s military doctrine being one of offensive, that some officers should have expected a “forthcoming Russian offensive”.
This doesn’t tell us anything at all, however, about whether such an offensive was indeed in preparation at the level of the Soviet High Command.
Hoffmann wrote:On May 11, 1941, Field Marshal Keitel sent the reich Foreign Ministry a letter in which, for the first time, he spoke of the "constantly increasing concern" of the PKW about the "development of the deployment of Russian forces along the German eastern border". This letter from the Chief of the OKW, who, after all, had cabinet rank, to his Minister colleague could, of course, be interpreted as a mere alibi in regard to the forthcoming Operation "Barbarossa"; yet its contents are fully confirmed by what we know today.
Again, “what we know today” is the meager and inconclusive evidence presented by Hoffman and his adventurous conclusions based thereon, see above.
Hoffmann wrote:Keitel's mention of the OKW's conviction "that the extent of Russian deployment, which is practically equivalent to Russian mobilization along the German eastern border, can only be interpreted as a preparation for Russian offensive measures on the largest scale", is a reflection of one of the basic principles of the General Staff of the Red Army of May 15, 1941. Just as accurate as it was disturbing was the conclusion that the "deployment, which is approaching conclusion", would enable "the Soviet State leadership to select the attack date at its own discretion", as it was indeed planned.
Indeed planned according to Hoffmann, once again.
In the absence of corroboration by intelligence reports – which, as we have seen, even point in exactly the opposite direction – the conclusion that the “concerns” expressed by Keitel were nothing but a propaganda trick seems to be the most reasonable.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Hoffmann had also presented Goebbels' attempts to present the German attack as pre-emptive after it had started as evidence that the attack was pre-emptive indeed.
Hoffmann wrote:Fundamental confirmation may also be found in the contents of the memorandum sent by the Chief of the OKW on JUne 11, 1941, by way of the Reich Foreign Minister directly to the address of the Reich Government. Keitel's repeated warning that Soviet "military measures" had led "to a great deployment of the Red Army from the Black Sea to the Baltic Sea", which was "clearly aimed at preparing for an attack on the German Reich", corresponded to the actual situation. From the vantage point of our knowledge today, Keitel was quite correct when he remarked that the "Russian deployment" was shifting increasingly closer to the border, that "the individual units of the Army and Air Force" were moving forward, and that the "air fields near the border are being equipped with strong units of the Air Force..... All these facts, linked with a determination to destroy Germany, as cultivated within the Russian army", suggested to Keitel "that the Soviet Union was preparing itself to attack the German Reich at any moment that appears suitable to the Soviet Union".
More of the same.
Keitel this, Keitel that.
What matters is what intelligence basis Keitel supported his contentions on.
As the quoted intelligence report of the Wehrmachtsabteilung Fremde Heere Ost
of 20.05.1941 and other similar reports suggest, Keitel drew his conclusions out of thin air.
Hoffmann wrote:Unlike the OKH, the OKW had therefore drawn entirely accurate conclusions within the scope of its limited possibilities.
I would be inclined to accept that if Hoffman had shown that Keitel and Jodl based their contentions on intelligence more accurate than that of the the Wehrmachtsabteilung Fremde Heere Ost
However, unless I missed something, he didn’t show what the OKW based its “entirely accurate conclusions” on at all and even points to “its limited possibilities”.
Hoffmann’s willingness to believe that the OKW’s contentions were the result of a accurate assessments and not mere propaganda is no substitute for evidence.
Hoffmann wrote:Hardly a passage in the letters of Keitel and Jodl contains a factual exaggeration; on the contrary, the danger was minimized from lack of knowledge.
If you accept Hoffman’s assessment of Soviet intentions, that is. An interesting showpiece of circular reasoning.
Hoffmann wrote:In reality, the offensive preparations of the General Staff of the Red Army were no longer very far from completion, as we know today.
Yeah, sure. This is what Soviet preparations looked like on the eve of the German attack:
Harrison E. Salisbury (The 900 Days, pages 97/98 ) wrote:By June 21, 1941, the Soviets had deployed about 2.9 million troops in the Western defense districts against an estimated 4.2 million Germans. The total strength of the Soviet military establishment had been strongly expanded from the 1939 level – up to 4.2 million in January, 1941, against 2.5 million in January, 1939. The total stood just below 5 million June 1. The air force had been tripled and land forces increased 2.7 times. The army had 124 new rifle divisions.
But the numbers were deceptive. The army had only 30 percent of the automatic weapons provided by the table of organization; only 20 percent of the planes were of new modern types and only 9 percent of the tanks. When General M. Shtemenko took over the 34th Cavalry Division in July, 1941, he found it had no arms whatever. He finally got some 1927 vintage cannons but was unable to obtain enough rifles or ammunition to equip his troops. There were no antitank guns – nothing but Molotov cocktails (gasoline bottles with wicks). He got twelve antitank guns, but not until October 1941.
Qualitative shortcomings aside, there was still a long way to go to comply with Stalin’s requirements for a successful offensive:
Harrison E. Salisbury (The 900 Days, pages 75 and following) wrote:Other listeners were deeply disturbed by Stalin’s pronouncement (faithfully approved by the meeting) that a superiority of at least two to one was required for a successful offensive not only in the area of the principal breakthrough but on the whole operational front. The application of such a doctrine would require numbers, equipment and rear support far beyond anything heretofore contemplated. The Soviet commanders agreed that overwhelming superiority was needed at in the breakthrough area, but they did not see why such great numerical concentrations were required on the non-active part of the front.
Mills wrote:As the above passage shows, between March and June 1941, the OKW had become aware of the offensive preparations of the Soviet Union, and had interpreted them as a sign of a possible Soviet westward offensive in the near future. The OKW's concerns had also been transmitted to the highest level of the political leadership of Germany, to which Keitel, unlike the OKH, belonged.
As an analysis of the quoted passages from Hoffmann's book shows, the author took at face value statements from the OKW that other historians have obviously considered a mere propaganda trick, their assessment being a more reasonable one in the presence of military intelligence countering the OKW’s contentions and in the absence of such intelligence (which I presume Hoffmann would have triumphantly exhibited, had it existed) in support of said contentions.
Mills wrote:However, that does not mean that fear of an impending Soviet attack was the impetus for Barbarossa, which had its origins in July 1940 and was definitively ordered by Hitler in December 1940. The impetus was the realisation that Soviet power was growing, and would overwhelm that of Germany by early 1942, at which point the Soviet Union might well change sides and ally itself with Britain against Germany.
The “realization” seems to have been more in the direction that, without the hope of Soviet support, Britain would be doomed:
[...]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
Emphases are mine.
Mills wrote:Nevertheless, the realisation at OKW level of the signs of Soviet preparations for an attack may well have given an extra impetus to Barbarossa, making it imperative to get it underway as soon as possible.
Assuming there was such a “realization at OKW level” at all, which in the absence of supporting and the presence of contrary intelligence seems rather doubtful, see above.