Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Danse Macabre
The Russian – German War 1941 – 1945, Part 2

Operation Barbarossa
June 22 1941-December 5 1941
In a previous posting1 I discussed certain aspects of the Russian German War of 1941-1945. here I will discuss a few more aspects. of this war.
Perhaps one of the biggest mysteries is exactly why did Hitler attack Russia when he did. What is much less mysterious is Hitler attacking Russia in the first place.

Hitler was a combination of an extremely gifted if a rather ruthless and opportunistic politician and a Geo-Political fantasist and fanatic. A very dangerous combination to those around him.

In Hitler's revealing book Mein Kampf and its unpublished sequel Hitler revealed the depth of his hatred for Communism and his desire for "living space" in the east which could only be acquired through the conquest of European Russia.2

What was also revealed in the above books is Hitler's fanatical and obsessive racism with it's contempt for so-called Slav "sub-humans", and Hitler's clinically phobic Judeophobia. Russia was also Communist which further fueled Hitler's hatred and fear.

Hitler believed that a contest for world supremacy was going on and that Germany needed lots of space in order to expand its population and resources so that it could seize world supremacy. Eventually the contest would involve a fight with the United States; meanwhile "inferior" Slavs were occupying immense spaces that could be put to "better" use by Germans.3

The result was that Hitler already had "reasons" to attack Russia. The issue is why attack Russia in 1941?

Here the issue gets complicated. Hitler's Geo-Political and race fantasies were the driving force behind his decisions but Hitler was also a opportunist so that the timing of his attacks has to be explained.

Hitler gained immense advantages from the Nazi-Soviet pact of 1939 in that it left him free to destroy Poland and then overwhelm France. Making Hitler the most powerful European warlord since Napoleon. Stalin's gains were also considerable including part of Romania, 1/2 of Poland, the Baltic states and a free hand in Finland. However Stalin had gambled on Hitler being bogged down in a war of attrition in western Europe. That had proven to be a miscalculation. Hitler instead dominated western Europe with England a beleaguered outpost of resistance. Further Stalin's advance deeper into Eastern Europe brought most Eastern Europe into Hitler's camp.3

Before the Nazi-Soviet pact Germany and Russia lacked a common border, now they had one, which suited Hitler if he was going to attack Russia. Thus the greater 'buffer" that Stalin gained was more than offset by Germany and Russia having a common border. Further fear of Russia and Communism helped to bring the rest of Eastern Europe into the Nazi camp. Thus giving Hitler far greater room to maneuver against Stalin.

One thing Hitler did not gain was freedom from the constraints of the British blockade. The fact was Hitler lacked sufficient access to certain essential raw materials, like oil, rubber and certain hard to get minerals and metals necessary for war production. Even coal was subject to significant squeeze in terms of availability.4

The result was that Hitler, for all his massive, stunning and cheap in terms of casualties military successes in 1939-1941 was dependent on the Soviet Union for certain essential resources and for a way around the effects of the British blockade.5

Hitler found this situation intolerable and further continued British resistance infuriated him. Hitler knew that the British were waiting for eventual American intervention in the war and that lend lease was merely the first step. Hitler was determined to prevent this. The problem was getting at Britain. The British navy and air force were in the way and Germany's crushing army could not be brought fully to bear on Britain.6

However if Russia was crushed and its vast resources brought under German control. The constraints on German war production would be lifted. Germany would be unassailable and American military intervention unlikely and even if it happened not to be feared and of course the embarrassing dependence on Russian resources would be ended.

Of course this would also fulfill Hitler's long stated desire for "living space" in the east for the German people and his goal in destroying Communism. The war of annihilation in the east that Hitler had been dreaming about since even before writing Mein Kampf would come about. The annihilation of Russia as a state and the mass genocide of its peoples that Hitler dreamed of would come about also.7

Thus shortly after the conquest of France in fact in July of 1940 Hitler began to plan the invasion of Russia. It appears likely that any negotiations that Hitler had with Russia in the meantime including the abortive negotiations with Molotov in November 1940 were not meant seriously and the goal was invading Russia from July 1940 on.8

What Hitler was also aware of was that because of the disastrous effects of the purges the Soviet army was in poor shape with a decimated officer corp. Further Hitler knew that Stalin fearful of the international situation was busy expanding the size of the Red army massively. The very poor performance of the Red army in the Russian-Finnish war of 1939-1940, had also brought out the need to reform the Red army. Thus in 1941 the Red army was a institutional mess in the middle of expansion and reform. Stalin was very fearful of a German attack and thought of delaying it. It was Stalin's opinion that the Red army would be able to deal with the Germans in 1942.9

Hitler knew about this and thus thought to attack the Russians as soon as possible. Although the evidence indicates that not just Hitler but practically all members of the German general staff and most high ranking generals didn't take the Russians seriously as adversaries. It was expected that the Russians would be overwhelmed in a few months. Despite this it was felt that the Russians should be attacked sooner rather than later.10

The actual attack because of the huge scale of the preparations could only be launched at the earliest in late spring 1941. Attacking in winter was insane and in early spring it would have been bogged down in mud and flooded rivers. Despite the myth of Barbarossa being delayed because of Hitler's Balkan adventure for a few weeks, this is nonsense. Any date in May was a nonstarter because of the state of the roads and it appears in fact that late June was in effect the best and just about the earliest reasonable time for an mass invasion of the Soviet Union.11

Thus Hitler attacked Russia on June 22 1941 both as the fulfillment of Geo-Political, racist fantasies and as a solution to the Geo-Political fix he was in.

The result was disaster for Hitler, and death for tens of millions.

1. See Here.

2. See Jackel, Eberhard, Hitler's World View, Harvard University Press, Cambridge MASS, 1972, pp. 27-46, Rich, Norman, Hitler's War Aims, W.W. Norton and Co., New York, 1973, pp. 121-131, 204-223.

3. IBID, and Schweller, Randall L., Deadly Imbalances, Columbia University Press, New York, pp. 93-120.

4. See Tooze, Adam, The Wages of Destruction, Penguin Books, London, 2006, pp 396-425.

5. IBID, and pp. 429-480.

6. Footnote 4.

7. Tooze, pp. 461-485.

8. Kay, Alex J., Exploitation, Resettlement, Mass Murder,  Berghahn Books, New York, 2006, pp. 27-32, 35-38. See also Gorodetsky, Gabriel, Grand Delusion, Yale University Press, New Haven CONN, 1999, pp. 48-88, Read, Anthony, & Fisher, David, The Deadly Embrace, W.W. Norton and Co., New York, 1988, pp. 511-544.

9. Glantz, Davuid M., Operation Barbarossa, Second Edition, The History Press, London, 2011, pp. 11-29.

10. IBID, and Glantz, David M., & House, Jonathan, When Titans Clash, University Press  of Kansas, Lawrence KS, 1995, pp. 15-45, Kray, pp. 159-163.

11. Keegan, John, The Second World War, Viking, New York, 1989, pp. 174.

Pierre Cloutier

No comments:

Post a Comment