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REALPOLITIK OR OBSESSION? P.M.H. Bell dismisses as flimsy the three reasons that Hitler gave his generals for attacking the USSR: 1. That defeating the.

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Presentation on theme: "REALPOLITIK OR OBSESSION? P.M.H. Bell dismisses as flimsy the three reasons that Hitler gave his generals for attacking the USSR: 1. That defeating the."— Presentation transcript:

1 REALPOLITIK OR OBSESSION? P.M.H. Bell dismisses as flimsy the three reasons that Hitler gave his generals for attacking the USSR: 1. That defeating the USSR was the only way to knock Great Britain out of the war. Bell argues that an offensive in the Mediterranean theater would Have served this goal better (p. 338). 2. That it would be far more profitable to seize Soviet raw materials by force than to continue the current trade relationship. Bell emphasizes the profitability for Germany of the existing relationship (pp ). 3. That Stalin was in secret communication with the British and plotting to attack Germany. Bell notes that the Red Army drafted a contingency plan for such an attack in May 1941, but that Stalin never approved it (pp ). But contrast Norman Rich, Hitler’s War Aims, 2 vols (New York, ), I:

2 When German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop returned from negotiating the “German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact” in August 1939, he assured Hitler that Bolshevik leaders actually resembled the Nazi old guard.

3 WHEN MUSSOLINI CRITICIZED THE PACT, HITLER WROTE HIM THIS PRIVATE LETTER ON MARCH 8, 1940 “Since Stalin’s final victory [over Trotsky], Russia has without doubt experienced a modification of the Bolshevist principle in the direction of a nationalist Russian way of life, which is out of the question for us, but which could not be replaced by anything else in Russia herself at the present time. That which made National Socialism the mortal enemy of Communism was the latter’s Jewish- internationalist leadership with its avowed goal of destroying the non-Jewish nations or their leading forces…. Since Litvinov’s departure [as Soviet Foreign Minister in May 1939] there has unquestionably been a change in Russia’s attitude toward Germany. There can be no doubt that the conditions for establishing a reasonable relationship between the two countries exist today.”

4 Nazi leaders had long debated whether “British plutocracy” or Soviet Communism was the most dangerous arm of the World Jewish Conspiracy. Ribbentrop sought tenaciously to forge an anti- British “Continental Bloc” including the Soviets. (Vichy French poster from January 1944)

5 Hitler ordered the invasion of England on July 16, 1940, but his generals concluded that “Operation Sea Lion” was too risky. July 31: Hitler told his generals: “Britain’s hope lies in Russia and the United States. If the hopes pinned on Russia are disappointed, then America too will fall by the wayside, because elimination of Russia would tremen- dously increase Japan’s power in the Far East… All that Russia has to do is to hint that she does not care to have a strong Germany, and the British will take hope…. With Russia smashed, Britain’s last hope would be shattered. Germany will then be master of Europe…. Decision: Russia’s destruction must therefore be made a part of this struggle. Spring ‘41.”

6 Hermann Göring then persuaded Hitler to use air power to pursue a settlement with Great Britain 600 German bombers attacked RAF bases on August 15, 1940, but the Germans lost 75 planes to just 34 for the British

7 Germany’s first major assault on London, on September 7, involved 625 bombers, including the Henkel 111’s shown here

8 Coventry Cathedral, after the city was destroyed in the night of November 14/15, But the Luftwaffe was losing twice as many planes each week as the RAF.

9 The German Messerschmitt 109E vs. the British Spitfire. Great Britain produced 4,300 fighters in 1940, vs. just 3,000 for Germany. In 1941 Great Britain devoted over 50% of GDP to war production, vs. just 35% for Germany.

10 Churchill the bulldog and a famous line from his inspirational speeches of 1940

11 Four-engine Lancaster strategic bombers of the RAF rain bombs over Germany in 1941

12 German “Enigma” Coding Machines (the earliest commercial model from the 1920s, plus the advanced models used by 1939 in the German army, navy, and Luftwaffe). The Poles gave England one of these machines in May 1939.

13 By September 1939 this English country home at Bletchley Park contained the world’s most powerful array of calculating machines, or “bombes”

14 In September 1940 the USA restored conscription and provided Britain 50 mothballed U.S. destroyers in exchange for military bases FDR signs the Lend-Lease Act, March 11, 1941, which provided $50 billion in aid.

15 The Naval War in the Atlantic, Aug May 1943

16 German submarine base in 1940 Cross Section of the Type VII U-Boot

17 German submariners awarded the Iron Cross in March Of the 40,000 who served on U-Boots, 30,000 died in action.

18 WAS THE MEDITERRANEAN THEATER THE LOGICAL CHOICE FOR A MASSIVE BLOW AGAINST BRITAIN? Great Britain possessed secure bases in Gibraltar, Malta, and Egypt; Italy, in Sicily, Sardinia, and Libya. Vichy France controlled Morocco, Algeria, & Tunisia.

19 The British attacked the French naval squadron at Mers-el-Kebir on July 3, 1940, killing 1,297 French sailors

20 At Ribbentrop’s urging, Hitler made a serious effort to recruit France and Spain for the “Continental Bloc.” With Marshal Pétain on the Loire, October 24, Franco and Pétain flatly refused to attack the British. With Francisco Franco at Hendaye, October 23, 1940.

21 “They are helping Colonel General Rommel. German bombers secure the airspace over a convoy bringing supplies and reinforcements south to the Panzer army in Africa.” (Published in Germany, April 1941) Many of these convoys were destroyed as a result of Ultra code intercepts. Without support from Spain and France, the Mediterranean was a dicey theater for German operations.

22 Germany attacked Crete with 15,000 paratroopers on May 20, At least 4,000 were killed, and 70 German planes shot down, but the British were driven off the island by June 2.

23 THE GERMAN-SOVIET ECONOMIC RELATIONSHIP The USSR did supply Germany 900,000 tons of petroleum in 1940, 25% of all German military requirements, plus grain, timber, phosphates, iron ore, scrap iron, chrome, platinum, and manganese. But Stalin demanded payment in state-of-the-art German weaponry (not just “specimens”). Hitler needed gasoline so badly for his attack on France that in March 1940 he gave the Red Army priority over the Wehrmacht in German tank production for the next three months. The USSR had increased its share of world manufacturing capacity from 5% in 1929 to 17.6% in 1938, surpassing Germany, and in 1940 it was building the world’s largest and most modern arms factories east of the Urals. The rationale for “preventive war” against Russia was AT LEAST as strong in 1940 as in 1914.

24 The Red Army suffered embarrassing defeats at first in the “Winter War” with Finland (Dec March 1940) but finally achieved major gains After March 1940 the Soviets could interdict shipments of nickel to Germany

25 Stalin defeated Finland in March 1940 and annexed Bessarabia, North Bukovina, and the Baltics in June

26 DEBATES IN HITLER’S INNER CIRCLE: Russophiles like Ribbentrop kept arguing with Anglophiles like Rudolf Hess…. The Goebbels diary speaks in its entries from Sep 1939 until August 1940 as if “British plutocracy” was Germany’s enemy #1. ENTRY OF AUGUST 9, 1940, on lunch with Hitler and Himmler: “We discuss the Baltic states, in which the Russians have developed a reign of terror. We need not feel any pity for them, and without an intelligentsia they are less dangerous for us than with one. But Russia will always remain distant from us…. We must construct an insurmountable wall between Moscow and us. Bolshevism remains the #1 enemy of the world. Someday we too will come into conflict with it. The Führer thinks so too.”

27 The USSR came within striking distance of the Romanian oil fields at Ploiesti when it occupied North Bukovina. At Romania’s request, German armored units arrived in October 1940 to help defend that country.

28 November 14, 1940: Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov is greeted by Ribbentrop in Berlin, who proposed a Soviet invasion of Persia and India.

29 MOLOTOV CONVEYED TO RIBBENTROP STALIN’S COUNTER-PROPOSAL ON NOVEMBER All German troops should evacuate Finland, in exchange for a Soviet guarantee of continued nickel and wood shipments. 2. The USSR must sign a “Mutual Assistance Pact” with Bulgaria allowing it to establish military bases there. 3. The center of Soviet territorial domination would be south of Baku and Batumi (i.e., in Iran and Iraq). Shortly thereafter, Albert Speer saw that the globe in Hitler’s office had a new pencil line drawn along the Ural Mountains to divide the future German and Japanese spheres of influence.

30 Hitler, von Brauchitsch, & Keitel study a map of Russia, spring 1941 (General von Paulus stands against the wall) Some of Hitler’s key decisions provoked harsh criticism by the professionals, but NOT the firm order on 18 December 1940 to prepare “Operation Barbarossa”

31 The spectacular conquests of the German army, June-September 1941: Hitler was correct to sense an opportunity in Stalin’s decision to flood his newly annexed provinces with Red Army troops

32 AFTER Hitler decided to invade the USSR, he threw caution to the winds, and racial ideology shaped all planning for “OPERATION BARBAROSSA” The SS gains jurisdiction over anti-partisan warfare and greatly expands Waffen-SS combat units, military police units, and roving execution squads (Einsatzgruppen). All German troops receive orders to ignore the Geneva Convention, because the USSR had never signed it. More and more generals describe the aim of this war as the “annihilation of the Jewish-Bolshevik system.” The “Commissar Order” of May 1941 decrees the execution of all Communist functionaries; word spreads that all Jews should be regarded as commissars. German troops receive orders to live off the land and plunder food for shipment home, even if “tens of millions” of Russians starve to death.


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