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June 26, 2011

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Strahler 70

"Attack is the best defense" has always been the doctrin of the Red Army and "Si vis pacem, para bellum" is the even older motto. In this light, the dislocation of the soviet forces was and always will be a matter of consequence. I think in these times it was only a matter of time that the two beasts, Hitler and Stalin, would jump at eachother's throats as soon one of them would recognize an advantage of initiative. In most other cases, we could simply say these are the rules of war, or the militarist reflexes of two dictators - but not here. The difference is in the disgraceful character of the campaigns of the Wehrmacht and any attempt of todays German rightwingers to white-wash Hitler's warfare as a preemptive strike is of disgraceful ignorance, too.

Hitler might have won the WW2 if he had not constantly interfered with is general staff by putting his own attitude and dreams in first place. His armies have been successful and victorious as long as his generals had card blanche. On the other side, Stalin was losing as long as he didn't give card blanche to his generals. Like in a chess game, the winning player will be who makes the penultimate mistake.

What would have happened, if Hitler, against the advice of his generals, didn't let the British Army escape in the battle of Dunkirk? What would have happened, if Hitler accepted the plan of his general staff not to siege Leningrad and Moscow but simply destroy Stalin's capability to attack and the go south to the Ukraine, treat the Ukrainians friendly as they welcomed the Wehrmacht as liberators?

All in all, everything Hitler has done was in favour of Stalin's long term strategic interests. In a way, Hitler was such a traitor to the German people, he would have greatly qualified as Stalin's top spy in Berlin...

Hattie

Is this serious?

David

@Strahler -

I was lucky enough to attend lectures by the late Andreas Hillgruber at Uni Koeln. Brilliant but pretty controversial historian. He was very convincing in stating that the Soviet Union's foreign policy was for the most part rational, whereas Hitler's was irrational- based on Nazi racial ideology.

Zyme

David, take a look and read what is around as information on Molotow's visit to Berlin in November 1940.

While Hitler offered the Soviet Union control over India after the UK's downfall, the Soviets did neither accept nor reject this offer.

And since Hitler assumed that the British would only negotiate after the Soviet Union either joined the Axis or was crushed, it seems quite likely that he decided to go for the attack only after the Soviets hesitated to accept the offer.

Seems quite rational, if you ask me. Judging how close to Moscow they got, it was the chance of a lifetime. What worked 25 years before could have worked again.

And since Strahler brought up Hitler's involvement into the military strategy: Surely this affected the perspective negatively. But look what decided most wars in this world war - mobility. The huge numbers of trucks and tanks delivered to the Soviets via Lend Lease is what made the difference. Otherwise, they would have continued to be outflanked repeatedly just like in '41 and '42 and eventually would have been defeated.

David

@Zyme,

According to my understanding of the Molotov talks, Hitler did not wait for Stalin's answer but even before meeting with Molotov on Nov. 12, 1940 issued the directive ("Fuehrer-Weisung Nr.18") to prepare for the invasion of the Soviet Union.

Zyme

Vis pacem, para bellum :-)

Mibelz

November 12, 1940:

OKM 66. Weisung Nr. 18. 1st Frame #34 Photocopy of Hitler Directive No. 18 concerning German-French relations, possible German invasion of the Iberian Peninsula (Operation "Felix"), operations in North Africa and in the Balkans, preparations for a campaign against the Soviet Union and continued improvement in preparations for the eventual carrying out of Operations "Seelowe" (invasion of the British Isles.).
http://www.dialoginternational.com/dialog_international/2011/06/operation-barbarossa-and-the-myth-of-the-preventive-war.html?cid=6a00d83451c36069e2

Weisung Nr.18 vom 12.11.1940 über Vorbereitungen zum Angriff gegen Griechenland.
http://www.waffenhq.de/specials/ops-ww2_axis.html

12. November 1940: >Weisung Nr. 18um im Bedarfsfallhttp://www.uboatnet.de/Allgemeines/Chronik/Chronik_1940.htm

Weisung Nr. 18, Verhaeltnis zu Frankreich, Spanien, Portugal, OKW/1828.
http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/ETO/East/Balkans/Campaigns/Campaigns-A3.html

Mibelz

@ David Vickrey
... the Myth of the Preventive War ?

Dr. Sławomir Dębski, the author of ''Między Berlinem a Moskwą. Stosunki niemiecko-sowieckie 1939-1941'', PISM, Warszawa 2007, ISBN 978-83-89607-08-9 ("Between Berlin and Moscow. German-Soviet relations in 1939—1941", The Polish Institute of International Affairs, Warsaw 2007, Second Edition) wrote in the Summary (pp. 765-773):

The rapid defeat of France [in May-June 1940] astonished and terrified the Soviet command. Stalin had at the time two basic possibilities to choose from, i.e. maintaining the definitely pro-German course of the Soviet foreign policy or, assuming that the development of the 'new Europe" would inevitably lead to the conflict of interests between the Third Reich, starting immediate and intensive preparations for the encounter with the German war machine. (p.768)

In the summer 1940, the staff of the Red Army hurried its studies, conducted at least since spring that year, on the concept of a war with Germany. (p.769)

Stalin, though aware of the threat brought about by the crisis in the relations with Berlin, did not start preparations for the defence. To the contrary, he initiated the implementation of the plans of an offensive war, in which the Red Army was to hold the strategic initiative. The first operational plan, developed according to this concept, was approved of in October 1940 [14.10.1940], and its assumptions were exercised in staff games in January 1941 [first game on January 2-6, and second game on January 8-11, 1941]. The games focused on organising and conducting the attack rather than defending the USSR territory.
A new version of the operational plan was developed in March that year [11.03.1941] and it was probably in that month that the preliminary date of the Soviet offensive was set for June 12, 1941 [general Watutin's postscript]. Stalin absolutely excluded from his mind the possibility of being overtaken by the Germans in the race to attack first. (pp.771-772)

[The last version of the Soviet operational plan was probably developed on May 15, 1941]. (p.587)

Together with the lack of defence plans, the Red Army units on the front were doomed, taken by surprise by the German attack on June 22, 1941.
The outbreak of the German-Soviet war in 1941 came about from the errors which Hitler and Stalin committed when judging the situation in the international arena after the capitulation of France. (p.772)

Mibelz

Correction:
"Together with the lack of defence plans, the Red Army units on the front were doomed, taken by surprise by the German attack on June 22, 1941.
The outbreak of the German-Soviet war in 1941 came about from the errors which Hitler and Stalin committed when judging the situation in the international arena after the capitulation of France." (p.773)

Steve

Whilst Hitler clearly had his own expansionist motives for the attack, he also had rational strategic reasons, including prevention (though not quite imminent preemption). The evidence Stalin had similar motives in reverse is overwhelming, and the Red Army was clearly being deployed forward for offensive operations actually discussed and planned for at the highest level, as revealed in contemporary sources, including an actual plan of a first strike offensive by the Soviet General Staff. Stalin intended to hit first, but needed some months more to complete his dispositions. He had said the Soviet Union would intervene at the time of its choosing and maximum advantage when the capitalist states (including Germany) were reaching exhaustion, but he did not expect Germany's rapid victories. Still Germany was still fighting Britain and its allies, and was until 1941 very weak in the East. The vast numbers of armaments and men mobilised by Stalin were only enabled by massive preparations, eg some 24000 tanks compared to Germany's 3500. Quite a few historians have detailed aspects of this, Suvorov's latest (The Chief Culprit) is a good start, though his conclusion as to timing is a bit out.

The myth is that Stalin only wanted peace and would never dream of attacking, he invaded many nations including China before Hitler invaded the USSR. It is absurd to be duped by the Stalin myth in the 21st century, and there is no excuse for it. What's more the Soviets also killed many millions of people, and started on it well before the Nazis, in fact things were almost as bad under Lenin as Stalin, see eg Gellately's Lenin Hitler and Stalin, or Rayfield's Stalin and his Hangmen. Stalin himself had as little respect for human life or liberty as Hitler, at least.

Steve

"According to my understanding of the Molotov talks, Hitler did not wait for Stalin's answer but even before meeting with Molotov on Nov. 12, 1940 issued the directive ("Fuehrer-Weisung Nr.18") to prepare for the invasion of the Soviet Union."

This was a contingency plan, the final decision was not made until around March of 1941. Many people fail to understand the distinction, despite it often being expressly stated in the directives.

Chuck

You gave no evidence to support your categorical statement that Stalin's plans were a "myth".

The evidence that Stalin was planning an offensive war is overwhelming and irrefutable. The Germans made such incredible progress in the first couple of months because the Soviets had cleared all the roads in preparation for their own attack, and had removed the vast majority of their defensive positions.

In a vain attempt to politicize history, you have ignored the evidence which history has provided. Are you also holding on to the untenable position that the Germans were responsible for the massacre at Katyn?

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