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March 17, 2013

Comments

Steve

"Kershaw rejects the notion that the Allied demand for 'unconditional surrender' needlessly prolonged the war. Britain and the United States in any case wanted to avoid a repeat of 1918 where a new German resistance could have organized around a "stabbed in the back" legend (Dolchstosslegende). In any event, the Allied demand of unconditional surrender did not stop Stuffenberg and his co-conspirators from attempting a coup d'etat in July 1944."

This is nonsense. Unconditional Surrender could not but prolong the war, as it was the least likely outcome to be achieved, and the one most likely to be strongly resisted, especially when coupled with proposals such as the Morgenthau Plan and Theodore Kaufman's Germany Must Perish!, both of which were given extensive propaganda coverage by Goebbels. Stauffenberg's attempt was doomed to failure largely because he was acting with little support, due to Unconditional Surrender especially, which was the chief obstacle to the German resistance forming an effective front, as had Churchill's earlier policy of no negotiation been.

You also neglect to mention that millions of German civilians died after the war ended, via further expulsions and oppression, as well as starvation, under an initially very harsh occupation and partition, the very thing many had feared. Conditions only improved when the former Allies fell out amongst themselves, and realised they needed the Germans as allies.

As for the 'unexplained self-destructive behavior', obviously many believed in the cause, for want of better knowledge at the time, and reinforced by what they saw and heard of Allied conduct.

David

Kershaw's book ends in May 1945 and does not deal with the aftermath.

There is zero evidence that Hitler would have considered a conditional surrender - on the contrary, he advocated "total warfare" after Normandy (Goering: "Wollt ihr den totalen Krieg?") It is absurd to blame the Allies for prolonging the war.

Again, suggest you read Kershaw before criticizing. He is a very, very thorough historian - and is recognized as such by his peers.

Steve

This is a complex topic which takes years of reading in both mainstream and less well-known sources to really understand. In fact Hitler was anxious for peace with Britain (the only then fully belligerent power) in 1940-41, and made numerous offers for it via both public and private channels, including offers to vacate most of the occupied nations to that point, in return of course for recognition of certain changes. The Hess mission was clearly tied in with this wish also. Regardless of what one thinks of Hitler's record to that point, the fact is that Churchill was the outright rejectionist even of preliminary negotiation (unless Britain's position became desperate). Once the war widened to include the USSR and US (which action he took partly because he saw no other option by that point, alternatives having been blocked by the Allies too), Hitler also became more hardline, however even in 1945 he and his circle still talked of the idea of a peace with the West against the USSR (see eg Goebbels diaries, also note that Goebbels said 'Wollt ihr den totalen Krieg not Goering - and AFTER the announcement of Unconditional Surrnder)). He had also said privately he would consider a deal with Stalin after a solid victory, eg at Kursk. But that is somewhat irrelevant to my main point, that Unconditional Surrender was a crippling obstacle to the German resistance to sidelining the Nazis and being willing to make peace on almost any half-decent terms for Germany, and this is amply documented. It is in fact absurd to excuse the Allies from prolonging the war, they absolutely did so in both theatres (they even rejected opportunities to kill Hitler when available), which again is amply documented.

I have Kershaw's Hitler bio, and whilst it is not bad, it is far from perfect, and he takes a lot for granted based on other secondary sources that is in fact highly dubious at times. Some of his peers can be even worse in this regard, the historiography of that period is highly flawed, as a number of less 'celebrated' though still respectable historians have shown.

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