Thursday, May 22, 2008

The valley of tears

Here are a couple of full-length comments on Half The Battle, which discussed the new fashion of arguing that the Allies and Hitler were morally equivalent in World War 2, or that World War 2 wasn't worth fighting. The first is from a well known blogger, who writes:

I'm surprised this article didn't mention Niall Ferguson's "let the Kaiser have Europe" argument concerning WWI...certainly the Germans were far more successful in terms of actually making local alliances in Eastern Europe, the Baltics and Ukraine in WWI than in WWII, when their genocidal (and kleptocratic) policies immediately led to resistance.

True, (lest we forget) Germany invaded Russia in 1941 with nearly a million allies - Bulgarians, Romanians, Italians, etc. But their generals in WWI, for all their tactical limitations, were far smarter, and far less cowed by their leadership to be so stupid as to repeat Napoleon's march. OKW even had a timetable showing them exactly when the Russian roads would turn to mud, and despaired when Hitler ordered the invasion of Yugoslavia which set back The Plan by six weeks - long enough to insure they would come up short right at the gates of Moscow, right where the German staff said they would, based on the same horse drawn logistics, panzers aside, that limited Napoleon's march...

Ferguson is correct to argue that a German dominated Mitteleuropa would have been far more benign than the racial thousand year reich...in any case, I'm of the school of thought that Buchanan is naive - without British and ultimately American "meddling", Europe post-1918 was destined to be dominated by either a totalitarian Germany or Russia....the trenches poisoned the well, and there was no going back.

While I'm not sure I buy the "Germans would have beaten Russia without any British-American involvement" - the proponderence of Land Lease didn't really kick in until after the decisive battle at Kursk, though Lend Lease certainlly made it possible for the Red Army to go on the offensive. Certainly the Germans would have ended up with a lot more territory in the East before a combination of guerilla warfare and a major arms race with the Anglo-American powers exhausted the Reich. For all the German engineering prowess, Nazi economic policies were a total train wreck - Hitler really could not have delayed war for another few years without the country running into the ground, he almost had to go to war when he did to steal enough to sustain the drive. When they occupied the East, the Germans did little more than steal from the same peasants who had hidden their grain during the resistance to Stalin's collectivization, with equally dismal results.

FYI, when I was in Moscow, I was very glad to see the Lend Lease section in the Memorial museum in Moscow - my fiancee couldn't believe that the Red Army rolled into Berlin on 300,000 American trucks...they didn't teach that in the Soviet history books.

My own comment is that the Russians may well have beaten Hitler on their own. But the only power which was certain to win, given unlimited ruthlessness, was the United States. Why? Because it would have the Atomic Bomb in 1945. Of course no one would have known this for sure in 1942. But in retrospect, Hitler was certainly doomed.

The other comment is from a US officer, who writes:

Caught your post on WWII revisionist histories. Interestingly, I read it while taking a break from a movie I was watching. I use TiVo to find old movies that fall under the categories of "Thriller" or "Alfred Hitchcock" for example. 1940's "The Mortal Storm" stars Jimmy Stewart, and chronicles -- in a 1940 Hollywood sort of way -- the change in civil society in a small university town in Germany in 1933. I think you are right, that there are so many people now who see war as the ultimate wrong. Thus, anyone who participates in it is to be condemned. Taken to its extreme, this leads to a funny sort of fascism: "pacifiscism" would perhaps be a name for it. It begs the question: would the "pacifiscists" ever get so worked up that they'd be willing to physically punish someone for participating in war? I think yes, though they would fell horrible afterwards. On another note: Since we've discussed books in the past, I should tell you: I'm 35 pages shy of finishing War and Peace. And last week I read Allen Bloom's "The Closing of the American Mind." It was awesome.

The problem is living itself entails the burden of guilt. The debate over whether to "invade Burma" to force them to accept relief is an interesting example of how one is damned if one does and damned if one doesn't. It is impossible to simultaneously have saved the Jews from the ovens and to have kept one's hands unsullied by war.

The fact is that life is full of choose-the-lesser-evil situations. A person with advanced diabetes might be told by the doctor that either the leg comes off or he dies. Nobody wants the leg off. Not the doctor, nor the patient, nor anyone at all. But the choice remains. Limp or die.

History puts people in absurd positions. If war can create bizarre situations so can pacifism. We live in a world of mystery, suffering and death. The only consolation is that it is also a world of life, generosity and love. They are mixed together to form our existence. However ardently we wish to have just one and not the other there is no escape from human reality on this side of the river.





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34 Comments:

Blogger Lounge Lizard said...

Wretchard, your first correspondent noted:

“For all the German engineering prowess, Nazi economic policies were a total train wreck - Hitler really could not have delayed war for another few years without the country running into the ground, he almost had to go to war when he did to steal enough to sustain the drive.”

This was true and Hitler realised it.

In his speech to his commanders at Obersalzberg in August 1939, Hitler stated that the Four Year Plan had failed and that they would be finished without a victory in the coming war.

It was to be a war for loot. In the same speech, Hitler stated that Poland was to be emptied of Poles and settled by Germans.

5/22/2008 04:20:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5/22/2008 04:58:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

When people decry the treatment of the American Indian, I always think tht it was far better for the Indians to lose "their" land to the settlers than to lose it to the Nazis or Imperial Japanese or Soviets later.

The same can be said of the land we "stole" from Mexico - which was itself part of the land that Spain acquired thropugh the most brutal of conquests. In fact, The U.S. could have taken all of Mexico in 1850 under the "rules" of the day. And it is hard to see how things would have turned out any worse if that had happened.

In more Cosmic terms, around 1992 an answer was offered for the Fermi Paradox concerning intelligent life in the universe. Where's Everybody? was answered by "They are all out there, in the millions of planets but are all poor 'effing Communists and don't have wherewithall to build a decent radio set." So maybe the ultimate destiny of human beings is knocking over tottering totalitarian regimes and bringing the benefits of Capitalism to the universe.

Great ideas that move people in many ways arise, and inevitably many of these are evil - or at the very least impractical in the long term. The best way to lose is to not show up for the game. In the final analysis our errors have been more sins of omission than ones of commission.

5/22/2008 05:04:00 AM  
Blogger hdgreene said...

"In fact, The U.S. could have taken all of Mexico in 1850 under the "rules" of the day. And it is hard to see how things would have turned out any worse if that had happened."

Actually, RWE, it could have turned out much worse -- for the US.

There was a temptation among many in the South to build a Slave Empire. Aristocratic Southerners united with Aristocratic Mexicans would then dominate the Union. The North, its economic and social interest strangled, secedes in 1890 over the acquisition of Cuba. Horrible war ensues. The Aristocrats would triumph (with help from the Robber Barons terrified by the rise of revolutionary Marxist trade Unions in the industrializing Midwest). The battle of Gettysburg would be key to the North's Defeat. Scarlett O'hara's son, Rhett Butler Jr., leads the charge up Big Roundtop. He dies a heroes death. His statue is in Central Park to this day.

The reestablished Federal Union goes on to side with Germany in WWI. That event marked the end of Northern Reconstruction. That war resulted in the acquisition of India and Kenya by the US. In fact, Barak Obama's father--

Oh. Wait. It didn't happen that way. Sorry. Nobody write a book.

5/22/2008 05:48:00 AM  
Blogger johnclubvec said...

"Slavery was (mostly, but of course not entirely) abolished as a consequence of the moral conviction of the dominant world power - the British Empire. Critics of other nations, who wished to retain slavery, claimed that the British were hypocritical (in ignoring other major problems of their own - such as the horrendous poverty and deprivation caused by industrialization) and that the British were using abolition as an excuse to pursue their own economic and political interests."

From this highly instructive entry in the blog of Professor Bruce Charlton. Worth a read.

5/22/2008 06:19:00 AM  
Blogger Insufficiently Sensitive said...

In response to all the morally superior sorts who wish to criminalize their fellow citizens for preferring a war as superior to some other evil, let them face this bumper sticker:

"WANT PEACE? STOP THE STRUGGLE!"

and then let them live happily under the domination of whichever thug seizes control of their oh-so-sensitive lives.

5/22/2008 07:44:00 AM  
Blogger eggplant said...

Lounge Lizard said:

"In his speech to his commanders at Obersalzberg in August 1939, Hitler stated that the Four Year Plan had failed and that they would be finished without a victory in the coming war."

I've heard it said by educated Germans who were around during WW-II that Hitler had no choice but to invade Poland. Hitler had setup a political and economic dynamic that required continued aggression until his empire extended from Calais to Vladivostok (England was optional). Hitler realized that his House of Cards would collapse the moment he lost the initiative. It is interesting to note that based upon Speer's writings, Hitler thought he could achieve his goals by 1950.

RWE said:

"In more Cosmic terms, around 1992 an answer was offered for the Fermi Paradox concerning intelligent life in the universe. Where's Everybody?"

Your mouse trap has a tasty piece of cheese in it. I will be strong and resist (must stay on topic)....

Insufficiently Sensitive said:

"In response to all the morally superior sorts who wish to criminalize their fellow citizens for preferring a war as superior to some other evil... ...and then let them live happily under the domination of whichever thug seizes control of their oh-so-sensitive lives."

It's four years in the future, Barack Hussein is President. Both New York and Los Angeles have been blown away by shipping container Tsar Bombas. My young children are slowly dying from radiation poisoning. What comfort does it give me that I saw this coming?

5/22/2008 09:16:00 AM  
Blogger pst314 said...

It's also worth remembering that even in WWI the Germans went to war motivated by a doctrine of racial supremacy which taught them that as a superior race they were entitled to conquer as much of the world as they could hold.

Read Vernon Kellogg's "Headquarters Nights: A Record Of Conversations And Experiences At The Headquarters Of The German Army In France And Belgium" in which Kellogg, a humanitarian aid worker, recounts the repulsive ideology of the German officers he met.

5/22/2008 09:19:00 AM  
Blogger Dave said...

One of Harry Turtledove's alternate histories has as a background, the USA avoiding World War I. (How is left unspecified.)
As a result, the USA is nuked, conquered and occupied around 1950
by the newest Kaiser.

The German thirst for conquest and loot did not start with Hitler, it was there all along. And Hitler actually crippled the German atom bomb project because he considered
nuclear physics to be a Jewish plot. Hard to imagine a Kaiser doing the same.

The book is titled "Curious Notions". Is worth a read.

Point is that the history we might have gotten could esily have been worse than the history we have actually had.

5/22/2008 09:26:00 AM  
Blogger bobal said...

rwe, I think you gotta ask that one of the Indians. I think they're not gonna care, one way or the other.

"Was good, now heap shit."

Pickup trucks and beer, or no.

5/22/2008 10:00:00 AM  
Blogger pst314 said...

"Hitler had setup a political and economic dynamic that required continued aggression until his empire extended from Calais to Vladivostok"

Sounds like the "Hitler's Beneficiaries: Plunder, Racial War, and the Nazi Welfare State" by Götz Aly.

Ever heard the expression "he needed killing"? That seems to apply to the Germany of the first half of the 20th Century.

5/22/2008 10:13:00 AM  
Blogger CorporateCog said...

Until they lost in WWI, the germans thought their "way" to be superior to the anglo-saxon "way". They always insisted the WWI was a way against British colonialism and that they would be the liberators.

This attitude was also evident during the buildup to the invasion of Iraq.

The German way is still different today, where the elite don't trust the volk, and the volk blindly believe that the elite makes better decisions and policy.

This complacency is also evident in the EU's government and institutions. The German Volk also never question the belief they were what allowed Hitler into power, and not that it was the elite that put Hilter there.

I think that they are very pragmatic and think that if every thing is organized correctly, then there should be no need for the confrontation and discord of the Anglo-Saxon model.

5/22/2008 10:29:00 AM  
Blogger eggplant said...

An interesting thing I discovered while studying the Holocaust was that KZ Auschwitz-Birkenau was a "work in progress". The Nazi were continually improving and expanding Birkenau almost up to the time of the Soviet Red Army's conquest. The biggest problem the Nazi's had with genocide was not in killing large numbers of people but in disposing of the bodies, i.e. the Nazi's use of Zyklon-B was highly effective but the bodies kept piling up. They built these very efficient retort cremation ovens that would recirculate combustion gases from the burning bodies. The retort ovens along with the Zykon-B were the enabling technologies of the Holocaust. Unfortunately for SS, the retort ovens still had a big problem from chimney fires that resulted from human body fat accumulating inside the chimney's walls. One of the big crematoriums was actually disabled due to chimney fires. Consequently the SS had to go back to their old default of using open pit cremation (very messy, labor intensive and way too public). Then some genius invented a new type of crematorium based upon a large central circular oven (presumably it had a single central smoke stack). Bodies could be fed into it from several points along its circumference. The SS was just about to build this new crematorium in the Birkenau area called "Mexiko" when the Soviets intruded. Supposably this new crematorium would have doubled Birkenau's killing capacity.

Here's an interesting question: When Birkneau was shutdown, most of the western European Jews had already been murdered. What group of people were the intended victims for this expanded capability?

5/22/2008 11:51:00 AM  
Blogger mason88 said...

I had an African-American colleague who stated once that "nothing good has ever come from war". I asked her if she would have rather had her people stay enslaved. She didn't have much to say after that.

5/22/2008 12:22:00 PM  
Blogger PapaBear said...

Dave,
If Hitler had not come along, it's likely that Germany would have been taken over by Communist insurgency by the 1930's, with the rest of Europe following by the end of the 40's, and insurgency in the US in the 50's

5/22/2008 12:58:00 PM  
Blogger eggplant said...

PapaBear said:

"If Hitler had not come along, it's likely that Germany would have been taken over by Communist insurgency by the 1930's..."

The Nazis and Communists in the 1930s were symbiotic. Ernst Röhm of the Nazis and his Sturmabteilung or "Storm Troopers" were constantly slugging it out in the streets against Ernst Thälmann and his Communist Party of Germany. The two sides were like two mill stones grinding down the German political center. Eventually the German people were left with only two sterile options, i.e. the Communists or the Nazis. The Nazis were bad but the Communists were worse so the Germans opted for the Nazis. Later on, Röhm was eliminated after Hitler gained control of the party. Thälmann was eventually executed at KZ-Buchenwald.

5/22/2008 01:27:00 PM  
Blogger RKV said...

"The two sides were like two mill stones grinding down the German political center. Eventually the German people were left with only two sterile options, i.e. the Communists or the Nazis. The Nazis were bad but the Communists were worse so the Germans opted for the Nazis."

The Republicans and the Democrats ground down the American political and cultural center. Eventually the American people were left with only one sterile option. The Demopublican Party was the party of open borders, welfare statism, racial plunder and surrender to islamofascism.

I hope it doesn't turn out that way.

5/22/2008 04:31:00 PM  
Blogger Joshua said...

Re: pre-Nazi German imperialism - Also don't forget Kaiser Wilhelm II's half-baked plot to invade the U.S., fifteen years before the outbreak of WWI.

5/22/2008 04:52:00 PM  
Blogger blert said...

“OKW even had a timetable showing them exactly when the Russian roads would turn to mud, and despaired when Hitler ordered the invasion of Yugoslavia which set back The Plan by six weeks - long enough to insure they would come up short right at the gates of Moscow, right where the German staff said they would, based on the same horse drawn logistics, panzers aside, that limited Napoleon's march...”


The invasion of the Soviet Union went off the rails in Greece: Hitler lost all of the tanks of the 2nd Panzer Division upon their transit from Yugoslavia to Italy. It was his strongest tank formation, Guderian’s favorite. It didn’t return to the war until Fall. And at Crete, operation Mercury crippled the 7th Flieger Division. These and other assets (engineering, etc) had been pulled out of Army Group North.

Hence, the northern option, advocated by von Rundstedt, (easily the best shot at knocking Stalin out of the war) was crippled by the British Commonwealth. And for this reason Crete was the turning point of the war – something evident only in extreme hindsight.

The northern option was to make haste through the friendly Baltic lands and support Army Group North via a sea bridge to the edge of Leningrad. If von Manstein’s early tempo had been sustained, Leningrad would have caved even as Guderian pocketed Smolensk.

The 7th Flieger Division would have been critical for deep operations towards Archangel and for crippling rail communication with Leningrad. What Anderson did to the Confederacy would have been duck soup to Student.

When the crunch came, Erich Hoepner, ever the ardent anti-Nazi, rescued the city by frustrating deep penetrations with his panzers – deliberately so. Ultimately Hitler found this out and strangled him with piano wire. In his final hours, Hitler lamented of generals that plainly frustrated his military ambitions – Hoepner had to be dancing in his head.

An additional point…. Had Hitler pushed directly on to Moscow he would have likely made it all the way to Gorky. In the late Summer of 1941 Stalin and Company had to leave Moscow – it wasn’t safe for his administration. Morale was that low.

The assault on Moscow, Typhoon, did achieve some success. The Germans destroyed effectively all of Russia’s radio tube production! This little detail was quite naturally held top secret. Lendlease stepped into the breach with tubes – but until very late in 1942 NO SOVIET TANKS WERE EQUIPED WITH RADIOS!


“the proponderence of Land Lease didn't really kick in until after the decisive battle at Kursk, though Lend Lease certainlly made it possible for the Red Army to go on the offensive.”


Lendlease radio tubes arrived in late 1942 in time for Uranus. The Soviet Army went from commanders have radios to every tank has a radio. This complete lack of radios explains the crazy battles in the Summer of 1942. Stalin’s big tank gamble took the form of using British and American tanks in early Summer – because they had radios.

Other Lendlease items of note:

Hughes Tool Company rotary tool heads and the rigs to drive them were a priority. Soviet oil output simply exploded. Drilling tempo went up 25 times. [The very same designs were still in universal service in 1979, so noted by one of the three young American tech reps now in his retirement.}

Tungsten Carbide tool bits ( for lathes and mills ) replaced High Speed Steel. Production exploded 7:1. This result was buried by the mythic lie: threatened factories were shipped east and reconstructed past the Urals. In fact, essentially all such equipment was lost to weather and chaos. It was Lendlease aid that rebuilt the Soviet military-industrial complex.

The besiegement of Leningrad crippled the Soviet production of steam locomotives. Stalin believed in concentrating the entire national production for a given item in one super factory. Ever since the beginning, Leningrad/Saint Petersburg was ground zero for engines. Lendlease supplied all of the missing locomotive production: thousands of engines.

And by 1945 Lendlease had shipped to Stalin the key elements to construct his own copy of our Plutonium conversion reactor – the ones built at Hanford based on natural gas derived carbon black. We even sent the exotic alloy tubes required plus neutron shim and very plainly the blue prints. 1949 no longer shocks.

The Soviet Army rolled on Studebaker Trucks – the whole factory output went to them. The trucks were fed by gas from refineries the Americans transformed. The refineries were fed by crude the Hughes bits made available.




The obvious winning strategy was laid down by von Rundstedt: go north where the natives are friendly and the summer days are long. Stay completely out of the Ukraine. Place all mechanized forces in Army Group North and Center. Play pure defense down south. ( And, obviously, save the surface fleet for action in the Baltic – especially to cow Leningrad. )

Thank the stars that Hitler kicked von Rundstedt and von Manstein to the curb. The team that gave him France was shut out.

5/22/2008 05:54:00 PM  
Blogger bobal said...

This result was buried by the mythic lie: threatened factories were shipped east and reconstructed past the Urals. In fact, essentially all such equipment was lost to weather and chaos.

That's a whole interesting post you put up, Blert.

5/22/2008 07:24:00 PM  
Blogger bobal said...

But didn't the Germans go south for the oil?

Blood For Oil

5/22/2008 07:36:00 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Eggplant,
"What group of people were the intended victims for this expanded capability?"

Well, come on. Who would've been next?

5/22/2008 08:48:00 PM  
Blogger eggplant said...

Chris asked:

"What group of people were the intended victims for this expanded capability?"

The Nazis didn't only murder Jews. In Poland they made a point of killing off the entire educated class (everybody, particularly Jews). The Nazis saw Slavic people as "untermenschen" only fit to serve as menial slaves. This was a cut above Jews whom the Nazis saw as human viruses that required eradicated (Vernichtung). Nazis also hated Communists whom they saw as their evil twins (obviously they were both evil). The Soviet Union was mainly populated by Slavic people and of course was run by Communists. My guess is the Nazis intended to murder everyone in the Soviet Union who had a university level education or any connection with the Communist Party.

In 1939, the Soviet Union's population was 168,500,000. The Soviet's had 10,700,000 soldiers killed in action and 11,400,000 civilian deaths. The percentage of the Soviet Union's 1939 population killed was 13.71% (6.77% of the civilian population was killed).

Poland's 1939 population was 34,849,000. Poland had 160,000 soldiers killed in action and 5,440,000 civilian deaths. The percentage of Poland's 1939 population killed was 16.07% (15.61% of the civilian population was killed).

If one assumes that the Nazis intended to treat the Soviets just like the Poles then 15.61% of the civilian population would have been killed or 26,302,850 civilians. I should emphasize that this is a conservative estimate because Poland was not a Communist state prior to WW-II. Since "only" 11,4000,000 Soviet civilians were actually killed this would indicate that 14,902,850 Soviet civilians were saved from Nazi death camps or being killed in the battlefield.

Total American casulties in WW-II was 418,500 (we got off lucky). The theoretical number of Soviet citizens saved from murder by the Nazis was 35.6 times America's total WW-II casulties.

Obviously the human tragedy behind these numbers is incomprehensible. However I think it is safe to argue that the war against the Nazis was moral.

5/22/2008 09:54:00 PM  
Blogger bobal said...

Christianity would have died in Germany too. Not that it hasn't now, anyway.

5/22/2008 11:05:00 PM  
Blogger eggplant said...

It occurs to me that I made a rather bone-headed error in my original analysis. The Nazis would have killed off the *surviving* members of the Soviet Union whom they felt were dangerous to their rule. Poland had "only" 160,000 soldiers killed in action before surrender (the Poles unwisely assumed the Nazis would show them mercy). This was only 4.59% of their 1939 population. The Soviets had 6.35% of their population killed in action as soldiers. A correct scaling should be for total population killed and not just civilians. Based upon that scaling, the Soviets would have lost a total population of 27,076,817 people including soldiers. If one assumes the Soviet's had surrendered to the Nazis after losing their total WW-II casulties of 22,100,000 then that would have left 4,976,817 people to be killed in Nazi death camps based upon the Polish scale factor. This is much less than what I originally estimated. The number of people saved from the death camps would have been about 12 times American WW-II casulties.

Sorry about the error.

5/23/2008 12:16:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

The Good War:

Big Polluters Will Be Fined
The Bay Area air-quality district passes groundbreaking rules to penalize businesses that expel high levels of carbon dioxide.

"Someone needs to take a first step, and we're running out of time, when you look at the bay rising 3 feet by 2100 and the devastating effects of climate change," said San Mateo County Supervisor Jerry Hill, the air district chairman.
"This is a more expensive proposition if we do nothing."

The 15-1 vote by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District sets the stage for 2,500 companies and agencies - from supermarkets to gas stations to power plants - to pay 4.4 cents for every metric ton of carbon dioxide they expel, beginning July 1. The top 10 companies combined would pay more than $820,000. The fee for a large share of businesses would be less than $1.

---
Health and social services advocates see the fee-based approach as more immediate and direct at a time when weather patterns seem more volatile and detrimental.
One (hot)*air expert* pointed to an 18-day stretch in the summer of 2006, when heat-related emergency room visits jumped from a typical 350 to more than 2,500.

"These sort of heat episodes will continue to happen in the context of climate change and global warming," said Shankar Prasad, 'a fellow with the Coalition for Clean Air.
The air quality board's vote
"is the first step in the right direction. It's a precedent-setting step, a monumental decision."

5/23/2008 04:02:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

(Good that the Bay Area air-quality district can prevent the Bay from rising 3 feet by fining "polluters")

If a local entity can have such monumental global effects at such a small cost, future possibilities are unlimited.

5/23/2008 04:08:00 AM  
Blogger El Jefe Maximo said...

". . .the Russians may well have beaten Hitler on their own."

Possibly. I tend to agree with thenGeneralleutnantWalther Model's pre-war Barbarossa, planning phase comment that Germany would win its war with the Soviet Union by Christmas, or not at all.

Barbarossa counted for success on wrecking the Soviet armies (including the strategic reserves), on the borders, essentially in the areas taken from Poland, and in the former Baltic States -- on the west side of the Dnieper and the Dvina rivers. But logistically, the whole thing was built on feet of clay because of (1) the Russian transportation lines, such as they were [different rail gauge, bad roads which would go to pieces when the fall rasputiza arrived; (2) inadequate German transport means (that's its own subject); and (3) the Germans fuel shortage. I think, also, the two-speed nature of the German Army (a few Panzer and motorized units) with a huge mass of horse-drawn and infantry formations, is inadequately emphasized in most accounts. The infantry was even worse out than in the French campaign -- because they lost most of their motorized logistical and artillery assets to the supply trains and the new Panzer/motorized formations.

The Germans objectives after beating the Soviet armies on the border were vague and a subject of controversy among the planners. Generally, I agree with R.H.S. Stolfi, and think the OKH (Army General Staff) planners (mainly Franz Halder and company) who emphasized Moscow at the expense of the flanks (particularly the South) had the better of the argument. Moscow was the one geographical objective (barely) in range of the Germans that had the possibility of decisively crippling the Soviet military/industrial position: the Soviet army and economy were heavily on rail transport -- and Moscow was THE rail hub of western Russia.

The economic objectives in the South so dear to Hitler were certainly important (particularly the grains in the Ukraine, ores in the Donets basin and the oil resources in the Caucasus) -- but only relevant and usable if it turned into a long war, which Germany's resources and manpower would not permit her to win. Because of the manpower and transport issues and Soviet destruction, the Germans could never adequately use what they captured anyway.

As to the actual campaign, the Germans did better than they had any right to expect -- they wrecked the front line and operational reserves where they planned to -- on the borders and made an exceptionally deep penetration in the center towards Smolensk. The Germans did as well as they needed to around Leningrad and in the South.

But the decision was in the center. The Germans engaged a good bit of the Soviet strategic reserves (probably) around Smolensk in late summer and beat them. The question they had to resolve then was whether to encircle the Soviet left around Kiev...or leave Army Group South to engage it and strke at Moscow (essentially a smaller Operation Typhoon sooner).

In August, Hitler chose Kiev, turned Guderian's Panzers south, stood pat in the center and won one of the greatest operational victories in the history of warfare, and possibly lost the war. Stalin had time to build reserves in front of Moscow and Typhoon, when it came, had to be tried too late in the season, with run-down Panzers, against too many Soviets.

I think the Soviets could have been beaten in 1941, but it's not totally possible to know: we don't know enough about Stalin's actual reserves -- whether he could have built another front in front of Moscow in time (I think he lost too much at Smolensk). But either way, it looks close, and it was the best chance the Germans had.

The forces the Germans had to leave in the west were very important to the Soviets during this period, had the Germans had the use of their western armies (particularly in terms of infantry replacements), the situation would have looked a good deal bleaker.

After 1942, I think the Soviets probably could have won the war themselves -- had they been so inclined, but the human cost would have been much higher. I think that Germans, absent other allies for the Soviets, possibly had a good chance of forcing some kind of negotiated settlement. In any event, I think any chance of an outright German victory in the east was gone after August 1941.

5/23/2008 07:48:00 AM  
Blogger exhelodrvr1 said...

Dave,
"The German thirst for conquest and loot did not start with Hitler, it was there all along."

The Germans, up through the Kaisers, were no different than anyone else in Europe. They were just delayed getting to the table, because of their later unification. But they were the same.

5/23/2008 09:14:00 AM  
Blogger Mad Fiddler said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5/23/2008 10:06:00 AM  
Blogger Mad Fiddler said...

Hey, Doug!

If a little bit of penalty will prevent the rising of waters in the San Francisco Bay, then maybe the San Francisco experts can actually make the water level DROP by imposing Really Big penalties!

My logic is UN-ASSAILABLE!

Just like theirs.

Damn. Why didn't anyone think of that sooner?

- - - - - - - - - - -

Reminds me of a scene from [I think] the movie "The Three Musketeers" --- the one with Charlton Heston as Cardinal Richelieu made in the early 1970's. Also had Richard Chamberlain, Michael York, Christopher Lee, Racquel Welch, Faye Dunaway, Oliver Reed, and Geraldine Chaplin as the French Queen.

There's a scene in which the Queen is giddy with excitement as she rides a carousel powered by a team of doggies.

"Wheee!" she ejaculates. "Whip them! Whip them! Make them go faster!"

5/23/2008 10:13:00 AM  
Blogger El Jefe Maximo said...

I'm going to agree with exhelo that, as far as foreign and military policy went, the Germans were not much different than the other big power Euros, at least thru 1918, and I would argue right up through the advent of the Nazi regime. Outside of the Left, even the most anti-Nazi Germans, post 1918, and virtually any non-Left government, was going to support an effort to overturn Versailles, including re-armament; militarization of the Rhineland; unification of Austria with Germany (that was provided for in Article 61 of the Weimar Constitution, although the Allies made the Germans agree not to implement it); return of Memel; restoration of the old 1914 border with Poland; and, probably some re-arrangement of the Czech border or the disappearance of that State. Similar ambitions were or had been a staple of traditional European politics for centuries (e.g. the French and Belgium/Rhineland and the Saar).

Hitler and the Nazis were better than anybody else in German politics at exploiting the desire to undo November 1918, and the fact that this was not a particularly radical point of view in Germany (and was in fact wildly popular as long as it stayed bloodless) does much to explain why he got as far as he did.

Where Hitler and the Nazis truly made a radical and terrible new departure was via the marriage of their weird ideas about race and nationality with the concepts of slavery and European colonialism. The result was the German effort to build a slave-colonial Empire in Eastern Europe by a program of massacring or enslaving the local inhabitants. The Jews were just supposed to be massacred first, to be followed by Poles, Russians and others. The war prevented this program from being fully carried out.

5/23/2008 11:19:00 AM  
Blogger MKSheppard said...

The Germans basically looted the place of everything that wasn't nailed down to keep the Nazi War Economy running, and it occured on just about every level from industrial to banking capital.

Wages of Destruction by Tooze is a very eye opening read; I'll summarize the German actions:

[*]They looted 4,260 locomotives and 140,000 wagons from the French, Dutch and Belgian railroads, to supplement German railroads -- during the 1930s, the Germans got some of the capital to pay for Hitler's programs by reducing the capital outlay on the Reich's railroads; causing them to become a severe bottleneck by the 1940s due to old, creaky equipment. Looting European railroads went a long way to remedying the shortage of capital in the 1930s. Of course, the consequences of this looting became a very severe problem later on.

---They instituted a deficit system that meant that Germany was making a net [b]profit[/b] off imports of goods from Occupied Europe.

Basically, instead of being paid in full by German companies for their goods, foreign companies were paid by their own central banks; who credited the difference between the Reichsmark and the Franc, etc to the Reichsbank's account.

What it meant by the end of 1944, the following debts were owed by Germany to foreign companies:

8.5 billion RM - France
6 billion RM - Netherlands
5 billion RM - Belgium & Luxembourg
4.7 billion RM - Poland

[*]Whenever possible, German corporations took over foreign corporations in the occupied territories; IG Farben basically took over the entire French chemical industry through the Francolor dye trust; while the Reichswerke Hermann Goering took over the de Windel mining and steel conglomerate; and Rheinmetall took over NV Werkspoor and Staatlichen Artillerie Inrichtingen.

Basically, if the company was essentially state owned or controlled, the Germans grabbed it up relatively easy. If it was a private company, they usually managed to evade German control by transferring ownership to offshore offices (Shell, Philips, and Unilever in Holland did this).

Of course, it goes without saying that "Jewish" properties were aggressively "Aryanized".

----They diverted fuel from all over Occupied Europe to the Reich. A good example is France. From the summer of 1940 onwards, the French economy had to make do with only 8% of it's pre-war supply of gasoline. This horribly wrecked the French economy; for example, thousands of liters of milk were spoiled each day in the French countryside because no gasoline was available to ensure that it was collected on a regular basis. Even with the looting of Occupied Europe, the German fuel situation was so critical that 1941, the Wehrmacht was licensing drivers to be able to drive heavy trucks with only 15 kilometers of on-road driving experience. This of course caused horrible attrition of motor vehicles in Russia. Likewise, in November 1941, Opel had to close production at Germany's largest truck factory because it didn't have the gasoline needed to test the fuel pumps of vehicles coming off the line. A special allocation of 104 cubic meters of gasoline had to be arranged by the Wehrmacht's economic office to continue production.

---Because of the wholesale German looting of the rolling stock of European railways, coal production in Europe collapsed; because while the miners could still mine the coal, it just piled up at the pitheads, awaiting transport. Coal production in France plunged by 18% in 1940 alone, and never recovered. This shortage of coal did not take long to affect industry all across Europe; with French steel mills only getting half their pre-war allocation of coal, output of Steel in France plunged.

---German coal production began to decline as well, because of the lack of trained workers, who had been drafted into the Wehrmacht. To make up for this loss, by the spring of 1941, Sunday shifts were instituted in the Ruhr's mines; meaning that the miners didn't get any rest at all, causing output to further decline as people became overworked. To correct this, the Wehrmacht was eventually persuaded to release trained miners; but this wasn't enough - and by May 1941, there were 70,000~ foreign workers in German mines.

---The entire European farming system began a collective freefall. The farms of Europe mainly relied on imported animal feed from overseas. The British blockade of Europe closed off these sources. Normally, some equilibrum could have been restored by utilizing German and French grain production, but they relied on large amounts of synthetic nitrogen-based fertilizers; which could only be supplied at the expense of explosives production. Additionally, as Germany began to loot Europe of manpower and horsepower; the labor and livestock intensive farms of Europe were easy targets for the Germans. Thus, France's grain harvest in 1940 was less than half of her 1938 harvest, and German production of grain also plunged. This combined with relatively weak harvests in Romania, et al; put the Germans in a quandary.

To make up this enormous freefall in food production and still feed Germany's population (The Nazi party considered one of the major reasons that Germany lost the war in 1918 was that the German population had starved to feed the Army at the front); the only solution was to significantly cut the official food rations of the occupied territories and use the excess to feed Germany. Thus, the official food ration in Belgium and France given to 'normal consumers' was as little as 1,300 calories per day, while in Norway and Czechslovakia, they hovered around 1,600 calories.

By way of comparison, recommended daily intake is around 2,500 calories for men, and 2,000 calories for women. Of course, physically active people will need more; and with the reduction of Europe to a pre-gasoline existence, more manual labor was of course needed; yet there wasn't enough food for this.

Thus, from 1940 to 1945; no Western European country's (other than Germany) economy grew at all.

5/26/2008 12:10:00 AM  
Blogger El Jefe Maximo said...

The Tooze book Wages of Destruction that MK Sheppard references, is an EXCELLENT book, that I cannot recommend enough. The German war economy could not have in fact functioned at all without the systematic looting of occupied Europe that Tooze describes. I'd recommend it in conjunction with Ian Kershaw's biography of Hitler, which will probably be the standard.

Such behavior had been a function of great power European wars for centuries, but the depth and scale of the German economic plunder of the continent was quite unprecedented.

5/27/2008 07:53:00 AM  

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