Russia: The Nazi Invasion




From Moscow, Cameron Sawyer writes: I wonder if Hitler's "Tischgespraeche" give us any insight into Hitler's reasoning behind his Russian campaign?  It is known that he was obsessed with Napoleon's failure there.  It is said that he hesitated to take Moscow because of Napoleon's precedent (Muscovites say that Napoleon, riding triumphantly through the Savior Gate of the Kremlin, lost his cockaded hat, fatal omen).  And yet he repeated many of the same mistakes, particularly concerning supply and logistics.  He did not even provide winter clothing to his troops!
 
My wife and I these days are watching a new Russian film, called "PQ-17", a very long -- about 8 hours! -- and very elaborate historical epic about the destruction by the Germans of the eponymous British-American-Soviet convoy.  The Germans annihilated the convoy with the loss of thousands of lives and a billion-odd dollars worth of Lend-Lease material.  After years of Soviet propaganda downplaying the Lend-Lease program, it is gratifying to see the program treated objectively by the Russians as a crucial boost to the Soviet war effort.   The plot of the film concerns the fatal decision by the British Admiralty, panicked by the prospect of the German battleship "Tirpitz" attacking the convoy, to withdraw all their warships -- one of the great blunders of the war (and the "Tirpitz" never even came out).  The Soviet and American leadership protested the British withdrawal, but too late -- the abandoned merchantmen scattered and were picked off one by one by German air and submarine attacks.
 
The movie is a very large-scale production.  I can't imagine where the producers got all the ships.  There is a cast of thousands including actors portraying Hitler, Churchill, Stalin, and many other figures.  For the sake of authenticity, the Germans all speak German, and the Americans and British all speak English, with voiceovers in Russian (for some reason, the Germans speak perfectly and the "Americans" hardly at all).  I don't know whether it will be released in the West or not, but if it is, I recommend it to WAISers who like such things.

In discussing the Nazi mentality, I used the word "psychosis".  Cameron Sawyer comments: "German psychosis" is exactly the right phrase here.  The weird -- actually, insane -- Nazis ideas about race and supposed Jewish plots to take over the world are really hard for the modern mind to grasp, and certainly fly in the face of many obvious facts.  Trying to understand them in rational terms is probably impossible.
 
In fact there was nothing particularly Jewish about Bolshevism.  There were plenty of Jews involved in the initial foundation of the Bolshevik regime, but there is nothing unusual about that -- the same may be said of capitalism and many other social-political movements.  By 1933, the "Georgian Gang" had already won their power struggle with Trotsky, most of the Jewish Old Bolsheviks had already been shot or pushed aside, and the Soviet state was headed by a former seminary student from the Causcasus; thus any supposed Jewish character of Bolshevism was already not much in evidence, at least in the Soviet Union.
 
So why did Hitler consider it imperative to invade Russia?  For oil and natural resources?  In order to preempt the eventual armageddon between Fascism and Communism?  For territory, because of the "Drang nach Osten" and the need for "Lebensraum"?
 
Let's consider these one by one:  Hitler could have gotten all the oil he needed from Romania; Caucasian and Caspian Oil was anyway too remote to do him much good.  As to the showdown between Fascism and Communism, the historical record shows that Stalin had no desire to be involved in any war, and had no serious plans to attack Germany.  In fact, the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact was not "merely tactical", at least as far as the Russians were concerned.  There is evidence that Stalin actually admired the German dictator and appreciated his political system.  And as the result of that same Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact, Germany already had plenty of Lebensraum, with half of Poland's huge territory to add to the Sudetenland, and with France under occupation and at his mercy.
 
My personal opinion is that Hitler had no rational reason to attack Russia.  Anyway, if Hitler had been thinking rationally, he would have known that invading Russia -- with her vast territory, huge natural resources and manufacturing capability, and millions upon millions of soldiers -- would be suicide, all the more when he still had enemies in the West.  I think the only explanation is by analogy with the behavior of a mad dog -- insane with aggression, foaming at the mouth, biting everything within reach.  Mad with aggression and with psychotic delusions about Untermenschen and Jewish plots, he simply lashed out.  And he came to the same end as any mad dog, thank God, but not, unfortunately, before utterly destroying Germany and causing the deaths of tens of millions of people.

RH: The Russian Communist Party was Jewish in origin and was still so when Hitler wa formulating his ideas, well before 1933.  This raises a curious point. The Jews are usually viewed as bankers and capitalists, so why did the Jews promote communism?  There is in the Jewish tradition a collective mentality expressed in the kibbutz. In Russia it combined with the mir, the Russian peasant community. Can someone tell us about the Jewish collective tradition?
 
It would seem that Russian leaders have a penchant for ignoring the takeover intents and declarations of foreign armies.Christopher Jones outlines the letters ignored by the Tsar and others. On the same topic, when one of Stalin’s spies presented a report outlining Hitler’s intent to invade Russia, the dictator wrote in pencil across the report, Tell this &8%$#* to give his report to someone who gives a damn.
 
A copy of this document, with Stalin’s signature, is in the US Library of Congress, and the original was displayed a decade ago in the Tretyakov Museum in Moscow. The point of the document is that Stalin was warned of Operation Barbarossa, but chose to ignore it, due to his mistaken belief that Hitler would not lie to him per the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, aka the Nazi-Soviet Pact. And, of course, the Americans and the British also warned Stalin of Hitler’s intent, but again, they were ignored.

Christopher Jones said: It would seem that Russian leaders have a penchant for ignoring the takeover intents and declarations of foreign armies.Christopher Jones outlines the letters ignored by the Tsar and others. On the same topic, when one of Stalin’s spies presented a report outlining Hitler’s intent to invade Russia, the dictator wrote in pencil across the report, Tell this &8%$#* to give his report to someone who gives a damn.  Cameron Sawyer comments: Christopher seems to be right on this.  It is somewhat hard to be sure how unambiguous was the information given to Stalin about the upcoming invasion -- heads of state receive masses of often conflicting information which can be hard to interpret.  A good example is the information about danger of the September 11 attacks which was given to both Presidents Clinton and Bush -- I doubt that this was definite enough to provide any basis for either of them to have taken any action.  But troops massing on the border -- that and many other facts of which Stalin was well aware would seem hard to misinterpret.  Indeed, Stalin seems to have felt something like a totalitarian kinship with "Gitler", as he is known in Russian, which has no "h".  I would have said that they deserved each other, were it not for the tens of millions of perfectly innocent people who had to die.

Harry Papasotiriou says: Hitler's primary motives for invading Russia were a) to save Western civilization from Bolshevism, and b) to colonize European Russia and reduce her Slavic inhabitants to the status of helots.  He seems to have thought that this was analogous to the US expansion westwards at the expense of the American Indians.  But whereas in the American case some 900.000 Indians were displaced and confined to reservations, Hitler's plan required the subjugation and decapitation - by killing the educated and upper classes - of over one hundred million Slavs.  Note, that the Nazis executed millions of Polish and Soviet Slavs, in addition to the six million Jews.  RH: Indians "displaced"? Does that mean sent to heaven,  hell, or reservations?  Are there any reliable figures?
 
Harry Papasotiriou wrote: Hitler seems to have thought that this was analogous to the US expansion westwards at the expense of the American Indians.  But whereas in the American case some 900.000 Indians were displaced and confined to reservations, Hitler's plan required the subjugation and decapitation - by killing the educated and upper classes - of over one hundred million Slavs.  Note, that the Nazis executed millions of Polish and Soviet Slavs, in addition to the six million Jews.  asked: Indians "displaced"? Does that mean sent to heaven,  hell, or reservations?  Are there any reliable figures? Adriana Pena from Argentine writes: Let's say that Americans Indians were "displaced" as in "ethnic cleansing"..  The wholesale slaughter of buffalo was an attempt to starve the Indians, that is, to get rid of them without getting blood on their hands.

Whether we like it or not, the worst characteristics of Nazism had nothing to do with Fascism per se, but were copied from the US.  It was in the US were people were forcibly sterilized for eugenics reasons, not in Fascist Italy. It was in the US where they had adopted the Jim Crow Laws, of which the Nuremberg Laws were a more systematic adaptation, not in Italy. It was in the US where a people judged to be "ethnically inferior" was eliminated to make room for the superior stock.  There is plenty to criticize in Mussolini, and Fascism, but  what Hitler did was copying the US.
From Denmark. Holger Terp asks: How many Indians were killed during the white Americans'expansion into native Americans territory? 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
RH:  This is  valid question, but we should again remember that statistics are often twisted by those promotion a particular case.  A related  question is: how many Indians were there in what became the United States?  In the case of the Indians of Latin American, anti´Spanish historians inflate their numbers to make the genocide more atrocious, while Spanish historians give much smaller numbers.  There have been shouting matches between the two groups.. It is a very technical question on which, being ignorant, I take no position.

 

 



Ronald Hilton 2005

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last updated: April 12, 2005