The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germ

"Science," the Greek word for knowledge, when appended to the word "political," creates what seems like an oxymoron. For who could claim to know politics? More complicated than any game, most people who play it become addicts and die without understanding what they were addicted to. The rest of us suffer under their malpractice as our "leaders." A truer case of the blind leading the blind could not be found. Plumb the depths of confusion here.

Re: The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi

Postby admin » Mon Feb 12, 2018 9:36 pm

Part 2 of 2

On that day the Japanese carrier task force sailed for Pearl Harbor. In Washington Hull went to the White House to warn the War Council of the danger confronting the country from Japan and to stress to the U.S. Army and Navy chiefs the possibility of Japanese surprise attacks. In Berlin that day there was a somewhat grotesque ceremony in which the three Axis Powers, amid much pomp and ceremony, renewed the Anti-Comintern Pact of 1936 -- an empty gesture which, as some Germans noted, did absolutely nothing to get Japan into the war against Russia but which afforded the pompous Ribbentrop an opportunity to denounce Roosevelt as the "chief culprit of this war" and to shed crocodile tears for the "truthful, religious ... American people" betrayed by such an irresponsible leader.

The Nazi Foreign Minister seems to have become intoxicated by his own words. He called in Oshima on the evening of November 28, following a lengthy council of war earlier that day presided over by Hitler, and gave the Japanese ambassador the impression that the German attitude toward the United States, as Oshima promptly radioed Tokyo, had "considerably stiffened." Hitler's policy of doing everything possible to keep America out of the war until Germany was ready to take her on seemed about to be jettisoned. Suddenly Ribbentrop was urging the Japanese to go to war against the United States as well as Britain and promising the backing of the Third Reich. After warning Oshima that "if Japan hesitates ... all the military might of Britain and the United States will be concentrated against Japan" -- a rather silly thesis as long as the European war continued -- Ribbentrop added:

As Hitler said today, there are fundamental differences in the very right to exist between Germany and Japan and the United States. We have received advice to the effect that there is practically no hope of the Japanese-U.S. negotiations being concluded successfully because the United States is putting up a stiff front.

If this is indeed the fact of the case, and if Japan reaches a decision to fight Britain and the United States, I am confident that that not only will be in the interest of Germany and Japan jointly, but would bring about favorable results for Japan herself.

The ambassador, a tense little man, was agreeably surprised. But he wanted to be sure he understood correctly.

"Is Your Excellency," he asked, "indicating that a state of actual war is to be established between Germany and the United States?"

Ribbentrop hesitated. Perhaps he had gone too far. "Roosevelt is a fanatic," he replied, "so it is impossible to tell what he would do."

This seemed a strange and unsatisfactory answer to Oshima in view of what the Foreign Minister had said just before, and toward the end of the talk he insisted on coming back to the main point. What would Germany do if the war were actually extended to "countries which have been aiding Britain"?

Should Japan become engaged in a war against the United States [Ribbentrop replied] Germany, of course, would join the war immediately. There is absolutely no possibility of Germany's entering into a separate peace with the United States under such circumstances. The Fuehrer is determined on that point. [33]

This was the flat guarantee for which the Japanese government had been waiting. True, Hitler had given a similar one in the spring to Matsuoka, but it seemed to have been forgotten during the intervening period when he had become vexed at Japan's refusal to join in the war on Russia. All that remained now, so far as the Japanese were concerned, was to get the Germans to put their assurance in writing. General Oshima joyfully filed his report to Tokyo on November 29. Fresh instructions reached him in Berlin the next day. The Washington talks, he was informed, "now stand ruptured -- broken."

Will Your Honor [the message directed] therefore immediately interview Chancellor HITLER and Foreign Minister RIBBENTROP and confidentially communicate to them a summary of developments. Say to them that lately England and the United States have taken a provocative attitude, both of them. Say that they are planning to move military forces into various places in East Asia and that we will inevitably have to counter by also moving troops. Say very secretly to them that there is extreme danger that war may suddenly break out between Japan and the Anglo-Saxon nations through some clash of arms and add that the time of the breaking out of that war may come quicker than anyone dreams. [xiii] [34]

The Japanese carrier fleet was now well on its way to Pearl Harbor. Tokyo was in a hurry to get Germany to sign. On the same day that Oshima was receiving his new instructions, November 30, the Japanese Foreign Minister was conferring with the German ambassador in Tokyo, to whom he emphasized that the Washington talks had broken down because Japan refused to accede to American demands that she abandon the Tripartite Pact. The Japanese hoped the Germans would appreciate this sacrifice in a common cause.

"Grave decisions are at stake," Togo told General Otto "The United States is seriously preparing for war ... Japan is not afraid of a breakdown in negotiations and she hopes that in that case Germany and Italy, according to the Three-Power Agreement, will stand at her side."

I answered [Ott radioed Berlin] that there could be no doubt about Germany's future position. Japanese Foreign Minister thereupon stated that hc understood from my words that Germany in such a case would consider her relationship to Japan as that of a community of fate. I answered, according to my opinion, Germany was certainly ready to have mutual agreement between the two countries on this situation. [35]


General Oshima was a great lover of German-Austrian classical music and despite the gravity and tenseness of the situation he took off for Austria to enjoy a Mozart festival. But he was not permitted to listen to the great Austrian composer's lovely music for long. An urgent call on December I brought him rushing back to his embassy in Berlin, where he found new instructions to get busy and sign up Germany on the dotted line. There was no time to lose.

And now, when cornered, Ribbentrop stalled. Apparently realizing fully for the first time the consequences of his rash promises to the Japanese, the Nazi Foreign Minister grew exceedingly cool and evasive. He told Oshima late on the evening of December 1 that he would first have to consult the Fuehrer before making any definite commitment. The Japanese ambassador returned to the Wilhelmstrasse on Wednesday, the third, to press his case but again Ribbentrop put him off. To Oshima's pleas that the situation had become extremely critical the Foreign Minister replied that while he personally was for a written agreement the matter would have to wait until the Fuehrer returned from headquarters later in the week. Actually, as Ciano noted in his diary, not without a sign of glee, Hitler had flown to the southern front in Russia to see General von Kleist, "whose armies continue to fall back under the pressure of an unexpected offensive."

The Japanese, by this time, had also turned to Mussolini, who was not at any front. On December 3 the Japanese ambassador in Rome called on the Duce and formally asked Italy to declare war on the United States, in accordance with the Tripartite Pact, as soon as the conflict with America should begin. The ambassador also wanted a treaty specifying that there would be no separate peace. The Japanese interpreter, Ciano noted in his diary, "was trembling like a leaf." As for the Duce, he was "pleased" to comply, after consultation with Berlin.

The German capital, Ciano found the next day, had grown extremely cautious.

Maybe they will go ahead [he began his diary on December 4] because they can't do otherwise, but the idea of provoking American intervention is less and less liked by the Germans. Mussolini, on the other hand, is happy about it.

Regardless of Ribbentrop's opinion, which Hitler, surprisingly, still paid some attention to, the decision as to whether Germany would give a formal guarantee to Japan could be taken only by the Nazi warlord himself. During the night of December 4-5 the Foreign Minister apparently got the Fuehrer's go-ahead and at 3 A.M. he handed General Oshima a draft of the requested treaty in which Germany would join Japan in war against the United States and agree not to make a separate peace. Having taken the fateful plunge and followed his Leader in reversing a policy that had been clung to stubbornly for two years, he could not refrain from seeing that his Italian ally promptly followed suit.

A night interrupted by Ribbentrop's restiveness [Ciano began his diary on December 5]. After having delayed two days he now hasn't a minute to lose in answering the Japanese, and at 3 o'clock in the morning he sends [Ambassador] Mackensen to my house to submit a plan for a Tripartite Pact of Japanese intervention and the promise not to make a separate peace. They wanted me to wake up the Duce, but I did not do it, and the Duce was very pleased.

The Japanese had a draft treaty, approved by both Hitler and Mussolini, but they did not yet have it signed, and this worried them. They suspected that the Fuehrer was stalling because he wanted a quid pro quo: if Germany joined Japan in the war against the United States, Japan would have to join Germany in the war against Russia. In his telegram of instructions to Oshima on November 30, the Japanese Foreign Minister had given some advice on how to handle this ticklish problem if the Germans and Italians raised it.

If [they] question you about our attitude toward the Soviet, say that we have already clarified our attitude toward the Russians in our statement of last July. Say that by our present moves southward we do not mean to relax our pressure against the Soviet and that if Russia joins hands tighter with England and the United States and resists us with hostilities, we are ready to turn upon her with all our might. However, right now, it is to our advantage to stress the south and for the time being we would prefer to refrain from any direct moves in the north. [36]

December 6 came. Zhukov that very day launched his counteroffensive in front of Moscow and the German armies reeled back in the snow and bitter cold. There was all the more reason for Hitler to demand his quid pro quo. On this question there was great uneasiness in the Foreign Office in Tokyo. The naval task force was now within flying distance of Pearl Harbor for its carrier planes. So far -- miraculously -- it had not been discovered by American ships or aircraft. But it might be any moment. A long message was being radioed from Tokyo to Nomura and Kurusu in Washington instructing them to call on Secretary Hull at precisely I P.M. the next day, Sunday, December 7, to present Japan's rejection of the latest American proposals, and stressing that the negotiations were "de facto ruptured." In desperation Tokyo turned to Berlin for a written guarantee of German support. The Japanese warlords still did not trust the Germans enough to inform them of the blow against the United States which would fall the next day. But they were more worried than ever that Hitler would refrain from giving his guarantee unless Japan agreed to take on not only the United States and Great Britain but the Soviet Union as well. In this predicament Togo got off a long message to Ambassador Oshima in Berlin urging him to somehow stall the Germans on the Russian matter and not to give in unless it became absolutely necessary. Deluded though they were about their ability to deal with the Americans and the British, the Japanese generals and admirals retained enough sense to realize that they could not fight the Russians at the same time -- even with German help. Togo's instructions to Oshima on that fateful Saturday, December 6, which are among the intercepted messages decoded by Secretary Hull's expert decipherers, give an interesting insight into the diplomacy practiced by the Nipponese with the Third Reich at the eleventh hour.

We would like to avoid ... an armed clash with Russia until strategic circumstances permit it; so get the German government to understand this position of ours and negotiate with them so that at least for the present they will not insist upon exchanging diplomatic notes on this question.

Explain to them at considerable length that insofar as American materials being shipped to Soviet Russia ... they are neither of high quality nor of large quantity, and that in case we start our war with the United States we will capture all American ships destined for Soviet Russia. Please endeavor to come to an understanding on this line.

However, should Ribbentrop insist upon our giving a guarantee in this matter. since in that case we shall have no other recourse, make a ... statement to the effect that we would, as a matter of principle, prevent war materials from being shipped from the United States to Soviet Russia via Japanese waters, and get them to agree to a procedure permitting the addition of a statement to the effect that so long as strategic reasons continue to make it necessary for us to keep Soviet Russia from fighting Japan (what I mean is that we cannot capture Soviet ships) we cannot carry this out thoroughly.

In case the German government refuses to agree with [the above] and makes their approval of this question absolutely conditional upon our participation in the war and upon our concluding a treaty against making a separate peace, we have no way but to postpone the conclusion of such a treaty. [37]

The Japanese need not have worried so much. For reasons unknown to the Tokyo militarists, or to anyone else, and which defy logic and understanding, Hitler did not insist on Japan's taking on Russia along with the United States and Britain, though if he had the course of the war conceivably might have been different.

At any rate, the Japanese on this Saturday evening of December 6, 194 I, were determined to strike a telling blow against the United States in the Pacific, though no one in Washington or Berlin knew just where or even exactly when. That morning the British Admiralty had tipped off the American government that a large Japanese invasion fleet had been observed heading across the Gulf of Siam for the Isthmus of Kra, which indicated that the Nipponese were striking first at Thailand and perhaps Malaya. At 9 P.M. President Roosevelt got off a personal message to the Emperor of Japan imploring him to join him in finding "ways of dispelling the dark clouds" and at the same time warning him that a thrust of the Japanese military forces into Southeast Asia would create a situation that was "unthinkable." At the Navy Department, intelligence officers drew up their latest report on the location of the major warships of the Japanese Navy. It listed most of them as being in home ports, including all the carriers and other warships of the task force which at that very moment had steamed to within three hundred miles of Pearl Harbor and was tuning up its bombers to take off at dawn.

On that Saturday evening too the Navy Department informed the President and Mr. Hull that the Japanese Embassy was destroying its codes. It had first had to decipher Togo's long message, which had dribbled in all afternoon in fourteen parts. The Navy decoders were also deciphering it as fast as it came in and by 9:30 P.M. a naval officer was at the White House with translations of the first thirteen parts. Mr. Roosevelt, who was with Harry Hopkins in the study, read it and said, "This means war." But exactly when and just where, the message did not say and the President did not know. Even Admiral Nomura did not know. Nor far off in Eastern Europe did Adolf Hitler. He knew less than Roosevelt.


The Japanese onslaught on the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor at 7:30 A.M. (local time) on Sunday, December 7,1941, caught Berlin as completely by surprise as it did Washington. Though Hitler had made an oral promise to Matsuoka that Germany would join Japan in a war against the United States and Ribbentrop had made another to Ambassador Oshima, the assurance had not yet been signed and the Japanese had not breathed a word to the Germans about Pearl Harbor. [xiv] Besides, at this moment, Hitler was fully occupied trying to rally his faltering generals and retreating troops in Russia.

Night had fallen in Berlin when the foreign-broadcast monitoring service first picked up the news of the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. When an official of the Foreign Office Press Department telephoned Ribbentrop the world-shaking news he at first refused to believe it and was extremely angry at being disturbed. The report was "probably a propaganda trick of the enemy," he said, and ordered that he be left undisturbed until morning.  [38] So probably Ribbentrop, for once, told the truth when he testified on the stand at Nuremberg that "this attack came as a complete surprise to us. We had considered the possibility of Japan's attacking Singapore or perhaps Hong Kong, but we never considered an attack on the United States as being to our advantage." [39] However, contrary to what he told the tribunal, he was exceedingly happy about it. Or so he struck Ciano.

A night telephone call from Ribbentrop [Ciano began his diary on December 8]. He is joyful over the Japanese attack on the United States. He is so happy, in fact, that I can't but congratulate him, even though I am not so sure about the advantage ... Mussolini was [also] happy. For a long time now he has been in favor of clarifying the position between America and the Axis.

At 1 P.M. on Monday, December 8, General Oshima went to the Wilhelmstrasse to get Ribbentrop to clarify Germany's position. He demanded a formal declaration of war on the United States "at once."

Ribbentrop replied [Oshima radioed Tokyo] that Hitler was then in the midst of a conference at general headquarters discussing how the formalities of declaring war could be carried out so as to make a good impression on the German people, and that he would transmit your wish to him at once and do whatever he was able to have it carried out promptly.

The Nazi Foreign Minister also informed the ambassador, according to the latter's message to Tokyo, that on that very morning of the eighth "Hitler issued orders to the German Navy to attack American ships whenever and wherever they may meet them." [40] But the dictator stalled on a declaration of war. [xv]

The Fuehrer, according to the notation in his daily calendar book, hurried back to Berlin on the night of December 8, arriving there at 11 o'clock the next morning. Ribbentrop claimed at Nuremberg that he pointed out to the Leader that Germany did not necessarily have to declare war on America under the terms of the Tripartite Pact, since Japan was obviously the aggressor.

The text of the Tripartite Pact bound us to assist Japan only in case of an attack against Japan herself. I went to see the Fuehrer, explained the legal aspect of the situation and told him that, although we welcomed a new ally against England, it meant we had a new opponent to deal with as well ... if we declared war on the United States.

I told him that according to the stipulation of the Three-Power Pact, since Japan had attacked, we would not have to declare war, formally. The Fuehrer thought this matter over quite a while and then he gave me a very clear decision. "If we don't stand on the side of Japan," he said, "the Pact is politically dead. But that is not the main reason. The chief reason is that the United States already is shooting against our ships. They have been a forceful factor in this war and through their actions have already created a situation of war."

The Fuehrer was of the opinion at that moment that It was quite evident that the United States would now make war against Germany. Therefore he ordered me to hand over the passports to the American representative. [42]

This was a decision that Roosevelt and Hull in Washington had been confidently waiting for. There had been some pressure on them to have Congress declare war on Germany and Italy on December 8 when that step was taken against Japan. But they had decided to wait. The bombing at Pearl Harbor had taken them off one hook and certain information in their possession led them to believe that the headstrong Nazi dictator would take them off a second hook. [xvi] They had pondered the intercepted message of Ambassador Oshima from Berlin to Tokyo on November 29 [xvii] in which Ribbentrop had assured the Japanese that Germany would join Japan if she became "engaged" in a war against the United States. There was nothing in that assurance which made German aid conditional upon who was the aggressor. It was a blank check and the Americans had no doubt that the Japanese were now clamoring in Berlin that it be honored.

It was honored, but only after the Nazi warlord again hesitated. He had convoked the Reichstag to meet on December 9, the day of his arrival in Berlin, but he postponed it for two days, until the eleventh. Apparently, as Ribbentrop later reported, he had made up his mind. He was fed up with the attacks made by Roosevelt on him and on Nazism; his patience was exhausted by the warlike acts of the U.S. Navy against German U-boats in the Atlantic, about which Raeder had continually nagged him for nearly a year. He had a growing hatred for America and Americans and, what was worse for him in the long run, a growing tendency to disastrously underestimate the potential strength of the United States. [xviii]

At the same time he grossly overestimated Japan's military power. In fact, he seems to have believed that once the Japanese, whose Navy he believed to be the most powerful in the world, had disposed of the British and Americans in the Pacific, they would turn on Russia and thus help him finish his great conquest in the East. He actually told some of his followers a few months later that he thought Japan's entry into the war had been "of exceptional value to us, if only because of the date chosen."

It was, in effect, at the moment when the surprises of the Russian winter were pressing most heavily on the morale of our people, and when everybody in Germany was oppressed by the certainty that sooner or later the United States would come into the conflict. Japanese intervention therefore was, from our point of view, most opportune. [43]

There is also no doubt that Japan's sneaky and mighty blow against the American fleet at Pearl Harbor kindled his admiration -- and all the more so because it was the kind of "surprise" he had been so proud of pulling off so often himself. He expressed this to Ambassador Oshima on December 14 when he awarded him the Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the German Eagle in gold:

You gave the right declaration of war! This method is the only proper one.

It corresponded, he said, to his "own system."

That is, to negotiate as long as possible. But if one sees that the other is interested only in putting one off, in shaming and humiliating one, and is not willing to come to an agreement, then one should strike -- indeed, as hard as possible -- and not waste time declaring war. It was heartwarming to him to hear of the first operations of the Japanese. He himself negotiated with infinite patience at times, for example, with Poland and also with Russia. When he then realized that the other did not want to come to an agreement, he struck suddenly and without formalities. He would continue to go this way in the future. [44]

There was one other reason for Hitler's deciding in such haste to add the United States to the formidable list of his enemies. Dr. Schmidt, who was in and out of the Chancellery and Foreign Office that week, put his finger on it: "I got the impression," he later wrote, "that, with his inveterate desire for prestige, Hitler, who was expecting an American declaration of war, wanted to get his declaration in first." [45] The Nazi warlord confirmed this in his speech to the Reichstag on December 11.

"We will always strike first," he told the cheering deputies. "We will always deal the first blow!"

Indeed, Berlin was so fearful on December 10 that America might declare war first that Ribbentrop sternly admonished Thomsen, the German charge in Washington, about committing any indiscretion which might tip off the State Department to what Hitler planned to do on the following day. In a long radiogram on the tenth the Nazi Foreign Minister filed the text of the declaration he would make in Berlin to the U.S. charge d'affaires at precisely 2:30 P. M. on December 11. Thomsen was instructed to call on Hull exactly one hour later, at 3:30 P.M. (Berlin time), hand the Secretary of State a copy of the declaration, ask for his passport and turn over Germany's diplomatic representation to Switzerland. At the end of the message Ribbentrop warned Thomsen not to have any contact with the State Department before delivering his note. "We wish to avoid under all circumstances," the warning said, "that the Government there beats us to such a step."

Whatever hesitations led Hitler to postpone the Reichstag session by two days, it is evident from the captured exchange of messages between the Wilhelmstrasse and the German Embassy in Washington, and from other Foreign Office papers, that the Fuehrer actually made his fateful decision to declare war on the United States on December 9, the day he arrived in the capital from headquarters on the Russian front. The Nazi dictator appears to have wanted the two extra days not for further reflection but to prepare carefully his Reichstag speech so that it would make the proper impression on the German people, of whose memories of America's decisive role in the First World War Hitler was quite aware.

Hans Dieckhoff, who was still officially the German ambassador to the United States but who had been cooling his heels in the Wilhelmstrasse ever since both countries withdrew their chief envoys in the autumn of 1938, was put to work on December 9 to draw up a long list of Roosevelt's anti-German activities for the Fuehrer's Reichstag address. [xix]

Also on December 9 Thomsen in Washington was instructed to burn his secret codes and confidential papers. "Measures carried out as ordered," he flashed to Berlin at 11:30 A.M. on that day. For the first time he became aware of what was going on in Berlin and during the evening tipped the Wilhelmstrasse that apparently the American government knew too. "Believed here," he said, "that within twenty-four hours Germany will declare war on the United States or at least break off diplomatic relations." [xx]


Hitler's address on December 11 to the robots of the Reichstag in defense of his declaration of war on the United States was devoted mainly to hurling personal insults at Franklin D. Roosevelt, to charging that the President had provoked war in order to cover up the failures of the New Deal and to thundering that "this man alone," backed by the millionaires and the Jews, was "responsible for the Second World War." All the accumulated, pent-up resentment at a man who had stood from the first in his way toward world dominion, who had continually taunted him, who had provided massive aid to Britain at a moment when it seemed that battered island nation would fall, and whose Navy was frustrating him in the Atlantic burst forth in violent wrath.

Permit me to define my attitude to that other world, which has its representative in that man who, while our soldiers are fighting in snow and ice, very tactfully likes to make his chats from the fireside, the man who is the main culprit of this war ...

I will pass over the insulting attacks made by this so-called President against me. That he calls me a gangster is uninteresting. After all, this expression was not coined in Europe but in America, no doubt because such gangsters are lacking here. Apart from this, I cannot be insulted by Roosevelt, for I consider him mad, just as Wilson was ... First he incites war, then falsifies the causes, then odiously wraps himself in a cloak of Christian hypocrisy and slowly but surely leads mankind to war, not without calling God to witness the honesty of his attack -- in the approved manner of an old Freemason ...

Roosevelt has been guilty of a series of the worst crimes against international law. Illegal seizure of ships and other property of German and Italian nationals was coupled with the threat to, and looting of, those who were deprived of their liberty by being interned. Roosevelt's ever increasing attacks finally went so far that he ordered the American Navy to attack everywhere ships under the German and Italian flags, and to sink them -- this in gross violation of international law. American ministers boasted of having destroyed German submarines in this criminal way. German and Italian merchant ships were attacked by American cruisers, captured and their crews imprisoned.

In this way the sincere efforts of Germany and Italy to prevent an extension of the war and to maintain relations with the United States in spite of the unbearable provocations which have been carried on for years by President Roosevelt have been frustrated ...

What was Roosevelt's motive "to intensify anti-German feeling to the pitch of war"? Hitler asked. He gave two explanations.

I understand only too well that a world-wide distance separates Roosevelt's ideas and my ideas. Roosevelt comes from a rich family and belongs to the class whose path is smoothed in the democracies. I was only the child of a small, poor family and had to fight my way by work and industry. When the Great War came Roosevelt occupied a position where he got to know only its pleasant consequences, enjoyed by those who do business while others bleed. I was only one of those who carried out orders as an ordinary soldier, and naturally returned from the war just as poor as I was in the autumn of 1914. I shared the fate of millions, and Franklin Roosevelt only the fate of the so-called Upper Ten Thousand.

After the war Roosevelt tried his hand at financial speculations. He made profits out of inflation, out of the misery of others, while I ... lay in a hospital ...

Hitler continued at some length with this singular comparison before he reached his second point, that Roosevelt had reverted to war to escape the consequences of his failure as President.

National Socialism came to power in Germany in the same year as Roosevelt was elected President ... He took over a state in a very poor economic condition, and I took over the Reich faced with complete ruin, thanks to democracy ...

While an unprecedented revival of economic life, culture and art took place in Germany under National Socialist leadership, President Roosevelt did not succeed in bringing about even the slightest improvement in his own country ... This is not surprising if one bears in mind that the men he had called to support him, or rather, the men who had called him, belonged to the Jewish element, whose interests are all for disintegration and never for order ...

Roosevelt's New Deal legislation was all wrong. There can be no doubt that a continuation of this economic policy would have undone this President in peacetime, in spite of all his dialectical skill. In a European state he would surely have come eventually before a state court on a charge of deliberate waste of the national wealth; and he would scarcely have escaped at the hands of a civil court on a charge of criminal business methods.

Hitler knew that this assessment of the New Deal was shared, in part at least, by the American isolationists and a considerable portion of the business community and he sought to make the most of it, ignorant of the fact that on Pearl Harbor Day these groups, like all others in America, had rallied to the support of their country.

This fact was realized [he continued, alluding to these groups] and fully appreciated by many Americans, including some of high standing. A threatening opposition was gathering over the head of this man. He guessed that the only salvation for him lay in diverting public attention from home to foreign policy ... He was strengthened in this by the Jews around him ... The full diabolical meanness of Jewry rallied around this man, and he stretched out his hands.

Thus began the increasing efforts of the American President to create conflicts ... For years this man harbored one desire -- that a conflict should break out somewhere in the world.

There followed a long recital of Roosevelt's efforts in this direction, beginning with the "quarantine" speech in Chicago in 1937. "Now he [Roosevelt] is seized," Hitler cried at one point, "with fear that if peace is brought about in Europe his squandering of millions of money on armaments will be looked upon as plain fraud, since nobody will attack America -- and then he himself must provoke this attack upon his country."

The Nazi dictator seemed relieved that the break had come and he sought to share his sense of relief with the German people.

I think you have all found it a relief now that, at last, one State has been the first to take the step of protesting against this historically unique and shameless ill treatment of truth and of right ... The fact that the Japanese Government, which has been negotiating for years with this man, has at last become tired of being mocked by him in such an unworthy way fills us all, the German people and, I think, all other decent people in the world, with deep satisfaction ... The President of the United States ought finally to understand -- I say this only because of his limited intellect -- that we know that the aim of his struggle is to destroy one state after another ...

As for the German nation, it needs charity neither from Mr. Roosevelt nor from Mr. Churchill, let alone from Mr. Eden. It wants only its rights! It will secure for itself this right to live even if thousands of Churchills and Roosevelts conspire against it ...

I have therefore arranged for passports to be handed to the American charge d'affaires today, and the following -- [46]

At this point the deputies of the Reichstag leaped to their feet cheering, and the Fuehrer's words were drowned in the bedlam.

Shortly afterward, at 2:30 P.M., Ribbentrop, in one of his most frigid poses, received Leland Morris, the American charge d'affaires in Berlin, and while keeping him standing read out Germany's declaration of war, handed him a copy and icily dismissed him .

... Although Germany for her part [said the declaration] has always strictly observed the rules of international law in her dealings with the United States throughout the present war, the Government of the United States has finally proceeded to overt acts of war against Germany. It has, therefore, virtually created a state of war.

The Reich Government therefore breaks off all diplomatic relations with the United States and declares that under these circumstances brought about by President Roosevelt, Germany too considers herself to be at war with the United States, as from today. [47]

The final act in the day's drama was the signing of a tripartite agreement by Germany, Italy and Japan declaring "their unshakable determination not to lay down arms until the joint war against the United States and England reaches a successful conclusion" and not to conclude a separate peace.

Adolf Hitler, who a bare six months before had faced only a beleaguered Britain in a war which seemed to him as good as won, now, by deliberate choice, had arrayed against him the three greatest industrial powers in the world in a struggle in which military might depended largely, in the long run, on economic strength. Those three enemy countries together also had a gre3t preponderance of manpower over the three Axis nation3. Neither Hitler nor his generals nor his admirals seem to have weighed those sobering facts on that eventful December day as the year 1941 drew toward a close.

General Halder, the intelligent Chief of the General Staff, did not even note in his diary on December 11 that Germany had declared war on the United States. He mentioned only that in the evening he attended a lecture by a naval captain on the "background of the Japanese-American sea war." The rest of his diary, understandably perhaps, was taken up with the continued bad news from most sectors of the hard-pressed Russian front. There was no room in his thoughts for an eventual day when his weakened armies might also have to confront fresh troops from the New World.

Admiral Raeder actually welcomed Hitler's move. He conferred with the Fuehrer on the following day, December 12. "The situation in the Atlantic," he assured him, "will be eased by Japan's successful intervention." And warming up to his subject he added:

Reports have already been received of the transfer of some [American] battleships from the Atlantic to the Pacific. It is certain that light forces, especially destroyers, will be required in increased numbers in the Pacific. The need for transport ships will be very great, so that a withdrawal of American merchant ships from the Atlantic can be expected. The strain on British merchant shipping will increase.

Hitler, having taken his plunge, and with such reckless bravado, now suddenly was prey to doubts. He had some questions to put to the Grand Admiral. Did he "believe that the enemy will in the near future take steps to occupy the Azores, the Cape Verdes and perhaps even to attack Dakar, in order to win back prestige lost as the result of the setbacks in the Pacific?" Raeder did not think so.

The U.S. [he answered] will have to concentrate all her strength in the Pacific during the next few months. Britain will not want to run any risks after her severe losses of big ships. [xxi] It is hardly likely that transport tonnage is available for such occupation tasks or for bringing up supplies.

Hitler had a more important question to pose. "Is there any possibility," he asked, "that the U.S.A. and Britain will abandon East Asia for a time in order to crush Germany and Italy first?" Here again the Grand Admiral was reassuring.

It is improbable [he answered] that the enemy will give up East Asia even temporarily; by so doing Britain would endanger India very seriously, and the U.S. cannot withdraw her fleet from the Pacific as long as the Japanese fleet has the upper hand.

Raeder further tried to cheer up the Fuehrer by informing him that six "large" submarines were to proceed "as quickly as possible" to the east coast of the United States. [48]

With the situation in Russia being what it was, not to mention that in North Africa, where Rommel was also retreating, the thoughts of the German Supreme Commander and his military chiefs quickly turned from the new enemy, which they were sure would have its hands full in the Pacific far away. Their thoughts were not to return to it before another year had passed, the most fateful year of the war, in which the great turning point would come -- irrevocably deciding not only the outcome of the conflict which all through 1941 the Germans had believed almost over, almost won, but the fate of the Third Reich, whose astounding early victories had raised it so quickly to such a giddy height and which Hitler sincerely believed -- and said -- would flourish for a thousand years.

Halder's scribblings in his diary grew ominous as New Year's, 1942, drew near.

"Another dark day!" he began his journal on December 30, 1941, and again on the last day of the year. The Chief of the German General Staff had a presentiment of terrible things to come.



i. The italics are Hitler's.

ii. Hull made the remark to the new Japanese ambassador in Washington, Admiral Nomura, in the presence of Mr. Roosevelt on March 14. Nomura replied that Matsuoka "talked loudly for home consumption because he was ambitious politically." (The Memoirs of Cordell Hull, II, pp. 900-01.)

iii. Mussolini had told him, he informed Hitler, that "America was the Number One enemy, and Soviet Russia came only in second place."

iv. Or of anything else about the United States. His weird conception of America -- by this time Hitler had come to believe his own Nazi propaganda -- was given further exposition in a talk he had with Mussolini at the Russian front late in August 1941. "The Fuehrer," the Italian records quote him indirectly as saying, "gave a detailed account of the Jewish clique which surrounds Roosevelt and exploits the American people. He stated that he could not, for anything in the world, live in a country like the U.S.A., whose conceptions of life are inspired by the most grasping commercialism and which does not love any of the loftiest expressions of the human spirit such as music." (Ciano's Diplomatic Papers, pp. 449-52.)

v. The author's italics.
vi. News of the signing in Moscow of the Soviet-Japanese neutrality pact caused considerable alarm in Washington, where Roosevelt and Hull were inclined to take a view similar to Hitler's -- namely, that the treaty would release Japanese forces earmarked for a possible war with Russia for action farther south against British and perhaps American possessions. Sherwood discloses that on April 13, when the news of the conclusion of the pact was received, the President scrapped a plan for launching aggressive action by U.S. naval ships against German U-boats in the western Atlantic. A new order called merely for American warships to report movements of German naval vessels west of Iceland, not to shoot at them. It was considered that the new Japanese-Soviet neutrality agreement made the situation in the Pacific too dangerous to risk too much in the Atlantic. (Robert E. Sherwood, Roosevelt and Hopkins, p. 291.)

vii. Ribbentrop kept trying all that fall and several times during the next two years to induce the Japanese to fall upon Russia from the rear, but each time the Tokyo government replied politely, in effect, "So sorry, please."

Hitler himself remained hopeful all through the summer. On August 26 he told Raeder he was "convinced that Japan will carry out the attack on Vladivostok as soon as forces have been assembled. The present aloofness can be explained by the fact that the assembling of forces is to be accomplished undisturbed, and the attack is to come as a surprise." [11]

The Japanese archives reveal how Tokyo evaded the Germans on this embarrassing question. When, for instance, on August 19 Ambassador Ott asked the Japanese Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs about Japan's intervention against Russia, the latter replied, "For Japan to do a thing like attacking Russia would be a very serious question and would require profound reflection." When on August 30 Ott, who by now was a very irritated ambassador, asked Foreign Minister Admiral Toyoda, "Is there any possibility that Japan may participate in the Russo-German war?" Toyoda replied, "Japan's preparations are now making headway, and it will take more time for their completion." [12]

viii. The Germans had no long-range bombers capable of reaching the American  coast from the Azores -- much less getting back -- and it is a sign of the warping of  Hitler's mind by this time that he conjured up the nonexistent "long-range bombers."
ix. It might be noted here that on the stand at Nuremberg Admiral Raeder insisted  that he did everything possible to avoid provoking the United States into war.
x. "History has recorded who fired the first shot," Roosevelt declared in reference to  this incident in a Navy Day speech on October 27. In all fairness it would seem  that in dropping depth charges the United States fired the first shot. According to  the confidential German Navy records this was not the first such occasion. The official  U.S. naval historian confirms that as early as April 10 the Niblack (see above,  p. 880) attacked a U-boat with depth charges. (Samuel Eliot Morison, History of  the United States Naval Operations ill World War II, Vol. I, p. 57.)
xi. "I credit Nomura," Hull wrote later in his memoirs, "with having been honestly  sincere in trying to avoid war between his country and mine." (The Memoirs of  Cordell Hull, II, p. 987.)
xii. Prince Konoye's postwar memoirs reveal that as early as August 4 he was forced  to agree to a demand of the Army that if, in his proposed meeting with Roosevelt,  the President did not accept Japan's terms, he would walk out of the meeting "with  a determination to make war on the United States." (Hull, Memoirs, pp. 1025-26.)
xiii. Hull says that he received a copy of this message through "Magic." Thus Washington,  as well as Berlin, knew by the last day of November that the Japanese might  strike against the United States "quicker than anyone dreamt." (Hull, Memoirs, p.  1092.)
xiv. It was long believed by many that Hitler knew in advance the exact hour of the attack on Pearl Harbor, but I have been unable to find a single scrap of evidence in the secret German papers to substantiate it.

xv. In Tokyo at the same time Foreign Minister Togo was telling Ambassador Ott, “The Japanese Government expects that now Germany too will speedily declare war on the United States." [41]

xvi. My own impression in Washington at that moment was that it might be difficult for President Roosevelt to get Congress to declare war on Germany. There seemed to be a strong feeling in both Houses as well as in the Army and Navy that the country ought to concentrate its efforts on defeating Japan and not take on the additional burden of fighting Germany at the same time.

Hans Thomsen, the German charge in Washington, who, like all the other Nazi envoys abroad, was usually kept ignorant of what Hitler and Ribbentrop were conniving, reported this sentiment to Berlin. Immediately after the President's speech to Congress on the morning of December 8 calling for a declaration of war on Japan Thomsen radioed Berlin: "The fact that he [Roosevelt] did not mention Germany and Italy with one word shows that he will try at first to avoid sharpening the situation in the Atlantic." On the evening of the same day Thomsen got off another dispatch on the subject: "Whether Roosevelt will demand declaration of war on Germany and Italy is uncertain. From the standpoint of the American military leaders it would be logical to avoid everything which could lead to a two-front war." In several dispatches just prior to Pearl Harbor the German charge had emphasized that the United States simply was not prepared for a two-front war. On December 4 he had radioed the revelations in the Chicago Tribune of the "war plans of the American High Command on preparations and prospects for defeating Germany and her allies."

Report confirms [he said] that full participation of America in war is not to be  expected before July, 1943. Military measures against Japan are of defensive character.

In his message to Berlin on the evening of December 8, Thomsen stressed that Pearl Harbor was certain to bring relief to Germany from America's belligerent activities in the Atlantic.

War with Japan [he reported] means transferring of all energy to America's own rearmament, a corresponding shrinking of Lend-Lease help and a shifting of all activity to the Pacific.

For the exchange of dispatches between the Wilhelmstrasse and the German Embassy in Washington during this period, I am indebted to the State Department, which gave me access to them. They will be published later in the Documents on German Foreign Policy series.

xvii. See above, p. 888.

xviii. "I don't see much future for the Americans," he told his cronies a month later during a monologue at headquarters on January 7, 1942. "It's a decayed country. And they have their racial problem, and the problem of social inequalities ... My feelings against Americanism are feelings of hatred and deep repugnance ... Everything about the behavior of American society reveals that it's half Judaized, and the other half Negrified. How can one expect a State like that to hold together -- a country where everything is built on the dollar." (Hitler's Secret Conversations, p. 155.)

xix. Dieckhoff, whom Hassell thought "temperamentally submissive," had drawn up just a week before at the request of Ribbentrop a long memorandum entitled "Principles for Influencing American Public Opinion." Among his eleven principles were: "Real danger to America is Roosevelt himself ... Influence of Jews on Roosevelt (Frankfurter, Baruch, Benjamin Cohen, Samuel Rosenman, Henry Morgenthau, etc.) ... The slogan for every American mother must be: "I didn't raise my boy to die for Britain!" (From the Foreign Office papers, not yet published.) Some Americans in the State Department and in our embassy in Berlin thought rather highly of Dieckhoff and believed him to be anti-Nazi. My own feeling was that he lacked the guts to be. He served Hitler to the end -- from 1943 to 1945 as the Nazi ambassador to Franco Spain.

xx. Thomsen also urged Berlin to arrest the American correspondents there in retaliation for the arrest of a handful of German newsmen in the United States. A Foreign Office memorandum signed by Undersecretary Ernst Woermann on December 10 declares that all American correspondents in Germany were ordered arrested as "a reprisal." Excepted was Guido Enderis, chief correspondent in Berlin of the New York Times, "because," Woermann wrote, "of his proved friendliness to Germany." This may be unfair to the late Enderis, who was in ill health at the time and who mainly for that reason perhaps was not arrested.

xxi. Two days before, on December 10, Japanese planes had sunk two British battleships,  the Prince of Wales and the Repulse, off the coast of Malaya. Coupled with  the crippling American losses in battleships at Pearl Harbor on December 7, this  blow gave the Japanese fleet complete supremacy in the Pacific, the China Sea and  the Indian Ocean. "In all the war," Churchill wrote later of the loss of the two  great ships, "I never received a more direct shock."
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Re: The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi

Postby admin » Mon Feb 12, 2018 10:51 pm

Part 1 of 2



THE SEVERE SETBACK to Hitler's armies in Russia during the winter of 1941-42 and the cashiering of a number of field marshals and top generals ignited the hopes of the anti-Nazi conspirators again.

They had been unable to interest the leading commanders in a revolt as long as their armies were smashing to one easy victory after another and the glory of German arms and of the German Reich was soaring to the heavens. But now the proud and hitherto invincible soldiers were falling back in the snow and bitter cold before an enemy which had proved their match; casualties in six months had passed the million mark; and a host of the most renowned generals were being summarily dismissed, some of them, such as Hoepner and Sponeck, publicly disgraced, and most of the others humiliated and made scapegoats of by the ruthless dictator. [i]

"The time is almost ripe," Hassell concluded hopefully in his diary on December 21, 1941. He and his fellow conspirators were sure that the Prussian officer corps would react not only to their shabby treatment but to the madness of their Supreme Commander in leading them and their armies to the brink of disaster in the Russian winter. The plotters had long been convinced, as we have seen, that only the generals, in command of troops, had the physical power to overthrow the Nazi tyrant. Now was their chance before it was too late. Timing was all-important. The war, they saw, after the reverses in Russia and the entry of America into the conflict, could no longer be won. But neither was it yet lost. An anti-Nazi government in Berlin could still get peace terms, they thought, which would leave Germany a major power and, perhaps, with at least some of Hitler's gains, such as Austria, the Sudetenland and western Poland.

These thoughts had been very much in their minds at the end of the summer of 1941, even when the prospect of destroying the Soviet Union was still good. The text of the Atlantic Charter, which Churchill and Roosevelt had drawn up on August 19, had come as a heavy blow to them, especially Point 8, which had stipulated that Germany would have to be disarmed after the war pending a general disarmament agreement. To Hassell, Goerdeler, Beck and the other members of their opposition circle this meant that the Allies had no intention of distinguishing between Nazi and anti-Nazi Germans and was "proof," as Hassell put it, "that England and America are not fighting only against Hitler but also want to smash Germany and render her defenseless." Indeed, to this aristocratic former ambassador, now deep in treason against Hitler but determined to get as much as possible for a Germany without Hitler, Point 8, as he noted in his journal, "destroys every reasonable chance for peace." [2]

Disillusioned though they were by the Atlantic Charter, the conspirators seem to have been spurred to action by its promulgation, if only because it impressed them with the necessity of doing away with Hitler while there was yet time for an anti-Nazi regime to bargain advantageously for peace for a Germany which still held most of Europe. They were not adverse to using Hitler's conquests to obtain the most favorable terms for their country. The upshot of a series of talks in Berlin during the last days of August between Hassell, Popitz, Oster, Dohnanyi and General Friedrich Olbricht, chief of staff of the Home Army, was that the "German patriots," as they called themselves, would make "very moderate demands" of the Allies but, to quote Hassell again, "there are certain claims from which they could not desist." What the demands and claims were he does not say; one gathers from other entries in his diary that they amounted to an insistence on Germany's 1914 frontiers in the East plus Austria and the Sudetenland.

But time pressed. After a final conference with his confederates at the end of August, Hassell wrote in his diary: "They were unanimously convinced that it would soon be too late. When our chances for victory are obviously gone or only very slim, there will be nothing more to be done." [3]

There had been some effort to induce key generals on the Eastern front to arrest Hitler during the summer campaign in Russia. But though it inevitably proved ineffectual because the great captains were naturally too absorbed in their initial stunning victories to give any thought to overthrowing the man who had given them the opportunity to achieve them, it did plant some seeds among the military minds that would eventually sprout.

The center of the conspiracy in the Army that summer was in the headquarters of Field Marshal von Bock, whose Army Group Center was driving on Moscow. Major General Henning von Tresckow of Bock's staff, whose early enthusiasm for National Socialism had so soured as to land him in the ranks of the plotters, was the ringleader, and he was assisted by Fabian von Schlabrendorff, his A.D.C., and by two fellow conspirators whom they had planted on Bock as A.D.C.s, Count Hans von Hardenberg and Count Heinrich von Lehndorff, both scions of old and prominent German families. [ii] One of their self-appointed tasks was to work on the Field Marshal and to persuade him to arrest Hitler on one of his visits to the army group's headquarters. But Bock was hard to work on. Though professing to loathe Nazism he had advanced too far under it and was much too vain and ambitious to take any chances at this stage of the game. Once when Tresckow tried to point out to him that the Fuehrer was leading the country to disaster, Bock shouted, "I do not allow the Fuehrer to be attacked!"  [4]

Tresckow and his young aide were discouraged but not daunted. They decided to act on their own. When on August 4, 1941, the Fuehrer visited the army group's headquarters at Borisov they planned to seize him as he was driving from the airfield to Bock's quarters. But the plotters were still amateurs at this time and had not counted on the Fuehrer's security arrangements. Surrounded by his own S.S. bodyguards and declining to use one of the army group's automobiles to drive in from the airfield -- he had sent ahead his own fleet of cars for this purpose -- he gave the two officers no opportunity of getting near him. This fiasco -- apparently there were others like it -- taught the plotters who were in the Army some lessons. The first was that to get their hands on Hitler was no easy job; he was always well guarded. Another was that to seize him and arrest him might not solve the problem, since the key generals were too cowardly or too confused about their oaths of allegiance to help the opposition to carry on from there. It was about this time, the fall of 1941, that some of the young officers in the Army, many of them civilians in uniform like Schlabrendorff, reluctantly came to the conclusion that the simplest and perhaps the only solution was to kill Hitler. Then the timid generals, released from their personal oaths to the Leader, would go along with the new regime and give it the support of the Army.

But the ringleaders in Berlin were not yet ready to go so far. They were concocting an idiotic plan called "isolated action," which for some reason they thought would satisfy the consciences of the generals about breaking their personal oaths to the Fuehrer and at the same time enable them to rid the Reich of Hitler. It is difficult, even today, to follow their minds in this, but the idea was that the top military commanders, both in the East and in the West, would simply, on a prearranged signal, refuse to obey the orders of Hitler as Commander in Chief of the Army. This of course would have been breaking their oath of obedience to the Fuehrer, but the sophists in Berlin pretended not to see that. They explained, at any event, that the real purpose of the scheme was to create confusion, in the midst of which Beck, with the help of detachments of the Home Army in Berlin, would seize power, depose Hitler and outlaw National Socialism.

The Home Army, however, was scarcely a military force but more a motley collection of recruits doing a little basic training before being shipped as replacements to the front. Some top generals in Russia or in the occupation zones who had seasoned troops at their command would have to be won over if the venture were really to succeed. One of them, who had been in on the Halder plot to arrest Hitler at the time of Munich, seemed a natural choice. This was Field Marshal von Witzleben, who was now Commander in Chief in the West. To initiate him and also General Alexander von Falkenhausen, the military commander in Belgium, into the new scheme of things Hassell was sent by the conspirators in mid-January 1942 to confer with the two generals. Already under surveillance by the Gestapo, the former ambassador used the "cover" of a lecture tour, addressing groups of German officers and occupation officials on the subject of "Living Space and Imperialism." In between lectures he conferred privately with Falkenhausen in Brussels and Witzleben in Paris, receiving a favorable impression of both of them, especially of the latter.

Shunted to the sidelines in France while his fellow field marshals were fighting great battles in Russia, Witzleben was thirsting for action. He told Hassell that the idea of "isolated action" was utopian. Direct action to overthrow Hitler was the only solution and he was willing to playa leading part. Probably the best time to strike would be during the summer of 1942 when the German offensive in Russia was resumed. To prepare for The Day he intended to be in top physical trim and would have a minor operation to put him in shape. Unfortunately for the Field Marshal and his coconspirators this decision had disastrous consequences. Like Frederick the Great -- and many others -- Witzleben was troubled by hemorrhoids. [iii] The operation to correct this painful and annoying condition was a routine case of surgery, to be sure, but when Witzleben took a brief sick leave in the spring to have it done, Hitler took advantage of the situation to retire the Field Marshal from active service, replacing him with Rundstedt, who had no stomach for conspiring against the Leader who had so recently treated him so shabbily. Thus the plotters found their chief hope in the Army to be a Field Marshal without any troops at his command. Without soldiers no new regime could be established.

The leaders of the conspiracy were greatly disheartened. They kept meeting clandestinely and plotting, but they could not overcome their discouragement. "It seems at the moment," Hassell noted at the end of February 1942, after one of the innumerable meetings, "that nothing can be done about Hitler." [5]

A great deal could be done, however, about straightening out their ideas concerning the kind of government they wanted for Germany after Hitler finally was deposed and about strengthening their helter-skelter and so far quite ineffectual organization so that it could take over that government when the time came.

Most of the resistance leaders, being conservative and well on in years, wanted, for one thing, a restoration of the Hohenzollern monarchy. But for a long time they could not agree on which Hohenzollern prince to hoist on the throne. Popitz, one of the leading civilians in the ring, wanted the Crown Prince, who was anathema to most of the others. Schacht favored the oldest son of the Crown Prince, Prince Wilhelm, and Goerdeler the youngest surviving son of Wilhelm II, Prince Oskar of Prussia. All were in accord that the Kaiser's fourth son, Prince August Wilhelm, or "Auwi," as he was nicknamed, was out of the question since he was a fanatical Nazi and a Gruppenfuehrer in the S.S.

By the summer of 1941, however, there was more or less agreement that the most suitable candidate for the throne was Louis-Ferdinand, the second and oldest surviving son of the Crown Prince. [iv] Then just thirty-three, a veteran of five years in the Ford factory at Dearborn, a working employee of the Lufthansa airlines and in contact and in sympathy with the plotters, this personable young man had finally emerged as the most desirable of the Hohenzollerns. He understood the twentieth century, was democratic and intelligent. Moreover, he had an attractive, sensible and courageous wife in Princess Kira, a former Russian Grand Duchess, and -- an important point for the conspirators at this stage -- he was a personal friend of President Roosevelt, who had invited the couple to stay in the White House during their American honeymoon in 1938.

Hassell and some of his friends were not absolutely convinced that Louis-Ferdinand was an ideal choice. "He lacks many qualities he cannot get along without," Hassell commented wryly in his diary at Christmas time, 1941. But he went along with the others.

Hassell's chief interest was in the form and nature of the future German government, and early the year before he had drawn up, after consultation with General Beck, Goerdeler and Popitz, a program for its interim stage, which he refined in a further draft at the end of 1941. [6] It restored individual freedom and pending the adoption of a permanent constitution provided for the supreme power to rest in the hands of a regent, who, as head of state, would appoint a government and a Council of State. It was all rather authoritarian and Goerdeler and the few trade-union representatives among the conspirators didn't like it, proposing instead an immediate plebiscite so that the interim regime would have popular backing and give proof of its democratic character. But for the lack of something better Hassell's plan was generally accepted at least as a statement of principles until it was superseded by a liberal and enlightened program drawn up in 1943 under pressure from the Kreisau Circle, led by Count Helmuth von Moltke.

Finally that spring of 1942 the conspirators formally adopted a leader. They had all acknowledged General Beck as such not only because of his intelligence and character but also because of his prestige among the generals, his good name in the country and his reputation abroad. However, they had been so lackadaisical in organizing that they had never actually put him in charge. A few, like Hassell, though full of admiration and respect for the former General Staff Chief, had some doubts about him.

"The principal difficulty with Beck," Hassell wrote in his diary shortly before Christmas, 1941, "is that he is very theoretical. As Popitz says, a man of tactics but little will power." This judgment, as it turned out, was not an ungrounded one and this quirk in the General's temperament and character, this surprising lack of a will to act, was to prove tragic and disastrous in the end.

Nevertheless in March 1942, after a good many secret meetings, the plotters decided, as Hassell reported, that "Beck must hold the strings," and at the end of the month, as the ambassador further noted, "Beck was formally adopted as the head of our group." [7]

Still, the conspiracy remained nebulous and the air of unreality which surrounded even the most active members of it from the first hangs over their endless talk as one tries to follow it at this stage in the records they have left. Hitler, they knew that spring, was planning to resume the offensive in Russia as soon as the ground was dry. This, they felt, could only plunge Germany farther toward the abyss. And yet, though they talked much, they did nothing. On March 28, 1942, Hassell sat in his country house at Ebenhausen and began his diary:

During the last days in Berlin I had detailed discussions with Jessen, [v] Beck and Goerdeler. Prospects not very good. [8]

How could they be very good? Without even any plans to act. Now. While there was still time.

It was Adolf Hitler who at this unfolding of spring, the third of the war, had plans -- and the fierce will to try to carry them out.


Although the Fuehrer's folly in refusing to allow the German armies in Russia to retreat in time had led to heavy losses in men and arms, to the demoralization of many commands and to a situation which for a few weeks in January and February 1942 threatened to end in utter catastrophe, there is little doubt that Hitler's fanatical determination to hold on and to stand and fight also helped to stem the Soviet tide. The traditional courage and endurance of the German soldiers did the rest.

By February 20 the Russian offensive from the Baltic to the Black Sea had run out of steam and at the end of March the season of deep mud set in, bringing a relative quiet to the long and bloody front. Both sides were exhausted. A German Army report of March 30, 1942, revealed what a terrible toll had been paid in the winter fighting. Of a total of 162 combat divisions in the East, only eight were ready for offensive missions. The sixteen armored divisions had between them only 140 serviceable tanks -- less than the normal number for one division. [9]

While the troops were resting and refitting -- indeed long before that, while they were still retreating in the midwinter snows -- Hitler, who was now Commander in Chief of the Army as well as Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, had been busy with plans for the coming summer's offensive. They were not as ambitious as those of the previous year. By now he had sense enough to see that he could not destroy all of the Red armies in a single campaign. This summer he would concentrate the bulk of his forces in the south, conquer the Caucasus oil fields, the Donets industrial basin and the wheat fields of the Kuban and take Stalingrad on the Volga. This would accomplish several prime objectives. It would deprive the Soviets of the oil and rr.uch of the food and industry they desperately needed to carry on the war, while giving the Germans the oil and the food resources they were almost as badly in need of.

"If I do not get the oil of Maikop and Grozny," Hitler told General Paulus, the commander of the ill-fated Sixth Army, just before the summer offensive began, "then I must end this war." [10]

Stalin could have said almost the same thing. He too had to have the oil of the Caucasus to stay in the war. That was where the significance of Stalingrad came in. German possession of it would block the last main route via the Caspian Sea and the Volga River over which the oil, as long as the Russians held the wells, could reach central Russia.

Besides oil to propel his planes and tanks and trucks, Hitler needed men to fill out his thinned ranks. Total casualties at the end of the winter fighting were 1,167,835, exclusive of the sick, and there were not enough replacements available to make up for such losses. The High Command turned to Germany's allies -- or, rather, satellites -- for additional troops. During the winter General Keitel had scurried off to Budapest and Bucharest to drum up Hungarian and Rumanian soldiers -- whole divisions of them -- for the coming summer. Goering and finally Hitler himself appealed to Mussolini for Italian formations.

Goering arrived in Rome at the end of January 1942 to line up Italian reinforcements for Russia, assuring Mussolini that the Soviet Union would be defeated in 1942 and that Great Britain would lay down her arms in 1943. Ciano found the fat, bemedaled Reich Marshal insufferable. "As usual he is bloated and overbearing," the Italian Foreign Minister noted in his diary on February 2. Two days later:

Goering leaves Rome. We had dinner at the Excelsior Hotel, and during the dinner Goering talked of little else but the jewels he owned. In fact, he had some beautiful rings on his fingers ... On the way to the station he wore a great sable coat, something between what automobile drivers wore in 1906 and what a high-grade prostitute wears to the opera. [11]

The corruption and corrosion of the Number Two man in the Third Reich was making steady progress.

Mussolini promised Goering to send two Italian divisions to Russia in March if the Germans would give them artillery, but his concern about his ally's defeats on the Eastern front grew to such proportions that Hitler decided it was time for another meeting to explain how strong Germany still was.

This took place on April 29 and 30 at Salzburg, where the Duce and Ciano and their party were put up in the baroque Palace of Klessheim, once the seat of the prince -- bishops and now redecorated with hangings, furniture and carpets from France, for which the Italian Foreign Minister suspected the Germans "did not pay too much." Ciano found the Fuehrer looking tired. "The winter months in Russia have borne heavily upon him," he noted in his diary. "I see for the first time that he has many gray hairs." [vi]

There followed the usual German recital sizing up the general situation, with Ribbentrop and Hitler assuring their Italian guests that all was well -- in Russia, in North Africa, in the West and on the high seas. The coming offensive in the East, they confided, would be directed against the Caucasus oil fields.

When Russia's sources of oil are exhausted [Ribbentrop said] she will be brought to her knees. Then the British ... will bow in order to save what remains of the mauled Empire...

America is a big bluff ...

Ciano, listening more or less patiently to his opposite number, got the impression, however, that in regard to what the United States might eventually do it was the Germans who were bluffing and that in reality, when they thought of it, "they feel shivers running down their spines."

It was the Fuehrer who, as always, did most of the talking.

Hitler talks, talks, talks [Ciano wrote in his diary]. Mussolini suffers -- he, who is in the habit of talking himself, and who, instead, practically has to keep quiet. On the second day, after lunch, when everything had been said, Hitler talked uninterruptedly for an hour and forty minutes. He omitted absolutely no argument: war and peace, religion and philosophy, art and history. Mussolini automatically looked at his wrist watch ... The Germans -- poor people -- have to take it every day, and I am certain there isn't a gesture, a word or a pause, which they don't know by heart. General Jodl, after an epic struggle, finally went to sleep on the divan. Keitel was reeling, but he succeeded in keeping his head up. He was too close to Hitler to let himself go . . . [12]

Despite the avalanche of talk or perhaps because of it, Hitler got the promise of more Italian cannon fodder for the Russian front. So successful were he and Keitel with all the satellites that the German High Command calculated it would have [52] "Allied" divisions available for the summer's task -- 27 Rumanian, 13 Hungarian, 9 Italian, 2 Slovak and one Spanish. This was one quarter of the combined Axis force in the East. Of the 41 fresh divisions which were to reinforce the southern part of the front, where the main German blow would fall, one half -- or 21 divisions -- were Hungarian (10), Italian (6) and Rumanian (5). Halder and most of the other generals did not like to stake so much on so many "foreign" divisions whose fighting qualities, in their opinion, were, to put it mildly, questionable. But because of their own shortage of manpower they reluctantly accepted this aid, and this decision was shortly to contribute to the disaster which ensued.

At first, that summer of 1942, the fortunes of the Axis prospered. Even before the jump-off toward the Caucasus and Stalingrad a sensational victory was scored in North Africa. On May 27, 1942, General Rommel had resumed his offensive in the desert. [vii] Striking swiftly with his famed Afrika Korps (two armored divisions and a motorized infantry division) and eight Italian divisions, of which one was armored, he soon had the British desert army reeling back toward the Egyptian frontier. On June 21 he captured Tobruk, the key to the British defenses, which in 1941 had held out for nine months until relieved, and two days later he entered Egypt. By the end of June he was at El Alamein, sixty-five miles from Alexandria and the delta of the Nile. It seemed to many a startled Allied statesman, poring over a map, that nothing could now prevent Rommel from delivering a fatal blow to the British by conquering Egypt and then, if he were reinforced, sweeping on northeast to capture the great oil fields of the Middle East and then to the Caucasus to meet the German armies in Russia, which already were beginning their advance toward that region from the north.

It was one of the darkest moments of the war for the Allies and correspondingly one of the brightest for the Axis. But Hitler, as we have seen, had never understood global warfare. He did not know how to exploit Rommel's surprising African success. He awarded the daring leader of the Afrika Korps a field marshal's baton but he did not send him supplies or reinforcements. [viii] Under the nagging of Admiral Raeder and the urging of Rommel, the Fuehrer had only reluctantly agreed to send the Afrika Korps and a small German air force to Libya in the first place. But he had done this only to prevent an Italian collapse in North Africa, not because he foresaw the importance of conquering Egypt.

The key to that conquest actually was the small island of Malta, lying in the Mediterranean between Sicily and the Axis bases in Libya. It was from this British bastion that bombers, submarines and surface craft wrought havoc on German and Italian vessels carrying supplies and men to North Africa. In August 1941 some 35 per cent of Rommel's supplies and reinforcements were sunk; in October, 63 per cent. By November 9 Ciano was writing sadly in his diary:

Since September 19 we had given up trying to get convoys through to Libya; every attempt had been paid for at a high price ... Tonight we tried it again. A convoy of seven ships left, accompanied by two ten-thousand-ton cruisers and ten destroyers ... All -- I mean all -- our ships were sunk .. The British returned to their ports [at Malta] after having slaughtered US. [13]

Belatedly the Germans diverted several U-boats from the Battle of the Atlantic to the Mediterranean and Kesselring was given additional squadrons of planes for the bases in Sicily. It was decided to neutralize Malta and destroy, if possible, the British fleet in the eastern Mediterranean. Success was immediate. By the end of 1941 the British had lost three battleships, an aircraft carrier, two cruisers and several destroyers and submarines, and what was left of their fleet was driven to Egyptian bases. Malta had been battered by German bombers day and night for weeks. As a result Axis supplies got through -- in January not a ton of shipping was lost -- and Rommel was able to build up his forces for the big push into Egypt.

In March Admiral Raeder talked Hitler into approving plans not only for Rommel's offensive toward the Nile (Operation Aida) but for the capture of Malta by parachute troops (Operation Hercules). The drive from Libya was to begin at the end of May and Malta was to be assaulted in mid-July. But on June 15, while Rommel was in the midst of his initial successes, Hitler postponed the attack on Malta. He could spare neither troops nor planes from the Russian front, he explained to Raeder. A few weeks later he postponed Hercules again, saying it could wait until after the summer offensive in the East had been completed and Rommel had conquered Egypt. [14] Malta could be kept quiet in the meantime, he advised, by continued bombing.

But it was not kept quiet and for this failure either to neutralize it or to capture it the Germans would shortly pay a high price. A large British convoy got through to the besieged island on June 16, and though several warships and freighters were lost this put Malta back in business. Spitfires were flown to the island from the U.S. aircraft carrier Wasp and soon drove the attacking Luftwaffe bombers from the skies. Rommel felt the effect. Three quarters of his supply ships thereafter were sunk.

He had reached El Alamein with just thirteen operational tanks. [ix] "Our strength," he wrote in his diary on July 3, "has faded away." And at a moment when the Pyramids were almost in sight, and beyond -- the great prize of Egypt and Suez! This was another opportunity lost, and one of the last which Hitler would be afforded by Providence and the fortunes of war.


By the end of the summer of 1942 Adolf Hitler seemed to be once more on top of the world. German U-boats were sinking 700,000 tons of British -- American shipping a month in the Atlantic -- more than could be replaced in the booming shipyards of the United States, Canada and Scotland. Though the Fuehrer had denuded his forces in the West of most of their troops and tanks and planes in order to finish with Russia, there was no sign that summer that the British and Americans were strong enough to make even a small landing from across the Channel. They had not even risked trying to occupy French-held Northwest Africa, though the weakened French, of divided loyalties, had nothing much with which to stop them even if they attempted to, and the Germans nothing at all except a few submarines and a handful of planes based in Italy and Tripoli.

The British Navy and Air Force had been unable to prevent Germany's two battle cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau and the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen from dashing up the English Channel in full daylight and making their way safely home from Brest. [x] Hitler had feared that the British and Americans would certainly try to occupy northern Norway -- that was why he had insisted on the dash from Brest so that the three heavy ships there could be used for the defense of Norwegian waters. "Norway," he told Raeder at the end of January 1942, "is the zone of destiny." It had to be defended at all costs. As it turned out, there was no need. The Anglo-Americans had other plans for their limited forces in the West.

On the map the sum of Hitler's conquests by September 1942 looked staggering. The Mediterranean had become practically an Axis lake, with Germany and Italy holding most of the northern shore from Spain to Turkey and the southern shore from Tunisia to within sixty miles of the Nile. In fact, German troops now stood guard from the Norwegian North Cape on the Arctic Ocean to Egypt, from the Atlantic at Brest to the southern reaches of the Volga River on the border of Central Asia.

German troops of the Sixth Army had reached the Volga just north of Stalingrad on August 23. Two days before, the swastika had been hoisted on Mount Elbrus, the highest peak (18,481 feet) in the Caucasus Mountains. The Maikop oil fields, producing annually two and a half million tons of oil, had been captured on August 8, though the Germans found them almost completely destroyed, and by the twenty-fifth Kleist's tanks had arrived at Mozdok, only fifty miles from the main Soviet oil center around Grozny and a bare hundred miles from the Caspian Sea. On the thirty-first Hitler was urging Field Marshal List, commander of the armies in the Caucasus, to scrape up all available forces for the final push to Grozny so that he "could get his hands on the oil fields." On that last day of August, too, Rommel launched his offensive at El Alamein with every hope of breaking through to the Nile.

Although Hitler was never satisfied with the performance of his generals -- he had sacked Field Marshal von Bock, who commanded the whole southern offensive, on July 13 and, as Halder's diary reveals, had constantly nagged and cursed most of the other commanders as well as the General Staff for not advancing fast enough -- he now believed that the decisive victory was in his grasp. He ordered the Sixth Army and the Fourth Panzer Army to swing north along the Volga, after Stalingrad was taken, in a vast encircling movement which would enable him eventually to advance on central Russia and Moscow from the east as well as from the west. He believed the Russians were finished and Halder tells of him at this moment talking of pushing with part of his forces through Iran to the Persian Gulf. [15] Soon he would link up with the Japanese in the Indian Ocean. He had no doubt of the accuracy of a German intelligence report on September 9 that the Russians had used up all their reserves on the entire front. In a conference with Admiral Raeder at the end of August his thoughts were already turning from Russia, which he said he now regarded as a "blockadeproof Lebensraum," to the British and Americans, who would soon, he was sure, be brought "to the point of discussing peace terms." [16]

And yet, as General Kurt Zeitzler later recalled, appearances even then, rosy as they were, were deceptive. Almost all the generals in the field, as well as those on the General Staff, saw flaws in the pretty picture. They could be summed up: the Germans simply didn't have the resources -- the men or the guns or the tanks or the planes or the means of transportation -- to reach the objectives Hitler had insisted on setting. When Rommel tried to tell this to the warlord in respect to Egypt, Hitler ordered him to go on sick leave in the mountains of the Semmering. When Halder and Field Marshal List attempted to do the same in regard to the Russian front, they were cashiered.

Even the rankest amateur strategist could see the growing danger to the German armies in southern Russia as Soviet resistance stiffened in the Caucasus and at Stalingrad and the season of the autumn rains approached. The long northern flank of the Sixth Army was dangerously exposed along the line of the upper Don for 350 miles from Stalingrad to Voronezh. Here Hitler had stationed three satellite armies: the Hungarian Second, south of Voronezh; the Italian Eighth, farther southeast; and the Rumanian Third, on the right at the bend of the Don just west of Stalingrad. Because of the bitter hostility of Rumanians and Hungarians to each other their armies had to be separated by the Italians. In the steppes south of Stalingrad there was a fourth satellite army, the Rumanian Fourth. Aside from their doubtful fighting qualities, all these armies were inadequately equipped, lacking armored power, heavy artillery and mobility. Furthermore, they were spread out very thinly. The Rumanian Third Army held a front of 105 miles with only sixty-nine battalions. But these "allied" armies were all Hitler had. There were not enough German units to fill the gap. And since he believed, as he told Halder, that the Russians were "finished," he did not unduly worry about this exposed and lengthy Don flank.

Yet it was the key to maintaining both the Sixth Army and the Fourth Panzer Army at Stalingrad and Army Group A in the Caucasus. Should the Don flank collapse not only would the German forces at Stalingrad be threatened with encirclement but those in the Caucasus would be cut off. Once more the Nazi warlord had gambled. It was not his first gamble of the summer's campaign.

On July 23, at the height of the offensive, he had made another. The Russians were in full retreat between the Donets and upper-Don rivers, falling rapidly back toward Stalin grad to the east and toward the lower Don to the south. A decision had to be made. Should the German forces concentrate on taking Stalingrad and blocking the Volga River, or should they deliver their main blow in the Caucasus in quest of Russian oil? Earlier in the month Hitler had pondered this crucial question but had been unable to make up his mind. At first, the smell of oil had tempted him most, and on July 13 he had detached the Fourth Panzer Army from Army Group B, which had been driving down the Don toward the river's bend and Stalingrad just beyond, and sent it south to help Kleist's First Panzer Army get over the lower Don near Rostov and on into the Caucasus toward the oil fields. At that moment the Fourth Panzer Army probably could have raced on to Stalingrad, which was then largely undefended, and easily captured it. By the time Hitler realized his mistake it was too late, and then he compounded his error. When the Fourth Panzer Army was shifted back toward Stalingrad a fortnight later, the Russians had recovered sufficiently to be able to check it; and its departure from the Caucasus front left Kleist too weak to complete his drive to the Grozny oil fields. [xi]

The shifting of this powerful armored unit back to the drive on Stalingrad was one result of the fatal decision which Hitler made on July 23. His fanatical determination to take both Stalingrad and the Caucasus at the same time, against the advice of Halder and the field commanders, who did not believe it could be done, was embodied in Directive No. 45, which became famous in the annals of the German Army. It was one of the most fateful of Hitler's moves in the war, for in the end, and in a very short time, it resulted in his failing to achieve either objective and led to the most humiliating defeat in the history of German arms, making certain that he could never win the war and that the days of the thousand-year Third Reich were numbered.

General Halder was appalled, and there was a stormy scene at "Werewolf" headquarters in the Ukraine near Vinnitsa to which Hitler had moved on July 16 in order to be nearer the front. The Chief of the General Staff urged that the main forces be concentrated on the taking of Stalingrad and tried to explain that the German Army simply did not possess the strength to carry out two powerful offensives in two different directions. When Hitler retorted that the Russians were "finished," Halder attempted to convince him that, according to the Army's own intelligence, this was far from the case.

The continual underestimation of enemy possibilities [Halder noted sadly in his diary that evening] takes on grotesque forms and is becoming dangerous. Serious work has become impossible here. Pathological reaction to momentary impressions and a complete lack of capacity to assess the situation and its possibilities give this so-called "leadership" a most peculiar character.

Later the Chief of the General Staff, whose own days at his post were now numbered, would come back to this scene and write:

Hitler's decisions had ceased to have anything in common with the principles of strategy and operations as they have been recognized for generations past. They were the product of a violent nature following its momentary impulses, which recognized no limits to possibility and which made its wish-dreams the father of its acts ... [17]

As to what he called the Supreme Commander's "pathological overestimation of his own strength and criminal underestimation of the enemy's," Halder later told a story:

Once when a quite objective report was read to him showing that still in 1942 Stalin would be able to muster from one to one and a quarter million fresh troops in the region north of Stalingrad and west of the Volga, not to mention half a million men in the Caucasus, and which provided proof that Russian output of front-line tanks amounted to at least 1,200 a month, Hitler flew at the man who was reading with clenched fists and foam in the corners of his mouth and forbade him to read any more of such idiotic twaddle. [18]

"You didn't have to have the gift of a prophet," says Halder, "to foresee what would happen when Stalin unleashed those million and a half troops against Stalingrad and the Don flank. [xii] I pointed this out to Hitler very clearly. The result was the dismissal of the Chief of the Army General Staff."

This took place on September 24. Already on the ninth, upon being told by Keitel that Field Marshal List, who had the over-all command of the armies in the Caucasus, had been sacked, Halder learned that he would be the next to go. The Fuehrer, he was told, had become convinced that he "was no longer equal to the psychic demands of his position." Hitler explained this in greater detail to his General Staff Chief at their farewell meeting on the twenty-fourth.

"You and I have been suffering from nerves. Half of my nervous exhaustion is due to you. It is not worth it to go on. We need National Socialist ardor now, not professional ability. I cannot expect this of an officer of the old school such as you."

"So spoke," Halder commented later, "not a responsible warlord but a political fanatic." [19]

And so departed Franz Halder. He was not without his faults, which were similar to those of his predecessor, General Beck, in that his mind was often confused and his will to action paralyzed. And though he had often stood up to Hitler, however ineffectually, he had also, like all of the other Army officers who enjoyed high rank during World War II, gone along with him and for a long time abetted his outrageous aggressions and his conquests. Yet he had retained some of the virtues of more civilized times. He was the last of the old-school General Staff chiefs that the Army of the Third Reich would have. [xiii] He was replaced by General Kurt Zeitzler, a younger officer of a different stripe who was serving as chief of staff to Rundstedt in the West, and who endured in the post, which once -- especially in the First World War -- had been the highest and most powerful in the German Army, as little more than the Fuehrer's office boy until the attempt against the dictator's life in July 1944. [xiv]

A change in General Staff chiefs did not change the situation of the German Army, whose twin drives on Stalingrad and the Caucasus had now been halted by stiffening Soviet resistance itself. All through October bitter street fighting continued in Stalingrad itself. The Germans made some progress, from building to building, but with staggering losses, for the rubble of a great city, as everyone who has experienced modem warfare knows, gives many opportunities for stubborn and prolonged defense and the Russians, disputing desperately every foot of the debris, made the most of them. Though Halder and then his successor warned Hitler that the troops in Stalingrad were becoming exhausted, the Supreme Commander insisted that they push on. Fresh divisions were thrown in and were soon ground to pieces in the inferno.

Instead of a means to an end -- the end had already been achieved when German formations reached the western banks of the Volga north and south of the city and cut off the river's traffic -- Stalingrad had become an end in itself. To Hitler its capture was now a question of personal prestige. When even Zeitzler got up enough nerve to suggest to the Fuehrer that in view of the danger to the long northern flank along the Don the Sixth Army should be withdrawn from Stalingrad to the elbow of the Don, Hitler flew into a fury. "Where the German soldier sets foot, there he remains!" he stormed.

Despite the hard going and the severe losses, General Paulus, commander of the Sixth Army, informed Hitler by radio on October 25 that he expected to complete the capture of Stalingrad at the latest by November 10. Cheered up by this assurance, Hitler issued orders the next day that the Sixth Army and the Fourth Panzer Army, which was fighting south of the city, should prepare to push north and south along the Volga as soon as Stalingrad had fallen.

It was not that Hitler was ignorant of the threat to the Don flank. The OKW diaries make clear that it caused him considerable worry. The point is that he did not take it seriously enough and that, as a consequence, he did nothing to avert it. Indeed, so confident was he that the situation was well in hand that on the last day of October he, the staff of OKW and the Army General Staff abandoned their headquarters at Vinnitsa in the Ukraine and returned to Wolfsschanze at Rastenburg. The Fuehrer had practically convinced himself that if there were to be any Soviet winter offensive at all it would come on the central and northern fronts. He could handle that better from his quarters in East Prussia.

Hardly had he returned there when bad news reached him from another and more distant front. Field Marshal Rommel's Afrika Korps was in trouble.


The Desert Fox, as he was called on both sides of the front, had resumed his offensive at El Alamein on August 31 with the intention of rolling up the British Eighth Army and driving on to Alexandria and the Nilc. There was a violent battle in the scorching heat on the 40-mile desert front between the sea and the Qattara Depression, but Rommel could not quite make it and on September 3 he broke off the fighting and went over to the defensive. At long last the British army in Egypt had received strong reinforcements in men, guns, tanks and planes (many of the last two from America). It had also received on August 15 two new commanders: an eccentric but gifted general named Sir Bernard Law Montgomery, who took over the Eighth Army, and General Sir Harold Alexander, who was to prove to be a skillful strategist and a brilliant administrator and who now assumed the post of Commander in Chief in the Middle East.

Shortly after his setback Rommel had gone on sick leave on the Semmering in the mountains below Vienna to receive a cure for an infected nose and a swollen liver, and it was there that on the afternoon of October 24 he received a telephone call from Hitler. "Rommel, the news from Africa sounds bad. The situation seems somewhat obscure. Nobody appears to know what has happened to General Stumme. [xv] Do you feel capable of returning to Africa and taking over there again?" [20] Though a sick man, Rommel agreed to return immediately.

By the time he got back to headquarters west of El Alamein on the following evening, the battle, which Montgomery had launched at 9:40 P.M. on October 23, was already lost. The Eighth Army had too many guns, tanks and planes, and though the Italian-German lines still held and Rommel made desperate efforts to shift his battered divisions to stem the various attacks and even to counterattack he realized that his situation was hopeless. He had no reserves: of men, or tanks or oil. The R.A.F., for once, had complete command of the skies and was pounding his troops and armor and remaining supply dumps mercilessly.

On November 2, Montgomery's infantry and armor broke through on the southern sector of the front and began to overrun the Italian divisions there. That evening Rommel radioed Hitler's headquarters in East Prussia two thousand miles away that he could no longer hold out and that he intended to withdraw, while there was still the opportunity, to the Fuka position forty miles to the west.

He had already commenced to do so when a long message came over the air the next day from the Supreme warlord:


I and the German people are watching the heroic defensive battle waged in Egypt with faithful trust in your powers of leadership and in the bravery of the German-Italian troops under your command. In the situation in which you now find yourself, there can be no other consideration save that of holding fast, of not retreating one step, of throwing every gun and every man into the battle ... You can show your troops no other way than that which leads to victory or to death.


This idiotic order meant, if obeyed, that the Italo-German armies were condemned to swift annihilation and for the first time in Africa, Bayerlein says, Rommel did not know what to do. After a brief struggle with his conscience he decided, over the protests of General Ritter von Thoma, the actual commander of the German Afrika Korps, who said he was withdrawing in any case, [xvi] to obey his Supreme Commander. "I finally compelled myself to take this decision," Rommel wrote later in his diary, "because I myself have always demanded unconditional obedience from my soldiers and I therefore wished to accept this principle for myself." Later, as a subsequent diary entry declares, he learned better.
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Re: The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi

Postby admin » Mon Feb 12, 2018 10:51 pm

Part 2 of 2

Reluctantly Rommel gave the order to halt the withdrawal and at the same time sent off a courier by plane to Hitler to try to explain to him that unless he were permitted to fall back immediately all would be lost. But events were already making that trip unnecessary. On the evening of November 4, at the risk of being court-martialed for disobedience, Rommel decided to save what was left of his forces and retreat to Fuka. Only the remnants of the armored and motorized units could be extricated. The foot soldiers, mostly Italian, were left behind to surrender, as indeed the bulk of them already had done. [xvii] On November 5 came a curt message from the Fuehrer: "I agree to the withdrawal of your army into the Fuka position." But that position already had been overrun by Montgomery's tanks. Within fifteen days Rommel had fallen back seven hundred miles to beyond Benghazi with the remnants of his African army -- some 25,000 Italians, 10,000 Germans and sixty tanks -- and there was no opportunity to stop even there.

This was the beginning of the end for Adolf Hitler, the most decisive battle of the war yet won by his enemies, though a second and even more decisive one was just about to begin on the snowy steppes of southern Russia. But before it did, the Fuehrer was to hear further bad news from North Africa which spelled the doom of the Axis in that part of the world.

Already on November 3, when the first reports had come in of Rommel's disaster, the Fuehrer's headquarters had received word that an Allied armada had been sighted assembling at Gibraltar. No one at OKW could make out what it might be up to. Hitler was inclined to think it was merely another heavily guarded convoy for Malta. This is interesting because more than a fortnight earlier, on October 15, the OKW staff chiefs had discussed several reports about an imminent "Anglo-Saxon landing" in West Africa. The intelligence apparently came from Rome, for Ciano a week before, on October 9, noted in his diary after a talk with the chief of the military secret service that "the Anglo-Saxons are preparing to land in force in North Africa." The news depressed Ciano; he foresaw -- correctly, as it turned out -- that this would lead inevitably to a direct Allied assault on Italy.

Hitler, preoccupied as he was with the failure of the Russians to cease their infernal resistance, did not take this first intelligence very seriously. At a meeting of OKW on October 15, Jodl suggested that Vichy France be permitted to send reinforcements to North Africa so that the French could repel any Anglo-American landings. The Fuehrer, according to the OKW Diary, turned the suggestion down because it might ruffle the Italians, who were jealous of any move to strengthen France. At the Supreme Commander's headquarters the matter appears to have been forgotten until November 3. But on that day, although German agents on the Spanish side of Gibraltar had reported seeing a great Anglo-American fleet gathering there, Hitler was too busy rallying Rommel at El Alamein to bother with what appeared to him to be merely another convoy for Malta.

On November 5, OKW was informed that one British naval force had sailed out of Gibraltar headed east. But it was not until the morning of November 7, twelve hours before American and British troops began landing in North Africa, that Hitler gave the latest intelligence from Gibraltar some thought. The forenoon reports received at his headquarters in East Prussia were that British naval forces in Gibraltar and a vast fleet of transports and warships from the Atlantic had joined up and were steaming east into the Mediterranean. There was a long discussion among the staff officers and the Fuehrer. What did it all mean? What was the objective of such a large naval force? Hitler was now inclined to believe, he said, that the Western Allies might be attempting a major landing with some four or five divisions at Tripoli or Benghazi in order to catch Rommel in the rear. Admiral Krancke, the naval liaison officer at OKW, declared that there could not be more than two enemy divisions at the most. Even so! Something had to be done. Hitler asked that the Luftwaffe in the Mediterranean be immediately reinforced but was told this was impossible "for the moment." Judging by the OKW Diary all that Hitler did that morning was to notify Rundstedt, Commander in Chief in the West, to be ready to carry out "Anton." This was the code word for the occupation of the rest of France.

Whereupon the Supreme Commander, heedless of this ominous news or of the plight of Rommel, who would be trapped if the Anglo-Americans landed behind him, or of the latest intelligence warning of an imminent Russian counteroffensive on the Don in the rear of the Sixth Army at Stalingrad, entrained after lunch on November 7 for Munich, where on the next evening he was scheduled to deliver his annual speech to his old party cronies gathered to celebrate the anniversary of the Beer Hall Putsch! [xviii]

The politician in him, as Halder noted, had got the upper hand of the soldier at a critical moment in the war. Supreme Headquarters in East Prussia was left in charge of a colonel, one Freiherr Treusch von Buttlar-Brandenfels. Generals Keitel and Jodl, the chief officers of OKW, went along to participate in the beerhouse festivities. There is something weird and batty about such goings on that take the Supreme warlord, who by now was insisting on directing the war on far-flung fronts down to the divisional or regimental or even battalion level, thousands of miles from the battlefields on an unimportant political errand at a moment when the house is beginning to fall in. A change in the man, a corrosion, a deterioration has set in, as it already had with Goering who, though his once all-powerful Luftwaffe had been steadily declining, was becoming more and more attached to his jewels and his toy trains, with little time to spare for the ugly realities of a prolonged and increasingly bitter war.

Anglo-American troops under General Eisenhower hit the beaches of Morocco and Algeria at 1: 30 A.M. on November 8, 1942, and at 5: 30 Ribbentrop was on the phone from Munich to Ciano in Rome to give him the news.

He was rather nervous [Ciano wrote in his diary] and wanted to know what we intended to do. I must confess that, having been caught unawares, I was too sleepy to give a very satisfactory answer.

The Italian Foreign Minister learned from the German Embassy that the officials there were "literally terrified by the blow."

Hitler's special train from East Prussia did not arrive in Munich until 3: 40 that afternoon and the first reports he got about the Allied landings in Northwest Africa were optimistic. [22] Everywhere the French, he was told, were putting up stubborn resistance, and at Algiers and Oran they had repulsed the landing attempts. In Algeria, Germany's friend, Admiral Darlan, was organizing the defense with the approval of the Vichy regime. Hitler's first reactions were confused. He ordered the garrison at Crete, which was quite outside the new theater of war, immediately strengthened, explaining that such a step was as important as sending reinforcements to Africa. He instructed the Gestapo to bring Generals Weygand and Giraud [xix] to Vichy and to keep them under surveillance. He asked Field Marshal von Rundstedt to set in action Anton but not to cross the line of demarcation in France until he had further orders. And he requested Ciano [xx] and Pierre Laval, who was now Premier of Vichy France, to meet him in Munich the next day.

For about twenty-four hours Hitler toyed with the idea of trying to make an alliance with France in order to bring her into the war against Britain and America and, at the moment, to strengthen the resolve of the Petain government to oppose the Allied landings in North Africa. He probably was encouraged in this by the action of Petain in breaking off diplomatic relations with the United States on the morning of Sunday, November 8, and by the aged French Marshal's statement to the U.S. charge d'affaires that his forces would resist the Anglo-American invasion. The OKW Diary for that Sunday emphasizes that Hitler was preoccupied with working out "a far-reaching collaboration with the French." That evening the German representative in Vichy, Krug von Nidda, submitted a proposal to Petain for a close alliance between Germany and France. [23]

By the next day, following his speech to the party veterans, in which he proclaimed that Stalingrad was "firmly in German hands," the Fuehrer had changed his mind. He told Ciano he had no illusions about the French desire to fight and that he had decided on "the total occupation of France, a landing in Corsica, a bridgehead in Tunisia." This decision, though not the timing, was communicated to Laval when he arrived in Munich by car on November 10. This traitorous Frenchman promptly promised to urge Petain to accede to the Fuehrer's wishes but suggested that the Germans go ahead with their plans without waiting for the senile old Marshal's approval, which Hitler fully intended to do. Ciano has left a description of the Vichy Premier, who was executed for treason after the war.

Laval, with his white tie and middle-class French peasant attire, is very much out of place in the great salon among so many uniforms. He tries to speak in a familiar tone about his trip and his long sleep in the car, but his words go unheeded. Hitler treats him with frigid courtesy ...

The poor man could not even imagine the fait accompli that the Germans were to place before him. Not a word was said to Laval about the impending action -- that the orders to occupy France were being given while he was smoking his cigarette and conversing with various people in the next room. Von Ribbentrop told me that Laval would be informed only the next morning at 8 o'clock that on account of information received during the night Hitler had been obliged to proceed to the total occupation of the country. [24]

The orders for the seizure of unoccupied France, in clear violation of the armistice agreement, were given by Hitler at 8:30 P.M. on November 10 and carried out the next morning without any other incident than a futile protest by Petain. The Italians occupied Corsica, and German planes began flying in troops to seize French-held Tunisia before Eisenhower's forces could get there.

There was one further -- and typical -- piece of Hitlerian deceit. On November 13 the Fuehrer assured Petain that neither the Germans nor the Italians would occupy the naval base at Toulon, where the French fleet had been tied up since the armistice. On November 25 the OKW Diary recorded that Hitler had decided to carry out "Lila" as soon as possible. [xxi] This was the code word for the occupation of Toulon and the capture of the French fleet. On the morning of the twenty-seventh German troops attacked the naval port, but French sailors held them up long enough to allow the crews, on the orders of Admiral de Laborde, to scuttle the ships. The French fleet was thus lost to the Axis, which badly needed its warships in the Mediterranean, but it was denied also to the Allies, to whom it would have been a most valuable addition.

Hitler won the race against Eisenhower to seize Tunisia, but it was a doubtful victory. At his insistence nearly a quarter of a million German and Italian troops were poured in to hold this bridgehead. If the Fuehrer had sent one fifth as many troops and tanks to Rommel a few months before, the Desert Fox most probably would have been beyond the Nile by now, the Anglo-American landing in Northwest Africa could not have taken place and the Mediterranean would have been irretrievably lost to the Allies, thus securing the soft undercover of the Axis belly. As it was, every soldier and tank and gun rushed by Hitler to Tunisia that winter as well as the remnants of the Afrika Korps would be lost by the end of the spring and more German troops would be marched into prisoner-of-war cages than at Stalingrad, to which we must now return. [xxii]


Hitler and the principal generals of OKW were lingering on in the pleasant Alpine surroundings of Berchtesgaden when the first news of the Russian counteroffensive on the Don reached them a few hours after it had been launched in a blizzard at dawn on November 19. Though a Soviet attack in this region had been expected it was not believed at OKW that it would amount to enough to warrant Hitler and his chief military advisers, Keitel and Jodl, hurrying back to headquarters in East Prussia after the Fuehrer's ringing beerhouse speech to the old party comrades in Munich on the evening of November 8. So they had puttered about on the Obersalzberg taking in the mountain air.

Their peace and quiet was abruptly broken by an urgent telephone call from General Zeitzler, the new Chief of the Army General Staff, who had remained behind at Rastenburg. He had what the OKW Diary recorded as "alarming news." In the very first hours of the attack an overwhelming Russian armored force had broken clean through the Rumanian Third Army between Serafimovich and Kletskaya on the Don just northwest of Stalingrad. South of the besieged city other powerful Soviet forces were attacking strongly against the German Fourth Panzer Army and the Rumanian Fourth Army and threatening to pierce their fronts.

The Russian objective was obvious to anyone who looked at a map and especially obvious to Zeitzler who, from Army intelligence, knew that the enemy had massed thirteen armies, with thousands of tanks, in the south to achieve it. The Russians were clearly driving in great strength from the north and the south to cut off Stalingrad and to force the German Sixth Army there to either beat a hasty retreat to the west or see itself surrounded. Zeitzler later contended that as soon as he saw what was happening he urged Hitler to permit the Sixth Army to withdraw from Stalingrad to the Don bend, where the broken front could be restored. The mere suggestion threw the Fuehrer into a tantrum.

"I won't leave the Volga! I won't go back from the Volga!" he shouted, and that was that. This decision, taken in such a fit of frenzy, led promptly to disaster. The Fuehrer personally ordered the Sixth Army to stand fast around Stalingrad. [25]

Hitler and his staff returned to headquarters on November 22. By this time, the fourth day of the attack, the news was catastrophic. The two Soviet forces from the north and south had met at Kalach, forty miles west of Stalingrad on the Don bend. In the evening a wireless message arrived from General Paulus, commander of the Sixth Army, confirming that his troops were now surrounded. Hitler promptly radioed back, telling Paulus to move his headquarters into the city and form a hedgehog defense. The Sixth Army would be supplied by air until it could be relieved.

But this was futile talk. There were now twenty German and two Rumanian divisions cut off at Stalingrad. Paulus radioed that they would need a minimum of 750 tons of supplies a day flown in. This was far beyond the capacity of the Luftwaffe, which lacked the required number of transport planes. Even if they had been available, not all of them could have got through in the blizzardy weather and over an area where the Russians had now established fighter superiority. Nevertheless, Goering assured Hitler that the Air Force could do the job. It never began to.

The relief of the Sixth Army was a more practical and encouraging possibility. On November 25 Hitler had recalled Field Marshal von Manstein, the most gifted of his field commanders, from the Leningrad front and put him in charge of a newly created formation, Army Group Don. His assignment was to push through from the southwest and relieve the Sixth Army at Stalingrad.

But now the Fuehrer imposed impossible conditions on his new commander. Manstein tried to explain to him that the only chance of success lay in the Sixth Army's breaking out of Stalingrad to the west while his own forces, led by the Fourth Panzer Army, pressed northeast against the Russian armies which lay between the two German forces. But once again Hitler refused to draw back from the Volga. The Sixth Army must remain in Stalingrad and Manstein must fight his way to it there.

This, as Manstein tried to argue with the Supreme warlord, could not be done. The Russians were too strong. Nevertheless, with a heavy heart, Manstein launched his attack on December 12. It was called, appropriately, "Operation Winter Gale," for the full fury of the Russian winter had now hit the southern steppes, piling up the snow in drifts and dropping the temperature below zero. At first the offensive made good progress, the Fourth Panzer Army, under General Hoth, driving northeast up both sides of the railroad from Kotelnikovski toward Stalingrad, some seventy-five miles away. By December 19 it had advanced to within some forty miles of the southern perimeter of the city; by the twenty-first it was within thirty miles, and across the snowy steppes the besieged troops of the Sixth Army could see at night the signal flares of their rescuers.

At this moment, according to the later testimony of the German generals, a breakout from Stalingrad of the Sixth Army toward the advancing lines of the Fourth Panzer Army would almost certainly have succeeded. But once again Hitler forbade it. On December 21, Zeitzler had wrung permission from the Leader for the troops of Paulus to break out provided they also held on to Stalingrad. This piece of foolishness, the General Staff Chief says, nearly drove him insane.

"On the following evening," Zeitzler related later, "I begged Hitler to authorize the breakout. I pointed out that this was absolutely our last chance to save the two hundred thousand men of Paulus' army."

Hitler would not give way. In vain I described to him conditions inside the so-called fortress: the despair of the starving soldiers, their loss of confidence in the Supreme Command, the wounded expiring for lack of proper attention while thousands froze to death. He remained as impervious to arguments of this sort as to those others which I had advanced.

In the face of increasing Russian resistance in front of him and on his flanks General Hoth lacked the strength to negotiate that last thirty miles to Stalingrad. He believed that if the Sixth Army broke out he could still make a junction with it and then both forces could withdraw to Kotelnikovski. This at least would save a couple of hundred thousand German lives. [xxiii] Probably for a day or two -- between December 21 and 23 -- this could have been done, but by the latter date it had become impossible. For unknown to Hoth the Red Army had struck farther north and was now endangering the left flank of Manstein's whole Army Group Don. On the night of December 22, Manstein telephoned Hoth to prepare himself for drastic new orders. The next day they came. Hoth was to abandon his drive on Stalingrad, dispatch one of his three panzer divisions to the Don front on the north, and defend himself where he was and with what he had left as well as he could.

The attempt to relieve Stalingrad had failed.

Manstein's drastic new orders had come as the result of alarming news that reached him on December 17. On the morning of that day a Soviet army had broken through the Italian Eighth Army farther up the Don at Boguchar and by evening opened a gap twenty-seven miles deep. Within three days the hole was ninety miles wide, the Italians were fleeing in panic and the Rumanian Third Army to the south, which already had been badly pummeled on the opening day of the Russian offensive on November 19, was also disintegrating. No wonder Manstein had had to take part of Hoth's armored forces to help stem the gap. A chain reaction followed.

Not only the Don armies fell back but also Hoth's forces, which had come so close to Stalingrad. These retreats in turn endangered the German Army in the Caucasus, which would be cut off if the Russians reached Rostov on the Sea of Azov. A day or two after Christmas Zeitzler pointed out to Hitler, "Unless you order a withdrawal from the Caucasus now, we shall soon have a second Stalingrad on our hands." Reluctantly the Supreme Commander issued the necessary instructions on December 29 to Kleist's Army Group A, which comprised the First Panzer and Seventeenth armies, and which had failed in its mission to grab the rich oil fields of Grozny. It too began a long retreat after having been within sight of its goal.

The reverses of the Germans in Russia and of the Italo-German armies in North Africa stirred Mussolini to thought. Hitler had invited him to come to Salzburg for a talk around the middle of December and the ailing Duce, now on a strict diet for stomach disorders, had accepted, though, as he told Ciano, he would go on one condition only: that he take his meals alone "because he does not want a lot of ravenous Germans to notice that he is compelled to live on rice and milk."

The time had come, Mussolini decided, to tell Hitler to cut his losses in the East, make some sort of deal with Stalin and concentrate Axis strength on defending the rest of North Africa, the Balkans and Western Europe. "Nineteen forty-three will be the year of the Anglo-American effort," he told Ciano. Hitler was unable to leave his Eastern headquarters in order to meet Mussolini, so Ciano made the long journey to Rastenburg on December 18 on his behalf, repeating to the Nazi leader the Duce's proposals. Hitler scorned them and assured the Italian Foreign Minister that without at all weakening the Russian front he could send additional forces to North Africa, which must, he said, be held. Ciano found German spirits at a low ebb at headquarters, despite Hitler's confident assurances.

The atmosphere is heavy. To the bad news there should perhaps be added the sadness of that humid forest and the boredom of collective living in the barracks ... No one tries to conceal from me the unhappiness over the news of the breakthrough on the Russian front. There were open attempts to put the blame on us.

At that very moment the survivors of the Italian Eighth Army on the Don were scurrying for their lives, and when one member of Ciano's party asked an OKW officer whether the Italians had suffered heavy losses he was told, "No losses at all: they are running." [26]

The German troops in the Caucasus and on the Don, if not running, were getting out as quickly as they could to avoid being cut off. Each day, as the year 1943 began, they withdrew a little farther from Stalingrad. The time had now come for the Russians to finish off the Germans there. But first they gave the doomed soldiers of the Sixth Army an opportunity to save their lives.

On the morning of January 8, 1943, three young Red Army officers, bearing a white flag, entered the German lines on the northern perimeter of Stalingrad and presented General Paulus with an ultimatum from General Rokossovski, commander of the Soviet forces on the Don front. After reminding him that his army was cut off and could not be relieved or kept supplied from the air, the note said:

The situation of your troops is desperate. They are suffering from hunger, sickness and cold. The cruel Russian winter has scarcely yet begun. Hard frosts, cold winds and blizzards still lie ahead. Your soldiers are unprovided with winter clothing and are living in appalling sanitary conditions ... Your situation is hopeless, and any further resistance senseless.

In view of [this] and in order to avoid unnecessary bloodshed, we propose that you accept the following terms of surrender ...

They were honorable terms. All prisoners would be given "normal rations." The wounded, sick and frostbitten would receive medical treatment. All prisoners could retain their badges of rank, decorations and personal belongings. Paulus was given twenty-four hours to reply.

He immediately radioed the text of the ultimatum to Hitler and asked for freedom of action. His request was curtly dismissed by the Supreme warlord. Twenty-four hours after the expiration of the time limit on the demand for surrender, on the morning of January 10, the Russians opened the last phase of the Battle of Stalingrad with an artillery bombardment from five thousand guns.

The fighting was bitter and bloody. Both sides fought with incredible bravery and recklessness over the frozen wasteland of the city's rubble -- but not for long. Within six days the German pocket had been reduced by half, to an area fifteen miles long and nine miles deep at its widest. By January 24 it had been split in two and the last small emergency airstrip lost. The planes which had brought in some supplies, especially medicines for the sick and wounded, and which had flown out 29,000 hospital cases, could no longer land.

Once more the Russians gave their courageous enemy a chance to surrender. Soviet emissaries arrived at the German lines on January 24 with a new offer. Again Paulus, tom between his duty to obey the mad Fuehrer and his obligation to save his own surviving troops from annihilation, appealed to Hitler.

Troops without ammunition [he radioed on the twenty-fourth] or food Effective command no longer possible ... 18,000 wounded without any supplies or dressings or drugs ... Further defense senseless. Collapse inevitable. Army requests immediate permission to surrender in order to save lives of remaining troops.

Hitler's answer has been preserved.

Surrender is forbidden. Sixth Army will hold their positions to the last man and the last round and by their heroic endurance will make an unforgettable contribution toward the establishment of a defensive front and the salvation of the Western world.

The Western world! It was a bitter pill for the men of the Sixth Army who had fought against that world in France and Flanders but a short time ago.

Further resistance was not only senseless and futile but impossible, and as the month of January 1943 approached its end the epic battle wore itself out, expiring like the flame of an expended candle which sputters and dies. By January 28 what was left of a once great army was split into three small pockets, in the southern one of which General Paulus had his headquarters in the cellar of the ruins of the once thriving Univermag department store. According to one eyewitness the commander in chief sat on his camp bed in a darkened corner in a state of near collapse.

He was scarcely in the mood, nor were his soldiers, to appreciate the flood of congratulatory radiograms that now began to pour in. Goering, who had whiled away a good part of the winter in sunny Italy, strutting about in his great fur coat and fingering his jewels, sent a radio message on January 28.

The fight put up by the Sixth Army will go down in history, and future generations will speak proudly of a Langemarck of daredeviltry, an Alcazar of tenacity, a Narvik of courage and a Stalingrad of self-sacrifice.

Nor were they cheered when on the last evening, January 30, 1943, the tenth anniversary of the Nazis' coming to power, they listened to the fat Reich Marshal's bombastic broadcast.

A thousand years hence Germans will speak of this battle [of Stalingrad] with reverence and awe, and will remember that in spite of everything Germany's ultimate victory was decided there ... In years to come it will be said of the heroic battle on the Volga: When you come to Germany, say that you have seen us lying at Stalingrad , as our honor and our leaders ordained that we should, for the greater glory of Germany.

The glory and the horrible agony of the Sixth Army had now come to an end. On January 30, Paulus radioed Hitler: "Final collapse cannot be delayed more than twenty-four hours."

This signal prompted the Supreme Commander to shower a series of promotions on the doomed officers in Stalingrad, apparently in the hope that such honors would strengthen their resolve to die gloriously at their bloody posts. "There is no record in military history of a German Field Marshal being taken prisoner," Hitler remarked to Jodi, and thereupon conferred on Paulus, by radio, the coveted marshal's baton. Some 117 other officers were jumped up a grade. It was a macabre gesture.

The end itself was anticlimactic. Late on the last day of January Paulus got off his final message to headquarters.

The Sixth Army, true to their oath and conscious of the lofty importance of their mission, have held their position to the last man and the last round for Fuehrer and Fatherland unto the end.

At 7:45 P.M. the radio operator at Sixth Army headquarters sent a last message on his own: "The Russians are at the door of our bunker. We are destroying our equipment." He added the letters "CL" -- the international wireless code signifying "This station will no longer transmit."

There was no last-minute fighting at headquarters. Paulus and his staff did not hold out to the last man. A squad of Russians led by a junior officer peered into the commander in chief's darkened hole in the cellar. The Russians demanded surrender and the Sixth Army's chief of staff, General Schmidt, accepted. Paulus sat dejected on his camp bed. When Schmidt addressed him -- "May I ask the Field Marshal if there is anything more to be said?" -- Paulus was too weary to answer.

Farther north a small German pocket, containing all that was left of two panzer and four infantry divisions, still held out in the ruins of a tractor factory. On the night of February 1 it received a message from Hitler's headquarters.

The German people expect you to do your duty exactly as did the troops holding the southern fortress. Every day and every hour that you continue to fight facilitates the building of a new front.

Just before noon on February 2, this group surrendered after a last message to the Supreme Commander: "... Have fought to the last man against vastly superior forces. Long live Germany!"

Silence at last settled on the snow-covered, blood-spattered shambles of the battlefield. At 2: 46 P.M. on February 2 a German reconnaissance plane flew high over the city and radioed back: "No sign of any fighting at Stalingrad."

By that time 91,000 German soldiers, including twenty-four generals, half-starved, frostbitten, many of them wounded, all of them dazed and broken, were hobbling over the ice and snow, clutching their blood-caked blankets over their heads against the 24-degrees-below-zero cold toward the dreary, frozen prisoner-of-war camps of Siberia. Except for some 20,000 Rumanians and the 29,000 wounded who had been evacuated by air they were all that was left of a conquering army that had numbered 285,000 men two months before. The rest had been slaughtered. And of those 91,000 Germans who began the weary march into captivity that winter day, only 5,000 were destined ever to see the Fatherland again. [xxiv]

Meanwhile back in the well-heated headquarters in East Prussia the Nazi warlord, whose stubbornness and stupidity were responsible for this disaster, berated his generals at Stalingrad for not knowing how and when to die. The records of a conference held by Hitler at OKW with his generals on February 1 survive and shed enlightenment on the nature of the German dictator at this trying period in his life and that of his Army and country.

They have surrendered there -- formally and absolutely. Otherwise they would have closed ranks, formed a hedgehog, and shot themselves with their last bullet ... The man [Paulus] should have shot himself just as the old commanders who threw themselves on their swords when they saw that the cause was lost ... Even Varus gave his slave the order: "Now kill me!"

Hitler's venom toward Paulus for deciding to live became more poisonous as he ranted on.

You have to imagine: he'll be brought to Moscow -- and imagine that rattrap there. There he will sign anything. He'll make confessions, make proclamations -- you'll see. They will now walk down the slope of spiritual bankruptcy to its lowest depths ... You'll see -- it won't be a week before Seydlitz and Schmidt and even Paulus are talking over the radio [xxv] ... They are going to be put into the Liublanka, and there the rats will eat them. How can one be so cowardly? I don't understand it ...

What is life? Life is the Nation. The individual must die anyway. Beyond the life of the individual is the Nation. But how can anyone be afraid of this moment of death, with which he can free himself from this misery, if his duty doesn't chain him to this Vale of Tears. Na!

... So many people have to die, and then a man like that besmirches the heroism of so many others at the last minute. He could have freed himself from all sorrow and ascended into eternity and national immortality, but he prefers to go to Moscow! ...

What hurts me most, personally, is that I still promoted him to field marshal. I wanted to give him this final satisfaction. That's the last field marshal I shall appoint in this war. You mustn't count your chickens before they're hatched. [27]

There followed a brief exchange between Hitler and General Zeitzler on how to break the news of the surrender to the German people. On February 3, three days after the act, OKW issued a special communique:

The battle of Stalingrad has ended. True to their oath to fight to the last breath, the Sixth Army under the exemplary leadership of Field Marshal Paulus has been overcome by the superiority of the enemy and by the unfavorable circumstances confronting our forces.

The reading of the communique over the German radio was preceded by the roll of muffled drums and followed by the playing of the second movement of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. Hitler proclaimed four days of national mourning. All theaters, movies and variety halls were closed until it was over.

Stalingrad, wrote Walter Goerlitz, the German historian, in his work on the General Staff, "was a second Jena and was certainly the greatest defeat that a German army had ever undergone." [28]

But it was more than that. Coupled with El Alamein and the British-American landings in North Africa it marked the great turning point in World War II. The high tide of Nazi conquest which had rolled over most of Europe to the frontier of Asia on the Volga and in Africa almost to the Nile had now begun to ebb and it would never flow back again. The time of the great Nazi blitz offensives, with thousands of tanks and planes spreading terror in the ranks of the enemy armies and cutting them to pieces, had come to an end. There would be, to be sure, desperate local thrusts -- at Kharkov in the spring of 1943, in the Ardennes at Christmas time in 1944 -- but they formed part of a defensive struggle which the Germans were to carry out with great tenacity and valor during the next two -- and last -- years of the war. The initiative had passed from Hitler's hands, never to return. It was his enemies who seized it now, and held it. And not only on land but in the air. Already on the night of May 30, 1942, the British had carried out their first one-thousand-plane bombing of Cologne, and more followed on other cities during the eventful summer. For the first time the civilian German people, like the German soldiers at Stalingrad and El Alamein, were to experience the horrors which their armed forces had inflicted on others up to now.

And finally, in the snows of Stalingrad and in the burning sands of the North African desert, a great and terrible Nazi dream was destroyed. Not only was the Third Reich doomed by the disasters to Paulus and Rommel but also the gruesome and grotesque so-called New Order which Hitler and his S.S. thugs had been busy setting up in the conquered lands. Before we turn to the final chapter, the fall of the Third Reich, it might be well to pause and see what this New Order was like -- in theory and in barbarous practice -- and what this ancient and civilized continent of Europe barely escaped after a brief nightmare of experiencing its first horrors. It must necessarily be for this book, as it was for the good Europeans who lived through it, or were massacred before it ended, the darkest chapter of all in the history of the Third Reich.



i. Among those retired, it will be recalled, were Field Marshal von Brauchitsch, the Commander in Chief of the Army, and Field Marshals von Rundstedt and von Bock, who led the southern and central army groups, respectively, and General Guderian, the genius of the panzer corps. The commander of the army group in the north, Field Marshal von Leeb, soon followed, being relieved of his post on January 18, 1942. The day before, Field Marshal von Reichenau, who had taken over Rundstedt's command, died of a stroke. General Udet of the Luftwaffe shot himself to death on November 17, 1941. Moreover, some thirty-five corps and divisional commanders were replaced during the winter retreat.

This, of course, was only a beginning. Field Marshal von Manstein summed up at Nuremberg what happened to the generals when they started losing battles or finally got up enough courage to oppose Hitler. "Of seventeen field marshals," he told the tribunal, "ten were sent home during the war and three lost their lives as a result of July 20, 1944 [the plot against Hitler -- W.L.S.]. Only one field marshal managed to get through the war and keep his position. Of thirty-six full generals [Generalobersten] eighteen were sent home, and five died as a result of July 20 or were dishonorably discharged. Only three full generals survived the war in their positions." [1]

ii. Lehndorff was executed by the Nazis on September 4, 1944.
iii. The Prussian King often complained about this malady. which he found hampered  his mental facilities as well as his physical activities.
iv. Prince Wilhelm, the oldest son, had died of battle wounds in France on May 26,  1940.
v. Jens Peter Jessen, a professor of economics at the University of Berlin, was one of the brains of the circle. He had become an ardent Nazi during the period between 1931 and 1933 and was one of the few genuine intellectuals in the party. He was quickly disillusioned after 1933 and soon became a fanatical anti-Nazi. Arrested for complicity in the July 20, 1944, plot against Hitler, he was executed at the Ploetzensee prison in Berlin in November of that year.

vi. Goebbels had seen Hitler a month before at headquarters and expressed shock in  his diary at his ailing. "I noted that he has already become quite gray ... He  told me he has had to fight off severe attacks of giddiness ... The Fuehrer this  time truly worries me." He had, Goebbels added, a "physical revulsion against  frost and snow ... What worries and torments -- the Fuehrer most is that the country  is still covered with snow ... " (The Goebbels Diaries, pp. 131-37.)
vii. In a savage series of battles with the British in November and December 1941,  Rommel's forces had been driven back clear across Cyrenaica to the El Agheila  line at its western borders. But bounding back with his customary resilience in  January 1942, Rommel recaptured half of the ground lost, in a swift seventeen-day  campaign which brought him back to El Gazala, from where the new drive of the  end of May 1942 began.
viii. Hitler's naming Rommel a field marshal the day after the capture of Tobruk caused Mussolini "much pain" because, as Ciano noted, it accentuated "the German character of the battle." The Duce left immediately for Libya to grab some honors for himself, believing that he could enter Alexandria, Ciano says, "in fifteen days." On July 2 he contacted Hitler by wire about "the question of the future political government of Egypt," proposing Rommel as the military commander and an Italian as "civilian delegate." Hitler replied that he did not consider the matter "urgent." (Ciano Diaries. pp. 502-04.)

"Mussolini was waiting impatiently in Derna [behind the front]," General Fritz Bayerlein, chief of staff to Rommel, later recalled, "for the day when he might take the salute at a parade of Axis tanks beneath tile shadow of tile Pyramids." (The Fatal Decisions, ed. Freidin and Richardson, p. 103.)
ix. According to General Bayerlein's postwar testimony. He probably exaggerated  his losses. Allied intelligence gave Rommel 125 tanks.
x. This had taken place on February 11-12, 1942, and had caught the British by  surprise. Only weak naval and aircraft forces were rounded up in time to attack  the German fleet and they inflicted little damage. "Vice-Admiral Ciliax [who led  the dash]," commented the Times of London, "has succeeded where the Duke of  Medina Sidonia failed ... Nothing more mortifying to the pride of sea power has  happened in Home Waters since the 17th Century."
xi. Kleist confirmed this to Liddell Hart: "The Fourth Panzer Army ... could  have taken Stalingrad without a fight at the end of July, but was diverted south to  help me in crossing the Don. I did not need its aid, and it merely congested the  roads I was using. When it turned north again a fortnight later the Russians had  gathered just sufficient forces at Stalin grad to check it." By that time Kleist needed  the additional tank force. "We could have reached our goal [the Grozny oil] if my  forces had not been drawn away ... to help the attack on Stalingrad," he added.  (Liddell Hart, The German Generals Talk. pp. 169-71.)
xii. Halder relates that "quite by accident" he came across in the Ukraine about that  time a book about Stalin's defeat of General Denikin between the Don bend and  Stalingrad during the Russian Civil War. He says the situation then was very  similar to that of 1942 and that Stalin exploited "masterfully" Denikin's weak  defenses along the Don. "Hence," he adds, "came the changing of the name of the  city from 'Tsaritsyn' to 'Stalingrad.'"
xiii. The sacking of Halder was a loss not only to the Army but to historians of the Third Reich, for his invaluable diary ends on September 24, 1942. He was eventually arrested, placed in the concentration camp at Dachau along with such illustrious prisoners as Schuschnigg and Schacht and liberated by U.S. forces at Niederdorf, South Tyrol, on April 28, 1945. Since then, up to the time of writing, he has collaborated with the U.S. Army in a number of military historical studies of World War II. His generosity to this writer in answering queries and pointing out sources has already been noted.

xiv. The faithful and fanatically loyal General Jodi, Chief of Operations at OKW, also was in Hitler's doghouse at this time. He had opposed the sacking of Field Marshal List and General Halder and his defense of them sent Hitler into such a rage that for months he refused to shake hands with Jodl or dine with him or any other staff officer. Hitler was on the point of firing Jodl at the end of January 1943 and replacing him with General Paulus, but it was too late. Paulus, as we shall shortly see, was no longer available.
xv. Stumme, who was acting commander in the absence of Rommel, had died of a heart attack the first night of the British offensive while fleeing on foot over the desert from a British patrol that had almost captured him.

xvi. The next day, November 4 -- after telling Bayerlein, "Hitler's order is a piece of unparalleled madness. I can't go along with this any longer" -- General von Thoma donned a clean uniform, with the insignia of his rank and his decorations, stood by his burning tank until a British unit arrived, surrendered and in the evening dined with Montgomery at his headquarters mess.
xvii. Rommel's losses at El Alamein were 59,000 killed, wounded and captured, of  whom 34,000 were Germans, out of a total force of 96,000 men.
xviii. I learn from Hitler's captured daily calendar book that the celebration had been  moved from the old Buergerbraukeller, where the putsch had taken place, to a more  elegant beer hall in Munich, the Loewenbraukeller. The Buergerbraukeller, it will  be remembered, had been wrecked by a time bomb which had just missed killing the  Fuehrer on the night of November 8, 1939.
ix. General Giraud at that moment was arriving in Algiers. He had escaped from a German POW camp and settled in the south of France, where he was taken off by a British submarine on November 5 and brought to Gibraltar to confer with Eisenhower just before the landings.

xx. "During the night," Ciano wrote in his diary on November 9, "Ribbentrop telephoned. Either the Duce or I must go to Munich as soon as possible. Laval will also be there. I wake up the Duce. He is not very anxious to leave, especially since he is not feeling very well. I shall go."
xxi. It is only fair to point out that Hitler strongly suspected, not without reason, that  the French fleet might try to sail for Algeria and join the Allies. Despite his  treacherous dealings with the Germans and his violent hatred of the British, Admiral Darlan, who happened to be visiting an ailing son at Algiers, had been pressed into service by Eisenhower as French commander in North Africa not only because he seemed to be the only officer who could get the French Army and Navy to cease resisting the Anglo-American landings but also in the hope that he could get the admiral commanding in Tunisia to oppose the German landings there and also induce the French fleet in Toulon to make a dash for North Africa. The hopes proved vain, although Darlan tried. To his message ordering Admiral de Laborde to bring the fleet over from Toulon he received an answer in one expressive -- if indelicate -- word: "Merde." (See the Proces du M. Petain.)

xxii. Some 125,000 Germans, according to General Eisenhower, out of a total of 240,000 Axis troops, the rest being Italian. This number includes only those who surrendered during the last week of the campaign -- May 5 to 12, 1943. (Crusade in Europe, p. 156.)
xxiii. In his postwar memoirs, Field Marshal von Manstein says that on December 19,  in disobedience to Hitler's orders, he actually directed the Sixth Army to begin to  break out of Stalingrad to the southwest and make a junction with the Fourth  Panzer Army. He publishes the text of the directive. But it contained certain  reservations and Paulus, who still was under orders from Hitler not to break out,  must have been greatly confused by it. "This," declares Manstein, "was our one  and only chance of saving the Sixth Army." (Manstein. Lost Victories, pp. 336-41,  562-63.)
xxiv. According to the figure given by the Bonn government in 1958. Many of the prisoners died during an epidemic of typhus in the following spring.

xxv. Hitler was correct in his forecast, except for the timing. By July of the following summer Paulus and Seydlitz, who became the leaders of the so-called National Committee of Free Germany, did take to the air over the Moscow radio to urge the Army to eliminate Hitler.
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Re: The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi

Postby admin » Wed Feb 14, 2018 1:20 am

Part 1 of 4



No COMPREHENSIVE BLUEPRINT for the New Order was ever drawn up, but it is clear from the captured documents and from what took place that Hitler knew very well what he wanted it to be: a Nazi-ruled Europe whose resources would be exploited for the profit of Germany, whose people would be made ,he slaves of the German master race and whose "undesirable elements" -- above all, the Jews, but also many Slavs in the East, especially the intelligentsia among them -- would be exterminated.

The Jews and the Slavic peoples were the Untermenschen -- subhumans. To Hitler they had no right to live, except as some of them, among the Slavs, might be needed to toil in the fields and the mines as slaves of their German masters. Not only were the great cities of the East, Moscow, Leningrad and Warsaw, to be permanently erased* but the culture of the Russians and Poles and other Slavs was to be stamped out and formal education denied them. Their thriving industries were to be dismantled and shipped to Germany and the people themselves confined to the pursuits of agriculture so that they could grow food for Germans, being allowed to keep for themselves just enough to subsist on. Europe itself, as the Nazi leaders put it, must be made "Jew-free."

"What happens to a Russian, to a Czech, does not interest me in the slightest," declared Heinrich Himmler on October 4, 1943, in a confidential address to his S.S. officers at Posen. By this time Himmler, as chief of the S.S. and the entire police apparatus of the Third Reich, was next to Hitler in importance, holding the power of life and death not only over eighty million Germans but over twice that many conquered people.

What the nations [Himmler continued] can offer in the way of good blood of our type, we will take, if necessary by kidnaping their children and raising them here with us. Whether nations live in prosperity or starve to death like cattle interests me only in so far as we need them as slaves to our Kultur; otherwise it is of no interest to me.

Whether 10,000 Russian females fall down from exhaustion while digging an antitank ditch interests me only in so far as the antitank ditch for Germany is finished ... [1]

Long before Himmler's Posen speech in 1943 (to which we shall return, for it covers other aspects of the New Order) the Nazi chiefs had laid down their thoughts and plans for enslaving the people of the East.

By October 15, 1940, Hitler had decided on the future of the Czechs, the first Slavic people he had conquered. One half of them were to be "assimilated," mostly by shipping them as slave labor to Germany. The other half, "particularly" the intellectuals, were simply to be, in the words of a secret report on the subject, "eliminated." [2]

A fortnight before, on October 2, the Fuehrer had clarified his thoughts about the fate of the Poles, the second of the Slavic peoples to be conquered. His faithful secretary, Martin Bormann, has left a long memorandum on the Nazi plans, which Hitler outlined to Hans Frank, the Governor General of rump Poland, and to other officials. [3]

The Poles [Hitler "emphasized"] are especially born for low labor ... There can be no question of improvement for them. It is necessary to keep the standard of life low in Poland and it must not be permitted to rise ... The Poles are lazy and it is necessary to use compulsion to make them work ... The Government General [of Poland] should be used by us merely as a source of unskilled labor ... Every year the laborers needed by the Reich could be procured from there.

As for the Polish priests,

they will preach what we want them to preach. If any priest acts differently, we shall make short work of him. The task of the priest is to keep the Poles quiet, stupid and dull-witted.

There were two other classes of Poles to be dealt with and the Nazi dictator did not neglect mention of them.

It is indispensable to bear in mind that the Polish gentry must cease to exist; however cruel this may sound, they must be exterminated wherever they are ...

There should be one master only for the Poles, the German. Two masters, side by side, cannot and must not exist. Therefore, all representatives of the Polish intelligentsia are to be exterminated. This sounds cruel, but such is the law of life.

This obsession of the Germans with the idea that they were the master race and that the Slavic peoples must be their slaves was especially virulent in regard to Russia. Erich Koch, the roughneck Reich Commissar for the Ukraine, expressed it in a speech at Kiev on March 5, 1943.

We are the Master Race and must govern hard but just ... I will draw the very last out of this country. I did not come to spread bliss ... The population must work, work, and work again ... We definitely did not come here to give out manna. We have come here to create the basis for victory.

We are a master race, which must remember that the lowliest German worker is racially and biologically a thousand times more valuable than the population here. [4]

Nearly a year before, on July 23, 1942, when the German armies in Russia were nearing the Volga and the oil fields of the Caucasus, Martin Bormann, Hitler's party secretary and, by now, right-hand man, wrote a long letter to Rosenberg reiterating the Fuehrer's views on the subject. The letter was summed up by an official in Rosenberg's ministry:

The Slavs are to work for us. In so far as we don't need them, they may die. Therefore compulsory vaccination and German health services are superfluous. The fertility of the Slavs is undesirable. They may use contraceptives or practice abortion -- the more the better. Education is dangerous. It is enough if they can count up to 100... . Every educated person is a future enemy. Religion we leave to them as a means of diversion. As for food they won't get any more than is absolutely necessary. We are the masters. We come first. [5]

When the German troops first entered Russia they were in many places hailed as liberators by a population long ground down and terrorized by Stalin's tyranny. There were, in the beginning, wholesale desertions among the Russian soldiers. Especially in the Baltic, which had been under Soviet occupation but a short time, and in the Ukraine, where an incipient independence movement had never been quite stamped out, many were happy to be freed from the Soviet yoke -- even by the Germans.

There were a few in Berlin who believed that if Hitler played his cards shrewdly, treating the population with consideration and promising relief from Bolshevik practices (by granting religious and economic freedom and making true co-operatives out of the collectivized farms) and eventual self-government, the Russian people could be won over. They might then not only co-operate with the Germans in the occupied regions but in the unoccupied ones strive for liberation from Stalin's harsh rule. If this were done, it was argued, the Bolshevik regime itself might collapse and the Red Army disintegrate, as the Czarist armies had done in 1917.

But the savagery of the Nazi occupation and the obvious aims of the German conquerors, often publicly proclaimed, to plunder the Russian lands, enslave their peoples and colonize the East with Germans soon destroyed any possibility of such a development.

No one summed up this disastrous policy and all the opportunities it destroyed better than a German himself, Dr. Otto Brautigam, a career diplomat and the deputy leader of the Political Department of Rosenberg's newly created Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories. In a bitter confidential report to his superiors on October 25, 1942, Brautigam dared to pinpoint the Nazi mistakes in Russia.

In the Soviet Union we found on our arrival a population weary of Bolshevism, which waited longingly for new slogans holding out the prospect of a better future for them. It was Germany's duty to find such slogans, but they remained unuttered. The population greeted us with joy as liberators and placed themselves at our disposal.

Actually, there was a slogan but the Russian people soon saw through it.

With the inherent instinct of the Eastern peoples [Brautigam continued], the primitive man soon found out that for Germany the slogan "Liberation from Bolshevism" was only a pretext to enslave the Eastern peoples according to her own methods ... The worker and peasant soon perceived that Germany did not regard them as partners of equal rights but considered them only as the objective of her political and economic aims ... With unequaled presumption, we put aside all political knowledge and ... treat the peoples of the occupied Eastern territories as "Second-Class Whites" to whom Providence has merely assigned the task of serving as slaves for Germany ...

There were two other developments, Brautigam declared, which had turned the Russians against the Germans: the barbaric treatment of Soviet prisoners of war and the shanghaiing of Russian men and women for slave labor.

It is no longer a secret from friend or foe that hundreds of thousands of Russian prisoners of war have died of hunger or cold in our camps ... We now experience the grotesque picture of having to recruit millions of laborers from the occupied Eastern territories after prisoners of war have died of hunger like flies ...

In the prevailing limitless abuse of the Slavic humanity, "recruiting" methods were used which probably have their origin only in the blackest periods of the slave traffic. A regular man hunt was inaugurated. Without consideration of health or age the people were shipped to Germany ...[i]

German policy and practice in Russia had "brought about the enormous resistance of the Eastern peoples," this official concluded.

Our policy has forced both Bolshevists and Russian nationalists into a common front against us. The Russian fights today with exceptional bravery and self-sacrifice for nothing more or less than recognition of his human dignity.

Closing his thirteen-page memorandum on a positive note Dr. Brautigam asked for a complete change of policy. "The Russian people," he argued, "must be told something concrete about their future." [6]

But this was a voice in the Nazi wilderness. Hitler, as we have seen, already had laid down, before the attack began, his directives on what would be done with Russia and the Russians * and he was not a man who could be persuaded by any living German to change them by one iota.

On July 16, 1941, less than a month after the commencement of the Russian campaign but when it was already evident from the initial German successes that a large slice of the Soviet Union would soon be within grasp, Hitler convoked Goering, Keitel, Rosenberg, Bormann and Lammers (the last, head of the Reich Chancellery) to his headquarters in East Prussia to remind them of his aims in the newly conquered land. At last his goal so clearly stated in Mein Kampf of securing a vast German Lebensraum in Russia was in sight and it is clear from the confidential memorandum of the meeting drawn up by Bormann (which showed up at Nuremberg) [7] that he wanted his chief lieutenants to understand well what he intended to do with it. His intentions, he admonished, must however not be "publicized."

There is no need for that [Hitler said] but the main thing is that we ourselves know what we want ... Nobody must be able to recognize that it initiates a final settlement. This need not prevent our taking all necessary measures -- shooting, resettling, etc. -- and we shall take them.

In principle, Hitler continued,

we now have to face the task of cutting up the cake according to our needs in order to be able:

first, to dominate it;
second, to administer it;
third, to exploit it.

He did not mind, he said, that the Russians had ordered partisan warfare behind the German lines; "it enables us to eradicate everyone who opposes us."

In general, Hitler explained, Germany would dominate the Russian territory up to the Urals. None but Germans would be permitted to carry weapons in that vast space. Then Hitler went over specifically what would be done with various slices of the Russian cake.

The entire Baltic country will have to be incorporated into Germany The Crimea has to be evacuated by all foreigners and settled by Germans only, [becoming] Reich territory ... The Kola Peninsula will be taken by Germany because of the large nickel mines there. The annexation of Finland as a federated state should be prepared with caution ... The Fuehrer will raze Leningrad to the ground and then hand it over to the Finns.

The Baku oil fields, Hitler ordered, would become a "German concession" and the German colonies on the Volga would be annexed outright. When it came to a discussion as to which Nazi leaders would administer the new territory a violent quarrel broke out.

Rosenberg states he intends to use Captain von Petersdorff, owing to his special merits; general consternation; general rejections. The Fuehrer and the Reich Marshal [Goering] both emphasize there was no doubt that Von Petersdorff was insane.

There was also an argument on the best methods of policing the conquered Russian people. Hitler suggested the German police be equipped with armored cars. Goering doubted that they would be necessary. His planes could "drop bombs in case of riots," he said.

Naturally [Goering added] this giant area would have to be pacified as quickly as possible. The best solution would be to shoot anybody who looked sideways. [ii]

Goering, as head of the Four-Year Plan, was also put in charge of the economic exploitation of Russia. [iii] "Plunder" would be a better word, as Goering made clear in a speech to the Nazi commissioners for the occupied territories on August 6,1 942. "It used to be called plundering," he said. "But today things have become more humane. In spite of that, I intend to plunder and to do it thoroughly." [8] On this, at least, he was as good as his word, not only in Russia but throughout Nazi-conquered Europe. It was all part of the New Order.


The total amount of loot will never be known; it has proved beyond man's capacity to accurately compute. But some figures are available, many of them from the Germans themselves. They show with what Germanic thoroughness the instructions which Goering once gave to his subordinates were carried out.

Whenever you come across anything that may be needed by the German people, you must be after it like a bloodhound. It must be taken out ... and brought to Germany. [9]

A great deal was taken out, not only in goods and services but in banknotes and gold. Whenever Hitler occupied a country, his financial agents seized the gold and foreign holdings of its national bank. That was a mere beginning. Staggering "occupation costs" were immediately assessed. By the end of February 1944, Count Schwerin von Krosigk, the Nazi Minister of Finance, put the total take from such payments at some 48 billion marks (roughly $12,000,000,000), of which France, which was milked heavier than any other conquered country, furnished more than half. By the end of the war, receipts from occupation assessments amounted to an estimated 60 billion marks ($15,000,000,000).

France was forced to pay 31.5 billions of this total, its annual contributions of more than 7 billions coming to over four times the yearly sums which Germany had paid in reparations under the Dawes and Young plans after the first war -- a tribute which had seemed such a heinous crime to Hitler. In addition the Bank of France was forced to grant "credits" to Germany totaling 4.5 billion marks and the French government to pay a further half billion in "fines." At Nuremberg it was estimated that the Germans extracted in occupation costs and "credits" two thirds of Belgium's national income and a similar percentage from the Netherlands. Altogether, according to a study by the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey, Germany extracted in tribute from the conquered nations a total of 104 billion marks ($26,000,000,000). [iv]

But the goods seized and transported to the Reich without even the formality of payment can never possibly be estimated. Figures kept pouring in at Nuremberg until they overwhelmed one; but no expert, so far as I know, was ever able to straighten them out and compute totals. In France, for example, it was estimated that the Germans carted off (as "levies in kind") 9 million tons of cereals, 75 per cent of the total production of oats, 80 per cent of oil, 74 per cent of steel, and so on, for a grand total of 184.5 billion francs.

Russia, devastated by warfare and German savagery, proved harder to milk. Nazi documents are full of reports of Soviet "deliveries." In 1943, for example, 9 million tons of cereals, 2 million tons of fodder, 3 million tons of potatoes, 662,000 tons of meat were listed by the Germans among the "deliveries," to which the Soviet Committee of Investigation added -- for the duration of the occupation -- 9 million cattle, 12 million pigs, 13 million sheep, to mention a few items. But Russian "deliveries" proved much less than expected; the Germans calculated them as worth a net of only some 4 billion marks ($1,000,000,000). [v]

Everything possible was squeezed out of Poland by the greedy Nazi conquerors. "I shall endeavor," said Dr. Frank, the Governor General, "to squeeze out of this province everything that is still possible to squeeze out." This was at the end of 1942, and in the three years since the occupation he had already squeezed out, as he continually boasted, a great deal, especially in foodstuffs for hungry Germans in the Reich. He warned, however, that "if the new food scheme is carried out in 1943 a half-million people in Warsaw and its suburbs alone will be deprived of food." [10]

The nature of the New Order in Poland had been laid down as soon as the country was conquered. On October 3, 1939, Frank informed the Army of Hitler's orders.

Poland can only be administered by utilizing the country through means of ruthless exploitation, deportation of all supplies, raw materials, machines, factory installations, etc., which are important for the German war economy, availability of all workers for work within Germany, reduction of the entire Polish economy to absolute minimum necessary for bare existence of the population, closing of all educational institutions, especially technical schools and colleges in order to prevent the growth of the new Polish intelligentsia. Poland shall be treated as a colony. The Poles shall be the slaves of the Greater German Reich. [11]

Rudolf Hess, the Nazi deputy Fuehrer, added that Hitler had decided that "Warsaw shall not be rebuilt, nor is it the intention of the Fuehrer to rebuild or reconstruct any industry in the Government General." [12]

By decree of Dr. Frank, all property in Poland belonging not only to Jews but to Poles was subject to confiscation without compensation. Hundreds of thousands of Polish-owned farms were simply grabbed and handed over to German settlers. By May 31, 1943, in the four Polish districts annexed to Germany (West Prussia, Posen, Zichenau, Silesia) some 700,000 estates comprising 15 million acres were "seized" and 9,500 estates totaling 6.5 million acres "confiscated." The difference between "seizure" and "confiscation" is not explained in the elaborate table prepared by the German "Central Estate Office," [13] and to the dispossessed Poles it must not have mattered.

Even the art treasures in the occupied lands were looted, and, as the captured Nazi documents later revealed, on the express orders of Hitler and Goering, who thereby greatly augmented their "private" collections. The corpulent Reich Marshal, according to his own estimate, brought his own collection up to a value of 50 million Reichsmarks. Indeed, Goering was the driving force in this particular field of looting. Immediately upon the conquest of Poland he issued orders for the seizure of art treasures there and within six months the special commissioner appointed to carry out his command could report that he had taken over "almost the entire art treasury of the country." [14]

But it was in France where the bulk of the great art treasures of Europe lay, and no sooner was this country added to the Nazi conquests than Hitler and Goering decreed their seizure. To carry out this particular plunder Hitler appointed Rosenberg, who set up an organization called Einsatzstab Rosenberg, and who was assisted not only by Goering but by General Keitel. Indeed one order by Keitel to the Army in France stated that Rosenberg "is entitled to transport to Germany cultural goods which appear valuable to him and to safeguard them there. The Fuehrer has reserved for himself the decision as to their use." [15]

An idea of Hitler's decision "as to their use" is revealed in a secret order issued by Goering on November 5, 1940, specifying the distribution of art objects being collected at the Louvre in Paris. They were "to be disposed of in the following way":

1. Those art objects about which the Fuehrer has reserved for himself the decision as to their use.

2. Those ... which serve the completion of the Reich Marshal's [i.e., Goering's] collection ...

4. Those ... that are suited to be sent to German museums ... [16]

The French government protested the looting of the country's art treasures, declaring that it was a violation of the Hague convention, and when one German art expert on Rosenberg's staff, a Herr Bunjes, dared to call this to the attention of Goering, the fat one replied:

"My dear Bunjes, let me worry about that. I am the highest jurist in the state. It is my orders which are decisive and you will act accordingly."

And so according to a report of Bunjes -- it is his only appearance in the history of the Third Reich, so far as the documents show --

those art objects collected at the Jeu de Paume which are to go into the Fuehrer's possession and those which the Reich Marshal claims for himself will be loaded into two railroad cars which will be attached to the Reich Marshal's special train ... to Berlin. [17]

Many more carloads followed. According to a secret official German report some 137 freight cars loaded with 4,174 cases of art works comprising 21,903 objects, including 10,890 paintings, made the journey from the West to Germany up to July 1944.18 They included works of, among others, Rembrandt, Rubens, Hals, Vermeer, Velazquez, Murillo, Goya, Vecchio, Watteau, Fragonard, Reynolds and Gainsborough. As early as January 1941, Rosenberg estimated the art loot from France alone as worth a billion marks. [19]

The plunder of raw materials, manufactured goods and food, though it reduced the occupied peoples to impoverishment, hunger and sometimes starvation and violated the Hague Convention on the conduct of war, might have been excused, if not justified, by the Germans as necessitated by the harsh exigencies of total war. But the stealing of art treasures did not help Hitler's war machine. It was a case merely of avarice, of the personal greed of Hitler and Goering.

All this plunder and spoliation the conquered populations could have endured -- wars and enemy occupation had always brought privation in their wake. But this was only a part of the New Order -- the mildest part. It was in the plunder not of material goods but of human lives that the mercifully short-lived New Order will be longest remembered. Here Nazi degradation sank to a level seldom experienced by man in all his time on earth. Millions of decent, innocent men and women were driven into forced labor, millions more tortured and tormented in the concentration camps and millions more still, of whom there were four and a half million Jews alone, were massacred in cold blood or deliberately starved to death and their remains -- in order to remove the traces -- burned.

This incredible story of horror would be unbelievable were it not fully documented and testified to by the perpetrators themselves. What follows here -- a mere summary, which must because of limitations of space leave out a thousand shocking details -- is based on that incontrovertible evidence, with occasional corroboration from the eyewitness accounts of the few survivors.
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Re: The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi

Postby admin » Wed Feb 14, 2018 1:21 am

Part 2 of 4


By the end of September 1944, some seven and a half million civilian foreigners were toiling for the Third Reich. Nearly all of them had been rounded up by force, deported to Germany in boxcars, usually without food or water or any sanitary facilities, and there put to work in the factories, fields and mines. They were not only put to work but degraded, beaten and starved and often left to die for lack of food, clothing and shelter.

In addition, two million prisoners of war were added to the foreign labor force, at least a half a million of whom were made to work in the armaments and munitions industries in flagrant violation of the Hague and Geneva conventions, which stipulated that no war prisoners could be employed in such tasks. [vi] This figure did not include the hundreds of thousands of other POWs who were impressed into the building of fortifications and in carrying ammunition to the front lines and even in manning antiaircraft guns in further disregard of the international conventions which Germany had signed. [vii]

In the massive deportations of slave labor to the Reich, wives were tom away from their husbands, and children from their parents, and assigned to widely separated parts of Germany. The young, if they were old enough to work at all, were not spared. Even top generals of the Army co-operated in the kidnaping of children, who were carted off to the homeland to perform slave labor. A memorandum from Rosenberg's files of June 12,1944, reveals this practice in occupied Russia.

Army Group Center intends to apprehend forty to fifty thousand youths from the age of 10 to 14 ... and transport them to the Reich. The measure was originally proposed by the Ninth Army ... It is intended to allot these juveniles primarily to the German trades as apprentices... . This action is being greatly welcomed by the German trade since it represents a decisive measure for the alleviation of the shortage of apprentices.

This action is not only aimed at preventing a direct reinforcement of the enemy's strength but also as a reduction of his biological potentialities.

The kidnaping operation had a code name: "Hay Action." It was also being carried out, the memorandum added, by Field Marshal Model's Army Group Ukraine-North. [22]

Increasing terrorization was used to round up the victims. At first. comparatively mild methods were used. Persons coming out of church or the movies were nabbed. In the West especially, S.S. units merely blocked off a section of a town and seized all able-bodied men and women. Villages were surrounded and searched for the same purposes. In the East, when there was resistance to the forced-labor order, villages were simply burned down and their inhabitants carted off. Rosenberg's captured files are replete with German reports of such happenings. In Poland, at least one German official thought things were going a little too far.

The wild and ruthless man hunt [he wrote to Governor Frank], as exercised everywhere in towns and country, in streets, squares, stations, even in churches, at night in homes, has badly shaken the feeling of security of the inhabitants. Everybody is exposed to the danger of being seized anywhere and at any time by the police, suddenly and unexpectedly, and of being sent to an assembly camp. None of his relatives knows what has happened to him. [23]

But rounding up the slave workers was only the first step. [viii] The condition of their transport to Germany left something to be desired. A certain Dr. Gutkelch described one instance in a report to Rosenberg's ministry on September 30, 1942. Recounting how a train packed with returning worked-out Eastern laborers met a train at a siding near Brest Litovsk full of "newly recruited" Russian workers bound for Germany, he wrote:

Because of the corpses in the trainload of returning laborers a catastrophe might have occurred ... In this train women gave birth to babies who were thrown out of the windows during the journey. Persons having tuberculosis and venereal diseases rode in the same car. Dying people lay in freight cars without straw, and one of the dead was thrown on the railway embankment. The same must have occurred in other returning transports. [25]

This was not a very promising introduction to the Third Reich for the Ostarbeiter, but at least it prepared them somewhat for the ordeal that lay ahead. Hunger lay ahead and beatings and disease and exposure to the cold, in unheated quarters and in their thin rags. Long hours of labor lay ahead that were limited only by their ability to stand on their feet.

The great Krupp works, makers of Germany's guns and tanks and ammunition, was a typical place of employment. Krupp employed a large number of slave laborers, including Russian prisoners of war. At one point during the war, six hundred Jewish women from the Buchenwald concentration camp were brought in to work at Krupp's, being "housed" in a bombed-out work camp from which the previous inmates, Italian POWs, had been removed. Dr. Wilhelm Jaeger, the "senior doctor" for Krupp's slaves, described in an affidavit at Nuremberg what he found there when he took over.

Upon my first visit I found these females suffering from open festering wounds and other diseases. I was the first doctor they had seen for at least a fortnight ... There were no medical supplies ... They had no shoes and went about in their bare feet. The sole clothing of each consisted of a sack with holes for their arms and head. Their hair was shorn. The camp was surrounded by barbed wire and closely guarded by S.S. guards.

The amount of food in the camp was extremely meager and of very poor quality. One could not enter the barracks without being attacked by fleas ... I got large boils on my arms and the rest of my body from them ...

Dr. Jaeger reported the situation to the directors of Krupp and even to the personal physician of Gustav Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach, the owner -- but in vain. Nor did his reports on other Krupp slave labor camps bring any alleviation. He recalled in his affidavit some of these reports of conditions in eight camps inhabited by Russian and Polish workers: overcrowding that bred disease, lack of enough food to keep a man alive, lack of water, lack of toilets.

The clothing of the Eastern workers was likewise completely inadequate. They worked and slept in the same clothing in which they had arrived from the East. Virtually all of them had no overcoats and were compelled to use their blankets as coats in cold and rainy weather. In view of the shortage of shoes many workers were forced to go to work in their bare feet, even in winter ...

Sanitary conditions were atrocious. At Kramerplatz only ten children's toilets were available for 1,200 inhabitants ... Excretion contaminated the entire floors of these lavatories ... The Tartars and Kirghiz suffered most; they collapsed like flies [from] bad housing, the poor quality and insufficient quantity of food, overwork and insufficient rest.

These workers were likewise afflicted with spotted fever. Lice, the carrier of the disease, together with countless fleas, bugs and other vermin tortured the inhabitants of these camps ... At times the water supply at the camps was shut off for periods of from eight to fourteen days ...

On the whole, Western slave workers fared better than those from the East -- the latter being considered by the Germans as mere scum. But the difference was only relative, as Dr. Jaeger found at one of Krupp's work camps occupied by French prisoners of war in Nogerratstrasse at Essen.

Its inhabitants were kept for nearly half a year in dog kennels, urinals and in old baking houses. The dog kennels were three feet high, nine feet long, six feet wide. Five men slept in each of them. The prisoners had to crawl into these kennels on all fours ... There was no water in the camp. [ix] [26]

Some two and a half million slave laborers -- mostly Slavs and Italians -- were assigned to farm work in Germany and though their life from the very force of circumstances was better than that of those in the city factories it was far from ideal -- or even humane. A captured directive on the "Treatment of Foreign Farm Workers of Polish Nationality" gives an inkling of their treatment. And though applied to Poles -- it is dated March 6, 1941, before Russians became available -- it was later used as guidance for those of other nationalities.

Farm workers of Polish nationality no longer have the right to complain, and thus no complaints will be accepted by any official agency ... The visit of churches is strictly prohibited ... Visits to theaters, motion pictures or other cultural entertainment are strictly prohibited ...

Sexual intercourse with women and girls is strictly prohibited.

If it was with German females, it was, according to an edict of Himmler in 1942, punishable by death. [x]

The use of "railroads, buses or other public conveyances" was prohibited for slave farm workers. This apparently was ordained so that they would not escape from the farms to which they were bound.

Arbitrary change of employment [the directive stated] is strictly prohibited. The farm workers have to labor as long as is demanded by the employer. There are no time limits to the working time.

Every employer has the right to give corporal punishment to his farm workers ... They should, if possible, be removed from the community of the home and they can be quartered in stables, etc. No remorse whatever should restrict such action. [28]

Even the Slav women seized and shipped to Germany for domestic service were treated as slaves. As early as 1942 Hitler had commanded Sauckel to procure a half million of them "in order to relieve the German housewife." The slave labor commissar laid down the conditions of work in the German households.

There is no claim to free time. Female domestic workers from the East may leave the household only to take care of domestic tasks ... It is prohibited for them to enter restaurants, movies, theaters and similar establishments. Attending church is also prohibited ... [29]

Women, it is obvious, were almost as necessary as men in the Nazi slave labor program. Of some three million Russian civilians pressed into service by the Germans, more than one half were women. Most of them were assigned to do heavy farm work and to labor in the factories.

The enslavement of millions of men and women of the conquered lands as lowly toilers for the Third Reich was not just a wartime measure. From the statements of Hitler, Goering, Himmler and the others already cited -- and they are only a tiny sampling -- it is clear that if Nazi Germany had endured, the New Order would have meant the rule of the German master race over a vast slave empire stretching from the Atlantic to the Ural mountains. To be sure, the Slavs in the East would have fared the worst.

As Hitler emphasized in July 1941, scarcely a month after he had attacked the Soviet Union, his plans for its occupation constituted "a final settlement." A year later, at the high tide of his Russian conquests, he admonished his aides:

As for the ridiculous hundred million Slavs, we will mold the best of them to the shape that suits us, and we will isolate the rest of them in their own pigsties; and anyone who talks about cherishing the local inhabitant and civilizing him, goes straight off to a concentration camp! [30]


Though it was a flagrant violation of the Hague and Geneva conventions to use prisoners of war in armament factories or in any labor connected with the fighting at the front such employment, massive as it was, constituted the least of worries for the millions of soldiers captured by the Third Reich.

Their overwhelming concern was to survive the war. If they were Russian the odds were greatly against them. There were more Soviet war prisoners than all others put together -- some five and three-quarter million of them. Of these barely one million were found alive when Allied troops liberated the inmates of the POW camps in 1945. About a million had either been released during the war or allowed to serve in the collaborator units set up by the German Army. Two million Russian prisoners of war died in German captivity -- from starvation, exposure and disease. The remaining million have never been accounted for and at Nuremberg a good case was made that most of them either had died from the above causes or had been exterminated by the S.D. (S.S. Security Service). According to the German records 67,000 were executed, but this is most certainly a partial figure. [31]

The bulk of the Russian war prisoners -- some 3,800,000 of them -- were taken by the Germans in the first phase of the Russian campaign, in the great battles of encirclement which were fought from June 21 to December 6, 1941. Admittedly it was difficult for an army in the midst of combat and rapid advance to care adequately for such a large number of captives. But the Germans made no effort to. Indeed the Nazi records show, as we have seen, that the Soviet prisoners were deliberately starved and left out in the open without shelter to die in the terrible subzero snowbound winter of 1941-42.

"The more of these prisoners who die, the better it is for us," was the attitude of many Nazi officials according to no less an authority than Rosenberg.

The clumsy Minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories was not a humane Nazi, particularly in regard to the Russians, with whom, as we have seen, he had grown up. But even he was moved to protest the treatment of Russian prisoners in a long letter to General Keitel, the Chief of OKW, dated February 28, 1942. This was the moment when the Soviet counteroffensive which had hurled the Germans back before Moscow and Rostov had reached its farthest penetrations that winter and when the Germans had realized at last that their gamble of destroying Russia in one short campaign -- or perhaps ever -- had failed and that just possibly, now that the U.S.A. had been added to Russia and Britain as their enemies, they might not win the war, in which case they would be held accountable for their war crimes.

The fate of the Soviet prisoners of war in Germany [Rosenberg wrote Keitel] is a tragedy of the greatest extent. Of the 3,600,000 of them, only several hundred thousand are still able to work fully. A large part of them have starved, or died because of the hazards of the weather.

This could have been avoided, Rosenberg continued. There was food enough in Russia to provide them.

However, in the majority of cases the camp commanders have forbidden food to be put at the disposal of the prisoners; they have rather let them starve to death. Even on the march to the camps, the civilian population was not allowed to give the prisoners food. In many cases when the prisoners could no longer keep up on the march because of hunger and exhaustion. they were shot before the eyes of the horrified civilian population and the corpses were left. In numerous camps no shelter for the prisoners was provided at all. They lay under the open sky during rain or snow ...

Finally, the shooting of prisoners of war must be mentioned. These ... ignore all political understanding. For instance, in various camps all the "Asiatics" were shot ... [32]

Not only Asiatics. Shortly after the beginning of the Russian campaign an agreement was reached between OKW and the S.S. Security Service for the latter to "screen" Russian prisoners. The objective was disclosed in an affidavit by Otto Ohlendorf, one of the S.D.s great killers and like so many of the men around Himmler a displaced intellectual, for he had university degrees both in the law and in economics and had been a professor at the Institute for Applied Economic Science.

All Jews and Communist functionaries [Ohlendorf testified] were to be removed from the prisoner-of-war camps and were to be executed. To my knowledge this action was carried out throughout the entire Russian campaign. [33]

But not without difficulties. Sometimes the Russian captives were so exhausted that they could not even walk to their execution. This brought a protest from Heinrich Mueller, the chief of the Gestapo, a dapper-looking fellow but also a cold, dispassionate killer. [xi]

The commanders of the concentration camps are complaining that 5 to 10 per cent of the Soviet Russians destined for execution are arriving in the camps dead or half dead ... It was particularly noted that when marching, for example, from the railroad station to the camp, a rather large number of prisoners collapsed on the way from exhaustion, either dead or half dead, and had to be picked up by a truck following the convoy. It cannot be prevented that the German people take notice of these occurrences.

The Gestapo didn't care a rap about the Russian captives falling dead from starvation and exhaustion, except that it robbed the executioners of their prey. But they didn't want the German people to see the spectacle. "Gestapo Mueller," as he was known in Germany, therefore ordered that

effective from today [November 9, 1941] Soviet Russians obviously marked by death and who therefore are not able to withstand the exertions of even a short march shall in the future be excluded from the transport into the concentration camps for execution. [34]

Dead prisoners or even starved and exhausted ones could not perform work and in 1942, when it became obvious to the Germans that the war was going to last considerably longer than they had expected and that the captive Soviet soldiers constituted a badly needed labor reservoir, the Nazis abandoned their policy of exterminating them in favor of working them. Himmler explained the change in his speech to the S.S. at Posen in 1943.

At that time [1941] we did not value the mass of humanity as we value it today, as raw material, as labor. What after all, thinking in terms of generations, is not to be regretted but is now deplorable by reason of the loss of labor, is that the prisoners died in tens and hundreds of thousands of exhaustion and hunger. [35]

They were now to be fed enough to enable them to work. By December 1944, three quarters of a million of them, including many officers, were toiling in the armament factories, the mines (where 200,000 were assigned) and on the farms. Their treatment was harsh, but at least they were allowed to live. Even the branding of the Russian war captives, which General Keitel had proposed, was abandoned. [xii]

The treatment of Western prisoners of war, especially of the British and Americans, was comparatively milder than that meted out by the Germans to the Russians. There were occasional instances of the murder and massacre of them but this was due usually to the excessive sadism and cruelty of individual commanders. Such a case was the slaughter in cold blood of seventy-one American prisoners of war in a field near Malmedy, Belgium, on December 17, 1944, during the Battle of the Bulge.

There were other occasions when Hitler himself ordered the murder of Western prisoners, as he did in the case of fifty British flyers who were caught in the spring of 1944, after escaping from a camp at Sagan. At Nuremberg Goering said he "considered it the most serious incident of the whole war" and General Jodl called it "sheer murder."

Actually it seemed to be part of a deliberate German policy, adopted after Anglo-American bombing of Germany became so extensive from 1943 on, to encourage the killing of Allied airmen who had bailed out over Germany. Civilians were encouraged to lynch the flyers as soon as they had parachuted to the ground and a number of these Germans were tried after the war for having done so. In 1944 when the Anglo-American bombings were reaching their peak Ribbentrop urged that airmen shot down be summarily executed but Hitler took a somewhat milder view. On May 21, 1944, in agreement with Goering, he merely ordered that captured flyers who had machine-gunned passenger trains or civilians or German planes which had made emergency landings be shot without court-martial.

Sometimes captured flyers were simply turned over to the S.D. for "special treatment." Thus some forty-seven American, British and Dutch flyers, all officers, were brutally murdered at Mauthausen concentration camp in September 1944. An eyewitness, Maurice Lampe, a French inmate at the camp, described at Nuremberg how it was done.

The forty-seven officers were led barefooted to the quarry ... At the bottom of the steps the guards loaded stones on the backs of these poor men and they had to carry them to the top. The first journey was made with stones weighing about sixty pounds and accompanied by blows ... The second journey the stones were still heavier, and whenever the poor wretches sank under their burden they were kicked and hit with a bludgeon ... in the evening twenty-one bodies were strewn along the road. The twenty-six others died the following morning. [37]

This was a familiar form of "execution" at Mauthausen and was used on, among others, a good many Russian prisoners of war.

From 1942 on -- that is, when the tide of war began to surge against him -- Hitler ordered the extermination of captured Allied commandos, especially in the West. (Captured Soviet partisans were summarily shot as a matter of course.) The Fuehrer's "Top-Secret Commando Order" of October 18, 1942, is among the Nazi documents.

From now on all enemies on so-called commando missions in Europe or Africa challenged by German troops, even if they are in uniform, whether armed or unarmed, in battle or in flight, are to be slaughtered to the last man. [38]

In a supplementary directive issued the same day Hitler explained to his commanders the reason for his order. Because of the success of the Allied commandos, he said,

I have been compelled to issue strict orders for the destruction of enemy sabotage troops and to declare noncompliance with these orders severely punishable ... It must be made clear to the enemy that all sabotage troops will be exterminated, without exception, to the last man.

This means that their chance of escaping with their lives is nil ... Under no circumstances can [they] expect to be treated according to the rules of the Geneva Convention ... If it should become necessary for reasons of interrogation to initially spare one man or two, then they are to be shot immediately after interrogation. [39]

This particular crime was to be kept strictly secret. General Jodi appended instructions to Hitler's directive, underlining his words: "This order is intended for commanders only and must not under any circumstances fall into enemy hands." They were directed to destroy all copies of it after they had duly taken note.

It must have remained imprinted on their minds, for they proceeded to carry it out. A couple of instances, of many, may be given.

On the night of March 22, 1944, two officers and thirteen men of the 267th Special Reconnaissance Battalion of the U.S. Army landed from a naval craft far behind the German lines in Italy to demolish a railroad tunnel between La Spezia and Genoa. They were all in uniform and carried no civilian clothes. Captured two days later they were executed by a firing squad on March 26, without trial, on the direct orders of General Anton Dostler, commander of the LXXVth German Army Corps. Tried by a U.S. military tribunal shortly after the war, General Dostler justified his action by contending that he was merely obeying Hitler's Commando Order. He argued that he himself would have been court-martialed by the Fuehrer if he had not obeyed. [xiii]

Some fifteen members of an Anglo-American military mission -- including a war correspondent of the Associated Press, and all in uniform -- which had parachuted into Slovakia in January 1945 were executed at Mauthausen concentration camp on the orders of Dr. Ernst Kaltenbrunner, the successor of Heydrich as head of the S.D. and one of the defendants at Nuremberg. [xiv] Had it not been for the testimony of a camp adjutant who witnessed their execution, their murder might have remained unknown, for most of the files of the mass executions at this camp were destroyed.  [40]


On October 22, 1941, a French newspaper Le Phare published the following notice:

Cowardly criminals in the pay of England and Moscow killed the Feldkommandant of Nantes on the morning of October 20. Up to now the assassins have not been arrested.

As expiation for this crime I have ordered that 50 hostages be shot, to begin with ... Fifty more hostages will be shot in case the guilty should not be arrested between now and October 23 by midnight.

This became a familiar notice in the pages of the newspapers or on red posters edged with black in France, Belgium, Holland, Norway, Poland and Russia. The proportion, publicly proclaimed by the Germans, was invariably 100 to I -- a hundred hostages shot for every German killed.

Though the taking of hostages was an ancient custom, much indulged in for instance by the Romans, it had not been generally practiced in modem times except by the Germans in the First World War and by the British in India and in South Africa during the Boer War. Under Hitler, however, the German Army carried it out on a large scale during the second war. Dozens of secret orders signed by General Keitel and lesser commanders were produced at Nuremberg ordering the taking -- and shooting -- of hostages. "It is important," Keitel decreed on October 1, 1941, "that these should include well-known leading personalities or members of their families"; and General von Stuelpnagel, the German commander in France, a year later stressed that "the better known the hostages to be shot the greater will be the deterrent effect on the perpetrators."

In all, 29,660 French hostages were executed by the Germans during the war and this figure did not include the 40,000 who "died" in French prisons. The figure for Poland was 8,000 and for Holland some 2,000. In Denmark what became known as a system of "clearing murders" was substituted for the publicly proclaimed shooting of hostages. On Hitler's express orders reprisals for the killing of Germans in Denmark were to be carried out in secret "on the proportion of five to one."41 Thus the great Danish pastor-poet-playwright, Kaj Munk, one of the most beloved men in Scandinavia, was brutally murdered by the Germans, his body left on the road with a sign pinned to it: "Swine, you worked for Germany just the same."

Of all the war crimes which he claimed he had to commit on the orders of Hitler "the worst of all," General Keitel said on the stand at Nuremberg, stemmed from the Nacht und Nebel Erlass -- "Night and Fog Decree." This grotesque order, reserved for the unfortunate inhabitants of the conquered territories in the West, was issued by Hitler himself on December 7, 1941. Its purpose, as the weird title indicates, was to seize persons "endangering German security" who were not to be immediately executed and make them vanish without a trace into the night and fog of the unknown in Germany. No information was to be given their families as to their fate even when, as invariably occurred, it was merely a question of the place of burial in the Reich.

On December 12, 1941, Keitel issued a directive explaining the Fuehrer's orders. "In principle," he said, "the punishment for offenses committed against the German state is the death penalty." But

if these offenses are punished with imprisonment, even with hard labor for life, this will be looked upon as a sign of weakness. Efficient intimidation can only be achieved either by capital punishment or by measures by which the relatives of the criminal and the population do not know his fate. [42]

The following February Keitel enlarged on the Night and Fog Decree. In cases where the death penalty was not meted out within eight days of a person's arrest,

the prisoners are to be transported to Germany secretly ... these measures will have a deterrent effect because

(a) the prisoners will vanish without leaving a trace,

(b) no information may be given as to their whereabouts or their fate. [43]

The S.D. was given charge of this macabre task and its captured files are full of various orders pertaining to "NN" (for Nacht und Nebel), especially in regard to keeping the burial places of the victims strictly secret. How many Western Europeans disappeared into "Night and Fog" was never established at Nuremberg but it appeared that few emerged from it alive.

Some enlightening figures, however, were obtainable from the S.D. records concerning the number of victims of another terror operation in conquered territory which was applied to Russia. This particular exercise was carried out by what was known in Germany as the Einsatzgruppen -- Special Action Groups, or what might better be termed, in view of their performance, Extermination Squads. The first round figure of their achievement came out, as if by accident, at Nuremberg.

One day some time before the trial began a young American naval officer, Lieutenant Commander Whitney R. Harris, of the American prosecution staff, was interrogating Otto Ohlendorf on his wartime activities. It was known that this attractive-looking German intellectual of youthful appearance -- he was 38 -- had been head of Amt llT of Himmler's Central Security Office (R.S.H.A.) but during the last years of the war had spent most of his time as a foreign trade expert in the Ministry of Economics. He told his interrogator that apart from one year he had spent the war period on official duty in Berlin. Asked what he had done during the year away, he replied, "I was chief of Einsatzgruppe D."

Harris, a lawyer by training and by this time something of an intelligence authority on German affairs, knew quite a bit about the Einsatz groups. So he asked promptly:

"During the year you were chief of Einsatzgruppe D, how many men, women and children did your group kill?"

Ohlendorf, Harris later remembered, shrugged his shoulders and with only the slightest hesitation answered:

"Ninety thousand!" [44]

The Einsatz groups had first been organized by Himmler and Heydrich to follow the German armies into Poland in 1939 and there round up the Jews and place them in ghettos. It was not until the beginning of the Russian campaign nearly two years later that, in agreement with the German Army, they were ordered to follow the combat troops and to carry out one phase of the "final solution." Four Einsatzgruppen were formed for this purpose, Groups A, B, C, D. It was the last one which Ohlendorf commanded between June 1941 and June 1942, and it was assigned the southernmost sector in the Ukraine and attached to the Eleventh Army. Asked on the stand by Colonel John Harlan Amen what instructions it received, Ohlendorf answered:

"The instructions were that the Jews and the Soviet political commissars were to be liquidated."

"And when you say 'liquidated,' do you mean 'killed'?" Amen asked.

"Yes, I mean killed," Ohlendorf answered, explaining that this took in the women and children as well as the men.

"For what reason were the children massacred?" the Russian judge, General I. T. Nikitchenko, broke in to ask.

OHLENOORF: The order was that the Jewish population should be totally exterminated.

THE JUDGE: Including the children?


THE JUDGE: Were all the Jewish children murdered?


In response to further questioning by Amen and in his affidavit, Ohlendorf described how a typical killing took place.

The Einsatz unit would enter a village or town and order the prominent Jewish citizens to call together all Jews for the purpose of "resettlement." [xv] They were requested to hand over their valuables and shortly before execution to surrender their outer clothing. They were transported to the place of executions, usually an antitank ditch, in trucks -- always only as many as could be executed immediately. In this way it was attempted to keep the span of time from the moment in which the victims knew what was about to happen to them until the time of their actual execution as short as possible.

Then they were shot, kneeling or standing, by firing squads in a military manner and the corpses thrown into the ditch. I never permitted the shooting by individuals, but ordered that several of the men should shoot at the same time in order to avoid direct personal responsibility. Other group leaders demanded that the victims lie down flat on the ground to be shot through the nape of the neck. I did not approve of these methods.

"Why?" asked Amen.

"Because," replied Ohlendorf, "both for the victims and for those who carried out the executions, it was, psychologically, an immense burden to bear."

In the spring of 1942, Ohlendorf then recounted, an order came from Himmler to change the method of execution of the women and children. [xvi] Henceforth they were to be dispatched in "gas vans" specially constructed for the purpose by two Berlin firms. The S.D. officer described to the tribunal how these remarkable vehicles worked.

The actual purpose of these vans could not be seen from the outside. They looked like closed trucks and were so constructed that at the start of the motor the gas [exhaust] was conducted into the van causing death in ten to fifteen minutes.

"How were the victims induced to enter the vans?" Colonel Amen wanted to know.

"They were told they were to be transported to another locality," Ohlendorf replied. [xvii]

The burial of the victims of the gas vans, he went on to complain, was a "great ordeal" for the members of the Einsatzgruppen. This was confirmed by a certain Dr. Becker, whom Ohlendorf identified as the constructor of the vans, in a document produced at Nuremberg. In a letter to headquarters Dr. Becker objected to German S.D. men having to unload the corpses of the gassed women and children, calling attention to

the immense psychological injuries and damage to their health which that work can have for these men. They complained to me about headaches which appeared after each unloading.

Dr. Becker also pointed out to his superiors that

the application of gas usually is not undertaken correctly. In order to come to an end as fast as possible, the driver presses the accelerator to the fullest extent. The persons to be executed suffer death from suffocation and not death by dozing off, as was planned.

Dr. Becker was quite a humanitarian -- in his own mind -- and ordered a change in technique.

My directions now have proved that by correct adjustment of the levers death comes faster and the prisoners fall asleep peacefully. Distorted faces and excretions, such as could be seen before, are no longer noticed. [45]

But the gas vans, as Ohlendorf testified, could dispatch only from fifteen to twenty-five persons at a time, and this was entirely inadequate for the massacres on the scale which Hitler and Himmler had ordered. Inadequate, for example, for the job that was done at Kiev, the capital of the Ukraine, in just two days, September 29 and 30, 1941, when according to an official Einsatz report 33,771 persons, mostly Jews, were "executed." [46]

An eyewitness report by a German of how a comparatively minor mass execution was carried out in the Ukraine brought a hush of horror over the Nuremberg courtroom when it was read by the chief British prosecutor, Sir Hartley Shawcross. It was a sworn affidavit by Hermann Graebe, the manager and engineer of a branch office in the Ukraine of a German construction firm. On October 5, 1942, he witnessed the Einsatz commandos, supported by Ukrainian militia, in action at the execution pits at Dubno in the Ukraine. It was a matter, he reported, of liquidating the town's 5,000 Jews.

... My foreman and I went directly to the pits. I heard rifle shots in quick succession from behind one of the earth mounds. The people who had got off the trucks -- men, women and children of all ages -- had to undress upon the order of an S.S. man, who carried a riding or dog whip. They had to put down their clothes in fixed places, sorted according to shoes, top clothing and underclothing. I saw a heap of shoes of about 800 to 1,000 pairs, great piles of under-linen and clothing.

Without screaming or weeping these people undressed, stood around in family groups, kissed each other, said farewells and waited for a sign from another S.S. man, who stood near the pit, also with a whip in his hand. During the fifteen minutes that I stood near the pit I heard no complaint or plea for mercy ...

An old woman with snow-white hair was holding a one-year-old child in her arms and singing to it and tickling it. The child was cooing with delight. The parents were looking on with tears in their eyes. The father was holding the hand of a boy about 10 years old and speaking to him softly; the boy was fighting his tears. The father pointed to the sky, stroked his head and seemed to explain something to him.

At that moment the S.S. man at the pit shouted something to his comrade. The latter counted off about twenty persons and instructed them to go behind the earth mound ... I well remember a girl, slim and with black hair, who, as she passed close to me, pointed to herself and said: "twenty-three years old."

I walked around the mound and found myself confronted by a tremendous grave. People were closely wedged together and lying on top of each other so that only their heads were visible. Nearly all had blood running over their shoulders from their heads. Some of the people were still moving. Some were lifting their arms and turning their heads to show that they were still alive. The pit was already two-thirds full. I estimated that it contained about a thousand people. I looked for the man who did the shooting. He was an S.S. man, who sat at the edge of the narrow end of the pit, his feet dangling into the pit. He had a tommy gun on his knees and was smoking a cigarette.

The people, completely naked, went down some steps and clambered over the heads of the people lying there to the place to which the S.S. man directed them. They lay down in front of the dead or wounded people; some caressed those who were still alive and spoke to them in a low voice. Then I heard a series of shots. I looked into the pit and saw that the bodies were twitching or the heads lying already motionless on top of the bodies that lay beneath them. Blood was running from their necks.

The next batch was approaching already. They went down into the pit, lined themselves up against the previous victims and were shot.

And so it went, batch after batch. The next morning the German engineer returned to the site.

I saw about thirty naked people lying near the pit. Some of them were still alive ... Later the Jews still alive were ordered to throw the corpses into the pit. Then they themselves had to lie down in this to be shot in the neck I swear before God that this is the absolute truth. [47]

How many Jews and Russian Communist party functionaries (the former vastly outnumbered the latter) were massacred by the Einsatzgruppen in Russia before the Red Army drove the Germans out? The exact total could never be computed at Nuremberg but Himmler's records, uncoordinated as they were, give a rough idea.

Ohlendorf's Einsatzgruppen D, with its 90,000 victims, did not do as well as some of the other groups. Group A, for instance, in the north reported on January 31, 1942, that it had "executed" 229,052 Jews in the Baltic region and in White Russia. Its commander, Franz Stahlecker, reported to Himmler that he was having difficulty in the latter province because of a late start "after the heavy frost set in, which made mass executions much more difficult. Nevertheless," he reported, "41,000 Jews [in White Russia] have been shot up to now." Stahlecker, who was disposed of later in the year by Soviet partisans, enclosed with his report a handsome map showing the number of those done to death -- symbolized by coffins -- in each area under his command. In Lithuania, alone, the map showed, 136,421 Jews had been slain; some 34,000 had been spared for the time being "as they were needed for labor." Estonia, which had relatively few Jews, was declared in this report to be "Jew-free." [48]

The Einsatzgruppen firing squads, after a letup during the severe winter, banged away all through the summer of 1942. Some 55,000 more Jews were exterminated in White Russia by July 1, and in October the remaining 16,200 inhabitants of the Minsk ghetto were dispatched in one day. By November Himmler could report to Hitler that 363,211 Jews had been killed in Russia from August through October, though the figure was probably somewhat exaggerated to please the bloodthirsty Fuehrer. [49] [xviii]

All in all, according to Karl Eichmann, the head of the Jewish Office of the Gestapo, two million persons, almost all Jews, were liquidated by the Einsatzgruppen in the East. But this is almost certainly an exaggeration; it is strange but true that the S.S. bigwigs were so proud of their exterminations that they often reported swollen figures to please Himmler and Hitler. Himmler's own statistician, Dr. Richard Korherr, reported to his chief on March 23, 1943, that a total of 633,300 Jews in Russia had been "resettled" -- a euphemism for massacre by the Einsatzgruppen. [51] Surprisingly enough this figure tallies fairly well with exhaustive studies later made by a number of experts. Add another hundred thousand slain in the last two years of the war and the figure is probably as accurate as we will ever have. [xix]

High as it is, it is small compared to the number of Jews who were done to death in Himmler's extermination camps when the "final solution" came to be carried out.
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Re: The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi

Postby admin » Wed Feb 14, 2018 1:22 am

Part 3 of 4


One fine June day of 1946 at Nuremberg three members of the American prosecution staff were interrogating S.S. Obergruppenfuehrer Oswald Pohl, who, among other things, had been in charge of work projects for the inmates of the Nazi concentration camps. Pohl, a naval officer before he joined the S.S., had gone into hiding after the German collapse and had not been apprehended until a year later -- in May 1946 -- when he was discovered working on a farm disguised as a farmhand. [xx]

In answer to one question Pohl used a term with which the Nuremberg prosecution, busy for months in poring over millions of words from the captured documents, had begun to become familiar. A certain colleague by the name of Hoess had, Pohl said, been employed by Himmler "in the final solution of the Jewish question."

"And what was that?" Pohl was asked.

"The extermination of Jewry," he answered.

The expression crept with increasing frequency into the vocabulary and the files of the leading Nazis as the war progressed, its seeming innocence apparently sparing these men the pain of reminding one another what it meant and perhaps too, they may have thought, furnishing a certain cover for their guilt should the incriminating papers ever come to light. Indeed at the Nuremberg trials most of the Nazi chiefs denied that they knew what it signified, and Goering contended he had never used the term, but this pretense was soon exploded. In the case against the fat Reich Marshal a directive was produced which he had sent Heydrich, the chief of the S.D., on July 31, 1941, when the Einsatzgruppen were already falling with gusto to their extermination tasks in Russia.

I herewith commission you [Goering instructed Heydrich] to carry out all preparations with regard to ... a total solution of the Jewish question in those territories of Europe which are under German influence ...

I furthermore charge you to submit to me as soon as possible a draft showing the ... measures already taken for the execution of the intended final solution of the Jewish question. [xxi] [52]

Heydrich knew very well what Goering meant by the term for he had used it himself nearly a year before at a secret meeting after the fall of Poland, in which he had outlined "the first step in the final solution," which consisted of concentrating all the Jews in the ghettos of the large cities, where it would be easy to dispatch them to their final fate. [xxii]

As it worked out, the "final solution" was what Adolf Hitler had long had in mind and what he had publicly proclaimed even before the war started. In his speech to the Reichstag on January 30, 1939, he had said:

If the international Jewish financiers ... should again succeed in plunging the nations into a world war the result will be ... the annihilation of the Jewish race throughout Europe.

This was a prophecy, he said, and he repeated it five times, verbatim, in subsequent public utterances. It made no difference that not the "international Jewish financiers" but he himself plunged the world into armed conflict. What mattered to Hitler was that there was now a world war and that it afforded him, after he had conquered vast regions in the East where most of Europe's Jews lived, the opportunity to carry out their "annihilation." By the time the invasion of Russia began, he had given the necessary orders.

What became known in high Nazi circles as the "Fuehrer Order on the Final Solution" apparently was never committed to paper -- at least no copy of it has yet been unearthed in the captured Nazi documents. All the evidence shows that it was most probably given verbally to Goering, Himmler and Heydrich, who passed it down during the summer and fall of 1941. A number of witnesses testified at Nuremberg that they had "heard" of it but none admitted ever seeing it. Thus Hans Lammers, the bullheaded chief of the Reich Chancellery, when pressed on the witness stand replied:

I knew that a Fuehrer order was transmitted by Goering to Heydrich ... This order was called "Final Solution of the Jewish Problem." [53]

But Lammers claimed, as did so many others on the stand, that he did not really know what it was all about until Allied counsel revealed it at Nuremberg. [xxiii]

By the beginning of 1942 the time had come, as Heydrich said, "to clear up the fundamental problems" of the "final solution" so that it could at last be carried out and concluded. For this purpose Heydrich convened a meeting of representatives of the various ministries and agencies of the S.S. -- S.D. at the pleasant Berlin suburb of Wannsee on January 20, 1942, the minutes of which played an important part in some of the later Nuremberg trials. [54] Despite the current setback of the Wehrmacht in Russia the Nazi officials believed that the war was almost won and that Germany would shortly be ruling all of Europe, including England and Ireland. Therefore, Heydrich told the assembly of some fifteen high officials, "in the course of this Final Solution of the European Jewish problem, approximately eleven million Jews are involved." He then rattled off the figures for each country. There were only 131,800 Jews left in the original Reich territory (out of a quarter of a million in 1939), but in the U.S.S.R., he said, there were five million, in the Ukraine three million, in the General Government of Poland two and a quarter million, in France three quarters of a million and in England a third of a million. The clear implication was that all eleven million must be exterminated. He then explained how this considerable task was to be carried out.

The Jew should now in the course of the Final Solution be brought to the East ... for use as labor. In big labor gangs, with separation of sexes, the Jews capable of work are brought to these areas and employed in road building, in which task undoubtedly a great part will fall through natural diminution.

The remnant that finally is able to survive all this -- since this is undoubtedly the part with the strongest resistance -- must be treated accordingly, since these people, representing a natural selection, are to be regarded as the germ cell of a new Jewish development.

In other words, the Jews of Europe were first to be transported to the conquered East, then worked to death, and the few tough ones who survived simply put to death. And the Jews -- the millions of them -- who resided in the East and were already on hand? State Secretary Dr. Josef Buehler, representing the Governor General of Poland, had a ready suggestion for them. There were nearly two and a half million Jews in Poland, he said, who "constituted a great danger." They were, he explained, "bearers of disease black-market operators and furthermore unfit for work." There was no transportation problem with these two and a half million souls. They were already there.

I have only one request [Dr. Buehler concluded], that the Jewish problem in my territory be solved as quickly as possible.

The good State Secretary betrayed an impatience which was shared in high Nazi circles right up to Hitler. None of them understood at this time -- not, in fact, until toward the end of 1942, when it was too late -- how valuable the millions of Jews might be to the Reich as slave labor. At this point they only understood that working millions of Jews to death on the roads of Russia might take some time. Consequently long before these unfortunate people could be worked to death -- in most cases the attempt was not even begun -- Hitler and Himmler decided to dispatch them by quicker means.

There were two -- principally. One of them, as we have seen, had begun shortly after the invasion of Russia in the summer of 1941. This was the method of mass slaughter of the Polish and Russian Jews by the flying firing squads of the Einsatzgruppen, which accounted for some three quarters of a million.

It was this method of achieving the "final solution" that Himmler had in mind when he addressed the S.S. generals at Posen on October 4, 1943.

... I also want to talk to you quite frankly on a very grave matter. Among ourselves it should be mentioned quite frankly, and yet we will never speak of it publicly ...

I mean ... the extermination of the Jewish race ... Most of you must know what it means when 100 corpses are lying side by side, or 500, or 1,000. To have stuck it out and at the same time -- apart from exceptions caused by human weakness -- to have remained decent fellows, that is what has made us hard. This is a page of glory in our history which has never been written and is never to be written ... [55]

No doubt the bespectacled S.S. Fuehrer, who had almost fainted at the sight of a hundred Eastern Jews, including women, being executed for his own delectation, would have seen in the efficient working by S.S. officers of the gas chambers in the extermination camps an even more glorious page in German history. For it was in these death camps that the "final solution" achieved its most ghastly success.


All the thirty odd principal Nazi concentration camps were death camps and millions of tortured, starved inmates perished in them. [xxiv] Though the authorities kept records -- each camp had its official Totenbuch (death book) -- they were incomplete and in many cases were destroyed as the victorious Allies closed in. Part of one Totenbuch that survived at Mauthausen listed 35,318 deaths from January 1939 to April 1945. [xxv] At the end of 1942 when the need of slave labor began to be acute, Himmler ordered that the death rate in the concentration camps "must be reduced." Because of the labor shortage he had been displeased at a report received in his office that of the 136,700 commitments to concentration camps between June and November 1942, some 70,610 had died and that in addition 9,267 had been executed and 27,846 "transferred." [57] To the gas chamber, that is. This did not leave very many for labor duties.

But it was in the extermination camps, the Vernichtungslager, where most progress was made toward the "final solution." The greatest and most renowned of these was Auschwitz, whose four huge gas chambers and adjoining crematoria gave it a capacity for death and burial far beyond that of the others -- Treblinka, Belsec, Sibibor and Chelmno, all in Poland. There were other minor extermination camps near Riga, Vilna, Minsk, Kaunas and Lwow, but they were distinguished from the main ones in that they killed by shooting rather than by gas.

For a time there was quite a bit of rivalry among the S.S. leaders as to which was the most efficient gas to speed the Jews to their death. Speed was an important factor, especially at Auschwitz, where toward the end the camp was setting new records by gassing 6,000 victims a day. One of the camp's commanders for a period was Rudolf Hoess, an ex-convict once found guilty of murder, who deposed at Nuremberg on the superiority of the gas he employed. [xxvi]

The "Final Solution" of the Jewish question meant the complete extermination of all Jews in Europe. I was ordered to establish extermination facilities at Auschwitz in June 1941. At that time there were already in the General Government of Poland three other extermination camps: Belzec, Treblinka and Wolzek ...

I visited Treblinka to find out how they carried out their extermination. The camp commandant at Treblinka told me that he had liquidated 80,000 in the course of half a year. He was principally concerned with liquidating all the Jews from the Warsaw ghetto. [xxvii]

He used monoxide gas and I did not think that his methods were very efficient. So when I set up the extermination building at Auschwitz, I used Zyklon B, which was a crystallized prussic acid which we dropped into the death chamber from a small opening. It took from three to fifteen minutes to kill the people in the death chamber, depending upon climatic conditions.

We knew when the people were dead because their screaming stopped. We usually waited about a half hour before we opened the doors and removed the bodies. After the bodies were removed our special commandos took off the rings and extracted the gold from the teeth of the corpses.

Another improvement we made over Treblinka was that we built our gas chambers to accommodate 2,000 people at one time, whereas at Treblinka their ten gas chambers only accommodated 200 people each.

Hoess then explained how the victims were "selected" for the gas chambers, since not all the incoming prisoners were done away with -- at least not at once, because some of them were needed to labor in the I.G. Farben chemical works and Krupp's factory until they became exhausted and were ready for the "final solution."

We had two S.S. doctors on duty at Auschwitz to examine the incoming transports of prisoners. These would be marched by one of the doctors, who would make spot decisions as they walked by. Those who were fit to work were sent into the camp. Others were sent immediately to the extermination plants. Children of tender years were invariably exterminated since by reason of their youth they were unable to work.

Always Herr Hoess kept making improvements in the art of mass killing.

Still another improvement we made over Treblinka was that at Treblinka the victims almost always knew that they were to be exterminated, while at Auschwitz we endeavored to fool the victims into thinking that they were to go through a delousing process. Of course, frequently they realized our true intentions and we sometimes had riots and difficulties. Very frequently women would hide their children under the clothes but of course when we found them we would send the children in to be exterminated.

We were required to carry out these exterminations in secrecy, but of course the foul and nauseating stench from the continuous burning of bodies permeated the entire area and all of the people living in the surrounding communities knew that exterminations were going on at Auschwitz.

Sometimes, Hoess explained, a few "special prisoners" -- apparently Russian prisoners of war -- were simply killed by injections of benzine. "Our doctors," he added, "had orders to write ordinary death certificates and could put down any reason at all for the cause of death. [xxviii] [58]

To Hoess's blunt description may be added a brief composite picture of death and disposal at Auschwitz as testified to by surviving inmates and jailers. The "selection," which decided which Jews were to be worked and which ones immediately gassed, took place at the railroad siding as soon as the victims had been unloaded from the freight cars in which they had been locked without food or water for as much as a week -- for many came from such distant parts as France, Holland and Greece. Though there were heart-rending scenes as wives were torn away from husbands and children from parents, none of the captives, as Hoess testified and survivors agree, realized just what was in store for them. In fact some of them were given pretty picture postcards marked "Waldsee" to be signed and sent back home to their relatives with a printed inscription saying:

We are doing very well here. We have work and we are well treated. We await your arrival.

The gas chambers themselves and the adjoining crematoria, viewed from a short distance, were not sinister-looking places at all; it was impossible to make them out for what they were. Over them were well-kept lawns with flower borders; the signs at the entrances merely said BATHS. The unsuspecting Jews thought they were simply being taken to the baths for the delousing which was customary at all camps. And taken to the accompaniment of sweet music!

For there was light music. An orchestra of "young and pretty girls all dressed in white blouses and navy-blue skirts," as one survivor remembered, had been formed from among the inmates. While the selection was being made for the gas chambers this unique musical ensemble played gay tunes from The Merry Widow and Tales of Hoffmann. Nothing solemn and somber from Beethoven. The death marches at Auschwitz were sprightly and merry tunes, straight out of Viennese and Parisian operetta.

To such music, recalling as it did happier and more frivolous times, the men, women and children were led into the "bath houses," where they were told to undress preparatory to taking a "shower." Sometimes they were even given towels. Once they were inside the "shower-room" -- and perhaps this was the first moment that they may have suspected something was amiss, for as many as two thousand of them were packed into the chamber like sardines, making it difficult to take a bath -- the massive door was slid shut, locked and hermetically sealed. Up above where the well-groomed lawn and flower beds almost concealed the mushroom-shaped lids of vents that ran up from the hall of death, orderlies stood ready to drop into them the amethyst-blue crystals of hydrogen cyanide, or Zyklon B, which originally had been commercially manufactured as a strong disinfectant and for which, as we have seen, Herr Hoess had with so much pride found a new use.

Surviving prisoners watching from blocks nearby remembered how for a time the signal for the orderlies to pour the crystals down the vents was given by a Sergeant Moll. "Na, gib ihnen schon zu fressen" ("All right, give 'em something to chew on"), he would laugh and the crystals would be poured through the openings, which were then sealed.

Through heavy-glass portholes the executioners could watch what happened. The naked prisoners below would be looking up at the showers from which no water spouted or perhaps at the floor wondering why there were no drains. It took some moments for the gas to have much effect. But soon the inmates became aware that it was issuing from the perforations in the vents. It was then that they usually panicked, crowding away from the pipes and finally stampeding toward the huge metal door where, as Reitlinger puts it, "they piled up in one blue clammy blood-spattered pyramid, clawing and mauling each other even in death."

Twenty or thirty minutes later when the huge mass of naked flesh had ceased to writhe, pumps drew out the poisonous air, the large door was opened and the men of the Sonderkommando took over. These were Jewish male inmates who were promised their lives and adequate food in return for performing the most ghastly job of all. [xxix] Protected with gas masks and rubber boots and wielding hoses they went to work. Reitlinger has described it.

Their first task was to remove the blood and defecations before dragging the clawing dead apart with nooses and hooks, the prelude to the ghastly search for gold and the removal of teeth and hair which were regarded by the Germans as strategic materials. Then the journey by lift or rail-wagon to the furnaces, the mill that ground the clinker to fine ash, and the truck that scattered the ashes in the stream of the Sola. [xxx]

There had been, the records show, some lively competition among German businessmen to procure orders for building these death and disposal contraptions and for furnishing the lethal blue crystals. The firm of I. A. Topf and Sons of Erfurt, manufacturers of heating equipment, won out in its bid for the crematoria at Auschwitz. The story of its business enterprise was revealed in a voluminous correspondence found in the records of the camp. A letter from the firm dated February 12, 1943, gives the tenor.


SUBJECT: Crematoria 2 and 3 for the camp.

We acknowledge receipt of your order for five triple furnaces, including two electric elevators for raising the corpses and one emergency elevator. A practical installation for stoking coal was also ordered and one for transporting ashes. [60]

The correspondence of two other firms engaged in the crematorium business popped up at the Nuremberg trials. The disposal of the corpses at a number of Nazi camps had attracted commercial competition. One of the oldest German companies in the field offered its drawings for crematoria to be built at a large S.S. camp in Belgrade.

For putting the bodies into the furnace, we suggest simply a metal fork moving on cylinders.

Each furnace will have an oven measuring only 24 by 18 inches, as coffins will not be used. For transporting the corpses from the storage points to the furnaces we suggest using light carts on wheels, and we enclose diagrams of these drawn to scale. [61]

Another firm, C. H. Kori, also sought the Belgrade business, emphasizing its great experience in this field since it had already constructed four furnaces for Dachau and five for Lublin, which, it said, had given "full satisfaction in practice."

Following our verbal discussion regarding the delivery of equipment of simple construction for the burning of bodies, we are submitting plans for our perfected cremation ovens which operate with coal and which have hitherto given full satisfaction.

We suggest two crematoria furnaces for the building planned, but we advise you to make further inquiries to make sure that two ovens will be sufficient for your requirements.

We guarantee the effectiveness of the cremation ovens as well as their durability, the use of the best material and our faultless workmanship.

Awaiting your further word, we will be at your service.

Heil Hitler!

C. H. KORI, G.M.B.H. [62]

In the end even the strenuous efforts of German free enterprise, using the best material and providing faultless workmanship, proved inadequate for burning the corpses. The well-constructed crematoria fell far behind at a number of camps but especially at Auschwitz in 1944 when as many as 6,000 bodies (Hoess put it at as many as !6,000) had to be burned daily. For instance, in forty-six days during the summer of 1944 between 250,000 and 300,000 Hungarian Jews alone were done to death at this camp. Even the gas chambers fell behind and resort was made to mass shootings in the Einsatzkommando style. The bodies were simply thrown into ditches and burned, many of them only partly, and then earth was bulldozed over them. The camp commanders complained toward the end that the crematoria had proved not only inadequate but "uneconomical."

The Zyklon-B crystals that killed the victims in the first place were furnished by two German firms which had acquired the patent from I. G. Farben. These were Tesch and Stabenow of Hamburg, and Degesch of Dessau, the former supplying two tons of the cyanide crystals a month and the latter three quarters of a ton. The bills of lading for the deliveries showed up at Nuremberg.

The directors of both concerns contended that they had sold their product merely for fumigation purposes and were unaware that lethal use had been made of it, but this defense did not hold up. Letters were found from Tesch and Stabenow offering not only to supply the gas crystals but also the ventilating and heating equipment for extermination chambers. Besides, the inimitable Hoess, who once he started to confess went the limit, testified that the directors of the Tesch company could not have helped knowing how their product was being used since they furnished enough to exterminate a couple of million people. A British military court was convinced of this at the trial of the two partners, Bruno Tesch and Karl Weinbacher, who were sentenced to death in 1946 and hanged. The director of the second firm, Dr. Gerhard Peters of Degesch of Dessau, got off more lightly. A German court sentenced him to five years' imprisonment.  [63]

Before the postwar trials in Germany it had been generally believed that the mass killings were exclusively the work of a relatively few fanatical S.S. leaders. But the records of the courts leave no doubt of the complicity of a number of German businessmen, not only the Krupps and the directors of the I. G. Farben chemical trust but smaller entrepreneurs who outwardly must have seemed to be the most prosaic and decent of men, pillars -- like good businessmen everywhere -- of their communities.

How many hapless innocent people -- mostly Jews but including a fairly large number of others, especially Russian prisoners of war -- were slaughtered at the one camp of Auschwitz? The exact number will never be known. Hoess himself in his affidavit gave an estimate of "2,500,000 victims executed and exterminated by gassing and burning, and at least another half million who succumbed to starvation and disease, making a total of about 3,000,000." Later at his own trial in Warsaw he reduced the figure to 1,135,000. The Soviet government, which investigated the camp after it was overrun by the Red Army in January 1945, put the figure at four million. Reitlinger, on the basis of his own exhaustive study, doubts that the number gassed at Auschwitz was "even as high as three quarters of a million." He estimates that about 600,000 died in the gas chambers, to which he adds "the unknown proportion" of some 300,000 or more "missing," who were shot or who died of starvation and disease. By any estimate the figure is considerable. [64]

The bodies were burned, but the gold fillings in the teeth remained and these were retrieved from the ashes if they had not already been yanked out by special squads working over the clammy piles of corpses. [xxxi] The gold was melted down and shipped along with other valuables snatched from the condemned Jews to the Reichsbank, where under a secret agreement between Himmler and the bank's president, Dr. Walther Funk, it was deposited to the credit of the S.S. in an account given the cover name of "Max Heiliger." This prize booty from the extermination camps included, besides gold from dentures, gold watches, earrings, bracelets, rings, necklaces and even spectacles frames -- for the Jews had been encouraged to bring all their valuables with them for the promised "resettlement." There were also great stocks of jewelry, especially diamonds and much silverware. And there were great wads of banknotes.

The Reichsbank, in fact, was overwhelmed by the "Max Heiliger" deposits. With its vaults filled to overflowing as early as 1942, the bank's profit-minded directors sought to turn the holdings into cold cash by disposing of them through the municipal pawnshops. One letter from the Reichsbank to the Berlin municipal pawnshop dated September 15 speaks of a "second shipment" and begins, "We submit to you the following valuables with the request for the best possible utilization." The list is long and itemized and includes 154 gold watches, 1,601 gold earrings, 132 diamond rings, 784 silver pocket watches and "160 diverse dentures, partly of gold." By the beginning of 1944 the Berlin pawnshop itself was overwhelmed by the flow of these stolen goods and informed the Reichsbank it could accept no more. When the Allies overran Germany they discovered in some abandoned salt mines, where the Nazis had hidden part of their records and booty, enough left over from the "Max Heiliger" account to fill three huge vaults in the Frankfurt branch of the Reichsbank.  [66]

Did the bankers know the sources of these unique "deposits"? The manager of the Precious Metals Department of the Reichsbank deposed at Nuremberg [said] that he and his associates began to notice that many shipments came from Lublin and Auschwitz.

We all knew that these places were the sites of concentration camps. It was in the tenth delivery in November, 1943, that dental gold appeared. The quantity of dental gold became unusually great. [67]

At Nuremberg the notorious Oswald Pohl, chief of the Economic Office of the S.S., who handled the transactions for his organization, emphasized that Dr. Funk and the officials and directors of the Reichsbank knew very well the origins of the goods they were trying to pawn. He explained in some detail "the business deal between Funk and the S.S. concerning the delivery of valuables of dead Jews to the Reichsbank." He remembered a conversation with the bank's vice-president, Dr. Emil Pohl.

In this conversation no doubt remained that the objects to be delivered [came from] Jews who had been killed in concentration camps. The objects in question were rings, watches, eyeglasses, gold bars, wedding rings, brooches, pins, gold fillings and other valuables.

Once, Pohl related, after an inspection tour through the vaults of the Reichsbank where the valuables "from the dead Jews" were inspected, Dr. Funk tendered the party a pleasant dinner in which the conversation turned around the unique origins of the booty. [68] [xxxii]


More than one eyewitness has commented on the spirit of resignation with which so many Jews met their deaths in the Nazi gas chambers or in the great execution pits of the Einsatz squads. Not all Jews submitted to extermination so gently. In the spring days of 1943 some 60,000 Jews walled up in the Warsaw ghetto -- all that remained of 400,000 who had been herded into this place like cattle in 1940 -- turned on their Nazi tormentors and fought.

Perhaps no one has left a more grisly -- and authoritative -- account of the Warsaw ghetto rebellion than the proud S.S. officer who put it down. [xxxiii] This German individual was Juergen Stroop, S.S. Brigadefuehrer and Major General of Police. His eloquent official report, bound in leather, profusely illustrated and typed on seventy-five pages of elegant heavy bond paper has survived. [xxxiv] It is entitled The Warsaw Ghetto Is No More. [69]

By the late autumn of 1940, a year after the Nazi conquest of Poland, the S.S. had rounded up some 400,000 Jews and sealed them off within a high wall from the rest of Warsaw in an area approximately two and a half miles long and a mile wide around the old medieval ghetto. The district normally housed 160,000 persons, so there was overcrowding, but this was the least of the hardships. Governor Frank refused to allot enough food to keep even half of the 400,000 barely alive. Forbidden to leave the enclosure on the pain of being shot on sight, the Jews had no employment except for a few armament factories within the wall run by the Wehrmacht or by rapacious German businessmen who knew how to realize large profits from the use of slave labor. At least 100,000 Jews tried to survive on a bowl of soup a day, often boiled from straw, provided by the charity of the others. It was a losing struggle for life.

But the ghetto population did not die fast enough from starvation and disease to suit Himmler, who in the summer of 1942 ordered the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto to be removed altogether "for security reasons." On July 22 a great "resettlement" action was instituted. Between then and October 3 a total of 310,322 Jews, according to Stroop, were "resettled." That is, they were transported to the extermination camps, most of them to Treblinka, where they were gassed.

Still Himmler was not satisfied. When he paid a surprise visit to Warsaw in January 1943 and discovered that 60,000 Jews were still alive in the ghetto he ordered that the "resettlement" be completed by February 15. This proved to be a difficult task. The severe winter and the demands of the Army, whose disaster at Stalingrad and whose consequent retreats in southern Russia gave it first claim to transportation facilities, made it difficult for the S.S. to obtain the necessary trains to carry out the final "resettlement." Also, Stroop reported, the Jews were resisting their final liquidation "in every possible way." It was not until spring that Himmler's order could be carried out. It was decided to clear out the ghetto in a "special action" lasting three days. As it turned out, it took four weeks.

The deportation of more than 300,000 Jews had enabled the Germans to reduce the size of the walled-in ghetto and as S.S. General Stroop turned his tanks, artillery, flame throwers and dynamite squads on it on the morning of April 19, 1943, it comprised an area measuring only 1,000 by 300 yards. It was honeycombed, though, with sewers, vaults and cellars which the desperate Jews had converted into fortified points. Their arms were few: some pistols and rifles, a dozen or two machine guns that had been smuggled in, and homemade grenades. But they were now on that April morning determined to use them -- the first time and the last in the history of the Third Reich that the Jews resisted their Nazi oppressors with arms.

Stroop had 2,090 men, about half of them Regular Army or Waffen-S.S. troops, and the rest S.S. police reinforced by 335 Lithuanian militia and some Polish police and firemen. They ran into unexpected resistance the first day.

Hardly had operation begun [Stroop reported in the first of his many teletyped daily reports], than we ran into strong concerted fire by the Jews and bandits. The tank and two armored cars pelted with Molotov cocktails Owing to this enemy counterattack we had to withdraw.

The German attack was renewed but found heavy going.

About 1730 hours we encountered very strong resistance from one block of buildings, including machine-gun fire. A special raiding party defeated the enemy but could not catch the resisters. The Jews and criminals resisted from base to base and escaped at the last moment ... Our losses in first attack: 12 men.

And so it went for the first few days, the poorly armed defenders giving ground before the attacks of tanks, flame throwers and artillery but keeping up their resistance. General Stroop could not understand why "this trash and subhumanity," as he referred to the besieged Jews, did not give up and submit to being liquidated.

Within a few days [he reported] it became apparent that the Jews no longer had any intention to resettle voluntarily, but were determined to resist evacuation ... Whereas it had been possible during the first days to catch considerable numbers of Jews, who are cowards by nature, it became more and more difficult during the second half of the operation to capture the bandits and Jews. Over and over again new battle groups consisting of 20 to 30 Jewish men, accompanied by a corresponding number of women, kindled new resistance.

The women belonged to the Chalutzim, Stroop noted, and had the habit, he said, of "firing pistols with both hands" and also of unlimbering hand grenades which they concealed in their bloomers.

On the fifth day of the battle, an impatient and furious Himmler ordered Stroop to "comb out" the ghetto "with the greatest severity and relentless tenacity."

I therefore decided [Stroop related in his final report] to destroy the entire Jewish area by setting every block on fire.

He then described what followed.

The Jews stayed in the burning buildings until because of the fear of being burned alive they jumped down from the upper stories ... With their bones broken, they still tried to crawl across the street into buildings which had not yet been set on fire ... Despite the danger of being burned alive the Jews and bandits often preferred to return into the flames rather than risk being caught by us.

It was simply incomprehensible to a man of Stroop's ~tripe that men and women preferred to die in the flames fighting rather than to die peacefully in the gas chambers. For he was shipping off the captured whom he did not slaughter to Treblinka. On April 25 he sent a teletype to S.S. headquarters reporting that 27,464 Jews had been captured.[/quote]

I am going to try to obtain a train for T2 [Treblinka] tomorrow. Otherwise liquidation will be carried out here tomorrow.

Often it was, on the spot. The next day Stroop informed his superiors: "1,330 Jews pulled out of dugouts and immediately destroyed; 362 Jews killed in battle." Only thirty prisoners were "evacuated."

Toward the end of the rebellion the defenders took to the sewers. Stroop tried to flush them out by flooding the mains but the Jews managed to stop the flow of water. One day the Germans dropped smoke bombs into the sewers through 183 manholes but Stroop ruefully reported that they failed to "have the desired results."

The final outcome could never be in doubt. For a whole month the cornered Jews fought with reckless courage though Stroop, in one daily report, put it differently, complaining about the "cunning fighting methods and tricks used by the Jews and bandits." By April 26 he reported that many of the defenders were "going insane from the heat, the smoke and the explosions."

During the day several more blocks of buildings were burned down. This is the only and final method which forces this trash and subhumanity to the surface.

The last day was May 16. That night Stroop got off his last daily battle report.

One hundred eighty Jews, bandits and subhumans were destroyed. The former Jewish quarter of Warsaw is no longer in existence. The large-scale action was terminated at 2015 hours by blowing up the Warsaw synagogue ...

Total number of Jews dealt with: 56,065, including both Jews caught and Jews whose extermination can be proved.

A week later he was asked to explain that figure, and he replied:

Of the total of 56,065 caught, about 7,000 were destroyed in the former ghetto during large-scale operation. 6,929 Jews were destroyed by transporting them to Treblinka; the sum total of Jews destroyed is therefore 13,929. Beyond that, from five to six thousand Jews were destroyed by being blown up or by perishing in the flames.

General Stroop's arithmetic is not very clear since this report leaves some 36,000 Jews unaccounted for. But there can be little doubt that he was telling the truth when he wrote in his handsomely bound final report that he had caught "a total of 56,065 Jews whose extermination can be proved." The gas chambers no doubt accounted for the 36,000.

German losses, according to Stroop, were sixteen killed and ninety wounded. Probably the true figures were much higher, given the nature of the savage house-to-house fighting which the general himself described in such lurid detail, but were kept low so as not to disturb Himmler's fine sensibilities. The German troops and police, Stroop concluded, "fulfilled their duty indefatigably in faithful comradeship and stood together as exemplary models of soldiers."

The "final solution" went on to the very end of the war. How many Jews did it massacre? The figure has been debated. According to two S.S. witnesses at Nuremberg the total was put at between five and six millions by one of the great Nazi experts on the subject, Karl Eichmann, chief of the Jewish Office of the Gestapo, who carried out the "final solution" under the prodding hand of its originator, Heydrich. [xxxv] The figure given in the Nuremberg indictment was 5,700,000 and it tallied with the calculations of the World Jewish Congress. Reitlinger in his prodigious study of the Final Solution concluded that the figure was somewhat less -- between 4,194,200 and 4,581,200. [71]

There were some ten million Jews living in 1939 in the territories occupied by Hitler's forces. By any estimate it is certain that nearly half of them were exterminated by the Germans. This was the final consequence and the shattering cost of the aberration which came over the Nazi dictator in his youthful gutter days in Vienna and which he imparted to -- or shared with -- so many of his German followers.
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Re: The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi

Postby admin » Wed Feb 14, 2018 1:23 am

Part 4 of 4


There were some practices of the Germans during the short-lived New Order that resulted from sheer sadism rather than a lust for mass murder. Perhaps to a psychiatrist there is a difference between the two lusts though the end result of the first differed from the second only in the scale of deaths.

The Nazi medical experiments are an example of this sadism, for in the use of concentration camp inmates and prisoners of war as human guinea pigs very little, if any, benefit to science was achieved. It is a tale of horror of which the German medical profession cannot be proud. Although the "experiments" were conducted by fewer than two hundred murderous quacks -- albeit some of them held eminent posts in the medical world -- their criminal work was known to thousands of leading physicians of the Reich, not a single one of whom, so far as the record shows, ever uttered the slightest public protest. [xxxvi]

In the murders in this field the Jews were not the only victims. The Nazi doctors also used Russian prisoners of war, Polish concentration camp inmates, women as well as men, and even Germans. The "experiments" were quite varied. Prisoners were placed in pressure chambers and subjected to high-altitude tests until they ceased breathing. They were injected with lethal doses of typhus and jaundice. They were subjected to "freezing" experiments in icy water or exposed naked in the snow outdoors until they froze to death. Poison bullets were tried out on them as was mustard gas. At the Ravensbrueck concentration camp for women hundreds of Polish inmates -- the "rabbit girls" they were called -- were given gas gangrene wounds while others were subjected to "experiments" in bone grafting. At Dachau and Buchenwald gypsies were selected to see how long, and in what manner, they could live on salt water. Sterilization experiments were carried out on a large scale at several camps by a variety of means on both men and women; for, as an S.S. physician, Dr. Adolf Pokorny, wrote Himmler on one occasion, "the enemy must be not only conquered but exterminated." If he could not be slaughtered -- and the need for slave labor toward the end of the war made that practice questionable, as we have seen -- then he could be prevented from propagating. In fact Dr. Pokorny told Himmler he thought he had found just the right means, the plant Caladium seguinum, which, he said, induced lasting sterility.

The thought alone [the good doctor wrote the S.S. Fuehrer] that the three million Bolsheviks now in German captivity could be sterilized, so that they would be available for work but precluded from propagation, opens up the most far-reaching perspectives. [72]

Another German doctor who had "far-reaching perspectives" was Professor August Hirt, head of the Anatomical Institute of the University of Strasbourg. His special field was somewhat different from those of the others and he explained it in a letter at Christmas time of 1941 to S.S. Lieutenant General Rudolf Brandt, Himmler's adjutant.

We have large collections of skulls of almost all races and peoples at our disposal. Of the Jewish race, however, only very few specimens of skulls are available ... The war in the East now presents us with the opportunity to overcome this deficiency. By procuring the skulls of the Jewish-Bolshevik commissars, who represent the prototype of the repulsive, but characteristic, subhuman, we have the chance now to obtain scientific material.

Professor Hirt did not want the skulls of "Jewish-Bolshevik commissars" already dead. He proposed that the heads of these persons first be measured while they were alive. Then --

Following the subsequently induced death of the Jew, whose head should not be damaged, the physician will sever the head from the body and will forward it ... in a hermetically sealed tin can.

Whereupon Dr. Hirt would go to work, he promised, on further scientific measurements. [73] Himmler was delighted. He directed that Professor Hirt "be supplied with everything needed for his research work."

He was well supplied. The actual supplier was an interesting Nazi individual by the name of Wolfram Sievers, who spent considerable time on the witness stand at the main Nuremberg trial and at the subsequent "Doctors' Trial," in the latter of which he was a defendant. [xxxvii] Sievers, a former bookseller, had risen to be a colonel of the S.S. and executive secretary of the Ahnenerbe, the Institute for Research into Heredity, one of the ridiculous "cultural" organizations established by Himmler to pursue one of his many lunacies. It had, according to Sievers, fifty "research branches," of which one was called the "Institute for Military Scientific Research," which Sievers also headed. He was a shifty-eyed, Mephistophelean-looking fellow with a thick, ink-black beard and at Nuremberg he was dubbed the "Nazi Bluebeard," after the famous French killer. Like so many other characters in this history, he kept a meticulous diary, and this and his correspondence, both of which survived, contributed to his gallows end.

By June 1943 Sievers had collected at Auschwitz the men and women who were to furnish the skeletons for the "scientific measurements" of Professor Dr. Rirt at the University of Strasbourg. "A total of 115 persons, including 79 Jews, 30 Jewesses, 4 'Asiatics' and 2 Poles were processed," Sievers reported, requesting the S.S. main office in Berlin for transportation for them from Auschwitz to the Natzweiler concentration camp near Strasbourg. The British cross-examiner at Nuremberg inquired as to the meaning of "processing."

"Anthropological measurements," Sievers replied.

"Before they were murdered they were anthropologically measured? That was all there was to it, was it?"

"And casts were taken," Sievers added.

What followed was narrated by S.S. Captain Josef Kramer, himself a veteran exterminator from Auschwitz, Mauthausen, Dachau and other camps and who achieved fleeting fame as the "Beast of Belsen" and was condemned to death by a British court at Lueneburg.

Professor Hirt of the Strasbourg Anatomical Institute told me of the prisoner convoy en route from Auschwitz. He said these persons were to be killed by poison gas in the gas chamber of the Natzweiler camp, their bodies then to be taken to the Anatomical Institute for his disposal. He gave me a bottle containing about half a pint of salts -- I think they were cyanide salts -- and told me the approximate dosage 1 would have to use to poison the arriving inmates from Auschwitz.

Early in August 1943, I received eighty inmates who were to be killed with the gas Hirt had given me. One night I went to the gas chamber in a small car with about fifteen women this first time. I told the women they had to go into the chamber to be disinfected. I did not tell them, however, that they were to be gassed.

By this time the Nazis had perfected the technique.

With the help of a few S.S. men [Kramer continued] I stripped the women completely and shoved them into the gas chamber when they were stark naked.

When the door closed they began to scream. I introduced a certain amount of salt through a tube ... and observed through a peephole what happened inside the room. The women breathed for about half a minute before they fell to the floor. After I had turned on the ventilation I opened the door. I found the women lying lifeless on the floor and they were covered with excrements.

Captain Kramer testified that he repeated the performance until all eighty inmates had been killed and turned the bodies over to Professor Hirt, "as requested." He was asked by his interrogator what his feelings were at the time, and he gave a memorable answer that gives insight into a phenomenon in the Third Reich that has seemed so elusive of human understanding.

I had no feelings in carrying out these things because I had received an order to kill the eighty inmates in the way I already told you.

That, by the way, was the way I was trained. [74]

Another witness testified as to what happened next. He was Henry Herypierre, a Frenchman who worked in the Anatomical Institute at Strasbourg as Professor Hirt's laboratory assistant until the Allies arrived.

The first shipment we received was of the bodies of thirty women ... These thirty female bodies arrived still warm. The eyes were wide open and shining. They were red and bloodshot and were popping from their sockets. There were also traces of blood about the nose and mouth. No rigor mortis was evident.

Herypierre suspected that they had been done to death and secretly copied down their prison numbers which were tattooed on their left arms. Two more shipments of fifty-six men arrived, he said, in exactly the same condition. They were pickled in alcohol under the expert direction of Dr. Hirt. But the professor was a little nervous about the whole thing. "Peter," he said to Herypierre, "if you can't keep your trap shut, you'll be one of them."

Professor Dr. Hirt went about his work nonetheless. According to the correspondence of Sievers, the professor severed the heads and, as he wrote, "assembled the skeleton collection which was previously nonexistent." But there were difficulties and after hearing them described by Dr. Hirt -- Sievers himself had no expert medical or anatomical knowledge -- the chief of the Ahnenerbe reported them to Himmler on September 5, 1944.

In view of the vast amount of scientific research involved, the job of reducing the corpses has not yet been completed. This requires some time for 80 corpses.

And time was running out. Advancing American and French troops were nearing Strasbourg. Hirt requested "directives as to what should be done with the collection."

The corpses can be stripped of the flesh and thereby rendered unidentifiable [Sievers reported to headquarters on behalf of Dr. Hirt]. This would mean, however, that at least part of the whole work had been done for nothing and that this unique collection would be lost to science, since it would be impossible to make plaster casts afterwards.

The skeleton collection as such is inconspicuous. The flesh parts could be declared as having been left by the French at the time we took over the Anatomical Institute [xxxviii] and would be turned over for cremating. Please advise me which of the following three proposals is to be carried out: 1. The collection as a whole to be preserved; 2. The collection to be dissolved in part; 3. The collection to be completely dissolved.

"Why were you wanting to deflesh the bodies, witness?" the British prosecutor asked in the stillness of the Nuremberg courtroom. "Why were you suggesting that the blame should be passed on to the French?"

"As a layman I could have no opinion in this matter," the "Nazi Bluebeard" replied. "I merely transmitted an inquiry from Professor Hirt. I had nothing to do with the murdering of these people. I simply carried through the function of a mailman."

"You were the post office," the prosecutor rejoined, "another of these distinguished Nazi post offices, were you?"

It was a leaky defense offered by many a Nazi at the trials and on this occasion, as on others, the prosecution nailed it. [75]

The captured S.S. files reveal that on October 26, 1944, Sievers reported that "the collection in Strasbourg has been completely dissolved in accordance with the directive. This arrangement is for the best in view of the whole situation." [76]

Herypierre later described the attempt -- not altogether successful -- to hide the traces.

In September, 1944, the Allies made an advance on Belfort, and Professor Hirt ordered Bong and Herr Maier to cut up these bodies and have them burned in the crematory ... I asked Herr Maier the next day whether he had cut up all the bodies, but Herr Bong replied: "We couldn't cut up all the bodies, it was too much work. We left a few bodies in the storeroom."

They were discovered there by an Allied team when units of the U.S. Seventh Army, with the French 2nd Armored Division in the lead, entered Strasbourg a month later. [xxxix] [77]

Not only skeletons but human skins were collected by the masters of the New Order though in the latter case the pretense could not be made that the cause of scientific research was being served. The skins of concentration camp prisoners, especially executed for this ghoulish purpose, had merely decorative value. They made, it was found, excellent lamp shades, several of which were expressly fitted up for Frau Ilse Koch, the wife of the commandant of Buchenwald and nicknamed by the inmates the "Bitch of Buchenwald." [lv] Tattooed skins appear to have been the most sought after. A German inmate, Andreas Pfaffenberger, deposed at Nuremberg on this.

... All prisoners with tattooing on them were ordered to report to the dispensary ... After the prisoners had been examined the ones with the best and most artistic specimens were killed by injections. The corpses were then turned over to the pathological department where the desired pieces of tattooed skin were detached from the bodies and treated further. The finished products were turned over to Koch's wife, who had them fashioned into lamp shades, and other ornamental household articles. [78]

One piece of skin which apparently struck Frau Koch's fancy had the words "Haensel and Gretel" tattooed on it.

At another camp, Dachau, the demand for such skins often outran the supply. A Czech physician prisoner, Dr. Frank Blaha, testified at Nuremberg as to that.

Sometimes we would not have enough bodies with good skin and Dr. Rascher would say, "All right, you will get the bodies." The next day we would receive twenty or thirty bodies of young people. They would have been shot in the neck or struck on the head, so that the skin would be uninjured ... The skin had to be from healthy prisoners and free from defects. [79]

It was this Dr. Sigmund Rascher who seems to have been responsible for the more sadistic of the medical experiments in the first place. This horrible quack had attracted the attention of Himmler, among whose obsessions was the breeding of more and more superior Nordic offspring, through reports in S.S. circles that Frau Rascher had given birth to three children after passing the age of forty-eight, although in truth the Raschers had simply kidnaped them at suitable intervals from an orphanage.

In the spring of 1941, Dr. Rascher, who was attending a special medical course at Munich given by the Luftwaffe, had a brain storm. On May 15, 1941, he wrote Himmler about it. He had found to his horror that research on the effect of high altitudes on flyers was at a standstill because "no tests with human material had yet been possible as such experiments are very dangerous and nobody volunteers for them."

Can you make available two or three professional criminals for these experiments ... The experiments, by which the subjects can of course die, would take place with my co-operation. [80]

The S.S. Fuehrer replied within a week that "prisoners will, of course, be made available gladly for the high-flight research."

They were, and Dr. Rascher went to work. The results may be seen from his own reports and from those of others, which showed up at Nuremberg and at the subsequent trial of the S.S. doctors.

Dr. Rascher's own findings are a model of scientific jargon. For the high-altitude tests he moved the Air Force's decompression chamber at Munich to the nearby Dachau concentration camp where human guinea pigs were readily available. Air was pumped out of the contraption so that the oxygen and air pressure at high altitudes could be simulated. Dr. Rascher then made his observations, of which the following one is typical.

The third test was without oxygen at the equivalent of 29,400 feet altitude conducted on a 37-year-old Jew in good general condition. Respiration continued for 30 minutes. After four minutes the TP [test person] began to perspire and roll his head.

After five minutes spasms appeared; between the sixth and tenth minute respiration increased in frequency, the TP losing consciousness. From the eleventh to the thirtieth minute respiration slowed down to three inhalations per minute, only to cease entirely at the end of that period ... About half an hour after breathing had ceased, an autopsy was begun. [81]

An Austrian inmate, Anton Pacholegg, who worked in Dr. Rascher's office, has described the "experiments" less scientifically.

I have personally seen through the observation window of the decompression chamber when a prisoner inside would stand a vacuum until his lungs ruptured ... They would go mad and pull out their hair in an effort to relieve the pressure. They would tear their heads and face with their fingers and nails in an attempt to maim themselves in their madness. They would beat the walls with their hands and head and scream in an effort to relieve pressure on their eardrums. These cases usually ended in the death of the subject. [82]

Some two hundred prisoners were subjected to this experiment before Dr. Rascher was finished with it. Of these, according to the testimony at the "Doctors' Trial," about eighty were killed outright and the remainder executed somewhat later so that no tales would be told.

This particular research project was finished in May 1942, at which time Field Marshal Erhard Milch of the Luftwaffe conveyed Goering's "thanks" to Himmler for Dr. Rascher's pioneer experiments. A little later, on October 10, 1942, Lieutenant General Dr. Hippke, Medical Inspector of the Air Force, tendered to Himmler "in the name of German aviation medicine and research" his "obedient gratitude" for "the Dachau' experiments." However, he thought, there was one omission in them. They had not taken into account the extreme cold which an aviator faces at high altitudes. To rectify this omission the Luftwaffe, he informed Himmler, was building a decompression chamber "equipped with full refrigeration and with a nominal altitude of 100,000 feet. Freezing experiments," he added, "along different lines are still under way at Dachau." [83]

Indeed they were. And again Dr. Rascher was in the vanguard. But some of his doctor colleagues were having qualms. Was it Christian to do what Dr. Rascher was doing? Apparently a few German Luftwaffe medics were beginning to have their doubts. When Himmler heard of this he was infuriated and promptly wrote Field Marshal Milch protesting about the difficulties caused by "Christian medical circles" in the Air Force. He begged the Luftwaffe Chief of Staff to release Rascher from the Air Force medical corps so that he could be transferred to the S.S. He suggested that they find a "non-Christian physician, who should be honorable as a scientist," to pass on Dr. Rascher's valuable works. In the meantime Himmler emphasized that he

personally assumed the responsibility for supplying asocial individuals and criminals who deserve only to die from concentration camps for these experiments.

Dr. Rascher's "freezing experiments" were of two kinds: first, to see how much cold a human being could endure before he died; and second, to find the best means of rewarming a person who still lived after being exposed to extreme cold. Two methods were selected to freeze a man: dumping him into a tank of ice water or leaving him out in the snow, completely naked, overnight during winter. Rascher's reports to Himmler on his "freezing" and "warming" experiments are voluminous; an example or two will give the tenor. One of the earliest ones was made on September 10, 1942.

The TPs were immersed in water in full flying uniform ... with hood. A life jacket prevented sinking. The experiments were conducted at water temperatures between 36.5 and 53.5 degrees Fahrenheit. In the first test series the back of the head and the brain stem were above water. In another series the back of the neck and cerebellum were submerged. Temperatures as low as 79.5 in the stomach and 79.7 in the rectum were recorded electrically. Fatalities occurred only when the medulla and the cerebellum were chilled.

In autopsies of such fatalities large quantities of free blood, up to a pint, were always found inside the cranial cavity. The heart regularly showed extreme distention of the right chamber. The TPs in such tests inevitably died when body temperature had declined to 82.5, despite all rescue attempts. These autopsy findings plainly prove the importance of a heated head and neck protector for the foam suit now in the process of development. [84]

A table which Dr. Rascher appended covers six "Fatal Cases" and shows the water temperatures, body temperature on removal from water, body temperature at death, the length of stay in the water and the time it took the patient to die. The toughest man endured in the ice water for one hundred minutes, the weakest for fifty-three minutes.

Walter Neff, a camp inmate who served as Dr. Rascher's medical orderly, furnished the "Doctors' Trial" with a layman's description of one water-freezing test.

It was the worst experiment ever made. Two Russian officers were brought from the prison barracks. Rascher had them stripped and they had to go into the vat naked. Hour after hour went by, and whereas usually unconsciousness from the cold set in after sixty minutes at the latest, the two men in this case still responded fully after two and a half hours. All appeals to Rascher to put them to sleep by injection were fruitless. About the third hour one of the Russians said to the other, 'Comrade, please tell the officer to shoot us.' The other replied that he expected no mercy from this Fascist dog. The two shook hands with a 'Farewell, Comrade' ... These words were translated to Rascher by a young Pole, though in a somewhat different form. Rascher went to his office. The young Pole at once tried to chloroform the two victims, but Rascher came back at once, threatening us with his gun ... The test lasted at least five hours before death supervened. [85]

The nominal "chief" of the initial cold-water experiments was a certain Dr. Holzloehner, Professor of Medicine at the University of Kiel, assisted by a Dr. Finke, and after working with Rascher for a couple of months they believed that they had exhausted the experimental possibilities. The three physicians thereupon drew up a thirty-two-page top-secret report to the Air Force entitled "Freezing Experiments with Human Beings" and called a meeting of German scientists at Nuremberg for October 26-27, 1942, to hear and discuss their findings. The subject of the meeting was "Medical Questions in Marine and Winter Emergencies." According to the testimony at the "Doctors' Trial," ninety-five German scientists, including some of the most eminent men in the field, participated, and though the three doctors left no doubt that a good many human beings had been done to death in the experiments there were no questions put as to this and no protests therefore made.

Professor Holzloehner [xli] and Dr. Finke bowed out of the experiments at this time but the persevering Dr. Rascher carried on alone from October 1942 until May of the following year. He wanted, among other things, to pursue experiments in what he called "dry freezing." Auschwitz, he wrote to Himmler,

is much better suited for such tests than Dachau because it is colder there and because the size of the grounds causes less of a stir in the camp. (The test persons yell when they freeze.)

For some reason the change of locality could not be arranged, so Dr. Rascher went ahead with his studies at Dachau, praying for some real winter weather.

Thank God, we have had another intense cold snap at Dachau [he wrote Himmler in the early spring of 1943]. Some people remained out in the open for 14 hours at 21 degrees, attaining an interior temperature of 77 degrees, with peripheral frostbite ... [86]

At the "Doctors' Trial" the witness Neff again provided a layman's description of the "dry-freezing" experiments of his chief.

A prisoner was placed naked on a stretcher outside the barracks in the evening. He was covered with a sheet, and every hour a bucket of cold water was poured over him. The test person lay out in the open like this into the morning. Their temperatures were taken.

Later Dr. Rascher said it was a mistake to cover the subject with a sheet and to drench him with water ... In the future the test persons must not be covered. The next experiment was a test on ten prisoners who were exposed in turn, likewise naked.

As the prisoners slowly froze, Dr. Rascher or his assistant would record temperatures, heart action, respiration and so on. The cries of the suffering often rent the night.

Initially [Neff explained to the court] Rascher forbade these tests to be made in a state of anesthesia. But the test persons made such a racket that it was impossible for Rascher to continue these tests without anesthetic. [87]

The TPs (test persons) were left to die, as Himmler said they deserved to, in the ice-water tanks or lying naked on the ground outside the barracks at Dachau on a winter evening. If they survived they were shortly exterminated. But the brave German flyers and sailors, for whose benefit the experiments were ostensibly carried out, and who might find themselves ditched in the icy waters of the Arctic Ocean or marooned in some frozen waste above the Arctic Circle in Norway, Finland or northern Russia, had to be saved if possible. The inimitable Dr. Rascher therefore took to performing on his human guinea pigs at Dachau what he termed "warming experiments." What was the best method, he wanted to know, for warming a frozen man and thus possibly saving his life?

Heinrich Himmler, never backward in offering "practical" solutions to his corps of busy scientists, suggested to Rascher that warming by "animal heat" be tried, but at first the doctor did not think much of the idea "Warming by animal heat -- the bodies of animals or women -- is much too slow," he wrote the S.S. chief. But Himmler kept after him.

I am very curious [he wrote Rascher] about the experiments with animal heat. Personally I believe these experiments may bring the best and the most sustained results.

Though skeptical, Dr. Rascher was not the man to ignore a suggestion from the leader of the S.S. He promptly embarked on a series of the most grotesque "experiments" of all, recording them for posterity in every morbid detail. Four inmates from the women's concentration camps at Ravensbrueck were sent to him at Dachau. However there was something about one of them -- they were classified as prostitutes -- that disturbed the doctor and he so reported to his superiors.

One of the women assigned showed impeccably Nordic racial characteristics . . I asked the girl why she had volunteered for brothel service and she replied, 'To get out of the concentration camp." When I objected that it was shameful to volunteer as a brothel girl, I was advised, "Better half a year in a brothel than half a year in the concentration camp ... "

My racial conscience is outraged by the prospect of exposing to racially inferior concentration camp elements a girl who is outwardly pure Nordic ... For this reason I decline to use this girl for my experimental purposes. [88]

But he used others, whose hair was less fair and the eyes less blue. His findings were duly reported to Himmler in a report marked "Secret" on February 12, 1942. [89]

The test persons were chilled in the familiar way -- dressed or undressed -- in cold water at various temperatures ... Removal from the water took place at a rectal temperature of 86 degrees.

In eight cases the test persons were placed between two naked women on a wide bed. The women were instructed to snuggle up to the chilled person as closely as possible. The three persons were then covered with blankets ...

Once the test persons regained consciousness, they never lost it again, quickly grasping their situation and nestling close to the naked bodies of the women. The rise of body temperature then proceeded at approximately the same speed as with test persons warmed by being swathed in blankets ... An exception was formed by four test persons who practiced sexual intercourse between 86 and 89.5 degrees. In these persons, after coitus, a very swift temperature rise ensued, comparable to that achieved by means of a hot-water bath.

Dr. Rascher found, somewhat to his surprise, that one woman warmed a frozen man faster than two women.

I attribute this to the fact that in warming by means of one woman personal inhibitions are avoided and the woman clings more closely to the chilled person. Here too, return of full consciousness was notably rapid. In the case of only one person did consciousness fail to return and only a slight degree of warming was recorded. This test person died with symptoms of a brain hemorrhage, later confirmed by autopsy.

Summing up, this murderous hack concluded that warming up a "chilled" man with women "proceeds very slowly" and that hot baths were more efficacious.

Only test persons [he concluded] whose physical state permitted sexual intercourse warmed up surprisingly fast and also showed a surprisingly rapid return of full bodily well-being.

According to the testimony at the "Doctors' Trial" some four hundred "freezing" experiments were performed on three hundred persons of whom between eighty and ninety died directly as a result thereof, and the rest, except for a few, were bumped off subsequently, some of them having been driven insane. Dr. Rascher himself, incidentally, was not around to testify at this trial. He continued his bloody labors on various new projects, too numerous to mention, until May 1944, when he and his wife were arrested by the S.S. -- not for his murderous "experiments," it seems, but on the charge that he and his wife had practiced deceit about how their children came into the world. Such treachery Himmler, with his worship of German mothers, could not brook -- he had sincerely believed that Frau Rascher had begun to bear her three children at the age of forty-eight and he was outraged when he learned that she had kidnaped them. So Dr. Rascher was incarcerated in the political bunker at his familiar Dachau camp and his wife was carted off to Ravensbrueck, from which the doctor had procured his prostitutes for the "warming" tests. Neither survived, and it is believed that Himmler himself, in one of the last acts of his life, ordered their execution. They might have made awkward witnesses.

A number of such awkward witnesses did survive to stand trial. Seven of them were condemned to death and hanged, defending their lethal experiments to the last as patriotic acts which served the Fatherland. Dr. Herta Oberheuser, the only woman defendant at the "Doctors' Trial," was given twenty years. She had admitted giving lethal injections to "five or six" Polish women among the hundreds who suffered the tortures of the damned in a variety of "experiments" at Ravensbrueck. A number of doctors, such as the notorious Pokorny, who had wanted to sterilize millions of the enemy, were acquitted. A few were contrite. At a second trial of medical underlings Dr. Edwin Katzenellenbogen, a former member of the faculty of the Harvard Medical School, asked the court for the death sentence. "You have placed the mark of Cain on my forehead," he exclaimed. "Any physician who committed the crimes I am charged with deserves to be killed." He was given life imprisonment. [90]


Midway through the war there was one act of retribution against the gangster masters of the New Order for their slaughtering of the conquered people. Reinhard Heydrich, chief of the Security Police and the S.D., deputy chief of the Gestapo, this long-nosed, icy-eyed thirty-eight-year-old policeman of diabolical cast, the genius of the "final solution," Hangman Heydrich, as he became known in the occupied lands, met a violent end.

Restless for further power and secretly intriguing to oust his chief, Himmler, he had got himself appointed, in addition to his other offices, Acting Protector of Bohemia and Moravia. Poor old Neurath, the Protector, was packed off on indefinite sick leave by Hitler in September 1941, and Heydrich replaced him in the ancient seat of the Bohemian kings at Hradschin Castle in Prague. But not for long.

On the morning of May 29, 1942, as he was driving in his open Mercedes sports car from his country villa to the Castle in Prague a bomb of British make was tossed at him, blowing the car to pieces and shattering his spine. It had been hurled by two Czechs, Jan Kubis and Josef Gabeik, of the free Czechoslovak army in England, who had been parachuted from an R.A.F. plane. Well equipped for their assignment, they got away under a smoke screen and were given refuge by the priests of the Karl Borromaeus Church in Prague.

Heydrich expired of his wounds on June 4 and a veritable hecatomb followed as the Germans took savage revenge, after the manner of the old Teutonic rites, for the death of their hero. According to one Gestapo report, 1,331 Czechs, including 201 women, were immediately executed. [91] The actual assassins, along with 120 members of the Czech resistance who were hiding in the Karl Borromaeus Church, were besieged there by the S.S. and killed to the last man. [lvii] It was the Jews, however, who suffered the most for this act of defiance against the master race. Three thousand of them were removed from the "privileged" ghetto of Theresienstadt and shipped to the East for extermination. On the day of the bombing Goebbels had 500 of the few remaining Jews at large in Berlin arrested and on the day of Heydrich's death 152 of them were executed as a "reprisal."

But of all the consequences of Heydrich's death the fate of the little village of Lidice near the mining town of Kladno not far from Prague will perhaps be longest remembered by the civilized world. For no other reason except to serve as an example to a conquered people who dared to take the life of one of their inquisitors a terrible savagery was carried out in this peaceful little rural place.

On the morning of June 9, 1942, ten truckloads of German Security Police under the command of Captain Max Rostock [lviii] arrived at Lidice and surrounded the village. No one was allowed to leave though anyone who lived there and happened to be away could return. A boy of twelve, panicking, tried to steal away. He was shot down and killed. A peasant woman ran toward the outlying fields. She was shot in the back and killed. The entire male population of the village was locked up in the barns, stables and cellar of a farmer named Horak, who was also the mayor.

The next day, from dawn until 4 P.M., they were taken into the garden behind the barn, in batches of ten, and shot by firing squads of the Security Police. A total of 172 men and boys, over sixteen, were executed there. An additional nineteen male residents, who were working in the Kladno mines during the massacre, were later picked up and dispatched in Prague.

Seven women who were rounded up at Lidice were taken to Prague and shot. All the rest of the women of the village, who numbered 195, were transported to the Ravensbrueck concentration camp in Germany, where seven were gassed, three "disappeared" and forty-two died of ill treatment. Four of the Lidice women who were about to give birth were first taken to a maternity hospital in Prague where their newly born infants were murdered and they themselves then shipped to Ravensbrueck.

There remained for the Germans the disposal of the children of Lidice, whose fathers were now dead, whose mothers were imprisoned. It must be said that the Germans did not shoot them too, not even the male children. They were carted off to a concentration camp at Gneisenau. There were ninety in all and from these seven, who were less than a year old, were selected by the Nazis, after a suitable examination by Himmler's "racial experts," to be sent to Germany to be brought up as Germans under German names. Later, the others were similarly disposed of.

"Every trace of them has been lost," the Czechoslovak government, which filed an official report on Lidice for the Nuremberg tribunal, concluded.

Happily, some of them, at least, were later found. I remember in the autumn of 1945 reading the pitiful appeals in the then Allied-controlled German newspapers from the surviving mothers of Lidice asking the German people to help them locate their children and send them "home." [xliv]

Actually Lidice itself had been wiped off the face of the earth. As soon as the men had been massacred and the women and children carted off, the Security Police had burned down the village, dynamited the ruins and leveled it off.

Lidice, though it became the most widely known example of Nazi savagery of this kind, was not the only village in the German-occupied lands to suffer such a barbaric end. There was one other in Czechoslovakia, Lezhaky, and several more in Poland, Russia, Greece and Yugoslavia. Even in the West, where the New Order was relatively less murderous, the example of Lidice was repeated by the Germans though in most cases, such as that of Televaag in Norway, the men, women and children were merely deported to separate concentration camps after every building in the village had been razed to the ground.

But on June 10, 1944, two years to a day after the massacre of Lidice, a terrible toll of life was taken at the French village of Oradour-sur-Glane, near Limoges. A detachment of the S.S. division pas Reich, which had already earned a reputation for terror -- if not for fighting -- in Russia, surrounded the French town and ordered the inhabitants to gather in the central square. There the people were told by the commandant that explosives were reported to have been hidden in the village and that a search and the checking of identity cards would be made. Whereupon the entire population of 652 persons was locked up. The men were herded into barns, the women and children into the church. The entire village was then set on fire. The German soldiers next set upon the inhabitants. The men in the barns who were not burned to death were machine-gunned and killed. The women and children in the church were also peppered with machine-gun fire and those who were not killed were burned to death when the German soldiers set fire to the church. Three days later the Bishop of Limoges found the charred bodies of fifteen children in a heap behind the burned-out altar.

Nine years later, in 1953, a French military court established that 642 inhabitants -- 245 women, 207 children and 190 men -- had perished in the massacre at Oradour. Ten survived. Though badly burned they had simulated death and thus escaped it. [xlv]

Oradour, like Lidice, was never rebuilt. Its ruins remain a monument to Hitler's New Order in Europe. The gutted church stands out against the peaceful countryside as a reminder of the beautiful June day, just before the harvest, when the village and its inhabitants suddenly ceased to exist. Where once a window stood is a little sign: "Madame Rouffance, the only survivor from the church, escaped through this window." In front there is a small figure of Christ affixed to a rusty iron cross.

Such, as has been sketched in this chapter, were the beginnings of Hitler's New Order; such was the debut of the Nazi Gangster Empire in Europe. Fortunately for mankind it was destroyed in its infancy -- not by any revolt of the German people against such a reversion to barbarism but by the defeat of German arms and the consequent fall of the Third Reich, the story of which now remains to be told.



i. As early as September 18, 1941, Hitler had specifically ordered that Leningrad  was to be "wiped off the face of the earth." After being surrounded it was to be  "razed to the ground" by bombardment and bombing and its population (three  millions) was to be destroyed with it. See above, pp. 853-54.
ii. Neither the extermination of masses of Soviet prisoners of war nor the exploitation  of Russian slave labor was a secret to the Kremlin. As early as November 1941,  Molotov had made a formal diplomatic protest against the "extermination" of  Russian POWs, and in April of the following year he made another protest against  the German slave labor program.
iii. See above, pp. 830-34.
iv. A year before, it will be remembered, Goering had told Ciano that "this year between twenty and thirty million persons will die of hunger in Russia" and that "perhaps it is well that it should be so." Already, he said, Russian prisoners of war had begun "to eat each other." See above, p. 854n.

v. In a directive of Goering's Economic Staff, East, on May 23, 1941, the destruction of the Russian industrial areas was ordered. The workers and their families in these regions were to be left to starve. "Any attempt to save the population there," the directive stated, "from death by starvation by importing [food] surpluses from the black-soil zone [of Russia]" was prohibited. See above, p. 833.

vi. At the official rate of exchange (2.5 Reichsmarks to the dollar) this would amount --  to 40 billion dollars. But I have used the unofficial rate of four Reichsmarks to the  dollar. In terms of purchasing power it is more accurate.
vii. According to Alexander Dallin in his exhaustive study of German rule in Russia,  Germany could have obtained more from Russia in normal trade. (See Dallin.  German Rule in Russia.)
viii. Albert Speer, Minister for Armament and War Production, admitted at Nuremberg that 40 per cent of all prisoners of war were employed in 1944 in the production of weapons and munitions and in subsidiary industries. [20]

ix. A captured record shows Field Marshal Milch of the Air Force in 1943 demanding 50.000 more Russian war prisoners to be added to the 30,000 already manning antiaircraft artillery. "It is amusing." Milch laughed. "that Russians must work the guns." [21]

x. The entire slave labor program was put in charge of Fritz Sauckel, who was given  the title of Plenipotentiary General for the Allocation of Labor. A second-string  Nazi, he had been Gauleiter and Governor of Thuringia. A pig-eyed little man, rude  and tough, he was, as Goebbels mentioned in his diary, "one of the dullest of the  dull." In the dock at Nuremberg, he struck this writer as being a complete nonentity,  the sort of German who in other times might have been a butcher in a small-town  meat market. One of his first directives laid it down that the foreign workers were  "to be treated in such a way as to exploit them to the highest possible extent at the  lowest conceivable degree of expenditure." [24] He admitted at Nuremberg that of all  the millions of foreign workers "not even 200,000 came voluntarily." However at  the trial he denied all responsibility for their ill-treatment. He was found guilty,  sentenced to death, and hanged in the Nuremberg jail on the night of October 15-16,  1946.
xi. Besides obtaining thousands of slave laborers, both civilians and prisoners of war for its factories in Germany, the Krupp firm also built a large fuse factory at the extermination camp at Auschwitz, where Jews were worked to exhaustion and then gassed to death.

Baron Gustav Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach, the chairman of the board, was  indicted as a major war criminal at Nuremberg (along with Goering, et al.) but because of his "physical and mental condition" (he had had a stroke and had faded into senility), he was not tried. He died on January 16, 1950. An effort was made by the prosecution to try in his stead his son, Alfried, who had acquired sole ownership of the company in 1943, but the tribunal denied this.

Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach was subsequently tried before a Nuremberg military tribunal (a purely American court) along with nine directors of the firm in the United States v. Alfried Krupp et al. case. On July 31, 1948, he was sentenced to twelve years imprisonment and confiscation of all his property. He was released from Landsberg prison (where Hitler had served his sentence in 1924) on February 4, 1951, in a general amnesty issued by John J. McCloy, the U.S. High Commissioner. Not only was the confiscation of his corporate property annulled but his personal fortune of some $10,000,000 was returned to him. The Allied governments had ordered the breakup of the vast Krupp empire but Alfried Krupp, who took over the active management of the firm after his release from prison, evaded the order and at the time of writing (1959) announced, with the approval of the Bonn government, that not only would the company not be broken up but that it was acquiring new industries.

xii. Himmler's directive of February 20, 1942, was directed especially against Russian slave workers. It ordered "special treatment" also for "severe violations against discipline, including work refusal or loafing at work." In such cases

special treatment is requested. Special treatment is hanging. It should not take place in the immediate vicinity of the camp. A certain number [however] should attend the special treatment. [27]

The term "special treatment" was a common one in Himmler's files and in Nazi parlance during the war. It meant just what HimmIer in this directive said it meant.
xiii. Mueller was never apprehended after the war. He was last seen in Hitler's bunker  in Berlin on April 29, 1945. Some of his surviving colleagues believe he is now in  the service of the Soviet secret police, of which he was a great admirer.
xiv. On July 20, 1942, Keitel had drafted the order.

1. Soviet prisoners of war are to be branded with a special and durable mark.

2. The brand is to consist of an acute angle of about 45 degrees with a one-centimetre length of side, pointing downward on the left buttock, at about a hand's width from the rectum. [36]

xv. General Dostler was condemned to death by the U.S. military tribunal in Rome on October 12, 1945.

xvi. Kaltenbrunner was hanged at Nuremberg jail on the night of October 15-16, 1946.

xvii. I.e., they were told they were being resettled elsewhere.
* There was a special reason for this. See below, p. 942n.

xviii. Ohlendorf was tried at Nuremberg by a U.S. military tribunal along with twenty-one others in the "Einsatzgruppen Case." Fourteen of them were condemned to death. Only four, Ohlendorf and three other group commanders, were executed -- on June 8, 1951, at Landsberg prison, some three and a half years after being sentenced. The death penalties for the others were commuted.

ix. On August 31, Himmler had ordered an Einsatz detachment to execute a hundred  inmates of the Minsk prison, so that he could see how it was done. According to  Bach-Zalewski, a high officer in the S.S. who was present, Himmler almost swooned when he saw the effect of the first volley from the firing squad. A few minutes later, when the shots failed to kill two Jewish women outright, the S.S. Fuehrer became hysterical. One result of this experience was an order from Himmler that henceforth the women and children should not be shot but dispatched in the gas vans. [50] (See above, p. 960.)

xx. The number of Soviet Communist party functionaries slain by the Einsatzgruppen has never even been estimated, as far as I know. Most S.D. reports lumped them together with the Jews. In one report of Group A, dated October 15, 1941, some 3,387 "Communists" are listed among the 121,817 executed, the rest being Jews. But the same report often lists the two together.

xxi. Pohl was condemned to death in the so-called "Concentration Camp Case" by a U.S. military tribunal on November 3, 1947, and hanged in Landsberg prison on June 8, 1951, along with Ohlendorf and others.
xxii. The emphasis is this writer's. A faulty translation of the last line, rendering the German word Endloesung as "desired solution" instead of "final solution" in the English copy of the document, led Justice Jackson, who did not know German, to allow Goering under cross-examination to get away with his contention that he never used the sinister term. (See n. 54.) "The first time I learned of these terrible exterminations," Goering exclaimed at one point, "was right here in Nuremberg."

xxiii. See above, p. 661.

xxiv. Lammers was sentenced in April 1949 to twenty years' imprisonment by a U.S.  military tribunal at Nuremberg, chiefly because of his responsibility in the anti-Jewish decrees. But as in the case of most of the other convicted Nazis whose  sentences were greatly reduced by the American authorities, his term was commuted  in 1951 to ten years and he was released from Landsberg prison at the end of that  year, after serving a total of six years from the date of his first imprisonment. It  might be noted here that most Germans, at least so far as their sentiment was  represented in the West German parliament, did not approve of even the relatively  mild sentences meted out to Hitler's accomplices. A number of them handed over  by the Allies to German custody were not even prosecuted -- even when they were  accused of mass murder -- and some of them quickly found employment in the Bonn  government.
xxv. Kogon estimates the number at 7,125,000 out of a total of 7,820,000 inmates, but the figure undoubtedly is too high. (Kogon, The Theory and Practice of Hell, p. 227.)

xxvi. The camp commander, Franz Ziereis, put the total number at 65,000. [56]

xxvii. Born in 1900, the son of a small shopkeeper in Baden-Baden, Hoess was pressured by his pious Catholic father to become a priest. Instead he joined the Nazi Party in 1922. The next year he was implicated in the murder of a school teacher who allegedly had denounced Leo Schlageter, a German saboteur in the Ruhr who was executed by the French and became a Nazi martyr. Hoess received a life sentence.

He was released in a general amnesty in 1928, joined the S.S. two years later and in 1934 became a member of the Death's Head group of the S.S., whose principal job was the guarding of the concentration camps. His first job in this unit was at Dachau. Thus he spent almost his entire adult life first as a prisoner and then as a jailer. He freely -- and even exaggeratedly -- testified to his killings both on the stand at Nuremberg and in affidavits for the prosecution. Turned over later to the Poles, he was sentenced to death and in March 1947 hanged at Auschwitz, the scene of his greatest crimes.

xxviii. A task which because of the large numbers involved and because of, at the end, armed resistance, could not be completed (as we shall see) until 1943.

xxix. Usually "heart disease" was written down. Kogon, himself in Buchenwald for  eight years, gives samples: " ... Patient died after prolonged suffering on __  at __ o'clock. Cause of death: cardiac weakness complicated by pneumonia."  (Kogon, The Theory and Practice of Hell, p. 218.) Such formalities were dispensed  with at Auschwitz when the massive gassings began. Often the day's dead were not  even counted.
xxx. They were inevitably and regularly dispatched in the gas chambers and replaced  by new teams who continued to meet the same fate. The S.S. wanted no survivors  to tell tales.
xxxi. There was testimony at the Nuremberg trials that the ashes were sometimes sold as  fertilizer. One Danzig firm, according to a document offered by the Russian prosecution,  constructed an electrically heated tank for making soap out of human fat.  Its "recipe" called for "12 pounds of human fat, 10 quarts of water, and 8 ounces  to a pound of caustic soda ... all boiled for two or three hours and then cooled." [59]
xxxii. Sometimes they were pulled out before the victims were slain. A secret report of  the German warden of the prison at Minsk disclosed that after he had commandeered  the services of a Jewish dentist all the Jews "had their gold bridgework, crowns and  fillings pulled or broken out. This happens always one to two hours before the  special action." The warden noted that of 516 German and Russian Jews executed  at his prison during a six-week period in the spring of 1943, some 336 had the gold  yanked from their teeth. [65]
xxxiii. Dr. Funk was sentenced to life imprisonment at Nuremberg.
xxxiv. John Hersey's novel The Wall, based on the Jewish records, is an epic story of the uprising.

xxxv. But not Stroop. He was caught after the war, sentenced to death by an American court at Dachau on March 22, 1947, for the shooting of hostages in Greece, and then extradited to Poland, where he was tried for the slaughter of the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto. He was again sentenced to death and hanged at the scene of the crime on September 8, 1951.

xxxvi. Eichmann, according to one of his henchmen, said just before the German collapse  that "he would leap laughing into the grave because the feeling that he had five  million people on his conscience would be for him a source of extraordinary  satisfaction." [70] Probably he never leaped into the grave, laughing or otherwise. He  escaped from an American internment camp in 1945. (NOTE: As this book went on  press, the government of Israel announced that it had apprehended Eichmann.)
xxxvii. Not even Germany's most famous surgeon, Dr. Ferdinand Sauerbruch, though he  eventually became an anti-Nazi and conspired with the resistance. Sauerbruch sat  through a lecture at the Berlin Military Medical Academy in May of 1943 given by  two of the most notorious of the doctor-killers, Karl Gebhardt and Fritz Fischer,  on the subject of gas gangrene experiments on prisoners. Sauerbruch's only argument  on this occasion was that surgery was better than sulfanilamide! Professor  Gebhardt was sentenced to death at the so-called "Doctors' Trial" and hanged on  June 2, 1948. Dr. Fischer was given life imprisonment.
xxxviii. And in which he was condemned to death, and hanged.
xxxix. Germany had annexed Alsace after the fall of France in 1940 and the Germans had taken over the University of Strasbourg.

xl. Professor Dr. Hirt disappeared. As he left Strasbourg he was heard boasting that no one would ever take him alive. Apparently no one has -- alive or dead.

xli. Frau Koch, whose power of life and death over the inmates of Buchenwald was  complete, and whose very whim could bring terrible punishment to a prisoner, was  sentenced to life imprisonment at the "Buchenwald Trial," but her sentence was  commuted to four years, and she was soon released. On January 15, 1951, a  German court sentenced her to life imprisonment for murder. Her husband was  sentenced to death by an S.S. court during the war for "excesses" but was given the  option of serving on the Russian front. Before he could do this, however, Prince  Waldeck, the leader of the S.S. in the district, had him executed. Princess Mafalda,  daughter of the King and Queen of Italy and wife of Prince Philip of Hesse, was  among those who died at Buchenwald.
xlii. Professor Holzloehner may have had a guilty conscience. Picked up by the British  he committed suicide after his first interrogation.
xliii. According to Schellenberg, who was there, the Gestapo never learned that the  actual assassins were among the dead in the church. (Schellenberg, The Labyrinth,  p. 292.)
xliv. Hanged in Prague in August 1951.

xlv. UNRRA reported on April 2, 1947, that seventeen of them had been found in Bavaria and sent back to their mothers in Czechoslovakia.

xlvi. Twenty members of the S.S. detachment were sentenced to death by this court but  only two were executed, the remaining eighteen having their sentences commuted to  prison terms of from five to twelve years. The commander of the Das Reich  Division, S.S. Lieutenant General Heinz Lammerding was condemned to death in  absentia. So far as I know he was never found. The actual commander of the  detachment at Oradour, Major Otto Dickmann, was killed in action in Normandy a  few days later.
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Re: The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi

Postby admin » Thu Feb 15, 2018 1:51 am


FOR THREE SUCCESSIVE WAR YEARS when summer came, it had been the Germans who had launched the great offensives on the continent of Europe. Now in 1943 the tables turned.

With the capture in early May of that year of the Axis forces in Tunisia, all that remained of a once mighty army in North Africa, it was obvious that General Eisenhower's Anglo-American armies would next turn on Italy itself. This was the kind of nightmare which had haunted Mussolini in September of 1939 and which had made him delay Italy's entry into the war until neighboring France had been conquered by the Germans and the British Expeditionary Force driven across the Channel. The nightmare now returned, but this time it was rapidly turning into reality.

Mussolini himself was ill and disillusioned; and he was frightened. Defeatism was rife among his people and in the armed forces. There had been mass strikes in the industrial cities of Milan and Turin, where the hungry workers had demonstrated for "bread, peace and freedom." The discredited and corrupt Fascist regime itself was fast crumbling, and when Count Ciano at the beginning of the year was relieved as Foreign Minister and sent to the Vatican as ambassador the Germans suspected that he had gone there to try to negotiate a separate peace with the Allies, as Antonescu, the Rumanian dictator, was already urging.

For several months Mussolini had been bombarding Hitler with appeals to make peace with Stalin, so that his armies could be withdrawn to the West to make a common defense with the Italians against the growing threat of the Anglo-American forces in the Mediterranean and of those which he believed were assembling in England for a cross-Channel invasion. The time had come again, Hitler realized, for a meeting with Mussolini in order to buck up his sagging partner and to put him straight. This was arranged for April 7, 1943, at Salzburg, and though the Duce arrived determined to have his way -- or at least his say -- at last, he once more succumbed to the Fuehrer's torrents of words. Hitler later described his success to Goebbels, who jotted it down in his diary.

By putting every ounce of energy into the effort, he succeeded in pushing Mussolini back on the rails ... The Duce underwent a complete change ... When he got out of the train on his arrival, the Fuehrer thought, he looked like a broken old man; when he left [after four days] he was in high fettle, ready for any deed. [1]

But in point of fact Mussolini was not ready for the events which now followed in quick succession. The Allied conquest of Tunisia in May was followed by the successful Anglo-American landings in Sicily on July 10. The Italians had little stomach for battle in their own homeland. Reports soon reached Hitler that the Italian Army was "in a state of collapse," as he put it to his advisers at OKW.

Only barbaric measures [Hitler told a war council on July 17] like those applied by Stalin in 1941 or by the French in 1917 can help to save the nation. A sort of tribunal or court-martial should be set up in Italy to remove undesirable elements. [2]

Once again he summoned Mussolini to discuss the matter, the meeting taking place on July 19 at Feltre in northern Italy. This, incidentally, was the thirteenth conference of the two dictators and it followed the pattern of the most recent ones. Hitler did all the talking, Mussolini al; the listening -- for three hours before lunch and for two hours after it. Without much success the fanatical German leader tried to rekindle the sunken spirits of his ailing friend and ally. They must continue the fight on all fronts. Their tasks could not be left "to another generation." The "voice of history" was still beckoning them. Sicily and Italy proper could be held if the Italians fought. There would be more German reinforcements to help them. A new U-boat would soon be in operation and would deal the British a "Stalingrad."

Despite Hitler's promises and boasts the atmosphere, Dr. Schmidt found, was most depressing. Mussolini was so overwrought that he could no longer follow his friend's tirades and at the end asked Schmidt to furnish him with his notes. The Duce's despair worsened when during the meeting reports came in of the first heavy daylight Allied air attack on Rome. [3]

Benito Mussolini, tired and senile though he was only going on sixty, he who had strutted so arrogantly across Europe's stage for two decades, was at the end of his rope. When he returned to Rome he found much worse than the aftermath of the first heavy bombing. He faced revolt from some of his closest henchmen in the Fascist Party hierarchy, even from his son-in-law, Ciano. And behind it there was a plot among a wider circle that reached to the King to overthrow him.

The rebellious Fascist leaders, led by Dino Grandi, Giuseppe Bottai and Ciano, demanded the convocation of the Fascist Grand Council, which had not met since December 1939 and which had always been a rubber-stamp body completely dominated by the Duce. It convened on the night of July 24-25, 1943, and Mussolini for the first time in his career as dictator found himself the target of violent criticism for the disaster into which he had led the country. By a vote of 19 to 8, a resolution was carried demanding the restoration of a constitutional monarchy with a democratic Parliament. It also called for the full command of the armed forces to be restored to the King.

The Fascist rebels, with the possible exception of Grandi, do not appear to have had any idea of going further than this. But there was a second and wider plot of certain generals and the King, which was now sprung. Mussolini himself apparently felt that he had weathered the storm -- after all, decisions in Italy were not made by a majority vote in the Grand Council but by the Duce -- and he was taken completely by surprise when on the evening of July 25 he was summoned to the royal palace by the King, summarily dismissed from office and carted off under arrest in an ambulance to a police station. [i]

So fell, ignominiously, the modern Roman Caesar, a bellicose-sounding man of the twentieth century who had known how to profit from its confusions and despair, but who underneath the gaudy fa~ade was made largely of sawdust. As a person he was not unintelligent. He had read widely in history and thought he understood its lessons. But as dictator he had made the fatal mistake of seeking to make a martial, imperial Great Power of a country which lacked the industrial resources to become one and whose people, unlike the Germans, were too civilized, too sophisticated, too down to earth to be attracted by such false ambitions. The Italian people, at heart, had never, like the Germans, embraced fascism. They had merely suffered it, knowing that it was a passing phase, and Mussolini toward the end seems to have realized this. But like all dictators he was carried away by power, which, as it inevitably must, corrupted him, corroding his mind and poisoning his judgment. This led him to his second fatal mistake of tying his fortunes and those of Italy to the Third Reich. When the bell began to toll for Hitler's Germany it began to toll for Mussolini's Italy, and as the summer of 1943 came the Italian leader heard it. But there was nothing he could do to escape his fate. By now he was a prisoner of Hitler.

Not a gun was fired -- not even by the Fascist militia -- to save him. Not a voice was raised in his defense. No one seemed to mind the humiliating nature of his departure -- being hauled away from the King's presence to jail in an ambulance. On the contrary, there was general rejoicing at his fall. Fascism itself collapsed as easily as its founder. Marshal Pietro Badoglio formed a nonparty government of generals and civil servants, the Fascist Party was dissolved, Fascists were removed from key posts and anti-Fascists released from prison.

The reaction at Hitler's headquarters to the news of Mussolini's fall may be imagined, though it need not be -- for voluminous secret records abound as to what it was. [4] It was one of deep shock. Certain parallels were immediately evident even to the Nazi mind, and the danger that a terrible precedent might have been set in Rome greatly troubled Dr. Goebbels, who was summoned posthaste to Rastenburg headquarters on July 26. The Propaganda Minister's first thought, we learn from his diary, was how to explain the overthrow of Mussolini to the German people. "What are we to tell them, anyway?" he asked himself, and he decided that for the moment they were to be told only that the Duce had resigned "for reasons of health."

Knowledge of these events [he wrote in his diary] might conceivably encourage some subversive elements in Germany to think they could put over the same thing here that Badoglio and his henchmen accomplished in Rome. The Fuehrer ordered Himmler to see to it that most severe "police measures be applied in case such a danger seemed imminent here.

Hitler, however, Goebbels added, did not think the danger was very imminent in Germany. The Propaganda Minister finaUy assured himself that the German people would not "regard the crisis in Rome as a precedent."

Though the Fuehrer had observed the signs of cracking in Mussolini at their meeting but a fortnight before, he was taken completely by surprise when the news from Rome began to trickle in to headquarters on the afternoon of July 25. The first word was merely that the Fascist Grand Council had met, and Hitler wondered why. "What's the use of councils like that?" he asked. "What do they do except jabber?"

That evening his worst fears were confirmed. "The Duce has resigned," he announced to his astounded military advisers at a conference that began at 9:30 P.M. "Badoglio, our most bitter enemy, has taken over the government."

For one of the last times of the war Hitler reacted to the news with that ice-cold judgment which he had displayed in crises in earlier and more successful days. When General Jodl urged that they wait for more complete reports from Rome, Hitler cut him short.

Certainly [he said], but still we have to plan ahead. Undoubtedly in their treachery they will proclaim that they will remain loyal to us, but that is treachery. Of course they won't remain loyal ... Although that so-and-so [Badoglio] declared immediately that the war would be continued, that won't make any difference. They have to say that, but it remains treason. We'll play the same game while preparing everything to take over the whole crew with one stroke, to capture all that riffraff.

That was Hitler's first thought: to seize those who had overthrown Mussolini and restore the Duce to power.

Tomorrow [he went on] I'll send a man down there with orders for the commander of the Third Panzergrenadier Division to the effect that he must drive into Rome with a special detail and arrest the whole government, the King and the whole bunch right away. First of all, to arrest the Crown Prince and to take over the whole gang, especially Badoglio and that entire crew. Then watch them cave in, and in two or three days there'll be another coup.

Hitler turned to the OKW Chief of Operations.

HITLER: Jodl, work out the orders ... telling them to drive into Rome with their assault guns ... and to arrest the government, the King, and the whole crew. I want the Crown Prince above all.

KEITEL: He is more important than the old man.

BODENSCHATZ [a general of the Luftwaffe]: That has to be organized so that they can be packed into a plane and flown away.

HITLER: Right into a plane and off with them.

BODENSCHATZ: Don't let the Bambino get lost at the airfield.

At a later conference shortly after midnight the question was raised as to what to do with the Vatican. Hitler answered it.

I'll go right into the Vatican. Do you think the Vatican embarrasses me? We'll take that over right away ... The entire diplomatic corps are in there ... That rabble ... We'll get that bunch of swine out of there ... Later we can make apologies ...

That night also Hitler gave orders to secure the Alpine passes, both between Italy and Germany and between Italy and France. Some eight German divisions from France and southern Germany were hastily assembled for this purpose and established as Army Group B under the command of the energetic Rommel. Had the Italians, as Goebbels noted in his diary, blown the Alpine tunnels and bridges, the German forces in Italy, some of them already heavily engaged in Sicily by Eisenhower's armies, would have been cut off from their source of supplies. They could not have held out for long.

But the Italians could not suddenly turn on the Germans overnight. Badoglio had first to establish contact with the Allies to see if he could get an armistice and Allied support against the Wehrmacht divisions. Hitler had been correct in assuming that that was exactly what Badoglio would do, but he had no inkling it would take as long as it did. Indeed, this assumption dominated the discussion at a war conference at the Fuehrer's headquarters on July 27 attended by most of the bigwigs in the Nazi government and armed forces, among them Goering, Goebbels, Himmler, Rommel and the new Commander in Chief of the Navy, Admiral Karl Doenitz -- who had succeeded Grand Admiral Raeder in January, when the latter had fallen from favor. [ii] Most of the generals, led by Rommel, urged caution, arguing that any contemplated action in Italy be carefully prepared and well thought out. Hitler wanted to move at once even though it meant withdrawing key panzer divisions from the Eastern front, where the Russians had just launched (July 15) their first summer offensive of the war. For once the generals seem to have had their way and Hitler was persuaded to withhold action. In the meantime as many German troops as could be rounded up would be rushed over the Alps into Italy. Goebbels took a dim view of the hesitancy of the generals.

They don't take into account [he wrote in his diary after the war powwow] what the enemy is going to do. Undoubtedly the English won't wait a week while we consider and prepare for action.

He and Hitler need not have worried. The Allies waited not a week, but six weeks. By then Hitler had his plans and the forces to carry them out ready.

In his feverish mind he had in fa~t hastily conceived the plans by the time the war conference on July 27 convened. There were four of them: (I) Operation Eiche ("Oak") provided for the rescue of Mussolini either by the Navy, if he were located on an island, or by Luftwaffe parachutists, if he were found on the mainland; (2) Operation Student called for the sudden occupation of Rome and the restoration of Mussolini's government there; (3) Operation Schwarz ("Black") was the code name for the military occupation of all of Italy; (4) Operation Achse ("Axis") envisaged the capture or destruction of the Italian fleet. Later the last two operations were combined under the code name of "Axis."

Two events early in September J 943 set the Fuehrer's plans in operation. On September 3 Allied troops landed on the boot of southern Italy, and on September 8 public announcement was made of the armistice (secretly signed on September 3) between Italy and the Western Powers.

Hitler had flown to Zaporozhe in the Ukraine that day to try to restore the sagging German front, but, according to Goebbels, he had been seized "by a queer feeling of unrest" and had returned that evening to Rastenburg headquarters in East Prussia, where the news awaited him that his principal ally had deserted. Though he had expected it and prepared for it, the actual timing took him by surprise and for several hours there was great confusion at headquarters. The Germans had first learned of the Italian armistice from a BBC broadcast from London, and when Jodi put through a call from Rastenburg to Field Marshal Kesselring at Frascati, near Rome, to ask if it were true the commander of the German armies in southern Italy confessed that it was news to him. However, Kesselring, whose headquarters that morning had been destroyed by an Allied bombing and who was preoccupied with rounding up troops to meet a new Allied landing somewhere on the west coast, was able to get out the code word "Axis," which set in motion the plans to disarm the Italian Army and occupy the country.

For a day or two the situation of the German forces in central and south Italy was extremely critical. Five Italian divisions faced two German divisions in the vicinity of Rome. If the powerful Allied invasion fleet which had appeared off Naples on September 8 moved north and landed near the capital and was reinforced by parachutists seizing the nearby airfields, as Kesselring and his staff at first expected, the course of the war in Italy would have taken a different turn than it did and final disaster might have overtaken the Third Reich a year earlier than happened. Kesselring later contended that on the evening of the eighth Hitler and OKW "wrote off" his entire force of eight divisions as irretrievably lost. [5] Two days later Hitler told Goebbels that southern Italy was lost and that a new line would have to be established north of Rome in the Apennines.

But the Al1ied Command did not take advantage of its complete command of the sea, which permitted it to make landings almost anywhere on both coasts of Italy, nor did it exploit its overwhelming air superiority, as the Germans had feared. Moreover, no effort seems to have been made by Eisenhower's Command to try to utilize the large Italian forces in conjunction with its own, especially the five Italian divisions in the vicinity of Rome. Had Eisenhower done so -- at least such was the contention of both Kesselring and his chief of staff, General Siegfried Westphal, later -- the predicament of the Germans would have become hopeless. It was simply beyond their powers, they declared, to fight off Montgomery's army advancing up the peninsula from the "boot," throw back General Mark Clark's invasion force, wherever it landed, and deal with the large Italian armed formations in their midst and in their rear. [iii] [6]

Both generals breathed a sigh of relief when the American Fifth Army landed not near Rome but south of Naples, at Salerno, and when the Allied parachutists failed to appear over the Rome airfields. Their relief was all the greater when the Italian divisions surrendered almost without firing a shot and were disarmed. It meant that the Germans could easily hold Rome and, for the time being, even Naples. This gave them possession of two thirds of Italy, including the industrial north, whose factories were put to work turning out arms for Germany. Almost miraculously Hitler had received a new lease on life. [iv]

Italy's withdrawal from the war had embittered him. It was, he told Goebbels, who had again been summoned to Rastenburg, "a gigantic example of swinishness." Moreover, the overthrow of Mussolini made him apprehensive of his own position. "The Fuehrer," Goebbels noted in his diary on September 11, "invoked final measures to preclude similar developments with us once and for all."

In his broadcast to the nation on the evening of September 10, which Goebbels had persuaded him to make only after much pleading -- "The people are entitled to a word of encouragement and solace from the Fuehrer in this difficult crisis," the Propaganda Minister told him -- Hitler spoke somewhat defiantly on the subject:

Hope of finding traitors here rests on complete ignorance of the character of the National Socialist State; a belief that they can bring about a July 25 in Germany rests on a fundamental illusion as to my personal position, as well as to the attitude of my political collaborators and my field marshals, admirals and generals.

Actually, as we shall see, there were a few German generals and a handful of former political collaborators who were beginning once more, as the military setbacks mounted, to harbor treasonable thoughts, which, when the next July rolled around, would be translated into an act more violent but less successful than that carried out against Mussolini.

One of Hitler's measures to quash any incipient treason was to order all German princes discharged from the Wehrmacht. Prince Philip of Hesse, the former messenger boy of the Fuehrer to Mussolini, who had been hanging around headquarters, was arrested and turned over to the tender mercies of the Gestapo. His wife, Princess Mafalda, the daughter of the King of Italy, was also arrested and, with her husband, incarcerated in a concentration camp. The King of Italy, like the kings of Norway and Greece, had escaped the clutches of Hitler, who took what revenge he could by arresting his daughter. [v]

For several weeks the Fuehrer's daily military conferences had devoted a great deal of time to a problem that burned in Hitler's mind: the rescue of Mussolini. "Operation Oak," it will be remembered, was the code name for this plan, and in the records of the conferences at headquarters Mussolini was always referred to as "the valuable object." Most of the generals and even Goebbels doubted whether the former Duce was any longer a very valuable object, but Hitler still thought so and insisted on his liberation.

He not only wanted to do a favor to his old friend, for whom he still felt a personal affection. He also had it in mind to set up Mussolini as head of a new Fascist government in northern Italy, which would relieve the Germans of having to administer the territory and help safeguard his long lines of supply and communication against an unfriendly populace from whose midst troublesome partisans were now beginning to emerge.

By August 1, Admiral Doenitz was reporting to Hitler that the Navy believed it had spotted Mussolini on the island of Ventotene. By the middle of August Himmler's sleuths were sure the Duce was on another island, Maddalena, near the northern tip of Sardinia. Elaborate plans were made to descend upon the island with destroyers and parachutists, but before they could be carried out Mussolini had again been moved. According to a secret clause of the armistice agreement he was to be turned over to the Allies, but for some reason Badoglio delayed in doing this and early in September the "valuable object" was spirited away to a hotel on top of the Gran Sasso d'Italia, the highest range in the Abruzzi Apennines, which could be reached only by a funicular railway.

The Germans soon learned of his whereabouts, made an aerial reconnaissance of the mountaintop and decided that glider troops could probably make a landing, overcome the carabinieri guards and make away with the Duce in a small Fieseler-Storch plane. This daring plan was carried out on September 13 under the leadership of another one of Himmler's resourceful S.S. intellectual roughnecks, an Austrian by the name of Otto Skorzeny, who will appear again toward the very end of this narrative in another daredevil exploit. [vi] Virtually kidnaping an Italian general, whom he packed into his glider, Skorzeny landed his airborne force a hundred yards from the mountaintop hotel, where he espied the Duce looking out hopefully from a second-story window. Most of the carabinieri, at the sight of German troops, took to the hills, and the few who didn't were dissuaded by Skorzeny and Mussolini from making use of their arms, the S.S. leader yelling at them not to fire on an Italian general -- he pushed his captive officer to the front of his ranks -- and the Duce shouting from his window, as one eyewitness remembered, "Don't shoot, anybody! Don't shed any blood!" And not a drop was shed.

Within a few minutes the overjoyed Fascist leader, who had sworn he would kill himself rather than fall into Allied hands and be exhibited, as he later wrote, in Madison Square Garden in New York,[vii] was bundled into a tiny Fieseler-Storch plane and after a perilous take-off from a small rock-strewn meadow below the hotel flown to Rome and from there, the same evening, to Vienna in a Luftwaffe transport aircraft. [7]

Though Mussolini was grateful for his rescue and embraced Hitler warmly when they met a couple of days later at Rastenburg, he was by now a broken man, the old fires within him turned to ashes, and much to Hitler's disappointment he showed little stomach for reviving the Fascist regime in German-occupied Italy. The Fuehrer made no attempt to hide his disillusionment with his old Italian friend in a long talk with Goebbels toward the end of September.

The Duce [Goebbels confided to his diary after the talk] has not drawn the moral conclusions from Italy's catastrophe that the Fuehrer had expected of him ... The Fuehrer expected that the first thing the Duce would do would be to wreak full vengeance on his betrayers. But he gave no such indication and thereby showed his real limitations. He is not a revolutionary like the Fuehrer or Stalin. He is so bound to his own Italian people that he lacks the broad qualities of a world-wide revolutionary and insurrectionist.

Hitler and Goebbels were also incensed that Mussolini had had a reconciliation with Ciano and seemed to be under the thumb of his daughter, Edda, who was Ciano's wife -- both of them had found refuge in Munich. [viii] They though: he should have had Ciano immediately executed and Edda, as Goebbels put it, whipped. [ix] They objected to Mussolini's putting Ciano -- "that poisoned mushroom," Goebbels called him -- in the forefront of the new Fascist Republican Party.

For Hitler had insisted that the Duce immediately create such a party, and on September 15, at the Fuehrer's prodding, Mussolini proclaimed the new Italian Social Republic.

It never amounted to anything. Mussolini's heart was not in it. Perhaps he retained enough sense of reality to see that he was now merely a puppet of Hitler, that he and his "Fascist Republican Government" had no power except what the Fuehrer gave them in Germany's interests and that the Italian people would never again accept him and Fascism.

He never returned to Rome. He set himself up at an isolated spot in the extreme north -- at Rocca delle Caminate, near Gargnano, on the shores of Lake Garda, where he was closely guarded by a special detachment of the S.S. Leibstandarte. To this beautiful lake resort Sepp Dietrich, the veteran S.S. tough, who was detached from his reeling 1st S.S. Armored Corps in Russia for the purpose -- such were the goings on in the Third Reich -- escorted Mussolini's notorious mistress, Clara Petacci. With his true love once more in his arms, the fallen dictator seemed to care for little else in life. Goebbels, who had had not one mistress but many, professed to be shocked.

The personal conduct of the Duce with his girl friend [Goebbels noted in his diary on November 9], whom Sepp Dietrich had to bring to him, is cause for much misgiving.

A few days before, Goebbels had noted that Hitler had begun "to write off the Duce politically." But not before, it should be added, the Fuehrer forced him to "cede" Trieste, Istria and the South Tyrol to Germany with the understanding that Venice would be added later on. Now no humiliation was spared this once proud tyrant. Hitler brought pressure on him to arrest his son-in-law, Ciano, in November, and to have him executed in the jail at Verona on January 11, 1944. [x]

By the early autumn of 1943, Adolf Hitler could well claim to have mastered the gravest threats to the Third Reich. The fall of Mussolini and the unconditional surrender of the Badoglio government in Italy might easily have led, as Hitler and his generals for a few crucial weeks feared, to exposing the southern borders of Germany to direct Allied attack and opening the way -- from northern Italy -- into the weakly held Balkans in the very rear of the German armies fighting for their lives in southern Russia. The meek departure of the Duce from the seat of power in Rome was a severe blow to the Fuehrer's prestige both at home and abroad, as was the consequent destruction of the Axis alliance. Yet within a couple of months Hitler, by a daring stroke, had restored Mussolini -- at least in the eyes of the world. The Italian areas of occupation in the Balkans, in Greece, Yugoslavia and Albania, were secured against Allied attack, which OKW had expected any day that late summer; the Italian forces there, amounting to several divisions, surrendered meekly and were made prisoners of war. And instead of having to write off Kesselring's forces, as he had first done, and retreating to northern Italy, the Fuehrer had the satisfaction of seeing the Field Marshal's armies digging in south of Rome, where they easily halted the advance of the Anglo-American-French troops up the peninsula. There was no disputing that Hitler's fortunes in the south had been considerably restored by his daring and resourcefulness and by the prowess of his troops.

Elsewhere, though, his fortunes continued to fall.

On July 5, 1943, he had launched what was to prove his last great offensive of the war against the Russians. The flower of the German Army -- some 500,000 men with no less than seventeen panzer divisions, outfitted with the new heavy Tiger tanks -- was hurled against a large Russian salient west of Kursk. This was "Operation Citadel" and Hitler believed it would not only entrap the best of the Russian armies, one million strong -- the very forces which had driven the Germans from Stalingrad and the Don the winter before -- but enable him to push back to the Don and perhaps even to the Volga and swing up from the southeast to capture Moscow.

It led to a decisive defeat. The Russians were prepared for it. By July 22, the panzers having lost half of their tanks, the Germans were brought to a complete halt and started to fall back. So confident of their strength were the Russians that without waiting for the outcome of the offensive they launched one of their own against the German salient at Orel, north of Kursk, in the middle of July, quickly penetrating the front. This was the first Russian summer offensive of the war and from this moment on the Red armies never lost the initiative. On August 4 they pushed the Germans out of Orel, which had been the southern hinge of the German drive to capture Moscow in December 1941.

Now the Soviet offensive spread along the entire front. Kharkov fell on August 23. A month later, on September 25, three hundred miles to the northwest, the Germans were driven out of Smolensk, from which city they, like the Grande Armee, had set out so confidently in the first months of the Russian campaign on the high road to Moscow. By the end of September Hitler's hard-pressed armies in the south had fallen back to the line of the Dnieper and a defensive line they had established from Zaporozhe at the bend of the river south to the Sea of Azov. The industrial Donets basin had been lost and the German Seventeenth Army in the Crimea was in danger of being cut off.

Hitler was confident that his armies could hold on the Dnieper and on the fortified positions south of Zaporozhe which together formed the so-called "Winter Line." But the Russians did not pause even for regrouping. In the first week of October they crossed the Dnieper north and southeast of Kiev, which fell on November 6. By the end of the fateful year of 1943 the Soviet armies in the south were approaching the Polish and Rumanian frontiers past the battlefields where the soldiers of Hitler had achieved their early victories in the summer of 1941 as they romped toward the interior of the Russian land.

This was not all.

There were two other setbacks to Hitler's fortunes that year which also marked the turning of the tide: the loss of the Battle of the Atlantic and the intensification of the devastating air war day and night over Germany itself.

In 1942, as we have seen, German submarines sank 6,250,000 tons of Allied shipping, most of it bound for Britain or the Mediterranean, a tonnage which far outstripped the capacity of the shipyards in the West to make good. But by the beginning of 1943 the Allies had gained the upper hand over the V-boats, thanks to an improved technique of using long-range aircraft and aircraft carriers and, above all, of equipping their surface vessels with radar which spotted the enemy submarines before the latter could sight them. Doenitz, the new commander of the Navy and the top U-boat man in the service, at first suspected treason when so many of his underwater craft were ambushed and destroyed before they could even approach the Allied convoys. He quickly learned that it was not treason but radar which was causing the disastrous losses. In the three months of February, March and April they had amounted to exactly fifty vessels; in May alone, thirty-seven U-boats were sunk. This was a rate of loss which the German Navy could not long sustain, and before the end of May Doenitz, on his own authority, withdrew all submarines from the North Atlantic.

They returned in September but in the last four months of the year sank only sixty-seven Allied vessels against the loss of sixty-four more submarines -- a ratio which spelled the doom of V-boat warfare and definitely settled the Battle of the Atlantic. In 1917 in the First World War, when her armies had become stalled, Germany's submarines had almost brought Britain to her knees. They were threatening to accomplish this in 1942, when Hitler's armies in Russia and North Africa had also been stopped, and when the United States and Great Britain were straining themselves not only to halt the drive of the Japanese in Southeast Asia but to assemble men and arms and supplies for the invasion of Hitler's European empire in the West.

Their failure to seriously disrupt the North Atlantic shipping lanes during 1943 was a bigger disaster than was realized at Hitler's headquarters, depressing though the actual news was. [xi] For it was during the twelve months of that crucial year that the vast stocks of weapons and supplies were ferried almost unmolested across the Atlantic which made the assault of Fortress Europe possible in the following year.

And it was during that period too that the horrors of modem war were brought home to the German people -- brought home to them on their own doorsteps. The public knew little of how the U-boats were doing. And though the news from Russia, the Mediterranean and Italy grew increasingly bad, it dealt after all with events that were transpiring hundreds or thousands of miles distant from the homeland. But the bombs from the British planes by night and the American planes by day were now beginning to destroy a German's home, and the office or factory where he worked.

Hitler himself declined ever to visit a bombed-out city; it was a duty which seemed simply too painful for him to endure. Goebbels was much distressed at this, complaining that he was being flooded with letters "asking why the Fuehrer does not visit the distressed air areas and why Goering isn't to be seen anywhere." The Propaganda Minister's diary authoritatively describes the growing damage to German cities and industries from the air.

May 16, 1943.... The day raids by American bombers are creating extraordinary difficulties. At Kiel ... very serious damage to military and technical installations of the Navy ... If this continues we shall have to face serious consequences which in the long run will prove unbearable ...

May 25. The night raid of the English on Dortmund was extraordinarily heavy, probably the worst ever directed against a German city ... Reports from Dortmund are pretty horrible ... Industrial and munition plants have been hit very hard ... Some eighty to one hundred thousand inhabitants without shelter ... The people in the West are gradually beginning to lose courage. Hell like that is hard to bear ... In the evening I received a [further] report on Dortmund. Destruction is virtually total. Hardly a house is habitable ...

July 26. During the night a heavy raid on Hamburg ... with most serious consequences both for the civilian population and for armaments production . . It is a real catastrophe ...

July 29. During the night we had the heaviest raid yet made on Hamburg .. with 800 to 1,000 bombers ... Kaufmann [the local Gauleiter] gave me a first report ... He spoke of a catastrophe the extent of which simply staggers the imagination. A city of a million inhabitants has been destroyed in a manner unparalleled in history. We are faced with problems that are almost impossible of solution. Food must be found for this population of a million. Shelter must be secured. The people must be evacuated as far as possible. They must be given clothing. In short, we are facing problems there of which we had no conception even a few weeks ago. Kaufmann spoke of some 800,000 homeless people who are wandering up and down the streets not knowing what to do ...

Although considerable damage was done to specific German war plants, especially to those turning out fighter planes, ball bearings, naval ships, steel, and fuel for the new jets, and to the vital rocket experimental station at Peenemunde on which Hitler had set such high hopes, [xii] and though rail and canal transport were continually disrupted, over-all German armament production was not materially reduced during the stepped-up Anglo- American bombings of 1943. This was partly due to the increased output of factories in the occupied zones -- above all, those in Czechoslovakia, France, Belgium and northern Italy, which escaped bombing.

The greatest damage inflicted by the Anglo-American air forces, as Goebbels makes clear in his diary, was to the homes and the morale of the German people. In the first war years they had been buoyed up, as this writer remembers, by the lurid reports of what Luftwaffe bombing had done to the enemy, especially to the British. They were sure it would help bring the war to an early -- and victorious -- end. Now, in 1943, they themselves began to bear the full brunt of air warfare far more devastating than any the Luftwaffe had dealt to others, even to the populace of London in 1940-41. The German people endured it as bravely and as stoically as the British people had done. But after four years of war it was all the more a severe strain, and it is not surprising that as 1943 approached its end, with all its blasted hopes in Russia, in North Africa and in Italy, and with their own cities from one end of the Reich to the other being pulverized from the air, the German people began to despair and to realize that this was the beginning of the end that could only spell their defeat.

"Toward the end of 1943 at the latest," the now unemployed General Halder would later write, "it had become unmistakably clear that the war was militarily lost." [9]

General Jodl, in a gloomy off-the-record lecture to the Nazi gauleiters in Munich on November 7, 1943 -- the eve of the anniversary of the Beer Hall Putsch -- did not go quite so far. But the picture he painted of the situation at the beginning of the fifth year of the war was dark enough.

What weighs most heavily today on the home front and consequently by reaction on the front line [he said] is the enemy terror raids from the air on our homes and so on our wives and children. In this respect ... the war has assumed forms solely through the fault of England such as were believed to be no longer possible since the days of the racial and religious wars.

The effect of these terror raids, psychological, moral and material, is such that they must be relieved if they cannot be made to cease completely.

The state of German morale as the result of the defeats and the bombings of 1943 was vividly described by this authoritative source, who on this occasion was speaking for the Fuehrer.

Up and down the country the devil of subversion strides. All the cowards are seeking a way out, or -- as they call it -- a political solution. They say we must negotiate while there is still something in hand ...[xiii]

It wasn't only the "cowards." Dr. Goebbels himself, the most loyal and faithful -- and fanatical -- of Hitler's followers, was, as his diary reveals, seeking a way out before this year of 1943 was ended, racking his brains not over whether Germany should negotiate for peace but with whom -- with Russia or with the West. He did not talk behind Hitler's back about the necessity of searching for peace, as certain others had begun to do. He was courageous and open enough to pour out his thoughts directly to the Leader. On September 10, 1943, while at the Fuehrer's headquarters at Rastenburg, whither he had been summoned on the news of Italy's capitulation, Goebbels broached the subject of possible peace negotiations for the first time in his diary.

The problem begins to present itself as to which side we ought to turn to first -- the Muscovite or the Anglo-American. Somehow we must realize clearly that it will be very difficult to wage war successfully against both sides.

He found Hitler "somewhat worried" over the prospect of an Allied invasion in the West and the "critical" situation on the Russian front.

The depressing thing is that we haven't the faintest idea as to what Stalin has left in the way of reserves. I doubt very much whether under these conditions we shall be able to transfer divisions from the East to the other European theaters of war.

Having put down some of his own ideas -- which would have seemed treasonably defeatist to him a few months before -- in his confidential diary, Goebbels then approached Hitler.

I asked the Fuehrer whether anything might be done with Stalin sooner or later. He said not for the moment ... And anyway, the Fuehrer believes it would be easier to make a deal with the English than with the Soviets. At a given moment, the Fuehrer believes, the English would come to their senses ... I am rather inclined to regard Stalin as more approachable, for Stalin is more of a practical politician than Churchill. Churchill is a romantic adventurer, with whom one can't talk sensibly.

It was at this dark moment in their affairs that Hitler and his lieutenants began to clutch at a straw of hope: that the Allies would fall out, that Britain and America would become frightened of the prospect of the Red armies overrunning Europe and in the end join Germany to protect the old Continent from Bolshevism. Hitler had dealt at some length on this possibility in a conference with Doenitz in August, and now in September he and Goebbels discussed it.

The English [Goebbels added in his diary] don't want a Bolshevik Europe under any circumstances ... Once they realize that ... they have a choice only between Bolshevism or relaxing somewhat toward National Socialism they will no doubt show an inclination toward a compromise with us ... Churchill himself is an old anti-Bolshevik and his collaboration with Moscow today is only a matter of expediency.

Both Hitler and Goebbels seemed to have forgotten who collaborated with Moscow in the first place and who forced Russia into the war. Summing up the discussion of a possible peace with Hitler, Goebbels concluded:

Sooner or later we shall have to face the question of inclining toward one enemy side or the other. Germany has never yet had luck with a two-front war; it won't be able to stand this one in the long run either.

But was it not late in the day to ponder this? Goebbels returned to headquarters on September 23 and in the course of a morning stroll with the Nazi leader found him much more pessimistic than a fortnight before about the possibility of negotiating for peace with one side so that he could enjoy a one-front war.

The Fuehrer does not believe that anything can be achieved at present by negotiation. England is not yet groggy enough ... In the East, naturally, the present moment is quite unfavorable ... At present Stalin has the advantage.

That evening Goebbels dined with Hitler alone.

I asked the Fuehrer whether he would be ready to negotiate with Churchill . . He does not believe that negotiations with Churchill would lead to any result as he is too deeply wedded to his hostile views and, besides, is guided by hatred and not by reason. The Fuehrer would prefer negotiations with Stalin, but he does not believe they would be successful ...

Whatever may be the situation, I told the Fuehrer that we must come to an arrangement with one side or the other. The Reich has never yet won a two-front war. We must therefore see how we can somehow or other get out of a two-front war.

This was a task far more difficult than they seem to have realized, they who had so lightly plunged Germany into a two-front war. But on that September evening of 1943, at least for a few moments, the Nazi warlord finally shed his pessimism and ruminated on how sweet peace would taste. According to Goebbels, he even said he "yearned" for peace.

He said he would be happy to have contact with artistic circles again, to go to the theater in the evening and to visit the Artists' Club. [11]

Hitler and Goebbels were not the only ones in Germany who, as the war entered its fifth year, speculated on the chances and means of procuring peace. The frustrated, talkative anti-Nazi conspirators, their numbers somewhat larger now but still pitifully small, were again giving the problem some thought, now that they saw the war was lost though Hitler's armies still fought on foreign soil. Most of them, but by no means all, had come reluctantly, and only after overcoming the greatest qualms of conscience, to the conclusion that to get a peace for Germany which would leave the Fatherland with some prospect for decent survival they would have to remove Hitler by killing him and at the same time wipe out National Socialism.

As 1944 came, with the certainty that the Anglo-American armies would launch an invasion across the Channel before the year was very far along and that the Red armies would be approaching the frontiers of the Reich itself and that the great and ancient cities of Germany would soon be reduced to utter rubble by the Allied bombing, [xiv] the plotters in their desperation girded themselves to make one final attempt to murder the Nazi dictator and overthrow his regime before it dragged Germany over the precipice to complete disaster.

They knew there was not much time.



i. "I was completely free of any forebodings," Mussolini wrote later in describing his state of mind as he set out for the palace. King Victor Emmanuel lost no time in bringing him down to earth.

"My dear Duce," Mussolini quotes him as saying at the outset, "it's no longer any good. Italy has gone to bits ... The soldiers don't want to fight any more ... At this moment you are the most hated man in Italy ... "

"You are making an extremely grave decision," Mussolini says he replied. But even by his own account he made little attempt to induce the monarch to change his mind. He ended by "wishing luck" to his successor. (Mussolini, Memoirs, 1942-1943, pp. 80-81.)

ii. Hitler had become furious with Raeder, who had commanded the German Navy since 1928, for the Navy's failure to destroy Allied convoys to Russia in the Arctic Ocean and for heavy losses suffered there. In a hysterical outburst at headquarters on January 1, the warlord had ordered the immediate decommissioning of the German High Seas Fleet. The vessels were to be broken up for scrap. On January 6 there was a stormy showdown between Hitler and Raeder at the Wolfsschanze headquarters. The Fuehrer accused the Navy of inaction and lack of the will to fight and take risks. Raeder thereupon asked to be relieved of his command, and his resignation was formally and publicly accepted on January 30. Doenitz, the new Commander in Chief, had been commander of U-boats, knew little of the problems of surface vessels and henceforth concentrated on submarine warfare.

iii. According to Captain Harry C. Butcher, Eisenhower's naval aide, both the  American and British chiefs of staff, General George C. Marshall and Field Marshal  Sir John G. Dill, complained that Eisenhower was not showing sufficient initiative  in pressing forward in Italy. Butcher points out, in defense of his chief, that insufficient  landing craft limited Eisenhower's plans and that to have launched a seaborne invasion as far north as the vicinity of Rome would have put the operation beyond the range of Allied fighter planes, which had to take off from Sicily. Eisenhower himself points out that after the capture of Sicily he was ordered to return seven divisions, four American and three British, to England in preparation for the Channel invasion, which left him woefully short of troops. Butcher also states that Eisenhower originally planned to drop airborne troops on the Rome airfields to help the Italians defend the capital against the Germans, but that at the last minute Badoglio begged that this operation be "suspended temporarily." General Maxwell D. Taylor, who at great personal risk had secretly gone to Rome to confer with Badoglio, reported that because of Italian defeatism and German strength the dropping of an American airborne division there appeared to be suicidal. (See Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe, p. 189, and Butcher, My Three Years with Eisenhower, pp. 407-25.)

iv. The King, Badoglio and the government, much to Hitler's anger, escaped from Rome and a little later established themselves in Allied-liberated southern Italy. Most of the Italian fleet also got away to Malta despite intricate plans of Admiral Doenitz to capture or destroy it.

v. Hitler had never cared for her personally. "I had to sit next to Mafalda," he told  his generals during a military conference at headquarters in May that year. "What  do I care about Mafalda? ... Her intellectual qualities aren't such that she would  charm you -- to say nothing of her looks." (From the secret records of Hitler's daily  military conferences, in Felix Gilbert's Hitler Directs His War, p. 37.)
vi. Skorzeny had been summoned to the Fuehrer's headquarters for the first time in his life the day after Mussolini's fall and personally assigned by Hitler to carry out the rescue.

vii. Just before Mussolini was liberated Captain Harry Butcher reported receiving a cablegram at Eisenhower's headquarters from a theater chain in Cape Town offering to donate ten thousand pounds to charity "if you arrange for Mussolini's personal appearance on the stages of our Cape Town theatres. Three weeks' engagement." (Butcher, My Three Years with Eisenhower, p. 423.)

viii. Actually, or at least according to a letter which Ciano later wrote to King Victor Emmanuel, he was tricked into coming to Germany in August by the Germans, who had informed him that his children were in danger and that the German government would be happy to convey him and his family to Spain -- via Germany. (The Ciano Diaries, p. v.)

ix. "Edda Mussolini," Goebbels wrote in his diary, "is acting like a wildcat in her Bavarian villa. She smashes china and furniture on the slightest provocation." (The Goebbels Diaries, p. 479.)

x. Ciano's last diary entry is dated "December 23, 1943, Cell 27, Verona Jail." It is a moving piece. How he smuggled this last note as well as a letter of the same date to the King of Italy out of his death cell I do not know. But he remarks that he had hidden the rest of the diary before the Germans got him. The papers were smuggled out of German-occupied Italy by Edda Ciano, who, disguised as a peasant woman and concealing the papers under her skirt, succeeded in getting over the border into Switzerland.

All the other Fascist leaders who had voted against the Duce in the Grand Council and whom the Duce could get his hands on were tried for treason by a special tribunal and, with one exception, sentenced to death and shot along with Ciano. Among them was one of the Duce's erstwhile staunchest followers, Marshal Emilio de Bono, one of the quadrumvirate who had led the march on Rome which put Mussolini in power.
xi. "There can be no talk of a letup in submarine warfare," Hitler had stormed at Admiral Doenitz when on May 31 the latter informed him that the U-boats had been withdrawn from the North Atlantic. "The Atlantic," he added, "is my first line of defense in the West."

It was easier said than done. On November 12 Doenitz wrote despairingly in his diary: "The enemy holds every trump card, covering all areas with long-range air patrols and using location methods against which we still have no warning ... The enemy knows all our secrets and we know none of his." [8]

xii. In May 1943, an R.A.F. reconnaissance plane had photographed the Peenemunde installation following a tip to London from the Polish underground that both a pilotless jet-propelled aircraft (later known as the V-1, or buzz bomb) and a rocket (the V-2) were being developed there. In August British bombers attacked Peenemunde, badly damaging the installation and setting back research and tests by several months. By November the British and American air forces had located sixty-three launching sites for the V-1 on the Channel and between December and the following February bombed and destroyed seventy-three of the sites, which by that time had increased to ninety-six. The terms "V-1" and "V-2" came from the German word Vergeltungswaffen, or weapons of reprisal, of which Dr. Goebbels' propaganda was to make so much of in the dark year of 1944.

xiii. Jodl's lecture, entitled "The Strategic Position in the Beginning of the Fifth Year  of the War," is perhaps the most exhaustive firsthand account we have of the  German predicament at the end of 1943 as seen by Hitler and his generals. It is  more than a mere confidential lecture to the Nazi political leaders. It is studded with  dozens of highly secret memoranda and documents stamped "Fuehrer's GHQ" to  which Jodl referred in his talk and which, taken together, give a revealing history of  the war as it appeared to the Fuehrer, who seems to have supervised the preparation  of the lecture. Gloomy though he was as to the present, Jodl was even more discouraging  about the future, correctly predicting that the coming Anglo-American  invasion in the West "will decide the war" and that "the forces at our disposal will  not be adequate" to repel it. [10]
xiv. "The work of a thousand years is nothing but rubble," wrote Goerdeler to Field  Marshal von Kluge in July 1943, after visiting the bombed-out areas in the west.  In his letter Goerdeler beseeched the vacillating general to join the conspirators in  putting an end to Hitler and his "madness."
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Re: The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi

Postby admin » Fri Feb 16, 2018 12:08 am

Part 1 of 4


THE CONSPIRATORS had made at least half a dozen attempts to assassinate Hitler during 1943, one of which had miscarried only when a time bomb, planted in the Fuehrer's airplane during a flight behind the Russian front, failed to explode.

A considerable change had taken place that year in the resistance movement, such as it was. The plotters had finally given up on the field marshals. They were simply too cowardly -- or thickheaded -- to use their position and military power to overthrow their Supreme warlord. At a secret meeting in November 1942 in the forest of Smolensk, Goerdeler, the political spark plug of the resisters, had pleaded personally with Field Marshal von Kluge, the commander of Army Group Center in the East, to take an active part in getting rid of Hitler. The unstable General, who had just accepted a handsome gift from the Fuehrer, [i] assented, but a few days later got cold feet and wrote to General Beck in Berlin to count him out.

A few weeks later the plotters tried to induce General Paulus, whose Sixth Army was surrounded at Stalingrad and who, they presumed, was bitterly disillusioned with the Leader who had made this possible, to issue an appeal to the Army to overthrow the tyrant who had condemned a quarter of a million German soldiers to such a ghastly end. A personal appeal from General Beck to Paulus to do this was flown into the beleaguered city by an Air Force officer. Paulus, as we have seen, responded by sending a flood of radio messages of devotion to his Fuehrer, experiencing an awakening only after he got to Moscow in Russian captivity.

For a few days the conspirators, disappointed by Paulus, pinned their hopes on Kluge and Manstein, who after the disaster of Stalingrad were flying to Rastenburg, it was understood, to demand that the Fuehrer turn over command of the Russian front to them. If successful, this demarche was to be a signal for a coup d'etat in Berlin. Once again the plotters were victims of their wishful thinking. The two field marshals did fly to Hitler's headquarters, but only to reaffirm their loyalty to the Supreme Commander.

"We are deserted," Beck complained bitterly.

It was obvious to him and his friends that they could expect no practical aid from the senior commanders at the front. In desperation they turned to the only remaining source of military power, the Ersatzheer, the Home or Replacement Army, which was scarcely an army at all but a collection of recruits in training and various garrison troops of overage men performing guard duty in the homeland. But at least its men were armed, and, with the fit troops and Waffen-S.S. units far away at the front, it might be sufficient to enable the conspirators to occupy Berlin and certain other key cities at the moment of Hitler's assassination.

But on the necessity -- or even the desirability -- of that lethal act, the opposition was still not entirely agreed.

The Kreisau Circle, for instance, was unalterably opposed to any such act of violence. This was a remarkable, heterogeneous group of young intellectual idealists gathered around the scions of two of Germany's most renowned and aristocratic families: Count Helmuth James von Moltke, a great-great-nephew of the Field Marshal who had led the Prussian Army to victory over France in 1870, and Count Peter Yorck von Wartenburg, a direct descendant of the famous General of the Napoleonic era who, with Clausewitz, had signed the Convention of Tauroggen with Czar Alexander I by which the Prussian Army changed sides and helped bring the downfall of Bonaparte.

Taking its name from the Moltke estate at Kreisau in Silesia, the Kreisau Circle was not a conspiratorial body but a discussion group [ii] whose members represented a cross section of German society as it had been in the pre-Nazi times and as they hoped it would be when the Hitlerite nightmare had passed. It included two Jesuit priests, two Lutheran pastors, conservatives, liberals, socialists, wealthy landowners, former trade-union leaders, professors and diplomats. Despite the differences in their backgrounds and thoughts they were able to find a broad common ground which enabled them to provide the intellectual, spiritual, ethical, philosophical and, to some extent, political ideas of the resistance to Hitler. Judging by the documents which they have left -- almost all of these men were hanged before the war's end -- which included plans for the future government and for the economic, social and spiritual foundations of the new society, what they aimed at was a sort of Christian socialism in which all men would be brothers and the terrible ills of modern times -- the perversions of the human spirit -- would be cured. Their ideals were noble, high in the white clouds, and to them was added a touch of German mysticism.

But these high-minded young men were unbelievably patient. They hated Hitler and all the degradation he had brought on Germany and Europe. But they were not interested in overthrowing him. They thought Germany's coming defeat would accomplish that. They turned their attention exclusively to the thereafter. "To us," Moltke wrote at the time, " ... Europe after the war is a question of how the picture of man can be re-established in the breasts of our fellow citizens."

Dorothy Thompson, the distinguished American journalist, who had been stationed for many years in Germany and knew it well, appealed to Moltke, an old and close friend of hers, to come down from the mountaintop. In a series of short-wave broadcasts from New York during the summer of 1942 addressed to "Hans" she begged him and his friends to do something to get rid of the demonic dictator. "We are not living in a world of saints, but of human beings," she tried to remind him.

The last time we met, Hans, and drank tea together on that beautiful terrace before the lake ... I said that one day you would have to demonstrate by deeds, drastic deeds, where you stood ... and I remember that I asked you whether you and your friends would ever have the courage to act ... [1]

It was a penetrating question, and the answer seems to have turned out to be that Moltke and his friends had the courage to talk -- for which they were executed -- but not to act.

This flaw in their minds rather than in their hearts -- for all of them met their cruel deaths with great bravery -- was the main cause of the differences between the Kreisau Circle and the Beck-Goerdeler-Hassell group of conspirators, though they also were in dispute about the nature and the make-up of the government which was to take over from the Nazi regime.

There were several meetings between them following a full-dress conference at the home of Peter Yorck on January 22, 1943, presided over by General Beck, who, as Hassell reported in his diary, "was rather weak and reserved." [2] A spirited argument developed between the "youngsters" and the "oldsters" -- Hassell's terms -- over future economic and social policy, with Moltke clashing with Goerdeler. Hassell thought the former mayor of Leipzig was quite "reactionary" and noted Moltke's "Anglo-Saxon and pacifist inclinations." The Gestapo also took note of this meeting and at the subsequent trials of the participants turned up a surprisingly detailed accoun~ of the discussions.

Himmler was already closer on the trail of the conspirators than any of them realized. But it is one of the ironies of this narrative that at this point, in 1943, with the prospect of victory lost and of defeat imminent, the mild-mannered, bloodthirsty S.S. Fuehrer, the master policeman of the Third Reich, began to take a personal and not altogether unfavorable interest in the resistance, with which he had more than one friendly contact. And it is indicative of the mentality of the plotters that more than one of them, Popitz especially, began to see in Himmler a possible replacement for Hitler! The S.S. chief, so seemingly fanatically loyal to the Fuehrer, began to see this himself, but until almost the end played a double game, in the course of which he snuffed out the life of many a gallant conspirator.

The resistance was now working in three fields. The Kreisau Circle was holding its endless talks to work out the millennium. The Beck group, more down to earth, was striving in some way to kill Hitler and take over power. And it was making contact with the West in order to apprise the democratic Allies of what was up and to inquire what kind of peace they would negotiate wi:h a new anti-Nazi government. [iii] These contacts were made in Stockholm and in Switzerland.

In the Swedish capital Goerdeler often saw the bankers Marcus and Jakob Wallenberg, with whom he had long been friends and who had intimate business and personal contacts in London. At one meeting in April 1942 with Jakob Wallenberg, Goerdeler urged him to get in touch with Churchill. The conspirators wanted in advance an assurance from the Prime Minister that the Allies would make peace with Germany if they arrested Hitler and overthrew the Nazi regime. Wallenberg replied that from what he knew of the British government no such assurance was possible.

A month later two Lutheran clergymen made direct contact with the British in Stockholm. These were Dr. Hans Schoenfeld, a member of the Foreign Relations Bureau of the German Evangelical Church, and Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, an eminent divine and an active conspirator, who on hearing that Dr. George Bell, the Anglican Bishop of Chichester, was visiting in Stockholm hastened there to see him -- Bonhoeffer traveling incognito on forged papers provided him by Colonel Oster of the Abwehr.

Both pastors informed the bishop of the plans of the conspirators and, as had Goerdeler, inquired whether the Western Allies would make a decent peace with a non-Nazi government once Hitler had been overthrown. They asked for an answer -- by either a private message or a public announcement. To impress the bishop that the anti-Hitler conspiracy was a serious business, Bonhoeffer furnished him with a list of the names of the leaders -- an indiscretion which later was to cost him his life and to help make certain the execution of many of the others.

This was the most authoritative and up-to-date information the Allies had had on the German opposition and its plans, and Bishop Bell promptly turned it over to Anthony Eden, the British Foreign Secretary, when he returned to London in June. But Eden, who had resigned this post in 1938 in protest against Chamberlain's appeasement of Hitler, was skeptical. Similar information had been conveyed to the British government by alleged German plotters since the time of Munich and nothing had come of it. No response was made. [4]

The German underground's contacts with the Allies in Switzerland were mainly through Allen Dulles, who headed the U.S. Office of Strategic Services there from November 1942 until the end of the war. His chief visitor was Hans Gisevius, who journeyed to Berne frequently from Berlin and who also was an active member of the conspiracy, as we have seen. Gisevius worked for the Abwehr and was actually posted to the German consulate general in Zurich as vice-consul. His chief function was to convey messages to Dulles from Beck and Goerdeler and to keep him informed of the progress of the various plots against Hitler. Other German visitors included Dr. Schoenfeld and Trott zu Solz, the latter a member of the Kreisau Circle and also of the conspiracy, who once journeyed to Switzerland to "warn" Dulles, as had so many others, that if the Western democracies refused to consider a decent peace with an anti-Nazi German regime the conspirators would turn to Soviet Russia. Dulles, though he was personally sympathetic, was unable to give any assurances. [5]

One marvels at these German resistance leaders who were so insistent on getting a favorable peace settlement from the West and so hesitant in getting rid of Hitler until they had got it. One would have thought that if they considered Nazism to be such a monstrous evil as they constantly contended -- no doubt sincerely -- they would have concentrated on trying to overthrow it regardless of how the West might treat their new regime. One gets the impression that a good many of these "good Germans" fell too easily into the trap of blaming the outside world for their own failures, as some of them had done for Germany's misfortunes after the first lost war and even for the advent of Hitler himself.


In February 1943, Goerdeler told Jakob Wallenberg in Stockholm that "they had plans for a coup in March."

They had.

The preparations for Operation Flash, as it was called, had been worked out during January and February by General Friedrich Olbricht, chief of the General Army Office (Allgemeines Heeresamt) and General von Tresckow, chief of staff of Kluge's Army Group Center in Russia. Olbricht, a deeply religious man, was a recent convert to the conspiracy, but, because of his new post, had rapidly become a key figure in it. As deputy to General Friedrich Fromm, commander of the Replacement Army, he was in a position to rally the garrisons in Berlin and the other large cities of the Reich behind the plotters. Fromm himself, like Kluge, was by now disillusioned with his Fuehrer but was not regarded as sufficiently trustworthy to be let in on the plot.

"We are ready. It is time for the Flash," Olbricht told young Fabian von Schlabrendorff, a junior officer on Tresckow's staff, at the end of February. Early in March the plotters met for a final conference at Smolensk, the headquarters of Army Group Center. Although not participating in the action, Admiral Canaris, the chief of the Abwehr, was aware of it and arranged the meeting, flying Hans von Dohnanyi and General Erwin Lahousen of his staff with him to Smolensk ostensibly for a conference of Wehrmacht intelligence officers. Lahousen, a former intelligence officer of the Austrian Army and the only plotter in the Abwehr to survive the war, brought along some bombs.

Schlabrendorff and Tresckow, after much experimenting, had found that German bombs were no good for their purpose. They worked, as the young officer later explained, [6] with a fuse that made a low hissing noise which gave them away. The British, they discovered, made a better bomb. "Prior to the explosion," Schlabrendorff says, "they made no noise of any kind." The R.A.F. had dropped a number of these weapons over occupied Europe to Allied agents for sabotage purposes -- one had been used to assassinate Heydrich -- and the Abwehr had collected several of them and turned them over to the conspirators.

The plan worked out at the Smolensk. meeting was to lure Hitler to the army group headquarters and there do away with him. This would be the signal for the coup in Berlin.

Enticing the warlord, who was now suspicious of most of his generals, into the trap was not an easy matter. But Tresckow prevailed upon an old friend, General Schmundt (as he now was), adjutant to Hitler, to work on his chief, and after some hesitation and more than one cancellation the Fuehrer agreed definitely to come to Smolensk on March 13, 1943. Schmundt himself knew nothing of the plot.

In the meantime Tresckow had been renewing his efforts to get his chief, Kluge, to take the lead in bumping off Hitler. He suggested to the Field Marshal that Lieutenant Colonel Freiherr von Boeselager, [iv] who commanded a cavalry unit at headquarters, be allowed to use it to mow Hitler and his bodyguard down when they arrived. Boeselager was more than willing. All he needed was an order from the Field Marshal. But the vacillating commander could not bring himself to give it. Tresckow and Schlabrendortf therefore decided to take matters into their own hands.

They would simply plant one of their British-made bombs in Hitler's plane on its return flight. "The semblance of an accident," Schlabrendorff later explained, "would avoid the political disadvantages of a murder. For in those days Hitler still had many followers who, after such an event, would have put up a strong resistance to our revolt."

Twice that afternoon and evening of March 13 after Hitler had arrived the two anti-Nazi officers were tempted to change their plan and set the bomb off, first in Kluge's personal quarters, where Hitler conferred with the top generals of the army group, and later in the officers' mess where the gathering supped. [v] But this would have killed some of the very generals who, once relieved of their personal oaths of allegiance to the Fuehrer, were counted upon to help the conspirators take over power in the Reich.

There still remained the task of smuggling the bomb onto the Fuehrer's plane, which was due to take off immediately after dinner. Schlabrendorff had assembled what he calls "two explosive packets" and made of them one parcel which resembled a couple of brandy bottles. During the repast Tresckow had innocently asked a Colonel Heinz Brandt of the Army General Staff, who was in Hitler's party, whether he would be good enough to take back a present of two bottles of brandy to his old friend General Helmuth Stieff, [vi] who was chief of the Organization Branch of the Army High Command. The unsuspecting Brandt said he would be glad to.

At the airfield Schlabrendorff nervously reached through a small opening in his parcel, started the mechanism of the time bomb and handed it to Brandt as he boarded the Fuehrer's plane. This was a cleverly built weapon. It had no telltale clockwork. When the young officer pressed on a button it broke a small bottle, releasing a corrosive chemical which then ate away a wire that held back a spring. When the wire gave out, the spring pressed forward the striker, which hit a detonator that exploded the bomb.

The crash, Schlabrendorff says, was expected shortly after Hitler's plane passed over Minsk, about thirty minutes' flying time from Smolensk. Feverish with excitement, he rang up Berlin and by code informed the conspirators that Flash had begun. Then he and Tresckow waited with pounding hearts for the great news. They expected the first word would come by radio from one of the fighter planes which was escorting the Fuehrer's plane. They counted off the minutes, twenty, thirty, forty, an hour ... and still there was no word. It came more than two hours later. A routine message said that Hitler had landed at Rastenburg.

We were stunned, and could not imagine the cause of the failure [Schlabrendorff later recounted]. I immediately rang up Berlin and gave the code word indicating that the attempt had miscarried. Then Tresckow and I consulted as to what action to take next. We were deeply shaken. It was serious enough that the attempt had not succeeded. But even worse would be the discovery of the bomb, which would unfailingly lead to our detection and the death of a wide circle of close collaborators.

The bomb was never discovered. That night Tresckow rang up Colonel Brandt, inquired casually whether he had had time to deliver his parcel to General Stieff and was told by Brandt that he had not yet got around to it. Tresckow told him to hold it -- there had been a mistake in the bottles -- and that Schlabrendorff would be arriving the next day on some official business and would bring the really good brandy that he had intended to send.

With incredible courage Schlabrendorff flew to Hitler's headquarters and exchanged a couple of bottles of brandy for the bomb.

I can still recall my horror [he later related] when Brandt handed me the bomb and gave it a jerk that made me fear a belated explosion. Feigning a composure I did not feel I took the bomb, immediately got into a car, and drove to the neighboring railway junction of Korschen.

There he caught the night train to Berlin and in the privacy of his sleeping compartment dismantled the bomb. He quickly discovered what had happened -- or rather, why nothing had happened.

The mechanism had worked; the small bottle had broken; the corrosive fluid had consumed the wire; the striker had hit forward; but -- the detonator had not fired.

Bitterly disappointed but not discouraged, the conspirators in Berlin decided to make a fresh attempt on Hitler's life. A good occasion soon presented itself. Hitler, accompanied by Goering, Himmler and Keitel, was due to be present at the Heroes' Memorial Day (Heldengedenktag) ceremonies on March 21 at the Zeughaus in Berlin. Here was an opportunity to get not only the Fuehrer but his chief associates. As Colonel Freiherr von Gersdorff, chief of intelligence on Kluge's staff, later said, "This was a chance which would never recur." Gersdorff had been selected by Tresckow to handle the bomb, and this time it would have to be a suicidal mission. The plan was for the colonel to conceal in his overcoat pockets two bombs, set the fuses, stay as close to Hitler during the ceremony as possible and blow the Fuehrer and his entourage as well as himself to eternity. With conspicuous bravery Gersdorff readily volunteered to sacrifice his life.

On the evening of March 20 he met with Schlabrendorff in his room at the Eden Hotel in Berlin. Schlabrendorff had brought two bombs with ten-minute fuses. But because of the near-freezing temperature in the glassed-over courtyard of the Zeughaus it might take from fifteen to twenty minutes before the weapons exploded. It was in this courtyard that Hitler, after his speech, was scheduled to spend half an hour examining an exhibition of captured Russian war trophies which Gersdorff's staff had arranged. It was the only place where the colonel could get close enough to the Fuehrer to kill him.

Gersdorff later recounted what happened. [7]

The next day I carried in each of my overcoat pockets a bomb with a ten-minute fuse. I intended to stay as close to Hitler as I could, so that he at least would be blown to pieces by the explosion. When Hitler ... entered the exhibitional hall, Schmundt came across to me and said that only eight or ten minutes were to be spent on inspecting the exhibits. So the possibility of carrying out the assassination no longer existed, since even if the temperature had been normal the fuse needed at least ten minutes. This last-minute change of schedule, which was typical of Hitler's subtle security methods, had once again saved him his life. [vii]

General von Tresckow, Gersdorff says, was anxiously and expectantly following the broadcast of the ceremonies from Smolensk, "a stop watch in his hand." When the broadcaster announced that Hitler had left the hall only eight minutes after he had entered it, the General knew that still another attempt had failed.

There were at least three further "overcoat" attempts at Hitler's life, as the conspirators called them, and each, as we shall see, was similarly frustrated.

Early in 1943 there was one spontaneous uprising in Germany which, though small in itself, helped to revive the flagging spirits of the resistance, whose every attempt to remove Hitler had been thus far thwarted. It also served as a warning of how ruthless the Nazi authorities could be in putting down the least sign of opposition.

The university students in Germany, as we have seen, had been among the most fanatical of Nazis in the early Thirties. But ten years of Hitler's rule had brought disillusionment, and this was sharpened by the failure of Germany to win the war and particularly, as 1943 came, by the disaster at Stalingrad. The University of Munich, the city that had given birth to Nazism, became the hotbed of student revolt. It was led by a twenty-five-year-old medical student, Hans Scholl, and his twenty-one-year-old sister, Sophie, who was studying biology. Their mentor was Kurt Huber, a professor of philosophy. By means of what became known as the "White Rose Letters" they carried out their anti-Nazi propaganda in other universities; they were also in touch with the plotters in Berlin.

One day in February 1943, the Gauleiter of Bavaria, Paul Giesler, to whom the Gestapo had brought a file of the letters, convoked the student body, announced that the physically unfit males -- the able-bodied had been drafted into the Army -- would be put to some kind of more useful war work, and with a leer suggested that the women students bear a child each year for the good of the Fatherland.

"If some of the girls," he added, "lack sufficient charm to find a mate, I will assign each of them one of my adjutants ... and I can promise her a thoroughly enjoyable experience."

The Bavarians are noted for their somewhat coarse humor, but this vulgarity was too much for the students. They howled the Gauleiter down and tossed out of the hall the Gestapo and S.S. men who had come to guard him. That afternoon there were anti-Nazi student demonstrations in the streets of Munich, the first that had ever occurred in the Third Reich. Now the students, led by the Scholls, began to distribute pamphlets openly calling on German youth to rise. On February 19 a building superintendent observed Hans and Sophie Scholl hurling their leaflets from the balcony of the university and betrayed them to the Gestapo.

Their end was quick and barbaric. Haled before the dreaded People's Court, which was presided over by its president, Roland Freisler, perhaps the most sinister and bloodthirsty Nazi in the Third Reich after Heydrich (he will appear again in this narrative), they were found guilty of treason and condemned to death. Sophie Scholl was handled so roughly during her interrogation by the Gestapo that she appeared in court with a broken leg. But her spirit was undimmed. To Freisler's savage browbeating she answered calmly, "You know as well as we do that the war is lost. Why are you so cowardly that you won't admit it?"

She hobbled on her crutches to the scaffold and died with sublime courage, as did her brother. Professor Huber and several other students were executed a few days later. [8]

This was a reminder to the conspirators in Berlin of the danger that confronted them at a time when the indiscreetness of some of the leaders was becoming a source of constant worry to the others. Goerdeler himself was much too talkative. The efforts of Popitz to sound out Himmler and other high S.S. officers on joining the conspiracy were risky in the extreme. The inimitable Weizsaecker, who after the war liked to picture himself as such a staunch resister, became so frightened that he broke off all contact with his close friend Hassell, whom he accused (along with Frau von Hassell) of being "unbelievably indiscreet" and whom, he warned, the Gestapo was shadowing. [viii]

The Gestapo was watching a good many others, especially the breezy, confident Goerdeler, but the blow which it dealt the conspirators immediately after the frustrating month of March 1943 during which their two attempts to kill Hitler had miscarried came, ironically, as the result not so much of expert sleuthing but of the rivalry between the two intelligence services, the Wehrmacht's Abwehr and Himmler's R.S.H.A. -- the Central Security Office -- which ran the S.S. secret service, and which wanted to depose Admiral Canaris and take over his Abwehr.

In the autumn of 1942, a Munich businessman by the name of Schmidthuber had been arrested for smuggling foreign currency across the border into Switzerland. He was actually an Abwehr agent, but the money he had long been taking over the frontier had gone to a group of Jewish refugees in Switzerland. This was the height of crime for a German in the Third Reich to commit even if he were an Abwehr agent. When Canaris failed to protect Schmidthuber the agent began to tell the Gestapo what he knew of the Abwehr. He implicated Hans von Dohnanyi, who, with Colonel Oster, had been in the inner circle of the plotters. He told Himmler's men of the mission of Dr. Josef Mueller to the Vatican in 1940 when contact was made with the British through the Pope. He revealed Pastor Bonhoeffer's visit to the Bishop of Chichester at Stockholm in 1942 on a false passport issued by the Abwehr. He hinted at Oster's various schemes to get rid of Hitler.

After months of investigation the Gestapo acted. Dohnanyi, Mueller and Bonhoeffer were arrested on April 5, 1943, and Oster, who had managed to destroy most of the incriminating papers in the meantime, was forced to resign in December from the Abwehr and placed under house arrest in Leipzig. [ix]

This was a staggering blow to the conspiracy. Oster -- "a man such as God meant men to be, lucid and serene in mind, imperturbable in danger," as Schlabrendorff said of him -- had been one of the key figures since 1938 in the attempt to get Hitler, and Dohnanyi, a jurist by profession, had been a resourceful assistant. Bonhoeffer, the Protestant, and Mueller, the Catholic, had not only brought a great spiritual force to the resistance but had given an example of individual courage in their various missions abroad -- as they were to do in their refusal, even after the torture which followed their arrests, to betray their comrades.

But most serious of all, with the breakup of the Abwehr the plotters lost their "cover" and the principal means of communication with each other, with the hesitant generals and with their friends in the West.

Some further discoveries by Himmler's sleuths put the Abwehr and its chief, Canaris, out of business altogether within a few months.

One sprang out of what came to be known in Nazi circles as "the Frau Solf Tea Party," which took place on September 10, 1943. Frau Anna Solf, the widow of a former Colonial Minister under Wilhelm II who had also served as ambassador to Japan under the Weimar Republic, had long presided over an anti-Nazi salon in Berlin. To it came often a number of distinguished guests, who included Countess Hanna von Bredow, the granddaughter of Bismarck, Count Albrecht von Bernstorff, the nephew of the German ambassador to the United States during the First World War, Father Erxleben, a well-known Jesuit priest, Otto Kiep, a high official in the Foreign Office, who once had been dismissed as German consul general in New York for attending a public luncheon in honor of Professor Einstein but who eventually had got himself reinstated in the diplomatic service, and Elisabeth von Thadden, a sparkling and deeply religious woman who ran a famous girls' school at Weiblingen, near Heidelberg.

To the tea party at Frau Solf's on September 10 Fraulein von Thadden brought an attractive young Swiss doctor named Reckse, who practiced at the Charite Hospital in Berlin under Professor Sauerbruch. Like most Swiss Dr. Reckse expressed bitter anti-Nazi sentiments, in which he was joined by the others present, especially by Kiep. Before the tea party was over the good doctor had volunteered to carry any letters which Frau Solf or her guests wished to send to their friends in Switzerland -- German anti-Nazi emigres and British and American diplomatic officials -- an offer which was quickly taken up by more than one present.

Unfortunately for them Dr. Reckse was an agent of the Gestapo, to whom he turned over several incriminating letters as well as a report on the tea party.

Count von Moltke learned of this through a friend in the Air Ministry who had tapped a number of telephone conversations between the Swiss doctor and the Gestapo, and he quickly warned his friend Kiep, who tipped off the rest of the Solf circle. But Himmler had his evidence. He waited four months to act on it, perhaps hoping to widen his net. On January 12, everyone who had been at the tea party was arrested, tried and executed, except Frau Solf and her daughter, the Countess Ballestrem. [x] The Solfs were confined at the Ravensbrueck concentration camp and miraculously escaped death. [xi] Count von Moltke, implicated with his friend Kiep, was also arrested at this time. But that was not the only consequence of Kiep's arrest. The repercussions spread as far as Turkey and paved the way for the final liquidation of the Abwehr and the turning over of its functions to Himmler.

Among Kiep's close anti-Nazi friends were Erich Vermehren and his stunningly beautiful wife, the former Countess Elisabeth von Plettenberg, who like other opponents of the regime had joined the Abwehr and who had been posted as its agents in Istanbul. Both were summoned to Berlin by the Gestapo to be interrogated in the Kiep case. Knowing what fate was in store for them, they refused, got in touch with the British secret service at the beginning of February 1944 and were flown to Cairo and thence to England.

It was believed in Berlin -- though it turned out not to be true -- that the Vermehrens had absconded with all the Abwehr's secret codes and handed them over to the British. This was the last straw for Hitler, coming after the arrests of Dohnanyi and others in the Abwehr and coupled with his growing suspicion of Canaris. On February 18, 1944, he ordered that the Abwehr be dissolved and its functions taken over by R.S.H.A. This was a new feather in the cap of Himmler, whose war against the Army officer corps went back to his faking charges against General von Fritsch in 1938. It deprived the armed forces of any intelligence service of their own. It enhanced Himmler's power over the generals. It was also a further blow to the conspirators, who were now left without any secret service whatsoever through which to work. [xii]

They had not ceased trying to kill Hitler. Between September 1943 and January 1944 another half-dozen attempts were organized. In August Jakob Wallenberg had come to Berlin to see Goerdeler, who assured hIm that all preparations were now ready for a coup in September and that Schlabrendorff would then arrive in Stockholm to meet a representative of Mr. Churchill to discuss peace.

"I was awaiting the month of September with great suspense," the Swedish banker later told Allen Dulles. "It passed without anything happening." [9]

A month later General Stieff, the sharp-tongued hunchback to whom Tresckow had sent the two bottles of "brandy" and whom Himmler later referred to as "a little poisoned dwarf," arranged to plant a time bomb at Hitler's noon military conference at Rastenburg, but at the last moment got cold feet. A few days later his store of English bombs which he had received from the Abwehr and hidden under a watch tower in the headquarters enclosure exploded, and it was only because an Abwerr colonel, Werner Schrader, who was in on the conspiracy, was entrusted by Hitler with the investigation that the plotters were not discovered.

In November another "overcoat" attempt was organized. A twenty-four-year-old infantry captain, Axel von dem Bussche, was selected by the conspirators to "model" a new Army overcoat and assault pack which Hitler had ordered designed and now wanted to personally inspect before approving for manufacture. Bussche, in order to avoid Gersdorff's failure, decided to carry in the pockets of his model overcoat two German bombs which would go off a few seconds after the fuse was set. His plan was to grab Hitler as he was inspecting the new overcoat and blow the two of them to pieces.

The day before the demonstration an Allied bomb destroyed the models, and Bussche returned to his company on the Russian front. He was back at Hitler's headquarters in December for a fresh attempt with new models, when the Fuehrer suddenly decided to leave for Berchtesgaden for the Christmas holidays. Shortly afterward Bussche was badly wounded at the front, so another young front-line infantry officer was pressed into service to substitute for him. This was Heinrich von Kleist, son of Ewald von Kleist -- the latter one of the oldest conspirators. The demonstration of the new overcoat was set for February 11, 1944, but the Fuehrer for some reason -- Dulles says it was because of an air raid -- failed to appear. [xiii]

By this time the plotters had come to the conclusion that Hitler's technique of constantly changing his schedules called for a drastic overhauling of their own plans. t It was realized that the only occasions on which he could definitely be counted to appear were his twice-daily military conferences with the generals of OKW and OKH. He would have to be killed at one of them. On December 26, 1943, a young officer by the name of Stauffenberg, deputizing for General Olbricht, appeared at the Rastenburg headquarters for the noon conference, at which he was to make a report on Army replacements. In his briefcase was a time bomb. The meeting was canceled. Hitler had left to have his Christmas on the Obersalzberg.

This was the first such attempt by the handsome young lieutenant colonel, but not the last. For in Klaus Philip Schenk, Count von Stauffenberg, the anti-Nazi conspirators had at last found their man. Henceforth he would not only take over the job of killing Hitler by his own hand in the only way that now seemed possible but would breathe new life and light and hope and zeal into the conspiracy and become its real, though never nominal, leader.


This was a man of astonishing gifts for a professional Army officer. Born in 1907, he came from an old and distinguished South German family. Through his mother, Countess von Uxkull-Gyllenbrand, he was a great-grandson of Gneisenau, one of the military heroes of the war of liberation against Napoleon and the cofounder, with Scharnhorst, of the Prussian General Staff, and through her also a descendant of Yorck von Wartenburg, another celebrated general of the Bonaparte era. Klaus's father had been Privy Chamberlain to the last King of Wuerttemberg. The family was congenial, devoutly Roman Catholic and highly cultivated.

With this background and in this atmosphere Klaus von Stauffenberg grew up. Possessed of a fine physique and, according to all who knew him, of a striking handsomeness, he developed a brilliant, inquisitive, splendidly balanced mind. He had a passion for horses and sports but also for the arts and literature, in which he read widely, and as a youth came under the influence of Stefan George and that poetic genius's romantic mysticism. For a time the young man thought of taking up music as a profession, and later architecture, but in 1926, at the age of nineteen, he entered the Army as an officer cadet in the 17th Bamberg Cavalry Regiment -- the famed Bamberger Reiter.

In 1936 he was posted to the War Academy in Berlin, where his all-round brilliance attracted the attention of both his teachers and the High Command. He emerged two years later as a young officer of the General Staff. Though, like most of his class, a monarchist at heart, he was not up to this time an opponent of National Socialism. Apparently it was the anti-Jewish pogroms of 1938 which first cast doubts in his mind about Hitler, and these increased when in the summer of 1939 he saw that the Fuehrer was leading Germany into a war which might be long, frightfully costly in human lives, and, in the end, lost.

Nevertheless, when the war came he threw himself into it with characteristic energy, making a name for himself as a staff officer of General Hoepner's 6th Panzer Division in the campaigns in Poland and France. It was in Russia that Stauffenberg seems to have become completely disillusioned with the Third Reich. He had been transferred to the Army High Command (OKH) early in June 1940, just before the assault on Dunkirk, and for the first eighteen months of the Russian campaign spent most of his time in Soviet territory, where, among other things, he helped organize the Russian "volunteer" units from among the prisoners of war. By this time, according to his friends, Stauffenberg believed that while the Germans were getting rid of Hitler's tyranny these Russian troops could be used to overthrow Stalin's. Perhaps this was an instance of the influence of Stefan George's wooly ideas.

The brutality of the S.S. in Russia, not to mention Hitler's order to shoot the Bolshevik commissars, opened Stauffenberg's eyes as to the master he was serving. As chance had it, he met in Russia two of the chief conspirators who had decided to make an end to that master: General von Tresckow and Schlabrendorff. The latter says it took only a few subsequent meetings to convince them that Stauffenberg was their man. He became an active conspirator.

But he was still only a junior officer and he soon saw that the field marshals were too confused -- if not too cowardly -- to do anything to remove Hitler or to stop the grisly slaughter of Jews, Russians and POWs behind the lines. Also the needless disaster at Stalingrad sickened him. As soon as it was over, in February 1943, he asked to be sent to the front and was posted as operations officer of the 10th Panzer Division in Tunisia, joining it in the last days of the battle of the Kasserine Pass in which his unit had thrown the Americans out of the gap.

On April? his car drove into a mine field -- some say it was also attacked by low-flying Allied aircraft -- and Stauffenberg was gravely wounded. He lost his left eye, his right hand and two fingers of the other hand and suffered injuries to his left ear and knee. For several weeks it seemed probable that he would be left totally blind, if he survived. But under the expert supervision at a Munich hospital of Professor Sauerbruch, he was restored to life. Almost any other man, one would think, would have retired from the Army and thus from the conspiracy. But by midsummer he was writing General Olbricht -- after much practice in wielding a pen with the three fingers of his bandaged left hand -- that he expected to return to active duty within three months. During the long convalescence he had had time to reflect and he had come to the conclusion that, physically handicapped though he was, he had a sacred mission to perform.

"I feel I must do something now to save Germany," he told his wife, the Countess Nina, mother of his four young children, when she visited his bedside one day. "We General Staff officers must all accept our share of the responsibility." [10]

By the end of September 1943, he was back in Berlin as a lieutenant colonel and chief of staff to General Olbricht at the General Army Office. Soon he was practicing with a pair of tongs how to set off one of the English-made Abwehr bombs with the three fingers of his good hand.

He was doing much more. His dynamic personality, the clarity of his mind, the catholicity of his ideas and his marked talents as an organizer infused new life and determination into the conspirators. And also some differences, for Stauffenberg was not satisfied with the kind of stodgy, conservative, colorless regime which the old rusty leaders of the conspiracy, Beck, Goerdeler and Hassell, envisaged as soon as National Socialism was overthrown. More practical than his friends in the Kreisau Circle, he wanted a new dynamic Social Democracy and he insisted that the proposed anti-Nazi cabinet include his new friend Julius Leber, a brilliant Socialist, and Wilhelm Leuschner, a former trade-union official, both deep and active in the conspiracy. There was much argument, but Stauffenberg rapidly achieved dominance over the political leaders of the plot.

He was equally successful with most of the military men. He recognized General Beck as the nominal leader of these and held the former General Staff Chief in great admiration, but on returning to Berlin he saw that Beck, recovering from a major cancer operation, was only a shell of his former self, tired and somewhat dispirited, and that moreover he had no concept of politics, being in this field completely under the spell of Goerdeler. Beck's illustrious name in military circles would be useful, even necessary, in carrying out the putsch. But for active help in supplying and commanding the troops which would be needed, younger officers who were on active duty had to be mobilized. Stauffenberg soon had most of the key men he needed.

These were, besides Olbricht, his chief: General Stieff, head of the Organization Branch of OKH General Eduard Wagner, the First Quartermaster General of the Army; General Erich Fellgiebel, the Chief of Signals at OKW; General Fritz Lindemann, head of the Ordnance Office; General Paul von Hase, chief of the Berlin Kommandantur (who could furnish the troops for taking over Berlin); and Colonel Freiherr von Roenne, head of the Foreign Armies Section, with his chief of staff, Captain Count von Matuschka.

There were two or three key generals, chief of whom was Fritz Fromm, the actual commander in chief of the Replacement Army, who like Kluge, blew hot and cold and could not be definitely counted on.

The plotters also did not yet have a field marshal on active duty. Field Marshal von Witzleben, one of the original conspirators, was slated to become Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces but he was on the inactive list and had no troops at his command. Field Marshal von Rundstedt, who now commanded all troops in the West, was approached, but declined to go back on his oath to the Fuehrer -- or such, at least, was his explanation. Likewise the brilliant but opportunistic Field Marshal von Manstein.

At this juncture -- early in 1944 -- a very active and popular Field Marshal made himself, at first without the knowledge of Stauffenberg, somewhat available to the conspirators. This was Rommel, and his entrance into the plot against Hitler came as a great surprise to the resistance leaders and was not approved by most of them, who regarded the "Desert Fox" as a Nazi and as an opportunist who had blatantly courted Hitler's favor and was only now deserting him because he knew the war was lost.

In January 1944 Rommel had become commander of Army Group B in the West, the main force with which the expected Anglo-American invasion across the Channel was to be repelled. In France he began to see a good deal of two old friends, General Alexander von Falkenhausen, the military governor of Belgium and northern France, and General Karl Heinrich von Stuelpnagel, military governor of France. Both generals had already joined the anti-Hitler conspiracy and gradually initiated Rommel into it. They were aided by an old civilian friend of Rommel, Dr. Karl Stroelin, the Oberbuergermeister of Stuttgart, who like so many other characters in this narrative had been an enthusiastic Nazi and now, with defeat looming and the cities of Germany, including his own, rapidly becoming rubble from the Allied bombing, was having second thoughts. He, in turn, had been helped along this path by Dr. Goerdeler, who in August 1943 had persuaded him to join in drawing up a memorandum to the Ministry of the Interior -- now headed by Himmler -- in which they jointly demanded a cessation of the persecution of the Jews and the Christian churches, the restoration of civil rights and the re-establishment of a system of justice divorced from the party and the S.S.-Gestapo. Through Frau Rommel, Stroelin brought the memorandum to the attention of the Field Marshal, on whom it appears to have had a marked effect.

Toward the end of February 1944, the two men met at Rommel's home at Herrlingen, near Ulm, and had a heart-to-heart talk.

I told him [the mayor later recounted] that certain senior officers of the Army in-the East proposed to make Hitler a prisoner and to force him to announce over the radio that he had abdicated. Rommel approved of the idea.

I went on to say to him that he was our greatest and most popular general, and more respected abroad than any other. "You are the only one," I said, "who can prevent civil war in Germany. You must lend your name to the movement." [11]

Rommel hesitated and finally made his decision.

"I believe," he said to Stroelin, "it is my duty to come to the rescue of Germany."

At this meeting and at all subsequent ones which Rommel had with the plotters, he opposed assassinating Hitler -- not on moral but on practical grounds. To kill the dictator, he argued, would be to make a martyr of him. He insisted that Hitler be arrested by the Army and haled before a German court for crimes against his own people and those of the occupied lands. [12]
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Re: The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi

Postby admin » Fri Feb 16, 2018 12:09 am

Part 2 of 4

At this time fate brought another influence on Rommel in the person of General Hans Speidel, who on April 15, 1944, became the Field Marshal's chief of staff. Speidel, like his fellow conspirator Stauffenberg -- though they belonged to quite separate groups -- was an unusual Army officer. He was not only a soldier but a philosopher, having received summa cum laude a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Tuebingen in 1925. He lost no time in going to work on his chief. Within a month, on May 15, he arranged a meeting at a country house near Paris between Rommel, Stuelpnagel and their chiefs of staff. The purpose, says Speidel, was to work out "the necessary measures for ending the war in the West and overthrowing the Nazi regime." [13]

This was a large order, and Speidel realized that in preparing it closer contacts with the anti-Nazis in the homeland, especially with the Goerdeler-Beck group, were urgently necessary. For some weeks the mercurial Goerdeler had been pressing for a secret meeting between Rommel and -- of all people -- Neurath, who, having done his own share of Hitler's dirty work, first as Foreign Minister and then as the Reich Protector of Bohemia, was also experiencing a rude awakening now that terrible disaster was about to overtake the Fatherland. It was decided that it would be too dangerous for Rommel to meet with Neurath and Stroelin, so the Field Marshal sent General Speidel, at whose home in Freudenstadt the conference was held on May 27. The three men present, Speidel, Neurath and Stroelin, were, like Rommel himself, all Swabians and this affinity appears not only to have made the meeting congenial but to have led to ready agreement. This was that Hitler must be quickly overthrown and that Rommel must be prepared to become either the interim head of state or Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces -- neither of which posts, it must be said, Rommel at any time ever demanded for himself. A number of details were worked out, including plans for contacting the Western Allies for an armistice, and a code for communication between the conspirators in Germany and Rommel's headquarters.

General Speidel is emphatic in his assertion not only that Rommel frankly informed his immediate superior in the West, Field Marshal von Rundstedt, as to what was up, but that the latter was "in complete agreement." There was a flaw, however, in the character of this senior officer of the Army.

During a discussion on the formulation of joint demands to Hitler [Speidel later wrote] Rundstedt said to Rommel: "You are young. You know and love the people. You do it." [14]

After further conferences that late spring the following plan was drawn up. Speidel, almost alone among the Army conspirators in the West, survived to describe it:

An immediate armistice with the Western Allies but not unconditional surrender. German withdrawal in the West to Germany. Immediate suspension of the Allied bombing of Germany. Arrest of Hitler for trial before a German court. Overthrow of Nazi rule. Temporary assumption of executive power in Germany by the resistance forces of all classes under the leadership of General Beck, Goerdeler, and the trade-union representative, Leuschner. No military dictatorship. Preparation of a "constructive peace" within the framework of a United States of Europe. In the East, continuation of the war. Holding a shortened line between the mouth of the Danube, the Carpathian Mountains, the River Vistula and Memel. [15]

The generals seem to have had no doubts whatsoever that the British and American armies would then join them in the war against Russia to prevent, as they said, Europe from becoming Bolshevik.

In Berlin General Beck agreed, at least to the extent of continuing the war in the East. Early in May he sent through Gisevius a memorandum to Dulles in Switzerland outlining a fantastic plan. The German generals in the West were to withdraw their forces to the German frontier after the Anglo-American invasion. While this was going on, Beck urged that the Western Allies carry out three tactical operations: land three airborne divisions in the Berlin area to help the conspirators hold the capital, carry out large-scale seaborne landings on the German coast near Hamburg and Bremen, and land a sizable force across the Channel in France. Reliable anti-Nazi German troops would in the meantime take over in the Munich area and surround Hitler at his mountain retreat on the Obersalzberg. The war against Russia would go on. Dulles says he lost no time in trying to bring the Berlin conspirators down to earth. They were told there could be no separate peace with the West. [16]

Stauffenberg, his friends in the Kreisau Circle and such members of the conspiracy as Schulenburg, the former ambassador in Moscow, had come to realize this. In fact most of them, including Stauffenberg, were "Easterners" -- pro-Russian though anti-Bolshevik. For a time they believed that it might be easier to get a better peace with Russia -- which through statements from Stalin himself had emphasized in its radio propaganda that it was fighting not against the German people but against "the Hitlerites" -- than with the Western Allies, who harped only of "unconditional surrender." [xiv] But they abandoned such wishful thinking in October 1943, when the Soviet government at the Moscow Conference of Allied Foreign Ministers formally adhered to the Casablanca declaration of unconditional surrender.

And now, as the fateful summer of 1944 approached, they realized that with the Red armies nearing the frontier of the Reich, the British and American armies poised for a large-scale invasion across the Channel, and the German resistance to Alexander's Allied forces in Italy crumbling, they must quickly get rid of Hitler and the Nazi regime if any kind of peace at all was to be had that would spare Germany from being overrun and annihilated.

In Berlin, Stauffenberg and his confederates had at last perfected their plans. They were lumped under the code name "Valkyrie" -- an appropriate term, since the Valkyrie were the maidens in Norse-German mythology, beautiful but terrifying, who were supposed to have hovered over the ancient battlefields choosing those who would be slain. In this case, Adolf Hitler was to be slain. Ironically enough, Admiral Canaris, before his fall, had sold the Fuehrer the idea of Valkyrie, dressing it up as a plan for the Horne Army to take over the security of Berlin and the other large cities in case of a revolt of the millions of foreign laborers toiling in these centers. Such a revolt was highly unlikely -- indeed, impossible -- since the foreign workers were unarmed and unorganized, but to the suspicious Fuehrer danger lurked everywhere these days, and, with almost all the able-bodied soldiers absent from the homeland either at the front or keeping down the populace in the far-flung occupied areas, he readily fell in with the idea that the Horne Army ought to have plans for protecting the internal security. of the Reich against the hordes of sullen slave laborers. Thus Valkyrie became a perfect cover for the military conspirators, enabling them to draw up quite openly plans for the Horne Army to take over the capital and such cities as Vienna, Munich and Cologne as soon as Hitler had been assassinated.

In Berlin their main difficulty was that they had very few troops at their disposal and that these were outnumbered by the S.S. formations. Also there were considerable numbers of Luftwaffe units in and around the city manning the antiaircraft defenses, and these troops, unless the Army moved swiftly, would remain loyal to Goering and certainly make a fight of it to retain the Nazi regime under their chief even if Hitler were dead. Their flak guns could be used as artillery against the Army detachments. On the other hand, the police force in Berlin had been won over through its chief, Count von Helldorf, who had joined the conspiracy.

In view of the strength of the S.S. and Air Force troops, Stauffenberg laid great stress on the timing of the operation to gain control of the capital. The first two hours would be the most critical. In that short space of time the Army troops must occupy -- and secure the national broadcasting headquarters and the city's two radio stations, the telegraph and telephone centrals, the Reich Chancellery, the ministries and the headquarters of the S.S.-Gestapo. Goebbels, the only prominent Nazi who rarely left Berlin, must be arrested along with the S.S. officers. In the meantime, the moment Hitler was killed his headquarters at Rastenburg must be isolated from Germany so that neither Goering nor Himmler, nor any of the Nazi generals such as Keitel and Jodi, could take over and attempt to rally the police or the troops behind a continued Nazi regime. General Fellgiebel, Chief of Signals, who was stationed at the Fuehrer's headquarters, had undertaken to see to this.

Only then, after all these things had been accomplished within the first couple of hours of the coup, could the messages, which had been drawn up and filed, be sent out by radio, telephone and telegraph to the commanders of the Horne Army in other cities and to the top generals commanding the troops at the front and in the occupied zones, announcing that Hitler was dead and that a new anti-Nazi government had been formed in Berlin. The revolt would have to be over -- and achieved -- within twenty-four hours and the new government firmly installed. Otherwise the vacillating generals might have second thoughts. Goering and Himmler might be able to rally them, and a civil war would ensue. In that case the fronts would cave in and the very chaos and collapse which the plotters wished to prevent would become inevitable.

All depended for success, after Hitler had been assassinated -- and Stauffenberg personally would see to this -- on the ability of the plotters to utilize for their purposes, and with the utmost speed and energy, the available Army troops in and around Berlin. This posed a knotty problem.

Only General Fritz Fromm, the commander in chief of the Home or Replacement Army, could normally give the order to carry out Valkyrie. And to the very last he remained a question mark. All through 1943 the conspirators had worked on him. They finally concluded that this wary officer could be definitely counted upon only after he saw that the revolt had succeeded. But since they were sure of its success, they proceeded to draft a series of orders under Fromm's name, though without his knowledge. In case he wavered at the crucial moment, Fromm was to be replaced by General Hoepner, the brilliant tank commander who had been cashiered by Hitler after the battle for Moscow in 1941 and forbidden to wear his uniform.

The problem of another key general in Berlin also plagued the plotters. This was General von Kortzfleisch, an out-and-out Nazi, who commanded Wehrkreis III, which included Berlin and Brandenburg. It was decided to have him arrested and replaced by General Freiherr von Thuengen. General Paul von Hase, the commandant of Berlin, was in on the plot and could be counted upon to lead the local garrison troops in the first, a1limportant step of taking over the city.

Besides drawing up detailed plans for seizing control of Berlin, Stauffenberg and Tresckow, in collaboration with Goerdeler, Beck, Witzleben and others, drafted papers giving instructions to the district military commanders on how they were to take over executive power in their areas, put down the S.S., arrest the leading Nazis and occupy the concentration camps. Furthermore, several ringing declarations were composed which at the appropriate moment were to be issued to the armed forces, the German people, the press and the radio. Some were signed by Beck, as the new head of state, others by Field Marshal von Witzleben, as Commander in Chief of the Wehrmacht, and by Goerdeler, as the new Chancellor. Copies of the orders and appeals were typed in great secrecy late at night in the Bendlerstrasse by two brave women in the plot, Frau Erika von Tresckow, the wife of the general who had done so much to further the conspiracy, and Margarete von Oven, the daughter of a retired general and for years the faithful secretary of two former commanders in chief of the Army, Generals von Hammerstein and von Fritsch. The papers were then hidden in General Olbricht's safe.

The plans, then, were ready. In fact, they had been perfected by the end of 1943, but for months little had been done to carry them out. Events, however, could not wait on the conspirators. As June 1944 came they realized that time was running out on them. For one thing, the Gestapo was closing in. The arrests of those who were in on the plot, among them Count von Moltke and the members of the Kreisau Circle, were mounting with each week that passed, and there were many executions. Beck, Goerdeler, Hassell, Witzleben and others in the inner circle were being so closely shadowed by Himmler's secret police that they found it increasingly difficult to meet together. Himmler himself had warned the fallen Canaris in the spring that he knew very well that a rebellion was being hatched by the generals and their civilian friends. He mentioned that he was keeping a watch on Beck and Goerdeler. Canaris passed the warning on to Olbricht. [17]

Just as ominous for the conspirators was the military situation. The Russians, it was believed, were about to launch an all-out offensive in the East. Rome was being abandoned to the Allied forces. (It fell on June 4.) In the West the Anglo-American invasion was imminent. Very soon Germany might go down to military defeat -- before Nazism could be overthrown. Indeed, there was a growing number of conspirators, perhaps influenced by the thinking of the Kreisau Circle, who began to feel that it might be better to call off their plans and let Hitler and the Nazis take the responsibility for the catastrophe. To overthrow them now might merely perpetrate another "stab-in-the-back" legend, such as that which had fooled so many Germans after the First World War.


Stauffenberg himself did not believe that the Western Allies would attempt to land in France that summer. He persisted in this belief even after Colonel Georg Hansen, a carryover from the Abwehr in Himmler's military-intelligence bureau, had warned him early in May that the invasion might begin on any day in June.

The German Army itself was beset by doubts, at least as to the date and place of the assault. In May there had been eighteen days when the weather, the sea and the tides were just right for a landing, and the Germans noted that General Eisenhower had not taken advantage of them. On May 30 Rundstedt, the Commander in Chief in the West, had reported to Hitler that there was no indication that the invasion was "immediately imminent." On June 4, the Air Force meteorologist in Paris advised that because of the inclement weather no Allied action could be expected for at least a fortnight.

On the strength of this and of what little information he had -- the Luftwaffe had been prevented from making aerial reconnaissance of the harbors on England's south coast where Eisenhower's troops at that moment were swarming aboard their ships, and the Navy had withdrawn its reconnaissance craft from the Channel because of the heavy seas -- Rommel drew up a situation report on the morning of June 5 reporting to Rundstedt that the invasion was not imminent, and immediately set off by car for his home at Herrlingen to spend the night with his family and then to proceed to Berchtesgaden the next day to confer with Hitler.

June 5, General Speidel, Rommel's chief of staff, later recalled, "was a quiet day." There seemed no reason why Rommel should not make his somewhat leisurely journey back to Germany. There were the usual reports from German agents about the possibility of an Allied landing -- this time between June 6 and June 16 -- but there had been hundreds of these since April and they were not taken seriously. Indeed, on the sixth General Friedrich Dollmann, who commanded the Seventh Army in Normandy, on whose beaches the Allied forces were about to land, ordered a temporary relaxation of the standing alert and convoked his senior officers for a map exercise at Rennes, some 125 miles south of those beaches.

If the Germans were in the dark about the date of the invasion, they were also ignorant of where it would take place. Rundstedt and Rommel were certain it would be in the Pas-de-Calais area, where the Channel was at its narrowest. There they had concentrated their strongest force, the Fifteenth Army, whose strength during the spring was increased from ten to fifteen infantry divisions. But by the end of March Adolf Hitler's uncanny intuition was telling him that the Schwerpunkt of the invasion probably would be in Normandy, and during the next few weeks he ordered considerable reinforcements to the region between the Seine and the Loire. "Watch Normandy!" he kept warning his generals.

Still, the overwhelming part of German strength, in both infantry and panzer divisions, was retained north of the Seine, between Le Havre and Dunkirk. Rundstedt and his generals were watching the Pas-de-Calais rather than Normandy and they were encouraged in this by a number of deceptive maneuvers carried out during April and May by the British-American High Command which indicated to them that their calculations were correct.

The day of June 5, then, passed in relative quiet, so far as the Germans were concerned. Severe Anglo-American air attacks continued to disrupt German depots, radar stations, V-1 sites, communications and transport, but these had been going on night and day for weeks and seemed no more intense on this day than on others.

Shortly after dark Rundstedt's headquarters was informed that the BBC in London was broadcasting an unusually large number of coded messages to the French resistance and that the German radar stations between Cherbourg and Le Havre were being jammed. At 10 P.M. the Fifteenth Army intercepted a code message from the BBC to the French resistance which it believed meant that the invasion was about to begin. This army was alerted, but Rundstedt did not think it necessary to alert the Seventh Army, on whose sector of the coast farther west, between Caen and Cherbourg, the Allied forces were now -- toward midnight -- approaching on a thousand ships.

It was not until eleven minutes past 1 A.M., June 6, that the Seventh Army, its commander not yet returned from his map exercise at Rennes, realized what was happening. Two American and one British airborne divisions had begun landing in its midst. The general alarm was sounded at 1:30 A.M.

Forty-five minutes later Major General Max Pemsel, chief of staff of the Seventh Army, got General Speidel on the telephone at Rommel's headquarters and told him that it looked like "a large-scale operation." Speidel did not believe it but passed on the report to Rundstedt, who was equally skeptical. Both generals believed the dropping of parachutists was merely an Allied feint to cover their main landings around Calais. At 2:40 A.M. Pemsel was advised that Rundstedt "does not consider this to be a major operation." [18] Not even when the news began to reach him shortly after dawn on June 6 that on the Normandy coast between the rivers Vire and Orne a huge Allied fleet was disembarking large bodies of troops, under cover of a murderous fire from the big guns of an armada of warships, did the Commander in Chief West believe that this was to be the main Allied assault. It did not become apparent, Speidel says, until the afternoon of June 6. By that time the Americans had a toehold on two beaches and the British on a third and had penetrated inland for a distance of from two to six miles.

Speidel had telephoned Rommel at 6 A.M. at his home and the Field Marshal had rushed back by car without going on to see Hitler, but he did not arrive at Army Group B headquarters until late that afternoon. [xv] In the meantime Speidel, Rundstedt and the latter's chief of staff, General Blumentritt, had been on the telephone to OKW, which was then at Berchtesgaden. Due to an idiotic order of Hitler's not even the Commander in Chief in the West could employ his panzer divisions without the specific permission of the Fuehrer. When the three generals early on the morning of the sixth begged for permission to rush two tank divisions to Normandy, Jodl replied that Hitler wanted first to see what developed. Whereupon the Fuehrer went to bed and could not be disturbed by the frantic calls of the generals in the West until 3 P.M.

When he woke up, the bad news which had in the meantime arrived finally stirred the Nazi warlord to action. He gave -- too late, as it turned out -- permission to engage the Panzer Lehr and 12th S.S. Panzer divisions in Normandy. He also issued a famous order which has been preserved for posterity in the log of the Seventh Army:

16:55 hours. June 6, 1944

Chief of Staff Western Command emphasizes the desire of the Supreme Command to have the enemy in the bridgehead annihilated by the evening of June 6 since there exists the danger of additional sea- and airborne landings for support ... The beachhead must be cleaned up by not later than tonight.

In the eerie mountain air of the Obersalzberg, from which Hitler was now trying to direct the mast crucial battle of the war up to this moment -- he had been saying for months that Germany's destiny would be decided in the West -- this fantastic order seems to have been issued in all seriousness, concurred in by Jodi and Keitel. Even Rommel, who passed it on by telephone shortly before 5 o'clock that afternoon, an hour after his return from Germany, seems to have taken it seriously, for he ordered Seventh Army headquarters to launch an attack by the 21st Panzer Division, the only German armored unit in the area, "immediately regardless of whether reinforcements arrive or not."

This the division had already done, without waiting for Rommel's command. General Pemsel, who was on the other end of the line when Rommel called Seventh Army headquarters, gave a blunt reply to Hitler's demand that the Allied beachhead -- there were actually now three -- "be cleaned up by not later than tonight."

"That," he replied, "would be impossible."

Hitler's much -- propagandized Atlantic Wall had been breached within a few hours. The once vaunted Luftwaffe had been driven completely from the air and the German Navy from the sea, and the Army taken by surprise. The battle was far from over, but its outcome was not long in doubt. "From June 9 on," says Speidel, "the initiative lay with the Allies."

Rundstedt and Rommel decided that it was time to say so to Hitler, face to face, and to demand that he accept the consequences. They enticed him to a meeting on June 17 at Margival, north of Soissons, in the elaborate bombproof bunker which had been built to serve as the Fuehrer's headquarters for the invasion of Britain in the summer of 1940, but never used. Now, four summers later, the Nazi warlord appeared there for the first time.

He looked pale and sleepless [Speidel later wrote], playing nervously with his glasses and an array of colored pencils which he held between his fingers. He sat hunched upon a stool, while the field marshals stood. His hypnotic powers seemed to have waned. There was a curt and frosty greeting from him. Then in a loud voice he spoke bitterly of his displeasure at the success of the Allied landings, for which he tried to hold the field commanders responsible. [19]

But the prospect of another stunning defeat was emboldening the generals, or at least Rommel, whom Rundstedt left to do most of the talking when Hitler's diatribe against them had come to a momentary pause. "With merciless frankness," says Speidel, who was present, "Rommel pointed out ... that the struggle was hopeless against the [Allied] superiority in the air, at sea and on the land." [xvi] [20] Well, not quite hopeless, if Hitler abandoned his absurd determination to hold every foot of ground and then to drive the Allied forces into the sea. Rommel proposed, with Rundstedt's assent, that the Germans withdraw out of range of the enemy's murderous naval guns, take their panzer units out of the line and reform them for a later thrust which might defeat the Allies in a battle fought "outside the range of the enemy's naval artillery."

But the Supreme warlord would not listen to any proposal for withdrawal. German soldiers must stand and fight. The subject obviously was unpleasant to him and he quickly changed to others. In a display which Speidel calls "a strange mixture of cynicism and false intuition," Hitler assured the generals that the new V-1 weapon, the buzz bomb, which had been launched for the first time the day before against London, "would be decisive against Great Britain ... and make the British willing to make peace." When the two field marshals drew Hitler's attention to the utter failure of the Luftwaffe in the West, the Fuehrer retorted that "masses of jet fighters" -- the Allies had no jets, but the Germans had just put them into production -- would soon drive the British and American flyers from the skies. Then, he said, Britain would collapse. At this juncture the approach of Allied planes forced them to adjourn to the Fuehrer's air-raid shelter.

Safe in the underground concrete bunker, they resumed the conversation,  [xvii] and at this point Rommel insisted on steering it into politics.

He predicted [says Speidel] that the German front in Normandy would collapse and that a breakthrough into Germany by the Allies could not be checked ... He doubted whether the Russian front could be held. He pointed to Germany's complete political isolation ... He concluded ... with an urgent request that the war be brought to an end.

Hitler, who had interrupted Rommel several times, finally cut him short: "Don't you worry about the future course of the war, but rather about your own invasion front."

The two field marshals were getting nowhere, either with their military or political arguments. "Hitler paid no attention whatsoever to their warnings," General Jodl later recalled at Nuremberg. Finally the generals urged the Supreme Commander at least to visit Rommel's Army Group B headquarters to confer with some of the field commanders on what they were up against in Normandy. Hitler reluctantly agreed to the visit for June 19 -- two days hence.

He never showed up. Shortly after the field marshals had departed from Margival on the afternoon of June 17 an errant V-1 on its way to London turned around and landed on the top of the Fuehrer's bunker. No one was killed or even hurt, but Hitler was so upset that he set off immediately for safer parts, not stopping until he got to the mountains of Berchtesgaden.

There more bad news shortly arrived. On June 20 the long-awaited Russian offensive on the central front began, developing with such overwhelming power that within a few days the German Army Group Center, in which Hitler had concentrated his strongest forces, was completely smashed, the front tom wide open and the road to Poland opened. On July 4 the Russians crossed the 1939 Polish eastern border and converged on East Prussia. All available reserves of the High Command were quickly rounded up to be rushed -- for the first time in World War II -- to the defense of the Fatherland itself. This helped to doom the German armies in the West. From now on they could not count on receiving any sizable reinforcements.

Once more, on June 29, Rundstedt and Rommel appealed to Hitler to face realities both in the East and in the West and to try to end the war while considerable parts of the German Army were still in being. This meeting took place on the Obersalzberg, where the Supreme warlord treated the two field marshals frostily, dismissing their appeals curtly and then lapsing into a long monologue on how he would win the war with new "miracle weapons." His discourse, says Speidel, "became lost in fantastic digressions."

Two days later Rundstedt was replaced as Commander in Chief West by Field Marshal von Kluge. [xviii] On July 15 Rommel wrote a long letter to Hitler and dispatched it by Army teletype. "The troops," he wrote, "are fighting heroically everywhere, but the unequal struggle is nearing its end." He added a postscript in his own handwriting:

I must beg you to draw the proper conclusions without delay. I feel it my duty as Commander in Chief of the Army Group to state this clearly. [21]

"I have given him his last chance," Rommel told Speidel. "If he does not take it, we will act." [22]

Two days later, on the afternoon of July 17, while driving back to headquarters from the Normandy front, Rommel's staff car was shot up by low-flying Allied fighter planes and he was so critically wounded that it was first thought he would not survive the day. This was a disaster to the conspirators, for Rommel had now -- Speidel swears to it [23] -- made up his mind irrevocably to do his part in ridding Germany of Hitler's rule (though still opposing his assassination) within the next few days. As it turned out, his dash and daring were sorely missing among the Army officers who, at long last, as the German armies crumbled in the East and West that July of 1944, made their final bid to bring Hitler and National Socialism down.

The conspirators, says Speidel, "felt themselves painfully deprived of their pillar of strength." [xix] [24]


The successful Allied landing in Normandy threw the conspirators in Berlin into great confusion. Stauffenberg, as we have seen, had not believed it would be attempted in 1944, and that, if it were, there was a fifty-fifty chance that it would fail. He seems to have wished that it would, since then the American and British governments, after such a bloody and costly setback, would be more willing to negotiate a peace in the West with his new anti-Nazi government, which in this case could get better terms.

When it became evident that the invasion had succeeded, that Germany had suffered another crucial defeat, and that a new one was threatening in the East, Stauffenberg, Beck and Goerdeler wondered whether there was any point in going ahead with their plans. If they succeeded they would only be blamed for bringing on the final catastrophe. Though they knew it was now inevitable, this was not generally realized by the mass of the German people. Beck finally concluded that though a successful anti-Nazi revolt could not now spare Germany from enemy occupation, it could bring the war to an end and save further loss of blood and destruction of the Fatherland. A peace now would also prevent the Russians from overrunning Germany and Bolshevizing it. It would show the world that there was "another Germany" besides the Nazi one. And -- who knew? -- perhaps at least the Western Allies, despite their terms of unconditional surrender, might not be too hard on a conquered Germany. Goerdeler agreed and pinned even greater hopes, on the Western democracies. He knew, he said, how much Churchill feared the danger of "a total Russian victory."

The younger men, led by Stauffenberg, were not entirely convinced. They sought advice from Tresckow, who was now chief of staff of the Second Army on the crumbling Russian front. His reply brought the stumbling plotters back on the track.

The assassination must be attempted at any cost. Even should it fail, the attempt to seize power in the capital must be undertaken. We must prove to the world and to future generations that the men of the German Resistance Movement dared to take the decisive step and to hazard their lives upon it. Compared with this object, nothing else matters. [25]

This inspired answer settled the matter and revived the spirits and dissolved the doubts of Stauffenberg and his young friends. The threatened collapse of the fronts in Russia, France and Italy impelled the plotters to act at once. Another event helped to speed them on their way.

From the beginning the Beck-Goerdeler-Hassell circle had declined to have anything to do with the Communist underground, and vice versa. To the Communists the plotters were as reactionary as the Nazis and their very success might prevent a Communist Germany from succeeding a National Socialist one. Beck and his friends were well aware of this Communist line, and they knew also that the Communist underground was directed from Moscow and served chiefly as an espionage source for the Russians. [xx] Furthermore, they knew that it had become infiltrated with Gestapo agents -- "V men," as Heinrich Mueller, the Gestapo chief and himself a student and admirer of the Soviet N.K.V.D., called them.

In June the plotters, against the advice of Goerdeler and the older members, decided to contact the Communists. This was at the suggestion of the Socialist wing and especially of Adolf Reichwein, the Socialist philosopher and celebrated Wandervogel, who was now director of the Folklore Museum in Berlin. Reichwein had maintained vague contacts with the Communists. Though Stauffenberg himself was suspicious of them, his Socialist friends Reichwein and Leber convinced him that some contact with them had become necessary in order to see what they were up to and what they would do in case the putsch succeeded, and, if possible, to use them at the last moment to widen the basis of the anti-Nazi resistance. Reluctantly he agreed to Leber and Reichwein meeting with the underground Communist leaders on June 22. But he warned them that the Communists should be told as little as possible.

The meeting took place in East Berlin between Leber and Reichwein, representing the Socialists, and two individuals named Franz Jacob and Anton Saefkow who claimed to be -- and perhaps were -- the leaders of the Communist underground. They were accompanied by a third comrade whom they introduced as "Rambow." The Communists turned out to know quite a bit about the plot against Hitler and wanted to know more. They asked for a meeting with its military leaders on July 4. Stauffenberg refused, but Reichwein was authorized to represent him at a further meeting on that date. When he arrived at it, he, along with Jacob and Saefkow, were promptly arrested. "Rambow," it turned out, was a Gestapo stool pigeon. The next day Leber, on whom Stauffenberg was counting to become the dominant political force in the new government, was also arrested. [xxi]

Stauffenberg was not only deeply upset by the arrest of Leber, with whom he had become a close personal friend and whom he regarded as indispensable to the proposed new government, but he saw at once that the whole conspiracy was in dire peril of being snuffed out now that Himmler's men were so close on its trail. Leber and Reichwein were courageous men and could be counted on, he thought, not to reveal any secrets even under torture. Or could they be? Some of the plotters were not so sure. There might be limits beyond which even the bravest man could not keep silent when his body was being racked by insufferable pain.

The arrest of Leber and Reichwein was a further spur to immediate action.


Toward the end of June the plotters received one good stroke of fortune. Stauffenberg was promoted to full colonel and appointed chief of staff to General Fromm, the commander in chief of the Home Army. This post not only enabled him to issue orders to the Home Army under Fromm's name but gave him direct and frequent access to Hitler. Indeed, the Fuehrer began to summon the chief of the Replacement Army, or his deputy, to headquarters two or three times a week to demand fresh replacements for his decimated divisions in Russia. At one of these meetings Stauffenberg intended to plant his bomb.

Stauffenberg had now become the key man in the conspiracy. On his shoulders alone rested its only chance for success. As the one member of the plot who could penetrate the heavily guarded Fuehrer headquarters it was up to him to kill Hitler. As chief of staff of the Replacement Army it would have to be left to him -- since Fromm had not been won over completely and could not be definitely counted on -- to direct the troops that were to seize Berlin after Hitler was out of the way. And he had to carry out both objectives on the same day and at two spots separated by two or three hundred miles -- the Fuehrer's headquarters, whether on the Obersalzberg or at Rastenburg, and Berlin. Between the first and the second acts there must be an interval of two or three hours while his plane was droning back to the capital during which he could do nothing but hope that his plans were being energetically initiated by his confederates in Berlin. That was one trouble, as we shall shortly see.

There were others. One seems to have been an almost unnecessary complication that sprang up in the minds of the now desperate conspirators. They came to the conclusion that it would not suffice to kill Adolf Hitler. They must at the same time kill Goering and Himmler, thus ensuring that the military forces under the command of these two men could not be used against them. They thought too that the top generals at the front who had not yet been won over would join them more quickly if Hitler's two chief lieutenants were also done away with. Since Goering and Himmler usually attended the daily military conferences at the Fuehrer headquarters, it was believed that it would not be too difficult to kill all three men with one bomb. This foolish resolve led Stauffenberg to miss two golden opportunities.

He was summoned to the Obersalzberg on July 11 to report to the Fuehrer on the supply of badly needed replacements. He carried with him on the plane down to Berchtesgaden one of the Abwehr's English-made bombs. It had been decided at a meeting of the plotters in Berlin the night before that this was the moment to kill Hitler -- and Goering and Himmler as well. But Himmler was not present at the conference that day and when Stauffenberg, leaving the meeting for a moment, rang up General Olbricht in Berlin to tell him so, stressing that he could still get Hitler and Goering, the General urged him to wait for another day when he could get all three. That night, on his return to Berlin, Stauffenberg met with Beck and Olbricht and insisted that the next time he must attempt to kill Hitler, regardless of whether Goering and Himmler were present or not. The others agreed.

The next time was soon at hand. On July 14 Stauffenberg was ordered to report the next day to the Fuehrer on the replacement situation -- every available recruit was needed to help fill the gaps in Russia, where Army Group Center, having lost twenty-seven divisions, had ceased to exist as a fighting force. That day -- the fourteenth -- Hitler had moved his headquarters back to Wolfsschanze at Rastenburg to take personal charge of trying to restore the central front, where Red Army troops had now reached a point but sixty miles from East Prussia.

Again, on the morning of July 15, Colonel Stauffenberg set out by plane for the Fuehrer's headquarters [xxii] with a bomb in his briefcase. This time the conspirators were so certain of success that it was agreed that the first Valkyrie signal -- for the troops to start marching in Berlin and for the tanks from the panzer school at Krampnitz to begin rolling toward the capital -- should be given two hours before Hitler's conference, scheduled for 1 P.M., began. There must be no delay in taking over.

At 11 A.M. on Saturday, July 15, General Olbricht issued Valkyrie I for Berlin and before noon troops were moving toward the center of the capital with orders to occupy the Wilhelmstrasse quarter. At 1 P.M. Stauffenberg, briefcase in hand, arrived at the Fuehrer's conference room, made his report on replacements, and then absented himself long enough to telephone Olbricht in Berlin to say -- by prearranged code -- that Hitler was present and that he intended to return to the meeting and set off his bomb. Olbricht informed him that the troops in Berlin were already on the march. At last success in the great enterprise seemed at hand. But when Stauffenberg returned to the conference room Hitler had left it and did not return. Disconsolate, Stauffenberg hurriedly rang up Olbricht with the news. The General frantically canceled the Valkyrie alarm and the troops were marched back to their barracks as quickly and as inconspicuously as possible.

The news of still another failure was a heavy blow to the conspirators, who gathered in Berlin on Stauffenberg's return to consider what next to do. Goerdeler was for resorting to the so-called "Western solution." He proposed to Beck that both of them fly to Paris to confer with Field Marshal von Kluge on getting an armistice in the West whereby the Western Allies would agree not to push farther than the Franco-German border, thus releasing the German armies in the West to be shunted to the Eastern front to save the Reich from the Russians and their Bolshevism. Beck had a clearer head. The idea that they could now get a separate peace with the West, he knew, was a pipe dream. Nevertheless the plot to kill Hitler and overthrow Nazism must be carried out at all costs, Beck argued, if only to save Germany's honor. Stauffenberg agreed. He swore he would not fail the next time. General Olbricht, who had received a dressing down from Keitel for moving his troops in Berlin, declared that he could not risk doing it again, since that would unmask the whole conspiracy. He had barely got by, he said, with an explanation to Keitel and Fromm that this was a practice exercise. This fear of again setting the troops in motion until it was known definitely that Hitler was dead was to have disastrous consequences on the crucial following Thursday.

On Sunday evening, July 16, Stauffenberg invited to his home at Wannsee a small circle of his close friends and relatives: his brother, Berthold, a quiet, introspective, scholarly young man who was an adviser on international law at naval headquarters; Lieutenant Colonel Caesar van Hofacker, a cousin of the Stauffenbergs and their liaison man with the generals in the West; Count Fritz van der Schulenburg, a former Nazi who was still deputy police president of Berlin; and Trott zu Solz. Hofacker had just returned from the West, where he had conferred with a number of generals -- Falkenhausen, Stuelpnagel, Speidel, Rommel and Kluge. He reported an imminent German breakdown on the Western front but, more important, that Rommel would back the conspiracy regardless of which way Kluge jumped, though he still opposed killing Hitler. After a long discussion the young conspirators agreed, however, that ending Hitler's life was now the only way out. They had no illusions by this time that their desperate act would save Germany from having to surrender unconditionally. They even agreed that this would have to be done to the Russians as well as to the Western democracies. The important thing, they said, was for Germans -- and not their foreign conquerors -- to free Germany from Hitler's tyranny.  [26]

They were terribly late. The Nazi despotism had endured for eleven years and only the certainty of utter defeat in a war which Germany had launched, and which they had done little to oppose -- or, in many cases, not opposed at all -- had roused them to action. But better late than never. There remained, however, little time. The generals at the front were advising them that collapse in both the East and the West was probably only a matter of weeks.

For the plotters there seemed to be only a few more days left to them to act. The premature march of the troops in Berlin on July 15 had aroused the suspicions of OKW. On that day came news that General von Falkenhausen, one of the leaders of the plot in the West, had been suddenly dismissed from his post as military governor of Belgium and northern France. Someone, it was feared, must be giving them away. On July 17 they learned that Rommel had been so seriously wounded that he would have to be left out of their plans indefinitely. The next day Goerdeler was tipped off by his friends at police headquarters that Himmler had issued an order for his arrest. At Stauffenberg's insistence Goerdeler went, protesting, into hiding. That same day a personal friend in the Navy, Captain Alfred Kranzfelder, one of the very few naval officers in on the conspiracy, informed Stauffenberg that rumors were spreading in Berlin that the Fuehrer's headquarters were to be blown up in the next few days. Again it seemed that someone in the conspiracy must have been indiscreet. Everything pointed to the Gestapo's closing in on the iIUler ring of the conspiracy.

On the afternoon of July 19 Stauffenberg was again summoned to Rastenburg, to report to Hitler on the progress being made with the new Volksgrenadier divisions which the Replacement Army was hurriedly training to be thrown in on the dissolving Eastern front. He was to make his report at the first daily conference at Fuehrer headquarters the next day, July 20, a 1 P.M. [xxiii] Field Marshal von Witzleben and General Hoepner, who lived some distance outside Berlin, were notified by Stauffenberg to appear in the city in good time. General Beck made his last-minute preparations for directing the coup until Stauffenberg could return by air from his murderous deed. The key officers in the garrisons in and around Berlin were apprised that July 20 would be Der Tag.

Stauffenberg worked at the Bendlerstrasse on his report for Hitler until dusk, leaving his office shortly after 8 o'clock for his home at Wannsee. On his way he stopped off at a Catholic church in Dahlem to pray. t He spent the evening at home quietly with his brother, Berthold, and retired early. Everyone who saw him that afternoon and evening remembered that he was amiable and calm, as if nothing unusual was in the offing.

JULY 20, 1944

Shortly after 6 o'clock on the warm, sunny summer morning of July 20, 1944, Colonel Stauffenberg, accompanied by his adjutant, Lieutenant Werner von Haeften, drove out past the bombed-out buildings of Berlin to the airport at Rangsdorf. In his bulging briefcase were papers concerning the new Volksgrenadier divisions on which at 1 P.M. he was to report to Hitler at the "Wolf's Lair" at Rastenburg in East Prussia. In between the papers, wrapped in a shirt, was a time bomb.

It was identical to the one which Tresckow and Schlabrendorff had planted in the Fuehrer's airplane the year before and which had failed to explode. Of English make, as we have seen, it was set off by breaking a glass capsule, whose acid then ate away a small wire, which released the firing pin against the percussion cap. The thickness of the wire governed the time required to set off the explosion. On this morning the bomb was fitted with the thinnest possible wire. It would dissolve in a bare tcn minutes.

At the airport Stauffenberg met General Stieff, who had produced the bomb the night before. There they found a plane waiting, the personal craft of General Eduard Wagner, the First Quartermaster General of the Army and a ringleader in the plot, who had arranged to put it at :heir disposal for this all-important flight. By 7 o'clock the plane was off, landing at Rastenburg shortly after 10 A.M. Haeften instructed the pilot to be ready to take off for the return trip at any time after twelve noon.

From the airfield a staff car drove the party to the Wolfsschanze headquarters, set in a gloomy, damp, heavily wooded area of East Prussia. It was not an easy place to get into or, as Stauffenberg undoubtedly noted, out of. It was built in three rings, each protected by mine fields, pillboxes and an electrified barbed-wire fence, and was patrolled day and night by fanatical S.S. troops. To get into the heavily guarded inner compound, where Hitler lived and worked, even the highest general had to have a special pass, good for one visit, and pass the personal inspection of S.S. Oberfuehrer Rattenhuber, Himmler's chief of security and commander of the S.S, guard, or of one of his deputies. However, since Hitler himself had ordered Stauffenberg to report, he and Haeften, though they were stopped and their passes examined, had little trouble in getting through the three check points, After breakfast with Captain von Moellendorff, adjutant to the camp commander, Stauffenberg sought out General Fritz Fellgiebel, Chief of Signals at OKW.

Fellgiebel was one of the key men in the plot. Stauffenberg made sure that the General was ready to flash the news of the bombing to the conspirators in Berlin so that action there could begin immediately. Fellgiebel was then to isolate the Fuehrer headquarters by shutting off all telephone, telegraph and radio communications. No one was in such a perfect position to do this as the head of the OKW communications network, and the plotters counted themselves lucky to have won him over. He was indispensable to the success of the entire conspiracy.

After calling on General Buhle, the Army's representative at OKW, to discuss the affairs of the Replacement Army, Stauffenberg walked over to Keitel's quarters, hung up his cap and belt in the anteroom and entered the office of the Chief of OKW. There he learned that he would have to act with more dispatch than he had planned. It was now a little after 12 noon, and Keitel informed him that because Mussolini would be arriving by train at 2:30 P.M, the Fuehrer's first daily conference had been put forward from 1 P.M, to 12:30. The colonel, Keitel advised, must make his report brief. Hitler wanted the meeting over early.

Before the bomb could go off? Stauffenberg must have wondered if once again, and on what was perhaps his last try, fate was robbing him of success. Apparently he had hoped too that this time the conference with Hitler would be held in the Fuehrer's underground bunker, where the blast from the bomb would be several times more effective than in one of the surface buildings. But Keitel told him the meeting would be in the Lagebaracke -- the conference barracks. [xxiv] This was far from being the flimsy wooden hut so often described. During the previous winter Hitler had had the original wooden structure reinforced with concrete walls eighteen inches thick to give protection against incendiary and splinter aerial bombs that might fall nearby. These heavy walls would add force to Stauffenberg's bomb.

He must soon set it to working. He had briefed Keitel on what he proposed to report to Hitler and toward the end had noticed the OKW Chief glancing impatiently at his watch. A few minutes before 12:30 Keitel said they must leave for the conference immediately or they would be late. They emerged from his quarters, but before they had taken more than a few steps Stauffenberg remarked that he had left his cap and belt in the anteroom and quickly turned to go back for them before Keitel could suggest that his adjutant, a Lieutenant von John, who was walking alongside, should retrieve them for him.

In the anteroom Stauffenberg swiftly opened his briefcase, seized the tongs with the only three fingers he had, and broke the capsule. In just ten minutes, unless there was another mechanical failure, the bomb would explode.

Keitel, as much a bully with his subordinates as he was a toady with his superiors, was aggravated at the delay and turned back to the building to shout to Stauffenberg to get a move on. They were late, he yelled. Stauffenberg apologized for the delay. Keitel no doubt realized that it took a man as maimed as the colonel a little extra time to put on his belt. As they walked over to Hitler's hut Stauffenberg seemed to be in a genial mood and Keitel's petty annoyance -- he had no trace of suspicion as yet -- was dissipated.

Nevertheless, as Keitel had feared, they were late. The conference had already begun. As Keitel and Stauffenberg entered the building the latter paused for a moment in the entrance hall to tell the sergeant major in charge of the telephone board that he expected an urgent call from his office in Berlin, that it would contain information he needed to bring his report up to the minute (this was for Keitel's ear), and that he was to be summoned immediately when the call came. This too, though it must have seemed most unusual -- even a field marshal would scarcely dare to leave the Nazi warlord's presence until he had been dismissed or until the conference was over and the Supreme Commander had left first -- did not arouse Keitel's suspicions.
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