Barbarossa When Germany invaded Russia in 1941, they did so neither near-sighted or as a back-handed diplomatic ploy. While Russia remained a key objective to Hitler, it was also seen as a necessity for long-term victory and survival in Europe for Germany. Plan Yellow, as developed by Field Marshal Erich von Manstein, called upon the pre-emptive strike against an imperialistic Russia, using speed and superior leadership as keys to victory. To always remember the axiom: History is written by the conquerers, is key to the history of the German-Russian War 1941-1945. This paper intends to not only convey the necessity and the upside of a German attack and subsequent victorys but also the Russian Armys offense stance of 1941. As Field Marshal Fedor von Bock wrote in his diaries A sense of fright came over the OKH (German High Command) With no more enemies, who do we wait for to fight? Alas they had been waiting for us.
Germany in 1941 had reached a high point. The German economy, bolstered by its newly conquered lands, stood by itself with no equal. The citizenery had not witnessed victory like 1939-1941 since the day of Fredrich the Great. Germany, bolstered by such a booming economy and national morale, had yet to truly begin its witch-hunts, nor had any of its concentration camps. While Jews were politically and often violently blamed and attacked for Germanys ills, Hitler and the Nazi regime had at this point not begun the holocaust nor the mass killings.
Most of Europe belonged to the Axis powers and Field Marshal Erwin Rommels Afika Korps, and the Italian Army had beaten the Allies to the far reaches of Africa. Mexico was being courted by the Axis diplomats and Brazil had remained nuetral, but swayed to Germany, (its imperialist conquerer). Japan had taken much of China and had moved towards Australia. Germany had no equal: economically, militarily, and no threat of one. The reasons for an invasion of Russia are many, but very simply, in all respects it made perfect sense to retain and protect the security and future of Germany.
Contrary to most opinions, Germany was not embroiled in a two-front war in 1941, mainly because of Britains inability to bring significant pressure to bear on Germany by land, sea, or air during the proposed time period of Plan Yellow. The naval blockade of German sea ports was failing miserably as the German empire was overly sufficient without imports. Britains traditional trump card: sea power and naval blockades of German ports would be rendered obsolete by a victory in European Russia. If Germany defeated or eliminated Russia from the war, any British posture, even with the support of their empire would be meaningless in the face of German control of the fuel, iron, ore and agricultural resources of the entire continent. Britain would be at a complete loss and it would be her economy to collapse. Britains only option for obtaining critical materials, or victory of any sort, would appear to be in Africa.
However, German air and ground forces freed from the continent (inner France, Germany, Austria, Czechoslavakia), could easily be diverted to Africa to prevent this. The destruction and conquest of European Russia would not only provide Germany with immense resources and capabilities to expand those resources, but it would also make Britain unable to carry on a fruitless war. Hitlers Lebensraum, or literally living space, is misleading as Germany was not overcrowded and had conquered an immense buffer zone against her enemies and neighbors. Lebensraum sought resources- iron, ore, fuel, food, factory space- it did not have inside the boundaries imposed in the Versailles Treaty of 1917. Hitler, in each of his military endeavors sought out these necessary resources above military strategy, even above diplomatic means. Hitler had so handily conquered Poland, annexed both Austria and Czechoslavakia, defeated Belgium, and a large British Expeditionary Force, and France so quickly.The entire armed forces working brilliantly enough to overrun Norway, nuetralize Britain, and their U-Boats disrupting sea supply lines from America, Hitler turned to the showdown with Soviet Russia. In late 1940 Hitler suggested to a friendly Russia that she enter and join the German-Italian Pact of Steel.
The negotiations over the spoils of war in the Balkans and Greece were bogged down, and a mutual distrust ended the negotiations. A war against Russia, while touted as a religious, ideological showdown, was really a spatial war that would either win the entire war and insure an all German Europe, or cost dearly and end in a withdrawl to the 1941 border so Hitler believed. In the week of July 22, 1940, chief of the general staff, Generaloberst Franz Halder, began to develop the strategy for an invasion of Russia. Under great pressure from Hitler, Halder turned to the pre-eminent strategist in Germany. A lower ranking general who was reknown in the military circles of the world, and would always remain a silent secret because of his anti-nazi beliefs: General Erich von Manstein. Manstein had developed, and drawn out to the smallest detail, the strategy for the invasion of France and the Low Countries, as well as the landings in Norway. Manstein developed a similar plan to the invasion of France, instituting the German tactics of encirclement and pincher movements. However, unlike his strategy in France, cities and space werent the objective, destruction of the Red Army was.
The plan depended heavily on the Russian reaction and the individual judgement and talent of the German field commanders. The field commanders of the time were experienced, finely-tuned, well educated and possessed as their greatest strength an extreme adaptability to enemies, strategy, terrain and goals. Manstein knew that the Russian reaction to the invasion remained paramount. If the Soviet High Command had a plan of immediate and systematic withdrawl into the east, the German invasion would only fail. The war would drag on in White Russia to the detriment of Germany.
To Germanys advantage and to Russian dispair, they stood, fought and died. The German High Command (OKH) did not enter the war blindly, if anything, they were very cautious and knowledgable. The pre-invasion planning was meticulous to the finest details, including the purchase of 15,000 light wagons and horses from a mountainous region of Poland, which were perfectly suited for the muddy and treacherous Russian terrain. Calculations of the Russian forces were at most overestimates of their tank and air capabilities, qualities and quantities. The invasion was well thought out.
The most capable, competent and best-suited commanders were chosen, and the armies were well-trained, experienced and possessed high morale. As it has been stated, Germany knew the risks, yet had finally envisioned the key to total victory. The OKHs goal during the invasion of France and the Low Countries was To defeat the larghest possible elements of the French and Allied armies, and simultaneously occupy as much territory as possible in Holland, Belgium and Northern France. Memories of the stand-off in World War I, relating to the battle plan, are simply a directive to capture as much land as possible before the Germans were stopped. It was a half-measure plan only to succeed in buying time and space, and to close the gap so that the Luftwaffe could operate defensively as well as offensively against England. No one had planned for or expected the co …