Wehrmacht troops are crossing the border of the USSR.
Reich's turn of aggression to the East
The blitzkrieg in the West, the almost lightning defeat of Holland, Belgium and France, the heavy defeat of England, the occupation of a significant part of France and the emergence of the Vichy allied regime in the rest of the country - seriously changed the balance of power in Europe and the world.
The Third Reich achieved a brilliant victory, defeated the main competitors in Europe (France and England) without complete mobilization and exhaustion of the country. In fact, for the armed forces and the country, it was an easy walk, compared to the hardships and enormous blood of the First World War.
Germany strengthened significantly: 9 states were captured with their military-economic potential, labor resources, available military reserves. Germany has put under its control over 850 thousand square meters. km and more than 100 million people. The Reich also made great strides in military-technical development.
The fairly easy victories won turned the head of the German military-political leadership. It was euphoria. The people were pleased with the fruits of the victory. The army was jubilant.
Even those generals who previously wanted to overthrow Hitler, fearing a military and political catastrophe in a clash with France and England, were forced to admit the success of the Fuhrer. They began to regard the German war machine as invincible.
World hegemony no longer seemed like a pipe dream. Hitler, obviously, was confident that England would not interfere in his war with the Russians, that there would be no second front in Europe, but there would be a blitzkrieg in the East, victory before winter. Then it will be possible to agree with England on a new division of spheres of influence and colonies in the world.
In Berlin, they looked at the British with respect and considered them their teachers. England gave the world the theory of racism, social Darwinism, was the first to create concentration camps, used the methods of terror and genocide to suppress any resistance of "subhumans". The British colonial empire was an example for the Nazis in creating their "Millennium Reich".
Therefore, the Soviet Union was considered the main enemy in achieving world domination in Berlin. The United States, after the victory over Russia, the alliance with England, could simply be isolated. To confront Japan with America, for example. Hitler believed that the main goals of the Reich in the East: it was necessary to expand the "living space" for the German nation, exterminate the Slavs, push even further to the east, turn the remnants into slaves of German colonist masters.
This goal has long been nurtured and attracted close attention of the leaders of the Reich. Thus, in November 1938, the German industrialist A. Rechberg wrote in a memorandum to the head of the Reich Chancellery:
“The object of expansion for Germany appears to be the space of Russia, which ... possesses innumerable riches in the field of agriculture and untapped raw materials. If we want the expansion into this space to ensure Germany's transformation into an empire with a sufficient agrarian and raw material base for its needs, then it is necessary to seize at least the entire Russian territory up to the Urals exclusively, where huge ore resources lie. "
Major German industrialist Arnold Rechberg. Since 1917, he was involved in organizing the "crusade" of Europe against Russia and the USSR. He played a large role in supporting Hitler's plans in the East.
The main task is "a clash with Bolshevism"
The former deputy chief of staff of the operational leadership of the Wehrmacht, General Warlimont, even before the attack on France, in the spring of 1940, received an order from Hitler to draw up a plan of operations in the East. The same order was sent to the chief of staff of the operational leadership of the Wehrmacht, General Jodl. On June 2, 1940, at the headquarters of Army Group A, the Fuehrer announced that by the French campaign and the agreement with England he had received a free hand to
"A big and real challenge: a clash with Bolshevism."
Large German capital played an important role in developing a plan of aggression against the USSR. Berlin has already tuned in to a future compromise with England on the basis of the division of the world. Led by prominent representatives of the economy, bureaucracy and the army, the Society for European Economic Planning and Economics presented at the end of May 1940 a conclusion in which the outline of the Program for the Development of the Continental European Economy in a Vast Territory under German Government was made. The ultimate goal after the war was the exploitation of the peoples of the continent from Gibraltar to the Urals and from the North Cape to the island of Cyprus, with the colonial sphere in Africa and Siberia. In general, it was a program of a united Europe from Gibraltar to the Urals under the control of the German masters.
The preparation of a war against Russia is becoming the defining, main direction of the measures being taken in the field of foreign and domestic policy, economics and military affairs. They refused to invade England, although they could have put London in check and checkmate with almost one blow: it was enough to occupy Suez, Gibraltar and go through the territory of the Middle East to Persia and further to India. After that London would be forced to ask for peace.
All efforts were focused on further building up and improving the ground forces for the march to the East. The leadership of the Wehrmacht now supported Hitler's plans. After the victory over France, the military opposition virtually disappeared (before the blitzkrieg failed). The generals agreed with the idea of a war to destroy the "Russian barbarians" and for living space in the East.
On June 29, 1940, at the direction of the Commander-in-Chief of the Wehrmacht Ground Forces, Brauchitsch, the creation of a group of troops for the war with Russia began. German troops in Poland on the border with the USSR and Lithuania were transferred to the command of the 18th Army, which had previously participated in the French campaign.
Simultaneously with the headquarters of Guderian's group, a plan for the transfer of armored formations to the east was developed in the shortest possible time. On July 4, 1940, the Chief of the General Staff of the Ground Forces, Halder, began to deal with the planning of the war with the Russians and practical measures for the preparation of the transfer of divisions to the Soviet borders. Options for the construction of railways to the East were being worked out. Transfer began tanks.
On July 31, 1940, at a military meeting, Hitler formulated the essence of German strategy at this stage of the war. In his opinion, Russia was the main obstacle to world domination. The Fuhrer also noted that the main hope of England is Russia and America. If hope for Russia collapses, then America will also fall away from England, since the defeat of the Russians will lead to an incredible strengthening of Japan in the Far East. If Russia is defeated, then England will lose her last hope. Therefore, Russia is subject to liquidation.
Hitler set the date for the start of the Russian campaign - the spring of 1941. The stake was on blitzkrieg. The operation mattered only in the event of the rapid defeat of the entire Russian state. Capturing only part of the territory is insufficient. The main task of the war:
"Destruction of the vital force of Russia."
That is, a war to destroy Russia and the Russians.
Hitler (right) with Field Marshal Keitel (center) examining a map at the headquarters of Army Group North in Latvia. July 21, 1941
Preparing a war of destruction
Preparing for aggression against the USSR, Hitlerite Germany relied on a sharply increased military-economic potential. Almost all of Western Europe was conquered and somehow worked for the Reich, like Sweden, Switzerland and Spain. Further militarization of the economy was carried out in Germany. The economic and human resources of the occupied countries were put at the service of the Reich.
During the 1940 campaigns, the Germans captured a huge amount of military equipment, weapons, equipment and materials. The Nazis took almost all the weapons from 6 Norwegian, 12 British, 18 Dutch, 22 Belgian and 92 French divisions.
For example, in France, 3 thousand aircraft and about 5 thousand tanks were captured. At the expense of French and other captured vehicles, the Wehrmacht command mechanized more than 90 divisions. Also in occupied France, a huge amount of equipment, raw materials, vehicles were seized and removed. During the two years of occupation, 5 thousand steam locomotives and 250 thousand cars were stolen. In 1941, the Germans from the occupied part of France exported 4,9 million tons of ferrous metals (73% of the annual production).
In Germany itself, in 1940, the growth of military production in comparison with 1939 was about 54%.
Major measures were taken to develop the armed forces of the Reich. Particular attention was paid to the ground forces. In August 1940, it was decided to increase the number of combat-ready divisions to 180, and by the beginning of the war with Russia, deploy about 250 full-blooded divisions (including the reserve army and SS troops). The mechanization of troops and the quantity and quality of mobile units were increasing.
On September 5, 1940, the task was set to bring the number of mobile troops to 12 motorized divisions (not counting the SS troops) and 24 tank divisions. The organizational and staff structure of mobile units was rebuilt. The changes were aimed at increasing the striking power and mobility of tank and motorized divisions. The priority task was the release of new tanks, aircraft and anti-tank guns.
Berlin put together a bloc of states that were supposed to support the aggression against Russia. Allied troops did not take part in the war with Poland and France. Italy opposed France on its own initiative, and when the French were already effectively defeated. The attack on the USSR was conceived as a coalition war, with the widespread involvement of allies. It was another "crusade" of Europe against Russia. War of civilizations.
According to the plan of the German leadership, the main allies in the anti-Comintern pact (Italy and Japan) should have been tied up in other theaters. Italy's efforts were directed against England in the Mediterranean and Africa. But this idea failed even before the start of the war with Russia.
Italy failed the war with Greece and England. Germany had to actively climb into the Mediterranean, to support the losing ally. Japan was supposed to fetter US forces in the Pacific and threaten the Russians in the Far East by diverting part of the Red Army.
On September 27, 1940, the Tripartite Pact was signed between Germany, Italy and Japan. Its members planned to achieve world domination. Germany and Italy were responsible for creating a "new order" in Europe, Japan in "Great East Asia."
The Triple Pact became the basis of the anti-Soviet coalition. On November 20, 23 and 24, 1940, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia (a puppet state created after the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia) joined the agreement. Finland, Bulgaria, Turkey and Yugoslavia were drawn into this union with all their might.
The Finnish leadership did not enter into this pact, but developed bilateral military-economic cooperation directed against Russia. Finland's resources were placed at the service of Germany. German intelligence was quietly operating in Finland. Hitler promised to give Finland East Karelia and the Leningrad Region. In the fall of 1940, an agreement was concluded between the Reich and Finland on the transit of German troops and cargo for transfer to Norway. But these troops began to go to the border of the USSR. Finnish volunteers began to join the SS troops. The Finnish army was preparing to attack Russia along with the Wehrmacht.
Bulgaria, assuring Moscow of good feelings, became a member of the Tripartite Pact on March 1, 1941. German troops entered the territory of Bulgaria. Its communications and raw material potential was used by the Reich in aggression against Greece, Yugoslavia, and then the USSR.
So, the Third Reich was able to deploy its armed forces along the entire length of the western strategic direction of the USSR, from the Arctic Ocean to the Black Sea.
There was also a high probability that Turkey would support the German attack and act in the Caucasus, which also diverted part of the Red Army forces in the southwest.
Hitler in Vienna. Hungary joins the Triple Pact. November 20, 1940
Hitler's strategic mistake
Thus, the Third Reich, with the help of the subject countries of Europe, significantly increased its military-economic potential. Germany has expanded its material and resource base. However, the military-economic preparation for the war with the USSR had critical shortcomings.
The fact is that it was designed only for lightning war. The military-political leadership did a great job of mobilizing the resources of Germany itself and the occupied, dependent territories for the war, but only within the framework of the blitzkrieg. That is, there were no reserves in Germany in case of Plan B - a possible prolonged war of attrition.
The stake was placed precisely on the first knockout blow, the collapse of the Soviet colossus "on feet of clay." This was the second strategic miscalculation of Hitler, his entourage and intelligence (the first was the very decision to fight the Russians, although it was possible to negotiate with Moscow). Berlin grossly underestimated Russia, considering its potential at the level of the late 1920s - early 1930s.
Hitler did not yet know that Stalin had created a triune monolith - the party, the army and the people. A society of knowledge, service and creation, ready for any sacrifice in the name of great goals. The Russians of 1941 were very different than in 1914.
In the First World War, these were mainly peasants with a small splash of intelligentsia and military personnel. During the Second World War - well-educated workers, collective farmers, intelligentsia, military men with vast experience of war. Russian soldiers have retained their best qualities - stamina, tenacity and courage. And they added new ones - technical education and faith in the best country and society in the world. They knew what they were going to die for.
This predetermined the subsequent mistakes. The economic preparation for the war was based on the belief in the blitzkrieg, the rapid fall and collapse of Soviet Russia into parts, national bantustans. Hopes for active action by the "fifth column" (which Stalin crushed before the war), the uprising of the military, the uprising of collective farmers-peasants and national separatists.
That is, before the eyes of the Nazis there was Russia of the 1914-1917 model, somewhat changed by the communist ideology, but still the same. Russia had to quickly fall under external and internal blows.
Hence all the blunders of the military-economic preparation of the Reich for the war with Russia. Germany was not totally mobilized, society and the country at the beginning of the war with the USSR lived in general in a peacetime regime. They did not expand military production to the maximum, as they could, did not transfer the economy to a military track (this had to be done during the war, when the blitzkrieg failed).
It was believed that the accumulated stocks of weapons, ammunition and fuel would be enough for the entire campaign (one year). They did not prepare for war in winter conditions, they did not stock up on winter uniforms, etc.
All this (after the failure of the blitzkrieg) had dire consequences for the Reich and the Wehrmacht.
To be continued ...