The war with the USSR was a surprise for the majority of Germans ("Deutsche Welle" Germany)

The war with the USSR was a surprise for the majority of Germans ("Deutsche Welle" Germany)For Germany, the attack on the Soviet Union was not the beginning, but the continuation of the war. A historian from Hamburg about the addiction of the German population to blitzkriegs, anti-Soviet propaganda and military miscalculations.

Did ordinary Germans want war with the Soviet Union? Did he represent whom they would fight against? Professor Frank Golczewski - expert on issues stories Eastern Europe, a lecturer at the University of Hamburg answers questions from Deutsche Welle.


Deutsche Welle: June 1941. What was then the life of ordinary people in Germany - did they feel the approach of war with the USSR?

Frank Golczewski: It is important to note that at that time Germany was already at war. Some German cities have been bombarded by the British Air Force since 1940. In addition, two months before the start of the war with the USSR, Germany won the war in Yugoslavia, and a few weeks before the attack, the war in Greece. That is to say that there was no war, is not necessary. The population of Germany lived in a war that was constantly expanding.

- Was there a feeling of euphoria against victories in the Balkans and in Greece?

- In 1939, the mood among the masses was subdued, since war was replaced by peace. In 1941, the situation became different, there was a certain addiction. The Germans are accustomed to the war, which they perceived as Blitzkrieg, that is, the "blitzkrieg". In addition, for most Germans, the war was something distant except for areas that were bombed from the air.

- As far as the war affected the everyday life of the Germans - there were no restrictions, there were no interruptions in the supply of food then?

- Indeed, there were no restrictions. This is one of the moments that distinguishes the First and Second World Wars. In Germany itself, people felt the deterioration of supplies much later. This is due to the fact that deliberate robbery was carried out in the occupied territories, which maintained the standard of living in the empire.

“Nevertheless, the Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels, a few days before the German attack on the USSR, wrote in his diary that the mood was ambivalent and that the population of Germany was tired of the war ...

- This is due to the fact that normal citizens never want war. Since 1939, Germany has waged a whole series of wars - the conquest of Poland, France, Norway, Yugoslavia, the campaign in Africa. This means that the soldiers fought throughout Europe or in Africa, that is, they were away from their families and this, of course, was felt. Therefore, in such families there was a very strong desire that the war would finally end.

- What did the people of Germany know about the upcoming war with the USSR? Did she surprise them?

- Yes, the Germans did not expect this new war. Then the restriction of the right of correspondence was introduced, and in general the preparation for the war was kept in the strictest confidence. The blow to the Soviet Union was to be a surprise. On the other hand, already a few months before the campaign began, large-scale preparations began. The troops in Poland to the German-Soviet demarcation line. Those who were somehow connected with this preparation understood what it was leading to.

- What were the ideas of the Germans about the Soviet Union?

- These views were relatively blurry. We can say that on the eve of the war the Germans felt rather insecure. Before 1939, mad anti-Soviet propaganda was carried out in Germany. But already during the preparation of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, this propaganda was curtailed. And in the next two years - until June 1941 - there was no anti-Soviet propaganda. German media did not praise the USSR, just reports about it disappeared from the news. This means that the population of Germany who read newspapers or listened to the radio simply did not know what was happening in the Soviet Union. Propaganda resumed with a new force on the day of the attack on the USSR and was much more disgusting than everything that happened in previous years.


- For example?

- In the German media there was a direct connection between Bolshevism and Jewry, Soviet citizens were portrayed as "Asian subhumans" ("asiatische Untermenschen"). It was a racist attitude towards the USSR.

- Was there resistance to this war in Germany?

- No, it appeared much later. Resistance from the German military appeared when it became clear that Germany could lose the war. In the 1941 year, according to the logic of the German military, this should not have happened. Although, in theory, it should be clear to them that such a country as the USSR is almost impossible to win.

- How did the Germans react to the beginning of the war?


- There was no euphoria. Reliefs - too. Apart from Nazi fanatics, the common people were not interested in a war with the Soviet Union ... For most Germans, the war came as a surprise. Many of them believed in propaganda that it would be a “blitzkrieg”. Few had a map of the USSR before their eyes, so the idea that it was enough to capture cities in the European part and the rest of the Soviet Union would collapse was widely spread. This, of course, was complete nonsense.

- How well did the German leadership know the situation in the USSR?

- The German leadership believed, and this was partly justified, that the Great Terror - a wave of repression directed, including against the military, greatly weakened the USSR. In addition, Germany could not help but notice how severe the Soviet-Finnish war was. It ended in a half-win or half-strike, depending on how you look at it. In any case, it was possible to conclude that since the Soviet Union had such problems with Finland, the “victorious German army” would easily defeat the USSR. This, of course, was not the case. The Germans did not take into account the readiness of the Soviet army for defense. In addition, they underestimated the ability of the Soviet leadership, after a period of initial shock, to change policies and raise the population to resist the occupying army.
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