David Irving


The Dilemma

Winston Churchill’s resistance in the summer of 1940 overthrew the very basis of Hitler’s calculations.  For twenty years he had dreamed of an alliance with Britain.  Until far into the war he clung to the dream with all the vain, slightly ridiculous tenacity of a lover unwilling to admit that his feelings are-unrequited.  When Japan joined the war in December 1941, the dream still lingered dimly on, although Britain and Germany had by then dealt each other blows of unexampled savagery.  In his unpublished diary, Walther Hewel recorded Hitler’s melancholy lament :  “How strange that with Japan’s aid we are destroying the positions of the white race in the Far East—and that Britain is fighting against Europe with those swine the Bolsheviks !”  But Britain’s persistent war aims were clear beyond a doubt from a secret 1939 document captured by Hitler’s troops in France :  Germany was to be defeated and dismembered, regardless of whether Hitler was overthrown by internal revolution or not ;  but these true war aims were not to be published, as they would only implacably unite the Germans behind their F¸hrer.

As Hitler told Major Quisling on August 18, 1940 :  “After making one proposal after another to the British on the reorganization of Europe, I now find myself forced against my will to fight this war against Britain.  I find myself in the same position as Martin Luther, who had just as little desire to fight Rome but was left with no alternative.  In this fight now I will destroy the England of old, and go alone about establishing a New Order in Europe.  My interests are only in northern Europe, not the south.  The Mediterranean countries have always been death to the Germans.”

This was the dilemma confronting Hitler that summer.  He hesitated to crush the British.  Accordingly, he could not put his heart into the invasion planning—G–ring at least noticed this and drew the appropriate conclusions.  More fatefully, Hitler initially stayed the hand of the Luftwaffe and forbade any attack on London under pain of court-martial ;  the all-out saturation bombing of London, which his strategic advisers Raeder, Jodl, and Jeschonnek all urged upon him, was vetoed for one implausible reason after another.  Though his staffs were instructed to examine every peripheral British position—Gibraltar, Egypt, the Suez Canal—for its vulnerability to attack, the heart of the British Empire was allowed to beat on, unmolested until it was too late and its armor of fighter squadrons and antiaircraft batteries rendered it impregnable.  In these months an adjutant overheard Hitler heatedly shouting into a Chancellery telephone, “We have no business to be destroying Britain.  We are quite incapable of taking up her legacy,” meaning the empire ;  and he spoke of the “devastating consequences” of the collapse of that empire.

Perhaps he felt his peace feelers had not “got through” or had been expressed in the wrong language.  Rudolf Hess believed so, for early in September he told a confidant :  “The F¸hrer never wanted to batter the empire to pieces, nor does he want to now.  Is there nobody in Britain willing to make peace ?”  If the war continued, the white race would be committing suicide, since even if Germany secured an absolute victory in Europe she was incapable of taking over the imperial legacy overseas, Hess noted.  This was unquestionably Hitler’s language, which makes it likely that when Hess urgently asked his friend about ways and means of communicating Hitler’s serious wish for peace to leading Britons he was acting as the F¸hrer wanted.  The views of the Duke of Windsor may have influenced Hitler’s assessment of the British mentality :  it was reported from Lisbon that he had described the war as a crime, Halifax’s speech repudiating Hitler’s “peace offer” as shocking, and the British hope for a revolution in Germany as childish.  The duke delayed his departure for the Bahamas as long as he could, but he explained through intermediaries he would intervene actively only if he was convinced he had the support of the majority in Britain, as his return to England might lead to civil war.  He assured his Portuguese host that he could return by air from Bermuda within twenty-four hours if need be.  “Undiminished though his support for the F¸hrer’s policies are,” reported the Lisbon ambassador, “he thinks it would be premature for him to come right out into the open at present.”

Ribbentrop—clearly with Hitler’s knowledge—cabled his Madrid ambassador to send confidential word to the Portuguese banker host that Germany was determined to use as much force as was necessary to bring Britain to the peace table.  “It would be good if the duke could stand by to await further developments.”  If the duke could not be dissuaded from leaving (a loyal friend of King George’s and a handful of Scotland Yard detectives had just arrived in Lisbon to persuade him), then the banker was to arrange a private channel of communication with him.  The Duke of Windsor left Lisbon for the Bahamas on August 1.  In his last conversation with his host he replied to Ribbentrop’s message :  he praised Hitler’s desire for peace and reiterated that had he still been king there would have been no war, but he explained that given an official instruction by his government he had no choice but to obey.  To disobey would be to show his hand too soon—it would cause a scandal and rob him of his prestige in Britain.  A code word had been prearranged with the banker for his immediate return to Lisbon.

From the reports of friendly neutrals like Spain, Hitler had a detailed picture of the situation in Britain.  From an agent in the State Department in Washington he also obtained copies of the reports of the American ambassador in London, Joseph P. Kennedy, who at the beginning of August predicted that the Germans would get their way without invading Britain.  They had only to continue the blockade :  the east coast harbors were already paralyzed, the rest were badly damaged.

This was Hitler’s view too.  To G–ring it was one more reason not to sacrifice his Luftwaffe in preparations for an invasion he believed would never take place—despite the fact that the primary task assigned to him in Hitler’s directive of August 1 was the defeat of the British air force.  G–ring’s proposal was to feint with a great bomber force toward London, forcing the bulk of the enemy’s fighter force into the air, and then to wipe this out with the combined fighter strength of Field Marshal Albert Kesselring’s and Field Marshal Hugo Sperrle’s commands ;  he could have everything ready by August 5.  The attacks would continue until the enemy air force was defeated or the weather worsened.  Hitler was back in Berlin on the fourth, but G–ring repeatedly postponed the attack, giving the weather as his excuse.  On the sixth the army’s Chief of Staff complained in his diary :  “We now have a peculiar situation in which the navy is tongue-tied with inhibitions, the Luftwaffe is unwilling to tackle the task which they first have to accomplish, and the OKW—which really does have some Wehrmacht commanding to do here—lies lifeless.  We are the only people pressing ahead.”

On the eighth Hitler returned to the Berghof, where he awarded Frau Bormann the Mother’s Cross in gold for her considerable procreative accomplishments, and he inspected the new beehives Bormann had laid out—as though there were no more pressing problems.

At the Berghof, the tapestry at one end of the Great Hall was drawn aside to reveal the projection room, and a cinema screen was set up at the other end.  Every available Russian and Finnish newsreel film of their recent war was run and rerun, while Hitler and his staff studied the Russians’ weapons and the tactics the film revealed.  When the lights went up, little knots of officers excitedly discussed the eastern enemy.  The Intelligence reports reaching Hitler were unmistakable and disconcerting :  a gigantic rearmament effort had begun in Russia ;  in addition, according to Heydrich’s organization, the Soviet trade missions were spreading Communist propaganda and organizing cells in German factories.  At the Brown House, the Nazi party headquarters in Munich, one day Hitler told Ribbentrop that he did not intend to stand by idly and allow the Soviet Union to steamroller Germany ;  Ribbentrop begged him not to contemplate war with Russia, and he quoted Bismarck’s dictum about the unwillingness of the gods to allow mere mortals to scan the cards of Fate.

The real face of Stalinism had been unmasked in the Baltic states, where less than two months after the Red Army had taken over, the entire intelligentsia had been liquidated with a ruthless efficiency not even Himmler was achieving in Poland.  When Keitel submitted a handwritten memorandum against waging war with Russia if it could possibly be avoided, Hitler summoned him to a private interview and scathingly reduced the field marshal’s arguments one by one :  Stalin had as little intention of adhering to their treaty as he did ;  moreover, Stalin was alarmed by Hitler’s military successes.  Keitel was hurt and suggested that the F¸hrer find an OKW chief whose strategic judgment meant more to him.  Rising to his feet, Hitler angrily denied him the right to resign—Brauchitsch too had tried that last autumn.  Keitel was on his feet as well.  Without a word he turned on his heel and left the room.  Hitler retained the memorandum.  Presumably it vanished into his safe along with his collection of other incriminating documents.

Keitel had already, on August 2, instructed his armaments staff that an upheaval in all their planning might prove necessary, as the F¸hrer now recognized that Britain might not collapse that year.  In 1941 the United States might intervene and “our relationship to Russia might undergo a change.”  Admiral Canaris, Keitel’s Intelligence chief, was also briefed in August on Hitler’s intention of attacking Russia in the spring.  Ways and means must be found of camouflaging the buildup of German strength in the east.  The OKW had already issued an order to that end and transparently code-named it “Eastern Buildup.”  According to this plan, because of the vulnerability of the western provinces to British air attack, Germany’s eastern provinces were to accommodate more divisions and their transport systems were to be modernized.  Eastern mapping sections were also to be enlarged for the same reason.  Even Admiral Raeder was informed by Hitler during August that these growing troop movements to the eastern front were just an outsize camouflage to distract from the imminent invasion of Britain.  In fact, the truth was the reverse.  The OKW’s war diary stated explicitly on the eighth :  “ ‘Eastern Buildup’ is our camouflage order for preparations against Russia.”

Hitler’s mind was on the shape of the Greater German Reich to come—and above all on how Germany was to police the more turbulent and dissident peoples that would come within the Reich’s frontiers.  This, he declared to Colonel Schmundt on August 6, must be the peacetime task of his Waffen SS.  An elite force of “state police troopers” was to maintain the authority of the central government so that there would never be any need to call on the regular forces to take up arms against their fellow countrymen.(1)  These police troopers, noted Schmundt, must be of the best German blood and unconditional champions of the Nazi ideology—a body of men of a purity and pride that would never make common cause with the seditious proletariat ;  to increase their authority in the eyes of the people, the Waffen SS must prove their value on the coming battlefields ;  they must be an elite, and Hitler laid down that the Waffen SS must therefore not exceed 5 to 10 percent of his army’s peacetime size.  The Wehrmacht objected bitterly to this further entrenchment of Himmler’s private army, but Keitel agreed with Hitler’s arguments and ordered them given the widest circulation within the army.

Among close friends at the Berghof, Hitler often thought out loud about his plans for all Europe when it was finally in his hands.  He would build great autobahns far into the east, he would build new cities ;  on Victory Day the people of Berlin must dance in Wilhelmsplatz, and then the rebuilding of Berlin was to begin.  He would be gracious and magnanimous to the vanquished enemy heads of state—even to Churchill, whom he would “give leave to paint and write his memoirs.”

G–ring told Hitler he needed three days of good weather to begin the air attack on the British fighter defenses.  On August 12, he announced that the attack would begin the next day.  At 11:20 A.M. Hitler therefore left the Berghof for Berlin.  When Raeder warned on the thirteenth that the invasion of Britain was a last resort, not to be undertaken lightly, Hitler reassured him that he would first see what results the Luftwaffe obtained.  Thus he postponed his decision.  But those who knew him realized the invasion would never take place.  “Whatever his final decision, the F¸hrer wants the threat of invasion of Britain to persist,” the naval staff’s war diary noted on August 14.  “That is why the preparations, whatever the final decision, must continue.”  In fact, Hitler’s attention was already very much on Russia.  It is evident that he was unsettled by signs that the USSR was preparing to swallow Finland once and for all, for he told G–ring to supply the Finns secretly with war goods and particularly with antitank mines, forthwith ;  he asked Raeder to fortify northern Norway against any Russian designs on that area as well.

When the newly created field marshals assembled in the Chancellery on August 14 to receive their magnificently bejeweled batons from Hitler’s hands, he was explicit about his strategic thinking.  His remarks about Britain would have bemused the British people, who even now believed that Hitler was hell-bent on destroying and devouring the British Empire.  In addition to the naval staffs account of his speech, there are two surviving records by field marshals.  Hitler referred to Germany’s greatest strength as her national unity.  Since Britain had rejected Hitler’s hand of peace, a conflict was inevitable but was initially to be restricted to Luftwaffe operations.  “Whether the army will have to be employed can’t be predicted.  In any case it would only be used if we were absolutely forced to. . . .”  Hitler expressed doubts that the Luftwaffe would succeed in altering British determination before bad weather set in :  should it fail, he would postpone a decision about an invasion until May 1941.

Leeb’s account’ of Hitler’s revealing political speech toward the end of the luncheon is important enough to quote at length :

Probably two reasons why Britain won’t make peace.

Firstly, she hopes for U.S. aid ;  but the U.S. can’t start major arms deliveries until 1941.

Secondly, she hopes to play Russia off against Germany.  But Germany is militarily far superior to Russia.  The film of Russian warfare in Finland contains quite ludicrous scenes.  The loss of gasoline [from Russia] can easily be made up by Romania.

There are two danger-areas which could set off a clash with Russia :  number one, Russia pockets Finland ;  this would cost Germany her dominance of the Baltic and impede a German attack on Russia.  Number two, further encroachment by Russia on Romania.  We cannot permit this, because of Romania’s gasoline supplies to Germany.

Therefore Germany must keep fully armed.  By the spring there will be 180 divisions.

As for Europe :  there is no justification for the existence of small nations, and they particularly have no right to big colonial possessions.  In the age of air forces and armored divisions small nations are lost.  What matters today is a unified Europe against America.  Japan will have to seek contact with Germany, because Germany’s victory will tilt the situation in the Far East against Britain, in Japan’s favor.  But Germany is not striving to smash Britain because the beneficiaries will not be Germany, but Japan in the east, Russia in India, Italy in the Mediterranean, and America in world trade.  This is why peace is possible with Britain—but not so long as Churchill is prime minister.  Thus we must see what the Luftwaffe can do, and await a possible general election.

The first two days of the Luftwaffe attack were a disappointment—not that the defenses were proving insuperable, but the unpredictable English summer foiled every effort to coordinate the operations of G–ring’s three air forces.  Hitler ruled nonetheless that the air war must go on and that invasion preparations should take September 15 as their target date.  But in the latter part of August haze and even fog made the air war progressively less profitable.  A “total blockade” of the British Isles was declared, but even this was a half-measure, for it was followed up a week later by an OKW compendium of practices forbidden to the German forces—the use of poison gases, unrestricted attack on certain types of shipping in specific areas, and of course Hitler’s on-going embargo on air raids on London town ;  he forbade any kind of “terror attack” without his permission.

On August 15, Germany’s Lisbon embassy learned that the Duke of Windsor had cabled his former host to let him know when he should “act”;  but that time was still far off.  The next evening, Hitler again left Berlin for the Obersalzberg ;  such hopes as he may have reposed in the Luftwaffe’s campaign were temporarily disappointed.

At the Berghof Hitler busied himself less with plans for invading Britain than with other ways of crushing her people’s will.

He studied an earlier Brauchitsch proposal that if the invasion were abandoned, a German expeditionary force should be sent to Libya to support an Italian attack on the British position in Egypt :  Germany could spare an armored corps until the following spring.  Hitler also asked Ribbentrop to explore ways of bringing Spain into the war, and Jodl’s staff attracted Hitler to the idea of capturing Gibraltar with Spanish complicity.  But General Francisco Franco was reluctant to declare war, for his country’s economy had not yet recovered from three years of civil war ;  he informed Ribbentrop’s Madrid embassy that Spain would need an annual supply of four hundred thousand tons of gasoline and large quantities of wheat and other imported commodities as well.  Hitler instructed Keitel to examine Germany’s ability to meet these requirements.

Hitler had renewed cause for anxiety about the situation in the Balkans.  The Italians were pressing him to enable them to invade Yugoslavia ;  in addition, after a week of talks between Hungary and Romania on the disputed Transylvania region, war between those two countries became imminent on August 23.  Hitler needed complete peace on Germany’s southeastern border, and he urgently warned Italy against giving Britain the least excuse to station air force squadrons in Yugoslavia.(3)  The Romania situation led to more far-reaching decisions :  Romania appealed to Germany to arbitrate the dispute and—without consulting Moscow, as he was bound to under the pact with Stalin—Hitler agreed.  Meanwhile he ordered the German army to stand by to occupy the vital Romanian oil region to prevent “third parties”—meaning Russia—from getting there first should the arbitration talks break down.  Canaris already had several hundred counter-sabotage troops in the region.  Hitler’s decision was not determined by sheer opportunism, for there were firm reports of Russian troop movements on the new frontier with Romania.  When Field Marshal von Brauchitsch visited the Berghof on the twenty-sixth, Hitler explained to him the need to safeguard Romania without “as yet” provoking the Russians too much ;  he now wanted ten good divisions moved eastward to the Generalgouvernement and East Prussia.

The Vienna Award of August 30, in which Germany and Italy obliged Romania to cede the disputed territories to Hungary and guaranteed these new frontiers, removed the immediate risk of conflagration in the Balkans.  However, the forces Hitler had now set rolling continued in motion, and on September 2 he decided to send a German military mission to Romania at the king’s request.  The Russians would, of course, regard this as yet another provocative act, but Hitler had already figured out the consequences.  On August 27 Colonel Schmundt flew to East Prussia with Dr. Fritz Todt to search for a suitable site for the F¸hrer’s headquarters during the coming Russian campaign.

One night late in August 1940, British aircraft appeared over Berlin for the first time and dropped a few scattered incendiary bombs.  Hitler refused to believe that Churchill could have authorized such a folly, given the Luftwaffe’s intimidating superiority in bombers ;  but in the early hours of the twenty-ninth word was telephoned to the Berghof that the bombers had again struck Berlin and that this time ten civilians had been killed.  Evidently the Reich capital now faced an ordeal of fire by night.  That same afternoon Hitler flew back to Berlin.  He announced to Jodl that as soon as the weather was right he would permit the Luftwaffe to raid London itself in strength—as punishment for Churchill’s “downright stupidity,” as he told his adjutants.  That night the bombers came again.  On the fourth of September, Hitler authorized the Luftwaffe to attack Britain by night, too.

That afternoon he delivered one of his most forceful public orations, taunting Churchill for his recent failures and officially inaugurating the new air war.  Germany was all-powerful.  One year’s war had brought her Norway and all Europe from the Bug River in the east to the Spanish frontier in the west ;  only Britain’s “skill in scurrying” had saved her skin so far.  He mocked the thesaurus of reassuring predictions used by British officialdom to hint at Hitler’s everimminent downfall.  “For example they say, ‘We learn that,’ or ‘As we understand from well-informed circles,’ or ‘As we hear from well-placed authorities,’ or ‘In the view of the experts’—in fact they once went as far as announcing, ‘It is believed that there may be reason to believe . . .’ ”  It was this kind of jargon, the F¸hrer told his delighted audience in the Sportpalast, that had made of Dunkirk a glorious feat of British arms.  “I saw the vestiges of that feat of arms with my own eyes, and it looked quite a mess to me.”  He mocked that after Germany had thrown the Allies out of Norway they had chanted :  “We only wanted to lure the Germans up there.  What a unique triumph that was for us !”  After France’s defeat Britain had rejoiced that now she need only defend herself.  “And if Britain is now consumed with curiosity and asks, Well, why doesn’t he invade ?  I answer, Calm down, he’s coming !”  Britain and her pathetic collection of exiled monarchs did not frighten him.  “We German National Socialists have come up through the toughest school imaginable.  First we fought as soldiers in the Great War, and then we fought the fight of the German revolution.”  As for the night bombardment of Germany’s Ruhr cities that Churchill had begun three months before, Hitler now announced he would reply measure for measure and more.  “If they proclaim they will attack our cities on a grand scale, we will wipe their cities out !

Whether G–ring had formally been advised that Hitler proposed to fulfill his cherished ambition of attacking Russia is uncertain, but Jodl’s staff certainly noticed on the fifth that the Reichsmarschall showed no interest in preparing for the invasion “as he does not believe it will be carried out.”  Perhaps G–ring saw the bombing of London and the blockade of Britain as convenient and antiseptic alternatives.  He established headquarters on the Channel coast and personally directed the new offensive, which opened that night with a bombardment of the docks and oil refineries east of London.

Admiral Raeder certainly saw the handwriting on the wall, for Hitler’s naval adjutant had privately informed him that a F¸hrer headquarters was already being built for the Russian campaign.  On September 6 the naval chief arrived at the Chancellery with a series of powerful arguments as to why—if the invasion of England fell through—Germany ought to concentrate her attack on Britain’s Mediterranean positions and on a sea and air blockade of the British Isles (which a captured Allied document showed to be most feared of all).  Raeder did not as yet attempt to dissuade Hitler from an attack on the Soviet Union, a move which the admiral discreetly referred to in his notes as “the S-problem”;  however, he warned Hitler that it would be impossible to launch both the attack on Russia and the invasion of Britain simultaneously ;  the navy preferred the attack to be undertaken when the ice in the Baltic was melting, as this would tilt the balance against the Russian navy.  Hitler agreed to tell the OKW this and assured the admiral that if he did drop the invasion, he would eject the British from the Mediterranean that coming winter ;  and for the first time he mentioned that Germany and Italy must secure footholds in the Azores, the Canaries, and the Cape Verde Islands before the British—and later the Americans—could do so.  As Raeder summarized it to the naval staff :  “The F¸hrer’s decision to invade Britain is by no means definite, as he is convinced Britain can be subdued even without an invasion.”

Hitler’s hesitation became even more marked when Raeder briskly announced on September 10 that the navy would complete its accumulation of troop transports in the Channel ports within the set time ;  indeed, Hitler was visibly taken aback and consequently welcomed the various doubts voiced about the seaworthiness of the barges and the probable onset of autumn gales.  Hitler again postponed the fateful decision for three more days, blaming the weather and the strength of British air defenses ;  the weather forecast for September had indeed proven wrong—while the navy tactfully termed the current weather “wholly abnormal,” Hitler went further and described it (gratefully, we suspect) as “exasperating,” as the kind of conditions from which only a defender could draw profit.

When Hitler assembled his commanders in the Chancellery once more at 3 P.M. on the fourteenth—with Field Marshal Milch deputized to represent G–ring, who was still on the Channel coast—he explained why he would not formally cancel the invasion even though the primary requirement, the defeat of the British air force, had not been met.  He began with a political survey.  “Moscow is dissatisfied with the way things have gone ;  they were hoping we would bleed to death.”  He was giving military aid to Romania because Germany needed the oil, and to Finland because of the balance of power in the Baltic.  While it was difficult to see into the future, anything might happen.  “New conflicts are quite possible”;  but he contemplated them calmly.  He did not expect America’s modest rearmament, which was mostly naval, to take effect before 1944, and he certainly did not want the war to last that long.  “We have attained our objectives, so we have no interest in prolonging it.”  He reminded them that the Reichsmarschall had asked for five or six consecutive days of perfect weather and had never gotten them ;  this had enabled the enemy fighter defenses to take breath between each hammering.  While the exact number of British fighter planes was uncertain, the RAF had surely suffered grievously.  From now on it would be a war of nerves, with the bomber attacks and the threat of invasion gradually wearing the British people down.  “If eight million inhabitants [of London] go crazy, that can lead to catastrophe.  If we get good weather and can neutralize the enemy air force, then even a small-scale invasion can work wonders.”  He proposed, therefore, to wait a few more days before finally canceling the operation.  If it were dismantled altogether, it would come to the ears of the enemy and the nervous strain would be that much less.  He would still not permit the Luftwaffe to carry out saturation bombing raids on London’s residential districts, as G–ring’s Chief of Staff Jeschonnek had requested.  “That is our ultimate reprisal !”  He wanted key targets like railroad stations and water and gas works attacked first !  “Not the population, for the time being.”  Three days later Hitler postponed the invasion “until further notice.”  His commanders knew what that meant ;  from now on only the threat of invasion was to be maintained.  In reality, Hitler’s mind was elsewhere.

During September and October 1940, foreign diplomats in Moscow reported mounting Soviet bitterness toward Hitler over the controversial Vienna Award and his guarantee to Romania—a guarantee which could only be directed against Russia.  A secret analysis by Foreign Armies East in mid-September provided chapter and verse for Russia’s hostility ;  anti-German propaganda in the Red Army was continuing undiminished, and there were caricatures of Hitler, G–ring, the “Nazi hydra,” and the omnivorous “Fascist shark” in Red Army barracks even in the newly occupied areas.  In addition, as recently as August the Red Army had appealed to Finnish war veterans to fight with it “against German and Italian fascism and create a Soviet Europe in which there will be no more exploitation.”  German Intelligence had also learned of a meeting of the Supreme Soviet on August 2 in which while Molotov and Marshal Kliment Voroshilov, Commissar for Defense, had tried to lull their listeners with details of Russia’s western frontier fortifications, others warned against trusting Germany because “certain information indicated that after her victory in the west she would start a war against Russia.”  “Indeed,” these others had continued, “we must get in our attack before our thieving neighbor in the west can get in hers.”

The heavily camouflaged German buildup in the east was due to reach its interim conclusion at the end of October.  Under the now familiar rubric of “dispersing the forces tightly concentrated in the west,” Brauchitsch personally signed an order for additional divisions to move east immediately on September 6.  Significantly enough, Field Marshal von Bock’s army group headquarters was to take over command, from Posen, and two more armies were to join the Eighteenth—the Fourth and the Second.  This would bring up to thirty-five the number of divisions on the eastern frontier, among them six armored divisions.  On that same day, General Jodl ordered the Abwehr to dupe Russian agents known to be taking an increasing interest in these movements by feeding to them false information indicating that the bulk of Germany’s strength was at the southern end of the front ;  the Russians were “to draw the conclusion that we are able to protect our interests in the Balkans from Russian clutches at any time with powerful forces.”

In fact for strategic reasons Jodl’s staff recommended that the main military effort at the start of the attack on Russia should be in the north, even though concentrating strength in the south would have taken better account of the Russian threat to the Romanian oil.  In the north, explained Colonel Lossberg in his draft campaign plan (“Fritz”) submitted to Jodl later in September, there were better road and rail facilities, the Russian influence in the Baltic region could be quickly extinguished, and it would be possible to cooperate with Group XXI operating from northern Norway through Finland into Russia ;  above all, an attack in the north would rapidly bring Leningrad and Moscow under the German guns.  Lossberg proposed occupying all of Russia up to a line easy to defend against “Asiatic Russia.”  Tactically, they must prevent the Russians from withdrawing in strength into their vast hinterland, as they had before Napoleon’s Grand Army in 1812.

Lossberg’s plan undoubtedly formed the basis of Hitler’s later grand strategy against Russia.(4)  The main thrust north of the Pripyet Marshes was proposed by the colonel as follows :  “An attack by two army groups from the general line east of Warsaw to K–nigsberg, with the southern group the more powerful (the group assembling around Warsaw and southern East Prussia) and being allocated the bulk of the armored and mechanized units.”  The latter army group would wheel north at an appropriate moment and cut off the Russian armies to the north from the rear.  Lossberg predicted that Russian military resistance south of the Pripyet Marshes would be feebler—plagued by internal unrest in the Ukraine fomented by the Abwehr’s advance subversive operations.  The further strategy of the campaign, and its terminal objectives, must depend on whether and when Russia caved in under the force of the initial German onslaught.  Had not Hitler himself exclaimed, according to his army adjutant, “If we can just tackle this colossus the right way, it will crumple up quicker than was ever dreamed possible !”

Only one possibility remained open to Moscow—to take the offensive first in order to disrupt the half completed German invasion preparations ;  or even more pertinently to invade the Romanian oil fields, perhaps using airborne troops alone.  It would be the job of a future German military mission in Romania to forestall such a Soviet move.  In Lossberg’s view, however, the Russians would be forced for political reasons to try to thwart the German attack close to the frontier ;  otherwise they would be abandoning the flanking positions they had so recently secured on the Baltic and Black Sea coasts.

In Romania the king had abdicated in the crisis evoked by the Vienna Award, and the ruthless but incorruptible General Ion Antonescu had been appointed the national leader.  Antonescu secretly asked Hitler to modernize the Romanian army with German tanks and artillery and to lend German instructors and staff officers.  In return, he would deploy his forces exclusively on the Russian frontier.  When Keitel put these requests to Hitler on the afternoon of September 19, Hitler decided instead to send about one division of German troops into Romania as a “military mission,” as Lossberg had suggested ;  in addition, Romania was to be supplied with captured Polish equipment rather than the superior German models, for Hitler still suspected the Romanians might use them on their neighbors.  A Luftwaffe mission would also be housed in Romania.  On the same day the OKW issued a document stating that while these missions’ ostensible purpose was to help the Romanians reorganize and train their forces, the “real jobs”—which were not to be made apparent to either the Romanian or the German missions’ members—were :

1.  to protect the oil fields from the clutches of a third power, and from destruction ;
2.  to enable the Romanian forces to fulfill specific tasks to a rigid plan aligned with German interests ;  and
3.  to prepare the operations of German and Romanian forces from Romanian soil in the event we are forced into war with Soviet Russia.

The reader should be reminded that even at this stage no irrevocable order for an attack on Russia had been given ;  Hitler was still only preparing the military machine.  But as E.M. Robertson has commented :  “ The consequences of having set in motion the planning machinery for the eastern campaign cannot be overlooked.  With forces gathering on either side of the frontier and the political situation continuing to deteriorate, only some unfortunate and prodigious event would cause a final cancellation of the most cherished venture of his career.”

1 At his very first Cabinet meeting on January 30, 1933, Hitler had asked that in the event of a general strike the Reichswehr not be used to put it down ;  Blomberg, as defense minister, expressed his gratitude for this view and emphasized that the soldier was accustomed to treating only foreigners as potential enemies.

2 Field Marshal Leeb’s diaries are being published by the West German government ;  I am indebted to Leeb’s heirs and to Dr. George Meyer for access to the manuscript.

3 Marshal Pietro Badoglio assured Germany a few days later that Italy had no intention of attacking Yugoslavia or Greece.

4 The only surviving copy is now in Russian archives, which explains why it escaped the attention of other postwar historians.


p. 153   See Professor A. Haushofer’s note on his conversation with Rudolf Hess on September 8, 1940 (T253/46/9921) and Walter Stubbe’s memorial essay in VfZ, 1960, pages 246 et seq.  Rather sinisterly, Haushofer’s letters to the Duke of Hamilton were intercepted by the British secret service and never reached him (PRO, Hess files, FO 371/26566).

p. 153   According to the—unpublished—dispatch of the German minister in Paris on August 3, the French lady’s maid of the duchess reported that “the Duke has no intention of embarking to take up his new post but would await further events in Europe in Lisbon.”  This bore out the reports of the envoys—Eberhard von Stohrer in Madrid and Baron Oswald von Hoyningen Huene in Lisbon.

p. 155   Raeder admitted Hitler had duped him in a note for the admiralty historian K. Assmann, April 10, 1944 (Assmann’s files, PG/33945b).  Note too the extreme reticence of the OKW war diary.  Although Hitler was explicit on July 31, 1940, about his intention to attack Russia, it is buried in the OKW diary of Greiner thus :  “For further utterances of the F¸hrer to Army Commander in Chief see [Warlimont’s] note of August 1.”  Eberhard recalled in an interview with me in 1970 that when Greiner visited OKH headquarters at Fontainebleau in the summer of 1940 he hinted to the Luftwaffe liaison team there that there was to be no invasion of England.  “You’ll see well enough next spring why nobody’s putting any weight into it.”  And on August 6, Tippelskirch—Halder’s chief of Intelligence—noted :  “Engel [F¸hrer’s army adjutant] says, F¸hrer has powerful hangup [over England] ... If no decision this autumn, lock up shop until May.”  Finally, we observe that after Hitler’s speech on August 14 the chief of naval operations approached Jodl thus :  “Should the F¸hrer inwardly have resolved not to execute [the invasion of Britain], we propose it should be called off so as to take the pressure off our economy, while keeping this top secret.  In its place a special deception operation should be mounted to maintain the threat on the enemy” (naval staff war diary).  On August 22, Tippelskirch then recorded the further ripples of Hitler’s new strategy :  “[Foreign Armies East] briefing notes on Russia ... Etzdorf :  general policy against Russia ? ... Don’t throw Russia and Britain into each other’s arms.  F¸hrer against Russia.  Molotov’s speech [on August 1, in Moscow].  A long war . . .”

p. 159   Weizs”cker, Ribbentrop’s number-two man, was not pleased by Hitler’s move into Romania.  He wrote in his diary on September 1, 1940 :  “Our relations with Russia are beginning to suffer.  Molotov announces that the Arbitration Award between Hungary and Romania violates last year’s [German-Soviet] pact—the joint consultation requirement.  Of course it’s our guarantee to Romania that the Russians regard as an obstacle and a slight to them.  There’ll be more slights yet, as we’re beginning to favor Finland and to occupy northern Norway in force.  In my own view this is exposing our hand too soon, because we still have eight months ahead of us in which we can’t properly get to military grips with Russia.”

Schmundt’s flight to seek out a new HQ site in East Prussia—the later famous Wolfs Lair—is fixed by his widow’s diary as August 27-29, 1940.  Halder’s diary shows that the army had begun looking by August 14.

p. 160   On August 29, 1940, the naval staff prepared for Admiral Raeder a survey on “Warfare against Britain if ‘Sea Lion’ [the invasion] is dropped” (PG/31762c).  Raeder discussed it with Hitler on September 6.  As the British translator evidently did not realize the significance of “the S-problem,” he simply omitted the whole paragraph and renumbered the rest (Brassey’s Naval Annual, 1949, page 135).

p. 161   I used mainly Milch’s transcript of Hitler’s secret conference of September 14, 1940 ;  but also Halder’s diary, the OKW and naval staff diaries.  In a speech the day before, Hitler had already decided against an invasion of England, according to the OKW diary ;  and General von Weichs recalled Hitler’s closing words as :  “The war is all but over.  I no longer need to take such a risk.”

p. 162   Jodl’s order of September 6, 1940, included the ambiguous words, “The impression must not be allowed to arise in Russia from these redeployments that we are preparing an eastern offensive.”

p. 162   Lossberg’s operations study “East” (Fritz), of September 15, 1940, is in Moscow archives and published by L. Bezymenski in Sonderakte Barbarossa, pages 307 et seq.  Lossberg’s family confirmed its authenticity to me.