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Hitlers biggest War Mistakes

Discussion in 'Leaders of World War 2' started by AL AMIN, Oct 26, 2005.

  1. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    The US was on a path to war with Germany and would have declared war sometime in 42 in all likelihood. FDR's military people told him that the US wouldn't really be ready for war until mid 42 and not ready to go on the offensive until the end of 42. As it was US operations in the Atlantic were hardly neutral and the US wouldn't have stepped back from that. Even if the US only took over in the Pacific that would have freed up a lot of British resources there. Then there's the issue of the US and British being allied in a Pacific war having some impact on their relationship in the Atlantic.
    I don't think so. For one thing they need a better log system than they would have had in a push like that
     
  2. Croft

    Croft Member

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    I looked it up and read this review by Nicholas Stargardt.

    Quote.
    Adam Tooze has just written the definitive account of the Nazi economy. But he has done much more than that. He has also rewritten the history of the Second World War. By thinking afresh about what Hitler’s war aims really were and how the Nazi leadership attempted first to win and then prolong a war for which they knew they never possessed sufficient resources, Tooze has produced the most striking history of German strategy in the Second World War that we possess. This is an extraordinary achievement, and it places Adam Tooze in a very select company of historians indeed.

    The fundamental insight at the heart of this work is that Hitler’s challenge to the United States was made in utter earnest. Whereas others have laid the accent on Hitler’s thwarted love affair with imperial Britain and his visceral hatred of Bolshevik Russia, for Tooze his ultimate antagonist was the United States, with Roosevelt as the ultimate instrument of ‘World Jewry’. Britain and Russia had appeared as the twin poles in Hitler’s first volume of Mein Kampf, but it was how to compete with America which preoccupied him in the lesser-known second volume.

    Tooze is far too serious a historian to pin his whole interpretation on which of Hitler’s possible opponents seemed the most threatening and ‘Jewish’ to him in the 1920s and early 1930s. Study of the Holocaust has shown too many twists and turns in Hitler’s thinking about the ‘Jewish question’ for that. Rather, by 1938 the very logic of rearmament, with both Britain and France placing large orders with the United States, made it clear that Germany would only win the war if it could defeat the US’s European allies before they were ready.

    In the event, Tooze argues, the extraordinary victory over France in the summer of 1940 owed an enormous amount to luck, and, at the time, was just as great a gamble as any of Hitler’s subsequent moves. Nor did the conquest of the industrial heartlands of Europe provide Germany with the base to win a prolonged war against Britain.

    Despite a huge surge of investment in German armament in 1940-41, much of occupied Europe’s factories were often running at half their capacity, and the entire region remained starved of oil and short of food, thanks to the Royal Navy’s blockade. Meanwhile, lend-lease and food imports to Britain made it clear that Germany was fighting a proxy war of materiel from the United States long before Hitler declared war in December 1941.

    From this perspective, Tooze is able to rethink German strategy in the key months of 1940-1 and argue that reproducing the Blitzkrieg success against the Soviet Union offered the most promising prospect of securing the food and oil which would allow the Third Reich to compete in a long-drawn out war with Britain and America.

    By this time, the Führer’s propensity for wishful thinking on the grand-scale was affecting all of his top-level military and economic planners. They went to war against the Soviet Union, without either reserves or any contingency plans whatsoever. Once the gamble of a rapid victory over the Soviet Union failed in the snows before Moscow, they had nothing hopeful to offer. Up stepped another group of top-rank leaders whose ‘fanatical will’ to victory was unshakeable, among them the suave Albert Speer whose ministry’s activities form a central part of Tooze’s explanation of how Germany managed to go on fighting a losing war for so long and with such devastating consequences.

    Speer reaped the benefits of the investments made by others in 1940 and 1941. What he brought was an ability to dig deep into reserves of capital and raw materials and to pay firms to switch priorities from ammunition, to tanks, to aircraft production as the need arose. Above all, through his close collaboration with Heinrich Himmler, Speer could command enormous quantities of slave labour, and, however urbane he appeared to Allied judges and prosecutors at Nuremberg, Speer had no compunction in working them to death in their tens of thousands. His and his colleagues’ achievement was to prolong the war, but they could not alter the fact that Germany still commanded about a quarter of the military resources of its enemies.

    Tooze is concerned primarily with events on high – and to have done anything else would have destroyed the extraordinary coherence and analytical bite of his overall argument. But it is impossible to read his work and not be struck, not just by the ruthless (and logical) application of terror, but also by how much of German society was utterly committed to this war effort, taking or suggesting many of the initiatives which made it possible to keep it going until the Third Reich was finally militarily defeated.

    Tooze has given us a masterpiece which will be read, and admired; and it will stimulate others for a long time to come.

    Nicholas Stargardt is a Fellow & Tutor at Magdalen College, Oxford,
    End quote.


    I quoted this because Hitler's desire to conquer the Soviet Union in order to have the resources for a long war with Britain and America has always been my basic understanding of WW2. And I've argued it in other threads on this forum. For me it's the fundamental of the war.
    I know Hitler did not have the resources for endlessly fighting Britain while rivaling the US as a global superpower was his end game anyway. So he had to go for his great empire in the east for the resources and the power then to rival the US. Problem was it all depended on Russia collapsing.
    If he cared about Germany then he would never have embarked on such an incredible gamble and would have kept to the Munich agreement. WW2 was Hitler reaching for all time greatness and he put that ahead of the welfare of 80 million people.



     
  3. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Tooze also illustrates that the Nazi economy pre war was essentially a huge Ponzi scheme. It was set for collapse in the early 40s even if the war hadn't occurred.
     
  4. Croft

    Croft Member

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    Right I'll have to read it sometime.
     
  5. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    I haven't gotten all the way through it. It's not a light read and there are also those moments where I stop and consider the ramifications of what he's said. There have been some well substantiated critiques of his accounts of military events but when it comes to economics he seems to be very well regarded.
     
  6. belasar

    belasar Court Jester

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    Like all command economies (Imperial Japan, Fascist Italy, Soviet Union and Hitlers Germany) they will eventually fail in the long term unless they alter their formulation. The PRC is trying this now but it is unclear if they can fully make the transition before the pipes burst internally. I have not read Tooze yet, but I have to bristle on the comment that Germany's economy was due to fail 'inevitably' by the early 1940's 'even without the war'.

    Germany's war production was increasing in 1943 and through early 1944 despite everything the Allied powers could throw at it. Remove the effects of the war (bombing, blockade, loss of life/skilled workers, and huge material losses) the German economy would have continued to stagger along for decades just as the Soviet economy did. Perhaps longer as enthusiasm for the Nazi regime was considerably higher than that enjoyed by the Communist's in Russia.
     
  7. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    The problem Germany had was a critical shortage of foreign exchange coupled with a bunch of debts coming due shortly after 1940. The Gold reserves seized from Austria and Czechoslovakia staved off the problem until the war started but without the war Germany would have been essentially bankrupt. In the mean time they had promised the German people quite a few things (like the VWs people paid for starting in the mid 30's) that were no where near ready to enter production. The German economy during the war was kept afloat by appealing to national pride and resources plundered from other countries even so it was very unbalanced. The enthusiasm was there in part because of early war successes and appeals to nationalism. Without the war these wouldn't exist. The German economy was headed for a serious problem in the early 40s and the Nazis didn't show a great deal of skill in managing the economy in even moderate times.
     
  8. KJ Jr

    KJ Jr Well-Known Member

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    Perhaps if Total War was declared sooner than 1943 and the hierarchy of the NS leadership took full stock of their capabilities they would have had contingencies in place. As it was armaments production was improperly used, assets were limited, and the use of slave labor reaped only minimum results. If TW was established earlier and they ramped up production using trained and skilled laborers (women especially), they could of inflicted much more damage and territorial gains. The spectrum of antiquated production methods only proved to tie Germany's hands and doomed them.

    It still amazes me how quickly the precepts of National Socialism created it's own demise.
     
  9. KJ Jr

    KJ Jr Well-Known Member

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    I agree.
     
  10. belasar

    belasar Court Jester

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    From what I have heard his mastery of the German economic system is unchallenged, what is challenged is when he attempts to translate this understanding into the actual war itself and draws debatable conclusions. This is the classic mistake of a acknowledged expert in one area attempting to make his data fit his preconceived conclusions in a area where no such expertise exists. I have read A Democracy at War by William L. O'Neill (see review in Book Reviews) which takes a somewhat similar view of the American Home Front and economy. O'Neill is a expert on the US political system past and present, but his personal bias towards FDR skewers his central theme. It has fascinating data but draws questionable conclusions from that data.

    The unspoken conclusion of Tooze's work seems to be that there was no reason or need for the Western powers to actively oppose Hitler;s Nazi Reich. Some time in 1940-41 the economy would lurch to a halt and Hitler would hold a meeting in the Reich Chancellery and say " well Herman, Martin, Joseph time to pack our bags and flee to Bolivia because the Volk are unhappy because Beetles aren't rolling off the production line". Germany was a fully functioning police state at the start of the war. Hitler controlled all forms of the media, the police could and did arrest people without any legal recourse. All the shortcomings of Germany had been blamed on scapegoats before and would continue to done as such, with new culprits add as needed. It is wishful thinking that somehow a creaky economy would force Hitler and the Nazi Party out of power.

    There is a strong similarity to Hitler's economic plan and FDR's during the great depression. Government funded make work programs that applied band aids to a shotgun wound, some that would be declared un-Constitutional by the Supreme Court. Like Germany it would be a war economy and a patriotic appeal to the nation that eventually pulled us out of the same depression that hit Germany (though it struck Germany on a order of magnitude harder than the US). Considering just how bad the hyper inflation was in Germany no one in command of the country would likely be able to prevent a total collapse of the economy.

    Too many counties have proven that you can survive for decades or generations if need be simply by having a powerful war machine and a effective police state apparatus. North Korea is the prototypical example, it has no real economy to speak of, yet it has two of the three most powerful economic and military powers stymied to the point of virtual inactivity.
     
  11. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    It's hard to remain neutral when you are seeing articles like this one...
    F.D.R.'S WAR PLANS! (December 4, 1941)
     
  12. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    I think that's a pretty fair statement. I think he's been criticized for over relying on German documents on the military side as well which may influence his understanding of the military events.
    That's certainly not the message I got. Indeed the western opposition was created more stress on the Nazi state and no Western opposition would have greatly eased pressures on them. My impression is that Hitler was very concerned about loosing public and military support as well. When the economy tanked both of those were likely.
    IMO you have got this fundamentally wrong. FDR's program was designed to get us out of the depression and it did. The US economy had recovered to pre depression levels before the war started. Hitler on the other hand was taking actions to 1) Improve the military and 2) increase his popular support 3) increase his military support. Some of those actions were quite damaging to the economy. Germany however was starting to recover from the depression when the Hitler rose to power. It can be argued that he slowed the recovery rather than promoted it.
    I don't think the analogy with North Korea works very well. North Korea had the support of two major powers for ~40 years and there limited support for another couple of decades. Furthermore it has isolated itself from the rest of the world to a considerable extent. Germany couldn't do that. They were already to integrated into the European economy. Hitler also wanted a world class military and if he isolated Germany their economy simply couldn't handle it. Germany in say 38 is more analogous IM to the USSR in the late 1980s or early 1990s. As long as people believed he would bring them a better life and return Germany to its "rightful place" among nations he could continue. Those beliefs were already starting to erode by the late 30's from what I've read and economic issues and a decline in the standard of living relative to the rest of the west would have accelerated that decline.
     
  13. KJ Jr

    KJ Jr Well-Known Member

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    It's an interesting comparison though. Not sure if there is a thread dedicated to the subject but it may be an interesting debate.
     
  14. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Active Member

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    There is still a lot of argument on that point of the chicken and egg variety. However, as of 1940, the U.S. national economy was parlous. The double-whammy of the Great Depression and the 1937 Recession left the economy in 1938-1940 in a shambles. Unemployment had recovered slightly 1934-1937, but then shot up again from 14.18% in 1937 to 18.91 the next year. As of 1940, more than 8.1 million were still unemployed (14.45%). Massive government spending on war work and orders to industry opened the floodgates, plus, removing about 11 million from the labor force for employment in the military left the economy scrambling for bodies to take on jobs.

    Yes, the German recovery from the Depression was much earlier, partly because their Great Depression began so much earlier. By 1939 though, Nazi fiscal policy was, as you said, a giant Ponzi scheme draining workers pensions to fund the government spending spree...gee, that sounds familiar. It was later supplemented by raping conquered Europe...the Germans were like a plague of locusts devouring what they needed to feed their economy.
     
  15. belasar

    belasar Court Jester

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    In 1933 to perhaps 1936 Hitler definitely had concerns about losing support of the Industrialist's, Military and the public at large, after this point however those concerns were minimal and he was clearly prepping the country for war and the traditional economic concerns were going out the window. The Night of the Long Knives, massive mobilization and Hindenburg's death had tied the Military to Hitler, the massive military contracts tied up the Industrialists and the 'apparent' economic turn around satisfied nearly all the Volk.

    The German psyche of that era precluded civil disobedience except in extreme cases and the trappings of a police state would not make this any easier. Goebbels propaganda ministry would effectively move into high gear to find a reason why the promises made during the first 5 year plan were not being realized in the absence of a war. All of Eastern Europe as members of the Warsaw Pact demonstrated that the 'public' would swallow a great deal before being willing to put their lives on the line and this was even more relevant as it was a second hand oppression coming from Moscow.

    The comparison with various hermit kingdoms are quite relevant I think. Today, WMD's are the prime status weapon system, then it was conventional weapons. The telling difference was that German military technology was cutting edge. While at peace countries could and would trade with Germany, either for her coal or her tech. As you point out they needed Germany almost as much as Germany needed them. Further Germany was getting support from the Soviet Union and modest help from the prime neutrals of Europe, Sweden and Switzerland.

    Lastly I am not saying FDR was another Hitler, but there are only so many levers a government can pull to jump start a economy. Hitler wanted a war machine and the 'public' wanted the respect that a military build up would generate. FDR could not replicate that because the American public did not think such a rearmament was needed and we have always had a love/hate relationship with a robust military. FDR's New Deal shared some similarity with events in Germany, the constant bombardment of Posters, flyer's, news articles, newsreels drove home the point that the government (FDR) was doing all this to make life better for the average American. I suspect Goebbels would have approved. Nor was FDR opposed to tweeking the Constitution to get things done as in his attempt to 'pack' the Supreme Court with 6 new Justices in 1937 so it would 'work more efficiently' after court declared some of his New Deal projects unconstitutional.
     
  16. green slime

    green slime Member

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    Re: The "Total War" (first announced by Goebbels at the Sportspalatz on 18th Feb. 1943) was an illusion, yet another marketing spin made by the Nazis to encourage the home front at a time when it was becoming ever more apparent that the war was not going well. Note the date; it is two weeks after the surrender of Field Marshal Paulus at Stalingrad, and after the losses in Africa. As Tooze explains, there was nothing more to do; the gains made in '43 were due to earlier investments and rationalisations, not due to some sudden mobilisation of hitherto unemployed housewives as is often suggested. The percentage of women employed in the German workforce was greater in Germany at the start of the war than in Britain, and remained higher for the duration of the war. In fact the percentage of employed women in Germany in 1939 was higher than in Britain at any time during the war. The Nazi registration drive of 1943, found only 1.5 million women, of which 700,000 would only be able to participate part time due to other commitments.

    Germany was a nation that needed millions of additional workers to make the kinds of industrial production changes needed, and it already had more than 7 million foreign workers, most of them civilians. By comparison, today Germany has 1.5 million immigrant workers. Adding an additional 800,000 full time female employees in 1943 was not going to win them the war.

    [​IMG]

    The bottlenecks facing Germany were real, and were realised already much earlier in the War. The same bottlenecks (Resources such as Steel, Rubber, & Oil, Manpower (Labour force & Soldiers), introduction öf new Science and Technologies) were faced by other powers too (for example, the oft-quoted antiquated production methods). The difference being, the Allies had the capacity to overcome those shortcomings, while the Axis powers did not. The Axis never did. At its peak, Germany's steel production was barely equivalent to ½ the US production. Germany's only hope rested on the Allies collapsing politically, not on any military defeat they could inflict. As long as the US was willing to prop up Russia and the UK (which was fast heading to bankruptcy prior to lend lease). No amount of organisational finangling was going to produce an additional 22 million tons of steel per year, 10 million more soldiers, 8 million more workers, and the food to feed them. It was these shortcomings that forced Hitler to take the gambles Germany did; Germany could not hope to win otherwise. Once the UK refused to be "reasonable" after the defeat of France, Hitler understood that Germany needed to defeat the USSR in order to have the resources and any hope of staving off the threat from the Western Allies.

    The myth of Germany not fighting a "Total War" until '43 needs to be recognised for the Goebbels-spin it is. Germany was already economically on a war footing prior to the invasion of Poland. Rationing was introduced already in 1939, production was controlled, essential materials were controlled, price controls were in place. What exactly changed after February 1943? Various factories (Chemical, Aeronautical, etc) came online, the investments which where originally made already prior to 1939 (many as early as 1936)... Some existing factories were improved, the practicalities of such re-organisation was planned already in 1941-42....
     
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  17. KJ Jr

    KJ Jr Well-Known Member

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    GS. You bring up an excellent point. There is a common misconception regarding mobilizing women in the workforce. There is a common thread that Britain and the US propagandized and towered over Germany in women in production. However, you have rightly illustrated that is a falsehood, but there were many factors in play. Most of those women, approx. 6 million were working in Germany's vast agricultural system. Many of those women were taking over for men who went off to fight or to take over industrial positions (Evans). Although this farm work was crucial in its own way, there wasn't much female labor to go around and was not used in the common armament production as we saw in the US and Britain. As you mentioned above, only about 1.5 million would be able to take up those types of positions and that was no where near what was needed. As the war progressed, the German Labor Front consistently tried to gain access to women in various ways such as widening the range of age, softening working conditions, easing the responsibility of younger women in mandatory work and limiting their length of time in party sanctioned work programs. The numbers themselves can be deceiving. Oddly enough, Germany outweighed the US and Britain in that regard but still had nothing to show for it. IMO, it was due to its strict adherence to Nazi policies.

    Again, there is that paradox in National Socialism and its foundation of ideals. Women engaged in war work while at the same time being a "Mother of the Volk." Trying to engage female workers who were already working in various forms of employment and in higher numbers than the US or Britain while also maintaining their virtue as nurturing women of the state was an impossible task. I am surely not saying this would have made a huge difference, but its a very interesting paradox that continued behind the scenes. Of course, even if the policies were modified to enhance their production, it would have been to no avail.
     
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