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von Manstein - A critical assesment

Discussion in 'WWII General' started by AndyW, Nov 25, 2003.

  1. AndyW

    AndyW Member

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    (As a spinoff of the "Who was the best General"-thread)


    During his post-war trial , Erich von Lewinski called von Manstein claimed that he had not had any knowledge of SS-Einsatzgruppen activities within in his command. This is a LIE. Stahlberg (1) and von Tresckow (who was “too less of a National Socialist” for Manstein to become a member of his staff) did inform him about what was happening to the Jews. Officers of his own Army High Command were present at Nikolaiev and in Simferopol as spectators of the mass executions. A war diary entry was discovered which stated: "The new Commander in Chief [Manstein] does not wish officers to be present at shooting of Jews. This is unworthy of a German officer.". If Manstein didn't know about the shootings, how can he don't wish his men to be present there? Manstein complained at the leader of SD-Einsatz Group D (which killed 90,000 civilians during June 1941 and June 1942 in the wake of Mansteins 11th Army) to speed up the liquidations at Simferopol.

    Consequentially, in accordance to his defense strategy at his trail, Manstein’s memoirs “Verlorene Siege” (Lost Victories), 1953, - though filling a good 600 pages of his remembrance – are never mentioning the fate of the civilian population in his rear, except to the following remarks:

    “Despite of all supply problems as described above, the [11th, A.W.] Army did everything – partially by reducing her own rations [NOT SUPPORTED BY EXISTING EVIDENCE, A.W.] - to feed the numerous POW’s, who couldn’t be brought back because of transportation problems. The success of this was an average mortality rate of not even 2%... [NOT SUPPORTED BY EXISTING EVIDENCE, A.W.] (p.246) He continues “Aside this the [11th, A.W] Army did everything possible [WRONG] to help the civil population” (p.247)

    While the mortality of Soviet POW’s in the 11th Army’s area under Mansteins leadership (starting September 1941) was not as horrible as f.ex. at AG Center (due to less POW’s captured, a more warm climate and an overall better local food situation) is was still dire beyond all recognition. Since the 1970s, numerous studies dealing with the fate of the Soviet POW’s have completely debunked the myth that the Wehrmacht did care for the Soviet POW’s in 1941 and early 1942 (2). More recent studies dealing with the fate of the population conquered by the 11th Army, are convincingly contradicting Manstein’s blatant statement as untrue (see (a) and the documents of the Quartermaster of the 11th Army in the exhibition catalog listed under (3))

    Since the mid-1960s, numerous studies (4) had already proven that the German warfare in the East was a not a “normal European war...fought within the limits of the already known”, but instead “the most enormous war of conquest, war of enslavement, war of annihilation, that modern history had seen” (5). In the defend of his “Scorched Earth” policy during the German retreat Manstein wrote: “The fact that the warfare brought up much suffering and inevitable harnesses can’t be denied. But those were not comparable to what the terror bombing brought on the German civil population, not even to mention what later happened with Germans in the East.” (p.540)

    Manstein claims that the Soviet Commissars were “certainly no soldiers” (p.176) [WRONG], that he reported to his superiors (that would have been Hoepner and Leeb at this time) that he refuses to carry out the s.c. “Commissar-decree” [NOT SUPPORTED BY THE FACTS] and that all his military superiors “certainly agreed with him” in this [WRONG]. He does not only claim that the “Commissar-decree” wasn’t carried out in the 11th Army [WRONG] but also that this attitude was “shared in the entire Army” [WRONG], (pp177).

    Numerous studies (see 2) on this have already shown that the German Army in general did carry out the s.c. “Commissar-decree”. Additionally, it is absolutely unbelievable that SS-Divisions like “Totenkopf” and “Polizei-Division” being temporarily under Manstein’s command did not carried it out, as Eicke explicitly announced the criminal orders to his men.

    Consequentially, on Dec. 19, 1949, Manstein was sentenced to 18 years of prison for the following crimes:

    He

    a) enabled the orders classifying Red Army prisoners as partisans subject to summary execution;

    b) issued and enforced the "Commissar Order" ordering the execution of commissars;

    c) issued orders for "reprisal killings" in Simferopol and Eupatoria;

    d) disregarded his duty to ensure the respect of rights and individual life of (Jewish) civilians within his command;

    e) ordered or permitted the use of POWs in dangerous and prohibited work;

    f) ordered the deportation of civilians for forced labor;

    g) ordered the seizure and/or destruction of civilian owned property in German occupied areas, and removal of the civilian population.

    (thanks to Peter Mitchell for that list)

    He claims that he had heard of Operation WEISS (planned invasion of Poland) as late as in summer 1939 (p. 12) [WRONG], even though he was CoS in Leeb’s Army Group SOUTH, so he simple had to know since May 1939.

    He claims that Hitler underestimated the strength of the Red Army prior “Barbarossa” (in fact it was the German Army High Command who underestimated it), resulting in Hitler’s plan to crush the USSR in ONE campaign (in fact only 1 out of 20 operational studies prepared by the Army called that the campaign should be carried out in two steps). He claims that Hitler’s occupation policies in the East were in contradiction to those of the Army – they weren’t, as numerous modern studies (see 3, 4, 6) dealing with the German military occupation are showing.

    Manstein’s twisting about the “outbreak”-question at Stalingrad as already been discussed. Stahlberg (1), who was Manstein’s ordinance during that times remembers a conversation between Paulus and Manstein where Paulus was begging him (Manstein) to give the order for breakout. Manstein denied that request.


    More interesting is what Manstein did NOT mention in his book: I already mentioned the absence of the character of the war against Russia, the absence of the Holocaust or economical exploration in his memoirs. Manstein does not expand on his time during the occupation of Poland (until Oct. 18, 1939) where he must have collected first-hand experience with the Nazi terror put upon the Polish people. His administrative role as the Commander of the 11th Army and later Army Groups and his relations to the Einsatzgruppen and SS are neglected by him. In his criticism on decisions of the “upper” or “top leadership” he is equaling this “leadership” with Hitler in personae, in reality this was Hitler, the OKW, OKH and, later during the war, himself as a part of the “highest leadership”. The chapter dealing with his role as Commander of the 56.Tank Corps during July 1941, where he was sacked by (as always) “superior” or “stronger” RA units, is pretty weak, too.

    Unfortunately there is no single serious biography on Manstein available until today, as his son doesn’t allow any research in Manstein’s legacy (if he has reasons to do so?). However, some more recent studies have dealt with Manstein in a more critical, scholarship manner as he did in his self-serving memoirs:

    a) Marcel Stein: “Generalfeldmarschall Erich von Manstein. Kritische Betrachtungen des Soldaten und Menschen.”, (General Fieldmarshal Erich von Manstein. Critical views on the Soldier and Person), 2000, 346 pages

    b) Oliver von Wrochem: “Die Auseinandersetzung mit Wehrmachtverbrechen im Prozeß gegen den Generalfeldmarschall Erich von Manstein 1949” (The debate on Wehrmacht crimes in the trail against General Fieldmarshal Erich von Manstein 1949), in: Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaft 46, Nr. , pp. 329-353, 1998

    c) Reginald Thomas Paget: “Manstein: His Campaigns and his Trial”, 1951

    d) Wallach, Jehuda L.: “Feldmarschall Erich von Manstein und die deutsche Judenausrottung in Rußland” (Fieldmarshall Erich von Manstein and the Extermination of the Jews in Russia) in: Jahrbuch des Instituts für Deutsche Geschichte, 1975, pp. 457-472

    e) Schneider, Christian: “Denkmal Manstein: Psychogramm eines Befehlshabers” pp. 402-417 in Heer, Naumann (eds.): “Vernichtungskrieg : Verbrechen der Wehrmacht 1941 bis 1944” (War of Annilihation: Wehrmacht Crimes 1941-1944), 1995

    f) Andreas Hillgruber: "Generalfeldmarschall Erich von Manstein in der Sicht des kritischen Historikers" (GFM Erich von Manstein seen from the perspective of a critical Historian) in: Ulrich v. Gersdorff (ed.): "Geschichte und Militärgeschichte " (History and Military History), 1974


    It is not unusual that memoir literature is meanly self-serving. And it its the nature of the that kind of literature that its written out of the perspective of one side, biased, with omissions of uncomfortable facts and out of a limited point of view. No one expects a historical correct view of the events by reading a personal account of someone who was involved on top position in the events took place. This applies for Erich von Manstein as well as for Patton, Zhukov, Guderian, Speer, Churchill etc, etc...

    Memoir literature is always supplementary literature. Read by itself or as a ‘starting literature’ it will cause more harm than benefit.

    The problem with Manstein’s and other German memoir literature is that it became (due to the lack of other sources and scholarship activity on this topic and thanks to Lidell Hart), a semi-official reading of German warfare in WW II until the 1960s/early 70s. Much of the myths about the ‘clean’, descent Wehrmacht who only defended Germany and would have won the war if Herr Hitler wouldn’t be that moronic ‘lance Corporal’ was built by this literature. Even the titel of Manstein’s book (“Lost Victories”) gives a good clue about the way of thinking of Manstein. His Victories, lost by others.


    Notes (I tried to limit this to more recent studies):

    (1) Alexander Stahlberg: “Bounden Duty: The memoirs of a German officer 1932-45”, 1990

    (2) just to name a few of the most significant studies, also dealing with the “Commissar-decree”:

    Christian Streit: “Keine Kameraden: Die Wehrmacht und die sowjetischen Kriegsgefangenen 1941–1945” (No Comrades: The Wehrmacht and the Soviet Prisoners of War 1941-1945), 1997;
    Alfred Streim: “Die Behandlung sowjetischer Kriegsgefangener im ‘Fall Barbarossa’" (The Treatment of Soviet Prisoners of War during “Operation Barbarossa”), 1981, 442 pages;
    Buchheim, Broszat, Jacobsen (eds.): “Anatomie des SS- Staates” (Anatomy of the SS-State), 1964


    (3) Exhibition Catalog of the Hamburger Institut für Sozialforschung (Ed.) :“Verbrechen der Wehrmacht. Dimensionen des Vernichtungskrieges 1941-1944“ (Crimes of the German Wehrmacht: Dimensions of a War of Annihilation) 749 p, 2002


    (4) just to name a few most significant in this regard:
    Boog, Förster, Hoffmann (eds.): “Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg, 10 Bde., Bd.4, Der Angriff auf die Sowjetunion” (Germany and the Second World War, 10 Volumes, Vol. 4: The Attack on the Soviet Union) 1987;
    Müller, Volkmann: „Die Wehrmacht, Mythos und Realität“ (The Wehrmacht: Myth and Reality), 1999, 1318 pages;
    Wolfram Wette: “Die Wehrmacht. Feindbilder, Vernichtungskrieg, Legenden” (The Wehrmacht: Foe Images, War of Annilihation, Myths) 2002, 384p

    (5) Nolte, Ernst : “Der Faschismus in seiner Epoche” (Fascism during his Time),1963, p. 436

    (6) Werner Röhr (eds.) "Europa unterm Hakenkreuz. Die Okkupationspolitik des deutschen Faschismus (1938-1945)" (Europe under the Swastika. The occupation Policy of the German Fascism 1938-1945), 1996;
    Theo J. Schulte: "The German Army and Nazi Policies in Occupied Russia", 1989;
    Truman O. Anderson: "The Conduct of Reprisals by the German Army of Occupation in the Southern USSR.", 1994

    [ 25. November 2003, 09:48 AM: Message edited by: AndyW ]
     
  2. Friedrich

    Friedrich Expert

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    Thank you very much for the study, Andy. It was very useful. I'll have to add some comments when I finally get my own copy of "Lost Victories". Those memoirs are precisely what I need for my novel research, since it is not what actually happened, but what generals were thinking then. Well, I am trying to balance it, anyway.

    However, I really appreciate you pointing out Manstein's war crimes, since I didn't know a lot about them. Which of those biographies do you recommend? And do they have ENglish translations?

    Still, anyone can deny his genious as military commander.

    And I recommend Sir Ian Kershaw's "Hitler 1936-1945", where you can find many interesting and certainly not biased accounts of Manstein's and Hitler's discussions.
     
  3. KnightMove

    KnightMove Ace

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    I agree, this was an extraordinary interesting read, and most of it was news to me. Guido Knopp, the current 'star' among German WW2 historians, pretty critical against Manstein, did not mention most of this anywhere.
     
  4. Friedrich

    Friedrich Expert

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    Finally, this morning, I got "Lost Victories". Will have to add some comments here when I finish it. It now goes to the 'to be read' pile... [​IMG]
     
  5. AndyW

    AndyW Member

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    Well, I don't envy you. However, there's a buncha folks out there who really like this book, so I guess I'm an outsider. To me, it's only sad for the $'s and time spent on this book instead of all those other, less biased and really well-researched books worth to read out there.

    Anyway, have a nice reading, and, well, do me a favor: Count the cases of subjunctives (in German. Konjunktiv II) Manstein uses in one chapter of your choice! ;)

    Cheers,
     
  6. Friedrich

    Friedrich Expert

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    OK, I'll take the advice. ;)

    Just reading bits of it, I've already found that he's a bit too chovinist for me... :rolleyes: But at least not as excesively nationalist as Hitler... :rolleyes: :D
     
  7. Squirrel

    Squirrel Member

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    Never knew that Manstein was a nazi. Nice to know who was "good" and who was bad in Wehrmacht. [​IMG]
     
  8. KnightMove

    KnightMove Ace

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    All this info of AndyW does not mean that Manstein was a nazi, and he wasn't. However that he was tolerating these crimes, even more, is a norty surprise. :eek:
     
  9. Friedrich

    Friedrich Expert

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    Of all the German field marshals, Erich von Manstein cannot be included among the nazis nor the anti-nazis (as Rommel).

    The nazis were:

    Walther von Reichenau
    Ernst Busch
    Georg von Küchler
    Ferdinand Schörner
    Werner von Blomberg
    Wilhelm Keitel

    The anti nazis:

    Erich von Witzleben
    Wilhelm von Leeb
    Günther von Kluge

    The neutrals:

    Fedor von Bock
    Walther von Brauchitsch
    Gerd von Runstedt
    Wilhelm List
    Maximilian von Weichs
    Ewald von Kleist
    Friedrich Paulus
    Walter Model
    Erich von Manstein

    And the latter ones are rare cases, since they didn't like the nazis, but in some cases were too patriotic or believed in the Führer...
     
  10. Heartland

    Heartland Member

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    Well, I don't think it's all that hard to see that some of the Generals were very much taken in by Hitler in teh beginning, and as long as things were going well. These high-ranking officers after all owed much of their careers and current positions to Hitler's rearmament policies and aggression. Without him they would have been stuck with the puny and technologically inferior armies of the Weimar Republic, rather than spearheading a revolution in mechanized warfare, and whatnot.

    Note how people like Rommel, Guderian, and others, certainly accepted the laurels heaped upon them by Nazi Germany with relish as things were going well and their work was appreciated. It's not very easy to find comments critical to Hitler, say, pre-1941. Then they started getting disillusioned as they were dismissed and/or not allowed to do things their way, and the war turned against Germany.

    [ 28. November 2003, 06:53 AM: Message edited by: Heartland ]
     
  11. Friedrich

    Friedrich Expert

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    Heartland is right! Besides, when those men were promoted to field marshals they didn't only receive new eppoulettes and insignia and a very impressive batton, but some 200.000 RM bonus... :rolleyes:
     
  12. Daniel Jones

    Daniel Jones Member

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    Where does Hoth fall in the Nazi/Anti-Nazi categories?
     
  13. Friedrich

    Friedrich Expert

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    Colonel general Hermann Hoth would fall into the neutral and most excellent generals within the Wehrmacht.
     
  14. AndyW

    AndyW Member

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    Categorizing is always a difficult business. Let's see what a "neutral" German Army Commander ordered to his troops:


    Generaloberst Hermann Hoth in an order to his 17th Army on Nov. 17th, 1941 (my translation):

    „Any sign of active or passive opposition or any scheming of Jewish-Bolshevist agitators is to exterminate [“auszurotten”, A.W.]. Especially the soldiers must understand the necessity of harsh measurements against elements of different nationality and race. These circles are the intellectual backup of Bolshevism, the helpers of the murder-organizations, the helpers of the Partisans. It is the same Jewish class of human beings, whose destructive action against our people and culture did so much harm to our fatherland...Their [the Jews, A.W.] extermination [“Ausrottung”, A.W.] is an act of self-preservation. Who, as a soldier, criticizes this measurements, has no remembrance for the former year-long demoralizing and treacherous action of Jewish-Marxist elements in our nation.“

    In the same order he demands:

    „I demand that any soldier of the Army is full of pride for our successes and steeped by the feeling of unconditional superiority. We are the masters of the land [“Herren dieses Landes”, A.W.] that we conquered.“


    Hoth was charged and found guilty at Nuremberg for crimes against enemy belligerents and Prisoners of War and crimes against civilians. He was sentenced for 15 years of prison, but was released in 1954.

    War criminals aren't "neutral" in my eyes.

    Cheers,
     
  15. Friedrich

    Friedrich Expert

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    Point taken, Andy.

    But one thing is being a strong supporter of the nazi party, another being a supporter of the régime and another is being charmed by Hitler.

    I was referring to supporters of the régime and the party.

    That Hoth and many other generals - nazi or anti-nazi - really believed in their superior racial backgrounds and loved Prussian militarism (German megalomania) is ANOTHER issue.

    I never said Hoth wasn't a criminal.
     
  16. KnightMove

    KnightMove Ace

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    I think we all should be self-critic enough to see that none of us would have stated harsh criticism against Hitler at the peak of his power.

    Some German generals were ready for a coup in 1938 if Hitler would start war over Czechoslovakia. When Chamberlain backed down and the Germans successfully annexed the Sudeten areas, a non-proven quote by Halder after the successful annexation of the Sudeten areas says it all: "What can we do now? The hell, he succeeds in EVERYTHING!"

    At least after the fall of France virtually the entire German population believed Hitler to be the greatest, super-human, a miracle... HIS way was right, so all objections must have been wrong...!
     
  17. Friedrich

    Friedrich Expert

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    *stupid Friedrich* [​IMG]

    [ 01. December 2003, 12:43 PM: Message edited by: General der Infanterie Friedrich H ]
     
  18. Friedrich

    Friedrich Expert

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    You're right, Knight. But we also must remember that thanks to Goebbels, people didn't think that régime and Führer were the same - despite in fact they were! - and many people who disliked street violence, corruption and power abuses ALWAYS said: "If the Führer knew about this..." :rolleyes:
     
  19. AndyW

    AndyW Member

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    Nobody forced Reichenau, Hoth, Manstein to give that anti-jewish orders to their soldiers, justifying the Holocaust.

    However, they did issue these orders, while other Army commanders didn't, why?

    Cheers,
     
  20. Friedrich

    Friedrich Expert

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    Von Reichenau, at least, was a strong supporter not only of Hitler but of national socialism. The others just followed principles of typical German megalomania (Treitschke, Gabineau, Chamberlain, Nietzsche, Fichte, Hegel...) [​IMG]
     

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