Throughout the series there isn’t much discussion on what Germany, Hitler, and German High Command thoughts were about losing the war. They never seem to talk about it and they never seem to think about when they are making decisions and planning operations. Which is strange to me because Hitler has been to jail. The Allies are going to have to kill Hitler and German High Command for the things that they’ve done. Hitler and the Nazi’s are going to go down as some of the most evil people in all of history. Yet, they don’t seem to discuss or even think about it. They keep destroying, pillaging, and killing. They don’t seem to care what happens to them and what happens to Germany after the war if they lose.
Well, I think Hitler wouldn’t admit to himself the war was lost until late April 1945 because he knew that #1 his plans for the future (in all their evil glory) were ruined, and #2 he was going to die. What happened to Germany didn’t matter to him (he said); if the Germans couldn’t do what he want, they deserved what they got.
Himmler, on the other hand, was trying to walk a delusional fine line of killing and saving; trying to make sure there was as little evidence of the Holocaust as possible, killing people in them who could not be moved, and trying to convince the Allies that #1 he was a swell guy, and #2 he was the obvious choice to lead the new Germany after Hitler was dead to a new alliance - against the Russians. Like I say, delusional.
Others were just hoping they wouldn’t personally be punished to death as war criminals. There were some who just wanted to escape - e.g. Mengele, Eichmann - knowing perfectly well the war was lost and it was time to bugger off. Heck, even Bohrmann tried to flee Berlin. Some tried to hide (Himmler, for instance, after the surrender.)
For the military, they were - right up until late April - hoping to defend their country. The Russians had made it abundantly clear that rape, murder, and taking-away were justified retribution to inflict on Germans. The Western Allies were where refuge lay, and civilians and later the military just hoped to make it to them. Better a POW camp in the West than a POW/labor/neglect camp in Russia.
The SS fought on because they knew they were likely to be shot immediately by the Russians, and probably by the Allies. (For instance, around 50 Dachau guards were lined up against a wall and shot by soldiers of the US 45th Infantry Division.). When capture seemed imminent, they would divest themselves of uniforms and papers. Unfortunately for them, the SS had decreed a blood-type tattoo on Waffen-SS men, which was taken as evidence of a POW being from the SS.
But the military hierarchy knew they were done in the east in August 1944, when Army Group Center was destroyed. They knew they were done in the West when the Rhine was crossed. But they fought on, because, well, it’s what they were supposed to do.
And let’s remember that the military had sworn an oath of loyalty to Hitler, personally. That is, they had taken an oath to obey him, personally. They took it seriously - far more seriously than they should have. When moral qualms came up - as they did - most in the military clung to the delusion that what was done was not their fault (“I vas only following zee orderz”, and all that.)
So it wasn’t a matter of not caring, it was a matter of not seeing an alternative to keep-doing-what-you’re-doing because all the alternatives were worse, in their narrow view of alternatives.
That really doesn’t answer the question. What I’m looking for is documentation of German High Command thinking about losing the war. Up to this point in history most leaders of nations who are on the losing side of a conflict survive the war. Some become private citizens (Robert E Lee, Jefferson Davis), some get banished (Napoleon) some even get to stay in power(Max Von Hindenburg)
Hitler has been to jail for his political actions. He has seen his political rivals die when they lose or become useless. So he knows that if you lose you can be killed. So you’d think that he would leave some doors open so he can get out. Yet his actions don’t leave any doors open. Once German High Command started the Holocaust in earnest they had to know that if the allies did catch them they will kill him. The world will demand it.
German High Command are going to die early in life. Hitler(56), Goebbels(47), Himmler(44), Goring(53). Especially note Goebbels because he will kill six of his children and his wife will commit suicide. Talk about committed to cause. What did he think was going to happen to him when the world figured out that he has been killing people in industrial sized factories? He doesn’t appear to ask and answer himself that question. What’s the point of having children and why go through all the work of raising children if you are just going to kill them if your political ideology gets conquered? It would make sense to give yourself an out if your government was conquered, but he didn’t.
Going into WW2 the Germans knew they had enough ammo for about four or five years of combat. Which means they knew that if they didn’t win the war by that time or they are going to lose. There also doesn’t seem to be a solid win condition. There never was a real push for peace talks either. So they go on this pillage, destroy, kill mission until they finally get captured or killed.
The Nazi party was around for about 25 years. Hitler came to power in 1932 which is about 13 years of being in power and 25 years of being existence. They obviously didn’t care if their government survived after them. They didn’t leave a way for the government to survive. Very short time for a government to be around and for a person to be in power.
Maybe there isn’t any documentation. Maybe the reality is that German High Command went on this burn, pillage, murderous war because they just felt like it and whatever happens happens. I find that hard to believe though.
At any rate talk about angry people. These guys must have been some of the most angry people in the world to do this. They are going to destroy nations, their government which they’ve spent decades building, own nation, their families, themselves and then go down in history as some of the most evil people in the history of the world for this cause. They never stopped and thought about any of this or even cared if it happened. It’s so weird to me.
didn’t he come to power in 1933?
You don’t go to war with the intention of losing. The closest to “we must plan for the far side of surrender” is Speer vs. Hitler - Hitler explicitly wanting to destroy Germany altogether, Speer wanting something left. But Speer didn’t put any of that on paper.
Remember, planning for losing a war is sort of by definition “defeatism”, and not looked on too charitably. If you plan to lose, you will. That’s how the thinking goes…
The other thing to remember is that the Russians were planning (loudly) to bread-for-bread-blood-for-blood every part of Germany they could get ahold of. And the official Western Allied policy until 1946 was the “Morganthau Plan” - turning Germany into one big pasture, where Germans were kept on the edge of starvation indefinitely.
When you’re up against that, why plan? Whatever you think you might do, your fate is in others’ hands.
There are numerous cases were SS soldiers/ young boys surrendered. Obviously the Soviets and Western Allies were on the lookout for war criminals. Note: The Soviets sent convicted war criminals to different camps.
The liberation of Dachau was somewhat understandable as the Allies from several division found piles and piles of corpses and emaciated survivors which were barely alive. Unlike the German forces who didn’t care at all about them the Allied forces tried to give the sandwhiches but the medics came quickly with special food the poor prisoners could process. Guess what my grandad was taken in the Arbeitseinsatz and got “eggs floating in fat”. This although he was processed as a POW.
The guards where utterly indifferent to their victims, thought they were doing goods work and YES a lot of them were shot. Some of the liberators were Jewish themselves and even more horrified.
In extreme right circles this is touted as a war crime but understandable given the circumstances and the higher-ups stopped then. To contrast this: The Germans murdered millions and and Jewish women often were raped multiple times before being murdered, their possessions were stolen leaving the common Soviet to starve (the Hunger plan).
The oath logic is ridiculous, It is mafia logic I did an oath so I stop thinking and have an excuse to murder/ rape? People should think for themselves. More likely a lot of Germans felt like war criminals on the run because they were.
Some brave resisters , Germans in Dachau and other horrible camps not to mention fantastic writers like Klempener were Germans too. These SS guards were the lowest of the low.
“So it wasn’t a matter of not caring” Yes it was actually and a dose of gods work. The followed the uberantisemite thought leader Luther who’s hatred for Jews and peasants was ages old. The National Socialists copy pasted his ideas. And yes It was a religious war, my family and other ran into a lot of examples of grieving mostly Luther adoring grieving mothers who lost their sons but at leas got consolence that they died fighting “The Jews” (Both the West and East was controlled by the “Jews” according to Nazi propaganda).
This explains why so many Germans kept throwing all these poor young kids into battle while everyone thought they lost (Most kids where shot to pieces). They were doing Gods work. Note that the Lutheran church in Wittenberg still has an ornaments with a Jew Sucking the tits of a Pig. This crazed bestiality was contrasted with the “good German” getting his place in the afterlife.“Gott mit uns” (God is with us). Antisemitism wasn’t invented by the National Socialist, the fertile groundwork had been done before.
None of this is really talking about what I’m trying to get at. I’m trying to get at what did German High Command think of their actions and the consequences of those actions would be? Millions of Germans will died and many German cities burned down because of what German High Command did. Did they ever think they went to far? Maybe there is nothing. Maybe they just went on this burn, pillage, kill mission until they die and who cares about the consequences.
Personally I’d like to think there’s more to it than that. But that’s what I’m hearing.
Not sure what you are trying to get at, the imagined afterlife is what a lot of people went for.
An example of a medal collecting celebrity who fell into depression according to the letters to his wife is Erwin Rommel. I can’t mindread him but depression seems logical if your stellar career goes nowhere. The Top brass in EVERY Army was fiercely competing for top Jobs.
Goebbels went another route and after the death of Hitler he spent a few hours being fuhrer.
Paulus, obviously didn’t commit suicide and started working with the Soviets.
Not sure what the others did. Also I really like your thought-provoking question and I am trying to think with you if that makes sense. I have the feeling that not everyone of the German leaders did the same. Notably after their “brilliant careers” became a lord of the flies affair.
PS DM me if you want to discuss in person or maybe join us in Normandy;) if at all possible. I will bring some drinks and can pick you up from the train station . Also I met Indy in 2o17 and he is a great entertainer.
What I’m trying to get it is why did the Germans take this war as far as they took it? Why did German High Command not leave themselves any outs? Once it was clear Germany was going to lose the war why did they keep burning, pillaging and killing people? Is there any historical documentation on what German High Command thought would happen to themselves and to Germany if they lost the war?
A normal criminal if they know they are going to get caught they normally stop committing crimes. This is done so that they can get a lighter sentence.
Politicians in particular they always leave themselves outs. They always keep their options open. They do this so that if their current thinking becomes unpopular they just change their minds, say something else and can keep their jobs. But German High Command did not do that.
At the Wannsee Conference when all the German government officials got together and they figured out how to implement the final solution. Did they ever ask themselves what happens to themselves if Germany lost the war? Eight people at that conference had academic doctorates and apparently none of them asked themselves what happens to them personally if Germany loses the war.
I don’t see how they don’t come to the conclusion that they will either be killed or go to jail for life. The world would demand that. But apparently they didn’t care and their actions throughout the war supports this because they just kept killing.
I would think. A normal person. Once North Africa fell to the Allies German High Command should have been trying to figure out how to end the war. They know they’ve committed so many crimes that they should have been coming up with different names, faking passports, raiding their bank accounts and running away to countries never heard of and places you’ll never find. Not only did they not do any of that. They crushed the July 20th plot to kill Hitler and over throw Nazi German and kept pillaging, burning and killing people!
I think this is the most important question when looking at WWII. The battles, technology, how the war was fought are important, but we rarely talk about how and why they acted the way they acted. The more I dig at this question the more I recognize how angry at the world German High Command was. I’m also recognizing how loyal German High Command was to Hitler. It’s a cult within side a cult.
When I think about it; these guys not only went to the next level they went as far as someone can possibly go and beyond to being committed cause and being committed to Hitler. It’s really freaky.
Your question has been very well covered in many biographies of Adolf Hitler along with biographies of most of the Nazi and Wehrmacht leadership. Direct translations of the actual conferences concerning your question have been published in detailed history books like Hitler and His Generals: Military Conferences, 1942 - 1945 by Helmut Heiber & David M. Glantz. So, I am going to give you the answer to explain the German viewpoint.
The answer can be found by a fast perusal of European history from 1618 to 1914. The glaring thing that stands out among almost all of these European wars is that they are coalition wars between Coalition A vs. Coalition B. These coalitions were incredibly unstable with nations abandoning their partners because they conquered what they wanted or don’t think it is worth expending money, nations withdrawing after defeat, neutral and defeated nations jumping back into the war when circumstances change, and nations switching coalitions because the other side offered more opportunities. The vast majority of these wars end in stalemate with some border territory, money, and colonies switching hands between nations with all of the nations still being intact.
The classic example of this is the Seven Years War between the British-Hanoverian-Prussian Coalition versus the Austrian-French-Spanish-Swedish-Russian-Holy Roman Empire Coalition. In the middle of the war, Prussia stood on the verge of defeat. Most of the army was killed, wounded, and captured. The majority of the nation had been overrun by the Austrian coalition. The Russian Imperial Flag even flied over the buildings of Berlin. And then the miracle happened. Czarina Elizabeth Romanov died of natural causes. The Russian Empire immediately dropped out of the Austrian coalition and started to withdraw from Prussian territory. And then Czar Peter III Romanov immediately switched sides and actively joined his forces to the British-Hanoverian-Prussian Coalition until he was murdered by his loving wife, Czarina Katherine the Great Romanov. This saved Prussia from being completely destroyed. Of course, the British were starting to back stab their allies at this time because they had won everything that they planned to take and wanted to skip out with their winnings. This war is especially important because the events of the Seven Year’s Warr is the what the civilian and military leadership of the Third Reich are desperately going to cling to as the war turned against them.
The Seven Years War was also the core belief of the July 20th Conspiracy which inspired them to attempt to kill Adolf Hitler.
From the German perspective, the United Nations coalition was an unnatural alliance between the main nations of the Soviet Union, the United States, and the British Empire. The first was the communist Soviet Union which had the core foundational ideology of the overthrowing and elimination of their allies to create a Marxist paradise under benign Soviet leadership. Their core Marxist ideology made them the enemy of all the Western Allied nations.
The second major coalition partner was the increasingly anti-imperialist United States. The United States had already started to undermine the European empires when they passed the Commonwealth Act granting independence to the Philippines. The United States had a vigorous anti-war movement called America First (the largest in American history) whose stated core belief was forget the Commonwealth Act and grant immediate independence to Philippines as well as Guam, Samoa, and Hawaii while they withdrew out of the Pacific. Many German officers who had visited the United States before the rise of Adolf Hitler knew the American dislike for the British. They knew about how the American newspapers changed the meaning of AEF from American Expeditionary Force to All England’s Fault. They also knew about the American war plan (Plan Red) against the British Empire.
And then is the last major member of the coalition which was the British Empire which was unnaturally allied with two major nations that would undermine and destroy their empire if given the opportunity to do so. The Germans know from their intelligence reports that Americans are actively negotiating with the Australians and the New Zealanders undermining British authority. As you have seen with the Quadrant Quebec conference, the British actively blocked direct meetings between Prime Minister King and President Roosevelt to try to keep their influence in Canada.
So, the German belief had two core beliefs that would last until the arrest of the President Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz at the very end. The first being that the unnatural alliance would fall apart under the pressure of war. They fervently believed that the British would lose too many men being killed on the battlefield to call for a ceasefire that would break the alliance apart. They see the effects that the war had on the British army when they started to disband combat units in 1944. The destruction of the British Army was one of the primary goals of the Watch on the Rhine offensive. They also fervently believed as the war turned against them that the moronic British and the brain-dead Americans would wake up to the fundamental threat of the Soviet Union and call for a ceasefire to allow the Germans to concentrate their full force to eliminate the Jewish-Bolshevik conspiracy that threatened them all. Some Germans even fervently hoped to the very end that the Americans and British would ally with Germany to eliminate the Jewish-Bolshevik conspiracy by combining the Western Allied militaries with the Wehrmacht to eliminate the Jewish-Bolshevik conspiracy and the Soviet Union.
The High Command did what they were told, because they convinced themselves that it was required of them, as members of the German officer corps. They turned their eyes away from the consequences (which they could blame on the Allies), and did the job in front of them. It’s not exactly that they didn’t care, it’s that they convinced themselves that it was not their job to care.
Talk about taking “Not my job. I’m just taking orders.” as far as you possibly can go. Never question orders no matter what they are. That doesn’t really hold up honestly. That’s just an excuse and it’s really bad one too.
When Hitler and German High Command were in power, not only did they take the country they convinced their whole country to commit mass crimes against humanity and then fight until they couldn’t fight anymore and then were killed. Nor did they care about the consequences to their government, nation, families or themselves.
The more I look at this war. The more I realize that Racism and the Neo Nazi movements are really public health issues. It’s going to kill everything the person cares about and then themselves.
Yes it is.
I don’t exactly understand that. There are racists all around you, they just don’t talk about it. As long as they don’t do anything about it, I don’t think it should worry you. There are plenty of other people, who do do things. Especially if they say it’s good for you. Worry about them.
Their racism has effects on their actions and other people. It affects everyone.
Careful with that paintbrush. It may be a bit wide. What’s a racist tends to be a matter of what race you are, your experience, and your need to distinguish yourself from lesser beings. Am I a racist if I wish to punish someone for something their grandparents did? Well, yes. Am I a racist if I believe that my race is inferior to another athletically, or intellectually, or financially? Well, yes. Am I a racist if I notice you are black and I am asian? Maybe! Am I a racist if I don’t notice the same thing? Maybe!
Have we wandered off topic? You betcha!
I have presented to you the thinking behind the military and civilian leadership of Nationalist Socialist Germany as the war turned against them. But you have missed the essential lesson to be learned from the study of World War 1, the interwar period, and World War 2. So I am going to graphically present the lesson to you with photographs:
These are the photographs of the men and women enjoying their weekend off from their duty as prison guards at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp.
The essential lesson of World War 1, the interwar period, and World War 2 is not to blindly follow an ideology whether it is Marxism, Imperialism, Nationalism, Leninist-Communism, Fascism, Nationalist Socialism, or Maoist Communism. You have falsly assumed that these people share your sense of morality. You have judged them to be evil for their actions when they are in fact a thousand times worse. They were true believers. They truly believe what they do were doing was noble in their actions, morally right in their duty, sacrificing themselves physically and mentally for future generations to live in a better world than the one they are presently living in. They were doing this for the greater good of the Third Reich and mankind as a whole. They truly believed that future generations would look upon their justified actions with a sense of gratification for the better world that the future generation is living in.
I can do one free module a year at my old Uni and I did psychology. One of the IMO thought provoking thought was:
We are all prejudiced because our brain warns us in a split second who is a friend or possibly foe.
Eg a rustling bush might contain a lion or loud engine noises might mean loonies about to run you over or people who dress differently are “not my tribe”.
This warning system is useful as avoiding running under idiots in fast cars seems good.
However we ALL are prejudiced in a split second but the key is recognising. E.g. I work with people from many backgrounds just to find out that we have common interests and experience. E.g both like fast planes or used to play same game or have eaten Hong Kong Duck pancakes or had to jump out of the way for traffic which was on the wrong (left) side,
Catching these prejudiced thoughts takes a conscious effort. And as I will be in Jersey in a few days I must remember that cars on the left are tricky for me,
Hope this makes sense (well the people on this TG forum are much smarter than average) can be fun or confronting to write up these thoughts and evaluate.
Book recommendations (I might have done that before, but anyway here goes).
49% of German military casualties and 53% of overall German casualties were inflicted AFTER the July 20th, 1944 attempt on Hitler’s life. So there would have been a clear benefit to the idea of giving up at this moment, thought it wouldn’t have been known at the time just how brutal the final 9 months of the war in Europe would be.
Yet the generals, in order to preserve their personal ‘honor’ aided Hitler in continuing the war and thus bear large responsibility for the consequences of doing so.
A very interesting book, also detailing how Heydrich’s RSHA was planning a Nazi future without the Nazi party officials he despised.
Most revealingly he wanted to have Hans Frank killed for daring to criticise the SS but had to settle for Frank’s deputy because Hitler backed Frank.
Heydrich’s death allowed Bormann to eventually get the upper hand but by then the door on Nazi Germany was being closed for goos.
The key element in why Germany fought to the end, as what I conclude based on Kershaw and Mazower, is that unlike Italy’s Fascist Grand Council and King, in Germany there was no mechanism to remove Hitler legally so murder was the only avenue left. Hitler was head of state, head of government, supreme commander, defense minister (answering to himself as chancellor), army commander (answering to himself as supreme commander) and chief justice of the German people with all judges and regional leaders answering to him personally.
Another major contributing factor was widespread knowledge of what the Germans had ‘done’ in the ‘East’ and thus fear of retribution. Years of rape, murder, looting, burning and pillaging isn’t possible to hide when there are so many participants.
How does Kershaw’s “The End” (2011) relate to his “Hitler 1939-45: Nemesis”? (2000) – “I don’t know” is an entirely acceptable answer
None of this is really answering the question. Sorry.
The reality is that because of Germany’s actions if they lost the war the Allies would have to kill them and throw them in jail. It world would demand it.
What I’m looking for is Did the Germans understand that? Did they ever ask themselves what happens to Germany, Nazism, their families and themselves if they lose the war? Did they ever think about what history would think about them if they lost the war?
According to their actions. They didn’t care what happens and totally accepted that they would die and/or go to jail. The history books would label them some of the most evil people in history and they accepted this.
If they had any other thoughts other than the above it was never written down or discussed and history doesn’t have any documentation on it. Nor did they plan to keep themselves alive or their cause to continue if they lost the war.
When I think about this question. I’ve realized that the Nazi’s just went on this pillage, destroy, kill mission. They weren’t evil. They were very angry at the world. They were so angry at the world that they just wanted to destroy it. They would keep pillaging, destroying and killing until there was nothing left. There would never be peace. There was never a win condition. After they beat the Allies they would just go find another enemy to pillage, destroy and kill. Once they were done with them they would pick a subgroup of the Nazi’s and pillage, destroy and kill them. It would go on and on.
It was never about trying to create some “Aryan race utopia” or “Revenge for the Stab in the Back” That was their sales pitch to get people to join and justify their cause. The facts support this. They didn’t just kill Jews. They killed everyone they didn’t like for whatever reason they wanted on that particular day.
It’s really sad honestly. Such a waste of talent, time and energy. They never questioned what they were doing and if they did it’s been lost to time. Talk about being angry at something. These guys were pure anger.