Sunday, May 5, 2013


 Part 3
From this wearing experience with Moscow's tough bargainer and from further evidence that came a fortnight later of Stalin's increasingly rapacious  appetite, Hitler drew his final conclusions. It must be set down here that the Soviet dictator, his subsequent claims to the contrary notwithstanding, now accepted Hitler's offer to join the fascist camp, though at a stiffer price than had been offered in Berlin. On November 26, scarcely two weeks after Molotov had returned from Germany, he informed the German ambassador in Moscow that Russia was prepared to join the four-power pact, subject to the following conditions:
1. That German troops are immediately withdrawn from Finland, which ...belongs to the Soviet Union's sphere of influence...
2. That within the next few months the security of the Soviet Union in the Straits is assured by the conclusion of a mutual-assistance pact between the U.S.S.R. and Bulgaria... and by this establishment of a base for land ans naval forces by the Soviet Union within range of the Bosporus and the Dardanelles by means of a long-term lease.
3. That the area south of Batum and Baku in the general direction of the Persian Gulf is recognized as the centre of the aspiration of the Soviet Union.
4. That Japan renounce her rights to concessions for coal and oil in the northern Sakhalin. [Dispatch of Schulenburg,Nov 26.1940, NSR,pp.258-59,sic]
In all Stalin asked for five, instead of two, secret protocols embodying his new proposals and, for good measure, asked, that, should Turkey prove difficult about Russian bases controlling the Straits, the four powers take military measures against her. The proposals constituted a price higher than Hitler was willing even to consider. He tried to keep Russia out of Europe, but Stalin was demanding Finland, Bulgaria, control of the Straits and, in effect, the Arabian and the Persian oil fields, which normally supplies Europe with most of its oil. The Russians did not even mention the Indian Ocean, which the Führer had tried to fob off as the centre of "aspirations" for the U.S.S.R. "Stalin is clever and cunning", Hitler told his top military chiefs. "He demands more and more. He's a cold-blooded blackmailer. A German victory has become unbearable for Russia. Therefore: she must be brought to her knees as soon as possible".
The great cold-blooded Nazi blackmailer had met his match, and the realisation infuriated him. At the beginning of December he told Halder to bring him the Army General Staff's plan for the onslaught on the Soviet Union. On December 5 Halder and Brauchitsch dutifully brought it to him, and at the end of a four-hour conference he approved  it. Both the captured OKW War Diary and Halder's own confidential journal contain a report on this crucial meeting. The Nazi war lord stressed that the Red Army must be broken through both north and south of the Pripet Marshes, surrounded and annihilated "as in Poland". Moscow, he told Halder, "was not important". The important thing was to destroy the "life force" of Russia. Rumania and Finland were to join in the attack, but not Hungary. General Dietel's mountain division at Narvik was to be transported across northern Sweden to Finland for an attackon the Soviet Arctic region. Altogether some "120 to 130 Divisions" were allotted for the big campaign. [Sweden,which refused transit to the Allies during the Russo-Finnish War,permitted this fully armed division to pass through. Hungary of course joined in the war against Russia,sic] In its report on this conference, as in previous references to the pla to attack Russia, General's diary employs the the code name "Otto". Less than a fortnight later, on December 18, 1940, the code name by which it will go down in history was substituted. On this day Hitler crossed the Rubicon. He issued Directive No 21 it was headed:
It began: TOP SECRET The Führer's Headquarters December 18, 1940
The German Armed Forces must be prepared to crush Soviet Russia in a quick campaign before the end of the war against England. For this purpose the Army will have to employ all available units with the reservation that the occupied territories will have to safeguard against surprise attacks... Preparations... are to be completed by May 15, 1941. Great caution has to be exercised that the intention of an attack will not be recognized.
So the target date was mid-May of the following spring, The "general purpose" of Operation Barbarossa Hitler laid down as follows:
The mass of the Russian Army in western Russia is to be destroyed in daring operations by driving forward deep armoured wedges, and the retreat of intact, battle-ready troops  into the wide spaces of Russia is to be prevented.
The ultimate objective of the operation is to establish a defence line against Asiatic Russia from a line running from the Volga river to Archangel.

Opening phase of Operation Barbarossa.

Hitler's directive then went into considerable detail about the main lines of attack. The roles of Rumania and Finland were defined. They were to provide the jumping-off areas for the attacks on the extreme north and south flanks as well as troops to aid the German forced in these operations. Finland's position was especially important. Various Finnish-German Armies were to advance on Leningrad and Lake Ladoga area, cut the Murmansk rail line, secure Petsamo nickel mines and occupy the Russian ice-free ports on the Arctic Ocean. Much depended, Hitler admitted, on whether Sweden would permit the transit of German troops from Norway, but he correctly predicted that the Swedes would be accommodating in this. The main operations were to be divided, Hitler explained, by the Pripet Marshes. The major blow would be delivered north of the swamps with two whole army groups. One would advance up the Baltic States to Leningrad. The other, farther south, would drive through White Russia and then swing north to join the first group, thus trapping what was left of the Soviet forces trying to retreat from the Baltic. Only then, Hitler laid it down, must an offensive against Moscow be undertaken. The Russian capital, which a fortnight before had seemed "unimportant" to Hitler, now assumed more significance. "the capture of this city", he wrote, "means a decisive political and economic victory beyond the fall of the country's most important rail-road junction". And he pointed out that Moscow was not only the main communication centre of Russia but its principal producer of armaments.
Armed with heavy shovels, a hastily assembled work force of Moscow women and elderly men gouge a huge tank trap out of the earth to halt German Panzers advancing on the Russian capital. In the feverish effort to save the city, more than 100,000 citizens labored from mid-October until late November digging ditches and building other obstructions. When completed, the ditches extended more than 100 miles
A third army group would drive south of the marshes through the Ukraine toward Kiew, its principal objective being to roll up and destroy the Soviet forces there west of the Dnieper River. Farther south German-Rumanian troops would protect the flank of the main operation and advance toward Odessa and thence along the Black Sea. Thereafter the Donets basin, where 60 per cent of Soviet industry was concentrated, would be taken. Such was Hitler's grandiose plan, just before Christmas holidays of 1940, and so well prepared that no essential changes would be made in it. In order to secure secrecy, only nine copies of the directive were made, one for each of the three armed services and the rest guarded at OKW headquarters. Even the top field commanders, the directive makes clear, were to be told that the plan was merely for "precaution, in case Russia should change her previous attitude towards us". And Hitler instructed that the number of officers in the secret "be kept as small as possible. Otherwise the danger exists that our preparations will become known and the gravest political and militarily disadvantages result".
There is no evidence that the generals in the Army High Command objected to Hitler's decision to turn on the Soviet Union, whose loyal fulfilment of the pact with Germany had made possible their victories in Poland and the West. Later Halder would write derisively of "Hitler's Russian adventure" and claim the Army leaders were against it from the beginning. But there is not a word in his voluminous diary entries for December 1940 which supports him in this. Indeed, he gives the impression of being full of genuine enthusiasm for the "adventure", which he himself, as Chief of General Staff, had the main responsibility for planning. At any rate, for Hitler, the die was cast, and, though he did not know it, his ultimate fate sealed, by this decision of December 18, 1940. Relieved to haver made up his mind at last, as he later revealed, he went off to celebrate Christmas holidays with the troops and flyers along the English Channel, as far as it was possible for him to get from Russia. Out of his mind too, as far as possible, must have been any thoughts of Charles XII of Sweden and of Napoleon Bonaparte, who after so many glorious conquests not unlike his own, had met disaster in the vast depths of the Russian steppes. How could they be much on his mind? By now, as the record will shortly show, the one-time Vienna waif regarded himself as the greatest conqueror the world had ever seen. Egomania, that fatal disease of all conquerors, was taking hold.
[Although Operation Tannenbaum (English: Operation Fir Tree or Christmas Tree), known earlier as Operation Green, was a planned but cancelled invasion of Switzerland by Nazi Germany during World War II.
Even before the outbreak of war, Switzerland had every reason to expect invasion. After Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933, he made overtures towards the various National Socialist-leaning organizations in German-speaking countries, particularly Austria and Switzerland.
For tactical reasons Hitler made repeated assurances before the outbreak of the Second World War that Germany would respect Swiss neutrality in the event of a military conflict in Europe. In February 1937 he announced that "at all times, whatever happens, we will respect the inviolability and neutrality of Switzerland" to the Swiss federal councillor Edmund Schulthess, reiterating this promise shortly before the German invasion of Poland. These were, however, purely political manoeuvres intended to guarantee Switzerland's passiveness. Germany planned to dispose of that country's independence after it had defeated its main enemies on the continent first. sic]
Hitler inspecting troops
And yet, after all the tumultuous victories of the spring and early summer 1940, there had been a frustrating six months for the Nazi conqueror. Not only the final triumph over Britain eluded him but importunities to deal her a mortal blow in the Mediterranean had been thrown away. Two days after Christmas Grand Admiral Raeder saw Hitler in Berlin but he had little Yuletide to offer. "The threat to Britain in the entire Mediterranean, the Near East and in North Africa", He told the Führer, "has been eliminated...The decisive action in the Mediterranean for which we had hoped therefore is no longer possible." Adolf Hitler baulked by the senility of Marshal Petain, had really missed the bus in the Mediterranean. Disaster had struck the Italian ally in Egyptian desert and now in December confronted it in the snowy mountains of Albania. These untoward happenings were also turning points in the war and in the course of history of the Third Reich. They had come about no only because of weaknesses of Germany's friends and allies, but, in part because of the Nazi warlord's incapacity to grasp the larger, intercontinental strategy that was called for and that Raeder and even Göring had urged upon him.
Twice in September 1940, on the sixth and twenty-sixth, the Grand Admiral attempted to open up new vistas in the Führer's mind now that the direct attack on England seemed out of question. For the second conference Raeder cornered Hitler alone and, without the Army and Air Forces to muddle the conversation, gave his chief a lengthy lecture on naval strategy and the importance of getting at Britain in other places than over the English Channel. The British, Raeder said, have always considered the Mediterranean the pivot of their world empire... Italy, surrounded by British power, is fast becoming the main target of attack...The Italians have not yet realised the danger when they refused our help. Germany, however, must wage war against Great Britain with all means at her disposal and without delay, before the United States is able to intervene effectively. For this reason the Mediterranean question must be cleared up during the winter months.
Cleared up how? The Admiral then got down to brass tacks: Gibraltar must be taken. The Canary Islands must be secured by the Air Force. The Suez Canal must be taken. After Suez, Raeder painted a rosy picture of what then would logically ensue: An advance from Suez through Palestine and Syria as far as Turkey if necessary. If we reach that point, Turkey will be in our power. The Russian problem will then appear in a different light... It is doubtful whether an advance against Russia from the north will be necessary. Having in his mind driven the British out of the Mediterranean and put Turkey and Russia in Germany's power, Raeder went on to complete the picture. Correctly predicting that Britain, supported by the U.S.A. and the Gaullist forces, eventually would try to get a foothold on Northwest Africa as a basis for subsequent war against the Axis, the Admiral urged that Germany and Vichy France forestall this by securing this strategically important region themselves. According to Raeder, Hitler agreed with this "general trend of thought" but added that would have to talk matters over first with Mussolini, Franco and  Pétain. This he proceeded to do, although only after much time was lost. He arranged to dee the Spanish dictator on October 23, Pétain, who was now the head of a collaborationist government at Vichy, the next day, and the Duce a few days thereafter.

Großadmiral Erich Raeder
'Erich Johann Albert Raeder was a naval leader in Germany before and during World War II. Raeder attained the highest possible naval rank—that of Großadmiral (Grand Admiral) — in 1939, becoming the first person to hold that rank since Alfred von Tirpitz. Raeder led the Kriegsmarine (German Navy) for the first half of the war; he resigned in 1943 [probably over naval tactics with Hitler,sic] and was replaced by Karl Dönitz. (whom he detested) Dönitz saw himself as Raeder's superior, and expected Raeder to be his subordinate.  He was sentenced to life in prison at the Nuremberg Trials, but was released early due to failing health. From the moment Raeder was convicted, a campaign to have him released was started by his wife, Erika who routinely made very exaggerated claims to the press about how harsh life was in Spandau prison for her husband In a 1950 interview, Erika Raeder claimed that her septuagenarian husband was forced to do brutal "hard labour" in Spandau when Raeder's job in Spandau was to work in the prison library. In another interview in 1951, Erika Raeder claimed that:"The treatment we Germans had to endure is worse than anything that happened to the Jews". Erika Raeder was on the whole portrayed favourably in the West German press, where she was depicted as a victim of Allied injustice while as a reporter put it "where does Raeder's guilt lie?" Erika Raeder's campaign to free her husband was joined by German veterans, who bombarded the American, British and French governments with demands that Raeder, who they claimed was an innocent man wrongly convicted at Nuremberg, be freed. Admiral Gottfried Hanson, head of the Verband deutscher Soldaten veterans' group in a letter in support of Raeder sent to the three western high commissioners' for Germany declared:
"As a friend of many years' standing, and certain that all ex-members of the Navy will agree with me, I venture to say that no military leader could had educated and influenced his subordinates from a higher moral and Christian level than did Raeder...both as a man and a Christian...How can genuine peace and real understanding among the nations of the Occident be brought about...if true right and justice is not applied to the Germans that are still be kept prisoners?"Erich Raeder died in Kiel on 6 November 1960, aged 84. He is buried in the Nordfriedhof (North Cemetery), Kiel.

Franco, who owes his triumph in the Spanish Civil War to the massive military aid of Italy and Germany, had, like all his fellow dictators, an in ordinate appetite for spoils, especially if they could be gained cheaply. In June, at the moment of France's fall, he had hastily informed Hitler that Spain would enter the war in return for being given most of the vast French African empire, including Morocco and western Algeria, and provided that Germany supplied Spain liberally with arms, gasoline and foodstuffs. It was to give Franco the opportunity to redeem this promise that the Führer arrived in his special train at the Franco-Spanish border town of Hendave on October 23.  But much had happened in the intervening months, Britain had stoutly held out, for one thing, and Hitler was in for an unpleasant surprise. The crafty Spaniard was not impressed by the Führer's boast that"England already is decisively beaten", nor was he satisfies with Hitler's promise to give Spain territorial compensation in French North Africa "to the extent to which it would be possible to cover France's losses from British colonies." Franco wanted the French African empire, with no strings attached. Hitler's proposal was that Spain enter the war in January 1941, but Franco pointed out the danger of such precipitate action. Hitler wanted the Spaniards to attack Gibraltar on January 10, with the help of German specialists who had taken fort of Eben Emael from the air. Franco replied, with typical Spanish pride, that Gibraltar would have to be taken by Spaniards "alone". Ans so the two dictators wrangled, for nine hours. According to Dr Schmidt, who was present here too, Franco spoke on and on in monotonous singing voice and Hitler became increasingly exasperated, once sprininging up, as he had done with Chamberlain, to exclaim that there was no point in continuing the conversation.
German leader Adolf Hitler meeting Spain's dictator General Francisco Franco on the Spanish border at Hendaye October 23,1940 to talk about Spain helping out in case of war.
Although Spanish dictator Field Marshal (Generalísimo) Francisco Franco did not enter the war on the side of Germany, he permitted volunteers to join the German Army (Wehrmacht Heer) on the clear and guaranteed condition they would exclusively fight against Bolshevism (Soviet Communism) on the Eastern Front, and not against the Western Allies or any Western European occupied populations. In this manner, he could keep Spain at peace with the Western Allies whilst simultaneously repaying Hitler for his support during the Spanish Civil War (see Condor Legion). Spanish foreign minister Ramón Serrano Súñer made the suggestion to raise a volunteer corps, and at the commencement of Operation Barbarossa, Franco sent an official offer of help to Berlin.
Hitler approved the use of Spanish volunteers on June 24, 1941. Volunteers flocked to recruiting offices in all the metropolitan areas in Spain. Cadets from the officer training school in Zaragoza volunteered in particularly large numbers. Initially, the Spanish government was prepared to send about 4,000 men, but soon understood that there were more than enough volunteers to fill an entire division: 18,104 men in all, 2,612 officers and 15,492 soldiers. Fifty percent of officers and non-commissioned officers (NCOs) were professional soldiers, many of them veterans of the Spanish Civil War. Many others were members of the Falange (the Spanish Fascist party). Others felt pressure to join because of past ties with the Republic or — like Luis García Berlanga, who later became a well-known cinema director — to help their relatives in Franco's prisons.
General Agustín Muñoz Grandes was assigned to lead the volunteers. Because the soldiers could not use official Spanish army uniforms, they adopted a symbolic uniform comprising the red berets of the Carlists, khaki trousers used in the Spanish Legion, and the blue shirts of the Falangists - hence the nickname "Blue Division." This uniform was used only while on leave in Spain; in the field, soldiers wore the German Army (Wehrmacht Heer) field gray uniform with a shield on the upper right sleeve bearing the word "España" and the Spanish national colours
Veterans on the funerals of Franco. On the flag, carried at right, says "Hermandad." (Brotherhood). Note: Spain was the only continental country that allowed veterans to wear German War Medals in public!
"Rather than go through that again", he later told Mussolini, in recounting hid ordeal with the Caudillo, "I would prefer to have three or four teeth yanked out", After nine hours, with time out for dinner in Hitler's special Dining car, the talks broke up late in the evening without Franco's having definitely committed himself to come into the war. Hitler left Ribbentrop behind that night to continue to parley with Serrano suñer, the Spanish Foreign Minister, and try to get the Spaniards to sign something, at least an agreement to drive the British out of Gibraltar and close them the western Mediterranean, but to no avail. "That ungrateful coward!' Ribbentrop cursed to Schmidt about Franco the next morning. "he owes us everything and now won't join us!" Hitler's meeting with Petain at Montoire the next day went off better. But this was because the ageing, defeatist Marshall, the hero of Verdun in the First World War and perpetrator of the French surrender in the Second, agreed to France's collaboration with her conqueror in one last effort to bring Briton, the late ally, to her knees. In fact, he assented to put down in writing this odious deal.
"The Avis Powers and France have an identical interest in seeing the defeat of England accomplished as soon as possible. Consequently, the French Government will support, within the limits of its ability, the measures which the Axis Power may take to this end".
In return for this treacherous act, France was to be given in the "New Europe" "the place to which she is entitled", and in Africa she was to receive from the fascist dictators compensation from the British Empire for whatever territoy she was forced to cede to others. Both parties agreed to keep the pact absolutely secret". [Although they did not learn the contents of the secret accord at Montoire, both Churchill and Roosevelt suspected the worst. The King of England sent through American channels a personal appeal to Petain asking him not to take sides against Britain. President Roosevelt's message to the Marshal was stern and toughly worded and warned him of the dire consequences of Vichy-France's betraying Britain. German documents have not been released by the British or American Governments.sic]
Despite Petain's dishonourable but vital concessions, Hitler was not satisfied. According to Dr. Schmidt, he had wanted more, nothing less than France's active participation in the war against Britain. On the long journey back to Munich the official interpreter  found the Führer disappointed and depressed with the results of his trip. He was even more so in Florence, where he arrived on the morning of October 28 to see Mussolini.

Before going to Hendaye to meet Franco, Hitlers Sonderzug (Special Train)stopped at the Montoire railway station to speak to Laval. On the way back from Hendaye to Aachen, Hitler met Petain at the same station'

They had conferred but three weeks before, on October 4, at the Brenner Pass. Hitler, as usual, had done most of the talking, giving one of his dazzling 'tours de horizon' in which was NOT included any mention that he was sending troops to Rumania, which Italy so coveted. When the Duce learned of this a few days later he was indignant.
'Hitler always faces me with a fait accompli, he fumed to Ciano. This time I am going to pay him back in his own coin. He will find out from the newspapers that I have occupied Greece. In this way the equilibrium will be re-established'. The Duce's ambition in the Balkans were as rabid as Hitler's and cut across them so far back as the middle of August the Germans had warned Rome against any adventures in Yugoslavia and Greece. "It is a complete order to halt all along the line", Ciano noted in his diary on August 17. Mussolini scrapped, for the moment anyway, his plans for further material glory in the Balkans and confirmed this in a humble letter to Hitler of August 27. But the conquest of a quick, easy conquest of Greece, which would compensate to some extent for his partner's glittering victories, proved too big a temptation for the strutting Fascist Caesar to resist, false though the prospect was. On October 22 he set the date for a surprise Italian assault on Greece for October 28 and on the same day wrote Hitler a letter (pre-dated October 19) alluding to his contemplated action but making it vague as to the exact nature and date. He feared Ciano noted that day in his diary, that the Führer might "order" him to halt. Hitler and Ribbentrop got wind of the Duce's plans while they were returning in their respective special trains from France, and at the Führer's orders the Nazi Foreign Minister stopped at the first station in Germany to telephone Ciano in Rome and urge an immediate meeting of the Axis leaders. Mussolini suggested October 28 at Florence and, when his German visitor alighted from the train on the morning of that day, greeted him, his chin up and his eyes full of glee: "Führer, we are on the march! Victorious Italian troops crossed the Greco-Albanian frontier at dawn today"!
28 October 1940 – 23 April 1941 (5 months, 3 weeks and 5 days) Southern Balkan Peninsula.Result; Greek tactical victory, strategic stalemate leading to German intervention'.
To all accounts, Mussolini greatly enjoyed this revenge on his friend for all the previous occasions when the Nazi dictator had marched into a country without previously confiding to his Italian ally. Hitler was furious. This rash act against a sturdy foe at the worst possible time of the year threatened to upset the applecart in the Balkans. The Führer, as he wrote Mussolini a little later, had sped to Florence in the hope of preventing it, but he had arrived too late. According to Schmidt, who was present, the Nazi leader managed to control his rage. Hitler went north that afternoon(Schmidt later wrote) with bitterness in his heart. He had been frustrated three times, at Hendaye, at Montoire, and now in Italy. In the lengthy winter evenings of the next few years these long, exacting journeys were a constantly recurring theme of bitter approaches against ungrateful and unreliable friends, Axis partners and "deceiving" Frenchmen.
An Italian soldier during the Greek campaign.
Nevertheless he had to do something to prosecute the war against the British, now that the invasion of Briton proved impossible. Hardly had the Führer returned to Berlin before the need to act was further impressed upon him by the fiasco of the Duce's armies in Greece. Within a week, the "victorious" Italian attack there had been turned into a rout, On November 4 Hitler called a war conference at the Chancellery in Berlin to which he summoned Brauchitsch and Halder from the Army and Keitel and Jodl from OKW. Thanks to Halders's diary and a captured copy of Jodl's report to the Navy on the conference, we know the warlord's decisions, the text of which is among the Nürnberg records. The German Navy's influence on Hitler's strategy became evident, as did the necessity for doing something about the faltering Italian ally. Halder noted the Führer's "lack of confidence" in Italian leadership. As a result it was decided NOT to send any German troops to Libya until Marshal Rodolfo Graziani's army, which in September had advanced sixty miles into Egypt to Sidi Barraani, had reached Mersa Matruh, a further seventy miles along the coast, which was not expected before Christmas, if then. In the meantime plans were made to send a few dive bombers to Egypt to attack the British fleet in Alexandria and mine the Suez Canal. As for Greece, the Italian attack there, Hitler admitted to his Generals, had been a "regrettable blunder" and unfortunately had endangered Germany's position in the Balkans. The British by occupying Crete and Lemnos had achieved air bases from which they could easily bomb the Rumanian oil fields and by sending troops to the Greek mainland threatened the whole German position in the Balkans. To counter this danger Hitler ordered the Army to prepare immediately plans to invade Greece through Bulgaria with a force of at least ten divisions which would be sent first to Rumania. "It is anticipated", he said, "that Russia will remain neutral". But is was in regard to destroying Briton's position in the western Mediterranean that most of the conference of November 4 and most of the ensuing Directive No.18 was devoted.
"Gibraltar will be taken (said the directive) and the Straits closed. The British will be prevented from gaining a foothold at another point of the Iberian peninsula or the Atlantic Islands.
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                                                                                                 continued under Part 4

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