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Letters to wives during WWII: Gen. Erwin Rommel, Gen. Gotthardt Heirici

In this winter of 1941, the German armies failed to encircle Moscow: Hitler delayed launching the attack till late June because the German Armies had entered Greece, occupied Yugoslavia with 680,000 soldiers in May 4, and were ready to pound on the Baltic countries of Rumania, Hungry, and Bulgaria.

In this difficult Russian winter, Hitler ordered all the commanders in the eastern front Not to retreat. The commanders who suggested a retreat were replaced by other commanders, and a few who did not obey were court marshaled and executed.

In Dec. 25, 1941, General Gotthardt Heirici wrote to his wife:

“They (The German officers and Hitler) don’t want to accept the fact that their armies, facing Moscow, are already completely encircled by the Russian armies. They refuse to admit that the Russians are capable of such military maneuvers.

Thus, they keep rushing in the abyss, totally blind to the consequences. Within 4 weeks, they will have lost their armies, and later they’ll lose the war…”

The weather is below 35 degrees Celsius, the ground muddy and icy, and the German soldiers lacks winter clothing and the vehicles and equipment are frozen, and the supplies are lacking…

The Russian army barely manage to resist the first onslaught, and as Stalin was convinced that Japan is no longer prepared any attacks on Russia, Stalin dispatched 400,000 soldiers from Russia far eastern front to face the German armies that penetrated very deep into Russia since June.

Gotthardt Heirici wrote in April 24, two months before the Russia campaign, and describing the occupation of Poland:

“In Poland, the Germans are behaving exactly as during the Antiquity when the Roman Empire conquered other people: The Polish people are to serve as slaves. Poland is considered the garbage dump of Europe… (the land where most people are potential for extermination).

Gen. Erwin Rommel had led his Panzer division in 1940 across the occupied France in a swift mechanized “horse ride”.

In Jan. 6, 1941, Gen. Erwin Rommel writes to his wife LU, from his quarters in Bordeaux (France):

“It seems the postal service is back to normal: I received your correspondence of Dec. 21 and 23. This afternoon we watched the movie “Le Coeur de la reine” (on Marie Stuart0 and I liked it.

The French peasants are living in the same life style as during the Roman Empire. Their homes are similar to ancient Rome, rough construction, flat roofs with round tiles, no running water, windows that don’t close shut, and not designed to keep the cold and wind out

I am not surprised of the military debacles of the Italian armies in Libya, Greece, Albania, Ethiopia, Somalia… against the armies of the British Gen. Archibald Wavell… The Italians forgot that war is not an easy enterprise…”

The British had rounded up 160,000 Italian soldiers as prisoners and the Italian armies overseas were in constant retreat. Churchill decided that the British armies are better to be shipped to Greece to counter the German advances in the Balkan, instead of reconquering all of Libya and Tunisia.

On Feb. 6, 1941, Rommel meets with the Fuhrer and receives the order to lead the AfrikaKorps in North Africa.

Rommel air bombs the port of Benghazi to prevent the British armies from it to supply its troops, and he settled in Tripoli, waiting for the 120 Panzer tanks to land.

The Italian officers were already packed up and waiting to be repatriated to Italy.

The initial mission of Rommel was to reconnoiter the front and the theaters of operations in Libya. He quickly stepped out of his limited orders and advanced very swiftly by fooling the British that he had many more tanks than he had: Rommel attached makeshift tank bodies on Volkswagen cars and led columns of transport vehicles to raise a lot of dust and give the illusion that an entire division of tanks are on the move…

By Aril 25, 1941, Rommel writes to his wife:

“The city of Tobruk will fall within two weeks and the battle of Egypt and the Suez canal is now seriously engaged. Easter passed and we didn’t notice it. You and my son Manfred are the most precious people I have in this world.

Greece is to fall very shortly… The German traditional officers who are burdened with theories do not comprehend practical spirits.  The energy shared by the chief in constant contacts with his soldiers is often more important than his intellectual gifts and talents.

The modern warfare is swiftness and requires maximum initiatives from the commanders and his troops…”

Athens fell on April 27. The 55,000 British soldiers who were supporting the 200,000 Greek armies had to retreat haphazardly to the island of Crete.  A few weeks later, 5,000 German parachutists landed in Crete and were supported by 15,000 coming from the sea and forced 30,000 British to evacuate again.

Many generals begged Hitler to occupy Cyprus to be at a striking distance from the Suez Canal. The Fuhrer declined the suggestion because Germany lost 4,000 of its best trained parachutists in Crete, and Hitler was still feeling sore of that loss.

Back in Russia. In December of 1941, a German soldier wrote to his wife: “Don’t worry. Don’t be sad: The sooner I’m buried deep in earth, the sooner I’ll save myself further pains and suffering…”

The war in Russia has turned “extermination style” on both sides. villages were burned to the ground and the civilians left to die in the cold and out of famine. No prisoners were taken.

Note: Extracts from the French book of Max Gallo “1941: The world catches fire”. Gallo

Why Hitler invaded Russia: Cycle closing in again?

In the previous two articles I mentioned that:

First, the German General Ludendorff in WWI had a vast vision of Teutonic vital space (Lebensraum) in eastern Europe. Ludendorff and marshal Hindenburg had pressured Lenin (leader of the new Bolshevik revolution) to sign a peace treaty in 1918.  Germany of the Kaiser Reich II doubled in size and in population. 

Lenin could temporarily afford to release Estonia, Finland, Lithuania, Poland, Roumania, Ukraine, and Azerbaijan to Germany in order to consolidate his communism reign on Russia. 

This extension in size, natural resources, and population didn’t last 6 months before Germany capitulated, but it generated grave consequences. 

Germany had dispatched over one million soldiers to this eastern front in order to transfer natural resources and foodstuff back to famished Germany.  Among the soldiers were the voluntary military corps (people of German origin in the newly acquired lands) known as Freikorps or “franc corps”.

Second, during the six months before the collapse of the German army in the Western fronts, the Freikorps advanced to regain the lands that Medieval Germany had conquered in the 13th century. The Freikorps soldiers felt at home. After the war, they also linked up with the “White Russian army” (supporting Russia monarchy) to jointly fighting the “Red Russian army” of the Bolsheviks.

Third, in the next two years 1919-1921, there were more revolutionary insurrections and upheavals in Germany than all of Europe during the last two centuries.  The fact is that the terrible “Spanish” flu that decimated over 20 million after the war, and the disintegration of three empires (Ottoman, Russian, and Austria), the flux of refugees from Russia and many other countries to Western Europe, and the lengthy Paris “Peace Treaty” negotiations have obscured the chaos that Germany’s political and social structures were experiencing.

Thus, the Freikorps, returning to Germany after the retreat and disbanding of the “White Russian army”, formed the backbone of Germany governments counter attacks on insurgent groups, reformist, communists, socialists movements and parties. The Freikorps squashed with utmost savagery the marxists, communists, and leftist revolts in many cities such as Berlin, Munich, and in the Ruhr region (the main region for heavy industries and mining.).  These reprisals were precursors of what Nazi Germany would apply with the Waffen SS.

Fourth, during the world economic conference held in Italy, Walter Rathenau (Germany foreign affairs minister) tried his best to keeping the Western European States (France, England, Italy) engaged with Germany politically and economically, but he failed.  Thus, Walter Rathenau turned to the Soviet Union and met secretly with the Russian negotiator Leonid Krasin in Rapallo (Italy). 

They signed a secret treaty allowing Germany to re-arm and train within Russia; Germany was to buy oil concession in Baku and trade engineering know-how. Thus, for 20 years, Germany dispatched to Russia thousands of “German work commandos”: they conducted joint military maneuvers and both army officers trained together on tank warfare and aviation (blitzkrieg).  Germany manufactured military planes around Moscow and tested chemical gas warfare.

The English author D.H Lawrence visited Germany around 1924 and wrote a letter to the editor stating: “We could say that life in Germany shifted eastward (toward Russia).  Germany is no longer trying any reconciliation with Western Europe (France, England, Italy).  It is over.  The barrier has closed down.  It is as if German life has lost contact with Western Europe.  Germany gives the impression of vacuum and menace.  Germany is very different from my previous visit two and a half years ago…”

D.H Lawrence resume:

“The German spirit is turned again toward Russia and the Tatars.  Germany is rediscovering its oriental Hun destructive fascination for Attila.  There are these bizarre and strange bands of youth professing anti-materialist faith and extending quasi mystical assertions.  There is something primitive with these youth, as if tribes have exploded into marauding clans.  The ancient charm of the old world is broken.  The shaggy antique savage spirit is instilled.  A dangerous phenomenon is taking place and will influence greatly future events.” (How prophetic; Hitler was barely known at that time)

Why Hitler invaded Russia in 1942 when he had a serious alliance with Stalin and England was on its knees? 

Stalin greatly admired Hitler, and WWII started as Stalin and Hitler invaded Poland in the same time, according to the secret treaty. But France and England declared war on Germany and not on Russia.

Stalin had executed 80% of his military officers (about 30,000) and Russia army was no match to Germany. Did Stalin increase the prices of raw materials and oil because he was losing power and facing grave conditions? What is certain, Stalin demands in lands and dominion were increasing, and Germany wanted to be the dominant power in Continental Europe.

Could Hitler not suffer any longer the existence of two great dictators in his “German vital space“? (Mussolini didn’t count)

Could Hitler no longer suffer the existence of a totally materialistic ideology that would not agree with a particular German Teutonic God as neighbor?

Did Hitler, who didn’t really want to invade England, felt secured that England had learned the lesson after the sustained air attacks and would quickly demand cease-fire? Actually, England was on its knees when Hitler stopped the air raids on England. Did Churchill promised Hitler not to intervene if he invaded Russia? (why Churchill would intervene at this junction, and how?)

Most probably, the allied forces used deep psychology to encouraging Hitler to execute his plans for invading Russia prematurely.  It was well-known that Hitler had dreams of the Teutonic vital space eastward that Germany had acquired in 1918 by a treaty with Lenin.  The military plans were already drawn and waiting for the order.  What plans, drawn by the military, are for if not for being executed?

Most probably, England whispered to Hitler’s general staff that in return for Egypt (that England will not relinquish), Germany could retain the French northern Africa colonies (to humiliate France even further). Is that why the Afrikakorps of Rommel was not supplied and was forgotten by Hitler as it was ready to capture Egypt?

The German and Russian armies fought in lands they jointly maneuvered in for 20 years.

Currently, this Teutonic vital space is at work from an economical perspective after the fall of the Berlin Wall.  Germany export is mostly oriented toward the new States that recaptured their independence from the Soviet Union in 1990.  Germany would have rather have its own European Union formed of Holland, Denmark, Sweden, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Austria, and Ukraine.

The western European States and Greece are just added burden that Germany feels it was pressured to supporting.  Probably, the European Union might adopt a second currency (alongside the Euro) just for internal trade purposes among the economically weaker European States.




June 2023

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