David Irving


Hitler’s Word Is Law

The first half of 1942 was again to bring the Soviet Union to the brink of defeat.  From the intercepted messages passing between east and west, Hitler could follow Stalin’s exasperated demands for an Allied Second Front and his veiled threats to conclude a separate peace with the Nazis.  But now that he had survived the winter, Hitler no longer wanted to settle his differences by negotiation.  As soon as the ground dried out and he had restocked his depleted divisions in the far south, he would go over to the offensive.  The German soldier’s self-confidence had been restored :  with the F¸hrer’s prodding they had mastered the terrors of the Russian winter, where even a Napoleon had failed.  At the end of February the foreign diplomats in Berlin were informed that the F¸hrer had now decided to fight to the bitter end.  All further attempts at mediation, of which the latest were quietly proposed by Turkey, were discouraged.

Initially, as Hitler’s secretary vividly described, the mood at his headquarters upon his return from Berlin was bleak.  “After two days of warmer weather the temperature suddenly dropped again,” she wrote on February 27, 1942.  “Although by day it is only about zero, the biting east wind makes the cold far far worse.... The Chief is always dog-tired, but he won’t go to bed, and this is often a torment for the rest of us.  We used to play records most evenings, and then you could fall back on your own thoughts ;  but since Todt’s unfortunate end the music evenings have been few and far between, and as his tea circle always consists of the same faces, there is no stimulus from outside and nobody has any personal experiences to relate, so the conversation is often tedious and indifferent to say the least.  In fact, the conversations run around and around in the same circles.  Thank goodness we have a cat that often sits up with us.  Its playful antics ... are a welcome relief and help to bridge the awkward silences.  I like him most of all, because if he jumps on to my lap I can warm my freezing hands under his soft fur—it’s bliss !  There is also a Scotch terrier, but he is not all that popular as he is obstinate and capricious (besides which the Chief says he looks like a scrub brush and he’d never let himself be photographed with it). . . .”  Goebbels found the terrier still being given the run of Hitler’s bunker at the end of March.  “At present there is no creature closer to him,” observed the propaganda minister.

Hitler’s health had suffered from the winter, but he allowed himself no respite.  In December he had jibed to Halder :  “You fine generals only play ball so long as everything’s going well.  The moment things get sticky you report sick or tender your resignation !”  If Germany was to survive, he could not resign ;  the worry, the extremes of temperature, and the general strain on his sclerotic arteries began to tell on him.  Dr. Morell added an ever-increasing variety of medicines to the F¸hrer’s medicine chest :  the heart tonics “Strophantin” and “Prostrophanta” first, then the stimulants “Cardiazol” and “Coramin” to overcome the insufficiency in Hitler’s circulatory system.  In 1942 Morell began administering “Sympathol.”  Hitler passively accepted Morell’s increasing doses.  “Morell tells me that my intense rate of work uses up so much energy that he has to give me so many injections just as if I were in the tropics,” he would explain.  Or again :  “Morell is still researching.  He is still pushing out the frontiers of our knowledge.”  His faith in Morell’s “Vitamultin” vitamin tablets was so great that he ordered billions of them dispensed regularly to the armed forces despite expert opinion that they were valueless.  And when the winter of 1941 brought a plague of lice to the eastern front, it was Morell’s invention, “Russia” powder (a foul-smelling concoction), that was prescribed to the reluctant troops.  Morell’s royalty profit was commensurate.

For all Morell’s endeavors, visitors to Rastenburg that spring found Hitler gray, drawn, and ailing.  He confided to Goebbels that he suffered attacks of giddiness ;  and as he described the winter crisis he seemed to age visibly.  “The F¸hrer describes to me,” wrote Goebbels of a conversation on March 19, “how close we were these past few months to a Napoleonic winter.  Had we weakened for just one instant, the front would have caved in and a catastrophe ensued that would have put Napoleon’s far into the shade.  Millions of fine soldiers would have been exposed to death by starvation and cold, and our workers—not to mention the intelligentsia—probably forced into bondage.  Most of the blame for this is Brauchitsch’s.  The F¸hrer has only words of contempt for him :  a vain, cowardly wretch, unable even to grasp what was happening, much less master it.  By his constant interference and disobedience he completely wrecked the entire plan of campaign in the east, which had been devised in crystal clarity by the F¸hrer.  The F¸hrer had a plan which was bound to lead to victory.  Had Brauchitsch done what was asked of him and what he should in fact have done, then things in the east would look very different than they do today.  The F¸hrer had no intention whatever of aiming for Moscow ;  he wanted to cut off the Caucasus [from the rest of Russia], thus hitting the Soviet system at its most vulnerable point.  But Brauchitsch and his General Staff knew better :  Brauchitsch kept hammering on about Moscow.  He wanted prestige victories instead of real ones.”

In retrospect, the issues all seemed much clearer to Hitler than at the time.

For the coming German offensive in the east, Hitler had again established a clear list of priorities.  This time General Halder accepted them.  As Hitler set them out in a conference on March 28, 1942, a carefully phased series of campaigns would begin in the far south as soon as the ground dried out :  in the Crimea, Manstein would destroy the Russian forces in the Kerch peninsula ;  he would then storm Sevastopol, using the techniques of World War I—sheer weight of artillery bombardment.  Then Bock’s army group would attack the Izyum salient east of Kharkov.  The main summer offensive, “Blue,” would open with the capture of Voronezh on the Don ;  then the armies would roll southeastward down the Don toward Stalingrad, digging in along the river for winter quarters.  Hitler assured Goebbels that by October his armies would be able to go into these winter quarters.  By early September he hoped they would have reached the Caucasus Mountains.  Depending on the summer victories, he would decide later what operations to undertake in the center and against Leningrad.  The directive for “Blue” was issued on April 5.  After the defeat of Stalin’s main armies, Hitler planned to construct an immense East Wall beyond which there might well rage a Hundred Years’ War against the scattered remnants of the Bolshevik forces.  “Russia will then be to us what India is to the British,” he told Goebbels.

More than one voice doubted the prospects of this great offensive.  Keitel mentioned—but only to his subordinates—as early as December 1941 the possibility that it might fail ;  his staff experts correctly suspected that damage to the Caucasus oil fields might be so extensive as to render their capture pointless.  General Fromm, commander of the Replacement Army, doubted there would be enough manpower or munitions to execute “Blue” over such vast distances.  G–ring also doubted whether the Russians would be defeated that summer.  However, Hitler had no real option but to strike out toward the Caucasus oil fields.  He needed the oil ;  and so did Stalin—so the Red Army would surely stand and fight rather than withdraw beyond the Don.  Already the Soviet Union had lost the iron ore of Krivoi Rog and the manganese of Nikopol ;  the armorplate of their latest tanks was consequently of poor quality.  But if “Blue” succeeded, Stalin would have no coking coal, or oil either.  Now even General Halder saw the point, and when the admiralty persisted in arguing for the capture by Rommel of the Suez Canal the general impatiently replied that Rommel’s army would be too weak to withstand the enemy’s counterattack from the Middle East and Red Sea unless the German armies were also astride the Caucasus.  Besides, Halder pointed out :  “The Caucasus operation is still absolutely vital for our oil supply position.”  He held that only victory in the Caucasus would ensure the Reich’s ultimate survival in the war.(1)

The oil shortage was certainly a compelling argument to use with the admiralty.  The German and Italian navies were virtually immobilized ;  production of aviation fuel was just enough to cover monthly requirements, but so low as to make expansion of aircraft production pointless ;  and in May 1942 Keitel also had to find 60,000 tons of fuel for agricultural purposes in the Ukraine and for Atlantic defensive projects.  The 1942 output of gasoline for motor transport would be 77,000 tons a month less than the average monthly consumption (219,000) in 1941.  Hitler signed a government decree restricting the use of motor cars to official use only—and even then a bona fide justification was needed.

Unaware that Rommel’s army stood astride undreamed-of oil fields in Libya, Hitler still relied on Romania’s resources.  Hungary showed little inclination to part with her supplies, and Hitler had evidence that both she and Romania were secretly stockpiling oil for the private war they were planning to wage on each other in the future.  But he was unwilling to put pressure on Marshal Antonescu to increase oil deliveries.  Antonescu claimed that 80 percent of Romania’s output was already earmarked for the Axis, and Hitler, fearful that something might happen to this loyal friend, instructed Keitel that the Romanians were to be given “kid glove treatment” and there was to be no question of imposing a military “petroleum dictator” on Antonescu.  With blithe lack of vision, Antonescu’s government insisted that Germany pay for all her oil with gold, and in advance ;  had Romania foreseen into which neighbor’s coffers that gold would eventually vanish, she might have acted otherwise.

Hitler had always been a champion of the radical act.  In every SS barracks hung one of his favorite Nietzsche texts :  Praised be that which toughens.  Much of his admiration of Stalin was inspired by the dictator’s successful brutality.  He, Hitler, would try to emulate him, but often did not succeed :  he had not determined to bomb London until too late.  To the Japanese ambassador, General Oshima, he mentioned that he intended to kill all survivors of torpedoed Allied merchant ships out of cruel “necessity”;  but when he put this idea to the admiralty as a means of intensifying the tonnage war, Raeder would not hear of it.

The fear of reprisal did not dissuade the British from opening up in March 1942 a massive area-bombing offensive against German and German-occupied cities.  On the night of March 3, RAF planes dropped over 450 tons of bombs on a Paris arms factory, killing 800 French civilians.  Hitler ordered the Luftwaffe to execute an immediate reprisal on a British target.  “The main thing is to achieve the maximum shock and terror effect.”  But a few days later he canceled the order, explaining to Jeschonnek that he wanted to avoid provoking air raids on German cities ;  besides, the British were not coming to Germany in any strength, he argued, and the Luftwaffe was incapable of meting out appropriate annihilation raids on English cities.  A week later, a force of 200 RAF bombers laden primarily with incendiaries all but destroyed the medieval Baltic town of L¸beck, leaving 320 dead and hundreds of injured in the ruins.  It was a Saturday night, and Hitler’s temper was not improved when it was found impossible to reach anybody at Berlin’s civilian ministries or military headquarters :  all of them were closed—apparently from lunchtime on Saturday until 9 A.M. on Monday !  Nobody knew where the ministers themselves could be reached.(2)  The raid was a clear attempt to provoke Hitler into withdrawing Luftwaffe strength from the Russian front for reprisals ;  in this it was unsuccessful, for Jeschonnek firmly believed the Russian threat must be liquidated before all else.  But Hitler did order reprisal attacks on English towns, to be chosen for their defenselessness and cultural value—the same criteria as Churchill had applied.  Exeter was the first town to suffer ;  London was explicitly embargoed from attack.  After a series of Allied fire-raids on the Baltic port of Rostock, Hitler told Goebbels that terror could only be answered with terror.  “The British belong to that class of human beings whom you can only talk with after you have smashed their teeth in.”

It was an unedifying sight—the two opposing leaders, well-bunkered in their respective capitals, trading blows at each other’s innocent citizenry.  How Stalin, who had long learned to “think in terms of centuries,” must have relished it !(3)  During the spring, it became obvious that the British regarded their new area-bombing offensive as the second front that Moscow was clamoring for.

The British had no alternative as yet.  To invade Norway or North Africa would require a shipping fleet they would soon no longer possess, thanks to the U-boats.  From Stockholm, Hitler learned that Churchill had promised the exiled Norwegian government not to invade Norway—not in 1942, anyway ;  and the king of Sweden privately assured Hitler that he would oppose any Allied designs in northern Scandinavia.  As for the Continent, the British would be foolish to count on an internal uprising in Europe, Hitler told Mussolini.  (There was no more opposition in Germany—in Berlin he had fewer than two thousand critics, or so he believed.  The cheering Berlin crowds after his Reichstag speech on April 26 were seen as proof of that.)  However, his intuitive sense of strategy warned him late in March that the Cherbourg and Brest peninsulas might be the target of an Allied invasion.  On March 27 he ordered all available reserves “immediately” moved into the region west of Caen and Saint-Nazaire, and he gave instructions that the U-boat base at Saint-Nazaire itself was to be closely reinforced.  The very next morning the British launched a commando raid on the base.

The aging destroyer Campbelltown, accompanied by a swarm of torpedo boats and motor launches laden with commandos, had entered the base before dawn on March 28, rammed the lock gates of the huge dry-dock, and been abandoned.  The warships had flown the German ensign and employed secret German signal codes, but this should not have surprised the defenses to the extent it did.  The commandos were wiped out by the port’s defenders, and only four of the eighteen torpedo boats and launches employed escaped destruction.  French dockyard workers and sightseers were still clustered curiously around the abandoned Campbelltown at 11:45 A.M., when its hidden cargo of time-fused explosives blew up, killing sixty of them—though not before the ship’s secret papers had been salvaged by the Germans, including what was apparently the latest chart of Allied minefields.  The naval staff was well pleased, but Hitler was not.  He sent for Raeder and expressed his displeasure at the fact that the raiding force had sailed so far up the Loire ;  and more importantly he ordered the Atlantic defenses still further strengthened to make such raids impossible in the future.

Over 140 British prisoners had been taken at Saint-Nazaire.  Hitler sent his interpreter Paul Schmidt to interrogate them.  The interrogation reports submitted to Hitler showed them to be the cream of Churchill’s forces—well-informed, proud, and patriotic.  Schmidt found most of them bitter that they should be fighting Germany, a brother country.  They no longer believed Britain could win, he reported, but felt that the war would “just fizzle out.”  Goebbels’s English-language propaganda was said by these prisoners to have a big listening public but to be using the wrong approach.  Most riveting were the remarks of a territorial army major, a London industrialist and friend of Anthony Eden, who said that his war-weary countrymen would make peace the next day if they could be convinced their country’s very existence was not threatened.  According to this major, the British hated the Japanese but nevertheless felt that Britain ought to be in the same camp as the Germans, not fighting them.  “We all like the Germans. . . . It’s just that we are certain that Hitler is planning to conquer the world.”  Told that Hitler had no designs on Britain at all, the major is said to have exclaimed, “Then why not tell our government and people that !  I would be willing to go to the British government and tell them what your peace terms are, and I give my word of honor to return to captivity here.  But for God’s sake do it now, before the hundreds of thousands who will die on both sides in this summer’s fighting are sacrificed !”

This offer was not taken up, but many of Hitler’s coming decisions—for example his rejection of the joint “India Declaration” approved by Italy and Japan and designed to encourage mutiny in that endangered dominion—were guided by a desire to preserve the prevailing undercurrents of peace perceptible to him in Britain.  The British authorities continued, however, to represent Hitler’s war aims to the British people very differently, for example there was a pronouncement soon afterward by Lord Vansittart, diplomatic adviser to the Cabinet, that Germany intended to exterminate twenty million Britons or transport them as slaves to Africa.  So the British fought gamely on.

Hitler was now fifty-three.  On his birthday there were letters from Eva Braun and her mother, and from his sisters Angela and Paula.  He wrote back thanking them and sending them ham he had just received from a Spanish admirer—with a warning to them to cook it thoroughly before eating.  Raeder, G–ring, Milch, Ribbentrop, and a host of lesser dignitaries attended the birthday luncheon held in a dining room decked out with tablecloths and flowers.  The headquarters officers and staff were given a glass of Piesporter Goldtr–pfchen and cups of real coffee.  All the children of the neighborhood were marshaled outside by SS adjutant Schulze and photographed plucking at the F¸hrer’s uniform and thrusting flowers into his hands.  After lunch the first two Tiger tanks were demonstrated to him.  From Berlin Goebbels had sent a newfangled device, a tape recorder with tapes of many symphonies and orchestras.  Hitler could hear for himself how much better the Berlin Philharmonic was than its Vienna counterpart, which had an aged string section ;  and now he discovered Hans Hotter as the up-and-coming baritone who would be ideal for Bayreuth.

In the east the roads and fields were drying out ;  the snow had vanished almost everywhere.  In the Crimea spring was already in full bloom.  Never in his life had Hitler yearned so painfully for the onset of that season.  He never wanted to see snow again.  It had cost him six months of his precious last years—the vital years.  After a certain age, he reflected, man’s creative genius gradually abandons him.  The strenuous bunker life in East Prussia had sapped his strength.  The first white hairs were appearing on his head.

Hitler’s doctors prescribed the solitude of the Berghof, and he himself was only too eager to put the horrors of the Russian front out of his mind.  (Only a few days earlier a Russian deserter had brought over nauseating details of the one million dead in Leningrad and of the cannibalism widespread among the beleaguered Russian army units and population there.)  He therefore asked Ribbentrop to arrange an early meeting with Mussolini, and to make plain that he would prefer Salzburg to some Italian venue.  Mussolini meekly agreed, and Hitler’s train left the Wolfs Lair late on April 24 on the first leg of the long journey to Bavaria ;  it was followed by Ribbentrop’s equally impressive train.  “A wonder that the foreign minister allows anybody to take precedence over him !” joked Hitler, long aware of Ribbentrop’s tiresome vanity.

In Berlin he was to address the Reichstag, asking for powers that would neutralize the meddling lawyers of the ministry of justice for all time.  He himself drafted the necessary decree and showed it to Hans Lammers four hours before the speech began on April 26.  Lammers he could trust—he knew how to manufacture the quasi-legal tools needed to buttress the affairs of an authoritarian state.  “He doesn’t get legalistic theorizing confused with the realities of life,” Hitler said some days later.  Lammers suggested that it would suffice for the Reichstag to pass the law by acclamation ;  G–ring would follow Hitler’s speech with a formal approval of the law as President of the Reichstag.  The little charade was performed at the end of the afternoon’s speeches.  The Reichstag records show Hitler thundering :

. . . I do however expect one thing :  that the nation give me the right to take immediate action in any way I see fit, wherever I do not find the obedience unconditionally called for by service of the greater cause.  This is a matter of life and death to us.  (Loud applause.)  At the front and at home, in transport, civil service, and the judiciary there must be obedience to only one idea, namely the fight for victory.  (Stormy applause.)  Let nobody now preach about his well-earned rights.(4)  Let each man clearly understand, from now on there are only duties.

G–ring appealed to the deputies to empower the F¸hrer to do “everything in the cause of, or contributing to, the fight for victory.”  Regardless of rank or position, Hitler could punish any German as he saw fit, dismissing him from any office or command without the need for regular procedures.  As one man the Reichstag deputies rose from their seats and signified their assent with shouts of Heil and a singing of the national anthem.  At 4:24 P.M., when the session ended—the last time the Reichstag would ever meet—Adolf Hitler was himself the Law.

That evening Hitler continued his journey to Bavaria.  The days in Munich and at the Berghof passed all too rapidly.  Unfortunately, the Obersalzberg was carpeted with fresh fallen snow as he arrived—snow seemed to dog him everywhere.  But the snapshots Eva Braun pasted into her album show a misty-eyed F¸hrer affectionately playing with Herta Schneider’s children and fondling Bella, the new Alsatian bitch he had just bought from a minor postal official in Ingolstadt to keep Blondi, his other Alsatian, company.  The advantage of taking Bella for walks was that she would not start talking politics or war with him.

The two days of talks with Mussolini yielded nothing new.  The atmosphere was more cordial than on their previous meeting in August 1941.  In the first meeting at Klessheim, near Salzburg, Hitler painted the German position in Russia in optimistic terms.  Mussolini responded by quoting the New York Herald Tribune’s assessment that Russia had “a dying army.”  When the Duce mentioned the growing grain shortage in Italy, Hitler promised that in 1943 the Ukrainian harvest would yield at least seven million tons.  Both agreed that a watchful eye was needed on France ;  but at the other end of the Mediterranean, Turkey was slowly but surely edging around to the Axis camp, if only in consequence of her hatred of the Russians.  There was ample proof of this.  Turkey had recently imposed a crippling fine on the British envoy to Bulgaria, whose luggage had mysteriously blown up in a Constantinople hotel !  She had vigorously prosecuted the Soviet agents behind a recent bungled attempt at assassinating Franz von Papen in Ankara.  And she was currently negotiating with Germany for the purchase of German submarines, tanks, and guns.(5)

The second meeting between the dictators was at the Berghof.  Generals and field marshals took the place of the foreign ministers who had attended the first meeting (but no admirals, as the German naval staff later lamented).  The Italians pressed their case for an early capture of Malta, “Operation Hercules.”  Hitler conceded that if successful, “Hercules” and the subsequent destruction of the British stranglehold on the Middle East would be a turning point for the Axis, but he viewed the operation with scarcely concealed distaste—not only because it was to be a primarily Italian operation (and hence in his eyes predestined to ignominious failure), but because despite all the arguments of Raeder, Kesselring, and the Italians to the contrary, he still argued that the war could only be won in the east.  The Mediterranean theater was a sideshow of value only for tying down enemy forces.  In deference to the alliance, Hitler paid lip service to the needs of “Hercules”:  since April 2, German and Italian bomber forces had been mercilessly softening-up Malta for invasion, attacking airfields, dockyards, and warships with savage side-effects testified to by the appeals reaching Hitler via neutral channels to allow British hospital ships through to the island.  In mid-April, he had also agreed to supply German parachute troops for the eventual invasion, provided the British did not in the meanwhile spring surprises on him in Norway or France.  This was the basic offer he repeated to Mussolini at the Berghof, but his heart was not in it.  He knew from the aerial photographs spread out before them that the island was heavily fortified and unsuitable for glider landings.  Rommel’s offensive in North Africa must begin before the British could start theirs, and given the limited Axis air strength in the Mediterranean, “Hercules” would have to be postponed at least until after that.  Early in May, therefore, the OKW laid down that Rommel should launch “Theseus,” as his offensive was called, at the end of the month, with “Hercules” postponed until mid-July or mid-August.  The actual objectives of Rommel’s offensive were themselves a matter of disagreement :  the Italians wanted him to halt on a line between Sollum and the Halfaya Pass, but Hitler wanted Egypt.  A Finnish report had claimed that 90 percent of the Egyptian population was anti-British, so it must be “ripe for revolution” in Hitler’s view.

At the beginning of May, Hitler returned to the Wolf s Lair in East Prussia.  Bella went with him, sleeping in his train compartment and lying at the foot of the camp bed in his bunker.  Perhaps Hitler saw in the massive Alsatian something of a watchdog, for over the last few days reports had trickled in of a plot to assassinate him ;  there were indications that Russian assassins were being sent to do the job.

Bella did have her disadvantages, though.  She woke regularly as clockwork at 9 A.M. in the pitch-dark bunker bedroom, bounded onto Hitler’s bed, and began to paw him affectionately.  Since he seldom went to bed before three or four, this was a nuisance ;  besides, he liked to lie in bed for an hour or two each morning, catching up on his reading.  His intake of information was staggering, a necessity if the F¸hrer principle was to be maintained.  The breakfast trolley outside his bedroom door groaned with fresh files each morning.  Ambassador Hewel logged over eleven hundred different diplomatic papers passing through his hands to Hitler in 1941 ;  by early April 1942 he had already submitted over eight hundred more.  Now as Commander in Chief of the army he assumed a workload that would have crushed many men.  He boasted :  “Although the Russian front is three times as big as the front was in France, there is not one regiment or battalion there whose situation is not followed three times a day here at F¸hrer Headquarters.”  We shall never know all the Intelligence data on which Hitler based his decisions.  The Forschungsamt archives were later destroyed, and the remarkable output of the post office went from his hands straight to the document-shredder machine.  (A few weeks earlier the Post Office had begun unscrambling the enemy’s sole radio-telephone link between London and Washington, and a regular flow of transcripts had reached Hitler through Himmler ever since March 1942 ;  the transcripts included even the top-secret conversations between Roosevelt and Churchill.)  Missing too are the secret cables decoded by Ribbentrop’s cryptanalysts—Swiss, Turkish, British, Italian, American, French, and a host of other codes.  Decoded confidential Turkish and Yugoslav dispatches from the Soviet capital enabled Hitler to follow Stalin’s guesswork over Germany’s coming offensive—Hitler’s aim was to feign transport and other preparations for a renewed offensive against Moscow, to distract attention from his real objectives :  Voronezh and the south.  He also learned of the crippling Russian famine, of the arrival of American tanks and aircraft, and details of Russian aircraft production.  The decoded American telegrams from Cairo to Washington were even better :  in February, the Italians deciphered one in which Washington inquired about the possibility of invading northwest Africa.  At the end of April, Cairo was heard advising Washington of the crucial position in Malta :  antiaircraft ammunition was running out, and there was no gasoline for the motor transport.  Other American messages betrayed the strength and dispositions of the forces opposing Rommel.  The Abwehr units in the east were also functioning ;  late in April they were able to quote a member of the Soviet party leadership, Nossenko, on a resolution of the latest session of the Central Committee’s presidium—“to snatch the operational initiative out of German hands before their offensive begins.”  The Red Army would go over to the offensive on the symbolically significant first of May (in fact, the offensive began soon after).

Hitler also learned much from orthodox diplomatic sources.  Early in April he heard from Buenos Aires that Britain was mass-producing one-kilo bombs with long time-fuses.  He at once ordered the Luftwaffe to begin its own mass production of such weapons.  From diplomatic sources too he heard the first rumors that Vice-Admiral Sir Louis Mountbatten was preparing an amphibious invasion of France.  Probably one of the more damaging items was the confirmation blurted out by Churchill—who evidently forgot the wartime slogan “walls have ears”—that the mounting shipping losses were bringing Britain to “the brink of her most critical moment since war broke out.”  This quotation reached Hitler through Spain and encouraged him to step up his U-boat and Luftwaffe offensive on the Atlantic and Arctic convoys.  In the last week of May, convoy PQ. 16 to North Russia was attacked ;  7 ships were sunk, with 32,400 tons of war supplies including 147 tanks, 77 aircraft, and 770 motor vehicles.  Every Allied vessel sunk reduced the threat of a Second Front.  From the intercepted enemy cables Hitler also knew precisely the terms of the Anglo-Soviet pact being hammered out in London :  Stalin was demanding the restitution of his pre-1941 frontiers (which included the Baltic states and parts of Finland and Romania) and much of southeast Europe ;  Anthony Eden, Churchill’s foreign minister, was inclined to agree, but the Americans as yet were not.

During May 1942 Hitler’s armies regained the military initiative in the east.  Only the growing partisan menace in the rear of Kluge’s Army Group Center gave cause for concern.  Persuaded that Moscow was the objective of Hitler’s summer offensive, the Russians had infiltrated and parachuted tens of thousands of partisans into this area (though Hitler forbade his staff to refer to them as “partisans,” just as in an internal edict he denied the bombers of Rostock and L¸beck the right to the title “Royal Air Force”).

The partisans were blowing up railways and bridges, burning down factories and food stores, and intimidating the relatives of Russians working for the Axis.  In the eyes of many Germans a great opportunity had been lost—that of winning at least the traditionally anti-Soviet Ukrainians to their cause.  This had been Reichenau’s last message to Hitler before he died in January 1942.  It was the advice of Goebbels, and particularly of Rosenberg as well.  The latter, officially Hitler’s minister for the eastern territories, watched in despair as one plenipotentiary after another muscled in on his regional governments—each with Hitler’s special warrant, like Albert Speer’s for the construction of roads and railways, or Fritz Sauckel’s for the procurement of workers for the Reich.  Rosenberg bitterly told Hitler on May 8 that with greater tact those workers could have been procured voluntarily ;  by rounding them up like slaves, Sauckel—as Hitler’s manpower dictator—was merely driving hordes of Russians before him into the forests, thus supplying new recruits for the partisan armies.  Gauleiter Erich Koch, his own Reich Commissar of the Ukraine, was even worse than Sauckel and quite out of Rosenberg’s control.  “I know that we always used to say the Slav liked a good whipping,” said Rosenberg, who went on to complain that some Germans in the Ukraine were taking this literally and strutting around with whip in hand ;  this was a bitter blow to the Ukrainians’ self-esteem.  Hitler approved an order Rosenberg had drafted curbing Koch’s excesses, but in private he believed Koch’s doctrine was the proper one.  G–ring also supported the tough line, telling his generals in April after a conference with Hitler :  “The Russians are an enemy with barbaric methods.  We are not going to introduce such methods ourselves, but it will be necessary for us to express ourselves more harshly.”

Large-scale antipartisan sweeps with code names like “Hanover” and “Brunswick” began in May.  The Hungarian contingent counted 117 prisoners and 4,300 dead in one such operation alone.  Hitler welcomed the idea of using Russian prisoners themselves to help fight the partisans, but nobody, certainly not Rosenberg, could persuade him to appoint at least “puppet” Russian governments in the conquered regions.  And so the increasingly barbaric struggle behind the German lines went on, with more and more of the local population being won around to harbor and encourage the partisan fight against the Germans.

The General Staff suggested that Hitler allow the use of poison gas to combat the partisans—thereby countering illegal warfare with illegal weapons.  Hitler would not hear of it—even though he was to say when the analogous problem of fighting Tito’s guerrillas in Serbia was discussed that the situation there was just like that in Russia :  it would be impossible to be too tough with them.  “We can only get our way by acting brutally and casting off all our European inhibitions.”  Similarly, he flatly forbade the General Staff to study the problems of bacterial attack, except in a purely defensive light.  What may have been a hangover from his own gasing experience in World War I kept him adamant to the end.  Although the British employed phosphorus in their bombs, Hitler forbade its use in the Luftwaffe’s, as it caused skin injuries and its fumes were poisonous.  Since German scientists had developed nerve-gases (Sarin and Tabun) and bacterial weapons to a degree of sophistication unknown to the enemy, Hitler’s otherwise inexplicable inhibitions were not without effect on the war effort.

For the coming summer offensive, Hitler’s armies would rely heavily on their own “partisan” operations, though they were not on the massive scale employed by Stalin.  In mid-April he summoned Colonel Lahousen, Canaris’s chief of Abwehr subversive and sabotage operations, to discuss these with Jodl and himself at his headquarters.  The final plans, as described by Lahousen to army representatives in May, relied heavily on “what we may term reeducated prisoners of war” in addition to the regular commando regiment, the “Brandenburg” Regiment, which in earlier campaigns had performed classic holding operations at the bridges of Gennep, the Dvina River, and the Vardar bridge at Aziupolis.  The Russian prisoners who had volunteered proved surprisingly effective, filtering in their own uniforms or plain clothes through Russian lines to execute clandestine missions against their former comrades ;  furnished with the necessary passwords, they were able to return through the German lines unscathed.  Army Group South, and particularly the Seventeenth Army, had high praise for them.

During April, single pairs of Abwehr agents had already parachuted into Voronezh, Stalingrad, Krasnodar, and other areas to sabotage key railway lines, power stations, and pipeline installations.  Special task forces had also been trained—one to defend the Maykop oil fields, another to cut the railway line from Moscow through Rostov to Baku, and a third to organize an uprising in Georgia.  In each force one-third were German specialists, the rest, native emigrants or prisoners of that region.  The biggest force had been organized for the Caucasus offensive that coming summer—the “Bergmann” Battalion, 200 German language experts and 550 “reeducated” Russian prisoners from the North Caucasus and Caucasia (Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia).  When the hour struck, their task would be to infiltrate into the Caucasus Mountains to clear and hold key passes and to arm the anti-Soviet sections of the population.  These were operations in which neither Germans nor Russians could expect any mercy if captured.

Casualties were high.  On May 22 the first major operation began—“Graukopf,” devised by Army Group Center :  350 Russians wearing their original uniforms infiltrated the Soviet lines, disarmed 500 troops, destroyed communications, liquidated political commissars, and spread panic and suspicion ;  only 100 survivors returned to the German lines.  And more than one Abwehr raiding party left the German lines in a painstakingly rebuilt Russian aircraft, only to be shot down in flames within minutes by alert German antiaircraft gunners.

With overwhelming air superiority, the German spring offensives were opened by General von Manstein’s Eleventh Army in the Crimea on May 8, 1942.  Within four days he had all but won the battle for the Kerch peninsula.  By May 15, some 170,000 Russians were his prisoners.  The remaining Soviet forces in the area were dead or hiding out for a fanatical last stand in caves and quarries, or had committed themselves on rafts to the Black Sea.

The second offensive, “Fridericus,” was scheduled to begin on the eighteenth, with Kleist’s Armeegruppe and the Sixth Army pinching off the Izyum salient east of Kharkov.  But the Russians launched a spoiling attack first, throwing an unprecedented weight of tanks into the salient on the twelfth, in a drive for Kharkov.  This sent tremors around the entire southern front and threatened to unhinge the whole summer campaign.  By evening the Soviet tanks were less than fifteen miles from Kharkov.  Field Marshal von Bock, the army group commander, telephoned Halder that evening that “Fridericus” would have to be abandoned in favor of a frontal defense of Kharkov.  But the Chief of General Staff replied that Hitler thought differently.  No troops were to be redeployed for the repair of “minor blemishes.”  Bock retorted, “This is no ‘blemish’—it’s a matter of life and death !”  He saw their only salvation in withdrawing three or four of the infantry and armored divisions allocated to Kleist for “Fridericus” and giving them to General Paulus’s Sixth Army to stall the Russian onslaught on its right wing, south of Kharkov.  He telephoned this suggestion to General Halder urgently on May 14—the most crucial day of the battle.  Hitler would not hear of it.(6)  With the main Crimea fighting over, he could release the Luftwaffe squadrons at once to aid Bock.  He ordered that “Fridericus” was to commence as planned in the south—indeed, one day early, on the seventeenth.  He telephoned Bock himself, explaining to the harassed field marshal that at a time like this a counterattack was the very best solution possible, as it would inevitably take the weight off the Sixth Army.  To ensure that there was no “misunderstanding,” Hitler ordered Halder to confirm the instructions to Bock’s army group in writing.

For two days there was crisis after Kleist’s offensive began.  Hitler insisted that his generals keep their nerve.  Sooner or later the Russians would realize they were about to be encircled.  The resulting battle, heavy with carnage, was later seen as one of the boldest and most interesting operations of the war.  By the twenty-second, Kleist had linked up with the Sixth Army and encircled the enemy.  Within the next week 239,000 prisoners and over 1,240 captured or destroyed tanks were counted on the bloody battlefield, and Hitler had regained the Donets River.

Hitler’s ebullient mood emerges from the diary of Richthofen, who lunched with him on May 21.  “F¸hrer very nice to me, calls me his specialist, etc.  At lunch he held forth to our immense amusement with an endless flood of easy arguments as to the ‘Special Privileges of Smokers’—for example, the right to drive off mosquitoes from all nonsmokers ;  and on the idiocy of winter sports, on the protests of mountaineers at the building of mountain roads and railways, on hunting and the raising of deer in order to shoot them, on deer themselves as foodstuffs (after they’ve eaten five times their own weight in foodstuffs first), and on trophy-hunting :  ‘Why don’t soldiers mount the jawbones of dead Russians in their rooms, then ?’  And so on.”

Victor of the battle of Kharkov, Hitler returned briefly to Berlin.  He told Goebbels on the twenty-ninth that the grand objective of “Blue’s” first operations would be the Caucasus.  “Then we’ll strangle the Soviet system at its Adam’s apple, so to speak.”  The Russians were starving and lacked tanks.  Halder persistently assured him that Stalin’s reserves were drying up.  Rumors that Stalin was mobilizing a reserve of over one hundred divisions beyond the Urals for the coming winter—not to be tapped even if Moscow itself was endangered—were discounted.

A record of Hitler’s secret speech to the new officer generation on May 30 survives.  It was a summary of Social Darwinism, the survival of the fittest—a eulogy of toughness and brutality.  Just as Charlemagne had used harsh measures to build his empire, the little nation of Prussia unifying all the Germans in Europe by using force to impose its will on the reluctant, so the new Wehrmacht must employ brute force in the east if it was to win the new Lebensraum that the Reich needed to survive.  Perhaps Hitler’s experiences in World War I had made him callous of human life.  Wilhelm Scheidt, the assistant of Hitler’s court historian, once heard him say, “I want to raise a younger generation that will put fear into the hearts of the world—in its eyes I want to see the fires of a savage beast !”  More than once in private he commended Stalin’s harsh leadership, for this alone had saved the Red Army from extinction.  “If we cannot emulate their toughness and ruthlessness,” he began saying, “we might as well give up the fight.”  Yet he was also fiercely proud of the ordinary German soldier :  he drew comparisons between a beleaguered garrison which had just withstood a Russian siege of four months, and the American troops who surrendered the fortress of Corregidor in the Philippines with hardly a casualty, even though they still had food for another two months.  Thought-provoking though the captured Russian newsreels of the nightmare battle for Moscow were, with the abandoned German tanks, guns, and trucks heaped black against the snow and the thousands of ill-clad, hungry German prisoners being herded away to an uncertain fate, it was the faces of these unknown, unsung soldiers that gave Hitler hope, for he was convinced that they betrayed no trace of fear or personal surrender.

The cloak-and-dagger war of agents and assassins was by no means confined to the east.  As early as January 1942, Canaris had warned of the arrival of the first Allied agents in Denmark ;  two had parachuted from an aircraft south of Copenhagen on December 28, and since one parachute had failed to open, the corpus delicti was there for the Danish police to find the next morning—complete with ten pistols, a wireless transmitter, and a device whereby a pistol strapped to the man’s ribs could be fired by raising his hands, ostensibly in surrender.  By May, Allied secret service activity in Norway was also evident :  aircraft were being blown up by altitude-activated sabotage devices ;  German officials were being assassinated.  Josef Terboven, Reich Commissar for Norway, was summoned to confer with Hitler, and Himmler reported the results to Heydrich soon after.  On the twenty-seventh, Heydrich’s own turn came—he was mortally wounded as he drove into Prague in his open Mercedes.

In this ugly underground war the Allied aim—later admitted—was to “set Europe on fire” by provoking savage Nazi countermeasures against the indigenous population.  Such cold-blooded tactics had Hitler’s approval.  In revenge for Heydrich’s death the Germans liquidated Lidice, the village found to have harbored the Czech-born assassins, and Heydrich’s short-lived attempt to woo the Czechs with socialist experiments ended.  But Hitler’s own aim was clearly to present a minimal profile to the Czechs.  In an urgent circular to the Gauleiters, which was prompted by the growing public demand for the deportation of the Czechs from Bohemia and Moravia to follow that of the Jews, Bormann admonished :  “On the F¸hrer’s instructions I am to make it clear that there is to be no open discussion of the Czech problem in Party meetings, let alone in public.”(7)

The second British provocation was an air raid, and clearly designed to impress the Russian allies.  At this very moment, as Hitler knew from his Forschungsamt decoders, Molotov was conferring secretly with Churchill in London.  As Hitler’s train bore him back to East Prussia, after speaking to the officer candidates in Berlin, alarming reports reached him of a colossal British air raid on Cologne.  The local Gauleiter reported that the damage was vast.  G–ring, however, comfortably holidaying at his castle outside Nuremberg, claimed that since his air defenses had destroyed nearly forty of the bombers and “only seventy or eighty” had actually attacked, the occasion had been an overwhelming Luftwaffe victory.  Hitler believed the Gauleiter in preference to G–ring—the more so when Churchill announced that a thousand bombers had taken part in the bombing ;  even Churchill could hardly get away with exaggerating by a multiple of ten, reasoned Hitler.  He was prepared to accept that the RAF had sent over perhaps three hundred, no doubt as a gesture to the Kremlin.  When General Jeschonnek insisted on the Luftwaffe’s less credible version, Hitler abruptly replied, “I have never yet capitulated before an unpalatable truth.  But I must see straight, if I am to draw the right conclusions.”  The obvious conclusion after Cologne was that the enemy had decided to make their interim Second Front a determined attempt to attack the civilian population, killing as many as possible until the Nazi regime surrendered.  Some five hundred died in Cologne, and another forty-five thousand were made homeless.  Frustratingly, G–ring made no secret to Hitler of the Luftwaffe’s inability to exact revenge.(8)  Hitler now regretted his own “reticence” with the Luftwaffe’s bomber force in earlier campaigns.  Warsaw had first been given a “fair” chance to surrender ;  he had not bombed Brussels or Paris at all, let alone Copenhagen or Oslo.  “It would have been a scandal if these cities’ priceless treasures had suffered from air bombardment,” he told a neutral diplomat.  But now the boot was on the other foot :  quite without their wanting it, the peoples of Europe were breathing a new climate of brutality.

Germany’s contribution to this new climate, the elimination of the Jews from central Europe, was now gathering momentum.  Hitler’s radical followers saw the eleven million Jews as “Europe’s misfortune”—as an eastern plague threatening friend and foe alike.  Hitler felt that in time all Europe would understand his hatred.  “Somehow we must get rid of them, if they are not to get rid of us,” reasoned Josef Goebbels.  It seemed no coincidence that the Jews were at the bottom of the spreading partisan movement everywhere.

The precise mode of “elimination” met with varying interpretations.  Hitler’s was unquestionably the authority behind the expulsion operations ;  on whose initiative the grim procedures at the terminal stations of this miserable exodus were adopted, is arguable.  In January 1942, Reinhard Heydrich, chief of the Gestapo, had briefed the leading government officials in Berlin thus :  the F¸hrer had sanctioned the evacuation of all Jews to the eastern territories, substituting this for the overseas deportation originally planned.  In the east they would build roads, until they dropped.  At a further Heydrich conference early in March the awkward problem posed by half- and quarter-Jews was examined.  One solution would be to sterilize them, but it would take ten days’ hospital treatment to sterilize each of the seventy thousand people involved, so this procedure would have to wait until the war was over ;  a “top level” opinion—i.e., Hitler’s—was quoted to the effect that a sharp distinction must be made between Jews and non-Jews, as it would not be acceptable for a mini-race of semi-Jews to be perpetuated in law.  In a paper circulated early in March 1942, Heydrich’s office advised the ministries that Europe’s eleven million Jews were to be concentrated “in the east” for the time being ;  after the war they might be allocated a remote territory like Madagascar as a national home.  Thus the official version.

The actual operation proceeded differently.  Starting in March and April the European Jews were rounded up in occupied France, Holland and Belgium, and in the eager Nazi satellite Slovakia ;  for political reasons Hungary—which had nearly a million Jews—and Romania were not approached yet but were told that their Jewish “problems” would be left unresolved until the war was over.  From Hans Frank’s Generalgouvernement of Poland too—beginning with the ghettos of Lublin—the Jews set out eastward under the direction of one of the cruelest SS leaders, Brigadier Odilo Globocnik, the Trieste-born former Gauleiter of Vienna.  Upon arrival at Auschwitz and Treblinka, four in every ten were pronounced fit for work ;  the rest were exterminated with a maximum of concealment.  Two documents shed some oblique rays of light on the level of responsibility for this.  At a cabinet meeting in Cracow on April 9, Hans Frank disclaimed responsibility for the disruption in the work process caused by the order to turn over all Jews for liquidation.  “The directive for the liquidation of the Jews comes from higher up.”(9)  In a letter of June 26 it became clear that Himmler was anxious to conceal the massacre, for Globocnik was quoted as being eager to get it over with as quickly as possible in case one day force majeure should prevent them completing it :  “You yourself, Reichsf¸hrer, once mentioned that you felt the job should be done as quickly as possible if only for reasons of concealment.”  The concealment was almost perfect, and Himmler’s own papers reveal how he pulled the wool over Hitler’s eyes.  On September 17, while the murder machinery was operating at peak capacity, the Reichsf¸hrer still calmly jotted down in his notes for that day’s F¸hrer conference :  “Jewish emigration—how should we proceed ?”  And in March 1943 he was to order a too-explicit statistical report rewritten to remove a stray reference to the massacre of Europe’s Jews before it was submitted to the F¸hrer !

The ghastly secrets of Auschwitz and Treblinka were well kept.  Goebbels wrote a frank summary of them in his diary on March 27, 1942, but evidently held his tongue when he met Hitler two days later, for he quotes only Hitler’s remark :  “The Jews must get out of Europe.  If need be, we must resort to the most brutal methods.”  Hitler repeated the gist of this to Goebbels on April 26, adding that he had put Himmler in charge of resettling Germany’s Jews in the eastern ghettos.  Goebbels did not enlighten him.  Over lunch on May 15, Hitler again merely spoke of transporting the Jews eastward and indignantly referred to the misplaced sympathies of the bourgeoisie.  How well the Jews were faring, compared with the German emigrants of the nineteenth century—many of whom had even died en route !  Over lunch on the twenty-ninth (as Goebbels’s unpublished diary records) Hitler again dwelt on the best postwar homeland for the Jews.  Siberia was out—that would merely produce an even tougher baccilus strain of Jews ;  Palestine was out too—the Arabs did not want them ;  perhaps central Africa ?  At all events, he summed up, western Europe must be liberated of its Jews—there could be no homeland for them here.  As late as July 24, Hitler was still referring at table to his plan to transport the Jews to Madagascar—by now already in British hands—or some other Jewish national home after the war was over.

In reality, Himmler was simultaneously throwing the murder machinery into top gear, while he was careful not to place responsibility for the massacre itself on Hitler in writing.  (Thus on July 28 he wrote to SS General Gottlob Berger :  “The occupied eastern territories”—meaning Poland—“are to be liberated of Jews.  The F¸hrer has entrusted me with the execution of this arduous order.  Nobody can deprive me of this responsibility.”)  On July 19, three days after seeing Hitler, Himmler ordered the “resettlement” of the entire Jewish population of the Generalgouvernement to be completed by the last day of 1942.  Each day after July 22 a trainload of five thousand Jews left Warsaw for the extermination center at Treblinka ;  each week two trains left Przemysl for the center at Belsec.  Moreover, in August the first informal approach was made to the Hungarians to begin deporting their one million Jews to the east immediately.  Count D–me SztÛjay, the Hungarian envoy in Berlin, warned Budapest on August 15 that this was a “radical departure” from Hitler’s previous ruling that Hungary’s “problem” could be left until after the war.  “The Germans are determined to rid Europe of the Jewish elements without further delay, and intend—regardless of the nationality of these Jews and provided that transport facilities exist—to deport them to the occupied territories in the east, where they will be settled in ghettos or labor camps and put to work.... According to absolutely reliable information, Reichsf¸hrer Himmler has informed a meeting of SS leaders that the German government desires to complete these deportations within a year.”

What had inspired Himmler with this urgency ?  Undoubtedly—according to the retrospective view of his Chief of Staff, General Karl Wolff—it was the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich in Prague.  Initially the Nazis blamed it on Jewish agents and believed it.  Eyewitnesses have described the traumatic effect on Himmler :  he appeared for dinner that day with Hitler ashen-faced and barely able to speak.  Since a Jewish congress meeting in Moscow had according to Goebbels’s diary just broadcast directives to world Jewry to launch a war of assassination, the Nazis assumed Heydrich was the first victim.  Goebbels ordered the arrest of five hundred Jews in Berlin as hostages and persuaded Hitler on May 29 that every remaining Jew should be evicted from the city forthwith.  Hitler instructed Speer to replace the Jews in the arms industry by foreign workers.  As a worried Goebbels put it, there were still forty thousand Jews with “nothing more to lose” at large in Berlin, and the prospect of some Ostjude pumping bullets into him was not an appealing one.

By August 1942 the massacre machinery was gathering momentum—of such refinement and devilish ingenuity that from Himmler down to the ex-lawyers who ran the extermination camps perhaps only seventy men were aware of the truth.  It is conceivable that Hitler was unaware that his November 1941 order forbidding the liquidation of the Jews was being violated on such a scale.  Early in August, Himmler made to Wolff the melancholy confession that for the sake of the German nation and its F¸hrer he had shouldered a burden of which nobody could ever learn, in order that the “Messiah of the coming two millennia” might remain personally uncontaminated.  At the time, Wolff was unable to elicit from Himmler precisely what that burden was.

1 Halder’s words are quoted as above by his naval liaison officer in German admiralty archives.  After the war, he and departmental heads like General Adolf Heusinger claimed to have been unanimous in opposing the Caucasus campaign.

2 This was typical of the comfortable life led by most of the Nazi ministers.  Only a week earlier, on March 21, Hitler had issued a secret decree insisting that these ministers and generals set an example to the public and warning that he would act ruthlessly and without regard for rank against any of them dealing, for example, in the black market.  Somehow G–ring escaped censure, though he was the worst offender.

3 The Soviet ambassador in London allegedly remarked to Sir Alexander Cadogan at the end of 1940 that his country was content to see the two sides exhaust themselves.  He was in the daily habit, he said, of totting up the aircraft losses in the Battle of Britain together, in one column ;  whereas Churchill and Hitler were more myopically setting them down against each other.

4 A reference to General Hoepner’s lawsuit.

5 Hitler wanted to make the sale of U-boats conditional on Turkey’s allowing a similar number of German submarines to slip clandestinely through the Dardanelles into the Black Sea.  This the Turks rejected.  Hitler withdrew a similar proposal about torpedo boats, to be disguised as merchant ships, when he was reminded that plans were far advanced to transport these down the autobahn to Linz and from there alone the Danube directly into the Black Sea.

6 Afterward everybody claimed paternity of this bold decision.  Halder even added a footnote to his published diaries, where he had originally entered only that Bock’s “proposal is turned down,” to the effect that this was on his, Halder’s, advice to Hitler.  But the war diaries of the OKW historical section and of Bock himself show beyond the shadow of a doubt that the decision, and hence the credit for the victory, was Hitler’s, and that Halder had argued against it.

7 Bormann’s circular was dated June 8, 1942.  Four days later Himmler approved an outline “Generalplan East” providing for the eventual resettlement of eastern Europe’s inhabitants (the Poles, Czechs, Ukrainians, and Ruthenians) in Siberia.

8 In mid-August 1942, Hitler was advised that from now on no real effect could be expected from the Luftwaffe’s attacks on Britain.

9 The semantics are significant.  Frank said “. . . from higher up” (von h–herer Stele).  Were the allusion to Hitler, Nazi usage invariably preferred “bon h–chster Stelle,” i.e., the “top level,” which actually occurs in the previous paragraph, or even “bon allerh–chster Stelle.


p. 374   The Japanese navy actively urged Germany to make peace with Russia.  But Ribbentrop cabled his ambassador in Tokyo on March 7 :  “It is of course out of the question for Germany ever to take the initiative in seeking a rapprochement with the Soviet Union.”

p. 376   Hitler spoke of Stalin’s shortage of coking coal to the diplomats Alfieri and Draganoff on August 4 and 14, 1942, respectively ;  in fact—as Manstein wrote in Verlorene Siege, page 429—there were further great coal reserves in the Kusnetsk region, as her continued war production showed.

p. 376   That Hitler had convinced Halder of the importance of the Caucasus campaign is evident from a report by the naval liaison officer to the General Staff, in the naval staff war diary on April 8, 1942.  “The region has in his [Halder’s] view the same significance as the province of Silesia has to Prussia ... But it will no longer be possible this year to operate across the Caucasus mountains,” i.e., to aid Rommel’s simultaneous offensive toward the Suez Canal.

p. 379   Greiner’s diary shows that the Saint-Nazaire raid occurred at a time when Hitler was disenchanted with the navy.  On March 26, 1942, he noted :  “F¸hrer anti-navy as technically inadequate.  Quickly disposed of. . . . Navy in last place.  R[aeder] already tried to resign several times.”  The next day :  “Navy should write fewer memoranda.”  And on March 28 :  “2:15 A.M., British raid at Saint-Nazaire, which while completely beaten off has enjoyed an element of success, resulting in intensified hostility of F¸hrer to navy.”  At a war conference on April 7, Hitler contemptuously referred to the “Sleeping Beauty” slumber of his troops in the west.

p. 379   German interrogation results on the British prisoners of war at Dieppe will be found in interpreter Paul Schmidt’s AA files, Serial 1993, and in Etzdorfs file, Serial 364, and Weizs”cker’s file Serial 98, page 109234.  See also the diaries of the naval staff April 12, and of Goebbels, April 15, 1942.  Hitler drew his own conclusions from the interrogations, as Greiner noted in his diary on April 7.  “F¸hrer thinks a different end to war with Britain can’t be ruled out.  British prisoners’ hatred of U.S.A.”

p. 382   According to Karl Ritter’s AA file on the German-Turkish arms negotiations.  (Serial 1089) Hitler offered 150 million Reichsmarks’ value of U-boats, 50-millimeter antitank guns, 20-millimeter and heavy antiaircraft, machine guns, ammunition, and the equipment for a light tank brigade.  See also Lothar Krecker, Deutschland and die T¸rkei im Zweiten Weltkrieg (Frankfurt, 1964).

p. 382   Colonel Schmundt took a detailed note of the military part of Mussolini’s conference with Hitler on April 30, 1942 (naval staff war diary, annexes, Part C, Vol. XIV).  See also the full note in Mussolini’s handwriting (T586/405/545 et seq.) and Ugo Cavallero, Diario (Rome, 1948), and Admiral Eberhard Weichold’s published study of the Mediterranean campaign in WR, 1959, pages 164 et seq.

p. 384   Himmler submitted to Hitler the ministry of post’s report on the success of its Forschungsanstalt (Research Division) in unscrambling the transatlantic radiotelephone used by the enemy on March 6, 1942 (T175/129/4865 et seq.).  He enclosed a sample conversation of September 7, 1941.  See also ibid., pages 9924 et seq., and the memo of May 1, 1942, which shows that these top-secret intercepts were fed straight to the document shredder after Hitler read them (T175/122/7620).

p. 384   There are traces of the intercepted U.S. signals between Washington and Cairo in Hewel’s Ledger (e.g., on February 21, 1942), in the naval staff war diary of April 30, and in Table Talk, June 28, 1942, evening.  See also David Kahn, The Codebreakers.  The Story of Secret Writing (London, 1968), pages 473 et seq.

p. 385   G–ring’s remark will be found in his conference with air force (Luftflotte) commanders on April 19, 1942 (MD 62/5193).  But Goebbels argued (diary, April 25) :  “A truncheon across the head is not always a convincing argument—even for Ukrainians and Russians.”

p. 388   After the unprecedented German victory at Kharkov, everybody claimed paternity of the crucial decision to go ahead with “Fridericus” as planned.  Thus Halder—who had written in his diary only that Bock’s proposal (to abandon “Fridericus” in favor of a frontal defense) was “turned down”—expanded this with a postwar footnote that this decision was taken on his own advice to Hitler.  Bock’s diary however shows beyond a shadow of doubt that Halder had fought tooth and nail against the decision.  As Keitel—writing in a prison cell, from memory—correctly wrote (memoirs, page 302) :  “Hitler interceded and quite simply ordered the operation [“Fridericus”] to be fought his way.”  See also the war diary of the OKW historical division, May 14-19 ;  Goebbels’s diary, May 22 and 31 (unpublished) ;  and Table Talk, June 2, 1942, evening.  Hans Doerr, at the time Chief of Staff of Fifty-second Corps, analyzed the battle in WR, 1954, pages 9 et seq.

p. 388   The Luftwaffe Deputy Chief of Staff General von Waldau, noted skeptically on January 2, 1942 (diary) :  “Reports from Japanese sources that the Russians have now exhausted their strategic reserves are willingly believed.”  Halder demonstrated such willingness in his diary on January 4 and February 13.  On March 1, Bock submitted a dissenting appreciation to Hitler—warning that the Russians might well have sufficient in reserve not only to foil Germany’s spring offensive but to raise complete new armies in the hinterland.  Halder telephoned him on March 5 that he had disputed Bock’s fears to the F¸hrer :  the General Staff calculated that Stalin still had some twenty-five divisions in the Caucasus, but no Intelligence—even from abroad—indicated the raising of new armies.  On March 7, after hearing his eastern expert’s views, Halder noted :  “In short :  they are gradually being worn down.”  But on March 20 the same expert, Colonel Kinzel, revised his views ;  he now believed the Russians could raise fifty to sixty new divisions !  Bock uneasily pointed out the discrepancy in his own diary, March 25.  Halder’s complacency however continued.  On April 2, Hitler suggested that the Russians could scarcely raise worthwhile new armies because of industrial problems alone ;  on April 19, Halder responded that the Russians had already used up most of their available strength (war diary, OKW historical division).  The same source shows that even on June 25, Halder interpreted Intelligence reports that Stalin was moving reinforcements into Sevastopol by submarine as “a fresh proof that the enemy lacks reserves.”

p. 388   Hitler’s speech is on discs at BA, Le7EW 68,953 to 68,976.

p. 390   Hitler realistically commented on the “thousand-bomber” raid on Cologne :  “Given the mendacity of British propoganda it’s possible they’re exaggerating by a factor of two or three ;  but the British couldn’t exaggerate by a factor of ten and look their own troops in the face” (war diary, OKW historical division, June 3, 1942);  see also his remarks to Goebbels (diary, March 9, 1943) and war conference, January 28, 1944 (Heiber, pages 544 et seq.)

p. 390   (Footnote) On Himmler’s “Generalplan East” see Helmut Heiber’s documentation in VfZ, 1958, pages 281 et seq.

p. 391   The AA file on the Final Solution of the Jewish Problem (Serial 1513) contains the original R.S.H.A. memorandum on the so-called Wannsee Conference of January 20, 1942 ;  see also Luther’s memo of August 21 (ibid., and NG-2586).  On January 21, Himmler noted after telephoning Heydrich, “Jewish problem,” and “Berlin conference”;  four days later, in the Wolf’s Lair, Himmler spoke to Heydrich by telephone about “[putting] Jews in concentration camps”;  on January 27 their telephone conversation revolved around “Jew arrests,” and the next day about “a roundup of Jews” (T84/25).  Further sources on the planning and results of the Wannsee Conference are documents 709-PS and NG-5770, introduced at the Nuremberg trials ;  the testimony there of Dr. Lammers both in the main trial (IMT, Vol. XI, page 61) and in Case XI (September 23, 1948);  and a memo by the East Ministry, January 29, 1942, AA Serial 7117H.

p. 391   For Heydrich’s March 6, 1942, conference see Franz Rademacher’s note (Serial 1513, pages 372020 et seq.) and the record of March 14 (Serial 1512, pages 371961 et seq.);  the March “detailed memorandum” has survived only in the summary in Goebbels’s diary, March 7, 1942.  Nowhere in the entire Goebbels diaries—including the recently discovered unpublished years being prepared for publication by Hoffmann & Campe—is there any reference to Hitler’s alleged initiative in the extermination of the Jews.

p. 391   Globocnik was quoted by SS Brigadier Viktor Brack in a letter to Himmler on June 26, 1942 (NO-206).  Brack also proposed that the two to three million able-bodied Jews among Europe’s ten million Jews should be sorted out and sterilized.

p. 392   Hitler still referred to the “Madagascar plan” in Table Talk, July 24, 1942.  SS General Karl Wolff estimated—in a confidential postwar manuscript—that altogether probably only some seventy men, from Himmler down to H–ss, were involved in the liquidation program.  The only evidence of a “F¸hrer Order” behind the program came from postwar testimony of SS Major Dieter Wisliceny, Eichmann’s thirty-one-year-old adviser on Jewish problems attached to the Slovak government (e.g., in pretrial interrogations at Nuremberg on November 11 and 24, 1945, and a written narrative dated Bratislava, November 18, 1946).  He claimed the Slovaks had sent him to Berlin in July or August 1942 to check up on the fate of 33,000 next of kin of the 17,000 able-bodied Jews supplied for the German arms industry.  Eichmann admitted to him that the 33,000 had been liquidated, and—said Wisliceny—pulled from his safe a red-bordered Immediate Letter, stamped “Top State Secret,” with Himmler’s signature and addressed to Heydrich and Pohl.  It read (from memory) :  “The F¸hrer has decided that the Final Solution of the Jewish Question is to begin at once.  I herewith designate [Heydrich and Pohl] responsible for the execution of this order.”  However, there is a marked difference between Wisliceny’s 1945 and 1946 recollections of this text ;  and when years later Eichmann was cross-examined about this in his trial on April 10, 1961, he testified that he had neither received any such written order nor shown one to Wisliceny (who had long since been executed himself).  He had only told Wisliceny verbally, “Heydrich sent for me and informed me that the F¸hrer has ordered the physical annihilation of the Jews.”

This kind of evidence, of course, would not suffice in an English magistrate’s court to convict a vagabond of bicycle stealing, let alone assign the responsibility for the mass murder of six million Jews, given the powerful written evidence that Hitler again and again ordered the “Jewish Problem” set aside until the war was won.

p. 392   On the “resettlement” of the Jews from Poland, see Himmler’s letter of July 19, 1942, to SS General Friedrich Kr¸ger, the SS and police chief at Cracow (T175/122/7914);  and the report by the Reich transport ministry’s state secretary, Theodor Ganzenm¸ller, nine days later to Himmler’s adjutant Karl Wolff that since July 22 one train per day with five thousand Jews was leaving Warsaw for Treblinka, and that twice a week a train was leaving Przemysl with five thousand Jews for Belzek.  Wolff replied on August 13 that it gave him “special pleasure” to learn this—that “daily trainloads of five thousand members of the Chosen People are going to Treblinka and that we are thus being enabled to accelerate this migration.”  He assured Ganzenm¸ller he would do all he could to smooth their way.  Wolff—as ignorant as Ganzenm¸ller of the true functions of Treblinka extermination camp—was tried in 1964 by a Munich court and sentenced to fifteen years in prison.  In the Wolff trial, the notorious SS General von dem Bach-Zelewski testified on July 24, 1964, that in his view “Hitler knew nothing of the mass destruction of the Jews” and that “the entire thing began with Himmler.”

The Wolf Ganzenm¸ller letters are in Himmler’s files (T175/54/8626 et seq.);  SztÛjay’s report from Berlin, dated August 15, 1942, is in Budapest archives.