David Irving


Clutching at Straws

By the spring of 1943 the Axis alliance was a myth, and Hitler knew it.  In Tunisia, Montgomery’s offensive had succeeded and the Axis bridgehead was being inexorably crushed.  Late in February the Italians had already hinted that the loss of Tunis might bring about a new situation, and one month later Churchill had only evasively answered Parliamentary questions about possible Axis armistice feelers.  Finland was already searching for a way out of the war.  From the decoded messages shown to Hitler, it was clear that both the Hungarian and Romanian governments had in neutral capitals official emissaries who were sounding out the western enemy on the prospects of peace.  Now Vidkun Quisling and Gauleiter Terboven—Reich Commissar for Norway—separately warned Hitler that in the event of an enemy invasion of Norway, Sweden would support the Allies.  Hitler, who had just personally instructed his new envoy to Stockholm that his sole purpose must be to keep Sweden neutral—to safeguard Germany’s iron-ore supplies—now resorted to more drastic measures :  after one routine Berghof conference he detained Jodl and a handful of trusted advisers and instructed them to draft outline plans for a lightning invasion of Sweden should need arise.  Only the success of “Citadel,” regaining the initiative on the eastern front, would bring all these peripheral nations back into line.

Romania’s Marshal Antonescu, invited to the Berghof on April 12, accepted Hitler’s reproaches with a fatalistic air ;  for him as for Hitler himself there could now be no compromise between a clear victory or complete annihilation.  When Hitler read him the Forschungsamt records of incriminating telephone conversations and other documents proving the disloyalty of Romanian ministers—and their clandestine negotiations with the enemy in Ankara, Bucharest, Budapest, Berne, and above all Madrid—the marshal made a convincing display of indignation (though he himself had authorized the feelers).  Hitler gave the Hungarian regent, Horthy, a far rougher ride a few days later when the admiral flatly denied that the Forschungsamt records could be true ;  he supported Prime Minister K·llay to the hilt and thrice denied that Hungary was in contact with the enemy.  Hitler with good reason trusted neither Horthy nor K·llay.  “We are all in the same boat,” he said.  “If anybody goes overboard now, he drowns.”

Nor was the language Hitler and Ribbentrop used to prod the Hungarian regent into taking a sterner line over his Jewish citizens very delicate.  The Nazis found it intolerable that eight hundred thousand Jews should still be moving freely around a country in the heart of Europe—particularly just north of the sensitive Balkans.  For many months Germany had applied pressure for the Hungarian Jews to be turned over to the appropriate German agencies for deportation to “reservations in the east.”  It was argued that so long as they remained, they were potential rumormongers, purveyors of defeatism, saboteurs, agents of the enemy secret service, and contact men for an “international Jewry” now embattled against Germany.

Events in Poland were pointed to as providing an ugly precedent :  there were reports of Jews roaming the country, committing acts of murder and sabotage.  The eviction of the Jews ordered by Hitler had recently been intensified by Himmler’s order that even those Jews left working for armaments concerns in the Generalgouvernement were to be housed collectively in camps and eventually to be got rid of as well.  In Warsaw, the fifty thousand Jews surviving in the ghetto were on the point of staging an armed uprising—with weapons and ammunition evidently sold to them by Hitler’s fleeing allies as they passed westward through the city.  Himmler ordered the ghetto destroyed and its ruins combed out for Jews.  “This is just the kind of incident that shows how dangerous these Jews are.”

Poland should have been an object lesson to Horthy, Hitler argued.  He related how Jews who refused to work there were shot ;  those who could not work just wasted away.  Jews must be treated like tuberculosis bacilli, he said, using his favorite analogy.  Was that so cruel when one considered that even innocent creatures like hares and deer had to be put down to prevent their doing damage ?  Why preserve a bestial species whose ambition was to inflict bolshevism on us all ?  Horthy apologetically noted that he had done all he decently could against the Jews :  “But they can hardly be murdered or otherwise eliminated,” he protested.  Hitler reassured him :  “There is no need for that.”  But just as in Slovakia, they ought to be isolated in remote camps where they could no longer infect the healthy body of the public ;  or they could be put to work in the mines, for example.  He himself did not mind being temporarily excoriated for his Jewish policies, if they brought him tranquillity.  Horthy left unconvinced.

What had prompted the earthier language Hitler now employed ?  It is possible to recognize the association in his mind of certain illogical ideas ;  half were unconscious or the result of his own muddled beliefs, but half had deliberately been implanted by trusted advisers like Himmler and Goebbels :  the Jews had started the war ;  the enemy was the international Jew ;  the most deadly of the Bolsheviks, like Stalin’s propagandist Ilya Ehrenburg, were Jews ;  Ehrenburg and the Jews behind Roosevelt were preaching the total extermination of the German race.  The saturation bombing of German cities, their blasting and burning, was just the beginning.

In his warning to Horthy that the “Jewish Bolsheviks” would liquidate all Europe’s intelligentsia, we can identify the influence of the Katyn episode—an unexpected propaganda windfall about which Goebbels had just telephoned him.  Strange frozen mounds had been pointed out to German soldiers in a forest near Smolensk in February ;  now they had thawed and been opened to reveal the mummified remains of twelve thousand Polish army officers.  The diaries and letters on the corpses were last dated April 1940—when the region was in Russian hands.  They had all been shot expertly in the nape of the neck.  Hitler warmly approved Goebbels’s suggestion that Katyn should be linked in the public’s mind with the Jewish question.

But the most poisonous and persuasive argument used to reconcile Hitler to a harsher treatment of the Jews was the bombing war.  From documents and target maps recently found in crashed bombers he knew that the British aircrews were instructed to aim only at the residential areas now and to disregard the industrial targets proper.  Only one race murdered, he told the quailing Horthy, and that was the Jews, who had provoked this war and given it its present character against civilians, women, and children.  He returned repeatedly to this theme as 1943 progressed ;  in 1944 it became more insistent ;  and in 1945 he embodied it in his Political Testament, as though to appease his own conscience and justify his country’s actions.

Nor was Hitler minded to treat even the non-Jewish Russian peoples with kid gloves.  Throughout the spring of 1943 a noisy squabble raged between Alfred Rosenberg, the endlessly verbose minister for the eastern territories, and Gauleiter Erich Koch, Rosenberg’s primitive and unruly minion in the Ukraine.  Hitler had wanted Rosenberg’s ministry to confine itself to political guidance in the east ;  instead he had established an unwieldy and bureaucratic executive apparatus.  Rosenberg—supported by Ribbentrop, Zeitzler, and Goebbels—wanted to win the Russian peoples’ support in the fight against Stalin, and he complained that Koch’s brutal methods were incompatible with this.  For example :  to create a private hunting preserve, Koch had liquidated all the peasants in a certain forest.  His pasha lifestyle was incompatible with the spirit of total war.  At Christmas he had sent a special plane to Rostov to collect two hundred pounds of caviar at a time when General Paulus’s soldiers were starving in Stalingrad.  Party dignitaries rose up in arms to demand Koch’s expulsion from office and Party alike ;  yet Hitler, Bormann, and—more circumspectly—Himmler defended him.  Rosenberg and his circle of Baltic emigrÈs might theorize about the future cultural life of the Ukraine, but Koch’s harsh duty was to squeeze every ton of grain and every slave laborer he could out of the region.  That was what war was about—and apparently the ability to fulfill this task excused all else.

The idea of harnessing Russians voluntarily to the war against Stalin was a chimera, said Hitler.  “I have always felt there are only a handful of men who can really keep their heads in a major crisis, without being waylaid by some phantom hope or other.  The saying that drowning men clutch at straws is only too true.”  When Ribbentrop identified himself with General Vlasov’s previously mentioned idea for a Russian army of liberation, Hitler rapped his knuckles.  “There are to be no such political operations.  They are useless and unnecessary.  They will only result in our people fraternizing with the Russians.  Besides, it will be seen as a token of weakness on our part.”  Field Marshals Kluge and K¸chler were also rebuffed when they supported the Vlasov project.  Vlasov and Zeitzler’s Colonel Gehlen had put their names to millions of leaflets dropped over the enemy lines ;  they announced that the Wehrmacht was fighting only Stalin and not the Russian people, and they spoke of a “National Committee” in Smolensk as though it were the Russian government being groomed for the post-Stalin era.  To Hitler this idea was madness ;  as he angrily told Zeitzler, to let the Ukrainians set up their own government would be tantamount to throwing away the Nazis’ entire war aim.  The Russians would start off as a satellite state such as Poland had been in World War I, and Germany would end up confronting an entirely independent state all over again.

On May 19, Hitler brought Rosenberg and Koch face to face and refereed the match himself.  Rosenberg firmly repeated that Koch’s policies were damaging the Reich and supplying the enemy with thousands of partisans ;  Koch was accused of being disobedient, rebellious, and libelous about Rosenberg’s “conspiring with emigrÈs.”  Koch defended himself and justified his methods.  With a sense of justice worthy of a comic-opera character, Hitler adjudged that both were right, though Koch was righter.  In the future only the F¸hrer would authorize any proclamations to the peoples of Russia—“not some idiot or other in the war ministry or at the front.”  As for the partisan argument, if Rosenberg were right, there would be fewest partisans where the “particularly crafty generals” spoke in the most honeyed tones ;  this was not the case.  Nor could slave labor be procured except by Koch’s methods.  “Only feeble-minded generals imagine we can win any manpower by sweet-talking.”  And as for Koch’s executions in the Ukraine :  “How many of our compatriots are losing their lives in air raids here at home ?”  Hitler laid down that in the future neither Koch nor Rosenberg was to employ foreigners as advisers.  “If they work against their own country, they are devoid of character.  If they work for it, they are useless as advisers to us.”

The military aspects of the Vlasov “Russian army” project were analyzed in a heated session between Hitler, Keitel, and Zeitzler some weeks later.  Hitler knew that the German army’s Georgian and Armenian battalions had deserted en masse to the enemy, and he had little patience for this new project.  He did not object to employing hundreds of thousands of Russian volunteers in noncombatant duties (General Lindemann’s Eighteenth Army alone had forty-seven thousand).  But he would not approve of the Vlasov project beyond its sheer propaganda value in enticing Soviet soldiers to desert :  the deserters were to be transported into Germany, “decently treated,” and employed in the coal mines.  Vlasov himself would be needed only for his photograph and signature on the leaflets ;  otherwise, his activities were to be curbed.  History, said Hitler, had proven that in times of crisis such nationalistic movements only rounded on the occupying power.  Keitel accordingly ruled that no “National Committee” was actually to be set up in occupied Russia ;  the F¸hrer would permit Vlasov’s propaganda leaflets only on condition that German agencies realized that nobody must take them seriously.

General Zeitzler’s prestige with Hitler had risen in the same measure as the OKW’s had declined, with the crumbling of its North African theater.  Hitler had given the army’s General Staff a free hand in devising a plan for “Citadel” to the success of which he attached considerable importance :  a modest offensive victory in Russia would inspire the neutrals and halfhearted allies too ;  it would stabilize the front for the rest of 1943, long enough for him to release armored divisions to thwart any enemy molestation of Italy or the Balkans ;  in addition, the home economy badly needed the slave labor that “Citadel” would harvest in its wake.

Even though they were half a continent apart, the interreaction of the Mediterranean and eastern theaters naturally made for a variety of difficulties.  During March and early April various operational concepts for “Citadel” had been examined and cast aside.  Zeitzler’s final proposal was that the objective—an inviting rectangular salient 130 miles wide and thrusting 80 miles out toward the German Second Army—should be excised in a classic pincer attack by the Ninth Army from the north and the Fourth Panzer Army from the south, their spearheads meeting just east of Kursk.  Zeitzler drafted a pompously worded operational order (“The victory at Kursk must shine as a beacon to the whole world”) and Hitler signed it on April 15.  It made grim provision for the rounding up and smooth westward dispatch of the hundreds of thousands of able-bodied Russians expected to fall into the German net.  “Citadel” was set to begin on the third of May.

Once this much had been settled, Zeitzler flew back to his headquarters in East Prussia, but a few days later he received a telephone call from Hitler :  the F¸hrer had thought “Citadel” over and now felt it would be better to abandon the idea of a pincer attack—which was so obvious that the enemy would be certain to be ready and waiting for it—and instead combine the assault forces of Army Groups South and Center in one frontal thrust, piercing the very center of the bulge and thus splitting the enemy’s massed strength in two.(1)  Zeitzler would not hear of it ;  redeploying the two armies would inflict a crippling delay on “Citadel,” and he made a special flight to Berchtesgaden on April 21 with the maps and statistics to prove it.  Hitler yielded.  Zeitzler had proved right at Stalingrad ;  his own sureness of touch, his strategic instinct, had failed him then.  Worse still, now that “Citadel” had become Zeitzler’s baby, Hitler’s heart was no longer in it.

General Model, commander of the Ninth Army, had originally asked for two days to punch through the Russian defenses, but late in April he raised this estimate to three days.  His superior, Kluge, impatiently pointed out that with 227 tanks and 120 assault guns the Ninth Army was stronger than ever before, but Model claimed he still needed 100 more tanks.  Zeitzler agreed to rush 50 from the west, with 20 more Tigers and 40 assault guns.  But the “three-day” estimate worried Hitler :  three days of uninterrupted battle against an experienced enemy would result in the massacre of the assault troops.  “When Model told me before ‘Citadel,’ ” Hitler said a year later, “that he’d need three days—that’s when I got cold feet.”  He asked Model to fly to the Berghof.  On April 27 the wiry, darkhaired general was standing before him in the Great Hall ;  his aerial photographs appeared to confirm the claim that twelve-mile-deep Russian fortifications with immensely powerful antitank artillery had to be overcome before the Ninth Army could advance on Kursk.  Moreover, Model warned that even the Mark IV tank was vulnerable to the new Russian antitank rifle.  Hitler postponed “Citadel” to May 5.  On April 29 he ordered a further postponement to the ninth, to give the armies a few more days to stockpile tanks and guns.

Out of “a few days” grew weeks, then months.  General Guderian, who began attending the war conferences on May 2 in his capacity as inspector of panzer troops, gave Hitler his own impression of tank production prospects if “Citadel” could be delayed long enough.  At present the Tiger was plagued by gear and steering faults, and the advanced Panther tank production had repeatedly broken down.  But Guderian told Hitler that during May two battalions of each of the different tank types—Panthers, Ferdinands, Tigers, and Hornets—would be activated ;  the existing tanks on the Russian front would be reinforced with armored “aprons” against antitank shells ;  in addition, tank output itself was increasing.  The Speer ministry had promised 939 tanks in April, 1,140 in May, 1,005 in June, and 1,071 in July.  In short, suggested Guderian, it was well worth holding up “Citadel” for a bit.  In reality he was opposed to the offensive altogether, for he wanted to conserve German tank strength throughout 1943 in order to meet the enemy’s operations in the west thereafter.

Hitler—his own mind already made up for an even longer postponement—summoned his leading generals to Munich for a three-hour conference on May 4.  No stenogram survives, and recollections differ as to the standpoints adopted by each general (a common phenomenon after a defeat).  However, the Chief of Air Staff, Jeschonnek, rendered a contemporary description to one diarist (Richthofen), and it throws a piquant sidelight on the personalities around the F¸hrer.

[On April 27] General Model declared he was not strong enough and would probably get bogged down or take too long.  The F¸hrer took the view that the attack must be punched through without fail in shortest time possible.  [Early in May] General Guderian offered to furnish enough tank units within six weeks to guarantee this.  The F¸hrer thus decided on a postponement of six weeks.  To get the blessing of all sides on this decision, he called a conference [on May 4] with Field Marshals von Kluge and von Manstein.  At first they agreed on a postponement ;  but when they heard that the F¸hrer had already made his mind up to that effect, they spoke out for an immediate opening of the attack—apparently in order to avoid the odium of being blamed for the postponement themselves.

There is nothing to be gained from referring here to the postwar versions of Manstein or Guderian.  Jeschonnek, Richthofen, and Zeitzler all opposed any further delay, arguing that time would operate solely in favor of the Russians ;  their fortifications, minefields, and artillery emplacements would become more formidable with each passing day.  Nonetheless, Hitler now postponed “Citadel” to mid-June.

Another factor now bore on his decisions :  the imminent Axis defeat in Tunisia.  Starved of ammunition, food, and fuel, General von Arnim’s quarter of a million troops had fought a stubborn rearguard action in its ever shrinking bridgehead.  Bereft of Italian naval support, supply ships were not getting through ;  and enemy fighters were inflicting cruel losses on the Junkers transport planes.  By the end of April, Arnim had only seventy-six tanks left and was distilling what fuel he could from low-grade wines and liquors.  Dispatching General Warlimont to Rome to renew pressure on the quivering Italian navy, Hitler told him to say that tanks and divisions were just as “nice to look at” as warships.  “There are no moral reasons not to fight.  The only moral act is to fight and win this war.  What is immoral is to lose, and then scuttle your ships without having fought.”  The appeal availed him naught—the Italian navy stayed in harbor ;  indeed, some days later Hitler heard that the battleship Vittorio Veneto had secretly radioed British headquarters at Malta details of German supply convoys putting to sea.  On May 6, overcoming Arnim’s defense of the mountain passes, the British First Army broke through to Tunis.  Two days later the Luftwaffe—faced now by forty-five hundred fighter and bomber aircraft—abandoned its North African airfields.  Keitel wrote that day :  “The F¸hrer and Duce are determined to continue the fight in Tunisia as long as possible,” but one by one Arnim’s divisions were enveloped as their last ammunition was spent.

Warlimont returned from Rome on May 7 with comforting news about Mussolini’s health and his personal assessment that provided Il Duce kept a tight rein on events, the coming loss of Tunis need not spell disaster within Italy.  Hitler was not so sure.  “The Duce and the Fascist party are resolved to stand by Germany through thick and thin,” he told his staff at noon.  However “a section of the officer corps—more at the top, fewer lower down—is inclined to make peace already.  Certain influential circles are capable of treachery.”  He announced that he planned to furnish armed support to the Fascists in Italy to bolster her powers of resisting the enemy.  Meanwhile, every week Arnim could fight on was vital to the Axis cause.  He asked Field Marshal Rommel to come to see him.

Hitler had slept the last three nights at Martin Bormann’s villa outside Munich.  On May 6 he turned his back on the Mediterranean and returned by train to Berlin.  Viktor Lutze, SA Chief of Staff, had just died in an autobahn accident, and Hitler intended to use the next day’s state funeral to underline his lingering nostalgia for political militias like the SA.  He had had a bellyful of army generals—liars and cheats, they were reactionary and hostile to the dogmas of National Socialism.

It was a good funeral.  The routine selection from G–tterd”mmerung stirred him deeply.  At four o’clock, after banqueting the Party leaders, he gave them a stern if banal warning against the autobahn madness that seemed to go with high office.  Then he addressed the Gauleiters on the meaning of the present war.  It had begun as a fight between bourgeois and revolutionary states, in which the former had been easily overthrown.  But now they were facing in the east a Weltanschauung-state like their own, its Jewish-Bolshevist ideology permeating its army with a zeal and spirit which only his own SS divisions could match.  This was why he, Hitler, had decided that “the Jews must be thrown out of Europe.”  He had come to believe that in the great prewar purge Stalin had not ruined the Red Army after all ;  quite the contrary.  And the introduction of political commissars had vastly increased the army’s effectiveness.  The Russian solidarity behind Stalin was complete :  for twenty-five years he had ruthlessly eliminated his opposition ;  he had no Church elements to restrain him as Hitler had in Germany.  The F¸hrer often feared that the Herrenvolk could not forever maintain their superiority over the enormous manpower reservoirs of the east.  Ghengis Khan’s hordes had penetrated far into the heart of Europe—the glittering jewel—without Germandom having possessed the strength to hold them back.  Now too Germany alone must bear the brunt of the struggle against Asia.  Speer’s gigantic tank program would ensure victory in the east, while D–nitz’s U-boats kept the Jewish-fostered warmongers of the West at bay.  Hitler told the Gauleiters that Stalin had lost over thirteen million troops since “Barbarossa” had started.  The summer offensive would be modest in scale but carried forward by dependable German troops alone.  Postwar Europe would dispense with the present “hodgepodge of small states.”  The time would come, announced Hitler, when Germany would dominate all Europe.

He wrote off the Tunis bridgehead in North Africa, even though small bands of Axis troops were continuing to hold out.  But he had not turned his back on Mussolini.  (He had never forgotten the Duce’s benevolence over Austria in 1938.  “I told him then ‘I will never forget you for this !’  And I never will,” Hitler admonished his less forgiving staff.)  He was worried about the Duce’s health, but he worried far more that treacherous, royalist generals would betray Italy into the enemy’s hands.  This was why he had recalled Rommel from his convalescence to Berlin—Rommel, rather than the gullible and popular Field Marshal Kesselring, who refused to believe that the Italian generals were as dark-hearted as the F¸hrer sensed them to be, was the one to command Hitler’s troops in Italy.

Rommel flew into Berlin on May 9 and reported to Hitler at 1 P.M., looking fit and well.  That he was not still in Tunis was a secret Hitler had not yet revealed to his people ;  now was the time to dissociate this valuable commander from the debacle in Africa.  Hitler kept the ambitious field marshal on tenterhooks.  Rommel wrote in his diary :  “Afterward I attended the war conference.  No special job as yet.  Field Marshal Keitel hinted at my utilization in Italy with the Duce if things should turn sticky there.”  Rommel spent the rest of the day being lectured by Goebbels.  The next day he recorded :  “I stressed to both the F¸hrer and Goebbels the meager fighting quality of the Italians and their reluctance to fight.”  On the twelfth Hitler published the news that Rommel had been in Germany since March, when he had awarded him the highest medal ;  but, aware that the field marshal was spurned by the Italians (as G–ring and Kesselring reminded him) as “the man who lost Libya,” he refrained from releasing the text of his extravagant letter of praise to Rommel.  At 6 P.M. that evening, Hitler and his staff flew back to his East Prussian headquarters.

Why he did so is a mystery.  Perhaps it was a blind, an attempt to deceive the enemy into believing that “Citadel” was imminent.  He had no fear of an enemy invasion in the west as yet—the Atlantic Wall allayed that peril.  No, he knew that the Mediterranean was still the most dangerous theater.  As early as May 1 he had believed both the western Mediterranean and the Peloponnesus of Greece most vulnerable to invasion.  A week later an adjutant had announced at the war conference a startling Abwehr scoop which seemed to substantiate Hitler’s fears :  a corpse found floating off the Spanish coast had yielded sealed envelopes bearing ostensibly genuine letters from the British war office and Lord Mountbatten to Admiral Cunningham and General Dwight D. Eisenhower, betraying the enemy’s most secret plans after the capture of Tunis.  Two invasion operations were to be mounted, one in the western Mediterranean and one in the Peloponnesus (code-named, apparently, “Brimstone” and “Husky”);  these would be covered by dummy invasions of Sicily and the Dodecanese, respectively.  The envelopes had been expertly resealed and turned over to the British by the Spanish foreign ministry.  Admiral Canaris fell hook, line, and sinker for their contents.  Hitler was less gullible, for at the end of the war conference he turned on his heel and spoke his thoughts to Jodl’s staff officer :  “Christian, couldn’t this be a corpse they have deliberately played into our hands ?”(2)  There was no way of knowing.  Both Zeitzler’s Intelligence staff and Canaris ruled out the possibility, and for the next month the Peloponnesus and Sardinia—presumed to be the target of the real assault in the western Mediterranean—attracted most of Hitler’s attention.

Albert Speer and his principal arms barons came to see him at the Wolfs Lair on May 13.  Hitler bestowed a rare award, the “Doctor Todt Ring,” on the munitions minister, for his reorganization of the armaments industry had yielded amazing results.  Germany was turning out six times as much heavy ammunition as in 1941 and three times as many guns.  Between February and May heavy tank production had doubled, testifying to the indomitable spirit of the workers despite the paralyzing air raids.  “In the autumn,” Speer reminded Hitler, “you instructed us to deliver specific quantities of arms by May 12.  Today we can report that we have met every one of those figures and in some cases far exceeded them.”

To Goebbels, Speer afterward commented that the F¸hrer looked worn out with worry :  it was the anxiety over Italy.  What use indeed were the new weapons Speer had demonstrated within the headquarters compound the next day—the mighty hundred-ton Mouse tank, the new assault guns, and the deadly Blowpipe bazooka (Pusterohr)—if Italy changed sides, the enemy landed in the Balkans, and the Romanian oil fields were reduced to ruins ?

The fighting in Tunis was now over.  The Afrika Korps’ last radio emission had arrived :  “Ammunition spent.  Arms and equipment destroyed.  The Afrika Korps has fought till it can fight no more, as ordered.”  A hundred thousand of Hitler’s finest troops were being marched into British and American captivity ;  some 150,000 Italians had been taken prisoner.  The blow was softened in Hitler’s eyes by its gradualness, its inevitability given Italian shortcomings, and the realization that these captives would at least be spared the torments that faced prisoners in Soviet hands.  Yet the Italian posture now raised fresh alarm.  Hitler offered Mussolini five divisions to restore the blood to Italy’s anemic arteries.  The Duce’s reply, obviously drafted by the devious General Ambrosio—Keitel’s counterpart as chief of the comando supremo—stated that the three German divisions left on Italian soil as a backlog of the transport movements to Tunisia were quite enough :  but he wanted three hundred tanks, fifty antiaircraft batteries, and hundreds of fighter aircraft.  When Admiral D–nitz reported back to Hitler on May 14 after personally grilling the Italian commanders in Rome, he could only reinforce Hitler’s suspicions.  Hitler responded, “A man like Ambrosio would be happy to see Italy an English dominion.”

D–nitz stated that the Italians expected the British to invade Sicily next.  Obviously forgetting his earlier suspicions, Hitler replied that the letters on the British corpse indicated that the target would be Sardinia ;  Sicily was too heavily defended, and it would take up to four weeks to sweep the Strait clear of the Axis minefields.  One thing was clear—colossal enemy bombardments of the ports and railway networks of Sardinia, Sicily, and Corsica had begun.  D–nitz had tried to impress on the Italians that if they did not employ every available ship—big and small—to pump troops and stores into these islands now, the dismal story of North Africa would be repeated all over again.  Mussolini had weakly accepted this ;  Ambrosio had not—submarines and cruisers were there to fight, not act as transport vessels.  When D–nitz quoted Mussolini as saying that the British press was bragging that the capture of Sicily would release two million tons of shipping presently obliged to detour around the Cape, Hitler irritably interrupted “. . . and then our fine submarines must sink them.”  “And on top of that,” continued D–nitz, “we are coming up to our worst U-boat crisis, since the enemy has new detecting gear which makes submarine warfare impossible for the first time.”  Suddenly they were losing over fifteen U-boats a month.  “The losses are too high,” exclaimed Hitler.  “We can’t go on like this.”

His insomnia returned.  If he lost the Balkans, he would lose his last allies, forfeit Romania’s oil, and lose the bauxite, chrome, and copper mines on which Speer’s factories depended.  Zeitzler, jealously husbanding his divisions massed for “Citadel,” refused to release a panzer division for possible use in the Balkans ;  but the road and rail network in the Balkans was so primitive that Hitler knew he could not leave it until the last moment.  With Italy the problem was less acute :  the railways were better, and if worse came to worst he could always barricade Italy off from the Reich ;  but not the Balkans.  He ordered the Luftwaffe field division on the Isthmus of Corinth strengthened, and a panzer division transferred to the Balkans from the west.

The next fortnight in Italy would be crucial.  Rommel might have to storm the Italian frontier and go to the Duce’s rescue if his generals betrayed him.  After the noon conference on May 15, Hitler made a two-hour secret speech to his generals, including Rommel, on the dangerous situation left by the defeat in North Africa.  It is so important that the note taken by one officer present, Captain Wolf Junge, is quoted here at length :

The enemy’s victory in Africa has not only opened up the east-west passage through the Mediterranean for him, but released eighteen to twenty divisions and considerable air and naval forces.  They will also exploit the new situation for a political offensive designed to use bluster and blandishments to persuade Germany’s weak allies to defect.  Quite apart from the military position, this is particularly dangerous in Italy and Hungary.  Bulgaria and Romania can be regarded as secure....

In Italy we can rely only on the Duce.  There are strong fears that he may be got rid of or neutralized in some way.  The royal family, all leading members of the officers’ corps, the clergy, the Jews, and broad sectors of the civil service are hostile or negative toward us.  Their motives are partly deliberate enmity, partly shortsighted incompetence and blind egoism.  The broad masses are apathetic and lacking in leadership.

The Duce is now marshaling his Fascist guard about him.  But the real power is in the hands of the others.  Moreover he is uncertain of himself in military affairs and has to rely on his hostile or incompetent generals (Ambrosio!!!) as is evident from the incomprehensible reply—at least as coming from the Duce—turning down or evading the F¸hrer’s offer of troops.

In the present situation a neutral Italy would not be bad at all ;  but it could not be neutral now—it would defect voluntarily or under pressure to the enemy camp.  Italy in enemy hands is the Second Front in Europe we must avoid at all costs ;  it would lay open the western flank of the Balkans too.  Our main purpose now must be to prevent a Second Front in Europe.  “Europe must be defended in its outfield—we cannot allow a Second Front to emerge on the Reich’s frontiers.”  It is for this objective that we may have to make sacrifices elsewhere.

It is good that we have not yet attacked in the east [“Citadel”] and still have forces available there ;  because the decision has been taken to act as soon as a crisis breaks out in Italy.  To this end, of the eighteen mobile divisions available in the east, eight armored and four infantry divisions will have to be rushed to Italy to get a firm grip on her and defend her against the Anglo-Americans (or throw them out again).  No resistance of note is expected from the Italians (according to Rommel).  Collaboration of the Fascist political forces is hoped for.

At the same time Hungary will be occupied.

The consequences on eastern front will be :  defensive evacuation of the Orel Bend ;  acceptance of risk to the Donets region ;  if worse comes to worst even withdrawal in the north to the Luga line.  Zeitzler demanded that the bridgehead on the Kuban should also be given up ;  but the F¸hrer did not express an opinion on that.

Zeitzler was instructed to work out a timetable for the troop movements [from Russia to Italy].  The next one or two weeks are crucial.... Every week is vital to us, because after about eight weeks the newly activated “Stalingrad” divisions in the west will become operational, which would obviate the need to raid the eastern front for divisions.

Thus the main points of the F¸hrer’s remarks.

It was certainly a remarkable speech.  Quite apart from the first hint at enforced German occupations of Italy and Hungary, it destroys the myth that Hitler always refused to abandon territory voluntarily in Russia, when it was strategically necessary.  It also puts “Citadel,” the Battle of Kursk, into its proper perspective in history :  it was subordinated to the need to prop up a crumbling dictatorship in a country whose military value was nil.

All eyes turned to Italy.  Hitler began planning an urgent personal meeting with Mussolini again.

Out of regard for Mussolini’s feelings he scrapped the official communiquÈ on the Tunis fighting, which put the blame on the Italians.  When British newspapers, week after week, mocked the German soldiers for surrendering, Ribbentrop begged the F¸hrer to publish the war diaries and documents proving how heroically they had fought against impossible odds in Tunisia.  Hitler’s stubborn refusal was telephoned by Hewel back to Ribbentrop :  “We have to be clear that we have suffered a painful defeat in Africa.  If you have taken a knock, you mustn’t try and talk your way out of it or pretty things up.  You will soon end up like the Italians—who make a veritable saga of every defeat they suffer until the whole world laughs at them.  There is only one thing to do at times like this :  Hold your tongue and prepare to counterattack.  Once the counterattack is delivered, all talk of any insufficiency in German soldiers vanishes.  Stalingrad is an example :  the stories that the German divisions’ morale was collapsing stopped the moment we struck back hard at the Russians again, at Kharkov.”

Before leaving for the Berghof again, Hitler conferred in detail with Keitel, Kesselring, and L–hr on the defense of the Mediterranean position ;  his aim was to prevent a “boundless bankruptcy” from loosening their stranglehold on the Balkans the moment the Schweinerei in Italy began.  Rommel—given his deep personal hatred of them now—would be the ideal commander to confront the Italian generals with.

On May 18, Hitler ordered him to set up the skeleton staff of a new army group for what was, after all, the occupation of Italy.  Rommel would report directly to him.  His interim headquarters would be in Munich.  The operation—code-named “Alarich”—was so secret that Hitler declined even to sign the OKW’s draft directive.  “This time we’ve got to be fanatically careful with bits of paper,” he said.  A similar directive, “Konstantin,” provided for filling the vacuum in Greece and Croatia should the Italian army suddenly pull out.  Initially, Rommel’s worry was that the Alpine fortifications being hastily completed by the Italians against the Reich frontier might be manned, especially on the Brenner Pass, to keep German divisions out—thus deliberately letting Italy fall into the enemy’s hands.  Rarely can two ostensibly allied armies have contemplated each other with such veiled mistrust.

Zeitzler had calculated for Hitler that the first reinforcements could be flooding from the Russian front into Italy within ten days of any trouble there.  Every two days would then bring a fresh infantry division, spearheaded by three SS armored divisions—the troops with the closest ideological ties to the Fascist leaders.  A speech by Mussolini’s Foreign Minister Bastianini early on May 20 convinced the F¸hrer that dirty work was afoot.  “We must be on our guard, like a spider in its web.  Thank God I’ve a good nose for things like this, so I usually get wind of anything long before it breaks out.”

How far Admiral Canaris reliably warned of the treason blossoming in Italy is uncertain from the records.  But Himmler’s officials left Hitler in no doubt.  SS Specialist [Sonderf¸hrer] von Neurath brought hair-raising details back from Sicily :  the local people hated the German troops and were making unabashed preparations for “postwar”;  government officials were turning a blind eye on anti-German outrages ;  the Italian Sixth Army based on Sicily was now commanded by General Roatta of Balkan ill-repute, and Roatta obviously regarded defeat as certain.  Perhaps he even relished the prospect.  His staff were anglophiles ;  some had even married Englishwomen.  “Crafty ?” exclaimed Hitler, on hearing Roatta’s name.  “He is the FouchÈ of the Fascist revolution, a spy totally devoid of character.  A spy is what he is !”  Hitler’s field marshals shared this view.  Curiously enough, the attachÈ reports from Rome spoke only in the highest terms of both Roatta and Ambrosio ;  this may have been because one of Canaris’s assistants, Colonel Emil Helfferich, was attached to the attachÈ’s staff.

At 1 P.M. on May 21, 1943, Hitler flew from East Prussia to Berchtesgaden, after a brief treatment session with his personal surgeon, Dr. Karl Brandt.  His health was still impaired :  ten days earlier, a fresh electrocardiogram had revealed no improvement in the rapid progressive coronary sclerosis affecting his heart vessels.  He had discussed his stomach problems with Romania’s Marshal Antonescu, and the latter recommended to him a Viennese dietician, Frau Marlene von Exner.  Much against her will, Dr. Morell induced her to cook exclusively for the F¸hrer by paying her a two thousand-Reichsmark bribe and a tax-free salary of eight hundred marks a month as a reward.  Young, attractive, and good-natured, she soon shared the F¸hrer’s table with the other female headquarters staff.  She brought back memories of old Vienna to her new employer, and he humored her cheerful protests at the way National Socialism favored Linz above Vienna.  But whereas she had been able to display her culinary talents to Antonescu in a welter of oysters, mayonnaise, and caviar delicacies, with Hitler’s austere meals she was at her wit’s end.  A typical Berghof menu was that on June 7, 1943 :  orange juice with linseed gruel ;  rice pudding with herb sauce ;  crispbread with butter and nut paste.  Hitler adored her.

Mussolini could not come and see him ;  the records do not explain why.  Probably he feared to leave Italy even for a few hours. According to Jodl’s deputy, Warlimont, Himmler submitted to Hitler a detailed plan for launching an operation against Italy if need arose.  Hitler’s own plan was to infiltrate four divisions into Italy more or less by stealth ;  at least sixteen more were to follow under Rommel the moment an enemy invasion occurred.  But Rommel greatly feared that enemy bombers—or for that matter Italian officer renegades—would block the Alpine frontier passes.  Hitler ordered the Luftwaffe to furnish antiaircraft batteries for the Brenner Pass ;  if the Italians demurred, then “British air raids” were to be faked, using refurbished unexploded RAF bombs hauled out of the ruins of German cities.  On June 5, Warlimont briefed Canaris on this at Berchtesgaden.  Canaris offered “Brandenburg” Division commandos who would become members of the gun crews and so be in a position to combat any attempted sabotage on the Alpine passes.  But Jodl’s deputy warned that no measure casting doubt on Italy’s will to fight must ever become public ;  not even the general commanding the “Brandenburgers” must know.  Canaris mouthed agreement ;  he was willing to risk “acting disloyally” toward the Italians, but he doubted whether the “true objectives” of the military preparations could be totally concealed from them.  To Keitel he suggested that OKW fears of Italian defection were exaggerated, and he persuaded the guileless field marshal to cancel the antisabotage provisions.  He also asked for Hitler to attach an Abwehr representative to Rommel’s top-secret working party.  Then he flew to Rome.(3)

Hitler’s June 1943 sojourn at the Berghof was dismal and depressing.  What price victory now ?  Bormann brought him a seventy-six-page speech Goebbels was planning to deliver to Berlin munitions workers on the fifth.  Hitler crossed out whole pages or inked in spidery alterations.  Where Goebbels proclaimed that their long-suffering fellow citizens would all receive generous compensation for their sacrifices “when victory is ours,” Hitler thoughtfully altered this to read “after this struggle is over.”

The black outlook in both the submarine campaign and the air war contributed to this subtle distinction.  At the end of May, D–nitz had frankly outlined the catastrophic U-boat situation in the North Atlantic to Hitler :  enemy air patrols had been stepped up, and they were evidently using some secret device to detect the U-boats ;  in May, 38 submarines had been lost compared with 14 in April.  As recently as March submarines had been able to destroy 875,000 tons of enemy shipping, and Hitler had spoken highly of their future prospects to the Gauleiters in Berlin on May 7 :  but the very next day 5 U-boats had been destroyed in one convoy battle, and on the twenty-fourth D–nitz had had to call off his attack in the North Atlantic if he was not to lose his entire front line.  It was a tragedy for the German navy.  Their Intelligence departments were successfully cracking the enemy codes that told D–nitz precisely where the convoys would be routed ;  there was talk of a “Hedgehog” in some messages, but this appeared to be just a patterned release of depth charges.  The Germans had learned of the enemy’s advances in centimetric radar after examining the remains of a bomber shot down near Rotterdam in February.  D–nitz—correctly—believed the same equipment lay behind his submarine losses, but there was no evidence.  Keitel instructed Canaris to find out as a matter of urgency.

Hitler had long expected just this setback to the U-boats—he was surprised they had done so well so long.  Thus he did not reproach the navy.  D–nitz had immediately fitted his submarines with multiple-barreled 20-millimeter antiaircraft guns and ordered that in the future they were to stand and fight back when aircraft approached.  Ten U-boats were equipped to carry only antiaircraft guns.  But these were improvisations.  Until the acoustic homing torpedoes entered service in October as “destroyer busters,” the U-boats would be restricted in their usefulness.  Hitler knew that unless D–nitz could sink enemy shipping faster than it could be built, the war could not be won.  He ordered D–nitz’s submarine program increased from thirty to forty new boats a month, and he approved D–nitz’s suggestion that all naval construction work be transferred to Speer’s ministry.  On June 15, however, the admiral arrived at the Berghof with a staggering demand for nearly 150,000 men to implement this naval expansion.  Hitler told him :  “I just don’t have the men.  The antiaircraft and night-fighter defenses have got to be increased to protect our cities.  The eastern front has got to be strengthened.  The army needs divisions for its job defending Europe.”

D–nitz’s energy was in stark contrast to G–ring’s indolence and lethargy that summer.  From Gestapo morale reports, Hitler knew that his people were prey to a growing conviction that nothing could halt the enemy bombing campaign.  Every night the British bombers visited a different town or city of the Ruhr, methodically heralded their arrival by chilling showers of colored pyrotechnic flares, and unloaded one or two thousand tons of bombs over the streets and houses.  Their losses, sometimes thirty or forty bombers in one night, seemed not to deter them.  A handful of bombers breached the Ruhr dams, unleashing the reservoirs on the sleeping populaces below.  (Goebbels informed Hitler that the enemy press gave credit for this diabolical plan to a former Berlin Jew.)  By day the American bomber formations completed the destruction in the ports or bombed targets in France and Italy.  Sometimes the British sent small fast bombers by daylight deep into Germany, causing more insult to public morale than injury to industry.  Or lone Mosquitoes, each with a one-ton sting, would circle for hours on end above Berlin, forcing its millions of inhabitants to take refuge until the all clear sounded.  Though Milch warned that when Berlin’s time really came, the people would no longer heed the sirens, Hitler still commanded that the sirens must sound each time, even if they saved only one or two lives thereby.  G–ring’s solution was to propose that Germany’s bombed-out citizens be evacuated to Burgundy—but this was hardly likely to commend itself to the Ruhr workers.  Besides, in one night over a hundred thousand people lost their homes in Dortmund alone.  Not until November could the Luftwaffe expect to strike back in force.  Milch hoped to be manufacturing over three thousand fighters and bombers every month by then.

Unquestionably air superiority was the key to this war.  This was why Hitler now ordered bomber squadrons transferred from the west to the Mediterranean and why he placed Field Marshal von Richthofen—his most trusted air commander—in command of the Second Air Force there.  This incidentally was further proof that “Citadel” ranked lower in his order of priorities than keeping the enemy at bay in the Mediterranean.  But even Richthofen could not prevent the huge enemy air onslaught that preceded each ground operation there.  Six thousand tons of bombs were discharged over the tiny fortified island of Pantelleria, commanding the shipping routes in the Strait of Sicily.  The Italian defenders suffered few casualties but were so demoralized that without firing a shot they offered to capitulate.  On June 11 the Germans heard the island’s commandant, Admiral Parvesi, radioing to the enemy in Malta :  “We offer surrender ;  out of water.”  By that evening the island was firmly in Allied hands.  That the Italian soldiers had been unable to withstand the kind of bombardment German civilians—men, women, and children alike—were enduring night after night certainly did not augur well for the coming Mediterranean campaigns, Hitler noted.

1 In postwar captivity, General Johannes Friessner met one of Hitler’s adjutants and asked why the F¸hrer had not mounted just such an offensive.  Given the comparative weakness of the Russian defenses in the center of the bulge, Friessner—who had commanded a corps under Model’s Ninth Army—believed it would have succeeded.

2 The stenographer—himself a close aide of the famous Intelligence chief Colonel Nicolai in World War I—recalls the scene vividly.  The corpse was indeed a brilliant if gruesome ploy of the British secret service.

3 At this point the surviving fragments of Canaris’s diary end.


p. 508   For the contingency planning for an invasion of Sweden, see Wolf Junge’s manuscript ;  the naval staff plans in its war diary annex, Part C, Vol. III ;  the naval staff war diary, October 23, 1943 ;  and the OKW war diary.

p. 509   According to the manservant’s register, Hitler saw Horthy three times :  at 5:30 P.M. on April 16, and at 12:10 and 5 P.M. on the 17th ;  three corresponding records exist, by interpreter Paul Schmidt, but as both Horthy and Schmidt claim in their memoirs that the interpreter was absent during at least the first meeting, it is probable that as in 1944 (see Jodl diary, March 17, 1944) the conference room at Klessheim was bugged with hidden microphones.

p. 509   On the deportation of Hungary’s Jews, see the AA’s letter to Bormann, March 9, 1943 (Serial 5231 pages E310707 et seq.), and the Abwehr’s security objections—in a letter to the AA—against allowing large units of Hungarian Jews to come near German military movements (ibid., K206893).  According to Schmidt’s notes, Ribbentrop went even further than Hitler in one outburst to Horthy, exclaiming “that the Jews must either be destroyed or put in concentration camps—there is no other way” (a wording which caused Ribbentrop some discomfiture in the witness box at Nuremberg).  Horthy copied the wording into his 1953 memoirs (page 254) but put them in Hitler’s mouth !  Secret Hungarian records do not echo the wording in such bluntness.  In a draft letter to Hitler on May 7, Horthy included a sentence—later deleted—“Your Excellency further reproached me that my government does not proceed with stamping out Jewry with the same radicalism as is practiced in Germany.”  And in his discussion with the Hungarian envoy SztÛjay a few days later Ribbentrop went no further than to remind him that Hitler had (in the summer of 1942) decreed that “by the summer of 1943 all Jews of Germany and the German occupied countries are to be moved to the eastern, i.e., Russian, territories.”  Ribbentrop added that for security reasons Germany required her allies to conform—Mussolini had, for instance, just undertaken to intern the Jews in Italy (documents in National Archives, Budapest).

p. 510   Many sources exist highlighting the Rosenberg-Koch squabble over policies in Russia :  the Goebbels diaries and Himmler files (T175/124 and /171) ;  BDC file SS 981 ;  Richthofen’s diary, May 24, 1943 ;  the stenogram of Hitler’s conference with Keitel and Zeitzler on June 8 ;  Etzdorfs note of April 13 ;  Ribbentrop’s memo on the Vlasov operation, April 6 (Etzdorfs file, Serial 1247);  Bormann’s memo of May 19 (BA file R 58/1005);  Gehlen’s files, containing Hewel’s memo of May 24 (T81/219/9474 et seq.);  the diary of Colonel Heinz-Danko Herre, of Gehlen’s staff ;  Kluge’s conference with General Reinhardt of the Third Panzer Army, June 17 (in the Army’s war diary, annexes, H 12-33/5);  Etzdorf’s teletype to the AA, June 17 (Serial 364), and Lahousen’s diary, June 21, 1943.

p. 512   The best history of “Citadel” so far is unquestionably the German official historian Dr. Ernst Klink’s Das Gesetz des Handelns (Stuttgart, 1966);  it supersedes earlier studies by Generals F.W. Hauck and Gotthard Heinrici in WR, 1965, and by Eike Middeldorf, ibid., 1953.  Klink kindly read and commented on my own “Citadel” narrative, which benefits from a number of sources not available to him—notably the Richthofen diary and the manservant’s diary, which helps, for example, to pinpoint the date of Zeitzler’s visit as April 21, 1943.

p. 513   On Model’s visit :  Ninth Army war diary, April 27-28, (BA, 34739/2) and annexes, Vol. VIII (35212/2);  Model’s appreciation, April 25 (35939/12);  Junge diary, April 27, 1943 ;  war conference, May 18, 1944 (stenogram);  and Guderian’s manuscript, March 1949 (IfZ, ZS-57).

Hitler’s order of April 29 is mentioned in the OKW war diary, July 5 ;  the resulting OKH order of April 30 is in the Fourth Panzer Army’s war diary, annexes (34888/23) and the Ninth Army’s war diary, annexes (34890/1);  for the Luftwaffe view, Richthofen’s diary contains an appreciation dated May 1, 1943.

p. 513   Guderian’s notes on his tank conferences with Hitler are on microfilm T78/622.  I also used Saur’s testimony (FD-3049/49).

p. 514   Richthofen glued a lengthy memo on Jeschonnek’s account of the May 4, 1943, Munich conference into his diary, May 25.  On the fifth Richthofen himself wrote :  “Rumor has it that some kind of conferences between Guderian and the F¸hrer and Zeitzler have brought an element of uncertainty into opinions.  Perhaps—and the interpolation of Guderian indicates this—it is hoped that minor technical improvements will result in major military changes.  Of course this is pure rubbish—they haven’t resulted in decisive victories in any war yet, but again and again they are tried for by us.”  On May 24, Richthofen flatly told Jeschonnek that the Russians would build far more by way of defensive positions in six weeks than the Germans could hope to increase their striking power.

There is no evidence that either Guderian or Manstein opposed the delay.  In 1958 correspondence with Zeitzler, General Theodor Busse loyally quoted Manstein as telling Hitler, “The attack will be tough, but I think it’ll succeed.”  But Kempf clearly recalled in 1958 telephoning Zeitzler three days later, furious at the delay ;  Zeitzler had replied that the general’s call was “grist to his mill.  He [Zeitzler] had desperately opposed any further postponement of ‘Citadel,’ but only Field Marshal von Kluge had supported him” (N63/12).  This is supported by Kempfs memo on the telephone conversation in the Eighth Army war diary (36188/20).

p. 515   Hitler’s words to Warlimont are quoted in a naval staff memo on Hitler’s Berghof conference, May 1, 1943 (PG/31747).

p. 515   On Hitler’s speech of May 7, 1943, I used the diaries of Junge, Bormann, Himmler, and Goebbels.

p. 516   From May 1943 onward, a diary, kept by Rommel, exists in British hands—as far as I know I am the first to have exploited it (AL/1708).  For Rommel’s fierce anti-Italian feelings, see also the Goebbels diary, May 10-13, and Rommel’s letters of May 10-13 (T84/R274).

p. 517   Connoisseurs of British Intelligence operations will find the complete file on the corpse and its documents in German naval archives, PG/33216 ;  they should also read the naval staff diary, May 1943, and microfilm T78/343.  On May 25, Goebbels wrote in his diary that Canaris “energetically refuted” his hypothesis that the documents were deliberately planted.  The duty stenographer who noted that Hitler shared Goebbels’s skepticism—initially—was the late Ludwig Krieger, who described the scene in his private papers in 1945 and to me in a 1972 interview.

p. 518   D–nitz’s famous admission to Hitler on May 14, 1943 that his U-boat offensive had collapsed, caused a sensation at the Wolfs Lair ;  see Goebbels’s diary, and Rommel’s diary and private letters (T84/R275/0324).

For Hitler’s plan to strengthen the Balkans, see his war conference on May 20 (Heiber, pages 238 et seq.);  the date of this is now firmly established by the manservant’s diary.

p. 519   Captain Wolf Junge’s handwritten account of Hitler’s conference of May 15 is in naval archives (PG/31747).  Rommel’s diary also refers to it.  “Following the situation report the F¸hrer speaks on probable developments in Italy and Greece.  There are prospects for my early employment.”

p. 520   An early meeting with Mussolini was probably the topic raised by Hitler with Prince Philip of Hesse at 4:45 P.M. on May 20, 1943 ;  the prince—who had married Princess Mafalda, daughter of the king of Italy, in 1923—was frequently used by Hitler as a special courier to Rome.

p. 520   Hewel’s memo for Ribbentrop, June 25, 1943, is in Ritter’s AA file (Serial 1462).  See also Scherfl’s letter to Jodl, June 25 (T77/1035/7945), and the naval staff’s indignant protests at aspersions cast by Hitler on German shortcomings in supplying North Africa (war diary, June 29 and August 5).  Hitler even summarily deleted three pages of Goebbels’s proposed speech of June 5 because they referred to North Africa (NS-6/129).

p. 521   The quotations are from Hitler’s conference with Konstantin von Neurath—son of the famous pre-1938 foreign minister—on May 20, 1943 (Heiber, pages 220 et seq.);  see also Rommel’s diary.  Winston Churchill alleged with his characteristic attention to accuracy (The Second World War, Vol. V, page 29) that “Neurath, the foreign secretary,” was present.

p. 522   The Berghof menu is pasted into Eva Braun’s album (NA, 242-EB-22-33a).  In his unpublished diary Goebbels wrote on June 25 after a day with Hitler :  “Little is left of the physical fitness we always used to marvel at in him.”

pp. 522-23   Canaris’s record of his talks with Warlimont and Rommel’s chief of staff General Alfred Gause is in the Canaris diary file AL/1933, which unfortunately ends at this point ;  see also the Lahousen diary, June 4.