David Irving


And So It Will Be, Mein F¸hrer !

In four years, the wheel had turned full circle, and Hitler had once again to attend to the western front.  Throughout the winter it remained his constant preoccupation as he devoured Intelligence reports or enemy dispatches that had fallen into German hands, and pored over aerial photographs, trying to deduce where the Allies would set foot in Europe—and when.  With his predilection for weapons technology and for designing gadgets, he began to sketch the infernal mantraps and instruments of death with which he hoped to thwart the enemy—batteries of automatic flamethrowers, impenetrable minefields, and barrels of oil that could be exploded in the sea so that the invasion troops would have to wade in through a wall of fire.  More than once he was heard to exclaim that if the Allied invasion established a beachhead, the war was lost for Germany.

On November 3, 1943, he underlined this in his Directive Number 51 :

These last two-and-a-half years of tough and bloody struggle against bolshevism have strained our military strength and energy to the utmost.  It was appropriate to the magnitude of the danger and the overall strategic situation.  Now the danger in the east remains, but an even greater one is emerging in the west :  the Anglo-American invasion !  The sheer vastness of the eastern spaces allows us to countenance even a major loss of territory if the worse comes to the worst, without it striking fatally at Germany’s vital arteries.

Not so the west ! ... I can therefore no longer tolerate the weakening of the west in favor of other theaters of war.

Hitler expected the enemy to invade in the spring and perhaps even earlier ;  they would probably land near the A-4 rocket sites and the V-1 flying-bomb catapults currently being erected along the Channel coast by armies of French laborers.  The political and strategic profit to the Allies of an invasion of Denmark meant that its shoreline would also have to be defended.

The Balkans cried out for reinforcements too.  The Italian collapse had created pandemonium there :  believing an Allied invasion was imminent, the guerrillas came out into the open ;  the few German divisions had to concentrate along the coastline, leaving the interior largely in guerrilla hands.  Hitler’s attempts to bolster the Poglavnik’s tottering government in Croatia failed, even though the country now regained the Dalmatian coastline it had lost in 1941 to Italy.  Several times during September and October Hitler conferred with his generals and ministers on the Balkan problem.  Field Marshal von Weichs, his Commander in Chief there, toured the Balkan capitals and reported that while an Allied invasion was unlikely before the spring, “the most dangerous enemy is Tito.”  The partisan commander had built up within Croatia a regular Soviet state based on a solid civil administration ;  moreover, he had a hundred thousand men under arms, with Russian officers to organize them and British officers to tender expert advice.  In his diary Weichs wrote :

The grim partisan situation puts a completely different complexion on things.  Not that you can speak of “partisans” anymore—under Tito, a powerful bolshevik army has arisen, rigidly led, acting on directives from Moscow, moving from strength to strength, and growing deadlier every day.  It has strong British support.  Tito’s present objective is to break into Serbia and then defeat the nationalist guerrillas led by D[raza] M[ihajlovic].

Seen in this light the impotence of the Croatian government is an increasing menace.  Should the enemy invade Dalmatia and Albania, we can expect general Communist uprisings to break out there.

The Italian withdrawal had left a vacuum in Albania, where there was only one German battalion to defend the coastline.  If the Allies had landed even one regiment here, they could have controlled the country in two weeks.

Hitler’s response to this situation was a significant political realignment, since he lacked the military strength to solve the problem by force.  On Himmler’s advice, he had become markedly skeptical about the Croatian government’s future, and supported by Weichs and Kaltenbrunner he decided to enlist the aid of the Serbs.  On October 29 he vested in Ribbentrop’s very able special envoy to the Balkans, Hermann Neubacher, sweeping powers to fight communism there ;  in particular he could make contact with the nationalist partisan leaders like Mihajlovic if need be.  The Serbs were tempted with the restoration of Montenegro, the removal of G–ring’s notoriously corrupt economic envoy Neuhausen (who landed in Moabit prison), and special favors for Prime Minister Milan Nedic—a man whom Hitler found he could trust and like.

One thing was plain :  Hitler could not abandon the strategically important Balkan peninsula with its oil, copper, and bauxite.  Thus he ordered its perimeter defense to be tightened, along the cordon of islands from the Peloponnesus and Crete to Rhodes.  Kos was taken in October ;  and on November 11 a modest German force landed on the island of Leros, held by ten thousand British and Italian troops, and recaptured it in five days’ bloody fighting.  Samos was taken on the twenty-second, and thus the whole Dodecanese returned to German control, one of the last German victories under Hitler’s dictatorship.

Meanwhile Romania was hypnotized by Stalin’s ten-mile-a-day advance on her frontier, and Hungary was already known to be longing for an armistice ;  but Hitler had sent Admiral Raeder to Budapest with a yacht as Horthy’s birthday present, and the regent wrote back assuring Hitler of his undying loyalty.  The truth was that Badoglio’s humiliation by the Allies was a chastening deterrent to imitation.  Besides, Hungary and Romania were busy sharpening their knives for each other’s throat.  In Bulgaria, meanwhile, three regents had established a pro-German government after Boris’s death, but it was weak in the face of the Turkish military buildup and a pro-Russian undercurrent in the country.

Hitler hated the Balkans !  “If the British said Germany’s job will be to keep the Balkans in order,” he said at one war conference now, “we’d be busy for the next thirty years—marching in and out and back again, banging their heads together and getting out again.”

From Himmler’s Intelligence sources Hitler knew that the British were applying powerful pressure on Turkey to abandon her neutrality ;  at present, Turkey was resisting.  Himmler’s principal source was the astounding “Cicero”—an Albanian manservant employed by Sir Hughe Knatchbull-Hugessen, the British ambassador in Ankara—who had contacted Franz von Papen’s embassy there early in October and been equipped by the police attachÈ L.G. Moyzisch with a Leica camera, skeleton keys, and large sums of Turkish currency.  In return, he was secretly photographing all the British ambassador’s papers during the hour or so that the diplomat bathed and breakfasted.  Moyzisch had already secured from the Turkish secret service a telegram in which the Turkish ambassador in Moscow reported on the foreign ministers’ conference there.  (The ambassador accurately stated that Stalin had reluctantly agreed that the Second Front could be postponed until 1944 provided the Allies delivered war materials and food on the largest scale.)  Once he began supplying photocopies of documents from the British embassy, he was recalled to Berlin and closely questioned about Cicero—who had by now already supplied eighty films of top secret British documents.  Moyzisch described how the SD Gestapo had developed this agent, who was motivated solely by greed and therefore indubitably authentic.

Moyzisch hurried back to Ankara on November 9, as the British ambassador was due back from a meeting in Cairo, where Eden had just spent three days talking with the Turkish foreign minister.  By the tenth, Ribbentrop already had Cicero’s dispatch.  “In Cairo Eden has demanded Turkish airfields for fighter operations in view of precarious British military situation in the Aegean.”  Eden had added that Germany’s military strength was not to be feared, and he cited her inability to do more than utter a weak formal protest to Portugal when Britain had recently established bases in the Azores.  The Turkish foreign minister refused to discuss Eden’s demand without consulting his government, however ;  and it was clear to British and Germans alike that this meant the demand would be turned down.  Papen himself lunched with Hitler at the Wolfs Lair on the seventeenth.  Next day German Intelligence sources in Ankara—not Cicero this time—reported :

1.  The Turkish ambassador in Moscow reports, “British ambassador here told Stalin of Turkish refusal, to which Stalin replied the Turkish mistrust annoyed him and the Three Powers would shortly have to put pressure on Turkey.”
2.  Eden informed Hugessen in Cairo that he had formed a bad impression of the Russian army :  it seems to be in confusion and at the end of its strength.

Hitler hoped that Stalin’s army would not last much longer.  “We must not think of it as some kind of medieval giant that gets stronger every time it topples to the ground,” he rebuked his generals.  “One day its strength must also fail.”

On November 1, Russian troops again set foot in the north and east Crimea but were held at bay.  On the third General Hoth’s Fourth Panzer Army was convincingly breached ;  Kiev fell, and the Russians reached Fastoff, forty miles to the southwest, before slogging to a halt on the seventh—in Hitler’s view, worn out by their exertions.  Hitler sacked the weary Hoth.  With this “Jeremiah” gone he was given details on the cancer of “defeatism” spreading among Hoth’s soldiers.  “His men have only just found the courage to report all this to me,” complained Hitler weeks later.  Zeitzler commented, “Any army is the image of its commander.”  Hitler agreed.  “If a commander says it’s pointless to try influencing his men, I can only say, ‘For you to try influencing them is pointless because you haven’t got it in you to influence men’.”  This was why he admired such Party faithfuls as Koch, Sauckel, and Ley—Gauleiters who had in their time converted Communist Gaue into Nazi party strongholds.  “The good Gaue were always under the good Gauleiters.”  He was convinced it was the same in the army.

The security service, which censored soldiers’ letters home, reported that the men no longer believed in victory.  Goebbels wrote with mixed feelings that morale at the front was now lower than at home.  Himmler felt that Manstein was at the bottom of the eastern front’s defeatism, and when Hitler sent for him on November 7 it was widely believed the field marshal would be retired.  Instead, Hitler insisted that Manstein prepare a thrust from the bridgehead at Nikopol toward the Crimea—an operation he trusted would restore land contact to the vital peninsula.  First the situation southwest of Kiev had to be restored, but suddenly the long-expected rains began just when they were least needed.  Sepp Dietrich’s Life Guards began the attack on the fifteenth, recaptured the city of Zhitomir, then slid to a halt in the mire, after killing 20,000 enemy troops and destroying or capturing 603 tanks, 300 guns, and 1,200 antitank weapons.  These figures alone revealed the colossal reserves at Stalin’s disposal.  “Where will it ever end !” wrote Goebbels.  “The Soviets have reserves of which we never dreamed in even our most pessimistic estimates.”

On the northern front, squabbles between K¸chler and Kluge prevented their adjacent army groups from coordinating their counterattack on the Russians at Nevel—the key city on their common boundary—whose recapture would block the enemy’s further advance on Latvia.  On November 8, Kluge executed a costly attack and reached his objectives, but K¸chler refused to attack the next morning as arranged, and Kluge had to retire to his opening position ;  his casualties had been in vain.  With more than a little truth Hitler complained :  “The whole catastrophe of Nevel can be blamed on the petty selfishness of the two army group commanders.”(1)

This was not entirely true.  Fundamental to the permanent crisis of arms was the lack of reserves.  In mid-November Hitler discussed with his political advisers the possibility of recruiting more Estonians and Latvians for the defense of their native soil, but Rosenberg pointed out that unless the Baltic states’ autonomy was assured, they would be unwilling to spill their own blood for the German cause.  Hitler “was inwardly opposed to making such far-reaching concessions in difficult times,” Rosenberg wrote afterward.

He preferred to drain his own industrial labor force before making any kind of territorial concessions.  His armaments chiefs were aghast.  G–ring insisted that the army already had a vast surplus of manpower in the rear ;  Milch had himself sworn that he could, given the chance, “round up 2,000,000 men from the army’s rear for the battlefront within three weeks;”  he complained that of the 8,000,000 German soldiers barely 260,000 were actually on the eastern front.  Hitler agreed there was an imbalance and asked G–ring and D–nitz to discuss with him ways of increasing the combat strength.  But G–ring felt himself so vulnerable because of his sinking prestige that when the conference began on November 24 he actually declared that he was convinced the Luftwaffe had a large number of men to spare.  The army was not mentioned.  Three days later Hitler signed a strongly worded command for at least 1,000,000 men to be extracted from the Wehrmacht’s “fat” and sent to the front line.  Theoretically it should have been possible, but the practical result, sadly recorded by Schmundt some months later, was a disappointment.  “Unhappily it has not been a big success.  By bureaucratic procedures the command’s execution was first postponed, then not applied with the absolute harshness that was necessary.  No use was made of the penal provisions laid down by the F¸hrer.  Instead of 1,000,000 men only 400,000 were extracted.”  During December only 20,000 troops were supplied to the eastern front, barely 10 percent of its casualties.

G–ring’s prestige was low because Berlin had now begun to suffer, though not on the Hamburg scale.  Night after night up to a thousand heavy bombers cascaded fire bombs and demolition bombs crudely known as “blockbusters” over the capital.  Often there was ten-tenths cloud, and the German night fighters could neither take off nor land ;  the enemy had superb radar gear, while G–ring’s bombers and fighters were still groping in the dark.  After the big raid on November 22, the government quarter was in ruins :  Speer’s ministry was gutted, the admiralty was blazing, the air ministry was in ruins, and the Chancellery was badly damaged.  For days on end the city had no telephones, gas, water, or electric power.  The Alkett factory, where most of Hitler’s self-propelled assault guns were made, was devastated.  In some raids over three thousand people died, but despite the choking layers of smoke polluting the streets for days on end, the Berliners proved as tough as the people of Hamburg in July—for which Hitler repeatedly congratulated Goebbels, the city’s Gauleiter.  In London, some newspapers claimed that a million had died in Berlin and that the whole city was in ruins ;  Goebbels was careful not to deny these claims.

Hitler could only console himself with the thought of the coming reprisal attacks on Britain.  Under Himmler’s control, slave laborers were toiling to complete an impregnable underground factory in the Harz Mountains for the partial manufacture and assembly of the A-4 rocket—at the rate of nine hundred a month.  The first big launching silo at Watten, in northwest France, had been destroyed by enemy bombers before it was complete ;  now Hitler accepted the recommendation of Speer’s engineers that a new site be chosen at nearby Wizernes.  A million-ton dome of concrete would be emplaced on the edge of a chalk quarry first, then the missile-launching complex excavated beneath it.  Hitler was “unconvinced it would ever be completed,” but his skepticism about the missile system was dispelled by high-pressure salesmanship from the Peenem¸nde team, who adroitly covered up the backwardness and costly ineffectiveness of the A-4 missile.  Late in October, as Hitler was being assured that the A-4 would be operational by the end of 1943, the Luftwaffe’s new Chief of Staff, General G¸nther Korten, had interrupted :  “We are aiming at that date too”—meaning the flying bomb.  But Jodl retorted that his information was more reliable than Korten’s, and according to his sources the flying bomb was a long way behind the rocket.  In reality, as Speer’s manufacturing experts knew, the A-4 rocket had only just begun launching trials with live warheads—and these were all prematurely exploding from the heat of reentry.  Speer learned on November 8 that “the research is not as complete as the development team would have people believe.”  Nobody told Hitler ;  that same day in Munich he was proclaiming :  “Our hour of revenge is nigh !”

The Luftwaffe’s flying bomb had meanwhile gone into mass production at Volkswagen’s Fallersleben factory in September ;  but it was plagued by production and navigational faults, and the production line halted in November.  On November 3 the Luftwaffe learned that firing trials might be complete by early February 1944.  The launching organization—96 special catapult sites erected by tens of thousands of French workers and Todt engineers along the Channel coast facing England—would be ready by mid-December 1943, and the two giant launching bunkers would be operational in March.  On November 26, Hitler and G–ring inspected the Luftwaffe’s latest secret equipment at Insterburg airfield, an hour’s train journey from the Wolf’s Lair.  He was shown the flying bomb and asked an engineer when it would be ready.  The man replied, “By the end of March !”  Hitler fell abruptly silent, as the date was the latest he had yet been told (in fact the engineer was referring only to the trials, which was even worse).  But at least Hitler had been told about delays on the flying bomb, while he was kept in the dark over the A-4.  On December 15 he instructed Jodl that the reprisal attack on London was to begin on February 15, preferably on a foggy forenoon at 11, with a barrage of as many missiles as possible.  The OKW, which had established a special corps to direct the three secret weapons’ operations—the third was the long-barreled underground gun for shelling London from Calais—followed this a week later with an order to open fire in mid-January.  The corps commander, an elderly artillery general, replied that this was out of the question :  there could be no certainty about the flying bomb until January, and in his view the whole A-4 project was a costly extravaganza which should be scrapped.  His lone voice of sanity was not heeded.  Jodl wrote in his diary after seeing Hitler on December 25 :  “A-4 and [flying bomb] are dawdling.”  By that time the American bomber force—trounced at Schweinfurt—had diverted its attentions to the 96 catapult-launching sites for the V-1 in France ;  soon 73 had been destroyed, but now this mattered little, for a new system of prefabricated launchers had superseded them and the 96 were little more than decoys.  Hitler drew much comfort from the fact.  “Obviously the things are getting on their nerves.  If they were to start erecting such things and we knew they were for wiping out Berlin, then we’d get nervous too and set our Luftwaffe on them.”

Meanwhile, on the day after the Insterburg inspection, the Reichsmarschall had sworn to Hitler that within two weeks the Luftwaffe would bomb London and take revenge for Berlin’s suffering.  He planned to muster 300 bombers, to fly 500 sorties during the first night, followed by 150 more sorties the next morning.  Hitler and Jodl pored over the population-distribution maps of London and Birmingham, and G–ring left for France to command the operation in person.  However, Chief of Air Staff Korten had his heart in a different project—the creation of a long-range bomber force for strategic attacks on Soviet industrial centers such as power stations and aeroengine factories.  But “two weeks” grew into two months ;  not until January 22 was a fleet of 462 aircraft assembled for the London attack.

After the first raid the British gloatingly announced that only thirty bombers had found their way to London.  The wretched Heinkel 177 had suffered heavy losses.  “That rattletrap is quite the worst junk ever manufactured,” lamented Hitler.  “It’s a flying Panther”—referring to the equally paralytic tank—“and the Panther is the crawling Heinkel !”  Hitler refused to believe that less than three hundred or four hundred had reached London.  “You’ve got agents,” he challenged Korten.  “We find out the most precious secrets of their war councils, their most confidential plans and ideas !  But as to whether three buildings have been burned down in London, or a hundred or five hundred—we haven’t a clue !”  Korten mumbled, “We’ve put all our star agents on to it.”  These agents were in fact fictitious, the product of an Abwehr attachÈ’s imagination.

One relief to Hitler in this darkening month of December 1943 was the steadfast refusal of Turkey to declare war on Germany.  The top-secret British documents being photographed by Cicero on his master’s desk in Ankara revealed this and much more.  Hitler, Ribbentrop, Himmler, and Papen were satisfied that the photocopies now arriving almost daily from Ankara by air courier were authentic—angry telegrams stamped “Of Particular Secrecy” from Eden and Churchill, records of the meetings with Stalin at Teheran and with Turkey’s President In–n¸ at Cairo, and a letter from Allied headquarters in Cairo confirming that because of the German victory in the islands of Kos and Leros operations in the Aegean had come to an abrupt end.  The Abwehr played no part in this Intelligence coup ;  it was the SS who took the credit, and Hitler trusted them.

The picture that emerged was of mounting and abrasive pressure by Britain on Turkey to live up to its alliance and enter the war on February 15.  This date was to be preceded by weeks of stealthy infiltration of the country by RAF ground staffs to prepare key airfields to accommodate twenty squadrons at one swoop, airfields from which the British could command the air in the southeast.  Meanwhile British submarines would enter the Black Sea to operate against the Crimea and the Romanian coastline ;  moreover, with Turkey in the war Bulgaria would have to withdraw her nine divisions presently policing Serbia and Greece.  But the Cicero papers showed that Turkey was fearful and suspicious of Russia’s still unannounced postwar plans for the Balkans ;  Turkey knew from Hitler that Molotov had demanded Soviet bases in the Dardanelles in November 1940, and she saw no cause to help the hangman weave the noose.  In Cairo, the Turks realized that Churchill and Eden had written off the Balkans and eastern Europe to Stalin.  “The President [In–n¸] returned from Cairo horrified,” the Turkish foreign minister told Papen, “and said that if he had seen this coming, he would never have gone there.”  Turkey had no desire to share Iran’s fate—occupied, divided into spheres of interest, and anesthetized with a nice declaration of her independence.  Soon Hitler was reading the British ambassador’s enraged telegram to Churchill on the thirteenth, reporting that the Turks were demanding impossible amounts of armaments before they would agree to terms—a ploy familiar to the F¸hrer from his dealings with the Italians.  The ambassador suggested that either the talks be broken off, or a last attempt made in staff talks to secure “agreement on the deadline of February 15,” or allow them to jog hopefully on sine die.  “We have already shown the Turks the big stick,” replied the British foreign office on the eighteenth ;  but there was no denying that if the Allies finally broke with Turkey there would be repercussions both in Germany and the Balkans.  The three commanders in chief, Middle East—Air, Army, and Navy—were therefore sent to visit Ankara in person ;  but the Turks refused to meet them.  Eden accepted temporary defeat and cabled the following to his ambassador :

To sum up.  Our object is to get Turkey into the war as early as possible, and in any case to maintain a threat to the Germans from the eastern end of the Mediterranean, until Overlord is launched.... We still have not given up the idea that our squadrons should fly in on 15th February.

“Overlord” was evidently the code name for the 1944 invasion in the west.(2)  Hitler’s conclusion from studying the Cicero papers was that it would not come until mid-February.  “There’s not the slightest doubt that the attack in the west will come in the spring ;  none whatever.”  As the Turkish foreign minister said to Papen imploringly, “We are at the most critical pass in our recent history.  But since the Balkans are to be sacrificed to the Russians ... we have no alternative but to keep playing our hand the way we are doing, in the hope that the German eastern front holds firm.”

This was the political significance of the Crimea in Hitler’s eyes, a significance which Manstein either could not or would not accept.  Bitter though a decision to withdraw Army Group North from the Leningrad front would be, its political effect would be mild compared with the loss of the Crimea.  “The Finns can’t just jump overboard ;  when all’s said and done they will still have to defend themselves.”  Not so Turkey, Bulgaria, and Romania.  Stalin recognized this too, for his main winter offensive when it opened on December 24 was against the Fourth Panzer Army’s sector west of Kiev—the left shoulder of Manstein’s army group.  Manstein’s new headquarters at Vinnitsa was at the very focus of the Russian offensive, and he cabled an alarmed report to the Wolf’s Lair the next day, beseeching Hitler to gain twelve divisions by giving up the uneconomic “bulge” along the Black Sea and the bridgehead at Nikopol while there was still time.  Politically, this would be disastrous ;  but even militarily Hitler doubted whether Manstein was right.  He was enraged by the “white lies” in Manstein’s telegram :  it spoke of German “counteroperations” where it meant “decamping”;  and it vaguely observed, “We might hope that the enemy ... will attempt to strike west through Cherkassy and Kirovograd, through Krivoi Rog or across the lower Dnieper, thereby finally exhausting his strength in the frontal attack on us.”  Hitler angrily lectured Zeitzler :  “The enemy’s not going to do what we hope, but what will damage us the most !”

Manstein was acting as if his army group was the orphan of the eastern front.  In fact, since October Hitler had sent him five first-class panzer divisions and three infantry divisions.  “The ratio of his forces to the enemy’s is better than anywhere else on the entire eastern front and always was.  If his troops are badly demoralized, then it’s because of the spirit permeating them from above.”  Through Party channels, and particularly from Gauleiter Koch, Hitler had learned of the defeatism infecting Manstein’s headquarters.  Characteristically, the field marshal warned that there were 47 Soviet infantry divisions and 9 tank corps confronting him.  Hitler refused to acknowledge that these could be anything but worn-out divisions which had been “reconditioned” and fed back to the battlefields ;  he “knew” the enemy troops’ morale was low.  “How can he maintain that those are 47 brand-new divisions that nothing can stop ?”  Hitler asked Zeitzler.  With heavy sarcasm he commented, “Our German divisions are ‘all rotten formations,’ the Russians are all ‘fresh as a daisy.’ ”  If the retreat shortened the German front, it would shorten the enemy front by an equal amount.  “But if we retire here, then this”—presumably jabbing at the Crimea on the map—“is lost.”  Zeitzler blurted out :  “The Crimea is as good as lost anyway sooner or later.”  Hitler disagreed.  “I’ll think it over during the night again.... You know, Zeitzler, we can all put on airs and say, It’s as good as lost.  But when the time comes and it is lost, it won’t be Manstein who accepts the blame :  the responsibility is ours.”  It was the political effect on Turkey that alarmed him.  “They [the British] are trying to blackmail Turkey into joining the war on February 15,” he reminded Zeitzler.  “... Herr Manstein won’t take any responsibility for that.  He’ll just say, ‘That’s a matter for the politicians.’ ”  In addition, if Antonescu lost his army in the Crimea, he might be overthrown.  “That is why we are duty-bound to defend this second Stalingrad if at all possible.”

For many nights Hitler worried over the strategic decision.  If he allowed Manstein to retreat, he would lose the Crimea, the iron-ore fields of Krivoi Rog, the manganese of Nikopol, and the foodstuffs of the Ukraine.  He asked Zeitzler early on December 29 to work out how many divisions K¸chler could release to Manstein if Army Group North was withdrawn to the East Wall line from Narva to Lake Peipus, and soon afterward he authorized K¸chler to fall back on an intermediate line.  When the field marshal came to the Wolfs Lair on December 30, Hitler flatteringly noted that K¸chler’s was the elite army of the entire eastern front, indeed an outright provocation to Kluge and Manstein.  “You are lucky the other army groups don’t know your strength-ratio, otherwise we couldn’t save you from them !”

Admiral D–nitz, however, voiced emphatic protests against falling back on the East Wall in the north without good cause, and on January 5, 1944, Hitler forbade any voluntary withdrawal.  The consequence was that when the Russian offensive began there nine days later, K¸chler’s weakened army group was no longer strong enough to withstand it, and it was thrown back onto the East Wall line anyway.  K¸chler was replaced by General Model, Hitler’s stoutest defensive expert, and he halted the Soviet onslaught.  Hitler felt that K¸chler had been lured into retreating by the fatal East Wall mentality.  “If we are going to withdraw to it anyway, why bother to hold on !”

As for the Allies, despite Cicero, the end of 1943 saw Hitler completely ignorant of their intentions.  An early cross-Channel invasion was expected, but even here an Allied bluff was not impossible.  A regular participant in the war conferences, Captain Heinz Assmann, wrote on December 29 :

The questions occupying the F¸hrer and Wehrmacht operations staff now are primarily these :

1.  Is all the Anglo-American huffing and puffing about an invasion in the west—speeches, articles, new appointments, and newspaper reports—really serious or just an immense bluff to dupe Germany and perhaps Russia too ?  Are they trying to lure units away from the eastern front or prevent us from reinforcing that front at the crucial moment of the Soviet winter offensive ?
2.  Is the invasion hubbub a diversion for a major operation in the Balkans, either via Crete, Rhodes, and the Aegean, or via Turkey, or both ?
3.  Is the invasion planned not for the west but perhaps in Denmark-Norway after all ?
4.  Is Turkey as reliable as she seems, or has she perhaps already resigned herself to the passage of British troops and the use of her airfields ?
5.  Can we hold on to the Ukraine, which is vital for feeding the German people ?  Where can we still cut back on strength to help the worst pressure points on the eastern front ?  Where is the first infallible clue as to their real invasion intentions ?
6.  Will the U-boat campaign with the new submarine types result in the desired successes ?

Much would depend on the new secret submarine types.  The need to train them in the Baltic was one powerful argument Admiral D–nitz had voiced against allowing K¸chler’s Army Group North to fall back any farther, and recent naval events had greatly enhanced D–nitz’s standing at the Wolf’s Lair.

Once again the navy had shown an aggressive spirit which Hitler sadly missed in his field marshals.  On Sunday December 26 the battle cruiser Scharnhorst had attacked an Allied convoy in the Arctic.  Previous experience had indicated that the enemy was prudently reluctant to fight D–nitz’s big ships in the dark, and in December there would be no light at all in those northern latitudes.  But at 7:35 P.M. D–nitz telephoned Hitler with the alarming news that British warships had picked up the Scharnhorst while they were still thirty miles off, and had evidently destroyed her.  An hour earlier, the bewildered Rear Admiral Bey had signaled Berlin :  “Enemy firing at us by radar at a range of over eighteen thousand meters,” followed barely six minutes later by a grim farewell :  “To the F¸hrer !  We fight to our last shell.”  Then there had only been silence, interrupted by English signals like “Finish her off with torpedoes !”—“Fire a star shell !”—“Clear the the target area except for those ships with torpedoes and one destroyer with searchlight.”  Hitler accepted the warship’s loss philosophically.  If the enemy’s radar was so good—according to D–nitz the British had pinpointed in their radar every waterspout thrown up by the shells—then the Scharnhorst had been like a blind man boxing with a prizefighter.

Hitherto radar research had been controlled by G–ring.  It was a conspicuous failure.  The British night bombers could bomb Berlin accurately through ten-tenths cloud, and a new 3-centimeter radar had just been found in a downed bomber, but the Luftwaffe could still not operate even a 10-centimeter radar system.  Under pressure from Speer and D–nitz at the Wolf’s Lair on January 2, Hitler transferred all radar and electronics research to Speer’s unified control.

In a lightning war like those with Poland and France in 1939 and 1940, fought by largely professional armies, the political indoctrination of the troops was of little moment.  In the bitter, protracted contest the war had now become, however, with four-fifths of the fighting men recruited from German civilian life, Hitler recognized—too late—that such indoctrination was as important as material armament.  By early 1943 troop morale was already suffering, particularly from the frontline soldier’s uncertainty about the fate of his wife and family after the heavy British night attacks.  Hitler expected his generals to explain the purpose of the struggle to their men, and when all but a few—like Walter Model, Ferdinand Sch–rner, and Lothar Rendulic—proved unequal to the task he called upon the Party to instill the necessary spirit.  He had addressed the generals assembled by Bormann for this purpose at the Wolf’s Lair on October 16 and reassured them that he would not emulate the hated political commissar system of the Bolsheviks :  he would not be putting Party lecturers into army uniform, but elevating loyal and politically conscious officers to positions in which they could influence their comrades.

There is no doubt that Hitler was finally impelled to issue his order of December 22, 1943, establishing an OKW National Socialist Leadership Staff under General Hermann Reinecke, by the uncomfortably effective subversion campaign being directed against the eastern front by the renegade German generals taken prisoner at Stalingrad.  Late in August his former orderly, Hans Junge—now a Waffen SS officer in Russia—had visited him briefly.  “The most dangerous developments at the front at this juncture,” Hitler asserted later, “are definitely the [anti-Nazi] proclamations printed by General Seydlitz.  Various people told me so, most vividly Junge, who’s got his head screwed on.  The proclamations arrive in black-white-and-red”—the colors of the Reich—“and the ordinary soldier can’t tell what’s true and what isn’t.  Besides our soldiers have always taken officers to be men of honor.”  The troops were completely taken in by trick photomontages published by these Moscow renegades.  How were they to know that Stalin’s League of German Officers—of which Seydlitz was chairman—was as Hitler said just “a herd of unprincipled swine who have sold their souls to the Devil”?

The December 22 order gave the Party its first bridgehead into the Wehrmacht.  Early in January General Reinecke announced to Hitler that he and Martin Bormann’s Party chancellery were recruiting a small fanatical leadership staff from old, experienced Party warriors and young battle-hardened army officers ;  in this undertaking they had Himmler’s active support.  Schmundt assured Hitler that the army had been clamoring for it for a long time.  But while the new Party—indoctrinated “leadership officers” would undoubtedly influence the lower command levels to which they were temporarily attached, Hitler himself had to speak to the senior generals, who would otherwise remain immune.  Hitler strongly wanted to crack the whip over them again, for unsettling reports had recently reached him—including one broadcast by the BBC—that certain disaffected generals were plotting his overthrow or even assassination.  But he hesitated.  “It would be hard to bring them all together at the same time.”  Bormann, however, was eager.  “If it could be done, it would be the biggest success.”

Keitel reminded Hitler that they needed to appoint a specially capable “leadership officer” for the army.  Hitler replied without hesitation, “Schorner.  He is a fanatic !”  Until recently commander of the bridgehead at Nikopol, Schorner was a tough general not given to defeatism.  Only recently he had ended a letter to Schmundt with the words :  “You know the position here.  But we will pull through.”  How different from the melancholy Manstein, who saw his fame as a commander withering before his eyes !

Manstein arrived in agitation on January 4, 1944, and again demanded permission to withdraw his entire southern sector—thereby abandoning Nikopol and the Crimea forever—to find the means to buttress his damaged northern sector, where the Fourth Panzer Army had now been thrown back on to the former Polish frontier.  Again Hitler refused.  Manstein asked for the others present to leave the room and in Zeitzler’s presence alone launched a sober and forceful critique of Hitler’s overall military command in the east.  Hitler tried to stare him down—like “an Indian snake charmer,” in Manstein’s words ;  but the field marshal could not be charmed.  He recommended that Hitler appoint a Commander in Chief East like Rundstedt in the west and Kesselring in Italy.  Hitler had heard all this before.  He pointed out that nobody had as much authority as he had, “and even I am not obeyed by my field marshals.  Do you think they would obey you any better ?”  He could offer Manstein no fresh divisions :  D–nitz had persuaded him not to shorten the front of Army Group North any further ;  in the west they must first wait until the invasion had been defeated, or the British had got bogged down in Portugal—his latest idÈe fixe.  Hitler explained to Manstein that he was fighting to gain time—time to raise new armies, time for the U-boat campaign beginning in May 1944 to bite, time for the smoldering East-West dispute to blaze up into the open.  Russia’s frontier changes in Poland were already provoking near hysteria in London and Washington.  In the event, Manstein’s soldiers were able to withstand the winter onslaught, yielding almost no ground to the Russians ;  where there was a will, Hitler concluded, there was evidently a way.

During these first days of 1944, Hitler laid down the material foundations of the coming year’s campaign.  He personally besought D–nitz, Speer, and their submarine experts to keep to production targets.  He had ordered G–ring to concentrate production effort on the jet fighters and jet bombers, and just in case the jet ran into snags—on the unique Dornier 335 fighter-bomber, which had a propellor at each end and was attaining speeds almost as high as the jet fighter.  He ordered jet-engine production to be housed underground at the Central Works tunnel-factory already producing A-4 rockets near Nordhausen, and on January 4 he again told Speer and Milch how much he was relying on the new secret U-boat types and the jet aircraft.  “If I get the jets in time, I can fight off the invasion with them”—and again, a few days later—“If I get a few hundred of them to the front line, it will exorcise the specter of invasion for all time.”

Finally, on January 4 he applied himself to the overriding manpower problem.  During 1944 Germany somehow had to raise more than four million new workers.  The whole afternoon was devoted to a conference between Keitel, Speer, Milch, and Herbert Backe, agriculture minister, as the “employers” and Sauckel and Himmler as the “manpower procurers.”  Speer’s belief was that French workers were more productive in “protected” factories in France, but Sauckel raised powerful arguments for continuing the conscription of French labor for war plants in Germany.  He emphatically contended that even by taking Italian forced labor into account he could not guarantee the 4,050,000 new workers needed for 1944.  Hitler was still loath to employ female workers on a scale comparable to Russia, Britain, and the United States, explaining that there was no comparison between “our long-legged, slender women” and the “stocky, primitive, and robust Russian women.”

Sauckel counted heavily on Italian forced labor.  But once again the “Italian problem” thwarted Hitler.  To please Mussolini, he had agreed to the raising of a modest new Italian army—four divisions ;  the Italian internees had only to volunteer for these to escape labor service, but few of the “volunteers” ever reached the divisions.  The only ray of sunshine in this darkness had been Mussolini’s unexpected arrest of Count Ciano :  together with his “fellow conspirators” he was tried and condemned to death by a Fascist court in Verona in January.  His wife, the former Edda Mussolini, managed that very day to escape to Switzerland, having addressed this letter to Hitler :

F¸hrer !  Twice I believed your word, and twice I have been cheated.  Only the soldiers lying on the battlefields prevent me from deserting to the enemy.  If my husband is not released ... nothing but that will stop me :  for some time now the documents have been held by people authorized to make use of them if anything were to happen to my husband, me, my children, or my family.

A similar letter had gone to Mussolini himself :  if Ciano was not in Switzerland within three days, Edda would make use of every document she possessed.  Hitler took no action to intervene, and Ciano met the Fascist firing squad at 9 A.M. the next day, January 11.

The spectacular failure of the Allies to make any headway in Italy was a huge comfort to Hitler.  Since early September the enemy had managed to advance only forty kilometers—little more than six miles per month—despite immense naval and air superiority.  A year later Jodl was to comment on the Allies’ bad strategy.  “I still cannot understand why they began right down at the bottom and fought a laborious land campaign northward instead of using their colossal naval and other strength to leapfrog northward on a huge scale.”  This, coupled with Hitler’s stubborn defense of the Crimea, undoubtedly impressed Turkey to remain neutral.  While General Jodl maintained his instinctive fear for the Balkans for some months yet, Hitler concluded correctly from the Cicero reports that he could safely draw on his Balkan contingents to strengthen the Russian front.  On January 12—Cicero’s microfilmed documents revealed—the British foreign office had secretly cabled in exasperation to the British ambassador in Ankara that Turkey was unlikely now to enter the war soon.  “We must now concentrate our main effort on maintaining the threat to the Germans from the eastern Mediterranean.  At the same time the situation on the Russian front is moving rapidly and may be followed by developments which will cause a change in the Turkish attitude.”  Ribbentrop advised his ambassador to disclose to the Turks that the evidence was that provided Turkey remained intransigent Britain could not afford to break completely with her.  According to the Cicero documents, Britain’s ambassador was informed that Turkey was required to enter the war at the same time as “Overlord”—the invasion from British soil—began ;  this finally convinced Hitler that enemy strategy in the Balkans would be limited to diversionary operations only, rather than be the main invasion assault.  (Furthermore an air raid was being planned against the Romanian oil refineries at Ploesti after March 15 ;  it was code-named “Operation Saturn.”)  The Turkish foreign minister, Menemencioglu Numan, meanwhile informed a furious British ambassador :  “We are not so stupid as to get dragged into a war against our own interests for the second time in twenty-five years.”  Ribbentrop instructed that a quarter of a million gold marks was to be paid to Cicero ;  it was money well spent.

Despite Manstein’s misgivings, his Army Group South had staged a brilliant defense of the Dnieper bend and the bridgehead at Nikopol, but as the position of the Fourth Panzer Army on his left flank grew increasingly precarious he wrote urgently first to Zeitzler and then to Hitler himself appealing for reinforcements before his entire army group was encircled.  Hitler dismissed the letters as a typical attempt by Manstein to justify his inevitable failure to future historians.

Hitler next saw Manstein on January 27.  At Schmundt’s suggestion, he had summoned the principal generals from the Russian front to hear a two-hour secret speech designed to put fresh fire into their veins.  Row upon row, the generals sat before him in the dining room of a converted inn in the OKW’s Security Zone II, near the Wolf’s Lair.  For two days they had listened to speeches by Goebbels, Rosenberg, and other Party leaders at Posen (Poznan).  Now—after a communal lunch—they heard Hitler lecture articulately and, if the shorthand record be taken as a guide, powerfully on war and nations, and on the influence of leadership and racial character on a nation’s morale.  He hinted at new torpedoes, new submarines, new radar equipment, and secret weapons which would turn the tide in their favor after May 1944 ;  until then they must grimly hold out.  For this, National Socialist indoctrination—that same “holy conviction” that distinguished the Reich from the merely skeletal administrative structure that had been fascism in Italy—was indispensable.

Toward the end of his speech, something incredible occurred.  For the first time, he was loudly interrupted.  He had just addressed this challenge to the generals :  “. . . If the worse comes to the worst and I am ever abandoned as Supreme Commander by my people, I must still expect my entire office corps to muster around me with daggers drawn just as every field marshal, or the commander of an army, corps, division, or regiment expects his subordinates to stand by him in the hour of crisis.”  As he paused in his rhetoric, Manstein’s voice came from the front row, loud and—possibly—reproachful :  “ And so it will be, mein F¸hrer !”  The interruption created a sensation at the Wolf’s Lair, where it was talked about for days.  Hitler hoped at first the field marshal had meant to reassure him of their loyalty, but Bormann and the adjutants told him the generals had interpreted the outburst otherwise :  that the worse would indeed come to the worst.  It was an interruption of exquisite ambiguity.(3)

Shortly afterward Hitler sent for the field marshal.  “Field marshal, I must forbid you ever to interrupt a speech by me to my generals again.”  Then he referred sarcastically to Manstein’s recent letter asking for reinforcements.  “No doubt you wanted it in your war diary to clear your name before the historians !”  Manstein angrily retorted that his letters to the F¸ihrer never went into the diary.  “Forgive me for resorting to an English expression, but I am a gentleman.”  At that evening’s war conference Hitler melted toward Manstein again.  Perhaps it was innate respect for this outstanding commander ;  perhaps it was just because General Erwin Jaenecke spoke confidently of his Seventeenth Army’s ability to hold the Crimea, during the conference.  The other army- and army-group commanders were equally optimistic now, though none of them viewed the future exactly rosily.  This was the effect of Hitler’s rhetoric.

Twice that day—both in his speech and in the private evening circle—Hitler again formulated his goal as winning for Germany the “world domination” for which she was “predestined.”  That night he told Bormann of his unorthodox ideas for making good Germany’s disastrous casualties, for otherwise in population terms she would lose the war even though victorious militarily.  Hitler remarked that Germany’s most important asset, the fertility of entire generations of German women—perhaps three or four million of them—would be wasted unless men could be found for them.  A great campaign must begin for every sound German woman, married or not, to bear as many children as possible to safeguard Germany’s future.  Writers, poets, and artists must henceforth extol the unmarried mother.  As in animal breeding, the finest specimens of manhood must do their bit, and German womanhood must be educated to abandon their fanatical insistence on marital fidelity—“a fetish they often ignore themselves until they are married,” Hitler slyly observed.  Otherwise one day Germany, and with her all Europe, would be overwhelmed by the Asiatic hordes of which the current Russian plague was but a part.  “We must look at the population charts of Europe and Asia in 1850, 1870, and 1900,” said Hitler, “and try to visualize what the map of 1945 will be.”

1 On November 14, 1943, K¸chler’s Chief of Staff, General Eberhard Kinzel, was bluntly instructed at the Wolfs Lair that K¸chler must withdraw enough strength from the army group’s northernmost (Eighteenth) army to deal with Nevel.  But Nevel was never recaptured.—Kinzel was, it can be remarked, the former chief of Foreign Armies East Intelligence, whose faulty appreciations had irreparably harmed the “Barbarossa” campaign until his removal in April 1942.  He took his own life in April 1945.

2 According to Hitler’s Luftwaffe adjutant Colonel von Below, a further Cicero document actually identified the location of “Overlord” as the Normandy peninsula.  Below can still hear Hitler’s puzzled exclamation :  “But why on earth should the British have found it necessary to tell their ambassador in Turkey that ?”  Late in February 1944 Hitler certainly began insisting that Normandy must be reinforced, while refusing to explain why.

3 It resulted, according to Schmundt’s diary, in Manstein’s eventual dismissal.


p. 583   On the Balkan situation :  Weichs’s appreciation of November 1, 1943, is in naval staff war diary, annexes, Part C, Vol. XIV (PG/32217);  I also used the OKW war diary, Weichs’s private diary (N 19/3), and the files of the German envoy at Zagreb, Kasche (AA Serial 1770), and interrogations of Dr. Hermann Neubacher, who later published an erudite history, Sonderauftrag S¸dost 1940-45 (G–ttingen, 1958).

p. 584   Much has been written about “Cicero.”  I have relied only on the contemporary records, in Cabinet Office file AL 2656, secret AA files (Serial 1553), and Steengracht’s AA file on Turkey (Serial 61).  There are cautious references to his work in the naval staff diary (e.g., November 12) and Ribbentrop’s discussions with Dobri Bozhiloff, the Bulgarian Prime Minister, and Oshima, and in Goebbels’s diary, November 13 and 20, 1943.  As the summary in Jodl’s diary, February 1944, shows, the authenticity of Cicero’s documents was accepted at every level right up to Hitler.

p. 585   On Hoth’s dismissal :  war diary of chief of army personnel, November 3, 1943.  On January 7, 1944, Hitler remarked to Keitel, on the army’s poor political record.  “I hear hideous reports on this score.  Worst of all, I don’t mind saying, was how it was in Hoth’s army :  in his generals’ presence Hoth constantly criticized all the Weltanschauung-measures.  This is why the Fourth Panzer Army has made the worst showing” (NS-6/162).

p. 586   In Central Planning on March 1, 1944, Milch recalled :  “On March 5 [last year] I stated to the F¸hrer that there was already enough manpower in the army, air force, and navy for them to mobilize the necessary combat troops from within.  In November the F¸hrer ordered a census and found out that there are only 265,000 combat troops permanently at the eastern front.... Remember, I had that job at Stalingrad [directing the airlift to the Sixth Army in January 1943]:  at Taganrog [far to the rear] there were 65,000 army troops, while every kilometer at the front was being held by one lieutenant and six men, who would have been delighted to get twenty or thirty men to help them” (MD 48/9983 et seq.).

p. 587   I used an investigation by U.S. authorities of the underground Central Works factory in May 1945 (FD-3268/45), its production records (held in London), and the excellent reports made by the special mission of Colonel T.R.B. Sanders on the V-weapon sites in France, February 21, 1945, top secret ;  also a manuscript by Colonel Eugen Walter (MS B-689) of the “Sixty-Fifth Army Corps” set up to control the V-weapons, and Milch’s documents and Jodl’s diary.

p. 589   On the planning of the Luftwaffe’s winter attack on London see Goebbels’s diary, December 7, 1943 ;  Koller’s files (T321/90/0413 et seq.), and the annexes to the OKL war diary on T3200.  Hitler is quoted from his war conference on January 28, 1944.

p. 590   The original FO telegrams to Ankara are in PRO files, e.g., FO 371/37478-9.

p. 592   K¸chler’s account of his meeting with Hitler is an annex to the war diary of Army Group North (T311/79/2814 et seq.).  See also Admiral Heinz Assmann’s letter to the naval staff, December 29, 1943 (PG/31747), which I quote at length on pages 592-93.

p. 593   There is a file on the Scharnhorst’s end in naval staff war diary annexes, Part C, Vol. II.  I also used the entries for December 2 and 23-28, 1943, and January 8, 1944, and D–nitz’s conference with Commander in Chief Naval Group North (PG/31747).

p. 594   A Colonel Lersner’s record of Hitler’s speech on October 16, 1943, is on microfilm T77/1039/2937 et seq.  On Nazi indoctrination proposals, see the papers by Waldemar Besson, Gerhard L. Weinberg, and Volker Berghahn published in VfZ, in 1961 (page 76), 1964 (page 443), and 1969 (page 17), respectively.  General Sch–rner’s correspondence is in British files (AL/2831).

p. 594   See the stenogram of Reinecke’s discussion with Hitler on January 7, 1944, in Party files (NS-6/162).  I also used interrogations of Reinecke and G–ring by OCMH.

p. 596   Many sources on the January 4, 1944, conference exist :  by Lammers, (ND, 1292-PS) and a circular (T84/175/4886 et seq.);  by Sauckel, (1292-PS) and memo (T175/71/8037 et seq.);  by Speer, in his Chronik ;  references in Central Planning meetings on February 16 and March 1, 1944 (MD48/10066 et seq., and 9953 et seq.), and in the diaries of Milch and Himmler.

p. 596   Edda Mussolini’s letters are in AA files Serial 738, pages 267674 et seq.

p. 597   Encouraged by Cicero’s reports, Hitler began withdrawing forces from the Balkans in December :  see Jodl’s diary for December 23, 28, and 29, 1943, and February 10 (?), 1944.

pp. 597-98   The shorthand record of Hitler’s January 27, 1944, secret address is in the BA Schumacher collection, file 365.  It is referred to also in the diaries of the naval staff, Jodl, Weichs (March 3, 1944), and Salmuth (March 27, 1946), and of the chief of army personnel (Schmundt), January 27, 1944 :  Hitler had “delivered a speech in very grave tones,” during which “Field Marshal von Manstein made an interruption.  In connection with this interruption and the various tensions of late the question of retiring Field Marshal Manstein is again debated.”

p. 599   Bormann’s record of Hitler’s remarks on January 27-28, 1944, is on IfZ microfilm MA-340.