The Most Reviled
Thus the Ukraine was lostthe fertile countryside for which Hitler had invaded Russia. The German invaders had been driven out by the Soviet armies andnot leastby the disappointed, deceived, and angry Ukrainians themselves. If the rest of this war and its victorious conclusion should ever see these territories vouchsafed to us again, a Gauleiter wrote, then there must be a radical change in our attitude to and treatment of the native population. Erich Koch had achieved the seemingly impossible in one year : converting the forty million Ukrainians who had greeted the German invaders with garlands and lauded them as their liberators from the hated Bolshevik yoke into a sullen, seething people, driven as partisans into the forests and swamplands of the north Ukraine.
In the early weeks of the Russian campaign, when Hitlers fifth Blitzkrieg victory seemed likely, Kochs brutal sledgehammer policies were arguably best suited to produce the maximum effect in the shortest time. But as one ugly surprise after another confronted Hitler that year, the same critical Gauleiter quoted aboveAlfred Frauenfeld, governor of the Crimeanow pointed out that Hitler should have found the moral courage to replace Koch by someone with more elastic policies. It was not enough to draw on Britains brutal colonial policies as an excuse. Koch had proclaimed the serfdom and inferiority of the Slavs with such raucous insistence that even a disaster policy deliberately planned and paid for by the enemy could hardly have done more harm. Koch had frequently stormed, for example : If I find a Ukrainian fit to sit at my table, I must shoot him ! Koch had closed down the schools laboriously reopened by the Wehrmacht, robbed the farmers of their last cows, dispensed with Ukrainian doctors and vets alikewithout reflecting that diseases and epidemics were no respecters of the German occupation forcesand deported the able-bodied to Germany in a manner reminiscent of Arab slave traders. When Hitler had instituted medals for bravery and hard work, Koch had waited nearly a year before unwillingly issuing any to the Ukrainians. In mid-April Koch was described to Himmler as looking like an alcoholic on his last legshis face a pasty bluish-white, lined and pock-marked from one ear to the other. He is incapable of orderly debate. Even the soberest instruction throws him into a rage, and he rejects it with a volley of oaths.
How far Hitler still sympathized with his raucous Gauleiter is uncertain. But his determination to reconquer these lost Russian territoriesa prize glittering at the end of the coming bloody yearremained undimmed. He told the trusted Marshal Antonescu in March and Karl-Otto Saur in April that once the invasion threat had passedeither gloriously defeated by Rundstedt and Rommel or exposed as a shameless fraudhe would bring back his victorious armies from France to the eastern front and deliver the knockout blow. Instinct and intuition, those twin insidious sources of comfort to the F¸hrer, assured him the Red Army was almost exhausted ; he said as much to Kleist on March 30, when the dismissed army group commander advised him to make peace with Stalin. On April 8, a grim battle began to rage in the Crimea. Hitler would not relinquish his goal. In spite of Zeitzlers appeal that thousands of German soldiers in the Crimea will be lost if you dont act now, Hitler refused to order their evacuation. One thousand more or less are of no consequence. Manstein, inspired by Hitlers speech of March 19, shared this view ; he admitted to Admiral D–nitz : Perhaps the F¸hrer is right in not yielding one foot of ground voluntarily. Antonescu, moved by Hitlers arguments, agreed that the Crimea must be held.
Hitler told his adjutants he would never let history reproach him for losing faith in final victory just when it was almost within his graspas had happened to Germany in November 1918. New secret weapons, new armies, were on the way. For the reconquest of Russia in 1945 he would need tanks and self-propelled assault guns above all. The air force cant win wars, Saur told the Fighter Staff after a long talk with Hitler on April 7. Its job is to protect the tank production lines and keep them working. The Russian campaign can only be ended with tanks. Thats why the F¸hrer said yesterday, If this tank production program is realized, then it will win the war for us. But the prerequisite for this is that our Luftwaffe production targets are met one hundred percent, so that we can keep the enemy at bay and the tank factories rolling. Saur promised to increase aircraft production fivefold during 1944. A big new factory would be built in Hungary, turning out five hundred new fighters a month.
When Admiral D–nitz attempted on April 13 to obtain production priority for certain naval items, Hitler flatly refused. Tanks and assault guns are my lifeblood too, but nonetheless weve got to put up a fighter umbrella over the Reich first of all. That is the alpha and omega of it.
He asked G–ring what had become of the underground factories Speers ministry had been ordered to build the previous autumn, and when G–ring gave no satisfactory answer Hitler instructed Xaver Dorsch, chief of the Todt Organization, to present himself at the Berghof the next day. Dorsch pointed out that his organization did not operate within the Reich frontiersthe factories were the responsibility of Speers own construction chief, Carl Stobbe-Dethleffsen. Hitler angrily retorted, Ive had enough of these petty squabbles ! I want the Todt Organization to build the factoriesat once ! The six-month-old blueprints were fetched from Berlin ; Hitler passed them at once and ordained that in the future, Dorschs organization was to construct all the major building projects in the Reich. Dorsch was embarrassed at this rebuff to his absent chief, Speer, andafter Bormann and the two obligatory stenographers had been asked to withdrawhe pointed out that it was Reichsminister Speers will that the Todt Organization should not function within the Reich frontiers but only in the occupied countries. Hitler was unrepentant. On April 16 he ordered Dorsch to build ten mushroom-type bombproof hangars for the fighter squadrons, and a bombproof aircraft factory, the first of its kind, near Landsberg in Bavaria. G–ring undertook to place the Luftwaffes construction organization at Dorschs disposal too. On Hitlers instructions, G–ring summoned all the construction expertsexcept Speer and Stobbe-Dethleffsenon the nineteenth. I will brook no further delays, Hitler had told him.
Speers reaction to this organized dismantling of his empire was immediate. On April 19 a voluminous and pained letter arrived at the Berghof, and its bearerone of the ministers stafforally added that Speer was minded to resign all his offices, a threat he had not however included in his letter. Speers hypnotic command tended to dissipate in his absence. While it was unquestionably Speer who had achieved the production miraclestypified most sensationally by the launching on April 17 and ig of D–nitzs first two Mark XXI U-boats six months ahead of scheduleit was Saur and Dorsch who were the frequent Berghof visitors, while Speer took a leisurely five-month convalescence in the Tyrol mountains. And it was Saur who stood beside the F¸hrer as the brand-new armor rumbled past him at Klessheim castle on his birthday, April 20the outstanding new 38-ton pursuit tank, and Vomags heavy, fast, low-profiled hunter-killer tank, with its ultralong 75-millimeter gun. Once these birthday presents were in mass production, Hitler planned to turn the tide of battle on the eastern front decisively in Germanys favor. But that afternoon Field Marshal Milch begged him not to let Speer go, and he asked for some message of comfort with which to repair the ministers injured vanity. Hitler drummed his fingers absently on the windows, then curtly answered, Jawohl, gut ! Tell Speer from me that I am very fond of him. Is that enough ?
Milch returned from the Tyrol the next day, but Hitler was too grieved to notice him. That afternoon, he had received General Hube at the Berghof, decorated him for his First Panzer Armys magnificent fighting escape from the Soviet encirclement, and promoted him to four-star general. Hitler had mentioned to Schmundt and the other adjutants the previous evening the possibility that he would soon appoint the one-armed general Commander in Chief of the army. Hube had asked permission to fly back to Berlin that night for personal reasons ; Hitler had agreed, although the generals pilot lacked night-flying experience. Now he regretted it, for the Junkers had flown into a mountain outside Salzburg. Hube was dead and the jovial Walther Hewel had received terrible burns and injuries.
A melancholy F¸hrer welcomed Speer on the Berghof steps on April 24. Speer charmed him away from his previous designs ; having realized that Xaver Dorsch now had Hitlers fullest confidence, Speer himself proposed making him overall director of Reich construction workinside his ministry. Hitler told him to do as he thought best. It was the same with the A-4 projectile. On the twenty-fifth General Korten, the Luftwaffes Chief of Staff, added his authority to the longstanding appeal by Saur, Milch, and G–rings technical adjutant, Colonel Ulrich Diesing, for A-4 production to shut down in favor of fighterand now tankproduction. (We wont see the A-4 this year, Milch predicted.) Hitler refused. In the pilotless bombardment of England he saw an important means of striking at the morale of the enemy invasion troopswerent his own soldiers in Russia sick with worry when the British bombed their home towns ? Rommelthe only surviving candidate for army Commander in Chief now that Hube was deademphasized this psychological element of the battle that might now begin with any dawn. The big air raids here probably mean the invasion preparations have already begun, wrote Rommel privately on the twenty-sixth. Here at the front the damage is slight so far, and its good that our troops get accustomed to this saturation bombardment. Morale in Britain is rock-bottom, one strike after another, the screams of down with Churchill and the Jews and cries for peace are growing louder. Bad omens for such a risky offensive....
Before considering Rommels preparations to meet the Allied invasion, we must first investigate what was for Hitler the most disturbing event of that springthe premature and seemingly unnecessary loss of the Crimea. On April 10 the Sixth Army had been forced to abandon Odessa, the port through which the navy had been keeping General Jaeneckes beleaguered Seventeenth Army in the Crimea supplied ; but the roots of the catastrophe went back much furthersome would say to the Crimea psychosis induced by Jaeneckes furtive attempt to abandon the peninsula as early as October. Thereafter, both army and navy commanders in the Black Sea had contrived to keep Hitler, and even their own superiors, in the dark about developments. Thus, Zeitzler had sincerely assured Hitler that Nikolaev, the Russian naval dockyard, was in no dangerit was, in fact, overrun two days later. And Kleist had informed Hitler on March 27 that Admiral Helmuth Brinkmann had ordered the evacuation of the naval base at Odessa two weeks earlieran arbitrary act of which even D–nitz was unaware when Hitler furiously telephoned him. Hitler had to resign himself to the loss of Odessa itself, consoled by the thought that at least there would be time for the demolition of its dockyards and the mining of its approaches. He dismissed Kleist three days later.
With General Sch–rners appointment to Kleists command, renamed Army Group South-Ukrainea provocative hint at Hitlers undiminished plans of conquesta fresh spirit swept through the troops. Sch–rners Crimean orders were harsh and his methods unorthodox. He lured one Romanian division after another into the German lines and intermarried them irrevocably with German units so that Antonescu could not withdraw them if he wished. Now that the Seventeenth Army had fallen back on Sevastopol, the fortress harbor at the southern end of the Crimean peninsula, he ordered any troops abandoning their positions shot for cowardice ; if Russian tanksand over five hundred had poured through the breaches into the peninsulabroke through these last positions, they were to be knocked out in the rear and the lines themselves repaired. Any soldier destroying an enemy tank with a bazooka was to get an immediate three-week mainland leave.
D–nitz predicted that the loss of Odessa by Kleists army group would make the eventual loss of the Crimea inevitable. Though the Seventeenth Army had enough food and ammunition to hold out for many months, the navy would then be able to ferry only about thirty thousand tons a month from Constanta, in Romania, to Sevastopol. Operating from Odessa, the Russiansignoring the German minefieldswould be in a position to interrupt the lighter coastal traffic ; in addition, the route from Constanta to Sevastopol was far longer.
On April 3, Zeitzler confidentially informed the OKW that Odessa could not be held, but that lower echelons were not yet to be told ; this time D–nitz and Hitler did learn in advance. Indeed, Zeitzler subsequently used D–nitzs own memorandum on the importance of Odessa for the Crimea to support his own argument for the peninsulas immediate evacuation. D–nitz responded pathetically that only the F¸hrer could take in the whole strategic situation and that as soon as the invasion of France had been thwarted, the lost territories in Russia would be reconquered. Zeitzler rejoined that 180,000 troops were at risk in the Crimeatroops urgently needed for the defense of the South Ukraine and of Romania herself.
In spite of the points made in his earlier memorandum, D–nitz advised Hitler to hang on to the Crimea even if Odessa was lost. He telephoned the Berghof on April 8, emphasizing that the Seventeenth Army had supplies for a siege of five of six months. Recalling his own World War I experiences, he now argued that the Russians were unlikely to disrupt the German supply operations from Odessa and Nikolaev. Two days later, however, General Jaenecke ordered the evacuation of the Crimea to begin. He was acting on his own responsibility again, though with Sch–rners subsequent approval, since a hundred Russian tanks were pouring southward following the collapse of the Romanian 10th Infantry Division on the northern front. But again Hitler had not been informed, and again he canceled Jaeneckes ordercalling instead for an evacuation of the Kerch peninsula while the northern front was repaired.
But events were now moving faster than Hitlers orders, and the breach was too wide to repair. Even as Hitler was telephoning D–nitz that evening that not until the next day would he reach a decision on whether or not to abandon the Crimea, Jaenecke was informing the navy that his army was already in full flight toward Sevastopol. When the navy in turn put this startling news to General Jodl, he replied it was not an OKW concernthe Russian front was Zeitzlers affair. Hitler issued the only order possible on the twelfthall nonessential personnel were to be evacuated from the Crimea. He added, however : I have decided to hold on to the Sevastopol battlefield itself as long as humanly possible, to tie as many enemy forces as possible to that front. He feared that the loss of Odessawhich would bring Russian naval strength back to the western Black Sea againand of the Crimea had already caused irreparable damage to Germanys political position. To stave off these effects, he ordered the army and navy to rush antitank guns, ammunition, bazookas, and above all food to Sevastopol. D–nitz promised that his navy would make every sacrifice necessary to keep the fortress provisioned, and he at least kept his word.
However, the effect of the Crimean debacle on Turkey was immediate. On April 20 she bowed to mounting Allied pressure, announced that she was no longer neutral but a pro-Allied country, and would cease the vital chrome deliveries to Germany within ten days. Privately the Turkish foreign minister apologized to Germany that his country had been threatened with war by Russia and with blockade by the Allies. It was a language Hitler fully understood, having employed it himself in more propitious circumstances.
Several days passed before the Russians began their all-out assault on Sevastopoldays during which they rebuilt the airfields and brought 27 divisions and some 200 tanks into position along the fortresss twenty-two-mile perimeter. D–nitz had evacuated 100,000 pioneers and nonessential troops to Constanta, leaving perhaps 35,000 manning the front line and 90,000 more in the rearan imbalance which was the object of Hitlers later criticism. Their material position seemed hopeless : in the precipitous retreat into the fortress, Jaenecke had lost most of his armys guns and ammunition. He had 81 pieces of artillery, 36 antitank guns, and 9 tanks ; their ammunition was low. Neither he nor his naval counterpart, Admiral Brinkmann, believed the siege could be withstood for long. Hitler disagreed : he ordered the war ministry to rush guns and ammunition to Sevastopol. Zeitzler even asked for Field Marshal Milch to be put in chargefor there were many similarities with Stalingrad. Hitler, however, left Zeitzler and his logistics generals in command, and this was a fatal error, for again they proved unequal to the taskwhether it was premeditated treachery or incompetence we cannot tell.(1) At all events, Zeitzler shortly complained to Hitler that the navys ships docking at Sevastopol to evacuate the prisoners, injured and useless eaters, were arriving empty instead of bringing the army supplies Hitler had ordered ; Hitlers inquiries revealed that those supplies had still not reached Constanta, so it was not the navys fault. D–nitz now changed his tune, since he feared that a sudden crisis in the fortress might result in an equally sudden demand for the navy to evacuate its entire garrison in an impossibly short time. On April 24 he telegraphed to the Berghofto put himself on record thus : The Commander in Chief, navy, has never adjudged [whether Sevastopol could be held or not]; this is the armys concern alone. Privately he now accepted Zeitzlers view that the garrison was doomed ; but the F¸hrer must decidethe F¸hrer must have his reasons for hanging on to Sevastopol.
Hitler in fact feared that the loss of Sevastopol would actually bring Turkey into the war and set off a similar chain-reaction in the other neutral lands. On April 25, D–nitzs two local commanders personally assured him at the Berghof that sufficient supplies for a hundred thousand troops could be convoyed to Sevastopolprovided they arrived at Constanta. Only Jaenecke spoke out against Hitlers decision to keep fighting ; and even then his tongue failed him at the Berghof on April 29, and he had to speak his real mind in a carping five-page letter to Hitler the next day. He blamed Kleists tactical errors for the loss of the Crimea ; the imminent Soviet assault on the Seventeenth Army was bound to succeed. Would it not be better to snatch this prey, over which the Bolsheviks are already crowing, from under their very noses and transfer the forces to Army Group South-Ukraine ? It was a tempting argument, but Hitler was a realist. The Sevastopol troops would arrive dispirited, exhausted, and virtually unarmeduseless as reinforcements for the main front ; on the other hand, the twenty-seven Russian divisions presently besieging the fortress could immediately be thrown against the main front. The F¸hrer had no use for an army general who could not see that, and he dismissed Jaenecke from his command. General Kurt Allmendinger replaced him. Some days later, Hitler ordered Jaenecke court-martialed in order to establish just why the fertile Crimea peninsula had been lost with such staggering speed.
The throttling of Germanys only chrome supplies put a time bomb under Hitlers strategy, though the fuse was longer than he at first feared : the OKW calculated that the Reichs chrome stocksvital for the high-grade steels needed for Hitlers tank productionwould last another eighteen months.
Parallel to this uncertainty about the war, or perhaps because of it, his health was worsening. His tremor was so pronounced by early May 1944 that his left leg shook uncontrollably even when he was in bed. While the F–hn mountain wind did not affect him, the incessant snow, sleet, and rain did. He needed Morell, but the portly doctor was unsettled by the rarefied air and lived down in Berchtesgaden itself, ascending the fifteen hundred feet to the Berghof only for two hours each midday. For weeks on end the whole mountainside was swathed several times a day in acrid smoke screens as enemy bombers approached, until Morell imagined he was suffocating and had to summon doctors to attend to himself. His Berlin assistant, Dr. Richard Weber, had to tend to Hitler ; the jealous Morell would not trust his patient or consultation notes to either Dr. Brandt or his deputy, Dr. Hanskarl von Hasselbach.
Morells consultation notes on two typical sessions with Hitler, on May 4 and 5, 1944, show that the F¸hrer was no easy patient. Hitlers stomach spasms had returned. Morell had prescribed massage ; Hitler had previously refused, and now refused again. The doctor advised an early retirement each night, but Hitler was already resting ten hours a day, and he refused to go to bed earlier. That is impossible because of the British air raids ! He would not retire until the last bomber left German territory. Again Morell advised him to imbibe less liquid, less than two pints a day. Fortunately drinking and smoking are not involved, he noted ; in view of Hitlers heart condition he advised him to gulp down some coffee or take Cardiazol if he felt unwell suddenly, and meanwhile he ought to try breathing pure oxygen two or three times a day. He administered intravenous injections of glucose and of Testovirona sex hormone produced by a reputable Berlin firm.(2) In the following weeks he also injected Septo-Iodine, a recognized treatment for respiratory infections and heart condition, varying doses of Glyconorm and liver-extract, his own proprietary Vitamultin-Calcium preparation, and Tonophosphan, a tonic for Hitlers nerves and muscles. Hitler also continued to consume quantities of Dr. Koesters antigas pills. It was an incredible volume of medication for an intelligent man to submit to, but Hitler preferred it to the alternativesspasms, fatigue, time-wasting exercise, and massage.
Since early April 1944 he had expected to be awakened in his ice-cold Berghof bedroom one morning with word that the Anglo-American invasion had begun. From December to April he had half hoped that the invasion clamor in the enemy newspapers was just bluff. The whole show the British are putting on looks suspiciously like a charade to me, he had opined hopefully on April 6. These latest reports of censorship and security measures over thereyou dont go doing that if you are really up to something. Keitel had agreed : No, you keep your mouth shut ! I cant help feeling the whole thing will turn out to be a shameless charade, repeated Hitler.
This conformed with his estimate of the Allies fighting abilityKesselring was keeping them at bay in Italy with his little finger, as Hitler put it. Enemy bomber superiority made no impact on German troops ; in Italy, they had only slit-trenches for cover from the bombardmentbut the Atlantic Wall fortifications were covered with concrete up to twenty feet thick. To thwart attempted airborne landings, Hitler had ordered virtually the entire light antiaircraft defenses of the Reich concentrated in France. He and Rommel were confident that the invasionassuming it ever camewould end in disaster for the Allies. From day to day we are growing stronger, Rommel wrote on May 6. My inventions are coming into action. Thus I am looking forward to the battle with the profoundest confidenceit might be on May 15, or perhaps not until the end of the month.
Only the date was uncertain. While Rommel and Rundstedt believed the enemy would land on either side of the Somme estuary and thrust by the shortest route toward Paris, Hitler had long been convinced that the enemys main invasion would occur far to the westeither in Normandy or Brittanyso that the Cherbourg peninsula could be made into a strategic bridgehead. He had said as much on March 4 and again to the western generals in his speech on March 20 ; he confidently repeated it to Antonescu on the twenty-third ; he adhered to his opinion staunchly, despite the avalanche of contrary Intelligence reports from Foreign Armies West. I am for bringing all our strength in here, he said on April 6, tapping the Normandy coastline on the charts ; particularly the forces we dont absolutely have to have anywhere else. As soon as Hubes army had fought itself free of the encirclement in Russia, Hitler ordered the crack Das Reich Division moved into Normandy. Rundstedts and Rommels papers reveal with what obstinacy they clung to their different appreciation of Eisenhowers intent. But on May 1 both of them were sharply reminded by Jodls staff that Hitler expected the invasion in the Seventh Armys area, not the Fifteenths ; and on May 6, Hitler was again to have Jodl telephone Rundstedts Chief of Staff that he attached particular importance to Normandy.
In western Europe, a violent air assault on communications had begunbridges, railway lines, locomotives, passenger trains, and canals were the targets. The French people suffered sorely : American aircraft killed 400 Frenchmen in Rouen on April 24 alone. Laval besought Hitler to try once more to win the French around to a combined defense of France, but Hitlerconfident that another Dieppe fiasco was awaiting the Alliesrefused to pay the price Laval demanded. The night bombing of Germany had temporarily ended in a clear victory for G–rings night fighters and the antiaircraft defenses.
Late on April 30, Saur telephoned Hitler with the latest tank and aircraft production figures ; despite the almost total destruction of the factories in February and March, in April they had manufactured 1,859 new fighters and over 1,500 armored fighting vehicles. Hitler used the word magnificent in his reply. That his armaments workers were willing to work seventy-two hours a week indicated that morale was still high. Germany just had to hold out until the great East-West clash occurredhistory books assured him that most great coalitions fell apart before five years were over. The bones of contention were already there : the oil of the Middle East, Russian aims in the North Sea, Soviet expansion toward India, the latent feud between Britain and the United States. America is quietly and without much ado skinning Britain alive, pawning her into penury, he chuckled to Mussolini. If we just sit tight and hold on without flinching, the big break between Britain and America is bound to come one day. When the British realize that the Americans are after their world position then some Englishman must stand up against it. Politically, time was on Germanys side. What Hitler feared most was that he personally might not live to see the final victoryor that some military landslide might occur to snatch the political victory from his peoples grasp.
With totally unexpected swiftness, the Russian armies now stormed and penetrated the Sevastopol fortress on the Crimea and wrote the end to the chapter Manstein had begun there so brilliantly two years before. The assault began on May 5. By late on the seventh, Sch–rner telegraphed to Zeitzler that the Seventeenth Army had lost 2,795 men ; he was flying in all available reserves, 220-millimeter howitzer assault-guns, and heavy antitank guns, but few had yet reached the Black Sea from Germany ; 120 heavy antitank guns had been promised to the army, but 40 were still en route by air to Constanta and the rest held up in railway transports on the Hungarian-Romanian frontier. Late on the eighth, Hitler conceded defeat and ordered the Seventeenth Army brought out by sea and air from Sevastopolofficers were to enforce order during the evacuation by the use of firearms if necessary. Only 37,500 German and Romanian troops were brought to the Romanian mainland before the enemy overran the last pocket of resistance five days later.
Hitler was furious at this fiasco. To shame the army, he ordered Zeitzler to transport these salvaged remnants of an army back to Germany, as they were fit only to work in the arms industry ; as soldiers they were failures. Sch–rnerreporting to Hitler through the Reichsf¸hrer SS as well as through Zeitzlerbitterly blamed Kleist, his predecessor : the field marshal had allowed discipline to rot, his noncombat troops had worked a pleasant six- or seven-hour day, and the wines of the Crimea had done the rest. He praised Antonescu, but not the Romanian General Staff. Himmler told Hitler that in Sch–rners view radical solutions were called for in Romania, i.e., rooting out everybodyand particularly General Erich Hansen, the feckless German military attachÈ in Bucharestexcept Antonescu himself. But Antonescu valued Hansen, so Hitler knew he could not recall him. Sch–rners subordinates meanwhile demanded that the navys Black Sea admiralswhom D–nitz now caused to be decorated with high medalsbe court-martialed. Angry Seventeenth Army officers complained of navy cowardice ; bloody and filthy from the carnage of Sevastopol, they had disembarked at Constanta and found naval officers in spotless uniforms sunning themselves, indifferent to whether their ships ran the gauntlet of the Russian defenses or whether they offered lame excuses for returning empty. But the real culprits were in the German General Staff, who had failed to supply the guns and ammunition fast enough. In the five-week battle for the Crimea, over seventy-five thousand Germans and Romanians paid for this failure with their lives.
An unnatural calm fell upon the whole eastern front until late June.
Parallel to the expanded tank output, Hitler still wanted a sizeable bomber production. The impact of the American raids on German industry and transport was an example of what the Luftwaffe should be capable of in the east. The Luftwaffe had executed its first hesitant strategic bombing raids in June 1943, when T34 tank factories, oil refineries, and ball-bearing plants in Gorki and Saratov were attacked on several nights running with great success. When General Karl Koller, a Bavarian, became chief of the Luftwaffe operations staff in September, he reassigned the Fourth Air Corps under General Rudolf Meister ; its mission was to destroy Stalins seven key electric-power stations. But in February 1944 Hitler intervened and called on Meister to retrain his crews for a methodical attack on the Red Armys rear communicationsbridges, railway junctions, and marshaling yards ; as it happened, by April few worthwhile Russian industrial targets could be reached from airfields still in Luftwaffe hands.
Saurs fighter production program also made great inroads into the bomber factories. In February, March, and April the reeling aircraft industry had produced 567, 605, and 680 bombers, respectively. But the Fighter Staffs new program would cut the target to 550 bombers a month, which would support only 40 squadrons ; this meant that eleven others would have to be disbanded. And if an even more radical plan was adopted, only 284 bombers would be assembled every month ; this would mean that after October there would be sufficient support for only 26 squadrons. General Korten, Chief of the Air Staff, described this plan as the death of the bomber arm. Koller highlighted this danger in a report to Hitler on May 5 and on the nineteenth followed it with a persuasive study of the bomber strength needed to maintain German hegemony in Europe. At a conference with G–ring on May 22, Hitler dismissed the planned targets as quite unacceptable, and the next day the Reichsmarschall announced to the Fighter Staff that he wanted an armada of at least twenty-six hundred bomberswhich would require the manufacture of over eight hundred a month, including the four-engined Heinkel 177in addition to nearly seven thousand fighter aircraft. G–ring also gave Hitler a progress report on the Me-262 jet (unaware that three prototypes had crashed over the last few days for no apparent reason). Hitlerwho was partly relying on these jet bombers to defeat the invasioncongratulated him. Now theyll get there on time ! But a rude shock awaited him almost immediately.
It was May 23. Field Marshal von Richthofen had come up from Italy, where a troublesome enemy offensive had begun at Cassino on the twelftha patent attempt to lure German reserves and Luftwaffe units away from France ; and that very morning a more serious thrust had begun from the Anzio beachhead. Richthofen wrote in his diary : 3 P.M. with the F¸hrer. Hes grown older, good-looking, very calm, very definite views on the military and political situation, no worries about anything. Again and again one cant help feeling this is a man blindly following his summons, walking unhesitatingly along the path prescribed to him without the slightest doubt as to its rightness and the final outcome. ... The unpleasant military occurrences at Cassino andsince this morningat the [Anzio] beachhead are contemplated by him quite calmly : as he puts it, we can be thankful that we are still fighting so far down. After all, last September we all thought, and he did too, that this summer would see us fighting in the Apennines or even in the Alps. Time was on their side, Hitler reminded the Luftwaffe commander ; politically, Germany had won the war long ago.
At this moment G–ring, Milch, Saur, and the aircraft specialists were ushered into the Great Hall. Hitler wanted to examine their aircraft production targets in person. He gazed out of the great picture window, listening absently, as the Fighter Staffs program figures were read out. When the Me-262 jet-fighter production was mentioned, he interrupted, Jet fighter ? I thought the 262 was coming as a high-speed bomber ? This, after all, was the order he had given last autumn. Milch replied, For the time being it is being manufactured as a fighter ! Hitler persisted : How many of the 262s already manufactured can carry bombs ? None, mein F¸hrer. The Me-262 is being manufactured exclusively as a fighter aircraft. An awkward silence followed, and then Milch explained that to carry a thousand-kilo bomb the jet would require an extensively strengthened airframe and undercarriage ; the first one hundred being built were designed exclusively as fighters. Hitler lost his composure. The wonder aircraft on whichperhaps unrealisticallyhe had reposed his hopes of disrupting the invasion was not even being built. Never mind ! he interrupted. I only want one two-hundred-fifty-kilo bomb ! The aircraft was so fast that it needed neither cannon nor armorplate, noted Hitler. How much did they weigh ? (Who pays the slightest attention to the orders I give ? he complained. I gave an unqualified order and left nobody in any doubt that the aircraft was to be fitted as a fighter-bomber.) Saur said the cannon, armor, and ammunition weighed over five hundred kilos. Then it can all be taken out ! said Hitler triumphantly. Colonel Edgar Petersen, the chief of the Luftwaffe experimental station at Rechlin, nodded. That can be done without any difficulty. In desperation Milch appealed to Hitler to think again, but he was subjected to a torrent of abuse. Mein F¸hrer, exclaimed the field marshal, the smallest infant can see this is a fighter, not a bomber aircraft ! Hitler turned his back on him for the rest of the discussion. Aufschlagbrand !crashed in flames !whispered somebody : the reference was to Milchs career.
Hitler ordered the Me-262 to be manufactured solely as a high-speed bomber now. But there was a snag. G–ring came the next day and confessed that his engineers had reminded him that the armor and cannon were all forward of the planes center of gravity ; to alter this would mean a major redesigning job, perhaps even changing the position of the wings. Because of the production pipeline, it would take five months to effect any change. You gentlemen appear to be stone-deaf, G–ring had raged at the Luftwaffe engineers on his return from the Berghof. The lot of you ! I referred again and again to the F¸hrers order. He doesnt care two hoots about getting the Me-262 as a fighter, but wants it only as a bomber.... And now suddenly it is impossible ! The F¸hrer says, For all I care you can put the fighters on a bonfire. He wants an aircraft which can force its way through by virtue of its sheer speed, despite the enormous mass of fighters that will be guarding the invasion forces. What no civilian dares to dosimply ignore ordersyou gentlemen dare time after time after time. In a further meeting, Hitler permitted the testing of the Me-262 fighter version to continue, but only the bomber version was to enter service as yetattacking the enemys embarkation movements on the far side of the English Channel, from a few thousand feet up, or bombing the disembarking mass of tanks and troops swarming around the invasion beaches. The Reichsmarschall personally promised that none of his staff would go behind his back again.
At Klessheim castle in March 1944, Horthy had assented to Hitlers demand that Hungary turn over her Jews to Germany. Working from Budapest, a task force under SS Colonel Adolf Eichmann deported four hundred thousand Jews over the next four months.
The motives of Hitler and Himmler still diverged, though the F¸hrers attitude had noticeably hardened. Hitler was primarily concerned that this potential Fifth Column be removed from the Balkans and was callous about their subsequent fate ; but Himmlerhowever much he protested that he was not just bloodthirstywas eager to see what he called an uncompromising, an irrevocable, and above all a Final Solution. When Hitler instructed him in April to provide two 100,000-strong contingents of Hungarian Jews to work on Saurs bombproof tank and fighter factories in the Protectorate and elsewhere, the Reichsf¸hrer SS expressed unconcealed displeasure at this singular arrangement. But on May 24, Himmler assured an audience of generals : Not one of them will in any way cross the German publics field of vision.
As part of the Nazi indoctrination project, during the spring he and Hitler separately made several secret speeches to groups of generals. Hitlers speech of April 26 has not survived. But Himmlers talk on May 5 to an audience including General Hans-J¸rgen Stumpff and Hermann Reinecke (and a member of Hitlers own staff, Admiral Hans-Erich Voss) has : it was taken down by stenographers, stylistically improved, and like most of his main speeches retyped on a large-face F¸hrer typewriter. Since only carbon copies are left in Himmlers files, Hitler may have been sent the top copies of each of Himmlers speeches. In theory he might therefore have found the passage in Himmlers seventy-page speech of October 6, 1943, where he bluntly disclosed to Albert Speer and the Gauleiters that he, Himmler, had decided to murder Jewish women and children as well as adult males. (I took the decision that a clear-cut solution had to be found here too.) On May 5, 1944, however, Himmler tried a new versionor adapted it to his audience of generals. After revealing in now stereotyped sentences that he had uncompromisingly solved the Jewish problem in Germany and the Germanoccupied countries, he added : I am telling this to you as my comrades. We are all soldiers regardless of which uniform we wear. You can imagine how I felt executing this soldierly order issued to me, but I obediently complied and carried it out to the best of my convictions. Never before, and never after, did Himmler hint at a F¸hrer Order ; but there is reason to doubt he dared show this passage to his F¸hrer.(3)
Consider too Himmlers speech of May 24, in which again speaking before generals he explained his stance somewhat differently. He recalled how in 1933 and 1934 he had thrown habitual criminals into concentration camps without trial, and boasted, I must admit I have committed many such illegal acts in my time. But rest assured of this : I have resorted to these only when I felt that sound common-sense and the inner justice of a Germanicand right-thinkingpeople were on my side. With this in mind Himmler had confronted the Jewish problem too : It was solved uncompromisinglyon orders and at the dictate of sound common-sense. One page later, Himmlers speech again hinted that Jewish women and children were also being liquidated.(4) The fact remains that in his personal meetings with Hitler, the Reichsf¸hrer continued to talk only of the expulsion [Aussiedlung] of the Jews, even as late as July 1944.
When the same generals came to the Obersalzberg on May 26, Hitler spoke to them in terms that were both more philosophical and less ambiguous. He spoke of the intolerance of nature, he compared Man to the smallest bacillus on the planet Earth, he reminded them how by expelling the Jews from their privileged positions he had opened up those same positions to the children of hundreds of thousands of ordinary working-class Germans and deprived the revolutionary masses of their traditional Jewish ferment :
Of course, people can say, Yes, but couldnt you have got out of it ... more humanely ? My dear generals, we are fighting a battle of life and death. If our enemies are victorious in this struggle, the German people will be extirpated. The Bolsheviks will butcher millions upon millions of our intellectuals. Those who escape the bullet in the nape of the neck will be deported. The children of the upper classes will be taken away and got rid of. This entire bestiality has been organized by Jews. Today incendiary and other bombs are dropped on our cities although the enemy knows he is hitting just women and children. They are machine-gunning ordinary railroad trains, or farmers working in their fields. In one night in a city like Hamburg we lost over forty thousand women and children, burned to death. Expect nothing else from me, but that I do just what I think best suits the national interest and in the manner best serving the German nation.
(Prolonged loud applause.)
Kindness here as indeed anywhere else would be just about the greatest cruelty to our own people. If the Jews are going to hate me, then at least I want to take advantage of that hatred.
(Murmurs of approval.)
The advantage is this : now we have a cleanly organized nation, in which no outsider can interfere.
Look at the other countries ... Hungary ! The entire country subverted and rotten, Jews everywhere, Jews and still more Jews right up to the highest level, and the whole country covered by a continuous network of agents and spies waiting for the moment to strike, but fearing to do so in case a premature move on their part drew us in. Here too I intervened, and this problem is now going to be solved too. If I may say this : the Jews had as their program the extirpation [Ausrottung] of the German people. On September 1, 1939, I announced in the Reichstag, if any man believes he can extirpate the German nation in a world war, he is wrong ; if Jewry really tries that, then the one that will be extirpated is Jewry itself.
In Auschwitz, the defunct paraphernalia of deathidle since late 1943began to clank again as the first trainloads from Hungary arrived.
An oppressive uncertainty lay across the Obersalzberg. The invasion had still not come. On May 24, General Korten, the Luftwaffes Chief of Staff, told G–ring : The invasion appears to have been postponed, otherwise we wouldnt be having these big [American] air raids on the Reich again. And Speer, who had now finally returned from sick leave, echoed this optimism. If nothing has happened by July or August we can assume we will be left in peace all winter. The German command was even uncertain as to whether the invasion, when and if it came, would begin when dawn coincided with a high tide in France, or two hours after low tide as a recent Allied invasion exercise suggested. Rommels fiendish underwater fangs along the possible invasion beaches relied on the former assumption. The field marshal was still confident, however. Everything is going very well indeed and just as planned, he wrote on May 19. Two days ago I telephoned the F¸hrer for the first time. He was in the best of spirits and did not stint his praise for the job we have done in the west. I hope now to get on faster than ever. The weather meanwhile is still cold and at last its raining. The British will just have to be patient a while. To his son Rommel wrote a shade more realistically. These last months and weeks we have achieved the impossible, but we are still not as ready as I would have liked : more mines, even deeper submerged obstacles, better antiparatroop defenses, even more artillery, antiaircraft guns, mortars, and rockets !! So far their heavy bombing of the Atlantic Wall has not had much effect ; damage and casualties have been slight.
It was time to begin wheeling the secret weapons out from under their elaborate camouflage. But what remained of them ? Hitler had been deceived over the Me-262G–ring now told him that three and perhaps even six months would be needed before the bomber version reached the squadrons. The A-4 rocket had overcome its worst problems but would not be operational until September. The aircraft industry had delayed far too long over Hitlers recent demand for the 50-millimeter cannonoriginally designed for tanksto be installed in twin-engined fighters. The huge underground gun battery built near Calais for shelling London was ready, but the gun barrels themselves were still far from trouble-freeand the specially designed projectiles were still not capable of the necessary range. Only the Luftwaffes pilotless flying bomb was standing byits original ninety-six launching sites in France were admittedly in ruins, but these were only decoys now ; still undetected by Allied aerial reconnaissance, the real catapults were well-concealed and awaiting last-minute assembly in a belt of countryside farther back. With these, Hitler assured Mussolini, he would turn London into a garden of ruins the moment the invasion began. (He also hinted that German chemists had developed a poison gasin fact the first nerve gasesagainst which even German gas masks afforded no protection.)
In mid-May the F¸hrer ordered the flying-bomb offensive to start with an all-out attack on London one night in mid-June, coupled with a fire-raising attack by Sperrles bomber squadrons ; thereafter, intermittent salvos were to be fired night after nightand by day too if bad weather hampered the British defenses. Panic will break out in England, Hitler gloatingly told his private staff. These flying bombs have such an unnerving effect that nobody can stand them very long. I am going to pay those barbarians back for machine-gunning our women and children and sacking our culture ! On about June 4 he decided that it was time to begin, and the flying-bomb regiment was instructed that by the tenth its prefabricated catapult equipment was to be moved from the hidden dumps up to the launching sites. In this way he would force the enemys hand, he hoped : public outcry would leave Churchill no alternative but to launch a premature and hence disastrous invasion of France. If the British came to us now with any kind of peace feelers, Hitler told Slovakias Prime Minister Josef Tiso : I would prefer to tell them to keep their feelersuntil after the invasion. With the invasion defeated, he would revert to the conquest of Russia.
Hitler doubted that the invasion was imminent, but the waiting irritated him. He allowed Admiral D–nitz to go on leave on June 1 for the first time since war began. Rommel wrote with a trace of nervousness on May 29 : The nonstop Anglo-American bombardment is admittedly continuing. The French are suffering particularly cruellythree thousand civilian dead these last forty-eight hours alone, while our own casualties are mostly low. Many decoy sites are being bombed.
In Italy, now that the Anzio forces had linked up with the main battlefront Rome itself could well become a battlefield, just as Stalingrad had. This produced another instance of Hitlers strange conception of morality. The same F¸hrer who was indifferent to the fate of defenseless Jewish children was piously proud to have defeated Belgium without defiling Brussels, and France without attacking Parishis enemies, it was noted, had just bombed the Rouen cathedral and attacked, quite pointlessly, the famous monastery at Monte Cassino. As early as February Hitler had turned down Kesselrings suggestion that in an emergency the Tiber bridges in Rome should be destroyed, as the rivers steep embankments would check the most determined enemys advance. In fact Hitler had reiterated that Romes status as an open city must be strictly preserved. While he could jest to Mussolini : You and I are the most reviled men in the world, he did not want to go into history as the man who caused Rome to be destroyed. Therefore, Wehrmacht troops had been forbidden to set foot there without special passes, and even during the fiercest fighting at Anzio all military transports had been tediously diverted around the outskirts of Rome.
This forbearance brought no Allied response. When Kesselring formally suggested to the enemy, through the Vatican, on June 3, that both sides continue to respect the open city, they made no reply but instead appealed to the citys populace to join the battle. Sir Henry Wilson, the Supreme Allied Commander in the Mediterranean, broadcast the falsehood that the Germans were defending Rome, and the British and American tanks speedily penetrated to its very heart the next day. To impede further pursuit of his withdrawing army, Hitler should now have blown up the bridges, but he did not. Late the next evening, June 5, Roosevelt broadcast news of the victory. He attributed to the skill of his generals the fact that Rome had escaped damage.
It was after midnight when Hitler went to bed. The last Luftwaffe reconnaissance of southeastern England, a week before, had shown hardly any landing craft assembled at Doverfacing the Dunkirk-Dieppe coastline, where the latest saturation air raids led both Rommel and Rundstedt to believe that the invasion might eventually occur. The rest of Britains south coast had eluded the Luftwaffe reconnaissance. Luftwaffe meteorologists forecast several days of poor weather. Thus Hitler did not suspect that five thousand vessels laden with the enemy were at that very moment bearing down upon the coast of France.
1 Both Eduard Wagner, the quartermaster general, and Zeitzlers general of artillery, Fritz Lindemann, were conspiring against Hitler ; Hitlers adjutants particularly suspected Lindemann of active treason over the Crimea.
2 Hitler startled his secretaries by making sudden sexual allusionscompletely out of character. When they told Morell, he smirked, and explained he had just given the Chief these injections.
3 Page 28 of the large-face typescript, containing this pregnant sentencefor only Hitler was empowered to issue a soldierly order to Himmlerwas manifestly retyped and inserted in the transcript at a later date, as the different indenting shows.
4 This page alone was also retyped and possibly inserted at a later date in the typescript.
p. 617 Gauleiter Frauenfelds study on the administration of the occupied east, dated February 10, 1944, is in Himmlers files (T175/125/0419 et seq.).
p. 618 For Hitlers military policies in southern Russia, see his conversation with the Romanian General Garbea on March 29, 1944 (T78/366/8829 et seq.).
p. 618 Saur reported Hitlers remarks to the Fighter Staff on April 8 (MD5/2388 et seq.); I also use G–rings version of the F¸hrers conference with D–nitz on April 13 (MD64/6480 et seq.).
p. 620 In addition to the better known materials on the evacuation of the Crimealike the OKW war diaries, and papers by Baron von Weitershausen and by H.D. von Conrady in WR in 1954 (pages 209 et seq., and 327 et seq.) and in 1961 (pages 312 et seq., respectively)I used the naval staff war diary and the hitherto unknown diaries of the army liaison officer to D–nitz (T608/1/529 et seq.) and the armys special evacuation staff under General Lindemann (T78/269/7187 et seq.); further documents from the naval side will be found in OKW files (T77/778) and in Sch–rners papers (AL/2831/2).
pp. 622-23 General von Trotha, Sch–rners operations officer, flew into Sevastopol at this time. In his 1946 manuscript he described : As our plane approached we could see the waves tinged red at one place. There were high cliffs there, on top of which our troops had shot hundreds of horses and thrown them over into the sea, so they wouldnt fall into enemy hands.
p. 623 That Jaeneckes tongue had failed him is eloquently shown in the opening words of his letter to Hitler the next day, April 30, 1944 : At yesterdays conference there were one or two points I unfortunately omitted to make . . . (AL/2831/3).
p. 625 German Intelligence had obtained a proof copy of Eisenhowers still-secret Proclamation to the French people, announcing the disembarcation of French and Allied troops in France ; see the naval staff war diary, April 13, 1944, and file PG/33399 for a full translation.
p. 625 According to Army Group Bs war diary, on May 1 and 6 Hitler again stressed his belief that the invasion would strike Normandy and Cherbourg and demanded close scrutiny of the readiness of General Erich Marckss Eighty-Fourth Corps, defending that sector ; Rundstedts war diary records that Jodl telephoned on May 9 that the F¸hrer expected the invasion in mid-Mayperhaps on the eighteenthand that the main effort would be against Normandy, followed by a subsidiary push into Brittany. On May 27, Hitler repeated this to the Japanese ambassador, Oshima ; anything other than the invasions of Brittany and Normandy would be just diversions.
p. 627 The final report of Admiral, Black Sea, is in naval staff war diary annexes, Part C, Vol. XIV.
p. 628 Kollers studies on the shrinking Luftwaffe bomber force are in his private papers (in my possession) and in OKL war diary annexes (T321/1) and Milchs papers (MD53/706 et seq.). What follows is also based on G–rings conferences (MD64) and on a memo in Bormanns files on the Me-262 jet (NS-6/152).
p. 630 Horthys assent is implicit in Ribbentrops telegram to Veesenmayer some weeks later, on July 16after Horthy had just stopped the transports of Jewsprotesting that this was a departure from the measures agreed on at Klessheim (AA Serial K789). Himmlers views are evident from his handwritten speech notes, e.g., for his speech to field commanders at Posen on January 26, 1944. Jewish question. In the General gouvernement [Poland] huge calmdown since Jewish problem solved.Racial struggle.Total solution.Dont let avengers arise to take revenge on our children (T175/94/4835 et seq.). His May 5 speech is on microfilm T175/92/3475 et seq., and that of May 24, T175/94/46o9 et seq. That Himmler only talked of expulsion of Jews (Aussiedlung) to Hitler is clear from his handwritten agenda of July (or August) 1944 (ibid., page 5065).
pp. 631-32 Hitlers speech is recorded in Himmlers files (ibid., 4972 et seq.). He used similar language to SztÛjay on June 7, 1944.
p. 632 Kortens optimism (MD64/6998) and Speers in Central Planning the next day (MD55/2170) are echoed in a letter written by the food minister, Herbert Backe, on May 17, 1944. Apparently the invasions got to be taken seriously after all. Theres talk of May 18that means tomorrow. I wont believe it until they are actually ashore.... Our generals are very optimistic, without exception.... Immense preparations have been made on our side. I am not particularly worried about it. Here everybody is longing for it to start (Backes private papers).
p. 633 Not only had D–nitz gone on leavesee the naval staff diary of June 6, 1944, and his interrogation on August 6, 1945but Salmuth (Fifteenth Army) went on a two-day hunting party, and Rommel returned briefly to Germany.