History Podcasts

Kurt Zeitzler : Nazi Germany

Kurt Zeitzler : Nazi Germany


We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.

Kurt Zeitzler, the son of a pastor, was born in Cossmar-Luckau, Germany on 9th June, 1895. He joined the German Army and during the First World War commanded an infantry battalion.

Zeitzler remained in the army and became one of the early supporters of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. In 1934 he joined the first panzer forces and by 1938 had reached the rank of lieutenant colonel.

On the outbreak of the Second World War Zeitzler was in the 14th Army and served under General Siegmund List during the invasion of Poland. In 1940 he was appointed as chief of staff to General Paul von Kleist and saw action in France in 1940. He held this position with Kleist in Greece and in the Soviet Union.

In January 1942, Zeitzler became chief of staff to General Gerd von Rundstedt and played an important role in defeating the Allies at Dieppe on 19th August. Adolf Hitler heard good reports of Zeitzler and considered appointing him to a senior post at GHQ. Despite objections from Wilhelm Keitel and Alfred Jodl, Hitler decided in September 1942 that Zeitzler should replace General Franz Halder as Chief of General Staff.

At first Zeitzler went along with Hitler's military decision but the two clashed over his "no withdrawal" policy in the Soviet Union. Zeitzler attempted to resign after the disaster at Stalingrad but Hitler refused to accept it. After further disagreements Zeitzler claimed ill-health and on 20th July 1944, left office. Hitler was furious and dismissed him from the German Army. Kurt Zeitzler died on 25th September 1963.

The Russian objective was obvious to anyone who looked at a map and especially obvious to Zeitzler who, from Army intelligence, knew that the enemy had massed thirteen armies, with thousands of tanks, in the south to achieve it. The Russians were clearly driving in great strength from the north and the south to cut off Stalingrad and to force the German Sixth Army there to either beat a hasty retreat to the west or see itself surrounded. Zeitzler later contended that as soon as he saw what was happening he urged Hitler to permit the Sixth Army to withdraw from Stalingrad to the Don bend, where the broken front could be restored. The mere suggestion threw the Fuehrer into a tantrum.

'I won't leave the Volga! I won't go back from the Volga!' he shouted, and that was that. This decision, taken in such a fit of frenzy, led promptly to disaster. The Fuehrer personally ordered the Sixth Army to stand fast around Stalingrad.

Hitler and his staff returned to headquarters on November 22. By this time, the fourth day of the attack, the news was catastrophic. The two Soviet forces from the north and south had met at Kalach, forty miles west of Stalingrad on the Don bend. In the evening a wireless message arrived from General Paulus, commander of the Sixth Army, confirming that his troops were now surrounded. Hitler promptly radioed back, telling Paulus to move his headquarters into the city and form a hedgehog defence. The Sixth Army would be supplied by air until it could be relieved.

But this was futile talk. There were now twenty German and two Rumanian divisions cut off at Stalingrad. Paulus radioed that they would need a minimum of 750 tons of supplies a day flown in. This was far beyond the capacity of the Luftwaffe, which lacked the required number of transport planes. Even if they had been available, not all of them could have got through in the blizzardly weather and over an area where the Russians had now established fighter superiority. Nevertheless, Goering assured Hitler that the Air Force could do the job. It never began to.

Hitler now commanded units to be detached from all other sectors of the front and from the occupied territories and dispatched in all haste to the southern sector. No operational reserve was available, although General Zeitzler had pointed out long before the emergency that each of the divisions in southern Russia had to defend a frontal sector of unusual length and would not be able to cope with a vigorous assault by Soviet troops.

Stalingrad was encircled. Zeitzler, his face flushed and haggard from lack of sleep, insisted that the Sixth Army must break out to the west. He deluged Hitler with data on all that the army lacked, both as regards to rations and fuel, so that it had become impossible to provide warm meals for the soldiers exposed to fierce cold in the snow-swept fields or the scanty shelter of rums. Hitler remained calm, unmoved and deliberate, as if bent on showing that Zeitzler's agitation was a psychotic reaction in the face of danger. 'The counterattack from the south that I have ordered will soon relieve Stalingrad. That will recoup the situation. We have been in such positions often before, you know. In the end we always had the problem in hand again." He gave orders for supply trains to be dispatched right behind the troops deploying for the counteroffensive, so that as soon as Stalingrad was relieved something could at once be done about alleviating the plight of the soldiers. Zeitzler disagreed, and Hitler let him talk without interrupting. The forces provided for the counterattack were too weak, Zeitzler said. But if they could unite successfully with a Sixth Army that had broken out to the west, they would then be able to establish new positions farther to the south. Hitler offered counter arguments, but Zeitzler held to his view. Finally, after the discussion had gone on for more than half an hour. Hitler's patience snapped: "Stalingrad simply must be held. It must be; it is a key position. By breaking traffic on the Volga at that spot, we cause the Russians the greatest difficulties."


The Battle of Kursk Doomed Hitler's Eastern Conquest (And Nazi Germany)

The final tally of the losses on each side would seem to have favored the attackers — the Germans lost 343 tanks while the Russians sustained staggering losses: 177,847 men, 1,600 armored vehicles and 460 aircraft. Yet the Soviets, with the assistance of American industrial might, proved able to replace all the tanks and aircraft in short order.

In 1939, and again in 1940, Adolf Hitler ignored the advice of his cautious generals and decisively ordered bold, creative plans to invade Poland and France, respectively. Hitler felt vindicated, as the German army conquered both nations in mere weeks. By the spring of 1943, however, stung by the crushing loss to the Soviet army at Stalingrad, Hitler’s indecision and loss of nerve at the Battle of Kursk doomed Germany to defeat. Germany would never again mount an offensive in the east.

As late as the fall of 1942, though, things looked bleak for Joseph Stalin, and it appeared nothing could save the Red Army from annihilation. Germany had invaded the USSR in June 1941 and, like an unstoppable machine, the German Wehrmacht smashed Soviet division after division.

After slowing down in late 1941, Hitler ordered a renewed two-pronged offensive — codenamed “Case Blue”—to begin in June 1942: Army Group A would move south and take the Russian oil fields of the Caucasus, and Army Group B would move towards Stalingrad.

After again achieving great success at the start of the offensive, Army Group B reached the outskirts of Stalingrad in September 1942, and for the first time ran into effective resistance from the Russians. Gen. Anton von Wietersheim, commander of the XIV Panzer Corps, reported to the Sixth Army commander, Gen. Friedrich Paulus, that he had insufficient troops to capture Stalingrad, and requested a temporary withdrawal to the Don river to rebuild strength.

Paulus refused, because Hitler had strictly forbidden any withdrawals, and relieved Wietersheim. Hitler’s refusal to consider withdraw would eventually result in the Wehrmacht’s loss at Stalingrad, the sacrifice of almost 250,000 German troops, and allow the Russians to launch a massive counteroffensive, called Operation Uranus.

Having been bled white in the bitter winter in Stalingrad, German troops were then forced into wholesale retreat against the fresh Red Army onslaught.

Army Group A was recalled from its drive to the Caucasus to try and stem the tide. It didn’t work initially, as the flood of Stalin’s troops swamped the tired Germans, who were being pushed back at every point along a 175-mile-long front. In January 1942 the Soviets captured Kursk and were on the verge of capturing the critically important city of Kharkov — which would have again trapped hundreds of thousands of German troops.

Arguably the finest strategic-thinking and effective battlefield commander in the Wehrmacht was Field Marshal Erich von Manstein. Hitler had placed him in command of German troops in an attempt to stem the tide of the Russian advance. Because the fuhrer was still shaken by the loss of the Sixth Army, Manstein got him to agree to a tactical withdraw around Kharkov in order to trap Soviet troops instead.

In fierce fighting, Manstein held firm on two “shoulders” and ordered a fighting withdrawal by the German troops in the middle. The Russians, who had been relentlessly pursuing the Germans for months, didn’t recognize the danger and took Manstein’s bait, following the withdrawing troops into the trap.

The Fourth Panzer Army then closed the gap and killed or captured Soviet armored divisions and a cavalry corps — including the destruction or capture of 615 tanks and one thousand other large-caliber guns. The German victory had inflicted a gashing wound on the Russian offensive, and both sides settled into a static position for several months.

The delay presented the Germans with an opportunity to launch a major counteroffensive of their own in which potentially hundreds of thousands of Russians could be crushed in a massive pocket — almost as big as all of England — around Kursk.

The Germans knew the destruction of the Red Army was no longer possible, but grounding them to the point they would accept a stalemate might be. Colonel-General Kurt Zeitzler, chief of the Army General Staff, convinced Hitler to approve the attack, Operation Citadel. Had the attack been started in April 1943, as Zeitzler preferred, the German attack would have had a real chance of success. But Hitler blinked.

Having just suffered the loss of the Sixth Army, he was hesitant to order another attack. Moreover, he believed that the introduction of Germany’s newest tank, the Panther, would tilt the advantage to the Wehrmacht. German Gen. F. W. von Mellenthin would later write in Panzer Battles that the Panthers were too new and too few, and wouldn’t make a difference. Moreover, it didn’t take the Russians long to figure out what the Germans were going to do.

“The Russians reacted to our plans exactly as would be expected,” von Mellenthin wrote. “They fortified likely sectors, built several lines of resistance, and converted important tactical points into miniature fortresses. The area was studded with minefields … They had converted the area into another Verdun.”

As it turned out, however, the Panthers that did make it to Kursk were too few to make a difference. Finally, Hitler settled on a date to begin the attack: July 4. “Independence Day for the United States,” von Mellenthin quipped, but “the beginning of the end for Germany.”

The decision would be catastrophic for the German army.

Having had three full months to prepare, the Soviets were ready and waiting for the attack. The Wehrmacht nevertheless fought with gallantry, viciousness and professionalism. The Russians, however, were no longer in awe of the Germans, had gained critical combat experience, and had the physical and moral ability to absorb enormous losses while continuing to fight. Hitler, however, lost his nerve when the fighting got tough and made the final fatal decision.

On July 10, Gens. George S. Patton and Bernard Montgomery landed allied troops on Sicily, threatening the German southern flank in Europe. Fearing the Allies would drive up Italy into Germany, Hitler ordered Operation Citadel to end, and the SS Panzer Corps redeployed to Italy. It was an absurd order.

There were already hundreds of thousands of German troops in Italy. It would take the Allies years to push through the mountains of Italy. It would take months to get it there, and one armored corps would not make a strategic difference in Italy. In the middle of the fight for their lives in the Soviet Union, however, that experience unit could have at least created the stalemate Zeitzler sought. Instead, the Germans were forced from the battle and pushed further back.

The final tally of the losses on each side would seem to have favored the attackers — the Germans lost 343 tanks while the Russians sustained staggering losses: 177,847 men, 1,600 armored vehicles and 460 aircraft. Yet the Soviets, with the assistance of American industrial might, proved able to replace all the tanks and aircraft in short order. The Germans, on the other hand, would never recover from the loss of those tanks and irreplaceable trained crews.

Had the Germans succeeded in grounding down the Russians while retaining their fighting strength, they still wouldn’t have won the war but might have succeeded in creating a stalemate. But Hitler’s hesitation in ordering the attack gave the Russians time to prepare that made it nearly impossible for the Germans to achieve a decisive victory. His losing his nerve and ending the battle in progress, withdrawing an entire Panzer corps in the process, sealed the doom of the battle and the war.


The Tank Battle At Kursk Was Where Nazi Germany Lost World War II

With the German Sixth Army destroyed at Stalingrad, the Soviet juggernaut lunged west and southwest across the River Donets. The Soviets seemed unstoppable, recapturing the major city of Kharkov from the Germans on February 14, 1943. However, Field Marshal Erich von Manstein was only waiting for the Soviets to overextend themselves.

Once the Soviet armor ran dry of fuel and low on ammunition, Manstein unleashed Army Group South’s riposte. Fresh panzer formations sliced into the startled Soviet flanks, ripping apart two Soviet Fronts (Army Groups). Manstein’s brilliant counteroffensive restored the southern front and culminated in an SS frontal assault and a triumphant recapture of Kharkov.

Meanwhile, to the north of the Donets campaign, the Soviet winter offensive was held at bay before Orel by Field Marshal Günther von Kluge’s Army Group Center. Operations everywhere then bogged down to a standstill as the Russian spring thawed the frozen earth and turned it to mud. The thick “rasputitsa” clung to steel tank tracks, to truck tires, to the hoofs of tired horses, and to the boots of exhausted soldiers.

The front was left with a gargantuan Soviet salient, 150 miles long and 100 miles wide, bulging around the town of Kursk between the two German army groups. The Kursk salient was consequently the target of the last, great German summer offensive, ending with the legendary tank battles in the environs of Oboian and Prokhorovka.

With the third summer of the German-Soviet war approaching, the Red Army war machine had grown more powerful while that of the Germans proportionally declined. Despite Von Manstein’s recent victory at Kharkov, only the most fanatical senior German commanders, along with Hitler, believed that the Soviet Union could be decisively defeated. A stalemate, however, was still in the cards, but only if the Germans managed to retain the initiative. To do so, Col. Gen. Kurt Zeitzler, chief of Army general staff, proposed eliminating the Kursk salient.

In what came to be known as Operation Citadel, the Ninth Army of von Kluge’s Army Group Center would strike for Kursk from the north while his Second Army defended the western face of the salient. At the same time, von Manstein’s Army Group South would attack toward Kursk from the south with Colonel General Herman Hoth’s Fourth Panzer Army and General Werner Kempf’s Army Detachment. Once the two German army groups met, the Soviet armies in the salient would be encircled and consequently destroyed. The Eastern Front would be straightened out, allowing German troops to be transferred to the West along with thousands of Soviet prisoners to toil in the Reich’s factories and on its farms. Such were the rewards of victory, and to achieve it Zeitzler counted on the new, vaunted Panther tanks and the Ferdinand or “Elephant” tank destroyer.

Hitler presented Zeitzler’s plan to his senior Army commander on May 3-4. VonManstein argued that Citadel might have worked in April, when Hitler first signed the operational order, but now its “success was doubtful.” Field Marshal Walter Model, commander of the Ninth Army, cautioned that the plan was painfully obvious and that the Soviets were already preparing deep and strong defensive positions.

Von Kluge, who liked to curry favor with Hitler but was known as a fence sitter, supported Citadel but argued against any further delay, so if it failed he could not be blamed. Col. Gen. Heinz Guderian, the inspector general of armored troops, called the idea “pointless,” certain to result in heavy tank casualties. Furthermore, he made it clear that the Panthers and the Elephants were in no way ready for combat.

When Wilhem Keitel, Hitler’s chief of the armed forces high command, later argued for the attack on political reasons, Guderian spat back, “ How many people do you think even know where Kursk is?” Hitler admitted the idea made his “stomach turn over,” but eventually not only decided in favor of Citadel but delayed it for two months until the new tanks were ready.

Historian Charles Winchester has aptly noted, “The idea that an offensive involving millions of men fighting across a battlefield half the size of England could be determined by a few hundred new tanks shows touching faith in technology.”

Hitler’s delays played right into Soviet hands. Stalin heeded the advice of Marshal Georgi K. Zhukov, deputy commander of the Red Army, and Marshal Alesksandr M. Vasilevsky, chief of the Army general staff, to postpone a Soviet offensive until the Germans bled themselves dry on the Kursk defenses. And those defenses were awe inspiring. Half a million railcars rolled into the Kursk salient, pouring in division after division. Whole towns in the forward areas were evacuated. Three hundred thousand civilians, mostly women and old men, helped dig trenches and build fortifications. The southern shoulder of the salient alone boasted 2,600 miles of trenches and mine densities of 5,000 per mile of front, laid out to channel the panzers into the crossfire of antitank strongholds.

The 48th Panzer Corps Chief of Staff, Maj. Gen. Friedrich W. von Mellenthin, poignantly summoned up the German predicament: “The Russians were aware of what was coming and had converted the Kursk front into another Verdun. The German Army threw away all its advantages of mobile tactics, and met the Russians on a ground of their own choosing. Instead of seeking to create conditions in which maneuver would be possible … the German Supreme Command could think of nothing better than to fling our magnificent panzer divisions against Kursk, which had become the strongest fortress in the world.” If this was not adversity enough, the Soviets had twice as many men, two and a half times as many guns and mortars, 900 more planes, and 750 more tanks than the Germans.

Just before the battle, an SS trooper in the coal black darkness outside of a command bunker thought to himself, “The mud might slow us down but it cannot stop us. Nothing will.” Alfred Novotny, a fusilier of the elite Grossdeutschland Panzergrenadier Division, was of the same mind: “We were totally convinced as soldiers that Kursk would turn the war around again, in favor of Germany. We, the Fusiliers and Grenadiers, would do it!” The high morale was due in part to the fact that the soldiers were unaware of what they were facing. The troops were “prepared to endure any losses and carry out every task given to them,” but “the Russians are masters at the art of camouflage. Inevitably their strength was considerably underestimated,” reflected Mellenthin.

Over 2 million men, 35,000 guns, 6,250 tanks and assault guns, and 4,900 aircraft were flung at each other by two merciless totalitarian regimes, each bent on the utter annihilation of its foe. The German attack in the south opened at 3 pm on July 4, 1943, followed 12 hours later by the attack in the north. Forewarned of the exact time of Model’s attack by intelligence operatives, Soviet commanders ordered their artillery to bombard Model’s front lines before his own artillery had a chance to open up. The Germans answered back with air strikes and with a short but intense bombardment.

Tiger tanks, Elephant tank destroyers, and Brummbär self-propelled artillery battalions of the Ninth Army smashed gaps into the Soviet defenses and chewed up counterattacks by the Soviet Central Front. Through the gaps poured the panzer and infantry divisions, only to find another of eight skillfully defended defensive belts.

Not only were the Soviet defenses far thicker than anticipated, but Hitler’s beloved 89 Elephants, all fighting with Army Group Center, did not live up to expectations. Although their powerful, long L/71 88mm guns proved deadly to Soviet armor, the 67-ton Elephants were underpowered and lacked a machine gun for protection against enemy infantry. When attacked by Soviet close-combat infantry anti-tank units, some Elephant crews tried to fend off the Soviets by firing their MG-42 machine guns through the main barrel.

Despite Heavy Soviet Casualties, Zhukov Proceeded in Launching an Offensive in the Orel Sector

Another nasty surprise was the Central Front’s 12 new SU-152s. The front’s 152mm assault gun unit knocked out seven Elephants and 12 Tigers of Model’s attacking units, earning it the nickname Zveroboi (animal hunter). After a week of round-the-clock fighting, Model’s exhausted Ninth Army was nowhere near breaking into the open, having only penetrated nine miles.

Soviet casualties were heavy, but they did not prevent Zhukov from launching an offensive in the Orel sector on Model’s northern flank on July 11. From then on, Model was hard pressed just to contain a Soviet breakthrough. Zhukov, who had failed to destroy Army Group Center in two previous winter offensives, remained fixated on its destruction. He should have paid more attention to the southern flank of the salient, where Von Manstein’s thrust made dangerous gains.

Alfred Novotny has never forgotten the 4th Panzer Army’s opening artillery barrage and the foul weather that accompanied it: “The first hours of the Kursk offensive still cause flashbacks 50-odd years later. Sometimes I think I can still hear the incredible loud noise of the German weapons … flak, artillery, mortars, Stukas, and Nebelwerfers. I cannot forget the endless, terrible rain, rain, and more rain. We were totally drenched, heavily laden down with equipment, knee deep in mud all around us.”


Are there any accounts of German junior enlisted soldiers surviving the siege of Stalingrad and subsequent captivity?

When the German Sixth Army was surrounded at Stalingrad, there were something like 330,000 soldiers. Perhaps 91,000 survived the siege to surrender two and half months later, and of these, about 5,000 survived the war, a less than 2% survival rate.

Within this group, survival chances were very unequal, by rank. It would not surprise me that most, if not all of the 24 generals survived they got special rations* during the siege and were treated relatively well in captivity. To a lesser extent, the same would be true for other officers, especially colonels and lieutenant colonels, etc. Even "non-commissioned" officers would have more privileges, and hence more survival chances than junior enlisted soldiers.

I read of the survival and homecoming of one Emil Metzger in "Barbarians at the Gates," but he was a second lieutenant. He was also a small man, about minimum size for a soldier, meaning that his food rations went further than they would for most others.

Were there accounts of the lowest ranking junior enlisted soldiers ("privates") surviving both the siege and captivity, and if so, how? Did they work in some "strategic" area such as food processing? Did they make a deal with their Soviet captors?

*One exception to the rule was Chief of Staff, General Kurt Zeitzler, in Berlin, who put himself on soldier's rations of four ounces of bread and four ounces of meat a day during the siege--until Hitler noted his weight loss and ordered him to stop.


How the Battle of Kursk Sealed Nazi Germany’s Fate

In 1939, and again in 1940, Adolf Hitler ignored the advice of his cautious generals and decisively ordered bold, creative plans to invade Poland.

In 1939, and again in 1940, Adolf Hitler ignored the advice of his cautious generals and decisively ordered bold, creative plans to invade Poland and France, respectively. Hitler felt vindicated, as the German army conquered both nations in mere weeks. By the spring of 1943, however, stung by the crushing loss to the Soviet army at Stalingrad, Hitler’s indecision and loss of nerve at the Battle of Kursk doomed Germany to defeat. Germany would never again mount an offensive in the east.

As late as the fall of 1942, though, things looked bleak for Joseph Stalin, and it appeared nothing could save the Red Army from annihilation. Germany had invaded the USSR in June 1941 and, like an unstoppable machine, the German Wehrmacht smashed Soviet division after division.

After slowing down in late 1941, Hitler ordered a renewed two-pronged offensive — codenamed “Case Blue”—to begin in June 1942: Army Group A would move south and take the Russian oil fields of the Caucasus, and Army Group B would move towards Stalingrad.

After again achieving great success at the start of the offensive, Army Group B reached the outskirts of Stalingrad in September 1942, and for the first time ran into effective resistance from the Russians. Gen. Anton von Wietersheim, commander of the XIV Panzer Corps, reported to the Sixth Army commander, Gen. Friedrich Paulus, that he had insufficient troops to capture Stalingrad, and requested a temporary withdrawal to the Don river to rebuild strength.

Paulus refused, because Hitler had strictly forbidden any withdrawals, and relieved Wietersheim. Hitler’s refusal to consider withdraw would eventually result in the Wehrmacht’s loss at Stalingrad, the sacrifice of almost 250,000 German troops, and allow the Russians to launch a massive counteroffensive, called Operation Uranus.

Having been bled white in the bitter winter in Stalingrad, German troops were then forced into wholesale retreat against the fresh Red Army onslaught.

Soviet troops crossing the Donets, 1943. Red Army photo

Army Group A was recalled from its drive to the Caucasus to try and stem the tide. It didn’t work initially, as the flood of Stalin’s troops swamped the tired Germans, who were being pushed back at every point along a 175-mile-long front. In January 1942 the Soviets captured Kursk and were on the verge of capturing the critically important city of Kharkov — which would have again trapped hundreds of thousands of German troops.

Arguably the finest strategic-thinking and effective battlefield commander in the Wehrmacht was Field Marshal Erich von Manstein. Hitler had placed him in command of German troops in an attempt to stem the tide of the Russian advance. Because the fuhrer was still shaken by the loss of the Sixth Army, Manstein got him to agree to a tactical withdraw around Kharkov in order to trap Soviet troops instead.

In fierce fighting, Manstein held firm on two “shoulders” and ordered a fighting withdrawal by the German troops in the middle. The Russians, who had been relentlessly pursuing the Germans for months, didn’t recognize the danger and took Manstein’s bait, following the withdrawing troops into the trap.

The Fourth Panzer Army then closed the gap and killed or captured Soviet armored divisions and a cavalry corps — including the destruction or capture of 615 tanks and one thousand other large-caliber guns. The German victory had inflicted a gashing wound on the Russian offensive, and both sides settled into a static position for several months.

German Panther tanks. German Federal Archives photo

The delay presented the Germans with an opportunity to launch a major counteroffensive of their own in which potentially hundreds of thousands of Russians could be crushed in a massive pocket — almost as big as all of England — around Kursk.

The Germans knew the destruction of the Red Army was no longer possible, but grounding them to the point they would accept a stalemate might be. Colonel-General Kurt Zeitzler, chief of the Army General Staff, convinced Hitler to approve the attack, Operation Citadel. Had the attack been started in April 1943, as Zeitzler preferred, the German attack would have had a real chance of success. But Hitler blinked.

Having just suffered the loss of the Sixth Army, he was hesitant to order another attack. Moreover, he believed that the introduction of Germany’s newest tank, the Panther, would tilt the advantage to the Wehrmacht. German Gen. F. W. von Mellenthin would later write in Panzer Battles that the Panthers were too new and too few, and wouldn’t make a difference. Moreover, it didn’t take the Russians long to figure out what the Germans were going to do.

“The Russians reacted to our plans exactly as would be expected,” von Mellenthin wrote. “They fortified likely sectors, built several lines of resistance, and converted important tactical points into miniature fortresses. The area was studded with minefields … They had converted the area into another Verdun.”

As it turned out, however, the Panthers that did make it to Kursk were too few to make a difference. Finally, Hitler settled on a date to begin the attack: July 4. “Independence Day for the United States,” von Mellenthin quipped, but “the beginning of the end for Germany.”

The decision would be catastrophic for the German army.

Having had three full months to prepare, the Soviets were ready and waiting for the attack. The Wehrmacht nevertheless fought with gallantry, viciousness and professionalism. The Russians, however, were no longer in awe of the Germans, had gained critical combat experience, and had the physical and moral ability to absorb enormous losses while continuing to fight. Hitler, however, lost his nerve when the fighting got tough and made the final fatal decision.

German self-propelled guns, 1943. German Federal Archives photo

On July 10, Gens. George S. Patton and Bernard Montgomery landed allied troops on Sicily, threatening the German southern flank in Europe. Fearing the Allies would drive up Italy into Germany, Hitler ordered Operation Citadel to end, and the SS Panzer Corps redeployed to Italy. It was an absurd order.

There were already hundreds of thousands of German troops in Italy. It would take the Allies years to push through the mountains of Italy. It would take months to get it there, and one armored corps would not make a strategic difference in Italy. In the middle of the fight for their lives in the Soviet Union, however, that experience unit could have at least created the stalemate Zeitzler sought. Instead, the Germans were forced from the battle and pushed further back.

The final tally of the losses on each side would seem to have favored the attackers — the Germans lost 343 tanks while the Russians sustained staggering losses: 177,847 men, 1,600 armored vehicles and 460 aircraft. Yet the Soviets, with the assistance of American industrial might, proved able to replace all the tanks and aircraft in short order. The Germans, on the other hand, would never recover from the loss of those tanks and irreplaceable trained crews.

Had the Germans succeeded in grounding down the Russians while retaining their fighting strength, they still wouldn’t have won the war but might have succeeded in creating a stalemate. But Hitler’s hesitation in ordering the attack gave the Russians time to prepare that made it nearly impossible for the Germans to achieve a decisive victory. His losing his nerve and ending the battle in progress, withdrawing an entire Panzer corps in the process, sealed the doom of the battle and the war.

Never again would the Wehrmacht mount a major offensive in the east.

This article originally appeared at The National Interest.


RIELPOLITIK

“…The American military authorities have likewise warned that the American east coast might be the area chosen for a blind attack by some sort of flying bomb. It was called the German V-3. To be specific, this device is based on the principle of the explosion of the nuclei of the atoms in heavy hydrogen derived from heavy water”:

(Was a Nazi Atomic bomb used in 1943 Against Russian Troops in Kursk)
In the winter and spring of 1943, after their terrible defeat in Stalingrad, clearly outnumbered and losing the initiative in the eastern front, Hitler and the German High Command were asking themselves what to do next, in the summer of 1943.

The situation was bad not only on the war front.

While Russian tank production increased to unbelievable levels, the German obsession for complex new super weapons, like the advanced but then immature Panther and Tiger tanks, largely reduced German tank production.

General Guderian, the best German armor expert and commander, said:

As interesting as these designs were, the practical result was just a reduced production of the Panzer 4, our only efficient tank then, to a very modest level…

Shortly before the battle of Kursk Guderian added, about the Panther and its crews:

They are simply not ready yet for the front.

In early 1943 the Germans were about to destroy their own tank production rates by terminating Panzer 4 production in return for a production of just 25 new Tigers per month, but at a moment of reason Hitler gave control of tank production to Guderian who stopped this idea.

The German Plan

The debate in the German High Command about what to do in the summer of 1943 was between two options, the realistic option and the enthusiast-optimist option:
The realistic option, supported by Guderian and Manstein, the best German field commanders, and by others, suggested to compensate for the large Russian numerical advantage by fully utilizing the superiority of the German commanders and soldiers in tactics, command, and fighting, by a strategy of dynamic mobile defense that would cause great losses to the Russians in a series of local clashes. The realistic goal was to stop and delay the Russians, as decisive victory was no longer achievable.
The enthusiast-optimistic option, proposed by General Zeitzler, chief of staff of the German army, suggested to concentrate almost all German tanks, and other forces, to a major decisive battle against a large portion of the Russian armor, in order to destroy them and by doing so hopefully regain the initiative. The most suitable place for such a battle, as Zeitzler proposed, was the Kursk salient, a wide region around the city of Kursk, about half way between Moscow and the black sea, where the Germans surrounded the Russians from three sides. It was obvious that the Russians will keep a large tank force there, and the plan was to encircle them in a classic Blitzkrieg style pincer movement of German tanks from North and South and destroy them. Zeitzler’s plan was code named Operation Citadel.
When Hitler discussed the two options with his Generals on May 4th, exactly two months before the German attack began, it became clear that each of the two options had a major problem.

The major problem with Zeitzler’s plan to attack the Kursk salient, was that aerial photos clearly revealed that the Russians were building dense and deep fortifications there in order to counter such an attack, and that many Russian tanks were moved deeper behind the front line. Instead of an open battlefield Blitzkrieg, it was going to be a direct charge on dense anti-tank defences. General von Mellenthin warned that such a direct attack will be a “Totenritt”, a ride to death, for the German tanks. In response to Guderian’s worries, Hitler himself admitted that whenever he think of this planned attack, his guts turn.

The major problem with Guderian’s option was that it lacked the charm, enthusiasm, and optimistic hope for a major change in the war that Zeitzler’s plan had. So the enthusiast Hitler decided in favor of Zeitzler’s plan, and calmed his worries of it by ordering to delay the attack for a while in order to incorporate more of the brand new advanced German tanks and tank destroyers in it. The date was set to July 4, 1943.

Once the order was given, the Germans prepared as best as they could. The entire region was photographed from above, the German commanders visited the front line to observe their intended routes, and the Germans concentrated all available forces in two armies, North and South of the Kursk salient, leaving minimal forces along the rest of the long Russian front.
The German force included a total of 50 divisions, including 17 armor and mechanized divisions. These included the most powerful and best equipped German divisions, such as the Gross Deutschland (Great Germany) division and the Waffen-SS tank divisions Leibstandarte (Hitler’s bodyguards), Totenkopf (Death skull), and Das Reich (The Reich). The Germans concentrated all their new armor, the Tiger and Panther tanks, and the mighty new Elefant tank destroyers, which had a front armor thicker than a battleship’s armor. They also concentrated all available air units and artillery, and despite the problems of the German plan it was a formidable concentrated mobile armor force with great offensive potential.

Thanks to their “Lucy” spy network, which operated high ranking sources in Germany via Switzerland, the Russians didn’t just expect the German attack, they knew all about it. They received the full details of the German plan, and the Russian military intelligence was able to verify most details in the front to ensure that the information was real, not disinformation.

The Russians prepared eight defence lines one behind the other, and also positioned their entire strategic mobile reserve East of the Kursk salient, in case the Germans will penetrate thru all these defence lines, which indeed happened.

The Russian plan was simple. First, they will let the Germans attack as planned right into their series of very dense defence lines, and after the German armor will be crushed there, the Russian army will start its strategic attack North and South of the Kursk salient and push the Germans West along a wide part of the front.

The Russian defence was unprecedented in its density. A total of 1,300,000 Russian soldiers with 3600 tanks, 20,000 guns, including 6000 76mm anti-tank guns, and 2400 aircraft were concentrated in and around the Kursk salient. It was about a fifth of the Russian military personnel, over a third of the tanks and over 1/4 of the aircraft. They laid 3400 mines per each kilometer of the front, half of them anti-tank mines, and over 300,000 civilians dug thousands of kilometers of anti-tank trenches and other fortifications. The Russian lines were filled with numerous anti-tank guns organized in groups of up to 10, each group commanded by one officer and firing at the same target. The Russian camouflage was superb, the Germans said that until they were hit by them, they could identify neither the Russian mine fields nor their anti-tank gun positions. To avoid forcing the Germans to divert from their known plan, Russian air attacks were delayed until the German tanks already moved into the trap. The Russians were as ready as they could be.

The Battle of Kursk

The German attack finally began, in the afternoon of July 4, 1943, as planned. The German armor spearheads, led by the most armored and most powerful Tigers and Elefants, advanced forward in the wheat fields toward the Russian lines. Then came wave after wave of anti-tank aircraft attacks by both sides, German Stukas attacked dug in Russian tanks and Russian Sturmoviks attacked the German tanks. The fighters of both sides engages in air combats over the battlefield, and each side’s massive heavy artillery also fired. The advancing German tanks suffered rapidly increasing losses from the dense Russian anti-tank defences, but pressed forward. Once the German heavy tanks reached into the Russian defense lines, they could finally be hit and destroyed from their sides, where they were not so armored as from the front. At this short range they also lost their superiority in long range firing from their powerful guns.

In the North, the German attack advanced only 10km into the Russian lines in two days and was stopped, after losing about 25,000 soldiers and 200 tanks, but fighting continued. In the South, where they had stronger forces, the Germans sent all their reserves forward and pressed on despite the losses. On July 12, after a week of heavy fighting with heavy casualties in both sides, General Hoth, the German commander in the South side of the Kursk salient, decided to concentrate all his remaining tanks, about 600, and press forward with all their concentrated force deeper, past the last remaining Russian defense line, and into an area more suitable for tank warfare near the small village Prokhorovka.

He didn’t know that at this point in the battle, the Russian High Command already predicted this development, and since the German advance in the North was stopped, they could now safely send their armor reserve to meet the advancing German tanks in the South. The Russians ordered their entire 5th Guards tank army, which so far didn’t participate in the battle, to hurry at maximum speed from its position East of Kursk to meet the German tanks advancing near Prokhorovka.

Due to very bad visibility, with thick smoke and dust, when the Russian tanks met the German tanks the next morning, they didn’t stop advancing until they were all around and between them, so about 1500 German and Russian tanks fought in a fierce battle of very short firing distances in which the Germans could not exploit their technological superiority in longer range fighting. The Germans lost more than half of their remaining tanks in this great clash which lasted eight hours, and the Russians lost greater numbers. The battle was decided. The next day Hitler ordered to stop Operation Citadel, and the Russians started their counter attack north of Kursk.

After the Battle

The battlefield in Kursk was filled with many hundreds of burnt tanks and crashed aircraft, and so many dead soldiers. The difference was that while the Russians suffered heavy losses but could continue as planned and shift from defence to a large counter attack in a wide front, the German army in the East just lost the core of its remaining force.

In the summer of 1941 the German army attacked Russia and was stopped only near Moscow.

In the summer of 1942 the German army attacked in South Russia and reached the Volga river at Stalingrad before it was stopped, and lost the strategic initiative to the recovering Russian army.

In the summer of 1943, in the battle of Kursk, the much weaker German army broke its fist and lost its best remaining units in its attempt to regain the initiative in one last major attack, for which the Russians were fully prepared.

After the battle of Kursk, the war in the eastern front was a long Russian advance, in which the Russian army returned to all the territory it lost to the Germans, conquered all of Eastern Europe, and reached all the way to Germany and to Berlin and won the war. The Germans could no longer attack or stop the Russian advance, and were just pushed back in a long retreat.

The contents in their entirety, with the original breaks where they occurred in the text for transmission:

This bomb is revolutionary in its results, and it will completely upset all ordinary precepts of warfare hitherto established. I am sending you, in one group, all those reports on what is called the atom-splitting bomb:

It is a fact that in June of 1943 the German Army tried out an utterly new type of weapon against the Russians at a location 150 kilometers southeast of Kursk. Although it was the entire 19th Infantry Regiment of the Russians which was thus attacked, only a few bombs (each round up to 5 kilograms) sufficed to utterly wipe them out to the last man.

The following is according to a statement by Lieutenant-Colonel UE (?) I KENJI, advisor to the attaché in Hungary and formerly (on duty?) in this country, who by chance saw the actual scene immediately after the above took place:

“All the men and the horses (within the area of?) the explosion of the shells were charred black and even their ammunition had all been detonated ”

Moreover, it is a fact that the same type of war material was tried out in the Crimea, too. At that time the Russians claimed that this was poison-gas, and protested that if Germany were ever again to use it, Russia, too, would use poison-gas.

There is also the fact that recently in London – in the period between October and the 15th of November – the loss of life and the damage to business buildings through fires of unknown origin was great. It is clear, judging especially by the articles about a new weapon of this type, which have appeared from time to time recently in British and American magazines – that even our enemy has already begun to study this type.

To generalize on the basis of all these reports: I am convinced that the most important technical advance in the present great war is in the realization of the atom-splitting bomb. Therefore, the central authorities are planning, through research on this type of weapon, to speed up the matter of rendering the weapon practical. And for my part, I am convinced of the necessity for taking urgent steps to effect this end.

The following are the facts I have learned regarding its technical data:

Recently the British authorities warned their people of the possibility that they might undergo attacks by German atom-splitting bombs. The American military authorities have likewise warned that the American east coast might be the area chosen for a blind attack by some sort of flying bomb. It was called the German V-3. To be specific, this device is based on the principle of the explosion of the nuclei of the atoms in heavy hydrogen derived from heavy water. (Germany has a large plant (for this?) in the vicinity of Rjukan, Norway, which has from time to time been bombed by English planes.).

Naturally, there have been plenty of examples even before this of successful attempts at smashing individual atoms. However, as far as the demonstration of any practical results is concerned, they seem not to have been able to split large numbers of atoms in a single group. That is, they require for the splitting of each single atom a force that will disintegrate the electron orbit.

On the other hand, the stuff that the Germans are using has, apparently, a very much greater specific gravity than anything heretofore used. In this connection, allusions have been made to SIRIUS and stars of the “White Dwarf” group. (Their specific gravity is (6?) 1 thousand, and the weight of one cubic inch is 1 ton.)

In general, atoms cannot be compressed into the nuclear density. However, the terrific pressures and extremes of temperature in the “White Dwarfs” cause the bursting of the atoms and A-GENSHI HAKAI DAN. That is, a bomb deriving its force from the release of atomic energy.

There are, moreover, radiations from the exterior of these stars composed of what is left of the atoms which are only the nuclei, very small in volume.

According to the English newspaper accounts, the German atom-splitting device is the NEUMAN disintegrator. Enormous energy is directed into the central part of the atom and this generates at atomic pressure of several tons of thousands of tons (sic) per square inch. This device can split the relatively unstable atoms of such elements as uranium. Moreover, it brings into being a store of explosive atomic energy.

The end of this amazing intercept then reads:

Inter 12 Dec 44 (1,2) Japanese Rec’d 12 Dec 44 Trans 14 Dec 44 (3020-B), apparently references to when the message was intercepted by American intelligence, its original language (Japanese), when the message was received, when it was translated (December 12, 1944), and by whom (3020- B).

Edgar Mayer and Thomas Mehner, Hitler und die Bombe (Rottenburg: Kopp Verlag, 2002), citing “Stockholm to Tokyo, No. 232.9 December 1944 (War Department), National Archives, RG 457, SRA 14628-32, declassified October 1, 1978.

The date of this document two days before the beginning of the Battle of the Bulge must have set off alarm bells in the offices of Allied Intelligence personnel both during and after the war. While it is certainly clear that the Japanese attaché in Stockholm seems to be somewhat confused about the nature of nuclear fission, a number of startling things stand out in the document:

(1) The Germans were, according to the report, using weapons of mass destruction of some type on the Eastern Front, but had apparently for some reason refrained from using them on the Western Allies

(a) The areas specifically mentioned were Kursk, in the approximate location of the southern pincer of the German offensive, which took place in July, and not June, of 1943, and the Crimean peninsula

(b) The time mentioned was 1943, though since the only major action to have occurred in the Crimea was in 1942 with the massive German artillery bombardment, one must also conclude that the time frame stretched back into 1942

At this juncture is it worth pausing to consider briefly the German siege of the Russian fortress of Sevastopol, scene of the most colossal artillery bombardment of the war, as it bears directly on the interpretation of this intercept.

The siege was led by Colonel-General (later Field Marshal) Erich von Manstein’s 11th Army. Von Manstein assembled 1,300 artillery pieces – the largest concentration of heavy and super-heavy artillery deployed by any Power during the war – and pounded Sevastopol with this mighty arsenal twenty-four hours a day for five clays. These were no ordinary heavy field pieces.

Two mortar regiments – the 1st Heavy Mortar Regiment and the 70th Mortar Regiment – as well as the 1st and 4th Mortar Battalions, had been concentrated in front of the fortress under the special command of Colonel Nieman – altogether 21 batteries with 576 barrels, including the batteries of the 1st Heavy Mortar regiment with the 11- and 12 1/2 inch high explosive and incendiary oil shells…

Even these monsters were not the largest pieces deployed at Sevastopol. Several of the 16 1/2 inch “Big Bertha” Krupp cannon and their old Austrian Skoda counterparts were massed against the Russian positions, along with the even more colossal “Karl” and “Thor” mortars, gigantic self-propelled 24 inch mortars firing shells that weighed over two tons.

But even “Karl” was not quite the last word in gunnery. That last word was stationed at Bakhchisary, in the “Palace of Gardens” of the ancient residence of the Tartar Khans, and was called “Dora,” or occasionally “Heavy Gustav.” It was the heaviest gun of the last war. Its caliber was 31 1/2 inches. Sixty railway carriages were needed to transport the parts of the monster. Its 107-foot barrel ejected high-explosive projectiles of 4800 kg -i.e., nearly five tons- over a distance of 29 miles. Or it could hurl even heavier armour-piercing missiles, weighing seven tons, at targets nearly 24 miles away. The missile together with its cartridge measured nearly twenty-six feet in length. Erect that would be about (the) height of a two-storey house….

These data are sufficient to show that here the conventional gun had been enlarged to gigantic, almost super-dimensional scale – indeed, to a point where one might question the economic return obtained from such a weapon. Yet one single round from “Dora” destroyed an ammunition dump in Severnaya Bay at Sevastopol although it was situated 100 feet below ground.

So horrendous was the bombardment from this massed heavy and super-heavy artillery that the German General Staff estimated that over 500 rounds fell on Russian positions per second during the five days’ artillery and aerial bombardment, a massive expenditure of ammunition. The rain of steel on the Russian positions pulverized Russian morale and was often so thunderous that eardrums burst. At the end of the battle, the city and environs of Sevastopol were ruined, two entire Soviet armies had been obliterated, and over 90,000 prisoners were taken.

Paul Carrell, Hitler Moves East, 1941-1943 (Ballantine Books, 1971)
Why are these details significant? First, note the reference to “incendiary oil shells.” These shells are the indication that unusual weaponry was deployed by the Germans at Sevastopol and delivered through conventional – though quite large – artillery pieces. The German Army did possess such shells and deployed the frequently and with no little effectiveness on the Eastern Front.

But might there have been an even more fearsome weapon? The Germans indeed developed an early version of a modern “fuel-air” bomb, a conventional explosive with the explosive power of a tactical nuclear weapon. Given the great weight of such projectiles, and the German lack of sufficient heavy-lift aircraft to deliver them, it is possible if not likely that super-heavy artillery was used to deploy them. This would also explain another curiosity in the Japanese military attaché’s statement: the Germans apparently did not deploy weapons of mass destruction against cities, but only against military targets that would have been within the range of such weapons.

To resume the analysis of the Japanese statement:

(2) The Germans may have been seriously pursuing the hydrogen bomb, since reactions of the nuclei of heavy water atoms -containing deuterium and tritium- are essential in thermonuclear fusion reactions, a point highlighted by the Japanese delegate (though he confuses these reactions with fission reactions of atom bombs)

(3) The enormous temperatures of atom bombs are used as detonators in conventional hydrogen bombs

(4) In desperation the Russians appeal to have been ready to resort to the use of poison gas against the Germans if they did not “cease and desist”

(5) The Russians believe the weapons to have been “poison gas” of some sort, either a cover story put out by the Russians, or a result of field reports being made by Russian soldiers who were ignorant of the type of weapon deployed against them [The detail of “charred bodies” and exploded ammunition certainly point to non-conventional weaponry. A fuel-air device would at least account for the charring. The tremendous heat produced by such a bomb could also conceivably detonate ammunition. Likewise, radioactive burns with its characteristic blistering effects might well have been misunderstood by Russian field soldiers and officers, who would most likely not have been familiar with nuclear energy, as the effects of poison gas]

and finally, and most sensationally,

(6) According to the Japanese cable, the Germans appeared to have gained their specialized knowledge via some connection to the star system of Sirius and that knowledge involved some exotic form of very dense matter, a statement that strains credulity even today.

It is this last point that directs our attention to the most fantastic and arcane recesses of wartime German secret weapons research, for if the allegation has even a partial basis in truth, then it indicates that at some highly secret level, physics, and the esoteric, were being pursued by the Nazi regime in some very extraordinary ways. [To anyone familiar with the wealth of material on alternative research into the Giza compound in Egypt, the reference to Sirius will immediately conjure images of Egyptian religion, its preoccupation with death, with the Osiris myth, and to the Sirian star system].

In this regard it is important to note that the extreme density of the material described by the Japanese envoy resembles nothing so much as a construct of modern post-war theoretical physics called “dark matter”. In all likelihood his report greatly overestimates the mass of this material – if it existed at all – but nonetheless it is crucial to observe that it is material far beyond the ordinary density of matter.


Stalingrad: Disaster on the Volga

Madonna of Stalingrad: Drawn by a German Chaplain and physician the piece was taken out of the city by one of the last officers to get out. It is now displayed in the Kaiser Wilhelm MemorialChurch in Berlin

Sunday the 31 st of January marks the surrender of the remnants of the German 6th Army to the Soviets at Stalingrad. The focus of this article is on how the Germans and Russians fought the Stalingrad campaign. In particular it is an analysis of the way the governments and military’s of both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union planned and executed strategy during the course of the campaign adjusted to the situation and how the campaign ended. It is also a reminder of the price that ordinary soldiers can pay when a country commits them to war. I conclude with a potential modern application for the US and NATO in Afghanistan.

Stalingrad: Primary or Secondary Objective

The mistakes began early in the planning and conduct of the operation

Following the Soviet winter offensive and the near disaster in front of Moscow the German High Command was faced with the strategic decision of what to do in the 1942 campaign. Several options were considered and it was decided to seize the Caucasus oilfields and capture or neutralize the city of Stalingrad on the Volga. However, the High Command was divided on the actual objective of the campaign.

OKH under the guidance of General Halder assumed that Stalingrad was the objective and the advance into the Caucasus was a blocking effort.[i] Hitler and OKW planned to capture the Caucasus oil fields and capture or neutralize Stalingrad to secure the left flank.[ii] Both OKH and OKW considered Stalingrad significant but “German commanders initially regarded it as a weigh station en route to the Caucasus oil fields.”[iii] The conflict echoed in the ambiguity of Directive No. 41 which “included the ‘seizure of the oil region of the Caucasus’ in the preamble concerning the general aim of the campaign, yet made no mention of this in the main plan of operations.”[iv] At the planning conference held at Army Group South in early June “Hitler hardly mentioned Stalingrad. As far as his Generals were concerned it was little more than a name on the map. His obsession was with the oil fields of the Caucasus.”[v] Manstein noted that “Hitler’s strategic objectives were governed chiefly by the needs of his war economy….”[vi] Anthony Beevor notes that at this stage of planning “the only interest in Stalingrad was to eliminate the armaments factories there and secure a position on the Volga. The capture of the city was not considered necessary.”[vii] German planners “expected that the Soviets would again accept decisive battle to defend these regions.”[viii]

In Moscow Stalin and his Generals attempted to guess the direction of the impending German offensive. “Stalin was convinced that Moscow remained the principle German objective…Most of the Red Army’s strategic reserves…were therefore held in the Moscow region.”[ix] To disrupt the German offensive and to attempt to recover Kharkov three offensives were launched by Red Army forces under the direction of Stavka. The largest of these on Kharkov was defeated between 12-22 May with the loss of most of the armor in southern Russia. This coupled with an equally disastrous defeat of Red Army forces in Crimea by Von Manstein’s 11 th Army meant that the Red Army would face the Germans in a severely weakened condition.[x]

Operation Blau: Opening Moves and Divergent Objectives

Panzers cross the Don

The German offensive began on 28 June under the command of Field Marshal von Bock. Bock’s command included two separate army groups, Army Group B under General Von Weichs with 2 nd Army, 6 th Army and 4 th Panzer Army operated in the northern part of the operational area. Army Group A was to the south with 17 th Army and 1 st Panzer Army.[xi] Army Group B provided the main effort and quickly smashed through the defending Soviet armies and by the 20 th Hitler believed that “the Russian is finished.”[xii] One reason for the German success in the south was that until July 7 th Stalin believed that Moscow was still the primary objective.[xiii] Bock was prevented by Hitler from destroying Soviet formations left behind and was relieved of command by Hitler. He was replaced by Von Weichs which created a difficult command and control problem. Manstein noted that this created a “grotesque chain of command on the German southern wing” with the result that Army Group A had “no commander of its own whatever” and Army Group B had “no few than seven armies under command including four allied ones.”[xiv]

Destroyed Soviet T-34s

This decision proved fateful. Hitler’s decided to redirect the advance of the 4 th Panzer Army to support an early passage of the lower Don, diverting it from its drive on Stalingrad. Additionally the army groups became independent of each other when Bock was relieved of command. They were “assigned independent-and diverging-objectives” under the terms of Directive No.45.[xv] This combination of events would have a decisive impact on the campaign. The decision prevented a quick seizure of Stalingrad by 4 th Panzer Army followed by a hand over to 6 th Army to establish the “block” as described by Directive No.41. Kleist noted that he didn’t need 4 th Panzer Army’s help to accomplish his objectives and that it could have “taken Stalingrad without a fight at the end of July….”[xvi]

Field Marshall Von Paulus

The result was damning. Air support and fuel needed by Army Group A was transferred to 6 th Army, denuding Army Group A of the resources that it needed to conclude its conquest of the Caucasus.[xvii] At the same time it denied Army Group B of the Panzer Army that could seize Stalingrad when it was still possible to do so. Beevor calls Hitler’s decision a disastrous compromise.[xviii] Halder believed the decision underestimated the enemy and was “both ludicrous and dangerous.”[xix]

Focus on Stalingrad

Sturmgeschutz Battalion Advancing toward Stalingrad

On July 22 as the Wehrmacht ran short on fuel and divisions to commit to the Caucasus, and 6 th Army fought for control of Voronezh the Soviets created the Stalingrad Front. Stavka moved an NKVD Division to the city,[xx] and rapidly filled the new front with formations transferred from the Moscow Front.[xxi] Stalin issued Stavka Order 227, better known as “No Step Back” on 28 July. The order mandated that commanders and political officers who retreated would be assigned to Penal battalions[xxii] and armies were to form three to five special units of about 200 men each as a second line “to shoot any man who ran away.”[xxiii] Russian resistance west of the Don slowed the German advance. German commanders were astonished “at the profligacy of Russian commanders with their men’s lives.”[xxiv] Von Kleist compared the stubbornness of Russians in his area to those of the previous year and wrote that they were local troops “who fought more stubbornly because they were fighting to defend their homes.”[xxv] Additionally, Stalin changed commanders frequently in the “vain hope that a ruthless new leader could galvanize resistance and transform the situation.”[xxvi] General Chuikov brought the 64 th Army into the Stalingrad Front in mid-July to hold the Germans west of the Don.[xxvii]

German Militarpfarrer (Chaplain) leading field service in August 1942

Further weakening the Germans OKW transferred key SS Panzer Divisions and the Grossdeutschland Division to France. Supporting Hungarian, Italian and Romanian allied armies which lacked motorization, modern armor or anti-tank units were unable to fulfill the gaps left by the loss of experienced German divisions and the expectations of Hitler.[xxviii] 6 th Army was virtually immobilized for 10 days due to lack of supplies allowing the Russians to establish a defense on the Don Bend.[xxix] To the south the Germans were held up by lack of fuel and increased Soviet resistance including the introduction of a force of 800 bombers.[xxx] Glantz and House note that with the fall of Rostov on July 23 rd “Hitler abruptly focused on the industrial and symbolic value of Stalingrad.”[xxxi] Undeterred by warnings from Halder that fresh Russian formations were massing east of the Volga and Quartermaster General, Wagner, who guaranteed that he could supply either the thrust to the Caucasus or Stalingrad but not both.[xxxii] Again frustrated by slow progress Hitler reverted to the original plan for 4 th Panzer Army to assist 6 th Army at Stalingrad, but the cost in time and fuel were significant to the operation and the question was whether “they could make up for Hitler’s changes in plan.”[xxxiii]

Strategic Implications

General Chuikov who directed the defense of Stalingrad during the battle

Soviet Naval Infantry and Political Officer

The changes in the German plan had distinct ramifications for both sides. Von Mellenthin wrote that “the diversion of effort between the Caucasus and Stalingrad ruined our whole campaign.”[xxxiv] The Germans could not secure the Caucasus oil fields which Hitler considered vital to the German war effort. They advanced deep into the region and captured the Maikop oil fields, though they were almost completely destroyed by the retreating Russians.[xxxv] Army Group A was halted by the Russians along the crests of the Caucasus on August 28 th .[xxxvi] This left Hitler deeply “dissatisfied with the situation of Army Group A.”[xxxvii] Kleist and others attributed much of the failure to a lack of fuel[xxxviii] and Blumentritt noted that Mountain divisions that could have made the breakthrough were employed along the Black Sea coast in secondary operations.[xxxix]

JU-87 Stuka over Stalingrad

Fuel and supply shortages delayed 6 th Army’s advance while Hoth’s 4 th Panzer Army was needlessly shuttled between Rostov and Stalingrad. By the time it resumed its advance the Russians “had sufficiently recovered to check its advance.”[xl] As 6 th Army advanced the “protection of Army Group B’s ever-extending northern flank was taken over by the 3 rd Rumanian, the 2 nd Hungarian and the newly formed 8 th Italian Army.”[xli] The allied armies were neither equipped for the Russian campaign nor well motivated.[xlii] The supply shortage in both army groups was not helped by a logistics bottleneck. All supplies came over a single Dnieper crossing, which Manstein noted, prevented swift movement of troops from one area to another.[xliii]

Reconnaissance Battalion of 24th Panzer Division near Stalingrad

Von Paulus’ 6 th Army now attempted to rush Stalingrad between the 25 th and 29 th of July, while Hoth milled about on the lower Don. However, Paulus’s piecemeal commitment of his divisions and failure to concentrate in the face of unexpectedly strong Soviet resistance caused the attacks to fail. Paulus halted 6 th Army on the Don so it could concentrate its forces and build its logistics base,[xliv] and to allow Hoth to come up from the south. This delay allowed the Russians to build up forces west of Stalingrad and reinforce the Stalingrad front and strengthen the defenses of the city,[xlv] and due to the distances involved it was easier for the Russians to reinforce the Stalingrad front.[xlvi] It also allowed the Russians to fill a number of key leadership positions with Generals who would skillfully fight the battle.[xlvii]

Russian Naval Infantry during early phase of battle

Hitler now focused on the capture of Stalingrad despite the fact that “as a city Stalingrad was of no strategic importance.”[xlviii] Strategically, its capture would cut Soviet supply lines to the Caucasus,[xlix] but this could be achieved without its capture. The checks in the south “began to give Stalingrad a moral importance-enhanced by its name-which came to outweigh its strategic value.”[l] To Hitler Stalingrad would gain “a mystic significance”[li] and along with Leningrad became “not only military but also psychological objectives.”[lii]

Red Army Armored troops using Lend-Lease American M3 Stuart and M3 Grant tanks

The Germans mounted a frontal assault with 6 th Army and elements of 4 th Panzer Army despite air reconnaissance that “the Russians are throwing forces from all directions at Stalingrad.[liii] Paulus as the senior General was in charge of the advance, with Hoth subordinated to him, but the attack had to wait until Hoth’s army could fight its way up from the south.[liv] Von Mellenthin comments rightly that “when Stalingrad was not taken on the first rush, it would have been better to mask it….”[lv] It is clear that the German advance had actually reached its culminating point with the failure of the advance into the Caucasus and Paulus’s initial setback on the Don, but it was not yet apparent to many involved.[lvi] The proper course of action would have been to halt and build up the front and create mobile reserve to parry any Russian offensive along northern flank while reinforcing success in the Caucasus. Manstein wrote that “by failing to take appropriate action after his offensive had petered out without achieving anything definite, he [Hitler] paved the way to the tragedy of Stalingrad!”[lvii]

Transfixed by Stalingrad

German Stug III at Stalingrad

On August 19 th Paulus launched a concentric attack against the Russian 62 nd and 64 th Armies on the Don. The attack ran into problems, especially in Hoth’s sector.[lviii] Yet, on the 22 nd the 14 th Panzer Corps “forced a very narrow breach in the Russian perimeter at Vertyachi and fought its way across the northern suburbs of Stalingrad,”[lix] and reached the Volga on the 23 rd . That day 4 th Air Fleet launched 1600 sorties against the city dropping over 1,000 tons of bombs.[lx] The breakthrough imperiled the Soviet position they had concentrated their strongest forces against Hoth.[lxi] The Germans held air superiority and continued heavy bombing attacks. During the last days of August 6 th Army “moved steadily forward into the suburbs of the city, setting the stage for battle.”[lxii] As the Soviets reacted to Paulus, Hoth achieved a breakthrough in the south which threatened the Russian position. However 6 th Army was unable to disengage its mobile forces to link up with the 4 th Panzer Army and another opportunity had been missed.[lxiii]

German unit crossing the Don

As 6 th Army moved into the city Yeremenko ordered attacks against Hube’s 16 th Panzer Division and Soviet resistance increased as more formations arrived the Germans suffered one of their heaviest casualty rates.”[lxiv] Though unsuccessful the counterattacks “managed to deflect Paulus’s reserves at the most critical moment.”[lxv] The Germans remained confident the first week of September as 6 th Army and 4 th Panzer Army linked up, but Yeremenko saved his forces by withdrawing and avoiding encirclement west of the city, retiring to an improvised line close to the city.[lxvi] On September 12 th Chuikov was appointed to command 62 nd Army in Stalingrad. Chuikov understood that there “was only one way to hold on. They had to pay in lives. ‘Time is blood,’ as Chuikov put it later.”[lxvii] Stalin sent Nikita Khrushchev to the front “with orders to inspire the Armies and civilian population to fight to the end.”[lxviii] 13 th Guards Rifle Division arrived on the 14 th saved the Volga landings but it lost 30% casualties in its first 24 hours of combat.[lxix]

T-34 in Stalingrad

An NKVD regiment and other units held the strategically sited Mamaev Kurgan, keeping German guns from controlling the Volga.[lxx] The defenders fought house to house and block by block, Army and NKVD were reinforced by Naval Infantry. Chuikov conducted the defense with a brutal ferocity, relieving senior commanders who showed a lack of fight and sending many officers to penal units. Chuikov funneled massed German attacks into “breakwaters” where the panzers and infantry could be separated from each other causing heavy German casualties.[lxxi]

Street Fighting


Now the “city became a prestige item, its capture ‘urgently necessary for psychological reasons,’ as Hitler declared on October 2. A week later he declared that Communism must be ‘deprived of its shrine.’”[lxxii] The Germans did continue to gain ground, however slowly and at great cost, especially among their infantry, so much so that companies had to be combined. Chuikov used his artillery to interdict the Germans from the far side of the Volga and the fight in the city was fought by assault squads with incredible ferocity and the close-quarter combat was dubbed “’Rattenkrieg’ by German soldiers.”[lxxiii] Paulus brought more units into the city and continued to slowly drive the Russians back against the river, by early October Chuikov wondered if he would be able to hold.[lxxiv] By early November Chuikov “was altogether holding only one-tenth of Stalingrad-a few factory buildings and a few miles of river bank.”[lxxv] Paulus expected “to capture the entire city by 10 November,”[lxxvi] despite the fact that many units were fought out. The 6 th Army judged that 42% of the battalions of 51 st Corps were fought out.[lxxvii] On 9 November Hitler declared “No power on earth will force us out of Stalingrad again!”[lxxviii]

Soviet Counteroffensive: Disaster on the Flanks

Soviet offensive on the flanks

Hungarian withdraw

Hungarian dead

On September 24 th Hitler relieved Halder for persisting in explaining “what would happen when new Russian reserve armies attacked the over-extended flank that ran out to Stalingrad.”[lxxix] Many in the German side recognized the danger. Blumentritt said “The danger to the long-stretched flank of our advance developed gradually, but it became clear early enough for anyone to perceive it who was not willfully blind.”[lxxx] Warnings were also given by Rumanian Marshall Antonescu and the staff’s of Army Group B and 6 th Army[lxxxi] but Hitler was transfixed on Stalingrad. In doing so the Germans gave up the advantage of uncertainty and once their “aim became obvious…the Russian Command could commit its reserves with assurance.”[lxxxii]

Chuikov and his staff

In the midst of Stalin’s concern about Stalingrad Stavka planners never lost sight of their goal to resume large scale offensive operations and destroy at least one German Army Group.[lxxxiii] Unlike Hitler Stalin had begun to trust his Generals and Stavka under the direction of Marshal Vasilevsky produced a concept in September to cut off the “German spearhead at Stalingrad by attacking the weak Rumanian forces on its flanks.”[lxxxiv] At first Stalin “showed little enthusiasm” for the attack, fearing that Stalingrad might be lost, but on 13 September he gave his full backing to the proposal[lxxxv] which Zhukov, Vasilevsky and Vatutin developed into a plan involving two operations, Operation Uranus, to destroy the German and allied forces at Stalingrad, Operation Saturn to destroy all the German forces in the south and a supporting attack to fix German forces in the north, Operation Mars aimed at Army Group Center.[lxxxvi]

Soviet Katusha Rockets

To accomplish the destruction of 6 th Army and part of 4 th Panzer Army the Red Army employed over 60% of the “whole tank strength of the Red Army.”[lxxxvii] Strict secrecy combined with numerous acts of deception was used by the Red Army to disguise the operation.[lxxxviii] The plan involved an attack against 3 rd Romanian Army on the northern flank by 5 th Tank Army and two infantry armies with supporting units.[lxxxix] In the south against 4 th Rumanian Army and weak element of 4 th Panzer Army another force of over 160,000 men including 430 tanks were deployed.[xc] Despite warnings from his Intelligence Officer, Paulus did not expect a deep offensive into his flanks and rear and made no plans to prepare to face the threat.[xci] Other senior officers believed that the attack would take place against Army Group Center.[xcii] Warlimont notes that there was a “deceptive confidence in German Supreme Headquarters.”[xciii]

Luftwaffe JU-52s made many resupply runs into the pocket but suffered great losses

The storm broke on 19 November as Soviet forces attacked rapidly crushing Romanian armies in both sectors[xciv] linking up on the 23 rd .[xcv] 48 th Panzer Corps supporting the Romanians was weak and had few operational tanks.[xcvi] It attempted a counterattack but was “cut to pieces” in an encounter with 5 th Tank Army.[xcvii] A promising attempt by 29 th Motorized division against the flank of the southern Russian pincer was halted by the Army Group and the division was ordered to defensive positions south of Stalingrad.[xcviii] German airpower was neutralized by bad weather.[xcix] Paulus continued to do nothing as since the attacks were outside of his area of responsibility and waited for instructions.[c] As a result the 16 th and 24 th Panzer Divisions which could have assisted matters to the west remained “bogged down in street-fighting in Stalingrad.”[ci] Without support 6 th Army units west of Stalingrad were forced back in horrific conditions. By the 23 rd 6 th Army was cut off along with one corps of 4 th Panzer Army and assorted Romanian units, over 330,000 men. This now entrapped force that would require seven rifle armies and much staff attention to eliminate.[cii]

The Death of 6 th Army

Paulus Surrenders

Hitler ordered Manstein to form Army Group Don to relieve Stalingrad. Hitler would not countenance a break out and wanted Manstein to break through and relieve 6 th Army.[ciii] Hitler refused a request by Paulus on 23 November to move troops to prepare for a possible a break out attempt, assuring him that he would be relieved.[civ] Albert Speer notes that Zeitzler who replaced Halder insisted that the Sixth Army must break out to the west.”[cv] Hitler told Zeitzler that “We should under no circumstances give this up. We won’t get it back once it’s lost.”[cvi] Goering promised the Luftwaffe would be able to meet the re-supply needs of 6 th Army by air, even though his Generals knew that it was impossible with the number of transport aircraft available.[cvii] Hitler took Goering at his word and exclaimed “Stalingrad can be held! It is foolish to go on talking any more about a breakout by Sixth Army…”[cviii] and a Führer decree was issued ordering that the front be held at all costs.[cix] Goerlitz states that “Hitler was incapable of conceiving that the 6 th Army should do anything but fight where it stood.”[cx] Likewise Manstein had precious few troops with which to counterattack and had to protect the flank of Army Group A deep in the Caucasus. His army group was only corps strength and was spread across a 200 mile front.[cxi] Any relief attempt had to wait for more troops, especially Panzers. Manstein too believed that the best chance for a breakout had passed and that it was a serious error for Paulus to put the request to withdraw through to Hitler rather than the Army Group or act on his own.[cxii] Many soldiers were optimistic that Hitler would get them out.[cxiii] Other generals like Guderian, Reichenau or Hoeppner might have acted, but Paulus was no rebel.[cxiv]

German POWs only 5000 of some 90,000 would see home again

Operation Saturn began on 7 December destroying the Italian 8 th Army and forcing the Germans to parry the threat.[cxv] A relief attempt by 57 th Panzer Corps under Hoth on 12 December made some headway until a massive Soviet counterattack on 24 December drove it back.[cxvi] This attack was hampered by OKW’s refusal to allocate the 17 th Panzer and 16 th Motorized divisions to Manstein,[cxvii] and by 6 th Army not attacking out to link with the relief force.[cxviii]By 6 January Paulus signaled OKW: Army starving and frozen, have no ammunition and cannot move tanks anymore.”[cxix] On 10 January the Soviets launched Operation Ring to eliminate the pocket and despite all odds German troops fought on. On the 16 th Paulus requested that battle worthy units be allowed to break out, but the request was not replied to.[cxx] On the 22 nd the last airfield had been overrun and on 31 January Paulus surrendered.[cxxi]

Analysis: What Went Wrong

Stalingrad had strangely drawn the attention of both sides, but the Russians never lost sight of their primary objectives during the campaign. The Germans on the other hand committed numerous unforced errors mostly caused by Hitler and or von Paulus. These mistakes began early in the planning and After the fall of Stalingrad as the Soviets attempted to follow up their success by attempted to cut off Army Group “A” Manstein was permitted to wage a mobile defense while Von Kleist managed to withdraw with few losses.[cxxii] The superior generalship of Manstein and Von Kleist prevented the wholesale destruction of German forces in southern Russia and Manstein’s counter offensive inflicted a severe defeat on the Soviets. However the German Army had been badly defeated. The seeds of defeat were laid early, the failure to destroy bypassed Soviet formations in July, the diversion of 4 th Panzer Army from Stalingrad, and the divergent objectives of trying to capture the Caucasus and Stalingrad at the same time. This diluted both offensives ensuring that neither succeeded. Likewise the failure to recognize the culminating point when it was reached and to adjust operations accordingly was disastrous for the Germans. The failure create a mobile reserve to meet possible Russian counter offensives, and the fixation on Stalingrad took the German focus off of the critical yet weakly held flanks. The hubris of Hitler and OKW to believe that the Russians were incapable of conducting major mobile operations even as Stavka commenced offensive operations on those flanks all contributed to the defeat. Clark notes these facts but adds that the Germans “were simply attempting too much.”[cxxiii] Soviet numbers allowed them to wear down the Germans even in defeat.[cxxiv] At the same time Stalin gave his commanders a chance to revive the mobile doctrine of deep operations with mechanized and shock armies that he had discredited in the 1930s.[cxxv] All through the campaign Zhukov and other commanders maintained both their nerve even when it appeared that Stalingrad was all but lost. They never lost sight of their goal of destroying major German formations though they failed to entrap Army Group A with 6 th Army.

A Modern Application

It is well and good to attempt to remain on the offensive. The U.S. currently has forces spread thinly over two combat theaters with possibilities that other threats in the same region could flare up. Like the Germans the U.S. is operating in areas, especially Afghanistan where overland supply lines are vulnerable and where weather can and does affect resupply operations by both ground and air. The fact that the U.S. is operating with just barely enough forces in areas where others have met disaster calls for a circumspect look at what our enemy’s capabilities really are and not allowing ourselves to be surprised when they do things that have worked for them in the past against the Russians. While it is unlikely that the U.S. and NATO would face a Stalingrad type situation in Afghanistan it is possible that isolated forces could be overrun as the Afghans reprise tactics used so successfully against the Soviets and as they begin to operate in larger units, concentrate them quickly and with more firepower to catch NATO forces when they are most vulnerable. It is true that they will not mass large numbers of tanks and artillery as the Soviets did against the Germans, but the principle of speed, concentration at the critical point and surprise can inflict defeats, even small ones like the attack on the US outpost in Wanat that can turn public sentiment in the U.S. and Europe against further commitments and against the war and force the NATO governments as well as the U.S. to give up the effort.

[i] Clark, Alan. Barbarossa: The Russian-German Conflict: 1941-45. Perennial Books, An imprint of Harper Collins Publishers, New York, NY 1965. p.191

[iii] Glantz, David M. and House, Jonathan. When Titan’s Clashed: How the Red Army Stopped Hitler. The University Press of Kansas, Lawrence KS, 1995. p.111

[v] Beevor, Anthony. Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege: 1942-1943. Penguin Books, New York NY 1998. p.69

[vi] Manstein, Erich von. Forward by B.H. Liddle Hart, Introduction by Martin Blumenson. Lost victories: The War Memoirs of Hitler’s Most Brilliant General. Zenith Press, St Paul MN 2004. First Published 1955 as Verlorene Siege, English Translation 1958 by Methuen Company. p.291 This opinion is not isolated, Beevor Quotes Paulus “If we don’t take Maikop and Gronzy…then I must put an end to the war.” (Beevor pp. 69-70) Halder on the other hand believed that Hitler emphasized that the objective was “the River Volga at Stalingrad. (Clark. p.190)

[viii] Ibid. Glantz and House. p.106

[x] Ibid. Clark. p.203. The offensive did impose a delay on the German offensive.

[xi] Ibid. Clark. p.191 Each group also contained allied armies.

[xiii] Ibid. Glantz and House. p.119

[xvii] Ibid. Glantz and House. p.120. There is a good discussion of the impact of this decision here as 6 th Army’s advance was given priority for both air support and fuel.

[xix] Warlimont, Walter. Inside Hitler’s Headquarters 1939-45. Translated by R.H. Berry, Presido Press, Novato CA, 1964. p.249

[xx] Ibid. Beevor. p.75 This was the 10 th NKVD Division and it took control of all local militia, NKVD, and river traffic, and established armored trains and armor training schools.

[xxii] Ibid. Glantz and House. p.121

[xxv] Liddell-Hart, B.H. The German Generals Talk. Quill Publishers, New York, NY 1979. Originally published by the author in 1948. p.202

[xxix] Ibid. Glantz and House. p.121

[xxxi] Ibid. Glantz and House. p.120

[xxxii] Goerlitz, Walter. History of the German General Staff. Westview Press, Frederick A. Praeger Publisher, Boulder, CO. 1985 p.416

[xxxiv] Von Mellenthin, F.W. Panzer Battles: A Study of the Employment of Armor in the Second World War. Translated H. Betzler, Edited by L.C.F. Turner. Oklahoma University Press 1956, Ballantine Books, New York, NY. 1971. p.193

[xxxv] Shirer, William L. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. A Touchstone Book published by Simon and Schuster, 1981, Copyright 1959 and 1960. p.914

[xxxvi] Ibid. Glantz and House. p.122

[xlv] Ibid. Beevor. pp.97-99. The mobilization included military, political, civilian and industrial elements.

[xlvi] Liddell-Hart, B.H. Strategy. A Signet Book, the New American Library, New York, NY. 1974, Originally Published by Faber and Faber Ltd., London. 1954 & 1967. p.250

[xlvii] Ibid. Beevor. p.99. Two key commanders arrived during this time frame, Colonel General Andrei Yeremenko, who would command the Stalingrad Front and General Chuikov commander of 64 th Army who would conduct the defense of the city.

[xlviii] Carell, Paul Hitler Moves East: 1941-1943. Ballantine Books, New York, NY 1971, German Edition published 1963. p.581

[l] Ibid. Liddell-Hart, Strategy. p.250

[li] Wheeler-Bennett, John W. The Nemesis of Power: The German Army in Politics 1918-1945. St. Martin’s Press, New York, NY 1954. p.531

[lvi] See Von Mellinthin pp.193-194. Von Mellinthin quotes Colonel Dinger, the Operations Officer of 3 rd Motorized Division at Stalingrad until a few days before its fall. Dingler noted that the Germans on reaching Stalingrad “had reached the end of their power. Their offensive strength was inadequate to complete the victory, nor could they replace the losses they had suffered.” (p.193) He believed that the facts were sufficient “not only to justify a withdrawal, but compel a retreat.” (p.194)

[lxii] Ibid. Glantz and House. p.122

[lxxii] Fest, Joachim. Hitler. Translated by Richard and Clara Winston, Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich Publishers, San Diego, New York, London. 1974. p.661

[lxxvi] Ibid. Glantz and House. p.123

[lxxx] Ibid. Liddell-Hart. The German Generals Talk. p.207

[lxxxii] Ibid. Liddell-Hart. History of the Second World War. p.258

[lxxxiii] Ibid. Glantz and House. p.129

[lxxxiv] Ibid. Glantz and House. p.130

[lxxxv] Ibid. Beevor. pp.221-222 Glantz and House say that Stalin gave his backing in mid-October but this seems less likely due to the amount of planning and movement of troops involved to begin the operation in November.

[lxxxvi] Ibid. Glantz and House. p.130

[lxxxviii] Ibid. Glantz and House. p.132

[lxxxix] Ibid. Glantz and House. p.130

[xciv] Ibid, Carell. p.627 3 rd Rumanian Army lost 75,000 men in three days.

[xcvi] The condition of the few German Panzer Divisions in position to support the flanks was very poor, the 22 nd had suffered from a lack of fuel and maintenance and this many of its tanks were inoperative. Most of the armor strength of the 48 th Panzer Corps was provided by a Rumanian armored division equipped with obsolete Czech 38t tanks provided by the Germans.

[xcvii] Ibid. Clark. pp.251-252. The designation of 2 nd Guards Tank Army by Clark has to be wrong and it is the 5 th Tank Army as 2 nd Guards Tank was not involved in Operation Uranus. Carell, Beevor and Glantz properly identify the unit.

[cii] Ibid. Glantz and House. p.134

[ciii] Ibid. Glantz and House. p.134

[cv] Speer, Albert. Inside the Third Reich. Collier Books, a Division of MacMillan Publishers, Inc. New York, NY 1970. p.248

[cvi] Heiber, Helmut and Glantz, David M. Editors. Hitler and His Generals: Military Conferences 1942-1945. Enigma Books, New York, NY 2002-2003. Originally published as Hitlers Lagebsprechungen: Die Protokollfragmente seiner militärischen Konferenzen 1942-1945. Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt GmbH, Stuttgart, 1962. p.27

[cvii] Ibid. Glantz and House. p.135 Glantz and House note that the amount of aircraft estimated to successfully carry out the re-supply operation in the operational conditions was over 1,000. The amount needed daily was over 600 tons of which the daily reached only 300 tons only one occasion.

[cxv] Ibid. Glantz and House. p.140

[cxvi] Ibid. Glantz and House. p.140

[cxxi] Of the approximately 330,000 in the pocket about 91,000 surrendered, another 45,000 had been evacuated. 22 German divisions were destroyed.

[cxxii] Ibid. Liddell-Hart. The German Generals Talk. p.211

[cxxiv] Ibid. Glantz and House. p.124

Bibliography

Beevor, Anthony. Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege: 1942-1943. Penguin Books, New York NY 1998

Carell, Paul Hitler Moves East: 1941-1943. Ballantine Books, New York, NY 1971, German Edition published 1963.

Clark, Alan. Barbarossa: The Russian-German Conflict:1941-45. Perennial Books, An imprint of Harper Collins Publishers, New York, NY 1965.

Fest, Joachim. Hitler. Translated by Richard and Clara Winston, Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich Publishers, San Diego, New York, London. 1974

Glantz, David M. and House, Jonathan. When Titan’s Clashed: How the Red Army Stopped Hitler. The University Press of Kansas, Lawrence KS, 1995.

Goerlitz, Walter. History of the German General Staff. Westview Press, Frederick A. Praeger Publisher, Boulder, CO. 1985

Heiber, Helmut and Glantz, David M. Editors. Hitler and His Generals: Military Conferences 1942-1945. Enigma Books, New York, NY 2002-2003. Originally published as Hitlers Lagebsprechungen: Die Protokollfragmente seiner militärischen Konferenzen 1942-1945. Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt GmbH, Stuttgart, 1962.

Liddell-Hart, B.H. The German Generals Talk. Quill Publishers, New York, NY 1979. Originally Published by the author in 1948.

Liddell-Hart, B.H. Strategy. A Signet Book, the New American Library, New York, NY. 1974, Originally Published by Faber and Faber Ltd., London. 1954 & 1967

Manstein, Erich von. Forward by B.H. Liddle Hart, Introduction by Martin Blumenson. Lost victories: The War Memoirs of Hitler’s Most Brilliant General. Zenith Press, St Paul MN 2004. First Published 1955 as Verlorene Siege, English Translation 1958 by Methuen Company

Shirer, William L. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. A Touchstone Book published by Simon and Schuster, 1981, Copyright 1959 and 1960

Speer, Albert. Inside the Third Reich. Collier Books, a Division of MacMillan Publishers, Inc. New York, NY 1970.

Von Mellenthin, F.W. Panzer Battles: A Study of the Employment of Armor in the Second World War. Translated H. Betzler, Edited by L.C.F. Turner. Oklahoma University Press 1956, Ballantine Books, New York, NY. 1971.

Warlimont, Walter. Inside Hitler’s Headquarters 1939-45. Translated by R.H. Berry, Presido Press, Novato CA, 1964.

Wheeler-Bennett, John W. The Nemesis of Power: The German Army in Politics 1918-1945. St. Martin’s Press, New York, NY 1954

Share this:

Like this:


Dieppe Raid

This operation, originally codenamed Operation Rutter but later called Jubilee, was undertaken to test German defences of the port in Dieppe. Britain had enjoyed success against the Germans with the sinking of the Bismarck and the raid at St Nazaire in March 1942, but Churchill was determined to 'set Europe ablaze' and had created the Special Operations Executive (SOE) for the purpose. The British were also under pressure to exert themselves in France and divert the Germans from operations in Russia.

The Dieppe Raid was planned by British Combined Operations HQ and GHQ Home Forces. The Canadians were keen to be involved and the 2nd Canadian Division under Major General JH Roberts was nominated to take part. Just under 5,000 Canadians were joined by 1,075 British and they landed at Dieppe on 19 August 1942.

The force left from five different British ports divided into 13 groups. The men had support from a naval force of 237 warships, and eight destroyers opened fire as the troops were landing. A combined Allied air force prepared for a battle with the Luftwaffe.

The attack was launched at dawn and covered a ten-mile front taking in the towns and villages of Varengeville, Pourville, Puys and Berneval. A small German convoy had already exchanged fire with part of the landing force, blowing their cover so the essential element of surprise was gone. Some of the force was landed late or in the wrong place, both fatal mistakes. They immediately came under attack from German troops led by General Kurt Zeitzler. Allied air reconnaissance had failed to locate gun positions hidden in the cliffs surrounding the port and it was these that caused such devastation.

The infantry landed as planned but they had poor support and the German defenders were quick to recover. The tanks that got ashore were caught in roadblocks. Roberts ordered two of his reserve units ashore Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal were pinned down and the Royal Marie 'A' Commando were fortunate to have a commanding officer who turned back some of the landing craft to avoid fatalities.

Within a few hours, 3,367 Canadian men were either killed, wounded or captured. Of the British, 275 died. One destroyer and 33 landing craft were lost, with 550 seamen killed. The air battle was no more successful: 106 aircraft went down. Only one commando (No 4) led by Lord Lovat had success the Hess Battery on the right flank was destroyed and the commando evacuated to sea with few casualties. Captain Porteous (RA) won the Victoria Cross as a result.

The raid left the British administration red-faced. It was admitted that an air bombardment prior to landing would in future be ordered. A need for improved amphibious capabilities was also recognised. Allied commanders claimed that valuable military information was gained from the Dieppe Raid and Admiral Lord Mountbatten commented that 'for every soldier who died at Dieppe, ten were saved on D-Day'. No written record remains of the Chiefs of Staff approving the raid and it is possible that Mountbatten proceeded without authorisation. There was no denying that the raid was an expensive fiasco at an important juncture in the war.


GO Kurt Zeitzler

Post by Jeremy Dixon » 17 Mar 2013, 17:46

Does anyone know his assignments from 1935 until 1937 please

Re: GO Kurt Zeitzler

Post by Dieter Zinke » 17 Mar 2013, 20:00

01.02.1934 in das Reichswehrministerium, Berlin, versetzt
01.10.1934 im Wehrmacht-Amt
01.02.1935 Generalstabs-Offizier im Heereswaffenamt / RWMin (ab 21.05. 1935 im RKr.Min.)
00.00.1937 im Wehrmachtamt, Abteilung Landesverteidigung (Themen: Wehrmacht- und Gesamtkriegsführung, Manöver-Vorbereitung 1937, Vorbereitung der Operation “Grün“ gegen die Tschechoslowakei)
04.02.1938 in das neue OKW / Abteilung L (Landesverteidigung) unter Oberst i. G. Jodl, versetzt , Leiter der Gruppe I (Op.) Abt. L

sources:
Dr. Gerd F. Heuer,
Gerd R. Ueberschär
Mag. J. Scheibenreif

Re: GO Kurt Zeitzler

Post by Jeremy Dixon » 17 Mar 2013, 20:56

Re: GO Kurt Zeitzler

Post by Cartaphilus » 17 Sep 2014, 19:41

Dear friends, although on Axis Biographical Research it's recorded that Zeitzler was awarded by Finland (Order of the Cross of Liberty), is there any record of whether he was decorated by Romania (Order of Michael the Brave) or Bulgaria (Order of Military Merit) or other German ally?

I read somewhere a long time ago that he was awarded with te Order of Michael the Brave, 2nd Class, but now I'm not sure.

Re: GO Kurt Zeitzler

Post by VJK » 17 Sep 2014, 20:02

Zeitzler was awarded the Romanian Order of Michael the Brave 2nd and 3rd classes by Royal Decree no. 1012/12 April 1943.
Source: http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic. . 4&start=15

He also held the Knight’s Cross of the Bulgarian Military Merit Order with Swords.

Re: GO Kurt Zeitzler

Post by Cartaphilus » 18 Sep 2014, 00:36

Re: GO Kurt Zeitzler

Post by graveland » 18 Sep 2014, 15:45

Re: GO Kurt Zeitzler

Post by Jeremy Dixon » 13 Sep 2018, 19:57

Generaloberst Kurt Zeitzler (1895-1963)

Post by askropp » 13 Sep 2018, 22:39

*09.06.1895 Goßmar / Brandenburg
+25.09.1963 Hohenaschau / Oberbayern

Vater: Hermann Zeitzler, Pfarrer
Mutter: Elise Zeitzler, geb. Ullrich

24.12.1914 Leutnant mit Patent vom 23.06.1913 (W10w)
18.10.1918 Oberleutnant (K9k)
01.07.1922 neues RDA vom 20.06.1918 (142) erhalten
01.01.1928 Hauptmann (10)
01.07.1934 Major (2)
01.01.1937 Oberstleutnant (1)
20.03.1939 neues RDA vom 01.10.1936 (1a) erhalten
01.06.1939 Oberst (1)
xx.xx.194x neues RDA vom 01.01.1939 (7a) erhalten
01.02.1942 Generalmajor (ohne RDA)
16.03.1942 RDA vom 01.04.1942 (25) erhalten
24.09.1942 General der Infanterie
30.01.1944 Generaloberst mit RDA vom 01.02.1944 (4)

23.03.1914 eingetreten als Fahnenjunker
30.08.1915 Kompanieführer
03.10.1917 Regimentsadjutant
06.05.1919 Abteilungsadjutant
10.04.1920 Adjutant des Reichswehr-Infanterieregiments 32
01.04.1924 Adjutant des I. / Infanterieregiment 18 (Paderborn) [laut Stellenbesetzung]
01.10.1924 in der 4. (MG) / Infanterieregiment 18 (Paderborn)
01.10.1926 im Stab der 6. Division (Münster)
01.10.1927 im Stab der 4. Division (Dresden)
01.09.1929 im Stab der 3. Division (Berlin)
01.10.1932 Chef der 4. (MG) / Infanterieregiment 9 (Potsdam)
01.02.1934 in der Landesverteidigungsabteilung des Wehrmachtsamtes (Berlin)
10.11.1938 in der Landesverteidigungsabteilung des Oberkommandos der Wehrmacht (Berlin) [laut Stellenbesetzung]
01.04.1939 Kommandeur des Infanterieregiments 60 (Lüdenscheid)
26.08.1939 Chef des Generalstabes des XXII. Armeekorps
16.11.1940 Chef des Generalstabes der Panzergruppe 1
05.10.1941 Chef des Generalstabes der 1. Panzerarmee
24.04.1942 Chef des Generalstabes des Oberbefehlshabers West und der Heeresgruppe D
24.09.1942 Chef des Generalstabes des Heeres
30.06.1944 beurlaubt (Krankmeldung)
15.08.1944 Führerreserve OKH (III)
31.01.1945 ausgeschieden

I would like to know when and where Zeitzler was apprehended by the Allies in 1945.


The Nazi Party: Military Organization of the Third Reich

The Oberkommando der Wehrmacht or OKW (Wehrmacht High Command, Armed Forces High Command) was part of the command structure of the German armed forces during World War II. In theory, it served as the military general staff for Adolf Hitler's Third Reich, coordinating the efforts of the German Army (Heer), Navy (Kriegsmarine), and Air Force (Luftwaffe). In theory, the OKW was only Hitler's military office, was charged with translating Hitler's ideas into military orders, and had little real control over the Army, Navy and the Air Force High Commands. However, as the war progressed the OKW found itself exercising increasing amounts of direct command authority over military units, particularly in the West. This created a situation such that by 1942 the OKW was the de facto command of Western forces while the OKH (the Army High Command) exercised de facto command of the Russian front.

The OKW had been formed in 1938 following the Blomberg-Fritsch Affair which led to the dismissal of Werner von Blomberg and the dissolution of the Reichswehrministerium (Reichs Ministry of War).

There was a rivalry between OKW and the OKH (Army High Command, Oberkommando des Heeres): Because most German operations during World War II were army operations (with air support), the Army High Command demanded the control over the German military forces. Hitler decided against the OKH and in favour of the OKW.

During the war, more and more influence moved from the OKH to the OKW. Norway was the first “OKW war theater.” More and more theaters came under complete control of the OKW. Finally only the Russian Front stayed under control of the Army High Command.

The OKW ran military operations on the Western front, Africa and in Italy. In the west operations were further split between the OKW and the Oberbefehlshaber West (OBW, Commander in Chief West), who was Generalfeldmarschall Gerd von Rundstedt (later Field Marshal Günther von Kluge).

There was even more fragmentation as naval and air operations had their own commands (Oberkommando der Marine (OKM) and Oberkommando der Luftwaffe (OKL, Hermann Göring)) which, while theoretically subordinate, were largely independent from OKW or the OBW.

The OKW was headed for the entire war by Wilhelm Keitel and reported directly to Hitler, from whom most operational orders actually originated as he had made himself Oberster Befehlshaber der Wehrmacht (Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces) and Oberbefehlshaber des Heeres (head of the OKH).

Alfred Jodl was Keitel's Chef des Wehrmachtführungsstabes (Chief of Operation Staff), while Walter Warlimont was Deputy Chief.

The OKW was indicted but acquitted of charges during the Nuremberg trials of being a criminal organization. Keitel and Jodl however were convicted and sentenced to death by hanging.

Oberkommando des Heeres

The Oberkommando des Heeres (OKH) was Germany's Army High Command. In theory the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW) commanded the OKH. However, the de facto situation after 1941 was that the OKW directly commanded operations on the Western front while the OKH commanded the Russian front.

The German Heer, or army, was formed in May of 1935. It was formed after the passing of the "Law for the Reconstruction of the National Defense Forces". This law brough back into existance a free standing German army, navy and airforce, something that had been essentially banned after the end of World War I.

With the end of World War I and the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, the Weimar Republic - the successor to Imperial Germany - was allowed only a small defensive military force known as the Reichswehr. The Reichswehr's size and composition was strictly controlled by the Allies in the hope that by restricting its constitution they could prevent future German military aggression. The Reichswehr consisted of 100,000 men divided between a small standing army, the Reichsheer, and a small defensive navy, the Reichsmarine.

In 1933 the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) came to power and the infamous Third Reich was born. Two years later in 1935 the Treaty of Versailles was renounced and the Reichswehr became the Wehrmacht. The newly formed Wehrmacht would still consist of an army and a navy - the renamed Heer and Kriegsmarine, but a new airforce was born as well - the Luftwaffe.

The Heer initially consisted of 21 Divisional sized units and 3 Army Groups to control them, as well as numerous smaller formations. Between 1935 and 1945 this force grew to consist of hundreds of Divisions, dozens of Army Groups and thousands of smaller supporting units. Between 1939 and 1945 close to 13 million served in the Heer. Over 1.6 million were killed and over 4.1 million were wounded. Of the 7361 men awarded the initial grade of the highest German combat honor of WWII, the Knights Cross, 4777 were from the Heer making up 65% of the total awarded.

Between 1939 and 1945 the Heer bore the majority of six years worth of fierce combat, some of which was so fierce - as on the Eastern Front - humankind will likely never again see such fighting. Although not immune to the overtones of politics and the occasional brush with questionable actions, the vast majority of German Heer units served with great distinction across many thousands of miles of battlefields.

The Heer was defeated with the German capitulation on May 8th 1945, although some units continued to fight for a few days longer in fits of sporadic resistance, mainly against the Soviets in the East. The Allied Control Council passed a law formally dissolving the Wehrmach on the 20th of August 1946, the official "death" date of the German Heer.

There also existed the Oberkommando der Marine (OKM) and the Oberkommando der Luftwaffe (OKL) for the navy and the air force respectively. These were theoretically subordinate to the OKW, but in actuality acted quite independently.

The Army commanders (Oberbefehlshaber des Heeres, or OBdH for short) of the Wehrmacht were,

from 1935 to 1938, Generaloberst Werner von Fritsch

from 1938 to 19 December 1941, Generalfeldmarschall Walther von Brauchitsch

from 19 December 1941 to 30 April 1945, Führer and Reichskanzler Adolf Hitler

and from 30 April 1945 to 8 May 1945, Generalfeldmarschall Ferdinand Schörner.

Following German tradition the OBdH did not plan operations. This task was left to the General Staff, so actually the most important man in the Army (and the Navy, but less so in the Luftwaffe, which was commanded by Hermann Göring) was the chief of the general staff. It should be noted that the Heer (army) always has been the leading factor in planning campaigns. Thus there was no such thing as combined planning of the different services. The position of Oberkommando der Wehrmacht, which was by definition superior to the OKH, was not intended for that, nor did it have the resources to do so.

Later in the war, the OKH became responsible for fewer and fewer tasks. For example, the invasion of Norway was entirely planned outside the OKH.

During World War II, the Chiefs of General Staff were,

from 1 Sep 1938 to 24 Sep 1942, Generaloberst Franz Halder

from 24 Sep 1942 to 10 June 1944, Generaloberst Kurt Zeitzler

from 10 June 1944 to 21 July 1944, Generalleutnant Adolf Heusinger

from 21 July 1944 to 28 Mar 1945, Generaloberst Heinz Guderian

and from 1 Apr 1945 to 30 Apr 1945, General der Infanterie Hans Krebs.

When Hitler took command of the army on 19 Dec 1941, the importance of the GenStdH decreased, and Hitler continued to become more and more responsible for operational planning.

Oberkommando der Marine

The Oberkommando der Marine (or OKM for short) was Germany's Naval High Command until 1945. The German Kriegsmarine, or navy, was formed in May of 1935. It was formed after the passing of the "Law for the Reconstruction of the National Defense Forces". This law brough back into existance a free standing German army, navy and airforce, something that had been essentially banned after the end of World War I.

The Kriegsmarine can be said to have consisted of three main components between 1935 and 1945, individual naval vessels, naval formations consisting of specific types of ships and a wide variety of ground based units. From these three main components the Kriegsmarine fielded thousands of ships and hundreds of naval formations and ground units. Between 1939 and 1945 over 1.5 million served in the Kriegsmarine. Over 65,000 were killed, over 105,000 went missing and over 21,000 were wounded. Of the 7361 men awarded the initial grade of the highest German combat honor of WWII, the Knights Cross, 318 were from the Kriegsmarine making up 4% of the total awarded.

Of all the branches of the Wehrmacht, the Kriegsmarine was the most under-appreciated. It fought against superior numbers on almost every front with a force greatly limited by a lack of effective coordination and a harsh misunderstanding from within the German High Comand (OKW). Although Allied air and naval power largely destroyed the entire German High Seas Fleet and Uboot force, the smaller and auxiliary vessels of the Kriegsmarine continued to serve effectively until the last hours of WWII. These vessels saw service along thousands of miles of coast in every theater of war and provided an important link in the backbone of the Wehrmacht.

German naval ground units also provided a critical service during WWII, manning massive guns along the Atlantic Wall in the west and naval flak and artillery units all across Western and Eastern Europe. There were also countless naval infantry, engineer and communications units as well. In the last months of WWII most all of the naval ground units were involved directly in fighting of some form or another, some naval units even took part in the Battle for Berlin in 1945.

The Kriegsmarine was offically disbanded in August of 1946 by the Allied Control Commission, although many smaller Kriegsmarine ships survived on active service, now under Allied control, as a part of the German contingent to clear the oceans and seas of mines sown by Axis and Allies alike.

The commanders (Oberbefehlshaber des Marine, or OBdM for short) of the Kriegsmarine were:

September 24, 1928- January 30, 1943 Grossadmiral Erich Raeder

January 30, 1943 - May 1, 1945 Grossadmiral Karl Dönitz

May 1, 1945 - May 8, 1945 Generaladmiral Hans-Georg von Friedeburg (after Dönitz becomes Head of State when Hitler commits suicide)

The Luftwaffe

The German Luftwaffe, or airforce, was formed in May of 1935. It was formed after the passing of the "Law for the Reconstruction of the National Defense Forces". This law brough back into existance a free standing German army, navy and airforce, something that had been essentially banned after the end of World War I.

Although offically announced in 1935, the Luftwaffe had existed in one form or another practically since the day the treaty banning it had been signed. Initially there were Freikorps air units, then later glider and sail plane formations tasked with finding ways around the rigid restrictions of Versailles, a secret training base in the Soviet Union, and various cover organizations for the initial forming of the new German airforce.

The Luftwaffe consisted of air units that made up the majority of the German airforce, as well as Fallschrimjäger units, Luftwaffe Field Divisions, the elite Herman Göring ground formations, thousands of smaller anti-aircraft, engineer, communications and security units, and a fair number of Luftwaffe naval vessels and formations as well. Between 1939 and 1945 over 3.4 million served in the Luftwaffe. Over 165,000 were killed, over 155,000 went missing and over 192,000 were wounded. Of the 7361 men awarded the inital grade of the highest German combat honor of WWII, the Knights Cross, 1785 were from the Luftwaffe making up 24% of the total awaded.

Initially the Luftwaffe ruled the skies but thereafter fought an increasingly futile war of attrition which when combined with vital mistakes in aircraft production and utilization, was its death knoll. In the face of this the Luftwaffe produced the most successful air aces of all time. As well, the feats of the Fallschirmjäger in the first airborne operations in history are as heroic as they are tragic. German paratroops suffered appaling losses on Crete and essentially never saw large scale airborne operations again. Some Luftwaffe ground units fought well during WWII, such as certain Luftwaffe field divisions and the elite Hermann Göring formations, while other units simply served.

Ultimately the structure of the Luftwaffe was a grand relfection of its commander, Hermann Göring. He strove more so than any other branch to create a personal army with responsibilities as far reaching as possible. It was partly due to this that the Wehrmacht was ultimately defeated. The strain on resources and man power such political manuvering had was far reaching.

The Luftwaffe was offically disbanded in August of 1946 by the Allied Control Commission.

The SA

The Sturmabteilung (SA, German for &ldquoStorm Division&rdquo and is usually translated as stormtroops or stormtroopers) functioned as a paramilitary organization of the NSDAP – the German Nazi party. It played a key role in Adolf Hitler's rise to power in the 1930s. SA men were often known as brownshirts from the colour of their uniform and to distinguish them from the SS who were known as blackshirts.

The SA was also the first Nazi paramilitary group to develop pseudo-military titles for bestowal upon its members. The SA ranks would be adopted by several other Nazi Party groups, chief among them the SS.

The SS

The Schutzstaffel (Protective Squadron), or SS, was a large paramilitary organization that belonged to the Nazi party. The SS was led by Heinrich Himmler from 1929 until it was disbanded in 1945 with the defeat of Germany in World War II. The Nazis regarded the SS as an elite unit, a Party's &ldquopraetorian guard,&rdquo with all SS personnel selected on racial and ideological grounds. The SS was distinguished from the German military, Nazi Party, and German state officials by their own SS ranks, SS unit insignia, and SS uniforms.

The most recognizable branches of the SS, later charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity, were the departments that comprised the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (RSHA, Reich Security Head Office), Sicherheitsdienst (SD, Security Service), Einsatzgruppen (Special Mission Groups), the concentration camp service known as the SS-Totenkopfverbände (SS-TV, Death's Head Formations), and the Gestapo (Secret State Police).

The SS fighting units, called the Waffen-SS, were to evolve into highly skilled and effective soldiers, in many cases superior in these respects to the German army, the Heer.

Of all the German military organizations of WWII the Waffen-SS is one of the most widely studied. This is in part because of the combat record of the Waffen-SS and the elite status of many of its units, and in part because of the brutality attributed to some of its formations and the war crimes some of its members were responsible for. By the end of WWII over 1,000,000 soldiers in 38 divisions would serve in the Waffen-SS, including over 200,000 conscripts.

The Waffen-SS was a part of the German Schutzstaffel or SS, which saw its rise during the late 1920s and early 1930s. The SS was the single most powerful political organization within the Third Reich and consisted of the Allgemeine-SS, Totenkopfverbande, and the Waffen-SS.

The Waffen-SS was born in 1933 after Hitler came to power when Politisches Bereitschaften or Political Readiness Detachments were formed under the control of the SS. These units were organized along military lines and were intended to help counter Communist strikes. On October 1st, 1934 these units became the SS-Verfügungstruppen or SS Special Use Troops. Initially the Verfügungstruppen consisted of small detachments located in larger German cities but by 1935 they were organized into battalions and in 1936 into Standarten or regiments. In 1936 two main SS-V Standarten existed, Deutschland and Germania. The Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler also existed at this time and although related it was considered somewhat outside the purview of the SS-V.

In 1938 the SS-Verfügungstruppen took part in the occupation of Austria and Czechoslovakia along side the Wehrmacht. After the occupation of Austria a third Standart was formed known as Der Führer. In 1939 the SS-Verfügungstruppen consisted of three Standarden, the LAH, and a number of smaller service and support units. For the Campaign in Poland in 1939 all SS-V units were organized into the SS-Verfügungstruppe-Division and placed under the operational command of the Wehrmacht. The SS-Verfügungstruppe-Division also fought in the Western Campaign 1940. After the conclusion of the Western Campaign the SS-Verfügungstruppen was renamed and became the Waffen-SS.

Although the Waffen-SS is frequently considered an elite organization not all of its units were actually elite. Some Waffen-SS units formed after 1943 had less than ideal combat records. This was in part due to the fact that the number of volunteers eligible for service in the Waffen-SS shrank as the war continued while the need for replacements increased. The number of conscripts taken into the Waffen-SS of lesser quality or questionable ability had a direct impact on combat effectiveness.

After WWII ended the Waffen-SS was condemned at the Nurnberg Trials as a criminal organization. This was in part due to a series of high profile atrocities and because of their connection to the SS and NSDAP. Only those who were conscripted into the Waffen-SS were exempt from the Nurnberg declaration. As a result Waffen-SS veterans were generally denied the rights and benefits granted to other WWII German veterans. Waffen-SS prisoners of war were often held in strict confinement and were treated harshly by the Soviets. Many foreign volunteers that served in the Waffen-SS were also treated severely by their national governments. In the years since WWII there have been attempts to rehabilitate the image and legality of Waffen-SS veterans, both through legislation and in published works by former officers like Paul Hausser (Soldaten wie andere auch - Soldiers Like Any Other). To this day the stigma on veterans from the Waffen-SS remains.

After the war, the judges of Nuremberg Trials declared the entirety of the SS as a criminal organization, among others because of its implementation of racial policies of genocide.

The Volkssturm

The Volkssturm, literally translated as People's Storm in the meaning of National Storm, was a German national militia of the last months of the Nazi regime. It was founded on Adolf Hitler's orders on October 18, 1944 and effectively conscripted all males between the ages of 16 to 60 years of age (who did not already serve in some military unit) as part of the German Home Guard.

National Socialist Motor Corps

The National Socialist Motor Corps (German: Nationalsozialistisches Kraftfahrerkorps NSKK), also known as the National Socialist Drivers Corps, was a paramilitary organization of the Nazi Party that existed from 1931 to 1945. The group was a successor organization to the older National Socialist Automobile Corps, which had existed since the beginning of 1930.

The National Socialist Motor Corps was the smallest of the Nazi Party organizations and had originally been formed as a motorized corps of the Sturmabteilung (SA). In 1934, the group had a membership of approximately ten thousand and was separated from the SA to become an independent organization. This action may have saved the NSKK from extinction, as shortly thereafter the SA suffered a major purge during the Night of the Long Knives.

The primary aim of the NSKK was to educate its members in motoring skills. They were mainly trained in the operation and maintenance of high performance motorcycles and automobiles. In the mid 1930s, the NSKK also served as a roadside assistance group, comparable to the modern-day American Automobile Association or the British Automobile Association.

Membership in the NSKK did not require any knowledge of automobiles and the group was known to accept persons for membership without drivers' licenses. It was thought that training in the NSKK would make up for any previous lack of knowledge. The NSKK did, however, adhere to racial doctrine and screened its members for Aryan qualities. The NSKK was also a paramilitary organization with its own system of paramilitary ranks.

With the outbreak of World War II in 1939, the National Socialist Motor Corps became a target of the Wehrmacht for recruitment, since NSKK members possessed knowledge of motorized transport, whereas the bulk of the Wehrmacht relied on horses. Most NSKK members thereafter joined the regular military, serving in the transport corps of the various service branches.

In 1945, the NSKK was disbanded and the group was declared a &ldquocondemned organization&rdquo at the Nuremberg Trials (although not a criminal one). This was due in part to the NSKK’s origins in the SA and its doctrine of racial superiority required from its members.

National Socialist Flyers Corps

The National Socialist Flyers Corps was a paramilitary organization of the Nazi Party that was founded in the early 1930s during the years when a German Air Force was forbidden by the Treaty of Versailles. The organization was based closely on the organization of the Sturmabteilung (SA) and maintained a system of paramilitary ranks closely associated with the SA.

During the early years of its existence, the NSFK conducted military aviation training in gliders and private airplanes. When Nazi Germany formed the Luftwaffe, many NSFK members transferred. As all such prior NSFK members were also Nazi Party members this gave the new Luftwaffe a strong Nazi ideological base in constrast to the other branches of the German military, who were comprised of &ldquoOld Guard” officers from the German aristocracy.

The National Socialist Flyers Corps continued to exist after the Luftwaffe was founded, but to a much smaller degree. During World War II, the NSFK mainly performed air defense duties such as reserve anti-aircraft service.


Watch the video: Overlord 2018 - Grenade Surprise Scene 710. Movieclips (May 2022).