«Военная Литература»
Военная история



Chapter Thirteen.

Hitler: The German Fuhrer Driven by a Siege Mentality

ADOLF Hitler has strong claim to being the paramount political figure of the twentieth century. That judgment is obviously not on a moral plane but based on the historical capability of one man almost single-handedly to win the Second World War in Europe. A National Socialist German victory would have had consequences at once incalculable and vast—indeed, epoch making. To win. Hitler had only to order Army Group Center to continue its attack in reinforced strength toward Moscow on or about 13 August 1941. Every German army officer outside of OKW supported an uninterrupted drive toward Moscow and continuation of the offensive beyond, as appropriate to the developing campaign. Even in OKW, virtually every officer who voiced his views on continuing operations in July and August 1941 favored the drive to seize Moscow immediately. The exception, Generalfeidmarschall Wilhelm Keitel, chief of OKW, is clear in his memoirs that he intended to be only a conduit for Hitler's concepts and not give his professional opinion on a military topic, even if asked.{1} Hitler made the most important decision of his life—and the most important judgment for the political shape of the twentieth century world—against the professional judgment of virtually every German soldier who had an opportunity to comment{2}.

Hitler and the Most Important Political Military Decision of the 20th Century

Curiously, Hitler's great decision was a military one, albeit within the framework of a politically inspired war. That a military decision could be so important is jarring in a modern world obsessed with social forces, economics, the "masses," and the concomitant decline in emphasis on "kings and battles" in history. Modern historians portraying political history tend to bridge the gap between kings and battles and social forces by emphasizing political history rich in economic and social inputs. So it is curious that despite contemporary historical style. Hitler, a king in the sense of an important individual leader—the Hero in history— made the great decision of the twentieth century. The decision narrowed even further from the conceptual perspective inspiring proponents of mass social forces because it concerned fighting only the next battle in a military campaign. Yet the German failure to seize Moscow in August 1941 was the turning point in the Russian campaign. After that, the Germans faced certain defeat in the Second World War, an outcome that altered fundamentally the course of events in this century.

How could Hitler have made such a decision, and how can it be explained? If it can be explained, does the result further an understanding of the man and his judgments? So important a decision would provide clues to the man. The more important judgments should reflect the same fears, doubts, and strengths of others, only with such factors magnified because of greater importance. Another question is: Did Hitler know he was making his supreme decision? It is easy for the historian to make such a claim and buttress it with supporting argument from the commanding heights of retrospection. Making history is different from writing it, and Hitler may not have realized that he had reached the pinnacle of his career and a turning point for the world. It is hard to imagine that he knew he was making his most significant decision, particularly since it was fatally deficient and must lead to certain defeat. It is likely, though, that Hitler knew his decision was extraordinarily important, perhaps the most significant he would ever make. This explanation permits claims to a better understanding of the man through an understanding of his aberration before Moscow.

Hitler's Decision-making Pattern

Hitler revealed an uncannily similar behavior pattern in planning and executing the earlier French campaign. He approved a modified, seemingly more decisive plan to conquer France in late February 1940. But a closer examination of the operation plan controversy shows Hitler approving a new scheme of maneuver not because it was decisive but because something new was demanded by the compromise of the original plan on 10 January 1941 in Belgium and the excessive delay in the attack{3}. Hitler had little faith in the Manstein plan to produce a decisive victory over France. His planning for an offensive in the heavily fortified Rhine area and emphasis on the taking of the Lorraine ore fields show preoccupation with extraneous economic targets in France analogous to the Donets Basin in the Ukraine during the Russian campaign. Day after day, in the Halder diaries the hardworking German chief of staff notes discussion and preparation for a Rhine offensive and, astoundingly, shows Hitler in June 1940 holding up attacks to the south and southwest of Paris because of his concern over the certainty of seizing Lorraine.

In contrast to his irresolute dispersal of effort in a military campaign and his peculiar disregard for the time element in war. Hitler reached his great foreign policy decisions with a special, almost unique resolution and corresponding swiftness. Events from March 1935, with the announcement of conscription in Germany, through the decision in July 1940 to attack the Soviet Union reflect a relatively young man—Hitler was forty-six in 1935—in an almost incredible hurry. He exceeded even Bismarck by bringing Austria, admittedly a rump state but nevertheless German Austria, into the Reich in February 1938. He could have retired in March 1938, among the most distinguished German statesmen of all time, having recovered the Rhineland for Germany and added Austria to it. After the rearmament of Germany in 1935, remilitarization of the Rhineland in March 1936, and the annexation of Austria in March 1938, how could he have pressed on so aggressively in the spring of 1938 as to be on the verge of war with Britain, France, and Czechoslovakia in May of the same year? What happened to his retirement plans? From 1935 to 1940 he carried out a veritable Blitzaussenpolitik (lightning foreign policy) in addition to the so-called blitzkriegs of 1939-1941.

Hitler's Blitzaussenpolitik advances and apparent lightning wars complemented one another and led with ice-cold logic toward the conquest of Europe. Regarding his decision to attack the Soviet Union, one marvels at the consistency of pattern, the fanatical sense of urgency, and the sensitivity of the policy to time. With a genius for effective timing, Hitler determined to attack the Soviet Union as quickly as possible after the French campaign, notwithstanding the potentially embarrassing war with Britain. Although claiming consistently that an attack on the Soviet Union was necessary to defeat Britain, Hitler must be seen as attacking the Soviets to achieve the National Socialist Weltanschauling (world view) and end the war in Europe by seizing European Russia and smashing Soviet communism. Hitler concealed his fundamental purpose, using the tortuous, half-believable argument that Britain could be defeated only if it denied Soviet Russia as an ally. The argument was both convenient and necessary because of the time element in any attack against the Soviets. Alongside his British argument. Hitler repeated with equal consistency his more substantial fears that Stalin was planning an attack against Germany; and every day that passed decreased Germany's 1940 advantage in the balance in armaments and mobilized personnel. In June 1941, Hitler seems barely to have beaten Stalin to the punch and was correct in his general strategic assessment that delaying an attack against the Soviet Union until 1942 would give the Soviets improved armaments and mobilization, decreasing German chances of success in any attack.

Soviet Intentions in the Summer of 1941

Recently, published evidence and particularly effective arguments show that Stalin began a massive deployment of Soviet forces to the western frontier early in June 1941.{4} The evidence supports a view that Stalin intended to use the forces concentrated in the west as quickly as possible—probably about mid-July 1941—for a Soviet Barbarossa. Statements of Soviet prisoners also support a view that the Soviets intended an attack on Germany in 1941.{5} The extraordinary deployment of the Soviet forces on the western frontier is best explained as an offensive deployment for an attack without full mobilization by extremely powerful forces massed there for that purpose.

An extraordinary element in Barbarossa is the utter disbelief by Germans like Major Peter von der Groeben, thirty-nine years after the event{6}, and the similar disbelief of others like Bock and Halder about the Soviet strategy to fight for every inch of Soviet territory. That strategy made no sense to the German command and could never make sense so long as it was based on the premise that Stalin and the Soviet government were surprised in a defensive stance and fearful of a German attack. If. however, the Soviets were deployed for an attack of their own and were not surprised, then such a situation would demand the Red Army reaction— furious attacks by masses of men and materiel and the appearance of a surprised defender deciding on a strategy of holding every inch of Russian (and other people's) territory. A subtlety in this interpretation is that the Soviet command was perhaps surprised by the timing and violence of Barbarossa, although not surprised that Soviet forces soon would be in combat. For the first time, then, the Soviet decision to fight on the border, a decision that was wrong and would have ensured a German victory but for Hitler's mid-Barbarossa procrastination and diffusion of German strength, comes into focus as the only one possible, given the Soviet deployment for offensive operations at the harvest end in 1941.

Hitler's Aggressiveness During German Initiatives in Foreign Policy and War, 1935-1941

It is unlikely that Hitler anticipated the offensive Soviet deployment in June 1941 because Stalin probably ordered the deployment, reacting to his knowledge of a German military buildup. It is likely that Hitler accurately forecast that Stalin could not resist taking advantage of Germany's preoccupation with Britain to launch an attack in the immediate future, no later than the summer of 1942. With his inimitable foreign policy forcefulness. Hitler pressed for an attack as soon as possible after the fall of France, the earliest serious campaigning weather being late spring 1941. Hitler's political forcefulness and sense of timing to get things done quickly to reach his foreign pohcy goals were important elements in his remarkable string of foreign policy and war successes from 1935 to 1940.

By an attack on the Soviet Union in the spring of 1941, Hitler accentuated the scale and pace of an already savagely dynamic foreign policy. The term "foreign policy" does not explain what Hitler was about, for he was literally conducting a lightning foreign policy war [Blitzaussenpolitikskrieg]. Hitler cannot be faulted for lack of forcefulness or pace in his foreign policy; rather, he was a paragon of concentration, force, and speed. While making his foreign policy decisions he was assailed by fears, doubts, and procrastination, but he always overcame them. He impressed his decisive will on his foreign policy opponents from 1935 to August 1939 and achieved every goal without recourse to war. When finally forced by the crisis of summer 1939 to attack, he was fully prepared not only to fight a war with Poland but also to win it before any opponent could exploit the dangerous situation into which Germany was projected. When Hitler reached his greatest decision. it was with the same forcefulness and sense of urgency that characterized the past. The decision to attack the Soviet Union was the correct decision for Germany in July 1940, for whether or not Britain was defeated in the autumn of 1940, Russia would have to be attacked in the campaign season of 1941.

Once in a war with Britain and France. Hitler continued his decisive political actions, sending German armed forces into successful military campaigns in Denmark and Norway, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, France, Yugoslavia, and Greece, apparently with a fine sense of the strategic demands and the importance of time. With Germany at war, the German high command achieved even greater prominence than the leadership of the National Socialist movement, forcing Hitler to assume his role as supreme commander of the armed forces and wield control over them. As supreme commander. Hitler showed devastating weaknesses, based on characteristics muted during his rise to national political power in Germany and to international political influence in Europe.

Examining the challenging, complex problems that Hitler successfully mastered in bringing a political movement to power in Germany, it is possible to understand and define the singular qualities of the man. The same qualities served Hitler well in the challenging period during which he raised Germany to predominant influence in Europe. He was intense, distant, personally withdrawn—a lone fanatic. Simultaneously he sensed what disturbed every German over losing the First World War and the associated trauma. He was a German's German, the most average of all Germans, a gregarious sponge appealing to the greatest number. He has been described as both banal and terrible; disastrously disorganized in personal and public life but a great organizer based on his development of a mass political movement from a tiny, sterile debating club. These contrary appraisals, each with substantial elements of truth, are not particularly helpful in gauging what Hitler would do in a given situation. He prided himself on a fanatical will to surmount difficult times and situations—"walls may break but not our hearts." It was to be expected, therefore, that he would be fanatical when faced with challenging situations. But how does a fanatic be fanatical? Does he fanatically attack or defend, concentrate on his great mission, or run off in pursuit of the tactical details of the moment?

Once at war, in 1939, Hitler was faced with pursuing "politics by other means," essentially Clausewitz's ominously couched "armed violence." Hitler was used to brawling and action in his rise to power (brawl) and execution of dramatic foreign policy (action). Unlike the other senior statesmen of his day, Hitler even had experienced war as a private soldier in the First World War. In 1939, however. Hitler faced the challenge of continuing German foreign policy by armed violence. The street brawls and pistol of the (fanatically) courageous messenger of an infantry regiment in Flanders would be replaced by the thunder of artillery and the roaring engines of panzer formations with distant strategic targets. Hitler faced the self-imposed task of providing strategic political direction for Germany in war while in operational command of the armed forces. This two-faceted situation quickly highlighted the strengths and weaknesses of the man and enable us to understand him—the strategic vision, the operational fears, and the tactical compulsions that drove him.

Adolf Hitler Revealed by Barbarossa's Challenges

In Barbarossa, Hitler had the initiative to win the war and was more clearly revealed than at any other time. With almost unique perversity, he revealed his greatest strength, a thinly developed sense of proportion. His many detractors point to his decision to attack the Soviet Union. They also note the hyperbole in his designating the Volga as the goal to be reached in the campaign as evidence of a man divorced from reality. They might as well have pointed to his decision to become the seventh active member of a blue-collar political club in Munich and his declared goal to take over Germany with it as evidence of similar hyperbole. The conventional view of Hitler belabors the point that he was a man without a sense of proportion but links the characteristic almost exclusively with the period from 1939 to 1945. Further, they show how it contributed to his fall and intimate that it was his most significant weakness.

Had Hitler exhibited a reasonable, normal, or balanced sense of proportion, he would not have become one of the most important political figures of the twentieth century. Had he possessed a sense of proportion, he would not have presumed to start a mass political movement from an inconceivably small base. However, without that sense of proportion, by 1932 he became leader of the most successful political party in Germany. Had he a sense of proportion he would not have refused the vice chancellorship in August 1932. However, without it he refused and became chancellor in January 1933. With a sense of proportion he would not have ordered German troops into the demilitarized Rhineland in March 1936, putting Strassburg within range of German cannon and plunging Germany into war with France and Britain. Without a sense of proportion. Hitler won a historically unsurpassed string of internal political, foreign policy, and military victories from 1920 to 1941.

Lacking that sense of proportion. Hitler made the correct decision at the right time to attack the Soviet Union as early as practicable in 1941. It was the most significant move in his political career. Making that decision in July 1940, he gave Germany a clear chance to win the Second World War in Europe. Attacking the Soviet Union while violating the August 1939 nonaggression pact, he added an element of special brazenness. Historically, the action was almost unparalled and shows him as a man lacking an ordinary sense of proportion. Yet the decision was no bolder than many Hitler had made in the past with less chance of success. He had a greater chance to defeat the Soviet Union in 1941 with the formidable blitz potential of the German army than he had to take over Germany in 1920 with a handful of disgruntled Munich beer drinkers. Hitler's missing sense of proportion probably resulted from some perception of personal destiny, mission, and messianic self-assurance. Rather than causing him failure, it was an important reason for his success.

Were There Two Hitlers?

Hitler showed an almost infinite capacity to make grand and dangerous political decisions. Once within the framework of his greatest political decision, however, his obsessive concern about economic details and opportunities in a military campaign against the Soviet Union showed a sense of proportion that ran contrary to the overwhelming boldness of the decision and contradicts the logic of a lightning war. Hitler, the master political strategist in Germany and Europe in the interwar period, appears in retrospect to have been unstoppable in his impossibly bold decisions. He demonstrated a breathtaking disregard for practical necessities in his greatest decisions, leaving the observer mystified as to how he believed they could be carried out. For example, in a political crisis only twenty-four hours old, at approximately 1330 on 9 March 1938, Hitler informed Generaloberst Ludwig Beck, army chief of staff, and Generalmajor Erich von Manstein, casual visitor to the chief's office, that he required a military option for the crisis rapidly developing in Austria. He demanded that the two generals prepare to move the German army into that state no later than 0900 on 11 March. It would be difficult to find a high-level decision made with greater decisiveness but less sense of proportion about the possibilities of success. Hitler got his just deserts in this case because the German army moved into Austria thirty minutes late, at 0930 on that fateful Saturday morning. The army's massed presence, nevertheless, ignited overwhelming national support for the unification of the two German peoples and paralyzed effective counteraction by neighbors.

Unlike his boldness and lack of sense of proportion in political and military decisions up to July 1940, Hitler was concerned over seizing economic targets in the Soviet Union during Barbarossa. With an impressive sense of proportion about Germany's economic capabilities to win a European war, he determined to pace Barbarossa to the seizure of Leningrad, the eastern Ukraine, and the Crimea for economic reasons. It is the supreme irony of his bold and unrestrained foreign policy from 1935 to 1941 that he was defeated by his restrained and realistically proportioned concern over the seizure of economic targets in Russia. How it is possible that in his boldest political decision he determined a timorous war plan designed to assure the seizure of economic terrain rather than defeat of the Soviet Union?

Were there two Adolf Hitlers: one capable of deciding to attack the largest state in the world while simultaneously at war with an even larger Athenian-style empire, the other incapable of taking risks in war? Hitler has been described as a compulsive gambler, a political leader with an urge to self-destruction, a man with a death wish. He made decision after decision from 1924 (i.e., after the November 1923 Putsch) through 1941, decisions so daring and feaught with peril that they seem almost calculated to fail. Almost every important decision he made during that period was successful. Thus, he was an improbable gambler. Gambling—wagering on uncertain events—demands a result in which the gambler loses about as many times as he wins in his gambling. In uncertain situations during those years, Hitler won almost every important political wager and can scarcely be described as a gambler except in a misleading, pejorative sense. He was an extraordinarily skillful and daring political leader whose focus on a single distant goal added system to his skill and daring. Yet the same man was incapable of entertaining risks in the ultimate military execution of his vast political decisions in 1939-1941.

Hitler's Leningrad Fixation In Barbarossa

The role of the individual Hero in history has rarely been more important than in the German loss of the Second World War in Europe. Germany could not have won that war by virtue of superior population and productive resources. It could not engage in a struggle simultaneously with France, Britain, and the Soviet Union with any prospect of success. Germany could have won the war through Hitler's political skill and daring and the battle-winning capabilities of the German army. Hitler had the time to intervene in the military planning for the advance into the Soviet Union, but his boldness faltered during the military campaign. In essence, he diverted the campaign in Soviet Russia into an attack against Leningrad, then confounded the apparent illogic of that limited outlook by changing his mind during the campaign and ordering instead an attack into the Ukraine by Army Group Center. Hitler pursued the Leningrad decision from August 1940 through approximately 13 July 1941, then veered toward a different target but one just as indecisive as Leningrad. The Leningrad decision and the final belated Ukrainian version of it was Hitler's most important mistake. Executed at the end of August 1941, the decision wiped out his successes prior to the planned diversion; all of his accumulating failures after it—Alamein, Stalingrad, Kursk, and others—were anticlimactic, inconsequential to the issue of victory or defeat in the war. The decision must provide the most significant insight possible into what drove Hitler.

The Leningrad diversion seemed senseless, including its hasty conception by Hitler within days after he announced his decision to attack the Soviet Union. How could he have concluded by August 1940 that the most important element in Barbarossa was to take Leningrad at once? Is it possible that in his mind he saw Leningrad as the key to securing the Baltic route of Swedish iron ore to Germany? If so. Hitler may have ordered the attack against the Soviet Union to secure the Swedish ore resources. In that case, however, the means to secure a given end are exaggerated to the point of incredibility—an attack against the Soviet Union to secure the summer route of Swedish ore shipments to Germany! Yet conventional wisdom demands acceptance of a similarly exaggerated means to a given end—an attack on the Soviet Union to secure the successful end to war with Britain. This approach is not convincing. There was a fanatical sense of mission in Hitler's political strategy, driving him toward a final showdown not with Britain but rather with international Jewish bolshevism, exemplified by the Soviet Communist party. It is unlikely that Hitler would plan a confrontation with Soviet Russia as an incidental part of a war with Britain. It is likely that he would be forced to consider tactical details in such a strategic showdown, and these could provide us with probing insights into his thought processes.

In planning for Barbarossa, Hitler redirected the energy of the decision to attack and overthrow the Soviet Union into a wholly different plane of consideration, the seizure of several economic objectives. He lost sight almost immediately of the strategic purpose of the invasion—the quick overthrow of the Soviet government. In the actual execution of Barbarossa starting on 22 June 1941, he redirected the energy that he had planned to seize several vast economic objectives into mastering myriad (for the supreme commander) local combat crises. Through a process and style difficult to fathom, he saw the campaign he had ordered with decisive strategic energy only in terms of the parts and the pieces. Surely there were two Adolf Hitlers: one going his way with the assurance of a sleepwalker through one gigantic political decision after another, the other wringing his hands and raging over local crises and self-manufactured fear, doubt, and concern.

Reversing the analysis gets at the Barbarossa Hitler. Reaching for the part (Leningrad), the parts (Leningrad, Ukraine, and the Crimea), and the pieces (local war fighting crises and self-inflicted fears in every battle on every front). Hitler reveals the mentality that drove him. He was a popular dictator, extraordinarily concerned about his personal popularity and the potential strain on it from the economic rigors of a war. He was an uncompromising idealist who saw Germany secure as a great power only by the acquisition of enough contiguous space to ensure economic autarky. He was a romantic propaganda genius who combined the spoken word with brilliantly staged visual pageantry to convert millions to National Socialism and overawe others with impressions of irresistible energy. He suggested to German audiences a manifest destiny for Germany in line with the words, "tomorrow belongs to me," sung by a German youth in the successful modern play, Cabaret. These facts are well known. They are important because they bring into focus the Hitler who conducted the planning for Barba-rossa. Standing alongside the Hitler with the sure touch and incredible self-assurance in the grand decision, the other Hitler was immediately fearful of the economic impact of the war on Germany. The lower-case Hitler, concerned for his popular image and fanatically determined not to stress the German population with either the substance or the appearance of wartime austerity, fastened on the economic necessities of war. With insight regarding the relationship between war and economics, he fussed that his generals did not understand economics and politics in war. With some far-reaching insight into mass psychology, he conducted the war against the Soviet Union in a rather sophisticated way—assuring stability on the home front while adding Leningrad, the Ukraine, and the Crimea{7} to the economic base of an expanded Germany.

Hitler's : Earlier Fixations In Norway and France

Deeply concerned about the possibility of a British attack on Scandinavia and the seizure of Narvik or the Swedish iron ore fields, Hitler had ordered an invasion of Norway, carried out successfully in April-June 1940. He was prepared to embark on an extremely challenging amphibious campaign to secure the Swedish ore and conceived the campaign almost entirely on his own. Grossamiral Erich Raeder, commander of the German navy, had suggested such an operation earlier but for entirely different reasons, and the suggestion had fallen on deaf ears. Later, however, with exceptional sensitivity about the loss of the ore resources, Hitler seems to have been personally responsible for a campaign of great strategic boldness and operational imagination. He used OKW to plan and execute the campaign, employing OKH only as a source of ground combat units. The Norwegian campaign and its determined, successful execution are powerful arguments supporting a view that Hitler was driven significantly by economic considerations during the war. With that mind set, one could suspect him of fastening immediately on the economic ramifications of Barbarossa, and a pattern can be seen developing.

Even earlier, in the more important development of a plan of attack against France, Hitler showed extreme concern about his "economic popularity"—the concern of a modern popular dictator for his image and mass support, dependent upon the state's economic conditiops. Hitler emphasized visual effect in the great propaganda triumphs that characterized him—the party day rallies, the Potsdam garrison church ceremony in 1933, and his compulsive interest in the Olympian, heroic, neoclassical architecture for a new Berlin: "Will we Germans be remembered for our department stores and banks or our great government buildings and triumphal arches?"{8} As long as he had power, he appeared set on assuming the appearance (and substance) of economic solvency. German economic solvency, in the first part of war, combined an armaments effort strong enough to support the campaigns initiated by Hitler with surprisingly full consumer production. Concerned about his political popularity, and linking it decisively with economic conditions, he faced a little-known situation in October 1939 that drove the entire French campaign.

The large body of literature on the French campaign presents excruciating detail on its planning and execution but little explanation for the actions of the man with the strategic initiative and personal authority to launch an attack. A distinguished British authority describes in italics on a single page how Hitler had to reach Belgium first, before the Allies, and was stimulated by fears in early October 1939 that the Allies in Belgium would constitute an increased danger to Germany's Ruhr.{9} A distinguished German participant in the war does not even mention the basic, initial stimulation for Fall Gelb, the plan for an all-out German attack in the west.{10} That the Germans would seriously consider a winter offensive at all simply disappears in the literature.

Virtually every work on the war in the west notes that the Germans called off Fall Gelb approximately fourteen times because of bad weather, which would restrict air and motorized ground operations in the opening attacks. Not one work on the subject makes the point that even had the weather been good enough to launch the attack, any advance would have been largely paralyzed by the following bad weather, characteristic of northwestern Europe in winter.

Hitler knew these points because he aborted the attack on the occasions noted above, using forecasted bad weather as the reason. He also knew through experience of combat in Flanders in the First World War that the German armed forces would have only a few days of good weather during which they could attack. He was convinced that the time would suffice to assure keeping the Allies out of Belgium and away from the Ruhr. Hitler probably felt that he would have a reasonable chance of taking the Belgian coastline and conducting more effective sea and air operations against Britain. He must have had an important reason to order the illogically circumscribed attack planned—a winter attack by the concentrated German army with the hmited objective of seizing Belgium. In the original Fall Gelb. Hitler overreacted to potential Allied initiatives against Belgium, seeing adverse effects on his political image and popularity and damage to political stability in Germany in the event of a successful Allied coup. He saw danger to the Ruhr and economic trauma in Germany that he determined to avoid because of similar adverse effects on his political image. He linked his popularity and prestige with the political stability of the National Socialist state and was willing to pace the war to prevent perceived adverse economic and political effects in Germany.

When conditions changed in January and February 1940 with the assumed compromise of the original Fall Gelb. the lack of Allied interest in a preemptive move into Belgium, and demands for a decisive plan of operations by the commander and staff of Army Group A, Hitler shifted toward a new plan. It was inspired largely by Manstein, apparently unaware of Hitler's conservative mentality that had shaped the original plan. who bombarded OKH with suggestions for a decisive war-winning offensive in the west. OKH fashioned a new plan intended to defeat the Allied armies on the continent in a Ughtning campaign. Hitler had little confidence in a victory over France and made decisions that held up the army. If Hitler had confidence in Manstein's plan, or understood it, he would not have issued the nervous barrage of orders slowing and finally halting the advancing German armies to secure various half-successes disconnected from any reasonable intention to defeat France quickly.

Even more importantly (and largely missed in interpretations of the campaign). Hitler ordered another great offensive into the heavily fortified area of northeastern France opposite the Rhineland, near the main Maginot defensive works. That operation seems calculated is disrupt the decisive operations at Sedan and in Belgium at the other end of the front. This offensive drained resources and command energy from the main effort and makes little sense in a blitz campaign or achieving a quick military victory. Uninfluenced by any other person, Hitler personally ordered the attack, considering it necessary to assure seizing the French iron ore resources in Lorraine to buttress the German economy. As with the Swedish ore and Norway. Hitler was not only aware in a conventional sense of the importance of iron ore and steel to the German wartime economy of 1940, but he was also diligently assuring his popular political authority. Ordering the attack into northeastern France, he proved he had no confidence in a quick victory over France. It is just as possible, however, that in a subtle way he never really appreciated the decisive nature of the panzer attack through Sedan. In the role he played as an inspired messianic figure, keeping to himself psychologically, he may have still considered Manstein's ideas and the OKH plan realistically only a means to seize Belgium. Under such circumstances. Hitler would require the northeastern offensive to secure Lorraine iron ore and the industrial belt around it to reinforce Germany economically for a longer war on the Continent.

Strategically Bold but Devoid of Operational Nerve, Hitler Had Two Personalities

In the military campaign, Hitler was anything but daring. While clamoring for military victories in the campaigns and advances of 1939-1941, he refused to assume risks and slowed German army advances more effectively than the French and Red armies and the British expeditionary forces. Hitler personally stopped the German army short of Dunkirk and. more importantly, halted it again in front of both Moscow (August-September 1941) and Leningrad (September 1941). These aberrant decisions exemplify similar decisions made concurrently and affirm that Adolf Hitler marched to some arcane, extraneous drumbeat in his military operations. He was presented with strong possibilities of victory through bold political decisions for war in Poland, Norway, France, the Balkans, and Soviet Russia, yet the contrast between his bold decision to campaign and the circumscribed military decisions demand explanations. Hitler's fears about attacking France appear identical to those at the beginning of the Russian campaign, under similar circumstances against a major enemy. Just what caused the concern, the inner fear, deduced from the unmistakable pattern of halt, paralysis, and extraneous excursion that characterized the two victorious campaigns?

Adolf Hitler made not only bold political decisions but also the most remarkable tactical military move by any head of state with his personal organization of the glider and shaped-charge attack on the Belgian fortress of Eban Emael.{11} Between the greater Hitler of grand strategic decisions and tactical insights of unsurpassed acumen, a lesser Hitler operated to disrupt the French campaign and lose the Russian campaign—and the war. The greater Hitler apparently knew no strategic fear and would suffer no tactical impasse. The lesser Hitler lacked the psychological makeup to accept risks to effect the grand operational concepts concocted by the army for France and Soviet Russia. An inspired disregard for time and some complex fear of the consequences of daring operational moves let him come close to losing the battle of France and throw away almost certain victory in Russia. We cannot psychoanalyze a missing or deceased Hitler,{12} but the circumstances surrounding his lesser decisions and the pattern comparing France with Soviet Russia may provide adequate descriptions of his fear, if not a psychoanalytical explanation.

Cracking the Code of Explanation, 1935-1945

Hitler at no time seems to have envisioned immediate, decisive military victories in France and Soviet Russia. Manstein's dictum that military victory paves the way to achieving political and economic goals of a war seems to have been lost on Hitler. Yet Hitler was as aware of the importance of military victory as anyone; after all, he made the strategic decision to go to war. In France and in the opening phases of Barbarossa in Russia, he nevertheless made operational military decisions that betrayed a fearful compulsion to avoid decisive military encounters. His compulsive decision on 17 May 1940 to halt Guderian at Marle and Dercy and abort the grand concept of the French campaign (to encircle and annihilate the Allied forces in Belgium) shows an almost inexplicable fright at his own temerity.{13} Unlike his later decision to halt the German forces outside Dunkirk (but on the English Channel), the earlier decision to halt at Marle and Dercy (short of the English Channel) would have allowed the Allied forces to escape by land out of Belgium. Successful withdrawal of these forces into northern France would have presented the Allies with the strong possibility of blocking further German advances and held the German field armies to a stalemate.

Halting Guderian on 17 May, Hitler showed such great fear of further advances that he was willing to throw away an impending military victory. What are the possible explanations for such behavior by the supreme commander? He may have felt that real danger threatened the advancing forces, requiring adjustment and a shift to the defensive—essentially a halt to meet and overcome the perceived threat. He may also have sensed that if the attack continued at the same pace, he would have faced a crisis in the campaign in which certain victory or severe defeat would be realized—a juncture he was unwilling to face. At a higher level of generalization, he must have felt that he had blundered into the attrition-style, conventional war he had hoped to avoid by propaganda undermining the opposition's will to resist and lightning motorized attack against states where propaganda and occupation would not succeed. Hitler faced a nightmarish situation on 3 September 1939—a potentially long war with two major powers—one in which he had been saved from immediate disaster only by the opportunistic brilliance of his liaison with the Soviet government in the summer of 1939. The situation thrust Hitler into the realization that Germany now lay gripped in siege lines manned by the armies and navies of two great powers.

Hitler probably saw that the utility of motorized forces had been expended in the quick unopposed moves into the Rhineland, Austria, Czechoslovakia (1938 and 1939). and in the west Germany would face armies and a warfare style he had seen in the First World War. He might have seen armored forces as useful only in special cases where surprise could be achieved and thereafter be of no particular advantage as Germany's enemies developed similar forces. Hitler expressed similar thoughts in his pronouncement after Operation Mercury (a parachute attack on Crete, May 1941) that parachute forces would no longer be used by Germany because the element of surprise so important to their success had been expended by 1941 and similar victories could no longer be expected.{14} After 1941 the Germans had little opportunity to employ parachute troops. One must suspect, however, that Hitler had decided that parachute troops no longer offered substantial chances of success, and he would not allow their employment in large numbers in future operations. The Germans went on to achieve substantial, even dramatic success with parachute troops, but in an eclectic way, supporting a generalization that Hitler had lost faith in large-scale landings.

Hitler's extraordinary and deeply revealing comment to Heinz Guderian after a demonstration of motorized troops in 1935— "That's what I need; that's what I want to have"{15}—shows him seizing brilliantly on motorized troops to achieve the rapid successes he saw possible through propaganda, psychology, and dramatic moves of motorized forces into one unresisted fait accompli after another. He lost the initiative in continuing the Blitzaussenpolitik of 1936-1939 (Rhineland through Poland) when the British and French governments challenged him in a general preventive war over the localized issue of German demands for change in Poland. In what was essentially an abrupt transition from Blitzaussenpolitik to war against Poland. Britain, and France, he plunged through miscalculation into an entirely different situation from the earlier, fluid, peacetime, political scene. Overnight he was at war with two major European powers, for whom he and the German armed forces had enormous respect from the recent Great War. The propaganda-conditioned moves of the German army, led by modest but psychologically impressive motorized forces in the "flower wars" of the 1930s, were decisively terminated on 3 September 1939.

In the new circumstances, and diametrically opposed to the existing interpretation, in which Hitler is credited with continuing Blitzaussenpolitik into blitzkrieg, he perceived Germany under siege and reacted not with a blitz mentality but rather a siege mentality. The revised interpretation accepts and explains Hitler's contradictory, self-defeating decisions of 1939-1941 more naturally and convincingly than the often strained and inadequate current interpretation. That the Germans won quickly and decisively in Poland, Norway, France, the Balkans, and in the opening stages of Barbarossa was a result of the extraordinary battle-winning capabilities of the German army and its leaders' style in translating Hitler's missions into grand operational concepts leading to great battles of decision in each campaign. Hitler had virtually no share in the military planning of the Polish campaign and less influence on the military maneuvers that resulted in the defeat of the Polish army. Hitler directed the army to attack and finish off Poland as quickly as possible, but it is highly unlikely that he imagined the speed with which the army would accomplish its general mission and just as unlikely that he understood the quick collapse of Poland.

Revising Hitler: the Concept of Siege Fuhrer

Faced suddenly on 3 September 1939 with an unwanted European war. Hitler is seen as lacking confidence in the German motorized forces against major powers. Largely interested in the motorized force for its political effects, Hitler had no real sense of the military possibilities of panzer divisions with long-range missions, capable of winning wars quickly. Hitler began to maneuver on 3 September 1939 with a siege mentality, stemming from respect for the toughness and competence of the French and British armies and little comprehension of the possibilities of the relatively small German motorized force. The same conservatively or timidly oriented military outlook explains several hitherto inexplicable decisions of Hitler that seem almost purposely self-defeating in the current interpretation of planned blitz campaigns. Strong evidence supports the view that in preparing and executing the French and Russian campaigns. Hitler made decisions that prove his conscious acceptance that Germany had little chance of winning a quick military victory in Europe. Rather, he was saddled with enduring (after 3 September 1939) a long siege in which securing several fundamental economic targets would bring about eventual German victory and survival.

What decisions did Hitler make that remain largely inexplicable in the existing interpretation of purposeful, optimistic and decisive blitzkrieg on his part? Ordering a halt to the further movement of German panzer forces toward the channel on 17 May 1940, he showed that he was satisfied to accept the defeat of the Allied forces in Belgium, demanding neither their destruction nor the associated immediate conquest of France. With impressive consistency. several days later he halted the German panzer forces on the channel coast outside (southwest) of Dunkirk, showing he was satisfied with an incomplete victory. His reason for the halt—the ground outside of Dunkirk was unsuitable for tank operations—is plausible for a man who ordered an attack by the German army and air force against Belgium with the limited mission of preventing the Allies from seizing it and, incidentally, to conduct the war more effectively by sea and air against Britain.

Hitler saw the Manstein plan not as a decision against France but as a more certain means of taking Belgium. He was more concerned with securing Belgium than smashing the Allied armies in it. With that perspective, he would have been in no particular hurry to destroy the Allied armies there because they were cut off from France, and in a pocket that could be reduced safely with air and artillery bombardment and cautious infantry attack. Hitler can be assumed deeply concerned about a prestige-damaging setback of the panzer force in marginal tank country on hues around strong Allied forces tightly pressed against the Belgian coast. In short, with a siege mentality after the British and French declarations of war, he was primarily concerned with the occupation of Belgium. This would enable Germany to withstand an encirclement, provide as much protection as possible for the Ruhr. and assure supplies of iron ore from Sweden and oil from Romania. To explain adequately the initial Fall Gelb. the eventual Manstein plan, the decisions to halt at Marle, Dercy, and Dunkirk, and the planned offensive into the forti&ed zone in northeastern France, Hitler was concerned not with the blitz conquest of France but with the limited goals of seizing Belgium and the iron ore of Lor-raine. Once those goals were assured, he was not averse to a further advance into France.

Hitler's apparent disregard of time, so important in blitzkrieg— the senseless halts at Marle and Dercy, Dunkirk, and later Smolensk—are explained by a mentality compulsively driven by the need to improve Germany's economic position against siege. That he could have had the buffer of Belgium and the iron ore and industry of Alsace and Lorraine by a blitz offensive aimed at destroying the Allied armed forces does not seem to have entered his mind. Similarly, in the Russian campaign, the point that he could have had Leningrad, the Ukraine, and the Crimea more or less automatically with the defeat of the Soviet armed forces does not seem to have been part of his outlook.

In planning for the Russian campaign. Hitler emphasized that the campaign made sense only if the Soviet state could be quickly overthrown in a single campaign. The German army high command planned to destroy the main concentration of Soviet armed forces enroute to the strategic terrain around Moscow. Hitler's words and the OKH's plan support the idea of an intended blitz culminating in the overwhelming defeat of Soviet Russia. Hitler's additional words in planning and his actions in the opening weeks of the campaign, however, run directly counter to any such decisive blitz picture. Hitler operated with a siege mentality, of which bis military commanders were unaware while they planned a series of elegant blitz campaigns culminating in Barbarossa. Hitler did not envision the quick overthrow of the Soviet Union by defeating its armed forces and seizing space to bring about their defeat. From the beginning of planning, Hitler repeated the theme that the Russian campaign pivoted around the seizure of Leningrad, and he varied the theme only by adding additional economic targets, including the eastern Ukraine and the Crimea. The latter was an economic target, crucial in Hitler's mind to removing a Soviet air threat to the Romanian oil fields.

Among the most decisive evidence supporting Hitler's siege mentality are the words in the Barbarossa directive of 18 December 1941, which have been cited without challenge by four decades of professional and lay historical scrutiny: "The final objective of the operation is to erect a barrier against Asiatic Russia on the general line Volga-Archangel," essentially "a line from which the Russian air force can no longer attack German territory,"{16} Commentators have used these words, penned under the "general intention" in the Barbarossa directive, to support their view that Hitler unrealistically overestimated the possibilities of a blitz in Russia. What the words show is Hitler's astoundingly conservative cast of mind, pivoting around a Germany-under-siege mentality. Assigning a territorial goal for the German armies to prevent an intact Russian air force from attacking German territory does not fit the picture of either a blitz campaign or overthrow of the Soviet government. Although Hitler stated his intention "to crush Soviet Russia in a rapid campaign," his interpretation of those words is clearly limited to the occupation of territory (to the Volga) and acceptance of an intact Soviet air force and, one must assume, intact ground forces. The scene that emerges reflects a Germany with an immensely improved position from which to withstand a seige by British naval power in the Atlantic and Mediterranean, and Soviet ground and air forces along the Volga.

In a high-level conference on 29 November 1941, one hidden from political and military historians of the Second World War because it concerned tank production and antitank defense, (i.e., a limited technical area). Hitler expounded in great generalities on the course of the war. The comments were made when the Germans were close to Moscow and still on the offensive. They reveal an outlook one can characterize as concerned and cautious, representing siege thinking. Hitler, in his messianic style, said:

The age of tanks may soon be over. For the fuKIlment of our tasks, it is Important for us to exploit the time in which armored units can still be employed as weapons of attack. If we accomplish our European missions our historical evolution can be successful. Then in the defense of our heritage, we will be able to take advantage of the triumph of defense over the tank to defend ourselves against all attackers{17}.

This statement was made when Moscow seemed about to fall. The Germans had seized the central and eastern Ukraine and largely encircled Leningrad. The statement is evidence that Hitler was prepared momentarily to shift to the defensive on the eastern front and exploit his perceived triumph of antitank weapons over tanks into a successful defense of Germany along siege lines deep into European Russia. In the transcript of the conference. Hitler ordered a shift in production toward antitank weapons and heavier tanks suited for defense. These words to high-level figures in the armed forces, government, and industry, including Brauchitsch, Keitel, Minister Dr. Fritz Todt, and Professor Dr. Ferdinand Porsche, connote a shift to the defensive to protect political and economic gains in the eastern campaign, which were seen as the goals of the attack. The objectives—seizure of several economic targets in western European Russia and the almost incidental advance to Moscow— and a shift to this resolve to "defend ourselves against all attackers" show Adolf Hitler as a siege Flihrer at the high point of the blitz phase of the Second World War. The role was almost perfectly suited to his deeply etched fanatical will. This interpretation explains the apparent aberrant decisions of 1939-1941 and links them with the stiff, inflexible conduct of the defensive phase of the war from late 1942 onward.