A common theme amongst all Nazi apologists is the need to redeem Nazi atrocities committed in the name of the German people between 1933 and 1945. The need to make National Socialism a nice political alternative in the 21st Century is paramount. To do this, Nazi apologists have to absolve Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party of as many crimes as possible. Thus we have the following memes:
- Jews declared war on Germany in 1933
- Nazis never murdered 6 million Jews
- The Allies committed the same crimes
Germany attacked the Soviet Union in 1941 to prevent the intended invasion of Europe by the evil Soviet union (controlled by Jews of course).
This is a theory that was first put forward by Soviet dissident Viktor Suvorov and has since been taken up by a few retired German officers. Suvorov is an ardent hater of all things Stalin and has done his best since his defection in the 1970s to blame the communist regime for starting a war of conquest. His book “The Ice Breaker” became a best seller in Germany and amongst the conspiracy fraternity. It has since been criticised by most historians and is based on little documentary evidence; we are expected to take Suvorov’s word for everything. He claims he saw key documents in secret Soviet archives, and yet we aren’t actually shown any.
For a complete debunking of Viktor Suvorov and his wild theory see “Stumbling Colossus: The Red Army on the Eve of World War” by David Glanz.
So what is it that Mr Wear has to say about the Soviet army in 1941?
The Red Army in June 1941 was the largest, best equipped army in the history of the world.
It was certainly one of the largest armies in the world. It was certainly not the best equipped at that time and was certainly not the best led as the officer corps had been decimated in the Stalin Purges of the mid 1930s. Most divisions were under strength and the paratroopers had very few planes to lift them. The best Soviet divisions available were nowhere near the frontier with Germany; they were thousands of miles away in the east, facing the threat of a Japanese attack. It was these well equipped elite troops that would meet the Germans outside the gates of Moscow in the winter of 1941 and stop their advance.
The concentration of Soviet troops on the German border was frightful.
Well, the concentration of Soviet troops on the German border was not frightful to the German high command. They were under no illusions. The Soviets would be swept aside and Moscow taken withing months.
Here we must look in some detail at Soviet military tactics. The Soviets believed in an aggressive defense. This could be seen in 4 stages:
- The Soviets believe that the enemy would need between 2 to 3 weeks in order to launch fully their offensive. In this period only small scale assaults would take place.
- During this delay the Red Army would seize the initiative. As the bulk of the mobilised army would have been positioned close to the front they would be able to block all incursions and protect the general mobilisation call in the USSR.
- The second task of the army in place would be to go on the offensive on the 3rd day of the invasion and carry the battle to the invaders. The aim would be to penetrate hundreds of kilometers in order to put the enemy build up off balance. This penetration would be supported by massive air support.
- A second wave of now mobilised Soviet forces would relieve the initial breakthrough and carry on the battle in the heart of enemy territory.
For this tactic to work, it was vital that as many forces were as close to the German front line as possible. The only problem was that Stalin did not want to antagonise Hitler and so did not put them on a fully mobilised footing. When the Germans attacked en masse in a single blow in June 1941, the Soviet forces were unprepared: Russian units were not fully mobilized, ammunition had not been distributed, planes were not ready on their airfields and lines of communication not set up. The results were catastrophic for the Soviets.
If Hitler had not invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, the Soviet Union would have easily taken over all of Europe.
Except that Stalin was not planning to attack Germany in 1941. Stalin knew that conflict with Germany would come one day…but the Soviet Union would not be ready until after 1942. Stalin wanted to stall and was not willing to goad Germany into war. The problem was that Hitler had already been planning for war for months. All the plans were in place in detail regarding the occupation of the USSR. No equivalent Soviet plan for the occupation of Europe exists.
It quickly became apparent that the Western academic community was as reluctant as the Communists to accept Suvorov’s new interpretation of World War II.
That’s because it was all conspiracy rubbish.
These Soviet espionage services had penetrated into leading German military and political circles. Soviet military intelligence managed to gain access in Germany to the most secret information from the highest levels of power.
Indeed. Yet Stalin refused to take note of them. He refused to confront Hitler. The Soviets were receiving daily reports of German military build up on the frontier.
Therefore, Hitler said in secret, in a way that Stalin could hear,
Stalin believed that Hitler would not attack the Soviet Union until his enemies in the west had been defeated. Britain was still fighting. Unfortunately he failed to grasp Hitler’s ideology. Stalin also believed that there was conflict at the heart of the German military organisation. In reality, by 1941 that conflict had gone. Most Generals were over confident about the military outcomes.
Yet on the eve of the German invasion, Soviet intelligence reported that preparations for invasion had not yet begun, and without these preparations it was impossible for Germany to begin the war.
This is not correct. Stalin’s commanders were demanding a preemptive strike against the German build up on the frontier as early as 15th May. Stalin refused. He believed the Germans were putting on a show of strength before the next round of talks as part of the German/Soviet pact. Besides…if the Germans did attack, according to plans, the Soviets would have 2 weeks to react. The reality was that they were crushed withing days of the invasion.
So now we arrive at the most illogical part of Mr Wear’s article. He makes several comments about the preparedness of the German forces to fight a winter war. We have mention of sheep skin coats, lubricating oil, fuel:
…boots, warm underwear, sweaters, special tents, hats, heaters, skis, ski wax, masking robes, devices for heating water, and frost-resistant batteries. The German army also needed tanks with broad caterpillar tracks, thousands of cars that could drive in poor road conditions, and so on.
Just to make this clear, the Germans would need all this winter equipment…in JUNE?! The facts are that the German High Command expected the battle for the Soviet Union to be over before winter set in. There was no need to plan for winter because there was no intention to fight throughout winter. The rapid advance of German forces in those first months of the invasion seemed to confirm that fact. Indeed General Halder was quick to state that “it is thus probably no overstatement to say that the Russian campaign has been won in the space of 2 weeks”. He spoke too soon.
Outside of a great buildup of German troops on the Soviet border, Germany had made no preparations for war against the Soviet Union.
Ridiculous. Hitler had made it known that he intended to invade the Soviet Union on 18th December 1940. He intended, according to historian Ian Kershaw, to destroy it as a political entity within a matter of months. The operational plans for the attack were in place by March 1941. Not only was military planning complete but so was the policy regarding the occupation of captured territory.
However, Hitler launched his invasion of the Soviet Union without making reasonable preparations. Hitler realized that he had no choice but to invade the Soviet Union. If Hitler had waited for Stalin to attack, all of Europe would have been lost.
Pure conspiracy which fails to meet the facts. You can see why it appeals to neo Nazis and Nazi apologists though.
From the defensive point of view, this kind of deployment of troops and airfields by both armies was stupid and suicidal.
Not to the Soviets it wasn’t. This was Soviet defensive policy since the 1920s. The Germans of course were not planning on defending anything.
They were planning on invasion.