When Germany invaded Russia in 1941, they did so neither near-sighted or as a
“back-handed” diplomatic ploy. While Russia remained a key objective to
Hitler, it was also seen as a necessity for long-term victory and survival in
Europe for Germany. “Plan Yellow”, as developed by Field Marshal Erich von
Manstein, called upon the pre-emptive strike against an imperialistic Russia,
using speed and superior leadership as keys to victory. To always remember the
axiom: “History is written by the conquerers,” is key to the history of the
German-Russian War 1941-1945.
This paper intends to not only convey the necessity and the upside of a
German attack and subsequent victorys but also the Russian Army’s offense
stance of 1941. As Field Marshal Fedor von Bock wrote in his diaries “A sense
of fright came over the OKH” (German High Command) “With no more enemies, who
do we wait for to fight? Alas they had been waiting for us.”
Germany in 1941 had reached a high point. The German economy, bolstered by
it’s newly conquered lands, stood by itself with no equal. The citizenery had
not witnessed victory like 1939-1941 since the day of Fredrich the Great.
Germany, bolstered by such a booming economy and national morale, had yet to
truly begin it’s “witch-hunts,” nor had any of it’s concentration camps. While
Jews were politically and often violently blamed and attacked for Germany’s
ills, Hitler and the Nazi regime had at this point not begun the holocaust nor
the mass killings. Most of Europe belonged to the Axis powers and Field
Marshal Erwin Rommel’s Afika Korps, and the Italian Army had beaten the Allies
to the far reaches of Africa. Mexico was being courted by the Axis diplomats
and Brazil had remained nuetral, but swayed to Germany, (it’s imperialist
conquerer). Japan had taken much of China and had moved towards Australia.
Germany had no equal: economically, militarily, and no threat of one.
The reasons for an invasion of Russia are many, but very simply, in all
respects it made perfect sense to retain and protect the security and future
of Germany. Contrary to most opinions, Germany was not embroiled in a
two-front war in 1941, mainly because of Britain’s inability to bring
significant pressure to bear on Germany by land, sea, or air during the
proposed time period of “Plan Yellow.” The naval blockade of German sea ports
was failing miserably as the German empire was overly sufficient without
imports. Britain’s traditional “trump card”: sea power and naval blockades of
German ports would be rendered obsolete by a victory in European Russia.
If Germany defeated or eliminated Russia from the war, any British posture,
even with the support of their empire would be meaningless in the face of
German control of the fuel, iron, ore and agricultural resources of the entire
continent. Britain would be at a complete loss and it would be her economy to
collapse. Britain’s only option for obtaining critical materials, or victory
of any sort, would appear to be in Africa. However, German air and ground
forces freed from the continent (inner France, Germany, Austria,
Czechoslavakia), could easily be diverted to Africa to prevent this. The
destruction and conquest of European Russia would not only provide Germany
with immense resources and capabilities to expand those resources, but it
would also make Britain unable to carry on a fruitless war.
Hitler’s Lebensraum, or literally “living space”, is misleading as Germany
was not overcrowded and had conquered an immense buffer zone against her
enemies and neighbors. Lebensraum sought resources- iron, ore, fuel, food,
factory space- it did not have inside the boundaries imposed in the Versailles
Treaty of 1917. Hitler, in each of his military endeavors sought out these
necessary resources above military strategy, even above diplomatic means.
Hitler had so handily conquered Poland, annexed both Austria and
Czechoslavakia, defeated Belgium, and a large British Expeditionary Force, and
France so quickly.The entire armed forces working brilliantly enough to
overrun Norway, nuetralize Britain, and their U-Boats disrupting sea supply
lines from America, Hitler turned to the showdown with Soviet Russia. In late
1940 Hitler suggested to a friendly Russia that she enter and join the
German-Italian Pact of Steel. The negotiations over the spoils of war in the
Balkans and Greece were bogged down,