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Chapter I



Spring 1942. The focus is on the resumption of the general offensive which has been stopped just outside Moscow since December. Everything has been thought out in minute detail. It does not occur to Hitler and his General Staff that it could be otherwise -- this time...

The disposition of the forces for a renewal of the attack, and the overall plan of the operations were, in fact, well thought out. A little audacious, if not reckless, indeed ambitious, in the usual manner of Hitler. But has not Hitler's way been tested and proved?

But they were stopped in front of Moscow. Far from holding him accountable, informed circles put the responsibility on Mussolini's anarchistic and unexpected intervention in Greece. The disorderly flight of his army, at the last moment, rashly exposed the right flank, in its initial disposition, and kept the German armies busy for a month repairing the damages, thus delaying getting the operation underway, which permitted the Russian winter to overtake Guderian's panzers. As for uninformed circles, that is, the people, they were not aware of any setback; to them, at the most, it was just some hitch, not disturbing or serious. It would take a great deal more than that to impair Hitler's popularity and the confidence he inspired. The smarting misfortune of the Munich putsch of 1923 did not, and he marked out the twenty years since that time with an uninterrupted series of brilliant and often spectacular victories. Unconquered, he was invincible, no matter what he undertook.

In the first instance, the German armies were to take their position along the Murmansk-Moscow-Stalingrad-Astrakhan line. Once the Russian armies were without provisions, matériel, foods, medicine, furnished them by the Allies via Murmansk, and especially up the Volga via Iran and the Caspian Sea, (1) at the same time without their oil supply from the Caucasus, their front driven back, and their defensive system disorganised, they would have no other recourse than to break up their units, no other hope than to try to reform at the Urals, their last, and the nearest, strategic line of withdrawal, and also the last vital Centre of Russia. But the General Staff of the German armed forces (O.K.W. = Oberkommando der Wehrmacht) planned from the beginning to frustrate that possibility. Guderian's armoured forces were to be at the Urals before the Russians could get there. Thrown back on Siberia, her army and equipment captured, with or without capitulation, Russia would be conquered and disabled.

The breakdown was expected to take place at Stalingrad, key to the Caspian, and hinge of the Russian formations. If the peace proposals, which would be made again to the West, met with the same rejection as those of July 1940 to England, Stalingrad would become the base of operations.

In the second instance, the aim would be to join the armies engaged in Russia with those operating in Africa under the command of Marshal Rommel, at Basra on the Arabian Gulf. (2)

However, Hitler hoped it would not be necessary to go as far as Basra to make his victory decisive and permanent. With Russia crushed, Britain, in order to avoid the loss of the Middle East and Egypt (which would mean the collapse of the Commonwealth, and which would reduce her to the minor role of being a bridge-head for America), would give in, and just as surely in that case, it would be unthinkable that America would remain determined to continue the war.

German troops at the Urals and at Basra would mean, of course, removal of the last hesitations of Spain and France, and then North Africa. Economically speaking it would mean an enormous mass of 700 million people, having at their disposal but under German control, more than half the riches of the world, the surplus finding an outlet in Africa, and especially in an Asia conquered (and protected from the Americans) by Japan. Militarily speaking, it would mean 700 million people, steel clad, solidly entrenched behind an efflorescence of Atlantic Walls and Siegfried Lines of all kinds, an impregnable fortress, and up to atomic standards, against which the Anglo-Saxons' most powerful assault waves would only break up or die of exhaustion. In other words, world leadership. But even if Britain did remain stubborn over everything, America, surely, would not follow her in such folly.

Such was Hitler's calculation. Audacious, reckless or ambitious, and only conditional. The crushing of Russia would put an end to the war, and apparently it lay within his power.



* * * *

There was nothing classical about German tactics. The merit of Hitler, a strategist on occasion, lay in his having understood that given the excessive length of the fronts, which is characteristic of modern wars and the plague of general staffs, it was not possible to conceive of an offensive as a combination of movements harmoniously developed around a Centre and two flanks, the tradition in classical strategy. On a 2,000 kilometre front, like the one which served as a line of departure (assembly position) for the invasion of Russia in 1941, the three segments of classical strategy were, at 1,000 kilometre intervals, obviously too widely separated [32] to work together or alternatively. To divide this front up into three or four independent sections, with the mission to advance in successive rushes and realignments, in the purest traditions of the art, was incompatible with those requisites of the Blitzkrieg imposed by the time factor, which Hitler knew were playing against him, economically speaking. Therefore, he formed an unbroken line of bases, firmly anchored, from which to send out sudden sorties of armoured columns, to drive a wedge into the enemy formation, then to regroup at a depth of 200 kilometres or more behind them. At the same time, this enemy was to be frontally attacked by assault infantry, and pounded by Luftwaffe dive bombers.

The results were extraordinary, not only in Poland and France, where the front lines were relatively short, but also in Russia. The German armies arrived before Moscow, having averaged an advance of about 1,000 kilometres in six months along the entire extent of this immense front, and they had amassed two million Russian prisoners, nine thousand tanks, seventeen thousand guns. As for the Russian air force, thanks to the effects of surprise, several thousands of their machines had been destroyed on the. ground during the first day in massive bombardments by the Luftwaffe.

Russia's immeasurable resources in men and equipment were known. But that she was able to recover herself after such a disaster astonished military experts throughout the world.

Always she pulled herself together, and always it had to be begun again.

From Astrakhan to Murmansk it is 2,700 kilometres as the crow flies. Along the ground it is nearly 3,500 kilometres. Hitler knew that to determine on that objective meant extending by about 1,500 kilometres a front which was already 2,000 kilometres long, and that the main question was one of military strength. He resolved the problem by deciding to make use of prisoners of war and civilians in occupied countries, in the war industry, in order to release to the front as many Germans as possible who were in reserved occupations. To execute this decision, Speer was named Minister for Armaments and Munitions in February, and. at his suggestion, Sauckel was made General Plenipotentiary for Man Power on March 21st.

Here there was a little difficulty to overcome in the matter of international law. The Geneva and Hague Conventions prohibited the use of such labour in war industries and in the armed forces.

The articles of the Geneva and Hague Conventions, to which the Prosecutors and Judges at Nuremberg were to refer so often, are, especially those of the Hague, fairly little known. Perhaps it will be useful to give the reader an outline of what, except for this provision and those related to guerilla warfare, these covenants embrace, and which I think can be summarised as follows:

A. On the initiative of Russia and the United States, who wanted to settle the question of the limitation of ground and naval [33] armaments, and the question of the peaceful settlement of international disputes, international conferences took place at The Hague in 1899 (May 18th to July 29th), and in 1907 (June 15th to October 18th).

B. At the first conference (on the initiative of Nicholas II) there were represented all the countries of Europe, a few states of the Americas, and of Asia, twenty-seven in all. And the following conventions were adopted:

a) on the laws and practices of war on land, b) on adapting the Geneva principles of August 22nd, 1864, to maritime warfare; on the peaceful settlement of international disputes.

Declarations to complete these conventions were also adopted: forbidding the launching of projectiles from balloons in air; forbidding the use of asphyxiating or harmful gases; forbidding the use of projectiles exploding within the human body. Finally, a permanent court of arbitration was created, as well as a permanent court of international justice.

C. At the second conference (on the initiative of Theodore Roosevelt, and which was made up of 44 countries) thirteen other conventions were adopted, with particular reference to: compulsory arbitration of international disputes over war on land, naval warfare, the opening of hostilities, maritime seizure, occupation of enemy territory, etc. A Declaration relative to the launching of projectiles from balloons confirmed that of 1899. Finally, a Prize Court was created, but it was not ratified.

D. Two other conferences took place, in 1929 and 1930, for the settlement of the financial debts of the war of 1914-1918. The Young Plan was adopted, and the evacuation of the Rhineland was decided upon. (3)

It was fairly simple to meet the difficulty presented by the Hague Convention concerning the use of labour. Russia, which had refused to recognise the conventions and had consequently not respected them in Poland or in the Baltic countries, could not honestly benefit from them. And as for the countries which had signed the conventions, the question was resolved judiciously at a government level, after October 1941, through agreements which ended in the organisation of voluntary service, and then in laws instituting the administration of compulsory labour (in France, laws on compulsory labour were not promulgated until October 1942). In countries like Belgium and Holland, where legal power had resigned constitutionally or disappeared, only voluntary labour could be sought.

To the labour force thus obtained could be added, from all of [34] occupied Europe, an important number of persons: members of the opposition, resistants, and franc-tireurs, themselves having infringed the Geneva and Hague Conventions, and no longer protected by any international statute, and who could be deported and put to work in concentration camps. Indeed, massive deportations were begun in March 1942, and Eugen Kogon gives 2,791,000 as the officially accepted figure for deportees of all nationalities, racial deportation not included, nor the 640,000 or so deportees of the first five months of 1945 (Enfer Organisé, pp. 34 and 147).

Four to four and a half million Jews living within the European perimeter held by the German forces, of whom about half were of labour age, were officially added to this figure. The situation of the Jews was judicially and materially tragic. Since 1933 a whole series of decrees, in application of the Party programme proclaimed at Munich on 24th February, 1920, and then racial laws, promulgated in accordance with the decisions acclaimed at the Nuremberg Congress in September 1935, had progressively taken away their German nationality in the Third Reich. Since there was no Jewish State with which to make bilateral agreements, or international agreements in the Geneva tradition, and since, in spite of the repeated proposals of the National Socialist Government, no country was willing to authorise their immigration or take them under protection, they lived in Germany, until war was declared, with the status of stateless citizens, which offered no protection, just as was and is the case with stateless aliens in all countries. They are subject to the caprice of power. In November 1938, after the assassination of von Rath, Counsellor of the Embassy, by the Jew Grynspan, which stirred Germany into a surge of indignation, albeit somewhat organised, they were thrown to the vindictiveness of the public. At the same time, as a reprisal, measures of spoliation were taken against them (which up until then had not been customary) and all the mechanisms of emigration, non-official, semi-clandestine, and in every case, forced, were set in motion. In September 1939, at the beginning of hostilities, representative authorities of the Jewish World Congress, in order to reproach England and France for having delayed so long, reminded them that "the Jews of the whole world had declared economic and financial war on Germany since 1933," and that they were "resolved to carry this war of destruction to the end." In making this move, they practically authorised Hitler to put all the Jews at hand in concentration camps. In times of war this is the customary treatment of enemy aliens in all countries. Progressively, along with military developments, the other Jews of Europe found themselves in the same boat with the German Jews, and when there was no longer any hope of arranging for their emigration from Europe (the last hope, as we shall see, evaporated with the failure of the Madagascar plan, at the end of 1940), it was decided to re-group them all, and to put them to [35] work in a single and immense ghetto. After the success of the invasion of Russia, at the end of 1941, this area was established in the so-called Eastern Territories, near the former Russo-Polish frontier: Auschwitz, Chelmno, Belsec, Maidanek, Treblinka, etc. There they were to wait until the end of the war for international negotiations to determine their fate. This decision was brought into application at the celebrated inter-ministerial conference at Berlin-Wannsee on 20th January, 1942, and the transfer began in March. If the fact that in the spring of 1942 there was a minimum of four million French, Russian, Polish and Yugoslav prisoners in Germany, plus the human resources of conquered Russia, is taken into consideration, Hitler could very reasonably expect to have a foreign labour force of about twenty million people. Enough to protect the war economy and the German army against any manpower shortage.

According to Halder, if his journal is to be believed, Hitler defined his political intentions with regard to Russia to a group of generals on 30th March, 1941. "North Russia to be attached to Finland. Protectorates: Baltic states, the Ukraine, White Russia." On 17th July, after the German-Russian war had started, Rosenberg, after he had assumed his post as Minister of Eastern Occupied Territories, stated the aims more explicitly - "the dismemberment of Russia into component parts, each to become an independent state, or federations of the Ukraine, Ruthenia, Russia, Caucasus." Finally, Directive No. 21 (Case Barbarossa: invasion of Russia) stipulated in the paragraph, - special cases, "Russian territories occupied during the course of operations, as soon as battle conditions permit, shall be organised into states, in accordance with special directives."

When these statements and instructions were circulated through Rosenberg's bureau (and among Canaris' secret agents), they led the Balts, Ruthenians, Ukrainians and Caucasians, all of whom were traditionally hostile to Moscow and even more to Bolshevism, to hope for independent statehood on the arrival of the Germans, whom they at first received as liberators. In application, they would not only provide the German war economy with the manpower Hitler was counting on, but the army, too, with autonomous legions, fighting at their side - an almost inexhaustible supply of volunteers. And that was the case at first. They were sent to Germany with nine-month or one-year contracts. Then there were fewer and fewer. Then those who went home did not go back again. Rosenberg's declarations and Hitler's instructions became dead letters, as living conditions for the people of the East worsened under the police control of Himmler, the Gauleiters, and the Protectors. A change of heart took place, and acceptance was turned to hostility, all the more because, at the suggestion of the Minister of Economic Affairs and of the Commissariat, the Bolshevist structures of rural land management (kolkhozes and sovkhozes), which the people hated, had been retained.

For all these reasons, and others such as the refusal to provide autonomous military legions (it took two long years of negotiations before General Vlassov was authorised to raise two armies in the Ukraine, for example), the recruiting of labour locally, which was the job of Sauckel's bureau, became a veritable man hunt. And it was the same in the West, although for different reasons. When he was interrogated at Nuremberg on the 31st of May, 1946, by the Soviet Prosecutor, Alexandrov, General Plenipotentiary of Man Power Sauckel stated that of the thirty million permanently employed for the German war economy, there were never more than five million foreign workers, not including prisoners of war and persons in concentration camps. The day before, the Prosecutor had tried to get him to admit to ten million, but he would not accept that figure unless it included prisoners of war. Lacking positive information, it is possible to assume that if the accuser intentionally exaggerated, it was to the interest of the accused to minimise. If we make a rough estimate, not counting the concentration camps, and say that at some time there may have been between twelve and thirteen million foreign workers in Germany, a little more than two fifths, and a little less than half of the total manpower, we will probably not be very far from the truth. It was an enormous number, but still nowhere near Hitler's hopes, and the possibilities.

There was another difficulty. To the lack of numbers had to be added the lack of quality because the labour so indiscriminately rounded up was not skilled, and the men in reserved occupations could not be spared in sufficient numbers to satisfy the demands of the front. Finally, with regard to production, while the efficiency of the prisoners of war, on the whole, was almost but not quite at normal level, that of the workers recruited by force and exposed to the police tactics of Himmler's bureau, was very low, and that of the men from the concentration camps, living on an atrocious diet, was about zero. Sabotage did its part too.

It is clear that, together with the partial failure of the Sauckel mission, the fact that so large a proportion of the labour force was so unproductive -- either unskilled, or living under conditions that made work impossible, or naturally resorting to sabotage -- killed any hope of furnishing the manpower and war materials in the quantity demanded by the military necessities of an operation so vast in scope.

Hope was frustrated all the more in view of the unparallelled waste of productive forces for which the regime, at least in the execution of orders, was cold-bloodedly responsible: the non-racial camp internees who died at a catastrophic rate, not of compulsory labour, but of bad treatment, and the four to four and a half million Jews who were never integrated into war plants, and practically paralysed by the measures used concerning them.

After 1943 it was time for the Allies to think of the organisation of Europe and the world after the war. The era of [37] conferences began.

In fact they had tried to open this era of conferences much earlier. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that the first reply of the United States to the declaration of war by Japan, then Germany, was to call a meeting in Washington on 1st January, 1942, of the twenty-five nations already or about to be at war with the Axis powers, which made up the nations of what was later called the United Nations. But on that date it was not possible to go beyond "a mutual and solemn pledge jointly to continue to the end the war against the Axis Powers." After that, nothing more in that line was attempted, the Allies thus pledging showing themselves to be much less "jointly responsible" than they had stated. On the British and Americans weighed the memory of the German-Soviet pact and, correctly, the feeling that Stalin was capable of every political about-face. It was duly known after the war, from the direct hints of certain qualified witnesses and from the revelations of Peter Kleist (Entre Hitler et Staline, 1953), that during the whole of 1942, and even after Stalingrad, Stalin had multiplied his overtures, through Finland and Sweden, for a separate peace with Germany and that the British and Americans got wind of it. To the Russians it seemed clear that Hitler had declared war on them only to force the West to a compromise. Even after the American landing in North Africa they gave him all the more chance of winning, as the British and Americans plainly delayed opening a second front in the West.

It was only after 13th January, 1943, that any real steps were taken to meet this ambiguous situation. And that was Roosevelt's declaration at Casablanca that no peace with Germany could be considered before an unconditional surrender. In As He Saw It (N.Y. 1946, p. 117) Elliott Roosevelt did not hesitate to say that this initiative was "as good as if Stalin had invented it himself." In fact it threw consternation into the German opposition to the Hitler regime, who had been in touch with the Allies through the offices of neutrels since the beginning of 1942 (Mémoires de Schellenberg, Paris, 1957; and Carl Gördeler und die deutsche Widerstand Bewegung (Carl Goerdeler and the German Opposition Movement) by Gerhard Ritter, Stuttgart, 1954). As for the Hitler regime itself, this declaration inspired it with the energy of despair and strengthened it in public opinion. To Roosevelt's credit it must be acknowledged that in the end (under W. C. Bullitt's influence, who pointed out that he was sometimes able to counteract the influence which his Baruch friends exercised over him) he recognised that the demand for Germany's unconditional surrender could have no other result than to prolong the war for the sole benefit of Soviet Russia. He also sent notes to Churchill and Stalin, on 23rd May, 1944, suggesting a return to Woodrow Wilson's policy, and a direct appeal to the German people over the heads of their leaders, the only stipulation of which was peace on condition of the overthrow of the National Socialist government. [38] But it was a little late for that, and neither Churchill nor Stalin was interested. Furthermore, things had reached a point where he could no longer exert pressure on them.

Be that as it may, it was still only 1943 and the problem of the further evolution of the situation among the Allies, with regard to the unconditional surrender formula, did not arise. What was plain to them was the certainty that the Axis, henceforth unable to resume any military initiative, was virtually beaten. Just the same. they had to wait until the summer for this certainty to be assured, when the Germans and Italians were pushed out of Africa and the British and Americans landed in Sicily, and then in Italy, which spelled the imminent fall of Mussolini; and until October, when they could organise another meeting out of which it was hoped that constructive solutions for the problems of Europe could be shaped on the ruins of Germany.

This meeting took place in Moscow from the 19th to the 30th of October, 1943, between the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the U.S.S.R. (Molotov), of Britain (Eden) and of the U.S.A. (Cordell Hull). It was followed by others: from November 22nd to 26th at Cairo (Roosevelt, Churchill, Chiang Kai-Shek), from November 28th to December 1st at Teheran (Roosevelt, Churchill, Stalin), which was the first meeting of the Big Three. Then came Yalta, and finally Potsdam.

On the 30th of October, the Moscow mission ended with the following declaration:

"In consideration of the fact that the United Nations have, on several occasions, announced their intention of bringing the war criminals to justice, the undersigned Ministers of Great Britain, the United States, and the U.S.S.R. declare that the German officers and soldiers and members of the Nazi party responsible for atrocities and crimes, or who have taken a consenting part in their execution in occupied Europe, will be sent back to those countries in which their abominable crimes were committed, there to be judged and punished according to the laws of the liberated countries and the free governments established there."

Although impossible in all other post-war problems, unaniimity was achieved in the matter of vengeance -- first and foremost, to have revenge. Since then, the taking of revenge has not ceased and the prevailing atmosphere of this post-war period is that of the underworld. How could it be otherwise? Marriage between Bolshevism and the western democracies, even if only a marriage of convenience, was just as contrary to nature, if not more so, than between Nazism and Bolshevism, and nothing else offered any possibility of harmony. One sees only that, thinking they have definitely settled Germany's account, the East and the West have finally begun to settle the one they have discovered between themselves.

In his Memoirs of the Second World War, Churchill related that when the hour for those toasts which seal agreements had rung at [39] the Teheran Conference, a month later, in the mists of champagne and vodka, the Moscow Declaration was evoked. Bending to Roosevelt's ear, Stalin whispered that it would suffice quite simply to shoot 50,000 officers and leaders. "49,500," the other is said to have answered.

And that illustrates the seriousness of those men on whom the fate of the world depended, and all that could be expected of them.


1./ The British and the Russians had occupied Iran to make sure of a provisioning route to Russia via the Arabian Gulf, and they had occupied it in violation of the same legal Principles which they so often blamed Germany for violating.

2./ In Hitler, Seigneur de la Guerre (Hitler, War Lord) (Paris, chez Payot, pp. 86-87), General Halder, former Chief of Staff of the German Army, attributes this operation Plan to Goering, and ridicules it.

3./ In 1945, the Permanent Court of International Justice was abolished, and was replaced by the International Court of Justice, instituted in the Charter of the United Nations. As for the Permanent Court of Arbitration which still exists, it is in reality a roster of arbitrators , from among whom parties in litigation choose a tribunal; it is supported by an International Bureau and an Administrative Council, both permanent. Then there was the Prize (maritime) Court of 1907, a court of appeal against the decisions of national (municipal) courts, which passed judgement on maritime seizure in time of war, and on whether the decisions of those courts conformed to the Prize Convention.

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The whole book in one clic

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