Hitler's Panzers East: World War II Reinterpreted by R. H. S. Stolfi

By R. H. S. Stolfi

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The situation called for action and showed the Germans at their "best" in the Second World War. 12 Hitler, in his unequivocal style, ordered the immediate smashing of the Yugoslav and Greek states, with emphasis on immediate destruction and little concern about how the task should be done. One could argue that the Balkan campaign was important for the similarity between it and Barbarossa in the patterns of advance, exploitation, and style of the actors: hence it enforces the understanding of the Germans' winning in Russia.

The evidence is a mixed bag to be handled with care in considering the possibilities of Barbarossa to end the war in Europe in the summer of 1941. Discussions and directives show Hitler organizing part of European Russia for occupation and ordering reductions in armaments in anticipation of a successful conclusion to the campaign. Historians offer such evidence to support the view that the Germans were out of touch with reality in planning and executing the invasion. Many writers comment that the Germans failed to provide winter clothing for their field armies and offer this as evidence of underestimation of Soviet resistance.

First, it had unacceptable chances of succeeding because of faulty timing; second (with more important ramifications), it stood no chance of defeating the French because of its own indecisive objectives; and third, it entailed a commitment of forces and the possibilities of losses out of balance with desired gains. Under contemporary circumstances, Brauchitsch and Halder can be excused philosophically for their devious ploys to delay and discourage an attack in the west. Under historical scrutiny they stand characterless and at the borderline of incompetence in failing to insist on the necessity for a decisive attack in the west in the event that Hitler persisted in the political decision to continue the war.

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