ctories early in the war?The defeat of Germany in World War Two was due to many factors. All of these factors were influenced by the leadership and judgment of Adolf Hitler. Factors such as the stand fast policy, Hitlers unnecessary and risky decision making in military situations, for example when attacking the USSR, and the declaration of war on the US. Plus other factors, like Hitlers alliance with Italy, despite its obvious weaknesses, and the pursuit of the final solution, can all be attributed to the poor leadership and judgement of the Fuhrer, which would eventually lead to the downfall of the Third Reich.
During the early stages of the war, most of Germanys victories were because of the success of blitzkrieg, or lightening war. Blitzkrieg tactics emphasised mobility and the concentrated use of armour and air power to overwhelm an enemy. Blitzkrieg was especially successful in flat, open countryside and was supremely suited for the Polish campaign in 1939. It was with blitzkrieg, as well as Germanys superior tactics, effective use of armour, airpower and modern equipment, plus with the support of the USSR that the Germans used to overwhelm Poland in only 5 weeks. Two days after the German troops entered Poland, Britain and France declared war on Germany. Hitler did not want this because it was a distraction from his main aim, to attack the USSR.
After his victory over Poland, Hitler now had his sights on a quick offensive in the west. Speaking to his Generals in October 1939, Hitler said, If it becomes clear that Britain and under its leadership France also, are not prepared to end the war I am determined to go on the offensive without delay. In April 1940 Germany launched its attack in the west with a surprise invasion of Norway and Denmark, which were neutral states. Hitler took Norway because that guaranteed that vital iron ore supplies from Sweden could be shipped to Germany through the ice-free Norwegian ports. Hitler also occupied Denmark, because it was in the way of the German attack.
Hitler then ordered the attack on Belgium, Holland and France. The British and French had predicted that the German attack would come through Belgium. So the British and French forces moved north into Belgium to meet the German advance. The Germans again used overpowering blitzkrieg tactics and quickly overwhelmed Holland. The main German attack began further to the south, as the bulk of the British and French army prepared to meet the Germans in Belgium. The Germans eventually broke through the French defences, and by May 21, had captured the French and British armies in Belgium. But, by early June some 366 000 of the trapped troops had managed to escape. They had been evacuated back to England by a fleet of small vessels and naval ships. Although the evacuation was a success, Prime Minister Churchill was quick to dampen the celebration, and told the British people, We must be careful not to assign to this the deliverance the attributes of victory. Wars are not won by evacuations.
Germany did not have a numerically superior force on the western front, but bold strategy, careful planning and blitzkrieg tactics set the foundation for the French defeat. In June 1940 Hitler invaded Paris, eight days later the French surrendered. After the French surrender, Hitler attempted to end the war with Britain. Speaking to the Reichstag in June, he said, I can see no reason why the war need go on. But Hitler was already had his sights set on invading Russia. He now aimed to end the war in the west so he could concentrate on attacking communist Russia in the east. Hitler knew that invading Britain would be difficult, but still he informed his military to leaders to prepare for the operation, Operation Sea Lion, and proceeded in planning a landing operation against Britain.
The battle of Britain was fought between July and October in the skies of southern England 1940. The German airforce attacked British targets from bases in France and northern Europe. The British frontline had a shortage of pilots, but were highly skilled. The Germans were losing aircraft and pilots fast; Hitler postponed Operation Sea Lion. Germany had lost. The fighter pilots of the battle of Britain had saved Britain from invasion, but many of its major cities were severely bombed. German U boats and surface vessels also began a new campaign.
As the war progressed, Hitler became more risky in his decision making, and made the crucial error of invading Russia in June 1941. This opened Germany up to communist attack by breaking the Soviet-German non-agression pact of August 1939, and also a two front war, and Hitler was forced to divert forces to Russia, which could have been spent on defeating Britain. Hitlers aim of invading Russia had been postponed due to the distractions in both North Africa, and also south eastern Europe. Hitler felt an urgency to begin the move to the east, even though the British remained undefeated in the west. The invasion of Russia was the largest military campaign of the war.
The plan to capture the Soviet Union, operation Barbarossa, was initially very successful. The German attack, comprising 134 divisions or just over 3 million soldiers, took the Russians by surprise and they quickly advanced towards Moscow. But the rough country and appalling roads were taking its toll, and the German advance started to slow. Hitler himself took control of the campaign. Hitler was a very determined man. He was very determined to avenge the loss and humiliation of world war one. Acknowledging the slowing of the German advance, Hitler changed his aims of Barbarossa from capturing Moscow to taking Leningrad and the Donets coal and industrial basin before winter. Originally planned for May 1941, the campaign was postponed, which meant a waste of good weather and also the chance of fighting a battle during the harsh winter months, to help their allies, the Italians in the Balkans.
By September, the Germans had reached Leningrad but the Russians put up a strong defence. Winter had set in, and the German army had become immovable. The Germans were freezing, as they were unprepared for the extreme temperatures because Hitler had been so confident when launching the attack that his troops would defeat the Russians before October, that many of the German troops only had summer gear. As the Russian offensive began, Hitler refused to let the German troops retreat. Even though their opponents, The Red Army, were fully equipped with artillery, armour and reserves closer to the front, plus they were fully prepared for a winter battle. The Germans underestimated the strength of the Russians. Hitler was determined to hold his ground. The swift victory Hitler had demanded did not come. Due to Hitlers own strategic decisions, Germany, with their military resources tied up on the east, plus a battle still raging on the West, was now subjected to a long drawn out two front war, which it could not maintain.
Declaring war on the US was another of Hitlers critical errors as it was unnecessary because the US had not made a single move towards attacking Germany. Germany was now engaging in war against another of the worlds great powers. Germany had invaded Russia well before the Battle of Britain had been won. It had weakened its strength by diverting troops to different fronts, and by declaring war on the United States, Germany was also strengthening its enemies because the US would be able to combine with Britain, plus the US would use Britain as a base for air raids later in the war. These air raids destroyed the German economy, destroying major cities and industrial areas. The US had unlimited resources and manpower plus were geographically advantaged as they were isolated from any attacks. Declaring war on the United States was a crucial error by Hitler, it was unnecessary and proved very costly for the German war effort. Within six months, Germany had attacked the Soviet Union and declared war on the United States, two world powers who only asked to be left alone The war had now become a world war, no longer a European conflict.
In April 1942 Hitler ordered a new summer offensive in Russia. His plan was to push south, capturing the oil fields of the Caucuses while holding the line elsewhere on the Eastern Front. The Germans were resupplied and reinforced and like the majority of the other German battles, they once again enjoyed early swift progress as they pushed towards the south east, taking the Crimean peninsula. Hitler was very confident in his strength, and made the critical mistake of dividing his southern army. One group would move to take the Caucasus and oil fields, and the other would move east to take the city of Stalingrad on the Volga River.
The Germans reached the Volga River and Stalingrad in late August and slowly took most of the city.
Speaking to an assembly of war veterans in November 1942, Hitler told them, I wished to reach the Volga at a certain point, near a certain city. That city happens to bear the name of Stalin himself But Stalin ordered that the city be defended at all cost, the city which bore his name. Two very powerful Soviet armies were then assembled, one in the north and the other in the south of Stalingrad. As another Russian winter set in, Hitler was still very confident, although the Russian supply position was much better, with factories and huge labour force poured out weapons and equipment for the Red Army. Although Hitler had captured most of the city, time was running out for the Germans. In a few days the Russian armies broke the German lines and in a sweeping movement encircled the city. The German Sixth Army and part of the Fourth Panzer Corps were then trapped. Fearing that the advancing Russians would also trap German troops in the Caucasus, Hitler had no choice but to retreat, and reluctantly ordered them to withdraw. The commander of the German army in Stalingrad, Von Paulos, asked Hitler for permission to break out of Stalingrad, but permission was refused and the Sixth Army was forced to fight on. The Germans in Stalingrad endured the harsh Russian winter, struggled through starvation and the Russian attacks. But by January 1943, Von Paulos was forced to surrender what was left of his army to the Russians.
The Russian victory in Stalingrad was a major turning point in the war. The Germans suffered heavy losses, which could not be replaced. Of the 300 000 men who made up the mighty Sixth Army, only 91 000 survivors were captured and marched off to Soviet prison camps, and only 6000 ever saw Germany again. Hitler also had to cover other military fronts, for example the worsening situation in North Africa. The Red Army, however, were able to significantly increase the size of their army, despite the terrible losses in battle, from 173 infantry divisions when the German attack began in 1941, to 513 divisions by the end of 1943. The Red Army was also better supplied. It was receiving Lend Lease aid from the US, and by 1943, 3500 tanks and 7000 aircraft had been shipped from the United States. The situation for Germany was worsening as the war drew on. Hitler was plunging Germany further and further into hot water with his terrible judgement. In an attempt to counter the worsening situation on the Eastern Front, Hitler launched a new attack on the Russian line at Kursk, in 1943. The battle, raging 18 days, was the greatest tank battle of the war. But it was another Russian victory and all German hope of defeating the Russians was now completely gone as Germany suffered over 500 000 casualties.
On June 6 1944, Deliverance Day, or D-Day, the allies made an attempt to open another front against Germany. The Germans expected the attack to come at Pas de Calais, but in actual fact it took place on the beaches of Normandy, further west. Paris was liberated on August 25 and Germany itself was now under real threat of an invasion from various fronts, the Russian advance from the east and the British and Americans beginning their move from the west.
Hitlers alliance with Italy also contributed to the downfall of Germany. Hitler thought that Italy would be a strong ally, due to the similar governments. But Italy was more of a liability instead of an asset. It was weak, and incapable of supporting Germany. Italy was almost fully reliant on Germany for its military aid due to its incredibly weak army, which was unable to match the strength and numbers of the opposing armies it faced. In June 1940, Italy declared war on France, just before the French surrender. Mussolini had watched the rapid expansion of German power and he wanted Italy to share its glory. In September, Italian troops moved to expand their empire in North Africa and from their colony in Libya they also invaded neighbouring Egypt. In October Italy then invaded Greece and Albania. But the Italian troops were in way above their depth, facing defeat in Greece and were in retreat in North Africa. Hitler was forced to intervene with German military forces to save his ally. Italy did not support Germany with any real advantages throughout their alliance, it was quite obvious it was a dependant partner in the alliance, on many occasions Germany had to waste valuable resources to keep its own interests in the country. When the Italian government was overthrown, the new Italian Government joined the allies, which opened up a new front for Germany to be attacked.
The pursuit of the final solution was a constant drain of Germanys resources and manpower. Jews were continually transported from Ghettos in the cities of Poland and Germany to the extermination camps by rail. The railways could have been used for other purposes, for transporting troops, artillery, supplies, and other purposes used for winning the war. Plus, Hitler had some of his best army men wasted in administrative jobs in these camps, although they were more suited to action and fighting out on the fronts.
Hitlers views on the role of women also took its toll on the number of people serving in the army. Nazi principles stated that a womans place was with her child and in her home and her job was to bring children into the world for the existence of her people. Nazi ideology was very simple, biological differences between male and female had carved out separate spheres for men and women, and womans sphere was essentially the home, where, as nature intended, she ministered to husband and children. In 1942, Speer requested that women took their place in the workforce, as part of the demand for total mobilisation. Hitler passionately opposed this because of his ideological belief in the role of women as mothers even though casualties were increasing from the failed campaigns in Russia and other areas, and army numbers were depleting rapidly.
Another reason towards the German defeat in World War Two was the fact that Germany were never prepared for the war to be as long as it was. They were reliant on blitzkrieg as their main tactic and when this failed, the army faced a long war in which they were not prepared for. In his military thinking, Hitler believed in the importance of a short war. Germany had always planned for a quick war, and because of this they were not prepared for the long war that ultimately developed. Total war was not implemented until 1943, and by this time the Germans were already facing defeat. The military began to run out of resources, and began to collapse because the home front was not supportive enough of the campaigns. The general population that were not out fighting had no idea that Germany was losing, because they still had a high standard of living, and propaganda did not tell them otherwise. In February 1943, Goebbels finally called on the German people to wage total war, even though Germany was already facing defeat.
These factors all contributed to the defeat of Germany in World War Two, however each factor, either directly or indirectly, was influenced by the leadership and critical errors in judgement on the part of Hitler himself. The decision to invade one of the worlds great powers the Soviet Union in 1941, was Hitlers. This opened up a two front war and forced him to divert troops, weakening the strength of the German force. Further crucial mistakes in military situations in the Russian campaign, like Hitlers failure to prepare for a long battle and the stand fast policy lead to the defeat and severe losses, which were unreplaceable. Hitler was weakening his own strength, whilst he was strengthening that of his opponent by declaring war on another great power, the United States. The declaration of war on the US proved very costly. Hitlers alliance with Italy was also a burden to Germany as they were too dependable on Germany and became more of a liability than an asset. Plus after the overthrow of the Italian Government, the new Italian government joined the allies, which opened up a new front and threat of attack. Hitler continually underestimated the strength of his opponents and overestimated the strength of his own army. Diverting his troops to different fronts too often and weakening the German force. Hitlers pursuit of the Final solution, which drained the army of manpower and resources, and his failure to recognise the need for total war before it was too late and Germany was already facing defeat, can also be attributed to bad leadership and judgement by the Fuhrer which would eventually lead to the downfall of the Third Reich. Therefore the leadership and decisions of Hitler make him responsible for Germanys defeat in World War Two.