The Draft Operational Plan East of Major-General Marcks

Discussions on High Command, strategy and the Armed Forces (Wehrmacht) in general.
michael mills
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Post by michael mills » 03 Jan 2007 11:33

Hitler's view of the strategic situation is clearly indicated in a speech of 9 January 1941, as quoted by former member Roberto earlier on this thread:
What keeps England upright is the hope for the United States of America and Soviet Russia, for the destruction of the English motherland will be unavoidable in time. England hopes to hold out, however, until it has put together a huge continental block against Germany. The diplomatic preparations for this are clearly to be seen [my emphasis].
Stalin, Russia’s master, is a clever fellow. He will not take an open stand against Germany, but it must be expected that in situations difficult for Germany he will increasingly make difficulties. He [Stalin] wants to become the heir of an impoverished Europe, is also in need of success and inspired by a drive westward. He is also fully conscious that after a full German victory the situation of the Soviet Union will be very difficult.
The possibility of a Russian intervention in the war is what keeps the English upright
[my emphais]. They will only give up the race when this last continental hope has been shattered. He [Hitler] does not think the English are “senselessly crazy”; if they no longer see a possibility of winning the war they will desist. For if they lose the war they will no longer have the strength to keep the Empire together. But if they hold out and can put together 40 to 50 divisions, and if the USA and Russia help them, a very difficult situation for Germany will come about. This must not happen [my emphasis].
The above shows that Hitler believed that Stalin wanted to drive westward, and would eventually do so in an alliance with Britain and the United States, in a situation where Britain had not made peace. Hitler clearly states that he wanted to prevent that "difficult situation" for Germany, ie having to continue fighting Britain and contend with a Soviet drive to the West, both supported by the United States. The way he would prevent that would be to launch a preventive attack on the Soviet Union, something that he had decided to do in the previous December.

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Post by Denim Demon » 05 Jan 2007 21:55

Micheal Mills said:
"My belief is that if the Soviet Union had joined the Tripartite Pact on German terms, thereby bringing Britain into conflict with both Germany and the Soviet Union (something that Britain had tried desperately to avoid, hence its ignoring of the Soviet invasions of Poland, Finland and Romania, as opposed to hotheads in France who wanted to attack the Soviet Union for those aggressions), and as a result Britain had given up the fight and agreed to make peace, then Germany would have made demands on the Soviet Union to surrender all the territory it had gained since 1939 (ie the Baltic States, East Poland, Bukovyna and Bessarabia, and probably additional territory such as Belorussia, Ukraine and the Caucasus region (ie regions which Germany and its ally the Ottoman Empire had occupied in 1918)."

One thing im missing from this highly interresting thread is the ideological factor. Hitler wanted the territory of the soviet union as we all know as lebensraum for the german people. i doupt it very much that Hitler would have settled for a new Briest-Litowsk, something i beleve he criticiced the imperial government for doing, however unpractical an continued eastern front would have been for the german army at that point. as far as i can see i belive it was two factors that motivated an german invasion: one idiological and one "real" political and military one. surly the soviets were a threat, but not an alamring one. as far as i know Stalin expected war against germany, but not before 1942-43. Stalin had hoped for a long war between "the capitalist nations", when they had worn themselves down the soviet union could move in.
Germany on the other hand had to do something while her forces were at its peak and could take the initative, and fast as she was not prepared for a long war.
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Post by Qvist » 08 Jan 2007 00:33

The extracts of the Marks plan quoted here - valuable information that it is - don't really constitute evidence about the Soviet military threat either way.

Marks is in no position to make grand strategic analyses or decisions, his brief is to come up with a plan to eliminate the Russian threat should it prove necessary.

So he first needs to examine what the threat consists of.

On the one hand, it was widely - and as it turned out accurately - believed that the Red Army was no match for the Wehrmacht, so he rules out the possibility of a Soviet attack against the Reich. Exit the "Icebreaker" scenario.

On the other hand, by 1941 Germany considers itself critically short of resources, particularly oil and foodstuffs, and only the "limitless resources available from Russia" can solve that predicament. Given that mindset, Marks is indulging in mirror-thinking and deciding that the Soviets will rely on blockade to win the war (which would indeed be an effective strategy), with active hostilities undertaken only by the Soviet submarines - there are a lot of them - and against Romania. The latter being both another example of mirror thinking (we are really afraid that the Soviets do it, so they're certainly planning to) and compatible with racial prejudices (Romanians are racially inferiors, therefore even the Soviets should be able to handle them). Plus of course the fact that Romania as the Achilles' heel of the German economy was well-known to military staffs worldwide.

The 1941 contest is that the Germans thought that they were on the brink of a serious economic crisis that only a fresh intake of resources would alleviate. They realize that trade with the Soviets couldn't go on forever, both because they didn't want to pay for what they got and because they realize that the Soviet Union was pursuing its own autarky / rearmament program which would eventually compete for resources with the German demands. Add a bit of racial theory to rationalize away figures indicating that Russian resources were not, in fact, limitless ("that's because the Jew-ridden subhumans are in charge, if we superior Germans run the place it will be far more productive") and you have an explosive cocktail.

There was little doubt in Germany that in the long term, the Soviet Union would (worst case) a threat to Germany or (best case) unwilling to play the role of economic colony of the Reich. As far as we know, there's no reason to doubt that German assessment.
Whether the Soviet Union was a short-term threat, however, we know was not true and the Germans couldn't know. Marks in particular couldn't have that information, but if told by his superiors that he must plan for a military solution he would naturally assume that they would have reasons to think that the Soviets did, indeed, have plans to initiate hostilities in the near future.

Therefore Marks' memorandum says nothing about the Soviet threat, except that the Germans didn't believe in the "Icebreaker" scenario of a conventional invasion.
Correct me if I am worng, but unless I am much mistaken, Marcks prepared his draft operational plan in response to an order from Halder in July 1940 to prepare a plan of operations in the event of hostilities in the East. At this point, he was not aware of any decision to invade the Soviet Union, hence, not unnaturally, it envisaged a defensive operation against a possible Soviet attack. After Brauchitsch was informed by Hitler on July 21 of the decision to attack in the East, Marcks had to prepare a new draft, which he submitted in early August. In any event, the sort of strategic reasoning dealt with above was completely outside the scope of his task - to the extent they were relevant, they would pertain to the strategic decision-making process centred on Hitler himself.

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Post by Boby » 16 Jan 2007 19:58

Correct Qvist. The date was 3 July, and was a initiative by Halder, without order from Hitler.

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Post by michael mills » 02 Feb 2007 03:02

The following comments from the book "Stalin, Hitler and Europe; Vol 2 The Imbalance of Power, 1939-1941", by James McSherry of Pennsylvania State University (1970, Cleveland), are of interest to this discussion:

Preface:
And after June 1940 the story is essentially that of the relations between Hitler and Stalin, of the hopes, suspicions and fears each harbored of the other. We can follow the development of Hitler's logic from day to day, sometimes almost from hour to hour: his initial idea of conquering Russia and thus forcing Britain to make peace, his later attempt to secure the Soviet Union as an ally, and his final decision to attack in the east - which was based on sound strategic grounds [my emphasis].we also see how one of these concepts was self-defeating: how Hitler's conciliatory attitude in the autumn of 1940 made Stalin overconfident, caused him to ignore the only chance of avoiding a conflict with Germany and provoke it instead [my emphasis]. Hitler and Stalin weren;t fools, yet during a few crucial weeks each used, perhaps inevitably, the worst possible tactics in dealing with the other.
Pages 243-244:
German overconfidence was also responsible for the disastrous policy in the occupied areas of Russia. After the collectivisation of the early 1930s and the terror of 1937-38, any provisional anti-Communist government for all of Russia would undoubtedly have enjoyed wide popular support in "liberated" areas; and its existence would undoubtedly have weakened resistance in territory still held by the Red Army. True, any Russian government with significant authority would have opposed Hitler eventually, but not even an all-Russian puppet regime was evenr considered in Berlin. The Russians were regarded as Untermenschen whose support wasn't needed, not even temporarily.

But the attack itself was justified, even dictated by Germany's position in the spring of 1941 [my emphasis]. When he visited Mannerheim in June 1942, the Führer admitted that the strength of the Russian armed forces had been a very unpleasant surprise. Nevertheless, "Germany's only hope was to attack in the East, Hitler said, and added that he would have come to the same decision even if he had been better informed of the armaments of the adversary". As Ribbentrop wrote in his memoirs in 1946, he and the Führer were convinced that the United States would enter the conflict eventually. And given the Soviet attitude displayed in 1940 and 1941, Germany might have "to withstand alone the vast assault of the three strongest world powers - Britian, the USA and Russia.........the Führer thought that the only way of escape from the threat of attack on two fronts was to eliminate the Soviet Union first". He realised "that a joint attack by the three world Powers would mean defeat".

Ribbentrop was writing with the benefit of hindsight, but if Hitler had not attacked the USSR he could have expected (1) an end to Soviet deliveries once Germany was seriously involved in the west, (2) an increasingly menacing Soviet attitude which would have tied up at least fifty or sixty German divisions in the east, (3) a Soviet attack once the Wehrmacht had been seriously weakened. The strategic situation of Germany would have been similar to that of Poland in 1939 and Japan in 1945; Stalin attacked both countries when he considered it safe to do so [my emphasis].


And this statement by President Ryti of Finland on 26 June 1941:
Since the outbreak of the present Great War, the intentions and attitude of the Soviet Union have been clearly evident. The Soviet Union watched with satisfaction the outbreak of the conflict, and aimed all the time at extending and prolonging it as much as possible, in order that the European nations and, if possible, nations outside of Europe as well, might thereby be materially and morally weakened, their powers of resistance to Bolshevist agitation reduced, so that they would fall an easy prey to Soviet imperialism, when in the opinion of the Soviet Union the appropriate moment for armed intervention in the war had come [my emphasis]. The Soviet Union has ruthlessly exploited various situations, with the result that our country too was placed in a position in which, while the war between the Great Powers raged on other fronts, we had to meet unaided the immense superiority of the Soviet Union. We do not hate the long-suffering and oppressed peoples of the Soviet Union, but after all that has occurred, who would expect us to go into mourning if M. Molotov, and with him the circles responsible for Russia's policy, now have fallen victim to their own policy, which has been the policy of scavengers?

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Post by Steve » 02 Feb 2007 20:18

The assault on the Soviet Union may well qualify as a pre-emptive strike and if you believe in the Bush doctrine probably does. I do not believe Hitler struck because the Soviets posed an imminent military threat or because he thought every German was entitled to an estate in Russia and that Jews had two brains and Slavs six fingers.

The war in the west was a stalemate neither side could destroy the other. The problem for Hitler was that behind Britain was looming up the USA with a president who was clearly preparing for war on a huge scale and these preparations could only be aimed at Germany and Japan. The USA started an expansion in factory capacity for war purposes begining well before Pearl Harbour. On May 16 1940 Roosevelt put before Congress a huge armaments plan which would among other things be capable of building 50,000 planes a year. A few weeks later the 2 oceans navy expansion act was approved which was followed by the peacetime draft intended to raise a force of 1.4 million men. In the spring of 1941 Lend Lease came in and Roosevelt committed the USA to "all support short of war" and by this time an undeclared war at sea had already started. Not only could Hitler not end the war against the UK but he could expect them to grow stronger and eventualy Germany almost certainly would have to fight both the UK and the USA.

It is ofton put forward that with controll of most of Europe Hitler could have played a waiting game and seen what developed. The British blockade of Europe though not as successful as in WW1 was causing major problems, in agriculture for example 7 million tons of animal feedstuff from Argentina and Canada was now cut off causing a fall in output in Holland and Denmark. Industrial output in the occupied countries never achieved the pre war production figures for example by the end of 1941 Britain had recieved 5,012 aircraft from the USA Germany recieved 2,517 aircraft from France and 947 from the Netherlands during the entire war.

The blockade brought about a huge increase in trade with the USSR and the USSR was a conduit for imports from the far east. In November 1940 Germany had to ask the Soviets to double their export of grain from 1 million tons to 2 million tons to avoid a food crisis. Germany was becoming increasingly dependent on the USSR for oil, grain and raw material. If Germany was to fight an Anglo American coalition in the west that industrialy outgunned them then it needed unhampered access to vital supplies.

The Soviet Union was not a reliable partner and if Germany became dependent on them for supplies would have its hands round Germany's neck. There was also the huge Soviet military build up which was most likely aimed at a future war with Germany. A stab in the back with the British doing their best to bring it about was a possibility. There was also a possibility that with the resouces of the USSR the UK would decide the war was unwinable and compromise. Hitler made what seems to have been a half hearted attempt to form an alliance with the Soviets in November 1940 which if they had decided to come in on Germany's side would have given some assurance over their future intentions.

In 1940 when Britain was faced with a choice over whether to believe the French that they would never allow their fleet to fall into German hands they decided not to believe this and launched a pre-emptive strike to destroy the French fleet. Hitler had a similar choice should he take a chance on Soviet friendship when the almost certain clash came between the UK the USA and Germany or should he destroy the USSR. He decided Germany would be in a far better position after destroying the USSR as they were not to be trusted and it also fitted in nicely with his strange beliefs.

You can only make a decision based on the information available and Hitlers decision was perfectly rational if you take out his views on race etc. A reasonable gamble based on what was known of the USSR with a very good chance of success. Germany probably could not win playing it safe as its two potential and one actual enemy would outmatch Germany if they ever united. After 1941 it became the norm to say Hitler must have been mad etc. but after the invasion started both the UK and the USA expected the Soviet Union to collapse just the same as Hitler expected them to.

Drawn largely from an interesting book by Adam Tooze "The Wages of Destruction" 2006

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Post by michael mills » 03 Feb 2007 00:31

The blockade brought about a huge increase in trade with the USSR and the USSR was a conduit for imports from the far east. In November 1940 Germany had to ask the Soviets to double their export of grain from 1 million tons to 2 million tons to avoid a food crisis. Germany was becoming increasingly dependent on the USSR for oil, grain and raw material. If Germany was to fight an Anglo American coalition in the west that industrialy outgunned them then it needed unhampered access to vital supplies.
The book by McSherry from which I quoted goes into some detail about the trade relations between Germany and the Soviet Union in the 1939-1941 period.

It is often assumed that from the time of the Soviet-German rapprochement in August-September 1939 there was an uninterrupted and huge flow of Soviet raw materials to Germany.

In fact, the flow fluctuated, depending on Stalin's reading of the strategic situation. After the stunning and unexpected German victory in the West (unexpected by both Hitler and Stalin), Stalin drastically cut back the flow of supplies to Germany, citing as an excuse the fact that Germany was falling behind in its deliveries of manufactured products, particularly machine tools. Eventually Soviet deliveries were halted altogether, and Stalin dragged his feet on the negotiation of a new trade agreement to replace that of January 1940.

At this time, Stalin also began to provoke incidents on the Soviet borders. In August 1940, Soviet forces began shooting across the Romanian border, and eventually seized three islands in the Danube delta. The Soviet Union also began to pressurise Finland, asking Germany to remove its troops there, and hinting at a renewed invasion.

In order to to placate Stalin, Hitler ordered that priority be given to fulfilling Germany's obligation to make deliveries of machine tools to the Soviet Union, despite the fact that that would harm Germany's own war production, and despite the strong protests of Goering.

It was only when Stalin realised that Germany was making definite preparations to attack the Soviet Union in the summer of 1941 that he allowed negotiations on the new trade agreement to proceed and be finalised in February 1941, and resumed the flow of raw materials to Germany at a greatly increased rate. His aim was to placate Hitler and stave off a German attack until the end of the campaigning season in 1941. By the spring of 1942, the build-up of the Soviet armed forces would have reached the stage that they would be superior to those of Germany, and there would no longer be any danger of a successful German invasion.

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Post by Bronsky » 03 Feb 2007 10:42

Steve wrote:Hitler made what seems to have been a half hearted attempt to form an alliance with the Soviets in November 1940 which if they had decided to come in on Germany's side would have given some assurance over their future intentions.
...and which wouldn't have saved them since planning for Barbarossa was still ongoing at the time.

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Post by Bronsky » 03 Feb 2007 10:46

michael mills wrote:In fact, the flow fluctuated, depending on Stalin's reading of the strategic situation. After the stunning and unexpected German victory in the West (unexpected by both Hitler and Stalin), Stalin drastically cut back the flow of supplies to Germany, citing as an excuse the fact that Germany was falling behind in its deliveries of manufactured products, particularly machine tools. Eventually Soviet deliveries were halted altogether, and Stalin dragged his feet on the negotiation of a new trade agreement to replace that of January 1940.
Fancy that, the Germans weren't living up to their side of the agreement and Stalin wasn't prepared to go on subsidizing them for free? Cheeky bastard, served him right! :)
michael mills wrote:The Soviet Union also began to pressurise Finland, asking Germany to remove its troops there, and hinting at a renewed invasion.
Note that German troops in Finland were a violation of the September 1939 pact which had defined Finland as being in the Soviet "sphere of influence".

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Post by michael mills » 03 Feb 2007 13:29

Note that German troops in Finland were a violation of the September 1939 pact which had defined Finland as being in the Soviet "sphere of influence".
German troops regularly moved through Finland as a convenient way of getting to North Norway. According to McSherry, Hitler tried to placate Stalin by cutting back on the number of troops moving through Finland.

Furthermore, by mid-1940, the Soviet Union had moved beyond the "sphere of influence" assigned to it in the secret protocols to the Borders and Friendship Treaty. At the end of June 1940, as well as seizing the Romanian territory of Bessarabia which Germany had agreed would be part of the Soviet sphere of influence (since it had belonged to the Russian Empire until 1918), Stalin also seized North Bukovyna, which was not part of the Soviet sphere of influence under the Borders and Friendship Treaty (since it had never been part of the Russian Empire but had belonged to Austria).

Furthermore, Stalin continued to lay claim to South Bukovyna, which was purely Romanian in population. Although Germany accepted the Soviet occupation of North Bukovyna as a fait accompli, it regarded it as a violation of the Borders and Friendship Treaty, and that, coupled with the continued Soviet claim to South Bukovyna, was the reason for Germany's issuing to Romania a guarantee of its new borders following the Vienna Award giving Romanian territory to Hungary and Bulgaria.

It needs to be remembered that in July 1940 Romania and Hungary almost went to war over Hungary's demand that Romania return to it the province of Transylvania which had been annexed by Romania after the First World War. McSherry shows how Stalin hoped that such a war would break out, and that he could profit from it by coming in on the side of Romania and thereby bringing that country (Germany's main source of oil) under his control.

It was only with the greatest of difficulty that Hitler prevented the war by compelling Romania to surrender part, but not all, of Transylvania to Hungary.

Stalin showed his displeasure at the Vienna Award and the German guarantee to Romania by provoking shooting incidents on the Soviet-Romanian border, and finally seizing three islands in the Danube delta in August, a clear violation of the German guarantee of Romania's borders.

Nevertheless, Hitler chose not to react to Stalin's provocation, since he was at that time still willing to try Ribbentrop's policy of bringing the Soviet Union into the Tripartite pact and turning it definitively against Britain. But there was no way he was going to permit a new Soviet invasion of Finland, nor was he going to permit Soviet control over the Petsamo nickel mines, which were a vital source of supply for Germany..

Given the Soviet violations and provocations (seizure of North Bukovyna, claim to South Bukovyna, seizure of the Danube islands), the presence of German troops in North Finland in transit to Norway was fairly small beer.

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Post by Bronsky » 03 Feb 2007 18:39

michael mills wrote:Furthermore, by mid-1940, the Soviet Union had moved beyond the "sphere of influence" assigned to it in the secret protocols to the Borders and Friendship Treaty. At the end of June 1940, as well as seizing the Romanian territory of Bessarabia which Germany had agreed would be part of the Soviet sphere of influence (since it had belonged to the Russian Empire until 1918), Stalin also seized North Bukovyna, which was not part of the Soviet sphere of influence under the Borders and Friendship Treaty (since it had never been part of the Russian Empire but had belonged to Austria).
Correct.

My point however was that if this is considered proof that the Soviet Union was going to attack its treaty partner, then German breaches were both more numerous and bigger.
michael mills wrote:Nevertheless, Hitler chose not to react to Stalin's provocation, since he was at that time still willing to try Ribbentrop's policy of bringing the Soviet Union into the Tripartite pact and turning it definitively against Britain.
Nonsense. In August, Hitler was in no position to deal with the Soviets because his armed forces were out of position and out of supply for a campaign in eastern Europe. He was so interested in bringing the Soviet Union in alliance with Germany that this is when he had Barbarossa planning initiated!
michael mills wrote:Given the Soviet violations and provocations (seizure of North Bukovyna, claim to South Bukovyna, seizure of the Danube islands), the presence of German troops in North Finland in transit to Norway was fairly small beer.
I'm sure Hitler considered it that way.

By November, when he is supposed to be trying to bring Molotov around, Germany had guaranteed Finland against a Soviet invasion (treaty breach), had stationed troops in Romania (treaty breach) and had fallen hugely behind in its deliveries to the Soviet Union. Compared to that, northern Bukhovina and a bunch of small islands looks like very small beer indeed.

Stalin and Hitler were both aggressive and expansionist dictators, I'm not sure what's the point in trying, against all evidence, to paint Stalin as the vilain and Hitler as the innocent one here. There are very few things that Stalin is innocent of, but preparing to attack Germany in 1940-41 is one of them.

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Post by Art » 03 Feb 2007 18:40

michael mills wrote: After the stunning and unexpected German victory in the West (unexpected by both Hitler and Stalin), Stalin drastically cut back the flow of supplies to Germany, citing as an excuse the fact that Germany was falling behind in its deliveries of manufactured products, particularly machine tools.
The decrease in Soviet deliveries occured not earlier that in October. Here is the table showing the distribution od supplies per months (in mil. marks):
February 10,2
March 9,7
April 16,7
May 21,7
June 34,2
July 26,6
August 67,6
September 94,6
October 42,4
November 28,0
December 27,0
Hence, It's rather doubtful that the decrease was caused by german victory in June.
German troops regularly moved through Finland as a convenient way of getting to North Norway
They didn't move till Semtember.
Furthermore, by mid-1940, the Soviet Union had moved beyond the "sphere of influence" assigned to it in the secret protocols to the Borders and Friendship Treaty
According to the protocol to the Nonagression pact (neither protocol to the 28th September treaty mentioned Bessarabia) the most part of Romania outside of Bessarabia was neither in German nor in Soviet sphere of influence. Taking literaly ptotocol didn't prohibit any movement to the "neutral" zone, though it wasn't in accordance with it's spirit.
Germany accepted the Soviet occupation of North Bukovyna as a fait accompli
They accepted it before the annexation actually happened:
http://www.ibiblio.org/pha/nsr/nsr-05.html#24
coupled with the continued Soviet claim to South Bukovyna, was the reason for Germany's issuing to Romania a guarantee of its new borders following the Vienna Award giving Romanian territory to Hungary and Bulgaria.
Are there any sources that confirme that continued claims existed till September and they played a significant role in German garantees given to Romania? Schulenburg on 21st September could hardly even remember such claims made in uncertain form in June:
http://www.ibiblio.org/pha/nsr/nsr-05.html#49
Stalin showed his displeasure at the Vienna Award and the German guarantee to Romania by provoking shooting incidents on the Soviet-Romanian border
Are there any sources showing that incidents were provoked by Stalin?
[
Petsamo nickel mines, which were a vital source of supply for Germany..
They became the vital source in summer 1940 when IG received the concessions on Petsamo nickel. So first Hitler agreed to allocate Finalnd to the Soviet sphere of influence, then economical interests appeared and finally he decided to violate the Secret protocol.
It was only when Stalin realised that Germany was making definite preparations to attack the Soviet Union in the summer of 1941 that he allowed negotiations on the new trade agreement to proceed and be finalised in February 1941, and resumed the flow of raw materials to Germany at a greatly increased rate. His aim was to placate Hitler and stave off a German attack until the end of the campaigning season in 1941.
It's mere assumption. There is no reliable sources showing complete pattern of how Soviet leaders assesed the situation before the war.
Last edited by Art on 03 Feb 2007 18:55, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Art » 03 Feb 2007 18:52

Bronsky wrote: He was so interested in bringing the Soviet Union in alliance with Germany that this is when he had Barbarossa planning initiated!
The situation was rather complicated. Though planning of eastern campaign was under way, the final decision wasn't made untill winter and german strategy stayed in somewhat disturbed condition with different alternative courses elaborated simultaniously. Note for exampe that demobilization of German Army began after the fall of France which wasn't compatible with future large-scale land campaign.
By November, when he is supposed to be trying to bring Molotov around... Germany had stationed troops in Romania (treaty breach
It wasn't considered as violation of the protocol by the soviet side because Romania was in "neutral" area. Instead Soviets stressed that Germany acted without consulting them as it was required by the Nonagression Treaty.

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Post by michael mills » 04 Feb 2007 13:54

A correction to one of my former posts:

The Soviet seizure of three Romanian islands in the Danube delta occurred on the early morning of 26 October 1940, not in August as I previously wrote.

The Soviet Union also proposed the abolition of the European Danube Commission, which had controlled the Danube mounth since the Crimean War, and its replacement by a joint Soviet-Romanian administration. That would have given the Soviet Union effective control of a waterway vital to the German war economy.

The German lack of response to the above Soviet moves, the first a clear challenge to the German guarantee of Romania's territorial integrity after the Second Vienna Award, appears to have encouraged Stalin to push for a further extension of Soviet influence in the Balkans, as reflected in the stance taken during Molotov's visit to Berlin and immediately afterward, which was the last straw that induced Hitler to make a definitive decision to attack the Soviet Union as soon as possible.

Furthermore, there were definitely shooting incidents on the new Soviet-Romanian frontier prior to the Soviet seizure of the three Danube islands. Romania had no reason to provoke such incidents, since it was afraid of further Soviet aggression; having received the German guarantee at the end of August, it made sense for it to sit tight and not provoke the Soviet side in any way.

Accordingly, the balance of probabilities is that the Soviet side started the shooting across the frontier. Hitler had said that with the guarantee given to Romania he was posting an "Eintritt verboten" sign; Stalin was probably probing to see how serious Hitler actually was. The German failure to react, even to protest, probably encouraged Stalin in his intransigence.

With regard to the transit of German troops through Finland to North Norway, that did indeed begin in September. On 12 September German and Finnish military representatives reached agreement on the passage of german troops through Finland to Kirkenes in North Norway, and the first elements of a flak battalion landed at Vaasa on 20 september. The Finnish Government demanded a more formal arrangement, so on 22 September there was an exchange of notes in Berlin on transit rights, which caused great relief for the Finns.

Germany did not inform the Soviet Union of the above arrangements, but expressed no objection to Finland providing that information, which it immediately did.

Here is another interesting piece of information drawn from Volume 2 of Halder's Kriegstagebuch. On 7 April 1941, he wrote:
The Russian dispositions give cause for thought: if one disregards the cliche that the Russians want peace and will not deliberately attack, then one must admit that Russian troop dispositions very easily allow a quick shift to the offensive, which could be extremely uncomfortable for us.
It is often claimed that the German military planners never at any time feared a Soviet attack, or ever thought that the Red Army was capable of attacking. However, Halder's words show that the Soviet capacity to launch an attack was indeed recognised.

It is noteworthy that Halder used the word "cliche" to describe the view that the Soviet Union would not attack. In other words, he was saying that that concept, which indeed is found in documented German planning, did not represent the true situation.

It is interesting to consider where the idea of the Soviet Union's peaceful intentions and lack of any desire to attack, which Halder termed a "cliche", originated, and why it is found in planning documents such as the Marcks Draft Operational Plan. It is most likely that it reflects the official German foreign policy in regard to the Soviet Union as enunciated by Ribbentrop; since that policy was predicated on drawing the Soviet Union into a full alliance with Germany directed against Britain, it had to adopt the cliche that the Soviet Union was friendly and would not attack Germany.

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Post by Qvist » 04 Feb 2007 16:00

It is interesting to consider where the idea of the Soviet Union's peaceful intentions and lack of any desire to attack, which Halder termed a "cliche", originated, and why it is found in planning documents such as the Marcks Draft Operational Plan.
Well, the original draft by Marcks apparently did in fact take a Soviet attack as its starting assumption. The later drafts did not - unsurprisingly, as they were specifically prepared as an operational plan for a German attack on the Soviet Union.

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