Did German Generals Ever Think They Were Stupid?

Discussions on High Command, strategy and the Armed Forces (Wehrmacht) in general.
timmbbo
Member
Posts: 2
Joined: 30 Jun 2020 16:04
Location: Seattle

Did German Generals Ever Think They Were Stupid?

Post by timmbbo » 30 Jun 2020 16:15

This is an easy question to ask with the passage of time. One to two decades after the war, when the German WWII generals had plenty of time for self reflection and time to digest all information, did anyone ever ask one of these generals, "What the f**k were you thinking?!"

- You followed a mad-man into the ultimate destruction of your nation.
- You took on the world's three largest economic powers at the same times.
- You declared war against the US, a nation you couldn't invade.
- You grossly underestimated the industrial capacity of the US.
- You race-theory chased away your best scientists.
- When you had a man power shortage, your Final Solution only made that much much worse.

I know this is a simplicist question to ask, but in hindsight, some of Germany's actions seem so stupid now. Did the German generals ever come around to realize this, and explain their thinking as to how they made such profound mistakes?

Thanks

Duncan_M
Member
Posts: 187
Joined: 11 Oct 2018 15:07
Location: USA

Re: Did German Generals Ever Think They Were Stupid?

Post by Duncan_M » 15 Jul 2020 19:40

No general in the history of generals ever thought they were stupid.

User avatar
Sheldrake
Member
Posts: 2538
Joined: 28 Apr 2013 17:14
Location: London

Re: Did German Generals Ever Think They Were Stupid?

Post by Sheldrake » 15 Jul 2020 21:49

Fridolin von Senger und Etterlin's memoir were called 'Neither Fear nor Hope' . That is a bit of a clue.

Michael Kenny
Member
Posts: 6395
Joined: 07 May 2002 19:40
Location: Teesside

Re: Did German Generals Ever Think They Were Stupid?

Post by Michael Kenny » 15 Jul 2020 23:27

Duncan_M wrote:
15 Jul 2020 19:40
No general in the history of generals ever thought they were stupid.
Just look around at the current crop of 'populist Leaders' and their cultist following and tell me it could not happen again today.

User avatar
wm
Member
Posts: 5241
Joined: 29 Dec 2006 20:11
Location: Poland

Re: Did German Generals Ever Think They Were Stupid?

Post by wm » 15 Jul 2020 23:58

Hitler declared the war against the US with the intention to buy time to finish off the USSR. The US had waged an undeclared war against Germany anyway, Hitler merely made it official.

The Final Solution didn't make worse the manpower shortage for the simple reason the work-capable Jews weren't killed (so-called selection). Actually the Holocaust improved the economic situation of Nazi Germany.

Hitler actually didn't make many errors except the initial one, the attack on Poland - after that only a miracle could have saved him.

David Thompson
Forum Staff
Posts: 23337
Joined: 20 Jul 2002 19:52
Location: USA

Re: Did German Generals Ever Think They Were Stupid?

Post by David Thompson » 16 Jul 2020 01:00

The call of the question that started this thread is:
Did the German generals ever come around to realize this, and explain their thinking as to how they made such profound mistakes?
To avoid turning it into an opinion thread, all posts which do not provide quotes and sources from German generals will be removed. If there are too many notional or opinionated responses, the thread will be locked as flamebait. Consider this a thread warning. -- DT.

Michael Kenny -- AHF is an apolitical forum. No one here cares about your political notions (see your post at viewtopic.php?p=2280236#p2280236), so keep them to yourself.

Gjiyll
Member
Posts: 8
Joined: 18 Jul 2020 08:06
Location: Hong Kong

Re: Did German Generals Ever Think They Were Stupid?

Post by Gjiyll » 18 Jul 2020 11:39

-Germans in beginning didn’t expect or intend to a world war. Their plan is expanding step by step . But they advanced too fast that they didn’t even expect. As france loss and Britain get isolated , us was determined to stand against Deutsches . Either way, the war between us and German is inevitable.
- the greatest mistake is the Barbarossa. Soviet can be the allies of Germany to confront us and U.K. Germans decided to go hostile. But they carry out a plan with inadequate troops , poor logistics , lengthening the consumption
- the majority of those scientists get to us far before the rule of Nazi
- Nobody will use the captured foreigners as the majority of battle or manufacturing. It is impossible for Jews and Slavs to fight for Deutsches . Moreover, Deutsches ‘ agriculture can’t support the large population.

User avatar
Sheldrake
Member
Posts: 2538
Joined: 28 Apr 2013 17:14
Location: London

Re: Did German Generals Ever Think They Were Stupid?

Post by Sheldrake » 18 Jul 2020 13:31

This is a complex question. There were thousands of German generals and they had differing views.

Michael Kenny's post does prompt a reminder about the role soldiers have to serve the state regardless of what they might think of its polices. Though they are also a reminder that populist policies can also be designed to win over the hearts and minds of military men.

Nazi policies to reverse the Versailles treaty and restore German territory were designed to appeal to the military and the night of the Long Knives removed the threat of an SA take over of the German army. Hitler's pre war policies were to try to bluff the world into achieving what he wanted without bloodshed. Senior soldiers believed that Germany was not ready to fight a war and warned against risking war over the Rhineland, Sudetenland and Poland. That is evident from any history of the third Reich. Hitler proved them wrong. Even the success over Poland left senior Generals worried about the piossibility of success in a long war. 1940 campaign proved Hitler right and their fears unfounded.

In 1944 a few Generals backed the 20 July plot

A good place to look is Tapping Hitler's Generals: Transcripts of Secret Conversations, 1942–45 by Sönke Neitzel This is based on the transcripts of recordings of discussions by senior German PW. There seem to have been two cliques in Trent Park. One was around Ritter von Thoma, and vocally anti Nazi. The second around Cruewell, who seems to have despised the Nazis after the execution of General Schleicher in 1934, but claimed that it was the duty of German officers to obey and defend the reputation of their country. He wrote home to his children urging them to have faith in the father land and never marry a foreigner. General Cramer, invalided to Germany in Feb 1944, was sufficiently convinced that the allies were right that he left instructions that if he died while a PW tghe Nazi flag should not be placed on his coffin and be banked his PW money in a British bank.

User avatar
Aida1
Member
Posts: 1013
Joined: 04 Aug 2019 08:46
Location: Brussels

Re: Did German Generals Ever Think They Were Stupid?

Post by Aida1 » 22 Jul 2020 11:11

timmbbo wrote:
30 Jun 2020 16:15
This is an easy question to ask with the passage of time. One to two decades after the war, when the German WWII generals had plenty of time for self reflection and time to digest all information, did anyone ever ask one of these generals, "What the f**k were you thinking?!"

- You followed a mad-man into the ultimate destruction of your nation.
- You took on the world's three largest economic powers at the same times.
- You declared war against the US, a nation you couldn't invade.
- You grossly underestimated the industrial capacity of the US.
- You race-theory chased away your best scientists.
- When you had a man power shortage, your Final Solution only made that much much worse.

I know this is a simplicist question to ask, but in hindsight, some of Germany's actions seem so stupid now. Did the German generals ever come around to realize this, and explain their thinking as to how they made such profound mistakes?

Thanks
Almost all you mention are decisions made by the head of state. It is not the army that makes these decisions. These are the prerogative of the political authority as it should be. So they did not need to explain why they allegedly made these mistakes as it was not their mistakes. You also seem to forget that one or two decades after the war the most senior commanders were mostly dead.

Gjiyll
Member
Posts: 8
Joined: 18 Jul 2020 08:06
Location: Hong Kong

Re: Did German Generals Ever Think They Were Stupid?

Post by Gjiyll » 24 Jul 2020 20:21

This smart Alec didn’t even get himself to either those basic statistics or the strategic situation of the Reich, start claiming those chiefs as ‘ stupid ’.

Senex
Member
Posts: 13
Joined: 26 Jul 2020 19:14
Location: Washington, DC

Re: Did German Generals Ever Think They Were Stupid?

Post by Senex » 27 Jul 2020 18:08

In regards to Wacht-am-Rhein, Gerd von Rundstedt strongly objected "to the fact that this stupid operation in the Ardennes is sometimes called the 'Rundstedt-Offensive'. This is a complete misnomer. I had nothing to do with it. It came to me as an order complete to the last detail. Hitler had even written on the plan in his own handwriting 'not to be altered'". (Jablonsky, David, Churchill and Hitler: Essays on the Political-Military Direction of Total War, p. 194.


As for the German generals as a class, I believe there was too much Hegel going on in their heads and they were generally not willing to buck the head of state, even when the head of state was leading the nation into disaster. When I asked a German colleague about the propriety of von Stauffenburg's action, he said, "It is not the place of the armed forces to kill the head of state."

Return to “German Strategy & General German Military Discussion”