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Operation Barbarossa – The Current State of the Debate*

  • H. W. Koch (a1)
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1 Tobias, Fritz, Der Reichstagbrand: Legende und Wirklichkeit (Rastatt, 1962). The English translation, for the sake of reaching a wider public, has been so heavily abridged as to make it useless for the historian.

2 Hofer, Walter et al. (eds.), Der Reichstagbrand. Eine wissenschaftliche Dokumentation vol. I (Berlin, 1972); vol. II (Munich, 1978).

3 Backes, Uwe, Janssen, Karl-Heinz et al. (eds.), Reichstagbrand. Aufklärung einer historischen Legende (Munich, 1986).

4 Der Spiegel (1960), no. 23, Leserbriefe.

5 Taylor, A. J. P., The origins of the Second World War (London, 1961, second edition 1962) .

6 Niedhardt, Gottfried (ed.), Kriegsbeginn 1939. Entfesselung oder Ausbruch des Zweiten Weltkriegs (Darmstadt, 1976) .

7 Hofer, Walter, ‘Wege und Irrwege der Forschung. Erneute Auseinandersetzung mid den “erneuten Betractungen” von A. J. P. Taylor’, Staat und Gesellschaft im politischen Wandel, ed. Pöls, Werner (Stuttgart, 1979), pp. 523 ff. ; Hofer, Walter, Die Entfesselung des 2. Weltkriegs (Frankfurt am Main, 1964) .

8 Newman, Simon, March 1939. The British guarantee to Poland (Oxford, 1976).

9 This is based on the personal experience of the present writer, who – unsuccessfully – tried to arrange for a German translation.

10 Koch, H. W. (ed.), Aspects of the Third Reich (London, 1985), pp. 15 ff .

11 Habermas, Jürgen, ‘Eine Art Schadensabwicklung. Die apologetischen Tendenzen in der deutschen Geschichtsschreibung’, Die Zeit, 11 07 1986 .

12 Hillgruber, Andreas, Zweierlei Untergang. Die Zerschlagung des Deutschen Reichs und das Ende des europäaischen Judentums (Berlin, 1986).

13 Jäckel, Eberhard and Rohwer, Jürgen (eds.), Der Mord an den Juden im Zweiten Welkrieg (Stuttgart, 1985), p. 243, which contained Saul Friedländer's reported concern that the controversial positions adopted by well-known historians might find their way into school text-books.

14 Forschungsamt, Militärgeschichtliches (ed.), Das Deutsche Reich, und der Zweite Weltkrieg (Stuttgart, vols. 1 and 2, 1979, vol. 4, 1983, vol. 3, 1985).

15 Autorenkollektiv, . Deulschland im 2. Weltkrieg, 6 vols. (Berlin, 19741985).

16 Weinberg, Gerhard L., The foreign policy of Hitler's Germany: starting World War II, 1937–1939 (Chicago, 1980), p. 35 n. 61.

17 Suvorov, Victor, ‘Who was planning to attack whom in June 1941, Hitler or Stalin?’, RUSI Journal, 06 1985, pp. 50 ff.: Victor Suvorov, ‘Yes, Stalin was planning to attack Hitler in June 1941’, ibid. June 1986, pp. 73 ff.

18 Stegemann, Bernd, ‘Geschichte und Politik. Zur Diskussion über den deutschen Angriff auf die Sowjetunion 1941’, Beiträge zur Konfliktforschung, XVII, 1 (1987), 73 ff. I am deeply indebted to -J> Dr Stegemann for supplying me with an offprint of his article, which arrived while this article was I being drafted. It has substantially enriched its contents.

19 RUSI journal (March 1986, June 1986).

20 Hoffmann, Joachim (ed.), ‘Die Sowjetunion am Vorabend des Deuschen Angriffs’, Militärgeschichtliches Forschungsamt, Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltrieg, IV, 38 ff.; idem, ‘Die Kriegführung aus der Sicht der Sowjetunion’, ibid. pp. 713 ff.

21 Hoffmann, Joachim, Die Geschichte der Wlassow-Armee (Freiburg, 1984). See also Andreyev, Catheine, Vlassov and the Russian Liberation Movement 1941–1945 (Cambridge, 1987).

22 Gillessen, Günther ‘Der Krieg der Diktatoren’, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (20 08 1986). I am indebted to Dr Gillessen for supplying me with copies of his article and those of the subsequent correspondence pubnlished in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

23 Churchill, Winston, The Second World War, vol. 3, The grand Alliance (London, 1950), pp. 290 ff.; Sommer, Erich F., Das Memorandum (Munich, 1982), passim; also Der Spiegel (1982), no.31, pp. 34 ff.

24 See note 22 above.

25 This is still a very problematical point. Pravda in its Moscow edition of 14 March 1946, p. 1, published an interview with Stalin in which he stated that ‘as a result of the German invasion, the Soviet Union lost in its struggle with the Germans, as a result of the German occupation and the deportation of Soviet citizens into German slavery approximately seven million men, women and children’. The same figure given in the Soviet Encyclopedia (Moscow, 1947) has been cited by the Netu Zürcher Zeitung (16/17 August 1986). See also Höhne, Heinz, ‘Russlands Vaterländischer Krieg’, Der Spiegel (1981), no. 38, pp. 204 ff. On the other hand, Arntz, Helmuth, ‘Die Menschenverluste im Zweiten Weltkrieg’, contained in a volume of essays on the Second World War – Bilanz des 2. Weltkrieges (Oldenburg, 1953) – cites the Russian Colonel Kalinov, then a member of the Soviet Military Administration for Germany, whose figure was I3P5 million fatal casualties suffered by the Soviet armed forces, a figure which does not include the civilian losses. Hence, Arntz at that early stage calculated an approximate total figure of twenty million Soviet dead. Th e last time the figure of seven million was mentioned was, its far as this writer could find out, in SED's Neue Berliner Illustrierten (1951), no. 25. The official Soviet, Istoriya Velikoi Otechestvennoi voiny Sovetskaya Soyuza 1941–1945, 6 vols. (Moscow, 19601965), does not give any precise figure. On the contrary, in volume one it ridicules the German claim of Soviet prisoners made. Even the current SED standard work (see note 15) avoids giving precise figures, especially those concerning prisoners made by the German army.

26 Letter by DrPietrow, Bianka to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (13 11 1986).

27 Dr Joachim Hoffmann, ibid. (10 Nov. 1986).

28 Rolf-Dieter Müller, ibid. (31 Nov. 1986).

29 Lothar Jung, ibid. (16 Oct. 1986).

30 Wette, Wolfram and Ueberschär, Gerd R. (eds.), ‘Unternehmen Barbarossa’. Der deutsche Überfall auf die Sowjetunion 1941. Berichte, Analysen, Dokumente (Paderborn, 1984).

31 Seraphim, Hans-Günther and Hillgruber, Andreas, ‘Hitlers Entschluss zum Angriff aut Russland (eine Entgegnung)’, Vierteljahrhefte für Zeitgeschichte (1954), pp. 240 ff.

32 Koch, H. W., ‘Hitler's “Programme” and the genesis of Operation “Barbarossa”’, The Historical Journal, XXVI, 4 (1983), 891 ff.: reprinted in Koch (ed.), Aspects of the Third Reich: Trial of the major German war criminals (Nuremberg, 1947), XX, 576 ff.; Haider, Generaloberst, Kriegstagebuch, 3 vols. (Stuttgart, 1962), I, entry for 30 June 1940; n, entries for 3 and 9 July 1940.

33 Hillgruber, Andreas, Hitlers Strategic, Politik und Kriegführung 1940–1941 (Munich, 1965), p. 535; 2nd edn (Munich, 1982), pp. 726 ff.

34 Ueberschär, in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (12 10 1986).

35 See note 19.

36 Akten zur deutschen Auswärtigen Politik 1918–1945, series D (Frankfurt am Main, 1962), VIII, 474 ff.

37 Ibid. pp. 685 ff.; IX, 6. See also Stegemann, Bernd, ‘Hiders Kriegziele im ersten Kriegsjahr 1939/1940. Ein Beitrag zur Quellenkritik’, Militärgeschichtliche Mitteilungen, XXVII (1980), 93 ff.

38 Ueberschür, Gerd R., ‘Hiders Entschluss zum “Lebensraum”-Krie g im Osten. Program-matisches Ziel oder militarstrategisches Kalkül?’, Wette, and Ueberschäar, (eds.), ‘Unternehmen Barbarossa’, p. 92.

39 Hill, Leonidas E. (ed.), Die Weizsäcker-Papiere 1933–1950 (Berlin, 1974), pp. 204 ff. Hill, in the preceding volume, covering the period 1900–32, states on page 442 under ‘Principles of selection’: ‘Within the framework of this collection it has not been possible for me to indicate the contents of letters and diaries not included, not to point to omitted passages in letters and diaries’. This, of course, reduces considerably the value of the Weizsäacker papers as a contemporary primary source.

40 Stegemann, , ‘Geschichte und Politik’, p. 83.

41 Ueberschär, in Wette, and Ueberschär, (eds.), ‘Unternehmen Barbarossa’, p. 94.

42 Speer, Albert, Erinnerungen (Berlin, 1969), p. 188.

44 As note 41.

45 That Speer's memoirs and his subsequent writings are a highly unreliable source for the historian has been convincingly demonstrated in Matthias Schmidt's doctoral dissertation at the Free University of Berlin, published under the title Albert Speer, Das Ende eines Mythos. Die Aufdeckung seiner Geschichtsverfälschung. Speers wahre Rolle im Dritten Reich (Bern and Munich, 1982). See also the evidence provided by one of Hitler's other major architects, Giesler, Hermann, in Ein anderer Hitler, Erlebnisse, Gespraäche, Reflexionen (Leoni, 1978), passim.

46 Taylor, Fred (ed.), The Goebbels Diaries (London, 1982), p. 42. This edition does not contain all the entries for the period. Once the bulk of the Goebbels diaries came to light, the German publishers Hoffmann and Campe acquired the rights and published Joseph Goebbels. Tagebücher 1945. Die letzten Auf-zeichnungen (Hamburg, 1977). The venture proved a commercial disaster and publication of further volumes was postponed indefinitely. Via channels still unknown, the diaries, or the largest part of them for 1939–41, were offered to Hamish Hamilton, who published the above volume. The complete set of the Goebbels diaries is now in the archive of the Institut fur Zeitgeschichte at Munich, which evisages publishing them in their entirety.

47 Ibid. p. 51.

48 Stegemann, , ‘Geschichte und Politik’, p. 80.

49 Taylor, in The Goebbels diaries, p. 121, states that the parts of the Goebbels diary from 15 I March to 29 April 1940 are missing. They are not, and have been quoted in Wette, and Ueberschäar, (eds.), ‘Unternehmen Barbarossa’, pp. 93, 100.

50 The same applies as in note 49, this time for the period 25 June to 10 August 1940, quoted in ibid. p. 96.

51 Taylor, , The Goebbels diaries, p. 159.

52 See Koch, , Aspects of the Third Reich, pp. 314 ff.

53 von Below, Nicolaus, Als Hitlers Adjutant 1937–1945 (Mainz, 1980), pp. 10 ff.

54 Ibid. p. 217. As to the faulty logic, my colleague John F. C. Parker drew my attention to it. It had escaped me.

55 Wette, and Ueberschär, (eds.), ‘Unternehmen Barbarossa’, p. 91.

56 Below, , Als Hitlers Adjutant, p. 247.

57 Wette, and Ueberschär, (eds.), ‘Unternehmen Barbarossa’, p. 90, n. 30. See Documents on British foreign policy, 3rd series, VII, no. 314 (enc.) On the entire complex, see Koch, H. W., ‘Hitler and the origins of the Second World War’, The Historical Journal, XI (1968), reprinted in E. M. Robertson (ed.), The origins of the Second World War (London, 1971), pp. 158 ff.

58 Wette, and Ueberschär, (eds.), ‘Unternehmen Barbarossa’, p. 95.

59 Irving, David, Hitler's War 1939–1942 (London, 1977), p. 139; the German translation of Irving's, work, Hitler und seine Feldherren, had been published two years previously (Berlin, 1977), and it is from that translation that Wette and Ueberschär quote – or rather misquote.

60 Below, , Als Hitlers Adjutant, pp. 1011.

61 Among them Hitler's personal secretary Schroeder, Christa, Er war mein Chef (Munich, 1985), pp. 18, 69 f., 188, 226 ff.

62 Ueberschär, in Wette, and Ueberschär, (eds.), ‘Unternehmen Barbarossa’, p. 98.

63 Salewski, Michael, Die deutsche Seekriegsleitung 1933–1945, III: Denkschriften und Lagebetrachtungen, 1938–1945 (Munich, 1973), pp. 138 ff.

64 Wagner, Gerhard (ed.), Lagevorträge des Oberbefehlhabers der Kriegmarine vor Hitler 1939–1945 (Munich, 1973), ‘Vortrag des ob. d. M. beim Führer am 27. 10. 40 16.00 Uhr’, pp. 171 ff.

65 Halder, , Kriegstagebuch; Kriegstagebuch des Oberkommandos der Wehrmacht (Wehrmachtsführungs-stab) 1940–1945, geführt von Helmut Greiner und Percy Ernst Schramm, Studienausgabe, 8 vols. (Munich, 1982). The first so far to point to serious discrepancies and omissions contained in the I Haider diaries has been Christian Streit in his study Keine Kameraden. Die Wehrmacht und die sowjetischen Kriegsgefangenen 1941–1945 (Stuttgart, 1978), p. 28 passim.

66 Stegemann, , ‘Geschichte und Politik’, p. 89; Bundesarchiv-Militärarchiv Freiburg, letter of v. Lossberg to former Field-Marshal Paulus, 16 September 1956, Nachlass Lossberg, M219/5.

67 See note 32, Koch, ‘Hitler's programme’.

69 Koch, , Aspects of the Third Reich, p. 321.

70 See note 65, Kriegstagebuch des Oberkommandos, 1, 257; Bundesarchiv-Militärarchiv, RW19/85 Aktennotiz von General Thomas über seinen Vortrag vor Göring vom 26. 2. 1941, geheime Kommandosache. See also ibid. (3 March 1940), pp. 340 ff.

71 Ueberschär, in Wette, and Ueberschär, (eds.), ‘Unternehmen Barbarossa’ p. 83.

72 Wolfram Wette in ibid. pp. II ff., ‘Eine historische Hypothek. Neue Forschungen zum deutsch-sowjetischen Krieg 1941’.

73 Ibid. p. 11.

74 Ibid. p. 22.

75 Ibid.: Sywotteck, Arnold, ‘Die sowjectische Kriegszielpolitik im Zweiten Weltkreig 1941–1945. Zum Stand der historisch-politischen Analyse und Diskussion’, pp. 237 ff.

* I wish to express my gratitude to the editor for critical comments made, and to my colleague John F. C. Parker for the same as well as for stylistic improvements made.

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