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Thread: General Heinz Guderian, Father of the Blitzkrieg

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    9. Inspector –general of armoured troops


    Appointment and First Actions

    When I was called to the telephone on February 17th 1943, to speak to the Army Personnel Office I had no idea what lay ahead of me. Only a week before, having recovered from my heart complaint, I had been to see General Bodewin Keitel, the head of the Personnel Office, to find out about the general situation and one or two individuals. Judging by what he had then said to me there could be no question of my re-employment: rather, the contrary. Now General Linnarz, Keitel’s assistant, informed me that I was to report directly to the Führer at Vinnitsa. He could not give a reason for this summons. But it was plain to me that only the direst necessity would have driven Hitler to take such a step. Stalingrad, the unheard-of surrender of a whole army on the field of battle, the heavy causalities that resulted from this national catastrophe, the cruel defeats suffered by our allies who had not proved capable of holding their fronts on either side of the destroyed Sixth Army with the limited means at their disposal, all this led to a grave crisis. Morale had reached a low point both in the Army and in the country

    External and internal political blows now aggravated the situation.

    After landing in North Africa the Western Powers had made rapid progress. The growing importance of this theatre of war was underlined by the meeting of Roosevelt and Churchill at Casablanca from January 14th to 23rd,1943; for us the most important result of this conference was the insistence that the Axis Powers surrender unconditionally. The effect of this brutal formula on the German nation and, above all, on the Army was great. The soldiers, at least were convinced from now on that our enemies had decided on the utter destruction of Germany, that they were no longer fighting – as Allied propaganda at the time alleged – against Hitler and so-called Nazism, but against their efficient, and therefore dangerous, rivals for the trade of the world.

    For some time the architects of the destructive dogma of Casablanca boasted of what they had done. On February 11th 1943 Winston Churchill said in the House of Commons:

    “It was only after full and cold, sober and mature consideration of these facts, on which our lives and liberties certainly depend, that the President , with my full concurrence as agent of the War Cabinet, decided that the note of the Casablanca Conference should be the unconditional surrender of all our foes. Our inflexible insistence upon unconditional surrender does not mean that we shall stain our victorious arms by any creul treatment of whole populations.”

    Less than two years after making this speech – on December15th 1944, to be exact – Winston Churchill promised the Poles East Prussia (with the exception of Königsberg, which was to go to the Russians), Danzig and 200 miles of the Baltic coast, adding that they were free’ to extend their territory to the west at the expense of Germany. He the declared:

    ‘The transference of several million people would have to be effected from the east to the west or north, and the expulsion of the Germans, because that is what is proposed – the total expulsion of the Germans – from the area to be acquired by Poland in the west or north . . . There will be no mixture of populations . . .

    Was it not atrocious so to treat the population of Eastern Germany? Was it not unjust? The House of Commons obviously not unanimous in its approval of Churchill’s policy, for he felt compelled to justify himself once again on February 24th 1945 saying: ’What, for instance, should be our attitude towards the terrible foe with whom we are grappling? Should it be unconditional surrender, or should we make some accommodation with them for a negotiated peace, leaving them free to regather their strength for a renewal of the struggle after a few uneasy years? The principle of unconditional surrender was proclaimed by the President of the United States at Casablanca and I endorsed it there and then on behalf of this country. I am sure it was right at the time it was used, when many things hung in the balance against us which are decided in our favour now. Should we then modify this declaration, which was made in the days of our comparative weakness and lack of success, now that we have reached a period of mastery and power? I am clear that nothing should induce us to abandon the principle of unconditional surrender and enter into any form of negotiation with Germany or Japan, under whatever guise such suggestions may present themselves, until the act of unconditional surrender has been formally executed . . .

    Winston Churchill is no longer so certain that his actions at the time were wise. Both he and Bevin have clearly modified the policy then adopted. Today many British statesmen no doubt wish that the decisions taken at the Yalta conference of February 1945, had been other than they were. It was there stated :

    ‘It was not our purpose to destroy the people of Germany, but only when Nazism and militarism have been extirpated will there be hope for a decent life for Germans and a place for them in the comity of nations.’

    . . . .

    It was under the shadow of these events that, accompanied by Lieutenant Becke, I set off by train for Rastenburg in East Prussia, whence I was to go on by aeroplane. In the train I found general Kempff, my old comrade-in-arms, from whom I learned a great deal about the course of operations during the previous year. At Rastenburg I was met by Keitel’s adjutant, Major Weiss, but he could give me no precise information concerning the reason for my journey. Accompanied by Kempff and my old colleague from the Inspectorate of Motorised Troops and the peacetime 2nd Panzer Division, Chales de Beaulieu, I flew on to Vinnitsa. We arrived there in the afternoon of the 19th and were assigned quarters in the army hostel called the Jagerhohe.

    During the morning of the 20th General Schmundt, Hitler’s principal adjutant, came to see me. We had a detailed conversation concerning Hitler’s intentions and the prospect of transferring them into facts. Schmundt explained to me how the German armoured force, as a result of the increasing supremacy of the Russians, had reached a state in which the need for its renovation could no longer be ignored. The General Staff and the Armaments Ministry were at loggerheads; more important than this, the panzer troops themselves had lost confidence in the High Command and were asking with insistence that control of their arm of the Service be vested in someone who had practical knowledge and experience of the armoured forces. Hitler had therefore decided to entrust me with this responsibility. Schmundt asked me if I had any suggestions to make concerning the carrying out of this request. I replied that in view of the needs of my country and of my arm of the Service, I was prepared to accept Hitler’s offer. But I could only be of use in this position if certain prior conditions were fulfilled, all the more so since I had only just recovered from a serious illness and did not wish to waste my strength in such fruitless struggles for authority as those in which I had always previously been involved when holding similar appointments, I must therefore insist that I be subordinated neither to the Chief of the Army General Staff nor to the Commander of the Training Army but directly to Hitler.

    P 284 - 288 the book PANZER LEADER General Heinz Guderian by General Heinz Guderian.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ravenrune View Post
    The major alternative idea here is whether it is actually true that Stalin was amassing a huge preparation of offensive forces to invade and take over not only Germany but continue on across Europe.


    I know some people disregard this (ie, those who believe official history and possibly some here) but I feel there is something to it (and surely explains why Hitler would start an eastern front which would be foolish to do if not necessary) .

    If Hitler had to attack the USSR's build-up to the east to pre-empt Stalin's attack date, then there was no choice (fully prepared or not).
    Thats exactly why the operation was tabled. Never mind that Hitler couldn't have crossed the channel in the first place.
    If the Germans had tried to cross the channel then Stalin would've invaded and all of Europe would've been under control of the USSR. As to the infamous stop order the reason is simple. Hitler in a fit of misguided charity decided to let them go and hope the Brits would see reason and come to the table for a peace treaty. WW2 should've ended right there. WW2 can be directly laid right at the Brits feet.

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    I read a bio about the innovative and highly competent progenitor of the panzer division, Heinz Guderian, by John Keegan. Very interesting tribute to the man and military leader.
    “A dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than is a riot.” Robert A. Heinlein

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    The fact that Guderian wasn't prosecuted at Nurnberg should tell us something.
    I can't help have the feeling that him and a lot of the army generals threw the fight
    in exchange for mercy only to have Germany divided into peaces and Prussia destroyed.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ravenrune View Post
    The major alternative idea here is whether it is actually true that Stalin was amassing a huge preparation of offensive forces to invade and take over not only Germany but continue on across Europe.


    I know some people disregard this (ie, those who believe official history and possibly some here) but I feel there is something to it (and surely explains why Hitler would start an eastern front which would be foolish to do if not necessary) .

    If Hitler had to attack the USSR's build-up to the east to pre-empt Stalin's attack date, then there was no choice (fully prepared or not).
    The first goal would probably to take over Romania and Hungary to control Germany's oil supply.
    The pre-emptive strike thesis is the one that has most merits:
    https://archive.org/details/DidStali...eViktorSuvorov


    But Back to Guderian. He wrote a book -Achtung Panzer- on his military strategy, which was btw. openly accessible in the 1930s:
    https://archive.org/details/AchtungP...201809/page/n7

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    ‘Operation Citadel’



    On March 29th I flew to the headquarters of Army Group South, at Zaporozhe, to see Field-Marshal von Manstein. Here a considerable victory had recently been won; by using armoured formation in the correct operational way Kharkov had been recaptured. The lesson to be learned from this, in particular concerning the way the Tiger battalions of the Gross-Deutschland and the SS-Leibstandarte’Adolf Hitler’ Divisions had been employed, provided the reason for my flight to see Manstein. At his headquarters I found my old friend Hoth, the commander of the Fourth Panzer Army, who also told me of his experiences. I once again realised what a pity it was that Hitler could not tolerate the presence of so capable and soldierly a person as Manstein in his environment. The characters were too opposed: on the one hand Hitler, with his great will-power and his fertile imagination: on the other Manstein, a man of most distinguished military talents, a product of the German General Staff Corps, with a sensible, cool understanding, who was our finest operational brain. Later, when I was entrusted with the duties of Chief of the Army General Staff, I frequently proposed to Hitler that Manstein be appointed chief of the OKW in place of Keitel, but always in vain. It is true that Keitel made life easy for Hitler; he sought to anticipate and fulfil Hitler’s every wish before it had even been uttered. Manstein was not so comfortable a man to deal with; he formed his own opinions and spoke them aloud. Hitler finally answered my repeated proposal with the words: ‘Manstein is perhaps the best brain that the General Staff Corps has produced. But he can only operate with fresh, good divisions and not with the remnants of divisions which are all that is now available to us. Since I can’t find him any fresh, operationally capable formations, there is no point in giving him the job.’ But the truth is that he did not wish to do so and was trying to justify his refusal by such circuitous excuses.



    I then flew on to Poltava, where General Kempff’s army command (Armee-Abteilung) was located, and from there went to visit the Gross-Deutschland on March 30th and the SS Panzer Division SS-Leibstandarte’Adolf Hitler’ and General Von Knobelsdorff’s corps headquarters on the 31st.At these headquarters my primary purpose was to study our recent experience with the Tigers, so that I might form a clear picture of the tank’s tactical and technical capabilities and thus be able to deduce how best Tiger units might be organised for the future. A final visit to Manstein at Zaporozhe ended my first trip to the front as Inspector-General.



    These journeys resulted in a conference with Speer concerning an increase in the production of the Tigers and Panthers; in the same connection I went to see Hitler on April 11th at Berchtesgaden, on the Obersalzberg, my first visit to this place. A remarkable feature of the Führer’s villa, the Berghof, was that – at least in the part accessible to us – there were no connecting doors between any of the rooms. Only the great conference hall was impressive: it had large windows commanding a magnificent view, a number of valuable hangings and picture, including a wonderful Feuerbach, and a raised area by the fireplace, where Hitler, after the so-called evening briefing, was in the habit of spending a few hours in the company of his more intimate circle, his military and party adjutants and his female secretaries. I was never included in this circle.



    On the same date I called on Himmler, with the purpose of arranging that the armoured formations of the Waffen-SS be organised in accordance with the establishments laid down for the Army. My efforts met with only partial success. In particular Himmler would not agree to my urgent request that the setting up of new units be abandoned. It is true that Hitler had approved my views on this subject during our conference of March 9th , when I pointed out the disadvantages of new formations; but so far as the Waffen-SS were concerned, he and Himmler had reached certain conclusions which they did not impart to any of the soldiers. Hitlers idea was to make himself independent of the Army, whose leaders he never trusted, by forming this private army in which he believed that he could place implicit confidence; it would thus be a Praetorian guard that would be ready for anything, should the Army ever refuse to follow him on account of its Prussian-German traditions. This policy of Hitler’s and Himmler’s was to put the Waffen-SS in a very unpleasant position after the war, since the Waffen-SS was blamed for the misdeeds of the rest of the SS and particularly of the operational commanders of the SD or Sicherheitsdienst. But even during the war the preferential treatment received by the Waffen-SS in the quality and quantity of its replacements, as well as of arms and equipment, led to a certain amount of understandable ill-feeling on the part of the less favoured army formations. If such ill-feeling disappeared in the comradeship of the front, this is simply an indication of the German soldier’s selfless nature, regardless of the colour of the uniform he wore.



    I spent April 12th visiting the chief of the Lufwaffe General Staff Colonel-General Jeschonnek. I found a tired man whose mood was one of outspoken discouragement. I did not manage to have a frank discussion with him about matters of concern to both our arms – the air and armoured forces – nor indeed, did I succeed in establishing any human contact with him. Shortly afterwards, in August 1943, grieved by Hitler’s and Goering’s reproaches concerning the faiure of the air force Jeschonnek took his own life. |In so doing he was following in the footsteps of his comrade, Udet; the latter had felt himself forced to make the same desperate decision in November 1941, since he could see no other way out of the dilemma – a dilemma consisting, on the one hand, of what he recognised as the needs of the war and, on the other, of Goering’s incompetence and idleness. My request that I might be received by the Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force came to nothing; that gentleman was too preoccupied with his non-military activities to spare me the necessary time.



    Back in Berlin I had a long conversation with Schmundt on April 13th. The situation in Africa had become hopeless, and I asked Schmundt to help me arrange that the many superfluous tank crews – particularly the irreplaceable commanders and technicians with years of experience behind them – be now flown out. Either I failed to convince Schmundt or else he did not press my argument with sufficient energy to Hitler, for when I next saw the Führer and personally mentioned the matter I met with no success. The question of prestige – as so often – proved more powerful than common sense. A great number of machines which were returning empty to Italy could have carried out those valuable men; this would have made the reforming and rehabilitation of units both at home and at the front an easier undertaking. This conference, again on the Obersalzberg took place on April 29th ; on the same day I discussed questions of organisation and equipment with Buhle, Keitel and Speer.



    Units were still being sent over to Africa and there ’committed to the flames’ among others our newest Tiger battalion. All argument against such a policy was quite ineffective; latter the same thing was to happen in the defence of Sicily. On this occasion, when I urged that the Tigers be withdrawn to the mainland, Goering joined in the argument with the remark: ‘But Tigers can’t pole-vault across the Straits of Messina. You must realise that Colonel-General Guderian!’ I replied: ‘If you have really won air supremacy over the Straits of Messina the Tigers can come back from Sicily the same way they went out.’ The air expert then fell silent; the Tigers remained in Sicily. .




    P 302 - 304 the book PANZER LEADER General Heinz Guderian by General Heinz Guderian.


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