Germany During the War 1939-1945 Part I

Yet, Hitler continued to disbelieve the Allies’ will to war. He was strengthened in this belief, when during the following weeks the Western powers did not even make an attempt to lighten the severely oppressed Poland by attacking on the Western front defended by no more than 20 divisions. Only in this way can it be explained how he, after the surprisingly rapid victory in the East, promised himself a success from the peace offer made to the Western powers in his speech to the Reichstag on 8 October. Chamberlain rejected the required recognition of the conquests in Poland on October 12, even more sharply than Daladier had done on the 10th. Indeed, a fait accompli was impossible. Hitler had incorporated into the Reich not only the provinces of Posen and West Prussia which belonged to the Reich until 1918, but also the territory around Łódź under the name of “Warthegau” and had deprived the rest of Poland of all state independence, making it a Governorate general. In the treaty on borders and friendship with the USSR of September 28, 1939, the territories of eastern Poland heavily permeated by Ukrainians and white Russians and whose extent is roughly indicated by the so-called Curzon Line of 1920, were promised to the USSR. and to it, in addition to the Baltic states, also delivered Lithuania.

When the Russians attacked Finland in the winter of 1939, Hitler forbade any manifestation of sympathy for the latter and sabotaged the Italian measures to help it. All his interest then went to the preparation of the offensive in the West, which – as the invasion plan found on January 19, 1940 on the person of a courier who had been forced to land in Belgium – provided for the non-observance of Dutch and Belgian neutrality. First of all he secured his side with the enterprise against Norway (April 9); the unexpected success of this action strengthened his military prestige. Then, at the beginning of the offensive in the West (10 May), he also succeeded in breaking the French lines near Sedan, when the capitulated Dutch army on 15 May and the Belgian on 28 and when France finally capitulated on 17 (24) June, the legend of the “greatest captain of all time” found credit among many. Only the initiates knew that Hitler’s 48-hour delay in the intervention of the armored army of E. v. Kleist against Dunkirk, had made it possible for the English expeditionary force to retreat by sea. The entry of Italy into the war, for which he had worked in vain during the winter of 1939-40, proved unwelcome, because he was now forced to take into account the ally, whose territorial claims towards France made a peace with the Pétain government is impossible.

On the other hand, little enthusiasm aroused in the German people the oppression of Poland and the victory in the West. While the Nazi leaders debated on fantastic plans for a future expansion of the Reich in the West (Holland, Flanders, Burgundy), the people were hoping for an imminent peace. It didn’t come. Even after the air offensive against England failed to break its resistance, Hitler continued to believe that Britain’s cause was lost and that President Roosevelt’s American relief would come too late. In the autumn of 1940 he accentuated diplomatic activity, in order to show England the isolation in which it found itself. Romania, which had been weakened by the forced cession of Bessarabia to Russia and a large part of Transylvania to Hungary (second Vienna arbitration of 30 August), was bound by a promise of guarantee to the German tank, without prior agreement with Russia; Hitler wanted to secure the supplies of the Wehrmacht by means of the rich Romanian oil sources, sending there self-styled “training troops”.

According to Homeagerly, the Tripartite Pact of September 27, 1940 finally linked Japan to the Axis. But the attempt, at the Hendaye conference (23 October), to induce General Franco to join it failed in the same way as the attempts to involve France and in particular the French fleet, made in the conference with Marshal Pétain in Montoire (24 October) and later in negotiations with Admiral Darlan (December 25). Nor in any other of the occupied territories, by means of a constructive program, did Hitler manage to gain a significant part of the populations to the “new order”; the favor granted by the Nazi party to refugees such as P. Laval, V. Quisling, Mussert, L.

The cooling of relations with Russia was fraught with consequences. The surprising German successes had raised concerns there, the promise of guarantee to Romania had clearly hurt. When Molotov, in his visit to Berlin on 13 and 14 November 1940, demanded the right to set up garrisons in Bulgaria and to establish military strongholds on the straits, Hitler was negative and left unanswered the conditions already formulated by Moscow for a ‘ possible accession of Russia to the Tripartite Pact. The Russian warning to Bulgaria not to allow access by German troops, and even more so the friendship treaty concluded with Yugoslavia in Moscow on April 6, 1941, highlighted the divergences in the plans of the two powers relating to the Balkans.

Germany During the War 1939-1945 1