Germany During the War 1939-1945 Part IV

From the spring of 1944 the German military situation deteriorated to a catastrophic extent. The systematic destruction of the inhabited areas of the cities gave a collapse to the morale, work capacity and nervous resistance of the population. It is however astonishing that in spite of this, in certain fields, for example in the production of ammunition and in the construction of submarines, very high figures were still reached in the year 1944, which nevertheless represented only a fraction of Allied production which was ever increasing. In any case, this allowed the continuation of military resistance. But when the Normandy landings on 6 June 1944 were successful and shortly thereafter the Northern Front in Russia collapsed, no one with any discernment could doubt any longer. inevitability of defeat. At this moment “the other Germany”, ie the opposition against Hitler, made another desperate attempt to reverse the threatening fate.

The existence of an internal German opposition has been wrongly denied and even more the essence of it has been ignored. It was faced with an incomparably more difficult task than the resistance movements in the territories occupied by Germany. The organization of a mass movement was made impossible by terror. Only a coup, namely the elimination of Hitler, had prospects of success. Since 1938 there have been carefully camouflaged resistance groups, whose recognized leader was the former Chief of Staff Gen. Ludwig Beck and whose heart was the ex-burgomaster of Leipzig, experienced and active man, Karl Gördeler. Ulrich von Hassell, who until 1938 had been German ambassador to Italy, formulated his foreign policy plans for them. Among the generals, field marshal EW Witzleben was a decided adherent, sympathetic but hesitant to the chief of staff general Franz Halder. The links between the individual resistance groups within diplomacy, bureaucracy, industry and the military were maintained by the deputy chief of counterintelligence gen. H. Oster, who acted with the tolerance of his boss, adm. Canaris. The movement had gained leaders from workers’ organizations such as Leuschner and Leber. The “Kreisau circle” worked out plans for a new internal order, especially in the social field. It is not correct to define the German resistance movement as a revolt of disgruntled generals and Junker.

Several plans at the beginning of November 1939, therefore even before the start of the campaign in the West, intended to take Hitler prisoner in Berlin or at the Western Front with the help of trusted troops, could not be carried out, because he modified his provisions at the ‘last moment. The attack in Munich on 8 November 1939 was probably a riding school prepared by the Gestapo, in any case not the work of the resistance movement. Other projects that emerged later, and intended to bring down Hitler by means of the Western army under the command of Witzleben or even by means of the fighting troops on the Eastern front under the command of Manstein, Germany von Kluge and others, they did not go beyond the project stage because a part of the generals who had to give the collapse always deferred the moment of action from time to time for military considerations. The most serious blow to the resistance movement was the allied claim of unconditional surrender; emissaries that the movement had in Stockholm, Switzerland and Lisbon to test the ground with the Western powers and to obtain more bearable peace conditions in the event that Hitler was eliminated, were rejected: the German resistance movement was thus the only one that did not had support from outside. The attempt undertaken by gen. Treschkow, on March 13, 1943, to eliminate Hitler by means of a time bomb stealthily placed in his airplane, failed because the bomb did not explode. Finally, on July 20, 1944, col. Count Klaus Stauffenberg, who, as chief of staff of the reserve army at home, had taken the preparation of the coup into his own hands, succeeded, during a meeting of military leaders held in a barrack of the Führer’s headquarters near Rastenburg in East Prussia, to detonate a bomb which fatally wounded several of those present, but only slightly wounded Hitler. Moreover, since he had neglected to have Berlin immediately occupy the Gestapo headquarters and the Ministry of Propaganda, the coup failed. The participants in the conspiracy were either immediately shot or sentenced to death after being tortured in front of so-called people’s courts whose proceeding was a mockery of all rights, or simply murdered. The number of victims is estimated at 7000.

According to Loverists, the attack on Hitler in July 1944 brought a new wave of terror to the country. Filled with suspicion of the officer corps, Hitler assigned each troop unit a “National Socialist lead officer” who was to monitor their attitude. The whole army was permeated with SS units whose strength, at the end of the war, had risen to 37 divisions with about 700,000 men. Goebbels was appointed general plenipotentiary for participation in the total war. From then on, total terror reigned.

Germany During the War 1939-1945 4