World War II: Germany--Total War / Totaler Krieg (1943)


Figure 1.--When Hitler launched World War II with the invasion of Poland, many German families had members in the military. After Goebbels launched announced "total war" (February 1943), virtually the entire male population of Germany between 18 and 60 were mobilized for military service.

Hitler's concept of World War II involved short campaigns in which targeted counties would be knocked out individually or in small groups before they could adequately prepare. This was historically the way Prussia waged war. Prussia was a small, relatively poor country that did not have the resources to wage protracted wars against larger, richer countries. Thus a well trained standing army gave Prussia an advantage at the onset of wars. This was the approsch that Hitler adopted as Germany was surrounded by countries with far greater resources. Once countries were occupied, they could be looted to finance abd supply the German war effort. Hitler wanted to mimimize the demands on the German civilians because many did not want another war and privations on the home front had undermined the World war I war effort. Hitler stressed the importance of the ‘gigantic all destroying blow’. This was a central concept in Prussian war planning. The competence of the Wehrmacht brought huge victories in the early phase of the War, but his plan began to fail when the British refused to buckle under in the Battle of Britain (1940). This led to Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union (1941). The Soviet winter offensive before Moscow meant that the Wehrmacht had failed to smash the Red Army and that there would be no German victory in a short war. Hitler planned for a short war because Germany did not have the manpower or resources for a protracted war. As a result, the German people and the German economy were not prepared for a long war. The Germany economy was not put on a total war footing. Women were not brouht into the work force and German companies continued to produce consumer goods. Promising arms projects like jet aircraft were on hold. Hitler wanted to maintain the civilian standard of living. Even after the disaster before Moscow, Hitler resisted massive changes in economic policy. This changed after the disasters in Stalingrad and North Africa. As the War turned against Germany, Hitler no longer desired to appear in public. It was thus Propaganda Minister Goebbels that announced "Total War". He delivered a long speeces in Berlin (February 1943). The German people were required to make real sacrifices for the first time at the same time that the Allied Strategic Bombing campaign became increasingly effective. By this time, however, it was too late. German war production could be raised and Speer accomplished a great deal. But productions increased were only marginal and paled in comparison to Allied production. The Germans faced the massive armies and war production that the Americans, British, Soviets were able to muster.

Hitler's War Plan

Hitler's concept of World War II involved short campaigns in which targeted counties would be knocked out individually or in small groups before they could adequately prepare. This was historically the way Prussia waged war. Prussia was a small, relatively poor country that did not have the resources to wage protracted wars against larger, richer countries. Thus a well trained standing army gave Prussia an advantage at the onset of wars. This was the approsch that Hitler adopted as Germany was surrounded by countries with far greater resources. Hitler planned for a short war because Germany did not have the manpower or resources for a protracted war. Major decesions had to made concerning resource allocations. Only limited resources were allocatedto the Kriegsmarine. Major resources were allocated to the Luftwaffe, even so they were not sufficent to build a strategic force. Germany entered the war with only a tactical airforce. The lion share of the resources were lanished on the Heer (Army). Even so, the Heer was not fully mechanized when the Germans launched the War.

German War Capabilithy

German Führer Adolf Hitler launched World War II with the most profesional, competent military officer corps in the world. The NAZIs embarkened on a program to train boys to be warriors beginning with the Hitler Youth (HJ). This would take some time. The HJ was not at first compulsory. Thus when Hitler launched the War, many of the young recruits had some HJ experiences, but the officer corps of the German military had been trained in the military schools of Imperial Germany and the Weimar Republic. It was still hevily influenced by the the Prussian military tradition. And since the creation of the Prussian state, here was a warrior tradition that remained remarkably consistent over four centuries. The founder of that martial state was the Great Elector--Friderich-Wilhelm I (1640-88). He inherited a minor, rather poor and discontinguous principality in northern Germany--Brandenburg-Prussia. He turned his realm into a state with one purpose, to fund and support his army. The army he created was not a large one. His realm could not support a massive army on the level of the great powers like Austria, France, Russia, and Sweden. His solution to this problem was to create a small, but well-drilled and equipped standing army which could defeat a larger opponent before they could marshal their forces. [Citino, pp. xiii-xiv.] This was the only way a small power could defeat a larger power. And this was the policy that the Great Elector and his Hohenzollern's descendants followed and used sucessfully to turn Prussia into a major power. This was the tradition with which Hitler's Wehrmacht launched World War II. And Hitler had turned Germany into a state with a single purpose--to support a modern military machine that could expand the Reich. The Wehrmact had many strengths. Great attention was given to speed and mobility. These were capabilities that the Great Elector himself had emphasized. Blitzkrieg was in fact a modern version of the Great Elector's tactics with industrial weaponry. The Wehrmacht also had some major weakenesses. The industrial base of its targets, significantly increased that of Germany. Essentially the same sitation faced by the Great Elector and his descendants. German military strengths brough great victories at the beginning of World War II as they had at the start of World War I. A major strength was the support of the Luftwaffe in the early years. Perhaps the most serious Geman military weakness was the lack of attention to logistics. This was an area of lesser importance to an army designed to win a war in a brief period, but was of vital importance in a protacted war. [Citino, p. xiv.] Another weakness was military intelligence. [Citino, pp. xiv-xv.] This is less easy to understand, but may lie a tendency to underestimate their importance and an over confidence in their military superiority. These weakenes proved disastrous in World War II as they had in World War I. A great weakness was the lack of adequate naval power.

Financing the War

Once countries were occupied, they could be looted to finance and supply the German war effort. Hitler wanted to mimimize the demands on the German civilians because many did not want another war and privations on the home front had undermined the World war I war effort.

Limited War

Jews and Slavs in Eastern Europe might scoff at the idea that the NAZIs waged a limited war, but in fact Hitler did place limitations on the German war effort. The German people and the German economy were not prepared for a long war. The Germany economy was not put on a total war footing. Women were not brouht into the work force and German companies continued to produce consumer goods. Promising arms projects like jet aircraft were on hold. Hitler wanted to maintain the civilian standard of living. Even after the disaster before Moscow (December 1941), Hitler resisted massive changes in economic policy. Hitler recalling the imact of privation on home front morale during World War I attempted to run the economy without major civilian dislocations or severe rationing. Germany began the War with inadequate resources and industrial base. Hitler's war plan was short wars against individual opponents. The early victories assisted him, because the economies of the occupied countries were looted in various ways both to support the war effort and to main civilian consumption levels. Here France proved very important in both regards.

Early Phase of the War (1939-42)

Hitler stressed the importance of the ‘gigantic all destroying blow’. This was a central concept in Prussian war planning. The competence of the Wehrmacht brought huge victories in the early phase of the War, but his plan began to fail when the British refused to buckle under in the Battle of Britain (1940). This led to Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union (1941). The Soviet winter offensive before Moscow meant that the Wehrmacht had failed to smash the Red Army and that there would be no German victory in a short war.

Rationalizing the Economy (1942)

Hitler appointed Albert Speer his new Armament Minister (1942). Speer immediately set about rationalizing the Reich's chaotic war industries. He suceeded in making important changes and managed to correct some of the the worst inefficiencies. He often came into conflict with the Party Gaulieders who attempte to protect many vested interests. With Hitler's full support, Speer managed to force through important changes. He managed to achieve a threefold increase in armament production. This reveals just how inefficent the German war economy was and implies that had these changes been made earlier tht the outcome of the war might have ben very different. . Speer had to contend with the Allied strategic Bombing Campign which was significantly expanded when the U.S. 8th Air Force joined RAF Bomber Command to begin the around-the-clock bombing of the Reich (January 943). The increse in German productuion has been used to prove that the strategic bombing campaign failed. A more accurate assessment is probably it reflects just how poorly the NAZIs were running the war economy and the inefficent German industry was. Speer's effort did not reach its peak until 1944. To do this during the damage caused by the growing strategic Allied bomber offensive, is an indication of the inefficencies present in German industry. And this exoplains its resiliency to aerial bombardmnent. German civilian consumption was reltivly high during the early War years of the war and the Germans had built up substantial inventories. Both in effect cushioned the German war economy from the impact of bombing. And the Luftwaffe during 1943 savaged the attacking bomber formations, limiting the impact of the bombing. Thus Speer's effiencies managed to increase production, even offseting the bomb damage for more than a year. Speer's principal answer to the bombing was industrial decentralization, dispersing critical war production or in soime cases going underground. This esentially introduced ineffiencies. One impact of Total War was increasing demands on the occupied countries. In France this meant increased requirements fir Vichy to provide workers for war plants in the Reich. The NAZIs were reluctant to bring German women into the war lahts as the Americans, British, and Soviets did), but instead used forced and slave labor from the occupied countries.

Total War

Hitler was forced to reasses his war policies when the victories of early-1942 turned into stunning defeats, first at El Alemaine (October 1942) and then Stalingrad (November 1942). The surrender of the Sixth Army, the most potent formation in the Wehrmacht forced a reassment of German war policies. Days after the newly minted Field Marshal Paulis surrendered, Oropaganda Minister Josef Goebbels spoke at the Sportpalast and demanded 'Total War' (February 18, 1943). As the War went against the NAZIs, Germans saw less of Hitler and more of Goebbels. The audiemce was carefully selected. Wounded war veterans were placed in the front roles. Most of audiece was NAZI loyalists. The country had been shocked at the surrender of the 6th Army in Stalingrad and the reverses in North Africa. Goebbels saw the need to generate popular support for the War. He also wanted Hitler to grant him power to manage a greatly strengthened war economy. Goebbels said, "The total war effort has become a matter of the entire German people. No one has any excuse for ignoring its demands. A storm of applause greeted my call on 30 January for total war. I can therefore assure you that the leadership's measures are in full agreement with the desires of the German people at home and at the front. The people are willing to bear any burden, even the heaviest, to make any sacrifice, if it leads to the great goal of victory." Goebbels screamed, "I ask you: Do you want total war? If necessary, do you want a war more total and radical than anything that we can even imagine today?" Goebbels was fully aware at the time that the Germans were killing Jews and others in the millions. Hitler's war plan of short wars against unprepared, individual opponents proved to be a dissaster when he made war against not only undefeated Britain, but the Soviet Union and America, two countries that did have the resources to wage war on an enormous scale. He ended with an old phrase, "Now, people rise up, and let the storm break loose!" Albert Speer was impressed with the performance, " Except for Hitler's most successful public meetings, I had never seen an audience so effectively roused to fanaticism. Back in his home, Goebbels astonished me by analyzing what had seemed to be a purely emotional outburst in terms of its psychological effect — much as an experienced actor might have done." Goebbels was also pleased. The German people were required to make real sacrifices for the first time at the same time that the Allied Strategic Bombing campaign became increasingly effective. By this time, however, it was too late. German war production could be raised and Speer accomplished a great deal.

Rationing

The NAZIs were so successful in the early years of the War that domestic rationing at first was not introduced. Hitler was at first convinced that it would affect public support of the War if a austere rationing program was to be introduced. NAZI popularity was in fact partially due to the fact that Germany under the NAZIs was relatively prosperous. This was in part due to extensive deficit spending for military production. If Hitler had not launched the War in 1939, the impact of the large and growing NAZI budget and trade eficits would have begun to affect the German economy. Once the War began, however, Hitler wanted to main domestic consumption. He felt that food and other shortages had been a major factor in destroying civilian morale during World War I which of course led to overthrow of the Kaiser and other German monarchies at the end of the War. This was a part of the reason that the Germans were so brutal in occupied countries. One of their tasks was to seize food and ship it back to Germany. I am not sure just when rationing was first introduced. Of course when the War began to go against the Germans in Russia and the Allied bombing effort began to affect domestic production, this changed and a very severe rationing program had to be introduced. The system gave extra rations for men involved in heavy industry. Lower rations were accorded to Jews and Poles in the areas annexed to Germany, but apparently not to the Rhineland Poles. The German ration cupons pictured here is called a Reichseierkarte or Government egg card (figure 1). It was issued in Strassburg during November 1944. Strassburg was a French city, but as it was in Alsace, it had been annexed to the Reich.

Conscription

Historians debate how the War could have been prevented and when the Allies should have intervened to stop Hitler. Surely the turning pont was when Hitler ordered conscription to expand the Wehrmacht in violation of the Versailles Treaty (1935). Hitler did not order the total mobilization of the German population when he launched the War (September 1939). Many workers were granted deferments. And the early victories in Poland (1939), France (1940), and the Balkans (1941) resulted in such limited losses that this did not change even at the time of Barbarossa (June 1941). The Soviet offensive before Moscow changed this (December 1941). The Whermacht suffered very serious losses in both material and manpower. The Wehrmacht was not destroyed, but it was substantially weakened and would never fully recover. The Soviets suffered even greater losses, but they were losses the Soviets could replace and the Germans could not. The German Summer Offensive in 1942 had to be limited to one sector of the front. Offensives of the scale of Barbarossa were no longer possible. Hitler chose the south because of the resources the German war economy needed, especially oil. This surprised the Soviets who were expecting another assault on Moscow. The 1942 Summer Offensive was largely fought by rushing the current year class of 18-year old conscripts to the front. The resulting disaster at Stalingrad (January 1943), further weakened the Wehrmnacht and creating a massive manpower shortage. Goebbels declared Total War over the radio, Total War meant that the Germans began to mobilize virtually the entire male populstion netween 18 and 60. As a result, workers who had deferements were mobiized. They were increasingly replsaced by foreign workers, mostly forced labor from the occupied countries. Further disasters in 1944 would cause the NAZIs to turn to younger boys and older men with the creation of the Volkstrum.

German War Production

Germany when Hitler seized power was a major industrial nation (1933). Its industrial capacity, however, was only a fraction of the nations it desired to defeat: the Soviet Union, Britain, France, and the United States. Germany was able to build a powerful military because it conducted a crash rearmament program while the Allies abd the United States restricted military spending. The Allied sell-out of Czechoslovalia at Munuch enabled Hitler to integratev the Skoda armsworks in the German war economy. The start of the War, however, meant that the other major German targets were no longer holding back military spending. And despite all the successes in the early phase of the War, only France among the major powers was occupied by Germany. This meant the that Germany would have to compete in profuction with America, Britain, and the United States, countries with greater resources than Germany and a larger industrial capacity. German war production data clearly shows that German war industry was incompletely mobilized in the early years of the War. The early victories led Hitler to believe that the War could be won without radical mobilization that would adversely affect domestic consumption. German arms production was generally below that of Britain (1940-41). Despite that, Hitler added the Siviet Union and America to Germany's enemies (June-December 1941). The Soviet offenses before Moscow (December 1941) began to change that thinking and even more so the losses at Stalingrad (January 1943). Thus NAZI leaders like Giev\bbels called for the all out mobilization of the ecomomy and "tota; war". The German conquests had substantially expanded the resources and industrial capacity available to the Reich. The expected bountry from the East, however, never materialized.

Slave Labor

Hitler appointed Fritz Sauckel Plenipotentiary General for the Utilization of Labor (March 1942). His job was to obtain workers in the occupied countries to replace German workers being drafted in the military. Nuremberg procedutor Thomas Dodd declared, "The NAZI foreign labor policy was a policy of mass deportation and mass enslavement ... of underfeeding and overworking foreign laborers, of sibjecting to every form of degradation, brutality, and inhumanity ... a policy which constituted a flagarant violation of the laws of war and the laws of humanity." The NAZIs during World War II implemented a slave and forced labor program to supply needed labor to the German war industry. This program was approved by Hitler months before the 1939 invasion of Poland. The German program as it evolved during the War had two purposes, The primary purpose was two provide workers for German factories and farms as German manpower was to be directed into the armed forces. This was especially important as NAZI idelopgy resisted imploying married women in factories. Allied countries dealt with this problem by bring women into the work force, the proverable Rosie the Rivetor in America. (British and Soviet women were even more significantly brought into the workforce.) NAZI idelogy was involved here. The German Housefrau, however, was to stay home amd produce Aryan babies for future German armies. The other factor was the phenomenal German success at the beginning of the War which left the impression that there was no needed for women to enter the workforce. The secondary purpose was mass deportation and mass enslavement combined with underfeeding and overworking foreign laborers could be used to reduce populations of countries which posed a threat to NAZI Germany, Not only could the labors of these workers be used against their country, but the mistreatment could help reduce both the population of other countries and other ethnic groups, especially the slavs of Eastern Europe.

Allied War Production

German productions increased were only marginal and paled in comparison to Allied production. The Germans faced the massive armies and war production that the Americans, British, Soviets were able to muster. And all three countries shifted to toral war befores the Germans were forced to do so. American war production was staggerong. President Roosevelt first used the term "Arsenal of Democracy" on December 29, 1940 in one of his Fireside Chats, radio boradcasts, to the American people. He expalined the importance of supplying the people of Europe, at the time primarily Britain with the "implements of war". He said that the United States "must be the great arsenal of democracy". The very day he spoke, a Luftwaffe raid on London severly damaged famous buildings and churches in the city center and engulfed St. Paul's Cathedral in flames. [Gilbert, p. 356.] Hitler feared America more than any other country, but was convinced that Britain could be defeated before America could be mobilized or American industry could be effevtiverly harnassed for the war effort. Neither the NAZIs or the Japanese had any idea just how effectibely American production could be converted to war production. Air Marshall Goering sneared. "The Americans only know how to make razor blades." Four years later with the Luftwaffe in tatters, Goering said he knew that the War was lost when American P-51 Mustangs appeared over Berlin escoring waves of bombers. The record of American war production is staggering and in large measure determined the outcome of the War. The British by the time of the Battle of Britain (Jukt 1940) were already out producing the Germans in aitcraft. And the British set out to expand Bomber Command to strike at Germany's industrial cities. Soviet war production was impaired by Barbarossa, but despite the occupation of laege areas of the western Soviet Union, by 1943 the Soviets alone were outproducung the Germans.

Sources

Bytwerk, Randall L. ed. Landmark Speeches of National Socialism (Landmark Speeches: A Book Series ).

Gilbert, Matin. A History of the United States Vol. II.











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Created: 7:23 AM 11/29/2009
Last updated: 2:02 AM 3/30/2012