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 (1939-1945) WWII
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vpatrick
MA MA USA
Posts: 2520
Joined: 2020
Prussian Generals and Hitler
11/21/2023 8:03:57 PM
Some things can be googled others not, my posts concerning Czechoslovakia and Mussolini received excellent responses and I thank you all, I mean that everyone that responded gave me insight i did not have before.

My next question is why did the Prussian generals go along with Hitler? Hitler was a corporal? This is a huge deal within the German Military, he was not even a Hohenzollern, why did the established German Military follow such a street artist? Possibly because of Hitler"s keen eye to offer promotions after every victory offering 13 Field Marshal Batons more than any German leader, maybe I skipping to far into history when he offered the German Military such things not seen since the Kaiser. But then Hitler issued orders as how to deal with Russian prisoners' and all combatants especially on the Slavic front that went against all norms of the Knightly Teutonic Prussian tradition why did these generals follow? The orders issued to troops in Russia were against any humane consideration yet followed. I know there were rumblings amongst the generals since 1939 but such pussy footing, and I wonder why Staufenberg wanted to survive he should have found a way to kill Hitler by stabbing shooting and bomb and died for Germany, his miss would result in the same.


So My question is why did the Prussian tradition lay itself down for such an idiot corporal? For this Prussian tradition is dead.

vpatrick
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nuts
Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 6498
Joined: 2004
Prussian Generals and Hitler
11/22/2023 4:27:57 AM
Goodness, Vin, what a fascinating and challenging question !

If only Hitler HAD been an idiot !

Far from it, sad to say.

The Nazis were the National Socialist German Workers Party, hardly comfortable bedfellows for an aristocratic Prussian Officer Corps.

In fact, Hitler had to placate those officers by his “ Night of the Long Knives “ in 1934, when his henchmen in the Brownshirts( SA) were murdered, partly to appease the Officer Corps who refused to tolerate such a vulgar crowd of ruffians holding sway .

A couple of years later, the Nazis embarked on a policy of political indoctrination of all new recruits to the Officer Corps, with the specific intention of making them the instruments of Nazi ideology and policy . They were also required to swear an oath to the Fuhrer himself. It’s significant that Hitler waited until the old Prussian figurehead Hindenburg was dead before he did this.

Apart from the unpalatable social origins of many Nazis, the Officers were attracted to Hitler’s avowed intention to repudiate the outcome of WW1, and his ferocious anti Bolshevik stance won their approval too.
Anti semitism was assuredly a feature of aristocracy in Germany, so that lent weight to his appeal.

That said, Hitler never forgave those upper class Prussian officers : they had insisted on the assassination of his comrades in the SA, and he made his disdain very apparent when he reflected on their failure to win the war in 1914-18. He used his lowly status as a corporal to gain the respect and affection of veterans who felt that they had been misused in that appalling war.

Hitler also infused a degree of social mobility into the upper leadership of the German army : neither Rommel or Model had the aristocratic “ Von” in their names and this reflected Hitler’s favouritism.

The plot to kill Hitler in 1944 was characterised by those aristocratic participants.

Heck, there’s so much more to think about and to say, but I’ll be timed out .

Others- Trevor especially- know infinitely more than I do about this, and I hope that they pitch in .


Regards, Phil
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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
Lightning
Glasgow  UK
Posts: 1064
Joined: 2005
Prussian Generals and Hitler
11/22/2023 5:14:21 AM
Quote:


But then Hitler issued orders as how to deal with Russian prisoners' and all combatants especially on the Slavic front that went against all norms of the Knightly Teutonic Prussian tradition why did these generals follow? The orders issued to troops in Russia were against any humane consideration yet followed.
vpatrick



Hi Vin,

All notions of 'Knightly Teutonic Prussian' traditions died during the suppression of Belgium during the invasion of 1914. Those senior commanders in the 1940s had been junior officers on the ground during the invasion of a neutral country, where armed resistance by the Belgian army was met with severe consequences for Belgian civilians. Thus, we know who was commanding the firing squads in Belgian villages.

Likewise, the German officer corps seemed to have no issue with the maltreatment of Russian POWs in both wars; courtesy was reserved for the western allies alone, and even then we know that SS units seldom took many prisoners.

The generals followed Hitler willingly through the gates to Nazi Germany's destruction. Any one of the inner circle could have pulled out their pistol and ended the madness at any point. That it was largely more junior members of the officer corps who moved against Hitler tells you about the commitment of the higher echelons to the project.

IMO, Germany could have (prior to US entry to the war, anyway) negotiated a separate peace with the UK and the Commonwealth had Hitler and the Nazi regime been forcibly (and fatally) removed by the army, a democratic government installed and German war gains returned to their previous sovereignty. Hitler's continued successes into 1942 suggest the members of the regime were more than happy with the trajectory of travel.

Cheers,
Colin

----------------------------------
"There is no course open to us but to fight it out. Every position must be held to the last man: there must be no retirement. With our backs to the wall and believing in the justice of our cause, each one of us must fight to the end."
Brian Grafton
Victoria BC Canada
Posts: 4806
Joined: 2004
Prussian Generals and Hitler
11/22/2023 11:37:55 PM
Thanks for your initial post, VP. Good subject, as Phil notes. Interesting thoughts, Colin. I seem to assess the situation somewhat differently, though I realize these are all just opening comments.

Just as an example, I’m not sure how horrid German conduct during the invasion of Belgium was. Undoubtedly there were what we would now call atrocities, but at the time the concept of the “franc tireur” was an established descriptor of gueurilla warfare, going back (IMHO) in the German mind to the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. WW1 British propaganda turned German retaliation into nun-raping and baby-spiking, and Wilhelm II seemed to support the “Hun” labelling. And yes, junior officers were the ones to implement the orders generated from senior officers, though of course it was poor bloody Fritz who had to execute them. Nit-picking, perhaps, but considering many current events I think some thought has to be given to what is the reality of offensive warfare.

Another nit: You say: Likewise, the German officer corps seemed to have no issue with the maltreatment of Russian POWs in both wars; courtesy was reserved for the western allies alone, and even then we know that SS units seldom took many prisoners.” There were, as we all know, agreements concerning treatment and protection of prisoners of war. But the Bolsheviks were not included in the signing of the agreement (don’t sign treaties with nasty bolshies!), so Soviet prisoners of war wee not treated according to the agreed conventions. I’ll agree the hard core of the Prussian Military cast would not have had problems with treating Bolshies like sub-humans. But I think it less than fair to make the point without noting the circumstances.

Gonna stop here. Don’t want to time out. Will probably say more in a later post.

Cheers
Brian G


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"We have met the enemy, and he is us." Walt Kelly. "The Best Things in Life Aren't Things" Bumper sticker.
Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 6498
Joined: 2004
Prussian Generals and Hitler
11/23/2023 5:13:23 AM
Brian,

You write “ I’m not sure how horrid German conduct during the invasion of Belgium was .”

Please refer to the story of Tom Kettle, an ardent Irish Nationalist who actually witnessed that conduct when he was touring Europe to raise arms for the fight to secure Irish independence.

He was shocked to the point of outrage.

Let his words suffice:

“ Having broken like an armed burglar into Belgium, Germany was thereby guilty of a systematic campaign of murder, pillage, outrage and destruction, planned and ordered by her military and intellectual leaders.”

Many such statements were made, and they seemed almost platitudinous in the mouths of some.

But Kettle’s case is something singular : here was a man determined to put his life on the line and take up arms against those determined to suppress the Irish Nationalist cause.

In the event, he took up arms against Imperial Germany, was commissioned into the British Army, and was killed in action in the Battle of the Somme in September 1916.

German conduct in Belgium and North East France in 1914 was atrocious.

If that mindset was already extant in 1914, then it’s small wonder that it proved fertile ground for the uniquely foul ideology that was implanted by Hitler and his entourage.

Regards, Phil



----------------------------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
vpatrick
MA MA USA
Posts: 2520
Joined: 2020
Prussian Generals and Hitler
11/23/2023 9:06:03 PM
Quote:
Goodness, Vin, what a fascinating and challenging question !

If only Hitler HAD been an idiot !

Far from it, sad to say.

The Nazis were the National Socialist German Workers Party, hardly comfortable bedfellows for an aristocratic Prussian Officer Corps.

In fact, Hitler had to placate those officers by his “ Night of the Long Knives “ in 1934, when his henchmen in the Brownshirts( SA) were murdered, partly to appease the Officer Corps who refused to tolerate such a vulgar crowd of ruffians holding sway .

A couple of years later, the Nazis embarked on a policy of political indoctrination of all new recruits to the Officer Corps, with the specific intention of making them the instruments of Nazi ideology and policy . They were also required to swear an oath to the Fuhrer himself. It’s significant that Hitler waited until the old Prussian figurehead Hindenburg was dead before he did this.

Apart from the unpalatable social origins of many Nazis, the Officers were attracted to Hitler’s avowed intention to repudiate the outcome of WW1, and his ferocious anti Bolshevik stance won their approval too.
Anti semitism was assuredly a feature of aristocracy in Germany, so that lent weight to his appeal.

That said, Hitler never forgave those upper class Prussian officers : they had insisted on the assassination of his comrades in the SA, and he made his disdain very apparent when he reflected on their failure to win the war in 1914-18. He used his lowly status as a corporal to gain the respect and affection of veterans who felt that they had been misused in that appalling war.

Hitler also infused a degree of social mobility into the upper leadership of the German army : neither Rommel or Model had the aristocratic “ Von” in their names and this reflected Hitler’s favouritism.

The plot to kill Hitler in 1944 was characterised by those aristocratic participants.

Heck, there’s so much more to think about and to say, but I’ll be timed out .

Others- Trevor especially- know infinitely more than I do about this, and I hope that they pitch in .


Regards, Phil


Great response Phil Thanks

One thing that stood out to me is your comments about Hitler's intelligence, intelligence is hard to measure one could be great at attracting the masses but then be a terrible war leader. Megalomaniac is a word passed by that does not get enough emphasis when it comes to Hitler but look at it, megalomania a symptom of mental illness marked by delusions of greatness. I think Hitler was mentally ill and with this exuberance he was able to convince an entire country and Prussian officer corps to follow him. I think the Prussian officer corps at this time as many suggested was weak and not the Corps, of Bismarck times, they had become feeble by the war loss and easily corrupted especially after the Versailles treaty which Hitler took great advantage of.




vpatrick










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nuts
Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 6498
Joined: 2004
Prussian Generals and Hitler
11/24/2023 2:20:27 AM
Vin,

So much to reckon with here : we mustn’t forget that Hitler had won an astonishing victory over the Allies when Germany defeated France in the summer of 1940. He proved the naysayers wrong, and in so doing he revealed himself to be a phenomenal leader who would triumph where others had proved to be faint hearted. A grotesque distortion, perhaps, but it’s how he was perceived to be that mattered.

There must’ve been a significant cadre of officers who , if they’d been wobbling beforehand, developed a devotion to a leader who could defy the predictions of standard military practitioners. We love people who can prove the “experts” wrong, don’t we ? I suppose Nazism was turbo charged by being seen as a “ breath of fresh air “ that would sweep away the old elites in a revolutionary manner.

I’m thinking of David Sterling, the inspiration behind the British SAS, who was frustrated by the military hierarchy which he referred to as “ layers of fossilised shit “. Perhaps Hitler felt the same about the aristocratic German Officer Corps and won converts to his point of view. The victory in the West in 1940 vindicated him.

This is how I’m musing on things at the moment: I can’t pretend to have depth of knowledge.

When it comes to the Prussian military elite, it’s too easy to dismiss them as fossilised layers of reactionary
diehards . That professionalism included enlightenment too. I’m thinking of Erich von Falkenhayn , who exemplifies the German high command in WW1, and who had protected the Jews in Palestine when they were threatened by genocide at the hands of the Ottomans in 1917-18. This stands in contrast with my earlier comments about the atrocities in Belgium in 1914.
Falkenhayn died in the immediate aftermath of the Great War, but his daughter was involved in the plot against Hitler and, if I’m right, was executed by the Nazis, and her husband, too.

Editing : apologies, I’m wrong. Erika von Falkenhayn was not executed, although her husband was ( or committed suicide).
She lived until 1974.

Regards, Phil

----------------------------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
vpatrick
MA MA USA
Posts: 2520
Joined: 2020
Prussian Generals and Hitler
11/25/2023 3:08:05 PM
Thanks again Phil,

I found your comments interesting and illuminating on a subject that has always fascinated me. Id just add Hitler' s victories from 1938 through 1941 were impressive on a Napoleonic scale. Hitler then made extreme strategic errors from then on, such as his invasion of Yugoslavia while he was preparing for Barbarossa, Hitlers great underestimation of Russian fighting capability, not listening to his Generals fighting in Russia by not allowing strategic retreats (micromanaging even on regimental levels), and then Stalingrad (there are many more). By 1943 I think the luster of Hitler's early victories were dimmed and many German generals felt it was to late and were confused with how to deal with the oath they took to Hitler and were now stuck. It was easy to see that Germany did not have the resources to fight on two fronts in 1943, unfortunately not enough of the Generals were willing to commit to the July 1944 plot because of this which led to its failure, many picked a horse and just rode it out in the end some committed suicide others were eventually forgiven and even survived to serve in the new German army post WW2.

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vpatrick
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nuts

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