Hitler And His Generals: Military Conferences 1942-1945 from Stalingrad to Berlin

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9781853675249: Hitler And His Generals: Military Conferences 1942-1945 from Stalingrad to Berlin
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‘Verbatim, unvarnished and contemporary, this is the pure raw material of history. It is a fascinating and invaluable source for anyone interested in the workings of the mind of the most evil man in history.’ – Andrew Roberts, Evening Standard, 20 January 2003 ‘. . . provides us with unprecedented insight . . . into . . . little-known and little-appreciated aspects of the dictator’s personality. As we read this extraordinary volume we are left immeasurably richer in knowledge.’– Gitta Sereny The Times, 16 April 2003 ·New dramatic insights into Hitler’s conduct of World War II ·One of the most important documents from the period ·Provides new clues to the role of key individuals in the German military and political hierarchy In the late summer of 1942 Hitler ordered that stenographers take down every word that was uttered during the twice-daily military conferences. Of the more than 103,000 pages recorded less than 1,000 survived destruction in May 1945, and it is these that make up the material of this book. A truly definitive work, it also contains conferences discovered after the original 1962 German publication that are included here for the first time. As the tide turned dramatically after Stalingrad and following D-Day, the Führer never wavered, pulling Germany down with him, step by step, into the abyss. The total effect of these pages goes far beyond adding powerfully to the military record. The human tragedy also takes on gigantic proportions when countless thousands of victims were often the result of each day of decision-making. Several of these conferences were introduced at the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal as evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and they also contain some of the very rare references to the Holocaust in Hitler’s own words.

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Adolf Hitler is the most written about figure in history, not because of the evil which he represented - he was hardly more wicked than Mao or Stalin - but because he was true evil combined with true genius. Stalin, after all, did not have the intellect or the imagination to have organised the Bolshevik revolution, and Mao's China achieved nothing constructive whatever in exchange for the fifty million or so lives his regime brought to an end. Hitler, on the other hand, was the sole begetter of the Nazi revolution, and the father of a technological revolution. Nazi Germany - according to a British assessment in 1946 - achieved in its dozen years of existence a building which almost matched that of the entire Roman empire. The construction of Germany's autobahn system remains an engineering feat without comparison in Europe ever since. The invention of the VW beetle transformed both the nature of cars and of car-ownership. The Nazis invented both the cruise missile, (the V1), the ballistic missile, (the V2), the anti-aircraft missile, (the EMW Wasserfall), the first guided anti-shipping missile (the Henschel 293), the first swept wing jet fighter (the Messerschmitt 262) and the first real military helicopters (half a dozen types). The Nazis effectively invented the blitzkrieg and other little military concepts, such as both the concept and the name "assault rifle" - Sturmgeweher - with the StG.44. The SS devised disruptive pattern material camouflage for combat uniform, and for the folks back home, the Nazis pioneered the holiday camp. Meanwhile, in another form of camp, they were making fresh discoveries in mass murder which others have not come close to emulating - and all this in a regime which was fabulously, almost unbelievably, corrupt and inefficient. It is all genuinely, horribly fascinating - and achieved in less time than has elapsed since Bill Clinton was first elected President. You would have to go back to Renaissance Florence to discover such a flowering of genius - but this time it was the triumph of purest evil, and all made possible by one man, and one man alone: Adolf Hitler. He has been reduced in popular culture to a ranting madman, and it is true that on occasion he ranted - but as Hitler and His Generals reveals in full measure, for the most part he was a lucid, well-informed, careful, and patient man. This is an extraordinary book, based on the verbatim transcriptions of the thrice daily Situation Reports which Hitler had ordered to be made from 1942. Eight of the best stenographers and seven equally skilled typists in the Third Reich were given the task of recording every word uttered at these vital military conferences. The insight they give into the Third Reich is truly astounding, and our debt to the young intelligence officer of the US 101st Airborne Division, George Allen, who discovered their existence and tracked them down is immeasurable. For here we see a Hitler of massive knowledge and energy, whose mind seems to wander the globe in effortless enquiry and with acid humour. He dismisses the Indian Legion that the Germans were attempting to form from POWs as a joke. "Why should the Indians fight more courageously for us than they fought (for the British)? (The Japanese) put Indian units into action in Burma, under Bose's leadership, to free India from the English. They ran away like sheep. Why should they be braver with us?" He spoke the truth; but how did he know what a wretched creature the Indian National Army was, there in the jungle of Burma? Who told him? When he hears that Germany's Indian Legion has a strength of 2,300 men, he remarks drily: "We could do them the biggest favour if we told them, 'You don't have to fight any more." Then, when he hears that the Indians have 1,468 carbines, 550 pistols, 420 submachine guns, 200 light machine guns, 24 heavy machine guns, and so on, he observes mordantly. "Imagine that. They have more weapons than they have men. Some people have two weapons in their hands!" His enquiring mind is troubled by the German practice of allowing an officer retain his rank only if his duties are proportionate to it: the rigid German system did not allow for the concept of temporary or acting ranks, and so in January 1945 he commissions a report on the British system. Yes, of course, at this stage of the war, this might be further proof of the intellectual dysfunctionalism that so infuriated his subordinates: but is it not also evidence of a brain that is capable of extremely innovative and elastic thinking? Yet amid the insights, there are the barking lunacies - such as his belief that the allies had captured and copied the V1, and would soon be bombarding the Reich with thousands of them. Moreover, his conferences are obsessed with preposterous detail, which no CEO - which Hitler in effect was - could possibly engage himself with. Thus we hear a solemn account in the Fuhrer-bunker of saboteurs in Denmark setting fire to a single railway wagon full of straw. And he had endless - and I do mean endless - conversations about the merits of the 2 cm, 3.7 cm and 5 cm aircraft guns, and the best tactics to be employed by German fighters attacking US bomber streams. The Hitler spell lives down the years, as mythology emanates from everything he does, and is repeated as gospel truth. When Gitta Sereny reviewed this book, she said that one conference at which Hitler spoke almost uninterrupted lasted from 11.53 pm to 12.58 am - a total of thirteen hours. This "thirteen hour" marathon talking session became an instant legend, and has been adduced as further evidence of Hitler's demented loquacity. And indeed, it would be truly astounding if it had occurred, but it didn't. The time elapsing between 11.53pm and 12.58 am is 65 minutes, during which the Fuhrer spoke about ten thousand words - about three and half words a second. BBC news-reading time is three words a minute. This is an absolutely vital book for anyone wishing to understand the darkest period in human history, and the editors, Helmut Heiber and David M. Glantz deserve the thanks of historians and laymen and women for their dazzling footnotes, perhaps the most erudite and enriching I have ever come across. Not the least service which they have done is the debunking of mythologies, such as that Hitler never permitted retreat, when he most certainly did - or that his hold-fast orders were invariably lunacies, when sometimes they actually made sense. They cite the order to hold the Courland peninsular at all costs as one. For this contained the U-boat base where new and undetectable U-boats were approaching completion. There are, however, some errors. The Junkers 88, for example, did not first enter service in 1942, and indeed, was a major participant in the Battle of Britain. This and other such small errors aside, a quite outstanding book, the presence of which on the shelves of Second World War scholar is quite obligatory: however, yet again, as in almost every book one encounters these days, the index - absolutely vital in such a scholarly book as this - is a threadbare and miserly gruel. All in all, three fascinating books about a man and his regime who came close to taking over the world: it is no wonder that with morbid fascination we ponder his genius and his lunacies, for this was the fate that nearly was ours. Moreover, they provide a solemn reminder of the vast, unpayable debt we owe to those who gave their lives in the war against tyranny. Thanks to them, the murderous rule of the bunker does not govern the world we live in today. Source: British Army Review

Synopsis:

This remarkable book presents detailed minutes of Hitler's military conferences between 1942 and 1945. Uncensored, and therefore of incredible historical value, the transcriptions of those key meetings reveal in detail how Hitler directed his war and marshalled his forces in their bid to conquer Europe. This impressive volume is packed with detail. The transcriptions themselves are supplemented by maps and careful notes by leading authorities on personalities, military developments and background information. The surviving minutes of these meetings cover German strategy from Stalingrad to the Fall of Berlin and reveal Hitler's attempts to reverse his fading fortune. Hitler and his Generals reveals much about Hitler's personal dealings with his military commanders; how Hitler rated his opponents and his own troops; how weapons and technological developments had a bearing on military operations; and, above all, how Hitler planned and thought as a commander. The transcriptions reveal, with astonishing clarity, Hitler's methods and grasp of military affairs as he attempts to sustain, against the odds, the Thousand Year Reich.

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