Germany's Role in World War 2: Cause of war, strategy, major battles, victories, blunders, and the top German leaders and generals who participated in World War 2. The concept of Blitzkrieg warfare the German invasions of Poland, France, and Russia, and D-Day are covered.
World War 2 was undoubtedly the most deadly war in the history of mankind. Fifty million people lost their lives. Germany with their Nazi leader, Adolf Hitler, was the country most responsible for starting the war. After five years of war, Germany had paid the price for starting the conflict as they lay virtually destroyed. They had won early battles but, in the end, World War II had been a disaster for Germany. The war was a fight to the finish and they came up short.
Germany was defeated in World War I and they were forced to pay heavy reparations to the victors. Their economy could not take the pressure and it fell apart. Severe inflation and depression followed. As a result of the Treaty of Versailles (the official end of World War 1) and the economic disasters that followed, the German people became very resentful towards the victors of World War 1, namely France and Great Britain. Additionally, virtually all of Germany's leaders fought in World War 1 and many were wounded and they all felt betrayed. They were eager for revenge.
Adolf Hitler, a wounded veteran of the World War 1, blamed the economic problems on the allies who had forced the peace terms on Germany. Hitler joined an obscure right wing political group - the Nazi party - and, with little competition, rose rapidly in it. He was able to attract some extremely dedicated, capable, and ruthless followers, e.g., Goering, Hess, Himmler, Bormann, Speer, Ernst Roehm and Goebbels - Propaganda Minister
The Beer-Hall Putsch was attempted in 1923 with the idea of taking over the Bavarian government. A number of Hitler's followers were killed and others, including Goering, were wounded. Hitler was tried and sentenced to a jail term in Landsbergh, Austria. In jail, Hitler wrote the book Mein Kampf in which he spelled out his prejudices, including those violent prejudices toward the Jews, and his plans for Germany's future.
After jail, Hitler continued his political career, advocating an extreme philosophy, and rose rapidly as he accumulated a larger and larger following. After being defeated at the polls in a try for the Presidency, he was eventually (1933) appointed Chancellor to President Hindenburg, elderly Germanpresident and national hero.
Hitler quickly began to manipulate his way to absolute power and, after Hindenburg's death in 1934, he assumed full power.
Anyone who opposed Hitler was shown the door, a bullet or a concentration camp. The destruction of anyone opposing him was exemplified during the "Night of the Long Knives" in 1934 during which Hitler's enemies (or suspected enemies, or just anyone Hitler and his closest associates - Goering, Himmler and Heydrich - didn't like) were rounded up and slaughtered.
Although he did not hesitate to dispose of any individual who opposed him, he gained control over the heart and soul of the German people by exploiting anger and xenophobia in Germany.
The arming of Germany was accelerated. The Third Reich had arrived. The Nazis were in charge!
The path to World War 2, a war that would claim 50 million lives, lay ahead.
At the start of the war, Germany, particularly the German Army, was well prepared. They had learned their lessons well in World War I and had spent years perfecting the use of the new weapons of war - tanks, armored divisions, air power, and above all, the strategy of Blitzkrieg which used tanks & mobility to obliterate the enemy before he knows what hit him. The German army was determined to never again fight the trench warfare of World War I again. Additionally they had a very capable group of generals schooled in Blitzkrieg Strategy of World War 2 Featuring Tank warfare tactics including one brilliant (but massively ego-driven) general - Hans Guderian, German Panzer General, a German general who never lost a battle but may have lost the war for Germany on the Eastern Front as he almost arbitrarily chose to go off chasing and destroying Russian armies when he should have been moving into place for the late-1941 critical assault on Moscow.
Many of the German Generals often opposed Hitler (who loved to meddle in military strategy and was often very good at strategy!). He would often fire the generals but would then usually relent and let them return to a military position.
The German generals faced some pretty tough allied generals including a number of outstanding American Generals - Patton, Eisenhower, Bradley, etc. The American generals gave a good account of themselves in World War Two.
The German army, utilizing Blitzkrieg tactics in the early German Battles, almost conquered all of Europe.
The German Luftwaffe (German Air Force) also played a major role in the early Blitzkrieg victories and in the Battle of Britain but the Luftwaffe failed in the end partly because of Hitler's interference.
Hitler, Goering, Goebbels, Himmler, Speer and other German Leaders Of World War 2 . were a group of ruthless but talented men who might have won it all except for a few strategic errors and the fact that they faced three of the most determined and capable leaders in history - Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin - who were in the war to win.
German Women With Roles in World War 2. German Women were almost excluded from contributing in the Second World War through a grievous error on Hitler's part who had his own views of women's roles. The German women - like American, British, and Russian women - could have played a major role freeing more men for military service. Most women were kept at home but several German women played significant roles in the events of the war .
These German women included Hitler's mistress, Eva Braun, who committed suicide with Hitler; Hitler's niece and the love of his life, Geli Raubal, who committed suicide over Hitler; the talented movie director, Leni Riefenstahl, ostracized in society for 55 years after World War 2 because of her association with the Nazis; and Magda Goebbels, the mother who took the lives of her six children to prevent them from having to live in a world without Hitler.
Why did most of the women in Hitler's life end up in some sort of Shakespearean-type tragedy?
To me, the story of the German Women and how they coped with World War 2 is a fascinating but almost untold story. See German Women-World War 2.
I will always think of President Roosevelt as the greatest president in United States history. He led us through the in World War 2. President Roosevelt in World War II worked with his friend, Winston Churchill, and with Joseph Stalin to defeat the greatest menace the world had ever know - Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany.
Roosevelt was the perfect president for that time.
I was a teenager when President Roosevelt died. The whole nation wept.
The French are being accused, by ultraconservatives such as Rush Limbaugh, of being cowards in World War 2 but, is that the truth, or are the extreme right-wingers just upset because the French didn't move lockstep with President Bush in attacking Iraq?
The truth is that France in World War 2 took a tremendous beating from the Germans and were outsmarted at every turn, but despite what Rush Limbaugh says, they did not fight cowardly! They just were not in the same league as the Germans.
World War 2 did not end war as we first thought. The growing Communist menace in Post-World War II continued to blossom until the Cold War set in. Events in post-World War II and the Cold War included the occupation of Germany, Berlin Blockade, Korean War, Vietnam War, Cuban Missile Crisis, and the fall of Communism.
The Cold War almost led to a nuclear confrontation between the US and Russia. The conservatives claim President Ronald Reagan, single-handed, won the Cold-War. We moderates, while acknowledging Reagan's role, don't agree that he won it alone.
More recent events in the post-war era include the two Iraq Wars, the War on Terror , and the winner-take-all struggle between Conservatism and Liberalism in the U.S.
Regarding the second Iraq War, President Bush claimed to have won that war but, unfortunately, 7 years after his victory claim, the Iraq War was still going on and did not end in his presidency.
World War 2 in Europe has been over now for 66 years. It is time to visit and participate in some World War 2 Battlefield Tours where our fathers and uncles fought and died. One thinks of the D-day beaches, Battle of the Bulge, the London Blitz, Dunkirk, and other famous battles.
These Famous Germans Of World War 2 included scientists, artists, women and sports figures as well as the more famous German leaders and German generals.
The Holocaust , directed mainly at the Jewish people, was probably the most inhuman act in the history of mankind. Was Hitler totally responsible? Were the German people innocent as many claim? Will it happen again? Can it happen in the US?
Had Germany, in World War 2, had an adequate supply of fuel, they would have made things much tougher for the Allies. They suffered from a fuel shortage throughout World War 2 and it became an acute problem when Allied bombers began blasting the synthetic gasoline plants late in the war. Still, the Germans tackled the problem with a great deal of initiative and intelligence particularly when you consider their lack of significant oil deposits. In view of the growing energy crisis in this country, it is worth studying their efforts with synthetic fuel on German Fuel Shortage of World War 2.
World War 2 involved all major nations of the world and many, if not most, of the smaller nations. Essentially, it pitted Germany, Japan, Italy and their allies against the United States, Russia, Britain, France, China and their allies. Most nations in Europe were involved in World War 2 but a few significant countries - Spain, Turkey, Sweden, etc - avoided the war (Turkey entered the war on the allied side just as the war ended) generally because of their vulnerable locations.
Of the neutrals, Turkey might have played a very significant role in World War 2, if they had joined with Germany (as they did in World War I), because of their location near the major oil supplies of the world. Failure of the Germans to secure a safe fuel supply contributed greatly to their defeat.
Spain could also have played a major role in World War 2 had they joined in with Germany. Their entry into World War 2 would have led to an easy capture of Gibraltar and, in effect, would have made the Mediterranean Sea, a German sea. After that, it is almost certain Germany could have, at least, fought a draw in World War 2.
The question of Spain entering World War 2 is really almost a rhetorical question. Spain's dictator, General Franco, had little inclination to join Germany in the war. (Franco kept Hitler at bay by half-promising to enter the war but never delivering on his half-promises.)
The question of whether Germany could have won World War 2 is constantly asked by those interested in World War 2. My opinion is that Germany could have won World War 2 only if some of the following scenarios could have taken place:
1. Germany had to remove Britain from World War 2 after the fall of France. They had to invade and conquer the British. That is a big "if", however, because, while the British Army was devastated from the battles in France, the powerful British navy and the relatively small but top-notch British Air Force, with it's fine Spitfires and Hurricane fighters and the great British pilots, were still formidable forces after Dunkirk. And don't forget about the tenacious Winston Churchill and the British people who were mad as hell at the Germans. The British would have fought with anything they could have gotten their hands on - hunting rifles, shotguns, pitchforks, bottles of gasoline, etc. They would not have gone down easy.
Also, it must be noted that Germany had virtually no naval vessels except thin-hulled, shallow-drafted river barges for transporting German troops across the English Channel. Paratroopers, alone, could not have gotten the job done. The German barges, loaded with land-lubbing German soldiers, would have been sitting ducks in the narrow channel. German losses would have been staggering. Still, there are many experts on the German side of World War 2 who think Germany had to try and, despite great losses, might have succeeded.
2. An alternative to No.1, above, was for Germany to adopt a Mediterranean strategy. Fascist Spain would have had to be conquered or coerced into World War 2 on the German side. Hitler tried the latter approach but Franco kept putting him off, half-promising to join-up but never delivering and Hitler did not want to attack a fellow fascist. So, with Spain a hold-out, Germany would have had to fight their way through Spain, and Gibraltar would then have had to be taken by force.
With Gibraltar in hand, the Mediterranean would have become a German pond and all North Africa a German colony. This action would likely have brought Turkey into World War 2 on Germany's side. The pressure on Russia would have been immense and they might have moved to accommodate Hitler. If not a victory, this might have produced a stalemate for the German side. Such a stalemate would certainly have been better than the devastating loss they actually suffered.
3. A second alternative is that the Germans would ignore Britain and the Mediterranean and really get ready for the attack on Russia. Immediately after the fall of France, Hitler released a large portion of Germany's army from service and he continued to allow German production of armaments to lag. He simply could not make the great effort needed for victory because he did not want to upset the home folks. Even Hitler had some soft political blood in him.
In the Battle of Britain, the Germans lost a thousand or so of their aircraft and an equivalent number of the finest pilots the world had ever seen. They needed that air power later when they opened the Russian front. The Germans also allowed the Italians to attack Greece and get their butts kicked by the Greeks. The Germans had to rescue them, causing time to be lost as the planned attack on Russia loomed and, also, causing additional losses of well-trained German men and equipment. All could have been used against Russia.
4. After the Eastern Front (attack on Russia) opened, the Germans would have to use a different strategy than what they used. Instead of multiple offenses in different directions, the main assault had to be straight for Moscow. And the brilliant but egocentric General Guderian would have had to have his deadly panzer divisions in place when the time came to assault Moscow. He would not be allowed to roam on his own where ever he pleased, as he did in 1941 in Russia, compiling an impressive record of battle victories but, maybe, losing World War 2 for Germany by being a prima donna.
5. (Input from reader). A reader of this website noted that another event that would have helped Germany in World War 2 was that, if Japan had early-on attacked Russia on its eastern border, it might have had a decisive effect on the war. Russia would have had to fight a two front war when it was having trouble holding its own with a one-front war. If the Japanese had attacked Russia, as the reader described, a lot of us might be speaking German and Japanese now.
The reader's concept is excellent, but the problem with this argument was that, in World War 2, Germany and Japan were allies in name only. They just happened to be fighting some of the same opponents. They shared little information and did little or no planning together. They each were fighting their separate wars. Attacking Russia was not one of Japan's priorities and so they didn't do it. One practical reason the Japanese had moved their priorities further south and away from Russia was the trouncing the Russians put on them in the border war of 1939.
If certain of the above scenarios been developed, Germany would have had a splendid chance to win or stalemate the war. Something for those interested in the German side of World War 2 to contemplate.
Additional information on World War 2 strategy is provided on the Strategic Planning page. The Allied grand strategy - "Germany-first" and "unconditional surrender" - was very effective. Germany made many critical strategic mistakes. For example, if Hitler had followed Speer's and the fanatical, but brillant, Goebbels' suggestions regarding the German war effort, we might still be fighting them. Speer and Goebbels were clever strategists who knew what Germany needed but Hitler had other ideas.
World War 2 Books provide additional material on Germany and World War 2.
In World War 2, Germany was allied (loosely) with Japan. In World War 2 Pacific Theater, the battle of Okinawa (where I spent a year while in the U.S. Army ten years after the war...I loved the island!) was the last island battle.
Much can be learned from the pre-World War 2 era as well as from World War 2 itself. We saw the rise of Hitler with his fanatical Nazi followers, e.g., Goering, Goebbels, Himmler, & Bormann.
Today,in Germany, there appears no likelihood of a Nazi recovery as the German people seem to have learned their lesson. The hard way!!
Is there a danger of a Nazi-like party and an American Hitler arising in this country? I think there is! Saddam Hussein (met his fate a several years ago on the gallows) and Osama bin Laden (recently killed by American special forces) have been much talked about as becoming the new Hitlers but they had little power with weak, backward countries behind them. Hitler< on the other hand, had one of the most modern countries in the world - Germany - behind him. Hussein and bin Laden were jokes compared to Hitler. Still, in the United States, the very strong reaction to the War on Terrorism and the Iraq War has been a shock to me. The American people seem scared to death and seem willing to give up a substantial part of their civil liberties to fight anything that has the slightest smell of terrorism to it. Is that really necessary? America is virtually all-powerful! The terrorists can't really destroy us. We need to quit pushing the panic button. A more moderate, even-handed approach is needed. Hopefully, President Obama will eventually provide us this approach.
Remember, Hitler used security arguments to take away the German peoples rights in 1933 even while he and his Nazi followers were themselves manufacturing the security concerns. The German people went along much as large numbers of the American people are now going along with the similar US government line on terrorism.
In regards to security concerns, it appears that the same thing that happened in Germany almost occurred here. It could have gotten worse but the sheer incompetence of the Bush administration probably saved us.
Still, if we are not alert, the same thing that happened in Germany could easily happen here in the US We have a lot of weak people in this country who will do practically anything to be on the winning side or go along with the "in" crowd. Remember that Hitler had little trouble coercing both the rich and the poor to join him. Pray that what happened in Germany won't happen in the US!
. The present nasty political contest in the U.S. between the Conservatives and Liberals is of great concern to me. Americans appear to have lost all respect for each other. Is violence ahead?
In another area, many Americans are being mislead in my opinion. This the conservative theory that the American Government is too large and inefficient. The Republicans appear consumed by this theory and also appear quite willing to bring the US government down to prove their point. Of course many Republicans are not really wed to the evil big government theory but go along because it is socially acceptable in the Republican Party to be against a black president. Plus, the Tea Party has essentially taken over the Republican Party and bullies the Republicans into a state of hysteria with their neo-Nazi views.
Looking ahead to the US Next War, it is conceivable that some sort of strike on Iran  in the next few years (Likely an air strike on nuclear facilities) could occur. If such a strike occurs, I don't see us trying to occupy Iran after the disastrous Iraq experience.
If we simply strike at Iran' nuclear facilities and don't try to occupy the country, Iran will certainly fight back but no major war will break out. However, if Israel is involved in the strike, look out! The whole Muslim world will want to get involved. A major war could break out. Those that think it would be a short war better beware. The Muslim countries - especially Iran - are much tougher than they used to be. Israel's easy domination of the Middle East is over.......unless, of course, the U.S. is willing to devote large numbers of troops and money to help them.
The energy crisis may be even more destructive than either global warming or World War 2. If we don't develop adequate Alternative Energy Sources, we could see World War 3 start when peak oil arrives. Oil and gas prices are already rising as the energy crisis deepens, and the situation will only get worse as peak oil approaches!
And, remember, even in an energy crisis, there will be folks that make a lot of money investing in Oil Company Stocks.
In regards to investing in oil company stocks, keep your eyes on oil companies that are successful in producing oil from the prolific but difficult shale formations. The Bakken Oil Companies will succeed in the difficult Bakken Formation. Also, keep an eye on companies operating in the Haynesville Shale Formation of North Louisiana. Some massive natural gas reserves are being found there.
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Germany was largely responsible for World War 2. Germany won many victories in early battles but made strategic mistakes that contributed to their eventual defeat in World War 2. The German side of World War 2 is covered.
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Last updated: 11/21/16