Discussion in 'World History' started by Flying Pig, Jan 22, 2017.
quality İsmet joke, I give it an 8/10
and of course the saddest thing is , none of his replacements either intented or were allowed to be half an Ismet ...
I have a question that sounds like Holocaust denial even though I promise I don't mean it that way.
If the only purpose of the Holocaust was "exterminate Jews and other undesirables" why didn't they just kill them all at once? Like you have a group of people rounded up in camps. Why not just use machine guns and kill them all at once, if all you want to do is eliminate them. Rather than making the process take much longer through starvation and other forms. I mean don't get me wrong, I'm glad they didn't but I'm trying to understand their motivation for doing it the way they did.
I'm not qualified to answer that question, as a historian or psychologist or whatever one would need to be to answer that.
But this recent article about Trump and his followers maybe sheds some light: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2018/10/the-cruelty-is-the-point/572104/
It's a grim answer to your question, but the Holocaust may have been a social-bonding experience for the people who were perpetrating it.
The simple answer is that the Nazi plan wasn't always to exterminate the Jews, Romani, et al en masse. The plan, originally, was to get them out of German land and the Lebensraum. This is why a) Jews were allowed, and indeed encouraged to emigrate in the early stages of Nazi rule. Boycotts, prohibitions against Jews owning land or operating businesses, restriction of citizenship eligibility, pogroms, and ghettos were intended as measures to make life so intolerable for the Jews that they would view leaving Germany as preferable. This plan was reasonably effective: by 1939, over half of the Jewish population in Germany had left Germany.
An initial plan was to forcibly relocate the remaining Jews to Madagascar, the idea being to create an ethnostate for Jews in a land so unaccommodating that the Jewish population would never be able to succeed and would languish forever in Africa, out of sight and out of mind. The plan was to defeat Great Britain via Operation Sea Lion, and use the captured British merchant fleet to effect the relocation, however, upon the failure of Sea Lion, the plan was abandoned.
With the capture of Poland, and the addition of 2 million Jews to Nazi-controlled lands, the plan shifted towards relocating the Jewish population to select ghettos in urban areas. Again, the plan was not necessarily extermination, but rather to restrict the Jewish population to certain "reservations," where the Jewish population could be contained and, potentially, relocated (either to Madagascar or Siberia) at a later date via rail. In this, the Nazis obviously drew inspiration from the 19th century US Indian policy: keep the population confined select, reservations, thereby freeing up the good land for your own population to and keeping the undesirable population confined to specific areas where they won't be able to build political or economic power, won't be able to intermix with your own population, and if they die in the process, all the better. You also gain the benefit of having a documented, easily accessible, exploitable slave population should you need it. Described in such a way, it's possible for this treatment to sound rather quaint, but make no mistake, this is not my intention. Although the ostensible goal wasn't to murder ghettoized populations per se, death was nevertheless an inevitable consequence of this policy: conditions and treatment were appalling, and at least half a million Jews starved to death in the ghettos and forced labor camps. Extermination in this case wasn't the de iure objective, but it was certainly the de facto consequence of the policy.
German policy towards "The Jewish Question" shifted between 1939 and 1942. The first event that triggered this shift was Kristallnacht . On November 7th, 1938, a German diplomat, Ernst vom Rath was assassinated in Paris by Herschel Grynszpan, a Polish Jew. The Nazi government used this assassination as a pretext to carry out an appalling series of pogroms. Prior to Kristallnacht, the Nazis began a more marked effort to relocate their Jewish population to concentration camps, which initially had largely been used as holding and forced-labor camps for political dissidents. Again, the intention here wasn't initially to exterminate Jewish populations en masse, but rather to keep them contained in select areas. Again, this wasn't quaint, pleasant, or peaceful, even within the context of how prisoners are ordinarily treated anywhere. Conditions were appalling - intentionally so. The objective wasn't to kill them immediately, but to keep them confined in one place, and if they should die in the process, all the better.
The Wannsee Conference, held in early 1942, was the point at which Nazi objectives shifted significantly. Hitler had made repeated references in the past to a destruction of Jewish populations should a world war break out, and, upon the Nazi declaration of war against the United States, Hitler intended to make good on his declaration. Following Wannsee, the plan shifted from confining Jewish populations to ghettos and concentration camps, and restricting rights such that Jews would feel compelled to emigrate. The new plan was:
a) extract as much economic labor from the population as possible
b) once the individual was no longer able to provide economic labor, they were to be killed.
Reinhard Heydrich, the SS-Obergruppenführer laid this plan out very explicitly:
The death camps of the Holocaust were constructed beginning at the end of 1941. It was from this point that the objective became the immediate and total eradication of undesirable populations, principally Jews. Even here, the plan didn't call for the immediate murder of everyone. Upon entry to the concentration camps, 75% percent of the interned population were deemed unfit for labor and killed immediately, the other quarter were designated for slave labor: i.e. to be forced to work until they died, whether from starvation, exhaustion, disease (typhoid and dysentery were especially rampant, again often intentionally so), or the absolutely brutal treatment they received at the hands of camp guards.
As it became increasingly apparent that the Nazis were not going to win the war, efforts to exterminate the remaining population intensified. In 1944 up to 6,000 Jews were being murdered a day in Auschwitz alone. As the Soviets advanced towards the camps, commanders forcibly relocated inmates of the camps, forcing them to ride on open train cars for days with no food or water, or forcing them to walk the entire distance to camps closer to German borders, shooting anybody who lagged or fell behind.
In other words, to answer your question:
a) The Nazi plan wasn't always to exterminate the entire Jewish, Romani, et al. populations wholesale. Initially the plan was to force them to emigrate elsewhere. When this plan didn't work, the plan shifted towards forcibly relocating them elsewhere (initial plans were first to Madagascar, then to Siberia). When this plan didn't work, the plan shifted towards forcibly confining these populations in ghettos and concentration camps.
b) Upon the Nazi declaration of war against the Americans, Hitler began to implement the "Final Solution", that is, the utter eradication of all Jews, Romani, etc. from Europe. This is the point in which the plan became, as you said, "to just kill them all at once". Even still, the plan was to murder most of them and work the rest to death. As the Nazis began losing territory, the plan shifted again from "murder most of them" to "murder all of them"
c) Make no mistake though, even given these caveats, the holocaust, i.e. the period following the implementation of the "Final Solution" was brutally effective: 90% of Poland's Jewish population was murdered, 70% of the Jewish populations in Greece, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Lithuania, Bohemia, the Netherlands, Slovakia, and Latvia were murdered. 50% of the Jewish populations in Belgium, Romania, Luxembourg, Norway, and Estonia were murdered. ~33% of Jews living in Soviet land were murdered. 25% of the Jewish population in France was murdered. We don't really have accurate figures of just how many Romani were murdered, since their place in the history of the holocaust was ignored until the 1980s, and solid records for their populations have not and still are not particularly well documented, but an estimated 220,000-1.5M Romani were murdered.
So to really answer your question: "why didn't they just kill them all at once:" they did.
Thanks, you are knowledgeable.
Not really - at least not in this topic. Just some vague general knowledge and a quick wikipedia skim. There are others here who I'm sure can provide much more detailed information.
Couple of things to add to Owen's excellent post, though sadly I don't have the time to go into nearly his level of detail.
In the occupied Soviet territories, particularly in the year or so after Barbarossa, there was a lot more "just shooting them". All the Jews in a village would be taken into the countryside, gunned down and buried in mass graves. This was phased out in favour of the gas chambers for being too inefficient - it was thought of as a waste of bullets - as well as psychologically damaging to the soldiers taking part.
Secondly, while Auschwitz is the image most people have of the Holocaust, it's worth considering the "death camps" like Treblinka II and Belzec - at these locations, there was no mass incarceration, no slave labour, no keeping Jews "rounded up". Instead, they were little more than a small railway station, a barracks for the Nazi soldiers and the gas chambers. In less than a year and a half, at least 700,000 people were killed at Treblinka - second only to Auschwitz in absolute numbers, but occurring over a much shorter time.
Why did Germany declare war on the United States (they did first) when it was so obvious that that was a horrible decision?
Hitler's ultimate goal was always a showdown against the "Jewish-Bolshevik financiers" of New York that he believed dominated America. That was why he believed Germany needed to be a strong colossus ruling over all Europe: he saw it as preparation for the ultimate showdown. And he was willing to accept that ultimate showdown even though it came a little earlier than he'd anticipated.
Furthermore, in both World Wars, the German government tended to think that American protestations of neutrality were totally worthless.
From 1914 to 1917 the Americans sold billions of dollars of war materiel to the Entente powers despite professing neutrality. The Germans viewed the Wilson administration as fundamentally sympathetic to the Entente in general and the British especially, and saw the resignation of Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan as being a purge of the neutralist camp in the American government. They were not entirely wrong, but underestimated the extent to which American civilian casualties would push the country into open war, while simultaneously failing to see that the Entente's cooperation with America was in large part based on limited financial resources that were almost exhausted by the beginning of 1917.
Hitler had even more reason to view the Americans as basically being on Britain's side. After Lend-Lease and the Destroyers for Bases agreements, the US was more or less officially committed to manufacturing whatever it could to fuel the British war machine, while obviously not offering the same service to Germany. The signature of the Atlantic Charter solidified the Anglo-American relationship, such that Roosevelt was more or less sure that America and Germany would be at war within a year. American convoys supported the British extensively, guarded by US Navy vessels. German U-boats and American destroyers fired on each other in the USS Greer incident in September 1941. A U-boat torpedoed USS Kearny the following month, and finally the USS Reuben James was actually sunk by a U-boat off Iceland on 31 October with 100 crew killed. America and Germany were effectively in a low-grade shooting war before Pearl Harbor. Realistically, Hitler was acknowledging what he thought was a state of affairs that already existed.
Both times, the Germans overreacted to what America was doing, but they didn't overreact that much. Wilson was in the tank for the Entente, although there was only so much he could do to support them without Americans being physically attacked. And Roosevelt was absolutely an Allied wannabe long before Pearl Harbor. If Hitler had not declared war on America, the Americans probably would have declared on Germany due to the Battle of the Atlantic before the year was out, while shipping arms and equipment to the UK all the while. Hitler's declaration of war changed American priorities and allowed the Allies to decide definitively on "Germany first", but even that decision was subject to a great deal of change and waffling over the course of the war. I'm not sure how much it actually meant at the time. And, of course, it's very difficult to imagine Hitler doing anything other than declaring war on the United States.
Thanks. From the way I looked at it, it was my understanding that the Germans were losing on the Russian front even before American involvement. And yes we were helping the Brits but that's not nearly as much as sending our own troops to the extent we did after formal war was declared. And we probably would have gone all out inevitably but it's not rational to declare war on another major power when you are already losing the war you're fighting as it is.
But Hitler wasn't exactly a rational person.
ı think ı have to add the Madagascar plan also doubled as enlisting the Vichy France , if not the whole of French peoples . In that it was "obviously" the fault of Jews that the most powerful army of Europe had crumbled in days , a narrative which certainly omits the early June 1940 fighting . It didn't have anything with the British and if they interfered it might have brought Vichy France as an "ally" . RN's perfidy in attacking French ports did quite a bit to sink that notion . And not to sound insulting , but merely explaining that the Jews were seen as "cattle" , you would have to pay Adolf dearly to save them . Special units trailed Wehrmacht immediately into Russia , that's true , but the Easterners were deemed to be even less worthy by Berlin and they could be shot . Now that they also included Karaim , a Turkic variety . In this way , one would see the grave danger of wholesale extermination and be compelled to save the European ones that could be assimilated in a godless society that wouldn't mind and still be willing to pay , now that without the Easterners there would be enough fund to do it . Morgenthau , Finance Minister to FDR , was very much incensed and was very vocal about castrating every German male for this barbaric effort , now that his father or something was the US ambrassador to the Porte , with the typical baggage of Orientalism . Wannsee then becomes a response to an idea in Berlin that supporting the god damned Red Army would come far cheaper , them being pals or something from the early 1920s .
"[...] the thesis - upheld among others by then British Foreign affairs minister Eden - that Hitler by declaring war on the USA would have squandered a big chance to avoid confrontation with them for at least a long time [...] does not hold into account the context of the international political conjuncture and the way Hitler interpreted it. While the great success of Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor had taken out of the picture the bulk of the American warships in the Pacific fleet [...], Hitler did not think Japan's military capability in a large conflict against the USA was up to the task of taking out the States alone. A temporary deployment of the entire USA miliiltary forces in the Pacific to combat Japan would certainly have relieved for the time being his own burden in Europe, but he also considered the connected risk that Japan would quickly succumb to the American power (Hitller rated it very highly) and thus the American war machine, once in motion, would turn with all its strength against Germany. Thus, deciding to declare war on the USA immediately HItler chose the lesser evil on the basis of his conviction about the changing of the international political climate from Summer 1941. That way the USA were forced from the start to fight a war over two oceans, necessitating for them to split their forces whenever they wanted to change the focal point on either of the major theaters". (Andreas Hillgruber, Der Zweite Weltkriege, 1939-1945)
Although the Soviets were able to win some defensive victories, most historians would agree with the Red Army's historical section in saying that the "first period of war" in the Great Patriotic War - the period during which the Germans were generally on the offensive and possessed military superiority over the Red Army - lasted until November 1942. On 7 December 1941, the Wehrmacht was in the process of losing the Battle of Moscow, which was a real and meaningful Soviet victory. And the Germans undoubtedly fell short of what they were expecting to achieve in 1941, which would ultimately have severe consequences for their war effort. But they were not losing the war overall - yet. And Hitler himself certainly did not have a perception that Germany was losing the war - why would he, with his armies holding an iron grip on Europe?
I think that Hitler's irrationality, at least in terms of strategic choices, is usually exaggerated. He was a genocidal monster, which makes it easy to question his sanity, and near the end of his life most sources depict him as totally divorced from reality. It's tough to read that back to 1941, though. Hitler had reasons for making the decisions he did. (h/t to @Sofista for that quotation from Hillgruber, by the way.) They may have been the wrong reasons, but they were reasons. He was evil, not insane.
My understanding is he did make some insane decisions. One example is the Battle of Stalingrad.
From what I read, Stalingrad itself didn't have much strategical importance but he wanted for purely symbolic reasons as Hitler personally didn't like Stalin himself.
Then on top of that, he had forces divided between South Soviet Union land near oil fields and the Stalingrad invasion force.
It was bad because
1) Stalingrad itself was not strategically important
2) he had his army divided when they should have been on just one or other. Or that you typically need to outnumber enemy by at least 3 to 1 when trying to capture their city or fort, which they did not have that numerical superiority.
I mean that is just example, but it appears he did make decisions that were not rational.
Hitler was not the only person in the German political-military hierarchy who lost focus and tried to take Stalingrad and the Caucasus simultaneously. Some German officers disapproved of the decision; others supported it wholeheartedly. Nor was it particularly "insane". You can be wrong without being mentally ill. Stalingrad had some operational value, as a bridgehead over the Volga, as a way to block the Soviets' connection to the Caucasus theater, and as the northern flank guard for the Caucasus invasion. It was a decent-sized city with a lot of heavy industry, so it was a valid strategic target, and its symbolic name did have some meaning. There were some reasons to be there. They did not justify the expenditure of all the blood and treasure that the Germans ultimately spent there, and there were higher priority targets - but the decision was not totally baseless or divorced from reality.
It's easy to point to certain military decisions in the past and come up with supposedly ironclad reasons for labeling them certain failures, and the decision-makers foolish for ever having embarked on them. The problem is that those ironclad reasons are often not actually true. For example, yes, the most advisable course of action is to outmass the enemy at the point of assault with, at minimum, a three-to-one numerical superiority. (The Soviets tested this extensively in their offensives from 1943 to 1945 and concluded that ten-to-one was optimal because a larger superiority in men reduced casualties to a remarkable degree.) However, there are things like force multipliers that can reduce the need for a three-to-one superiority. Some of these are tactical force multipliers, some are operational, and some strategic. The German way of war relied on such force multipliers to reduce the need for numerical superiority: troop training and experience, tactical doctrine, surprise, pinpoint air support, and so on. German forces were often, although not always, outnumbered during the war, yet they were able to win an awful lot of the time. Clearly the three-to-one "rule" was not ironclad.
German military history is littered with examples of two opponents facing each other, battered and bloody, each hemorrhaging casualties to a terrifying degree. German doctrine and teaching - Truppenpraxis - held that the last fighter standing would, more often than not, be the side with the will to persevere rather than, necessarily, the bigger battalions or the superior technical means or the greater quantity of supply. And Germans could point to plenty of times in military history that will or fighting spirit carried the day: the charnel house of Mars-la-Tour, for example, when Alvensleben and his III Corps faced down half the French army and won, or Torgau, where Frederick the Great eviscerated his entire army but drove the Austrians from the field. When it didn't work, like at Verdun or Stalingrad, the incessant German attacks were like trying to erode a rock with handfuls of boiled peas. But it worked often enough for the Germans to be convinced that it would.
Again, none of this means that the Germans weren't wrong. You are absolutely correct: Stalingrad did not justify the spend, and Stalingrad + the Caucasus at the same time was unlikely to work. But they weren't crazy to think that it might work. They thought that the Red Army was collapsing and that a big push would cause it to finally crumple, and that letting the foot off the gas pedal, so to speak (Mit Vollgas!), would give the Soviets time to recuperate and resist. And honestly, they came so freaking close at Stalingrad that it really might have worked without too much extra luck.
Soldiers and politicians make wrong choices all the time without being insane. The US Army's manpower replacement system during the Second World War was a severe drawback that badly hampered its infantry formations relative to their theoretical combat power, but nobody calls Lesley McNair or George Marshall "insane". 21 Army Group's leadership committed several compounding errors in late August and early September 1944 that effectively ended the Allied offensive in Northwest Europe for months, but nobody calls Bernard Law Montgomery "insane". Hitler's military errors, at least before 1945, were still fundamentally military errors with some reasoning behind them, and he was aided and abetted in them by the other members of the vaunted German high command. That falls far short of insanity.
Now, in the final struggle for Berlin? When he was moving around phantom armies and throwing fits about Felix Steiner and Hermann Fegelein and generally operating with a severe disconnect from reality? Then maybe you could start talking about "insane". Bandying about the word for the rest of Hitler's tenure, however, is just baseless. He was evil. He wasn't a madman.
Supposing they actually DID succeed in capturing Stalingrad, what would the implications have that have been for the rest of the war?
As far as I can gather, Stalingrad was an intermediate objective on the way to Astrakhan, which would have been pretty much the extreme right of the German line and, being a principal port on the Caspian, difficult both oil shipments from the Caucasus and supply and reinforcement of Soviet formations there. Not sure just how close they could have come, but I think Stalingrad was one of the main points on the line from Astrakhan to central Russia.
Again, I think and I gather, I am not terribly knowledgeable on the matter and I would welcome an expert opinion, but that is my take.
The Rock. Boom. Suck it, Shakespeare.
There is also the possibility he expected a quid pro quo from Japan regarding Russia.
Assuming they captured it because of there not being a counterattack, they'd have another army of half a million or so gloating around. But Germany was overstretched, undersuppllied, and suffering from a manpower deficiency. So probably not all that much.
The Germans would have had a better shot at accomplishing their horribly scatterbrained but vaguely sensical plan. It's unlikely that they would have been able to overrun the entire Caucasus in 1942, because bad weather closed the Main Caucasus Ridge passes after September. But they might have held Tuapse and Ordzhonikidze and been able to parry any Soviet counterattack from the north. Not sure what would've happened in 1943.
At any rate it would have improved their chances of holding onto or interdicting a large area with valuable resources and potentially destroying other large Soviet formations into the bargain. That might not have meant conquest of the USSR, but it would have reduced Soviet ability to effectively counterattack to near zero. Oooor they might still have gotten pushed out of the Caucasus, just with more blood spilled. Their chances of success would've been better than they were, not certain.
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