Friday, November 17, 2017

How Hitler Lost the War

     How Hitler Lost the War (2005) [Producer David Hoffman, writer Robert Denny] The popular myth of WW2 is that England fought heroically against the Nazi hordes until the USA came along and won the war for them. There was also something going in Eastern Europe between Germany and the Soviet Union, and in the Pacific between the Americans and the Japanese. But never mind the details, the Allies won the war.    
     In the last 30 years or so, historians have reread the details, many of which were new, and it’s clear that the Allies didn’t so much win the war as that Hitler lost it. Or, to give it a more balanced spin, that Hitler made some fatal mistakes which enabled the Allies to regroup, attack, and win. If he had not made those mistakes, the outcome for the Allies would not have been a simple victory, and could very well have been a defeat.
     This film points to several tactical and strategic errors. For example, Hitler stopped the army from capturing the defeated British and French troops at Dunkirk and sent in the air force to destroy them instead. The RAF turned out to be a much better protector than Hitler expected.
     Another tactical error was to concentrate his eastern forces on Leningrad and the Ukraine instead of on Moscow, as his army chiefs advised. But that was done within the major strategic  error of attacking the Soviet Union.
     In the Ukraine, the German forces were welcomed as liberators, but Hitler’s racist superstitions prevented him from capitalising on this. Instead, he sent in the SS to round up and eliminate undesirable elements. He wanted the Ukraine for lebensraum. So the Ukrainians formed guerilla groups to fight the Germans.
     That last point shows up Hitler’s fundamental mistake. He went to war to gain land, and failed to focus on defeating the enemy. War is always waged for political reasons, but it is a very bad mistake to focus on the political goal instead of the military one, which is to defeat the enemy. First things first: Hitler never really understood that. He also vastly overestimated his knowledge and understanding of politics and war. He had a talent for spotting and exploiting weaknesses and pressure points in his adversaries, but he had no grasp of the larger purposes which drive political and military conflict. In particular, he did not understand that sooner or later the other great powers would decide to stop him. A moderately powerful Germany that one could do business with was acceptable, no matter what the Nazis did inside the country. A self-aggrandising Germany that threatened the balance of power was not. The film does not make this an explicit point, but it’s the context of its thesis.
     Well done, with interviews with German as well as Allied veterans. A treat for the military history buff, a good general history doc for everyone else. ***

No comments: