This suite of three essays, “Hitler or Stalin?”, “The Second War-Guilt Lie,” and “Jodl Vindicated,” demonstrates the necessity of Hitler’s policies toward the Soviet Union. (For a more concise argument based on this information go here.)
From Heinrich Haertle, Freispruch für Deutschland (1965).
Translated by Hadding Scott, 2010.
Hitler or Stalin?
When the meaculpists of the postwar Federal Republic of Germany wish to prove the sole guilt of Germany for the war with Russia, they begin, like the Nuremberg prosecutors, with Mein Kampf. There it can be read in black and white that this Hitler already in 1924-25 had decided to solve the German need for space, the mismatch of greater population and smaller territory, and that he would conquer the sparsely settled Russian territories with sword and plough in an eastern campaign of the Germane.
It might however be a monstrous overestimate of the genius of this man, if one construes a direct causal relationship between the theories in 1924 of the youthful leader of a ruined fringe-party, and the foreign-policy situation of 1941. Later he explained: “… if I had suspected in 1924 that I would become Chancellor of Germany, I never would have written the book.”
Just the difference between the Russia of Lenin, on the brink of chaos and crippled with famines, and the megalithic stalinist empire of 1941, shows the absurdity of this interpretation. The eastern-settlement theories in Mein Kampf presuppose a Russia collapsing from its own weakness.
Of course, Hitler as chancellor assumed that a clash between National-Socialist Germany and world-revolutionary Soviet imperialism would be inevitable, and that he must do everything to prepare for this danger.
The gathering of all Germans into a Great Germany and Hitler’s policy of reconciliation with the West, especially his offers of friendship to England, served this purpose.*
When, however, England and France had demonstrated through their guarantee to Poland that they were unwilling to tolerate a Germany that would have been strong enough to stand up to the growing Soviet colossus, Hitler began to reorient his foreign-policy tactics from West to East.
In mid-1939 when England and France were trying to complete their encirclement-policy by enlisting even the Soviet Union in a military and war-alliance against the Reich, Hitler saw only one remaining escape-route from the looming political and military trap: flight forward, a breakout to the east through conciliation with Russia.
Through that alone, he believed — at least in the beginning, when Germany was wedged between France, England and America on one side and Poland and Russia on the other — that he would be able to avert a two-front war.
Russia’s “friendship” had to be reckoned as costly because of concessions not only in Poland, but also in the Baltic and the Balkans. England and France had already offered this price in their negotiations. Germany could only purchase the accord with Russia by outbidding the preexisting Western offer.
Meanwhile, Stalin was counting on the certainty of a war waged by England and France against Germany, wherein he could at first remain uninvolved so as to prepare his military might and at the favorable moment enter the war and win, either with the Reich against the capitalist West or, even more advantageously, with the capitalist West against national-socialist Reich. This calculation turned out to be erroneous, insofar as Germany conquered Poland and France in such an astonishingly short time that Stalin could not have expected it.
Since Stalin in 1939-40 had based his calculation on the hostility between Germany and France and England, he saw in the German peace-offers to France and England in fall 1939, and to England in 1940 — thus precisely in the German desire for peace — the defining reason for his change of position against the Reich and for its Western enemies.
Now the Bolshevik dictator began to ally himself with England and America against the ever-stronger Germany, so as to expand the Soviet dictatorship into Europe and Asia with the help of “democracy” and “capitalism.”
Stalin’s calculation however was thwarted at first: Hitler decided, as soon as he had recognized this danger, on an active defense against the East by means of a sudden preemptive war, so as to avoid the looming two-front war with England-America and the Soviet Bloc.
Whoever waxes indignant over the undertaking of a preemptive war, let him recall how Lenin thought about that:
If, in the face of hostile-behaving troops, we […] gave assurance that we should never resort to certain actions which could be called offensive from the military-strategical point of view, then we would be not only fools but criminals as well.**
But whoever would like to search after the historical roots of this decision must not begin in 1924 with Hitler, the leader of an at that time ruined party, but with the Soviet dictator Lenin, who announced: “No power in the world can stop the course of the Communist World Revolution to the Soviet World Republic.”***
The Second War-Guilt Lie
We wish never to blame our enemies in order to exonerate Hitler. We also wish however under no circumstances to blame Hitler merely to exonerate our enemies. Compared to this question of the nation’s destiny, the assessment of Hitler and National-Socialism is absolutely secondary. We shall deny no German guilt because it is Hitler’s fault, but we shall also swear off no vindication of Germany merely because it could be interpreted as also favorable to Hitler.
Bonn and Pankow [the seats of government of the two post-war Germanies] have always acted according to the opposite principle. Every incrimination of Germany must be accepted, if only the Third Reich and its government together can thereby be branded.
The Soviet draft for our “peace treaty” of 1959 begins exactly as the Dictate of Versailles in 1919, with the war-guilt lie. Here is the consequence — not only for Bonn and Pankow but certainly for the German people — of the fact that some people accuse their nation of war-crimes in order to excuse their own collaboration with the Allies. Here recurs the guilt-accusation from Moscow that has burdened us since Nuremberg.
Even more brutally than in § 231 of the Versailles Dictate, The Kremlin affirms in the preamble of its “peace treaty” the sole and collective guilt of Germany: for the war, which had been caused by “Hitler Germany” (not only by Hitler). And for the “aggression against the peoples of Europe” that were committed by “German militarism” (not only by the “Nazis”). The Soviet government still consistently demands in 1959 the contractual acknowledgment of the historical lies of 1946 Nuremberg. This new war-guilt clause reads:
Germany acknowledges the verdict of of the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg and the verdicts of other courts in regard to crimes committed both inside and outside of Germany, which the statute of this tribunal provides. (§19)
This reference to the Shylock-verdict at Nuremberg surely demonstrated to every German that the USSR needed this second war-guilt lie as the basis for its robber’s peace, not only to divert attention from its own war-guilt but also to acquire a signed authorization from Germany for future extortions.
Already at Nuremberg, however, the following facts have spoken against the Bolshevik war-guilt lie:
1. Until today there has been no punitive law in international justice that criminalizes war as a tool of policy. This is true for 1939-41, just as for the wars since 1945.
2. That the actions of 1941 were a preemptive strike in defense of Germany, permitted under international law, is most strongly proven by the strategic situation. It would have been political and military madness that contradicted all accomplishments of the German leadership up to that point, if one had given up the victory over England, certainly possible at the time, in order to attack Russia, if the German leadership had not been compelled first to fight off the threat in the east.
The German preemptive decision was unfortunately also bound up with a complex underestimation of the Red Army. Stalin had succeeded so cleverly in disguising his real military strength that even the Western general staff was deceived. Foster Rhea Dulles writes in 1944: “The defeat of Russia was a question of weeks; three-quarters of the American general staff was convinced that Russia was as little able to resist as Poland, France, and the Balkans.” Even Churchill believed that the Finnish War had “put on display the incompetence of the Red Army and Air Force.”
Even Hitler had been deceived through the chief of his general staff. On 3 July 1941 Halder notes: “It is thus probably not overstated, if I assert that the campaign against Russia was won within fourteen days.” On 11 August 1941 he admits his miscalculation: “We calculated at the beginning of the war based on 200 enemy divisions. Now we count 360.” Because of this underestimation, it was believed possible to force a more rapid decision in the east.
3. Soviet Russia had already demonstrated its policy of aggression.
a) The Polish War, the portion of the causes of war with which Germany could be blamed, was prepared in 1939 by treaty with Russia, who also attacked Poland, and plundered eastern Poland.
b) Soviet Russia itself has rejected what it now presents as “German war-guilt.” The Soviet Government repeatedly designated France and England in diplomatic notes as solely responsible for the war in the West, and officially congratulated Hitler for the victory over Poland and France.
c) In the same fall of 1939 the Soviet Union attacked little Finland and thereby threatened Germany in the northeast.
d) In 1940 Stalin subjugated the Baltic States just as violently as a little earlier Bessarabia and North Bukovina.
4. Precisely on account of the repeated German peace offers to France and England, Stalin feared the end of Europe’s fratricidal war and therefore directed his aggression since fall 1940 also against Germany, in violation of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. The American Secretary of State Byrnes writes in his memoirs: “It is obvious that the Soviet Government has concluded this pact with the clear intention of breaking it.” Even [Czechoslovakian President Edvard] Beneš affirms in his memoirs that the Soviet Union concluded the “non-aggression pact” only to gain time, i.e. so as to enter into the war later, when the warring parties had been weakened.
5. Molotov’s November 1940 extortion attempt in Berlin already practically signaled Stalin’s determination for war. He was pressuring Germany, which was still at war with England and already in a de facto war with the United States, to hand over to the Soviet Union the Balkans, the Baltic Sea, and above all the war-deciding oil supply in Romania, thereby making it clear that he would stab Germany in the back at the first opportunity.
6. Already in 1940 Stalin had begun negotiations in Moscow with the English representative Sir Stafford Cripps, thus with the enemy of a still allied Germany. England on this occasion made offers anew to Stalin which far exceeded the 1939 abandonment of the Balkans, the Baltic States, and Poland.
7. Already in spring 1941 the anti-German putsch in Yugoslavia, which mortally threatened Germany’s position in the Balkans and therewith its oil supply, had been instigated and supported by Moscow together with England.
8. The Red Army increased its divisions in Germany’s rear from 65 divisions in September 1939 to 153 divisions and 36 motorized brigades in 1940-41.
9. Germany’s preemptive war forestalled a gigantic Soviet offensive. The Bolshevik danger was even greater than could even be reported previously. One of Hitler’s enemies, Generalstabchef Halder, demonstrates that. He affirms that Hitler’s conviction “that Russia was preparing for an attack on Germany” was justified, and declares, “We know today from good sources that he was right about that.”
Already in Nuremberg General Winter testified under oath: “We had at the time the subjective impression that we were striking into an offensive deployment in progress.” Field Marshal von Rundstedt is also a witness to that.
10. The Jewish-British emigrant Alexander Werth, who inwardly still stands on the Soviet side and was able to participate as a correspondent on the side of the enemy, proves after 20 years how justified the fears of the German leadership were. He reports about Stalin’s speech of 5 May 1941:
All my sources agree in fundamental features with the most important points of Stalin’s speech: the conviction that the war “almost unavoidably” would be decided in 1942, wherein if necessary the Soviets must seize the initiative.
Senior-General Alfred Jodl, who
was convicted of war-crimes by
the IMT and executed in 1946,
but posthumously found not
guilty of the main charges by a
post-war German court in 1953.
After two decades the testimony of Senior General Jodl is thereby proven correct on all essential points by the Soviet side.
In his conversation with Hitler, in fall 1940 when the possibility of a preemptive war against the Bolshevik threat first comes up, the problem of an expansion of living-space and farmland is never mentioned. Posthumously the cause and effect even in this question are reversed. The original goal of the Eastern campaign was not to secure the German food-supply. The problem of living-space could have been solved with or against Soviet Russia and also with or against England and France — after elimination of Anglo-French supremacy also in Africa. In 1941 the question was unresolved.
In the foreground stood the problem of an Anglo-American and Soviet-Russian encirclement through the “praevenire” in the East. As the preemptive war by then had become inescapable, the enormous sacrifice of blood could not be made for nothing. Simultaneously with the expansion of the food-supply in the East, the eastern borders of Europe should be secured for centuries.
Meanwhile next to the real plans there were also fantastic plans drawn up about the new order of Eastern Europe. Likewise after the beginning of the First World War borders were sought in the West that would justify the commitment and guarantee the security of the western border for generations. In both cases these plans were not the original purpose of the war.
To a related question posed by Dr. Exner**** Senior-General Jodl testifies: “The Fuehrer has never named in my presence even just one hint of a reason other than the purely strategic.” For months on end [Hitler] continuously repeated to [Jodl’s] face:
“There is no doubt now that England puts her hopes in this last mainland proxy; otherwise she would have already called off the war after Dunkirk Under the hand or under the cover, agreements have certainly already been made. The Russian deployment is unmistakable. One day suddenly we shall be either coldly blackmailed or attacked.”
Jodl himself had placed great hopes in the famous discussions with Molotov, for with a neutral Russia in the rear — which furthermore would help us with economic supplies — an invasion such as occurred in June 1944 would never have been possible. No statesman and no field-marshal could sacrifice such a favorable situation without necessity. It is a fact that Hitler “for months struggled inwardly in the most serious way with this decision, certainly influenced by the many opposing pictures that both the Reichsmarschall and the Supreme Commander of the Kriegsmarine as well as the foreign minister raised.”
Events in the Balkans, the hostile doings of the Soviet Government in combination with England and Yugoslavia, compelled the final decision. Jodl testifies:
“Until then the Fuehrer still had doubts. On 1 April and no sooner, on 1 April his decision to conduct the attack stood firm, and on 1 April he gave the order to expect it for approximately 22 June. The attack-order itself, thus the actual unleashing of the campaign, that was only ordered on 17 June, which is likewise documented.”
To his defennse-attorney’s question, whether later discoveries had proven the military necessity of this decision, Jodl testified:
“It was without a doubt a purely preventive war. What we later established was in any case the certainty of an enormous Russian military preparation facing our borders. I want to forgo details but I can just say that we succeeded in achieving tactical surprise with the day and hour of attack, but not strategic surprise. Russia was fully prepared for war.”
Continuing, Senior General Jodl again named an essential reason for the aggressive defense:
“We were never strong enough to be able to defend ourselves in the East; events since the year 1942 have proven it. It may sound grotesque, but in order to cover this front of over 2000 kilometers we would have needed at least 300 divisions, and we never had that.
“If we had waited until we had been caught perhaps in the pincers of a simultaneous Allied invasion and Russian attack, with certainty we would have been lost….”
Dr. Exner proved the justification of a preemptive war precisely in this case:
“The true preemptive war is one of the essential means of self-preservation. It was also indisputably permitted according to the Kellogg-Briand Pact. Thus was the right of defense of all signatory states understood.”
In a secret session of the House of Commons in 1940, Churchill rationalized his rejection of the German peace offer and his decision to broaden the war, with the affirmation that he had at that time, because of the negotiations conducted by the ambassador Sir Stanford Cripps in Moscow, obtained the explicit pledge that the Soviet Union would enter the war on the English side.
*While Haertle’s claim is indisputable, it is also true that unification of the Germans was Hitler’s fundamental stated purpose in Mein Kampf
(“Aehnliches Blut gehoert in einen gemeinsamen Staat.”
), even at a time when the Soviet Union did not pose a great military threat. Military security was of course also a practical concern that affected that agenda, but limiting rather than fostering it in some cases: Hitler compromised on the principle of unifying all traditionally German territories in the case of South Tyrol, in order to retain good relations with Italy, and his offers to Poland imply a willingness to compromise there as well, in order to have Poland as an ally rather than as a conquest.
** The statement is from Lenin’s speech Menshevism and Counter-Revolution, delivered in December 1920. The wording has been slightly altered and a clause was omitted. Where Haertle says “hostile-behaving troops” Lenin said (according to Soviet Russia Pictorial) “our active hostile enemies.” Haertle also says “could be called offensive” where Lenin apparently said “might be construed as offensive.” There are also some differences between the two situations that somebody could nitpick to claim that the analogy is less than perfect. The discrepancy doesn’t seem to constitute a distortion of Lenin’s overall meaning, which is that the presence of a menace confers upon the threatened party a right to attack.
*** This statement is said to be in Volume II of the Ausgewahlte Werke
(selected works) of V.I. Lenin.
**** Dr. Franz Exner, General Jodl’s defense attorney at Nuremberg.