Hitler And His Downfall Essay, Research Paper
Hitler and His Downfall
To many World War II has been the most devastating war in human history. It had been global military conflict that caused the loss of millions of lives as well as material destruction. The war began in Europe in September of 1939. It ended on May 8, 1945. This day was marked by the British government as V-E (Victory in Europe) Day. The outcome of this war left a new world order dominated by the United States and the Soviet Union.
Adolf Hitler was born in Braunuam Inn, Austria, on April 20, 1889 and died (committed suicide) on April 30, 1945. He was the son of a minor customs official and a peasant girl. He had a love for reading although he never completed high school and was rejected by the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna due to his lack of talent. Through reading he developed his anti-democratic and anti-Jewish beliefs, the admiration for the outstanding individual and contempt for the masses. By volunteering for service in the Baverian Army during World War I, he proved himself as a dedicated and courageous soldier. Since his sponsors felt that he lacked in leadership quantities, he was never promoted beyond private first class. In September 1919, Hitler joined the Nationalist German Workers Party later changed its name to the National Social German Workers (Nazi) Party. To become the leader of Germany, he took advantage of the Great Depression of 1929 and explained it as a Jewish Communist plot. Through promises of a strong Germany, more jobs and national glory, he gained popularity and was appointed chancellor in January 1933. Once in power, he established himself as a dictator.
After World War I, Germany was dissatisfied with the outcome of the war. There were large reparations to pay, their military power had been restrained, they suffered and resented the territorial losses some of which were withheld as collateral, and Germany had been held accountable for the entire war. Germany felt that they had been treated unjustly. Their sense of German nationalism began to grow. Thus, Hitler withdrew Germany from the League of Nations in October 1933.
Hitler’s first step to dominate this area failed in 1934. The first Anschluss, which is the unification of Germany and Austria, was stopped by Italy’s Mussolini. At this time, Mussolini feared Hitler and Germany but through the Spanish Civil War, they became allies and signed the Anti-Cominterm Pact along with Japan. This pact was to resist the expansion of communism. With Mussolini now on his side, Anschuluss was a success in March of 1939. This move strengthened Germany’s economy and put them in a better position strategically, with Italy.
Czechoslovakia’s Sudatan lands were Hitler’s next step. To gain this territory Hitler demanded self-determination for the Germans in this region. Therefore the Munich Conference took place in September 1938 and the results of this were the Sudatan Germans were seceded to Germany. Present at this conference were representatives from Germany, Great Britain, France, and Italy. Czechoslovakia was not represented. Poland then laid claims on Teschen and Hungary on Carpatho-Ruthenia.
Hitler gained these areas by giving the west the impression that the only reason he wanted them was to unify the Germans and Germany. The west, Great Britain and France, allowed this because of a policy they had toward Hitler and Germany called appeasement. The two main reasons they followed this policy was the fear of Bolshevism and an attempt to prevent another war.
The next step for Hitler was the complete occupation of Czech. This was accomplished on March 1939, just six months after the Munich conference. Slovakia was left alone by Hitler’s men but was an independent state. Its Independence was just a front for Hitler to create a puppet state. Hitler’s victory in Czechoslovakia greatly enhanced their military position, but above all helped arm his men with the aid of the Skoda Works, which was now under the control of Germany. The Skoda Works was the largest arms manufacturer in Europe. Czechoslovakia had no alternative but to accept Hitler’s rule.
This was the end of the appeasement from Great Britain and France. They then made a guarantee to both Poland and Bulgaria that in the event of a German attack, they would come to their aid.
Hitler’s next effort was directed towards Poland with the excuse of regaining Danzig and the corridor to unit Germany. On September 1, 1939, German troops invaded and attacked an incapable Polish army. While Germany invaded with tanks and planes, Poland countered with men on horseback. Polish troops not only fought against the Germans but against the Russians on the Eastern border. In less than a month Poland was completely occupied by Germany and Russia. Russia took up to the Curzon line and Germany annexed the all-German areas in the west. The center of Poland was left as a German Protectorate, where the concentration camps were located. Neither Yugoslavia nor Bulgaria, both allies of Poland went to her aid. Also Great Britain did nothing to support their guarantee. This marked the beginning of World War II, a battle that was felt in more places than just Eastern Europe.
Some people believe that the moment Hitler set foot into Poland; it was the beginning of the end for Hitler. By attacking Poland, Hitler forced Great Britain’s hand and if Chamberlain had attempted to run out on his promise to Poland and let Hitler get away with it once again, his parliamentary position would be in jeopardy. As his campaign in Poland began he could not have been conscious of the fact that, by taking on the British Empire, he was not guaranteed that his brilliant and brief campaign, which he had become accustom to would become involved and create global conflict.
Once Hitler gained control of Poland the other countries in Eastern Europe followed. Romania feared Russia and surrendered economically to Hitler. With the alliance Romania lost some land to Russia, Bessarabia and the northern part of Bukovina. They also lost part of Translvania to Hungary through the Second Vienna Award. Although the loss of land was harmful to Rumania, they drew closer to Germany, because it recognized that Britain was powerless in Eastern Europe and Germany was the only country strong enough to protect the rest of her land from Russia. Hitler was also prepared to aid Rumania due to his interest in the Ploesti oil fields. Without these field Germany could no longer continue the war.
All of the southeastern countries, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Hungary, and Rumania, were now under Hitler’s political and economical control. This was achieved at little cost for Hitler, who would only have to station a few divisions in Bulgaria to protect the oil fields. Everything seemed to be running smoothly for him until Mussolini decided to go on the offensive in Greece.
Mussolini was poorly advised through his prime minister, Ciano, that the military campaign in Greece would be a quick success. Germany was taken completely by surprise by Italy’s actions, which she totally disapproved. Hitler had to switch tracks at this time. He had to postpone his final conflict of the war, Operation Barbosa, an attack on Russia and concentrate on the Mediterranean.
Italy invaded Greece through Albania without a declaration of war. Without the knowledge of guerrilla warfare, Italy found itself retreating back into Albania. Greece spoke of liberation of Albania and at this point Hitler got worried. With the difficulties Italy encountered he realized that this would offer an opportunity for Great Britain to regain a foothold on the continent. Hitler noted “whereas the Rumanian oil fields were previously entirely inaccessible to English bombers” now the RAF was “within a distance of less than 500 km” from Rumania and he considered this development “down right ominous.” At this point he discussed military movements through Bulgaria to attack Greece.
Hitler’s offensive in Greece lasted almost two months and in the end, Germany converged all of Greek territory. Included in these two months is Hitler’s attack on Yugoslavia. Due to the political upheaval in Yugoslavia, Hitler could no longer trust the new regime and for his conquest of Greece to succeed he needed to attack from both Bulgaria and Yugoslavia. This attack on Yugoslavia was called Operation Punishment.
Nearly two months later and with the loss of approximately ten divisions of men, Hitler decided to begin his campaign against Russia, Operation Barbarosa. Hitler felt threatened by Stalin and his interests in the Mediterranean. Stalin also had interests in Romania and this could create problems for Hitler’s war effort due to his dependence on Romanian oil. Therefore Hitler decided to attack Russia to protect his own interests in these areas along with his chances to win World War II.
Germany took the offensive with the aid of Bulgaria and Finland with Italy able to provide more men during the summer. Consistent fighting and the tremendous distances covered had placed a great strain on the attacking strength of the German forces. Poor weather and breakdowns in mobile units led to numerous delays. An example of this is that after the battle for Kiev, Panzer Group 2 had only 30% of its tanks remaining, although Panzer Group 3 and Group 4 were slightly better off. Supply lines were becoming longer and longer, and the capacity of mechanized transport had greatly declined. The railways were still operating, but they could not carry enough equipment to keep the fronts supplied. By the middle of October German troops were in excellent position surrounding Moscow. The problem of supplies still remained. German forces depended on a narrow, long and extremely vulnerable supply lines. The railway lines were operating but they were very inefficient.
All of these factors along with one more major event led to the end of any legitimate German offensive in World War II. This major event was winter. As one German general put it, “The icy cold, the lack of shelter, the shortage of clothing, the heavy losses of men and equipment, the wretched state of our fuel supplied, all this makes the duties of a commander a misery and the longer it goes on the more I am crushed by the responsibility which I have to bear.” Hitler admitted this when he canceled his attack on Moscow. “The severe winter weather which has come surprisingly early on the east and the consequent difficulties in bringing up supplies, compel us to abandon immediately all major offensive operations and go over to the defensive.” At this point Hitler moved 70% of his tanks and assault guns to the Russian front leaving Southern Europe vulnerable.
In the spring on 1943 American and Russian industrial production were at their peak a Germany could no longer regain its superiority in armaments. The allies began attacking German armaments and destroying German cities. Hitler’s last major offensive came in July, but he confessed to his commander that the entire offensive was all a gamble. This offensive was a complete failure, due to Russia being completely prepared with extensive defenses.
Along with this failure in Russia and the allies gaining ground in southern Europe, Hitler also had to contend with resistance from within Poland. The Home Army, consisting of 300,000 men caused havoc for Hitler’s men stationed in Poland. The fact that Hitler had to station more men in Poland to contend with the Home Army took some strength away from his Russian front, which could have saved him from defeat.
Russia forced Hitler back into a defensive withdrawal. He also lost command of the air as allied planes were seen more and more along with Germany’s lack of fuel to train new pilots. Taking control over the air campaign was a major step for the allies. This proved to be an important part of Hitler’s strategy, which was now limited due to his lack of control. Hitler quoted his idol Frederick the Great in saying: “I started this war with the most wonderful army in Europe; today I’ve got a muck heap. I have no leaders any more, my generals are incompetent, and the troops are all wretched.” This quote alone states the condition Hitler and his forces were in near the end of the war.
Even at the end, Hitler’s military plans were brilliant and may have been successful had he possessed sufficient resources and forces to ensure it a reasonable chance of succeeding. Due to his lack of forces and supplies, the Allies captured Berlin in April 1945. Hitler felt that both Germany and his Generals had failed him and that only the weak will survive the war because all the good men are already dead. Before Germany surrendered, Hitler committed suicide.
Many historians have compared Hitler to Napoleon. Both their failures have been the underestimation of the Russian winter. Another of Hitler’s faults is the extreme overconfidence he possessed. Had he accepted failure in Russia and retreated to regroup, his offensive may not have ended in complete failure. He believed in complete domination or destruction. This belief led to his downfall and to his decision to commit suicide.
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