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With hindsight what could Nazi germany have done to increase their odds of beating the USSR before the launch of Barbarossa

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Initial post: Mar 31, 2012, 7:02:35 AM PDT
I have always been curious as to how Nazi germany could have had a better chance of beating the USSR in WW2.

Some of my thoughts are:

Implementing a broad based manufacturing sector operating at a war footing.
Strategic bombing capability.
Increased production of more tanks and assault guns per month particularly with long 50mm and 75mm barrels for the pz3, pz4 tanks before invasion.
Nazi racial policy more realistic to the circumstances in the USSR ( a remote chance I believe).

I realise of course lack of resources and oil were critical factors but surely things could have been organised better instead of the myriad of competing interests increasing waste and delays.

What do you think could have been done different to realistically improve their chances of winning or at least a negotiated settlement?

Just for the record I am in no way a Nazi sympathiser or racist, just have an interest in military history particularly WW2.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 31, 2012, 7:37:34 AM PDT
Ku says:
There would be two main prongs to defeat an enemy. You can destroy his will to fight or his capacity to fight.

Will to fight: the Nazis' stated goal was the depopulation of the East to become Lebensraum for the German people. They wanted to starve, enslave, deport or murder tens of millions. That is not a good way to destroy somebody's will to fight. In fact, you produce quite the opposite effect.

Capacity to fight: The Germans wanted to rely on Blitzkrieg to overcome resource deficiencies. IOW, they wanted to hit the enemy hard first before he had time to mobilize his war potential.
Increasing the German war-making potential would have had to aim to match the Soviet war-making potential. That was not possible within a useful time period.
Imo, they would have needed to destroy Soviet industry behind the Urals or disrupt logistical lines within Russia or perform a better job of sinking the Arctic convoys that shipped U.S. and U.K. materiel to the Soviets.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 31, 2012, 10:48:14 AM PDT
John M. Lane says:
Hello Adrian G. Dick,

This is an interesting "What If" thread.

My speculation is that Hitler should have negotiated a cease fire or truce with the British and refrained from declaring war on the US after Imperial Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor. That way, he could have diplomatically isolated Stalin.

His secret treaty with Japan was a dead letter. They never attacked in the East at all. Thus, Stalin only had to worry about the West.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 31, 2012, 12:22:33 PM PDT
At the time of Barbarossa, the Soviet industry was almost all in European Russia, not behind the Urals. If Germany hadplanned to disrupt the Soviet's ability to move their industry it would have helped. The Germans could have overrun the factories instead of having the machine tools and workers displacing ahead of them by rail. The Germans never had a realistic chance of stopping or seriously disrupting the Arctic convoys, they didn't have the naval or anti-shipping airpower to do under those severe conditions.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 31, 2012, 12:33:19 PM PDT
Ku says:
"At the time of Barbarossa, the Soviet industry was almost all in European Russia, not behind the Urals."

So what can you tell me about Magnitogorsk? And other closed cities for that matter.

"The Germans never had a realistic chance of stopping or seriously disrupting the Arctic convoys, they didn't have the naval or anti-shipping airpower to do under those severe conditions."

They sunk 7% of the 4m t. They might have improved their tactics.

The Arctic route accounted for 23% of the aid shipped. The Persian route for 27% and the Pacific route for 50%.

I guess the most promising policy to defeat the Soviets would've been to get the Japanese to tie down the vast numbers of divisions in the Far East and by encouraging them to shut down Vladivostok for Soviet shipping.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 31, 2012, 1:03:26 PM PDT
Magnitogorsk and the other "Hero Cities" were built in response to the German invasion. There was very little past the Urals or in Siberia before the German invasion.

Weather was terrible for aviation in the Arctic. Even with the anemic flak armament of the British ships the Luftwaffe accomplished little more than sinking straggelers from convoys. I've never read anything from the German aviators, but conditions were similar to the Aleutians in the Pacific which were terrible.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 31, 2012, 1:14:27 PM PDT

My father had two ships shot out from under him in the Aleutians during the war. That's all the detail he gave and said it only once. I suspect 'terrible' is a euphemism.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 31, 2012, 1:18:02 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 31, 2012, 1:19:37 PM PDT
Ku says:
What are you trying to say? That the Soviets had no indigenous war production capability after the German advance?

Re Magnitogorsk:

"The city played an important role during World War II because it supplied much of the steel for the Soviet war machine and its strategic location near the Ural Mountains meant Magnitogorsk was safe from seizure by the German Army."

Re the Arctic: Have you heard of convoy PQ-17?

Posted on Mar 31, 2012, 1:29:13 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 31, 2012, 1:30:14 PM PDT
chris aaron says:
Based on a documentary I just saw called War of the Century , it does not pay to sack your generals and micromanage a war of this magnitude from "the Wolf's Lair". I was amazed at some of Hitler's decisions and could understand why from this time on the military made attempts on his life. For example, denying your troops winter clothing and, for god's sake, antifreeze for their vehicles for the brutal Soviet winter because predicting that the war would last into the winter (it wasn't supposed to by Hitler's calculations) was negative thinking! Really, how can a war possibly be won under these conditions. Denying troops the right to withdraw when they need to and insisting they stand to the last man. Stalin did this too, but he had a nearly infinite supply of Russians for cannon fodder, and Germany did not. Insisting that Stalingrad be taken, at all costs, because of the symbolism of taking the city that bore Stalin's name. I suppose we can thank whoever or whatever higher power is around for this, because the Axis could have won the war, easily, had they a decent strategist at their helm.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 31, 2012, 1:30:46 PM PDT
Of course the Soviets had indigenous war production, but it was located in European Russia, not Siberia and past the Urals. Entire factories were loaded on trains and displaced past the Urals with the employees and their families riding on the same cars that transported their machine tools. They then worked in horrible conditions in partially built buildings producing the weapons that the Soviet Army used to fight the Germans.

PQ-17 was a disaster caused by the British Admiralty panicking at a report that Tirpitz with escorts was going to attack the convoy. PQ-17's losses were minor prior to being ordered to scatter. In reality I believe Tirpitz stayed at home in Norway. Without escorts the merchies were easy meat for the Luftwaffe and the U Boats.

Posted on Mar 31, 2012, 8:40:05 PM PDT
In reply to the suggestions already posted:
1) getting Japan to enter the war - HOW? The Japanese KNEW that war with the Red Army was not only a bad idea, but not in their own best interests. How to get Japan involved? I don't think it's possible, and certainly not in the desired timeframe of summer 1941.
2) Negotiate a truce with Britain - again, HOW? Churchill is not going to do it, period, ever. He'll resign and leave the country before talking with Hitler. British terms under Churchill would be absolutely dismissed by Hitler - perhaps a withdrawal from all occupied territories (or something close to that), esp. including France, Norway and Low Countries.
3) Interdict Arctic convoys - not a bad idea, but not a war winner, either. If the convoys are cut off (too costly), the allies will send more thru the longer routes. But the materials sent are helpful - not decisive. And the materials sent in early part of war don't matter as much as those coming later (esp. the trucks, aviation fuel chemicals, communications, locomotives).
Basically none of those have much merit.
Ku has a good summation - you either destroy your's enemy's WILL to fight, or his ABILITY to fight. With Nazi doctrine, the will is not an option - they came as conquerors, not liberators. Ability - that's what they thought they were doing with the Barbarossa plan - and they succeeded. They basically destroyed the large red army formations near the western frontier, including thousands of tanks and planes, and scores of divisions. The problem was it was not enough - and they simply couldn't force the crushing defeat they did in France.

Posted on Mar 31, 2012, 8:57:37 PM PDT
The first post was the negatives - what wasn't going to work.

What might work, and is reasonable given the realities of the situation (e.g., convincing the Soviets to join them wasn't going to happen with the Nazi policies)?
* Absolutely, go on a war footing, quietly, before the war begins, and then redouble the efforts once the war begins. Don't presume a short fight, presume a long hard fight! when you seize Moscow, Kiev, Leningrad, Odessa, and Baku - then you can reconsider economic policy. Many reasons this wasn't done, including esp. the desire to avoid burdening the populace to avoid a WW1 internal collapse.
* Don't outright murder prisoners by the hundreds of thousands! Move them into labor camps and use their labor to support your war effort were possible. Separate out those who are open to German service (like Ukrainians, Latvians, Georgians, Armenians), to be given 'trustee' status in camps, or to join units if they are deemed reliable. Lots of need for troops to guard rail lines, depots, unload trains, etc.
* I've read that the rail line transition was never remotely sufficient - here again, plan for this ahead of time, make it a priority, and use prisoner labor to make the changes as quickly as possible. Building roads I presume was out of the question, but should have been considered, again using prison labor.
* I would advocate that they should have done even more to gain support and participation of the European populations. Offer more incentives, beat the drums of the anti-bolshevik cause louder, do it earlier, and expand it to include - though Hitler forbade it, a major roadblock - Slavs. Expatriate Russians (many many thousands left Russia during/after their Civil War following WW1). many Ukrainians (incl. Polish Ukrainians) would have served.
* Finally, arm your allies! Hungarian, Slovak, Romanian and Italian formations (and to a degree the non-German formations in the German army, plus the Finns) were under-armed for the eastern front. Find ways to do this and be creative, not greedy. Get French factories to build their tanks and trucks and artillery for the Romanians and Hungarians, perhaps. Take captured French materials and improve the material condition of the Romanian army (the largest axis army in this fight, behind Germany). Allow license-building of German equipment by Italians, Romanians, etc. Late in the war, the Hungarians designed and built their own medium tank due in part to the inability to get tanks from Germany (who needed all they could produce).

I don't think the above is enough to win, however.

Posted on Apr 1, 2012, 6:09:03 AM PDT
Hitlers timing of Barbarossa was impeccable (I think more by chance than design) as it caught Russia during a period of major transformation due to the lessons learned during the war against Finland and the Germans quick victory over the west. This meant, in particular reforming the Red Army's previously disbanded Soviet tank and mechanised divisions (and Corps)ASAP. Stalin was greatly surprised by the speed of the Wehrmachts victories and also fearful as he was counting on both sides bleeding each other for a while. He was running out of time, the Soviet armed forces had to change and change rapidly to become a more modern and much more effective army, this was further exacerbated by his purges removing invaluable experience, training and effecting the morale of the armed forces.
I personally believe that at some stage Stalin would have declared war on Germany, initiated by him when most advantageous.

I find it also incomprehensible that Hitler, wanting Lebensraum in the East, new that this inevitably meant war with the Soviet Union, but he did not use the time he had to better arm and prepare the Wehrmacht. He also should have prepared and helped industry to expand as much as (slave labor no problem in the Reich) possible while stockpiling key materials needed for war production while at the same time putting the Reich on a quiet war footing, before hostilites began and before his access to key materials and resources maybe be curtailed by the advent of war.
Having only slightly more than three thousand tanks and just over two hundred assault guns for Barbarossa was pathetic. Most of the tanks were either obsolescent or close to being so. The production rate was also very low, about 300 tanks per month by mid 1941 I believe and assault gun production was similarly low.
Now if you were Hitler (not a pleasant thought!), wouldnt you have increased production of the tanks most needed at all costs, particularly the upgunned pz3 (50mm) and pz4 (Long barrel 75mm and also fitted to the stugs) as well as more trucks, halftracks and self propelled/motorised artillery to support them. As for the airforce the same thing applied, (the UK was building more planes than Germany) too much to do with too little and no planning or direction.
By August/September of 1941 some of the panzer divisions were hardly worthy of the title. The most critical weapon (panzer divisions) that had the best chance of winning the war were starved of new equipment and ran on a logistical shoestring. It was just lucky for them that the Russians couldnt do much about this even though they tried.

It is also suprising that with the Germans experience of the Russians in WW1 and conditions there (roads and railways) that they seemed to be surprised by what they actually found. Logistics were the key but nothing much was done. I think some of Mr Adkins suggestions are worthy, maybe more transport planes also but still not going to be easy to fully supply the Wehrmacht (probably impossible). Unfortunately for the Reich the Russian beast under Stalin was vastly different to the one under Czar Nicholas. The whole rotten structure was not going to collapse at the first blow.

Another (weird?) idea I had was suppose Germany had sided (declared war on Japan) with the USA after the Japanese had attacked Pearl harbor. Improbable as it probably was what would the USA have done? Certainly couldnt hurt Germany and would have improved their chances of beating the Soviet Union.

Posted on Apr 2, 2012, 11:26:07 AM PDT
Agree with Mr. Dick here, that Germany's huge mistake was not going on a near-war footing soon. Of course it is costly - how to pay for it, how to balance civilian economy needs, etc. - but Hitler ALWAYS intended to go to war in the East.

So if nothing else, then do everything possible to prepare for that war, including more stockpiling at forward bases/depots in east, and definitely prioritize building of trucks and modern tanks. Take the older, smaller tanks (PzKw I, II and even IIIs, plus perhaps the Czech and French tanks) and move to replace them with modern Pz III and IV, and transfer the old tanks to Romania, Finland, Hungary.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 2, 2012, 6:02:42 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 2, 2012, 6:03:02 PM PDT
You've got to remember the Germans had no idea of the existance of the T-34 and the KV-1. They thought they were up against BT-5s, BT-7s and T26s which the PZ38s and PZIIIs with 37mm and short 50mm guns would have dealt with quite handily.

Posted on Apr 2, 2012, 6:20:17 PM PDT
In that you are correct - they didn't see the major jump forward in tank design that the Soviets had managed to pull off in secrecy. But i still contend that going into such a decisive war, you do everything you can to stack the deck, and for the Germans that means as many tanks as you can build, buy, upgrade, or capture. That means do what you can to make your allies as effective as possible. That means presume and prepare for setbacks and difficulties.

Actually another positive thing they could do is to plan ahead to send training teams to their allies to bolster their militaries. Make their allies more effective through training, ability to operate with the Germans well, and of course anything that can simplify logistics is a good thing, considering the awful state of roads in USSR.

Posted on Apr 2, 2012, 7:10:24 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 3, 2012, 12:32:46 AM PDT
I agree I think alot also could be done with the Italian military in regards to training and converting their factories to producing better equipment and (german designed tanks Pz3 &Pz4) tanks.
I think after the defeat of France by late June 1940 a great opportunity was missed by germany. Gibraltar and Particularly Malta needed to be captured asap. Italian adventurism needed to be curtailed until properly equipped with modern arms and trained with german assistance before any offensive in North Afrika with Rommel, definitely not in Albania.
Germany had to do, all it could to stay on friendly relations with the USA if possible, other wise US entry into the war doomed Germany to ultimate defeat. I mean especially the U-boat campaig causing American casualties and also the atrocities carried out by the nazis. Goebbels making propaganda/pleas about how Germany only wants peace with Britain and the Nazis light touch over occupied countries in Europe as an example to hopefully muddy the negative attitude to Germany.
Yugoslavia needed to be firmly in the Nazi sphere using any means possible to insure this, instead of backing out at the last minute. Greece did not matter but still keep friendly relations with their government just to keep that Southern flank secure.
If there is no balkan campaign then this would give Germany a chance to start barbarossa a little earlier, probably only 2 weeks, due to waiting for the weather to improve in eastern Europe as this effected roads and rivers etc.
It would mean no wear and tear on the Wehrmacht as historically happened and no delays in deploying for Barbarossa especially the 2 panzer division not included in barbarossa, I think it was the 2 & 5 with (I am on holidays overseas at the moment so cant check) about 450 tanks could be used. Maybe a thrust with these formations from Rumania North in the direction of Kiev could have broken up the resistance against army group south a lot quicker and reducing casualties.
Germany's parachutists and Brandenburgers could have been used far more aggressively to seize vital terrain,road junction and bridges as no Crete (better a Malta campaign) campaign inflicting large casualties.
Turkey could have been a useful during barbarossa but not quite sure what could have been done for them to become an active participant.
Finland should be provided with an armored force (200-300 tanks and support) to encourage a more aggressive attitude especially the quick capture of leningrad or its total isolation.

Posted on Apr 2, 2012, 10:11:45 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 2, 2012, 10:12:10 PM PDT
Jay says:
The Nazis actually decreased war production output after the Fall of France to past the first part of Barbarossa to boost up the domestic economy. How serious could they have been if they were scaling back war production while planning the largest invasion of the war?

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 2, 2012, 10:14:29 PM PDT
Jay says:
Not taking Leningrad so they could open up a Baltic supply route to the largest port and the railheads there was an odious mistake but consistent with their mentality that their blitz could win it all before those issues would start to matter

Posted on Apr 3, 2012, 12:19:59 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 3, 2012, 12:34:10 AM PDT
I agree Jay they certainly seemed to believe in the invincibility of the blitzkrieg solving all problems they faced. Taking Leningrad would not have been easy, it would have had to reply on speed and surprise to do it in quick time ( July/August) otherwise another "stalingrad" may have occurred inflicting losses they could ill afford. As for the war production focus of the nazis, this changed according to Hitlers whims. Another factor effecting war production was how the nazi empire was structured with competing prominent individual nazis and organisations all trying to garner more power and prestige and expanding their own empires causing waste and time delays. People seem to think the third reich was efficient it was not and far from it. There was no central body that controlled or oversaw production goals and priorities until after stalingrad when total war was declared. Just imagine what could have been if lets say about 1934/35 this body was created with total power over germany's production goals, priorities and distributing resources, manpower and transport accordingly.

Posted on Apr 16, 2012, 12:23:04 PM PDT
J. Beaver says:
How about not postponing Barbarossa, since Russia was their true target, in order to kick the crap out of Yugoslavia? Tito could've waited until Russia was conquered; it should've been a "mopping up" operation. Screwing with your war plan for the sake of a tantrum is just about the dumbest thing you can do. Hitler's "charisma" built his nation, and his megalomania broke it.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 16, 2012, 3:35:57 PM PDT
Plan for winter.

Posted on Apr 17, 2012, 1:26:54 AM PDT
Hello J Beaver
I believe Barbarossa was postponed for about 2-3 weeks mainly due to the weather conditions in eastern Europe at the time not because of the Balkan campaign. The Balkan campaign used only about 10-20 divisions of troops with a high proportion of motorised/armored divisions in a campaign that lasted more than a month to conquer Yugoslavia and Greece. This secured Hitlers South Eastern front causing heavy British/Commonwealth losses but badly damaging Hitlers parachutists and losses in transports. Not a major concern I would think even though some divisions were late in deploying for Barbarossa due to losses and transportation problems. It would have been better for Germany to make sure Yugoslavia stayed allied with Hitlers Third Reich somehow. Italian "adventurism" in the Balkans did not help either.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 17, 2012, 12:08:55 PM PDT
F. Gleaves says:
The losses on Crete delayed an airborne invasion of Malta. That was finally supposed to take place in June 1942 with the aid of two new Italian parachute brigades, but only the Folgore Brigade was ready and was sent to El Alamein instead. They turned out to be great night fighters and shot the hell out of the French Foreign Legion there.

Posted on Apr 17, 2012, 1:13:41 PM PDT
J. Beaver says:

re:Italian "adventurism" in the Balkans did not help either.

That insightful comment really puts the finger on a major issue, namely ideological divisions within the Axis alliance. Was the alliance more for propaganda value than material advantage, do you suppose? It didn't seem that Germany and Italy were ever on the same page, tactically or strategically. The Allied strategy seems to support this. They didn't try to fight the Axis as a solitary cohesive unit, but attacked its disparate parts as the unique entities they were.

I suspect that many German allies were simply trying to hitch their wagon to a rising star, without realizing what they would be dragged into. Fascist propaganda convinced them that the Reich was unbeatable, so even when fighting began, they probably had little concern but that Germany would pull their bacon out of the fire. Did having to rescue its allies, rather than relying on them to cover Germany's back, and the consequent diversion of resources become a major factor in the failure to conquer Russia? Personally, I still subscribe to the notion that the Russian winter was the primary culprit, but I suspect the fractious nature of the Axis alliance was a factor in terms of the war's "big picture".
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