Hitler’s biggest mistake?

Watching the preview for Valkryie has got me diving back into my WWII library: am (re)reading Bevin Alexander’s How Hitler Could Have Won World War II (I love titles that get straight to the point). The core of the argument is essentially a rehash of the advice that Raeder gave Hitler in 1940: delay a reckoning with Russia and turn south instead by taking Gibraltar and turning the Mediterranean into an Axis lake. By dedicating a fraction of the forces earmarked for Barbarossa, Germany could have driven into Egypt and onward into the MidEast oil fields. At that point, Russia could have been attacked from both the west AND south, and Britain might have thrown in the towel anyway.

And with 20/20 hindsight, that’s kinda hard to argue with. (Though I should note I tried wargaming this approach in Third Reich a few years back, and it was a complete disaster. Then again, most of these “strategy” games are designed to make it very difficult to stray from the actual way events unfolded.) Still, I gotta admit I’ve always thought that Germany’s decision to go east in 1941 wasn’t anywhere near as mad as the results would seem to indicate. Most of the people saying it was an Incredibly Dumb Idea miss some all-too-basic points, but I’ll save those for a later post. . .

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3 Responses to “Hitler’s biggest mistake?”

  1. Seguleh Says:

    Well, there’s another point of view… Hitler had to attack Russia as Stalin was massing supplies etc on the borders :))

  2. Paul Says:

    His biggest mistake was turning on London during the Battle of Britain. Having then knocked out Britain from the war, there wouldn’t have been an African campaign or such a need to fortify much of the Adriatic countries. America’s entry into the war would have been incredibly difficult with no where to land in Europe and a long distance land invasion is basically impossible. With Europe pretty much knocked out, Hitler would have had one distinct advantage – a war on one front where he could concentrate his entire mlitary force.

    The war with Russia would have been very different with much higher Russian losses considering a much more powerful German force. Even if Hitler had invaded Moscow and other important points, Hitler would have eventually lost because with the size of Russia, it’s impossible to conquer so i believe that regardless of what mistake Hitler made, Russia would have still won eventually but at a much higher cost.

  3. David Williams Says:

    @Paul: I would agree that had he kept up against the airfields/radar, history might have gone very differently. Though I don’t think that the war with Russia was inevitably doomed either way. Consider: Germany knocked Russia out of WWI, there was no reason to think the same wouldn’t be possible this time around too.

    @ Seguleh: Good point: Stalin wasn’t about to attack, but he was certainly biding his time to do so when the moment arose. His forces were caught on June 22nd neither fully deployed in offensive nor defensive formations. Pleshakov’s STALIN’s FOLLY is worth reading in this regard.