Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Richard Sorge, Master Spy

Richard Sorge spy worldwartwo.filminspector.com


Richard Sorge is one of those names that many students of World War II read, see that he was a Soviet spy who snooped on secret German communications, and then move on to more exciting topics. That is how he goes down in the history books: one of Stalin's sources of Japanese intentions before Pearl Harbour.

Richard Sorge spy worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Sorge in 1933

Sorge, though, is not some minor figure of the war. Arguably, he is the most effective spy in modern history, the one who affected real-world outcomes more than anyone else. His story also, like so many others, offers a window into the granular level of World War II.

Richard Sorge spy worldwartwo.filminspector.com


The youngest of nine children, Sorge was born in 1895 in the settlement of Sabunchi, a suburb of Baku, Baku Governorate of the Russian Empire (modern Azerbaijan). His father was Wilhelm Richard Sorge, who passed away in 1907, a German mining engineer employed by the Caucasian Oil Company. Wilhelm had married a local Russian girl, Nina Semionovna Kobieleva. Wilhelm kept his family in Russia for only a few years, then the family moved back to Germany.

Richard Sorge spy worldwartwo.filminspector.com


According to Sorge:
"The one thing that made my life a little different from the average was a strong awareness of the fact that I had been born in the southern Caucasus and that we had moved to Berlin when I was very small."
Having lived in such a remote area made the Sorge household "very different from the average bourgeois home in Berlin."

Richard Sorge spy worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Sorge (Ang, Federal Archive)

Sorge enlisted in the German Army in October 1914, and was severely wounded by shrapnel in March 1916. He then went to university in Berlin and received his doctorate in Economics. After joining the German Communist party, he lost his jobs and moved to Moscow, where he joined the Comintern. For the rest of the 1930s, he moved between various European countries posing as a journalist. Ultimately, in 1929, his paymasters in Moscow told him to join the NSDAP and pose as a loyal Party member.

Richard Sorge spy worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Agnes Smedley

Sorge contributed to the Frankfurter Zeitung as an agricultural writer. In February 1930, he went to Shanghai to study and report on rice breeding techniques, as there was great interest in German rice fields. He soon met Agnes Smedley, an attractive lady, feminist and committed Communist who he dated but who, more importantly for our purposes, also was a Soviet/German spy. She introduced him to the prestigious Japanese newspaper, Asahi Shimbun, and its journalist Hozumit Ozaki. Through her he also met Hanako Ishii, with whom he also had a relationship. Sorge was broadening his contacts.


Richard Sorge spy worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Ursula Ruth Kuczynski

Sorge was given the code name "Ramsay" ("Рамзай" Ramzai, Ramzay) and was asked to obtain information on the national government of Chiang Kai -shek due to increasing Sino-Japanese tensions. He worked with Max Klausen, officially a sales manager at a Hamburg art design office in China who secretly happened to be a telegraph operator. He mapped out the position of the Chinese Communists and talked with British and American intelligence agents about Chinese intentions. He got his first big intelligence break there when a half- drunk member of Japan's Military Intelligence (posing as a trade representative) told Sorge in in the summer of 1931 that the Japanese army (without the permission of their emperor) would invade Manchuria within weeks. This was contrary to everything Sorge's superiors at GRU headquarters believed, but when it happened, Sorge gained credibility. However, the Soviet spy service distrusted everyone, so they sent out a troubleshooter, Ursula Ruth Kuczynski, to check him out. Apparently, they had an affair that summer, then she returned to Moscow and verified his abilities.

Richard Sorge spy worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Hozumit Ozaki

He met his future wife, Yekaterina Maximova ("Katya"), in China. He was sent back to Germany to maintain contacts there and frequent beerhalls to see what he could learn about German intentions, then returned to Japan. As one of the few Germans in Japan, he became a familiar sight at the German embassy and earned their trust. He disobeyed Soviet orders to return to Moscow in 1937, which probably saved his life (others who returned were shot in Stalin's purges), which probably contributed to Stalin's initial distrust of his later intelligence.

Richard Sorge spy worldwartwo.filminspector.com


Sorge was a bon vivant who organized huge parties of 80-100 people, at which there was extensive drugs, drinking (which he participated in heartily), prostitutes and associated shenanigans. Being isolate, the European community developed strong ties in Japan, and this provided a valuable source of information. Sorge himself did not drink, the better to gather intelligence and not betray his own position. Sorge told Hede Massing, an Austrian actress turned Soviet agent who later defected and moved to America, about his abstemious nature in the German beer halls:
"That was the bravest thing I ever did. Never will I be able to drink enough to make up for this time."
Richard Sorge spy worldwartwo.filminspector.com


Massing herself described Sorge, apparently referencing something something someone else had said, as follows:
Physically, Sorge was a big man, tall and handsome, brown hair. His brow was creased and furrowed and his face lined. From a glance at his face you could tell that he had lived a hard and rough life. There was no arrogance or cruelty to the set of his eyes and the lines of his mouth.
Richard Sorge spy worldwartwo.filminspector.com


Oberstleutnant (Lieutenant-Colonel) Erwin Scholl, the deputy military attaché at the German embassy, ultimately spilled the beans to Sorge about Operation Barbarossa, and Sorge forwarded the information on to Moscow. Supposedly, Stalin said at the time:
"There's this [guy] who's set up factories and brothels in Japan and even deigned to report the date of the German attack as 22 June. Are you suggesting I should believe him too?"
It is unclear if Sorge ever got the exact date right, but he sure was spot on about the invasion. Once again, he had burnished his reliability.

Richard Sorge spy worldwartwo.filminspector.com
A memorial to Sorge (Eva Bruggman, Federal Archives)

Hotsumi Ozaki and Kinkazu Saionji, another local journalist Sorge had met, were instrumental in more than just finding things out.. Ozaki became an adviser to Prince Konoye, while Saionji was a member of the group that met every morning with the Imperial Cabinet to discuss the international politics of the day. Both began broadly hinting that, without an attack on western forces, there wouldn't be enough oil for Japan to fight a war. Russia did not have any oilfields within the grasp of the Japanese army. The Japanese military, which had wanted to attack the Soviet Union, began to reconsider.

Richard Sorge spy worldwartwo.filminspector.com
A memorial to Sorge. The holes are meant to represent his being shot as a spy.

Sorge told Stalin that Imperial Japan, despite its alliance with Germany, would focus its troops on the war effort in China as well as making inroads into Southeast Asia and the Pacific. Any decision to open a new front against the Soviets would be contingent on how swiftly the German offensive in Russia succeeded. In September 1941, he cabled Stalin that:
"In the careful judgment of all of us here…the possibility of [Japan] launching an attack [on the U.S.S.R.], which existed until recently, has disappeared."

Richard Sorge spy worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Richard Sorge Strasse

By 14 September 1941, Stalin was ready to accept Sorge's intelligence that Japan was not in a position to attack the Soviet Union. Specifically, he proclaimed that the Japanese would not attack the USSR unless Moscow was captured, the Kwantung Army was three times the size of Soviet Far Eastern forces, and a civil war had started in Siberia. Since none of these things was likely, Stalin felt free to start transferring Siberian divisions west, just in time to defend Moscow in December.
"In the next two months, 15 infantry divisions, 3 cavalry divisions, 1,700 tanks, and 1,500 aircraft moved from the Soviet Far East to the European front," wrote historian Stuart Goldman. "It was these powerful reinforcements that turned the tide in the Battle of Moscow in the first week of December 1941, at the same time Japan attacked Pearl Harbor."

Richard Sorge spy worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Sorge as a young man

Sorge also reportedly told Stalin that the Japanese would attack the USSR as soon as the Germans captured any cities on the Volga. The Volga, of course, was the demarcation of Europe and Asia, and if the Germans got across it, they could have advanced over vast distances virtually unopposed. Stalin thus had extra incentive to defend Stalingrad, the first city on the lower Volga under attack by the Germans.

The Ribbentrop Birthday Card


According to a May 2015 article in the Asahi Shimbun, one of Japan's leading dailies, Yoshio Okudaira, a bookstore employee, found a signed 1938 letter from Germany's then Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop. Ribbentrop himself was a new appointee in 1938 and probably was busy asserting his new position to Foreign Ministry friends around the world. Since Sorge was not actually a government employee, however, the card was a bit unusual.

Richard Sorge spy worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The Ribbentrop birthday card

The Ribbentrop greeting card to Sorge, who at the time was posted in Japan as a reporter for a German newspaper, was perfunctory and prepared by a secretary. Ribbentrop's letter likely was done at the behest of the German ambassador in Japan, Eugen Ott, who was a close friend of Sorge. It congratulated Sorge on the occasion of his 43rd birthday and praised him for his "outstanding contribution" as a part-time press officer to the German Embassy in Tokyo. It is a sign of the degree to which Sorge had his German sources duped.


2015

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Heinz Guderian - The Very Image of a Modern Major General

Guderian: The Most Modern Major General of World War II?

German General Heinz Guderian worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Fast Heinz.

"In fact, when I know what is meant by "mamelon" and "ravelin",
When I can tell at sight a Mauser rifle from a javelin,
When such affairs as sorties and surprises I'm more wary at,
And when I know precisely what is meant by "commissariat",
When I have learnt what progress has been made in modern gunnery,
When I know more of tactics than a novice in a nunnery –
In short, when I've a smattering of elemental strategy – (bothered for a rhyme)
You'll say a better Major-General has never sat a gee.

"For my military knowledge, though I'm plucky and adventury,
Has only been brought down to the beginning of the century;
But still, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral,
I am the very model of a modern Major-General."

- Gilbert and Sullivan, "The Pirates of Penzance."

German General Heinz Guderian worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Heinz Guderian.

That the Germans of the Third Reich - the loyal ones - were brutal monsters who caused death and destruction everywhere they went is beyond argument. There are no redeeming features to the brutality that they spread across a continent, they caused too much suffering even to be pitied, much less admired.

German General Heinz Guderian worldwartwo.filminspector.com
After the war, Heinz Guderian wrote memoirs that are incisive and relatable.

However, here and there appears a figure from that morass of depravity and intolerance who at least has a few human qualities that can be appreciated from a distance. Call it the common touch, call it personality, call it charisma, call it what you will - it is undeniable if you feel it.

German General Heinz Guderian worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The General being decorated, 1939, Halder in the foreground, Hoth behind.

Heinz Wilhelm Guderian (17 June 1888 – 14 May 1954), in my estimation, was one such man. There is much talk about the best this and the best that, and I must admit that it is going just a bit too far to say that Guderian was the best General, even the best German General. Rommel was better at leading from the front, Manstein was better at textbook attacks, Hoth was better at fluid, dirty dust-ups, Heinrici was better at the defense, Model was better at converting disaster into opportunity - and that is just on the German side.

German General Heinz Guderian worldwartwo.filminspector.com

To put it politely, Heinz Guderian was not a master strategist like a Manstein. What Guderian was best at is a little more difficult to quantify. While he may not have been the best general of the war, he was the most, well, ironic general.

German General Heinz Guderian worldwartwo.filminspector.com


He seemed to know it was all rubbish, but it was his only rubbish, and he was going to be the best in the world at his own particular pile of rubbish come what may.

German General Heinz Guderian worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Here, Adolf Hitler is inspecting the old front line trenches of his Bavarian 16th Reserve Regiment. I've never seen the officer in front of him identified, but from the characteristic mouth puckering, I would wager it is Guderian, who does not appear to be enjoying this stomping about in the mud on a pointless sentimental journey. It stands to reason that it is him, since his units took possession of that area.

No, that is not a quality that you will find in the Code of Military Regulations or in your standard forum run-down of 'best this or that' where everyone has an opinion based on something they read or think they know about this battle or that, but it is something you may begin to notice if you study the man.

German General Heinz Guderian worldwartwo.filminspector.com

Guderian was from Kulm, now Chelmno, Poland. He was a military brat, one of those insufferable fools who wound up as a cadet in the outfit of his own father and thus, no doubt, received all sorts of special treatment. Naturally, as a scion of Prussian arms, he wound up at the Metz war academy and graduated in 1908 as a Leutnant.

German General Heinz Guderian worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Guderian in 1908

World War I was kind to Guderian. He began it as a Signals Officer in the 5th Cavalry Division, and finished it on the General Staff Corps. That may not sound like such a big deal, but during World War I, it was like being the first man on Mars. "The proudest moment of my life," he later recalled, and he meant it. Any other soldier would have said the same thing.

German General Heinz Guderian worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Common parade of German Wehrmacht and Soviet Red Army on 23 September 1939 in Brest, Eastern Poland at the end of the Invasion of Poland. At centre is Major General Heinz Guderian and at right is Brigadier Semyon Krivoshein.

However, Guderian was no wallflower. He was disputatious, and that was not a quality treasured in Ludendorff's command castle. Guderian soon was banished to the army intelligence department, which from the war results never got much of a workout from 1914-1918. Still, it kept Heinz busy and out of everyone's hair.

German General Heinz Guderian worldwartwo.filminspector.com

German soldiers were never very happy between wars, or at least that is how it appears from their biographies. Most likely due to his stint on the General Staff, Guderian was retained in the Reichswehr (Army) in the rump force permitted by the Treaty of Versailles. This practically assured that he would become a major figure in World War II, because those so selected - only 4,000 officers - had a huge head start on everyone else and no interruption in their careers.

German General Heinz Guderian worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Lieutenant Colonel Heinz Guderian (right) with other officers on the Western Front, 1915.

Promotions followed - slowly - and Guderian wound up on the General Staff again, though this time it wasn't called that because the General Staff had been outlawed. In 1927, Guderian was almost randomly given command of Army transport and motorized tactics in Berlin - heck, someone had to do it - and this provided the springboard for his later fame.

German General Heinz Guderian worldwartwo.filminspector.com

Besides being in the right time at the right place, Guderian also understood English and French to a certain extent. This proved quite handy, as the British at that time were considered the leaders in armoured warfare, so their writings on the subject were quite useful. The sad truth from the German perspective was that German tanks were a joke. The few that were built during the Great War resembled Bavarian castles and accomplished virtually nothing on the battlefield, with no mobility and little firepower.

German General Heinz Guderian worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Hitler in Poland by Heinrich Hoffmann -- General of Armored troops Guderian making his report.

Most likely because of his ability to read these foreign works and implement their ideas, Guderian showed special aptitude with the glorified tractors that constituted tanks in those days and was promoted to become the chief of staff to the Inspectorate of Motorized Troops. He began not only reading papers on armoured warfare, but writing them. His theories were tested in secret war games held in the Soviet Union of all places.

German General Heinz Guderian worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Quite probably the most widely read and admired war manual ever written. Guderian's books are well worth picking up.



His superiors noticed Guderian's growing competence at handling tanks, and in October 1935 he was promoted to command of the 2nd Panzer Division. This was another huge leap forward in his career, as there were only three such divisions in the entire Wehrmacht and Goering was still relatively young. During this time, he wrote a classic manual on tanks called "Achtung - Panzer!" that was published in 1937 and which you can buy from Amazon. It not only served as the foundation of the later Blitzkrieg, but remained popular in stores around the world for decades after the war (I know, because I saw them on the racks).

German General Heinz Guderian worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Panzer General Guderian (far right) and Red Army Commander Vladimir Yulianovich Borovitsky at Brest on September 21, 1939. They are working out the German and Soviet boundary demarcation of occupied Poland and a joint military parade the two nations are about to hold.

The kernel of Guderian's theory was brilliant in its simplicity. There was a lot of confusion during the interwar years about how best to use tanks, confusion which wreaked havoc in the Soviet tank forces. Should they be in their own formations, or spread out throughout the army to help out the common grunts? Guderian solved this question once and for all, and he got it right the first time. It was one of the most perceptive solutions to a military problem in the history of warfare.

German General Heinz Guderian worldwartwo.filminspector.com
German Generals Heinz Guderian and Reinhardt, Karlsbad, Sudetenland, Germany, circa Oct 1938. Heinz appears to be in a good mood (Ang, Federal Archive).

The answer that Guderian came up with was to concentrate all available armoured power in one gigantic convulsive thrust designed to punch a hole through the enemy lines. The tanks then would be followed by the infantry and artillery. This breakthrough point was called the "point of attack" ("Schwerpunkt"). Rather than have the tanks alone, however, Guderian devised an "all arms" strategy whereby the panzers would be accompanied by sufficient additional troops and arms to magnify the effect of their firepower and rapidly expand the breakthrough.

German General Heinz Guderian worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"Fast Heinz" Guderian in his command vehicle during the invasion of France. This photo clearly shows the Enigma machine which was essential to the Blitzkrieg - and also, unknown to the Germans, its Achilles Heel.

The key to the whole thing was communication with and between the troops to exploit fleeting opportunity. This remained German doctrine until the final days of the war, though it became less effective with time. These tactics were adopted by virtually every other army as well, though the Soviets often used another strategy which more resembled the Ludendorff strategy of 1918 which involved successive blows over a broad front.

German General Heinz Guderian worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Guderian at his command truck during the Battle of France, communicating by Enigma machine (Erich Borchert, Federal Archive)

By the time of the Polish campaign in September 1939, Guderian was in charge of the XIX Corps. The invasion was swiftly completed, and Guderian, who had personally showed Hitler some of the results, then switched over to the Western Front. His Corps burst through the French at the traditional site of French defeat, Sedan, and continued straight on to the coast. It all happened so fast that Guderian earned the nickname "Schneller Heinz" ("Hurry-up Heinz"), commonly translated as "Fast Heinz." Guderian was in position to destroy the British at Dunkirk, but Hitler issued his infamous stop order and Guderian was denied the glory of the kill.

German General Heinz Guderian worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Guderian at a map briefing in Russia, 1941

After a year's rest along with the rest of the army, Guderian went east again. Now he was in command of an entire Panzergruppe named after him (later renamed Second Panzer Army). These Panzer Armies were the most fearsome forces of their day when at full strength, and remained powerful to the end of the conflict. Guderian led a rapid advance in the middle of the line, but there were so many Russians to capture that the speed of the attack quickly fell off. Large Soviet forces were making an obstinate - but obviously hopeless - stand at Kiev off his right flank. Guderian wanted to leave them to static troops to capture, and Hitler ordered Guderian to break off the advance and help capture the city with his mobile units. As usual, Hitler could not resist the prestige of bagging a major Soviet city quickly despite the cost, a dangerous tendency which would later show up at Stalingrad. It was a militarily expedient but strategically disastrous decision.

German General Heinz Guderian worldwartwo.filminspector.com
General Heinz Guderian, commander of Germany's Panzergruppe 2, chats with members of a tank crew on the Russian front. September 3, 1941. (AP Photo)

Guderian knew that breaking off the advance on Moscow was a terrible decision and made sure that everyone else knew it, too. He was still the obstinate fool who had been such a nuisance on the General Staff during the Great War, and being right was no excuse for being rude to his superiors. He half-heartedly sent some forces south while keeping many on the road to Moscow. This whole process wasted weeks of perfect campaigning weather and allowed the Soviets temporarily to regain the initiative in the center of the line. Finally, with the weather starting to turn, Kiev was done - huge bags of Soviet prisoners were sent back to the camps - and Guderian had the chance to head back to the real prize: Moscow.

German General Heinz Guderian worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Guderian with Hermann Hoth, Russia, Summer of 1941. Guderian and Hoth were two of the best tank commanders of all time, and both suffered huge career reverses due tangentially to action around Kiev. (Vorpahl, Federal Archive)

Guderian drove up hard from the south, and managed to get his forces further east than anyone else. However, dug-in Soviet forces remained a stubborn irritant in his left flank at Tula, and an annoying river still stood between him and Moscow. The Soviets had built a ring of defenses around the city using all the inhabitants they could find. Ultimately, the attack faltered and then failed as equipment froze and supplies grew thin.

German General Heinz Guderian worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Soviet troops in a trench outside Moscow

Many ascribe the failure to Stalin's importation of Siberian troops, but the attack had stalled even before most of them began fighting. Overall, it must be stated that the Soviet army and troops handled the winter conditions much better than the Germans - after all, it was equally cold on both sides of the line.

German General Heinz Guderian worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Heinz Guderian gives a speech to the workers of the Henschel factory from the deck of one of the Tiger Tanks they produced. Kassel, 1943

Hitler futilely ordered the troops to "stand fast," a tactic that actually sometimes worked during 1941 but seldom thereafter. Guderian, however, firmly believed doing that would lead to catastrophe, especially for his exposed forces. He retreated despite the orders to remain in place after a row at the Fuhrer bunker, using his usual veiled tactical movements to frustrate the orders from above that he had perfected during the summer. His superior, Feldmarschall Günther von Kluge, the commander of Army Group Centre, called him on it. Guderian was insulted and asked to be relieved. Hitler, in no mood to coddle even his best Generals while the entire Front was falling apart, granted his request at Christmas-time, 1941. Guderian went home "in disgrace."

German General Heinz Guderian worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Luftwaffe ace Werner Molders and Heinz Guderian, July 1941

Once again, being right was no defense. Guderian remained in the reserve pool - effectively unemployed - while German forces surged forward everywhere in mid-1942. Erwin Rommel understood the talent of his former commander on the West Front and recommended Guderian to replace him in September 1942 when Rommel fell ill. The Fuhrer was still in no mood to forgive Guderian, and the request was peremptorily denied.

German General Heinz Guderian worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Guderian discusses strategy with General Wenck toward the end of the war.

Stalingrad at the end of the year changed everyone's attitude, especially the Fuhrer's. Hitler realized that the 'fat was in the fire' and sent for Guderian. The army had noticed that German tanks and tactics were losing their superiority over the Soviets, and Hitler figured that what was needed was someone to reorganize the panzer arm. Guderian drew up a list of demands for his re-employment, and Hitler - obviously under tremendous strain after Stalingrad, for he never accepted such a thing before or after - agreed to them. Guderian became Inspector General of Armoured Troops," a somewhat nebulous position that gave him the authority to direct tank production and up-gunning of current tanks. Unfortunately for the German effort, it did not give him control over assault guns such as the Stug III and Hummel, which were increasingly popular weapons because they were cheap and effective. They remained the preserve of the artillery.

German General Heinz Guderian worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Guderian hands out awards to soldiers, March 1945 (Ang, Federal Archives)

The other Generals who did not respect him like Rommel all hated Guderian. He was a cantankerous (no pun intended) grump who met resistance everywhere. However, he was successful in rebuilding the Panzer forces, an achievement capped by the stunningly quick development of the Panther tank (Panzer V), often considered the best tank of the entire war, and the Tiger (Panzer VI). Both went from paper to battlefield use in about a year, at a time when tanks invariably took years to work up. It was one of the dramatic successes of the war by German industry and had a very real effect on the course of the war.

German General Heinz Guderian worldwartwo.filminspector.com
This is an original color photograph taken by Walter Frentz (1907-2004) of (left to right) Heinz Guderian, Adolf Hilter, and Wilhelm Keitel, along with others at the Rügenwalde testing grounds, Germany, 18-19 Mar 1943. Guderian has the whole pimp daddy look going on with that collar, he looks like he should be sitting in a 1970s caddy. 

Guderian opposed the attack on Kursk in July 1943 because it was a clear mis-use of mobile forces against solidly prepared defenses, but the attack went forward anyway. After its inevitable failure, the panzer arm was in a shambles and the retreat was on. Guderian continued his effective work with the panzer arm, but Hitler loved to interfere in weapons development, usually with deleterious effects. Hitler, for instance, loved big guns, but Guderian knew that the Germans needed more guns, not bigger ones. If Guderian had his way, the Wehrmacht would have been supplied with more standardized weapons of fewer basic types, and generations of subsequent model-kit builders would have had much less material with which to work.

German General Heinz Guderian worldwartwo.filminspector.com

After the failure of the 20 July 1944 bomb plot on Hitler, which Guderian quite likely knew about but did nothing to stop, Guderian was summoned to Rastenburg and appointed Chief of Staff of the Army. It was a prestigious position, but under Hitler practically irrelevant. Hitler made his own decisions, and he decided everything. Guderian became just another guy in the room who only could oppose the Fuhrer, and that was never the guy you really wanted to be.

German General Heinz Guderian worldwartwo.filminspector.com

The war situation drifted on to its inevitable conclusion, and Guderian showed only that he was a better battlefront commander than swivel-chair strategist. Guderian eventually lost all patience and practically demanded his own dismissal by getting into a loud and obstinate argument with the Fuhrer. Hitler, though, rather than dismissing Guderian, simply put him on leave, but the war was over and Hitler dead before the leave was over. It was but the last of the many times that Guderian had argued with Hitler to his face, but Hitler knew the value of Guderian and tolerated his challenges as with no other General.

German General Heinz Guderian worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Guderian wrote only two books, but they are both classics of the genre.


Guderian surrendered on 10 May 1945, and was held in custody until 17 June 1948. He was never charged with war crimes, and British veterans took a liking to Fast Heinz. He consulted on the reorganization of the post-war army, the Bundeswehr, which was a big deal due to its status as the front line against the Soviet army. His classic memoirs, "Panzer Leader," were published in 1952 and you can buy them from Amazon. Heinz Guderian passed away at a scenic spot near Füssen, the site of the famous Neuschwanstein Castle, on 14 May 1954. His son, General Heinz-Günther, carried on the family's military tradition.

German General Heinz Guderian grave worldwartwo.filminspector.com




2015


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Berlin Right after the Fall

post-war Berlin 1945 worldwartwo.filminspector.com

Berlin in the days and months and even years after the fall of the Third Reich is a huge topic. Rather than try to tackle every aspect, here is an overview.

post-war Berlin 1945 worldwartwo.filminspector.com

Berlin was functioning right through the ground battle for the city. The subways still ran, the streetcars were still in service. However, the city was completely destroyed.

post-war Berlin 1945 worldwartwo.filminspector.com

The thing to remember is that much of the destruction took place in the final weeks. Until 22 November 1943, in fact, Berlin was largely (no, not entirely) untouched by the war. That winter, however, the British resumed the bombing of Berlin that it had suspended in 1941.

post-war Berlin 1945 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Charlottenburg, Berlin 1945

Residents remember that as the start of the 'end,' before then, life had proceeded reasonably normally with parties and outings to the park and fairly modest destruction.

Berlin 3 July 1945 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
German women doing their washing at a cold water hydrant in a Berlin street. A knocked-out German scout car stands beside them, 3 July 1945.

Massive Allied bombing in 1945, with the Luftwaffe virtually grounded through lack of fuel, and Soviet artillery firing at point-blank range finished the job.

post-war Berlin 1945 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Pictures of the Reichstag are a tiny bit misleading, because it had been burnt down before the war. However, it is representative of what happened to the city as a whole.

Berlin looks great today. There certainly are memorials, and you can most definitely see reminders of the war here and there. For the most part, however, Berlin is completely rebuilt. It is easy to imagine, though, that the post-war buildings do not convey the charm of the pre-war city.

post-war Berlin 1945 worldwartwo.filminspector.com

The Soviet troops took over all governmental functions by July 1945. That included female Soviet soldiers directing traffic and so forth. Stalin had agreed to divide Berlin with the United States, Great Britain and France in exchange for concessions elsewhere, a decision he later bitterly regretted and tried to nullify. However, eventually the western powers took over their sections and the division of Berlin into east and west began.

post-war Berlin 1945 worldwartwo.filminspector.com

Many Soviet women were highly decorated, including some who became Heroes of the Soviet Union, the top award. Those who received it were granted a lifetime pension, and a bust of them was placed somewhere in their hometown. Usually, a soldier had to risk their life repeatedly or comply with an order to "take this or that place fast" in order to achieve it.

post-war Berlin 1945 worldwartwo.filminspector.com

Where there are young men and single women, there will be fraternization. Officially, it was forbidden. Before you say, "How horrible, just let them have some fun," it wasn't always so innocent. One of the American jailers at Spandau Prison later related a story of how he was seduced by a German girl who convinced him to smuggle some "medicine" to Hermann Goering. A few weeks later, nobody could figure out where the condemned Reichsmarschal obtained the poison with which he committed suicide. So, it went on despite the rules and occasional punishment even under the strictest security. Call it "friendly chatting." In the two years following the end of the war, GI applications for marrying German women increased manifold. That's a whole lot of chatting.

American GIs talk with young German ladies in Berlin's Tiergarden in August 1945. A group of Soviet soldiers is in the background, also with some frauleins.

Not everybody was thrilled by what was going on. Some unidentified boys give the cameraman the "look" in a street scene, below. it does not take much imagination to conjure up what they had probably been through a few months before, and what the fate of their fathers had been.

post-war Berlin 1945 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
These boys look a little out of place in street clothes.

Berlin, of course, was set up into occupation zones controlled by the Americans, British, Soviets and French. This was agreed to long before the city was captured, and Stalin agreed to it due to a transfer of territory elsewhere in exchange for turning over this valuable property to the western Allies.

A common scene after the war - "Who Knows Him?" Herr Kruger apparently was last seen in Poland as the Soviets swept around his position.

Stalin held all the cards. He had a million men on the Oder River line before the US was even across the Rhine. This was the biggest reason why Eisenhower never, at any point, pinpointed Berlin as a major target of American and British forces - he never had the slightest chance of taking it anyway. Stalin wanted it, and Stalin got it.

post-war Berlin 1945 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Aerial view of Tempelhof Airport after the fall of the capital. It became the terminus of the Berlin Airlift after the war.

The sectors at first were wide open to people crossing between them, but Stalin later changed his mind about the Allied presence. He tried to force the western Allies out by blockading all land routes to Berlin (he controlled all of the territory surrounding the city).

post-war Berlin 1945 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Pictures of the aftermath usually don't include shots of the wounded, but this nicely captures the reality of what the war did to those who survived.

Through the Berlin Airlift, the Americans and others managed to remain. Stalin, though, began to notice that people were leaving his zone and walking over to the American, French and British zones. But the solution to that would come much later.

post-war Berlin 1945 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
This boy has good posture - the posture of a former soldier.

Below is the best video I have ever seen - and I have seen a few - of Berlin right after the fall of the Third Reich. It is nicely in color, and gives various perspectives.


post-war Berlin 1945 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
A street mannequin catches the attention of the MPs.

One can only imagine the thoughts of the common people, reduced to penury, as they reflected upon the recent Hitler  regime. Above, a shop mannequin is placed in a (highly illegal) posture on a dirty public street, no doubt as a bit of a joke. The MPs are there to take it down, first taking a picture of this sign of "subversion" for the files. The women in the horse and buggy - gasoline was not readily available for non-military people - are no doubt feeling pretty good about having any ride at all.

post-war Berlin 1945 worldwartwo.filminspector.com

If you are curious how Berlin got that way, the video below is a good introduction.





2015