Hitler had to decide between two alternatives

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2023

With America’s entry into the war, Hitler had to decide between continuing the attack on the Soviet Union or going on the defensive there, Bevin Alexander explains (in How Hitler Could Have Won World War II), and keeping American and British forces away from the continent of Europe:

For Admiral Erich Raeder, the choice was easy. On February 13, 1942, he proposed that Germany’s primary military tasks should be for Rommel to drive through Egypt to the Middle East, while the army in Russia did only two things: capture Murmansk and close that ice-free port to Allied convoys, and drive into the Caucasus to seize Soviet oil wells. After that the way would be clear to cross into Iran, close off that supply line to Russia, and join up with Rommel. Meanwhile, German war production should be shifted over predominately to the navy and air force to build more submarines and other vessels and aircraft to interdict the flow of supplies from America.

Hitler made it clear that he wanted first to destroy the Red Army and eliminate its sources of strength:

After that, other courses might be followed. But for now, the Ostheer — or army in the east — was to receive priority, and the German economy was to be directed at rearming this army, not at building a great U-boat fleet and air force, and not at reinforcing Rommel.


  1. W2 says:

    As long as Vladivostok was open, none of that would have mattered anyway.

  2. McChuck says:

    @ W2 – Look at a map. Do you really believe that US merchantmen would be allowed passage into the middle of the Sea of Japan in 1942?

  3. Jim says:

    Herr Hitler failed to appreciate the peril of the Department of State: exhibit one thousand four hundred four score and eight.

  4. James Wright says:

    He was an ass to attack western Europe before he made sure of the USSR. That was his mistake, long before Japan attacked the US and drew the isolationist nation into the war.

    Japan was an ass for attacking the US before seizing what it wanted from the USSR first. Japan wanted a lot from the USSR and was stupid for its choices.

  5. Gavin Longmuir says:

    James W.: “He [Hitler] was an ass to attack western Europe before he made sure of the USSR.”

    Remember the situation. England & France had declared war on Germany the previous year in 1939 — although they had then sat on their hands and done nothing much to make actual war on Germany. This was the now often-ignored nearly year-long Phony War.

    How could Germany attack east to the USSR when it had self-declared belligerents at its back on its western border? It probably seemed like a rational decision from Germany’s perspective to take out those apparently-incapable declared enemies on the west before attacking its nominal ally on the east.

    One of many unanswerable questions is what Germany would have done if those virtue-signaling English & French had not declared war on Germany? Ex-President Hoover’s assessment was that Germany really intended to focus on the USSR; England & France had foolishly interrupted that plan.

  6. Boganboy says:

    Surely Hitler’s major error was to declare war on the US.

    After all, the US was involved in a major war with Japan, which had commenced with a major defeat. No doubt FDR would have liked to fight Hitler. But the fact that he had not declared war years ago made it plain he did not have the necessary political support.

    Of course the US could have declared war on Germany at any time. But Germany lacked the power to undertake any serious attacks on the US. So there was nothing to lose by gambling that FDR would have even less support for entering the European war after Pearl Harbour. This was a situation where the most sensible thing Hitler could do was nothing.

Leave a Reply