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Operation Barbarossa and Germany's Defeat in the East (Cambridge Military Histories)

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | Operation Barbarossa and Germany's Defeat in the East (Cambridge Military Histories).pdf | Language: ENGLISH
    David Stahel(Author)

    Book details

Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union, began the largest and most costly campaign in military history. Its failure was a key turning point of the Second World War. The operation was planned as a Blitzkrieg to win Germany its Lebensraum in the east, and the summer of 1941 is well-known for the German army's unprecedented victories and advances. Yet the German Blitzkrieg depended almost entirely upon the motorised Panzer groups, particularly those of Army Group Centre. Using archival records, in this book David Stahel presents a history of Germany's summer campaign from the perspective of the two largest and most powerful Panzer groups on the Eastern front. Stahel's research provides a fundamental reassessment of Germany's war against the Soviet Union, highlighting the prodigious internal problems of the vital Panzer forces and revealing that their demise in the earliest phase of the war undermined the whole German invasion.

'… thought-provoking and valuable. It dispels any illusions that the first months of Operation Barbarossa were a pushover for the Wehrmacht; Stahel documents in detail, from German war diaries and letters, the heavy fighting and the high casualties.' Evan Mawdsley, The English Historical Review'… a thoroughly researched, comprehensive, and convincing analysis of Barbarossa … Any still-lingering notions of a German 'genius for war', as opposed to skill in some aspects of warmaking, is unlikely to survive this intellectually-disciplined, archivally-documented analysis of one of history's most misbegotten, mistakenly executed campaigns.' Dennis Showalter, Journal of Military History'Stahel paints a convincing portrait of a Germany army whose shape edge was already well into the process of being blunted during the first weeks of the fighting … This is a serious book and a welcome contribution to the military debate over Operation Barbarossa, a debate that has largely been carried out in the 'English speaking world' up till now.' Robert M. Citino, Central European History'The author's research is impressive … Stahel's clearly written and accessible account convincingly questions the competency of the German planning for Barbarossa … all will profit from reading this fine work.' Howard D. Grier, The Journal of Modern History'Operation Barbarossa and Germany's Defeat in the East will undoubtedly stand as a standard work on the first phase of Operation Barbarossa for a long time to come … The staggering amount of detail offered ensures this is an invaluable addition to Eastern Front literature and Operation Barbarossa in particular.' Yan Mann, Global War Studies'… a thrilling book that no military historian can afford to ignore.' German History

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Book details

  • PDF | 500 pages
  • David Stahel(Author)
  • Cambridge University Press; Reprint edition (21 April 2011)
  • English
  • 6
  • History

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  • By Philip on 17 September 2011

    Let me begin by saying that I have been studying, reading, researching and otherwise been fascinated by the German Russian war most of my life.I feel that in reading this book, it is the book on the Russian campaign that I've been looking for all my life.Over the last few years there have been a number of books of a `revisionist' nature dealing with aspects of the Third Reich and its wartime activities that have brought a great deal of new information out from archives, especially German and Russian archives, diaries and other primary sources of information. Much fascinating new information has come out that paints that conflict in a very different light to that accepted by what I would call the propaganda version.However, I think this book is especially unique in that it combines excellent primary sources, both from the general point of view (literally from the point of view of the general staff) to the point of view of the ordinary soldier, and gives information on logistics, battle losses, state of mind of both the general staff and the fighting soldier, with excellent maps, that weave the whole story together into a narrative that makes complete and utter compelling sense.I find his account so realistic in its depiction of the realities of the German invasion just four weeks into that invasion that it is almost an emotional journey into that reality. Having had to put up for so many years with unbelievably conformist, unbelievably conventional, bland and repetitive histories of that conflict, from historians who seemed simply to be content to copy from each other's works, the emotional impact of reading information and feelings of the participants in the way that introduces cause and effect directly into the narrative is astonishingly powerful.I find myself page after page almost shouting at the generals `how could you have been so stupid?' The picture of the almighty invincible jackbooted Wehrmacht is I feel thoroughly squashed by his narrative. I think is important to understand just how incompetent, stupid, and egotistical the whole setup of the Third Reich was from the beginning. Astonishingly so.Many have written on the genius of the German way of war. I'm begin to realise that while the ordinary German soldier was probably a cut above other soldiers of his generation in other countries in terms of training and organisation, his general officers were so deluded by their own sense of grandeur and infallibility and by the prevailing political ideology that they never really understood what they were getting into, probably never wanted to.As far as they were concerned the Slav, the Russian was the untermenschen, and could therefore almost be ignored in the military calculus. These generals were so arrogant that they probably wouldn't even have listened to other Germans with more experience and a more sanguine approach.I sometimes believe that war is far too important to be left to generals, whether it is the German Russian conflict or our present conflicts in the Middle East.Whenever I used to read about hundreds of thousands and millions of Soviet prisoners in the Germans took the first few weeks, and this was described as evidence of their invincibility I used to ask myself what happened to all those prisoners? I mean how do you feed and guard 1 million prisoners, when all your troops are in the front line fighting the enemy? When the author says that a large number simply slipped the net and became partisans in various ways, what he says makes a great deal of sense. His emphasis on the insecurity of the German rear areas is very realistic.When you look at all those conventional maps of the German advance into Russia with all those silly arrows pointing east, as if to say this was the inexorable advance of the German juggernaut, no one ever seems to point out in these histories how difficult it would have been to deal with 1 million Soviet prisoners.I am still astonished that the German generals were astonished that the Russians put up such resistance for so long, even when resistance was apparently futile. As the author points out in one of his excellently sourced quotes, the Germans who had been fighting the Russians during World War I and had occupied the country briefly in 1917 knew much more about the Russian and he fought, and about the Russian winter than those other generals who had no such experience. Of course in the euphoria of the victory of `the master race', no one bothered to bring the leaders down-to-earth to tell exactly how it was in the Soviet Union. The leaders probably wouldn't have listened anyhow.All in all an historical and literary masterpiece!

  • By Dave History Student on 1 June 2011

    David Stahel, a contrarian and advocate of Clausewitz theory has written a book that will probably be contested in the historian community. This book written partially using the findings of an exhaustive study by the Bundesarchiv-Militarachiv in Freiburg Germany claims the German momentum didn't first lose steam at Kursk or Stalingrad or even in front of Moscow in Dec 1941. The main theme of his book is not to present the tactical events of Barbarossa per say but to suggest that the Germans lost all chance of defeating Russia by mid August 1941, after the strenuous battle at Smolensk. The Smolensk campaign includes coverage of the nearby cities of Yartsevo, Dorogobuzh, Yelnya and Roslavl. The author does skimp on the coverage and ramifications of Guderian's drive to Kiev.Mr Stahel is very deliberate and meticulous; he doesn't begin the battle action until page 153. In his introduction, he describes the major research project the Germans performed in reassessing the war and describes his manner of research. He moves on to discuss a number of current theories by authors, showing good points and bad points of each. He makes special note of Stolfi's "Hitler's Panzers East" as being flawed. I thought Stolfi's book an interesting read but he failed to convince me of his position. Mr Stahel on the other hand presents a convincing case of his position and backs up his position with hundreds of primary source statements. The planning stage is next and the author spends a lot of time here describing the faulty thinking that went into the planning. Marcks, Lossberg and Paulus play major roles in the plans but all three were influenced by the distorted thinking of Halder. (I thought Halder was a puppet of Hitler but in the beginning he had influence on the dictator and plans were constructed to Halder's expectations on how he wanted the war prosecuted and not on reality. All variations of the plans were for a short war and many things were ignored.)The author doesn't discuss the entire Operation Barbarossa but restrains himself just to Army Group Center under von Bock. He also limits himself to just three battle campaigns: the Minsk pocket, the battle for the Dvina-Dnepr River line and the Smolensk pocket. His attention is primarily on the Panzer Corps that were the spearhead of the invasion and the biggest reason for German success but the author will involve the infantry on a secondary level when their support was needed but were many miles to the rear.It would not be apparent to the combatants or the world but by mid August, the Germans would no longer have a fighting apparatus capable enough to compete with the Russians. The main reason for its early success was it panzer spearhead and attack technique but by August panzer attrition was so severe combined by low tank production that would prevent the German army from ever having sufficient strength to destroy the Russians. Also Germany didn't have the huge pool of reserves or resources that Russia processed.The Minsk operation occurred within two weeks of the start of the war but it clearly shows several major shortcomings of the Germany Army. The panzers arrived first and created a pocket around the Russian forces but without infantry the panzers were at risk and not strong enough to hold the Russians. Not having nearly enough transportation, the infantry were days behind the front line. By the time Smolensk was under control, the German Army was a shell of itself. A summary of each of these campaigns would involve pages so a summary of the errors of commission or judgment will be listed (The author clearly shows numerous examples of these faults being committed.):Insufficient panzer divisionsInsufficient motorized divisions to carry infantry with the panzer spearheads.Insufficient production capacity. Throughout the war Germany would lag far behind the Russians in production.Insufficient human reserves.Insufficient natural resources, especially oil.Lower technology than the enemy. Russia's new tanks, the KV1s and T34s were much better and more powerful than the German Mks.The attitude by panzer commanders, like Guderian, that were obsessive on forward movement without clearing Russian resistance continued to produce disastrous results to rear area units, supply columns.Extremely poor coordination between panzer and infantry divisions.Hitler's obsessive and relentless drive to continually over extend his forces, putting them in jeopardy to counterattack.No long term strategy. Hitler would shift directions with the wind.Poor coordination with the commanding generals. Each general had his own style and agenda that often worked against the others. Kluge was cautious while Guderian was reckless. They were always fighting.Complete underestimation of the Russian soldier.Savage treatment of civilians produced a lethal partisan reaction that killed many German soldiers plus destroyed communications with the front.The narrative is completely German-centric. The pros and cons of the Russian army in 1941 is not specifically included in the author's calculations when this turning point occurred. The level of resistance the Russian Army could exert as well as the quality of tanks surprised the Germans and is mentioned by the author. Through inference the author uses this condition in his calculations but the primary basis for his conclusions is based on Germany's insufficient ability to recognize and correct the deficiencies mentioned above. By mid to late August it would be too late for the Germans to make corrections in their war doctrine, improve the capacities of their panzer and mobile units and increase production to a point that could compete with the Russians on a long term basis.There are few photos and 16 maps. The maps looked very familiar; upon checking it turns out the maps were made by David Glantz. The maps are good, showing detailed dispositions of the troops on almost a daily basis. The daily change in closing the Smolensk Pocket is intense, glaring. The fighting in the Yelnya Salient is also noteworthy. The book also has many footnotes and a impressive Bibliography if further research is wanted.In addition to the author's logical presentation of facts, he inserts hundreds of communiques, and diary entries to help support his position and to give the reader a better understanding of what the German command was experiencing and the level of apprehension that had been generated as the battle moved into August. While Hitler and Halder continue to think of ways of expanding the war, the field commanders like Strauss, Schweppenburg, Hoth, Guderian and others feared their forces wouldn't be able to hold the Soviets back. They were also clamoring for more fuel, ammo, engines and reinforcements but little would arrive.The Germans would continue to have victories like Kiev, Uman, Vyazma, Branysk and Rzhev but with each campaign the life blood of the German Army was being drained and it didn't have the capacity to replenish itself but because it did not experience a terrible defeat it was not apparent that Germany no longer had the capacity to defeat the Russian Army. This would be proven at Moscow, Stalingrad, Kursk, Vitebsk (1944).In the area of tactical problems of the Wehrmacht when facing the Soviets, Mr Stahel concentrates much of his presentation on the AGC sector. By expanding his attention to the rest of the line, additional evidence could have been provided that would have bolstered his position but I believe the author presents sufficient evidence to prove his thesis but even if you're not convinced, he clearly shows the weaknesses of the German Army and presents critical reasons for their eventual failure and for this reason alone the book is worth reading. His discussions of the key German commanders and the friction generated from within were also interesting and it helps you understand the early war. The profiles of Hitler, Halder, Bock, Kluge and Guderian were of special interest. This book has much merit and I hope the author will treat us with coverage of another campaign. This book is highly recommended to all serious students of the war.

  • By Jan Wammen on 28 December 2011

    David Stahel has written an excellent book.A must read for Eastern Front buffs.The only flaw in the book is that it is not entirely clear to me why an early Moscow offensive would not still have been preferable to the Kiev offensive, and I think he underestimates the would be impact of a capture of Moscow on the Soviet regime.

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