World War 2 National Socialism and the Holocaust

Chapter 5: Who Planned To Attack Whom, And How? :: Absolute War: Soviet Russia in the Second World War” by Chris Bellamy

Response / Thought Quotes

  • “showed that the operational-strategic vision of many high-level commanders was far from perfect and required further assiduous and determined efforts to sharpen up the command and control of powerful formations and deep understanding of the character of conventional operations, their organization, planning and subsequent carrying through in practice.”
  • “what is taking place now is that numbers of men are being called up individually, not by classes. These include many but not all those born in second half 1921 who normally would not be called up until next autumn. There are also some individuals I know of age 23 and [previously] uncalled … called up this week. Also some N.C.O. reservists of 32. The whole thing is being done quietly and without publication of any official decree and it is therefore impossible at present to give estimate numbers involved except there seem a good many in Moscow.”
  • “It is completely normal that Staffs work out different variants of operations … They are certainly not always conditioned by the political aims of the Government. In the case of the Soviet General Staff, the matter is not just the fact that they planned for attack. What is dreadful is that these or other optimum variations were tackled too late and amongst too narrow a circle; thus to realise and execute these plans on 22 June was impossible as they were not ready.”
  • “Up till the end of March I was not convinced that Hitler was resolved on mortal war with Russia, nor how near it was. Our intelligence reports revealed in much detail the extensive German troop movements towards and into the Balkan states … But none of these necessarily involved the invasion of Russia and all were readily explainable by German interests and policy … That Germany should at that stage and, before leaving the Balkan scene, open another major war with Russia seemed to me too good to be true … There was no sign of lessening German strength opposite us across the Channel… The manner in which the German troop concentrations in Romania and Bulgaria had been glossed over and apparently accepted by the Soviet government, the evidence we had of large and invaluable supplies being sent to Germany from Russia [see Chapters 3 and 4], … all made it seem more likely that Hitler and Stalin would make a bargain at our expense rather than war upon each other.”

Thought Questions

  • Describe the circumstances surrounding the distrust between Hitler and Stalin prior to Operation Barbarossa and how that impacted planning on each side
  • Describe the evidence for and against the proposition that the Stalin was planning a preemptive attack on Germany
  • What factors were involved in Hitler’s decision to attack to the Soviet Union
  • In what ways did Hitler use misinformation against Stalin prior to the opening of hostilities
  • What information did Stalin possess prior to Operation Barbarossa that indicated an attack was being prepared
  • What were the main concerns Stalin had in relation to Germany prior to the outbreak of hostilities
  • What factors were involved in Stalin’s reaction to external information that Hitler was planning an attack on the Soviet Union
  • How did preconceived beliefs impact about the other impact Hitler and Stalin’s decision making
  • In what ways did National Socialist and Bolshevik ideology respectively impact the events leading up to the opening of hostilities
  • What role did British actions play in Stalin’s reaction to information about German intentions
  • How did British resolve impact Hitler’s choice of timing in attacking the Soviet Union
  • How did the situation in the Balkans impact the timing of Operation Barbarossa
  • Affirm or Refute: “Barbarossa was delayed — almost certainly with disastrous consequences for the Germans — because of the 27 March 1941 coup in Yugoslavia”
  • Affirm or Refute: “And by defeating the mighty French army so fast, the Wehrmacht had proved itself to be even more formidable than anyone had expected.”
  • Who was Sir Stafford Cripps and what significance did he have on events leading up to the German attack on the Soviet Union
  • Describe and explain the circumstances of the Red Army deployments in the period between the end of the Winter War and the opening of Operation Barbarossa
  • Describe Zhukov’s “May 15plan, its origins and purpose
  • Describe and explain the deployment and conditions of Soviet forces in June 1941
  • Explain and Expand: “The author believes that Stalin was getting ready to attack Germany at some point, but inclines to the more traditional view that 1942 would have been the preferred option.”
  • Describe the evolution of German planning for Operation Barbarossa
  • Describe what the author means by the “Hess Enigma”
  • Who was Franz Halder and what role did he play in the planning for Operation Barbarossa

Articles and Resources

Further Reading