Thursday, October 9, 2008

The War: Soviet Union

       Panzers lost in the immensity of Russia - Summer 1941 - From Signal Magazine

History is usually written by the winners.  However, due to the Cold War, the history of humanity's biggest and most dramatic conflict was written by the losers.  Until the fall of Communism in the early 1990's, almost all the history written about World War 2 on the Eastern Front came from the Germans, or was based on German sources.  Critical battles like Operation Bagration were hardly known in the West.  There is still no decent map of this operation in English on the Web.

The truth is that the European part of WW2 was decided through four titanic battles fought within the borders of the Soviet Union: Moscow, Stalingrad, Kursk, and Bagration.  The Soviets did not win soley through overwhelming numbers, brute force, and Hitler's errors as the German generals would have it  They did not win soley because of Allied help as the Americans and British would have it.  They won because of their overwhelming superiority in resources and because they gradually created a military that trumped the Germans in every category of quality and quantity.  By the end of 1944, the Soviets had better weapons, better tactics, better leadership, better logistics, better intelligence, and more of everything.

This assertion is controversial to the degree it implies Allied sacrifices in the West were irrelevant to the outcome.  They were.  I do not mean to suggest that Allied soldiers lives were wasted.  Their efforts had a huge impact on the course of the war and its aftermath.  But, except for North Africa, they had no role in determining who won and who lost.

Probably, the Germans could never have beaten the Soviets.  Certainly never in a protracted conflict.  The German's only chance was a quick knock-out.  Had they arrived in Moscow in September 1941, a political collapse was theoretically possible.  However, Stalin had just spent 10 years and 10 million lives to ensure nobody was in a position to challenge his power.  So after Stalin recovered himself in August, a collapse was very unlikely under any circumstances.  The Soviet Union was simply too big to be defeated by Germany.  While still panicked in July, Molotov and Stalin summoned the Bulgarian Ambassador to the Kremlin.  They asked him to be a go-between in seeking terms from the Germans.  To their astonishment, he refused.  "If they push you back to the Urals, you'll still win", he said.

The other factor that ensured a German defeat was their intent.  This was explicitly a war of annihilation.  They planned to clear the Slavs of Eastern Europe all the way to the Urals to make way for German settlers.  I think the common people understood that if the Germans won, their entire world would be destroyed.  This understanding was shown time and again in fierce resistance that could never have been compelled.

I'm putting all this in dramatic terms to make a point.  I believe we in the West cannot understand WW2 without a realistic perspective.  The outcome of WW2 in Europe was decided within the borders of the Soviet Union.
Now that the Shoah and the importance of the Soviet Union are dealt with, I can move on to other WW2 related topics.