Ahead of the Allies: Narvik
During the preparations for the West Offensive, alarming reports of naval and troop concentrations in East Anglia arrived at Hitler’s headquarters from Adm. Canaris’s Abwehr. Chief of Operations Jodl and Col. Gen. Nikolaus von Falkernhorst were certain this meant the British were preparing to invade Norway and realized the great danger of being cut off from the vital supply of Swedish iron ore, and an encirclement from the north. Hitler reacted swiftly, ordering the invasion of Denmark and Norway under the code name “Weseruebung” on April 9, 1940. Hermann Giesler reports in Ein Anderer Hitler about the tremendous tension and pressure being felt at headquarters in Berlin.
MAY 1940: GIESLER’S RECOLLECTIONS
During the decisive battle in Norway, especially around Narvik, I was Adolf Hitler’s guest for lunch and dinner at the Reichs Chancellery. After the evening military meeting, Hitler returned to the “Bismark” living quarters; he wanted to talk until the reports arrived. He was restless, under tension, and had been worried for hours.
His greatest worry is the battle for Narvik; that’s why he is restless. The battle group Dietl1 is too weak to resist the massive enemy forces still being strengthened by the English fleet and ample supply.
By his order our soldiers are involved in a desperate fight against that superior power—and we cannot help them. Any supply possibilities by sea are prevented by the English; a land bridge is impossible. How long will they be able to hold on? To stay in Narvik is of utmost importance. “Do you understand how I feel? I question myself, is it time for the battle group to move into Swedish territory and surrender? Gen. Jodl pleads for continued fighting. I now recognize, remembering my own time as a soldier, it is easier to fight than to be responsible for the battle.Well, Giesler, let’s walk up and down until new reports arrive.”
Messages arrived continuously; very hard fights around Narvik—fights against English and Norwegian forces in the valleys north and south of Trondheim. One question was in Hitler’s mind: Where is the Norwegian king; did they succeed in capturing him?
Then the decisive message came in: The keep-on-fighting, hang-on tough paid off. We succeeded. The king, who was with his troops in the north, offered to surrender; he may have recognized that further resistance of his troops was senseless.The German forces pushed forward .The fighting against the English-French expeditionary corps continued, but the success of that bold Norway operation was assured.
Now Hitler had to face a new, burdensome responsibility: the battle against the West. “Giesler, we beat the English by only a few hours.A dangerous threat for Germany from the north could have occurred.”
1 Col. Gen. Eduard Dietl commanded part of the Third Mountain Division in Narvik. His troops were landed by German destroyers that got involved in a disastrous naval battle in which all were sunk or shuttled, after which 2500 stranded Navy men joined the Mountaineers.They withdrew into the hills, were cut off and partially supplied by air drops, but managed to retake the town.