The following articles were written during 2008-2009-2010-2011 and published in The Barnes Review magazine. They are translations into English from EIN ANDERER HITLER by Hermann Giesler.
Confidant and personal architect to Adolf Hitler from 1942 to 1945, Hermann Giesler published his memoir Ein Anderer Hitler (Another Hitler) in 1977. There has never been an English translation. Here, for the first time, are selected chapters translated from the German, along with attached commentary, by Carolyn Yeager and Wilhelm Mann (Kriessmann).
Wilhelm Mann is a native-born German speaker and WWII scholar who served with the Luftwaffe from 1939-1945, during which time he was awarded the Iron Cross, first and second class. Please see the Wilhelm L. Kriessmann Archive for more on his fascinating life.
Brief Biography of Hermann Giesler
Compiled by Carolyn Yeager
Hermann Giesler was born in 1898 into a family of architects. He volunteered for the German Army in 1915, became a Lieutenant in the Pioneers (similar to the U.S. See-Bees) and ended as a WWI pilot. He completed his architectural study at the Munich Academy of Applied Art after the war.
Giesler was impressed by Oswald Spengler, whom he met in 1919 at a symposium at the Munich City Hall. In 1923 he married and had two sons. Beginning in 1930, he worked as an independent architect, winning several awards. He joined the NSDAP well before 1933.
In 1937 he gained a professorship, received the Grand Prix and gold medal for his architectural designs at the World Exhibition in Paris, and was assigned in 1938 to the overall design of Germany’s exhibits at the 1942 World Exhibition in Rome. That year, Adolf Hitler asked him to plan Munich’s architectural renovation, as well as to design and build his private residence at the Obersalzberg.
Later on, Giesler was put in charge of planning Hitler’s pet project, the city of Linz. He worked on plans and a large model for the Danube Development of the Banks, and on designs for the cultural center, which Hitler regarded with particular interest.
When war broke out, he was promoted to generalbaurat and given the task of construction for war-related building projects in the Balticum (Lithuania/Latvia/Estonia). In 1942-44 he was chief of the Organization Todt (OT) Group North and from 1944-45, chief of OT Group VI (Baviria, Upper and Lower Austria).
Giesler later wrote about the friction between himself and Hitler’s other architect, Albert Speer, during 1940-42. It started with Speer’s dominant control of building-material, labor and construction and ended with Speer going behind Giesler’s back to take over the Linz project. Giesler called Speer “the Cesar Borgia of the twentieth century.”
Giesler became a POW of the U.S. in 1945 and was interned for two years in Landsberg Prison, the same prison where Hitler was held in 1924. He was then prosecuted as a war criminal, receiving a life sentence at hard labor. Considered sufficiently “de-nazified” by 1952, he was released, after which he started his own business.
He published his memoir about his architectural and personal relationship with Hitler in 1977, and died in 1987.
With Adolf Hitler in Paris
An eye-witness description of his famous visit to Paris on June 23, 1940
From Ein Anderer Hitler (Another Hitler) by Hermann Giesler, Druffel Verlag, Leoni am Starnberger See, 6th Edition, 1982.
Translation with Commentary by Carolyn Yeager and Wilhelm Mann
Copyright 2008 Carolyn Yeager
Through the decades since 1939, historians and writers from varied political persuasions - some with questionable reputations, many with questionable research - have characterized Adolf Hitler in a full range of negatives: ignorant, unstable, grandiose; psychopathic; suffering from illnesses that affected his brain; a sexual pervert; a self-hating part-Jew; a life failure seeking to extract revenge on a society that rejected him. The dark characterizations of the German Fuehrer by these people seem to know no bounds, nor any shred of balance or decency.
Did a different Hitler exist? Can we find credible evidence that can correct the propaganda of these pseudo historians? And what evidence would it be that would convince the average man and woman that Adolf Hitler’s goal was not world domination and enslavement, but to establish justice and fairness for Germans and to build a great German nation within a unified, anti-communist Europe?
There have been many who knew him and were close to him, some on a daily basis – who wrote books telling quite a different tale. Nicolaus von Below, Hitler's Luftwaffe adjutant from 1937 to 1945 (At Hitler's Side, 2001), wrote that Hitler was neither arrogant nor stubborn, but could be persuaded to change his mind if given clear and reasoned arguments.
Among others who were with Hitler to the end, and lived to write about it, were Hans Bauer, his personal pilot (I Flew with the Mighty of the World, 1957); Rochus Misch, his bodyguard (The Last Witness, 2008); two of Hitler's secretaries: Christa Schroeder (He was my Chief, 1985) and Traudl Junge (Until the Final Hour, 2002). All described an Adolf Hitler who was a considerate, correct and even kind employer, with a calm and agreeable personality, who seldom if ever raised his voice. None of these witnesses had any reason to lie; in fact they had every reason to say otherwise, as they have all been accused of stating falsehoods or being in denial by the gatekeepers of politically correct history.
In addition to these sources that tell of "Hitler the Employer," there is a little-known book published in German in 1977 by Hermann Giesler, Adolf Hitler’s trusted architect and confidant, which reveals a man we can call “Hitler the Artist.” As a student of the arts and architecture, Adolf Hitler became vitally concerned with the planning and building of cities. We meet a man whose ideas were wide-ranging and constructive, whose knowledge of architecture was vast, and whose taste was cultured.
In his fascinating book, Ein Anderer Hitler, Giesler gives us an account of his own personal exchanges with the Fuehrer concerning sweeping architectural plans for the cities of Grossdeutschland (Greater Germany) – Berlin, Munich and Linz – along with some intimate insights into the Fuehrer’s psychology. This article will limit itself to the chapter titled “With Adolf Hitler in Paris,” an eye-witness description of Hitler’s famous visit to Paris on the eve of the armistice between France and Germany, after the German victory of the Battle of France.
* * * *
Giesler begins when he was stopped by a police detail on June 22, 1940 when on his way to a building site near Vienna, and told to drive to the Vienna airport. There, he boarded a Ju 52 courier airplane which landed on an airstrip in northern France, after which a land rover drove him to Adolf Hitler's headquarters at Bruly de Peche, north of Sedan. The armistice was set to begin the following day at midnight. When face to face, Hitler lost no time in commenting to Giesler upon his victory and his desire to see Paris without further delay.
“All right, Giesler, at that time you could not know it, but I was sure of my strategic concept, the necessary tactical details, and my confidence in the fighting power of the German forces. Out of it, the carefully planned timetable developed naturally. I remembered that during the winter I invited you to go with me to Paris; I've asked Breker and Speer to come along. With my artists, I want to look at Paris. We will take off early in the morning."
Arno Breker was Hitler’s favorite sculptor, and Albert Speer his other trusted architect. That evening, Hitler, his military staff and aides-de-camp, along with the three artists, had a simple dinner together at two long tables in a primitive hut. Giesler makes a special point of telling us:
There was no triumphant attitude, no loud voices–only serious dignity. The faces of the responsible leaders still wore the stress of the past weeks. I considered myself unworthy of the reward of sitting with them.
They left at 4 a.m. in the Fuehrer airplane and landed at Le Bourget airport, still in darkness, where open cars awaited them. Speer, Breker and Giesler, along with the SS Adjutant Schaub and the ordinance officer, Colonel Speidel, joined Adolf Hitler in his car. Giesler writes:
The former military attache in Paris drove ahead of us as pilot and silent mentor. With our dimmed lights we could only see the contours of the buildings. We passed barricades – the guards stepped out and saluted; one could sense armistice was not completely at work. Adolf Hitler was sitting in front of me and I recalled the past winter evening when he talked about Paris, his confidence that he would see the city soon. Now his wish was being realized. But he did not arrive in Paris as the Supreme Commander of the German Wehrmacht – he arrived as the “Bauherr” (construction boss) of German cities which he already visualized with their new faces. He came here to compare architecture, to experience the atmosphere of the city in the company of his two architects and one sculptor, even though escorted by a military entourage – soldiers which surely had earned the privilege to see the capital of France with him.
Right: Hitler party enters the Paris Opera
Giesler had the impression that the itinerary was carefully planned. Their first destination was the Imperial Opera House, designed by the architect Garnier. Since Hitler wanted to see the façade in bright sunlight, they immediately went inside. Though a guardian walked ahead of them, Adolf Hitler led the way, pointing out significant features of the building. Giesler says,
It might be that the contrast from the simple atmosphere of the Fuehrer headquarters in the small village of Bruly to this magnificent display of the past Empire increased the impression it made. Up to this day, I only knew of the Opera façade and was surprised by the clear concept of the basic plan, impressed by the arrangement of the spacious rooms: the entry halls, the generous staircase, the foyers and the splenderous, gleaming, gold inner theater. We were standing in the middle loge. Adolf Hitler was fascinated – wonderful, exceptionally beautiful proportions, and what festivity! It was a theater with a special character, regardless of it's splendor of the "Belle Epoque" and a stylish eclecticism of a certain over-abundant baroque. Hitler repeated that its main importance remains within these beautiful proportions. "I would like to see the reception room, the salon of the president behind the proscenium box," said Hitler. A back and forth shuffling took place. "According to Garnier's plan, it must be around here." The guard was at first confused, but then he remembered that after a renovation the room was removed. Hitler remarked, "The democratic republic doesn’t even favor its president with his own reception salon."
Right: The Fuehrer admires the staircase
Walking back through the foyers, they returned down the stairway and out the front entrance for a first view of the famous façade in daylight. Then to the Madeleine, which did not impress Hitler. Next on the agenda were the important squares and streets. Giesler writes:
Slowly, in a wide circle, we drove around the fountains and the Luxor obelisks at the place de la Concord. Adolf Hitler stood up in his car to get an all around view. He looked across the large square toward the Tuilleries to the Louvre, then across the Seine River to the building of the Chambre des Deputes. At the beginning of the Champs Elysees, he asked to stop. Looking at the walls of the Admiralty, he could now see, through the short street space of the rue Royal, the column gable of the Madelein – now really effective.
Left: Hitler's car drives onto the Champs-Elysee
Adolf Hitler took his time to absorb all this – then a short signal with his hand and we drove slowly along the slightly rising Champs Elysee towards the Etoil with its all-dominating Arc de Triomphe.
Critically checking this, his eyes looked at the road construction, which he could see through the tree-lined streets around the Round Point. All his concentrating attention then went to the Arc and the way the surrounding area of the Etoil was solved, space-wise. He brushed the reliefs on the right and left side of the Arc with one short look (they embody the pathos of the Marseillaise), and the chiseled inscriptions (the French would not forget any of their victorious battles). From descriptive literature he knew every detail.
Giesler tells us that Adolf Hitler later shared his thoughts about this particular experience. Hitler had said,
"The luxurious expanse of the place de la Concord impresses naturally since the square expands itself into the Tuilleries Gardens to the Louvre, and over the lower bedded Seine all the way to the ministries and the Chambre des Deputes. Optically, it also encompasses the expansion towards the Madelein and the wide open space of the beginning of the Champs Elysees. From the human perspective, that’s nearly limitless. Beautiful was the view from the Concord, with its fountains and obelisk in the foreground, toward the Admiralty, the rue Royal with the Madelein in the background."
From the Etoil they drove to the Embarcadero, viewing the giant of the 19th Century, the Eiffel Tower, across the Seine from the large terrace of the Palais Chailot. Beyond it, the Mars field stretched out wide, with the Ecole Militair at its end. Giesler says they had a long debate at that point, which he recites in a shortened version:
Adolf Hitler told me that he considers the Eiffel Tower not only as the beginning of a new standard of buildings, but also as the start of an engineering type of tectonics. "This tower is not only synonymous with Paris and the world exhibition at that time, but it stands, if not yet, as an example of classicism, and yet for the beginning of a new epoch." He meant the epoch of a new technology with completely changed targets and dimensions (Groessenordnungen), at that time unknown. What follows are wide-spanned bridges, buildings with large vertical dimensions which because of exact engineering calculations could now be used as static structures. But only through coordination between engineers, artists and architects could he see the possibility of proper creativity. Classicism, which we have to aim at, can only be reached by tectonics which conform with new materials - steel and reinforced concrete indeed being proprietary.
Giesler says he was often contemplating about that, and several times later had the opportunity to discuss with Hitler his ideas about that "world of technology" and his formulations were very clear. On their further drive across the Seine to the Ecole militaire:
We stopped at a monument of a French general of the 1914-18 war with an inscription insulting German soldiers - very tasteless. Hitler got angry, waited for the accompanying car to stop, turned to the military men and ordered they see to it that it is blown up. Honoring Col. Gen. Keitel, who traveled with us, we visited the Cour d’honneur de l’Ecole militaire. Then we arrived at the highlight of our trip – at least for me.
On June 23, 1940, Hitler, (in light coat) with Hermann Giesler to his left, looks respectfully down on Napoleon's crypt.
In the dome of the Invalides, Adolf Hitler stood for a long time at the rim of the crypt with his head bent and stared down at Napoleon’s sarcophagus. I stood at his left side, not by coincidence, but because he pulled me to his side. Quietly he said to me, “Giesler, you will build my grave site, we’ll talk about it later.”
Quiet and thoughtful, he left the dome; we remained a few steps behind him. Outside the gate, Hitler turned around: "Bormann, I want the Herzog of Reichsstadt to be brought back to Paris.”
The Herzog, Napoleon’s son with his 2nd wife, the Austrian Princess Marie Luise, was kept in Vienna and educated there. He died in 1832 at the age of twenty-one at the Schoenbrunn palace in Vienna and was buried at the Habsburg tomb, the “Kapuziner Gruft.” The restoration of the body of the Herzog von Reichsstadt from its burial place in Austria to the crypt of his father in Paris is one of the little-known and seldom spoken of actions undertaken by Adolf Hitler to show his respect for the French people and culture.
We drove on and stopped for a short while at a well-proportioned city palais, the future German embassy. Adolf Hitler gave orders for its careful renovation with the assistance of French conservators.
Adolf Hitler showed his disappointment with the Pantheon at the top of the Latin Quarter by leaving the building abruptly. Out in the open again, he shook his head and heaved a sigh.
“My God, it does not deserve its name, if you think about the Roman Pantheon with its classical interior, the unique lighting from the wide open ceiling – it combines dignity with solemnity. And then you look at that” – and he pointed back – “more than somber even on this bright summer day.” As they returned to their car, a few women spotted them, crying out: c’est lui – that’s he.
Bypassing the Sorbonne and Cluny across the Seine to the Ile de la Cite, driving slowly without a stop, we saw the Notre Dame. A discussion between Hitler and Breker began about the name and the use of a building. Hitler pointed toward a building with a cupola: “Isn’t that the so-called Tribunal of the Chamber of Commerce?” Breker said No, and since he lived many years in Paris he was sure about it. When we came closer it was obvious Hitler had already recognized the building from a distance by its form and location. Below the gable one could read: Tribunal de Commerce.
Crossing the Pont d`Arcole of the second Seinearm, we drove to the square in front of the Hotel de Ville to the rue de Rivoli and further to the place des Vosges. The queen Maria de Medici ordered that square arrangement, remembering her Florence. Because of the dense tree lines, the original space idea is no longer recognizable. The way the place de la Vosges presented itself did not impress Hitler. After a short look at what he could still recognize, we moved on.
The impression Hitler had of the rue de Rivoli:
“It’s kilometer-long uniform façade is just right and is effective because, at the opposite side, the Louvre and the adjoining Tuilleries Gardens require that quiet and even form. All the more of a surprise, then, is the disruption of the small square with the Jeanne d’Arc monument.”
We turned around and drove through the rue Castiglioni to the place Vendome, with its famous column on this magnificently shaped square, then the rue de la Paix to the place de l’Opera, with a lofty view of the vivid, although a bit theatrical, facade of the Opera, now in bright light. Hitler admired that city-planning connection. “Certainly,” he said to me later “it is very decorative, partly too rich, but naturally corresponding to the style taste of that epoch. Planning our architecture, we will aim at a classicism of stricter, sharper forms, according to our character. What I have seen in Paris forces me to compare the performance of the German architecture of the same period: Gilly, Schinkel, Klenze, Hansen and Semper, and Siccardsburg with his Vienna Opera – I have the impression they can hold their place. Not to mention the great creations of the baroque architects like Lukas Hildebrandt, Fischer von Erlach, Balthasar Neumann, Prandtauer and others. What the Germans miss is continuity and persistence in their architectural aims, but this is still recognizable in the Germany of the Middle Ages with cathedrals and domes of the city communities, and the baroque buildings of the royal houses.”
Approaching the Montmartre, Hitler barely looked at the Sacre Coeur. From the elevated terrace in front of the church, he wanted to see down across the part of Paris he had just visited, with its streets and squares. He wanted to get an impression of the relief effect of the buildings within the city spaces – how a certain order wins control over the jumble of buildings – how decisively the impressive buildings establish a strong order within their set scale: the Notre Dame and the Arc de Triomphe, the big squares, the great street axes, the Hausmann-avenues.
Adolf Hitler believed that as far as he could view the concentration of Paris from here, the monuments and places stood out only weakly from the monotony of living quarters and functional buildings. The great cohesion from the Louvre to the Etoile, the Ile de France with the Notre Dame, the flowing of the Seine to the Eiffel tower is just barely maintained. Actually, only this tower, meant and built for an exhibition, maintains – regardless of its filigree transparency seen from here – its reputation. What he said is that the Tower justifies its existence in this city only by the deliberately planned vertical tendency – an astonishing feature for that epoch. Naturally, for the city of Paris it meant a symbolic novelty, a city with such a deep historical tradition from the Romans to the very significant eras of the kings, the revolution, the empire, the buildings of the republic after Napoleon III; they are all meaningless, of no importance for the overall structure of the city - with the exception of the Eiffel Tower.
At this point, Giesler tells us:
Adolf Hitler turned toward us - Speer, Breker and me: "For you a tough time begins: work and pressure, the forming of cities and monuments which are put into your trust. As far as I am able, and can afford the time, I will lighten your work. Bormann will assist me. Look after my artists and keep away from them everything that might obstruct their work."1 And then again to us: "Put everything on Bormann's broad shoulders. He will stand by you."
Right: Hitler greets his soldiers when leaving Paris at Le Bourget airport.
Returning to their lodgings, Adolf Hitler had more to say about the historical Paris and its architecture. This is how Giesler recalled it:
“Similar to Rome, you could read off the historical eras all over that city. Every epoch was manifested in its buildings. The remnants of the Roman founding that only archaeologists and historians can recognize. The Middle Ages, however, represent themselves powerfully in Notre Dame, not only a monument of her time but also of her mighty institution – the Church. The epoch of the worldly power, of the kings and the nobility we drove by this morning, at the Louvre and the Palais. The Revolution – she first tore down the sign of the hated system, the Bastille. For the Empire, for Napoleon I, the Arc de Triomphe symbolizes; for Napoleon III, the work of Haussmann and, strangely, the Opera!
“Then nothing more? Oh yes, something decisive – a genius engineer designs a gigantic tower. Is it beautiful? It does not matter, it mirrors his epoch. The occasion was significant – first the World Exhibition, then it stands for the Revolution. A hundred years after 1789, that Tower points to a new time – the time of industrial development. It is a monument of technology, sets its own rule –tectonics unknown up to that date, the building material steel – and thus a new method is recognized. What the tower misses is classicism – stone so uniquely used with the Doric column. We will talk some more about that phenomenon.”
Giesler remembers being fascinated by Hitler’s analysis and explanation of the Eiffel Tower as a symbol, not just for Paris, but of the new era. It indicates how strongly he felt that history, men and institutions influenced art and architecture and shaped cities. Thirty years later, the explanation remained for Giesler, but not the fascination, which he says was rooted in the presence of Hitler himself. He continues:
Adolf Hitler was quiet for a while before he said with a low voice: “At the dome des Invalides, I really absorbed only Napoleon’s sarcophagus at the open Ronda of the crypt. I kept strangely under the spell – everything else was for me meaningless.”
After a while, he reasoned why he wanted his gravesite in Munich, why I should build it and in what form he wanted it to be built. It surprised me, but still, as a National Socialist, that reasoning made a lot of sense. That he discussed that on the day of the victorious finale of the French battle was certainly caused by the view of Napoleon’s gravesite. But this thought suggested that he was thinking about that for a long time.
Hitler not surprisingly brought his thoughts again to the present situation and expressed his strong desire for a peace settlement – remembering the end of the destructive Thirty Years War and the Westfalian peace treaty signed in Muenster. Was he comparing the past nearly thirty turbulent years since 1914, and hoping to end it in the same way? Very possibly this was going through his mind.
Silently we walked up and down the narrow path through the forest. Then Adolf Hitler stopped and said with great emphasis: "I want peace - and I will do anything to make peace! It is not too late yet. I will go to the limit of the possible as long as the sacrifice and dignity of the German nation allows it. I know of better things than waging war. If I merely think about the loss of German blood - the best always fall, the bravest and the ones willing to be sacrificed; their task should be to exemplify the nation.
“I do not need to make a name by war-mongering like Churchill. I would like to make my name as a steward of the German people. I want to secure its unity and Lebensraum, to achieve National Socialism and shape the environment – add to it the new rebuilding of the German cities according to modern knowledge. I would like that the people will be happy there and be proud of their town, their lebensraum, and nation.”
After awhile he said the peace should be signed in Muenster. “I have my reasons for that – it would mean an historical caesura. When I now return to Munich, I have to take the necessary steps for the beginning of the rebuilding of the city – a forward-looking planning in all areas of a city-wide development.” I, and also Speer, would receive orders from him to start immediately with reconstruction. That naturally includes especially the central railway station and the Autobahn circle - they are the prerequisite of further rebuilding of the city. Dr. Todt will receive the order to make the necessary steel available. Then he repeated again: “I will Peace,” and changed the subject.
At the time of November the 8th,Hitler was worried because of a strange event. I experienced it personally2. He asked himself at that time if it was only careless talking and leaking at high military levels, or high treason. No, he is certain it was high treason, and that high treason has been repeated: the deadline, day and hour of the “Weseruebung”3 for securing our Northern flank has been transmitted to the governments of Denmark and Norway. “No, listen,” he said, “also betrayed was the beginning of the battle of France, May 10th.” I was alarmed and wanted to ask …. “No questions, don’t talk about it!”
We all joined for the late dinner at the community barrack. June 23rd ended and the armistice began. The trumpet signals Das Ganze halt (All hold) arrived out of the night from different distances. The windows were open. Separate from us, Adolf Hitler stood alone folding his hands. He looked into the darkness. When, long after the signal, he returned to us, he had tears in his eyes. Quietly, with his typical loose move, he said goodbye to us. He lifted his bent arm, the hand upwards-opened, like a greeting of friendship.” ~~
Who cannot be moved by the poignant and revelatory picture that emerges during this Paris visit of an Adolf Hitler whose deep awareness of history and far-reaching understanding of the role of art and architecture in the lives of peoples and nations, causes him naturally to prefer peace to war? Here is a man who wants to build and beautify, not tear down and degrade, with always his faith in his people, the German people, and his concern for Europe as a whole as his motivation and inspiration. On the tail of a decisive victory, he wanted to make peace, and build a united, anti-communist Europe. It was not to be. The new Europe was instead built on the ashes and rubble of his Germany, and he has been condemned as the destroyer, when he really wanted to be a great builder.
1) Reichsleiter Martin Bormann was responsible to execute all of Hitler’s orders in the civil sector.
2) Hitler got the message while at Giesler’s office that the military plans for the attack in the West had been betrayed to the Allies. He had to change his plans and postpone it twice, to Spring 1940. Ein Anderer Hitler, Hermann Giesler, page 411: “I ordered the attack for middle November. Then that mysterious betrayal of the planned start of the attack deadline."
3) Weseruebung was the code name for the Denmark/Norway invasion.
This article was published by The Barnes Review in two parts, in the Nov/Dec 2008 and Jan/Feb 2009 issues.
Invasions of Poland and Soviet Russia
Translation and commentary by Carolyn Yeager and Wilhelm Mann
Ein Anderer Hitler, Druffel Verlag, Leoni am Starnberger,6th edition, 1982.
Copyright 2010 Carolyn Yeager
Translators’ Introduction: Following the assassination attempt of July 20, 1944, and the intense attention given to the investigation with it’s resulting mass arrests and trials of the conspirator-traitors, it was only natural that a period of reflection would ensue. During that autumn, Hermann Giesler continued to meet with Adolf Hitler, as time permitted, to work on the city building plans that were so dear to the heart of the German leader. And as usual, Hitler confided many of his thoughts, conclusions and concerns about the war, and the rationale behind his decisions, to his friend and architect. Giesler’s account is presented here without further comment, but we have added four separate “sidebars” of text and photos to give background and context to what was discussed. From Giesler’s memoir:
Hitler’s pact with Stalin
The themes of my evening and late night talks with Adolf Hitler in the fall of 1944 resulted from my job as a city builder. The involvement with those problems helped Hitler to relax and, at the same time, gave him the opportunity to determine the future form of those cities from an unusual observation post. His interpretations, ideas and suggestions were significant and were integrated into my planning.
However, those evening talks were not always confined to city building, architecture and technical matters. Sometimes those themes were pushed aside by heavy burdens of military or political events. A dissonant “Lage” (military planning meeting) could also lead Hitler to reactions and reflections expressed very frankly, thus turning me into his confidant.
One evening he talked about the beginning of the war, indicating what thoughts had moved him in August 1939 to the pact with Stalin. He wanted to prevent the menacing encirclement of Germany, and saw that agreement as a last chance to peacefully solve the Danzig and Corridor problems.1
For years, he said, he tried hard to win Poland over for a fateful European union. It made good sense that Poland should participate in a defense wall against Bolshevism. Every Polish division, he went on, would mean strengthening the military power against not only a possible, but now already significantly obvious, onslaught of Bolshevism against Europe. But the people responsible for Versailles were able to masterfully drive a nearly invincible wedge between Germany and Poland. “Danzig and the Corridor!” Their democratically lined cloak of self-determination would have been removed whenever they felt there was need to do so..2 That Poland had to have a free access to the Baltic Sea was for Hitler self-evident. He therefore tried to reach a settlement along that line, and defuse a poisonous tension in their relationship. It was by no means in our interest to share borders with Soviet Russia – and when he signed an agreement with Marshall [Jozef] Pilsudski 3, he saw some value in that.
Marshall Jozef Pilsudski, shown here in 1930 five years before his death, had a vision of a Heroic Poland. He insisted not only on complete Polish independence, but that Poland should be recognized as equal to the Great Powers as the leading state representing Eastern Europe. From 1914 until 1939, his ideas were the defining influence on the development of Poland, even though Pilsudski was of Lithuanian descent.
Pilsudski saw World War I as an opportunity to gain territory for a new Polish Republic. In 1917, he switched from support of Germany to support of the Western Allies, demanding a completely independent Polish national army and severance from all ties which made Poland dependent on the Central Powers.
Poles were ecstatic over Germany’s final surrender and at the peace process their demands were exorbitant. While they didn’t get all they asked for, they did get more than they had any right to, making an enduring peace in the border areas between Germany and Poland unlikely. Between 1918 and 1924, Polish oppression of ethnic Germans in the former West Prussia drove 400,000 of them to the extreme step of leaving behind their historic home and crossing the new border farther west into the now smaller Germany. At the same time the new Polish Republic drifted under its democratic regimes, with no economic progress. In May 1926, the more authoritarian-minded Pilsudski ordered a coup d’etat on the existing regime and after a short civil war, took control but with no broad base of popular support.
In keeping with his desire to maintain Poland’s independence, Pilsudski signed a Soviet-Polish Non-Aggression Pact in 1932 and a German-Polish Non-Aggression Pact in January 1934 with Adolf Hitler (referred to in the quote above). Hitler wanted a German-Polish alliance against the Soviet Union, but Piłsudski declined, preferring to be prepared for potential war with either Germany or the Soviet Union, while keeping alive the friendship with France and England as support. However, he did advise that the door always be kept open for talks with Germany, which his personally appointed successors (Beck, Ridz-Smigly) didn’t follow.
But Pilsudski’s admonition to his people4 collapsed under the promises and chauvinistic agitation of the Allies. Up to March 1939, Hitler hoped to reach a settlement with Poland or even sign a friendship pact, but Chamberlain’s Guarantee Declaration deemed that hopeless. Poland was in the West’s camp. He (Hitler) saw an agreement with Russia as the only chance to avoid encirclement by the Western Powers.
England’s diplomats had already tried to strengthen the encirclement by adding Russia’s power. Hitler became aware that the Polish problems, now already an open threat, could no longer be solved without Russia. Still, he tried once more to come to a sensible solution. His offer to the Polish government was not only magnanimous, but reached the utmost limit Germany could bear. Only he could make such an offer, serving peace with an honest heart, adverse to the legitimate interests of the German people.
But the Poles stirred the warmongers and persisted in keeping the injustices of Versailles alive. They felt protected by the senseless Guarantee Declaration of England and France. Today, Hitler is convinced that Stalin was part of those warmongers. Icily calculating, Stalin was driving a devilish double game – a binding treaty with us, while at the same time winking at the Western Powers.
Why consensus moves failed
Our treaty with Stalin 5 did not motivate the Poles to yield to a peaceful settlement of the Danzig and Corridor problem. Also, because of the continued provocations and persecutions of the German minorities in the part of Poland added by the dictates of Versailles, the now unavoidable war could not have been localized by that German-Russian agreement.
Already at that time, he felt the currents of reaction as real – not only of military, but also those with diplomatic and church connections. But it didn’t dawn on him to what villainy that scum out of the German population might be capable. The scope of the malicious behavior, combined with the foolishness and total misjudging of the actual world situation, appeared only later – revealed by the assassination.6
Until the last massive snub 7 by the Polish leadership at the end of August 1939, he couldn’t imagine that they would let it come to a fight. Sober deliberations would have led the Poles to the following conclusions:
1) The German claim for Danzig is justified because Danzig is a German city.
2) The settlement of the Corridor question is necessary and the request for a plebiscite 8 is correct.
3) The alternative offer of the plebiscite for a final and peaceful settlement represents the utmost limits of what can be expected from Germany.
4) After the signing of the German-Russian treaty, Poland’s military situation was hopeless.
5) England’s Guarantee Declaration did not change anything, nor did any additional far-reaching assurances by England and France. Between the two power blocks of Germany and Russia, Poland would be smashed in a few weeks.
Something else countered those facts and encouraged the Poles in their attitude. Either an English perfidy, which made the Poles risk a war, or the English hint of an assured regime collapse: the removal of the war threat by a reactionary clique within Germany, followed by a putsch.
A multitude of wishful thinking might explain the following –
The (German) reactionary: “If you remain tough, we will get rid of him.”
The English: “That’s how we finish Germany and the Nazis, we use the Poles.”
And the Poles: “Yes, if that’s so, in a few weeks we are in Berlin.”
When England and France declared war in September 1939, Poland was not their concern. The Guarantee Declarations gave them the goal they were after: a war among the European nations, which complies exactly with Lenin’s prophecy. As the war against Poland was now inevitable, Stalin used it to clear the Soviet’s west border – after we conquered Poland, Stalin effortlessly finished the rest and then liquidated over 10,000 officers and leaders at the Katyn forest.
The reports of Polish brutality against the German minorities in the Corridor and the border areas had affected Hitler terribly. Partly before and partly after the beginning of the battles, they were rounded up and beaten to death. More German minorities (Volksdeutsche) were beaten and tortured to death than German soldiers died during the regular fighting. That had influenced his attitude toward the Poles.
Russian-Soviet timing and tactics
Hitler then talked again about the German-Russian agreement. That treaty protected our back; we were able to win time. But Stalin, too, needed to gain time when he signed the pact with us. By its Guarantee Declaration, England made any rational and peaceful settlement impossible and wanted war. Stalin, too, drove toward war without being involved right away. Unrest within Europe and Germany’s weakness was his goal – and on that his very smart chess moves were aimed at getting us deeply involved in the war and Russia would take the advantage.
Those are the old Czarist, now Lenin-Stalin, political aims: by the partition of Poland, the Soviets gained their Western fore field. While we were tied down with our forces in the West, they annexed the Baltic States, occupied Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina; they were not squeamish, they turned spheres of interest into annexations.
After the French campaign, Stalin certainly expected long-lasting battles; he assumed we would attack England and England thought we would go against Russia. Stalin laid in wait, time was with him, and that “time” was the gigantic Russian-Asiatic continent. We did not have any of that – neither time nor space. And both are decisively interconnected.
Stalin – no, Russia since Peter the Great! –wanted still more territory. Russia wants the Balkans as a “sphere of interest” naturally, like the Baltic States. Russia intends Bulgaria as “a sphere of interest” – it would give her access to the Aegean Sea. She wants bases at the Dardanelles.
Stalin’s demands now went from Finland to the Aegean Sea, as a basis for the Bolshevik world revolution – or were those the Old Russian imperialist aims of Peter the Great? Had Hitler agreed to what Molotov demanded in the name of Stalin, he would have betrayed Europe.
The political future of Europe
The destiny of the Occident (Abendland) was at stake – Spengler prophesied in the twenties its disintegration and decline. He (Hitler) considered it his task to win over the German people, the whole of Europe even, for a strong, social revolution. He planned to ruin Lenin’s, and Lenin’s successors, quite openly-announced intent to “bolshevize” Europe with the support of Asia. He wanted to avoid the Occident sinking into various types of Marxism. A social reconstruction can only happen within the framework of a nation, a people’s union (Volksgemeinschaft), and not by means of an international, splitting-and-class-struggling Marxism. A socialism based on Marxism divides the nation completely, meaning it destroys the only possible carrier of social thinking.
We have seen where this divide leads: to the party pettiness of Social Democrats, Independents and all the way to the Communists. But exactly the same applies to the errors of Liberalism. Both cannot be the expression of our century; it would be a relapse worse than during the rule of the Bourbons. Only the synthesis of nation and socialism is meaningful for us and our century.
Stalin and Britain destabilize the Balkans
Adolf Hitler continued to talk. He said: “Behind Stalin’s cold, hard demands, expressed by Molotov during his visit to Berlin in (November) 1940, stood an increasingly obvious military threat at our Eastern border – the Eastern border of Europe. At first, 150 Russian divisions faced a thin veil of German forces. Stalin’s marching armies could have cut us off at any time from raw materials necessary for carrying on the war. By that, he was in a favorable situation to wait and re-arm and negotiate with the Western powers.”
Had we still been bitterly involved in a fight with England, Stalin’s price would have been even higher – a price Hitler was not willing to pay. It was different with the Allies – any price, which the rest of Europe would have to pay, would have been accepted by the Western gangsters. In their blindness, they recognized only one goal: Germany’s destruction – the French with Richelieu’s ideas, the British with their balance of power policy 9, the rest with senseless hate!
When we did not attack England – because good sense and European responsibility forbade it – Stalin started trying to dissolve the Balkan states. He tried to ignite a putsch that would create a chaotic situation in Romania; the conditions favored him because Italy plunged the Balkans into restlessness. New warfare areas were to be developed to split our strengths.
When (Hitler) tried hard to win over the Balkans for a common Europe – or at least to calm it down, neutralize it – the Italians attacked Greece without letting us know. A senseless adventure! He was confronted with that madness when he arrived in Florence after the disappointing meetings at Hendaye and Montoire.10
The Italians couldn’t even hold on to their own Cyrenaica! Their attack on Greece was unsuccessful not because of unfavorable weather, but more so because of the courageous defense of the Greeks. Naturally, one also has to consider that the Italian attack was brought on by the deliberate snub and break of neutrality by Greece.
A typical English infamy lurked behind all that: to expand the war, to create a new war theater and distract from their island empire, England landed troops in Crete and, at the same time, on Greek territory – nearly 70,000 soldiers of their elite units.
At first, he (Hitler) thought the decision (Mussolini’s) to attack Greece had its roots in the reminiscing of their Roman empire, but today he knows of the intentions of the sly Ciano.11 He never trusted him and is convinced the fateful decision the Duce made was influenced by his cunning nepotist. He now must have feared that Yugoslavia, pressed by England and Russia, would take over the role Czechoslovakia once played. He was relieved when he was able to sign the treaty in the spring of 1941, hoping he could protect his Southern flank.
It turned out differently – a few days later the putsch occurred in Belgrade. Here again, although hidden, the combined effort of the English and Russian leadership stage managed that revolt. The Yugoslavian government was toppled and its forces were mobilized against Germany.
As it became necessary in 1940 to protect our Northern flank all the way up to the North Cape for reasons of the raw material situation, he now has to secure the Southern flank, against his intentions, for the same reason. The Balkan became a new war theater for us – a new front emerged. Troops and forces were tied up; casualties of men and materiel occurred; valuable – yes very decisive time – elapsed. We would experience that bitterly.
In the meantime, a threatening readiness of Russian divisions and armies at the German and Romanian east borders took place. No hesitation was possible. Our preventive stroke met battle-ready armies of the Soviets. Our attack did not surprise the Russian leadership.12 On the contrary, we were surprised by the deeply-stacked Russian forces, the strength of their artillery, and especially their incredible mass of tanks: the robust, battle-proven T 34s.
With that attack, not only the two-front war, which he tried to avoid, but an all-sided battle began. He always expressed the opinion that we never should have allowed ourselves to be involved in such a situation. The Napoleonic Russian campaign stood, menacing and terrorizing, in front of his eyes: “Don’t you doubt that I carefully considered all phases and events Napoleon had to experience in Russia,” Hitler said. “Why then, still, our attack? We were condemned to that struggle, it was our fate. What we still could decide on our own was when to attack. But even the choice of our most favorable moment did not depend on our decision.
"Especially after the development at the Balkans and the Russian threat, there was no hope left to attack the English island; to strike England and Gibraltar was blocked for us. Suez would have made sense only in connection with Gibraltar.
"Time was against us. By all means we had to try to avoid an extended war. When England staked all its hopes on the Red Army, for us only one possibility remained: to eliminate that Red Army and force the Western Powers into peace, before America’s interference, with all its consequences, occurred. In order to avoid a multiple-front war, that Red Army had to be conquered within a foreseeable time.”
Another viewpoint had influenced his decision: it was equally important for Germany and Europe’s future to confront the Bolshevik threat. We could not confine ourselves to the defense of merely the German territory. Only by a preventive stroke could we succeed in carrying the campaign into the vast regions of Russia.
There was no doubt that it would be a struggle to exist or not to exist. That struggle could only be fought by a solid unity and the hard, unshakable will of the German people (Volk). “I repeat what I said at the beginning of the war,” Hitler continued. “If we acquire that solidarity, then our strong will, our unity should overcome any peril. But in that, the solidarity, I misjudged. I underestimated the reactionary. The bearers of that treason never recognized the meaning and destiny of that battle for Germany and for Europe.
1) The Danzig Corridor was Hitler’s demand for a land bridge (narrow passageway) through Polish territory to connect Germany with its landlocked province of East Prussia.
2) Wilson’s 14 Points called for self-determination of peoples living in disputed territories, but this was not applied to Germans.
3) Marshall Jozef Pilsudski signed a 10 year peace pact with Hitler in 1934 – the German-Polish Pact of Nonaggression. Pilsudski was an ethnic Lithuanian from an aristocratic, polonized family. As a young man, he was involved in radical socialist politics against the Tsarist authorities, even carrying out bank and train raids to fund a revolutionary army. After 1918, he fought against Russian Bolshviks and became a leader of the newly formed Poland. He died in 1935.
4) To keep the door open for talks with Hitler’s Germany
5) Molotov-Ribbentrop non-aggression pact of August 23, 1939
6) The failed 1944 Valkyrie plot
7) The Polish ambassador Lipski did not meet the ultimatum that Hitler had set. Lipski was acting by order of his minister of foreign affairs, Col. Beck, who was backed up by the British government.
8) A direct vote of the entire electorate to determine their preference of rule – German or Polish.
9) Cardinal Richelieu wanted France as the dominant power in Europe. Britain’s Balance of Power policy wanted to prevent any single nation gaining control over Europe.
10) Hitler met General Franco in Hendaye in order to persuade him to join Germany in the war, or at least to support him in the effort to take Gibralter. Franco stalled, which made Hitler very upset. He was disappointed. His meeting with Marshal Petain at Montoire stabilized the relationship with the Vichy Government.
11) Conte Galeazo Ciano was Mussolini's son-in-law, and was later charged and hung for high treason.
12) Even though he was presented with the exact timing of the invasion from different sources, such as Sorge in Tokyo and British intelligence, the suspicious Stalin would not believe it and adjust his attack plans.
Giesler: “Until the last massive snub by the Polish leadership at the end of August 1939, he couldn’t imagine that they would let it come to a fight.”
Adolf Hitler and Polish Foreign Minister Jozef Beck meet together in 1937 when relations were still fairly good. By August 1939, Beck was ignoring Hitler’s requests to talk about their common borders and Hitler’s main concern that could wait no longer – Danzig.
The Germans, on August 29, made a new offer to negotiate with Poland. By this offer, they were telling the world that they preferred diplomacy to war. The Poles, by refusing this offer to talk, told the world that they favored war. British Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax, by refusing to encourage the Poles to negotiate, also favored war. What Halifax did encourage was for the Hitler government to believe that the Poles were willing to talk, when he knew they were not.
On the 28th, Beck informed the British he would not negotiate without an explicit statement from Hitler that Germany had abandoned Danzig once and for all, and that she would never again seek to improve her transit communications to East Prussia through the Polish Corridor. This, however, was not relayed to the Germans.
A note given from Hitler’s government to the British Ambassador to Germany, Nevile Henderson, at 7:15 p.m. on August 29, stated that Hitler wished the British Government to advise Poland to send an emissary to Berlin on the following day, Wednesday, August 30th. He emphasized that urgency was required by the pressure of events, and he wished the British to know that Germany expected the arrival of a representative from Poland not later than midnight on August 30th. Hitler assured Henderson that he would negotiate with Poland on a basis of full equality. Henderson assured Halifax that the terms would be moderate. Henderson also urged Polish Ambassador to Germany Jozef Lipski, before midnight on August 29th that his country could and should send a special envoy to Berlin the following day. Lipski informed Beck and Beck called in Britain’s Ambassador to Poland Hugh Kennard.
Kennard was extremely anti-German, as was his boss Halifax. Therefore, Kennard did not advise Beck to stop the Polish mobilization scheduled for that morning, August 30, and went so far as to advise him to reject Hitler’s offer, even though his own government had dishonestly assured Germany two days before that Poland was prepared to negotiate.
Nevile Henderson Lord Halifax
On the morning of August 30, Henderson messaged Halifax that midnight August 30 was not an unconditional deadline and Berlin was not an unconditional location - the Hitler government was willing to accommodate the Poles in this regard as long as an assurance of a desire to negotiate was made. But by that afternoon, the general Polish mobilization notices had been posted throughout Poland and Beck had issued an “Orwellian” communiqué stating that Poland had supported all efforts for peace by Allies or neutrals, but their efforts had brought no reaction from Germany. Still, Hitler, Goering and Ribbentrop continued to hope that the Poles would yet send an emissary to Berlin – and even into the morning of the 31st.
As it turned out, Beck had sent instructions to Lipski shortly before noon to accept no proposals and enter into no negotiations with the German Government. This became known when the telegram was intercepted and decoded by Goering’s special investigation office. Saying his conscience was now clear as he had done his best for months under trying circumstances, Hitler issued the final invasion order in the early afternoon of August 31st.
The Polish refusal to discuss a settlement with Germany on any terms, and the insult of no reply from either Britain or Poland to Hitler’s final offer, was the “massive snub.”
Giesler: “–a few days later the putsch occurred in Belgrade. Here again, although hidden, the combined effort of the English and Russian leadership stage managed that revolt.”
Yugoslavia’s anti-Russian regent Prince Paul rides with Adolf Hitler in March 1941 when he agreed to join the Tripartite Pact (Berlin-Rome-Tokyo). The Balkan now seemed secure since Bulgaria also signed, and Hungary and Rumania were already partners. Hitler was aware of the danger of military operations by the West via a thrust from the Mediterranean towards Greece, Albania or Trieste. Two days after Yugoslavia’s formal signing of the Pact in Vienna on March 25, Paul’s regime was toppled in a military coup led by Serbian General Dusan Simovich, but initiated and planned by British officers, and certainly with the encouragement and knowledge (if not active help) of the Soviets.
Deploying the Waffen SS Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler Division from the Russian front and Gebirgsjaeger mountain divisions from Austria, Hitler attacked both Yugoslavia and Greece hard on April 6. Simovich and the newly installed pro-British King Peter fled the country, ending up in England in June. On April 10, the nation of Croatia seceded from Yugoslavia and allied itself with Germany. Yugoslavia capitulated on April 17. The British invasion troops fled to Crete, Cyprus and finally to Egypt.
On June 2, Greece collapsed after a tough battle in which Austrian mountain battalions played a decisive role. Three or four Gebirgsjaegerdivisons accomplished a remarkable feat, first by arriving there so quickly, and then by successfully climbing around behind the Thermopylae Pass in the rocky Greek hills, carrying their equipment (guns, ammunition, food) on mules and small horses, with some motorized vehicles. Along with a shortage of water in the great heat, they met heavy resistance from the Greek Army. General Ferdinand Schoerner, pictured below, a Bavarian from Munich and the last chief of the German Army in 1945, commanded the 4th Gebirgsjaegerdivision and became the “Conquerer of the Acropolis.”
It was a complete victory for the Axis forces, but it delayed the invasion of the Soviet Union, which may have been a fatal stroke in that war.
General Ferdinand Schoerner, with the Acropolis in the background.
Giesler: “England’s diplomats had already tried to strengthen the encirclement by adding Russia’s power.”
Sir Stafford Cripps, an ardent Marxist, made the Time cover on Nov. 10, 1946. In spite of being expelled from his own labor Party in early 1939 for organizing a Popular Front of Liberals, Laborites and Communists to try to bring down the Chamberlain Government, he offered his services to that government at the outbreak of war. He was ignored, but the next thing Britain knew, he was on a trip around the world, calling on Molotov, Nehru and Roosevelt. Some speculated he was on a secret mission for the Chamberlain Government, the objective of which was to get Stalin to sign a mutual defense pact with Britain. Others believed it was Churchill, who later appointed Cripps to be his Ambassador to Moscow, who arranged the trip. But was this his real mission? Or was it to drag out talks and negotiations with Britain in the hope that either Hitler or Stalin would start their war and bleed each other to the advantage of Great Britain?
On this issue, historians are still divided; pertinent documents are still locked in secret archives. Stalin may have become suspicious of Britain’s game because he suddenly invited the Germans to send a plenipotentiary emissary to Moscow. Hitler sent Ribbentropp and they signed the Molotov-Ribbentropp non-aggression pact on August 23, 1939.
In one of his last meetings with Cripps, Stalin told him, “I never detected a desire in German politicians to absorb a European country. I do not believe the Soviet Union is threatened by German military successes.” Source: Rolf Dieter Mueller, Der 2.Weltkrieg 1939-1945 Band 21, Verlag Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart, 2004.
WAR CAMPAIGNS: The West Offensive of May 1940 was entirely planned by Adolf Hitler
Translation and Commentary by Carolyn Yeager and Wilhelm Mann
Ein Anderer Hitler, Druffel Verlag, Leoni am Starnberger, 6th edition, 1982.
Copyright 2010 Carolyn Yeager
Hitler: Now I took Keitel (center) and Jodl (right) into my confidence—no, I did not win them over for my plans right away. They disapproved and raised objections, like: Would it not be wiser to go northwards around the Maginot fortifications?
Translators’ Introduction: In the following chapter taken from Hermann Giesler’s memoir Ein Anderer Hitler, the Fuehrer’s detailed explanation to his architect-friend in the map room of his headquarters in Winniza1 should clarify once and for all who was the author of the West campaign, and eliminate the fantasies of most military historians of the past decades who accept Generals Franz Halder or Erich von Mainstein as the genius strategist and original planner.
Those fallacies are still considered historical fact today. Their origin can be found in statements by former chief of staff Colonel General Franz Halder in his Kriegstagebuch2 as well as remarks by General Walter Warlimont, deputy chief of operations at the OKW, in his book Inside Hitler’s Headquarters (See “The Controversy: Keitel vs. Halder")
General von Manstein’s reports and messages to OKH and his detailed descriptions of the events in late 1939 and early 1941 in his book Verlorene Siege, came closest to Hitler’s description. As chief of staff of Army Group A with headquarters in Koblenz, von Manstein, from October 1939 on, bombarded Army chief of staff Colonel General Halder with memos that suggested corrections for the organization of German forces at the Western war theater, which were readying for the offensive.
Several postponements, caused partly by bad weather, partly by the accident of General Felmy’s staff officers at the Dutch border3, gave Manstein the opportunity to suggest in detail a radical change of the offensive strategy. Giving up the old von Schlieffen plan, he preferred instead a thrust across the Maas River at Sedan with three armies of Army Group A, and a rapid move to the mouth of the Somme River at Abbeville.
On November 12, 1939, to their utmost surprise, Army Group A received a teleprint with Hitler’s detailed orders finalized along the lines of von Mainstein’s strategy. In his book, Manstein describes that event: “…maybe Hitler came to that thought by himself. He had an eye for tactical possibilities and pondered a lot over maps. He could have recognized one could cross the Maas the easiest way at Sedan, when further down the panzer of the 4th army would have it much tougher. He could have seen the Maas crossing near Sedan as a favourable place ….” (V.S. p. 106)
Any message from von Manstein had to go by way of the commander of Army Group A, Generaloberst Gerd von Rundstedt, to Halder, before it got to Hitler. Von Manstein suspicioned that his and von Rundstedt’s messages never reached Hitler’s desk. On February 17, 1940, von Manstein—who in the meantime had been sacked as chief of staff of Army group A (Halder didn’t like Manstein, was jealous of him, and so interfered with his intentions and strategy plans)—had, as the newly appointed commander of the 38th corps (far in the hinterland, an infantry force in Stettin), to report to Hitler. It was at that meeting that Hitler first got acquainted with von Manstein’s “new innovative plans” forwarded to Halder (but never received by Hitler) that were so close to Hitler’s own findings.
Thus the strategic dice were cast—Rundstedt’s Army and Guderian’s Panzer were ready.
* * * *
It was a large collection of maps bound in leather: The France War Campaign in its Chronicle Sequence. One day it was placed on Adolf Hitler’s work desk. The Armed Forces Adjutancy had told me the volumes were prepared as a military-historical documentation, and its first edition was presented to Hitler at Winniza.
Adolf Hitler, as a preamble for his giving me a review of the campaign which surprised the world, explained to me that he had already requested from the chief of the general staff (Franz Halder), before the end of the Polish campaign, a presentation of the strategic dispositions for an offensive campaign in the West. He said, “First, I did not trust the peace; second, an offensive in the West had to be thought through and prepared in all its details; and finally, the timing—the most important factor. We were permanently under time pressure and still are; the time, she stays as a powerful ally with the enemy, more relentless than the past winter with its premature snow, ice and shattering cold.”
Pensive, he added, “From my youth on, like a premonition, I never liked snow or ice.
"Already, long before the French campaign, I told you that the chief of staff presented me in September 1939 with the rehashed Schliefen plan4—not, however, in detail. How it happened—I mean, the arrogance of a presentation of shallow nothingness, of repetitions of the thought processes of the honorable General Schliefen, which was still, in its operational principle, part of the 19th century and not accounting for the possibilities of modern weapons, tanks and air force!”
Adolf Hitler was silent, remembering.
After a while, he said, “I looked at the chief of the general staff and was convinced that any further words, or even a critical analysis, would lead to nothing, would end in emptiness—he is not able to think in all dimensions at all, but he is convinced he is of a unique military capacity. He is lacking in ideas, novelty, imagination, daring and, above all, in the charisma that is characteristic of a military leader.
"But how much time remained to change that ‘strategy according to Schliefen,’ and those meticulously compiled tactical detail plans by radically new offensive thinking? In the short time available, one could only reinforce tank units and motorized divisions in front of Luxembourg, and thus at that attack section emphasize the offensive thrust in the direction of Neuchateau and Sedan.
"I gave the order to attack at middle of November ‘39. Then that mysterious betrayal of the start of the offensive happened. Its discovery was relayed to me at your office, on November 8th5. I immediately called the offensive off. It was not easy, we lost time. But on the other hand, the assassination6 against me did not succeed, and the decision to call off the attack turned out later to be correct because of the very unfavorable weather conditions.
"The traitor, up till now, has not been found7. Camouflaged, he sits in a high military position; all offensive deadlines have so far been betrayed! What hatred against me, and National Socialism, lies behind that revolting and cowardly treason—without any hesitation German soldiers are sacrificed.
"A decision in the West in 1939 was not possible anymore. We lost time, valuable time, but I used that time to deal with the strategy of the French campaign and to thoroughly study the tactical details which derived from it.”
We walked over to the maps and Adolf Hitler opened the volume. First was a map surveying the area from the Mediterranean to the North Sea, marked with the military forces as of September 1939.
"I was now dealing on my own with the strategic possibilities, keeping completely to myself. My idea was: If I act as if I was attacking ‘a la Schliefen,’ and thus fooled them thoroughly”—with one hand he outlined an area—“and begin with an energetic thrust, here, where they would not expect it at all”—his index finger pointed down to Sedan—“what will then be the consequence? Slowly, my ideas focused. I could see the sequence of the surprise attacks, everything firmed up. But still I kept it to myself; I didn’t talk to anyone about my deliberations.
"I requested all supportive material and checked it out thoroughly. I surveyed the Maginot fortifications as far as they were known to us and marked on our general staff maps. Then I had relief maps and aerial photos set before me, but from all sections, not only from the area of my planned thrusts. Furthermore, I dealt with the entire road system and its pass-through volume, and checked the possibility of camouflaging the readiness positions.
"Gradually, I felt sure, and now I committed my Wehrmacht adjutants8 to absolute secrecy so that they could assist me. Slowly, I gained the conviction that is eminently necessary to feel that ‘this is the way and no other.’
"In December 1939, the offensive plan moved from a mere idea into a more concrete stage. Great strategy takes place not only on an intellectual level, but according to its own laws, similar to city building and architecture—I am nearly tempted to say, it is artwork.
"Should that strategy lead to a complete success, should it be achieved, it will be by a logical interconnecting of all tactical details, which have to be sensible and carefully planned. These tactical details must be completely integrated and subordinated to one great strategic idea. They are, at the same time, both the foundation and structure. Naturally, precautionary preparations had to be planned in order to meet all possible unknowns. Furthermore, to reach the great goal, surprise is necessary.
"Now I had to deal with the details and the respective tactics of attack; I took my time and did it thoroughly. From maps we went to sand box exercises. I still kept the circle of the insiders small, and according to my later experiences my precautions were absolutely correct.
"Beginning January 1940, that strategy was solidly cemented by all tactical detail planning.
"Now I took Keitel and Jodl9 into my confidence—no, I did not win them over for my plans right away. They disapproved and raised objections, like: Would it not be wiser to go northwards around the Maginot fortifications?
"Just that is what the adversaries expect and make preparations for, I told them. My offensive plans were too bold, too daring.
"Naturally it was risky; not only the front-thrust but also the flanks from South, West and even from the East were in danger, in case the divisions following the first thrust are not able to secure the break-through area in time. They didn’t make it easy for me to convince them.
"The blocking barrier of Maginot? Well, I was sure about that. The Czech barrier forts, directed against us then and built by French engineers similar to the Maginot bunkers—not only did I have a close look at those, they were for me useful objects for shooting trials. The results met my expectations—the bunkers were cleanly penetrated by direct shots of 8.8 special shells. Also, by Stuka attacks I would either eliminate them or keep them down.
"Around the middle of February, the newly nominated commanding generals, among them Manstein, reported in. (Gen. Rudolf) Schmundt made me aware of him, indicating that his ideas about the war strategy in the West were nearly the same as mine. After he reported in, I gave Manstein the opportunity to present his thoughts about the West offensive. Yes, it was as Schmundt told me.
"Manstein was the only general who found the way to the same basic plan of operation; my thinking was thus confirmed. I still kept silent though—the fewer who knew about it, the more surprising the thrust would be. It would not have been prudent to let Manstein know how far advanced beyond the basic strategic concept the tactical details had already been worked out.”
Hitler tells of his detailed planning
During his talk, Adolf Hitler had turned over map after map covering the months of the “drole de guerre” (funny war) until May 1940. On the map you could notice the markings of the take-off positions for the attack.
"I don’t want to get involved now with all the details, like the rapid taking over of crossings, bridges, and barriers. Once they were situated close to the border, I engaged raiding commandos—partly even on bicycles—so they could quickly and silently run over the enemy positions.
"Most important was the storming of Eben Emael, the impenetrable, modern barrier fort. It could be taken without heavy losses only by a surprise raid, by coordinating the attack from the air and the ground. Gliders should silently land on top of the fort and drop off the commandos. Airplanes with parachute troops, and gliders with raiding commandos, will engage as tactical considerations at the time require it. Whenever possible, airfields behind the enemy lines will be captured that way.
"Believe me, Giesler, all these attacks I discussed, and exercised on a model, with officers and flying personnel, pioneers, parachutists and infantries—and we succeeded totally.”
Adolf Hitler opened the next map: it showed the attack that took place on the morning of May 10th with the markings for the first day targets. Following that were maps with sections of the different divisions, then a second map series marking the success by the individual panzer and battle groups.
Drawn on a larger scale could be seen the hard battle for Sedan. That was the energetic thrust the enemy did not expect—then the breakthrough and the advance of the panzers, secured at their flanks by the forward pushing divisions. Now, map after map followed, sometimes two for one day, graphically reporting the battle success of the panzer thrust along the eastside of the Somme to Abeville.
"My biggest worry was securing the flanks; counterattacks from the South and Southwest, energetically executed, would have grown to a serious threat. Logically, at the same time, the ‘Schliefen attack’ had to be seriously carried out in order to draw the main forces of the enemy, the motorized units, into Belgian territory. The deception succeeded; the mass of the enemy forces moved into those battle areas, as I imagined they would, and were cordoned off. The frontal attack of our divisions also showed total success and forced Holland and Belgium to surrender. The operation, later called ‘Sichelschnitt’ (sickle cut), became a decisive success. But the total defeat of the Western allies was not yet won.”
The Dunkirk miracle—was it really Hitler’s error?
Translators' Commentary: A lot of consternation and wild speculation among military historians has centered about the Dunkirk operation of May 26 to June 4, 1940. Hitler’s description of these fateful days strongly supports the belief that it was primarily political considerations that led him to the decision to hold the panzers which were ready to encircle and defeat close to a half million soldiers of the British expedition corps. We know of Hitler’s aversion—at least at that time—to fight the Brits tooth and nail.
He thought his already obvious victory in the West should convince England to enter into peace negotiations and discussions of a new order in Europe together with Germany. Thoughts of himself as a European, and not only a German, military leader were in his mind—thoughts very different, as we know, from those of Churchill and his sinister advisers and dark Hintermaenner who wanted war.
The decision to hold the panzer corps at Dunkirk was discussed at the OKW and agreed to by von Rundstedt and his chief of staff—Manstein`s successor—Gen. von Sodenstern. Hitler, Keitel, Jodel and Rundstedt had two military considerations in mind leading to this decision:
1) The rapid thrust of the panzer had driven men and material to the utmost limits—rest and repair were necessary. On May 23rd, Panzerkorps Kleist reported close to 50% of their panzers lost. The flat environment of Dunkirk demanded full strength of the panzer corps. Rundstedt gave the halt order and overruled OKH, and Brauchitsch and Halder’s further advance.
2) The Southern flank of Army Group A was partly wide open. Even though the sickle movement of the two Army groups cut the Allied forces in half, there were still formidable French forces, tanks and motorized divisions assembled South and West of the Somme and Aisne to be reckoned with.
It is also known that Goering assured Hitler that the Luftwaffe, if called, would be able to devastate the grounded British expedition corps. As it turned out, the bad weather grounded the Reichsmarschall’s bombers for days, allowing 338,000 British soldiers to escape across the channel. England was saved, but thousands of weapons and vehicles were left at the beaches.
German Panzer and infantry crossed the Somme and Marne after a short, hard fought battle and took Paris. In a forest clearing at Compiegne, in the same railway car the German delegation signed the armistice in 1918, the French general Huntzinger signed the new armistice of June 22, 1940.
Adolf Hitler continues: “The opponent was actually decisively beaten in the North sector. Pressed from the East and South by our fast-moving troops, cut off towards the West, only the sea remained as the last open flight path. The mass of those primarily English forces was concentrated around Dunkirk, on the Flanders plains, which I remembered well from my world war time. Oh, I know, my Dunkirk decision was described as a big mistake, not only by the circle of the so-smart general staff—those “know it alls” and those with their so-Christian feelings—thought it was my biggest stupidity not to have completely destroyed the already-beaten British forces.
"Various considerations kept me from doing so.
"First, the military reasons. The Flanders lowlands restrict tank operations basically to the roads. Long drawn-out battles, with our own losses and the possible high breakdown of our tanks, were to be expected. For further necessary operations towards the West and South, into France proper, I could not sacrifice one tank. But above all, we must not waste our strength and lose time. The enemy had been shocked; now everything had to be done stroke by stroke.
"After listening to Rundstedt, my inner circle of military advisers also shared that opinion. It was absolutely necessary to continue the attack to the West and South without any hesitation before the enemy succeeds in building up a strong defense along the Somme and the Aisne. Our follow-up thrust already met with strong resistance there. It also had to be assumed the English would send additional troops, assisted by the artillery support of their battleships, across the Channel – they could not let France down as they did Poland!
"We had to attack towards the West—Paris and Northern France had to be taken very fast, to make it impossible for the English to land additional troops. We also had to direct an offensive toward the South, with a thrust behind the French fortifications. We had to enforce a final decision and thus bring the French campaign to a quick finish because there was another reason of a military-political kind. I did not remain orientated to only one side: for a long time I was listening, worried, toward the East.
"And did not a slight possibility of peace still exist, even though a vague one, which I might have obstructed by a pitiless defeat of the Dunkirk army?”
Adolf Hitler was deliberating on rational grounds as he was so often doing in the past years; he did not think only as a German—he thought as a European. He truly thought in a sense of a higher humanity which he wanted to be realized within ethnically-based unified societies (Volksgemeinschaften).
That he judged the possibility of peace higher, there is in my eyes one proof: On June 24, 1940, at his headquarters Bruly de Peche, he gave orders for peacetime tasks10, issuing a decree on the 25th giving authority to Speer and me to begin the restructuring of German cities.
Later, I was once more reminded of the “mistake of Dunkirk.” If I remember correctly, it was in August 1943 after the devastating air attacks in Hamburg. In an adjoining room, Adolf Hitler gave orders to an adjutant. A pile of photographs were lying on a table; I picked them up.
They were horrible testimonials of the effect the phosphor-hail had on women and children by that terrible terror attack at Hamburg with over 40,000 civilian death victims.
When Adolf Hitler returned to the work room, he saw the photographs in my hand. With a quiet, but very resolute voice he said: “Let it go, Giesler, don’t look at the pictures anymore. After a while, I had to rethink. It didn’t agree with my character to step on the one who lies on the ground. I was mistaken—magnanimity will not be recognized. They repay my sparing them at Dunkirk with bombs and phosphor on women and children whose men and husbands were fighting for Europe. What you see there is destructive brutality”—he pointed to the photographs—“again and again one tries not to believe this; now I know—no mercy!”
Those words were for me proof that his decisions at that time came from ethical ideas of war, rather than only military and political reasons.
I thought back to fall 1942 at Winniza. Upset and pondering, I had arrived there late at night or early morning and could not sleep. After Adolf Hitler talked with me, the explanation for his mistrust and chilly attitude toward the generals was evident. It was not commonly so, because, contrary to that, he kept the front officers and fighting troops in high esteem—and of whom he said: They know what is at stake.
It dawned on me why he so thoroughly explained, with the map documents, his strategic and tactical decisions and the way the French campaign was won. It was not based on the fact that the first example of that documentation was now set on the table; it was not just the explanation of his carefully planned campaign. No doubt, by reviewing, he wanted to assure himself that his strategic idea, his tactical dispositions were correct and had led to a surprisingly rapid success. His explanations were by no means arrogant. Deeds, courage and self-sacrifice of the soldiers and commanders always took first place, above all events.
"Only with such soldiers and officers could I dare to plan such an audacious performance,” he said to me. He followed with the remark, “The strategy for the Russian campaign was deliberated exactly the same way.”
For awhile he was silent and then he continued, “When I recognized, after the talks with Molotov, that no other possibilities existed—I had the choice: fight or give up and betray Europe. I decided to fight. It was the hardest decision of my life.”
I asked myself: Why does Adolf Hitler reveal all these problems and thoughts to me. Apart from the fact that his loneliness urged him to talk, he knew I was not only a National Socialist and follower he could trust, but, in addition, close to him as his architect.
He also recognized that I understood his goals—even more, he sensed that I saw him as a far-forward thinker who was already planning and fighting for the next generation. The joint work on city building conceptions and their architectural details created trust; he accepted and respected me. During those hours of mutual planning, he saw himself bound to peace, and his real mission as forming a new social order of the German people and their environment. He found the answer to the challenge of the time, the challenge of the technique, and the challenge of the new social order. In those hours, he was lifted up; I was more to him than his architect.
As always, I attended lunch. Adolf Hitler was pensive; our discussion was restricted to my impressions of the Danube bank design in Budapest. Right on the first day of our joint lunch and dinner, I asked to be served the same food as he was having. Hitler mentioned that I could order the mess-menu—it would not disturb him at all.
"No,” I replied, “I’m not pretending. I really want to get acquainted with your diet, and for the orderlies it is simpler to serve.” So I spooned the roasted semolina soup and forked the potato pancakes with vegetables. At that lunch, they served milk-rice, and with it ground chocolate in a small cup, as dessert. I sprinkled some over the milk-rice. Adolf Hitler criticized, “That’s too little—it is a rare pleasure,” and then poured nearly everything out of the cup over my rice.
"I am not allowed too much of it,” he remarked. I could see that by his small rice portion. It was rather surprising how little nourishment he needed.
After dinner he said, “Giesler, you are not only exhausted, but you also have not had enough sleep. I can see it. You will now take a walk, naturally with company—with Professor Brandt—and then go to the sauna, and you will sleep well. I’m very busy with military discussions and deadlines; no planning talks today. I’ll see you at tea time, late evening after the Lage.”
During the walk, I talked with Karl Brandt, of whom I think highly, about Hitler’s loneliness and his great burden. “If I am already worn out after hours in my small professional work here, and the talks with him, think then about the continuous demands made on him.”
"No,” Brandt interrupted me, “you have to look at it differently, Giesler. It’s obvious that you are tired out by the nightly discussions with the Chief, but also obvious that, for him, it means complete relaxation. He gains distance and new energy for decision-making. That’s why you’re so important here now.
Kietel and Jodl explain
I had dinner at the casino barracks and had a chance to talk to Field Marshal Keitel, with General Jodl present—naturally about the French campaign. I wanted to listen to his assessment.
"Well, when I think about the past it gives me confidence,” Keitel said. “He rarely talks about it; he was probably inspired by the map-collection.
What he presented to you, based on the maps, I can only add it was his idea, in all details his work. He alone was the commander of the French campaign.”
Keitel continued, “When he explained, in January 1940, his concept about the Western campaign, worked out to all strategic details, I was startled by his audacity, even though I had to acknowledge the brilliant strategy.” Jodl nodded, agreeing, and remarked, “We were pretty much perplexed when he put it on our table, complete with all details!”
"For his attack solution, he first won Jodl over, when I still could not accept it,” Keitel added. “I asked myself: would we succeed in deceiving the Allies to such an extent that they would thrust their motorized army and tank units into the Belgian-Holland region, in order to block the ‘Schliefen-Wing’? Would they consider the breakthrough at Sedan as a tactical, space-limited attack only? Could the flanks for the panzer thrust to the coast be secured at all? I never would have had the courage for such an audacious operation.
"General Schmundt said later that Manstein had the same thoughts. His ideas were not accepted and were refused by the chief of the General Staff (Halder). I found that out in January and arranged that Manstein could present his ideas to the Fuehrer. That was possible when he reported to the Fuehrer after his nomination to a Commanding General (Kommandierenden General) in middle February 1940.
"At that time, the Fuehrer had already planned and committed down to tactical details beyond the strategic operations—up to the commandos he needed for Eben Emael. With an incomparable insistence, he pushed through his strategic ideas and all tactical measurements. When Manstein presented his ideas for an offensive campaign, he could by that time only confirm what the Fuehrer had intended.”
Field Marshal Keitel and General Jodl were hung at Nuremberg11; General Schmundt became a victim of the July 20th assassination. But the Field Marshal confirmed what I heard from him in Winniza in the notes he left. The courageous, inspired strategy of the Western campaign was explicitly and absolutely Adolf Hitler’s work; he alone was the chief commander of the French campaign.
1. Winniza, Ukraine was the location of Hitler‘s headquarters called Werwolf. Franz Franz
2. Halder, Kriegstagwebuch 1939-1942, 3 vols., Stuttgart Kohlahammer, 1962-64
3. Some staff officers on the way from Luftwaffen General Felmy (chief of Luftflotte 2) to a place in the Rhine Valley—they were supposed to go by train, but they got hold of a small 4-seater plane—ran into foggy weather and emergency-landed in Dutch territory. One staff officer tried to burn, and then swallow, the documents they were carrying, but was not successful. They were delivered to the Dutch General Staff and, because the secrecy was breached, the attack had to be postponed. Felby was replaced because of this incident.
4. Halder was the chief of the general staff at that time. Schliefen’s plan in WWI was to make the right wing of the German forces strong and fast-moving. However, they stopped at the Marne River and didn’t move on; never captured Paris.
5. See TBR, Jan/Feb 2009, “Hitler in Paris” part two, page 60
6. The Nov. 8, 1939 bomb explosion at the Buergerbraukeller in Munich, which Hitler attended, but left early.
7. It was Hans Oster, who passed the date of the invasion of the Netherlands to the Dutch attache in Berlin. (See TBR, Nov/Dec 2009, “Valkyrie-The Last Circle,” page 51)
8. Schmundt from the Wehrmacht (Armed Forces), von Puttkammer from the Navy, von Below from the Luftwaffe, Engle from the Army, Schaub from the Party.
9. Chief of Staff OKW Wilhelm Keitel and his assistant Chief of Operations OKW Alfred Jodl.
10. At the time of the German-French armistice, Hitler visited Paris with architects Giesler and Speer. Hitler told them, “For you a tough time begins, work and pressure, the forming of cities and monuments which are put into your trust.” (See TBR, Jan/Feb 2009, “Hitler in Paris,” page 58)
11. Though Keitel and Jodl pleaded not guilty, the Nuremberg court found them both guilty on all charges, and shamefully hanged them on October 16, 1946, though they had requested to be executed by a firing squad, which was the only honorable method for officers. Jodl’s last words were “My greetings to you, my Germany;” Keitel’s were “I follow now my sons—all for Germany!” In 1953, Jodl was found posthumously “not guilty” by a German court and the verdict was declared “a mistake.”
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.
by Carolyn Yeager and Wilhelm Mann
The Belgian fort at the triangle border area of Germany, Belgium and Holland was located at a commanding position overlooking the Maas River and three bridges spanning the Albert Canal. It presented a major obstacle for any troops to advance into Belgium and Holland.
Some of the awesome, threatening casemates of Eben Emael. (photo courtesy Fronta.cz)
The fort drew the early attention of Hitler as he began to plan for the May 1940 campaign in the West. In late 1939, he arranged for special commandos of parachute troops (Fallschirmjaeger) and airborn units (Luftlandetruppen)—using glider planes because of their silence, and with brand new weapons and explosives (Haftladung)—to train under top secrecy at the similar border fortifications in Czechoslovakia.
The assault on the fort Eben Emael was part of the much larger campaign, “Fall Gelb,” of combined airborne troops, parachute troops, Stuka Aircraft and transport aircraft (400 Ju 52 transporters) against bridges, airfields and fortresses in Belgium and Holland. On May 9, 1940 these forces were gathered around Cologne. The force tasked with assaulting the Fort and capturing the three bridges was named Sturmabteilung Koch (Assault Detachment Koch) after the leader of the force, Hauptmann (Captain) Walter Koch.
Hauptmann Koch divided his force into four assault groups. Group Granite, under First Lt. Rudolf Witzig, was to assault and capture Fort Eben Emael from above. The other three groups were to capture the bridges. Eleven gliders carrying the 85 men of Group Granite, rope-towed by Ju 52s, left an airfield near Bonn at 4:30 on the morning of May 10 with the task to land on top of the fort and assault the cupolas and casemates with the new “hollow explosives,” flamethrowers and automatic weapons.
Absolute radio silence was enforced; the Ju 52 pilots were navigated by vertical searchlights toward the Belgian border and released the gliders at 7000 ft., about twenty miles before the target. Witzig’s glider was hit by a snapping tow line, forcing it to land in Germany; another glider released too early. Thus undermanned, only nine gliders landed on the roof of Eben Emael, where the troops quickly emerged and began attaching explosive charges to emplacements housing the artillery pieces. Each glider troops had their own objective. Some of the larger guns were more difficult to destroy and troops from two gliders, and then even more than that, had to join together to finally disable them.
A cupola in Fort Eben Emael after penetration by a shaped charge.
The fighting in the major part of the fort was fierce, and Stuka bombers had to be called in to quell some pockets of resistance. Entrances and exits located by the airborne troops were destroyed with explosives to seal them off.
In the meantime, Witzig had quickly called up another glider and, after flying through anti-aircraft fire, landed on top of the fortress and participated in the fighting. Group Granite was not relieved by the 51st Engineer Battalion until 7 a.m. May 11 because the Belgian engineers managed to destroy some bridges over the Maas River, which the Germans had to repair before crossing. Under great pressure, Group Granite suffered six killed and 19 wounded. But the defenders suffered 60 killed and 40 wounded, and surrendered at 12:30 on May 11, with an estimated 1000 Belgian soldiers taken into captivity.
The three bridges across the Albert Canal were also successfully captured by the other three glider groups under the command of Captain Koch. As result of these successes, the armored division of the 18th Army was able to enter the heart of Belgium. For their outstanding efforts, both Koch and Witzig were rewarded with the Knights Cross.
General Kurt Student, Commander of the Fallshirmjaegertruppen and advisor to Hitler on Eben Emael, wrote of the operation, and the efforts of Group Granite in particular, that "It was a deed of exemplary daring and decisive significance [...] I have studied the history of the last war and the battles on all fronts. But I have not been able to find anything among the host of brilliant actions—undertaken by friend or foe—that could be said to compare with the success achieved by Koch's Assault Group." (Volkmar Kuhn, German Paratroops in World War II. Ian Allen, Ltd. 1978. Page 36)
WAR CAMPAIGNS: Sea Lion - The Campaign That Was Never Launched
Translation and commentary by Carolyn Yeager and Wilhelm Mann
Copyright 2010 Carolyn Yeager
Translators' Introduction: Not quite four weeks after the new president of the defeated Republic of France, Marshal (Philippe) Petain, signed the Armistice with Germany, Adolf Hitler spoke to the Reichstag and the German Nation. It was the 19th of July 1940 when the Reichstag Deputies were assembled at the Kroll Opera House in Berlin, joined by all government ministers and the top brass of the Wehrmacht.
“I have summoned you to this meeting in the midst of our tremendous struggle for the freedom and the future of the German nation,” Adolf Hitler began. “I have done so […] with the intention of appealing, once more and for the last time, to common sense in general.” He described his political, social and economic goals and how they had succeeded since his Machtuebernahme in 1933. Raising His voice slightly, he said, “The program of the National Socialist Movement, besides freeing the Reich from the innermost fetters of a small substratum of Jewish-capitalist and pluto-democratic profiteers, proclaimed to the world our resolution to shake off the shackles of the Versailles Dictate…” Toward the end of his speech, showing visible emotion, he claimed, “From France and England, I never demanded anything but peace […] because my intention was not to make war, but to build a new social and cultural state […] At this hour I feel obligated before my conscience to once more appeal to common sense in England […] I don’t see any reason to continue this senseless fight.”
England’s answer was Churchill’s cynically uttered, “I don’t propose to say anything in reply to Herr Hitler’s speech, not being on speaking terms with him.” The British Prime Minister and his Hintermaenner wanted war and the destruction of Germany.
Prior to this speech, Hitler had issued on July 16th his Directive #16. It began: “Concerning preparations for an amphibious operation against England. Since England, in spite of her hopeless military situation, still shows no sign to come to an agreement, I have decided to prepare, and if necessary carry out, a landing operation against her.” He then outlined his strategy in broad strokes and requested plans from his three Armed Forces Commanders in Chief (Army, Navy, Luftwaffe) by early August.
At a meeting at his Berghof residence on July 31st with Field Marshal Walther von Brauchitsch (CiC Army) and Grand Admiral Erich Raeder (CiC Navy), Hitler requested detailed position papers for the operation after listening to their ideas. Already at that time, he told them he would start the campaign against Russia if Sea Lion was not executed, revealing he was aware of the serious problems confronting an invasion.
OKH (Oberkommando des Heeres–Army Supreme Command) came up with a bold, massive offensive across a wide stretch of Southern England that would tie up large enemy forces. Three Army groups (Army Group A under von Rundstedt; B under Strauss and C under von Reichenau) with a total of 36 divisions, including six tank and two airborne, would invade the South East coast of England, a 200-km long area between Ramsgate, the Isle of Wight and the Lyme Bay. Three waves, the first one with six divisions (16th, 9th and 6th Army), supported by 650 tanks (280 submerging amphibian) should attack on D day between September 19th and 21st.
OKM (Oberkommando des Marine—Navy Supreme Command) followed later with its operational plan. They requested a smaller attack area—no Lyme Bay—and concentrating between Folkstone and Eastbourne. With a strength differential of 1:10 for the German Navy to the Royal Navy, they could not give enough protection at the far Western end, since large naval units were unable to operate in the small English Channel–Straight of Dover. The Navy proposed to make a flotilla of ten destroyers and twenty torpedo boats available for the West side; thirty Schnell boats1 and twenty-one submarines for the East side; large minefields on the flanks; and to fake naval operations with a battleship, cruisers and troop transporters out of German North Sea ports and the south coast of Norway. The Navy also requested absolute control of the airspace by the Luftwaffe. There were some obvious military basics missing, for instance, time and space for unloading troops from ships to landing boats or vehicles.
Hitler intervened and demanded a revised plan to be worked out by the operations department of OKH. The invasion force was cut down to 26 divisions. A first wave of six divisions of General Busch’s 16th Army (from Army Group A) was to assemble in the ports of Rotterdam, Antwerp, Dunkirk and Calais, going ashore between Folkstone and Dover. Two divisions of General Strauss`s 9th army were to assemble at the harbor of Boulogne and landing between Eastbourne and Bexhill. Three divisions of Field Marshal Walther von Reichenau’s 6th Army would assemble at Le Havre, invading the shores at Brighton.
In the meantime, from August 13—“Eagle Day”—Luftflotte 2 and Luftflotte 3 of Germany’s Luftwaffe, tried to gain control over the island’s skies. It seemed to work, as they strafed and bombed airfields and communications, until the “Ultra” machine deciphered the wireless orders of the Luftflotte and enabled the British Command to quickly assemble Spitfires and Hurricanes for fierce counter-attacks. When Reichsmarshall Goering ordered reprisal attacks against British cities for the terror bombing of German cities, the goal of airspace supremacy was lost.
On September 17th, 1940, the Fuehrer Headquarters, recognizing these problems, postponed Operation Sea Lion and it never took place. Hitler turned his attention to the east.
August 1944, Fuehrer Headquarters, Winniza
"Why didn’t I give the order to attack England? I had various reasons.”
We were having our nightly tea at Winniza. It was not clear to me what Adolf Hitler was drinking most of the time. Once he said to me, “Camomile tea with honey tastes very good, sometimes peppermint tea or rose hips … also tea of mixed flower blossoms. And quite delicious is a boiled apple served in a glass.”
I chose black tea with oat cookies; from time to time, he took one.
For sure, he let the preparations for the attack go ahead; he had his reasons. Operation Sea Lion sounded very promising, but he was by no means sure about it. The forces for the attack had already begun their exercises; ships were concentrated; offensive operation plans worked out.
“But I wanted peace! Was it not possible that our offensive preparations would have been detected by reconnaissance, eagerly reported via the Vatican, Switzerland, Sweden, and Portugal to England, and possibly contributing to willingness for peace? But soon I recognized the hate was stronger; they preferred ‘blood, sweat and tears.’ The powers in the dark—incomprehensible—did not mind; it was not their blood, or their suffering. This war was satisfying their hate and drive for profit and power; Churchill was only the order taker.”
The offensive toward the West had never been his goal; he wanted to avoid it, and an attack on England seemed to him senseless. What losses would have occurred by such an attack across the Channel. Fall was approaching, with its unruly seas; most of the transport ships were not seaworthy. At first, he only felt a slight apprehension about it, but then he saw a threat—the very busy diplomatic activity of the enemy. Their target: a renewed effort at encirclement. But for the time being he left that aside.
“Let’s assume we attack England and the attack succeeds, under great sacrifices. What then? We would not possess the English government, the Royal House, the fleet—they moved away to Canada. The war in the West would continue, but not to our advantage, and in any case with an enormous tie-down of our forces. The occupation of England would not relieve the situation in Norway and France.
“And how would we feed the island when we ourselves are just making it, with restrictions. Then, our forces would bleed to death on the way to England and in England itself, while the Russians rolled over the Balkans, as they did in the Baltic with Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. First they declare it a ‘sphere of interest,’ then comes military occupation, and finally the bolshevization, and with it, gaining military and economic strength.
“But not only that, the Russian could cut off our supplies and block important raw materials at the Balkans, above all oil. No, he would have us in his hand, dictating. We should even be glad he would not attack us right away. That would depend on how much our forces were weakened by our attack of England.”
Those were his considerations at that time. Why was England not ready for peace? Churchill has said only one word: Russia.
Already, long before (just after the French campaign had ended), it was clear to him that, depending on the war and political world situation at the time, Russia will act—either by its Bolshevik idea of a world revolution or by a nationalistic Russian idea of expansion towards the West, Europe. Both would come to the same result in the end. It’s a problem of greatest importance, not only for Europe but more so for the whole world. It lurks on the horizon like a threatening cloud before a thunderstorm.
Certainly the Russians were not yet quite ready, but the threat was already obvious. The deployment against us had already begun, first diplomatically, followed very soon by military preparations. Now he knew it would not take long for blackmail to enter. He anticipated far ahead of what Molotov presented.
Stalin would naturally have preferred us to attack England, to weaken and entangle ourselves according to Lenin’s prophecies. Not only common sense but European thinking spoke against an invasion of England.
More and more, threatening signals appeared—danger from the East. Not only the decision for Germany, but one for the whole world rested with us. Churchill and Roosevelt, warmongering figures visible in the darkness, bet on the Russia card. To forestall them with our attack was the only possibility; first to ward off the Russian-Bolshevik danger, second to secure food and raw materials, and third to not only take the Russian card out of the hands of the West, but to make it obvious that, by Germany securing its food and raw material, a continuing of the war would be senseless.
For sure, individual operations in the West, like Gibraltar, would have been possible and could have shown significant results, but only on our own, without drawing Spain into the war. He has been advised against this. He had talked to me about his disappointments after negotiating with Franco. He naturally wanted to attack Gibraltar from the land side. He by no means intended to draw Spain into the war. Ally with Spain?—never. We were burdened enough by the Italians. Spain would draw us into war fronts of neither military, nor, above all, of any economic interest. That’s one side of the coin. The other is that we would have had to help them; we could not allow them to get beaten, even in battles picked by them for which we saw no need.
Specifically, he was thinking about the very senseless attack of Greece—he could not prevent it.2 He had told me that on his visit in Florence he faced a fait accompli—an expanding war, followed by restlessness at the Balkans and the consequence: Yugoslavia.3 All in all, a loss—a tie down of forces; we lost time, unrecoverable time, over two months time. We missed the original assault time for reaching the targets he had set. That lost time was a gain for the Russians; they threatened our border by putting 175 divisions into readiness.
A neutral Italy, mobilized and ready for action, could have helped us and been useful to them, too. Already in 1940, when we had taken Paris, Hitler had prophesied to me that we would not be able to hold back the Italians; they wanted to have a part in it. They lessened our victory and the possibility of peace. If they really wished to fight, they should have taken Malta.
After pondering in silence, he said with a slow voice: “Yes, now I faced the most difficult decision of my life. What will happen if I push open the door to the East?” Adolf Hitler was quiet again for a while, then, “Enough for today, Giesler, I’ll see you tomorrow for lunch.”
Lunch at Deutelmoser’s Osteria in Munich
Alone, I had time to think and ponder also. I recalled the 26th or 27th of October, 1940, when I had been asked to the “Osteria Bavaria” for lunch. After the meetings with Franco and Petain, Adolf Hitler came to Munich at midmorning, before meeting later on with Mussolini in Florence. Deutelmoser, the owner of the Osteria, was always highly honored when Hitler choose his small, simple restaurant for lunch. I was amused every time at the stir-up in the kitchen. But Deutelmoser was cool and collected when he served the potato soup and the turnip salad with the air of serving treasures.
After lunch, I was sitting alone with Adolf Hitler at the table. He talked about his trip and said of Petain: “A soldier, honorable and dignified, he fully met my idea of a French marshal, but he is already too old to plan into the future. Well, now to Franco—it may well be that my disappointment influenced my judgment. Our discussion remained without results. Franco has no personality, he is absolutely average. Without the Jesuits, who in my opinion not only advise but direct him, he would be insignificant. He is certainly clever in his way, but so are traders.”
He believes if he had already recognized Franco’s political aims and his character in 1936, his sympathies would have been with those who stood up against the feudal system and the clerics. But those revolutionaries were led by communists, and once they get their foot in the door there is no turning them out again. A socialism that suits Spain, yes; a Spanish-Communistic state as a satellite of the Soviets, no. It was a European task to prevent it and in that he agreed with the Duce. Thus, we had to intervene with help. It would then have been up to Franco to start a new social order with his Falangists.
Adolf Hitler looked around, met the eyes of the guests with a smile and a gesture of greeting. “What might I expect in Florence? I have an unpleasant feeling,” he said, facing me again with a completely changed look.
At his request, I gave him a short report about the status of the Munich city planning and the steps I initiated for the construction of the Autobahn ring and the new railway system. I also asked him if he thinks that, for the time being, all constructions and plans for (NSDAP) party buildings should be set aside. Absolutely; he said preference has to be given to plans serving city rebuilding and community purposes.
It was certainly the word “party” which turned his thoughts.
He worries a great deal about Rudolf Hess. He knows he can talk about it with me: Hess’s nearly occult, airy behavior, his hypochodria (Sichkrankfuehlen) and what he is doing for it. He (Hitler) is certainly not against homeopaths and non-medical practitioners, but strongly against all those Hess trusts with his confidence. He should by all means find the confidence of a physician with rank. Hitler is really worried, not only because of Hess’s position and tasks, but simply because he is sincerely fond of him. “That I keep him in such high esteem, that I feel an obligation, well, he is the ‘Faithful’ since the beginning of the national socialist struggle.”
Adolf Hitler stood up, waved his hand to his guard commando, saying good bye, to travel towards new disappointment and trouble. When he arrived in Florence, Mussolini told him he issued the order to attack Greece. That was now the second extension of the war and war theaters, totally undesired and useless, idiotic.
Hitler expressed it once to me as a fall-back of two millennia, and its origin lay in the historically-based myth about the Roman Empire. He explained that the turbulence in the Balkans, cleverly stirred by the English, surely led to Yugoslavia’s break-away and the Balkan campaign, causing losses and tying up divisions and airplanes necessary for the offensive against Russia, and above all using up time, precious time.
"The most difficult decision of my life,” Adolf Hitler told me at the end of our nightly talk in his work room at the Winniza headquarters. A memory appeared like a picture in front of my eyes: around February 1941, on an afternoon at the Berghof, after a discussion with my construction staff for Obersalzberg (Bauleitung Obersalzberg), I arrived at the large living room of the Berghof for the usual walk to the tea pavilion.
The military talks were just finished. Adolf Hitler stood with a few generals at the marble table in front of the big window and gave some orders to his adjutant. Dr.Todt, who participated at the talks, stood with me toward the back of the large room. He pointed to the scene and said quietly, “They know about the decision—Russia. It will be tough, who knows what is waiting for us behind that border; what is already known to us is threatening enough. But look, here the Fuehrer stands, concentrated, collected, and in the background the Untersberg. You know the saga: For one thousand years the hope of Germans is connected with this mountain—isn’t that strange?” (see story below)
Yes, it was a striking picture, somber and impressive. I looked at Adolf Hitler’s profile as some generals and SS officers were facing him with serious, tight expressions. In the background, the view through the large window looked over the deeply snowed-in landscape of the Berchtesgadener Land. The Untersberg alone stood high above the dark forests, its red, precipitous rocks now white, illumined by the last sunrays of the day.
In the evening we were sitting around the fireplace; Adolf Hitler was silent, focused inward. We talked quietly. Around midnight, Hitler asked (Martin) Bormann for something. Then, to our complete surprise, the powerful, fateful-sounding melodies of Liszt’s “Les Preludes” swept through the large hall lit only by the flames of the fireplace.
1) German Schnell boats were heavily armed coastal craft often referred to by the Royal Navy as E-boats. Faster and better armed than the Royal navy MTB’s and PT-boats, they became the most effective inshore attack craft of World War Two. All German Schnell Boats carried two separate torpedo tubes. In total 249 Schnell Boats were built for the Kriegsmarine, with a total of 157 being lost or scuttled. The US, UK and Russia divided up the surviving boats between them.
2) Benito Mussolini, impressed by Hitler’s success, wanted to do his own war and started the attack on Greece without informing Hitler. It can be attributed to jealousy combined with imperial pride on Mussolini’s part.
3) Giesler is referring to the putsch in Yugoslavia that forced the redirection of German forces to the Balkans just before the planned invasion of the Soviet Union. Guided by the British secret service and probably supported by the Russian Air Force, Serbian General Simovic overthrew the Pro-Hitler regency of Prince Paul and installed a pro-British military government.
The Barbarossa Saga
At the time of the crusades, the German Kaiser and Holy Roman Emperor Friedrich the First, called Barbarossa (Red Beard), left to fight in the Holy Land. During the 3rd Crusade in 1190 in Asia Minor, the Emperor died tragically by drowning in the River Saleph.
Soon, however, rumors that he was not dead, but would return, began to circulate and developed into the Barbarossa Saga. The enchanted Friedrich was said to still live with his whole court in the Kyffhäuser, a mountain in Thuringia, or in Mount Untersberg, straddling the border between Berchtesgaden and Salzberg. One version of the legend has it that the Emperor is seated in the mountain at a table with his golden crown on his head; his beard grows around the table and has circled it twice. When the time comes, Barbarossa will step out from the mountain and again erect his empire. Every hundred years, he sends his dwarfs to see if the ravens are still circling around the mountain. If this is the case, the time for the Emperor’s awakening is not yet and he again falls back into his enchanted sleep.
After the death of the last Staufer (the Hohenstaufen dynasty), Emperor Friedrich II, in the year 1250, the German Empire, after a nearly 100-year blossoming, broke down into many small states with partly-contradictory interests. The Barbarossa Saga mirrors the desire of simple people for a unified state led by a wise and just ruler.
Originally, the Emperor’s saga was applied to Friedrich II, the nephew and successor of Barbarossa. However, by the later middle ages, it was Barbarossa who was seen as the sleeping Emperor in the mountain.
At the beginning of the 19th Century, during the time of Bismarck, strong efforts were made to create a unified German national state. During that time, the Barbarossa Saga became the German national story.
Franco, center, greets Adolf Hitler in Hendaye, October 23, 1940.
Adolf Hitler remembered his meeting with Generalissimo Francisco Franco at Hendaye as one of his worst experiences. They met at this town on the French-Spanish border in October 1940. Hitler was upset for two reasons.
First, the General’s growing hesitancy to support Hitler’s "Operation Felix," the plan to take Gibraltar and extend the operation into Spanish Morocco. Franco did not want Spain to join the war. Unbelievable as it sounds, Franco was advised to take up that attitude by Hitler’s chief of the Abwehr, Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, who was an expert for Spanish affairs and twice visited Madrid in 1940.1
Second, Hitler was angered by Franco’s outrageous demands for Germany to supply raw materials, armaments, machinery and even foodstuff with which to fight the war. Franco knew well enough Germany could never fulfill this request. That devious move was also suggested by Canaris. The meeting ended with the signing of a worthless document of mutual cooperation. Hitler reportedly stated about this meeting: "I would rather have my teeth pulled than meet with Franco again."2
Franco’s Jesuit conscience must have pestered him, however. He could not but remember the decisive help given to him by Adolf Hitler during his life and death struggle with the Red Republic from 1936-39, which resulted in unfavorable publicity such as “Guernica” being leveled against “the facists,” including Germany. He did permit Spanish military forces to join Germany’s war in Russia. The Blue Division (Division Azul) under the command of General Agustin Múñoz Grandes fought with distinction for two years at the Leningrad front.
1) John H. Walter, The Unseen War in Europe, p. 155. 1996, Random House, New York
2) Published in “The Journal of Art, History and Literature,” from Count Ciano’s transcript of Hitler's October 28th meeting with Mussolini, written a few days after Hendaye. Ciano was Mussolini’s son-in-law.
(L to R) Marshall Petain, interpreter Paul Schmidt, Adolf Hitler, Foreign Minister von Ribbentrop, in France in October 1940.
Marshal Philippe Petain, national hero of WWI, took over the presidency of the French government after he signed the final armistice treaty with Germany. He resided in Vichy, in the unoccupied part of France, and collaborated with Germany. His premier, Pierre Laval, suggested a military alliance and full cooperation with the National Socialist government. The pro-German PPF party of Jacque Doriot had Laval’s full support.
After the war, the government of General De Gaulle sentenced Marshal Petain to death, then pardoned him to life imprisonment. He was too famous, and too much a part of past French victories, to punish with death. Laval, however, was shot as a traitor in July 1945. ~ cy & wm
WAR CAMPAIGNS: Operation Barbarossa
Hitler explains his strategy for the Russian Campaign
Translated from Hermann Giesler’s Ein Anderer Hitler by Carolyn Yeager and Wilhelm Mann
Copyright 2010 Carolyn Yeager
Translators' Introduction: In the discussions pertaining to the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, Herman Giesler, in Ein Anderer Hitler, presents Adolf Hitler speaking at length in the first person. Therefore, we have not used quote marks or indentation to indicate Hitler’s voice, but instead have distinguished the two voices by using italic for Giesler’s words.The scene opens on an evening in the late summer of 1942 at Hitler’s headquarters in Winninza (called Werwolf) where Giesler is staying as a guest of the Fuehrer. Hitler begins one of several talks with his architect as they work on building plans for German cities.
I planned the preventive stroke against Russia with still more care than the West campaign. The threat from the east was too obvious. After the French campaign, I declared to the Reichstag that there was no reason to continue the senseless war against England. The answer to that peace gesture was a rude denial. England wanted to go on with the war; Churchill was serious with his “Germany must perish!”
From then on I spent long nights over the maps of East Europe, full of sorrow, pondering and reviewing England’s typical conduct toward a conflict-free Europe. Looking for her advantage, England had always interfered in continental affairs—provoking or inflaming disputes via middlemen. She always tried to find a continental saber to fight for her and spare her own strength.
With France now eliminated, England—sure of the support of Roosevelt’s America—would try with all means available to let Russia fight for her.
I paid dearly for the pact with Stalin in August 1939. It cost me a lot for a pragmatic friendship for the sake of a pretended limitation of the war or, if the conflict expanded, to avoid facing Soviet bayonets at my back.
Stalin turned agreed-upon spheres of interest into the brutal occupation of the Baltic States, the separation of Bessarabia, and the forcing of Finland to its knees by a war of deceit.
After the military occupation of the Baltic, Bessarabia and Bukovina, Stalin’s goal was clearly recognizable—to become ruler over northeastern Europe and the Balkans. He wanted free access to the Mediterranean and an all-important starting position against Europe.
Stalin saw those possibilities at a time when we were tied up in the West. He had the constellation England-United States in view; he had made up his mind and was preparing to attack Germany, the only nation that could block both aims. The threat could be seen; the Soviet deployment began.
The military deployment of the Soviets on our Eastern border would soon be followed by political blackmail. I was convinced of that. It was also obvious to me that the Pan-Russian sphere-of-interest thrust was increased toward the West because of the demand of Bolshevism—it had already earlier jumped over its natural eastern border at the Pacific.1
Soon, Stalin would be found on the side which offered him the greatest advantage—elimination of the only power that could resist the further advance of Bolshevism into European areas: National Socialist Germany.
I not only saw the threat in the ready positioning of Russian armies at our Eastern border, with only a thin veil of a few divisions opposing them, but my concern was much more for our dependence on raw material—such as oil from Romania, but also ore, bauxite, molybdenum, manganese, chromium, and nickel from Finland—the supply of which could be blocked at any time by the Russians.
I again negotiated with Russia; it was an honest effort. Molotov, however, arrogantly delivered Stalin’s demands: a free hand for Russia in Romania, Bulgaria, Finland, and, in addition, free access to the Baltic Sea and the Dardanelles. That meant abandoning Europe.
My only alternative was the defense by a preventive stroke. Not only Germany was at stake, but the existence of Europe. The decision for me was not an easy one.
Regardless of all other matters, it meant the postponement of the realization of the social part of the tasks I set for myself and which required a secure time of peace; to those tasks, as you know, belonged the reconstruction of the German cities.
When I ordered the beginning of the preparations, that sinister treason occurred again that we experienced during the campaign against Poland, before the operation Weseruebung (in Norway and Denmark) and the French offensive.2 Nevertheless, great initial success occurred due to the unique strengths and élan of the German soldier, the strategic planning, and the supreme tactical leadership.
After the stormy successes, the wear and tear of men and material came to light. The vast spaces for which we had to fight hard tired out the troops. We had to take a breather—the supply problem forced it also—before we could take up the decisive moves incorporated in my strategic ideas.
Egoism and the one-track thinking of my generals crossed that strategic planning. In that month of August, so decisive for the Barbarossa operations, I fell ill and was so weakened that I could not gather the necessary insistence and steadfastness to push my plans through against my generals. (See side story “Strategy” following this article.)
Twice I thought to be close to victory. I was mistaken and it turned out to be deceptive.
Giesler: We were sitting on stools at the working table, drawing details of the Linz City house. Adolf Hitler, however, was soon at the war scene again in his thoughts. He said:
I talked with you already about my strategy because I knew you, as a talented architect of multi-faceted city projects, could appreciate the importance and the scope of complex planning.
Above all, a sober, mathematical thinking is needed, not only for various military dimensions, but more so for the immense distances, estimates of timing, and transport routes for securing supply. Specifically in the wide-open Russian space, one has to think about locations of raw materials and food; also regions of concentrated armament industries. All these things determine the basic idea for strategic planning, and at the same time influence the order of military targets, which again demand the ability for imagination, intuition, invention and audacity.
One can pretty well figure out one’s own forces, its battle strength and battle experience. But judging your adversary? Evaluating the enemy strength?
A complete failure of intelligence by our general staff and the military information service, and by the spy-agents and all the way up to the military attache at the embassy in Moscow—nothing of real information! During the occupation of Poland and the winter offensive in Finland, our military experts were outsmarted by the Russians.
We did not know anything about the strength of their divisions. We knew what was opposite us, but nothing of what we had to expect in the depth of the Russian space.
During battle, it was revealed that the shells of our PAK only caused a knock on the steel protection of the T34.3 Only our 8.8 cm Flak (Flieger Abwehr Kanone - anti-aircraft gun) shells were able to pierce the strong armor of the 50 and 100-ton tanks.
An impenetrable camouflage made the build up of an incredible military and armament force possible. (See side story “The Day M” following this article.) In the struggle for information, we were, and remained, hopelessly beaten.
I remembered a remark from December 1941, when Adolf Hitler told me:
Giesler, we just got away and escaped destruction by the Bolshevism—Stalin was nearly ready to pounce upon us.
Now he explained to me the connection between the Russian campaign planned by him, and his experiences after the invasion.
Added to the complete under-estimate of the enemy, the wrong reports about its reserves and armament strength, its deceits and confusions, was that incomprehensible treason. The preventive stroke was really no surprise at all for the enemy; it was reported on time and exact to the day and the hour. But that’s not all: every detail, every offensive plan was given to the enemy by German traitors!
I expected the treason of the X day. The surprise had to be rooted in the strategic development of our offensive. That strategy had been carefully thought out. In order to keep it secret and be sure of the surprise, I kept my plans only to the smallest circle. The orders for the development of the strategic tactical operations had to depend on the given situation of the offensive, the factors space – time – weather, and above all, on the forces of the adversary.
Now to the strategic structure: The armies were organized in three Army Groups: North, Center and South. Main emphasis lay with Army Group Center’s thrust towards Moscow. That was an intentional deception; I did not have Moscow in mind at all. The enemy forces should be confronted with our thrust, they should be tied down and not evaded. Then they should be destroyed by massive encirclement.
Adolf Hitler sketched on drawing paper the arrows of the attacking directions of the Army Groups, between the outlined Baltic and Black Seas. In front of the arrows he put 3 points and circled each one.
Leningrad-Moscow-Rostow, he said. The arrow of Army Group Center, he reinforced on both sides by additional arrow lines. Big circles between those five lines indicated the encirclement of enemies’ armies. A fat cross line he drew in front of Army Group Center, marking Moscow.
The attacking thrust should stop there, the tank forces with their rapid units should turn to Army Group North and South. That primary order was now decisive for the further necessary operations. Moscow was not my goal. It was necessary to encircle Leningrad, to establish the connection with the Finns at Lake Ladoga, to eliminate Leningrad as a center of the armament industry and to deprive the Russian navy of its base at Kronstadt. It was very important to pacify the Baltic Sea in order to secure the supply line.
Still more important was the thrust of Army Group South. The spreading out of the tank and rapid-unit forces into the distant space had to be executed twice. We had to obtain the harvest of the fertile Ukraine, the wheat and the oil from the giant sunflower fields, for our troops and the nation.
The second North-South thrust from Army Group South was aimed toward the raw materials—the coal, iron ore, chromium and manganese, and the important power plants at the Dnieper and Donez region all the way to Rostow and the Black Sea. There, right at the raw material sources, were also located the industrial centers, a concentration of the Russian armament industry and its economic power.
At the same time we could gain the take-off position for the thrust toward the Caucasian oil. And we also would win a critical region to protect the war-important supply of the Romanian oil from Ploesti against surprise attacks.
The political rewards of such a surprising, successful military operation would have been quite significant.
Giesler: When speaking, Adolf Hitler pointed his pencil to the marks of his strategic planning and completed the sketches with energetic lines. He quickly shaded the border areas around the Baltic Sea in the North and the Black Sea in the South, he drew circles around the raw material, industrial, and armament centers, and once more around the encirclement of the Russian armies.
Then the arrow points of Army Group Center pierced through the heavy marked “stop line” in front of Moscow, and out of the operative areas of all Army Groups, he drew dotted bow-shaped lines that encircled Moscow completely:
If strength, time and space made it possible, it should be the finale. Only a wide, all-encompassing scissor movement would give us the possibility to take Moscow and smash the Russian forces decisively at the same time!
Strategically and tactically, I considered those flank and encirclement operations as the only possibility to destroy the enemy; to avoid a frontal confrontation with heavy losses, we neither could match the enemy with the number of our divisions nor, as it later turned out, with our tanks and heavy weapons.
In order to overcome the massive Russian formations and tear up rigid fronts, we should concentrate on mobile units—taking advantage of the fighting strength of our soldiers and the tactical supremacy of our leadership.
The generals reported to me that the panzer divisions and rapid forces are completely exhausted, the tanks have to be overhauled; they are not fit for battle. They told me how many weeks they will need for it. Thus, they wanted to block my flanking thrusts Northwards towards Leningrad and to the South into the Ukraine and the Donez.
I was sick and without any willpower—weakened I could not get anywhere against their ego sense and ego will. “We generals”—that’s how they were stubbornly thinking—“can judge the military situation much better.”
Way back, a military personality once gave me the advice that, from an army general upwards obedience decreases and any order is subject to a personal critique. I often had the same experience.
Again and again I noticed that my generals, in their deliberations, completely disregarded the political, geo-political and economic matters. Mostly, they kept to a purely military viewpoint, and that turned out to be traumatic when directed towards Moscow in the Russian campaign.
As I found out later, my generals insinuated that I reflected a Napoleon-related Moscow shyness. Yet, by no means did I misjudge the military and political importance of taking Moscow; but first, the prerequisite for that were successful attacks toward the North and South, those two strategic pillars. Then, Moscow might be the last stage of the gigantic Russian undertaking.
The time favorable for mobile warfare ran out—the valuable time—it was always too little time and too much space in this war.
At the end of September, when I was healthy again, I could still push through one of the flank-and-encirclement thrusts toward the South. That operation I had to literally wrestle from my generals—yes, I had to enforce it by harsh orders. The result: four Russian armies were destroyed, and 650,000 prisoners taken. Even that success did not convince my generals of the only possible strategy within the vast Russian distances.
Against my inner conviction, they set up the frontal offensive against Moscow. Moscow was never in my mind, but they would or could not understand that.
To carry the great strategy through, it was, however, too late. The offensive toward Moscow met an increasingly stiffened Russian defense. Our divisions, tired and weakened by the month-long hard battles, had the target before their eyes and clashed against fresh Siberian forces continually moving in from the far regions.
The frontal offensive toward Moscow lost it’s momentum against the massive Russian defense. Soon afterward, the front froze in snow and icy cold; the winter equipment, ordered in time, never reached the troops.
Now my generals were for retreat, which meant a Napoleon-like end. The catastrophe. ~
1) Referring to the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-05, and specifically the result of Russia’s far-east expansionist policy to gain control of Manchuria and Korea, and the warm water Port Arthur.
2) See previous articles, “Fateful Decisions, Irreversible Consequences,” TBR March/April 2010, p. 50 and “With Hitler in Paris,” TBR Jan/Feb 2009, p. 60
3) The Soviet medium tank produced from 1940 to 1958, credited by some as the single most effective, efficient and influential design of WWII. It was the mainstay of Soviet armored forces, more heavily armored than previous models, and the most-produced tank of the war.
By Wilhelm Mann
By early August 1941, five weeks after the beginning of Operation Barbarossa, opinions among the OKW, the OKH and some of the field generals diverged.
The first idea of Hitler and OKW was for Field Marshal von Leeb, leader of Army Group North, to move northeast and take Leningrad with a strong, decisive thrust that would cut the city and its immediate hinterland from Moscow, join with the Finnish forces and secure the supply for his army group through the Baltic Sea. The larger part of Army Group Center would then support the move south to obtain the treasures of the Ukraine; then conquer Moscow without too great military risks.
Colonel Rudolf Schmundt, Hitler’s chief adjutant, had relayed this to Col. General Heinz Guderian at their July 29 meeting on the east bank of the Dnieper River, on the occasion of rewarding him with the Oakleaf of the Knight’s Cross. With all his power as Germany’s tank expert, convincingly successful in the Polish and French campaigns, Guderian argued for the thrust toward Moscow.
Guderian’s Panzergruppe 2 and Colonel General Hermann Hoth’s Panzerkorp 3 were the powerful spearheads of Army Group Center. It was known that Field Marshal Guenther von Kluge, commander-in-chief of the Fourth Army and Guderian’s superior, sided with the OKW, advising more caution. Further complicating matters—the relationship between the two was rather estranged.
OKH’s chief of staff Col General Franz Halder and his chief of operations, Col. Adolf Heusinger, were at first uncommitted, but then pleaded with the generals for the Moscow thrust, as also did their Chief, Field Marshal Fedor von Bock.
A DECISION HAD TO BE REACHED
On August 4th, at the headquarters of Army Group Center in Novy Borrisow, northeast of Minsk, the decisive meeting took place. Hitler, accompanied by Schmundt, requested reports and opinions from von Bock, Guderian, Hoth, and Heusinger.
In von Bock’s map room, the Fuehrer met, one on one, first with Heusinger, then von Bock, followed by Guderian and Hoth. Assembling all again after the individual meetings, Adolf Hitler announced his decision: first the thrust North to take Leningrad; then, depending on the military situation, either east to Moscow or South to Kiev and the heart of the Ukraine.
This was at the time that Hitler became incapacitated by severe stomach and sleeping problems.
It was on August 18 that Hitler issued Directive No. 34, pressed by the surprising Soviet offensive in the North that was endangering Col. General Erich von Manstein’s offensive toward Narva—and Manstein’s request for help from Panzerkorps Hoth. Army Group Center’s offensive power moved to the Southeast, to Kiev.
On the 24th of August, three weeks after Hitler’s original decision and six days since the Directive was issued, Guderian was called by his superior von Bock to attend a meeting at Headquarters that Halder also attended. The three discussed how Hitler’s “irrefutable decision” could be changed, and after hours long deliberation, von Bock suggested that Guderian and Halder should visit Hitler at Wolfsschanze.
Guderian describes the scene in his book Erinnerungen Eines Soldaten:
… after the landing I reported to C&C Army, Field Marshal von Brauchitsch. He received me with the words: “I forbid you to discuss with the Fuehrer the question of Moscow. The offensive toward the South is ordered and it is only a question of the How. Any argument is useless.” I then requested to fly back to my Panzergruppe because any argument with Hitler is, under the given conditions, of no avail. But Brauchitsch did not like this either and gave me the order to see Hitler and report the situation at my Panzergruppe, but without mentioning Moscow.1
I then went to Hitler and reported in the presence of a large group of officers—Keitel, Jodl, Schmundt and others, but regretfully without Brauchitsch or Halder and no representative of the OKH—the situation at, and condition of, my Panzergruppe. Hitler asked, “Do you think your troops will, after all your achievements, still be able to endure great efforts?”
I answered: If the troops are told of a great goal, understandable to each soldier, yes.
Hitler replied: “You naturally mean Moscow.”
I: Permit me to present my reasons since you touched the subject.
Hitler agreed and I argued my case. He let me finish and did not interrupt once. Then he talked and explained why he arrived at a different decision. For the first time, I heard the sentence: “My generals do not know anything about war economy (Kriegswirtschaft).”
Once the final decision was made, I supported the offensive to the Ukraine with all my power and asked Hitler to issue an order to keep my Panzergruppe together as a solid unit. He agreed to issue that order.”2
A few days later, Army Group Center moved with decisive force towards Kiev … and was successful.
Guderian, Heinz, Erinnerungen Eines Soldaten (Memoirs of a Soldier), Motorbuch Verlag, Stuttgart, 13th edition, 1994. P.180
If there is any proof strong enough to correct and revise the traditional “court” historiography of World War II, which names Adolf Hitler’s regime in Germany as the sole aggressor, it can be found in Victor Suvorov’s excellent book The Chief Culprit (Der Tag M in its German publication)1. It follows Suvorov’s first book Icebreaker, published in 1990, which became a sensation in Russia, Germany and also in Israel.
In both books he outlines how Stalin and his General Staff, well
in advance of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, planned to attack
Germany. New detail and documentary evidence have been brought into Chief Culprit.
“M-Day”—the mobilization—fell on June 13, 1941, but the preparations went back to early February the same year, and
even further back into 1939 and 1940 when, shortly after the end
of Germany’s campaign in Poland, the Soviet army occupied the eastern part of that country.
Marshal G.K. Zhukov and Marshal A.M.Vasilevsky—both major generals at that time—and staff officers at high army commands were planning, on Stalin’s orders and in deep secrecy, the attack on Germany.
Suvorov quotes Vasilevsky: “Since May 1940, the deputy head of the Operations Directorate of the General Staff worked on the operational part of a plan of strategic deployment of Soviet armed forces in the northern, northwestern and western directions.”2 That meant war preparations against Germany.
If Maj. Gen. Vasilevsky worked on such plans at that time for his operational section, from the Baltic Sea to the Pripet marshes in White Russia, one has to assume—and Suvorov indicates it—that similar plans were developed at the other four military districts on the Russian west border. At the Kiev Military District, one of special importance because of its strategic position vis-à-vis the new eastern borders of Germany, those military operations are described in detail.
On “M-Day” (June 13), orders marked “Top Secret, Special Importance”3 were received at the Kiev military district for the
“transfer (of) all deep-rear divisions and corps commands with
the corps formations to new camps closer to the state border.”
It was signed by Marshal Timoshenko and Maj. Gen. Zhukov.4
Immediately, massive troop movements of the First Strategic
Echelon, consisting of 170 divisions, began. Fifty-six divisions moved clandestinely all along the five military districts from the Baltic to Odessa, mostly at night, to areas within 20 km of the borderline, in
an operation camouflaged as summer maneuvers. The remaining
114 divisions moved into the deeper territories of the western border area, fully equipped and ready to attack.
In the meantime, forces of the Second Strategic EchelonFar-East in the Siberian Baikal andAltai military districts, received similar “Top Secret, Special Importance” orders to move to new camps westward. It was an immense logistical task—thousands of railway cars transported those masses of rifle, tank and artillery corps, and
with or behind them their ammunition, food, sanitary and
But not only the army moved; the airplanes of the Russian air forces —not an independent branch of the Soviet forces but attached to army units—flew in, landed and parked on fields close to the border, cramped and looking like busy ant hills. Also the navy submarines and mine sweepers, destroyers and torpedo boats left the ports of
Kronstadt and Narva, taking positions farther west.
This gigantic deployment was nearly completed when, in the early morning hours of June 22, Hitler executed his preventive masterstroke. The military disaster for the Soviet forces that followed within the next four weeks brought the worst that can happen to a deploying, marching force: encirclement. The Blitzkrieg pincer movements of the Heeresgruppe North in the Riga-Luga-Staraja areas, the Heeresgruppe Middle in Bryansk-Minsk-Smolensk region and the Heeresgruppe South at Kiev-Uman smashed the Soviet armies.
More than three-quarters of a million prisoners were taken; 10,000 tanks, artillery pieces, trucks, machine guns and thousands of tons of ammunition were destroyed or taken over. Yet, in spite of this auspicious beginning, the massive size, huge population, raw materials and great industrial strength of the Soviet Union eventually asserted themselves—as Suvorov insists they were destined to do from the start.
1. Suvorov,Viktor, The Chief Culprit: Stalin’s Grand Design to StartWorldWar II,
Naval Institute Press, Maryland, 2008.
2. VIZh=Voenno-istorichesky Zhournal (“Military History Journal”), Marshal
A.M.Vasilevsky,VIZ7 (1979), p. 43.
3. Only one classification was higher than “Top Secret, Special Importance”—that
was “Top Secret, Special File,” which meant that only one copy was produced and could not leave the premises of the Kremlin. Thus Top Secret, Special Importance was the highest level of secrecy used beyond the Kremlin. (Culprit, p. 208.)
4 Culprit, pp. 208-9.
Revealing Talks at Hitler's Headquarters Wolfsschanze and Wehrwolf, 1942
Translation and commentary by
Carolyn Yeager and Wilhelm Mann
from Ein Anderer Hitler by Hermann Giesler,
Druffel Verlag, Leoni am Starnberger See, 6th Edition 1982
Copyright 2008 Carolyn Yeager
Adolf Hitler and his generals. Far left, Erich von Manstein. Right, Kurt Zietzler and Ewald von Kleist.
Hermann Giesler`s talks with Hitler took place at the Führerhauptquartier (Führer’s headquarters) Wolfsschanze at Rastenburg, East Prussia and Wehrwolf near Winniza, Ukraine February through September 1942. They cover a time span of extraordinary military events.
The term Führerhauptquartier was used to denote Adolf Hitler’s whereabouts in the field, and the highest level of the German army. There were several headquarters, most located in secluded areas where they could not be seen from the ground or the air. The construction of Wolfsschanze, Hitler’s largest headquarters, began in the autumn of 1940 under the pseudonym Chemische Werke Askania. The entire complex, covering 250 hectares, was not completed until the autumn of 1944.
A pine forest about 15 km north of the town of Winniza was the location of the smaller and farthest east Führer’s Headquarters Wehrwolf. Hitler ordered the special spelling of ‘Wehr,’ which is German for ‘defense,’ as a play on words.
When Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of Soviet Russia, began in June 1941, Heeresgruppe Nord (Army Group North) was staged in East Prussia with the goal of taking Leningrad and also securing the northern flank of Army Group Centre, among other objectives. The early, extremely harsh winter caught the German advance at the North and middle fronts with all its brutality. From the western suburbs of Moscow, where German Panzergrenadiere crossed the city’s snow-covered streetcar tracks, to the icy forests of the Waldai Heights, the front collapsed. Spontaneously organized battlegroups were then created out of pieces and parts of larger military units, some multi-purpose, some hedgehog defensive formations. The unbent will of Adolf Hitler and of most of the commanding officers, together with the outstanding heroism of the German soldier, saved that part of the Eastern front, and more or less the total Eastern campaign, from a chaotic collapse.
With the coming of spring and the gradual melting of the polar deep freeze along the North and middle sector, Wolfschanze headquarters was able to regroup and reinforce its battered front lines. Encouraged by the tremendous success of clearing the Demjansk encirclement and shortening the frontline between Lake Illmen and Lake Ladoga in March 1942, in addition to General von Manstein’s conquering of the Fortress Sevastopol and gaining control over the Crimea Peninsula and the strait of Kertsch in June, a daring double thrust was planned: towards the Caucasus in the South and a cut-off move toward Oranienbaum/Leningrad in the North.
Giesler reveals Hitler’s unrelieved tension and deep disappointment about the failure of the Oranienbaum offensive … his deep-seated suspicion of betrayal and sabotage. In such a difficult environment, Adolf Hitler found relief and relaxation in the short intervals he allowed himself to spend with his pet projects: city renewal, architecture and art.
Wolfsschanze - Winter 1941/42
Minister Dr.Todt had asked me to undertake important war construction work at the Balticum (Baltic area) within the Army Group North. From December 1941 on, all of my co-workers – architects and engineers, plus the workers of the construction companies with their equipment – were working in that area. To support the supply line for the troops, we built railways and de-icing sheds for the railway engines, along with side tracks and fast lane tracks.
I arrived at the Führer Headquarters Wolfschanze for a few days of meetings. After the discussions with the officers of the army transport department, I called the adjutant’s office about reporting to Hitler. The Generals Schmundt and Scherf informed me about the situation at the front. Both pointed out how serious the situation had become during the past weeks. With elemental force, the winter attacked the hard-fighting troops. The engines of tanks and transport carriers failed under the biting cold, guns froze, MGs and automatic weapons did not work. In icy snowstorms, without winter equipment, lacking accommodations and short of supply, the German soldier fought doggedly and grimly against the massive onslaught of fresh, winter-proven units of the Red Army’s far Eastern areas and Siberia.
The frontline staggered. Russian breakthroughs shattered troops and leadership. General Schmundt told me Hitler faced very hard decisions.
“Up until now the troops successfully led attacks with confidence. But now, a sacrificing and desperate defense requested the hardest resistance from the soldiers. Many commanding generals pleaded for a withdrawal, in order to shorten the front line. The Führer had to make a very hard decision. The army had to stay tough, fight and withdraw only step by step where resistance was impossible. The front has to hold and will hold. The Führer did not loose his nerve. His strong attitude influenced the troops. The soldier understood him and recognized his decision was right and the order necessary – he stood fast and fought! The army of the East was saved because a retreat would have turned into a chaotic flight and destruction.”
Today we know that we not only missed the weeks of the unforeseen Balkan campaign, but also in the East the divisions which would have been available for the North, the West and South1. Why did the winter equipment not reach the troops in time? I had heard that the Waffen SS and the Luftwaffe got theirs in time. I asked General Schmundt:
“That is painful, but I do not like to comment – even though I could say a lot about it. Although the winter arrived unusually early and hard, not only was winter equipment missing, but also general supplies and ammunition. We did not have front-experienced divisions at our disposal when the Russians threw fresh Siberian troops into the battle.”
I sensed restraint and evasion. Only later I received information about the true happenings. [treason -cy] I had a chance to talk to General Jodl (Chief of Staff at OKW). He told me:
“I admired the Führer when he laid out his strategy for the West campaign, but I was much more impressed during the last weeks by his unbelievable energy and will power, his faith and suggestive strength which held the staggering Eastern front and avoided a catastrophe. A leader-personality of outstanding greatness.”
When I reported to Hitler, I told him I consider it the utmost satisfaction to serve the war tasks at the Balticum and the Army Group North with all my heart. I am the right man for that task. Already in WWI, I served as a ‘pioneer’ (sea/bee) at the front. But that was not said quite right for him. When Dr.Todt informed Hitler about my team activities, he approved. Hitler said my architects and engineers had to deploy all available manpower at the Balticum for urgently needed railway/bridge/road/port construction in order to secure the supply lines and relieve the troops. At the same time, all my co-workers – unless they were drafted by the army – remain as a unit for future peaceful tasks. “I expect you to continue to work on the city-building plans, as well as the design details for Munich and Linz,” he said. “If you need some assistance, your staff of experts from your construction team is at your disposal. Within the OT (Organization Todt)2, you manage the activities of your team. You step in if difficulties occur, when discussions with higher military are necessary, or decisions have to be made. You are going to stay more often now at my headquarters, which suits me perfectly. The courier airplanes are at your disposal, and you can talk to your department heads anytime. That task certainly means an additional burden for you. But, Giesler, don’t take away from me the chance to get involved for a few hours in tasks which I consider so important and which are so close to my heart. Don’t take the only remaining joy away from me: peace tasks of the future!”
After the evening situation reports, Hitler talked about Europe’s future. For me, it was especially interesting to see how convincingly he presented his visionary ideas. To overcome national chauvinism, he thought it was absolutely necessary to unify Europe and thus guarantee its future. The mere threat of an Asian-Bolshevik leveling, destroying the basic fundamentals of Western culture, forces the union.
“Presently, each nation thinks egoistically for itself and not for a European condominium; that has to be our goal – a Germanic social revolution to overcome Marxism! Logically, that would lead to a league of Germanic states –not too closely knitted, but within a wise boundary – because England, for instance, is not Europe-orientated, but world-wide. We have really experienced that recently. Also, the Mediterranean states will remain outside that Germanic League, but still belonging to the New Europe.
“Already, voluntary military units are being formed – hope for that future Germanic League. Let me say it a little differently: the swastika flag flies right now as our national symbol. It will one day be a Germanic symbol and Germany the magnetic powerfield. That powerfield will draw in and win over all those who sense the aura of the time. That conviction has to rise and it will – we belong together regardless of national ties and separation throughout centuries. Nothing stops us to remain Danes, Dutch, Walloons, Flemings or Norwegians.
“A parallel example: Bismark set a historical fact by unifying separated states like Prussia, Bavaria and Würtemberg to the Reich. A new, strong and historical order always arises from struggle and war, or – we always have to be aware of that danger – chaos, splitting up of ethnic entities, degeneration of nations, rigor, loss and decline. So it happened when the Thirty Years War ended with the peace treaty of Muenster and Osnabrück – but also at the Seven Years War when the Great King’s faith did not falter and Prussia’s military and cultural-moral leadership was founded. The “war of liberation” was fought against France’s hegemony under Napoleon, causing the old reactionary forces to return. The war of 1866 and 1870-71 unified the Reich. We have to think about World War I also, when, after a sacrificing struggle, the dictates of Versailles and St. Germain plunged Germany and Austria into chaos.”
We therefore had to be always aware what this war means. Not only Germany’s existence and Lebensraum (living space) is at stake, but we defend the culture of the Abendland (Occident) against Bolshevism which, according to Lenin’s prophesy, will roll over Europe supported by Asia.
Adolf Hitler answered a question – No, he does not think about Moscow. That area will be ignored. What he considers necessary is a protection of Europe’s flanks – the Baltic Sea in the North and the Black Sea in the South. In between something like the limes of the Roman Empire has to be built, a European East wall with fortifications to protect the new European settlements. He sees the East wall in connection with a “no mans land” occupied by German-Germanic troop units. It will be a giant connected military training area which makes all former facilities within the Germanic Lebensraum unnecessary. Those areas will then be returned to cultured land and forests.
But before we can accomplish these cultural goals, we must face the battle for our existence.
The Russian campaign should have started in May. Because Serbian Air Force General Simonitsch started a putsch in Belgrade which brought down the Axis-friendly regime of Prince Paul, the German force had to spend five weeks to reach the Acropolis and pacify the Balkan region.
The Organization Todt was a civil and military engineering group named for its founder, Fritz Todt, an engineer and senior National Socialist figure. The organization was responsible for a huge range of engineering projects both in pre-WWII Germany, and in Greater Germany (GrossDeutschland) during the war.
Part 2: Wehrwolf
It is September 1942. In the North, Fieldmarshall von Manstein is able to stop the Russian counter-offensive at MGA, south of Lake Ladoga, during Giesler’s talks with Hitler. The Führer shows his confidence in his architect as a friend and loyal party member, but also values the company of a fellow artist. We learn from Giesler just how much Adolf Hitler needed a creative outlet for his artistic nature – continuing with the re-designing of German cities and buildings in the midst of monitoring battles and the devastation of war. The scope of his vision and knowledge again impresses us. We learn, too, of Hitler’s appreciation for the local Ukrainian people and his interest in their historical roots.
Martin Bormann1 called from Hitler’s headquarters Winniza2 and requested my immediate departure for there. “Parteigenosse (party-comrade) Giesler, you are urgently needed. Bring all your Linz3 plans with you and expect to stay a few weeks. Hurry, please.”
A little later Fieldmarshal Keitel4 called and asked me to depart as soon as possible and take all architectural plans with me. An adjutant informed me which courier airplane to take for the flight out of Berlin. My alarm bells were already ringing from Bormann’s call; even more so when Fieldmarshal Keitel called.
When I reported to Hitler in Winniza, I found him changed. After the serious discord with his generals, he stayed away from routine personal contact with them and stopped attending the joint lunches and dinners. After the Lagebesprechung,5 he withdrew. At first he did not discuss the problems with me. Bormann was also silent; he only told me that Hitler wanted to talk to me about the Linz plans whenever military matters permit it. Only talks about city building and architecture can relax him, Bormann said. I found it interesting that Fieldmarshal Keitel had the same idea: only Giesler with his design plans could bring relief.
During my stay at the Winniza headquarters, most of the time I was Hitler’s only guest. We took our meals together and I spent long evenings and nights with him, not only in intense discussion of matters of architectural design. We often talked in detail about city building till early morning. Hitler went to bed only after he received the latest reports from the front and the night air bombing. When, exhausted by the tension of all those different discussions, I left for the bed site in my hut, I noticed that Bormann was still working in his office. Once we met in front of my hut, “Professor, rest now, you certainly realize how important your presence is.”
When the others assembled for the midday situation meeting, I very often walked with Dr. Brand, a friend and Hitler`s surgeon and attending physician, outside the Sperrzone (banned area) through Ukrainian sunflower fields in full bloom. We exchanged greetings with friendly natives. “They show traces of the Goths,” Brand said. “The ‘Chef’ (Chief) believes that also. The women and girls look so strong and healthy because of their labor as farmers and their simple diet … by the way, did you notice the change of the ‘Chief’s’ face? Chin and mouth are hardened, the forehead tighter, more strongly chiseled, specifically above the eyes. Worry and willpower are very apparent. Did he talk to you already about his worries? I am curious what he is going to tell you.”
During dinner, I talked about my impressions of the country and its people during my walk with Brand, and his remark about the Ukrainian people. “Yes,” said Hitler, “as far as I can judge, some are wonderful human beings, with valuable national characteristics.” He sees it in the faces of the women and girls, and especially the children; they not only look healthy, but they are also so energetic, simple and clean – used to hard work in the fields. No nibbling on sweets – where would they get it anyway? Sunflower seeds, yes. Here and there one believes one finds features of the Goths in their faces. It is certainly more an intuitive recognition that cannot be proved. Then, again, the broad faces mirror the wide spaces and their closeness to mother earth. Anyhow, the Ukraine once belonged to the great empire of the Goth. Adolf Hitler will see that he gets more information.
After the evening situation meeting, we were again dealing with the planning of the Danube bank of Linz. Adolf Hitler talked at first about his idea for the Linz city hall. He decided that the location should be at the Urfahr6 site, upstream from the Nibelungen Bridge. The city of Linz should be represented by the mayor, not the Gauleiter from Oberdonau, as in Hamburg and Bremen7. “That’s why we plan the city hall – it should become the pride of Linz.” Full of fantasy, thinking of all details, he then developed his ideas. They proved that he had a fundamental knowledge of building sites of similar scales - he went far back into the past and pointed to the uniqueness of those buildings. He mentioned the Quirinal and the Roman Capitol, the Palace of the Senate, as well as the Palazzo Venetia and the Palace of the Doge in Venice. That was one side of his explanations. He then referred to the Kaiserpfalzen,8 the buildings of the Staufer9 in Apulia, the Rempter,10 the town houses in Flanders. He talked about the Guerzenich in Cologne and, naturally, also about the medieval city hall of Elias Halle in Augsburg, a city house not for scribes and their files. And then, in a kind of final statement, he mentioned the City Hall in Stockholm, designed by Ragmar Oestberg, as an outstanding achievement, a work created by tradition and knowledge of the proper location, built with masterly perfection. He praised specifically the tower and the “Blue Room.”
* * *
In this section, Adolf Hitler confides to Giesler his suspicions of misconduct and disloyalty among the highest level of military command, and even within his headquarters. He discusses his difficulty in ferreting it out. Along with other evidence, the massive, surprise attack by the Russians at the Wolchow Front appears to prove him right.
When we were again alone after the evening tea, he told me of the shattering situation he is confronted with. “Giesler, I want to talk to you about my worries – in confidence. I live and work with the depressing certainty that I am surrounded by treason. Who can I trust absolutely? How can I make final decisions and issue orders, how can I lead decisively when deceit, wrong reports and obvious treason causes mistrust, and uncertainty creeps into an otherwise justified caution. When right from the beginning mistrust stays with me.”
Speechless, I looked at him; my face obviously expressed alarm.
“Yet, that’s it - it starts with wrong reports and ends at sabotage. Clear, formulated orders are not executed, or fail because of stubbornness which leads to total failure. From time to time I can interfere, find the responsible people, who then use all kind of – sometimes dishonest – excuses, like: ‘but the situation demanded it … I interpreted it differently … out at the front everything looks different’.
“If I challenge them when they do not follow orders, or if they inform me incorrectly or incompletely and make excuses, they then click their heels and say, ‘I beg for my dismissal!’ Just like that! It is up to me to let you know when I let you go. The soldier at the front can also not say, ‘I don’t like it, I want to go home!’ is my answer.
“Before the Russian campaign, I was making very careful plans and thinking about the strategic possibilities and how they have to be tactically executed, like when we began the offensive in the West. Naturally, the imponderables were much greater in the East, all the more because our information about the strength and fighting power of the Russians was poor and incomplete. It’s useless to ponder about it now. But after the terribly desperate fight last winter –very close to a catastrophe – I put together an offensive thrust with the greatest care and checked every detail.
“Still, everything went wrong, or should I say, there was something fishy! Not only unauthorized actions occurred, but orders were deviated from. At fighting areas so far apart, that might have been necessary if a given situation requested it, but it must then end in success. The general who disregards my order has to have what Frederick the Great called ‘Fortune.’”
A little detail revealed his bitterness: “Instead of opening the road for the thrust to the South of the Caucasus as ordered, they climb the Elbrus11 to hoist a flag!”
Now, I (Giesler) know the “Elbrus conqueror,” an enthusiastic mountaineer, Major Groth, from the Sonthhofen12 regiment – a judge in his private life. For a short while I was silent, then I said, “That mountaineering adventure had a tremendous propaganda effect in the Allgäu (Groth’s home province); they were proud of Major Groth and his ‘Gebirgsjäger.’”
“Crazy climbers at best,” said Hitler. “Yet here is an exact, interconnecting timetable – but instead they climb an idiotic glacier mountain. Suchum they should have taken, and not the Elbrus. Any further comment I consider useless.
“It is not easy for me to say. Unauthorized actions and treason I can sense, but cannot understand lies that are happening – yes, they lie to me. Therefore, I am now forced to have stenographers at our situation room so that every single word regarding messages, reports and orders are recorded.
“I let Halder, Chief of the General Staff, go. It just does not work anymore. I have to control myself when I look at his face and read in it hate and an arrogance not at all justified by a seemingly higher intelligence. It gets still worse! If I said previously I feel I am surrounded by treason, I did not mean enemy intelligence agents, professional spies or political adversaries. I do not mean those crooks and high treason men who one can decode, detect and catch – those you have to reckon with all the time. No, this treason roots deeper, is inconceivable, and I have no way to tackle it. Who is the one I cannot trust; who can do something like that?
“Regardless whether basic questions of strategy are concerned or detailed tactical operations which I ordered – the enemy already has knowledge of it, as I have to find out later! Who shall I suspect? I change my young SS adjutants, so what? Shall I extend my distrust to the participants in the situation room? – an impossible situation! Or are traitors sitting at the intelligence center where all the orders are transmitted? Obviously, they are officers, maybe even high-ranked ones!”
“But that’s not possible. It can not …. !”
“Ah, Giesler, listen – a small, simple example – that’s why I could detect it fully; a small example only. You are familiar with the situation at the Army Group North? It is your area where your engineers and working force for the – my God, yes –rebuilding of cities is now involved in sea-bees work (pionierarbeit). Now, after everything went wrong, I can talk openly about that military disaster. About other events I still have to be silent. Well, at the 18th Army a thrust to the Northeast should have been executed to cut off Oranienbaum13 from Lake Ladoga. That thrust was strategically, but much more – politically, very important. Already at the beginning of the 1941 offensive, I targeted that Northeast thrust. They did not follow the order and it did not succeed – because of obstinacy, I believe. No, not because of the ‘early winter,’ but more about that later!
“Whom could I now entrust with the new offensive? Col. General von Manstein was the right man for this task. He just captured, with his courageous divisions, Kertsch and Sebastopol. I discussed with him in detail the breakthrough east of Leningrad and told him what is important: the connection with the Finnish front, to cut off the supply line of the Russian army around Leningrad and Oranienbaum, and thus to shorten the front line and, above all, pacify the Baltic Sea area and relieve our own supply roads.
“Neither the leadership of Army Group, even less the one of the 18th Army, was capable enough for a successful operation. Manstein was the right man. The glory of the Crimea and Sebastopol was identified with his name and his army.
“From the beginning on, my worry was to secure the right flank, the area from the Ilmensee to the North – the Wolchow front. I took the necessary steps right away. On the maps of the divisional, regimental and battalion sectors, I marked the minefields with the barricades, supported the defense by adding heavy weapons, stationary tanks and artillery, and transferred the given orders on the enlarged aerial photos and maps. I demanded and received temporary reports and finally the ‘all done’ confirmation. A big relief. Manstein`s attacking army already moved into the area of the offensive. Then, on August 27th the Russian offensive at the Wolchow started.
“Parts of the 18th Army which I thought secured were overrun. The Russians deployed 20 divisions, plus 5 tank brigades – alarming! Naturally, the Russians had knowledge of the troop movements of Manstein’s attack army, but that they beat us to our attack and surprised us with such a massive thrust exactly at the sector I was so worried about – strange! The Russians overran Gaitolowo and advanced close to MGA14. Well, he had therefore early knowledge of our strategic plan; that means he was able to amass his forces to counterattack before our troop movements even began. How could that Russian attack intention be hidden from us? And now, Giesler, pay attention - how did the Russian divisions cross the minefields, how did they force their way through the barricades, through the positions secured by tanks and artillery? Right away, that puzzled me. I was forced to order Manstein to at once move the army, planned for the Leningrad operation, to the Wolchow front – prepared to defend as well as attack, thus avoiding a catastrophe. Since then, severe battles are fought there. The situation is not stabilized yet.
“All our forces supposed to operate at the Leningrad front are now engaged at the Wolchow. There is no longer any chance to carry out that strategically so important operation. If there was treason involved or not, we have to leave that open. But now to the facts that I was able to discover: How were the Russian divisions able to move through the barricaded fortifications, the widespread minefield? How did they overrun the tanks and defensive weapons? As unbelievable as it may sound – there were none there, they existed only in reports of the 18th Army and the Army Group! I investigated and received hypocritical excuses only! I had no other choice but to order all officers directly involved in the Wolchow front, as they were available, to report to headquarters – regiment, battalion, and company leaders. I interviewed them thoroughly, chatted with them, laid out the maps with the marked minefields, barricaded fortifications and so on. All the officers questioned had the same answer – the minefields, barricaded fortifications and tanks were on paper only. My instructions and orders were not carried out. The reports of having carried out my orders – lies.
“Giesler, not just an isolated example – but enough for today!”
Next morning I talked to General Schmundt, Chief Adjutant of the Armed Forces (Wehrmacht). He confirmed those facts and explained to me the situation at the Wolchow, showing maps of the General staff. General Zeitzler became new Chief of the General Staff, a vivacious soldier. The adjutants characterized him aptly as “Kugelblitz” – lightning-ball. The frank character of the new Chief of the General Staff contrasted with the reserved, chilly attitude of General Halder.
* * *
We now learn about Hitler’s “retirement home” and his intention, even at that early date, to marry Eva Braun when he stepped down from power.
One late afternoon Hitler again allowed himself an hour of relaxation. On the map table, we were drawing together on the Linz city rebuilding plan. I wanted to clarify some details concerning his retirement home at the rock-plateau above the Danube. He thought my idea to develop his house from the cubic form of an Upper Austrian farm house, the “Vierkanter,”15 pleasing. Add to it the four protruding bays, which then might give him a view towards Linz and the surrounding country, and specially down towards the Danube and the new Danube-bank development. It’s solid, robust design incorporates some of the powerful, but lucid features of Frederick the 2nd’s priceless Castel del Monte. “By the way, Giesler, remember the painting of the Weimar artist – was his name Gugg? Castel del Monte, jewel of Apulia, which I ordered – find out how advanced he is with his art.”
Adolf Hitler saw it at the last art exhibit in Munich and liked it very much – praised it. We discussed further details of his house: “As far as my rooms are concerned, the ground plan is set in its final form. The great hall with the terrace, its sides framed by the bays, the proper room for an “Artus Runde” (King Arthur’s Roundtable); I like having it that way. You, as my architect, will be a member.” I tried to get some more of his design ideas, like utility rooms, garden and the roofed pergola to the tea garden. Hitler said, “No, that’s Ms. Braun’s business. All those questions you discuss first with her, she will be the lady of the house. When I designate my successor and retire, I will marry Ms. Braun.”
Soon afterwards, we were interrupted when an adjutant announced the arrival of Professor Dr. Sauerbruch, the surgeon. Hitler gave me a hand signal and asked me to stay – I witnessed the talk. First a friendly greeting, then: “I thank you very much, dear Professor, that you answered my request. As a world famous and internationally acknowledged physician and surgeon, you are at the same time also the best representative and ambassador of the nation. The task you want to take on is therefore of special importance. What I can do for your support, it will be done.
“My pilot and my aircraft are at your disposal. Naturally, your assisting physicians, the anesthetist and nurses will accompany you. Everything will be done to assist your effort. The ambassador in Ankara has been instructed accordingly. If you want to make your doctors and nurses happy, land on your return flight in Athens - the Acropolis should be of interest to all disciples of Aeskulap. For your intuitive finding (as an operating surgeon looking for the source of the sickness) I wish you a lucky hand and full success.” Adolf Hitler bid him goodbye and again turned his attention to our work. He explained quickly: a high ranked Turkish person is involved, of importance because of our rather delicate political situation.
* * *
Giesler sees a side of Dr. Sauerbruch that strikes him as pretentious. He finishes the chapter with what he personally witnessed at Wehrwolf, setting the record straight, as it were, from what Sauerbruch wrote in his memoirs "That was My Life" about this very visit.
As background, Geheimrat Professor Dr. Ferdinand Sauerbruch was born in 1875 and had a distinguished academic career in medicine. Between 1903 and 1905, he developed a revolutionary device for heart and lung surgery called “the under pressure chamber”. As a master surgeon, he cut into hearts, lungs, brains and bones. He treated both Lenin in Zurich and Reichs President von Hindenburg in Berlin. In 1937, he received the German National Prize for Art and Science even though he was not a fan of National Socialism. In 1942, he became Surgeon General of the Army. His friendship with the Jewish painter Liebermann and people in the Stauffenberg circle, and his increasing criticism of the regime, was tolerated because of his world-wide reputation. [Image above is his portrait painted by Max Liebermann]
However, by 1949, living in the Soviet zone of East Berlin and marred by dementia, he was dismissed and died two years later in the same year he published his book Das war mein leben. Armed with this information, the reader can judge this interesting and amusing, but possibly controversial, section for himself.
At the time of the situation room reports in the evening, I was invited to a cocktail party. Professor Sauerbruch, surrounded by the top military medical brass, was the center of the party. The mood among Aeskulap’s disciples was a rather enhanced one, as “Josef Filser”16 would have phrased it. Well, they have also been hosted by Julius Schaub,17 with a cunning look. Sauerbruch was bragging – I really can not call it otherwise –about his forthcoming Turkish mission, his tired mouth highly alcoholized: “… and how well the Fuehrer treated me, amazing personality, his airplane I get and everything that I consider necessary, he told me so … he knows quite well how useful I am.”
He shed tears … no, it was the Steinhäger18 which dripped out of his eye. He wiped it off and then said: “Who is this one here, I have seen him once before!” He pointed at me. Sure, he had seen me before, just late that afternoon. Still, I was surprised at his ability for “intuitive recognizing.” He was in such a good mood he would have removed our appendix without charge! I was thinking about my evening mission and withdrew.
Exactly ten years later at the war crimes prison in Landsberg, fall 1952, I read Sauerbruch`s book Das war mein Leben, his memoirs – first in a magazine, then in a book (an edition of 170,000 copies). The Herr Geheimrat (Secret Counselor) presented descriptions of his profound surgical art and serious scientific knowledge, garnished with gossiping untruth. He describes that visit at the Fuehrer headquarters in Winniza, what he had to go through when meeting Hitler. Well, I was present with close attention and interest at these meetings and talks because the name “Sauerbruch” was well known.
According to Sauerbruch, the headquarters were “30 meters below ground level.” He got drunk that evening when the headquarters also existed for him as wooden houses, huts and barracks! A general “hissed” at him. He does not really know who he was, but it only could have been the very courteous, amiable General Schmundt, chief adjutant of the Wehrmacht. “Will you undo your belt – nobody is allowed to visit the Fuehrer with a weapon!” But Herr Geheimrat, that directive was not issued until after the assassination attempt, July 20, 1944!
“Sixteen generals” could not have an audience with Hitler because the Herr Geheimrat was late. But the situation meeting time was long passed - Hitler and I were drawing and planning well over an hour when the Geheimrat was announced. When the Geheimrat entered the large, lavishly furnished room, a giant dog “shot” at him, barking at “his chest” with bared teeth and the snoot on his neck – that was the German shepherd bitch, Blondi, lying quietly on her blanket, her muzzle between her paws, from time to time wiggling her ears. And all of Hitler`s rooms were furnished very simply. But in the meantime, the dog expert Sauerbruch called Blondi back to order – yes, the dog “smiled friendly” at him, he writes, “when Hitler entered.” I saw it differently: the adjutant let Sauerbruch in.
“The scene now following was the most terrible one I ever experienced,” the Herr Geheimrat writes. But I stood in the same room and saw the courteous, friendly greeting. “In his eyes sparkled fury, he clenched both his fists, plunged towards me (Hitler, naturally, not Blondi) and yelled: “What have you done to my dog?!” They had nothing together, the Herr Geheimrat and the dog. “Hitler raised a wild, furious yell. ‘I want the dog shot!’” Then with a “jarring, shrill discant” which must have echoed through the whole subterraneous vaults (of the wood house), “I give you that bitch!” and “I’ll have you arrested!” And so it continues by the Geheimrat`s description. The Herr Geheimrat notes: “I was somehow flabbergasted.” Well, I, too, reading that stuff.
When walking around the center yard of the Landsberg prison, I asked the internist and scientist Dr. Beiglboeck, a very civilized and humorous Viennese: What do you think of Sauerbruch? “A super Aufschneider,” 19 he remarked ambiguously, smiling slightly.
Then I talked to the top brass of the military physicians, Generaloberstarzt Professor Dr. Handloser. Naturally, he read Sauerbruch’s memoirs. He answered with a question: Why do you ask me about Sauerbruch`s Winniza story?
“Well, I was present most of the time, from the beginning until close to the drunken end, first with the ‘Chef’ and his dog in the vault “30 meters under ground,” and then at the cocktail party, or symposium as you medicine men call it!”
“Ah, that was you. All the years here in Landsberg, I always asked myself, how do I know you?”
“Well, dear Dr. Handloser, Sauerbruch was superior to you then regarding the “intuitive recognizing” because he already had to face that question after only a few hours.”
“Well, then we might be again ‘off the dog,’”20 Dr.Handloser remarked. “I believe the medical and surgical chapters are Sauerbruch’s; everything else was written by his interviewer, and he writes as the fashion of the present time demands.”
“I see that a little differently,” I said. “It might well be that one of those dirty scribblers was at it, but he could never have mentioned all these details – fantasies – without Herr Geheimrat Sauerbruch`s authorization. I believe that a physician is bound by truth and committed to Paracelsus.”21
Dr. Handloser, an ascetic man with a sound attitude and tolerance, finally said, “Disregard the nonsense that was certainly added by another man – Sauerbruch was a great physician and a fantastic fellow.”
Well, I question neither his surgical abilities nor his fantasizing efforts to color his book according to the fashion of the time. The “Sauerbruch audience in Winniza” is for all matters symptomatic.
(1) Reischsleiter and chief of Adolf Hitler’s office at the headquarter; Hitler’s Graue Eminenz. A grey eminence is the man behind all the secret and non-secret happenings at an important office. The first Graue Eminenz was Geheimrat Holstein in Bismark’s cabinet.
(2) Located in the Ukraine, about 140 miles southwest of Kiev.
(3) The capital of Upper Austria during the Third Reich and Hitler’s hometown. Hitler and Giesler were working on great rebuilding plans for Linz.
(4) Wilhelm Keitel was chief of the OKW (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht), Supreme Command of the Armed Forces. Hitler established that office opposite the OKH (Oberrkommando des Heeres), Supreme Command of the Army.
(5) Situation Conference. Usually three situation meetings took place - morning, noon and evening - in a large room with maps. They were attended by Keitel, Jodel, staff officers, and generals who were called in with reports.
(6) Urfahr is a suburb of Linz on the north side of the Danube.
(7) Oberdonau is now Oberoesterreich/Upper Austria. Hamburg and Bremen were both free Hansa League cities.
(8) Emperor’s seats, not palaces, in the Middle Ages. Charles the Great built several in his vast empire, and would visit and/or stay there for awhile.
(9) A German family of kings. The last one, Konradin, was decapitated in Naples by the French Anjou.
(10) Knight’s Hall in Marienburg, seat of the German Knights Order in East Prussia; now Malbork in Poland.
(11) The Elbrus is the highest mountain in the Caucasus.
(12) Hometown of the mountaineer regiment
(13) Twenty-four miles southwest of Leningrad/St. Petersburg. Today named Lomonosov, at the east end of the Baltic Sea/Gulf of Finland.
(14) MGA is a road-railway junction about 10km SSW of Gaitolowo. It
was the target of the Russian thrust.
(15) Vierkanter means four corners: a rectangular shape with a court in the center.
(16) An invented Bavarian character by the Bavarian author Ludwig Thoma, known for his down-to-earth language.
(17) One of Hitler’s oldest adjutants, from the 1923 putsch in Munich.
(18) German clear schnaps
(19) Aufschneider is one who cuts, as a surgeon cuts, but also a teller of fairy tales.
(20) Beim Hund: at the end of a problem, or at a loss for a solution
(21) Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, German-Swiss physician of the Middle Ages, whose successful but unorthodox practice caused him to be persecuted as a heretic by the medical authorities of his day.
This article was published by “The Barnes Review” in two parts in March/April 2009 and May/June 2009.
AFTER STALINGRAD: Jodl Looks Back; Hitler Looks Forward
Translation and Commentaries by Carolyn Yeager and Wilhelm Mann
Copyright 2011 by Carolyn Yeager
Translators' Introduction: In the fall of 1943, the Russians were breaking through at Army Group Center, and General Erich von Manstein was trying to solidify the southern front. The Allies’ demand for “Unconditional Surrender” was being trumpeted, which could only force the Reich’s unconditional resistance. In this atmosphere, Hermann Giesler, who as Hitler’s architect was in charge of an operation of the Organization Todt at the Northeast front, was often at Fuehrer headquarters where he had the opportunity to engage Colonel General Alfred Jodl, Chief of Operations Staff of the OKW [Supreme Command of the Armed Forces] in conversation about the fateful battles at Demjansk and Stalingrad.
We note that both Jodl and Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, Commander of OKW, were forced by the “Unconditional Surrender” demand of the Allies to submit to the travesty called the Nuremberg Major War Criminals Tribunal, which resulted in their being put to death by hanging—to the eternal dishonor of that court. Thus, history was deprived of the first-hand account these men would have written—accounts which would have added immensely to our understanding of the decisions made at that time. For this reason, Giesler’s contributions in recording his conversations with Col. General Jodl are a valuable addition to the historical record.
In describing the situations at Demjansk and at Stalingrad, Jodl explains why the first relief operation was successful, but the second was not. We learn some of the difficult strategic considerations behind Hitler’s orders to resist to the end. Many false assumptions and reports can be silenced by learning of Jodl’s analysis. At Nuremberg, he made a strong statement that because of military, political and human considerations, unconditional capitulation was impossible.
In the second part of this installment, we are once again given a look at a more personal side of the Fuehrer. His choice of a successor is something he took seriously almost from the time he became Chancellor of Germany. As the severe strain of the war continued to take its toll on his characteristic enormous energy, this became a more pressing issue to him. We learn from Giesler that Hitler had settled his mind on stuka pilot and war hero Colonel Hans-Ulrich Rudel and, though he tried to get Rudel away from the Eastern Front and in a close working relationship with him without revealing his ultimate plan, he did not succeed.
Finally, under “We will win the war,” we are given a rare glimpse of Hitler utilizing his faith and will power to remain an exemplar of unshakable confidence to his staff in the face of the daily arrival of terrible news and events. Giesler, because he admired Adolf Hitler and had by now spent enough time in his company to know him well, gives a sympathetic and believable portrait of the besieged leader as the end begins to draw nearer. This is compelling reading which we, the translators, are grateful to have the opportunity to bring to you.
The Colonel General talks about Stalingrad
In the fall of 1943, I talked with Col. General [Alfred] Jodl, Chief of Operations Staff of Oberkommando der Wehrmacht [OKW], about “Demjansk”1 and the catastrophe of Stalingrad.
In the winter of 1941-42, a Russian army encircled a German army corps at the Waldai Heights around Demjansk. The six encircled divisions, about 100,000 men, could only be supplied and remain fit for action by continuous daily air support. They repulsed all Russian attacks, and at their wide, extended hedgehog front they kept five Russian armies tied down.2 The divisions in the cauldron [signifying the encircled forces] of Demjansk prevented a decisive breakthrough of the Soviets at the Army Group North.
At that time, I was around Pleskau and Staraja Russia and took special interest in these operations. My friend Schulte-Frohlinde flew a Ju 52, carrying munitions and supply into the cauldron and wounded soldiers out.
My Organization Todt units, together with sappers, were building bridges, roadways, military positions and field railway tracks toward the cauldron as necessary preparations for the attack from the outside and the planned breakout from the inside.
The main battle line on the land-bridge west of the Demjansk cauldron was in the meantime stabilized and fortified. Four German divisions attacked from the Staraja Russa area in order to relieve the encircled army corps. Through mud, swamps and across the Lowat River, the troops fought that battle in an unprecedented manner.
“An amazing achievement of men and leadership,” Col. General Jodl said. “Unique also in the history of war is the fact that a whole army corps, encircled, withstood for a long time an all-around attack of far superior forces. And unique also, and a first, that for months an army corps was supplied with all its needs for military operation solely by transport airplanes.”
I said, “Beyond its description in the war histories, Demjansk and Stalingrad will stand as a saga—even with all the bitterness—as a soldier’s Nibelungen epos.”
The Col. General replied, “I know where you want that talk to lead me, but it’s not the time for it yet. [Here are] only a few military points. The Stalingrad disaster began with the collapse of the North flank, and also a part of the South flank, of the 6th Army. Those forces could not withstand the attacking thrusts of the Russian elite armies.3 Encirclement of the 6th Army at Stalingrad was not the only intention of the Russians. Their strategic goal was larger; their thrust was directed toward Rostow.”
I asked, “Don’t Demjansk and Stalingrad show a certain analogy?”
Jodl answered, “Certainly they have a lot in common.” However he [Jodl] sees the fortress [festung] Stalingrad as a double-faced Janus head—“on the one hand it did not concern the position on the Volga and the encircled 6th army only , but also the fate of the Army Group South with more than one million solders and all the area they controlled. On the other hand, you should consider that for six months the 6th Army tied up seven Russian armies at Stalingrad. The rapid release of those enemy forces would certainly have meant a disaster for Army Group A, but it also would have greatly endangered Army Group Don and part of Army Group B. Large parts of the Romanian, Italian and Hungarian armies were already run over by the Russians.3 The breakthroughs had to be dammed, and defense fronts along the Don built. The fight of the 6th Army preconditioned the stabilization of the South flank of the East front where giant gaps were obvious. The situation was extremely threatening.
“Something else is connected with Stalingrad—the Volga, the most important waterway for transporting the Baku oil and the American war deliveries from the Persian Gulf. Looking at the military situation of the South flank—the Volga front is for the time being of secondary importance. But Stalingrad, by its special strategic dimension, is much larger than Demjansk, even if you include Cholm and the Wolchow break-through. From both of those gigantic operations one can clearly conclude that the Russians recognized our strategic plans.
"Still some more indications: It surely makes a difference if 100,000 or 250,000 are supplied and made battle-ready by air. The distance and the depth of the enemy’s encirclement played a role; its flak and fighters caused serious problems for the flights of our slow Ju 52 transports. To what an extent and for how long the supply could be secured was a decisive, but unanswerable, question.”
NEED FOR A CORRIDOR
"Because of operative reasons, a relief from the West along the Don could not be considered,” Jodl continued. “Therefore all hope of such a relief was based on Army Group Hoth (Group B) opening a corridor from the southwest. That would have meant freedom of the decision for our combined effort by forces from inside and outside the encirclement.
"It would have been irresponsible to break the Stalingrad encirclement from inside with weakened troops, leaving behind the wounded, without the support of heavy weapons. Operative considerations, and not thoughts about prestige, kept the 6th Army in Stalingrad. The insufficient and weather-dependent supply by the Luftwaffe could not keep the Army in a fighting capability. To have enough food, fuel, and ammunition for the heavy weapons, and also for the break out of the 6th Army with support from outside, a corridor was absolutely necessary.
"An isolated break-out, without heavy weapons, from an unprotected icy-snowy steppe, and through a deeply staggered ring of the Russian armies, would have been an act of despair and led to total destruction. It would have meant the end of the 6th Army, and freed the enemy forces tied down there before the Army Groups at the South flank were secured.
"Around January 9th or 10th, the Russians actually offered the possibility for the 6th army to surrender. However, the purpose and goal of that offer was transparent: they wanted to free their tied-down army in order to move it, together with the other armies, against the not-yet secured defense front of the Army Groups. With regard to the conditions of the surrender, we were well aware what to expect. We were, however, still hoping to organize a sufficient supply line and a break-out through a corridor.
"The detachment of a large fighting force from the enemy, specifically in winter, carries all kinds of risks—it loses its fortified places/positions, and the coverage and protection by heavy weapons. Within the battle area, a detaching move by a division from North to South was carried out. It ended in total destruction—without any cover, the rapidly attacking Russians tore it apart and ran over it. That breakout of one division should be an example of the risk for the breakout of the whole 6th Army.”
Was that the action, as we learned it later, that General Seydlitz ordered by his own decision? Very strange. At Demjansk, he was in charge of the attack divisions breaking the cauldron from outside.
"I have to go to work,” the Col. General said with a serious face. The discussion about Demjansk-Stalingrad was never carried to an end. Yet the Col. General said the essential about the unavoidable development of that fateful battle.
JODL AT NUREMBERG
Whenever I had a chance, I enjoyed talking to the Col. General because of his realism and his precise description of military affairs.
That heroic fight, and the sacrifice of the Stalingrad soldiers, was to be followed up by triumphant noises from the Allies. Out of their arrogance and blind hate came the harsh and rigid demand of the “Unconditional Surrender.”
Regarding that, in November 1944 I heard some critical observations by the Col. General: “No soldier with responsibility could undergo such a capitulation—it is dishonorable. Knowing all those conditions and the intentions of the enemy, only enraged resistance remains. That has nothing to do with fanaticism; despotism you can counter only with decisiveness, even in hopeless situations.”
Many years later, when I read the Nuremberg protocols, I realized what military considerations were behind his words. When questioned why Hitler did not capitulate in 1944-45, Jodl answered:
Then, to advise to surrender I did not. That was totally out of question; no soldier would have done that; it would not have been of any value […] Not even after the failure of the Battle of the Bulge […] the Fuehrer was as well aware of the over-all situation as we were and he probably saw it clearer much sooner than we did […] also nothing needed to be said to him in that matter anyway […]
Apart from the fact that the question of a capitulation or giving up the resistance is above all a matter for the supreme commander, there were, in the winter of 1944, many reasons against it. One major point—we had no doubt that it could only be an unconditional surrender; at that time the enemy did not leave us in doubt about it. And if we still would have had any doubt about what we had to expect, it was completely eliminated when we got hold of the English “Eclipse.” The English members of the commission will know what that is. It was the exact order of what the occupying power was going to do in Germany after the capitulation. The capitulation required the stand-still on the fronts at the spot where they were, and their capture by the adversaries who stood across the line. The same thing that happened the winter of 1941 at Wjasma had to happen. Millions of prisoners had to camp in the middle of the winter in open fields. Death would have reaped an immense harvest, and above all, those nearly three and one-half million still standing at the Eastern front would have fallen completely into the hands of the Eastern adversary. It was our desire to bring as many people as possible to the West. One could do that only if the two fronts moved closer to each other. Anyway, those were the mainly military considerations we deliberated towards the end of the war. I believe that more will be said about that in later years than I can or will tell today.
Götterdämmerung at Headquarters
It was late at night when Adolf Hitler read the last reports. One received his special attention. Again and again he recognizes, he said to me, that modern weapons give brave men the chance to excel. “If they risk their life, those weapons will lead them to supreme success.” But he [Hitler] has to watch out that the infantryman—the Panzergrenadier, who often has to endure much harder battles, does not come out short when his high achievement is evaluated.
"For quite some time I’ve been aware that only a soldier of great status will be entitled to lead the nation once I retire after the end of the war. That’s why I tried to get acquainted with anyone whose soldierly achievement and manly deed was extraordinary. By having the chance to present the awards for brave soldiers personally, I gained an immediate impression of many. Regardless of his military rank or which part of the armed forces he belonged to, I was open and attentive to him. I talked to everybody in order to find the value of his personality—always searching for the outstanding soldier who could one day lead the nation.
"To his calm audacity and courage, personal charisma has to be added. Thoughtful and logical thinking, combined with an interest in modern technologies and cultural openness, was absolutely necessary. I looked for the solder with imagination and leadership qualities. That naturally spoke for an officer of inborn authority. He had to be convinced this struggle is not only for Germany but for the whole of Europe. Steady he must be, and of strong character.”
STUKA PILOT HANS-ULRICH RUDEL
Adolf Hitler stood up, made a few steps and said, “I found him—the stuka pilot Rudel!”
I was not surprised, for he had been known to the nation for his courage, his fighting spirit and his success for some time. He was an officer of high reputation and an example of its soldiers.
"I wanted to take him in as my assistant,” Adolf Hitler continued. “He should participate in all my sorrows and hopes—not only of military affairs. Rudel’s humanistic education is a favorable qualification for further tasks.
"As a confidant, he should assist me. I wanted to introduce him to all the areas of responsibility and make him familiar with my ideas. I would then have had the opportunity to know him still better, to be sure that he will grow into the leadership of the Reich.
"I had to see in him more steadiness than I should expect—that he showed an iron will and knew how to use it. He said to me, ‘I belong to the front line! As long as there is fighting, my place is there.’ Up to now, I haven’t succeeded. I really can’t tell him I want to take him in as my successor.
"He has a great ability to evade my wish. Straightforwardly, he told me, ‘I can accept that honor only when you allow me to return again to the front.’ He felt that I understand him, yes, that I admire him and that I will not tie him down with an order. I hope he will stay alive!”
WE WILL WIN THE WAR
One evening I witnessed an event that impressed me very much. He put a bunch of reports on the working table, reading as usual standing up, and then walked resolutely up and down the room. He said, “We will win the war!” And he repeated it. After a time I heard him again, “We will win the war, I am very certain of that.” It was self talking, not addressed to me.4
He rang for an adjutant, took the bunch of reports again into his hand, and turned towards me, “Giesler, I expect you after the Lage.” I had the feeling Adolf Hitler stood under a great strain. Just before, during dinner, I noticed his absent-minded pondering. I thought he was still feeling the tension of the previous military discussions, still thinking about decisions. I’m sure those reports were responsible now for that ‘We will win the war.’
For quite awhile I noticed a change in his nature, the slight trembling of his left hand, played down by some joking words. His restlessness is all the way to nervousness; he was overworked. On the previous night, he gave me a hint: “It is very hard for me to find sleep. Sleeping pills, certainly—but they make me only more tired, they do not give me sleep. Only after a long time awake, mostly around five or six o’clock, I fall asleep. Even in darkness or quietness—I’ve become accustomed to the humming of the air conditioning—I cannot fall asleep.
"I have the maps of front lines before of my eyes, from the armies to the divisions to the regiments. Anxiously, my thoughts are touching the front lines, something can happen here, something must happen there.
"I simply cannot switch off after the night Lage and give in to the demand for rest. I wait for incoming reports either from the front, from bombing attacks or of a world political event. At the nightly tea, talking about matters which interest me, I think I might be able to relax. Yes, sometimes it depends what the day had demanded from me. At the relaxing discussions, I am very picky: city construction, architecture and technology are my favorites…well, you know it!”
Worries and doubts overwhelmed me, also, after Stalingrad—the fateful collapse of Army Group Center, the failed defense of the invasion, and also after the assassination of July 2oth. But whenever I talked to Adolf Hitler, worries and doubts were eliminated by the immense fascination and radiation of his personality. His authority, the enormous power as the chief of state combined with his supreme command over the Armed Forces—all that was increased by his simple modesty. His matter-of-fact attitude impressed me, when, in the middle of hard war campaigns, he was thinking about reconstructing cities, as: “We are going to build that this way”—and it sounded like “too bad we can not start tomorrow because adverse matters do not allow it.”
That is what made my worries and doubts disappear, because he was so convinced and believed, “We will win the war.” I was not able to resist his conviction and willpower. Again, it seems to me important to repeat: When we discussed plans for city reconstruction, Adolf Hitler combined unexpected ideas with matter-of-fact considerations before he made any decision. Everything was well thought out—in my own realm I could judge it—by his pragmatic evaluation of any problem. It was clear deliberation, well argued and finally, the assuring word, “That’s the way we are going to build.” Was it different in military matters? I can not imagine that his high intelligence, his ever-awake senses did not see and consider military situations by the same clear observation and judgment.
And I am convinced that the sober-thinking Col. General Jodl did not have to tell him in late fall 1944 that the military catastrophe was approaching from day to day and cannot be stopped.
Adolf Hitler saw the situation clearly, better and sharper than anybody else, because he was able to comprehend the whole scope, from raw materials to weapons, from the fighting strength of the soldiers to the strategic planning. I am also convinced that if it would have concerned only him, he would not have hesitated one day longer. What prevented him? Relentless stubbornness? No, much more—the “Unconditional Surrender.”
That cold formula of destruction he could only counter with his unconditional resistance. That “Unconditional Surrender” was not targeted and limited to the removal of Hitler and the National Socialists, nor the “system,” nor the Wehrmacht and its officers—but the German Nation. Germany, its substance and Lebensraum, was the target.
Even if the leadership of the nation would have been formed by the men of the Resistance, or even by those “men of God,” annihilation on a much bigger scale than the continuance of the war could have taken place. Unconditional Surrender—with that merciless formula the enemy powers not only prolonged the war but recklessly sacrificed German soldiers, civilians, women and children. They also sacrificed their own soldiers.
An additional idea also dominated Adolf Hitler—he felt far superior to Churchill and Roosevelt. To him, both of them were rudimental appearances from the past era of the 19th century. Stalin, however, he considered as a revolutionary who took Lenin’s communism to its final peak. Now he became the European threat—still good Uncle Joe, but for how long could that self-deceit of the Western Powers last? That alliance had to break down. That it did not happen does not speak against Hitler.
But all that means nothing against those defiant, forceful words: “We will win the war, I am certain about that!” Inconceivable for all who did not know Hitler and thought of him as a nihilist—he was a deeply believing man! His road led him through a changing era and he was convinced that it was his task to walk that road, predestined by Providence.
Even more than his penetrating intelligence, his faith determined his thinking, his trust in Germany, himself and his mission, but also his belief in Providence. That belief, enforced again and again on his long way from zero to the Fuehrer of the nation, gave him the strength to be an example of steadfastness and optimism for his staff.
Adolf Hitler was well aware of the superior strength and recklessness of his adversaries, and the dangerous war situation. Any sign of weakness he must have seen as a deadly failure for all. That unbelievable strength to resist this weakness was not based on rational sources, but he gained it by his belief in Providence. How many nights did sleep evade him until he could find rest.
1. This refers to the the encirclement of German troops by the Red Army around the city of Demyansk (German: Demjansk), southeast of Leningrad. Called the Demyansk Pocket or Kessel von Demjansk, it existed mainly from early February until April 21, 1942.
2. This makes the Russian to German advantage in manpower at least 3 to 1!
3. Paul Carell explains in his book Operation Barbarossa, Schiffer Publishing Ldt., 1991, 495 pgs.: “Catastrophe was already looming by noon on the 19th [November]. Whole divisions from the Rumanian front, above all the 13th, 14th and 9th Infantry Divisions, broke and fled to the rear in panic. The Soviets pushed after them towards the west to the Chir and then to the south and southwest. It became clear that they [Soviets] wanted to break into the German Sixth Army’s rear …” Further explanation is found in Stuka Pilot, Hans-Ulrich Rudel by Guenther Just (1990), page 25: “A promising relief attempt got to within thirty km. of the pocket but the main force had to be pulled back to avert the threat to the entire southern front caused by the Italians’ failure near Bogoduchov.”
4. A possible insight into Hitler’s belief and hope that he could still “win the war” is his admiration for Friedrich the Great, whom he personified as an example of will power and endurance. On the brink of disaster again and again during a seven year war, Friedrich held on, refusing to sign a cowardly peace after the lost battles of Kunersdorf in 1757 and Hochkirch in 1758, thus saving his Prussian kingdom. At the Chancellery in Berlin and in Hitler’s Wolfsschanze and Berlin bunkers, Adolf von Menzel’s painting of Friedrich the Great was the only decoration adorning his simple room.
Stuka pilot Hans-Ulrich Rudel, on duty, wearing the decoration Adolf Hitler designed especially for him. Below, official photo of Rudel -click to enlarge.
By Carolyn Yeager and Wilhelm Mann
copyright 2009 Carolyn Yeager
You are the greatest and most courageous soldier the German people have ever had."
So Adolf Hitler told Hans-Ulrich Rudel on January 1, 1945 at the bunker headquarters in Berlin on the occasion of promoting Rudel to the rank of colonel and awarding him the highest German WWII decoration: the Knight's Cross with Golden Oak Leaves with swords and diamonds.1
This was quite a statement considering all the great and courageous soldiers that have fought so valiantly for the Fatherland, yet considering the almost unbelievable accomplishments of this modest man who loved piloting and sports, it was not a rash statement.
Rudel's extraordinary career began after he overcame a childish timidity by plunging himself into sports participation after hearing mocking words from his older sister. Once he had conquered his fear, "no tree was too high, no ski slope too steep, no brook too wide, and no boy's prank too risky" 2 for this son of a Lutheran priest who weighed less than six pounds when he was born July 2, 1916 in Konradswaldau in German Silesia - which since WWII is the section of Poland bordering the Czech Republic.
He developed the conviction that "one can do anything if one wants to." As a soldier, he famously maintained this belief with his personal motto: "Only he who gives up on himself is lost."
Between the Hitler Youth and school sporting meets, "Uli" became a decathlete for whom an Olympic future was predicted. From childhood he had wanted to become a pilot, but after he matriculated from secondary school his father could not afford the expensive training, as his oldest sister was already studying medicine.3
When he learned of the formation of a new Luftwaffe, he determined, "I will become a pilot!" He passed the difficult entrance examination and began infantry training in Dec. 1936, but his path to becoming the world's greatest pilot was plagued with disappointment. First, he was a slow learner. After volunteering for dive bomber school, he couldn"t seem to get the hang of Stuka flying. And he was an odd duck, eschewing mess life with the other cadets [he didn't drink or smoke] to spend all his spare moments at sports or hiking in the magnificent hills surrounding Graz, in Styria.
Much to his dismay, he was transferred to reconnaissance flying school and during the Polish campaign the only shots he took were with a camera. He was also present, but not allowed to fly, during the Western campaign. Then in September 1940, he was sent back to Graz to a Stuka Replacement Gruppe and on a practice mission he suddenly sensed what had so far eluded him and, even more, he had the clear knowing "now I have got it, now I can make the machine do everything I want it to."4
THE WARRIOR EMERGES
From then on, no one could touch him for skill and precision bombing; he was master of his machine. After Easter 1941, he was posted, with high hopes, to I. Gruppe of Stukageschwader 2 Immelmann on the Greek peninsula, but the CO there refused to allow him to fly operational missions, based on old reports from his adjutant. It wasn't until his Group was transferred to the air base at Raczki on the Eastern Front that Rudel was finally given the chance to show what he was capable of.
On Sept. 23, 1941, his first extraordinary action took place. He sank the Soviet battleship "Marat" at the harbor of Kronstadt. By making a steep, up to 90 degree dive, he released the 2000kg bomb at about 300 meters, apparently striking right into the ship's magazine, and skyrocketed straight up into the air, barely avoiding tremendous anti-aircraft shell fire and the explosion itself. He heard his gunner say, "Herr Oberleutnant, the ship is blowing up!" Congratulations immediately began pouring in from all sides over his radio.
He followed by sinking a cruiser, a destroyer and numerous landing boats around Kronstadt and the Lake Ladoga area. By the end of the war, Rudel had logged an unmatched 2,530 missions. In his first ninety days of flying against the enemy, he made his 500th flight and received the German Cross in Gold. In January 1942, General der Flieger von Richthofen presented Rudel with the Knight's Cross in the name of the Fuehrer, the citation listing his successes against ships, direct hits on important bridges, supply routes, artillery positions and tanks.
During 1942, Rudel's Gruppe flew difficult missions over the Caucasus, directed to their targets by radio. They sealed up a Russian armored train in a mountain tunnel, destroyed harbor installations, airfields, and vessels on the Black Sea. At the end of '42, they flew missions in support of the heroic defense by the surrounded 6th Army at Stalingrad.
In 1943, following his 1,001st mission, Rudel went to a special unit at Rechlin/Mecklenburg that was testing the new anti-tank Ju 87 armed with two 3.7 cm. cannon carried beneath the wings. Flying such an unwieldy but fearsome "cannon bird", Rudel went on to destroy more than 519 Russian tanks by the end of the war.
Here you can see the cannons fitted under the wings of the Ju 87 "Stuka."
In April '43, Rudel was promoted to Hauptmann and received the Oak Leaves to the Knight's Cross from Adolf Hitler in the Reich Chancellery, along with 12 others receiving decorations. At this time, Hitler must have already been observing him closely.
Nov. 25, 1943: Rudel [center] receives the Swords for his Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves from the hand of Adolf Hitler. On his left is Dieter Hrabak; on his right his gunner Erwin Hentschel.
A noted characteristic of Hans Rudel was his unwillingness to stay out of action, even when ill or injured. His healthy lifestyle - which included his continuing regimen of sports and mountain climbing in his spare time - and his positive mental attitude made for a constitution that mended rapidly. He "escaped" from several hospitals before being formally discharged and returned to his group, finishing his recovery while flying again.
Rudel was not immune, however, to the dangers he and his squadron faced daily. His plane was shot down by ground fire or crash-landed over 30 times, but he always managed to return safely. He even landed behind the Russian lines six times to rescue pilot comrades. On the last such occasion, in March 1944, he landed near the destroyed Dnjester bridge to pick up the two-man crew of a crash-landed Ju 87. As it turned out, the field was so muddy he could not take off again and they were forced to escape by swimming across the icy-cold river. Rudel was the only one of the group to survive, even though he swam back into the river in an effort to assist his floundering gunner, whom, however, he could not save. The other two pilots didn't run, as Rudel did, when they were approached on the other side by Russians who took their pistols. He was shot in the shoulder as he zig-zagged away, and ran/jogged nearly 30 miles, barefoot, over hard, rocky ground, chased by pursuers with dogs, until he reached the German line.
Following this ordeal, his feet were so damaged he couldn't wear regulation shoes or boots for several weeks while he continued flying missions and, in fact, appeared at the Berghof on March 29thas the tenth German soldier to be awarded the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds from Adolf Hitler, the highest existing decoration at that time, wearing his fur-lined flying boots.
Rudel was recognized by everyone as a phenomenon - a soldier who stepped beyond the limits of fortitude and sacrifice, and took risks nobody else dared. But he could not escape the perils forever. In November 1944, he was badly wounded in the thigh but, after an operation and with his left leg in a plaster cast, he continued flying. It was January 1, 1945, on the occasion of Rudel becoming the first and only German to be awarded the Knight's Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds, that Hitler tried to get his hoped-for heir to stop flying. According to Guenter Just:
He received the decoration at Fuehrer Headquarters West at Taunus in the presence of the commanders of all branches of the armed forces, as well as Generalfeldmarschall Keitel, Generaloberst Jodl and several Eastern Front generals. At the same time he was promoted to Oberst. Rudel's joy turned to dejection when Hitler said to him, "You have done enough flying. You and your experience must remain alive as an example for German youth." The high-ranking officers held their breath as Rudel answered, "My Fuehrer, I cannot accept this decoration and promotion if I am no longer permitted to fly with my Geschwader."
Hitler suddenly smiled, "Very well then, fly. But be careful, the German people need you." Afterwards, Rudel spent an hour-and-a-half in conversation with the Supreme Commander and was astonished by Hitler's knowledge in the field of armaments technology. Subsequently he flew back to his squadron in Hungary. 5
Within two weeks, the ban on Rudel's operational flying was reinstated, but he ignored the order from Fuehrer Headquarters, crediting his tank kills to the Geschwader so that the High Command wouldn't notice he was still flying. During missions over the Frankfurt/Oder-Kustrin area, Rudel and his group rescued an army unit that was surrounded by Soviet armored forces. Their reward was seeing the relieved troops wave and throw their helmets in the air for joy.
But Adolf Hitler's concern was warranted. On February 8, 1945, at the Oder Front east of Berlin, a Russian anti-aircraft shell hit his cockpit, smashing into the lower part of his right leg, nearly severing it. Rudel used all his will power to force land the plane, after which his gunner Dr. med. Ernst Gadermann, saved his life by applying a tourniquet above the knee to stop the bleeding. When Rudel regained consciousness in the SS hospital near Seelow, he learned the crushing news that his leg had been amputated right below the knee. Hitler's reaction to the news: "He was lucky to get off so easy."
But even this would not hold Rudel back. His physician told him, "You are finished with flying." But before six weeks was up, Rudel left the hospital with an only partially healed stump and began commanding his squadron again. Wearing a temporary prosthesis and using a counterweight at his steering rudders, he flew again in April and killed his last 14 tanks.
April 1945: Rudel returns to his squadron without his leg, but undeterred.
On April 19, a day before Adolf Hitler's 56th birthday, he was called to the bunker headquarters in Berlin for a report before he left with his group to the airfield Maerisch-Schoenau in Bohemia. The Russians had crossed the Oder River and amassed their forces east of the Seelow heights for the final assault on Berlin. According to his own account, Rudel suggests to the Fuehrer that victory in the East is possible if "we can succeed in getting an armistice" with the West. He writes:
A rather tired smile flits across his face as he replies: "It is easy for you to talk. Ever since 1943 I have tried incessantly to conclude a peace, but the Allies won't; from the outset they have demanded unconditional surrender."6
The entire staff lined up to say goodbye and wish him well when he left the bunker long after midnight.
Rudel's Battle Squadron 2 continued to support Field Marshal Ferdinand Schoener's ground forces in the east until the final day of the war, when they decided to try to seek safety in the West occupation zones. On the capitulation day, May 8, he and a few comrades purposely landed their Stukas and FW 190's at their home field in Kitzingen in such a way as to shear off the landing gear and even break a wing. He expected to get medical attention for his leg from the American occupation forces, but instead was "relieved", as all the crews, of his watch, fountain pen and military decorations, and held for interrogation, eventually sent to camps in England, then France, without medical attention. With difficulty, he finally obtained a transfer to a German military hospital in Bavaria where German doctors provided excellent care for his amputation wound. By mid-April 1946 he was released and had a top-grade prostheses built in Kufstein, Tirol.
Oberst Hans-Ulrich Rudel's last aircraft, crashed and surrounded by Americans at Kitzingen, 8 May 1945. Rudel can be seen on the starboard wing of his aircraft.
AFTER THE WAR
With no prospects in Germany for ex-National Socialists, in 1948 he and friends Bauer and Niermann managed, with the help of "Odessa,"7 to travel to Cordoba in Argentina and became consultants to the Argentine aviation industry.
The regime of General Juan Peron welcomed not only Rudel, but also Prof. Kurt Tank, the Focke-Wulf aircraft designer, and several German test pilots and Luftwaffen officers. At an aircraft plant in Cordoba, they worked on the first Argentine jet plane "Pulqui 2." Rudel continued to keep his body very fit. He climbed the 7020 meter Aconcagua in the Argentine Andes; following that he scaled the 6920-meter Llullay-Yacu peak three times, being the first man to do so even once. He raced, wearing his prosthesis, on the ski slopes of Bariloche, and completed his book, Trotzdem [Nevertheless or In Spite of Everything], which was translated into many languages and sold more than a million copies. His sports trophies continued to mount into the hundreds.
Early in 1950, after the fall of the Peron government, Rudel returned to Germany and immediately became involved in politics, becoming a leader in the German Reich Party. Hitler would have been pleased. Rudel's concern was for the future of the former German soldiers. He justified his participation with the Third Reich by saying it was not for Germany but for Europe that he fought. He criticized the political climate in the Federal Republic, saying "I think that our democracy has not yet reached the level of the USA. There, you can openly say what you think. You can not do it here, unless you express the opinion of the ruling political parties. When I express my opinion, I am right away disparaged and called a Nazi-Colonel. All I dared to say after the war was frank words to those people who insulted me and offended the soldiers. Since then, they called me a 'Radical Right.'" 8
In 1976, the "Rudel Scandal" brought about the early retirement of two Bundeswehr [former Luftwaffe] generals and the Social Democrat Defense Minister Georg Leber. [read about it at http://wapedia.mobi/en/Rudel_Scandal]
Rudel suffered a stroke in 1970, but his fighting spirit enabled him to recover sufficiently to be able to swim, hike and even ski again. But 12 years later, on Dec. 18, 1982, at the age of 66, Hans Ulrich-Rudel, the "Eagle of the Eastern Front"-- the man of whom the last chief of the Wehrmacht in 1945, FM Schoerner, said "Rudel alone is worth an entire division!"-- and the man Adolf Hitler wanted to succeed him as Fuehrer of the German Reich, died of heart failure in Rosenheim, Upper Bavaria. He left behind three sons, and an unprecedented record of achievement that will probably never be matched, let alone surpassed.
Missions flown against the enemy: 2530 (a world record)
Ground targets destroyed: 2000 (including 519 tanks; 70 assault craft/landing boats, including a Soviet battleship, two cruisers and a destroyer; 150 self-propelled guns; 4 armored trains; and 800 other vehicles)
Air victories: 9 (2 Il-2's and 7 fighters)
Rescue missions behind enemy lines: 6
Shot down/crash landings: 32 (He was never shot down by another aircraft, even though Stalin had placed a 100,000 ruble bounty on his head.)
Wounded: 5 times
Decorations for bravery: 12 plus two foreign. Most decorated serviceman of all branches of the German Armed Forces (apart from Hermann Göring, who was awarded the Grand Cross of the Iron Cross).
During his funeral service at Dornhausen, two Bundeswehr Phantom jet planes circled low over the gravesite 9 where most of his Alte Kameraden, his WWII comrades, were in attendance to bid him farewell with the familiar Nazi salute.
1. Guenther Fraschka, Mit Schwertern und Brillanten, 1989, Universitas Verlag, Muenchen, p 119.
2. Guenther Just, Stuka-Pilot Hans Ulrich Rudel, 1990, Schiffer Publishing, 277 pg., p 10.
3. Ibid, p 11.
4. Ibid, p 14
5. Ibid, p 32
6. Hans Ulrich Rudel, Stuka Pilot, Ballantine books, New York, 1958, p 267
7. An organization that was purported to facilitate secret escape routes for SS members out of Germany and Austria to South America and the Middle East.
8. Mit Schwertern und Brillanten, ibid, p 125
9. Der Spiegel, "Letzer Flug" [Last Flight], Jan. 1, 1983. "Two days before the holy evening (24 December) last year [...] around noontime a funeral began at the village cemetery. Two Phantom jet planes circled in a strange looking pattern in the sky, crossing and bending in a way that with a little imagination one could recognize as a swastika, as one observer thought. A little later one Phantom dived in the direction of the village church, wiggled with its wings and skyrocketed 300 feet above the village. [...] the Deutschlandlied was intoned in all three verses [...] It did not take the Federal Ministry of Defense long to end the investigations about the ominous Phantom's low level flight, with the result it found the Bundesluftwaffe did "neither on the ground nor in the air participate" at Rudel's funeral.
Valkyrie! The Last Plot against Hitler
Part One – The Bomb
Translation and Commentary by Carolyn Yeager and Wilhelm Mann
Copyright 2009 Carolyn Yeager
With the release of the Hollywood blockbuster movie starring Tom Cruise, the public has been given a dramatization of the historic confrontation between two visions of Germany during a time of total war – that of the old military-industrial aristocracy versus the new National Socialist. While media mavens have made heroes of the members of the Valkyrie conspiracy, Herman Giesler points out the substantial damage their plotting and communicating with the enemy did to the German war effort, costing many thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of German lives. In this and following articles in this "Valkyrie" series, you're shown the view from the other side – from the very commanding center of the struggle for the life of a nation.
Many of the same men were involved in earlier assassination attempts in November 1939 and March 1943; there was even a plot in 1938 led by Lt Colonel Hans Oster to prevent a military invasion of Czechoslovakia. Contacts with the British Foreign Office at that time led Undersecretary Vansittart to comment: “But that is treachery!” After the war, publication of an account of those contacts was forbidden in England.
In 1939, Georg Elser planted a bomb near the lectern at the November 8th, 1923 Putsch Anniversary dinner in Munich, but Hitler left early, escaping the explosion that left several dead and injured.
In 1942 and ’43, resistance member Helmuth von Moltke persisted in trying to arrange meetings in Stockholm with the British Political Warfare Executive. It was blocked by Churchill. In this regard, it should be remembered that beginning in 1939 the Hitler government was itself sponsoring secret peace feelers, and even detailed proposals, to high British government officials. All were rejected.
March 1943 saw two attempts to kill Hitler masterminded by General Henning von Tresckow. The first was a bomb placed on Hitler’s plane that failed to detonate [see Inside Secret Headquarters, Part Two, TBR May/June]; a week later Tresckow got Colonel Freiherr von Gersdorff to act as a suicide bomber at an exhibition Hitler would be attending. With two10-minute fuse bombs in his coat pockets, he was to get near to Hitler before they went off. But Hitler stayed only 8 minutes, leaving Gersdorff to run to the lavatory to defuse his bombs!
Hitler repeatedly escaped harm, making it seem that fate was on his side.
Much has been made of Hitler’s supposed “rage” against his generals and other military staff – for example, over the Elbrus affair (see TBR, May/June) and Halder’s dismissal. But Giesler reports nothing like that. Adolf Hitler didn’t chew the carpet or throw chairs around, but he did get angry. He seemed to have a reliable sense for loyalty or lack of it around him. It turns out that leading generals like Beck, von Kluge, von Hammerstein and Witzleben, and even von Brauchitsch, were already in the mid-thirties expressing cynical remarks and doubts within their old Reichswehr circles.
These men were often from old, aristocratic families with long military service; they felt resentment toward Hitler’s strategic and tactical directives, often disagreed with his decisions, considered them interference with general staff’s established knowledge and wisdom. It should be noted that most of the conspirators were from the general staff, not commanding officers in the field.
What makes Giesler a rare source is his close relationship to Adolf Hitler. As someone whose company Hitler enjoyed, Giesler was often called to Führer Headquarters to spend long evenings in discussion and drawing of city building projects. This time he arrived at Wolf’s Lair in East Prussia at the beginning of August; to keep Giesler from asking questions of the Führer, Martin Bormann made all the investigatory reports of the conspiracy available to him.
Giesler’s account begins in Munich on that fateful day.
On the late afternoon of July 20, 1944 my brother called me. “Close your office; organize all your co-workers who have military training and form a guard unit – if necessary, supply them with weapons. Send the rest home and stay by your telephone.
“After you give the necessary orders, drive immediately to my office and by no means allow yourself to be stopped on your way, even by military police. Do you have a weapon? No? It may be better I send a car and driver to pick you up. Your place now should be at my office.”
“Assassination of the Führer and the military is alarmed; Valkyrie has been unloosed in Berlin; the situation is still unclear.”
My brother, as an experienced company commander, secured his post and the immediate surrounding area. We then waited tensely for further news from Führer headquarters via the telegraph, from telephones, from the liaison office of the Wehrkreis (military district), for messages from the Party office, from the SS and the Gau1. It was with great relief when finally, in the late evening, we heard the Führer’s voice. In Munich and the whole Wehrkreis VII, everything was quiet; it remained that way, as far as we could judge, during the night.
A week later, architect and Minister of Armaments Albert Speer, under time pressure, picked up Giesler on his way to Stuttgart so they could discuss war construction, the labor force and steel quotas.
We then talked about July 20th ... Speer had been at Führerheadquarters and gave me his impressions of the fuller extent of the conspiracy. Worried, he said: “Even now, after the assassination, the Führer is still very much involved with the military and political consequences … he needs some distance from the assassination and all the disappointments. I believe that it’s time that you arrive at headquarters, Giesler, as you are the only one who can distract him, even for a few hours a day. Present him with city building plans – Linz and the Danube Bank construction; that will still be of interest and lead him out of permanent worrying.”
After a few days, the call came from Führer headquarters. Bormann was short: “Please come as soon as possible; the Führer is expecting you. Please bring along all the plans that might interest him; naturally everything that refers to Linz!”
Full of excitement to see Adolf Hitler and talk to him, I arrived at Hitler Headquarters Wolfsschanze. But what he told me confidentially during the following week, and what I found out, as ordered by him, from others; what I was reading in documents and protocols, and what I saw around me – shattered me deeply. All that I learned I would have thought impossible; it felt as unreal as spooks in the night.
Now that controls had been introduced, I entered Sperrkreis (restricted zone) I to report to Adolf Hitler; I met him in front of his bunker talking to his adjutant. Actually, Adolf Hitler made a few steps toward me: “I expected you and I’m glad to see you.” He shook my hand, guarding his right arm which was bent and held in a sling, and his right leg also, obviously hurting. The side of his face that was toward the explosion was slightly swollen; he had cotton in his ears. But I was surprised by his posture – I thought it would be worse.
At tea time, to which he invited me, he mentioned the assassination only briefly and spoke little about his injuries. Linge (his servant) showed me Hitler’s coat and the torn trousers which were split lengthwise like the ones worn by medieval mercenary soldiers. “They did check you, Giesler – understand that. It is an order for the time being, caused by the assassination – in future it will not be done with you.”
I didn’t agree. After all that happened here, I thought the control was naturally necessary – it could have been that someone put something into my briefcase. “No,” Hitler said, “you check for yourself before you cross the checkpoints.” Apparently, he must have given the orders because any checking in the future didn’t happen – as in late autumn, as well as January/February 1945 in the command bunker at the Reich Chancellery. I always, however, checked my briefcase and blueprints.
On the first evening we talked about city construction in Linz and Munich. For me, it was an unexpected and rare conversation during days of turbulent military and political events. At the beginning, Adolf Hitler looked deflated; in the course of our discussion he became visibly more energetic and open-minded.
The Kaltenbrunner Reports
The next morning Bormann asked me to see him, giving me this advice: “Please don’t put any questions to the Führer about July 20th and all that was connected with it, unless he himself talks about it. Try, however, to distract him – talk with him primarily about Linz. That’s what interests him most. On the other hand, I think it proper that you be informed correctly about all the happenings of July 20th. I will see to it that you will be informed about every detail of the deep web.” After a short pause –
"One happening is under absolute secrecy – the Führer will decide if you are to have knowledge about it. But I urgently ask, don’t approach Hitler on that matter!”
However, I could see all the supporting documents and interview protocols delivered by Kaltenbrunner to Bormann’s office. By getting an overview of the total network of the clique of traitors and the larger circle of people involved, I would be more likely to refrain from asking Hitler about the affair during our discussions.
Only later was it clear to me what Bormann really meant by that. From then on, in the morning hours and during the “Lage2” meetings, I was primarily in Bormann’s office. At those times, he pulled out of the vault the reports, the interview protocols, and lists of persons and investigations which are known today as the Kaltenbrunner Reports. But those documents were only a part – even though a very important one – of the entire web of high treason.
I sat down in the corner of his office and began reading the sober reports of conspiracy which already began pre-war and gradually increased in strength until it developed into a perfect form – betraying, above all, the struggling frontline and killing hundreds of thousands of soldiers.
The often dissonant-sounding remarks of Adolf Hitler since 1939: “I have the feeling of being surrounded by treason” – his former hints, as on November 6, 1939; middle January 1940; then, during “Weseruebung” (Norway campaign) at the end of the French campaign; adding in the partly depressing, partly angry reactions as I experienced them at Winniza in 1942 and Wolfsschanze in 1943 – now, by these reports and protocols, his suspicion was confirmed. But far more than that: happenings up to now unexplainable became transparent and finally made sense, worse than ever imagined.
I began with the reading of the (prepared) appeals to the Armed Forces and the German people. Gördeler 3 to the Armed Forces: “... something additional threatens to deprive you of the success of your victories which you gained from a leadership of educated and experienced men: Hitler's ‘strategic genius,’ which he claimed in an irrational delusion, and was disgustingly idolized by his lackeys. ‘Who wants to sole a boot has to learn it4.’”
Another appeal still better: “The Führer is dead! An immoral clique of battle-ignorant Party leaders, misusing the present situation, is trying to take over the government for selfish reasons, stabbing the fighting troops in their back ...” With that, (Field Marshal) von Witzleben wanted to address the German people and the Armed Forces, to introduce himself as the new Supreme Commander. I knew him – then still fresh from the glory of crossed marshal batons5. At the People’s Court they took pictures when he denied having any knowledge of the assassination and the military conspiracy, which was immediately refuted. When questioned: Well, what were your thoughts then, what was going to happen if the assassination would have succeeded? – he answered: “I am a military, I don't know anything about political and civilian matters.” In the second part of the sentence he sounded absolutely convincing.
The next documents were photocopies: kind of an operational plan of the putsch-government and a list of the ministers selected for the Reichskanzler (Federal Chancellor) Gördeler. On both documents ‘Speer’ was listed as minister – with a question mark, however. Surprised, I jumped up and went to Bormann, “What does that mean? – that's not possible!” Bormann looked up, “Comrade Giesler, on that matter everything is possible.”
Slowly he stood up, went to the vault, took out a voluminous file, opened it and showed me the top sheet – there was the name ‘Speer.’ Only that. “For your personal information,” he said, and returned the file to the vault. “You keep silent about all that,” he said, sitting down at his desk. That was enough for that day; I could not continue reading!
Giesler reflects on the role of Albert Speer
My thoughts went back to a talk with (Karl) Hanke, Gauleiter of Silesia. A war construction site in lower Silesia caused me to meet him several times in March 1944. In my judgment, he was a man full of character, with wise, attentive eyes and a well-shaped head. Hanke proved himself during the political battles in Berlin, and later as a soldier at the front. His clear formulations corresponded with his long activities as an under-secretary of state at Dr. Goebbels’ office.
One evening in Salzbrunn, Hanke asked me to advise him after the war with his plans for city rebuilding and solutions for traffic problems in Breslau, the capitol of Silesia. “Well,” I said to him, “aren't you closely associated with Speer? If I agree to fulfill your request, apart from being overloaded with my own work, it would be an affront against him which I don't want to happen.” Up till then, Speer could not even overlook the fact that I got the Munich assignment, and then in addition Linz. My job as an architect included, with the exception of Weimar, most of the Southwestern region of Germany.
"But, you also advise Mayor Freyberg in Leipzig."
"Yes," I answered, "but only because of the Führer's order when problems at the fair (Leipzig's annual International Trade Fair) arose in connection with the planned extension of the railway system.”
That was one more reason for him to talk to the Führer. For various reasons, he wanted me and not Speer as an advisor for Breslau. He had a very clear opinion of Speer's goals, knowing what's going on in his office. That worried him and did not sit well – the Führer should know about it. His particular mistrust extended to two of Speer's closest co-workers. Hanke mentioned the names – I knew both of them, one highly-ranked in the SA, the other in the SS.
"Do you know that Speer is after succeeding Hitler?” Yes, I had heard about it, but I considered it gossip – as an incorrect and overbearing opinion of Speer's personality by his staff. Here, wish might be the father of the thought.
"No,” contradicted Hanke, “there is more to it.” He doesn’t want to burden me with that stuff, but the Führer should know about it. He, however, cannot get an appointment; Bormann is completely shielding Hitler, isolates him from everything – that worries him also. I could ...”
"The protection by Bormann is Hitler's order,” I interrupted him. “And Adolf Hitler considers me only as his architect and would strongly object if I would dare to get mixed up in matters which are none of my business. Please understand that.”
"You’re right – I have to try by myself to talk to the Führer."
Remembering that talk with Hanke, his critique of Speer and Speer’s two co-workers, made me pensive. But how was Speer's attitude after the July 20th assassination to be explained, when he expressed to me his deep worry about Adolf Hitler, and when he asked me to take the Linz plans with me to the Führer headquarters? Other small events before the assassination, unimportant as they were then, seemed to me now rather strange.
At the end of June 1944, for instance, Speer called the leaders of the defense industry, the armament industry and the directors of the building industry to Linz and urged their utmost effort to increase the production of the armament industry. That "Linzer convention" ended with Adolf Hitler's speech at the Platterhof at the Obersalzberg.
Speer and I were Hitler's guests that evening at the Berghof. After dinner, Speer said with urgency, "Giesler, by all means, find a moment to tell Hitler about the Linz convention and let him know that I ended it with the performance of Bruckner's 4th Symphony at the aula of the St. Florian Abbey.” Speer knew how much Hitler liked that symphony. Late that evening, he suggested, “My Führer, I propose that Giesler should tell some funny anecdotes.”
With Speer, everything was practical and calculated – even as a ‘friend’ I considered him a stranger and full of riddles. Now his name appeared, though with a question mark, on the list of ministers of the traitors.
In the evening, Hitler talked to me about his successor. Was it a coincidence or was it a hint by Bormann, caused by my reaction in the morning? Adolf Hitler said, "After this terrible war, the only one who is privileged to appear in front of the nation is he who, as a soldier, risked his life, and justified it with his bravery and willingness to sacrifice. Naturally, he has to show the quality of a leader and charisma; he has to be wise and think logically – above all, however, he has to have character. Only a brave soldier of that war has the right to lead the Nation!”
Then he was silent for a long time. Next morning, I was sitting again in the corner of Bormann’s office and reading more messages, reports, documents. No further mention of Speer
* * *
(See Giesler’s long passage about Bormann that we cut out from here at the end of this article.)
* * *
The People’s Court
The reports and interrogations got more and more complicated. One peculiar incident of the interrogation of Theodor Strünck 6, for instance, impressed me quite a bit. He called Admiral Canaris shameless because, at Strünck’s interrogation, Canaris requested that he put everything on Oster and Dohnanyi 7.
During the evening hours, primarily around the time the “Lage” took place, the first film clips of the trial at the People's Court were shown. I did not want to miss anything and looked at the film for a while. Some of the accused I knew personally; of the others, I had formed impressions from reading the protocols, which the films now completed. Höpner, von Witzleben, Stieff – how much they differed from the young officers like Klausing and Bernardis! These admitted their deeds with military composure and yet still wanted to distance themselves. Well, if the younger ones would only have known what a miserable attitude dominated the plotter's heads.
I saw the counter-position of Major Von Leonrod with his confessor-priest, Father Wehrle 8, and listened to their terrifying discussion – I felt my way to the door and avoided further films.
On one evening, for one reason or another, Adolf Hitler talked about the 20th July. I told him I had seen some films of the trials at the People’s Court and I was shattered. Adolf Hitler remarked:
"I don’t want to see anything of that; it is enough that I have to read the reports. The assassination revealed very clearly to me that not only high treason – but also the ugly “Landesverrat”9 lost it’s disguise. For a long time I had already suspected treason; in Winniza I felt it directly – often I thought I felt physically furtive glances. But much more, far beyond what has been reported, I have now learned. After a sober consideration, I think it’s proper to be silent – for the sake of the fighting troops and the unity of the nation.
"That reactionary clique plotted since 1938, if not earlier, for my fall by revolt or assassination. But it was not in accordance with their character to confront me openly with a weapon. How they must have hated me, and National Socialism, when they betrayed without scruple, and so miserably, even the fighting troops. The whole scope of that shameful plot one can now see – it is so revolting! Rattenhuber and Högl will tell you some of it; however, keep it confidant. I’ve bound everyone who knew about it to silence; that also includes you.”
1) Gau is a Party District. It usually covered the same territory as the state administration, but the Gauleiter was the NSDAP head of the Gau, while the Reichstatthalter was the chief administrator for the State.
2) Short for Lagebesprechung, a military situation meeting held twice a day with all the Führer’s close advisors, and field commanders called in as needed.
3) Carl Friedrich Gördeler was mayor of Liepzig from 1930 until his resignation in 1937. He then became director of the overseas sales department at the firm of Robert Bosch GmbH and used the "cover" of his job to travel abroad promoting an anti-Nazi position. He was the leading instigator in several planned putsches against Hitler and was to be the new federal chancellor upon the success of the Valkyrie plot.
4) A popular saying of German shoemakers.
5) Under Hitler, Col. Generals received the new rank of Fieldmarshal, in a ceremony in which they were given ornate gold and ivory batons.
6) An insurance executive who also worked in Canaris’ Abwehr; clandestinely active with the heads of the conspiracy.
7) Hans Oster was a general and deputy of Admiral Canaris at the Abwehr. Hans von Dohnanyi was a civil servant, a high-ranked lawyer recruited by Oster for the Abwehr.
8) Leonrod, a member of Bavaria’s old nobility, was designated in the Valkyrie plans as liaison officer in military district VII (Munich). He said in his defense that he consulted his “father confessor” Chaplain Hermann Wehrle, who did not take him into the confessional, but advised him to stay away from treasonable enterprises. Thus Wehrle was implicated and both were executed.
9) Landesverrat is a kind of treason of passing domestic or military secrets to a foreign power.
as seen by Hermann Giesler
(In Bormann’s office) I didn’t only read (reports); I watched what was going on at Bormann’s desk and his method of work. I gained new insight into the character of that powerful man, feared by many and even hated as the "grey party eminence." During that period he appeared to me more transparent and more understandable than in previous years. I will describe him as I saw him.
Here he was sitting, the so-bedeviled man, with his shirt sleeves rolled up during the high summer heat. With a lively alertness and immense industriousness, he worked through piles of files, dictated and phoned without a break. He had the endurance of a fighting bull. I think Adolf Hitler saw him correctly when he told me once: Bormann is like his signature and that is like the “Höhe Göll.”
View of the Höhe Göll, a high mountain peak close by the Berghof, Hitlers home.
I was often present at that time when Bormann reported (to Hitler); he did so in a matter-of-fact and concentrated way, with all the pros and cons, mostly about very important matters. Sometimes, when persons and happenings were involved that I was familiar with, I could see how clearly and correctly it had been reported. Then Adolf Hitler decided it. That information given to the Führer covered all areas of the State, the Party and the whole civil sector, and lasted sometimes hours. I was drawing while this went on, but still listened carefully. An adjutant would appear, reporting the ‘Lage.’ Or an interruption because of an established appointment – then Hitler would say: “Giesler, we'll continue later.” Or to Bormann: “See that Giesler gets some refreshments.”
A little later, I was again sitting in my corner, refreshment there, reading the reports or silently watching Bormann at work. He often dictated to two or three secretaries at a time. But – rather strange and surprising – at the same time that Bormann dictated to give the gist of the matter, he memorized Hitler's decisions word for word, following the sentences exactly as they were spoken by Hitler, while in between he shaped the letters and orders that derived from them. Telephone calls came in, disturbing messages were handed to him, after which he continued dictating where he stopped before. Again a call came, Bormann looked at me: “The ‘Lage’ is over, the Führer expects you,” and turned again to his work.
Who could endure that, day in and day out, always deep into the night, and for years? Indeed, Bormann was like the “Höhe Göll” and, like that “Göll,” he sometimes cast a shadow in bright light. Naturally he cast shadows. Sometimes, I had real quarrels with him, or he with me. Twice, Hitler intervened: “Giesler, please go along with Bormann.” Once at the Berghof, Spring 1944, he said to me: “Giesler, if you want to drive away from here early, mad because of Bormann – but you are Mrs. Bormann's guest, and you are also my guest – no, you cannot do that to us! By the way, let it be said to you, in that case Bormann acted absolutely correctly. He naturally should have given you some explanation, what I herewith do now …. Well, see!
"Giesler, I need Bormann and his working strength. He relieves me, he is steady, unshakable and an achiever – I can depend on him!” In retrospect, I always found out on my own that Bormann was correct to get tough on me, or that he acted on Hitler's order.
Bormann noticed everything; it reflected his former job as an estate administrator. I accompanied him once on an inspection trip at the small farm that supplied the Obersalzberg. He checked out everything, down to the champignon cellar – nothing missed his eyes. Then we climbed into the forest above the Berghof area. There he showed me his animal world in its free, natural surroundings. An owl was there, a squirrel – what else was jumping around there I cannot remember. He allowed beehives to be brought in to the “Höhe Göll” when the pine trees were blooming. He got enthusiastic about that magnificent mountain. Dr.Todt had personally searched for that high track and marked it through the sheer rocks – it is the most beautiful and daring road by far. “I hold Dr.Todt in high esteem and still think about him often,” Bormann said.
On the way back, turning off the road, he looked around and asked how I liked it. I remarked one has a wonderful view from here, all around – it’s beautiful up here. “Yes, a good location,” Bormann said. “Connection with the street, which in winter is cleared from snow; a well is close by. You are going to be settled here after the war so you are present for the Führer at any time.” Striding on, he whistled A la mi presente al vostra signori – the old Landsknecht (medieval soldier) song.
During the difficult days in August 1944, when the disloyalty and treason were apparent, Bormann said to me with a very serious meaning: “I have one task and one goal and that is to serve the Führer as a National Socialist. My only ambition is to do that as well as I am able. The Führer gives me the authority which I need to do it. I activate it, but solely for this my task. Certainly, you have no doubts that I am totally obligated to the Führer. I don’t want anything else but to take some of the heavy burden off his shoulders, and that is not easy!” I believed him.
Valkyrie! The Last Plot against Hitler
Part Two – The Story
Translation with commentary by Carolyn Yeager and Wilhelm Mann
from Hermann Giesler’s memoir, Ein Anderer Hitler, Druffel Verlag, Leoni am Starnberger, 6th edition, 1982.
Copyright 2009 Carolyn Yeager
After a period of time reading the “Kaltenbrunner Reports” in Martin Bormann’s office at Wolf’s Lair, Hermann Giesler was personally briefed by Hitler’s own SS briefers, a Brigadefuehrer and a security service captain (Rattenhuber and Hoegl).
The account they give to Giesler is surprising only in the revelation of the “double phone system” that was discovered at Headquarters, using parallel or bridge switching that allowed a third party to listen in. But this was a bombshell! The Chief of Communications at Headquarters was General Erich Fellgiebel, who was one of the conspirators. It was this that turned high treason (plotting against the regime) into the even worse Landesverrat (passing state secrets to a foreign power).
Giesler recounts what the investigators told him in his usual careful, detailed way.
For background and clarification of “the story”as given to Giesler by the SS investigators, we offer the following:
There is some disagreement or uncertainty whether Colonel Heinz Brandt, who was killed in the explosion, was a member of the conspiracy. He was a senior staff member of army operations, the right-hand man of General Adolf Heusinger, who was injured in the blast. Heusinger was likely aware that something was going on, and as his right-hand man, Brandt might have known also. At least, that is the opinion of Rattenhuber and Hoegl, who say that Stauffenberg blew up one of his co-plotters “without consideration.” Peter Hoffman, however, in his supposedly exhaustive book on the subject (The History of the German Resistance) does not mention Brandt as a member of the conspiracy.
When Stauffenberg arrived for the Lage on July 20th, he first reported to Field Marshal Keitel, and also met General Fellgiebel. Stauffenberg was also presented to Hitler and they shook hands. Either before or after that, Stauffenberg pretended he wanted to change his shirt and went to the washroom, accompanied by his aide, Col. Werner von Haeften. There they packed one of the two bombs Haeften had been carrying into Stauffenberg’s briefcase, in which he also had his papers for the Lage. Stauffenberg used a pair of specially twisted pliers and the three remaining fingers on his left hand to squeeze the acid capsule and activate the timer.
In the meantime, a sergeant named Vogel was sent to urge Stauffenberg back to the Lage, and also tell him there was a telephone call for him from Fellgiebel. Vogel remained standing outside the open door of the washroom. Nervous about arousing suspicion, Stauffenberg didn’t put the second bomb into his briefcase, but left it with Haeften. Vogel later testified that he saw Stauffenberg and Haeften taking something out of brown paper wrapping.
When Stauffenberg returned to the Lage with his briefcase, he requested from General Rudolf Schmundt, one of Hitler’s adjutants, a place closer to Hitler. Laying his briefcase on the end of the table, he leaned on the top to release the bomb trigger. He then received the fake phone call from Haeften, calling him out of the meeting.
Hoffman confirms that neither Stauffenberg nor anyone needed an excuse to leave the meeting. All participants were free to leave and come back at any time, as all were prone to receiving phone calls during the meeting. Such a level of trust and freedom prevailing at Headquarters could explain to some extent how this conspiracy was able to develop and grow over such a long period of time.
There are different versions of whether Stauffenberg placed his briefcase on the floor before he left to take his phone call (doubtful, but that’s what Hoffman says) or whether it was General Schmundt who put it on the floor after Stauffenberg left. However, it was definitely moved there, and either the above-mentioned Col. Brandt or General Schmundt shoved it further under the table, against the table leg. This is the action that undoubtedly saved Hitler’s life, as he was now somewhat protected from the force of the explosion. It’s intriguing to consider that both of these men were killed by what that briefcase contained.
When Stauffenberg reached the phone, there was no longer anyone at the other end of the line. He left and went outside where he and Haeften watched the Lage building from a little ways away.
Now we let Hermann Giesler tell “The Story” from his book, Ein Anderer Hitler:
For Brutus is an honorable man;
So are they all, all honorable men.
The chief of the security detachment, SS Brigadeführer [Generalmajor] Rattenhuber and Kriminalrat Hoegl, SS Captain at SD [Sicherheitsdienst (Security Service)] visited with me. Rattenhuber said Hitler sent them to inform me about matters connected with July 20th and the investigation after the assassination.
What they tell me is strictly confidential.
Hoegl said that it might be better if we go outside. We walked up and down along the way between Bormann’s wood hut and the casino barrack.
The two men were very different: Rattenhuber in uniform, tall and strong; Hoegl in civilian clothes, small, sturdy, serious, and with attentive eyes.
Rattenhuber narrates: “First the assassination – well, Stauffenberg waited for the explosion standing by the car within the Sperrkreis (security zone) II.
When the explosive detonated, Stauffenberg drove immediately to the airfield with his adjutant. On the way, they threw a packet of explosives off the forest road into the bushes – strangely enough, they didn’t add it into the briefcase. The explosive and the igniter came from the English, and they surely knew of the planned assassination – the gentlemen had contact with each other for quite awhile. Stauffenberg was taken by surprise when the time for the map room meeting (‘Lage’) was moved forward and he did not find the time to stuff additional explosives into the briefcase – otherwise everybody would have had it!”
Rattenhuber thought they were disrupted with their preparations. “I am sure of that. They went all out without any concern – Stauffenberg blew his co-plotter Colonel [Heinz] Brandt1 into the air.
“Col. (Werner von) Haeften took Stauffenberg out of the meeting with a faked call – it was carefully planned. Stauffenberg laid the briefcase, with the igniter facing him, on top of the ‘Lage’ maps on the meeting table, then stood up, leaning on his briefcase and pressing down the igniter. A light bow towards the Fuehrer, excusing himself, indicating a telephone call, and then disappears.
“The meeting continues. A village is named as a battle location – exactly where the briefcase sits. General Schmundt puts the briefcase on the floor; then it is pushed to the table base.”
“That’s known to me,” I said.
“Well, now it gets interesting. Both are now out of Sperrkreis towards their car. Beside the car stands Fellgiebel – you know him? – the General and Chief of Communications. They all look with suspense towards the meeting barrack.”
“How do you know about it?” I interrupted.
“Lt Colonel Sander stood at their side – he was present. Now it happens, and Stauffenberg with Haeften drive to the airport. They were convinced that they blew the Führer and everyone at the ‘Lage’ into the air. One had to have that impression: they are all gone!
“You can imagine what was now going on here: security escort detachment, physicians, medics, officers, adjutants, OT workers from bunker construction sites, all confused. Seeing that, Fellgiebel enters Sperrkreis I and observes all the emergency activities.
“When he then noticed that Hitler was alive and only lightly injured, helped by Field Marshal Keitel to exit the destroyed Lage barrack, he indeed steps toward the Führer and congratulates him for his escape. He – God knows – said, ‘That happens when you set up headquarters so close behind the front line.’ He stood to attention – Hosen in denselben (a military expression meaning trousers in his high boots) – pistol on his belt,” Rattenhuber said.
Hoegl continued: “The investigations revealed that, within the clique, it was specifically Fellgiebel who pleaded that the so-called “initial ignition” for the revolt could only be trigged by Hitler’s assassination – successful, naturally. Once that no longer functioned, Fellgiebel must have known that his participation in the whole affair could not be hidden, without doubt he was done. Why did he not draw his pistol and shoot? Nobody could have hindered him because none of us could have that figured out. But for a real deed, they were cowards, and ready only for treachery.”
“Yes,” I interrupted, “all that is already known to me from reading the interrogation reports. The Führer, however, gave me hints that there was much more beside the Fellgiebel affair and communication system, not only knowledge of and participation in the assassination and the Valkyrie putsch. He told me it was too disgusting for him to talk about it. You should tell me.”
“We’ll do it, only wait. Well, still a little dazed from the explosion, the Führer asked, ‘What is Fellgiebel doing here?’ On this, he based his first suspicion. But, initially, it is pretty hard to believe that such a contemptible infamy is at all possible – for us they were ‘sacred cows’.”
“Not for me anymore,” Rattenhuber responded, “since Seydlitz2 with his committee works for the Russians against the German front.”
“Well, well,” Hoegl said. “Anyway, at first, suspicion flew around in all directions until it was definite that a military clique planned the assassination which Stauffenberg then carried out. As part of this clique, Fellgiebel had the task to paralyze the whole communication system. He was successful with the major wire lines, but for one reason or another, or because of ignorance, some lines were not disconnected. That’s how Dr. Goebbels and Major Remer could telephone the Führer, and the Berlin putsch collapsed. Strange it is, however, that Fellgiebel never tried to warn the clique in the Bendlerstrasse that as far as Hitler was concerned the plot failed. They tried to continue the putsch, which ended in ‘blue air.’” (For a more detailed account of these events, see “At the Bendlerblock on July 20th, 1944” following this article.)
“Yeah,” said Rattenhuber, “maybe Fellgiebel tried to camouflage himself by staying in the background, like the ‘Herr’ General (Friedrich) Thiele, his deputy and successor, did during the following days. All in all, the plot from ‘above’ was doomed to fail because they didn’t count the decent officers and soldiers who did not take part, kept their oath and stood by their oath-bearer ( their Commandant). They did not have even one company at their disposal, and not one of the entire clique had the courage to draw his pistol against the Führer. At first, we only knew that Fellgiebel belonged to the inner circle of the conspirators and that he insisted at the clique’s meetings on getting rid of the Führer as a requirement for success with the Valkyrie putsch. We arrested him.
“But then something very strange happened. A sergeant with the communication unit at the Führer headquarters reported an unusual double switchboard: parallel or bridge switching. Messages, reports, operative directives and strategic details by ‘officers-only telephone’ could be listened in by a third party by turning on that switching!
“This sergeant was an expert and knew the communication stuff. He became attentive, but strongly suspicious only after Fellgiebel was arrested. It emerged that by some kind of coupling, a direct connection from the Führer headquarters to Switzerland was established; through a switchboard in or around Berlin, messages and reports could be listened in on!
“Those treacherous reports went to Switzerland via wire,” Hoegl added, “and not wireless – that’s absolutely certain now. We believe that the Swiss secret service stood at the other end of the wire – some of them must have had connections with Soviet spy groups – and they radioed-in codes to the enemy. That went on for years!
“We knew all the time of Soviet wireless centers in the ‘neutral’ Switzerland which were fed by various spy groups – they were exactly located by directing sound waves. They could only operate there with the knowledge and tolerance of a certain group of responsible members of the Swiss secret service who, knowingly or not, were in the service of the Soviets. Schellenberg already negotiated and tried to disrupt that spy business in Switzerland."
Walter Schellenberg was an SS officer in the SD who, as a Master Spy, was able to travel freely. Schellenberg moved up in the SS ranks under Heinrich Himmler and eventually replaced Abwehr Chief Admiral Wm. Canaris as head of the new combined Secret Service in 1944. He was arrested by the British in Denmark in June 1945, while attempting to surrender to the Allies.
“And what did you do now?” I asked.
“At first, nothing,” Rattenhuber said. “We did not upset the whole thing right away. The Führer said that Fellgiebel was not alone – he might have known about it. Hitler gave orders for secrecy and constant control of the switchboard; that paid off quite a bit, and a lot of things happened afterwards.
“Well, now we will start with case number two. Fellgiebel was arrested at the time only for his participation in the plot and knowledge of the assassination.We still didn’t have any information about how the communication system worked to constantly betray the fighting front, even though we suspected it for a long time. On the suggestion of Field Marshal Keitel, General (Fritz) Thiele, Fellgiebel’s deputy, succeeds him. As the new chief entrusted with communications, he was sworn in with the oath of allegiance and reported to the Fuehrer.
“In the meantime, the report of the sergeant from the communication unit came in. Secretly, the observation begins and it did not take long before it is certain: the Herr General ‘played the flute’ with that macabre chapel. He knows of the secret switchboard – the technicians call it parallel switching.
By macabre chapel, Giesler is referring to The Red Chapel (Rote Kapelle), the German cryptonym for a European-wide Soviet espionage network that transmitted information via radio directly to the Soviets. It was headed by a Polish communist Jew, Léopold Trepper, and was first discovered in Brussels in 1941. In Germany, the leaders were Harro Schulze-Boysen, a desk officer at the Reich ministry of aviation, Dr. Arvid Hanack of the ministry of economics, and Rudolf von Scheiliha, head of the foreign office information department. All three of these men had access to sensitive and/or secret information. Abwehr Chief Admiral Canaris and others estimated that the Rote Kapelle in Germany cost the lives of 200,000 German men. By the end of 1942, the leaders had been apprehended and the network shut down, or so it was thought.
“Because one (Fellgiebel) is drawing in the other (Thiele), his membership in the conspirator clique is now obvious. And now it comes apart further at Communications: Fellgiebel’s Chief of Staff, a Colonel Hahn, and the chief of the communication department for (Gen. Erich) Fromm’s Reserve Army, a Colonel Hassel – they are all being arrested. With Thiele we did it, Hoegl and I, with all the politeness and respect to which a general is entitled.”
Something awkward happened then to the general. Rattenhuber mentioned it, but it does not belong in my script.
“Now, professor, you wonder why that is so revolting to the Führer and why he did not want to talk to you about it. That treason against the fighting front took more out of him than the assassination. Recently, he told us that for some time he expected to be shot by one of that reactionary gang, but he never could believe that an officer would commit such a devious act, betraying the fighting soldiers who daily put their life at risk for Germany!
“How could they play their game for so long?” I asked. “Why didn’t someone get wise to their deceit? Since 1939, the Chief hinted about treason in talks with me. After the capitulation of France, he told me that he now knows for sure that treason was rooted at a high military level, some details of which he already knew about in Winniza. I still remember his exact words: ‘Should I extend my distrust to the members of the ‘Lage’ or are the traitors located at the seams?’ Certainly he was at that time already considering the communication center.”
Rattenhuber answered, “That’s exactly what depresses us so much because we felt we were responsible for not only the Führer’s security.
But even so, limits were set for us. Up to July the 20th, everybody could approach the Führer with a weapon, well, even with bulky explosives like Stauffenberg did with his briefcase – one only needed to be known or carrying a pass for the Sperrkreis I. Just the thought that an officer, or even a general, could commit treason or assassinate the Führer was, until now– how do you call it – a sacrilege! For all of us, that’s the big shock.”
“What’s going to happen now?”
“For the time being, big silence. One cannot imagine what would happen if the front and the homeland knew about it. Only the Führer will decide who will have knowledge of that treason-mess.
The report from the investigators over, Giesler continues with interesting observations about post-assassination changes at the sensitive Communications center, and his own reflections on the legacy of the enormous treason.
A lot of moving took place at Communications now. Before the assassination, Fellgiebel started to replace officers – the ones he did not trust, good soldiers who kept their oath and would not have participated in the infamy the clique wanted to start, exactly like many at the Bendlerstrasse, and also Communications, who stopped it in time. Otherwise, the Valkyrie confusion would have extended further.
Naturally, caution was now demanded. Guderian proposed a new communication chief; he reported today to the Fuehrer. Towards evening, after the talk with Rattenhuber and Hoegl, I met Colonel General [Heinz] Guderian at the teahouse as I did several times already during the week, and to my surprise, General [Albert] Praun. Guderian – I liked him very much for his lively manner and soldier-like aura – was obviously under great tension. We carried on with a short, polite talk; I sensed that his thoughts were with far-away military problems.
I had a longer discussion afterwards with General Praun, who was the brother of my co-worker, Dr.Theo Praun. I thought a lot of Theo; he was the head of the law department at my office “General Building Counselor, Munich”; then a leader within the OT group Russia North and Balticum, a job which Dr. Todt entrusted to me at the end of 1942. In January 1944, Dr. Praun, together with the front leader Baerkessel, was murdered by partisans when they visited an OT unit in the 16th Army region. The murder has been “gloriously” reported on the Russian radio. At the funeral service of my co-workers, I met General Praun. At that time, he was the commander of a division and before that he became, because of his technical expertise, Guderian’s communication officer during the French campaign.
Now, on Guderian’s suggestion, the Führer installed him as the new Chief of Communications. During our conversation I asked General Praun about his impressions. He answered hesitantly and acted rather withdrawn. Cautiously, I addressed my questions to find out how much the Führer had informed him about the treason affair. General Praun said the talk was a short one; the Fuehrer pointed very briefly to the serious disruption at Communications and asked him to put it back in order again.
I had the impression that the first veil had already fallen over the macabre treason affair. General Praun tried hard to trace the rumors about the treason whenever they trickled through. I know he talked with Kriminalrat Hoegl, who referred him to Kaltenbrunner’s investigating group. He might have asked around some more, but any additional information about Fellgiebel, Thiele, Hahn and Hassel has been withheld.
Strange – but for me very understandable – was the behavior of Kriminalrat Hoegl who referred Praun to Kaltenbrunner, who gave him the reasonable advice to have Fellgiebel questioned by staff officers, and finally of Gestapo Müller, who refused Praun any information on Fellgiebel, Thiele, Hahn and Hassel. I was not surprised that the raid-like checking of the parallel connection showed no results; it was removed long before.
But the treason was there, it was permanent and of an unbelievable scope. When German soldiers overran Russian battle stations, they found there their own operation and attacking plans! Most of the responsible and carefully planned strategic and tactical German operations, advancing with fighting and sacrificing spirit, were beaten back by the enemy’s counter actions made possible by that treason. The all-important moment for a successful attack–surprise – was never gained.
Judged by this big treason affair at headquarters, the Red Chapel plot appears trivial, even though Admiral Canaris from the German Abwehr testified at the state war court (Reichskriegsgericht) – at that time still a confidant – that the treason of the Red Chapel cost at least a quarter million victims!
But what did that alarming, yet wretched treason mean compared to the incomprehensible plot at a high military level and right at headquarters, only in part revealed by the assassination?! It fluctuates between high treason and Landesverrat. Hate, craving for admiration, lack of character and a stick-in-the-mud reactionary attitude were the reasons for an unbelievable conspiracy with the enemy, an enemy whose goal it was to destroy Germany. Naturally, the traitors interpreted their action as necessary and in the interest of a higher humanity. They didn’t offer themselves as a sacrificing gift, but instead the German soldier who paid for it with his life.
Therefore, it could not be a revolution from the top; there was no necessity for it, there was nothing there, no substance, no program that could claim to be taken seriously, no sparkling thought or serious plans of how to proceed if the putsch succeeded. There was just no personality there. Civil war and hate would have followed the successful assassination and putsch – for generations. Nothing would have changed the relentless enemy.
Terrible things happened; much might simmer away; a lot can be buried. A lot, however, one will not forget – the treason, above all. One can try to belittle it as unimportant, to cover it up, or even to glorify it – it won’t help, because treason cries throughout the centuries.
1) Not to be confused with Dr. Karl Brandt, Hitler’s personal physician/surgeon and loyal party member, who was hanged by the Allies at Nuremberg.
2) Walther von Seydlitz was one of the German Stalingrad generals to turn against his country while in Soviet captivity.
AS A SUPPLEMENT TO HERMANN GIESLER'S STORY of the day’s events as given to him by the investigators, Wilhelm Mann has written this dramatic account of how the conspiracy unfolded and collapsed within the walls of the Bendlerblock, the makeshift headquarters of the hopeful new governing elite of the Reich.
The Bendlerblock was a complex of buildings taking up most of a city block that housed the main military offices in Berlin. It was so named because it was located on Bendlerstrasse (Bendler Street) in central Berlin. Bendlerstrasse and Bendlerblock were used interchangebly to identify the military headquarters. Today it serves as a secondary office of the German Federal Ministry of Defense. In 1955, the street name was changed to Stauffenbergstrasse, as part of the glorification of the July 20th assassin as a hero of the nation. -cy
By Wilhelm Mann
Above: Bendlerblock entance in 1942 (left) and more recent
Trusted generals of the Third Reich waited nervously in their offices at the Bendlerblock – Berlin headquarters of the OKW Home Command and General Army Office (AHA) – for the call from Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg that the bomb had this time exploded and killed Hitler.
Notable among them were: Col General Ludwig Beck (retired since 1938); Col General Friedrich Fromm, Chief of the Home Army Command; General Friedrich Olbricht, Chief of the AHA, and his chief of staff Colonel Albrecht Mertz von Quirnheim; General Fritz Thiele, Deputy Chief of Communications (under General Erich Fellgiebel); Col General Erich Hoepner, retired but now in uniform again; Hans Bernt Gisevius, ex-Gestapo man just in from Switzerland.
Shortly after 1 p.m. the message came in from Wolfsschanze and it was Fellgiebel’s voice: “Something fearful has happened; the Fuehrer’s alive.”
General Thiele and General Olbricht listened on the phone. Fellgiebel, Chief of Communications at Headquarters, did not tell them that, shortly before, hoping to avoid serious complications for himself, he had congratulated Hitler on his escape. The two didn’t know what really happened – if the bomb didn’t explode or Stauffenberg failed to place the briefcase that contained it. They didn’t convey the message to anyone else either, instead decided to wait and went to lunch, or – as Thiele was said to do – walk uneasily through the nearby Tiergarten Park.
By 3 p.m. they were back at Bendlerstrasse, still very cautious, unsure what to do. Rumors of a failed bomb attempt were floating. Communication between different Army offices and Headquarters went on, causing further confusion – the telephone line from Wolfsschanze remained open (an error by Fellgeibel), so Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel and Lt General Wilhelm Burgdorf were able to call various Wehrkreise and individual commanding officers to counteract the Valkyrie order.
Stauffenberg landed at Berlin-Rangsdorf airport shortly after three o‘clock and called Bendlerstreet with the message: “Hitler is dead.” When the Colonel arrived after 4 p.m., General Olbricht was still hesitant to act. Without Olbricht’s authority, his chief of staff Col. Mertz von Quirnheim initiated the first written and verbal orders of Valkyrie. “He railroaded me,” Olbricht said later to Gisevius.
Stauffenberg and Olbricht together entered the office of Home Army Chief Fromm and informed him of Hitler’s death, then requested that the Army take over as the governing authority of Germany. Fromm expressed strong doubts. Olbricht, now convinced that Stauffenberg was telling the truth that Hitler had been killed, suggested that Fromm might call Field Marshal Keitel at Wolfsschanze to find out. Upon doing so, Keitel assured him that Hitler was alive.
A highly dramatic exchange of words, blunt confrontations and even physical encounters with drawn revolvers followed.
Fromm: “Keitel told me Hitler is alive!”
Stauffenberg: “Keitel is a liar – he has lied often in the past. I saw Hitler carried out dead.”
Olbricht: “We issued Valkyrie.”
At that Fromm exploded. He raised his fist, accused the two of high treason and put them under arrest. Stauffenberg turned it around and tried to put Fromm under arrest – a comic situation except for the seriousness of it. Stauffenberg shouted, “I activated the bomb – Hitler is dead.” Fromm countered: “You shoot yourself, the assassination failed.” Stauffenberg moved toward Fromm; Fromm jumped up and threatened Stauffenberg. Now von Kleist and von Haeften, Stauffenberg’s aides, rushed in with drawn pistols and the turbulence settled at once.
No longer in authority, General Fromm was given another chance to change his mind – he did not. He and his adjutant, Capt. Bartram, were locked in his office with their telephone blocked and Col General Hoepner took over. Now the new Commander of the Home Army, Hoepner had been stripped of his army command a few years ago and had arrived at the Bendlerblock in his civilian clothes, carrying his uniform in a suitcase.
In the meantime, the teleprinters had started to dispatch the Valkyrie code and follow-up orders to all the sixteen Wehrkreise. It was a slow process as the order sheets had to first be coded, and then decoded at the other end; some Wehrkreis offices didn’t receive it until the whole affair was over.
General Paul von Hase, the Berlin city commander, was now supposed to move the various military units in and around Berlin – to occupy or cordon off all the places, offices and ministries according to the Valkyrie plan. (See Valkerie, Part 4 for an explanation of the Valkyrie plan)
Bendlerblock on the afternoon of July 20, 1944
Between 4:00 and 5:00 p.m., the Bendlerblock saw many new arrivals. It began to look like a gathering of the old Reichswehr, with the Prussian/Bavarian/Silesian nobility: Ludwig Beck, retired Col General and former chief of staff, now designated commander of the revolt government, dressed in civilian clothes; the Counts von Schulenburg, York von Wartenburg, von Bismark-Schoenhausen, von Schwerin-Schwanenfeld, von Hammerstein, and Berthold von Stauffenberg (brother of Claus); Klaus Bonhoeffer and Dr. Otto John. Shortly afterward, Berlin’s Chief of Police Wolf-Heinrich Count von Helldorf arrived with Hans Gisevius.
Only Carl Goerdeler, the future chancellor, and Field Marshal Erwin von Witzleben, the new chief of the Wehrmacht, were missing. Goerdeler’s whereabouts were unknown; he had gone into hiding several days before. Beck asked about Witzleben and was told by Gisevius that he was on his way to Zossen (OKH - Oberkommando Heer/Army Supreme Command) to take over command of the Wehrmacht.
The commander of Wehrkreis III-Berlin, General Joachim von Kortzfleisch, was called to Bendlerstrasse and told by Olbricht that Hitler was dead, the Army was taking over and the troops in Berlin should be dispatched according to Valkyrie plans. Kortzfleisch refused and shouted, “The Fuehrer is not dead – Fuehrer is not dead!” When he tried to leave the offices, he was detained at gunpoint. General von Thuengen took over for Kortzfleisch, going to his headquarters at Hohenzollerndamm, where he was not involved in any further action.
Olbricht gave chief of police Helldorf the order to alert his police forces and await further instructions; after a short while Helldorf left for the police headquarters and Olbricht returned to his office. Increasingly impatient, Gisevius asked Beck to call Lt. General Wagner, the deputy chief of staff in Zossen, and order him to proceed according to the Valkyrie plans.
But at Zossen, Lt. General Wagner informed Witzleben that Hitler was alive. When Witzleben arrived at the Bendlerblock around 8:00 p.m. he was furious about the course of events. “This is a fine mess,” he said, and vehemently argued with both Stauffenberg and Beck, banging his fist on the table. He left for Zossen in a rage; the conspiracy was without its military commander – the commander never had any troops! Witzleben was not seen again; he realized the putsch was over.
The talking, arguing and telephoning continued. Beck quietly oversaw the operation, not saying a word. Stauffenberg feverishly telephoned the Wehrkreise to get Valkyrie activated. Gisevius urged ‘action now’ and argued for forming assault parties of officers to go into the field, pending the arrival of troops. Soon after, he left for Helldorf’s police headquarters to answer Helldorf’s urgent request to know the situation at Bendlerblock..
In the middle of all the turbulence, an unbelievable scene occurred: The black-silver uniformed SS Oberfuehrer Pifrader from the RSHA (Reichs Sicherheits Hauptamt-SS Security chief) walked in and requested that Colonel Stauffenberg accompany him for an interview at the RSHA office. He was immediately apprehended by the conspirators and put under guard.
Remer’s decisive move
From a newspaper story at the time commending Major Remer
The Guard Battalion “Grossdeutschland,” commanded by Major Otto Ernst Remer, was an elite troop of battle-hard soldiers and highly decorated front officers. It was divided into four companies of about 1000 to 1200 men. Remer dispatched three companies to cordon off the center of the city, according to General Hase’s order. He kept one company in reserve at the Lustgarten area. As a good soldier Remer obeyed the order, but when General Hase gave him a Lt Colonel as a liaison, he became suspicious.
By 6 p.m. the platoons were all in their positioned places. Remer checked them out and returned to Hase’s headquarters at Unter den Linden. When he overheard a muffled talk between Hase and his chief of staff Lt. Colonel Schoene to arrest Goebbels, he knew there was something fishy going on. He called his officers to a meeting.
Joseph Goebbels was Gauleiter for Berlin and Minister for Propaganda and Cultural Affairs, but also Reichs Defense Commissioner for The Gau-Berlin. Lt. Hagen, one of Major Remer’s officers who worked for a time at Goebbels’ ministry, suggested he visit Goebbels at his residence immediately. Remer was suspicious that perhaps Goebbels was involved in a Party conspiracy against Hitler, and Goebbels was not sure about Remer. After a dramatic verbal exchange between the two at Goebbels’ apartment, Remer was handed the telephone and heard the Fuehrer at the other end of a direct line to Wolfsschanze, never blocked by Fellgiebel.
“Do you recognize my voice, Major?” asked Hitler, and Remer acknowledged that he did, having spoken privately with Hitler not that long ago. Hitler gave him the order to snuff out the plot with all his might and energy. He made Remer the de facto Commandant of Berlin until the newly appointed Commander of the Home Army, Reichsfuehrer SS Heinrich Himmler, arrived. At Goebbels’ invitation, Remer set up a new command post in the downstairs room of the house. It was 6:30 p.m.
“Alea iacta”- The die has been cast
By that time, the teleprinter and telephones at Bendlerblock had ordered the Wehrmacht units located in and around Berlin to their specified areas. When most of the marching military units reached the areas cordoned-off by Remer, his officers contacted the commanders of the arriving units and they were put under Remer’s command. For a short while a serious problem occurred – Remer’s platoons were confronted with an armored group from Krampnitz, a suburb of Berlin. Their tanks were on standby not far away from Goebbels’ residence. It took some talking, telephoning and some pushing by Remer’s subalterns before they learned that the unit would only obey orders from Col General Guderian, and Guderian was on Hitler’s side. Clear road all the way.
Remer sealed off the whole district around the Bendlerblock and set guards at all street corners and building entrances; he issued strict instructions to accept orders only from his command post. Lt. Schlee, one of Remer’s platoon leaders who guarded the front and main entrance of the Bendlerblock, was shuttling between Remer and Olbricht, receiving different orders. He was detained at one point by Col. Mertz von Quirnheim, but when Quirnheim left the room, he walked out without being checked or held up. He immediately reported to Remer the situation there, including discovering General Kortzfleish locked in an upper story room, and that none of the orders of Fromm’s Home Army had been dispatched. (The men in the communications center, starting to catch on, deliberately delayed sending the messages, or in some cases didn’t dispatch them at all.) This report convinced Remer that the center of the conspiracy was located in the building on Bendlerstrasse.
Col. Gen Fromm and his adjutant Capt. Bartram were still locked up at Fromm’s office without a telephone connection, but with a functioning radio, which told them that the assassination failed. A small, little known exit in their office made it possible for Bartram to slip out several times and deliver a counteraction order from Fromm to the staff officers of the AHA on a different floor of the building. Fromm was also allowed by Olbricht to move to his apartment in another part of the building.
Herbert, von Heyden, Pridun and Harnack – officers of AHA not in the conspiracy – were ordered to Olbricht’s office for guard duty. They instead requested answers about the tumultuous goings on in his offices and the Bendlerblock entrance. Olbricht’s answer was halting and evasive. The four officers refused cooperation and let Olbricht know their soldier’s oath to Hitler was binding. They left the office without any hindrance.
All of a sudden, shots were fired. A dozen officers entered with weapons – Herbert was shooting, Pridun was shot by Stauffenberg, who in turn took a hit in his arm. Bullets were flying; blood was on the floor – an unbelievable tumult.
During all this tangled confusion, Lt. Colonel Herbert was able to get Fromm out of his apartment and back to his office, where Beck, Stauffenberg, Hoeppner, Olbricht, Mertz von Quirnheim and Haeften were held at gunpoint by the AHA officers. Fromm then said to them, “Well gentlemen, I am now going to do to you what you did to me this afternoon.” They were disarmed and a court martial was set up. General Beck asked to keep his revolver; he was granted permission, with Fromm telling him to “hurry.” Beck raised his gun and shot himself through his temple, but the wound was not fatal. He staggered and, helped by Stauffenberg, tried again, collapsed, but remained alive.
Fromm ordered Capt. Bartram to form a firing squad and gave the five men time to write their last words and wishes. Olbricht immediately began writing, while Hoepner asked Fromm for a man-to-man talk. After a half hour, Fromm urged them to finish.
In the meantime, the order was given by Major Remer to the Lt.’s Schlee, Arnds and Schady to enter the Bendlerblock and arrest the leaders of the conspiracy. When they approached the building, a scuffle began with a group of officers guarding the entrance. Fists were swinging, bodies pushing, but no shots exchanged. The officers who tried to block them were locked up in the porter’s lounge. When Schlee entered the hall, shouts and shots echoed through the floor and ceilings.
Informed that Schlee’s Guard Battalion soldiers were entering the building, Fromm quickly announced, “In the name of the Fuehrer … (naming the accused) … are condemned to death.” Stauffenberg then spoke, trying to take responsibility for the whole thing, saying the others were only following his orders, to which Fromm said nothing. The condemned men, except for Hoepner, who was taken away to a military prison after his private meeting with Fromm, were marched out of the office. Fromm now ordered a staff officer to give General Beck the mercy shot and left the building for Goebbel’s residence.
In the courtyard of the Bendlerblock, shortly after midnight, under the glare of some automobile head lights, Valkyrie found its bloody end.
The History of the German Resistance 1933-1945. Peter Hoffmann, McGill-Queen’s University Press, Montreal & Kingston, Third Edition 1996
History of the German General Staff 1657-1945. Walter Goerlitz, Barnes & Noble Inc., 1995
To The Bitter End. Hans Bernd Gisevius, Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, 1947
Inside Hitler’s Headquarters, 1939-1945. General Walter Warlimont, Presidio Press, Novato, Cal., Bernard & Graeve Verlag, 1962.
The Journal for Historical Review, Vol. 8, No.1, 1988, “My Role in Berlin on July 20, 1944” by Otto Ernst Remer.
Valkyrie! The Last Plot against Hitler
Part Three – The Last Circle
Translation and commentary by Carolyn Yeager and Wilhelm Mann
from Hermann Giesler’s memoir, Ein Anderer Hitler, Druffel Verlag, Leoni am Starnberger,6th edition, 1982.
Copyright 2009 Carolyn Yeager
General Helmuth Stieff faces the People's Court in 1944 after confessing his role in the July 20th assassination plot.
"They asked for the death sentence and it cannot be anything else. It is just. I erred and did wrong. It was not right to arrogantly interfere as a little human being with God’s doing.”
Those were the last lines written by General Helmuth Stieff to his wife immediately after being sentenced to death by the People’s Court on the afternoon of August 8, 1944 – going to the gallows the same day.1 As Chief of Operations at Army High Command (OKH), Stieff was in a prime position to help the conspiracy – he had regular access to Hitler; he hid the bombs in his office at the OKH headquarters in Mauerwald, East Prussia, not far from Wolfsschanze.
Stieff’s first contact was with Army Group Center Chief Henning von Tresckow; together they met with Generals Friedrich Olbricht and Ludwig Beck in Berlin in August 1943. They approached General Guderian and General Kluge, but neither one would commit. In October, Stauffenberg asked Stieff outright to kill Hitler and Stieff refused. But Stieff put the bombs into the uniforms to be displayed to Hitler at Klessheim Castle, as described by Giesler in this chapter. Stieff was in charge of the event at Klessheim, and after this failure, it was decided that Stauffenberg was the only one who could complete the job.
General Stieff was on the plane with Stauffenberg and his aide Lt. Haeften on their flight to Wolf’s Lair July 20th. He was arrested that night at the OKH headquarters, interrogated by SS investigator Hans Rattenhuber, and held from then on.
In this third segment of our Valkyrie series from Herman Giesler, the final reaches of the multiple conspiracies and related treasons and betrayals are probed. You will feel, in their anger and arguments against these men and their methods, the sharp pain and deep sadness felt by Hitler and Giesler at the inestimable damage done to the war effort.
Giesler and Bormann review past assassination attempts
The hard and sober Kaltenbrunner reports about the interrogations and confessions of the conspirators continued to come in. I had a backlog of reading. For quite a while in my off hours I was busy with design sketches – partly as supporting material for new discussions, partly due to the ideas and suggestions Adolf Hitler brought to our nightly talks. Moreover, I needed time in order to absorb and gain some distance from what Rattenhuber and Hoegl had told me.
One morning as I visited Bormann again, he handed me the reports about the interrogation of Major General [Helmuth] Stieff. One could get the impression that instead of working for the tasks they were supposed to perform, the plotters spent most of their time brooding about set-ups and ways to kill their supreme commander – by means of the least danger for themselves. They must stay alive.
According to Stieff, Stauffenberg, at least for awhile, thought to let his adjutant, Lt. [Werner von] Haeften, attempt to shoot the Führer; that would be possible at the “Führer-Lage” or at a weapons demonstration. Then, however, they thought that might not be secure enough.
After that much hesitation, Stieff himself – so he said – wanted to take over the assassination on the occasion of a weapons demonstration at the Klessheim Castle near Salzburg, built by Fischer von Erlach2. I had participated in redesigning it into a guesthouse of the Reich. After the heavy weapons demonstration, the Führer was to be shown the new assault uniform for the attack units: backpack, assault rifle, hand grenades. Three sergeants and non-commissioned officers, highly decorated with the Gold Ranger Bar (Nahkampf-spange)3, were selected. Major General Stieff intended to have the packs loaded with English explosives and a time igniter – to be sure to keep his self at a proper distance from the explosion. But because of a time lapse and a predetermined appointment, the Führer cancelled the presentation of the new assault equipment after the weapons demonstration and we returned to the Berghof.
During the demonstration, a little general kept my attention: nervously busy, he stood out amongst the rest of the military staff. “Who is that little one here?” I had asked the SS adjutant. “That is Major General Stieff.” I recalled that particular moment as I continued to read the Rattenhuber report: “….true horror among the population, especially amidst soldiers and low ranked leaders, caused by the fact that the traitors planned to lay the bomb into the knapsacks of three battle-proven soldiers who would demonstrate the new uniforms for the Fuehrer….”
I looked at Bormann and said, “If what Stieff admitted is correct, then he is really a special jewel of this conspiracy clique! Do you judge Stauffenberg, who carries out the assassination without consideration for his co-conspirator Brandt, whom he blows into the air, as the better one? For me, the over-all picture is very clear: when Stauffenberg landed at Berlin-Rangsdorf and reported the – what he thought successful – assassination to those waiting at Bendlerstrasse, didn’t he say then: ‘General Stauffenberg speaking here!’ Look at that, he had promoted himself to a general. By the way, do you remember the report of the ordnance officer about the strange behavior of Stauffenberg at the Berghof on July 11?”
"The ‘Lage’ held in the large living room at the Berghof was not yet over. Stauffenberg was no longer needed and asked for permission to be absent – it happened not so long ago. We were both chatting at the back of the hall towards the small living room when the orderly appeared and reported: ‘I just looked over the dining room to make sure that everything is ready for lunch, and there in the middle, behind the Führer’s chair, stands the Colonel with the one arm. I told him: The room is private, may I ask you ….? He interrupted me: Pardon, I only wanted to have a look at it!’”
"Yes,” I said to Bormann, “I remember that the Colonel with the one arm also said to the orderly: Very neat here, beautiful, especially with the bay window – before the orderly asked him to leave the dining room.”
Bormann said, “I then questioned the orderly further – I found out he (Stauffenberg) had a briefcase with him. What do you think was in it?”
"Turnip salad and pudding – in order to contribute something for lunch?” was my joking remark.
Bormann grimaced. “Today we know that nobody could have noticed the briefcase under the broad, long table with the low-hanging tablecloth. At that time, you were the honored guest, sitting across from the Führer – sometime you might thank that Corporal!”
The Berghof dining room, with its decorative cembra pine paneling (Swiss stone pine). The dining room was located in the eastern extension of the Berghof building. Hitler sat in the middle of the table on the right, facing the windows and the view of the Untersberg mountains. Stauffenberg commented on the view through the window when he was discovered in the dining room by the orderly on July 11, 1944. (period postcard)
I replied, “Those repeated assassination tries which ended in vain seem to be fateful. I think about the plot at the Buergerbraeu4 – and with a bomb on the airplane5 they have tried it once before. Now I’m reading about the infamy at Klessheim, and the memory of the affair at the Berghof. Then the 20th July – miraculously the Führer survives with only light injuries. Are there still some more attempts I don’t know about?”
"That 'attempt' with the slight injury is only one side of the coin,” Bormann said. “The other one sits much deeper, believe me! To your question: Yes, there were more assassination attempts which only now we are aware of. Talk about it with both of them6 – I don’t have time.”
For awhile I continued reading the interrogation protocols of Admiral Canaris and his protégé Oster – very opaque, strangely blurred. Dark and depressing as those reports were, an amusing moment occurred: the copy of a letter to Major General [Hans von] Oster from his son Achim, IA at an army corps in Upper Silesia. Its content stayed strongly engraved in my mind. It read like:
The conditions are very pleasant here. The commanding general is a horseman and grand seigneur of the ancient regime, a real general, not one of those ‘people’ soldiers.
I would have liked to have a look at that General.
Treason Centered in The Abwehr and Army Group Center
Translators’ commentary: General Major Hans von Oster was an early opponent of what he feared would be inopportune military solutions for the Czechoslovak and Polish questions. He was a religious man (as were Stieff and Stauffenberg) who was forced to resign from the Army in 1932 because of an indiscretion involving the wife of another officer. After a job in connection with the Prussian Police, he was able to transfer to the Abwehr, the state intelligence agency, the following year, where he met Hans Berne Gisevius and Arthur Nebe, working in the Gestapo, and became a confidante of Wilhelm Canaris, the chief of the spy agency.
By 1935, Oster was allowed to re-inlist in the Army, but never on the General Staff. When Canaris reorganized the Abwehr in 1938, he made Oster head of the Central Division (Zentralamt), in charge of personnel and finances. As such, Oster was able to build up a dense network of contacts to Western countries. He was in the thick of secret efforts to prevent a Czech invasion in ’38; through his office, he arranged for emissaries to Great Britain to urge the British to stand firm over the Czech/Sudenten crisis – clear treason. Hitler's diplomatic triumph with Chamberlain in Munich left the conspirators disheartened. Some lost interest, at least temporarily, but Oster did not give up. He took upon himself the central planning of all future plot plans.
To understand the contempt that Hermann Giesler expresses for Hans Oster, the following incident should suffice: Oster informed the Netherlands' military attaché, his friend Bert Sas in Berlin, more than twenty times of the exact date of the many times weather-delayed invasion of the Netherlands. Sas passed the information to his government, but was not believed! Oster himself said he calculated that his treason could cost the lives of 40,000 German soldiers, but concluded that it was necessary to prevent even more deaths during a protracted war should Germany achieve an early victory.
Oster worked closely with Henning von Tresckow, Chief of Army Group Center, and with General Friedrich Olbricht, head of the General Army Office at the Bendlerblock in Berlin. It was Oster’s Abwehr group that supplied the English-made bombs that Tresckow used in the assassination attempts of 1943. One of this group was Hans von Dohnanyi, Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s part Hungarian-Jewish brother-in-law.
But trouble came in April 1943 when the Gestapo entered the Abwehr to arrest Dohnanyi for violations of foreign exchange regulations (illegal money transfers, to be exact), including cash transactions with Jauch & Huebener, Germany’s largest insurance company. (Today it is American firm Aon. Walter Jauch was related by marriage to Hans Oster.) Present at the time, Oster was caught trying to hide incriminating notes. That was the end of his Abwehr intrigues; he was dismissed and closely watched by the Gestapo from then on. Dohnanyi was eventually sent to the Sachensausen detention camp for political prisoners, where he was put to death on April 8, 1945 as a July 20th conspirator. Oster was arrested on July 21, 1944, the day after the assassination; on April 4, 1945, the diaries of Wilhelm Canaris were discovered. That sealed the fate of both men. Thus on April 9th, Oster and Canaris, along with Bonhoeffer and four other men, were hanged at Flossenbuerg as traitors to their country.
Wilhelm Canaris had been playing a double game for a long time. Enough evidence had finally come to light that Hitler had already dismissed him from the Abwehr in Feburary 1944, replacing him with Walter Schellenberg and merging much of the Abwehr with the Sicherheitsdienst (SD), the SS Security Office headed by Heinrich Himmler. Canaris was put under house arrest, preventing him from taking part in the July 20th plot.
An interesting detail: Under Canaris (and Oster and Dohnanyi), hundreds of Jews were given token Abwehr training and issued papers to leave Germany. One of those is said to have been the Lubavitcher Rebbe in Warsaw, Rabbi Yosef Schneersohn.7 If true, we can thank Canaris for the strong presence of the Lubavitcher tribe in the U.S.
General Hans Oster Admiral Wilhelm Canaris Hans Dohnanyi
Years later as a “war criminal” at Landsberg, I would hear at our round walks in the jail yard the rather dreamy opinion held by Oster: by betraying the German operation plans, causing the death of countless German soldiers – no, that was by no means treason! Oster just wanted to avoid an extension of the war goals to the North and West. He only wanted to counteract the attack on Denmark and Norway, Belgium and Holland – all neutral states. The governments of those states had only been warned by Oster so they could protest in time, before God and the world, about Hitler’s intention to attack. That might stop Hitler and force him to a peaceful settlement of all conflicts. (These were) unlikely explanations and justifications for high treason and Landesverrat8.
Another of these prophets – who thought they could define treason as a cavalier offence and considered it proper to sacrifice German soldiers and endanger the nation’s existence for the higher cause of humanity – was the diplomat and former Undersecretary at the Foreign Office, [Ernst] von Weizsaecker. I am sure he expressed that opinion in order to justify his own behavior. I met him at the Landsberg WCP (war criminal camp) with open contempt.
Entrance to Landsberg Prison in Bavaria (southwestern Germany. The prison was used by Allied power during the occupation of Germany for holding National Socialist 'war criminals. In 1946 General Joseph T. McNarney, commander in chief, U.S. Forces of Occupation in Germany renamed Landsberg: War Criminal Prison Nr. 1. The Americans closed the war crimes facility in 1958. Control of the prison was then handed over to the Federal Republic of Germany. Landsberg is now maintained by the Prison Service of the Bavarian Ministry of Justice.
To the ones who were influenced by that prattle, I said, “A peaceful settlement of all conflicts had just been successfully prevented by those new propagandists, because Adolf Hitler did not want war and the war in the East was forced upon him by the East as well as by the West.” I said to them, “Combined with a reasonable land reform9, Adolf Hitler would have preferred to build, perform social work and do an outstanding job of renewing cities. Many of those imbeciles really believed the Autobahn was nothing else but a road-megalomania!”
All that mental confusion I met with a quotation which was attributed to Napoleon, but was really by Josef Goerres from the Rheinische Merkur newspaper, 1814: “No people are more gullible than the Germans … among them they strangled each other and believed, by doing it, they have done their duty. No other nation on this earth is dumber. No sillier lie can be dreamed – the Germans believe it. A slogan handed to them will cause persecution of their own people more severe than against their real enemies.”
The weeks I spent at the Fuehrer Headquarters Wolfsschanze in August 1944 were the most turbulent ones I ever experienced in my life. What I saw troubled me deeply; I felt the downfall, I thought the Reich would now collapse. The fronts were shaking; threat closed in from all sides. Add to that the depression of being more and more aware of the scope of the treason done.
The assassination of July 20th was like a stone thrown into calm water, causing first a bubbling stir, then, by the interrogations and confessions, forming circle after circle until finally Goerdeler’s grandiose, mad obsession of confessing, traitor now of the traitors. But now – when in the center the bubbles are still rising and bursting – a last circle is formed before the water’s viscosity holds to its own. But just that circle, for many not visible anymore, caused Adolf Hitler a big shock: the Front itself.
For years he asked himself: why all those failures? The enemy knew about our military operations at the same time as our commanding officers received them!
Already in 1942 in Winniza, he told me something wrong is going on, he suspects treason at the highest level. After the catastrophe of Stalingrad, communist emigrants worked openly together with part of the officers captured by the Russians.10 The collapse of Army Group Center from the Russian attack of July 1944 caused the loss of twenty-five German divisions and hit Adolf Hitler hard. He suspected treason here also, as he did at the failure of the Citadel offensive11 the previous year.
The investigations following the assassination revealed, and then confirmed, Adolf Hitler’s suspicion of high treason. General (Henning) von Tresckow, general staff officer of Army Group Center, shot himself; general staff officer Major (Joachim) Kuhn deserted to the Russians. The statement of (Wilhelm) Leuschner, former Hessian Secretary of the Interior and future Vice Chancellor under Goerdeler, clarified the situation further. Leuschner’s statement didn’t get much attention at first at Wolfsschanze, but he made his statement after his conviction and, faced with death, there is hardly any doubt that he spoke the truth.
By that statement the scope of the treason causing the destruction of Army Group Center became clearer. At the same time, Ludwig Beck, the former Chief of the General Staff, glimmered in an enigmatic light. Knowing that the assassination failed and the revolt fell apart, he took his life already on that evening of July 20th, at the Bendlerstrasse.
Treason in the West
Translators’ commentary: Giesler says little about how Valkyrie played out on the Western front. To fill in: conspirator Lt.Col Caesar von Hofacker, officer on the staff of General Karl-Heinrich von Stuelpnagel, military chief of France, received the call from Stauffenberg at 4 o’clock in the afternoon telling him Hitler was dead. Based on that, Stuelpnagel issued the order to arrest members of the SS command post in Paris according to the Valkyrie plan. Field Marshall Guenther von Kluge’s chief of staff, General Speidel, got the call from Stuelpnagel’s chief of staff, General Blumentritt, but decided to wait for Kluge to return from the front. The arrest of around 120 members of the SS took place before two Waffen SS Generals were informed and a navy attachment was alarmed enough to warn of armed intervention unless the SS prisoners were released. By then, radio and telephone were revealing that Hitler was alive.
Kluge returned to headquarters at 6 p.m. and summoned Stuelpnagel and Generals Sperrle, Blumentritt and Speidel to report to him. During the following two hours they shared a tense, but civil dinner until a call from General Stieff at OKH gave the definite word that Hitler was alive and any action on Stauffenberg’s Valkyrie "ist Wahnsinn"(madness).
After Stuelpnagel returned to Paris, von Kluge relieved him of his command, replaced him with Blumentritt whom he ordered to "tidy up and get back to normal." But this was not possible; it became another inglorious end of suicide and suicide attempts for the conspirators.
To complete the score of treason and infidelity, sometime during the 15th and 18th of August, Adolf Hitler learned of a conspiracy-attempt between the German military leadership in the West and the Allies.
The breach of loyalty and suicide attempt by General [Karl-Heinrich] von Stuelpnagel, military commander of France, was alarming. Field Marshal [Guenther] von Kluge, Supreme Commander West, was relieved of his service and called back to headquarters for report. On the way to the airfield, he took poison. A contradiction in itself was, on one side, the at-that-time known efforts of the Field Marshal to enter into negotiations with the Allies for an armistice without the Führer’s knowledge – even though he must have known that would cause the collapse of all fronts – and, on the other side, the fact that shortly before his death he sent the Führer a letter assuring him of his loyalty.
At one of those evenings at the Wolf’s Lair, Adolf Hitler talked to me about those treasonous affairs and said: “Those were the worst days of my life! How easy and simple it would be for me to terminate my life. What is my life? Added to all those disappointments – only struggle and worry and grinding responsibility.
"Fate and providence assigned those tasks and burdens to me – and doesn’t the last assassination just demand more steadfastness than ever, to continue the struggle with trust and confidence? And if that struggle is to make sense, we must succeed in exterminating the bearers of that treason – because all the effort, all the bravery are in vain against treason within your own people.
"How malicious and wretched is that treason! I could sense it through all the years, but struggled with myself to believe that German officers, generals, could be connected with it. Beyond any imagination is treason during a war, treason against the nation and treason against the fighting soldiers.
"I believed I could win them over since the existence of Germany was at risk … even Europe! I stood up to overcome Marxism and introduce instead a socialism of a unified nation (Volksgemeinschaft). I did win the workman, but I misjudged the reactionary – they were here, in the Reichswehr, within industry, the powerful economic and money circles. They were here, too, as failed politicians and diplomats.
"I misjudged their vain ambition, their need for admiration and their intellectual shortcomings – all that I misjudged! I forgot to get rid of those fossils of a long past era. In a time of urgency, reconstruction, reformation, war requirements and burdening pressure, I forgot that I am a revolutionary.
"That someone from that reactionary group might at some time shoot at me – I thought about that and had to live with it. But I never believed it possible that a General Staff officer was able to commit such a characterless crime – even though, due to my experiences since 1938, I had to expect all that. They didn’t have the courage to openly resist me or shoot me.
"We have to create a new aristocracy, a value and rank order based on character, courage and steadiness. One sentence of Nietzsche’s I identify with: What today can prove if one be of value or not? – that he is steadfast!”
The evening closed with discussions about city rebuilding and reconstruction. Was it denial and relaxation? Was it confidence? I don’t know. That night, Adolf Hitler was dealing with traffic structures of cities.
1. Vierteljahreshefte fuer Zeitgeschichte, 2.Jahrgang 1954-3.Heft Juli, Ausgewaehlte Briefe des Gen Maj Helmuth Stieff, Seite 295.
2. An Austrian Baroque architect
3. A special decoration for soldiers involved in close battle.
4. Refers to Buergerbrauekeller in Munich where the reunion of the 1923 Putsch is held every year on Nov. 8th. In 1939 a bomb exploded behind the speaker’s desk, killing 6 and injuring many. Hitler said an inner voice urged him, Get out, get out; after some hesitation, he followed the urge.
5. The March 1943 assassination attempt by General von Treskow, who had a bomb placed on Hitler’s plane. The bomb failed to go off.
6. Rattenhuber and Hoegl
7. Altein, R, Zaklikofsky, E, Jacobson, I: “Out of the Inferno: The Efforts That Led to the Rescue of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn of Lubavitch from War Torn Europe in 1939-40”, page 160. Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch, 2002
8. Landesverrat is considered worse than high treason. It is “country treason” – the passing of state secrets by a citizen to a foreign power through written message, verbal report or otherwise.
9. "Raumordnung,” expansion to the East, according to the party ideology of “Volk ohne Raum”, people without space.
10. Ullbricht, Markus Wolf, Pieck, von Einsiedeld and consortium (all communist émigrés from Germany) were meeting with POW General Walther von Seydlitz and his Stalingrad clique, working on actions, radio propaganda, and Front voice messages. Seydlitz formed the Committee for a Free Germany.
11. Operation Citadel was the military code name for one of the largest military operations in WWII, a pincer offensive to cut off the Soviets from the bulge between Orel and Kursk in July 1943. It was postponed several times, then at first successful, but strong Russian counterattacks caused eventual collapse of the operation, with great losses on both sides.
Valkyrie! The Last Plot against Hitler
Part Four – Methods & Morals of the Traitors
Translated by Carolyn Yeager and Wilhelm Mann
Ein Anderer Hitler, Druffel Verlag, Leoni am Starnberger , 6th edition, 1982
Copyright 2009 Carolyn Yeager
Fuehrer Headquarter Wolfsschanze – Autumn 1944
"Valkyrie” was the code name for the alarm-ready troop response to emergency situations in the Reich – troops in their barracks and boot camps, soldiers on leave and in training classrooms. They should prevent revolts of prisoners of war and foreign workers. “Valkyrie” also meant military actions against enemy landings on the coastal shores and via airborne operations – in short all actions necessary to protect the Reich. By their nature, the Armed Forces were in command.
The investigations of the July 20th assassination were now finished in principle. Isolated at his sleeping cell during an illness in September 1944, Adolf Hitler had time to reflect. He told me:
Valkyrie was planned for the protection of the Reich – the plotters used Valkyrie as a deceiving tool for a cunning coup d’etat. But they could not turn their powerful positions and the potential they had to their advantage, in that they had neither the ability nor the strength to make decisions. The assassination – the “ignition” as they called it – failed. The conspirators did not have a Brutus.
An aristocrat – a colonel, with the knowledge and approval of the general’s clique – tried to take me from this world by deceit. I have to admit that the hypocrisy, cowardice and maliciousness – the breach of oath, treason and Landesverrat – hurt me more than the explosion of the hellish machine with English explosives that that aristocrat had put under the work table.
From a safe distance he watched the explosion – the co-conspirator and general of communications (Fellgiebel) at his side; then he flew back to Berlin full of energy to trigger Valkyrie.
It must have been a shock for that general to see that his victim was only lightly injured – yet he was still shameless enough to congratulate him. He considered it too dangerous to warn his fellow conspirators in Berlin. Well, they were ready to command soldiers, to give them orders that could cost them their lives, but they themselves were not ready for that. They would have thought themselves too important.
Not one had the courage to face him openly with a weapon. Instead of entering history by a manly deed, they tried to fell their supreme commander by treachery. Only self-sacrifice would have given them a chance to distinguish their act from that of a cowardly criminal.
How did they justify breaking their oath? Who would give them the right to assassination and revolt at a time of highest pressure and distress, at a time when fierce battles are fought on all fronts? They tried to justify their deed by pretending they were acting in the interest of higher human goals! They saw Churchill and Roosevelt, even Stalin, as their guarantors. They said that for the sake of humanity’s higher objectives the blood sacrifice of German soldiers and their comrades is justified.
After the 'assassination' Adolf Hitler insisted on being fully informed, and without glossing, of all the results of the interrogations: the statements and testimony of the conspirators. He asked for exact information of the circle of persons involved, and their reasoning; he was also interested in the operational plan for the revolt after Valkyrie. He soon found there was nothing planned!
The first proclamations of the bearers of an illusionary power were lies – with lies they confronted the nation and the Armed Forces. After what they thought was a successful assassination, they didn’t have the courage to confess to it.
Mr. Fellgiebel could not turn off all telephone lines. I was able to talk to Dr. Goebbels and the major1 of the Berlin Guard Battalion “Gross Deutschland”— who then cleared up the confusion. The putsch collapsed, the conspirators had not one company on their side.
Who would give them the authority for the assassination and the coup? With one voice, the front expressed its anger; the front line soldier could not understand how officers were able to do such a deed. The front could see the consequences and results, its judgment was also quite clear: it would burden us; only the enemy would benefit.
The reaction of a troubled community was the unanimous rejection of the assassination and coup. Worry and mistrust arose. Neither the nation nor the Armed Forces gave the conspirators the authority for the assassination or the coup d’etat – above all, not for rebellion and contemptible treason.
From the investigation and testimony one could learn that the conspirators didn’t think very far ahead – an egocentric attitude led to a euphoric opinion of the political situation, as in: First we get rid of the dictator, then, via Valkyrie, his party – the Allies will then help us! And once again those vague phrases of higher human ideals for which one had to sacrifice – that’s what their conscience demanded.
Also his writings gave them a legitimate reason for their deeds. Better than many of his party comrades who were reading Mein Kampf, they rummaged through the book and found sentences they thought they could translate to fit their shabby thinking. Since he “drags the nation” into destruction, he justifies in Mein Kampf their right to stop him through resistance, rebellion and the coup d’etat. It is, therefore, not only their right but their obligation to get rid of him, the tyrant – that’s how they read Mein Kampf.
He is ready to face the people’s criticism at any time. Not “he” dragged the nation into distress, but the openly declared will of Churchill, Roosevelt and their big ally, the international Jews – to destroy us. The reactionaries and the plotter’s clique encouraged that intention, and theirs was the best way to push the nation, via the putsch and assassination, beyond the present trouble, into the abyss. No—he denies those men the right of high treason, rebellion and the right to assassinate! Where indeed could they ever have shown the power to build a new state regime made necessary by the last war and the new century?
Again and again he asks himself: Where really are their ideas? What can they offer the nation? Only their names and an honor only they believed in? Both are tattered by their deeds!
One can lift a revolution to a big wave, releasing enthusiasm, national strength and willingness to sacrifice. One can not keep that wave permanently, one can not conserve it. But the start of a revolution also depends on the person who carries it and his authority – on the thoughts and ideas, if they are understood, if they have roots and find confirmation in the spirit of the time and the sense of the nation.
His way to the leadership of the nation is proof of his harmony with the national spirit.
The bearers of the assassination imagined a past they themselves did not understand. For him, it had been inconceivable up to now that a German officer – above all a general – could commit treason. Treason at wartime – damaging the German people, burdening the fighting German soldier – impossible!
The day will come when he can announce clearly and without misunderstanding just who instigated that war. Who? As long the fighting goes on, he cannot talk. That shock would be too much for the German people and the front.
For a commander, the most important quality is his character, his attitude. Intelligence does not stand higher. The character and the strength of his will alone are decisive when he has to withstand severe blows of fate. Courage, bravery and willingness to sacrifice are the prerequisites of a leader. He always requests that from his soldiers. So he shall and must be a role model – even more, he must be able to give strength and convince!
When he had to accept the capitulation of [Field Marshal Friedrich] Paulus and the behavior his generals, Hitler had said:
Now they will take their way down into the lowlands of wretchedness, the oath being only a fiction. A steady character is not their strength, intellectual self-esteem more so. They may try to work with the Russians and will lose face at the same time. It won’t take long and we are going to hear them on the Russian propaganda radio. Step by step, they will show a lack of character and, in the end, slander their military tradition. They may forget they carry a name of a dutiful obligation.
There were some co-workers here, generals too, who could not believe that something like that was possible. Hitler had said, “Yes it is, sooner or later, and all the way up a Field Marshal!”
That he still promoted Paulus to that rank, he never would forgive himself.
So one leads an army, the army fights and dies, and he who was entrusted to lead that army and the soldiers – does he die heroically with his soldiers? The meaning of that battle, the heroism and sacrifice of many ten thousands of brave soldiers, officers and generals will lose its value, will be trampled down by the one who should have been their example.
He will take the road to Moscow; we will live to see him at the radio station!
Hitler said that and he had it right, but that it would lead to such a disgusting mess as the so-called “National Committee for a Free Germany” by that Seydlitz-Kurzbach – I myself could never have imagined!
Well, Seydlitz might feel like York at Tauroggen!2 Seydlitz and his creatures did not grasp that it was Bolsheviks they signed up with; they didn’t get it because with their thinking they were still entrenched in the 19th century. They hadn’t learned anything at all. They hadn’t recognized that this is a war of life or death, not restricted to soldiers, folk or the nation. They could not imagine that we are involved in a fateful struggle, in a revolutionary fight for the existence of Europe—in a battle for a new idea of life (Lebensbasis), against destruction and the powers who want to destroy us.
If we still had such schizophrenic twits who thought: We do that with the Russians – we drop our weapons honorably, we hand over our epee3, which Marshal Stalin honorably hands back to us again – yes, in such a world they still lived! Then we sign a peace agreement with them – that’s how those idiots thought, and the ones oriented towards the West thought similarly.
Is it surprising that optimism dwindles? That our allies and the Neutrals might lose their confidence? And are we surprised about the demand for “Unconditional Surrender?”
What shall the front think, the soldier, when asked by those shameful tracts of cowardice to surrender, to sabotage, to commit treason and to refuse to obey orders – pamphlets signed by former commandants? We have to overcome that moral crisis!
They wanted to end the war and submit the nation to the 'Unconditional Surrender'; they would have surrendered the soldiers of the Eastern front to the Russians – they did not care!
He would have been relieved of worries, sorrows, pressing responsibility and sleepless nights if the infamy of Stauffenberg had succeeded. But what would have been the consequence? Chaos and destruction at the fronts! Hate and civil war and despair.
They wouldn’t have understood – it is not about him, but Germany! Churchill declared it frankly and cynically: It is about Germany’s destruction! Where can you find in this a political foundation for a conspiracy that makes history?
From a rare kind, they found each other: reactionaries, liberals, marxists, representatives of the church – the “Bekennende Kirche” specifically – they even prayed for Germany to lose the war. And let’s not forget the diplomats! And the Herren Generals! He can not expect to be understood by his generals, but he can request that they obey his orders.
They just could not see that we lived in a changing era and had to endure a fateful war. Instead of fighting for the nation as their oath required, they committed destruction, sabotage and subversion. The conspirators had no right, however, for the coup destroyed any trust by the mere try.
From the first war year on I suspected treason, often I felt it physically; I am sure that treason started much earlier. Now, after the assassination, proof of the permanent treason is clear. Still, not all traitors are recognized. What damage they caused!
1. Referring to Major Otto Ernst Remer, later awarded the rank of Major General.
2. York was a Prussian general during the Napoleonic war. In Tauroggen in East Prussia, he sided with the Russians against King Friedrich Wilhelm’s order.
3. An epee is a blunted fencing sword developed in the 19th Century for practice and competition.
Farewell Berlin: Giesler’s last days and hours with Hitler in the Berlin Bunker
Translation and commentary by Carolyn Yeager and Wilhelm Mann of Hermann Giesler’s Ein Anderer Hitler
Copyright 2011 by Carolyn Yeager
Hermann Giesler at work.
We began this series of translations of Hermann Giesler’s Ein Anderer Hitler in the fall of 2008 with Giesler’s account of Adolf Hitler in Paris on the eve of the signing of the French-German armistice, June 1940.1 Hitler had invited his “artists”—Albert Speer, Hermann Giesler and Arno Breker—to accompany him on a one-day excursion to view the important architectural monuments and street-layout of Paris.
Ever the artist, Adolf Hitler never lost his interest, nay deep commitment, to the re-structuring of German cities, to the end that they would reflect the greatness that he envisioned as a thousand-year Reich. To rebuild Grossdeutschland as an important and prosperous nation in every respect was his overriding desire from the very beginning of his amazing career. But his enemies desired otherwise, and, in combined force, had the power and destructive ability to deny the aroused will of the German people for an illustrious future. That Germany’s enemies insisted there would be nothing left of those dreams and hopes is more than apparent in the aftermath of war that was gloatingly portrayed in photographs sent around the globe.
Yet, the constructive nature of Adolf Hitler’s Weltanschauung can be seen in the photographic record of the models that were built from the city-rebuilding plans he helped to create for Berlin, Munich and Linz. Hitler was especially fond of his Linz plans, of which he had placed Hermann Giesler in charge as leading architect. All during the war years Giesler was summoned to whatever Fuehrer headquarters was being used at the time, ordered to bring with him all his Linz plans, to provide for Hitler’s relaxation and enjoyment in devising the creative architectural ideas that were a tonic for the hard-working leader.
So very fitting it is, then, that our concluding installment of this series brings us full circle back to Adolf Hitler’s primary love for art and architecture. Out of necessity as Commander in Chief of his armed forces, he also became an outstanding war strategist, responsible for some of the most remarkable victories in military history.
It was in February 1945—when the Allied bombers dominated the skies everywhere over Germany and the retreating Wehrmacht was assisting in the vital task of bringing as many Germans from their home provinces in the East further westward, away from the advancing barbarian Soviet Red Army with its raping, murdering and pillaging—that Giesler was finally able to bring to the besieged Berlin bunker the completed model of the Linz Danube riverbank reconstruction that he and Adolf Hitler had been designing together for nearly five years.
In spite of the deteriorating conditions all around, including the cruel, shocking fire-bombing of the undefended “art and culture” city of Dresden, this was an event of deep satisfaction to Hitler the architect—to be able to see and study the completed Linz project, albeit in model form.
Our concluding installment opens with Giesler, in Munich, receiving calls from the Fuehrerbunker in Berlin asking when the Linz model would be ready to show to Hitler, who was so anxious to see it.
* * *
"Again and again the Fuehrer talks about your Linz plans and about the model of the Danube riverbank reconstruction. When will your model be ready to show to the Fuehrer?”
Such calls arrived from the last Fuehrer Headquarters—the command bunker at the Reichskanzlei (office of the federal chancellor in Berlin), from the adjutants office, and from Bormann, during the depressing weeks of January.
The battle of the Bulge failed. It did not lead to the strategic success hoped for and earned by our hard-fighting, sacrificing divisions. In the East, the front was weakening under the forward-storming Russian armies and day-by-day the threat, not only around but also above us, increased.
The Bavarian and Danube districts2 that were under my jurisdiction as an OT [Organization Todt] leader, were under increased bomber attacks. At that time of deadly worries and pressure, how contrary to my Sisyphus work of removing the damages from the attacks was this question: “How long ‘til the model of Linz is finished … when can you present it to the Fuehrer?” Could one understand that?
I, at least, could. In autumn 1940, Adolf Hitler gave me an additional task, introduced me to the new layout of Linz. His idea given to me at that time in Linz indicated that he had been thinking for a long time—maybe even since his youth—of a renovation of the city, changing its orientation toward the Danube.
Later, in the war years, whenever there was a chance, the Linz plans were a theme of our discussion. Linz was also the only peace-task dealt with, on his order, during the last war years. Often he visited my studio and discussed partial plans and part models with me, and then gave his instructions. For weeks at a time, he asked me to his headquarters in Winniza and Wolfsschanze.
Between military meetings, we were drawing together just like colleagues on the details of the plans. And during the hours when he was waiting for the front reports, we were talking about city reconstruction and architecture. That often took place during the greatest tension and most bitter disappointments.
It seemed to me always, at the planning sessions or at the discussions, he was primarily concerned about performance—to get his mind off his concerns, maybe—but more so, he wanted to obtain a clear mind for his military decisions by concentrating on creative work.
Even during the most desperate days, he did not separate his thoughts from tasks of the future, binding them to peace beyond the war. He wanted to dedicate his time to work on the basic ideas of a new social structure, to shape the environment according to the requirements of the present time, thereby to solve the problems of city building. When he said we will win the war regardless of all the problems, he was very much convinced of it—even though he fully recognized the reality contradicted it. And that conviction had its roots in his unshakeable belief in his mission.
Therefore, I understood his wish to see the model of the new creation of his hometown Linz, the architectural version of the Danube Bank reconstruction.
LINZ MODEL PRESENTED TO HITLER
Finally the Linz model was ready. The remaining model builders had worked tirelessly, often deep into night hours. It was an exceptionally high-class, professional job. The large model-structure now stood in one of the light-colored cellar rooms of the New Chancellery.
When I took Adolf Hitler to that room he stood for a long time, overwhelmed by the impression, just looking. I had positioned the search light like rays of the afternoon sun; the significant Urfahr structure at the river, across from the Linz site, stood picturesque and impressive in the light. It was just as he described his architectural vision to me in autumn 1940. Now his view was just as he would see his “city at the Danube” from his planned retirement home.
With a somber face he looked at me, stepped toward my coworker, the model-builder Mehringer, still busy with the last additions, and thanked him for the wonderful achievement.
We switched the searchlight to the ‘morning light’ and again he was completely engrossed, deeply sunk into the overall impression of the model. Now he looked at the Linz Danube bank construction from the Urfahr side.
What might be going on inside him, what thoughts moved him? I never saw him so serious in front of a model … so far away and so moved at the same time. I stood aside, depressed by the war events, over-tired and, looking at the model, I could not get rid of the thought: architecture never built.
Slowly, while continuing to look, he now stepped along the Urfahr side of the model toward the top side, where the Danube flows right from the natural landscape of the wooded mountains through the newly planned city district. He bent forward and looked downriver. I switched the lighting to midday light to avoid blinding him. He asked for a chair.
Bending forward, he looked across the river at the vertical rhythm of the housing blocks. He nodded to me. That was followed by his checking of the intervals and the proportions of the groups of buildings vis-a-vis the domineering verticals.
February 13, 1945, the very day of the barbaric Allied nighttime bombing of the undefended city of Dresden, Hitler got his first look at the Linz model—the project that so much of his own designing genius had gone into. From Giesler: “I switched the lighting to ‘midday light’ to avoid blinding him. He asked for a chair. Bending forward, he looked across the river at the vertical rhythm of the housing blocks.”
Regrettably, I was distracted by questions from the men accompanying him, until Bormann sent them off with a handshake and ‘later,’ giving me a chance to watch Hitler again.
He was now sitting at the Linz side and looking across the river toward the “Great Hall” with the Danube tower and, inside, the planned gravesite for his parents marked by a bronze cenotaph.3 Adolf Hitler observed it all attentively, awake and yet distantly dreaming, as if he would hear from the tower Bruckner’s bell tower motif4 he was so fond of.
The escort left us alone; only Bormann stood aside in his typical pose with arms crossed, watching quietly.
The following day and during my stay at the command bunker of the Reichs-Chancellery, I accompanied Hitler mostly twice-a-day to the Linz model—in the afternoon, when lunch was often delayed because of the Lage [military strategy meeting], and then again in the night hours. It was nearly always the same: a long, deep, dream-like observation, followed by a discussion about details of the buildings and bridges appearing in the model.
Visitors participated, often requested by him, like Dr. Goebbels or military—if they, as he said, are open-minded. He showed the model to them as if it were the Promised Land into which we would find entrance.
One afternoon Adolf Hitler said: Dr [Robert] Ley married; he would like to know something about his wife. Then, after a short pause, to Schaub5: He should see that Dr. Ley sends me [Giesler] an invitation, so that I meet Mrs. Ley and could tell him [Hitler] all about her.
So one evening I was a guest at Ley’s house, at their bomb shelter as it turned out. With some flowers, I conveyed to him Hitler’s regards. The main theme of our discussion was Linz and Hitler’s interest in the architectural model. For various reasons, Ley was rather impressed: The Fuehrer knows how much he is interested and all that he is involved in and busy with. He knows, also, his interest in architecture; he certainly will show him the Linz model soon—more so since he [Ley] is responsible for some of the buildings at the Danube bank.
At the nightly tea hour, I told Adolf Hitler of the evening at Ley’s house. Dr. Ley met his young wife when helping a rescue party after a bombing attack. She was from the Baltics; had run away from the Russians. When I was alone with Dr. Ley he told me, “I saw her in the glow of the fiery blaze—she looked to me like the reincarnation of my wife that I lost. Giesler, you knew her—isn’t there a similarity?”
Mrs. Ley, I said at the end, is a harmonious person, attentive and modest. With her intelligent eyes she carries a nice, quiet appearance. I had the impression Adolf Hitler was happy with my report. A few days later he showed Dr. Ley the Linz model.
GIESLER’S DIFFICULTIES WITH ALBERT SPEER
With Bormann, I had detailed discussions about the tunnel shelter system at the Obersalzberg. The scale of this installation for the headquarters and staff of OKW demanded and obviously justified a large labor force and rationed building materials. Speer caused problems; dissonance occurred which was out of proportion to the importance of my building requests at that time.6
I was the one compromised when we could not then meet urgent deadlines. I asked Bormann to understand my situation. I pointed out that even the Jaegerbauten (fighter program), an exclusive responsibility of Speer and Dorsch, was already delayed by three months even though they were privileged with special allocation quotas.
Those two were present when I expressed my and my brother’s doubts about the location of those building sites, the use of concrete and steel, the necessary labor force, and the fixed deadlines assured by Dorsch. I said at that time, those steps were taken too late. The Fuehrer was annoyed: “Speer and Dorsch are responsible for that,” and he gave me the order, “Giesler, you will not be concerned with that anymore. You remain with your tasks.”
I stuck to that order. Now, after the deadline debacle, co-workers of Speer and Dorsch visited with me, asking if I might not order the shut down of the Jaegerbauten at Landsberg and Muehldorf.
"Unbelievable,” Bormann remarked. “And what did you say?”
"What’s that all about?—I neither proposed those super structures, nor did I plan them, and they do not fall under my supervision. The ones responsible for those buildings are—and you know it well enough—Dorsch and Speer, and a decision about the shutdown can only be made by the Fuehrer.”
"They want to blame you,” Bormann said, in order to weasel themselves out of the deadline problems. “Stay out of it!”
YALTA CONFERENCE AND DRESDEN
The Yalta conference was on. Reports reached Hitler even before the Linz model arrived, which should have given him—if even for a short time only—some relief.
Suendermann, the deputy press chief, himself brought the reports in, written with large letters, and explained them. The Fuehrer dictated further directions and orders for the press, decided on meetings with the Foreign Secretary and Dr. Goebbels, and all that without taking his eyes off the model.
During the hours of the Lage and the other meetings, I talked to the men of Hitler’s inner circle about the results we had to expect from Yalta. Apparently, they agreed again on points like in Wilson’s time, only now without unholy pretensions, but with all the frank, brutal decision of the total destruction of Germany. Germany was divided into occupied zones, but they did not know yet how many Nationalsocialists should be shot. They talked about peace-loving nations, meaning only their own, chatted about the highest ideals for mankind and sacred duties, about a secured and lasting peace and a life free of worries and misery for all people and nations; everything will be good, peaceful and glorious as soon as Germany is shattered. A courageous soldier of WWI said cynically: Well, it seems to me the peace will be terrible! Did he have any idea what was approaching him? After a heavy wound in Berlin, the Lubjanka in Moscow and 10 years in Siberia!
* * *
Next evening, I found a deeply-shattered Hitler: Dresden. As a horrifying signal notifying the world, the great European, Churchill, dreamed up and ordered that terror attack against the refugee and hospital city, as a present to the killer Stalin.
According to the reports, far more than one million people were in the city, among them 1/2 million refugees from Silesia. In a night attack of countless allied bombers approaching in waves, the city was helpless without anti-aircraft defense, hailed down upon by exploding and incendiary bombs. Then the last bomber wave arrived and unloaded phosphor bombs on the tortured people who had survived the previous attacks.
With a stony face, Adolf Hitler listened to the reports. Standing erect, he read the messages, finally bending over the table, the crammed papers in his clenched fist. He remained shut off. Only late at night, after the second attack at the edge of the burning city of Dresden, he spoke:
“This renewed attack was meant for those who were able to escape hell—that depressing day was followed by a night of recognition: the threat of relentless annihilation!
"What was possible after the terror attack at Hamburg, Cologne, Berlin, and wherever else—to trace the victims—at Dresden it is impossible. We do not know how many fugitives were in the city. The estimates differ by the hundred thousands.
"Whatever happened, one still could imagine Europe—after Dresden, however, it is hardly possible anymore. Now, again, like after the attack at Hamburg, I think back at the situation in 1940. The defeated French-English forces were encircled at Dunkirk in the flats of Flanders. At that time I was pondering, realistic and responsible, as a soldier and politician. Should I admit that an ethical thought might have been involved in my deliberating? It is not easy to order the annihilation of hundred thousands.
"Today, my decision is considered a mistake, stupidity or weakness. Naturally, after the years of armed clashes degenerating into actions of terrible destruction—today, after Dresden, I would react differently.
"During the lucky, but also during the hard, unlucky battles of those war years, I tried to be sensible. I made the effort to hold to some kind of humanity—if one could react that way responsibly in the middle of a relentless war. I did not lead a war of destruction against cities and cultural institutions, neither when occupying a place or moving out—Rome, Florence or Paris. They should not pretend keeping Paris undamaged was the merit of the Resistance or even the Allied forces. If I would have thought that the defense of the city would have been necessary, then that would have happened. And if I wanted the destruction of that city Paris, a battle-experienced commander with a division would have been enough.”
That terror attack at Dresden can by no means be militarily justified—it was murder, and destruction of a culturally prominent city.
A remark of Dr. Goebbels refers to it also: “That is the raging of a follower of Herostratus,7 the deed of a madman knowing that he is unable to build a temple and trying to prove to the world he is at least able to burn it.”
To me, those words were too one-sided, referring to Dresden as a city of historical culture. My thoughts were with the victims. Those people were fleeing the horror of war, the rape and murder by Asiatic bolshevists, and then met relentless death by explosive and fire bombs, and the phosphor of Winston Churchill.
Later—after the devaluation of all values—pompous non-historians celebrated Churchill as the great European and awarded him, at Aachen, the Karlspreis.8
RUDEL GETS PERSONAL ATTENTION
During my further stay at the Reichskanzlei (federal chancellery), Adolf Hitler again took officers and men he kept in high esteem to see the Linz model, and explained his city planning. Everybody was impressed, be it only because they experienced the Fuehrer at a level they had been excluded from until now.
I saw my task fulfilled. My discussions with Bormann and the military at the OKW about the protective system at the Berghof, and the area for the alternative headquarters at the Obersalzberg were completed. At the late afternoon tea, I reported my departure to Adolf Hitler.
No, he decided he would ask me to stay. He still has to talk with me about many matters. Did I know that Colonel Rudel lies at the Zoo bunker with an amputated leg?
Yes, Colonel von Below told me so.
"Visit with him tomorrow, give him my regards, talk with him! Get personally acquainted with him and report to me.”
Colonel Rudel rested at the hospital of the gigantic shelter bunker at the Zoo.9 He was surrounded by Luftwaffen comrades and young ladies. I gave him Adolf Hitler’s greetings and late congratulations for receiving the highest military award. Then I was only a listener to a very lively conversation with a very attentive Rudel until the doctor entered and the visiting hour closed.
After the busy saying of goodbyes, I could talk with him for a short while and ask him a few questions undisturbed. “What should I report to the Fuehrer? How are you, peppery and confident as I’ve seen you during this conversation?”
"Confident, yes! But still with some worries. I hope to fly again soon.
"With one leg?”
"I will manage that! My place is now at the front line. Especially now, when we have to defend German soil. I cannot leave my wing and my comrades alone.”
I touched with a question: Does he know in the meantime what task is awaiting him from the Fuehrer? No, Rudel thought the Fuehrer understands him very well: he will not deny him his further front mission.
When I reported to Adolf Hitler in the evening, he shook his head thoughtfully and said, looking at me, “There is no time now. I will give Colonel Rudel a very important task within the Luftwaffe. I am certain he will master it.”
In the evening and night hours, Adolf Hitler talked about political, social, military and world affairs. He was concentrated, spirited, often visionary and Promethean.10 During the war years, especially at his solitary times, I was his talking partner—mostly, however, about space configuration, environment, architecture and city building. Now, I was surprised about these themes and how he summarized them; I was fascinated by the richness of his thoughts and his creative power.
During one interruption—he was called to the telephone—I whispered to Bormann, “That should be recorded; that is of great importance!” Bormann answered. “I’ve tried it for quite awhile.”11
GIESLER RECEIVES TERRIBLE NEWS; BIDS FAREWELL
The tension-rich hours at the command bunker at the old Reichskanzlei piled up to days and nights without any transitions. The timetable was marked only by the military Lage talks, but even they were rather fluctuating, like the interruptions by the short and very simple meals. No hectic atmosphere existed at the bunker; just the continuous coming and going by generals and officers of the armed forces. Everything was strictly organized by short orders and attentive adjutants.
On February 23, my brother called me from Munich: “I bring you bad news, get hold of yourself, toughen up and listen. Our dear mother was seriously wounded by an American low-attacking fighter airplane. No, no hope anymore. Our aunt was with her and died right away. Come as soon as possible, please.”
Our mother was with her sister on the way to us, her sons, after her house was bombed out. I needed a long time to regain my composure, then I said goodbye to my comrades at the Fuehrer Headquarters and walked to the Lage room at the new Reichskanzlei to report my departure to Adolf Hitler.
I stood in the big hall; beneath me was the cellar with the Linz model. It got dark, candlelight was brought in after the electricity went out. The big door opened and Adolf Hitler saw me. He came toward me and gave me his hand. “I know, Giesler, your mother.”
"I would like to report my departure, my Fuehrer. I take the next train to Munich.”
"No, I will not allow you to be alone. Come on.” He led me to the Lage room. I saw and heard, and then again I did not. What has remained in my mind was the unreal room, what I saw by the candlelight—the Fuehrer, the table with the maps, the tense faces, the officers epaulettes, the crosses of their awards, hands pointing out, voices, reports, harsh ordering words.
All that, I saw and heard; it was the now, the present. And behind lay the dark room, uncertain like the future. It seemed to me as if I had lived through all that already, or dreamed about it, deeply depressed. I remembered the evening at the Berghof, February 1941. Instead of the hoped for peace, there stood the threatening danger from the East. Also, at that time, there was the flickering light from the fireplace in the dim room when Lizst’s Les Preludes resounded as a fateful preamble—I was thinking about my mother.
The Lage ended. At the Fuehrer’s side, I went back to the bunker. Hitler said, “Kaltenbrunner12 takes the train to South Germany tonight; he will bring you safely to Munich. Your brother will be informed.”
"After all that’s happened, I would now like to become a soldier, and I ask you for it.”
"No, you did your duty as a young volunteer in World War I. You remain as my architect. I have enough soldiers, if they and their leaders only stand up steadfast and fight.”
A little later Kaltenbrunner arrived. I said goodbye. Adolf Hitler gave his hand and, as so often, he laid his left hand on my arm, wordlessly. I looked into Adolf Hitler’s eyes for the last time.
Before the Allied tribunal at Nuremberg in 1946, Col. General Alfred Jodl said about Adolf Hitler: “He acted like all heroes in history act, and they will continue to act that way. He let himself be buried in the ruins of his Reich and his hopes. Condemn him whoever may—I cannot.”
1. “With Hitler in Paris” appeared in the Nov. 2008 and Jan. 2009 issues of The Barnes Review. Watch a short film taken at the time: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yrrcOB8yYUE&feature=player_embedded
2. These were the Gaus, the administrative districts in Germany at the time.
3. A cenotaph is a monument erected in honor of a dead person whose remains lie elsewhere.
4. A motif from Bruckner’s Fourth Symphony, on special occasions chimed from a bell tower in Linz.
5. Julius Schaub was Hitler’s personal adjutant since 1925.
6. Albert Speer, Hitler’s chief architect, was in charge of all building material allocation at that time.
7. Herestratos was an ancient Greek who set fire to the temple in Ephesus, considered one of the most beautiful buildings in the world. He is said to have destroyed that which he was unable to build.
8. The Karlspreis is an annual award given to an “outstanding European” by the German city of Aachen.
9. The Zoo refers to the Zoological Gardens district in Berlin where a five-story, super-strong bunker, with anti-aircraft batteries on top, had been built. Inside the bunker were shelters and a hospital.
10. Promethean, in the sense of one who is boldly creative or defiantly original in behavior or actions.
11. This appears to be a reference to what has come to be known as “Hitler’s Table Talks,” notes taken by Bormann’s adjutants Heim and Picker, with Hitler’s approval, during tea and mealtimes. However, the English translations of these notes are not considered reliable by all historians, so take care when consulting them.
12. Ernst Kaltenbrunner was head of the RSHA, the Reich Main Security Office.
A LETTER FROM ARNO BREKER
Arno Breker in front of a version of his famous relief Apollo and Daphne. The most significant neo-classic sculptor of the 20th century, Breker (1900-1991) placed the image of man in the center of his creative work. Like his patron Adolf Hitler, who named him “official state sculptor” and gave him a large property, studio and many assistants, Breker thought in historical dimensions. After the war, the Allies destroyed over 90% of his public works.
This letter appeared as an appendix in the original edition of Ein Anderer Hitler. Arno Breker was Hitler’s favorite sculptor and highly admired throughout Europe, especially in France.
Professor Arno Breker
Lieber Hermann Giesler,
Last night I finished reading the last chapter of your book; that chapter is also truly shattering. Your book brought many things to light I did not know; above all, the scope of the unbelievable treason. That up to this time one does not know who was behind it, riddles me anew.
Your writing covers by far the most essential, most true and realistic reporting that has been written about the immense tragedy of that epoch. Specifically concerning the field of architecture, one has to go far back in history to meet a similar situation. Our epoch proves anew that the powerful documents of architecture, lasting beyond all time, derive from a lonely personality coined by fate for a specific period.
I am convinced that today’s media is helpless when confronting what you’ve written. Thanks to your extensive documentation, historiography is faced with a new task. In your report, the fateful events roll on like a natural phenomenon.
Hitler is the consequence of the Versailles treaty. The whole drama fell upon an anonymous man and providence destined him to break the fateful situation. Hitler’s primitive, dazzled enemies were not aware that there stood a man who wanted to create a new epoch—also [in] architectural [terms]. That could only happen during a quiet, peaceful period. Your book clearly demonstrates it.
The prologue already makes one prick up his ear. It is a masterful work. How blindfolded the world still is today is proved by the trouble you had to go through before you found a publisher for your manuscript.
Nobly, you treated your adversaries with your critique, above all Mr. Reeps.1 Cool and collected, you can look your opponents in the eye. Max Liebermann2 would say: Mir kann keener [nobody can touch me]. Everything is said by that. Either your book launches an avalanche of comments, or it will be silenced to death. We face that alternative.
For now, my dearest regards,
— Arno Breker
1. Reeps is Speer spelled backwards. A long chapter of Giesler’s book is devoted to his differences with fellow architect Albert Speer, both during and after the Third Reich period.
2. Max Liebermann was a prominent Jewish impressionistic painter of the Weimar period who associated with anti-Nazi elements and the Stauffenberg circle. He remained unmolested up to his natural death in 1935.
A REICH OF ART AND CULTURE
By Carolyn Yeager
Adolf Hitler’s study at the Berghof, where every detail was carried out to his exact specifications. A British Homes & Gardens magazine pictorial lay out on Hitler’s home described him as “his own decorator, designer and furnisher, as well as architect.”
The effort to “explain” the phenomenon of Adolf Hitler is made impossible for mainstream writers by their obligatory need to portray him as a perpetrator of genocide, war atrocities, and “the murderer of millions.”
Frederic Spotts, in his informative though biased book Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics, obligingly writes that it was Hitler who “turn[ed] Europe upside down and nearly destroy[ed] it.1 Yet he also wrote in the preface that “After being appointed chancellor in 1933 the first building he had erected was not a monument to his own triumph [as did Mussolini] but a massive art gallery.”2 Hitler’s complaint to his field commanders after Winston Churchill refused peace terms in 1940 was, “It is a pity that I have to wage war on account of that drunk instead of serving the works of peace.”
The tasks of peace—grand architectural renovations and the promotion of German culture—were uppermost in Hitler’s mind, as Hermann Giesler has shown us throughout his memoir. But not only Giesler. After pondering the matter for 20 years in Spandau prison, Hitler’s other architect Albert Speer concluded that Hitler was always and with his whole heart an artist.3
Hitler’s secretary Christa Schroeder recalled that his non-military conversation turned more and more to the arts.4 Josef Goebbels provides numerous examples in his diaries. In Jan.1942, after a long discussion with Hitler, he wrote: “The intensity of the Fuehrer’s longing for music, theatre and cultural relaxation is enormous.” The life he was then leading was “culturally empty,” the Fuehrer had told him, and he looked forward to the war’s end when he would “compensate for this by a dedication stronger than ever to the more beautiful sides of life.”
Giesler, in charge of designing Hitler’s retirement home overlooking Linz, was told by him, “The great hall with the terrace [is] the right room for an ‘Artus Runde’ [King Arthur’s Round Table] … You, as my architect, will be a member.” Hitler envisioned discussion of art, philosophy and matters of importance to the future of Europe by those invited to his home. “Ms. Braun,” whom he would marry when he retired after the war, would be the lady of the house.5
Hitler was no dilettante. His knowledge of architecture was enormous, along with many other subjects. He had supported himself from 1909-1913 in Vienna and Munich by drawing and painting architectural landmarks in watercolor and oil, selling them through dealers. His Munich landlord, Herr Popp, said he often found his lodger reading the works of Schopenhauer and Plato, along with war histories. Throughout the First World War Hitler carried with him a pocket edition of The World as Will and Idea.6
His enthusiasm for Richard Wagner’s music began as a 12 year-old boy attending a performance of Lohengrin in Linz. He’s said to have seen Tristan und Isolde up to 40 times and Der Meistersinger one hundred times. He could hum or whistle all its themes.7
In 1942, Hitler became equally enthused about Austrian-born composer Anton Bruckner. He considered Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony the equivalent of Beethoven’s Ninth. Always generous with his own funds, Hitler personally financed a center of Bruckner studies, had his organ repaired and added to his library; he designed a monument in his honor in Linz; endowed a Bruckner Orchestra and subsidized the publication of the composer’s original scores.8
No other leader of the time came close to that dedication. “Stalin as well as Lenin, Mussolini, Mao Tse-tung and their ilk … had never set foot in an art gallery.”9 While ostensibly better-educated, Churchill, Roosevelt and Wilson were also far below Hitler’s level of cultural awareness. It turns out, by a close study of Adolf Hitler’s biographers, memoirists, associates and the record itself, that his idea of national greatness was only fulfilled in a true national art and culture—reminiscent of the ancient Greeks he admired, wherein magnificent physical beauty combines with a brilliant mind and noble soul.
The Fuehrer Art Museum for Linz designed by architect Herman Giesler. Linz was to become a cultural mecca, with a large theater, a concert hall devoted to Anton Bruckner, a special operetta theater and an opera house with 2000 seats, along with the art museum—all placed along a grand boulevard. Most of the buildings were based on Hitler’s own sketches.
1. Frederick Spotts, Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics, Overlook Press, Woodstock and New York, 2002, p 8.
2. Ibid, p xi.
3. Ibid, p 3
4. Christa Schroeder, He was my Chief, Frontline Books, London, 2009
5. See “Who Are the Traitors?” The Barnes Review May/June 2009, p 58
6. Werner Maser, Hitler: Legend, Myth & Reality, Harper & Row, 1973, p. 124
7. Spotts, p. 235
8. Ibid, p233
9. Ibid, p 10
Hermann Giesler on left; Albert Speer on right, both in their NSDAP uniform and wearing the Golden Party Badge.
In his memoir about the Adolf Hitler he knew (Ein Anderer Hitler), Hermann Giesler devoted a section to his difficult relationship with architect Albert Speer. Divided into six parts, it covers 42 pages, from pg. 318 to 360. Wilhelm Kriessmann translated the entire section in 201l, but we decided not to include it as part of our series from Ein Anderer Hitler, but to publish it separately. However, Willis Carto never decided to buy the right to publish it in The Barnes Review, as he did the others, even after we condensed only selected parts of it.
Thus it is that now, several years later, I am finally getting back to this project and putting what I consider the most relevant parts of Giesler's commentary on Speer into shape for publication on my website. I will first post these parts separately in the blog, and then archive them under Ein Anderer Hitler.
I begin, not at the beginning, but with Giesler's third entry which was titled “The Flight to Posen.” I think it's a good introduction to the character of Albert Speer, the relationship between the two men, and how Speer was generally viewed amongst some of the others of the inner circle around the Führer. Not without respect, of course, because it was plain to everyone that the Führer valued him highly. But the thread running throughout Giesler's writing on the subject of Speer is to make known the hypocrisy, to the point of duplicitousness, contained in Speer's descriptions of Hitler during the IMT “trials” at Nuremberg and in his later memoir Erinnerungen [Reminiscences] published in 1969 [1970 English language version titled Inside the Third Reich]. The same was true in Speer's second book, Spandauer Tagebuecher [Spandau Diaries] (published in English in 1976 as Spandau: The Secret Diaries. -Carolyn Yeager
Adolf Hitler's personal Fw 200 Condor, bearing the insignia of the Fliegerstaffel des Führers on its nose.
The Flight to Posen
Taken from Hermann Giesler's memoir Ein Anderer Hitler
Translated by Wilhelm Kriessmann and Carolyn Yeager
copyright Carolyn Yeager 2014
“I just caused Doenitz's anger when I told him during the walk in the garden about Hitler's trip to Posen towards the end of 1939, with a 4-engine airplane, to pick up Christmas geese. Bauer, Hitler's pilot, argued the rarely used aircraft needed some practice flights. The geese were for parcels Hitler sent at Christmas to friends and acquaintances. This was for Doenitz a rather strange mix of middle class and potentate, however incorrect it was. He was upset and finally found a way to not believe my story.” -Speer
The Great Admiral was right and reacted properly. If Speer uses the flight to Posen with a four-engine aircraft as an example of Adolf Hitler's middle-class benevolence1 combined with a monarchical sense of privilege, then I feel responsible to describe the flight to Posen truthfully, as it really happened.
On the evening before the flight we talked at the Reichs Chancellery about city building and architecture. At the end, Adolf Hitler spoke about theater buildings, architects and regents like Wilhelm II who supported the construction of the theater in Posen. “The condition of Posen and its theater would interest me very much,” said Hitler to Speer and me. “Captain Bauer can fly both of you to Posen. In the evening I'd like to receive your report.”
Next morning, it was captain Bauer (pictured right), his co-pilot Beetz, an army adjutant, Speer, myself and, as an additional flight guest, also Kannenberg, the household manager of the chancellery. At once 'suspicion' and also the question arose: Maybe Mr. Kannenberg wants to do some hoard-shopping? A gentle smile was the only answer. I had met the rotund Kannenberg on many occasions. He had the well-cushioned face of a gourmand, with quick button eyes, apparently good-natured like most of the well-nourished.
We relaxed in the Fuehrer cabin. I did not pay any attention to what Speer discussed with Bauer before we took off. We flew very high with clear visibility. Speer got up, nonchalantly said, “Now I will take over the steering and do the piloting,” and disappeared into the cockpit. Bauer appeared in the cabin, “The Speer wants to fly, well, he can show us now what he is able to do!”
He showed it—or better the copilot showed his art and how the aircraft reacted. Up till now Kannenberg had only raised his eyebrows and looked timidly with his button eyes to the captain. Now he started to yell because the airplane turned, first rocking, then diving with a full throttle. Kannenberg was lifted out of his seat, floating, his arms and legs helplessly swinging as if they were not his. Coming out of the dive, the aircraft pulled up to a sudden half looping, then swept down over the wing. Kannenberg fell to the floor and moaned. Bauer was holding on to the handles. “The Speer can't ...” I heard him say as he returned hand over hand to the cockpit.
I kept my legs anchored under the seat, holding with my hands the belt which I could no longer fasten. I knew now what was happening and the grotesque quality of it forced me to laugh, but that was gone fast. I clenched my teeth so that my stomach would not … well, now Kannenberg was sliding towards me at an angled position, then he was flying into the other direction … what a tangle!
Finally the airplane straightened out and the adjutant and I took care of Kannenberg. We straightened him up and fastened his belts. He was pale with blue lips. Then Speer appeared with a grin like Ruehmann's teenager Pfeiffer (from a movie Quax der Bruchpilot). I pointed toward Kannenberg and the grin disappeared. It was lucky we landed soon in Posen. Kannenberg gasped as they put him on a stretcher and wrapped him in blankets, a doctor taking care of him.
If Kannenberg flew with us in order to hoard or look out for Christmas geese and adequate connections—that ís possible, but that's all—then everything remains of the accident in the cabin because he was now completely done in. But I cannot imagine that, as Speer writes, geese should have been transported in the Führer's airplane. Curious eyes were all around, there was already enough attention just because of the aircraft, besides Kannenberg laying on the stretcher. One needed only to add the remark: Look, the Führer's aircraft is being loaded with geese!
Speer and I drove from the airport to town to pursue our task to find out what is going on in Posen, and to have a proper visit of the theatre. We spent almost 5 hours. Well! - then the Christmas geese could have been loaded in the meantime into the freight compartments of the aircraft ?
I wrote to captain Bauer: “You must know very well if the airplane piloted by you transported geese.” He answered right away: “Naturally I remember that flight when I flew both of you to Posen and what happened to Kannenberg, who was then out of circulation. However, to pick up some geese for the Führer, that is an invention of Speer. That Kannenberg might have intended to look for geese was his own business, but I am not even sure about that. I do not know anything about it. The Führer had no interest at all, as we know. This is once more a machination typical of Speer in order to smear the Führer and us.” Only that far will I quote captain Bauer's letter about the flight to Posen.
In the late evening, I reported my impression of Posen and the run-down theater. Adolf Hitler said to me, “Now tell me how the flight was. I am informed but I wanted to listen to you too. Mrs. Kannenberg told me her husband is in bad shape. Now, what happened?”
I did tell the story my way and noticed that he could not hide a slight smile. As I then described the part of Kannenberg on the stretcher covered in blankets and taken care by a doctor, Adolf Hitler turned serious. He said, “The fun could have ended badly. I have to admonish you seriously, I owe it to Mrs. Kannenberg, she runs my household. I ask you to consider that in the future.”
Finally, it should be said here for good: There has been no “other flight to Posen” by Hitler's 4-engine aircraft.
Speer had often a Heidelberger joke and prank in mind! It started with a “special good Havana” he offered which exploded when you began smoking. He continued by “sending you into April” then by giving “friendly hints.” All that might still have been acceptable, but often it ended with bad insinuations, bordering on maliciousness.
The geese-transport of Posen with the 4-motor Fuehrer aircraft was a case irritating the Grossadmiral's mind. It is part of Speer's “richness of thoughts and sincerity,” in keeping with Zuckmeyer's breathtaking remark2: Concerning Speer personally, he is of an arrogant sensitivity.
1. This is considered a put-down by Speer, whenever he referred to Hitler or Giesler as "bourgeois."
2. Carl Zuckmeyer, a German-Jewish playwright. His plays were prohibited in Germany after 1933 (Zuckmayer's maternal grandfather had been born Jewish and converted to Protestantism). Zuckmayer and his family moved to their house in Austria, where he published a few more works. After the Anschluss he was expatriated by the government, and the Zuckmayers moved to the United States in 1939, where he first worked as a script writer in Hollywood. In 1943/44 he wrote "character portraits" of actors, writers and other artists in Germany for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), evaluating their involvement with the Nazi regime. This became known only in 2002, when the approximately 150 reports were published in Germany under the title Geheimreport.
Coming up: The Playboy Interview, The Contradictious Speer, and more ...
Hermann Giesler on left; Albert Speer on right,
The Contradictious Speer
From Hermann Giesler’s memoir Ein Anderer Hitler
Der zwiespältige Speer, pages 332-339
1977 edition, Druffel-Verlag
Translated by Wilhelm Kriessmann and Carolyn Yeager
copyright Carolyn Yeager 2014
This section from Giesler's memoir Ein Anderer Hitler deals with his correction of Albert Speer’s insulting statements about the Fuehrer at occasions when Giesler was present or knew differently because of his own experience with Hitler.
To add some perspective to Giesler’s account, we remind you that Speer’s biographer Gitta Sereny titled her book, Albert Speer: His Battle With Truth.
In addition, Nicolaus von Below, Hitler’s Luftwaffe adjutant from 1937-45, wrote in his memoir At Hitler’s Side about an incident of seeing a striking red color appear in the sky while in the company of Hitler on the terrace at Obersaltzberg in Aug. 1939. He told Hitler it augured a “bloody war.” He said he “recounted this conversation to Speer in 1967 but later he (Speer) attributed my remark erroneously to Hitler in his book Erinnerungen.”1
Similarly, Christa Schroeder, one of Hitler’s secretaries, when describing Hitler’s walks around Berchtesgaten and a particular rocky promontory with a guard rail that offered an outstanding view, wrote: “Speer is mistaken when he says that Hitler had no feeling for the beauty of the landscape. Hitler would always wait at this promontory for his guests to catch up and then all would enjoy the view together.”2
But these are nothing compared to what Hermann Giesler has to say. The following is found under the heading “Der zwiespältige Speer” in Giesler’s Ein Anderer Hitler. It begins with city visits the three of them made together for the purpose of furthering their architectural and city planning ideas.
* * *
When he wrote about Hitler’s views on architecture [in his first book Erinnerungen (Reminiscences)] , Speer preferred to use Adolf Hitler’s visits to the cities of Paris, Augsburg and Linz to degrade Hitler with malicious remarks and arbitrary insinuations without recognizing how much he degrades his own credibility thereby.
When describing Adolf Hitler’s trip through Paris with the two architects and the sculptor he regarded most highly (Speer, Giesler and Arno Breker), Speer uses incorrect data. Speer could not describe that city visit in a more hateful way than by his closing remark: “The final destination of our trip was the romantic, sweet imitation of early-medieval cupola churches, the Sacre Coeur church at the Montmartre, a surprising selection even for Hitler’s given taste.”
Basillica of Sacre-Coeur at the summit of butte Montmartre, highest point in the city of Paris.
To put Sacre Coeur, which fits so well in the picturesque world of Utrillo3, into Hitler’s architectural world is not only an insinuation but an intentional infamy. Because Speer knew very well that the last stop of our Paris trip was not Sacre Coeur, but the panoramic view from the Sacre Coeur of the city’s architectural layout.
The same resentment can be noticed when Speer gives his opinion about Hitler and the city renewal of Augsburg. He uses much space for it and takes a chance to include in his remarks the “intriguing” Martin Bormann and, further on, also me. There you can read: “Hitler found in Hermann Giesler an architect who conceived and precisely executed his intentions. The first design of the Augsburg forum, however, was too similar to the planned Weimar project, also by Giesler. When Hitler criticized it, Giesler put a baroque crown on top and Hitler became enthusiastic."
Indeed, that simple it was! My designs of the Augsburg forum never showed even the least similarity to the Weimar forum, although they did, at their first stage, not yet comply with Hitler’s idea of the Augsburgian city character which he wanted to be integrated into the new part of the city. After my first design, the Augsburg Tower was never changed. Speer writes further “That project was financed by postponing apartment buildings.” But it was not financed at all and never built.
Model for the Augsburg Forum and Tower, designed by Geisler, that was never built.
WHO’S TO BE BURIED IN LINZ?
Speer’s description of the Linz city visit also needs explanation. Speer combines two visits of Adolf Hitler, September 1940 and spring 1943, into one. And he again talks it down and manipulates it. Is he not aware that he cannot recklessly spin his yarn? Did he stay to Hitler’s right side and I to his left or the other way around?4 Speer turns our visit to the Nibelungen bridge with the Siegfried and Kriemhild sculptures into a disgraceful tirade. Adolf Hitler had suggested to me that in judging those sculptures one should not see them as free sculptures but as decorative symbols of the bridge and its name. Maybe, he added, the base of the sculptures should not show a relief but a mosaic—to emphasize its decorative meaning.
Niebelungen Bridge in Linz that Hitler rebuilt, as it stands today. Notice the tall sculpture that Hitler refers to at the entrance to the bridge.
Speer then started with the nonsense about Hitler’s gravesite. “High above the city at the upper tower level,” he pontificates in a quasi-pre-Raphaelian5 mood, and adds, "I think it was that afternoon when Hitler, carried away by his own enthusiasm, declared for the first time that his sarcophagus should be placed at the ‘future symbol of Linz,’ the highest tower of Austria." Adolf Hitler never said anything like that. From the time I got the job for the renewal of Linz, in autumn 1940, his directive was, “Preserve the grave of my parents in a small crypt in the lower tower floor.”
Still, Speer’s version of Hitler’s tower-gravesite instigated [historian] Joachim Fest6 to try to document it thus: "He saw his gravesite in a gigantic crypt in the clock tower of the huge building he planned at Linz, above the bank of the Danube." Fest's notes sourced this as:
“Speer’s personal information. However, one of Hitler’s other favored architects, Hermann Giesler, denies that Hitler wanted to be buried at the clock tower of the building above the bank of the Danube at Linz; only Hitler’s mother would be buried there. Speer, though, remembers definitely Hitler’s remarks that he wished to be buried exactly at that place in Linz."7
That “gigantic crypt in the clock tower" was, in my plans, an octagon room with a diameter of about four meters by five meters high, including the vault. And that vaulted crypt was to be the resting place of Hitler’s parents. It’s all nonsense, even though Fest quotes Speer’s yarn-spinning. But is it that important? Regarding the gravesite itself, not really; but rather in connection with Hitler’s idea to combine his gravesite with the Hall of The Party in Munich. This fascinating connection was the basis of my designs and trial models in autumn 1940, and also the topic of many talks after the city visit of spring 1943.
INDUSTRY, TRAFFIC AND AUTOBAHN
Speer then describes the visit to the Linz steel plants, today the VOEST steel factory, internationally well known. He again describes in a few sentences ‘Hitler’s world of architecture’:
“When we left the large steel hall, Hitler once again expressed understanding for the modern architecture of steel and glass: ‘Look at the tremendous length of this hall over 300 meters long. How beautiful are the proportions! Here we face different requirements than at the party forum. There our Doric style expresses the new order, here the technical solution is the proper way. If one of those supposedly modern architects tells me he wants to build living quarters and city halls in that style, then I say: He has no idea. That is not modern, it is tasteless, and also violates the eternal laws of the art of building. The workplace needs light, air and usefulness; of a city hall I request dignity, and from an apartment house I demand security which helps me to endure the daily struggle. Speer, imagine a Christmas tree in front of a glass wall. Impossible! As everywhere, we have to consider life’s variety.’”
The VOEST-Alpine complex in Linz, Austria
Modern glass and steel building at Voest-Alpine today houses the financial and commercial departments.
Speer describes by this short rendition what Adolf Hitler said about natural diversity and its consequent distinctions for the design of buildings. Clumsy, and in piecemeal fashion, Speer’s description of Adolf Hitler’s remarks lost the color and strength that, after all, so eminently signified Hitler’s ideas. His thoughts about the necessary security at your home, about the form housing projects should have, about the rationale of a glass wall conveying the hard, sober world of labor compared to the world of sensitive feelings—he mentions the magic of a Christmas tree—all that is missed in Speer’s description.
Yet these remarks of Adolf Hitler comply with the events of our local tours. On the train he discussed with me, as the person responsible for the Linz renewal, questions about traffic, the modern railway station, and the introduction of a wide-rail track. When in the city itself, he spoke about the connection to the Autobahn and the continuation of the Landstrasse with its well-known burgher residences and baroque churches, and the new Laubenstrasse with its street-car system. We were standing at the Danube River—he said, “Giesler will give the river its proper setting; then one can really say Linz an der Donau—Linz at the Danube.” He named the buildings that were to be erected at that beautiful city landscape.
GIESLER VS SPEER VERSION
What Adolf Hitler said, I absorbed, completely fascinated by his descriptions. Speer, however, felt differently. He writes, “Even though Hitler developed his plans with a serious, even solemn, expression, I did not think an adult was talking to me. For a split second, I imagined as if it were a magnificent play with little building blocks.” But why then did Speer push so hard to play with these little building blocks? Why could he never get over that it was not he but I who got the job in Linz, even though I never strove for it?
We drove through the old part of Linz to the housing project and the buildings for the workers of the new factory. Adolf Hitler was shown the different plans for the apartments, he informed himself about the home furnishings, and talked to the workers and foremen. The slightly rising slopes to the West and North of the city favored living quarters. Hitler advised us to look for good traffic connections to the town center and also for the integration of green land. This was for me another reference before Hitler changed from the world of the architect to the blast furnaces, the steel foundries and the rolling mills, and then on to the halls of the Nibelungenwerk , the tank factory where tank officers and weapon experts awaited him. Between the talks about armament systems, Adolf Hitler turned to me, “See to it that the planned granite bridge at the East edge of the city can endure the heaviest loads”—pointing to the heavy tanks.
Krupp factory producing Tiger tanks
This puts the lie to Speer’s credo: “I put priority on the overall planning, not the construction of representative buildings; not so Hitler. His passion for monuments of eternity left him completely disinterested in traffic structures, apartment buildings and green space—social dimensions he neglected.” Already during his Landsberg jail time8, Adolf Hitler was dealing with traffic questions and drawing designs of the Autobahn. Stimulated by his youthful experience in Vienna and Munich and by his study of city planning, especially Paris, his own ideas of city planning developed. They were powerful and modern. With his support of motorization, he put the German street system in order and, at the same time, dealt intensively with the parking problems.
He gave Dr.Todt the job to construct the Autobahn; he created the office of the Inspector General for the German Street System, a unique event in the history of German states. But aside from the individual traffic problems, he was aware of the great importance of the means of mass transportation—in the cities the subway, streetcar tracks, the U and S railway lines.
He saw the crowning solution for track-type railway traffic in the realization of a common European wide-track train system. He requested solutions of the rail-freight traffic known today as container transport. His interest in air technology and air transportation was unquestionable and known to everyone.
SPEER’S PRISON DIARY
“Speer told his interrogators that he had at least sixty different opportunities between January and February 1945 to commit high treason and even made plans, which naturally turned out to be technically impossible, to murder Hitler in his bunker. These were the stories that saved Speer’s head in 1946 and which he now proudly presents again,” writes Barraclough hatefully.9
In his Spandauer Tagebücher10, Speer describes how the court psychiatrist, Dr. Gilbert, visits him in his cell after the pronouncement of the judgment, wanting to know how Speer accepts the decision. Speer answered, “Twenty years! Well, under the given circumstances they could not have given me a lighter sentence. I cannot complain. I will not complain.”
But one page later he quarrels with his fate. "Should I not have received a lighter penalty, since Schacht and Papen11 went free? I just told Gilbert the contrary. I envy them! Lies, cover ups and false statements did indeed pay off.” And with a reference to Hitler, he continues, “I did not help him into the saddle, I did not finance his rearmament. My dreams belonged only to buildings. I did not want power, I wanted to become another Schinkel.”12
Speer's design for a Führer Palace which Hitler said was not for him but for those who will follow him. Click to enlarge.
Almighty! This is not small stuff! Well, Speer writes a lot about Gilly and Schinkel, about the Dorian and Prussian style, but his designs for the staircase of the Office of the Reichsmarschall and for the facade of the ‘Fuehrerpalace’ contradict him. Still further on, he writes, “Why did I so stubbornly insist on my guilt. Sometimes I suspect it could have been vanity or boasting. I naturally know that personally I was guilty. But should I have acted that way at the trial? In our world, one survives better by maneuverability and slyness. Could Papen’s cunningness be a role model for me? If I envy him I also despise him. But I was 40 years old when I was arrested, I will be 61 when I leave the jail behind me.”
As far as flexibility, smartness and cunningness are concerned, Speer’s modesty is rather touching for someone who does not know him. In comparison, Papen was no match for him.
So he saved his head but he traded it for twenty merciless years in prison. Twenty years prison—I doubt I could have endured it. Speer certainly did not believe he would be kept that long, with the exception of the last years, because events happened during that time—the Berlin blockade and Korea—which gave him hope for an early release. Speer, no doubt, did not believe in the mischievous harshness of those who, with full intention and severity, insisted on persecution and execution and—God knows—still do it today. He reckoned with the success of the efforts of his daughter, Hilde, and the formal promise of support by Konrad Adenauer, Charles de Gaulle, Heinrich Luebke, Willy Brandt, Carlo Schmid, Herbert Wehner and Pastor Martin Niemoeller, the Lenin order bearer. He hoped! Even though he wrote in his diary in his 14th year: “…in the evening a hopeful report by Hilde. But these are her hopes, not mine." Well, they were his also.
1) Nicolaus von Below, At Hitler’s Side, Greenhill, 2001, p 28. Original in German 1980.
2) Christa Schroeder, He Was My Chief, Frontline Books, 2009, p. 159. Original German edition 1985.
3) Maurice Utrillo was an untrained and prolific French painter who specialized in cityscapes of the Montmartre quarter of Paris. His popular scenes are often found on postcards.
4) An allusion to Speer’s preoccupation to be always on Hitler’s right side which is considered to be the preferential side.
5) The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was a group of reform-minded English artists and critics who scorned the academic art of their day (1850’s).
6) A German historian, journalist, critic and editor who was a leading figure in the debate about the Nazi period.
7) Joachim Fest, Hitler, Berlin, Propyläen, 1973.
8) Hitler spent nine months in Landsberg Prison in Bavaria following what is called the “Beer Hall Putsch” in November 1923.
9) Geoffrey Barraclough, “Hitler’s Master-Builder,” The New York Review, 7-1-1971.
10) Albert Speer, Spandauer Tagebuecher (Spandau Diaries), Verlag-Ullstein, 1975.
11) Hjalmar Schacht, Reichsbank president 1933-1939 and Minister of Economics 1934-1937. Franz von Papen, Chancellor of Germany June 1-Nov. 17, 1932.
12) Karl Friedrich Schinkel, a Prussian architect, city planner and painter who died in 1841 is one of the most prominent architects of Germany, known for both neoclassical and neogothic buildings.
Hermann Giesler on left; Albert Speer on right,
In this section of his book, Giesler gives his impressions and an architectural critique on Albert Speer's June 1971 interview in Playboy magazine. I have included it in its entirety, even the more technical parts that were, in a few places, difficult for me to decipher from the part of Wilhelm Kriessmann's original translation which never went through the editing process between the two of us before he died in December 2012. ~Carolyn Yeager
Speer in the "Playboy"
From Hermann Giesler’s memoir Ein Anderer Hitler
Speer im "Playboy", pages 318-329
1977 edition, Druffel-Verlag
Translated byWilhelm Kriessmann and Carolyn Yeager
copyright Carolyn Yeager 2014
In the Summer 1971 my son brought me from America a peculiar magazine: Playboy, June 1971, the great interview “Albert Speer—Hitler’s closest confidant and second in command.”1 That interview in the sensationally edited magazine is accompanied by ill-reputed and illustrated jokes and by naked, boasting 'girls'. The answers given by the great ethicist and titan of repentance to the smartly questioning reporter, Eric Norden, in the multimillion-read magazine, are unique and way-out, and contain such wicked passages that they become unbelievable even at dimensions preferred by Speer.
The question arises : Did Speer really say that? As it seems, yes, because he did not distance himself from that Playboy-Norden interview.2
To my knowledge that interview has not yet been published in Germany. That’s why I will deal with some of the serious sections so I can point out the position of the converted Speer and his partly cynical tendency.
At first the magazine explains why they did the interview:
In order to find out the beginning and the scope of the Speer-legend and to investigate Speer's complications, his inner contradictions and character, the Playboy sent Eric Norden to interview the 66 year old ex-minister at his friendly wood house upon the hill, 3 miles from the university city of Heidelberg.
Speer greeted me friendly and took me into the well furnished living room of his spacious house.
He still looks impressively like a distinguished manager. His bushy black eyebrows remind me of a younger man I saw in photos as he walked with his friend and patron Adolf Hitler through occupied Paris.
When we sat at the crackling fireplace sipping scotch and soda, snow began lightly falling outside and his 3-year old Saint Bernard, Bello, snored happily at the feet of his housemistress, who served us home made cookies and nourishing German tarts from heaped plates.
The atmosphere was so relaxed and gemuetlich that I forgot for a moment I was speaking to the man who, during world war II, stood beside Hitler in the second place of the Third Reich, the man whose organizing talents and energies contributed immensely to the death and suffering of millions. He appeared to me like some German of the upper middle-class, happy to have escaped his working office and now enjoying playing the role of a country squire.
For six weeks I studied that man, brooded over his book, the published interviews, as well as the numerous reviews and polemic articles by the American and European press. But when I bent over to turn on the recording set, I did not feel myself closer to the real man behind the well-known façade than before. During my research work about Speer I became frustrated by a certain non-existant transparency. And when we began talking I had the same doubts I faced during the time I read his book, and studied his public explanations. As sincere as he appeared to me on the surface, it seemed to me as if a veil was drawn between him and the truth.
I guessed, as also some of the reviewers did, that the litany of his self-accusations reflected an evading of final responsibility. Now, when I began the interview which stretched over nearly 10 days, with relentless question and answer sessions and which ended taking Speer as well as I to the edge of exhaustion, all that uncertainty remained, enforced by his strange attitude of indifference.
When my questions were asked till deep into the night and continued next day at breakfast, I recognized what bothered me most was his quietness, the way he accused himself of the most terrible crimes and with the same level voice offered me a piece of apple pie.
But when I listened to Speer describing terror and triumph of the Third Reich in German and fluent English. which he learned in Spandau, when I noticed during our tiring meetings how he tried with patient interest to tell and explain his doing at that time--I recognized this interview and all his other confrontations with the press and the public expresses part of the burden he is carrying, part of his repentance, stations on the road to his redemption he considered cannot be accomplished.”
Then the interviewer begins with questions. They offer Speer the opportunity to spread out for millions of new American readers his doubtful mea culpa, his dramatic repentant confession, his distortions and, as Norden writes, “the litany of his self accusations.”
This is not my cup of tea. I am interested in questions and answers I can judge, about Adolf Hitler's city-building and architectural planning, the discussion of Norden-Speer about the renewal of Berlin. My sons translated for me and were reading :
“All that moved me in those days,” Speer said, “was my ambition to excel as Hitler's architect.”
Your ambition seemed to grow in proportion to the crimes committed by your benefactors, Norden suggested.
“Yes I assume so,” Speer answered and continued, “I think Hitler planned from the beginning on to engage me with a task he was dreaming to fulfill since his youth.”
Now Norden asked him when Hitler first talked to him about those plans.
“He called me in September 1936 and unexpectedly gave me the biggest job of my career: together we would rebuild Berlin as the dignified capital of the Third Reich. The plans for his new Berlin were indeed astounding and its execution, I was sure, could turn me into one of the famous architects of history. Hitler imaged a gigantic new capital renamed Germania, at the same time seat of his Reich and the monument to keep the memory about him forever alive. The city's core would be flattened and be replaced by a 3-mile long boulevard called the “Prachtstrasse” (Splendor street).”
I interrupted and said:
Speer’s description is completely distorted and also factually incorrect. Look at the photo of the over-all model of the Berlin renovation. Speer published it in his Erinnerungen (Memoirs), wavering between pride and played sarcasm. Look and understand what Hitler aimed at. No way a new gigantic Reichscapital, but rather to introduce new building ideas and give Berlin's shapeless center a new image and order. He picks up a architectural idea of the early 19th century: Schinkel planned at that time to complement the only representative East-West street system, the Great Kurfuerst's “Unter den Linden” with a North-South opening, to offer an expansion to the capital.
It is not like Speer said, that the heart of the city would have been leveled. The open space for that urban renewal would have been gained primarily by eliminating the large railway system … Read further ahead and you will recognize this tendency of Speer's.
“The splendid avenue, twice as wide and three times as long as the Champs Elysee, stretched from the Brandenburg Gate to the decisive center point of the whole complex, the Cupola-hall…” Enlarge
Hold on, I interrupted, that’s not correct, but maybe the interviewer Norden caused some confusion. Not from the Brandenburger Gate should the “splendid avenue” stretch itself out, but from the planned South station towards the North to the square in front of the Reichstag. It was passing by the Brandenburg Gate at its West side. As a large traffic axis it should begin at the Autobahn circle, cross the East-West axis and connect with the Autobahn circle at the North.
And the comparison with the Champs Elysee is purely arbitrary. Already today the connecting Avenue Foch, conceived during the regimes of horse carriages, was twice as wide as the Champs Elysee.
My sons translated further:
“… the decisive center point of the whole complex, the Cupola hall, a gigantic arched meeting hall, four times as big as the capitol building in Washington DC. with a capacity of 180.000 people.” Enlarge
Well, well, I said, if he figures four persons per square meter without reductions for entrance he might just come out right. I know his Cupola and its dimensions. But continue with the story:
“On the way to the meeting hall, a gigantic triumphal arch would be erected, 400 feet (120 meter), dwarfing the Paris Arc de Triomphe, surrounded by a gigantic stadium for 400.000 people...” Enlarge
Objection. Speer was certainly misunderstood here; Playboy mistook the locale. That giant stadium was supposed to be built at Nuremberg, or did Speer build it once more in Berlin? The size scale originated with Speer, who brags to have surpassed Adolf Hitler's scales, which he now calls megalomania. Yet, the Roman circus maximus at the foot of the Palatin had, according to Gregorious, a capacity of 385,000 people. Lets continue:
“A massive soldiers-hall which would house the OKW (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht) …
Nonsense, those were two different building-groups.
“new headquarters for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Party, the Luftwaffe and a new parliament building for his Yea-saying Reichstag ..”
What a confusing description—and yet Speer forgot the building for Goering with the column salad, the Reichsmarschall's staircase-house. Here, look at it!
I pointed to the photo of the model of that staircase house in Speer's Erinnerungen. I can still hear Adolf Hitler's voice when he said the Reichstag building should be preserved. It's there in the overall model, clearly visible.
Speer then described the projected “mighty (Cyclopean)) fortified “Fuehrerpalace.” I asked for a repeat reading, it sounded so unbelievable.
“A Führer Palace with 22,000,000 square feet base area, with wide receiving halls, extended gardens and a dining room for several thousand people.”
There is no doubt about the untruth of the measurements of that area; also no mistake of converting the square foot to square meter as I originally thought because Speer topped that strange statement by the following comparison:
“Beside Hitler's (it was Speer's, not Hitler's) projected palace complex, even the biggest building structure of its kind in history, Nero's famous “Golden House” with its 11,000,000 square foot area, would have shrunk to a mere insignificance.” Enlarge
No, I said to my sons, this is not an error or a mis-hearing by the Playboy interviewer Norden, but a silly, manipulating description by Speer. He presents here a whopping untruth which a blind man can touch with his cane—which I would say any architect can measure with his measuring stick. With such nonsense, Speer apparently wanted to demonstrate to the unwary American reader a despicable Hitler.
I took a ruler and we started to calculate. According to Speer's own planning I arrived at 22,000,000 square feet—approximately 2 million square meters—still 254,600 square meter are a rather big footage for the whole building area. And the actual area would have amounted to 106,000 square meters, including the “dining room for several thousand people” and also the office tracts for the Reichs-Presidential-and-Fuehrer offices. It really is the reverse of Speer's description.
Beside Nero's Golden House, the “Fuehrer Palace Complex” would have “shrunk to the insignificance” of about a quarter of Nero's scale even by Speer's own megalomania. Such surface area confusion and measurement distortions by Speer can be clarified by a look at the respective literature:
“Nero's 'Golden House' had 1 kilometer at its square (one million square meter, 11 million square ft). A single lake of that vast area could later become the construction ground for the Colosseum. The audience hall of the Flavian state palace at the Palatin was quite wider than St. Peter's cathedral. Inside the Tepidarium of the Diocletian thermal springs, Michelangelo could build the splendid church of St. Mary degli Angeli—ruined later on by Vanvitelli—and the giant roundel of Rome's railway station is nothing else but the exedra of the same thermal springs. Similar comparison can be seen between the piazza Navona and Domitian's Circus Agonalis. By its challenging high spirits (Uebermut), yes, by the hubris of its dimensions and the natural perfection of its creation it announces a true elation for what men can do on their own and, by its hardy optimism, in spite of its late creation, still very much with the heart of the antique paganism." (A quotation of Fritz Alexander Kauffmann, Rome's eternal face, Murnau 1940)
I added to it: When I looked at the gigantic Roman structures, may they be the Coloseum, the thermal springs, Konstantin's basilica or Hadrian's sepulcher, it never occurred to me that they express a hubris in their dimensions. I recognized them as the extent of the Roman power of expression. And if you interpret that hubris as a “sinful high spirit” then I myself will convincingly and frankly agree with it.
The reformed (changed) Speer, I continued, does however not admit it as he now explains. He does not have the heart to feel the high spirit of that 'paganism.' Otherwise he would today not cloud the harmony which we could have experienced with scorn and derision. And I again hear Adolf Hitler’s voice when he said: 'Not for me, I do not need that—for my successor.' In the size and at the same time in the limit, which I think is right. And that limit can be seen in the over-all view of the model which does not correspond with Speer's design on the following page of his Erinnerungen. His description in the interview and in his memoir does not comply with the model.
We continued reading the Playboy :
“Hitler believed that after centuries had past, his gigantic assembly hall would obtain a great venerable significance, and become a holy shrine for National-Socialism like St. Peter's Cathedral was for Roman Catholicism. Such a cult was the basis of the whole plan. He imagined his new capital as an eternal alter of his greatness, to immortalize his political credo (Weltanschaung). By using stone he was planning to make sure to gain immortality like the old pharaohs. Germania would become a sarcophagus and not a city.”
And again I had to interrupt the epic flow of the interview, not because of Speer, but to point again to the pictured model of the Berlin design: What a sovereign and convincing creation of city building based on Adolf Hitler's ideas! The arrangement of the North-South axis is unique. All proportions and scales of the square and street spaces, and the buildings themselves, judged by city building standards could not have been better. The intervals between the vertical and horizontal buildings are tightened and full of tension, the crowning finish is the all dominating cupola hall giving the central space that which had been aspired to for centuries.
The possible critique on details is of secondary importance compared to the magnificent overall concept that does justice to the multi-million-occupant city without reaching, let alone exceeding, scales set up by the Great Kurfuerst already built in the 17th century for the ten (and later forty) thousand-inhabited city. The 60-meter-wide avenue “Unter Den Linden,” its development and the large-dimensioned castle by Schlueter, were, by the same standards, “megalomaniac” compared to the small-scaled village-type buildings of the time.
Berlin Cathedral in the foreground to the Brandenburg Gate in the far distance, with the tree-lined Unter den Linden in between ... almost not large or grand enough today. Enlarge.
This fascinating city renewal task was given by Adolf Hitler and it was up to the responsible architects if and how they handled that order—if they would do justice to that task. Contrary to his ideas at that time, Speer sees it now that, by his effort, Germania would not have become a city but a sarcophagus!
I don't agree with that either and I repeat: The superior idea of building a traffic-friendly city renewal dominates; the rhythmical order of the masses of buildings convinces and is permanent. If some details give reason for criticism, it could not destroy the overall concept of a city renewal. It is strange that I, his “opposite-player in Munich,” am called on to protect Speer's earlier assumptions of Adolf Hitler's rebuilding plans against the current “Mr. Reeps.”
That the Führer Palace should outdo Nero's famous “Golden House” by two times corresponds with Speer's gigantism and not with Adolf Hitler's demand. Adolf Hitler's needs for housing and representation were well-known to me because he wanted me to design his private home, first in Munich and then in Linz. His personal requirements were moderate, even modest. They were, however, different when he had representative buildings for the nation in mind, among them also the Führer-palace because “my successors will need it.”
Giesler recalls Hitler in Paris
And then follows again a cut back: At the nightly talks with me at the various headquarters until 1945 he always pointed out the necessity to check very carefully many of the building plans in order to arrive at a clear gesticulation (Gebaerde) of the architecture. He insisted on a modern tectonic justifying the use of steel and steel-concrete. Severe simplicity should be striven for to comply, with dignity, to the sacrifices of the war. Those thoughtful demands of Adolf Hitler corresponded with my own principles in my work as his architect.
The triumphal arch and the cupola hall were based on Adolf Hitler's design sketches and scale notes from 1925. He talked to me several times about the size relations of those buildings, as in Winniza remembering the ride thru Paris at the end of June 1940, impressed then by the Champs Elysees, the Etoile and the Arc de Triomphe.
At that time, Adolf Hitler recapitulated:
"Thru the haze of an early summer morning we drove from the large Place de la Concorde along the Champs de Elysees. The view towards the Arc de Triomphe was uniformly integrated by the greened tree rows of the street, but even by that street-space-limiting way the Triumphal Arch (at right) seemed to be too small. Certainly so when in winter the leafless trees opened the view all the way up to the buildings along the street. The Etoile is for our present motorized epoch too small to be useful as the final traffic square for dispersing 12 boulevards and streets; it will be split up and displaced. But then again the Etoile could not be made larger by adding the tree growing gardens of the neighborhood, for the harmonious scale of the Arc de Triomphe will be affected.
"In Berlin, the Triumphal Arch will arch across a street cross, its dimensions and cubic masses will concur with the proportions of the square and wide street spaces. Yet I see the Great Arch always as the primary manifestation of our idea to build a monument for the soldiers who gave their life fighting for Germany, and the symbol for all the struggles for our nation and her existence. Feeling this way, I sketched this arch at that time [in 1925, above] with the Gloria (glorification Sieges/Ruhm Goettin) inside, under the high, massive, heavy domed ceiling. That Gloria fulfilled a dual purpose: as contrast to the mass as well as disclosing the scale."
The cupola hall [the Great Hall] with her diameter of 250 meters expresses the powerful strength of the Party, but also a proof of what 20th century technology can do.
For a superintendent [a Protestant clerical title], it would naturally be too large. The idea what kind of a church by which the Protestant religion should be represented is demonstrated by the numbered seats at the Berlin cathedral. [A cynical comment referring to the poverty of spirit of the Protestants. -cy]
When Speer was working on the detailing of the model for the triumphal Great Arch (he presented it to Hitler on his 50th birthday,1939), he kept to the sketches by Adolf Hitler of 1925. [see at right] But as I explained, he departed completely from Hitler's original drawing when working on the plans for the “Great Hall,” the cupola hall, including on the model, which was very detrimental to the whole idea of that structure.
What I explained to my sons can be easily checked. Hitler's drawing of the gigantic hall reflects calmness and dignity. The quadratic, monolithic colossus is basically drawn along the scales of the Golden Mean (Goldene Schnitt) and carries the flat cupola effortlessly. The generously graded tambour/drum rises clearly out of the stone colossus and lets the cupola float. Even on the sketches you can feel by the shape of the cupola and the wingspan of the ribs, the material: steel. That gives the giant the scales and technology of the 20th century.
Even the portico of the entrance hall does not disturb the unity of the edifice by its over dimension of the scales of the classical order. That portico certainly reflects a reminiscence of the entrance hall of the Roman Pantheon.
The structure of “The Great Hall” is very familiar; one thinks about Gilly and Schinkel. It might well be a giant, but not a stranger in Berlin.
It's different with Speer. The stone-cube is flattened and has to be supported by pillar-towers. The broadly set dissolve of the wall area by the entrance hall seems to weaken the foundation. The tambour moves away quite a bit from the supporting stone structure, an addition of the cupola whose parabolic ascending curve denies the steel construction: the cupola does not float anymore, it weighs. Eighteen segments of the cupola appear before your eyes—by that tight setup they turn into scaled segments of a stone vault wrapped into metal, a giant forest of green patinated copper. If you take an overall view, then only nine out of the numerous segments would conform with the technological-static spans of a steel construction, as it was suppose to be done.
The tambour—Michelangelo's vivid one at St. Peter's or the calm one at the Florentine cathedral—swings away from the cupola. That tambour degenerates in Speer's model to a powerless affectedness.
Speer took away the giant's uniqueness and dignity by petty scales. Etienne Boullee of the 18th century, Friedrich Gilly or Friedrich Schinkel of the 19th, would have mastered the idea of structures with the technology of our time.
Back to the Playboy interview. To the question: Do you have any lingering regret that those plans have never been completed, Speer answered:
“I have to admit that regardless of its absurdity and madness I still find it difficult to free myself completely from the power those plans had on me for so many years. Understandingly, I can now despise them; but deeper inside myself they still have a hold on me. Maybe that is one reason, beside others, that I hate Hitler so deeply. He not only enabled me to destroy my conscience but consumed and perverted the creative energies of my youth.”
However, Speer is not yet at the end of his answer to the Playboy question. He further says:
“But because those plans still create an inner fascination for me, I am glad that they have never been completed. I can see now, what I could not see then, that they were, at their conception, immoral. The proportions were alien, inhuman, reflecting the frigidity and inhumanity of the Nazi system. 'I build for eternity,' Hitler used to say to me, and that was true. But he never built for people The size and scales of his monuments were a prophetic symbol of his idea of ruling the world. And the gigantic metropolis he imagined could only serve as the heart of a conquered and enslaved empire. One day in summer 1939, when we stood in front of the wooden models and Hitler pointed to the gold German eagle with the swastika in his claws, a crown at the top of the cupola hall: 'That has to be changed,' he said with emphasis. According to his orders, I changed the design so that the eagle was now holding a globe in his claws. Two month later World War II broke out.”
I interrupted the translation once more: “That Adolf Hitler had a Germanic Empire within a United Europe in mind, one can not deny, nor condemn. Without doubt Germany, or the planned Germanic Empire, would have been a world power. But that Adolf Hitler planned to rule the world, or a world empire, that is not only nonsense, it is a misinterpretation, a speer-lish rubbish.”
When Speer mentioned that the eagle at the top of the “Great Hall” signified world rulership, that is as if the provincial president in Duesseldorf claims world rulership because his office is crowned by an eagle who holds a globe in his claws. Especially suspicious and dangerous is the fact that recently the eagle and the globe were again put on the building and gold-plated. That the lantern of the Berlin cupola ends at a globe with an eagle spreading his wings is a sculpture, commonly used. It had to end that way—very evident for any architect, not however for Speer.
In order to characterize Speer's tendentious efforts, I opened one of the pages of his book Erinnerungen showing a photo of the model of the “Great Hall.” The gigantic cupola hovers like a gruesome nightmare over the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichs Parliament building. [Photo above] Terrifyingly, it takes your breath away until you orient yourself by the following page of the book and recognize how far apart and by what spaces in between the individual building groups are from the “Great Hall.” The model photos on the two pages of the book shows everything as piled into each other and above each other. “How strange those perspectives shift” Speer writes on another occasion, but it fits with the above.
The deficiency of photo technology offers itself for such picturesque distortions—no wonder that the Zugspitze [Germanys highest mountain] was also adopted to that panopticon in order to shrink when compared to the size of the parabolic cupola!
Speer zealously condemns his planning of Berlin and means that everything was not only crazy, but also boring, lifeless and regulated. But where his own gigantism breaks through—in none of his statements can he hide that—he turns it into Hitler-megalomania whose influence he could not escape, regardless of its absurdity. What Speer has to offer is a macabre mix of personal disappointment and a “know better” arrogance, ending with a self portrait where he again and again points out his mea culpa of a moral integrity.
The question arises—what kind of a split personality appears here, putting himself on a pedestal of an ethical principle and then vulgarly triumphing to say: Finally I could pay him back. Yes, he wants to defame Adolf Hitler. But he does not describe the man, he moves in the shadow that man casts.
Two significant responses I quote from the Playboy interview:
Question : Were there many inside fights in Hitler's entourage?
“Hitler's circle was like a Byzantine court, seeding with intrigues, jealousy and betrayal .The Third Reich was less a monolithic state than a net of opposing bureaucracies fighting each other and Hitler' s satraps stacking their own, independent spheres of interest, expanding it scrupulously—often damaging the national interest.”
Quite a bit of that refers to Speer himself, he was masterly in his ablity to stack and expand his spheres of interest!
Question: Were Hitler's courtiers as corrupt as they were ambitious?
“Most of them would have let your American chap Al Capone look like a philanthropist.
From the moment they took over the power and had their hands on the state's treasury, they filled their own pockets, piled personal riches, profited from government business, built large palaces and country villas with public money, allowed themselves an extravagant lifestyle more fitting the Borgias than so-called revolutionaries. Rot penetrated everything; like a fish the Nazi government rotted from the head down.”
When that was translated for me I had enough and thought: The decent things at that Playboy magazine are the ill-reputed jokes and the naked girls. I looked at my sons who watched me during the reading and the lecturing, partly amused, partly worried. I leafed back to the first page of the interview and pointed to the three photos of Speer used as a subliminal subtitle for the introduction—the facial expressions selected to correspond with his statements—and I said, “Look, what a man! No, what a Saeulenheiliger!”3
1. How many of Hiter's associates have been called his "second in command:" Rudolf Hess, Martin Bormann, Heinrich Himmler, and now Albert Speer. In truth, none of them were.
2. Speer told David Irving that he was misquoted. He claimed that Playboy magazine had grossly distorted the interview with him. He was not shown the English text before it was published, and the interview was conducted in German as his own English was not up to that standard. Irving wrote:
We discussed initially the book by Professor Hermann Giesler, Ein Anderer Hitler. Speer was negative about it. The book contained two completely wrong statements about him. There is, he says, an entire chapter attacking him. One wrong allegation is the suggestion that the BBC flew him to London under a false name, Reeps. The other point I cannot remember. However he agrees that Giesler's descriptions of the Landsberger Haftzeit (Landsberg prison time) and other Hitler matters may possibly be correct. I laughed at the way that the rival architects versteiften sich in solchen Kleinigkeiten (stiffen over such trifles).
But Speer is also quoted as saying that he is in basic agreement with everything in the interview.
3. A stylite, or pillar-saint is a type of Christian ascetic in the early days of the Byzantine Empire who lived on pillars preaching, fasting and praying.
Hermann Giesler on left; Albert Speer on right,
The following is something of a masterpiece of satiric wit from Giesler. -cy
The Column Saint
From Hermann Giesler’s memoir Ein Anderer Hitler
Der Säulenheilige, pages 355-360
1977 edition, Druffel-Verlag
Translated byWilhelm Kriessmann and Carolyn Yeager
copyright Carolyn Yeager 2014
In the year 113 the Roman senate erected a gigantic column for the emperor and military leader Trajan. (Shown right) On the capital of the column stood the gilded statue of the honored.
The art historian Bruhns writes ”Used to gigantism and always striving to exceed, Rome created that form of eternal triumph which then did mankind not less convince of its greater impression than the older kind of triumphal arch, now of a lesser rank. As the colossal column expresses the idea of “height” exceptionally well, it can also be used very well for the adoration of the “highest.” Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius were given similar columns in Rome. Arcadius got his at the new capital Constantinople.
When Europe during the Napoleon era felt itself specially close to Rome’s greatness, it presented the new emperor with the Vendome column in Paris—and his conqueror, Alexander of Russia, a second one in Petersburg.”
The emerging Christianity overthrew the images of antique greatness and now paid homage to its believers on imposing columns. After the final decline of the ancient dignities around the 4th and 5th centuries, ascetic Christians requested the top of the Roman columns as pleasing to God. The best known among them was Symion Stylites from Aleppo. Those ascetics and penitents, called stylites or “Säulenheilige (column saints), strove to increase their ranking by self-elevation.
Napoleon 1 Column in Place Vendome, Paris, above left, and on the right an icon honoring Symion Stylites and "Symion the Younger" on their column homes where they remained for decades without coming down.
To enhance oneself—who wanted to hinder the column saint, standing between earth and heaven? Was he not predestined, by his high location from where he could overlook everything, to judge the bad, and if it had to also be mentioned, the good? Everything that came down from isolated but triumphant height was important, even scolds and abuses, if quite a bit drew attention only post festum (too late).
In Speer's Spandauer Tagebuecher I saw some caricatures sketched by his colleague Hans Stephan [on p494]. They were done during the high time of planning Berlin's renewal. Speer commented: “We treated our own gigantism ironically.”
Now I remembered Stephan's ironic caricature. At first it seemed to have a double meaning but looking closer it was pretty obvious: One giant column pushes through layers of myrrh and incense, or even through clouds, up to an extreme height. Sacrificial smoke also shrouds the statue, clad in a Roman toga and holding a spear, characterizing the “most enhanced.”
At first one would consider it as an antique Caesarean honor. But on the three step base of the column sits the chronicler dressed in a capuchin robe, busy and carefully making notes about all thoughts of the “most-enhanced,” of all his confessions and opinions but also his scolds, to make it known to the interested present and future generations.
The caricature referred to that time, but with the monk on the bottom of the column it was, as it has turned out, also pointed to the future. Stephan had portrayed as well the imperatorial present, as he pointed with a fine vision to “what is to come.” The monk on the column base does not allow any other interpretation. Did it ever dawn on Stephan how significant his depiction would become: Speer as a column Saint?
Yet, after all, he put him a few column-drums higher than the ascetic and scolder Symion Stylites from Aleppo. Because, as an architect, Stephan had a good feeling for rank and file.
After the publication of Speer's books I met quite a few who thought his strange change, his schizophrenic fantasies, his distortions and his obsession for abuse—plus his awkward readiness for remorse—were the result of 20 years of “jail-torture by isolation” as they used to call it, according to Sartre. I opposed that. There was too much influence from the world around him. It might be that the imprisonment aggravated the contours. Speer's “turnaround” is mere opportunism, cold and carefully planned, as it is in conformity with his genetically generated character—demonstrated already before his jail time.
Nuremberg, Prison and Beyond
After the grotesque comedy of the Nuremberg trials, when Speer tried to tie the bear Tabun (nerve gas but also the name of a Teddy bear -wlk) to the court-benches: “I had the intention to kill Hitler by poisonous gas however...” He was addressed by Kranzbuehler, the attorney of Grossadmiral Doenitz, who asked Speer if it would not have been more certain and more effective to shoot Hitler than start a poison gas operation endangering an unknown number of secretaries, drivers and others, without being sure to even get Hitler himself. Speer answered: “I could not shoot.”
The attorney's remark since: “That was enough for me to characterise his personality, and both his books only convinced me more.”
The experiences and statements of this former fleet lawyer need a further explanation: Had he known Stephan’s caricature, he would have reached another opinion, for from a column saint you do not expect that he knows how to shoot! Poison, however, you could imagine with a stylite. But again, not with Speer, the “second most important in the Reich”—he was only short of a ladder to execute the planned deed at the air shaft of the command bunker at the federal chancellery.1
In the “innermost circle” of the Speer boys they might have whispered about passionate plans while completely ignoring the real situation. Only in that way can I explain the phone-call of his colleague to the “central planning department” from cage to cage, in the prison winter of 1946: Nothing will happen to Speer—he will be the German minister for reconstruction! His willing guilty confession, combined with his assassination-attempt-declaration, would no doubt form Speer's basic defense. But it was only the first propaganda-cry of the first re-educator sent by the Americans to the German people. It became a success also of the crook “Dr.Gaston Oulman.”2
Beginning with the desperate Charivari 3 of his statements at the military tribunal, Speer intensified, as a prisoner, his unscrupulous abuses by quotations and secret messages, and then, after 20 years, as a free man in his books and interviews, not sparing even the victims of the victors' justice.
In order to justify himself in facing his children, so that they would not be ashamed of him, and “to help once more” the German people4 by, as he believed, his sincere attitude, he thought he had to take away from the fallen of the war, the fighters for the freedom of Europe, the meaning of the deep sense of their sacrifice. For the surviving dependents it must certainly be comforting to hear from Speer that their men—sons and brothers—were sacrificed, that their women and children were bombed, for a wrong ideal and for “a total madness.” Thus Speer has, as he wrote, “served his own people the best way.”5
There is also the infamy of the Nuremberg tribunal. Speer formed a bond with the American chief prosecutor Jackson. If there was ever a doubt about that, Speer arrogantly confirmed it 30 years later: “When Jackson started with his cross-examination, he smiled friendly. Anyway,” Speer continued, “I would have cooperated with anybody who would have supported my line to let the Germans regain common sense.”6
In his Erinnerungen, his Spandauer Tagebücher and in his scolding interviews, he tries to manipulate history and events. He wants to be involved in the confusion of the German people even though he thus exposes himself to the suspicion of a lack of historical awareness and truthfulness.
Horse dung [Rossapfel, Ross=horse] found on his bed in the Spandau jail put him into a schizophrenic frenzy. Speer associated it with the Reichsapfel, the imperial insignia of power and dignity. Then the horse dung is brought into a connection with the eagle holding in his talons the world globe.7
He discovers the “deeply criminal character” in Hitlers face and he believes he has to assume that a part of Adolf Hitler's success was based on an audacity to pretend to be a great man.8 But enough of all that.
Who does not remember? Speer was at that time considered to be the confidant; he appeared to be the Johannes very close to Hitler's heart. Naturally it was Speer's smartness, his extraordinary organizational talent, the nonchalant way he put himself into the scene, his ambition and effort to gain recognition and power—indeed he felt himself already as the sage. Therefore it was no surprise that Stephan placed him for adoration on top of the High Column, decorated with the leaves of the Acanthus. Towards the end, however, doubts entered and Christian soldiers carried out the fall of “the enhanced.” After his conviction, a cruel road lay ahead of him for decades. To alter his reputation, he severely re-shaped himself as is so fitting to his character.
With will power and toughness he began that road and walked on it. One can assume without doubt that he believes in himself and his strange mission. He reached his goal anew by his own way and under peculiar signs. Thus he remains on a high column, completely changed as Baal Teschuwa, the son of repentance, as his friend the rabbi Geis calls him.9
He wrote his Erinnerungen as that man, praised by the American historian, Professor Eugene Davidson as “an historical testimony par exellence” and as an “absolutely priceless document.” It took the writer Zuckmayer's breath away when he read the Spandauer Tagebuecher.
Speer begins his Erinnerungen with an aphorism of the theologian Karl Barth. Yet it would have been more fitting to begin with the caricature by Stephan—one would then be prepared for the confessions of a reformed person, the opinions of a column saint.
Speer testified at Nuremberg that his plan to kill Hitler by placing poison in an air vent into his private bunker failed only for lack of having a ladder high enough to reach the vent!
A Vienna-born Jewish jailbird with the name Walter Ullmann, who called himself Dr. Oulma and became a radio commentator at the Nuremberg trials, before being unmasked and causing a big scandal.
A ritual used by Europeans to chastise community members who did not conform with social expectations.
Speer, Erinnerungen, p594
Eberhard Wolfgang Möller, Albert Speer oder das achte Gebot; in: Klüter Blätter,21. 1970, p53
Welt am Sonntag of Oct. 31, 1976
Speer, Spandau Tagebücher, p247
Ein Mensch namens Albert Speer; Das Evangelische Darmstadt, Oct. 17, 1971
Hermann Giesler on left; Albert Speer on right,
Translated and condensed from Hermann Giesler's Ein Anderer Hitler by Wilhelm Kriessmann and Carolyn Yeager
This is a condensation of the 15-page section Der Zwist on pages 340-355
copyright 2014 Carolyn Yeager
“ Powerful and at the same time not interested in power” … so judges the American historian, Professor Eugene Davidson, about the author Adalbert Speer, when reviewing his book Erinnerungen.
The following footnote (Chapt. 4, #32) from Joachim Fest’s Speer: The Final Verdict reveals the disdain Albert Speer felt toward Hermann Giesler that was probably the root of the problems between the two men.
“… in the caption to the picture showing Hitler in front of the Eiffel Tower, (Speer) mentions Breker but not Giesler on his right. […] In conversation Speer remarked that Giesler had been distinguished “beyond merit” by Hitler's invitation. Asked if he had been jealous of his rival, he replied, ‘How should I have been jealous of him? Giesler was a frightful petit-bourgeois! How could he supplant me in Hitler's favor?’ […] How unremitting Speer’s feelings were for Giesler emerges also from the fact that he consistently misspells his name with what seems like pointed indifference.”
Giesler chronicles his major dispute with Albert Speer as beginning in late autumn 1940 when he received from Hitler the task of designing the renewal of Linz, in addition to Munich. After that, Speer had asked Giesler if he would agree to his (Speer) taking “over-all control” of all city building work in Germany and with it over-all responsibility. “In the future I would like to be involved more than I am now with the Gaustaedte (cities in the party districts/provinces) where questions about city renewal might arise which are also connected with party buildings. I believe this is necessary in order to avoid wrong planning.”
Another reason he put forth was that it would make it easier for the Führer to make decisions. Giesler, who saw himself and Speer as a team functioning cooperatively for the good of Germany, and being already overloaded with responsibility for the planning of Weimar and Augsburg, replied, “Naturally, I would agree.” (image: left to right, Giesler, Speer, Hitler, Roderich Fick in Linz on the Danube)
A few months later, Giesler received a letter from Speer in which the latter referred to the former's “joyous” agreement, and concluded, “Your approval was one of the most important requirements to take further steps.” Steps where, Giesler wondered?
Soon, it was obvious. Their casual agreement resulted in allocations for the Munich renewal (G's assignment)—primarily steel and iron—to be taken care of by Speer's Reich office of Generalbauinspektor (General building inspector) in Berlin. After work had begun on the federal railway system in Munich, all allocations stopped and every effort brought no results. “The reputation of the office under my leadership was at risk,” writes Giesler. He requested a meeting with Dr. Fritz Todt, at which it was made clear that all G's requests for allocations were entirely dependent on Speer and his allocations administration.
“But not only that, all deadlines for construction, dispositions and new planning projects were not able to be met by me. The complaints of the railway management for new projects and their construction piled up at the ministry and at my office work was partly stopped.”
Giesler again went to Dr. Fritz Todt and spoke frankly, but with no success. Speer was favoring his own projects.
It was the same with the supply of stone material—they were in the hands of Speer and were not sent to Giesler. On his own, he could get hold of only concrete and a limited supply of Tuscan travertine. At this point, Giesler recalled Adolf Hitler telling both him and Speer that if they had any problems with these important building assignments to go to Bormann and he would help them. This Giesler did, and Martin Bormann (below right) met with Dr. Todt and Speer and asked for a letter from Giesler explaining the situation at his building sites caused by poor allocations. In his letter, Giesler asked that Dr. Todt take over the administration and distribution of allocations.
Once Bormann saw the scope of the problem, he sought to avoid a serious discord by asking Giesler to hold back. Toward the end of 1941, Speer drafted a Führer-Directive to forward to Hitler which gave him (Speer) absolute power of decision for all building projects in the Reich. Giesler says he knew such a directive would never be approved and thought that Speer also must have known that Adolf Hitler would not have considered a “central responsibility” and “central direction” proper for all these artistic creations, in a federally structured Reich with it's traditionally grown and regionally cultured Gaue. And, indeed, Speer withdrew it before it reached Hitler.
Now Speer went in the opposite direction. Bruised by his failed attempt at a total takeover, he decided he didn’t want any responsibility except for his own projects of Berlin and Nuremberg. On Jan. 20, 1942 [just so happens to be the day of the alleged Wannsee Conference -cy], Speer informed Reichsleiter Bormann that he was relinquishing all responsibility for [NSDAP] Party buildings which he had formerly held. That decision, Speer said, was caused by the negative opinion of his Fuehrer-Directive expressed by Professor Giesler. He further stated that he would now have free time at his disposal and asked the Führer to entrust him with the building of the new city of Drontheim [southwest of Trondheim in Norway].
Speer's unusual birthday present to the Führer
Amongst other shenanigans and intrigues, Speer also sought to undercut Giesler’s authority for the Linz city building project by bringing a birthday greeting to Hitler at midnight on April 20, 1941 in the form of an offering which read:
My Führer—On your 52nd birthday the undersigned artists of Berlin’s renewal beg you that they may participate at the noble competition for the new layout of the city Linz at the Danube.
It was signed by Speer and 15 of his Berlin team of architects, sculptors and painters. Giesler had already been designing, at Hitler’s request, the Linz plans and models for 6 months! Writes Giesler:
When I read this [in the Party Chronicle] after so many years I was perplexed. Was that really the reason Adolf Hitler made the remark at our meeting at the headquarter Winniza, 1942 , when he said : “in the future you select the architects you want to work with at Linz.” His entourage, who knew about that strange birthday, did they not wonder? I can understand that Bormann did not want to stir up the matter; he rather wanted to defuse the quarrel between Speer and me.
That's how it was at that time—Speer did not miss a minute to make the Führer happy. Or was it a limitless and offended ambition which encouraged him as manager, coach and player of his national team of architects, sculptors and painters, all bound to duty at Berlin, now to enter the field of the Linz renewal? Why really—to drive away the lonely one, entrusted by Adolf Hitler to plan his retirement seat at his hometown, by a “noble competition”? […] Anyway, to present that proposition as a birthday present—I consider this even today as tasteless.
Fritz Todt dies; Speer advances to Minister level
When on Feb. 8, 1942 Dr. Todt died in an airplane crash and Speer became the successor to his office, the two architects had a meeting and made a peace, as had been Todt’s wish, and also Bormann's directive. But it was a practical one, writes Giesler, and adds that it ended for him “with Speer’s statement at the IMT [International Military Tribunal] and again when he spoke Sept. 30, 1966, the day of his freedom.” The ‘friendship’ was finally buried amid “the pile of Speer’s silly distortions and proofs of his successful "re-education" by his statements, interviews and books.”
There are in front me notes about Speer's letter to Bormann Jan. 2, 1942, ending : “Therefore, my only New Years wish for you: to give the Führer by your responsible work in the year 1942 much joy and few disappointments. In friendship and dearest greetings, Heil Hitler! Your Albert Speer
And here is the Playboy interview with the question :
What kind of a man was Bormann?
Speer: “He was the roughest, most brutal and merciless member of the Nazi hierarchy—and believe me that means something. Personally, he was violent and primitive, without any culture or sensitivity. By nature he was a servile person but also a brute, treating his staff like animals with a sadistic contempt for their feelings. Either he crawled at their feet or went after their throat, a most evil type of a farmer with the most evil kind of a farmer’s slyness. He knew how to mislead people so that they believe him to be an unimportant, trustworthy helper of the Fuehrer, while all the time cunningly building his own empire.”
Quite different from this hateful image Speer was drawing of Bormann were his hackneyed phrases with which he finished his letters to Bormann: “And I beg you most sincerely to give me your friendly support” and “in friendship and with dearest greetings.”
Giesler ends with words he received a few years ago from a former colleague on the Weimar and Munich projects: “Mr. Giesler, you have to admit that Speer was far superior to you.” Giesler agrees:
Well, naturally he was, I said, and how!
and thinks about why that was so. Speer was both a mathematician and an architect—with a mathematician's controlled thinking. For the sake of control, he wanted supervision. He had everything at his disposal--a large office with excellent architects, city builders, engineers, landscape architects, sculptors and painters--and could delegate to others, giving him time and working strength to do that which he wanted to do himself.
I was only an architect. Speer was mighty … yet, at the same time, with no interest in power.