Why Hitler’s grand plan during the second world war collapsed

Two key factors undermined Germany’s campaign: US involvement boosted the allies’ arms-producing capabilities, while sheer Soviet manpower led to catastrophic defeat in Russia

Russian women carrying supplies to the troops at Stalingrad. Photograph: Rolls Press/Popperfoto/popperfoto.com

Two years into the war, in September 1941, German arms seemed to be carrying all before them. Western Europe had been decisively conquered, and there were few signs of any serious resistance to German rule. The failure of the Italians to establish Mussolini’s much-vaunted new Roman empire in the Mediterranean had been made good by German intervention. German forces had overrun Greece, and subjugated Yugoslavia. In north Africa, Rommel’s brilliant generalship was pushing the British and allied forces eastwards towards Egypt and threatening the Suez canal. Above all, the invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941 had reaped stunning rewards, with Leningrad (the present-day St Petersburg) besieged by German and Finnish troops, Smolensk and Kiev taken, and millions of Red Army troops killed or captured in a series of vast encircling operations that brought the German armed forces within reach of Moscow. Surrounded by a girdle of allies, from Vichy France and Finland to Romania and Hungary, and with the more or less benevolent neutrality of countries such as Sweden and Switzerland posing no serious threat, the Greater German Reich seemed to be unstoppable in its drive for supremacy in Europe.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *