10 Ways Nazi Germany Sucked at War: (10) They Excelled at Criminality

 

10 WAYS NAZI GERMANY SUCKED AT WAR: (10) THEY EXCELLED AT CRIMINALITY

 

For ‘wehraboo’ fanboys who tout Nazi Germany’s military ‘excellence’ in the Second World War, there was indeed one defining characteristic in which they excelled, exceeding every other combatant – criminality or atrocity. Not only did Nazi Germany lose in the most complete defeat in modern history, itself a powerful rebuttal for fans of its military, but it lost while fighting in such vile fashion as to leave its indelible stain in history. As I’ve said before, the Nazis were two-time losers, hopelessly fighting and predictably losing the same war Germany had lost twenty years previously, only worse – in every way.

 

Nazi Germany’s criminality or atrocity is too prolific for a simple summary, and besides, is well known to students of history – as is, or should be, the myth of the “clean Wehrmacht”, or that the Germany military was apolitical and largely innocent of Nazi Germany’s crimes (typically by emphasizing the role of the SS, party or civil administration). Indeed, the German military was highly politicized by the Nazi regime and deeply implicated in Nazi Germany’s crimes.

 

Naïve arguments for Nazi Germany’s military ‘excellence’ often focus on K/D ratios – or the ratio of casualties killed by Nazi Germany as opposed to their own losses. Setting aside that war is not won on points (and that Germany had the highest casualties in the European war after the Soviet Union), the majority of casualties killed by Nazi Germany were civilians and prisoners of war. That K/D ratio doesn’t look so impressive now, huh?

 

Of course, atrocity or criminality may have no impact on military proficiency. Indeed, the military proficiency of armies like the Mongols arguably were reinforced by terror or at least their reputation for it. However, military forces in modern history have tended to baulk at the wholesale elimination of civilian populations as counterproductive, because of the fundamental importance of civilian populations in modern economies (not to mention the propagation of modern media) – and it is a sign of the atavistic savagery of Nazi Germany that it attempted to do so on a strategic scale. And for Nazi Germany, it was a decisive factor for it losing the war, particularly where it counted most – on the Eastern Front:

 

“Since the end of the Second World War, it has been generally acknowledged that German brutality on the Eastern Front in 1941 was counter-productive, and in the long term, may have been the single most important factor in ensuring German failure”

 

Not only did the criminality of the Nazi regime unite its adversaries, both within themselves and their alliance with each other, it also deprived Nazi Germany of any means to consolidate its victories:

 

“In essence, this failure to tap the potential goodwill of various conquered peoples was the product of philosophies that offered subjected peoples nothing other than slavery and death…herein lay what was perhaps the supreme irony of the war: what made the German and Japanese forces so formidable in the assault – a moral advantage based on concepts of racial supremacy – ultimately prevented them from consolidating their initial success. Many factors contributed to the final defeat of the Axis powers, but this inability to build upon their initial successes was arguably the most important single ingredient in the defeat of Germany and Japan.”

 

And that, my friends, is what is called sweet poetic justice.

10 Ways Nazi Germany Sucked at War: (9) They Sucked at Leadership

 

10 WAYS NAZI GERMANY SUCKED AT WAR: (9) THEY SUCKED AT LEADERSHIP

 

This one we can certainly lay at the door of Hitler and his Reich – as one might expect of what was essentially a predatory gangster state held together by a cult of personality. Yet another of my historical pet peeves is the myth that Nazi Germany was a model of efficiency – making the trains run on time and all that, although that was actually a slogan of fascist Italy (not that they were any better in organization).

 

Instead, the political administration of Nazi Germany was one of organized chaos as factions or leaders competed for power or Hitler’s favor (often the same thing), resulting in the promotion of competition and sycophancy rather than competence. There was no clear framework or division of power – compounded as the Nazis created new agencies which overlaid traditional government agencies and in large measure deliberately encouraged by Hitler’s ‘divide and rule’ style of leadership (or ‘fuhrerprinzip’), in which he was the supreme arbiter of power. The concept of leadership in Nazi Germany precluded any cabinet system for the effective coordination of power – “highly structured administrative systems, complete with clearly defined and jealously guarded lines of demarcation and established hierarchies, did not lend themselves to close cooperation, not least in Germany because of the rivalries between different agencies”.

 

And so Nazi Germany had multiple agencies responsible for the economy, military intelligence, diplomacy and so on – thus underlying its other deficiencies in waging war:

 

“At no stage during the Second World War did the Fuhrerprinzip submit to the structured chain of command emanating from a settled cabinet system that alone allowed the coherent formulation of policy and the integration of political, economic and military efforts and then the supervision of implementation that was essential to German success. While this was of little consequence when Germany was able to dictate the unfolding of the European conflict, the later phases of the war demonstrated to the full the consequences of an organizational failure that made Wilhelmine Germany seem a model of efficiency in comparison”

 

One might think that while Hitler cared little for civilian administration, he would at least strive to avoid this in the military, the one thing he did care about, but…no. There were the competing Supreme Commands (compounded by Hitler assuming personal command of military forces) – and the competing services within the military, exceeded in the Second World War only by Imperial Japanese army  and navy. In particular, the Luftwaffe – perhaps the most politically Nazi military service – jealously kept its monopoly of airpower, leading to the navy having to beg it for naval aviation. And then the cohesion of military forces was weakened by the deliberate sponsorship of private armies – with the Luftwaffe, SS and navy fielding their own divisions.

 

A classic illustration is the “hopelessly confused command structure” of German military forces opposing the Allied invasion of Normandy (under unified supreme command). The army was divided between different groups in a manner too baffling to summarize succinctly here, but which left the German theater supreme command in Western Europe “without direct operational control of the bulk of the forces in its area of responsibility and without a theater reserve”. Compounding this, Hitler had appointed tasked his golden boy Rommel in an inspector’s role and to take overall command wherever the Allies landed. The German theater supreme command’s authority also did not extend to the navy’s naval and coastal defense forces, nor to the Luftwaffe’s air formations – and about a quarter of German divisions were actually under the administrative control of the navy, Luftwaffe and SS.

Monday Night Mojo: Chris Isaak – Wicked Game (1989)

 

MONDAY NIGHT MOJO: CHRIS ISAAK – WICKED GAME (1989)

 

“The world was on fire and no one could save me but you”

 

Chris Isaak is best known for this song from his 1989 album Heart-Shaped World, which rose to prominence when an instrumental version of it was featured by cinematic weirdo David Lynch. (I like David Lynch’s films but they’re best if you regard them as essentially cinematic dreams).

 

His songs “focus on the themes of love, loss and heartbreak” – oh so much heartbreak but oh so smooth!. Indeed, Isaak’s musical oeuvre might well be summed up as a combination of a “Heart-Shaped World” and “Heart Full of Soul” (although the latter was originally a Yardbirds song), punctuated by “his soaring falsetto and reverb-laden music”.

 

 

And Wicked Game is no exception – “a ballad about unrequited love” in a “brooding, sorrowfully conflicted” tone.

 

Yeah, that’s my jam. Sigh.

Top 10 Books of Literature (Part 2)

 

TOP 10 BOOKS OF LITERATURE (PART 2)

 

 

(5) JOHN BIRMINGHAM – HE DIED WITH A FELAFEL IN HIS HAND (1994)

 

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, oi, oi, oi!

 

Yes, it’s that famous Australian blank verse for the second of two Australian literary entries in our top ten. Of course, John Birmingham isn’t quite as highfalutin literary as Peter Carey – although damn it, He Died With a Felafel in His Hand deserves a Nobel Prize for Literature (who the hell are most of those laureates anyway?) – but he’s certainly more fun.

 

He was first published in Semper Floreat, student newspaper at the University in Queensland, where he studied law among ‘rat-faced bastards’ who wouldn’t lend him their notes. (Damn those University of Queensland law students!) Fortunately, Birmingham did not graduate to become a lawyer but instead became a published writer with his 1994 share-house living memoir He Died With a Felafel in His Hand. That book is an eclectic collection of “colorful anecdotes” about living in increasingly squalid share houses in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne – with increasingly dubious housemates (included the eponymous deceased felafel-holder). It’s since been adapted into the longest running stage play in Australian history (the share house setting is ideal for stage after all), an eminently quotable cult film in 2001 and a graphic novel – as well as arguably its own sequel The Tasmanian Babes Fiasco in 1997, which was less a sequel than a more straightforward fictionalization of the original (or ‘remake’).

 

Essentially, Birmingham is Australia’s own gonzo writer in the style of Hunter S. Thompson, although without the trunk full of acid and other drugs (or at least, not quite full). Of late, he’s adapted to writing highly entertaining pulp SF thrillers (which naturally I lap up) – the Axis of Time series, the Without Warning series, the Dave series and recently A Girl in Time.

 

RATING – IT’S A RAVE! 4 STARS****

 

 

(4) MARGARET ATWOOD – THE HANDMAID’S TALE (1985)

 

“Better never means better for everyone…It always means worse for some”.

 

And it certainly does if you’re a handmaid in the Republic of Gilead.

 

This entry crept into literature from science fiction, much like George Orwell’s 1984 (which ranks as special mention in my top ten) – a tagline for The Handmaid’s Tale might be 1984 for women (in 1985!). Margaret Atwood has flirted with science fiction on a few occasions, although she seems to be more open about the relationship these days. In fairness, all dystopian fiction tends to have science fiction elements, but the focus is on society. Atwood is a very prolific writer (from Canada, eh?) who deserves her own top ten – prize-winning novels, short story anthologies, poetry, non-fiction and literary criticism, all of it eminently readable. However, it’s to her credit that The Handmaid’s Tale looms over the others with its chillingly powerful impact, like other classics of dystopian fiction – even more so with its adaptation into a television series.

 

The Handmaid’s Tale is set in the near-future (or almost contemporary) Republic of Gilead (in the former United States) – a Christian fundamentalist totalitarian theocracy in which women have no rights, especially not the reproductive ‘handmaids’, who don’t even have permanent names. (They’re named for their male ‘owner’). And things get worse from there…

 

In the words of TV Tropes, the trope codifier for No Woman’s Land for the modern Western audience

 

RATING: IT’S A RAVE! 5 STARS*****

 

 

(3) DOUGLAS COUPLAND – GENERATION X: TALES FOR AN ACCELERATED CULTURE (1991)

 

“Kind of scary, kind of sexy, tainted by regret. A lot like life, wouldn’t you say?”

 

 

Another Canadian entry in our top ten (Canada, eh?), Douglas Coupland is a novelist and artist, the latter by formal training in design and visual art. The former commenced with this entry, his first novel and international bestseller.

 

From 1989 to 1990, Coupland lived in the Mojave Desert working on a handbook about the generation that followed the Baby Boom. He received a $22,500 advance from St. Martin’s Press to write the nonfiction handbook and wrote this novel instead. It popularized the term Generation X, as well as other thematic or topical neologisms scattered along with his designs in the margins, some of which have entered the vernacular, like McJob – “a low-pay, low-prestige, low-dignity, low-benefit, no-future job in the service sector. Frequently considered a satisfying career choice by people who have never held one”. (I have a soft spot for ‘veal-fattening pens’ as a neologism for office cubicles. Or ‘pull-the-plug, slice-the-pie’ for the “fantasy in which an offspring mentally tallies up the net worth of his parents”. I wonder if my mother still pops in here – hi, Mum!)

 

As for the book itself, it is a framed narrative (like Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales) in which a group of youths (particularly the three central characters Dag, Claire and the narrator Andy) of the titular generation and varying dysfunction living together in the Coachella Valley in California “exchange heartfelt stories about themselves and fantastical stories of their creation”. The book is arranged into three parts – and chapters with titles such as “New Zealand Gets Nuked Too?”, which give something of the flavor of its ironic (and sardonic) humor.

 

RATING – IT’S A RAVE! 5 STARS*****

 

Devil_boss_Thumb

 

(2) JEREMY LEVEN – SATAN: HIS PSYCHOTHERAPY AND CURE BY THE UNFORTUNATE DR KASSLER J.S.P.S  (1982)

 

Well this entry definitely crept in here from the fantasy section, although it is perhaps somewhat loosely a fantasy. Indeed, it is primarily black comedy and satire – a black comedy of life itself and a satire of religion (arguably a theological version of my top entry and as indelibly planted in my adolescent psyche). Although the central narrative premise is fantasy, with the Adversary himself or Satan, embodied in a computer (through implanting dreams of Einstein in physicist Leo Szylyck, providing the technical directions to Szylyck), it essentially is just the plot device for the rest of the novel.

 

And it is in the form of a computer that Satan seeks out the titular psychotherapy and cure from Dr Sy Kassler J.S.P.S – or Just Some Poor Schmuck. Indeed, this is an apt description for the hapless psychoanalyst. Much of the black comedy (and quite a few titillating scenes) come from Kassler’s train wreck of a life, as well as the various characters he and Satan encounter on their mutual journey towards each other – a journey that parallels Dante’s descent into hell in the Inferno (which is referenced by name a few times, including the name of an, ah, exotic club). Although Satan dismisses the accuracy of the specialization of sinners in Dante’s Inferno – “sinners tend to be general practitioners”.

 

And at the outset, Satan narrates that he is not the evil being (nor is hell the inferno) of mythology:

 

“The truth of the matter is, I am not the Father of Evil…I am not a seducer. Or an accuser. Or a destroyer…But let me tell you something. You never hear of a vengeful Satan, a Satan of wrath, a Satan who brings on pestilence and famine. That’s the other fellow. You should keep this in mind”.

 

 

Although it is devilishly funny in its entirety, the highlight (and centerpiece) of the book is undoubtedly the seven psychotherapy sessions with Kassler, agreed by the latter in a literal deal with the devil in exchange for Satan’s revelation of the Great Secret of Life. These sessions resemble a verbal (or theological) duel, in which, as you’d imagine, Satan generally has the upper hand – “If I wanted orthodox Freudian analysis, I’d be seeing Freud…Freud cured Hitler, you know. Hitler. He had the bastard weeping over his mother by the third session and studying the Talmud by the fifth”.

 

However, Kassler does on occasions hold his own – “You could ask God’s forgiveness, as I pointed out during our last session, but that would mean you’d have to give up some considerable status. You’d just be another glorious silver-winged, golden-haloed angel, rather humdrum if you ask me”.

 

 

And in the end, of course, he does find the cure for Satan – and Satan indeed repays him with the Great Secret of Life, although it is not quite to Kassler’s liking…

 

I and my sense of religion were never the same after reading this book – and Satan forever changed for me from a supernatural figure of childhood Catholic fear to a more mythic figure of the human condition, as forlorn and lost as any of us.

 

RATING: IT’S A RAVE – 5 STARS*****

 

 

(1) JOSEPH HELLER – CATCH-22 (1961)

 

“There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to he was sane and had to.”

 

 

Yeah – this is the big one. This is the book that changed me forever. If you peel back the layers of my psyche, you’d find this book lodged deep in my adolescent mind (ego and id). Even more than any fantasy or science fiction book, this book is the lens by which I see the world – an absurdist and at times black comedy. Life is the laughter of the gods – but sometimes they have a black sense of humor…

 

A satirical antiwar novel written by Joseph Heller, Catch-22 focuses on Yossarian, an American bombardier in the Second World War, who would very much like to not be a bombardier in the Second World War – “He had decided to live forever or die in the attempt, and his only mission each time he went up was to come back down alive”.

 

It is anachronistic, both in satirizing more contemporary American society in the context of the Second World War, but also in its distinctive non-linear or “non-chronological omniscient third person” narrative, with the plot seemingly an assortment of random events on base, shifting focus across several characters (who are among the most humorous character vignettes in literary fiction) – although linked by the main focus on Yossarian and a mysterious recurring story arc of references to a Snowden (“I’m cold”), the latter being unveiled in the penultimate chapter.

 

“Many events in the book are repeatedly described from differing points of view, so the reader learns more about each event from each iteration, with the new information often completing a joke, the setup of which was told several chapters previously. The narrative’s events are out of sequence, but events are referred to as if the reader is already familiar with them so that the reader must ultimately piece together a timeline of events. Specific words, phrases, and questions are also repeated frequently, generally to comic effect.

Much of Heller’s prose in Catch-22 is circular and repetitive, exemplifying in its form the structure of a Catch-22. Circular reasoning is widely used by some characters to justify their actions and opinions. Heller revels in paradox, for example: “The Texan turned out to be good-natured, generous and likable. In three days no one could stand him”, and “The case against Clevinger was open and shut. The only thing missing was something to charge him with.” This atmosphere of apparently logical irrationality pervades the book”.

 

By the way, that last reference to the case against Clevinger is to the kangaroo court martial of one of the serviceman, one of my favorite comic passages in fiction – and in a satire of court process no less:

 

“…Now, where were we? Read me back the last line.”

“‘Read me back the last line,'” read back the corporal who could take shorthand.

“Not my last line, stupid!” the colonel shouted. “Somebody else’s.”

“‘Read me back the last line,'” read back the corporal.

“That’s my line again!” shrieked the colonel, turning purple with anger.

“Oh, no, sir,” corrected the corporal. “That’s my last line. I read it to you just a moment ago. Don’t you remember, sir? It was only a moment ago.”

“Oh, my god! Read me back his last line, stupid. Say, what the hell’s your name, anyway?”

“Popinjay, sir.”

“Well, you’re next, Popinjay. As soon as his trial ends, your trial begins. Get it?”

 

Most events or characters highlight the absurdities of government, society and war – and, well, life, the universe and everything. Many details that seem random become significant later on, often with much darker implications – “previously the reader had been cushioned from experiencing the full horror of events in war, but in the final section, the events are laid bare”, starting with the squadron bombing an undefended Italian mountain village (where the villagers wave at them) and getting darker (although it ends on an upbeat note).

 

And of course the novel originated the titular expression to describe a no-win situation or a double bind. (The number 22 itself has no actual significance and seems to have been chosen arbitrarily. The original title was Catch-18, and that didn’t have any significance either).

 

In the words of the New York Herald Tribune, “a wild, moving, shocking, hilarious, raging, exhilarating, giant roller-coaster of a book”.

 

RATING – IT’S A RAVE! 5 STARS***** (O YES – 5 STARS*****)

 

 

 

Fantasy Girls – Top 10 Girls of Fairy Tales: (3) Cinderella

 

 

FANTASY GIRLS – TOP 10 GIRLS OF FAIRY TALES: (3) CINDERELLA

 

Albeit a somewhat passive protagonist in her original fairy tale (through magic and marriage), Cinderella is one of the oldest, best known and most universal stories in the world, the archetypal fairy tale princess from rags to royalty. As TV Tropes quips, lost footwear resonates with us all!

 

cinderellatumblr_ljiujhB5rT1qinf13o1_500

 

Cinderella is the persecuted heroine (as classified by the fascinating Aarne-Thompson system of classification of fairy tales), who rises from unjust oppression to triumphant reward through beauty and magic.

 

Or perhaps a ballroom blitz!

Or perhaps a ballroom blitz!

 

As usual with classic fairy tales (and persecuted heroines), there are many interpretations or versions, including modern adaptations and subversions – in which there are variations of the villains (female or male), the events, her magical patron (I have a soft spot for the Grimm version, in which it is her dead mother who plays fairy godmother), the object of identification (the classic glass slipper is the Charles Perrault version adapted by Disney) and the final revelation.

 

 

It’s problematic to refer to an ‘original’ Cinderella. In popular culture, most people would recall the Disney version, itself adapted from Perrault’s literary version.

 

Well perhaps not this Disney version

 

However, there’s the Chinese fairy tale version of Yeh-Shen from the ninth century and the ancient Greek tale version of Rhodopis, a courtesan (somewhat more realistic) who married the Pharaoh – as recorded in the first century. BC, that is. It’s also been a favorite story of British pantomine for over a century (in which it adds the characters of Dandini and Buttons).

 

 

As for cosplay, there’s not too much and most of it obviously influenced by Disney’s blue costumed Cinderella (as indeed is most art) but there’s a surprising amount of Cinderella themed lingerie or ‘adult’ costumes – which suggests things might have got a lot more interesting if Cinderella had just stuck around after midnight when her dress disappeared…

Friday Night Funk: Marky Mark & The Funky Bunch – Good Vibrations (1991)

The resemblance is uncanny

 

FRIDAY NIGHT FUNK: MARKY MARK & THE FUNKY BUNCH – GOOD VIBRATIONS (1991)

 

And again we go back to old school, ah…hip hop? Although in this case, it’s more novelty than classic, and I feature it primarily because I owe it my rap name for my music or dance incarnation as Starky Stark and the Funky Bunch.

 

 

Anyone remember Mark Wahlberg before he was a model or actor? No? Well, he started in music –  the younger brother of Donnie Wahlberg of New Kids on the Block, he was actually one of the group’s original members before quitting after only a few months. He then started up his Funky Bunch, with this single from their debut album as their, ah, big hit.

10 Ways Nazi Germany Sucked at War: (8) They Sucked at Logistics

 

10 WAYS NAZI GERMANY SUCKED AT WAR: (8) THEY SUCKED AT LOGISTICS

 

Again – “You have horses! What were you thinking?”

 

This is perhaps the microeconomic version of Nazi Germany’s general economic deficiencies – logistics or supplying its forces in the field, among other things its reliance on horse-drawn transport.

 

There’s an adage about military discussion – amateurs talk tactics, professionals talk logistics. And for a nation that prided itself on its military professionalism, Germany had consistent deficiencies in logistics.

 

In fairness, that was consistent for Germany in both world wars, as a combination of a military culture that placed less emphasis on its forces’ support ‘tail’ (as opposed to their combat ‘tooth’, in the military slang of ‘tooth-to-tail’ ratio) and its overestimation of its military force – with its cavalier hand-waving away logistical problems, while trusting to fortune favoring the bold (or foolhardy).

 

To return to the Schlieffen Plan of Imperial Germany – committing the majority of its forces to a quick knockout victory over France on Western Front before turning to Russia on Eastern Front – one of its primary difficulties was the logistical difficulties in supplying those forces advancing into France.

 

However, as usual, Nazi Germany exceeded the logistic deficiencies of its predecessor, notwithstanding more advanced means of transport on land (or air). The primary example of this is the Eastern Front and particularly Operation Barbarossa, where problems of supply were a constant constraint, perhaps most famously with its winter gear. Indeed, its final desperate winter offensive against Moscow was more born from a ‘counsel of despair that it was better to advance to cover than remain exposed in the open.

 

Not to mention that most famous of Nazi German military leaders who fought his own supply lines as vigorously as he did his enemy – Rommel. Rommel was an effective tactical commander, particularly at a smaller level and on the offensive, but in many ways he embodied the strategic and logistical flaws of Nazi Germany itself – and his North African campaign in 1941-1943 was a microcosm of Nazi Germany in the Second World War. Rommel would have been better off sticking to his original orders to remain on the  defensive, just as Germany would have been better off not going to war at all. Germany (and any historical fantasies of a ‘Mediterranean strategy’) had limited means in its logistics and supply to North Africa, let alone any historical fantasies of a ‘Mediterranean strategy’ advancing into the Middle East – there was only so much Italian shipping (and only so many Italian naval forces to protect it from attack) to North Africa, only so much North African port facilities could carry, and most of all, only so much fuel trucks could carry before they started consuming it themselves. Hence the extent to which the North African theater would see-saw between both sides depending on their supply lines. Effectively, there was only so far Rommel’s forces could go and only so much they could achieve due to their logistics and supplies (against the superior logistics and resources of the Allies) – and nothing of strategic consequence for Germany, although like Germany, Rommel tended to dismiss the problems of logistics or supplies with wishful thinking (or blame them on his Italian allies).

 

10 Ways Nazi Germany Sucked at War: (7) Their Economy Sucked

 

10 WAYS NAZI GERMANY SUCKED AT WAR: (7) THEIR ECONOMY SUCKED

 

“Say hello to Ford! And General f*****g Motors! You have horses! What were you thinking?”

 

This is the big one. Like most wars, the Second World War was won through material superiority – overwhelming Allied material superiority “that was applied on the battlefield to ever increasing effect during and after 1942”. The fundamental economic deficiency of Nazi Germany was its inability or outright failure to win the contest for material superiority.

 

But first, let’s take a step back for a pet peeve of mine – the common misconception of the Hitler’s or Nazi Germany’s economic proficiency in its management (or even ‘miracle’) for the recovery from the Depression and reduction of unemployment before the war:

  • Firstly, Hitler and his ideology only saw the economy, much like the state itself, as an instrument for rearmament and war
  • Secondly, the Nazi regime rode on the back of the preceding Weimar Republic, with its public works – including the autobahns often attributed to the Nazi regime
  • Thirdly, the author of the economic recovery was primarily Hjalmar Schacht, appointed by Hitler as Minister of Economics and president of the national bank (a position he also held in the Weimar Republic)
  • Fourthly, Nazi Germany was effective in its economic recovery, but at the cost of high public debt and, more fundamentally, only to a point. That point was when Hitler’s massive military spending threatened to derail the Germany economy. Schacht resigned as Minister of Economics, leaving Goering to drive the economy into the ground much as he did the Luftwaffe. At that point, the German economy started to resemble a runaway Ponzi scheme – or military kleptocracy – that could be sustained only by looting other countries of their resources, starting with Austria’s gold and foreign currency reserves. Nazi Germany started the war with national debt at about 120% of its economy – the same level of debt with which the United States finished the war. Or in other words, the United States took on debt to fight a war while Nazi Germany took on a war to fight its debt.

Of course, even their war economy of plunder succeeded only to a point – and that point was the inability or failure of the Nazi war economy to win the contest against Allied material superiority. Despite the popular image of blitzkrieg, outside a small component of its forces, the German army had an astonishing lack of mechanization and was mostly horse-drawn – much like Napoleon’s army that invaded Russia the previous century and unlike the fully mechanized Anglo-American army that swept across western Europe, hence the featured quote. Like its ally Japan, Germany only achieved the peak of their aircraft production (although still hopelessly behind that of the Allies) in 1944 – at the very time when they had effectively exhausted their fuel supplies and pilot training programs.

 

This stands in marked contrast to the Allies, who “achieved both a massive increase of production and a balance of production that eluded their enemies”. Between 1939 and 1943, Britain out-produced Germany despite the latter’s greater industrial capacity (and even in 1944, when Germany produced more aircraft, Britain continued to out-produce Germany in aircraft weight – in many ways the more accurate yardstick of aircraft production). The Soviet Union out-produced Germany in aircraft, tanks and guns, particularly for the critical battles of 1942-1943. As for the United States, it was in a class of its own – “whereas in 1942 the productive capacity available to the (Axis) European powers was superior to the United States, the latter out-produced Germany four-fold”.

 

It is impossible go into full detail for the reasons of this inability or failure of the Nazi war economy here, although in The Great Crusade, Willmot summarizes it simply as the German (and Japanese) preoccupation with the acquisition of resources contrasted with the Allied practice of expanded capacity and output. (Elsewhere he cites a British cabinet paper which stated that Germany had factories but no resources and Japan had resources but no factories). Nazi Germany, like its Japanese ally, had “aspects of political, industrial and administrative organization that prevented their full mobilization of resources”. They “tied output to changing and often ill-defined requirements at the expense of production”, a problem which for Germany (and Japan) “was exaggerated by the primacy of designers rather than production managers”, hence the featured image. Neither Germany nor Japan “had the transport infrastructure, the long-term investment plans and financial reserves, the management techniques and the skilled labor necessary to turn economic potential into war material on the scale necessary to meet their widening military commitments”.

 

The fundamental economic deficiency and material inferiority of Nazi Germany lent itself to the Nazi emphasis on the political and psychological aspects of warfare – or the virtual Nazi ghost dance of ‘triumph of the will’. As I said before, history usually has a term for people who try to win wars against materially superior forces through ghost dances or magic – losers. Of course, Nazi Germany then and Nazi fanboys now often try to slight Allied material superiority:

 

“The industrial performance of the Allied powers is often slightingly considered as if the fighting and winning of wars of attrition on the basis of superior strength represents no real achievement, but wars between great industrial powers necessarily involve attrition, and in terms of their direction and management of their war economies, the Allied powers displayed a more profound understanding of the business of war than enemies that were poorly organized and stressed the political and psychological aspects of conflict at the expense of the material”.

 

Oh – and fanboys of Nazi economic proficiency? Konrad Adenauer, West Germany’s leader after the Second World War, built a better and more stable economy – from a lower base (and with cities in ruin from Hitler’s war), in less time, with less people, with less land, and without slave labor or needing to prop up his economy by plunging the world into a war that killed millions.

10 Ways Nazi Germany Sucked at War: (6) They Sucked at Political Diplomacy

 

10 WAYS NAZI GERMANY SUCKED AT WAR: (6) THEY SUCKED AT POLITICAL DIPLOMACY

 

What a surprise – Nazis are good at, ahem, pissing other people off. Although in fairness, the Germans generally were in both world wars.

 

In more formal terms, they were consistently deficient in political diplomacy – a broader extension of their failure to have effective allies or coordinate with them effectively, or indeed, their inability to understand the limits of military force within war and their national power within the world, as political diplomacy strives to keep conflict within those limits.

 

As I’ve said before, it’s as if the one German leader who understood those limits, Bismarck, used up all Germany’s political diplomacy for the next sixty years. Whenever Germany has succeeded, it has done so by essentially following a Bismarckian strategy – striving to keep the peace and balance of power in Europe, particularly through good relations or at least some sort of arrangement to avoid conflict with Russia, trusting to Germany’s position as the most populous and prosperous state in continental Europe (outside Russia) to achieve predominance. That is how Germany returned to predominance after the Second World War – the arrangement to avoid conflict with Russia (or the Soviet Union) essentially being the European alliance with the United States.

 

Accordingly, Germany’s consistent deficiencies in both world wars can be mapped out by its lapses from Bismarckian strategy – foremost among which was the failure of Germany’s leaders to apprehend that their most effective ‘ally’ was Russia, at least in terms of avoiding conflict with Germany’s larger and more populous neighbor. Instead, Imperial Germany found itself increasingly in conflict with Russia – and worse, potentially encircled by an alliance between Russia and France. Astute political diplomacy might have counterbalanced that with some sort of détente or arrangement with Britain – history has paid a heavy price for the failure to form an Anglo-German Entente – but Imperial Germany antagonized Britain with its rival naval and colonial ambitions (in which Bismarck had little interest). Germany compounded this by characteristically ignored the long-term political consequences of infringing Belgium’s neutrality with respect to Britain entering the war for the short-term military advantage of attacking France – just as it did for submarine warfare against Britain with respect to the United States entering the war (not to mention the incredibly inept promise to ally with Mexico attacking the United States).

 

Ironically, although Nazi Germany similarly lapsed into the same conflict as its predecessor, it initially had more success with what might be called a neo-Bismarckian strategy – firstly, in its diplomatic offensives that outmaneuvered its adversaries, at least until they resulted in actual war, but even then in initially containing that war to campaigns that matched its military capacity. Of course, that was never going to last – most directly because Nazi Germany once again failed to recognize that their most effective ‘ally’ was the Soviet Union through the Nazi-Soviet Pact, without which Nazi Germany would not have been able to invade Poland, go to war with the western Allies and defeat France in the first place. That all came crashing down when Nazi Germany abandoned the Pact to attack the Soviet Union instead (rivalled only by its incredibly inept declaration of war on the United States).

 

In addition to that, Nazi Germany could not or would not offer anything to exploit divisions within or between its adversaries – despite those divisions resulting in cold war between former allies as soon as they had defeated Germany – or to the subjects of its conquests as a political alternative to military victory:

 

Neither Germany nor Japan “had the political will and moral authority to enable them to supplement their own war efforts by enlisting the support of peoples under their jurisdiction. Throughout the areas they conquered both Germany and Japan installed puppet administrations, yet in their determination to reserve for themselves the power of decision, neither would sponsor client regimes that could mobilize support for the Axis cause even when potential support existed. German and Japanese attitudes were determined in part by the fact that neither Axis power was prepared to rely on anyone other than their own nationals for the order and effective exploitation of conquered territories. In essence, this failure to tap the potential goodwill of various conquered peoples was the product of philosophies that offered subjected peoples nothing other than slavery or death”.