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Reasons for the Defeat of the Germans

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Published: Tue, 05 Sep 2017

Reasons for the Defeat of the Germans and the Results of Victory

17 January 1945

Entry of the Soviets in Warsaw

13 February

Destruction of Dresden

25 April

Meeting of the Soviet an US forces

2May

Storming of the Reichstag, end of the Battle of Berlin

8 May

German unconditional surrender

Took an unexpectedly long time- it was obvious by late 1944 and victory seemed imminent with the Germans retreating on all fronts. The victory was delayed due to the insistence on an unconditional surrender (no armistice) by the allies and Stalin feared his allies would make a separate peace so the unconditional surrender was partly to reassure him.

Stalin wanted to win the race for Berlin before the American’s. 

  • Pushed west at maximum pace liberating Warsaw, Budapest, Prague and Vienna.
    • Continuous all-out full frontal assaults, regardless of casualty counts.
  • Allied Supreme Commander General Eisenhower allowed the Soviets to win to minimise casualties and clashes with the USSR.
    • March 27th, 1934 slow the advance order.

By early 1945 the German war effort was badly weakened by the mass bombings of cities such as Dresden which where industrial hubs. The Red army reached the outskirts of Berlin and met the USA at Torgau on the Elbe.

  • Final battle of Berlin.
    • General Zhukov used tactics that caused very high losses.
      • For Stalin, the defeat was as much military as political.
        • He wished to control as much of Central Europe and Germany providing a buffer zone against any future threats
          • The symbol of victory was the storming of the Reichstag on 2nd May 1945.

Reasons for the Defeat of the Germans

Soviet Strength:

  • The USSR’s geographical size made it effectively impossible for a knock-out blow.
    • German forces constantly faced the problems of being dangerous overstretched and the lines of communication.
      • The size allowed new armies and industrial bases to be built beyond reach.
  • Population (171,000,000 in 1941) nearly three times Germany’s (Hitler did have the annexed populations too), the USSR could sacrifice men in a way impossible for the Germans.
  • Vast natural resources (oil)m the longer the war went on the stronger the Soviet military-industrial power became, outproducing the Germans in everything by 1943.
  • Command Economy established before the war, well-suited to total war and the emergency mobilisation of workers and resources.
  • Leadership, after a bad start the USSR became ruthlessly effective, Stalin was a very capable war leader and his generals became highly competent, Propaganda and patriotism motivated the armed forces and civilians to fight and endure.

German weaknesses:

  • Failure of the rapid initial victory.
  • December 1941, two front war.
  • Germany lacked self-sufficiency, by 1943 to 1944 war production depended on all-out exploitation of dwindling economic and human resources.
  • Hitler made strategic mistakes sacking best generals in favour of yes men.
    • Abolished the War ministry replacing it with a high council he headed installing von Brauchitsch and Keitel to replace Fritsch.
  • No winter coats.
  • Germans alienated the nationalities provoking resistance and partisans.

Allied Contribution:

  • Dangerous threat to Hitler on other fronts (two front war)
  • Mass bombing campaigns by British and Americans from 1943 caused huge damage to German industry weakening the resources available to fight on the Eastern Front.
  • Allied secret intelligence gained via code breaking undermined German effort at crucial times (Stalin never informed directly)
  • Enormous amounts of military and economic aid.

Results of victory for the USSR:

Emerges at the new world superpower, galvanised the USSR and unleashed its huge economic potential. The war badly weakened other European powers and made the USSR dominant militarily. Germany as the main enemy was: occupied, economically destroyed and likely to be demilitarised.

  • For the regime, it was the ‘glow of victory’; that vindicated the communist ideology, offering a ‘road to socialism’ as a replacement for fascism and an alternative system for capitalism.
  • Massive territorial expansion incorporating: the Baltic states and parts of East Prussia.
    • They also took over many East Central European countries that were weak and established pro-Soviet regimes.
      • Also, caused one of the largest migrations in history 12,000,000 refugees, mostly ethnic Germans fled between 1944-1945 as the Red Army advanced.
  • Despite the extent of the victory fears and insecurity remained.
    • Stalin was anxious about the economic power of the USA.
      • Feared a resurgent Germany (he wanted to break in into 300 independent states and make them farmland to supply food to Moscow)
        • Feared and distrusted his own people and repressed any who returned including soldiers and prisoners of war.
  • Disagreements on the Four-Power Occupation of Berlin, even after the moment of victory it was obvious an overall peace would be difficult.
    • Germany drawn into 4 occupation zones (Soviet, French, American, British).
      • Berlin was entirely within the Soviet Zone but was divided into 4 zones ruled by a Joint Allied Control Commission.
        • Led to recurrent disputes between the USSR and the West.

BUT AT A MASIVE PRICE:

Post-war Reconstruction:

The industry was devastated, not least in part due to the war claiming 1/8of the population and causing massive dislocation. Stalin promised in 1945 that the USSR would become the leading industrial power by 1960.

  • Gosplan was instructed to prepare the 4th Five Year Plan for economic recovery.
    • Set ambitious targets for industry (85%) and agriculture.
      • 1/3 expenditure to be spent on the Ukraine which had been mostly devastated by the war.
      • Very important for industry and agriculture.

Stalin set out to exceed pre-war levels by three times to recovery, causing an upswing in the economy allowing for rationing to be abolished and for consumer goods to be produced!

Industry:

Much of the industry needed to be switched away from military and back to the civilian economy. Industry struggled to adjust to peace in 1946:

  • Mining: down over 50% 1940
  • Electricity production: down 48%
  • Steel: down 55%
  • Transport: widely disrupted.
  • Workforce: diminished, exhausted.

Problems intensified by the sudden ending of Foreign aid (Lend Lease) 08/1945.

Despite the difficulties by 1950 there was considerable industrial recovery:

1940

1945

1950

Coal (Tons)

165.9

149.3

261.1

Oil (Tons)

31.1

19.3

37.9

Steel (Tons)

18.3

12.3

27.3

Cement (Tons)

5.7

1.3

10.1

Electricity (Kilowatts)

48.3

43.2

91.2

The Soviets demanded the fulfilment of full war reparations from enemy countries, even those who had pro-Soviet governments. Huge amounts of material and equipment travelled East (mostly scrap metal) from occupied Germany. Sometimes entire factories and workers were moved to Russia, the effect of this is probably small however.

Under the 4th five-year plan recovery was impressive:

  • Steady increase in consumer goods.
  • Rebuilding of the heavy industry.
  • Some steady living standard growth.
  • By 1948 wages reached 1938 levels.

Agriculture:

DEVASTATED:

Gosplan figures of losses:

  • Kolkhoz: 98,000
  • Tractors: 137,000
  • Combine Harvesters: 49,000
  • Horses: 7,000,000 (meat and war)
  • Cattle: 17,000,000
  • Pigs: 20,000,000
  • Sheep: 27,000,000
  • Food: -60% 1940 levels.

Poor prospects hindered by:

  • Sever labour shortage as many peasants were the body of the army (27,000,000 people dead overall does not take in those injured)
  • Scorched earth policy hurts the Ukrainian bread basket.
  • Only 75% land cultivated in 1940 was cultivated in 1945.
  • 1946 driest year since 1891, and the HARVEST WAS POOR ONTOP OF THIS!
    • Led to some regions experiencing famine:
      • Famine of 1946-1947 began in Ukraine and Central Russia (Stalin’s most hated areas…) physical aspect not helped by dislocation caused by the war, especially shortage of labourers and lack of machinery. Nothing on the stage of the Great Famine… Khrushchev claimed that in both Stalin exported grain abroad rather than relieving the famine.

Letter to local Politburo representative on the management of a collective farm in Western Siberia September 1948 adapted by Noah:

“Why should we give you everything and not receive a gram back, undermining the economy of collective farms. We realise that during the war the grain was needed to supply the army and we gladly gave up everything. We had poor harvests in 45, 46, 47 but we gave everything for the recovery. How come in 1948 we can’t keep some? We hoped that after achieving quota we could give out one kilo per work day, with these collections taking more than the quota we have nothing, there is not enough seed to sow for 1949, we don’t see a crumb of bread and live off potato.”

The recovery:

  • Was slow and patchy, the 4-5YP bought some increases but failed to reach targets.
  • By Stalin’s death the agricultural sector was unsatisfactory but some areas recovered better.
    • However, the famine cycle in Russia was broken 0 famine since 1947.
  • One major thing holding back recovery was Stalin himself:
    • His book: ‘Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR’ 1952.
      • The writings were undeniable and this discouraged innovation and change.
        • After Stalin’s death, the successors felt they had to introduce reforms and concessions to peasant farmers to alleviate their problems.

1940

1947

1948

1949

1950

1951

1952

Grain (tons)

95.6

65.9

67.2

70.2

81.2

78.7

92.2

Potatoes (tons)

76.1

74.5

95

89.6

88.5

58.7

69.2

Cotton (tons)

2.2

1.7

2.2

2.5

3.5

3.7

3.8

Cattle (m head)

28

23

23.8

24.2

24.6

24.3

25.0

Speech at the Supreme Soviet by Georgii Malenkov, published in Izvestia, 09/07/1953 (post Stalin GM in temporary control), adapted by Noah:

“Until now [Stalin’s death] we have not been able to develop light industry and the food industry at the same pace as heavy. We are obliged to ensure more rapid improvement in people’s living standards. We must significantly increase the output of consumer goods and in grain production. We need to reduce compulsory quotas from collective farms and reduce agricultural taxes.”

Summary:

  • War was won at a great cost.
    • But vindicated Stalin’s role as leader.
  • Post-war reconstruction was more successful than may have been expected in 1945 amid the ruins.

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