Verlorene Siege: Wikis

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Erich von Manstein

Verlorene Siege (German: Lost Victories; full title of English edition: Lost Victories: The War Memoirs of Hitler's Most Brilliant General) is the personal narrative of Erich von Manstein, a German Field Marshal during World War II. It was published in German in 1955 and the English edition was released in 1958.

In the book, Manstein presented his own experiences, ideas and decisions as they appeared to him at the time. He wrote his book not as a historical investigator, but as one who played an active part in the story he was relating. The book ends with Manstein’s dismissal in March 1944.

Contents

Situation on the eve of war

On the eve of World War II, Hitler's unprecedented successes in the pre-war period, which included the remilitarization of the Rhineland, the Anschluss of Austria, and the peaceful conquest of the Czech Republic, meant that the generals of the general staff had begun to trust him, believing that he would never lead the country into a war on two fronts, as the German leaders of 1914 had done.[1]

Successful campaigns in Poland and France

Manstein started the war as Rundstedt's Chief of Staff during the invasion of Poland.[2] According to Manstein, Rundstedt was "[a brilliant] exponent of grand tactics ... a talented soldier who grasped the essentials of any problem in an instant ... a type of old-guard soldier ... a man from the past."[3] From the very first day Poland could only fight for time.[4] He alleged lack of a clear military doctrine:

The Polish General Staff did not possess its own tradition of generalship shaped by long experience. On the one hand the Polish temperament was more disposed towards attack than defence. It is fair to assume that the mind of the Polish soldier was still coloured, at lest subconsciously, by romantic notions from bygone days. I am reminded here of a portrait I once saw of Marshal Rydz–Śmigły painted against a background of charging Polish cavalry squadrons. On the other hand the newly founded Polish Army was French-taught.[5]

Manstein prepared the plan to invade France (Operation Order Yellow, or Fall Gelb) through the Ardennes. This plan was rejected by the German High Command (OKH),[6] but Manstein brought it to the personal attention of Hitler, who enthusiastically adopted it as his own plan. Operation Order Yellow according to Manstein was – after it had conducted – "one of the most brilliant campaigns in German history".[7] Manstein's 38 Army corps was involved in the second phase of the Battle for France, and conducted an exhausting but successful drive into southern France.[8] Manstein did not always follow Hitler's orders.

Operation Sea Lion

After the collapse of France, Hitler had hoped that Britain would make peace,[9] but when disappointed he began to make preparations for a cross-channel invasion.[10] Manstein was entrusted with the task of leading the initial landing with his corps, which was moved to the Boulogne-Calais area for the purpose (Operation Sea Lion).[11] British policy was the traditional striving for a European balance of power, the restoration of which had been Britain's ultimate motive for entering the war, since it demanded the defeat of a Germany which had became too powerful on the continent. "British eyes were blind to the fact that the big need in a changed world would be to create a world balance of power in view of the might which the Soviet Union had attained and the dangers inherent in its dedication to the idea of world revolution. (...) In addition to all this, Churchill was probably too much of a fighter."[12]

While the Battle of Britain raged, Manstein's 38 Corps was prepared on the Channel coast for the invasion of Britain,[13] which never came. Hitler had two reasons for dropping the Sea Lion plan. One was the fact that the preparations took so long that the first wave could not have crossed until 24 September at the earliest. The second was the fact that even by this date the Luftwaffe had not attained the requisite air supremacy over British territory.[14] The Luftwaffe had to operate under unfavourable conditions.[15]

At the end of September, 38 Corps went back to normal training.[16] At the end of February Manstein handed over command of 38 Corps in order to take over 56 Panzer Corps.[17]

Eastern Front

After the invasion of Russia Manstein, with his 56th Panzer Corps, made one of the quickest and deepest thrusts of the opening stage, from East Prussia to the Dvina river, over 200 miles, within four days.[18] In 26th July he suggested to Paulus that he use the entire Panzer Group in offensive against Moscow, but not use it in an offensive against Leningrad because of wooded area. The armoured forces would reach Leningrad after the infantry. Paulus initially agreed with Manstein but things turned out quite differently.[19] He nearly captured Leningrad, but was instead sent to the south. In July 1942 he captured Sevastopol. In December 1942 he almost succeeded in relieving the encircled 6th Army in and around Stalingrad. Manstein suggested to Paulus that he make a breakout, but Paulus followed Hitler's orders to hold Stalingrad under all circumstances. Manstein was stopped 48 km before Stalingrad.[20] In February 1943 his forces succeeded in recapturing Kharkov.

According to Manstein, who was commander of the forces in the south German sector at that time, the Operation Citadel (the offensive against Kursk) was left too late, and German forces were unable to break through. He also stated that Hitler had stopped the attack too soon, a decision he described as "tantamount to throwing away a victory".[21] From then until his relief in March 1944, Manstein conducted a fighting retreat behind the various river lines in southern Russia such as the (Dnieper[22] and the Dniester).[23] Hitler had forbidden his armed forces to fortify river lines.

In March 1944, Manstein was dismissed when he asked for permission for the retreat of Army Group South (immediate withdrawal behind the Dniester), which he commanded.[24]

Hitler as supreme commander

Manstein had a different conception of the war from Hitler: he wanted to retreat from a seemingly linear front defence. Hitler did not want to accept this, however, because any retreat would associate him with defeatism.[25]

The book covers the lack of a war plan in detail. Hitler did not allow detailed planning of large-scale military operations.[26]

According to Manstein, Germany would have won the war on the Eastern Front if the generals, rather than Hitler, had been in command. 

Reception

After Verlorene Siege was published, Die Zeit asked the question: "What would it have signified for the world and for Germany, what would it have signified for a Christian and gentleman like Manstein if these victories had not been lost?"[27]

According to Martin Blumenson (1981), Verlorene Siege is “the best book of memoirs on the German side and it is indispensable for understanding the conditions and circumstances of Hitler’s war.”[28]

See also

References

  1. ^ Erich v. Manstein, Lost Victories: The War Memoirs of Hitler's Most Brilliant General, p. 24; Erich v. Manstein, Verlorene Siege (Frankfurt am Main 1969), S. 14
  2. ^ Lost Victories: The War Memoirs of Hitler's Most Brilliant General, p. 22 ff
  3. ^ Lost Victories..., p. 23; Verlorene Siege, S. 13
  4. ^ Lost Victories..., p. 45
  5. ^ Lost Victories..., p. 41
  6. ^ Lost Victories..., pp. 108-109
  7. ^ Lost Victories..., p. 72
  8. ^ Lost Victories..., p. 127-147
  9. ^ Lost Victories..., p. 154
  10. ^ Lost Victories..., p. 157
  11. ^ Lost Victories..., pp. 152-162
  12. ^ Lost Victories..., p. 156
  13. ^ Lost Victories..., p. 166 ff; Verlorene Siege, S. 166
  14. ^ Lost Victories..., p. 166
  15. ^ Lost Victories..., p. 167
  16. ^ Lost Victories..., p. 175; Verlorene Siege, S. 171
  17. ^ Lost Victories..., p. 175; Verlorene Siege, S. 171
  18. ^ Lost Victories..., p. 182-183; Verlorene Siege, S. 182-183
  19. ^ Lost Victories..., p. 198; Verlorene Siege, S. 198
  20. ^ Lost Victories..., p. 337 ff
  21. ^ Lost Victories..., p. 449
  22. ^ Lost Victories..., pp. 472-475; Verlorene Siege, SS. 541-544
  23. ^ Lost Victories..., p. 450
  24. ^ Lost Victories..., p. 533
  25. ^ Lost Victories..., p. 455 ff
  26. ^ Lost Victories: The War Memoirs of Hitler's Most Brilliant General, p. 273 ff
  27. ^ Marianne Regensburger, Mansteins-verlorene-Siege, Zeit Online 07.07.1955 Nr. 27
  28. ^ Lost Victories: The War Memoirs of Hitler's Most Brilliant General (Zenith Press, 2004), p. 11

Further reading

  • Erich Von Manstein, Verlorene Siege. Erinnerungen 1939 - 1944 (Bonn 1955)
  • Erich Von Manstein, Verlorene Siege (Frankfurt am Main 1969)
  • Erich Von Manstein, Lost Victories: The War Memoirs of Hitler's Most Brilliant General, translated by Anthony G. Powell with a foreword by B. H. Liddel Hart, (London 1958)

External links

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