Stauffenberg plot stemmed from disagreement over Eastern Front occupation policy?

9 posts

President Camacho

In Teuton and Slav: The Struggle for Central Europe , author Hermann Schreiber (NCO in the Wehrmacht during the events in question) seems to make the case that the July 20, 1944 attempt on Hitler's life was part of a much wider movement of the Wehrmacht officer corps to steer Germany towards a more conciliatory path towards the Slavs on the Eastern Front. This was not out of humanitarian concerns (although certain elements of the Prussian officer corps were horrified with total war), but rather to bolster German strategy in the East by more fully mobilizing the non-German population for wartime production and the formation of auxiliary units.

Of course, by 1944 it was far too late for either this or a conciliation with the Western powers which could have followed from it. Yet Schreiber traces the roots of the plot back to a time when it could have made a difference:

On December 18. 1942, Dr. Georg Leibbrandt and General Eduard Wagner called a conference of cooler heads at the Ministry for Eastern Affairs. The meeting was to consider means of counteracting the pressure of fanatical Party ideology and initiating at the eleventh hour a more conciliatory policy towards the population of the occupied regions. Leibbrandt came of a Russo-German family domiciled in the Odessa district. He had studied in Paris and the United States. Since then he had been regarded by the Security Police as a crypto-internationalist and freemason.​

Owing to their representations and those of Bormann, who considered Leibbrandt a "pro-Ukranian", this intelligent official was forced in 1943 to resign from the Ministry and disappear into uniform. Wagner, Quartermaster-General of the Army, had already, in December, 1941, addressed an extremely frank memorandum to Rosenberg, pointing out that,​

Leibbrandt, Wagner, and others present were first-rate professional men. No one at the conference intended any harm to German interests. All, on the contrary, were most anxious to avert from Germany and Central Europe the catastrophe they could see was imminent. Dallin pertinently notes that some who attended paid with their lives two years later for a further desperate attempt, on July 20, 1944, to save Germany from its fate. Such were Claus von Stauffenberg, General von Schenkendorf, First Lieutenant Fabian von Schlabrendorff and others. This implies a connection between the German resistance movement and German policy in the east, which affords a gleam of consolation through the profound darkness of those years.​

It has been roundly confirmed that Russians and other Slavs, when asked who behaved most upright in the East, all answered that it was the Wehrmacht, and landed responsibility for nearly all the atrocities on the Einsatzgruppen and occupation administrators behind the front lines. Just how widespread was the Wehrmacht officer corps' distrust of Hitler and National Socialist methods in general?

Erich von Manstein, one of the most celebrated generals of the Third Reich, refused to cooperate in the July 20 plot ("A Prussian officer doesn't mutiny"), but he also, notably, did not turn in the conspirators to the Secret Police.
Stars Down To Earth

Sorry for necromancing this thread, but is there any way I can get my hands on that book? Sounds interesting.

Wasn't going to happen. Anyone who thinks that Hitler's policies against the Slavs were "unfortunate" and "avoidable" is just lying to himself. Fighting a total war in Eastern Europe and conquering Lebensraum was part and parcel of national socialism.
President Camacho
I've heard this line of thinking many times including from Thomas777, and I guess my problem is that the Third Reich pursued such maximalist objectives in the first place. The allure of gaining Ukraine as a breadbasket is obvious from a strategic standpoint, but it should have been understood that at least one major ally needed to be wrested from within the USSR, and the Ukranians were the perfect candidates given their existing enmity to Stalin. The Wehrmacht could have given the Ukranians some reasonable degree of political and military autonomy and still relied on them as valuable auxiliaries, IMO-- more importantly this would have undermined the Soviet Union's authority from within... I think Spengler's critique of the Third Reich being too narrowly German and lacking in effective pan-European propaganda was a valid one.

Had they enlisted the Ukranians from the outset, Barbarossa would have almost certainly sent the USSR reeling behind the Ural Mountains in the initial offensive and thus secured a defensible foothold, occupying Belarus along with the Baltic states and Poland. After one generation of Lebensraum to these regions and a grand alliance of states secured in the Balkans and Mediterranean, they would have been well-positioned to hold off a renewed Allied two-front offensive. It is questionable indeed whether the Western allies would have continued in the struggle on the continent had the Soviet government been driven out of its capital-- or whether the Soviet Union would have even survived such a challenge to its legitimacy.

What the Germans attempted to do instead was the equivalent of if the Roman Republic tried to fight the Samnites, Epirus, and the Carthaginians all at once... but Rome was not built in a day.
President Camacho
Regarding the book, I picked it up from my skrewl library... lots of good old books there.

The book in question is very broad in scope and only deals in passing with WWII... it's an overview of German-Slavic relations in general from the Volkerwandering period to modern times-- warfare, religious missions, commerce, etc.
Stars Down To Earth
True, true. I believe that the Wehrmacht had exactly this in mind when they rolled into Ukraine at the start of their campaign. But, as it turned out, Hitler didn't intend to treat the Ukrainians as anything else than beasts of burden. So, well, things ended up the way they did.

Dolfie put the well-being of the German civilians above all, and this must have been a factor in his decision to totally subjugate the Ukrainians and squeeze as much food and resources from the country as possible. Most of that was shipped to the home front. (IIRC, one of Hitler's greatest phobias was that Germany would be blockaded and starved into surrender again, so he wanted to conquer the farmland in Eastern Europe to stop this from ever happening again.) Hitler also seemed to regard the Eastern Slavs as a sort of niggers, only fit to be colonised by der master race, so ideas like "Ukrainian independence" must have seemed quite silly to him.

(IIRC, there is even an interview transcript floating around somewhere, of Hitler and the Croatian leader having a convo, where Dolfie says that the surviving parts of Ukraine will be a sweatshop for Germany in the future, and that they'd be paid in "glass beads and other things colonial races like.")

I agree. It started out as narrow German nationalism, then became more pan-Nordicist, and finally turned into a sort of pan-Europeam anti-Slavism when they got really desperate for manpower at the end of the war. At the start of WW2, they didn't even allow non-Germanic people into the SS. The NSDAP wasn't intended as anything else than a German nationalist movement. Spengler was right on the money.

What about the entirety of European Russia, though? Those were the biggest demographic in the USSR, and definitely not "potential allies" in the same way Balts and Ukrainians were.

IMO, Alexander the Great's conquest of Persia is a better comparison. They tried to do what the Macedonian Empire did, only their empire would be settled by Germans and permanently held by them.
Stars Down To Earth
That was also my guess. The German and Slavic tectonic plates have been grinding against each other for much longer than just WWs 1 and 2, so I expected an in-depth historical overview.

I'll keep an eye open for it, although it seems to be very, very obscure.
President Camacho
It is interesting that the Slavic "wandering" period began almost exactly after the Germanics had been largely settled and began solidifying to form the core of the modern Western nations.

The Germanic tribes appear first as semi-nomadic bands assaulting the flanks of the Western Roman Empire (roughly 0-500 AD, then gradually settle into primitive sedentary tribal confederations and fiefdoms (500-1000), before emerging one by one as true "nations" of the Western stamp. As per Spengler:
Slavic (perhaps Balto-Slavic) tribes are first definitively attested to by the Roman writers of the Eastern Empire such as Procopius... their "Volkerwangerung" took place between 500-1000, expanding from their marshy homeland (usually pinpointed around the Pripet Marshes in Belarus) and branching out south, east, and west-- clashing with the Germanic chieftans of the West as well as the Eastern Roman Emperors and Altaic horsemen in the process. The proto-state of the "Russian Culture" is the Kievan Rus, encompassing the peoples of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus, which is comparable to the Merovingian Frankish realm.

However, this development was interrupted first by the Mongol yoke, then Peter The Great's betrayal of Mother Russia, and finally Communism and Western materialism which has stifled these peoples' creative potential. Some may say that Russia is finished considering their declining birthrate, alcoholism, nihilism, etc, but another interpretation might be that the nation is being "scaled back" from the overbearing numbers brought on from its Westernization... if there are only 50 million Russians in Russia 50 years from now, one might assume that the survivors will be strong in blood in spirit for having overcome the urge to Western sterility.

These are a few unorganised bits on the plot...

There were of course several groups that sought to assassinate Hitler and as such various motivations. The July 20 Group was likely animated by numerous different concerns. Juenger, writing on 17th October 1943, mentions a visit paid to him by “Bogo” (a nickname of Friedrich Hielscher):

“We reviewed the situation. Here Bogo was of the opinion that after the Biedenhorns had not been able to blow up Kniébolo (Juenger’s name for Hitler in his diaries), this was now the task of specific circles. He intimated that he would perhaps be forced to prepare and initiate the matter himself – as a kind of Old Man of the Mountain, who sends his young followers into the palaces. As he conceives it, the fundamental problem in politics today can be formulated as follows: ‘How does one get inside the top security zone for five minutes with weapons?’ As I listened to him elaborate the details, I realised the predicament Kniébolo is in, who today is being stalked and attacked from many sides by his own hunters” (Ernst Juenger, Paris Diaries)

Regarding Stauffenberg specifically, one should not ignore the enormous impact Stefan George, to whose circle he had belonged, had upon him. The weight of the historical moment in which Hitler appears as the “Anti-Christ” prophesised in George’s poem of the same name along with the chance to realise the “Secret Germany” of the George Circle must have been overwhelming. It is suggested his last words were “Long live our Secret Germany”. Stauffenberg and some of the co-conspirators had also stated their belief “in the future of the Germans…” who were “a fusion of Hellenic and Christian origins in its Germanic being” destined “to lead the community of the Western peoples to a more beautiful life.”

Stars Down To Earth
True. I can't remember which historian it was, but someone described the Balto-Slavic peoples as the newest Indo-Europeam arrivals and the younger "brother" of the Germanics. IIRC, this book that said the Celts were the oldest brother, the Germanics in the middle, and the Balto-Slavs the youngest kid. It makes sense to me. It also seems that those "northern barbarians" who absorbed Greco-Roman culture got a civilisational head-start over those who didn't.

Depends on how you define "Russian Culture". The Kievan Rus state was founded and ruled by Scandinavian Vikings, who weren't "Russian" in the modern sense.

I agree about the Mongol Yoke destroying the "natural" development of the Eastern Slavs in many ways, even though it's a bit of a cop-out to blame all of Russia's problems on the Mongols - huge parts of Northwestern Russia never felt the hooves of Mongol cavalry, and just had to pay their taxes.

As for Peter the Great, we've had this same argument before, and I don't see how Peter could've done anything else than what he did, given the geopolitics at that time. Russia had to keep up with its western neighbours. Spengler even pointed out that Russia might never have entered "the white empire's club", and ended up as a colonised Asian country instead of an European coloniser, if not for Peter's emergency reforms. Sure, some of those reforms were a tad excessive, since they created an ultra-Westernised upper class which was at odds with the Russian lower class (which would have disastrous results later on), but you can't argue that Peter's original idea was wrong.

The Soviet Union was oppressive and stifling in many ways, but it wasn't an uncreative country. Space satellites, military tech, electronics. Compare the innovations of the Soviet Union, with those of the Tsarist Empire.

Very possible. The combo of Communism and Western materialism is enough to kill any nation.

An interesting interpretation, that. I've never thought of Russia as an overpopulated country that needs to get rid of excess people in order to grow healthier. I don't really see Russia's current problems as a "purifying" struggle, but rather a slow death by disease. Not sure why a diminished Russian population would automatically get stronger, as if by natural selection, so you'd have to explain this a bit further.

Just a question: if you were a Russian and was ruling Russia, how would you reverse their problems?