Could Adolf Hitler (and the Third Reich) have won the war with the Soviet Union? The answer is Yes, but only if he had pursued very different strategic objectives and used very different strategies, tools and methods. Different from the ones that doomed his military campaign against the USSR from the start that is.
Obviously, he should have used the approach that made him victorious in every military endeavor where he used it. In Poland, France, Greece, Yugoslavia, etc. Set up the right objective and focus all efforts and resources (human, technical, material, financial, organizational, etc.) on achieving this one crucial goal.
Which, obviously, had to be much more specific than just “win the existential war with the Jewish-Bolshevist regime” or even than “destroy the Judeo-Bolshevist regime”.
Ironically, Adolf Hitler already had a model that had already worked – and worked pretty well. In France which after the Armistice signed by the defeated French military on June 21st, 1940 was divided into two parts – German-occupied North and nominally independent South governed by so-called Vichy regime.
And that’s exactly the specific fundamental objective that Adolf Hitler should have pursued in the Soviet Union: partition of the USSR into the German-occupied West (General Government or Protectorate of Ruthenia) and Eastern Russia – nominally independent, but essentially a satellite state of the Third Reich (similar in nature to Croatia or Slovakia).
One of the conditions of the peace treaty (Brest-Litovsk II of sorts) between the Eastern Russia and the Third Reich (Armistice alone will not be sufficient) will be transformation of the former from the Bolshevist state into a Vichy-style regime and complete extermination of even traces of Bolshevism (and, of course, the Russian Orthodox Messianism).
Relationships between the German colonial authorities (let’s call a spade a spade) and the population of Protectorate of Ruthenia should have been based (obviously) on a social contract.
In exchange for a total loyalty and a productive work for the German Reich, the colonial authorities should have guaranteed a radical increase in the overall quality of life for the population. Interestingly enough that’s exactly what Adolf Hitler said in one of his “table talks”:
“We must make sure that their lives are better under our rule than under the Bolsheviks”
Economic relations (“division of labor”, if you will) between the Third Reich and the Eastern Russia would have been… almost exactly as between today’s Russian Federation and the developed nations. The former supplies the latter with foodstuffs (grain, meat, etc.) and natural resources (oil, natural gas, metals, etc.) and receives in return consumer goods, equipment, machinery, etc.
Could the “French model” have worked in Russia? On the surface, it looks all but impossible – but so did Hitler’s objective of acquiring the absolute power in Germany in 1923. Or the Quantensprung that he achieved in 1933-38. Or the victory over the Red Colossus in early summer of 1941 (for those who knew its actual size and power).
However, in all those cases Adolf Hitler and his Nazis achieved what was considered totally and utterly impossible. So, yes, they could have achieved the abovementioned objective.
Especially given the fact that the overwhelming majority of the Russian people have been slaves for centuries – before the reforms of Alexander II gave them freedom.
Which turned out to be very short-lived because in just half a century another de-facto Russian Emperor – Vladimir Lenin and his cronies (including its future successor – the “Red Tamerlane” Joseph Stalin) got Russians (actually, all citizens of the Soviet Union) back into slavery.
Making them genuine slaves of the Soviet State, Soviet bureaucracy and personally of Joseph Stalin – the “Proprietor/Owner/Master” of the Soviet Union (and its population).
There is a very common misconception that victorious Red Army brought freedom to the population of “temporarily occupied territories” (occupied by German Army that is). It didn’t.
Unlike genuine liberation of Western Europe by British, American, Free French and other Allies, “liberation” by the Red Army gave the “liberated” population none of the fundamental human freedoms. Under the Soviet rule, there was no freedom of the press, no freedom of thought or expression (i.e. no freedom of creativity), no freedom of movement, no freedom of association or assembly (let alone mass meetings or demonstrations), no political freedoms (to elect or be elected), no protection of privacy (communications by mail or a telephone).
In fact, Soviet liberation actually removed a very important freedom – freedom of business entrepreneurship (vital for facilitating another freedom – freedom from chronic deficit of even the most basic foods and services). And severely restricted another freedom – freedom of religion (German occupation authorities had a far better attitude to Christianity than the Soviet state).
So it is very likely that given a radical increase in the quality of life (i.e. getting far better masters) – the population of the Protectorate of Ruthenia would have been consent with being slaves of the German Reich.
Especially given the indisputable facts that (1) even a much harsher actual German occupation millions of Russians worked diligently for the former (and many thousands fought and died for them); and (2) so called “partisans” (guerilla fighters) were either huge criminal gangs or (much more often) professional NKVD units that infiltrated occupied territories (in other words, spontaneous resistance to German occupation was practically non-existent).
There was even a potential “Russian Petain” who (ironically) at the time of the start of the German invasion of the Soviet Union had the military rank equivalent to Field Marshal.
His name was Lavrentiy Pavlovich Beria. He was the only one who had both the means (he was the head of NKVD and thus the second most powerful man in the USSR) and the guts to get rid of Joseph Stalin (there was no way in the world the latter would have renounced Bolshevism), sign the peace treaty with the Germans and conduct radical reforms that would have done away with Bolshevism, Communist Party and the Soviet Union for good.
Twelve years later he did murder the “Red Tamerlane” – either directly (with poison) or indirectly (denying Stalin vital medical help when the Soviet dictator got a stroke on March 1st, 1953). And – had he survived the coup against him on June 26th, 1953 – would have certainly implemented political and economic reforms that would have put Gorbachev to shame.
There is also evidence that sometime in July of 1941, Beria tried (via Bulgarian ambassador in Moscow Ivan Stamenov) to initiate peace talks with Adolf Hitler. So even the “communication channel” was there – Hitler only had to use it properly.
The candidate for Hitler’s special envoy position was evident: Reinhard Heydrich – head of RSHA (NKVD equivalent in Nazi Germany). He had a high enough rank in Nazi hierarchy and (reputedly) spoke fluent Russian.
Adolf Hitler did two things right (from the perspective of the abovementioned strategic objective, of course). He launched – and ruthlessly pursued – two key processes – destruction of the Red Army (killing, injuring and capturing military personnel, destroying tanks, artillery pieces, mortars, trucks, aircraft and other military equipment) and occupying Soviet territory.
However, to accumulate the “critical mass” for the coup d’état in the Soviet Union that would have catapulted Lavrentiy Beria to absolute power, Hitler had to capture Moscow.
It is a well-established fact that Joseph Stalin was so shocked by Hitler’s surprise attack on June 22nd, 1941 that he spent three days (June 23rd, 24th and 25th) in a “functional coma” unable even to speak (let alone make decisions). Officially, he was on sick leave due to sudden attack of the flu (during the murderous summer heat).
It is also well-known that on October 16th, 1941 when the fall of Moscow became a very real possibility, Stalin told his subordinates that if the enemy enters the city, he would not leave Moscow but will lead an infantry regiment into battle instead.
This fact is a clear indication that the fall of Moscow would have been unacceptable to Stalin. In this case Beria would not even have had to stage a coup d’état – after the inevitable death of Stalin (either in battle or by his own hand) Beria would have automatically obtained the absolute power in the Soviet Union.
To make the job of signing the “Brest-Litovsk II” easier, Hitler should have refrained from any measures that could have spooked the Soviet population and its leaders.
Which meant no “Commissar Order”, no “Severity Order” (or other similar orders) – and definitely no murder (or any persecution) of Jews. Instead, Wehrmacht (and Waffen SS) should have publicly positioned themselves strictly as liberators from Bolshevism who came to radically increase the quality of life of the Soviet citizens. Actually, some officers (and even generals) of Abwehr and Wehrmacht in general recommended just that – but no one in power was listening.
Unfortunately for him (and for the Third Reich – and very possibly for the whole world), Adolf Hitler did none of the above.