Hitler as Military Commander (6)

Frankreich, Hans Günther v. Kluge, Adolf Hitler

Why did Adolf Hitler stick to the management style that obviously no longer worked? First, out of fear – the “eighth deadly sin”. Which turned out to be deadly indeed – for the Nazi Party, Nazi State and for Adolf Hitler himself.

This fear – fear of losing control over one’s enterprise – is probably the #1 reason why most business ventures fail. And not just commercial ventures – all kinds of enterprises.

The second reason was related closely to the first one. Adolf Hitler was a brilliant, outstanding, incredibly efficient political and government manager… but only when managing the system that was his cultural and ideological extension. In other words, the Nazi system.

True, he achieved genuinely miraculous successes with DAP – but only after transforming it into NSDAP – the Nazi Party. It is true as well, that he achieved very much miraculous results as a head of a German state – but only after transforming the Weimar Republic (that he had no clue how to run) into Führerstaat. The Nazi State.

He could not transform German Wehrmacht into Nazi Armed Forces – it was functionally and politically impossible. Hence, he had no idea how to work with culturally very different military professionals (who were Prussian nationalists, not Nazis). Work on a regular basis, of course – he knew how to do it during blitzkrieg – a short-term endeavor by definition.

His previous experience with his generals only made matters worse. Hitler did indeed distrust most of his generals – in part for good reason. He had to overcome a certain amount of timidity among his senior officers before the war – during the reoccupation of the Rhineland, for example – and his perception of them as over-cautious set the tone for his (quite uncomfortable) relations with them.

Certainly his operational decisions, especially early in the war, were sometimes as good as, or better than, those of his generals. He was, after all, one of the two men who first thought up the campaign plan that the Wehrmacht used against France with such stunning success in the summer of 1940, and he had to push hard before his General Staff would accept it.

As time went on, he came to believe that Germany’s victories were his alone and that most of his generals were narrow-minded, overly cautious and incapable. Which in reality was not the case at all.

Consequently, with each passing month he grew ever more distrustful and contemptuous of them as a group, despite the unflagging loyalty that most of them displayed right to the end. As early as 1938, he was heard to say that every one of his generals was either cowardly or stupid, and his opinion only worsened with time. Which was obviously not the case either.

But probably the most important reason was his perception of the war (and of the world in general) severely distorted and thus made grossly inaccurate by his Nazi ideology.

True, he was fighting a genuinely existential war – but the ideological and cultural war with the Bolshevist Soviet Union. And not with an abstract USSR but with very specific Soviet Communist Party – first and foremost with his leaders and with the “Red Tamerlane” – Joseph Stalin.

The “racial war” with the “Jewish race” (and all other “inferior races”) existed only in his imagination, which was severely damaged by the totally erroneous Nazi ideology.

Perceptions are the only reality and bipolar disorder is a lifetime condition even if treated properly (Hitler’s was not) so it is no surprise that Adolf Hitler got genuinely obsessed with “Jewish question”, “racial issues” and all other Nazi nonsense.

So obsessed that he could not consider even for a moment that his top generals were right and he was wrong; that these issues should be ignored and all efforts and resources had to be devoted to but one objective – winning the very real (and very much conventional) war with Bolshevism.

Worse, he did not realize that his real adversaries were a tiny group (compared to the overall population of the Soviet Union) of diehard “Communist Imperialists” and all other Soviet citizens were his natural allies. For a very simple reason – they were victims of Bolshevism.

As were the Jews, for whom Bolshevism was every bit an existential threat as it was for the German people and for other European nations.

Most likely, there was another very powerful reason for sticking to the management style that did not work – personal, emotional and medical. Adolf Hitler was manic depressive, and age, stress and especially an enormously powered emotional trauma delivered by the failure of blitzkrieg in Russia made things only worse.

It appears that he fell into such a deep, dark and painful depression pit that he desperately needed a powerful jolt of positive emotions to get out of there. And being a commander-in-chief of the Wehrmacht provided him with exactly such an anti-depressant.

His emotional state probably was even worse – he got so addicted to power that giving up this power was basically the same as for an addict to give up his favorite drug. Impossible.

Hitler wanted to be the Feldherr, the generalissimo, exercising direct control of the armies himself, in much the same sense that Wellington commanded at Waterloo, albeit at a distance.

Which was, obviously, another fundamental blunder – no military leader can hope to understand the realities of the situation on the ground from hundreds of miles away.

So instead of radically changing his management style (which probably would not have led to victory in the war but would have allowed to achieve an acceptable peace settlement), he continued to follow the old one that no longer worked at all.

Committing a blunder after blunder after blunder – until he was left with only one option: take his own life in the Führerbunker.

 

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