Hitler’s next blunder was only a potential one (although potentially fatal for Hitler and his Nazi regime). It could have led to a military coup against Hitler, had he won the Second World War. But he didn’t – although this particular decision did help him win quite a few battles and campaigns.
Right after the Night of the Long Knives (June 30th, 1934) which effectively neutered the SA (by murdering its leaders), Hitler solemnly promised to Reichswehr commanders that he would never, ever authorize the formation of a “parallel army” in Germany (SA leaders wanted to make their organization exactly that – or seemed to).
And almost immediately broke his promise. On September 20th, 1934, less than three months after the Night of the Long Knives, Hitler personally authorized the formation of the military wing of the Nazi Party – SS-Verfügungstruppe (SS Dispositional Troops – SS-VT). Placed at the disposal of The Führer that is.
SS-VT were genuine combat troops of the Nazi Party. On August 17th, 1938 Adolf Hitler decreed that the SS-VT was neither a part of the police nor the German Wehrmacht, but military-trained men at the disposal of the Führer (who was a commander of SS-VT). At the time of war, the SS-VT were to be placed at the disposal of the Wehrmacht.
SS-VT was to be made up of three regiments modeled on the infantry regiments of the German Army (Heer) and according to their regulations. Each regiment would contain three battalions, a motorcycle company and mortar company.
Heinrich Himmler formed two new SS regiments, the SS Germania and SS Deutschland, which together with the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler (LSSAH), which was also essentially a regiment and a communications unit made up the SS-VT.
At the same time Himmler established the SS-Junkerschule Bad Tölz and SS-Junkerschule Braunschweig for military training of SS officers. Both schools used regular army training methods and mainly used former army officers as instructors.
In October 1939 the SS-VT regiments, Deutschland, Germania and Der Führer, were organized into the SS-Verfügungs-Division with Paul Hausser as commander. The LSSAH was expanded into a motorized regiment.
This unit formed the core of the future Waffen-SS that by the end of the Second World War grew to almost one million men structured into 38 infantry, motorized and Panzer divisions.
Why would Hitler break his solemn promise to the Reichswehr right after the Night of the Long Knives definitely alienating its commanders and making them nervous (and scared)?
The answer to this question can be found in probably the most common misconception about the Führerstaat. In reality, Adolf Hitler did not have absolute power in Nazi Germany but could operate only within limits set by Reichswehr (and subsequently Wehrmacht).
When he crossed these lines, he risked becoming the victim of a military coup. For example, at the end of September of 1938 he was literally hours away from this unpleasant fate and was saved only by the Munich Agreement.
In other words, although he did have enormous power over Wehrmacht (its personnel took the oath to Hitler personally, after all), he did not have the absolute power. Wehrmacht was his tool, that’s for sure – but (unlike all other structures in Nazi Germany) not the totally obedient tool.
Wehrmacht generals and officers were German (mostly Prussian) nationalists, not Nazis and their ideal state was Imperial Germany (with or without Kaiser), not the Führerstaat.
Fore Adolf Hitler, absolutely obsessed with the Führerprinzip, this situation was totally, completely and absolutely unacceptable. That’s why he gave a green light to probably the greatest project ever undertaken by Heinrich Himmler (after the SS-Staat, of course).
Establishment of Staatsschutzkorps (State Protection Corps) which would include all security, paramilitary (and military) organizations of the Third Reich.
Acceptable members of the uniformed police would join the Allgemeine-SS, forming interim SS-Police units in the major cities, while security policemen who fulfilled the various racial and ideological requirements of the SS would enroll in the SD or Gestapo.
Likewise, Wehrmacht was to be absorbed into the Waffen-SS thus becoming (finally) a totally and completely obedient tool of Adolf Hitler. And completely eliminating even the remote possibility of a military coup.
Did the top Wehrmacht brass know about these plans of their Führer and SS-Reichsführer. Maybe. But they definitely suspected that something along these lines was being planned.
While Waffen-SS was still in its infancy, its existence did not worry Wehrmacht brass very much. And while Germany was at war, any absorption project (of Wehrmacht into Waffen-SS) was obviously out of the question.
German victory in World War II would have changed the situation radically – and created very serious reasons for top Wehrmacht generals to worry about their positions, their power and their very lives (they were well aware both of the Night of the Long Knives and of Hitler’s admiration for the way Stalin dealt with generals who were not obedient enough).
Generaloberst Walther von Brauchitsch, Generaloberst Franz Halder, Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, and Generalleutnant Erwin von Witzleben (among others) were not above planning and organizing the coup against Adolf Hitler in September 1938 (the so-called “Oster Conspiracy”) when they feared that the their Führer would start a war that Germany would lose.
So they would most definitely do exactly the same thing when their positions, power and lives – and the very existence of the organization that they devoted all their lives to – would be threatened by a “Gefreiter that stole general’s boots”.
And this time they would have definitely succeeded. Gestapo by law could not spy on Wehrmacht generals (that’s why it was totally unaware of the 1938 plot, 1943 assassination attempt and was caught totally by surprise by July 20th plot in 1944) so it would not have uncovered this one as well.
And even in 1944 (when Waffen-SS had a million men and thousands of tanks at their disposal), the SS was still no match for Wehrmacht. In 1941, the former had only a few divisions.
Hence, the decision to form Waffen-SS was, indeed a blunder, because it essentially doomed the Nazi regime (and personally Adolf Hitler). In other words, the Nazis (and their state) were destined to be gone regardless of the outcome of the Second World War.
If Germany loses the war (which happened in real life), the Third Reich will be destroyed by its victorious adversaries – and its Führer will be killed, captured (and subsequently tried, convicted and executed by hanging) or forced to commit suicide (that’s what actually happened).
If it loses the war, the Third Reich will be destroyed in a military coup that would undoubtedly do away with the Führerstaat – and with Adolf Hitler. In 1938, the conspirators put together a storm unit (led by Oberleutnant Count Hans-Jürgen von Blumenthal) that had but one objective – kill Hitler. There is little (if any) doubt that this time they would do exactly the same thing.
This conclusion creates a very strong feeling that the Third Reich was created (and Adolf Hitler was guided) by some supernatural force (e.g. Christian God) to accomplish one and only one Mission (Divine Mission, if you will).
To fight and win an existential war (i.e. war for the very existence of Germany, Europe and the whole Western civilization). In other words, to save all of the above from being conquered and destroyed by the “Red Plague” – the Bolshevist Soviet Union and its leader Joseph Stalin.
And as soon as this mission was accomplished, the Third Reich was to be destroyed – regardless of whether it won or lost World War II. The Moor has done his duty, the Moor can go. Actually, the Moor MUST go (it appears that God had no love lost for the Nazis).
And so the Moor was gone.
Could Adolf Hitler have prevented this military coup from taking place – and thus save the Third Reich (and himself)? No, he could not because he intended to do away with Wehrmacht as an institution – so even firing the generals and replacing them with other would not have changed a thing.
Replacing the head of Abwehr (Admiral Wilhelm Canaris) and his immediate subordinates could have radically improved the efficiency of German intelligence and counter-intelligence (Canaris and his associates spent too much time and effort on conspiring against their commander-in-chief instead of doing the job they were paid and ordered to do).
But it would not have prevented the military coup had Germany won the Second World War. So the Third Reich (and personally Adolf Hitler) were doomed either way.