The “1941 Plot” or a Bit of Alternate History (4)

Operation Typhoon

Now imagine that the Wehrmacht launched Operation Typhoon one month earlier – on August 31st, 1941. Actually, it could have started a month earlier – at the end of July, had Franz Halder (Chief of the Army General Staff), Fedor von Bock (commander of Army Group Center – AGC) and Heinz Guderian (commander of the 2nd Panzer Group – a key component of AGC) convinced Hitler to focus all efforts and resources on capturing two key Soviet cities – its capital Moscow (first and foremost) and Leningrad (previously St. Petersburg – the capital of the Russian Empire).

Had that happened (and it very well could), Stalin, the Soviet government (military and civilian) and the whole population of the USSR (first and foremost, of its two capitals) would have faced the abovementioned disaster in mid-September of 1941 (of not at the beginning of that month).

However, in this case, Wehrmacht would not have halted its offensive – because it had sufficient supplies of everything it needed to press on; there would have been no mud on the infamously bad Soviet roads to stop the German armor and there would have been no blizzards to ground the murderously efficient Luftwaffe.

A little known fact is that about half of the heavy and medium tanks used by the Red Army (light tanks were all but useless against German Panzers) during its Moscow counteroffensive in December of 1941, were British.

Deliveries were made in October in November meaning that in September of 1941, the Red Army would have had no tanks to fight the Panzerwaffe (had Operation Typhoon began in August – let alone in July).

Also, Murmansk – the Soviet port through which just about all lend-lease deliveries were made, was protected by Hawker Hurricanes which began to arrive in early October. Had Operation Typhoon began in July, there would have been no Hurricanes to protect the convoys – and hence no lend-lease deliveries to the USSR.

Consequently, in this case the Wehrmacht would have entered Moscow practically unopposed at the end of September at the latest. Two to three weeks earlier the panic (which would have been way more powerful – irresistible, actually) would have engulfed both the military and civilian government (as it did in every large city attacked by the Wehrmacht previously).

Consequently, instead of defending the city, both the military and the civilian militia (the Soviet equivalent of Volkssturm) would have simply left the city (again, it happened before pretty much everywhere). In short, the Moscow defense would have collapsed allowing the Wehrmacht to capture the city in a matter of a few days (if not hours).

By that time Leningrad was already surrounded by the German troops (it has been all but completely encircled since September the 8th). The fall of Moscow would have made the position of the besieged city totally and utterly hopeless.

Which, in turn would have led to a wholesale exodus of both the military and the civilians from the city – with no will to fight left and a complete collapse of the defense system everyone will have only one option – run. Making Leningrad essentially and open city which will be occupied by the Wehrmacht in a matter of a few hours (a day at the most).

After the fall of Moscow and Leningrad, the Southern and Southwestern fronts of the Red Army would have surrendered in a few days at most – which would have taken care of the “Kiev problem”.

Although they still presented a formidable force (even after taking a severe beating from the Germans), their commanders were incompetent at counterattacking (to put it mildly). So keeping them at bay during the whole Operation Typhoon would not have been a major problem. In fact, not a problem at all.

In the abovementioned scenario, Stalin would have found himself in a situation similar to Hitler’s in late April of 1945. True, Napoleon has taken Moscow and still lost the war, but at the time it was but a provincial town (though the largest) – the capital was St. Petersburg which was completely out of reach for the French.

Besides, it was the logistics problems that led to the defeat of Napoleon’s Great Army – but he did not have trucks, trains and cargo aircraft. Wehrmacht did not have this problem – at least not in September – or even in October of 1941.

Unlike Hitler in late April of 1945, Stalin could have left the capital (for Kuybyshev), but it made no difference whatsoever. After the complete collapse of the Red Army and the Soviet State (inevitable after the fall of Moscow and Leningrad due to their critical functional, emotional and even spiritual value), German Panzers would have entered Kuybyshev in no time.

Like Hitler, Stalin was addicted to his messianic idea (at least as powerfully, as an addict to a hard drug). For Hitler, it was making Germany #1 global superpower and acquisition of the Lebensraum in the East necessary for complete self-sufficiency in foodstuffs and key natural resources.

For Stalin it was the territorial expansion of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics until the “last republic” is accepted and integrated (or annexed) into this global Communist state.

Under this scenario, it would have been obvious to Stalin in September of 1941 (as it was for Hitler in April of 1945) that his chances of ever making his messianic dream a reality were reduced to precisely zero by his victorious enemies.

Faced with a very similar situation, Adolf Hitler predictably chose to commit suicide (although he did have numerous opportunities to escape Berlin and go into hiding) as he had nothing left to live for. Consequently, it would be fair and reasonable to conclude that Stalin would have done exactly the same thing.

It would also be reasonable and realistic to construe that he would have been succeeded with Lavrentiy Beria – the “Soviet Himmler”. Like his German counterpart, he was a head of the country’s security service – NKVD (a rough equivalent of the German RSHA).

Actually, he was even better suited for running the country as (unlike Himmler) he already had an experience of managing the whole Soviet republic (a rough equivalent to the German federal state – Land).

Besides, he was a ruthless pragmatist (a technocrat even) who – as he proved beyond the reasonable doubt after Stalin’s death in 1953 – did not care much about Communist ideology. Or any ideology for that matter.

Hence there is little (if any) doubt the after Stalin’s suicide (inevitable under the abovementioned scenario), Beria would have signed a Brest-Litovsk-style treaty with the victorious Third Reich.

Would have Adolf Hitler signed it? IMHO, yes he would. Despite the collapse of the Red Army and the Soviet State, the USSR was still a gargantuan country that Germany simply did not have the resources to control.

Besides the Civil War (that ended only 20 years ago) made the Soviets extremely adept at guerilla warfare – which would have decimated Wehrmacht in no time (a nationwide uprising was something the Germans simply could not afford).

And Russia has already proven beyond the reasonable doubt its capability of rebuilding itself – after suffering almost complete collapse of the Army and a State (and a humiliating defeat in the Great War). Which was something that the Germans did not want at all.

Consequently, the Nazis (most likely, convinced by the generals) would have almost certainly developed and signed Brest-Litovsk II (possibly a hybrid with the “reversed Versailles treaty” as well).

The only reason Great Britain kept fighting the Third Reich in 1940-41 (after the fall of France) was the deep-seated belief of its leaders (first and foremost, Winston Churchill) that (1) the war between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union was inevitable; and (2) that due to its enormous superiority in population and other resources the Soviet Union will win.

After the defeat of the USSR and signing of the “Brest-Litovsk II”, these hopes would have been dashed. The war with the Third Reich would have been hopeless and even suicidal for the UK – as now nothing prevented the Germans from destroying the British Air Force, then the Navy and then crossing the English Channel and landing on the British Isles. And for the British Empire – as the war with Germany would have left Britain with insufficient resources to protect its Asian part from the Japanese.

Hence, there is little (if any) doubt that Winston Churchill or (more likely) the one who would have replaced him, would have had no choice but to sign a peace treaty with the victorious Third Reich (most likely, with not territorial or other losses suffered by the British Empire).

The interesting question is: what would have happened in the Far East? Would the Imperial Japan have attacked British colonies? Probably not, because after Britain signed a peace treaty with Nazi Germany, all of its Army, Navy and Air Force were available for protecting the Far Eastern colonies. Which would have undoubtedly shifted the odds in British favor.

However, Japan would have certainly grabbed oil-rich Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) – there is little doubt that the peace treaty with Germany would have prevented Britain from going to war with Japan over the territory that belonged to German-occupied Netherlands.

Would the United States have gone to war with Japan over the Dutch East Indies? Not if Japan had not attacked the United States. Which it would most certainly had not done as it would have solved its oil problems (and problems with other resources) by colonizing what is now Indonesia. Hence the American oil embargo would not have been such a big deal.

It is also quite possible (very likely, actually) that the terms of the peace treaty with the Third Reich would have required Great Britain to supply Japan with all natural resources that it needed, ignoring its atrocities in China.

Hence, under this scenario there would have been no war in the Pacific at all. Except the colonial war in China, of course which rather sooner than later would have resulted in the Japanese victory (it is unlikely that in this global configuration the USA – or the Soviet Union for that matter – would have supported the Chinese for a long time).

However, it is far more interesting what kind of impact the victory in the Second Great War would have made on Germany, the Nazi regime and on Adolf Hitler personally

The “1941 Plot” or a Bit of Alternate History (3)

oboronamoskva-1Stalin decided to stay in Moscow. His train was unpacked and his offices opened up once again at the Kremlin. However, he still faced a crucial problem – how to put an end to panic that by now engulfed almost all civilians and even quite a few men (and women) in uniform.

He took the approach that already worked for him on a number of occasions – to “crush fear with fear”. He started with his closed associates – members of the Politburo of VKP(b) – Soviet Communist Party – and of the State Defense Committee (the latter was a de-facto wartime government of the country).

He immediately convened a meeting of “all of the above” and – without stating his own position – asked everyone for his opinion on whether they should stay and defend Moscow – or leave.

However, everyone knew what his position was – by returning all of his belongings to his office in the Kremlin he announced it loud and clear (actions always speak far better than the words). Hence, everyone voted “stay and fight” (although there is little doubt that everyone would have preferred exactly the opposite – but were too afraid to admit it).

Then he (predictably) declared the “state of siege” in Moscow (far more draconian than a state of emergency, although Moscow was not under siege – not even close). Acting on his orders, the NKVD (Soviet equivalent of RSHA).

Its men were allowed to shoot everyone on the spot – without a trial or even an investigation – at the slightest suspicion of not following the orders of the Soviet government (let alone stealing or, God forbid, spreading panic). No one knows how many were killed and how many of them were innocent of any crime but the panic was suppressed and the order was restored.

By that time (the end of October) the German Army High Command ordered a halt to Operation Typhoon to bring in the necessary supplies and reinforcements (logistics in Russia was a real bitch and the war was consuming men, hardware, fuel, food and other supplies in unheard of quantities).

This was a colossal strategic blunder as it gave the Red Army two crucial weeks to bring in the vital reinforcements (30 divisions, over 1,000 tanks and 1,000 aircraft). These reinforcements (together with artificial floods – a murderous, but necessary measure) saved Moscow, Stalin, the Red Army and the whole Soviet state from all but certain defeat and destruction.

On November 15th, the Wehrmacht resumed an all-out assault on Moscow. But now its situation was radically different – the enemy was far stronger and the supplies of food, ammunition and reinforcements (both in men and hardware) were woefully inadequate.

Still, by December 2nd, the German Army was on the verge of entering Moscow city limits. A reconnaissance battalion managed to reach the town of Khimki (now a Moscow suburb), only about 8 km from the then borders Soviet capital. It captured the bridge over the Moscow-Volga Canal as well as the railway station, which marked the easternmost advance of German forces.

Unfortunately for Germans, terrible weather conditions (blizzards, etc.) grounded the fearsome Luftwaffe – which very probably made all the difference. The Red Army managed to increase its strength fivefold – to half a million men – and on December 5th launched the now-famous Soviet winter counteroffensive.

At an enormous cost (up to 10:1 in personnel) it delivered the first strategic defeat to the previously invincible Wehrmacht and thus put an end to German Blitzkrieg. The war on the Eastern front (and subsequently on both fronts) became a war of attrition – the war that the Wehrmacht and the Nazi Germany in General were ill-equipped to fight (and subsequently not surprisingly lost).

Now imagine that the Wehrmacht launched Operation Typhoon one month earlier – on August 31st, 1941…

 

The “1941 Plot” or a Bit of Alternate History (2)

Stalin 1On September 30th, having destroyed 43 divisions of the four Soviet armies (the Red Army lost over one million men, 60% of them taking prisoner), the Wehrmacht launched Operation Typhoon which final objective was the capture of Moscow – the capital of the Soviet Union.

The first blow took the Soviet High Command completely by surprise (no wonder – by that time the whole infrastructure of the Red Army was on the verge of collapse).

The 2nd Panzer Group, returning from the south, took Oryol, just 121 km south of the Soviet first main defense line. Three days later, the German armored columns pushed on to Bryansk, while the 2nd Army attacked from the west. To the north, the 3rd and 4th Panzer Armies attacked Vyazma.

This combined assault shattered the first Soviet main defense line (hastily created after it became painfully clear that Operation Thunderstorm – an all-out invasion of Europe – was ruthlessly canceled by Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS).

Six Soviet armies totaling over 600,000 men were encircled. About 100,000 more were killed, injured or taken prisoner which left only 100,000 (and around 150 tanks) available for the defense of Moscow.

Despite enormous losses in personnel (in millions) and in hardware (in tens of thousands) the Red Army still had formidable reserves. However, its logistics and the whole military (and civilian) commands were in such disarray that the Soviet High Command simply could not assemble sufficient force to stand up to the German onslaught.

Hence, the capture of Moscow by the Wehrmacht became a very real possibility. So real, in fact, that secret document (decree #34) from the State Defense Committee, dated 15 October 1941 (the worst day of the whole war for the Red Army and the whole USSR), records that it had been ordered

‘To evacuate the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet and the top levels of Government… (Comrade Stalin will leave tomorrow or later, depending on the situation)… In the event of enemy forces arriving at the gates of Moscow, the NKVD – Comrade Beria and Comrade Shcherbakov [First Secretary of Moscow Communist Party City Committee] – are ordered to blow up business premises, warehouses and institutions which cannot be evacuated, and all Underground railway electrical equipment.’i

Anastas Mikoyan, a member of the Soviet Politburo, later said that Stalin had told him on 15 October that he intended to leave the Soviet capital. Crucial communications equipment and documents were removed from the Kremlin and packed on board Stalin’s train, waiting at Moscow station.

On the night of 16 October, key government personnel were told to leave their offices and prepare to flee. According to Nikolay Ponomarev, Stalin’s telegraphist:

‘There was a car waiting outside [the Kremlin]. We were driven away. Moscow was completely dark. The weather was wet. I saw we were heading for the railway station. I saw the armored train and Stalin’s guards walking back and forth on the platform. It became clear to me that I would have to wait for Stalin and go into evacuation with him.’

Meantime, panic was (predictably) growing amongst the population of Moscow. There were even (totally unfounded) rumors that Germans had been seen in the city. As a result, some shop owners opened their doors and told Muscovites to take whatever they liked, because “soon the Germans would snatch it all”. In the chaos, many tried to flee the Soviet capital. The roads and rivers were blocked with masses of people trying to escape from the city by any means they could.

Now, at this most crucial point in his country’s history, Stalin faced a simple choice. Should he stay or should he go? Should he try and remain in Moscow and risk encirclement by the German army – perhaps even his own capture or death – or should he run east to seek safety in the city of Kuybyshev (present day Samara) on the Volga river?

During World War II, Kuybyshev was chosen to be the alternative capital of the Soviet Union should Moscow fall to the invading Germans, until the summer of 1943, when everything was moved back to Moscow.

In October 1941, the Communist Party and governmental organizations, diplomatic missions of foreign countries, leading cultural establishments and their staff were evacuated to the city. A dugout for Joseph Stalin known as “Stalin’s Bunker” was constructed but never used.

However, Stalin decided to remain in Moscow, taking an enormous gamble. He was quoted as saying:

“If the enemy enters the city, I will personally lead the Kremlin security battalion into the battle”

And he meant it. He knew his country, his city and his people well enough to have no illusions – had he leaved the city, it would feel abandoned by its Leader. Fear, loathing and depression will totally suppress the will to fight and the inevitable panic would immediately lead to the collapse of both civilian and military infrastructure.

And thus to the inevitable fall of Moscow. Leningrad will fall in no time as it will also feel abandoned and hopeless. No, it would not have surrendered – the Wehrmacht commanders were under strict Hitler’s orders to not even negotiate the surrender of the city. There would be simply an enormous exodus of both the military and the civilians which will make Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) a de-facto open city.

Stalin knew himself very well as well. He knew that after the fall of Moscow and St. Petersburg, he himself would have had no will to fight left. He had to apply an enormous effort to restore it after the devastating blow that he received in the early morning of July 22nd when Hitler attacked. The loss of both Moscow and Leningrad in a matter of days would have surely crippled him mentally and emotionally.

As well as all other Soviets – top to bottom. After two consecutive blows of such magnitude – after dozens of smaller blows received by every Soviet citizen in the past four months, both the Red Army and the Soviet state would inevitably – and almost instantly – collapse.

Making both easy prey for the victorious Wehrmacht – and guaranteeing its swift, decisive and irreversible victory. Which was made even more inevitable by the fact that Kuybyshev was no Moscow in terms of command and control infrastructure – one simply could not run efficiently neither the Red Army nor the Soviet state from there.

So Stalin took an enormous gamble – and won.

The Unlikely Death of Heinrich Himmler (3)

Heinrich-Himmler-519031Almost nothing is known about the name on the ID that this man used as a cover (other than that he was known to bear a remarkable resemblance to Heinrich Himmler – to such an extent that he was almost his double/twin). He also had the same first name which certainly helped.

One theory is that Hitzinger was a rural policeman who in the beginning of 1945 had been tried by an infamous Volksgerichtshof (“People’s Court) for defeatism. At the time such a charge meant an automatic death sentence so he was probably promptly beheaded (even during the last days of the Third Reich its courts and executioners were ruthlessly efficient).

The story has it that one day (well before May) Himmler happened to see Hitzinger’s identity papers and appropriated them “for his own purposes”. Most likely, he asked the RSHA forgery department to produce fake GFP ID using the real pictures of Hitzinger from the dossier.

On May 11th, five days after the real Heinrich Himmler safely landed in Spain (it probably took some time to deliver this message to his impersonator), the man who claimed (initially) to be “Heinrich Hitzinger” set out on his final journey from Flensburg. Thus starting one of the most creative cover-ups in the history of secret ops.

“Hitzinger” traveled in a group of fifteen (!) men united only by their allegiance to their Reichsfuhrer – almost all were members of his staff. There is little (if any) doubt that they have been aware of the substitution and each one knew precisely what to do (and what not to do) and what to say (and what not to).

The most notable members of the party were SS Obergruppenführer Dr. Karl Brandt, Hitler’s personal physician; SS Obergruppenführer Karl Gebhardt, Himmler’s surgeon; SS Obergruppenführer Otto Ohlendorf; SS Sturmbannführer Josef Kiermaier, Himmler’s personal aide and secretary, and Himmler’s adjutants, Waffen SS Obersturmbannführer Werner Grothmann and Sturmbannführer Heinz Macher. The group also included two officers from the escort battalion of the Waffen SS, and seven non-commissioned officers from Himmler’s personal staff.

The obvious question is: why did they agree to take part in this deception and not to try to go into hiding by themselves (as many of their SS comrades did)? They obviously knew that they could be prosecuted for the crimes that they committed while in offices and even if not, they were guaranteed a lengthy stay in POW camps.

The answer to this all-important question is surprisingly simple. First, they all were SS officers who took the oath to unquestionably obey any order given by their commander – even if it meant a certain death (in this respect they were, indeed, similar to the Japanese Samurai).

Second, they were not aware of how seriously and passionately the Allies intended to go after the Nazi war criminals (for one, the former desperately needed to cover up their own war crimes). And how harsh the sentences dispensed by the Allied military courts could be.

When it became obvious how wrong they were on the second count, at least one of them – the abovementioned Otto Ohlendorf – began to spread rumours that Himmler was still alive.

Rumors were picked up by Göring, who in August 1945 wondered aloud to his interrogators at Nuremberg ‘if SS-Reichsfuhrer was really dead’. These rumors most likely, became one more reasons to exhume “Himmler’s” body and conduct the second autopsy five months later.

None of the members of the party had any insignia on his uniform and all of them carried military document that identified them as members they were a newly demobilized unit of the GFP who were sick and on their way to Munich hospital under the supervision of Dr. Gebhardt..

Which was a 100% guarantee of them being detained by the first Allied patrol they encountered – the fact that Himmler, with his incredible memory, access to intelligence and no less remarkable data processing abilities was obviously well aware of.

And still he chose for his group the documents that attracted the most (not the least) attention of the enemy (hell, the Soviets could very well have shot them right then and there – without any trial or even a semblance of due process).

The presence of almost all Himmler’s entourage makes it seem unlikely that Hitzinger was anyone but Himmler, yet what better way to establish the identity of a leader than surround him with his customary crew?

It is difficult to believe that such a smart, cunning, knowledgeable and politically experienced man as Himmler could choose to behave in such an obvious and dangerous way.

The group’s progress south through Schleswig-Holstein was slow. Having left Flensburg in four large cars on 10 May, they took two whole days to cover the sixty-odd miles to Marne, in the south-west corner of the peninsula.

At the north bank of the Elbe estuary, they then had to abandon their vehicles and take a ferry to the small town of Neuhaus on the southern shore. From there on they had to proceed on foot.

By 18 May they had got no further than Bremervörde, a little town on the river Oste some 25 miles south-east of Marne, where they made a decision that made no sense at all… unless they really wanted to get caught.

They could have easily crossed the river upstream of the town, as hundreds of other refugees were doing, or they could have headed south across country, avoiding the river altogether. Instead of these simple options they chose to cross on one of the bridges guarded by the British army with its very visible checkpoints. Looks like they really, really wanted to get caught.

A witness confirmed that stating later that “these people” were crazy to use the bridge at all, as they could easily have avoided the checkpoint by wading across the river like everyone else.

Not surprisingly, they were all arrested… except Macher, Grothmann and Hitzinger were nowhere to be seen. Incredibly, their comrades notified the British about that fact (which made sense only if they really wanted “Hitzinger” to be arrested by the British).

The British soldiers were of the same opinion. If the first twelve men had been allowed through unhindered, it would have made sense for them to draw attention to their sick companions; but after they had been arrested, it seemed crazy (or at least extremely disloyal) to inform their captors about the existence of missing men.

To make the undercover party’s very strange behavior (to put it mildly) even more bizarre, on a later visit to the farm Britton discovered a valise in a loft, which contained pajamas, slippers and a manicure set, helpfully engraved with the letters R.F.SS.

What man intent of going into hiding and facing a certain death if discovered arms himself with possessions bearing inscriptions revealing his true identity? Definitely not Heinrich Himmler… unless he wanted his impersonator to be caught.

24 hours later, having attracted sufficient attention from the British, the three “missing persons” finally showed up. on the afternoon of 22 May, the bizarre trio walked openly through the town of Bremervörde along the straight, east–west high street.

Himmler’s adjutants, wearing long, dark green overcoats with felt collars, were clearly military men. They flanked a far less impressive figure wearing an odd collection of civilian clothes under a blue raincoat.

They moved slowly, and the third man seemed especially reluctant to hurry. As soon as the British saw them, they got the impression that the two tall officers were in charge of the smaller man.

They drew even more attention to themselves (which was their objective from the beginning of the whole endeavor), one witness recorded, by the way the officers glanced around from time to time as if ‘to ensure that their charge was still there’.

Not surprisingly, they were immediately stopped by the British and (unexpectedly politely) asked for their IDs. They all claimed to be Unterfeldwebels (Sergeants) but, in addition to identifying tem as the NCOs of GFP (by itself more than sufficient for detention), their documents looked faked.

Had the third man been Himmler, surely he would have arranged to equip himself with discharge papers of a decent caliber (forgers at RSHA were very, very good at their jobs and could fool even the most diligent investigator).

Given the resources it had enjoyed until a few days before, the group could have furnished itself with any fake identity it chose. But instead of assuming the name of some harmless unit, it opted to identify its members as belonging to the Geheime Feldpolizei, an organization that was on every Allied automatic arrest list (the fact that could not have been missed by Himmler as he had a copy of such list on his desk).

It is very important to note that despite obvious problems with his documents, None of the British recognized their weedy-looking third prisoner as anybody special, and his identity as ‘Heinrich Hitzinger’ surprisingly survived preliminary investigation.

Still, his impressive personal magnifying glass with its tell-tale eagle wings was confiscated). The prisoner was fast running out of personalized items that would serve to prove the identity he was so carelessly trying to conceal.

At 7 a.m. the next morning, Wednesday May 23rd, three captives set off for the civil internment camp at Westertinke, and for the rest of the day they moved in fits and starts (mostly due to a total mess that the German roads were in at that time).

Finally, almost 12 hours later, they reached the special interrogation camp at Kolkhagen (that hosted the officers and NCOs of SD and GFP), on the western edge of the village of Barnstedt, near now-famous town of Lüneburg (about 60 km from Hamburg airport and 215 km from Berlin).

By that time, “Hitzinger” had been subjected to several interrogations and none of his captors had even a suspicion that he had been talking to the SS-Reichsfuhrer. Fearing that the British either were much more stupid (or ignorant, or both) than was initially thought or simply did not care enough (which put the whole deception in jeopardy), the impersonator decided to help them. And in a big way. A very dig way. A colossal way.

he and his two companions soon began making a fuss and demanding an interview with the camp commandant, Captain Thomas Selvester. Which was extremely strange, bordering on bizarre, because usually, the SS officers (and even the NCOs) were the quietest and most docile of the prisoners. Hoping to live down their reputations, they behaved as meekly as possible and strove to create a good impression.

They were ignored for a while but sometime later they became so so boorish and abusive that they finally succeeded in getting themselves brought before the commandant.

When the trio entered the commandant’s office, the first man to come in, according to Selvester, was ‘small, ill-looking and shabbily dressed’ and still wearing his eye patch.

Which he promptly removed, put in his glasses and calmly stated: “I am Heinrich Himmler”.

Soviet and Nazi Intimidation Systems

The Soviet Bolshevist regime used intimidation and terror strategy as well. However, there was a very important difference. While the Nazi system made it loud and clear that only active opponents of the regime will be prosecuted and law-abiding citizens had nothing to fear, the Soviet system sent a message that anyone – even the diehard Bolsheviks – could be arrested, tortured and sent to the GULAG (or even shot) at any time.

This difference predictably and inevitably led to a very important difference on the battlefield in summer and fall of 1941. Where the Germans achieved the most spectacular victory and the Soviets (despite their enormous superiority in personnel and military hardware) suffered the most catastrophic defeat in the history of warfare.

And only colossal blunders by its commander-in-chief prevented the German Wehrmacht from winning the war on the Eastern front.