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Chris Culpin

How popular was

Hitler?

Chris Culpin examines the ‘cult of the leader’ that surrounded Hitler and asks why he became so revered, and why his popularity finally waned AQA AS Totalitarian ideology in theory and practice, c.1848–c.1941 AQA AS Life in Nazi Germany 1933–45 Edexcel AS From Second Reich to Third Reich: Germany, 1918–45 Edexcel A2 From Kaiser to Führer: Germany, 1900–1945 OCR (A) AS Democracy and dictatorship in Germany 1919–63 OCR (A) AS Dictatorship and democracy in Germany 1933–63 OCR (A) A2 Nazi Germany 1933–45

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Argument Man-made pseudo-hero Hitler’s life went through different stages: unlikeable individual in early life, headline-grabbing fanatic in the 1920s, and propagandised great hero-leader (Führer) who ultimately failed to fulfil his promises and was scorned 1930–45.

T

here are problems in trying to give a straight answer to the question in the title of this article. When are we talking about, for example? For the first 30-odd years of his life Adolf Hitler was not liked by his family, his school, or his pre-war Vienna acquaintances. Then in the last 30 months of his life he was (covertly) scorned by the German people who, recognising at last that they had been lied to, blamed him for the disaster they knew was about to overwhelm them.

Yet we have seen the photos of Hitler’s popularity at its peak in the 1930s: the crowds of smiling admirers surrounding him while he awkwardly embraces little fair-haired children. It is easy to dismiss such images

Enquiring history: it makes you think! Chris Culpin and Steven J. Mastin’s new book Nazi Germany 1933–45 is being published by Hodder Education in the Enquiring History series. It will be available in September 2013 as both paperback and e-book (www. hoddereducation.co.uk). The Enquiring History series helps you with the most difficult part of history — thinking through the issues. Examiners report that A-level history candidates often let themselves down because they know a lot but they don’t think hard enough about the question. Deeper thinking = improved understanding = better grades.

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The sources for what the German people really thought pose problems for the historian. There are the reports from government, police, party and Sicherheitsdienst (SD) security services. These were confidential, and did not hide criticisms, but people knew what trouble they could get into by commenting unfavourably on the Nazi government, and particularly on Hitler himself. There are, on the other hand, the reports sent secretly from Germany to the Social Democrat Party (SPD, or SoPaDe) abroad. Naturally they were eager to latch on to any antiNazi murmurings. We are limited, as historian Ian Kershaw says in The Hitler Myth: ‘However imperfect, the historian’s judgement, based on patient source criticism…and a readiness to read between the lines, must suffice’.

Hitler’s emergence as the adored leader was slow. If the Beer-Hall Putsch had succeeded, the war hero Lüdendorff would have taken power. Already, though, Hitler’s charisma as a speaker had begun to work. Not only the dim and mentally unstable Hess, but also Himmler, Rosenberg, Göring, Streicher and Goebbels all devoted themselves to him from 1922/23 onwards. Goebbels wrote in his diary in 1925: ‘Adolf Hitler, I love you because you are both great and simple at the same time. What one calls a genius’. Early converts to Nazism describe hearing Hitler for the first time as being like a religious conversion: ‘There was only one thing for me, either to win with Adolf Hitler or to die with him. The personality of the Führer had me totally in its spell’. The cult of leadership started at this time: the title of Führer, the personal bodyguard known as the Schutzstaffel (SS) and the salute, compulsory from 1926. By the end of the ‘quiet years’, 1925–31, Hitler’s leadership of the Nazi Party was secure. To most Germans, however, he was a strange and irrelevant fanatic, with floppy hair and a funny moustache. The presidential election of 1932, his appointment as chancellor in January 1933 and particularly Hitler’s

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• What problems are there in deciding if Hitler was genuinely popular? • Was there a difference between Hitlerism and Nazism?

What did people really think?

The cult of the leader

February 2013

Questions

• How far was the cult of the Führer a religious movement? March 1933 election victory, gave Goebbels his opportunity. Hitler was projected as the man of the people who had come to the fore to solve his nation’s problems. Regular, massive and well-reported rallies and commemorative celebrations meant that the cult of Hitler now went outside the party to the whole nation.

The role of propaganda Even from 1933, and every year after that, Hitler’s birthday on 20 April was a signal for outpourings of enthusiasm. Every town had bunting across the streets, shop window displays and processions, while posters, magazine articles, newsreels and films repeated the images. The greeting ‘Heil Hitler!’ was used on all official correspondence from July 1933. A lot of this was, of course, mere propaganda. But the cult of the leader was only built on by the propaganda, not created by it. From long before Hitler was born, German culture had celebrated the myth of the hero-leader, arising from the people, selfsacrificing for the rescue of the nation. Hitler played up to this, with an austere lifestyle, unmarried, being careful never to be photographed wearing glasses. He was portrayed as always kind to children and animals, and respectful of the elderly. Hitler told an audience in 1937:



It is a miraculous thing that, here in our country, an unknown man was able to step forth from the army of millions of German people, German workers and soldiers, to stand at the fore of the Reich and the nation.

TopFoto

Ingram

as propaganda — photo opportunities, as we would say now, set up by the first great master of modern propaganda, Josef Goebbels. How can we tell how genuine these images are?

’

Beer-Hall Putsch In November 1923, this was Hitler’s first attempt to overthrow the Weimar government in order to establish a right-wing nationalistic government. Lüdendorff A German general who became a prominent nationalist leader after the First World War. Rosenberg An Estonian supporter of the White Russian opposition to the Bolsheviks in 1918, he escaped to France, then Germany, where he joined the NSDAP (Nazis). Streicher Julius Streicher was a prominent Nazi who, through his newspaper Der Stürmer, promoted Nazi propaganda and antiSemitism.

Children congratulating Hitler on his birthday in 1936

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There are a lot of misleading websites that investigate Hitler’s sanity — be cautious about believing or quoting these. A more reliable site is the Encyclopaedia of World Biography, where a brief history of Hitler can be found at: www.encyclopedia. com/topic/Adolf_Hitler.aspx. Another useful Hitler site is: www.tinyurl.com/ck9t4rw. Also of interest is a contemporary ‘Profile of History’ recently published in the Daily Telegraph at: www. tinyurl.com/cqfmnkf

Hindenburg A Prussian German field marshal who became a statesman and politician. He served as president of Germany from 1925 to 1934.

Berchtesgaden Hitler’s mountain-top home in the Bavarian alps, sometimes referred to as ‘the eagle’s nest’. Sudeten Germans Ethnic German people who inhabited Czech land bordering Germany. Hitler sought to unite all Germans in one homeland and demanded that the Czechs should cede the Sudetenland to him.

Hero-leaders from the past, Bismarck and Frederick the Great, were recalled and compared. The death of Hindenburg in 1934 and Hitler’s assumption of the role of president as well as chancellor brought the telling slogan ‘Hitler for Germany, the whole of Germany for Hitler’.

Popular enthusiasm The laughing, cheering crowds to be seen on newsreels at the opening of autobahns (German motorways), the masses of ‘pilgrims’ in the roads around Berchtesgaden hoping to catch a glimpse of their Führer, the eager recruits to Nazi organisations — all seem to have been genuinely enthusiastic. His appearance anywhere was an emotional experience. His arrival in Hamburg — a city where the Nazis had never done well in free elections — was recorded by Hamburg school-teacher and diarist Luise Solmitz: ‘I shall never forget the moment when he drove past us in his brown uniform, performing the Hitler salute in his own personal way…. The enthusiasm [of the crowd] blazed up to the heavens.’ Hitler’s genuine popularity in the years from 1933 was enhanced by what many Germans saw as real achievements. The restoration of national pride through the rearmament programme

TopFoto

Hitler at the opening of the autobahn connecting Frankfurt and Darmstadt, 1935

and the reoccupation of the Rhineland in 1936 brought widespread approval. So did the decline in unemployment. The actions of the Gestapo in ‘dealing with’ drunks, social nuisances and outcasts, regular criminals and those seen as workshy, met with quiet agreement. Traditional religion played a large part in the life of many Germans. While most Roman Catholics never really embraced Nazism, Protestant clergy gladly took up the message. German Protestant churches had always seen themselves as bastions of the nation and swastikas were soon seen in many churches. The cult of Hitler had a semi-religious aspect, which Hitler was not above using. In 1936 he told Nazis: ‘Once you heard the voice of a man, and that voice knocked at your hearts, it wakened you and you followed that voice.’

Scandals committed by Nazi Party members Throughout the Nazi period many Germans distinguished between members of the Nazi Party, together with the actions of Nazi government, and the leader. Several local Nazi Party officials abused their powers, enriched themselves, drove big cars and commandeered desirable homes from their former Jewish owners. They were to be seen eating and drinking in expensive restaurants while the standard of living of most Germans was static and many foodstuffs, from 1937, were rationed. Yet Hitler remained untainted by these scandals. Most Germans took the view that ‘if Hitler had known’ he would not have allowed these abuses. Even the brutal gangster-style murders of the Night of the Long Knives of June 1934 did Hitler’s popularity no damage. At least 85 people were killed without trial, 12 of them Reichstag deputies. Yet this was seen as a necessary ‘cleansing’ of unruly, drunken, corrupt, sexually deviant elements. As Hitler’s policies led inexorably towards war, Germans began to have their doubts. Hitler came in for considerable disapproval during the 1938 Sudeten crisis. ‘Not a man should be sacrificed for the Sudeten Germans’ was a widely expressed view. Hitler was annoyed and impatient at the results of the September 1938 Munich peace agreement, but most Germans welcomed it, and British prime minster Neville Chamberlain received favourable publicity. War with Poland in September 1939 began the high point of Hitler’s popularity. The victory was so fast, so cheap, that it seemed churlish not to celebrate. The US reporter William Shirer noted: Peter Newark’s Military Pictures

Weblinks



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I still have to find a German, even among those who do not like the regime, who sees anything wrong in the German destruction of Poland…. As long as the Germans are successful and do not have to pull in their belts too much, this will not be an unpopular war.



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The extraordinary blitzkrieg victories in western Europe in 1940 brought fresh accolades. Added to all his other supposed qualities, Hitler was now a military genius as well.

Hitler’s popularity disappears Stalingrad was the turning-point, not just of Germany’s war fortunes, but of Hitler’s personal popularity. A great leader has to be invincible: charisma is fatally undermined by failure. As the war dragged on, the Nazis imposed ever heavier demands on the German

Further reading Evans, R. J. (2003) The Coming of the Third Reich, Penguin. Evans, R. J. (2005) The Third Reich in Power, Penguin. Evans, R. J. (2008) The Third Reich at War, Penguin. Gellately, R. (2002) Backing Hitler, Oxford University Press. Kershaw, I. (1987) The Hitler Myth, Oxford University Press.

Hamburg, Germany, after it was bombed in the Second World War — Hitler never visited bombed cities

people. From 1942 Allied bombing raids caused enormous civilian casualties, but also disruption, homelessness and continual strain. Hitler never visited bombed cities. Families had to face terrible uncertainty over the fate of members fighting on the Eastern Front. Half of all German casualties occurred in the last 18 months of the war. People made sour jokes about when the war would end: ‘The war will end when Goebbels’ trousers fit Göring’. Even SD reports tell of a frightened people, unmoved by Hitler’s speeches now, mocking the desperate loyalty of fanatical Nazis. Party members stopped wearing their uniforms in the street. The Hitler salute fell out of use. The power of the Hitler myth no longer worked. 20thCenturyHistoryReviewOnline Go online for a revision activity to accompany this article.

Shirer, W. (1941) Berlin Diary, Alfred A. Knopf. Vaizey, H. (2010) Surviving Hitler’s War, Palgrave MacMillan. Ask your teacher if your school subscribes to the 20thCenturyHistoryReviewOnline archive, where you will find further information on Göring, Goebbels, Hess and Himmler, and their roles within the Nazi Party — ‘The rise and fall of Hitler’s henchmen’, Vol. 7, No. 1, pp.16–17.

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Chris Culpin helped to write the 2008 National Curriculum for history and was director of the Schools History Project for 11 years. He was education consultant to BBC Schools TV for many years and is a fellow of the Historical Association and winner of the HA Norton Medlicott Medal in 2007. He has written a number of groundbreaking history textbooks.

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The Western Front during th

The British Army’s pe

Stalemate and tren

Race for the sea

(November 1914– August 1918)

(September– November 1914)

Peter Newark’s Pictures

After the German attempt to take Paris quickly failed, the two sides focused upon securing control of Channel and North Sea ports. British commander-in-chief: Field Marshal Sir John French

1915 Deployment of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) (August–September 1914) Britain declared war on Germany on 4 August 1914 and rapidly deployed the BEF, battle-ready sections of the British Army, to France.

Peter Newark’s MiLitarY Pictures

the British expeditionary Force embarking on a troopship to France, august 1914

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1916

The ‘miracle on the Marne’ (September 1914)

Battle of Loos (September–October 1915)

Following a month of German military successes, the French and British armies succeeded in halting the German advance towards Paris during the first Battle of the Marne.

A costly British assault on the Germans. Failure to achieve a clear victory at Loos undermined support for the leadership of Sir John French. Loos was also notable as the first place the British used poison gas.

Battle of the Somme (July–November 1916) Haig ordered a huge strike against the German Army near the River Somme. The battle was preceded by a weeklong bombardment. The depth and strength of the German trenches meant that the bombardment was ineffective. While there was no decisive British victory, ultimately the BEF gained control of the area. The battle was the largest in British military history and the first day alone cost the British and its allies 57,000 casualties.

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g the First World War

Barbara Warnock

y’s perspective The two sides formed a line of trenches across northwestern Belgium and northeastern France. Stalemate developed as the front line remained fairly static.

Hundred Days Offensive (August– November 1918)

Peter Newark’s MiLitarY Pictures

and trench warfare

British commander-in-chief: Field Marshal Douglas Haig

1917

1918 Battle of Amiens (August 1918)

Third Ypres (Passchendaele) (July–November 1917)

The British forces, whose tactics and weaponry were by this stage highly effective, played a decisive role. By 2 October the German defences on the Hindenburg Line had been breached.

The British aimed to remove the Germans from the position they held overlooking the Belgian town of Ypres. Poor weather reduced the battlefield to a muddy swamp. Britain and its allies eventually succeeded in capturing Passchendaele, at the cost of 200,000 men.

Spring Offensive (March–July 1918)

20thCenturyHistoryReviewOnline Go online for a printable PDF of this centre spread. September 2012

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iNGraM

Germany launched a final attempt to win on the Western Front with a series of attacks. However, German forces and resources were exhausted.

the British front in Flanders, 1917

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Richard Overy

The Great Patriotic War

AQA A2 Triumph and collapse: Russia and the USSR, 1941–1991 Edexcel [AQ: AS or A2?] Stalin’s Russia 1924–53

TopFoto

OCR (A) A2 Russia and its rulers 1855–1964

Richard Overy analyses how and why Russia was successful in avoiding being taken over by the Nazis in the early 1940s AQA A2 Triumph and collapse: Russia and the USSR, 1941–1991 Edexcel AS Stalin’s Russia 1924–53 OCR (A) A2 Russia and its rulers 1855–1964

Argument Turn tables, win war Although Stalin did not at first believe that Hitler had invaded the Soviet Union, he and his apparatchiks rallied the Soviet people to save the country from the Nazis. The ‘Great Patriotic War’ became a mammoth military and industrial exercise to marshal all forces to defend the homeland.

A

Teutonic Knights Similar to the Knights Templar, these were German knights, formerly crusaders, who turned to the defence of Catholic Christianity, as they saw it, in northern Europe.

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mong all the 70-year anniversaries being marked during 2012–13, the anniversary of the Battle of Stalingrad, which lasted from August 1942 to the end of January 1943, is among the most significant. The battle came at the mid-point of a titanic struggle between the German and Soviet armed forces, which began on 22 June 1941 when almost 4 million Axis troops mounted the largest invasion in history against the Soviet Union and its Communist society. Stalin and his government decided to call Soviet resistance ‘the Great Patriotic War’ to make it clear

that this was not just a war to save communism from defeat and extinction, but a war of the Russian people against a cruel invader. Soviet propaganda played down the defence of the Communist system and highlighted the heroic victories of the Russian past, won first against the Teutonic Knights in the thirteenth century, then against Napoleon and his Grand Army in 1812. The Soviet population was roused to fight for the defence of the motherland, though there were many who also fought to defend the revolutionary achievement, a factor that is often overlooked.

The Soviet Union facing defeat The war looked from the outset to be a disaster for the Soviet state. German armies pushed forward on all fronts, encircling large numbers of Soviet soldiers and destroying almost all the tanks and aircraft mustered by the Red Army on the western frontier. By September Leningrad was under siege, Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, was captured and German forces had overrun the most fertile and industrially rich areas of the Soviet Union. Soviet steel production sank to a mere 8 million tons against a German steel output of 29 million. The only resource the Soviet Union had in abundance was oil, and it was this 20th Century History Review

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White Sea

L. Onega L. Ladoga Leningrad

Baltic Sea

Operation Bagration In June 1944, as the Western Allies were struggling to defeat German armies after D-Day, the Red Army launched a vast operation across Belorussia against a large concentration of German armies.

German and Axis forces June–September 1941 German and Axis forces October–December 1941 Front line, December 1941 Oilfields

FINLAND

0

km

500

Ural Mountains

Riga Army Group E A S T North PRUSSIA Minsk Army Group Centre

Smolensk

Dn

on

D

es

Kharkov UKRAINE

ROMANIA CRIMEA BULGARIA

R. D on e

Stalingrad

tz

ter

Carpathian Mountains

Kursk

Kiev

R. D

N

USSR

R.

Army Group South

Moscow

ieper

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Soviet success owed a great deal to the way the economic war effort was organised. At first much had to be improvised as threatened industrial plant was evacuated to safer sites in the Urals or Siberia. In the second half of 1941, 2,600 enterprises were bodily moved eastwards along with 25 million workers and their families — an achievement the German side had never imagined possible. Once the industry was moved, Stalin established regular committee meetings, almost every day of the war, at which production problems were identified and measures taken to cope with them. Soviet planning for the Five-Year Plans in the 1930s had created a familiarity with a regime of planning targets and overfulfilment, and this culture was adopted during the war. Weapons were massproduced in huge factory halls. There were not many types of tank or aircraft, so that long production runs were possible. By the end of 1942 the Soviet Union,

Kursk From 5 to 13 July 1943 a major battle was fought around the Russian city of Kursk, in which for the first time in good summer weather the Red Army withstood the German attack and then mounted a massive counteroffensive that drove the Germans back.

R.

April 2013

The economic war effort

ni

In 1942 Hitler decided that Russian oil was the most important target. Axis forces ruled over one-third of the Soviet Union, but to defeat what was left of the Soviet military and to complete the German plan (known as ‘General Plan East’) to build a permanent empire in the east it was regarded as essential to seize the oil. It was also necessary to cut the Red Army off from its fuel supply and destroy it in one final great encirclement around Moscow. This was an ambitious plan but the German leadership was confident that in good summer campaigning weather, against an enemy that it consistently underestimated, victory was still possible. The strategy proved in the end to be a gamble. German and Axis forces reached as far as Stalingrad and the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains, but could get no further. Facing stiffening Red Army resistance and at the end of long and vulnerable supply lines, the German offensive ground to a halt. In Stalingrad the Red Army faced its hardest test. Two armies, the 62nd and 64th, held back the German Sixth Army in the ruins of the city for long enough to enable General Georgii Zhukov, Stalin’s deputy supreme commander, to plan a counter-stroke. Operation Uranus, which opened on 19 November 1942, was a complete success. The long German line to Stalingrad was cut and the Sixth Army encircled. On 31 January Field Marshal Paulus surrendered. The Soviet forces went on to win historic victories at Kursk in July 1943, at Kiev in November 1943 and in summer 1944 Operation Bagration, which destroyed the German Army Group Centre in Belorussia, the powerful core of the invading armies.

It has only been possible with the opening of archives since 1990 for historians to explain more fully how this remarkable Soviet revival became possible.

lg a

The road to Stalingrad

Explaining Soviet victory

R. V o

that drove Hitler to divert his forces southwards in September 1941 across the Ukraine, instead of seizing Moscow, as his generals wanted. The result was that neither Hitler nor the military leadership got what they wanted. The German Army was hundreds of kilometres from the oil when Hitler changed his mind and ordered the seizure of Moscow. By the late autumn, however, the weather threatened to make it impossible to capture Moscow before German forces froze and their supply lines closed up. Somehow the Red Army found the reserves and the stamina to defend Moscow. Stalin sent the rest of the government and Communist Party leadership to safety in the city of Kuibyshev, further to the east, but on 18 October, with German forces converging on the capital, he made a historic decision to stay in Moscow and face the risks. Although historians are generally dismissive of Stalin’s strategic capability during the war, the psychological impact of staying put to defend Moscow played an important part in restoring Soviet confidence. In December 1941 the German thrust failed and a second year of war became inevitable (Figure 1).

Sea of Azov

Rostov

Caspian Sea

Black Sea Caucasus Mountains TURKEY

Figure 1 Map showing the positions of German forces at the end of 1941, and places mentioned in the article

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Table 1 Soviet and German war production: a comparison

1941

1942

1943

1944

1945

25,436

34,900

40,300

20,900

Aircraft

USSR

15,735

Germany

11,776

15,409

28,807

39,807

7,540

Tanks

USSR

6,590

24,446

24,089

28,963

15,400

Germany

5,200

9,300

19,800

27,300



USSR

17.9

8.1

8.5

10.9

12.1

Germany

28.2

28.7

30.6

25.8



USSR

33.0

22.0

18.0

18.2

19.4

5.7

6.6

7.6

5.5

1.3

Steel (million tons) Oil (million tons)

Germany Cheliabinsk The Urals city, nicknamed ‘Tankograd’, where a large proportion of Soviet production of the famous T-34 tank was based. Out of range of German aircraft, tanks could be produced without interruption.

with a fraction of its steel, was producing more weapons of every kind than the Germans (Table 1).

Soviet attitudes The second factor was the attitude of the Soviet population. It has often been argued that the system kept fighting only because the Soviet security system, based on the Interior Ministry (NKVD), forced workers to work and soldiers to fight.

• Why did the Soviet regime call the war against Germany the ‘Great Patriotic War’? • What factors best explain the ability of the Soviet Union to defeat Hitler’s Germany?

Workers were expected to work in sub-zero temperatures, sometimes in factories with no proper roofing or heating, but somehow they kept going. One 15-year-old girl in Cheliabinsk, the famous ‘Tank City’ in the Urals, was forced to work without protective clothing in a room in which scraps of hot metal would hit her legs and feet where she worked. One day she was too disabled by the injuries to work, but her foreman came to her home and forced her back to work her 12-hour day. This was a level of coercion and sacrifice that no other state had to endure during the war.

Patriotism At the same time, though, there was a grim patriotic enthusiasm for the conflict. Hatred of the German enemy became central to Soviet propaganda. The poet Ilya Ehrenburg wrote articles and poems for the Red Army newspaper encouraging soldiers to kill every German they found. ‘There is nothing jollier’, he wrote, ‘than German corpses.’ Not every Soviet soldier became a crazed killer, but there was a powerful sense that every Russian had an obligation to do everything possible to rid the country of the Fascist invader. Workers, despite the hardships, took pride in turning out tank after tank.

Peter Newark’s Pictures

Coercion The reality was much more complex. It was a brutal system, and thousands of soldiers were shot for desertion or negligence, or put into penal battalions that were forced to clear enemy minefields.

Questions

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A a

Peter Newark’s Military Pictures

Weblinks http://russiapedia.rt.com/russian-history/ the-great-patriotic-war/ gives unusual and interesting details linked to the war that expand on the usual dry ‘who did what to whom and when’ accounts. At www.un.int/russia/new/azbuka/v/VOV_en.pdf you can find a Russian version of the war. An extremely full account of the war written from Soviet/Russian sources can be found at http://tinyurl. com/d4pfo7l. It is worth a visit if you want to ‘go the extra mile’ for a better mark.

Further reading Evan Mawdsley, E. (2005) Thunder in the East: the Nazi–Soviet War 1941–1945, Hodder Arnold. Merridale, C. (2006) Ivan’s War: the Red Army at War 1941–1945, Faber & Faber. Overy, R. (1998) Russia’s War, Penguin. Roberts, G. (2012) Stalin’s General: the Life of Georgy Zhukov, Icon Books. Samuelson, L. (2011) Tankograd, Palgrave/Macmillan.

A Soviet war poster from 1942 encouraging people to ‘Follow this worker’s example, produce more for the front!’

What they got as their reward was food from the factory canteens. This was a major incentive to keep working, since those who could not work got no rations and had to rely on what their relatives or friends might give them.

Prowess in battle Finally, the Soviet armed forces learned quickly how to fight much better against their German opponent. The Red Army was adept at camouflage and deception. The German Army had no idea that over 1 million men were moved into place for Operation Uranus. The Soviet generals, encouraged by the talented Zhukov, also learned how to organise and ‘manage’ large-scale operations by better communication and planning. All of this was helped by Anglo-American Lend Lease aid, which provided thousands of field telephones and radios, and millions of kilometres of cable. Most important for Red Army success was Stalin’s willingness in 1942 to stand back from running the war and allow his generals to do what they were trained for. Stalin also agreed that the Communist Party commissars attached to each A red flag signals the Soviet Union’s triumph at the Battle of Stalingrad in January 1943 April 2013

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military unit should no longer have any command responsibilities. The reduction in political interference allowed the armed forces to make the most of the resources the economy was pouring out.

Counting the cost The cost for the Soviet people was enormous. Current estimates suggest 26–27 million dead, two-thirds of them civilians. These statistics dwarf the losses of those of the other European powers. Thousands of towns and villages were destroyed, while the German Army murdered millions of Soviet Jews as well as partisans, who fought behind the German lines against the invader. Victory in the war was used to give the Stalin regime greater legitimacy, and victory day (9 May in the USSR) was celebrated with extraordinary pageantry every year. Even now, in post-Communist Russia, there remains a strong historical memory of Soviet victory even though the system that produced it has long disappeared. 20thCenturyHistoryReviewOnline Go online for a revision activity to accompany this article. Professor Richard Overy is professor of history at the University of Exeter and has researched and published extensively on the history of the Hitler and Stalin dictatorships, the Second World War, air power in the twentieth century and German history from c.1900.

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