(WAR in EUROPE, 1941-45 – continued)

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WAR in EUROPE, 1941-45 (4 of 10)

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War and Fantasies in 1943

In January, 1943, Churchill and Roosevelt met at Casablanca and decided that they would demand that Germany surrender unconditionally. On January 31, those Germans and Romanians at Stalingrad who had not frozen to death were finally overrun, and they surrendered. The Soviet Union had lost a million men fighting for Stalingrad, and now they began driving the Germans back.

With the Soviet Union's success around Stalingrad, hope in the United States for a Soviet victory increased, as did fear of Stalin. Some Americans still saw Stalin and Communism as odious. They believed in supporting the Soviet Union against Hitler but with strings attached. This was the view of Roosevelt's ambassador to the Soviet Union since April, 1942: William Standley. Standley was a military man, a former admiral. He wanted US aid tied to agreements, and he was displeased with what he saw of Stalin, who was saying nothing to the people of the Soviet Union about aid coming from the United States. Standley wanted the US to benefit not only from the fighting and dying by the Soviet people, he wanted to hear gratitude from a man desperate in his desire to accentuate the ability of the Soviet System. Standley complained that the Roosevelt administration should stop acting like Santa Claus.

In February, 1943, William C. Bullitt – Roosevelt's friend and his ambassador to the Soviet Union from 1933 to 1936 – met Roosevelt for three hours at the White House and argued for concessions from Stalin in exchange for US support. Bullitt was a man of wealth with a reputation as an internationalist with radical and liberal leanings, and he described Stalin as a dangerous dictator and an ideologue bent on spreading communist revolution. Roosevelt argued with him, saying that he had "a hunch that Stalin is not that kind of man." He said that his chief advisor, Harry Hopkins, had described Stalin as not wanting "anything but security for his country," and Roosevelt added:

I think that if I give him everything I possibly can and ask nothing from him in return, noblesse oblige, he won't try to annex anything and will work with me for a world of democracy and peace.

To Bullitt's objections, Roosevelt said:

 Bill ... it's my responsibility and not yours; and I'm going to play my hunch. note76

Poland and the Katyn Forest Massacre

Stalin, meanwhile, was building in Moscow a friendly alternative to the Polish government in exile in London – an alternative the Russians would call the "Union of Polish Patriots." On April 13 had come the announcement by radio from Germany of a discovery of thousands of bodies of Polish officers in the Katyn forest, near Smolensk, then occupied by the Germans, and the Germans called for observers from the West. Stalin responded to the suggestion that his people had done the killings as "infamous fascist slander." Seeing much at stake, Stalin described the London Poles as not only hostile to Russia but under Nazi influence. Roosevelt was shown an intelligence report that blamed the massacre on the Russians, but he refused to believe it. Churchill tried to smooth over the matter, announcing that it was no time for quarrels among the Allies. "We have got to beat Hitler," he said, and he assured the Soviet ambassador in London that he would oppose any investigation by the International Red Cross or any other body in any territory under German authority.

On April 25, Stalin broke diplomatic relations with the exiled Polish government in London. To Roosevelt's envoy, Joseph Davies, who arrived in Moscow on May 19, Stalin said that the Polish government in London had betrayed the Soviet Union, that the Soviet Union needed regimes on its western border that were friendly toward the Soviet Union and that he "wanted all European peoples to have the kind of government that they themselves chose, free from coercion." note77  Davies did not pursue the subject by asking for specifics about his plans for occupied countries. But he told Stalin that the Soviet image in the United States would improve if the Comintern were disbanded and if there was more evidence of religious freedom.

The Comintern that year was disbanded, and Roosevelt replaced his anti-Stalin ambassador to the Soviet Union, Standley, with W. Averell Harriman – who was no admirer of Stalin but by now had a history of working well with the Russians.

Trouble in the Ukraine

Hitler had rejected suggestions that Germany befriend an independent, pro-German Ukraine. And now most Ukrainians hated the Germans. In 1943 the Ukraine was filled with partisans – bands of armed men and women – some of them fighting for Soviet rule, some of them fighting against both Soviet rule and the Germans, and all of them were asking would they could from rural folk in order to survive. The German army was striking back at the partisans, seeing all Ukrainians as the enemy and inflicting collective punishment against men, women and children. In 1941 German soldiers heading into the east had seen themselves as saviors of Western Civilization against an inferior people, the Slavs, and now it was common for them to believe that killing Ukrainian civilians was just another aspect of war.

Toward a Memorable Demise

In 1943, Hitler took up the line that Germany had just begun to fight. Remembering the hardship that Germany had suffered during World War I and the unrest that had resulted, he had been conducting the war in an atmosphere of business and life as usual for Germans on the home front. Now, goods for consumers would be curtailed. Germany would move to full wartime production. Dr. Goebbels called upon the German people to sacrifice for the sake of future generations.

The German view on women was that they should be housewives, and this was also Hitler's view. Few German women worked in industry. There was no German version of America's Rosie the Riveter. In Germany, a woman with a Ph.D. in chemistry could not find a job as a chemist or in teaching. Nor were there German women in the military. Hitler had a boyish view that women should be nurses and give affection to males. German women served the military only in nursing and served the nation by having children. Women's role was to increase in industrial work only toward the end of the war when there was a depletion of male workers and more desperation.

In the place of women working in industry while men were in the military, Germany was using workers from other nations. The German government began drafting Frenchmen to work in German industry, which did much to increase hostility toward Germany in France. Among the French, grassroots resistance organizations developed, which were hostile to both Germany and to those French people who had befriended the Germans.

Germany was also using slave labor – the labor of Jews and others – with capitalists operating as capitalism usually does: within the context of prevailing social values. It was okay, they believed, to use slave labor because the slaves were unworthy people – a rationale for slavery dating back to antiquity.

Meanwhile, Hitler had discovered that separating "Aryans" from Jews was not as easy as he had imagined. Centuries of assimilation and intermarriage created many who were deemed one-quarter or one-half Jewish and called Mischlinge. Some of them were among the highest ranking of military officers. As many as 150,000 Mischlinge were given reprieves in the form of a special document that allowed them to serve in the armed forces. note78

Hitler was stressed by Germany's defeat at Stalingrad in February 1943. He maintained his self-confidence, but out of proportion to his abilities. He was given to rages, including rage at his generals, whom he unjustly denounced to their faces, calling them idiots, cowards and liars. Facing an enemy that was stronger than expected, and getting stronger, Hitler's generals advised that against the Russians they should withdraw to defensive positions, to a straighter, shorter line to allow Germany to consolidate its strength in the territory it had gained and to let the Russians wear themselves out in offensives. But Hitler would not have it.

Hitler's armies were too spread out: trying to defeat the Soviet Union, occupying numerous other European nations and trying to hold the line against the United States and Great Britain. In manpower Germany was at a disadvantage, not only because of the Soviet Union's 170 million people but also the 66 million of Great Britain, Canada and Australia, a volunteer army of 2.5 million in India, and the 150 million that populated the United States – offset by only 73 million in Japan. The populations of Romania and Hungary were only a little help. In manufacturing and war material Germany was also at a disadvantage. In 1943, Germany and the Soviet Union were about equal in manufacturing, but US output was about 2.5 times that of Germany. The US that year produced 85,898 aircraft, the Soviet Union 34,900, the British 26,263 and Germany only 24,807. And the Germans were producing fewer tanks than the Soviet Union, and fewer tanks than the Americans. note79

By mid-May, 1943, all of North Africa was controlled by the Allies. On July 10 the Allies landed in Sicily against Italian and German troops. In Italy, military failures weakened unity and inspired political change. In late July, Italy's king had Mussolini arrested. Italy's old war hero, General Pietro Badoglio, who had led Italy's forces in Libya in the 1920s and then in Ethiopia, was called upon to form a new government. In late August his representatives met British and American envoys in Portugal, and on September 3, Italy surrendered.

United States and British forces invaded the Italian peninsula at Salerno, struggling against Germany's forces there. Italy joined the war against Germany, and the Germans advanced into areas that had been occupied by the Italians: in Albania, Greece, Yugoslavia and some islands in the Aegean. From Greece, Germany took hundreds of thousands of Italian soldiers to do forced labor – from which many were never to return. By October 1, the Allies were moving into Naples, the Germans taking revenge against their former allies by wrecking museums there.

Soviet troops in 1943 continued to drive the Germans back. In November they retook the capital of the Ukraine: Kiev. In the Pacific the Americans had turned the tide of war in their favor. By now Hitler was tired of the war. He thought it would be nice to go to the theater regularly again and to visit the Artists' Club. Like many people he blamed others for his troubles. He cursed Churchill, blaming him for the war and calling him a damned drunkard. Hitler saw the possibility of defeat and no possibility of a negotiated settlement. But the suffering of the German people did not matter to him so much as a glorious end. Hitler spoke of the attraction of demise by a "magnificent pyre." The ever-faithful Dr. Goebbels pushed the theme of the German people going down in a heroic and glorious ending that would make the biggest of marks in human history and stir the hearts of people forever after. The Allies in their bombing were contributing to Hitler's passion for destruction. Hitler exulted in it. To him the Allies were exposing their principles as hypocrisy.


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