tv Book Discussion on Combat and Genocide on the Eastern Front CSPAN September 2, 2015 7:08pm-7:32pm EDT
i knew i wanted to do something on that conflict. i was interested not just in a military confrontation but also the ideological struggle that the nazis were waging against the soviet union. hitler's dream was to create this racial empire in the east and the german army was his primary means of creating this empire. i wanted to look at how the german army fought the war, not just a military struggle but the ideological struggle. there's not a lot written in english about the military struggle and there is a lot written in german about the ideological struggle. what it wanted to do is combine the two narratives and come up with one overarching view of the war. three divisions that i believe had been under-studied. there has been a lot of wartime delete time -- allete german divisions or answered divisions or waffen ss divisions. i wanted to look at three divisions made up of "ordinary
men," german men who were drafted or had been conscripted. i also wanted to look at an area that had been relatively on it -- understudied and that is the leningrad region. there is a lot written about the siege but not a lot about the german operations in that area. i wanted to add a bit to the literature that has developed about the war, most of which focuses either on the center of the front with moscow or the southern section of the front. interviewer: what was the ideological struggle? hitler's struggle was to create this racial empire, that the germans could economically exploits of the can -- so they can continue the war. the idea was that the main goal had, they were interested in feeding their home front. this goes back to the first world war where germany was blockaded and you see that the
german home front brakes. this is primarily due to the german state being unable to feed its population. hitler and his leadership are convinced that they can grasp for from the soviet union, particularly ukraine, feed the german home front, feed the german army that is invading the soviet union. there will be enough food and the german people will stay behind the war and the german right will continue to expand -- will continue to expand. there are also natural resources that the germans were looking to grab. the idea is that the soviet union is to be in india, as india is the great britain, so ukraine was to be to germany. when the germans think about this food that they are going to have to get, this means that there are people in the soviet union who are not going to be able to eat. this is fine with the germans
because based on this racial hierarchy that hitler has constructed, groups such as the don't deserves this food, they are to die. the other aspect of this war is bolshevism. enemy to mortal western europe, western civilization. hitler and many other nazis equated bolsheviks with jews. that bolshevism was a conspiracy launched i jews to destroy the west area -- the west. destroying bolshevism but getting rid of world jewry as well. this leads to an ideological war that is perhaps the most savage that has been waged in european history. therviewer: what were germans approach to the war?
jeff: here we have that the economy. we have the military struggle. what the germans had hoped to do is conquer the soviet union through a quick let's campaign. this is the first campaign the germans actually planned as a blitzkrieg. we see elements of it in poland and france and yugoslavia. movingmean is quick panzer units, panzer groups that would drive deep into the soviet union and then press on well the infantry armies enclosed these circles. we do not see that same kind of let's campaign. this is primarily due to the has onet the army group panzer group so does not have as many tanks is other army groups. it has to do with the terrain of the area. it is kind of swampy. conducive to armor.
this becomes one of infantry slogging ahead against the soviet forces. we also see the flip side of the ideological war. we have orders that are mission -- issued to the german army. all officers are to be immediately separated from other red army prisoners and delivered to ss units to be shot or to be shown on the authority of the officer at the front. here we see that ideological order, there is nothing similar that they the war fought against the germans, the french, or the americans. we also see this when we look at food policy and what the germans do is in this attempt to ensure that their troops are fed and that the home front does not have to send a lot of rations to the front, they are told to live off the land. it basically find the food where it is.
-- basically to find the food where it is. eight weeks into the advance, one of the divisions i look at, the 123rd infantry division is their superiorby to find sustenance where you can. a few weeks and they are told wherever you can find it, go find it. in the soviet union during the 1940's, it was a zero-sum game. they were only going to get it from the peasantry. and the has entry loses their , theyow or their goat will starve. in the summer of 1941 you see the conditions for the starvation that will set in for the winter of 1941 in 1942. -- and 1942. they take a different approach to the soviets than they do other nations. this is where that whole racial hierarchy comes into play.
for the not say leadership, there is an approach to the war based on race so they look at the west and denmark and they see that denmark is viewed as racially similar to the germans. they deserve better treatment. -- the french they see them do not see them quite as high on the racial hierarchy but there is a simulation -- a civilization there. as they turned east and look at the slavic groups, these are groups that do not compare. they do not hold up on that racial hierarchy. they do not deserve what they have. brutality the war a that we do not see in the east. the soviet union israel by communists. this has a huge -- soviet union is ruled by communist. -- communists.
had to be threat that eradicated so all this comes together to make the war in the east a particularly savage affair. interviewer: how did it affect the general population and the soviets him a house of you it's? jeff: at least the units i looked at, the advance and they go through the baltic states. these people have been forcibly incorporated into the soviet union in 19 30, 1940. as liberators. going to get rid of the communists. as the germans pushed deeper into -- out of the baltic states and out of russia toward leningrad there are some russians who greet them in a welcoming manner. the germans are opening up, the
soviets see them as allowing them to practice their religion. there are many people who were not thrilled with stalin's policies. as the year advances we see that this initial support of the germans dissipates. this is most noteworthy in the town where there is a small city, large town that sits outside of leningrad. this town was occupied at one of the divisions i looked at. and leningrad is seat by the germans. 121st moves and we see all these policies coming together. one of the first things that happens is the jewish population is murdered.
is documents i looked at, it not clear who did the murdering that ss unitsr were in the town. is theoretically in control so this happened on the army's watch. unit and the army had a close relationship. they worked to secure the town. we see this later on in the year where 10 people are executed for cutting communication cables. once the execution is carried out by the ss and again we see the same pattern, the same type carried out for the same reasons. the biggest issue is food. as the germans moved in they confiscate all the food and warehouses. about themrces speak
gathering food. what we see is this incredible starvation set. this is familiar to people who have read about leningrad. -- 800,000 to one million people died. when thee lost -- germans got in there at the end of september, by the end of the war it was down to 6000 with a majority of these people during -- dying during that winter. just incredible scenes of misery and desperation comes through. the harm -- the highest levels see this as a necessity. this is the idea of military necessity that the german army
was willing to do whatever it needed to do to win the war. the majority of civilians are treated in a callous manner. not targeted at not assisted. assee this in pavlosk starvation and disease rips through the town. we see the german field command up the hierarchy to the army level and army group north and back to berlin asking what are we supposed to do? we pushed into the city and we have 50,000 people who are going to starve. what are we going to do? and they are instructed by berlin to let them starve. it is better for -- if russians starve is opposed to germans. -- as opposed to germans. there is this idea that is ok if people starve. this is a bigger problem for troops on the ground. divisions complain about it is
intolerable to see women and children starving. it is intolerable for their morale. would writeany men about their efforts to give a little food to russians especially children. and women. one report is that german troops are especially kindhearted or soft towards women and children because they have wives and kids at home. thisigh command is ok with mass starvation because they believe this would has to go to the germans to keep the army ready to fight this war. for many on the ground it was a problem and it would hat -- try to help out. whether they ever connected the fact that their occupation policies as a whole work causing this is open to debate. interviewer: there were some asments where they felt
starvation set in, the animosity started to grow. jeff: what we see is the growth of the resistance to german role. this resistance that started after the german invasion, the germans talk about it in their documents that i looked at. is hard to find any concrete cases of this. to the war.in they are expecting full-fledged resistance so they talk about it even when they do not get it. but resistance does pick up as we get through 1941 into 1942. it becomes a bigger problem in german states as they go on during the war because of their policies. one way of looking at it was
they did not have to treat anyone well because the war would be over. in december 1941 with a soviet counterattack and this is the second period of war, the winter crisis. there was a major attack in front of moscow which pushes the german forces to hundred kilometers back but it also affects army group north. one of the divisions i looked at with3rd, is surrounded 500,000 german soldiers that are surrounded in this pocket. dhat we see during this perio o is that the german army believes it is fighting this existential war. that if it does not when it will be crushed here in the snows of the soviet union. they start to wage a different more than what we saw in the period of the advance.
the war becomes one in where everyone is a legitimate target so civilians are seen as being especially problematic as maybe they are working with the soviet army which is putting a lot of pressure on this exhausted and weaker german force. so soviet civilians become target by the germans. this is going to lead to an uptick in resistance as german policies become much more violent, much more savage toward the soviet people. from what i can tell, my interpretation is that this change in behavior was based on how the germans appreciated the war. had to fear civilians because of this red army counteroffensive. it looked like the german army would disintegrate and everything becomes a battle. around is aea combat area and everyone is treated as such.
the germans master this crisis. they survive this winter crisis partly because the soviets are not well enough equipped or organized or trained or led to truly destroy the germans. neither just stops and -- everything stopped and neither side can move. the german high command realizes that what has happened is the german army is no longer strong enough to defeat the soviet union in one massive campaign so they shift all their offensive forces to the south, anticipating the campaign. what we see in the north is they are told to go to the defensive. what we see is the battlefield becomes similar to what we had in the first world war on the western front. attrition warfare. there is no great tank battles up here that we see in the south. the german army has to dig in and defend the positions that it
has one -- won. this leads to the third period of the war. period.ds to the crisis to mid-1943,1942 the germans feel that the only way they can win this war, it resources and people is if it starts to mobilize the population behind the german lines. so all three divisions become much more conciliatory in their actions toward soviet civilians. there is this effort to draw them into the war effort. think the most striking example of this is with the experiences of the 123rd infantry division. in the pocket itself,
the germans are surrounded. the only way they are getting supplies is from air drops which is not the most -- it will not be nearly enough. they are -- surrounded by superior red army forces. greatly weakened during the advance of 1941 and smacked around pretty well during the soviet counteroffensive so they are not strong, combat ready divisions. what i found and what i found surprising was that instead of becoming more aggressive, more ideologically motivated and more likely to lash out at civilians, these divisions became much more conciliatory and enacted programs to help civilians. the 123rd division ordered that helps and doctors were to soviet civilians who had illnesses. they started supplying food to people in the pocket. directly against what
they did in 1941. the russians are supposed to starve so germans can live. this division has taken it upon themselves to feed people in the pocket. it does not do this for humanitarian reasons. it does it because it understands that people who are fed are not going to be as rebellious. whichill not have disease will not be spread to german forces. it is this idea of military necessity. the only way we will win if we have a -- is if we have a pacified population behind the lines who are not trying to link with the red army or link up with partisan units to cut our throats during the night. so during this time from 1940 two to 1943, early 1943, i think we see this concerted attempt by at least elements of the german army in the east to work with the soviet population. so this breaks somewhat from this ideological conception of
the war. if we look at this from that ideological perspective, the idea would be that as things get tougher, the germans would be more prone to wage the war that hitler wanted and instead what we see is they break away from that. the best way they can win is if they are able to mobilize the soviet civilian population. this was one of the very interesting things that i came up with during the course of my research and writing the book. >> wheeling was the first capital of west virginia and a major manufacturing hub in the 19th century. of next on the c-span city store, joseph rocks me on his age."the heroic just: the title was taken from a
schoolteacher, what am derby. when he was writing to dr. draper whose manuscript said a lot of the research, he referred to this as the heroic age. mr. darby would have been familiar with the folks of the area. he was a teacher. he was quite familiar with the stories. the area was first opened for intlement by fort stanwix the 1700s. they are considered the founders of wheeling. this was the western theater of the american revolution. fort henry was built and named of virginia.ernor one of his titles was the earl castle. patrick henry came in as the
revolutionary governor. it was renamed for henry. for wheeling, wheeling was considered the head of navigation on the ohio during the low water season. fort henry and wheeling would have a symbiotic relationship in that a lot of places where forts were built where there was no population, they were abandoned because they were as in. because fort henry had people abandoned.it was not protectedt henry wheeling and wheeling protected fort henry. that was the relationship. theidea -- it is built on sieges and the trilogy of legends. the first