The Fatal Decisions: First Hand Accounts by Hitler's Generals, ed. William Richardson and Seymour Freidlin

The Fatal Decisions: First Hand Accounts by Hitler's Generals, ed. William Richardson and Seymour Freidlin

In the post-war period attempts were made to gather the opinions of surviving senior German officers (partly inspired by a fear that the Cold War might turn hot and that NATO might be forced to fight the Red Army). This selection of six articles was originally published in 1956, and look at six significant turning points of the war - three in the west, two in the east and one in North Africa. They are linked by six commentaries also written by a German general.

The most glaring flaw in most of the generals' testimony is that they all attempted to shift the blame for every German defeat of the war onto Hitler and Goering or onto overwhelming Allied numbers and industrial production. The general theme is 'if only we had been able to act as we wanted, then disasters would have been avoided'. The desire to portray defeat as inevitable in the face of overwhelming numbers does at least mean that there are very few claims that without Hitler the war could have been won. As a result there are very few attempts by the various authors to analyse their own mistakes, or the mistakes of other generals.

Despite this flaw these accounts are of great value. They allow us to see what the German military leaders were thinking and what they thought the Allies were about to do. In most cases the authors were close to the top but not actually in command themselves, so they are rarely attempting to justify their own actions. The main exception is Hasso von Manteuffel, who commanded one of the three German armies that took part in the battle of the Bulge. His account is thus from the viewpoint of a front line commander, and much of his text thus examines the immediate short-term reasons for the failure of the Ardennes offensive.

This is a fascinating collection of articles, which provide us with an invaluable insight into the attitudes and experiences of the high command of the German Army, just watch out for the self-justification!

Part 1
The Battle of Britain - General of the Air Force Werner Kreipe
Commentary - The War Spreads

Part 2
Moscow: General Günther Blumentritt
Commentary - The Struggle Approaches its Climax

Part 3
El Alamein: Lieutenant-General Fritz Bayerlein
Commentary - From El Alamein to Stalingrad

Part 4
Stalingrad: Colonel-General Kurt Zeitzler
Commentary - Between the Acts

Part 5
France 1944: Lieutenant-General Bodo Zimmerman
Commentary: The End Draws Near

Part 6
The Ardennes: General Hasso von Manteuffel
Commentary - Finale

Authors: Various Generals
Editors: William Richardson and Seymour Freidlin
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 261
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Year: 2012 edition of 1956 original

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