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199 Days: The Battle for Stalingradby Edwin Palmer Hoyt
A few months before the beginning of Operation Barbarossa, the attack on the Soviet Union, Hitler called his generals together. This was not going to be an ordinary war, he told them. It was to be conducted with the utmost ferocity. The Soviet Union was to be destroyed and replaced by a group of colonies which would serve the Third Reich. The Russian people would be enslaved, and Russia would become a breadbasket and an oil sump for the Third Reich. All that Russia produced would be placed at the service of Germany.
Hitler summed up his policy toward Russia in three words:
On June 22, 1941, the German war machine began its race through western Russia. The panzers were moving forty miles a day. In a week they had moved three hundred miles and conquered Minsk on the sixth day of the war. Before the month was out Wilhelm Kube, a Nazi member of the Reichstag, had been installed in Minsk as general commissar for Belorussia, the vital sector of the front, and the Nazi terror had begun. On one day the SD, the Nazi Party's security arm, took 280 civilian prisoners from the Minsk jail, led them to a ditch, and shot them. Because there was still more room in the ditch, they brought another thirty prisoners and shot them, too, including one man who had been arrested for violating the curfew and twenty-three Polish skilled workers who had been quartered in the jail because there was no other place to house them. The terror was wild and disorganized, with various elements of the Nazi government working against one another.
In Berlin, where it was predicted that the war in Russia would be over in six weeks, Reichsmarschall Goering, Martin Bormann, Heinrich Himmler, and Alfred Rosenberg quarreled about who should manage the Russian people. Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop had a plan to encourage separatist movements in Russia: the Ukraine, Belorussia, the Baltic States, and other national groups would be granted "independence" within the framework of the new German empire.
This plan was discarded in favor of forced labor and repression. Torture, murder, and systematic starvation became the Nazi policy toward Russia. The Germans soon found that as they defeated the Red Army and occupied the territory, their troubles mounted. As if haunted by a death wish, the Nazis had adopted the single policy in Russia that would unite the people against them.
Copyright © 1993 by Edwin P. Hoyt
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