Tuesday, March 1, 2022


Beyond the obvious dichotomy between the weakness of German forces and the profligacy of German plans, a new factor was slowly coming into the mix, which would impact with ever worsening consequences for the Ostheer. On 25 August, the first day of Guderian's offensive into the Ukraine, Ernst Guicking, a soldier from the 52nd Infantry Division, wrote home to his wife: ‘Here the Russian autumn is gradually becoming noticeable. The wind already blusters through the branches.’13 Days later, on 1 September, Hans Pichler complained in his diary, ‘In recent days it has become noticeably cold and, as a result, there is no chance to properly dry the damp blankets, boots and clothes.’ The following day (2 September) Guicking wrote home in another letter, ‘At the moment we have terrible weather. It rained the whole night long and it does not look as though it is going to stop. It really seems as though it is gradually becoming winter.’ The implications of such seasonal changes were not lost on the men.

Solomon Perel noted that as the colder weather was setting in, the soldiers of the 12th Panzer Division began drawing ominous parallels with Napoleon's fate. By contrast, at the highest echelons of the Nazi state concerns about the changing weather were not permitted to alter belief in the final victory. On 27 August, after having been informed about the poor weather conditions on the eastern front, Joseph Goebbels noted in his diary, ‘It will not make it easy for us to win this war. Yet once we have won it, then the difficulties we are now experiencing, which are causing the greatest concerns, will appear as only pleasant memories.’ In a similar fashion, the chief of the operations department of the Luftwaffe, Major-General Hoffman von Waldau, commented in his diary on 9 September, ‘We are heading for a winter campaign. The real trial of this war has begun, the belief in final victory remains.’

David Stahel, Kiev 1941 (p. 175). Cambridge University Press. Kindle Edition.

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