Germany in 1944

There was no conceivable way life under Soviet oppression would be better than life under the Reich, and history proved them right.

More like “almost always well-led”, at least at the Generaloberst and below levels.

German officer development and leadership were the primary reasons that the German troops fought as well as they did- they had a systematic leader development program that began as early as the Hitler Youth, and continued through the officer candidate schools. Allied armies weren’t so diligent, in the case of the US, merely taking college grads and running them through 90-day training courses before commissioning.

And based on what I’ve read, the real fear was that the Russians would conquer and occupy Germany- that’s what kept them fighting so hard in the East for so long, and why they fought like hell even as late as April 19, 1945 (Battle of Seelow Heights). Nothing like that happened on the Western Front after Operation Nordwind in Jan 1945- they essentially put up mild resistance in the West, in expectation that having the country mostly occupied by the British, French and Americans was much preferable to the Russians, not being aware that post-war Germany had already been partitioned at Yalta.

What makes you think civilians had no weapons? Sure, they didn’t have tanks and bombers, but Hitler made it easier for most ordinary Germans to own guns by relaxing the Weimar-era restrictions–the 1938 law completely deregulated purchase and possession of rifles, e.g. (except for Jews). Plus, the old men and young boys not on active duty were organized into the militia, and they had guns too.

Having hunting rifles, however, doesn’t equal the ability to fight off the internal police, and still less equals the desire to fight off the internal police. Hitler was still quite popular in Germany until the very end.

That was very interesting, especially in contrast with the matching film for Japan occupation troops. The Germany film was much harsher towards the German people and their potential for reform – or perceived lack thereof – than the Japan film. The Japan film depicts the Japanese people as fooled & misled by the warlords, almost as victims, while the Germany film depicts the German people down to the children as willing supporters of the Nazi horrors. The films depict the rot/evil as top-down in Japan but essentially bottom-up in Germany. While the Japan film is condescending towards the Japanese (modern vs. ancient beliefs), it’s relatively friendly towards the Japanese people where the Germany film is downright hostile towards the German people. The Japan film suggests that the occupation troops set a good example to the Japanese people because reform is likely with free institutions, while the Germany film directs the occupation troops to stand as aloof as possible from the German people because the chance of reform is exceedingly slim at best.

These films are in contrast to the popular narrative that, due to racism, the American people & military treated the Japanese but not the Germans as subhuman. While I have no doubt that there was some of that, especially during the war vs. afterwards, it’s clear that at least the producer(s) of those two films had much, umm, deeper issues with the Germans than the Japanese.

Was it kept so secret? Certainly the demand for unconditional surrender was made very clear, and that must have been a factor in high-level plotting. There was no prospect of a negotiated armistice, let alone peace, and no western allies on the ground, until the Normandy invasion. Once the July plot had collapsed and the system descended into even deeper brutality, all anyone could do was to try to keep their heads down.

There was always the prospect, right up to the end and even after, that fanatical local Nazis would dispose of people reluctant to fight even the western allies (plenty of accounts of drum-head courts martial and executions of civilians refusing to fight, even with the western allies in the next village along).

I thought the prospective division into zones of occupation was made known or foreshadowed in advance - one reason why the successor government delayed formal surrender was to maximise the chances for troops to move west to surrender there rather than to the Russians.

Obviously meant to be starting a new thread, sorry!

An important part of the fight to the end mentality is the “Stab in the back” conspiracy theory that so much of the Nazi ideology was based on. The German population believed that the First world war was lost because of internal treason, and as a result, no one was willing to admit defeat lest they be accused of repeating the “treason of 1918”.

I never read that the Germans knew that the zones of occupation had already been defined. I’ve always had the impression that the Germans were basically buying time through fighting like demons in the East, in order for everyone else to flee westward, as well as to allow the Western Allies to conquer more territory, as they were seen as far preferable to the Russians in terms of occupying forces.

Two examples of how even minor dissent was quashed:

Joke told by Marianne Kürschner, a soldier’s widow:
Hitler and Göring stand on the upper platform of the Berlin radio tower in the evening.
Hitler: I like those Berliners and I’d like to do something for them today.
Göring: Jump, then.

Court’s sentence: death. Marianne Kürschner was beheaded in June of 1943
Joke told by Joseph Müller, Protestant pastor:
Motally wounded soldier in a hospital: Nurse, tell my who I am dying for.
Nurse: For the Führer and the Fatherland
Soldier: Can the Führer come to my deathbed, then?
Nurse: Sorry, no, but here’s a picture of him; I’ll put it on one side of you to comfort you.
Soldier: I belong to the Luftwaffe. Do you have a picture of Göring, my commander, too?
Nurse: Here you are. I’ll put his photograph on the other side of your bed.
Soldier: Now I will die like Jesus Christ did.

Court’s sentence: death. Joseph Müller was beheaded in September of 1944.

There was a widespread belief among German servicemen that in a few weeks of the war’s end the Western Allies would quarrel with their former Russian allies and they would find themselves fighting alongside the Anglo-Americans, suitably refitted and resupplied. Some in the leadership thought the break would come sooner, citing the miracle that delivered Frederick the Great from the coalition ranged against him when the Czarina Elizabeth died and Russia withdrew from the conflict.

Exactly. There was no catalyst for uprisings, and any hint of dissent was dealt with. For example, Iraq (1990’s) and Syria (1980’s) has big local uprisings, but in each case it tended to be by a strong ethnic minority with their own political/religious leaders - and was crushed brutally. In totalitarian Germany though, there was not alternate leader, alternate cause, alternate ethnic group strong enough to be the focus for an organized campaign. As these anecdotes demonstrate, if anyone thought about it, and voiced an opinion, they were quickly repressed. Add to that the usual “rah-rah” patriotic war effort exhortations, and nobody stood out to lead a revolt.

I imagine you mean the Volkssturm.

From my reading, the formation of this last-ditch organisation, barely armed with obsolete foreign rifles with two or three rounds of ammunition, sent a very definite message to the German people that the jig was up.

There is a suggestion in “The German War” by Nicholas Stargardt that in 1943 Hamburg was close to some kind of revolt. But unlike Italy, where Allied bombings forced a revolt against Mussolini in 1943, Germany was better able to organize anti-aircraft defenses and keep the state running with food, supplies,etc

Of course if you want people fighting only against hopeless odds, Paraguay took on Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay from 1864 to 1870. Some estimates have 70% of the Paraguayan adult males dying.

And it’s not like every other country losing a war immediately erupted into an armed popular movement against the rulers. Why wasn’t there a popular uprising in the Confederacy in late 1864? In France after Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow? Or really anywhere else that was not a conquered country (with perhaps the notable exception of Italy in late WWII, and that was not exactly a massive armed uprising). Germany is hardly a crazy exception that needs to be explained.

If I had to choose I’d choose life in East Germany over Nazi Germany any day.

East Germany, Hungary and Czechoslovakia between 1969 and 1989 wouldn’t have been that bad. They were a lot more prosperous and productive than many countries in the then “free world.”

I have a couple of more or less random comments.

According to a book by Vassily Grossman, the Russian troops that entered eastern Germany were outraged to find that that part of the country was almost untouched by the war, in contrast to the way the German troops had pillaged, raped, destroyed their way through Poland and the Soviet Union.

The other thing I wanted to say was that a truce (in contrast to an unconditional surrender) would lead Germany to conclude that they were betrayed by their leadership and might try again 20 years later. Obviously Eisenhower’s strategy was successful in that sense.

And one of the main, the main reason actually, that it fell apart is because it quickly became known that Hitler had survived. Every German in the military, from Field Marshalls down to common foot soldiers, all swore a personal allegiance to Adolf Hitler himself (US soldiers swear to support & defend The Constitution). If he had been killed there might have been enough of a power vacuum and confusion for the ranking Generals to successfully stage a coup. Once it was known that he hadn’t been, the status quo immediately fell back into place, with gusto. Because of the failed attempt, everyone’s loyalty was now in question and you had better go out of your way to prove it.

During the final siege of Berlin the Nazis issued edicts that any home displaying a white flag would leave its occupants subject to immediate arrest and/or summary execution.

The Nazis were very sore losers…

You’d be sore too if you realize you could have won.

Well, assuming you were allowed to live in the Reich. I wasn’t using hyperbole when I said the Nazis had just spent three years committing mass murder in the East; Einsatzgruppen had murdered more than 2 million civilians in the USSR, 1.3 million Jews and 700,000 other ‘undesirables’. 3.3 million Soviet POWs died in German hands in a deliberate policy of starvation, exposure, disease, or shooting. The Commissar Order that all Soviet political commisars were to be summarily executed if taken prisoner was issued by Hitler before the invasion, and the Severity Order was issued in October 1941. That little gem read in part: