Even in the last days of WWII, as Allied troops and tanks flooded into das Reich from all sides, and even as Berlin itself lay in flaming ruins, many Germans continued to support Hitler - to believe in him. Or so I’ve read. They believed that he would find a way not just to avoid surrender, but to lead Germany to victory. He was, after all, a military genius who had repeatedly demonstrated that he knew how to wage war better than any of his generals.
So, as Soviet artillery wished Hitler a happy birthday on April 20, 1945 with a 21 (hundred) gun salute in Berlin, ordinary Germans (i.e. not just Nazi higher-ups or military personnel) were said to have exhorted their countrymen not to give up hope; that victory was around the corner: ‘The Fuhrer will find a way. He always has and he will do so yet again at this critical hour. He will lead us to victory again’.
What were they referring to? What great victories did they believe Hitler had won on account of his ‘military genius’? I can think of, maybe, the invasion of France in the spring of 1940 when German forces captured the country in only six weeks with far fewer casualties than expected (but, to be clear, although the German people probably didn’t appreciate it, even that military success may be better attributed to the skill and daring of his commanders and their seizing the opportunity to advance much further than initial plans called for, rather than anything Hitler did).
On the other hand, German ‘difficulties’ im Osten were hardly secret and likewise there was no suppressing the truth about what happened to their forces in North Africa and Italy, let alone the devastation wrought on essentially every German city by Allied airpower.
So what were the German people thinking of when they viewed Hitler as an uncanny military genius who would use his supreme strategic talents to lead them to victory in late April 1945? What battles did they think he had actually won?