Nazi-Soviet talks: Molotov in Berlin

Allegedly Molotov was treated to a long monologue by Ribbentrop on why the British were ‘finished’, leading Molotov to comment: “If that is so – then why are we in this shelter – and whose are those bombs that are falling?”

Molotov meets Ribbentrop in Berlin for Nazi-Soviet talks
Vyacheslav Molotov, centre, the Soviet Foreign Minister was in Berlin for talks with Adolf Hitler and German Foreign Minister Joachim Ribbentrop on 12th November 1940

The Russian Foreign Minister Molotov, visited Berlin for talks on the continued Nazi-Soviet pact. Hitler was to claim:

The war had … led to complications which were not intended by Germany, but which had compelled her from time to time to react militarily to certain events. The Führer then outlined to Molotov the course of military operations up to the present, which had led to the fact that England no longer had an ally on the continent. He described in detail the military operations now being carried out against England, and he stressed the influence of atmospheric conditions on these operations.

The English retaliatory measures were ridiculous, and the Russian gentlemen could convince themselves at first hand of the fiction of alleged destruction in Berlin. As soon as atmospheric conditions improved, Germany would be poised for the great and final blow against England. At the moment, then, it was her aim to try not only to make military preparations for this final struggle, but also to clarify the political issues which would be of importance during and after this showdown.

He had, therefore, re-examined the relations with Russia, and not in a negative spirit, but with the intention of organizing them positively – if possible, for a long period of time.

See the full text of the Nazi-Soviet talks in the ‘Memorandum of the Conversation Between the Führer and the Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars and People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs, Molotov’ at World Future Fund.

Yet at the very same time the secret planning for the German invasion of Russia was at an advanced stage, and details would be released to army commanders in the following month. The meeting was just a smokescreen. Germany was receiving substantial supplies and raw materials from Russia, and would continue to do so until just hours before she invaded Russia in June 1941. She just needed to keep orderly relations with the Soviets for the present time. It was not surprising that Molotov found all of Hitler’s talk about the New World Order to be very vague.

Later Molotov continued his talks with the German Foreign Minister, Ribbentrop. Their meeting was interrupted with an air raid on Berlin by the RAF. They moved to Ribbentrop’s private air raid shelter to continue the meeting. Allegedly Molotov was treated to a long monologue by Ribbentrop on why the British were ‘finished’, leading Molotov to comment:

If that is so – then why are we in this shelter – and whose are those bombs that are falling?

Hitler declares he will beat ‘the English’

Mr. Churchill has produced the greatest military nonsense in this fight for which a statesman or warlord ever was responsible! He fought with the weapon which is his weakest. He fought from a position which has been geographically disadvantageous to England ever since we have held Trondheim and Brest. It was the weakest position which England could possibly maintain. We will persevere in this fight. I regret that it will demand sacrifices on our part as well. But I do know National Socialist Germany. Only Mr. Churchill does not know it. There is a big difference. He believed he could weary the German Volk. He completely forgot that now a different Germany has come into being. This Germany becomes all the more zealous with every bomb that is dropped. Its resolve is merely strengthened. Above all, it knows: this nonsense must be done away with once and for all. And in this, we are determined.

von Kluge and Hitler
Adolf Hitler with Gunther von Kluge in 1940. Kluge was promoted Field Marshall following the successful French campaign but later became an ambivalent supporter of the German resistance. He committed suicide when implicated in the Stauffenberg plot in 1944.

Hitler was still on the crest of his popularity in Germany. Not only dedicated Nazis but many ordinary Germans saw him as a national hero. He had conquered the greater part of Europe, avenging the humiliation of the Versailles Treaty following the First World War. It had all been achieved with a speed that had confounded his critics. Any apparent threat from the east had been neutralised by the pact with Soviet Russia.

The only remaining obstacle to a new order in Europe was Great Britain, which remained stubbornly defiant. It was extremely inconvenient that her bombers were now attacking Germany but it was not a major threat. It seemed very likely that the U-Boats and the Luftwaffe would eventually bring Britain to the conference table.

Now Adolf Hitler made his annual speech to the Nazi Party on the 8th November 1940 in Munich. In November 1939 he had narrowly escaped being assassinated at the same event.

A year ago, as I mentioned earlier, Poland was eliminated. And thus we thwarted their plans a first time. I was able to refer to this great success on November 8, 1939. Today, one year later, I have further successes to report!

This, first and foremost, only he who himself served as a soldier in the Great War, can appreciate fully as he knows what it means not only to crush the entire West within a few weeks, but also to take possession of Norway up to the North Cape, from where a front is drawn today from Kirkenes down to the Spanish border.

All the hopes of the British warmongers were then torn asunder. For they had intended to wage war on the periphery, to cut off the German vital lines, and slowly strangle us. The reverse has come true! This continent is slowly mobilizing, in reflecting upon itself, against the enemy of the continent. Within a few months, Germany has given actual freedom to this continent. The British attempt to “Balkanize” Europe-and of this the British statesmen should take note-has been thwarted and has ended! England wanted to disorganize Europe. Germany and Italy will organize Europe.

Now in England they may declare that the war is going on, but I am completely indifferent to this. It will go on until we end it! And we will end it, of this they can be sure! And it will end in our victory! That you can believe!

I realize one thing. If I had stepped up as a prophet on January 1 of this year to explain to the English: by the spring of this year, we will have ruined your plan in Norway, and it will not be you in Norway, but Germany; in the summer of this same year you will no longer be in the Netherlands or come to the Netherlands, but we will have occupied it; in the same summer you will not have advanced through Belgium to the German borders, but we will be at yours; and if I had said: by this summer, there will be no more France; then, all would have said: “The man is insane.” And so I shall cease from making any further prophecies today.

French leader Petain meets Hitler

The First World War French hero Petain had taken over the French Presidency at the age of 84 and it was his administration that signed an Armistice with Germany. Petain believed that he had to come to some accommodation with Germany, in order to preserve some independence of action for what remained of the French state. In his negotiations with Hitler at the Montoire meeting Petain sought to obstruct German access to French North Africa. Unfortunately the image of him shaking hands with Hitler came to represent a view that he was engaged in collaboration with the Nazi’s, rather than a more pragmatic co-operation. It became evidence to portray him as a traitor to France.

Petain meets Hitler
The French President Marshal Petain meets Adolf Hitler at Montoire in front of Hitler\’s interpreter Paul Schmidt with Foreign Minister Ribbentrop at the side.

The First World War French hero Petain had taken over the French Presidency at the age of 84 and it was his administration that signed an Armistice with Germany. Petain believed that he had to come to some accommodation with Germany, in order to preserve some independence of action for what remained of the French state. In his negotiations with Hitler at the Montoire meeting Petain sought to obstruct German access to French North Africa.

Unfortunately the image of him shaking hands with Hitler came to represent a view that he was engaged in collaboration with the Nazi’s, rather than a more pragmatic co-operation. It became evidence to portray him as a traitor to France.

For more details on the meeting and the position that Petain found himself in see the comment by Huntziger below, helpfully translated by Andrew Shakespeare.

Meanwhile in Britain the Blitz continued, the weekly Naval Military and Air Situation Report for the week up to 24th October recorded:

Great Britain.

46. The number of enemy aircraft operating during daylight against this, country was less than half that of the previous week and again consisted chiefly of fighter aircraft, some of which carried bombs.

47. Attacks by night were, however, only slightly lower in the aggregate than during the last period though on no night were so many raiding aircraft plotted as on the 15th-16th October. On the nights of the 20th-21st and the 22nd-23rd the major strength of attack was directed against industrial centres in the Provinces instead of London : Coventry, Birmingham and Liverpool being the chief cities involved.

48. In London, communications and public utility services appeared to be the main targets though, as before, many bombs fell some distance from any apparent objective. In contrast to the incessant attacks previously maintained at night, considerable periods of inactivity occurred during the week under review. Twenty Royal Air Force Stations were attacked, but with insignificant results, and the only serious damage sustained by the aircraft industry was to the Armstrong-Siddeley works at Coventry.

49. During the week Fighter Command flew an average of twelve sorties each night and a total of 501 patrols involving 2,142 sorties by day. … Our fighters destroyed one enemy aircraft at night and another was shot down by anti-aircraft fire.

Morale.

80. Londoners are feeling the strain owing to lack of sleep and interruption of normal life, but morale remains sound. The spirit of the people as a whole remains high and there is little evidence of defeatist talk, but there is a certain amount of Communist activity.

See TNA CAB /66/13/5

Hitler meets Franco at Hendaye

Francisco Franco owed much to Adolf Hitler, German forces had been of particular value to him during the Spanish civil war. Yet he was in no rush to automatically line up with another Fascist dictator. Whether he demanded too much from Hitler, wanted to play a waiting game to see which way the war turned, or really wished to avoid involvement in the war, given the shattered state of Spain following the civil war is subject to much debate. He was a difficult man to pin down. Famously Hitler is alleged to have said that he would “rather have three or four teeth pulled” than go through another meeting with him.

Hitler meets Franco
Adolf Hitler met the Spanish leader Francisco Franco for 12 hours of talks at the railway station of Hendaye.

The Spanish dictator Francisco Franco owed much to Adolf Hitler, German forces had been of particular value to him during the Spanish civil war. Yet he was in no rush to automatically line up with another Fascist dictator. Whether he demanded too much from Hitler, wanted to play a waiting game to see which way the war turned, or really wished to avoid involvement in the war – given the shattered state of Spain following the civil war, is subject to much debate.

He was a difficult man to pin down. Famously Hitler is alleged to have said that he would “rather have three or four teeth pulled” than go through another meeting with him. During the early part of the war Spain offered some practical support to Germany but as the tide turned Franco shifted his allegiances.

 Heinrich Himmler with Franco
Heinrich Himmler was also conducting talks with the Spanish and it is alleged that lists of Spanish Jews were handed over to the Germans.

Germany, Italy and Japan sign a pact

A winter of war is hard to take. More so since food is scarce in Berlin, and it is easy to see that the window displays of the stores promise much more than what is actually inside. Another thing contributing to the depressed spirit of Berlin life is die constant recurrence of air raids. Every night citizens spend from four to five hours in the cellar. They lack sleep, there is promiscuity between men and women, cold, and these things do not create a good mood. The number of people with colds is incredible.

Saburo Kurusu, Adolf Hitler and Galeazzo Ciano at the signing of the Axis Pact in Berlin on 27 September 1940.
Saburo Kurusu, Adolf Hitler and Galeazzo Ciano at the signing of the Axis Pact in Berlin on 27 September 1940.

The enthusiastic German public response to the war was now cooling. Hopes had been high that, having exacted his revenge for the humiliations of 1918, Hitler would now make peace. Not only were the British continuing the war but they were now regularly bombing Berlin. The scale of destruction was nothing like as bad as in Britain – yet it was disconcerting for Germans to discover that the war could affect them so directly.

Another sign that it would be a long war came with the signing of a Tripartite Pact with Japan and Italy. Japan was not at war with anyone, yet here she was lining up her fortunes with Germany.

The following day Count Galeazzo Ciano, the Italian Foreign Minister and son in law of Mussolini, records his impressions of the day and of the mood in Berlin:

The pact is signed. The signature takes place more or less like that of the Pact of Steel. But the atmosphere is cooler. Even the Berlin street crowd, a comparatively small one, composed mostly of school children, cheers with regularity but without conviction.Japan is far away. Its help is doubtful. Only one thing is certain: that it will be a long war. This does not please the Germans, who had come to believe that with the end of summer the war would also end.

A winter of war is hard to take. More so since food is scarce in Berlin, and it is easy to see that the window displays of the stores promise much more than what is actually inside. Another thing contributing to the depressed spirit of Berlin life is the constant recurrence of air raids. Every night citizens spend from four to five hours in the cellar. They lack sleep, there is promiscuity between men and women, cold, and these things do not create a good mood. The number of people with colds is incredible.

Bomb damage is slight; nervousness is very high. At ten o’clock in the evening everyone looks at his watch. People want to return home to their loved ones. All this does not yet justify the pessimism in certain quarters where the first war is being remembered and they are beginning to think of the worst.

See The Ciano Diaries 1939-1943: The Complete, Unabridged Diaries of Count Galeazzo Ciano, Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs, 1936-1943

A Nazi propaganda image from September 1940. The residents of a Jewish retirement home whose bedrooms have been destroyed by the bombing - and who are now confined to the day room.
A Nazi propaganda image from September 1940. The residents of a Jewish retirement home whose bedrooms have been destroyed by the bombing – and who are now confined to the day room.

Hitler declares that he will bomb British cities

You will understand that we shall now give a reply, night for night, and with increasing force. And if the British Air Force drops two, three or four thousand kilos of bombs, then we will drop 150,000, 180,000, 230,000, 300,000 or 400,000 kilos, or more, in one night. If they declare that they will attack our cities on a large scale, we will erase theirs! We will put a stop to the game of these night-pirates, as God is our witness.

The Heinkel III, mainstay of the German bomber fleet, in flight, September 1940.

After German boasts that Berlin was too well protected to be bombed, there was shock when the RAF did hit the German capital for the first time on August 25th. The raid, and those on subsequent nights, provoked a significant change in strategy in the air offensive against Britain.

Until now the bombing had been confined to broadly military targets, with the emphasis on airfields and aircraft factories. Hitler had expressly forbidden ‘Terror raids’ on Britain or the bombing of London. He had long hoped that he could somehow arrange a peace with Britain, its conquest had never been part of his long term objectives, he really wanted to turn his attention East.

The prolonged air battles were not bringing the RAF to heel. Perhaps general bombing of the civilian population might produce a less obstinate Britain.

This was not the whole story – the Nazi regime also felt compelled to simply respond to the insult of having its own heartland bombed, as Hitler made abundantly clear in his speech of 4th September:

It is a wonderful thing to see our nation at war, in its fully disciplined state. This is exactly what we are experiencing at this time, as Mr Churchill is demonstrating to us the aerial night attacks he has concocted. He is not doing this because these air raids might be particularly effective, but because his Air Force cannot fly over German territory in daylight.

Whereas German aviators and German planes fly over English soil daily, there is hardly a single Englishman who comes across the North Sea in daytime. They therefore come during the night – and as you know, release their bombs indiscriminately and without any plan on to residential areas, farmhouses and villages. Wherever they see a sign of light, a bomb is dropped on it.

For three months past, I have not ordered any answer to be given; thinking that they would stop this nonsensical behaviour. Mr Churchill has taken this to be a sign of our weakness.

You will understand that we shall now give a reply, night for night, and with increasing force. And if the British Air Force drops two, three or four thousand kilos of bombs, then we will drop 150,000, 180,000, 230,000, 300,000 or 400,000 kilos, or more, in one night. If they declare that they will attack our cities on a large scale, we will erase theirs! We will put a stop to the game of these night-pirates, as God is our witness.

The hour will come when one or the other will crumble, and that one will not be National Socialist Germany. I have already carried through such a struggle once in my life, up to the final consequences, and this then led to the collapse of the enemy who is now sitting these in England on Europe’s last island.

Hitler orders final Luftwaffe push against England

1. The German Air Force is to overpower the English Air Force with all the forces at its command, in the shortest time possible. The attacks are to be directed primarily against flying units, their ground installations, and their supply organizations, but also against the aircraft industry, including that manufacturing anti-aircraft equipment.
2. After achieving temporary or local air superiority the air war is to be continued against ports, in particular against stores of food, and also against stores of provisions in the interior of the country.
Attacks on the south coast ports will be made on the smallest possible scale, in view of our own forthcoming operations.

German 'Stuka' dive bomber pilots in France in 1940. They were suffering terrible losses when the RAF managed to break through their fighter cover and would soon be withdrawn from battle.
German ‘Stuka’ dive bomber pilots in France in 1940. They were suffering terrible losses whenever the RAF managed to break through their fighter cover and would soon be withdrawn from battle.

On the 1st August the Luftwaffe senior command met for a conference to discuss the destruction of the RAF. Not for the last time Hermann Goring had made extravagant promises to Hitler that he could single handedly achieve the Fuhrer’s objectives with his airforce.

The RAF had been carefully keeping its reserves out of the air battle around the coast of Britain. Luftwaffe intelligence had interpreted this as a lack of strength. The more insightful of the German fighter pilots recognised that this was not the case at all – they were being held back to counter the more intensive attacks that the Luftwaffe were now planning to launch.

Oberst Theo Osterkamp the commander of Jagdgeschwader 51, attended the conference as a representative of the fighter pilots that were currently doing battle. He quickly learnt that his observations on the state of the RAF were not welcome:

A big conference of the Luftwaffe command with its Supreme Commander Hermann Goring. Place of action – The Hague, at the headquarters of General Christiansen, the commander in Holland. I have the honour to join this illustrious company as the representative of the fighter forces.

Everybody of rank and name is present. Because of the good weather the festival takes place in the garden. The ‘Iron One’ [Goring] appears in a new white gala uniform.

At first he praised extravagantly the lion’s share of the Luftwaffe in the defeat of France. ‘And now, gentlemen, the Fuhrer has ordered me to crush Britain with my Luftwaffe. By means of hard blows I plan to have this enemy, who has already suffered a decisive moral defeat, down on his knees in the nearest future, so that an occupation of the island by our troops can proceed without any risk!’

Then the matter of orders and directives for the execution of the plan was taken up. According to the information of the intelligence service. Britain disposed in its southern sector – the only one which came into question for us – of, at the most, 400-500 fighters.

Their destruction in the air and on land was to be carried out in three phases: during the first five days in a semicircle starting in the west and proceeding south and then east, within a radius of 150 to 100 kilometres south of London; in the next three days within 50 to 100 kilometres; and during the last five days within the 50-kilometre circle around London. That would irrevocably gain an absolute air superiority over England and fulfil the Fuhrer’s mission!

I think that I must have made a terribly stupid face, but in my case that should scarcely attract any attention. Udet told me later that I shook my head in shock, but I do not remember.

At any rate I saw Udet leaning down to Goring and whispering something to him. Goring looked up, saw me and said, ‘Well, Osterkamp, have you got a question?’

I explained to him that during the time when I alone was in combat over England with my Geschwader I counted, on the basis of continuous monitoring of the British radio and of air battles during which the distinctive marks of the units [to which the British fighters belonged] were ascertained, that at that time about 500 to 700 British fighters were concentrated in the area around London. Their numbers had increased considerably if compared with the number of planes available at the beginning of the battle. All new units were equipped with Spitfires, which I considered of a quality equal to our fighters.

I wanted to say more, but Goring cut me off angrily: ‘This is nonsense, our information is excellent, and I am perfectly aware of the situation. Besides, the Messerschmitt is much better than the Spitfire, because, as you yourself reported, the British are too cowardly to engage your fighters!’

‘I shall permit myself to remark that I reported only that the British fighters were ordered to avoid battles with our fighters — ’ ‘That is the same thing,’ Hermann shouted: ‘if they were as strong and good as you maintain, I would have to send my Luftzeugmeister [Udet] before the firing squad.’

Udet smiled and touched his neck with his hand. I still could not hold back and said, ‘May I ask how many fighters will be used in the combat against Britain?’ Hermann answered, ‘Naturally, all our fighter squadrons will be used in the struggle.’ I now knew as much as I had known before and thought, after a careful appraisal, to be able to count on some 1,200 to 1,500 fighters. In this too I was to be bitterly disappointed.

As quoted by Telford Taylor in The breaking wave: The German defeat in the summer of 1940

Adolf Hitler and Hermann Göring
Hitler believed that Herman Goring\’s assurances that the Luftwaffe could neutralise the RAF.

On the same day, 1st August 1940, Hitler issued Directive 17, believing that a knock-out blow against the RAF was within the grasp of the Luftwaffe:

In order to establish the necessary conditions for the final conquest of England I intend to intensify air and sea warfare against the English homeland. I therefore order as follows:

1. The German Air Force is to overpower the English Air Force with all the forces at its command, in the shortest time possible. The attacks are to be directed primarily against flying units, their ground installations, and their supply organizations, but also against the aircraft industry, including that manufacturing anti-aircraft equipment.

2. After achieving temporary or local air superiority the air war is to be continued against ports, in particular against stores of food, and also against stores of provisions in the interior of the country.
Attacks on the south coast ports will be made on the smallest possible scale, in view of our own forthcoming operations.

3. On the other hand, air attacks on enemy warships and merchant ships may be reduced except where some particularly favourable target happens to present itself, where such attacks would lend
additional effectiveness to those mentioned in Paragraph 2, or where such attacks are necessary for the training of air crews for further operations.

4. The intensified air warfare will be carried out in such a way that the Air Force can at any time be called upon to give adequate support to naval operations against suitable targets. It must also be ready to take part in full force in Operation Seelowe.

5. I reserve to myself the right to decide on terror attacks as measures of reprisal.

6. The intensification of the air war may begin on or after 5 August. The exact time is to be decided by the Air Force after completion of preparations and in the light of the weather.

The Navy is authorized to begin the proposed intensified naval war at the same time.

Generaloberst Ernst Udet
Generaloberst Ernst Udet

Hitler plans the invasion of Russia

He repeated Hitler’s view and probably his own also that the collision with Bolshevism was bound to come and that it was better therefore to have this campaign now, when we were at the height of our military power, than to have to call the German people to arms once more in the years to come.

Colonel Warlimont, pictured in 1939, was one of a very small group of officers who learnt that Hitler began planning to attack Russia in 1940.

Following a Military Planning Conference with Hitler at the Berghof, 29 July 1940 General Alfred Jodl, the Chief of the Armed Forces Command Staff discloses to his small group of support officers that Hitler is already pressing for an attack on Russia.

Colonel Walter Warlimont was one of the officers in the Special Command Train Atlas at the Bad Reichenall Station following the conference at the Berghof:

[Including myself] Four of us (Lt. Col. von Lossberg, Capt. Junge, Major Freiherr von Falkenstein) were present, sitting at individual tables in the restaurant car. … Jodl went round ensuring that all doors and windows were closed and then, without any preamble, [he] disclosed to us that Hitler had decided to rid the world ‘once and for all’ of the danger of Bolshevism by a surprise attack on Soviet Russia to be carried out at the earliest possible moment, i.e. in May 1941.

… Jodl countered every question [we had] … although he convinced none of us. … He repeated Hitler’s view and probably his own also that the collision with Bolshevism was bound to come and that it was better therefore to have this campaign now, when we were at the height of our military power, than to have to call the German people to arms once more in the years to come.

… Shortly after Jodl’s disclosure, we happened to discover that Hitler had originally been determined to launch the attack in the late summer of 1940. The most urgent representations from Keitel and Jodl … had been necessary to convince the Supreme Commander that the time and space factors alone, together with the weather conditions, rendered this plan totally impracticable.

See Walter Warlimont: Inside Hitler’s Headquarters, 1939-45

Hitler orders ‘Operation Sealion’ – invade Britain

They are certainly formidable obstructions to most of us especially in the hours of darkness when one is confronted by barriers in the most unexpected places. I am told that Winston is mainly responsible for them and takes the deepest interest in them. He appears to spend a lot of time inspecting our defences all over the country.

Watching out for raiders over London.

There had been some resistance to the appointment of Churchill as Prime Minister within the Conservative party. However his dynamic approach and rousing rhetoric was bringing people round. Senior Conservative Party MP and military insider Sir Cuthbert Headlam observed the new confidence in him even as the physical signs of the threat to the nation became ever more apparent:

16 July

London is rapidly become like a besieged town – or, rather, is being converted into a defended zone.

Whether all the barbed wire defences and machine-gun posts in the Whitehall area are erected to cover the last stand of Winston and the rest of us against the invading Germans, or whether to prevent the government offices being raided by ‘Fifth Columnists’ and parachutists, one does not know. They are certainly formidable obstructions to most of us especially in the hours of darkness when one is confronted by barriers in the most unexpected places.

I am told that Winston is mainly responsible for them and takes the deepest interest in them. He appears to spend a lot of time inspecting our defences all over the country. It is certainly his hour – and the confidence in him is growing on all sides.

See Parliament and Politics in the Age of Churchill and Attlee. The Headlam Diaries 1935-1951

Planning conference at the Berghof, July 1940: Hitler and Admiral Erich Raeder in discussion at a map table. Also present are (l to r) Field Marshal Walther von Brauchitsch, General Alfred Jodl, Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel and an unidentified Kriegsmarine staff officer.
Planning conference at the Berghof, July 1940: Hitler and Admiral Erich Raeder in discussion at a map table. Also present are (l to r) Field Marshal Walther von Brauchitsch, General Alfred Jodl, Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel and an unidentified Kriegsmarine staff officer.

While Britain was gripped by the thought that invasion might come at any day, Hitler was still considering his options. It was only on 16th July that Hitler signed the order for ‘Operation Sealion’:

‘Directive No.16 for Preparations of a Landing Operation against England’.

The preamble ran: ‘Since England, in spite of its militarily hopeless situation, still gives no recognizable signs of readiness to come to terms, I have determined to prepare a landing operation against England and, if need be, to carry it out. The aim of this operation is to exclude the English motherland as a basis for the continuation of the war against Germany, and, if it should be necessary, to occupy it completely.’

[emphasis added]

This was a lukewarm approach to a possible invasion. Most of his military advisers knew very well that it was going to be impossible to carry out the directive that summer. They knew as well as Churchill, who had already made his own assessment of the prospects for invasion, of the immense risks such an undertaking would involve.

Hitler’s early morning tour of Paris

After a last look at Paris we drove swiftly back to the airport. By nine o’clock in the morning the sightseeing tour was over. ‘It was the dream of my life to be permitted to see Paris. I cannot say how happy I am to have that dream fulfilled today.’ For a moment I felt something like pity for him: three hours in Paris, the one and only time he was to see it, made him happy when he stood at the height of his triumphs.

Adolf_Hitler_in_Paris_1940
Hitler in front of the Eiffel Tower with Speer at left and Arno Breker on the right. The French claimed that the cables to the Eiffel Tower lift had been cut and Hitler declined to climb the stairs to the top of the Tower. Some hours after Hitler left the lift was working again.

Adolf Hitler made a swift tour of Paris in the early hours of 23rd June, accompanied by Albert Speer his favourite Architect and later Armaments Minister, and Arno Breker his favourite sculptor. Speer dated the visit as 28th in his memoirs but most authorities agree it was the 23rd:

Three days after the beginning of the armistice we landed at Le Bourget airfield. It was early in the morning, about five-thirty. Three large Mercedes sedans stood waiting. Hitler as usual sat in the front seat beside the chauffeur, Breker and I on the jump seats behind him, while Giessler and the adjutants occupied the rear seats. Field-gray uniforms had been provided for us artists, so that we might fit into the military framework. We drove through the extensive suburbs directly to the Opera, Charles Garnier’s great neobaroque building. . . . It was Hitler’s favorite and the first thing he wanted to see. …

Later they drove through the centre of Paris, stopped at the Eiffel Tower and again at Napoleon’s tomb where Speer recalls that Hitler spent a long time in contemplation. He was however apparently unimpressed by much of the classical French architecture.

After a last look at Paris we drove swiftly back to the airport. By nine o’clock in the morning the sightseeing tour was over. ‘It was the dream of my life to be permitted to see Paris. I cannot say how happy I am to have that dream fulfilled today.’ For a moment I felt something like pity for him: three hours in Paris, the one and only time he was to see it, made him happy when he stood at the height of his triumphs.

In the course of the tour Hitler raised the question of a victory parade in Paris. But after discussing the matter with his adjutants and Colonel Speidel, he decided against it after all. His official reason for calling off the parade was the danger of its being harassed by English air raids. But later he said: ‘I am not in the mood for a victory parade. We aren’t at the end yet.’

See Albert Speer: Inside The Third Reich