Hitler inspects the Bismarck

He considered it an advantage that in the Bismaick, which was more powerful than the Scharnhorst class, he would no longer be forced to avoid well protected convoys. This, however, did not solve his most difficult problem: getting his force out into the Atlantic without being spotted by the enemy.

Hitler on an inspection tour of the Bismarck, 5th May 1941, with Captain Lindemann on his right and Admiral Lutjens behind.

The latest German battleship, the Bismarck, commissioned in August 1940, had completed her sea trials and was now ready for her first operational voyage. On the 5th May 1941 Hitler visited the ship and discussed the plans for a raid against convoys in the Atlantic. Burkhard Von Mullenheim-Rechberg, was a gunnery officer on board the Bismarck:

Hitler, looking somewhat pale, and Keitel, followed by Lutjens and Lindemann, reviewed the crew. The party then inspected some of the ship’s equipment, which gave the responsible officers a chance to brief the “Fuhrer” in their own areas.

Hitler remained for an especially long time in the after gunnery computer space, where an extremely capable gunfire-plotting officer, Oberleutnant zur See Friedrich Cardinal, explained how the various intricate looking devices controlled gunfire. Keitel as well as Hitler seemed to be much impressed by Cardinal’s presentation, but neither asked any questions.

After touring the ship, Hitler, Lutjens, and a small group adjourned to the admiral’s quarters. There, Lutjens told of his experiences in action against British commerce in the Atlantic with the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, expressed optimism about an operation of this type with the Bismarck, and explained his immediate intentions.

He considered it an advantage that in the Bismarck, which was more powerful than the Scharnhorst class, he would no longer be forced to avoid well protected convoys. This, however, did not solve his most difficult problem: getting his force out into the Atlantic without being spotted by the enemy.

When Hitler suggested that, apart from anything else, the numerical superiority of the British fleet presented a great risk, Lutjens pointed to the Bismarck’s superiority over any single British capital ship. Her hitting and staying power were so great that he had no apprehension on that score. After a pause, he added that breaking out to the high seas would not by any means be the end of our worries. Quite clearly, torpedo planes from British aircraft carriers were a great danger that he would have to reckon with all the time he was in the Atlantic.

See The Battleship “Bismarck”: A Survivor’s Story

Hitler’s Passport faked

This was a demonstration of the skills of the forgery section of the Special Operations Executive who were responsible for running agents in occupied Europe. They were to develop huge expertise in the creation of a wide range of fake documentation used for personal identification.

An unusual German passport from April 1941. The red 'J' represented 'Jew' and often proved to be a death warrant when stamped on a genuine passport.

A passport signed by Adolf Hitler on 30th April 1941. This was a demonstration of the skills of the forgery section of the Special Operations Executive who were responsible for running agents in occupied Europe. They were to develop huge expertise in the creation of a wide range of fake documentation used for personal identification. After the war Gestapo documents were found that described the quality of forged documents discovered on captured agents as ‘excellent’.

The details page of the passport where Hitler's distinguishing feature is described as a 'small moustache'.

Hitler ‘England will fall’

The German Army is now the strongest military instrument in our history. In the months of this Winter our allies bore the brunt of the whole power of the British attack, but from now on German forces again will resume their share of this load. No power and no support coming from any part of the world can change the outcome of this battle in any respect. England will fall. The everlasting Providence will not give victory to him who, merely with the object of ruling through his gold, is willing to spill the blood of men.

Hitler marching up to the cenotaph to lay a wreath.

On the 16th March 1941 Hitler attended the attended the annual memorial service for German war dead at the cenotaph in Berlin. His speech continued the anti British theme and hinted that he would soon be helping his Italian ally:

Behind us lies a Winter of work. What remained to be improved has been done. The German Army is now the strongest military instrument in our history. In the months of this Winter our allies bore the brunt of the whole power of the British attack, but from now on German forces again will resume their share of this load.

No power and no support coming from any part of the world can change the outcome of this battle in any respect. England will fall. The everlasting Providence will not give victory to him who, merely with the object of ruling through his gold, is willing to spill the blood of men.

Germany demanded nothing of England and France. All of the Reich’s denunciations, its disarmament and peace suggestions, were vain. International finance and plutocracy want to fight this war to the finish. So the end of this war will and must be its destruction. Then may Providence find a way to lead their people, from whom the chains will be struck, into a better order!

When England and France declared this war, England immediately began a fight against civil life. To the blockade of the World War, that war against women and children, it added this time air and fire war against peaceful villages and cities. In both of these modes of war England will be defeated. The air war that Churchill started will destroy not Germany but England itself. Just so, the blockade will not strike Germany but its inventor.

Whilst the Luftwaffe was devoting considerable resources in attacking Great Britain and there was much speculation about an impending Nazi invasion of England, in fact Hitlers attention was elsewhere. His speech was seeking to deflect attention from his real objective – Soviet Russia. Preparations for “Barbarossa” were now being stepped up.

Hitler reviewing a troop march past during the ceremony.

Hitler – Japan must be encouraged to attack

The common aim of strategy must be represented as the swift conquest of England in order to keep America out of the war. Apart from this, Germany has no political, military, or economic interests in the Far East which need in any way inhibit Japanese intentions.

Hitler with Field Marshall Wilhelm Keitel, head of the German Armed Forces, March 1941.

Germany Italy and Japan had entered into the  in September. Now Wilhelm Keitel, head of the German Armed Forces, issued Directive 24 setting out the direction of the war that Hitler would like to see:

High Command Of The Armed Forces.

The Leader’s Headquarters. 5th March, 1941.

Directive No. 24 – Cooperation With Japan

The Leader has issued the following orders for cooperation with Japan:

1. The purpose of the cooperation based on the Three Power Pact must be to induce Japan to take action in the Far East as soon as possible. This will tie down strong English forces and will divert the main effort of the United States of America to the Pacific Ocean.

In view of the military unpreparedness of her enemies, the sooner Japan strikes, the greater her chances of success. Undertaking Barbarossa establishes particularly promising political and military conditions for this.

2. In preparing for such cooperation it is important to strengthen Japanese fighting spirit by every means.

For this purpose Commanders In Chief of the branches of the Armed Forces will respond generously and comprehensively to Japanese requests for information about German experience in the war, and for economic and technical assistance. Reciprocity is desirable but should not impede negotiation. In this respect, priority will naturally be given to those Japanese requests which could have an early effect upon the conduct of the war.

(a) The common aim of strategy must be represented as the swift conquest of England in order to keep America out of the war. Apart from this, Germany has no political, military, or economic interests in the Far East which need in any way inhibit Japanese intentions.

(b) The great success attained by Germany in war on merchant shipping makes it appear particularly desirable that powerful Japanese forces should be devoted to the same end. Any possibility of support for the German war on merchant shipping is to be exploited.

(c) The position of the three pact powers in respect of raw materials demands that Japan should secure for itself those territories which it needs for the prosecution of the war, particularly if the United States is engaged. Deliveries of rubber must continue even after Japan’s entry into the war, since they are vital for Germany.

(d) The seizure of Singapore, England’s key position in the Far East, would represent a decisive success in the combined strategy of the three powers.

The Chief Of The High Command Of The Armed Forces.
Keitel

Hitler’s ‘New World Order’

I do not want to miss pointing out what I pointed out on 3rd of September [1940] in the German Reichstag, that if Jewry were to plunge the world into war, the role of Jewry would be finished in Europe. They may laugh about it today, as they laughed before about my prophecies. The coming months and years will prove that I prophesied rightly in this case too.

Adolf Hitler making a speech later in 1941

Hitler’s annual speech at the Sports Palace in Berlin was the usual rambling affair. He continued to portray Britain as the principal enemy as he sought to disguise his intentions towards Russia. However the speech is particularly notable because he concluded with one of his most explicit references to the action he intended to take against the Jews. With the benefit of hindsight the threat to ‘finish’ ‘Jewry in Europe’ seems very clear. It was very clear to many in the Nazi Party who wanted to ratchet up the level of violence against the Jews. But for many people around the world what he was really proposing was just too appalling to be credible:

We go into the new year with a fighting force armed as never before in our German history. The number of our divisions on land has been enormously increased. Pay has been increased, the gigantic unique experience of war among the leaders and the file has been put to use. The equipment has been improved-our enemies will see how it has been improved (applause and commotion). In the spring our U-boat war will begin at sea, and they will notice that we have not been sleeping (shouts and cheers). And the Air Force will play its part and the entire armed forces will force the decision by hook or by crook. Our production has increased enormously in all spheres. What others are planning we have achieved.

The German people follows its leadership with determination, confident in its armed forces and ready to bear what fate demands. The year 1941 will be, I am convinced, the historical year of a great European New Order. The program could not be anything else than the opening up of the world for all, the breaking down of individual privileges, the breaking of the tyranny of certain peoples, and better still, of their financial autocrats.

Finally this year will help to assure the basis for understanding between the peoples, and thereby, for their reconciliation. I do not want to miss pointing out what I pointed out on 3rd of September [1940] in the German Reichstag, that if Jewry were to plunge the world into war, the role of Jewry would be finished in Europe. They may laugh about it today, as they laughed before about my prophecies. The coming months and years will prove that I prophesied rightly in this case too. But we can see already how our racial peoples which are today still hostile to us will one day recognize the greater inner enemy, and that they too will then enter with us into a great common front. The front of Aryan mankind against Jewish-International exploitation and destruction of nations.

Read the whole speech at the Jewish Virtual Library.

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.