The Nazi War Against Soviet Partisans, 1941-1944
While the motives for the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June, 1941, seem clear to some, to others, they are less easily accounted for. Ever since the Non-Aggression Pact reached between the Nazi regime and the Kremlin just before the German invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, the Soviets had been cooperating with Germany, especially in matters of trade, while the German armies conquered much of Western Europe and the Luftwaffe battered England. Whether it was inspired by the anti-Communist ideology of Nazism, or by its anti-Slavic and anti-Semitic beliefs (enormous populations of Jews lived in the Soviet territories), the reason for the decision to invade the Soviet Union at this time seems open to question. First, the Napoleonic experience indicated that any massive invasion of Russia would fail for the same fundamental reasons; second, if the attempt was to be made, it should at least have been postponed. Hitler himself had argued in Mein Kampf that Germany should never again fight a two-front war; then, without having subdued England, he proceeded with the invasion of Russia, thus creating just such a two-front war.
That invasion shocked the Soviets so much that German troops progressed rapidly into the westernmost regions of Russian territory. Matthew Cooper’s The Nazi War Against Soviet Partisans, 1941-1944, explores the Nazi policies and the opposition they aroused in those conquered territories. As Cooper correctly claims, the advancing German troops encountered the Russian peasantry, regional groups such as Ukranians, and numerous Soviet citizens whose opposition to or disaffection with Communist rule could have provided the invaders with a solid base of support. One revealing illustration in the book shows Ukranians rushing happily to greet their German “conquerers.” A number of Third Reich leaders, including the Nazi ideologist and Reich Minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories, Alfred Rosenberg, understood the potential of support among these elements of the Russian population. Additionally, in the German Foreign Ministry, there was a group of “pro-Russians” whose position Cooper summarizes succinctly: “They favored a direct appeal to the Russian people to join in the fight against Bolshevism, and advocated institution of national states, independent but under the protection of Germany, to act as a buffer against the Asiatic Russians.”
However, indigenous Russian support never materialized. The reason was that, in the mind of Adolf Hitler, the Slav was an Untermensch (an inferior being); also, embedded throughout his rhetoric was the notion that the Soviet state was based on “Jewish-inspired Bolshevism.” Thus, from the beginning of the Russian...
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