Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Enemy in the East - Rolf-Dieter Muller

This review has been submitted to Strategy and Tactics Magazine

Title: Enemy in the East
Author: Rolf-Dieter Muller
ISBN: 978-1-78076-829-8
Publisher: IB Taurus/Raincoast Books
Year: 2015
Pages: 316
Photos/Maps: 22/7

There has been much speculation on the degree of proactive involvement the military leadership of the German Armed Forces had in the conception and planning of the attack on Russia. During the trials following the war, it was consistently suggested that the conception for the idea of the attack was Hitler’s alone and that the military’s role in this was that of following the orders of a legitimate government. Muller seeks to undermine that theory by proving that the military was both a proactive and willing partner in the conception and development of the attack on Russia contrary to long held belief.

This was a very interesting and enjoyable book to read. The author has done a noteworthy job at shedding light upon a period of intense international lobbying and exchange. Perhaps the most fascinating part of this was his discussion and analysis of the close relationship that existed between the Germans and Poles right up until the last few months before war broke out. Poland and Germany held a common view of the threat posed by Russia and were very active partners in planning and executing the breakup of Czechslovakia as well as planning for the further redistribution of Ukrainian land and the resettlement of any Jews in their territory. Muller has painted a very clear picture of two nations with very common interests; further reinforced by the extent to which Germany tried to accommodate Poland’s wishes.

He also clearly relates the rapidly changing international situation that necessitated continuous and re-prioritization of planning by the German military. Additionally, the rapid pace of operations precluded addressing many of the shortfalls recognized by the German military commanders in their equipment and doctrine. It is not clear; however, that the German military proactively worked at pushing political policy East. It is true and is proven by the author that the military was not at all happy with the prospect of striking at the West but, while more confident of their chances with Russia, they were still seeking time and delay in order to build up their experience and capabilities.

The author has also been successful with his analysis of Stalin’s adept handling of the international uncertainty leading up to the outbreak of hostilities. He played Germany for incredible accommodations in spheres of interest and positioning that significantly diminished Germany’s advantages when war came two years later. Not the least of these involved pushing the German start line for an attack into Russian hundreds of kilometers to the west. It is very clear from Muller’s study that the German military and leadership chaffed under this imposed cooperation.

A very well researched and insightful study of the international twists and turns leading up to war in the East. What is patently obvious is that Hitler maintained a clear but consistently frustrated focus on attacking Russia at the earliest opportunity and that the Polish leadership, while tragically misreading German intent and Western capability, inadvertently prevented a German victory in Russia while concurrently sacrificing its territory and populations to the ravages of both German and Russia forces. An interesting book that does much to dispel the myth of a Germany bent on crushing a helpless Poland but does not succeed in proving the case that the German military was any more complicit in pushing for an attack on Russia.

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