To understand Hitler, and effectively analysis his leadership style, we must first understand all of the complex facets of his character. Hitler felt he was “an agent of Providence, a man of Destiny, whose vision of the future was infallible. ” He truly felt, without a doubt, that his will, strategy, and vision was the only thing that could take Germany back to being a world power. His confidence had drawbacks at times in the form of his failure to listen, agree with, or take constructive feedback from anyone that differed with his views, opinions and or decisions.
Frequently Hitler, when his judgment was in doubt, would rant and rave and fume like a child. This aspect made it hard to compromise with him once he made a decision in support of his intended goals. However, the amount of influence he had with the German people is apparent by the ease in which he obtained his political goals. This power was due in large part to Hitler’s ability as an extraordinary speaker and orator with the masses. “His speeches were an instrument of political intoxication that inspired a degree of fervor in his listeners that seems to defy definition and explanation.
Hitler was a master at the use of the spoken word and a genius at the art of manipulating mass propaganda for his political ends. His uncanny ability to appeal to the subconscious and irrational needs of his audience and to solicit the desired response made him a formidable political figure. ” Frequently, women would faint and the crowd would be so entranced with his message they would do anything he said. Hitler used technology like lighting, movies, and radio to benefit his delivery of his views and message to the German people.
His message was always the same “the crucial moment was at hand for Germany to face her destiny that her problems were unique, and they required new and demanding solutions, and above all it was he and he alone who could provide Germany with the leadership she needed to achieve her destiny. ” To this end, Hitler wanted something called lebensraum to support Germany’s ever-increasing population and to maintain their current standard of living. The feeling was that Germany would have to expand beyond its borders to provide for its needs and not be subject to the high prices set by other countries or helpless in protection of its borders.
To this end, a meeting between Hitler and Lord Halifax, from England, in November of 1937 gave the impression England was willing to let Hitler expand beyond his borders in search of lebensraum. “As these documents show, these events precipitated Hitler’s action. He thought that the lights had changed to green, allowing him to proceed eastward. It was a very natural conclusion. ”Therefore, Hitler had a “green light” to proceed with his goal. So was Hitler’s strategy prior to 1939 a calculated well thought out strategy or were they just conditions that evolved overtime and provided a low risk of opposition with other nations?
No one will disagree that Hitler wanted to undo the perceived wrongs the Treaty of Versailles placed on Germany after WWI. “Every power-seeking politician in the country, including Adolf Hitler, spokesman of the upstart National Socialist German Workers’ (Nazi Party), attacked the treaty. ” Hitler in his quest for supremacy, but also lebensraum for Germany, was willing to go to war if he could not obtain his objectives through political means. His plan resembled that of a speculator rather than a planner or skilled tactician.
However, this did not mean that Hitler’s strategy was unplanned but rather that each step was methodical in its accomplishment. Other countries became very concerned with the plans Germany was pursuing and the potential impact to the political atmosphere between them. To mitigate these concerns, Hitler entered into a Non-Aggression Pact with Poland to show the peaceful intentions of Germany. “The pact with Poland is a perfect example of Hitler’s intuitive genius and of the way in which he was able to manipulate his foreign audience much as he had done with his domestic audience. The Non-Aggression Pact with Poland sought to ease fears with Great Britain and France about Hitler’s possible intentions. Next was to tackle the perceived wrongs handed Germany with the Treaty of Versailles. Hitler then announced Germany would not honor portions of the treaty, and almost a year to the day Hitler sent the German Army into the Rhineland against the concerns of his top Generals. This action was in direct violation of the established demilitarized zone set forth by the Treaty of Versailles.
However, brushing aside the concerns of his military Hitler entered the Rhineland with no intervention from either the French or British. These two countries did nothing to stop it. Hitler seizing on this moment and in an effort to show his intentions where truly peaceful, proposed to enter into a similar Non-Aggression Pact with France as well. This action, as well as the Pact with Poland, sought to down play the event as a hostile act and score yet another political victory for Hitler in the eyes of world opinion.
Over the next two years, things were relatively quiet and Hitler made no overt moves or indications of a continued move eastward. Hitler did however continue to improve both militarily and politically to the point that in March 1938, he would enter Austria. He did this under the belief that he was restoring order to the land. The Austrian people cheered the German Army as they crossed over the border. On that day, Hitler went to Austria to proclaim the union of Germany and Austria. The Austrian people would then cast votes in early April and with an overwhelming majority voted in favor of reunification. Again, the British and French Governments seemed to condone Hitler’s march into Austria by not taking any action against him. ” Hitler then set his sights on the Sudetenland part of Czechoslovakia. The German people there leveled claims of mistreatment by the Czech people and wanted to rejoin with Germany. Upon informing his Chief of the General Staff General Beck of his intention to go into the Sudetenland, he resigned, fearing the outcome. However, inspired by his growing self-confidence and recent accomplishments Hitler went anyway to intervene and recognize the Sudeten German’s demands for independence.
Hitler took the added step of threatening the Czech government with force should they refuse. His bold statements to this end ignited fear across the region of yet another war. So a meeting was set in Munich to try and defuse the situation through diplomatic means. Of note was the fact that neither the Soviet Union, nor Czechoslovakia, attended at this meeting. Britain and France, in order to maintain peace in the region, buckled to Germanys actions.
“This appeasement did not last long and on March 15, 1939, Hitler decided to send in his troops and occupy what was left of Czechoslovakia. When Hitler moved to occupy parts of Czechoslovakia both England and France offered their support to defend Poland should he decide to move against them. This sudden hard line stance by Great Britain is by many seen as an attempt by Chamberlain to overcome the embarrassment of Hitler’s transgressions. Chamberlain politically felt that “the pressure of public indignation or his own indignation, or his anger at having been fooled by Hitler, or his humiliation at having been made to look a fool in the eyes of his own people. ”
Even though Britain and France appeared to be taking a hard line stance Hitler still felt no one would stop him and his plan. His next move was to sign a Non-Aggression Pact with the Soviet Union. This decision was equally advantageous to both countries. Stalin at the time felt that the West had excluded him, in an attempt to isolate him, from the Munich proceedings and was more than willing to sign. “Hitler, on the other hand, was now assured that if war was inevitable, the Soviet Union would not be a factor against him thus, insuring victory for Germany. To now, all of Hitler’s accomplishments were through political means in his quest for lebensraum. This helped to fuel his self-confidence and arrogance since he saw himself as the mastermind behind every critical decision, and move, and unchallenged victory for Germany. “Hitler saw himself as a true military genius—a master of strategy and tactics unlike the conservative generals who served under him. ” Hitler’s actions during the war and his actions against the Jews and all of the atrocities he caused during the war is how we remember him best.
Nevertheless, he did have several characteristics, and strengths, of a gifted leader. One of those was the ability to memorize such things as history, technology, economics, and experiences. “It enabled him to retain inessentials exactly and to store away everything he ever saw: his teachers and classmates; the figures in the Wild West stories of Karl May; the authors of books he had once read; even the brand name of the bicycle he had used as a courier in 1915. He also remembered the exact dates of events in his political career, the inns where he had stayed, and the streets on which he had been driven. Hitler used this ability to compensate for his lack of education.
Historians are unsure of how Hitler was able to accomplish this feat, but David Irving offers this, “When the Red Book of arms production reached him each month, he would take a scrap of paper and, using a colored pencil selected from the tray on his desk, scribble down a few random figures as he ran his eyes over the columns. Then he would throw away the paper—but the figures remained indelibly in his memory—column by column, year after year—to confound his bureaucratic but more fallible aides with the proof of their own shortcomings.
One month he pounced on a printing error in the current Red Book: an “8” instead of a “3. ” He had remembered the right figure from the previous month’s edition. ” This ability to memorize things also served Hitler well when it came to understanding technology and new weapons. This understanding of the various weapons of war and their capabilities such as guns, tanks, and ships helped to benefit Germany’s war machine. Hitler had a thorough understanding of their capabilities and the production that went into them.
Hitler trusted civilians to run his programs, because he believed the military to be incompetent in their approach. “Hitler’s technical ability and direct contributions to the war effort are even more amazing due to the fact that he never received any formal education in technology and did not have a background in industry. ” He did, however give credit to his military leaders in WWI for the experience he gained as a soldier. “Hitler believed, based on his personal experience, that he could view the battle from a soldier’s perspective and understood how the common soldier felt when fighting on the front lines. Credit is given by Field Marshal Manstein, to Hitler, for possessing characteristics like a strong will to win, steady nerves, and intellect all factors in a good leader. However, Manstein did not feel that Hitler could identify with the common foot soldier or have compassion to his plight. “Hitler was always harping on his ‘soldierly’ outlook and loved to recall that he had acquired his military experience as a front-line-soldier, his character had as little in common with the thoughts and emotions of soldiers as had his party with the Prussian virtues which it was so fond of invoking.
Hitler was certainly quite clearly informed of conditions at the front through the reports he received from the army groups and armies. In addition, he frequently interviewed officers who had just returned from the front-line areas. Thus he was not only aware of the achievements of our troops, but also knew what continuous overstrain they had had to endure. ” “Losses, as far as he was concerned, were merely figures, which reduced fighting power.
They were unlikely to have seriously disturbed him as a human being. Hitler could also alter his dialogue to match or identify with the mindset of his audience. In one moment, he could be discussing highly technical matters with industrialists and quickly change his conversation to engage diplomats in conversation, or simplify complex problems to a level that all could understand. Hitler in an effort to not feel intimidated by members of the elite class, and build on his self-confidence, would with ease use this talent. Hitler also used this skill to persuade someone to agree with his view. He always knew why a person wanted to see him before they arrived and had his counter-arguments so well prepared that the individual would leave convinced that Hitler’s logic was sound and not unreasonable. ” This examination shows not only Hitler’s strengths but shows the basis of what made him weak. Hitler’s remarkable ability to recall specific details from an earlier discussion caused the officer doing the brief to be careful and not counter what they had told him previously.
If Hitler perceived any abnormality from an earlier brief, then he immediately assumed it was intentional to deceive him. This notion led Hitler not to trust his officers, especially the ones that briefed him. “By not trusting them, Hitler took away the very essence of leadership—allowing subordinate commanders the freedom to make decisions based on their experience and knowledge of the battlefield. ” H. R. Trevor-Roper best explains Hitler’s conviction to control Germany as: “He did not, like the men of 1914, ‘blunder into war’: he went into it with his eyes wide open. nd since his eyes were open, and other’s half shut, or smarting from the dust which he himself had thrown in them, he was determined that he alone should control his war. He alone understood his whole policy; he alone could vary its details to meet circumstances and yet keep its ultimate aims and essential course constant; and war, which was but policy continued by other means, was far too serious a business to be left to generals, or indeed to anyone else. ” The distrust that Hitler had for his officers stemmed from the success he alone felt he achieved in the early years of his strategy. A strategy not agreed to by his military.
For this reason, Hitler’s self-confidence grew and his arrogance, and mistrust of the military, became the reason why he micromanaged the affairs of the military. For this Hitler established a structure whereby no one could develop or carry out a war plan without his knowledge and input. “The commanders, in turn, had no input into the making of grand strategy and often had no idea what troops were being assigned to different areas of responsibility. ” Many misunderstandings and arguments can be seen between Hitler and his military, for those that dared disagree with Hitler you were either replaced or forced to resign.
This can be seen in an example from Trevor-Ropert: “I must point out,’ Hitler would inform his commanders-in-chief on all fronts during the Allied advance in Western Europe, ‘that the maintenance of signals communications, particularly in heavy fighting and critical situations, is a prerequisite for the conduct of the battle,’ and he insisted that his harassed generals report to him all their orders, ‘so that I have time to intervene in this decision if I think fit, and that my counter-orders can reach the front-line troops in time. This ability to be an effective military leader, based on his self-analysis, has many mistakes and flaws. His limited experience, as a solider in WWI, did not provide him the experience one needs to command. Hitler would deploy troops with a complete disregard for such critical things as food, water, ammunition. When a new weapon was ready for deployment, Hitler’s only concern became how fast he could get the equipment to the front without considering the training of the men on that equipment or whether the weapon system was ready for combat and support needs of the soldiers.
Hitler failed too fully consider the capabilities of his enemy’s new weapons, for he saw Germany’s war production and weapons as superior. “As a result, Hitler refused to accept any reports of his enemy’s superiority, no matter how reliable the reports may have been, and would counter these assertions by pointing out the deficiencies of the enemy as compared to Germany’s production figures. ” Hitler also maintained a strategy of holding territory once captured known as his “no retreat policy,” and believed to have come from his experience in WWI.
It is here where Hitler witnessed the ease at which troops would retreat to establish defensive positions. Percy Schramm points out: “For Hitler, defense lines to the rear exerted a “magnetic” force on the fighting troops, and one should never tempt them by prematurely preparing defense lines behind them. Hitler never forgot how easily the troops could break into a stampede once they had been squeezed out of the trenches, and how hard it was to stop the infantryman, the “poor worm” as he called him, in open country.
What Hitler had learned in 1917-1918 was that it seemed better to hold on to present positions, no matter how high the casualty rate, no matter how vulnerable to air attacks and artillery fire, no matter how weakened by localized breakthroughs, than to order the troops to fall back across open country to the next defense line, though it might be operationally more favorable. ” Hitler’s leadership style had yet another fault that merely by his will alone victory can be achieved. Hitler believed that if he could just get the youngest soldier to feel his will then they would understand the significance of his decision and victory will follow.
Manstein did believe as well that a leader must have a strong will to be victorious and when a leaders will is not it will fail the mission at the critical moment. Manstein also felt that Hitler over estimated his own will which directly affected his decisions and did not allow him to accept advice from others. “The will for victory which gives a commander the strength to see a grave crisis through is something very different from Hitler’s will, which in the last analysis stemmed from a belief in his own ‘mission. Such a belief inevitably makes a man impervious to reason and leads him to think that his own will can operate even beyond the limits of hard reality—whether these consist in the presence of far superior enemy forces, in the conditions of space and time, or merely in the fact that the enemy also happens to have a will of his own.
In the face of his will, the essential elements of the ‘appreciation’ of a situation on which every military commander’s decision must be based were virtually eliminated. and with that Hitler turned his back on reality. Hitler felt he was the type of leader that planned every aspect but the contrary was true. When a tough decision was called for, he would procrastinate giving a decision. This is when Hitler did not want his immediate staff to bother him. During these periods his mood would change and he often times became hostile and low. “He did not care to discuss the matter with anyone and would ignore those around him until he had reached his decision. ” Manstein stated, “every time it was urgently necessary for us to commit forces to battle in time to forestall an operational success by the enemy or to prevent its exploitation.
The General Staff had to struggle with Hitler for days on end before it could get forces released from less-threatened sectors of the front to be sent to a crisis spot. ” There was no logical pattern to his decision-making process. A sound decision-making process encompasses obtaining facts, defining courses of actions, and evaluating each course of action then determining However, Hitler used an opposite approach once he made a decision, then he would gather the information to support his decision. If there was any disagreement to Hitler’s decision he would often times fly into a rant and not discuss the matter further. Once his plan of action was accepted by his General Staff, his mood would change and he would become cheerful and approachable once again. ” One of Hitler’s most controversial decisions was the famous “stop” order issued at Dunkirk, when British Forces trapped were able to escape. The debate hinges on two separate questions. First, was it Hitler’s decision alone to stop or did the military stop and Hitler just agreed. Next, and perhaps the most debated is why stop at all given the magnitude of the British position at Dunkirk.
First, it appears to be little debate that Hitler did in fact, make the decision and give the order to stop. Hitler was shocked and worried about the ease of which his forces achieved victory in France, and concern took over as to the lack of opposition. Success only heightened his concern, and he worried about what might face them in the south. Rundstedt echoed Hitler’s concerns, when he paid a visit to his HQ, and they discussed the reduction in tank forces in there drive across France and any future engagement in the south.
Hitler agreed and wanted to hold as much tank force as possible for what might come later. Hitler did not want to lose them in a fight in the marshes. Although Rundstedt’s concerns helped to push, Hitler into making a decision it was he alone who made the ultimate decision to stop and not advance his tank forces beyond the Canal Line. “Later that day after meeting with Rundstedt, Hitler called for the Commander-in-Chief of the Army and after a heated discussion, insisted that the tanks be halted and the infamous stop order was issued. ”
Yet another reason Hitler issued the stop order was, from his experience in WWI, that he knew the muddy terrain was not suited for tanks and he wanted to maintain as many as possible for his advance to Paris. “Therefore, Hitler saw no sense in squandering his tank force in the swampy lowlands of the Flanders marshes, or for that matter, destroyed in the streets of Dunkirk when they could be put to better use in the future. ” The best argument comes from Goering’s assurance to Hitler that the German Air Force could stop the British evacuation.
This presented Hitler with an opportunity to save his tanks and give a decisive victory to the Air Force. Goering’s insistence that he would do it without any help from the Army also allowed Hitler a chance to steal any glory away from the Army Generals. “Therefore, with assurances from Goering and Hitler’s concern over the possible heavy loss of tanks to the Flanders region, Hitler issued the stop order with the understanding that Dunkirk would be left to the Luftwaffe. ” Ultimately, to allow the Air Force to finish off the British forces at Dunkirk completely contradicts those that feel there was another more political motive.
Some feel that the British escaped to make peace easier later with England. Blumentritt evokes: “Hitler was in very good humor, he admitted that the course of the campaign had been ‘a decided miracle,’ and gave us his opinion that the war would be finished in six weeks. After that he wished to conclude a reasonable peace with France, and then the way would be free for an agreement with Britain. He then astonished us by speaking with admiration of the British Empire, of the necessity for its existence, and of the civilization that Britain had brought into the world.
He remarked, with a shrug of the shoulders, that the creation of its Empire had been achieved by means that were often harsh, but ‘where there is planning, there are shavings flying’. He compared the British Empire with the Catholic Church—saying they were both essential elements of stability in the world. He said that all he wanted from Britain was that she should acknowledge Germany’s position on the Continent. The return of Germany’s lost colonies would be desirable but not essential, and he would even offer to support Britain with troops if she should be involved in any difficulties anywhere.
He remarked that the colonies were primarily a matter of prestige, since they could not be held in war, and few Germans could settle in the tropics. He concluded by saying that his aim was to make peace with Britain on a basis that she would regard as compatible with her honor to accept. ” If this were true, Hitler would have never order the Air Force to attack. General Guderian states, “Hitler and above all Goering believed German air supremacy to be strong enough to prevent the evacuation of the British forces by sea. ” The suggestion that the Air Force could inflict serious casualties on the enemy during their escape had value.
Hitler’s generals were completely shocked and dismayed at hearing this news. Manstein writes, “Dunkirk was one of Hitler’s most decisive mistakes. ” He also states, “Hitler had a certain instinct for operational problems, but lacked the thorough training of a military commander which enables the latter to accept considerable risks in the course of an operation because he nows he can master them. In this case, therefore, Hitler preferred the safe solution of defensive action to the bolder method suggested by Army Group A. ” We may never know the real reason that Hitler issued the stop order.
Nevertheless, the fact is over 336,000 British troops lived. Telford Taylor offers a summary: “And so, while the British were preparing and commencing the greatest naval rescue operation in recorded history, Hitler and the generals wrangled about the stop-order and busied themselves with plans for the approaching offensive on the Somme–Aisne front. The stop-order would not have been issued but for the failure to grasp the urgency of cutting the Allies off from the coast before the resourceful might of British sea power could be brought to bear in a huge salvage operation.
The reprieve of the stop-order was the prelude to “the deliverance of Dunkirk. ” Another of Hitler’s mistakes or blunders, based on his policy of no retreat, was seen at Stalingrad. James Duffy writes, “It was a policy of fanatical resistance. On October 14, 1942, Hitler issued this order to his troops: ‘Every leader, down to squad leader must be convinced of his sacred duty to stand fast come what may even if the enemy outflanks him on the right and left, even if his part of the line is cut off, encircled, overrun by tanks, enveloped in smoke or gassed. ” Stalingrad again presented Hitler with a similar decision he faced in Moscow.
A Soviet counter-offensive that winter gave Hitler’s generals no other option, but to conduct a retreat to establish better defensive positions. Hitler denied this request and subsequently told the army to hold their positions and stop the advance. “Those officers who refused to follow Hitler’s orders were either dismissed or court-martialed. ”Hitler felt “any large-scale retreat by major sections of the army in midwinter, given only limited mobility, insufficient winter equipment, and no prepared positions in the rear, must inevitably have the gravest consequences. ”
The military did not agree with this decision at the time, but in hindsight feel now it was the right decision and probably the best of the war. General von Tippelskirch states: “It was Hitler’s one great achievement. At that critical moment, the troops were remembering what they had heard about Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow, and living under the shadow of it. If they had once begun a retreat, it might have turned into a panic flight. ” Hitler’s early decision to not allow a troop withdraw, from Moscow, reinforced the strategy that a good defense was the best strategy against the Soviets.
From that point on Hitler found it hard to honor the request of his generals for withdraw in the face of an attack. “This was the premise Hitler used to justify his decision to hold Stalingrad at all costs a year later. ” The Soviet army eventually surrounded the Sixth Army in Stalingrad, but Hitler decided that the Sixth Army must hold their ground “despite the danger of its temporary encirclement” In so doing so ordered Paulus to stand firm. Hitler also denied a request, from Paulus’, for “freedom of action” to breakout while he still could.
Geoffrey Jukes points out that Hitler’s decision allowed him to “continue in the belief; derived from his experience of the previous winter, that refusal to withdraw was the correct response to Soviet attacks. ” Once again, Hitler relied on Goering’s assessment that the Air Force could deliver. However, the necessary supplies never arrived and Paulus continued to update Hitler as to their status. Hitler learned that “the planes were no longer landing at Gumrak airfield; they were just throwing out their loads in midair.
The loads were thus largely wasted, and the thousands of injured waiting to be flown out were left to suffer. ” Hitler stood by his decision not to withdraw regardless of the outcome and informed Paulus to fight to the end. Earlier Manstein points out that Hitler lacked a compassion or understanding of the average foot soldier. Manstein goes on to point out, “The cause of Sixth Army’s destruction at Stalingrad is obviously to be found in Hitler’s refusal—doubtless mainly for reasons of prestige—to give up the city voluntarily. Paulus given an opportunity to surrender, by the Soviets, on two different occasions and Hitler refused. Hitler maintained that the Sixth Army was to hold in place at all cost. However, in a final message from Paulus’ he states, “Soviet army was at the door and equipment is being destroyed. ” There was no reason to hold Stalingrad in the face of such a superior force. Many see this as a tremendous blunder by Hitler. Hitler believed his will would win out over that of his generals. In addition, his strategy to stand firm did not apply to every situation, something he failed to realize or understand.
The circumstances at Stalingrad were far different. Hitler was also convinced that the German Air Force would deliver the necessary supplies to hold until reinforcements arrived, reinforcements that never arrived. Stalingrad was the end to any attempt to defeat the Soviets. Duffy states, “Following the defeat at Stalingrad there would be no more blitzkriegs. There would be no more advances, only a steady retreat across Eastern Europe until the German army was forced back to where it began in 1939: Germany itself. ”
Adolf Hitler was a very complicated man and a leader who placed self above all others to include his country. Millions died for his quest of supremacy and we were once again plunged into war. Hitler felt his will and intellect were enough to restore Germany to her rightful place in the world order. With his early success only serving to strengthen this belief, but as time went on this phenomenon began to fade and his leadership questioned. This analysis points to more than one instance when Hitler may have been stopped if not for the policy of appeasement by other nations like Britain and France.
This allowed Hitler to grow even more confident as he sought to expand beyond his borders. The inaction of others also added to his belief that he was a cunning political and military leader and he could implement his plan one stage at a time. His continued violations of the Treaty of Versailles served to show that he was interested in more than just protecting Germany’s sovereignty. However, we cannot overlook the contribution that he did make given his extraordinary recollection and his attention to various weapons and their technical aspects.
His ability to analyze military history, and know the capabilities of his enemy are all signs of an effective leader. However, Hitler had many more weaknesses than strengths. The distrust held for his military leadership only sought to strengthen his theory that he alone knew what was best. This caused his involvement even to the smallest detail when it came to military matters. Hitler’s lack of experience, in commanding troops also hampered his analyze of an experienced officer. Hitler had an illogical decision-making process defined by procrastination and failure to involve others.
Distance and removal is how he approached problems. But once a decision was made he would find ways to support it and not take any advice on different courses of action. Dunkirk and Stalingrad show Hitler’s inability to confide in his general’s and take their advice, leading in completely different end states. Hitler’s decision to stop at Dunkirk allowed many British troops to live and fight another day. The Battle of Stalingrad had a completely different outcome with German soldiers losing their lives due to Hitler’s insistence to hold at all cost.