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Critique of Stolfi’s Argument Essay

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Updated: May 1st, 2019

During the course of recent decades, there has been a clear tendency among many Western historians to strive to distort the history of WW2, especially when underlying reasons for Germany’s attack of Soviet Union on June 22, 1941 is being concerned.

Russell Stolfi’s 1991 book Hitler’s Panzers East represents the perfect example of historical pseudo-revisionism, aimed to discourage ordinary citizens from making critical inquiries into officially endorsed view on Germany’s war against USSR as such that has been instigated by Hitler’s irrational desire to expand his country’s ‘living space’.

According to Stolfi, in the summer of 1941, German army was fully capable of defeating Soviet Union: “My purpose is to show that the German armed forces… could have advanced through Moscow into the Moscow-Gorki space in August to October 1941” (p. ix). This statement alone reveals the sheer ridiculousness of Stolfi’s assumption that, had Germans captured Moscow before the winter of 1941, they would have automatically won war against Soviet Union.

Apparently, despite his academic credits, author never heard of what happened to Napoleon’s army in the winter of 1812, after it had captured Russian capital. In all probability, it simply never occurred to Stolfi that eastwards of Moscow, Russian territory extends by another eight thousands kilometers and that by the end of summer of 1941, 60% of Soviet military production lines have been relocated beyond Ural Mountains.

Given the fact that, as we have shown, book’s foremost conceptual thesis appears thoroughly fallacious, it comes as no surprise that Hitler’s Panzers East contains a number of unsubstantiated and even deliberately misleading claims.

For example, Stofli suggests that the reason why Hitler attacked USSR in June of 1941 is that he thought that this would help him winning the war against Britain and that he sought the expansion of Germany’s lebensraum to the East: “He (Hitler) reiterated with impressive consistency the argument that the Soviet Union was Britain’s last hope for continuing the struggle… Hitler made it clear that German destiny would be realized one way or another in European Russia the East” (p. 8).

Nevertheless, as recently unclassified documents from Russia’s secret archives indicate, Stalin was about to invade Germany, and consequentially the whole Europe, on July 6, 1941.

It is namely due to this, and not due to Stalin’s sheer stupidity, as many ‘progressive’ Western and Communist historians would like people to believe, that as of June 1941, the force of five million strong, supported by 20.000 tanks (with the total number of Soviet tanks amounting to 28.000 – twice the number of all world’s tanks put together) and by 10.000 aircrafts, has been concentrated within fifty kilometers wide strip, along Soviet-German border.

Therefore, it is utterly inappropriate to explain German attack on USSR by Hitler’s bloodthirstiness, as Stofli does – on June 22, 1941 Wehrmacht had struck Soviet Union in essentially preemptive manner.

It is hard to disagree with Stolfi when he claims that by the end of July, Red Army has been virtually destroyed. Yet, the reason for this had nothing to do with Red Army not being ready for war, but with the fact that through years 1939-1941, Soviets were getting ready for an offensive, not defensive war.

This is why throughout May-June of 1941; Soviets have been occupying themselves with removing barbed-wire defenses along the border with Germany and with building roads that led straight to this border. In his book Icebreaker, famous Russian WW2 historian Victor Suvorov (1990) states: “It was not, of course, for Hitler’s benefit that Meretskov, Zhukov and Beria (Soviet generals) had built roads and railways and stockpiled supplies along the border.

It was to let the Soviet ‘liberation’ army loose on Europe, with speed and with nothing in its path, and to keep it supplied in the course of its surprise offensive” (p. 82). Therefore, despite what Stofli implies in his book, Soviet Army’s defeats of 1941 came as the result of Germans catching it at the worst possible time – in the middle of getting ready to launch an assault on Europe.

Had Hitler postponed his attack by two weeks, Red Army would have overrun German defenses in essentially blitzkrieg-like manner, just as Hitler had done it to Poland and France before. Yet, under no circumstances can Germany’s military successes in the summer of 1941 be explained by fact that at the time, German army was much stronger than the Red Army.

Germans had no winter clothing, no freeze-resistant gasoline and oil, no adequate artillery (throughout the course of Eastern campaign, 80% German artillery consisted of captured Soviet artillery pieces – best in the world), no long-range bomber planes. All of their 3320 tanks were obsolete, especially when compared with Soviet latest tanks KV-1 and T-34, the number of which alone in Soviet Western military districts amounted to approximately 800.

However, even 9.000 of Soviet ‘obsolete’ tanks BT-5, with 75mm long-barreled anti-tank gun, were easily capable of dealing with Germany’s newest T‑IV tanks, featuring short-barreled 50mm gun, especially given the fact that the number of T‑IV tanks amounted to only 230.

And yet, historians like Stolfi prove themselves arrogant enough to suggest that, when compared to Red Army, German Werchmaht was superior, while going as far as implying that Germans had no problems whatsoever, when dealing with Soviet tanks: “Fortunately for the Germans, the Soviets had only a few T- 34 tanks available for combat in June and July 1941” (p. 165).

This statement, of course, is an outright lie – as it was shown in Suvorov’s book, throughout June, July and August of 1941, Germans had captured at least 300 KV-1 and T-34 tanks, which had been immediately converted for the use by Wehrmacht.

Most of these tanks had been lost to Germans not because their crews were not ready for combat per se, or because these tanks were not of high quality, but because their crews were not ready for particularly defensive combat, especially when finding themselves encircled in pockets, deep behind the frontline, with Luftwaffe’s complete dominance in the sky.

Upon being exposed to the sight of advancing German troops, without being given orders for defensive action, the crews would simply get out of their tanks and start walking home – pure and simple. It is one thing embarking upon the ‘liberation’ of Europe, when being encouraged by NKVD’s ‘friendly’ fire from behind.

However, it is another thing defending Soviet ‘workers’ paradise’, where citizens have been turned into slaves, especially given the fact that Stalin kept silent until July 3, 1941, which instilled Soviet soldiers with a sensation that the war against Germany was lost.

Therefore, it is quite impossible to agree with Stolfi when he suggests that Hitler had good chances of defeating Soviet Union in the summer of 1941. Hitler’s attack was suicidal, which is exactly the reason why he initially succeeded with inflicting heavy blow upon Soviet army – Soviet leaders simply never expected Hitler being arrogant enough to decide to strike USSR with technically obsolete and numerically inferior army.

This is why Stalin kept on dismissing intelligence reports about Germany’s impending attack. Nevertheless, just as a wounded bear, Stalin’s USSR was able to regain its strength back and to put an end to National-Socialist Germany by 1945.

By attacking Soviet Union in 1941, Hitler was able to postpone Germany’s demise by four years and to save Western Europe from being ‘liberated’ by Red Army in the same year, as Stalin originally planned. Yet, it does not make Hitler’s attack less suicidal – unfortunately, historians like Stolfi continue to have a hard time, while trying to understand this simple fact.

References

Stolfi, R. (1991). Hitler’s panzers east. Oklahoma City, University of Oklahoma Press.

Suvorov, V. (1990). Icebreaker: Who started the Second World War? London, Hamish Hamilton.

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