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'If Only he had listened',
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This review is from: Manstein: Hitler's Greatest General (Paperback)
When ploughing through this massive book, once you get past the formative years process, and into the 'meat' which of course was the Second World War, you realise how much the world would have changed if Adolf Hitler hadn't been both a brilliant politician and a psychopath; although some would argue that both sides are both necessary and present in most of our present clutch of pedestrian politicians.
Although General Manstein didn't invent the idea of 'Blitzkrieg' he polished the raw gem until it became the 'jewel' which enhanced the 'Esprit-de-Corps' of the German military, and enabled it to destroy opponents without seeming effort. Manstein's division's marching south through Belgium and France, using air power as an 'aperitif' for semi-mechanised warfare proved that his ideas, if properly used, would deliver victory, and Hitler revelled in the glory which was Germany's as his legions marched.
No-one really knows why Hitler paused, for over a week, the armoured advance of his Panzers towards the beaches and buildings of Dunkirk. Some say that he was advised by an astrologer on Himmler's staff against the move of his disciplined soldiers which would have decimated the bulk of the nearly defenceless British Army as it trailed back from its badly-led and disorganised actions in France and Belgium. If Hitler had listened to the professionals, such as Kleist and more importantly Manstein; the B.E.F would have either been buried where they fell, or marched towards the ever-swelling P.O.W. camps of Germany. Bereft of even the base of a professional Army, and with the R.A.F struggling to staff its fighter squadrons, but aided only by the the best-equipped Navy in the world, the British government would have had to consider either a 'Cease-fire' or a surrender without the gift of 'Dunkirk' which steadied the British people.
If the B.E.F.'s destruction and capture had taken Britain out of the war, Hitler could have forwarded his plans for the invasion of the Soviet Union without the cancerous sore of that small island's armed forces as a constant irritation at his rear, Hitler's forward planning could have advanced his invasion dates by at least eight months, and all the advances which Manstein and his fellow Wermacht generals made for Hitler's dream could have been consolidated.
In the real world, of which this book is such a good guide, we see how Manstein tried to carry out his orders, but when the tides of War turned against him, he failed to convince his leader that the word 'retreat' was a necessary part of a good soldier's lexicon, and so the needless sacrifice of thousands of Germany's best was set in concrete.
The one area of General Manstein's life and occupation as a soldiers' leader which the biographer, Mungo Melvin seems to give him the benefit of the doubt is of course in the area covered by the German's responses to the attacks by the Soviet 'Partisan' forces. These irregulars, themselves governed only very loosely from Moscow, and therefore free from supervision or scrutiny, tended towards the idea of 'the only good German is a dead German' and there was an even looser scrutiny of the tactics employed by those same 'Partisans'. The ferocity of the reprisals against the civilians by the German Army, as documented by other writers, gives witness to the gap in credulity from what Manstein ordered, and what he claimed to be aware of. As for the other charge, namely knowledge of, and participation in, the grotesquely named 'Final Solution', I for one, find it almost impossible to believe that such an industrialised human slaughter was not well-known or even tacitly even encouraged by both the corps of Germany's generals, and the German public at large.
A book to be read, and then read again. A credit to the author, whose desire to remain in the shades of his subject allow him to give his name, but not his rank.
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Initial post: 13 Oct 2013 12:02:53 BDT
Last edited by the author on 13 Oct 2013 12:03:23 BDT
A good review but the loss of the BEF was unlikely to have led to Britain dropping out of the war. If the Germans had been able to land a large and well supplied army in 1940 then the BEF would have been overwhelmed. Compared to the German, French and later British armies it was a small, albeit very professional, force. It was the RAF and the Royal Navy that prevented the invasion.
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