Why on Earth Did Hitler Invade the Soviet Union?

On June 24, 1812, Napoleon Bonaparte and his Grande Armée crossed the Neman River starting what was quickly to be a fateful — if not cataclysmic — invasion of Russia.  

Virtually 129 years to the day, Germany started its personal marketing campaign into the Motherland, discovering, like so many others earlier than it, that the street to Moscow was, and virtually at all times is, paved with frostbite, hunger and skulls.  

Each side fought with a “demonic fury,”in keeping with The Nationwide WWII Museum, that resulted within the dying of over 2 million German troopers and over 24 million Soviet troopers and civilians and that slowed down the Germans in a method it had desperately hoped to keep away from. 

The query subsequently is rooted in crucial query in the case of any invasion of Russia: Why? 

Why did Adolf Hitler select to invade the Soviet Union when absolutely the Führer noticed that it was a calamity ready to occur?  

Why did he invade when historical past confirmed the margin for achievement was minimal whereas failure precipitated ghastly penalties? 

Historians have been grappling over that query for many years.  


Upon coming to energy in 1933, Hitler mixed conventional nationalist obsessions along with his personal ruthless Darwinian philosophy and vitriolic hatred for the Slavic and Jewish peoples, whom he deemed to be backward and inferior. 

Historian Alan Cassel asserted in “The Origins of World Warfare Two: The Debate Continues” that the ideological impetus for Nazi overseas coverage “is to be discovered right here in [Hitler’s] preoccupation with Bolshevism and Jewry, his anti-Communism and anti-Semitism. It enjoined him to hunt Lebensraum on the expense of an enfeebled Russia.” 

Earlier than 1941 there’s little proof that showcases the agency distinction between German ideology and strategic calculations. As soon as “Barbarossa had begun, Hitler’s personal ideology, largely left in limbo since 1933, got here to full fruition. Idea and observe coincided,” David Reynolds wrote in his piece for Worldwide Affairs, “1940: Fulcrum of the Twentieth Century?”  

Two disparate ideologies, fascism and socialism, had been now engaged in mortal battle, with hundreds of thousands — each residents and troopers — perishing due to Hitler’s gamble.  

Frenemies Perpetually

To grasp the ideological conflict between the 2 nations, one should look again on the interwar interval to hint the Soviet-German relationship, which progressed from mutual enmity to tentative peace with the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact to all-out battle.  

When the worldwide proletarian rebellion within the title of Bolshevism didn’t materialize in Europe after World Warfare I, Vladimir Lenin adjusted the Marxist doctrine towards coexistence with the capitalist world. By the Nineteen Thirties, Stalin understood the necessity for peace overseas so as to preserve stability at dwelling.  

Stalin didn’t intend to “launch a revolutionary assault on Europe, however as an alternative pursue … Russian nationwide curiosity,” Teddy J. Uldricks claimed in his article for Slavic Evaluation, “The Icebreaker Controversy: Did Stalin Plan to Assault Hitler?” This safety would permit the Soviets time to finish their industrial plan.  


Nevertheless, Hitler’s rise to energy in 1933 represented an existential menace to Stalin’s 5-12 months Plan. Fascist Nazi dogma, with the coverage of Lebensraum explicitly aimed towards Jap Europe, together with Hitler’s infected rhetoric in the direction of Jews and Slavs, set the course within the Nineteen Thirties for the 2 nations to be at diametrical odds.   

The signing of the 1939 Nazi-Soviet Pact marked a short lived cessation of overt hostilities between the 2 nations. But each Hitler and Stalin considered this a short lived lull — and for good cause. 

As early as April 1940, Marshal B. Shaposhnikov, chief of the Soviet basic workers, recognized Germany because the probably and foremost adversary of the Soviet Union. Regardless of this, the Soviet’s industrial weaknesses stayed Stalin’s hand. What the nation wanted was time, which was crucial to boost their fight readiness. To take action meant to forestall German aggression via cooperation with the Reich. The Nazi-Soviet Pact was not a departure from ideological goals; slightly it was a tactic of state curiosity, fuelled by the will for the survival of its ideology. It was a way to an finish — for each nations.  

Warfare’s Again on the Desk

By summer time 1940, the autumn of France had seemingly neutralized the opportunity of a two-front battle. The swiftness of the victory buoyed Hitler’s perception that Britain would quickly observe the trail of the French and sue for peace. Due to this fact, by 1941, Hitler’s foremost goal was the subjugation of the Soviet Union, regardless of heated arguments from the pinnacle of the German navy, Adm. Raeder, who believed that the battle towards Britain ought to have precedence.  

Hitler was anxious that the Soviets had been gaining energy whereas the German military and its assets had been being depleted by the battle with the West. The justification to assault the Soviet Union was an ideological finish via realist means.  

It “had at all times been [Hitler’s] underlying function, an ambition deriving extra from basic ideological preconceptions than from strategic realities,” Waldo Heinrichs wrote in “Threshold of Warfare: Franklin D. Roosevelt & American Entry into World Warfare II.” In different phrases, the Soviet Union had served its function in 1939 and 1940, defending Germany’s rear within the east. By 1941, Hitler was champing on the bit to assault.    

Like Stalin, Hitler’s long-term ideological goals remained the identical, however his short-term technique rendered it essential to collude with the Soviets. The battle within the East will be seen as an extension of an ideological coverage, in keeping with Gerhard L. Weinberg in “A World at Arms: A World Historical past of World Warfare II”:

[It] grew not out of both some presumably remediable circumstance of the second, or a way of being threatened, however out of purposeful dedication. This was what had usually at all times been meant, as a central venture of the entire system, and with out it the Nationwide Socialist experiment made no sense. 

The ideology of Nazi Germany and Hitler’s blinding prejudices led to maybe one of many biggest — and bloodiest — miscalculations of World Warfare II. 

In a deadly error, the Führer had prematurely shifted the German’s level of assault towards the Soviet Union with out nullifying the British menace. That meant he would ultimately face the dreaded two-front battle that his forefathers had fought and misplaced. 

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