Barbarossa: the legend of The clean Wehrmacht

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The Second World War

Barbarossa: the legend of The clean Wehrmacht

The attack on the Soviet Union was from the beginning a campaign of destruction. The statement that crimes were only the SS committed, was a living lie. Today, 75 years ago, the company launched “Barbarossa”.

“The Wehrmacht was not a criminal, as you have claimed in the exhibition, Mr army. This is stupid stuff.” It is the Reserve captain Helmut Schmidt, German Chancellor (1974 – 82), after Willy Brandt and Helmut Kohl, who had been created a year ago, shortly before his death, in a dispute with Hannes Heer, the Director of the controversial Wehrmacht exhibition of 1995.

It came to the question of whether, and if so, to what extent the Wehrmacht was at the war of extermination in the East involved. For decades, the German company had established itself in the awareness that the Wehrmacht was a very respectable army in the Tradition of Prussia. True to the Motto: Yes, the SS (Schutzstaffel – Hitler’s instrument of Oppression) was bad, the Rest was clean.

The exhibition for the 50. Anniversary of the end of the Second world war changed a lot of things. The nerve of a whole Generation was taken. Because the legend of the innocent Wehrmacht was one of the last remaining life lies of the old Federal Republic. Especially the company “Barbarossa”, Hitler’s war of annihilation against Russia, since have been back in the focus. A war of extermination right from the start.

The Russian Campaign

22. June 1941 was the day the largest military buildup in world history. A total of 3.6 million soldiers attacked the Soviet Union, the largest country in the world. 140 divisions, los beat. It was a world war II in the world war.

As at 3.15 PM, the borders were overrun in the East for a length of more than 1,600 kilometers at a time, and bombarded with Hermann göring’s Luftwaffe, the Soviet aircraft still on the ground. On the first day alone 66 airfields were attacked. The 3,600 tanks, rolled forward, to 700,000 guns followed. The attack was so fast and massive that Hitler’s troops per day were up to 50 miles gain of ground.

The largest military offensive of all times: 3.600 tanks and 700,000 guns in the direction of the East

Why is the Soviet Union that had closed two years earlier, a non-aggression Pact (Hitler-Stalin-Pact)? The fight against Bolshevism was Hitler’s stated goal. In the national socialist ideology, the term was used as a synonym for the domination of Judaism.

Already months before the company “Barbarossa” dedicated to Hitler, the tips of the Wehrmacht in his campaign plans. Discussion notes from participants show that the opponent should not be in accordance with the international laws of war are treated. On the contrary, The political Commissars of the Red army would eliminate the “through the force. Not to the rear deport”. And: The East should be up to the Ural area of settlement for the German – exclusive. As the tanks rolled then, had come the hour of the Radios. Constantly victory were reported messages over the Airwaves.

Actually made it to Hitler’s troops in the first six months, approximately 3.4 million red army soldiers surround. But: When rise of around 300,000 soldiers to die in the first few months, only on the German side. At the end of November of 1941, Hitler’s troops were 20 kilometers from Moscow. But then General Winter” fate “played. At 40 degrees below zero froze the Blitzkrieg. Fallen red army soldiers, Germans immediately went to the boots. As of December the Red army went on the counter-offensive.

In front of the cemetery wall of the Serbian Pancevo near Belgrade: hostage-killing by a Wehrmacht officer

Four more years of the murders took. The encirclement of the 6. Army in front of Stalingrad and the capitulation in February of 1943, meant the anticipated end for Hitler’s Germany. In any theater of the war, more people died than in the East of Europe. Alone, 600,000 of Leningrad died of starvation or froze to death in their besieged city, 1.2 million white Russians were murdered in so-called Retaliation, 2.5 million Jews murdered. Alone, 3.3 million red army soldiers died in German captivity. Who was responsible? Only the SS?

The myth of the clean Wehrmacht

Long before, in every respect, a spectacular military exhibition power in 1995 had ruled the military history research office of the Bundeswehr in 1983, it was a “travesty of reality, that only the SS led the killing blow against the delusional image of ‘Jewish Bolshevism’ and the Wehrmacht was on the leadership of the operations limited”.

The historian Wolfram wette supported the opposite of the German wave. 70. Anniversary he said, “after 1945, the Wehrmacht’s elite systematically the legend of the clean remained of the Wehrmacht in the world.” Thus, virtually all of the crimes that happened in the East were pushed, the SS. The, bet, came to a collective discharge. What in historian circles over the decades, discovered, researched, and published, reached the General Public until the mid-1990s: the involvement of The Wehrmacht in the crimes in Russia and South-Eastern Europe.

Pictures say more than words

“War of extermination – crimes of the German Wehrmacht 1941 – 1944”. Under this title, toured from 1995 onwards, the exhibition by 34 cities. Including Berlin and Vienna, but also in Schwäbisch Hall, and Peenemünde. More than 800,000 visitors to provoke, because the collective Conscience of the Germans had separated the Evil and on the Good long neatly: the Nazis were the others, the SA, the SS, the Dirt had Stuck. Innocent, the Wehrmacht was.

With this reassuring Knowledge that not all were bad, cleaned up the exhibition head vigorously. And especially with images: Hanged, mass graves, feixende soldiers on death row just before the shot in his neck.

German officers in July 1941: briefing about the upcoming attacks

What historians under Tray long controversy, was in the broad Public at the time, a provocation: Also, the Wehrmacht was in the East, with murder. Conservatives were up in arms, social Democrats and the greens supported the Thesis of the exhibition circuit. “The mirror” dedicated to the exhibition and the controversy a cover story, in 1997, debated in the Bundestag on the disturbing topic.

“We are fiddling around here is hard on the nerve of a Generation”, said the SPD-politician Erhard Eppler at the opening of the exhibition in Stuttgart. The historian Iring Fetscher called the new confrontation of the German Wehrmacht was a “disgrace that must be endured.”

The revolt of the critics, nevertheless, was so great that the exhibition organizers came under pressure. To you, it has been demonstrated that, of the more than 1.430 photos less than 20 nothing to do with the Wehrmacht. That was enough to design the exhibition, under the responsibility of a new Commission of historians from scratch. Basically, but the core remained the statements of the first exhibition in the right way: The Wehrmacht was involved in the murder of Jews, crimes against Soviet prisoners of war, and Attacks against civilians involved – sometimes in a leading role.