The myth of Nazi Germany.
The Germans were talented propagandists- any historian will agree there. Hitler was the real-life “big brother” and the media image of the Nazi regime was presented always positively to the German people.
When you think of Nazi Germany what comes to mind?
For many people, the image that comes to mind when they hear Nazi Germany is tanks, crowds, and Hitler. The image should be burning cities, atrocities miles beyond what we thought possible, and global warfare.
You know what Hitler and Goebbels wanted you to think about when you hear “Nazi”? They wanted you to think about tanks, crowds, and speeches. They’d really prefer you forget about the whole war crimes thing.
That is how effective Nazi propaganda is- it lasts to this day
When the war ended 3 things happened
- Nazi generals wrote books where they present wacky myths and deflect all blame
- German propaganda survives and becomes popular more or less because it is interesting
- WW2 becomes the most popular topic in all of history. Millions of amateur and untrained historians start watching documentaries and forming opinions (I was certainly one before college).
This all combined to create the myth of Nazi Germany. What myth is that?
Nazi Germany was a fearsome military powerhouse. They had powerful cutting-edge tanks, brilliant generals, and advanced tactical strategies. They humiliated Poland, France, and all of Europe using their advanced and powerful military. In all, they were a nearly unstoppable Empire that we were lucky to defeat.
This is a myth- plain and simple. Here is the truth.
- Germany invades Poland: The Poles actually hold out well and the Germans take higher losses than expected. The Poles were pretty happy with their defense, and then out of the blue, the USSR invades Poland from the East- ending the war. Germany did not do that well, the invasion largely worked thanks to the Russian betrayal.
- Germany invades Denmark: I could invade Denmark
- Germany invades Norway: Wow, you beat Norway. With all 10 of their soldiers- good for you (as mentioned in comments they lost half their surface fleet to do it too)
- Germany invades France: France actually gets unlucky considering they arguably have a more powerful military. The Germans gamble and send their armored divisions through the Ardennes forest. The Allies knew the Germans would invade through Belgium but thought the Ardennes was impossible to cross. Once the Panzer Divisions emerged from the forest they could head to Paris at full speed- having no infantry attached to slow them down. The French have to pull back to avoid being flanked and the war is lost. It was a brilliant and risky gamble that paid off- not military domination.
- Germany helps invade Greece and Yugoslavia: Again, neither are impressive
- Germany then invades the USSR: This goes well at first but not because Germany is so great. The Russians were refitting and way out of date. They had almost lost a war to Finland and Stalin had “purged” the army of its best officers. When the USSR start appointed officers based on skill rather than loyalty, got their production base in gear and updated their equipment the war shifted radically in their favor.
Do you know what’s funny? This period (1939–1941) marks the pinnacle of German achievement in the war.
During this period they were not using Panzer IV’s and Tiger tanks (well they had Pazner IV’s in late 40/41). The invasion of France and Poland was done with Pazner I’s, II’s, and III’s. These were light tanks often with machineguns instead of cannons. They were small, slow for their weight, and packed no punch.
The whole thing worked because Germany saw tanks as vehicles to break enemy lines where the French saw them as infantry support. The French had as many tanks as the Germans and theirs were better. What got them is they spread out their tanks instead of focusing them.
When Germany starts using Pazner IV’s (late models), Panthers, and Tigers they will be in the decline years (late 42, 43, 44, and 45).
The strong Germany that people imagine did not have a single Tiger tank. The pathetic Germany on the verge of surrender had Tigers all over.
Germany was never that great. They had a large and well-equipped military that was forward-thinking in terms of how to use armored divisions but it was no stronger in terms of raw power than France or the UK.
They conquered a bunch of small nations with practically no military. Is conquering Belgium, Luxembourg, Greece, Denmark, and Norway supposed to be impressive? They got lucky with France and won the day thanks to Russia with Poland.
The Germans miserably failed to conquer the UK, mostly because of their horribly weak Navy, lack of supplies, and terrible planning.
Then when Germany came up against a strong nation, the USSR, they lose. They do well at first because Russia was in a weakened state but once Russia got its act together they pushed the Germans back clear to Berlin.
- German planning was weak
- Germany was short on resources almost the whole war
- Germany lacked a strong wartime production base like the USSR and USA
- The German navy was terrible and unable to protect its shores or trade in any way
- The Panzer IV was a fine tank- but no better than the Sherman or the T-34. The “great” German tanks were horribly unreliable, guzzled gas (which Germany was out of), and slow to produce. Sure the King Tiger tank was a great tank- but most were found out of gas on the side of the road or broken down.
Germany was not a 1000 year Reich nor did it possess an unstoppable military machine. They got squashed by the allies.
We should stop remembering them or imagine them as some dominant advanced military power.
We need to remember them as horrible. As an average European power that brought the world to its knees so they could conquer and kill “sub-humans”. We need to remember the genocides, the mobile killing squads, the rape of millions. the attacks on civilians, and the rest of their war crimes.
We need to stop lionizing them. THEY LOST THE WAR.