Operation Barbarossa (originally the Barbarossa case ) was the code name of the National Socialist regime for the attack by the Wehrmacht on the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941 during World War II . He opened the German-Soviet War .
Adolf Hitler had declared the annihilation of Bolshevism to be one of the main ideological and political goals of National Socialism in 1925 . He had envisaged the attack on the Soviet Union after the victory over France in June 1940 and communicated his decision to the High Command of the Wehrmacht (OKW) on July 31, 1940. On December 18, 1940, he gave the OKW instruction No. 21 to prepare for the attack using the code word mentioned.
The planning that followed replaced earlier plan studies of the Wehrmacht leadership, which had planned the war against the Soviet Union under other aliases such as "Otto" and "Fritz". It aimed at a racist war of annihilation to destroy “Jewish Bolshevism” : The entire European part of the Soviet Union was to be conquered, its political and military leaders murdered, and large sections of the civilian population decimated and disenfranchised. With the hunger plan , to which the siege of Leningrad belonged, the starvation of many millions of prisoners of war and civilians was taken into account, and according to the “ general plan east ” large-scale expulsions should follow in order to subsequently Germanize the conquered areas . In addition, task forces were set up and trained to commit mass murders of Jews behind the front . For all of this, the Nazi regime issued orders that were contrary to international law from March 1941 , which the Wehrmacht leadership took over and passed on.
The realization of this war plan failed in the Battle of Moscow in December 1941. Nevertheless, the Nazi regime and the Wehrmacht continued this war and the Holocaust against parts of the civilian population, which was being promoted at the same time, until the Wehrmacht's unconditional surrender on May 8, 1945.
The High Command of the Wehrmacht (OKW) and the High Command of the Wehrmacht Army, High Command of the Army (OKH), and Navy, High Command of the Navy (OKM) had each had their own plan studies drawn up for a limited war against the Soviet Union since June / July 1940 they were given aliases such as “Problem S”, “Fritz” and titles such as “Operations Study Ost” (Department of Defense in the Wehrmachtführungamt, OKW), “Operationsplan Ost” (OKH) or “Considerations about Russia” (OKM). These studies were combined by December 5, 1940, and then presented to Hitler. From then on, the overall planning bore the code name "Otto".
The annexation of Austria in 1938 was to be prepared militarily under the code name “Sonderfall Otto”. General Ludwig Beck had not worked out the plan for the "special case of Otto" as instructed, so that it could not be carried out. Therefore, on March 11, 1938, Hitler issued a short-term directive to carry out the Anschluss of Austria under the code name “ Enterprise Otto ” on the following day. Military interventions as instructed could largely be omitted, so that the order was not made known to all Wehrmacht agencies.
The name probably alludes to the Roman-German Emperor Otto I , whose “services to Germanism ”, “ Slavs ” and “ colonial policy ” as well as “Germanization” of conquered Eastern European areas were highlighted by the history books of the Weimar Republic as exemplary. Building on this historical image, the National Socialists understood their policy of conquest as a resumption of alleged plans by the Ottonians to subjugate the Slavs and expand into Eastern Europe . This served them the " Ostforschung ", which was dominated by the historian Albert Brackmann . The pseudoscientific use of historical references to medieval rulers for “unrestrained imperialism ” was criticized by Brackmann's colleague Hermann Aubin in a letter on January 25, 1939: “Be careful how soon Otto I and Friedrich I will be on top because they set the example have given how to set up a 'German order'. ”But after the attack on Poland on behalf of Heinrich Himmler in October 1939 , Brackmann produced a brochure on“ Crisis and Construction in Eastern Europe ”with just such references. The Wehrmacht bought 7,000 of them on May 7, 1940.
On July 25, 1940, the code name "Otto" reappeared in an order of the OKW, this time for a "preferred Wehrmacht program" to upgrade rails and roads in the occupied part of Poland , which was supposed to enable rapid troop and tank transports to the eastern border. Historians see this as the first preparations for a war against the Soviet Union. Franz Halder , Chief of the General Staff of the Army since September 1938, commissioned his staff on June 19 or July 3, 1940 to work out a corresponding plan . This plan was expanded after July 31, merged with other plans and, in December, used as a basis for the OKW and OKH's preparations for war.
The then lieutenant colonel i. G. Bernhard von Loßberg declared in 1956 that Alfred Jodl (OKW) had replaced the previous code name "Fritz" for the plan he had written "later" with "Barbarossa". On December 18, 1940, Hitler ordered with "Instruction No. 21" to prepare for war against the Soviet Union under the new code name "Barbarossa Case". As expected by Aubin in 1939, he was alluding to Frederick I, who bore this nickname and was, alongside the first two Ottonians, the most recognized medieval emperor. At the inauguration of the “ House of German Art ” in July 1937, Hitler praised him as the “one who was the first to express the Germanic cultural concept and to carry it out as part of his imperial mission”. For the first time on January 18, 1941, some Wehrmacht agencies internally referred to the planned attack as "Operation Barbarossa".
Hitler's "Eastern Program"
As early as 1925, Hitler had declared a war of conquest and annihilation against the Soviet Union to be the main goal of his foreign policy in his program Mein Kampf . He justified this with the inevitable world-historical struggle of the “Aryan race” against “ world Jewry ”, whose most extreme form of rule was “ Bolshevism ”. There "the Jew" shows himself as a "tyrant of the people", so that one can only fight both at the same time.
Hence an alliance with the Soviet Union is out of the question; one could "not drive out the devil with the Beelzebub ". Furthermore, the mere recapture of German territories lost by the First World War is "political nonsense". Rather, it must be about securing the German people for all time "the land they deserve on this earth", which guarantees them economic independence in the greater continental area of Europe. This soil is to be sought above all in Russia and its subordinate peripheral states. The Nazis therefore proclaim also to the "annexationist" of the Empire as a new goal: "We stop the endless Germanic to the south and west of Europe and lead the eyes towards the lands to the east." Hitler legitimized this perspective with two assumptions: a racial, hence the political and military inferiority of the Slavs, allegedly ruled by the Jews, so that the Soviet rule was "ripe for collapse", and Great Britain's willingness to accept Germany's previous conquest of France and then to support it in the fight against the Soviet Union. He criticized the empire's elites for not seeking a clear alliance with Great Britain or Russia, but for having embroiled Germany in an unpredictable two- front war . From this he concluded that the Soviet Union could only be conquered after an alliance with Great Britain, which was supposed to cover the previous conquest of France and thus German “freedom of the back”.
In 1928, Hitler affirmed in his “ Second Book ”: Since Germany could only permanently find its living space in the East, an alliance with the Soviet Union made no sense. Destructive Judaism will destroy the Soviet state and make it easier for Germans to get rid of their inhibitions towards the only possible “goal of German foreign policy”: to conquer “ living space in the East ” that will be sufficient “for the next 100 years”. To do this, Germany had to acquire “great military means of power” and concentrate all of its state forces on this conquest. In this formula, Hitler inseparably combined racist, expansionist and imperialist ideas. The goal of conquering the European parts of the Soviet Union was to determine the entire German armaments and foreign policy and enable the German Aryans to rule the world later .
Even after he came to power in 1933, Hitler repeatedly and internally committed himself to the goal of a great war of conquest in the East. On February 3, 1933, he explained his habitat concept to the commanders of the Reichswehr , who in turn represented similar concepts (see Liebmann record ). In 1934 he first considered waging lightning wars in the west in order to then turn to the east. From 1937 onwards he was ready to wage war against France and Great Britain in order to carry out the expansion to the east. In two major Reichstag speeches in 1937 and 1938 he declared that he was relentlessly leading the struggle against “Jewish-international Moscow Bolshevism”.
On January 30, 1939, Hitler threatened in the Reichstag that the result of a new world war would be “the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe” instead of the “Bolshevization of the earth”. On February 10, 1939, he declared to troop commanders that he preferred the solution of the “German spatial problem” through conquests in the east to increased export-import trade. The next war necessary for this will be “a pure worldview war , i. H. consciously a people's and a race war ”. As Commander-in-Chief of the Wehrmacht, he, Hitler, is also an ideological leader to whom all officers are obliged for better or for worse: even if the people "let him down" in the process. Admiral General Conrad Albrecht recorded Hitler's statement in April 1939: "The great aim of German policy is seen in bringing Europe from the western border of Germany to and including European Russia under the military and economic leadership of the Axis powers." On May 23, 1939, One day after the conclusion of the steel pact in preparation for the attack on Poland, Hitler told Wehrmacht leaders that the conflict with Poland was not about Danzig , but "about expanding the living space in the east and securing food and solving the Baltic problem". In August 1939 he gave the League of Nations Commissioner Carl Jacob Burckhardt to understand that he would solve the "Danzig problem" militarily even against the resistance of France and England and finally wanted to have "a free hand in the East":
“Everything I do is directed against Russia; if the West is too stupid and too blind to grasp this, I shall be compelled to come to terms with the Russians, to defeat the West, and then, after its defeat, to turn my combined forces against the Soviet Union. I need the Ukraine so that we cannot be starved to death like in the last war. "
Hitler understood the Hitler-Stalin Pact passed on August 23, 1939, only as a temporary tactical maneuver for the attack on Poland and the war against Poland's protective powers France and Great Britain, as he expressly emphasized to Wehrmacht leaders. Poland is the future deployment area for Germany's "further development" to the east. On August 27, 1939, Hitler alluded to NSDAP representatives on his statement in “Mein Kampf”: It was a pact “with Satan to drive out the devil”. Ulrich von Hassell noted that Hitler “did not change anything in his fundamentally anti-Bolshevik policy”; every means against the Soviets, including this pact, was fine with him, since inwardly he “reserves the right to attack Soviet Russia later”.
According to Nicolaus von Below , Hitler declared on August 31, 1939, the eve of the attack on Poland, in a small circle: His "offer to Poland" - meant German proposals to Poland up to March 1939 to join as a "junior partner" (dependent satellite state) Allying Germany against the Soviet Union - was honest. Because his foreign policy task remains to "smash Bolshevism": "All other struggles only served the one goal of clearing his back for the confrontation with Bolshevism." On October 9, 1939, Hitler explained to the OKH the necessity of the western campaign against France so that one could not rely on the Soviet treaty loyalty, but only on military strength. On October 21, 1939, he told Reichs and Gauleiter that after the victory over England and France he would “turn to the East” […] and “set about creating a Germany as it used to exist”. On November 23, 1939, he told the OKW that the Soviet Union would remain “dangerous in the future”; but one can only oppose it if one is free in the West. Contracts are only held as long as they are useful for the contracting parties. He urged that the campaign in the west be carried out in the spring of 1940 so that the army would then be available again for "a major operation in the east against Russia".
Decision-making process until July 31, 1940
On June 2, 1940, Hitler told the commander-in-chief of the ongoing campaign in the west, Gerd von Rundstedt , that after peace with London he would “finally have his hands free” for his “great and real task: dealing with Bolshevism”. He just doesn't yet know how to tell the Germans that the war is going on. In view of the expected victory over France, Hitler expected Great Britain to give way and therefore turned back to the “Eastern War”, as confirmed in the diary entries of high-ranking NS and Wehrmacht representatives.
Chief of Staff Franz Halder knew Hitler's habitat program very well and, since December 1938, assessed it as "unchangeably fixed and decided". He had known since October 18, 1939 that Hitler viewed the occupied territories of Poland as a “German deployment area for the future”. Even Wilhelm Keitel (Chief of the OKW) considered occupied Polish territory as a "pre-deferred Glacis " and pointed Quartermaster General Eduard Wagner on October 17, 1939 to meet there "precautionary" for later "march".
On June 25, 1940, Halder emphasized a "new point of view: Striking power in the east", which the Army General Staff approved. He had the divisions of the Army High Command 18 (AOK 18) under General Georg von Küchler , who had been an expert on the East since the attack on Poland, and a further 15 infantry divisions to the east and placed six divisions under General Heinz Guderian under the AOK. He had Soviet Marshal Voroshilov report on this "regrouping" with a defensive purpose. On June 30th, he learned from Ernst von Weizsäcker that Hitler's eyes were now “focused strongly on the East”.
On July 3, he instructed his staff under Colonel von Hans von Greiffenberg to examine "how a military strike against Russia is to be carried out in order to force him to recognize Germany's dominant role in Europe" and thus to end British hopes for a continuation of the war . On July 4th, he instructed Küchler and Erich Marcks that the AOK should "take precautions for all cases" in the future. Accordingly, the “deployment instruction of the 18th Army” of July 22nd provided for an attack to “break up” Soviet tank divisions by means of rapidly deployed massive forces. As part of an "Otto program", the OKW pushed the "expansion of the railway and road network in the east" from July 25, 1940. Bernhard von Loßberg, a member of the National Defense Department at the Wehrmacht Command Office, was also drafting a war plan against the Soviet Union (plan “Fritz”) from the end of June / beginning of July 1940 “on his own initiative” and obtained operation cards for it.
The generals involved wanted to prepare for Hitler's anticipated decision to attack, to present him with a finished draft in good time, unlike in the “White Case” (April 11, 1939), and thus to have a greater influence on operational preparations for war. Halder knew: "If political leadership makes demands, then the greatest speed will be demanded". Their plans were aimed at securing the German hegemony achieved in Europe through economic independence and eliminating the potential for Soviet attack in order to be able to fight Great Britain more effectively, not at the destruction of the Soviet state.
From June 18, 1940, the OKH had been planning to reduce the army from 165 to 120 divisions in order to release workers primarily for the armaments industry. The navy and air force should continue to take action against Great Britain, which continued the war even after the surrender of its most important ally France on June 25. On July 13, 1940, Hitler ordered the demobilization of 35 divisions. On the same day he wrote to Benito Mussolini that this did not mean giving up any further war plans, as the demobilized troops could be called up again within 48 hours. He kept every possibility open, including that of a major land war. On July 16, 1940, Hitler ordered preparations for an invasion of England based on the navy's drafts, the " Operation Sea Lion ". On July 19, he appealed to the British government to accept the division of Europe and to end the war. On July 22, 1940, the British Foreign Minister, Lord Halifax, rejected Hitler's offer and, with reference to a speech by Franklin D. Roosevelt , told the Axis powers to fight uncompromisingly to victory.
On July 21, Hitler explained to the commanders in chief of all branches of the armed forces that England was continuing the war against Germany in the hope of an alliance with the Soviet Union and the USA . Therefore the OKH should “tackle the Russian problem” and “make mental preparations” for it. Walther von Brauchitsch then presented the plan initiated by Halder to Hitler: The Red Army could be defeated with 80 to 100 divisions in four to six weeks and the Soviet ability to attack could be destroyed with the aim of bringing Ukraine, the Baltic States and Finland under German control . The Soviet Union has 50 to 75 “good” divisions; It was to be conquered so far that enemy air raids against Berlin and the Silesian industrial area would be impossible. Wilhelm Keitel and Alfred Jodl (OKW) convinced Hitler, however, that a deployment for an attack on the Soviet Union would take at least four months and that this was therefore not yet feasible in autumn 1940.
After this meeting, Vice Admiral Kurt Fricke drafted a war plan for the OKM against the Soviet Union called "Reflections on Russia". The plan presented on July 28th provided for Germany to provide the entire Baltic Sea region, raw materials, eastern sales markets, enough “pre-terrain” against a Soviet surprise attack and “living space”. The “chronic danger of Bolshevism” must be “eliminated soon in one way or another”. On July 29, Alfred Jodl informed his closest colleagues that Hitler had decided "at the earliest possible point in time, that is, in May 1941, to eliminate the danger of Bolshevism once and for all by means of a surprise attack on Soviet Russia". At a meeting on July 30th, Brauchitsch and Halder spoke out in favor of continuing German-Soviet cooperation until the victory over Great Britain in order not to risk a two-front war. Nevertheless, Halder let the planning for the war continue without taking part in it.
On July 31, Hitler informed the highest generals at the Berghof that he had decided to go to war. Halder noted: In order to smash “England's last hope” on the continent, Russia must be “done” from spring 1941; the earlier the better. The attack only made sense as a blitzkrieg “in one go” and had to aim at the “destruction of the vital force of Russia”. For this purpose, the army was to be reinforced in nine months to initially 140 field and occupation divisions, 120 of which were intended for the Eastern Front . There is no record of a contradiction from the generals present, who wanted to postpone the attack on the Soviet Union the day before. Alternative proposals, such as a direct invasion of Great Britain (Jodl), the concentration on the Mediterranean area ( Erich Raeder ) or the interruption of British supply routes in the Atlantic ( Karl Dönitz ) were thus rejected.
Hitler wanted to conquer the "living space in the east" through a quick victory over the Soviet Union and at the same time deprive Great Britain of the last hope for a " continental sword " in order to make it so willing to peace. He used Great Britain's continuation of the war as an argument to convince the OKW to attack the Soviet Union as soon as possible, despite the daring two-front war. The planned period resulted from the high esteem of one's own and disdain for the Soviet military strength and the striving to achieve the conquest goals in the east before the British and US armaments would make rapid German successes difficult or impossible. Hitler assumed that after a German victory over the Soviet Union, Japan would bind the United States militarily in the Far East and thus prevent them from entering the war in Europe.
Planning until February 1941
According to Adolf Hitler's instructions of July 31, 1940, various Wehrmacht departments continued planning the attack on the Soviet Union. Brauchitsch had the initiated demobilization of 35 army divisions stopped on the same day after Hitler had discussed the personnel and armaments requirements for a war against the Soviet Union with the chief of army armaments and commander of the reserve army Friedrich Fromm three days earlier . On August 2, Keitel informed the head of the Defense Economics and Armaments Office , General Georg Thomas , that the army was to be increased to 180 divisions again because the relationship with the Soviet Union could change in 1941. The "armament redirection" for the war against England with a focus on the navy and the air force, which was initiated during the western campaign, was subsequently replaced by a new "armaments program B", which was put into effect on September 28th by Führer decree and will run until spring 1941 remained valid.
At the beginning of August, Jodl instructed the Wehrmacht command staff to draw up a draft order for “preparations for a campaign against the Soviet Union”. On August 3, Küchler wrote to the OKH's "chief transport officer", Rudolf Gercke , that AOK 18 must from now on be involved in Otto's "planning" for the expansion of traffic routes. On August 5, Erich Marcks submitted his "Operation Draft East", which had been created since July 4, to Halder. This instructed him to discuss with the Quartermaster General the supply of the divisions to be relocated to the east according to this draft.
On August 9, the OKW ordered the expansion of the General Government in Poland as a base of operations for a war against the Soviet Union under the cover name “Aufbau Ost”. On August 17th the OKW discussed the conversion of the army for the attack plan. On September 3, Halder commissioned his new deputy, Lieutenant General Friedrich Paulus , to bring together the army's previous operational plans. On September 6th, Jodl ordered Wilhelm Canaris to strictly camouflage the shifting of troops to the east; Under no circumstances should Moscow get the impression that Berlin is “preparing an offensive”.
The Soviet Union had used the German attack on Poland and the campaign in the west to occupy or conquer the territories granted to it in the secret additional protocol to the Hitler-Stalin Pact - eastern Poland, parts of Finland , Lithuania , Latvia , Estonia and Bessarabia . This expansion did not worry the Nazi leadership; Internally, Hitler welcomed the Soviet action against the Baltic ruling elite because it would reduce the "danger" (resistance to later German conquest of the same areas). On August 9, 1940, he said, like Nazi Propaganda Minister Goebbels, that the Soviet Union remained "World Enemy No. 1" with whom war was inevitable. Neither Hitler nor the OKW expected a Soviet attack on German Reich territory, at best further attacks against Finland or Romania. In order to secure their war industries without provoking Josef Stalin , Hitler had some troops moved to their borders on August 26, 1940. Reports by the Moscow military attaché Ernst-August Köstring about the Soviet Union's loyalty to the treaty and lack of war intentions were not taken into account.
On September 15, Loßberg Jodl presented his "Operation Study East" to the Wehrmacht command staff. Like the “Operation Plan East” von Marcks, this envisaged two attack wedges and the encirclement of Soviet forces near the border, but counted on their retreat behind the rivers Dvina and Dnepr as the worst case and saw the most promising attack focus in the south via Romania.
On September 28, 1940, Keitel ordered the armament to be rearranged to 180 field and occupation divisions by the spring of 1941, for which the army had already made 300,000 skilled workers available to the armaments industry. On October 29, 1940, Paul presented his memorandum on "The Basics of the Russian Operation". On November 28, Halder also commissioned the general staffs of the army groups intended for the attack to prepare attack studies for their areas. On November 29, December 3 and December 7, 1940, Paulus tried to coordinate these studies and had maneuvers carried out in order to clarify the distribution of forces and operational goals of the attack against the Soviet Union.
Concerns of individual generals were directed against the target date of the attack, not the war decision. The OKM in particular tried until the end of 1940 to give priority to the war against England. The parallel plan of invasion has been gradually abandoned since the failure of the Battle of Britain in October 1940.
Hitler still kept various approaches open, including the continental bloc idea by Joachim von Ribbentrops . On October 24th he informed the OKH that he expected the Soviet Union to join the three-power pact . At the beginning of November he hoped to be able to "incorporate Russia into the front against England." On November 4th, however, he demanded at the regular state lectures of the OKW that everything should be done "in order to be ready for the great settlement" with the Soviet Union, the "problem of Europe". On November 12, 1940, shortly before the visit of the Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov to Berlin on the same day, he ordered with his "Instruction No. 18": Regardless of what the meeting might turn out to be, the verbally ordered preparations for war against Russia should be continued . Immediately after the meeting, he made it clear to the OKW that “the Eastern campaign will begin on May 1, 1941.” In response to Stalin's offer of November 14 not to occupy Finland and to join the three-power pact if Germany recognizes Soviet zones of influence in Bulgaria and Turkey , Hitler did not answer. Days later he told confidants that he was "really relieved" because he had not promised himself anything from the Hitler-Stalin pact, which was not a tenable, honest "marriage of convenience", "because the abysses of worldview are deep enough". He ordered the expansion of command posts in his future headquarters in the east, Wolfsschanze , “in a hurry”. According to Keitel's testimony at the Nuremberg Trial in 1945, Hitler considered "the confrontation with Russia to be inevitable at this point in time" and thus changed his mind and other skeptical generals.
On December 5, 1940 von Brauchitsch presented the previous operational drafts of war to Hitler. At the same time, Hitler approved the OKH's plan of operations with the war goals presented on July 21. The decision on European hegemony is made in the fight against the Soviet Union. When Halder inquired whether the air war against England could then be continued, Hitler declared that the armaments and personnel of the Red Army were inferior to the Wehrmacht. Once struck, it would collapse if large parts of the army were encircled, not driven back. That is why he called for two attack wedges, named the earliest attack time “mid-May” 1941 and the conquest target “about the Volga ” in order to use the Luftwaffe to destroy more distant Soviet armaments. The Sea Lion company is impracticable. Accordingly, Halder noted as Hitler's order: Otto: Prepare fully in accordance with the principles of our planning. Because of the objections of the OKH, Hitler promised the OKW the following day to strengthen its position permanently. On December 13, 1940, Halder presented Hitler's “Situation Assessment” of December 5 to the Army Group Leaders and concluded: “Therefore, prepare when the political situation requires you to take on Russia. [...] We are not looking for a conflict with Russia, but we must be ready for this task from the spring of 1941. "
On December 18, 1940, Hitler, as Fuhrer and Supreme Commander of the Wehrmacht, issued Directive No. 21 pre-formulated by Loßberg :
“The German Wehrmacht must be prepared to overthrow Soviet Russia in a quick campaign before the end of the war against England (Barbarossa case). […] Preparations that require a longer start-up period should be tackled now - if they have not already been done - and completed by May 15, 41. However, it is crucial that the intention of an attack is not recognizable. [...] The ultimate goal of the operation is the shield against Asiatic Russia from the general line Volga - Arkhangelsk . "
For the sake of secrecy, all internal orders should be formulated as “precautionary measures [...] in the event that Russia should change its previous attitude towards us”, and as few officers as possible should be given specific, narrowly defined preparatory work as late as possible. However, the Soviet secret service GRU learned of this order and informed Stalin about it on December 29, 1940.
On January 9, 1941, Hitler reaffirmed his decision to go to war with the OKW by stating that the "clever mind" would cause increasing problems for Stalin in the future, as he was inspired by the urge to go west, wanted to inherit impoverished Europe and knew that Hitler's victory was complete in Europe make his situation difficult. As the next most important enemy position, the Soviet Union must be smashed in accordance with his previous approach. Either the English would then give in or the war against them could be continued under more favorable circumstances. Japan could then fight the USA with all its might and prevent it from entering the war.
Despite this decision, another German-Soviet economic agreement was concluded on January 10, 1941, according to which the Soviet Union supplied Germany with important raw materials such as oil, metal ores and large quantities of grain. On January 16, 1941, Hitler reaffirmed his "decision: to force Russia to the ground as early as possible" to the OKH, because Stalin would demand more and more and Germany's victory in continental Europe would remain unacceptable for his ideology. Even skeptical generals shared Hitler's assessment of the situation at the time.
Since the date of the attack was still open, some Wehrmacht representatives considered Directive No. 21 to be reversible. On January 18, the national defense department asked Jodl whether Hitler wanted to continue the “Operation Barbarossa”. On January 28, after a meeting with Brauchitsch, Halder noted: “Barbarossa: Meaning not clear. We won't meet the Englishman. Our economic base is not getting much better. ”On February 3, however, Halder Hitler presented his deployment instructions as a result of directive No. 21 without reporting any concerns.
Planning as a war of annihilation
On February 26, 1941, at a meeting with Hermann Göring , Hitler declared that in the coming war it would be crucial “first to finish off the Bolshevik leaders quickly.” With Hitler's order to the OKW of March 3, 1941, the “guidelines on special areas for To rewrite Directive No. 21, the planning of a war of extermination began . Hitler declared that it was about a battle between two world views, so that a military victory would not suffice: “The Jewish-Bolshevik intelligentsia, as the previous oppressor, must be eliminated.” After that, “socialist state structures that depend on us should be built as soon as possible. “These difficult tasks cannot be expected of the army.
Thereupon Jodl limited the task of military jurisdiction to criminal matters within the Wehrmacht and planned the use of SS units to murder “Bolshevik chiefs and commissioners” in the army's operational area. On March 5, all Wehrmacht parts received the revised guidelines that the OKW issued unchanged on March 13. The aim was to divide the western USSR into three satellite states, organized as egalitarian " national communities ", dominated by German " Reich Commissioners " who were directly subordinate to Hitler, and police and SS forces subordinate to Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler with "special tasks on behalf." of the Führer ”. What was meant, but not expressed, was the murder of Soviet elites in the wake of the front, which the perpetrators carried out independently, without the control of the OKW and OKH, and about which they were supposed to report directly to Hitler. Whether and to what extent the army should participate in this remained open. Criticism from the Wehrmacht of these guidelines is not documented, although it was made against the SS during the attack on Poland. This time the OKH saw the SS as support in pacifying the conquered areas, since their own security divisions were considered too weak and as many army units as possible were needed to conduct the battle.
On March 17, Hitler repeated to the OKH: The intelligentsia deployed by Stalin should be destroyed and the functionaries eliminated. "Most brutal violence" is necessary for this, since the Russian people will "tear apart" without ideological leadership. Halder knew the opposite assessment of the German embassy in Moscow , that the Russian people and the Red Army would unite nationally and socially in the event of an attack. But he did not contradict Hitler. On March 27th, Brauchitsch told the commanders in chief of the Eastern Army that all soldiers had to be clear, "that the struggle will be conducted from race to race, and proceed with the necessary severity."
On March 30, Hitler presented his ideological war aims to 250 generals and senior officers of the Wehrmacht, many of whom had seen the end of World War I as officers and shared the anti-Semitic version of the stab in the back. The forthcoming “ideological battle” is about the “extermination of communism for all time” through the “destruction of the Bolshevik commissioners and communist intelligentsia”. There was no contradiction. This was followed by other leadership edicts, which the OKW implemented in operational orders and guidelines, including the most important:
- the "Decree on the exercise of martial law in the 'Barbarossa' 'area" of May 13, 1941,
- the "Guidelines for the Conduct of the Troops in Russia" of May 19, 1941.
- the "Guidelines for the Treatment of Political Commissars" ( Commissar Order) of June 6, 1941,
- Hitler's special order to Himmler to murder the “Jewish-Bolshevik” sections of the population behind the front by SD and SS Einsatzgruppen,
- Instructions for the treatment of future Soviet prisoners of war.
During the implementation, the OKW and OKH issued their own instructions that put the soldiers in the mood for murder tasks. On May 6, Halder wrote about the discussion of the commissioner's order in the OKH in his diary: "Troops must fight the ideological struggle with the Eastern campaign". The general staffs and intelligence officers were prepared for their cooperation with the SD and SS Einsatzgruppen with special courses, since some of the criminal orders could only be passed on orally. The "Eastern Campaign" was prepared as a war of annihilation right down to the material equipment.
The starvation of millions of people was also factored in for economic reasons (see Hunger Plan and General Plan East ). In the "ideas of the specialist military [...] even the extermination of parts of the enemy for economic reasons was legitimate." Since it was assumed that the war could only be continued if the entire armed forces were fed from the Soviet Union in 1941, a meeting was held State secretaries on May 2, 1941 succinctly stated as the "result of the discussion with the business generals" that "undoubtedly tens of millions of people will starve to death if we get what we need out of the country."
The Balkan campaign of April 1941, decided at short notice , was intended to rule out a possible allied southern front that would have endangered “Operation Barbarossa”. For this purpose, the attack date originally planned for May 15, 1941 was postponed. After issuing the extermination orders and completing the military preparations, Hitler ordered the surprise attack on the Soviet Union on June 20, 1941 for June 22.
The Nazi research is particularly pursued this plan of attack intensively to its background, the causes and motives for Hitler's war decision, the war aims, the ratio of the Wehrmacht and the Nazi regime in war planning and mass crimes to determine their failure in more detail as well as the causes and factors.
Particularly controversial was the question of whether Hitler's decision to go to war should implement National Socialist ideology or rather react to the political-military situation at the time. In connection with this, it was also discussed when this decision was finally made. Donald Cameron Watt, for example, put forward the thesis in 1976 that because of the unyielding British attitude in the summer of 1940, Hitler was only able to either surrender or open the war against the Soviet Union. Robert Cecil interpreted Hitler's decision to go to war in 1976 as a return to his program from 1925, which he had justified against the generals of the Wehrmacht in terms of military strategy . According to Bernd Stegemann (1979), Hitler wanted to destroy the Soviet Union because Great Britain could use it as a continental war partner ("continental sword") against Germany and Japan.
Andreas Hillgruber , Hugh Trevor-Roper , Eberhard Jäckel , Gerd R. Ueberschär and others emphasized, however, that Hitler had sought the joint annihilation of Judaism and communism as a main political goal since the 1920s. The "Operation Barbarossa" was "Hitler's war" with which he wanted to consistently achieve his goals. According to Hillgruber, this annihilation should also enable a later German victory over Great Britain and the USA and thus world domination. The decision to go to war had come about not because of, but despite the impending two-front war, and thus because of political will, not military predicament.
The thesis of “Hitler's War” has been criticized many times as one-sided. Carl Dirks and Karl-Heinz Janßen have been advocating a counter-thesis since 1997, according to which the OKH had planned a blitzkrieg to destroy the Red Army and conquer large parts of the Soviet Union in late summer 1940 without Hitler's orders and knowledge, prepared with secret troop transfers and Hitler with them urged this fait accompli to war. The Canadian historian Benoît Lemay adopted this thesis without criticizing the source. German historians, on the other hand, paid little attention to them. The military historian Klaus Jochen Arnold rejected them as not covered by Nazi documents and as a conspiracy theory . The Halder biographer Christian Hartmann had documented Halder's knowledge of Hitler's war intentions and the distance to his decision to go to war in 1991.
Rolf-Dieter Müller, on the other hand, used a source-critical analysis of Halder's diary entries to show that Hitler's decision of July 31, 1940 to attack the USSR in the spring of 1941 had already preceded Halder's initiatives in this direction. According to this, Halder tried to come up with a corresponding plan as early as June 1940 "in advance". After the Second World War, both Halder and his former adjutant and “Barbarossa” co-planner Reinhard Gehlen , now head of the Federal Intelligence Service, as well as Halder's head of the operations department, Adolf Heusinger , under Konrad Adenauer General Inspector of the Bundeswehr, tried, out of personal interest, to “Hitler as To portray sole culprits for the Eastern War and the failure of a supposedly ingenious campaign plan. "
The reason for such a campaign was not because the Germans perceived the USSR as a "threat", but because Hitler wanted to wage a war for "living space in the east". For this purpose, the neighboring state of Poland had been courted by the German leadership since 1934, in the hope of being able to persuade it to take joint military action against the USSR, or at least to take a neutral stance while simultaneously leaving Gdańsk and a corridor as a deployment, Passage and supply area for a war "in the east". The Polish side was given the prospect of gaining parts of Ukraine. But when Poland finally turned away from the German Reich in March 1939 and turned to the Western powers France and Great Britain, the option of attacking the Soviet Union after Poland was overthrown was still haunted in the minds of the German war planners. The declarations of war by France and Great Britain made this option obsolete and led to the course of events that ultimately became manifest history.
In connection with Müller's analysis, critics emphasize above all that “he delivers an analysis of the real war plans that is not constrained into any corset of intentionalist or functionalist metatheories” and “on the basis of a critical source analysis the actual responsibility of Halder, Heusinger and Gehlen with their counterfactual justifications after 1945 [contrasts] ". Furthermore, “Müller can prove that [on the part of Germany] in no phase of the military planning [between] 1938 [and] 1941 did the fear of an allegedly threatened attack by the Red Army play a role. On the contrary, they assumed their weakness and a victory that could be achieved in a few weeks. "
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- See e.g. BG Koch, A. Philipp: Handbook for history lessons. Quelle & Meyer Verlag, Leipzig ²1921; Heinrich Claß : German History (1909) 18th edition. 1939, p. 23; Richard Suchwirth : German history: From the Germanic prehistory to the present. Georg Dollheimer Verlag, Leipzig 1934 (new editions until 1942).
- Albert Brackmann: Crisis and construction in Eastern Europe. A picture of world history. Berlin-Dahlem (Ahnenerbe-Stiftung Verlag) 1939, pp. 16-19; Text online ; PDF; 417 kB.
- on the symbolic political background: Michael Burleigh: Germany turns eastwards. A study of 'Ostforschung' in the Third Reich. London (Pan Books) 2002, ISBN 0-330-48840-6 ; especially pp. 134-137 and p. 321 (quotation from Aubin).
- June 19, 1940: Gerhard Schreiber: The Second World War. 4th unchanged edition. CH Beck, Munich 2007, ISBN 978-3-406-44764-8 , p. 36; July 3, 1940: Jürgen Förster: Hitler's decision to go to war against the Soviet Union. In: The German Reich and the Second World War Volume 4, Stuttgart 1983, p. 9 f.
- Letter from Loßberg to WE Paulus dated September 7, 1956; see Gerd R. Ueberschär: Hitler's decision to initiate a "living space" war in the east. In: Gerd R. Ueberschär, Wolfram Wette (Hrsg.): The German attack on the Soviet Union - Operation Barbarossa 1941. Fischer Taschenbuch, Frankfurt am Main 1991, ISBN 3-596-24437-4 , p. 106, fn. 126.
- Arno J. Mayer : The war as a crusade . The German Reich, Hitler's Wehrmacht and the “Final Solution” . Reinbek near Hamburg 1989, p. 340.
- Klaus Jochen Arnold: The Wehrmacht and the Occupation Policy in the Occupied Territories of the Soviet Union: Warfare and Radicalization in "Operation Barbarossa". Berlin 2005, p. 53; Christian Hartmann: Halder. Chief of Staff of Hitler 1938–1942. Schoeningh, Paderborn 1991, p. 233.
- After Andreas Hillgruber: Once again: Hitler's turn against the Soviet Union in 1940. In: History in Science and Education. Ernst Klett Verlag, 33rd year 1982, p. 217.
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- Rolf-Dieter Müller : The enemy is in the east. Hitler's secret plans for a war against the Soviet Union in 1939. Ch. Links Verlag, Berlin 2011, p. 125; see also Sven Felix Kellerhoff : Hitler wanted to invade the Soviet Union as early as 1939 , Die Welt, May 18, 2011
- Gerd R. Ueberschär: Hitler's decision to initiate a "living space" war in the east. In: Gerd R. Ueberschär, Wolfram Wette (Hrsg.): The German attack on the Soviet Union - 'Operation Barbarossa' 1941. Fischer paperback, Frankfurt am Main 1991, ISBN 3-596-24437-4 , p. 19 f.
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- Gerd R. Ueberschär: The development of German-Soviet relations. In: The German attack on the Soviet Union 1941. Primus-Verlag, Darmstadt 1998, p. 11 and fn. 39–41.
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- Franz Halder: War diary. Volume 1, p. 107.
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- Franz Halder: War diary. Volume 1, p. 372.
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- Hans Pottgiesser: The Deutsche Reichsbahn in the Eastern campaign 1939-1941. Neckarsgmünd 1960, p. 21 ff.
- Letter from Loßbergs to Friedrich WE Paulus dated September 7, 1956; in the archive of the Institute for Contemporary History in Munich, Witnesses ZS 97.
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- Christian Hartmann: Halder , Paderborn 1991, p. 225.
- General Staff of the Army, Operations Department, instructions for AOK 18 (June 29, 1940): Documents printed by Erhard Moritz: Case Barbarossa. 1970, pp. 226-229; also retrospectively Franz Halder: War Diary Volume 2, p. 443 (June 4, 1941).
- Franz Halder: War diary. Volume 1, p. 360 (June 18, 1940).
- Christoph Studt: The Third Reich in data. CH Beck Verlag, Munich 2002, ISBN 3-406-47635-X , p. 135.
- Files on German Foreign Policy (ADAP) D, X, Document 166, p. 172 f.
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- Wilhelm Keitel (Chief of the Wehrmacht High Command), Alfred Jodl (Chief of the Wehrmacht Command Staff), Walther von Brauchitsch (Commander-in-Chief of the Army), Erich Raeder (Commander-in-Chief of the Navy), Franz Halder (Chief of Staff). Goering (Commander in Chief Air Force) was not present. See Antony Beevor: The Second World War. Munich 2014, p. 156.
- Franz Halder: War Diary Volume II, pp. 46–49 (July 31, 1940); lectured by Christian Hartmann: Halder , Paderborn 1991, p. 225 ff.
- Bernd Wegner: Hitler's War? For the decision, planning and implementation of the "Barbarossa Company". In: Christian Hartmann and others (ed.): Crimes of the Wehrmacht. Balance of a debate. Beck, Munich 2005, ISBN 3-406-52802-3 , p. 35 f.
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- Andreas Hillgruber: Company "Barbarossa". In: Andreas Hillgruber (Ed.): Problems of the Second World War. 2nd expanded edition. Kiepenheuer & Witsch, Cologne / Berlin 1986, ISBN 3-445-01689-5 , p. 105 ff.
- Heinrich Uhlig: The influence of Hitler on the planning and leadership of the Eastern campaign. In: Heinrich Uhlig: power of conscience. Volume 2, Rinn, Munich 1965, p. 168, fn. 29.
- Wilhelm Deist: The military planning of "Operation Barbarossa" , in: Roland G. Foerster (Ed.): "Operation Barbarossa": On the historical site of German-Soviet relations from 1933 to autumn 1941. ( Contributions to military history, vol. 40 ), Oldenbourg, 1993, pp. 109-122, here p. 118.
- War diary of the OKW, Volume 1, p. 968 f .; Gerhard L. Weinberg: The German decision to attack the Soviet Union. In: VfZ 1.4 (1953), p. 314 ff.
- War diary of the OKW, Volume 1, p. 3 ff.
- Ingo Lachnit, Friedhelm Klein: The Operation Draft East of Major General Marcks from August 5, 1940. In: Wehrforschung Heft 4/1972, pp. 114–123.
- Erhard Moritz: Barbarossa case. Berlin 1970, pp. 200-205.
- Franz Halder: War Diary, Volume II, pp. 90 and 98.
- IMT, Volume 27, p. 72 f.
- Ralf Georg Reuth: Joseph Goebbels - Diaries 1924–1945. 3. Edition. Piper Verlag, Munich 2003, ISBN 3-492-21414-2 , Volume 4, p. 1463 (August 9, 1940).
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- Franz Halder: War Diary II, p. 78 f. (August 26-27, 1940).
- Hermann Teske: General Ernst Köstring - The military mediator between the German Reich and the Soviet Union 1921-1941. 1965, p. 281 ff.
- Ernst Klink: The military conception of the war against the Soviet Union. In: MGFA (Ed.): The attack on the Soviet Union (= Volume 4 of The German Reich and the Second World War ), 1983, pp. 230-233.
- Franz Halder, Kriegstagebuch II, p. 148 (October 24, 1940).
- Franz Halder, Kriegstagebuch II, p. 158 ff. (November 1-2, 1940).
- Franz Halder: War Diary Volume II, p. 165 (November 4, 1940).
- Walther Hubatsch: Hitler's instructions for warfare 1939-1945. Nebel Verlag, 1999, ISBN 3-89555-173-2 , p. 71.
- War diary of the OKW, Volume 1, p. 176.
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- Walter Görlitz (Ed.): Generalfeldmarschall Keitel. Criminal or officer? Memories, letters, documents from the OKW. (1961) Bublies, 1998, ISBN 3-926584-47-5 , p. 392.
- War diary of the OKW. Volume 1, pp. 203 ff. (December 5, 1940).
- Franz Halder: War diary. Volume 2, p. 211 (December 5, 1940).
- War diary of the OKW. Volume 1, p. 214 f. (December 6, 1940).
- Franz Halder: War diary. II, pp. 224-228 (December 13, 1940).
- Nazi archives: Directive No. 21: Barbarossa case
- Lev A. Bezymenski: The Soviet intelligence service and the beginning of the war of 1941. In: Gerd R. Ueberschär, Lev A. Bezymenskij (ed.): The German attack on the Soviet Union in 1941. The controversy surrounding the preventive war thesis. 2nd Edition. 2011, p. 106.
- War diary of the OKW, Volume I / 1, p. 257 (January 9, 1941).
- Franz Halder: Kriegstagebuch II, p. 244 (January 16, 1941).
- OKW / Wehrmacht staff, annex to Hitler's remarks, January 20, 1941; in: IMT, Volume 34, Document 134-C, p. 467.
- War diary of the OKW, Volume I / 1, p. 269 (January 18, 1941).
- Franz Halder: War Diary Volume 2, p. 261.
- Franz Halder: War Diary, Volume 2, p. 463 ff.
- Jürgen Förster: The enterprise "Barbarossa" as a war of conquest and annihilation. In: MGFA Volume 4, p. 414 f.
- Franz Halder, KTB 2, p. 331.
- Felix Römer : “In old Germany such an order would not have been possible.” Reception, adaptation and implementation of the Martial Law Decree in the Eastern Army 1941/42 Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte 2008, pp. 53–99.
- Hans-Adolf Jacobson: Commissar order and mass executions of Soviet prisoners of war. In: Martin Broszat u. a. (Ed.): Anatomy of the SS State. Volume 2, Munich 1967, pp. 135-232.
- Franz Halder: War Diary, Volume 2, p. 399.
- Gerd R. Ueberschär: Hitler's decision to initiate a "living space" war in the east. In: Gerd R. Ueberschär, Wolfram Wette (ed.): The German attack on the Soviet Union - 'Enterprise Barbarossa' 1941. Frankfurt am Main 1991, p. 110 ff.
- Rolf-Dieter Müller : The Second World War 1939-1945. Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 2004, p. 127.
- Rolf-Dieter Müller: The Second World War 1939-1945. P. 128; Alex J. Kay : Starving as a Strategy for Mass Murder. The meeting of the German state secretaries on May 2, 1941. In: Zeitschrift für Weltgeschichte . Edited by Hans-Heinrich Nolte . Vol. 11, issue 1/2010, pp. 81-105.
- Klaus Hildebrand: The Third Reich. 7th, through Edition. Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag, 2009, ISBN 978-3-486-59200-9 , p. 76.
- Gerd R. Ueberschär: The military planning for the attack on the Soviet Union. In: Gerd R. Ueberschär, Lev A. Bezymenskij (ed.): The German attack on the Soviet Union in 1941. The controversy about the preventive war thesis . 2nd Edition. Primus-Verlag, Darmstadt 2011, ISBN 978-3-89678-776-7 , p. 31.
- Overview: Rolf-Dieter Müller (author), Gerd R. Ueberschär: Hitler's War in the East 1941–1945: A research report. Adult and completely revised New edition. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 2000, ISBN 3-534-14768-5 .
- DC Watt: The Times Literary Supplement , No. 3879, July 16, 1976 (review).
- Robert Cecil: Hitler's decision to invade Russia, 1941. 1st edition. David McKay Company, New York 1976, ISBN 0-679-50715-9 .
- Klaus A. Maier u. a., MGFA (ed.): The establishment of hegemony on the European continent. Volume 2 of The German Reich and the Second World War. Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Stuttgart 1991, ISBN 3-421-01935-5 , p. 33.
- Hugh Trevor-Roper: Hitler's War Aims. In: Hans-Adolf Jacobsen: National Socialist Foreign Policy 1933 to 1938. Luchterhand Verlag GmbH, 1968, ISBN 3-472-65039-7 , p. 132 ff.
- Andreas Hillgruber: Hitler's Strategy: Politics and Warfare, 1940–1941 (1965), 3rd edition. Bernard & Graefe, 1993, ISBN 3-7637-5923-9 ; Positions summarized by Jürgen Förster: Hitler's decision to go to war against the Soviet Union. In: The German Reich and the Second World War Volume 4, Stuttgart 1983, p. 18.
- Examples: Ulrike Hörster-Philipps, Reinhard Kühnl (Ed.): Hitler's War? On the controversy about the causes and character of the Second World War. Pahl-Rugenstein, Cologne 1990, ISBN 3-7609-1308-3 ; Christoph Kleßmann (Ed.): Not just Hitler's war. The Second World War and the Germans. Droste, 1989, ISBN 3-7700-0795-6 .
- Carl Dirks, Karl-Heinz Janßen: The war of the generals. Hitler as a tool of the Wehrmacht. 3. Edition. Propylaea, Berlin 1999, p. 135 f. and more often; Karl Heinz Janßen: "Plan Otto". In: The time. 38/1997.
- Benoît Lemay: La guerre des généraux de la Wehrmacht: Hitler au service des ambitions de ses élites militaires? Reprinted from Guerres mondiales et conflits contemporains 4/2005, No. 220, pp. 85-96.
- Klaus-Jochen Arnold: Review of the war of the generals. In: MGFA (ed.): Military history journal . (MGZ) Vol. 59 (2000), Issue 1, pp. 240-243.
- Christian Hartmann: Halder. Paderborn 1991, p. 227 f.
- Rolf-Dieter Müller: The enemy is in the east. Hitler's secret plans for a war against the Soviet Union in 1939. Ch. Links Verlag, Berlin 2011, p. 208.
- Rolf-Dieter Müller: The enemy is in the east. Hitler's secret plans for a war against the Soviet Union in 1939. Ch. Links Verlag, Berlin 2011, p. 261.
- See Rolf-Dieter Müller: The enemy is in the east. Hitler's secret plans for a war against the Soviet Union in 1939. Ch. Links Verlag, Berlin 2011, pp. 45–68, 106–122, 251–261.
- Wigbert Benz: Review of: Müller, Rolf-Dieter: The enemy stands in the east. Hitler's secret plans for a war against the Soviet Union in 1939. Berlin 2011 . In: H-Soz-Kult, August 5, 2011, accessed on May 15, 2016.