Global conflict

Friends & Enemies (04/07/24) Barbarossa WW2

Jeff Nyquist and Alexander Benesch continue the analysis of the secrets of World War 2.


Nyquist: Hi, I’m Jeff Nyquist, and this is another edition of Friends and Enemies. This week we are covering part two of World War Two. Last week, we covered the beginnings of the war through the fall of Poland, the blitzkrieg in Scandinavia, the low countries, the fall of France. And we touched on the Battle of Britain.

So now we are in the latter part of 1940. Germany has no way of defeating Britain because it can’t cross the English Channel. Hitler went and tried to get Franco into the war so he could close Gibraltar. Italy has declared war, which after the defeat of France, was imminent. Mussolini, who had refused to join Hitler and made all these demands for supplies from Hitler, suddenly saw he didn’t want to miss his opportunity.

He was going to take a chunk of France and it turns out he had his own designs. And so now, in the latter part of 1940, we should probably begin with the Ribbentrop pact. Ribbentrop and Hitler meet with Molotov. Molotov comes to Berlin in November of 1940. And this begins to change very outwardly, the relationship between Germany and the Soviet Union. So maybe you want to comment on that.

Benesch: Well, I mean, it’s easier now to try to reconstruct the Russian game plan. We talked in the last episode about the orders from Moscow. For the communists in Germany, they were not allowed to form an alliance with the Social Democrats to slow down the Nazi road to power.

And these communists in Germany, they were told in no uncertain terms that the expectation was the Nazi regime would only last two years. Maybe up to five years. The Nazis would fail and then a revolution could take place. But we can probably tell that this was a lie, that the game plan was different. The expectation was that Germany exhausts itself, and at the right moment, the Russians would take the initiative.

Now, these revisionists afterwards, they made a big point of the Russian preparations for war. And so they make this argument that Hitler had no other choice in this. But when we talk about a war of that size, there’s always many different options. So a full blown assault, a full blown invasion is not the only choice that you have, especially when you can make a deal in in in the middle of it. It’s not just total defeat or total victory. There’s all kinds of kinds of ways a war like this could end. So apparently the Russians were lying to anybody, even to their own people. And judging from the level of intelligence infiltration of Germany, there was a, I think, an element of confidence on the side of the Russians, where they would offer the exact thing that Hitler wanted, that deal.

And this is sort of the baseline logic of any intelligence service. They want to figure out what the other group or person needs, the one thing that they absolutely want and need, and then you pretend to give it to them. But at the same time, the Russians were clearly aware of the strength of the British because all as well, the British were infiltrated by Soviet intelligence.

So there was a clear view on Europe. The Russians had a clear view and the British had a pretty clear view on things, but the Germans did not have that full of a picture. So the Germans, they pretty much went in blind into the Soviet Union in certain areas. And so, I mean, to me, to me, the Russians were lying to everybody, even to their own people. They had reserve troops the Nazis were not aware of, and the British were still a strong force. Now they barely got away with Dunkirk. The expeditionary force could have been grabbed and held hostage. But we were still talking about the British Empire with all its colonies and the bond system. They could finance a war. They could just produce and produce.

And of course, the Americans could supply Britain. So I think it’s a difference of how much you could see the situation, how much you know about yourself and the other players. And the Germans did not see enough. And I also think that these Soviet agents in Germany at the time, they were feeding a lot of false information and a false picture to the Nazi leadership.

So for the Nazis, it seemed like a clever deal. I mean, we know from many sources, even Hitler himself, that ultimately he did want to attack the Soviet Union at some point. But Hitler had options when it came to that. So, of course, the Russians had an attack plan. The Russians always have some sort of attack plans to take over Europe.

But the Russians probably had the best picture because the British, they knew pretty much all about Germany, but the British didn’t know that much about the Russians. I mean, that’s the way I see that.

Nyquist: There’s a fascinating book which is “Stalin’s War” by Ernst Topitsch. And this book came out in the 1980s as the English language edition. The translations a little bit awkward from what I can tell, but the but it really starts out similarly like Viktor Suvorov, who a few years later wrote his “Icebreaker” which is probably 300 bucks on Amazon now, maybe more. Now, who started the Second World War? And “The chief culprit” is Suvorov follow up book to Icebreaker. Stalin’s grand design for the Second World War. And Suvorov is has gone into greater detail and having access to Soviet sources.

Topitsch verifies a lot of that. He was a German soldier, World War Two. He fought in the sixth Army. He did not get captured at Stalingrad. He was wounded and evacuated before the army was trapped. But he’d always thought about his comrades. He thought about the defeat of the Germans, and he loathed Hitler.

And he thought: There is something wrong with Hitler’s strategic thinking, that Hitler got outwitted. And who outwitted him? Stalin did. And this is why he calls it Stalin’s war, that Stalin basically could have stopped the war by aligning with the Western allies early in 1939. And he did not. He kicked out the French and British delegations out of Moscow. With the Molotov pact he made Hitler his pal, agreed to divide the east between themselves, divide Poland and to get the Baltic states and having access to Finland, while Germany would have then a free hand and Hitler thought that this would make him safe from the British. Because if he’s invading Poland with the Soviet Union, surely the British and the French who had made this agreement to protect Poland, wouldn’t declare war on Hitler and Stalin.

But Stalin was clever, as Suvorov points out. And Hitler invades Poland on September 1st. The allies then declare war with Germany later in September. Hitler was expecting the Soviet Union to invade with him. He wondered: Where are the Soviet armies? And the reply comes from Moscow: Well, we’re having some problems organizing the invasion. We need a few more days. And of course, the Soviet Union does invade Poland on September the 17th. Right? Britain and France were at war with Germany and they don’t want to declare war on another country.

The Soviet Union has invaded Poland. They’ve promised to protect Poland. But the Soviet Union says, we’re basically just invading Poland to keep Hitler from getting those parts of it.

Benesch: Something I wanted to mention at this point was when we talked about the Putin interview with Tucker Carlson. And we remember that Putin was blaming Poland for World War Two. Poland had no way of forcing a certain plan onto everybody else. If you’re surrounded by these different empires, it’s just a bizarre statement when this was supposed to be a split of Poland. So the Nazis would get a piece. The Russians would get a piece. And as you said, the Russian state, they could have made a clear statement not to align with the Nazis and scare off the Nazis, because all these officers and party people with the Nazis, they followed along Hitler’s lead because they believed that the Soviet Union was going to act a certain way and they believed the British were going to act a certain way. So if you if you fool Hitler and all of his people, then, you know, this deception can actually work.

Nyquist: And I should mention, connected to this is a fascinating piece of confirmation of Suvorov and Topitsch from a British researcher. An intelligence writer named William West. And maybe Alex, you know, his work. He wrote an important book on the background of Sir Roger Hollis, because, as you know, in the late eighties, there was the spy catcher scandal where the former deputy head of MI5, the British equivalent of the FBI, a British counterintelligence domestic service, Sir Roger Hollis, was accused of being a Soviet agent, and that explained everything that went wrong during the Cold War for the British, Canadians, you know, even American intelligence to some extent, because we worked with the British. And this in fact, it was the Thatcher government. And this book came out in 87, the Margaret Thatcher government banned the book Spy Catcher. And so it couldn’t be published. And I have a copy here. It could be published in the U.S. I don’t know if you’ve got a copy. If they translated it into German, but the book was a sensation because of this claim. Well, William West decided he really had access to good background information and Roger Hollis, he had gone to China and he believed that Roger Hollis, who was not a Cambridge mole, he went to Oxford, went to the Far East and he believes that he was recruited when he was in China. He was in the East during the interwar period. Hollis comes back, he ends up joining MI5 despite not being qualified at all. He was not qualified. And so World War Two begins. And of course, the communists in Great Britain, the Communist Party, was strong just like the Communists in France. By the way, the Communists in France were causing unrest in the army, in the French army. They had orders to demoralize the Western powers and what West reveals in his book is that the British Communist Party said, we are planning a revolution.

We’re going to take over Great Britain in the middle of this war. And Roger Hollis was tasked with watching the British communists. And what West shows is that a lot of these people were his friends that he was watching.

Benesch: When he joined MI5 he didn’t tell them about his communist friends that he had earlier.

Nyquist: No, no. And in fact so he was keeping tabs officially, but he always had an excuse for why he wasn’t detecting this plot. And what’s really fascinating and it absolutely dovetails with Suvorov’s military claims about Russian war preparations. There was the expectation by the British communists that the Soviet army was going to reach the English Channel and would be in a position to intervene in Britain so that the British communists could take over. Now, what’s fascinating is that Suvorov has this bit in his writings that the Soviet Union had developed the plan before Barbarossa to have tanks made to cross the English Channel underwater.

The Germans had developed a similar kind of tank. You put a like a giant snorkel on it, like a tube. It would run up to the surface that could gather air and pump it into the tank while the tank crawled along the bottom of the of the sea floor. The sea bed in the English Channel is not that deep. So you can ust drive the tank. And of course, the snorkel feeds oxygen into the engine so that you could have had the engine function, because that needs oxygen for the internal combustion of the diesel engine. But also the crew could breathe and the exhaust could be carried out and so that they could have tank regiments.

Why would the Soviet army be developing tanks to cross English Channel if they were loyal allies of Germany? And the other thing people never talk about was Stalin’s massive naval construction program. And in fact, Russia was building two of the largest battleships. I think they would have I think they would have dwarfed the Bismarck for sure. Super battleships that that the Soviet Union was building and massive naval construction plants. Why would the Soviet Union be building this giant navy at the same time, which, by the way, the German invasion in 1941 caused Stalin to abandon this naval construction because he needed the sailors and the workers immediately to defend Leningrad because the Germans came up on it so quickly.

So you have this William West showing this. And Suvorov makes an additional point about the BT seven tank the Russians were developing that you could remove the tread from the tank and put inflatable tires on the wheels there it was convertible so that it could go 60, 70 miles an hour on the Autobahn. And in Russia except around Moscow and in in Donbas there’s not a lot of paved roads in the Soviet Union back then, you know, there weren’t paved roads connecting any of the major cities except maybe Tula and Moscow and some of the cities in the Donbas. You know. So why would you make a tank that had this capability of operating on a paved road unless you were planning to invade Germany and in the same fashion he goes through the design of the Soviet Air Force.

The design was they made their aircraft for attack and their fighters for attacking German bases and German aircraft on the ground, not for defending their own planes on the ground, not for fighter air defense, but for offense and the Soviet army. In fact, when it was positioned on the border with Nazi Germany in 1941, they were not digging trenches in defensive positions.

They were assembled in offensive formations, largely with some exceptions, like in the far north of the line. But this is the way they were deploying. And this evidence, Suvorov uses in both of his books to make a very strong case that the Soviet Union was preparing to attack Nazi Germany. And this, of course, goes back to the again, the November 1940 meeting where Molotov comes to Moscow.

And it’s at this meeting that Molotov Hitler wants the Soviet Union to join the war in earnest and to attack India. And Molotov wouldn’t hear it, saying, why don’t you hand over Finland? Hitler needs the nickel. I think it was Finland, if I remember correctly. And he wants Bulgaria and he wants the Turkish straits. So Hitler is taken aback.

And at this meeting and we have the testimony of the translator who was there famously saying that Hitler was very friendly, Ribbentrop was very friendly. They were basically very nice to Molotov. Molotov was kind of snotty and cold and demanding in return. Did you want to make any comments about this meeting?

Benesch: I don’t remember that meeting particularly. But this was sort of the dream that the Russians have had for a long time to have that invasion of of Europe. And we talked about this about World War One when Russia failed; they had all this preparation. They had a deal with the British, had a deal with the French. And the idea was to push through Poland and grab as much of Germany as possible.

And ultimately, as we know, Russia Russia failed in this. And they had to give away territories. They had to formally give away Ukraine. But this was the second large attempt that was that was prepared. To finally set these things right from Moscow’s perspective. And when we look at the German plan of punching into Russia, the only advantage really the Germans had was the speed and the Russians, of course, they could always do what they’ve always done, have a flexible retreat system, just like with Napoleon, just lure the enemy in and wait and see. But the speed of the Germans had surprised the French. The speed had surprised the British because everybody was on amphetamines. Everybody was just working like crazy for sometimes four days without sleep. And so that was the only advantage, really, that the Germans had because they were at a disadvantage in terms of production.

They were a disadvantage in terms of the intelligence sphere. So really the only solution for the Germans would have been to follow the initial plan of Heinz Guderian and his colleagues to just punch into Russia and go straight for Moscow and take out these centers of command and the war production or take over the Russian war production, because that was sort of the only the only way of countering this, really.

I mean, the Germans were not really aware of the Russian preparations in full, but the Russians were probably taken by surprise. You know, when it comes to the Germans speed of advancing and this this is something we saw with on various fronts in the war, you know, with the the Afrika Korps.

And Rommel had learned this even earlier in France when he was he was stationed in France. They were overrunning, literally overrunning the French positions. And this sort of became almost a competitive thing with the German officers, who gets there first. And the French were taken by surprise so much that sometimes they thought these German troops or French troops.

So nobody expect edthe Germans to be that fast. And also, at some point, somebody like Rommel was so fast in the north of France, he actually left behind his support troops and he came under fire because he was just shooting forward that fast. And it was a smart move by the Russians to have that amount of preparation without the Germans knowing. But I think the Russians truly underestimated the German speed. 

Nyquist: Yeah, they definitely did. The German speed was huge. And of course Hitler had this understanding that he knew he had a very capable military machine, more capable. The Germans weren’t as well prepared for World War Two as they were for World War One.

Their divisions didn’t have adequate artillery. The Western allies, when they attacked, were equal or in some areas superior to the Germans, except in morale, except in the leadership of the units. And then, of course, the doctrine, the ideas that they were following, the German officers had superior ideas of how to fight.

And of course, this idea of getting behind the enemy, punching a hole in the line and getting behind and disrupting the communications and the command and control and causing the enemy total confusion with mobile units in the rear was absolutely devastating to the French and the British, and it was extremely successful, this blitzkrieg, and it was going to prove even more successful, more devastating against the Soviets.

Only the Soviet Union had so much territory, it had so many armies and so much depth. It could lose army after army. In fact, the Germans took more prisoners in in the first stages of the war than they had themselves. Soldiers captured more tanks than they had tanks themselves. It shows you the power of the blitzkrieg.

Benesch: By the way, there was something super important you mentioned in the last episode, and that was when Lenin pretty much was aware in his day and age that there would be another great war. And that also explains why Stalin was so adamant with the collectivization and the industrialization, and he wouldn’t care how many people were killed along the way or put in the gulag along the way.

It was that kind of speed because they all were aware they were planning another great war. And around the year  1940, 1941, the Soviet Union was kind of mature as an empire, whereas the Nazis were not. They just barely had managed to come out of this economic recession.

They had overcome some of these obstacles, but a lot of the administrative structures were not mature yet with the Nazis. And of course, the espionage was total garbage. They didn’t have decades of cleaning their own ranks, training these people and getting this expertise and making everything function. Because even when Barbarossa was about a year old, you know, when the attack was one year in or almost two years in, the German economy was not yet transformed to a true war economy. It sounds crazy but that’s what it was and even the efficiency of the production was not there and some people think that the German system, the war production was working like a Swiss clock, but it wasn’t. And that was something I think that goes back to how mature as an empire one is. I mean, the British were very mature.

America was well established because America has had this great industrial push in the 1870s and 1880s and 1890s. And the structures of America, the administration was working fairly well. And we saw this, of course, later in the Second World War when America was able to mobilize like 12 million soldiers and all this equipment and they were out-producing everybody else.

So I think the maturity of an empire speaks volumes about what it can do. And originally, I mean, before Barbarossa, Hitler assured his people and basically lied to his people that there was going to be a big pause after Poland and Sweden and, you know, the oil fields in the south, there would be a great pause where Germany could mature as an empire and solidify the gains that had been made.

And Hitler was telling everybody, I’m not going to live that long. My successor or my successors, plural, will solidify what I have won. And then we’ll see. And there were these plans that Hitler talked about in his second book. He was planning for these multiple stages. And I think in then by the 1980s, he was planning to attack America finally.

But you can see that that the German system, the German empire, wanted to mature in stages, but they didn’t have the time to do so. And you can see that in many instances even before Barbarossa, because it’s almost like a bad comedy when you look at Albert Speer’s memories, he was just an architect, right? And then he became responsible for the war production. I mean, even these assignments were comedic almost. And then when you look at the descriptions by Albert Speer about how decisions were made, you had to be close to Hitler. He had to like you. You had to talk to him in a specific way. And you could only get things done by being in that circle.

And then, of course, this problem that I will talk about later when the flow of information to Hitler and from Hitler was managed by Lammers, Keitel and Bormann. So it’s almost comedic and insane if you think about it, whereas the Russian system was mature, it worked and they could give orders and these orders were followed. And the British, they’ve had hundreds of years of experience.

Nyquist: And it’s the same reason why the Russian Federation is weak under Putin because Putin actually follows Hitler’s practice in this way, is that Hitler liked his subordinates to have overlapping areas of responsibility so that they would conflict with each other.

And it was Hitler’s insurance policy to make sure everyone would have to come to him so that what Hitler did was he would make sure his subordinates would all be in conflict with each other. So rather than cooperating and being forced to follow a common blueprint, he wanted them at each other’s throats so that they would need him to mediate between them. And this is very typical of many dysfunctional dictatorial regimes where there’s a kind of insecurity because of the leader where he doesn’t quite trust everybody. So it’s better for them to all distrust each other more.

Benesch: And this, of course, created a lot of dysfunction in the Third Reich, especially the Gauleiters. That’s what they call these regional administrators in Nazi Germany. Hitler always had an issue with them, and they were quite powerful. And even Speer, when he was running the war production, he was constantly facing this backlash from thesemen. And it’s really hard to reconstruct how limited the these people were to make decisions.

Because, remember, the Nazis were so immature. Everybody was collecting incriminating material on everybody. And there was this weird dynamic, so many people, they couldn’t even make certain decisions or agree with certain decisions because somebody had leverage on them. And you know, this guy like that guy more and this guy was totally out of tune with reality. And it’s just like a dark comedy when you look back at it.

Nyquist: And so Hitler did not rule in the same style that Stalin did. And Stalin, of course, had created this through his purges. He had created this fear amongst his subordinates that if they displeased him they were in trouble. Obedience to him was absolute. Any attempt to deceive the leader or to even irritate him risked going to the gulag or being executed. Now that this system has dysfunction in it to because if everybody below you is scared of you, that means they’re scared to tell you the truth.

Benesch: Because they’d rather do nothing than do the wrong thing. That’s what we see in China. It’s where they become passive and they just don’t do anything, because if they do something and it turns out to be wrong, they could be executed.

Nyquist: There’s a famous story of Stalin. This is after the war. There was a movie producer. Stalin went on vacation and this producer had this film. He had to make a decision. He had a deadline. How to make the ending of the film. And he thought, no, I can’t reach Stalin. I can’t find out what he wants. Right? So he just guessed and he gets called on the carpet. The film comes out, Stalin comes back from vacation. And so this this poor guy, this film producer is sitting in this this room where there’s some Soviet officials there and Stalin’s coming from behind a curtain and Stalin peeks out from the curtain: You  made the end of the film without consulting me.

And the poor guy is just trembling. And he says you guessed the end of the film. And then he comes in and he sits down and he goes: You’re very lucky. You guessed right.

Benesch: Yeah. And here’s something else. I mean, in 1939, the United States lowered their stance about neutrality because they were informed about what was going on fairly well. So starting in 1939, the United States decided that it would it would give military surplus to Germany’s enemies. Now, this is when the United States gets involved. Right. And still the war economy of Germany was very dysfunctional because Hitler insisted prices cannot rise.

So the consumer goods have to be produced. Everybody’s supposed to be happy, everybody’s supposed to love him. And Speer was discovering all sorts of madness in the production. He looked at various factories and he noticed that they were not even producing around the clock. They could do more shifts, but they didn’t do that. There was a serious lack of workers in the war production.

And also sometimes these goods were not ordered in large enough quantities to justify a machine production, a large scale machine production. Some of these goods, artillery shells, others. This was still made the old way. And so he was pulling all kinds of strings. But Speer he managed to improve the output by 60% in a very short amount of time. Now, this is when America was starting to ship military surplus to Germany’s enemies.

Nyquist: I should talk more about the Ribbentrop Hitler meeting with Molotov, the Soviet foreign minister. Topitsch in his book has some cables showing the attitude of the Soviet government and these attitudes are quite amazing.

Molotov in 1940 at a meeting with the foreign minister of Lithuania made a remarkable statement. This is what he says to the Lithuanian foreign minister in on June 30th, 1940: We are now more than ever convinced that our brilliant comrade Lenin made no mistake when he asserted that the Second World War would enable us to seize power in Europe, just as we did in Russia after the First World War.

For this reason, you should be starting now to introduce your people into the Soviet system, which in future will rule all Europe. Okay, so this is the foreign minister of the then neutral Lithuania, which was around this time absorbed by the Soviet Union when it took the Baltic states. And so this is a whole a year before Hitler attacks the Soviet Union, Molotov is basically telling this Lithuanian foreign minister, we’re going to own Germany.

We’re going to not only rule your country, we’re going to rule Germany and all of Europe, because Lenin had this brilliant idea. And of course, this is the proof that Stalin was going to stab Hitler in the back. And of course, Hitler r only needed that meeting with Molotov to catch on because Hitler was very sensitive to power relationships.

Some of his generals, I think it was Keitel who committed Hitler, said he had this amazing success when it came to power relationships, what they really were. And Hitler realized that making a deal with Stalin, he realized in November 1940 that Stalin didn’t intend to keep it. Now, maybe Hitler down the road didn’t tend to keep it with Stalin, but Stalin had the idea of betraying him much earlier on in the relationship.

Benesch: Because the Russian game plan was much older than the German game plan and that that makes for a long range. 

Nyquist: It was conceived earlier and Hitler was a bit of an opportunist. As Topitsch points out, Hitler was an amateur when it came to international diplomacy. Really didn’t understand what he was doing when he made his alliance with Stalin, he didn’t realize that he was putting himself in a position to be exploited by Stalin later on, because here he was, Hitler was then late 1940 at war with Great Britain.

Spain would not help him because he couldn’t contain the Italian civil war. He couldn’t cope.

Benesch: The Italians were worthless.

Nyquist: Italy was useless because we should mention what happened in in late 1940 is that Mussolini invaded Greece through Albania, which he had taken over, I think in 1939, if I remember correctly, he invaded Greece through Albania and the Greeks defeated the Italian army and chased it back into the Albanian mountains where they spent the winter of 1941 freezing.

And this created a crisis for Hitler because now Greece was attacked by his ally Mussolini, was an allied country. The British sent troops into Greece. And now he had this problem of British troops on the continent threatening his flank if he was going to invade the Soviet Union. And this is what he had decided after his meeting with Molotov in November 1940.

In December, he met with his generals and he said, I have to invade the Soviet Union because Stalin is not somebody we can do business with anymore. A Stalin is clearly going to act against us. He’s already pushing on us and we can’t give him what he wants, what he’s demanding. So Hitler gave the order then in December.

And I think most historians agree that that is when he kind of played it. 

Benesch: Just to add one more thing, through this Molotov pact the Nazis were scaring the crap out of the Japanese. Now we can’t go into all of the Asian theater because it’s such a huge chapter. But this was also a weird strategic diplomatic move which ultimately led the Japanese to adjust their own plans.

Nyquist: Yes, this is so dumb. Hitler outmaneuvered himself with the Japanese. Remember, Japan and Germany were in the anti-comintern pact. So Germany, Italy, Japan ostensibly agreed. And this at the same time they’re surrounding the Soviet Union. Japan is not only an island, they controlled Korea and of course the Soviet controlled Mongolia. And of course there’s the Japanese army in Manchuria, which is one of the more powerful Japanese armies watching the Soviets.

And of course, this is a threat. And in fact, there was battle fought in 1939, where the Japanese actually invaded Mongolia, Soviet Mongolia. They crossed into the Soviet Union and there was this prolonged battle, I believe it was August of 1939, and they were actually defeated by Georgy Zhukov, who used tanks and airplanes. And of course, the Japanese did not try this again on the Soviets.

When this battle happened in August, that’s when Hitler goes and makes this deal with the Soviet Union, which of course, the Japanese are going: Hey, wait a minute, you were going to go east and we were going to go west. The Japanese army was kind of in favor of war with the Soviet Union at the time.

There were Japanese people that wanted this And of course, Stalin was in trouble. But what the consequence was monkey see monkey do when Hitler had a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union, the Japanese went and got a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union, too. Yeah, that was that was the situation.

Benesch: And also the Americans and the British, they were able to analyze the situation fairly well. So the Anglos, they knew fairly well what the German generals were thinking and planning. But ultimately Hitler made the decision. So there’s an example here: The German generals wanted to strike at Suez to secure the oil and cut off the Brits and to calm down the Turks and this American general staff member, Marshall, he was expecting exactly that because it was military logic. But of course, the Germans made some weird decisions that were kind of catching many people by surprise. And so these experts were seeing one thing, but Hitler was seeing something something else. And the generals were coming up with this elaborate plan to punch into the Soviet Union, take Moscow, take Saint Petersburg, and have these centers of power and the centers of the Russian war production.

But then Hitler came up with his own plan, which was very, very different. You know, he was targeting the periphery. He was going north and going south. And then at some later point, they were going to go against Moscow.

But the initial plan was about hitting Moscow when it was warm, which of course would have been the logical thing.

Nyquist: Russia is a country with 11 time zones, 12 time zones, because they had Ukraine, Belorussia, then 12 time zones.

So this is a country that’s covering half the time zones. This is an incredible thing.  So if you did conquer Siberia, the Caucasus in the south, it didn’t amount to enough. So that that is a fair point. But we should then mention that in this period, two intervening events that happened, one was Hess’s trip to the UK, which you should talk about, his flight to Scotland to try to make a separate peace with the UK. And he’s the number three guy in the Third Reich, he gets on a plane, flies to Scotland, parachutes, crashes the plane, so he can meet the Duke of Hamilton.

Yugoslavia under its monarchy was going to join the axis. And of course, Hitler needed to get troops down to Greece to help Mussolini. But then there’s a there’s a political change of power. There’s like a coup in Belgrade where a pro allied faction takes over and Topitsch has evidence that Stalin is meeting with representatives of this new Yugoslavian government, encouraging them to resist the Nazis, although he’s doing nothing to help Yugoslavia.

In practical terms, he wants them to tie Hitler up. So maybe you could talk about these two events, especially the Hess trip to Scotland.

Benesch: Hess was super close to Hitler, and his public role eventually became reduced. But he was working behind the scenes and his value was not just personal to Hitler, but also this this network with the Anglos. I think there needs to be more work done on this because not everything has been discovered.

Nyquist: He was was born in Egypt, by the way. Which is interesting to note. And he was an Anglophile. He was going to go to…. was it Oxford or Cambridge? He was going to attend but World War One got in the way of that. Am I remembering that correct?

Benesch: I remember something along those lines. And Hess, initially he had a bigger public role, but that role was reduced. He was not supposed to be in public that much. And he was having this connection with the Haushofer clan, the elder Haushofer, who was developing his geopolitics concept, and the younger Haushofer, who also had very intricate ties to Britain. Now the younger Haushofers contacts in Britain possibly reached into the personal realm because Hess was most likely very gay and the young Haushofer was possibly very gay.

And they had these British contacts they wanted to meet. And there was probably some sort of a romantic relationship in between. And we all know, in later decades how much espionage was tied into these personal affairs, and especially homosexuals, because they had their own realm. And this all melted together, the espionage and the personal.

And so the expectation of the Nazis was that they could achieve not just a change in the throne of Britain, put their favorite candidate on the throne or back on the throne. But there was also going to be a political change and this is what Hitler told his people for a long time, even before Barbarossa. And this was probably an argument of why they could do it or should do it because they expected a massive change in Britain.

A new king who was pro-Nazi and a new government that was pro-Nazi. And there were many more people involved. The story is told, for example, by Louis Kilzer in his book, Churchill’s Deception. There were many aristocratic British who served in the Air Force for example.

And there were these constant visits. So they would always fly over. These Brits were flying to Germany, and they would fly to Britain. So this was a common thing to have that direct line of of communication and travel. And the Nazis always wanted to develop that relationship. They were inviting these British over, from the Air Force, for example. They didn’t know that this Air Force guy was also a spy, for MI6 or SIS, what it was called back then.

And so this British man would come to Germany. He was treated very well. And the Germans would show all these secret plans to him to create that bond of trust. And Hitler was happily using his aristocrats to work in secret diplomacy because Hitler had no experience in diplomacy. And the regular diplomatic corps was already riddled with these aristocrats.

But he also had a separate batch of aristocrats who had family ties to Britain, and he would constantly use them and trust them. Hess flying to Britain was nothing unusual for the most part, but it was not so usual at that stage of the war.

Nyquist: Well, it’s unusual in that the third highest ranking Nazi flies to Britain in a fighter plane.

Of course, Hess was already a flier in World War One, he flies to the enemy country and parachutes there to make a secret peace between Britain and Germany, because this was May 1941. This was a month before Barbarossa. This is early May 1941. Hitler goes to war with the Soviet Union in June. And Hess must have known this and going there to urgently try to make a peace agreement because then Germany wouldn’t be in a two front war if that agreement’s made. And as far as the King Edward the eighth, we should clarify this for the people. King George the Fifth died in January 1936, and Edward the eighth becomes king.

And he’s believed to have a favorable view of Hitler. Do you take that to be true or was he just pretending?

Benesch: Some parts of this grand deception maneuver think worked best, if even some aristocrats that were involved were not fully in the loop. So if you have this cadre of people, like the previous king from the House of Hannover. They had German roots, of course, but the person on the throne is not necessarily the most powerful of these aristocrats, because if you’re on the throne, you have all these tasks you have to do, like visit all these places.

So it’s difficult to see who was more powerful with these aristocrats than somebody else. And some of these aristocrats, they played theater very well. They knew full well what they were doing. But I don’t think all of these aristocrats knew what they were doing because that deception would work better if some people are actually out of the loop.

And this whole conspiracy narrative that’s been around for 50 years. No, it was actually it was more like 70, 80 years at this point. The conspiracy ideology played a part in this. And also the new trendy eugenics, racial purity and have like a world of just Aryans running around, Nordic people running around. That made a great impression.

So if you cultivate these narratives for 80 years, because the right wing picked up the conspiracy narrative roughly in the 1850s, if you cultivate that long enough, it’s starting to stick really well. And if you look at the pre-Nazi right wing extremist groups in Germany, a lot of them got money from aristocrats.

And some of these aristocrats, they seemed sort of suspicious around World War One because their family ties to Britain were so strong. But even before World War One, these aristocrats would often even change their names. They would abandon the British name and they would have a German name and they would start to get involved in these right-wing extremist groups, you know, hating the Jews and the purity of the race and all that.

And so part of it was was just theater and strategic posturing, but some of it actually stuck because these aristocrats had a high degree of of racial ideas, because the Hannover guys, like King George number five and his predecessors, this is the Welfen cluster that goes back to the year 800.

And they became more powerful starting from the year 800, roughly. So they were very, very in tune with a racial ideology. They would marry their cousins and then they would grow and grow to this ridiculous degree. So to many it seemed kind of natural. And with with Edward the Eighth, he may have believed he was just following, this racial idea and having this triple alliance.

This is what Hitler also talked about in his first book Mein Kampf. He wanted to have three empires left in the world, the Americans, the British and the Germans and really nobody else of any significance. It works if everybody in this group plays this theater very well. But it works even better if a portion of them these aristocrats actually believed in it themselves.

Nyquist: Yeah. I should mention Edward of course fell in love with an American, Wallis Simpson. And it was kept secret. Although American gossip papers knew about it. She was getting a divorce and it was kind of kept out of the British press.

But the Church of England was dead set against him having a friendship with a divorcee, let alone marrying one, which it seemed that was his intention. So he abdicated the throne basically for love and of course, this was for those who really were afraid of Nazi Germany. I think this was a relief to some of them.

And of course, he went to Austria immediately after turning down the throne and then he waited a decent interval till Simpson got the divorce. He married her and he visited Adolf Hitler in October 1937, met with Adolf Hitler and of course, was celebrated by Nazi officials and so on. And we should mention that when the war broke out after the fall of France, Edward went to Madrid, Spain.

And this is where the crazy Ribbentrop thought up this harebrained plan, which I think it was thought to be a harebrained plan by Heidrich, the head of of the SD, of of German security and intelligence services, the SS intelligence services. And they tasked Walter Schellenberg, who was not yet the head of a foreign intelligence SS to go to Madrid and kidnap Edward, to bring him to Germany because they had the idea in 1940 that if they did defeat England, one of the conditions would be that Edward would return to the throne.

This was a concept they had, which was Ribbentrop’s scheme.

Benesch: Ribbentrop was not a genuine aristocrat himself, but he loved the aristocracy and he surrounded himself with aristocrats and he tried to live like them. So he was surrounded by people that possibly likely spied for Britain.

Nyquist: He was a champagne salesman, wasn’t he.

Benesch: Yeah. And the British for centuries they had this massive problem with the British Islands because once the British Islands get overrun, where do you escape? To America and play the second fiddle or the colonies and try again? You could never get back into Europe again. And so this problem had been around even when Napoleon did his invasions.

And Napoleon at some point even considered invading the British islands. And so in World War Two or even before World War Two and even before World War One, this theater of the British with the Germans and with the conspiracy ideology, it was baseline survival. And some people wrote about it in a more detailed fashion. For example, Professor Carroll Quigley wrote about this in in one of his books. The shorter one, not the massive one. And Quigley always maintained that he loved the Anglo way of life, the Anglo culture. But Quigley said there were these secret levels within Britain, and they make these decisions that can prove to be disastrous.

So, for example, he always complained that the British should have taken a stand early on when Nazi Germany was still forming and when it was still weak. If the British had had not done the appeasement, and if the British had coordinated with the French and all of that, maybe the situation would have been different.

Nyquist: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, this biography of Wilhelm Canaris, the head of the German military intelligence, is a very good one. It’s one of the earlier ones. There’s a letter, one that goes over a lot of the same material with more recent things. But Canaris, literally, as I mentioned last week, he was going to overthrow Hitler during the Czech crisis in 1938, and all the ducks were lined up. It was going to happen.

But when Chamberlain announced he was going to Germany to meet with Hitler, it all came undone. And also when Hitler got what he wanted there, the conspiracies of the generals to overthrow him didn’t then regenerate until you have the July plot in in July 20, 1944, which is late in the war when they’re losing.

Benesch: So, most of the generals, I think even two thirds or three quarters of the generals in Germany, they were all aristocratic from these old families. And so they had these back channels. There were always aristocratic back channels to Britain. And they were desperately trying to get some sort of a public statement of Britain.

Britain was supposed to say in public they would not attack Germany if there was a change in the German power structure because the generals, they wanted to get rid of Hitler, either kill him or ban him to his favorite mountain and come up with some story and hat may have resulted a German civil war.

And they always wanted to get a public confirmation of Britain that they would not intervene. They would not seize the opportunity to attack Germany. But none of these statements ever came.

Nyquist: Yeah, in fact, appeasement strengthened Hitler’s hand. It made gave Hitler prestige charge that he wouldn’t have otherwise had, because then suddenly he was the statesman that had won this territory without a war for Germany.

And this was extremely popular too, to have leverage like this and this meant the German generals could not go against him because he had been right and he had achieved something right. Thanks to Chamberlain helping him out. And Mussolini played a role in that. By the way, Mussolini actually suggested when the whole Munich process was falling apart: Let’s do it again. Let’s recommit to this. This is the problem when you negotiate with a crazy dictator. And people should think of this in terms of a lesson, which I think the Ukrainians had. Some Europeans think regarding to Putin today, is that you don’t want to sit down with this guy because you are going to strengthen him tremendously within his own country. They just give him what he wants.

Benesch: That’s exactly the point, because yesterday I was doing an interview with somebody from France. And he was asking me about the French position in the near future, could France leave NATO, could Germany leave NATO or could they suspend their membership?

And I said, well, the French, they were hedging their bets multiple times in history. But now today, if you make the wrong decision, you will never be able to correct that mistake. And we saw this before the Ukraine invasion. So many countries, they were giving these weird signals. We’re not going to intervene. We’re going to forgive Russia.

We’re just going to punish them by giving them a slap on the wrist. And we’re just going to trust their willingness to cooperate. And it was giving all the wrong signals, even though it should have been made clear from the very beginning that these borders cannot be touched. We’re not living in that age anymore, that was supposed to be the message.

But with Carroll Quigley, he was able to look at these papers from the roundtable groups, the Cecil Rhodes Group and all that. And so he was trying to make the point that he loved the Anglo realm, but he didn’t trust their ability anymore to make these secret decisions in these circles.

That was so secret, nobody was even supposed to know that they existed because there’s always even something more deep and more deep and more deep. You know, it was hard to get into MI5 and MI6, like like Roger Hollis, because officially it didn’t even exist. The existence was supposed to be kept secret. So you had to know people to get into MI5, but they were levels above the MI5, and there were levels above, Cecil Rhodes, this group and all that. So that was the point that Carroll Quigley made. And of course, this point got twisted by conspiracy literature, especially the John Birch Society. They tried to make it appear as if Quigley was some sort of a conscious member of the conspiracy, and he was bragging about the conspiracy and he was saying this should be more open.

But this was a complete distortion of what Quigley actually said. He was warning people about the appeasement, about the circles that were responsible for the appeasement. And so people should be more transparent in the British system, because if there’s no transparency, more bad decisions of that nature could result. And we see this with Russia in the 1990s and the way Britain handled Russia in the 1990s and 2000s, you saw the British monarchs in the nineties, I think it was even in 91 or something. These British monarchs, they were visiting St Petersburg and everything was so nice and all this Russian money was allowed to flow into the city of London. It was a disaster. It was exactly what Quigley had warned about.

Nyquist: Yeah. You have a problem when you have a free system and you’re dealing with a dictatorship, you have a problem. If you do the wrong thing, you strengthen them. Dictatorships are, by nature weak because there’s no outlet for popular discontent. But if you increase the prestige of a dictator like Hitler or like Putin or like Xi, you strengthen their ability to oppress their own people and commit crimes domestically, but also to commit aggression abroad. And this is what they did.

They basically enabled Hitler without really realizing the damage they were doing and they realized it too late. And so, anyway, getting back to Hess’s trip to England, the big question has always been whether Hitler authorized this trip of Hess to England. And it is to me inconceivable that Hess would have gone off half cocked on his own. And authorities on this, Schroeder, Hitler’s senior secretary, and his his valet, Heinz Langer, if you read their memoirs and these people were with Hitler every day of the war.

They had their days off, of course, but these people worked very long hours right next to Hitler. They knew him. And both of them say in their memoirs that they simply didn’t believe Hitler; he put on this big act when it became public. See, because Hess’s arrival in England was supposed to be a secret, he was going to do these secret negotiations, and if he succeeded, it would have been the biggest, biggest sensation in modern history.

Benesch: I mean, just by doing that mental experiment, if if Hess had succeeded, if the British had aligned with the Germans, this could have changed everything.

Nyquist: Yes. He could have focused on the East. It would have scared off the Americans, so no more supplies from America. The Japanese would have changed their strategic aims, it would have destroyed the Soviet Union.

If Hess’s mission had been possible, it would have destroyed the USSR.

Benesch: And of course, Hitler loved these gambles. He loved these bold moves. And it was just Hitler’s style. This was actually Hitler’s style.

Nyquist: That was Hitler’s style. And what’s interesting is that when the news came that Hess had flown to the UK, Hitler went into a rage. And as we study Hitler, most of his rages were playacting. And we know this from various sources, even from Sir Neville Henderson’s confrontations with Hitler. When the war was about to begin, he realized that Hitler’s rages were fake. And he even he put on a rage of his own.

Benesch: He even rehearsed this in front of a mirror.

Nyquist: Right. He would rehearse his rages. And of course, Neville Henderson rehearsed his own rage on the eve of World War two. And Hitler was sort of sitting there with his arms folded, sort of sitting with his butt on a table, and  Hitler didn’t get upset at being raged at, at being accused by Henderson. He just sat there quietly, just calmly, which meant that Hitler was perfectly in control of himself. He lost his temper during the war.

Benesch: And also Hitler thought the politicians in Britain were super weak and the aristocrats were super strong. And of course, if somebody like Hess gets arrested and interrogated and whatnot, Hitler probably expected this thing to go smoothly. He probably didn’t understand. He probably thought the politicians would not actually get a hold of Hess that much. It was that they would respect him as an emissary, right? Hess would be in safe hands, with these officers and these aristocrats, and it would all work out fine in the end.

When I read Kilzer’s book “Churchill’s deception” for the first time, I immediately thought there should be multiple sequels to this because there’s so many areas that haven’t even been reconstructed yet because Kilzer apparently doesn’t know that much about the older history of the aristocrats and their ties into Germany.

Especially in the 1800s. There were so many families in Nazi Germany that were so old and so trusted. And if you look at these family lines, you could see generals, and more generals, you would see administrators, you could see the chancellor, you could see this and this and that. So there was a network, probably possibly a spy network that was just an insane size. And they probably had people everywhere.

Nyquist: And  this overestimation of the political power of aristocrats by World War Two, you had the coalition government under Churchill in the UK which had a socialist Senate. It was dominated by the bourgeoisie in them and the working class. The aristocrats were definitely dominant with Churchill when Chamberlain was in power and when Baldwin was in power.

But the aristocracy had lost its political grip by the time Churchill becomes Prime Minister and the Third Reich is by no means an aristocratic formation, the Nazi Party is is too plebeian. It’s too lower middle class to actually have any true aristocratic leanings.

So it’s a kind of a vain from the point of view of analyzing the aristocracy as a social force that could suddenly change the relationship between Germany and Britain. It was just a fantasy. And of course, in order to cover tracks, Hitler declared that Hess was insane, that he had been psychologically unbalanced for some time now. This was damaging because he was the number three guy. If Hermann Goering dropped dead of a heart attack and Hitler was assassinated or something, Hess would be the new Führer.  

Benesch: And this was not even a meeting on neutral territory. There were meetings like this, in the war, where you could just pinpoint a spot, in Spain or whatever, or some island. They had meetings in Sweden and Switzerland. And you could designate a point in Switzerland to meet and every side could bring some security forces and everybody would come disguised, with with a fake passport or whatever.

And then you could have a talk. But this guy, Hess, he was such a hardcore believer in his plan. He had a small plane modified with additional fuel tanks so he could actually go that distance. And because there was no landing procedure planned per se, he would just turn his plane upside down, fall out of his plane, and then deploy his parachute. So there wasn’t even any sort of traditional planning involved in terms of having a safe way like you would see in other meetings.

Nyquist: In fact, he did the flight at night, which was an amazing feat, because you had to navigate in the pitch dark. He had to fly at night because he would be shot down in broad daylight. People would see him and then he had to get close to the place he wanted to land. And of course, he was arrested. So Hitler had the insanity defense. Hess was insane. And of course the fear was what would the Japanese ambassadors say, what would his allies say, and so on.

And so Hitler had to cover up the fact that he had sent Hess because anything Hess might, under interrogation tell the allies might be important intelligence. And also the British never wanted to let go of Hess.

Benesch: I mean, he was he was in prison for a long time, and at some point, somebody was presented as Hess. But his X-rays didn’t match the actual person of Hess who had a wound from World War One, and that wound was not visible. Probably the British probably got so much out of him that you could never let him out in public. You could never let him tell the story or even part of the story.

Nyquist: And what do you think of the claim that the Hess who appeared at Nuremberg was not the real Hess. Have you heard this story?

Benesch: Yeah, I’ve heard that. But I would have to reread some of the literature on that to give an informed opinion about that, because at the time you didn’t have biometrics save for X-rays and medical files, you know, dental records.

Nyquist: It was around 1970 that the British doctor discovered that the Hess that was in the prison there, was not Hess. What’s the name of the prison there in Berlin? Landsberg. So the Russians would guard him for so many months and the British or Americans would guard him for so many months and they would rotate. Remember they had that system for guarding him.

So there’s a mystery. There’s some kind of secret. There’s something going on there that has been kept secret by the British, by the allies.

Benesch: The Germans were already failing at that point. On the diplomatic front, the war production. The intelligence front. And also the British, of course, had their Bletchley Park ultra unit where they were able to break the German encryption that was used.

It took a while until the story was told in public, and they told a limited version of the actual story. As we all know, the Germans were using the Enigma machine. This looked like an overblown typewriter. You could type in the message, it would scramble the message, and then you could send a message in its scrambled form and then the other side would unscramble the message to make it readable.

And so this was a nifty little machine that had all these moving bits and pieces so you could scramble the signal in a very, very complex way. And so the British were able to not just gain access to some code books and some of these newer Enigma machines that the Germans were using. But the British were also recruiting some experts from Poland that had started this kind of work earlier.

And the Polish could actually break the older 2 wheel version, or they were very close to it. And so they had these experts and at some point the British were making this big machine that could actually make these encoded messages readable.

But I discovered something else when I was getting into the Enigma. Many experts on cryptography have commented on this machine, and they were very surprised about some of these weaknesses in the machine, because if some little bits and pieces about the Enigma had been a little bit different, the encryption would have been strong enough for decades to come.

It would have required much more computing power to brute force break these this encryption. So why were mistakes made? And that’s when I found some interesting links of the people who designed the enigma and who built the enigma. And I strongly suspect a British spy ring or maybe even a Russian spy ring.

And the spy ring probably implemented these weaknesses into the enigma. Some of these people traced back to Sweden. Some of these people had connections to Russia because the scientific community was still fairly small at that point.

People knew each other and some people were working on the same systems. Now, the Enigma was not an original Nazi design. It was presented in the 1920s in an earlier version, in public at an expo. So here this company presents this machine and says this is more advanced encryption that’s ever been done because most countries, even the Americans, were still using this cylinder encryption machine with these rotating dials.

And it was not an electronic device, but the enigma was.

Nyquist: They were using those dial cylinders in the American Civil War, weren’t they?

Benesch: Yeah. And even in Thomas Jefferson’s belongings, there was a French language version of this cylinder design encryption device. And so this company presented this new machine that had all these electronics to scramble the text and they were trying to sell it, but nobody wanted it.

And then the Nazis started to buy these machines and they were demanding a stronger version with a fourth wheel and then a fifth wheel. But the Polish actually bought some of these early machines and they started to work on them trying to find its weaknesses. And so that Polish research ended up with the British.

But apparently these weaknesses were built in into the enigma. Now, the estimations are had this thing been designed better, the encryption would have been good enough right into the 1960s, 1970s. The enigma was continued to be used after the war. I mean, even the communists in occupied Eastern Germany, they were still using the enigma, because they didn’t know it was broken. And when we’re talking about the British possibly messing up the enigma, there could also be a Russian connection. So there’s a possibility the Russians knew about these weaknesses and maybe the Russians were able to decrypt this. 

Nyquist: The Russians are the masters of human intelligence and we could talk about the Rote Kapelle, the Red Orchestra, which was the GRU spy ring in the heart of Europe. It would get the information and it had these different people, they called some of them pianists or players who would then send the signals from the low countries to the Soviet Embassy in London. So they would send the signals there. And of course, from there it would go to Moscow, they would get all this vital information, which shows us that Stalin was perfectly aware of Hitler’s plans to invade the Soviet Union.

And so what more recent historians realize is that as soon as Hitler decided to invade the Soviet Union, Stalin knew that Hitler was going to try to invade and so Stalin was then mobilizing his forces to strike first. And of course, who was going to be able to organize and mobilize to strike first in the spring of 1941 became the race of what happened.

And of course, who won the race? The Germans are better organizers than the Soviets. They were able to get their act together because they were already at war. They were already mostly mobilized. They had already been fighting. They were fighting in the Balkans in 1941. They wiped out Yugoslavia very quickly. They closed Greece. They attacked Greece through Bulgaria, flanked the Greek armies that were fighting the Italians, and rapidly took it and then did an air assault on Crete, where the British forces had retreated to and won the island of Crete in this incredible first air mobile battle where there was just an invasion from troops coming from the skies, dropping paratroopers and seizing airfields and flying troops in behind the paratroopers. Incredible victory there for Germany again. Meanwhile, this massive preparation for attacking the Soviet Union was underway and Hitler would do things like claim that he was faking, like he was going to invade Britain.

A lot of historians think that this is what fooled Stalin, But I don’t think Stalin was fooled. No, I think that it was very important for Soviet historians to depict Stalin as the innocent victim of Hitler’s aggression, the naive victim. Imagine Stalin, the paranoid Stalin being naive, You know, I mean, it’s inconceivable.

But this is the mainstream history that we’re told that Stalin was tricked by Hitler and got stabbed in the back by Hitler. I mean, this is the guy that’s never going to be stabbed in the back. And when Suvorov points out the massive Soviet deployments and preparations, the movement of the railroads, even General John Fuller wrote in his history of the Second World War, he said: We don’t have all the documentation yet.

Before Hitler attacked the Soviets were railing troops from the Far East who were mobilizing. We knew this was happening. So it’s impossible that the Soviets were surprised in the tactical sense. What they were surprised about was they weren’t able to mass and get ready in time. And there was also this thing where they didn’t know the exact date because initially their spies were saying Hitler would attack in May, but there was too much rain in May.

It was too muddy. Hitler couldn’t advance. Hitler was also stuck in Greece, in Yugoslavia. Remember, the battle of Crete happened in May 1941. He didn’t have all of his troops ready. He had to refit his panzers. There was a whole Panzer Corps involved, though the war production was was nowhere near where it should have been in Germany.

And so Hitler wasn’t ready to go in May. The weather wasn’t cooperating. He couldn’t go in early June. They kept having dates and they kept putting it back. Well, the intelligence was right at the time, but conditions changed.

So there was uncertainty and the Soviets were behind in getting ready. So I think that they were in a way fooling themselves, thinking they could still strike first because what Suvorov says is the evidence is is that Stalin was going to attack Hitler on the first Saturday in July because the Germans like to attack on Sundays and the Soviets preferred to attack surprise attacks on Saturdays.

And the reason it has to do with the alcohol cycle. Yeah, because if you’re going to attack on a Saturday, you’re getting ready on Friday, which means you’ve stop the weekend drinking bout. If you wait till Sunday your army is drunk right and you’re not going to be ready to attack, it’s going to not work.

So the alcohol cycle was I think a factor. But why, you know, the Russians would attack Finland on a Saturday or Japan on Saturday. So Suvorov thought that it was the first Saturday in July. Well, the Germans attacked on a Sunday, July 22nd, 1941. And it was a disaster for the Soviets because the Germans caught their air force on the ground. And of course, according to Brian Fugit in his book Barbarossa, the Germans had sent their divisions forward first to send the heavy artillery later.

So the artillery was still in the back towards the original border. The older border before they annexed Poland and they had moved it forward. So here you had rifle divisions without howitzers. And you had the tank divisions without their howitzers. And so it was a catastrophe for the Russians.

Benesch: We know this especially from Rommel when he was experimenting with new tactics in terms of infantry, because he was an infantryman first. This is what people don’t remember about him usually. He was an infantry man, just like Hitler. That’s why they also had this connection. And even during his infantry days in, even in World War One, Rommel was experimenting because they were trying to do things faster. They were fighting in different territories.

So, for example, when you’re in the mountains, and you fire machine guns, the bullets that don’t hit the enemy, they cause all sorts of rock shrapnel that flies everywhere. And when you encounter a little patch of woods, if you see a bunch of trees normally the infantry manual in the training told them to set up defensive positions and then you work your way forward step by step.

But Rommel was just experimenting. He would fire certain ammunitions into the woods to see what would happen. But the equipment was the problem. In June of 1941, the German had about 3500 tanks to be deployed and half of them were quite old.

The Soviets had way more tanks and the Soviets were making 5000 more tanks every year. The German production  was only 3000 tanks per year, and those were not even heavy tanks. It was only in 1942 when the Panther tank, the Type five Panther tank, was made. And so this was a production problem. And even even some of these generals were complaining a lot about this.

And the decisions were made for certain operations based on the available equipment. So generals wanted to resign over all of this. And Hitler was the master of excuses. So when he would have these one on one meetings, oftentimes with his generals, the general would come in and explain his situation, explain the problems, but Hitler had already made up his mind, and he would tell a pre-prepared, rehearsed excuse.

He was telling one general: Well, I need those things to give them to Rommel. But then he would tell Rommel, no, I need these tanks somewhere else. And so you’re not getting as much as you actually need.

Nyquist: And so they also reorganized Panzer divisions for Barbarossa in the invasion of France. There were two Panzer regiments in a Panzer division and one motorized infantry regiment in Barbarossa.

They changed it so that a Panzer division would only have one Panzer regiment and two motorized or mechanized Panzer grenadier regiments. So this is rather curious. So it meant that the Panzer divisions had fewer tanks and of course and I think one tank battalion assigned usually to one of the infantry formations that have had a division.

But it meant that you only had instead of 400 tanks per division, only 200 tanks or even less than that. But there wasn’t actual uniformity in all the divisions; they could make more panzer divisions so that when they invaded the Soviet Union, they had what they had.

And we should mention that when Germany invaded the Soviet Union, Germany was going to have Finland, which  had been bullied by the Soviet Union, to join in in the North and Romania in the South, which had been bullied in June of 1940 and had territory taken from it.

Moldova, for example, taken from Romania, would join the Soviet Union to extend the front and the German 11th Corps was deployed to Romania.

The main German armies were positioned as the army north in East Prussia, Army Group center just east of Warsaw and Army Group south down in what was before southern Poland. And they struck out in three different directions from this at beginning and of course made incredible gains except for Army Group South.

So tremendous the German generals were ecstatic and thought, we’ve literally won the war in the first two or three weeks.

Benesch: And that was the reason why such strange decisions were made regarding the war production. So, for example Albert Speer was talking about this aspect a lot. He said that before 1942, the ammunition production was fluctuating a lot because it was just increased before a blitzkrieg operation. And then the ammunition production was lowered again. And imagine this, the German army goes into the Soviet Union in 41, but it took until 1942 to have the ammunition production be continuous. To have multiple shifts work around the clock and just keep pumping out these these artillery shells and other things.

Nyquist: We should mention Fritz Todt was a minister of armor, a minister of armaments and munitions before Albert Speer. And didn’t he die in a plane accident after visiting Hitler in 1942?

I don’t know what speculation you’ve heard, but I’ve heard that Fritz Todt was assassinated. He was killed. His plane crash was arranged. Now, that’s a theory that people have. I believe he built the west wall. Just before the war started. He was the one responsible for that. He was like an engineer, but apparently he was not terribly effective in doing his job. And is it possible that Hitler couldn’t fire him or somebody got rid of him? What have you heard from the German side? Has anybody made this kind of suggestion?

Benesch: Well, usually the speculation revolves around personal liking and who this person was connected to. So if there was a personal connection, that could have made the difference. Because Hitler made these choices all throughout this period. And also sometimes it’s simply if you had powerful friends, if you had the right friends that were close to Hitler, that could also change a lot. Because remember when Albert Speer talks about the dynamic around Hitler, when you made mean jokes about someone and Hitler would laugh at these jokes, this would set a process in motion where Hitler would lose trust in that targeted person.

So you couldn’t have a direct discussion with Hitler. You couldn’t say: Well, let’s have a chat. You know, this particular guy, I don’t like him, he’s not competent, blah, blah, blah. Hitler wouldn’t really bite on this. But if you started to make these subtle jokes and you just cleverly inserted some things into the conversation, you would seed an idea. You would just seed an idea and watch it grow in Hitler’s mind. You could actually torpedo somebody’s career. And at the same time, with these techniques, you could also keep somebody’s career going.

Nyquist: So Fritz Todt had, if I’m remembering right, a big argument with Hitler just before he got on that plane at Hitler’s Wolf’s lair headquarters in East Prussia.

And I’m not sure we know what the substance of the argument was, but it was it was described as rather heated at the time. Albert Speer was personally at the Wolf’s lair when this accident happened. And I think the night before, if I remember right, Todt and Speer were going to fly in that plane together.

But Speer decided to stay there overnight. And he was tired and he canceled. So they both would have died on the plane. Yeah, which is it’s all very suggestive. And I’ve never seen the report on the accident. But the suspicion of an assassination centered on Hitler as the person who was annoyed at him.

Benesch: There was probably even an assassination attempt against Speer himself because he tells the story of how he got sick. Very, very much so very quickly. And then he was, for his medical treatment, at some other place. He was already losing access to Hitler, which was devastating.

People like Martin Bormann, they always stayed close. They never took a day off. So Speer was outside of Hitler’s circle. And then Speer was told that somebody was planning to mess up the medical treatment and get rid of Speer because Speer had many enemies, even though Speer was just ambitious, Speer was just ambitious but not overly ambitious. He always had the overall situation in mind. For a long time he didn’t even get a salary as an architect. And so he wasn’t as hyper ambitious as these other people that that he had problems with. And so he was watching how 1 million soldiers were lost in Operation Barbarossa.

This was in in 42. So again, the the war production was not good. And in 1941 it was not good enough. And only then did Speer get the permission to change the ammo production to have a continuous ammo production and also using all the industrial techniques to make these things faster, he was able to increase the output by 60% without using more labor, without using more workers.

He was demanding more workers, but he didn’t get them most of the time. And he even got some weird feedback from within these crazy, incompetent Nazi circles. For example, when he was assigning engineers to have more decision power. He would just give these people more decision power because they were able to do their job properly.

He got some negative feedback and the feedback was: This is too American. You know, this style that you’re using. This is too modern. This is too American. We don’t like it because we’re being very traditional here. And by that time, of course, the American industry was hyper-powerful. The Germans said, if you don’t have that background, if you don’t have that party standing, you shouldn’t be able to decide anything. Even though the engineers were able to make better choices. And if you demanded more workers, these Gauleiters would protest because they had all these ambitious projects, building new city blocks and raking in all this money.

So they didn’t want to give up their workers to produce ammo. The war that was going on and already a million soldiers were lost. So this is, again, this insane psychopathic comedy show that was Nazi Germany at the time.

Nyquist: And I should also mention the elevation of psychopaths in the Third Reich. And it’s a problem in the United States, in the Soviet Union, modern states elevate psychopaths. And of course, there’s the theory that Speer himself arranged the assassination of Fritz Todt. That’s one of the theories, that Hitler didn’t do it. And and, of course, there is the book from Yale University Press. I read it when it came out in 2017. I actually read it twice because I found it disturbing.

It’s called Speer, Hitler’s architect. It’s a very long book, but it really depicts Speer as a pathological liar, as a malignant narcissist or maybe even a psychopath. And many of these Nazi biographies or biographies of Soviet or Chinese leaders of modern communist leaders, you become sick to your stomach as you read about this guy, how he behaved, how he depicted himself.

He was the artist of putting himself in a good light and other people in a bad light. But the actual core of Albert Speer was very dark. He was efficient. There’s no doubt he increased this efficiency, but part of it was smoke and mirrors. This biography argues, because he was a man of cultivating an image. They didn’t hang him at Nuremberg but if they’d known what he had done as armaments minister, the brutal treatment of the laborers, they would have hung him, right.

Benesch: He made sure he was in front of a desk, you know, sitting on a chair. And that’s something that we also saw from Hitler. I mean, Hitler made these decisions, signing some document, just getting a lot of people killed, shipping people in in concentration camps. Hitler was making these decisions on his desk. But Hitler would always stay away from the carnage. He was terribly afraid of it.

And he was reportedly having signs of PTSD from World War One. He didn’t want to see the carnage. And many people in the Nazi leadership were like that. And there was this disconnect between the generals and the political leadership, because it’s one thing to sign these orders. It’s another thing to actually to do that.

And course, these generals were protesting: We should treat these people better in Poland. We should treat these people better in Ukraine because they could help us against the Soviets. But the decision was always made to go another way and massacre people and just antagonize them. There’ an interesting new book about Erich Koch.

Nyquist: Berg’s memoir talks about how Schellenberg said: Why don’t we treat the Russians better? Why don’t we treat the Poles better? And of course, he could get nowhere with Himmler or Hitler with this.

Benesch: There’s a fairly recent book out in Germany about Erich Koch.

Nyquist: Well Kildare talks about Koch in his in his book. Koch was possibly a Soviet agent.

Benesch: Koch initially was just responsible for a back backwater part of Germany. It was not prestigious and it was a fairly small area. Later he was running Poland at some point. He was running Ukraine, large parts of Ukraine. So he became the territorial master.

He was administrating the largest piece of land that there was.

Nyquist: And he was incredibly brutal to the Ukrainian people.

Benesch: Exactly. So when the Germans went into Ukraine, they were initially celebrated by these Ukrainians because they had high expectations, there was this this common ritual where they would greet these Germans with salt and something else.

And the decision was made to treat them as harshly as possible, kill about 20% of them if possible. And so this completely limited the ability of the military and this was Hitler’s decision.

Nyquist: And of course, Kilgour makes the argument that Martin Bormann was egging on this dark side of Hitler as well as other Soviet agents. One was present when Hitler was shown movies of Ukrainians greeting the German tanks with flowers. And Leia writes in his memoirs that he was in a position during the filming to watch Hitler’s face as he watched this and Hitler made faces. Hitler did not like to see the Ukrainians greeting the German soldiers.

You think you would be ecstatic. They love us. They want us. We could. But no, Hitler did not like it. And in no uncertain terms, he hated Slavs, he hated Jews. What’s interesting is that the Communists assassinated the head the Nazis put in charge of Belorussian Minsk. The ideologues like Rosenberg were sort of the boss of the whole occupation area.

Benesch: Yes. And Rosenberg, didn’t he spent time in Russia? Didn’t he have a good Russian connection?

Nyquist: He was born in the Baltic. He was a Baltic German.

Benesch: I think he even spent some time in Russia.

Nyquist: He was educated in Moscow, I think. I think he went to university in Moscow.

Benesch: Erich Koch probably intentionally sabotaged the retreat of the German population when the Soviet army was advancing and all was lost. All the historians that looked at it knew that an early evacuation could have saved many lives.

But he botched it. He expressly forbade people to escape until the very last moment when escape was almost impossible. Either the Russians would get you or the cold weather would get you. My wife’s family, they come from that specific area and they have the memories of that particular escape.

So they were grabbing their children, toddlers, babies and my mother’s grandmother was carrying her youngest child. And there was this the smoke everywhere from burning buildings and everything. So they were just escaping on foot with these little carts. It was it was crazy cold and the baby was just covered in soot, basically.

And everybody thought that the baby wouldn’t make it, but ultimately it survived. And then when you try to escape, you find these these different places you can sleep, usually at these farmhouses. And there was a farmer family that wanted to buy that baby from them.

They were offering them money for the baby because they desperately wanted one. And they promised them we will take great care of that baby. And we have land and money and everything is going to turn out fine. And they desperately needed the money. But they kept their child. They kept their babies.

Nyquist: So imagine if the Russians were going to reach that farm, too.

Benesch: Yeah, exactly. And if you’re on the run, you just grab what you can and you desperately need funds. You need resources. And somebody is offering you to buy your baby. And so that was the intentionally botched evacuation due to Erich Koch.

And he himself had already shipped his his Mercedes limousines and some of his artworks. He was already stashing this stuff on ships to bring it to safety while everybody else was not allowed to go.

Nyquist: He was going to flee to Sweden.

Benesch: And ultimately he was himself forced to steal a bicycle or buy a bicycle and just run and have a fake identity and ultimately he was caught though.

Nyquist: Yeah. A lot of those Nazis, even Schellenberg fled to Sweden. Sweden had to cough them up later. A lot of the Nazis, they thought that they were safe. They were going to be safe. But yeah, so this war in the east, Hitler invades the Soviet Union, has tremendous success in conquering it.

The fact that Army group South is delayed, the South actually led to a greater victory because German regrouped and passed the flank of the Russian defenses down around Kiev. And then just simply swing south. And Hitler had to actually trick his generals because they didn’t want to do this. The greatest victory of 1941 was when Hitler tricked his generals by having Guderian going south, and they trapped 67 Russian Soviet divisions in the south only.

It was the biggest battlefield where the largest number of troops were captured or destroyed, I think maybe in history. 700000 to 1000000 men were trapped in this pocket and most of them taken prisoner after the tremendous victories of the north, where they had pocketed the initial Soviet armies near the border between the Third Reich and the USSR.

So this victory gave them all of Ukraine, all the Soviet Union up to Leningrad, which is now Saint Petersburg. And the German generals had always been about Moscow, Moscow, Moscow. If we take Moscow, the war’s over. Just like if you take Paris, right? It’s over with France. They think that this is the big thing.

They might have been right. Stalin was evacuated from Moscow and Hitler finally said, panzer groups that were massed in the center have to go to Moscow in late September, early October. And of course, they got delayed by rain and they kept advancing it. In fact, it was a crazy it was what was like Napoleon. But within the first two or three weeks, they had destroyed the Russians, 600,000 troops they had captured or destroyed, half of that line. So even then with the mud and everything. They were just annihilating the Soviet army.

Benesch: And do you remember when the American Lend-Lease program really got into gear supplying the Soviets? I don’t remember exactly when that was.

Nyquist: Yeah. Well we were actually supplying them before we got in the war. In fact this is brought up by Diana West that it was British military equipment destined for Singapore that would have strengthened them against the Japanese, and American equipment that had been earmarked. Aircraft earmarked for the Philippines were rushed to the Soviet Union, 1941.

This is before Pearl Harbor, so that’s part of the reason why the Philippines lacked strength. And the same thing with the British. Because Russia was collapsing so fast. In October 1941, if you’re a military analyst, you basically thought the Soviet Union was done.

That’s how bad it was. In fact, in it was either late October, early November 41, that Stalin told Lavrentiy Beria, the head of the secret police, start looking for some other country that could take us in as refugees. In other words, where would we go into exile? That’s how bad it was. And in fact, Stalin gave an olive branch to Hitler, offered to negotiate a peace deal, and Hitler did not agree.

Hitler was like: No, I got this. There’s no reason to negotiate with Stalin. He probably should have, right? But there was no reason to negotiate because it was seemingly a done deal. And of course, the attack on Moscow was a pincer that was going to come in from both sides. And of course, what happened to that pincer movement?

Two things happened. Stalin knew about Pearl Harbor because of a spy in Tokyo that he had, Sorge, a German diplomat who had been long secretly converted to Marxism, who was working for the Soviet government. He was great at sleeping with other diplomats’ wives. And he was able, in Tokyo, to find out everything that was going to happen in the Far East.

So he found out about Pearl Harbor. But of course it was Operation Snow. Stalin had tried to set up Pearl Harbor. Stalin had tasked Harry Dexter White, the deputy head of the Treasury, who was really operating the Treasury to provoke the Japanese in this cable, that would not only humiliate them, but give them no room to kind of save face, which you don’t want to necessarily do with the Japanese.

And this created an argument within the Japanese military structures where suddenly the U.S. was embargoed in Japan because of its occupation of French Indochina in 1941 and bargaining of oil. And of course, metal things that Japan needed. There’s no oil in Japan. There’s a little bit in Manchuria. But most of the oil Japan got was from Indonesia, which was below the Philippines, and they would have to travel past the Philippines, where the Americans had air forces and an army under Douglas MacArthur.

And of course, that would that would cut out Japan. So the Japanese had to take the Philippines, I mean, in order to make the way free. And that meant, well, we might as well attack the American fleet in Hawaii. And that was all set up and it was Operation Snow. There’s a book called Operation Snow. I recommend everybody to read it.

Because what was Stalin’s greatest fear? That the Quin Tung army in Manchuria would invade Siberia if he pulled those Siberian troops back to Moscow. Well, once he knew that this attack was going to happen, that Japan was going against the U.S., he could pull those troops to Moscow. So Moscow was beginning to receive reinforcements from the far east of these divisions that were fresh, that were sitting there and also on December 5th, the temperatures dropped.

They had record cold temperatures. It dropped to 40 below zero in the front around Moscow on December the fifth. And that was so cold, the Germans had not winterized their gun oil or petroleum. So that meant their equipment was disabled by the cold. There were 70,000 frostbite injuries in the armies that were attacking Moscow, it destroyed their equipment.

Benesch: Yeah. And also the whole equipment was not winter ready for those kind of temperatures. The clothing. It took a while until the troops were issued the Charkow parka. This was a long jacket with fur on the inside. And it took a while for a soldiers to actually get this. And many men were lost because the very air was killing you. So if any part of your body got exposed, this was extremely dangerous. And the diesel fuel, the oil, none of the equipment was really suited for that kind of an environment.

Nyquist: Gun oil is sensitive to temperatures, too. You have to have oil to get it to function properly, to reload and fire. Otherwise it’ll jam up. So you have to have gun oil. Well, if the gun oil itself is compromised at those temperatures, guess what’s going to happen when you go to fire it? And some of the metal becomes more brittle. That is its strength weakens. So you have the you have howitzers that can explode.  

Benesch: When you install the barrel of an AK 47 rifle, professional gun makers, they will actually freeze the barrel because it would become, I think, slightly smaller. Then they could install the barrel.

Hitler was demanding that the soldiers were using these old style bolt action rifles because that’s what Hitler knew. He hated modern technology in many areas. Sometimes he thought technologies were Jewish science.

He would issue these old style rifles when they had a new assault rifle ready to be mass produced. I think it was the Sturmgewehr 44. This was pretty much like any modern assault rifle. It had an intermediary sized bullet.

So it was not a regular pistol bullet, but it was not big as the average rifle bullet. So you could carry a sizable amount of ammo and you would have the semiautomatic fire and you could use this rifle in distances of up to, I think, 400 meters. This this was also not implemented at that stage.

No strategic bomber force. And so this became a nightmare on so levels. And even in the winter of 1942, the command structure of the Nazis became even more silly, even more dysfunctional because at that point you could only get access to Hitler through Bormann, Keitel and Lammers. And the way this worked was you had to submit this request to talk to Hitler.

And so Bormann Keitel and Lammers would get the information about what this general or whatever wanted, they would come up with a way of telling a story to Hitler. They would pre-prepared Hitler, they would already make the decision with Hitler and then the talk would actually take place. So information was flowing to Hitler through these guys and it would flow from Hitler mostly through these guys.

And we know almost for certain that Bormann was a traitor with the Soviets. Bormann was probably the agent codenamed Werther, and the way this worked was there were several of these high ranking moles and they would send the material to another person, he would send it to another person. This was it ended up with a man called Rado and he had these radio operators that would then radio that stuff to the Soviets.

And the material was sorted into categories, depending on who was the source. So this was a not just about stealing, extracting information out of Germany, especially about the war, where the troops are going to be, how much ammo they have, how much reserves they had, but they would also bring influence from Russia to Hitler.

Nyquist: And yes, it was influencing Hitler in a demonic way. Hitler already had his demonic side, of course, as we know. And so it wasn’t that difficult to do provocations that would get Hitler to do things that were really against Germany’s interest, but of course, appealed to this crazy side of Hitler.

We’re discussing the winter of 1941, 42. Well, it’s autumn of 42 when this winter strike happens, this horrible first winter, a very disastrous thing for Germany happened in addition to this. And it damaged the German generals who had the operational art of war, had shown themselves to be very skillful warriors versus Hitler, because a panic happened among the German generals.

General von Bock had a like a heart attack or a nervous breakdown. A lot of the German generals were exhausted physically from this the campaign into Russia already because they were going at this massive pace. As you say, speed is of the essence. So these guys are are not sleeping.

They’re putting in long hours. And then this winter strike, this unexpected 40 below weather that’s killing men and wounding them and disabling the equipment. They were in such a panic. They were telling Hitler, we have to retreat all the way back to Poland. Right. We’ve got to get out of Russia because we’re all going to die.

It’s like they had the syndrome of Napoleon. They’re all reading that famous book by that one of Napoleon’s officers. I read it years ago. I can’t remember his name now, but it was the account of Napoleon’s army being caught in this premature winter where know the horses got frostbite. The men had to pull the carts and so on.

They had this vision of the destruction that was going to happen. And Hitler was very correct in this one thing. You don’t retreat, dig in, you stay in place. If you retreat, it turns into a rout. Hitler had this one piece of understanding of prudence that if you retreat you’ll have more frostbite, casualties, you will lose your positions.

The Russians will kill you on the retreat. Dig in, hold. You know, they had to withdraw into where they could actually get better supplies and the men could get warm. But they but Hitler said it’s the stand order. Stand fast. And Hitler proved to be right. The front held, a disaster didn’t happen.

The German casualties weren’t greater in December than in fact, it was a lower than average casualty rate because the retreats were judicious and the even fired General von Rundstedt for giving up the city of Rostov and going back to what he thought was a more defensible position. Of course, he brought it back later, but because he was caught, he was a World War One general that was like in his seventies.

But it embarrassed the generals like Halder, these generals now had egg on their face because they panicked and Hitler held the army together. So that meant that Hitler now could run the war without the military professionals. He was sort of having the final say on things so that Hitler could get his way on the overall strategy, and this would prove disastrous in 1942, when Germany renewed the offensive.

I mean, would you basically agree with this?

Benesch: Yeah, definitely. I mean, even before the the Operation Barbarossa started, Hitler would take certain generals out of circulation. He would retire them. He would change things around and he would continuously change personnel, even though he oftentimes didn’t even know these generals that well.

Nyquist: So he would bribe generals, he would give them estates, he would give them huge cash rewards.

This is something that has not been discussed generally about World War Two. History is that Hitler would win the the basic loyalty of these generals by making them super wealthy people like Guderian, you know, these generals were given land and money.

Benesch: Yeah. I mean, there’s also another element, to this and this is also something we see in Russia now with the Ukraine war. The families of the generals, because they usually have multiple children, they have wives. And they can either benefit from the bribes. They live in bigger houses and the children have bigger careers. But it also goes the other way. If if you lose Hitler’s trust, this could have disastrous consequences.

So, again, it’s just it’s this limiting of decision power, limiting of influence. And everything at some point ran through Bormann Keitel and Lammers, Keitel always did what Hitler told him. He was the one who would just trash other generals and agree with Hitler over and over and over again to the very end.

Nyquist: And he’s also a character that needs to be looked at more closely in hindsight because he was hanged at Nuremberg.

Benesch: Yeah, we need to look further into this guy and his connections because people talk about the assassination attempts against Hitler and how they failed and so on and so forth. But there was always, always, always the option killing Hitler. Bormann basically was responsible for Hitler’s surroundings. So the service personnel, the personal assistants, the places Hitler lived and there was always a way to poison Hitler, there was always a way to kill Hitler even subtly. You know, if you poison Hitler just a bit, he would be unable to continue his work, so he would have to hand over command to somebody else.

Nyquist: So think about it. Bormann was Stalin’s agent. If Stalin had wanted to kill Hitler there he had Bormann as an agent. He could have done it.

Benesch: Exactly. I have this, this book over there. I recently reread it. It’s from a German guy. He was, I think in the  Defense Ministry during the Cold War.

And he wrote this book under a pseudonym about energy weapons related to the Havana syndrome, the Russian energy weapons. The Moscow signal. And so he was writing this in the in the mid eighties. And he was interested in the Nazis. And he suspected things for various reasons.

He suspected then that some form of radiation was used against Hitler. And of course, suspects like Bormann and others, were responsible for the buildings that Hitler lived in. They could hide stuff in the walls, they could hide microphones, they could hide maybe something that emits radiation, they could do whatever they wanted.

And also this is something that that people misunderstand, I think, to this very day when we talk about Hitler’s doctors. Right. Because they had to give him amphetamines, they had to give him all kinds of stuff. Because Hitler had such ADHD, he couldn’t focus really before the war as much. But when he was on these amphetamines, something that you would give to a person today with ADHD, Hitler was able to work all these hours.

And so people looked at the official documents that survived of Hitler’s doctors and they were not noticing anything too unusual. But all these people said that there was no clear record keeping of any of this.

Nyquist: Well, Dr. Morrell gave him his syphilis treatment, his little pills, there was something wrong with him, wasn’t there?

Benesch: Yeah, sure. I mean, it was it wasn’t just him. It was another major doctor as well that Speer was describing. And these historians, when they looked at it later, they expected Hitler’s fluctuating health. They expected it to correspond to how the war went. So they imagined if the war was going well, they expected Hitler to be more healthy.

And when the war was not going well, they expected Hitler to be miserable. But it was exactly the opposite. Whenever something went well, Hitler was feeling terrible, like he was about to die. You know, his his digestive system.

This German author’s pseudonym was Paul Chartess, but he wasn’t the only one. Some people suspected that some agents, some assets were manipulating Hitler’s health to influence his decisions because we know Hitler was an occultist. Hitler was having all these weird ideas that these forces were talking to him and giving him inspiration.

And probably somebody had the opportunity at least to influence Hitler that way. So when Hitler was making a certain decision, he would immediately feel better. So he may have believed that fate was on his side again because he made that particular decision. So Hitler could have been killed many, many times over. And if the British had actually given a public statement about not intervening in Germany, if a civil war breaks out within Germany, things could have gone very much in a different way.

Nyquist: And in fact, Stalin even in the midst of the war, he had a lot riding on Hitler. Hitler was his guy. He was the ideal enemy for Stalin because there was Bormann right at Hitler’s elbow, manipulating everything so that Stalin could not only win the war, but he could get to Berlin, could get to the heart of Europe and get the lion’s share of the spoils.

Benesch: I suspect the Russians were able to recruit Martin Bormann through some aristocratic intermediaries. So you have these aristocrats who are Russian Soviet agents and these middlemen probably recruited Martin Bormann early on because Bormann was a young soldier in World War One. He was almost too young at all to to join the war.

He didn’t see any fighting believe because of his age. And then he got hooked into the aristocracy in Mecklenburg because those were his commanding officers. And then he rose up in early Nazi system. He joined early. He was in a Freikorps battle group. This was sort of an irregular, extreme right wing group that was fighting communists that wanted to have their mini republics.

And so he was rising up in the Nazi system so fast.

Nyquist: And he was the deputy of Rudolf Hess.

Benesch: And people in public oftentimes didn’t even know him at all or they didn’t know a whole lot about him. They always expected Hitler to make all these decisions, but they didn’t know much about Bormann. So I think some of this Mecklenburg aristocracy was recruited by Soviet intelligence and they were able to recruit people like Bormann because that’s the pipeline you would use.

I mean from the Russian perspective, that’s the perfect way of recruiting people because the middleman, they look perfectly German, they come from old families, they look perfectly German. So a guy like Bormann would trust them. And that became sort of sort of a massive, massive problem and so Keitel, who was heading the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht, came from a very simple background and he was marrying into a family that owned sort of a larger property in Hannover and Hannover of course was the origin of the modern British kings.

And Keitel was always agreeing with Hitler and Keitel was working on these other generals as well. So I think we should look into Keitel, we should look into Hannover, because if Soviet agents or Russian agents got into these places, Mecklenburg Hanover, that’s of course a disaster of historic proportions, because the Nazis understood counterintelligence as killing Jews. So they believed Jews had this magical ability for subversion and wrecking empires, so they thought killing Jews equals counterintelligence, they thought they’ve done a really spectacular job. If Soviet agents got into Hannover and Mecklenburg and Schleswig-Holstein, you’re screwed.

Nyquist: I should mention Hitler’s Posen speech, which they have the original copy of the tape-recording of it, which I think is the only recording of a Nazi official admitting the Holocaust. And it’s at the Holocaust Museum in Washington. If people want to go there.

But you can listen to it online. I believe that there’s a version of it you can listen to on. But it was a speech, I think it was given in September of 1944. And this is what Hitler says in the speech. He basically says the same thing you just said, that if they had not rounded up the Jews, the Jews would have done the same thing to Nazi Germany as before, stab them in the back in World War One.

Benesch: This conspiracy idea about Jewish intelligence circles, the elders of Zion. That these Jews had taken over Britain and had taken control away from the old rulers. Even before the Nazis were around, this was kind of the prevailing idea. This is also what you saw in modern conspiracy literature, apparently Jews have these magical, subversive abilities. They can almost perform miracles. And so you cannot just deport them. You cannot just round them up and put them in these ghettos. You have to physically eliminate them to provide this level of counterintelligence. But even the intelligence head Canaris said our armies, they will bleed to death on the icy plains of Russia. And in two years there would be nothing left.

Nyquist: Canaris was always working to try to bring an early end of the war, he was working against Hitler.

Benesch: He covered his own ass. He assembled a report before Operation Barbarossa, where he estimated the Russian capabilities and the problems of the Germans, because if if this all went wrong, he didn’t want to be held responsible, he could point to his earlier report that was on record and say, I told you so.

Nyquist: Canaris was very smart. He was one of the most brilliant. In fact, the Soviets were more afraid of him. Soviet intelligence was more afraid of him than any other leader of intelligence in the world. Why? Because they knew that he wanted Germany to make peace with the allies and wanted to not be defeated by the Soviet Union.

And if he brought an early end of the war, then the Soviet armies wouldn’t make it to Berlin and Vienna.

Benesch: There was this one episode in 1943. That was a very important year in the war. This is when things started to shift tremendously. So in 43, Canaris had a secret meeting in Istanbul. He was meeting the American diplomat, George Earl, who was a friend of U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt. And so he was making all these kinds of suggestions. Hitler was supposed to be killed or retired. And these remaining leaders in Germany, they intended to make peace and end the war.

And so Earl was typing up this report about that secret meeting and sent the report to the White House. But there was no answer. So what do you think about Roosevelt’s role in this?

Nyquist: Well, Roosevelt had the same problem as Hitler which is his health was bad, and the man that was around him all the time, Harry Hopkins, I believe I think it’s credible that Harry Hopkins was a Soviet agent.

And Diana West makes case in her book American Betrayal. And there was a researcher named Marks who did a study of the “agent 19” We had the decrypts, I think a captured Finnish codebook was given to us and we were able to decipher the Soviet encryption from their embassy in Washington.

And so we were able to read their intelligence cables. The stuff we’d collected that we hadn’t all decoded. But in 1943, it was determined that there were thousands of people working for the White House, but it was determined there were 324 Soviet agents in the Roosevelt White House.

And one of them was Agent 19. Where could this information have come from? And some of it was from an allied meeting in Canada that Roosevelt attended, but the only person that could have leaked that information was Harry Hopkins, right at Roosevelt’s elbow.

So Marks determined Hopkins had to be agent 19. Marks died, unfortunately, of a heart attack. I think it was a heart attack or a stroke suddenly. But there were people who claimed that just before his death he recanted this, which is completely false. He never did recant it.

Diana West has kind of shown this along with some important events. A coauthor of the book Silent Secret Agents, was backlisted by history. But what’s fascinating is, is that Harry Hopkins, the press described him as a co-president with Roosevelt, which was extremely important to Stalin.

Hopkins was the first American representative of Roosevelt to go and meet with Stalin and make all these promises to him, meet with Churchill, develop the Lend-Lease. Hopkins was this ultimate troubleshooter with the prestige of speaking for the president. And of course, Hopkins was caught by Hoover helping the Soviets, with espionage. It was 1943, I believe was the year the FBI had discovered the Soviets had penetrated part of the Manhattan Project, which was the project to make the American atomic bomb.

Part of it was running out of UC Berkeley. And they had detected there were Soviet agents that were in Berkeley and that they they were onto them. And Hoover of the FBI had called Roosevelt at the White House, but he got Harry Hopkins on the phone because Harry lived at the White House.

And he said, look, the president is not feeling well. He can’t come to the phone. So Hoover said, look, tell the president we found these Soviet agents infiltrating UC Berkeley. The Manhattan Project is very important. He needs to know. So what did Hopkins do? He goes to the Soviet embassy and tells them that the FBI has found out about them.

And of course, he’s confronted. Hoover is furious. There’s a letter from Hoover, you know, basically calling him out, calling Harry Hopkins out on the carpet about this and saying that, you know, he went to the Soviet embassy with this. This is a breach. And Roosevelt defends Hopkins because Hopkins said, look, the Soviets are our allies.

They need to know that they made this mistake.  

Benesch: So this was the situation: The front line was 3000 kilometers long. What’s that in miles? That’s like 2000.

Nyquist: Front line running from Leningrad on the Gulf of Finland, all the way down to the to the Sea of Azov and South which is the Black Sea.

Benesch: These supply lines became also increasingly large. And even when Barbarossa started, the railway system was not good enough. They couldn’t even process all these trains.

Nyquist: The Russians ran a different gauge of railroad. So the Germans had to literally replace all the rail tracks with the narrower European gauge tracks.

Benesch: So then of course, the infamous situation with Stalingrad. That became a disaster. The sixth German army was almost enclosed with 220,000 men, 100 tanks, 1800 large guns, 10,000 other vehicles. Hitler wanted them to continue fighting and almost the entire battle group was about to be encircled.

Nyquist: We should explain how Hitler did this disaster, how he made love to this disaster, because he had been right the previous winter and holding the line, he ended up being able to make the whole plan for 1942. And Hitler thought he wanted the oil in Baku and Caspian. And so he had this idea of creating another army group, Army Group A which was had a lot of panzers in it.

It was going to go all the way across that desert north of the Caucasus. Just open prairie, basically go across that and invade the Caucasus and get all the way to Baku and get that oil to the Third Reich? That was crazy. They called it a safari. They made the joke and at the same time, Army Group South sixth Army leading the way was going to go to Stalingrad, which was just on the West Bank of the Volga River, and secure that as the main hub, rail hub, you know, for controlling that part of Russia. To use the Don River close to the Volga near Stalingrad, but then it veers to the northwest to make a line there to protect the flank of this whole thing. So this was the plan they were going to have with this tremendous advance. They were going to take this oil. It was crazy.

Halder or Brauchitsch, any of the old generals would have looked at this and said, this is insane because you are stretching the German line to go way, way south for that oil with a whole Army group. Instead of fighting the Russians and destroying Russian armies all summer, it is doing nothing but marching all summer, doing nothing, because the Russians just basically had light defenses in the south, in the Caucasus, and they just basically withdrew.

And then Stalingrad, an urban area. You’re actually having Romanian armies, two Romanian armies protecting the flank of this huge concentration of sixth army on Stalingrad. And you’ve got your most powerful army group doing nothing. Marching, marching, marching. So this is a recipe for the defeat of the German army.

And in late 1942. Yeah, the sixth army capitulated. Was it February 3rd or fourth, 1943?

Benesch: I don’t remember that date. It’s just the nightmarish urban warfare that took place. And I would suggest people grab a good book about this level of urban warfare, because many militaries nowadays, they expect urban warfare to become a much bigger factor.

Ultimately, it was a situation where tunnels were dug. You know, people were punching holes into walls and they were creating this rat’s nest. They called it a rat war. And people were using flamethrowers to clear these tunnels and to move into the next building or to move into the next room using flamethrowers.

It was just a miserable, super miserable type of warfare. And the average soldier, of course, didn’t last that long. Some these tanks, they couldn’t fire that that high up to to catch all of the people that are in the building or on top of a building. So it was it was just problems with the equipment all around.

And just the amount of ammo that was used was also draining German supplies. And at some point, of course, the German main territory was bombed by the allies. So they constantly had to shift production around. And some of these facilities that were hit there were processing ball bearings.

So without ball bearings, you have no war, no war making capacity. This became a nightmare at home. And just to supply these troops now constantly in Russia, the supplies were never enough to conduct a proper operation because the generals would always estimate what was needed, but only a fraction of that could be provided because of these long supply lines and the problems associated with that.

Then, of course, there was the humungous battle of Kursk. Of course, this was when 2 million soldiers battled each other. There used to be a time when an entire force was just, you know, a million each.

Nyquist: We should mention the other disaster that happened in 43, which was really the equal to Stalingrad. And people don’t talk about it much. It’s when the Germans lost their army in which was always a strange thing. Rommel had lost the Battle of El Alamein and had a 2000 mile retreat back from from Egypt. He had to retreat all the way back to Tunisia, where in Operation Torch In November 1942, the Americans and the British invaded French North West Africa. They landed at Algiers and in Morocco. And the Germans at the same time came straight into Tunisia, which was close to Italy, close to Sicily.

And when Rommel retreated from Egypt through Libya, they gave up Libya, which was the Italian colony in Africa. After Graziano’s army was destroyed, they they created this huge army in Tunisia. And of course, the battle of Kasserine Pass was Rommel’s last famous battle where the American Second Corps was defeated by Rommel decisively.

But then Rommel left Tunisia. They had loaded it up with all these troops. They had a whole Panzer army now down in Tunisia. But the allies had such air and naval superiority. The Germans couldn’t keep it supplied.

So in February you have the sixth Army defeat. The biggest in the German armed forces. And then you have the Tunisian army with the Italians and everything that’s lost, the amount of people they could evacuate was just a fraction of what they had. So maybe you could comment on that. A double disaster in the first half of 1943.

Benesch: Well, people have wondered why not much effort or why such a limited effort was made in the Mediterranean, the entire Mediterranean area, because the British had their strongholds there. And also the supply situation became an issue because of these Bletchley Park ultra intercepts decoding the enigma. So these ships supplying fuel for those tanks were sunk.

Nyquist: These ships were sunk quite often. And so you had an island between Italy and the main land and in Libya was Tripoli. They could use planes and ships to intercept the Italian convoys. And this devastated Rommel’s supply line.

Benesch: Also, this there’s another element to this.

People sort of remember that after World War Two, there was a very strong, very large communist movement in Italy. It was already there, of course, during the war, before the war. And so especially during the Cold War, the Italian Communist Party was, I think, one of the biggest communist parties. It was the biggest Communist party in in the West. Of course, these communists then tried to gain political power because they had been involved in certain operations. But I think not enough research has been done on the role of The Communists in Italy, because Rommel was relying on Italy to a large degree. And some of these Italians had a connection to Britain.

And also the Italian officer corps and the royal family had British sympathies. So this  entire Mediterranean region was a mess for the Germans and in this whole effort, the goal was always to cut off the British.

Nyquist: And at some point, the British even anticipated they might have to leave some of these areas that they were involved in for so long. But ultimately, this this came to nothing and Rommel had to make this crazy retreat going through Italy, through the Alps. And this is even when it the power changed the leadership change in Italy and Italy flipped ultimately.

In July 1943, the U.S. and Britain invaded Sicily. The eighth Army and the U.S. seventh Army landed and it was the US seventh Army that was led by Patton, of course, and the eighth Army by Montgomery. After the German surrender in Tunisia, Sicily was logically next and Hitler had enough knowledge of what was going on in Italy.

He knew that if the island of Sicily fell, Mussolini’s rule over Italy was imperiled. And of course, that’s what exactly happened. The fascist council itself deposed Mussolini after the defeat in Sicily. They basically started to negotiate, to surrender. And to flip sides.

And Hitler had an operation, you may remember the name of the operation to have enough German units positioned in Italy.

Benesch: American intelligence had connections to some of these crime families in Sicily because they had all the ports. They knew the ports, they knew the territory, they had some sort of control. But during the Cold War, they also seem to have Russian connections and the Russians were able to control organized crime.

Nyquist: Yeah, they went out to control it in the 1950s. They studied it and said organized crime is a key to political intelligence in the West. So they decided to infiltrate the mafias to where now the Italian Parliamentary committee of inquiry into the mafia looked at this. This is in David Remnick’s Pulitzer Prize winning book, Lenin’s Tomb. Russia was now the capital of international organized crime, coordinating the three major Italian mafias.

Benesch: So at that time, in World War Two, the Mafia was helping America, especially with Sicily. Later they increased their activities in the United States. And of course if there’s a Soviet connection to that, that means now you not just have Italian organized crime in the United States, but you also have, you know, Russian infiltration in the United States.

And of course, this goes into the FBI’s history. Hoover’s attempts to deal with this this whole situation with the mafia. When everything was going downhill for the Germans, Hitler was demanding that Prince Phillip of Hessen come to the headquarters together with his Princess, who was the daughter of the Italian king.

She had sent encrypted communications to Italy. And the king had Mussolini arrested. And so Hitler was sending both of them or he had the intention of sending both of them to a concentration camp. So this is sort of the late stage of that game. When he was becoming aware that he was surrounded by enemies, traitors, or just people who wanted a different outcome.

There were people who wanted to make peace with the Russians, keep some of the territorial gains and just find some sort of a deal before the Americans land again.

Nyquist: You know, before the Normandy D-Day invasion operation, the American first landing on the continent of Europe was, of course, Salerno, which happened after Montgomery’s eighth army had crossed at Messina, the straits from Sicily on to Italy.

He was slowly coming up there. But the British and Americans launched an amphibious invasion of Salerno and it was a very touch and go battle. The Germans almost won that battle because of certain mistakes that the Allies made. But they were learning and it was their second major amphibious operation in the European theater, the Mediterranean, actually.

So we’re getting into 1943 where Germany’s on the defensive. And you mentioned the Battle of Kursk, which of course happened in July of 1943. And we should maybe discuss Prokhorov. And what John Mosher says happened there, which is interesting, because I think the Russians have mischaracterized the battle of Kursk.

They’ve tried to make it sound like a victory when they were really had their face smashed in. They really suffered a horrible setback there. But because of what happened in Italy, Hitler had to withdraw all his best super divisions, SS Panzers and others to go to Italy because it you can’t just hop on a train and go. It’s really an ordeal.

Move a panzer division all the way from the Russian front to Italy. And so they knew they needed armies and they needed really good troops in Italy to face the British and Americans because the British and Americans were qualitatively better troops than the Soviet troops. And so he needed these divisions. So maybe we should start with that next week.

Benesch: And we haven’t talked about China yet because China was a hot zone at the time. Yeah. And yeah, we might need do another show about the Pacific and how the Communist got control of China after the war in the wake of the way the Pacific War was managed. The role of Lord Lord Louis Mountbatten who was a supreme allied commander, in the Asian theater. And he was involved in bungling China. We know now about Mountbatten’s Soviet contacts and we know about his Soviet leanings and the ideas that he had. And he was the guy who presented his candidate, Baron Hastings Ismay, as the first Secretary General of NATO. And now we are left with an organization that has had its own infiltration problem.

Now, the Russians, they always tell you that NATO is a Nazi like behemoth, but it’s very far from that.

Related posts

Real Anticommunism and the 3rd World War


The biggest secret of the communist Chinese revolution

Alexander Benesch

Friends & Enemies (04/28/24) Vietnam War


Leave a Comment