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Ostkrieg: Hitler's War of Extermination in the East

Stephen G. Fritz
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 688
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    On June 22, 1941, Germany launched the greatest land assault in history on the Soviet Union, an attack that Adolf Hitler deemed crucial to ensure German economic and political survival. As the key theater of the war for the Germans, the eastern front consumed enormous levels of resources and accounted for 75 percent of all German casualties. Despite the significance of this campaign to Germany and to the war as a whole, few English-language publications of the last thirty-five years have addressed these pivotal events.

    In Ostkrieg: Hitler's War of Extermination in the East, Stephen G. Fritz bridges the gap in scholarship by incorporating historical research from the last several decades into an accessible, comprehensive, and coherent narrative. His analysis of the Russo-German War from a German perspective covers all aspects of the eastern front, demonstrating the interrelation of military events, economic policy, resource exploitation, and racial policy that first motivated the invasion. This in-depth account challenges accepted notions about World War II and promotes greater understanding of a topic that has been neglected by historians.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-3417-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Maps
    (pp. vii-xiv)
  4. Abbreviations and Foreign Terms
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xix-xxiv)
  6. 1 Dilemma
    (pp. 1-30)

    A small railway car stands in a clearing in the woods. Representatives of the defeated nation arrive after an arduous journey, dazed, weary, in despair and humiliation. They wait despondently for the armistice terms to be read to them by the victors, terms that will reduce their oncemighty nation to a position akin to vassalage. It is a somber scene, made more shocking by the seeming incomprehensibility of the military collapse that preceded it. A familiar image, but it is not November 1918, and the victors are not the French; it is, instead, a warm summer day, 21 June 1940,...

  7. 2 Decision
    (pp. 31-76)

    At 3:00 P.M. on 6 July 1940, under a glittering early summer sun, an unadorned train pulled slowly into the Anhalter Bahnhof in Berlin amid scenes of jubilation and pure joy unequaled in German history. People had been gathering in the flower-strewn streets of the capital since early morning, many waiting over six hours for a chance to glimpse the Führer. “An unimaginable excitement filled the city,” exulted Joseph Goebbels in his diary, overcome by the festive mood of the “sea of humanity” that thronged the avenues. After a short discussion with Goering, who feared a British air attack on...

  8. 3 Onslaught
    (pp. 77-134)

    The night of 21–22 June, Goebbels noted in his diary, was oppressively hot and humid, and he worried, with no hint of irony, that “our troops will not have it easy in battle.” At the front, it was not the heat but rather the nervous anticipation that burdened many—most—of the men. Those in the first wave studied maps, surveyed the terrain in front of them, prepared their weapons, reviewed their tasks, and looked anxiously for any sign of enemy activity. Some expected quick victory; a few pondered the example of Napoléon; most were unenthusiastic but determined to...

  9. 4 Whirlwind
    (pp. 135-198)

    As the turbulent events on the eastern front and at Führer Headquarters unfolded, domestically the summer of 1941 proved difficult as well. Always sensitive to the popular mood, and with memories of 1918 constantly at the forefront, Nazi officials anxiously studied the weekly SD reports on the state of public opinion. Although the outbreak of war in September 1939 had been accepted unenthusiastically, the brilliant military triumphs in Poland and France had led to unprecedented popularity for Hitler. These victories, however, had not resulted in an end to the war. Instead, the German people faced first the uncertainty of a...

  10. 5 Reckoning
    (pp. 199-240)

    When the Soviet counteroffensive came on the night of 5–6 December, it could not have been better timed. German troops, having passed the culmination point, were overextended, mentally and physically exhausted, without supplies or winter equipment, and with dangerously vulnerable supply lines. No preparations for the defense had been made, nor could any positions now be built, for both manpower and construction materials were lacking. The Wehrmacht had thrown the last available men into the attack, struggling on largely out of fear of the alternative. As Bock stressed in a telephone call to Jodl on 3 December, “If the...

  11. Photographs
    (pp. None)
  12. 6 All or Nothing
    (pp. 241-302)

    If in early 1942, as opposed to the previous spring, Hitler and the German military leadership had the comfort of operational clarity, they also faced a number of vexing problems, an unwelcome reminder of the winter’s desperate fighting, that had to be resolved before Operation Blue could commence. Foremost among them was control of the Crimea, important both as a springboard to the Caucasus and, if left in Soviet hands, as a persistent threat to the vital Rumanian oil fields. The Soviet Black Sea Fleet’s naval air arm had already bombed the oil production facilities and refineries on numerous occasions,...

  13. 7 Total War
    (pp. 303-358)

    Despite repeated Soviet efforts in 1942 to relieve Leningrad and eliminate the German salient at Rzhev, the northern and central sectors of the front had remained stable, so German victories in the south had produced a huge bulge, which seemed to invite an enemy counterattack in the direction of Rostov. When it came at dawn on 19 November, it was as if the whole weight of the front came pushing down on the weak Don sector, threatening to cave in the entire overextended edifice. As some in the German command had feared and Hitler had predicted, the Soviets aimed not...

  14. 8 Scorched Earth
    (pp. 359-404)

    All through July and August, the continual hammer blows by the numerically superior enemy had put the German army on the defensive and threatened a breakthrough along the entire front. By late September, it had become clear that the hopes of the spring had been dashed: the great offensive had been shattered; the U-boats proved unable to block the flow of American troops and materiel to Europe; the resource discrepancy between the warring sides continued to grow; the defection of its alliance partners left Germany isolated; and both troop and civilian morale had plummeted. Faced with such realities, the German...

  15. 9 Disintegration
    (pp. 405-438)

    The end of the prolonged fighting into the spring of 1944 had left the eastern front dangerously skewed from the German perspective. South of the Pripet Marshes, Soviet advances in Ukraine had pushed a huge bulge far to the west, only 150 miles from Warsaw. North of the great swamp, however, Army Group Center’s success at holding off the Red Army in the winter fighting meant that German troops not only occupied most of Belorussia but also still held a bridgehead east of the Dnieper. The front line now ran roughly where it was in mid-July 1941, at the end...

  16. 10 Death Throes
    (pp. 439-472)

    By January 1945, the point had long been passed where a continuation of the war made any sense since Hitler had no hope of achieving Lebensraum or the envisioned racial reordering of Eastern Europe. Certainly, the unconditional surrender doctrine of the Western allies as well as fear of Soviet revenge played a role in stiffening both the regime and the population, weary as most were of the war. Hitler, however, had an additional reason. For him, as for many of his generation, the collapse of imperial Germany in November 1918 had been a searing trauma. Indeed, the burning desire to...

  17. Conclusion
    (pp. 473-488)

    Its impressive blitzkrieg triumphs over Poland and France obscured the reality that, when the war began in September 1939, Germany had no clear economic, military, or technical superiority over its Western adversaries. The furious rearmament effort of the 1930s had simply allowed the Germans to make up the vast gulf produced by the Treaty of Versailles and the Great Depression of the early 1930s. Further, the war that did result was, from the perspective expressed inMein Kampf, the wrong war. Hitler had originally intended an Anglo-German alliance to confront the Judeo-Bolshevik threat but in 1939 reversed himself and allied...

  18. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 489-490)
  19. Appendix: Supplementary Data
    (pp. 491-498)
  20. Notes
    (pp. 499-554)
  21. Bibliography
    (pp. 555-608)
  22. Index
    (pp. 609-640)