Why did the Wehrmacht Soldier keep fighting til 1945? #wehrmacht #ww2


Now an interesting question is: why did the average
Wehrmacht soldier fight till the very end of 1945? Why didn’t they just give up for
instance in 1944, as the Allies assumed? Especially considering that in 1944 or
1945, two thirds of all losses occurred. So, and there were points before when, since
winter 1941-1942 the Red Army counter-offensive, or Stalingrad in winter 1942-1943, or especially
summer 1944 the invasion in Normandy and the destruction of Army Group Centre on the Eastern
Front, that basically showed the war was lost. Or was likely to be lost, I mean 1941-1942
one could say, “OK, we can deal with this”, but later on it gets more and more. So, now I read up a bit on this,
and one author noted four factors. In order: political indoctrination, the military
justice system, training, and comradeship (or brotherhood in arms, whatever you
want to call it, I think you know what I mean). So now the first one, let’s
look at political indoctrination. Of course everyone thinks about Nazi
and Nazi propaganda, but actually from
what I read, this had a limited effect. For instance, the lectures on political
information, the soldiers were basically, “Yah, what should we do with this?”
They couldn’t really relate to this. And also, political officers were only
introduced in late war, and also to a
very limited … numbers and capacities. So not too much happened here. Of course,
if we look at the broader indoctrination, or society values (which would also be similar
to Germany, let’s say in World War One to a
certain degree, or even nowadays) there was of course the whole experience
they faced. If you look at World War One, the German army was defeated and fought four
years on the Western Front and bled itself dry, against France, which was basically
the arch-enemy at this point. And in summer 1940, it just took 6 weeks to
conquer France and defeat it completely. And also conquer Belgium,
Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands. So, to a certain degree this all gave everything
a bit more of another understanding, or feeling, how they would approach this.
So this of course then combined with the Nazi propaganda gave everything a
different spin, or more … substance to it. … And this also got in hand with the Hitler myth. Now what is very interesting is usually that
people distinguished between Hitler and the party. So everything bad was usually blamed on the
party, and the good thing was attached to Hitler. Which has several reasons,
… well, he was the guy at the top, and during peacetime he had quite many successes.
And also some successes which were not caused by him. For instance, the economy revived due to various other
reasons, not just because the Nazis came into power. But, well, from the outside, and
usually it’s attributed to one person. And also people projected their hopes on Hitler
to a certain degree as well. So it’s easier to see one person as the guy bringing the salvation,
than let’s say some abstract like the party. And for instance, there were soldiers,
there were questions and they said, “Well, if it would have [been] clearly lost,
Hitler would have stopped it by now. There must be something.
He must still have a plan or … back then he also managed to do this with
the Sudeten crisis and some other issues, he fixed that, he probably will do it again”. And, of course, hope is sometimes
the last thing you have left. So, now the next point is the military justice system. There is a clear distinction between
World War Two and World War One. … The justice system was restructured, because
to a certain degree the Dolchstosslegende, which was the legend and myth that the German
army was undefeated in World War One, and just that the population and
everything else stabbed them in the back. But … about more this in another video. And they had more stricter laws, higher punishments,
and the time of the trials were shortened. And it was also way more [executions]. For
instance, around 150 … soldiers were tried and found guilty in World War One
which would have led to the execution, but only around 50 of them
were executed in the end. Whereas in World War Two … till the end
of 1944, more than 9,700 were executed. Until the end of the war it’s estimated 15,000 to 20,000.
We only have the certain number till December 1944. As you can see, the number is a staggering
difference. This, of course, was less of a motivation, but more of a negative motivation,
just keep the soldiers in line. Another fact is of course, training. Now training … from civilian to
soldier provides many aspects. And probably one of the most important is not how
to deal with weapons, but how to deal with stress. How to deal with really hard,
exhausting, desperate situations. I experienced boot camp myself, and
I saw quite a lot of very exhausted people and I was exhausted myself in many
ways, for instance on the mental side (and also on the physical side). And
what you learn in boot camp is basically you can still carry on, and you
sometimes you can still do more than you did before you were
in your best shape ever. So … you realise that your mind is sometimes
playing tricks on you, that it tells you, you can’t do this. Whereas, … you’re just at
10% or 20% of your capacity. So you could say basically in boot
camp you learn what you can do, and also develop a certain amount
of grit, and stoic-ness, one could say. And, originally, the Wehrmacht had conscription
in 1935, and it was for one year, and then it was extended to two years of training.
Of course, once the war started training was cut short, but it was still quite substantial. And
you just need a few weeks for boot camp, to experience this, and provide
this certain change in mind. And another aspect is the training usually was
done in the same unit, and … with the same people, then the units were sent to the front.
Which brings us to the fourth point, to the comradeship or brotherhood,
whatever you want to call it (Kameradschaft, Kampfgemeinschaft,
the community of combat). And this was, or many people consider
this as one of the most important aspects. For instance, there was one soldier who lost his
wife and three children on a ship that was sunk, and he said, “Well, I can’t let my
comrades down, I need to go on”. So it’s about not letting the
people you fight with down. And Sebastian Junger, who is a US war correspondent
nowadays, and … he did a talk basically on TED, … why soldiers miss war.
And he noticed, or his observation (not sure if it’s backed up by
science, as far as I know, not), is that the bond that developed, the trust because
you need to rely on each other in the field, is way stronger than everything you
can experience in civilian life usually. So this is the reason why so many
soldiers usually go back into combat. This is his assumption, I think there are other
factors as well there, but this is one of the main … examples, and it also fits in with
the four factors … of this author. Of course, there’s a caveat to this. This requires that a certain amount of time is
there to integrate new replacements into a unit. Or that the loss ratio is not too high, because
else the comradeship can’t really develop. This is to a certain degree also I think brought
up in “Band of Brothers” with the replacements, they have quite a problem with them. And usually
there’s some truth to this, I mean of course I know it’s to a certain degree based on facts,
but you can see it everywhere in this regard. So the comradeship is brought up quite often in
many cases. And I think it was quite important why on a smaller scale the average soldier
didn’t lose fighting spirit or carried on. Now some additional points. First off, the fighting spirit of the Wehrmacht
changed over the course of the war. It went up, and it went down again,
but then it went up again. For instance after Stalingrad, [??] regarded
it was rather low, but then it recovered. And there was again more fierceness in the interviewed
POWs, for instance, or in … their letters back home. And one very interesting aspect I discovered
was that an interrogation report, or I think it was a general report about many
soldiers, from 1943 from the Western Allies, they noted that the German units were really combat
effective and really fierce and tenacious fighters. But they realised that their motivations, their individual
motivations, were basically absolutely catastrophic. Because they didn’t care about the war any more, they
didn’t care about the war, they didn’t care about politics, they just said, “Ok, let’s let it be”. And it was noted
that they took a special pride in just doing their job, even though the war in their minds was lost,
or they didn’t care at all about it anymore. So this was rather interesting to
read, that they liked these historic people who just want to do their job,
or just want to do their duty … And then there’s of course the other factor,
the fear of what will happen after the war. There are two components to this.
First off, the Treaty of Versailles was still in the mind of most people. So Germany
was humiliated and lost a lot of territory, the army was downsized and everything. And what would happen now?
Because the war was clearly more intense, and way stronger, and German cities
were bombed and everything else. What would happen? And especially
the Soviet Union was feared extremely. There was this proverb, “Sieg
oder Sibirien”, “Victory or Siberia”. And we know from the Eastern Front that
the likelihood of Germans surrendering
was way lower than on the Western Front. Because they knew they would face
dire consequences if they surrender there. And there was another aspect of course, that a
large part of the soldiers knew to a certain degree, sometimes in vague terms, sometimes in details,
about the atrocities, war crimes and the Holocaust. So they also knew, OK, what would happen? Because there were certain crimes committed
… in our area we occupied, or something else. So there was also this other proverb,
“Enjoy the war, because the peace will be even worse”. And this was all there, there was quite many
factors. As you can see also this fear … Because I don’t know it, the one
author didn’t notice this factor. But in short, one can say there is no easy
answer, because it’s a quite complex problem. And probably each soldier had individual motives,
and they probably to a certain degree get mixed up, especially if you later on look at their officers.
And there’s a clear distinction between people that had a family and people that
didn’t have a family, in the motivations. So I hope this give you some insights.
As always, sources are in the description. And if you want to know why the Nationalist Chinese
armies had Panzerkampfwagen, check out this video. Or if you want to have a more complicated view on
Erwin Rommel, or the Desert Fox, check out this video. Thank you for watching,
and see you next time.

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