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1914 Walter Rathenau of AEG Takes Charge of German War Production

On August 9, 1914, barely one week after the outbreak of the First World War, German Minister of War Erich von Falkenhayn puts Walter Rathenau of the large electronics firm Allgemeine-Elektrizitats-Gellellschaft (AEG) in charge of organizing all the raw materials for Germany’s war production.

The issue of how to effectively collect and utilize raw materials for the production of munitions and other war supplies was especially important for Germany, who was prevented from importing anything by the Allied naval blockade in the North Sea, in place from the beginning of the war. Rathenau, the son of AEG’s founder, had approached the German War Department proposing to “save Germany from strangulation” with an idea of centralizing the management of the war production process under a single organization, a raw materials agency. In Rathenau’s vision, the agency would take inventory of the raw materials available—not only in Germany but in all German-occupied territories, such as Belgium—and allocate them to the firms that could use them best. Each commodity used in war production would have its own raw materials company, with a board of directors drawn from the firms that used the given commodity.

In this way, Rathenau convinced Falkenhayn, he would combine the best aspects of the capitalist free-market system would be united with the principles of collective management to enable a smooth, optimally effective war production process. Falkenhayn was convinced, and made Rathenau the head of what became the KRA, the German war production organization. Appointing Rathenau—who was Jewish—to head war production was an extraordinary step for a Prussian military officer to take at the time.

In the end, however, Rathenau served in the new post only briefly, as many of the businesses the KRA administered bristled under an organization directed by a Jew. In April 1915, Rathenau was forced to resign; he subsequently returned to his post at AEG, becoming chairman of the company upon his father’s death in June 1915. Rathenau remained active in politics, and worked to support the creation of the Third Supreme Command, an effective military dictatorship under Paul von Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorff, in August 1916. He opposed some of the Command’s decisions, however, including the resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare in 1917 and Ludendorff’s desire to annex territory on the Eastern Front. After the war, Rathenau joined the Democratic Party; he served as minister for reconstruction from 1919 to 1921 and became foreign minister in 1922. In June of that year, shortly after signing the controversial Treaty of Rapallo with the Soviet Union—which reestablished diplomatic relations between the two countries—Rathenau was murdered in Berlin by right-wing anti-Semitic extremists.

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Barbarossa Unleashed. The German Blitzkrieg through Central Russia to the Gates of Moscow, June-December 1941

This book examines in unprecedented detail the advance of Germany’s Army Group Center through central Russia, toward Moscow, in the summer of 1941, followed by brief accounts of the Battle of Moscow and subsequent winter battles into early 1942. Based on hundreds of veterans accounts, archival documents, and exhaustive study of the pertinent primary and secondary literature, the book offers new insights into Operation Barbarossa, Adolf Hitler s attack on Soviet Russia in June 1941. While the book meticulously explores the experiences of the German soldier in Russia, in the cauldron battles along the Minsk-Smolensk-Moscow axis, it places their experiences squarely within the strategic and operational context of the Barbarossa campaign. Controversial subjects, such as the culpability of the German eastern armies in war crimes against the Russian people, are also examined in detail. This book is the most detailed account to date of virtually all aspects of the German soldiers experiences in Russia in 1941. Writes eastern front historian David Stahel in his review of the book: “The combination of ‘top down’ and ‘bottom up’ approaches makes Luther’s work a landmark study of Operation Barbarossa.” (War in History)

Based on great reviews, we recommend this book. You can find the book at these places for sale: 

  1. barbarossa1941.com
  2. schifferbooks.com
  3. amazon.com
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Germans Debate Return of Military Conscription and Service for Men and Women

by DW

Germany’s ruling CDU party has launched a debate on reinstating military conscription and offering young men and women a chance to serve their country in other ways. A recent poll shows Germans are in favor of the idea.

As the German military struggles to fill its ranks, representatives of Angela Merkel’s CDU party started a nationwide discussion on the return of mandatory military service.

The general conscription was scrapped in 2011 after Berlin decided to professionalize its troops. Prior to this decision, all young males were obligated to either serve in the nation’s military, the Bundeswehr, or perform an alternative service for a limited period of time in civilian areas such as emergency management or medical care.

Currently, the Bundeswehr consists only of career soldiers and long-term contract troopers, although the army still offers an option of short-term paid military service to young volunteers.

In a surprising move on Friday, however, the CDU Secretary General Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer pledged to “very intensively” discuss military service and mandatory conscription, according to the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ).

Chance ‘to give something back’

Kramp-Karrenbauer said she had been touring the country and meeting CDU members to discuss ideas, which would be presented at the CDU’s party conference in December. The topic of mandatory service apparently resonated with the conservative party’s base, which fears the loss of social cohesion.

The politician told FAZ she did not expect a simple reinstating of the military draft, but remained vague on specifics. “There are many possible ways to serve,” she later said on Twitter.

Other ranking CDU members were quick to back Kramp-Karrenbauer’s initiative, but kept equally vague on the details. The party’s youth wing leader Paul Ziemak spoke of a “community year” which would see young students take part in some sort of a mandatory service program. The term itself is a throwback to the “social year” which had been offered as an alternative to serving in the Bundeswehr.

“We live in a wonderful, affluent country,” the 32-year-old told Bild am Sonntag. “A community year gives the opportunity to give something back and, at the same time, to strengthen the country’s unity.”

‘Horrendous waste of money’

CDU lawmaker Oswin Veith commented that youths could serve with the Bundeswehr, but also with first responders or medical institutions. “It should last for 12 months and apply to young men and women over the age of 18,” he said. Several other CDU politicians also stressed the program would apply to both men and women.

At the same time, CDU’s point man on defense in the German parliament, Henning Otte, responded with skepticism.

“Old-fashioned universal conscription is not going to help us with our current security challenges,” he said, adding that youths could serve in other areas, such as firefighting.

Some politicians from the SPD, the CDU’s junior partner in the grand coalition, said the idea was worth considering. Others, including the Parliamentary Commissioner for Defense, Hans-Peter Bartels, insisted that mandatory service would clash with Germany’s ban on forced labor.

“I think it is very unlikely to assign 700,000 young men and women every year to various mandatory assignments, as attractive as this idea may sound,” he said.

The business-friendly FDP called the proposal “absurd” and warned of the “horrendous waste of money” it could cause. Other opposition parties in the parliament; the Left and the Green party, also oppose the idea.

At the same time, right-wing AFD came out in favor of reviving conscription. Their position comes as no surprise, as the AFD had previously floated the scheme. On Twitter, AFD’s parliamentary group leader Alice Weidel said the suspension was “a grave mistake.”

Weidel added that the Bundeswehr needed to become “an attractive employer again” in order to be able to fulfill its defense duties.

Moving on AFD’s turf?

Some analysts have speculated that the CDU launched the initiative as a way to wring conservative votes from the populist AFD. According to a recent online poll, the prospect of reinstating the military conscription is very popular among AFD supporters, with 60.6 percent of them saying they were “strongly in favor” of the idea.

Germans in general also support the draft, according to poll published by the survey center Civey. The poll, based on responses by 5,046 people between early May and early August, shows 55.6 percent are in favor of the idea, as opposed to 39.6 percent against it.

After discussing the draft on their party conference in December, the CDU is expected to make it a part of their platform for 2020.

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1943 Hitler receives News of Italy’s Imminent Defection

On this day in 1943, Adolf Hitler learns that Axis ally Italy is buying time before negotiating surrender terms with the Allies in light of Mussolini’s fall from power.

Hitler had feared that such a turn of events was possible, if not probable. Hitler had come to Italy on July 19 to lecture Il Duce on his failed military leadership—evidence that he knew, even if he was not admitting, that both Mussolini and Italy were about to collapse, leaving the Italian peninsula open to Allied occupation. Despite a half-hearted reassurance from Mussolini that Italy would continue to battle on, Hitler nevertheless began preparing for the prospect of Italy’s surrender to the Allies.

When Mussolini was ousted from power and arrested by his own police six days later. Hitler gathered Goering, Goebbels, Himmler, Rommel, and the commander in chief of the German navy, Karl Doenitz, at his headquarters to reveal the plans of action he had already been formulating. Among them: (1) Operation Oak, in which Mussolini would be rescued from captivity; (2) the occupation of Rome by German forces and the reinstallation of Mussolini and his fascist government; (3) Operation Black, the German occupation of all Italy; and (4) Operation Axis, the destruction of the Italian fleet (in order to prevent it from being commandeered for Allied use).

Hitler’s advisers urged caution, especially since it would require recalling troops from the Eastern front. The Allies had not made a move on Rome yet, and although Mussolini was under arrest, the Italian government had not formally surrendered. Germany had received assurances from Mussolini’s successor, General Badoglio, that Italy would continue to fight at Germany’s side. Then on July 30, Hitler read a message from his security police chief in Zagreb that an Italian general had confided to a Croat general that Italy’s assurances of loyalty to Germany were “designed merely to gain time for the conclusion of negotiations with the enemy.”

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1915 Battle of Hooge

In Flanders, Belgium, on July 30, 1915, the Germans put their new weapon, the flammenwerfer, or flamethrower, to devastating use against the Allies at the Battle of Hooge.

The Battle of Hooge represented one of the first major employments of the flamethrower, one of the most feared weapons introduced during World War I. Eleven days before the battle, British infantry had captured the German-occupied village of Hooge, located near Ypres in Belgium, by detonating a large mine. Using the flamethrowers to great effect, along with machine guns, trench mortars and hand grenades, the Germans reclaimed their positions on July 30, 1915, penetrating enemy front lines with ease and pushing the British forces back to their second trench. Though few men were lost to actual burns, a British officer reported later, the weapons had a great demoralizing effect, and when added to the assault of the other powerful weapons, they proved mercilessly efficient at Hooge.

German troops had started with stationary flamethrowers, which allowed them to take large gains of land at Verdun in February 1915. Through the efforts of Bernhard Reddemann, a reserve captain, and Richard Fiedler, a Berlin engineer, the Germans progressed to smaller, lighter models, including a portable version, carried like a backpack. The number of flamethrower attacks conducted by Reddeman’s men in the first half of 1916 was three times that of 1915.

One great puzzle that emerged from World War I was why Germany’s opponents never made equal use of this terrifying weapon. The British made three attempts with larger, more unwieldy prototypes: the smallest one was equal in size to the German Grof, which the enemy had almost abandoned by 1916. The French were more persistent, and by 1918 had at least seven companies trained in using flamethrowers; the use of the weapon never progressed to the same level as that in the German army, however.

The flamethrower was included, along with the submarine, the battleship, heavy artillery, the tank, poison gas and the zeppelin, on the list of weapons forbidden to German forces by the Treaty of Versailles. After Hitler came to power in 1933, though, and Germany began to rebuild its army, backpack flamethrowers were liberally supplied to the combat forces, and the formidable flammenwerfer would again play a deadly role in the clashes of World War II.

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Update 7-29-2018 : New Pictures Added to the Website

New Pictures have been added to the Website:

• Veteran Soldaten Past and Present / Veteran Soldaten Vergangenheit und Gegenwart
• Memorials & Grave Sites / Denkmäler und Grabstätten
• Battle of Dunkirk / Schlacht von Dünkirchen
• German Military Administration and Occupation of France during World War II – Deutsch militärische Verwaltung und Besatzung von Frankreich während Zweiten Weltkrieg
• Finland Front / Finnland Vorderseite
• Eastern Front / Ostfront
• Battle of Stalingrad / Schlacht Stalingrad
• Jun 6, 1944: D-Day – Anglo-American invasion of Europe on June 6, 1944 / 6. Juni 1944: D-Day – Angloamerikanische Invasion in Europa am 6. Juni 1944
• Other World War 2 Battles/ Major Events – Andere Schlachten des 2. Weltkriegs / Große Ereignisse
• Deutsches Heer – German Army
• Orders of Battle – Armies and Armeegruppes
• Afrika Korps / Africa Corps
• Assault-Infantry Guns / Sturm-Infanteriegeschütze
• Specialized Vehicles / Spezialfahrzeuge
• Hand Held Infantry Weapons or Light Equipment of WW2 / Hand Infanterie Waffen oder leichte Ausrüstung aus WW2
• Luftwaffe Divisions and Groups
• Junkers Ju 52 – Tante Ju – Aunt Ju – Iron Annie
• Kriegsmarine Ships / Kriegsmarine Schiffe
• Other Museums, Artifacts, and Vehicles M thru Z / Andere Museen, Artefakte und Fahrzeuge M bis Z
• World War 2 Propaganda, Magazines, and Print / Weltkrieg Propaganda, Zeitschriften und Print
• Paintings & Art / Gemälde und Kunst
• Heer / Army
• Leopard 2 – Main Battle Tank
• Luftwaffe Planes from the Cold War to Present
• Uniforms and Insignia of the Schutzstaffel / Uniformen und Insignien der Schutzstaffel
• Order of Battle – Waffen-SS Divisions & Other Units / Orden der Schlacht – Waffen-SS Divisionen & andere Einheiten

• Oberst Hans-Ulrich Rudel
• MG 34 – Maschinengewehr 34

Enjoy!

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Rare Witness to Horror of Stalin’s Gulag Prisons Dies

Vasily Kovalyov in a former Kolyma punishment cell.

by BBC

A rare survivor of the harshest Stalin-era labour camps has died aged 89 in Russia’s far east.

Vasily Kovalyov had survived icy punishment cells and beatings in the USSR’s notorious Gulag prison system.

During an escape attempt in 1954 he spent five months hiding in a freezing mine with two other prisoners.

Kovalyov’s story was featured in Vesma, a news site based in Magadan. The communist regime shipped thousands of “enemies” to prison camps via Magadan.

In 1950 Kovalyov, aged 20, was found guilty of anti-Soviet sabotage – one among the millions of victims of Stalinist terror. An old sabre that he had used to chop vegetables was enough to condemn him.

The main prison block where Kovalyov was kept in the 1950s still stands.
Dicing with death

First he was sent to Norilsk, in the Russian Arctic, he told Vesma. But he ended up in Kolyma, a notoriously harsh network of labour camps north of Magadan, after guards uncovered an escape plot.

In 1954 he and two other inmates hid in a mine and prepared an armed uprising, but someone tipped off the guards, who then came looking for them.

“Miners who knew the place inside out accompanied them and said we wouldn’t be able to stand the permafrost there longer than a week,” he told Vesma.

“They blocked all the entrances with grilles… We spent five months underground, in the dark, starving. After three months we had eaten all our food, and in the end we were chewing wood shavings.”

The prison had the designation “tougher regime zone” – part of Stalin’s vast Gulag.

He said they managed to dig a way out through the permafrost and emerged “half-blind, like moles”. They made it to a nearby town, but were arrested there.

During a punishment beating the guards let loose a huge sheep dog on him, he said.

“It leapt at me, but I had protective metal studs on my boots, and kicked the dog down. In a flash I dived at its throat and bit hard. I heard a crunch and the dog shuddered then died.”

Millions died during Joseph Stalin’s dictatorship – in deportations, famine, forced collectivisation, executions and prison camps.

The terror he unleashed involved massive purges of the Communist Party and state institutions.

A punishment cell: Solitary confinement in the basement, thick ice on the ground.
No forgiveness

Kovalyov was released in 1957, when Stalin’s successor Nikita Khrushchev declared an amnesty for Gulag prisoners, in the post-Stalin “thaw”.

He stayed in Magadan, where he worked as a heating engineer. And he took a Vesma reporter, Yevgeny Radchenko, on a tour of the grim prison – a ruin still reeking of cruelty.

He died of a stroke in a Magadan hospital on Monday.

According to Vesma, “until his last breath he never forgot what the Soviet Union did to millions of people, who endured the camps, leaving their best years, their health and their lives there”.

“He told the story of his trip back to Odessa region, where he met the people who had put him in prison. He did not forgive them. The cruelty and torment of camp life taught him to survive, but at the same time to stay human.”

Very few Kolyma prisoners from the Stalin period are still alive, a Russian historian told the BBC.

Alyona Kozlova, chief archivist at the Memorial documentation centre, said “I know of three in Moscow, and it’s possible that he was the last one in Magadan”.

But about four million ex-Soviet citizens are alive today who spent some time in Stalin’s prisons, she said.

The Soviet police mugshot of Kovalyov as a prisoner – he was born in 1930.
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