In the spirit of Martin Middlebrook’s classic First Day on the Somme, Craig Luther narrates the events of June 22, 1941, a day when German military might was at its peak and seemed as though it would easily conquer the Soviet Union, a day the common soldiers would remember for its tension and the frogs bellowing in the Polish marshlands. It was a day when the German blitzkrieg decimated Soviet command and control within hours and seemed like nothing would stop it from taking Moscow. Luther narrates June 22—one of the pivotal days of World War II—from high command down to the tanks and soldiers at the sharp end, covering strategy as well as tactics and the vivid personal stories of the men who crossed the border into the Soviet Union that fateful day, which is the Eastern Front in microcosm, representing the years of industrial-scale warfare that followed and the unremitting hostility of Germans and Soviets. In his endorsement of the book Victor Davis Hanson writes: “Craig Luther’s [new book] continues his invaluable explorations of he disastrous German invasion of the Soviet Union, by focusing on the first day of Operation Barbarossa . . . A rich scholarly resource that historians of the Eastern Front will find invaluable.”
The book will be released by Stackpole Books on 1 November 2018.
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.