- Two researchers found records in Russian Defence Ministry archive
- Records furious meeting in Vinnitsa, Ukraine, during eastern campaign
- Hitler lashed out at five leading Nazi generals he considered incompetent
- Extraordinary outbursts show growing disillusionment years earlier than previously thought
Allan Hall In Berlin for MailOnline
15:18 EST, 11 October 2015
17:10 EST, 11 October 2015
German historians have discovered an amazing rant by Adolf Hitler in which he condemned his top generals as ‘flabby’, ‘indecent’ and ‘complete failures’ one year in to his invasion of the Soviet Union.
It shows the utter disillusionment former First World War corporal Hitler had for his commanders much sooner in the war than was previously realised.
Hitler’s rage perfectly mirrors the movie meltdown of actor Bruno Ganz in The Downfall when the Fuhrer loses it spectacularly in the Berlin Bunker in 1945 as the capital of the Reich is falling to Russian forces.
But the one found recently by Matthias Uhl and Johannes Hürter in the archives of the Russian Defence Ministry happened in 1942. It is to be published in the next issue of the German Quarterly Journal of Contemporary History.
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Hitler’s fury: A newly-uncovered rant has detailed how Hitler raged at his leading generals during his ill-fated invasion of the Soviet Union. It invited immediate comparisons to a scene in the film Downfall (above), where an embattled Fuhrer loses his temper with top Nazis
Tensions: The record, preserved in a Russian Defence Ministry archive, shows Hitler (right) raging to his ‘lackey’, Field Marshall Wilhelm Keitel (far left). Also pictured is Colonel-General Franz Halder (left of Hitler), whom the Fuhrer thought maddeningly indecisive
Germany’s Spiegel magazine called the find ‘spectacular’.
It is the transcript of an 85-minute conversation between the Fuhrer and his submissive Field Marshall Wilhelm Keitel, head of the German high command for most of the war.
Behind his back Keitel was derided by all as ‘Lackeitel’ – lackey – because of his inability to ever stand up for any of his officers.
This is plain from the transcript of the Hitler monologue which was seized by the Red Army after conquering Berlin in 1945.
Hate list: The record shows the anger Hitler felt towards his subordinates as his Russian offensive stalled. Pictured above are Halder (left) and army chief of staff Alfred Jodl (right), who earned Hitler’s ire by saying it was ‘mean’ of the Fuhrer to deride his generals
‘It reads as a template for Hitler actor Bruno Ganz in the feature film The Downfall,’ said Spiegel, which publishes extracts from it in its latest issue.
The conversation with Keitel – hanged at Nuremberg in 1946 for war crimes – took place on September 18, 1942 in Vinnitsa, Ukraine, site of one of Hitler’s front headquarters for the war against Russia.
‘A year after the invasion of the Soviet Union the Eastern campaign had failed – and Hitler was raging,’ said the magazine.
The Keitel interview, which Hitler ordered be recorded, illuminates perfectly the Messiah complex of the Fuhrer.
Not popular: Hitler called General Field Marshall Wilhelm List, left a ‘flabby leader’, and also railed at the expense of Fedor von Bock (right), who he said had ‘failed completely’
Simmering: Hitler is pictured above shaking hands with Fedor von Bock – but privately he held him in contempt
‘I’m dead scared, to be away for a day or only five hours, because something might happen. If I was today to get, for example, a canal root infection, I cannot leave, I must remain here.’
Hitler swept into Russia on June 22 1941 expecting a Blitzkrieg victory in weeks. but the tenacity of the Red Army stalled the invasion and would eventually crush his forces and smash Nazism for good.
He derided Colonel-General Franz Halder, chief of staff of the army, as a man who ‘cannot decide if an attack is to be made with 100 men, with six battalions or two divisions’.
General Field Marshall Wilhelm List, commander of Army Group A – one of three groups in the three million-man eastern campaign – was branded as a ‘flabby leader.’
And General Field Marshall Fedor von Bock, chief of Army Group B was condemned as a man who ‘failed completely’ in his mission.
The dictator accused the Wehrmacht leadership of ‘ignoring my commands. I speak to them every day. This is quite useless.’ He called their ‘inability’ to listen to him ‘an indecency’.
He was particularly outraged him that Army chief of staff Alfred Jodl – also executed at Nuremberg – had objected to his allegations saying it was ‘mean’ of him.
As well as the recorded meeting with Keitel, Hitler had asked to speak to the other leading commanders as well, but records of the conversations were lost.
The records also revealed that Hitler wanted to replace Jodl with General Friedrich Paulus, who the following year would be captured by the Russians at the battle of Stalingrad.
At the time Hitler was speaking General Paulus was already in the city and the Fuhrer believed he would triumph.
He said: ‘He deserves the job because the fall of Stalingrad will under all circumstances be bound up with his name.’
This was at least true – but not in the way Hitler foresaw. Paulus surrendered to the Red Army on February 2 1943. The generals Hitler despised would never again regain the initiative on the battlefields of the Second World War.