How Big Was The German Army In World War 2?： After the end of the Great War and after an unsatisfactory peace, huge inflation, and an unprecedented economic crisis, Germany
was on its knees.
Even being a country with huge economic potential, due to the factories and companies that still existed there, Germany was, however, only a shadow of the former monarchy.
But from 1933 to 1941 Germany achieved what it had not realized in the previous war.
It had a new army that was considered unstoppable, acting with precision, speed, and communication, taking by surprise the great European powers!
Thus, at the end of 1941, almost all of Europe was controlled by Germany and its allies.
German soldiers could see the buildings of Moscow from a distance.
Almost all predictions led to a total German victory.
But How did this all happen?
Was it just the efficiency of the German Army?
Or was it a multitude of reasons, including sound planning or even luck?
The end of World War One brought about a time of chaos for the Germans, and what the rest of Europe likely believed would prevent a near future containing a powerful German military, but they were wrong.
The ability of Germany to rebuild its military might generally came with the rise of the Third Reich.
But, before this rise was a fall brought about by the events of the Weimar republic.
After the end of the first world war, Kaiser Wilhelm The Second became the target of intense backlash and pressure from both the general public and his own military.
On November 9, 1918, Wilhelm was forced to abdicate and a provisional government, made up of members from the Social Democratic Party and the Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany, was established in his place the following day.
By next spring, the Weimar Republic had been formed with Friedrich Ebert as the first President.
Shortly into Ebert’s term, the Treaty of Versailles was signed, reducing the German military to a mere 100,000 men.
Furthermore, Germany was compelled to take responsibility for World War One, pay hefty reparations, and give up some of its territorial possessions.
This treaty was a huge blow to the newly established Weimar Republic and was quickly followed by a new obstacle, this time in the form of hyperinflation and the Great Depression.
This was the turning point for many working-class Germans and the moment in which Adolf Hitler and his party, suddenly became a beacon of hope.
With a building concern that the Weimar Republic could soon be overrun by the communists, the German people turned to this new alternative which quickly became the largest political party in Parliament by 1932.
The following year, Adolf Hitler was elected as the new Chancellor of Germany.
The first few weeks of his term were hugely influential and brought about a drastic shift in Germany’s projected rebuilding.
The new chancellor and his party had a plan, as could be anticipated then from his speeches and from his book.
It had to start from the inside, and the new party tried to consolidate its power through propaganda and normative acts.
Then the rebuilding of the army had to begin, ignoring the treaty of Versailles, with the next phase being to annex the German-Speaking territories through diplomacy, influence, or military intervention.
Meanwhile, with increased production and a larger army, the focus was to be on defeating the biggest rival in the region – France!
First, Article 48 was invoked, which largely reduced the progress that had been made on the grounds of civil rights, and put a strong lid on the Communist Party.
Next, Hitler established the Enabling Act, which gave him the ultimate authority to pass any law he wished without the approval of
the President or Parliament.
One of the main goals was now aimed at bringing back Germany’s prior military might, and building upon it.
One of the new chancellor’s most famous changes to the armed forces was the establishment of the Wehrmacht.
This was the unified military of the Third Reich, beginning in 1935, and made up of the Land, Marine, and Air Forces.
The new military force was much larger than the Treaty of Versailles had allowed, and brought about a radical increase in defense
spending and the reinstatement of conscription.
The chancellor solidified his self-proclaimed role as the ultimate authority over the armed forces and required every commander to now be at the beck and call of his orders.
In spite of internal opposition and skepticism from some of the commanders, the army was able to re-occupy the Rhineland, a very industrialized region that was vital for the future war machine.
The annexation of Austria, the Sudetenland, and Czechoslovakia strengthened the German economy and production lines.
At this time, the goal of the Allies was appeasement, and all those within the Wehrmacht who had questioned the chancellor had been proven wrong thus far.
The overall approval rating from the German people concerning the new regime had vastly skyrocketed, and any opposition was essentially silenced.
The handful of generals and troops who had been on the fence about the new chancellor were now willing to back his plans for war
after his territorial successes; and with a fully equipped and prepared military, Germany was ready to invade Poland with already-building momentum.
The goal, beyond wanting to regain territory that had been lost from the Treaty of Versailles and expand further, was to avoid a long war at all costs.
To accommodate this lofty aim, the Germans adopted a new military tactic known as the Blitzkrieg or Lightning War.
This wasn’t a completely new form of warfare, the strategy that Germany followed had much in common with the strategy that existed in the First War when the idea was the same – to defeat its enemies quickly and decisively as the country was ill-suited to win a long and drawn-out conflict against larger, better-prepared forces.
The German Army had the benefit of new military technology that included better and more rapid tanks, motor vehicles, aircraft, and radios.
These new tools, combined with an emphasis on the element of surprise, speed, mobility, focused attacks, and in the end, encirclements, enabled the army to turn traditional military tactics into a devastatingly modern brand of warfare.
Not only did the Blitzkrieg tactic sound good in theory, but it also genuinely worked.
The Germans utilized the new strategy when they invaded Poland and subsequently set off World War Two, and then again when they faced off with enemy lines from Denmark, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, Yugoslavia, and even Greece throughout the first two years of the war.
The Blitzkrieg was an extremely profitable tactic and played a hugely significant role in Germany’s immediate success.
This strategy worked to quickly disorganize and throw off the enemy troops by using a narrow line or formation of concentrated offensive forces to break through enemy lines.
The Germans would first locate a weak point in their opponent’s defenses to create a breach, permitting armored tank divisions
to penetrate rapidly and roam freely behind enemy lines, causing shock and disorganization among the enemy defenses.
As their counterpart struggled to reorganize the frontline and prepare new lines of defense, the air force prevented additional help from reaching their adversary and from sending reinforcements to seal breaches on the front.
As the gap was widened, the flow of German troops would continue to rapidly file through that area, and a focus would be put on preventing the enemy from refilling the gap that had been created.
The tanks were followed by motorized divisions who formed solid flanks protecting the military convoys.
In the middle, the corridor was supplied continuously with more and more equipment and soldiers.
By doing this, the enemy didn’t have much time to react, as more piercing movements were created at the same time, indifferent
Eventually, any enemy troops who were unable to fall back or escape in time would be encircled by the Germans and forced to surrender.
This made it easy for the latter to now seize a dominant role in the battle and compel their opponent to surrender.
This unexpected strategy left their adversaries predictably destabilized as the German tanks filed through the breach in the front line.
This tactic worked quite well against the French who were shocked by the speed of the German Army and their attack through the Ardenne forest.
After France was conquered, the main goals were achieved, and the Soviet Union seemed to be the last chapter of their conquest and domination of Europe.
On June 22, 1941, Operation Barbarossa was launched with the goal of occupying the western portion of the Soviet Union.
At first, the German Lightning war was severely damaging to the Russians.
The latter was pushed back toward the gates of Moscow as their attackers were yet again carrying out an aggressively strong assault.
The situation was made worse for the Soviets since Joseph Stalin had initially had a hard time believing that the attack was going to happen, even after receiving intel that a German attack might happen.
By the time the Russians had realized the true gravity of the danger they were in, the Germans had already gained an upper hand thanks to their Lightening War strategy.
Within a single week, German forces advanced 200 miles into Soviet territory, destroying nearly 4,000 aircraft, and taking out of action around 600,000 Red Army troops.
As before, the strategy, combined with the element of surprise worked and would prove deadly for a medium-sized country; as the
land surface would allow the German army to move fast, to conquer the important cities,and to force the other country into surrender within a few weeks.
Against the Soviet Union, the situation was different.
After 3 months of warfare, the Blitzkrieg tactic was no longer the deciding factor for German success.
It had worked at the start of the conflict but now the situation had changed, mainly due to the huge size of the U.S.S.R, the winter,
and the better defense lines created by the Soviets.
The counterattack of the Soviets was well-thought-out and executed, but it also proved triumphant since the Germans had been fighting for longer than they had anticipated on a huge front.
They lost the element of surprise and momentum, and they were fighting against a more populated country with high capabilities of production which was also aided by other allies.
And from that point on, the war turned against the Germans.
The reason behind why the German army was so effective in World War 2 is a combination of many factors.
The plan and fanatism of a party to dominate a continent, the process of rearmament and war material production, and the expansion against Austria and Czecho-Slovakia which was not followed by major reactions, combined with the preparation of invasions against other countries created the scenario for this efficiency to happen.
Additionally, the work that had been done to rebuild the German military might, despite the constraints of the Treaty of Versailles,
and the execution of the Lightening War strategy by competent officers, consolidated with the mistakes of their counterparts proved to be an almost unstoppable combination.
Although Germany lost the war, its initial success can be attributed to a multitude of factors and we can talk about them in more
the detail in some future videos.
In this one, we tried to oversimplify for you the major agents that led to the effectiveness of the German Army in the Second World War.
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