Betrayal in the East

Germany possessed a superb intelligence-gathering network for the war in the East. Her specialists had already cracked the complex Soviet radio encryption and monitored its traffic. Since 1934, code breakers at the Hillersleben installation had been tapped into secure telephone lines connecting Moscow to its European embassies. In 1937, the Germans began deciphering Soviet photo-telegraphic communications. In addition to reading diplomatic correspondence, they gained knowledge of Russian armaments production, the location and capacity of the factories and shortfalls in industry.34

Theodor Rowehl’s Long Range Reconnaissance Squadron, subordinate to the Luftwaffe Supreme Command, flew high-altitude missions over the USSR beginning in 1935. Air crews photographed Soviet naval installations, armaments and industrial complexes, military fortifications and troop concentrations. Thousands of pictures of the Russian interior provided ample images to produce accurate maps. In 1947, the USA used Rowehl’s photographs to prepare its own maps of the Soviet Union.35

During the first weeks of the Russian campaign, advancing German troops captured many official documents which Soviet administrators had failed to destroy or evacuate. The cache offered a comprehensive picture of the USSR’s infrastructure, analyses of civilian attitudes and so forth. Luftwaffe communications specialists deciphered Soviet military radio traffic, promptly and consistently delivering details about Russian troop strength, status of available ammunition and fuel, planned aerial and ground attacks and the marching routes of enemy divisions. The post-war American Seabourne Report concluded that German code breakers maintained 80 percent accuracy in their knowledge of all planned Soviet military operations and armaments production.36

Monitoring stations forwarded this vast quantity of intelligence to the Abwehr for assessment. Canaris, Oster and fellow conspirators relayed almost none of the findings to Hitler. They instead stored the cache of documents in Angerburg, East Prussia, never evaluated.37 Military cartographers prepared maps of the East without referencing Rowehl’s pictures. Some they based on Russian maps that had been printed in 1865. The German army received inaccurate ones depicting dirt roads, which became impassable quagmires after rainfall, as modern, paved highways. This misinformation often confounded the tactical advance of German mechanized forces. They occasionally approached towns that were not even shown on the maps.

Shortly before the Russian campaign began, members of the German military mission in Rumania had already learned from locals and from Red Army deserters of formidable new Soviet armor sighted during Stalin’s occupation of Bessarabia. Witnesses provided details about the Russian KV-I and KV-II heavy tanks plus sketches of a third model that was faster, well-armored and boasting equally good firepower. Georg Pemler, a reconnaissance flight officer, pored over aerial photographs taken by Rowehl’s squadron above the Pruth and Dnestr River areas. He discovered images depicting the mystery tank on railroad flatcars, en route to Red Army units stationed near the Reich’s frontier. Called by Pemler to examine the pictures, Rumanian Colonel Krescu told him, “Until now, we thought that this tank is still in development and being tested. That manufacture has progressed so far that the troops are already receiving deliveries, is a discovery of great importance.... The supreme command must be informed of this at once!"38

Gathering the photographs and relevant data, Pemler personally flew to Berlin to disclose his findings. Intelligence officers accepted his report but did not forward it to the OKW. When the new Soviet tank, the T-34, appeared in battle in June 1941, it shocked German frontline troops. Its innovative sloping armor was too thick for German tank guns to penetrate, and it rendered German anti-tank ordnance obsolete.

While German intelligence concealed Soviet armaments capability from OKW planners, Canaris assured Hitler that only one single-track railroad joined the Russian source of raw materials in the Urals to industrial centers in Moscow.39 An Abwehr liaison in Rumania, Dr. Barth, told his associate Pemler, “The leadership of the armed forces is grossly underestimating the strength of the Red Army. I personally can't avoid the impression that this is even promoted by certain men. We have confirmed confidential information, for example, that in one particular tank factory around 25 heavy tanks are produced daily. Since then we've identified three such plants.... The chief of the general staff scribbles a question mark here, sending the report back for re-evaluation without informing the Führer."40

Barth was referring to Haider, who had become chief of staff in September 1938. A post-war “de-Nazification” panel judged Haider’s earlier conduct a “complete betrayal of his country."41 After the conquest of Poland in 1939, he formed a secret planning staff to overthrow the government and placed General Heinrich von Stuipnagel in charge, who one German historian described with admiration as an “old-school European nobleman."42

Haider urged Hitler to invade Russia, downplaying the hazards of the campaign. On February 3, 1941, Hitler directed Foreign Armies East, a branch of military intelligence, to assess the Red Army’s ability to deploy large formations in the expansive Pripyat marshland. This consisted of swampy terrain in the south-central sector of the future front. Receiving the finished report on the 12th, Haider made an alteration before forwarding it to the Führer. He deleted the assessment’s conclusion that it would be possible for the Russians to shift troops within the marsh, thus posing a threat to the flank and rear of advancing German divisions. Based on this evaluation, the OKH did not allot formations to guard the southern periphery of the wetlands to screen the planned thrust of the German 6th Army and 1st Panzer Army toward Kiev.

Soon after hostilities broke out, the Soviet 5th Army, transferred south via Pripyat’s railroad network, assaulted the open left flank of the German 6th Army. This compelled Hitler to halt the advance on July 10. “The capture of Kiev by the beginning of July 1941, barely three weeks into the campaign, would have been entirely possible but was prevented by strong Soviet forces operating from out of the Pripyat marshlands,” concluded the military historian Ewald Klapdor.43 Unable to continue the advance without infantry support from the 6th Army, the 1st Panzer Army became deadlocked in costly battles of attrition against frontally attacking Russian divisions for another seven weeks. Two months into the campaign, Hitler remarked that the entire operation would have been planned differently, had he known the enemy’s actual disposition and strength.

Once the invasion began, the Soviets received timely reports on German military operations from the Supreme Command of the Army, the OKH, right from Hitler’s headquarters. The communications chief there, General Erich Fellgiebel, secretly installed a direct telephone line to Switzerland to transmit classified information. Stationed in Bern was Hans Gisevius, another of Canaris' s Abwehr “specialists.” He relayed the reports to Moscow. Other agents in Switzerland such as Rudolf Rössler participated, identified but tolerated by Swiss intelligence. The sophisticated espionage network was nicknamed the Red Orchestra by the SD. Schellenberg wrote later that the information it leaked “could only have come from the highest German sources."44 When the SD finally shut down the spy ring in 1942, it arrested 146 suspected operatives in Berlin alone. The courts condemned 86 of them to death for treason. They had transmitted over 500 detailed reports to the Kremlin. In October 1942, the Gestapo arrested 70 more Communist operatives in the Reich’s Air Ministry and in the Bureau for Aerial Armaments.

On June 22, 1941, the Red Army possessed 25,508 tanks, 18,700 combat aircraft, and 5,774,000 soldiers.45 There were 79,100 cannons distributed among the 303 divisions deployed in the first and second waves. Hitler took on this force with crucial information withheld, his intelligence agencies consciously understating enemy resources, and officers forewarning the enemy of German attacks. On August 1, five weeks into the campaign, the Red Army deployed 269 divisions, 46 of them armored, and 18 brigades against the invaders. An intelligence report the Führer received two weeks earlier had fixed Russian strength at just 50 rifle divisions and eight tank divisions.46 On August 10, German soldiers overran the command post of the Soviet 16th Army east of Smolensk. The field police discovered copies of two OKH plans for the German attack. They found another German operational plan upon capturing Bryansk soon after, which the OKH had presented to Hitler on August 18.47 Gisevius later boasted, “We had our spies all over the war ministry, in the police, in the ministry of the interior, and especially in the foreign office. All threads connected to Oster."48

Advance knowledge of German plans helped the Red Army embroil the invaders in heavy fighting around Smolensk in July and August. The Germans regained the initiative when Hitler decided on August 21 to shift his panzer divisions southward toward Kiev. “The senseless operation now decided upon,” fumed Haider in his diary, will “scatter our forces and stall the advance on Moscow."49 The Germans in fact destroyed four Soviet armies and mauled a fifth around Kiev, an immense battle of encirclement, capturing much of the Ukraine. Hitler told his architect Giesler, “I saw in these flanking thrusts and envelopments the only chance of beating the Russian mass-formations.... I had to literally wrest operations away from my generals.... Not even this success persuaded my generals of the only possible strategy in Russia."50

Weary of wrangling, the Führer ultimately endorsed Haider’s brainchild; a frontal attack against Moscow. Operation Typhoon began on October 1, but deception and sabotage determined the outcome. Quartermaster General Wagner reported the stockpile of provisions for the attack to be “satisfactory.” Against the minimum requirement of 24 supply trains per day for Army Group Center, however, between eight and 15 reached the front daily during August, twelve in September. Even during fair weather, hundreds of fully-laden freight trains sat idle in switch yards between Berlin and Krakow.

Largely responsible for the delay in supplies were the director of Main Rail Transport South, Erwin Landenberger in Kiev, and the director of Main Rail Transport Center, Karl Hahn in Minsk. Hitler ordered both men arrested for sabotage. Released from Sachsenhausen concentration camp months later, Hahn described himself to another officer as a “mortal enemy of the Nazis.” Hitler personally selected their replacements. Erhard Milch and Albert Speer assumed responsibility for getting the trains rolling again. The situation improved within weeks. Speer prioritized locomotive manufacture, while Milch reorganized rail and canal transportation to the front. Milch warned subordinates, “I have permission to hang any railroad official from any tree, including senior managers, and I'll do it!"51

The OKH gradually reduced Army Group Center’s striking power during Typhoon. On October 11, it transferred away the 8th Army Corps with three divisions and the 1st Cavalry Division. The 5th , 8th and 15th Infantry Divisions soon followed. The 9th Army Corps with four divisions went into “reserve.” On November 3, the OKH announced the intention to withdraw seven panzer divisions from the eastern front for replenishment.52 At the same time, the Luftwaffe sent nearly a fourth of its personnel in Russia on leave. The high command transferred out 13 fighter groups, leaving just three groups of Fighter Squadron 51 left to support the offensive from the air.53

Typhoon made progress nonetheless. Northwest of Moscow, the 1st Panzer Division took Kalinin. Instead of wheeling southeast to invest the capital, the troops advanced northward. Eyewitness Carl Wagener recalled, “The capture of Kalinin opened a great tactical opportunity for us. We now held the cornerstone of Moscow’s defense system and could push toward the poorly-secured northern flank of the city. The place was ours for the taking, with good roads and less than a day’s travel time. Instead, our panzers and the 9th Infantry Army supporting us received the order to attack the completely insignificant town of Torzhok, more than 100 miles north of Kalinin. We felt that the new directive from the OKH didn't make any sense."54

The worst handicap confronting German combatants was the dearth of cold-weather gear. The Reich’s industry had manufactured enough quilted winter uniforms to equip at least 56 divisions. Also, prefabricated shelters and barracks heaters had been loaded into 255 freight trains awaiting rail transport east. On November 1, Hitler inspected winter apparel earmarked for the Russian front, and Quartermaster Wagner assured him that the gear was already en route to the field armies in sufficient quantity.55 Nine days later, Wagner confided to Haider that most quilted uniforms would not go forward until the end of January. They remained loaded on trains in Warsaw for months.56 Hitler did not learn of the shortages until December 20, when General Heinz Guderian flew in from the central front and told him. Luftwaffe personnel all received cold-weather apparel, only thanks to Milch’s personal supervision.

The OKH was no less remiss about advising Hitler of intelligence reports predicting a planned Soviet counteroffensive. During November, the Russians transferred most of their Siberian rifle divisions from the Far East to the Moscow sector. German aerial reconnaissance monitored the augmenting concentration of enemy reserves. Long-range observation planes reported an alarming increase in the number of Soviet transport trains conveying fresh formations to the Kalinin-Moscow sector. The OKH disregarded the information. Sweden supplied the Germans with accurate statistics of the planning and scope of the approaching Red Army offensive, but the Abwehr group receiving this intelligence did not forward it to Berlin.57

In mid-November, Foreign Armies East assessed that Soviet divisions are 50 percent understrength, with more than half the officers and men untrained. In fact however, many of the 88 rifle divisions, 15 cavalry divisions and 24 armored brigades about to attack the German lines were well-equipped and at full roster.58 On the evening of December 4, 1941, only hours before the onslaught began, Foreign Armies East concluded that the combat effectiveness of the Red Army is insufficient for “the Russian to be capable of a major offensive at this time, unless he introduces significant reinforcements."59

At the end of its strength, caught by surprise, the ill-clad German army gave ground that winter. Hitler was exasperated over the failure to realize his strategic concept in the face of opposition from the general staff. He cited “the total underestimation of the enemy, the false reports of enemy reserves and of the strength of his armaments... and incomprehensible treason” as contributing to the German army’s first major defeat of the war.60

Despite the retreat before Moscow, the Germans maintained favorable positions for a 1942 summer campaign. Hitler fixed the main thrust toward the Caucasus mountain range, the oil fields and refineries of which supplied 80 percent of the USSR’s petroleum. He ordered Army Group South correspondingly reinforced. With the capture of Voronezh on July 8, 1942, the German panzer divisions were poised to cross the Don River, but the Führer initially forbade the crossing. Not wanting to weaken the offensive by splitting his forces, he commanded instead that the 4thPanzer Army turn south to join the main advance toward the oil fields.61 Soviet formations in the south were in retreat and seriously demoralized.

German radio specialists arrested two former Polish army officers in a Warsaw suburb, who transmitted detailed information to Moscow about the Caucasus offensive. Abwehr officials, the rank-and-file of whom did not share the treasonous sentiments of Canaris and Oster, reported this to the Führer’s headquarters. It revealed that Stalin knew about the Germans' military preparations. Receiving the report, General Fellgiebel decided that it was “too alarming” and would only upset the Führer. He buried the news.62

With the element of surprise compromised, Army Group South began Operation Blue on July 28. Army Group A pushed toward the Caucasus. To the northeast, Army Group B consecutively advanced on Stalingrad to cover the flank. This was an industrial complex strung along the Volga River, notorious for the working population’s primitive housing. Hitler’s operational plan called for the destruction of Stalingrad’s arms production through bombardment or siege. Capture of the metropolis was not an expressed goal; the Caucasus was the primary objective of the campaign.63

The high command soon watered down the offensive. Haider wrote in his diary on June 30 that the chief of the OKW staff, Alfred Jodl, had told Hitler during a situation conference “with great emphasis, that the fate of the Caucasus will be decided at Stalingrad. Therefore, necessary to transfer elements of Army Group A to B.... In new packaging, an idea is served up that I had introduced to the Führer six days earlier."64

Halder shifted the 4th Panzer Army from the southern front on July 30, to serve as the “spearhead for the attack on Stalingrad.” Despite protests from Army Group A’s field commanders, Halder also took away the elite Grossdeutschland motorized infantry division. One historian summarized, “Now two equally strong army groups with almost the same number of panzer and motorized formations were operating in two different directions. The northern group attacked with four panzer and three motorized divisions; the southern with three panzer and three motorized divisions. The formations slotted for the main purpose of the campaign were weaker than those covering the flank."65 Army Group South proved unable to conquer the Caucasus region, which would have paralyzed the Red Army’s capacity to conduct offensive operations. The northern force became bogged down in a costly and pointless effort to capture Stalingrad.

During the advance toward the Caucasus, the OKH robbed Army Group A of another trump: the 60,000-man Italian Alpine Corps. This consisted of three well-trained mountain divisions, each of them equipped with 5,000 pack mules. Instead of deploying the elite corps in the mountains, the OKH directed it to march northward to reinforce Stalingrad. Thus the soldiers, clad in wool uniforms for wear in the cooler, high-altitude climate, began a punishing foot march in warm weather across the Asian steppe. As mountain divisions, they possessed no anti-tank guns or heavy artillery, making them virtually defenseless against Soviet armor.

On August 27, General Rinaldo Dallarmi wrote Mussolini about the corps' orders: “We came to Russia certain to go to the Caucasus, superbly suited for our training, weapons and equipment, and where we could join the best German and Rumanian mountain divisions in an almost sport-like competition to achieve the most. Then we're re-directed into the Don region, into flat territory and without adequate weapons. We received rifles from 1891 and four ridiculously small cannons, useless against the Russian 34-ton tanks. There are only so many Alpini. That’s not a human resource that should be treated frivolously."66

The southern offensive foundered when a major Soviet counterattack struck Army Group B in November. This compelled Army Group A to retreat from the Caucasus to avoid becoming flanked. The Russians surrounded and destroyed the German 6th Army at Stalingrad. Historians blame Hitler for the catastrophe, but the verdict does not weigh the flagrant disregard of his orders, misleading intelligence he received, or militarily senseless troop movements carried out by the OKH without his knowledge.

For instance, the left flank of Army Group B ran southeastward along the Don River, from Voronezh to Stalingrad. Defending the positions were the Hungarian 2nd Army, the Italian 8th Army, the Rumanian 3rd Army and the German 6th Army. The 4th Panzer Army covered the right flank. Hitler knew that the poorly equipped foreign contingents could not repulse a potential Soviet offensive. In August, he ordered the 22nd Panzer and two infantry divisions transferred to support the Italian 8th Army. The Hungarians were also to receive reinforcements, including heavy artillery and new German 75mm anti-tank guns. Halder virtually ignored the order, dispatching only weak, token units a few weeks later.67

In late October, the Führer directed that the crack 6th Panzer Division and two more infantry divisions be shifted from France to buttress the Rumanians and the Italians. The OKH delayed the full transfer of these formations until December. It was equally tardy about stationing new Luftwaffe field divisions behind the armies of Germany’s allies, as Hitler had called for. The 22nd Panzer Division, which he thought was at full strength, sorely needed replenishment. Of its 104 panzers, just 32 were operational. The OKH concealed this fact from its commander-in-chief.68

On September 9 and 16, the war diary of the OKW staff recorded Hitler’s orders to reinforce the Italian 8th Army. The diary noted on October 6, “The Führer repeats his anxiety over a major Russian attack, perhaps even a winter offensive in the sector of our allies' armies, driving across the Don toward Rostov. The reasons for apprehension include strong enemy troop movements and bridge-building over the Don in many places.” Once more the OKW diary, from November 5: “The feared Russian attack over the Don is again discussed. The number of bridges under construction there is constantly growing. The Luftwaffe wants to show pictures. The Führer orders strong air attacks against the bridge sites and suspects enemy assembly areas in the woods along the banks."69

Reconnaissance confirmed Hitler’s concerns. From the comparatively high ground they defended southwest of Sirotinskaya, men of the 44th Hoch und Deutschmeister Infantry Division observed concentrations of Soviet troops and materiel along the Don, opposite positions of the Rumanian 3rd Army. In a nearby sector, Russian deserters told Italian interrogators that they had been ordered to remain in concealment during the day. The Abwehr liaison to whom the Italians relayed this intelligence, replied that German aerial observation was more credible and had reported nothing, when in fact, the opposite was true. Max Ladoga, a radioman with the long-range reconnaissance squadron, wrote, “The Russians there are constantly bringing up strong reinforcements. Our daily flights have captured it all, filmed and reported it.” The observer Pemler recalled that flight crews sent timely warnings up the chain of command, which no one took seriously.70

Other sources delivered details of Red Army preparations. The Abwehr had launched Operation Zeppelin in July 1942, during which hundreds of anti-Communist Russians parachuted behind Soviet lines and provided information to the Germans. Over the next several months, they counted 3,269 railroad trains ferrying Soviet troops toward the Stalingrad combat zone, plus another 1,056 trains carrying war materiel. German aerial reconnaissance discovered on November 10 that the Russians had transferred the 5th Tank Army there as well.71 On November 11, the commander of Nachrichtenaufklärung 1 (Communications Evaluation Section 1) submitted to the OKH a comprehensive analysis of intercepted Soviet military radio traffic. It identified enemy reserves transferred to the Stalingrad area of operations. The report accurately predicted that that Russians were about to launch a pincer attack to surround the German 6th Army: “The deployment may already be substantially progressing."72

Foreign Armies East was responsible for assessing these reports. In the spring of 1942, Halder had arranged for his former adjutant, Reinhard Gehlen, to become its chief. Believing like Hindenburg that “Germany should not be governed by a Bohemian corporal,” Gehlen later acknowledged actively supporting the resistance.73 In August 1942, he reported with a straight face that since the previous February, due to a shortage of officers, the Red Army had not formed a single new combat division.74

Gehlen disclosed to Hitler neither the progress of Zeppelin nor the proximity of the 5th Tank Army, which he claimed was stationed far to the north. Even though the Red Army had massed 66 percent of its armor opposite Army Group B, Gehlen warned that the Russians were planning instead to attack near Smolensk farther north. He reassured the Führer’s headquarters on November 11, “There is no indication of a possible attack soon.... Available (Soviet) forces are too weak for major operations."75

The Russian offensive began on November 19, 1942. Tanks steamrollered the Rumanian positions as Hitler had feared. In a major pincer operation, they drove southward to surround Stalingrad. The Soviet 57th Army plunged headlong into General Hans-Georg Leyser’s full-strength, motorized 29th Infantry Division, which counterattacked without authorization from the general staff. Its 55 tanks of Panzer Battalion 129 struck furiously along a railroad line detraining masses of surprised Russian infantrymen and supplies. Sealing off this enemy penetration, the 29th turned southwest to assault the flank of the Soviet 4th Corps. Before the operation began, the division received the suspicious order to break contact and withdraw into the Stalingrad perimeter.76 This enabled the Russians to continue their encirclement of the 6th Army.

Believing that the Luftwaffe could airlift sufficient supplies into Stalingrad, but also based on Gehlen’s report that the Soviets had no reserves left, Hitler decided to supply the trapped garrison by air until a relief operation could be prepared. Junkers transport planes and Heinkel bombers delivered provisions to the 6th Army’s airfields and evacuated wounded on return flights out. Organizing the missions was quartermaster Colonel Eberhard Finckh. An active conspirator, he arranged for a substantial number of flights to carry useless cargo. In addition to food, medical supplies and ammunition, the beleaguered troops at Stalingrad received thousands of old newspapers, candy, false collars, barbed wire, roofing paper, four tons of margarine and pepper, 200,000 pocketbooks, shoe laces, spices and so on.77

The German army launched a relief expedition on December 13, spearheaded by General Erhard Raus’s 6th Panzer Division. Ten percent above full strength, the formation possessed 160 tanks, including Panzer IVs fitted with the new high velocity cannon, 4,200 trucks, 20 heavy armored cars and 42 self-propelled assault guns. The 17th and 23rd Panzer Divisions (which had been weakened by constant fighting that autumn) took part in the operation. The attack progressed to within 30 miles of Stalingrad. Some 50 miles west, Soviet tanks counterattacked and captured the airfield at Morosovskaya, threatening the German flank on the lower Chir River. Instead of dispatching weaker covering units to plug the gap, the high command transferred the 6th Panzer Division to the Chir position. This, in the opinion of the historian and former Waffen SS Lieutenant Heinz Schmolke, was pure overkill: “Two weeks later, I myself was commander of a strongpoint on the Donez River, which was completely frozen over, with two bridges. I held the position there for ten days and nights against a vastly superior Russian force. No one can tell me that the Chir front could not have held out one more day, until contact with the surrounded 6th Army was established."78

When on December 23 the 6th Panzer Division received the incomprehensible order to withdraw from the relief operation, its officers at first assumed it to be a mistake. Deprived of this armored spearhead, the remaining units proved too weak to press the attack toward Stalingrad. Shortly before his death in the 1950’s, Raus expressed the torment his conscience still suffered for not disobeying the order and continuing the advance. There were 220,000 German soldiers and foreign auxiliaries on the 6th Army’s roster in mid-January 1943, two weeks before the garrison surrendered.79 Six thousand survived Soviet captivity.

The battle of Stalingrad not only proved a crushing military defeat for Germany but, for her civilian population, became the psychological turning point of the war. In 1948, former Gestapo chief Heinrich Müller summarized the dissonance in the Führer’s headquarters: “Many older officers of high rank sabotaged Hitler’s plans.... Although I'm no military expert, I know that Hitler was right about military matters more often than these people. Hitler would issue an order, and because some general would find Hitler personally offensive, this officer would indirectly disobey the order. Then when a disaster occurred, the same man and his friends dumped the blame on Hitler. And they often lied right to his face."80

Believing Army Group South to be substantially weakened, the Soviets exploited their victory by opening an immediate offensive. The Germans rallied and inflicted a serious and surprising defeat on the Red Army at Kharkov in March 1943, stabilizing the German front. During late spring, the OKW began concentrating its best divisions for a new offensive with limited objectives. Two mechanized army groups were deployed around Belgorod and Orel to launch a pincer movement to destroy a Soviet concentration near Kursk. Hitler confided to General Guderian that the proposed Operation Citadel made him “sick to his stomach,” though some of his best military strategists supported this unimaginative plan.81 The OKW hoped to restore Germany’s prestige in the eyes of her allies, as well as morale in the armed forces, with a major victory. It also anticipated netting several hundred thousand prisoners who could be integrated into Germany’s industrial workforce. Citadel began on July 5, 1943. Passages quoted from the memoirs of German infantrymen in the first wave suggest that subversives in the OKH had betrayed this operation as well. Kurt Pfötsch, a grenadier in the Leibstandarte, wrote this: “The first day of the attack with a huge commitment of panzers, artillery and elite divisions, dive bomber attacks and rocket launchers, such as never before seen in warfare, and we're stuck here lying flat till Ivan shoots us to pieces. I realize with a shudder, there’s no element of surprise! . . . It looks instead as though he knew how and where the German attack would take place."82

Herbert Brunnegger, serving in the SS Totenkopf division, recalled that the day before the offensive, “Two deserters, waving a white flag, come over to us from the Pirol woods. . . . The deserters tell us what we still don't know; the scope and exact timetable of our offensive!” During the battle, Brunnegger continued, “I learn from one of our artillery officers that this operation was already postponed twice because the attack schedule had been betrayed."83 Hitler called off the slow-moving, costly advance in less than two weeks.

The fighting at Orel-Belgorod coincided with Anglo-American landings in Italy. This compelled the OKW to transfer troops to the Mediterranean theater, so the Red Army went over to the offensive. It never relinquished the strategic initiative for the balance of the war. Traitors on the general staff continued to work for their country’s defeat. General Rudolf Schmundt said this of the plotters: “They stick together through thick and thin, sabotage the Führer’s orders whenever they can, naturally in such a way that the evidence never points to them. They're always scattering sand in the machinery of our armed forces. Each one watches the other’s back. Officers who don't belong to their clique they try to banish to some insignificant post."84

In the summer of 1944, law enforcement authorities cracked the resistance movement and began trying the ringleaders for treason. One of the defendants, the former social democrat Wilhelm Leuschner, testified about a conversation he had once had with Ludwig Beck. A general staff officer during World War I, Beck had become chief of staff in 1935. He had retired from active service before the second war, but the former general still intrigued against Hitler. His fellow plotters considered him the military head of the anti-government movement. Leuschner’s recollection of Beck’s words, quoted here, offer disturbing insight into the designs of these so-called Germans: “Beck explained that there are now enough people we can depend on in positions of command on the eastern front, that the war can be controlled until the regime collapses. They arrange, for example, retreats of their units without ever informing neighboring formations, so that the Soviets can penetrate the gap and roll up the front on both sides. These neighboring units are therefore also forced to retreat or are captured."85

The following illustrates what it meant to be captured by the Red Army, as Leuschner so indifferently described. In June 1944, the Soviets began a major offensive against Army Group Center. The Germans had shifted reinforcements too far south, to the sector where Gehlen had falsely warned that an enemy operation would take place. Foreign Armies East apparently took no notice of the 138 Soviet divisions and 5,200 tanks (in all 2.5 million Russian soldiers), massed opposite Army Group Center.86 The army group’s first general staff officer, a tenanted aristocrat named Henning von Tresckow, had gradually filled the entire staff with anti-Hitler officers.87

The Russian attack, Army Group Center’s report for the first day stated, was “a complete surprise, since according to the current evaluation of the enemy, no one presumed such massing of enemy forces."88 In the path of the Soviet juggernaut was the fully operational German 4th Army. Much according to Beck’s recipe for defeat, it received no orders; nor was it informed of the plight of neighboring formations. In the words of historian Rolf Hinze, it suffered from an “inexplicable lack of direction” from the headquarters of Army Group Center. Tresckow made no effort to reestablish communications or to airlift supplies. His staff dispatched not one observation plane to reconnoiter the progress of advancing enemy mechanized forces, which would have been necessary for determining a retreat route for the 4th Army.89 The Germans lost a total of 350,000 men during the Soviet offensive, of which 150,000 became prisoners of war. Roughly half of these men soon died from shootings along the march to collection areas, starvation or neglect during the torturous rail journey, jammed into freight cars, toward the Russian interior. The Soviets paraded 57,600 survivors through Moscow. The mob lining the street cursed, threatened and spat at the helpless prisoners. This was the fate that Tresckow, Gehlen, Beck and company visited upon their countrymen who wore the same uniform.

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