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Old July 3rd, 2011, 10:50 AM   #1

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did the average wehrmacht soldier know the war was lost


i got into an argument the other day with a friend about how much the average wehrmacht soldier in WW2 knew about the rest of the war and there chances of wining. i have read Guy Sajers account of the war against russia and even as he and his comrades were pushed back to prussia and fought to defend it he does not appear to have felt that the war was lost. my argument with my friend was that most of the soldiers went on believing to the near very end that things would turn around, that they would regroup and launch a counter offensive that would drive the russians back or that the americans and british would join them in the war. while of course not everyone felt this way and the military police in the last months of the war were always on the look out for deserters or 'cowerds' as they saw it. soldiers i would imagine were not told of developments on other fronts, sure what good with it do, and so a soldier who served on the eastern front would not have known of the normandy invasion.

what do the rest of you think, did the average german soldier in WW2 know much if anything about the other fronts and even to the near end did he still believe in victory or at least a negotiated peace
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Old July 3rd, 2011, 10:59 AM   #2

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i can remember seeing a wehrmacht veteran on a documentary(cant remember which one), who said that they believed they would still win.
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Old July 3rd, 2011, 11:03 AM   #3

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The propaganda machine being pushed by Herr Goebbels lasted far into 1945 and portrayed false hopes of a German revival. All this was of course to buy time for the NS high command to attempt to flee the fatherland, for places like Argentina.

[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ro3zdKMWvcg&feature=related]YouTube - ‪Hitler visits the Eastern front (Feb 1945)‬‏[/ame]
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Old July 3rd, 2011, 12:22 PM   #4
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From family members I have talked to and their friends in the German military, no, they knew it was lost.

1) No way Germany would beat the British.

2) After Stalingrad, no way would the Russians be beaten.

3) Once the daylight bombing campaign started, no way America would be beaten.

People fought on because of: duty (for which people had a stronger feeling for than today, in general), afraid that their family would be punished and that some sort of deal would be made, such as the armistice of 1918.
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Old July 3rd, 2011, 12:24 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kraken View Post
The propaganda machine being pushed by Herr Goebbels lasted far into 1945 and portrayed false hopes of a German revival. All this was of course to buy time for the NS high command to attempt to flee the fatherland, for places like Argentina.

YouTube - ‪Hitler visits the Eastern front (Feb 1945)‬‏
^^^ haha The eastern front being at Stargard, an hour east of Berlin.
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Old July 3rd, 2011, 12:24 PM   #6

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Like most thinhgs it depends on how bright and educated he is, deep down most Germans must have known that as soon they were fighting East and West they were doomed.

The propaganda is very important and many would have believed it because they wanted and or needed to.

After Overlord I find it difficult to believe that even the average soldier thought they were going to win.
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Old July 3rd, 2011, 12:39 PM   #7

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This boils down to the individual and his circumstances.

On the one hand, I'm sure there were soldiers who, blinded by propaganda or "the cause", had the belief, hope and faith that things would turn to their favor once again.

On the other hand, there were soldiers who may have been unwilling or unable to AVOID the reality of the situation. My grandfather was one of those.

Originally a horse farmer from the area of Braunschweig, he entered the service in his late teens and held a variety of posts on the Eastern Front. Early in the war, he was a machine-gunner stationed in a heavy bunker, until someone managed to toss a grenade into it. He survived, with shrapnel lodged near his spine (which stayed there until his death from kidney failure in the 1990s.) After recovering, he was assigned to an armoured cavalry unit - and yes, they still had horses as part of that unit, although they were mainly used as pack animals and emergency transport.

Near the end of the war, his division began feeling the impact of the allied successes, not via bullets and bombs, but via lack of supplies. He rarely talked about the war to anyone, but one time at thanksgiving, he recalled a good memory about good food which they had shared with local civilians on a holiday. When he started recounting the story, it was in a whistful, reminiscing tone, however his recollection of the event brought other, darker memories to the surface. As he continued, he explained that it came to a point where his division had no more fuel or food, so every day they'd use the horses to haul their equipment as far as they could and at the end of the day, they'd kill some of the horses and eat them. At this point, he shattered, broke down and wept openly. This, by far, seemed to affect him more than any other aspect of the war.

There was no doubt in his mind or in the minds of his fellow soldiers that they were on the brink of defeat and/or death. The human spirit is strong, though, and each soldier knew that by continuing to follow orders, there was still a chance of survival (even if only as a POW) whereas to desert the army meant certain death. The choice was fairly clear, and perhaps it was this stark reality that made some soldiers resort to the unreasonable hope/faith/belief that things would turn around in their favor. How else could they have kept on going otherwise?

EDIT:

Quote:
Originally Posted by dragoner View Post
From family members I have talked to and their friends in the German military, no, they knew it was lost.

1) No way Germany would beat the British.

2) After Stalingrad, no way would the Russians be beaten.

3) Once the daylight bombing campaign started, no way America would be beaten.

People fought on because of: duty (for which people had a stronger feeling for than today, in general), afraid that their family would be punished and that some sort of deal would be made, such as the armistice of 1918.
Agreed.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevinmeath View Post
Like most thinhgs it depends on how bright and educated he is, deep down most Germans must have known that as soon they were fighting East and West they were doomed.

The propaganda is very important and many would have believed it because they wanted and or needed to.

After Overlord I find it difficult to believe that even the average soldier thought they were going to win.
Agreed also.

Last edited by DiaitaDoc; July 3rd, 2011 at 12:51 PM.
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Old July 3rd, 2011, 12:50 PM   #8

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevinmeath View Post
Like most thinhgs it depends on how bright and educated he is, deep down most Germans must have known that as soon they were fighting East and West they were doomed.

The propaganda is very important and many would have believed it because they wanted and or needed to.

After Overlord I find it difficult to believe that even the average soldier thought they were going to win.
During the first half of the war, the german soldiers were supplied with an armed forces magazine 'SIGNAL'. The magazine was printed in Germany and paris. It had a National Socialist outlook but, the war on other fronts was dealt with quite regularly. It reported on the progress of the war effort by the remainder of the Wehrmacht. It was obviously 'coloured' to favour the Axis but, It did not really report out and out lies.
Other articles in the magazine were purly propoganda, with scientific explanations as to why the National Socialists would win the conflict etc.
It is hard to concieve that the average german soldier had no idea of the sucesses or failures elswhere. The Russian front however, demanded all of their thoughts from the point of view of survival, so I dont think they could afford to worry about events elsewhere.
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Old July 3rd, 2011, 01:04 PM   #9
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On the Russian front, as a general rule, the Russians didn't take prisoners and those that were taken, were not liable to survive. So surrendering wasn't an option, but given the right situation, like at Tunisia or D-Day, huge numbers of German troops would surrender.
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Old July 3rd, 2011, 01:38 PM   #10

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A soldier only knows as much as he is told. Obviously for morale, the generals would not be disclosing any relevant information on which way the war was turning, or how many reserves of troops are left. Of course, when you are continuously losing battles, it would become suspect. But the way the Wehrmacht and SS fought in Russia, you would imagine they still had a shimmer of hope left that they would turn the tide eventually.
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