Was unconditional surrender in regards to Germany in WWII a good policy?

Was unconditional surrender in regards to Germany in WWII a good policy?


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starman

Ad Honorem
Jan 2014
3,833
Connecticut
#51
It didn't matter who governed Germany it was going to be militant and expansionist because of that old Prussian junker mentality,
Germany had socialists and a far left. See Metalmann, Through Hell for Hitler.

Germans loved war
In fact the enthusiasm of the German people for war was considerably dampened by WWI. After further tremendous losses, including the bombings even just down to early '43, they'd want peace--especially if they could have it on decent terms, which would tend to obviate further political extremism.
 

Sam-Nary

Ad Honorem
Jun 2012
6,761
At present SD, USA
#52
Germany had socialists and a far left. See Metalmann, Through Hell for Hitler.
There were Socialists in Germany, and by this Socialists that fit within the standard definition of Socialism, in the Social Democratic Party, but it should also be remembered that while the party through its history did gain votes through the late 1800s and was one of the largest competing parties well into the early 20th Century before the rise of Hitler, it should be noted that the German ruling class, be it the Kaiser and the aristocracy prior to 1918 or Hitler and the Nazis after 1933 did everything possible to try and negate and counter the Social Democrats.

In fact just about all the Socialist elements that have been found in National Socialism were likely there to undercut many of the Social Democrats' policies in order to enable the Nazis to go all out with regard to their various nationalist agendas.

So... yes, there were Left wing parties in Germany prior to 1945, and to a certain extent they were relatively popular, BUT their outright power and influence was largely limited or undercut by the Right wing politicians and leaders as well. Hitler and the Nazis simply proved to be the most successful at stamping out their opposition than Wilhelm II or Bismarck were. And the result of this would mean that by 1943, if the Allies were to enter into negotiations with Germany, be it lead by a Nazi other than Hitler or by a non-Nazi German, the odds are likely that the views and opinions held would not be from the political Left Wing in 1943. In fact, more than likely, it'd be from the army, which even by 1939 was rather accepting of many Nazi beliefs and principles, even if they didn't personally like the Nazis as a party.

In fact the enthusiasm of the German people for war was considerably dampened by WWI.
In a sense this IS true, and at first Hitler did play to it as part of his way of making it look like the world was attacking Germany and that he'd tried to "avoid" war.

However, the German sense of nationalism didn't decline in WWI. The Germans still took great pride in being German and operating under the general perception that they were generally better than their rivals in Europe. It's merely that the First World War brought in too many factors that Germany's nationalists was beyond even Germany's ability to endure for long. In that sense, it's how Ludendorff who as the 100 Days Offensive began and the German army was driven from its positions at Amiens would remark, "the war must be ended," essentially admitting that they'd been defeated, could by the 20s come back and claim that Germany had militarily WON the First World War and had been betrayed at the conference table, because no Allied army was on German soil on November 11, 1918.

Now, the Myth may not have had much support when it was declared in Germany generally, it WAS heavily believed by the Nazis and many of the military men who politically or militarily in the late 20s and early 30s sought to avoid that sort of situation again. And by the late 30s as Hitler prepared for WW2, the "Stab in the Back" was the official history in Germany for what happened in WWI and had been repeated as much as possible, along with other Nazi propaganda, that actually made many Nazi beliefs rather widespread.

Which would in turn mean that if the limited condition is the removal of Hitler and the Nazi Party was the lone Allied condition before negotiations could begin, the Allies would STILL need to be ready to give up A LOT because the men who would most likely replace Hitler would generally be in agreement with many Nazi policies, ideas, and views... which means, if the negotiated treaty doesn't make them feel like the winners of the war... you'll likely see history repeat itself under a new extreme nationalist party later on that would again repeat the idea that some how Germany had been denied the victory its armies had won...

After further tremendous losses, including the bombings even just down to early '43, they'd want peace--especially if they could have it on decent terms, which would tend to obviate further political extremism.
The defeat at Stalingrad and Kursk and the surrender of Italy by 1943, coupled by the growing Allied bombing campaign of Germany in 1943 would open the door to the potential for Hitler to be overthrown... that is true.

But again... under what terms that are going to be acceptable to the Allies are men like Rundstedt, Manstein, and even Beck are going to accept? Many of the men that have often been connected to the Valkyrie Plot in 1944 weren't necessarily in favor of democratic government and a few were perfectly fine with the atrocities committed in the Soviet Union and elsewhere. In this, any negotiation would have to give up a lot as the Germans would still be in a position of relative power to control the negotiations in their favor, particularly if the peace is to be lasting...

Which would then be disheartening to the Allies, and particularly Poland. Because in such a situation, about the only thing that the British would really gain from the negotiations would be the German army overthrowing Hitler and the Nazis, and that's about it. So, what would the British actually win? France would still be a German puppet/ally, Poland wouldn't exist, and with the war over, Germany would be given time to recover from the bombings and Hitler's mistakes.

The Soviets might be able to claim more in that they could probably pose enough of a threat that the Germans would have to return to the borders under the Ribbentrop/Molotov Pact, which would mean they'd defeated Hitler's 1941 objectives when he launched Barbarossa. But, with Germany likely under the military's leadership and on a shorter line, they would probably still be on some degree of edge that such negotiations might only be to stall for time... which by the time the Germans then try again to conquer Russia, there may not be a "Western Front" to divide German attentions.

In this... while a negotiated peace was plausible and perhaps even possible in 1943, it would not be likely under conditions that would make the Allies feel like they'd really won anything.
 
Jul 2016
8,187
USA
#53
Germany had socialists and a far left. See Metalmann, Through Hell for Hitler.

In fact the enthusiasm of the German people for war was considerably dampened by WWI. After further tremendous losses, including the bombings even just down to early '43, they'd want peace--especially if they could have it on decent terms, which would tend to obviate further political extremism.
Any anti-war sentiments was not shared by the officer corps, who were still vestiges of the junker aristocracy. They still loved warfare. And it didn't matter what type of govt took over Germany, they were going to be expansionist until that militancy was crushed, one way or another.

Silent portions of the German officer corps only wanted peace when it became apparent they were losing. But the conditions at which they'd accept peace would NEVER have been acceptable.
 

botully

Ad Honorem
Feb 2011
3,454
Amelia, Virginia, USA
#54
In fact the enthusiasm of the German people for war was considerably dampened by WWI. After further tremendous losses, including the bombings even just down to early '43, they'd want peace--especially if they could have it on decent terms, which would tend to obviate further political extremism.
You keep saying things like "generous terms", "decent terms" and the like. You also seem to think these "generous terms" only need be palatable to the Germans.
Maybe you should stop being vague and tell us what these generous, decent terms are.
 

Vaeltaja

Ad Honorem
Sep 2012
3,635
#55
You keep saying things like "generous terms", "decent terms" and the like. You also seem to think these "generous terms" only need be palatable to the Germans.
Maybe you should stop being vague and tell us what these generous, decent terms are.
That is not really related to the topic. One might argue that issue is if people would rather consent to an agreement on the terms they know versus to one that has terms which are unknown to them. Demanding to hear what the exact hypothetical terms would have been is just obfuscating the matter - and in fact utterly irrelevant. They could have even been offered the exact same terms they ended up getting after surrendering unconditionally. The problem with unconditional surrender demand was that there was no way for the Germans to know what the Allies wanted - hence the statement which i already posted previously: "[demanding] unconditional surrender is an open invitation to unconditional resistance".
 

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
14,273
SoCal
#56
That is not really related to the topic. One might argue that issue is if people would rather consent to an agreement on the terms they know versus to one that has terms which are unknown to them. Demanding to hear what the exact hypothetical terms would have been is just obfuscating the matter - and in fact utterly irrelevant. They could have even been offered the exact same terms they ended up getting after surrendering unconditionally. The problem with unconditional surrender demand was that there was no way for the Germans to know what the Allies wanted - hence the statement which i already posted previously: "[demanding] unconditional surrender is an open invitation to unconditional resistance".
I suspect that any German leadership would rather fight almost to the bitter end than agree to the expulsion of 15 million ethnic Germans and to the partition of Germany into two separate countries, though.
 

Sam-Nary

Ad Honorem
Jun 2012
6,761
At present SD, USA
#57
That is not really related to the topic. One might argue that issue is if people would rather consent to an agreement on the terms they know versus to one that has terms which are unknown to them. Demanding to hear what the exact hypothetical terms would have been is just obfuscating the matter - and in fact utterly irrelevant. They could have even been offered the exact same terms they ended up getting after surrendering unconditionally. The problem with unconditional surrender demand was that there was no way for the Germans to know what the Allies wanted - hence the statement which i already posted previously: "[demanding] unconditional surrender is an open invitation to unconditional resistance".
It may not relate to the philosophical point, but it DOES enter into the discussion when it relates to rightness or wrongness of a decision. Because what is wanted in the outcome of a war will ALWAYS be a factor in it. And if it's to be a conditional peace, one needs to take into account what one side will accept and what one side will demand...

And that then creates a push and pull over what one side will accept or not. One may potentially argue, "but Germany had to give up a lot at the end of WWI and that was a conditional peace. So it could be done again." However, it should be remembered that when Germany surrendered in WWI, it was at a point where economically it was wrecked, it's people were starving at home, and it wouldn't be too long before Allied armies entered German territory. There really wasn't much the Germans could do to project a position of power in 1918.

However, in 1943, the situation would be very different if the Army overthrew Hitler and offered negotiations. For, yes, by that time it would be fairly clear that Germany had lost the war... but it wasn't yet blatantly obvious to everyone and it wasn't directly impacting Germans at home to the point where they would be willing to accept terms that would make Germany come off as the "loser." And this would be something the German army would be in agreement with.

And, yes, not demanding unconditional surrender would raise the possibility that Hitler and the Nazis would be overthrown... or at least could be overthrown. However, even with it and this begins in 1943 while the Germans are still in a position of relative strength... knowing what the Allies would give up to "claim" victory is going to be a critical point. Because the German Army is not going to accept the territorial loss of everything east of the Oder River and neither are they going to accept the loss of what was gained in the west in 1940. And in 1943, they'd have enough military strength to force the Allies to accept terms that would essentially amount to defeat in the bigger picture if negotiating peace was their sole goal.

Which thus raises the question of what terms the Allies could or would offer in 1943 that would both give the Allies a clear victory in the war over Germany that Germany's generals would also accept. And remember, as far as the German general staff in 1943 would be concerned, removing their western conquests and annexations and the territory gained under the Ribbentrop/Molotov pact would also likely be non-negotiable... Which would come into conflict with WHY Britain went to war in 1939 in the first place.
 
Mar 2011
5,046
Brazil
#58
You cannot possibly draw parallels between the Holocaust and the civilian casualties caused by the Allies. Also, I doubt the numbers you present. Sources?
The number of civilians killed by British and American air raids certainly were over 1 million. About 400,000 German civilians were killed by British and American bombing, plus 400,000 Japanese civilians killed in strategic bombing plus the 150,000 Japanese civilians killed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Plus the French, Italian and other civilians killed in areas occupied by Germany during the war.

And yes, I can drawn a lot of parallels between the Holocaust and the civilian casualties caused by the Allies. Specially if you consider that among the Allies you had Stalin who murdered about 5 million people in Ukraine in the Holomodor, being in terms of evil deeds an equal to Hitler and whose armies represented the vast majority of the military forces deployed by the Allies in Europe during the war.

I wonder why so many people believe in the fact that the National Socialists in Germany were a special kind of evil, as if the civilians murdered by other governments were a lesses evil than the civilians murdered by the National Socialist government in Germany.

I think that the main cause of this belief is the propaganda machinery of the Allies, that since they won the war they write history and so the maximized on the "evilness" of their hated enemies.

Another big factor was that the National Socialists in Germany killed a lot of civilians who were Jewish and as we know the Jews are on average among the richest and most influential individuals in the western world. If you kill millions Africans like Belgium did in their colonial territories (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atrocities_in_the_Congo_Free_State) nobody cares but if you kill the same number of Jews, Hollywood will make 1,000 movies about it.

In Japan, for instance, a country outside of the Western cultural sphere, the Nazis are not regarded as being a special kind of evil. That is, something distinct from the atrocities committed by other State actors.

Another question is how much the Nazis operated despite the will of the general German population, and how much the civilian population actually supported the invasion and destruction of so many European countries. A still greater question is how many Germans were actually aware of the Holocaust and participated in it, one way or the other. Was it perpetrated by Nazis only, with no accomplices or at least silent acceptance by the rest? Which leads to the question, reversely, how widespread was this "innocence" you speak of, and how to deal with it?
You are claiming that individuals living inside a country are responsible for what the government of that country does. That is a ludicrous assertion. Individual human beings that just happen to be born inside a territory that is controlled by an organization that we can The State are not in any way responsible for the actions of that organization unless they are actively involved in it's decision making.

The government of Germany was controlled by a small set of individuals: Hitler, Speer, Goebbels, Goring, Himmler, etc. These individuals were the ones who gave the orders and planned for the holocaust.

To attribute responsibility for the actions of an individual organization that is controlled by a small set of people (in a dictatorship) to the population living inside the territory controlled by this organization is a common type of belief that people have.

I think this belief is derived from collectivist philosophies that equate the individuals living inside a country with the "country itself" as if "Germany" was an entity that existed beyond the individuals living inside it and this entity "Germany" was "guilty" of atrocities and had to be punished for it, hence the murder of hundreds of thousands of women and children in German cities by Allied bombs was perfectly moral since these women and children were part of "Germany" and "Germany" was "evil". This kind of mentality is exactly what is behind political philosophies such as National Socialism. I cannot express the level of repugnance I feel for this kind of political philosophy but I find it rather funny that the people who think that mass murder of Germans was justified are thinking in exactly the same way as the Nazis when they were thinking about their plans for the mass murder of Jews.

Also, I seriously doubt that the Nazis would be gone if Germany was offered a conditional surrender before its total defeat. Even after its unconditional surrender, the process of denazification was never completed, only time accomplished this.

Finally, are you aware of the stab-in-the-back-myth, and if so, how to avoid its repetition after WWII if Germany was not completely and utterly defeated?
I rather have a fascist German govenrment after WW2 and saving the lives of 20 million people rather than having what we had historically, having half of Europe under Stalinist occupation and tens of millions of deaths. Fascist regimes were common back in the mid 20th century: Brazil under Vargas and Spain under Franco also were fascist regimes, yet nobody was talking about invading these countries, unlike Germany.

Even if the fascists in Germany remained in power they would be much less likely to start another war given that they were defeated and after being defeated the geopolitical situation would change to a much more stable geopolitical world order.

WW2 started mainly because the leading powers at the time were weaker than Germany: France and the UK were the leading world powers in the 1930's and they lacked the manpower and industrial resources to effectively restrain Germany. So naturally, a nationalist Germany would rise and try to wrestle their dominant status.

With the US and the Soviet Union emerging as the leading world powers after WW2, with their massive manpower, natural resources and industrial resources, they would be much more effective in enforcing a global order and preventing hostile actors like Fascist Germany into invading other countries.

After Stalingrad WW2 was over in strategic terms as the Axis were already defeated. WW2 lasted so long after it not because the Nazis were irrational genocidal murderers but because of the lack of willing to any compromise by the Allies. Hence, for the Axis powers their optimal strategy was to defend themselves until the Allies became exhausted as to allow for some sort of compromise. The Allied powers on the other hand were perfectly willing to sacrifice tens of millions of people in order to completely annihilate the state actors that they didn't like.
 
Last edited:
Mar 2011
5,046
Brazil
#59
The bulk of the German population did not know. Political operators greatly under estimated how far Hitler would go,

Hitler still did not got a majority of votes, well short of that. Hitler was NOT elected, nor was the Nazis elected in enough numbers to totally remake the constitution of Germany.

To say Hitler was elected is a problematic statement.
It's not problematic: it's an incorrect statement. Also, even if Hitler were elected and even if the voters were fully aware that he would become a dictator if elected that doesn't justify the mass murder of the German population.

First because almost nobody was thinking about "lets murder all the Jews and Slavs" when they voted for Hitler, second because when you do mass murder policies in 1944-1945 such as strategic bombing, you are killing a lot of people who didn't vote in the election of 1932 besides also killed those that voted against Hitler. In 1932 Hitler got 13,418,517 votes, in 1944, Germany had 90 million people, of which I guess around 10-12 million had voted for Hitler in 1932. Hence, about 90% of the German civilians who were killed by the Allies didn't vote for the Nazis in an open and fair election.

The only situation were I would think that mass murder of civilians could be justified on the grounds of the atrocities committed by their government would be if those atrocities were decided in direct democracy, like Ancient Athens did, and if all the people who were killed in let's say a bombing raid had directly voted "yes" for the policy proposal off "exterminate all Jews and Slavs in continental Europe". Otherwise, since they were not the ones making the policy decisions they are not responsible for it.
 
Mar 2011
5,046
Brazil
#60
The defeat at Stalingrad and Kursk and the surrender of Italy by 1943, coupled by the growing Allied bombing campaign of Germany in 1943 would open the door to the potential for Hitler to be overthrown... that is true.

But again... under what terms that are going to be acceptable to the Allies are men like Rundstedt, Manstein, and even Beck are going to accept? Many of the men that have often been connected to the Valkyrie Plot in 1944 weren't necessarily in favor of democratic government and a few were perfectly fine with the atrocities committed in the Soviet Union and elsewhere. In this, any negotiation would have to give up a lot as the Germans would still be in a position of relative power to control the negotiations in their favor, particularly if the peace is to be lasting...

Which would then be disheartening to the Allies, and particularly Poland. Because in such a situation, about the only thing that the British would really gain from the negotiations would be the German army overthrowing Hitler and the Nazis, and that's about it. So, what would the British actually win? France would still be a German puppet/ally, Poland wouldn't exist, and with the war over, Germany would be given time to recover from the bombings and Hitler's mistakes.

The Soviets might be able to claim more in that they could probably pose enough of a threat that the Germans would have to return to the borders under the Ribbentrop/Molotov Pact, which would mean they'd defeated Hitler's 1941 objectives when he launched Barbarossa. But, with Germany likely under the military's leadership and on a shorter line, they would probably still be on some degree of edge that such negotiations might only be to stall for time... which by the time the Germans then try again to conquer Russia, there may not be a "Western Front" to divide German attentions.

In this... while a negotiated peace was plausible and perhaps even possible in 1943, it would not be likely under conditions that would make the Allies feel like they'd really won anything.
That's because the Allied powers were not thinking about saving lives they were only concerned with their own national interests (which were not the interests of their citizens by the way).

For example, Stalin was willing to sacrifice 15 million soldiers, which were the Soviet operational casualties between Stalingrad and Berlin to occupy Eastern Europe. While the Western Allies were willing to sacrifice 1 million soldiers to occupy France, Italy, Benelux and West Germany before the Soviet army could do so.

In my perspective, the moral thing to do in 1943 would be that allowing a nationalist German government to control continental Europe would be vastly preferable to killing 20 million people. So what if France and Italy were reduced to German puppets? Canada is right now a US puppet and nobody bats an eye.