Take the 2-minute tour ×
History Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for historians and history buffs. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I encountered a point of view that the German tactic of "Blitzkrieg", besides purely military purpose to achieve victory as quick as possible, was in fact designed to trap the Jews so that they could not flee.

Is this true and to what extent?

Take also into account the known fact that at the time of the siege of Minsk Germany dropped paratroopers to the east of the city who drove the fleeing population back to Minsk. I wonder whether it was done intentionally so to make the Minsk Jews impossible to escape? Note that Minsk had about the highest percentage of Jewish population in the world.

share|improve this question
2  
It seems slightly extreem for even Hitler to plan attacks to capture Jews, but then again, Hitler was quite insane... –  Russell Sep 29 '12 at 2:23
5  
The quick answer is that Blitzkrieg was designed to lead to a quick war and so avoid the deadlock of the trenches in the First World War. Even Hitler knew he couldn't win a long, drawn out war against superior industrial powers. –  davidjwest Sep 30 '12 at 14:18
    
antisemitic and racist question -1 –  Bak1139 Oct 28 '13 at 19:42
    
@Bak1139 what is racist about it? –  Anixx Oct 28 '13 at 22:17
2  
Although now I think about, Bak1139 is a brand new user with a negative question rank at current... –  LateralFractal Oct 29 '13 at 3:16

3 Answers 3

I think the case of the French campaign in may/june 1940 conclusively answers this question in the negative. Indeed, Blitzkieg tactics designed to entrap the opposing armies were used systematically, with great efficiency and with great success during the whole period. After the armistice, the Reich annexed Alsace and Moselle, where Jews could be find in large number, if only because thousands of them had emigrated from Germany an Central Europe in the 1930s. So here is a clear-cut empirical test: the Reich had used Blitzkrieg tactics and had as a result thousands of entrapped Jews under its jurisdiction. What did it do?

It expropriated and expelled them to the unoccupied zone, thereby (of course involuntarily) actually ensuring that they would escape the harshest anti-semitic policies of the occupied zone for two years. More generally, the military history of the French campaign seems completely disconnected from the history of Jews persecution, deportation and extermination, with the first ending in mid-1940 and the second really picking-up steam only in spring 1941.

Based on these facts, I think it can be reasonably concluded that maneuver warfare on the western front had nothing to do with Jews extermination.

By way of reference: http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Histoire_des_Juifs_en_France#La_Seconde_Guerre_mondiale http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collaboration_policière_sous_le_régime_de_Vichy http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lois_contre_les_Juifs_et_les_étrangers_pendant_le_régime_de_Vichy

These links show that the occupied zone had a much harsher treatment of Jews than the unoccupied zone (English versions accessible from the page, usually).

http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Wagner_(Gauleiter)

details the expulsion of Jews from annexed Alsace.

share|improve this answer
    
@MarkC.Wallace Sure, done. –  Olivier Nov 4 '13 at 15:24

First, the general consensus among historians is that there was no "Blitzkrieg"; the Wehrmacht incorporated some new technologies and tactics into what was basically a conventional military doctrine not dissimilar from that of other European powers. "Blitzkrieg" was invented by the newspapers, and fleshed out with fabricated details by post-war German generals who wanted to burnish their military credentials.

If we replace "blitzkrieg" with "large-scale offensive manoeuvre warfare," we have an answerable question, and the answer is clearly "no." We can say this for three reasons:

  1. We already have a perfectly adequate explanation of why Germany preferred large-scale offensive manoeuvre warfare: it was the only possible way to win. At every stage of the war from conception to termination, the Germans were severely disadvantaged in manpower and industrial capacity. German strength relative to its opponents' peaked around 1940 and thereafter began an accelerating decline. By Hitler's lights, then, it was far better to try for risky victories than accept an inevitable, protracted defeat.
  2. Having more Jews on their hands was exactly the opposite of what the Nazis wanted. They came around to a policy of mass murder not because they saw killing Jews as a positive end in itself (I mean, they probably did see it that way, but that wasn't the deciding factor.) Rather, they realized that sustaining the whole population of their empire was incompatible with pursuing a total war. If they were going to make a maximum effort, somebody had to starve, and given their ideology it wasn't hard to determine who the first victims would be. But it turns out to be surprisingly difficult to starve people, unless you can actually herd them into a particular area, fence it off, and guard it (as was done with the Soviet POWs.) But once you've gone that far, the logical next step...
  3. Most simply and boringly, there's no positive documentary evidence that I'm aware of for this idea.
share|improve this answer
1  
"somebody had to starve" - I completely disagree with that. It is well known that Germany did not have any food shortages. It had record-high wheat harvests during the whole war time. Also all Jewish ghettos were commercially successful enterprises that easily could food themselves and make profits. –  Anixx Oct 1 '12 at 23:20
1  
This is simply false. My copy of The Wages of Destruction, appendix A5, has the last German grain harvest before the war at 29.6 million tonnes, falling to a low of 22.7 in 1942-43. Domestic consumption outstripped domestic production for each year of the war. As for the ghettoes being able to feed themselves: I'm not sure that's true, but to the extent that it is, that was precisely the problem by Nazi lights. Every grain of wheat bartered for on the black market by an unfortunate ghetto dweller was a grain that didn't go to feeding a German soldier or an ostarbeiter. –  Evan Harper Oct 2 '12 at 3:17
1  
I was not referring to the black market. I was referring to contracts the ghettos administrations signed with German firms. These contracts gave high profits, but the people who lived in ghetto were allowed only a tiny part of it, mostly in the form of food. Still the Reich did not spend a mark for providing food and other supplies to the most of ghettos. –  Anixx Oct 2 '12 at 7:19
2  
"somebody had to starve" - this is oversimplification. I would say "somebody had to be repressed"; this had nothing to do with food, and everything to do with totalitarianism. –  kubanczyk Oct 3 '12 at 13:25
    
Downvote: Points 1 and 3 are very true. Point 2 is quite wrong! –  Felix Goldberg Dec 10 '12 at 0:47

Don't think so. At all times, Nazi party seen Jews as a problem to be solved; they've seen them as people that shouldn't be in Greater Germany. In 1941, they didn't know what to do with Jewish citizens they already had; this was the time of ghettos and concentration camps, but Germans didn't yet consider extermination camps (like Chełmno, Bełżec, ...), nobody envisaged the Holocaust. I guess last thing they wanted is to capture even more Jewish people in 1941.

In fact I would investigate the opposite cause-effect relation: maybe capturing large numbers of Jews in the East later indirectly provided argument for the complete extermination, as opposed for example to alternative variants of internment/enslavement/expulsion?

UPDATE: By the way it came to my mind to check the numbers. True Wehrmacht could expect some 150.000 Jewish civilians there, but would they worry about them? I think they were much more worried about some 500.000 Soviet troops, armed and dangerous, which they have just being encircling when closing two pincers in Minsk.

share|improve this answer
1  
You are wrong, the Holocaust already started in 1941 with mass shootings in the USSR. As you should know they shot 33 thousand Jews in Kiev in September 1941, just two weeks after they captured the city. –  Anixx Sep 29 '12 at 11:56
3  
I was meant to say "in June 1941, they didn't know...". True, that mass shootings followed closely, but the first extermination camp (Auschwitz II - Birkenau) was established in October. This was the moment when Germans turned genocide into "industry". –  kubanczyk Sep 29 '12 at 16:00
5  
The 1938 incident - expulsion of Jews who previously had Polish citizenship - is an argument that at least for some period Hitler wanted Jews out rather than in. –  Jake Jay Sep 29 '12 at 17:00
2  
That there were no extermination camps does not mean that Nazis did not know what to do with Jews yet. They possibly hoped to kill them through traditional way by shooting. –  Anixx Sep 29 '12 at 21:42
    
@Jake Jay Arguably Hitler at the time already knew that he will invade Poland. –  Anixx Dec 10 '12 at 2:58

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.