German troops fighting in Russia must have been aware of the destruction of their cities back home by American and British bombing.

Knowing that their loved ones were in danger and that their beautiful towns and cities were being destroyed, how did German soldiers react on the Eastern Front?

Did it help fuel their fighting spirit, spurring on their efforts against the enemy they could reach (Russian ground troops) in lieu of the distant enemy (British and American air crew)? Or did it sap morale, with troops in Rostov and Riga questioning their purpose fighting so far from home when Germany itself was under such heavy attack?

Is there evidence of either effect in letters and journals?


1 Answer 1


It should be a more demoralizing effect overall, but there aren't data for Operation Barbarossa. First off, according to the US Strategic Bombing Survey, civilians in the most heavily bombed areas saw a drop in support for the Nazi Party and felt their personal morale drop 14% of the time. This is surprisingly small, but it means that eventually, the bombings were causing morale to decline. These measurements are after the war ended though, so during the period 1941-1944, morale was likely much higher, despite bombing. In other words, for our purposes, we should consider bombing to have had no significant effect on morale only.

The troops in Operation Barbarossa were subject to propaganda and false information about the bombings, though, not the bombings themselves. The Nazis would have controlled information to provide a more positive view. The British Political Warfare Executive had great success with its Whisper Campaign during the planned invasion of the UK, Operation Sea Lion, by the Nazis, and continued the campaign against troops invading Russia. Some of the rumors it spread are still believed by members of the British public today. For example, many people believe that the Nazis attempted to invade the island nation, and a small invasion force was repulsed off-shore, causing charred bodies to wash up on the beaches of Great Britain.

The Whisper Campaign often spread awful and sometimes graphic rumors (some true) about enormous deaths, and exaggerations about the Nazi's inability to protect civilians through defense measures (e.g., all the concrete is needed for the war effort, so no more bomb shelters will be built; all the doctors are killing the elderly and the disabled due to shortages). The campaign also tried to instill animosity against the Nazis by making them seem corrupt (Mr. Nazi is having food imported). The wartime control of information, including constant propaganda, made rumors seem more true.

Unfortunately, the PWE didn't collect data on its effects during the war, so we don't know if the troops were demoralized. But it seems likely. "Disinformation" tactics are typically very effective and still used today in warfare to demoralize troops. Even though the fact of the bombings didn't change, the way the troops viewed them would have.

Reference: The United States PSYOP Organization in Europe During World War II http://www.psywarrior.com/PSYOPOrgWW2.html Lee Richards. The British are Coming! British Aerial Propaganda to Germany, 1940–44 http://www.psywar.co.uk/psywar/reproductions/day.pdf

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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