Indeed, the Germans rested their planning on the almost outlandish ideas of ideology, resulting overconfident optimism and not on facts they knew, ought to know or could have known. Concerning industry, capability, manpower and organisation, all estimates were way off the mark. The Germans charged General Thomas with the economic planning of the to be expected consequences of Operation Barbarossa.
The second study called for by Hitler proposed answers of an economic kind which General Thomas as head of the War Economy and Armaments Department was charged to answer.[…]
Thomas thus delivered a report lavish in discussion of the long-term economic benefits to be derived from occupying the Soviet Union and entirely dismissive of contradictory evidence previously produced as well as the dubious nature of his source material. Furthermore, his study ignored questions relating to the military feasibility of achieving the distant economic goals even though they required the conquest of an enormous land mass. Specifically, Thomas emphasised the need for the rapid conquest of the Caucasus for oil and a connection to the Far East to ensure future rubber supplies. Grain was expected to flow from the Ukraine solving Germany’s food shortage and 75 per cent of the Soviet armaments industry was to fall, it was hoped intact, under direct German control with the remainder posing little threat so long as the factories in the Urals were destroyed. (p85–86)
This matches quite well the German experience early on of recording a number of completely destroyed enemy divisions that exceeded the estimated total number number of divisions available to the Soviets by quite a margin…
But these were just those voices that were listened to. One of the most recognised commanders of the war had differing opinions way before the war:
Describing the Soviet state in 1937 Guderian wrote:
Russia possesses the strongest army in the world, numerically and in terms of the modernity of its weapons and equipment. The Russians have the world’s largest air force as well, and they are striving to bring their navy up to the same level. The transport system is still inadequate, but they are working hard in that direction also. Russia has ample raw materials, and a mighty armaments industry has been set up in the depths of that vast empire. The time has passed when the Russians had no instinct for technology; we will have to reckon on the Russians being able to master and build their own machines, and with the fact that such a transformation in the Russians’ fundamental mentality confronts us with the Eastern Question in a form more serious than ever before in history.
To illustrate this correct assumption with numbers:
For reasons of dispersal new production facilities of the heavy and chemical industry were now being increasingly set up also in the eastern parts of the country, in the Urals, central Asia, eastern Siberia, and even the Far East, on the basis of the rich raw-material and energy resources located there. The creation of a second industrial base in the eastern parts of the country was of considerable strategic importance, as these plants would be virtually beyond the reach of a potential enemy. In 1940 the coalmines of Kuznetsk, Karaganda, the Pechora region, near Irkutsk, Chita, and Sangar already accounted for 35 per cent of the total Soviet output of coal and for 25 per cent of coke production. During the same year the iron and steel plants established in the eastern parts of the Soviet Union—at Magnitogorsk, Kuznetsk, Novotagil, Chelyabinsk, and Novosibirsk — were supplying 28 per cent ofthe total output ofiron ore, 28 per cent of pig-iron, 37 per cent ofsteel, and 36 per cent of rolling-mill products. Some 25 per cent of the country’s total energy was generated in the east, as was 12 per cent of crude oil. The importance which this second industrial base had attained by 1940 can further be gauged from the fact that over 50 per cent of the 31,649 tractors manufac tured in the Soviet Union and 14 per cent of its 58,437 machine-tools were produced there.
That is of course only a short estimate at the already apparent distribution and diversity of the economic base that would have to be acknowledged, not the remote or even inconceivable idea of relocating that base swiftly on short notice.
But then it has to be said that the scale of the Soviet evacuations were quite simply unheard of before, as well as the scale and grace under pressure of the industrial output on the whole. Even before the ware started at all the Soviet industrial base was superior to the German counterpart. How quickly and comprehensive the evacuation happened under very unfavourable circumstances:
In the face of the unrelenting German advance, the enormous evacuation of Soviet industry to the east in 1941 was indispensable in ensuring the economic durability of the Soviet Union. Accomplished with extraordinary speed and under the most adverse circumstances, which included aerial attacks from the Luftwaffe, hundreds of factories were simply uprooted, transported into the interior and rapidly reassembled. The scale and complexity of such an undertaking is difficult to imagine, especially in the light of the national crisis overtaking the country, yet here post-war Soviet literature’s propensity for grandiose superlatives such as ‘heroic’ and ‘historic’ seem justified.
Between July and November, 1,523 industrial enterprises were moved to the Volga region, Siberia or Central Asia, amounting in total to some 1.5 million railway wagonloads. Even more remarkable, the production of vital war materials actually increased in the second half of 1941, with official production quotes in some cases, such as tanks, being exceeded. Indeed the Soviet Union produced more tanks in 1941 than Germany and 66 per cent of these were of the newer T-34 and KV-1 variety. Soviet industry also turned out more aircraft and a great many more artillery pieces than Germany, helping to meet the most immediate needs of the army.
Nevertheless, the really crucial total data for status quo ante that was available, in principle, was twisted into ignoreance, to please a certain man:
In his deliberately factual exposé General Thomas based himself on the same data as were also used by the Army High Command. The crucial difference was that Thomas in his memorandum created the impression that the economic resources and, more particularly, the armaments industry in the European part of the Soviet Union could be captured intact, and within a short period of time put to the use of the German war effort. In doing so he disregarded the real central problem of the whole operation, i.e. the question whether the Soviet regime would in fact rapidly collapse under the German assault, so that the expenditure of time, personnel, and material on the campaign could be kept within limits. Had Thomas wished to ‘dissuade Hitler from his decision with all means at his disposal' he could easily, with the information available to his department, have confirmed the objections to such an assumption, the objections contained, for instance, in the Walther memorandum. Furthermore, he could have factually refuted Hitler’s expectations of rapid and vast economic gain in the cast. He did not do so, and the charge that he was an ‘opportunist and a double-dealer’ was perhaps not unjustified. Whatever objective Thomas may have pursued with his memorandum, to Hitler it certainly came as a confirmation of his own views.
(From: Horst Boog et al al. (Eds): "Germany and the Second World War. Volume IV. The Attack on the Soviet Union", Oxford University Press: Oxford, New York, 1996.)
Quotes from: David Stahel: "Operation Barbarossa and Germany’s Defeat in the East", Cambridge Military Histories, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, New York, 2009.