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David Irving's controversial book Hitler's War seems to imply that after his nervous breakdown during the battle of Berlin, Hitler realized that defeat was imminent and decided that surrendering in the West to save what was left of Germany from the Soviets was the right way to go about things.

Certain memoirs as well as the last chapter of Kershaw's book Hitler also seem to hint at him wanting someone else to negotiate a surrender with the USA after his death - possibly Goering at first, but after his expulsion the job fell on Doenitz. If that's true, it would also explain Doenitz's attempts to make a separate peace on the West as his first (albeit woefully short-lived) initiative in May.

On the other hand, Hitler was livid at hearing that Himmler had attempted to make peace with the Allies as late as the end of April, by when it should have been obvious that now was the time to surrender to avoid further bloodshed.

Is it possible to reconcile these possibilities?

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    Given the lack of credibility of David Irving's work, it's probably best to avoid using it to prop up any sort of argument. – Steve Bird Dec 29 '19 at 17:22
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    Book itself is not controversial, it was mainstream work when it was published. Irving later ruined his reputation, but that is whole another story. Hitler hoping to negotiate with the West, and even join them in a fight against communism is also well known thing. It actually did happen from a certain POV , as during Cold War many former Wehrmacht officers now served in West German armed forces. – rs.29 Dec 29 '19 at 23:01
  • Mismatch between title & body: Is this about "foresaw" or "planned/hoped for"? – LаngLаngС Dec 30 '19 at 10:15
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    Please quote the relevant passages of: Irving, Kershaw, "certain memoirs", your source for "wanting" & "livid". It remains further unclear what is meant with "foresaw" (calculated, expected own troops to just disobey orders, etc.)—(as well as grammatically whether you envision the Western allies making peace, "surrendering", perhaps even to continue their advance Eastward with German forces)? – LаngLаngС Dec 30 '19 at 14:54
  • Given the quality of the answers, I wonder if the question should be re-opened? – Mark C. Wallace Dec 31 '19 at 20:45
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Ignoring Irving, there are other sources to the effect that Hitler realised somebody would have to carry out the end of the war on the German side. He seems to have wanted to avoid capture by the Soviets, and to avoid seeing the defeat of his ideas, hence his suicide and orders to burn his body. But that does not mean he didn't want to control events.

His repudiation of Himmler's negotiations seems to have been because Himmler was not authorised to negotiate, which would have made him suspicious that Himmler was trying to profit from them. Any such suspicion was correct: Himmler's negotiating position was that the SS and police forces he commanded were the only way to keep order in Germany, so the Allies needed his help. Given the Allies' attitude to the SS, this was never going anywhere.

As for Doenitz's negotiations, ever since the war had turned against Germany, German leaders had been hoping for a separate peace with the Western Allies and an alliance against the Soviets. Stalin had regarded that as a threat since the start of Operation Barbarossa and the Declaration by United Nations of 1st January 1942 had specifically ruled it out. By early 1945, it was clear that the West and the USSR were going to have a difficult relationship after the war, and there was some maneuvering for positions during the war, but they were agreed that stamping out Nazism and remaking Germany came first. Unconditional surrender was the only option on offer.

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Question:

  1. After his (Hitler's) nervous breakdown during the battle of Berlin, Hitler realized that defeat was imminent and decided that surrendering in the West to save what was left of Germany from the Soviets was the right way to go about things.
  2. Hitler also seem to hint at him wanting someone else to negotiate a surrender with the USA after his death - possibly Goering at first, but after his expulsion the job fell on Doenitz.
  3. On the other hand, Hitler was livid at hearing that Himmler had attempted to make peace with the Allies as late as the end of April, by when it should have been obvious that now was the time to surrender to avoid further bloodshed.

Question:
Is it possible to reconcile these possibilities?


David Irving is a poor source of information.

Irving's reputation as a historian was discredited[Note 2] when, in the course of an unsuccessful libel case he filed against the American historian Deborah Lipstadt and Penguin Books, he was shown to have deliberately misrepresented historical evidence to promote Holocaust denial.[Note 3] The English court found that Irving was an active Holocaust denier, antisemite and racist,5 who "for his own ideological reasons persistently and deliberately misrepresented and manipulated historical evidence".5 In addition, the court found that Irving's books had distorted the history of Hitler's role in the Holocaust to depict Hitler in a favourable light.



Short Answer:

It's important to note here that Hitler never negotiated peace for the sake of peace. Hitler negotiated Five peace treaties, and broke four of them within the first year (Britain, Czechoslovakia, France and Soviet Union). Poland was the outlier, it took him a few years to break that treaty.

Early in his rearmament program Hitler would use diplomacy and promises of peace to distract his potential enemies. Later Hitler used diplomacy to achieve what Napoleon achieved with maneuverability, defeating his enemies in detail. To divide and conquer. Rather than fight 2,3,4 countries; Hitler would try to negotiate separate peace treaties with some in order to free his hand to strike the isolated. Of coarse he always did return to isolate and strike those who had appeased him.

Hitler was constantly offering separate peace deals to weaken the alliance against him. While this was effective early on, he had betrayed most of the folks at the table by mid 1941; thus his overtures after that were not given merit. They were recognized for what they were, what they always were.

The reason Hitler was upset with Himmler wasn't that Himmler was negotiating a separate peace with the western allies, something Hitler was continually trying to do himself. What upset Hitler was that Himmler was conducting these secret negotiations as early as 1942, and Himmler's bargaining position included removing Hitler from power. Hitler just found out about these negotiations in 1945.

Reichsführer Himmler Pitches Washington
20 March 1944, Gen. William J. Donovan, director of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), passed on to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt a memorandum written by Abram Hewitt, OSS officer in Stockholm under cover of the United States Commercial Company. … It concerned a secret proposal proffered by Nazi Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler, and iterated by Schellenberg and Kersten, for ousting Hitler and negotiating peace with the Western Allies as a first step in fighting a one-front, one-enemy war with the Soviet Union—with or without help from the United States and Britain.

Detailed Answer:
Hitler was pretty consistent in WWII. He paired offensive actions with offers of peace. This was done to divide, paralyze, or isolate Europe's countries which could oppose him. It was effective early on. But ultimately as Hitler betrayed his pledges (with Czechoslovakia, Poland, France, UK, and Soviet Union) of peace which were purchased at significant cost by his would be appeasers, there was just nobody left which Hitler had not betrayed. It was clear to everybody what Hitler was doing by mid 1941 when he invaded the Soviet Union. This did not stop Hitler from continually seeking separate peace deals throughout the war, he just had no success at it.

Stopping Hitler's ability to divide the allies was actually one of the major wartime strategies of the allies, constantly discussed at big three meetings. All the allies were paranoid they would be the victim's of a separate peace. All the allies conducted these secret talks at different times during the war. Right up until the end, Hitler was still fantasizing of separate peace agreement, which would allow him to split the allies, recover his strength, and ultimately win the war.

Synopsis

  • Jan 26, 1934. Polish Non Aggression Pact, Germany and Poland pledged to resolve their problems by bilateral negotiations and to forgo armed conflict for a period of 10 years. Hitler breaks this agreement Sept 1, 1939 when he invades Poland.
  • Hitler had pressured a peaceful settlement of the Sudetenland Crisis in April 1938 between the First Czechoslovak Republic and its German Minority and broke that agreement Sept 1938.
  • Hitler agreed to peace with Britain and France before the invasion of the Sudetenland in 1938 and broke his word to them in 1939, when he invaded Poland.
  • Hitler agreed to peace with the Soviet Union in 1939 and broke it in 1941, when he invaded the Soviet Union.
  • Hitler again offered peace to Britain after the Battle for France in 1940. The mood of the new British Prime Minister was not one of appeasement, Winston Churchill's speeches:
  • Germany again offers peace to Britain after the Battle of Britain in 1941, just before he invades the Soviet Union.
  • Hitler again tried to negotiate a separate peace with the Soviet Union in 1942 and 43 but these times to no avail.
  • Even as late as a month before the end of WWII Hitler rejoiced over the Death of Roosevelt, believing Roosevelt's death might permit him to seek a separate peace with the Western Allies against the Soviet Union.

The allies for their part pledged several times since 1941, not to agree to a separate peace and hold out for Hitler's defeat and full surrender.

  • Jan 1943 at Casablanca, Morocco, an Anglo-American conference ... sought to assure the people of all the fighting nations that no separate peace
  • Dec 1943, Meeting at Tehran, Iran the "Big Three“ decided on: ... to assure the people of all the fighting nations that no separate peace negotiations
  • Feb 11, 1945 at Yalta Conference reiterated the Big Three's shared conviction that there would be no separate peace

Hitler's timeline of pairing peace offers with offensive actions.

  • May 17, 1933 A few months after his appointment to office, Hitler gives a speech to the Reichstag which includes the following phrases.

    Germany will be perfectly ready to disband her entire military establishment and destroy the small amount of arms remaining to her, if the neighboring countries will do the same thing with equal thoroughness… Germany is entirely ready to renounce aggressive weapons of every sort if the armed nations, on their part, will destroy their aggressive weapons within a specified period, and if their use is forbidden by an international convention… Germany is at all times prepared to renounce aggressive weapons if the rest of the world does the same. Germany is prepared to agree to any solemn pact of non-aggression because she does not think of attacking anybody but only of acquiring security.

  • October 14, 1933 Hitler withdraws from the league of nations.
  • Dec 18th 1933 Hitler proposes new Peace Agreement. Which includes "European nations guarantee one another the unconditional maintenance of peace by the conclusion of nonaggression pacts to be renewed after ten years.
  • Jan 26, 1934. Polish Non Aggression Pact, Germany and Poland pledged to resolve their problems by bilateral negotiations and to forgo armed conflict for a period of 10 years.
  • March 16, 1935, Hitler reintroduces military conscription but does so while renewing his offers of mutual security and peace.
  • March 3 1936, Hitler occupies the Rhineland.
  • March 31, 1936 Hitler offers reconciliation and "the settlement of all differences".
  • March 12, 1938 Hitler annexes Austria, no Reaction from Britain France, Russia.
  • April 24, 1938 Following pressure from Nazi Germany, Britain and France during the Sudeten crisis of 1938, the President of Czechoslovakia, Edvard Beneš, gave in to the demands of the Sudeten Germans. Karlsbader Programm
  • Sept. 27, 1938 FDR writes letter to Hitler urging peace, Hitler responds that he works for peace, and declined all responsibility of the German people and their leaders, if war breaks out.
  • Sept 30, 1938 Munich Agreement Britain France agree to the German invasion and occupation of Czechoslovakia in exchange for Hitlers assurances of peace.
  • March 15, 1939 Germany occupies Czechoslovakia
  • Aug 23, 1939 Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact Soviet Union agrees to a Military Pact with Germany which includes permitting Germany's invasion of Poland and ultimately splitting Poland between the Soviet Union and Germany.
  • Sept 1, 1939 Hitler breaks the Munich Agreement and invades Poland
  • April 9, 1940 Germany occupies Denmark and southern Norway
  • May 10, 1940 – Jun 25, 1940 Battle of France. Hitler Invades and occupies France.
  • July 19, 1940 -- Hitler offers Peace to Great Britain. "appeal to reason" to Great Britain to avert "destruction of a great world empire," making it clear that rejection would mean an attack with all of the forces at the command of the Axis powers.
  • May 10, 1941 Rudolf Hess is captured in Scotland with what he describes as a Peace Proposal with Great Britain. Many historians believe Hitler condoned this overture, and in Hitler's book Mein Kampf written nearly a decade earlier, (typed by Hess) contains such an overture.

Will We Ever Know Why Nazi Leader Rudolf Hess Flew to Scotland in the Middle of World War II?
Hess hoped to make contact with one of the highly placed British figures who, unlike Churchill, were willing to make peace with the Nazis on Hitler's terms. Hess believed that Hamilton headed a faction of such people and immediately asked his captors to be taken to him. But Hess was misinformed. Hamilton, who wasn't home that night but on duty commanding an RAF air base, was committed to his country and to its fight against Germany.

  • June 1941 Hitler Invades the Soviet Union.
  • 1943 German and Soviet Officials Met to Discuss Peace
  • 1944 Japan Sought Hitler‐Stalin Peace in

New World Order(Nazism)
Late in the war, after the failure of the final Ardennes offensive and the Allied crossing of the Rhine into Germany itself, Hitler hoped that a decisive victory on the Eastern Front might still preserve the Nazi regime, resulting in Operation Spring Awakening. He believed that, with the conclusion of a separate peace-treaty with the Soviet Union, a division of Poland might still be realized and leave Hungary and Croatia (the former still under German occupation at the time, the latter a Croatian fascist puppet-state) under German control.[134] Hitler only acknowledged Germany's imminent defeat mere days prior to his suicide.

  • [April 12, 1945] President Roosevelt Dies, Hitler hopes this might allow him to come to a separate peace with the United States and Britain and unit with them against Russia.

Hitler's Final Days
U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had passed away. “Hitler went into a dance and congratulated himself as if he had himself brought about this event,” said Heinz Lorenz, Hitler’s press attaché. “He exclaimed, ‘This will mean I will win the war! This is our victory!’”

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One must assume that by April 19th, with:

  • the German military reduced to conscripting 14 and 15 year old boys as soldiers;

  • Soviet troops occupying all of Pomerania, most of Silesia, Slovakia and Hungary preparing an assault across the Oder-Neisse on Berlin; and

  • Allied troops on the Elbe reducing isolated pockets of German troops in:

    • the Dutch provinces of North and South Holland,

    • the North German coastal areas from Emden to Wittenberge and

    • South Baden, Wurttemberg, and Bavaria

that even Hitler would finally acknowledge the end was imminent and no [Brandenburg Miracle]1 was happening.

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    "One has to assume that....even Hitler...". You moderators ask the rest of us for sources all the time. Sources, please! – C Monsour Dec 30 '19 at 2:03
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    For the geographic description it seems better to use two different maps (and perhaps higher resolution optional). Also, was it really the Wehrmacht doing any conscription of boys by then, or do you relate to the Volksturm, recruiting boys, old men and women by then? – LаngLаngС Dec 30 '19 at 10:00
  • @LаngLаngС: I have corrected "Wehrmacht" to "German military" - the correct more general term. I modified your edit slightly to retain consistency with my overall description - but thank you for the other clarifications. As for a better map - I haven;t seen one. A single map I feel captures the true hopelessness of the Nazi cause in mid April, 1945, better. – Pieter Geerkens Dec 30 '19 at 10:04
  • I saw your edit comment; thought you talked about basically two pockets (one rather large one, 'Habsburgish?') as forces were split in two by then. I guess I find maps like these clearer for the purpose en.wikisource.org/wiki/… Unless you find better (more fine grained) ones for 2nd half of April? – LаngLаngС Dec 30 '19 at 10:10

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