Hitler Berates His Generals in Newly Discovered Document

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Then-German Chancellor Adolf Hitler, left, shaking hands with German Interior Minister and head of the SS, Heinrich Himmler, somewhere in Germany, May 18, 1944.Credit: AP

The discovery of a previously unknown rant by Adolf Hitler reveals that the German dictator lost faith in his generals a lot earlier than thought until now.

Hitler's meltdown during a meeting with generals in his Berlin bunker towards the end of the war is well known from the 2005 film "The Downfall."

But the new document, discovered in the Russian Defense Ministry archives by researchers Matthias Uhl and Johannes Harter, dates from 1942, one year after the invasion of the Soviet Union.

The document is the transcript of an 85-minute conversation between Hitler and Field Marshall Wilhelm Keitel, head of the German high command for most of the war. It is due to be published in the next issue of the German Quarterly Journal of Contemporary History. Extracts have been published by Der Spiegel magazine.

The conversation took place on September 18, 1942 in Vinnitsa in Ukraine, site of one of Hitler's headquarters during the war on the Eastern Front. By then, the German invasion had stalled at the entrance to Moscow, though the collapse in Stalingrad had yet to happen.

In it, Hitler derided Colonel-General Franz Halder, chief of staff of the army, as a man who "cannot decide if an attack is to be made with 100 men, with six battalions or two divisions."

He called Field Marshall Wilhelm List, commander of Army Group A, a "flabby leader" and General Field Marshall Fedor von Bock, head of Army Group B, a man who "failed completely in his mission."

The combined strength of the three Army Groups that invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941 was some three million men.

Hitler also accused the Wehrmacht leadership of "ignoring my commands," calling their inability to listen to him "an indecency."

"I speak to them every day" Hitler complained. "This is quite useless."

The Keitel monologue clearly illustrates Hitler's view that he was indispensable to the German was effort.

"I'm dead scared to be away for a day or only five hours, because something might happen," he said, according to the transcript. "If I was today to get, for example, a canal root infection, I cannot leave, I must remain here."

The transcript also shows that Hitler believed the Sixth Army under General Friedrich Paulus, which was then already in Stalingrad, would be successful in capturing the key Russian city.

"He deserves the job because the fall of Stalingrad will under all circumstances be bound up with his name," Hitler said of Paulus.

But he was wrong. Paulus surrendered to the Red Army on February 2 1943, with the loss of over 250,000 men killed or captured.

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