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Hitler's War of Extermination in the East

Stephen G. Fritz

Publication Year: 2011

On June 22, 1941, Germany launched the greatest land assault in history on the Soviet Union, an attack that Adolf Hitler deemed crucial to ensure German economic and political survival. As the key theater of the war for the Germans, the eastern front consumed enormous levels of resources and accounted for 75 percent of all German casualties. Despite the significance of this campaign to Germany and to the war as a whole, few English-language publications of the last thirty-five years have addressed these pivotal events. In Ostkrieg: Hitler’s War of Extermination in the East, Stephen G. Fritz bridges the gap in scholarship by incorporating historical research from the last several decades into an accessible, comprehensive, and coherent narrative. His analysis of the Russo-German War from a German perspective covers all aspects of the eastern front, demonstrating the interrelation of military events, economic policy, resource exploitation, and racial policy that first motivated the invasion. This in-depth account challenges accepted notions about World War II and promotes greater understanding of a topic that has been neglected by historians.

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky

Front cover

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pp. iv


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pp. v


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pp. vii-xiii

Abbreviations and Foreign Terms

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pp. xv-xvii

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pp. xix-xxiv

For decades after the end of World War II, much of our understanding of the German-Soviet war came from the German perspective, for the very good reason that only German documents and archives were readily available. Equivalent Soviet sources were either unavailable, marred by ideology, or limited in their circulation because of language...

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1. Dilemma

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pp. 1-29

A small railway car stands in a clearing in the woods. Representatives of the defeated nation arrive after an arduous journey, dazed, weary, in despair and humiliation. They wait despondently for the armistice terms to be read to them by the victors, terms that will reduce their once-mighty nation to a position akin to vassalage. It is a somber scene, made ...

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2. Decision

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pp. 31-76

At 3:00 P.M. on 6 July 1940, under a glittering early summer sun, an unadorned train pulled slowly into the Anhalter Bahnhof in Berlin amid scenes of jubilation and pure joy unequaled in German history. People had been gathering in the flower-strewn streets of the capital since early morning, many waiting over six hours for a chance to glimpse the...

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3. Onslaught

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pp. 77-134

The night of 21–22 June, Goebbels noted in his diary, was oppressively hot and humid, and he worried, with no hint of irony, that “our troops will not have it easy in battle.” At the front, it was not the heat but rather the nervous anticipation that burdened many—most—of the men. Those in the first wave studied maps, surveyed the terrain in front of them, ...

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4. Whirlwind

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pp. 135-198

As the turbulent events on the eastern front and at F

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5. Reckoning

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pp. 199-239

When the Soviet counteroffensive came on the night of 5–6 December, it could not have been better timed. German troops, having passed the culmination point, were overextended, mentally and physically exhausted, without supplies or winter equipment, and with dangerously vulnerable supply lines. No preparations for the defense had been made, nor ...

Photo insert (in Chapter 5)

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6. All or Nothing

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pp. 241-301

If in early 1942, as opposed to the previous spring, Hitler and the German military leadership had the comfort of operational clarity, they also faced a number of vexing problems, an unwelcome reminder of the winter’s desperate fighting, that had to be resolved before Operation Blue important both as a springboard to the Caucasus and, if left in Soviet ...

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7. Total War

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pp. 303-357

Despite repeated Soviet efforts in 1942 to relieve Leningrad and eliminate the German salient at Rzhev, the northern and central sectors of the front had remained stable, so German victories in the south had produced a huge bulge, which seemed to invite an enemy counterattack in the direction of Rostov. When it came at dawn on 19 November, it was ...

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8. Scorched Earth

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pp. 359-403

All through July and August, the continual hammer blows by the numerically superior enemy had put the German army on the defensive and threatened a breakthrough along the entire front. By late September, it had become clear that the hopes of the spring had been dashed: the great offensive had been shattered; the U-boats proved unable to block ...

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9. Disintegration

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pp. 405-438

The end of the prolonged fighting into the spring of 1944 had left the eastern front dangerously skewed from the German perspective. South of the Pripet Marshes, Soviet advances in Ukraine had pushed a huge bulge far to the west, only 150 miles from Warsaw. North of the great swamp, however, Army Group Center’s success at holding off the Red Army in ...

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10. Death Throes

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pp. 439-472

By January 1945, the point had long been passed where a continuation of the war made any sense since Hitler had no hope of achieving Lebens-raum or the envisioned racial reordering of Eastern Europe. Certainly, the unconditional surrender doctrine of the Western allies as well as fear of Soviet revenge played a role in stiffening both the regime and ...

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pp. 473-488

Its impressive blitzkrieg triumphs over Poland and France obscured the reality that, when the war began in September 1939, Germany had no clear economic, military, or technical superiority over its Western adversaries. The furious rearmament effort of the 1930s had simply allowed the Germans to make up the vast gulf produced by the Treaty of...

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pp. 489

Two important people in my life died during the writing of this book: my mother, who lived through the war as a young wife worried about the well-being of her husband (and my father) away at sea, and my dear friend and extraordinary colleague Professor Christa Hungate, who was born in Germany during the war and, in her own person, although...


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pp. 491-497


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pp. 499-554


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pp. 555-607


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pp. 609-640

E-ISBN-13: 9780813134178
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813134161

Page Count: 664
Illustrations: 42 b&w photos, 7 maps, 1 figure, 6 tables
Publication Year: 2011