Inside Hitler's High Command
Geoffrey P. Megargee
Society for Military History Distinguished Book Award
Challenging previous accounts, Geoffrey Megargee shatters the myth that German generals would have prevailed in World War II if only Hitler had not meddled in their affairs. Indeed, Megargee argues, the German high command was much more flawed than many have suspected or acknowledged. Inside Hitler's High Command reveals that while Hitler was the central figure in many military decisions, his generals were equal partners in Germany's catastrophic defeat.
“One of the most persistent myths to come out of WWII is that the Third Reich failed because a militarily incompetent Adolf Hitler and a small circle of yes-men consistently overrode the professional judgment of the German General Staff. If Hitler had left his commanders to their own devices, the story goes, we might all be speaking German today. In this meticulously documented work, Megargee does much to dispel this longstanding belief. . . .An immensely illuminating work that casts plenty of blame all around, this will surely provoke much discussion among historians and readers with an interest in the Third Reich.”
“One of the most important recent books to appear on the German army in some time.”
—World War IISee all reviews...
“Here, in the book’s broadest context, appears a window of insight into more recent confrontations: the pursuit of war objectives that become increasingly more irrational subverts and erodes the rationality of the military charged with the attainment of those very aims.”
“How does one explain the mind set of the high command and the strategic framework within which the Germans lost the war? How did the high command reach and implement its decisions? No one has answered these questions systematically before. This extraordinary and fascinating book fills that gap in the literature on World War II.”
—Williamson Murray, author of The Luftwaffe, 1933–45
“Comprehensive, well written, important. Megargee does a first-rate job in describing the personalities of the high command and their relationships.”
—James S. Corum, author of The Roots of Blitzkrieg
“Megargee permits us a fresh perspective on both the magnetic figure of Adolf Hitler and his military advisers.”
—Jürgen Förster, Militargeschichtliches Forschungsamt
“Hitler emerges from these pages as an adept manipulator. He took full advantage of the tensions in the command structure to divide it and focus it on himself. But he took the officers nowhere they were not at least ready, if not immediately willing, to go.”
—Dennis Showalter, author of Tannenberg: Clash of EmpireSee fewer reviews...
Megargee exposes the structure, processes, and personalities that governed the Third Reich's military decision making and shows how Germany's presumed battlefield superiority was undermined by poor strategic and operational planning at the highest levels. His study tracks the evolution of German military leadership under the Nazis from 1933 to 1945 and expands our understanding of the balance of power within the high command, the role of personalities in its organizational development, and the influence of German military intellectuals on its structure and function. He also shows how the organization of the high command was plagued by ambition, stubbornness, political intrigue, and overworked staff officers. And his "a week in the life" chapter puts the high command under a magnifying glass to reveal its inner workings during the fierce fighting on the Russian Front in December 1941.
Megargee also offers new insights into the high command crises of 1938 and shows how German general staff made fatal mistakes in their planning for Operation Barbarossa in 1941. Their arrogant dismissal of the Soviet military's ability to defend its homeland and virtual disregard for the extensive intelligence and sound logistics that undergird successful large-scale military campaigns ultimately came back to haunt them.
In the final assessment, observes Megargee, the generals' strategic ideas were no better than Hitler's and often worse. Heinz Guderian, Franz Halder, and the rest were as guilty of self-deception as their Fuhrer, believing that innate German superiority and strength of will were enough to overcome nearly any obstacle. Inside Hitler's High Command exposes these surprising flaws and illuminates the process of strategy and decision making in the Third Reich.