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.”

Publishers Weekly

“One of the most important recent books to appear on the German army in some time.

—World War II
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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.

About the Author

Geoffrey P. Megargee is a research associate at the U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century in Arlington, Virginia, and a contributor to World War II in Europe: An Encyclopedia.

Additional Titles in the Modern War Studies Series