‘German demonstrations are extraordinary: Christmas trees at public squares and in every house I saw. One might think the Germans believed in Jesus or practised his teachings!’ 2
Repeatedly, it has been emphasised that the Nazis possessed a very patchy knowledge of the world outside Germany. Even those nations and peoples that were most frequently discussed among the upper echelons of the Nazi hierarchy were usually both wrongly understood and equally wrongly assessed. Nazism’s racial yardstick contributed heavily to such misunderstandings and misjudgements. This is particularly transparent in Nazi views of the Soviet Union, the state more intensely discussed and written about than any other part of the globe. Nazi racial perceptions of the ‘Bolsheviks’—perceptions that also pervaded other groups in the Third Reich, most crucially the Wehrmacht—clearly contributed to the utterly mistaken belief that the Soviet Union could be crushed swiftly and completely.
In the event, the military power of the Red Army proved to be the decisive factor in the annihilation of Nazi Germany. Not Germany, but the Soviet Union emerged from the war as a global superpower. Thus, the central role of the Soviet Union in the defeat of Nazi Germany cannot be emphasised strongly enough. However, the success of the Red Army in slowing down, stopping and eventually pushing back the seemingly relentless onslaught of the Wehrmacht would not have been possible without the military and economic input of Britain and the United States. In particular the latter’s industrial might opened up an evergrowing production gap between Allies and Axis, a gap which Germany, despite all its efforts in 1943 and 1944, was never likely to close again. 3
That the United States, as the most advanced economy in the world, possessed the required economic potential (and manpower resources) for