The Shadows of Total War: Europe, East Asia, and the United States, 1919-1939

By Roger Chickering; Stig Förster | Go to book overview

14

"Blitzkrieg" or Total War?
War Preparations in Nazi Germany

WILHELM DEIST

No satisfying and convincing answer to the question posed in the title of this chapter can be offered without reference to World War I. For the military leadership of the Reichswehr and the Wehrmacht, this war posed the basis for analyzing all questions of their military craft, and it dominated all their plans and preparations for a future war.1 Friedrich von Bernhardi, whose provocative and influential book, Deutschland und der nächste Krieg (Germany and the Next War), had appeared in 1913, turned shortly after the end of the Great War to the military consequences of this conflict. In a work that was published in 1920, Vom Kriege der Zukunft (On War in the Future), he took it as self-evident that a future war would be fought between mass armies. However, he also adopted the eccentric idea that "the troops" must be separated "inwardly from the home front," in order to avoid a repetition of the situation that arose in Germany at the conclusion of World War I, which Bernhardi interpreted in the light of the "stab-in-the-back" legend.2 Like all his successors in the interwar period, this conservative cavalryman was preoccupied with World War I, an industrialized people's war, as the model of future warfare.3 Subsequent military authors differed only in their

1 Handbuch zur deutschen Militärgeschichte 1648–1939 (Munich, 1979), 5: 529–84; Klaus-Jürgen Müller,
General Ludwig Beck: Studien und Dokumente zur politisch-militärischen Vorstellungswelt und Tätigkeit des
Generalstabschefs des deutschen Heeres 1933—1938
(Boppard, 1980), 29—61; Bernhard R. Kroener,
"Strukturelle Veränderungen in der militärischen Gesellschaft des Dritten Reiches," in Michael
Prinz and Reiner Zitelmann, eds., Nationalsozialismus und Modernisierung (Darmstadt, 1991), 267—96;
Wilhelm Deist, "Anspruch und Selbstverständnis der Wehrmacht: Einführende Bemerkungen," in
Rolf-Dieter Müller and Hans-Erich Volkmann, eds., Die Wehrmacht: Mythos und Realität (Munich,
1999), 39—46; Wihelm Deist, "The Road to Ideological War: Germany, 1918—1945" in Williamson
Murray, MacGregor Knox, and Alvin Bernstein, eds., The Making of Strategy: Rulers, States, and War
(Cambridge, 1994), 352—92.

2 Friedrich von Bernhardi, Vom Kriege der Zukunft: Nach den Erfahrungen des Weltkrieges (Berlin, 1920),
153—5, 236.

3 Max Schwarte, Der Krieg der Zukunft (Leipzig, 1931). See Markus Pöhlmann's chapter in this book.

-271-

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