Hitler and His Generals: The Hidden Crisis, January-June 1938

By Harold C. Deutsch | Go to book overview

CHAPTER I
Hitler and the Military: The Honeymoon, 1933-36

"It is no exaggeration to say that a domestic incident constituted the prelude to tragedy." This is the verdict of Sir Nevile Henderson, Britain's last ambassador to Berlin, in viewing the turnover in German military leadership during the first months of 1938. In the closely tangled Blomberg and Fritsch affairs -- the one involving the marriage of War Minister Werner von Blomberg to a woman of ill repute; the other, trumped-up charges of homosexuality against Army Commander Werner von Fritsch -- he saw the overture to World War II.1

By exploiting these affairs to rid himself of the two most powerful Army leaders in Germany -- and to intimidate those of like mind in the Generalität (the general officer corps) -- Adolf Hitler was able to set his course virtually unimpeded on a foreign policy of limitless aggression. The military leadership, notably that of the Army, had been acting as a roadblock to the dictator's program for enlarging Germany's "living space." With his victory over the generals the way was opened to a vast expansionary drive that violated both German tradition and modern concepts of the legitimate use of power. At the same time key members of the military establishment were driven into the ranks of the conspiratorial Opposition: those seeking to overthrow the regime. Hereafter the military Opposition group would be at the center of resistance moves within the Third Reich. Though Hitler's relationship with the Wehrmacht (armed forces) is constantly in the foreground in the annals of Nazi Germany, only in July 1944 was the course of history influenced by it more directly than in early 1938.

____________________
1
Henderson, Failure of a Mission: Berlin, 1937-1939 ( New York, 1940), 105.

-1-

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