Triumph of the null : the war within the German high command 1933-1945 / by Geoffrey P. Megargee.
The myth persists in the popular mind--due in part to the deliberate postwar efforts of some former Wehrmacht officers--that the German high command's only failings occurred at the very top. According to this view, Adolf Hitler and a few men in his immediate circle, including Wilhelm Keitel and Alfred Jodl, led Germany to ruin, despite the superiority of the German army and against the consistent opposition of the General Staff. That latter organization has gone down in history as a monolithic, highly professional and anti-Nazi entity that planned campaigns with machine-like efficiency even while it abhorred the regime it served. Despite the command's obvious importance, however, and despite the wealth of primary and secondary materials on the Third Reich, its military and the Second World War, there has as yet been no comprehensive organizational study of the German command system. This study attempts to fill that gap by examining all the myriad overlapping factors that affected the structure and functioning of that system--the personalities, the conflicting and cooperating interests, traditions, practices and beliefs, as well as outside circumstances and events--using a combination of secondary literature and primary sources, including unpublished documents culled during two years of research at the Bundesarchiv-Militararchiv in Freiburg, Germany. The sources reveal a picture of the high command that is thoroughly at odds with the popular myth. While Hitler remains the central figure in the decision to go to war and in many of the high command's strategic and operational decisions, his subordinates in the General Staff deserve a large portion of the responsibility for the war's instigation, nature and outcome. Also, the study reveals that the command was anything but a carefully designed, unitary structure. Its organization and functioning were the logical extension of more than a century of bureaucratic infighting. In the Second World War the Germans' high command system mirrored the characteristics of their wider war effort: efficiency and skill at the bottom that fell prey to chaos and incompetence at the top.
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