Translated by Guillaume Durocher
This article is drawn from Dominique Venner’s history of the twentieth century, Le Siècle de 1914 (Paris: Pygmalion, 2006), 318-20, under the heading “Les plans de Hitler pour l’Europe soumise.” The title is editorial.
Could the Reich’s new weapons, notably the extraordinary Me 262 fighter-bombers, reverse the trend [of the war]? A largely pointless question given that we know the answer. In fact, the only new weapon Hitler could have used was the “European revolution,” the liberation of the peoples, notably of Russians and Ukrainians, and not their subjugation. But Hitler was not a European revolutionary, he was a pan-Germanist and a blinkered racist. By refusing to play the card of nationalism, he deprived himself of his only real asset in reversing the course of the war. Later, Marshal [Erich] von Manstein would write: “We lost the war the day we entered Kiev, by refusing to raise the Ukrainian flag over the Lavra.” Attempts as promising as that of the Vlasov army were blocked by Hitler: “It constituted a rejection of his entire policy,” wrote Manstein. “The Führer wanted to establish a German domination over the spaces of the East and to definitively destroy Russian power, whatever its regime . . .” A deadly blindness.
In the summer of 1942, after the spectacular relaunching of operations in Russia at the end of the previous winter, German power reached from North Cape to the southern shores of the Mediterranean where Rommel’s Afrika Korps operated. From the west to the east, it reached from the Atlantic through the Volga up to the Caucasus. Even though Bolshevik Russia was not defeated, Hitler seemed to have managed to establish his empire over the larger part of Europe. His propaganda developed two themes, the offensive one of the “new Europe” destined to counter Anglo-Saxon capitalism and Bolshevism, and the defensive theme, against the same, of “fortress Europe.”
After the victorious campaigns of 1940, several plans were established by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with a view of defining the “new European order” and better still the Greater German Reich of the future.
These plans never got past the drawing board, Hitler having decided to commit to nothing before a decisive victory over Soviet Russia and England. Any projects to organize Europe were stalled by three obstacles stemming from Hitler’s ideology and personality. One was the figure’s mix of extreme racism and nationalism, the other to his exclusively domineering idea of relations with other peoples, finally, the third was related to the Hitlerian idea of living space.
[. . .] Having kept the memory of the collapse of the Habsburg Empire in 1918, he feared that granting the slightest autonomy would lead eventual allies to turn their weapons against the Reich. He conceived of relations with other peoples only in terms of domination and submission. [. . .]
Convinced of the inferiority of Slavic peoples, conceiving Ukraine and Russia as mere future colonies whose populations, if ever they were spared, would be reduced to a kind of serfdom, Hitler never imagined entering Russia as a liberator. And yet that was how his troops were first welcomed. The peasants which had welcomed them by offering bread, salt, and flowers, would soon be disillusioned. Nothing better shows Hitler’s blindness than the tragic story of General [Andrey] Vlasov.
1. Erich von Manstein, Victoires perdues (Paris: Plon, 1958).