1941: The Year Germany Lost the War

0 Comment

>>Kenneth Nyirady:
Good afternoon. Or evening, since we’ve
changed the clocks, and welcome to the
Library of Congress. I am Kenneth Nyirady, Head of the European Reading
Room at the Library. We’re pleased that you can join
us to hear our guest speaker, Andrew Nagorski discuss
his latest book, “1941: The Year Germany Lost the War.” My colleague, Grant Harris,
Chief of the European Division, will serve as session moderator. There’ll be time after
the session for questions and answers, and that will be
followed by a book signing. Very briefly, let me say
that the library has some of the largest collections
of materials from and about the countries of
Europe, outside those countries, including publications
concerning World War II. The European collections are
particularly strong in history, language, literature,
and the social sciences, whether in English or
in foreign languages. You may want to pick up
the European Division flier and bookmarks which are
on the table in the back, that describe our
collections and services. Some of you may not
know that the Library of Congress reading rooms
are open to the public, and we encourage you to come
back as readers or researchers. If you haven’t seen our
display of items in the back of the room, please take a
look after the presentation. It concerns publications by and
about several of the governments and emigrate groups in London
in exile, during World War II, a topic that Mr. Nagorski
describes in his book. Just necessary, please
turn off your cell phones and other electronic devices
for the duration of the program. And also, be aware that
the event is being recorded for future Library
of Congress webcast. When we have the Question and
Answer period, please understand that if you ask a
question, you are consenting to be part of the webcast. We hope that you enjoy this
talk and that you’ll come again to explore the library’s
collections. Now, please help me welcome both
the author, Andrew Nagorski, and the Chief of the European
Division, Grant Harris. [ Applause ]>>Grant Harris: Well, let
me read just a few things about Andrew Nagorski. I could read a lot
more than this, but I need to keep it short. So, Andrew Nagorski is an
American journalist and author, who spent more than
three decades as a foreign correspondent
and editor for Newsweek. He served as Foreign
Correspondent in Moscow, Berlin, Bohn, Rome, Warsaw,
and even Hong Kong. He is a member of the
Council of Foreign Relations and has published several times in its prestigious
journal, Foreign Affairs. Mr. Nagorski has written
several award-winning books, relating to Germany, Poland,
Russia, and Eastern Europe. He has written most
extensively on Germany, Hitler, and World War II. His newest book, “1941: The
Year Germany Lost the War,” has received favorable reviews. One reviewer has said this,
“Thanks to his mastery of historical sources, and his
acute insight into when, why, and how decisions are
made in real life, he is able to make
a credible argument that 1941 was a turning point.” So, now, I turn to you finally and I’ve got a number
of questions for you. The book is all about
1941, but I want you to set the stage for us. What happened before that? Germany was on the march,
all over north and south. Set the stage for us. What happened before then?>>Andrew Nagorski: I would
say if you look at 1941, the end of 1940 and
beginning of 1941, you’ve gone through this
period where I think Hitler and his Germany,
his Third Reich, has been underestimated
for years. First, Hitler himself
was underestimated when he was rising to power,
for all sorts of reasons. That’s a longer topic about — but people, whether it
was foreign observers, German politicians, even some
German Jewish leaders, who felt, “This man can’t be
a serious leader. He cannot become the leader
of Germany, or if he is, he’s somebody who we
will be able to control, and will not do these crazy
things he’s saying he’s going to do.” But then, he takes power as
we know, in 1933, and by 1938, has embarked on this good on — he’s not only consolidated
his power at home, and eliminated any potential
rivals and begun things like the attacks on
Jews, on Kristallnacht, but he has begun a course which
seems to be a collision course with just about everybody else. And that of course means, he
— the Anschluss of Austria, he takes over Austria. He challenges Britain and
France over Czechoslovakia, and the famous appeasement and
he dismembers Czechoslovakia. And then, of course, September
1, 1939 he attacks Poland, which is the beginning
of World War II. And he’s — there’s a feeling —
all along, there’ve been people, not just in the West,
but also within Germany, within the German army,
within the economic offices and so forth, who are
saying, you know, basically, “[Inaudible] Hitler, be careful,
you’re taking on an awful lot.” And Germany doesn’t — isn’t
as prepared as you think and doesn’t have the
resources to take on everyone. And yet, every time that
he makes another move, everybody else retreats. So, he takes over Poland
and significantly, he — to do that, he makes
his pact with Stalin, with the Soviet Union,
the Nazi-Soviet pact. So, that neutralizes Russia. In fact, it more than
neutralizes Russia. It — the Soviet Union,
Stalin’s Soviet Union, becomes a major supplier of
Nazi Germany in this period. So, he’s got them
off to the side. The U.S. is still out
of the war, of course. It is — there’s a lot of
isolationist sentiment. There is Roosevelt is
sympathetic to the British, but he’s not about to
buck that sentiment. And then, he turns on the west. He attacks Norway, Denmark,
the [inaudible] countries, and ultimately France, which is of course the real
revenge for World War I. And everything seems
to be going his way. And that’s by the
beginning of ’41, his planes, they have not — the German
Luftwaffe, the air force, was unable to knock out the
Royal Air Force in the Battle of Britain, but they’re bombing
British cities, and it looks — Britain is under attack, and
even many of his generals who had thought, “This
is sort of crazy. We’re taking on all these
countries,” begin to feel, “This man is — has an
infallible instinct. Maybe we were all
wrong and he was right, and Germany is going
to win the war.”>>Grant Harris: Thank
you for that background. One of the things I like about
your book, is that you get into the minds of many
of these characters. You really tell a lot. And so, you actually start
with January 1st, of 1941. You start with a diary
entry by Ivan Maisky who is the Soviet
Ambassador to Great Britain. So, what did he write in his
diary on that day, January 1st?>>Andrew Nagorski: Maisky’s
an interesting character. He’d been in Britain
as the ambassador since I think ’33 or so. He was very friendly with many
top-level British officials, but he was of course,
Stalin’s representative. And there is this odd thing
where Maisky is smart enough to realize Germany is
overextending itself, and he writes in his diary
on that day, he said, “Forty-one is going to be the
critical year because Germany, in order to win this war, has to
win it quickly because once– .” He’s assuming the U.S. is going
to get increasingly supportive of Britain, which means the
industrial might of the U.S. So, he said, “And Britain will begin to really gyn [assumed
spelling] up its war industry.” Once the Anglo-Saxon countries
have all the capacity, then in a prolonged war, Germany
is not going to be able to win, and which is by the way, what some of the German planners
had been telling Hitler, too. So, he says, “Hitler
has to do something to win this war quickly.” But what does Maisky speculate? He says, “Okay, now Hitler’s
really going to attack Britain to make sure Britain
is defeated, which — and that’s going to be that
big move in ’41,” even though that he was — German bombers
were already attacking Britain, but they had not
been able to attack and mount an amphibious
invasion. Of course, looming in the background is
another possibility, which Maisky does
not care to mention, “Will Hitler honor
his pact with Stalin? And what will happen
with the Soviet Union?” But that goes to show that
even someone like Maisky, who was quite a well
— a smart individuals, but even in his own
diary, he didn’t dare to question Stalin’s judgement,
which was, “Hitler’s going to honor this pact, at least
long enough for us to be able to rebuild after
our own setbacks.” They had fought the war in
Finland and not done so well. There’d been — Stalin had
purged the Soviet military. And so, he — Maisky doesn’t
even mention that possibility. So, he’s right about 1941
being a critical year. He’s wrong about why it’s
going to be the critical year.>>Grant Harris: You’ve
done research on Germany, the countries around it, several
books, and now here you keep on this same subject of
Germany, World War II. And I appreciate that. I like that a lot. Did you learn anything new, or was this just all things
you already still had — you already had leftover
from other books, or were there some surprises,
as you did more research?>>Andrew Nagorski: There
are always surprises when you do more research. One, before I start with Germany
and Russia, I mean for me, this book, since it
involved a central character of course is Churchill, and then
the U.S. [inaudible] British relationship, which is the other
thread going [inaudible] the — there’s a reason
why on the cover of the book you’ve got Hitler,
Stalin, Churchill, and FDR. One of the things that struck
me was about Churchill, who of course, he became
Prime Minister in 1940, in May when France
was collapsing. And as many of you know of
course, Churchill had been in what was considered
the political wilderness. He was in a bit of — he was seen as someone who’s
time was passed in many ways, but the one thing he
got right was the threat of Hitler and the Nazis. And as a result, when the
appeasement policy completely collapsed, they turned
to Churchill. Now, we all know
Churchill as the man who makes the famous speech
about, “We will fight them on the beaches and
on — in the streets. We will never surrender.” But one of the things I’ve
found in one of these again, and one of these
personal recollections, this time of his bodyguard,
a Scotland Yard detective. On May the 10th of 1940, when
he goes in to see King George, he knows he’s going to be
asked to form a government. He comes out and he talks to
— and he asks his bodyguard, “Do you know why I was
summoned to the palace?” And his bodyguard
says, “I think I know. I wish you best. I wish that it happened
at a better time.” And at that moment, Churchill
had tears in his eyes, and he says, “I do too. I hope it’s not too late.” That’s a different Churchill
than the public Churchill which is always convinced,
“It can’t be too late. We’re going to win.” There were these
moments of vulnerability. Another example from
a diary from one of Churchill’s most
fervent supporters. A conservative MP, Harold
Nicolson, and he writes, about the same time, while he’s
also going into this thing, “Why Britain will
never surrender, and we have to be victorious,”
but in private, he’s writing — there’s a letter from him to his
wife, who is a fairly known — well-known writer at
the time, and says, “I’m glad we have
those two pills.” Cyanide pills. He says, “If the Germans take
Britain, I don’t mind dying,” what he called, “an honorable
death, but I sure don’t want to be – be tortured
by these bastards.” And yes, this is —
the extent to which — and that side of that
equation, the fear, the sense that you know, things could have gone either
way was very extensive. And then, from previous work,
and then I continued it, I mean the extent to which
Moscow was on the verge of collapsing, I
managed a few years ago to interview someone whose
father had embalmed Lenin, who was one of the
original embalmers. And his son in the 30’s
had gone to medical school and was brought in by his father
to become part of the team that maintained that Lenin mummy
in the tomb, and then was — helped evacuate the body of
Lenin because Stalin knew if Hitler takes Moscow, and
he seizes Lenin, the symbolism of that is just overwhelming. So, I mean, these are
things you don’t — you know the broad
sweep of history, but when you learn those kinds
of details and actually hear it from the people themselves
who were — some of whom were still around
when I started interviewing, it’s just fascinating.>>Grant Harris:
It is fascinating. Let me ask you, just maybe
to continue about Churchill and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Here we have Churchill who desperately needs the
United States to be in the war, and yet, Roosevelt is dealing
with Charles Lindbergh, others who are not at
all for going to war. So, tell us something about how
the relations between Churchill and Roosevelt developed
into communication.>>Andrew Nagorski: Yes. And it’s interesting, Churchill
and Roosevelt had only met in person once at that
point, and that was in — either right during World
War I or right at the end of World War I, when Churchill
was First Lord of the Admiralty, in charge of the Royal
Navy, and Roosevelt — FDR was the Secretary of
the Navy in the U.S. So, they had sort of
equivalent positions. I think he was [inaudible]
maybe Assistant Secretary of the Navy then. And he went on a — FDR
came to London on some sort of delegation and he
was at a reception where they — he met Churchill. Years later, Churchill
was asked about this. He didn’t even remember
that he’d met FDR, which did not please FDR. And there was a bit,
at the distance, this kind of initial
standoffishness. FDR tended to see Churchill
as this British imperialist who supported for
instance, the Empire and was not very sympathetic to Indian independence
and so forth. And Churchill saw Roosevelt
as this president who — he needed him, as you said, but
was also sort of very conscious of public opinion in the U.S.
The isolationist sentiment. The sense of Americans
that got into World War I, late in the war, and
then had been assured that this would sort
of solve the situation. They wouldn’t have
to go back to Europe, and now pressure
was mounting again. And so, Churchill was a
bit impatient with that, but the two men develop a
phenomenally close relationship, at a distance at first,
for a couple reasons. Roosevelt detected early, even before Churchill
became Prime Minister, that he was the one
guy who might be — rise to the top to
confront Hitler. And so, he initiated a
correspondence with him, and reminded him, “We were both
— had roles with the navy,” and he signed his
letters, I think — no, Churchill signed
the letter and replied, “For a you know, naval person.” And you know, they’d be —
they got that bond going. And interestingly enough, Churchill’s [inaudible]
Roosevelt said, “You can write to me directly by
pouch or telegram.” In other words, “You can bypass
my ambassador in London.” He didn’t quite say that,
but that was the implication. And who was the ambassador
in London? Joseph Kennedy. Joseph Kennedy was — and
who was a very you know, was very anti-British. And was telling Washington,
“Britain’s going to collapse. They’re not going to hold out. Everyone’s predicting
that you know, after France fell,
Britain’s next. So, it’s not even worth
supporting Britain.” And Churchill knew that,
and was not exactly thrilled by Kennedy’s presence. And ’41 eventually, he —
late ’40, Kennedy is — you know, withdrawn
and eventually replaced by a much more pro-British
ambassador. But so, they developed this
relationship, these contacts. And throughout the war, there
— something like, huge number, like 900, letters, extensive
memos to each other there, and Roosevelt sends various
[inaudible], Harriman, Hopkins, others to meet with Churchill. And by proxy, and then in
person, first out in — when they signed the Atlantic
Charter off the coast of Canada, and then in trips to Washington,
they develop a really — a magnificent relationship, and
especially it starts in 1941, with the Battle over
Lend Lease Legislation. Because Churchill says to
Roosevelt, “Look, I mean, we appreciate the help
you’re sending us. We’re paying for it now. We’re not going to
be able to pay for it much longer,
so what do you do?” And that’s when the genesis
of Lend Lease basically, “We’ll give you the stuff now. You’ll pay us somehow later.” And Roosevelt, to his credit,
well his genius was to put this in terms Americans
could understand. And he said, in one
of his Fire chat — side chats, as he was trying to
sell this Lend Lease Legislation to Congress in the
beginning of ’41, he said, “Imagine that your
neighbor’s house is on fire. And he comes running
over to you and says, ‘Let me grab your garden
hose and try to spray — you know, try to put out this
fire.'” He says, “You don’t, at that point, you tell
him, ‘Take that hose and try to put out the fire.’ You don’t say, ‘Oh, by the way,
that garden hose costs $15.00. Pay me the $15.00
now.'” And you know, the way they played it
politically, and the way — Churchill realized — he was
being pushed by his own people, to push Roosevelt for more and
for more direct involvement. And he said — he kept
cautioning them, “Look, Roosevelt, only Congress
can declare war in the United States. Roosevelt is a very
political person. He doesn’t want to appear to be
pushing for war, but he’s trying to help us, so we can’t
push too hard either.” But just one other thing
about that relationship, because there’s so much to tell,
but when finally of course, 1941 ends December
7th with Pearl Harbor, and Churchill tells Roosevelt
basically in a phone call, “Yes, I hope you don’t mind,
but obviously I’m elated that we’ll be on the same side.” And Roosevelt says, he
completely understands that and Roosevelt — and Churchill
immediately comes to Washington in December after Pearl Harbor, so that they can plan
strategy together. And they had met, as I say, on
their warships off the coast of Canada before, but here
they have a chance to get that persona rapport and
Roosevelt invites Churchill to the White House to
stay there, in the — on the floor with the —
with his own living quarters. So, they’re on the same floor. And Roosevelt of
course is mostly a — he’s in his wheelchair. Roosevelt spends a lot
of time in his bedroom and in the bathtub as he had — was want to do, dictating
memos and letters–>>Grant Harris: Churchill.>>Andrew Nagorski: -I
mean Churchill did, yes. Yes. So, they spent
a lot of time going in each other’s bedrooms and
just discussing things there. And at one point, Churchill is
in the bathtub, dictating a memo or a letter or a
correspondence to his secretary, a male secretary I should
say, and at a certain point, he gets up out of the bath, puts
a big bath towel over himself and walks into his bedroom
and continues dictating. And as he’s dictating, that big
bath towel falls to the ground at a certain moment, and at
that moment, Roosevelt comes into the room on his wheelchair. And without missing a beat,
Churchill says to him, “You see, Mr. President, I have
nothing to conceal from you.” So, they developed a
pretty good relationship.>>Grant Harris:
Thank you for that. You know, a lot of books about
this period between Germany and the Soviet Union, they leave
out this huge important country in between called Poland,
and the developments that are happening there. And they’re stage the
things that are happening — I’d like you to go
into that some, because your book does goes
into that in some detail.>>Andrew Nagorski:
Yes, well there’s — maybe I’d be less inclined to
leave that out because my own — my own father fought in
’39 in the Polish army, and was part [inaudible]. So, his story, my
father, grandfather was in the Polish government
in exile in London. So, this story feels
very immediate to me and of course what happened
in Poland is very immediate. And I think you can’t understand
this whole relationship between Stalin and Hitler
and Churchill and Roosevelt without the origins of the
war in ’39, because the price of that Nazi/Soviet
pact was basically that Hitler would invade from
the west, Hitler’s armies, and 17 days later on
September 17th, Soviet, or the Red Army invaded
from the east. They divided up Poland. That was the beginning
of the conquest and the Soviets also
took control of the Baltic States
soon thereafter. So, Poland had a
central role in this, and it was also what
prompted, I mean the British and the French had pledged
to go to war as opposed to when the case
of Czechoslovakia, if Hitler invaded Poland. And Hitler believed, I think, that they really didn’t
mean it for a long time. He really was — he was sitting
there, waiting for Ribbentrop, his Foreign Minister
when the Brits and the French gave an ultimatum
saying, “You either withdraw or we’re going to go to war.” He was expecting them to
withdraw and when the — when he was told
they’ve declared war, he was quite taken aback,
although for quite a while, that declaration of war didn’t
have a lot of practical impact. It wasn’t as if they
were about to march in to fight the Germans
in Poland. So, Poland has a central role. It has a central role as
also the testing ground for Hitler’s armies
in many ways, because that’s the one
big battle that lasts about a — about a month. It doesn’t sound like a lot
but compared to everybody else who had capitulated
very quickly, there was intense fighting. It became the testing ground — the first testing
grounds for groups like what were called
the [foreign name], the special killing squads that
Hitler’s armies sent in to kill, in those — in the beginning,
it was Jews, intellectuals, nobility, religious leaders. It wasn’t only focused on
Jews, although it became, by the time it gets
to the Soviet Union, it’s focused primarily on Jews. Of course Auschwitz
is in what — territory annexed from
Poland, and is first a POW — for Polish political prisoners. Then for [inaudible] for Soviet
POWs and then gets transformed into a central part of the
[inaudible] or the Holocaust. So, Poland is a central part. And just one small
again, reminder of this. In — at a certain point, when I
was doing research on the battle for Moscow, I went
to one of the most — into [foreign name] which is
this place about 140 miles west of Moscow where one of the biggest battles
took place in ’41. And I went there with a group
of what were called searchers. These young, Russian
vets who went there, searching for remains of Soviet
soldiers, Red Army soldiers, that was — all these
decades later, they were still in these woods that had been
deserted since those battles, where literally hundreds
of thousands of Soviet troops were surrounded
by the Germans and wiped out. And we went through there
and there were shell cases and pieces of uniform,
and there were sometimes, they would find human remains. And at one point, one of
these searchers comes up to me and he’s holding
three hand grenades. He says to me, “These are
Polish hand grenades.” And I say — “You’ll
appreciate this, Andre. You’ll appreciate this.” And he knew my Polish
background. I said, “Well, why are
these Polish hand grenades?” He said, “Think about it. You know, when Germany
invaded Poland from the west, and Soviet Union from
the east, they grabbed — Poland had a fairly
large arms industry. They grabbed every bit of — from their arsenal that they
stole everything from the Poles, and in those first
battles after — [inaudible] Germany
invaded the Soviet Union, they were maybe each — either side could have
been Polish grenades against each other.” You know, it’s just again, one
of those ironies of history.>>Grant Harris: You
talk about Rudolf Hess, who was Hitler’s Deputy and a rather bizarre
moment in — at this time. Rudolf Hess decides he’s going
to help Hitler by getting into a plane without
telling Hitler, and flying into Great
Britain, and parachuting out.>>Andrew Nagorski: Yes.>>Grant Harris:
Describe what happened.>>Andrew Nagorski:
You have to remember, Rudolf Hess had been one
of the earliest Nazis. He was with Hitler in the
Landsberg Prison in 1924 — 1923, ’24, after the
failed Beer Hall Putsch when Hitler had tried to
launch a Putsch in Bavaria, but he had sort of — he
was considered a high Nazi, but he kind — he was a — I mean, not that many Nazis
were not strange characters, but he was more stranger
than others, and he felt kind
of pushed aside. And one of the things Hitler
had constantly, and Hess knew of this, Albert Speer talked
about this, several times, Hitler had expressed the
view that we should be able to make a deal with Britain. Let us control Europe,
and especially the east, which was the [foreign name],
the sub-humans, the Slavs and of course then
get rid of the Jews. But while the Britain
has these colonies abroad and they have the navy for it. So, we should be able
to cut a deal like that. And he talked about this, even after these two
countries were at war. Even when his air force
was conducting the blitz and bombing London and
other cities every day. And Hess got it in his
head that he could sort of, as far as I can see, I
think he really believed, “I can pull off this great
coup, get to Britain, negotiate something,
and by the way, he knew there’s no way
Hitler would accept Churchill as a partner because
Churchill was too anti-German. So, I’ll negotiate with
the British aristocracy,” which he considered pro-fascist. And there were indeed a
few pro-fascists there, but and he just got in
his plane, flew over, parachuted out in Scotland, and
then Churchill gets a phone call from somebody up in Scotland
saying, “This guy Rudolf Hess, he seems to be really that
Rudolf Hess, has parachuted,” and he said, “and what
do we do with him?” And of course, Hitler
was furious. He was convinced that the
British would make great propaganda hay out of this,
but Churchill decided, “Let’s just imprison him,
treat him — he’ll — he’s a potential war criminal.” In fact, he was later tried
in Nuremberg, and sentenced to life imprisonment, and was
the eldest living surviving prisoner, until he hanged
himself in, I think 1987, in Spandau Prison in Berlin,
where he was the only prisoner, and he was already I think
close to 90, and he managed to hang himself,
despite a four — four country guards
— four power guards. So, but it’s one of these
things where in the end, it probably didn’t mean
that much, but it was — showed how much this idea, this
bizarre idea that Hitler thought that we can find some
brits who are going to basically sell
the country out. Sell Churchill and his cronies
out, and then we’ll have them as kind of subservient and get
the war over with that way.>>Grant Harris: Let me ask
you about the journalists. The American journalists
that were in Great Britain at that time. There are quite a number
who were pro-Britain.>>Andrew Nagorski: Yes.>>Grant Harris:
And reporting back to their American
newspapers or magazines. One of them was named
Dorothy Thompson [phonetic]. I choose her because
we’ve got a woman here, and just tell us a little
bit about her background and what she was able to do.>>Andrew Nagorski:
Dorothy Thompson is a fascinating character. She had been spent —
she was probably one of the first real celebrity
foreign correspondents in the 20s, and the early 30s. She had spent time in
Germany, in Vienna. She had been, by the
way, also for a while, married to Sinclair Lewis, and
she famously got Hitler wrong in 1931 when she interviewed
him, when he was already coming to — it looked like he had
the biggest power party, and it looked like he
was coming to power. He arranged it — she arranges
this interview with him, but — and then she does a quick book
on a subject in which she says, “I thought I was going to meet
the future leader of Germany, but within 50 seconds, I
realized I wasn’t because he’s such a bizarre man with these
crazy eyes, that you know, which are characteristics of
hysterics and alcoholics.” But to her credit, once Hitler
takes power, she goes back to Germany, she’s really on the
warpath, the war in the world and particularly American
readers, that this new man in power in Germany is a threat,
not just to Germany, but — and to Europe, but
to the whole world. And she gets on this
crusade and then in 1941, she actually aside — she’s
a very well-known columnist by then. She’s syndicated all
over the country. She becomes a real
cheerleader for — passing the Land
Lease Legislation. She even writes the introduction
to a booklet issued here in Washington, by the U.S.
government, with the statements by the major figures in the
Roosevelt administration, the Secretary of War,
the Secretary of State, and so forth, why we
should support Britain. And then she goes to Britain,
is treated like royalty there. She meets everybody. Churchill, and company, and
she makes radio broadcasts. She also broadcasts from the
BBC, not only within Britain, but she makes a special
broadcast back to Germany, in German. She did speak German. She had learned German in her
time in Europe and saying, “I love the German people. I hate your regime. I want your country
to lose this war because it deserves
to lose this war.” So, it’s an interesting case
study of someone who, you know, put all notion of journalistic
objectivity, detachment aside and said, you know, “This is
a time when, this is a cause, and I am going to do everything
to promote this cause.”>>Grant Harris: Let’s
talk about Stalin, some. Stalin was getting
intelligence from all sides that Germany was
about to attack. And just didn’t want
to hear about it.>>Andrew Nagorski: Right.>>Grant Harris: So,
talk about that some and the days right
after that and–>>Andrew Nagorski: Right.>>Grant Harris: -the
weeks after that.>>Andrew Nagorski: Well,
the thing is, when you look at these two dictators, and
sometimes I say, “It’s almost as if — you know, they had
achieved incredible power.” Of course they share this
ruthlessness, this willingness to kill, terrorize, on a scale that was almost
incomprehensible. And they were at the pinnacle
of their careers, and yet, it was almost like —
I’d like to say in 1941, it’s almost like they’re
having a competition, “Who Could be the
Most Stupid Dictator?” Because here’s Stalin, he’s
getting all these warnings. Hitler’s not going to observe
the terms of this pact. He’s getting ready to
invade the Soviet Union, but Stalin wasn’t
ready for that. He knew his army
was not prepared. And he believed genuinely that he could maintain this
de facto alliance with Hitler, at least for another year or so. And so, he doesn’t want
to hear the bad news. And anybody who delivers
that bad news, is in trouble. So, even on the eve
of the invasion, when there are 3 million
German troops amassed on the Soviet border, you’d think that’s a pretty
clear sign something’s going to happen, and a couple
of German defectors cross over to the Soviet side, and
their warnings that they’re about to invade go all
the way up to the Kremlin. What’s Stalin’s reaction? Execute those guys. It must be disinformation. In his mind, if everybody’s
telling me this, my own spies, the western powers,
German defectors, it’s obviously a plot. I’m being misled. And they want to make me — force us into this
conflict when I don’t want to be in this conflict. So, he is blind to that
and he, as a result, the Germans initial offensive,
really — it moves very quickly, and his troops are not
ready, and they’re overrun. While Hitler on the other
hand is so overconfident about defeating the Soviet
Union quickly, that he invades, in the end of June of ’41 which
by the way, is exactly 129 years to the date after
Napoleon invaded Russia, and that did not
turn out so well. And yet, he sends in his
troops without winter uniforms because he’s convinced
they will not need them. They’ll win by then. So, both create — have
these huge mistakes, but Stalin’s paranoia
and Stalin’s — when finally, the
Germans invade, he retreats to his
[foreign name] and [foreign name] Bureau
is looking for him and says, “You’ve got to make
an announcement. You’ve got to do something.” And finally, they’re
waiting for him to come out of the [foreign name]. Finally, they march
into the [foreign name], and there’s Stalin sitting
there and he’s looking at them. And he said, “Why are you here?” And at that point,
[foreign name], one of the [inaudible]
Bureau members said, in his recollection
says, “I realized, he thought that we were
here to arrest him.” And in fact they said,
“No, we’re here to get you to organize an emergency
committee and you’ll be the head.” And then Stalin realizes,
he’s still in charge. But it’s — and by the way, even
then, somebody’s got to go on, on the radio, to
make an announcement to buttress morale and so forth. He says, “No, I’m
not going to do it. Let Molotov, the
Foreign Minister, do it.” So, he doesn’t really take
charge until a bit later, but it’s again, shows you how
close things were to collapsing.>>Grant Harris: We’ll move
on now to December of 1941, the last month of the year. And there were a
couple of events. There’s December 7, 1941,
and I’ve asked you to talk about that, and then we’ll move
on and talk about December 16 in Moscow, Stalin and the
British Foreign Secretary. But we’ll start with December 7.>>Andrew Nagorski: Well,
of course, throughout ’41, there’s this whole question, especially among
British officials and by many U.S. officials
who are very sympathetic to the cause and feel the U.S.
should get directly involved. When is it finally
going to happen? And many people are kind of — feel that Roosevelt can’t quite
make up his mind what to do. Then Japanese hit Pearl
Harbor, and what happens? Well, first of all, remember
they hit Pearl Harbor, and Roosevelt convenes Congress
and asks for a Declaration of War on December 8th, but
it’s a Declaration of War against Japan, not Germany. So, that’s — people
tend to forget that. And the immediate
aftermath is first against — but Churchill felt at this
point, it was inevitable that you know, first
of all, Japan, Germany, and Italy were — did have what
was called the Tripartite Pact, so they were supposed
to operate together, although their alliance
was very shaky. But Roosevelt does not ask
for a Declaration of War against Germany, and in
fact, so what does Hitler do? Three days later, he declares
war on the United States. And it gets basically
Roosevelt off the hook. So, he doesn’t —
he’s never had to say, “I want a war with Hitler.” Now, Hitler’s reaction
to the attack on Pearl Harbor is exactly — it’s of a piece of everything
else he did that year. Remember, when he —
why did he invite — he had always envisioned
attacking the Soviet Union and taking over the east, but he
felt he wasn’t ready to do that. So, then he attacked Britain. Thought he would make — have Britain capitulate as the
one outpost that was still there to oppose his ambitions, and
then it would be easy to take over the Soviet Union. Britain does not capitulate. Churchill makes his stand. The air force, the Royal
Air Force, by the way, with a lot of help from
also Polish, Czech, and Commonwealth pilots,
staves off the Luftwaffe. So, Hitler’s next step, he’s
like an obsessive gambler. Something didn’t work. First, he was an
obsessive gambler. When things worked,
you upped the ante. You took Austria. Then you take Czechoslovakia. Then you attack Poland. When things didn’t work,
you also upped the ante. So, when Britain failed to
collapse, he decides, “Okay, now we’ll attack
the Soviet Union,” and then the Soviet
Union will be taken over and then Britain
will really collapse, and the U.S. won’t
get into the war. So, when none of that
works, said, “Okay, now Japan’s in the war, we’ll
declare war on the United States and Japan in the war is
very good news for us.” Why? Because Japan
has never lost a war, ostensibly, according to Hitler. And that it will tie down
the U.S. in the Pacific and the U.S. will no longer
be capable of supply — of helping with this
and supplying Britain and the Soviet Union,
which had begun to do under Lend Lease as well. So, he had these —
always the rationale that the next escalation
was going to be the one that
does it for him. But like his planners
said, you know, eventually if you have
everybody against you, the odds don’t look too good. By the end of ’41, and this is
why I say it’s the year Germany lost the war, Germany is up
against the United States — Britain, which was the only
one they were up against first. Then the Soviet Union,
and the United States. Together, those countries had
three times the population, seven times the territory,
at least twice the GDP, control of much of
the natural resources, and as one of the German
historians wrote, said, “If you declare war
on the whole world, it usually doesn’t
work out very well.”>>Grant Harris: Let me ask
you now about December 16. In Moscow, Stalin had met there with the British Foreign
Secretary, Anthony Eden, and Stalin handed to
Anthony Eden a draft treaty for post-war territories
and boundaries. And of course, it had — Stalin
had Poland and the Baltics, other areas, going
to the Soviet Union.>>Andrew Nagorski:
Parts of the territory and the political control. Yes.>>Grant Harris: Yes, yes. Yes. So, we see what
happened from there. It happened. What should have happened? What could have made
a difference?>>Andrew Nagorski: It’s very
interesting that even before that — Eden’s trip in December, as soon as Germany
invaded the Soviet Union, even when it looked like
Moscow might fall, Soviet — Stalin was insisting
basically, on a post-war order where he would retain
everything he had gained in that Nazi/Soviet pact. That means, eastern Poland,
control of the Baltic states. And I think — there
are people who say, and I think a strong
argument can be made, there were some people
within the U.S. government, people like George [inaudible]
who had served in Moscow, Lord Ismay who was the Chief
Military Advisor to Churchill, that Churchill and Roosevelt
should have taken a stronger stand against Stalin, not
allow him to be dictating terms at a time when his own survival
was at stake, and especially to institute — basically
incorporate all of the gains of a pact with Hitler. But remember one thing, the main
fear of Churchill and Stalin — Churchill and Roosevelt
was that for a long time, they were worried that Stalin — that Hitler/Stalin alliance
might become permanent and even more — even closer. And by the way, Stalin at one
point, even after the war, told his daughter,
Svetlana at one point, something to the effect
of, “Ah, if Hitler and I had stayed together, we
would have been invincible.” There was sort of,
despite their — they hated each other
on some level, but they also admired
each other’s ruthlessness, terror, and so forth. And the fact that Stalin
had cut a pact with Hitler, was always in the minds of
the Americans and the British, and there was a fear, even maybe
once it was no longer justified, that he might do so again
if he gets irritated enough with Churchill and Roosevelt. And he used — manipulated that
and used it very skillfully. And he outmaneuvered them
I think in many ways. Roosevelt I think was
much more naive about it. He really believed his
assurances that, “Oh, we’ll introduce a
democratic system in Poland and other countries
where we basically impose the government.” Churchill knew that was not
the case, and I remember when in July of 1941,
after the German invasion, he really pressured the Polish
government in exile in London to make a deal with the Russians since they were ostensibly
on the same side. And he said, “It was my
invidious responsibility to advise the Poles to
rely on Soviet good faith.” And he knew what that meant. But I think there were ways in which we could have
exerted more leverage and had been more calculating. But the combination of Roosevelt
being willing to give in — he didn’t want any preconditions
or any quid pro quo on stuff. And Churchill, just
thinking [inaudible]. His whole idea was, you know,
“I hate the Soviet system, but we need the Soviets.” You know, he made
that famous comment when his aid told
him, “How will– .” After the Germans invaded and
he was going to go to the House of Commons and declare his
support and his alliance with the Soviet Union, he said,
“Don’t you feel uncomfortable that someone who has always been
an anti-communist,” he said, “Well, if Hitler invaded Hell,
I’d have a good thing to say for the devil the next day
in the House of Commons.” And you know, you make the
alliances you have to make, but we could have played
that alliance better.>>Grant Harris: Yes. Thank you for that. I’d like to have some
questions and answers. I don’t know where the
microphones would be to — man is coming with a microphone. So, if you have a
question, please stand up, raise your hand, and —
we have one over here.>>Hi. How credible was
the notion that the Duke of Windsor might have
become a Nazi puppet on the British throne?>>Andrew Nagorski: Yes. Well, I think that the
story of the Duke of Windsor and you know, the Duke of
Windsor who visited Germany with his American wife, and all
that, encouraged those kinds of fantasies of some
of the Nazis that the British might
depose this man Churchill, who they hated, and there
might be a deal to be cut. In fact, when Rudolf Hess
parachuted into Scotland, he asked to see some — a
different British aristocrat. I forget which — whether
he was a duke or a — someone fairly high up, who had
visited during the Olympics, the Berlin Olympics, in ’36,
and he had the impression — so, he had met him
at a reception. The Brit hadn’t even — didn’t
even remember him particularly, but he thought, “Well, we’ll
just tell this network, and they’ll take
care of things.” So, it helped stoke
some of the illusions and kept the idea alive that
maybe there’s a deal to be made with these — this part of the British leadership
or upper class. And there was — there were also
some other very individual cases as some of you I’m sure have
heard about the Mitford sisters. Unity Mitford, who
went to Britain — to Germany and became
infatuated by Hitler, and he actually was taking
this young woman all around and listening —
she was 21-years old and he was listening to
her theories about Britain and what — and how eagerly
it would become fascist.>>Well, thank you very much for
being here and for your talk. And it seems to me that you
have done research for many, many years on this topic. And I was wondering what some
of the best primary sources are? I think you mentioned
somewhere in your book that it was the interviews
you were able to get with people before they passed on the scene — away
from the scene. But if you began your
research quite a while ago, I was wondering whether
you were able to get into the Soviet archives
before they closed again?>>Andrew Nagorski: Yes. I think, yes. I mean as a journalist
by training, of course, I love interviews. I love also especially
when I corroborate them with original documents
and so forth, but so — and luckily, in some case — even before I knew I
was writing these books, sometimes I interviewed
people just to for stories, and sometimes out of personal
curiosity, and was able to gather a great
deal of material. And even, by the way, even
for this book, by this time, I started this book, I had
some interviews already, but I still found some people — like I found a group of Red
Army veterans in Minneapolis, who were still — who
had remembered ’41, and even a German soldier
who had fought in ’41. I found in — living
in Queens, New York, a woman who when I interviewed
her three years ago, was 103, who had been a secretary
to General Sikorski, the Polish Prime Minister. She — and when I — by the
way, when I wrote the book, I wanted to make
sure if she was — frankly, I didn’t know
how to ask if she’s still around to get her a copy, and I
got in touch with her caretaker, and she said, “Yes, she’d
love to see the book. She’s 106.” So, that — but I mean of
course, a generation is passing and from the archives,
I was able — I did not spend time in the — so much time in the archives
myself because that took — that takes an incredible
amount of time, but when I was started —
first researching, particularly that the German invasion
and the Battle for Moscow, which I made a — did a
much more detailed study of it earlier, I got to know
for instance, a guy who — the editor of the
archival material, who was getting the newly
declassified documents. And he was printing up
small volumes of this, very limited circulation, and
was kind enough to give me this as it was being released. So, it was technically
available to anyone, but you had to really know where
to look, and thanks to that, I got a lot of documents that
were — for instance, the NKBD, of course, the forerunner
of the KGB, gathered up from the
battlefields, the letters and diaries from German
soldiers shot on the front. So, you often had the accounts
of the foot soldiers right up until the day they died. You also had of course
the records of the censors who were alarmed to see — be
intercepting letters saying, by some Soviet citizens,
not just in Ukraine and [foreign name]
and the Baltic States, but even Russia itself, “Hey,
these Germans are coming. Maybe they’ll get rid
of our regime and Stalin and things will get better.” It wasn’t because they knew
anything really about Hitler and the Nazis, they just
couldn’t imagine anybody who’d be worse or more terrifying
than Stalin and his regime. And so, I was able
— and so, of course, those were highly classified. I was able to get some of those.>>You alluded to this in your
talk, but I’d like to know if you could explain this more. By the end of the year, the Germans had met
serious resistance in the Battle of Britain. Things weren’t going well.>>Andrew Nagorski: Yes.>>They’re meeting resistance
now, in front of Moscow.>>Andrew Nagorski:
There’s in fact a counter — a first counter offense
had launched from Moscow.>>Things are not going well. So, why would they declare
war on the United States?>>Andrew Nagorski: Yes. Well, I mean that question
I think, as I say, it’s — a lot of things Hitler did that
year appear totally illogical. But within his own internal
logic, it made sense and said, “If we have Japan,” he convinced
himself that Japan would tie down the United States in the
Pacific, and he was worried about all these supplies
going to Britain, especially, and to Russia. At first, he had totally
underestimated U.S. military and industrial capacity. He said, “Oh, the U.S.
won’t really be able to rearm till 1945.” Then, his planners kept
telling him, you know, “No, the U.S. can really get going
a lot faster than that.” So, he thought, “Well, then it
will be diverted against Japan.” He tried to see that
as the silver lining. But there were so many things. I mean, the other thing that
were not logical from any point of view, morality aside, why
is 1941 — by the way, yes, I think it’s the year
that also as we discussed when the post-war peace
and in fact, the beginnings of the Cold War come into
view, is also the year when the Holocaust is
set in full motion. There had been killing
of Jews and — in Poland and other
parts of eastern Europe. But the really mass
killings which are first with these special killing
squad, they come in, and just it was described
as just the [inaudible], the Holocaust of the bullets of
just execute — mass executions, and then only later, converting to gas chambers,
takes place in ’41. And there’s a diary entry —
another interesting diary entry, from one of the German generals,
[foreign name], who was the — in charge of the army group
center that was driving through Moscow, and was
running out of supplies, uniforms, ammunition, fuel. And he writes an indignant
letter back to headquarters to say, “I just learned
that some of — there were some train loads of
Jews deposited in our rear lines from the — they were obviously
Jews who are being sent for — to be murdered in the east.” And he’s not objecting on
ethical or moral grounds. He says, “We need those
trains for our own supplies.” And so, even from that point
of view, it makes no sense, but yet, Hitler had
his fixed ideas. And the Holocaust expansion,
you know, the German empire, the superiority of the — supposed superiority
of the Aryan race, all that was a bundle, and you
did not you know, logic as — the kind of logic you or
I would consider natural, did not necessarily apply here. But because again, up till ’41,
he had managed to defy the odds so incredibly and gotten
so far, there were — he was convinced that
he could do no wrong. And he — I mean, by the way,
we looked at Stalin and Hitler. At least Stalin began to learn
from some of his mistakes, and began to — he had
terrorized his own Office of Corps, and so forth
and killed many of them. But gradually, he began to
gain some faith in someone like Marshall Zhukov,
his famous general. Hitler’s response to the first
setbacks was to fire some of his best generals
and to put himself — and make himself
commander of the army. So, he — Hitler only
deepened his mistakes, and Stalin for all
his other faults, did manage to become a
little bit more smarter about how to fight Hitler.>>Grant Harris: We’ll have
just one last question here.>>A lot of pressure. So, as you know, Hitler
was a strong ally of Franco and the Nationalists in the Spain during
the Spanish Civil War. As things started to
turn against Hitler, or as he met more resistance
with Britain and Moscow, or Stalin counter attacked and the United States entered
the war, did he ever — did Hitler ever make any
serious overtures to Spain to enter the war formally to
support and kind of pay back for their support during
the Spanish Civil War?>>Andrew Nagorski:
Yes, good question. I think he — I don’t think
he envisioned that Franco and his army could have
a huge role in this. It was more a testing
ground before World War II for his military. So, and Franco, as you know,
while he was of course a fascist in proclaiming his
allegiance, was not eager to get too deep into this. He was hedging his bets. But where Hitler did make a — the Germans did make a push
in ’41, they were trying to convince Japan to invade
the Soviet Union from the east, and that’s another one of
the stories in my book, which is a fascinating
story because it’s — involves also a very
well-known Russian spy, Richard Sorge, in Tokyo. And they were trying to convince
the Japanese that when — that they were going to take
the western Soviet Union very quickly, so Japan
should jump in. And one of the German
— a German leaders, I forget which one, whether it
was a general or it was Molotov, suggested, “Well, you can
march in from the east, and our armies can meet.” Oh, yes. That’s a
short way from Japan, through Siberia in the winter. And by the way, one of the reasons why Stalin could
withdraw his forces eventually from the Far East in 1941,
because he was afraid that Japan might attack. And as German forces were
getting closer to Moscow, he wanted to withdraw those
forces, but he was afraid to because Richard Sorge,
his spy in Tokyo, told him — he found out that Japanese
troops were being issued in Manchuria were being issued
tropical shorts in the summer. That meant, they
were not marching — going to be marching in that
fall and winter into Siberia. They were going to
Southeast Asia. And that freed them
up, and then these, what were called
Siberian troops, although they were not all
Siberian, but just deployed in Siberia, helped turn the
tide in the Battle for Moscow. So, there were these links,
but Spain I think was more on the periphery of it.>>Grant Harris: We’ll
have to end there. I appreciate everybody
coming here, but help me thank Andrew
Nagorski for being here.>>Andrew Nagorski: Thank you.>>Grant Harris: Well done.

Tags: , , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *