A) Explain why the invasion of the USSR changed the lives of those living in Germany around 1941-42. (12 Marks) The invasion of the USSR in the summer months was that of great confidence and assertiveness that they were on the ‘front foot’ from the German people. During these summer months, the Russians had been pushed back by the Germans to what many thought of as the core of the USSR; Russia. Obviously when the Germans had advanced 20 miles short of the central of the most powerful enemy they’ve faced yet, the German people had a right to be happy with their recent progress in the war. This changed their lives by giving them more confidence in that they felt they could defeat the Russians as they were pushing them back towards the capital.
However, after the winter set in the attitude of the German people to the progress being made in the war changed. Before the war the Germans had demolished smaller countries such as France and Poland, meaning that the German people felt that losing was almost alien to them. But when the Russians kicked back against the Germans on the Eastern Front on December 5th 1941 outside of Moscow, the German retreat began. More and more soldiers fell, and the Germans were never able to recover the ground that they had lost. Due to the soldiers diminishing, letters had to be written back to rural Germany to notify those whom had relatives/friends in the war. When the letters started to come thick and fast, the German people now had a hint of doubt in their mind.
I like to think of it as a seed that was planted- the plantation is from the initial invasion of the USSR, and when more and more letters and stories came back from the Russian lines the tree grew. Eventually, the doubt that was once a seed at the start of the invasion of Russia, had now fully flourished into a vast tree of doubt, showing us how the German lives had changed through doubt and anxiety that gradually built up through the invasion of Russia, from going and destroying France and Poland to being pushed back from the Russians. Some historians could say that the battle of Stalingrad had the biggest effect of the German people around 1941. I would say that it was the turning point in the entire war, as it caused the realization from the German people that they were not going to win the war. This contrasts to before the war, where, as said, the German people didn’t have many qualms about minor losses because they believed they knew they were going to win in the first place.
However during Stalingrad this changed; where a quarter million Germans were surrounded, field marshaled, and eventually forced to surrender- this continued on to 1942 where the German soldiers were freezing, and running low on ammunition. The news of this was tried to be kept ‘under wraps’ by some of the hierarchy in the German army, as it would prove low for morale. However the word spread through the press and a flurry of letters of death being sent home. This fully confirmed to the German citizens that the Germans were now on the ‘back foot’ changing their lives, as they now had to be preparing for a loss, instead of a victory. Although it is not directly coherent to the invasion of the USSR, it could be said that the bombings that partly came about from the invasion of Russia changed the lifestyles and actions of the German people.
Before the bombings, William L Shirer reported “The atmosphere was so peaceful and calm. The bathing beach at Wannsee jammed with thousands. Hundreds of sailboats and canoes on the Havel. Families picnicking under the trees” this tells us that the German people were once not bothered as much by the war, and it continued to be ‘business as usual’ for the German citizens. I can contrast this when the bombings continued to develop on 16th and 17th of January 1943.
The German people were now saying that the “English are clearly superior in the air, and that the German Luftwaffe is ‘impotent’ at the moment and has no possibility of retaliating appropriately” I think that this is a perfect example of the change from the Germans being confident and carrying on with their ‘normal day’ to then beginning to doubt the German superiority in the war, showing us how much their attitude has changed from pride to dread in a matter of three years. Even though the bombings weren’t as connected to the Germans invading Russia, it could be said that had not the Germans invaded Russia then the bombings may not have been present/ been less relentless.
Courtney from Study Moose
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