In 'The First Soldier," Stephen G. Fritz revisits the many key decisions made by both Hitler and his commanders and attempts to contextualize how much influence each had on the other and on the final decision-making process that was visible on the ground. For Fritz, Hitler's victories have to be accepted alongside his failures. That is, Hitler's numerous diplomatic triumphs that many of his commanders often opposed were accomplished in spite of his generals. The decision to invade Poland and France was also made in the face of many nay-sayers and it was in many respects Hitler who pushed Manstein's plan for the invasion of France to the forefront, which ended in utter humiliation for the French and a victory no German general, or Hitler himself, could have predicted. The victory over France reinforced and reenergized Germany's commanders so that by the time Hitler wanted plans for an invasion of the Soviet Union there were no longer voices of disagreement to be heard. The final major accomplishment Fritz sees fit to assign to Hitler is the decision to issue the "stand fast" order of the winter of 1941/1942, which many German commanders themselves agreed was the correct choice of action.
Fritz shows that for the majority of the war Hitler leaned on and listened to his generals or was able to convince them of his ideas. In truth, both played off each other and used each other to accomplish their respective goals. To what extent were German victories a reflection of Hitler's genius is a question that's still too difficult to answer. The decision to invade Poland was based on the idea that at worst this would be a localized conflict with a partner in the form of the Soviet Union. That plan quickly came undone and the Western Allies declared war on Germany, which Hitler was not expecting or prepared for. France's quick defeat/surrender was as much a surprise to Hitler as it was to the Allies. The outcome was a combination of numerous factors, part of which was the decision to employ Manstein's plan - another example of Hitler and his commanders working together. The invasion of the Soviet Union, however, saw both Hitler and Halder interfere in numerous decisions that eventually resulted in defeat. But, as Fritz correctly points out, the invasion was doomed to failure from the very beginning because of flawed planning and intelligence. The decisions that followed the invasion of the Soviet Union only compounded the many inherent flaws of Operation Barbarossa. There was no way to achieve victory militarily, only politically, but any attempt to reach out to Stalin or the Western Allies to ask for peace was out of the question for Hitler.
As the war progressed Hitler's generals often worried about the obstacles before them and gave little thought to the greater geo-political landscape Hitler inhabited. Fritz argues convincingly that many of Hitler's decisions, up until the last days of the war, were made with political, diplomatic, military, and economic ideas in mind, whereas his generals had only need of more men, tanks, planes, and supplies to finish off the enemy standing before them. Both Hitler and his generals failed to take into account how the war they had unleashed on Europe and the world would play out strategically. Compounding their flaws on top of each other, Hitler and his commanders found themselves in a situation that few thought manageable toward victory as early as 1941. By contextualizing Hitler's decision making process, Fritz has shown first and foremost the flaws of the German commanders that surrounded Hitler. It wasn't that Hitler was unable to wage war successfully, it was that German commanders have left a legacy of memoirs that claimed that only they could. Their postwar accounts portrayed Hitler as a temperamental dilettante who refused to listen to reason, whereas in reality their flawed ideas revolving around military strategy, combined with Hitler's racist worldview, meant the Second World War was lost before it began.