Thursday, December 15, 2016

Panzer Operations: Germany's Panzer Group 3 During the Invasion of Russia, 1941 by Hermann Hoth

Hoth, at least in 1941 and 1942, was one of the original four commanders of German Panzer Groups/Armies who were responsible for the encirclements at Minsk, Smolensk, Uman, Kiev, Viazma and Briansk.  Although discussions/monographs of 1941 are readily available today, from both the German and Soviet point of view, I would always welcome additional primary source information that tries to put into context the German Army's inner-dialog, so to speak, when it comes to the beginning of Operation Barbarossa and its evolution into Operation Typhoon.  Hoth has much of that insider's knowledge but this slim volume while adding something to our knowledge also leaves a lot of questions unanswered.

The epilogue deals with Hoth's career, reputation, and what happened to him after the war was over.  These last pages of this book explain why there is absolutely no discussion of the validity of Hitler's orders on the eve of the invasion of the Soviet Union or of the methods employed by the Wehrmacht in their conduct of the war.  Hoth was, from available evidence, a Nazi who supported the invasion of the Soviet Union and followed through with the various criminal orders he was assigned throughout the war.

Thus this is a work that, like so many others written by former German commanders, tries to solely discuss the military aspects of the invasion of the USSR which means the more interesting and somewhat unoriginal ideas expressed revolve around Hitler's inability to come up with a concrete plan for how Barbarossa was supposed to be implemented.  That is, was the Wehrmacht supposed to aim for the destruction of the Red Army, secure the Soviet Union's economic facilities and industries to help Germany continue her campaign(s) or was Moscow the final target for 1941.  Hitler's continued vacillations and ad hoc decisions to assign German forces to take advantage of developing opportunities (Kiev encirclement) rather than concentrate on one singular aim (Moscow) are what hampered German operations, at least according to Hoth.

Much of this has been discussed previously, most recently by David Stahel.  Consequently, there's little new or original information here, and neither is the coverage of Panzer Group 3's operations during 1941 that enlightening, it's more a summary of attacks, counter-attacks, and encirclements.  However, with that said, there are still some interesting insights into events and discussions recounted by Hoth that make this a worthwhile book for those with more than a passing interest in the Eastern Front.  While Hoth's reminiscences offer a less in-depth view of his own decision-making process or the events he recounts, at least compared to what other German commanders have put down on paper, they're still worth taking a look at, especially if you can read between the lines and keep in mind when this work was originally written.

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