From the WHO Forum: Hitlers Underestimation of Russia – this is what members are saying

An excellent question was asked on the War History Online Forum last week; Why did Hitler underestimate the capabilities of Russia and invaded? How can Nazi Germany invade a country that had well over 160 million inhabitants, when their population had less than half of that. The odds seemed stacked well against you with those numbers.

When we are looking back at Operation Barbarossa we tend to see it as a foregone conclusion; when you invade Russia, you are going to lose. Napoleon invaded Russia and lost, Hitler invaded Russia and lost. So why the heck would you be stupid enough to invade such a country?

The simple thing is, Hitler didn’t know the outcome when he gave the order! All he had since September 1939 were smashing victories; he conquered every country he sent his tanks into. All Germany had to do was kick in the door, and the whole rotten structure will come crashing down, as he allegedly once said. He was confident he would win, and he very nearly did.

We’ve been discussing this question and here are the top comments!

Harry Walia thinks that the population size is not what matters most:

When a country wages war with another, the ‘population’ as a whole of the latter is not really of concern. The comparative military might at the time, the weaponry & battle readiness, along with the terrain configuration/obstacles facing the aggressor, are equally important.

The Russian ‘misadventure’ seems more a case of overconfidence on the part of (so-he-thought) invincibility of his Army! Perhaps, his Generals were too scared to keep him properly up-dated of the growing successes of the advancing Allies on the Western & Southern fronts. Of course, the severity of the Russian Winter, the tenacity of the Russians & the extended & failing logistics & morale of the Germans, finally, quashed Hitler’s dreams!

Original thinks that Hitler never was rational:

Well i think people overestimate the rationality of hitler ,and hitler never wanted to even listen to his generals who weren’t generals at all in reality from July 41 onwards just figureheads and people to blame when things inevitably went wrong The winter only became a problem because Hitler completely changed the Barbarossa plan in august 41 and the new plan delayed the Moscow offensive almost 2 months his army had been invincible before Hitler took total control but the secret of that invincibility was flexibility of movement something Hitler increasingly took away Its hard to even know what Hitlers dreams were as I don’t think he even wanted to win

Tore Heiret thinks that it was the Nazi’s mindset that invited disaster:

I think the Nazis worst mistake was their stupid belief that Russians were inferior subhumans, led by incompetent leaders, that would not be able to stand up against the Wehrmacht and SS. To some extent the winter war in Finland seemed to substantiate this view, but later events would prove them horribly wrong…. Besides this, the sheer size of the Soviet Union must have been underestimated, leading to supply-lines being stretched beyond the limit everywhere. Obviously, the problems caused by extreme weather conditions were not understood either.

Peter Smith points out that you don’t have to conquer the entire country:

What everyone seems to assume is that the Germans had to conquer all of Russia or defeat 170 million people to win when what they set out to do was deliver a crushing blow to the Russian Miltary and people who’d then force Stalin out and plead for a peace treaty.

I personally believe the aim was the annexation of European Russia with the rest, beyond the Ural Mountains, remaining under the control of whoever was left in charge whether it be communists or not… European Russia was where the oil fields where located and the majority of the fertile land for growing wheat and other crops and the prize worth winning…

Rodney Davenport thinks it is overconfidence on Hitlers part:

Hitler, like Napoleon, was so inward focused that he thought he was the worlds master tactician. He gave little/no thought to any other plans but his own. Germany didn’t have unlimited resources like the US. This is why he wanted to control Europe and Africa. For their resources. He didn’t listen to his generals when they tried to give him guidance when invading Russia. When Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and the US entered the war, the Axis was finished!

We’d love to hear what you think about this, click here to go to the forum and share your views!

We will see you there 🙂

Joris Nieuwint

Joris Nieuwint is a battlefield guide for the Operation Market Garden area. His primary focus is on the Allied operations from September 17th, 1944 onwards. Having lived in the Market Garden area for 25 years, he has been studying the events for nearly as long. He has a deep understanding of the history and a passion for sharing the stories of the men who are no longer with us.