From the Forum: What was the worst mistake made by Germany in WWII

On the War History Online forum, our hottest topic this week is a simple question that is causing a big debate; what was the worst mistake that cost Germany the war?

We have to disregard the most obvious one, starting the war in the first place, because going to war cannot be called a mistake. Adolf Hitler wanted war, he wrote it in Mein Kampf, and he was going to go on the offensive it no matter what.

During the early years of World War II, when the Nazi war machine seemed unstoppable, there were a number of pivotal moments where Hitler made a questionable decision which all contributed to losing the war. But which of these had the most impact? What was the one moment where, had another path been chosen, victory could have been possible?

The original post offers some choices for the members to choose from; North Afrika, Dunkirk, Operation Barbarossa, and others. This list proved to be incomplete rather quickly, and a lively discussion started in which our members shared their views and then debated them.

Let us look at some of the opinions given, some of these require a lot of explanation, and some need only one sentence long.

Tom Fabrizio, who needed just 5 words:

Declaring war on the United States

Hitler had no need to declare war on the USA and it would have made the “Germany First” strategy of the allies a lot more difficult to implement as the US Congress had to approve a declaration of war on Germany. Hitler solved these issues for the Allies and made sure the United States would join the fight against Germany.

Licinius has a different view, pointing to the unresolved situation with Britain:

Not disputing that, what I’m saying is had he conquered Britain then the war would have continued many more years. Bombers would not have caused a hindrance to Hitlers development of special weapons and he would’ve had considerably more natural resources available. The V2 was working & doing what it should, when would Germany have developed the atomic bomb is anybody’s guess but with Britain out of the war hostilities would have continued until 47-48 at the very least.

Stephen Barks looks at the implications of not destroying the British Expeditionary Corps at Dunkirk:

the worst thing the Germans did in world war 2 was not to attack Dunkirk when the troops were trapped it eventually cost him the war

Triumphdave disagrees with this view and provides some interesting statistics:

I see several people here think that Hitler letting the British troops escape Dunkirk was his biggest blunder, but I don’t believe that. The British military was just under 3 million in WW2, and only 330,000 were rescued from Dunkirk. Of that 330,000 about 20% were French troops. Britain needed to train and arm new recruits at the time of Dunkirk but she was not without any troops. Even if Germany had captured the troops at Dunkirk they were not ready to invade England. The British Navy still controlled the Channel.

Alan Walker looks at the timing of Operation Barbarossa:

Invading Russia so late in the year off 41 should have held back and built up her forces till April 1942 .

myrmidon_boss points the finger at the invasion of the Balkans:

The invasion of the Balkans was never suppose to happen. You can blame it on the overconfident and overincompetent italian army. All of their colonial adventures were big messes and the wermacht had to kick in to avoid an early strategical disadvantage.  When the italians couldn’t cope with the greek and the balkan uprising, they risked losing the whole flank to the brits. Same thing happened on Afrika. So precious units of the wermacht had to be sent down there to deal with the situation. So Barbarossa started in July when it should have started in March or early April.  Those lost months, plus the harshest winter in the century and the ill preparation for that decided the outcome. Hitler’s way of splitting up his armies and the unexpected resistance of the russian army gave the offensive it’s final shot.

There is a lot more to read and discuss on the forum, but we want to end this post with Humberto Debernardi’s view which it is difficult to disagree with:

Many mistakes where done, good for the rest of the world

Take a look for yourself here War History Online forum and share your thoughts and opinions with like-minded members!

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.