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Hitler always wanted to invade Soviet Union – historian

To Europe, Hitler justified the military campaign against the USSR as a crusade against communism, a menace to be destroyed, explains British historian and author Dr Michael Jones, well-known for his books on World War II.

­“But underneath that and the real truth about this war was race hatred. If one reads Mein Kampf, Hitler’s own book, it is clear that he always wanted to cover that living space in the East and do so at the expense of the people he regarded as racially inferior,” revealed Dr Jones.

Hitler explained to his staff that this is going to be a war of annihilation, and “it did not take Einstein to realize the consequences of that, that there would be horrific losses [of the invaded nation] and what really happened.”

Despite the Munich Pact, the USSR and Germany became allies. However, Stalin was not naïve and believed Hitler would attack later and the Soviet Union would have time to re-equip its army and transfer its economic policies to the war-time regime. Instead, the Red Army was mercilessly hammered out, losing between two and three million men by the autumn of 1941.

“Few other armies in the world could have sustained that level of punishment and still carry on fighting,” Dr Jones pointed out.

It was not just tough Stalin leadership – which was unquestionably necessary under the circumstances – but the “profound patriotism of the people who realized that it was a battle for survival, with not just the communist system at stake but Russia as a country and the Soviet Union as an embodiment to that and it really did become a Patriotic War”.

Hitler and his generals were carried away by their previous successes – blitzkrieg campaigns in Europe. They expected another lightning war that would end in several months, and indeed they hammered the Red Army at the frontier but “they underestimated the Red Army and they underestimated the Soviet Union”.

History is written by the victor, but the role of the Soviet Union in defeating Hitler is vastly underestimated in the West due to the legacy of the Cold War.

“This part of our history is very strongly determined by the Germans, because the German view became incorporated into historical thinking with the Cold War, so there is underestimation or unwillingness to recognize what the Soviet Union did fully,” states the historian.

“The other reason is the scale. We are talking about 27 million in terms of civilian and military casualties [of the Soviet Union]. It is simply so big that people struggle to really comprehend it.”

One of the things Dr Michael Jones wanted to do in his book is to make that story comprehensible again to the Western audience, to give it a human voice “so that people can relate to it rather than it being just a massive overwhelming statistic.”