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To what extent were Hitler's successes in 1939-1940 due to the weaknesses and mistakes of Germany's opponents?

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Introduction

To what extent were Hitler's successes in 1939-1940 due to the weaknesses and mistakes of Germany's opponents? I think that Germany's successes from 1939-1940 were largely due to the weaknesses of her opponents, however some credit has to be given to the German military and Hitler's leadership/planning. Clearly the weakness of Germany's opponents in preparation for war greatly aided Germany's success. Hitler's first success in Poland showed the lack of preparation by Germany's opponents. On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland. The Polish army expected the attack to come along the Polish frontiers, but Hitler introduced blitzkrieg. This caught the Poles unaware whilst at the same time waves of German bombers targeted railways and the Polish transport network, which crippled Polish military mobilization. Hundreds of tanks smashed through Polish defences and rolled deep into the country. The Poles fought hard, but on September 17, the Soviet Union invaded their country from the east. By the end of the month, Poland had fallen. The success of this campaign was mainly due to the weakness of the Polish military, planning and the failure of Britain and France to come to their allies aid. ...read more.

Middle

Similarly the decision to defend would prove to be a major mistake. Experiences such as Verdun in the First World War had led the French to believe that a line of trenches and an immense amount of firepower would hold against any attack. France was convinced that defence was the best strategy and so vast sums of money were spent on constructing the Maginot Line to protect France's border. However they stopped once they reached the Belgium border for fear of upsetting their neighbour by leaving them to the mercy of the Germans. This showed weakness on the part of the French government in the failure to be ruthless for the sake of France. The decision to invest in the Maginot Line meant that investment in armoured divisions and mobile armies was over looked as an offensive army would not be needed. However this is precisely what France needed in 1940. This was yet another mistake by Germany's opponents that played into the German's hands. Also the fact that doctrines of static defence were obsolete even before the Maginot Line was complete would prove to be another poor judgement on the part of the French to invest in defence. ...read more.

Conclusion

He faced much opposition form his cautious generals about the concept of blitzkrieg and of his plans to invade France. For example, Hitler came up with the plan 'Sickle Stroke'- the invasion of France through the Ardennes. At the time he faced opposition from generals such as Bock who believed it left the army vulnerable to counter attack. Hitler also placed trust in the airborne in creating a diversion by invading Holland this would prove to be a masterful tactical decision diverting allied attention away from the main invasion in the Ardennes. Hitler's determination and believe in his armies as well as his willingness to gamble proved to be one of the reasons behind his success. He also ensured that there was little bureaucracy within his armies. He gave orders from his headquarters (OKH) to the army high command (OKW) which then sent the orders to the officers in the field. He also ensured the officers were taught to be innovative. In comparison the allied armies had 4-6 tiers of command structure this weakened the army and the air force, even more so. Overall emphasis has to be placed on the weakness of Germany's opponents in 1939-40 allowing for Hitler's successes. However, some credit has to be given to Hitler and his armies in their tactics and strength especially in terms of leadership. ...read more.

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