This is turning out to be a thread well worth reading! I'd like to thank Death's Head and Bunnies P Wrath for the time they've invested into their posts.
Death's Head's post prompted me to do a little reading about the STG 44. Death's Head was correct:
"Development [of the assault rifle] temporarily came to halt when Hitler suspended all new rifle programs due to administrative infighting within the Third Reich." Hitler "strongly disagreed with the use of the new ammunition," perhaps because it's easier to manufacture and distribute one ammunition type than many different types. However, "once Hitler was given a chance to see and test-fire the MP 44, he was impressed and gave it the title Sturmgewehr."
Edit: I wrote the above before reading Gargantua's most recent post. Gargantua is correct that the assault rifle was not used at Stalingrad. But other than the reference to Stalingrad, Death's Head seems to have correctly remembered the quote.
In July 1944, at a meeting of the various army heads about the Eastern Front, when Hitler asked what they needed, a general exclaimed, "More of these new rifles!".
Leading up to WWII, one bone of contention between Germany and the Western democracies was Czechoslovakia. In 1935, Czechoslovakia had signed a defensive alliance with the Soviet Union. In 1938, Hitler took the opportunity to annex Czechoslovakia, both to provide Germany with some of the industrial strength it would need to resist later threats, and to send a message to any other Eastern European nations which might otherwise have felt tempted to side with the Soviet Union in its cold war against Germany. Finally, German military planners feared the prospect of a Soviet invasion of Germany launched from Czech soil. The annexation secured Germany from that threat. However, it damaged the prestige of Britain and of Chamberlain. In 1939, the main apparent goal of Chamberlain's foreign policy was to reclaim that prestige, even if it meant war. It is not clear what plan, if any, he had to prevent that war from resulting in Soviet occupation of most of Europe.
In 1939, Chamberlain cooperated with France's policy of making false promises to Poland. Daladier had promised Poland that, if Germany attacked Poland, France would launch a general invasion of Germany. Polish leaders mistakenly believed Daladier's promises; which is why Poland adopted an anti-German foreign policy in '39. Unknown to the Polish, actual French war plans involved remaining on the defensive, behind the Maginot Line.
Combined Anglo-French military spending had exceeded Germany's in '39. The extremely anti-German foreign policies adopted by Britain and France in '39 had also not gone unnoticed by Hitler. Those policies convinced him that war with the Western democracies was unavoidable, however much he might have wanted to avoid it. That being the case, he felt it was better to strike relatively soon, while force levels were still relatively balanced. (According to historian John Toland, Hitler had been informed by a German government official that the Poles were killing ethnic Germans in the German territory they occupied. That reported killing was another reason for Hitler's decision to invade Poland.)
After Hitler conquered Poland, he offered a peace treaty to Britain and France. They both refused. After conquering France, Hitler offered a peace treaty to Britain. The British refused. In 1940, Britain produced more military aircraft than did Germany. In addition, the U.S. sent large numbers of military aircraft to Britain. Plans had been made to astronomically expand American military aircraft production; with half that production getting sent to Britain. All this was known, at least in a general sense, to German military planners.
For anyone who hasn't already done so, I strongly recommend Adam Tooze's book The Wages of Destruction.
. The Times
(London) called it, "A magnificent demonstration of the explanatory power of economic history." The Financial Times
described it as "Masterful . . . Tooze has added his name to the roll call of top-class scholars of Nazism." Below is a synopsis of some of the points Tooze made.
As 1940 came to a close, German military planners believed that, unless they did something to change the equation in Germany's favor, Germany would ultimately be doomed by the Anglo-American air production effort directed against it. Another concern was food. The British did not allow food to pass through their naval blockade against Germany. Germany was a food deficit nation, as were the nations of Western Europe it had conquered. Germany's leaders were alarmed by the way the British food blockade had caused their grain reserves to plummet during 1940.
Hitler, along with many or most German military planners, believed the solutions to these problems could be found in the east. Conquering a large portion of the Soviet Union would provide Germany with the labor force and industrial capacity with which to defend its cities from the Anglo-American bombing effort, the oil and other raw materials its war effort required, and the food with which to prevent starvation in Western Europe. However, most of the Soviet territory to be conquered also ran at a food deficit. The German conquest would not eliminate
the starvation which would otherwise have been caused by the food blockade. It would merely transfer
the starvation out of Western Europe and into formerly Soviet territory. If anything, the overall magnitude of the starvation problem would be greater than it otherwise had been.
Another reason for invading the Soviet Union was that the Red Army was clearly unprepared for war in 1940, as shown by its dismal performance when it invaded Finland. Hitler knew the Red Army's problems would be corrected eventually, and felt it made sense to invade before they were. Hitler also believed that Stalin would invade Germany once he felt the time was right. (While Tooze does not address whether Hitler's belief on this point was accurate, evidence from other sources indicates it may well have been.)
In 1941, the German Army conquered large portions of Soviet territory, and achieved a better than 10:1 exchange ratio against the Red Army. But in 1942, the Soviet Union produced three to four times as many weapons as Germany in every major land category; and even produced nearly twice as many military aircraft as Germany. In addition, the Red Army became vastly larger than its German counterpart. German military planners had expected the Red Army to have 200 divisions. By the fall of '41, it consisted of over 600 divisions. And it proceeded to recruit 500,000 men a month for most of the rest of the war. The sheer scale of the Soviet war effort came as a shock not just to Hitler, but to the German military generally.
As the war went on, Germany began taking the food it needed from the Polish and Soviet territory it occupied. This caused millions of people to starve in those territories. In addition, widespread starvation occurred among Soviet POWs. Those POWs had been put to work in German factories to build weapons for the war. That is probably the main reason why Hitler ordered that they be fed. However, the man tasked with feeding them lacked the food with which to feed both them and
the German people. The Nazis remembered the starvation of Germany's civilian population caused by the British food blockade of WWI. They blamed that starvation for Germany's surrender in 1918; and were determined not to make the same mistake twice. The fear of another November 1918, in combination with their own ideology, explains why the German people received a significantly higher food priority than Soviet POWs. The Nazi ideology also explains why, in the face of famine conditions, it was felt necessary to reduce Jewish caloric consumption to zero through starvation and extermination camps.
Another thing Tooze described was how Germany's lack of oil had affected its military options. Leading up to WWII, Hitler had insisted on the construction of a large synthetic oil refinery. He was told such a refinery was impossible due to economic realities. However, those who had told Hitler this had underestimated Hitler's "sheer bloody-mindedness." The synthetic oil refinery was built, and provided a portion of the oil Germany needed. The Romanian oilfields provided a larger portion. Despite this, Germany was still oil-poor. This meant that supplying its army in the field would be done mostly via coal and animal power. A coal-powered train would move supplies most of the way to front line troops, and horses would carry them the rest of the way. This supply system made it difficult for the German Army to achieve rapid advances over large areas, because it took time to build new rail lines. Germany had enough oil and enough military trucks to supplement
this system with motor transport. But the faster the German Army advanced, the worse its supply situation would become. One of the reasons its attack on Moscow failed in late '41 was because its soldiers had outrun their (weak) supply lines, and lacked the bullets, artillery ammunition, winter uniforms, and food they required to remain an optimal fighting force. With more oil Germany could have solved problems like this, which is one reason why Hitler wanted to conquer the Caucasus oilfields in 1942. The conquest of Caucasus would also have improved Germany's food situation, and would have significantly added to its industrial capacity.
Thus ends the synopsis of Tooze's work. But before I end this post, I'd like to throw in a tidbit about Goering. Goering had joined the Nazi Party back in its early days. He was a WWI ace, and his decision to join may have added desperately-needed credibility to that small party. It's possible that Goering's decision to stand by Hitler in those early years may help explain why he was not later dismissed due to sheer incompetence and braggadocio.
In 1940, there was a question about whether the German Army should attack the fleeing British force in France. Goering said that no attack need be launched, and promised he could destroy the British Expeditionary Force from the air. Instead, that force escaped at Dunkirk. (Hitler was uneager to engage that force in the first place because he felt the German Army's strength needed to be conserved for the second stage of the war against France.) Also in 1940, Goering greatly reduced the number of engineers allocated to the development of a German jet.
In late '42, a large portion of the German Army had been encircled at Stalingrad. Goering promised that he could supply the encircled soldiers by air. The Stalingrad force would remain in place until the rest of Army Group South could push eastwards to reconnect with it. Relying on Goering's promise, Hitler decided to keep the Stalingrad force in place. The Stalingrad force slowly starved, and desperately lacked ammunition. Its combat value slowly withered away due to lack of adequate supplies.
Goering also lied to Hitler about the performance of at least one experimental weapon. Goering felt Hitler placed too much faith in new technology, and needed to be steered toward tried and true weapons systems instead. Goering played a direct role in the most notable defeats Germany suffered in the war: Dunkirk, the Battle of Britain, Stalingrad, the late war Allied bombing effort against German cities. Germany probably would not have won WWII even with a competent head of the Luftwaffe. But it would have put up a much better fight!