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Role and the place of the Supreme command of Wehrmacht in structure of the top military authorities of Nazi Germany



UDK 355/359

The ROLE AND the PLACE of the SUPREME COMMAND of WEHRMACHT IN STRUCTURE of the TOP MILITARY AUTHORITIES of NAZI GERMANY

© 2009. I. Kolga

Yamal oil and gas institute (branch) Yamal Oil and Gas Institute (branch)

Tyumen State Oil and Gas University, of Tyumen State University of Oil and Gas,

residential district Student's, 2, Novy Urengoy, 629303, district Studenchesky, 2, Novy Urengoy, 629303,

>diryngi@migsv. ru diryngi@migsv. ru

On the basis of archive materials, diaries and memoirs of Nazi generals the organization and activity of the Supreme command of Wehrmacht (OKV) are analyzed. The main conclusion is that its steady decline, command disintegration became specific feature of OKV during war that has an adverse effect on planning and implementation of operations of Wehrmacht.

Based on the archives documents, diaries and memoirs of Wehrmacht high rank generals, author analyzed the organization and activity of High Command of Wehrmacht (OKW). The main conclusion is that the peculiarity OKW was its steady decline and disorganization, which had negative influence upon planning and realizing operations of Wehrmacht.

Now when certain political circles in the West make attempts of revision of results of World War II for the purpose of creation of a new geopolitical situation in the world [1], the relevance of studying history of the past war, its driving forces increases again. In this regard judgment of questions of the organization and activity of the German Wehrmacht and its Supreme command which were the instrument of Nazi aggression is especially important. In the Soviet historical science V.I. Dashichev, D.M. Proektor, A.M. Samsonov [2] devoted to this problem the works, the 12-volume edition "Istoriya Vtoroy Mirovoy Voyny" is published [3]. These researches are written on the basis of the conclusion of the Nuremberg process in which it is said that the Hitlerite Rate - the Supreme command of Wehrmacht (OKV) throughout all war took the central place in the system of the high military command of Nazi Germany, carried out "coordination of all armed forces" [4, t. 6, page 210-211]. Such understanding of an essence of the organization of the high military command of the third Reich, in our opinion, is too categorical. Anglo-American and German scientists R. Absolon, R. О&Нейл, G. Fyorster, A. Clark, B. Liddel-Garth, M. Messershmidt, G.-A. Jacobsen, Y. Dyulffer and others from the very beginning paid attention to a set of the centers of the power in the top military authorities of Nazi Germany [5]. Modern Russian scientists K.A. Zalessky, O.Yu. Plenkov, M.S. Maslov, R. Ismailov, S. Peresle-gin also began to show in recent years interest in this perspective [6]. Let's consider on the basis of available archive materials, diaries and memoirs of the highest military leaders of the third Reich evolution of the organization and activity of the Supreme command of Wehrmacht, its influence during war.

Under the Versailles peace treaty of 1919 Germany lost the right to have full-fledged army and

navy, but could create armed forces - a reykhsver and to keep the Ministry of Defence. After appointment as the chancellor on January 30, 1933, Hitler it is reserved carried out remilitarization of Germany [7, river 20-53]. At the same time armed forces had no General Staff and many other structures necessary for normal functioning of the military vehicle [3, t. 2, page 366-381].

After the death of the president Hindenburg in 1934 Hitler under the pact "Deutschland" became the Supreme Commander of a reykhsver. The colonel general W. fon Blomberg was appointed the Minister of War and the commander-in-chief of armed forces [8, page 38-41]. On March 16, 1935 there was a Law on a general compulsory military service [9, page 34], and on May 21 - the Law "About Wehrmacht" [10]. According to the law Hitler handed over powers of the Supreme Commander, it had in hands the highest government. Three Supreme commands of types of armed forces of Wehrmacht - ground forces (OKH) - the commander-in-chief general W. fon Fritsch submitted to the Supreme Commander Blomberg; the Air Force (OKL) - the commander-in-chief reykhsmarshat G. Goering; the Navies (OKM) - the commander-in-chief gross admiral E. Reder [11].

"Was an appreciable error to put at the head of each type of armed forces of the commander-in-chief, - B. Müller-Gillebrand writes. - Division of armed forces into components is their arms and technical means, etc., expedient only in terms of the organization of combat training, equipping. Also it is not caused by the necessity of their separate expeditious use" [9, page 119].

Understanding need of unification of a control system of troops, Blomberg began to narrow powers of the commander-in-chief of ground forces [12], and on the basis of the Ministry of Defence he began to create the Supreme command of Wehrmacht which he headed nachal-

nickname of Military-political management W. Keitel [8, page 228].

With creation of OKV between the management of Wehrmacht and ground forces the fight for superiority in military hierarchy began. The situation was resolved in February, 1938 as a result of crisis "Blomberg - Fritsch" [7, page 41-44]. The Minister of War and the commander-in-chief of ground forces were dismissed. The decree of the Fuhrer of February 4, 1938 undertook organizational reform of Wehrmacht. Hitler became the Supreme Commander [13, page 94]. The general W. von Brauchitsch was appointed the new commander-in-chief of ground forces. The Ministry of Defence was finally transformed to the Supreme command of Wehrmacht, and duties of the chief of OKV remained for Keitel [8, page 228-229]. It agrees to the rule existing in the German army, the military personnel could not be members of the National Socialist Party [14, l. 1, 9]. Creation of OKV Hitler ensured access to operational management at the head of which stood though not members of Nazi party, but people betrayed to the Fuhrer - Keitel, Brauchitsch, Yodl entering his "immediate environment" [15, page 587].

The Supreme command of Wehrmacht was responsible "for the joint preparation for defense of the empire in all areas according to directives of the Fuhrer" and also for coordination of types of armed forces and development of operational strategic plans [4, t. 6, page 210-211]. However in practice OKV represented the personal headquarters of the Fuhrer, office which worked "by the principle of the semiconductor", lowering military orders and orders [16].

The main bodies of OKV became: 1. The headquarters of operational management (the chief - the colonel general A. Yodl); 2. Central office (the chief - the general F. von Boetticher); 3. Abver (the chief - the admiral V. Kanaris); 4. The general management (the chief - the general Mr. Reyneke); 5. Management of military economy and arms (general Mr. Thomas). On the eve of and during World War II the Supreme command of Wehrmacht extended, at is mute new departments and services were created: military-economic inspections; academy of Wehrmacht; imperial military court; budgetary department; administrative department and others [13, page 94]. For March 31, 1942 its staff list looked thus (tab. 1).

Table 1

Staff list of the Supreme command of Wehrmacht (OKV) [15, page 585]

Ground forces Naval Forces Air Force All

(a) Officers - equal on a rank

to the field marshal 1 - - 1

to the general 2 - - 2

to the lieutenant general 2 1 - 3

to the major general 2 1 - 3

to the colonel 23 4 4 31

to the lieutenant colonel 51 12 13 76

to the major 135 41 36 212

to the captain 20 2 7 29

236 61 60 357

(b) Officials 322 42 49 413

558 108 109 770

The provided table shows representation of armed forces, but does not reflect exact number of workers of OKV. Besides the listed above officers and officials at this time 1162 persons worked at lower positions in the state actually OKV and still many thousands of officers, officials and employees - in the headquarters subordinated to OKV [15, page 585-586]. Most of officers of a Hitlerite Rate represented ground forces; representatives of Luftwaffe in OKV was only a little more, than the Navies playing much less significant role, and both of this types of armed forces gave way to ground forces as on the number (the ratio of number of officers was 1:5), and on seniority (seven generals and field marshals of ground forces were presented to OKV).

The Headquarters of operational management designed to deal with issues of planning of operations, to coordinate activity

was the most significant body of OKV

General Staffs of types of armed forces. The headquarters of operational management was headed by the colonel general A. Yodl. It consisted of four departments: defenses of the country, operations section, communication service, department of promotion [13, page 521-522]. The department of defense of the country which was directed by the general V. Varlimont was the main division of the Headquarters of operational management. The department of defense included three sections: ground forces, Luftwaffe, krigsmarena. According to Varley-monta, "only 12-15 officers served in this main planning department on a changeable basis" [17, page 52].

On the eve of war the German Fuhrer deprived the Supreme command of Wehrmacht of shared responsibility. About it the general Z. Vest-fal directly writes in the memoirs: "In the winter of 1938-39... Hitler gave the order on cancellation of shared responsibility of the commander and the chief of a rate. It belonged also to the General Staff of army" [18, page 32].

To the beginning of war there were changes in activity of OKV:

>- first, the Committee of defense of a Reich was dismissed and replaced with "government council for defense of a Reich" in which the party had a casting vote. The Wehrmacht thus finally lost responsibility for "the management of the nation during the war" [17, and 35];

>- secondly, OKV, is equal as OKH, OKM and OKL, was divided into two parts: the advanced echelon working in the field in close proximity to the main battlefields and the rear echelon remaining in Berlin. The purpose of division was in that the advanced echelon could focus on operational management of troops [9, and 131].

During war Hitler performed strategic management by holding daily meetings and the edition of directives. Usually entered number of the people gathering in Stawke for the analysis of a situation:

>- Hitler, the personal aide-de-camp Gitlera, aide-de-camps (officers of communication) from ground forces, the fleet and aircraft consisting at Hitler;

>- from OKV: chief of OKV, chief of operations section of OKV, deputy chief of operations section of OKV;

>- from OKH: the commander-in-chief of ground forces Brauchitsch (till 6.12.1941), the chief of the General Staff of ground forces, the chief of operations section;

>- from OKM: commander-in-chief of the Navies, permanent representative of the commander-in-chief of Naval Forces, representative of Naval Forces to operations section of OKV;

>- from OKL: commander-in-chief of Luftwaffe, chief of staff of Luftwaffe, chief of operations section [15, and 587].

At meetings there were also representatives of party office, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ministry of arms, promotion and from time to time commanders of lower link (groups of armies, the air fleet, etc.) [4, t. 6, page 219-220, 236]. As we see, Gitlera had no constant advisory body consisting of professional experts that complicated the decision-making mechanism. The directives of the Fuhrer prepared by operations section of OKV on the basis of the decisions made during the meetings became result of daily meetings. In the directive OKV strategic problems, the general principles of their performance, force, means and the terms allocated for execution of the plan were stated. Further development of the plan was conducted by responsible headquarters. After that the operations section of OKV prepared the order in which tasks for all three types of armed forces were specified, including preparation of material stocks, the organization of communication, etc. [15, and 589].

In 1939 at the coordinating role of OKV its first directive - the plan Weis, attack on Poland [19, t was published. 1, page 525-531]. During the planning and preparation of a campaign of 1940 the division of responsibility between OKB and OKX which became subsequently to constants for the first time was outlined. The founder of the decentralized command, probably, should be considered

A. Yodlya. In the official diary the general wrote down that on February 22, 1940 he "addressed the chief of OKV, and then and the Fuhrer with the following project: plan & #34; Гельб" and operation & #34; Везерюбунг" have to be prepared so that they did not depend from each other neither concerning time, nor concerning use of forces. The Fuhrer very much was positive to this project" [19, t. 1, page 318]. After this OKV began to prepare a military campaign against Denmark and Norway - "Vezeryubung", and OKH - to develop the plan Gelb - attack on France. The fact of planning of two different campaigns of 1940 by different headquarters is confirmed by many German sources - W. Keitel [20, and 249], F. Halder [21, t. 1, page 355], B. Müller-Gillebrand [9, and 180], V. Varlimontom [17, and 81-84], etc.

On March 1, 1940 there was "An operational directive for operation & #34; Везерюбунг" [22, and 472-475]. "Its emergence caused a storm of protests and objections in ground forces and aircraft, - the head of department of military and historical service of U.S. Army E. Zimke writes. - Were mentioned personal ambitions as neither OKH, nor OKL had a direct bearing on it" [23, and 30]. OKH meanwhile on the basis of the directive of Fuhrer No. 6 [24, and 677-682] prepared the plan Gelb - attack on France, but Hitler after long reflections approved the plan of the army general E. Mang matte [24, and 113].

During the French campaign voices were still heard about coordinated actions of OKB and OKX. So, in the diary of the chief of the General Staff of ground forces F. Halder it is told about need to agree on the order of the General Staff on offensive of the 4th army at Chartres and the Tour with the directive OKV No. 15 of June 14, 1940 which orders for the right flank of this army the direction in the mouth of Loire with occupation of ports on the French coast. But the discontent with each other is already felt when after an operation stop Halder writes down on May 30, 1940: "The commander-in-chief is angry because miscalculations which we allowed because of OKV... begin to affect now and... we should behold as many thousands of soldiers of the opponent at us flee to England near by." [21, t. 1, page 535, 583].

In 1941 according to the plan Barbarossa [25] developed in OKH, Germany began war against the USSR, and "already on July 25 Hitler began to give orders to commanders of groups of armies through Brauchitsch's head" [13, and 62-63], breaking the accepted order.

Due to the beginning of war against the Soviet Union there was battlefields (B) separation of the Supreme command. Powers of the commander-in-chief of ground forces were limited to a framework of East campaign. On all other TVD the ground forces which were there headed by their commanders were subordinated in the operational relation directly to Hitler and OKV. Therefore told about TVD OKV while East there was TVD OKH. The scheme of the organization of the top military authorities of Wehrmacht [26 indicates Bd it. I, S. 119E-120E]. Within the remit of the Supreme command of Wehrmacht were

following TVD: 1. Norway and Northern Finland - the commander-in-chief N. Falkenkhorst; 2. The Mediterranean TVD included: North Africa - the commander-in-chief E. Rommel; TVD "Balkans" - the commander-in-chief M. Veykhs; TVD South - the commander-in-chief A. Kesselring. Later they were transformed to TVD "Southwest" in Italy under A. Kes-selringa's command and "Southeast" in the Balkans under M. Veykhs's command; 3. TVD "West" - the commander-in-chief G. Rundshtedt [8, page 397].

According to B. Müller-Gillebranda, Hitler made division into theaters of war of OKB and OKX that the commander-in-chief and the chief of the General Staff of ground forces could devote completely themselves to the leadership in operations in the east [9, page 304]. Keitel wrote that this measure was caused by the fact that on TVD OKV coalition wars for which conducting Hitler wanted to maintain communication with heads of states and their General Staffs in own hands took place [20, page 310]. The German historian M. Messer-shmidt believes that Hitler wanted to cause it a certain rivalry between the main commands of Wehrmacht and ground forces [27, 8. 227].

W. Keitel suggested to found also a post of the commander-in-chief of TVD "East", but encountered an uncompromising deviation by his Hitler [20, page 363-364] who after defeat near Moscow undertook command of ground forces. But he held the commander's position not in full, having assumed only army command. All other duties of the commander-in-chief of ground forces, including the top administrative management in wartime, the chief of staff of OKV Keitel executed "on behalf of the Fuhrer" [9, page 651]. In practice this decision led to the fact that the leadership in military operations on East front passed to Hitler as the head of OKH. The main command of ground forces was broken off on a part. Now the General Staff and its chief was subordinated personally to Hitler, and other instances of OKH - to the chief of OKV. So, the chief of staff of OKV formally was engaged in replacement of command positions in ground forces as now army management of shots submitted to it. When Hitler put at the head of this management of the personal aide-de-camp of R. Shmund-ta, troops could not resist more to intervention of party and government [9, page 304-307]. In this chaos, however, the Russian historian K.A. Zalessky sees "strengthening of OKV" and release of "the chief of the General Staff from functions unusual for it" [28, page 119].

During war the mechanism of decision-making did not change. Regularly there took place meetings with participation of "immediate environment" of Gitlera. At the same time only chiefs of headquarters could give competent advice, but in the conditions of competition each of them demanded for the troops of material privileges [15, page 587]. In the form of a certain compromise on January 3, 1942 at the chief of OKV the headquarters of ground forces headed by the general V. Boole which was engaged in coordination of the military operations was created. But actually the headquarters exercised "political control of overland

troops" [13, page 94-95]. If strategic directives OKV, then in the fall 1943 in one and a half years prior to the end of war [29 were result of meetings at the beginning of war, the river 187] left the last them. With refusal of directives OKV finally lost the central place in the system of military command. "Orders of the Fuhrer" to headquarters of lower level became result of meetings now: "To hold such position at any cost" [15, page 589]. At all evidence of defects of such management the Russian historian O.Yu. Plenkov considers that "coordination of actions of various types of military forces was carried out directly on the place and, despite the seeming absurdity of such situation. quite often it was very effective" [30, page 204].

In the Red Army throughout all war by all fronts, naval and the Air Force the Rate of General headquarters directed [31]. The rate is Stalin and group of outstanding Soviet commanders with whom Stalin held council concerning preparation and carrying out the main operations. Working body of the Rate was the General Staff which collected and analyzed data, prepared decisions and controlled their execution. Representatives of the Rate and the General Staff spent a lot of time at the front that promoted "operational management of military operations from General headquarters". All fighting planning went in a straight line: from the Rate and the General Staff the orders were transferred to commanders to fronts and their headquarters [32, page 479].

As for Wehrmacht, the contradictory nature of its management was observed not only in the relations between OKB and OKX, but between OKV and Hitler, OKV and commanders of TVD OKV. So, on the Mediterranean TVD in the fall of 1943 there were sharp disagreements between Hitler and Verkhovny command of Wehrmacht concerning the principles of defense of Italy. OKV insisted on defense of the Apennines, Hitler demanded to create defensive positions to the south - "at the latitude of Trasimeno Lake". As a result of bloody battles in the summer of 1944 on "the line Gustav" the German troops departed to the Apennines as earlier demanded that OKV but which are already completely exhausted and allies at once took this position from Adriatic Sea [33, page 156-158].

The example of contradictions between OKV and commanders of theaters of war of OKV can be given in the relation of defense of France when after disembarkation of allies on June 6, 1944 in Normandy the Supreme command of Wehrmacht and Hitler was demanded them immediately "to dump in the sea", and the commander of the Western front field marshal G. Rundshtedt suggested to divide the western group, to create a tank strategic reserve and to take away it to Paris, and in Normandy by means of a reserve of OKV to conduct maneuverable defense [34, page 22, 44, 58-59]. But in Stawke the indecision dominated "... and infinite discussion of details", and Hitler did not allow to enter reserves [17, page 469-471]. The German generals deprived of freedom of action in the conditions of a lack of forces could not stop allies. After a counterattack failure on Keitel's question: "That to us

to do?" Rundshtedt shouted: "Make the peace, idiots!" [8, and 402].

Severe defeats in 1943-1944 led to what, according to V. Varlimont, is called "command schizophrenia". Operational managements of OKB and OKX were not able to carry out the tasks owing to a universal lack of forces. Their chiefs in the presence of Gitlera had to protect opposite interests. The Russian military historians R. Ismailov and S. Pereslegin note that between OKB and OKX "constantly there were friction because of distribution of resources" what led to the frequent conflicts [24, page 763] because for Gitlera's methods it was characteristic to push together with each other

interests of different chiefs [20, page 333]. The German historian Y. Dyulffer, analyzing relationship in Wehrmacht, comes to a conclusion that "during war the process of an erosion of uniform military authorities" in the German armed forces was observed [35, page 229]. Englishman A. Clark considers the main reason of defeat of Wehrmacht at all "continuous tensions between the senior officers and the headquarters of OKH and the Supreme command of Wehrmacht" [36, page 13-14].

At the end of war because of a universal lack of forces of one of the OKV major functions there was a question of providing Wehrmacht with human resources and their distributions (tab. 2).

Table 2

Distribution of a division on theaters of military action [9, page 399, 431]

Date Accessory East TVD OKV Finland Norway Denmark West Italy Africa Balkans Total divisions

22.06.1941 Ground forces of Army of CC Total 144 5,149 59 0,5 59,5 3 0,5 3,5 8 8 1 1 38 38 - 2 2 7 7 203 5,5 208,5
01.07.1942 Ground forces of Army of CC Total 173 5,178 53 2 55 4 1 5 12 12 1 1 28 1 29 - 3 3 5 5 226 7,233
01.07.1943 Ground forces of Army CC Aviafield miracles. Total 168 6 12 186 75 5 10 90 6 1 7 13 1 14 2 1 3 36 2 6 44 5 1 1 7 - 13 1 1 15 243 11 22 276
01.06.1944 Ground forces of Army CC Aviafield miracles. Total 148 8,156 109 13 6 128 6 1 7 12 12 3 3 47 4 3 54 23 1 3 27 - 18 7 25 257 21 6 284

A ratio in % 55 45 2.5 4.2 1.1 19 9.6 0 8.8 100

These tables demonstrate that in percentage terms the quantity of divisions on East theater during all war exceeded quantity of divisions on OKV theaters in the ratio: in 1941 60% against 40%, and in 1944 - 55% against 45%. Identification of quantity of divisions on East theater of war and on OKV theater for every year shows a trend of reduction of this difference in the last phase of war. If in 1942 it made 123 divisions; in 1943 - 96, in 1944 - only 28 divisions in favor of East TVD.

Comparison of quantity of divisions on the same theater of war by years leads to the curious fact: from 22.06.41 to 1.07.42 the field army in the east increased by 29 divisions, and on other theaters there was their reduction by 4.5 divisions; since 1.07.42 on

1.07.43 . East army increased by 8 divisions, and on other theaters - by 35 divisions; since 1.07.43 on
1.06.44 the field army in the east decreased by 30 divisions, and on TVD OKV - increased by 38 divisions. Thus, every year wars of the loudspeaker of increase in divisions at TVD OKV was more stremi-

telny, than on East. Therefore, opening of the Second front forced the German command to mark out a significant amount of forces for defense "to fortress Europe" that led to weakening of their already shabby parts in war against the Soviet Union.

In the last one and a half years of war in activity of the Supreme command of Wehrmacht there were serious changes which also entailed further decline of its role: On December 22, 1943 within OKV the headquarters of the national socialist management which exercised the general control of political preparation of Wehrmacht was created and also was engaged in the organization and implementation of Nazi promotion among the military personnel [26, V± III, N. II, 8. 1147]; management of military industry and arms as a part of OKV (the head - the general Thomas) turned into submission of the Ministry of arms and ammunition [13, page 430]; in the fall of 1944 Hitler ordered to give intelligence service of OKV - Abver who directed the admiral Kanaris involved in a plot on July 20, 1944, in maintaining

Head department of imperial safety of CC [26, Bd. IV, Hb. II, S. 1757] also deprived army of "eyes and ears".

The carried-out analysis allows to allocate three periods of evolution of OKV:

>- from 1933 to February, 1938: in military matters Hitler was the nominal head. The main figure in military affairs - the commander-in-chief W. fon Blomberg;

>- since February, 1938 before the first Soviet counterattack in the winter of 1941-1942: OKV actually became the personal headquarters of the Fuhrer which coordinated actions of all three types of armed forces on all theaters of war through their commanders, however was deprived of the command power and responsibility;

>- since 1942 until the end of war: OKV loses also the coordinating role in the system of command; there is a separation of responsibility on theaters of war.

Thus, the organization of the Supreme command of armed forces of Nazi Germany assumed existence of several centers of the power. It predetermined contradictions in the top management of Wehrmacht - dualism of OKB and OKX that led to crushing of spheres of their competences and has an adverse effect on planning and implementation of operations of Wehrmacht. Its disintegration, steady decline, personal influence of Gitlera, escalating during war, became important feature of evolution of OKV also. In general these problems can be considered as a subjective factor of defeat of Wehrmacht.

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