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Subject: Hitler declaration of war on US rss

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Paolo D'Ulisse
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I've read many books on WWII, but none of them succeed in explaining why in the end Hitler declared war on US after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour...
So I ask you... what is the main reason behind this declaration?! Was he completely unaware of the enormous US economic power?! Was it an impulsive decision or he had already thought on this scenario?! Or...?!
And in your opinion, if US had never entered the war in Europe, would UK and USSR alone have been able to win the war in Europe? (this could be a good scenario for games like WiF or WaW or any game on War in Europe at a strategic scale by the way...)
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Reasons: Confirmation of the alliance with Japan. It would have been a slap in the face to the Japanese not to do so. It helped Japan because it forced the US into somewhat splitting its forces and effort. Even though the threat from Germany against US soil was never very serious; in late 1941, the spectre of it must have been great.

USSR alone would probably have been able to win in the East.

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collezionista wrote:
I've read many books on WWII, but none of them succeed in explaining why in the end Hitler declared war on US after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour...
So I ask you... what is the main reason behind this declaration?! Was he completely unaware of the enormous US economic power?! Was it an impulsive decision or he had already thought on this scenario?! Or...?!
And in your opinion, if US had never entered the war in Europe, would UK and USSR alone have been able to win the war in Europe? (this could be a good scenario for games like WiF or WaW or any game on War in Europe at a strategic scale by the way...)


Pretty much irrelevant. The US was always going to enter the war on the Allies side.

On Sept 11 1941 - US forces were ordered to fire on any German vessel sighted. That's pretty provocative...

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peterk1 wrote:
Reasons: Confirmation of the alliance with Japan. It would have been a slap in the face to the Japanese not to do so. It helped Japan because it forced the US into somewhat splitting its forces and effort. Even though the threat from Germany against US soil was never very serious; in late 1941, the spectre of it must have been great.

USSR alone would probably have been able to win in the East.



Should read: "USSR alone would probably have been able to win in the East, eventually."

Without US involvement, things probably would have dragged on a lot longer. Maybe even long enough that the fabled "Wunderwaffe" could have had a more decisive effect. And who knows, maybe an early conquest of the West could have supported a German victory in the East.

Back to the OP, it's easy to forget that the US wasn't exactly a world superpower in the late 30's. Hitler almost certainly underestimated both our production capacity and our resolve (same as he did in the East).

Interesting thread! thumbsup

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collezionista wrote:
I've read many books on WWII, but none of them succeed in explaining why in the end Hitler declared war on US after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor...


A good book to read would be Kershaw's Fateful Choices

Kershaw for one does not believe Germany's decision to declare was trivial, and includes a lengthy discussion of the decision. Like all of Kershaw's work, it is very well done.

The book examines 10 important decision points between May 1940 and December 1941 in detail. To quote one of the user reviews, there:

Quote:
Many of these decisions, in retrospect, seem strange, if not bizarre, or illogical, if not plain idiotic, amoral, or perverse.


Which is the appeal of the book - and of studying history in general.

The decisions are:

* Britain's agrees to continue fighting after France's surrender
* Germany commits to BARBAROSSA
* Japan appropriates the overseas colonies of the European Allied minors and joins the Axis
* Italy invades Greece
* America provides aid to the UK
* The USSR ignores signs of impending invasion
* The U.S. wages undeclared war on Germany
* Japan attacks the United States
* Germany declares war on America
* Germany enacts the Final Solution
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Steve Arthur
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The relevant section in Shirer's 'Rise and Fall of the Third Reich' very informative regarding the events surrounding Hitler's decision to declare war on the US..
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Here's a translation of Hitler's declaration of war:

http://www.ihr.org/jhr/v08/v08p389_Hitler.html

It's very long, so I'll summarize it for you. Hitler was a deranged maniac.
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Kenfeldman wrote:
Here's a translation of Hitler's declaration of war:

http://www.ihr.org/jhr/v08/v08p389_Hitler.html

It's very long, so I'll summarize it for you. Hitler was a deranged maniac.
Thanks for the interesting link. I got about half way through it and, although I'm certainly not a nazi supporter in any way, suprisingly the speech didn't seem like it came from a maniac. Here, I think anyways, is at least hitler's reasons that he gave in the speech for declaring war on the US.

Quote:
The German government therefore establishes the following facts:

Although Germany on her part has strictly adhered to the rules of international law in her relations with the United States of America during every period of the present war, the government of the United States of America from initial violations of neutrality has finally proceeded to open acts of war against Germany. It has thereby virtually created a state of war.

The government of the Reich consequently breaks off diplomatic relations with the United States of America and declares that under these circumstances brought about by President Roosevelt, Germany too, as from today, considers herself as being in a state of war with the United States of America.


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Germany declared war on the US because of the Axis Pact, the pact was necessary in Hitler's eyes to have the Russians worry about both an eastern and western front. Also it would've soaked up some of the US's resources in the Pacific. In essence this strategy worked, just the ending didn't quite turn out as plan.

The German war machine failed in the Russian Steppes, by underestimating the Soviet's resolve, organization ability and resources and not because of underestimating the Americans. They may have over-estimated Japan's ability to hold the US in check though. I think it would've been reasonable to say that if the US never entered the war in Europe, the Soviets could have mopped up Germans on their own.

The US intervention in Europe, especially towards the inevitable end was to ensure that the Communism didn't dominate all over Europe and was restricted to the Eastern Bloc countries.

(Of course the interlink web of relationships between all the Allied nations including the USSR was much more complicated than this and changed over time, but I would say the above is a neat summary of the situation in the end.)
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dave65tdh wrote:
Kenfeldman wrote:
Here's a translation of Hitler's declaration of war:

http://www.ihr.org/jhr/v08/v08p389_Hitler.html

It's very long, so I'll summarize it for you. Hitler was a deranged maniac.
Thanks for the interesting link. I got about half way through it and, although I'm certainly not a nazi supporter in any way, suprisingly the speech didn't seem like it came from a maniac. Here, I think anyways, is at least hitler's reasons that he gave in the speech for declaring war on the US.

Quote:
The German government therefore establishes the following facts:

Although Germany on her part has strictly adhered to the rules of international law in her relations with the United States of America during every period of the present war, the government of the United States of America from initial violations of neutrality has finally proceeded to open acts of war against Germany. It has thereby virtually created a state of war.

The government of the Reich consequently breaks off diplomatic relations with the United States of America and declares that under these circumstances brought about by President Roosevelt, Germany too, as from today, considers herself as being in a state of war with the United States of America.




It was academic by December of 1941; Roosevelt had been waging war against Germany in everything but name for a long time by every means available to him. Hitler beat him to the punch with a formal declaration, which permitted the U.S. to adopt a "Germany First" policy, which had the tangible benefit of sending troops to Morocco and Algeria and a handful of heavy bomber crews to Britain by the end of 1942.
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Garfink wrote:
I think it would've been reasonable to say that if the US never entered the war in Europe, the Soviets could have mopped up Germans on their own.


I find that hard to believe. I think it far more likely that, at the worst for Germany, Germany would have achieved a stalemate in Russia, along some line on Russian soil.

How accurate, as simulations, are WWII games of the European Theater? I've only played two, Eurofront and the old Third Reich. In both of those games, if the US is removed from play, Germany can easily hold a line in Russia, indefinitely.
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bob_santafe wrote:


I find that hard to believe. I think it far more likely that, at the worst for Germany, Germany would have achieved a stalemate in Russia, along some line on Russian soil.

How accurate, as simulations, are WWII games of the European Theater? I've only played two, Eurofront and the old Third Reich. In both of those games, if the US is removed from play, Germany can easily hold a line in Russia, indefinitely.


I am not making a definitive statement, that's for sure, I'm only a casual historian on this topic. From what I do know, near the end of the war, the Germans had almost ran out of all the essential resources to wage an active war, including manpower. I seriously doubt that even a war of attrition against a Russian onslaught could the Germans hope to hold out very long, let alone indefinitely. Remember that by the end of the war, the Germans had loss air-superiority to even the Russians (whose air-force was growing day-by-day at the end of 1945), let alone the Brits. (Not to mention the loss of Panzer superiority to Russian Tank Armor) Holding a real front (compared to a virtual boardgame front!) as large as that of the USSR, would have stretched the Germans very thinly indeed and I think it wouldn't be hard to imagine the Germans getting quite a bit of their own Blitzkrieg medicine! Not to mention many more "pockets".

I think, one of the many turning points of WWII and probably the decision that lost any chance of a victory for Hitler was with his crazy decision to wage Operation Barbarossa in the first place. In hindsight, this single decision probably shortened the war by a long stretch and ironically may have saved even more lives in the end. This almost proves he was a crazy megalomaniac (which he was) with a weak-minded scared-out-of-pants general staff (which they were) to go along with such a crazy plan.
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Garfink wrote:

I think, one of the many turning points of WWII and probably the decision that lost any chance of a victory for Hitler was with his crazy decision to wage Operation Barbarossa in the first place. In hindsight, this single decision probably shortened the war by a long stretch and ironically may have saved even more lives in the end. This almost proves he was a crazy megalomaniac (which he was) with a weak-minded scared-out-of-pants general staff (which they were) to go along with such a crazy plan.


There must be something in the east. Many times there were many attacks made from the west towards Russia, from Napoleon to Kaiser Wilhem to Hitler. The question is: why? Everyone knows it is impossible to conquer Russia since Catherine the Great. Still, everyone tries to do that again and again. Lesson is never learned from history.
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Garfink wrote:

I think, one of the many turning points of WWII and probably the decision that lost any chance of a victory for Hitler was with his crazy decision to wage Operation Barbarossa in the first place. In hindsight, this single decision probably shortened the war by a long stretch and ironically may have saved even more lives in the end. This almost proves he was a crazy megalomaniac (which he was) with a weak-minded scared-out-of-pants general staff (which they were) to go along with such a crazy plan.


Don't forget that in WWI the Germans succeeded to defeat Russia even fighting on 2 fronts... They underestimated the USSR economical and military capacity but I can understand their error... and Stalin had just eliminated a lot of the Red Army best officers...

For now thanks to all for your answers... and keep on writing... I find all the things you are saying very interesting...
For sure I will buy the book suggested by Michael...
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Lawrence Hung wrote:


There must be something in the east. Many times there were many attacks made from the west towards Russia, from Napoleon to Kaiser Wilhem to Hitler. The question is: why? Everyone knows it is impossible to conquer Russia since Catherine the Great. Still, everyone tries to do that again and again. Lesson is never learned from history.


I am guessing that with each new era in technology, comes a new sense of pride and arrogance and leaders think that they can challenge historical outcomes. It would seem that many of the leaders that tried have studied history of Russian invasions enough to know the problems. Not enough recon data was probably partly to blame and that includes Germany in WWII, they had so little information about the Soviets throughout the war it was laughable they even tried to invade.
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collezionista wrote:


Don't forget that in WWI the Germans succeeded to defeat Russia even fighting on 2 fronts... They underestimated the USSR economical and military capacity but I can understand their error... and Stalin had just eliminated a lot of the Red Army best officers...

For now thanks to all for your answers... and keep on writing... I find all the things you are saying very interesting...
For sure I will buy the book suggested by Michael...


A big factor it would seem in WWI's Russian withdraw was the fragmented and unstable political structure of pre-soviet Russia and hence a lack leadership and organization (both of united manpower & industrial capacity.) rather than a gross lack of resources. This condition did not prevail under the amalgamating force of Stalinism.
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Hitler was not honoring his commitment to Japan when he declared war on the United States. The Tripartite Pact was a mutual defense treaty, and Japan had not been attacked.

Quote:
The Tripartite Pact between Japan, Germany, and Italy, 1940
The Governments of Japan, Germany, and Italy consider it as the condition precedent of any lasting peace that all nations in the world be given each its own proper place, have decided to stand by and co-operate with one another in their efforts in Greater East Asia and the regions of Europe respectively wherein it is their prime purpose to establish and maintain a new order of things, calculated to promote the mutual prosperity and welfare of the peoples concerned. It is, furthermore, the desire of the three Governments to extend cooperation to nations in other spheres of the world that are inclined to direct their efforts along lines similar to their own for the purpose of realizing their ultimate object, world peace. Accordingly, the Governments of Japan, Germany and Italy have agreed as follows:

ARTICLE 1. Japan recognizes and respects the leadership of Germany and Italy in the establishment of a new order in Europe.

ARTICLE 2. Germany and Italy recognize and respect the leadership of Japan in the establishment of a new order in Greater East Asia.

ARTICLE 3. Japan, Germany, and Italy agree to cooperate in their efforts on aforesaid lines. They further undertake to assist one another with all political, economic and military means if one of the Contracting Powers is attacked by a Power at present not involved in the European War or in the Japanese-Chinese conflict.
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Garfink wrote:
collezionista wrote:


Don't forget that in WWI the Germans succeeded to defeat Russia even fighting on 2 fronts... They underestimated the USSR economical and military capacity but I can understand their error... and Stalin had just eliminated a lot of the Red Army best officers...

For now thanks to all for your answers... and keep on writing... I find all the things you are saying very interesting...
For sure I will buy the book suggested by Michael...


A big factor it would seem in WWI's Russian withdraw was the fragmented and unstable political structure of pre-soviet Russia and hence a lack leadership and organization (both of united manpower & industrial capacity.) rather than a gross lack of resources. This condition did not prevail under the amalgamating force of Stalinism.


The criminal behaviour of Nazis succeeded in unify USSR and even helped Stalin to eliminate the opposition... At the time of invasion USSR was far less united than we usually think...
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1989Game wrote:
Hitler was not honoring his commitment to Japan when he declared war on the United States. The Tripartite Pact was a mutual defense treaty, and Japan had not been attacked.


True in letter of the pact, but Japan most likely had assurances from Hitler himself of his declaration of war on the US before Japan's own attack on Pearl Harbor.
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collezionista wrote:

The criminal behaviour of Nazis succeeded in unify USSR and even helped Stalin to eliminate the opposition... At the time of invasion USSR was far less united than we usually think...


Agree. Along the same line of thought: I think for the world to unite under a single global governing body now would require an invasion from outer-space by aliens and a global common threat of extinction. Too bad that's not likely to occur, why would any alien even want to invade a smelly polluted planet like us?

(me can't do so much serious discussion without silliness strewn in.)
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Sixty-seven years ago today...



and not too soon enough for those who died during World War II.
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collezionista wrote:
I've read many books on WWII, but none of them succeed in explaining why in the end Hitler declared war on US after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour...
So I ask you... what is the main reason behind this declaration?! Was he completely unaware of the enormous US economic power?! Was it an impulsive decision or he had already thought on this scenario?! Or...?!


The US had been taking steps to assist Britain before they were attacked by Japan. They were providing Atlantic 'convoy' support half way across, had occupied Iceland to relieve British forces there, were providing 'Lend Lease' supplies etc. Hitler saw war with the US as inevitable, and did rather underestimate the US. As he firmly believed the 'stabbed in the back' myth of Germany's defeat in WWI, he therefore tended to dismiss the role of the US in WWI as well.

Donitz, who was seen as a 'loyal Nazi supporter', and thus was someone in the German military Hitler felt he could trust, had been advocating for open u-boat warfare against the US. In fact, once Germany did declare war the Germans concentrated their u-boat efforts in American waters and inflicted heavy losses on Allied shipping during the first 6 months or so. The point being, there was actually some advantage to declaring war and attacking when they did, even if it was not the best strategy in the long run.

collezionista wrote:

And in your opinion, if US had never entered the war in Europe, would UK and USSR alone have been able to win the war in Europe? (this could be a good scenario for games like WiF or WaW or any game on War in Europe at a strategic scale by the way...)


This is an interesting speculative scenario of its own. If I might restate it somewhat, one question might be 'What if Germany had not declared war on the US?'. That was about the extent of Germany's ability to influence the matter. However, in that scenario, both Britain and the US would be at war with Japan. That would in and of itself lift restrictions on US aid to Britain. That would likely accelerate the trend of clashes between Germany and the US. Historically, Japan remained neutral with the Soviets until the Soviets attacked them in '45. Many ships delivering aid to the Soviets via Vladivostok were re-flagged as Soviet ships, in order to avoid attacks on them by the Japanese. The US being at war with Japan, along with Britain, could exploit the situation if still not officially at war with Germany, by re-flagging vessels making deliveries to Britain. Thus Germany could be faced with their u-boat effort being totally undermined, or having to attack the US anyway.

That is not to say that there would not have been benefit to the Germans delaying war with the US. Historically the US adopted a 'Europe First' strategy. In practice it was more like 'Europe at the same time', and it still took almost a year for large US forces to be committed to the ETO on the ground. However, if the US was not at war with Germany for some period, it would have been practically impossible to sell 'Europe First' (as it was historically, many in the US military were opposed to it). The US strategy could easily have been 'Japan First', both in practice as well as theory, and Europe could have been put on the back burner longer.

To address your question regarding no US involvement in Europe - it would IMHO be the 'end game' that would get more complicated. US involvement had relatively little impact on the German defeat at Stalingrad. The British had defeated the Axis forces at El Alamein before the Torch landings. In fact, the Torch landings were heavily supported by the British, and the British were really capable of carrying them out without the US. The emphasis put on US involvement was really an effort to get the Vichy French not to fight. So with historical defeats for Germany in the east and Med, their opportunity to 'win' was already practically eliminated. However, without US support, it is questionable whether / when France would have been successfully invaded. British efforts may well have started to tail off with the Italian Campaign, while Soviet offensives in '43 and '44 may well have been less effective. It is possible that either a 'stalemate', or a much longer more protracted conflict would have developed without US involvement.
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Re: The Russian Front. I think one of the points that folks are missing on this one is the impact of American supply for the Soviet Union. The USA provided food, weapons, and motor transport to the Soviets throughout the war. The Soviets couldn't have fed their army, much less supplied it, without American assistance.

Had Hitler not declared war on the USA, there's actually a reasonable chance that domestic political pressure would have led to a reduction or abandonment in Lend-Lease, as pressure mounted to deal with, "the ones who actually attacked us." Without Lend-Lease, the Soviets face an extremely difficult supply situation. They may well not have been able to stand up in the face of German pressure. Such an action would certainly have extended the war.
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Garfink wrote:
collezionista wrote:


Don't forget that in WWI the Germans succeeded to defeat Russia even fighting on 2 fronts... They underestimated the USSR economical and military capacity but I can understand their error... and Stalin had just eliminated a lot of the Red Army best officers...

For now thanks to all for your answers... and keep on writing... I find all the things you are saying very interesting... :)
For sure I will buy the book suggested by Michael...


A big factor it would seem in WWI's Russian withdraw was the fragmented and unstable political structure of pre-soviet Russia and hence a lack leadership and organization (both of united manpower & industrial capacity.) rather than a gross lack of resources. This condition did not prevail under the amalgamating force of Stalinism.


You are speaking with hindsight. While I can't think of any pertinent quotations off the top of my head, I think contemporaries would have seen it as absolutely the other way round: the pre-1914 German military planners were fearful of the Russian steamroller crushing them; on the other hand, their counterparts before 1941 saw the Soviet state as a house of cards ready to collapse (both with an eye to the purges of the officer corps and the fact that many German soldiers had trained with Soviet troops and acquired a poor view of them--and of course, the Germans had the experience of defeating them 20 years earlier).
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robbbbbb wrote:
Re: The Russian Front. I think one of the points that folks are missing on this one is the impact of American supply for the Soviet Union. The USA provided food, weapons, and motor transport to the Soviets throughout the war. The Soviets couldn't have fed their army, much less supplied it, without American assistance.

Had Hitler not declared war on the USA, there's actually a reasonable chance that domestic political pressure would have led to a reduction or abandonment in Lend-Lease, as pressure mounted to deal with, "the ones who actually attacked us." Without Lend-Lease, the Soviets face an extremely difficult supply situation. They may well not have been able to stand up in the face of German pressure. Such an action would certainly have extended the war.


To quote the expert on the Soviet economy during the Second World War, both sides benefited from lend-lease:

"[…]it seems that Allied aid to the USSR made possible the division of labour which won the war. Without it, everyone on the side of the Allies would have had a worse war. The Russians would have had to fight on their own resources, which were inadequate in quantity and quality, and would have fought less well, maybe only to a stalemate. The British and Americans would have had to fight harder, because they would have had to take on a larger share of the killing of Germans and being killed by them; they would have had to choose either fighting with either the same bitterness and intensity as the Russians, or accepting stalemate in the west". Mark Harrison, Accounting for War: Soviet Production, Employment, and the Defence Burden, 1940-1945, Cambridge, 2002, p.152.
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