Manstein: Hitler’s Greatest General

A few excerpts from this 2011 biography by British general Mungo Melvin:

* Von Seekt 1922: ‘Poland’s existence is intolerable, incompatible with the survival of Germany. It must disappear, and it will disappear through its own internal weakness and through Russia’

Sounds like Israel’s attitude to a Palestinian state.

* He described the heterogeneous composition of the Czechoslovakian Army as a distinct weakness, noting that ‘units from the German, Hungarian and Slovakian minorities were hardly likely to fight for the state with any enthusiasm’.

* …Reichswehr policy of concentrating recruiting in rural areas in order to minimize undesirable socialist thinking creeping in…

* as a devout Christian he had a profound sense of human dignity, hence his complete disdain for much of what the Nazi thugs did on the streets. But as nationalist and patriot he was all for the strong and confident Reich that Hitler so seductively promised.

* Manstein had shown significant moral courage in opposing the Aryan Paragraph when the remainder of the Wehrmacht had remained silent.

* Hence, in Manstein’s view, a multi-ethnic Czechoslovakia did not deserve to survive as a nation state. He was not to predict that it divided amicably by means of a ‘velvet divorce’ nearly sixty years later into the separate Czech and Slovak Republics.

* In a nutshell, he summed up what Sichelschnitt was all about: seeking a strategic decision through a novel operational method that would play to German strengths and exploit the weaknesses of her enemies.

* In both world wars Germany sought operational solutions to its selfimposed strategic dilemma: how to win wars as quickly as possible before its opponents on two fronts recovered sufficiently to turn the scales. Although Manstein provided the original solution for the defeat of France, he was no grand strategist in the manner of his erstwhile mentor, Colonel General Beck, who had foreseen the possibility of eventual defeat if Hitler embroiled Germany in a world war.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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