Fokker E III
- Fokker M.5K/MG (A.III) – 5 built
- Fokker E.I – 68 built
- Fokker E.II – 49 built
- Fokker E.III – 249 built
- Fokker E.IV – 49 built
No historian doubts that the battle of Stalingrad ranks among the most important engagements of World War II. Indeed, the significance of the battle between August 1942 and February 1943 was readily apparent to contemporaries. In an article published on 2 February 1943, the day the German Sixth Army finally surrendered, Washington Post columnist Barnet Novet called it the equivalent of the Battle of Verdun and the First and Second Battles of the Marne, combined. In November 1943, during the Tehran Conference, British Prime Minister Winston L. S. Churchill presented Soviet Premier Josef Stalin with the Sword of Stalingrad on behalf of King George VI and the British people, and U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt said in 1944 that the battle was the turning point of the war.
The history of the Romanians in Transylvania diverges from that of Wallachia and Moldavia. After conquering the voivodates of Menumorut, Glad, and Gelu in the ninth century the Magyars seem to have occupied only the highest levels of feudal society, replacing the old voivodes. They organized the region only in the eleventh or twelfth century, after it had been reconquered by the Hungarian king and saint, Stephen. The first mention of a “prince” (principe) of Transylvania and of the first county (comitat), Bihor, on the Hungarian border, dates from 1113. Nine more counties appeared in the twelfth century, and in 1176 a second principe is mentioned. With feudalization the nobility in Transylvania was gradually Magyarized, so that by the fifteenth century the nobles (cneaz) of Haţeg and voivodes of Maramureş were no longer true Romanians. Magyarized Romanians gave Hungary a king (Matthias Corvinus), a voivode of Transylvania (Janos Hunyadi, also known as John Hunyadi or Iancu of Hunedoara), and a Catholic primate (Nicolaus Olahus), as well as numbers of soldiers, dignitaries, and scholars.
The displacement of the Romanian aristocracy from political life really began after 1365—66. In a decree King Louis I (called the Great) required royal confirmation of noble rank, made Catholicism a qualification for holding titles and for ownership of land, and denied the rights and privileges of the clergy to members of the Orthodox church. Religion thus became a primary criterion for nobility, whereas the previous dynasty, that of Arpad, had accepted religious and linguistic pluralism in Transylvania. The establishment of an official religion was due in part to the radical religious policies of the Angevin dynasty and in part to the renewed conflict between Rome and Orthodox Byzantium and to Louis’s loyalty to the papacy. No doubt the king was also motivated by Wallachia and Moldavia’s having recently thrown off Hungarian rule. Magyar mistrust of the Romanian aristocracy in Transylvania was on the increase—especially since the support of the Romanian nobles in Maramureş, hostile to Hungary, had made Moldavian independence possible.
Political life in Transylvania was open only to the privileged classes, and without noble leadership the Romanians participated less and less, until they were completely excluded. The leaders of the Bobilna Uprising (1437) wanted to form a kind of peasant order or estate, and called for recognition of “the commune of Hungarians and Romanians in these parts of Transylvania” (universitas regnicolarum Hungarorum et Valachorum in his partibus Transilvaniae). But when the uprising was put down by the aristocracy, the opposite effect was achieved. A “brotherly union,” the Unio Trium Nationum, granted the Hungarian, Saxon, and Szekler nobility a political monopoly and denied the Romanians any place in the political life of the principality. This segregation of the majority population became still stricter in the sixteenth century. First the peasants were made absolute serfs (1514, 1517), and then four privileged religions—Catholicism, Lutheranism, Calvinism, and Unitarianism—were recognized. Eastern Orthodoxy was only tolerated. When Hungary came under Ottoman domination (1526) and Buda and Transylvania became a pashalik and an autonomous tributary principality, respectively (1541), the status of the Romanians remained unchanged. Within the new state the Hungarian political leaders still would not recognize the Romanians as a “nation” equal in rights to the Hungarians, the Saxons, and the Szeklers. Like the Christian peoples of the Balkan states, the Romanians of Transylvania had no political leaders and no political standing, and the only institution that could represent their interests was the Orthodox Church.
Monasteries are mentioned in Transylvania as early as the eleventh century, when Ahtum, successor of Gelu, endowed an Orthodox monastery at Cenad. We have no evidence for hierarchical organization until 1370, when a metropolitanate with jurisdiction over Oltenia, the Banat, and southern Transylvania was set up at Severin by the patriarch in Constantinople. In 1391 the patriarch established an exarchate in Transylvania headed by the abbot of the Peri monastery in Maramureş; in 1455 an Orthodox episcopate was established at Muncaci. Sometime in the sixteenth century came another episcopate at Vad, and in 1557 yet another at Geoagiu. During this time the Transylvanian Orthodox church was closely tied to those of the other two principalities. Princes of Wallachia in particular had constantly supplied money, books, religious objects, gifts, and even churches. Prince Neagoe Basarab built two, at Zarneşti and Almaşul Mare; the monk Nicodim of Tismana founded Prislop monastery in Hajeg (1398); and many princes endowed the church at Scheii Braşovului. Michael the Brave and Sigismund Bathory signed a treaty in 1595 that placed the Orthodox church of Transylvania under the canonical jurisdiction of the Wallachian metropolitan. Thereafter metropolitans of Transylvania were consecrated at Tirgovişte in Wallachia. At Alba Iulia Michael built a new church for the metropolitan of Transylvania, and Moldavian and Wallachian princes continued to support the metropolitanate throughout the seventeenth century with annual gifts and subsidies. And they continued to build churches: Constantin Brancoveanu built three, at Fagaraş, Simbata, and Ocna-Sibiului.
But Orthodoxy, tolerated but not officially recognized, its clergy denied the rights accorded those of the “accepted” religions, could not offer Romanians the institutional framework in which to become a nation that was recognized politically. Michael the Brave did obtain some economic privileges for Orthodox clergy. But neither his brief reign over Transylvania in 1599-1601 (in 1600 he also ruled Moldavia in addition to Wallachia) nor the sympathy for Orthodoxy of the two Rakoczi princes who ruled Transylvania in the mid-seventeenth century could rescue it from inferior status. In 1691 the Habsburg empire took over Transylvania, but this too promised nothing good for the Romanians, for Leopold I undertook to respect all Transylvania’s laws, including those naming the three privileged nations and four privileged religions.
The Romanians’ desire to escape their unprivileged status and Austrian interest in strengthening Catholicism over Protestantism gave rise to the idea that, by joining the Catholic Church, Romanians might enter a privileged category. The Habsburg court sent Jesuit envoys to propose a “church union,” and the Orthodox hierarchy quickly embraced it. In 1697 a synod under Metropolitan Teofil agreed to conditions for uniting Eastern Orthodoxy with Roman Catholicism. Orthodox Christians would accept Catholic dogma while retaining Orthodox ritual and calendar; in exchange they asked that members of the new Uniate Church be granted full civil rights as loyal citizens and be admitted to Catholic schools. After a second synod, convened in 1698 by Teonl’s successor Anghel Atanasie, reaffirmed the desire for union, Emperor Leopold issued a diploma (1699) extending to Uniate clergy the rights and privileges enjoyed by Catholic clergy. He freed them from serfdom, exempted them from taxes and tithes, and made them eligible for the nobility. At the insistence of Atanasie, now a Catholic bishop, Leopold in 1701 issued a second diploma extending these privileges to all Uniates regardless of social condition—even to peasants.
The “church union” was really politics under cover of religion, as Romanians sought to escape their inferior status by using the Catholic Church. But the privileged nations quickly spotted the threat posed to the established regime, and in 1698 and 1699 they objected to the inclusion of Uniate Romanians in the ranks of privilege. As a result Leopold’s second diploma never went into effect, so that the Romanians ended by gaining much less than they had asked for and much less than Leopold had promised them.
The nearly simultaneous Allied offensives from the east and west during early 1945 were wreaking catastrophic destruction on the German armed forces, and the capture of territory was severely interrupting the German economy, as well as the ability of the remaining forces to maintain a sound defence. In February 1945, the Wehrmacht forces on the western front had been whittled down to an estimated 65 infantry and 12 Panzer divisions; in the east, 103 infantry and 32 Panzer and Panzer Grenadier divisions faced the massive Red Army fronts, whose reserves alone outnumbered them several times. German losses in the east were estimated by the Soviets to be 295,000 dead, 86,000 prisoners, 15,000 guns and mortars, 2995 tanks, 26,000 machine guns, 34,000 motor vehicles and 552 aircraft. By the end of March, the only territory west of the Rhine still held by the Germans was the rapidly diminishing salient near Landau in the Palatinate, north-west of Karlsruhe. In the east, Kurland and East Prussia, with 51 divisions between them, had effectively been written off, cut off and surrounded by the Soviets.
Albert Speer, Hitler’s chief architect and Minister for Armaments and War Production – one of the most intelligent and practically-minded of the Nazi inner circle – delivered a memorandum to Hitler on January 1945, in which he stated quite bluntly: ‘The war is lost.’ With the Ruhr in ruins from the continual bombing and Silesia now under the Soviets, Speer reported, Germany had at best a two-week supply of coal for railways, factories, and powerplants; production capabilities for 1945 were one quarter what they had been in 1944 for coal, and one sixth for steel. Fuel was in such short supply that a fighter group with over 37 aircraft stationed at Krefeld could fly only sorties of 100km (60 miles) one out of three days, and then with only 20 of its planes. Speer told of seeing a column of 150 trucks from the 10th Army in northern Italy in October 1944 being pulled by oxen. In his memorandum, Speer concluded: ‘After the loss of Upper Silesia, the German armaments industry will no longer be able even approximately to cover the requirements of the front for ammunition, ordinance, and tanks … From now on, the material preponderance of the enemy can no longer be compensated for by the bravery of our soldiers.’ Most of the major German cities were subjected to terrifying air attacks and Berlin was almost constantly bombed, from the Americans during the day and the British at night.
While the German leadership was quite accurate in their perception of geopolitical tensions between the Soviet Union and the Western Allies, the degree of willful blindness on Hitler’s part about the anti-German alliance is revealed in Fuhrer conference notes from 27 January, the day Zhukov’s Belorussian Front reached and crossed the Oder:
Hitler: ‘Do you think the English are enthusiastic about all the Russian developments?’
Goring: ‘They certainly didn’t plan that we hold them off while the Russians conquer all of Germany … They had not counted on our … holding them off like madmen while the Russians drive deeper and deeper into Germany, and practically have all of Germany now.’
JodI: ‘They have always regarded the Russians with suspicion.’
Goring: ‘If this goes on we will get a telegram [from the British] in a few days.’
The telegram never came. Instead, a number of elements within the German armed forces and some in the Nazi party hierarchy began efforts of their own to contact the British and Americans with peace proposals. The most notorious was R:wdolf Hess’ rather bizarre, and still partly inexplicable, solo flight in a Messerschmitt 110 fighter to Scotland in May 1941. Since the turning of the military tide between 1942 and 1943, and now in the spring of 1945, with the Red Army almost literally at the gates of Berlin, the number of such plots increased. Two days before the Fuhrer conference, OKH Chief of Staff General Guderian had contacted Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop and pleaded with him to attempt to secure an immediate armistice with the West, so that Germany’s remaining resources could be diverted to the east, and Berlin spared. However, Ribbentrop quickly tattled on the general, which led to another of Hitler’s frequent eruptions of vitriol against his treasonous general staff. Albert Speer, too, was by this time searching for a way to end the war before Germany was utterly destroyed and occupied by the Russians. So desperate was he that he actually initiated a scheme in mid-February – eventually abandoned – to assassinate Hitler, Goring, Hitler’s personal secretary Martin Bormann, and Robert Ley, the head of the Party Political Organisation.
Such eleventh-hour efforts to end the war, of course, came to naught. The Allies insisted unanimously on Germany’s unconditional surrender. There is perhaps some truth in the argument that by insisting so stubbornly on this principle, the West prolonged the war. But it is doubtful that, even in these dire straits, Hitler would have considered any of the necessary means to end the war and remove Germany as a military threat to the West. Never was the dilettantism and military incompetence of the Third Reich’s highest leadership as apparent and disastrous as in this last phase of the war. Hitler, who had assumed overall command of the army in November 1941, liked to think of himself as a genius of the bold tactical thrust. In military studies, he spurned the professionals’ and experts’ advice to exercise caution or consider practical realities. His failed gambit in the Ardennes forests in Belgium and northern Luxembourg in December 1944 – ordered despite the warnings of his generals had left most of western Germany highly vulnerable, with its remaining forces stretched dangerously thin. Even more worrying, however, was the effect of the offensive’s failure on the Eastern Front. Hitler’s general staff had warned that an offensive of the size he demanded would mean committing huge numbers of reserve troops and tanks which, as well as risking them in a venture which could fail, would deprive the hard-pressed army groups trying to hold on to the Vistula and Narew in Poland and East Prussia of their much-needed reinforcements. A massive Russian offensive was expected at any time: 225 divisions and 22 armoured corps, estimated Guderian’s chief of intelligence, Reinhard Gehlen. ‘Who prepared this rubbish?’ shrieked Hitler, according to Guderian. ‘Whoever he is he should be shut up in a lunatic asylum!’ At this point, Guderian lost his temper (a frequent event in those last months) and screamed back: ‘If you want General Gehlen sent to a lunatic asylum then you had better have me certified as well!’
Paul, Catherine’s only legitimate child, detested his mother. Catherine raised Paul’s sons and toyed with the idea of bypassing him for the throne, but did nothing concrete before her death in 1796. Rightly paranoid over his mother’s intentions, Paul had established his own court and military units outside St. Petersburg. Though Catherine’s husband Peter III may not have been Paul’s father, Paul shared his unstable personality and obsession with military discipline. Diagnosing mental disorders in historical figures is a dangerous enterprise, but Paul displayed many characteristics of an obsessive-compulsive. Convinced that everything connected with his mother’s regime was corrupt, he insisted on discipline, control, and rectitude. This did produce noteworthy improvements in Russia’s notoriously slow and venal bureaucracy. And Paul was correct that late in Catherine’s reign, discipline had slipped in the Russian army. Almost everything Paul did, though, undermined his support among Russian elites. He lowered the prestige of the influential guards regiments, relying instead on Prussian-style troops he trained and outfitted while introducing German innovations to uniforms and drill. He emphasized meticulous parade-ground show over practical effectiveness. His capriciousness meant bureaucrats and officers might be exiled to Siberia or dispatched to the frontier for the least infraction. In a small matter that symbolized a larger shortcoming, he regulated building decoration and clothing colors in St. Petersburg.
Paul’s arbitrary and unpredictable behavior extended to foreign policy at a time when European international relations were increasingly unstable. Soon after the French Revolution began in 1789, it generated serious pressures for war. The revolutionary regime was enraged by noble émigre ´s conspiring against it abroad and saw foreign war as a means to unite France behind the revolution. At the same time, other European governments feared their own populations might be infected by revolution. In April 1792 France declared war on Austria and was soon at war with Prussia as well.
Clumsy but massive French armies achieved striking successes. In 1792 they pushed France’s borders outward, conquering the Austrian Netherlands (now Belgium), the west bank of the Rhine, and the small state of Savoy between France and Italy. Britain grew alarmed over the French danger and prepared for war. Revolutionary France, confident it could spread revolution by force of arms, declared war on Britain, Holland, and Spain, drawing most of Europe into war in 1793. French society moved toward total mobilization. By the end of 1794, Prussia tired of war and left the coalition to concentrate on partitioning Poland. While Catherine agreed with Britain in early 1795 to provide troops for the war against France, this achieved little result. French forces in northern Italy under the command of Napoleon Bonaparte, then only a rapidly rising general, decisively defeated the Austrians in 1796–1797. Austria had to surrender the Austrian Netherlands and accept a French puppet state in northern Italy. Thus by the time of Catherine’s death and Paul’s accession, the first coalition against revolutionary France was disintegrating. Paul ended Catherine’s halfhearted intervention against France.
Russian Military Development
Russia also grafted on some of the new tactical thought. The veteran Suvorov, who was dismissed in disgrace on the death of Catherine the Great, was recalled in 1799 and inflicted a succession of defeats on the French in Italy. A great trainer of troops, he emphasised speed and shock, spurning rigid linear formations in favour of units entering the fray as they arrived on the battlefield. He is often cited as an advocate of the bayonet, but he was no denigrator of firepower. He used lines against regular armies, while favouring shallow regimental squares for their flexibility. He covered his advance with skirmishers, and kept his artillery well forward to ensure close co-operation with the infantry. Although retrospectively seen as a father figure in Russian military thought, Suvorov’s immediate impact was eclipsed with his death in 1800. Paul I (1796–1801) spurned the emerging independent Russian military tradition, which traced itself from Suvorov through Rumyantsev back to Peter the Great, and instead embraced the sterile formalism of Prussian drill. He reduced the Jäger and the light cavalry and ran down the general staff. But he did reassert central control of the army, curbing the independence of regimental colonels, inculcating new standards of professionalism and giving attention to the soldier’s welfare. The last theme was developed by a fresh reformer, Barclay de Tolly, appointed minister of war in 1810. Barclay drew up regulations for the handling of higher formations. The divisional organisation, suppressed by Paul, was revived, and in the spring of 1812 the armies of the West were organised in twelve infantry and five cavalry corps. The artillery, upholding its relatively greater importance in the Russian army, received a new manual in 1812, instructing it to fight en masse and to co-operate with the other arms. The conception of the 1812 campaign, which is also attributed to Barclay, was Petrine. The withdrawal into Russia mirrored that of 1709, and, like Peter, Tsar Alexander aroused in his people a sense of nationalism and a determination to drive out the enemy.