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put troops on the soil of the Third Reich, in the Aachen sector, while the British had entered Holland. The German armies in the west faced a containing Allied front reaching from the Swiss border to the North Sea. On 14 September the newly appointed German commander in the west, Generalfeldmarschall Gerd von Rundstedt, acknowledged that the "Battle for the "West Wall" had begun.


On the Italian front Generalfeldmarschall Albert Kesselring's two armies retained position astride the Apennines and, from the Gothic Line, defended northern Italy. Here, of all the active fronts, the German forces faced the enemy on something like equal terms-except in the air. Nonetheless the Allies were dangerously close to the southern entrances to the Po Valley.


In the far north the defection of Finland had introduced a bizarre operational situation. In northern Finland and on the Murmansk front nine German divisions held what earlier had been the left wing of the 700-mile Finno-German front. Now the Finns no longer were allies, but neither were they ready to turn their arms against Generaloberst Dr. Lothar Rendulic and his nine German divisions. The Soviets likewise showed no great interest in conducting a full-scale campaign in the subarctic. With Finland out of the war, however, the German troops had no worthwhile mission remaining except to stand guard over the Petsamo nickel mines. Only a month after Mannerheim took Finland out of the war, Hitler would order the evacuation of that country and of northern Norway.


Political and military reverses so severe as those sustained by the Third Reich in the summer of 1944 necessarily implied severe economic losses to a state and a war machine fed and grown strong on the proceeds of conquest. Rumanian oil, Finnish and Norwegian nickel, copper, and molybdenum, Swedish high-grade iron ore, Russian manganese, French bauxite, Yugoslavian copper, and Spanish mercury were either lost to the enemy or denied by the neutrals who saw the tide of war turning against a once powerful customer.


Hitler's Perspective September 944


In retrospect, the German position after the summer reverses of 1944 seemed indeed hopeless and the only rational release a quick peace on the best possible terms. But the contemporary scene as viewed from Hitler's headquarters in September 1944, while hardly roseate, even to the Fuehrer, was not an unrelieved picture of despair and gloom. In the west what had been an Allied advance of astounding speed had decelerated as rapidly, the long Allied supply lines, reaching clear back to the English Channel and the Cote d'Azur, acting as a tether which could be stretched only so far. The famous West Wall fortifications (almost dismantled in the years since 1940) had not yet been heavily engaged by the attacker, while to the rear lay the great moat which historically had separated the German people from their enemies-the Rhine. On the Eastern Front the seasonal surge of battle was beginning to ebb, the Soviet summer offensive seemed to have run its course, and despite continuing battle on the flanks the center had relapsed into an uneasy calm.