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again and again: the final decision must come in the west and if necessary the other fronts must suffer so that a concentrated, major effort can be made there. No definite plans can be made as yet, says Hitler, but he himself will accept the responsibility for planning and for command; the latter he will exercise from a headquarters some place in the Black Forest or the Vosges. To guarantee secrecy, nobody will be allowed to inform the Commander in Chief West or his staff of these farreaching plans; the WFSt, that is, Jodl, must form a small operational staff to aid the Fuehrer by furnishing any needed data. [7]


Hitler's arrogation to himself of all command and decision vis-a-vis some major and concerted effort in the west was no more than an embittered restatement, with the assassination attempt in mind, of a fact which had been stuffed down the throats of the General Staff and the famous field commanders since the first gross defeat in Russia and had been underlined in blood by the executions following the Putsch of 20 July. The decision to give priority to the Western Front, if one can take Hitler at his own word and waive a possible emotional reaction to the sudden Allied plunge through the German line at the base of the Cotentin peninsula, is something new and worthy of notice.


The strategic and operational problem posed by a war in which Germany had to fight an enemy in the east while at the same time opposing an enemy in the west was at least as old as the unification of Germany. The problem of a war on two fronts had been analyzed and solutions had been proposed by the great German military thinkers, among these Moltke the Elder, Schlieffen, and Ludendorff, whose written works, so Hitler boasted, were more familiar to him than to those of his entourage who wore the red stripe of the General Staff. Moltke and Schlieffen, traveling by the theoretical route, had arrived at the conclusion that Germany lacked the strength to conduct successful offensive operations simultaneously in the east and west. Ludendorff (Hitler's quondam colleague in the comic opera Beer Hall Putsch) had seen this theory put to the test and proven in the 1914-1918 war. Hitler had been forced to learn the same lesson the hard way in the summer of 1 944.


A fanatical believer in the Clausewitzian doctrine of the offensive as the purest and only decisive form of war, Hitler only had to decide whether his projected counteroffensive should be made in the east or the west. In contrast to the situation that had existed in the German High Command of World War I, there was no sharp cleavage between "Easterners" and "Westerners" with the two groups struggling to gain control of the Army High Command and so dictate a favored strategy. It is true that OKH (personified at this moment by Guderian) had direct responsibility for the war on the Eastern Front and quite naturally believed that victory or defeat would be decided there. On the other hand, OKW, with its chiefs Keitel and Jodl close to the seat of power, saw the Western Front as the paramount theater of operations. Again, this was a natural result of the direct responsibility assigned this headquarters for the con-


[7] The Wehrmachtfuehrungsstab, or WFSt, was the Armed Forces Operations Staff.