Why Hitler's Final Card to Play Failed to Win World War II

Warfare History Network

Key point: Hitler had run out of options and feared a coup.

On October 18, 1944—the 131st anniversary of the Battle of the Nations’ victory over Napoleon in 1813—Reichsführer-SS (National Leader) Heinrich Himmler stepped up to a microphone to make a national radio address announcing the formation of the Nazi Party-controlled Volkssturm, or People’s Militia.

Standing with him was the new Chief of the General Staff, General Heinz Guderian; Dr. Hans Heinrich Lammers, head of the Reich Chancellery in Berlin; and Gauleiter (Regional Leader) Erich Koch. The site of the address was at Bartenstein, East Prussia, on Koch’s turf, and he was already organizing his own local forces to fight the Red Army coming from the East.

Indeed, conjuring up images of the 1813 War of Liberation against the defeated French, the new VS had already won its first victory over the Soviets on October 7 at Memel, Lithuania, which the Nazis had taken in 1939.

Creating the Volkssturm From the Ashes of Operation Valkyrie

Guderian had come into office the day after the failed bomb explosion to kill Adolf Hitler, and the latter had virtually lost most of his faith in the regular German armed forces to win the war. The radical Nazis—Dr. Josef Goebbels, Dr. Robert Ley, Himmler, and most of all Reich Leader and Secretary to the Führer Martin Bormann—were urging Hitler to turn to the very force that had brought him to power in the first place: the Nazi Party and its various organizations.

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