Today on December 19, 1941, Adolf Hitler suddenly shakes up the German High Command by assuming full control over the army.
Adolf Hitler was one of the most prolific political leaders of the twentieth century, ruling over Nazi-Germany from 1933 to 1945. During the early days of World War II, the Wehrmacht (German Army) achieved many impressive victories against Western Europe. France and the Low Countries surrendered within six weeks, and Britain was on the brink of collapse. The German war machine was seemingly unstoppable. However, the offensive campaigns against Russia along the Eastern Front were quickly turning into a disaster. The Red Army established a strong defensive perimeter around Moscow and fended off successive German assaults. The harsh winter of 1941 was extremely costly for the German soldiers as tank divisions froze in their tracks.
While defeat seemed imminent, Hitler utterly refused to accept that outcome. He began relieving “weak” officers from their command and appointed new ones in their place. The chancellor was now involved continuously in all levels of campaign planning and troop movements. His generals and officers alike grew increasingly concerned by the day. Hitler simply had no experience or knowledge of modern day military strategies. On December 19, 1941, he suddenly announced the most significant shake-up of all by naming himself Commander-in-Chief of the Army. The role previously belonged to Field Marshal Walther von Brauchitsch, but after suffering a major heart attack, he was unable to continue.
Adolf Hitler ultimately made the same critical mistake as many other conquerors in history. He severely underestimated the impact of the harsh Russian winter and people’s resolve to resist foreign subjection. The eventual retreat from Russia had a profound effect on the collective German psyche, as the army was no longer deemed invincible. Historians often criticize Hitler’s decisions on the Eastern Front as they likely played a significant role in the eventual outcome of the war. Less than four years later, Hitler committed suicide in the Fuhrerbunker as the Soviet Army swept through Berlin.