Wow, what a discussion. I tend to agree that the US involvement as well as the survival of GB were key factors to the loss of the war. Lend-and-lease offered some key goods like train engines, trucks, ammo and fuel, which possibly had a major impact, but aside from that it probably wasn't making a difference more than can be measured in a few weeks time gain. Lend-and-lease wasn't maxed and static either, just to note that -- it probably would have upped dramatically if the Germans had succeeded better as would be the case in most recent AARs. Without the US, Germany probably still would have lost to Russia, but it would have been a longer and closer thing -- leaving Germany weak and wide open to exploit in any case.
There remained a need to keep several divisions in the Netherlands, France, later Yugoslavia, and Greece, and North Africa, that's probably trivial. Even if Hitler decided to immediately occupy also Vichy France, and despite the almost certain knowledge that GB also could not mount an invasion in France, there was acute need to keep security elements in the occupied countries. These divisions, some 20-30 on average I believe, could probably not be dispatched -- some were security divs, esp. after 42, with poorer man corps and training, some were switched out units refitting from horrors and losses elsewhere, and many were actually Wehrmacht training units such as Panzer Lehr Div. I can't see these make a major impact elsewhere even at the risk of loosing control of the occupied territories and closing important "training cycles". Hmmmh.
Whether Germany was winning a war of attrition? Well, the question about the total casualties, pows, was a good one. Also all the soft factors, from loosing the war at home, to bombing of industry and infrastructure, to the actual unit morale. After 4.5 years (44), and with 2 years of partly disastrous reverses under the belly, and 4.5 years that in particular depleted the ranks of veteran soldiers and officers training pre war and experienced in the successful early campaigns, the Wehrmacht certainly was the same one that started Barbarossa (while the Red Army vastly improved in all sectors -- fine, it hardly could get worse...). Not for now reason it was no longer able to react flexible and quick to the Russian blows. One year earlier, I would guess that Bagration would not have met the success it did even if the Red Army had been the 44 one. Numbers alone don't quite do justice to this.
I think also the other points brought up above about the ideology and politics itself limiting German potential ringe quite true. German thinking, superiority believes in themselves lead to disaster. By the time the Germans realized that they aren't supernaturals, it was to late to really gear up the whole war machine. I remember reading some discussion about the possibility to bring up the German industry to speed prior to 43, and I believe to recall that some analysts denied this to have been possible. I don't recall the reasons well, though. I think it had to do with time-consuming infrastructure issues, and resource delivery. One thing that led to such a gain in weapons and vehicle output was simplifications in models (like for e.g. minimizing usage of rarer/expensive metals like Ni or Cu, or the use of natural rubber at the expense performance and sometimes longlevity/reliability -- esp. the later IV and V series come to mind). Another factor often quoted was switching to modular production systems with several factories producing identical components that were only assembled in the end. That in particular worked against the aerial campaign. I guess both developments probably were not in the minds of the Germans in summer 40 or 41, nor even imagined to be needed at any point as the Russians were expected to falter within 2 months...
So I do not quite see the Germans win on the attritional side if you look at materials (too complex, like said above, compared to Russian and Allied numbers of inferior but just good enough equipment), and the fighting-capable and still willing men power. Russians quickly faced a different mindset, for sure, and were fighting for their lifes, whereas for Germans the was a distance and abstract thing until Allied bombing started in earnest in 43/44, and then homeland morale declined, blending into troop morale.
On thing I find strange though. I never heard about this "demobolization" after France, and before Barbarossa. There is mention about a wave of extended leaves in that period in the OKH reports and diaries, but no mention of any demobilization or true stand down of large formations. Two reasons are discussed in the staff meetings, but brought up by Hitler, and both appear for two reasons: one was that the men couldn't be kept for years from their families knowing that he had the planning of Barbarossa started in earnest sometime after August 40, when it became clear that Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe were in no position to guarantee the success of Sea Lion, and a loss was politically both unthinkable and needed not to be risked as Russia was only going to be a few month interlude until eyes could turn West again. The other was the many of the men came from industries considered of war critical importance, and Hitler and his Reichsminister wanted them back to work over the winter period until spring brought sudden developments in Albania and Africa. But of a true and intentional demobilization I never heard or read. Where does that come from???
PS. Apollo -- nice story, my grandfather used to tell similar experiences from France, where he fought in 44. Must have been an exercise in futility.
< Message edited by janh -- 11/28/2012 4:00:45 PM >