European Front


IS Germany making her supreme bid for victory in the East with an offensive of desperation designed to flank Moscow? If she is, her High Command is convinced that the developing Battle of Italy will tie up the Allies for the summer in a long and expensive holding action below the Alps. It would imply, also, a Nazi belief that no invasion will come from England in time to help the Russians.

Consider the area involved in Germany’s main offensive this summer. In 1941 she attacked along the entire Russian front of more than 1000 miles. In 1942 her offensive was limited to the southern third of that front. This time she has focused the bulk of her 200 divisions in a region 160 miles long, on a front which consisted of a deep dent into her own lines. Is Germany merely seeking to give the appearance of an all-out battle with Russia — when her real object is a limited offensive to straighten her front and to induce the United Nations to show their hand?

Note that on the other fronts she is still playing for time — time to build more defenses in the Balkans; time to fortify the key points of the Rhine; time for General Unruh to finish training his new army of 1,500,000 conscripts; time to establish new factories; time to gather what she can of the ripening harvests of Europe. Time has run out already for her Italian ally, as the invasion of Sicily makes plain.

Uneasy Dr. Goebbels

Diminutive Dr. Paul Goebbels is becoming rattled. He clutches frantically at every straw of hope — political wrangling in Washington, race feuds and labor disputes in America, confusions in policy among the United Nations. Yet the task of concealing the unease of the German High Command in the East, of dissipating the alarm stirred by the gathering storm in the West, of hiding the significance of the rolling tide of attack in the South, and of quelling domestic discords generated by the downpour of bombs — this exceeds even his prodigious talent.

Notice the change in his tactics. Flat contradictions in official views never bother the Nazis, but hitherto these shifts have always been spaced carefully. Ample time was allowed between them to enable the German public to fulfill Hitler’s theory of the shortness of its memory. Now reversals occur weekly.

The campaign to transform the terror and panic caused by air raids into energizing rage and resolution is bogging down. Attempts to laugh off public fears of invasion are backfiring. Despite commands, pleas, and threats, German public morale sags steadily.

Quarrels between the Party hierarchy and the military caste are diminishing. They discover they are in the same boat. But the unrest of German youth, which flared into rebellion against Nazi doctrines at Munich last spring, has not been quelled.

Executions in the Reich betoken bitterness and disillusion. German women now dare to write letters to Das Schwarze Korps, the organ of Himmler’s Élite Guard, excoriating the slaughter of their sons and defying the official campaign for a better birth rate. Hostility of populations outside the bombed areas toward the hundreds of thousands of evacuees being quartered among them is on the increase.

Devastation of his own cities faces the German for the first time since the Napoleonic invasions.

Bombing begins to hurt

The effects of this air war on German industry are still multiplying. The British Minister for Economic Warfare in mid-June set curtailment of production at 35 per cent for the Ruhr and 20 per cent for Germany as a whole. That estimate, of course, no longer holds. The air assault has since expanded by nearly 50 per cent.

These bombings must not be measured merely in terms of buildings destroyed or damaged and workmen killed. The blasting of key industrial plants means inevitable slowdown of other factories, distant from the scene of raids, as needed materials and parts fail to reach them. Production in Berlin fell off heavily in June in establishments not hit at all. Fear, sickness, shattered nerves, absenteeism, slowdown — all accompany air alarms.

Yet another dislocation is caused by the necessity of evacuating hundreds of thousands of workmen. More than 300,000 have been shifted from the battered Ruhr alone, and nearly 3,000,000 from Western Germany. This migration overloads transport, upsets distribution, and intensifies Germany’s manpower problem. Policing, clearance, repairs, temporary housing demands, health and food emergencies — these demand labor, troops, and direction.

The Nazis strive to counter industrial dislocation by speeding removal of industries to Upper Silesia, I anzig, the rural provinces of Austria, and the eastern slopes of the Alps. Krupp is rushing new works at Kiev. Such moves suffer from handicaps of distance from the strategically placed coal and iron mines in the Rhine basin, and from inadequate rail facilities.

As intense as the blasting of the industrial centers of Hitler’s Europe is the war which Allied air power is carrying against German transport. The toll taken of locomotives in Western Europe has risen to about 130 per month. This is from air assault alone. Pulverizing blows at engine works and repair shops have driven repair jobs far into Eastern Germany.

Tangled transport

Coöperating with the RAF and the American air force in Britain in this massacre of German transport, the European underground is concentrating upon railway destruction. The Danes and Belgians have been wrecking more than a locomotive a day.

Underground sabotage includes derailments, wrecks, dynamiting of railway junctions, firing of railway fuel dumps, cutting of train brakes, theft of cargoes, and removal of transit labels from freight cars. This last infuriates the Germans. They are compelled to open every car to identify its contents.

Germany is losing the battle of communications at sea even while she flounders in a swamp of troubles with her communications on land. These two successful Allied campaigns complement each other. Between them they are writing the timetable of Germany’s undoing. Efficient transport service is indispensable to Germany’s defenses.

U-boat losses

Success of the Allied war against the U-boats in the Atlantic follows much the same graph as in the First World War. Experience and technical innovation are scoring again after an initial period of failure and near-disaster. Several factors play notable parts in this continuing struggle. Use of converted carriers has helped solve the problem of the 500-mile-wide “no man’s water gap” in the mid-Atlantic, where convoys were beyond protection from land-based planes. An amazing multiplication of destroyer escorts, corvettes, and other small submarine fighter craft has strengthened protection available to all convoys. New scientific devices are increasing efficiency in detection.

About half the British navy, a vast force of naval units from the American Atlantic fleet, the RAF coastal patrol, part of the British Bomber Command, and the American Atlantic coastal air and naval patrols are all at work at this task. They are aided by a strong Canadian naval force.

Observe also the effects of this seaways war on the morale of the German submarine crews. Orders issued by the German Admiralty hint that many U-boats are suspected of skulking in European coastal waters to avoid deep-sea service. Smuggled bulletins from Denmark indicate a German campaign to recruit Danish boys for service in U-boats. From Belgium come reports of U-boat crews firing off torpedoes at random to evade fighting. Norway whispers of mutinies among crews.

The imminence of invasion, moreover, may have led Germany to call in many of her “wolf packs” for coastal defense duties. This probability is emphasized by creation of the new German “General Service Command,” under Admiral Raeder.

No food — exhaustion

Europe approaches its fourth harvest season since the beginning of the war. This year the “Battle of the Fields” is crucial. General Hunger and his lieutenants, Disease and Exhaustion, are on the march.

Failure of the fisheries in Norway opens prospect of famine next winter and adds to the problems created by the presence of nearly 400,000 German troops and evacuees from bombed districts of the Reich. The Germans take priorities on all food everywhere. Civilian Norway has a ration 50 per cent less than minimum requirements for health.

Famine hag-rides Holland. Yet the Dutch underground is pressing its campaign for crop reductions and is waging tireless war on Germany’s storage depots. The apparent paradox is easily explained. Last year the Germans stole 330,000 tons of vegetables from the Netherlands. This year they are demanding for the Reich nearly four fifths of all food grown. The stubborn Dutch are retorting with an epidemic of arson and crop destruction.

In Belgium the civilian mortality rate has jumped to four times its pre-war average, because of diseases induced by hunger and exhaustion. The average birth weight of Belgian children has dropped one third, while children’s diseases rage among the juvenile population. The German scourge has stripped Bohemia and Moravia of all edible fats; German requisitions of fodder are wiping out Czech cattle.

Crows, sparrows, and dogs are being eaten in parts of France, where registered cases of tuberculosis have passed the million mark. Bushes are being eaten in Greece. In the Baltic states, the plague of hunger is complicated by typhus, while muffled civil war rages between partisans of a post-war Russian connection and champions of nationalistic revival.

Best off among European belligerents as the harvest season approaches is Britain. She owes her good fortune in part to what Premier Churchill has called “the massacre of the U-boats.” In part, England’s strong position also represents the achievement of her government and people under a sound, adequate, if closely limited rationing system.

British farmers fight

But it is the contribution of the farmers which makes this a memorable harvest season in Britain’s war history. By their efforts, with government assistance, they have boosted domestic food production to two thirds of the national requirements. The crop area expansion since 1939 is 52.8 per cent, the expansion of productive areas 33.7 per cent.

Although Russia has sown this year nearly 50,000,000 acres of early cereals and industrial crops in the Soviet Union, the pinch of food shortage caused by German occupation of the Ukraine and the regions of the Don is acute. Most of the imported food goes to the army. Civilian Russia is genuinely hungry.

The coming harvest is thus of crucial importance. It has direct bearing upon Russia’s ability to fight through the coming winter. It explains her insistence upon second-front operations and her desire to defeat Hitler before cold weather. These anxieties grow as the new German offensive threatens crops in thousands of acres sown in the regions west of Stalingrad which were recovered last winter.

Germany’s food problem is helped and complicated by her policy of labor enslavement. She has drawn more than 10,000,000 slaves and prisoners into the Reich, while the agricultural productivity of many of her conquests has fallen off. Though she continues to rob Occupied Europe ruthlessly, the booty is less than it was a year ago. The vast loot in food which she took during 1941, and held in reserve, has been consumed. Yet the number of mouths she must feed has increased. Without their meager allowances, her slaves would be useless.

Farm production within the Reich is heavy. There are plenty of prisoners to bring in crops. Domination of the Danubian states provides the Nazis with another source of supply, upon which they are drawing to the point of inciting riots in Hungary and Rumania.

The Germans have sufficient food at present and in prospect. If they succeed in reaping new plantings made in about one third of the Russian Ukraine, they will possess an abundance. Germany will not crack up from hunger in the foreseeable future. Italy, however, threatens to place a heavy burden upon German resources, for Italian agriculture is being devastated by flight of the peasantry.

Anxious small nations

The protracted feud in North Africa is stimulating alarm among the smaller nations in Europe. They see in it a gloomy omen for their future independence and sovereignties. Accustomed to look to France for guidance on the Continent, rightly or wrongly they interpret American policy, as revealed in dealings with France, as inimical to their futures. While General de Gaulle is more and more becoming a symbol of French nationalism, high official spokesmen for Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Czechoslovakia are speaking out sharply in criticism of the trend of American policy and its British supporters.

On the affirmative side, progress is being made swiftly with consolidation of the French armies in Africa. Differences between General Giraud and General de Gaulle have not seriously hampered this. Indeed, General de Gaulle himself has facilitated the fusion by nominating Giraud’s aide as chief of staff for the new united French army. Of the two groups amalgamating, Giraud’s includes the larger percentage of Colonials.

Oddly, pressure of American policy has facilitated fusion by uniting Frenchmen of all opinions against what they deem interference with French sovereignty. The Committee of National Liberation now represents the three great groups of French opinion — Left, Center, and Right. When will Washington recognize this symbol of French sovereignty?