The History of Crimean Conflicts: Sevastopol; von Manstein’s Triumph & Hitler’s Last Great Victory, Part I.

Under the command of Generaloberst Erich von Manstein, Hitler’s armies prepared for what would be the final assault on the great fortress city of Sevastopol, whilst Hitler himself held court at the Berghof in an ebullient mood, convinced his conquest of the Soviet Union was all but done…

Peter Winn-Brown
12 min readAug 8, 2023
Hitler standing in the back of his car saluting, as officers return the salute & troops carrying Nazi flags march by.
Adolf Hitler at a Nazi Rally in Nuremberg, 1935. Image from Foreign Affairs.

“We stand in this phase of the struggle, which is of exceptional importance for the war and for the Eastern campaign. The whole world looks at the troops of Stalingrad and besides, the quick and victorious conclusion of the battle with the reaching of the Volga also means a conclusion for the regiment. The troops are to be informed of this. I expect the whole regiment to exert a great deal of strength, which will be worthy of achievements of IR 194 so far.”

Lieutenant Colonel Roske (1).

The Wehrmacht, convinced of their indomitable spirit and inherent superiority remained adamant that victory at Stalingrad was an inevitability. The need to forge ahead, over the wounded if need be, not waiting for the support of other units would guarantee the quick victory the officers told the men of the Wehrmacht was possible.

The Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union was to save us all…

That Hitler’s Nazi Germany would invade the Soviet Union was never a given, except perhaps for Hitler, and his innermost circle of confidente’s.

Just a few years before Hitler began his war on the world, the Kaiser indulged the idea of a close knit relationship with Russia, and not the West as some would have had it, when he said, “Western culture has reduced itself to mere utilitarianism, but the pendulum of civilisation is switching to Eastern Europe and its way of life. We are not Westerners. . . . We cling with all our roots to the East.

For some, like the Kaiser, the relation between the two, between Germany, and between Russia, was of blood-kin, not blood enemies. The Russian revolution, after all, was made in Germany, by Germans, some might argue for Germans, but in the end for its blood-kin across the icy wastes of the steppe first of all.

The fear, all across the West thereafter, including for many in Germany, was that the German revolution would be exported back to its point of origin; back to its roots: The Soviet Republic of Germany, the dream of dreams for Marx and Engels.

The deep bonds of philosophical brotherhood between Germany and Russia are to be found not only in the words of the great writers of both nations, but in the actions of the peoples.

Dorothy Thompson, who met Hitler, who witnessed the rise of the Nazis with her own eyes, said, “Reading Hegel, and observing the relationship in Nazi Germany between state and Movement, one can see how easy would be a jump to the conception of the state as a proselytizing church, an idea which possessed Byzantium and the Eastern Church, and which is given expression in Dostoevski’s novels. In ‘The Brothers Karamazov’ he makes Father Paissy say: ‘The Church is not to be transformed into the State. That is Rome and its dream. On the contrary, the State transformed in the Church will ascend and become a church over the whole world — the glorious destiny ordained. . . This star will rise in the East.’”

As Thompson goes on to point out, the Russian communist state, far from that envisaged by Dostoevski (n.b. I actually it spell it Dostoevsky, the commonly accepted English spelling today, but will stick with Thompson’s spelling for consistency) or perhaps even by Marx, was, in many ways, analogous to a religion in the devotion it inspired in its disciples, and just like Hitler’s Nazism, its professed itself to be on a mission to save the planet from (Western) decadence and decay.

Devotion and faith to the cause regardless of right, wrong, morality or immorality, means control. And it is the very same devotion that inspired the Communists and the Nazis that Putin now struggles, and fails, to replicate in his own misbegotten wars today.

Thompson goes on to say, “Those who followed Hitler did not believe, they did not have convictions; they had faith. They had to have some faith. Only the very strong can bear to live in a world utterly devoid of absolute values, which was what the bourgeois middle-class world had become. The rock-bottom of faith in life is ‘blood and soil.’”

Faith in the church of chaos; faith in the church of war, faith in the church of Nazism, together in the fight against Western decadence, democracy, equality, liberty and freedom; illusions all to blindly enslave the Western masses.

But not in Russia, and certainly not now in Germany either…

While Communism and Nazism had different modus operandi, and different underlying doctrines, the fight was basically the same.

Arguably, what robbed Hitler of the ability to see Russia and Russians as kin was his rabid antisemitism. And his hatred of both the West and the Jews was readily apparent when he spoke as the first German troops breached the Soviet Unions border.

When Hitler announced the start of Operation Barbarossa and the invasion of the Soviet Union on the 22nd June 1941, he railed against Britain, accusing the British of having destroyed Spain, Holland and France, and of now threatening to destroy Europe in a pact with the Jewish-Bolsheviks in Moscow, and of leading a Judeo-Anglo-Saxon plot “to prevent the establishment of a new people’s state, to plunge the Reich again into impotence and misery.”

Perpetuating the myth of an undefeated Germany in WWI, he swore “Germany was defeated in 1918 only because of its inner disunity,” brought about by British meddling in German affairs.

But National Socialism had, he said, begun a “new revival of our people (borne out of) poverty, misery, and shameful contempt was a sign of a pure internal rebirth.”

The German people have never had hostile feelings toward the peoples of Russia” he said, perhaps in some acknowledgement of the feelings voiced by the Kaiser, before he continued, “…during the last two decades, however, the Jewish-Bolshevist rulers in Moscow have attempted to set not only Germany, but all of Europe, aflame.”

Then after giving further reasons for his ire, Hitler finished by saying, “Now the hour has come when it is necessary to respond to this plot by Jewish-Anglo-Saxon warmongers and the Jewish rulers of Moscow’s Bolshevist headquarters. German people! At this moment, an attack unprecedented in the history of the world in its extent and size has begun,” indicating that Barbarossa was already underway.

And ending with yet another misleading, and twisted fact, portraying the heroic German armies as the saviour of humankind, he screamed, “The purpose of this front is no longer the protection of the individual nations, but rather the safety of Europe, and therefore the salvation of everyone.

Less than a year later, at 3pm, on 26th April, 1942 Adolf Hitler delivered a another speech to the Reichstag where he asked for the last vestiges of judicial autonomy and impartiality to be struck down. He needed the power he said, to intervene and dismiss judges “who visibly fail to recognise the demands of the hour (2).

Of course, Hitler’s asking for this power was only a matter of ceremony; there were none who could stop him, but for the sake of good order and presentation the i’s needed dotting, and the t’s needed crossing.

Once he had finished speaking, Reichsmarschall des Grossdeutschen Reiches Hermann Goring, read the declaration aloud confirming that Hitler as “Leader of the nation, Supreme Commander of the Wehrmacht, Head of Government and supreme occupant of executive power, as supreme law-lord and as Leader of the Party,” could remove anyone from office, whatever their status, and punish them as he saw fit, for any failure to do their duty.

With this dictum, Hitler in effect became the law, and Germany became a “true Fuhrer state.” As Goring spoke, Hitler was on the road to Munich, en route to the Berghof where he had a meeting with Mussolini. Observers reported he was in a buoyant mood.

An StuG III assault gun outside the ruins of Kharkov on the Eastern Front during Fall Blau
An StuG III assault gun outside Kharkov on the Eastern Front during Fall Blau. Image from

A few days earlier Hitler had delivered Fuhrer Directive no.41, code-named Fall Blau, or Case Blue; the outline of his strategy for the Caucasus offensive that would deprive the Russians of fuel, and hasten the end of the war.

In his introduction to the directive, as is the dictators prerogative, Hitler once again misrepresented the facts of the case, whether through predetermined aforethought, or with a lack of attention to detail, is not known.

But the German people were becoming more and more aware of the hardships being endured in their name, by their countrymen during the dreadful Russian Winter of 1941–42, and the popular mood was souring precipitously. The prospect of yet another harsh Winter in the making was perhaps behind Hitler’s thinking when he misled both the German people and his troops.

“The Winter battle in Russia is approaching its end,” he lied. “Through the unequalled courage and self-sacrificing devotion of soldiers to the Eastern front, a defensive success of the greatest scale has been achieved for German arms. The enemy has suffered the severest losses in men and matériel. In an effort to exploit apparent initial successes, he has expended during the Winter the bulk of his reserves earmarked for later operations (3).”

But once holed up in the snow clad Berghof Hitler once again took centre stage regaling his ‘captive(?)’ audience about the lack of top Wagnerian tenors and the state of the Berlin Philharmonic.

Discussions on the war in the East followed the same disingenuous thread that Hitler had followed in issuing directive no.41. Ribbentrop said in a side meeting with Ciano, Count of Cortellazzo and Buccari, that the ‘genius of the Fuhrer’ has solved the problem of the Russian Winter. The coming Caucusus offensive would deprive the Russians of fuel and end the war (2).

It seems even those at Hitler’s side were not immune to the fancies of Hitler’s rhetoric…

The top military brass arrived the next day, the forthcoming Summer campaign’s to be discussed, with Hitler telling them that ‘living space’ — lebensraum — was no longer the key element in the war. “If I don’t get the oil of Maykop and Grozny, then I must finish the war,” and, in the absence of a viable alternative to the push to the Caucasus the commanders mostly agreed. This made the destruction of the Soviet economy of paramount importance, and the speed of Fall Blau everything.

The German losses in Russia thus far had exceeded expectations many times over. Over million of the original 3.4 million men had lbeen ost since the start of Operation Barbarossa the previous June; some 900,000 had perished during the harsh Winter months alone. Recruitment at home had meant an early call up for all twenty year old’s, and the skilled workforce in Germany had been stripped back to the bone (2).

And equipment was being lost at faster rates than it could be replaced. Only 10% of the vehicles lost on the Eastern front had been replaced, for example. Just two months earlier, only 5% of the army divisions were fully operational. Fall Blau had been given priority, but of the sixty-eight divisions set to make the push South in the forthcoming campaign, almost 75% had been fully reconstituted, and none were wholly intact.

Furthermore, poor German intelligence on Stalin’s ability to reconstitute the Red Army led Hitler, Halder and others to believe the Soviets were on the brink of collapse. And as the American war machine began gearing up, with Roosevelt having given some indication of the massive potential of their armaments programme, Hitler dismissed that too as fake news, exclaiming that it “could in no way be right (2).”

Still convinced too of the Japanese navy’s potential to crush, or at the very least, seriously damage the U.S.’s naval capability following the devastating attack at Pearl Harbor the previous December, Hitler was nonetheless aware that time was against him.

With Midway, and a major Japanese defeat just days away; US aid to the Soviet Union already well underway, German intelligence was severely lacking in accuracy, foresight and reach, and that lack was not far away from coming back to bite Hitler in the nether’s.

The battle for Kerch was now over in Crimea, so too the Soviet counter-offensive in Kharkov to the North, and Hitler wrongly believed that Stalin’s ability to keep fighting was now seriously in doubt.

The only sour note in Hitler’s ‘heroic Wagnerian fantasy of global German dominance’ was an assassination attempt on Reinhard Heydrich in Prague. Despite bemoaning Heydrich’s stupidity for riding without an adequate escort and in an open top car, when he died of his wounds a few days later, Hitler didn’t let it quell his desire for violent retribution against the Czech population.

The SS (the Schutzstaffel paramilitary group) rounded up some 1300 local residents, men, women and children, and had them summarily executed. And then on the 10 June, as von Manstein’s final assault on Sevastopol was in its early days, the village of Lidice was raised to the ground; all the men executed, the women transported to concentration camps, and the children forcibly removed (2).

Two amazing propaganda posters put out by the Nazis during the war. Left: SS recruitment in Netherlands. Right: Stalin removes his mask to show he is Satan.
Two amazing wartime propaganda posters put out by the Nazis during the war. On the left: An SS recruiting poster used in the Netherlands: It reads “For your honour and conscience! Against Bolshevism. The Waffen-SS calls you!” And on the right: In Ukrainian, this poster was used during the invasion of the Soviet Union. Translated it reads, “Satan has taken off his mask.” From Calvin University.

It was at this time that Goebbels chose to up the ante with respect to the ‘Jewish question,’ and broached the subject with Hitler. First to be addressed were the fate of the remaining 40,000 Jews still interned in Berlin. Goebbels stressed the danger of their being a ‘subversive element’ within Berlin itself, and Hitler agreed that they needed to be ‘shipped off to the East,’ but it seems likely this was a euphemism for a more radical, vile process that, as we all know now, was already well underway.

Not just with Goebbels was such coded language used when discussing the Jewish situation. Terms such as ‘special treatment,’ ‘the transport of the Jews,’ or ‘sluicing them through,’ and more, were all in reasonably common use by Hitler and his men (2).

The pretence Hitler maintained, even with those in the highest echelons of Nazi society, was of transportation of the problem populations elsewhere, be that Africa, South America or Siberia. But no such transportation ever took place.

Ian Kershaw suggests in his epic biography ‘Hitler (2),’ that the secret was maintained to limit the chances of unrest at home, as well as in the occupied territories, and also to stop the ‘terrible secret’ becoming a propaganda gift for the allies.

Himmler, architect of the ‘final solution,’ would later, when speaking to the leaders of the SS, refer to it as “a never to be written glorious page of our history (2).”

And so Goebbels got his wish for a more radical answer to the problem of Berlin’s Jews.

And Soviet Russia and Ukraine would become “our colonial territory in the East.” said Hitler, “There are to be found fertile black earth and iron, the bases of our future wealth (3),” wealth that Putin today now covets, and feared had been lost with Ukraine’s turn to the West — but more of that in next weeks post.

News of Rommel’s success in taking Tobruk from the British on the 21st June 1942, had Hitler once again in ebullient mood. Egypt was at his mercy, and the glittering chance of a deadly, war-ending pincer movement with Rommel’s men sweeping up through Palestine, through Damascus, and onto the Caucasus from the South to meet up with his valiant forces in the North was so close he could almost taste it.

The taste of victory tastes like nothing else on earth…

The Treaty of Versailles; its punishing, anti-German terms seemed like a bitter, fading memory.

Ah but, revenge would be sweet indeed when he reached Grozny! But first, the small matter of Crimea…and then crossing the Volga.

Less than one generation after the undefeated German armies were defeated by treachery alone, German racial superiority was being drilled home once more in steel. Undefeated again, the German storm-troopers had arrived at the city limits of the great Black Sea enclave of Sevastopol. A stepping stone on their march to immortality and the reinstatement of German superiority more than a millennium after Charlemagne — German speaking, Frankish, the progenitor supreme — had established the First German Reich.

I’ll be back in a day or two with Part II. The conquest of Sevastopol itself…

Thanks for reading.

  1. The Lighthouse of Stalingrad: The hidden truth at the centre of WWII’s greatest battle; Iain MacGregor, 2022.
  2. Hitler; Ian Kershaw, 2008.
  3. Stopped at Stalingrad: The Luftwaffe and Hitler’s defeat in the East 1942–1943; Joel.S.A. Hayward, 1998.



Peter Winn-Brown

The past can illuminate the present if we shine the light of inquiry openly, truthfully, with attention to detail & care for the salient facts.