The History of Crimean Conflicts: von Manstein & the Battle for Kerch.

von Manstein’s tactical genius in suppressing the Soviet counter-offensives & then taking the Kerch peninsula against the odds was breathtaking…but Sevastopol still lay ahead.

Peter Winn-Brown

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3 images in one; a section of the original score of Shostokovich’s Symphony no.7, the man himself, & the starving of Leningrad 1942.
As the people of Leningrad starved Dmitri Shostakovich, unable to enlist due in the Army due to poor eyesight, kept his attention fixed on his music, composing his famous Symphony no.7, which he had originally called Leningrad as a tribute. The Leningrad Symphony Orchestra, hobbled together to perform the work in a theatre without a roof, broadcast the symphony on 5th March 1942 all over the city by loudspeaker, and to the besieging German forces as a show of resistance. Top left, a facsimile of part of the original score. Top right, the man himself. Below, citizens of Leningrad queuing for water.

“The Winter battle in Russia is approaching its end,” he said mistakenly. “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 (1).”

April 5th 1942 Hitler issued War Directive no.41, code-named Fall Blau, or Case Blue; the outline of his strategy for the Caucasus offensive, already contradicting his earlier assertions that talk of a Winter battle was ‘nonsense’ (see below).

As is the dictators prerogative, in his introduction to this directive he was either deliberately misleading, knowingly misrepresenting the facts to his men, or he had deeply miscalculated the numbers and resolve of the Soviets.

And of course, if he had made that fundamental error he wouldn’t be the first to do so…

Napoleon had famously remarked to Murat, “Plant our eagles here (in Poland), 1813 will see us in Moscow and 1814 in Saint Petersburg. Russia’s war is a war of three years.

On the anniversary of Napoleon’s proclamation that he would take Russia, and a year earlier than Fall Blau had been conceived, Hitler set out his own plans for his conquest of Russia.

As is the dictators want, he ignored the facts of the situation and twisted the truth to fit his own argument and fit the pretext he needed for war. He claimed, falsely, that Russia was threatening Germany with a huge build up of troops on their border. “…Approximately 160 divisions (were) massed on our frontier,” he lied. A European crusade against Bolshevism was needed, he claimed, in what Antony Beevor (2) says was a ‘shameless lie’ told to both his people and his troops.

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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.