Manstein: The Moral Imperatives Of Military Leadership

Field Marshal Erich von Manstein flew from the Eastern Flank of Hitler’s war against Russia to CONFRONT the Fuhrer on his management of war aims.  That confrontation would begin late in the evening on January 4, 1944.  Here are Manstein’s exact words “One thing we must be clear about mein Fuhrer, is that the extremely critical situation we are now in,  CANNOT be put down to the enemy’s superiority alone, great though it is.  IT IS ALSO DUE TO THE WAY IN WHICH WE ARE LED.”  Upon reflection written in extensive diaries, Field Marshal Manstein revealed how cruel Hitler’s gaze fell upon him, a satanic presence that remained with him until his death in 1974.

‘Manstein:  Hitler’s Greatest General” by Mungo Melvin reveals a great master of military strategy and commander who fought two wars on two fronts from Somme to Stalingrad.  The most compelling details of this biography only confirm what Prussian culture understood instinctively:  the moral imperatives that sustain any engagement must be embodied by the political leadership!

Manstein is not fool or stooge for Hitler, for he found the courage to confront Hitler often, leading to his dismissal and relief of command in three months from January 1944.

Manstein had experience in modern siege warfare, along with coordinated land, sea, air attack that gave the Wehrmacht its deadly advantage.  He was known to his superiors as ‘Krisenfest’, calm in crisis.

Throughout this writing it becomes clear to Manstein that Hitler had absolutely no moral scruples.  Throughout Nuremberg, Manstein insisted that he served Germany not the Nazi’s.  Although Manstein’s personal and corporate memoirs reveal a man sickened ‘at Jewry, the spiritual father of Bolshevik terror’.  Although never convicted at Nuremberg he would later be arrested and tried in a British military tribunal at Hamburg.  He was convicted on nine charges for failure to prevent atrocities carried out under his command.  He was released in May 1953.

Manstein’s own recollection throughout Nuremberg and Hamburg reveal an interesting political culture that dominated Germany throughout the 19th and 20th Century, he stated that ‘no one could have joined an organized opposition to Hitler, especially given the code of military honor’.  No where is there word of ‘conscience, informed consent or any acknowledged development of autonomy’.  In a Totalitarian world, every one and everything is an agent of the STATE!

Melvin concludes that Manstein was too often the blind servant of a criminal regime.  Manstein’s selective candor only serves himself.

His obituary in 1974 revealed that he embodied both the degeneration and downfall of the Prussian German military caste.  He assisted in the march toward catastrophe.

About William Holland

Systematic Theologian/International Relations
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