CHY 4U 2014: Barbarossa

Soviet cavalry tank BT-7. Легкий танк БТ-7. via Flickr, by Andrey Korchagin

We will begin with a short video clip. Before you watch, I’d like you to note the following:

  • Aristotle and Socrates, two of the most influential thinkers in history, were NOT morons
  • excessive pride is very dangerous
  • the “biggest blunder” mentioned in the clip has been proven by historical events

What does this clip have to do with World War II? The German invasion of the Soviet Union–known as Operation Barbarossa–was ultimately a failure. This failure, however, shouldn’t have come as a surprise; after all, Napoleon, a daring general and Emperor of France, suffered a similar fate when he attempted to invade Russia in the 19th century.

Thus, I offer you the following advice: if you ever find yourself in charge of an empire or totalitarian state in Western Europe, never, EVER, get involved in a land war in Asia. Because you are so bright and capable, you undoubtedly have some questions. I’ve tried to anticipate them in the space below:

1.Student #1: But HOW do we avoid a land war in Asia?

2.Student Who Is Actually Paying Attention : Yeah! If Hitler and Napoleon couldn’t avoid it, how can we hope to?

3. Student Who Has Just Woken Up From a Nap: Especially if we don’t have any military training!

4. Student Who Has Broken Through the Fourth Wall: And another thing…how are we even having this conversation?

I will answer these questions in reverse chronological order:

4. We are all actors in someone else’s play, so breaking the fourth wall is kind of inevitable. Sorry.

3. Military training can be helpful, but there is no replacement for careful analysis and effective reasoning.

2.Hitler and Napoleon were megalomaniacal, which essentially means that their arrogance was so all-consuming that they believed defeat was impossible.

1. Well, reading pages 464-466 and answering the questions below will certainly help. I will also show you this video to help you answer the questions below: You can dedicate any remaining time to your upcoming presentation.

Each of you must answer the questions below  through a method of your  choice (narrative, simple question/answer). We are going to use a technique called the Instant Star to verify the quality of your responses.

  1. Considering Mein Kampf and Hitler’s eventual plan, was Operation Barbarossa inevitable? Why or Why not?
  2. How long did Hitler assume the war against Soviet Union would last? How did this impact the planning and preparation of the operation?
  3. The Blitzkrieg was extremely effective against Poland, Denmark, the Low Countries, and France. What were the major difficulties of using the Blitzkrieg against the Soviet Union? (Considering the scorched earth policy may help you).
  4. List Hitler’s military blunders during Operation Barbarossa. If you were one of Hitler’s generals, what words of advice would you give him?

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