Hitlers Command Post During the Battle of France (1940)
The second world war is dead and gone but the reverberations of that war still echo all over the world. Hitler is the most despised man in the West and Russia but one cannot escape from the fact that at one stage he was the Numero Uno in Europe. Many people in the oppressed lands like India looked forward to freedom in case the Germans had won. For them Hitler is not a hated character.
Hitler began his domination of Europe with the invasion of France in 1940. This was Hitler's first brush with military command and control and now we can see that as far as the battle of France is concerned the credit for the lightning victory must go to him.
Hitler's Command Post During the Battle of France(1940)
The battle in the West was marked by the invasion of France. The invasion of France was not his priority as his main philosophy was always to attack the Soviet Union from the West. He expected the Japanese to attack from the east and wipe out Russia from the map of the world. However in 1940, after he had invaded Poland, the French and the British declared war on Germany but surprisingly at that critical moment they failed to honor their commitment to the Poles. England and France at that critical juncture failed to attack Germany and just kept sitting behind the Maginot line. It is also worthwhile to note that they did not declare war on Russia, which had also attacked Poland and gobbled up a large area.
Hitler took the fateful decision to attack France. He was aware of the writings of general Von Schifflin and warning against fighting a two-front war. He wished to secure his Western front by defeating and conquering France so that he could concentrate on the eastern front later on.
To conquer France, Hitler needed a command post close to the French border. Historians have now identified the command post from which Hitler directed the battle of France. It is a small place close to the French border called Falsenest or Rocky Eyrie. This was not a heavily fortified place like his later headquarters. Falsenest comprised of a set of low buildings with a bunker it was located at Bad Munstereifel, a place near Aachen. This place is also fairly close to the French border and ideal for controlling the battle lines in France.
Hitler’s command post was fairly spartan and consisted of 4 rooms and was bomb and shell-proof with the use of special concrete. Apart from Hitler sleeping quarters, it had a large operational room with a large map of France. Hitler held his conference for the battle of France in this room with his generals. The command room had lines of communication to the overall commander of the campaign Field Marshal Von Rundstedt. Hitler could also get in touch with the field commanders. It was earlier inspected by the army and the Gestapo and cleared for operations.
Conduct of the battle
The battle of France lasted exactly 42 days. During these 42 days, the French army was annihilated and the British beat a hasty retreat from Dunkirk. This campaign led to an armistice treaty which was signed at Versailles. The defeat was an eye-opener to the west when news came that 1.9 million French soldiers were taken as POWs.
Before coming to Falsenest, Hitler discussed the battle of France with his generals in Berlin. He studied the Schiffillian Plan and made slight modifications. However, it was Hitler alone who took the decisions.
After the plans had been firmed up, Hitler left by car for Falsenest. He drove in the dead of the night to keep his movement secret. He reached Falsenenest at 3 am. This was an hour earlier from the time of assault at 4 am.
Field Marshal Jodl and Keitel members of the OKW accompanied Hitler.
Hitler gave the order to Field Marshal Von Rundstedt to commence the attack at 4 AM. The German armies now breached the Maginot line by advancing through the low countries.
Hitler remained awake and from this control-post, plotted the advance of 10 Panzer divisions and 136 inventory divisions. It was at that time the biggest force ever assembled for an assault. He kept himself abreast of the progress of the battle on his operational map and often talked to the field commanders including Rommel, Guderian and Von Manstein.
After the defeat of France, an elated Hitler visited Paris and then went back to Berlin. He never used Falsenest again and the bunker went into disuse.
It will, however, be always connected with the battle of France.