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The Silks Roads Summary and Guide - Chapter 20 - The Road to Genocide - pages 379 - 387

Stalin was rude, and doomed pp.379-380

Now, I may have given the game away when I said that Operation Barbarossa was a huge lapse in judgment by the Germans and would spell Hitler’s own doom, but in 1941, it looked the other way around. Initially, Stalin…ahem… was a little blasé 😒 about the whole thing. He could just not believe that the Germans, fighting in the west, would have the wherewithal to fight a double front war. The Russians could scarcely believe that Germany would even attempt it. The 2 million-odd soldiers standing on the Russian border with guns looking toward Moscow with scowls 😠 on their faces, clenched jaws, and furrowed brows should have been a dead giveaway, but alas, if Stalin says it’s not happening, nobody is going to argue because he TOTALLY MAD 😵 (not mad in a brutal, Ivan The Terrible kind of way, but in an almost inhuman brutal sort of way). At 3.45 am on June 22nd, 1941, Stalin received a phone call from General Zhukov informing him that German soldiers had invaded across the entire western border and it currently resembled a game of rugby between 15 polar bears 🐻‍❄️ (the German army) vs. 15 squirrels 🐿️ (the Russian army). Stalin spent the next few days shaking his head and muttering, while Molotov announced that the Germans would be crushed really soon (at which point his nose grew longer than Pinocchio’s 🤥).

For the MOTHERLAND pp. 380-381

Oh, people - acting as if a country is anything more than lines on a map around rocks that have been there for billions of years. For the FATHERLAND and the MOTHERLAND echoed around the conflict. Germany threw their armies forwards at breathtaking speed without much of a plan for supplies (that’ll bite later). 400,000 Russians were encircled and taken. Stalin, almost a month after the invasion, realized the calamity of the situation and started shouting, “Doh, DOH, DOH!” 😖 for one and all to hear. Germany began its plan of using the vast numbers of Russians now under their control as slave labor to construct roads, work fields, and work in Bratwürst factories. Russia reeled and Moscow came under threat. They moved all of the family jewels, plus Lenin, who didn’t object too strongly, to the east to safety. Hitler’s plan to create a giant bakery in Ukraine and Russia to make cakes for rosy-cheeked German boys and girls was almost realized! He was jumping for joy, high-fiving his German Shepherd, Blondi, and kissing his chickens 🐔 (no historical evidence that he had any chickens, but I think it captures the euphoria).

Fly, Sonderkomando Rs, FLY!!!! pp.381-383

The wonderfully named Sonderkomando Rs, who sadly had the really, really dull job of designing and building infrastructure in conquered countries set out in their really dull trucks to organize Hitler’s new bakery. Expert commandos they were not, as they spent their time getting drunk in expensive houses while showing German propaganda films in local cinemas. That even these idiots could thrive shows us how successful the invasion had been to this point.

Things were desperate for Russia, but also for Britain and its allies. Germany was charming the Arab world with love poems and newspaper stories. Britain feared Germany’s influence in Iran and Iraq disrupting the whole oil supply masterpiece that Britain had cooked up. Germany had won brownie points by attacking Russia, Persia’s old enemy. German soldiers charged east toward the oil supplies in Baku and the Caucasus and, it’s not too distant from there to Britain’s oil empire in Persia.

Operation Squeaky Bum … Countenance pp.384-385

As you’ll see later, oil really, really mattered in the Second World War, so a threat to Britain’s oil supplies would be cataclysmic. It would be crippled and unable to fight. Operation Countenance was created to stop this resource grab and it matters because it shows the partnerships between the Soviet Union, Britain, AND the U.S building in the background. The U.S was politically neutral in the conflict, but under the surface, they were as neutral as a hippo watching hippo vs. honey badger boxing 🥊. Iran was seen as key to denying Germany a competitive advantage in resources, so Britain and Russia jointly occupied it in August of 1941. Talk about a turnaround. 6 months before that, Britain and Soviet diplomats and leaders just blew raspberries at each other. The Iranian Shah was told to get rid of German citizens, which he was a bit iffy about, so the BBC Radio Persia played a news story about the Shah abusing his powers by stealing the crown jewels, water for his roses, and slave labor, and not to mention calling Camilla, everyone’s favourite camel 🐪, “foul”. The Shah said this was outrageous - he hadn’t done those first three things - and complained to President Roosevelt, who said Hitler is awful, so shut your pie-hole. The British went a step further, held a gun to the Shah’s rose bushes, and forced him to abdicate, replacing him with his son. Now THAT must have been an awkward family breakfast the next morning in the Shah’s house.

Looking on ‘agog’, “That’s Roald Dahl!!!” pp.385-386

Agog - such a brilliant word to describe a LOT of history. In Iraq, Britain, fearing the Vichy French military assets, sent a squadron of Hurricanes to shoot up all of the planes they had left. The Vichy French pilots were busily having a cocktail party at the time with dancing and merriment until ROALD DAHL, yes of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory fame, arrived and single-handedly blew up hundreds, nay thousands of planes in his Willy Wonka fighter plane. Now, he really didn’t, he was just one of the pilots, and it wasn’t such a bombastic attack, but isn’t it marvelous to imagine!!! It’s a delightful way to also consider the role of the Vichy French in the conflict - neither enemies nor allies - who had become an irritant.

Send in the reserves…oh they ARE the reserves pp.386-387

Back in Russia, everything looked rosy, like a smashing apple 🍎, but it was already rotting inside. German losses mounted. 10% of troops were lost in the first 2 months of fighting. This was 500,000 soldiers by September, 1941. Yet, as we mentioned, it was the supply chains that really stunk up the joint. Invading France had been a cakewalk because it’s not that large. Russia is vast, so supply chains simply couldn’t keep up. A lack of freshwater (hello cholera and dysentery, my old friends) and other essentials became increasingly difficult. When Joseph Goebbels heard about it, he was hugely confident that German determination would help them overcome ALL challenges, which was stupid. Being stuck on the bog pooping your brains out makes you quite an ineffectual fighting force. A lack of reserves to replace casualties, constant rain soaking roads and clothes, and a snowballing of small problems festering into larger ones spelled disaster. So, the army hesitated. With Moscow on the ropes they didn’t push forward to encircle the capital and potentially end the resistance. And, as the Russian winter grew ever closer, they quickly regretted it.

Germany didn’t anticipate fighting in the winter. They had packed sunscreen, swimming shorts, and ice-lollies 🍡, not fur coats, gloves, and thermal underpants. Hitler said soldiers merely needed to tough it out. Soldiers on the eastern front chopped bread with axes. The Nazis called for a swell of patriotism for the Fatherland to carry the day, while the soldiers froze to death.

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