Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

who squeezed every living hour out of the day

Most of his contemporaries record night after night of hours-long boozing sessions.

Overall there are clear insights on how they won the war

They had, and wantonly threw 10x the people the Germans had into the meatgrinder. It's not like it happened through some particular efficiency.




Anecdote:

When I was 7 or 6 or something, I remember my granddad, who was in the Wehrmacht back then, very often explained to me how they fought during the war.

One of the things which stuck with me was how many more people the Russians had in comparison with the Germans. He once drew on paper to explain how they did something like cross fire where they would just fire with the machine guns so the lines of fire would cross and from down the hill Russians would run up the hill, die on the way up and new Russians would come up the hill without weapons and would take the weapons of the dead Russians and keep on running until they died, then another ones would take their weapons and so on.

I remember him saying it was 2000 Russian soldiers on one German soldier, but I guess that number got mangled through war propaganda, war reality, fear, and rumors on the front.


Through, the definition of soldier on Wehrmacht part was quite loose. Oftentimes it was pretty much anyone living in the area on Easter Front. Don't forget about that when looking at 2000 soldiers vs one German stats.


Your first anecdote was also captured in the opening scene of "Enemy at the Gates", a movie about the Battle of Stalingrad that became one of the turning points of the war.


Do note that the accuracy of "Enemy at the Gates" is dubious at best. Not a good source of facts for the Battle of Stalingrad.


Not only 10x people but also advanced machinery like the T34 which ended up being the best mid-sized tank of the war. Mind you, before 1930 Russia was pretty much 100% agrarian. So yes it took a lot of blood - not only on the battlefield, but also in the farms, where the lives of peasants were ruthlessly traded for machines - but also an astoundingly focused effort at the highest echelons. None of this was organized by people chilling with their feet on the table, casually dispatching orders.

More broadly, the idea that they partied a lot - which is also one of the great story arcs in the book - does not detract from this. Think Wall Street, the Valley, etc.


> but also an astoundingly focused effort at the highest echelons. None of this was organized by people chilling with their feet on the table, casually dispatching orders.

Excuse me, but what you say goes 180 degrees contrary to account of every survivor, and popular public sentiment among the more erudite part of Russian society.

Just every member of political establishment at the time was portrayed as an idle hedonist of no intellectual acumen, but at the same very violent, and easy to snap. And this is the very reason why they gnawed each other to death in the thirties - no lard left, the society expired.

War confiscations, and ones in thirties were well known to end in coffers in mid-level officials, who themselves were a month away from starvation. That goes by account of every well respected person of that generation I knew in my childhood.

The myth of industrialisation is also just a myth. Russia had engineering school of its own, not much behind the German one, and a no joke industry by late ninetieth century. Just it was rather disperse, outdated, and suffering from disintegrated supply chain. Very low profile, and not earning headlines, unlike German one.


There were no 10x people. The Eastern Front statistics in wikipedia https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_Front_(World_War_II):

    Strength

    Year   Axis troops   Allies troops
    1941   3,767,000     2,680,000
    1943   3,933,000     6,724,000
    1945   1,960,000     6,410,000


    Casualties and losses
    5.1 million dead      8.7–10 million dead
Note, also, of the total dead numbers the prisoners died in captivity is 637,000 vs 2,250,000–3,300,000. So the battlefield losses are close for both sides.


Agreed. Not only that, military historians who don't base their knowledge of the Eastern Front solely on German sources, such as David Glantz [0] and Jonathan House [1], claim that when there was superiority of Soviet vs Germans numbers, it was because the Soviets successfully employed concentration of forces, which is a sound military tactic!

That is, to the German caught unawares, it looks as if there is an endless "Asiatic horde" (which was the fascist propaganda to explain losses), but what is actually happening is that the Soviets are successfully concentrating their forces by thinning them down where they aren't needed, and achieving greater numbers where they are needed. Good operational warfare that is, and the Soviets excelled at this. Also, a lot of the time the Germans were unaware of Soviet reserves, so that fresh forces would appear when they weren't expecting them.

The self-serving memories of Wehrmacht Generals mostly conveniently "forgot" about this, and so the myth of the endless Asiatic hordes was born.

There's a fascinating YouTube video [2] where House (Jonathan, not Hugh Laurie!) dismantles the three usual German alibis of why they were defeated:

1- Hitler interfered too much and was the cause of every blunder.

2- "General Winter".

3- "The Asiatic Horde".

----

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Glantz

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathan_House

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zinPbUZUHDE


Not only 10x people but also advanced machinery like the T34

The egregious waste of human life was ok because of advanced machinery?

the idea that they partied a lot - which is also one of the great story arcs in the book - does not detract from this. Think Wall Street, the Valley

I dunno, I did a fair bit of partying in Silicon Valley and I think the the fact that, however ill-advised and harmful, this didn't exterminate millions of people tends to detract from whatever 'this' is supposed to be quite a bit.


The parent never said that the development and successful use of the tanks made the human losses okay, only that the Soviet victory wasn't solely due to overwhelming numbers.

I dunno, I did a fair bit of partying in Silicon Valley and I think the the fact that, however ill-advised and harmful, this didn't exterminate millions of people tends to detract from whatever 'this' is supposed to be quite a bit.

Again, the parent only explained that partying and hard work aren't mutually exclusive, not that this somehow makes Stalin's actions okay.


Another idea that struck me is how all the Soviet top brass were absolute workhorses who squeezed every living hour out of the day, to the point of mental and physical exhaustion.

The explicit idea here is that Soviet success was a function of the exceptionally hard work of leadership.


Which might very well be true, at least in part. I still don't see how this relates to my or your comments. Hard work and a disregard for human lifes can go hand in hand. Just because someone works hard for a cause that doesn't make that cause right; and acknowledging the hard work isn't the same as condoning the terrible things achieved through that work.


Hard work and a disregard for human lifes can go hand in hand.

They can, but one of these things endlessly colours the way we morally judge them. No amount of hard work makes up for a disregard for human life.


Exactly, and nobody in this thread ever claimed otherwise.


Another idea that struck me is how all the Soviet top brass were absolute workhorses who squeezed every living hour out of the day, to the point of mental and physical exhaustion. Stalin himself seemed to sleep from 4am to the late morning, which I found curious. Overall there are clear insights on how they won the war and lifted the Soviet empire, other than through despicable actions.

Maybe I'm misinterpreting it but this reads to me like 'the soviet leadership worked really hard and that won the war'.


Oh, I interpreted that as "hard work AND despicable actions won the war". I apologise for my dismissive comments in case your interpretation is correct.


I don't think you have anything to apologize for. It's just that 'Stalin worked really hard' is both ahistorical and despicable, as any sort of explanation. It's not a claim you made.


What you are saying is just senseless. The USSR had less population than the Axis, especially when 30% of it was under occupation.

You're just spouting bullshit written by the Germans after the war to justify their defeat.


"Вы меня сейчас повесите, но я не одна, нас двести миллионов, всех не перевешаете. Вам отомстят за меня…"

If anything, I'd be spouting Soviet propaganda!


Where do you get the "10x people"?


The ratio of dead alone is something like 5 to 1.


It isn't, neither total death nor military loses. (And how would 5 to 1 death mean 10x people is unclear).




Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: