In October 1944 Adolph Hitler refused to withdraw Army Group North from the Baltic States and ordered it to defend the Latvian province of Courland after the Soviets severed its land contact with the Reich. Similarly, he allowed almost another entire army group's isolation in East Prussia in January 1945. Over one million German soldiers fought in these Baltic pockets, and another 350,000 troops sat idle in Norway as Soviet and Anglo-American troops advanced into Germany.
Hitler, Doenitz, and the Baltic Sea looks at several possible reasons for Hitler's decision to defend the Baltic bridgeheads, including (1) that Hitler hoped to tie down disproportionate numbers of Soviet troops in these areas, (2) that he planned later to launch an offensive from Courland, and (3) that only the presence of German armies in Latvia prevented Sweden from entering the war on the side of the Allies. The most likely reason, however, was Hitler's desire to turn the tide of the war by reviving the Battle of the Atlantic with new models of technologically advanced submarines. With these U-boats Admiral Doenitz planned to sever the link between Britain and America, and force Britain to surrender. To do this, he required German control of the Baltic Sea in order to test the new submarines and train their crews. In addition, following the loss of France in the summer of 1944, Norway remained the sole area from which Germany could launch the new U-boat offensive.
About the Author
David Grier received his Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is professor of history at Erskine College in Due West, SC, where he has taught since 1991. He teaches European History and Military history. He lives in Due West with his wife and daughter.
Howard D. Grier is professor of history at Erskine College in Due West, South Carolina, where he has taught European and military history since 1991. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.