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Commander in Chief of the Navy

Report on Conferences with the Führer and Supreme Commander of the Wehrmacht at the Berghof (Obersalzberg) on 8 and 9 January 1941.

Present: Konteradmiral Fricke, Chief of the Seekriegsleitung, Operations Division.
Chief of the Army General Staff [Generaloberst Halder].
Chief of the Luftwaffe General Staff [General Jeschonnek].
Minister for Foreign Affairs [von Ribbentrop] and others.

1. The main purpose of the conference was discussion of land operations in the Balkans and in Libya. It was also possible to discuss at some length various questions connected with naval and air warfare, and the Führer gave an evaluation of the general situation.

2. Situation in the Mediterranean. The Führer is of the opinion that it is vital for the outcome of the war that Italy does not collapse, but remains a loyal member of the Axis. The Duce is emphatically pro-Axis. On the other hand, the military and political leaders are not pro-Axis and reliable to the same extent. Count Ciano has sharply been attacked by Fascist and military circles. However, the Führer does not believe that in the present situation Ciano would oppose Germany.

The well-known Italian mentality makes it difficult for the Germans to influence the Italian leaders. The Führer is of the opinion that if the Italians are to be kept in line he must not go too far in matters of leadership. We should not make demands; too great demands may cause even Mussolini to change his attitude. Besides, there is the danger that then the Italians in turn might make undesirable demands. (For example, the Italians may desire information about German operational plans. The Führer considers that caution is necessary especially in this connection, and he does not wish to inform the Italians of our plans. There is great danger that the Royal Family is transmitting intelligence to Britain!!)

The Chief of the Seekriegsleitung, Operations Division, expresses the view that the Italian armed forces need to be strictly organized under German leadership. The Führer feels that the main difficulty in regard to exerting influence in an advisory capacity lies in the fact that the Italians are not able to follow our plans and our advice for reasons having to do with personnel and materiel. The chief reason is that the Italians feel very inferior to the British; they suffer from an inferiority complex. This factor alone makes it absolutely impossible for them to fulfill the tasks that confront them. They do not wish to commit their fleet.

3. The Führer is determined to do everything in his power to prevent Italy from losing North Africa; he fears the very detrimental psychological effect this would have on the Italian people. It would also mean a great loss of prestige for the Axis powers. The possibilities for the Germans to bring aid to Africa are small, since the Italians themselves badly need the few available ports for unloading their supplies.

The Führer no longer considers it possible for either the Italians or ourselves to re-open the offensive against Alexandria and Egypt with any success. (The Italians themselves go so far as to believe that at best they can attempt defensive actions there; even this appears doubtful to them!!)

The Führer is firmly determined to give them support. German formations are to be transferred as soon as possible, equipped with antitank guns and mines, heavy tanks, and heavy and light anti-aircraft guns. The Führer, however, wishes on no account to lose these formations. Hence the Italians are to be requested to do all in their power to stop the British offensive. Materiel is to be shipped by sea, personnel by air. Good results are anticipated from the use of German air units. The German formations should be given air support from bases in Sicily; advance units will be stationed in North Africa (as far as Benghazi). The opportunities are limited, since the Italians are using most of the airfields. If we succeed in defending the rest of Libya, a large-scale offensive against Alexandria and Egypt would still be possible later, but probably not before winter 1942 (!!)

According to Italian information, the defense units for Libya cannot be transferred until the middle of February because of Italian transports. The transfer will then take about five more weeks from the time of loading. (Twenty German steamers are available in Italy; a selection must be made from them.)

4. Albania. The Italian line in Albania must be held. The Greeks must not be allowed to mass against Bulgaria in the region of Salonika, but must be fully engaged in Albania. It is necessary to aid the Italians. The Führer orders that sufficient troops be transferred, that is, two and a half divisions, including one mountain division, parts of a panzer division, and a motorized infantry division. Conditions for unloading are very difficult. The transport route is from Brindisi to Durazzo. The possibilities for unloading must be very carefully checked (Captain von Pufendorf is at present in Albania). The Führer states that in the near future he will discuss with the Duce the use of these troops and will make certain claims concerning operational control. The transfer of German troops to Albania should begin immediately. The Albanian operation is to take place before the Bulgarian-Greek front is occupied.

The Duce has requested three additional German steamers for Italian transport purposes, besides the three which have already been given him. The Führer has ordered the transfer.

5. Operation "Marita". In order to be able to carry out the operation according to plan, it is intended to begin at once with the transfer of troops to Bulgaria. After the advance detachments have arrived, the 1st Division is to be moved across the frozen Danube into Bulgaria. (Only one bridge is available, hence use must be made of the frozen river.) Bulgaria should be requested to permit garrisoning of troops in towns. The troops will be self-supporting, and will be no burden to the Bulgarian population. On the contrary, there are prospects of supplying the population with food. No Italian offensive against Greece is expected until March. The Führer is determined to do everything in his power to assure a speedy advance in Albania. The troops for operation "Marita" will be assembled and ready by 26 March. Certain troops are reserved for defense against Turkey. The Führer does not believe that any offensive action will be taken by the Turks, however.

6. The question of a possible occupation of Toulon. If France becomes troublesome she will have to be crushed completely. Under no circumstances must the French Fleet be allowed to get away from us; it must be either captured or destroyed. Hence Toulon must be occupied at the very outset by means of airborne troops and transport gliders. The harbor and coastal batteries must be taken immediately. Naval guns will be brought up in gliders. Toulon harbor is to be mined by an air squadron. After the speedy occupation of Toulon, the troops will push on to Marseilles. The position and the nature of fortifications at Toulon and along the coast must be accurately ascertained as soon as possible.

The Commander in Chief, Army reports that in view of the army operations planned, the preparations for operations "Felix" and "Seelöwe" would have to be held up for a time. The Führer confirms this view. The operational measures will be carried out in the following sequence: Transports to Albania; transports to North Africa; Toulon (only in the event of operation "Attila").

7. General situation. The Führer states his opinion concerning the strength and importance of Germany's economic potential in the German and European area as over against the limited possibilities found in Britain and America. He is firmly convinced that Europe's armament and economic resources offer far greater possibilities. He stresses the great importance of Norway, where we must be particularly on our guard. Our relations with France are rather obscure. The French were stunned by the course of the war, but are now collecting their wits and beginning to realize what has happened. Those who were not in leading positions have no conception of the situation as a whole. Hence there are many pitfalls for the Petain government. It is not improbable that Petain will still be exposed to much pressure from external sources. General Weygand, well known as a rabid Germanophobe, has demanded the immediate arrest of Laval. The Führer regards Weygand as unreliable and dangerous; he must be watched carefully. At first Petain will adopt a passive attitude, as he is well aware that the Germans intend to occupy the remainder of France if the French prove troublesome.

Spain. The Führer fully recognizes the strategic value of Gibraltar, which has so often been emphasized by the Seekriegsleitung. Despite that fact, there is for the time being no prospect of Spain's becoming our ally. She is not willing to do so. This was made perfectly clear by Franco's remark that he will not take part in the war until Britain is at the point of collapse. The Führer has offered Franco a million tons of grain to relieve the acute economic situation. Despite this offer of food, Franco did not feel that he could acquiesce to the Führer‘s plans.

Yugoslavia is ready to conclude a non-aggression pact, but at present does not wish to become a signatory of the Tripartite Pact.

Rumania. The situation is clear; whatever may happen, the oil fields must be protected. The Training Division is being reinforced.

Bulgaria. Russia's attitude is causing complications here. Russia needs this country in order to assemble her forces against the Bosporus. Hence King Boris is very cautious. The King has explained to the Führer that for reasons of foreign policy he cannot officially sign the Tripartite Pact, but that the Führer should proceed as though this were the case.

Russia's attitude in the event of German action in Bulgaria is still not clear.

General observations. The Führer is firmly convinced that the situation in Europe can no longer develop unfavorably for Germany even if we should lose the whole of North Africa. Our position in Europe is so firmly established that the outcome cannot possibly be to our disadvantage. The invasion of Britain is not feasible unless she is crippled to a considerable degree, and Germany has complete air supremacy. The success of an invasion must be absolutely assured; otherwise the Führer considers it a crime to attempt it.

The British can hope to win the war only by beating us on the Continent. The Führer is convinced that this is impossible.

Regarding our warfare against Britain, the Führer explains that all attacks must be concentrated on supplies and on the armament industry. Terror raids by our Air Force have small value and accomplish little; the supplies and the ships bringing them must be destroyed. Combined assaults by the Air Force and Navy on imports might lead to victory as early as July or August. Even today the Führer is still ready to negotiate peace with Britain. However, Britain's present leaders will not consider such a peace.

Britain is sustained in her struggle by hopes placed in the U.S.A. and Russia. British diplomatic overtures to Russia are apparent. Eden is very pro-Russian.

Stalin must be regarded as a cold-blooded blackmailer; he would, if expedient, repudiate any written treaty at any time. Britain's aim for some time to come will be to set Russian strength in motion against us. If the U.S.A. and Russia should enter the war against Germany, the situation would become very complicated. Hence any possibility for such a threat to develop must be eliminated at the very beginning. If the Russian threat were non-existent; we could wage war on Britain indefinitely. If Russia collapsed, Japan would be greatly relieved; this in turn would mean increased danger to the U.S.A.

Regarding Japanese interest in Singapore, the Führer feels that the Japanese should be given a free hand even if this may entail the risk that the U.S.A. is thus forced to take drastic steps.

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