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Most overrated leader of WW2

LAURENCE REES: And the single most overrated military leader?

ROBERT CITINO: Well, it pains me to a certain extent to say, that I would say General Heinz Guderian of the German Army. Certainly one of the fathers of what came to be known as Blitzkrieg or armoured warfare, and certainly a man with a wonderful operational career in the early battle, certainly in 1940, the campaign overrunning France and then the first campaigning season in the Soviet Union. Now, he was sacked by Hitler in December of 1941 and that left him out of the 1942 campaign, so he wasn’t around for Stalingrad. He was brought back in 1943 as Inspector of Armoured Forces and did some good work in putting the German war effort back on a more sensible footing, at least in terms of armoured forces in the East. But after the war he wrote a book called 'Panzer Leader' in which he really blamed the defeat in World War Two on Hitler and said that every mistake made in the war had been Hitler’s and if the officer corps’ advice had been followed things would have gone differently. He posed himself as an enemy of Hitler’s and certainly opposed Hitler’s worst excesses in terms of racial war and in terms of internal suppression of descent, but we now know today that Guderian was as loyal to Hitler as they come.

He participated in the so-called people’s courts or courts of honour against German officers who had taken part in the resistance. He handed out death sentences to men with whom he had fought side by side in earlier portions of the war. And he had been given a vast estate in occupied Poland that obviously meant the Polish inhabitants had been evicted from it, and this was a man thoroughly wedded to the regime, still receiving large bribes from the Third Reich up to the very last moments of the war. And so I would say he’s a relatively unsavoury character and his unsavouriness only came out by the diligent work of large numbers of historians in the decades following World War Two.

As a field commander, if I were asked to take objective City B and here are your forces and who would you like to carry out the manoeuvres, I might still call Heinz Guderian wherever he is in the hereafter and see if we could work out some terms. As an arbiter of what is right and wrong and the notion that there still can be morality even in wartime, he’d be the last person I’d call.