In Europe, German and Soviet number of divisions were the bulk of the fighting forces. Soviet and German divisions were approximately the same from 1940 to 1943. Germany was not only facing the Soviets on the Eastern Front but the British and Americans in North Africa, the Atlantic, and later in Italy and France.
Table of Contents
Germany occupied several countries in Europe, and the presence of German occupying forces had a significant impact on the occupied territories and their populations.
In many cases, German occupying forces were tasked with maintaining control of the occupied territories, suppressing any resistance or rebellion, and enforcing German policies and laws. This often involved the use of violence, intimidation, and coercion against civilians, as well as the establishment of concentration camps and other forms of repression.
The German occupying forces also had significant economic and political control over the occupied territories. They often exploited the resources and labor of the occupied populations for the benefit of the German war effort, and many occupied territories were used as staging grounds for military operations.
The presence of German occupying forces also led to widespread resistance and rebellion among the occupied populations. Resistance movements took many forms, including sabotage, espionage, and guerrilla warfare. These movements were often brutally suppressed by the German forces, leading to mass arrests, deportations, and executions.
The impact of the German occupying forces on the occupied territories and their populations was devastating. The forced labor, repression, and violence inflicted by the occupying forces led to the deaths of millions of civilians across Europe.
Germany also had occupying forces in several countries and those forces varied over time, but here are some peak estimates: Poland (2,500,000), Norway (300,000 troops), Denmark (120,000), Netherlands (250,000), and France (300,000).
Germany also had a military presence in countries that were originally aligned with them. Again, those forces varied over time, but here are some peak estimates: Finland (300,000), Hungary (200,000), Romania (300,000), Czechoslovakia (350,000), and Italy (300,000).
Lead-up to Operation Barbarossa
Germany’s military and industrial preparations were geared towards a series of short wars or political takeovers of states in one-on-one actions. This strategy was based on Germany’s belief that it could quickly defeat its enemies and expand its territory. Germany’s early successes, such as violating the Treaty of Versailles by introducing military conscription and France signing an armistice in 1940, seemed to confirm this strategy.
In the 1930s, Germany’s military and industry were mobilized for war more than any other European nation. German self-sufficiency was a key principle in their war preparations, which included the construction of synthetic fuel and rubber plants, prioritizing military over civilian economic policy, and stockpiling raw materials.
Germany’s early war manpower mobilization was geared towards quick victories, such as the Blitzkrieg in 1940 that led to the fall of France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. With an invasion of Great Britain on hold Germany planned Operation Barbarossa against the Soviet Union in 1941, which was expected to last between six and eight weeks. Despite the expectation of Soviet-British alliance, Hitler and his military leaders believed that the Wehrmacht would crush the Soviet Union before Britain could provide any aid.
Operation Barbarossa and Beyond
Germany in a short stroke through Operation Barbarossa’s would establish ‘a line of defense against Asiatic Russia’, stretching from the Volga to Archangelsk. Operation Barbarossa’s failure had significant implications for its military manpower needs.
Germany had mobilized a large portion of its military forces for the campaign with the plan of quickly defeating the Soviet Union and securing vital resources and territory. However, the Soviet Union put up a much stronger resistance than expected, and the German forces were bogged down in a brutal and protracted war on the Eastern Front.
As a result of the failure of Operation Barbarossa, Germany’s military manpower needs increased significantly. The war on the Eastern Front became a war of attrition, requiring a constant flow of new troops to replace those lost in battle. Germany was forced to rely increasingly on conscription to fill its ranks, with many young men being drafted into military service.
Additionally, the manpower needs of the German military increased as the war expanded to other fronts, including North Africa and Western Europe. Germany was forced to fight a multi-front war, which placed a tremendous strain on its military resources and manpower.
Despite these challenges, Germany continued to fight on multiple fronts until its defeat by the Allied powers in 1945. The failure of Operation Barbarossa was a turning point in the war, marking the beginning of the end for Germany’s military ambitions and highlighting the limitations of its military resources and manpower.
Military Divisions per Country 1939-45 in Europe Data
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Source: World-War-2.info. “World War 2 Statistics.’ http://www.world-war-2.info/statistics/, Data accessed on June 27, 2022
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