Dr Klaus Schmider describes his recent book, Hitler’s fatal miscalculation, as a military historian’s attempt to analyse the 20th Century’s most momentous and most idiosyncratic act of horizontal escalation: Hitler’s declaration of war on the USA four days after Pearl Harbor. It was a move that was strictly speaking unnecessary (the Tripartite Pact was defensive and consultative in nature) and singularly ill-timed since Army Group Centre was already on the receiving end of a major Red Army counterattack outside Moscow.

In this seminar, Dr Schmider will address the major findings of his work. He rejects outright any attempts to explain this move by assuming that the German dictator was seeking self-obliteration after the failure to reach Moscow had made him realise that his grand scheme for winning the war had failed – an explanation favoured by many German historians. The Third Reich’s overall strategic situation in early December 1941 was strong and far from desperate, an assessment amply borne out by a closer examination of the military situation on the ground, in the air, and on the high seas. Much the same can be said for the state of the German war economy. It is thus necessary to re-examine Hitler’s decision in light of the information available to him in the weeks and days prior to 11 December.

Dr Klaus Schmider earned his MA and PhD at the Johannes Gutenberg Universität Mainz and has been on the staff of the War Studies Department of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst since 1999. In 2007, he co-authored Volume 8 of the German official history of the Second World War, Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg. In 2021, Cambridge University Press published his latest monograph, Hitler’s fatal miscalculation: Why Germany declared war on the United States. A paperback edition is expected to follow in 2023. His next research will focus on Fighter Command’s war in the West in 194¼3.

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Event date

Mon, 22 Aug 2022, 6 - 7pm

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