Any information related to the travels of the head of Nazi Germany to the Soviet territories occupied in the initial period of the Great Patriotic War, as a rule, is surrounded by a huge number of conjectures and versions, which are sometimes difficult to find out behind. This applies to the fullest extent to the first visit of Hitler to the occupied territory, which he made literally a month after the treacherous attack on the USSR. What did he forget in Malnave?
Initially, the talk that on July 21, 1941, Adolf Hitler spent some time on the territory of the Malnava estate, located on the territory of present-day Latvia, was perceived by most serious historians as gossip. Yes, it was in the building of this estate, where an agricultural school was located before the war, that the headquarters of Army Group North, headed by Field Marshal Wilhelm von Leeb, was housed for a week. Yes, as far as we know, the head of the Third Reich made “inspection trips” to the Eastern Front at about this time. But was he in Malnave?
Doubts were dispelled by several evidences: records found both in the diaries of one of Hitler’s adjutants and in a special album of the German General Staff, which clearly indicated the time and place of the visit and even had a corresponding photo. Also, living witnesses were found, in 1941 who were children who studied at the Malnava agricultural school and saw with their own eyes what was happening there on July 21. The final argument was newsreel footage found in the archives, in which the Nazi leader’s car passes through the gate, which is completely identical to the entrance to the Malnava estate. The entrance has been preserved to this day.
So, Adolf Hitler really visited that day the territory of Latvia, in fact, was already in the rear of the Wehrmacht advancing to the east. The flight from Germany was carried out in a special military transport “Junkers”, accompanied by exactly the same reserve aircraft and “Messerschmitts” cover. Even special four-wheel drive six-wheeled Mercedes cars were delivered to Hitler’s movement with his usual comfort and pomp. On the trip, the chief Nazi was accompanied by Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel and a whole group of “court” photographers and newsreels.
Archival photo posted in the Latvian press. Meeting in Malnave on July 21, 1941
However, why did Hitler choose this particular place and time? After all, since June 22, fierce hostilities have been fought, as we know, from the Barents to the Black Sea, and practically everywhere the Nazi troops advanced, albeit not as quickly as envisaged by the Barbarossa plan? Wasn’t it more logical to expect the appearance of the Fuehrer somewhere in the Moscow direction, at the headquarters of Army Group Center?
The thing is that in July 1941 Moscow was not Hitler’s main goal, a priority in the war. South and South-East of Ukraine, with their industrial and agricultural regions, the oil-bearing Caucasus, the Volga region, the Don – this is where he was aiming, trying to capture these regions in the first place.
The capture of Leningrad played a special place in Hitler’s cannibalistic plans. In his deep conviction, the occupation and subsequent destruction of this city, the “cradle of revolution”, the cultural capital of Russia, in addition to solving a number of military-strategic issues, would have a tremendous demoralizing effect on the enemy. There is no doubt that on July 21 he arrived at Leeb’s headquarters precisely in order to “give acceleration” to the offensive on Leningrad and to find out why the Sever group, in his opinion, had not advanced enough.
According to the recollections of eyewitnesses of the difficult conversation that took place at the headquarters, Hitler expressed his extreme displeasure with the actions of the inspected group of troops and said that it “cannot really concentrate” and, in general, “does everything wrong.” The Fuehrer reacted extremely harshly to the Field Marshal’s attempts to convey to the distinguished guest the real state of affairs, including the problems with supplying the troops with everything necessary, saying goodbye to Leeb that, according to his information, the Soviet commanders who left the Baltic states “were all shot “. More than a transparent hint … However, the Field Marshal got off only with the removal from command at the end of 1941, and in 1945 he was lucky to surrender to the Americans.
Leaving Malnava, Hitler was in the worst frame of mind. He even defiantly refused to participate in the breakfast with officers and generals of staff, which had already been served in the local canteen. Could Hitler, in those hot days of the summer of 1941, begin to realize the full depth of the abyss into which he threw himself headlong, dragging the army and the country with him? Quite. After all, the resistance that the Red Army offered could not but puzzle the enemy.
The trip did not remain without consequences – literally the next day Hitler will sign an addendum to OKW directive No. 33, according to which the 3rd Panzer Group, removed from central (Moscow) direction. Still raving about conquests, the leader of Nazi Germany would make one mistake after another.