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Hitler's 'suicidal urge' prolonged war by three years, German historians say

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Hitler's 'suicidal urge' prolonged war by three years, German historians say

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By Harry De Quetteville in Berlin

18 July 2008

Germany would have accepted surrender in the Second World War as early as 1943 if it were not for Adolf Hitler's fanaticism, the country's new definitive history of the conflict has suggested

The work, which comprises 12,000 pages in 13 tomes, has taken academics from the military history centre of the German armed forces 30 years to finish. It says that the conflict was lost as early as 1942. However, the Führer's "suicidal urge" to enforce a final confrontation helped prolong the war.

"It will be impossible to write a history of the Second World War without reference to this work," said Col Winfried Heinemann, the head of research at the centre. "It is a history of the whole of German society, not just a military account of the battles."

He said that Hitler was advised three years before the defeat in Berlin that the war was lost.

"Official papers were presented to Hitler in 1942 that Germany could not win the war," he said. Nonetheless, the dictator continued to exhort nothing less than total victory.

The new history attempts to explain "why the Wehrmacht [German army] kept fighting".

An epilogue to the final volume suggests that the determination stemmed from Hitler's absolutism, but then spread into German society.

"Hitler waged his personal war for six years, supported by sentiment in Germany that remained broadly favourable even after a series of defeats," it notes.

So ingrained was the war effort and its aims that the history, called The German Reich and the Second World War, concludes: "To the Germans, no alternative appeared feasible, other than the unconditional surrender demanded by the enemy."

The history has already broken taboos in previous volumes. For example, it discloses that ordinary army units, and not just the SS, committed atrocities on the eastern front.

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