German Soldiers of World War II
Why They Were the Best, and Why They Still Lost
The German soldiers of World War II have often been portrayed, both during the war and in the decades since, as simple-minded, unimaginative and brutish. Hollywood movies and popular U.S. television shows have for years contrasted confident, able and “cool” American GIs with slow-witted, cynical and cruel Germans.
“Propaganda is an inescapable ingredient of modern conflict,” British journalist and historian Max Hastings has noted. “In the Second World War, it was considered essential for the struggle to defeat the German army that the peoples of the Grand [Allied] Alliance should be convinced of the qualitative superiority of their fighting men to those of the enemy. One [American] dogface or one [British] tommy was worth three wooden-headed krauts. Hitler’s robots could never match the imagination and initiative of Allied soldiers on the battlefield ...” Major wartime American motion pictures portrayed German soldiers as dull-witted and simplistic. In the decades since the war, Hastings notes, “a spirit of military narcissism, nourished by such films as 'The Longest Day,' 'A Bridge Too Far' and 'The Battle of the Bulge,' has perpetuated mythical images of the Allied and German armies.”