How much effect did the Nazi's scorch earth policy actually helped them

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How much effect did the Nazi's scorch earth policy actually helped them

Post by mr friendly guy » 2018-03-27 03:05am

When the Nazi's retreated from Soviet forces, they instituted a scorch earth policy to destroy anything that could be useful to the advancing Soviets. Take for example their actions in Norway.

http://www.newsinenglish.no/2014/10/24/ ... emembered/
Just a few days later, however, Nazi German leader Adolf Hitler opted for a “scorched earth” military policy to make sure nothing would be left for the Soviet forces who were pushing his forces westward in Northern Norway. Hitler’s troops were ordered to burn and destroy everything they could.


This was one of the few buildings left standing on AS Sydvaranger mine company property at Bjørnevatn, east of Kirkenes. Called “Rørbua,” liberated locals used it to re-establish their municipal council in Sør-Varanger, and it was to be put under formal historical preservation orders on Saturday. The Norwegian flag was raised here on October 25, 1944, as the first on freed Norwegian territory, thanks to the Soviet troops at the time who fought back Norway’s Nazi German occupiers. PHOTO: Sør-Varanger Kommune/Susanne Wasa Hagen

As a result, almost every single building in Norway’s vast northern area from Finnmark in the east to Hammerfest in the west was burned down or demolished, apart from a few churches. Within just a few weeks during the autumn of 1944, the nearby historic cities of Vardø and Vadsø were laid in ruin as were all other settlements and towns in the counties of Finnmark and Nord-Troms. In Honningsvåg, only the church survived, with its current keeper telling foreign correspondents on a visit there last year that the local German officer in charge of the city (and its destruction) had enjoyed playing the church’s organ during his tour of duty in city that today is the gateway to the North Cape. He made sure the church was spared, and it later gave shelter to scores of homeless.

The Germans also destroyed their own facilities, such as a military hospital (or lasarett as it was called) located south of Lakselv. To this day, rows of charred iron beds and even kitchen equipment from Darmstadt can be found at the eerie sprawling site, now overgrown and long-abandoned. It’s unclear what became of its patients.
My question is, is there any numbers on how much this denying shelter to Soviet troops actually hurt the Soviets. For example any numbers on troops that died from exposure or other conditions which having shelter would help?
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Re: How much effect did the Nazi's scorch earth policy actually helped them

Post by Patroklos » 2018-03-27 04:58am

I am not sure looking for actual casualties is the metric you want to use, because the Soviets would have mitigated this to avoid serious impacts to actual lives lost in most cases.

What you want to look at is impact to operations and/or costs due to that mitigation. How many times did an advance delay due to bridging requirements? What was the throughput or rail operations in reality compared to what they would have been without the sabotage? What military stores had to be diverted to occupied civilian usage due this scorched earth policy? Similarly, you can look into just how much of particular formations were made up of bridging and railroad units, or civil engineering units and their equivalents.

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Re: How much effect did the Nazi's scorch earth policy actually helped them

Post by Lord Revan » 2018-03-27 07:44am

Yeah that you want to look for is the logistical costs of having to compensate for the lack of local resources avaible instead of actual casualities as the casuality figures (in either dead or injured) would be rather insignifigant since russia (or the western allies for that matter) would have had the logistical capasity to compensate for the lack of local resources but doing so would slow down the offensive.

basically scorched earth isn't a way to cause a major bodycount but rather to make it harder and more expensive for an military force to use a certain route.
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Re: How much effect did the Nazi's scorch earth policy actually helped them

Post by Elheru Aran » 2018-03-27 01:24pm

Re Russians assistance to occupied civilians-- once they entered German territory, the stats on that are going to skew badly because they couldn't care less about the Germans, and in fact pretty vindictively exacted their revenge for the German invasion. I wouldn't expect very much assistance from them towards German civilians until post-war, at the very least. Of course there's some debate about the extent of their retaliation, but I wouldn't expect it to be anywhere like what their assistance may have been towards, say, Ukranians or Poles.

Of course I'm not sure it's necessarily a relevant point, as I don't know if the Nazis enacted scorched earth on their own territory (by which I mean the 'greater Germany' that incorporated Austria, iirc Czechoslovakia, and a chunk of Poland). Occupied territories, sure.
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Re: How much effect did the Nazi's scorch earth policy actually helped them

Post by U.P. Cinnabar » 2018-03-27 02:49pm

They carried out scorched earth policies along the path of their retreat, all the way into Germany proper, IIRC.
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Re: How much effect did the Nazi's scorch earth policy actually helped them

Post by Patroklos » 2018-03-28 04:07am

Elheru Aran wrote:
2018-03-27 01:24pm
Re Russians assistance to occupied civilians-- once they entered German territory, the stats on that are going to skew badly because they couldn't care less about the Germans, and in fact pretty vindictively exacted their revenge for the German invasion. I wouldn't expect very much assistance from them towards German civilians until post-war, at the very least. Of course there's some debate about the extent of their retaliation, but I wouldn't expect it to be anywhere like what their assistance may have been towards, say, Ukranians or Poles.

Of course I'm not sure it's necessarily a relevant point, as I don't know if the Nazis enacted scorched earth on their own territory (by which I mean the 'greater Germany' that incorporated Austria, iirc Czechoslovakia, and a chunk of Poland). Occupied territories, sure.
Certainly you have a point above, with the additional point that a good bit of other territory they occupied included former Nazi allies. It should be noted that the vast majority of former German controlled territory that scorched earth was practiced upon that the Soviets occupied was either 1.) their own former territory occupied by their own citizens or 2.) third parties such as Poland.

I am not saying the Soviets did as much as they should for the civilian populations they occupied or recouped, but they certainly didn't do nothing overall and those efforts were certainly not negligible to overall warfighting resources.

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Re: How much effect did the Nazi's scorch earth policy actually helped them

Post by Sea Skimmer » 2018-04-01 12:29am

Doubt you'll find useful numbers on added casualties from lack of prepared shelter in Norway without visiting Russian archives in person. But in general German retrograde tactics were highly effective in WW2. But nothing anyone did anywhere in WW2 that I can think of compares to the true total destruction the Germans engaged in during the retreat to the Hindenburg line in 1917. They literally cut down every tree in another brilliant display of the incapacity of Imperial Germany to manage the political side of the war, and the bad press from this is a forgotten but meaningful contribution to why the US declared war when it did.

In general though merely destroying stuff isn't as effective a use of time and resources as massive boobytrapping campaigns, which the Germans became real experts on in WW2. And none of it matters if you don't have a rearguard force capable of inflicted an actual time delay on the advancing enemy, wanton destruction will rarely buy you much time on it's own.
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Re: How much effect did the Nazi's scorch earth policy actually helped them

Post by Sea Skimmer » 2018-04-01 12:37am

Elheru Aran wrote:
2018-03-27 01:24pm
Of course I'm not sure it's necessarily a relevant point, as I don't know if the Nazis enacted scorched earth on their own territory (by which I mean the 'greater Germany' that incorporated Austria, iirc Czechoslovakia, and a chunk of Poland). Occupied territories, sure.
Hitler ordered everything of industrial value in Germany destroyed along with the transport system and a fair number of other things, but field commanders typically refused to make even token efforts to carry out the campaign. In the battle of Berlin Hitler was actually talked out of imposing certain destruction orders that would have crippled the water supply of the city, but a fair bit was blown up anyway and the metro system flooded.

Hitler was all about destruction, he flat out said multiple times Germany deserved to be destroyed if it couldn't win the war and fully meant it. In fact his plan was not far from what the Morgenthau Plan amounted to being, reducing Germany to a farming level of existence, which in both cases would also mean much of the population starved to death since Germany couldn't possibly support its population off WW2 era domestic agriculture.
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