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Hitler Prepares for the Western Front - Directive 51.

This page reproduces Hitler's Directive 51 - preparations for the anticipated invasion from the west. This involved the transfer of men and materials from the eastern front to the west, not because they were no longer needed there, but because the greater, and more immediate threat, was in the west.

Possibility of a Western Front

The Führer Headquarters

November 3, 1943

27 copies

Directive No. 51:

The hard and costly struggle against Bolshevism during the last two and a half years, which has involved the bulk of our military strength in the East, has demanded extreme exertions. The greatness of the danger and the general situation demanded it. But the situation has since changed. The danger in the East remains, but a greater danger now appears in the West; an Anglo-Saxon landing! In the East, the vast extent of the territory makes it possible for us to lose ground, even on a large scale, without a fatal blow being dealt to the nervous system of Germany.

It is very different in the West! Should the enemy succeed in breaching our defences on a wide front here, the immediate consequences would be unpredictable. Everything indicates that the enemy will launch an offensive against the Western front of Europe, at the latest in the spring, perhaps even earlier.

I can therefore no longer take responsibility for further weakening the West, in favour of other theatres of war. I have therefore decided to reinforce its defences, particularly those places from which the long-range bombardment of England will begin. For it is here that the enemy must and will attack, and it is here -- unless all indications are misleading -- that the decisive battle against the landing forces will be fought.

Holding and diversionary attacks are to be expected on other fronts. A large-scale attack on Denmark is also not out of the question. From a naval point of view such an attack would be more difficult to deliver, nor could it be as effectively supported by air, but if successful, its political and operational repercussions would be very great.

At the beginning of the battle the whole offensive strength of the enemy is bound to be thrown against our forces holding the coast-line. Only by intensive construction, which means straining our available manpower and materials at home and in the occupied territories to the limit, can we strengthen our coastal defences in the short time which probably remains.

The ground weapons which will shortly reach Denmark and the occupied areas in the West (heavy anti-tank guns, immobile tanks to be sunk in emplacements, coastal artillery, artillery against landing troops, mines, etc.) will be concentrated at strong-points in the most threatened areas on the coast. Because of this we must face the fact that the defences of less threatened sectors cannot be improved in the near future.

Should the enemy, by assembling all his forces, succeed in landing, he must be met with a counterattack delivered with all our weight. The problem will be by the rapid concentration of adequate forces and material, and by intensive training, to form the large units available to us into an offensive reserve of high fighting quality, attacking power, and mobility, whose counterattack will prevent the enemy from exploiting the landing, and throw him back into the sea.

Moreover, careful and detailed emergency plans must he drawn up so that everything we have in Germany, and in the coastal areas which have not been attacked, and which is in any way capable of action, is hurled immediately against the invading enemy.

The Luftwaffe and Navy must go into action against the heavy attacks which we must expect by air and sea with all the forces at their disposal, regardless of the losses.

I therefore order as follows:

A. Army

1. The Chief of the Army General Staff and the Inspector General of Panzer Troops will submit to me without delay a plan for the distribution, within the next three months, of weapons, tanks, self-propelled guns, motor vehicles, and ammunition on the Western front and in Denmark, in accordance with the requirements of the new situation.

The plan will rest on the following basic principles:

(a) All Panzer and Panzer Grenadier divisions in the West will be assured of adequate mobility, and each will be equipped with 93 Mark IV tanks or self-propelled guns, and with strong anti-tank weapons by the end of December 1943.

The 20th Luftwaffe Field Division will be converted into an effective mobile offensive formation by the allocation of self-propelled artillery before the end of 1943.

SS Panzer Grenadier Division "HJ" [Hitler Youth], 21st Panzer Division, and the infantry and reserve divisions stationed in Jutland will be brought up to full armed strength with speed.

(b) There will be a further reinforcement with Mk. IV self-propelled guns and heavy anti-tank guns of Panzer divisions in reserve in the West and in Denmark, and of the self-propelled artillery training unit in Denmark.

(c) A monthly allocation of a hundred heavy anti-tank guns Mks. 40 and 43 (of which half will be mobile), for the months of November and December, in addition to the heavy anti-tank guns, will be made to the newly raised formations in the West.

(d) An increased allocation of weapons (including about 1,000 machine guns) will be made to improve the equipment of ground forces engaged in coastal defense in the West and in Denmark, and to coordinate the equipment of units which are to be withdrawn from sectors not under attack.

(e) A liberal supply of short-range anti-tank weapons will be granted to formations stationed in threatened areas.

(f) The firepower in artillery and anti-tank guns of formations stationed in Denmark, and on the coasts of occupied territories in the West, will be increased, and Army artillery will be strengthened.

2. No units or formations stationed in the West and in Denmark, nor any of the newly raised self-propelled armoured artillery or anti-tank units in the West, will be withdrawn to other fronts without my approval.

The Chief of the Army General Staff and the Inspector General of Panzer Troops will report to me, through the High Command of the Armed Forces (Operations Staff), when the equipment of armoured units, self-propelled artillery units, and light anti-tank units and companies is complete.

3. Commander-in-Chief West will decide which additional formations from sectors of the front that have not been under attack can be moved up and made capable of an offensive role, by a timetable of exercises in the field and similar training measures. In this connection, I insist that areas unlikely to be threatened should be ruthlessly stripped of all except the smallest forces essential for guard duties. In areas from which these reserves are drawn, units will be formed from security and emergency forces for duties of surveillance and protection. Our labour units employed on construction will open the lines of communication which will probably be destroyed by the enemy, employing for this the help of the local population on an extensive scale.

4. The Commander of German troops in Denmark will adopt the measures outlined in paragraph 3 for the area under his command.

5. The Chief of Army Equipment and Commander of the Replacement Army will raise battle groups of regimental strength in the Home Defence area from training depots, troops under instruction, army schools, training battalions and recuperative establishments. These will form security and engineer-construction battalions, and will be ready, on receipt of special orders, to move within forty-eight hours of being called up.

In addition, all further personnel available will be incorporated in infantry units and equipped with such weapons as are available, so that they may immediately replace the heavy casualties to be expected.

B. Luftwaffe

In view of the new situation, the offensive and defensive power of formations of the Luftwaffe stationed in the West and in Denmark will be increased. Plans will be drawn up to ensure that all forces available and suitable for defensive operations will be taken from flying units and mobile anti-aircraft artillery units engaged in Home defence, from schools and training units in the Home Defence area, and will be employed in the West, and if necessary in Denmark.

Ground establishments in Southern Norway, Denmark, Northwestern Germany, and the West will be organised and supplied so that, by the largest possible degree of decentralisation, our own units are not exposed to enemy bombing at the beginning of large-scale operations, and the weight of the enemy attack will be effectively broken up. This applies particularly to our fighter forces, whose ability to go into action must be increased by the establishment of a number of emergency airfields. Particular attention will be paid to good camouflage. In this connection also I expect all possible forces to be made available for action regardless of the circumstances, by stripping less threatened areas of their troops.

C. Navy

The Navy will draw up plans for bringing into action naval forces capable of attacking the enemy landing fleet with all their strength. Coastal defences under construction will be completed with all possible speed, and the establishment of additional coastal batteries and the laying of further obstacles on the flanks will be considered.

Preparations will be made for the employment of all ranks capable of fighting, from schools, training establishments, and other land establishments, so that they may be deployed with the least possible delay, if only on security duties, in the battle area where enemy landings have taken place.

In the naval plans for strengthening defences in the West, special attention will be given to defence against the enemy landing in Norway or Denmark. In this connection, I attach particular importance to plans for using large numbers of submarines in the northern sea areas. A temporary diminution of submarine forces in the Atlantic must be accepted.


The ReichsFuehrer SS will test the preparedness of units of the Waffen SS and Police for operational, security, and guard duties. Preparations will be made to raise battle-trained formations for operational and security duties from training, reserve and recuperative establishments, and from schools and other units in the Home Defence Area.

E. Commanders-in-Chief of the branches of the Armed Forces, the ReichsFuehrer SS, the Chief of the Army General Staff, Commander-in-Chief West, the Chief of Army Equipment and Commanding General of Replacement Army, the Inspector-General of Panzer Troops, and the Commander of German troops in Denmark will report to me by the 15th November the steps taken, and those which they propose to take.

I expect all staffs concerned to exert every effort during the time which still remains in preparation for the expected decisive battle in the West.

All those responsible will ensure that time and manpower are not wasted in dealing with questions of jurisdiction, but that they are employed in increasing our powers of defence and attack.


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