Partisan activity was not confined to German occupied Russia. It was also becoming a major problem to the Germans in western and southern Europe, where it was criminally supplied and organised from Britain and from the British headquarters in the Middle East. On 18th October, 1942, Hitler would issue what he called a sharp order requiring that sabotage troops of the British and their hirelings, whether in uniform or not, whether with or without arms, be killed to the last man in battle or in flight, or, if captured indirectly, handed over to the SS. British activities of this kind were merely the Russian methods under a different name: against both these a war of extermination must be fought.

                But partisan activity behind his lines was only the beginning of Hitler's troubles. The summer of 1942, which he had entered with such confidence, ended in disillusion. While the German armies in Russia were bombarding Leningrad and advancing, against increasing opposition, to the Caucasus, and while Rommel was consolidating his position in Egypt, a global strategy of counterattack was being devised between Washington, London, and Moscow, and at the beginning of winter the blows were delivered. In North Africa, at the beginning of November, the British Eighth Army launched its well prepared attack and won the great victory of El Alamein, the beginning of Rommel's doom. Thereafter the British advance into Libya was swift. In Russia, at the same time, General Paulus's 6th Army, having hammered in vain at Stalingrad, found itself exposed to Russian counterattack on both its flanks. Hitler requested Paulus not to withdraw and, in consequence, the whole 6th Army was surrounded and trapped between the Don River and the Volga River. Paulus attempted to break out, but was ordered by Hitler to stand firm. On 12th December an attempt to relieve 6th Army failed, and the siege began. Meanwhile, the other German objectives had not been reached. The Russians still held a base for their Black Sea Fleet; they still held Baku and its Caspian Sea oilfields; they still held Leningrad.

                Finally, the long feared blow from the west had fallen. On 8th November, immediately after Rommel's defeat in Egypt, the Angloamerican forces landed in Morocco and Algeria and seized Casablanca and Algiers. Admiral Darlan, the Vichy Minister Of Marine, who happened to be in Algiers, treacherously changed sides and ordered the French fleet in Toulon to come over. Hitler reacted at once. Operation Attila (see above, Directive 19) was put in force; Vichy France was occupied; and the French fleet, to avoid seizure by the Germans, was scuttled in Toulon harbour. Thanks to prompt measures, and Vichy compliance, the Germans were able to prevent the Allied seizure of Tunisia, towards which Rommel would retreat from Libya. But the whole balance of power in the Mediterranean Sea area was now changed -- and changed at a time when the Germans had been halted, surrounded, and frozen in the east.

                It was in these circumstances that Hitler issued his next Directive. It reflects his continued anxiety over the Balkans: the vulnerable flank which he had been obliged to close before undertaking his Russian campaign, and which, now that that campaign was in jeopardy, was exposed again.