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Operation Barbarossa (german: link=no, Unternehmen Barbarossa), also known as the German invasion of the Soviet Union, was the
code name A code name, call sign or cryptonym is a code word In communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an apparent answer to the painful divisions between self and other, private a ...
for the invasion of the
Soviet Union The Soviet Union,. officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. (USSR),. was a that spanned during its existence from 1922 to 1991. It was nominally a of multiple national ; in practice and were highly until its final years. The ...
by
Nazi Germany Nazi Germany, (lit. "National Socialist State"), ' (lit. "Nazi State") for short; also ' (lit. "National Socialist Germany") officially known as the German Reich from 1933 until 1943, and the Greater German Reich from 1943 to 1945, was ...

Nazi Germany
and some of its Axis allies, which started on Sunday, 22 June 1941, during
World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved —including all of the great powers—forming two opposing s: the and the . In a total war directly involving m ...
. The operation was named after
Frederick Barbarossa Frederick Barbarossa (german: Friedrich I., it, Federico I; 1122 – 10 June 1190), also known as Frederick I, was the Holy Roman Emperor from 1155 until his death 35 years later. He was elected King of Germany at Frankfurt am Main, Frankfurt on ...
("red beard"), a 12th-century
Holy Roman emperor The Holy Roman Emperor, originally and officially the Emperor of the Romans ( la, Imperator The Latin word "imperator" derives from the stem of the verb la, imperare, label=none, meaning 'to order, to command'. It was originally employed as ...
and German king. The operation put into action Nazi Germany's ideological goal of conquering the western Soviet Union to repopulate it with
Germans Germans (, ) are the natives or inhabitants of Germany ) , image_map = , map_caption = , map_width = 250px , capital = Berlin , coordinates = , largest_city = capital , languages_type = Official language , languages = German lan ...
. The German aimed to use some of the conquered people as
slave labour Slavery and enslavement are both the state and the condition of being a slave, who is someone forbidden to quit their service for another person (a slaver), while treated as property. Slavery typically involves the enslaved person being made ...
for the Axis war effort while acquiring the oil reserves of the
Caucasus The Caucasus (), or Caucasia (), is a region spanning Europe Europe is a which is also recognised as part of , located entirely in the and mostly in the . It comprises the westernmost peninsulas of the of Eurasia, it shares the contin ...
as well as the agricultural resources of various Soviet territories. Their ultimate goal included the eventual extermination, enslavement,
Germanization Germanisation, or Germanization, is the spread of the German language The German language (, ) is a West Germanic language mainly spoken in Central Europe. It is the most widely spoken and official or co-official language in Germany, Austri ...
and mass deportation to
Siberia Siberia (; rus, Сибирь, r=Sibir', p=sʲɪˈbʲirʲ, a=Ru-Сибирь.ogg) is an extensive geographical region spanning much of Northern Asia. Siberia has been Russian conquest of Siberia, part of modern Russia since the latter half of th ...

Siberia
of the
Slavic peoples Slavs are an ethno-linguistic group An ethnolinguistic group (or ethno-linguistic group) is a group that is unified by both a common ethnicity and language. Most ethnic groups share a first language. However, the term is often used to emphasise ...

Slavic peoples
, and to create more (living space) for Germany. In the two years leading up to the invasion, Germany and the Soviet Union signed political and economic pacts for strategic purposes. Following the
Soviet occupation of Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina The Soviet occupation of Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina took place from June 28 to July 4, 1940, as a result of the ultimatum An ultimatum (; ) is a demand whose fulfillment is requested in a specified period of time and which is backed up ...
, the German High Command began planning an invasion of the Soviet Union in July 1940 (under the codename Operation Otto), which
Adolf Hitler Adolf Hitler (; 20 April 188930 April 1945) was an Austrian-born German politician who was the dictator , the Kingdom of Italy, Italian dictator from 1922 to 1943 and Adolf Hitler, the Nazi Germany, German dictator from 1933 to 1945 A di ...

Adolf Hitler
authorized on 18 December 1940. Over the course of the operation, over 3.8 million personnel of the Axis powers—the largest invasion force in the
history of warfare Military history is a humanities List of academic disciplines, discipline within the scope of History, general historical recording of War, armed conflict in the Human history, history of humanity, and its impact on the societies, cultures and e ...
—invaded the western Soviet Union along a front, with 600,000 motor vehicles and over 600,000 horses for non-combat operations. The offensive marked a massive escalation of World War II, both geographically and in the formation of the Allied coalition including the Soviet Union. The operation opened up the
Eastern FrontEastern Front may refer to: * Eastern Front (World War I) * Eastern Front (World War II) * Eastern Front (Turkey), of the Turkish War of Independence ** Turkish–Armenian War, often referred to by itself as the Eastern Front * Eastern Front (Sudan) ...
, in which more forces were committed than in any other theater of war in history. The area saw some of the world's largest battles, most horrific atrocities, and highest
casualties A casualty, as a term in military A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfare War is an intense armed conflict between State (polity), states, ...
(for Soviet and Axis forces alike), all of which influenced the course of World War II and the subsequent history of the 20th century. The German armies eventually captured some five million Soviet
Red Army The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army,) frequently shortened to Red Army, was the army and air force of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic The Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (Russian SFSR or RSFSR; rus, links= ...
troops. The Nazis deliberately starved to death or otherwise killed 3.3 million Soviet prisoners of war, and a vast number of civilians, as the "
Hunger Plan The Hunger Plan (german: der Hungerplan; der Backe-Plan) was a plan developed by Nazi Nazism (), officially National Socialism (german: Nationalsozialismus; ), is the ideology An ideology () is a set of beliefs or philosophies attributed ...
" worked to solve German food shortages and
exterminate the Slavic population
exterminate the Slavic population
through starvation.
Mass shootings A mass shooting is an incident involving multiple victims of gun violence. There is no widely accepted definition of the term ''mass shooting''. The United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U. ...
and gassing operations, carried out by the Nazis or willing collaborators, murdered over a million
Soviet Jews The history of the Jews in the Soviet Union is inextricably linked to much earlier Expansionism, expansionist policies of the Russian Empire conquering and ruling the eastern half of the European continent already before the Bolshevik Revolution of ...
as part of
the Holocaust The Holocaust, also known as the Shoah, was the genocide Genocide is the attempted destruction of a people, usually defined as an ethnic An ethnic group or ethnicity is a grouping of people who identity (social science), identify wi ...
. The failure of Operation Barbarossa reversed the fortunes of
Nazi Germany Nazi Germany, (lit. "National Socialist State"), ' (lit. "Nazi State") for short; also ' (lit. "National Socialist Germany") officially known as the German Reich from 1933 until 1943, and the Greater German Reich from 1943 to 1945, was ...

Nazi Germany
. Operationally, German forces achieved significant victories and occupied some of the most important economic areas of the Soviet Union (mainly in
Ukraine Ukraine ( uk, Україна, Ukraïna, ) is a country in . It is the in Europe after , which it borders to the east and north-east. Ukraine also shares borders with to the north; , , and to the west; and to the south; and has a coastli ...
) and inflicted, as well as sustained, heavy casualties. Despite these early successes, the German offensive stalled in the
Battle of Moscow The Battle of Moscow was a military campaign that consisted of two periods of strategically significant fighting on a sector of the Eastern Front (World War II), Eastern Front during World War II. It took place between October 1941 and Januar ...

Battle of Moscow
at the end of 1941, and the subsequent Soviet winter counteroffensive pushed the Germans about 250 km back. The Germans had confidently expected a quick collapse of Soviet resistance as in
Poland Poland, officially the Republic of Poland, is a country located in Central Europe. It is divided into 16 Voivodeships of Poland, administrative provinces, covering an area of , and has a largely Temperate climate, temperate seasonal cli ...
, but the Red Army absorbed the German ''
Wehrmacht The ''Wehrmacht'' (, ) was the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the German Army (1935–1945), ''Heer'' (army), the ''Kriegsmarine'' (navy) and the ''Luftwaffe'' (air force). The designation "''Wehrmacht ...
''s strongest blows and bogged it down in a
war of attrition The War of Attrition ( ar, حرب الاستنزاف, Ḥarb al-Istinzāf; he, מלחמת ההתשה, Milhemet haHatashah) involved fighting between Israel and Egypt, Jordan, the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and their allies from 1 ...
for which the Germans were unprepared. The ''Wehrmacht''s diminished forces could no longer attack along the entire Eastern Front, and subsequent operations to retake the initiative and drive deep into Soviet territory—such as
Case Blue Case Blue (german: Fall Blau) was the German Armed Forces The ''Bundeswehr'' (, meaning literally: ''Federal Defence'') is the unified armed forces of Germany and their civil administration and procurement authorities. The states of Germany ...
in 1942 and
Operation Citadel Operation Citadel (german: Unternehmen Zitadelle) was a German offensive operation against Soviet Union, Soviet forces in the Kursk salient during the World War II, Second World War on the Eastern Front (World War II), Eastern Front that initiat ...
in 1943—eventually failed, which resulted in the ''Wehrmacht''s retreat and collapse.


Background


Racial policies of Nazi Germany

As early as 1925,
Adolf Hitler Adolf Hitler (; 20 April 188930 April 1945) was an Austrian-born German politician who was the dictator , the Kingdom of Italy, Italian dictator from 1922 to 1943 and Adolf Hitler, the Nazi Germany, German dictator from 1933 to 1945 A di ...

Adolf Hitler
vaguely declared in his political manifesto and autobiography ''
Mein Kampf (; ''My Struggle'' or ''My Fight'') is a 1925 autobiographical manifesto by Nazi Party leader Adolf Hitler. The work describes the process by which Hitler became antisemitic and outlines his political ideology and future plans for Ger ...
'' that he would invade the
Soviet Union The Soviet Union,. officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. (USSR),. was a that spanned during its existence from 1922 to 1991. It was nominally a of multiple national ; in practice and were highly until its final years. The ...
, asserting that the German people needed to secure ('living space') to ensure the survival of Germany for generations to come. On 10 February 1939, Hitler told his army commanders that the next war would be "purely a war of worldviews'nbsp;... totally a people's war, a racial war". On 23 November, once World War II had already started, Hitler declared that "racial war has broken out and this war shall determine who shall govern Europe, and with it, the world". The
racial policy of Nazi Germany The racial policy of Nazi Germany was a set of policies and laws implemented in Nazi Germany Nazi Germany, (lit. "National Socialist State"), ' (lit. "Nazi State") for short; also ' (lit. "National Socialist Germany") officially known as ...
portrayed the Soviet Union (and all of Eastern Europe) as populated by non-Aryan ('sub-humans'), ruled by
Jewish Bolshevik Jewish Bolshevism, also Judeo–Bolshevism, is an anti-communist and antisemitic canard, which alleges that the Jews were the originators of the Russian Revolution in 1917, and that they held primary power among the Bolsheviks who led the revolu ...
conspirators. Hitler claimed in ''Mein Kampf'' that Germany's destiny was to " turn to the East" as it did "six hundred years ago" (see ). Accordingly, it was a partially secret but well-documented Nazi policy to kill, deport, or enslave the majority of Russian and other Slavic populations and repopulate the land with Germanic peoples, under the
Generalplan Ost The ''Generalplan Ost'' (; en, Master Plan for the East), abbreviated GPO, was the Nazi German Nazi Germany, (lit. "National Socialist State"), ' (lit. "Nazi State") for short; also ' (lit. "National Socialist Germany") officially known ...

Generalplan Ost
. The Nazis' belief in their ethnic superiority pervades official records and
pseudoscientific Pseudoscience consists of statements, beliefs, or practices that claim to be both scientific and factual but are incompatible with the scientific method. Pseudoscience is often characterized by contradictory, exaggerated or falsifiability, un ...
articles in German periodicals, on topics such as "how to deal with alien populations". While older histories tended to emphasize the myth of the "clean ''Wehrmacht''", upholding its honor in the face of Hitler's fanaticism, the historian Jürgen Förster notes that "In fact, the military commanders were caught up in the ideological character of the conflict, and involved in its implementation as willing participants." Before and during the invasion of the Soviet Union, German troops were heavily indoctrinated with
anti-Bolshevik Anti-communism is a political movement and ideology opposed to communism. Organized anti-communism developed after the 1917 October Revolution in Russia and it reached global dimensions during the Cold War, when the United States The ...
,
anti-Semitic Antisemitism (also spelled anti-semitism or anti-Semitism) is hostility to, prejudice, or discrimination against Jews. A person who holds such positions is called an antisemite. Antisemitism is generally considered to be a form of racism. A ...
, and anti-Slavic ideology via movies, radio, lectures, books, and leaflets. Likening the Soviets to the forces of
Genghis Khan ''Chinggis Khaan'' ͡ʃʰiŋɡɪs xaːŋbr>Mongol script The classical or traditional Mongolian script, also known as the , was the first Mongolian alphabet, writing system created specifically for the Mongolian language, and was the most ...

Genghis Khan
, Hitler told
Croatia , image_flag = Flag of Croatia.svg , image_coat = Coat of arms of Croatia.svg , anthem = "Lijepa naša domovino ''Lijepa naša domovino'' (; ) is the national anthem A national anthem is a song that ...

Croatia
n military leader
Slavko Kvaternik Slavko Kvaternik (25 August 1878 – 7 June 1947) was an Croatian Ustaše military general and politician who was one of the founders of the Ustaša movement. Kvaternik was military commander and Minister of ''Croatian Home Guard (Independent Sta ...
that the "Mongolian race" threatened Europe. Following the invasion, many ''Wehrmacht'' officers told their soldiers to target people who were described as "Jewish Bolshevik subhumans", the "Mongol hordes", the "Asiatic flood", and the "Red beast". Nazi propaganda portrayed the war against the Soviet Union as both an ideological war between German National Socialism and Jewish Bolshevism, and a racial war between the disciplined Germans and the Jewish, Gypsy, and Slavic . An 'order from the Führer' stated that the paramilitary SS , which closely followed the ''Wehrmacht''s advance, were to execute all Soviet functionaries who were "less valuable Asiatics, Gypsies and Jews". Six months into the invasion of the Soviet Union, the had already murdered in excess of 500,000 Soviet Jews, a figure greater than the number of Red Army soldiers killed in combat during that time. German army commanders cast the Jews as the major cause behind the " partisan struggle". The main guideline for German troops was "Where there's a partisan, there's a Jew, and where there's a Jew, there's a partisan", or "The partisan is where the Jew is". Many German troops viewed the war in Nazi terms and regarded their Soviet enemies as sub-human. After the war began, the Nazis issued a ban on sexual relations between Germans and foreign slave workers. There were regulations enacted against the ('Eastern workers') that included the death penalty for sexual relations with a German.
Heinrich Himmler Heinrich Luitpold Himmler (; 7 October 1900 – 23 May 1945) was of the (Protection Squadron; SS), and a leading member of the Nazi Party The Nazi Party, officially the National Socialist German Workers' Party (german: Nationa ...
, in his secret memorandum, ''Reflections on the Treatment of Peoples of Alien Races in the East'' (dated 25 May 1940), outlined the Nazi plans for the non-German populations in the East. Himmler believed the
Germanization Germanisation, or Germanization, is the spread of the German language The German language (, ) is a West Germanic language mainly spoken in Central Europe. It is the most widely spoken and official or co-official language in Germany, Austri ...
process in Eastern Europe would be complete when "in the East dwell only men with truly German, Germanic blood". The Nazi secret plan ('General Plan for the East'), prepared in 1941 and confirmed in 1942, called for a "new order of ethnographical relations" in the territories occupied by Nazi Germany in Eastern Europe. It envisaged
ethnic cleansing Ethnic cleansing is the systematic forced removal of ethnic, racial, and religious groups from a given area, with the intent of making a region ethnically homogeneous Homogeneity and heterogeneity are concepts often used in the sciences ...
, executions, and enslavement of the populations of conquered countries, with very small percentages undergoing Germanization, expulsion into the depths of Russia, or other fates, while the conquered territories would be Germanized. The plan had two parts: the ('small plan'), which covered actions to be taken during the war, and the ('large plan'), which covered policies after the war was won, to be implemented gradually over 25 to 30 years. A speech given by General
Erich Hoepner Erich Kurt Richard Hoepner (14 September 1886 – 8 August 1944) was a German general during World War II. An early proponent of mechanisation and armoured warfare, he was a Wehrmacht army corps commander at the beginning of the war, leading his ...

Erich Hoepner
demonstrates the dissemination of the Nazi racial plan, as he informed the
4th Panzer Group The 4th Panzer Army (german: 4. Panzerarmee) (operating as Panzer Group 4 (german: 4. Panzergruppe) from its formation on 15 February 1941 to 1 January 1942, when it was redesignated as a full army) was a German panzer formation during World War ...
that the war against the Soviet Union was "an essential part of the German people's struggle for existence" (), also referring to the imminent battle as the "old struggle of Germans against Slavs" and even stated, "the struggle must aim at the annihilation of today's Russia and must, therefore, be waged with unparalleled harshness". Hoepner also added that the Germans were fighting for "the defense of European culture against Moscovite–Asiatic inundation, and the repulse of Jewish Bolshevism ... No adherents of the present Russian-Bolshevik system are to be spared."
Walther von Brauchitsch Walther Heinrich Alfred Hermann von Brauchitsch (4 October 1881 – 18 October 1948) was a German Field Marshal (Germany), field marshal and the Commander-in-Chief (''Oberbefehlshaber'') of the German Army (Wehrmacht), German Army during World W ...
also told his subordinates that troops should view the war as a "struggle between two different races and houldact with the necessary severity". Racial motivations were central to Nazi ideology and played a key role in planning for Operation Barbarossa since both Jews and communists were considered equivalent enemies of the Nazi state. Nazi imperialist ambitions rejected the common humanity of both groups, declaring the supreme struggle for to be a ('war of annihilation').


German-Soviet relations of 1939–40

In August 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union signed a non-aggression pact in Moscow known as the
Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact , long_name = , image = Bundesarchiv Bild 183-H27337, Moskau, Stalin und Ribbentrop im Kreml.jpg , image_width = 200 , caption = Joseph Stalin, Stalin and Joachim von Ribbentrop, Ribbentrop shaking hands after the signing of the pact in the Mos ...
. A secret protocol to the pact outlined an agreement between Germany and the Soviet Union on the division of the eastern European border states between their respective "
spheres of influence In the field of international relations, a sphere of influence (SOI) is a spatial region or concept division over which a state or organization has a level of cultural, economic, military, or political exclusivity. While there may be a formal al ...

spheres of influence
": the Soviet Union and Germany would partition Poland in the event of an invasion by Germany, and the Soviets would be allowed to overrun the Baltic states and
Finland Finland ( fi, Suomi ; sv, Finland ), officially the Republic of Finland (; ), is a Nordic country in Northern Europe. It shares land borders with Sweden to the west, Russia to the east, Norway to the north, and is defined by the Gulf of B ...

Finland
. On 23 August 1939 the rest of the world learned of this pact but were unaware of the provisions to partition Poland. The pact stunned the world because of the parties' earlier mutual hostility and their conflicting
ideologies An ideology () is a set of belief A belief is an attitude Attitude may refer to: Philosophy and psychology * Attitude (psychology) In psychology Psychology is the science of mind and behavior. Psychology includes the study of co ...
. The conclusion of this pact was followed by the
German invasion of Poland The Invasion of Poland, also known as September campaign ( pl, Kampania wrześniowa), 1939 defensive war ( pl, Wojna obronna 1939 roku) and Poland campaign (german: Überfall auf Polen, Polenfeldzug), was an attack on the Second Polish Republic ...
on 1 September that triggered the outbreak of
World War II in Europe The European theatre of World War II was the main theatre of combat during World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a World war, global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved W ...
, then the
Soviet invasion of Poland The Soviet invasion of Poland was a military operation by the Soviet Union The Soviet Union,. officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. (USSR),. was a Federalism, federal socialist state in Northern Eurasia that existed from 1922 t ...
that led to the annexation of the eastern part of the country. As a result of the pact, Germany and the Soviet Union maintained reasonably strong diplomatic relations for two years and fostered an important economic relationship. The countries entered a trade pact in 1940 by which the Soviets received German military equipment and trade goods in exchange for raw materials, such as oil and wheat, to help the Nazis
war effort In politics Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with making decisions In psychology, decision-making (also spelled decision making and decisionmaking) is regarded as the Cognition, cognitive process resulting in ...
by circumventing the British
blockade of Germany The Blockade of Germany, or the Blockade of Europe, occurred from 1914 to 1919. It was a prolonged naval operation conducted by the Triple-Entente powers during and after World War I World War I or the First World War, often abbreviat ...
. Despite the parties' ostensibly cordial relations, each side was highly suspicious of the other's intentions. For instance, the Soviet invasion of
Bukovina Bukovina ro, Bucovina; german: Bukowina or ; pl, Bukowina; hu, Bukovina; uk, Буковина, ; see also other languages Other most often refers to: * Other (philosophy), a concept in psychology and philosophy Other or The Other may also r ...

Bukovina
in June 1940 went beyond their sphere of influence as agreed with Germany. After Germany entered the Axis Pact with Japan and Italy, it began negotiations about a potential Soviet entry into the pact. After two days of negotiations in Berlin from 12 to 14 November 1940, Germany presented a written proposal for a Soviet entry into the Axis. On 25 November 1940, the Soviet Union offered a written counter-proposal to join the Axis if Germany would agree to refrain from interference in the Soviet Union's sphere of influence, but Germany did not respond. As both sides began colliding with each other in Eastern Europe, conflict appeared more likely, although they did sign a border and commercial agreement addressing several open issues in January 1941. According to historian Robert Service,
Joseph Stalin ( – 5 March 1953) was a Georgians, Georgian revolutionary and Soviet political leader who governed the Soviet Union from 1924 until his death in 1953. He held power both as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (1922–1952 ...
was convinced that the overall military strength of the USSR was such that he had nothing to fear and anticipated an easy victory should Germany attack; moreover, Stalin believed that since the Germans were still fighting the British in the west, Hitler would be unlikely to open up a two front war and subsequently delayed the reconstruction of defensive fortifications in the border regions. When German soldiers swam across the
Bug River uk, Західний Буг be, Захо́дні Буг , name_etymology = , image = Wyszkow_Bug.jpg , image_size = 250 , image_caption = Bug River in the vicinity of Wyszków Wyszków (; yi, ווישקאָו ...
to warn the
Red Army The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army,) frequently shortened to Red Army, was the army and air force of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic The Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (Russian SFSR or RSFSR; rus, links= ...
of an impending attack, they were treated like enemy agents and shot. Some historians believe that Stalin, despite providing an amicable front to Hitler, did not wish to remain allies with Germany. Rather, Stalin might have had intentions to break off from Germany and proceed with his own campaign against Germany to be followed by one against the rest of Europe.


German invasion plans

Stalin's reputation as a brutal dictator contributed both to the Nazis' justification of their assault and their faith in success; many competent and experienced military officers had been killed in the
Great Purge The Great Purge or the Great Terror (russian: Большой террор), also known as the Year of '37 (russian: 37-ой год, translit=Tridtsat sedmoi god, label=none) and the Yezhovshchina ('period of Nikolay Yezhov, Yezhov'), was Gene ...
of the 1930s, leaving the Red Army with a relatively inexperienced leadership compared to that of their German adversary. The Nazis often emphasized the Soviet regime's brutality when targeting the Slavs with propaganda. They also claimed that the Red Army was preparing to attack the Germans, and their own invasion was thus presented as a pre-emptive strike. In the middle of 1940, following the rising tension between the Soviet Union and Germany over territories in the Balkans, an eventual invasion of the Soviet Union seemed the only solution to Hitler. While no concrete plans had yet been made, Hitler told one of his generals in June that the victories in Western Europe finally freed his hands for a showdown with Bolshevism. With the successful end to the campaign in France, General
Erich Marcks Erich Marcks (6 June 1891 – 12 June 1944) was a German general in the Wehrmacht The ''Wehrmacht'' (, ) was the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the German Army (1935–1945), ''Heer'' (army), the ''K ...

Erich Marcks
was assigned the task of drawing up the initial invasion plans of the
Soviet Union The Soviet Union,. officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. (USSR),. was a that spanned during its existence from 1922 to 1991. It was nominally a of multiple national ; in practice and were highly until its final years. The ...
. The first battle plans were entitled ''Operation Draft East'' (colloquially known as the ''Marcks Plan''). His report advocated the
A-A line The Arkhangelsk–Astrakhan line, or A–A line for short, was the military goal of Operation Barbarossa. It is also known as the Volga–Arkhangelsk line, as well as (more rarely) the Volga–Arkhangelsk–Astrakhan line. It was first mentioned ...
as the operational objective of any invasion of the Soviet Union. This assault would extend from the northern city of
Arkhangelsk Arkhangelsk (, ; rus, Арха́нгельск, p=ɐrˈxanɡʲɪlʲsk), also known in English as Archangel and Archangelsk, is a city A city is a large human settlement.Goodall, B. (1987) ''The Penguin Dictionary of Human Geography''. London: P ...
on the
Arctic Sea The Arctic Ocean is the smallest and shallowest of the world's five major ocean The ocean (also the sea or the world ocean) is the body of salt water which covers approximately 71% of the surface of the Earth.Gorky
Gorky
and
Rostov Rostov ( rus, Ростов, p=rɐˈstof) is a types of inhabited localities in Russia, town in Yaroslavl Oblast, Russia, one of the oldest in the country and a tourist center of the Golden Ring of Russia, Golden Ring. It is located on the shore ...
to the port city of
Astrakhan Astrakhan ( rus, Астрахань, p=ˈastrəxənʲ), is the largest city and administrative centreAn administrative centre is a seat of regional administration or local government, or a county town, or the place where the central administration ...

Astrakhan
at the mouth of the
Volga The Volga (; russian: Во́лга, a=Ru-Волга.ogg, p=ˈvoɫɡə) is the longest river in Europe Europe is a continent A continent is any of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention ra ...

Volga
on the
Caspian Sea The Caspian Sea (also known as Mazandaran Sea, Hyrcanian Ocean, or Khazar Sea), tk, Hazar deňzi, az, Xəzər Dənizi, russian: Каспийское море, script=Latn, fa, دریای مازندران، دریای خزر, script=Latn, tly, ...

Caspian Sea
. The report concluded that—once established—this military border would reduce the threat to Germany from attacks by enemy
bombers A bomber is a combat aircraft designed to attack ground and naval targets by dropping air-to-ground weaponry (such as bombs), launching torpedoes, or deploying air-launched cruise missiles. The first use of bombs dropped from an aircraft occu ...

bombers
. Although Hitler was warned by his general staff that occupying "Western Russia" would create "more of a drain than a relief for Germany's economic situation", he anticipated compensatory benefits, such as the
demobilization Demobilization or demobilisation (see spelling differences Despite the various English dialects Dialect The term dialect (from Latin , , from the Ancient Greek word , , "discourse", from , , "through" and , , "I speak") is used in two ...
of entire divisions to relieve the acute
labor shortage 250px, thumbnail, A 2014 image of product shortages in Venezuela. In economics Economics () is the social science that studies how people interact with value; in particular, the Production (economics), production, distribution (econom ...
in German industry; the exploitation of
Ukraine Ukraine ( uk, Україна, Ukraïna, ) is a country in . It is the in Europe after , which it borders to the east and north-east. Ukraine also shares borders with to the north; , , and to the west; and to the south; and has a coastli ...

Ukraine
as a reliable and immense source of agricultural products; the use of
forced labor Forced labour, or unfree labour, is any work relation, especially in modern history, modern or Early Modern period, early modern history, in which people are employed against their will with the threat of poverty, destitution, detention (impri ...
to stimulate Germany's overall economy; and the expansion of territory to improve Germany's efforts to isolate the United Kingdom. Hitler was convinced that Britain would sue for peace once the Germans triumphed in the Soviet Union, and if they did not, he would use the resources available in the East to defeat the
British Empire The British Empire was composed of the dominions, Crown colony, colonies, protectorates, League of Nations mandate, mandates, and other Dependent territory, territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom and its predecessor states. ...

British Empire
. On 5 December 1940, Hitler received the final military plans for the invasion on which the German High Command had been working since July 1940 under the codename "Operation Otto". Hitler, however, was dissatisfied with these plans and on 18 December issued Führer Directive 21, which called for a new battle plan, now code-named "Operation Barbarossa". The operation was named after medieval Emperor
Frederick Barbarossa Frederick Barbarossa (german: Friedrich I., it, Federico I; 1122 – 10 June 1190), also known as Frederick I, was the Holy Roman Emperor from 1155 until his death 35 years later. He was elected King of Germany at Frankfurt am Main, Frankfurt on ...
of the Holy Roman Empire, a leader of the Third Crusade in the 12th century. On 30 March 1941 the Barbarossa decree declared that the war would be one of extermination and advocated the eradication of all political and intellectual elites. The invasion was set for 15 May 1941, though it was delayed for over a month to allow for further preparations and possibly better weather. (See #Reasons for delay, Reasons for delay.) According to a 1978 essay by German historian Andreas Hillgruber, the invasion plans drawn up by the German military elite were coloured by hubris stemming from the rapid defeat of France at the hands of the "invincible" ''Wehrmacht'' and by traditional German stereotypes of Russia as a primitive, backward "Asiatic" country. Red Army soldiers were considered brave and tough, but the officer corps was held in contempt. The leadership of the ''Wehrmacht'' paid little attention to politics, culture, and the considerable industrial capacity of the Soviet Union, in favour of a very narrow military view. Hillgruber argued that because these assumptions were shared by the entire military elite, Hitler was able to push through with a "war of annihilation" that would be waged in the most inhumane fashion possible with the complicity of "several military leaders", even though it was quite clear that this would be in violation of all accepted norms of warfare. In autumn 1940, high-ranking German officials drafted a memorandum on the dangers of an invasion of the Soviet Union. They said Ukraine, Belorussia, and the Baltic States would end up as only a further economic burden for Germany. It was argued that the Soviets in their current bureaucratic form were harmless and that the occupation would not benefit Germany. Hitler disagreed with economists about the risks and told his right-hand man Hermann Göring, the chief of the ''Luftwaffe'', that he would no longer listen to misgivings about the economic dangers of a war with Russia. It is speculated that this was passed on to General Georg Thomas, who had produced reports that predicted a net economic drain for Germany in the event of an invasion of the Soviet Union unless its economy was captured intact and the Caucasus oilfields seized in the first blow; Thomas revised his future report to fit Hitler's wishes. The
Red Army The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army,) frequently shortened to Red Army, was the army and air force of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic The Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (Russian SFSR or RSFSR; rus, links= ...
's ineptitude in the Winter War against Finland in 1939–40 convinced Hitler of a quick victory within a few months. Neither Hitler nor the General Staff anticipated a long campaign lasting into the winter, and therefore adequate preparations, such as the distribution of warm clothing and winterization of vehicles and lubricants, were not made. Beginning in March 1941, Göring's Green Folder laid out details for the Soviet economy after conquest. The
Hunger Plan The Hunger Plan (german: der Hungerplan; der Backe-Plan) was a plan developed by Nazi Nazism (), officially National Socialism (german: Nationalsozialismus; ), is the ideology An ideology () is a set of beliefs or philosophies attributed ...
outlined how entire urban populations of conquered territories were to be starved to death, thus creating an agricultural surplus to feed Germany and urban space for the German upper class. Nazi policy aimed to destroy the Soviet Union as a political entity in accordance with the geopolitics, geopolitical ideals for the benefit of future generations of the "Nordicism, Nordic master race". In 1941, Nazi ideologue Alfred Rosenberg—later appointed Reich Minister of the Occupied Eastern Territories—suggested that conquered Soviet territory should be administered in the following ('Reich Commissionerships'): German military planners also researched French invasion of Russia, Napoleon's failed invasion of Russia. In their calculations, they concluded that there was little danger of a large-scale retreat of the Red Army into the Russian interior, as it could not afford to give up the Baltic states, Ukraine, or the Moscow and Leningrad regions, all of which were vital to the Red Army for supply reasons and would thus, have to be defended. Hitler and his generals disagreed on where Germany should focus its energy. Hitler, in many discussions with his generals, repeated his order of "Leningrad first, the Donbas second, Moscow third"; but he consistently emphasized the destruction of the Red Army over the achievement of specific terrain objectives. Hitler believed Moscow to be of "no great importance" in the defeat of the Soviet Union and instead believed victory would come with the destruction of the Red Army west of the capital, especially west of the Daugava (river), Western Dvina and Dnieper River, Dnieper rivers, and this pervaded the plan for Barbarossa. This belief later led to disputes between Hitler and several German senior officers, including Heinz Guderian, Gerhard Engel, Fedor von Bock and Franz Halder, who believed the decisive victory could only be delivered at Moscow. They were unable to sway Hitler, who had grown overconfident in his own military judgment as a result of the rapid successes in Western Europe.


German preparations

The Germans had begun massing troops near the Soviet border even before the Balkans Campaign (World War II), campaign in the Balkans had finished. By the third week of February 1941, 680,000 German soldiers were gathered in assembly areas on the Romanian-Soviet border. In preparation for the attack, Hitler had secretly moved upwards of 3 million German troops and approximately 690,000 Axis soldiers to the Soviet border regions. Additional ''Luftwaffe'' operations included numerous Reconnaissance, aerial surveillance missions over Soviet territory many months before the attack. Although the Soviet High Command was alarmed by this, Stalin's belief that Nazi Germany was unlikely to attack only two years after signing the
Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact , long_name = , image = Bundesarchiv Bild 183-H27337, Moskau, Stalin und Ribbentrop im Kreml.jpg , image_width = 200 , caption = Joseph Stalin, Stalin and Joachim von Ribbentrop, Ribbentrop shaking hands after the signing of the pact in the Mos ...
resulted in a slow Soviet preparation. This fact aside, the Soviets did not entirely overlook the threat of their German neighbor. Well before the German invasion, Marshal Semyon Timoshenko referred to the Germans as the Soviet Union's "most important and strongest enemy", and as early as July 1940, the Red Army Chief of Staff, Boris Shaposhnikov, produced a preliminary three-pronged plan of attack for what a German invasion might look like, remarkably similar to the actual attack. Since April 1941, the Germans had begun setting up Operation Haifisch and Operation Harpune to substantiate their claims that Britain was the real target. These simulated preparations in Norway and the English Channel coast included activities such as ship concentrations, reconnaissance flights and training exercises. The reasons for the postponement of Barbarossa from the initially planned date of 15 May to the actual invasion date of 22 June 1941 (a 38-day delay) are debated. The reason most commonly cited is the unforeseen contingency of Invasion of Yugoslavia, invading Yugoslavia and Battle of Greece, Greece in April 1941. Historian Thomas B. Buell indicates that Finland and Romania, which weren't involved in initial German planning, needed additional time to prepare to participate in the invasion. Buell adds that an unusually wet winter kept rivers at full flood until late spring. The floods may have discouraged an earlier attack, even if they occurred before the end of the Balkans Campaign.; ; ; The importance of the delay is still debated. William Shirer argued that Hitler's Balkan Campaign had delayed the commencement of Barbarossa by several weeks and thereby jeopardized it. Many later historians argue that the 22 June start date was sufficient for the German offensive to reach Moscow by September. Antony Beevor wrote in 2012 about the delay caused by German attacks in the Balkans that "most [historians] accept that it made little difference" to the eventual outcome of Barbarossa. The Germans deployed one independent regiment, one separate motorized training brigade and 153 divisions for Barbarossa, which included 104 infantry, 19 panzer and 15 motorized infantry divisions in three army groups, nine Security Division (Wehrmacht), security divisions to operate in conquered territories, four divisions in Finland and two divisions as reserve under the direct control of OKH. These were equipped with 6,867 armored vehicles, of which 3,350–3,795 were tanks, 2,770–4,389 aircraft (that amounted to 65 percent of the ''Luftwaffe''), 7,200–23,435 artillery pieces, 17,081 mortars, about 600,000 motor vehicles and 625,000–700,000 horses. Finland slated 14 divisions for the invasion, and Romania offered 13 divisions and eight brigades over the course of Barbarossa. The entire Axis forces, 3.8 million personnel, deployed across a front extending from the Arctic Ocean southward to the Black Sea, were all controlled by the OKH and organized into Army Norway (Wehrmacht), Army Norway, Army Group North, Army Group Center and Army Group South, alongside three luftflotte, ''Luftflotten'' (air fleets, the air force equivalent of army groups) that supported the army groups: Luftflotte 1 for North, Luftflotte 2 for Center and Luftflotte 4 for South. Army Norway was to operate in far northern Scandinavia and Northwest Russia, bordering Soviet territories. Army Group North was to march through the Baltic states into northern Russia, either take or destroy the city of Leningrad and link up with Finnish forces. Army Group Center, the army group equipped with the most armour and air power, was to strike from Poland into Belorussia and the west-central regions of Russia proper, and advance to Smolensk and then Moscow. Army Group South was to strike the heavily populated and agricultural heartland of
Ukraine Ukraine ( uk, Україна, Ukraïna, ) is a country in . It is the in Europe after , which it borders to the east and north-east. Ukraine also shares borders with to the north; , , and to the west; and to the south; and has a coastli ...

Ukraine
, taking Kiev before continuing eastward over the steppes of southern USSR to the
Volga The Volga (; russian: Во́лга, a=Ru-Волга.ogg, p=ˈvoɫɡə) is the longest river in Europe Europe is a continent A continent is any of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention ra ...

Volga
with the aim of controlling the oil-rich
Caucasus The Caucasus (), or Caucasia (), is a region spanning Europe Europe is a which is also recognised as part of , located entirely in the and mostly in the . It comprises the westernmost peninsulas of the of Eurasia, it shares the contin ...
. Army Group South was deployed in two sections separated by a gap. The northern section, which contained the army group's only panzer group, was in southern Poland right next to Army Group Center, and the southern section was in Romania. The German forces in the rear (mostly and units) were to operate in conquered territories to counter any Soviet partisans, partisan activity in areas they controlled, as well as to Commissar Order, execute captured Soviet political commissars and Jews. On 17 June, Reich Security Main Office (RSHA) chief Reinhard Heydrich briefed around thirty to fifty commanders on "the policy of eliminating Jews in Soviet territories, at least in general terms". While the were assigned to the ''Wehrmacht''s units, which provided them with supplies such as gasoline and food, they were controlled by the RSHA. The official plan for Barbarossa assumed that the army groups would be able to advance freely to their primary objectives simultaneously, without spreading thin, once they had won the border battles and destroyed the Red Army's forces in the border area.


Soviet preparations

In 1930, Mikhail Tukhachevsky, a prominent military theorist in armoured warfare, tank warfare in the interwar period and later Marshal of the Soviet Union, forwarded a memo to the Kremlin that lobbied for colossal investment in the resources required for the mass production of weapons, pressing the case for "40,000 aircraft and 50,000 tanks". In the early 1930s, a modern operational Military doctrine, doctrine for the Red Army was developed and promulgated in the 1936 Field Regulations in the form of the Soviet deep battle, Deep Battle Concept. Defense expenditure also grew rapidly from just 12 percent of the gross national product in 1933 to 18 percent by 1940. During Stalin's
Great Purge The Great Purge or the Great Terror (russian: Большой террор), also known as the Year of '37 (russian: 37-ой год, translit=Tridtsat sedmoi god, label=none) and the Yezhovshchina ('period of Nikolay Yezhov, Yezhov'), was Gene ...
in the late-1930s, which had not ended by the time of the German invasion on 22 June 1941, much of the officer corps of the Red Army was executed or imprisoned and their replacements, appointed by Stalin for political reasons, often lacked military competence. Of the five Marshal of the Soviet Union, Marshals of the Soviet Union appointed in 1935, only Kliment Voroshilov and Semyon Budyonny survived Stalin's purge. Tukhachevsky was killed in 1937. Fifteen of 16 army commanders, 50 of the 57 corps commanders, 154 of the 186 divisional commanders, and 401 of 456 colonels were killed, and many other officers were dismissed. In total, about 30,000 Red Army personnel were executed. Stalin further underscored his control by reasserting the role of political commissars at the divisional level and below to oversee the political loyalty of the army to the regime. The commissars held a position equal to that of the commander of the unit they were overseeing. But in spite of efforts to ensure the political subservience of the armed forces, in the wake of Red Army's poor performance Soviet invasion of Poland, in Poland and in the Winter War, about 80 percent of the officers dismissed during the Great Purge were reinstated by 1941. Also, between January 1939 and May 1941, 161 new divisions were activated. Therefore, although about 75 percent of all the officers had been in their position for less than one year at the start of the German invasion of 1941, many of the short tenures can be attributed not only to the purge but also to the rapid increase in the creation of military units. In the Soviet Union, speaking to his generals in December 1940, Stalin mentioned Hitler's references to an attack on the Soviet Union in ''Mein Kampf'' and Hitler's belief that the Red Army would need four years to ready itself. Stalin declared "we must be ready much earlier" and "we will try to delay the war for another two years". As early as August 1940, British intelligence had received hints of German plans to attack the Soviets only a week after Hitler informally approved the plans for ''Barbarossa'' and warned the Soviet Union accordingly. But Stalin's distrust of the British led him to ignore their warnings in the belief that they were a trick designed to bring the Soviet Union into the war on their side. In early 1941, Stalin's own intelligence services and American intelligence gave regular and repeated warnings of an impending German attack. Soviet spy Richard Sorge also gave Stalin the exact German launch date, but Sorge and other informers had previously given different invasion dates that passed peacefully before the actual invasion. Stalin acknowledged the possibility of an attack in general and therefore made significant preparations, but decided not to run the risk of provoking Hitler. Beginning in July 1940, the Red Army General Staff developed war plans that identified the ''Wehrmacht'' as the most dangerous threat to the Soviet Union, and that in the case of a war with Germany, the ''Wehrmacht''s main attack would come through the region north of the Pripyat Marshes into Belorussia, which later proved to be correct. Stalin disagreed, and in October he authorized the development of new plans that assumed a German attack would focus on the region south of Pripyat Marshes towards the economically vital regions in Ukraine. This became the basis for all subsequent Soviet war plans and the deployment of their armed forces in preparation for the German invasion. In early-1941 Stalin authorized the State Defense Plan 1941 (DP-41), which along with the Mobilization Plan 1941 (MP-41), called for the deployment of 186 divisions, as the first strategic echelon, in the four Military districts of the Soviet Union, military districts of the western Soviet Union that faced the Axis territories; and the deployment of another 51 divisions along the Dvina and Dnieper Rivers as the second strategic echelon under Stavka control, which in the case of a German invasion was tasked to spearhead a Soviet counteroffensive along with the remaining forces of the first echelon. But on 22 June 1941 the first echelon only contained 171 divisions, numbering 2.6–2.9 million; and the second strategic echelon contained 57 divisions that were still mobilizing, most of which were still understrength. The second echelon was undetected by German intelligence until days after the invasion commenced, in most cases only when German ground forces bumped into them. At the start of the invasion, the manpower of the Soviet military force that had been mobilized was 5.3–5.5 million, and it was still increasing as the Soviet military reserve force, reserve force of 14 million, with at least basic military training, continued to mobilize. The Red Army was dispersed and still preparing when the invasion commenced. Their units were often separated and lacked adequate transportation. While transportation remained insufficient for Red Army forces, when Operation Barbarossa kicked off, they possessed some 33,000 pieces of artillery, a number far greater than the Germans had at their disposal. The Soviet Union had some 23,000 tanks available of which only 14,700 were combat-ready. Around 11,000 tanks were in the western military districts that faced the German invasion force. Hitler later declared to some of his generals, "If I had known about the Russian tank strength in 1941 I would not have attacked". However, maintenance and readiness standards were very poor; ammunition and radios were in short supply, and many armoured units lacked the trucks for supplies. The most advanced Soviet tank models – the KV-1 and T-34 – which were superior to all current German tanks, as well as all designs still in development as of the summer 1941, were not available in large numbers at the time the invasion commenced. Furthermore, in the autumn of 1939, the Soviets disbanded their Mechanised corps (Soviet Union), mechanized corps and partly dispersed their tanks to infantry divisions; but following their observation of the German campaign in France, in late-1940 they began to reorganize most of their armored assets back into mechanized corps with a target strength of 1,031 tanks each. But these large armoured formations were unwieldy, and moreover they were spread out in scattered garrisons, with their subordinate divisions up to apart. The reorganization was still in progress and incomplete when Barbarossa commenced. Soviet tank units were rarely well equipped, and they lacked training and logistical support. Units were sent into combat with no arrangements in place for refueling, ammunition resupply, or personnel replacement. Often, after a single engagement, units were destroyed or rendered ineffective. The Soviet numerical advantage in heavy equipment was thoroughly offset by the superior training and organization of the ''Wehrmacht''. The Soviet Air Force (Voenno-Vozdushnye Sily, VVS) held the numerical advantage with a total of approximately 19,533 aircraft, which made it the largest air force in the world in the summer of 1941. About 7,133–9,100 of these were deployed in the five western military districts, and an additional 1445 were under naval control. Historians Soviet offensive plans controversy, have debated whether Stalin was planning an invasion of German territory in the summer of 1941. The debate began in the late-1980s when Viktor Suvorov published a journal article and later the book ''Icebreaker (Suvorov), Icebreaker'' in which he claimed that Stalin had seen the outbreak of war in Western Europe as an opportunity to spread communist revolutions throughout the continent, and that the Soviet military was being deployed for an imminent attack at the time of the German invasion. This view had also been advanced by former German generals following the war. Suvorov's thesis was fully or partially accepted by a limited number of historians, including Valeri Danilov, Joachim Hoffmann, Mikhail Meltyukhov, and Vladimir Nevezhin, and attracted public attention in Germany, Israel, and Russia. It has been strongly rejected by most historians, and ''Icebreaker'' is generally considered to be an "anti-Soviet tract" in Western countries. David Glantz and Gabriel Gorodetsky wrote books to rebut Suvorov's arguments. The majority of historians believe that Stalin was seeking to avoid war in 1941, as he believed that his military was not ready to fight the German forces.


Order of battle


Invasion

At around 01:00 on 22 June 1941, the Soviet military districts in the border area were alerted by NKO Directive No. 1, issued late on the night of 21 June. It called on them to "bring all forces to combat readiness," but to "avoid provocative actions of any kind". It took up to two hours for several of the units subordinate to the Fronts to receive the order of the directive, and the majority did not receive it before the invasion commenced. A German deserter, Alfred Liskow, had crossed the lines at 21:00 on 21 June and informed the Soviets that an attack was coming at 04:00. Stalin was informed, but apparently regarded it as disinformation. Liskow was still being interrogated when the attack began. On 21 June, at 13:00 Army Group North received the codeword "Düsseldorf", indicating Barbarossa would commence the next morning, and passed down its own codeword, "Dortmund". At around 03:15 on 22 June 1941, the Axis Powers commenced the invasion of the Soviet Union with the bombing of major cities in Soviet-occupied Poland and an artillery barrage on Red Army defences on the entire front. Air-raids were conducted as far as Kronstadt near Leningrad, Izmail, Ismail in Bessarabia, and Sevastopol in the Crimea. Meanwhile, ground troops crossed the border, accompanied in some locales by Lithuanian and Ukrainian fifth columnists. Roughly three million soldiers of the ''Wehrmacht'' went into action and faced slightly fewer Soviet troops at the border. Accompanying the German forces during the initial invasion were Finnish and Romanian units as well. At around noon, the news of the invasion was broadcast to the population by Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov: "... Without a declaration of war, German forces fell on our country, attacked our frontiers in many places ... The Red Army and the whole nation will wage a victorious Patriotic War for our beloved country, for honour, for liberty ... Our cause is just. The enemy will be beaten. Victory will be ours!" By calling upon the population's devotion to their nation rather than the Party, Molotov struck a patriotic chord that helped a stunned people absorb the shattering news. Within the first few days of the invasion, the Soviet High Command and Red Army were extensively reorganized so as to place them on the necessary war footing. Stalin did not address the nation about the German invasion until 3 July, when he also called for a "Patriotic War ... of the entire Soviet people". In Germany, on the morning of 22 June, Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels announced the invasion to the waking nation in a radio broadcast with Hitler's words: "At this moment a march is taking place that, for its extent, compares with the greatest the world has ever seen. I have decided today to place the fate and future of the Reich and our people in the hands of our soldiers. May God aid us, especially in this fight!" Later the same morning, Hitler proclaimed to his colleagues, "Before three months have passed, we shall witness a collapse of Russia, the like of which has never been seen in history." Hitler also addressed the German people via the radio, presenting himself as a man of peace, who reluctantly had to attack the Soviet Union. Following the invasion, Goebbels instructed that Nazi propaganda use the slogan "European crusade against Bolshevism" to describe the war; subsequently thousands of Waffen-SS foreign volunteers and conscripts, volunteers and conscripts joined the ''Waffen-SS''.


Initial attacks

The initial momentum of the German ground and air attack completely destroyed the Soviet organizational command and control within the first few hours, paralyzing every level of command from the infantry platoon to the Soviet High Command in Moscow. Moscow not only failed to grasp the magnitude of the catastrophe that confronted the Soviet forces in the border area, but Stalin's first reaction was also disbelief. At around 07:15, Stalin issued NKO Directive No. 2, which announced the invasion to the Soviet Armed Forces, and called on them to attack Axis forces wherever they had violated the borders and launch air strikes into the border regions of German territory. At around 09:15, Stalin issued NKO Directive No. 3, signed by Marshal Semyon Timoshenko, which now called for a general counteroffensive on the entire front "without any regards for borders" that both men hoped would sweep the enemy from Soviet territory. Stalin's order, which Timoshenko authorized, was not based on a realistic appraisal of the military situation at hand, but commanders passed it along for fear of retribution if they failed to obey; several days passed before the Soviet leadership became aware of the enormity of the opening defeat.


Air war

''Luftwaffe'' reconnaissance units plotted Soviet troop concentration, supply dumps and airfields, and marked them down for destruction. Additional ''Luftwaffe'' attacks were carried out against Soviet command and control centers to disrupt the mobilization and organization of Soviet forces. In contrast, Soviet artillery observers based at the border area had been under the strictest instructions not to open fire on German aircraft prior to the invasion. One plausible reason given for the Soviet hesitation to return fire was Stalin's initial belief that the assault was launched without Hitler's authorization. Significant amounts of Soviet territory were lost along with Red Army forces as a result; it took several days before Stalin comprehended the magnitude of the calamity. The ''Luftwaffe'' reportedly destroyed 1,489 aircraft on the first day of the invasion and over 3,100 during the first three days. Hermann Göring, Ministry of Aviation (Nazi Germany), Minister of Aviation and Oberkommando der Luftwaffe, Commander-in-Chief of the ''Luftwaffe'', distrusted the reports and ordered the figure checked. ''Luftwaffe'' staffs surveyed the wreckage on Soviet airfields, and their original figure proved conservative, as over 2,000 Soviet aircraft were estimated to have been destroyed on the first day of the invasion. In reality, Soviet losses were likely higher; a Soviet archival document recorded the loss of 3,922 Soviet aircraft in the first three days against an estimated loss of 78 German aircraft. The ''Luftwaffe'' reported the loss of only 35 aircraft on the first day of combat. A document from the German Federal Archives puts the ''Luftwaffe''s loss at 63 aircraft for the first day. By the end of the first week, the ''Luftwaffe'' had achieved air supremacy over the battlefields of all the army groups, but was unable to effect this air dominance over the vast expanse of the western Soviet Union. According to the war diary, war diaries of the OKW, German High Command, the ''Luftwaffe'' by 5 July had lost 491 aircraft with 316 more damaged, leaving it with only about 70 percent of the strength it had at the start of the invasion.


Baltic states

On 22 June, Army Group North attacked the Soviet Northwestern Front and broke through its 8th and 11th Armies. The Soviets immediately launched a Battle of Raseiniai, powerful counterattack against the German
4th Panzer Group The 4th Panzer Army (german: 4. Panzerarmee) (operating as Panzer Group 4 (german: 4. Panzergruppe) from its formation on 15 February 1941 to 1 January 1942, when it was redesignated as a full army) was a German panzer formation during World War ...
with the Soviet 3rd and 12th Mechanized Corps, but the Soviet attack was defeated. On 25 June, the 8th and 11th Armies were ordered to withdraw to the Western Dvina River, where it was planned to meet up with the 21st Mechanized Corps and the 22nd and 27th Armies. However, on 26 June, Erich von Manstein's LVI Panzer Corps reached the river first and secured a bridgehead across it. The Northwestern Front was forced to abandon the river defenses, and on 29 June Stavka ordered the Front to withdraw to the Stalin Line on the approaches to Leningrad. On 2 July, Army Group North began its attack on the Stalin Line with its 4th Panzer Group, and on 8 July captured Pskov, devastating the defenses of the Stalin Line and reaching Leningrad oblast. The 4th Panzer Group had advanced about since the start of the invasion and was now only about from its primary objective Leningrad. On 9 July it began its attack towards the Soviet defenses along the Luga River in Leningrad oblast.


Ukraine and Moldavia

The northern section of Army Group South faced the Southwestern Front, which had the largest concentration of Soviet forces, and the southern section faced the Southern Front. In addition, the Pripyat Marshes and the Carpathian Mountains posed a serious challenge to the army group's northern and southern sections respectively. On 22 June, only the northern section of Army Group South attacked, but the terrain impeded their assault, giving the Soviet defenders ample time to react. The German 1st Panzer Group and 6th Army attacked and broke through the Soviet 5th Army. Starting on the night of 23 June, the Soviet 22nd and 15th Mechanized Corps attacked the flanks of the 1st Panzer Group from north and south respectively. Although intended to be concerted, Soviet tank units were sent in piecemeal due to poor coordination. The 22nd Mechanized Corps ran into the 1st Panzer Army's III Motorized Corps and was decimated, and its commander killed. The 1st Panzer Group bypassed much of the 15th Mechanized Corps, which engaged the German 6th Army's 297th Infantry Division, where it was defeated by antitank fire and ''Luftwaffe'' attacks. On 26 June, the Soviets launched another counterattack on the 1st Panzer Group from north and south simultaneously with the 9th, 19th and 8th Mechanized Corps, which altogether fielded 1649 tanks, and supported by the remnants of the 15th Mechanized Corps. The battle lasted for four days, ending in the defeat of the Soviet tank units. On 30 June Stavka ordered the remaining forces of the Southwestern Front to withdraw to the Stalin Line, where it would defend the approaches to Kiev. On 2 July, the southern section of Army Group South – the Romanian 3rd and 4th Armies, alongside the German 11th Army – invaded Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic, Soviet Moldavia, which was defended by the Southern Front. Counterattacks by the Front's 2nd Mechanized Corps and 9th Army were defeated, but on 9 July the Axis advance stalled along the defenses of the Soviet 18th Army between the Prut River, Prut and Dniester River, Dniester Rivers.


Belorussia

In the opening hours of the invasion, the ''Luftwaffe'' destroyed the Western Front's air force on the ground, and with the aid of Abwehr and their supporting anti-communist fifth columns operating in the Soviet rear paralyzed the Front's communication lines, which particularly cut off the Soviet 4th Army headquarters from headquarters above and below it. On the same day, the 2nd Panzer Group crossed the
Bug River uk, Західний Буг be, Захо́дні Буг , name_etymology = , image = Wyszkow_Bug.jpg , image_size = 250 , image_caption = Bug River in the vicinity of Wyszków Wyszków (; yi, ווישקאָו ...
, broke through the 4th Army, bypassed Brest Fortress, and pressed on towards Minsk, while the 3rd Panzer Group bypassed most of the 3rd Army and pressed on towards Vilnius. Simultaneously, the German 4th and 9th Armies engaged the Western Front forces in the environs of Białystok. On the order of Dmitry Pavlov (general), Dmitry Pavlov, the commander of the Western Front, the 6th and 11th Mechanized Corps and the 6th Cavalry Corps launched a strong counterstrike towards Grodno on 24–25 June in hopes of destroying the 3rd Panzer Group. However, the 3rd Panzer Group had already moved on, with its forward units reaching Vilnius on the evening of 23 June, and the Western Front's armoured counterattack instead ran into infantry and antitank fire from the V Army Corps of the German 9th Army, supported by ''Luftwaffe'' air attacks. By the night of 25 June, the Soviet counterattack was defeated, and the commander of the 6th Cavalry Corps was captured. The same night, Pavlov ordered all the remnants of the Western Front to withdraw to Slonim towards Minsk. Subsequent counterattacks to buy time for the withdrawal were launched against the German forces, but all of them failed. On 27 June, the 2nd and 3rd Panzer Groups met near Minsk and captured the city the next day, completing the encirclement of almost all of the Western Front in two pockets: one around Białystok and another west of Minsk. The Germans destroyed the Soviet 3rd and 10th Armies while inflicting serious losses on the 4th, 11th and 13th Armies, and reported to have captured 324,000 Soviet troops, 3,300 tanks, 1,800 artillery pieces. A Soviet directive was issued on 29 June to combat the mass panic rampant among the civilians and the armed forces personnel. The order stipulated swift, severe measures against anyone inciting panic or displaying cowardice. The NKVD worked with commissars and military commanders to scour possible withdrawal routes of soldiers retreating without military authorization. Field expedient general courts were established to deal with civilians spreading rumors and military deserters. On 30 June, Stalin relieved Pavlov of his command, and on 22 July tried and executed him along with many members of his staff on charges of "cowardice" and "criminal incompetence". On 29 June, Hitler, through the Commander-in-Chief of the German Army (Wehrmacht), German Army Walther von Brauchitsch, instructed the commander of Army Group Center Fedor von Bock to halt the advance of his panzers until the infantry formations liquidating the pockets catch up. But the commander of the 2nd Panzer Group Heinz Guderian, with the tacit support of Fedor von Bock and the chief of OKH Franz Halder, ignored the instruction and attacked on eastward towards Bobruisk, albeit reporting the advance as a reconnaissance-in-force. He also personally conducted an aerial inspection of the Minsk-Białystok pocket on 30 June and concluded that his panzer group was not needed to contain it, since Hermann Hoth's 3rd Panzer Group was already involved in the Minsk pocket. On the same day, some of the infantry corps of the 9th and 4th Armies, having sufficiently liquidated the Białystok pocket, resumed their march eastward to catch up with the panzer groups. On 1 July, Fedor von Bock ordered the panzer groups to resume their full offensive eastward on the morning of 3 July. But Brauchitsch, upholding Hitler's instruction, and Halder, unwillingly going along with it, opposed Bock's order. However, Bock insisted on the order by stating that it would be irresponsible to reverse orders already issued. The panzer groups resumed their offensive on 2 July before the infantry formations had sufficiently caught up.


Northwest Russia

During German-Finnish negotiations Finland had demanded to remain neutral unless the Soviet Union attacked them first. Germany therefore sought to provoke the Soviet Union into an attack on Finland. After Germany launched Barbarossa on 22 June, German aircraft used Finnish air bases to attack Soviet positions. The same day the Germans launched Operation Rentier and occupied the Pechengsky District, Petsamo Province at the Finnish-Soviet border. Simultaneously Finland proceeded to Operation Kilpapurjehdus, remilitarize the neutral Åland Islands. Despite these actions the Finnish government insisted via diplomatic channels that they remained a neutral party, but the Soviet leadership already viewed Finland as an ally of Germany. Subsequently, the Soviets proceeded to launch a massive bombing attack on 25 June against all major Finnish cities and industrial centers including Helsinki, Turku and Lahti. During a night session on the same day the Finnish parliament decided to go to war against the Soviet Union. Finland was divided into two operational zones. Northern Finland was the staging area for Army Norway. Its goal was to execute a two-pronged pincer movement on the strategic port of Murmansk, named Operation Silver Fox. Southern Finland was still under the responsibility of the Finnish Army. The goal of the Finnish forces was, at first, to recapture Finnish Karelia at Lake Ladoga as well as the Karelian Isthmus, which included Finland's second largest city Vyborg, Viipuri.


Further German advances

On 2 July and through the next six days, a rainstorm typical of Belarusian summers slowed the progress of the panzers of Army Group Center, and Soviet defences stiffened. The delays gave the Soviets time to organize a massive counterattack against Army Group Center. The army group's ultimate objective was Smolensk, which commanded the road to Moscow. Facing the Germans was an Stalin line, old Soviet defensive line held by six armies. On 6 July, the Soviets launched a massive counter-attack using the V and VII Mechanized Corps of the 20th Army, which collided with the German 39th and 47th Panzer Corps in a battle where the Red Army lost 832 tanks of the 2,000 employed during five days of ferocious fighting. The Germans defeated this counterattack thanks largely to the coincidental presence of the ''Luftwaffe''s only squadron of tank-busting aircraft. The 2nd Panzer Group crossed the Dnieper River and closed in on Smolensk from the south while the 3rd Panzer Group, after defeating the Soviet counterattack, closed on Smolensk from the north. Trapped between their pincers were three Soviet armies. The 29th Motorized Division captured Smolensk on 16 July yet a gap remained between Army Group Center. On 18 July, the panzer groups came to within of closing the gap but the trap did not finally close until 5 August, when upwards of 300,000 Red Army soldiers had been captured and 3,205 Soviet tanks were destroyed. Large numbers of Red Army soldiers escaped to stand between the Germans and Moscow as resistance continued. Four weeks into the campaign, the Germans realized they had grossly underestimated Soviet strength. The German troops had used their initial supplies, and General Bock quickly came to the conclusion that not only had the Red Army offered stiff opposition, but German difficulties were also due to the logistical problems with reinforcements and provisions. Operations were now slowed down to allow for resupply; the delay was to be used to adapt strategy to the new situation. Hitler by now had lost faith in battles of encirclement as large numbers of Soviet soldiers had escaped the pincers. He now believed he could defeat the Soviet state by economic means, depriving them of the industrial capacity to continue the war. That meant seizing the industrial center of Kharkov, the Donbas and the oil fields of the
Caucasus The Caucasus (), or Caucasia (), is a region spanning Europe Europe is a which is also recognised as part of , located entirely in the and mostly in the . It comprises the westernmost peninsulas of the of Eurasia, it shares the contin ...
in the south and the speedy capture of Leningrad, a major center of military production, in the north. Chief of the OKH, General Franz Halder, Fedor von Bock, the commander of Army Group Center, and almost all the German generals involved in Operation Barbarossa argued vehemently in favor of continuing the all-out drive toward Moscow. Besides the psychological importance of capturing the Soviet capital, the generals pointed out that Moscow was a major center of arms production, the center of the Soviet communications system and an important transport hub. Intelligence reports indicated that the bulk of the Red Army was deployed near Moscow under Semyon Timoshenko for the defense of the capital. Panzer commander Heinz Guderian was sent to Hitler by Bock and Halder to argue their case for continuing the assault against Moscow, but Hitler issued an order through Guderian (bypassing Bock and Halder) to send Army Group Center's tanks to the north and south, temporarily halting the drive to Moscow. Convinced by Hitler's argument, Guderian returned to his commanding officers as a convert to the Führer's plan, which earned him their disdain.


Northern Finland

On 29 June Germany launched its effort to capture Murmansk in a pincer attack. The northern pincer, conducted by Mountain Corps Norway, approached Murmansk directly by crossing the border at Petsamo. However, in mid-July after securing the neck of the Rybachy Peninsula and advancing to the Zapadnaya Litsa River, Litsa River the German advance was stopped by heavy resistance from the Soviet 14th Army (Soviet Union), 14th Army. Renewed attacks led to nothing, and this front became a stalemate for the remainder of Barbarossa. The second pincer attack began on 1 July with the German XXXVI Mountain Corps (Wehrmacht), XXXVI Corps and Finnish III Corps (Continuation War), Finnish III Corps slated to recapture the Salla region for Finland and then proceed eastwards to cut the Kirov Railway, Murmansk railway near Kandalaksha. The German units had great difficulty dealing with the Arctic conditions. After heavy fighting, Salla was taken on 8 July. To keep the momentum the German-Finnish forces advanced eastwards until they were stopped at the town of Kayraly by Soviet resistance. Further south the Finnish III Corps made an independent effort to reach the Murmansk railway through the Arctic terrain. Facing only one division of the Soviet 7th Army (Soviet Union), 7th Army it was able to make rapid headway. On 7 August it captured Kestenga while reaching the outskirts of Kalevala, Russia, Ukhta. Large Red Army reinforcements then prevented further gains on both fronts, and the German-Finnish force had to go onto the defensive.


Karelia

The Finnish plan in the south in Karelia was to advance as swiftly as possible to Lake Ladoga, cutting the Soviet forces in half. Then the Finnish territories east of Lake Ladoga were to be recaptured before the advance along the Karelian Isthmus, including the recapture of Viipuri, commenced. The Finnish attack was launched on 10 July. The Army of Karelia held a numerical advantage versus the Soviet defenders of the 7th Army and 23rd Army (Soviet Union), 23rd Army, so it could advance swiftly. The important road junction at Loimola was captured on 14 July. By 16 July, the first Finnish units reached Lake Ladoga at Koirinoja, achieving the goal of splitting the Soviet forces. During the rest of July, the Army of Karelia advanced further southeast into Karelia, coming to a halt at the former Finnish-Soviet border at Mansila. With the Soviet forces cut in half, the attack on the Karelian Isthmus could commence. The Finnish army attempted to encircle large Soviet formations at Sortavala and Hiitola by advancing to the western shores of Lake Ladoga. By mid-August the encirclement had succeeded and both towns were taken, but many Soviet formations were able to evacuate by sea. Further west, the attack on Viipuri was launched. With Soviet resistance breaking down, the Finns were able to encircle Viipuri by advancing to the Vuoksi River. The city itself was taken on 30 August, along with a broad advance on the rest of the Karelian Isthmus. By the beginning of September, Finland had restored its pre-Winter War borders.


Offensive towards central Russia

By mid-July, the German forces had advanced within a few kilometers of Kiev below the Pripyat Marshes. The 1st Panzer Group then went south, while the 17th Army struck east and trapped three Soviet armies near Uman. As the Germans eliminated the pocket, the tanks turned north and crossed the Dnieper. Meanwhile, the 2nd Panzer Group, diverted from Army Group Center, had crossed the river Desna with 2nd Army on its right flank. The two panzer armies now trapped four Soviet armies and parts of two others. By August, as the serviceability and the quantity of the ''Luftwaffe''s inventory steadily diminished due to combat, demand for air support only increased as the VVS recovered. The ''Luftwaffe'' found itself struggling to maintain local air superiority. With the onset of bad weather in October, the ''Luftwaffe'' was on several occasions forced to halt nearly all aerial operations. The VVS, although faced with the same weather difficulties, had a clear advantage thanks to the prewar experience with cold-weather flying, and the fact that they were operating from intact airbases and airports. By December, the VVS had matched the ''Luftwaffe'' and was even pressing to achieve air superiority over the battlefields.


Leningrad

For its final attack on Leningrad, the 4th Panzer Group was reinforced by tanks from Army Group Center. On 8 August, the Panzers broke through the Soviet defences. By the end of August, 4th Panzer Group had penetrated to within of Leningrad. The Finns had pushed southeast on both sides of Lake Ladoga to reach the old Finnish-Soviet frontier. The Germans attacked Leningrad in August 1941; in the following three "black months" of 1941, 400,000 residents of the city worked to build the city's fortifications as fighting continued, while 160,000 others joined the ranks of the Red Army. Nowhere was the Soviet spirit stronger in resisting the Germans than at Leningrad where reserve troops and freshly improvised units, consisting of worker battalions and even schoolboy formations, joined in digging trenches as they prepared to defend the city. On 7 September, the German 20th Infantry Division (Wehrmacht), 20th Motorized Division seized Shlisselburg, cutting off all land routes to Leningrad. The Germans severed the railroads to Moscow and captured the railroad to Murmansk with Finnish assistance to inaugurate the start of a siege that would last for over two years. At this stage, Hitler ordered the final destruction of Leningrad with no prisoners taken, and on 9 September, Army Group North began the final push. Within ten days it had advanced within of the city. However, the push over the last proved very slow and casualties mounted. Hitler, now out of patience, ordered that Leningrad should not be stormed, but rather starved into submission. Along these lines, the OKH issued Directive No. la 1601/41 on 22 September 1941, which accorded Hitler's plans. Deprived of its Panzer forces, Army Group Center remained static and was subjected to numerous Soviet counterattacks, in particular the Yelnya Offensive, in which the Germans suffered their first major tactical defeat since their invasion began; this Red Army victory also provided an important boost to Soviet morale. These attacks prompted Hitler to concentrate his attention back to Army Group Center and its drive on Moscow. The Germans ordered the 3rd and 4th Panzer Armies to break off their Siege of Leningrad and support Army Group Center in its attack on Moscow.


Kiev

Before an attack on Moscow could begin, operations in Kiev needed to be finished. Half of Army Group Center had swung to the south in the back of the Kiev position, while Army Group South moved to the north from its Dnieper bridgehead. The encirclement of Soviet forces in Kiev was achieved on 16 September. A battle ensued in which the Soviets were hammered with tanks, artillery, and aerial bombardment. After ten days of vicious fighting, the Germans claimed 665,000 Soviet soldiers captured, although the real figure is probably around 220,000 prisoners. Soviet losses were 452,720 men, 3,867 artillery pieces and mortars from 43 divisions of the 5th, 21st, 26th, and 37th Soviet Armies. Despite the exhaustion and losses facing some German units (upwards of 75 percent of their men) from the intense fighting, the massive defeat of the Soviets at Kiev and the Red Army losses during the first three months of the assault contributed to the German assumption that Operation Typhoon (the attack on Moscow) could still succeed.


Sea of Azov

After operations at Kiev were successfully concluded, Army Group South advanced east and south to capture the industrial Donbas region and the Crimea. The Soviet Southern Front (Soviet Union), Southern Front launched an attack on 26 September with two armies on the northern shores of the Sea of Azov against elements of the German 11th Army (Wehrmacht), 11th Army, which was simultaneously advancing into the Crimea. On 1 October the 1st Panzer Army under Paul Ludwig Ewald von Kleist, Ewald von Kleist swept south to pincer movement, encircle the two attacking Soviet armies. By 7 October the Soviet 9th Army (Soviet Union), 9th and 18th Army (Soviet Union), 18th Armies were isolated and four days later they had been annihilated. The Soviet defeat was total; 106,332 men captured, 212 tanks destroyed or captured in the pocket alone as well as 766 artillery pieces of all types. The death or capture of two-thirds of all Southern Front troops in four days unhinged the Front's left flank, allowing the Germans to First Battle of Kharkov, capture Kharkov on 24 October. Kleist's 1st Panzer Army took the Donbas region that same month.


Central and northern Finland

In central Finland, the German-Finnish advance on the Murmansk railway had been resumed at Kayraly. A large encirclement from the north and the south trapped the defending Soviet corps and allowed XXXVI Corps to advance further to the east. In early-September it reached the old 1939 Soviet border fortifications. On 6 September the first defence line at the Voyta River was breached, but further attacks against the main line at the Verman River failed. With Army Norway switching its main effort further south, the front stalemated in this sector. Further south, the Finnish III Corps launched a new offensive towards the Murmansk railway on 30 October, bolstered by fresh reinforcements from Army Norway. Against Soviet resistance, it was able to come within of the railway, when the Finnish High Command ordered a stop to all offensive operations in the sector on 17 November. The United States of America applied diplomatic pressure on Finland to not disrupt Allied aid shipments to the Soviet Union, which caused the Finnish government to halt the advance on the Murmansk railway. With the Finnish refusal to conduct further offensive operations and German inability to do so alone, the German-Finnish effort in central and northern Finland came to an end.


Karelia

Germany had pressured Finland to enlarge its offensive activities in Karelia to aid the Germans in their Leningrad operation. Finnish attacks on Leningrad itself remained limited. Finland stopped its advance just short of Leningrad and had no intentions to attack the city. The situation was different in eastern Karelia. The Finnish government agreed to restart its offensive into Soviet Karelia to reach Lake Onega and the Svir River. On 4 September this new drive was launched on a broad front. Albeit reinforced by fresh reserve troops, heavy losses elsewhere on the front meant that the Soviet defenders of the 7th Army were not able to resist the Finnish advance. Olonets was taken on 5 September. On 7 September, Finnish forward units reached the Svir River. Petrozavodsk, the capital city of the Karelo-Finnish Soviet Socialist Republic, Karelo-Finnish SSR, fell on 1 October. From there the Army of Karelia moved north along the shores of Lake Onega to secure the remaining area west of Lake Onega, while simultaneously establishing a defensive position along the Svir River. Slowed by winter's onset they nevertheless continued to advance slowly during the following weeks. Medvezhyegorsk was captured on 5 December and Povenets fell the next day. On 7 December Finland called a stop to all offensive operations, going onto the defensive.


Battle of Moscow

After Kiev, the Red Army no longer outnumbered the Germans and there were no more trained reserves directly available. To defend Moscow, Stalin could field 800,000 men in 83 divisions, but no more than 25 divisions were fully effective. Operation Typhoon, the drive to Moscow, began on 30 September 1941. In front of Army Group Center was a series of elaborate defence lines, the first centred on Vyazma and the second on Mozhaysk. Russian peasants began fleeing ahead of the advancing German units, burning their harvested crops, driving their cattle away, and destroying buildings in their villages as part of a scorched-earth policy designed to deny to the Nazi war machine needed supplies and foodstuffs. The first blow took the Soviets completely by surprise when the 2nd Panzer Group, returning from the south, took Oryol, just south of the Soviet first main defense line. Three days later, the Panzers pushed on to Bryansk, while the 2nd Army attacked from the west. The Soviet 3rd and 13th Armies were now encircled. To the north, the 3rd and 4th Panzer Armies attacked Vyazma, trapping the 19th, 20th, 24th and 32nd Armies. Moscow's first line of defense had been shattered. The pocket eventually yielded over 500,000 Soviet prisoners, bringing the tally since the start of the invasion to three million. The Soviets now had only 90,000 men and 150 tanks left for the defense of Moscow. The German government now publicly predicted the imminent capture of Moscow and convinced foreign correspondents of an impending Soviet collapse. On 13 October, the 3rd Panzer Group penetrated to within of the capital. Martial law was declared in Moscow. Almost from the beginning of Operation Typhoon, however, the weather worsened. Temperatures fell while there was continued rainfall. This turned the unpaved road network Rasputitsa, into mud and slowed the German advance on Moscow. Additional snows fell which were followed by more rain, creating a glutinous mud that German tanks had difficulty traversing, whereas the Soviet T-34, with its wider tread, was better suited to navigate. At the same time, the supply situation for the Germans rapidly deteriorated. On 31 October, the German Army High Command ordered a halt to Operation Typhoon while the armies were reorganized. The pause gave the Soviets, far better supplied, time to consolidate their positions and organize formations of newly activated reservists. In little over a month, the Soviets organized eleven new armies that included 30 divisions of Siberian troops. These had been freed from the Soviet Far East after Richard Sorge, Soviet intelligence assured Stalin that there was no longer a threat from the Japanese. During October and November 1941, over 1,000 tanks and 1,000 aircraft arrived along with the Siberian forces to assist in defending the city. With the ground hardening due to the cold weather, the Germans resumed the attack on Moscow on 15 November. Although the troops themselves were now able to advance again, there had been no improvement in the supply situation. Facing the Germans were the 5th, 16th, 30th, 43rd, 49th, and 50th Soviet Armies. The Germans intended to move the 3rd and 4th Panzer Armies across the Moscow Canal and envelop Moscow from the northeast. The 2nd Panzer Group would attack Tula, Russia, Tula and then close on Moscow from the south. As the Soviets reacted to their flanks, the 4th Army would attack the center. In two weeks of fighting, lacking sufficient fuel and ammunition, the Germans slowly crept towards Moscow. In the south, the 2nd Panzer Group was being blocked. On 22 November, Soviet Siberian units, augmented by the 49th and 50th Soviet Armies, attacked the 2nd Panzer Group and inflicted a defeat on the Germans. The 4th Panzer Group pushed the Soviet 16th Army back, however, and succeeded in crossing the Moscow Canal in an attempt to encircle Moscow. On 2 December, part of the 258th Infantry Division advanced to within of Moscow. They were so close that German officers claimed they could see the spires of the Moscow Kremlin, Kremlin, but by then the first blizzards had begun. A reconnaissance battalion managed to reach the town of Khimki#History, Khimki, only about from the Soviet capital. It captured the bridge over the Moscow-Volga Canal as well as the railway station, which marked the easternmost advance of German forces. In spite of the progress made, the ''Wehrmacht'' was not equipped for such severe winter warfare. The Soviet army was better adapted to fighting in winter conditions, but faced production shortages of winter clothing. The German forces fared worse, with deep snow further hindering equipment and mobility. Weather conditions had largely grounded the ''Luftwaffe'', preventing large-scale air operations. Newly created Soviet units near Moscow now numbered over 500,000 men, and on 5 December, they launched a massive counterattack as part of the Soviet winter counteroffensive. The offensive halted on 7 January 1942, after having pushed the German armies back from Moscow. The ''Wehrmacht'' had lost the Battle for Moscow, and the invasion had cost the German Army over 830,000 men.


Aftermath

With the failure of the
Battle of Moscow The Battle of Moscow was a military campaign that consisted of two periods of strategically significant fighting on a sector of the Eastern Front (World War II), Eastern Front during World War II. It took place between October 1941 and Januar ...

Battle of Moscow
, all German plans for a quick defeat of the Soviet Union had to be revised. The Soviet counter-offensives in December 1941 caused heavy casualties on both sides, but ultimately eliminated the German threat to Moscow. Attempting to explain matters, Hitler issued Directive N. 39, which cited the early onset of winter and the severe cold as the reason for the German failure, whereas the main reason was the German military unpreparedness for such a giant enterprise. On 22 June 1941, the ''Wehrmacht'' as a whole had 209 divisions at its disposal, 163 of which were offensively capable. On 31 March 1942, less than one year after the invasion of the Soviet Union, the ''Wehrmacht'' was reduced to fielding 58 offensively capable divisions. The Red Army's tenacity and ability to counter-attack effectively took the Germans as much by surprise as their own initial attack had the Soviets. Spurred on by the successful defense and in an effort to imitate the Germans, Stalin wanted to begin his own counteroffensive, not just against the German forces around Moscow, but against their armies in the north and south. Anger over the failed German offensives caused Hitler to relieve Field Marshal
Walther von Brauchitsch Walther Heinrich Alfred Hermann von Brauchitsch (4 October 1881 – 18 October 1948) was a German Field Marshal (Germany), field marshal and the Commander-in-Chief (''Oberbefehlshaber'') of the German Army (Wehrmacht), German Army during World W ...
of command and in his place, Hitler assumed personal control of the German Army on 19 December 1941. The Soviet Union had suffered heavily from the conflict, losing huge tracts of territory, and vast losses in men and materiel. Nonetheless, the Red Army proved capable of countering the German offensives, particularly as the Germans began experiencing irreplaceable shortages in manpower, armaments, provisions, and fuel. Despite the rapid relocation of Red Army armaments production east of the Urals and a dramatic increase of production in 1942, especially of armour, new aircraft types and artillery, the ''Wehrmacht'' was able to mount another large-scale offensive in July 1942, although on a much reduced front than the previous summer. Hitler, having realized that Germany's oil supply was "severely depleted", aimed to capture the oil fields of Baku in an offensive, codenamed
Case Blue Case Blue (german: Fall Blau) was the German Armed Forces The ''Bundeswehr'' (, meaning literally: ''Federal Defence'') is the unified armed forces of Germany and their civil administration and procurement authorities. The states of Germany ...
. Again, the Germans quickly overran great expanses of Soviet territory, but they failed to achieve their ultimate goals in the wake of their defeat at the Battle of Stalingrad in February 1943. By 1943, Soviet armaments production was fully operational and increasingly outproducing the German war economy. The final major German offensive in the Eastern theater of the Second World War took place during July—August 1943 with the launch of
Operation Citadel Operation Citadel (german: Unternehmen Zitadelle) was a German offensive operation against Soviet Union, Soviet forces in the Kursk salient during the World War II, Second World War on the Eastern Front (World War II), Eastern Front that initiat ...
, an assault on the Kursk salient. Approximately one million German troops confronted a Soviet force over 2.5 million strong. The Soviets prevailed in the Battle of Kursk. Following the German defeat, the Soviets launched Operation Kutuzov, a counter-offensives employing six million men along a front towards the Dnieper River as they drove the Germans westwards. Employing increasingly ambitious and tactically sophisticated offensives, along with making operational improvements in secrecy and deception, the Red Army was eventually able to liberate much of the area which the Germans had previously occupied by the summer of 1944. The destruction of Army Group Centre, the outcome of Operation Bagration, proved to be a decisive success; additional Soviet offensives against the German Army Groups North and South in the autumn of 1944 put the German war machine into retreat. By January 1945, Soviet military might was aimed at the German capital of Berlin. The war ended with the total defeat and capitulation of Nazi Germany in May 1945.


War crimes

While the Soviet Union had not signed the Geneva Convention, Germany had signed the treaty and was thus obligated to offer Soviet POWs humane treatment according to its provisions (as they generally did with other Allied POWs). According to the Soviets, they had not signed the Geneva Conventions in 1929 due to Article 9 which, by imposing racial segregation of POWs into different camps, contravened the Soviet constitution. Article 82 of the convention specified that "In case, in time of war, one of the belligerents is not a party to the Convention, its provisions shall nevertheless remain in force as between the belligerents who are parties thereto." Despite such mandates, Hitler called for the battle against the Soviet Union to be a "struggle for existence" and emphasized that the Russian armies were to be "war of annihilation, annihilated", a mindset that contributed to German mistreatment of Soviet prisoners of war, war crimes against Soviet prisoners of war. A memorandum from 16 July 1941, recorded by Martin Bormann, quotes Hitler saying, "The giant [occupied] area must naturally be pacified as quickly as possible; this will happen at best if anyone who just looks funny should be shot". Conveniently for the Nazis, the fact that the Soviets failed to sign the convention played into their hands as they justified their behavior accordingly. Even if the Soviets had signed, it is highly unlikely that this would have stopped the Nazis' genocidal policies towards combatants, civilians, and prisoners of war. Before the war, Hitler issued the notorious Commissar Order, which called for all Soviet political commissars taken prisoner at the front to be Summary execution, shot immediately without trial. German soldiers participated in these mass killings along with members of the , sometimes reluctantly, claiming "military necessity". On the eve of the invasion, German soldiers were informed that their battle "demands ruthless and vigorous measures against Bolshevik inciters, guerrillas, saboteurs, Jews and the complete elimination of all active and passive resistance". Collective punishment was authorized against partisan attacks; if a perpetrator could not be quickly identified, then burning villages and mass executions were considered acceptable reprisals. Although the majority of German soldiers accepted these crimes as justified due to Nazi propaganda, which depicted the Red Army as , a few prominent German officers openly protested against them. An estimated two million Soviet prisoner of war, prisoners of war died of starvation during Barbarossa alone. By the end of the war, 58 percent of all Soviet prisoners of war had died in German captivity. Organized crimes against civilians, including women and children, were carried out on a huge scale by the German police and military forces, as well as the Collaboration with the Axis Powers during World War II, local collaborators. Under the command of the Reich Security Main Office, the killing squads conducted large-scale massacres of Jews and Communism, communists in conquered Soviet territories. Holocaust historian Raul Hilberg puts the number of Jews murdered by "mobile killing operations" at 1,400,000. The original instructions to kill "Jews in party and state positions" were broadened to include "all male Jews of military age" and then expanded once more to "all male Jews regardless of age." By the end of July, the Germans were regularly killing women and children. On 18 December 1941, Himmler and Hitler discussed the "Jewish question", and Himmler noted the meeting's result in his appointment book: "To be annihilated as partisans." According to Christopher Browning, "annihilating Jews and solving the so-called 'Jewish question' under the cover of killing partisans was the agreed-upon convention between Hitler and Himmler". In accordance with Nazi policies against "inferior" Asian peoples, Turkmens were also persecuted. According to a post-war report by Prince Veli Kajum Khan, they were imprisoned in concentration camps in terrible conditions, where those deemed to have "Mongolian" features were murdered daily. Asians were also targeted by the and were the subjects of lethal medical experiments and murder at a "pathological institute" in Kiev. Hitler received reports of the mass killings conducted by the which were first conveyed to the RSHA, where they were aggregated into a summary report by Gestapo Chief Heinrich Müller (Gestapo), Heinrich Müller. Burning houses suspected of being partisan meeting places and poisoning water wells became common practice for soldiers of the German 9th Army (Wehrmacht), 9th Army. At Kharkov, the fourth largest city in the Soviet Union, food was provided only to the small number of civilians who worked for the Germans, with the rest designated to slowly starve. Thousands of Soviets were Forced labour under German rule during World War II, deported to Germany to be used as slave labor beginning in 1942. The citizens of Leningrad were subjected to heavy bombardment and Siege of Leningrad, a siege that would last 872 days and starve more than a million people to death, of whom approximately 400,000 were children below the age of 14. The German-Finnish blockade cut off access to food, fuel and raw materials, and rations reached a low, for the non-working population, of four ounces (five thin slices) of bread and a little watery soup per day. Starving Soviet civilians began to eat their domestic animals, along with hair tonic and Vaseline. Some desperate citizens resorted to cannibalism; Soviet records list 2,000 people arrested for "the use of human meat as food" during the siege, 886 of them during the first winter of 1941–42. The ''Wehrmacht'' planned to seal off Leningrad, starve out the population, and then demolish the city entirely.


Sexual violence

Rape was a widespread phenomenon in the East as German soldiers regularly committed violent sexual acts against Soviet women. Whole units were occasionally involved in the crime with upwards of one-third of the instances being gang rape. Historian Hannes Heer relates that in the world of the eastern front, where the German army equated Russia with Communism, everything was "fair game"; thus, rape went unreported unless entire units were involved. Frequently in the case of Jewish women, they were immediately murdered following acts of sexual violence. Historian Birgit Beck emphasizes that military decrees, which served to authorize wholesale brutality on many levels, essentially destroyed the basis for any prosecution of sexual offenses committed by German soldiers in the East. She also contends that detection of such instances was limited by the fact that sexual violence was often inflicted in the context of billets in civilian housing.


Historical significance

Operation Barbarossa was the largest military operation in history – more men, tanks, guns and aircraft were deployed than in any other offensive. The invasion opened up the
Eastern FrontEastern Front may refer to: * Eastern Front (World War I) * Eastern Front (World War II) * Eastern Front (Turkey), of the Turkish War of Independence ** Turkish–Armenian War, often referred to by itself as the Eastern Front * Eastern Front (Sudan) ...
, the war's largest theater, which saw clashes of unprecedented violence and destruction for four years and killed over 26 million Soviet people, including about 8.6 million World War II casualties of the Soviet Union, Red army soldiers. More died fighting on the Eastern Front than in all other fighting across the globe during World War II. Damage to both the economy and landscape was enormous, as approximately 1,710 Soviet towns and 70,000 villages were razed. Operation Barbarossa and the subsequent German defeat changed the political landscape of Europe, dividing it into Eastern and Western blocs. The political vacuum left in the eastern half of the continent was filled by the USSR when Stalin secured his territorial prizes of 1944–1945 and firmly placed his Red Army in Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and the eastern half of Germany. Stalin's fear of resurgent German power and his distrust of his erstwhile allies contributed to Soviet pan-Slavic initiatives and a subsequent alliance of Slavic states. Historians David Glantz and Jonathan House assert Operation Barbarossa influenced not only Stalin but subsequent Soviet leaders, claiming it "colored" their strategic mindsets for the "next four decades". As a result, the Soviets instigated the creation of "an elaborate system of Buffer state, buffer and client state, client states, designed to insulate the Soviet Union from any possible future attack." As a consequence, Eastern Europe became communist in political disposition, and Western Europe fell under the democratic sway of the United States.


Contemporary acknowledgment

On 19 June 2021 German Chancellor Angela Merkel gave a speech to the German and Russian people in a video-podcast shortly before the 80th anniversary of the invasion. Merkel called Hitler's war of extermination () on the Russian, Ukrainian, Belarussian and Baltic peoples a 'cause for shame' ().


See also

* Black Sea Campaigns (1941-44), Black Sea campaigns ** Romanian Navy during World War II * Kantokuen * Operation Silver Fox * Timeline of the Eastern Front of World War II * Final Solution


References


Notes


Citations


Bibliography

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Further reading

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External links

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Marking 70 Years to Operation Barbarossa
on the Yad Vashem website
Operation Barbarossa
original reports and pictures from ''The Times'' * "Operation Barbarossa": , lecture by David Stahel, author of ''Operation Barbarossa and Germany's Defeat in the East'' (2009); via the official channel of Muskegon Community College {{DEFAULTSORT:Barbarossa Operation Barbarossa, Articles containing video clips Code names Military operations involving Finland June 1941 events Military operations of World War II