Frontline strength (initial)
3.8 million personnel
3,030–3,072 other AFVs
7,200–23,435 artillery pieces
Frontline strength (initial)
2.6–2.9 million personnel
7,133–9,100 military aircraft
Casualties and losses
Total military casualties:
Casualties of 1941:
According to German Army medical reports (including Army Norway):
655,179 wounded in action[a]
8,000 evacuated sick
2,827 aircraft destroyed
2,735 tanks destroyed
104 assault guns destroyed
Other involved country losses
114,000+ casualties (at least 39,000 dead or missing)[b]
Total military casualties:
Casualties of 1941:
Based on Soviet archives:
566,852 killed in action
235,339 died from non-combat causes
1,336,147 sick or wounded via combat and non-combat causes
2,335,482 missing in action or captured
c. 500,000 Soviet reservists captured while still mobilizing
21,200 aircraft lost
20,500 tanks destroyed
Sea of Azov
Bombing of Gorky
Białystok and Minsk
Sea of Azov
Barvenkovo and Lozovaya
Toropets and Kholm
Rzhev, Summer 1942
Bombing of Gorky
Lvov and Sandomierz
Petsamo and Kirkenes
Vistula and Oder
Operation Barbarossa (German: Unternehmen Barbarossa) was the code
name for the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union, starting Sunday, 22
June 1941, during World War II. The operation stemmed from Nazi
Germany's ideological aims to conquer the western
Soviet Union so that
it could be repopulated by Germans, to use Slavs as a slave-labour
force for the Axis war-effort, and to seize the oil reserves of the
Caucasus and the agricultural resources of Soviet territories.
In the two years leading up to the invasion, Germany and the Soviet
Union signed political and economic pacts for strategic purposes.
Nevertheless, the German High Command began planning an invasion of
Soviet Union in July 1940 (under the codename Operation Otto),
Adolf Hitler authorized on 18 December 1940. Over the course of
the operation, about four million
Axis powers personnel, the largest
invasion force in the history of warfare, invaded the western Soviet
Union along a 2,900-kilometer (1,800 mi) front. In addition to
Wehrmacht employed some 600,000 motor vehicles, and
between 600,000 and 700,000 horses for non-combat operations. The
offensive marked an escalation of the war, both geographically and in
the formation of the Allied coalition.
Operationally, German forces achieved major victories and occupied
some of the most important economic areas of the Soviet Union, mainly
in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, and inflicted, as well as
sustained, heavy casualties. Despite these Axis successes, the German
offensive stalled in the
Battle of Moscow
Battle of Moscow and the subsequent Soviet
winter counteroffensive pushed German troops back. The Red Army
absorbed the Wehrmacht's strongest blows and forced the unprepared
Germans into a war of attrition. The
Wehrmacht would never again mount
a simultaneous offensive along the entire strategic Soviet–Axis
front. The failure of the operation drove Hitler to demand further
operations of increasingly limited scope inside the Soviet Union, such
Case Blue in 1942 and
Operation Citadel in 1943 – all of which
The failure of
Operation Barbarossa proved a turning point in the
fortunes of the Third Reich. Most importantly, the operation
opened up the Eastern Front, in which more forces were committed than
in any other theater of war in world history. The Eastern Front became
the site of some of the largest battles, most horrific atrocities, and
highest casualties for Soviet and Axis units alike, all of which
influenced the course of both
World War II
World War II and the subsequent history
of the 20th century. The German armies captured 5,000,000 Red Army
troops, who were denied the protection guaranteed by the Hague
Conventions and the 1929 Geneva Convention. A majority of Red Army
POWs never returned alive. The Nazis deliberately starved to death, or
otherwise killed, 3.3 million prisoners, as well as a huge number of
civilians through the "Hunger Plan" that aimed at largely replacing
the Slavic population with German settlers.
squads and gassing operations murdered over a million Soviet
part of the Holocaust.
1.1 Racial policies of Nazi Germany
1.2 German-Soviet relations of 1939–40
1.3 German invasion plans
2 German preparations
3 Soviet preparations
4 Order of battle
6 Phase one
6.1 Air war
6.2 Baltic states
Ukraine and Moldavia
6.5 Northwest Russia
7 Phase two
7.1 Northern Finland
8 Phase three
8.1 Central Russia
8.4 Sea of Azov
8.5 Central and northern Finland
9 Phase four
10.1 War crimes
10.1.1 Sexual violence
10.2 Historical significance
11 See also
13 External links
Racial policies of Nazi Germany
Main article: Racial policy of Nazi Germany
As early as 1925,
Adolf Hitler vaguely declared in his political
manifesto and autobiography
Mein Kampf that he would invade the Soviet
Union, asserting that the German people needed to secure Lebensraum
("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 Weltanschauungen ... totally a
people's war, a racial war". On 23 November, once
World War II
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 portrayed the Soviet
Union (and all of Eastern Europe) as populated by non-Aryan
Untermenschen ("sub-humans"), ruled by Jewish Bolshevik
conspirators. Hitler claimed in
Mein Kampf that Germany's destiny
was to "turn to the East" as it did "six hundred years ago" (see
Ostsiedlung). Accordingly, it was stated 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 Germans' belief in their ethnic superiority
is evident in official German records and discernible in
pseudoscientific articles in German periodicals at the time, which
covered topics such as "how to deal with alien populations".
While older historiography tended to emphasize the notion of a "Clean
Wehrmacht", 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-Semitic, and anti-Slavic ideology via movies, radio, lectures,
books, and leaflets. Likening the Soviets to the forces of Genghis
Khan, Hitler told Croatian military leader
Slavko Kvaternik that the
"Mongolian race" threatened Europe. Following the invasion,
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
Germans and the Jewish, Gypsies, and Slavic
Untermenschen. An 'order from the Führer' stated that the
Einsatzgruppen were to execute all Soviet functionaries who were "less
valuable Asiatics, Gypsies and Jews". German army commanders cast
Jews as the major cause behind the "partisan struggle". The
main guideline policy 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
Germans and foreign slave workers. There were regulations
enacted against the
Ost-Arbeiter ("Eastern workers") that included the
death penalty for sexual relations with a German. Heinrich
Himmler, in his secret memorandum, Reflections on the Treatment of
Peoples of Alien Races in the East (dated 25 May 1940), outlined the
future plans for the non-German populations in the East. Himmler
believed the Germanization process in
Eastern Europe would be complete
when "in the East dwell only men with truly German, Germanic
The Nazi secret plan
Generalplan Ost ("General Plan for the East"),
which was 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. The plan envisaged ethnic cleansing,
executions, and enslavement of the overwhelming majority of the
populations of conquered countries with very small differing
percentages of the various conquered nations undergoing Germanization,
expulsion into the depths of Russia, and other fates. The net effect
of this plan would be to ensure that the conquered territories would
be Germanized. It was divided into two parts: the Kleine Planung
("small plan"), which covered actions to be taken during the war, and
the Große Planung ("large plan"), which covered actions to be
undertaken after the war was won, and to be implemented gradually over
a period of 25 to 30 years.
Evidence from a speech given by General
Erich Hoepner indicates the
Operation Barbarossa and the Nazi racial plan, as he
4th Panzer Group
4th Panzer Group that the war against the Soviet Union
was "an essential part of the German people's struggle for existence"
(Daseinskampf), also referring to the imminent battle as the "old
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
Walther von Brauchitsch
Walther von Brauchitsch also told his subordinates that
troops should view the war as a "struggle between two different races
and [should] act 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 were
exercised without moral consideration for either group in their
ultimate struggle for Lebensraum. In the eyes of the Nazis, the
war against the
Soviet Union would be a Vernichtungskrieg ("war of
German-Soviet relations of 1939–40
Main article: Germany–
Soviet Union relations before 1941
The geopolitical disposition of Europe in 1941, immediately before the
start of Operation Barbarossa. The grey area represents Nazi Germany,
its allies, and countries under its firm control.
In August 1939, Germany and the
Soviet Union signed a non-aggression
pact in Moscow known as the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. 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": 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. 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. The conclusion of this
pact was followed by the
German invasion of Poland
German invasion of Poland on 1 September that
triggered the outbreak of
World War II
World War II in Europe, then the Soviet
invasion of Poland 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 circumvent a British blockade of
Despite the parties' ostensibly cordial relations, each side was
highly suspicious of the other's intentions. For instance, the Soviet
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
Joseph Stalin 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
to warn the
Red Army of an impending attack, they were treated like
enemy agents and shot. Some historians[who?] 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
See also: A-A line, The Ural mountains in Nazi planning, and Lossberg
The Marcks Plan was the original German plan of attack for Operation
Barbarossa, as depicted in a US Government study (March 1955).
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 were killed in the Great
Purge of the 1930s, leaving the
Red Army with a relatively
inexperienced leadership compared to that of their German
counterparts. The Nazis often emphasized the Soviet regime's brutality
when targeting the Slavs with propaganda. They also claimed that
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 to Hitler to be the only
solution. While no concrete plans were made yet, Hitler told one
of his generals in June that the victories in Western Europe finally
freed his hands for his important real task: the showdown with
Bolshevism. With the successful end to the campaign in France,
Erich Marcks was assigned to the working group drawing up the
initial invasion plans of the Soviet Union. The first battle plans
were entitled Operation Draft East (but colloquially it was known as
the Marcks Plan). His report advocated the
A-A line to be the
operational objective of any invasion of the Soviet Union. This goal
would extend from the northern city of
Arkhangelsk on the Arctic Sea
through Gorky and Rostov to the port city of
Astrakhan at the mouth of
Volga on the Caspian Sea. The report concluded that this military
border would reduce the threat to Germany (and the Third Reich) from
attacks by enemy 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 of entire divisions to relieve the acute
labor shortage in German industry; the exploitation of
Ukraine as a
reliable and immense source of agricultural products; the use of
forced labor 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
Germans triumphed in the Soviet Union, and if they did
not, he would use the resources available in the East to defeat the
We only have to kick in the door and the whole rotten structure will
come crashing down.
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,[e] which called for a new battle plan, now code-named
"Operation Barbarossa". The operation was named after medieval
Frederick Barbarossa of the Holy Roman Empire, a leader of the
Third Crusade in the 12th century. The invasion was set for 15 May
1941, though it was delayed for over a month in allowing for further
preparations and possibly better weather. (See 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
Wehrmacht and by ignorance tempered by traditional German
stereotypes of Russia as a primitive, backward "Asiatic" country.[f]
Red Army soldiers were considered brave and tough, but the officer
corps was held in contempt. The leadership of the
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
Soviet Union unless its economy was captured intact and the
Caucasus oilfields seized in the first blow, and he consequently
revised his future report to fit Hitler's wishes. The Red Army'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
Beginning in March 1941,
Göring's Green Folder
Göring's Green Folder laid out details for
the disposal of the Soviet economy after conquest. The Hunger Plan
outlined how the entire urban population of conquered territories was
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 geopolitical
Lebensraum ideals for the benefit of future
generations of the "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 Reichskommissariate ("Reich
Administrative subdivisions of conquered Soviet territory
as envisaged, and then partially realized, by Alfred Rosenberg
Baltic countries and Belarus
Ukraine, enlarged eastwards to the Volga
Southern Russia and the
Moscow metropolitan area
Moscow metropolitan area and remaining European Russia
Central Asian republics and territories
German military planners also researched 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
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
Moscow third"; but he consistently emphasized the destruction of
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[g] and instead believed victory would come with the
destruction of the
Red Army west of the capital, especially west of
the Western Dvina and 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
Fedor von Bock
Fedor von Bock and Franz Halder, who believed the decisive
victory could only be delivered at Moscow. Hitler had grown
overconfident in his own military judgment as a result of the rapid
successes in Western Europe.
Elements of the German
3rd Panzer Army
3rd Panzer Army on the road near Pruzhany, June
Germans had begun massing troops near the Soviet border even
before the 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 aerial surveillance
missions over Soviet territory many months before the attack.
Although the Soviet High Command was alarmed by this, Stalin's belief
Third Reich was unlikely to attack only two years after
Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact resulted in a slow Soviet
preparation. This fact aside, the Soviets did not entirely
overlook the threat of their German neighbor, as well before the
German invasion Marshal
Semyon Timoshenko referred to the
the Soviet Union's "most important and strongest enemy" and as early
as July 1940,
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 invading Yugoslavia in April
1941. Historian Thomas B. Buell indicates that
Romania, who 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.[h] The full floods could have discouraged an earlier
attack, even if it was unlikely to have happened before the end of the
OKH commander Field Marshal
Walther von Brauchitsch
Walther von Brauchitsch and Hitler,
studies maps during the early days of Hitler's Russian Campaign
The importance of the delay is still debated. In 1990, William Shirer
argued that Hitler's Balkans 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.
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 divisions to operate in conquered territories,
four divisions in Finland[i] 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
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
OKH and organized into Army Norway, Army Group North, Army Group
Center and Army Group South, alongside three Luftflotten (air fleets,
the air force equivalent of army groups) that supported the army
Luftflotte 1 for North,
Luftflotte 2 for Center and Luftflotte
4 for South.
Norway was to operate in far northern
Scandinavia and bordering
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
Army Group South
Army Group South was to strike the heavily
populated and agricultural heartland of Ukraine, taking
continuing eastward over the steppes of southern USSR to the Volga
with the aim of controlling the oil-rich Caucasus. Army Group
South was deployed in two sections separated by a 198-mile
(319 km) 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
Waffen-SS and Einsatzgruppen
units) were to operate in conquered territories to counter any
partisan activity in areas they controlled, as well as to execute
captured Soviet political commissars and Jews. On 17 June, Reich
Main Security Office (RSHA) chief
Reinhard Heydrich briefed around
thirty to fifty
Einsatzgruppen commanders on "the policy of
Jews in Soviet territories, at least in general
terms". While the
Einsatzgruppen 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.
See also: 2006 Soviet war documents declassification
In 1930, Mikhail Tukhachevsky, a prominent military theorist in 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 doctrine for the
Red Army was
developed and promulgated in the 1936 Field Regulations in the form of
the Deep Battle Concept. Defense expenditure also grew rapidly from
just 12 percent of the gross national product in 1933 to 18 percent by
Great Purge 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 decimated and their replacements, appointed
by Stalin for political reasons, often lacked military
competence. Of the five 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 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 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
Marshal Zhukov speaking at a military conference in Moscow, September
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[j] 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,[k] 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 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
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
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 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 100
kilometres (62 miles) 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
The Soviet Air Force (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,[j]
and an additional 1445 were under naval control.
Development of the Soviet Armed Forces
Compiled by Russian military historian
Mikhail Meltyukhov from various
1 January 1939
22 June 1941
Guns and mortars
Historians have debated whether Stalin was planning an invasion of
German territory in the summer of 1941. The debate began in the
Viktor Suvorov published a journal article and later
the book 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
Order of battle
Main article: Order of battle for Operation Barbarossa
Order of battle – June 1941
Army of Karelia
Army Group North
Air Fleet 1
Army Group Center
Air Fleet 2
Army Group South
Slovak Expeditionary Force
Royal Hungarian Army Mobile Corps
Italian Expeditionary Corps in Russia
Romanian 3rd Army
Romanian 4th Army
Air Fleet 4
10th Mechanized Corps
1st Mechanized Corps
12 Mechanized Corps
3rd Mechanized Corps
5th Airborne Corps
11th Mechanized Corps
6th Mechanized Corps
13th Mechanized Corps
14th Mechanized Corps
17th and 20th Mechanized Corps
2nd Rifle, 21st Rifle, 44th Rifle, 47th Rifle, 50th Rifle and 4th
9th Mechanized Corps
22nd Mechanized Corps
4th Mechanized Corps
15th Mechanized Corps
8th Mechanized Corps
16th Mechanized Corps
31 Rifle, 36th Rifle, 49th Rifle, 55th Rifle and 1st Airborne Corps
9th Independent Army
2nd Mechanized Corps
18th Mechanized Corps
7th Rifle, 9th Rifle and 3rd Airborne Corps
Black Sea Fleet
Stavka Reserve Armies (second strategic echelon)
5th Mechanized Corps
26th Mechanized Corps
7th Mechanized Corps
25th Mechanized Corps
20th Rifle, 45th Rifle, 67th Rifle and 21st Mechanized Corps.
German troops at the Soviet state border marker, 22 June 1941
At around 01:00 on 22 June 1941, the Soviet military districts in the
border area[j] 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
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, 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
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 openly
spoke of a "European crusade against Bolshevism", but omitted the
terrible fate that awaited
Jews in allied and friendly countries.
German advances from June to August 1941
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
Main article: Axis and Soviet air operations during Operation
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 in order 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, Minister of Aviation and
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
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 diaries of the 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.
Main article: Baltic Operation
German forces pushing through Latvia, summer 1941.
On 22 June,
Army Group North attacked the Soviet Northwestern Front
and broke through its 8th and 11th Armies. The Soviets
immediately launched a powerful counterattack against the German 4th
Panzer Group 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 meetup with the 21st Mechanized Corps and the 22nd and 27th
Armies. However, on 26 June, Erich von Manstein's LVI
reached the river first and secured a bridgehead across it. The
Northwestern Front was forced to abandon the river defenses, and on 29
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
Leningrad oblast. The
4th Panzer Group
4th Panzer Group had advanced
about 450 kilometres (280 mi) since the start of the invasion and
was now only about 250 kilometres (160 mi) from its primary
objective Leningrad. On 9 July it began its attack towards the Soviet
defenses along the
Luga River in
Ukraine and Moldavia
Operation München and Battle of Brody (1941)
The northern section of
Army Group South
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
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
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 Corp ran into the 1st
III Motorized Corps and was decimated, and its commander killed. The
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
On 2 July, the southern section of
Army Group South
Army Group South – the Romanian
3rd and 4th Armies, alongside the German 11th Army – invaded 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 and Dniester Rivers.
Main article: Battle of Białystok–Minsk
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, 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, the commander of the Western Front, the 6th
and 11th Mechanized Corps and the 6th Cavalry Corps launched a strong
Grodno on 24–25 June in hopes of destroying
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 rumours 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
Walther von Brauchitsch, instructed the commander of Army Group Center
Fedor von Bock
Fedor von Bock to halt the advance of his panzers until the infantry
formations liquidating the pockets catch up. But the commander of
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
resumed their march eastward to catch up with the panzer groups.
On 1 July,
Fedor von Bock
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, however, resumed their offensive on 2 July
before the infantry formations had sufficiently caught up.
Main article: Continuation War
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
Operation Rentier and occupied the Petsamo Province at the
Finnish-Soviet border. Simultaneously
Finland proceeded to
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
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
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
Battle of Smolensk (1941)
Battle of Smolensk (1941) and
German advances during the opening phases of Operation Barbarossa,
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 defenses 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 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 2000
employed in five days of ferocious fighting. The
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
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
Smolensk on 16 July yet a gap remained between Army Group
Center. On 18 July, the panzer groups came to within ten kilometres
(6.2 mi) 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
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
Donbass and the oil fields of the
Caucasus in the south and the speedy
capture of Leningrad, a major center of military production, in the
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
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.
Main article: Operation Silver Fox
On 29 June Army
Norway launched its effort to capture
Murmansk in a
pincer attack. The northern pincer, conducted by Mountain Corps
Murmansk directly by crossing the border at
Petsamo. However, in mid-July after securing the neck of the Rybachy
Peninsula and advancing to the Litsa River the German advance was
stopped by heavy resistance from the Soviet 14th Army. Renewed attacks
led to nothing, and this front became a stalemate for the remainder of
The second pincer attack began on 1 July with the German XXXVI Corps
in conjunction with the Finnish III Corps to recapture the Salla
Finland and then proceed eastwards to cut the Murmansk
railway near Kandalaksha. The German units had great difficulty
dealing with the Arctic conditions. After heavy fighting,
taken on 8 July. To keep the momentum the German-Finnish forces
advanced eastwards, until they were stopped at the town of
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 it was able
to make rapid headway. On 7 August it captured Kestenga while reaching
the outskirts of Ukhta. Large
Red Army reinforcements then prevented
further gains on both fronts and the German-Finnish force had to go
onto the defensive.
Finnish reconquest of Ladoga Karelia (1941)
Finnish reconquest of Ladoga Karelia (1941) and Finnish
reconquest of the Karelian Isthmus (1941)
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
Vyborg, commenced. The Finnish attack was launched on 10 July. The
Army of Karelia
Army of Karelia held a numerical advantage versus the Soviet defenders
of the 7th Army and 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
Army of Karelia
Army of Karelia advanced further southeast into Karelia,
coming to a halt at the former Finnish-Soviet border at
With the Soviet forces cut in half, the attack on the Karelian Isthmus
could commence. The Finnish army attempted to encircle large Soviet
Hiitola by advancing to the western shores
of Lake-Ladoga. By mid-August the encirclement succeeded and both
towns were taken but many Soviet formations were able to evacuate by
sea. Further west, the attack on Viborg was launched. With Soviet
resistance breaking down, the Finns were able to encircle
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
Main article: Battle of Uman
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
diverted from Army Group Center, had crossed the Desna River 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.
Main article: Siege of Leningrad
For its final attack on Leningrad, the
4th Panzer Group
4th Panzer Group was reinforced
by tanks from Army Group Center. On 8 August, the Panzers broke
through the Soviet defenses. By the end of August, 4th
had penetrated to within 48 kilometres (30 miles) of Leningrad. The
Finns[l] had pushed southeast on both sides of
Lake Ladoga to reach
the old Finnish-Soviet frontier.
General Guderian at a forward command post of a
Panzer regiment near
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 levée en
masse spirit stronger in resisting the
Germans than at
reserve troops and freshly improvised
Narodnoe Opolcheniye 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 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
At this stage, Hitler ordered the final destruction of
no prisoners taken, and on 9 September,
Army Group North began the
final push. Within ten days it had advanced within 11 kilometres (6.8
miles) of the city. However, the push over the last 10 km
(6.2 mi) 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
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
Panzer Armies to break off their
Siege of Leningrad
Siege of Leningrad and support
Army Group Center in its attack on Moscow.
Main article: Battle of
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
Army Group South moved to the north
from its Dniepr 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
Operation Typhoon (the attack on Moscow) could still
Sea of Azov
Main article: Battle of the Sea of Azov
After operations at
Kiev were successfully concluded, Army Group South
advanced east and south to capture the industrial
Donbass region and
the Crimea. The Soviet 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, which was simultaneously
advancing into the Crimea. On 1 October the
1st Panzer Army
1st Panzer Army under
Ewald von Kleist swept south to encircle the two attacking Soviet
armies. By 7 October the Soviet 9th and 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 capture
Kharkov on 24 October. Kleist's
1st Panzer Army
1st Panzer Army took the Donbass
region that same month.
Central and northern Finland
The front in Finland, December 1941
Finland the German-Finnish advance on the
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
defense 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 30 km (19 mi) 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
Main article: Finnish conquest of East Karelia (1941)
Germany had pressured
Finland to enlarge its offensive activities in
Karelia to aid the
Germans in their
Leningrad operation. Finnish
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
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.
taken on 5 September. On 7 September, Finnish forward units reached
the Svir River. Petrozavodsk, the capital city of the region fell
on 1 October. From there the
Army of Karelia
Army of Karelia moved north along the
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
Poventsa fell the next day. On 7 December
a stop to all offensive operations, going onto the
Main article: Battle of Moscow
Soviet planes flying over German positions near 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 defense lines, the first centered 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 the Nazi war
machine of 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 121 km
(75 mi) 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 a pending Soviet
collapse. On 13 October, the 3rd
Panzer Group penetrated to
within 140 km (87 mi) 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 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 negotiate. 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 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,[m] 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
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 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
4th Panzer Group pushed the
Soviet 16th Army back, however, and succeeded in crossing the Moscow
Canal in an attempt to encircle Moscow.
The German position of advances before the start of Operation Typhoon,
On 2 December, part of the 258th Infantry Division advanced to within
24 km (15 mi) of Moscow. They were so close that German
officers claimed they could see the spires of the Kremlin, but by
then the first blizzards had begun. A reconnaissance battalion
managed to reach the town of Khimki, only about 8 km
(5.0 mi) from the Soviet capital. It captured the bridge over the
Volga Canal as well as the railway station, which marked the
easternmost advance of German forces. In spite of the progress
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 100–250 km
(62–155 mi) from Moscow. The
Wehrmacht had lost the Battle
for Moscow, and the invasion had cost the German Army over 830,000
With the failure of the Battle of Moscow, all German plans for a quick
defeat of the
Soviet Union had to be revised. The Soviet
counteroffensives 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 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
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 blitzkrieg campaign, 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 von Brauchitsch of command and in his
place, Hitler assumed personal control of the German Army on 19
Soviet Union had suffered heavily from the conflict, losing huge
tracts of territory, and vast losses in men and material. Nonetheless,
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
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
Baku in an offensive, codenamed Case Blue. 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
Zitadelle, an assault on the Kursk salient. Approximately one
million German troops confronted a Soviet force over 2.5 million
strong. The Soviets prevailed. Following the defeat of Operation
Zitadelle, the Soviets launched counter-offensives employing six
million men along a 1500-mile front towards the Dnepr River as they
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 fall 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
Nazi Germany in May 1945.
Main articles: Einsatzgruppen, German mistreatment of Soviet prisoners
of war, and The
Holocaust in Russia
Soviet Union had not signed the Geneva Convention, this did
not mean their soldiers were entirely exempted from the protection it
afforded; Germany had signed the treaty and was thus obligated to
offer Soviet POWs 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 this Hitler called for the battle
Soviet Union to be a "struggle for existence" and
emphasized that the Russian armies were to be "annihilated", a mindset
that contributed to war crimes against Soviet prisoners of war. A
Nazi 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.
Himmler inspecting a prisoner of war camp
Before the war, Hitler issued the notorious Commissar Order, which
called for all Soviet political commissars taken prisoner at the front
to be shot immediately without trial. German soldiers
participated in these mass killings along with members of the
SS-Einsatzgruppen, 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 Untermenschen, a few
prominent German officers openly protested about them. An
estimated two million Soviet prisoners of war died of starvation
during Barbarossa alone. The famished prisoners of war were
hardly able to walk by themselves. By the end of the war, 58
percent of all Soviet prisoners of war had died in German
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 local collaborators. Under the command of the
Reich Main Security Office, the
Einsatzgruppen killing squads
conducted large-scale massacres of
Jews and communists in conquered
Raul Hilberg puts the number
Jews murdered by "mobile killing operations" at 1,400,000. The
original instructions to kill "
Jews in party and state positions" was
broadened to include "all male
Jews of military age" and was expanded
once more to "all male
Jews regardless of age." By the end of July,
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, this
represented the Nazi decision of "annihilating
Jews and solving the
so-called 'Jewish question' under the cover of killing
partisans." In accordance with Nazi policies against "inferior"
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
Einsatzgruppen 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
were first conveyed to the RSHA, where they were aggregated into a
summary report by
Gestapo Chief Heinrich Müller.
Burning houses suspected of being partisan meeting places and
poisoning water wells became common practice for soldiers of the
German 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 deported to Germany to be used
as slave labor beginning in 1942.
The citizens of
Leningrad were subjected to heavy bombardment and 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
to seal off Leningrad, starve out the population, and then demolish
the city entirely.
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. 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
Operation Barbarossa was the largest military operation in history —
more men, tanks, guns and aircraft were committed than had ever been
deployed before in a single offensive. The invasion opened up the
Eastern Front of World War II, the largest theater of war during that
conflict, and it witnessed clashes of unprecedented violence and
destruction for four years that resulted in the deaths of more than 26
million Soviet people. More people 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 for the
Soviet Union as approximately 1,710 towns and 70,000 villages were
Operation Barbarossa and the subsequent German failure to achieve
their objectives 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 any resurgence of
German power and his distrust in the former Allied powers contributed
to Soviet pan-Slavic initiatives and a subsequent alliance of Slavic
David Glantz and Jonathan House reference
Operation Barbarossa's[n] influence not only on Stalin but subsequent
Soviet leaders, claiming it "colored" their strategic mindsets for the
"next four decades" and instigated the creation of "an elaborate
system of buffer and 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, a nation
uncertain about its future policies in Europe.
Black Sea campaigns
Romanian Navy during World War II
Operation Silver Fox
Timeline of the Eastern Front of World War II
Military of Germany portal
Nazi Germany portal
Soviet Union portal
World War II
World War II portal
^ Excludes an additional 395,799 who were deemed unfit for service due
to non-combat causes, transported out of their Army Group sectors for
treatment, and treated in divisional/local medical facilities. 98% of
those 395,799 eventually returned to active duty service, usually
after relatively short treatment, meaning about 8,000 became permanent
losses. Askey 2014, p. 178.
^ See: Mark Axworthy, Third Axis Fourth Ally: Romanian Armed Forces in
the European War, 1941–1945. pages 58 and 286.
^ See:Robert Kirchubel. Operation Barbarossa: The German Invasion of
Soviet Russia. Bloomsbury Publishing. Chapter: "Opposing Armies".
^ Includes only Finnish casualties in Northern
Operation Silver Fox.
^ The first sentence of Directive 21 read, "The German
be prepared to crush Soviet Russia in a quick campaign even before the
end of the war against England."
^ It is additionally important that considerable portions of the
German General Staff thought of Russia as a "colossus of clay" which
was "politically unstable, filled with discontented minorities,
ineffectively ruled, and militarily weak."
^ Concerning this strategic mistake, historian David Stone asserts
that, "If Hitler's decision to invade Russia in 1941 was his greatest
single error of judgement, then his subsequent decision not to strike
hard and fast against Moscow was surely a close second."
^ Flooding was so bad that Guderian wrote: "The Balkans Campaign had
been concluded with all the speed desired, and the troops there
engaged which were now needed for Russia were withdrawn according to
plan and very fast. But all the same there was a definite delay in the
opening of our Russian Campaign. Furthermore we had had a very wet
spring; the Bug and its tributaries were at flood level until well
into May and the nearby ground was swampy and almost impassable."
^ For the Finnish President, Risto Ryti, the attack against the Soviet
Union was part of the struggle against Bolshevism and one of Finland's
"traditional enemies". 
^ a b c d The four Soviet military districts facing the Axis, the
Baltic Military District, the Western
Special Military District, the
Special Military District and the Odessa Military District, at
the outbreak of the war were renamed the Northwestern Front, the
Western Front, the Southwestern Front and the Southern Front,
respectively. A fifth military district, the
district, became the Northern Front.(Glantz 2012, pp. 11, 16,
^ 170 divisions and 2 independent brigades, along with 12 airborne
brigades. (Glantz 2012, pp. 16, 219).
^ Significant planning for Finnish participation in the campaign
Soviet Union was conducted well-before the plan's actual
^ On 12 November 1941 the temperature around Moscow was −12 °C
^ Glantz and House use the expression "The Great Patriotic War", which
is the Soviet name for the Second World War—but this term represents
by and large, the contest between the U.S.S.R. and Nazi Germany.
^ a b c Clark 2012, p. 73.
^ a b c d Glantz 2001, p. 9.
^ a b c d e f Glantz 2010a, p. 20.
^ a b c d Liedtke 2016, p. 220.
^ a b c d Askey 2014, p. 80.
^ Askey 2014, p. 80, of which 301 assault guns, 257 tank
destroyers and self-propelled guns, 1,055 armored half-tracks, 1,367
armored cars, 92 combat engineer and ammunition transport vehicles.
^ Liedtke 2016, p. 220, of which 259 assault guns.
^ a b Bergström 2007, p. 129.
^ Glantz 2001, p. 9, states 2.68 million.
^ Glantz 1998, pp. 10–11, 101, 293, states 2.9 million.
^ Taylor 1974, p. 98, states 2.6 million.
^ a b c Mercatante 2012, p. 64.
^ a b Clark 2012, p. 76.
^ Glantz 2010a, p. 28, states 7,133 aircraft.
^ Mercatante 2012, p. 64, states 9,100 aircraft.
^ Clark 2012, p. 76, states 9,100 aircraft.
^ Askey 2014, p. 178.
^ a b Bergström 2007, p. 117.
^ a b Askey 2014, p. 185.
^ Ziemke 1959, p. 184.
^ Krivosheev 1997, pp. 95–98.
^ Sharp 2010, p. 89.
^ Rich 1973, pp. 204–221.
^ Rees 2010.
^ Snyder 2010, pp. 175–186.
Holocaust Memorial Museum 1996, pp. 50–51.
^ Stackelberg 2002, p. 188.
^ a b c Förster 1988, p. 21.
^ Hillgruber 1972, p. 140.
^ Shirer 1990, p. 716.
^ Stackelberg 2007, p. 271.
^ Fahlbusch 1999, pp. 241–264.
^ Evans 1989, p. 59.
^ Breitman 1990, pp. 340–341.
^ Evans 1989, pp. 59–60.
^ Burleigh 2000, p. 512.
^ Burleigh & Wippermann 1991, p. 100.
^ Kershaw 2001, p. 466.
^ Kershaw 2001, p. 467.
^ Förster 1988, p. 28.
^ Förster 2005, p. 127.
^ Majer 2003, p. 180.
^ Gellately 1990, p. 224.
^ Himmler 1940, pp. 147–150.
^ Mazower 2009, p. 181.
^ Rössler & Schleiermacher 1996, pp. 270–274.
^ Ingrao 2013, p. 140.
^ Förster 1988, p. 23.
^ Ingrao 2013, pp. 138–142.
^ Kirby 1980, p. 120.
^ Hildebrand 1973, p. 89.
^ Roberts 2006, p. 30.
^ Bellamy 2007, pp. 56–59.
^ Shirer 1990, pp. 668–669.
^ Brackman 2001, p. 341.
^ a b Roberts 2006, p. 57.
^ Service 2005, p. 259.
^ Service 2005, pp. 259–260.
^ Weeks 2002, p. 98.
^ a b c d Hartmann 2013, pp. 9–24.
^ Ericson 1999, p. 127.
^ Ericson 1999, pp. 129–130.
^ a b Kay 2006, p. 31.
^ Roberts 2011, pp. 147–148.
^ Hildebrand 1973, p. 105.
^ Overy 1996, p. 60.
^ Hardesty 2012, p. 6.
^ Hartmann 2013, p. 13.
^ Fritz 2011, p. 51.
^ Stackelberg 2007, p. 258.
^ a b Bradley & Buell 2002, p. page 101.
^ Megargee 2000, p. 110.
^ a b Wette 2007, pp. 21–22.
^ a b Gorodetsky 2001, pp. 69–70.
^ a b Ericson 1999, p. 162.
^ Palmer 2010, pp. 187–188.
^ Patterson 2003, p. 562.
^ Handrack 1981, p. 40.
^ Klemann & Kudryashov 2012, p. 33.
^ Rich 1973, p. 212.
^ Megargee 2000, pp. 131–134.
^ Seaton 1972, pp. 59–63.
^ a b c d Higgins 1966, pp. 11–59.
^ a b Glantz 2010a, p. 18.
^ Stone 2011, p. 195.
^ Glantz 2010b, pp. 19, 60.
^ Clark 2012, p. 72.
^ Glantz 2010b, pp. 55–60.
^ Seaton 1972, pp. 32–36.
^ Shirer 1990, p. 822.
^ Müller 2016, p. 175.
^ Bergström 2007, p. 12.
^ a b Hastings 2012, p. 141.
^ Overy 2006, pp. 490–491.
^ Ziemke 1959, p. 138.
Operation Barbarossa Britannica
^ Dwight Jon Zimmerman. Hitler’s Strategic Blunder
^ HITLER'S RUSSIAN BLUNDER NYT, 21 June 1981.
^ Guderian 2002, p. 145.
^ a b Bradley & Buell 2002, pp. 35–40.
^ Shirer 1990, pp. 829–830.
^ Forczyk 2006, p. 44.
^ Stockings & Hancock 2013, pp. 581–84.
^ Hooker 1999.
^ Beevor 2012, p. 158.
^ Menger 1997, p. 532.
^ Glantz 2010a, pp. 20, 34.
^ Glantz 2010a, pp. 20, 25.
^ Clark 2012, pp. 73–74.
^ Glantz 2012, p. 36.
^ a b c Baker 2013, pp. 26–27.
^ Glantz 2012, p. 14.
^ Glantz 2012, p. 40.
^ Breitman 1991, p. 434.
^ Hilberg 1961, pp. 177–183.
^ a b Glantz 2010a, p. 21.
^ Clark 2012, p. 56.
^ Clark 2012, p. 55.
^ Glantz 1998, p. 26.
^ Glantz 2012, p. 55.
^ a b c Clark 2012, p. 57.
^ a b Rayfield 2004, p. 315.
^ a b c Glantz 2012, p. 22.
^ a b Clark 2012, p. 58.
^ Berthon & Potts 2007, p. 47.
^ a b Waller 1996, p. 192.
^ Roberts 1995, p. 1293.
^ Waller 1996, pp. 196–198.
^ Roberts 2011, p. 155.
^ Hastings 2016, pp. 110–113.
^ Waller 1996, p. 202.
^ a b c Glantz 2012, p. 15.
^ a b Glantz 2010a, pp. 21–22.
^ Glantz 1998, pp. 10–11, 101, 293.
^ Taylor 1974, p. 98.
^ a b Glantz 2010a, pp. 22–23, 51.
^ Glantz 1998, p. 293.
^ Glantz 1998, p. 107.
^ Glantz & House 1995, p. 68.
^ a b Sakwa 2005, pp. 225–227.
^ Kirshin 1997, p. 385.
^ Macksey 1989, p. 456.
^ Seaton 1972, pp. 91–93.
^ Hastings 2012, p. 140.
^ Glantz 2012, p. 23.
^ Seaton 1972, p. 93.
^ a b Glantz 1998, p. 109.
^ Dunnigan 1978, p. 82.
^ a b Glantz 2010a, p. 28.
^ Glantz 1998, p. 13.
^ Russian Military Library.
^ Uldricks 1999, pp. 626–627.
^ Smelser & Davies 2008, p. 243.
^ Uldricks 1999, pp. 631, 633, 636.
^ Bar-Joseph & Levy 2009, p. 476.
^ Uldricks 1999, p. 630.
^ Humpert 2005, p. 72.
^ Roberts 1995, p. 1326.
^ Mawdsley 2003, pp. 819–820.
^ Bar-Joseph & Levy 2009, p. 477.
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