‘Operation Barbarossa’ – The Nazi Invasion of Soviet Union

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The month of June is over. But in such a month in history began a historic military operation written in blood. 77 years ago in June 1941, Nazi state of Germany led by Adolf Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa, Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union. It ended in December same year collapsing hopes of unending victories to the merciless racist dictatorship. This is an account on a series of battles which ultimately started the countdown of the fall of Hitler’s power.

When the Invasion of Soviet Union by Nazi Forces on 22nd of June 1941, both the German common people and the members of Nazi military forces have had their peak of enthusiastic mentality. The enthusiasm was a result of the fact that German Nazi Forces conquered Czechoslovakia, Austria, Poland, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Netherland and France respectively. Two years earlier, on August 23, 1939, the Nazis and Soviets had signed a non-aggression pact. But both sides knew it was never more than a postponement of hostilities. For the Soviets, it was a time to build up their defences. For Hitler the pact gave the time to concentrate on the West before turning his attention eastwards.

The German High Command in July 1940 began planning an invasion of the Soviet Union (under the codename Operation Otto), which Adolf Hitler authorized on 18 December 1940. Initial plan to commence offensive in May 1941 was reconsidered, rearranged delayed owing to debated reasons, and the massive series of military action was renamed as ‘Operation Barbarossa’. Marking the beginning of the operation, Hitler said, ‘Now, we are going to fight with our real enemy’! Over the course of the operation, about 4 million soldiers, a combined mass of Axis Forces marched to cross the Russian border. It was the largest invasion force in the history of warfare used to invade the western Soviet Union along a 2,900-kilometer front. Evidently, there were 4000 tanks and over 2500 aircrafts used in the course of operation. In addition to troops the German forces employed nearly 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.

The offensive became the opening the most decisive theatre of the war in Europe, the war in which a mass of humans manipulated by racist authority made one-way journey not knowing that they would never be alive to come back home again.

Even Though Hitler and his inner-circle generals did a research about ‘Napoleon’s failed invasion of Russia’ and the German high command began to develop a special strategy to avoid repeating those mistakes, eventually the Russian ‘Red Army’ managed to teach a very unforgettable lesson to the Nazi forces within the Soviet Russian territory.

Hitler’s strategy was to capture regions of Russia step by step rather than going to attack to the main cities. According to the idea, he ordered three separate army divisions assigned to capture specific regions to grab the main resources like oil and minerals then aiming to the cities. He hinted, by grabbing the oil resources, it would be causing severe shortages of oil supply to the Russian military logistics. The divisions were Army group North, Army group Centre and the Army group South. The army group North was assigned to march through the Baltic, then in to the North Russia, Latvia, Estonia and finally take Leningrad or destroy it completely with all people there. Army group South had been assigned to attack Ukraine then march forward. Army group centre’s objective was Minsk, Smolensk and then march to the Moscow. According to Hitler’s order, these three main divisions must achieve their targets approximately within ten weeks, that means these three Nazi divisions should destroy the Russia and get it to the Nazi control within less than 3 months.

Actually the first couple of weeks, German forces achieved huge victories and got fully under control of the most important areas of Soviet Russia including part of Ukraine. Of course, Hitler’s aims were to capture the oil resources of Russia, Repopulate the German people in the Russian territories and to use the Soviet soldiers and other normal Russian people as a slave labour force. To achieve these targets, German forces early captured 500,000 Red army soldiers alive but Hitler ordered to let them to die without giving them any foods. So the German Generals passed the orders to not to shoot them but deliberately starve them to death.

When Hitler was in jail in early 1920s, he wrote his autobiography called ‘Mein Kampf’. Anyone who read this book, can understand how much he hated Communism and the Bolshevism. He always tried to say that Jews are sub-human and they should not be accommodating in Europe. He firmly believed that the Communism is an idea of Jews. And Jews try to be dictators in Europe by spreading the Communism. In a situation where the many of the leaders and the theoreticians of Communism and the Bolshevisim were Jews like Karl Marx, Rosa Luxemburg, Julius Martov, Alexander Parvus, Grigory Zinoviev, Lev Kamenev, Karl Radek, Leon Trotsky, Hitler convinced the German people that the Jews problem should be address in a severe measure to eradicate the Communism in Europe and that is why Hitler wanted to invade the Russia before the England.

The first day of the invasion of Soviet Union, the German Nazi Forces were able to gunned-down 1489 of Russian military aircrafts and totally for the first week of the invasion, German Air force (Luftwaffe) and the German Army destroyed 3100 aircrafts of Russian Air force. But the minister of Aviation and commander-in-chief of the German Air Force Hermann Goring did not believe the reports and he directly ordered to check the reports whether they are correct or not before informe to Hitler. When the high rank officers of German air force examined the case they proved the over 2000 Russian aircrafts have been destroyed on the very first day of the operation but only 78 German aircrafts were destroyed by the Red Army on the first day. Actually, until the end of the invasion, the German Air Force overwhelmed the all power of aviation over the battlefield. This acquired air power gave German Forces to go ahead successfully and having less military damages than the Soviet Red Army.

From North-Western Front, several times Red Army launched very powerful counterattacks but those attempts did not enough to stop marching forward to get closer to the Leningrad. From the South Western Front, where the largest attention of Soviet Red Army had a horrific battlefield fights with German Forces. The German used their 1st Panzer group (tanks) with number of army units. For the Russian invasion, German developed a numerous war tanks such as ‘Tiger tanks’ against the Soviet T-34 Tanks.

Foremost target of the German Army eventually became to capture the Moscow and Leningrad. Moscow was the capital of Russia and Leningrad was the second largest city and the main industrial area. The other main target was Stalingrad. Hitler was personally envious of this name of Stalingrad. Once Hitler came to the power from 1933, he intended to make the largest city in Europe as the capital of German and to be named for this city using his name. In 1940 he ordered his personal architect, Albert Speer to examine all European main cities and design the best capital city for the German. When Russia had a city called ‘Stalingrad’ as Stalin’s name, he wanted to destroy it as soon as he could. At the beginning of the Operation Barbarossa, he ordered for the North Army group saying ‘Hitler has decided to erase the city of Stalingrad from the face of the earth’, and he ordered to surround the Stalingrad and wait for the citizens starve to death. But this dream of Hitler never came through.

The German Army group North assigned to capture the city of Leningrad and their plan was to encircle the city and cut off the all food supplies and the water supplies in the winter, until over 3 million people starve to death. Leningrad was the second largest industrial city including more than 600 factories at that time. Hitler assumed the city would only last quite a few weeks without foods supply and water supply because the temperature was minus 20 to 40, but valiant citizens held it out for nearly 900 days throughout the severe hardships. During the siege of the Leningrad, the German Air Force dropped 2.500 high explosives and totally 75,000 bombs into the city and more than 50,000 civilians killed or injured from the bombs. The Red Army couldn’t break the German encircle until the end of 1943. By the time Red Army arrived the city the siege of Leningrad had almost killed one million civilians including more than
400.000 were under 14 children but Hitler couldn’t achieve his target.

Moscow was one of the main objectives to the German Forces to full fill the Hitler’s order. In 1941 August, German captured the town of Smolensk, a very strategically important stronghold on the road to Moscow. But instead of invading Moscow, Hitler wanted to send the troops to get the area of Kev and Ukraine because Hitler believed that the best idea to defeat the Soviet Union is to grab the oil resources and the economically important areas. The most of the German high commands firmly believe that capturing Moscow would be the most important step to put more damage to the Red Army and their moral but they had to obey the orders of Hitler. When they headed to south to attack to Ukraine actually the move was successful and 660,000 Red Army personnel lost for the Russian Army. After that, Hitler ordered to march to Moscow in the end of Summer in 2nd of October 1941. Two million German soldiers marched to Moscow with 1,000 tanks and 4,000 guns. But the German Army had been very fatigued after having series of battles from Ukraine. By the time they started to marched to Moscow, the German Forces already lost 1,603 air crafts and 1,028 damaged. The only 549 serviceable machines available. The other main obstacle was, Red Army raised strength by deploying new forces divisions to guard Moscow. The heavy fighting occured all the way to the Moscow. Red Army determined to stop the German Forces by doing their best of the best. In the city of Vyazma, the Red Army divisions of 19th, 20th, 24th, and 32nd were surrounded by the German. Red Army continued to fight despite the huge loss. Near to Bryansk, the Red Army resistance was less than Vyazma and that was the bad signal to the Soviet authority to defend Moscow. According to German assessments of the initial Soviet defeat, 673,000 Red Army soldiers had been captured by German in both Vyazma and Bryansk areas. Soviet authority calculated the losses as 499,001 permanent and temporary soldiers.

Hitler and the German high command was thrilled by the Red Army losses. German authority addressed the foreign correspondents that the collapse of all Soviet resistances only hours away. On 15th October Stalin ordered to evacuate all of the Communist Party general staff and many civil officers from Moscow to Kuibyshev (Samara). People of Moscow were panic and tried to flee as soon as possible but Stalin publicly remained in Moscow for ordering to the forces. While all of these things happening for favourable to the German Forces one decisive thing started to happen in favour of Red Army. The winter snowfall started from 7th of October. By late October, The German Forces were worn out without functioning their motor vehicles and their high power military equipment. The German offensive forces slowly step by step had reached to the town of Khimki which is 18 Km away from the Kremlin in the centre of Moscow. They were the German army units which came to the closest to Moscow and they reported to Hitler that they can see the top of the Kremlin by using the binoculars.

Actually German Forces were not ready for the winter. Their duty was to finish within 10 weeks just before the winter started. The 1941 winter was the most severe winter in Europe after 50 years or so. Some areas the temperature dropped down minus 20 to minus 40. They could not stop the engines of all vehicles otherwise they could not start in the following day by freezing. The German army gears were not warm enough for such a heavy winter. All air supplies had to stop because of the bad weather. The roads became like mud and snow pools which make German Forces to stop and wait what to do. Specially their tiger tanks wheels and belts were not wider than Soviet t-34 tanks.
The Red Army was very well ready for the winter and they knew that the winter coming and how they can get the advantage from the winter. Stalin ordered General Zhukov to take over to be head for the Moscow front and he arrived Moscow from the Leningrad front. He was one of the most experienced general in the Red Army and later became the Army chief and a politburo member of the communist party. According to General Zhukov, 250,000 women and teenagers worked to save Moscow by building trenches and anti-tanks moats around Moscow. Moscow factories were converted to military tasks. A clock factory became in to making detonators, chocolate factory shifted to food production for the front, automobile repair stations worked fixing damaged tanks and military vehicles. To boost civilians’ morale, Stalin ordered the traditional military parade on 7th November in Red Square. The soviet troops paraded past the Kremlin and then marched directly to the front.

By 15 November 1941, the ground had entirely frozen. Then from 2nd week of December, the German Forces were not in a position to defence their current location and had to withdraw even without Hitler’s orders. 5 December 1941, exactly after 5 months, 1 week and 6 days of the starting day of Operation Barbarossa, the military operation was officially called off. Hitler was furious of the decision they made to withdraw the forces. He dismissed three generals by doing so and later in 25th December, He dismissed the overall Army chief of the commander for German Army in Barbarossa, field marshal, Walther von Brauchitsch. Then Hitler powered himself as the commander in charge in the battles related to invasion from 25th of December. He started to ordered to the generals directly and always ordered go ahead and finish the duty whatever the circumstances ahead of the battlefield. After having an advantage from the winter, Red Army was getting more and more strength and their offensive attacks becoming more decisive for the German Army. Then the Hitler’s idea of capturing Moscow was step by step fading by 1942 January. At the end of October 1943, German Army centre division was repulsed from the threatening area of Moscow then the war directed to the West parts of Soviet Russia but the German Army couldn’t achieve to get any main city or particular areas as they supposed to. The war was nearly over on around 1944 but it was getting more and more advantage for the Red Army.

Finally, instead of going deeper to Soviet Russia the Red Army was chasing the German Forces back to Berlin city of Germany. Field Marshal Zhukov was the commander of the war against Berlin. By May 1945, as soon as Hitler committed suicide, (which is still debated) the German Forces surrendered to the Red Army.

Actually the high rank generals in German Army were surprised the way in which Red Army faced to the invading German Army. The German authority reported to Hitler that the Red Army was totally different from how they fought in 1918 world war 1. Even later 1941, Hitler had told his close allies that he should not have invaded Soviet Union and he found out the error was under-estimating the Red Army strength. Even the lower rank Nazi soldiers were surprised the morale of the Red Army. The Red Army was not with fully trained soldiers like German. Most of the Red Army soldiers were workers. Lots of them came to the battlefield with their worker dresses. They made the traps and trenches as much as they can slow down the German Army marching to the centre of the Russia. From 6,7 year children to 65, 70 older people helped the Red Army from every possible way to gun down the enemy. Every Red Army small group has got a commissar of Communist Party. He or she had the equal power of the group leader. Hitler personally ordered to his generals, to kill the all commissars as soon as they captured them before the others. Therefore, the German Army firstly killed as many commissars as they could. Hitler believed that the Red Army morale exist because of Bolshevism. Those commissars brought the Bolshevik ideas to the soldiers of Red Army, Hitler believed. Actually this was one true thing and the commissars of Red Army did more important things to connect the army with Bolshevik ideas but more of the peasants, workers in the battlefield were Bolshevik and they never gave up the idea of downing the enemy. They really understood that the only chance to save the Bolshevism and the country is to defeat the enemy.

In operation Barbarossa, Russian officials listed the names of roughly 14 million dead or missing Red Army soldiers while the other historians say the amount should be way too higher. Politicians and the journalists say that the Red Army soldiers and the normal civilians more than 40 million dead or missing in the war. Stalingrad was a nightmare for the German soldiers after they were trapped there. Russian recovered 2,50,000 German and Romanian soldiers’ dead bodies. But it is believed that more than 8,00,000 German, Romanian, Hungarian and Italian killed or missing in ‘Stalingrad trap’. In the total, Red Army captured more than 3 million Nazi soldiers during the invasion Barbarossa. Eventually the operation Barbarossa was the turning point of the Hitler’s fate. Even though Hitler wanted to get rid of Bolshevism from the earth, it fired back to Hitler and after the World War 2, Nazism was eradicated from Europe as well as from the earth.