Operation Barbarossa
Overview
 
Operation Barbarossa (named for Frederick Barbarossa
Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor
Frederick I Barbarossa was a German Holy Roman Emperor. He was elected King of Germany at Frankfurt on 4 March 1152 and crowned in Aachen on 9 March, crowned King of Italy in Pavia in 1155, and finally crowned Roman Emperor by Pope Adrian IV, on 18 June 1155, and two years later in 1157 the term...

, the medieval German ruler who, as myth had it, would rescue Germany in her time of need) was the code name
Code name
A code name or cryptonym is a word or name used clandestinely to refer to another name or word. Code names are often used for military purposes, or in espionage...

 for Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

's invasion of the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 that began on 22 June 1941. Over 4.5 million troops of the Axis powers
Axis Powers
The Axis powers , also known as the Axis alliance, Axis nations, Axis countries, or just the Axis, was an alignment of great powers during the mid-20th century that fought World War II against the Allies. It began in 1936 with treaties of friendship between Germany and Italy and between Germany and...

 invaded the USSR along a 2900 km (1,802 mi) front., the largest invasion in the history of warfare. In addition to the large number of troops, Barbarossa involved 600,000 motor vehicles and 750,000 horses.
Encyclopedia
Operation Barbarossa (named for Frederick Barbarossa
Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor
Frederick I Barbarossa was a German Holy Roman Emperor. He was elected King of Germany at Frankfurt on 4 March 1152 and crowned in Aachen on 9 March, crowned King of Italy in Pavia in 1155, and finally crowned Roman Emperor by Pope Adrian IV, on 18 June 1155, and two years later in 1157 the term...

, the medieval German ruler who, as myth had it, would rescue Germany in her time of need) was the code name
Code name
A code name or cryptonym is a word or name used clandestinely to refer to another name or word. Code names are often used for military purposes, or in espionage...

 for Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

's invasion of the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 that began on 22 June 1941. Over 4.5 million troops of the Axis powers
Axis Powers
The Axis powers , also known as the Axis alliance, Axis nations, Axis countries, or just the Axis, was an alignment of great powers during the mid-20th century that fought World War II against the Allies. It began in 1936 with treaties of friendship between Germany and Italy and between Germany and...

 invaded the USSR along a 2900 km (1,802 mi) front., the largest invasion in the history of warfare. In addition to the large number of troops, Barbarossa involved 600,000 motor vehicles and 750,000 horses. The ambitious operation marked both a manifestation of Hitler's persistent desire to conquer the Russian territories and the start of the battle which proved most pivotal in deciding the victors of the war. A study of Barbarossa allows an appreciation of the role of grave eminence which the Soviet Union played in the defeat of Nazi Germany; the operation resulted in 95% of all German casualties from 1941 to 1944 and 65% of all the allied military casualties accumulated throughout the war. Planning for Operation Barbarossa started on 18 December 1940; the secret preparations and the military operation itself lasted almost a year, from spring to winter 1941. The Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

 repelled the Wehrmacht
Wehrmacht
The Wehrmacht – from , to defend and , the might/power) were the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the Heer , the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe .-Origin and use of the term:...

's strongest blow, and Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

 did not achieve the expected victory, but the Soviet Union's situation remained dire. Tactically, the Germans won resounding victories and occupied some of the most important economic areas of the country, mainly in Ukraine
Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

. Despite these successes, the Germans were pushed back from Moscow
Battle of Moscow
The Battle of Moscow is the name given by Soviet historians to two periods of strategically significant fighting on a sector of the Eastern Front during World War II. It took place between October 1941 and January 1942. The Soviet defensive effort frustrated Hitler's attack on Moscow, capital of...

 and could never mount an offensive simultaneously along the entire strategic Soviet-German front again.

Operation Barbarossa's failure led to Hitler's demands for further operations inside the USSR, all of which eventually failed, such as continuing the Siege of Leningrad
Siege of Leningrad
The Siege of Leningrad, also known as the Leningrad Blockade was a prolonged military operation resulting from the failure of the German Army Group North to capture Leningrad, now known as Saint Petersburg, in the Eastern Front theatre of World War II. It started on 8 September 1941, when the last...

, Operation Nordlicht, and Battle of Stalingrad
Battle of Stalingrad
The Battle of Stalingrad was a major battle of World War II in which Nazi Germany and its allies fought the Soviet Union for control of the city of Stalingrad in southwestern Russia. The battle took place between 23 August 1942 and 2 February 1943...

, among other battles on the occupied Soviet territory.

Operation Barbarossa was the largest military operation in human history in both manpower and casualties. Its failure was a turning point in the Third Reich's fortunes. Most important, Operation Barbarossa opened up the Eastern Front
Eastern Front (World War II)
The Eastern Front of World War II was a theatre of World War II between the European Axis powers and co-belligerent Finland against the Soviet Union, Poland, and some other Allies which encompassed Northern, Southern and Eastern Europe from 22 June 1941 to 9 May 1945...

, to which more forces were committed than in any other theater of war in world history. Operation Barbarossa and the areas that fell under it became the site of some of the largest battles, deadliest atrocities, highest casualties, and most horrific conditions for Soviets and Germans alike — all of which influenced the course of both World War II and 20th century history. The German forces captured 3 million Soviet POWs
Nazi crimes against Soviet POWs
The Nazi crimes against Soviet Prisoners of War relate to the deliberately genocidal policies taken towards the captured soldiers of the Soviet Union by Nazi Germany...

, who did not enjoy the protection stipulated in the Geneva Conventions
Geneva Conventions
The Geneva Conventions comprise four treaties, and three additional protocols, that establish the standards of international law for the humanitarian treatment of the victims of war...

. Most of them never returned alive. They were deliberately starved to death in German camps as part of a Hunger Plan
Hunger Plan
The Hunger Plan was an economic management scheme that was put in place to ensure that Germans were given priority over food supplies, at the expense of everyone else. This plan was featured as part of the planning phase of the Wehrmacht invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941...

, i.e., the program to reduce the Eastern European population.

Nazi theory regarding the Soviet Union

As early as 1925, Hitler suggested in Mein Kampf
Mein Kampf
Mein Kampf is a book written by Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. It combines elements of autobiography with an exposition of Hitler's political ideology. Volume 1 of Mein Kampf was published in 1925 and Volume 2 in 1926...

("My Struggle") that he would invade the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

, asserting that the German people needed Lebensraum
Lebensraum
was one of the major political ideas of Adolf Hitler, and an important component of Nazi ideology. It served as the motivation for the expansionist policies of Nazi Germany, aiming to provide extra space for the growth of the German population, for a Greater Germany...

("living space", i.e. land and raw material
Raw material
A raw material or feedstock is the basic material from which a product is manufactured or made, frequently used with an extended meaning. For example, the term is used to denote material that came from nature and is in an unprocessed or minimally processed state. Latex, iron ore, logs, and crude...

s) and that these should be sought in the East. Nazi racial ideology
Racial policy of Nazi Germany
The racial policy of Nazi Germany was a set of policies and laws implemented by Nazi Germany, asserting the superiority of the "Aryan race", and based on a specific racist doctrine which claimed scientific legitimacy...

 cast the Soviet Union as populated by "Untermensch
Untermensch
Untermensch is a term that became infamous when the Nazi racial ideology used it to describe "inferior people", especially "the masses from the East," that is Jews, Gypsies, Poles along with other Slavic people like the Russians, Serbs, Belarussians and Ukrainians...

en," ethnic Slavs ruled by their "Jewish Bolshevik
Jewish Bolshevism
Jewish Bolshevism, Judeo-Bolshevism, and known as Żydokomuna in Poland, is an antisemitic stereotype based on the claim that Jews have been the driving force behind or are disproportionately involved in the modern Communist movement, or sometimes more specifically Russian Bolshevism.The expression...

" masters. Mein Kampf said Germany's destiny was to turn "to the East" as it did "six hundred years ago" and "the end of the Jewish domination in Russia will also be the end of Russia as a State." Thereafter, Hitler spoke of an inescapable battle against "pan-Slav ideals", in which victory would lead to "permanent mastery of the world", though he said they would "walk part of the road with the Russians, if that will help us." Accordingly, it was Nazi stated policy
Policy
A policy is typically described as a principle or rule to guide decisions and achieve rational outcome. The term is not normally used to denote what is actually done, this is normally referred to as either procedure or protocol...

 to kill, deport
Deportation
Deportation means the expulsion of a person or group of people from a place or country. Today it often refers to the expulsion of foreign nationals whereas the expulsion of nationals is called banishment, exile, or penal transportation...

, or enslave
Slavery
Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work. Slaves can be held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to demand compensation...

 the Russian and other Slavic populations and repopulate the land with Germanic peoples (see New Order). Timothy Snyder
Timothy Snyder
Timothy D. Snyder is an American professor of history at Yale University, specializing in the history of Central and Eastern Europe, as well as the Holocaust...

 wrote that:

1939–1940 Nazi-Soviet relations

The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact
Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact
The Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, named after the Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov and the German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, was an agreement officially titled the Treaty of Non-Aggression between Germany and the Soviet Union and signed in Moscow in the late hours of 23 August 1939...

 had been signed shortly before the German and Soviet invasion of Poland
Soviet invasion of Poland
Soviet invasion of Poland can refer to:* the second phase of the Polish-Soviet War of 1920 when Soviet armies marched on Warsaw, Poland* Soviet invasion of Poland of 1939 when Soviet Union allied with Nazi Germany attacked Second Polish Republic...

 in 1939. A secret protocol to the pact outlined an agreement between the Third Reich and the Soviet Union on the division of the border states
Border states
Border states is a term referring to the European nations that won their independence from the Russian Empire after the Russian Revolution, the treaty of Brest-Litovsk, and ultimately the defeat of the German Empire in World War I...

 between their respective "spheres of influence". The pact surprised the world because of the parties' mutual hostility and their competing ideologies
Ideology
An ideology is a set of ideas that constitutes one's goals, expectations, and actions. An ideology can be thought of as a comprehensive vision, as a way of looking at things , as in common sense and several philosophical tendencies , or a set of ideas proposed by the dominant class of a society to...

. As a result of the pact, Germany and the Soviet Union had reasonably strong diplomatic relations and an important economic relationship. The countries entered a trade pact in 1940, in which the Soviets received German military and industrial equipment in exchange for raw materials, such as oil, or wheat to help Germany circumvent a British blockade.

But despite the parties' ongoing relations, both sides were strongly suspicious of each others' intentions. After Germany entered the Axis Pact
Tripartite Pact
The Tripartite Pact, also the Three-Power Pact, Axis Pact, Three-way Pact or Tripartite Treaty was a pact signed in Berlin, Germany on September 27, 1940, which established the Axis Powers of World War II...

 with Japan and Italy, it began negotiations about a potential Soviet entry into the pact
German–Soviet Axis talks
In October and November 1940, German–Soviet Axis talks occurred concerning the Soviet Union's potential entry as a fourth Axis Power. The negotiations included a two day Berlin conference between Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov, Adolf Hitler and German Foreign Minister Joachim von...

. After two days of negotiations in Berlin from November 12–14, Germany presented a proposed written agreement for Soviet entry into the Axis. The Soviet Union offered a written counterproposal agreement on 25 November 1940, to which Germany did not respond. As both sides began colliding with each other in Eastern Europe, conflict appeared more likely, though they signed a border and commercial agreement
German–Soviet Border and Commercial Agreement
The German–Soviet Border and Commercial Agreement, signed on January 10, 1941, was a broad agreement settling border disputes and continuing raw materials and war machine trade between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany...

 addressing several open issues in January 1941.

Germany plans the invasion

Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

's reputation contributed both to the Nazis' justification of their assault and their faith in success. In the late 1930s, Stalin had killed or incarcerated millions of citizens during the Great Purge
Great Purge
The Great Purge was a series of campaigns of political repression and persecution in the Soviet Union orchestrated by Joseph Stalin from 1936 to 1938...

, including many competent and experienced military officers, leaving the Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

 weakened and leaderless. The Nazis often emphasized the Soviet regime's brutality when targeting the Slavs with propaganda. German propaganda claimed the Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

 was preparing to attack them, and their own invasion was thus presented as pre-emptive.

In the summer of 1940, when German raw materials crises and a potential collision with the Soviet Union over territory in the Balkans arose, an eventual invasion of the Soviet Union looked increasingly like Hitler's 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", though German generals told Hitler that occupying Western Russia would create "more of a drain than a relief for Germany's economic situation." The Führer
Führer
Führer , alternatively spelled Fuehrer in both English and German when the umlaut is not available, is a German title meaning leader or guide now most associated with Adolf Hitler, who modelled it on Benito Mussolini's title il Duce, as well as with Georg von Schönerer, whose followers also...

anticipated additional benefits:
  • When the Soviet Union was defeated, the labor shortage
    Labor shortage
    In its narrowest definition, a labor shortage is an economic condition in which there are insufficient qualified candidates to fill the market-place demands for employment at any price...

     in German industry could be relieved by demobilization
    Demobilization
    Demobilization is the process of standing down a nation's armed forces from combat-ready status. This may be as a result of victory in war, or because a crisis has been peacefully resolved and military force will not be necessary...

     of many soldiers.
  • Ukraine
    Ukraine
    Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

     would be a reliable source of agricultural products.
  • Having the Soviet Union as a source of forced labor under German rule would vastly improve Germany's geostrategic position.
  • Defeat of the Soviet Union would further isolate the Allies
    Allies of World War II
    The Allies of World War II were the countries that opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War . Former Axis states contributing to the Allied victory are not considered Allied states...

    , especially the United Kingdom.
  • The German economy needed more oil and controlling the Baku Oilfields would achieve this; as Albert Speer
    Albert Speer
    Albert Speer, born Berthold Konrad Hermann Albert Speer, was a German architect who was, for a part of World War II, Minister of Armaments and War Production for the Third Reich. Speer was Adolf Hitler's chief architect before assuming ministerial office...

    , the German Minister for Armaments and War Production, later said in his interrogation, "the need for oil certainly was a prime motive" in the decision to invade.

On 5 December 1940, Hitler received military plans for the invasion, and approved them all, with the start scheduled for May 1941. On 18 December, Hitler signed War Directive No. 21 to the German High Command for an operation now codenamed "Operation Barbarossa" stating: "The German Wehrmacht must be prepared to crush Soviet Russia in a quick campaign." The operation was named after Emperor
Emperor
An emperor is a monarch, usually the sovereign ruler of an empire or another type of imperial realm. Empress, the female equivalent, may indicate an emperor's wife or a woman who rules in her own right...

 Frederick Barbarossa of the Holy Roman Empire
Holy Roman Empire
The Holy Roman Empire was a realm that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe.It was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. Its character changed during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, when the power of the emperor gradually weakened in favour of the princes...

, a leader of the Third Crusade
Third Crusade
The Third Crusade , also known as the Kings' Crusade, was an attempt by European leaders to reconquer the Holy Land from Saladin...

 in the 12th century. The invasion was set for 15 May 1941. In the Soviet Union, speaking to his generals in December, Stalin mentioned Hitler's references to an attack on the Soviet Union in Mein Kampf
Mein Kampf
Mein Kampf is a book written by Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. It combines elements of autobiography with an exposition of Hitler's political ideology. Volume 1 of Mein Kampf was published in 1925 and Volume 2 in 1926...

, and said they must always be ready to repulse a German attack, and that Hitler thought the Red Army would need four years to ready itself. Hence, "we must be ready much earlier" and "we will try to delay the war for another two years."

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. Another German official argued that the Soviets in their current bureaucratic form were harmless, the occupation would not produce a gain for Germany and "why should it not stew next to us in its damp Bolshevism?"

Hitler ignored German economic naysayers, and told Hermann Göring
Hermann Göring
Hermann Wilhelm Göring, was a German politician, military leader, and a leading member of the Nazi Party. He was a veteran of World War I as an ace fighter pilot, and a recipient of the coveted Pour le Mérite, also known as "The Blue Max"...

 that "everyone on all sides was always raising economic misgivings against a threatening war with Russia. From now onwards he wasn't going to listen to any more of that kind of talk and from now on he was going to stop up his ears in order to get his peace of mind." This was passed on to General Georg Thomas, who had been preparing reports on the negative economic consequences of an invasion of the Soviet Union — that it would be a net economic drain unless it was captured intact.

Beginning in March 1941, Göring's Green Folder
Goering's Green Folder
In the Nuremberg Trials there was a document referred to as the "Green Folder" ofReichsmarschall Hermann Göring. This was the master policy directive for the economicexploitation of the conquered Soviet Union...

 laid out details of the Soviet Union's proposed economic disposal after the invasion. The entire urban population of the invaded land was to be starved to death, thus creating an agricultural surplus to feed Germany and allowing the urban population's replacement by a German upper class. In the summer of 1941, German Nazi-ideologist Alfred Rosenberg
Alfred Rosenberg
' was an early and intellectually influential member of the Nazi Party. Rosenberg was first introduced to Adolf Hitler by Dietrich Eckart; he later held several important posts in the Nazi government...

 suggested that conquered Soviet territory should be administered in the following Reichskommissar
Reichskommissar
Reichskommissar , in German history, was an official gubernatorial title used for various public offices during the period of the German Empire and the Nazi Third Reich....

iates
:
  • Ostland
    Reichskommissariat Ostland
    Reichskommissariat Ostland, literally "Reich Commissariat Eastland", was the civilian occupation regime established by Nazi Germany in the Baltic states and much of Belarus during World War II. It was also known as Reichskommissariat Baltenland initially...

     (The Baltic countries
    Baltic countries
    The term Baltic states refers to the Baltic territories which gained independence from the Russian Empire in the wake of World War I: primarily the contiguous trio of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania ; Finland also fell within the scope of the term after initially gaining independence in the 1920s.The...

     and Belarus
    Belarus
    Belarus , officially the Republic of Belarus, is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe, bordered clockwise by Russia to the northeast, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest. Its capital is Minsk; other major cities include Brest, Grodno , Gomel ,...

    , extended eastward by about 500 km)
  • Ukraine
    Reichskommissariat Ukraine
    Reichskommissariat Ukraine , literally "Reich Commissariat of Ukraine", was the civilian occupation regime of much of German-occupied Ukraine during World War II. Between September 1941 and March 1944, the Reichskommissariat was administered by Reichskommissar Erich Koch as a colony...

     (Ukraine
    Ukraine
    Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

    , enlarged eastwards to the Volga)
  • Kaukasus
    Reichskommissariat Kaukasus
    Reichskommissariat Kaukasus , literally "Reich Commissariat of the Caucasus ", was the theoretical political division and planned civilian occupation regime of Nazi Germany in the conquered territories of the Caucasus during World War II...

     (Southern Russia and the Caucasus
    Caucasus
    The Caucasus, also Caucas or Caucasia , is a geopolitical region at the border of Europe and Asia, and situated between the Black and the Caspian sea...

     region)
  • Moskowien (Moscow metropolitan area
    Moscow metropolitan area
    Moscow metropolitan area or Moscow capital region is the largest metropolitan area in Russia and Europe, with population of about 15 million people.- Structure of Moscow metropolitan area :...

     and the rest of European Russia
    European Russia
    European Russia refers to the western areas of Russia that lie within Europe, comprising roughly 3,960,000 square kilometres , larger in area than India, and spanning across 40% of Europe. Its eastern border is defined by the Ural Mountains and in the south it is defined by the border with...

    )
  • Turkestan
    Reichskommissariat Turkestan
    Reichskommissariat Turkestan , literally "Reich Commissariat of Turkestan " was the civilian occupation regime which the leadership of Nazi Germany proposed to create in the Central Asian Republics of the Soviet Union in its military conflict with that country during World War II.-Background:Prior...

     (Central Asian republics
    Soviet Central Asia
    Soviet Central Asia refers to the section of Central Asia formerly controlled by the Soviet Union, as well as the time period of Soviet administration . In terms of area, it is nearly synonymous with Russian Turkestan, the name for the region during the Russian Empire...

     and territories)


Nazi policy aimed to destroy the Soviet Union as a political entity in accordance with the geopolitical
Geopolitics
Geopolitics, from Greek Γη and Πολιτική in broad terms, is a theory that describes the relation between politics and territory whether on local or international scale....

 Lebensraum idea ("Drang nach Osten
Drang nach Osten
Drang nach Osten was a term coined in the 19th century to designate German expansion into Slavic lands. The term became a motto of the German nationalist movement in the late nineteenth century...

") for the benefit of future generations of the "Nordic Aryan
Aryan race
The Aryan race is a concept historically influential in Western culture in the period of the late 19th century and early 20th century. It derives from the idea that the original speakers of the Indo-European languages and their descendants up to the present day constitute a distinctive race or...

 master race
Master race
Master race was a phrase and concept originating in the slave-holding Southern US. The later phrase Herrenvolk , interpreted as 'master race', was a concept in Nazi ideology in which the Nordic peoples, one of the branches of what in the late-19th and early-20th century was called the Aryan race,...

" .
Operation Barbarossa was to combine a northern assault towards Leningrad
Leningrad
Leningrad is the former name of Saint Petersburg, Russia.Leningrad may also refer to:- Places :* Leningrad Oblast, a federal subject of Russia, around Saint Petersburg* Leningrad, Tajikistan, capital of Muminobod district in Khatlon Province...

, a symbolic capturing of Moscow, and an economic strategy of seizing oil fields in the south beyond Ukraine. Hitler and his generals disagreed on which of these aspects should take priority and where Germany should focus its energies; deciding on priorities required a compromise. Hitler thought himself a political and military genius. While planning Barbarossa in 1940–1941, in many discussions with his generals, Hitler repeated his order: "Leningrad first, the Donetsk Basin second, Moscow third." Hitler was impatient to get on with his long-desired invasion of the east. He was convinced Britain would sue for peace, once the Germans triumphed in the Soviet Union, the real area of Germany's interests. General Franz Halder
Franz Halder
Franz Halder was a German General and the head of the Army General Staff from 1938 until September, 1942, when he was dismissed after frequent disagreements with Adolf Hitler.-Early life:...

 noted in his diaries that, by destroying the Soviet Union, Germany would destroy Britain's hope of victory.

Hitler had grown overconfident from his rapid success in Western Europe and the Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

's ineptitude in the Winter War
Winter War
The Winter War was a military conflict between the Soviet Union and Finland. It began with a Soviet offensive on 30 November 1939 – three months after the start of World War II and the Soviet invasion of Poland – and ended on 13 March 1940 with the Moscow Peace Treaty...

 against Finland in 1939–1940. He expected victory within a few months and therefore did not prepare for a war lasting into the winter. This meant his troops lacked adequate warm clothing and preparations for a longer campaign when they began their attack. The assumption that the Soviet Union would quickly capitulate would prove to be his undoing.

German preparations

The Germans had begun massing troops near the Soviet border even before the campaign in the Balkans had finished. By the third week in February 1941, 680,000 German troops were stationed on the Romanian-Soviet border. In preparation for the attack, Hitler moved 3.5 million German soldiers and about 1 million Axis soldiers to the Soviet border, launched many aerial surveillance
Reconnaissance
Reconnaissance is the military term for exploring beyond the area occupied by friendly forces to gain information about enemy forces or features of the environment....

 missions over Soviet territory, and stockpiled materiel
Materiel
Materiel is a term used in English to refer to the equipment and supplies in military and commercial supply chain management....

 in the East. The Soviets were still taken by surprise, mostly due to Stalin's
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

 belief that the Third Reich was unlikely to attack only two years after signing the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact
Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact
The Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, named after the Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov and the German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, was an agreement officially titled the Treaty of Non-Aggression between Germany and the Soviet Union and signed in Moscow in the late hours of 23 August 1939...

. The Soviet leader also believed the Nazis would be likely to finish their war with Britain before opening a new front. He refused to believe repeated warnings from his intelligence services on the Nazi buildup, fearing the reports to be British misinformation designed to spark a war between Germany and the USSR.

Spy Dr. Richard Sorge
Richard Sorge
Richard Sorge was a German communist and spy who worked for the Soviet Union. He has gained great fame among espionage enthusiasts for his intelligence gathering during World War II. He worked as a journalist in both Germany and Japan, where he was imprisoned for spying and eventually hanged....

 gave Stalin the exact German launch date; Swedish cryptanalysts led by Arne Beurling
Arne Beurling
Arne Carl-August Beurling was a Swedish mathematician and professor of mathematics at Uppsala University and later at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey....

 also knew the date beforehand, but Sorge and other informers (e.g. from Berlin Police dept.) had previously given different invasion dates which passed peacefully before the actual invasion. In addition, British intelligence gathering information through Ultra warned the Soviet Union of impending invasion several months prior to 22 June 1941.

The Germans set up deception operations, from April 1941, to add substance to their claims that Britain was the real target: Operations Haifisch
Operation Haifisch
Operation Haifisch was a German codename for the cover operation against Great Britain in World War II, intended to conceal preparations for Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union....

and Harpune
Operation Harpune
In World War II, Operation Harpune was the major German deception plan of 1941. This operation portrayed the so-called Operation Seelowe as inevitable, to conceal preparations for the invasion of the Soviet Union, called Operation Barbarossa...

. These simulated preparations in Norway, the Channel coast and Britain. There were supporting activities such as ship concentrations, reconnaissance flights and training exercises. Some details of these bogus invasion plans were deliberately leaked.

German military planners also researched Napoleon's failed invasion of Russia
French invasion of Russia
The French invasion of Russia of 1812 was a turning point in the Napoleonic Wars. It reduced the French and allied invasion forces to a tiny fraction of their initial strength and triggered a major shift in European politics as it dramatically weakened French hegemony in Europe...

. In their calculations they concluded that there was little danger of a large-scale retreat of the Soviet army into the Russian interior, as it could not afford to give up the Baltic states, the Ukraine, or the Moscow and Leningrad regions, all of which were vital to the Red Army for supply reasons and would thus have to be defended.

The strategy Hitler and his generals agreed on involved three separate army group
Army group
An army group is a military organization consisting of several field armies, which is self-sufficient for indefinite periods. It is usually responsible for a particular geographic area...

s assigned to capture specific regions and cities of the Soviet Union. The main German thrusts were conducted along historical invasion routes. Army Group North
Army Group North
Army Group North was a German strategic echelon formation commanding a grouping of Field Armies subordinated to the OKH during World War II. The army group coordinated the operations of attached separate army corps, reserve formations, rear services and logistics.- Formation :The Army Group North...

 was to march through the Baltics
Baltic states
The term Baltic states refers to the Baltic territories which gained independence from the Russian Empire in the wake of World War I: primarily the contiguous trio of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania ; Finland also fell within the scope of the term after initially gaining independence in the 1920s.The...

 into northern Russia, and either take or destroy the city of Leningrad
Siege of Leningrad
The Siege of Leningrad, also known as the Leningrad Blockade was a prolonged military operation resulting from the failure of the German Army Group North to capture Leningrad, now known as Saint Petersburg, in the Eastern Front theatre of World War II. It started on 8 September 1941, when the last...

 (now Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg is a city and a federal subject of Russia located on the Neva River at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea...

). Army Group Center would advance to Smolensk
Smolensk
Smolensk is a city and the administrative center of Smolensk Oblast, Russia, located on the Dnieper River. Situated west-southwest of Moscow, this walled city was destroyed several times throughout its long history since it was on the invasion routes of both Napoleon and Hitler. Today, Smolensk...

 and then Moscow, marching through what is now Belarus
Belarus
Belarus , officially the Republic of Belarus, is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe, bordered clockwise by Russia to the northeast, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest. Its capital is Minsk; other major cities include Brest, Grodno , Gomel ,...

 and the west-central regions of Russia proper. Army Group South
Army Group South
Army Group South was the name of a number of German Army Groups during World War II.- Poland campaign :Germany used two army groups to invade Poland in 1939: Army Group North and Army Group South...

 was to strike the heavily populated and agricultural heartland of Ukraine
Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

, taking Kiev
Kiev
Kiev or Kyiv is the capital and the largest city of Ukraine, located in the north central part of the country on the Dnieper River. The population as of the 2001 census was 2,611,300. However, higher numbers have been cited in the press....

 before continuing eastward over the steppe
Steppe
In physical geography, steppe is an ecoregion, in the montane grasslands and shrublands and temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands biomes, characterized by grassland plains without trees apart from those near rivers and lakes...

s of the southern USSR to the Volga with the aim of controlling the oil-rich Caucasus
Caucasus
The Caucasus, also Caucas or Caucasia , is a geopolitical region at the border of Europe and Asia, and situated between the Black and the Caspian sea...

.

Hitler, the OKW and the various high commands disagreed about what the main objectives should be. In preparing for Barbarossa, most of the OKW argued for a straight thrust to Moscow, but Hitler kept asserting his intention to seize the resource-rich Ukraine and Baltics before concentrating on the Soviet capital. An initial delay, which postponed the start of Barbarossa from mid-May to the end of June 1941, may have been insignificant, especially since the Russian muddy season came late that year. However, more time was lost at various critical moments as Hitler and the OKW suspended operations in order to argue about strategic objectives.

The Germans also decided to bring rear forces (mostly Waffen-SS
Waffen-SS
The Waffen-SS was a multi-ethnic and multi-national military force of the Third Reich. It constituted the armed wing of the Schutzstaffel or SS, an organ of the Nazi Party. The Waffen-SS saw action throughout World War II and grew from three regiments to over 38 divisions, and served alongside...

 units and Einsatzgruppen
Einsatzgruppen
Einsatzgruppen were SS paramilitary death squads that were responsible for mass killings, typically by shooting, of Jews in particular, but also significant numbers of other population groups and political categories...

) into the conquered territories to counter the partisan
Soviet partisans
The Soviet partisans were members of a resistance movement which fought a guerrilla war against the Axis occupation of the Soviet Union during World War II....

 activity they knew would erupt in areas they controlled.

Soviet preparations

Despite the impressions of Hitler and others in the German high command, the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 was by no means weak. Rapid industrialization in the 1930s had led to industrial output second only to that of the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, and equal to Germany. Production of military equipment grew steadily, and in the pre-war years the economy became progressively more oriented toward military production. In the early 1930s, a very modern operational doctrine
Doctrine
Doctrine is a codification of beliefs or a body of teachings or instructions, taught principles or positions, as the body of teachings in a branch of knowledge or belief system...

 for the Red Army was developed and promulgated in the 1936 field regulations.

On 5 May 1941, Stalin gave a speech to graduates of military academies in Moscow declaring:
"War with Germany is inevitable. If comrade Molotov
Vyacheslav Molotov
Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov was a Soviet politician and diplomat, an Old Bolshevik and a leading figure in the Soviet government from the 1920s, when he rose to power as a protégé of Joseph Stalin, to 1957, when he was dismissed from the Presidium of the Central Committee by Nikita Khrushchev...

 can manage to postpone the war for two or three months that will be our good fortune, but you yourselves must go off and take measures to raise the combat readiness of our forces".
Development of the armed forces of the Soviet Union
from 1939 to 1941
1 January 1939 22 June 1941 % increase
Divisions calculated 131.5 316.5 140.7
Personnel 2,485,000 5,774,000 132.4
Guns and mortars 55,800 117,600 110.7
Tanks 21,100 25,700 21.8
Aircraft 7,700 18,700 142.8


According to Taylor and Proektor (1974), the Soviet armed forces in the western districts were outnumbered, with 2.6 million Soviet soldiers vs. 4.5 million for the Axis. The overall size of the Soviet armed forces in early July 1941, though, amounted to a little more than 5 million men, 2.6 million in the west, 1.8 million in the far east, with the rest being deployed or training elsewhere. These figures, however, can be misleading. The figure for Soviet strength in the western districts of the Soviet Union counts only the First Strategic Echelon, which was stationed on and behind the Soviet western frontier to a depth of 400 kilometers; it also underestimates the size of the First Strategic Echelon, which was actually 2.9 million strong. The figure does not include the smaller Second Strategic Echelon, which as of 22 June 1941 was in process of moving toward the frontier; according to the Soviet strategic plan, it was scheduled to be in position reinforcing the First Strategic Echelon by early July. The total Axis strength is also exaggerated; 3.3 million German troops were earmarked for participation in Barbarossa, but that figure includes reserves which did not take part in the initial assault. A further 600,000 troops provided by Germany's allies also participated, but mostly after the initial assault.

Total Axis forces available for Barbarossa were therefore in the order of 3.9 million. On 22 June, the German Wehrmacht achieved a local superiority in its initial assault (98 German divisions), including 29 armoured and motorized divisions, some 90% of its mobile forces, attacking on a front of 1200 km (745.6 mi) between the Baltic Sea and the Carpathian Mountains, against NKVD border troops and the divisions of the Soviet First Operational Echelon (the part of the First Strategic Echelon stationed immediately behind the frontier in the three western Special Military Districts) because it had completed its deployment and was ready to attack about two weeks before the Red Army was scheduled to have finished its own deployment with the Second Strategic Echelon in place. At the time, 41% of stationary Soviet bases were located in the near-boundary districts, many of them in the 200 km (124.3 mi) strip around the border; according to Red Army directive, fuel, equipment, railroad cars, etc. were similarly concentrated there.

Moreover, on mobilization
Mobilization
Mobilization is the act of assembling and making both troops and supplies ready for war. The word mobilization was first used, in a military context, in order to describe the preparation of the Prussian army during the 1850s and 1860s. Mobilization theories and techniques have continuously changed...

, as the war went on, the Red Army gained steadily in strength. While the strength of both sides varied, in general the 1941 campaign was fought with a slight Axis numerical superiority in manpower at the front. According to Mikhail Meltyukhov (2000:477), by the start of war, the Red Army numbered altogether 5,774,211 troops: 4,605,321 in ground forces, 475,656 in air forces, 353,752 in the navy
Navy
A navy is the branch of a nation's armed forces principally designated for naval and amphibious warfare; namely, lake- or ocean-borne combat operations and related functions...

, 167,582 as border guard
Border guard
The border guard, frontier guard, border patrol, border police, or frontier police of a country is a national security agency that performs border control, i.e., enforces the security of the country's national borders....

s and 171,900 in internal troops
Internal Troops (Russia)
Internal Troops, full name Internal Troops of the Ministry for Internal Affairs is a paramilitary national guard like force in the now-defunct Soviet Union and its successor countries, particularly, in Russia and Ukraine. Internal Troops are subordinated to Internal Affairs Ministries of the...

 of the NKVD
NKVD
The People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs was the public and secret police organization of the Soviet Union that directly executed the rule of power of the Soviets, including political repression, during the era of Joseph Stalin....

.

In some key weapons systems, however, the Soviet numerical advantage was considerable. In tanks, for example, the Red Army had a large quantitative superiority. It possessed 23,106 tanks, of which about 12,782 were in the five Western Military Districts (three of which directly faced the German invasion front). However, maintenance and readiness standards were very poor; ammunition and radios were in short supply, and many units lacked the trucks needed for resupply beyond their basic fuel and ammunition loads.

Also, from 1938, the Soviets had partly dispersed their tanks to infantry divisions for infantry support, but after their experiences in the Winter War
Winter War
The Winter War was a military conflict between the Soviet Union and Finland. It began with a Soviet offensive on 30 November 1939 – three months after the start of World War II and the Soviet invasion of Poland – and ended on 13 March 1940 with the Moscow Peace Treaty...

 and their observation of the German campaign against France, had begun to emulate the Germans and organize most of their armored assets into large armour divisions and corps. This reorganization was only partially implemented at the dawn of Barbarossa, as not enough tanks were available to bring the mechanized corps up to organic strength.

The German Wehrmacht
Wehrmacht
The Wehrmacht – from , to defend and , the might/power) were the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the Heer , the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe .-Origin and use of the term:...

 had about 5,200 tanks overall, of which 3,350 were committed to the invasion. This yields a balance of immediately available tanks of about 4:1 in the Red Army's favor. The newest Soviet tank, the T-34
T-34
The T-34 was a Soviet medium tank produced from 1940 to 1958. Although its armour and armament were surpassed by later tanks of the era, it has been often credited as the most effective, efficient and influential design of World War II...

, was arguably the best in the world, and the KV series the best armored. The most advanced Soviet tank models, however, the T-34 and KV-1, were not available in large numbers early in the war, and only accounted for 7.2% of the total Soviet tank force. But while these 1,861 modern tanks were technically superior to the 1,404 German medium Panzer III
Panzer III
Panzer III was the common name of a medium tank that was developed in the 1930s by Germany and was used extensively in World War II. The official German designation was Panzerkampfwagen III translating as "armoured battle vehicle". It was intended to fight other armoured fighting vehicles and...

 and IV
Panzer IV
The Panzerkampfwagen IV , commonly known as the Panzer IV, was a medium tank developed in Nazi Germany in the late 1930s and used extensively during the Second World War. Its ordnance inventory designation was Sd.Kfz...

 tanks, the Soviets in 1941 still lacked the communications, training and experience to employ such weapons effectively.

The Soviet numerical advantage in heavy equipment was also more than offset by the greatly superior training and readiness of German forces. The Soviet officer corps and high command had been decimated by Stalin's Great Purge
Great Purge
The Great Purge was a series of campaigns of political repression and persecution in the Soviet Union orchestrated by Joseph Stalin from 1936 to 1938...

 (1936–1938). Of 90 generals arrested, only six survived the purges, as did only 36 of 180 divisional commanders, and just seven out of 57 army corps commanders. In total, some 30,000 Red Army personnel were executed, while more were deported to Siberia
Siberia
Siberia is an extensive region constituting almost all of Northern Asia. Comprising the central and eastern portion of the Russian Federation, it was part of the Soviet Union from its beginning, as its predecessor states, the Tsardom of Russia and the Russian Empire, conquered it during the 16th...

 and replaced with officers deemed more "politically reliable." Three of the five pre-war marshals
Marshal of the Soviet Union
Marshal of the Soviet Union was the de facto highest military rank of the Soviet Union. ....

 and about two thirds of the corps and division commanders were shot. This often left younger, less experienced officers in their places; for example, in 1941, 75% of Red Army officers had held their posts for less than one year. The average Soviet corps commander was 12 years younger than the average German division commander. These officers tended to be very reluctant to take the initiative and often lacked the training necessary for their jobs.

The number of aircraft was also heavily in the Soviets' favor. However, Soviet aircraft were largely obsolete, and Soviet artillery
Artillery
Originally applied to any group of infantry primarily armed with projectile weapons, artillery has over time become limited in meaning to refer only to those engines of war that operate by projection of munitions far beyond the range of effect of personal weapons...

 lacked modern fire control techniques. Most Soviet units were on a peacetime
Peacetime
In politics, peacetime is defined as any period of time where there are no violent conflicts occurring. For example, the time after World War II is considered peacetime in Western Europe and the United States....

 footing, explaining why aviation
Aviation
Aviation is the design, development, production, operation, and use of aircraft, especially heavier-than-air aircraft. Aviation is derived from avis, the Latin word for bird.-History:...

 units had their aircraft parked in closely bunched neat rows, rather than dispersed, making easy targets for the Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe is a generic German term for an air force. It is also the official name for two of the four historic German air forces, the Wehrmacht air arm founded in 1935 and disbanded in 1946; and the current Bundeswehr air arm founded in 1956....

in the first days of the conflict. Prior to the invasion the VVS
Soviet Air Force
The Soviet Air Force, officially known in Russian as Военно-воздушные силы or Voenno-Vozdushnye Sily and often abbreviated VVS was the official designation of one of the air forces of the Soviet Union. The other was the Soviet Air Defence Forces...

(Voenno-Vozdushnye Sily, Soviet Air Force) was forbidden to shoot down Luftwaffe reconnaissance aircraft
Reconnaissance aircraft
A reconnaissance aircraft is a manned military aircraft designed, or adapted, to carry out aerial reconnaissance.-History:The majority of World War I aircraft were reconnaissance designs...

, despite hundreds of prewar incursions into Soviet airspace.

The Soviet war effort in the first phase of the Eastern front
Eastern Front (World War II)
The Eastern Front of World War II was a theatre of World War II between the European Axis powers and co-belligerent Finland against the Soviet Union, Poland, and some other Allies which encompassed Northern, Southern and Eastern Europe from 22 June 1941 to 9 May 1945...

 war was severely hampered by a shortage of modern aircraft
Aircraft
An aircraft is a vehicle that is able to fly by gaining support from the air, or, in general, the atmosphere of a planet. An aircraft counters the force of gravity by using either static lift or by using the dynamic lift of an airfoil, or in a few cases the downward thrust from jet engines.Although...

. The Soviet fighter force
Soviet Air Force
The Soviet Air Force, officially known in Russian as Военно-воздушные силы or Voenno-Vozdushnye Sily and often abbreviated VVS was the official designation of one of the air forces of the Soviet Union. The other was the Soviet Air Defence Forces...

 was equipped with large numbers of obsolete aircraft, such as the I-15
Polikarpov I-15
The Polikarpov I-15 was a Soviet biplane fighter aircraft of the 1930s. Nicknamed Chaika because of its gulled upper wings, it was operated in large numbers by the Soviet Air Force, and together with the Polikarpov I-16 monoplane, was one of the standard fighters of the Spanish Republicans during...

 biplane
Biplane
A biplane is a fixed-wing aircraft with two superimposed main wings. The Wright brothers' Wright Flyer used a biplane design, as did most aircraft in the early years of aviation. While a biplane wing structure has a structural advantage, it produces more drag than a similar monoplane wing...

 and the I-16
Polikarpov I-16
The Polikarpov I-16 was a Soviet fighter aircraft of revolutionary design; it was the world's first cantilever-winged monoplane fighter with retractable landing gear. The I-16 was introduced in the mid-1930s and formed the backbone of the Soviet Air Force at the beginning of World War II...

. In 1941, the MiG-3, LaGG-3 and Yak-1 were just starting to roll off the production lines, but were far inferior in all-round performance to the Messerschmitt Bf 109
Messerschmitt Bf 109
The Messerschmitt Bf 109, often called Me 109, was a German World War II fighter aircraft designed by Willy Messerschmitt and Robert Lusser during the early to mid 1930s...

 or later, the Fw 190, when it entered operations in September 1941. Few aircraft had radio
Radio
Radio is the transmission of signals through free space by modulation of electromagnetic waves with frequencies below those of visible light. Electromagnetic radiation travels by means of oscillating electromagnetic fields that pass through the air and the vacuum of space...

s and those that were available were unencrypted and did not work reliably. The poor performance of the VVS during the Winter War with Finland had increased the Luftwaffe's confidence that the Soviets could be mastered. The standard of flight training had been accelerated in preparation for a German attack that was expected to come in 1942 or later. But Soviet pilot training was extremely poor. Order No 0362 of the People's Commissar of Defense, dated 22 December 1940, ordered flight training to be accelerated and shortened. Incredibly, while the Soviets had 201 MiG-3s
Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-3
The Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-3 was a Soviet fighter aircraft used during World War II. It was a development of the MiG-1 by the OKO of Zavod No. 1 to remedy problems that had been found during the MiG-1's development and operations. It replaced the MiG-1 on the production line at Factory No...

 and 37 MiG-1s
Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-1
The Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-1 was a Soviet fighter aircraft of World War II that was designed to meet a requirement for a high-altitude fighter issued in 1939. To minimize demand on strategic materials such as aluminum, the aircraft was mostly constructed from steel tubing and wood...

 combat ready on 22 June 1941, only four pilots had been trained to handle these machines.

The Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

 was dispersed and unprepared, and units were often separated and without transportation to concentrate prior to combat. Although the Red Army had numerous, well-designed artillery pieces, some of the guns had no ammunition
Ammunition
Ammunition is a generic term derived from the French language la munition which embraced all material used for war , but which in time came to refer specifically to gunpowder and artillery. The collective term for all types of ammunition is munitions...

. Artillery units often lacked transportation to move their guns. Tank units were rarely well-equipped, and also lacked training and logistical support. Maintenance standards were very poor. Units were sent into combat with no arrangements for refueling, ammunition resupply, or personnel replacement. Often, after a single engagement, units were destroyed or rendered ineffective. The army was in the midst of reorganizing the armor units into large tank corps, adding to the disorganization.

As a result, although on paper the Red Army in 1941 seemed at least the equal of the German army, the reality in the field was far different; incompetent officers, as well as partial lack of equipment, insufficient motorized logistical support, and poor training placed the Red Army at a severe disadvantage.

In 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. Stalin's distrust of the British led to his ignoring the warnings, believing it to be a trick designed to bring the Soviet Union into the war. In the spring of 1941, Stalin's own intelligence services and American intelligence made regular and repeated warnings of an impending German attack. However, Stalin chose to ignore these warnings. Although acknowledging the possibility of an attack in general and making significant preparations, he decided not to run the risk of provoking Hitler. He also had an ill-founded confidence in the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact
Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact
The Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, named after the Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov and the German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, was an agreement officially titled the Treaty of Non-Aggression between Germany and the Soviet Union and signed in Moscow in the late hours of 23 August 1939...

, which had been signed just two years before. Last, he also suspected the British of trying to spread false rumours in order to trigger a war between Germany and the USSR. Consequently, the Soviet border troops were not put on full alert and were sometimes even forbidden to fire back without permission when attacked — though a partial alert was implemented on 10 April — they were simply not ready when the German attack came.

Enormous Soviet forces were massed behind the western border in case the Germans did attack. However, these forces were very vulnerable due to changes in the tactical
Military tactics
Military tactics, the science and art of organizing an army or an air force, are the techniques for using weapons or military units in combination for engaging and defeating an enemy in battle. Changes in philosophy and technology over time have been reflected in changes to military tactics. In...

 doctrine
Military doctrine
Military doctrine is the concise expression of how military forces contribute to campaigns, major operations, battles, and engagements.It is a guide to action, not hard and fast rules. Doctrine provides a common frame of reference across the military...

 of the Red Army. In 1938, it had adopted, on the instigation of General Pavlov
Dmitry Pavlov
Dmitry Grigorevich Pavlov was a Soviet general who commanded the key Soviet Western Front during the initial days of the German invasion of the Soviet Union, or Operation Barbarossa, in June 1941. After his forces were heavily defeated in the first days of the campaign, he was relieved of his...

, a standard linear defence tactic on a line with other nations. Infantry divisions, reinforced by an organic tank component, would be dug in to form heavily fortified zones. Then came the shock of the Fall of France. The French Army, considered the strongest in the world, was defeated in a mere six weeks. Soviet analysis of events, based on incomplete information, concluded that the collapse of the French was caused by a reliance on linear defence and a lack of armored reserves.

The Soviets decided not to repeat these mistakes. Instead of digging in for linear defence, the infantry divisions would henceforth be concentrated in large formations. Most tanks would also be concentrated into 29 mechanized corps, each with over 1031 tanks. Should the Germans attack, their armoured spearheads would be cut off and wiped out by the mechanized corps. These would then cooperate with the infantry armies to drive back the German infantry, vulnerable in its approach march. The Soviet left wing, in Ukraine, was to be enormously reinforced to be able to execute a strategic envelopment: after destroying German Army Group South, it would swing north through Poland in the back of Army Groups Centre and North. With the complete annihilation of the encircled German Army thus made inevitable, a Red Army offensive into the rest of Europe would follow.

The Soviet offensive plans theory

Immediately after the German invasion of the USSR, Adolf Hitler put forward a thesis that the Red Army made extensive preparations for an offensive war in Europe, thus justifying the German invasion as a pre-emptive strike
Pre-Emptive Strike
Pre-Emptive Strike is the first release by Five Finger Death Punch on July 10, 2007. It was only released as a digital download to the American iTunes Music Store. The live version of "The Devil's Own" was recorded at a performance in Las Vegas, Nevada....

. After the war this view was brought forward by some Wehrmacht
Wehrmacht
The Wehrmacht – from , to defend and , the might/power) were the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the Heer , the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe .-Origin and use of the term:...

leaders, like Wilhelm Keitel
Wilhelm Keitel
Wilhelm Bodewin Gustav Keitel was a German field marshal . As head of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht and de facto war minister, he was one of Germany's most senior military leaders during World War II...

.

This thesis was reiterated in the 1980s based on the analysis of circumstantial evidence. Thus, it has been found that a proposal was drawn up by Zhukov
Georgy Zhukov
Marshal of the Soviet Union Georgy Konstantinovich Zhukov , was a Russian career officer in the Red Army who, in the course of World War II, played a pivotal role in leading the Red Army through much of Eastern Europe to liberate the Soviet Union and other nations from the Axis Powers' occupation...

 and signed by Vasilevsky
Aleksandr Vasilevsky
Aleksandr Mikhaylovich Vasilevsky was a Russian career officer in the Red Army, promoted to Marshal of the Soviet Union in 1943. He was the Chief of the General Staff of the Soviet Armed Forces and Deputy Minister of Defense during World War II, as well as Minister of Defense from 1949 to 1953...

 and Vatutin
Nikolai Fyodorovich Vatutin
Nikolai Fyodorovich Vatutin was a Soviet military commander during World War II.-Before World War II:Vatutin was born in Chepuhino village near Valuiky in Voronezh Governorate , into a Russian peasant family. Commissioned in 1920 to the Red Army, he fought against the Ukrainian peasant partisans...

 suggesting secret mobilization
Mobilization
Mobilization is the act of assembling and making both troops and supplies ready for war. The word mobilization was first used, in a military context, in order to describe the preparation of the Prussian army during the 1850s and 1860s. Mobilization theories and techniques have continuously changed...

 and deploying Red Army troops on the Western border, under the cover of training. The proposed operation's objective was to cut Germany off from its allies, and especially Romania with its oilfields that Germany needed to conduct the war.

According to Viktor Suvorov
Viktor Suvorov
Viktor Suvorov is the pen name for Vladimir Bogdanovich Rezun , a former Soviet and now British writer of Russian and Ukrainian descent who writes primarily in Russian, as well as a former Soviet military intelligence spy who defected to the UK...

, Stalin planned to use Germany as a proxy (the “Icebreaker”) against the West. Stalin's idea was to fuel Hitler's aggressive plans against Europe, and only after the countries had fought each other – and exhausted themselves to some extent – would the USSR make their strike. For this reason Stalin provided significant material and political support to Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

, while at the same time preparing the Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

 to “liberate” the whole of Europe from Nazi occupation. Suvorov argued that German Barbarossa actually was a pre-emptive strike that capitalized on the Soviet troop concentrations immediately on the 1941 borders. Some others who support the idea that Stalin prepared to attack, like Mikhail Meltyukhov, reject this part of Suvorov's theory, arguing that both sides prepared for attack on their own, not in response to the other side's preparations.

Although this thesis has drawn the attention of the general public in some countries, and has been supported by some historians (examples include Vladimir Nevezhin
Vladimir Nevezhin
Vladimir Nevezhin is a Russian historian , is working as a professor in Moscow, chief scientific collaborator at the Institute of Russian History and member of the editorial board of the journal Отечественная история .During the 1990s, he took part in the discussion and dispute...

, Boris Sokolov, Valeri Danilov
Valeri Danilov
Valeri Danilov is a Russian military historian and a retired officer . Danilov has Candidate of History Sciences degree and is a professor at the Academy of Military Science.In 1993, Yuri Gorkov and Valeri Danilov published a previously classified document, called Considerations to the...

, Joachim Hoffmann
Joachim Hoffmann
Joachim Hoffmann was a German historian and scientific director of the German Armed Forces Military History Research Office.-Life:...

 and Mark Solonin
Mark Solonin
Mark Solonin is a bestselling Russian writer on the history of World War II.In the Soviet offensive plans controversy he belongs to the camp close to Victor Suvorov...

), it has not been accepted by the majority of western historians.

Order of battle

Strength of the opposing forces on the
Soviet Western border. 22 June 1941
Germany and allies Soviet Union Ratio
Divisions 166 190 1 : 1.1
Personnel 4,306,800 3,289,851 1.3 : 1
Guns and mortars 42,601 59,787 1 : 1.4
Tanks (incl assault gun
Assault gun
An assault gun is a gun or howitzer mounted on a motor vehicle or armored chassis, designed for use in the direct fire role in support of infantry when attacking other infantry or fortified positions....

s)
4,171 15,687 1 : 3.8
Aircraft 4,389 11, 537 1 : 2.6
Source: Mikhail Meltyukhov “Stalin's Missed Chance
Stalin's Missed Chance
Stalin's Missed Chance is a study by Russian military historian Mikhail Ivanovich Meltyukhov, author of several books and articles on Soviet military history....

” table 47,

Composition of the Axis forces

Franz Halder
Franz Halder
Franz Halder was a German General and the head of the Army General Staff from 1938 until September, 1942, when he was dismissed after frequent disagreements with Adolf Hitler.-Early life:...

 as the Chief of General Staff OKH concentrated the following Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe forces for the operation:

Army Group North
Army Group North
Army Group North was a German strategic echelon formation commanding a grouping of Field Armies subordinated to the OKH during World War II. The army group coordinated the operations of attached separate army corps, reserve formations, rear services and logistics.- Formation :The Army Group North...

(Heeresgruppe Nord) (Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb
Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb
Wilhelm Josef Franz Ritter von Leeb was a German Field Marshal during World War II. - Youth :...

) staged in East Prussia
East Prussia
East Prussia is the main part of the region of Prussia along the southeastern Baltic Coast from the 13th century to the end of World War II in May 1945. From 1772–1829 and 1878–1945, the Province of East Prussia was part of the German state of Prussia. The capital city was Königsberg.East Prussia...

 with (29 divisions):
  • 16th Army (16. Armee) (Ernst Busch)
  • 4th Panzer Group (Panzergruppe 4) (Erich Hoepner
    Erich Hoepner
    Erich Hoepner was a German general in World War II. A successful panzer leader, Hoepner was executed after the failed 20 July Plot in 1944.- Life :Hoepner was born in Frankfurt an der Oder, Brandenburg...

    )
  • 18th Army (18. Armee) (Georg von Küchler
    Georg von Küchler
    Georg Karl Friedrich Wilhelm von Küchler was a German Field Marshal during the Second World War. He was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves...

    )
  • Air Fleet 1
    Luftflotte 1
    Luftflotte 1 was one of the primary divisions of the German Luftwaffe in World War II. It was formed February 1, 1939 from Luftwaffengruppenkommando 1 in Berlin...

     (Luftflotte eins) (Alfred Keller
    Alfred Keller
    Alfred Keller was a general in the German Luftwaffe during the Second World War. Born in Bochum, Province of Westphalia, his career in the Imperial German Armed Forces begun in 1897, when he became a cadet in a military school, he retired after the Second World War as one of the most decorated...

    )


Army Group Centre
Army Group Centre
Army Group Centre was the name of two distinct German strategic army groups that fought on the Eastern Front in World War II. The first Army Group Centre was created on 22 June 1941, as one of three German Army formations assigned to the invasion of the Soviet Union...

(Heeresgruppe Mitte) (Fedor von Bock
Fedor von Bock
Fedor von Bock was a German Generalfeldmarshall who served in the Wehrmacht during the Second World War. As a leader who lectured his soldiers about the honor of dying for the German Fatherland, he was nicknamed "Der Sterber"...

) staged in Eastern Poland with (49 divisions):
  • 4th Army (4. Armee) (Günther von Kluge
    Günther von Kluge
    Günther Adolf Ferdinand “Hans” von Kluge was a German military leader. He was born in Posen into a Prussian military family. Kluge rose to the rank of Field Marshal in the Wehrmacht. He was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords...

    )
  • 2nd Panzer Group (Panzergruppe 2) (Heinz Guderian)
  • 3rd Panzer Group (Panzergruppe 3) (Hermann Hoth
    Hermann Hoth
    Hermann "Papa" Hoth was an officer in the German military from 1903 to 1945. He attained the rank of Generaloberst during World War II. He fought in France, but is most noted for his later exploits as a panzer commander on the Eastern Front...

    )
  • 9th Army (9. Armee) (Adolf Strauß
    Adolf Strauß
    Adolf Strauß was a German Generaloberst . He was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross...

    )
  • Air Fleet 2
    Luftflotte 2
    Luftflotte 2 was one of the primary divisions of the German Luftwaffe in World War II. It was formed February 1, 1939 in Braunschweig and transferred to Italy on November 15, 1941...

     (Luftflotte zwei) (Albert Kesselring
    Albert Kesselring
    Albert Kesselring was a German Luftwaffe Generalfeldmarschall during World War II. In a military career that spanned both World Wars, Kesselring became one of Nazi Germany's most skilful commanders, being one of 27 soldiers awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords...

    )


Army Group South
Army Group South
Army Group South was the name of a number of German Army Groups during World War II.- Poland campaign :Germany used two army groups to invade Poland in 1939: Army Group North and Army Group South...

(Heeresgruppe Süd) (Gerd von Rundstedt
Gerd von Rundstedt
Karl Rudolf Gerd von Rundstedt was a Generalfeldmarschall of the German Army during World War II. He held some of the highest field commands in all phases of the war....

) was staged in Southern Poland and Romania with (41 divisions):
  • 17th Army (17. Armee) (Carl-Heinrich von Stülpnagel
    Carl-Heinrich von Stülpnagel
    Carl-Heinrich von Stülpnagel, was a German general and a member of the July 20 Plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler.-Early life:...

    )
    • Slovak Expeditionary Force (Ferdinand Čatloš
      Ferdinand Catloš
      Ferdinand Čatloš was a Slovak military officer and politician. Throughout his short career in the administration of the Slovak Republic he held the post of Minister of Defence. He was also the commanding officer of the Field Army Bernolák during the Invasion of Poland...

      )
    • Royal Hungarian Army "Fast Moving Army Corps"
      Gyorshadtest
      The Gyorshadtest was the most modern and best-equipped mechanized unit of the Royal Hungarian Army at the beginning of World War II. However, the "Rapid Corps" name was something of a misnomer as it was only "mechanized" compared to other Hungarian units...

      (Béla Miklós
      Béla Miklós
      Knight Béla Miklós de Dálnok was a Hungarian military officer and politician who served as acting Prime Minister of Hungary, at first in opposition, and then officially, from 1944 to 1945.-Early career:...

      ) – Initially part of a larger "Carpathian Group" (Karpat Gruppe)
  • 1st Panzer Group (Panzergruppe 1) (Ewald von Kleist
    Paul Ludwig Ewald von Kleist
    Paul Ludwig Ewald von Kleist was a leading German field marshal during World War II. He was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords...

    )
  • 11th Army (11. Armee) (Eugen Ritter von Schobert
    Eugen Ritter von Schobert
    Eugen Siegfried Erich Ritter von Schobert was a German general who served in World War I and World War II. He died in the Soviet Union when his observation plane crashed in a Soviet minefield.-Early life:...

    )
    • Italian Expeditionary Corps in Russia
      Italian Expeditionary Corps in Russia
      During World War II, the Italian Expeditionary Corps in Russia was a corps-sized expeditionary unit of the Regio Esercito that fought on the Eastern Front...

       (Corpo di Spedizione Italiano in Russia, CSIR) (Giovanni Messe
      Giovanni Messe
      Giovanni Messe was an Italian general, politician, and Field Marshal . He is considered by many to have been the best Italian general of the Second World War.-Early life and career:Born in Mesagne, Apulia, Giovanni Messe pursued a military career in 1901...

      )
  • 6th Army (6. Armee) (Walther von Reichenau
    Walther von Reichenau
    Walter von Reichenau was a German Generalfeldmarschall during World War II.-History:Reichenau was born in Karlsruhe to a Prussian general and joined the German Army in 1903. During World War I he served on the Western Front...

    )
    • Romanian 3rd Army (Petre Dumitrescu
      Petre Dumitrescu
      Petre Dumitrescu was a Romanian general during World War II, who led the Romanian Third Army on its campaign against the Red Army in the eastern front.-Early life and military career:...

      )
    • Romanian 4th Army
      4th Territorial Army Corps (Romania)
      The 4th Territorial Army Corps previously the 4th Army Corps was a corps of the Romanian Land Forces active from at least 1941 to 2000.General of Army Corps Constantin Prezan transferred from command of the 3rd Army Corps in 1914 to command of the 4th Army Corps in 1915-1916.The 4th Army Corps was...

       (Tancred Constantinescu
      Tancred Constantinescu
      Tancred Constantinescu was a Romanian engineer, politician and general. Between October 30, 1923 and March 29, 1926, he served as a Minister of Industry, within the Ion I.C. Brătianu 6th cabinet. General Constantinescu commanded the Romanian Armed Forces' 4th Army, part of the German Army Group...

      )

  • Air Fleet 4
    Luftflotte 4
    Luftflotte 4 was one of the primary divisions of the German Luftwaffe in World War II. It was formed on March 18, 1939 from Luftwaffenkommando Österreich in Vienna. The Luftflotte was redesignated on April 21, 1945 to Luftwaffenkommando 4, and became subordinated to Luftflotte 6. It was the...

     (Luftflotte vier) (Alexander Löhr
    Alexander Löhr
    Alexander Löhr was an Austrian Air Force commander during the 1930s and, after the "Political Union of Germany and Austria" , he was a German Air Force commander...

    )


Staged from Norway a smaller group of forces consisted of:
  • Army High Command Norway (Armee-Oberkommando Norwegen) (Nikolaus von Falkenhorst
    Nikolaus von Falkenhorst
    Nikolaus von Falkenhorst was a German General who planned Operation Weserübung, the invasion of Denmark and Norway in 1940...

    ) with two Corps
  • Air Fleet 5
    Luftflotte 5
    Luftflotte 5 was one of the primary divisions of the German Luftwaffe in World War II. It was formed 12 April 1940 in Hamburg for the invasion of Norway....

     (Luftflotte fünf) (Hans-Jürgen Stumpff
    Hans-Jürgen Stumpff
    Hans-Jürgen Stumpff , was a German general of the Luftwaffe during the Second World War.-Early life:Born in Kolberg, Stumpff entered the Brandenburgisches Grenadierregiment Nr. 12 "Prinz Karl von Preußen" as an ensign in 1907. Promoted to lieutenant in 1908, by the start of the First World War,...

    )


Numerous smaller units from all over Nazi-occupied Europe, like the "Legion of French Volunteers Against Bolshevism" (Légion des Volontaires Français contre le Bolchévisme), supported the German war effort.

Composition of the Soviet Forces

At the beginning of the German Reich’s invasion of the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941 the Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

 areas of responsibility in the European USSR were divided into four active Fronts
Front (Soviet Army)
A front was a major military organization in the Soviet Army during many wars. It was roughly equivalent to an army group in the militaries of most other countries except Germany...

. More Fronts would be formed within the overall responsibility of the three Strategic Directions commands which corresponded approximately to a German Army (Wehrmacht Heer) Army Group
Army group
An army group is a military organization consisting of several field armies, which is self-sufficient for indefinite periods. It is usually responsible for a particular geographic area...

 (Heeresgruppen) in terms of geographic area of operation
Area of operation
In U.S. military parlance, an area of operations is an operational area defined by the force commander for land, air, and naval forces conduct of combat and non-combat activities...

s.

On Zhukov's orders immediately following the invasion the Northern Front was formed from the Leningrad Military District
Leningrad Military District
The Leningrad Military District was a military district of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. In 2010 it was merged with the Moscow Military District, the Northern Fleet and the Baltic Fleet to form the new Western Military District.-History:...

, the North-Western Front
North-Western Front
The Northwestern Front was a military formation of the Red Army during the Winter War and World War II. It was operational with the 7th and 13th Armies during the Winter War. It was re-created on June 22, 1941, the first day of the Soviet-German War on the basis of the Baltic Special Military...

 from the Baltic Special Military District
Baltic Military District
The Baltic Military District was a military district of the Soviet armed forces, formed briefly before the German invasion, and then reformed after World War II and disbanded after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991....

, the Western Front was formed from the Western Special Military District
Belorussian Military District
The Byelorussian Military District was a military district of the Soviet Armed Forces. Originally in the times of Russian Civil War it formed as the Western Front, and in April 1924 it was renamed to the Western Military District. In October 1926 it was redesignated the Belorussian Military...

, and the Soviet Southwestern Front
Soviet Southwestern Front
The Southwestern Front was a name given to a Front by the Imperial Russian Army during the First World War, by the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic during the Russian Civil War, and by the Red Army during the Second World War.The Southwestern Front in this article describes several...

 was formed from the Kiev Special Military District. The Southern Front
Soviet Southern Front
The Southern Front was a Front - a roughly Army group sized formation - of the Soviet Army during the Second World War. The Southern Front directed military operations during the Soviet occupation of Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina in 1940, and then was formed twice after the June 1941 German...

 was created on the 25 June 1941 from the Odessa Military District
Odessa Military District
The Odessa Military District was a military administrative division of the Imperial Russian military, the Soviet Armed Forces and the Ukrainian Armed Forces and was known under such name from around 1862 to 1998. It was reorganized as part of the Military of Ukraine and the Military of Moldova in...

.

The first Directions were established on 10 July 1941, with Voroshilov
Kliment Voroshilov
Kliment Yefremovich Voroshilov , popularly known as Klim Voroshilov was a Soviet military officer, politician, and statesman...

 commanding the North-Western Strategic Direction, Timoshenko commanding the Western Strategic Direction, and Budyonny commanding the South-Western Strategic Direction.

The forces of the North-Western Direction were:
  • The Northern Front (Colonel General Markian Popov
    Markian Popov
    Markian Mikhaylovich Popov was a Soviet military commander, Army General , and Hero of the Soviet Union .- Life :During the German-Soviet War at various times he commanded a number of Armies and a number of Fronts. His career was uneven....

    ) bordered Finland and included the 14th Army
    14th Army (Soviet Union)
    The 14th Army was formed in October 1939 in the Leningrad Military District. It participated in the Soviet-Finnish war, during which its 52nd and 104th Rifle Divisions fought in the Battle of Petsamo.From 24 June 1941 the Army included...

    , 7th Army
    7th Army (Soviet Union)
    The Soviet Red Army's 7th Army first saw action in the 1939-40 Winter War against Finland. In November 1939, just before the initial Soviet attack, it consisted of the 19th Rifle Corps , 50th Rifle Corps , 10th Tank Corps, 138th Rifle Division, and an independent tank brigade...

    , 23rd Army
    23rd Army (Soviet Union)
    The 23rd Army was a Field Army of the Soviet Union's Red Army. It was formed in May 1941 in the Leningrad Military District for the defence of the southernmost part of the Soviet Union's border with Finland, north and northeast of Vyborg...

     and smaller units subordinate to the Front commander.
  • The North-Western Front
    North-Western Front
    The Northwestern Front was a military formation of the Red Army during the Winter War and World War II. It was operational with the 7th and 13th Armies during the Winter War. It was re-created on June 22, 1941, the first day of the Soviet-German War on the basis of the Baltic Special Military...

    (Colonel General Fyodor Kuznetsov) defended the Baltic region and consisted of the 8th Army
    8th Army (Soviet Union)
    The 8th Army was a field army of the Soviet Red Army during the Second World War.The 8th Army was formed in October 1939 from the Novgorod Army Operational Group of the Leningrad Military District with the task of providing security of the Northwestern borders of the USSR. The 8th Army was a field...

    , 11th Army, and the 27th Army
    27th Army (Soviet Union)
    The 27th Army was a field army of the Soviet Union's Red Army, which fought in World War II. First formed in May 1941. Initial commander was H. E. Berzarin. Took part in battles in the Baltic. On 22 June 1941 it consisted of the 22nd and 24th Rifle Corps, 16th and 67th Rifle Divisions, 3rd Separate...

     and other front troops (34 divisions).
  • The Northern
    Northern Fleet
    The Red Banner Northern Fleet is a unit of the Russian Navy that has access to the Barents and Norwegian Seas, the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans, and is responsible for the defense of northwestern Russia. It was established in 1937 as part of the Soviet Navy...

     and Baltic Fleet
    Baltic Fleet
    The Twice Red Banner Baltic Fleet - is the Russian Navy's presence in the Baltic Sea. In previous historical periods, it has been part of the navy of Imperial Russia and later the Soviet Union. The Fleet gained the 'Twice Red Banner' appellation during the Soviet period, indicating two awards of...

    s


The forces of the Western Direction were:
  • The Western Front (General Dmitry Grigoryevitch Pavlov
    Dmitry Pavlov
    Dmitry Grigorevich Pavlov was a Soviet general who commanded the key Soviet Western Front during the initial days of the German invasion of the Soviet Union, or Operation Barbarossa, in June 1941. After his forces were heavily defeated in the first days of the campaign, he was relieved of his...

    ) had the 3rd Army, 4th Army, 10th Army
    10th Army (Soviet Union)
    The 10th Army of the Soviet Union's Red Army was a field army active from 1939 to 1944.The Army was formed in September 1939 in the Moscow Military District, and then deployed to the Western Special Military District...

     and the Army Headquarters of the 13th Army
    13th Army (Soviet Union)
    The 13th Army was a name given to several field armies of the Soviet Union's Red Army, first created during the Russian Civil War...

     which coordinated independent Front formations (45 divisions).


The forces of the South-Western Direction were:
  • The South-Western Front
    Soviet Southwestern Front
    The Southwestern Front was a name given to a Front by the Imperial Russian Army during the First World War, by the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic during the Russian Civil War, and by the Red Army during the Second World War.The Southwestern Front in this article describes several...

    (Colonel General Mikhail Kirponos
    Mikhail Kirponos
    Mikhail Petrovich Kirponos was a Soviet Ukrainian general of the Red Army. Being accorded the highest military decoration, the Hero of the Soviet Union title, for the skill and courage in commanding a division in the 1939-1940 Finnish campaign, Kirponos is mostly remembered for his crucial role...

    ) was formed from the 5th Army, 6th Army
    6th Army (Soviet Union)
    The 6th Army was a field army of the Soviet Red Army formed four times during World War II and active with the Russian Ground Forces up until 1998...

    , 12th Army
    12th Army (Soviet Union)
    The Soviet Union's 12th Army was a field army formed multiple times during the Russian Civil War and World War II.-Civil War & Polish-Soviet War:...

     and the 26th Army as well as a group of units under Strategic Direction command (45 divisions).
  • The Southern Front (General Ivan Tyulenev
    Ivan Tyulenev
    Ivan Vladimirovich Tyulenev was a Soviet military commander, one of the first to be promoted Soviet General of the Army in 1940.- Biography :...

    ) was created on 25 June 1941 with 9th Independent Army
    9th Army (Soviet Union)
    The 9th Army of the Soviet Union's Red Army was a Soviet field army, active from 1939 – 43, and then after the war from 1966 to 1989.It was active during the Winter War against Finland as part of the Leningrad Military District, beginning operations at the end of November 1939 under ComKor M.P....

    , 18th Army
    18th Army (Soviet Union)
    The 18th Army of the Soviet Union's Red Army was formed on 21 June 1941 on the basis of HQ Kharkov Military District and armies of the Kiev Special Military District.The Army's commander in 1941 was General-Leitenant Andrew Kirilovych Smirnov...

    , 2nd and 18th Mechanized Corps
    Mechanized Corps (Soviet)
    A mechanised corps was a Soviet armoured formation used prior to the beginning of World War II.- Pre-war development of Soviet mechanised forces :...

     (26 divisions).
  • The Black Sea Fleet
    Black Sea Fleet
    The Black Sea Fleet is a large operational-strategic sub-unit of the Russian Navy, operating in the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea since the late 18th century. It is based in various harbors of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov....



Beside the Armies in the Fronts, there were a further six armies in the Western region of the USSR: 16th Army
16th Army (Soviet Union)
The 16th Army was a Soviet field army active from 1940 to 1945.-First Formation, 16th Army:Before Operation Barbarossa, HQ 16th Army was formed in July 1940 in the Transbaikal Military District . General Lieutenant М. F. Лукин took command...

, 19th Army
19th Army (Soviet Union)
The 19th Army was a field army of the Soviet Union's Red Army, formed in 1941 and active during the Second World War. It was disbanded in 1945 or 1947.-First Formation:...

, 20th Army
20th Army (Soviet Union)
The 20th Army was a field army of the Red Army that fought during the Great Patriotic War.-First formation:The Army was first formed in the Orel Military District in June 1941...

, 21st Army
21st Army (Soviet Union)
-June to September 1941:21st Army was a part of the Second Operational Echelon of the RKKA. It was formed from the forces of the Volga Military District in May 1941 and was initially based on 63rd Rifle Corps and 66th Rifle Corps. The army was under the command of Lieutenant-General Vasilii...

, 22nd Army
22nd Army (Soviet Union)
The 22nd Army was a field army of the Russian Ground Forces, part of the Moscow Military District. It was active from 1941 to 2010. The order for the formation's dissolution was signed by the Minister of Defence on 1 July 2009....

 and the 24th Army that formed, together with independent units, the Stavka
Stavka
Stavka was the term used to refer to a command element of the armed forces from the time of the Kievan Rus′, more formally during the history of Imperial Russia as administrative staff and General Headquarters during late 19th Century Imperial Russian armed forces and those of the Soviet Union...

 Reserve Group of Armies
, later renamed the Reserve Front
Soviet Reserve Front
The Reserve Front was a Front, or roughly Army group-sized military formation, of the Soviet Army during the Second World War.-First Formation:...

 nominally under Stalin
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

's direct command.

Phase 1: The Frontier Battles (22 June 1941–3 July 1941)

At 03:15 on Sunday, 22 June 1941, the Axis
Axis Powers
The Axis powers , also known as the Axis alliance, Axis nations, Axis countries, or just the Axis, was an alignment of great powers during the mid-20th century that fought World War II against the Allies. It began in 1936 with treaties of friendship between Germany and Italy and between Germany and...

 bombed major cities in Soviet-occupied Poland. It is hard to pinpoint the opposing sides' strength in this initial phase, as most German figures include reserves allocated to the East but not yet committed, as well as several other comparability issues between the German and USSR's figures. Roughly three million Wehrmacht troops went into action on 22 June, and they faced slightly fewer Soviet troops in the border Military District
Military district
Military districts are formations of a state's armed forces which are responsible for a certain area of territory. They are often more responsible for administrative than operational matters, and in countries with conscript forces, often handle parts of the conscription cycle.Navies have also used...

s. The contribution of the German allies would generally not make itself felt until later. The surprise was complete: though the Stavka
Stavka
Stavka was the term used to refer to a command element of the armed forces from the time of the Kievan Rus′, more formally during the history of Imperial Russia as administrative staff and General Headquarters during late 19th Century Imperial Russian armed forces and those of the Soviet Union...

, alarmed by reports that Wehrmacht units were approaching the border, had at 00:30 ordered that the border troops
USSR Border Troops
Soviet Border Troops, were the militarized border guard of the Soviet Union, subordinated to its subsequently reorganized state security agency: first to Cheka/OGPU, then to NKVD/MGB and, finally, to KGB...

 be warned that war was imminent, only a small number of units were alerted in time.

Aside from the roughly 3.2 million German ground troops engaged in, or earmarked for the Eastern Campaign, about 500,000 Romanian, Hungarian, Slovakian, Croatian, and Italian troops accompanied the German forces, while the Army of Finland
Continuation War
The Continuation War was the second of two wars fought between Finland and the Soviet Union during World War II.At the time of the war, the Finnish side used the name to make clear its perceived relationship to the preceding Winter War...

 made a major contribution in the north. The 250th Spanish "Blue" Infantry Division
Blue Division
The Blue Division officially designated as División Española de Voluntarios by the Spanish Army and 250. Infanterie-Division in the German Army, was a unit of Spanish volunteers that served in the German Army on the Eastern Front of the Second World War.-Origins:Although Spanish leader Field...

 was a formation of volunteered Spanish Falangists and Nazi sympathisers.

Luftwaffe reconnaissance units worked frantically to plot troop concentration, supply dumps, and airfields, and mark them for destruction. The Luftwaffes task was to neutralize the Soviet Air Force
Soviet Air Force
The Soviet Air Force, officially known in Russian as Военно-воздушные силы or Voenno-Vozdushnye Sily and often abbreviated VVS was the official designation of one of the air forces of the Soviet Union. The other was the Soviet Air Defence Forces...

. This was not achieved in the first days of operations, despite the Soviets having concentrated aircraft in huge groups on the permanent airfields rather than dispersing them on field landing strips, making them ideal targets. The Luftwaffe claimed to have destroyed 1,489 aircraft on the first day of operations. Hermann Göring
Hermann Göring
Hermann Wilhelm Göring, was a German politician, military leader, and a leading member of the Nazi Party. He was a veteran of World War I as an ace fighter pilot, and a recipient of the coveted Pour le Mérite, also known as "The Blue Max"...

 — Chief of the Luftwaffe — distrusted the reports and ordered the figure checked. Picking through the wreckages of Soviet airfields, the Luftwaffes figures proved conservative, as over 2,000 destroyed Soviet aircraft were found. The Luftwaffe lost 35 aircraft on the first day of combat. The Germans claimed to have destroyed only 3,100 Soviet aircraft in the first three days. In fact Soviet losses were far higher: some 3,922 Soviet machines had been lost (according to Russian Historian Viktor Kulikov). The Luftwaffe had achieved air superiority over all three sectors of the front, and would maintain it until the close of the year. The Luftwaffe could now devote large numbers of its Geschwader (see Luftwaffe Organization
Luftwaffe Organization
Between 1933 and 1945, the organization of the Luftwaffe underwent several changes. Originally, the German military high command decided to use an organizational structure similar to the army and navy, treating the branch as a strategic weapon of war...

) to support the ground forces.

Invasion musical theme

Each German invasion of a foreign country had an official musical theme that was frequently played for the purposes of Nazi propaganda
Nazi propaganda
Propaganda, the coordinated attempt to influence public opinion through the use of media, was skillfully used by the NSDAP in the years leading up to and during Adolf Hitler's leadership of Germany...

 over the totally government controlled radio stations after the invasion was officially announced to whip up enthusiasm for the military operation among the German population. The theme song for Operation Barbarossa was Les preludes
Les Préludes (Liszt)
Les préludes is the third of Franz Liszt's thirteen symphonic poems. Directed by Liszt himself, in April 1856 the score, and in January 1865 the orchestral parts, were published by Breitkopf & Härtel, Leipzig. Among Liszt's symphonic poems, Les préludes is the most popular...

 by Franz Liszt
Franz Liszt
Franz Liszt ; ), was a 19th-century Hungarian composer, pianist, conductor, and teacher.Liszt became renowned in Europe during the nineteenth century for his virtuosic skill as a pianist. He was said by his contemporaries to have been the most technically advanced pianist of his age...

.

Army Group North

Opposite Army Group North
Army Group North
Army Group North was a German strategic echelon formation commanding a grouping of Field Armies subordinated to the OKH during World War II. The army group coordinated the operations of attached separate army corps, reserve formations, rear services and logistics.- Formation :The Army Group North...

 were two Soviet armies. The Wehrmacht OKH thrust the 4th Panzer Group, with a strength of 600 tanks, at the junction of the two Soviet armies in that sector. The 4th Panzer Group's objective was to cross the Neman
Neman
Neman may refer to:*Neman River, a major river in Eastern Europe*FC Neman Grodno, a soccer club in Belarus*FC Neman Masty, a soccer club in Belarus*Neman Stadium, a stadium in Belarus*Neman R-10, a Soviet aircraft of the 1930s...

 and Daugava Rivers which were the two largest obstacles in the advance to Leningrad
Leningrad
Leningrad is the former name of Saint Petersburg, Russia.Leningrad may also refer to:- Places :* Leningrad Oblast, a federal subject of Russia, around Saint Petersburg* Leningrad, Tajikistan, capital of Muminobod district in Khatlon Province...

. On the first day, the tanks crossed the River Neman and penetrated 50 mi (80.5 km). Near Raseiniai
Raseiniai
Raseiniai is a city in Lithuania. It is located on the south eastern foothills of the Samogitians highland, some north from the Kaunas–Klaipėda highway.- Grand Duchy of Lithuania :...

, the armoured units were counter attacked by 300 tanks of the 3rd and 12th Soviet Mechanized Corps. It took four days for the Germans to encircle and destroy the Soviet armour who lacked fuel, ammunition and coordination. By the end of the first week the Soviet Mechanized Corps had lost 90% of its strength. The Panzer Groups then crossed the Daugava near Daugavpils
Daugavpils
Daugavpils is a city in southeastern Latvia, located on the banks of the Daugava River, from which the city gets its name. Daugavpils literally means "Daugava Castle". With a population of over 100,000, it is the second largest city in the country after the capital Riga, which is located some...

. The Germans were now within striking distance of Leningrad. However, due to their deteriorated supply situation, Hitler ordered the Panzer Groups to hold their position while the infantry formations caught up. The orders to hold would last over a week, giving time for the Soviets to build up a defence around Leningrad and along the bank of the Luga River
Luga River
The Luga River -See also:* Shum Gora, an archaeological site near the banks of the river...

.
Further complicating the Soviet position, on 22 June the anti-Soviet June Uprising
Lithuanian 1941 independence
The June Uprising was a brief period in the history of Lithuania between the first Soviet and Nazi occupations in June 1941. Approximately one year earlier, on June 15, 1940, the Red Army invaded Lithuania and the unpopular Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic was soon established. Political...

 in Lithuania
Lithuania
Lithuania , officially the Republic of Lithuania is a country in Northern Europe, the biggest of the three Baltic states. It is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, whereby to the west lie Sweden and Denmark...

 began, and on the next day an independent Lithuania was proclaimed. An estimated 30,000 Lithuanian rebels engaged Soviet forces, joined by ethnic Lithuanians from the Red Army. As the Germans reached further north, armed resistance
Forest Brothers
The Forest Brothers were Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian partisans who waged a guerrilla war against Soviet rule during the Soviet invasion and occupation of the three Baltic states during, and after, World War II...

 against the Soviets broke out in Estonia as well. The "Battle of Estonia" ended on 7 August, when the 18th Army reached the Gulf of Finland
Gulf of Finland
The Gulf of Finland is the easternmost arm of the Baltic Sea. It extends between Finland and Estonia all the way to Saint Petersburg in Russia, where the river Neva drains into it. Other major cities around the gulf include Helsinki and Tallinn...

 coast.

Army Group Centre

Opposite Army Group Centre
Army Group Centre
Army Group Centre was the name of two distinct German strategic army groups that fought on the Eastern Front in World War II. The first Army Group Centre was created on 22 June 1941, as one of three German Army formations assigned to the invasion of the Soviet Union...

 were four Soviet armies: the 3rd, 4th, 10th
10th Army (Soviet Union)
The 10th Army of the Soviet Union's Red Army was a field army active from 1939 to 1944.The Army was formed in September 1939 in the Moscow Military District, and then deployed to the Western Special Military District...

 and 11th Armies. The Soviet Armies occupied a salient
Salients, re-entrants and pockets
A salient is a battlefield feature that projects into enemy territory. The salient is surrounded by the enemy on three sides, making the troops occupying the salient vulnerable. The enemy's line facing a salient is referred to as a re-entrant...

 that jutted into German occupied Polish territory with the Soviet salient's center at Białystok. Beyond Białystok was Minsk
Minsk
- Ecological situation :The ecological situation is monitored by Republican Center of Radioactive and Environmental Control .During 2003–2008 the overall weight of contaminants increased from 186,000 to 247,400 tons. The change of gas as industrial fuel to mazut for financial reasons has worsened...

, both the capital of Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic and a key railway junction. AG Centre's two Panzer Groups' goal was to meet at Minsk, denying the Red Army an escape route from the salient. The 3rd Panzer Group broke through the junction of two Soviet Fronts in the north of the salient, and crossed the River Neman
Neman River
Neman or Niemen or Nemunas, is a major Eastern European river rising in Belarus and flowing through Lithuania before draining into the Curonian Lagoon and then into the Baltic Sea at Klaipėda. It is the northern border between Lithuania and Russia's Kaliningrad Oblast in its lower reaches...

 while the 2nd Panzer Group crossed the Bug River
Bug River
The Bug River is a left tributary of the Narew river flows from central Ukraine to the west, passing along the Ukraine-Polish and Polish-Belarusian border and into Poland, where it empties into the Narew river near Serock. The part between the lake and the Vistula River is sometimes referred to as...

 river in the South. While the Panzer Groups attacked, the Wehrmacht Army Group Centre infantry Armies struck at the salient, eventually encircling Soviet troops at Białystok.

Moscow at first failed to grasp the dimensions of the catastrophe that had befallen the USSR. Marshall Timoshenko ordered all Soviet forces to launch a general counter-offensive, but with supply and ammunition dumps destroyed, and a complete collapse of communication, the uncoordinated attacks failed. Zhukov signed the infamous Directive of People's Commissariat of Defence No. 3 (he later claimed under pressure from Stalin), which ordered the Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

 to start an offensive. He commanded the troops “to encircle and destroy the enemy grouping near Suwałki and to seize the Suwałki region by the evening of 26 June" and “to encircle and destroy the enemy grouping invading in Vladimir-Volynia and Brody direction” and even “to seize the Lublin
Lublin
Lublin is the ninth largest city in Poland. It is the capital of Lublin Voivodeship with a population of 350,392 . Lublin is also the largest Polish city east of the Vistula river...

 region by the evening of 24.6” This maneuver failed and disorganized Red Army units were soon destroyed by the Wehrmacht forces.

On 27 June, 2 and 3 Panzer Groups met up at Minsk, advancing 200 mi (321.9 km) into Soviet territory and a third of the way to Moscow. In the vast pocket between Minsk and the Polish border, the remnants of 32 Soviet Rifle, eight tank, and motorized, cavalry and artillery divisions were encircled.

Army Group South

In the south, opposite Army Group South
Army Group South
Army Group South was the name of a number of German Army Groups during World War II.- Poland campaign :Germany used two army groups to invade Poland in 1939: Army Group North and Army Group South...

 were three Soviet armies, the 5th, 6th and 26th. Soviet commanders reacted quicker and Germans faced determined resistance from the start. The German infantry Armies struck at the junctions of these armies while the 1st Panzer Group drove its armored spearhead of 600 tanks right through the Soviet 6th Army, aiming to take Brody
Brody
Brody is a city in the Lviv Oblast of western Ukraine. It is the administrative center of the Brody Raion , and is located in the valley of the upper Styr River, approximately 90 kilometres northeast of the oblast capital, Lviv...

. On 26 June, five Soviet mechanized corps
Mechanized Corps (Soviet)
A mechanised corps was a Soviet armoured formation used prior to the beginning of World War II.- Pre-war development of Soviet mechanised forces :...

 with over 1,000 tanks mounted a massive counter-attack on the 1st Panzer Group. The battle
Battle of Brody (1941)
The Battle of Brody was a tank battle fought between the Panzer Group 1's IIIrd, XLVIII Army Corps and five Soviet Mechanized Corps of the Soviet 5th Army and 6th Army in the triangle formed by the towns Dubno, Lutsk and Brody in Ukraine between 23...

 was among the fiercest of the invasion, lasting over four days; in the end the Germans prevailed, though the Soviets inflicted heavy losses on the 1st Panzer Group.

With the Soviet counter-offensives' failure, the last substantial Soviet tank forces in Western Ukraine had been committed, and the Red Army assumed a defensive posture, focusing on a strategic withdrawal under severe pressure. The Soviet air arm, the VVS, lost 1,561 aircraft over Kiev. The battle was a huge tactical (Hitler thought strategic) victory, but it had drawn the German forces away from an early offensive against Moscow, and had delayed further German progress by 11 weeks. General Kurt Von Tippleskirch noted, "The Russians had indeed lost a battle, but they won the campaign".

Summary of the first phase

By the end of the first week, all three German Army Groups had achieved major campaign objectives. However, in the vast pocket around Minsk and Białystok, the Soviets were still fighting; reducing the pocket was causing high German casualties and many Red Army troops were escaping. The usual estimated casualties of the Red Army amount to 600,000 killed, missing, captured or wounded.

Phase 2: Battle for Smolensk (3 July 1941–5 August 1941)

On 3 July, Hitler finally gave the go-ahead for the Panzers to resume their drive east after the infantry divisions had caught up. However, a rainstorm typical of Russian summers slowed their progress and Russian defenses stiffened. The delays gave the Soviets time to organize a massive counterattack against Army Group Center. Army Group Center's ultimate objective was Smolensk
Smolensk
Smolensk is a city and the administrative center of Smolensk Oblast, Russia, located on the Dnieper River. Situated west-southwest of Moscow, this walled city was destroyed several times throughout its long history since it was on the invasion routes of both Napoleon and Hitler. Today, 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 attacked the 3rd Panzer Army with 700 tanks. The Germans defeated this counterattack with overwhelming air superiority. The 2nd Panzer Army crossed the River Dnieper and closed on Smolensk from the south while the 3rd Panzer Army, after defeating the Soviet counter attack, closed on Smolensk from the north. Trapped between their pincers were three Soviet armies. On 18 July, the Panzer Groups came to within 10 miles of closing the gap but the trap would not snap shut until 26 July. When the Panzer Groups finally closed the gap, 180,000 Red Army troops were captured but liquidating the pocket took another 10 days in which time 100,000 Soviet troops escaped to stand between the Germans and Moscow.

Four weeks into the campaign, the Germans realized they had grossly underestimated Soviet strength. The German troops had used their initial supplies without attaining the expected strategic freedom of movement. Operations were now slowed down to allow for resupply; the delay was to be used to adapt strategy to the new situation. Hitler had lost faith in encirclement as large numbers of Soviet soldiers had escaped the pincers. Hitler now believed he could defeat the Soviets by economic damage, depriving them of the industrial capacity to continue the war. That meant seizing the industrial center of Kharkov, the Donets Basin
Donets Basin
Donbas or Donbass , full rarely-used name Donets Basin , is a historical, economic and cultural region of eastern Ukraine. Originally a coal mining area, it has become a heavily industrialised territory suffering from urban decay and industrial pollution.-Geography:Donbas covers three...

 and the oil fields of the Caucasus
Caucasus
The Caucasus, also Caucas or Caucasia , is a geopolitical region at the border of Europe and Asia, and situated between the Black and the Caspian sea...

 in the south and a speedy capture of Leningrad, a major center of military production, in the north. He also wanted to link up with the Finns to the north.

Fedor von Bock
Fedor von Bock
Fedor von Bock was a German Generalfeldmarshall who served in the Wehrmacht during the Second World War. As a leader who lectured his soldiers about the honor of dying for the German Fatherland, he was nicknamed "Der Sterber"...

 and almost all the German generals involved in Operation Barbarossa, vehemently argued in favor of continuing the all-out drive toward Moscow. Besides the psychological importance of capturing the enemy's capital, the generals pointed out that Moscow was a major center of arms production and the center of the Soviet communications and transportation system. More importantly, intelligence reports indicated that the bulk of the Red Army was deployed near Moscow under Semyon Timoshenko
Semyon Timoshenko
Semyon Konstantinovich Timoshenko was a Soviet military commander and senior professional officer of the Red Army at the beginning of the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941.-Early life:...

 for an all-out defense of the capital. But Hitler was adamant, and issued a direct order to Guderian
Guderian
Guderian may refer to:People with the surname Guderian:*Heinz Guderian, a military theorist and innovative General of the German Army during the Second World War....

, bypassing his commanding officer von Bock, to send Army Group Centre's tanks to the north and south, temporarily halting the drive to Moscow.

Phase 3: Kiev and Leningrad (5 August 1941–2 October 1941)

By mid-July below the Pinsk Marshes
Pinsk Marshes
The Pinsk Marshes or Pripyat Marshes are a vast territory of wetlands along the Pripyat River and its tributaries from Brest, Belarus to Mogilev and Kiev ....

, the Germans had come within a few kilometers of Kiev
Kiev
Kiev or Kyiv is the capital and the largest city of Ukraine, located in the north central part of the country on the Dnieper River. The population as of the 2001 census was 2,611,300. However, higher numbers have been cited in the press....

. The 1st Panzer Army then went south while the German 17th Army struck east and in between the Germans trapped three Soviet armies near Uman. As the Germans eliminated the pocket, the tanks turned north and crossed the Dnieper. Meanwhile, the 2nd Panzer Army, diverted from Army Group Centre, had crossed the River Desna with 2nd Army on its right flank. The two Panzer armies now trapped four Soviet armies and parts of two others.
For its final attack on Leningrad, the 4th Panzer Army was reinforced by tanks from Army Group Centre. On 8 August, the Panzers broke through the Soviet defenses; the German 16th Army attacked to the northeast, the 18th Army and the Estonia
Estonia
Estonia , officially the Republic of Estonia , is a state in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland, to the west by the Baltic Sea, to the south by Latvia , and to the east by Lake Peipsi and the Russian Federation . Across the Baltic Sea lies...

n guerilla Forest Brothers cleared the country and advanced to Lake Peipus
Lake Peipus
Lake Peipus, ) is the biggest transboundary lake in Europe on the border between Estonia and Russia.The lake is the fifth largest in Europe after Lake Ladoga and Lake Onega in Russia north of St...

. By the end of August, 4th Panzer Army had penetrated to within 30 mi (48.3 km) of Leningrad. The Finns had pushed southeast on both sides of Lake Ladoga
Lake Ladoga
Lake Ladoga is a freshwater lake located in the Republic of Karelia and Leningrad Oblast in northwestern Russia, not far from Saint Petersburg. It is the largest lake in Europe, and the 14th largest lake by area in the world.-Geography:...

, reaching the old Finnish-Soviet frontier.

At this stage, Hitler ordered the final destruction of Leningrad with no prisoners taken, and on 9 September, Army Group North began the final push which within ten days brought it within 7 mi (11.3 km) of the city. However, the advance over the last 10 km (6.2 mi) proved very slow and casualties mounted. At this stage, Hitler lost patience and ordered that Leningrad should not be stormed but starved into submission. Deprived of its Panzer forces, Army Group Center had remained static and was subjected to numerous Soviet counter-attacks in particular the Yelnya Offensive
Yelnya Offensive
The Soviet Army's Yelnya Offensive operation was part of the Battle of Smolensk during the initial period of the German-Soviet War....

 in which the Germans suffered their first major tactical defeat since their invasion began. These attacks drew Hitler's attention back to Army Group Center and its drive on Moscow. The Germans ordered the 3rd and 4th Panzer Armies to break off their siege of Leningrad and support Army Group Center on its attack on Moscow.

Before the attack on Moscow could begin, operations in Kiev needed to be finished. Half of Army Group Centre had swung to the south in the back of the Kiev position, while Army Group South moved to the north from its Dniepr bridgehead. The encirclement of Soviet Forces in Kiev was achieved on 16 September. A savage battle ensued in which the Soviets were hammered with tanks, artillery, and aerial bombardment. In the end, after ten days of vicious fighting, the Germans claimed over 600,000 Soviet soldiers captured. Actual losses were 452,720 men, 3,867 artillery guns and mortars from 43 Divisions of the 5th, 37th, 26th and 21st Soviet Armies.

Phase 4: Operation Typhoon (2 October 1941–5 December 1941)


After Kiev, the Red Army no longer outnumbered the Germans and there were no more directly available trained reserves. 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 2 October. In front of Army Group Centre was a series of elaborate defense lines, the first centered on Vyazma
Vyazma
Vyazma is a town and the administrative center of Vyazemsky District of Smolensk Oblast, Russia, located on the Vyazma River, about halfway between Smolensk and Mozhaysk. Throughout its turbulent history, the city defended western approaches to the city of Moscow...

 and the second on Mozhaysk
Mozhaysk
Mozhaysk is a town and the administrative center of Mozhaysky District of Moscow Oblast, Russia, located to the west from the Russian capital, on the historic road leading to Smolensk and then to Poland. Population:...

.

The first blow took the Soviets completely by surprise as 2nd Panzer Army returning from the south took Oryol
Oryol
Oryol or Orel is a city and the administrative center of Oryol Oblast, Russia, located on the Oka River, approximately south-southwest of Moscow...

 which was 75 mi (120.7 km) south of the Soviet first main defense line. Three days later the Panzers pushed on Bryansk
Bryansk
Bryansk is a city and the administrative center of Bryansk Oblast, Russia, located southwest of Moscow. Population: -History:The first written mention of Bryansk was in 1146, in the Hypatian Codex, as Debryansk...

 while 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
Vyazma
Vyazma is a town and the administrative center of Vyazemsky District of Smolensk Oblast, Russia, located on the Vyazma River, about halfway between Smolensk and Mozhaysk. Throughout its turbulent history, the city defended western approaches to the city of Moscow...

, trapping the 19th, 20th, 24th and 32nd Soviet Armies. Moscow's first line of defence had been shattered. The pocket yielded 673,000 Soviet prisoners, bringing the tally since the start of the invasion to three million Soviet soldiers captured. The Soviets had only 90,000 men and 150 tanks left for the defense of Moscow.

On 13 October, 3rd Panzer Army penetrated to within 90 mi (144.8 km) of the capital. Martial law was declared in Moscow. Almost from the beginning of Operation Typhoon the weather had deteriorated. Temperatures fell while there was a continued rainfall, turning the unpaved road network into mud
Rasputitsa
The rasputitsa refers to the biannual seasons when unpaved roads become difficult to traverse in parts of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine. The word may be translated as the "quagmire season" because during this period the large flatlands become extremely muddy and marshy, as do most unpaved roads...

 and steadily slowing the German advance on Moscow to as little as 2 mi (3.2 km) a day. The supply situation rapidly deteriorated. On 31 October, the German Army High Command ordered a halt to Operation Typhoon while the armies were re-organized. The pause gave the Soviets, who were in a far better supply situation, time to consolidate their positions and organize formations of newly activated reservists. In little over a month the Soviets organized eleven new armies which included 30 divisions of Siberian troops. These had been freed from the Soviet far east as Soviet intelligence
Richard Sorge
Richard Sorge was a German communist and spy who worked for the Soviet Union. He has gained great fame among espionage enthusiasts for his intelligence gathering during World War II. He worked as a journalist in both Germany and Japan, where he was imprisoned for spying and eventually hanged....

 had assured Stalin there was no longer a threat from the Japanese. With the Siberian forces came over 1,000 tanks and 1,000 aircraft.

The Germans were nearing exhaustion, they also began to recall Napoleon's invasion of Russia. General
General
A general officer is an officer of high military rank, usually in the army, and in some nations, the air force. The term is widely used by many nations of the world, and when a country uses a different term, there is an equivalent title given....

 Günther Blumentritt
Günther Blumentritt
Günther Blumentritt was a German officer in World War I, who became a Staff Officer under the Weimar Republic and went on to serve as a general for Nazi Germany during World War II...

 noted in his diary:

They remembered what happened to Napoleon's Army. Most of them began to re-read Caulaincourt's
Armand Augustin Louis de Caulaincourt
Armand-Augustin-Louis, marquis de Caulaincourt, 1st Duc de Vicence was a French general and diplomat.-Biography:...

 grim account of 1812. That had a weighty influence at this critical time in 1941. I can still see Von Kluge trudging through the mud from his sleeping quarters to his office and standing before the map with Caulaincourt's book in his hand.


On 15 November, with the ground hardening due to the cold weather, the Germans once again began the attack on Moscow. Although the troops themselves were now able to advance again, there had been no delay allowed to improve the supply situation. Facing the Germans were the 5th, 16th, 30th, 43rd, 49th, and 50th Soviet armies. The Germans intended to let 3rd and 4th Panzer Armies cross the Moscow Canal
Moscow Canal
The Moscow Canal , named the Moscow-Volga Canal until the year 1947, is a canal that connects the Moskva River with the main transportation artery of European Russia, the Volga River. It is located in Moscow itself and in the Moscow Oblast...

 and envelop Moscow from the northeast. 2nd Panzer Army would attack Tula
Tula, Russia
Tula is an industrial city and the administrative center of Tula Oblast, Russia. It is located south of Moscow, on the Upa River. Population: -History:...

 and then close in on Moscow from the south. As the Soviets reacted to the flanks, 4th Army would attack the center. In two weeks of desperate fighting, lacking sufficient fuel and ammunition, the Germans slowly crept towards Moscow. However, in the south, 2nd Panzer Army was being blocked. On 22 November, Soviet Siberian units augmented with the 49th and 50th Soviet Armies attacked the 2nd Panzer Army and inflicted a shocking defeat on the Germans. However, 4th Panzer Army pushed the Soviet 16th Army back and succeeded in crossing the Moscow canal and began the encirclement.

On 2 December, part of the 258th Infantry Division advanced to within 15 mi (24.1 km) of Moscow, and could see the spires of the Kremlin
Moscow Kremlin
The Moscow Kremlin , sometimes referred to as simply The Kremlin, is a historic fortified complex at the heart of Moscow, overlooking the Moskva River , Saint Basil's Cathedral and Red Square and the Alexander Garden...

, but by then the first blizzards of the winter began. A Reconnaissance-Battalion also managed to reach the town of Khimki—some 8 km (5 mi) away from Moscow—and captured its bridge over the Moscow-Volga Canal as well as its railway station, which marked the farthest advance of German forces on Moscow. The Wehrmacht was not equipped for winter warfare. Frostbite and disease caused more casualties than combat, and dead and wounded had already reached 155,000 in three weeks. Some divisions were now at 50% strength. The bitter cold also caused severe problems for their guns and equipment, and weather conditions grounded the Luftwaffe. Newly built-up Soviet units near Moscow now numbered over 500,000 men, and on 5 December, they launched a massive counterattack which pushed the Germans back over 200 mi (321.9 km). The invasion of the USSR eventually cost the German Army over 250,000 dead and 500,000 wounded, the majority of whom became casualties after 1 October and an unknown number of Axis casualties such as Hungarians, Romanians and Waffen SS troops as well as co-belligerent Finns.

Events

Shirer argues that the fatal decision of the operation was the postponement from the original date of 15 May because Hitler wanted to intervene against an anti-German coup in Yugoslavia
Yugoslavia
Yugoslavia refers to three political entities that existed successively on the western part of the Balkans during most of the 20th century....

 and Greek advances against Italy's occupation of Albania
Albania
Albania , officially known as the Republic of Albania , is a country in Southeastern Europe, in the Balkans region. It is bordered by Montenegro to the northwest, Kosovo to the northeast, the Republic of Macedonia to the east and Greece to the south and southeast. It has a coast on the Adriatic Sea...

. However, this was just one of the reasons for the postponement — the other was the late spring of 1941 in Russia, compounded by particularly rainy weather in June 1941 that made a number of roads in western parts of the Soviet Union impassable to heavy vehicles. During the campaign, Hitler ordered the main thrust toward Moscow to be diverted southward to help the southern army group capture Ukraine
Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

. This move delayed the assault on the Soviet capital, though it also helped secure Army Group Center's southern flank. By the time they turned to Moscow, the Red Army's fierce resistance, the mud following the autumn rains and, eventually, snow, brought their advance to a halt.

In addition, resistance by the Soviets, who proclaimed a Great Patriotic War in defence of the motherland, was much fiercer than the German command had expected. The border fortress of Brest, Belarus
Brest, Belarus
Brest , formerly also Brest-on-the-Bug and Brest-Litovsk , is a city in Belarus at the border with Poland opposite the city of Terespol, where the Bug River and Mukhavets rivers meet...

 illustrates that tenacity: attacked on the very first day of the German invasion, the fortress was expected to fall within hours, but held out over a week. (Soviet propaganda later asserted it held out for six weeks). German logistics
Logistics
Logistics is the management of the flow of goods between the point of origin and the point of destination in order to meet the requirements of customers or corporations. Logistics involves the integration of information, transportation, inventory, warehousing, material handling, and packaging, and...

 also became a major problem, as supply lines grew very long and vulnerable to Soviet partisan attacks in the rear. The Soviets carried out a scorched earth policy on some of the land they were forced to abandon in order to deny the Germans food, fuel, and buildings.

Despite the setbacks, the German advance continued, often destroying or surrounding whole armies of Soviet troops and forcing them to surrender. The battle for Kiev
Kiev
Kiev or Kyiv is the capital and the largest city of Ukraine, located in the north central part of the country on the Dnieper River. The population as of the 2001 census was 2,611,300. However, higher numbers have been cited in the press....

 was especially brutal. On 19 September Army Group South seized control of Kiev, and took 665,000 Soviets prisoner. Kiev was later awarded the title Hero City
Hero City
Hero City is a Soviet honorary title awarded for outstanding heroism during the German-Soviet War of 1941 to 1945. It was awarded to twelve cities of the Soviet Union. In addition the Brest Fortress was awarded an equivalent title of Hero-Fortress...

 for its heroic defence.

Army Group North, which was to conquer the Baltic countries
Baltic countries
The term Baltic states refers to the Baltic territories which gained independence from the Russian Empire in the wake of World War I: primarily the contiguous trio of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania ; Finland also fell within the scope of the term after initially gaining independence in the 1920s.The...

 and eventually Leningrad
Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg is a city and a federal subject of Russia located on the Neva River at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea...

, reached the southern outskirts of Leningrad by August 1941. There, fierce Soviet resistance stopped it. Since capturing the city seemed too costly, German command decided to starve the city to death by blockade, starting the Siege of Leningrad
Siege of Leningrad
The Siege of Leningrad, also known as the Leningrad Blockade was a prolonged military operation resulting from the failure of the German Army Group North to capture Leningrad, now known as Saint Petersburg, in the Eastern Front theatre of World War II. It started on 8 September 1941, when the last...

. The city held out, despite several attempts by the Germans to break through its defenses, unrelenting air and artillery attacks, and severe shortages of food and fuel, until the Germans were driven back again from the city's approaches in early 1944. The siege resulted in the deaths of some one million of the city's inhabitants. Leningrad was the first Soviet city to receive the title of 'Hero City
Hero City
Hero City is a Soviet honorary title awarded for outstanding heroism during the German-Soviet War of 1941 to 1945. It was awarded to twelve cities of the Soviet Union. In addition the Brest Fortress was awarded an equivalent title of Hero-Fortress...

'.

In addition to the main attacks of Barbarossa, German forces occupied Finnish Petsamo in order to secure important nickel mines. They also launched the beginning of a series of attacks against Murmansk on 28 June 1941. That assault was known as Operation Silberfuchs.

Reasons for initial Soviet defeats

The Red Army and air force were so badly defeated in 1941 chiefly because they were ill-prepared for the Axis surprise attack. By 1941 the Germans were the most experienced and best-trained troops in the world for the rapid, blitzkrieg-style warfare that encompassed the Eastern Front during the second half of 1941. The Axis had a doctrine of mobility and annihilation, excellent communications, and the confidence of repeated low-cost victories. The Soviet armed forces, by contrast, lacked leadership, training, and readiness. The officer corps of the Red Army had been decimated by Stalin's Great Purge
Great Purge
The Great Purge was a series of campaigns of political repression and persecution in the Soviet Union orchestrated by Joseph Stalin from 1936 to 1938...

 of 1936–1938, and their replacements, appointed by Stalin for political reasons, often lacked military competence, which was shown by the difficulty that the Soviet Union had in defeating Finland in the Russo-Finnish War of 1939–1940. Much of Soviet planning assumed that in case of a German invasion the main forces of each side would need up to two weeks to meet each other and Stalin forbade any ideas of a campaign deep inside the Soviet territory. Thus the Axis attack came when new organizations and promising, but untested, weapons were just beginning to trickle into operational units. Much of the Soviet Army in Europe was concentrated along the new western border of the Soviet Union, in former Polish territory that lacked significant defenses, allowing many Soviet military units to be overrun and destroyed in the first weeks of war. Initially, many Soviet units were also hampered by Semyon Timoshenko
Semyon Timoshenko
Semyon Konstantinovich Timoshenko was a Soviet military commander and senior professional officer of the Red Army at the beginning of the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941.-Early life:...

's and Georgy Zhukov
Georgy Zhukov
Marshal of the Soviet Union Georgy Konstantinovich Zhukov , was a Russian career officer in the Red Army who, in the course of World War II, played a pivotal role in leading the Red Army through much of Eastern Europe to liberate the Soviet Union and other nations from the Axis Powers' occupation...

's prewar orders (demanded by Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

) not to engage or to respond to provocations (followed by a similarly damaging first reaction from Moscow, an order to stand and fight, then counterattack; this left those units vulnerable to encirclement), by a lack of experienced officers, and by bureaucratic inertia.

Soviet tactical errors in the first few weeks of the offensive proved catastrophic. Initially, the Red Army was fooled by overestimation of its own capabilities. Instead of intercepting German armour, Soviet mechanised corps were ambushed and destroyed after Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe is a generic German term for an air force. It is also the official name for two of the four historic German air forces, the Wehrmacht air arm founded in 1935 and disbanded in 1946; and the current Bundeswehr air arm founded in 1956....

 dive bombers inflicted heavy losses. Soviet tanks, poorly maintained and manned by inexperienced crews, suffered an appalling rate of breakdowns. Lack of spare parts and trucks ensured a logistical collapse. The decision not to dig in the infantry divisions proved disastrous. Without tanks or sufficient motorization, Soviet troops could not wage mobile warfare against the Axis.

Stalin's orders not to retreat or surrender led to static linear positions that German tanks easily breached, again quickly cutting supply lines and surrounding whole Soviet armies. Only later did Stalin allow his troops to retreat wherever possible and regroup, to mount a defense in depth, or to counterattack. More than 2.4 million Soviet troops had been captured by December 1941, by which time German and Soviet forces were fighting almost in the suburbs of Moscow. Until the end of the war, about three million Soviet prisoners were to die from exposure, starvation, disease, or willful mistreatment by the German regime.

Despite the Axis failure to achieve Barbarossa's initial goals, the huge Soviet losses caused a shift in Soviet propaganda. Before the onset of hostilities against Germany, the Soviet government had said its army was very strong. But, by autumn 1941, the Soviet line was that the Red Army had been weak, that there had not been enough time to prepare for war, and that the German attack had come as a surprise.

Outcome

The climax of Operation Barbarossa came when Army Group Center, already short on supplies because of the October mud, was ordered to advance on Moscow; forward units of the 2nd Panzer Division's 38th Panzer Pioneer Battalion (38PzPi.Abtl.)(armored engineers) came within sight of the spires of the Kremlin when they reached the rail line just south of the town of Lobnya, 16 km (9.9 mi) from Moscow, on 1 December 1941. Soviet troops, well supplied and reinforced by fresh divisions from Siberia, defended Moscow in the Battle of Moscow
Battle of Moscow
The Battle of Moscow is the name given by Soviet historians to two periods of strategically significant fighting on a sector of the Eastern Front during World War II. It took place between October 1941 and January 1942. The Soviet defensive effort frustrated Hitler's attack on Moscow, capital of...

, and drove the Germans back as the winter advanced. The bulk of the counter-offensive was directed at Army Group Center, which was closest to Moscow.

With no shelter, few supplies, inadequate winter clothing, chronic food shortages, and nowhere to go, German troops had no choice but to wait out the winter in the frozen wasteland. The Germans avoided being routed by Soviet counterattacks but suffered heavy casualties from battle and exposure.

At the time, the seizure of Moscow was considered the key to victory for Germany. Nowadays, historians debate whether the loss of the Soviet capital would have caused collapse; but Operation Barbarossa failed to achieve that goal. In December 1941, Germany joined Japan in declaring war against the United States.

The outcome of Operation Barbarossa hurt the Soviets at least as badly as the Germans, however. Although the Germans had failed to take Moscow outright, they held huge areas of the western Soviet Union, including the entire regions of what are now Belarus, Ukraine, and the Baltic states, plus parts of Russia proper west of Moscow. German forces had advanced 1050 mi (1,689.8 km), and maintained a linearly measured front of 1900 mi (3,057.7 km). The Germans held up to 500000 sq mi (1,294,994.1 km²) of territory with over 75 million people at the end of 1941, and went on to seize another 250000 sq mi (647,497 km²) before being forced to retreat after defeats at Stalingrad
Battle of Stalingrad
The Battle of Stalingrad was a major battle of World War II in which Nazi Germany and its allies fought the Soviet Union for control of the city of Stalingrad in southwestern Russia. The battle took place between 23 August 1942 and 2 February 1943...

 and Kursk
Battle of Kursk
The Battle of Kursk took place when German and Soviet forces confronted each other on the Eastern Front during World War II in the vicinity of the city of Kursk, in the Soviet Union in July and August 1943. It remains both the largest series of armored clashes, including the Battle of Prokhorovka,...

. However, the occupied areas were not always properly controlled by the Germans and underground activity rapidly escalated. Wehrmacht occupation was brutal from the start, due to directives issued by Hitler himself at the operation's start, according to which Slavic peoples
Slavic peoples
The Slavic people are an Indo-European panethnicity living in Eastern Europe, Southeast Europe, North Asia and Central Asia. The term Slavic represents a broad ethno-linguistic group of people, who speak languages belonging to the Slavic language family and share, to varying degrees, certain...

 were considered a race of Untermenschen. This attitude alienated the population, while in some areas (such as Ukraine) it seems that some local people had been ready to consider the Germans as liberators helping them to get rid of Stalin. Anti-German partisan operations intensified when Red Army units that had dissolved into the country's large uninhabited areas re-emerged as underground forces, and under the German repressive policies. The Germans held on stubbornly in the face of Soviet counterattacks, resulting in huge casualties on both sides in many battles.

The war on the Eastern Front went on for four years. The death toll
World War II casualties of the Soviet Union
World War II casualties of the Soviet Union from all related causes are commonly estimated in excess of 20,000,000, both civilians and military, although the statistics vary to a great extent. Most of the casualties occurred from 22 June 1941, after Nazi Germany invaded the USSR.-Military losses:In...

 may never be established with any degree of certainty. A recent estimate of Soviet military deaths is 8.7 million that lost their lives either in combat or in Axis captivity. Soviet civilian deaths remain under contention, though roughly 20 million is a frequently cited figure. German military deaths are also to a large extent unclear. The most recent German estimate (Rüdiger Overmans) concluded that about 4.3 million Germans and a further 900,000 Axis forces lost their lives either in combat or in Soviet captivity. Operation Barbarossa is listed as the single most lethal military operation in world history.

The Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 had not signed the Geneva Convention (1929)
Geneva Convention (1929)
The Geneva Convention was signed at Geneva, July 27, 1929. Its official name is the Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, Geneva July 27, 1929. It entered into force 19 June 1931. It is this version of the Geneva Conventions which covered the treatment of prisoners of war...

. However, a month after the German invasion in 1941, an offer was made for a reciprocal adherence to the Hague convention
Hague Conventions (1899 and 1907)
The Hague Conventions were two international treaties negotiated at international peace conferences at The Hague in the Netherlands: The First Hague Conference in 1899 and the Second Hague Conference in 1907...

. This 'note' was left unanswered by Third Reich officials.

Causes of the failure of Operation Barbarossa

The gravity of the beleaguered German army's situation towards the end of 1941 was due to the Red Army's increasing strength and factors that in the short run severely restricted the German forces' effectiveness. Chief among these were their overstretched deployment, a serious transport crisis and the eroded strength of most divisions. The infantry deficit that appeared by 1 September 1941 was never made good. For the rest of the war in the Soviet Union, the Wehrmacht would be short of infantry and support services.

Parallels have been drawn with Napoleon's invasion of Russia.

Underestimated Soviet potential

German war planners grossly underestimated the mobilization potential of the Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

: its primary mobilization size (i.e. the total of already trained units that could be put on a war footing quickly) was about twice the expected number. By early August, new armies had replaced destroyed ones. This alone implied Operation Barbarossa's failure, for the Germans now had to limit their operations for a month to bring up new supplies, leaving only six weeks to complete the battle before the start of the mud season. On the other hand, the Red Army proved it could replace huge losses quickly, and was not destroyed as a coherent force. When the divisions of conscripts trained before the war were destroyed, new ones replaced them. On average about half a million men were drafted each month for the duration of the war. The Soviets also proved very skilled in raising and training many new armies from the different ethnic populations of the far flung republics. It was this Soviet ability to mobilize vast (if often poorly trained and equipped) forces rapidly and continually that allowed the Soviet Union to survive the critical first six months of the war, and it was a grave underestimation of this capacity that rendered German planning unrealistic.
Also, data collected by Soviet intelligence excluded the possibility of a war with Japan, which allowed the Soviets to transfer forces from the Far East (troops fully trained to fight a winter war) to the European theater.

The German High Command grossly underestimated the control the central Soviet government exercised. The German High Command wrongly thought the Soviet government was ineffective. The Germans based their hopes of quick victory on the belief the Soviet communist system was like a rotten structure which would collapse from a hard kick. In fact, the Soviet system proved resilient and surprisingly adaptable. In the face of early crushing defeats, the Soviets managed to dismantle entire industries threatened by the German advance. These critical factories, along with their skilled workers, were transported by rail to secure locations beyond the Germans' reach. Despite the loss of raw materials and the chaos of an invasion, the Soviets managed to build new armaments factories in sufficient numbers to allow mass production of needed war machinery. The Soviet government was never in danger of collapse and remained at all times in tight control of the Soviet war effort.

Faults of logistical planning

At the start of the war in the dry summer, the Germans took the Soviets by surprise and destroyed a large part of the Soviet Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

 in the first weeks. When good weather gave way to the harsh autumn and winter and the Red Army recovered, the German offensive began to falter. The German army could not be sufficiently supplied for prolonged combat; indeed there was not enough fuel for the whole army to reach its objectives.

This was well understood by the German supply units even before the operation, but their warnings were disregarded. The entire German plan assumed that within five weeks they would have attained full strategic freedom due to a complete collapse of the Red Army. Only then could they have diverted necessary logistic support to fuelling the few mobile units needed to occupy the defeated state.

German infantry and tanks stormed 300 mi (482.8 km) ahead in the first week, but their supply lines struggled to keep up. Soviet railroads could at first not be fully used due to a difference in railway gauges and dismantled railroad facilities in border areas. Lack of supplies significantly slowed down the blitzkrieg
Blitzkrieg
For other uses of the word, see: Blitzkrieg Blitzkrieg is an anglicized word describing all-motorised force concentration of tanks, infantry, artillery, combat engineers and air power, concentrating overwhelming force at high speed to break through enemy lines, and, once the lines are broken,...

.

The German logistical planning also seriously overestimated the condition of the Soviet transportation network. The road and railway network of former Eastern Poland was well known, but beyond that information was limited. Roads that looked impressive on maps turned out to be just mere dust roads or were only in the planning stages.

Weather

A paper published by the U.S. Army's Combat Studies Institute in 1981 concluded that Hitler's plans miscarried before the onset of severe winter weather. He was so confident of quick victory that he did not prepare for even the chance of winter warfare in the Soviet Union. Moreover, his eastern army suffered more than 734,000 casualties (about 23% of its average strength of 3,200,000 troops) in the first five months of the invasion, and on 27 November 1941, General Eduard Wagner
Eduard Wagner
General Eduard Wagner was a German Artillery officer who was the quartermaster-general of the German Army and a member of the resistance to Adolf Hitler....

, Quartermaster General of the German Army, reported "We are at the end of our resources in both personnel and material. We are about to be confronted with the dangers of deep winter."
The German forces were unready to deal with harsh weather and the poor road network of the USSR. In autumn, terrain slowed the Wehrmacht's progress. Few roads were paved. The ground in the USSR was very loose sand in summer, sticky muck in autumn
Rasputitsa
The rasputitsa refers to the biannual seasons when unpaved roads become difficult to traverse in parts of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine. The word may be translated as the "quagmire season" because during this period the large flatlands become extremely muddy and marshy, as do most unpaved roads...

, and heavy snow in winter. German tanks had narrow treads with little traction and poor flotation in mud. In contrast, the new generation of Soviet tanks such as the T-34
T-34
The T-34 was a Soviet medium tank produced from 1940 to 1958. Although its armour and armament were surpassed by later tanks of the era, it has been often credited as the most effective, efficient and influential design of World War II...

 and KV
Kliment Voroshilov tank
The Kliment Voroshilov tanks were a series of Soviet heavy tanks, named after the Soviet defense commissar and politician Kliment Voroshilov. The KV series were known for their extremely heavy armour protection during the early war, especially during the first year of the invasion of the Soviet...

 had wider tracks and were far more mobile in these conditions. The 600,000 large western European horses the Germans used for supply and artillery movement did not cope well with this weather. The smaller horses the Red Army used were much better adapted to the climate and could even scrape the icy ground with their hooves to dig up the weeds beneath.

German troops were mostly unprepared for the harsh weather changes in the autumn and winter of 1941. Equipment had been prepared for such winter conditions, but the severely overstrained transport network could not move it to the front. Consequently, the troops lacked adequate cold-weather gear, and some soldiers had to pack newspapers into their jackets to stay warm while temperatures dropped to below −40 °C (−40 °F). While at least some cold weather uniforms were available, they rarely reached the Eastern Front because Hitler ordered that supply lines give more priority to shipments of ammunition and fuel. To operate furnaces and heaters, the Germans also burned precious fuel that was in short supply. Soviet soldiers, in contrast, often had warm, quilted uniforms, felt-lined boots, and fur hats.

German weapons malfunctioned in the cold. Lubricating oils were unsuitable for these temperatures, leading to engine malfunction and misfiring weapons. To load shells into a tank’s main gun, frozen grease had to be chipped off with a knife. Soviet units faced less severe problems due to their experience with cold weather. Aircraft had insulating blankets to keep their engines warm while parked. Lighter-weight oil was used. German tanks and armored vehicles could not move due to a lack of antifreeze
Antifreeze
Antifreeze is a freeze preventive used in internal combustion engines and other heat transfer applications, such as HVAC chillers and solar water heaters....

, causing fuel to solidify.

Because few Russian roads were paved, when the rains and snow came in late October and early November, most of the main roads turned to mud and with a combination of longer supply lines, the German advance stalled within sight of the spires of Moscow. The Soviet December 1941 counteroffensive led primarily by Siberian troops trained for harsh winter combat recently arriving from the east along with the numerous T-34 tanks held in reserve advanced up to 100 mi (160.9 km) in some sectors, showed that mobile warfare was still possible in the Russian winter.

When the severe winter began, Hitler feared a repetition of Napoleon's disastrous retreat from Moscow. He ordered the German forces to hold their ground defiantly in the face of Soviet counterattacks. This became known as the "stand or die" order. While some historians have argued that this order prevented the Germans from being routed, others contend that this order restricted Germany's ability to conduct mobile defensive warfare and led to heavy casualties from battle and cold.

Aftermath

With the failure in the Battle of Moscow
Battle of Moscow
The Battle of Moscow is the name given by Soviet historians to two periods of strategically significant fighting on a sector of the Eastern Front during World War II. It took place between October 1941 and January 1942. The Soviet defensive effort frustrated Hitler's attack on Moscow, capital of...

, all German plans of a quick defeat of the Soviet Union had to be revised. The Soviet counter offensives in the Winter of 1941 caused heavy casualties on both sides, but ultimately lifted the German threat to Moscow. Nevertheless despite this setback, the Soviet Union suffered heavily from the loss of large parts of its army, allowing the Germans to mount another large-scale offensive in the summer of 1942, called Case Blue, now directed to the oil fields of Baku. This offensive again failed in the same way as Barbarossa, the Germans conquering vast amounts of no-mans-land, but ultimately failing to achieve their final goals with the defeat at Stalingrad
Battle of Stalingrad
The Battle of Stalingrad was a major battle of World War II in which Nazi Germany and its allies fought the Soviet Union for control of the city of Stalingrad in southwestern Russia. The battle took place between 23 August 1942 and 2 February 1943...

. With the now running Soviet war economy, the Soviet Union was able to simply outproduce the Germans who were not prepared for a long war of attrition. This way the last German all out offensive in 1943 in the Battle of Kursk
Battle of Kursk
The Battle of Kursk took place when German and Soviet forces confronted each other on the Eastern Front during World War II in the vicinity of the city of Kursk, in the Soviet Union in July and August 1943. It remains both the largest series of armored clashes, including the Battle of Prokhorovka,...

 failed. After three years of constant warfare the Germans were exhausted and so the Soviets were finally able to defeat the Germans decisively in Operation Bagration in summer 1944. This led to a chain of fast Soviet victories which now pushed the Germans back to Berlin in just one year, leading to the surrender of Germany on 8 May 1945.

See also

  • Eastern Front (World War II)
    Eastern Front (World War II)
    The Eastern Front of World War II was a theatre of World War II between the European Axis powers and co-belligerent Finland against the Soviet Union, Poland, and some other Allies which encompassed Northern, Southern and Eastern Europe from 22 June 1941 to 9 May 1945...

  • Winter War
    Winter War
    The Winter War was a military conflict between the Soviet Union and Finland. It began with a Soviet offensive on 30 November 1939 – three months after the start of World War II and the Soviet invasion of Poland – and ended on 13 March 1940 with the Moscow Peace Treaty...

  • Timeline of the Eastern Front of World War II
  • Black Sea Campaigns (1941-44)
    Black Sea Campaigns (1941-44)
    The Black Sea Campaigns are the operations of the Axis and Soviet naval forces in the Black Sea and its coastal regions during World War II between 1941 and 1944, including in support of the land forces, and non-combat operations....

  • Generalplan Ost
    Generalplan Ost
    Generalplan Ost was a secret Nazi German plan for the colonization of Eastern Europe. Implementing it would have necessitated genocide and ethnic cleansing to be undertaken in the Eastern European territories occupied by Germany during World War II...

     – secret Nazi German plan for the colonization of Eastern Europe.
  • Siege of Leningrad
    Siege of Leningrad
    The Siege of Leningrad, also known as the Leningrad Blockade was a prolonged military operation resulting from the failure of the German Army Group North to capture Leningrad, now known as Saint Petersburg, in the Eastern Front theatre of World War II. It started on 8 September 1941, when the last...

     – the siege began in 1941 and was ended in 1944.
  • Continuation War
    Continuation War
    The Continuation War was the second of two wars fought between Finland and the Soviet Union during World War II.At the time of the war, the Finnish side used the name to make clear its perceived relationship to the preceding Winter War...

     – the war at Finnish front
  • Operation Silberfuchs and Blaufuchs – the attack on the Soviet Arctic and German–Finnish general operational plans
  • Molotov Line
    Molotov Line
    The so-called Molotov Line was a system of border fortifications built by the Soviet Union in the years 1940–1941 along its new western borders. These borders where the result of the Occupation of the Baltic States, Eastern Poland and Bessarabia in 1940....

     – An incomplete Soviet defence line at the start of Operation Barbarossa
  • Operation Nordlicht (Northern Light) – Summer of 1942 was another major attack against besieged Leningrad
    Siege of Leningrad
    The Siege of Leningrad, also known as the Leningrad Blockade was a prolonged military operation resulting from the failure of the German Army Group North to capture Leningrad, now known as Saint Petersburg, in the Eastern Front theatre of World War II. It started on 8 September 1941, when the last...

  • Captured Tanks and Armoured cars for German use in Russian Front
  • Captured German equipment in Soviet use on the Eastern front
    Captured German equipment in Soviet use on the Eastern front
    During World War II losses of major items of equipment were substantial in many battles. Due to the expense of producing such equipment, many armies made an effort to recover and re-use enemy equipment that fell into their hands.- Equipment Capture :...

  • Pobediteli
    Pobediteli
    Pobediteli is a free and non-profit Russian project, celebrating the 60th anniversary of victory in World War II, with the goal of congratulating those who won the German-Soviet War for the Soviet Union...

    – Russian project celebrating the 60th anniversary of World War II
  • The Battle of Russia
    The Battle of Russia
    The Battle of Russia is the fifth film of Frank Capra's Why We Fight propaganda film series, and the longest film of the series.The film begins with an overview of previous failed attempts to conquer Russia: by the Teutonic Knights in 1242 , by Charles XII of Sweden in 1704 The Battle of Russia is...

    – film from the Why We Fight
    Why We Fight
    Why We Fight is a series of seven war information training films commissioned by the United States government during World War II whose purpose was to show American soldiers the reason for U.S. involvement in the war. Later on they were also shown to the general U.S...

    propaganda film series
  • The 22 June song
    The 22 June song
    The 22 June song was a Soviet folk song during World War II based on the melody of the pre-war waltz The Blue Kerchief composed by Jerzy Petersburski.There are a number of versions of this song...

     Russian folk song about June 22, the day Germany invaded.

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
x
OK