The Attack on Soviet Union


Russian women searching for the bodies of their loved ones after a Nazi massacre at Kerch, in Ukraina (January 1942).


In 1941 it was clear that a war between Nazi Germany and Soviet Union was unavoidable: in Hitler's intentions the conquest of Russia would have led to the end of communism in Europe, ensured to the German people the control of Ukrainian, Crimean and Caucasian natural resources and allowed the implementation of the Generalplan Ost - a monstrous project of enslavement and extermination of Slavic populations, considered Untermenschen by the Nazis. As Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf: "Damit ziehen wir Nationalsozialisten bewußt einen Strich unter die außenpolitische Richtung unserer Vorkriegszeit. Wir stoppen den ewigen Germanenzug nach dem Süden und Westen Europas und weisen den Blick nach dem Land im Osten. Wir schließen endlich ab die Kolonialpolitik und Handelspolitik der Vorkriegszeit und gehen über zur Bodenpolitik der Zukunft. Wenn wir aber heute in Europa von neuem Grund und Boden reden, können wir in erster Linie nur an Rußland und die ihm Untertanen Randstaaten denken".
The German attack on Soviet Union started on June 22, 1941 with heavy bombings on Eastern Poland. German forces involved in the attack consisted in three armies. The Heeresgruppe Nord, under the command of general Wilhem von Leeb, had the conquest of Eastern Poland, of the Baltic Republics and of Leningrad - the cradle of Communism - as its goal. The Heeresgruppe Mitte, under the command of general Feodor von Bock, had the conquest of Belorussia and Moscow - capital of Soviet Union - as its goal. And the Heeresgruppe Süd, under the command of general Gerd von Runstedt, had the conquest of Ukraine and Caucasus - bulk of Soviet Union's food and oil production - as its goal.
The German Blitzkrieg technique was as devastating in Russia as it had been in Poland and France: the German advance was so fast and brutal that it compromised the whole Red Army's supply and communication lines: by two weeks after the invasion, more than 300,000 soviet soldiers and 2500 tanks had been either captured or destroyed and, to any observer, the Red Army seemed on the verge of collapse.
The Heeresgruppe Nord, having conquered Eastern Poland and the Baltic Republics by August 25, began artillery bombings on Leningrad on September 01: the city was encircled, with the only exception of the frozen lake Ladoga, and put under siege two weeks later. The Red Army was able to establish a road over lake Ladoga to bring a constant flow of food and military supplies into Leningrad: it brought military and food supplies in and took civilians and wounded soldiers out, allowing the besieged city to resist the enemy. But, as the attack on Leningrad had been so fast that no evacuation plan could have been completed, and there was a risk of vehicles being stuck in the snow or sinking through broken ice caused by the constant German bombardment, Leningrad suffered from extreme starvation for the whole 1941 winter: on December 25, 1941, 3700 inhabitants died from hunger.
During the month of July, the Heeresgruppe Süd had advanced deep into Belorussia and Ukraine. The Battle for Kiev began on August 23, and concluded on September 26, 1941 after the desperate Russian resistance was broken and 600,000 Russian soldiers were captured: nearly two thirds of the Red Army's strength on the outbreak of war has been eliminated.
Minsk and Smolensk, the only big cities between the German Reich and Moscow, were encircled by the Heeresgruppe Mitte on July 09 and July 16 respectively. Soviet resistance in those two pockets ended only on August 05, allowing further advance of the Heeresgruppe Mitte towards Moscow. The offensive to capture Moscow, called Unternehmen Taifun, began on October 02, in good weather conditions. Six days later heavy rains set in, turning the Russian soil into an expanse of mud called Rasputitsa, which strangled the German mobile units, pride of the Wehrmacht, slowing down their advance towards Moscow. The Russian capital was proclaimed besieged city on October 19 by Stalin, who had decided not to leave its population and coordinate the defense of the city with general Georgy Zhukov. The whole world held its breath when the ground finally froze, solving the Rasputitsa problem, and the German Army reached the suburbs of Moscow and the railhead of the Moscow Metro. After three weeks of furious fightings and bombings, on December 05, the Moscow offensive was paralyzed by snow storms and ever-strengthening Russian forces: the Russian capital had been saved from the Heeresguppe Mitte attack.

- transcript of all speeches

1941/06/22 - Announcement of Invasion of Russia (Josef Goebbels on RRG)
1941/06/22 - Germany Declares War on Soviet Union (Joachim von Ribbentrop)
1941/06/22 - Soviet Union Declares war on Germany (Vjacheslav Molotov)
1941/06/22 - On German Invasion of Russia (Winston Churchill)
1941/06/27 - Address to the People of France (Philippe Pétain)
1941/07/03 - Broadcast to the People of Soviet Union (Iosif Stalin)
1941/07/14 - You do your Worst and We will do our Best (Winston Churchill)
1941/07/23 - On US Intervention (Wendell Willkie)
1941/07/29 - Speech On War Production (Winston Churchill)
1941/08/14 - The Atlantic Charter (Winston Churchill)
1941/08/24 - After the Meeting with President Roosevelt (Winston Churchill)
1941/09/09 - We still are Master of our Fate (Winston Churchill)
1941/09/11 - On the Greer Incident (Franklin Delano Roosevelt)
1941/09/11 - On US Non Intervention (Charles Lindbergh)
1941/10/03 - Kriegswinterhilfswerk Speech (Adolf Hitler)
1941/10/29 - These are Great Days (Winston Churchill)
1941/11/07 - Broadcast to the People of Soviet Union (Iosif Stalin)

Site Contents