German-Soviet War

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The German-Soviet War was part of the Second World War . In the former German Empire it was referred to as the Russian or Eastern Campaign , in the former Soviet Union , in today's Russia and some other successor states of the Soviet Union as the Great Patriotic War ( Russian Великая Отечественная война Velikaja Otetschestwennaja woina ). The Eastern Front was formed from 1941 to 1945, the most important country in front of the Allies in the fight against the National Socialist German Reich and its allies . The war began on June 22, 1941 with the German attack on the Soviet Union and ended after the end of the Battle of Berlin on May 2, 1945 with the unconditional surrender of the Wehrmacht on 8/9. May 1945. The surrender of the German Wehrmacht is recognized in many countries as the day of liberation .

Adolf Hitler announced his decision to this aggressive war to the High Command of the Wehrmacht (OKW) on July 31, 1940 and ordered on December 18, 1940 to prepare it militarily until May 1941 under the code name " Operation Barbarossa ". This was a conscious attempt to break the German-Soviet non-aggression pact signed on August 24, 1939 . In order to conquer “ living space in the east ” for the “ Aryan master race ” and to destroy “ Jewish Bolshevism ”, large parts of the Soviet population were to be expelled, enslaved and killed. The Nazi regime consciously accepted the death of millions of Soviet prisoners of war and civilians from starvation , had Soviet officers and commissioners murdered on the basis of orders contrary to international law and used this war for what was then known as the “ final solution to the Jewish question ”.

After initial German successes, Soviet victories in the Battle of Moscow in late 1941 and especially in the Battle of Stalingrad in 1942/43 ushered in Germany's complete defeat. After the German " Citadel Operation " had failed in the summer of 1943 , the initiative finally passed to the Red Army . After the collapse of Army Group Center in the summer of 1944, which followed the opening of the long-awaited “ Second Front ” in Western Europe by the Western allies of the anti-Hitler coalition , the Wehrmacht was militarily defeated and could only offer persistent resistance. Nevertheless, the last months of the war were still characterized by extremely costly battles.

Mainly because of the mass crimes against the civilian population planned and carried out by Germans, between 24 and 40 million residents of the Soviet Union died in the course of the war. Because of its criminal aims, warfare and results, this war is generally considered to be "the most egregious war of conquest , enslavement and annihilation known to modern history".


National Socialist Goals

Planned advances in Operation Barbarossa (1941)

The German-Soviet War is essentially based on the ideological and political goals of National Socialism , which saw itself as a radical ideological counter-draft to Bolshevism . In his program Mein Kampf (1925) , Hitler viewed this as a tyranny of an alleged " world Jewry " aimed at world conquest . Its annihilation and the submission of the allegedly dependent, "racially inferior" Slavs are inevitable in order to give the German " Aryans " the " living space in the east " to which they are entitled . Conquering this was one of the main goals of Nazi foreign policy.

The intended conquest of large parts of Eastern Europe was based on older goals of the traditionally anti-communist military elites of the German Empire and the Weimar Republic ; The necessary armament, the breach of the Versailles Treaty and the exit from the League of Nations were largely consensus in the Reichswehr as early as 1930 . The main aim of the German military, however, was to revise the results of the First World War . The living space policy of the Nazi leadership based on pure racism and their intention to destroy the Soviet Union as a state and at the same time its actual or presumed elites, however, went far beyond these earlier goals.

Hitler's foreign policy from 1933 onwards initially postponed his long-term goal of conquest. However, his speech to the highest Reichswehr representatives on February 3, 1933 already indicated it (see Liebmann recording ). Later he repeatedly emphasized it to the Wehrmacht leadership, for example during the Sudeten crisis . The goals of the Nazi regime aimed at mass extermination and Germanization became apparent during the attack on Poland , in which specially established task forces carried out massacres of members of the leadership elites and Jews, some of which had been agreed with the Wehrmacht leadership. These specifically National Socialist extermination goals were intended to achieve a defining, “never seen dimension” for planning and conducting the war against the Soviet Union, which set it apart from all previous wars, including those of the Nazi regime.

According to Hans-Erich Volkmann , Hitler was also concerned with achieving world domination, for which he needed the Soviet raw materials for a self-sufficient and unassailable Europe as a foundation. On 17./18. In September 1941, during a conversation at the Fuehrer's headquarters , Hitler said :

“The struggle for hegemony in the world will be decided for Europe by the possession of the Russian area; it makes Europe the most blockade-proof place in the world. "

German-Soviet relations from 1939

In the " Great Terror " of 1936 to 1938, the Soviet dictator Josef Stalin murdered thousands of Soviet generals and officers with military experience, thereby severely weakening the Red Army . Since the Munich Agreement of October 1938, he was convinced that the Western powers would offer no significant resistance to National Socialist Germany and that the Soviet Union was trying to force a war that they themselves did not want to wage. Thereupon he carried out a turning point in Soviet foreign policy and sought a balance of interests with the German Reich.

The Nazi regime was ready to recognize Soviet expansionist interests in Eastern Europe in order to “push Great Britain away from the continent”, to be able to wage the attack on Poland as a “one-front war” and to obtain “freedom of the back for the later turn to the west”, “which in turn was a preliminary event the habitat war was envisaged. "

On September 28, 1939, Molotov signed the German-Soviet border and friendship treaty in the Moscow Kremlin

With a credit agreement dated August 20, 1939, the two states agreed on Soviet food and raw material deliveries to Germany for German industrial and armaments goods to the Soviet Union. This was followed on August 23, 1939 by the German-Soviet non-aggression pact ("Hitler-Stalin Pact") with a secret additional protocol in which the contracting parties delimited their mutual spheres of interest in Eastern Europe. The central point of the protocol provided for the fourth partition of Poland and gave Estonia , Latvia , Finland , eastern Poland and Romanian Bessarabia to the Soviet sphere of interest.

On September 1, 1939, the German invasion of Poland triggered World War II. The Soviet Union, for its part, occupied eastern Poland from September 17, 1939, in accordance with the secret additional protocol, and later Lithuania , for which it exchanged parts of Poland to the German occupiers. In addition, at the end of September 1939 she concluded a border and friendship treaty with Germany, which was supposed to regulate the definitive course of the border.

In the months that followed, the Soviet Union, with the tolerance and support of the German Reich, pursued an expansion policy within the zone of influence granted to it by the Hitler-Stalin Pact. It exerted pressure on several neighboring states with the aim of regaining areas that had belonged to Tsarist Russia until 1917/18. Finland opposed this policy in the Winter War (1939/40), in the course of which the weakness of the Red Army became apparent. Although the Soviet Union was able to annex large parts of Karelia , it had to continue to recognize Finland's independence. In contrast, the Red Army occupied Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in mid-June 1940 without a fight. On the pretext that the assistance pacts concluded the previous year were in jeopardy, the Soviet Union declared these countries to be union republics . With the occupation of Bessarabia by Soviet troops on June 28, 1940, their expansion temporarily ended.

Stalin and his generals had originally assumed that Germany would be drawn into a protracted war with the Western powers and that they would have enough time to prepare the Red Army for a possible conflict. However, the rapid victory of the Wehrmacht in the western campaign over France (1940) had destroyed these hopes. Stalin reacted to the new situation with two fundamental decisions: On the one hand, he wanted to maintain the alliance with Germany under all circumstances and not provoke Hitler to go to war. On the other hand, he tried to improve the strategic position of the Soviet Union by applying further pressure on neighboring states . Thus the Red Army occupied the northern Bukovina and the Herza area beyond the areas of Bessarabia granted in the Hitler-Stalin Pact . In addition, Stalin proposed to Bulgaria an assistance pact based on the Baltic model (see History of Bulgaria ). This created tensions with Germany.

At that time, however, Hitler had long since decided to go to war against the Soviet Union. As early as September 4, 1936, Hermann Göring explained Hitler's memorandum on the August four-year plan to the cabinet. It serves the political objective of smashing the inevitable conflict with the Soviet Union with a war of aggression. A victory in the east was to make Germany economically self-sufficient on the continent and a British naval blockade , as it had existed in the First World War, ineffective. From June 2, 1940, Hitler had communicated his plans to attack the Soviet Union to confidants in the Army High Command (OKH). On July 29, 1940, the head of the Wehrmacht command staff, Alfred Jodl, informed his employees of Hitler's decision "[...] to eliminate the danger of Bolshevism once and for all by means of a surprise attack on Soviet Russia at the earliest possible time." Hitler informed the High Command of the Wehrmacht (OKW) about his decision to attack and ordered operational preparations for war. He justified the war on two fronts, regardless of the Soviet loyalty to the treaty, with the alleged danger that undefeated Great Britain could ally itself with the Soviet Union and use it as a “ continental sword ” against Germany. He had the Norwegian-Finnish border fortified, concluded a transit agreement with Finland and sent so-called teaching troops to Romania. In addition, Germany and Italy guaranteed the Romanian borders. In return, Stalin had a Romanian group of islands in the mouth of the Danube and the strategically important Snake Island offshore occupied.

On November 12, 1940, the Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov visited Berlin at the invitation of the German government to discuss the possible accession of the Soviet Union to the Tripartite Pact . On the same day, Hitler ordered the OKW to continue preparations for the attack as planned, regardless of the outcome of the scheduled talks with Molotov. Molotov made accession dependent on concessions, such as increased influence of the Soviet Union in Hungary , Yugoslavia , Greece and Turkey, as well as further concessions in Finland and Romania. In addition, in a note dated November 25, 1940, the Soviet Union demanded that Japan cede the mining concessions on North Sakhalin to them. Despite several inquiries, Hitler did not answer this note. He did not want to see the Finnish nickel region and the Romanian oil region within reach of the Soviet Union, nor to persuade the Japanese to give up their naphtha and coal mines. However, historical scholarship today assumes that, for Hitler's policy, “the Soviet behavior at best gave occasions and pretexts for the U-turn, but did not cause it”.

In particular, Hitler rejected Molotov's demand for further concessions in relation to Finland's neutrality, as instructed. The leadership of the Red Army, which was planning a further occupation of Finland at the time, interpreted this as Hitler's war plan. However, Stalin did not change his policy towards Germany: In January 1941, the Soviet Union concluded an agreement with Germany on the further supply of raw materials for armaments. A switch to a war economy did not take place. Because of the economic and strategic advantages for both sides from this agreement, Stalin assumed that Hitler too wanted to maintain the status quo for the time being . Its expansive Balkan policy and the Japanese-Soviet neutrality pact , signed on April 13, 1941, were intended to give the Soviet Union enough time for increased armament.

German war planning

Directive No. 21

After Hitler announced his decision to go to war on July 31, 1940, OKW, OKH and OKM began strategic war planning and each had independent attack studies drawn up, which were merged from September 3 and presented to Hitler on December 5. On December 18, 1940, Hitler, as “Fuhrer and Supreme Commander of the Wehrmacht”, issued directive No. 21 to the Wehrmacht command staff in the High Command of the Wehrmacht (OKW): With this he ordered the high command of the three branches of the Wehrmacht to attack the Soviet Union until May 1941 to prepare specifically in order to "overthrow Soviet Russia in a quick campaign even before the end of the war against England (Barbarossa case)". It is important to "destroy the mass of the Russian army in western Russia" and to reach a line from which the air forces of the Soviet Union can no longer attack German territory. The ultimate goal of the operation is the "shielding against Asiatic Russia on the general line Volga - Arkhangelsk ", ie the occupation of most of the European Soviet Union.

Strategy of conquest

In contrast to the Western campaign, Hitler and the Wehrmacht leadership largely agreed on the strategy and goals of this war. The operational plans of attack drawn up by the three Wehrmacht sections envisaged a chain of encircling movements and kettle battles with the aim of destroying the Red Army. While Walther von Brauchitsch and Franz Halder mainly wanted to advance directly to Moscow , Hitler ordered in his instruction no. 21 that the "middle of the overall front should only create conditions for rapid troops to turn into Leningrad and the Donets Basin". Hitler wanted to achieve the desired line in a blitzkrieg of up to 22 weeks; General Erich Marcks only calculated up to 17 weeks. Rapid formations were supposed to cut wedge-shaped breaches in the defensive forces of the Red Army, cut them off from connections to the rear and prevent their formations from evading; marching units should encircle them. After that, the motorized forces should advance further east.

The German Eastern Army was divided into three army groups:

The Luftwaffe entered with four air fleets, each operating in the area of ​​an army group, but being independent:

Attacks against the Soviet Union were also to be launched from Norway. They aimed in particular at Murmansk and the local railway connection, the Murman Railway , via which British and American aid supplies later reached the Soviet Union. Several companies in the direction of Murmansk (" Silver Fox Company ", "Platinum Fox") and the Murmanbahn ("Arctic Fox Company") remained unsuccessful. This was due on the one hand to the extreme climatic conditions, the long polar night and the pathless tundra terrain, and on the other hand to the weak German forces here.

The six-week Balkan campaign , which began in April 1941, delayed the planned date of the attack by a month, although, in the opinion of the military, it should also improve the chances of the German attack on the Soviet Union. Despite the delay, the Wehrmacht leadership planned to achieve decisive victories before the onset of Rasputiza , the so-called "mud time", and to end the campaign by the onset of winter. About 50 to 60 occupation divisions were to remain in the country; only for these a special clothing adapted to the Russian winter was planned.

Annihilation plans and murder orders

After the Wehrmacht had strategically planned the war, it entered its concrete operational phase in the spring of 1941. Now their tasks were coordinated with those of the SS, which from 1941 onwards were partially expanded into a parallel army, and various police forces for the areas to be conquered.

On March 13, 1941, Hitler issued the guidelines on special areas for the Barbarossa directive : with this he gave Heinrich Himmler , since 1934 the “ Reichsführer SS ”, special powers for “special tasks on behalf of the Führer, resulting from the final battle between two opposing political systems result ". To this end, the Reich Security Main Office had four so-called Einsatzgruppen set up. According to Hitler's guidelines, they should murder all “suspects” and “other radical elements” as well as “ Jews in party and state positions”. Heydrich specified Hitler's murder order with secret orders to the leaders of the Einsatzgruppen to incite pogroms against Jews among the local population.

On March 30, 1941, in front of 250 Wehrmacht generals, Hitler proclaimed the coming war as a "battle between two world views" and as a "battle of annihilation". He called for the "annihilation of the Bolshevik commissioners and the communist intelligentsia". This intention and demand flowed into some of the orders of the OKW and OKH for the upcoming war.

After the decree on the exercise of martial law in the Barbarossa area of May 13, 1941, crimes committed by members of the Wehrmacht against civilians no longer had to be prosecuted. The decree freed the Wehrmacht soldiers from being bound by international legal norms and encouraged acts of arbitrariness and violence against the Soviet population. The guidelines for the conduct of the troops in Russia of May 19, 1941 required the troops to take "ruthless and energetic crackdown on Bolshevik agitators, militants, saboteurs and Jews". The guidelines for the treatment of political commissars of June 6, 1941 ordered the Wehrmacht to “basically kill political commissars immediately with the weapon.” The prisoner- of- war regulations of June 16, 1941 demanded “ruthless and energetic action at the slightest sign of opposition, especially to Bolshevik agitators ”. Accordingly, the Ten Commandments for the conduct of war by the German soldier , which were stuck in the covers of every pay book and prohibited inappropriate cruelty or behavior contrary to international law, were suspended. After the beginning of the war, the murder orders were in some cases tightened further or their areas of application expanded. So Reinhard Heydrich ordered the “ Higher SS and Police Leaders ” on July 2, 1941 to implement the commissioner's order of June 6 as follows: “All Comintern functionaries (like the communist professional politicians par excellence), the higher, middle and middle class, are to be executed radical lower functionaries of the party, the central committees, the district and regional committees, people's commissars, Jews in party and state positions. "

With these criminal orders, the Nazi regime prepared the German-Soviet war as a war of annihilation. OKW and OKH passed the orders on to the lower ranks of officers; There was no objection from the recipient. This allowed the Wehrmacht to be integrated into Hitler's habitat program. Specialist historians explain this with the anti-Semitic, racist, anti-Bolshevik and anti-Slavic character of the German officer corps, which blamed Jews and communists for the November Revolution of 1918, equating them with the long-standing cult of the leader , imperialist goals and self-overestimation after the Western campaign. Hitler's war goals and those of the Wehrmacht leadership largely coincided: even before Hitler's decision to go to war on July 31, 1940, some leading generals had the goal of smashing the Soviet Union and exploiting their territory for Germany's economic "self-sufficiency" in mind. In March 1941, therefore, they also endorsed the task, which was deemed necessary, of breaking the expected Soviet resistance through terror , in order to “create calm in the rear of the front”, and viewed the task force set up for this purpose as a relief.

Wehrmacht logisticians calculated that the German units could only be supplied up to a line along Pskow , Kiev and the Crimea . Since Hitler demanded the conquest of Moscow as part of a single uninterrupted campaign, the Wehrmacht was supposed to be supplied by the ruthless requisitioning of food and war material from the areas to be conquered. Because an annual requirement of five million tons of grain from the USSR was calculated to secure the food supply of the German Reich, while the USSR was only able to deliver 1.5 million tons on a commercial basis in 1940, Göring's four-year planning authority planned before the attack, through targeted To exploit as large quantities of grain, meat and potatoes as possible for the Soviet population. The entire armed forces were to be fed by “getting what we need out of the country”; It was taken into account that "undoubtedly tens of millions of people are starving". In this hunger policy, the Nazi regime combined considerations of usefulness in the war economy with racist motives. Christian Gerlach sees this as a hunger plan ; other historians deny a dedicated plan and speak of a "hunger calculus". Most historians see no contradiction in this based on the relevant documents. The Eastern European historian Hans-Heinrich Nolte estimates seven million starvation deaths out of a total of 26 to 27 million Soviet war dead; he takes Russian research into account. The Yale historian Timothy Snyder names 4.2 million Soviet starvation deaths in the areas occupied by the Wehrmacht.

In addition, from September 1939, Himmler had initiated comprehensive plans for the millions of deportations ("resettlement") of " Slavs " and the subsequent "Germanization" of conquered areas and began to implement them in Poland, with tens of thousands of the deportees already dying. These plans were expanded enormously from 1941 and integrated into a “ General Plan East ”. This envisaged moving the German “ people's border ” almost 1000 km to the east, expelling the majority of those living there to 30, in 1942 up to 65 million estimated Soviet citizens behind the Urals or to Siberia and several hundred thousand “Slavic sub-humans” to be used as work slaves for the construction of “defensive settlements” for “Germans” or “ ethnic Germans ”.

Role and goals of allied states

State visit of Marshal Antonescus in Munich on 11/12. June 1941

The Nazi regime viewed Finland and Romania as “natural allies” because of their recent conflicts with the Soviet Union and did not conclude any formal war coalition agreements with these states. They were informed in advance of the planned attack so that they could prepare their troop deployment.

Finland under Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim wanted to recapture the territories lost in the Winter War. With an army it caught up with the border on both sides of Lake Ladoga and granted German troops stationing rights in northern Finland.

Romania under Marshal Ion Antonescu was numerically the most important and at the same time probably the most motivated allies to come together. On June 22, it took part in the Eastern campaign with 325,685 men and 207 aircraft. The clear goal of the Romanian leadership was to regain the territories annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940 , with Romanian requests for occupation that went beyond this also played a role. Antonescu was the only foreign head of government at a meeting with Hitler in Munich on 11/12. June 1941 personally informed of the impending attack. The 3rd and 4th Romanian Armies were relocated to the country's eastern border in order to attack the southern Soviet Union together with the German 11th Army and to recapture Soviet-occupied Bessarabia. The German " Einsatzgruppe D " began exterminating the Jews from Romanian territory .

Italy declared war on the Soviet Union on June 23, although there had been diplomatic overtures between the two countries in the months before. However, the negotiations had been repeatedly disrupted by German interventions, and the German attack on the Soviet Union sealed their end. Benito Mussolini sent an expeditionary force with 62,000 men, 220 guns and 83 aircraft. On the initiative of its imperial administrator Miklós Horthy, Hungary sent two corps with 45,000 men, including a motorized one with 160 tanks. The now independent Slovak Republic sent its "fast division" and later two security divisions. Croatia dispatched several "legions" one after the other. Spain under Francisco Franco sent around 15,000 volunteers to the Eastern Front who wore a blue scarf with their Wehrmacht uniform and fought as a Blue Division under Wehrmacht command .

In 1941 around 43,000 “foreign volunteers” came from eight countries and regions to support the “European crusade against Bolshevism” and the “new racial order”. In France, Holland and Belgium larger volunteer associations gathered in Scandinavian countries and smaller ones. They were either integrated into the Wehrmacht or wore the uniforms of the Waffen SS .

Soviet defense preparation

The communist leadership saw the Soviet Union surrounded by a principally hostile capitalist world and considered war with it to be inevitable. In February 1931, at the All Union Conference for Industrial Functionaries, Stalin said: “We are 50 to 100 years behind the advanced countries. We have to cover the distance in ten years. Either we can do it or we will be crushed. ”That is why the five-year plans made unusually high armaments efforts. These were achieved at the expense of the standard of living. In 1935 the Red Army already had 10,180 tanks and 6,672 aircraft. The plans envisaged a stock of 90,000 tanks and 15,000 aircraft. The National Socialist seizure of power went far beyond the level of tension in which Soviet foreign policy was generally interested, since it saw real potential for conflict. The main organ of the Comintern , the Rundschau über politics, economy and labor movement , commented on the incident on the Westerplatte on March 6, 1933 as an “increase in the danger of war between Germany and Poland” and said that Danzig would once be “the signal to ignite an imperialist war “Could be. On March 22, 1933, Pravda stated in an article “Where is Germany going?”: “The National Socialists have developed a foreign policy program against the existence of the USSR” and demanded that the German government clearly state where it is headed. On the XVII. At the CPSU party congress in 1934, Nikolai Bukharin read the passage from Mein Kampf , at which Hitler spoke of the conquest of the Soviet Union, and said:

“This is the enemy, comrades, with whom we are dealing! He will face us in all the mighty battles that history imposes on us ”

The military strategy of the Red Army from 1934 was geared towards a forward defense : an attack should be answered as soon as possible with offensive counter-attacks in order to carry out the fight on the territory of the enemy and defeat them there. Germany with its allies Italy, Romania and Hungary were considered possible main opponents in the West who could deploy up to 300 divisions in the event of war. In September 1940 , the Soviet General Staff under Boris Michailowitsch Schaposhnikov expected the course of the later two German lines of attack, attempts at encirclement, subsequent German advances on Moscow and Leningrad and a war lasting several years, which would require sustained and broad mobilization.

After the German invasion of Poland , the Soviet Union began to build the Molotov Line along the new border with the German Empire , which replaced the Stalin Line, some 300 kilometers to the east, as the western line of defense. The mobilization plan tailored to offensive defense, which envisaged a strength of 7.85 million soldiers in the European and Caucasian military districts of the USSR, had to be reformed after the occupation of eastern Poland and the winter war against Finland . A new draft by Semjon Konstantinowitsch Timoshenko and Kirill Afanassjewitsch Merezkow from September 1940 provided for a counter-offensive south of the Pripyat Marshes in the event of a German attack . Stalin put it into effect in October 1940, but ordered a concentration of troops in the Kiev area to counter a feared German advance to occupy the Ukraine and the Caucasus. From February to May 1941, the formation of troops, distribution, command structures and supply lines of the western military districts were changed several times. The previous strategy of an immediate broad counter-offensive was abandoned in March 1941; this should now take place at most in some sections of the front and only after full mobilization and successful defense against enemy advances. From May 1941, the Red Army pulled additional divisions from other parts of the country together in the western military districts and distributed them along the entire western border. She followed Stalin's directives of October 1940 and reacted to the German troop deployment that she knew.

The preventive war thesis that has been put forward over and over again, that Hitler's attack only anticipated a Soviet offensive, has therefore been scientifically refuted. Rather, the deployment of the Red Army reacted to the German preparations for war in the sense of the doctrine of forward defense. This was well known to the Wehrmacht leadership. The German " Foreign Army East Department " in the OKH, which meanwhile resumed the contractually prohibited German reconnaissance flights over Soviet territory, consistently and consistently assessed the Soviet troop reinforcement from April to June 1941 as purely defensive. According to Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels , the OKH and the Nazi regime even saw the Soviet concentration of troops close to the border as the best "thing that [...] can happen at all" because it facilitates the planned "breakthrough" and enables "easy booty from prisoners".

Stalin and his generals assumed that the Red Army would not be ready to defend itself against the Wehrmacht before 1942, mainly because the generals and officers killed by the "purges" from 1936 to 1938 could not be replaced by competent men quickly enough. In the Stalin speech of May 5, 1941 in the Kremlin to the graduates of the Soviet military academies , he declared: “We have to move from defense to a military policy of offensive action. We have to rebuild our education, our propaganda , agitation , our press in an offensive spirit. ”He wanted to swear the offensive strategy of the offensive strategy that came into effect from October 1940, also because he expected the Soviet Union to enter the war from 1942 onwards.

The Soviet military secret service GRU first heard Stalin on January 20, 1940, then on April 8 and June 28, and on September 4, 27 and 29, 1940 about possible German war intentions against the Soviet Union, and on December 29, 1940 also about Hitler's "Instruction No. 21" informed. The NKVD also reported six times between July 9 and November 6, 1940 about German troop transfers to the eastern border of the Reich. In 1941 such reports increased. Stalin had them all sent to him immediately and without comment, but did not discuss them and thus reserved their selection and interpretation in the interests of his policy. At the beginning of May 1941, agent Richard Sorge , who was active in Japan, reported to the Soviet Union that the German attack with 150 divisions was to begin on June 20. But Stalin, who did not believe in a German surprise attack, did not want to take notice of Hitler's obvious intention to attack until the outbreak of the war. He assessed all substantial warnings from circles of the German resistance as well as the British and Soviet secret services as deliberate disinformation with which Great Britain tried to drag him into the war against Germany. The flight of Hitler's deputy Rudolf Hess to Great Britain on May 10, 1941, who tried to broker peace between the two states on his own initiative, also contributed to this. The British, for their part, spread rumors that Hess might succeed in provoking the Soviet Union to end its alliance with Germany or even to launch a preemptive strike. However, Stalin thought it out of the question that Hitler would start a two-front war until he made peace with Great Britain. Until then he wanted to wait and not allow himself to be provoked. This misjudgment contributed significantly to the later initial success of the Wehrmacht.

On May 15, 1941, the People's Commissar for Defense, Marshal of the Soviet Union Tymoshenko , and the Chief of the General Staff of the Red Army, Army General Zhukov , presented Stalin with a plan for a pre-emptive strike against the German deployment. According to their post-war statements, the latter strictly rejected the proposal and forbade them to take appropriate measures. Nevertheless, the Red Army strengthened its offensive line-up; Military historians judge differently whether it initiated partial covert mobilization. An order from Stalin to do so is not documented.

On June 13, 1941, the Soviet leadership finally decided to keep 237 of 303 Soviet divisions with six million soldiers in readiness against an attack from the west in four front sections near the border. To this end, around a third of the staff and vehicles should be brought in from the interior of the country. In addition, the assumed inferiority of the air forces was to be compensated for by the end of 1941 with 100 new air regiments. Due to the constantly reformed plan, the full mobilization originally planned until the end of May 1941 was not achieved; after the start of the war it could no longer be implemented as planned. The Molotov Line was not yet completed; In 60 percent of the completed bunkers there was a lack of armament and means of communication. Only 13 percent of the planned heavy tanks, 7 percent of the medium tanks, 67 percent of the combat aircraft, 65 percent of the anti-aircraft guns, 50 to 75 percent of the communications media were ready for use at the start of the war. The defense squadrons could not reach their staging rooms fast enough that they were easily cut off from each other and from supplies. The General Staff of the Red Army had not planned a German surprise attack before the target strength of their troops had been reached, since it assumed that enemy intentions would be recognized early and Stalin's orders to deploy in good time. The head of the Military Council of the Leningrad Military District, Andrei Alexandrovich Zhdanov , took a vacation on June 21 for health reasons. Despite many warnings from defectors and diplomats, only the Moscow air defense was initially brought up to 75 percent combat readiness on June 21. On the night of June 21st to June 22nd, after several hours of consultation with his generals, Stalin put the troops in the border districts on alert. In many places, however, the Soviet units were surprised by the German attack that followed immediately. Stalin was also shocked.

As a result of the German attack, Stalin had the "Great Patriotic War" ( Russian Вели́кая Оте́чественная война́ , Velikaya otetschestwennaja wojna ) proclaimed. The headline of the Pravda editorial by Jemeljan Michailowitsch Jaroslawski was on June 23, 1941: "The Great Patriotic War of the Soviet People". Stalin himself called him "patriotic" in his first radio address after the start of the war on July 3, 1941 and again in a speech on November 6, 1941. Russian historiography had already called the Russian campaign in 1812 the "Patriotic War". The term was also common in the Eastern Bloc after 1945 and is still used today in Russia and other successor states of the Soviet Union. With his volume On the Great Patriotic War of the Soviet Union , published in Moscow in 1946 , which contained speeches and orders from Stalin, he pursued the aim of portraying the fighting as a " just patriotic people and liberation war".

Military balance of power

Troop and weapon numbers at the start of the war

The military historians David Glantz and Michail Iwanowitsch Meltjuchow have given various figures on the relationship between the two armed forces on June 22, 1941:

armed force Axis powers Red Army
author Glantz Meltyukhov Glantz Meltyukhov
soldiers 3,767,000 4,306,800 2,780,000 3,289,851
tank 3,612 4.171 11,000 15,687
Planes 2,937 4,846 9,917 10,743
Guns 12,686 42,601 42,872 59,787

The roughly three million soldiers of the German Eastern Army were divided into 150 divisions, including 20 armored divisions. The allies provided a further 690,000 soldiers. These troops were divided into three army groups with a total of ten army high commands and four tank groups. In addition to the weapons mentioned, they had over 600,000 vehicles and 625,000 horses. In the western military districts of the Soviet Union, they faced 2.9 million Red Army soldiers, 145 divisions and 40 brigades, divided into four army groups with ten army high commands.

According to a list in the work The German Reich and the Second World War compiled by historians from the Military History Research Office , the German army had relocated 3648 of the 5694 tanks and assault guns of its total inventory (~ 64%) to the Eastern Front by the start of the war on June 22, 1941, including 3255 armored vehicles of types I – IV, 143 armored command vehicles and 250 of 377 assault guns III . As a result of reorganizations since the western campaign in 1940, the Wehrmacht almost doubled the number of its tank divisions, but not its tanks. Accordingly, it had to continue to use older or captured foreign models and equipped a third of the tank divisions with 157 Czechoslovakian tanks 35 (t) and 651 tanks 38 (t) . The Panzerkampfwagen I had provided almost half of all German tanks in 1939 and was then often converted to the Panzerjäger I or for other purposes. In 1941 the eastern armored divisions used 281 units of the original model, 743 from Panzerkampfwagen II , 651 from Panzerkampfwagen III , 444 from Panzerkampfwagen IV and Sd.Kfz armored personnel carriers. 251 a. The Panzerkampfwagen IV with its short 7.5 cm cannon (L / 27) was not very suitable for breakthrough operations. The 250 copies of the Sturmgeschütz III (subordinated to the artillery) with the equally short cannon were mainly intended to support the infantry. Although each armored division should have an armored infantry battalion, most were only equipped with one armored rifle company due to the lack of vehicles.

In the case of the Soviet tanks, only about 27% of the old tank types were ready for use, according to their own information. On June 15, 1941, 29% of all tanks needed major repairs and 44% needed medium repairs.

For the organization of the forces, see the schematic structure of the war of the Red Army on June 22, 1941 and the schematic structure of the war of the Wehrmacht on June 22, 1941 .

Development of weapon technology

BT-7 , A-20 , T-34 Model 1940 and T34 Model 41 in comparison

The secret German-Soviet military cooperation until the early 1930s contributed to a modernization of the strategy and armament of the Red Army under Marshal Tukhachevsky , which, according to military historians, made the Soviet counter-offensives from 1941 to 1944 possible.

Ground troops

Repair on a Panzer V , 1944

The artillery weapons of the Wehrmacht and the Red Army were roughly equivalent. It looked different with the armored weapon. The German tank models Panzer I , Panzer II , Panzer 35 (t) , Panzer 38 (t) and also the Panzer III had insufficient armor and firepower compared to the heavy Soviet models. The Wehrmacht therefore had to use anti-aircraft artillery many times to break through the heavy armor of the KW-1 and KW-2. At least the Panzer III and IV proved to be the same as in 1941. Some of the outdated Soviet tank models T-26 , T-28 , T-35 , BT-5 and BT-7 were considered superior.

The Soviet heavy tank models KW-1 and KW-2 were quite resistant to most German Army anti-tank weapons. The Luftwaffe was mainly used to combat them. The modern T-34 medium tank was very fast, well armed, and adequately armored, but was not yet used in large numbers by the Red Army at the beginning of the war. The first prototypes still had deficiencies in the area of ​​the drive and the all-round view, and there were hardly any radio devices available at first. However, the T-34 was continuously developed further during the course of the war, and a total of over 50,000 units were produced. It is therefore regarded as the “standard tank” of the Red Army. Only the medium German Panzer V (Panther) and the heavy VI (Tiger) were qualitatively equal to the T-34, but in 1943 they still suffered from development deficiencies and could no longer be produced in sufficiently high numbers. With the appearance of the JS-1 and JS-2 heavy tanks , the Red Army finally had the most effective tanks of the war at its disposal. In order to meet the quantitative requirements of the tank war, both sides used so-called assault guns and, in some cases, improvised self - propelled guns and self - propelled howitzers by mounting captured guns on existing tank chassis, among other things. The weapon models of the Red Army were all relatively simple, reliable and robustly built and thus much better suited for mass production than the more sophisticated and often hand-made German weapon models.

Air Force

Soviet Ilyushin Il-2 during the Battle of Kursk, summer 1943
German Messerschmitt Bf 109 in Northern Russia, 1942

The air forces of the Soviet Union already had combat experienced pilots from the fighting on Chalchin Gol against the Japanese and from the winter war against Finland in 1941 , but they were often prevented from implementing their experiences due to strong political indoctrination. The lack of radios made effective guidance practically impossible.

In the area of ​​equipment, structure and tactics , a noticeable change took place in the Soviet air force from 1942 onwards. The Stawka began to form independent air armies from the air regiments, which until then had been subordinate to the " Fronts " (army groups), which could support these fronts, but were independent in their organization. Under the leadership of General Novikov , who was appointed Commander in Chief of the Air Force in 1942 , 18 air armies were formed, each roughly equivalent in size and structure to an air fleet of the German Air Force.

In the field of fighter aircraft, the Soviet Union still used some aircraft types from the time of the Spanish Civil War until April 1942 , but by the end of the year most regiments were converted to more modern types such as MiG-3 , LaGG-3 and Jak-1 . The deliveries of fighters and radios from the USA and Great Britain contributed significantly to the modernization during this period.

Technically, these models were still inferior to the Bf 109 F / G and FW-190 used by the German Air Force , partly because of deficiencies in armament and equipment, stability and flight performance. The La-5 , La-7 , Jak-3 , Jak-7 and Jak-9 models produced from 1942 onwards were able to catch up with the Luftwaffe aircraft in every respect in terms of quality. As early as 1941, British Hawker Hurricanes and Supermarine Spitfires were delivered to the Soviet Union as part of the loan and lease agreement , as well as numerous Bell P-39 and Curtiss P-40 fighter planes from the USA .

Since the attack on Poland in 1939, the German Wehrmacht had been using effective tactical air force units in cooperation with armored troops. This tactic was effectively adopted by the Red Army in their offensives from 1942 onwards. The counterpart to the 1941 outdated and vulnerable dive fighter Ju 87 on the Soviet side was the heavily armored Ilyushin Il-2 . To this day, the Il-2 is one of the most-built aircraft in the world, with over 36,000 completed units, alongside the Po-2 . Both the Ju 87 and the Il-2 were further developed in the course of the conflict and geared towards fighting tanks.

As medium bombers, the German Ju 88 and He 111 faced the Soviet Pe-2 , IL-4 and, from 1943, the Tu-2 , all of which were able to take on a large number of tasks and outweighed advantages and disadvantages in terms of quality. While there were minor technical advantages on the German side, the Soviet bombers had more experience and better conditions for the winter war . Over 3,000 Douglas A-20 bombers and a relatively small number of around 800 North American B-25 bombers were delivered to the Soviet Union under the loan and lease law and used until the 1950s. With the exception of a few long-range missions by Soviet Pe-8 bombers, the heavy strategic bombers of both opponents were only of minor importance.

Transport aircraft played a special role . In the winter of 1941/42, trapped units near Demyansk and Cholm were supplied from the air despite significant losses. Most of the missions were flown by the Ju 52 , a military-style airliner from 1932. Regardless of its age, this model was able to solve the task due to its robustness. The attempt to supply Stalingrad from the air in the winter of 1943 failed, among other things, due to a lack of capacity, the weather and the Soviet air defense. The Ju 90 , Heinkel He 177 and Fw 200 were also used in this airlift . The Soviet Union received approval to build the powerful American Douglas C-47 under license; she referred to this as Li-2 and set up her own samples that had been produced up to that point. Like the Ju 52, the Li-2 could be used as a transport aircraft or as an auxiliary bomber and equipped with on-board weapons. In addition to the types mentioned, many other types of aircraft were used on both sides.

War production

The German economy was only gradually converted to a war economy from 1941 onwards . The rationalization measures introduced by Fritz Todt for cheap and technically simple mass production only came into full effect in 1944 under his successor Albert Speer . Until then, the elaborate manual production of precision weapons preferred by the military procurement offices predominated, so that the Wehrmacht used a large number of different and maintenance-intensive weapon systems. Until 1942, the factories mostly worked in just one shift.

The industrial exploitation of raw material reserves resulted in relatively high production volumes. The raw material reserves of the Axis Powers were, however, on the whole scarce and hardly extended beyond a six-month war.

The Soviet Union had much more raw material reserves, but because of the initially unfavorable course of the war with the relocation of many industrial companies to the east, it was only able to fully utilize them towards the end of the war. With more progressive rationalization and standardization, the Soviet armaments industry was able to produce more pieces of armaments than the German Reich from fewer raw materials.

Soviet (red) and German (blue) war production
Armaments and heavy industry (selection) 1941 1942 1943 1944 1945
Planes 15,735 25,436 34,900 40,300 20,900
11,776 15,409 28,807 39,807 7,540
tank 6,590 24,446 24,089 28,963 15,400
3,804 5,997 12,151 19,087 4,400
Coal (in million tons) 151.4 75.5 93.1 121.5 149.3
315.5 317.9 340.4 347.6 not specified
Steel (in million tons) 17.9 8.1 8.5 10.9 12.3
28.2 28.7 30.6 25.8 not specified
Oil (in million tons) 33.0 22.0 18.0 18.2 19.4
5.7 6.6 7.6 5.5 1.3

In preparation for Operation Barbarossa, the limited number of motorized units of the Wehrmacht was partially equipped with vehicles captured from the western campaign. New large units often received captured vehicles (trucks and cars), while at the same time, in some cases, particularly in the case of the Air Force, the much more suitable vehicles from German production remained in the west. Overall, this improved armament situation allowed the Wehrmacht to carry out extensive attack operations in line with the Blitzkrieg concept. There were also 650,000 horses in 1941 and up to two million horses in 1944. The German motor vehicle industry was less efficient than that of other industrial nations, with the exception of motorcycles. Even before the war, the number of motorcycles in the civilian population was high. As a result, motorcycle rifle associations were set up, which were the fastest and most agile type of weapon of the rapid troops . However, they were quickly worn out in the traffic conditions, which were severely affected by dust, mud, snow and frost, and therefore soon dissolved.

With the Göring program of June 23, 1941, the focus on armaments was to be shifted to the air force for the fight against the Western powers, but could not be realized.

Despite the defeats of 1941/42, the Soviet Union was gradually able to secure supplies of weapons and ammunition for two main reasons: A large part of its industrial plants located to the west for the urgently needed armaments were dismantled in good time and rebuilt east of the Urals outside the reach of the German air force. Great Britain and from August 2, 1941 also the USA supplied equipment, motor vehicles, food, raw materials such as B. Aluminum and weapons (→  Lending and Lease Act ). This made up for a temporary drop in production by Soviet armaments factories. During the war, the USA supplied 57.8 percent of the aviation fuel, 53 percent of all explosives, almost 50 percent of copper, aluminum and rubber tires, 56.6 percent of all rails laid during the war, 1900 locomotives and 11,075 freight cars. There were 92 locomotives and 1,087 wagons from Soviet production. At the end of 1942, only five percent of Soviet military vehicles were made abroad, and at the end of the war over 30 percent. Nearly 50 percent of all US shipments were food by weight.

After the relocation of the industrial plants, Soviet war production grew rapidly until 1944 and exceeded German production in many areas: The technically simple weapon systems, for example, used fewer raw materials. A much smaller amount of iron ore than in Germany was used to produce an equal amount of guns, tanks and aircraft. The centralization of the economy benefited the Soviet Union.

Course in 1941

German announcements of the attack

German mountain troops advancing near the German-Soviet border of interests, June 22, 1941

On June 22, 1941, early in the morning at 4 a.m. CEST , the German ambassador, Friedrich-Werner Graf von der Schulenburg , presented the Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov with a "memorandum" in Moscow: The Soviet Union had the non-aggression pact through the deployment of the Red Army on the border, The Comintern's conspiratorial activity in Germany and the annexation of Eastern Poland and the Baltic states were broken and thus “stabbed in the back” of war-waging Germany. The Wehrmacht had orders "to counter this threat with all possible means of force". The word " declaration of war " had to be avoided on Hitler's orders; however, when asked by Molotov, Schulenburg confirmed that this was what it was all about. German planes had been bombing Soviet cities for three hours.

Shortly after 4 a.m., German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop handed the Soviet Ambassador Vladimir Georgievich Dekanosow a note, which he announced to the international press at around 6 a.m. The text justified the attack by stating that the Soviet Union "against all of its obligations and in stark contrast to its solemn declarations" had "turned against Germany" and "with all its armed forces deployed on the German border".

At 5:30 am, Propaganda Minister Goebbels read a "Proclamation from the Führer to the German people" on all German broadcasters. The key message was: "To ward off the impending danger from the east, the German Wehrmacht pushed into the midst of the massive deployment of enemy forces on June 22nd at 3:00 am." A little later, the Russia fanfare led the OKW's "radio special reports " a.

With these public statements, the Nazi propaganda began a long-prepared campaign to justify the attack, which the regime held on to until the end of the war, and many Wehrmacht generals even beyond. Historical research has rejected this preventive war thesis as unfounded since 1960 and completely refuted it by 2000.

Initial successes of the Wehrmacht

German advance until the beginning of December 1941 and front lines

In the early morning hours of June 22, 1941, the advance of 121 German divisions began on a 2130 km wide front between the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea, divided into three army groups (south, center and north). The invasion force consisted of three million German soldiers and another 600,000 soldiers from Italy, Hungary, Finland, Romania and Slovakia, 600,000 motor vehicles, 625,000 horses, 3,350 tanks, 7,300 guns and 3,000 aircraft. The combat aircraft assigned to the army groups carried out a massive air strike against the Soviet airfields, which was made possible by the reconnaissance results of the Rowehl command , and destroyed around 1200 aircraft on the ground on the first day of the war alone.

Two divisions operated from Finland on a front 1180 km wide, eight divisions were stationed in Norway, one division was in Denmark, 38 remained in the west. Two divisions fought in North Africa ( African campaign ) and seven divisions had been in the Balkans since April 1941 . The 7th Flieger Division planned for follow-up missions as the 1st paratrooper division was not available after the catastrophic losses on Crete and was relocated to Germany.

Soviet recruits in Moscow on their way to the front, June 23, 1941

This force faced 170 Soviet divisions in the western military districts, for whose leadership three fronts had been formed, the " Northwest Front " , " Western Front " and " Southwest Front ". In the days after the German attack, two further fronts were formed from the Leningrad and Odessa military districts, the northern and southern fronts . The first operational squadron, consisting of 53 rifle and three cavalry divisions, was stationed between 10 and 50 kilometers from the German-Soviet border of interests . Behind it stood a second operational squadron with 13 rifle, three cavalry, 24 armored and 12 motorized rifle divisions as reserves to repel attackers and seal off break-ins. A third squadron with 62 divisions, which was intended as a strategic reserve, was formed along the Dvina and Dnepr rivers 100 to 400 kilometers from the border. Since the deployment was not yet completed on June 22, 1941, the Soviet divisions only had an average of 60 to 80 percent of their nominal strength. Some of the mechanized units had no or only obsolete vehicles; Telecommunication means and other special devices were not available or only in small numbers.

From June 22nd, 0:30 am, the Red Army had "alert level 1" (full war readiness), which is why the attackers did not succeed in the tactical surprise at all sections. After all, the river crossings necessary for far-reaching tank movements quickly came into German hands. Nevertheless, over 300 German aircraft were irretrievably lost in the first few days of the attack by the Soviet air defense.

Despite the sometimes bitter resistance of the Red Army soldiers, who were put on alert for too short a time, the German Wehrmacht was able to record large gains in space in the first few weeks. The cooperation between ground forces and the air force in the combined arms battle proved to be extremely effective. The Ju 87 and Bf 110, which were taken out of the fight during the Battle of Britain because of high losses, were able to fulfill their tasks in the absence of enemy hunting defenses .

Minsk 1941

The two armored groups of Army Group Center closed their “pliers” first around Białystok and then around Minsk . After the German attack on June 22, 1941, the People's Commissar for Defense Semyon Tymoshenko ordered his troops to advance to the border on the same day in order to first destroy the troops that had invaded Soviet territory and then to counterattack. On July 9, 1941 the OKW reported 328,898 prisoners, 3,102 captured artillery pieces and 3,332 destroyed tanks (as many combat vehicles as the German Eastern Army owned). The reasons for the high numbers were that the Red Army was surprised at the moment of its reorganization, its low mobility, its overconfidence and the prohibition to withdraw without express orders from the General Staff. After the cauldrons had been cleared, the Wehrmacht units pushed on towards Smolensk , where the - again successful for them - cauldron battle near Smolensk (July 10th to September 10th) was fought. Completely contrary to previous experience in the Polish and western campaigns , the Soviet troops continued to fight in the pocket. In addition, the size of the country meant that the boilers could never be completely closed. Therefore, Soviet troops could break out in whole columns, especially at night, from all the boilers.

The other German army groups were initially unable to report any such successes. On the wings, the Soviet high command withdrew its troops from the encirclement and gave up Lithuania, the Dune Line, Bessarabia and western Ukraine. Nevertheless, Army Group North succeeded in sealing off Leningrad in the south and east at the beginning of September.

The Army Group South came to a judgment on June 25th in a situation assessment that the opponent proved to be a “serious opponent in every respect” in terms of “his will to fight, his fighting hardship and apparently also with regard to his leadership measures”. This knowledge led to an amendment to the operational plans in Directive No. 1 of June 26th. The enemy was no longer to be encircled and defeated west of the Dnieper, but only along the bow. In the tank battle near Dubno-Lutsk-Rivne , it succeeded in largely destroying several of the Mechanized Corps of the Red Army deployed here , albeit with high losses of its own. On July 2, two Romanian and German 11th armies began to attack the areas occupied by the Soviet Union in 1940. The Romanian 4th Army then began the siege of Odessa . The Army Group South had previously destroyed several Soviet armies in the Battle of Uman and thus dominated the Dnepr arc.

The defeats of the Red Army resulted, among other things, in the fact that many of its commanders, but also ordinary soldiers, were arrested and executed for “cowardice”, “treason” or “incompetence”. Among them was the commander-in-chief of the Soviet Western Front, Army General Pavlov , who was removed from his command by Stalin on June 28, 1941 and shot together with other officers in Moscow on July 22, 1941.

To make the German advance more difficult, paramilitary extermination battalions with a strength of over 300,000 armed forces left behind scorched earth .

It was not until June 30, long after the fall of Minsk, that a State Defense Committee (GKO) was formed to deal with the complex task and to formulate long-overdue orders (which until then only Stalin himself could issue), which, alongside Stalin, was Nikolai Bulganin (Defense Minister ), Kliment Eefremowitsch Voroshilov (First Marshal), Nikolai Voznesensky (Deputy Prime Minister), Lasar Kaganowitsch (Chief of Railways), Georgi Malenkov (Central Committee Secretary ), Anastas Mikoyan (Minister of Commerce) and Foreign Minister Molotov, who were led by Stalin the following day.

On July 12, 1941, Great Britain and the Soviet Union formed an alliance. The USA extended the lending and leasing law in favor of the Soviet Union. For the transport of most aid supplies, Soviet and British troops occupied Iran on August 24, 1941 and expanded the supply routes from the Persian Gulf to the Caspian Sea ( Persian Corridor ). Further Allied deliveries were made with larger convoy trains across the Arctic Ocean from Great Britain to the port of Murmansk (the northernmost ice-free port in Russia). In the course of the war, there were heavy escort battles with the German navy and air force.

To shake the Soviet resilience, the German Air Force began its air raids on Moscow on July 21st . There they encountered a fully prepared air defense and could not cause any major damage.

After the border battles, the growing resistance of the Soviet armed forces and counter-attacks slowed the German advance rate from 5 km a day in July, to 2.2 km in August and 1.4 km in September.

Although the guidelines provided for a break after 4 to 5 days of action to restore operational readiness, Hitler urged the tank units to rush forward without a break. Combined with a driving distance of 4,000 km until November 1941 under the harshest terrain and climatic conditions, this led to more tanks failing due to wear and tear than to enemy action. As early as August 22, 1941, Army Group Center reported that the tank units were “so exhausted and worn out” that “an operational use of their masses before a total refreshment is out of the question.” In addition, there was a failure in the supply of spare parts.

In July / August the failure of the Blitzkrieg plan against the Soviet Union became apparent. This led to the so-called " August Crisis ", in which Hitler and the OKH argued about the further conduct of the war. Contrary to a memorandum of the OKH of August 18, 1941, which suggested a direct attack on Moscow , Hitler ordered the complete occupation of Ukraine and the establishment of a common front on August 21, 1941 because of the recently won battle at Uman and for political and economic considerations with Finland. To do this, he had Army Group Center turn off Panzer Group 3 to the north, where it was supposed to help isolate Kronstadt and Leningrad, while Panzer Group 2 was moved south to support the German advance in Ukraine .

In August 1941, Finnish units occupied the Karelian Isthmus as part of the Continuation War . From September 4, 1941, artillery fired from the Army Group North Leningrad advancing over the Baltic States ; a series of German air raids on the city began on September 6th. On September 8, the Wehrmacht captured Shlisselburg on the shores of Lake Ladoga and thus cut off all land connections to Leningrad. This marked the beginning of the Leningrad blockade , which lasted until January 18, 1944 . To organize the defense of the city, General Zhukov replaced General Voroshilov and worked closely with the Leningrad party leader Zhdanov . On September 25, the front stabilized. Stalin assumed that the city should not be captured, but rather besieged and starved. He ordered Zhukov to defend Moscow, where he flew on October 5th. It was not until November 22, 1941, that trucks were able to bring supplies into the city and evacuate refugees across the frozen Lake Ladoga, the so-called “ Road of Life ”. Over a million people died as a result of hunger and cold during the siege; some tried to avoid starvation through cannibalism .

On September 26, the Kessel Battle for Kiev ended with the greatest success of the Wehrmacht to date: according to German information, around 665,000 Red Army soldiers were captured by Germany and 2,718 artillery pieces were captured. Until then, the campaign for the Soviet Union represented a defeat of unparalleled proportions: the troops of the Soviet Southwest Front with four armies and strong parts of two other armies were destroyed and the Soviet front was torn to a width of over 400 km.

Meanwhile, euphoria grew in the German Reich. After Hitler had ordered the attack on Moscow, there was a double battle at Vyazma and Brjansk , and according to German information, more than 600,000 Red Army soldiers were taken prisoner. Due to the tremendous successes, the Wehrmacht High Command (OKW) reported at an official press conference on October 10th that the campaign in the east had been won. The German population believed that the soldiers could be home before winter. During the advance of the Wehrmacht, around 12 million civilians fled the contested areas into the Soviet hinterland. When the Moscow population was officially informed of the threat posed by the Germans for the first time on October 10, panic broke out in the capital with crowds of people attempting to escape eastwards by train or car. Stalin had this unrest brutally suppressed with the help of blocking units of the NKVD , with many Muscovites perishing.

In the same month, however, the strong autumn rains of the Rasputiza began, so that almost all roads and paths were softened in the muddy season, and were therefore hardly passable for wheeled vehicles and also difficult for tracked vehicles; the German offensive literally got stuck in the mud and could only be resumed after the ground had frozen. However, the precipitation values, and with it the mud, remained below the normal average values. The mean value of the precipitation for October was 51 mm compared to other 59 mm, and in November even only 13 mm compared to 45 mm.

Battle of Moscow

On October 16, the Moscow Politburo , government agencies and almost all diplomats were evacuated to Kuibyshev , and one million people left the threatened capital. Over 100,000 new soldiers were recruited and 500,000 men and women were obliged to work on the entrenchments. Stalin himself decided to stay in Moscow.

On October 20, Army Group Center under the command of Fedor von Bock emerged victorious from the double battles of Vyazma and Bryansk , so that they could continue the advance towards Moscow. However, this advance came to a standstill, as the main supply line of the Army Group, the Vyazma-Moscow motorway, was constantly interrupted by Soviet explosive charges with time fuses. These explosive charges tore craters 10 m deep and 30 m wide and were set in such a way that several detonations occurred every day, each of which completely blocked the motorway.

The Luftwaffe began bombing strategic targets in the Moscow area, especially the railroad facilities, with the aim of preventing the relocation of troops and industries to the east. In spite of this, on the eve of November 6th to celebrate the 24th anniversary of the October Revolution, a people's assembly was held in a Moscow metro station , at which Stalin appealed to the patriotism of the Moscow people. After the military parade on Red Square the next morning , the associations involved marched straight to the front.

According to Dimitri Wolkogonow , Stalin issued order no. 0428 (" Fackelmänner ") on November 17, 1941 : According to this, "all settlement points where German troops are located were to be destroyed within 40 to 60 kilometers from the main battle line to set fire to… ”(see also war tactics scorched earth ). "To destroy the settlement points", "to set fire to and blow up the settlement points", that is to say the villages, the air force, artillery and hunting commandos are to be deployed. Wolkogonow describes how countless villages were destroyed by their own army in this way. Other places were set on fire by the German invaders to punish Soviet partisan actions. Its residents were often abducted for Nazi forced labor or murdered.

In the middle of November the frost set in, so that the roads froze and became passable again. The German advance on Moscow, meanwhile, stalled in the face of massive Soviet resistance. On December 5th, a Soviet counter-offensive with fresh units from Siberia and Central Asia began under General Zhukov . This reinforcement was possible, among other things. by the well-known radio message from Dr. Richard Sorge , a correspondent for the Frankfurter Zeitung who worked as an agent in Japan. In mid-August 1941, he announced that the Japanese Privy Council had decided not to carry out any (further) attack on Soviet territory from the puppet state of Manchukuo - in Manchuria . The role of the Siberian divisions is often overrated. On October 1, 1941, 123 rifle divisions were in reserve, only 25 of them in Siberia.

On December 7, 1941, Japan invaded the USA with the attack on Pearl Harbor - without prior declaration of war - and thus entered World War II. At the same time, the low temperatures down to −35 ° C resulted in rifles and artillery jamming on the German side, engine oil and gasoline thickening and limbs of many soldiers freezing to death because early and correct winter equipment and its timely replenishment in favor of general supplies for the further advance were not made . Since the German leadership had not expected that the war would last longer than a few weeks, the troops were insufficiently prepared for the Russian winter. The operations of the German Air Force, which had become indispensable in direct air-to-ground support as well as in transport, came to a standstill due to the extreme winter conditions. This greatly reduced the chances of success for far-reaching ground offensives.

In mid-December 1941 the danger of Moscow being encircled by the Germans was finally averted. After Hitler declared war on the United States on December 11, 1941, in the middle of the Soviet counter-offensive, the war developed into a global conflict. On December 16, the British Foreign Minister Anthony Eden visited Stalin in Moscow to prepare the draft of a British-Soviet military agreement with him.

In the Moscow offensive operation (December 5, 1941 to January 7, 1942) the Red Army advanced up to 250 km to the west on a front about 1000 km wide.

The failure in the Battle of Moscow was followed by a wave of layoffs among the commanders of the Wehrmacht. Hitler looked for guilty parties (or scapegoats); he dismissed von Brauchitsch after he had submitted his resignation several times, and from then on took over the supreme command of the army himself. Field Marshals General Gerd von Rundstedt , Fedor von Bock and Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb were relieved of their command; some of them were given new official duties later. The "Panzer Weapons Specialist" Colonel General Heinz Guderian (Panzer Group 2, from November 2nd Panzer Army) was relieved of his front command and was transferred to the Führer Reserve until further notice . Colonel-General Erich Hoepner (Panzer Group 4, 4th Panzer Army from December) was demoted and additionally "humiliated [...] by even expelling him from the Wehrmacht". In addition, 35 corps and division commanders were replaced almost at the same time.

According to historian David M. Glantz , the greatest mistake of the German Enlightenment was the underestimation of the Soviet ability to restore shattered units and create new ones from nothing. He sees this as a major reason for the failure of Operation Barbarossa. By December 31, 1941, the Soviet Union had 800 divisions deployed. By December, the Soviet Union had been able to raise 45 new armies. The experienced staffs of destroyed units formed the nucleus for the creation of the new units. This more than compensated for the loss of 20 armies that the Wehrmacht destroyed in 1941. Even before the war, Soviet planning assumed that all units would have to be completely replaced after four to eight months of heavy fighting. Invisible to outside observers, the Red Army had trained 14 million reservists for this purpose.

Soviet winter offensive

Soviet MPi riflemen on the Kalininer Front attacked in February 1942

The German defeat in front of Moscow marked a turning point. The Red Army had reorganized itself and was now able to offer resistance more and more efficiently. War production was relocated behind the Urals , beyond the reach of the German air force . New soldiers came from the distant areas of the Soviet Union, and the new T-34 tank was produced in far larger quantities than the German tank models.

During the fighting in front of Moscow, urgently needed material and tanks were withheld in the Reich territory, because on Hitler's orders eight fast divisions in the west were to be made “ready for use in the tropics” instead: the intention was to attack the Middle East via the Caucasus. In the exhilaration of the German victories, it was originally assumed that there would be an "expeditionary army" of around 30 motorized and tank divisions. These units were missing on the Eastern Front.

"Wehrmacht order": Collected furs are converted into fur lining for the Eastern Front, 1942

Moreover, contrary to what the German propaganda proclaimed, the German troops were completely inadequately equipped for the winter, since Hitler and the generals believed in a swift campaign and believed that the Soviet Union would be defeated within a few weeks or months. As a result, the soldiers wore summer uniforms that were far too thin; the existing winter equipment was only suitable for Central Europe. In the German Reich a fur and wool collection was carried out for the benefit of the troops. In the course of 1942 new directives on the winter war were issued for the second war winter of the Eastern campaign.

Many divisions of the Wehrmacht had been severely decimated in the constant battle with the Red Army, because the victories of the first months of the war had been bought with very high losses. Many weapons and other equipment had failed after weeks of marching and fighting. Supplies and replacements for the overlong fronts were inadequate. In this situation the onset of winter came; and the Soviet Union was constantly throwing new fighters into battle who were rested and trained in the Winter War and who also had short distances to their supply bases.

The long battles for Rostov-on-Don , which the Germans captured for the first time on November 21, 1941, but had to evacuate again on November 29, 1941, after which it took until July 24, 1942, to turn the city into a difficult one, seemed like a prelude to Stalingrad To take fighting again. Also in the north of the front, in the battle for Tikhvin, an ambitious German advance, which originally pursued the goal of establishing a connection with the Finns east of Lake Ladoga , was repulsed. The Soviet counter-offensive came as a surprise to the German leadership, who was certain to win. In his interrogation by Soviet officers, Wilhelm Keitel admitted that the Soviet attack “came completely unexpectedly for the High Command” and that “the assessment of the Red Army's reserves was grossly miscalculated”.

The Soviet attack led to a retreat of the German troops and to disintegration that came close to the withdrawal of the Grande Armée in the Russian campaign in 1812 . Guderian said: "We actually only have armed hawsers that slowly roll back." For General Gotthard Heinrici , "the retreat in snow and ice" was "absolutely Napoleonic". As recently as December 8, 1941, Hitler had in his "Directive No. 39 "ordered the" transition to defense "in order to, among other things To enable “the greatest possible recovery and refreshment” for the Eastern Army. On December 16, Hitler issued a halt order prohibiting any backward movement without his express permission, fearing that the entire front might fall apart. By demanding "fanatical resistance" from the troubled troops and by using Luftwaffe transport units to supply cut-off units despite high losses, Hitler was actually able to stabilize the fragile front. In the opinion of many military historians, this order was nevertheless a grave mistake, because on the one hand it reinforced Hitler's fateful misconception that he could stabilize every front by holding orders if necessary, and on the other hand the German losses were much higher than they were in this way The case of a flexible defense with tactical retreats to favorable defensive positions.

Soviet territorial gains during the winter counter-offensive

By the end of 1941, the Wehrmacht was pushed back, especially in the middle section of the front, and the front was torn open in several places. Among other things, a large front arc formed here around Rzhev and a little later the Demyansk pocket ; To stabilize the front, troops had to be relocated from the west and reserves mobilized. A conquest of Moscow was now out of the question. With this, the Wehrmacht had lost the first major battle in the east; in historical research today one speaks of the "turn of the war before Moscow".

The mobility of the German troops continued to decline due to the considerable losses of motor vehicles, tractors and horses. The need for supplies of all kinds clearly exceeded the transport options. The enormous losses and losses suffered by the German Eastern Army in the period from June 22, 1941 to December 31, 1941 are made clear by a statistical listing by the Quartermaster General : According to this, the Wehrmacht lost 2,752 armored vehicles and assault guns, 24,849 motor vehicles, 38,544 motorcycles and 35,194 Trucks. By December 27, 1941, the Luftwaffe had lost 2,505 aircraft on the Eastern Front as total losses and 1,895 through damage. By the end of 1941, nearly one million soldiers of the Wehrmacht and their allies had been killed or seriously wounded in the course of the German-Soviet War. Until then, the Soviets had lost almost three million dead and around three million prisoners of war. However, in view of the disproportionately greater resources that the Soviet Union could dispose of, these were far less difficult from a military point of view.

Course in 1942

Southern offensive: battle for oil wells

Development of the Situation in the Southern Part of the Eastern Front from the Battle of Kharkov to the Capture of Rostov-on-Don (July 23, 1942)

The Red Army had meanwhile mobilized forces, but they had not yet succeeded in a decisive blow against the Wehrmacht. The muddy season in spring 1942 led to a relative calm at the front, as all motorized forces were at a standstill. In the meantime, Hitler and the OKW came to the conclusion that the long underestimated enemy was far from defeated, and they now began to develop plans for further action in the East. The plan of adopting the most defensive stance possible in order to force the Red Army to make heavy attacks was soon rejected by Hitler: only another German offensive could decisively weaken the Soviet forces. Due to the long course of the front and the high personnel and material losses of the Wehrmacht so far, a major offensive that extended across the entire front was out of the question. Therefore, while defense in the center and north was taken over, the summer offensive aimed at the Caucasus was to be carried out with all armored and motorized forces. In particular, the rich oil wells in the area were the focus of German offensive efforts. At the same time, in accordance with the resolutions of the Wannsee Conference , people in the occupied territories began to be murdered on an ever larger scale (see Holocaust ).

After the Crimea, with the exception of the Kerch peninsula and the siege area around Sevastopol, had already been in German hands from the end of 1941 , the remainder of the area was to be taken in 1942 as preparation for the offensive ( blue case ) in the direction of the Caucasus. The conquest of the Kerch peninsula was a prerequisite. From 15 to 21 May these fights came to an end at the " Operation Bustard Hunt ". Manstein reported 168,198 prisoners, 284 destroyed chariots and 1,398 artillery pieces. When Kerch fell, the southwest front under Tymoshenko had begun an offensive near Kharkov to forestall the main German attack, which Stalin mistakenly suspected Moscow was the target. However, a large part of the Soviet troops was encircled and destroyed, and von Bock reported 240,000 prisoners, 1,247 destroyed tanks and 2,026 captured artillery. The German units have now been regrouped and refreshed, since the great summer offensive was only to begin after the fighting in the Crimea, in which many of the air force units available in the area of ​​Army Group South participated.

The Parpach position had meanwhile been breached and remnants of the broken Soviet units escaped across the Kerch Strait to the Taman Peninsula . On June 2, the actual battle in the Crimea for Sevastopol began, whose defenders fought fiercely, and ended on July 5. This was the first time that Dora was used, the largest gun ever built - to this day. It was 80 cm in caliber. The Crimea had tied up an entire German army for almost nine months - in a theater of war, although not incidental, but isolated. In terms of propaganda, this victory and the almost simultaneous capture of Tobruk in North Africa once again aroused great hopes in the German population.

On the central section of the Eastern Front, the Battle of Rzhev raged during the German advance in the south . A largely forgotten German attack operation, the Wirbelwind company , also failed there .

Division of Army Group South

On July 21, German forces crossed the Don , which initiated the first steps for the advance on Stalingrad. Rostov-on-Don was occupied two days later . After the division of Army Group South into Army Groups A (Generalfeldmarschall List , from November under Colonel General von Kleist ) and B (Colonel General von Weichs ), Army Group A began the concentric advance towards the Caucasus on July 26th , while Army Group B set out to take them away Stalingrad was set. This division, which meant a splitting up of the existing German forces, is certainly to be regarded as a serious operational error in view of the situation and resulted from Hitler's plans to take possession of both the oil areas that were important for the further warfare and - at the same time - those running through Persia To stop the USA supplying supplies to the Soviet Union, the so-called Persian Corridor , with the capture of Stalingrad across the Volga . This double task, however, overwhelmed the numerically far inferior German troops. Twenty of the later 90 Eastern Legions (Soviet forces fighting for the Germans) took part in the fighting in the Caucasus . These constellations of national minorities under German command were an expression of an increased effort from the winter of 1941/42 to combine purely military warfare in the East with a form of political warfare, and were also born out of the need to compensate for the high personnel losses.


German advances into the Caucasus and Stalingrad by the eve of Operation Uranus

Overall, the following German operations in terms of gaining space in the Caucasus took place within a few weeks. On August 4, Stavropol was taken, on August 9, Krasnodar , and the Kuban was crossed. The Romanian allies succeeded in rolling up the Soviet defense on the east coast of the Sea of Azov from the north and opening the Taman Peninsula from "backwards". Maikop fell into German hands on August 9th and the entrances to Ossetian and Georgian Heerstrasse were taken over. The Elbrus massif itself was also taken, and on August 21, the German war flag waved on the mountain .

An attack on Tuapse , which began on August 26, was halted after two days, but on August 31 and September 6, after heavy fighting, the port cities of Anapa and Novorossiysk , the most important base of the Black Sea Fleet , were taken. In the high mountains, German troops had taken the most important pass crossings and temporarily crossed them on a broad front to the south. They stood in the Abkhazian mountain village of Pßchu , 20 kilometers off the coast of the Black Sea near Gudauta . East of the Elbrus, the German and Romanian troops stood in the sections of the Baksan and Terek rivers as far as Naurskaja . To the north of it the front was lost on the Kuma, in the Nogaj steppe and in the Kalmyk steppe . Individual advance detachments and long-range reconnaissance units reached the Kislyar - Astrakhan railway line , near the coast of the Caspian Sea , which could be interrupted for several days. However, in view of the shortage of supplies, the extreme thinning of the German troops due to the overstretched course of the front and the fierce resistance of the Soviet troops, these advanced operational posts could not be held permanently and had to be abandoned soon.

On September 9, 1942, Hitler relieved Field Marshal List of his command as Commander-in-Chief of Army Group A because the progress of the offensive was far behind the original plan of operations. Until November 22, 1942, he took over the leadership of the Army Group personally and then commissioned Colonel-General von Kleist with the supreme command . By this time the offensive movements of the Army Group had long since come to a standstill and the goal of conquering and exploiting the oil wells of Maikop , Grozny and Baku was not achieved.

Battle of Stalingrad (August 1942 to March 1943)

On August 23, 1942, immediately after their victory in the Kesselschlacht near Kalatsch (the last Kesselschlacht won by Germans), the Wehrmacht began the attack on Stalingrad with bombing and the advance of tanks into the outskirts. From September 13th, German soldiers advanced into the city. This was followed by loss-making individual fights for houses and streets. Most recently, the Wehrmacht controlled around 90 percent of Stalingrad , which was largely destroyed in the fighting. On November 19, the Red Army under General Alexander Michailowitsch Wassilewski began a counter-offensive with over a million soldiers, 13,000 artillery pieces, around 1,200 tanks and 1,460 aircraft (" Operation Uranus "). A part of these troops broke through the front of the Romanian 4th Army in the south, another coming from the north the lines of the Romanian 3rd Army. Both wedges united on November 22nd in the Kalatsch am Don area . This encircled the German 6th Army under General Friedrich Paulus , a corps of the 4th Panzer Army under Hermann Hoth and two Romanian divisions (a total of 22 divisions with around 220,000 to 250,000 men).

By mid-December at the latest, the situation of the 6th Army was hopeless. The Air Force should have flown in 600 tons of supplies a day, but never achieved this target and dropped a maximum of 110 tons on individual days. In addition, the Luftwaffe lost many transport and bomber aircraft due to unfavorable flying weather and a strong Soviet fighter defense. The lack of food and clothing made the associations immobile and unable to fight. The soldiers died of starvation , flu , diarrhea, or froze to death . The relief attack started on December 12th by the "Don Army Group" under Hermann Hoth (" Operation Wintergewitter " from December 12 to 23, 1942), formed from parts of the 4th Panzer Army, lacked the necessary forces from the outset to establish contact with the 6 Establish army in Stalingrad. The 6th Army lacked the resources to break out of its own.

The strict prohibition of surrender by Hitler and the army command resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. On January 8, it made the Germans reject a corresponding offer from the Red Army. Military considerations such as concerns about the inclusion of units of Army Group A in the Caucasus only played a part in this. Hitler approved their withdrawal in January 1943 only gradually. On January 25, 1943, seven Soviet armies split the pocket into a north and a south group (Operation "Ring"). They conquered all German airfields. After that, the Luftwaffe could only throw supplies from the air, so that they often fell into enemy hands. As the situation became more and more dramatic, Paulus asked several times for permission to surrender, which was refused by Hitler, but also by Paulus' immediate superior Erich von Manstein , although the withdrawal of Army Group A had meanwhile been completed.

On the night of January 31, Hitler promoted Paulus to field marshal general with immediate effect . Hitler insisted that a field marshal would not allow himself to be captured, but would seek “hero's death” in the forefront or take his own life. But on the same day Paul surrendered without formal surrender to the southern group of his troops. General Karl Strecker in the north basin let his soldiers fight on until February 2nd. Then the approximately 91,000 remaining soldiers of the 6th Army went into Soviet captivity. Many were so exhausted that they did not survive the first few days of imprisonment. An estimated 40,000 wounded and specialists were flown out of the boiler by air. An estimated 170,000 German and over a million Soviet soldiers, as well as an unknown number of civilians, died in the Battle of Stalingrad.

Course in 1943

Win the Soviet counter-offensives by February 1943

Wehrmacht retreats

At the end of December 1942, when there was a risk that the Red Army could break through the front of Army Group Don near Rostov , Army Group A was withdrawn from the Caucasus. It withdrew from the Caucasus in three stages in January and February 1943. The 17th Army maintained the Kuban bridgehead until October 9, 1943, despite constant narrowing.

During the Battle of Stalingrad, the Red Army began " Operation Mars ", a major offensive west of Moscow against the German 9th Army under General Walter Model . The 9th Army was initially able to hold the front arch of Rzhev and cleared it in March 1943 in an orderly manner .


On December 29, 1942, while German motorized Caucasus units began their retreat towards the west via Rostov-on-Don, the coordinator of the Soviet High Command, Colonel-General Alexander Wassilewski, received from Stalin the approval of an operation to extend even further west in the direction of Kharkov-Isjum ( Voronezh -Charkiwer Operation ). The aim was to cut off the entire southern eastern front. The Hungarian and Romanian allies of the German Reich proved to be clearly inferior to the Red Army. On February 9, the regional capital Belgorod had to be evacuated by the Wehrmacht.

On the morning of February 16, the city of Kharkov had to be abandoned in order to avoid the threat of being encircled by the Red Army - the most spectacular defeat in the weeks after Stalingrad . Kharkov was evacuated without a fight by SS Obergruppenführer Hausser , although Hitler had demanded the defense.

On February 21, the German counter-offensive began under the command of General Manstein with the forces that had previously been withdrawn from the Caucasus via Rostov, as well as with Hausser's SS Panzer Corps . Manstein only had about 360 tanks, the Red Army, however, almost 1800. By March 5, the area up to the central Donets was nevertheless recaptured by the Wehrmacht in the Battle of Kharkov , as the Soviet troops were surprised by the German offensive and Manstein cleverly exploited the overstretching of the opposing flanks. Considerable land gains were achieved and a closed front was restored, preventing the collapse of the German Eastern Front in the spring of 1943. The German front could then be stabilized again. This was the last significant success of the Wehrmacht in the east. Kharkov was retaken on March 14th with a few thousand civilian casualties, and in a final effort before the start of the mud period, Belgorod was also retaken by the Germans. The 1st SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler killed a large number of wounded and prisoners during the retaking of Kharkov.

"Citadel Company"

After the destruction of the German 6th Army in Stalingrad and the driving back of the Wehrmacht from the Volga and the Caucasus, it slowly became apparent that the previous allies were moving away from Germany. Some were already entering into secret peace negotiations with the Western powers. For this reason too, Hitler urgently needed sustainable success. In addition, with the limited German military possibilities, the Soviet Union was to be weakened to such an extent that, largely deprived of its aggressive power, it could no longer carry out any major acts of aggression this year. In addition, an Allied landing in Western Europe was expected by 1944 at the latest.

The Eastern Front in the summer of 1943 and the Battle of Kursk

After the winter operations, an arc of front extending far to the west had formed around Kursk , which Manstein proposed for a German offensive. By victoriously pressing in or cutting off this front arc, the front would be straightened out, by means of which German units could be detached from the front. In addition, new prisoners of war and “foreign workers” who had to be deported to the Reich were supposed to fill the gaps in the German war economy that were created by the mass conscription to the Wehrmacht. Manstein stipulated the clear condition that they should strike immediately after the end of the mud period and after the bandages were refreshed. He originally named the end of April as the last promising attack date. With every day that one waited afterwards, the Red Army would become stronger in this area and the German chances of success would become less. However, this termination very soon turned out to be an illusion, as it was logistically not possible to bring the units into the intended attack positions promptly and to equip them operationally. The chances of success of the attack plan were increasingly controversial in the army leadership with every further delay. But Hitler hoped to regain the initiative against the Soviet Union through the attack.

The High Command of the Red Army was meanwhile well informed about the German project through intelligence information and partisan reports. From April onwards, the Soviet Union had created a deep and partly camouflaged position system. These included extensive minefields, barbed wire barriers, anti-tank trenches, trenches, buried T-34 tanks, anti-tank guns and machine-gun positions. The new anti-tank rifles , the counterpart of the later German Panzerfaust , were also used in large numbers. The camouflage efforts of the Red Army went so far that many of the dirt roads and supply roads running to the front under painted tarpaulins on wooden scaffolding told the German aerial observers that it was a quiet street, while the traffic went unnoticed under the tarpaulin. At the same time, the Soviet high command assembled large reserves in the front arc and in the areas adjacent to the east.

The German plan of attack envisaged advancing with the 9th Army of Army Group Center from the Orel area in a southerly direction towards Kursk; with the 4th Panzer Army of Army Group South from the Belgorod area in a northerly direction also on Kursk towards the 9th Army to unite there and destroy the encircled Soviet armies west of Kursk. Only weaker German associations secured the western arch between these large associations. In order to achieve a sufficient number of troops, other sections of the front were weakened in favor of this operation. Nevertheless, the German forces were ultimately insufficient for the project, as too few troops were available to cover the flanks of the advancing units.

The deployment of troops near Kursk led to the greatest concentration of conventional military forces, in particular the largest tank battle in known history. On the Soviet side, 1.3 million soldiers with 3,300 tanks and 2,500 fighter planes stood as defenders against 900,000 soldiers, 2,500 tanks and 1,800 fighter planes of the attacking German Wehrmacht.

Due to espionage, the Red Army High Command now knew the exact time of the attack and, for its part, occupied the enemy staging area with dense artillery barrage 30 minutes before the start of the German attack. Nevertheless, the German attack began on July 5, 1943, the Red Army defended itself doggedly and carried out constant counter-attacks. The 9th Army, which was equipped with fewer tanks than the 4th Panzer Army, got stuck in the enemy’s fortified positions on July 10, with great losses. A collapse of just 15 to 20 km was achieved. The 4th Panzer Army, on the other hand, was able to achieve greater successes, fighting a break in of around 30 to 35 km. However, from July 11th a major Soviet offensive on the Western Front and the Bryansk Front against the 2nd Panzer Army north of Orel became apparent, and under this pressure the 9th Army had to stop its attack and deliver troops there to cover its flanks, while the 4th Panzer Army continued the attack for two more days. The landing of the Allies in Sicily on July 10th finally moved Hitler to stop the attack on Kursk on July 13, 1943 and to move troops to Italy. The Kursk battle was the last attempt by the German Wehrmacht to regain military initiative in the Soviet Union by means of a major offensive.

At the height of the battle on July 7, 1943, a total of around 700 tanks and over 350 fighter planes were claimed to have been destroyed by both sides. Together with July 5, 1943, when the German Air Force claimed more than 362 confirmed kills in the Kursk area alone, the Battle of Kursk was the most costly air battle in history.

The Silberstreif campaign carried out between May and September 1943 , in which the soldiers of the Red Army were to defeat en masse by dropping a billion leaflets, turned out to be a complete failure .

The Red Army took over the initiative

German Panzerkampfwagen IV in the Ukraine in December 1943
Soviet land gains from the end of the Citadel enterprise to December 1, 1943 (end of the Tehran Conference )

The Red Army took advantage of the weakening of the German troops due to the defeat at Kursk and the Allied landing on Sicily to finally take the initiative itself. In the course of the counter offensives " Kutuzov " and " Rumjanzew ", Oryol , Belgorod and Kharkov were liberated in August . For the first time, guns fired salutes on Red Square in Moscow in early August in honor of the liberators Belgorods and Oryols, a tradition that was maintained until the end of the war.

After several other Soviet offensives ( Donets Basin Operation , Smolensk Operation ), the Soviet troops reached the Dnieper . The hastily initiated expansion of the German " Panther position " (also called "Ostwall") came too late; In the course of the Battle of the Dnepr , the Soviet troops crossed the Dnieper on a broad front in October, albeit with enormous losses, and liberated Kiev on November 6th . In Italy the Allies had meanwhile established a second front with their landings on the mainland , which tied up important German forces. On November 3, Hitler issued Directive No. 51 , in which he gave priority to repelling the invasion of France expected for the next year. As a result, the German Eastern Army lost other powerful units and had to limit itself to defensive operations.

On December 23, the Soviet Dnepr-Carpathian operation , which lasted until April 17, 1944, began , in which German troops suffered heavy losses in the southern part of the Eastern Front. In the north of the front, after the successful German defense in the Third Ladoga Battle , a new major Soviet offensive was also being prepared.

Burned earth

On their retreat, the Wehrmacht practiced the scorched earth tactic . Heinrich Himmler instructed SS-Obergruppenführer Hans-Adolf Prützmann on September 7, 1943 :

“That when parts of the territory of the Ukraine are cleared, no one, no cattle, no hundredweight of grain, no railroad track will be left behind; that no house is left standing, there is no mine that has not been disturbed for years, no well that is not poisoned. The enemy really has to find a totally burned and destroyed country. "

The country was so thoroughly devastated and plundered as had never been done in these long years of war. Villages and cities were burned down, bridges blown up, railway lines torn up, wells poisoned, industrial and energy systems destroyed, everything that could be taken away in any way was taken away, not only the resources and products from industry and agriculture, but also the human workforce. A young infantryman wrote to his wife in September 1943:

“On the opposite bank of the river everything has been burning for days, because you must know that all towns and villages in those areas that we are evacuating will be set on fire, even the smallest house in the village must fall. All large buildings are blown up. The Russian should find nothing but a field of rubble. "

Another contemporary witness reports:

“The traffic on the taxiway shows images that you can never forget. People and animals from a vast area left to the enemy are all streaming west. The Russian will find an empty, barren land. Every village and every hut goes up in flames. "

The commander of the 296th Infantry Division ordered “every soldier behind HKL to be required to pull out 100 potato sticks every day in the early morning hours”. He wanted to see “no more standing grain and potato fields until August 9, 1943 in the evening”.

According to Wegner, however, there were also contradicting orders in order to "master the force's mania for destruction, which exceeded any militarily acceptable level". General Gotthard Heinrici wrote to his wife on October 27, 1943:

“Our people still imagine that they will act meritoriously if they destroy everything. In doing so, they only bring shame and vengeance on the German people. But they're like crazy people. At Smolensk I tried to control this and put a stop to it. It was humanly impossible. Every delivery servant believed himself to be the arsonist here on the orders of the Fiihrer. "

For Christian Hartmann , Hitler and his entourage wanted to drag as large parts of the enemy as possible with them into their downfall, as a kind of “collective suicide program”. For the historian Bernd Wegner , on the other hand, “a military necessity, professionally organized devastation, an individual frenzy of destruction and a political-ideological will to destroy” entered a “symbiosis that can hardly be resolved”.

Course in 1944

Recaptures by the Red Army

Soviet land gains from December 1943 to the end of April 1944

For 1944, the Soviet leadership waived a single decisive blow and instead planned a series of staggered operational blows that continued cascading from north to south. This confused the German Enlightenment, prevented the shifting of reserves, avoided risks, but postponed the end of the war. In retrospect, they were referred to as " the ten Stalinist blows " by Soviet war propaganda .

On January 14th the Soviet attack on the German siege ring around Leningrad began. The city had held out for 900 days and could only be supplied with supplies via the frozen Lake Ladoga in winter. The Red Army now followed up: their spring offensive ( Leningrad-Novgorod operation ) brought further territorial gains and the Wehrmacht had to withdraw further as far as Lake Peipus . In the south, the German army groups in Ukraine were thrown far back by continued Soviet offensives during the Dnepr-Carpathian operation . The Red Army succeeded more and more often in encircling larger German units, such as in Cherkassy / Korsun and Kamenez-Podolski (in both cases, however, the Germans succeeded in breaking out of the pocket after heavy losses). The encircling was not least due to the stop orders issued by Hitler. By the end of April, large parts of western Ukraine had been liberated by the Red Army and the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains and the borders of the Romanian occupied area of Transnistria had been reached. The German allies Hungary and Romania were from now on again increasingly involved in the fighting. Previously, on March 19, Hungary was occupied by German troops in an operation under the code name Margarethe and the Kállay government was overthrown in order to prevent the armistice of another country with the Western Allies on the model of Italy.

From April 9th, Soviet efforts focused on retaking Crimea. At this point in time, Odessa, the most important supply port for the troops on the peninsula that had remained in German hands until then, had been lost. In the Battle of the Crimea , the Red Army managed to completely retake the peninsula by May 12th. The German 17th Army , in which Romanian troops also fought, was practically destroyed, and more than 60,000 surviving soldiers were taken prisoners of war.

After a short period of rest during the muddy spring season, the great Soviet summer offensives of 1944 began. On June 9, the Red Army attacked the Finnish front on the Karelian Isthmus ( Vyborg-Petrozavodsk operation ), which, however, was still east on August 9 the old border of 1940 came to a standstill.

The successful landing (" Operation Overlord ") of the Allies in Normandy on June 6, 1944 led to a third front against the German Reich and, due to high German losses, required massive troop transfers from the Eastern to the Western Front . The eastern theater of war lost priority for German warfare, and only about half of the German army was in the east.

Destruction of Army Group Center

Wins from Operation Bagration and related operations through August 19, 1944

From a personnel and material point of view, the Red Army was now so superior that it was at times capable of major offensives on the entire front. While the attack on the Finnish front was still in progress, the Soviet Union began a major encirclement battle under the code name "Operation Bagration" in the central section, which aimed to smash Army Group Center . On June 23, the attackers broke through the defensive front and surrounded large German units near Vitebsk and Bobruisk . On June 29th these troops surrendered, whereupon Army Group Center practically ceased to exist and the Red Army was able to advance shortly before Warsaw and to the borders with East Prussia .

For the Soviet partisan movement, this offensive was both the climax and the end point. The Soviet offensive prepared at least 10,500 acts of sabotage on the night of June 20 against railways, bridges and communications links. After the defeat of the German associations, German rule on Soviet territory, with the exception of smaller areas in the Baltic States, came to an end. This defeat of the Wehrmacht was more devastating and momentous than the Battle of Stalingrad a year and a half earlier, because the Wehrmacht lost more soldiers (an estimated 200,000 dead and 300,000 prisoners) and equipment; the whole eastern front wavered. From a military point of view, the war was irrevocably lost for the Wehrmacht: if a German victory was unattainable by 1943 at the latest, total defeat had become inevitable from the summer of 1944. Most of the Wehrmacht generals were well aware of this, but the fight continued.

On July 3, the Red Army retook Minsk and encircled the remnants of the German 4th Army, which soon surrendered. Further south, as part of the Lviv-Sandomierz operation, Soviet units penetrated Galicia as far as Lemberg from July 13 and finally reached the Vistula .

Assassination attempt on Hitler

In view of the clearly hopeless overall military situation, several German officers now showed their willingness to end the war against Hitler's will under certain circumstances in order to avoid further senseless victims. The arrest or death of Hitler was often mentioned as a condition for this, since a negotiated peace can only be considered under these circumstances. Furthermore, there were considerations on the part of the generals to conclude a separate peace with the Western Allies in order to act together against the advance of the Red Army and thus communism to Central Europe. The extent to which the Western Allies would have joined this project is doubtful, since the Unconditional surrender of Germany was set as the common Allied war goal at the 1943 Conference of Casablanca .

On July 20, 1944, Colonel Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg tried to kill Hitler at the Wolfsschanze headquarters in East Prussia with an explosive device. Henning von Tresckow , General Staff Officer of Army Group Center, was involved in planning the attack as a close confidante of Stauffenberg. Von Tresckow's experiences on the Eastern Front contributed significantly to his stance against the continuation of the war. Hitler survived the assassination attempt by placing the bomb in an unfavorable manner, and the subsequent attempt at a coup in Berlin , " Operation Valkyrie ", also failed. The immediate assassins were immediately executed. By the end of the war, the People's Court under Roland Freisler had passed over 200 death sentences in connection with the attack, including Erich Hoepner, the former commander of Panzer Group IV. Among those arrested were numerous protagonists of the war in the East . Several popular German generals were advised to commit suicide due to their alleged or actual complicity, including the former Commander-in-Chief of Army Group Center Günther von Kluge and probably also the "desert fox" Erwin Rommel , both of whom were in charge of repelling the invasion of Normandy at the time .

Warsaw Uprising

Members of the Zośka Battalion of the Home Army during the Warsaw Uprising, August 5, 1944

On August 1st, under the leadership of General Count Tadeusz Komorowski , known as “Bór”, the Warsaw Uprising began . This was part of the “Burza” (thunderstorm) campaign of the Polish Home Army operating from underground . By October 2, the uprising was bloodily suppressed under the leadership of SS-Obergruppenführer Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski . The number of combatants killed on both sides (around 15,000 to 30,000) was disproportionate to the number of civilian casualties (over 200,000); the Polish capital was systematically almost completely destroyed during the ongoing fighting and especially afterwards on Hitler's orders.

The “classic” Western view of this uprising (later represented by Churchill himself, among others ) accuses Stalin's government of deliberately not preventing the uprising from being crushed by the Wehrmacht in order to weaken anti-communist forces in Poland. The British historian Richard Overy , on the other hand, wrote in 1997 that the Red Army's options were limited at this time, after the extensive and extensive offensive against Army Group Center ; Relief attacks that had taken place failed because of the German resistance and the Polish Home Army had also refused to coordinate its activities with Soviet and Communist Polish units.

Balkans, Baltic States and Hungary

With the beginning of the " Operation Jassy-Kishinew " in August, the Red Army marched into Romania and destroyed the (new) German 6th Army near Chișinău . With the royal coup d'état on August 23, 1944 , King Michael of Romania changed fronts and Romania declared war on Germany. On September 8, the Soviet East Carpathian operation began . The successes of the Red Army forced the Wehrmacht to withdraw from Greece , on October 13th British units moved into Athens . On September 5th the Soviet Union declared war on Bulgaria and on September 8th the Red Army moved into Bulgaria; A communist coup d'état was staged there on September 9, and the Red Army marched into Sofia on September 15 . Another ally of Germany fell away on September 19th when Finland signed an armistice with the Soviet Union and Germany also declared the war that ended in the Lapland War . On October 7th, the Petsamo-Kirkenes operation began in the north . On October 20, Soviet units and Yugoslav partisans under Tito captured the capital Belgrade and forced German Army Group E to retreat to the Drina ( see Belgrade operation ).

In the north, Army Group North withdrew from Riga to Courland on October 13th . From October 20, when the Red Army advanced towards the mouth of the Memel , it was cut off from the rest of the Eastern Front by the Baltic operation , but could not be destroyed by the Red Army in numerous battles (cf. Kurland-Kessel ).

In East Prussia , the Red Army's offensive came to a standstill in October after initial successes. During these days the German-Soviet war spread to German territory for the first time. Colonel General Ivan D. Tschernjachowski's armored spearheads advanced in the direction of Königsberg as far as Gumbinnen , Goldap and Nemmersdorf , but were temporarily pushed back by the 4th Army (Hoßbach). Pictures of atrocities committed by Soviet troops were shown to the public by the German newsreel for propaganda reasons (“ Massacre von Nemmersdorf ”). This should strengthen the fighting spirit and perseverance of the German population.

On December 24, 1944, 70,000 German and Hungarian soldiers were trapped in the Hungarian capital Budapest . Several German relief attempts, some with the last remaining reserves in the Reich, including some SS Panzer divisions, failed. On February 11, 1945, the 52-day siege of Budapest ended with the capture of the city by the Red Army.

Course in 1945

On January 12, 1945, the Red Army began the broad-based Vistula-Oder operation from the Vistula bridgehead near Baranów, and further south with the West Carpathian operation . The next day she opened the East Prussian operation . In view of the German Ardennes offensive, the Western Allies had asked Stalin to bring the date of the attack forward. At this point in time, the Wehrmacht was also weakened because significant forces had withdrawn to the west.

The Red Army advanced north from Warsaw (occupied January 17). After Tilsit was conquered in 1945 , East Prussia separated from the German Empire. The German population fled; because looting, murder, pillage and rape by the Red Army soldiers spread fear and terror among civilians. Since the Gauleiter Erich Koch and Karl Hanke had forbidden preparatory evacuation measures, the escape often took place at the last minute. In total, over two million refugees were evacuated westward across the Baltic Sea at the Hannibal company . Several refugee ships, including the troop transporter Wilhelm Gustloff , which was supposed to evacuate several thousand refugees and German soldiers from East Prussia, were sunk by Soviet submarines on January 30th . The last evacuation convoy from the Hela peninsula (which was held by German troops until the end of the war) to Denmark with a total of over 40,000 people lasted from May 5 to 9, 1945.

The 4th Army , which was defending East Prussia, was defeated. Koenigsberg was surrounded on January 30th and briefly horrified by German units, but on April 9th ​​it finally fell to the Red Army. Hitler demanded that the most important German cities be defended as "fortresses", despite the bad experiences one had had with the tactic of holding at any price ; but Thorn fell on February 1st, Posen in the Battle of Posen on February 23rd, Graudenz on March 5th and Kolberg on March 18th.

On January 27, the Red Army reached the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp , which had already been abandoned by the SS. The camp inmates had previously been "resettled" to camps further west or sent on death marches ; the SS tried to cover up the traces of the industrial killing of people. On the same day, the first Soviet units reached Küstrin and with it the Oder .

After the Soviet winter offensive, the Red Army stood at the end of January 1945 along the Oder and Lusatian Neisse rivers from Stettin to Görlitz almost 80 kilometers from Berlin. In February and March the Red Army deployed around 2.5 million soldiers with over 6,000 tanks and 7,500 aircraft for the attack on Berlin. Opposite them were around a million German soldiers with almost 800 tanks and units of the Russian Liberation Army under Andrei Andreevich Vlasov .

In the battle for East Pomerania , the right flank was secured and the prerequisites for the attack on the capital of Berlin were created. The main direction of attack from prepared bridgeheads followed Reichsstrasse 1 via Seelow directly to Berlin. The heights of Seelow formed a steep, natural obstacle; It was around these heights that one of the bloodiest battles of World War II was fought. The battle for the Seelower Heights began on April 16 with one of the strongest artillery bombings in history: around 18,000 artillery pieces and rocket launchers concentrated their fire on just 4 km of the front line. The numerically far superior Red Army gained the upper hand and, after heavy losses, decided the battle in the course of April 18.

Meanwhile, the Soviet siege ring around Wroclaw was closed on February 15. After Gauleiter Hanke left the city in an airplane, the city fell into the hands of the Red Army on May 6th ( Battle of Breslau ).

On March 6, the 6th Panzer Army with the support of the 6th Army (Army Group "Balck"), the 2nd Panzer Army and Army Group F attempted a large-scale offensive ( Operation Spring Awakening ) directly against the well-prepared 3rd Ukrainian Front in Hungary the aim of pushing them east across the Danube. By March 15, the attack came to a standstill without having even remotely reached the target. On March 16, the Soviet counter-offensive ( Vienna Operation ) began, which conquered all of Hungary by April 4 and was soon to the west of Vienna at Pressbaum. On April 13, Vienna fell into the hands of the Red Army, which also conquered Lower Austria, Burgenland and Styria from the east. She reached Graz on May 8th .

On April 25, the siege ring closed around Berlin , while Soviet and American combat units met for the first time near Torgau on the Elbe. On the German side, in addition to troops of the Wehrmacht and the Waffen SS, the Volkssturm and units of the Hitler Youth fought . The last major and successful German tank attack took place on the morning of April 26th, and Bautzen was recaptured ( Battle of Bautzen ). On April 28, the attempt by the German 12th Army under General Walther Wenck to detach the capital failed. On the same day, Mussolini was caught and shot by Italian partisans while attempting to flee to Switzerland.

On April 30, Hitler and Eva Braun killed themselves in the bunker under the Reich Chancellery . The corpses were doused with petrol in front of the bunker by members of the SS and burned. In his political will, Hitler appointed Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz as Reich President , who chose Flensburg - Mürwik as the seat of the executive government. Meanwhile, on May 2, the last defenders of Berlin surrendered their weapons to the Red Army. Until recently, the Berlin Reichstag building was mainly defended by Western European volunteers from the Waffen SS.

Most of the German troops retreating westward via Yugoslavia, Bohemia and Austria, as well as General Vlasov's voluntary organizations , were extradited to the Soviet Union by the Americans. The Croatian Army fighting on the German side , the Serbian State Guard and some Slovenian aid organizations were handed over to the Titopartisans by the British 8th Army , who murdered at least 100,000 men. On May 8, the Red Army occupied Dresden in the course of the Prague operation , and on May 10, Soviet units also moved into Prague .

On May 7, between 2:39 and 2:41 a.m. at the headquarters of the Western Armed Forces ( SHAEF ) in Reims, France, in the presence of the Soviet representative Major General Susloparov , General Jodl on behalf of Dönitz announced the unconditional surrender of the German armed forces with effect from May 8. Signed May 1945, 11:01 p.m. On the day of entry into force, Admiral Dönitz addressed the German people in a radio address:

“The foundations on which the German Reich was built have shattered. The unity of state and party no longer exists. The party has withdrawn from the arena of its activity. With the occupation of Germany, power lies with the occupying powers . "

Since the USSR was not satisfied with the deed of surrender drawn up in Reims, this formal act was repeated after the armistice came into force. To this end, on the night of May 9, representatives of the OKW and the three armed forces (Field Marshal Keitel , Admiral von Friedeburg , Colonel General Stumpff ) signed another document of surrender in front of representatives and witnesses of the four main victorious powers in the Army Spy School Berlin-Karlshorst . The 9th of May is celebrated every year in Russia as Victory Day.

On June 24, 1945 was on the order of Stalin in Moscow Victory Parade of 1945 on the Red Square instead. With 40,000 Red Army soldiers participating, 1,850 military vehicles and a duration of two hours, this was the largest military parade ever held in the history of the Soviet Union .

Mass crimes

A large part of the crimes in the German-Soviet War were not ordinary war crimes , since the Nazi state had already suspended the legal equality of the opponents, which is required in international war law , and mass killings were ideologically wanted, planned, ordered, and factored in as an unavoidable consequence in advance had legitimized. Historical research therefore speaks of mass crimes, which also include war crimes.

Mass murders of civilians

According to Christian Gerlach, the German Wehrmacht and the SS murdered 345,000 people in massacres against the civilian population in Belarus alone. Most of the victims were women and children because the men were with the Red Army or the partisans. As a rule, people were herded together in large buildings such as barns and shot with submachine guns or machine guns. After that, although many were still alive, the buildings were burned down. For example, 190 people died in such a massacre in Oktyabrsky. Then all the houses in the village were set on fire. In Belarus 628 villages were completely destroyed in this way, in Ukraine there were 250.

Partisan war

Execution of captured Soviet partisans, January 1943

In Poland, the Balkans and the Soviet Union, the German occupiers had criminal goals from the start. The " General Plan East " envisaged the decimation of the Slavic population by around 30 million and the suppression of the remaining people. The measures taken by the Germans were brutal : the schools above the fourth grade in the conquered territories of the Soviet Union were closed, the Jews shot, forced laborers were brought into the German Reich and the prisoners of war were treated inhumanly.

This increased the population's hatred of the German occupiers. Partisan armies fought in the Soviet Union , Greece and Yugoslavia (under Marshal Tito) , some of them communist and some nationalist . The Polish Home Army, however, could only hope for little outside support. The partisans often emerged victorious from the constant guerrilla warfare against the German army.

The main struggle of the Soviet partisans was directed against the German supplies, as well as against the economic exploitation of the country. According to a memo from the Commander of the Rear Army Area of Army Group Center Max von Schenckendorff on September 6, 1942, the partisans reduced the rail transport performance to below 50% and the direct supply to the army to two thirds.

Since partisans were not considered combatants in the sense of the Hague Land Warfare Regulations , they were not treated as prisoners of war. Partisans captured or suspected of being partisans were executed. Partisan attacks were often followed by brutal punitive actions, so-called “expiatory measures”, against the civilian population. Towards the end of the war, the partisans were able to liberate larger areas from the German occupiers. Under the camouflage of the so-called anti-partisan campaign, other unpleasant people were immediately liquidated, including members of the Wehrmacht.


The four German Einsatzgruppen A, B, C and D set up in the spring of 1941 began immediately after the start of the war with mass murders of Jews and Communists or of people behind the front who were regarded as such. They reported regularly to Hitler on his orders and, according to their own statements, murdered almost a million people in the first year of the war. The Wehrmacht behaved differently; some commanders did not pass on the orders, others actively supported the SS. Soldiers who refused to take part in the murder were usually not punished, but sometimes had to accept disadvantages.

The internationally renowned British historian and Hitler biographer Ian Kershaw sums up the connection between this war and the Holocaust as follows:

“It was no accident that the war in the east led to genocide. The ideological goal of eradicating 'Jewish Bolshevism' was at the center, not on the edge of what was deliberately designed as a war of extermination. It was inextricably linked with the military campaign. With the advance of the Einsatzgruppen, which started in the first days of the attack and was supported by the Wehrmacht, the genocidal nature of this conflict was already initiated. The German warfare in the Russian campaign was to quickly develop into a comprehensive genocide program such as the world had never seen before. During the summer and autumn of 1941, Hitler spoke to his immediate entourage, often in the most brutal of terms, about the ideological aims of National Socialism in the smashing of the Soviet Union. During the same months, on countless occasions, he made barbaric generalizations about the Jews in his monologues. That was exactly the phase when, from the contradictions and the lack of clarity in anti-Jewish politics, a program for the murder of all Jews in Europe conquered by the Germans began to take shape. "

According to the American Holocaust researcher Christopher Browning , “the preparations for the 'Operation Barbarossa' set in motion a chain of fateful events, and the murderous 'war of extermination' then quickly led to systematic mass murder, first of the Soviets and soon afterwards of the others European Jews ”. Research results from an international commission of historians in 2010 show that “after the attack on the Soviet Union in June 1941, the Foreign Office took the initiative to resolve the 'Jewish question' at European level”. The MGFA historian Rolf-Dieter Müller wrote of the "other Holocaust" in two ways. On the one hand, the "Operation Barbarossa" was planned and waged from the outset as a war of conquest and extermination, and the citizens of the Soviet Union, as "Slavic subhumans", were assigned a fate similar to that of the Jews. On the other hand, the planned murder of the Jews themselves was the focus of the crimes soon after the start of the Russian campaign. During the German occupation, around three million Jews were killed in the territories occupied by Germany in what was then the USSR.


Armed forces

Rape by Wehrmacht soldiers remained largely unexplored until the early 2000s. Omer Bartov recalls a campaign in the Wehrmacht, for example by the Greater Germany Division , the 18th Panzer Division or the 12th Infantry Division , to keep the soldiers from " fraternizing " with Soviet women. Relations with Soviet women were forbidden because they were “ racially inferior ” and therefore represented “ unworthy ” contact for a German soldier. The troops were instructed to exercise the greatest restraint. This should prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Women were also suspected of being agents or partisans. German soldiers convicted of rape were sentenced to four and up to eight years in prison (verdict against a medical soldier on the Western Front). German criminal law applied to soldiers in war.

Birgit Beck sees in the problem of the “dry” source situation that the responsible disciplinary superiors in the Wehrmacht were obviously not always interested in “ relentlessly prosecuting and punishing sexual violence against civilians, since it was humiliation in the context of the race-ideologically motivated war of conquest and extermination of the population is an integral part of warfare. In her dissertation on sexual violence by Wehrmacht soldiers, published in 2004, Beck points out that above all the “Martial Law Decree” of May 13, 1941, which removed the criminal offenses of German soldiers against Soviet civilians from the “compulsory persecution” under military courts, thus the basis for the criminal prosecution of sexual ones Destroyed crimes and largely prevented their recording. The rape of Soviet women by German soldiers most often occurred “in the context of billeting in civilian houses, when requisitions were ordered or in connection with looting”. Regina Mühlhäuser confirms these findings in her dissertation 2010, specifically related to the German-Soviet War, and states that very few sexual acts of violence committed by Wehrmacht soldiers resulted in disciplinary consequences or were punished by a court. She explains this fact with the fact that dominant male sexual behavior "was viewed as an expression of soldierly strength" and therefore "the troop leaders as well as the leadership of the Wehrmacht and SS largely accepted sexual violence". The Soviet Union presented documented cases of rape crimes during and after the war. However, these left open whether Wehrmacht, SS or police associations had committed these crimes. In addition, only eyewitness reports were handed over.

Red Army

Catherine Merridale and Norman M. Naimark estimated the number of German women raped by Soviet soldiers at several hundred thousand, Heinz Nawratil and Barbara Johr at two million. Numerous families evaded violence through suicide. In Budapest, the number of women raped is estimated at 50,000, many of whom were murdered. National Socialist propaganda under Joseph Goebbels characterizes the Soviet soldiers as rapists who desecrate unimaginable numbers of German girls and women in order to "strengthen the image of the Red Army as an Asian horde".

Treatment of Soviet prisoners of war

Five Red Army soldiers when they were captured, Crimea, May 1942
Starved Soviet prisoners of war in Mauthausen concentration camp

Although the Geneva Convention on the Treatment of Prisoners of War of July 27, 1929 was binding on the signatories to states that had not acceded to it, it was not applied to Soviet soldiers. According to the Hague Land Warfare Regulations (HLKO) of 1907, which was regarded as customary international law , prisoners of war should have been treated according to the HLKO, especially since the Soviet Union declared on July 17, 1941, “It wanted the HLKO on the basis of reciprocity which it had not joined up to then ”- but in a“ reply formulated by Hitler himself ”the German side brusquely refused on August 21, 1941, because“ it was not in Hitler's interest to allow rules of international warfare to apply in this theater of war . ”Correspondingly, the“ Regulations on Prisoners of War ”of June 16, 1941:“ Bolshevism is the mortal enemy of National Socialist Germany. Hence ruthless and energetic crackdown on the slightest sign of opposition, especially against Bolshevik agitators. Complete elimination of all active and passive resistance. "In an" Order for the treatment of Soviet prisoners of war "tightened by the OKW on September 8, 1941, the following was decreed:" The Bolshevik soldier has lost any right to treatment as an honorable soldier under the Geneva Agreement [...] The use of weapons against Soviet prisoners of war is generally considered lawful. ”The so-called commissar order led SS task forces to comb through the prison camps for political commissars and other“ politically intolerable ”people. These prisoners were given "special treatment", that is, they were transferred to concentration camps and usually shot there immediately.

After the great cauldron battles of the first few months, there were hundreds of thousands of Soviet prisoners of war, mostly in the open air, in so-called main camps (Stalags) and transit camps (Dulags, in which they were often housed "not only for temporary transit, but for a long time.") Until the middle December 1941, 3.35 million Red Army soldiers were taken prisoner in Germany. Due to ideological requirements and war economic calculus "ranged Soviet prisoners of war" in addition to the Jews and other "racially unpopular people [...] on a rassenideologisch influenced food pyramid (on) the lower end of the previously earmarked for destruction of the population." When the Quartermaster General of the Army Eduard Wagner of Major General Hans von Greiffenberg was asked about the need for a reasonably adequate diet for Soviet prisoners of war, he replied on November 13, 1941 that this was not possible due to the general nutritional situation and stated succinctly: "Non-working prisoners of war in the prison camps have to starve." Relevant dissertation by Christian Streits two million Soviet prisoners of war perished by February 1942, most of them died of starvation. East Minister Alfred Rosenberg complained in a letter dated February 28, 1942 to the chief of OKW General Keitel that the Red Army soldiers who had died were now missing from the German war economy:

“The fate of the Soviet prisoners of war [...] is a tragedy of the greatest proportions. Of the 3.6 million prisoners of war, only a few hundred thousand are fully able to work today. A large number of them starved to death [...] So the German economic and armaments industry must also atone for the mistakes in the treatment of prisoners of war. "

The death rate of prisoners only fell as a result of the increased workload for the German war economy. According to serious scientific research, between 2.5 and 3.3 million Soviet prisoners of war died in custody by the end of the war. According to Yale historian Timothy Snyder , the majority of these people “were either deliberately killed or deliberately starved to death. If it hadn't been for the Holocaust, it would be remembered as the worst war crime of modern times. ” Christian Hartmann , historian at the Institute for Contemporary History , defines the fact that in the care of the Wehrmacht“ around 3 million Soviet prisoners starve, freeze to death, die of epidemics [are] or [were] shot ”, as“ the greatest crime of the Wehrmacht ”.

Treatment of German prisoners of war

Captured German soldiers in Moscow, 1944

The situation of the Germans in Soviet captivity was also catastrophic. The German soldiers captured in the first months of the German-Soviet War were often shot immediately on the orders of political commissars or on the orders of fanatical officers. This practice became less common in the further course of the war and was probably due to a reaction to the German commissioner order as well as to inciting Soviet propaganda (e.g. Ehrenburg ).

The harsh climatic conditions, the destruction of the country and the poor living conditions, from which the civilian population also suffered, caused an extraordinarily high mortality rate among German prisoners of war. Many thousands died of malnutrition or exhaustion on the transports to the camps in the hinterland. Accommodation, medical treatment and food were poor, and working conditions were disproportionately harsh. Of around 3,060,000 German prisoners of war, an estimated 1,100,000 were killed. Of the soldiers captured in 1941/42, around 90–95% died; of those in 1943 about 60-70% died, in 1944 about 30-40% and of those captured in 1945 about 20-25%. From 1949 the general situation in the Soviet Union improved, which also had positive effects on the living situation in the prisoner-of-war camps and reduced the mortality rate to a normal level.

When the Red Army marched into the eastern territories of the Reich, members of the Hitler Youth or BDM or even civilians who were not involved were often picked up on the street and deported to the east for forced labor. The prisoners of war in the USSR were cheap labor and helped rebuild the devastated country. The majority of the prisoners of war had been released by 1950, leaving only “criminal elements” who had been convicted of “actual or alleged crimes in connection with acts of war”. The last of them, around 10,000 men, were dismissed at the end of negotiations by Chancellor Adenauer at the turn of the year 1955/56 .


Legal processing

Nuremberg Trial, September 30, 1946

In the Nuremberg Trials against the main war criminals, the war against the Soviet Union was rated as a German war of aggression and high-ranking representatives of the German government, the military and the NSDAP were indicted and sentenced to death for their involvement in the planning, preparation, unleashing and implementation.

There were also war crimes trials in Soviet military courts, for example in Krasnodar , Minsk and Riga .

Dead and injured

The Soviet Union suffered the most deaths in World War II . The number of victims set by the state of 20 million was released for historical review from 1985. Since then, serious estimates have fluctuated between 25 and 40 million Soviet fatalities. A multi-annual government review revealed 37 million Soviet war casualties by 2009.

Christian Hartmann gave a total number of victims in this war in the Soviet Union of 26.6 million people in 2011: including 11.4 million Soviet soldiers, of whom 8.4 million died in combat operations and three million in German captivity. In addition to the 1.1 million German soldiers who died in Soviet captivity, 2.7 million Wehrmacht soldiers died on the Eastern Front, i.e. just over half of the total of 5.3 million German soldiers who died in World War II. The majority of the victims - 15.2 million people - were therefore Soviet civilians.

War graves

German war cemeteries in the area of ​​the former USSR
country number
Armenia 14th
Azerbaijan 9
Belarus 43
Estonia 15th
Georgia 2
Kazakhstan 3
Kyrgyzstan 2
Latvia 60
Lithuania 41
Moldova 1
Russia 87
Ukraine 17th
Uzbekistan 5
German soldiers creating a "hero cemetery"

During the Second World War, the German troops set up numerous military cemeteries in the Soviet Union. Wehrmacht grave officers were responsible for these so-called hero cemeteries. Their location and occupancy is usually well documented. However, because of the course of the fight, many dead remained where they had lost their lives. They were later buried on the spot by Soviet troops or the population. There are hardly any records of their fates; today they are often considered missing. In some areas you can even find unburied German and Soviet dead to this day. For the area of ​​the former Soviet Union, 118,000 grave sites - from individual graves to large cemeteries with several thousand dead - are known. Often these dead can still be identified today mainly on the basis of their identification tags and the relatives can be informed. In the hospital, soldiers who died of their wounds were often given a grave bottle at the foot end. This also contains all the necessary information about the deceased.

The grave sites were largely inaccessible to the German side during the Cold War. Soviet authorities even announced that there were no more graves from the fighting. Unlike in western countries, the Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge e. V. doesn't work here. It was only after the collapse of the Soviet Union that war grave agreements could be concluded with the successor states. According to these agreements, the Volksbund is entrusted with the performance of practical tasks. For organizational reasons, the organization embeds the dead in new, large war cemeteries in the former combat areas. However, some cemetery facilities are also preserved, especially cemeteries for deceased prisoners of war. Over 40,000 fallen German soldiers are still rescued from the original grave sites by the Volksbund's reburial service, identified and finally buried. To locate the graves, both documents from the Wehrmacht information center (now the German Office , Berlin) and statements from locals are used. On the territory of the former Soviet Union there are almost 300 war cemeteries, some of which have tens of thousands of graves.

The Volksbund has created a freely accessible, constantly expanding online database with currently almost 4.6 million data records (which relates to all of the German-born fallen soldiers of the First and Second World Wars), which can be accessed online.

Rossoshka Cemetery

Political Consequences for Europe

The Second World War in Europe ended with the German-Soviet War. As a main result, the four victorious powers Germany and Austria occupied militarily, separated the two from each other and divided them into four zones of occupation . They took over the supreme power of government in Germany. Berlin remained under its own four-power status as the seat of the Allied Control Council of the German capital. Like Austria's capital Vienna, it was divided into four sectors . In February 1947 a law of the Allied Control Council dissolved the state of Prussia .

At the Potsdam Conference from July to August 1945, the Soviet Union was contractually guaranteed extensive reparations, including from the German western zones . Poland was "moved west" . The Soviet western border almost coincided with that of 1941. In return, the eastern territories of the German Reich without the now Soviet northern East Prussia came under Polish administrative sovereignty until a peace treaty settlement was reached . In addition, the victorious powers “recognized” the flight and expulsion of Germans from Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary that was already taking place .

Finland retained its independence in the armistice of Moscow , but had to cede the Petsamo area to the Soviet Union. The Baltic states of Estonia , Latvia and Lithuania , annexed in 1940, remained part of the USSR. In Eastern Europe occupied by the Soviet Union, the Paris Peace Conference in 1946 restored the states to their pre-war borders, apart from making corrections at the expense of the war losers. With the exception of Yugoslavia , Romania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Poland and Hungary as well as the Soviet Zone / GDR developed into satellite states of the Soviet Union and, as members of the Warsaw Pact founded in 1955, formed the Eastern Bloc .

In Germany and Austria, the denazification of certain areas of society, decided in Potsdam, began in 1945 . In the Nuremberg trials , top politicians, the military and other representatives of the Nazi regime had to answer for planning and waging a war of aggression and for crimes against humanity . Some of them were sentenced to death. These processes are considered to be the basis of modern international criminal law . The German prisoners of war in the Soviet Union had to help rebuild the devastated country. The last of them were released in 1955.

The division of Europe and Germany into areas of influence of the two hostile superpowers, the USA and the Soviet Union, in the Cold War delayed political rapprochement between the former opponents of the war. This began with the German Ostpolitik from 1970; Allied reservation rights in Germany only expired in 1990 with German reunification .

Memorial Day June 22 in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine

In Russia , Belarus and Ukraine each year on June 22nd, the Day of Remembrance and Mourning (Russia) and the “Day of General Remembrance of the Victims of the Great Patriotic War” (Belarus) and the “Day of Mourning” are celebrated and the commemoration of the war dead ”(Ukraine) commemorates the approximately 27 million Soviet victims of the war according to the prevailing estimate today.

No other country lost more soldiers and civilians during World War II. The day commemorates June 22, 1941, the first day of the attack by the Wehrmacht and its allied troops. On June 22nd, memorial ceremonies are held at the war memorials and in the cemeteries of honor, the national flag is lowered and the state radio does not broadcast any entertainment programs.

The ever-lively remembrance and commemoration in Russia has changed since the collapse of the communist Soviet Union. In coming to terms with the past, the pride in the “victory in the just people's war in defense of the 'socialist' fatherland” remained, but controversies arose over the Hitler-Stalin pact and the causes of the great failures in the first year of the war. Previously taboo topics such as the Katyn massacre , collaboration, the fate of Soviet prisoners of war in Germany and in their own country, as well as German prisoners of war and the acts of violence against the German civilian population , moved into the public eye . War heroes and generals like Zhukov are held in high esteem, and Stalin's leading role is widely recognized despite his crimes.

See also



  • Walther Hubatsch (ed.): Hitler's instructions for warfare 1939–1945. Documents of the High Command of the Wehrmacht. 2nd Edition. Bernard & Graefe, Frankfurt am Main 1983, ISBN 3-7637-5247-1 .
  • Alexander Hill: The Great Patriotic War of the Soviet Union, 1941-1945. A documentary reader. Routledge, London / New York 2008, ISBN 978-0-7146-5712-7 .

Overall representations

German planning and warfare

  • Christian Hartmann , Johannes Hürter , Peter Lieb , Dieter Pohl : The German War in the East 1941-1944. Facets of crossing borders (=  sources and representations on contemporary history , Volume 76). R. Oldenbourg Verlag, Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-486-59138-5 .
  • Gerhart Hass : The German-Soviet War 1941–1945. To some legends about its prehistory and the course of the first weeks of the war. In: Zeitschrift für Geschichtswwissenschaft 39 (1991) 7, pp. 647-662.
  • Andreas Hillgruber : Hitler's Strategy. Politics and warfare 1940–1941. 3. Edition. Bernard & Graefe, Frankfurt am Main 1993, ISBN 3-7637-5923-9 .
  • Alex J. Kay : Exploitation, Resettlement, Mass Murder. Political and Economic Planning for German Occupation Policy in the Soviet Union, 1940–1941. Berghahn Books, New York / Oxford 2006, ISBN 1-84545-186-4 (= Studies on War and Genocide 10).
  • Alex J. Kay, Jeff Rutherford, David Stahel (Eds.): Nazi Policy on the Eastern Front, 1941: Total War, Genocide, and Radicalization . With a foreword by Christian Streit. University of Rochester Press, Rochester, NY 2012, ISBN 978-1-58046-407-9 (= Rochester Studies in East and Central Europe).
  • Rolf Keller: Soviet prisoners of war in the German Reich 1941/42. Treatment and employment between the policy of extermination and the requirements of the war economy. Göttingen 2011, ISBN 978-3-8353-0989-0 . (Reviews: H-Soz-u-Kult , February 9, 2012; , February 9, 2012).
  • Regina Mühlhäuser : Conquests. Sexual violence and intimate relationships between German soldiers in the Soviet Union 1941–1945. Hamburger Edition , Hamburg 2010, ISBN 978-3-86854-220-2 .
  • Timm C. Richter: The Wehrmacht and the Partisan War in the Occupied Territories of the Soviet Union. In: R.-D. Müller, HE Volkmann (ed. On behalf of the MGFA ): The Wehrmacht: Myth and Reality. Oldenbourg, Munich 1999, ISBN 3-486-56383-1 , pp. 836-857.
  • Bernd Wegner (Ed.): Two ways to Moscow. From the Hitler-Stalin Pact to "Operation Barbarossa". Piper, Munich / Zurich 1991 (on behalf of the Military History Research Office).
  • Gerald Wolf: “Just a sandpit game” . In: Wiener Zeitung from 18./19. June 2016, p. 35.

Soviet warfare

  • David M. Glantz : Colossus Reborn: The Red Army at War, 1941-1943. University Press of Kansas, Kansas 2005, ISBN 0-7006-1353-6 .
  • Kozhevnikov, MN: Komandovanie i shtab VVS Sovetskoĭ Armii v Velikoĭ Otechestvennoĭ voĭne 1941–1945 gg.; The command and staff of the Soviet Army Air Force in the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945: a Soviet view, Washington 1977. (Soviet standard work on aerial warfare).
  • Schwabedissen, Walter: The Russian Air Force in the eyes of German commanders . New York 1968.
  • Richard Overy : The Russian War: 1941-1945. Rowohlt, Reinbek bei Hamburg 2003, ISBN 3-498-05032-X .

Bibliographies / Research Review

Web links

Commons : Eastern Front in World War II  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Hannes Heer , Christian Streit : Destruction War in the East. The murder of Jews, prisoners of war and hunger policy. ; Vsa Verlag, Hamburg 2020, ISBN 9783964880390 .
  2. Ernst Nolte : Fascism in its epoch. First edition. Piper Verlag , Munich 1963, p. 436.
  3. Andreas Hillgruber: The "Final Solution" and the German Eastern Empire as the core of the racial ideological program of National Socialism. In: VfZ. Volume 20, 1972, Droste, 1976, pp. 133-153.
  4. Klaus-Michael Mallmann, Jochen Böhler, Jürgen Matthäus: Einsatzgruppen in Poland: Presentation and documentation. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 2008, ISBN 978-3-534-21353-5 .
  5. Manfred Messerschmidt: The War in the East. Causes and character of the war against the Soviet Union. In: Reinhard Kühnl, Ulrike Hörster-Philipps (Ed.): Hitler's War? On the controversy about the causes and character of the Second World War. Pahl-Rugenstein, Cologne 1989, p. 109 ff., Especially 115.
  6. Hans-Erich Volkmann : Economy and Expansion . Munich 2003, p. 322.
  7. Quotation from Volkmann: Ökonomie und Expansion , p. 322.
  8. Manfred Messerschmidt: The War in the East. Causes and character of the war against the Soviet Union. In: Reinhard Kühnl, Ulrike Hörster-Philipps (Ed.): Hitler's War? Cologne 1989, p. 112.
  9. ^ Gerhard L. Weinberg : A world in arms. The history of the Second World War. WBG, Darmstadt 1995, p. 116 f .; also Manfred Hildermeier: History of the Soviet Union 1917–1991. The rise and fall of the first socialist state. Beck, Munich 1998, p. 596.
  10. ^ Gerhard L. Weinberg: A world in arms. The history of the Second World War. WBG, Darmstadt 1995, p. 201 f.
  11. Timothy Snyder: Bloodlands. Europe between Hitler and Stalin. CH Beck, Munich 2011, ISBN 978-3-406-62184-0 , p. 123.
  12. ^ Warlimont: In the headquarters of the Wehrmacht 1933–1945. P. 126.
  13. Gerd R. Ueberschär, Wolfram Wette (ed.): The German attack on the Soviet Union - "Operation Barbarossa" 1941. p. 178.
  14. Manfred Hildermeier : History of the Soviet Union 1917-1991. The rise and fall of the first socialist state. Beck, Munich 1998, p. 596; Hans-Ulrich Thamer : Seduction and Violence. Germany 1933–1945. Siedler, Berlin 1986, p. 654 ff .; Jürgen Förster: Hitler's turn to the east. German war policy 1940–1941. In: Bernd Wegner (Ed.): Two ways to Moscow. From the Hitler-Stalin Pact to "Operation Barbarossa". Piper, Munich / Zurich 1991, p. 122; Sergej Slutsch: The motives for Molotov's invitation to Berlin. In: Klaus Hildebrand, Udo Wengst, Andreas Wirsching (eds.): History and knowledge of time. From Enlightenment to the Present. Festschrift for the 65th birthday of Horst Möller. Oldenbourg, Munich 2008, pp. 253-276.
  15. ^ Lew A. Besymenski: Molotov's visit from November 1940. In: Bianka Pietrow-Ennker: Preventive War? 3rd edition, Fischer TB, 2000, p. 124 f.
  16. ^ Gerhard L. Weinberg: A world in arms. The history of the Second World War. WBG, Darmstadt 1995, p. 202; Rolf-Dieter Müller , Gerd R. Ueberschär : Hitler's War in the East 1941–1945. A research report. Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 2000, pp. 1-55; especially p. 30; Lothar Gall, Klaus Hildebrand: Encyclopedia of German History. The foreign policy of the Third Reich. Oldenbourg, Munich 2006, p. 89.
  17. Diemut Majer: "Fremdvölkische" in the Third Reich. A contribution to National Socialist law-making and legal practice in administration and justice. With special consideration of the Eastern Territories and the General Government. 1993, ISBN 3-7646-1933-3 , p. 330 .
  18. Mark Mazower, Martin Richter: Hitler's Imperium. Europe under the rule of National Socialism. CH Beck, Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-406-59271-3 , p. 585 .
  19. Felix Römer speaks in: Hitler's compliant troop. (a parallel online publication to his book, sponsored December 12, 2008) by 100 people in attendance.
  20. Felix Römer : “In old Germany such an order would not have been possible.” Reception, adaptation and implementation of the Martial Law Decree in the Eastern Army 1941/42 Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte 2008, pp. 53–99.
  21. Wording: Jörg Echternkamp : The 101 Most Important Questions - The Second World War. Beck, Munich 2010, ISBN 978-3-406-59314-7 , p. 52 f .; Suspension: Wigbert Benz : The Russian campaign of the Third Reich. Causes, goals, effects: for coping with genocide taking into account history lessons. 2nd revised edition, Haag & Herchen, Frankfurt am Main 1988, p. 49; Thomas Kühne: Comradeship. The soldiers of the National Socialist War. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2006, ISBN 3-525-35154-2 , p. 105 f.
  22. Rolf-Dieter Müller, Hans-Erich Volkmann : The Wehrmacht: Myth and Reality. Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag, Munich 1999, p. 840 ; Hans Mommsen : The war against the Soviet Union and German society. In: Bianka Pietrow-Ennker (Ed.): Preventive War? The German attack on the Soviet Union. 2nd edition, Fischer TB, Frankfurt am Main 2000, ISBN 3-596-14497-3 , p. 58.
  23. Johannes Hürter: Hitler's Army Leader - The German Commanders-in-Chief in the War against the Soviet Union 1941/42. 2nd edition, Oldenbourg, Munich 2007, ISBN 978-3-486-58341-0 , pp. 207, 249.
  24. Alex J. Kay: "This will undoubtedly starve tens of millions of people." German economic planning for the occupied Soviet Union and its implementation 1941–1944. In: transit. European revue . Issue 38 (2009), pp. 57-77, here p. 69.
  25. ^ Rolf-Dieter Müller: The "Operation Barbarossa" as an economic predatory war. In: Gerd R. Ueberschär, Wolfram Wette (ed.): The German attack on the Soviet Union. “Operation Barbarossa” 1941. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1991, pp. 125–158, here p. 152.
  26. ^ Memorandum on a meeting of the State Secretaries on May 2, 1941. In: Gerd R. Ueberschär, Wolfram Wette (Ed.): The German attack on the Soviet Union - "Operation Barbarossa" 1941. p. 377 (Doc. 35).
  27. ^ Christian Gerlach: Calculated murders. The German economic and extermination policy in Belarus 1941 to 1944. Hamburg 1999, p. 46 ff.
  28. ^ Wigbert Benz: The hunger plan in "Operation Barbarossa" 1941 . wvb, Berlin 2011, pp. 44–47; see also Wigbert Benz: Calculus and Ideology - The Hunger Project in "Operation Barbarossa" 1941. In: Klaus Kremb (Ed.): Weltordnungskonzepte. Hopes and Disappointments of the 20th Century. Wochenschau Verlag, Schwalbach / Ts. 2010, pp. 19–37, here pp. 21–25 ( excerpt ).
  29. Hans-Heinrich Nolte: Small history of Russia. Stuttgart 1998, pp. 253-263.
  30. Timothy Snyder: Bloodlands. Europe between Hitler and Stalin. New York 2010, p. 411.
  31. Dieter Pohl : Persecution and mass murder in the Nazi era. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 2003, ISBN 3-534-15158-5 , p. 51 f.
  32. ^ Rolf-Dieter Müller : On the side of the Wehrmacht . Frankfurt am Main 2014, p. 59 f.
  33. Malte König: "Under German supervision". The Italian-Soviet negotiations in the winter of 1940/41. In: Lutz Klinkhammer / Amedeo Osti Guerrazzi / Thomas Schlemmer (eds.): The "axis" in war. Politics, Ideology and Warfare, 1939–1945 , Munich 2010, pp. 176–191; Giorgio Petracchi, Pinocchio, the cat and the fox: Italy between Germany and the Soviet Union (1939–1941). In: Bernd Wegner (Ed.), Two ways to Moscow. From the Hitler-Stalin Pact to “ Operation Barbarossa” , Munich / Zurich 1991, pp. 519–546.
  34. ^ Rolf-Dieter Müller : On the side of the Wehrmacht . Frankfurt am Main 2014, p. 84.
  35. ^ Rolf-Dieter Müller : On the side of the Wehrmacht . Frankfurt am Main 2014, p. 41.
  36. Jürgen Förster : Hitler's decision to go to war against the Soviet Union . In: Military History Research Office (ed.): The German Reich and the Second World War . Volume 4. Stuttgart 1983, p. 29.
  37. Quotation from Richard Overy : Russia's War. 1941-1945 . Reinbek 2003, p. 46.
  38. Richard Overy : Russia's War. 1941-1945 . Reinbek 2003, p. 45 f.
  39. Rundschau über politics, economy and workers' movement No. 5 of March 18, 1933, p. 122. Quoted from: Thomas Weingartner: Stalin and the rise of Hitler . Berlin 1970, p. 204.
  40. ^ Lev Alexandrowitsch Besymensky : Stalin and Hitler . Berlin 2002, p. 67.
  41. Besymenski, Stalin and Hitler, p. 21 f.
  42. Nikolaj M. Romanicev: Military plans for a counter-attack by the USSR. In: Gerd R. Ueberschär , Lev A. Bezymenskij (ed.): The German attack on the Soviet Union in 1941. The controversy over the preventive war thesis . 2nd edition expanded to include a foreword. Special edition, Primus-Verlag, Darmstadt 2011, ISBN 978-3-89678-776-7 , pp. 90–93.
  43. Quoted from Gerd R. Ueberschär: The military planning for the attack on the Soviet Union. In: Gerd R. Ueberschär, Lev A. Bezymenskij (ed.): The German attack on the Soviet Union in 1941. The controversy over the preventive war thesis . Darmstadt 2011, p. 29; Primary sources in footnote 44-48, p. 36.
  44. Jurij Kiršin: The Soviet armed forces on the eve of the Great Patriotic War. In: Bernd Wegner (Ed.): Two ways to Moscow. From the Hitler-Stalin Pact to "Operation Barbarossa". Piper, Munich 1991, p. 389 f.
  45. Quoted from Lev A. Bezymenskij: Stalin's speech of May 5, 1941. In: Gerd R. Ueberschär, Lev A. Bezymenskij (Ed.): The attack on the Soviet Union 1941. The controversy about the preventive war thesis . Darmstadt 2011, p. 142.
  46. Lev A. Bezymenskij: Stalin's speech of May 5, 1941 - newly documented. Bernd Bonwetsch: Stalin's statements on the policy towards Germany 1939–1941. In: Gerd R. Ueberschär, Lev A. Bezymenskij (ed.): The attack on the Soviet Union 1941. The controversy over the preventive war thesis . Darmstadt 2011, pp. 142, 152.
  47. Lev A. Bezymenski: The Soviet intelligence service and the beginning of the war of 1941. In: Gerd R. Ueberschär, Lev A. Bezymenskij (ed.): The German attack on the Soviet Union in 1941. The controversy surrounding the preventive war thesis. Darmstadt 2011, p. 106 f.
  48. Heiner Timmermann, Sergei Alexandrowitsch Kondraschow , Hisaya Shirai: Espionage, ideology, myth - the Richard Sorge case. Lit Verlag, 2005, ISBN 3-8258-7547-4 , p. 15 .
  49. ^ Sergei Slutsch: The way to the dead end. The USSR and the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. In: Eastern Europe. Volume 59, No. 7-8, Stuttgart 2009, ISSN  0030-6428 , pp. 75-96, here p. 76.
  50. ^ Rainer F. Schmidt : The Hess flight and the Churchill cabinet. Hitler's deputy in the calculation of British war diplomacy May – June 1941. In: Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte 41 (1994), pp. 1–38 ( online (PDF; 7.7 MB), accessed on April 11, 2012).
  51. Alexander I. Boroznjak : A Russian Historians' Dispute ? On the Soviet and Russian historiography of the German attack on the Soviet Union. In: Gerd R. Ueberschär, Lev A. Bezymenskij (ed.): The German attack on the Soviet Union in 1941. The controversy over the preventive war thesis . Darmstadt 2011, pp. 116–128, here pp. 118 f .; see also Lev A. Bezymenskij: The Soviet intelligence service and the beginning of the war in 1941. In: Gerd Ueberschär, Lev Bezymenskij: The German attack on the Soviet Union 1941. Darmstadt 2011, pp. 103–115, here pp. 110–113.
  52. Shukov's statements in an interview with Viktor Anfilow in 1965 : Quoted in Nikolaj M. Romanicev: Military plans for a counter-attack by the USSR. In: Ueberschär, Bezymenski (Hrsg.): The German attack on the Soviet Union 1941. 2nd edition. 2011, p. 101. Tymoshenko's statements: Quoted by Lev A. Bezymenskij: Stalin's speech of May 5, 1941. In: Ueberschär, Bezymenskij (Ed.): The German attack on the Soviet Union 1941. 2nd edition. 2011, p. 142 f.
  53. Bernd Bonwetsch : Preparations for War by the Red Army. In: Bianka Pietrow-Ennker (Ed.): Preventive War? The German attack on the Soviet Union. 2nd edition, Fischer TB, Frankfurt am Main 2000, pp. 179-183.
  54. Nikolaj M. Romanicev: Military plans for a counter-attack by the USSR. In: Gerd R. Ueberschär, Lev A. Bezymenskij (ed.): The German attack on the Soviet Union in 1941. The controversy over the preventive war thesis . Darmstadt 2011, pp. 94-100.
  55. Simon Sebag Montefiore: Stalin, at the court of the red tsar. S. Fischer Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2005, ISBN 3-596-17251-9 , pp. 404-407.
  56. ^ John Barber: The Image of Stalin in Soviet Propaganda and Public Opinion during World War II. In: John and Carol Garrad (eds.): World War II and the Soviet People. Houndmills, London 1993, p. 41.
  57. Dimitri Volkogonow : Stalin. Triumph and tragedy. A political portrait. Econ, Düsseldorf / Vienna 1993, p. 566; Online version with an introduction by Bianka Pietrow-Ennker on .
  58. ^ Karl-Theodor Schleicher, Heinrich Walle (ed.): From field post letters of young Christians 1939-1945. A contribution to the history of Catholic youth in the field. Franz Steiner Verlag, 2005, ISBN 3-515-08759-1 , p. 392 .
  59. ^ Frithjof Benjamin Schenk : Aleksandr Nevskij. Holy - prince - national hero. A commemorative figure in Russian cultural memory (1263–2000). Böhlau, Vienna 2004, p. 382, ​​footnote 33.
  60. Stalin: On the Great Patriotic War of the Soviet Union ( Memento from April 12, 2005 in the Internet Archive ). Moscow 1946, quoted by Ludmila Lutz-Auras: “To Stalin, Victory and Fatherland!” Politicization of collective memory . Springer, Wiesbaden 2012, p. 128.
  61. ^ David M. Glantz: Stumbling Colossus. The Red Army on the Eve of World War. University of Kansas Press, Lawrence 1998, p. 295.
  62. Мельтюхов М.И .: Упущенный шанс Сталина. Советский Союз и борьба за Европу, 1939–1941. М .: Вече, 2000, p. 479 ( ).
  63. ^ Rolf-Dieter Müller: Hitler's Wehrmacht 1935-1945. Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag, Munich 2012, p. 60 .
  64. ^ Rolf-Dieter Müller: The enemy stands in the east: Hitler's secret plans for a war against the Soviet Union in 1939. Christian Links Verlag, 2011, p. 243 .
  65. Horst Boog and others: The attack on the Soviet Union. The German Reich and the Second World War. Volume IV, Deutsche Verlagsanstalt, Stuttgart 1983, p. 185.
  66. Bruce Culver, Jim Laurier: SDKFZ 251 Half-Track, 1939-1945. ISBN 1-85532-846-1 , Osprey Publishing, 1998, p. 33.
  67. Alexander Werth : Russia at War 1941–1945 . Munich / Zurich 1965, p. 123.
  68. ^ A b Richard Overy: Russian War 1941–1945. Rowohlt, Hamburg 2004, ISBN 3-498-05032-X .
  69. a b c Alexander Lüdeke: The Second World War. Causes, outbreak, course, consequences. Berlin 2007, ISBN 978-1-4054-8585-2 .
  70. ^ A b Richard Overy: War and Economy in the Third Reich. Oxford University Press, 1995, ISBN 0-19-820599-6 .
  71. ^ AW Voroscheikin : Fighter pilot. Volume 1 and 2, Berlin 1976, military publisher of the GDR .
  72. ^ A b Richard Overy: Russlands Krieg, 1941–1945. Rowohlt, Reinbek 2003, ISBN 3-498-05032-X , p. 299 ff.
  73. ^ Franz Kurowski : Balkenkreuz and Red Star: The Air War over Russia 1941-1944. Dörfler 2006, ISBN 3-89555-373-5 , p. 25.
  74. Richard Overy: The Roots of Victory; Why the allies won the war. P. 182.
  75. Russel Miller (ed.): The Soviet Union in the air war. Bechtermünz Verlag, Eltville am Rhein 1984, ISBN 3-86047-052-3 , p. 94.
  76. Hans-Joachim Mau, Hans Heiri Stapfer: Under the Red Star - Lend Lease Aircraft for the Soviet Union 1941-1945. Transpress, Berlin 1991, pp. 114-118.
  77. Russel Miller (ed.): The Soviet Union in the air war. Bechtermünz Verlag, Eltville am Rhein 1984, ISBN 3-86047-052-3 , pp. 88, 128-139.
  78. Alexander Boyd: The Soviet Air Force since 1918. McDonald and Janes's, London 1977, ISBN 0-356-08288-1 , p. 138.
  79. Military History Research Office (ed.): The German Reich and the Second World War. Volume 6. Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt DVA, 1990, ISBN 3-421-06233-1 , p. 1045.
  80. ^ Tanks for the German Reich including self-propelled guns and StuG, without Panzer I or self-propelled howitzers: FM von Senger and Etterlin: The German tanks 1926–1945. ISBN 3-7637-5988-3 , p. 345. Numbers for 1945 see in Richard Overy: The roots of victory. ISBN 3-499-61314-X , p. 425.
  81. ^ Richard Overy: Why the Allies Won. Pimlico, 2006, ISBN 1-84595-065-8 .
  82. ^ Richard Overy: Russian War 1941-1945 . Rowohlt, Hamburg 2004. pp. 302-305.
  83. ^ Ingeborg Fleischhauer: Diplomatic resistance against "Operation Barbarossa". The peace efforts of the German Embassy in Moscow 1939–1941. Ullstein, Berlin 1991, pp. 349-351.
  84. Difficult times for peace - When the Hitler-Stalin pact was signed 70 years ago, a German diplomat saw evil approaching. In: Moscow German newspaper. November 2, 2009.
  85. Gerd R. Ueberschär, Wolfram Wette (ed.): The German attack on the Soviet Union - "Operation Barbarossa" 1941. P. 117.
  86. Wolfram Wette: The propaganda music accompanying the German attack on the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941. In: Gerd R. Ueberschär, Wolfram Wette (ed.): The German attack on the Soviet Union. “Enterprise Barbarossa” 1941. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1991, ISBN 3-596-24437-4 , pp. 45-65; Goebbels quote p. 50 f.
  87. Andreas Zellhuber: "Our administration is driving a catastrophe ...". The Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories and German occupation in the Soviet Union 1941–1945. Vögel, Munich 2006, ISBN 3-89650-213-1 , p. 80 f.
  88. Military History Research Office (ed.): The German Reich and the Second World War . Volume 4. Stuttgart 1983, p. 313.
  89. Anatolij G. Chor'kow: The Red Army in the initial phase of the Great Patriotic War. In: Bernd Wegner (Ed.): Two ways to Moscow. From the Hitler-Stalin Pact to "Operation Barbarossa". Ed. By the Military History Research Office, Piper, Munich / Zurich 1991, pp. 426–429, 438 f.
  90. ^ Günther Blumentritt : Moscow . In: William Richardson, Seymor Freidlin: The Fatal Decisions . Barnsley 2012, p. 48.
  91. MGFA (Ed.): The German Reich and the Second World War . Stuttgart 1983, Volume 4, p. 473.
  92. ^ David M. Glantz : Operation Barbarossa . Gloucestershire 2012, p. 109.
  93. ^ Rudolf Steiger : Tank Tactics in the Mirror of German War Diaries 1939–1941 . Freiburg 1973, p. 160.
  94. ^ Klaus Reinhardt : The turning point before Moscow . Stuttgart 1972, p. 78 f. Published by MGFA
  95. ^ Klaus Reinhardt : The turning point before Moscow . Stuttgart 1972, p. 80.
  96. Dimitri Volkogonow: Stalin - Triumph and Tragedy. Econ, Düsseldorf / Vienna 1993, ISBN 3-612-26011-1 , p. 617.
  97. ^ Niklas Zetterling, Anders Frankson: The Drive to Moscow 1941 . Havertown 2012, pp. 242 and 264 ff.
  98. Samuel W. Mitcham Jr., Gene Mueller: Colonel General Erich Hoepner. In: Gerd R. Ueberschär (Ed.): Hitler's military elite. 68 résumés. 2nd Edition. Primus Verlag, Darmstadt 2011, ISBN 978-3-89678-727-9 , pp. 364-370, here p. 367.
  99. Janusz Piekalkiewicz: The battle for Moscow. Augsburg 1997, ISBN 3-86047-908-3 .
  100. David M. Glantz : When Titans Clashed . University Press of Kansas, Lawrence 2015, pp. 79 ff.
  101. Quotation from Klaus Reinhardt : Die Wende before Moscow . Stuttgart 1972, p. 204.
  102. ^ Klaus Reinhardt : The turning point before Moscow . Stuttgart 1972, p. 221.
  103. Quotation from Klaus Reinhardt : Die Wende before Moscow . Stuttgart 1972, p. 212.
  104. Letters to his wife from December 22, 1941. Johannes Hürter : Notes from the war of extermination . Darmstadt 2016, p. 121.
  105. ^ Christian Hartmann : Wehrmacht in the Eastern War . Munich 2010, p. 347.
  106. Percy E. Schramm (Ed.): War diary of the OKW. Part II 1940–1941, p. 1105 ff. List of GenQu / Abt.I / Az .: 1/58/42 gKdos from January 5, 1942.
  107. Military History Research Office (ed.): The German Reich and the Second World War . Volume 4. Stuttgart 1983, p. 699.
  108. Jürgen Förster: Tough Legends. Stalingrad, August 23, 1942 to February 2, 1943. In: Stig Förster et al. (Ed.): Battles of world history. From Salamis to Sinai. 3. Edition. CH Beck, Munich 2003, p. 332; Bernd Ulrich: Stalingrad. CH Beck, Munich 2005, p. 90 f.
  109. Holger Afflerbach: The art of defeat . A story of surrender. CH Beck, Munich 2013, p. 230.
  110. Bernd Wegner: The Myth "Stalingrad" (November 19, 1942 to February 2, 1943). In: Gerd Krumeich and Susanne Brandt (eds.): Battle myths. Event - narration - memory. Böhlau, Cologne 2003, p. 184; Klaus Schönherr: The withdrawal of Army Group A via the Crimea to Romania. In: The German Reich and the Second World War. Volume 8, The Eastern Front 1943/44 - The War in the East and on the Side Fronts. On behalf of the MGFA ed. by Karl-Heinz Frieser, DVA, Stuttgart 2007, p. 451.
  111. Holger Afflerbach: The art of defeat. A story of surrender. CH Beck, Munich 2013, p. 230f .; Bernd Ulrich: Stalingrad. CH Beck, Munich 2005, p. 107.
  112. Wolfram Wette, Gerd R. Ueberschär (Ed.): War crimes in the 20th century. Primus, Darmstadt 2001, ISBN 3-89678-417-X , p. 255.
  113. ^ Janusz Piekalkiewicz, Citadel Company. Kursk and Orel: the biggest tank battle of World War II , Bergisch Gladbach: Lübbe 1983
  114. Tony Wood, Jim Perry: Combat Claims and Casualty List. ( Memento from February 10, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) by the OKL, Chief for Ausz. Und Discipline, Air Force Personnel Office LP (A) V Kills confirmed by means of microfilm (PDF)
  115. Wolfgang Schumann : Germany in the Second World War . Vol. 4, p. 167.
  116. ^ Christian Hartmann : Wehrmacht in the Eastern War . Munich 2010, pp. 782 and 788.
  117. Wegner: Aporia of the war . In: MGFA (ed.): The German Reich and the Second World War . Stuttgart 1990, Volume 8, p. 258.
  118. Wegner: Aporie des Krieges , p. 258.
  119. Wegner: Aporie des Krieges , p. 258.
  120. Wegner: Aporie des Krieges , p. 260.
  121. Johannes Hürter : Notes from the war of extermination . Darmstadt 2016, p. 223.
  122. Hartmann, Wehrmacht in the Eastern War . Pp. 782 and 787.
  123. Wegner: Aporie des Krieges , p. 256.
  124. ^ Rolf-Dieter Müller : The last German war 1939-1945 . Stuttgart 2005, p. 276.
  125. ^ Timm C. Richter: The Wehrmacht and the Partisan War in the Occupied Territories of the Soviet Union. P. 837.
  126. Guido Knopp: You wanted to kill Hitler. Goldmann, 2005, ISBN 3-442-15340-9 .
  127. ^ Richard Overy: Russian War, 1941-1945. Rowohlt, Reinbek 2003, ISBN 3-498-05032-X , p. 376 ff. (Original: Russia's War. Blood upon the Snow , 1st edition 1997, ISBN 1575000512 ).
  128. Karl-Heinz Frieser, Krisztián Ungváry et al .: The German Empire and the Second World War. Volume 8. Munich 2007, p. 926.
  129. Dieter Pohl: Persecution and mass murder in the Nazi era 1933 to 1945. Darmstadt 2003, p. 36 f.
  130. ^ Christian Gerlach: Calculated murders. The German economic and extermination policy in Belarus from 1941 to 1944. Hamburg 1999.
  131. ^ Bogdan Musial: Soviet Partisans 1941-1944. Myth and Reality . Paderborn 2009, p. 142.
  132. Ian Kershaw: Hitler 1936-1945. Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Stuttgart 2000, p. 617.
  133. Christopher Browning: Unleashing the "Final Solution". National Socialist Jewish Policy 1939–1942. With a contribution by Jürgen Matthäus. List Taschenbuch, Berlin 2006, ISBN 3-548-60637-7 , p. 318 (Propylaen, Berlin / München 2003, ISBN 3-549-07187-6 ).
  134. Eckart Conze, Norbert Frei, Peter Hayes, Moshe Zimmermann: The office and the past. German diplomats in the Third Reich and in the Federal Republic. Munich 2010, p. 185.
  135. ^ Rolf-Dieter Müller: The other Holocaust. In: The time. dated July 1, 1988.
  136. Ilja Altman : Victims of Hate. The Holocaust in the USSR 1941–1945. With a foreword by Hans-Heinrich Nolte . Muster-Schmidt-Verlag, Gleichen / Zurich 2008, pp. 7, 47.
  137. As recently as 1999, reference was made to Birgit Beck's dissertation on sexual violence by Wehrmacht soldiers, which was in progress at the time. See Birthe Kundrus : Only half the story. Women in the Wehrmacht. In: R.-D. Müller, HE Volkmann (ed. On behalf of the MGFA ): The Wehrmacht: Myth and Reality. Oldenbourg, Munich 1999, ISBN 3-486-56383-1 , pp. 719-735, here p. 733.
  138. a b c d Rolf-Dieter Müller, Hans-Erich Volkmann: The Wehrmacht - Myth and Reality . Oldenbourg, Munich 1999, ISBN 3-486-56383-1 , p. 733 ( online at: ).
  139. Birgit Beck: rapes. Sex crimes committed by soldiers in military courts of the German Wehrmacht, 1939–1944. In: Karen Hagemann, Stefanie Schüler-Springorum (ed.): Heimat-Front. Military and Gender Relations in the Age of World Wars. Frankfurt 2002, pp. 263, 259.
  140. Note: BA, ZNS, RH 23-G: Court 296. Inf. Div , No. 111/40: Criminal case against Franz H., judgment of July 10, 1940 (Western Front operational area)
  141. ^ Christian Hartmann: Wehrmacht in the Eastern War . Front and military hinterland 1941/42. Oldenbourg, Munich 2010, ISBN 978-3-486-70225-5 , p. 211 ( online at: ).
  142. Birgit Beck: rapes. Sex crimes committed by soldiers in military courts of the German Wehrmacht, 1939–1944. In: Karen Hagemann, Stefanie Schüler-Springorum (ed.): Heimat-Front. Military and Gender Relations in the Age of World Wars. Frankfurt 2002, pp. 263, 259.
  143. Rolf-Dieter Müller, Hans-Erich Volkmann: The Wehrmacht - Myth and Reality . Oldenbourg, Munich 1999, ISBN 3-486-56383-1 , p. 733 f . ( online at: ).
  144. Birthe Kundrus : Only half the story. Women in the Wehrmacht. In: R.-D. Müller, HE Volkmann (ed.): The Wehrmacht: Myth and Reality. Oldenbourg, Munich 1999, p. 734.
  145. Birgit Beck: Wehrmacht and sexual violence. Sex crimes before German military courts 1939–1945. Paderborn 2004, ISBN 3-506-71726-X , p. 327.
  146. Birgit Beck: Wehrmacht and sexual violence. Sex crimes before German military courts 1939–1945. P. 328.
  147. ^ Regina Mühlhäuser: Conquests. Sexual violence and intimate relationships between German soldiers in the Soviet Union 1941–1945. Hamburger Edition, Hamburg 2010, p. 145.
  148. ^ Regina Mühlhäuser: Conquests. Sexual violence and intimate relationships between German soldiers in the Soviet Union 1941–1945. Hamburger Edition, Hamburg 2010, p. 154.
  149. ^ A b Rolf-Dieter Müller, Hans-Erich Volkmann: The Wehrmacht - Myth and Reality . Oldenbourg, Munich 1999, ISBN 3-486-56383-1 , p. 734 ( online at: ).
  150. Catherine Merridale: Ivan's War. The Red Army 1939–1945 . S. Fischer Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2006, p. 348; Norman M. Naimark: The Russians in Germany. The Soviet occupation zone 1945 to 1949 . Ullstein, Berlin 1997, ISBN 3-548-26549-9 , p. 160.
  151. Barbara Johr: The events in numbers. In: Helke Sander / Barbara Johr (eds.): BeFreier and Liberated. War, rape children . Verlag Antje Kunstmann, Munich 1992, ISBN 3-88897-060-1 , pp. 46–73, here p. 49; Heinz Nawratil: Mass rapes during the occupation of East Germany by the Red Army. In: Franz W. Seidler , Alfred de Zayas : War crimes in Europe and the Middle East in the 20th century. Mittler, Hamburg 2002, ISBN 3-8132-0702-1 , p. 122.
  152. James Mark: Remembering Rape: Divided Social Memory and the Red Army in Hungary 1944-1945. In: Past & Present. Number 188, Aug 2005, p. 133; Krisztian Ungvary: The Siege of Budapest. 2005, p. 350.
  153. Catherine Merridale: Ivan's War. The Red Army 1939–1945. S. Fischer Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2006, ISBN 3-10-048450-9 , p. 348 f.
  154. Rüdiger Overmans : The prisoner-of-war policy of the German Reich 1939 to 1945. In: The German War Society 1939-1945. Volume 9. Second half volume: Exploitation, interpretations, exclusion. Published by Jörg Echternkamp on behalf of the Military History Research Office . DVA, Munich 2005 (=  The German Reich and the Second World War Volume 9 / 1–2), pp. 729–875, here p. 799 f.
  155. Gerd R. Ueberschär, Wolfram Wette (ed.): The German attack on the Soviet Union - "Operation Barbarossa" 1941. Frankfurt am Main 1991, p. 261 (Doc. 9)
  156. Gerd R. Ueberschär, Wolfram Wette (ed.): The German attack on the Soviet Union - "Operation Barbarossa" 1941. P. 297 ff. (Doc. 26)
  157. Christian Streit: No comrades. The Wehrmacht and the Soviet prisoners of war 1941–1945. Reissue. Dietz, Bonn 1991, p. 83 ff.
  158. Rüdiger Overmans: The prisoner-of-war policy of the German Reich 1939 to 1945. P. 804.
  159. Rüdiger Overmans: The prisoner-of-war policy of the German Reich 1939 to 1945. P. 805.
  160. Rolf-Dieter Müller: The Second World War 1939 1945. Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 2004, p. 175 f. (= Gebhardt. Handbook of German History, edited by Wolfgang Benz , Volume 21)
  161. ^ Rüdiger Overmans: The prisoner-of-war policy of the German Reich 1939 to 1945. P. 809.
  162. Christian Streit: No comrades. The Wehrmacht and the Soviet prisoners of war 1941–1945. P. 128.
  163. Gerd R. Ueberschär, Wolfram Wette (ed.): The German attack on the Soviet Union - "Operation Barbarossa" 1941. P. 345 f. (Doc. 43); see also Rüdiger Overmans: The Prisoner of War Policy of the German Reich 1939 to 1945. P. 816.
  164. Christian Streit: No comrades. P. 10 and passim, calculated, primarily on the basis of the “proof of the whereabouts of Soviet prisoners of war as of May 1, 1944”, 3.3 million dead Soviet prisoners of war; Alfred Streim : Soviet prisoners in Hitler's war of extermination. Reports and documents 1941–1945. Müller Juristischer Verlag, Heidelberg 1982, p. 244 ff., Gives on the basis of trial files from the post-war period at least (emphasis in Streim) 2,530,000 victims; Rüdiger Overmans: The Prisoner of War Policy of the German Reich 1939 to 1945, p. 820, comes in his most recent study by comparing various documents and statistical methods to a number between two and a half and three million Red Army soldiers perished in German custody, since "between 2.3 and 2 , 8 million people - about half of the more than 5.3 million Soviet prisoners of war - would have survived ”.
  165. Timothy Snyder: The Holocaust. The hidden reality ( memento of October 18, 2011 in the Internet Archive ). In: Eurozine . February 18, 2010, In: Transit . Issue 38, 2009, pp. 6-19, quoted on p. 9.
  166. ^ Christian Hartmann: Operation Barbarossa. The German War in the East 1941–1945. Munich 2011, p. 65.
  167. ^ Albrecht Lehmann : Captivity and homecoming. German prisoners of war in the Soviet Union . CH Beck, Munich 1986, ISBN 3-406-31518-6 , p. 29.
  168. Christian Zentner: The Second World War - A Lexicon. Heyne, Munich 1998.
  169. ^ Albrecht Lehmann: Captivity and homecoming. German prisoners of war in the Soviet Union . CH Beck, Munich 1986, pp. 28-37, quoted on p. 29.
  170. ^ Judgment - The war of aggression against the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. , Nuremberg Trial,, accessed on November 15, 2015.
  171. ^ Gerhard Werle, Florian Jesberger: Völkerstrafrecht. Mohr Siebeck 2007, ISBN 978-3-16-149372-0 , p. 533.
  172. ^ Andreas Hilger: Soviet Justice and War Crimes: Documents on the Convictions of German Prisoners of War, 1941–1949. Quarterly Books for Contemporary History 2006, pp. 461–515.
  173. Richard Overy : Russia's War. 1941-1945. 2nd Edition. Rowohlt, Reinbek 2003, ISBN 3-498-05032-X , p. 435 ff .; Klaus Wiegrefe : Jump into the dark . In: Der Spiegel . No. 35 , 2009, p. 69 ( online ).
  174. ^ Boris Wadimowitsch Sokolow , based on Milton Leitenberg: Death in Wars and Conflicts in the 20th Century. ( Memento from January 6, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF)
  175. Rianovosti, May 7, 2009: The USSR lost around 37 million people in World War II
  176. ^ Christian Hartmann: Operation Barbarossa. The German War in the East 1941–1945. CH Beck, Munich 2011, p. 115 f .; For more information on the number of victims of the Wehrmacht, see also Rüdiger Overmans: German military losses in World War II. 3. Edition. Oldenbourg, Munich 2004, ISBN 3-486-20028-3 , p. 255 (5.3 million total losses), p. 277 (2.7 million losses on the Eastern Front), p. 288 (1.1 million. German soldiers who died in Soviet captivity) (Zugl .: Diss., Univ. Freiburg / Br. 1996).
  177. Overview of the war cemeteries of the VdK
  178. ↑ Travel equipment for the afterlife. (PDF; 180 kB) on: SWR 2.
  179. A citizens' initiative for the dead. on: Spiegel online - one day.
  180. ^ Volksbund gravesearch online
  181. Deutschlandradio ( Memento from January 12, 2012 in the Internet Archive )
  182. ^ Gabriele Brenke, Karl Kaiser, Hanns W. Maull (ed.): Germany's new foreign policy. Volume 1. Basics. 3. Edition. Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag, 1997, ISBN 3-486-56321-1 , p. 129.
  183. Dr. Ekaterina Machotina The Great Patriotic War in the culture of remembrance . In: Dekoder , June 22, 2017. Retrieved June 27, 2017.
  184. June 1941 - The deep cut ( Memento from September 14, 2017 in the Internet Archive ). In: German-Russian Museum berlin-Karlshorst . Retrieved June 28, 2017.
  185. See also Horst Schützler : The Great Patriotic War. New views and insights into Russia and its history . Pankower lectures, volume 143, 2010 summary .