• Operation Barbarossa (German: Unternehmen Barbarossa) was the code name for Nazi Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II, which began on 22 June 1941. The operation was driven by Adolf Hitler’s ideological desire to conquer Soviet territory as outlined in his 1925 manifesto Mein Kampf (“My Struggle”).

    In the two years leading up to the invasion, the two countries signed political and economic pacts for strategic purposes. Nevertheless, on 18 December 1940, Hitler authorized an invasion of the Soviet Union, with a planned start date of 15 May 1941. The actual invasion began on 22 June 1941. Over the course of the operation, about four million soldiers of the Axis powers invaded the Soviet Union along a 2,900-kilometer (1,800 mi) front, the largest invasion force in the history of warfare. In addition to troops, the Germans employed some 600,000 motor vehicles and between 600,000 and 700,000 horses. It marked the beginning of the rapid escalation of the war, both geographically and in the formation of the Allied coalition.

    Operationally, the Germans won resounding victories and occupied some of the most important economic areas of the Soviet Union, mainly in Ukraine, both inflicting and sustaining heavy casualties. Despite their successes, the German offensive stalled on the outskirts of Moscow and was subsequently pushed back by a Soviet counteroffensive. The Red Army repelled the Wehrmacht’s strongest blows and forced Germany into a war of attrition for which it was unprepared. The Germans would never again mount a simultaneous offensive along the entire strategic Soviet-Axis front. The failure of the operation drove Hitler to demand further operations inside the USSR of increasingly limited scope, all of which eventually failed, such as Case Blue and Operation Citadel.

    The failure of Operation Barbarossa was a turning point in the fortunes of the Third Reich. Most importantly, the operation opened up the Eastern Front, to which more forces were committed than in any other theater of war in world history. The Eastern Front became the site of some of the largest battles, most horrific atrocities, and highest casualties for Soviets and Germans alike, all of which influenced the course of both World War II and the subsequent history of the 20th century. The German forces captured millions of Soviet prisoners who were not granted protections stipulated in the Geneva Conventions. Most of them never returned alive; Germany deliberately starved the prisoners to death as part of a “Hunger Plan” that aimed to reduce the population of Eastern Europe and then re-populate it with ethnic Germans. Over a million Soviet Jews were murdered by Einsatzgruppen death squads and gassing as part of the Holocaust.


    I present to you the 75th Anniversary of the largest land operation in military history.
    It also is the beginning of the Great Patriotic War.
    There is so much to discuss on Operation Barbarossa.
    Where did Hitler go wrong?
    What did he do right?
    Did his generals fail him or succeed him?
    What would you have done with Army Groups North, Center and South?
    Did you think Stalin could have done better or worse?
    Even though Barbarossa is the main subject, so many great battles took place during this awesome land manuever.
    Smolensk, Kiev, Minsk, Leningrad, and of course, Moscow.
    I will probably make a discussion for those battles later.
    But in the meantime, lets discuss Operation Barbarossa as a whole.
    The Eastern Front has arrived!

  • Good post. However, I would like to make a correction. During WWII, Winston Churchill (later joined by FDR) imposed a food blockade on Germany. The Hunger Plan was the Nazi government’s effort to deal with the resulting food crisis. The Hunger Plan involved the starvation of captured Soviet cities; so that the food which would otherwise have fed those cities could instead be used to prevent starvation elsewhere in the Reich.

    The plan had never been to starve Soviet POWs. Those POWs were conscripted to work in German weapons factories. Everyone, from Hitler on down, recognized those POWs were an essential component of Germany’s war machine. That is why Hitler ordered the POWs to be fed.

    However, the Reich lacked the manpower necessary to cordon off captured Soviet cities from the Soviet countryside. Due to the lack of that manpower, the Nazis were unable to prevent food from flowing from the captured Soviet countryside to captured Soviet cities. The Hunger Plan mostly failed: the planned starvation in captured Soviet cities mostly did not occur. That failure didn’t result in fewer deaths. Just different deaths than those the Nazi government had envisioned with their Hunger Plan. Due to the failure of the Hunger Plan, the man tasked with feeding the Soviet POWs didn’t have the food he needed to carry out the order Hitler had given to him: the order to feed the Soviet POWs. Because it was physically impossible for that man to carry out his orders, millions of Soviet POWs starved to death while in German captivity.

    The Nazi leadership had deep-seated fears about Germany’s food situation. One of the reasons Hitler wanted lebensraum was so that Germany could physically feed itself, even if Britain imposed a food blockade. (As it did in WWI, and as Churchill again did in WWII.) The two most vital resources Hitler required from the western Soviet Union were food and petroleum. For Barbarossa to have been successful from the Nazi perspective, Germany needed to capture a considerable portion of Soviet oilfields, and a considerable portion of Soviet farmland.

    To address your question of what Hitler should have done differently: he should have placed von Manstein in charge of Barbarossa in its entirety. Doing so would have resulted in a far greater level of success. Moscow and Leningrad almost certainly would have fallen in 1941, paving the way for additional German successes in 1942.

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