The German Invasion of Soviet Russia
By Robert Kirchubel
On June 22, 1941 the German Reich invaded the territory of the Soviet Union. The ideas behind this invasion were the determination of the National Socialists (Nazis) to stamp out Communism, the Jewish-Muscovite Bolshevism, the antithesis of the Nazi ideals. The second reason for this invasion was the accumulation of Leibensraum (Living Room) for the citizens of the Greater German Reich. These ideas harken back to Hitler’s manifesto, Mein Kampf.
The invasion commenced on three fronts Army Group North with the object of taking Leningrad and eventually meeting up with their allies, the Finns and taking Murmansk.
Army Group Center, whose focus is the Russian capital, Moscow, and finally Army Group South, whose target was the oil fields of the Caucuses and the food and other resources of the Ukraine.
The beginnings of the invasion gave the expectations of the short, lightning campaign planned for in the deliberations of the German General Staff. Soviet troops were picked up in bunches and the euphoria gained prominence at headquarters. By no means were the Soviets crumbling before the onslaught, they fought with a tenacity that surprised the German commanders. Hitler, himself made an off-hand comment to one of his generals, “Russia cannot be conquered.”
As the invasion progressed, the Germans spread out over the vastness of the Russian nation. Army Group North lay siege to Leningrad to starve it out as Hitler did not want to push his troops into the larger urban areas. His entire focus was the destruction of the Soviet Army. Army Group Center headed in the direction of Moscow, but was constantly being drained of resources to bolster the other two Army groups as their areas of responsibility increased.
Army group South headed into the Caucuses towards the oil field and with the help of the Rumanians to take the Crimea, thereby protecting the oil field at Ploesti. The German armies made spectacular gains, killing and capturing hundreds of thousands of Russian troops.
In the planning for Barbarossa, the German Military Intelligence underestimated the size of the Russian Army in the West by a factor of almost two to one. This led to German commanders being surprised that after closing a pocket and capturing thousands, there were thousands more to take their place. After the Russian spy, Robert Sorge, that Tokyo was not coming to the aid of their Axis partners, confirmed word Stalin transferred massive numbers of troops westward to fight the Germans
Since the campaign was to be a short one, like Poland and France, logistics were relegated to the back burner. Railroad gangs were put together to change the Russian track gauge to that used by Germany. Their number proved ultimately inadequate to bring the necessary supplies forward to the troops, so that food, fuel and ammunition were always in short supply.
The book covers the period from June 22, 1941 to the end of November, when it became clear that the German Army and Air Force would not be able to conquer the Soviet Union. The author begins with some of the planning leading up to the invasion itself. The next chapter goes into a detailed description of the plans of both sides for the invasion and defense of the Western Soviet Union. The German plan outlined the conquest of the territory of Russia and the destruction of the Soviet ability to continue the war. This led to a conflict at general headquarters between Hitler and his generals over where to go next. This stalemate lasted almost the month of July. Halder, Guedarian and their adherents wanted to head directly to Moscow, while Hitler wanted to concentrate on the destruction of the Soviet Army.
These lapses gave the Russians chances to mount counterattacks against the German positions. These counterattacks were quite successful in disrupting the German advance.
The next two chapters covers the Opposing Armies and Commanders, giving detailed descriptions of troops and those who commanded during this time. Next comes a chapter on the battles along the frontier and the initial successes of the Germans over the Soviet Armies. These successes led to the removal of Soviet Commanders who for one reason or another could not carry out the policies demanded by the Stavka. At he same time the Germans enjoyed the fulfillment of their plans, with some interruptions due to Soviet counterattacks.
As the Germans moved further into Russia, the counterattacks increased and the logistics problem became more acute. In addition, the racial policies of the Nazis turned much of the population against the Germans, whom they had greeted as liberators. These things and the continuing attrition of the German forces made further progress harder to achieve.
Hitler did not want to go to Moscow and repeat Napoleon’s mistakes, but he had to fight his own general Staff, who some say were living in a fantasy world of their own making.
The book culminates in Operation Typhoon, the attack on Moscow, which was to commence on November 15. The Germans could muster some 2.7 million men to make this stroke, while the Soviets had some 4 million in defensive positions.
I recommend this book to anyone who wants to read the latest evolution of the history of this campaign, the triumphs, the failures and the mistakes that plagued these six months of World War II. The profusely illustrated volume gives a taste of the battles with the enemy and the battles with the elements, the mud and the cold. The strategic maps scattered throughout this book will present the wargamer with a clear picture of units involved and the tactics employed. Various full-color illustrations show units in combat situations and their equipment as a guide for the modeler and figure painter. This book covers its subject with a thoroughness that will delight its readers.
This book is available from Osprey Publications.
This book is available in three formats and they are;