Eastern Front (World War II)
The battles on the Eastern Front of the Second World War constituted the largest military confrontation in history.
They were characterised by unprecedented ferocity and brutality, wholesale destruction, mass deportations, and immense loss of life due to combat, starvation, exposure, disease, and massacres. Of the estimated 70–85 million deaths
attributed to World War II, around 30 million occurred on the Eastern Front, including 9 million children.
The Eastern Front was decisive in determining the outcome in the European theatre of operations
in World War II, eventually serving as the main reason for the defeat of Nazi Germany
and the Axis nations.
The two principal belligerent powers were Germany and the Soviet Union, along with their respective allies. Though never sending in ground troops to the Eastern Front, the United States
and the United Kingdom
both provided substantial material aid to the Soviet Union in the form of the Lend-Lease
program along with naval and air support. The joint German–Finnish operations
across the northernmost Finnish–Soviet border and in the Murmansk region
are considered part of the Eastern Front. In addition, the Soviet–Finnish Continuation War
is generally also considered the northern flank of the Eastern Front.
Germany and the Soviet Union remained unsatisfied with the outcome
of World War I
(1914–1918). Soviet Russia
had lost substantial territory in Eastern Europe
as a result of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk
(March 1918), where the Bolsheviks
in Petrograd conceded to German demands and ceded control of Poland, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Finland, and other areas, to the Central Powers
. Subsequently, when Germany in its turn surrendered
to the Allies
(November 1918) and these territories became independent states under the terms of the Paris Peace Conference of 1919
, Soviet Russia was in the midst of a civil war
and the Allies did not recognise the Bolshevik government, so no Soviet Russian representation attended.
Everything I undertake is directed against the Russians. If the West is too stupid and blind to grasp this, then I shall be compelled to come to an agreement with the Russians, beat the West and then after their defeat turn against the Soviet Union with all my forces. I need the Ukraine
so that they can't starve us out, as happened in the last war.
On 1 September 1939 Germany invaded Poland
, starting World War II
. On 17 September, the Soviet Union invaded Eastern Poland
, and, as a result, Poland was partitioned
among Germany, the Soviet Union and Lithuania. Soon after that, the Soviet Union demanded significant territorial concessions from Finland, and after Finland rejected Soviet demands, the Soviet Union attacked Finland on 30 November 1939 in what became known as the Winter War
– a bitter conflict that resulted in a peace treaty on 13 March 1940, with Finland maintaining its independence but losing its eastern parts in Karelia
had argued in his autobiography Mein Kampf
(1925) for the necessity of Lebensraum
("living space"): acquiring new territory for Germans in Eastern Europe, in particular Russia.
He envisaged settling Germans there, as according to Nazi ideology the Germanic people constituted the "master race
", while exterminating or deporting most of the existing inhabitants to Siberia
and using the remainder as slave labour
Hitler as early as 1917 had referred to the Russians as inferior, believing that the Bolshevik Revolution
had put the Jews
in power over the mass of Slavs
, who were, in Hitler's opinion, incapable of ruling themselves and had thus ended up being ruled by Jewish masters.
The Nazi leadership, including Heinrich Himmler
saw the war against the Soviet Union as a struggle between the ideologies of Nazism
and Jewish Bolshevism
, and ensuring territorial expansion for the Germanic Übermensch
(superhumans), who according to Nazi ideology were the Aryan Herrenvolk
("master race"), at the expense of the Slavic Untermenschen
officers told their troops to target people who were described as "Jewish Bolshevik subhumans", the "Mongol hordes", the "Asiatic flood" and the "red beast".
The vast majority of German soldiers viewed the war in Nazi terms, seeing the Soviet enemy as sub-human.
Hitler referred to the war in radical terms, calling it a "war of annihilation
) which was both an ideological and racial war. The Nazi vision for the future of Eastern Europe was codified most clearly in the Generalplan Ost
. The populations of occupied Central Europe and the Soviet Union were to be partially deported to West Siberia, enslaved and eventually exterminated; the conquered territories were to be colonised by German or "Germanized" settlers.
In addition, the Nazis also sought to wipe out the large Jewish population of Central and Eastern Europe
as part of their program aiming to exterminate all European Jews
After Germany's initial success at the Battle of Kiev
in 1941, Hitler saw the Soviet Union as militarily weak and ripe for immediate conquest. In a speech at the Berlin Sportpalast
on 3 October, he announced, "We have only to kick in the door and the whole rotten structure will come crashing down."
Thus, Germany expected another short Blitzkrieg
and made no serious preparations for prolonged warfare. However, following the decisive Soviet victory at the Battle of Stalingrad
in 1943 and the resulting dire German military situation, Nazi propaganda began to portray the war as a German defence of Western civilisation against destruction by the vast "Bolshevik
hordes" that were pouring into Europe.
Throughout the 1930s the Soviet Union underwent massive industrialisation
and economic growth under the leadership of Joseph Stalin
. Stalin's central tenet, "Socialism in One Country
", manifested itself as a series of nationwide centralised five-year plans
from 1929 onwards. This represented an ideological shift in Soviet policy, away from its commitment to the international communist revolution
, and eventually leading to the dissolution of the Comintern
(Third International) organisation in 1943. The Soviet Union started a process of militarisation with the first five-year plan
that officially began in 1928, although it was only towards the end of the second five-year plan in the mid-1930s that military power became the primary focus of Soviet industrialisation.
The states that provided forces and other resources for the German war effort included the Axis Powers
– primarily Romania, Hungary, Italy, pro-Nazi Slovakia, and Croatia. Anti-Soviet
Finland, which had fought the Winter War
against the Soviet Union, also joined the offensive. The Wehrmacht
forces were also assisted by anti-Communist partisans
in places like Western Ukraine, and the Baltic states
. Among the most prominent volunteer army formations was the Spanish Blue Division
, sent by Spanish dictator Francisco Franco
to keep his ties to the Axis intact.
The Soviet Union offered support to the anti-Axis partisans in many Wehrmacht
-occupied countries in Central Europe
, notably those in Slovakia
. In addition, the Polish Armed Forces in the East
, particularly the First
Polish armies, were armed and trained, and would eventually fight alongside the Red Army. The Free French
forces also contributed to the Red Army by the formation of the GC3
(Groupe de Chasse 3
or 3rd Fighter Group) unit to fulfil the commitment of Charles de Gaulle
, leader of the Free French, who thought that it was important for French servicemen to serve on all fronts.
Comparative strengths of combat forces, Eastern Front, 1941–1945
The above figures includes all personnel in the German Army, i.e. active-duty Heer
, Waffen SS
ground forces, personnel of the naval coastal artillery and security units.
In the spring of 1940, Germany had mobilised 5,500,000 men.
By the time of the invasion of the Soviet Union, the Wehrmacht consisted of c, 3,800,000 men of the Heer, 1,680,000 of the Luftwaffe, 404,000 of the Kriegsmarine
, 150,000 of the Waffen-SS, and 1,200,000 of the Replacement Army (contained 450,400 active reservists, 550,000 new recruits and 204,000 in administrative services, vigiles and or in convalescence). The Wehrmacht had a total strength of 7,234,000 men by 1941. For Operation Barbarossa, Germany mobilised 3,300,000 troops of the Heer, 150,000 of the Waffen-SS
and approximately 250,000 personnel of the Luftwaffe were actively earmarked.
German armored spearhead in the Kalmyk steppe north of Stalingrad, September 1942
By July 1943, the Wehrmacht numbered 6,815,000 troops. Of these, 3,900,000 were deployed in eastern Europe, 180,000 in Finland, 315,000 in Norway, 110,000 in Denmark, 1,370,000 in western Europe, 330,000 in Italy, and 610,000 in the Balkans.
According to a presentation by Alfred Jodl
, the Wehrmacht was up to 7,849,000 personnel in April 1944. 3,878,000 were deployed in eastern Europe, 311,000 in Norway/Denmark, 1,873,000 in western Europe, 961,000 in Italy, and 826,000 in the Balkans.
About 15–20% of total German strength were foreign troops (from allied countries or conquered territories). The German high water mark was just before the Battle of Kursk
, in early July 1943: 3,403,000 German troops and 650,000 Finnish, Hungarian, Romanian and other countries' troops.
For nearly two years the border was quiet while Germany conquered Denmark, Norway, France, the Low Countries
, and the Balkans
. Hitler had always intended to renege on his pact with the Soviet Union, eventually making the decision to invade in the spring of 1941.
Some historians say Stalin was fearful of war with Germany, or just did not expect Germany to start a two-front war
, and was reluctant to do anything to provoke Hitler. Others say that Stalin was eager for Germany to be at war with capitalist countries. Another viewpoint is that Stalin expected war in 1942 (the time when all his preparations would be complete) and stubbornly refused to believe its early arrival.
British historians Alan S. Milward and M. Medlicott show that Nazi Germany—unlike Imperial Germany—was prepared for only a short-term war (Blitzkrieg).
According to Edward Ericson, although Germany's own resources were sufficient for the victories in the West in 1940, massive Soviet shipments obtained during a short period of Nazi–Soviet economic collaboration
were critical for Germany to launch Operation Barbarossa.
German infantry in Russia, June 1943
Germany had been assembling very large numbers of troops in eastern Poland and making repeated reconnaissance
flights over the border; the Soviet Union responded by assembling its divisions on its western border, although the Soviet mobilisation was slower than Germany's due to the country's less dense road network. As in the Sino-Soviet conflict
on the Chinese Eastern Railway
or Soviet–Japanese border conflicts
, Soviet troops on the western border received a directive, signed by Marshal Semyon Timoshenko
and General of the Army Georgy Zhukov
, that ordered (as demanded by Stalin): "do not answer to any provocations" and "do not undertake any (offensive) actions without specific orders" – which meant that Soviet troops could open fire only on their soil and forbade counter-attack on German soil. The German invasion therefore caught the Soviet military and civilian leadership largely by surprise.
The extent of warnings received by Stalin about a German invasion is controversial, and the claim that there was a warning that "Germany will attack on 22 June without declaration of war" has been dismissed as a "popular myth". However, some sources quoted in the articles on Soviet spies Richard Sorge
and Willi Lehmann
, say they had sent warnings of an attack on 20 or 22 June, which were treated as "disinformation". The Lucy spy ring
in Switzerland also sent warnings, possibly deriving from Ultra codebreaking in Britain. Sweden had access to internal German communications through breaking the crypto used in the Siemens and Halske T52
crypto machine also known as the Geheimschreiber and informed Stalin about the forthcoming invasion well ahead of June 22, but did not reveal its sources.
Soviet intelligence was fooled by German disinformation, so sent false alarms to Moscow about a German invasion in April, May and the beginning of June. Soviet intelligence reported that Germany would rather invade the USSR after the fall of the British Empire
or after an unacceptable ultimatum demanding German occupation of Ukraine during the German invasion of Britain.
Foreign support and measures
British and Commonwealth forces also contributed directly to the fighting on the Eastern Front through their service in the Arctic convoys
and training Red Air Force pilots
, as well as in the provision of early material and intelligence support.
Allied shipments to the Soviet Union
Among other goods, Lend-Lease supplied:: 8–9
- 58% of the USSR's high octane aviation fuel
- 33% of their motor vehicles
- 53% of USSR domestic production of expended ordnance (artillery shells, mines, assorted explosives)
- 30% of fighters and bombers
- 93% of railway equipment (locomotives, freight cars, wide gauge rails, etc.)
- 50–80% of rolled steel, cable, lead, and aluminium
- 43% of garage facilities (building materials & blueprints)
- 12% of tanks and SPGs
- 50% of TNT (1942–1944) and 33% of ammunition powder (in 1944)
- 16% of all explosives (From 1941 to 1945, the USSR produced 505,000 tons of explosives and received 105,000 tons of Lend-Lease imports.)
Lend-Lease aid of military hardware, components and goods to the Soviet Union constituted to 20% percent of the assistance.: 122
The rest were foodstuff, nonferrous metals (e.g., copper, magnesium, nickel, zinc, lead, tin, aluminium), chemical substances, petroleum (high octane aviation gasoline) and factory machinery. The aid of production-line equipment and machinery were crucial and helped to maintain adequate levels of Soviet armament production during the entire war.: 122
In addition, the USSR received wartime innovations including penicillin, radar, rocket, precision-bombing technology, the long-range navigation system Loran
, and many other innovations.: 123
Of the 800,000 tons of nonferrous metals shipped,: 124
about 350,000 tons were aluminium.: 135
The shipment of aluminium not only represented double the amount of metal that Germany possessed, but also composed the bulk of aluminium that was used in manufacture of Soviet aircraft, that had fallen in critically short supply.: 135
Soviet statistics show, that without these shipments of aluminium, aircraft production would have been less than one-half (or about 45,000 less) of the total 137,000 produced aircraft.: 135
Stalin noted in 1944, that two-thirds of Soviet heavy industry had been built with the help of the United States, and the remaining one-third, with the help from other Western nations such as Great Britain and Canada.: 129
The massive transfer of equipment and skilled personnel from occupied territories helped further to boost the economic base.: 129
Without Lend-Lease aid, Soviet Union's diminished post invasion economic base would not have produced adequate supplies of weaponry, other than focus on machine tool, foodstuff and consumer goods.[clarification needed]: 129
In the last year of war, lend-lease data show that about 5.1 million tons of foodstuff left the United States for the Soviet Union.: 123
It is estimated that all the food supplies sent to Russia could feed a 12,000,000-man strong army a half pound of concentrated food per day, for the entire duration of the war.: 122–3
The total lend-lease aid during the Second World War had been estimated between $42–50 billion.: 128
The Soviet Union received shipments in war materials, military equipment and other supplies worth of $12.5 billion, about a quarter of the U.S. lend-lease aid provided to other Allied countries.: 123
However, post-war negotiations to settle all the debt were never concluded,: 133
and as of date, the debt issues is still on in future American-Russian summits and talks.: 133–4
Prof. Dr. Albert L. Weeks conclude: 'As to attempts to sum up the importance of those four-year-long shipments of Lend-Lease for the Russian victory on the Eastern Front in World War II, the jury is still out – that is, in any definitive sense of establishing exactly
how crucial this aid was.': 123
at the height of German military expansion, 1942
Germany's economic, scientific, research and industrial capabilities were one of the most technically advanced in the world at the time. However, access to (and control of) the resources
, raw materials and production capacity required to entertain long-term goals (such as European control, German territorial expansion and the destruction of the USSR) were limited. Political demands necessitated the expansion of Germany's control of natural and human resources, industrial capacity and farmland beyond its borders (conquered territories). Germany's military production was tied to resources outside its area of control, a dynamic not found amongst the Allies.
During the war, as Germany acquired new territories (either by direct annexation or by installing puppet governments in defeated countries), these new territories were forced to sell raw materials and agricultural products to German buyers at extremely low prices. Two-thirds of all French trains in 1941 were used to carry goods to Germany. Norway
lost 20% of its national income in 1940 and 40% in 1943.
Axis allies such as Romania
benefited from Germany's net imports. Overall, France
made the largest contribution to the German war effort. In 1943–44, French payments to Germany may have risen to as much as 55% of French GDP.
Overall, Germany imported 20% of its food and 33% of its raw materials from conquered territories and Axis allies.
On 27 May 1940, Germany signed the "Oil Pact" with Romania, by which Germany would trade arms for oil. Romania's oil production amounted to approximately 6,000,000 tons annually. This production represents 35% of the total fuel production of the Axis including the synthetic products and the substitutes and 70% of the total production of crude oil.
In 1941, Germany only had 18% of the oil it had in peacetime. Romania supplied Germany and its allies with roughly 13 million barrels of oil (about 4 million per year) between 1941 and 1943. Germany's peak oil production in 1944 amounted to about 12 million barrels of oil per year.
Rolf Karlbom estimated that Swedish
share of Germany's total consumption of iron
may have amounted to 43% during the period of 1933–43. It may also be likely that 'Swedish ore formed the raw material of four out of every ten German guns' during the Hitler era'.
The use of foreign forced labour
and slavery in Germany
and throughout German-occupied Europe
during World War II
took place on an unprecedented scale.
It was a vital part of the German economic exploitation
of conquered territories. It also contributed to the mass extermination of populations in German-occupied Europe. The Germans abducted approximately 12 million foreign people from almost twenty European countries; about two-thirds came from Central Europe
and Eastern Europe
Counting deaths and turnover, about 15 million men and women were forced labourers at one point during the war.
For example, 1.5 million French soldiers were kept in POW camps in Germany as hostages and forced workers and, in 1943, 600,000 French civilians were forced to move to Germany to work in war plants.
The defeat of Germany in 1945 freed approximately 11 million foreigners (categorised as "displaced persons"), most of whom were forced labourers and POWs. In wartime, the German forces had brought into the Reich 6.5 million civilians in addition to Soviet POWs for unfree labour
In all, 5.2 million foreign workers and POWs were repatriated to the Soviet Union, 1.6 million to Poland, 1.5 million to France, and 900,000 to Italy, along with 300,000 to 400,000 each to Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, the Netherlands, Hungary, and Belgium.
Conduct of operations
While German historians do not apply any specific periodisation to the conduct of operations on the Eastern Front, all Soviet and Russian historians divide the war against Germany and its allies into three periods, which are further subdivided into eight major campaigns
of the Theatre of war:
: Первый период Великой Отечественной войны) (22 June 1941 – 18 November 1942)
- Summer–Autumn Campaign of 1941 (Russian: Летне-осенняя кампания 1941 г.) (22 June – 4 December 1941)
- Winter Campaign of 1941–42 (Russian: Зимняя кампания 1941/42 г.) (5 December 1941 – 30 April 1942)
- Summer–Autumn Campaign of 1942 (Russian: Летне-осенняя кампания 1942 г.) (1 May – 18 November 1942)
: Второй период Великой Отечественной войны) (19 November 1942 – 31 December 1943)
- Winter Campaign of 1942–43 (Russian: Зимняя кампания 1942–1943 гг.) (19 November 1942 – 3 March 1943)
- Summer–Autumn Campaign of 1943 (Russian: Летне-осенняя кампания 1943 г.) (1 July – 31 December 1943)
: Третий период Великой Отечественной войны) (1 January 1944 – 9 May 1945)
- Winter–Spring Campaign (Russian: Зимне-весенняя кампания 1944 г.) (1 January – 31 May 1944)
- Summer–Autumn Campaign of 1944 (Russian: Летне-осенняя кампания 1944 г.) (1 June – 31 December 1944)
- Campaign in Europe during 1945 (Russian: Кампания в Европе 1945 г.) (1 January – 9 May 1945)
Operation Barbarossa: Summer 1941
began just before dawn on 22 June 1941. The Germans cut the wire network in all Soviet western military districts to undermine the Red Army's communications.
Panicky transmissions from the Soviet front-line units to their command headquarters were picked up like this: "We are being fired upon. What shall we do?" The answer was just as confusing: "You must be insane. And why is your signal not in code?"
To establish air supremacy, the Luftwaffe
began immediate attacks on Soviet airfields, destroying much of the forward-deployed Soviet Air Force airfield fleets consisting of largely obsolescent types before their pilots had a chance to leave the ground.
For a month the offensive conducted on three axes was completely unstoppable as the panzer
hundreds of thousands of Soviet troops in huge pockets that were then reduced by slower-moving infantry
armies while the panzers continued the offensive, following the Blitzkriegdoctrine
Army Group Centre
's two panzer groups (the 2nd
), advanced to the north and south of Brest-Litovsk
and converged east of Minsk
, followed by the 2nd
, and 9th Armies
. The combined panzer force reached the Beresina River
in just six days, 650 km (400 mi) from their start lines. The next objective was to cross the Dnieper river
, which was accomplished by 11 July. Their next target was Smolensk
, which fell on 16 July, but the fierce Soviet resistance in the Smolensk area
and slowing of the Wehrmacht
advance by the North and South Army Groups forced Hitler to halt a central thrust at Moscow and to divert the 3rd Panzer Group north. Critically, Guderian
's 2nd Panzer Group was ordered to move south in a giant pincer manoeuvre with Army Group South which was advancing into Ukraine. Army Group Centre's infantry divisions were left relatively unsupported by armour to continue their slow advance to Moscow.
This decision caused a severe leadership crisis. The German field commanders argued for an immediate offensive towards Moscow, but Hitler over-ruled them
, citing the importance of Ukrainian agricultural, mining and industrial resources, as well as the massing of Soviet reserves in the Gomel
area between Army Group Centre's southern flank and the bogged-down Army Group South's northern flank. This decision, Hitler's "summer pause",
is believed to have had a severe impact on the outcome of the Battle of Moscow
later in the year, by slowing down the advance on Moscow in favour of encircling large numbers of Soviet troops around Kiev.
Army Group South
, with the 1st Panzer Group
, the 6th
and 17th Armies
, was tasked with advancing through Galicia
and into Ukraine
. Their progress, however, was rather slow, and they took heavy casualties in the Battle of Brody
. At the beginning of July, the Third
Romanian Armies, aided by elements of the German 11th Army, fought their way through Bessarabia
. The 1st Panzer Group turned away from Kiev for the moment, advancing into the Dnieper bend (western Dnipropetrovsk Oblast
). When it joined up with the southern elements of Army Group South at Uman
, the Group captured about 100,000 Soviet prisoners
in a huge encirclement. Advancing armoured divisions of Army Group South met with Guderian's 2nd Panzer Group near Lokhvytsa
in mid September, cutting off large numbers of Red Army troops in the pocket east of Kiev.
400,000 Soviet prisoners were captured as Kiev was surrendered
on 19 September.
Soviet children during a German air raid in the first days of the war, June 1941, by RIA Novosti
As the Red Army
withdrew behind the Dnieper and Dvina
rivers, the Soviet Stavka
(high command) turned its attention to evacuating as much of the western regions' industry as it could. Factories were dismantled and transported on flatcars away from the front line
for re-establishment in more remote areas of the Ural Mountains
, Central Asia
and south-eastern Siberia
. Most civilians were left to make their own way east, with only industry-related workers evacuated with the equipment; much of the population was left behind to the mercy of the invading forces.
Leningrad, Moscow and Rostov: Autumn 1941
Hitler then decided to resume the advance on Moscow, re-designating the panzer groups as panzer armies for the occasion. Operation Typhoon
, which was set in motion on 30 September, saw the 2nd Panzer Army rush along the paved road from Oryol
(captured 5 October) to the Oka River
, while the 4th Panzer Army (transferred from Army Group North to Centre) and 3rd Panzer armies surrounded the Soviet forces in two huge pockets at Vyazma
Army Group North positioned itself in front of Leningrad
and attempted to cut the rail link at Mga
to the east.
This began the 900-day Siege of Leningrad
. North of the Arctic Circle
, a German–Finnish force set out for Murmansk
but could get no further than the Zapadnaya Litsa River
, where they settled down.
Army Group South pushed down from the Dnieper to the Sea of Azov
coast, also advancing through Kharkov
, and Stalino
. The combined German and Romanian forces moved into the Crimea
and took control of all of the peninsula
by autumn (except Sevastopol
, which held out
until 3 July 1942). On 21 November, the Wehrmacht took Rostov
, the gateway to the Caucasus
. However, the German lines were over-extended and the Soviet defenders counterattacked the 1st Panzer Army's spearhead from the north, forcing them to pull out of the city and behind the Mius River
; the first significant German withdrawal
of the war.
The onset of the winter freeze saw one last German lunge that opened on 15 November, when the Wehrmacht attempted to encircle Moscow. On 27 November, the 4th Panzer Army got to within 30 km (19 mi) of the Kremlin
when it reached the last tramstop of the Moscow line at Khimki
. Meanwhile, the 2nd Panzer Army failed to take Tula
, the last Soviet city that stood in its way to the capital. After a meeting held in Orsha
between the head of the OKH
(Army General Staff
), General Franz Halder
and the heads of three Army
groups and armies, decided to push forward to Moscow
since it was better, as argued by the head of Army Group Center
, Field MarshalFedor von Bock
, for them to try their luck on the battlefield rather than just sit and wait while their opponent gathered more strength.
Soviet counter-offensive: Winter 1941
The Soviet winter counter-offensive, 5 December 1941 to 7 May 1942:
The Soviet counter-offensive during the Battle of Moscow had removed the immediate German threat to the city. According to Zhukov
, "the success of the December counter-offensive in the central strategic direction was considerable. Having suffered a major defeat the German striking forces of Army Group Centre were retreating." Stalin
's objective in January 1942 was "to deny the Germans any breathing space, to drive them westward without let-up, to make them use up their reserves before spring comes..."
German soldiers surrendering to the Red Army
units near Vitovka village, 1941
The 20th Army, part of the Soviet 1st Shock Army
, the 22nd Tank Brigade and five ski battalions launched their attack on 10 January 1942. By 17 January, the Soviets had captured Lotoshino and Shakhovskaya. By 20 January, the 5th
Armies had captured Ruza, Dorokhovo, Mozhaisk and Vereya, while the 43rd
Armies were at Domanovo.: 58–59
The Wehrmacht rallied, retaining a salient
at Rzhev. A Soviet parachute drop
by two battalions of the 201st Airborne Brigade and the 250th Airborne Regiment on 18 and 22 January was designed to "cut off enemy communications with the rear." Lt.-Gen. Mikhail Grigoryevich Yefremov
's 33rd Army aided by Gen. Belov's 1st Cavalry Corps and Soviet partisans
attempted to seize Vyazma. This force was joined by additional paratroopers of the 8th Airborne Brigade at the end of January. However, in early February, the Germans managed to cut off this force, separating the Soviets from their main force in the rear of the Germans. They were supplied by air until April when they were given permission to regain the Soviet main lines. Only part of Belov's Cavalry Corps made it to safety however, while Yefremov's men fought "a losing battle.": 59–62
By April 1942, the Soviet Supreme Command agreed to assume the defensive so as to "consolidate the captured ground." According to Zhukov, "During the winter offensive, the forces of the Western Front had advanced from 70 to 100 km, which somewhat improved the overall operational and strategic situation on the Western sector.": 64
In the south the Red Army lunged over the Donets River
and drove a 100 km (62 mi) deep salient. The intent was to pin Army Group South against the Sea of Azov
, but as the winter eased the Wehrmacht counter-attacked and cut off the over-extended Soviet troops in the Second Battle of Kharkov
Don, Volga, and Caucasus: Summer 1942 Operation Blue
: German advances from 7 May 1942 to 18 November 1942:
to 7 July 1942
to 22 July 1942
to 1 August 1942
to 18 November 1942
Although plans were made to attack Moscow again, on 28 June 1942, the offensive re-opened in a different direction. Army Group South took the initiative, anchoring the front with the Battle of Voronezh
and then following the Don river
southeastwards. The grand plan was to secure the Don and Volga
first and then drive into the Caucasus towards the oil fields
, but operational considerations and Hitler's vanity made him order both objectives to be attempted simultaneously. Rostov was recaptured on 24 July when the 1st Panzer Army joined in, and then that group drove south towards Maikop
. As part of this, Operation Shamil was executed, a plan whereby a group of Brandenburger commandos
dressed up as Soviet NKVD
troops to destabilise Maikop's defences and allow the 1st Panzer Army to enter the oil town with little opposition.
Meanwhile, the 6th Army was driving towards Stalingrad
, for a long period unsupported by 4th Panzer Army, which had been diverted to help 1st Panzer Army cross the Don. By the time the 4th Panzer Army had rejoined the Stalingrad offensive Soviet resistance (comprising the 62nd Army under Vasily Chuikov
) had stiffened. A leap across the Don brought German troops to the Volga on 23 August but for the next three months the Wehrmacht
would be fighting the Battle of Stalingrad street-by-street.
Towards the south, the 1st Panzer Army had reached the Caucasian foothills and the Malka River
. At the end of August Romanian mountain troops joined the Caucasian spearhead, while the Romanian 3rd and 4th armies were redeployed from their successful task of clearing the Azov littoral
. They took up position on either side of Stalingrad to free German troops for the main offensive. Mindful of the continuing antagonism between Axis allies Romania and Hungary
, the Romanian army in the Don bend was separated from the Hungarian 2nd army by the Italian 8th Army. Thus, all of Hitler's allies were involved – including a Slovakian
contingent with the 1st Panzer Army and a Croatian regiment
attached to 6th Army.
The advance into the Caucasus bogged down, with the Germans unable to fight their way past Malgobek
and to the main prize of Grozny
. Instead, they switched the direction of their advance to approach it from the south, crossing the Malka at the end of October and entering North Ossetia
. In the first week of November, on the outskirts of Ordzhonikidze
, the 13th Panzer Division's spearhead was snipped off and the panzer troops had to fall back. The offensive into Russia was over.
Stalingrad: Winter 1942
: Soviet advances on the Eastern Front, 18 November 1942 to March 1943:
While the German 6th and 4th Panzer Armies had been fighting their way into Stalingrad, Soviet armies had congregated on either side of the city, specifically into the Don bridgeheads
, and it was from these that they struck in November 1942. Operation Uranus
started on 19 November. Two Soviet fronts punched through the Romanian lines and converged at Kalach
on 23 November, trapping 300,000 Axis troops behind them.
A simultaneous offensive on the Rzhev sector known as Operation Mars
was supposed to advance to Smolensk, but was a costly failure, with German tactical defences preventing any breakthrough.
A Soviet junior political officer (Politruk
) urges Soviet troops forward against German positions (12 July 1942).
German infantry and a supporting StuG III
assault gun during the advance towards Stalingrad, September 1942
The Germans rushed to transfer troops to the Soviet Union in a desperate attempt to relieve Stalingrad, but the offensive could not get going until 12 December, by which time the 6th Army in Stalingrad was starving and too weak to break out towards it. Operation Winter Storm
, with three transferred panzer divisions, got going briskly from Kotelnikovo
towards the Aksai river but became bogged down 65 km (40 mi) short of its goal. To divert the rescue attempt, the Red Army decided to smash the Italians and come down behind the relief attempt if they could; that operation starting on 16 December. What it did accomplish was to destroy many of the aircraft that had been transporting relief supplies to Stalingrad. The fairly limited scope of the Soviet offensive, although still eventually targeted on Rostov, also allowed Hitler time to see sense and pull Army Group A out of the Caucasus and back over the Don.
On 31 January 1943, the 90,000 survivors of the 300,000-man 6th Army surrendered. By that time the Hungarian 2nd Army had also been wiped out. The Red Army advanced from the Don 500 km (310 mi) to the west of Stalingrad, marching through Kursk (retaken on 8 February 1943) and Kharkov (retaken 16 February 1943). To save the position in the south, the Germans decided to abandon the Rzhev salient in February, freeing enough troops to make a successful riposte
in eastern Ukraine. Manstein
's counteroffensive, strengthened by a specially trained SS Panzer Corps
equipped with Tiger tanks
, opened on 20 February 1943 and fought its way from Poltava back into Kharkov
in the third week of March, when the spring thaw intervened. This left a glaring Soviet bulge (salient
) in the front centered on Kursk.
Kursk: Summer 1943
German advances at Kharkov
, 19 February 1943 to 1 August 1943:
After the failure of the attempt to capture Stalingrad, Hitler had delegated planning authority for the upcoming campaign season to the German Army High Command
and reinstated Heinz Guderian
to a prominent role, this time as Inspector of Panzer Troops. Debate among the General Staff was polarised, with even Hitler nervous about any attempt to pinch off the Kursk salient. He knew that in the intervening six months the Soviet position at Kursk had been reinforced heavily with anti-tank
guns, tank traps
, barbed wire
However, if one last great blitzkrieg
offensive could be mounted, then attention could then be turned to the Allied threat to the Western Front
. Certainly, the peace negotiations in April had gone nowhere.
The advance would be executed from the Orel salient to the north of Kursk and from Belgorod
to the south. Both wings would converge on the area east of Kursk, and by that means restore the lines of Army Group South
to the exact points that it held over the winter of 1941–1942.
Soviet soldiers pushing a 45 mm (1.8 in) anti-tank gun
on the road, 1 August 1943
In the north, the entire German 9th Army
had been redeployed from the Rzhev salient into the Orel salient and was to advance from Maloarkhangelsk to Kursk. But its forces could not even get past the first objective at Olkhovatka
, just 8 km (5.0 mi) into the advance. The 9th Army blunted its spearhead against the Soviet minefields
, frustratingly so considering that the high ground there was the only natural barrier between them and flat tank country all the way to Kursk. The direction of advance was then switched to Ponyri
, to the west of Olkhovatka, but the 9th Army could not break through here either and went over to the defensive. The Red Army then launched a counter-offensive, Operation Kutuzov
On 12 July the Red Army battled through the demarcation line between the 211th and 293rd divisions on the Zhizdra River
and steamed towards Karachev
, right behind them and behind Orel. The southern offensive, spearheaded by 4th Panzer Army
, led by Gen. Col. Hoth
, with three Tank Corps made more headway. Advancing on either side of the upper Donets on a narrow corridor, the II SS Panzer Corps
and the Großdeutschland Panzergrenadier divisions
battled their way through minefields and over comparatively high ground towards Oboyan
. Stiff resistance caused a change of direction from east to west of the front, but the tanks got 25 km (16 mi) before encountering the reserves of the Soviet 5th Guards Tank Army
. Battle was joined on 12 July, with about one thousand tanks being engaged.
After the war, the battle near Prochorovka was idealised by Soviet historians
as the largest tank battle of all time. The meeting engagement
at Prochorovka was a Soviet defensive success, albeit at heavy cost. The Soviet 5th Guards Tank Army, with about 800 light and medium tanks, attacked elements of the II SS Panzer Corps. Tank losses on both sides have been the source of controversy ever since. Although the 5th Guards Tank Army did not attain its objectives, the German advance had been halted.
At the end of the day both sides had fought each other to a standstill, but regardless of the German failure in the north Erich von Manstein
proposed he continue the attack with the 4th Panzer Army. The Red Army started the strong offensive operation in the northern Orel salient and achieved a breakthrough on the flank of the German 9th Army. Also worried by the Allies' landing in Sicily
on 10 July, Hitler made the decision to halt the offensive even as the German 9th Army was rapidly giving ground in the north. The Germans' final strategic offensive in the Soviet Union ended with their defence against a major Soviet counteroffensive that lasted into August.
The Kursk offensive was the last on the scale of 1940 and 1941 that the Wehrmacht was able to launch; subsequent offensives would represent only a shadow of previous German offensive might.
Autumn and Winter 1943–44
Loading a Soviet "Katyusha
" rocket launcher
The Soviet multi-stage summer offensive started with the advance into the Orel salient. The diversion of the well-equipped Großdeutschland Division
from Belgorod to Karachev could not counteract it, and the Wehrmacht began a withdrawal from Orel (retaken by the Red Army on 5 August 1943), falling back to the Hagen line in front of Bryansk
. To the south, the Red Army broke through Army Group South's Belgorod positions and headed for Kharkov once again. Although intense battles of movement throughout late July and into August 1943 saw the Tigers
blunting Soviet tank attacks on one axis, they were soon outflanked on another line to the west as the Soviet forces advanced down the Psel
, and Kharkov was abandoned for the final time on 22 August.
The German forces on the Mius
, now comprising the 1st Panzer Army and a reconstituted 6th Army, were by August too weak to repulse a Soviet attack on their own front, and when the Red Army hit them they retreated all the way through the Donbas
industrial region to the Dnieper, losing half the farmland that Germany had invaded the Soviet Union to exploit. At this time Hitler agreed to a general withdrawal to the Dnieper line, along which was meant to be the Ostwall
, a line of defence similar to the Westwall
(Siegfried Line) of fortifications along the German frontier in the west.
The main problem for the Wehrmacht was that these defences had not yet been built; by the time Army Group South had evacuated eastern Ukraine and begun withdrawing across the Dnieper during September, the Soviet forces were hard behind them. Tenaciously, small units paddled their way across the 3 km (1.9 mi) wide river and established bridgeheads
. A second attempt by the Red Army to gain land using parachutists, mounted at Kaniv
on 24 September, proved as disappointing as at Dorogobuzh eighteen months previously. The paratroopers were soon repelled – but not until still more Red Army troops had used the cover they provided to get themselves over the Dnieper and securely dug in.
As September ended and October started, the Germans found the Dnieper line impossible to hold as the Soviet bridgeheads grew. Important Dnieper towns started to fall, with Zaporozhye
the first to go, followed by Dnepropetrovsk
. Finally, early in November the Red Army broke out of its bridgeheads on either side of Kiev and captured the Ukrainian capital, at that time the third largest city in the Soviet Union.
130 kilometres (80 mi) west of Kiev, the 4th Panzer Army, still convinced that the Red Army was a spent force, was able to mount a successful riposte at Zhytomyr
during the middle of November, weakening the Soviet bridgehead by a daring outflanking strike mounted by the SS Panzer Corps along the river Teterev. This battle also enabled Army Group South to recapture Korosten and gain some time to rest. However, on Christmas Eve
the retreat began anew when the First Ukrainian Front (renamed from the Voronezh Front) struck them in the same place. The Soviet advance continued along the railway line until the 1939 Polish–Soviet border was reached on 3 January 1944.
To the south, the Second Ukrainian Front (ex Steppe Front
) had crossed the Dnieper at Kremenchug and continued westwards. In the second week of January 1944 they swung north, meeting Vatutin's tank forces which had swung south from their penetration into Poland and surrounding ten German divisions at Korsun–Shevchenkovsky, west of Cherkassy
. Hitler's insistence on holding the Dnieper line, even when facing the prospect of catastrophic defeat, was compounded by his conviction that the Cherkassy pocket could break out and even advance to Kiev, but Manstein was more concerned about being able to advance to the edge of the pocket and then implore the surrounded forces to break out.
By 16 February the first stage was complete, with panzers separated from the contracting Cherkassy pocket only by the swollen Gniloy Tikich river. Under shellfire and pursued by Soviet tanks, the surrounded German troops, among whom were the 5th SS Panzer Division Wiking
, fought their way across the river to safety, although at the cost of half their number and all their equipment. They assumed the Red Army would not attack again, with the spring approaching, but on 3 March the Soviet Ukrainian Front went over to the offensive. Having already isolated the Crimea by severing the Perekop isthmus
, Malinovsky's forces advanced across the mud to the Romanian
border, not stopping on the river Prut
Soviet advances from 1 August 1943 to 31 December 1944:
to 1 December 1943
to 30 April 1944
to 19 August 1944
to 31 December 1944
One final move in the south completed the 1943–44 campaigning season, which had wrapped up a Soviet advance of over 800 kilometres (500 mi). In March, 20 German divisions of GeneraloberstHans-Valentin Hube
's 1st Panzer Army
were encircled in what was to be known as Hube's Pocket
near Kamenets-Podolskiy. After two weeks' of heavy fighting, the 1st Panzer managed to escape the pocket, at the cost of losing almost the entire heavy equipment. At this point, Hitler sacked several prominent generals, Manstein included. In April, the Red Army took back Odessa
, followed by 4th Ukrainian Front's campaign to restore control over the Crimea, which culminated in the capture of Sevastopol
on 10 May.
Along Army Group Centre's front, August 1943 saw this force pushed back from the Hagen line slowly, ceding comparatively little territory, but the loss of Bryansk, and more importantly Smolensk, on 25 September cost the Wehrmacht
the keystone of the entire German defensive system. The 4th and 9th armies and 3rd Panzer Army still held their own east of the upper Dnieper, stifling Soviet attempts to reach Vitebsk. On Army Group North's front, there was barely any fighting at all until January 1944, when out of nowhere Volkhov and Second Baltic Fronts struck.
The Red Army is greeted in Bucharest
, Romania, August 1944.
planners were convinced that the Red Army would attack again in the south, where the front was 80 kilometres (50 mi) from Lviv
and offered the most direct route to Berlin
. Accordingly, they stripped troops from Army Group Centre, whose front still protruded deep into the Soviet Union. The Germans had transferred some units to France to counter the invasion of Normandy
two weeks before. The Belorussian Offensive (codenamed Operation Bagration
), which was agreed upon by Allies at the Tehran Conference
in December 1943 and launched on 22 June 1944, was a massive Soviet attack, consisting of four Soviet army groups totalling over 120 divisions that smashed into a thinly held German line.
They focused their massive attacks on Army Group Centre, not Army Group North Ukraine as the Germans had originally expected. More than 2.3 million Soviet troops went into action against German Army Group Centre, which had a strength of fewer than 800,000 men. At the points of attack, the numerical and quality advantages of the Soviet forces were overwhelming. The Red Army achieved a ratio of ten to one in tanks and seven to one in aircraft over their enemy. The Germans crumbled. The capital of Belarus
, was taken on 3 July, trapping some 100,000 Germans. Ten days later the Red Army reached the prewar Polish border. Bagration
was, by any measure, one of the largest single operations of the war.
By the end of August 1944, it had cost the Germans ~400,000 dead, wounded, missing and sick, from whom 160,000 were captured, as well as 2,000 tanks and 57,000 other vehicles. In the operation, the Red Army lost ~180,000 dead and missing (765,815 in total, including wounded and sick plus 5,073 Poles),
as well as 2,957 tanks and assault guns. The offensive at Estonia
claimed another 480,000 Soviet soldiers, 100,000 of them classed as dead.
The neighbouring Lvov–Sandomierz operation
was launched on 17 July 1944, with the Red Army routing the German forces in Western Ukraine and retaking Lviv. The Soviet advance in the south continued into Romania
and, following a coup against the Axis-allied government of Romania on 23 August, the Red Army occupied Bucharest
on 31 August. Romania and the Soviet Union signed an armistice
on 12 September.
Soviet soldiers advance through the streets of Jelgava
On the Karelian Isthmus
, the Red Army launched a Vyborg–Petrozavodsk Offensive
against the Finnish lines on 9 June 1944 (coordinated with the Western Allied Invasion of Normandy). Three armies were pitted there against the Finns, among them several experienced guards rifle formations. The attack breached the Finnish front line of defence in Valkeasaari on 10 June and the Finnish forces retreated to their secondary defence line, the VT-line
. The Soviet attack was supported by a heavy artillery barrage, air bombardments and armoured forces. The VT-line was breached on 14 June and after a failed counterattack in Kuuterselkä by the Finnish armoured division, the Finnish defence had to be pulled back to the VKT-line
. After heavy fighting in the battles of Tali-Ihantala
, Finnish troops finally managed to halt the Soviet attack.
On 8 September 1944 the Red Army began an attack on the Dukla Pass
on the Slovak–Polish border. Two months later, the Soviet forces won the battle and entered Slovakia. The toll was high: 20,000 Red Army soldiers died, plus several thousand Germans, Slovaks and Czechs
Soviet advances from 1 January 1945 to 11 May 1945:
The Soviet Union finally entered Warsaw
on 17 January 1945, after the city was destroyed and abandoned by the Germans. Over three days, on a broad front incorporating four army fronts
, the Red Army launched the Vistula–Oder Offensive
across the Narew River and from Warsaw. The Soviets outnumbered the Germans on average by 5–6:1 in troops, 6:1 in artillery, 6:1 in tanks and 4:1 in self-propelled artillery
. After four days the Red Army broke out and started moving thirty to forty kilometres a day, taking the Baltic states, Danzig
, East Prussia
, and drawing up on a line sixty kilometres east of Berlin
along the River Oder
. During the full course of the Vistula–Oder operation (23 days), the Red Army forces sustained 194,191 total casualties (killed, wounded and missing) and lost 1,267 tanks and assault guns.
OKW claim German losses of 77,000 killed, 334,000 wounded and 192,000 missing, with a total of 603,000 men, on the Eastern Front during January and February 1945.
On 9 April 1945, Königsberg in East Prussia finally fell to the Red Army, although the shattered remnants of Army Group Centre continued to resist on the Vistula Spit
and Hel Peninsula
until the end of the war in Europe. The East Prussian operation
, though often overshadowed by the Vistula–Oder operation and the later battle for Berlin, was in fact one of the largest and costliest operations fought by the Red Army throughout the war. During the period it lasted (13 January – 25 April), it cost the Red Army 584,788 casualties, and 3,525 tanks and assault guns.
The fall of Königsberg allowed Stavka to free up General Konstantin Rokossovsky
's 2nd Belorussian Front
(2BF) to move west to the east bank of the Oder. During the first two weeks of April, the Red Army performed their fastest front redeployment of the war. General Georgy Zhukov
concentrated his 1st Belorussian Front
(1BF), which had been deployed along the Oder river from Frankfurt
in the south to the Baltic, into an area in front of the Seelow Heights
. The 2BF moved into the positions being vacated by the 1BF north of the Seelow Heights. While this redeployment was in progress, gaps were left in the lines and the remnants of the German 2nd Army, which had been bottled up in a pocket near Danzig, managed to escape across the Oder. To the south General Ivan Konev
shifted the main weight of the 1st Ukrainian Front
(1UF) out of Upper Silesia
north-west to the Neisse
The three Soviet fronts had altogether some 2.5 million men (including 78,556 soldiers of the 1st Polish Army
); 6,250 tanks; 7,500 aircraft; 41,600 artillery pieces and mortars; 3,255 truck
-mounted Katyusha rocket launchers
, (nicknamed "Stalin Organs"); and 95,383 motor vehicles, many of which were manufactured in the United States.
End of the war: April–May 1945
The Soviet offensive had two objectives. Because of Stalin's suspicions about the intentions of the Western Allies
to hand over territory occupied by them in the post-war Soviet sphere of influence
, the offensive was to be on a broad front and was to move as rapidly as possible to the west, to meet the Western Allies as far west as possible. But the over-riding objective was to capture Berlin. The two were complementary because possession of the zone could not be won quickly unless Berlin was taken. Another consideration was that Berlin itself held strategic assets, including Adolf Hitler and part of the German atomic bomb
Soviet soldiers celebrating the surrender of the German forces in Berlin, 2 May 1945
On 29 and 30 April, as the Soviet forces fought their way into the centre of Berlin, Adolf Hitler married Eva Braun
and then committed suicide by taking cyanide and shooting himself
. In his will, Hitler appointed Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz
as new President of the Reich
and Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels
as new Chancellor of the Reich
; however, Goebbels also committed suicide, along with his wife Magda
and their children
, on 1 May 1945. Helmuth Weidling
, defence commandant of Berlin, surrendered the city to the Soviet forces on 2 May.
Altogether, the Berlin operation (16 April – 2 May) cost the Red Army 361,367 casualties (dead, wounded, missing and sick) and 1,997 tanks and assault guns. German losses in this period of the war remain impossible to determine with any reliability.
Upon learning of Hitler and Goebbels's death, Dönitz (now President of the Reich) appointed Johann Ludwig Schwerin von Krosigk
as new "Leading Minister" of the German Reich.
Rapidly advancing Allied forces limited the jurisdiction of the new German government to an area around Flensburg
near the Danish
border, where Dönitz's headquarters were located, along with Mürwik
. Accordingly, this administration was referred to as the Flensburg government
Dönitz and Schwerin von Krosigk attempted to negotiate an armistice with the Western Allies while continuing to resist the Soviet Army, but were eventually forced to accept an unconditional surrender on all fronts.
The German Army Group Centre initially refused to surrender and continued to fight in Czechoslovakia
until about 11 May.
A small German garrison on the Danish island of Bornholm refused to surrender until they were bombed and invaded by the Soviets. The island was returned to the Danish government four months later.
Soviet Far East: August 1945
After the German defeat, Joseph Stalin
promised his allies Truman and Churchill that he would attack the Japanese
within 90 days of the German surrender. The Soviet invasion of Manchuria
began on 8 August 1945, with an assault on the Japanese puppet states of Manchukuo
and neighbouring Mengjiang
; the greater offensive would eventually include northern Korea
, southern Sakhalin
, and the Kuril Islands
. Apart from the Battles of Khalkhin Gol
, it marked the only military action of the Soviet Union against Imperial Japan
; at the Yalta Conference
, it had agreed to Allied pleas to terminate the neutrality pact with Japan and enter the Second World War's Pacific theatre within three months after the end of the war in Europe. While not a part of the Eastern Front operations, it is included here because the commanders and much of the forces used by the Red Army came from the European Theatre of operations and benefited from the experience gained there. In many ways this was a 'perfect' operation, delivered with the skill gained during the bitter fighting with the Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe over four years.
The Eastern Front was the largest and bloodiest theatre
of World War II
. It is generally accepted as being the deadliest conflict in human history, with over 30 million killed as a result.
The German armed forces
suffered 80% of its military deaths in the Eastern Front.
It involved more land combat than all other World War II theatres combined. The distinctly brutal nature of warfare on the Eastern Front was exemplified by an often wilful disregard for human life by both sides. It was also reflected in the ideological premise for the war, which also saw a momentous clash between two directly opposed ideologies.
Aside from the ideological conflict, the mindframe of the leaders of Germany
and the Soviet Union
respectively, contributed to the escalation of terror and murder on an unprecedented scale. Stalin and Hitler both disregarded human life in order to achieve their goal of victory. This included the terrorisation of their own people, as well as mass deportations
of entire populations. All these factors resulted in tremendous brutality both to combatants and civilians that found no parallel on the Western Front
. According to Time magazine
: "By measure of manpower, duration, territorial reach and casualties, the Eastern Front was as much as four times the scale of the conflict on the Western Front that opened with the Normandy invasion
Conversely, General George Marshall
, the U.S. Army Chief of Staff
, calculated that without the Eastern Front, the United States
would have had to double the number of its soldiers on the Western Front.
Memorandum for the President's Special Assistant Harry Hopkins
, Washington, D.C., 10 August 1943:
In War II Russia occupies a dominant position and is the decisive factor looking toward the defeat of the Axis in Europe. While in Sicily the forces of Great Britain and the United States are being opposed by 2 German divisions, the Russian front is receiving attention of approximately 200 German divisions. Whenever the Allies open a second front on the Continent, it will be decidedly a secondary front to that of Russia; theirs will continue to be the main effort. Without Russia in the war, the Axis cannot be defeated in Europe, and the position of the United Nations becomes precarious. Similarly, Russia’s post-war position in Europe will be a dominant one. With Germany crushed, there is no power in Europe to oppose her tremendous military forces.
Citizens of Leningrad during the 872-day siege
, in which about one million civilians died
The war inflicted huge losses and suffering upon the civilian populations of the affected countries. Behind the front lines, atrocities
against civilians in German-occupied areas were routine, including those carried out as part of the Holocaust. German and German-allied forces treated civilian populations with exceptional brutality, massacring whole village populations and routinely killing civilian hostages (see German war crimes
). Both sides practised widespread scorched earth
tactics, but the loss of civilian lives in the case of Germany was incomparably smaller than that of the Soviet Union, in which at least 20 million were killed. According to British historian Geoffrey Hosking
, "The full demographic loss to the Soviet peoples was even greater: since a high proportion of those killed were young men of child-begetting age, the postwar Soviet population was 45 to 50 million smaller than post-1939 projections would have led one to expect."
The Soviet Union came out of World War II militarily victorious but economically and structurally devastated. Much of the combat took place in or close to populated areas, and the actions of both sides contributed to massive loss of civilian life and tremendous material damage. According to a summary, presented by Lieutenant General Roman Rudenko
at the International Military Tribunal
, the property damage in the Soviet Union inflicted by the Axis invasion was estimated to a value of 679 billion rubles. The largest number of civilian deaths in a single city was 1.2 million citizens dead during the Siege of Leningrad
The combined damage consisted of complete or partial destruction of 1,710 cities and towns, 70,000 villages/hamlets, 2,508 church buildings, 31,850 industrial establishments, 64,000 kilometres (40,000 mi) of railroad, 4,100 railroad stations, 40,000 hospitals, 84,000 schools, and 43,000 public libraries; leaving 25 million homeless. Seven million horses, 17 million cattle, 20 million pigs, 27 million sheep were also slaughtered or driven off.
Wild fauna were also affected. Wolves and foxes fleeing westward from the killing zone, as the Soviet army advanced between 1943 and 1945, were responsible for a rabies
epidemic that spread slowly westwards, reaching the coast of the English Channel
The Soviet Union and Nazi Germany were both ideologically driven states (by Soviet communism
and by Nazism
respectively), in which the foremost political leaders
had near-absolute power
. The character of the war was thus determined by the political leaders and their ideology
to a much greater extent than in any other theatre of World War II.
Adolf Hitler exercised tight control over the German war-effort, spending much of his time in his command bunkers (most notably at Rastenburg
in East Prussia
, at Vinnitsa
, and under the garden of the Reich Chancellery
). At crucial periods in the war he held daily situation-conferences at which he used his remarkable talent for public speaking to overwhelm opposition from his generals and from the OKW staff with rhetoric.
In part because of the unexpected degree of German success in the Battle of France (despite the warnings of the professional military) Hitler believed himself a military genius, with a grasp of the total war-effort that eluded his generals. In August 1941, when Walther von Brauchitsch
(commander-in-chief of the Wehrmacht
) and Fedor von Bock
appealed for an attack on Moscow, Hitler instead ordered the encirclement and capture of Ukraine, in order to acquire the farmland, industry, and natural resources of that country. Some historians like Bevin Alexander in How Hitler Could Have Won
regard this decision as a missed opportunity to win the war.
In the winter of 1941–1942 Hitler believed that his obstinate refusal to allow the German armies to retreat had saved Army Group Centre from collapse. He later told Erhard Milch
I had to act ruthlessly. I had to send even my closest generals packing, two army generals, for example … I could only tell these gentlemen, "Get yourself back to Germany as rapidly as you can – but leave the army in my charge. And the army is staying at the front."
The success of this hedgehog defence
outside Moscow led Hitler to insist on the holding of territory when it made no military sense, and to sack generals who retreated without orders. Officers with initiative were replaced with yes-men or with fanatical Nazis. The disastrous encirclements later in the war – at Stalingrad
and many other places – resulted directly from Hitler's orders. This idea of holding territory led to another failed plan, dubbed[by whom?]
", which involved fortifying even the most unimportant or insignificant of cities and the holding of these "fortresses" at all costs. Many divisions became cut off in "fortress" cities, or wasted uselessly in secondary theatres, because Hitler would not sanction retreat or voluntarily abandon any of his conquests.
Frustration at Hitler's leadership
in the war was one of the factors in the attempted coup d'etat
of 1944, but after the failure of the 20 July Plot
Hitler considered the army and its officer corps suspect and came to rely on the Schutzstaffel
(SS) and Nazi party members to prosecute the war.
Hitler's direction of the war ultimately proved disastrous for the German Army, though the skill, loyalty, professionalism and endurance of officers and soldiers enabled him to keep Germany fighting to the end. F. W. Winterbotham
wrote of Hitler's signal to Gerd von Rundstedt
to continue the attack to the west during the Battle of the Bulge
From experience we had learned that when Hitler started refusing to do what the generals recommended, things started to go wrong, and this was to be no exception.
Joseph Stalin bore the greatest responsibility for some of the disasters at the beginning of the war (for example, the Battle of Kiev (1941)
), but equally deserves praise for the subsequent success of the Soviet Red Army
, which depended on the unprecedentedly rapid industrialisation of the Soviet Union
, which Stalin's internal policy had made the first priority throughout the 1930s. Stalin's Great Purge
of the Red Army in the late 1930s involved the legal prosecution of many of the senior command, many of whom the courts convicted and sentenced to death or to imprisonment.
The executed included Mikhail Tukhachevsky
, a proponent of armoured blitzkrieg
. Stalin promoted some obscurantists
like Grigory Kulik
who opposed the mechanisation of the army and the production of tanks, but on the other hand purged the older commanders who had held their positions since the Russian Civil War
of 1917–1922, and who had experience, but were deemed "politically unreliable". This opened up their places to the promotion of many younger officers that Stalin and the NKVD
regarded as in line with Stalinist
of these newly promoted commanders proved terribly inexperienced, but some later became very successful. Soviet tank-output remained the largest in the world.
From the foundation of the Red Army in 1918, political distrust of the military had led to a system of "dual command", with every commander paired with a political commissar
, a member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union
. Larger units had military councils consisting of the commander, commissar and chief of staff – commissars ensured the loyalty of the commanding officers and implemented Party orders.
Following the Soviet occupation of eastern Poland
, of the Baltic states
and of Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina
in 1939–1940, Stalin insisted on the occupation of every fold of the newly Sovietized territories; this move westward positioned troops far from their depots, in salients that left them vulnerable to encirclement. As tension heightened in spring, 1941, Stalin desperately tried not to give Hitler any provocation that Berlin could use as an excuse for a German attack; Stalin refused to allow the military to go on the alert – even as German troops gathered on the borders and German reconnaissance planes overflew installations. This refusal to take necessary action was instrumental in the destruction of major portions of the Red Air Force, lined up on its airfields, in the first days of the German-Soviet war.
At the crisis of the war, in the autumn of 1942, Stalin made many concessions to the army: the government restored unitary command by removing the Commissars from the chain of command
. Order 25 of 15 January 1943 introduced shoulderboards
for all ranks; this represented a significant symbolic step, since after the Russian Revolution of 1917
shoulderboards had connotations as a symbol of the old Tsarist régime. Beginning in autumn 1941, units that had proved themselves by superior performance in combat were given the traditional "Guards" title.
These concessions were combined with ruthless discipline: Order No. 227
, issued on 28 July 1942, threatened commanders who retreated without orders with punishment by court-martial
. Infractions by military and politruks
were punished with transferral to penal battalions
and to penal companies
which carried out especially hazardous duties, such as serving as tramplers
to clear Nazi minefields.
The order stipulated to capture or shoot "cowards" and fleeing panicked troops at the rear the blocking detachments in the first three months shot 1,000 penal troops and sent 24,993 to penal battalions.
By October 1942 the idea of regular blocking detachments was quietly dropped, By 29 October 1944 the units were officially disbanded.
As it became clear that the Soviet Union would win the war, Stalin ensured that propaganda always mentioned his leadership of the war; he sidelined the victorious generals and never allowed them to develop into political rivals. After the war the Soviets once again purged the Red Army (though not as brutally as in the 1930s) and demoted many successful officers (including Zhukov
) to unimportant positions.
Repression and genocide in occupied territories
The enormous territorial gains of 1941 presented Germany with vast areas to pacify and administer. For the majority of people of the Soviet Union, the Nazi invasion was viewed as a brutal act of unprovoked aggression. While it is important to note that not all parts of Soviet society viewed the German advance in this way, the majority of the Soviet population viewed German forces as occupiers. In areas such as Estonia
, and Lithuania
(which had been annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940) the Wehrmacht
was tolerated by a relatively more significant part of the native population.
This was particularly true for the territories of Western Ukraine, recently rejoined to the Soviet Union, where the anti-Polish and anti-Soviet Ukrainian nationalist underground
hoped in vain to establish the "independent state", relying on German armed force. However, Soviet society as a whole was hostile to the invading Nazis from the very start. The nascent national liberation movements among Ukrainians and Cossacks
, and others were viewed by Hitler with suspicion; some, especially those from the Baltic States, were co-opted into the Axis armies and others brutally suppressed. None of the conquered territories gained any measure of self-rule.
Instead, the Nazi ideologues
saw the future of the East as one of settlement by German colonists, with the natives killed, expelled, or reduced to slave labour. The cruel and brutally inhumane treatment of Soviet civilians, women, children and elderly, the daily bombings of civilian cities and towns, Nazi pillaging of Soviet villages and hamlets and unprecedented harsh punishment and treatment of civilians in general were some of the primary reasons for Soviet resistance to Nazi Germany's invasion. Indeed, the Soviets viewed Germany's invasion as an act of aggression and an attempt to conquer and enslave the local population.
Regions closer to the front were managed by military powers of the region, in other areas such as the Baltic states annexed by the USSR in 1940, Reichscommissariats were established. As a rule, the maximum in loot was extracted. In September 1941, Erich Koch
was appointed to the Ukrainian Commissariat. His opening speech was clear about German policy: "I am known as a brutal dog ... Our job is to suck from Ukraine all the goods we can get hold of ... I am expecting from you the utmost severity towards the native population."
Atrocities against the Jewish population in the conquered areas began almost immediately, with the dispatch of Einsatzgruppen
(task groups) to round up Jews and shoot them.
The massacres of Jews and other ethnic minorities
were only a part of the deaths from the Nazi occupation. Many hundreds of thousands of Soviet civilians were executed, and millions more died from starvation
as the Germans requisitioned food for their armies and fodder for their draft horses. As they retreated from Ukraine and Belarus in 1943–44, the German occupiers systematically applied a scorched earth
policy, burning towns and cities, destroying infrastructure, and leaving civilians to starve or die of exposure.
In many towns, the battles were fought within towns and cities with trapped civilians caught in the middle. Estimates of total civilian dead in the Soviet Union in the war range from seven million (Encyclopædia Britannica
) to seventeen million (Richard Overy).
The Nazi ideology and the maltreatment of the local population and Soviet POWs encouraged partisans
fighting behind the front; it motivated even anti-communists or non-Russian nationalists to ally with the Soviets and greatly delayed the formation of German-allied divisions consisting of Soviet POWs (see Ostlegionen
). These results and missed opportunities contributed to the defeat of the Wehrmacht
Vadim Erlikman has detailed Soviet losses totalling 26.5 million war related deaths. Military losses of 10.6 million include six million killed or missing in action and 3.6 million POW dead, plus 400,000 paramilitary and Soviet partisan
losses. Civilian deaths totalled 15.9 million, which included 1.5 million from military actions; 7.1 million victims of Nazi genocide
and reprisals; 1.8 million deported to Germany for forced labour
; and 5.5 million famine
deaths. Additional famine deaths, which totalled one million during 1946–47, are not included here. These losses are for the entire territory of the USSR including territories annexed in 1939–40.
Russian children in occupied territory (about 1942)
lost a quarter of its pre-war population, including practically all its intellectual elite. Following bloody encirclement battles, all of the present-day Belarus territory was occupied by the Germans by the end of August 1941. The Nazis imposed a brutal regime, deporting some 380,000 young people for slave labour, and killing hundreds of thousands (civilians) more.
More than 600 villages like Khatyn
were burned with their entire population.
More than 209 cities and towns (out of 270 total) and 9,000 villages were destroyed. Himmler pronounced a plan according to which 3
of the Belarusian population was designated for "eradication" and 1
of the racially 'cleaner' population (blue eyes, light hair) would be allowed to serve Germans as slaves.
Some recent reports raise the number of Belarusians who perished in the war to "3 million 650 thousand people, unlike the former 2.2 million. That is to say not every fourth inhabitant but almost 40% of the pre-war Belarusian population perished (considering the present-day borders of Belarus)."
Mass grave of Soviet POWs
, killed by Germans in a prisoner-of-war camp in Dęblin
, German-occupied Poland
Sixty percent of Soviet POWs died during the war. By its end, large numbers of Soviet POWs, forced labourers and Nazi collaborators (including those who were forcefully repatriated
by the Western Allies
) went to special NKVD
"filtration" camps. By 1946, 80 per cent of civilians and 20 per cent of POWs were freed, others were re-drafted, or sent to labour battalions. Two per cent of civilians and 14 per cent of the POWs
were sent to the Gulag
The official Polish government report of war losses prepared in 1947 reported 6,028,000 victims out of a population of 27,007,000 ethnic Poles and Jews; this report excluded ethnic Ukrainian and Belarusian losses.
Although the Soviet Union had not signed the Geneva Convention (1929)
, it is generally accepted that it considered itself bound by the provisions of the Hague convention
A month after the German invasion in 1941, an offer was made for a reciprocal adherence to Hague convention. This 'note' was left unanswered by Third Reich officials.
Soviet repressions also contributed into the Eastern Front's death toll. Mass repression occurred in the occupied portions of Poland as well as in the Baltic states and Bessarabia. Immediately after the start of the German invasion, the NKVD massacred
large numbers of inmates in most of their prisons in Western Belarus
and Western Ukraine, while the remainder was to be evacuated in death marches.
The Soviet victory owed a great deal to the ability of its war industry to outperform the German economy, despite the enormous loss of population and land. Stalin's five-year plans
of the 1930s had resulted in the industrialisation of the Urals and central Asia. In 1941, thousands of trains evacuated critical factories and workers from Belarus and Ukraine to safe areas far from the front lines. Once these facilities were reassembled east of the Urals, production could be resumed without fear of German bombing.
As the Soviet Union's manpower reserves ran low from 1943 onwards, the great Soviet offensives had to depend more on equipment and less on the expenditure of lives.
The increases in production of materiel
were achieved at the expense of civilian living standards – the most thorough application of the principle of total war
– and with the help of Lend-Lease
supplies from the United Kingdom and the United States. The Germans, on the other hand, could rely on a large slave workforce from the conquered countries and Soviet POWs. American exports and technical expertise also enabled the Soviets to produce goods that they wouldn't have been able to on their own. For example, while the USSR was able to produce fuel of octane numbers from 70 to 74, Soviet industry only met 4% of demand for fuel of octane numbers from 90+; all aircraft produced after 1939 required fuel of the latter category. To fulfill demands, the USSR depended on American assistance, both in finished products and TEL.
Germany had far greater resources than did the USSR, and dwarfed its production in every matrix except for oil, having over five times the USSR's coal production, over three times its iron production, three times its steel production, twice its electricity production, and about 2/3 of its oil production.
German production of explosives from 1940 to 1944 was 1.595 million tons, along with 829,970 tons of powder. Consumption on all fronts during the same period was 1.493 million tons of explosives and 626,887 tons of powder.
From 1941 to 1945, the USSR produced only 505,000 tons of explosives and received 105,000 tons of Lend-Lease imports.
Germany outproduced the Soviet Union 3.16 to 1 in explosives tonnage.
Soviet armoured fighting vehicle production was greater than the Germans (in 1943, the Soviet Union manufactured 24,089 tanks and self-propelled guns
to Germany's 19,800
). The Soviets incrementally upgraded existing designs, and simplified and refined manufacturing processes to increase production, and were helped by a mass infusion of harder to produce goods such as aviation fuel, machine tools, trucks, and high-explosives from Lend-Lease, allowing them to concentrate on a few key industries. Meanwhile, Germany had been cut off from foreign trade for years by the time it invaded the USSR, was in the middle of two extended and costly theatres at air and sea that further limited production (Battle of the Atlantic
and Defence of the Reich
), and was forced to devote a large segment of its expenditures to goods the Soviets could cut back on (such as trucks) or which would never even be used against the Soviets (such as ships). Naval vessels alone constituted 10–15% of Germany's war expenditures from 1940 to 1944 depending on the year, while armoured vehicles by comparison were only 5–8%.
Summary of German and Soviet raw material production during the war
Summary of Axis and Soviet tank and self-
propelled gun production during the war
Summary of Axis and Soviet aircraft production during the war
Summary of German and Soviet industrial labour (including those classified as handworkers), and summary of foreign, voluntary, coerced and POW labour
Soviet production and upkeep was assisted by the Lend-Lease
program from the United States and the United Kingdom. In the course of the war the US supplied $11 billion of materiel through Lend-Lease. This included 400,000 trucks, 12,000 armoured vehicles (including 7,000 tanks), 11,400 aircraft and 1.75 million tons of food.
The British supplied aircraft including 3,000 Hurricanes and 4,000 other aircraft during the war. Five thousand tanks were provided by the British and Canada. Total British supplies were about four million tons.
Germany on the other hand had the resources of conquered Europe at its disposal; those numbers are however not included into the tables above, such as production in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, and so on.
After the defeat at Stalingrad, Germany geared completely towards a war economy, as expounded in a speech given by Joseph Goebbels
(the Nazi propaganda minister), in the Berlin Sportpalast
, increasing production in subsequent years under Albert Speer
's (the Reich
armaments minister) direction, despite the intensifying Allied bombing campaign
Soviets bury their fallen, July 1944
World War II military deaths in Europe by theatre, year
The fighting involved millions of Axis and Soviet troops along the broadest land front in military history. It was by far the deadliest single theatre of the European portion of World War II with up to 8.7 to 10 million military deaths on the Soviet side (although, depending on the criteria used, casualties in the Far East theatre may have been similar in number).
Axis military deaths were 5 million of which around 4,000,000 were German deaths.
Included in this figure of German losses is the majority of the 2 million German military personnel listed as missing or unaccounted for after the war. Rüdiger Overmans states that it seems entirely plausible, while not provable, that one half of these men were killed in action and the other half died in Soviet custody. Official OKW Casualty Figures list 65% of Heer killed/missing/captured as being lost on the Eastern Front from 1 September 1939, to 1 January 1945 (four months and a week before the conclusion of the war), with front not specified for losses of the Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe.
Estimated civilian deaths range from about 14 to 17 million. Over 11.4 million Soviet civilians within pre-1939 Soviet borders were killed, and another estimated 3.5 million civilians were killed in the annexed territories.
The Nazis exterminated one to two million Soviet Jews (including the annexed territories) as part of the Holocaust
Soviet and Russian historiography often uses the term "irretrievable casualties". According to the Narkomat
of Defence order (No. 023, 4 February 1944), the irretrievable casualties include killed, missing, those who died due to war-time or subsequent wounds, maladies and chilblains
and those who were captured.
The huge death toll was attributed to several factors, including brutal mistreatment of POWs and captured partisans, the large deficiency of food and medical supplies in Soviet territories, and atrocities committed mostly by the Germans against the civilian population. The multiple battles and the use of scorched earth
tactics destroyed agricultural land
, infrastructure, and whole towns, leaving much of the population homeless and without food.
Military losses on the Eastern Front during World War II
Military losses on the Eastern Front during World War II
Based on Soviet sources Krivosheev put German losses on the Eastern Front from 1941 to 1945 at 6,923,700 men: including killed in action, died of wounds or disease and reported missing and presumed dead – 4,137,100, taken prisoner 2,571,600 and 215,000 dead among Soviet volunteers in the Wehrmacht
. Deaths of POW were 450,600 including 356,700 in NKVD camps and 93,900 in transit.
According to a report prepared by the General Staff of the Army issued in December 1944, materiel losses in the East from the period of 22 June 1941 until November 1944 stood at 33,324 armoured vehicles of all types (tanks, assault guns, tank destroyers, self-propelled guns and others). Paul Winter, Defeating Hitler
, states "these figures are undoubtedly too low".
According to Soviet claims, the Germans lost 42,700 tanks, tank destroyers, self-propelled guns and assault guns on the Eastern front.
Overall, Germany produced 3,024 reconnaissance vehicles,[unreliable source?]
2,450 other armoured vehicles, 21,880 armoured personnel carriers, 36,703 semi-tracked tractors and 87,329 semi-tracked trucks,
estimated 2/3 were lost on the Eastern Front.
The Soviets lost 96,500 tanks, tank destroyers, self-propelled guns and assault guns, as well as 37,600 other armoured vehicles (such as armoured cars and semi-tracked trucks) for a total of 134,100 armoured vehicles lost.
The Soviets also lost 102,600 aircraft (combat and non-combat causes), including 46,100 in combat.
According to Soviet claims, the Germans lost 75,700 aircraft on the Eastern front.
Polish Armed Forces in the East
, initially consisting of Poles from Eastern Poland or otherwise in the Soviet Union in 1939–1941, began fighting alongside the Red Army in 1943, and grew steadily as more Polish territory was liberated from the Nazis in 1944–1945.
Dead Soviet soldiers in Kholm
, January 1942
When the Axis countries of Central Europe were occupied by the Soviets, they changed sides and declared war on Germany (see Allied Commissions
Hitler's notorious Commissar Order
called for Soviet political commissars, who were responsible for ensuring that Red Army units remained politically reliable, to be summarily shot when identified amongst captured troops. Axis troops who captured Red Army soldiers frequently shot them in the field or shipped them to concentration camps to be used as forced labourers or killed.
Additionally, millions of Soviet civilians were captured as POWs and treated in the same manner. It is estimated that between 2.25 and 3.3 million Soviet POWs died in Nazi custody, out of 5.25–5.7 million. This figure represents a total of 45–57% of all Soviet POWs and may be contrasted with 8,300 out of 231,000 British and U.S. prisoners, or 3.6%.
About 5% of the Soviet prisoners who died were of Jewish ethnicity.
National and regional experiences
- ^ Hungary had been independent throughout the war until 1944 when Nazi Germany occupied Hungary due to suspicions of the Hungarians joining the Allies and reliance on its oil fields. From there Hungary became a German puppet state until the end of the war.
- ^ "World War II: The Eastern Front". The Atlantic. 18 September 2011. Retrieved 26 November 2014.
- ^ Edwards, Robert (15 August 2018). The Eastern Front: The Germans and Soviets at War in World War II. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 9780811767842 – via Google Books.
- ^ a b According to Krivosheev 1997, in the Eastern Front, Axis countries and German co-belligerents sustained 1,468,145 irrecoverable losses (668,163 KIA/MIA), Germany itself– 7,181,100 (3,604,800 KIA/MIA), and 579,900 PoWs died in Soviet captivity. So the Axis KIA/MIA amounted to 4.8 million in the East during the period of 1941–1945. This is more than a half of all Axis losses (including the Asia/Pacific theatre). The USSR sustained 10.5 million military losses (including PoWs who died in German captivity, according to Vadim Erlikman. Poteri narodonaseleniia v XX veke : spravochnik. Moscow 2004. ISBN 5-93165-107-1), so the number of military deaths (the USSR and the Axis) amounted to 15 million, far greater than in all other World War II theatres. According to the same source, total Soviet civilian deaths within post-war borders amounted to 15.7 million. The numbers for other Central European and German civilian casualties are not included here.
- ^ Bellamy 2007, p. xix: "That conflict, which ended sixty years before this book’s completion, was a decisive component – arguably the single most decisive component – of the Second World War. It was on the eastern front, between 1941 and 1945, that the greater part of the land and associated air forces of Nazi Germany and its Axis partners were ultimately destroyed by the Soviet Union in what, from 1944, its people – and those of the fifteen successor states – called, and still call, the Great Patriotic War"
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- ^ "We National Socialists consciously draw a line under the direction of our foreign policy war. We begin where we ended six centuries ago. We stop the perpetual Germanic march towards the south and west of Europe, and have the view on the country in the east. We finally put the colonial and commercial policy of the pre-war and go over to the territorial policy of the future. But if we speak today in Europe of new land, we can primarily only to Russia and the border states subjects him think." Charles Long, 1965: The term 'habitat' in Hitler's 'Mein Kampf' (pdf, 12 Seiten; 695 kB)
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