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Operation Barbarossa

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Introduction

OPERATION BARBAROSSA 'Explain the early success and ultimate failure of Operation Barbarossa to the end of 1941.' Operation Barbarossa had many major and some more minor factors which led to the early success and eventually the ultimate failure of the invasion. The Germans initial quick invasion using their Blitzkrieg tactics and the element of surprise against the Russians allowed them to get very close to Moscow. However the most important reason for the early success of Operation Barbarossa was Stalin's inaccurate leadership and policies which caused disarray among the Russians. Although, had it not been for the diversion in Yugoslavia and Greece before the invasion had even started and then during Barbarossa, the change in tactics from Hitler which diverted German troops south and furthermore 'General Winter', it is possible that the Germans would have succeeded in their invasion of Barbarossa. As it was, Hitler's mistakes caused the ultimate failure of the operation as they also contributed towards many other factors such as German incompetence on the home front and the decision to regroup instead of attacking an unready Moscow. It is clear that Operation Barbarossa was very successful at first as the Germans met little resistance from the Red Army due to Stalin's policies in appeasing the Germans. The most important reason for early success was Stalin's bad policies and ignorance. Stalin's policies led to hardly any decent army officials and leaders being left after the Purges leaving the army lacking in good advice and intelligence from high ranking officials in the major cities, which left the defences totally unprepared for an invasion. Stalin was also stubborn and ignorant of any threat from the Germans even though he had been informed by some of his own spies and foreign intelligence agencies warning of Hitler's aggressive intentions. He was ignorant because he was preoccupied with an invasion by the Japanese on the Eastern borders of Russia and he had seen the German action in the Balkans indicating that they were more interested in invading these areas. ...read more.

Middle

I believe that had Hitler not meddled in the army affairs and ignored the advice of his generals then the ultimate failures and mistakes that were made would have been unlikely to come back and haunt Germany. The Germans quick advance into Russia forced a great demand upon supplies and relied on overall cooperation. The evidence of Germany's ultimate failures in Operation Barbarossa was that 200 out of 900 men in one division were unable to continue fighting within just two weeks of the Russian winter, mostly because they didn't have the clothing to keep them warm and cope with these conditions which was due to German incompetence and Hitler's previous mistakes that had allowed the invasion to continue into the winter. In only the opening few weeks of Barbarossa, the Germans had lost 100,000 men, which was equal to the amount lost in all their previous campaigns in World War II. German production was not as good as the Russians- by 1941, Russia had between 20,000 and 25,000 tanks compared to Germany's 18,000. Finally, Hitler's intervention in the Operation was clear because in a month and a half Hitler had ordered 3 different directives, one of which focused on the crucial decision to not capture Moscow. Hitler had not controlled the invasion well and his arrogance eventually led him astray and to become too involved in the offensive and to ignore the other Generals. The 'General Winter' weather scenario contributed to the ultimate failures of Germany that helped Russia to win Barbarossa. The Russian winter caused many of the roads to become frozen and when that melted it became wet and muddy. -40 Celsius temperatures meant that the Germans couldn't advance as the oil froze in the vehicles and the machinery wouldn't fire because it was jammed. This caused the Germans to lose morale and when illness or frostbite started to go through the German army groups many started to die. ...read more.

Conclusion

I think that this point is important because had Hitler gone into Barbarossa with more reasonable targets and more preparation had have gone ahead then he might not have made the same mistakes. Another point that can be attributed to Hitler and then the ultimate failure of Barbarossa was his flawed political judgements. In the winter of 1941-42, he turned against the peasants, who had at the start been allied with him, by sending SS guards to Russia to begin killing the peasants in the areas that were rebelling because Hitler felt that they were racially inferior. These errors by Hitler caused the cutting off of supply lines and German troop's morale was lowered even more. In conclusion, it is clear that there are 2 very different sides to Operation Barbarossa. Firstly, the Germans made huge advances and seemed to be on their way to certain victory but then the Russians seemed to claw their way back into Barbarossa and eventually drive the Germans back. Therefore I think the most important point that led to the early success was that Stalin appeased Hitler right up until Barbarossa began by continuing trade supplies to Germany and not positioning his troops on the border. He hoped that this would prevent Germany from 'feeling the need' to attack Russia but even though he was looking for peace, it backfired on him because the Red Army was disorganised and lacking in clear orders as to what to do when they came under attack which meant that many troops and machines were lost early on. However, ultimately, Barbarossa failed because of Hitler through his errors and mistakes. I think that the most important point that led to the ultimate failure of Barbarossa was the fact that Hitler stopped his troops marching on Moscow which gave the Russian people time to regroup and set up defences under Zhukov. That with the help of 'General Winter' caused the Germans to be pushed back and the Russians to take the lead. ...read more.

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