Operation Barbarossa and the Russian Offensive
In 1941 Hitler tried to make one last gamble, he sent his foreign minister to meet the Russian foreign minister Vyaschlav Molotov, and accused the U.S.S.R. of continually breaking of the non-aggression pact signed by both countries. This is how Hitler made his case for war on the eastern front.
Hitler’s army prepared for an assault on Russia, which stretched over three thousand kilometres. The Russians knew of the impending threat of invasion but the Germans still managed to surprise them. The Russians has intelligence from their sources and from foreign powers. Yet this did not save them.
The Germans used three main army groups:
- The northern army was commanded by Field Marshall Wilhelm von Leeb
- The central army was commanded by Field Marshall Fedor von Bock
- The southern army was commanded by Field Marshall Gerd von Rundstedt.
This map shows the German advance the red lines represent the army’s advance and there intended destination.
They planned to do a fast strong assault straight to Leningrad (St.Petersburg), Kiev and Moscow. They used 183 divisions to counter the Red Armies 170 divisions. This was only 54% of the Red Armies actual numbers. The plan was to occupy territory from Archangel to Astrakhan.
Hitler was taking a big gamble when he decided to attack Russia. The war in western Europe still raged on, and Britain was not showing any sign of defeat after Dunkirk. If this invasion failed, it would result in many much needed soldiers being killed or captured. Russia had a gigantic land mass, a hostile climate and a reserve section that was as big as its actual army. Hitler was very unsure about Operation Barbarossa, one thing he said was; “We have only to kick in the door and the whole rotten structure will come crashing down.” Afterwards he also said; “At the beginning of each campaign one pushes a door into a dark, unseen room. One can never know what is hiding inside.”