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Eastern Front (World War II)

1 Background

Great Patriotic War redirects here. For a discussion of

the term itself, see Great Patriotic War (term).
Not to be confused with Patriotic War of 1812.

See also: MolotovRibbentrop Pact

The Eastern Front of World War II was a theatre
of conict between the European Axis powers and cobelligerent Finland against the Soviet Union, Poland and
other allies, which encompassed Northern, Southern and
Central and Eastern Europe from 22 June 1941 to 9
May 1945. It has been known as the Great Patriotic War (Russian: ,
Velikaya Otechestvennaya Voyna) in the former Soviet
Union and in modern Russia, while in Germany it was
called the Eastern Front (German: die Ostfront),[3]
the Eastern Campaign (der Ostfeldzug) or the Russian
Campaign (der Rulandfeldzug).[4][5]

Despite their ideological antipathy, both Germany and

the Soviet Union shared a common dislike for the outcome of World War I. The Soviet Union had lost substantial territory in eastern Europe as a result of the Treaty of
Brest-Litovsk, where it gave in to German demands and
ceded control of Poland, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia and
Finland, among others, to the "Central Powers". Subsequently, when Germany in its turn surrendered to the Allies and these territories were liberated under the terms
of the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, Russia was in a
civil war condition and the Allies did not recognize the
Bolshevik government. The Soviet Union would not be
The battles on the Eastern Front constituted the largest
formed for another four years, so no Russian representa[6]
military confrontation in history. They were charaction was present.[11]
terized by unprecedented ferocity, wholesale destruction,
mass deportations, and immense loss of life due to com- The MolotovRibbentrop Pact signed in August 1939
bat, starvation, exposure, disease, and massacres. The was a non-aggression agreement between Nazi Germany
Eastern Front, as the site of nearly all extermination and the Soviet Union that contained a secret protocol aimcamps, death marches, ghettos, and the majority of ing to return Central Europe to the preWorld War I stapogroms, was central to the Holocaust. Of the estimated tus quo by dividing it between Germany and the Soviet
70 million deaths attributed to World War II, over 30 Union. Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania would remillion,[7] many of them civilian, occurred on the Eastern turn to Soviet control, while Poland and Romania would
Front. The Eastern Front was decisive in determining the be divided.
outcome of World War II, eventually serving as the main Adolf Hitler had declared his intention to invade the Soreason for Germanys defeat.[8][9][10] It resulted in the de- viet Union on 11 August 1939 to Carl Jacob Burckhardt,
struction of the Third Reich, the partition of Germany for League of Nations Commissioner by saying, Everything
nearly half a century and the rise of the Soviet Union as I undertake is directed against the Russians. If the West
a military and industrial superpower.
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..[12]

The two principal belligerent powers were Nazi Germany

and the Soviet Union, along with their respective allies.
Though never engaged in military action in the Eastern
Front, the United Kingdom and the United States both
provided substantial material aid in the form of the LendLease to the Soviet Union. The joint GermanFinnish
operations across the northernmost FinnishSoviet border and in the Murmansk region are considered part
of the Eastern Front. In addition, the SovietFinnish
Continuation War may also be considered the northern
ank of the Eastern Front.

The two powers invaded and partitioned Poland in 1939.

After Finland refused the terms of a Soviet pact of mutual assistance, the Soviet Union attacked Finland on 30
November 1939 in what became known as the Winter
War a bitter conict that resulted in a peace treaty on
13 March 1940, with Finland maintaining its independence but losing parts of eastern Karelia. In June 1940,
the Soviet Union occupied and illegally annexed the three
Baltic statesan action in violation of the Hague Conventions (1899 and 1907) and numerous bi-lateral conventions and treaties signed between the Soviet Union and
Baltics. The annexations were never recognized by most
Western states.[13] The MolotovRibbentrop Pact osten1

sibly provided security to Soviets in the occupation of

both the Baltics and the north and northeastern regions of
Romania (Northern Bukovina and Bessarabia) although
Hitler, in announcing the invasion of the Soviet Union,
cited the Soviet annexations of Baltic and Romanian territory as having violated Germanys understanding of the
Pact. The annexed Romanian territory was divided between the Ukrainian and Moldavian Soviet republics.



ripe for immediate conquest. On 3 October 1941, he announced, We have only to kick in the door and the whole
rotten structure will come crashing down.[24] 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, Hitler and his Nazi propaganda proclaimed the war
to be a German defence of Western civilization against
destruction by the vast "Bolshevik hordes that were pouring into Europe.

Main article: GermanySoviet Union relations before


2.2 Soviet situation


German ideology

Adolf Hitler 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 in Russia.[14] 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.[15] 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 Hitlers opinion, incapable of
ruling themselves but instead being ruled by Jewish
masters.[16] Hard-line Nazis in Berlin (like Himmler[17] )
saw the war against the Soviet Union as a struggle between the ideologies Nazism and Jewish Bolshevism,
and ensuring territory supremacy for the Germanic
bermensch (superhumans), who according to Nazi ideology were the Aryan Herrenvolk (master race), against
the Slavic Untermenschen (subhumans).[18] Wehrmacht
ocers told their troops to target people who were described as Jewish Bolshevik subhumans, the Mongol
hordes, the Asiatic ood and the red beast.[19] The
vast majority of German soldiers viewed the war in Nazi
terms, seeing the Soviet enemy as sub-human.[20]

Throughout the 1930s the Soviet Union underwent massive industrialization and economic growth under the
leadership of Joseph Stalin. Stalins central tenet,
"Socialism in one country", manifested itself as a series of nationwide centralized Five-Year Plans (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) organization in 1943.
In February 1936 the Spanish general election brought
many communist leaders into the Popular Front government in the Second Spanish Republic, but in a matter of
months a right-wing military coup initiated the Spanish
Civil War of 19361939. This conict soon took on
the characteristics of a proxy war involving the Soviet
Union and left wing volunteers from dierent countries
on the side of the predominantly socialist and communistled[25] Second Spanish Republic;[26] while Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and the Portuguese Republic took the
side of Spanish Nationalists, the military rebel group led
by General Francisco Franco.[27] It served as a useful testing ground for both the Germans and the Soviets to experiment with equipment and tactics that they would later
employ on a wider scale in the Second World War.

Nazi Germany, which positioned itself as an antiCommunist rgime, formalized its ideological position
on November 25, 1936 by signing the Anti-Comintern
Pact with the Empire of Japan.[28] Fascist Italy joined the
Pact a year later.[26][29] The German Anschluss of Austria in 1938 and the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia
(19381939) demonstrated the impossibility of establishing a collective security system in Europe,[30] a policy
advocated by the Soviet ministry of foreign aairs under Maxim Litvinov.[31][32] This, as well as the reluctance of the British and French governments to sign a fullscale anti-German political and military alliance with the
After Germanys initial success at the Battle of Kiev in USSR,[33] led to the MolotovRibbentrop pact between
1941, Hitler saw the Soviet Union as militarily weak and the Soviet Union and Germany in late August 1939.[34]
Hitler referred to the war in unique terms, calling it a war
of annihilation which was both an ideological and racial
war. According to a plan called Generalplan Ost, the populations of occupied Central Europe and the Soviet Union
were to be partially deported to West Siberia, partially enslaved and eventually exterminated; the conquered territories were to be colonized by German or Germanized
settlers.[21] In addition, the Nazis also sought to wipe
out the large Jewish population of (Central and) Eastern
Europe[22] as part of their program aiming to exterminate
all European Jews.[23]


The war was fought between Nazi Germany, its allies and
Finland, against the Soviet Union. The conict began
on 22 June 1941 with the Operation Barbarossa oensive, when Axis forces crossed the borders described in
the GermanSoviet Nonaggression Pact, thereby invading the Soviet Union. The war ended on 9 May 1945,
when Germanys armed forces surrendered unconditionally following the Battle of Berlin (also known as the
Berlin Oensive), a strategic operation executed by the
Red Army. The states that provided forces and other
resources for the German war eort included the Axis
Powers primarily Romania, Hungary, Italy, pro-Nazi
Slovakia, and Croatia. The anti-Soviet Finland, which
had fought the Winter War against the Soviet Union, also
joined the oensive. The Wehrmacht forces were also assisted by anti-Communist partisans in places like Western
Ukraine, the Baltic states, and later by Crimean Tatars.
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.[35]
The Soviet Union oered support to the partisans in many
Wehrmacht-occupied countries in Central Europe, notably those in Slovakia, Poland and the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. In addition, the Polish Armed Forces in the
East, particularly the First and Second Polish armies,
were armed and trained, and would eventually ght 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 fulll 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. British and Commonwealth forces contributed directly to the ghting 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. The later
massive material support of the Lend-Lease agreement
by the United States and Canada played a signicant part
particularly in the logistics of the war.
Main articles: Aufbau Ost (1940) and Lossberg study
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. Hitler believed that the Soviets would quickly capitulate after an
overwhelming German oensive and that the war could
largely end before the onset of the erce Russian winter.

expected war in 1942 (the time when all his preparations

would be complete) and stubbornly refused to believe its
early arrival.[38]

German infantry in June 1943

British historians Alan S. Milward and M. Medlicott

show that Nazi Germanyunlike Imperial Germany
was prepared for only a short-term war (Blitzkrieg).[39]
According to Edward Ericson, although Germanys own
resources were sucient for the victories in the West in
1940, massive Soviet shipments obtained during a short
period of NaziSoviet economic collaboration were critical for Germany to launch Operation Barbarossa.[40]
Germany had been assembling very large numbers
of troops in eastern Poland and making repeated
reconnaissance ights over the border; the Soviet Union
responded by assembling its divisions on its western border, although the Soviet mobilization was slower than
the Germans due to the countrys less dense road network. As in the Sino-Soviet conict on the Chinese
Eastern Railway or SovietJapanese border conicts, 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 (oensive) actions without specic orders
which meant that Soviet troops could open re 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
Some historians say Stalin was fearful of war with Ger- Switzerland also sent warnings, possibly deriving from
many, or just did not expect Germany to start a two-front Ultra codebreaking in Britain.
war, and was reluctant to do anything to provoke Hitler. Soviet intelligence was fooled by German disinformation,
Others say that Stalin was eager for Germany to be at war so sent false alarms to Moscow about a German invasion
with capitalist countries. Another viewpoint is that Stalin in April, May and the beginning of June. Soviet intel-


ligence reported that Germany would rather invade the

USSR after the fall of the British Empire[41] or after an
unacceptable ultimatum demanding German occupation
of Ukraine during the German invasion of Britain.[42]

Conduct of operations

Main article: Strategic operations of the Red Army in

World War II
While German historians do not apply any specic 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:[43]
1. First period of Great Patriotic war (Russian:
(22 June 1941 18 November 1942)

Operation Barbarossa: the German invasion of the Soviet

Union, 21 June 1941 to 5 December 1941:
to 9 July 1941
to 1 September 1941
to 9 September 1941
to 5 December 1941

4.1 Operation Barbarossa: Summer 1941

- 1941 .) (22 June Operation Barbarossa began just before dawn on 22
4 December 1941)
June 1941. The Germans wrecked the wire network in
military districts to undermine Soviet
Winter Campaign of 194142 (Russian: - all Soviet western[44]
1941/42 .) (5 December 1941
30 April 1942)

Panicky transmissions from Soviet front-line units to their

(Russian: command headquarters were picked up like this one:
- 1942 .) (1 May
We are being red upon. What shall we
18 November 1942)
The answer was just as confusing:
2. Second period of Great Patriotic war (Russian:
You must be insane. And why is your signal
not in code?"[1]
(19 November 1942 31 December 1943)
Winter Campaign of 194243 (Russian: 19421943 .) (19 November
1942 3 March 1943)

1. ^ Reagan, Georey. Military Anecdotes (1992) p. 210, Guinness Publishing ISBN 0-85112-519-0

SummerAutumn Campaign of 1943

(Russian: - 1943 .)
(1 July 31 December 1943)
3. Third period of Great Patriotic war (Russian:
(1 January 1944 9 May 1945)
WinterSpring Campaign (Russian: 1944 .) (1 January 31
May 1944)
SummerAutumn Campaign of 1944
(Russian: - 1944 .)
Map of South Western Front (Ukrainian) at 22 June 1941
(1 June 31 December 1944)
Campaign in Europe during 1945 (Russian: At 03:15 on 22 June 1941, 99 of 190 German divi 1945 .) (1 January 9 sions, including fourteen panzer divisions and ten motorized, were deployed against the Soviet Union from
May 1945)


Operation Barbarossa: Summer 1941

the Baltic to the Black Sea. They were accompanied by ten Romanian divisions, and nine Romanian
and four Hungarian brigades.[45] On the same day, the
Baltic, Western and Kiev Special military districts were
renamed the Northwestern, Western and Southwestern
Fronts respectively.[44] To establish air supremacy, the
Luftwae began immediate attacks on Soviet airelds, destroying much of the forward-deployed Soviet Air Force
aireld eets consisting of largely obsolescent types before their pilots had a chance to leave the ground.[46]
For a month the oensive conducted on three axes was
completely unstoppable as the panzer forces encircled
hundreds of thousands of Soviet troops in huge pockets
that were then reduced by slower-moving infantry armies
while the panzers continued the oensive, following the
Blitzkrieg doctrine.
Army Group North's objective was Leningrad via the
Baltic states. Comprising the 16th and 18th Armies and
the 4th Panzer Group, this formation advanced through
the Baltic states, and the Russian Pskov and Novgorod
regions. Local insurgents seized the moment and controlled most of Lithuania, northern Latvia and southern
Estonia prior to the arrival of the German forces.[47][48]

towards Moscow, but Hitler overruled 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 Centres southern
ank and the bogged-down Army Group Souths northern ank. This decision, Hitlers summer pause,[49] is
believed to have had a severe impact on the Battle of
Moscow's outcome, by giving up speed in the advance on
Moscow in favor of encircling large numbers of Soviet
troops around Kiev.[50]
Army Group South, with the 1st Panzer Group, the
6th, 11th and 17th Armies, was tasked with advancing
through Galicia and into Ukraine. Their progress, however, was rather slow, and took heavy casualties in a
major tank battle. With the corridor towards Kiev secured by mid-July, the 11th Army, aided by two Romanian armies, fought its way through Bessarabia towards
Odessa. 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 armored divisions of the Army
Group South met with the Guderian Panzer Group 2
near Lokhvytsa in mid September, cutting o large numbers of Red Army troops in the pocket east of Kiev.[49]
400,000 Soviet prisoners were captured as Kiev was surrendered on 19 September.[49]

The corpses of victims of Stalins NKVD murdered in last days

of June 1941, just after outbreak of war

Army Group Centre's two panzer groups (2nd and 3rd),

advanced to the north and south of Brest-Litovsk and converged east of Minsk, followed by the 2nd, 4th, 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 erce Soviet resistance in the Smolensk area and retardation of
the Wehrmacht advance in North and South forced Hitler
to halt a central thrust at Moscow and to divert Panzer
Group 3 north. Critically, Guderian's Panzer Group 2 was
ordered to move south in a giant pincer maneuver with
Army Group South which was advancing into Ukraine.
Army Group Centres infantry divisions were left relatively unsupported by armor to continue their slow advance to Moscow.[49]

Soviet children during a German air raid in the rst days of the
war, June 1941, by RIA Novosti archive

As the Red Army withdrew behind the Dnieper and

Dvina rivers, the Soviet Stavka (the high command),
turned its attention to evacuating as much of the western regions industry as it could. Factories were dismantled and sent away from the front line in atcars for reestablishment in more remote areas of the Ural Mountains, Caucasus, Central Asia and south-eastern Siberia.
Most civilians were left to make their own way East, with
only industry-related workers evacuated with the equipThis decision caused a severe leadership crisis. The Ger- ment; much of the population was left behind to the
man eld commanders argued for an immediate oensive mercy of the invading forces.


Stalin ordered the retreating Red Army to initiate a

scorched-earth policy to deny Germans and their allies
basic supplies as they moved eastward. To carry out that
order, destruction battalions were formed in front-line areas, having the authority to summarily execute any suspicious person. The destruction battalions burned down
villages, schools, and public buildings.[51] As a part of
this policy the NKVD massacred thousands of anti-Soviet


Moscow and Rostov: Autumn 1941

Soviet gun crew in action at Odessa in 1941

Main articles: Battle of Moscow and Battle of Rostov The onset of the winter freeze saw one last German lunge
that opened on 15 November, when the Germans attempted to throw a ring around Moscow. On 27 NovemHitler then decided to resume the advance on Moscow, ber, the 4th Panzer Army got to within 30 km (19 mi)
re-designating the panzer groups as panzer armies for the of the Kremlin when it reached the last tramstop of the
occasion. Operation Typhoon, which was set in motion Moscow line at Khimki. Meanwhile, the 2nd Panzer
on 30 September, saw the 2nd Panzer Army rush along Army failed to take Tula, the last Soviet city that stood
the paved road from Oryol (captured 5 October) to the in its way to the capital. After a meeting held in Orsha
Oka River at Plavsk, while the 4th Panzer Army (trans- between the head of the OKH (Army General Sta), Genferred from Army Group North to Centre) and 3rd Panzer eral Franz Halder and the heads of three Army groups
armies surrounded the Soviet forces in two huge pockets and armies, decided to push forward to Moscow since it
at Vyazma and Bryansk. Army Group North positioned was better, as argued by the head of Army Group Center,
itself in front of Leningrad and attempted to cut the rail Field Marshal Fedor von Bock, for them to try their luck
link at Mga to the east. This began the 900-day Siege on the battleeld rather than just sit and wait while their
of Leningrad. North of the Arctic Circle, a German opponent gathered more strength.
Finnish force set out for Murmansk but could get no fur- However, by 6 December it became clear that the
ther than the Zapadnaya Litsa River, where they settled Wehrmacht did not have the strength to capture Moscow,
and the attack was suspended. Marshal Shaposhnikov
thus began his counter-attack, employing freshly mobilized reserves,[53] as well as some well-trained FarEastern divisions transferred from the east following
intelligence that Japan would remain neutral.

4.3 Soviet counter-oensive: Winter 1941

Main articles: Battle of Moscow, Second Battle of
Kharkov and Winter Campaign of 19411942
During the autumn, Stalin had been transferring fresh,
well-equipped Soviet forces from Siberia and the Far East
to Moscow. On 5 December 1941, these reinforcements
attacked the German lines around the Soviet capital, supWehrmacht soldiers pulling a car from the mud during the
ported by new T-34 tanks and Katyusha rocket launchrasputitsa period, November 1941
ers. The new Soviet troops were better-prepared for winArmy Group South pushed down from the Dnieper to ter warfare than their foes, and they also included several
the Sea of Azov coast, also advancing through Kharkov, ski battalions. The exhausted and freezing Germans were
Kursk, and Stalino. The 11th Army moved into the driven away from Moscow on 7 January 1942.
Crimea and took control of all of the peninsula by autumn A further Soviet attack was mounted in late January,
(except Sevastopol, which held out until 3 July 1942). focusing on the junction between Army groups North
On 21 November, the Germans took Rostov, the gate- and Centre between Lake Seliger and Rzhev, and drove
way to the Caucasus. However, the German lines were a gap between the two German army groups. In conover-extended and the Soviet defenders counterattacked cert with the advance from Kaluga to the south-west of
the 1st Panzer Armys spearhead from the north, forcing Moscow, it was intended that the two oensives converge
them to pull out of the city and behind the Mius River; on Smolensk, but the Germans rallied and managed to
the rst signicant German withdrawal of the war.
hold them apart, retaining a salient at Rzhev. A Soviet


Don, Volga, and Caucasus: Summer 1942

The Soviet winter counter-oensive, 5 December 1941 to 7 May

Soviet gains
German gains

parachute drop on German-held Dorogobuzh was spectacularly unsuccessful, and those paratroopers who survived had to escape to the partisan-held areas beginning
to swell behind the German lines. To the north, the Soviets surrounded a German garrison in Demyansk, which
held out with air supply for four months, and established
themselves in front of Kholm, Velizh, and Velikie Luki.
Further north still, the Soviet Second Shock Army was
unleashed on the Volkhov River. Initially this made
some progress; however, it was unsupported, and by
June a German counterattack cut o and destroyed
the army. The Soviet commander, Lieutenant General
Andrey Vlasov, later became defected to the Germans
and forming the ROA or Russian Liberation Army.
In the south the Red Army lunged over the Donets River
at Izyum 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 Germans were able
to counter-attack and cut o the over-extended Soviet
troops in the Second Battle of Kharkov.


Don, Volga, and Caucasus: Summer


Main articles: Case Blue, Battle of Voronezh (1942) and

Battle of Stalingrad
Although plans were made to attack Moscow again, on
28 June 1942, the oensive re-opened in a dierent 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 rst and then drive into the Caucasus towards the oil elds, but operational considerations
and Hitlers 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

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

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 Maikops defenses 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 oensive Soviet resistance (comprising the 62nd
Army under Vasily Chuikov) had stiened. A leap across
the Don brought German troops to the Volga on 23 August but for the next three months the Wehrmacht would
be ghting 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 oensive. Mindful
of the continuing antagonism between Axis allies Romania and Hungary over Transylvania, the Romanian army
in the Don bend was separated from the Hungarian 2nd
army by the Italian 8th Army. Thus, all of Hitlers allies
were involved including a Slovakian contingent with the
1st Panzer Army and a Croatian regiment attached to 6th
The advance into the Caucasus bogged down, with the
Germans unable to ght 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 rst week of November, on the
outskirts of Ordzhonikidze, the 13th Panzer Divisions


spearhead was snipped o and the panzer troops had to

fall back. The oensive into Russia was over.


Stalingrad: Winter 1942

Operations Uranus, Saturn and Mars: Soviet advances on the

Eastern Front, 18 November 1942 to March 1943:
to 12 December 1942
to 18 February 1943
to March 1943 (Soviet gains only)

A Soviet junior political ocer (Politruk) urges Soviet troops forward against German positions (12 July 1942)

Main articles: Battle of Stalingrad, Operation Little

Saturn, Operation Mars, Third Battle of Kharkov and
Battle for Velikiye Luki (1943)
While the German 6th and 4th Panzer Armies had been
ghting their way into Stalingrad, Soviet armies had congregated on either side of the city, specically into the
Don bridgeheads that the Romanians did not reduce,
and it was from these that they struck on 19 November
1942. In Operation Uranus, two Soviet fronts punched
through the Romanian lines and converged at Kalach
on 23 November, trapping 300,000 Axis troops behind German infantry and a supporting StuG III assault gun during
them.[54] A simultaneous oensive on the Rzhev sector the advance towards Stalingrad, September 1942
known as Operation Mars was supposed to advance to
Smolensk, but was a failure, with German tactical air
ally targeted on Rostov, also allowed Hitler time to see
winning the day.
Group A out of the Caucasus and
The Germans rushed to transfer troops to Russia for a sense and pull Army
desperate attempt to relieve Stalingrad, but the oensive
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 Soviets 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 oensive, although still eventu-

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 Soviets 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). In order 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 counteroensive, strengthened
by a specially trained SS Panzer Corps equipped with
Tiger tanks, opened on 20 February 1943 and fought its


Kursk: Summer 1943

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

Main article: Battle of Kursk

After the failure of the attempt to capture Stalingrad,

German advances at Kharkov and Kursk, 19 February 1943 to

1 August 1943:
to 18 March 1943
to 1 August 1943

that it held over the winter of 19411942.

Although the Germans knew that the Red Armys reserves of manpower had been bled dry in the summer of
1941 and 1942, the Soviets were still re-equipping, simply by drafting the men from the regions taken back.
Under pressure from his generals, Hitler agreed to the
attack on Kursk, little realising that the Abwehr's intelligence on the Soviet position there had been undermined by a concerted Stavka misinformation and counterintelligence campaign mounted by the Lucy spy ring in
Switzerland. When the Germans began the operation,
it was after months of delays waiting for new tanks and
equipment, by which time the Soviets had reinforced the
Kursk salient with more anti-tank repower than had ever
been assembled in one place before or since that day.

Soldiers of the 1st SS Panzer Division near Kharkov, February


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 Sta was polarised, with even Hitler nervous about any attempt to pinch o the Kursk salient.
He knew that in the intervening six months the Soviet
position at Kursk had been reinforced heavily with antitank guns, tank traps, landmines, barbed wire, trenches,
pillboxes, artillery and mortars. However, if one last great
blitzkrieg oensive could be mounted, just maybe the Soviets would ease o and attention could then be turned
to the Allied threat to the Western Front. 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

The Battle of Kursk was the largest tank battle ever fought
with each side employing nearly 3,000 tanks

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 rst objective at
Olkhovatka, just 8 km (5.0 mi) into the advance. The 9th
Army blunted its spearhead against the Soviet mineelds,

frustratingly so considering that the high ground there was
the only natural barrier between them and at 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 Soviets soaked up the
German punishment and then struck back. 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


in the north. The Germans nal strategic oensive in the

Soviet Union ended with their defense against a major
Soviet counteroensive that lasted into August.
The Kursk oensive was the last on the scale of 1940
and 1941 that the Wehrmacht was able to launch, subsequent oensives would represent only a shadow of previous German oensive might.

4.7 Autumn and Winter 194344

Main articles:
KorsunShevchenkovsky Oensive,
Battle of Smolensk (1943), Lower Dnieper Oensive,
LeningradNovgorod Oensive and Battle of Narva
The Soviet juggernaut began rolling in earnest with the

Soviet T-34/76s and infantry advance past a destroyed Panzer

IV. Kharkov, August 1943

The southern oensive, 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 Grodeutschland Panzergrenadier divisions battled their way through mineelds and over comparatively
high ground towards Oboyan. Sti 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 outside
Prokhorovka. Battle was joined on 12 July, with about
one thousand tanks being engaged. After the war, the battle near Prochorovka was idealized 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. Al- "Katyusha" a notable Soviet rocket launcher
though the 5th Guards Tank Army did not attain its objectives, the German advance had been halted.
advance into the Germans Orel salient. The diversion
At the end of the day both sides had fought each other of the well-equipped Grodeutschland Division from
to a standstill, but regardless of the standstill in the north Belgorod to Karachev could not stop it, and a strategic
Erich von Manstein intended to continue the attack with decision was made to abandon Orel (retaken by the Red
the 4th Panzer Army. But the Soviets could absorb the Army on 5 August 1943) and fall back to the Hagen line
attack, and the German strategic advance in Operation in front of Bryansk. To the south, the Soviets blasted
Citadel had been halted. Under the impression of the suc- through Army Group Souths Belgorod positions and
cessful counter-attacks in the south, the Red Army started headed for Kharkov once again. Although intense battles
the strong oensive operation in the northern Orel salient of movement throughout late July and into August 1943
and achieved a breakthrough on the ank of the German saw the Tigers blunting Soviet tank attacks on one axis,
9th Army. Also worried by the Allies landing in Sicily they were soon outanked on another line to the west as
on 10 July, Hitler made the decision to halt the oensive the Soviets advanced down the Psel, and Kharkov had to
even as the German 9th Army was rapidly giving ground be evacuated for the nal time on 22 August.


Autumn and Winter 194344


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 Soviets hit them they had to fall back all the
way through the Donbass industrial region to the Dnieper,
losing the industrial resources and half the farmland that
Germany had invaded the Soviet Union for 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 fortications along the German frontier in the west.
The main problem for the Germans 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 Soviets 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 Soviets to gain land using parachutists, mounted at Kanev 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, and
Soviet sniper Roza Shanina in 1944. About 400,000 Soviet
important Dnieper towns started to fall, with Zaporozhye women served in front-line duty units[56]
the rst to go, followed by Dnepropetrovsk. Finally, early
in November the Soviets broke out of their bridgeheads
on either side of Kiev and captured the Ukrainian capital,
swollen Gniloy Tikich river. Under shellre and pursued
at that time the third largest city in the Soviet Union.
by Soviet tanks, the surrounded German troops, among
Eighty miles west of Kiev, the 4th Panzer Army, still whom were the 5th SS Panzer Division Wiking, fought
convinced that the Red Army was a spent force, was their way across the river to safety, although at the cost
able to mount a successful riposte at Zhytomyr during of half their number and all their equipment. They asthe middle of November, weakening the Soviet bridge- sumed the Soviets would not attack again, with the spring
head by a daring outanking strike mounted by the SS approaching, but on 3 March the Soviet Ukrainian Front
Panzer Corps along the river Teterev. This battle also en- went over to the oensive. Having already isolated the
abled Army Group South to recapture Korosten and gain Crimea by severing the Perekop isthmus, Malinovskys
some time to rest; however, on Christmas Eve the retreat forces advanced across the mud to the Romanian border,
began anew when the First Ukrainian Front (renamed not stopping on the river Prut.
from the Voronezh Front) struck them in the same place.
The Soviet advance continued along the railway line un- One nal move in the south completed the 194344 camtil the 1939 PolishSoviet border was reached on 3 Jan- paigning season, which had wrapped up a Soviet aduary 1944. To the south, the Second Ukrainian Front (ex vance of over 500 miles. In March, 20 German divisions
Steppe Front) had crossed the Dnieper at Kremenchug of Generaloberst Hans-Valentin Hube's 1st Panzer Army
and continued westwards. In the second week of Jan- were encircled in what was to be known as Hubes Pocket
uary 1944 they swung north, meeting Vatutins tank near Kamenets-Podolskiy. After two weeks of heavy
forces which had swung south from their penetration ghting, the 1st Panzer managed to escape the pocket,
into Poland and surrounding ten German divisions at suering only light to moderate casualties. At this point,
KorsunShevchenkovsky, west of Cherkassy. Hitlers in- Hitler sacked several prominent generals, Manstein insistence on holding the Dnieper line, even when facing the cluded. In April, the Red Army took back Odessa, folprospect of catastrophic defeat, was compounded by his lowed by 4th Ukrainian Fronts campaign to restore conconviction that the Cherkassy pocket could break out and trol over the Crimea, which culminated in the capture of
even advance to Kiev, but Manstein was more concerned Sevastopol on 10 May.
about being able to advance to the edge of the pocket and Along Army Group Centres front, August 1943 saw this
then implore the surrounded forces to break out. By 16 force pushed back from the Hagen line slowly, ceding
February the rst stage was complete, with panzers sepa- comparatively little territory, but the loss of Bryansk, and
rated from the contracting Cherkassy pocket only by the more importantly Smolensk, on 25 September cost the



The Red Army is greeted in Bucharest, August 1944

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

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, stiing Soviet attempts to reach Vitebsk. On Army Group Norths
front, there was barely any ghting at all until January
1944, when out of nowhere Volkhov and Second Baltic
Fronts struck. In a lightning campaign, the Germans were
pushed back from Leningrad and Novgorod was captured
by Soviet forces. After a 75-mile advance in January and
February, the Leningrad Front had reached the borders
of Estonia. To Stalin, the Baltic Sea seemed the quickest way to take the battles to the German territory in East
Prussia and seize control of Finland.[57] The Leningrad
Front's oensives towards Tallinn, a main Baltic port,
were stopped in February 1944. The German army group
Narwa included Estonian conscripts, defending the reestablishment of Estonian independence.[58][59]


Summer 1944

Main articles: Crimean Oensive (1944), Operation

Bagration, LvovSandomierz Oensive, Battle of Tannenberg Line, Warsaw Uprising, Slovak National Uprising, Battle of Romania (1944), Battle of Debrecen and
VyborgPetrozavodsk Oensive
Wehrmacht planners were convinced that the Soviets
would attack again in the south, where the front was
fty miles from Lviv and oered 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 Oensive (codenamed
Operation Bagration), which began on 22 June 1944, was
a massive Soviet attack, consisting of four Soviet army
groups totaling over 120 divisions that smashed into a

Soviet and Polish Armia Krajowa soldiers in Vilnius, July 1944

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 boasted a strength
of fewer than 800,000 men. At the points of attack,
the numerical and quality advantages of the Soviets 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,
Minsk, 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),[60] as well as 2,957 tanks and assault guns. The
oensive at Estonia claimed another 480,000 Soviet soldiers, 100,000 of them classed as dead.[61][62]
The neighbouring LvovSandomierz operation was
launched on 17 July 1944, rapidly routing the German
forces in Western Ukraine. Lviv itself was occupied
again by the Soviets on 26 July, the rst time being in
September 1939 during the NaziSoviet alliance and


Autumn 1944

joint invasion of Poland. This time, the city was retaken

by the 1st Ukrainian Front, a Soviet force, relatively
easily. Ukrainian hopes of independence were squashed
amidst the overwhelming force of the Soviets, much like
in the Baltic States. The Ukrainian Insurgent Army,
UPA, would continue waging a guerrilla war against the
Soviets well into the 1950s. 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.
In Moscow on 12 September, Romania and the Soviet
Union signed an armistice on terms Moscow virtually
dictated. The Romanian surrender tore a hole in the
southern German Eastern Front causing the inevitable
loss of the whole of the Balkans.

Warsaw Uprising, the Soviet Army halted at the Vistula
River, unable or unwilling to come to the aid of the Polish resistance. An attempt by the communist controlled
1st Polish Army to relieve the city was unsupported by
the Red Army and was thrown back in September with
heavy losses.
In Slovakia, the Slovak National Uprising started as an
armed struggle between German Wehrmacht forces and
rebel Slovak troops between August and October 1944.
It was centered at Bansk Bystrica.

4.9 Autumn 1944

Soviet soldiers advance through the streets of Jelgava; summer


The rapid progress of Operation Bagration threatened

to cut o and isolate the German units of Army
Group North bitterly resisting the Soviet advance towards
Tallinn. In a ferocious attack at the Sinimed Hills, Estonia, the Soviet Leningrad Front failed to break through
the defence of the smaller, well-fortied army detachment Narwa in terrain not suitable for large-scale operations.[63][64]
On the Karelian Isthmus, the Soviets launched a massive
attack against the Finnish lines on 9 June 1944, (coordinated with the Allied Invasion of Normandy). Three
armies were pitted there against the Finns, among them
several experienced guards rie 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 Kuuterselk by
the Finnish armoured division, the Finnish defense had to
be pulled back to the VKT-line. After heavy ghting in
the battles of Tali-Ihantala and Ilomantsi, Finnish troops
nally managed to halt the Soviet attack.

Over three million German and axis personnel were awarded the
Eastern Front Medal for service during 15 November 1941 15
April 1942 from its creation on 26 May 1942 until 4 September 1944. Soon it was nicknamed as the Gefriereischorden
frozen meat-medal.[65]

Main articles: Baltic Oensive (1944), Belgrade Oensive and Budapest Oensive

On 8 September 1944 the Red Army began an attack on

the Dukla Pass on the SlovakPolish border. Two months
later, the Soviets won the battle and entered Slovakia.
In Poland, as the Red Army approached, the Polish Home The toll was high: 20,000 Red Army soldiers died, plus
Army (AK) launched Operation Tempest. During the several thousand Germans, Slovaks and Czechs.



Under the pressure of the Soviet Baltic Oensive, the

German Army Group North were withdrawn to ght in
the sieges of Saaremaa, Courland and Memel.

4.10 JanuaryMarch 1945

German refugees from East Prussia, February 1945

Soviet advances from 1 January 1945 to 11 May 1945:

to 30 March 1945
to 11 May 1945

Main articles:
VistulaOder Oensive (January
February) with the follow-up East Pomeranian Oensive
and Silesian Oensives (FebruaryApril), East Prussian Oensive (JanuaryApril), Vienna Oensive
The Soviet Union nally 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 began an oensive
across the Narew River and from Warsaw. The Soviets
outnumbered the Germans on average by ve~six to one
in troops, six to one in artillery, six to one in tanks and
four to one 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, Pozna, and drawing up on a line sixty kilometres east of Berlin along the River Oder. During the full
course of the VistulaOder operation (23 days), the Red
Army forces sustained 194,191 total casualties (killed,
wounded and missing) and lost 1,267 tanks and assault
On 25 January 1945, Hitler renamed three army groups.
Army Group North became Army Group Courland;
Army Group Centre became Army Group North and
Army Group A became Army Group Centre. Army
Group North (old Army Group Centre) was driven into
an ever smaller pocket around Knigsberg in East Prussia.
A limited counter-attack (codenamed Operation Solstice) by the newly created Army Group Vistula, under the command of Reichsfhrer-SS Heinrich Himmler,
had failed by 24 February, and the Soviets drove on to

Pomerania and cleared the right bank of the Oder River.

In the south, three German attempts to relieve the encircled Budapest failed and the city fell on 13 February
to the Soviets. On 6 March, the Germans again counterattacked; Hitler insisting on the impossible task of regaining the Danube River. By 16 March the attack had failed
and the Red Army counterattacked the same day. On 30
March they entered Austria and captured Vienna on 13
OKW claim German losses of 77,000 killed, 334,000
wounded and 292,000 missing, with a total of 703,000
men, on the Eastern Front during January and February
On 9 April 1945, Knigsberg in East Prussia nally 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 VistulaOder 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 Knigsberg 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 rst
two weeks of April, the Soviets 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 River.[67]
The three Soviet fronts had altogether some 2.5 million


End of the War: AprilMay 1945


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 USA.[67]

4.11 End of the War: AprilMay 1945

Main articles: Battle of Berlin, Battle of Halbe, Prague
A ag of the Soviet 150th Rie Division raised over the Reichstag
(the Victory Banner)

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
The oensive to capture central Germany and Berlin
started on 16 April with an assault on the German front
lines on the Oder and Neisse rivers. After several days
of heavy ghting the Soviet 1BF and 1UF punched holes
through the German front line and were fanning out
across central Germany. By 24 April, elements of the
1BF and 1UF had completed the encirclement of the
German capital and the Battle of Berlin entered its nal
stages. On 25 April the 2BF broke through the German
3rd Panzer Armys line south of Stettin. They were now
free to move west towards the British 21st Army Group
and north towards the Baltic port of Stralsund. The 58th
Guards Rie Division of the 5th Guards Army made contact with the US 69th Infantry Division of the First Army
near Torgau, Germany at the Elbe river.[69][70]

14,933,000 Soviet and Soviet-allied personnel were awarded the

Medal for Victory over Germany from 9 May 1945

All that was left for the Soviets to do was to launch an

oensive to capture central Germany (which would eventually become East Germany after the war). The Soviet
oensive had two objectives. Because of Stalins suspicions about the intentions of the Western Allies to hand
over territory occupied by them in the post-war Soviet
zone of occupation, the oensive 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
overriding objective was to capture Berlin. The two were
complementary because possession of the zone could not

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. Helmuth Weidling, defence commandant of
Berlin, surrendered the city to the Soviets on 2 May.[71]
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 de- more land combat than all other World War II theatres
termine with any reliability.[72]
combined. The distinctly brutal nature of warfare on the
At 02:41 on the morning of 7 May 1945, at SHAEF head- Eastern Front was exemplied by an often willful disrequarters, German Chief-of-Sta General Alfred Jodl gard for human life by both sides. It was also reected in
signed the unconditional surrender documents for all Ger- the ideological premise for the war, which also saw a moman forces to the Allies at Reims in France. It included mentous clash between two directly opposed ideologies.
the phrase All forces under German control to cease active operations at 2301 hours Central European time on 8
May 1945. The next day shortly before midnight, Field
Marshal Wilhelm Keitel repeated the signing in Berlin at
Zhukovs headquarters. The war in Europe was over.[73]
In the Soviet Union the end of the war is considered to
be 9 May, when the surrender took eect Moscow time.
This date is celebrated as a national holiday Victory Day
in Russia (as part of a two-day 89 May holiday) and
some other post-Soviet countries. The ceremonial Victory parade was held in Moscow on 24 June.
The German Army Group Centre initially refused to sur- Citizens of Leningrad during the 872-day siege, in which about
render and continued to ght in Czechoslovakia until one million civilians died
about 11 May.[74]
Aside from the ideological conict, the mindframe of
A small German garrison on the Danish island of Bornthe leaders of Germany and the Soviet Union, Hitler and
holm refused to surrender until after being bombed and
Stalin respectively, contributed to the escalation of terror
invaded by the Soviets. The island was returned to the
and murder on an unprecedented scale. Stalin and Hitler
Danish government four months later.
both disregarded human life in order to achieve their goal
of victory. This included the terrorization of their own
people, as well as mass deportations of entire populations.
4.12 Soviet Far East: August 1945
All these factors resulted in tremendous brutality both
to combatants and civilians that found no parallel on the
Main article: Soviet invasion of Manchuria (1945)
Western Front. According to Time magazine: By measure of manpower, duration, territorial reach and casualThe Soviet invasion of Manchuria began on 8 August ties, the Eastern Front was as much as four times the scale
1945, with an assault on the Japanese puppet states of of the conict on the Western Front that opened with
Manchukuo and neighbouring Mengjiang; the greater of- the Normandy invasion.[77] Conversely, George Marfensive would eventually include northern Korea, south- shall calculated that without the Eastern Front, the United
ern Sakhalin, and the Kuril Islands. It marked the initial States would have had to double the number of its soldiers
and only military action of the Soviet Union against the on the Western Front.[78]
Empire of Japan; at the Yalta Conference, it had agreed
to Allied pleas to terminate the neutrality pact with Japan The war inicted huge losses and suering upon the
and enter the Second World Wars Pacic theatre within civilian populations of the aected countries. Behind
three months after the end of the war in Europe. While the front lines, atrocities against civilians in Germannot a part of the Eastern Front operations, it is included occupied areas were routine, including the Holocaust.
here because the commanders and much of the forces German and German-allied forces treated civilian popused by the Red Army, came from the European Theatre ulations with exceptional brutality, massacring whole vilof operations and beneted from the experience gained lage populations and routinely killing civilian hostages.
there. In many ways this was a 'perfect' operation, deliv- Both sides practiced widespread scorched earth tactics,
ered with the skill gained during the bitter ghting with but the loss of civilian lives in the case of Germany was
incomparably smaller than that of the Soviet Union, in
the Wehrmacht and Luftwae over four years.[75]
which at least 20 million civilians were killed. According
to Georey A. Hosking, The full demographic loss to
the Soviet peoples was even greater: since a high propor5 Results
tion of those killed were young men of child-begetting
age, the postwar Soviet population was 45 to 50 million
The Eastern Front was the largest and bloodiest theatre of smaller than post-1939 projections would have led one
World War II. It is generally accepted as being the dead- to expect.[79] When the Red Army invaded Germany in
liest conict in human history, with over 30 million killed 1944, many German civilians suered from reprisals by
as a result.[7] The German armed forces suered 80% Red Army soldiers (see Soviet war crimes). After the
of its military deaths in the Eastern Front.[76] It involved war, following the Yalta conference agreements between


Adolf Hitler


the Allies, the German populations of East Prussia and

Silesia were displaced to the west of the OderNeisse
line, in what became one of the largest forced migrations
of people in world history.
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 by populated areas, 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 in Nuremberg, the property damage in the Soviet
Union inicted 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, 40,000 miles 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 o.[80] Wild fauna were also aected. Wolves and
foxes eeing westward from the killing zone, as the Soviet Adolf Hitler led Germany during World War II
army advanced 194345, were responsible for a rabies
epidemic which spread slowly westwards, reaching the pealing for an attack on Moscow, Hitler instead ordered
coast of the English Channel by 1968.[81]
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
6 Leadership
opportunity to win the war.
The Soviet Union and Nazi Germany were both ideologically driven states (Soviet communism and Nazism respectively), in which the leader had near-absolute power.
The character of the war was thus determined by the leaders and their ideology to a much greater extent than in any
other theatre of World War II.


In the winter of 19411942 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:

Adolf Hitler

Main article: Adolf Hitler

Adolf Hitler exercised a tight control over the German
war-eort, spending much of his time in his command
bunkers (most notably at Rastenburg in East Prussia, at
Vinnitsa in Ukraine, and under the garden of the Reich
Chancellery in Berlin). 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 the OKW sta with rhetoric. Hitler with generals Friedrich Paulus and Fedor von Bock in
In part because of the unexpected success of the Battle of
France (despite the warnings of the professional military)
Hitler believed himself a military genius, with a grasp
of the total war-eort that eluded his generals. In August 1941 when Walther von Brauchitsch (commanderin-chief of the Wehrmacht) and Fedor von Bock were ap-

Poltawa, German-occupied Ukraine, June 1942

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. Ocers with initiative were replaced with
yes-men or fanatical Nazis. The disastrous encirclements
later in the war at Stalingrad, Korsun and many other
places were the direct result of Hitlers orders. This
idea of holding territory led to another failed plan, dubbed
"Heaven-bound Missions", which involved fortifying even
the most unimportant or insignicant of cities and the
holding of these fortresses at all costs. Many divisions
became cut o in fortress cities, or wasted uselessly in
secondary theatres, because Hitler would not sanction retreat or voluntarily abandon any of his conquests.
Frustration at Hitlers leadership of 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 ocer corps suspect and came to rely on the
Schutzstael (SS) and Nazi party members to prosecute
Joseph Stalin led the Soviet Union during World War II
the war.
Hitlers direction of the war was disastrous for the German Army, though the skill, loyalty, professionalism and
endurance of ocers and soldiers enabled him to keep
Germany ghting to the end. F. W. Winterbotham wrote
of Hitlers 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

Main article: Joseph Stalin

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 Army, which depended
on the unprecedentedly rapid industrialization of the Soviet Union, which Stalins internal policy had made the
rst priority throughout the 1930s. Stalins 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
mechanization 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
19171922, and who had experience, but were deemed
politically unreliable. This opened up their places to the

promotion of many younger ocers that Stalin and the

NKVD regarded as in line with Stalinist politics. Many
of these newly promoted commanders proved terribly inexperienced, but some later became very successful. Soviet tank output remained the largest in the world. Since
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 sta, who ensured the loyalty of the commanding ocer and implemented Party orders.
Following the Soviet occupation of eastern Poland, of the
Baltic states and of Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina
in 19391940, 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. There was an
assumption that, in the event of a German invasion, the
Red Army would take the strategic oensive and ght any
war mostly outside the borders of the Soviet Union; thus
few plans were made for strategic defensive operations.
However, fortications were built. 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; this caused him to refuse to allow the
military to go on the alert even as German troops gathered on the borders and German reconnaissance planes
overew installations. This refusal to take the necessary
action was instrumental in the destruction of major portions of the Red Air Force, lined up on its airelds, in the
rst days of the German-Soviet war.

Stalins insistence on repeated counterattacks without adequate preparation led to the loss of almost the whole of
the Red Armys tank corps in 1941 many tanks simply
ran out of fuel on their way to the battleeld through faulty
planning or ignorance of the location of fuel dumps.
While some regard this oensive strategy as an argument
for Soviet aggressive strategic plans, the oensive operational planning was not, by itself, evidence of any aggressive foreign-policy intent.
Unlike Hitler, Stalin was able to learn lessons and improve his conduct of the war. He gradually came to realize the dangers of inadequate preparation and built up
a competent command and control organization based on
the Stavka. Incompetent commanders were gradually but
ruthlessly weeded out.
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. Under order 25 of 15 January 1943, shoulderboards were introduced for all ranks;
this represented a signicant symbolic step, since shoulderboards had connotations as a symbol of the old rgime
after the Russian Revolution of 1917. Beginning in autumn 1941, units that had proved themselves by superior performance in combat were given the traditional
Guards title. But 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 penal companies, and the NKVD's
barrier troops would shoot soldiers who ed.

ries of Western Ukraine, where the anti-Polish and antiSoviet Ukrainian nationalist underground falsely hoped
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 Germanys invasion. Indeed, the Soviets viewed Germanys
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.

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): many successful ocers were demoted to unimportant positions
(including Zhukov, Malinovsky and Koniev).

Repression in occupied states

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, Latvia, 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 recently rejoined to the Soviet Union territo-

Einsatzgruppe A members shoot Jews on the outskirts of Kaunas,


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
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 194344, the German occupiers systematically applied
a scorched earth policy, burning towns and cities, destroying infrastructure, and leaving civilians to starve or die
of exposure.[83] 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 (Encyclopdia
Britannica) to seventeen million (Richard Overy).

Soviet partisans hanged by German forces in January 1943

The Nazi ideology and the maltreatment of the local

population and Soviet POWs encouraged partisans ghting 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 Homeless Russian children in occupied territory (about 1942)
consisting of Soviet POWs (see Vlasov army). These results and missed opportunities contributed to the defeat
of the Wehrmacht.
would be allowed to serve Germans as slaves.
Vadim Erlikman has detailed Soviet losses totaling 26.5 Some recent reports raise the number of Belarusians who
million war related deaths. Military losses of 10.6 mil- perished in the war to 3 million 650 thousand people, unlion include six million killed or missing in action and like the former 2.2 million. That is to say not every fourth
3.6 million POW dead, plus 400,000 paramilitary and inhabitant but almost 40% of the pre-war Belarusian popSoviet partisan losses. Civilian deaths totaled 15.9 mil- ulation perished (considering the present-day borders of
lion, which included 1.5 million from military actions; Belarus).[86]
7.1 million victims of Nazi genocide and reprisals; 1.8
million deported to Germany for forced labor; and 5.5
million famine and disease deaths. Additional famine
deaths, which totaled one million during 194647, are
not included here. Soviet repressions seems also to be
not included. These losses are for the entire territory of
the USSR including territories annexed in 193940.
Belarus 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.[84] More
than 600 villages like Khatyn were burned with their entire population.[85] More than 209 cities and towns (out
of 270 total) and 9,000 villages were destroyed. Himmler
pronounced a plan according to which 3 4 of the Belarusian population was designated for eradication and 1 4
of the racially 'cleaner' population (blue eyes, light hair)

Mass grave of Soviet POWs, killed by Germans in prisoner-ofwar camp in Dblin, German-occupied Poland

Sixty percent of Soviet POWs died during the war. By its

end, large numbers of Soviet POWs, forced laborers and
Nazi collaborators (including those who were forcefully

repatriated by the Western Allies) went to special NKVD
ltration camps. By 1946, 80 per cent of civilians and
20 per cent of PoWs were freed, others were re-drafted,
or sent to labor battalions. Two per cent of civilians and
15 per cent of the PoWs were sent to the Gulag.[87][88]
The ocial 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[89] A month after the German invasion in 1941,
an oer was made for a reciprocal adherence to Hague
convention. This 'note' was left unanswered by Third Reich ocials.[90]
Soviet repressions also contributed into the Eastern
Fronts 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.[91] Most of them were political
prisoners, imprisoned and executed without trial.[92]

complex designs such as the Panther tank, the Tiger II or

the Elefant from a 1943 decision for quality over quantity.
Two-thirds of Germanys iron ore, much needed for its
military production, came from Sweden. 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 transport vehicles, 12,000 armored vehicles (including 7,000 tanks),
11,400 aircraft and 1.75 million tons of food.[98] Soon
after the German attack, the British supplied a unit, No.
151 Wing RAF, to defend Murmansk and to train Soviet
pilots on British Hurricane ghters. After the RAF personnel left, the British continued to supply aircraft: 3,000
more Hurricanes and 4,000 other aircraft during the war.
Five thousand tanks were provided by the British and
Canada. As Soviet tank production increased these foreign tanks were used on less important fronts such as the
Caucasus. Total British supplies were about four million
tons.[99] 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 minis8 Industrial output
ter), in the Berlin Sportpalast, increasing production in
subsequent years under Albert Speer's (the Reich armaThe Soviet victory owed a great deal to the ability of its ments minister) astute direction, despite the intensifying
war industry to outperform the German economy, despite Allied bombing campaign.
the enormous loss of population and land. Stalins veyear plans of the 1930s had resulted in the industrialization of the Urals and central Asia. In 1941, the trains that 9 Casualties
shipped troops to the front were used to evacuate thousands of factories 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 Unions manpower reserves ran low from
1943 onwards, the great Soviet oensives 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.
Although Germany produced more raw materials, it did
not equal the Soviets in the quantity of military production (in 1943, the Soviet Union manufactured 24,089
tanks to Germanys 19,800). The Soviets incremen- World War II military deaths in Europe by front and by year
tally upgraded existing designs, and simplied and rened
manufacturing processes to increase production. Mean- Further information: World War II casualties, World
while, German industry engineered more advanced but War II casualties of the Soviet Union and German




casualties in World War II

The ghting involved millions of Axis and Soviet troops
along the broadest land front in military history. It was
by far the deadliest single theatre of war in World War
II, with over 10 million military deaths on the Soviet side
(out of which 3.6 million died in German captivity[100] );
Axis military deaths were over 5 million (out of which
800,000 died in Soviet captivity).[101] Included in this gure of Axis losses is the majority of the 2 million German
military personnel listed as missing or unaccounted for
after the war. Rdiger Overmans states that it seems entirely plausible, while not provable, that one half of these
men were killed in action and the other half dead in Soviet
Estimated civilian deaths range from about 14 to 17
million. Over 11.4 million Soviet civilians within pre1939 borders were killed, and another estimated 3.5 million civilians were killed in the annexed territories.[103]
The Nazis exterminated one to two million Soviet
Jews (including the annexed territories) as part of the
Holocaust.[104] Soviet and Russian historiography often
uses the term irretrievable casualties. According to the
Narkomat of Defence order ( 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, large deciency of food and medical supplies in
Soviet territories, multiple atrocities by the Germans and
the Soviets against the civilian population and each other.
The multiple battles, and most of all, the use of scorched
earth tactics destroyed agricultural land, infrastructure,
and whole towns, leaving much of the population homeless and without food.
Polish Armed Forces in the East, initially consisting of
Poles from Eastern Poland or otherwise in Soviet Union
in 19391941, began ghting alongside the Red Army
in 1943, and grew steadily as more Polish territory was
liberated from the Nazis in 19441945.

Soviets bury their fallen, July 1944

Dead Soviet soldiers in Cholm, January 1942

When the Axis countries of Central Europe were occupied by the Soviets, they were forced to change sides and
declare war on Germany. (see Allied Commissions).
Army soldiers frequently shot them in the eld or shipped
Hitlers notorious
Some Soviet citizens would side with the Germans and them to concentration camps to die.
join Andrey Vlasov's Russian Liberation Army. Most
Army units
of those who joined were Russian POWs. These men
shot when
were primarily used in the Eastern Front but some were
assigned to guard the beaches of Normandy. The other
main group of men joining the German army were citizens of the Baltic countries annexed by the Soviet Union
in 1940 or from Western Ukraine. They fought in their
own Waen-SS units.
Most Axis POWs were released from captivity several
years after the war, but Axis troops who captured Red

10 See also
Timeline of the Eastern Front of World War II
Historiography of World War II

Captured German equipment in Soviet use on the
Eastern front
Horses in World War II
Italian war in Soviet Union, 19411943
The Italian Alpini infantry corps in Russia
List of military operations on the Eastern Front of
World War II
Operation Silberfuchs Axis attack on the Soviet Arctic
Manchurian Strategic Oensive Operation the Soviet campaign against Japan in Manchuria, Inner
Mongolia, Korea, Sakhalin and the Kurile Islands
Occupation of Belarus by Nazi Germany

[7] According to G. I. Krivosheev. (Soviet Casualties and

Combat Losses. Greenhill 1997 ISBN 1-85367-2807), 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 19411945. This is more
than a half of all Axis losses (including the Asia/Pacic
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

Belgium in World War II

[8] Bellamy 2007, p. xix

Bulgaria during World War II

[9] W. Churchill: Red Army decided the fate of German

militarism. Source: Correspondence of the Council of
Ministers of the USSR with the U.S. Presidents and Prime
Ministers of Great Britain during the Great Patriotic War
of 19411945., V. 2. M., 1976, pp. 204

Estonia in World War II

Finland during World War II
France in World War II

[10] Norman Davies: Since 75%80% of all German losses

were inicted on the eastern front it follows that the efforts of the Western allies accounted for only 20%25%".
Source: Sunday Times, 05/11/2006.

Hungary during World War II

Romania during World War II
Severity Order
The Battle of Russia lm from the Why We Fight
propaganda lm series

[12] Nagorski, Andrew (2007). The Greatest Battle: Stalin,

Hitler, and the Desperate Struggle for Moscow That
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Victory Day and Ribbon of Saint George

Western Front (World War II)
Women in the Russian and Soviet military


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[52] Robert Gellately. Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler: The Age of
Social Catastrophe. Knopf, 2007 ISBN 1-4000-4005-1 p.
[53] Louis Rotundo. The Creation of Soviet Reserves and the
1941 Campaign. Military Aairs, Vol. 50, No. 1 (Jan.
1986), pp. 2128.
[54] Shirer (1990), p.925926
[55] Shirer (1990), p.927928
[56] Bernard A. Cook (2006). "Women and war: a historical
encyclopedia from antiquity to the present". ABC-CLIO.
p.546. ISBN 1-85109-770-8
[57] David M. Glantz (2002). The Battle for Leningrad: 1941
1944. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas. ISBN 9780-7006-1208-6.
[58] Estonia. Sept.21 Bulletin of International News by Royal
Institute of International Aairs Information Dept.
[59] The Otto Tief government and the fall of Tallinn. Estonian Ministry of Foreign Aairs. 2006.
[60] G. I. Krivosheev. Soviet Casualties and Combat Losses.
Greenhill 1997 ISBN 1-85367-280-7
[61] Mart Laar (2006). Sinimed 1944: II maailmasja lahingud Kirde-Eestis (Sinimed Hills 1944: Battles of World
War II in Northeast Estonia) (in Estonian). Tallinn: Varrak.
[62] Ian Baxter (2009). Battle in the Baltics 19441945: the
ghting for Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia: a photographic
history. Solihull, West Midlands: Helion & Company Ltd.
[63] Estonian State Commission on Examination of Policies
of Repression (2005). The White Book: Losses inicted
on the Estonian nation by occupation regimes. 19401991
(PDF). Estonian Encyclopedia Publishers.
[64] Toomas Hiio (1999). Combat in Estonia in 1944. In:
Toomas Hiio, Meelis Maripuu, Indrek Paavle (Eds.). Estonia 19401945: Reports of the Estonian International
Commission for the Investigation of Crimes Against Humanity. Tallinn.
[65] Johannes Steinho, Peter Pechel, and Dennis Showalter,
Voices from the Third Reich: An Oral History, p. 126, Da
Capo Press, 1994 ISBN 0-306-80594-4.
[66] Hastings, Max, Armageddon: The Battle for Germany
19441945, Vintage Books USA

[67] Ziemke, Berlin, see References page 71

[68] Beevor, Berlin, see References Page 138
[69] Beevor, Berlin, see References pp. 217233
[70] Ziemke , Berlin, see References pp. 81111
[71] Beevor, Berlin, see References pp. 259357, 380381
[72] Khrivosheev 1997, pp. 219, 220.
[73] Ziemke, occupation, References CHAPTER XV:The Victory Sealed Page 258 last paragraph
[74] Ziemke, Berlin, References p. 134
[75] Raymond L. Gartho. The Soviet Manchurian Campaign, August 1945. Military Aairs, Vol. 33, No. 2
(Oct. 1969), pp. 312336
[76] William J. Duiker (2009). Contemporary World History.
Cengage Learning. p.128. ISBN 0-495-57271-3
[77] Bonfante, Jordan (23 May 2008). Remembering a Red
Flag Day. Time. Retrieved 1 May 2010.
[78] Gunther, John (1950). Roosevelt in Retrospect. Harper &
Brothers. p. 356.
[79] Georey A. Hosking (2006). Rulers and victims: the
Russians in the Soviet Union. Harvard University Press.
p.242. ISBN 0-674-02178-9
[80] The New York Times, 9 February 1946, Volume 95, Number 32158.
[81] Bellamy 2007, pp. 12
[82] Marking 70 Years to Operation Barbarossa on the Yad
Vashem website
[83] On 7 Sep 1943, Himmler sent orders to HSSPF Ukraine
Hans-Adolf Prtzmann that not a human being, not a single head of cattle, not a hundredweight of cereals and not
a railway line remain behind; that not a house remains
standing, not a mine is available which is not destroyed
for years to come, that there is not a well which is not
poisoned. The enemy must really nd completely burned
and destroyed land. He ordered cooperation with Infantry general Sta, also someone named Stampf, and sent
copies to the Chief of Regular Police, Chief of Security
Police & SS, SS-Obergruppenfhrer Berger, and the chief
of the partisan combating units. See Nazi Conspiracy and
Aggression, Supplement A pg 1270.
[86] http://www.belarusguide.com/history1/WWII_partisan_
[87] ("- " (Military-Historical
Magazine), 1997, 5. page 32)
[88] ..
. 19441951 // . 1990.
4 (Zemskov V.N. On repatriation of Soviet citizens. Istoriya SSSR., 1990, No.4)



[89] Jacob Robinson. Transfer of Property in Enemy Occupied [106] Vadim Erlikman, Poteri narodonaseleniia v XX veke:
Territory. The American Journal of International Law,
spravochnik. Moscow 2004. ISBN 5-93165-107-1; Mark
Vol. 39, No. 2 (Apr. 1945), pp. 216230
Axworthy, Third Axis Fourth Ally. Arms and Armour
1995, p. 216. ISBN 1-85409-267-7
[90] Beevor, Stalingrad. Penguin 2001 ISBN 0-14-100131-3
[107] Richard Overy The Dictators: Hitlers Germany and
p 60
Stalins Russia (2004), ISBN 0-7139-9309-X
[91] Robert Gellately. Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler: The Age of
Social Catastrophe. Knopf, 2007 ISBN 1-4000-4005-1 p.

12 Further reading

[92] (Polish) Encyklopedia PWN, Zbrodnie Sowickie W Polsce

[93] Richard Overy, Russias War, p. 155 and Campaigns of
World War II Day By Day, by Chris Bishop and Chris McNab, pp. 24452.
[94] Axis History Factbook
[95] Soviet numbers for 1945 are for the whole of 1945, including after the war was over.
[96] German gures for 1941 and 1942 include tanks only.
(Self-propelled guns cost 2/3 of a tank (mainly because
they have no turret) and were more appropriate in a defensive role. The Germans therefore favored their production
in the second half of the war.)

Bellamy, Chris Absolute War: Soviet Russia in the

Second World War. Macmillan, 2007. ISBN 9780-375-41086-4
Anderson, Dunkan, et al. The Eastern Front: Barbarossa, Stalingrad, Kursk and Berlin (Campaigns of
World War II). London: Amber Books Ltd., 2001.
ISBN 0-7603-0923-X.
Beevor, Antony. Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege:
19421943. New York: Penguin Books, 1998.
ISBN 0-14-028458-3.
Beevor, Antony. Berlin: The Downfall 1945. New
York: Penguin Books, 2002, ISBN 0-670-88695-5

[97] The Dictators: Hitlers Germany, Stalins Russia by

Richard Overy p. 498.

Beevor, Antony. Berlin: The Downfall 1945. New

York: Penguin Books, 2004. ISBN 0-14-101747-3.

[98] World War II The War Against Germany And Italy, US

Army Center Of Military History, page 158.

Erickson, John. The Road to Stalingrad.Stalins War

against Germany. New York: Orion Publishing
Group, 2007. ISBN 0-304-36541-6.

[99] When Britain aided the Soviet Union in World War Two
[100] Richard Overy, The Dictators
[101] German losses according to: Rdiger Overmans,
Deutsche militrische Verluste im Zweiten Weltkrieg.
Oldenbourg 2000. ISBN 3-486-56531-1, pp. 265, 272
[102] Rdiger Overmans. Deutsche militrische Verluste im
Zweiten Weltkrieg. Oldenbourg 2000. ISBN 3-48656531-1 p. 289

Erickson, John. The Road to Berlin. Stalins War

against Germany'. New York: Orion Publishing
Group, Ltd., 2007. ISBN 978-0-304-36540-1.
Erickson, John, and David Dilks. Barbarossa, the
Axis and the Allies. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1995. ISBN 0-7486-0504-5.

[103] Krivosheev, G. I. Soviet Casualties and Combat Losses.

Greenhill 1997 ISBN 1-85367-280-7

Glantz, David, and Jonathan M. House. When Titans Clashed: How the Red Army stopped Hitler.
Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas,
Reprint edition, 1998. ISBN 0-7006-0899-0.

[104] Martin Gilbert. Atlas of the Holocaust 1988 ISBN 0-68812364-3

Glantz, David, The SovietGerman War 194145:

Myths and Realities: A Survey Essay.

[105] Rdiger Overmans, Deutsche militrische Verluste im

Zweiten Weltkrieg. Oldenbourg 2000. ISBN 3-48656531-1, Richard Overy The Dictators: Hitlers Germany
and Stalins Russia (2004), ISBN 0-7139-9309-X, Italy:
Ucio Storico dello Stato Maggiore dell'Esercito. Commissariato generale C.G.V. . Ministero della Difesa Edizioni 1986, Romania: G. I. Krivosheev (2001). Rossiia
i SSSR v voinakh XX veka: Poteri vooruzhennykh sil;
statisticheskoe issledovanie. OLMA-Press. pp. Tables 200203. ISBN 5-224-01515-4, Hungary: G. I.
Krivosheev (2001). Rossiia i SSSR v voinakh XX veka:
Poteri vooruzhennykh sil; statisticheskoe issledovanie.
OLMA-Press. pp. Tables 200203. ISBN 5-224-015154.

Guderian, Heinz. Panzer Leader, Da Capo Press

Reissue edition. New York: Da Capo Press, 2001.
ISBN 0-306-81101-4.
Hastings, Max. Armageddon: The Battle for Germany, 19441945. Vintage Books USA, 2005.
ISBN 0-375-71422-7
International Military Tribunal at Nurnberg, Germany. Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression, Supplement
A, USGPO, 1947.
Irving, David. Hitlers War, Reissue edition. Avon
Books, 1990. ISBN 0-380-75806-7.

Krivosheev, Grigoriy Soviet Casualties and Combat Losses in the Twentieth Century, Greenhill
Books,1997 ISBN 1-85367-280-7
Liddell Hart, B.H. History of the Second World War.
United States of America: Da Capo Press, 1999.
ISBN 0-306-80912-5.
Lubbeck, William and David B. Hurt.
Leningrads Gates: The Story of a Soldier with Army
Group North, Philadelphia: Casemate, 2006. ISBN

Prof Richard Overy writes a summary about the

eastern front for the BBC
Rarities of the USSR photochronicles. Great Patriotic War 19411945 Borodulin Collection. Excellent set of war photos
OnWar maps of the Eastern Front
Memories of Leutnant d.R. Wilhelm Radkovsky
19401945 Experiences as a German soldier on the
Eastern and Western Front

Mawdsley, Evan Thunder in the East: the Nazi

Soviet War, 19411945. London 2005. ISBN 0340-80808-X.

Pobediteli: Eastern Front ash animation (photos,

video, interviews, memorials. Written from a Russian perspective)

Mller, Rolf-Dieter and Gerd R. Ueberschr.

Hitlers War in the East, 19411945: A Critical Assessment. Berghahn Books, 1997. ISBN 1-57181068-4.

Feldgrau.com The German Armed Forces 1919


Overy, Richard. Russias War: A History of the Soviet Eort: 19411945, New Edition. New York:
Penguin Books Ltd., 1998. ISBN 0-14-027169-4.

RKKA in World War II

Schoeld, Carey, ed. Russian at War, 19411945.

Text by Georgii Drozdov and Evgenii Ryabko,
[with] introd. by Vladimir Karpov [and] pref. by
Harrison E. Salisbury, ed. by Carey Schoeld. New
York: Vendome Press, 1987. 256 p., copiously ill.
with b&2 photos and occasional maps. N.B.: This is
mostly a photo-history, with connecting texts. ISBN
Seaton, Albert. The Russo-German War, 1941
1945, Reprint edition. Presidio Press, 1993. ISBN
Shirer, William L. (1960). The Rise and Fall of the
Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany New York:
Simon & Schuster.
Winterbotham, F.W. The Ultra Secret, New Edition.
Orion Publishing Group Ltd., 2000. ISBN 0-75283751-6.
Ziemke, Earl F. Battle For Berlin: End Of The Third
Reich, NY:Ballantine Books, London:Macdomald
& Co, 1969.
Ziemke, Earl F. The U.S. Army in the occupation of
Germany 19441946, USGPO, 1975


External links

A Detailed library of world war 2 propaganda

Marking 70 Years to Operation Barbarossa on the
Yad Vashem website

Information about the Eastern front up to September


Small Unit Actions During German Campaign in

Russia German and Soviet tactics explained, written by former German commanders in the East
Armchair General maps, year by year
World War II Eastern Front Order Of Battle
Dont forget how the Soviet Union saved the world
from Hitler. The Washington Post, May 8, 2015.





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File:19440712_soviet_and_ak_soldiers_vilnius.jpg Source:
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