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Operation Barbarossa

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Operation Barbarossa


Crossing the frontier on 22nd June 1941
On June 22nd 1941, Germany and her allies attacked and invaded the Soviet Union. The military objectives of the invasion were to take control of all of Russia to the West of the Ural mountains, gain the resources contained within that region, including raw materials, agricultural products and the population (which was to be used as slave labour), and to crush the Soviet Communist regime. At deeper level, the attack was also motivated by the lebensraum idea (literally "living space" - the Nazi idea of conquering territory to increase German economic and military power) and Nazi racial theories.

The German's divided their forces into three Army Groups: North, Center and South. Army Group North's objective was to seize the Baltic states and then capture Leningrad (today called Saint Petersburg), Army Group Center was to advance through Smolensk and ultimately capture Moscow, and Army Group South was to seize the Ukraine, southern Russia, and ultimately the oil-fields in the Caucasus.

The Germans seriously underestimated Soviet military strength and production, the amount of resistance that the Red Army would be able to provide, and the geographical obstacles facing them. As a result, while the initial German attacks scored great successes, the objectives that they hoped to reach were very far beyond their means. Ultimately the German offensive stalled in the mud of Russia's Autumn rains, before being stopped, within site of the Kremlin, by the Russian Winter and fierce Soviet counter-attacks.

In 1942, the Germans renewed their offensive. However, lacking the strength to attack along the entire front, they attacked only in the South, hoping to capture the Caucasus oil-fields. Eventually, this offensive also failed to achieve its objectives, and the Germans suffered a disasterous defeat at the Battle of Stalingrad.

Germany's final major offensive in the East, was Operation Citadel in 1943. This attack was quickly halted by prepared Soviet forces. From then on, Germany remained on the strategic defensive in the East, unable to stop Soviet advance. The Soviet Red Army ultimately took Berlin in 1945, and Germany surrendered soon after, ending the war in Europe.


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