Hitlers Invasion of Russia Proclamation
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Meanwhile, Army Group Centre's supply situation was becoming critical.
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The German High Command protested vigorously. The panzers were only miles from Moscow. But Hitler regarded the resource-rich Ukraine as more important. In August, Guderian vigorously protested Hitler's decision to halt the advance on Moscow and divert his forces south towards Kiev. The Soviets were completely fooled by German moves. As usual, Stalin refused to sanction a withdrawal before the pocket was sealed. By the end of September Kiev had fallen and over , Russian troops killed or captured.
In October Kharkov fell, but by now the Germans were exhausted.
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The fighting had severely depleted their ranks and supply lines were stretched to the limit. For now, the southern front stayed where it was. In the north too, German forces had reached their limit. In September, with the aid of their Finnish Allies, they cut Leningrad off from the rest of Russia, but lacked the strength to take the city. Instead, Hitler ordered that it be starved into submission. The epic siege would last days. Despite heavy losses, morale remained high until the autumn when the advance lost momentum, and the weather turned for the worse.
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Hitler now decided to resume the battle for Moscow. On 2 October he unleashed Operation 'Typhoon'. He believed the Russians had been fatally weakened and lacked the strength to defend their capital - one more push would see it fall and victory would be his. But the Red Army had been reinforced. Almost a million Soviet troops were in place, although they had few tanks and aircraft left. A multi-layered ring of defences had been thrown around the capital and its citizens had been mobilised.
The German offensive was carried out by a reinforced Army Group Centre, comprising three infantry armies and three panzer groups - 1 million men and 1, tanks. However the Luftwaffe was weak after over three months of sustained operations. And the weather was beginning to turn.
BBC ON THIS DAY | 22 | Hitler invades the Soviet Union
Once again the initial assault was a success. The Russians were down to about 90, men. But as they reached the approaches to Moscow, the German formations slowed to a crawl. Autumn rains had turned the dirt roads into rivers of mud. The Germans chose to temporarily halt operations.
From the archive, 23 June 1941: Hitler's invasion of Russia
Despite the huge upheavals as industrial plants were relocated eastwards, Soviet war production expanded dramatically during the second half of In mid-November, with the temperature dropping and the ground now frozen hard, the panzers attempted a final pincer attack around Moscow itself. The delay had given the Soviets time to bring in further reinforcements, including reservists and troops from Siberia and the eastern borders. The northern German pincer was the most successful and got within 12 miles of the city. German officers could see the Kremlin buildings through their field glasses.
The Germans also tried attacking in the centre, along the Minsk-Moscow road.
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On 2 December a reconnaissance unit got within 5 miles of Moscow. Though tantalisingly close, this was the limit of the entire advance. The depleted German units were exhausted and frozen into inactivity in the deep snow. On 5 December the Soviets launched a surprise counter-offensive. The Germans were forced into a retreat, despite Hitler's call to defend every foot of ground. Guderian and several other senior generals who advised withdrawal were sacked.
The Russians succeeded in crushing various German formations in encirclements of their own. The Luftwaffe struggled to operate but performed vital work ferrying supplies to cut off units and harrying the Russian advance. Army Group Centre was pushed back up to miles from Moscow. The graves of German dead are marked with a simple cross and their steel helmets. The Germans suffered over , casualties during Operation 'Barbarossa', with some , men killed.
By comparison, 30, died during the campaign in the west in Operation 'Barbarossa' had clearly failed. Despite the serious losses inflicted on the Red Army and extensive territorial gains, the mission to completely destroy Soviet fighting power and force a capitulation was not achieved. One of the most important reasons for this was poor strategic planning.
The Germans had no satisfactory long-term plan for the invasion. They mistakenly assumed that the campaign would be a short one, and that the Soviets would give in after suffering the shock of massive initial defeats. Hitler had assured the High Command that 'We have only to kick in the front door and the whole rotten edifice will come tumbling down'.
But Russia was not France. German motorcyclists pass one of the seemingly endless columns of Russian prisoners. The number of captured or destroyed tanks in our hands amounts to over 18, The number of destroyed and shot-down planes is over 14, Behind our front line is a Russian area twice as large as the German Reich when I took over leadership in , or four times as large as England. The beeline covered by the German soldiers is from over to 1, kilometers. The marching distance of this is often one and a half times or twice as great. They are fighting on a front of gigantic length, and against an enemy who, I must say, does not consist of human beings but of animals or beasts.
We have seen now what Bolshevism can make of human beings. We cannot bring to the people at home the pictures we have at our disposal. They are the most sinister that human brains can imagine The enemy is fighting with a bestial lust of blood on the one hand and out of cowardice and fear of his commissars on the other hand. Our soldiers have come to know the land after twenty-five years of Bolshevist rule. Those who went there and, in their hearts or bodies, have something of a communistic outlook in the narrowest sense of the term, have returned cured of this idea.
The pictures of this paradise of workers and peasants as I have always described it will be confirmed by five or six million soldiers after the end of this war. They will be witnesses upon whom I can call.
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They have marched through the streets of this paradise. It is a single armaments factory against Europe at the expense of the standard of living of the people. Our soldiers have won victories against this cruel, bestial opponent, against this opponent with the mighty armaments. I cannot think of a phrase that would do justice to them. What they are continually achieving in bravery, courage and immeasurable efforts cannot be imagined. Whether we take our airmen or fighters, our dive-bombers, our navy crews which man our U-boats, whether we finally take our Alpine troops in the north, or whether we take men of the S.
But above all, and I would like to emphasize this especially now, stand the achievements of the German infantrymen. We have three divisions, my friends, which since Spring have marched from 2, to 3, kilometers. This includes numerous divisions which have covered 1, or 2, kilometers.
This speaks for itself. I can say that if one speaks of lightning war, then these soldiers deserve to have their deeds described as lightning, for such performances in marches forward have never been surpassed in history, except by the headlong flights of some English regiments. There are only some historic, precipitated retreats which have surpassed these performances. In any case, there was no question of such long distances, for the enemy took care to keep near to the coast.
I do not mean thereby to disparage the enemy. I only want to render to the German soldier the justice he deserves. He has achieved the unsurpassable. All organizations associated with him are partly workers, but also partly soldiers.
For in this mighty space almost everybody is a soldier today. Every worker is a soldier. Every railway man is a soldier. In the whole of this area everybody must build with weapons, and it is a colossal area. What was achieved behind this front is just as grandiose as the achievements at the front. Over 25, kilometers of Russian railways are again functioning.
Over 15, kilometers of Russian railways have been converted to the German gauge. In the east the length of line which today has been converted into the German gauge is more than fifteen times as great as what used to be the longest trunk line in the Reich, that from Stettin to the Bavarian Alps, which is just short of 1, kilometers.http://argo-karaganda.kz/scripts/myponuka/3297.php
Eastern Front (World War II)
What this has cost in sweat and effort even the people at home may not appraise. And behind all this there are the labor battalions and labor services of our organization. The whole gigantic front of these services and of the Red Cross, medical officers, stretcher bearers and Red Cross nurses are all making sacrifices. Behind this front a new administration is already being built to look after the whole of this gigantic area. If this war lasts much longer, Germany and her allies will make use of it and its usefulness will be tremendous, for there is no doubt that we know how to organize it.
If I give you now, in a few sentences, a picture of the unique achievements of the German soldiers and of all those who are today fighting or working in the East, I would also convey to you the gratitude of our soldiers for the excellent, first-class weapons the country has supplied to them and their gratitude for the munitions that are at their disposal in unlimited quantities as fast as they can be transported. There is only the problem of transportation. We have seen to it that, in the midst of this huge war of material, the function of production has been organized in a large area, for I know that there is now no adversary who cannot be forced to yield by an available mass of munitions.