The German attack on the USSR: On June 22nd, 1941 between 3:00 am and 3:30 am, the Wehrmacht invaded the Soviet Union without prior declaration of war and in breach of the non-aggression pact. The German Eastern Army under the command of General Field Marshal W. von Brauchitsch comprised 3.05 million soldiers (153 divisions, i.e. around 75% of the field army) with 3,580 tanks; In addition, there were air forces with 3,904 aircraft (70% of which were operational). Romania, Hungary, Italy, Slovakia and the Blue Division from Spain joined the attack; Finland too entered the war against the USSR on June 26th (“Continuation War”) and fought to regain the territories ceded after the Winter War. The allies provided 600,000 men with 900 aircraft. The equipment of the units resembled a “patchwork quilt”. The armaments plans drawn up for the Russian campaign could not be adhered to. Loot material had to be used in large numbers to equip the Wehrmacht units, for which there was no replenishment and hardly any spare parts. Concerns about inadequate equipment and limited supplies were not given any weight because the National Socialist leadership (Hitler had his Fuehrer’s headquarters in Wolfsschanze on June 24, 1941 near Rastenburg) expected a quick war decision, which should make it possible to create the necessary prerequisites in the armaments industry for the continued struggle against Great Britain, which was then envisaged. The transition to sea / air warfare began when the largest military land operation had just started; H. the German armies in the east had to lead the campaign from their very substance.
According to 800ZIPCODES,the German intention to defeat the bulk of the Soviet troops on the European front (around 4.7 million soldiers) in another blitzkrieg was favored by the fact that Stalin, despite signs and warnings to the contrary (among others by R. Sorge), did not last until the end had expected a German attack at this point and had not finished restructuring his army;
In addition, most of the officers of the Red Army were murdered or imprisoned during the bloody purges (Great Chistka) in 1937/38. However, with the attack on the Soviet Union, Hitler led National Socialist Germany into a two-front war. The German-Soviet front subsequently developed into the main front of the Second World War.
From Hitler’s public proclamations on June 22, 1941 to justify the attack – he had only preceded a planned attack by Stalin (“preventive war”) – a debate arose that is still going on today. Although the evaluation of recently developed Soviet documents has not produced any conclusive evidence that the Red Army had deployed to attack Germany in 1941, there are repeated speculations about the intentions of Stalin, who was actually asked by his General Staff in May 1941 to do so to counter a recognizable German deployment with a preventive strike by one’s own armed forces and thus improve the defensive position. Stalin but did not react and apparently considered the German troop movements to be a blackmail maneuver. Until the very end he waited for Hitler’s offers for a new arrangement, delivered war-essential goods to Germany and denied the impending danger to the population and the army of his country. The formation of the Red Army near the border, which was completely taken by surprise on June 22nd, in any case favored the German attack and made the great initial successes of the Wehrmacht possible.
The attack came from three army groups: South of the Pripjet Marshes, Army Group South (von Rundstedt) with Panzer Group 1 (E. von Kleist) and the 6th and 17th Army from the area southeast of Lublin and from Galicia encountered Kiev-Vinnitsa before (supported by the Romanian-German army group Antonescu since July); they destroyed up to the 7th / 8th 8. In 1941 strong Soviet forces encircled in the Uman area and occupied the entire Dnieper bend by the end of August (August 25th capture of Dnepropetrovsk). The Army Group Center (von Bock ) advancing north of the Pripjet to Smolensk closed with the advance of Panzer Groups 2 (Guderian) and 3 (Hermann Hoth, * 1885, † 1971) from Brest-Litowsk and Goldap to Minsk and through pincer attacks by the 4th and 9th Armies more than 40 Soviet divisions in the Białystok – Nowogródek area and smashed them by July 9, 1941 (324,000 prisoners). After the capture of Smolensk (July 16), it destroyed Soviet armies in a further encircling battle between Orsha and Vitebsk (310,000 prisoners) at the beginning of August; its right wing pushed back Soviet troops who had advanced to counterattack in the Battle of Gomel (9th – 19th August) over the Desna. Army Group North (Leeb) Panzer Group met four (E. Hoepner) from Tilsit via Dünaburg and Pleskau to the Luga. The 16th Army covered its right flank by advancing over Dünaburg – Opotschka to Cholm and Lake Ilmen. The 18th Army occupied Riga on July 1st and advanced with the right wing via Pleskau to Narva, with the left through Latvia and Estonia to the Gulf of Finland (reached at Tallinn at the beginning of August).