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Adolf Hitler had argued in his autobiography Mein Kampf for the necessity of Lebensraum "living space" : acquiring new territory for Germans in Eastern Europe, in particular in Russia. Hitler referred to the war in radical terms, calling it a " war of annihilation " Vernichtungskrieg which was both an ideological and racial war. The populations of occupied Central Europe and the Soviet Union were to be partially deported to West Siberia, enslaved and eventually exterminated; the conquered territories were to be colonized by German or "Germanized" settlers.
After Germany's initial success at the Battle of Kiev in , Hitler saw the Soviet Union as militarily weak and ripe for immediate conquest. In a speech at the Berlin Sportpalast on 3 October, he announced, "We have only to kick in the door and the whole rotten structure will come crashing down.
World War II in Europe
However, following the decisive Soviet victory at the Battle of Stalingrad in and the resulting dire German military situation, Nazi propaganda began to portray the war as a German defence of Western civilization against destruction by the vast " Bolshevik hordes" that were pouring into Europe. Throughout the s the Soviet Union underwent massive industrialization and economic growth under the leadership of Joseph Stalin.
Stalin's central tenet, " Socialism in One Country ", manifested itself as a series of nationwide centralized Five-Year Plans from 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 The Soviet Union started a process of militarization with the 1st Five-Year Plan that officially began in , although it was only towards the end of the 2nd Five-Year Plan in the mids that military power became the primary focus of Soviet industrialization.
In February 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 — This conflict soon took on the characteristics of a proxy war involving the Soviet Union and left wing volunteers from different countries on the side of the predominantly socialist and communist-led  Second Spanish Republic;  while Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy , and the Portuguese Republic took the side of Spanish Nationalists , the military rebel group led by General Francisco Franco.
The war was fought between Nazi Germany, its allies and Finland, against the Soviet Union and its allies. The conflict began on 22 June with the Operation Barbarossa offensive, when Axis forces crossed the borders described in the German—Soviet Nonaggression Pact , thereby invading the Soviet Union. The war ended on 9 May , when Germany's armed forces surrendered unconditionally following the Battle of Berlin also known as the Berlin Offensive , a strategic operation executed by the Red Army.
The states that provided forces and other resources for the German war effort included the Axis Powers — primarily Romania, Hungary, Italy, pro-Nazi Slovakia, and Croatia. The Wehrmacht forces were also assisted by anti- Communist partisans in places like Western Ukraine, and the Baltic states. 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. The Soviet Union offered support to the partisans in many Wehrmacht -occupied countries in Central Europe , notably those in Slovakia, Poland and Yugoslavia.
In addition, the Polish Armed Forces in the East , particularly the First and Second Polish armies, were armed and trained, and would eventually fight 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 fulfil 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. The above figures includes all personnel in the German Army, i. The Wehrmacht had a total strength of 7,, men by For Operation Barbarossa, Germany mobilized 3,, troops of the Heer, , of the Waffen-SS  and approximately , personnel of the Luftwaffe were actively earmarked.
By July , the Wehrmacht numbered 6,, troops. Of these, 3,, were deployed in eastern Europe, , in Finland, , in Norway, , in Denmark, 1,, in western Europe, , in Italy, and , in the Balkans. The German high water mark was just before Battle of Kursk, in early July 3,, German troops and , Finnish, Hungarian, Romanian and other countries troops. Hitler had always intended to renege on his pact with the Soviet Union, eventually making the decision to invade in the spring of Some historians say Stalin was fearful of war with Germany, or just did not expect Germany to start a two-front war , and was reluctant to do anything to provoke Hitler.
Others say that Stalin was eager for Germany to be at war with capitalist countries. Another viewpoint is that Stalin expected war in the time when all his preparations would be complete and stubbornly refused to believe its early arrival. British historians Alan S. Milward and M. Medlicott show that Nazi Germany—unlike Imperial Germany—was prepared for only a short-term war Blitzkrieg.
Germany had been assembling very large numbers of troops in eastern Poland and making repeated reconnaissance flights over the border; the Soviet Union responded by assembling its divisions on its western border, although the Soviet mobilization was slower than Germany's due to the country's less dense road network. As in the Sino-Soviet conflict on the Chinese Eastern Railway or Soviet—Japanese border conflicts , 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 offensive actions without specific orders" — which meant that Soviet troops could open fire 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 Switzerland also sent warnings, possibly deriving from Ultra codebreaking in Britain. Soviet intelligence was fooled by German disinformation, so sent false alarms to Moscow about a German invasion in April, May and the beginning of June. Soviet intelligence reported that Germany would rather invade the USSR after the fall of the British Empire  or after an unacceptable ultimatum demanding German occupation of Ukraine during the German invasion of Britain. A strategic air offensive by the United States Army Air Force and Royal Air Force played a significant part in reducing German industry and tying up German air force and air defence resources, with some bombings, such as the bombing of the eastern German city of Dresden , being done to facilitate specific Soviet operational goals.
In addition to Germany, hundreds of thousands of tons of bombs were dropped on their eastern allies of Romania and Hungary , primarily in an attempt to cripple Romanian oil production. British and Commonwealth forces also contributed directly to the fighting 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. Among other goods, Lend-Lease supplied:  : 8—9. The aid of production-line equipment and machinery were crucial and helped to maintain adequate levels of Soviet armament production during the entire war.
Of the , tons of nonferrous metals shipped,  : about , tons were aluminium. Stalin noted in , that two-thirds of Soviet heavy industry had been built with the help of the United States, and the remaining one-third, with the help from other Western nations such as Great Britain and Canada.
In the last year of war, lend-lease data show that about 5. Albert L. Weeks conclude: 'As to attempts to sum up the importance of those four-year-long shipments of Lend-Lease for the Russian victory on the Eastern Front in World War II, the jury is still out — that is, in any definitve sense of establishing exactly how crucial this aid was. Germany's economic, scientific, research and industrial capabilities were one of the most technically advanced in the world at the time.
However, access to and control of the resources , raw materials and production capacity required to entertain long-term goals such as European control, German territorial expansion and the destruction of the USSR were limited. Political demands necessitated the expansion of Germany's control of natural and human resources, industrial capacity and farmland beyond its borders conquered territories.
Germany's military production was tied to resources outside its area of control, a dynamic not found amongst the Allies. During the war, as Germany acquired new territories either by direct annexation or by installing puppet governments in defeated countries , these new territories were forced to sell raw materials and agricultural products to German buyers at extremely low prices. Two-thirds of all French trains in were used to carry goods to Germany. Overall, France made the largest contribution to the German war effort. Romania's oil production amounted to approximately 6,, tons annually.
Romania supplied Germany and its allies with roughly 13 million barrels of oil about 4 million per year between and Germany's peak oil production in amounted to about 12 million barrels of oil per year. It may also likely that 'Swedish ore formed the raw material of four out of every ten German guns' during the Hitler era'. The use of foreign forced labour and slavery in Nazi Germany and throughout German-occupied Europe during World War II took place on an unprecedented scale.
It also contributed to the mass extermination of populations in German-occupied Europe. The defeat of Germany in freed approximately 11 million foreigners categorized as "displaced persons" , most of whom were forced labourers and POWs. In wartime, the German forces had brought into the Reich 6. While German historians do not apply any specific 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: .
Operation Barbarossa began just before dawn on 22 June The Germans cut the wire network in all Soviet western military districts to undermine Red Army's communications. What shall we do? And why is your signal not in code? At on 22 June , 99 of German divisions, including fourteen panzer divisions and ten motorized, were deployed against the Soviet Union from the Baltic to the Black Sea.
They were accompanied by ten Romanian divisions, three Italian divisions, two Slovakian divisions and nine Romanian and four Hungarian brigades. To establish air supremacy, the Luftwaffe began immediate attacks on Soviet airfields, destroying much of the forward-deployed Soviet Air Force airfield fleets consisting of largely obsolescent types before their pilots had a chance to leave the ground.
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. Army Group Centre 's two panzer groups the 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 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 fierce Soviet resistance in the Smolensk area and slowing of the Wehrmacht advance by the North and South Army Groups forced Hitler to halt a central thrust at Moscow and to divert the 3rd Panzer Group north. Critically, Guderian 's 2nd Panzer Group was ordered to move south in a giant pincer maneuver with Army Group South which was advancing into Ukraine.
Army Group Centre's infantry divisions were left relatively unsupported by armor to continue their slow advance to Moscow. This decision caused a severe leadership crisis. The German field commanders argued for an immediate offensive 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 Centre's southern flank and the bogged-down Army Group South's northern flank. This decision, Hitler's "summer pause",  is believed to have had a severe impact on the Battle of Moscow 's outcome, by slowing down the advance on Moscow in favor of encircling large numbers of Soviet troops around Kiev.
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 they took heavy casualties in a major tank battle. 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 , Soviet prisoners in a huge encirclement. As the Red Army withdrew behind the Dnieper and Dvina rivers, the Soviet Stavka high command turned its attention to evacuating as much of the western regions' industry as it could.
Factories were dismantled and transported on flatcars away from the front line for re-establishment 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 equipment; much of the population was left behind to the mercy of the invading forces. Stalin ordered the retreating Red Army to initiate a scorched-earth policy to deny the Germans and their allies basic supplies as they advanced 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. Hitler then decided to resume the advance on Moscow, re-designating the panzer groups as panzer armies for the occasion. North of the Arctic Circle , a German—Finnish force set out for Murmansk but could get no further than the Zapadnaya Litsa River , where they settled down.
The combined German and Romanian forces moved into the Crimea and took control of all of the peninsula by autumn except Sevastopol , which held out until 3 July On 21 November, the Wehrmacht took Rostov , the gateway to the Caucasus. However, the German lines were over-extended and the Soviet defenders counterattacked the 1st Panzer Army's spearhead from the north, forcing them to pull out of the city and behind the Mius River ; the first significant German withdrawal of the war.
The onset of the winter freeze saw one last German lunge that opened on 15 November, when the Wehrmacht attempted to encircle Moscow. Meanwhile, the 2nd Panzer Army failed to take Tula , the last Soviet city that stood in its way to the capital. After a meeting held in Orsha between the head of the OKH Army General Staff , General Franz Halder and the heads of three Army groups and armies, decided to push forward to Moscow since it was better, as argued by the head of Army Group Center , Field Marshal Fedor von Bock , for them to try their luck on the battlefield rather than just sit and wait while their opponent gathered more strength.
However, by 6 December it became clear that the 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 ,  as well as some well-trained Far-Eastern divisions transferred from the east following intelligence that Japan would remain neutral. The Soviet counter-offensive during the Battle of Moscow had removed the immediate German threat to the city. According to Zhukov , "the success of the December counter-offensive in the central strategic direction was considerable.
Having suffered a major defeat the German striking forces of Army Group Centre were retreating. The main blow was to be delivered by a double envelopment orchestrated by the Northwestern Front , the Kalinin Front and the Western Front. The overall objective according to Zhukov was the "subsequent encirclement and destruction of the enemy's main forces in the area of Rzhev, Vyazma and Smolensk. The 20th Army, part of the 1st Shock Army, the 22nd Tank Brigade and five ski battalions launched their attack on 10 January By 17 January, the Soviets had captured Lotoshino and Shakhovskaya.
By 20 January, the 5th and 33rd armies had captured Ruza, Dorokhovo, Mozhaisk and Vereya, while the 43rd and 49th armies were at Domanovo. The Wehrmacht rallied, retaining a salient at Rzhev. A Soviet parachute drop by two battalions of the st Airborne Brigade and the th Airborne Regiment on 18 and 22 January was designed to "cut off enemy communications with the rear. Mikhail Grigoryevich Yefremov 's 33rd Army aided by Gen.
This force was joined by additional paratroopers of the 8th Airborne Brigade at the end of January. However, in early February, the Germans managed to cut off this force, separating the Soviets from their main force in the rear of the Germans. They were supplied by air until April when they were given permission to regain the Soviet main lines. Only part of Belov's Cavalry Corps made it to safety however, while Yefremov's men fought "a losing battle.
By April , the Soviet Supreme Command agreed to assume the defensive so as to "consolidate the captured ground. To the north, the Red Army 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. Initially this made some progress; however, it was unsupported, and by June a German counterattack cut off and destroyed the army.
The intent was to pin Army Group South against the Sea of Azov , but as the winter eased the Wehrmacht counter-attacked and cut off the over-extended Soviet troops in the Second Battle of Kharkov. Although plans were made to attack Moscow again, on 28 June , the offensive re-opened in a different 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 first and then drive into the Caucasus towards the oil fields , but operational considerations and Hitler's 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 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 Maikop's defences 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.
Milestones: – - Office of the Historian
By the time the 4th Panzer Army had rejoined the Stalingrad offensive Soviet resistance comprising the 62nd Army under Vasily Chuikov had stiffened. A leap across the Don brought German troops to the Volga on 23 August but for the next three months the Wehrmacht would be fighting the Battle of Stalingrad street-by-street. 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 offensive. 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 Hitler's allies were involved — including a Slovakian contingent with the 1st Panzer Army and a Croatian regiment attached to 6th Army. The advance into the Caucasus bogged down, with the Germans unable to fight 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 first week of November, on the outskirts of Ordzhonikidze , the 13th Panzer Division's spearhead was snipped off and the panzer troops had to fall back.
The offensive into Russia was over. While the German 6th and 4th Panzer Armies had been fighting their way into Stalingrad, Soviet armies had congregated on either side of the city, specifically into the Don bridgeheads , and it was from these that they struck in November In Operation Uranus started on 19 November, two Soviet fronts punched through the Romanian lines and converged at Kalach on 23 November, trapping , Axis troops behind them. The Germans rushed to transfer troops to the Soviet Union in a desperate attempt to relieve Stalingrad, but the offensive 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.
To divert the rescue attempt, the Red Army 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.
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The fairly limited scope of the Soviet offensive, although still eventually targeted on Rostov, also allowed Hitler time to see sense and pull Army Group A out of the Caucasus and back over the Don. On 31 January , the 90, survivors of the ,man 6th Army surrendered. By that time the Hungarian 2nd Army had also been wiped out.
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 counteroffensive, strengthened by a specially trained SS Panzer Corps equipped with Tiger tanks , opened on 20 February and fought its 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. After the failure of the attempt to capture Stalingrad, 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 Staff was polarised, with even Hitler nervous about any attempt to pinch off the Kursk salient. He knew that in the intervening six months the Soviet position at Kursk had been reinforced heavily with anti-tank guns, tank traps , landmines , barbed wire , trenches , pillboxes , artillery and mortars.
However, if one last great blitzkrieg offensive could be mounted, then attention could then be turned to the Allied threat to the Western Front. Certainly, the peace negotiations in April had gone nowhere. 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 that it held over the winter of — 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.
The 9th Army blunted its spearhead against the Soviet minefields , frustratingly so considering that the high ground there was the only natural barrier between them and flat 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 Red Army then launched a counter-offensive, Operation Kutuzov.
On 12 July the Red Army battled through the demarcation line between the th and rd divisions on the Zhizdra River and steamed towards Karachev , right behind them and behind Orel. The southern offensive, spearheaded by 4th Panzer Army , led by Gen. Hoth , with three Tank Corps made more headway. 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. Tank losses on both sides have been the source of controversy ever since.
Although the 5th Guards Tank Army did not attain its objectives, the German advance had been halted. At the end of the day both sides had fought each other to a standstill, but regardless of the German failure in the north Erich von Manstein proposed he continue the attack with the 4th Panzer Army. The Red Army started the strong offensive operation in the northern Orel salient and achieved a breakthrough on the flank of the German 9th Army. Also worried by the Allies' landing in Sicily on 10 July, Hitler made the decision to halt the offensive even as the German 9th Army was rapidly giving ground in the north.
The Germans' final strategic offensive in the Soviet Union ended with their defence against a major Soviet counteroffensive that lasted into August. The Kursk offensive was the last on the scale of and that the Wehrmacht was able to launch; subsequent offensives would represent only a shadow of previous German offensive might. The Soviet multi-stage summer offensive started with the advance into the Orel salient.
Although intense battles of movement throughout late July and into August saw the Tigers blunting Soviet tank attacks on one axis, they were soon outflanked on another line to the west as the Soviet forces advanced down the Psel , and Kharkov was abandoned for the final time on 22 August.
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 Red Army hit them they retreated all the way through the Donbass industrial region to the Dnieper, losing half the farmland that Germany had invaded the Soviet Union 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 fortifications along the German frontier in the west. The main problem for the Wehrmacht 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 Soviet forces were hard behind them.
A second attempt by the Red Army to gain land using parachutists, mounted at Kaniv 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.
Important Dnieper towns started to fall, with Zaporozhye the first to go, followed by Dnepropetrovsk. Finally, early in November the Red Army broke out of its bridgeheads on either side of Kiev and captured the Ukrainian capital, at that time the third largest city in the Soviet Union. Eighty miles west of Kiev, the 4th Panzer Army, still convinced that the Red Army was a spent force, was able to mount a successful riposte at Zhytomyr during the middle of November, weakening the Soviet bridgehead by a daring outflanking strike mounted by the SS Panzer Corps along the river Teterev.
This battle also enabled Army Group South to recapture Korosten and gain some time to rest. However, on Christmas Eve the retreat began anew when the First Ukrainian Front renamed from the Voronezh Front struck them in the same place. The Soviet advance continued along the railway line until the Polish—Soviet border was reached on 3 January In the second week of January they swung north, meeting Vatutin's tank forces which had swung south from their penetration into Poland and surrounding ten German divisions at Korsun—Shevchenkovsky, west of Cherkassy.
Hitler's insistence on holding the Dnieper line, even when facing the prospect of catastrophic defeat, was compounded by his conviction that the Cherkassy pocket could break out and even advance to Kiev, but Manstein was more concerned about being able to advance to the edge of the pocket and then implore the surrounded forces to break out. By 16 February the first stage was complete, with panzers separated from the contracting Cherkassy pocket only by the swollen Gniloy Tikich river.
Under shellfire and pursued by Soviet tanks, the surrounded German troops, among whom were the 5th SS Panzer Division Wiking , fought their way across the river to safety, although at the cost of half their number and all their equipment. They assumed the Red Army would not attack again, with the spring approaching, but on 3 March the Soviet Ukrainian Front went over to the offensive. Having already isolated the Crimea by severing the Perekop isthmus , Malinovsky's forces advanced across the mud to the Romanian border, not stopping on the river Prut.
One final move in the south completed the —44 campaigning season, which had wrapped up a Soviet advance of over miles. After two weeks' of heavy fighting, the 1st Panzer managed to escape the pocket, at the cost of losing almost the entire heavy equipment. At this point, Hitler sacked several prominent generals, Manstein included. In April, the Red Army took back Odessa , followed by 4th Ukrainian Front's campaign to restore control over the Crimea, which culminated in the capture of Sevastopol on 10 May. Along Army Group Centre's front, August saw this force pushed back from the Hagen line slowly, ceding comparatively little territory, but the loss of Bryansk, and more importantly Smolensk, on 25 September cost the Wehrmacht the keystone of the entire German defensive system.
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The 4th and 9th armies and 3rd Panzer Army still held their own east of the upper Dnieper, stifling Soviet attempts to reach Vitebsk. In a lightning campaign, the Germans were pushed back from Leningrad and Novgorod was captured by Soviet forces. After a 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. The German army group "Narwa" included Estonian conscripts , defending the re-establishment of Estonian independence.
Wehrmacht planners were convinced that the Red Army would attack again in the south, where the front was fifty miles from Lviv and offered 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 Offensive codenamed Operation Bagration , which was agreed upon by Allies at the Tehran Conference in December and launched on 22 June , was a massive Soviet attack, consisting of four Soviet army groups totaling over divisions that smashed into a thinly held German line.
More than 2. At the points of attack, the numerical and quality advantages of the Soviet forces 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 , 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. The offensive at Estonia claimed another , Soviet soldiers, , of them classed as dead.
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That is the official legend, at any rate. The truth about war is somewhat different. But on anniversaries such as this, the last thing that is wanted is the truth. The official celebrations of D-day were like an elaborate piece of theatre. And like all theatre it has to be carefully orchestrated and rehearsed. This year the role of impresario was skilfully played by Jacques Chirac and the French government. As might be expected, they played it with great panache. The villages and towns were all covered with flags of the Allies and placards with slogans such as "Welcome, Liberators" in English and "Thank you".
It was all very moving. Moving, yes, but also a little surprising. This was, after all, the sixtieth anniversary. On the fiftieth anniversary, which is a far more logical time to celebrate, the scene was very different. The celebrations then were on a far smaller scale. The official ceremonies were practically limited to a handful of dignitaries. In fact, many of them were actually cordoned off so as to exclude the public altogether. What is the difference this time? Clearly more was at stake than a historical memory. It had far more to do with our own times, and the fact that, following the row between Europe and the USA over Iraq, the European governments, and France in the first place, are anxiously trying to mend broken bridges.
Stung by American criticisms of "ingratitude", the French government was trying to prove its sincere commitment to the North Atlantic Alliance. The D-day anniversary was the perfect excuse. The many former US servicemen who visited France in recent weeks were undoubtedly sincerely moved by the welcome they received from ordinary French people, who in turn were sincere in their desire to pay tribute to the soldiers who risked everything fighting a bloody war against fascism.
When ordinary men and women speak of their desire to live in peace and freedom, there is never any doubt about their sincerity. But the words and deeds of ordinary people is one thing, those of the governments and ruling classes are another thing altogether. The cross-Channel invasion in the summer of was undoubtedly a massive feat of military planning, involving colossal resources and manpower. The Germans had fortified the coastline with concrete bunkers and artillery - a huge defence system known as the Atlantic Wall.
Despite heavy bombardments the German forces retained considerable strength. I was surprised to see that, even today, a number of German bunkers some with guns still inside still remain, like grotesque ruined castles, surrounded by deep bomb craters, defying time. But the history of warfare shows that walls and bunkers are of little use if there are no serious forces to defend them. In , the French felt secure behind the supposedly impregnable defences of the Maginot Line, until the German army swept round them.
The German commander Rundstedt complained to close associates that the wall was nothing but a gigantic bluff, a "propaganda wall. This required mobile armour, not static defences. Unfortunately, Rundstedt knew his forces were depleted and of generally poor quality:. There were even Soviet prisoners of war -Armenians, Georgians, Cossacks, and other ethnic groups who hated the Russians and wanted to rid their homelands of communism.
The weaponry of the coastal divisions was also second-rate, much of it being foreign-made and obsolete. Veranov, The Third Reich at War , p. Alarmed by the prospect of an Allied invasion in France, Hitler dispatched Germany's most famous general, the legendary Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, former commander of the Afrikakorps, to assess the coastal defences. The German high command expected to benefit from Rommel's experience and sound technical knowledge, and also hoped that his presence would calm the German public and worry the Allies.
But Rommel was shocked by the relative weakness of the German defences and particularly the lack of effective fighting forces. He was so shocked by the lack of an overall strategic plan that, at first, he dismissed the whole idea of the Atlantic Wall as a figment of Hitler's imagination, calling it a Wolkenkucksheim, cloud-cuckoo-land. He rated the army troops he saw as no more than barely adequate, and he wrote off the navy and the air force as all but useless.
The Luftwaffe could muster no more than serviceable fighter planes to meet the thousands of British and American aircraft that could be expected to cover the skies over the invasion beaches, and the navy had only a handful of ships. From his experience in North Africa, he was convinced that Allied fighter planes and bombers would preclude any large-scale movement of German troops hoping to counter-attack against an established beachhead. The only possibility for the Germans was to halt the invasion on the beaches.
As the above lines show, this tactic was determined by weakness, not strength. The Germans concentrated all their best forces for this purpose, with deadly results. Near Saint Laurent, a powerful 88mm anti-tank canon inside a massive protective bunker can still be seen to this day. From this strategic position, with a clear sighting range across the length of Omaha beach, it is easy to imagine the devastating effect of such guns, combined with an incessant hale of machine-gun fire raking the shore, destroying tanks and cutting down soldiers by the score.
Such was the intensity of the German fire that one naval commander prematurely unloaded 29 supposedly amphibious Sherman tanks, too far from the calmer waters near the beach, sending 27 of the tanks straight to the sea-bed with their crews. This left the men of the th Regiment without vital tank cover once they were on the beach. On the first day alone, over 2, British and American men were killed, wounded or missing.
Despite the heavy losses on the beaches of Normandy, once the British and American forces had landed, the result was a foregone conclusion. The German forces were too weak to offer effective resistance. The reason for this lamentable state of affairs is clear. Hitler had been draining the reserves based in France, in order to make good the heavy losses on the Russian front. The Normandy landings were an impressive and costly military operation, but they cannot be compared to the scale of the Red Army's offensive in the east.
This was quite clear to anyone with the slightest knowledge of the conduct of the war, including the Allied commanders and the governments they represented. While in Sicily the forces of Great Britain and the USA are being opposed by 2 German divisions, the Russian front is receiving the attention of approximately German divisions. Whenever the Allies open a second front on the Continent, it will be decidedly a secondary front to that of Russia; theirs will continue to be the main effort. Without Russia in the war, the Axis cannot be defeated in Europe, and the position of the United Nations becomes precarious.
Sipols, The Road to Great Victory, p. These words accurately express the real position that existed at the time of the D-day landings. Yet an entirely different and false version of the war is assiduously being cultivated in the media today. For most of the war the British and Americans were mere spectators. Following the invasion of the Soviet Union in the Summer of , Moscow repeatedly demanded the opening of a second front against Germany.
But Churchill was in no hurry to oblige them. The reason for this was not so much military as political. The policies and tactics of the British and American ruling class in the Second World War were not at all dictated by a love of democracy or hatred of fascism, as the official propaganda wants us to believe, but by class interests. When Hitler invaded the USSR in , the British ruling class calculated that the Soviet Union would be defeated by Germany, but that in the process Germany would be so enfeebled that it would be possible to step in and kill two birds with one stone. It is likely that the strategists in Washington were thinking on more or less similar lines.
But the plans of both the British and US ruling circles were fundamentally flawed. Instead of being defeated by Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union fought back and inflicted a decisive defeat on Hitler's armies. The reason for this extraordinary victory can never be admitted by the defenders of capitalism, but it is a self-evident fact. The existence of a nationalised planned economy gave the USSR an enormous advantage in the war. Despite the criminal policies of Stalin, which nearly brought about the collapse of the USSR at the beginning of the war, the Soviet Union was able to swiftly recover and rebuild its industrial and military capacity.
In alone, the USSR produced , pieces of artillery, 24, tanks and self-propelled guns, 29, combat aircraft. The Nazis, with all the huge resources of Europe behind them, also stepped up production, turning out 73, pieces of artillery, 10, tanks and assault guns and 19, combat aircraft. See V. Sipols, The Road to a Great Victory , p. These figures speak for themselves. The USSR, by mobilising the immense power of a planned economy, managed to out-produce and outgun the mighty Wehrmacht. That is the secret of its success. There was another reason for the formidable fighting capacity of the Red Army.
Napoleon long ago stressed the decisive importance of morale in warfare. The Soviet working class was fighting to defend what remained of the gains of the October Revolution. Despite the monstrous crimes of Stalin and the Bureaucracy, the nationalized planned economy represented an enormous historic conquest. Compared with the barbarism of fascism — the distilled essence of imperialism and monopoly capitalism, these were things worth fighting and dying for. The working people of the USSR did both on the most appalling scale. The real turning point of the War was the Soviet counteroffensive in , culminating in the Battle of Stalingrad and later in the even more decisive Battle of Kursk.
After a ferocious battle lasting one week, the German resistance collapsed. To the fury of Hitler, who had ordered the Sixth Army to "fight to the death," General Paulus surrendered to the Soviet army. Even Churchill, that rabid anti-Communist, was compelled to admit that the Red Army had "torn the guts out of the German army" at Stalingrad.
This was a shattering blow to the German army. Though accurate figures are not available, it seems that half of the , men of the Sixth Army died in combat, or from cold, hunger and disease. About 35, reached safety, but of the 90, who surrendered, barely 6, ever saw Germany again.
The Russian victory had cost them about , men dead, wounded or missing. The cumulative picture was even blacker. In just six months fighting since Mid-November , the Wehrmacht had lost an astonishing 1,, men, 5, aircraft, 9, tanks and 20, pieces of artillery. Over a hundred divisions had either been destroyed or ceased to exist as effective fighting units. Martin Gilbert writes: "In the first weeks of the resurgent Red Army seemed to be on the attack everywhere.
Operation Star was a massive Soviet advance west of the river Don.
On this Day
On 14 February the Russians captured Kharkov, and further south they were approaching the Dnieper river. The German army lost over tanks in this epic struggle. After this shattering blow, the Russian armies began to push the Germans on a long front back towards the west. This was the greatest military offensive in all of history. It immediately caused the alarm bells to ring in London and Washington.
The real reason for the Normandy landings was that if the British and Americans had not immediately opened the second front in France, they would have met the Red Army on the Channel. The real reason why they hastened to open the second front in was to ensure that the Red Army's advance was halted. George Marshall expressed the hope that Germany would "facilitate our entry into the country to repel the Russians. The conflicts between Churchill and Roosevelt on the question of D-day were of a political and not a military character.
Churchill wanted to confine the Allies' war to the Mediterranean, partly with an eye on the Suez Canal and the route to British India, and partly because he was contemplating an invasion of the Balkans to bloc the Red Army's advance there. In other words, his calculations were based exclusively on the strategic interests of British imperialism and the need to defend the British empire. In addition, Churchill had still not entirely given up the hope that Russia and Germany would exhaust themselves, creating a stalemate in the east. The interests of US imperialism and British imperialism were entirely contradictory in this respect.
Washington, while formally the ally of London, was all the time aiming to use the war to weaken the position of Britain in the world and particularly to break its stranglehold on India and Africa. At the same time it was concerned to halt the advance of the Red Army and gain control over a weakened Europe after the war. That explains the haste of the Americans to open the second front in Europe and Churchill's lack of enthusiasm for it.
Harry Hopkins, Roosevelt's main diplomatic representative, complained that Churchill's delaying tactics had "lengthened the timing of the war. In August Churchill and Roosevelt met in Quebec against the background of a powerful Soviet offensive. The remorseless Soviet advance obliged even Churchill to reconsider his position.
Reluctantly, Churchill gave in to the insistent demands of the American President. Even so, the opening of the second front was delayed until the Spring of All along the conduct of the war by the British and US imperialists was dictated, not by the need to defeat fascism and defend democracy, but by the cynical considerations of great power politics.
The divisions between London and Washington arose because the interests of British and US imperialism were different, and even antagonistic. American imperialism did not want Hitler to succeed because that would have created a powerful rival to the USA in Europe. On the other hand, it was in the interests of US imperialism to weaken Britain and its empire, because it aimed to replace Britain as the leading power in the world after the defeat of Germany and Japan. The decision to open a second front in Italy was dictated mainly by the fear that, following the overthrow of Mussolini in , the Italian Communists would take power.
The main aim of the British and Americans was, therefore, to prevent the Italian Communists from taking power. So at a time when the Red Army was taking on the full weight of the Wehrmacht in the battle of Kursk, the British and Americans were wading ashore on the beaches of Sicily. In vain Mussolini pleaded with Hitler to send him reinforcements. All Hitler's attention was focused on the Russian front. Churchill's attention was fixed on the Mediterranean, a position determined by the strategic concerns and interests of British imperialism and its empire. However, from late it became clear to the Americans that the USSR was winning the war on the eastern front and if nothing was done, the Red Army would just roll through Europe.
That is why Roosevelt pressed for the opening of the second front in France. On the other hand, Churchill was constantly arguing for delay. This led to severe frictions between London and Washington. One recent article on the subject states:. There was much disagreement about timing, appointments of command, and where exactly the landings were to take place. The opening of a second front had been long postponed it had been initially mooted in , and had been a particular source of strain between the allies.
Stalin had been pressing the Western Allies to launch a 'second front' since Churchill had argued for delay until victory could be assured, preferring to attack Italy and North Africa first. The concerns of the imperialists were openly expressed in a meeting of the Joint British and American Chiefs of Staff that took place in Cairo on November 25, They noted that "the Russian campaign has succeeded beyond all hope and expectations [that is, the hopes of the Russians and the expectations of their "allies"] and their victorious advance continues. In actual fact, the German strength in France next Spring may, at one end of the scale, be something which makes Overlord Completely impossible.
What "other theatres" are referred to here? The answer was provided in another Note entitled "Entry of Turkey into the War. In other words, Churchill was still concentrating on the Mediterranean and the Balkans. V, August September , p. The argument about the second front continued in Teheran, where Stalin met Churchill and Roosevelt on November 28, The next day, the following exchange took place between Stalin and Churchill:. April and May are the most convenient months for Overlord.
That was absolutely correct. The Mediterranean operations were a sideshow compared to the titanic battles on the eastern front. To make matters worse, the British and US forces in Italy, although they had a considerable superiority over the German army, were slowing their advance, allowing the Wehrmacht to move forces from Italy to the Russian front. On November 6, , Molotov had pointed out that the Soviet Union was "displeased by the fact that operations in Italy have been suspended," allowing for this transfer of troops to the eastern front.
The slowness of the Allied advance in Italy was no coincidence. It is now common knowledge that the British and American forces could have taken Rome without having to battle it out for months at Montecassino. They organised a landing at Anzio, further up the coast from Montecassino, and if they had marched quickly towards Rome they could have cut off the German troops who had dug in around the Abbey of Montecassino.
Instead they wasted precious time in building their bridgehead on the beach. This allowed the German army to regroup and build a defensive line that basically kept the Allied troops on the beach of Anzio. Once this happened there remained no alternative but to fight their way through the formidable German defence lines at Montecassino. The Allies lost a huge number of soldiers and were bogged down for months as result. What is evident is that the British and Americans were worried that the partisans could come to power long before the arrival of the Allied forces.
Their view was that it was better to let the Nazis fight it out with the partisans and thus weaken the resistance forces. Thus while the Allies were fighting the Germans in Italy, there was an undeclared and tacit agreement between the two sides when it came to stopping the common class enemy, in this case the Italian working class. However, going back to the question of the second front, it was clear that Roosevelt took a rather different position to Churchill. The Americans had their own reasons for wanting to satisfy the demands of the USSR to open the second front in Europe.
They were involved in a bloody war with Japan in the Pacific, where their troops had to capture heavily defended islands, one by one. They realised that, to take on the powerful land armies of Japan on the Asian mainland would be a formidable task, unless the Red Army also launched an offensive against the Japanese in China, Manchuria and Korea.
Stalin let it be known that the Red Army would attack the Japanese, but only after the German army had been defeated. The rapid advance of the Red Army in Europe at last forced Churchill to change his mind about Overlord. From a position of supine inactivity in Europe, the Allies hurriedly moved into action. The fear of the Soviet advance was now the main factor in the equations of both London and Washington. So worried were the imperialists that they actually worked out a new plan, Operation Rankin, involving an emergency landing in Germany if it should collapse or surrender.
They were determined to get to Berlin before the Red Army. The United States should have Berlin. Despite the successes of the Red Army, Hitler still had considerable forces at his disposal. The Wehrmacht remained a formidable fighting machine, with over ten million men, over six and a half million of them in the field. But what is never made clear in the West is that two-thirds of these were concentrated on the Russian front. The only contribution of the British and Americans was the bombing campaigns that devastated German cities like Hamburg and killed a huge number of civilians, but which completely failed either to destroy the Germans' fighting spirit or halt war production.
The German forces on the eastern front had 54, guns and mortars, more than 5, tanks and assault guns and 3, combat aircraft. In spite of the Allied bombing raids, Hitler's war industries were increasing their production in They produced , guns, as against 73, in Production of tanks and assault guns increased from 10, to 18, and of combat aircraft from 19, to 34, The Red Army launched a huge offensive in late December, , which swept all before it. After liberating the Ukraine, they pushed the German forces back through Eastern Europe.
The fact is that both Roosevelt and Churchill not to mention Hitler had underestimated the Soviet Union. If they had not launched Overlord when they did, they would have met them on the English Channel. That is why the D-Day landings were launched when they were. The fact is that even after the Normandy landings of June , the eastern front remained the most important front of the war in Europe.
The British and US armies got as far as the borders of Germany but were halted there. On the other hand, the advance of the Red Army was the most spectacular in the whole history of warfare. The aim of this offensive was more political than military. Only Yugoslavia and Bulgaria held out against German pressure to become members; the only countries in Eastern Europe and the Balkans not completely dominated by the Axis or Russia.
Eastern Europe - Hitler ordered detailed planning for Operation 'Barbarossa' - the invasion of Russia. As of now, only Yugoslavia in the Balkans retained national independence. Yugoslavia - On the 25th Yugoslavia joined the Tripartite Pact, but two days later an anti-Nazi coup toppled the Government. Yugoslavia and Greece - Germany invaded both countries on the 6th. By the 12th they entered Belgrade and within another five days the Yugoslav Army had surrendered. Greek forces in Albania and Greece suffered the same fate. Starting on the 24th over a period of five days, 50, British, Australian and New Zealand troops were evacuated to Crete and Egypt in Operation 'Demon'.
The Germans occupied Athens on the 27th. Russia could free troops for Europe and Japan concentrate on expansion southwards. MAY The bulk of the Luftwaffe was now transferring east for the attack on Russia. Malta - The transfer of many German aircraft from Sicily for the attack on Russia brought some relief to Malta.
Germany Attacked Russia. Eastern Front - On the 22nd, the German attack on Russia - Operation 'Barbarossa' see map above - started with the eventual aim of destroying the Russian Armies and occupying the whole of the country west of the line Archangel in the Arctic to the Caspian Sea. Further north still Finland would regain its lost territories; in the centre through Minsk and Smolensk and on to Moscow; and in the south towards Kiev and the Crimea Peninsular in the Ukraine, and then to Kharkov and Rostov before heading for Stalingrad and the oilfields of the Caucasus.
Italy and Rumania declared war on Russia on the 22nd. Finland followed on the 26th and Hungary on the 27th. Allied Convoys to Russia. The invasion of Russia soon led to the introduction of the Russian or Arctic convoys with their dreadful conditions and after some months had elapsed, high losses in men and ships. However, the Royal Navy's presence in the Arctic was first made known in August when submarines started operating, with some success against German shipping supporting the Axis attack from Norway towards Murmansk.
The port was never captured. Conditions with these convoys were at the very least difficult. Both summer and winter routes were close to good German bases in Norway from which U-boats, aircraft and surface ships could operate. In the long winter months there was terrible weather and intense cold, and in summer, continual daylight. Many considered that no ships would get through.
The first convoy sailed in August and, by the end of the year, over merchantmen had set out in both directions. Only one was lost to a U-boat. In the picture changed considerably. Eastern Front - German forces advanced in all sectors, and in the centre captured Minsk , capital of Byelorussia and surrounded Smolensk on the road to Moscow. Russian losses in men and material were immense. Both countries agreed not to seek separate peace negotiations with the Axis powers.
Eastern Front, June-November Together they drafted the Atlantic Charter setting out their aims for war and peace. A cease-fire was announced within four days, but later violations led to Teheran being occupied in the middle of September. In the north the siege of Leningrad was abo ut to start, and would not be lifted completely until early Kiev in the south was captured and Centre Army Group released to continue the Moscow offensive. Further south still, the Crimea was cut off and German forces drioe on towards Rostov-on-Don. As German forces in the centre approached Moscow a state of siege was declared, but the offensive was temporarily halted at the end of the month.
In the south Kharkov , east of Kiev in the Ukraine, fell. The German centre advance on Moscow was restarted and troops were soon on the capital's outskirts.
In the south they had driven right into the Crimea. Only Sevastopol held out and the siege lasted until June Further east Rostov-on-Don was captured, but the Russians re-took the city. As the Germans halted outside Moscow, the Russians launched a major Counter-Offensive starting from near Leningrad in the north down to the Ukrainian city of Kharkov in the south. By April Russian forces had regained much lost territory, but few major cities. The siege of Leningrad continued. Eastern Front, December May They agreed to the setting up of a Combined Chiefs of Staff Committee and to the defeat of Germany as the first priority.
The Russian advance continued to make headway. In the centre it reached to within 70 miles of Smolensk. To the south they drove a deep salient into the German lines south of Kharkov in the Ukraine. However German resistance grew as the Russians begin to over-extend themselves. The Russian Counter-Offensive launched in December in the north and centre came to a halt. Territory had been regained but few cities. The Russians maintained their hold on the Kharkov salient in the south. In the south , Russian forces attacked from the salient below the Ukrainian city of Kharkov and made some progress, but the Germans counter-attacked and soon encircled and captured the Russians.
The Germans pushed on beyond Kharkov ready for the main Spring Offensive. They agreed to share nuclear research and concentrate the work in the United States. Agreement did not come so easily on the question of where to open a Second Front in The Americans wanted to land in France to take pressure off the Russians, but the British considered this impossible at present and proposed the invasion of French North Africa. The President did not come to accept this until July. Czechoslovakia - Reinhard Heydrich, German 'Protector' of Czechoslovakia died from wounds sustained in an assassination attempt in May.
In part reprisal, the village of Lidice was wiped out and its people murdered. Towards the end of the month the Russians started to evacuate Sevastopol and by early July all the Crimea was in German Hands. By this time the Germans had started their Spring Attack in the south with the aim of taking Rostov-on-Don and pushing further south towards the vital oilfields of the Caucasus.
Meanwhile, from the area of Kursk and Kharkov, a second army group would move on Stalingrad to protect the left flank of what was initially the main thrust to the south. Stalingrad later dictated the outcome of the entire campaign. Eastern Front, June-October After crossing the Don River they pushed on into into the Caucasus. Meanwhile the protective left flank army group was approaching Stalingrad. The German advance into the Caucacus came at a critical time for the North African campaign, opening up the possibility of a German link-up in the Middle East.
The loss of the region's oil and the potential for a German-Japanese meeting in India could have proved fatal for the Allies. The south continued to be the main focus of this long and bitterly contested front and remained so until January In the Stalingrad area the German reached the River Volga and were within a few miles of the city at the start of the Battle of Stalingrad. They broke into the suburbs in September and the fighting increased in intensity as the Russians struggled to hold on to the west bank of the Volga.
Further south still, the German invaders reached the Caucasus Mountains, but thereafter made slow progress. Still concentrating on the south , the Germans made little progress in the Caucasus. By November they were being worn down and the Russians started to go over to the offensive. Hitler decided to take Stalingrad and major attacks were started in October and then November. Neither attacks succeeded in merciless factory-to-factory, house-to-house, room-to-room fighting.
In the south , as the German forces in the Caucasus and within Stalingrad were slowly ground down, the Russians started a long-planned Major Offensive to relieve the city and trap the invaders in the Caucasus. Along mile fronts to the north and the south of Stalingrad, two large armies broke through the largely Rumanian defenders. Eastern Front, November May