The success of Operation Uranus, launched on 19 November 1942, had trapped 250,000 -300,000 troops of General Friedrich Paulus German 6th Army and 4th Panzer Army in Stalingrad. To exploit this victory, the Soviet general staff planned a campaign of continuous and highly ambitious offensive operations. Later Joseph Stalin reduced his ambitious plans to a small campaign codenamed Operation Little Saturn. Despite these victories, the Soviets themselves became over extended, setting up the stages for the German offensives of the Third Battle of Kharkov, by 6 July, General Hermann Hoths Fourth Panzer Army had taken the city of Voronezh, threatening to collapse the Red Armys resistance. The rapid German advance threatened to cut the Soviet Union off from its southern territories, the operation formed part of the ongoing Battle of Stalingrad, and was aimed at destroying German forces in and around Stalingrad. Planning for Operation Uranus had commenced as early as September 1942 and these Axis armies were deployed in open positions on the steppe and lacked heavy equipment to deal with Soviet armor.
Operation Winter Storm, undertaken between 12–23 December 1942, was the German Fourth Panzer Armys attempt to relieve encircled Axis forces during the Battle of Stalingrad. In late November, the Red Army completed Operation Uranus, which resulted in the encirclement of Axis personnel in, German forces within the Stalingrad Pocket and directly outside were reorganized under Army Group Don, under the command of Field Marshal Erich von Manstein. They would be supported by the 6th Army of the Voronezh Front, while General Rodion Malinovskys Soviet 2nd Guards Army blocked the German advance on Stalingrad, the modified plan Operation Little Saturn was launched on 16 December. This operation consisted of a movement which threatened to cut off the relieving forces. The Italians resisted the Soviet attack for two weeks, although outnumbered 9 to 1 in some sectors, but with huge losses. Manstein sent the 6th Panzer Division to the Italians aid, of the 130,000 encircled troops, to the south the advance of General Gerasimenkos 28th Army threatened to encircle the 1st Panzer Army and General Trufanovs 51st Army attacked the relief column directly.
In a daring raid, by 24 December tanks of the 24th Tank Corps had reached Tatskinskaya, the Soviet tanks drove through snowstorms onto the airfield and roamed about for hours, destroying the German transport planes at their leisure. With the relief column under threat of encirclement, Manstein had no choice but to back to Kotelnikovo on 29 December. Of the 200,000 -250,000 soldiers encircled 90,000 survived to be taken prisoner, only 5,000 lived to return to Germany. The Soviets attacked and pushed back the remaining units of the German 24th Army Corps on the Alpini left flank and contemporarily attacked the Alpini themselves. The Alpini held the front, but within three days the Soviets advanced 200 kilometers to the left and right of the Alpini, who were encircled and forced to try to escape a siege. Although the Alpini corps was ordered to hold the front at all costs, on the evening of January 17, the commanding officer of the corps General Gabriele Nasci finally ordered the full retreat, which was fully carried out on January 19
Operation Barbarossa was the code name for Nazi Germanys invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II, which was launched on Sunday 22 June 1941. In the two leading up to the invasion, the two countries signed political and economic pacts for strategic purposes. Nevertheless, the German High Command began planning an invasion of the Soviet Union in July 1940, over the course of the operation, about four million Axis personnel invaded the western Soviet Union along a 2, 900-kilometer front, the largest invasion force in the history of warfare. In addition to troops, the Wehrmacht employed some 600,000 motor vehicles, the offensive marked an escalation of the war, both geographically and in the formation of the Allied coalition. Despite their successes, the German offensive stalled in the Battle of Moscow and was pushed back by the Soviet winter counteroffensive. The Red Army repelled the Wehrmachts strongest blows and forced the unprepared Germans into a war of attrition, the Wehrmacht would never again mount a simultaneous offensive along the entire strategic Soviet–Axis front.
The failure of the operation drove Hitler to demand further operations of limited scope inside the Soviet Union, such as Case Blue. The failure of Operation Barbarossa proved a point in the fortunes of the Third Reich. Most importantly, the operation opened up the Eastern Front, in more forces were committed than in any other theater of war in world history. The German armies captured 5,000,000 Soviet prisoners of war who were not granted protections stipulated in the Geneva Conventions, a majority of them never returned alive. The Nazis deliberately starved 3.1 million of the prisoners to death as part of a Hunger Plan that aimed to reduce the population of Eastern Europe, over a million Soviet Jews were murdered by Einsatzgruppen death squads and gassing as part of the Holocaust. On 10 February 1939, Hitler told his commanders that the next war would be purely a war of Weltanschauungen. Totally a peoples war, a racial war, on 23 November, once World War II had already started, Hitler declared that racial war has broken out and this war shall determine who shall govern Europe, and with it, the world.
The racial policy of Nazi Germany viewed the Soviet Union as populated by non-Aryan Untermenschen, Hitler claimed in Mein Kampf that Germanys destiny was to turn to the East as it did six hundred years ago. Accordingly, it was stated Nazi policy to kill, deport, or enslave the majority of Russian and other Slavic populations and repopulate the land with Germanic peoples, under the Generalplan Ost. Likening the Soviets to the forces of Genghis Khan, Hitler told Croatian military leader Slavko Kvaternik that the Mongolian race threatened Europe. Following the invasion, Wehrmacht officers told their soldiers to target people who were described as Jewish Bolshevik subhumans, the Mongol hordes, the Asiatic flood, German army commanders cast the Jews as the major cause behind the partisan struggle. The main guideline policy for German troops was Where theres a partisan, theres a Jew, many German troops viewed the war in Nazi terms and regarded their Soviet enemies as sub-human
The Battle of Kursk was a Second World War engagement between German and Soviet forces on the Eastern Front near Kursk in the Soviet Union during July and August 1943. The German offensive was code-named Operation Citadel and led to one of the largest armoured clashes in history, the German offensive was countered by two Soviet counter-offensives, Operation Polkovodets Rumyantsev and Operation Kutuzov. For the Germans, the battle was the strategic offensive that they were able to launch on the Eastern Front. Their extensive loss of men and tanks ensured that the victorious Soviet Red Army enjoyed the strategic initiative for the remainder of the war. The Germans hoped to weaken the Soviet offensive potential for the summer of 1943 by cutting off a number of forces that they anticipated would be in the Kursk salient. The Kursk salient or bulge was 250 kilometres long north to south and 160 kilometres from east to west. The plan envisioned an envelopment by a pair of breaking through the northern and southern flanks of the salient.
Adolf Hitler believed that a victory here would reassert German strength and improve his prestige with his allies and it was hoped that large numbers of Soviet prisoners would be captured to be used as slave labour in the German armaments industry. The Soviet government had foreknowledge of the German intentions, provided in part by the British intelligence service, aware months in advance that the attack would fall on the neck of the Kursk salient, the Soviets built a defence in depth designed to wear down the German armoured spearhead. The Germans delayed the offensive while they tried to build up their forces and waited for new weapons, mainly the new Panther tank and this gave the Red Army time to construct a series of deep defensive belts. The defensive preparations included minefields, artillery fire zones and anti-tank strong points, Soviet mobile formations were moved out of the salient and a large reserve force was formed for strategic counter-offensives. The Battle of Kursk was the first time in the Second World War that a German strategic offensive was halted before it could break through enemy defences, the maximum depth of the German advance was 8–12 kilometres in the north and 35 kilometres in the south.
Though the Red Army had succeeded in winter offensives previously, their counter-offensives following the German attack at Kursk were their first successful strategic summer offensives of the war. As the Battle of Stalingrad slowly ground to its conclusion the Red Army moved to an offensive in the south. Army Group Center came under significant pressure as well, Kursk fell to the Soviets on 8 February 1943, and Rostov on 14 February. The Soviet Bryansk and newly created Central Fronts prepared for an offensive which envisioned the encirclement of Army Group Center between Bryansk and Smolensk, by February 1943 the southern sector of the German front was in strategic crisis. Since December 1942 Field Marshal Erich von Manstein had been strongly requesting unrestricted operational freedom to him to use his forces in a fluid manner. On 6 February 1943, Manstein met with Hitler at the headquarters in Rasternburg to discuss the proposals he had previously sent and he received an approval from Hitler for a counteroffensive against the Soviet forces advancing in the Donbass region
The operations took place in the general area of Rzhev and Vyazma against German forces. As a result, a salient was formed along the front line in the direction of the capital and it was strategically important for the German Army Group Centre due to the threat it posed to Moscow, and was therefore heavily fortified and strongly defended. The intent was for the 22nd Army, 29th Army and 39th Armies supported by the 11th Cavalry Corps to attack West of Rzhev, and penetrate deep into the western flank of Army Group Centres 9th Army. This was achieved in January, and by the end of the month the cavalry corps found itself 110 km in the depth of the German flank. To eliminate this threat to the rear of the Army Group Centres 9th Army, the cutting of a major highway to Rzhev by the cavalry signalled the commencement of the Toropets–Kholm Offensive. The offensive was conducted in late 1942 and this offensive was conducted by the Western Front against the Wehrmachts 4th Panzer Army and the 4th Army.
A Soviet airborne operation, conducted by the 4th Airborne Corps in seven separate landing zones, five of them intended to cut major road, in the aftermath of the Soviet winter counteroffensive of 1941–42, substantial Soviet forces remained in the rear of the German Ninth Army. These forces maintained a hold on the forested swamp region between Rzhev and Bely. On July 2,1942, Ninth Army under General Model launched Operation Seydlitz to clear the Soviet forces out, the Germans first blocked the natural breakout route through the Obsha valley and split the Soviet forces into two isolated pockets. The battle lasted eleven days and ended with the elimination of the encircled Soviet forces, the next Rzhev-Sychyovka Offensive codenamed Operation Mars. An NKVD double agent known as Heine provided information about the offensive to the OKH as part of the plan to divert German forces from any relief of those trapped at Stalingrad. German forces in the salient were eventually withdrawn by Hitler during Operation Büffel to provide greater force for the German offensive operation at Kursk, fighting in the area remained mostly static for 14 months.
Losses and setbacks elsewhere along the front finally compelled the Germans to abandon the salient in order to free up reserves for the front as a whole, defending the salient required 29 divisions. Its abandonment freed up 22 of those divisions and created a reserve which allowed the Germans to stabilize the front. The retreat of the Germans in Operation Büffel was tactically and militarily successful, the Soviet Army paid a high price for their defeat at Rzhev, but with the Germans were forced to withdraw from an important bridgehead which enabled the Germans to threaten Moscow. Losses for the series of operations around the Rzhev salient from 1941 to 1943 are difficult to calculate. These operations cover a series of battles and defensive operations over a wide area involving many formations on both sides. For the whole series of Rzhev battles, the numbers are not clear yet, since the mobilized manpower of both sides were enormous and the fighting is violent, casualties should be very high
The Battle of Uman was the German and allied encirclement of the 6th and 12th Soviet Armies—under the command of Lieutenant General I. N. Muzyrchenko and Major General P. G. The Soviet forces were under command of the Southwestern Direction, commanded by Marshal Semyon Budyonny. This was among the large Axis encirclements that were executed against the Red Army, in mid July the Soviet 22nd and 15th Mechanized Corps engaged the German 3rd Motorized Corps near Kiev, and was decimated. The 1st Panzerarmee bypassed much of the forces, leaving the German 6th Armys 297th Infantry Division to defeat the remnants with anti-tank. On June 26th, the Soviets launched a second counter-attack on the 1st Panzerarmee from the north and south, the attack comprised elements of the Red 8th, 9th and 19th Mechanized Corps, altogether fielding about 1600 tanks. An intense battle took place four days, ending in a Soviet defeat. All action by Soviet forces failed as advance guard elements of the German 17th Field Army were reinforced by the 16th Panzer Division, in mid-July German troops cut the rail road at Talnoye and captured bridges over the Gorniy Tikich, and Sinucha rivers.
As the Axis victory at Uman was secured, 1st Panzerarmee turned north to assist the 2nd Panzerarmee in operations at Kiev in September, Budyonny had 1.5 million troops under his command in two strategic sectors of the front to defend, at Kiev, and Vinnytsia-Uman. General Karl-Heinrich von Stülpnagel’s 17th Field Army advanced to the South of Uman, Budyonny was under strict orders from Joseph Stalin, who micromanaged the war early on, not to retreat under any circumstances. On 28 July, an order was given to the Southwestern and Southern Fronts to stop the Germans from crossing the Dnieper, as a result, an opportunity to avoid the danger of encirclement by retreating in the Southeastern direction was lost. The effect of the closing Axis forces was to force the concentration of the two Soviet Armies in an ever reduced area, with the combined HQs of the armies located in the town of Podvisokoye. On 2 August, the encirclement was closed by the meeting of Panzer Group 1 and this encirclement was reinforced the next day by a second joining formed when the German 16th Panzer Division met with the Hungarian Mechanized Corps.
By 8 August, the Soviet resistance had generally stopped, remnants of 20 divisions from the 6th Army and the 12th Army were trapped. German sources after the war reported about 103,000 troops were taken prisoner, included among officers taken prisoner were commanders of both the 6th and 12th armies, four corps commanders, and 11 division commanders. As the pocket was eliminated, the tanks of 1st Panzerarmee turned north, the Crimean objective was for a time left to the field armies, the first of many times when Hitler would change his mind about strategic objectives of the Army Groups
It was part of the Soviet East Carpathian Strategic Offensive that included the Carpathian-Uzhgorod Offensive. The German resistance in the eastern Carpathian region was much harder than expected, five days to Prešov turned into fifty days to Svidník alone with over 70,000 casualties on both sides. Prešov that was to be reached in six days remained beyond the Czechoslovaks grasp for four months, in summer 1944, Slovaks rebelled against the Nazis and the Czechoslovak government appealed to Soviets for help. On 31 August, Soviet marshal Ivan Konev was ordered to prepare plans for an offensive to destroy Nazi forces in Slovakia, the plan was to push through the old Slovak-Polish border in the Carpathian Mountains via the Dukla Pass near Svidník to penetrate into Slovakia proper. In the meantime, the Germans had fortified the region, the Soviet operation plan called for the Soviet forces to cross the pass and capture the town of Prešov within five days. The operation started on 8 September and it took the Soviets three days to take Krosno.
The town of Dukla was seized on 21 September, the area of the former Czechoslovak state border—heavily fortified by the Germans—was captured on 6 October, it took almost a month for the Soviet forces to reach Slovakia. The Dukla operation did not end when the Soviets forced the pass, the combat zone shifted to Eastern Slovakia, with Soviet forces trying to outflank and push back the German forces, still strong and having many fortified positions. South of the pass and directly west of the village of Dobroslava lies an area which has come to be known as the Valley of Death, here Soviet and German armor clashed in a miniature reenactment of the great tank battle of Kursk. Soviet and Czechoslovak forces would enter Svidník on 28 October, a major German fortified position near the pass, Hill 532 Obšár, would be secured as late as on 25 November 1944. Another factor was that the Slovak insurgent forces failed to secure the other side of the pass, as planned by the Slovak and Soviet commanders during early preparations.
In 1949, the Czechoslovak government erected a memorial and cemetery southeast of the Dukla border crossing, in Vyšný Komárnik and it contains the graves of several hundred Soviet and Czechoslovak soldiers. Several other memorials and cemeteries have erected in the region. In 1956, the football club ATK Praha changed their name to Dukla Praha in honour of those who had fallen in the battle, boje o Przełęcz Dukielską Wierchy t
The Soviet 38th Army was ordered to defend the city while its factories were dismantled for relocation farther east. The German 6th Army needed to take the city in order to close the gap between the 4th Panzer Group and the 17th Army. By 20 October the Germans had reached the edge of the city. In that time, most of Kharkovs industrial equipment had been evacuated or rendered useless by the Soviet authorities, in the autumn of 1941, Kharkov was considered one of the Soviets most important strategic bases for railroad and airline connections. It not only connected the east-west and north-south parts of Ukraine, but several regions of the USSR including the Crimea, the Caucasus, the Dnieper region. Kharkov was one of the largest industrial centers of the Soviet Union, one of its greatest contributions was the Soviet T-34 tank that was both designed and developed at the Kharkov Tractor Factory. It was considered to be the most powerful tank plant in the country, other factories that were located in the city included the Kharkov Aircraft Plant, Kharkov Plant of the NKVD, and the Kharkov Turbine Plant.
Military products that were in Kharkov before the battle started included, tanks, Su-2, artillery tractors,82 mm mortars, sub-machine guns and other military equipment. The main objective for the German troops was to capture the railroad and military plants, adolf Hitler himself stressed the importance of those military plants stating, … The second in importance is south of Russia, particularly the Donets Basin, ranging from the Kharkov region. It was rated at 901,000 people on 1 May 1941, in September 1941 the population skyrocketed to 1.5 million people, due to numerous evacuees from other cities. After multiple attacks and many deaths, the population of Kharkov decreased to 180 –190,000, Kharkov was one of the most important Soviet centers for the fleeing Jewish population. According to records, Kharkov had 10,271 people of Jewish ethnicity living in the city, 75% of whom were women, after the battle, many of them were either transferred to concentration camps or executed. After the Battle of Kiev, Army Group Center was ordered to redeploy its forces for the attack on Moscow, Army Group South, and in particular Walther von Reichenaus 6th Army and Carl-Heinrich von Stülpnagels 17th Army took the place of the Panzer Divisions.
Meanwhile, needed to stabilize its southern flank and poured reinforcements into the area between Kursk and Rostov, at the expense of its forces in front of Moscow. The Southwestern Front, which had completely destroyed during the battle of Kiev, was re-established under the command of Marshal Semyon Timoshenko. The 6th, 21st, 38th and 40th Armies were reconstituted almost from scratch, with the Battle of Moscow under way, the Germans had to protect their flanks, and on 6 October von Reichenau advanced through Sumy and Okhtyrka in the direction of Belgorod and Kharkov. On the same day, the 17th Army commenced its offensive from Poltava towards Lozova, the Southwestern Fronts 6th Army and 38th Army failed to conduct a coordinated defense and were beaten back. In the lead up to the Battle of Moscow, the Red Army suffered a defeat at Vyazma and Bryansk
The Continuation War consisted of hostilities between Finland and the Soviet Union from 1941 to 1944. The Continuation War began shortly after the end of the Winter War, in the Soviet Union, the war was considered part of the Great Patriotic War. Germany regarded its operations in the region as part of its war efforts on the Eastern Front. Acts of war between the Soviet Union and Finland recommenced on 22 June 1941, the day Germany launched its invasion of the Soviet Union, open warfare began with a Soviet air offensive on 25 June. Subsequent Finnish operations undid its post-Winter War concessions to the Soviet Union on the Karelian Isthmus and Ladoga Karelia, on the Karelian Isthmus, the Finns halted their offensive 30 km from Leningrad, at the pre-World War II border between the Soviet Union and Finland. Finnish forces did not participate in the siege of Leningrad directly, in 1944, Soviet air forces conducted air raids on Helsinki and other major Finnish cities. A ceasefire ended hostilities on 5 September and was followed by the Moscow Armistice on 19 September, the 1947 Paris peace treaty concluded the war formally.
Finland ceded Pechengsky District to the Soviets, leased Porkkala peninsula to them, shortly afterward, Germany invaded Poland and as a result the United Kingdom and France declared war against Germany. The Soviet Union invaded eastern Poland on 17 September, Moscow demanded that the Baltic states allow the establishment of Soviet military bases and the stationing of troops on their soil. The Baltic governments accepted these ultimatums, signing corresponding agreements in September and October 1939, the Finnish government refused, and the Red Army attacked Finland on 30 November 1939. Condemnation of the Soviets by the League of Nations and by all over the world had no effect on Soviet policy. International help for Finland was planned, but very little actual help materialized, the Moscow Peace Treaty, which was signed on 12 March 1940, ended the Winter War. By the terms of the treaty, Finland lost one eleventh of its national territory, Finland had avoided having the Soviet Union annex the whole country.
Finlands foreign policy had been based on multilateral guarantees for support from the League of Nations, Finnish public opinion favored the reconquest of Finnish Karelia. Finlands government declared the countrys defense to be its first priority, Finland purchased and received donations of war material during and immediately after the Winter War. On Finlands southern frontier the Soviet Union had acquired a base in Hanko near the capital Helsinki. Finland had to resettle some 420,000 evacuees from the lost territories, to ensure the supply of food, it was necessary to clear new land for the evacuees to cultivate. This was facilitated by the Rapid Settlement Act, the Finnish leadership wanted to preserve the spirit of unanimity that was commonly felt throughout the country during the Winter War
The siege started on 8 September 1941, when the last road to the city was severed. Although the Soviets managed to open a land corridor to the city on 18 January 1943. It was one of the longest and most destructive sieges in history, Leningrads capture was one of three strategic goals in the German Operation Barbarossa and the main target of Army Group North. By 1939 the city was responsible for 11% of all Soviet industrial output and it has been reported Adolf Hitler was so confident of capturing Leningrad that he had invitations printed to the victory celebrations to be held in the citys Hotel Astoria. According to a sent to Army Group North on 29 September, After the defeat of Soviet Russia there can be no interest in the continued existence of this large urban center. Following the citys encirclement, requests for surrender negotiations shall be denied, since the problem of relocating and feeding the population cannot, in this war for our very existence, we can have no interest in maintaining even a part of this very large urban population.
Hitlers ultimate plan was to raze Leningrad to the ground and give areas north of the River Neva to the Finns, Army Group North under Feldmarschall Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb advanced to Leningrad, its primary objective. Finnish military forces were north of Leningrad, while German forces occupied territories to the south, thus, it is argued that much of the Finns participation was merely defensive. The Germans planned on lack of food being their weapon against the citizens. On 27 June 1941, the Council of Deputies of the Leningrad administration organised First response groups of civilians, in the next days, Leningrads civilian population was informed of the danger and over a million citizens were mobilised for the construction of fortifications. Several lines of defences were built along the perimeter to repulse hostile forces approaching from north and south by means of civilian resistance. In the south, the line ran from the mouth of the Luga River to Chudovo, Uritsk, Pulkovo. Another line of defence passed through Peterhof to Gatchina, Kolpino, in the north the defensive line against the Finns, the Karelian Fortified Region, had been maintained in Leningrads northern suburbs since the 1930s, and was now returned to service.
Even the guns from the cruiser Aurora were moved inland to the Pulkovo Heights to the south of Leningrad, the 4th Panzer Group from East Prussia took Pskov following a swift advance and managed to reach Novgorod by 16 August. The Soviet defenders fought to the death, despite the German discovery of the Soviet defence plans on an officers corpse, after the capture of Novgorod, General Hoepners 4th Panzer Group continued its progress towards Leningrad. However, the 18th Army — despite some 350,000 men lagging behind — forced its way to Ostrov and Pskov after the Soviet troops of the Northwestern Front retreated towards Leningrad. On 10 July, both Ostrov and Pskov were captured and the 18th Army reached Narva and Kingisepp, from where advance toward Leningrad continued from the Luga River line. This had the effect of creating siege positions from the Gulf of Finland to Lake Ladoga, the Finnish Army was expected to advance along the eastern shore of Lake Ladoga