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W.W.II.'s Russian Front

This is also referred to historically as the Russian front, and it is precisely what it says it is. It is the Front of battle between Russia and Germany. Its location changed many times during its existence (1941-1945), moving from as far as Moscow to Berlin.

The German invasion (coupled with Stalin’s' tactics) was brutal, leaving Leningrad, Crimea, Kiev and Stalingrad, in ruins and killing nothing short of 25 million Soviets. And what did Germany have to show for it?

Due in large part to the Russian invasion Germany was left a broken nation which had lost a large portion of it's territory, not mention the fact that they had soiled their hands with the terrible Holocaust.

Reasons for the invasion of Russia

Hitler realized that after a whirlwind victory in Poland and France that his three biggest obstacles in his course of world domination would be, England, Russia, and the United States. Hitler (in the beginning) had a great respect for the British, especially their navy and in order to take them, he would have had to take the English Channel, not an easy thing to do without being a major naval power, which at the time Germany wasn't. The United States being half a world away was hardly the logical Choice either. Meanwhile Hitler had signed a non-aggression pact with Russia, meaning that as long as he left them alone they would have time to prepare, as well as the United States and Britain. The Choice to invade Russia seemed a sound one at the time.

Germany Invades

The Germans were ready to invade by summer and by October they were poised the take Moscow. The German Blitzkrieg technique was as devastating Russia as it had been in the rest of Europe, and after one week 150,000 Russian solders either lay dead or wounded. The Germans came farther into the heartland of Russia and 1 Million people were drafted into the army to protect Kiev. Kiev fell however and when the city did fall 600,000 were taken prisoner.

By October of that same year 3 million Soviets were taken prisoner. Newer information on the topic shows that Stalin was so scared of a German takeover that he actually had drawn up plans to sue for peace. He (Stalin), also had organized a getaway train to help him escape should the German guns begin pounding on the city. In the end however Stalin decided to stay and fight the Germans out of Moscow.

Battle of Moscow

On 30 September 1941 the German 2nd Armored (Panzer) Army attacked the left wing of the Briansk Front; thus, cutting-off the Soviet 13the Army from the Yermakov's group, and on 02 October 1941 the main German forces went on the offensive in the operational zone of the Western and Reserve Front. The Soviet forces, unable to stop the assault of the larger German forces were forced to retreat to the east.

At the end of October, as a result of the tenacious Soviet resistance, the German offensive was stopped on the line of Ostashkov, Volokolamsk, Naro-Fominsk, Aleksin, Tula. The Supreme Headquarters of the Red Army reinforced the defenses on the approaches to the capital, and concentrated strategic reserves to the west of Zagorsk, in vicinity of Moscow, and to the south of Riazan. On 16 November 1941 the Germans renewed their offensive: 3rd and 4th Armored Groups advanced along the Moscow-Leningrad and Moscow-Volokolamsk roads; when the Germans advanced to within 30-40 kilometers from Moscow, the Soviet forces launched a counter-assault from the line of Moskva-Volga Canal, to the south of Dimitrov, preventing the Germans from encircling the capital from the north.

At the beginning of December the Germans made the last attempt to capture Moscow, assaulting with the forces of their 4th Army from the Naro-Fominsk area. This offensive was also repulsed, and the Germans were forced to retreat to their original pre-assault positions. The German forces advancing on Moscow were bloodied and exhausted.

During the last attempts to capture Moscow in November of 1941, the average pace of the German advance dropped to 2-5 kilometers per day. Between 16 October and 16 December the German losses amounted to 55,000 killed and over 100,000 wounded. The losses in equipment amounted to 777 tanks, 297 cannons and mortars. Soviet partisans constantly attacked the over-extended German communicatiions lines. During the defensive actions near Moscow, the Soviet forces also carried-out two offensive operations: one in the Tihvin area (near Leningrad), and the second in the Rostov area. The Soviet objective was to tie-up German forces in the north and south, so as to prevent the Germans from reinforcing their forces advancing on Moscow. The weakening of the Wehrmacht and the increasingly more lively actions on the part of the Red Army, allowed the Soviet command to prepare and initiate a counter-offensive, whose aim was to destroy the German Army Group Mitte (Centre) advancing on Moscow. On 5 December 1941 offensive actions were undertaken by the left wing of the Kalinin Front

As a result of the Moscow Counter-Offensive about 38 German divisions were destroyed (the German Panzer armies suffered the heaviest losses); the Soviet troops liberated around 11,000 settlements, including over 60 cities and towns. They also pushed the enemy back about 250 kilometers to the west.

Although during this battle for Moscow, Stalin has some 8,000 Soviet citizens executed for perceived cowardice. He used similar tactics to keep Moscow protected on his own armed forces, ordering that all deserters were to be shot. Also the Soviet government sent groups called partisans around the countryside, killing anyone they thought to be disloyal. Partisans were also ordered to kill any Germans that they might encounter.

The Nazi Concurred Territories

The actual orders given to the Nazis in reference to occupied Ukraine was as follows: "The lowliest German worker is worth more than the entire population of Ukraine". Research tells us that starvation was widespread. Many people were forced to eat family pets, and when no more of those were present the people turned to rats, and when the rats were gone, there are historical accounts of people eating birch bark and macaroni glue in order to survive. In one city alone (Kharkov), 100,000 died of starvation on disease.

In the German hunt for Partisans, they killed 1,900 people in a single action. Further investigation tells us that out of those 1,900 people roughly 40 of them were armed. That means that over 90% of those killed by Germans in this action didn't even have any guns. A lucky few however did manage to survive the occupation.

Battle of Stalingrad

The tables are turned as Hitler sets in motion one of the bitterest conflicts this century - the Battle of Stalingrad. In the spring of 1942, Hitler launched a two-pronged attack in what he believed would be his final offensive in the East. One set of troops headed towards Baku and it's rich oil resources whilst a second group pushed towards Stalingrad and the Volga. After more than a year of bitter defeats, the Soviet army was exhausted and demoralized, but it started to employ a new tactic - the fighting retreat, which puts a strain on the Germans' supply lines. Soviet soldiers were no longer instructed by their generals to stand their ground at all costs. Instead they retreated to avoid capture and continued fighting. The Germans moved swiftly forward, reaching the banks of the River Volga. The German soldiers of Army Group B had one last major task - to take the city of Stalingrad on the west bank of the Volga.

And so began one of the bloodiest and bitterest battles of World War Two. More than 1,000 tons of bombs were dropped on the city but Stalin initially forbade any evacuation from the city, even of children. Soviet reinforcements had to cross the Volga from the east and many of them drowned under the weight of their clothing and weapons. The infamous Penal Units - some of them political prisoners - took part in suicidal missions as a way of atoning for their 'sins' and the average life expectancy of a Soviet private soldier during the battle of Stalingrad was just 24 hours. By the end of the siege, 1 million Soviet soldiers had died on the Stalingrad front.

The ferocity of the fighting shocked the Germans, who were used to the relative ease of their Blitzkrieg tactics. Suddenly they were faced with hand-to-hand combat, often only yards away from the enemy. "Our principle was to grab hold of the enemy and not let go; to hold him very close - as you'd hold a loved one," says Anatoly Mersko, who served under General Chuikov. Soviet veteran Suren Mirzoyan remembers the blood lust of the time. "I was like a beast. I wanted only one thing - to kill. You know how it looks when you squeeze a tomato and juice comes out? Well, it looked like that when I stabbed them. Blood everywhere. Every step in Stalingrad meant death. Death was in our pockets. Death was walking with us."

Stalin Deals with Collaborators

Stalin's ruthless approach to punishing ethnic collaborators in the Soviet Union meant that whole ethnic nations were forcibly exiled to Siberia as punishment for the small number of collaborators in their midst. One of the ethnic groups who suffered most are the Kalmyks from the steppe south of Stalingrad. Stalin ordered every ethnic Kalmyk, including women and children, to be 'relocated' to even remoter regions of the Soviet Union.

Whole families were crammed onto unsanitary transport trains. Many didn't survive the long journey. Officially, 93,000 Kalmyks, 68,000 Karachai people, 500,000 Chechens, 340,000 Balkars and 180,000 Tartars were deported. The figures are almost certainly underestimates.

Russia's Victory

In spring of 1944, a Soviet invasion of Germany was looking more and more possible. Seeing this Hitler ordered the German people to destroy anything that could be used by the Russians.

In the summer of 1944 Stalin’s operation in Byelorussia eliminated three times what the Allies did on D-Day in Normandy. Hitler’s response to this was to order all remaining German units to fight to last man- the same tactic Stalin had deployed so disastrously at the beginning of the war.

Final victory came in April 1945, when the red flag flew over the Berlin Reichstag. The occupying troops celebrated, some indulging in the Rape and Murder of German citizens. Stalin was reported to say: "We lecture our solders too much; let them have some initiative."

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