Operation Barbarossa in WWII



"When Operation Barbarossa is launched, the world will hold its

breath!" - Adolf Hitler



On the night of June 22, 1941, more than 3 million German

soldiers, 600 000 vehicles and 3350 tanks were amassed along a 2000km

front stretching from the Baltic to the Black Sea. Their sites were

all trained on Russia. This force was part of 'Operation Barbarossa',

the eastern front of the greatest military machine ever assembled.

This machine was Adolf Hitler's German army. For Hitler, the

inevitable assault on Russia was to be the culmination of a long

ezding obsession. He had always wanted Russia's industries and

agricultural lands as part of his Lebensraum or 'living space' for

Germany and their Thousand Year Reich. Russia had been on Hitler's

agenda since he wrote Mein Kampf some 17 years earlier where he

stated: 'We terminate the endless German drive to the south and the

west of Europe, and direct our gaze towards the lands in the east...If

we talk about new soil and territory in Europe today, we can think

primarily only of Russia and its vassal border states'i Hitler wanted

to exterminate and enslave the 'degenerate' Slavs and he wanted to

obliterate their 'Jewish Bolshevist' government before it could turn

on him. His 1939 pact with Stalin was only meant to give Germany time

to prepare for war. As soon as Hitler controlled France, he looked

east. Insisting that Britain was as good as defeated, he wanted to

finish off the Soviet Union as soon as possible, before it could

significantly fortify and arm itself. 'We only have to kick in the

front door and the whole rotten edifice will come tumbling down'ii he

told his officers. His generals warned him of the danger of fighting a

war on two fronts and of the difficulty of invading an area as vast as

Russia but, Hitler simply overruled them. He then placed troops in

Finland and Romania and created his eastern front. In December 1940,

Hitler made his final battle plan. He gave this huge operation a

suitable name. He termed it 'Operation Barbarossa' or 'Redbeard' which

was the nickname of the crusading 12th century Holy Roman emperor,

Frederick I. The campaign consisted of three groups: Army Group North

which would secure the Baltic; Army Group South which would take the

coal and oil rich lands of the Ukraine and Caucasus; and Army Group

Centre which would drive towards Moscow. Prior to deploying this

massive force, military events in the Balkans delayed 'Barbarossa' by

five weeks. It is now widely agreed that this delay proved fatal to

Hitler's conquest plans of Russia but, at the time it did not seem

important. In mid-June the build-up was complete and the German Army

stood poised for battle. Hitler's drive for Russia failed however, and

the defeat of his army would prove to be a major downward turning

point for Germany and the Axis counterparts. There are many factors

and events which contributed to the failure of Operation Barbarossa

right from the preparatory stages of the attack to the final cold

wintry days when the Germans had no choice but to concede. Several

scholars and historians are in basic agreement with the factors which

led to Germany's failure however, many of them stress different

aspects of the operation as the crucial turning point. One such

scholar is the historian, Kenneth Macksey. His view on Operation

Barbarossa is plainly evident just by the title of his book termed,

'Military errors Of World War Two.'iii Macksey details the fact that

the invasion of Russia was doomed to fail from the beginning due to

the fact that the Germans were unprepared and extremely overconfident

for a reasonable advancement towards Moscow. Macksey's first reason

for the failure was the simply that Germany should not have broken its

agreement with Russia and invaded its lands due to the fact that the

British were not defeated on the western front, and this in turn

plunged Hitler into a war on two fronts. The Germans, and Hitler in

particular were stretching their forces too thin and were

overconfident that the Russians would be defeated in a very short

time. Adolf Hitler's overconfidence justifiably stemmed from the

crushing defeats which his army had administered in Poland, France,

Norway, Holland, Belgium and almost certainly Great Britain had the

English Channel not stood