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80 years ago, the military command of Nazi Germany began work on a plan for an attack on the Soviet Union, which was later codenamed "Barbarossa". Historians note that, despite the thoughtful organization of this operation, Hitler and his entourage did not take into account a number of factors. In particular, the Nazis underestimated the mobilization and technical potential of the USSR, as well as the fighting spirit of the Soviet troops. Experts remind that shortly after the successful start of the operation, the Nazis encountered fierce resistance from the Red Army and were forced to go to a protracted war.
On July 21, 1940, the development of a plan for Nazi Germany to attack the USSR began. On this day, the main command of the German Ground Forces received appropriate instructions from Adolf Hitler. After 11 months, Nazi troops crossed the Soviet border, however, despite the initial successes of the Wehrmacht, it soon became clear that the plan for "lightning war" failed.
Planning and misinformation
“Aggression against the Soviet Union was conceived by Adolf Hitler long before he came to power. He decided to look for "living space" for the Germans in the east back in the 1920s. Relevant references are contained, in particular, in his book "My Struggle", - told RT military stories Yuri Knutov.
In 1938-1939, Germany, with the consent of the authorities of the Western European powers, annexed Czechoslovakia in parts, gaining access to its industrial potential and arsenals. According to historians, this allowed the Nazis to dramatically strengthen their army, occupy Poland, and in 1940 - and most of Western Europe.
In just a few weeks, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands, France and Luxembourg were under Hitler's control. However, the Nazis were in no hurry to proceed to the landing in Great Britain.
“We can say with complete confidence that Hitler would have preferred to avoid a war with Britain, since his main goals were in the east,” wrote Erich von Manstein, one of the authors of the German victory over France.
Waging a naval and air war against the United Kingdom, Hitler, according to historians, in the summer of 1940 made a principled decision about readiness for a parallel war with the Soviet Union. In early June, speaking at the headquarters of Army Group A, the Fuehrer said that after the French campaign and the expected "reasonable peace agreement with Great Britain", German troops would be free to "clash with Bolshevism."
On July 21, 1940, the main command of the ground forces received instructions from Hitler to prepare a plan for a war against the Soviet Union. The commander-in-chief of the ground forces, Field Marshal Walter von Brauchitsch, said that the Wehrmacht was ready to launch an offensive against the USSR by the end of 1940. However, Hitler decided to start the war later. In August 1940, the Nazis launched Operation Aufbau Ost - a set of measures to concentrate and deploy German troops near the borders of the Union.
“Ironically, in September 1940, the work on the plan of war with the USSR was entrusted to the Deputy Chief of the General Staff, Lieutenant General Paulus, who in the future was to become the first German field marshal to surrender at Stalingrad,” Knutov noted.
According to him, when planning the "Eastern campaign", the Reich authorities chose the strategy of blitzkrieg (lightning war), tested during the occupation of Western Europe.The German command hoped to defeat the Red Army with a powerful stunning blow and achieve the surrender of the Soviet Union.
Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, Colonel General Walter von Brauchitsch, Adolf Hitler, Colonel General Franz Halder (from left to right in the foreground) near the table with a map during a meeting of the General Staff of RIA Novosti
On December 18, 1940, the plan of attack on the USSR, code-named "Barbarossa", named after the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, was approved by directive # 21 of the Wehrmacht High Command signed by Hitler.
“An important planning document was the Directive for the Concentration of Troops, issued on January 31, 1941 by the main command of the ground forces and sent out to all commanders of army groups, tank groups and commanders of armies. It determined the general goals of the war, the tasks of each of the units, established dividing lines between them, provided for ways of interaction between ground forces with the air and naval forces, determined the general principles of cooperation with the Romanian and Finnish troops, "he said in an interview with RT Dmitry Surzhik, employee of the Center for the History of War and Geopolitics of the Institute of General History of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
According to experts, the Reich leadership paid great attention to measures aimed at misinforming Moscow. The corresponding plans were developed by the highest political and military leadership of Germany. Reich leaders, diplomats and intelligence officers took part in their implementation.
It was forbidden to convey information about the impending war even to the personnel of the Wehrmacht. Soldiers and officers were told that troops in Eastern Europe were being diverted to rest or for future action in Asia against the British colonies. The Nazis offered the Soviet leadership various options for diplomatic interaction. Berlin explained the transfer of troops to Moscow by the prospect of a clash with the British in the Balkans. At the same time, maps of Great Britain were massively printed in Germany, translators from English were sent to the troops, rumors were spread about the preparation of large-scale airborne assault forces.
“Hitler did not succeed in deceiving Soviet intelligence. Moscow received hundreds of messages about Germany's preparations for war. However, the USSR was not ready for large-scale military operations in material and technical terms, and Stalin made desperate attempts to delay the war as much as possible, "Knutov emphasized.
Reproduction of a schematic map of the "Barbarossa" plan RIA Novosti
Tool for achieving goals
The German command has prepared about 12 different plans for the war against the USSR. "At the same time, Hitler's" planners "were so confident in their victory that each of the plans did not provide for a backup option in case of any complications in the implementation of the main plan," Dmitry Surzhik noted.
According to Yuri Knutov, in the end it was decided to act in three main strategic directions: Leningrad, Moscow and Kiev. The tank wedges of the German troops were to cut and crush the Red Army west of the Dnieper and Dvina.
“The war was planned to start in May, but the hostilities in the Balkans changed Hitler’s intentions,” Knutov said.
According to him, in June 1941, more than 4 million people were concentrated in the area of the Soviet border as part of the German and allied troops. 19 panzer divisions were divided into panzer groups.
“On June 22, 1941, at the beginning of the aggression, the Nazis were able to create an approximately one and a half advantage in the number of troops. The united forces of practically all of Europe acted against the Soviet Union. And here we are talking not only about the military, but also about the economic potential. The blow was powerful, fast and overwhelming,”Knutov said.
“Moreover, if in the Baltics, Moldova and Ukraine, the Red Army managed to start deploying, then in Belarus it did not, and this led to dire consequences,” he added.
As the historian noted, fierce and effective resistance to the Nazis from the first days of the war was provided by troops who had experience in battles with Japan and Finland, the personnel of the fleet and NKVD units, in which individual training of servicemen was established at a high level. Units without combat experience had a much more difficult time.
Battle in Belarus, 1941 RIA Novosti © Pyotr Bernstein
As a result, the most difficult situation for the Red Army developed on the Western Front. Already on July 11, the Nazis took Vitebsk. In the Baltics, Ukraine and Moldova, Hitler's troops also managed to penetrate the Soviet defenses, albeit not so deeply.
According to Andrei Koshkin, a full member of the Academy of Military Sciences, the first successes greatly inspired the Nazi command.
“Hitler and representatives of the Wehrmacht leadership in early July 1941 came to the conclusion that they needed from two to six weeks to completely defeat the Red Army. In just three weeks, they captured the Baltics, Belarus, a significant part of Ukraine and Moldova. However, already at the end of June - beginning of July, the first surprised notes appeared, which said that the German troops had never met such fierce resistance anywhere before, "Koshkin noted.
In August 1941, the Nazis reached Leningrad, but stumbled upon powerful opposition from Soviet troops. In September, Hitler decided to throw all his forces on Moscow.
In the southern direction, the German-Romanian troops managed to enter Odessa only at the beginning of October. The plans for the lightning-fast seizure of Crimea also failed - Sevastopol was heroically defended there, and Soviet forces from the mainland landed troops at various points of the Crimean coast.
“The failure of the Barbarossa plan was already outlined in the summer of 1941. Until the end of August, the Nazis planned to approach Moscow, in October - to cut the Volga, and in November - to break through to the Transcaucasus. As we know, the Wehrmacht could not fulfill some of these tasks, not only as planned, but in principle, "- stressed Koshkin.
He recalled that by the end of the fall of 1941, the offensive of German troops near Moscow was stopped, and in December the Red Army launched a counteroffensive.
“In late 1941 - early 1942, we can talk about the collapse of Operation Barbarossa. At the same time, we must, unfortunately, pay tribute to the training of Hitler's military leaders. The planning of hostilities in the first weeks of the war brought significant successes to the Wehrmacht,”the expert said.
Red Army counteroffensive near Moscow RIA Novosti
As noted by Yuri Knutov, the Barbarossa plan cannot be considered in isolation from the Ost plan - a set of documents on the management of the occupied territories.
"Barbarossa" is only a tool for Hitler to achieve his goals. Further, within the framework of the "Ost" plan, there should have been a mass destruction or enslavement of the peoples of the USSR and the establishment of German domination. This was probably the most monstrous plan in the history of mankind, "Knutov emphasized.
In turn, Andrei Koshkin expressed the opinion that when preparing a war against the USSR, the Nazis could not take into account the differences between Europe and the Soviet Union.
“Based on victories over such seemingly powerful armies as the French and Polish, the Reich leadership drew false conclusions about the universality of the German blitzkrieg. But such important factors as the mobilization and technical potential of the USSR, and most importantly, the fighting spirit and moral qualities of Soviet soldiers were not taken into account. For the first time, the Germans met those who were ready to stand up to the last drop of blood,”summed up Koshkin.