In June 1941, Operation Barbarossa began, setting off a bloodbath that was supposed to bring the Soviet Union to its knees. Yet when Adolf Hitler turned his attention away from Europe and towards the Soviet Union, the course of World War II changed dramatically. For four years, Operation Barbarossa tore through the Eastern Front – and though it began as the largest surprise attack in military history, it quickly became one of the world’s biggest and deadliest conflicts.
Despite Hitler’s hopes, the Soviet Union and its people refused to back down, altering the course of WWII and ultimately bringing Nazi Germany to defeat. The Russian path to victory wasn’t without great struggle, though; the Soviet Union was plagued with military losses, deaths, and even starvation of its people over the course of the operation.
We are taking a look at the operation in these 50 images.
Operation Barbarossa [ via] Advance of the Wehrmacht into the Soviet Union during Operation Barbarossa. 1941 [ via] Wehrmacht crossing the border of the USSR at the beginning of the Operation Barbarossa [ via] Army Group North enter pine grove near Leningrad. October 1941 [ via] 1st Panzer Group after the Battle of Brody. June 30 1941 [ via] PzKpfw 35(t) from the Army Group North during ‘Operation Barbarossa’, in the background, a village is on fire. July 1941 [ via] German armored fighting vehicle Sd.Kfz.251 in a city in Latvia. June 1941 [ via] MG-34 team and Panzer IV. 1941 [ via] A jammed road wasn’t unusual for such massive invasion. 1941 [ via] German Soldiers inspecting the so-called ‘Stalin Line’, which was a line of fortifications on Polish-Soviet border [ via] Over 100 years earlier Napoleon also met this obstacle on the same route[ via] German vehicles driving across the river near Petsamo during operation ‘Silberfuchs’. 29 June 1941 [ via] German military engineers of 11th Army during building of floating bridge on Prut river. 1 July 1941 [ via] German tanks PzKpfw III of 13. Panzer Division during first phase of the Operation Barbarossa [ via] German tanks PzKpfw IV in Witebsk, July 1941 [ via] German motorised unit during advance on Smolensk. Note the anti-tank gun PaK 36 [ via] German soldiers shoot the Soviet positions on the other side of Dniepr River with anti-tank gun PaK 36. 20th September 1941 [ via] German soldiers on PzKpfw IV during campaign in Crimea. May 1942 [ via] Wehrmacht builds floating bridge in Kiev. September 1941 [ via] German assault gun Sturmgeshutz III and light armoured half-track Sd.Kfz.250 on streets in Charkov. October 1941 [ via] German infantry during street fights in Charkov. 25th October 1941 [ via] German soldiers passing by Soviet barricades on street in Charkov. October 1941 [ via] German Cavalry in village burning village, near Mohylev, 16th July 1941 [ via] German soldier during advance, beside captured french tank Somua S-35. September 1941 [ via] Station of German MG-34 during fights on Ukraine, near bridge over Psel River. 2nd September 1941 [ via] Two German soldiers during the fight in Ukraine, July 1941 [ via] Latvians welcoming Wehrmacht soldiers in Riga. 7 July 1941 [ via] Wehrmacht on the street of destroyed city of Pskov. 1941 [ via] German Soldiers with Mauser Kar98k carbines, standard infantry rifle. 1941 [ via] 12. Panzer Division enters Minsk. June 1941 [ via] Waffen-SS troops seeking some cover during fights. 1941 [ via] German soldier throwing Stg24 stick hand grenade [ via] German soldier looking at corpse of Soviet soldier and destroyed tank BT-7 on steppes of Ukraine. 1941 [ via] Burning T-34 in 1941 [ via] Abandoned Soviet tank KW-2, after the battle of Raseiniai, 1941. A single tank of this type held off the entire sixth PanzerDivisionn for a whole day [ via] Soviet soldier surrender himself and his tank T-26 to Germans after battle Raseiniai [ via] German soldiers with destroyed Soviet tank KW-1 in Kowno [ via] Destroyed tanks T-26 of 19. Panzer Division, 22 Mechanized Corps, near Lutsk [ via] Destroyed Soviet tank T-35 [ via] Captured soviet armour, looted by Germans in early phases of the Operation Barbarossa [ via] Destroyed MiG-3 on bombed soviet airfield near Białystok [ via] Destroyed MiG-3 during first days of the Operation Barbarossa [ via] Soviet POWs near Charkov. 1941 [ via] Soviet POWs, captured in summer, 1941 [ via] Column of Soviet POWs on the street of Minsk. 2nd July 1941 [ via] “To fight for Lenin’s – Stalin’s cause be ready!” [ via] Soviet gun crew in action at Odessa. 1941 [ via] Soldiers in the trenches on the Leningrad Front before an offensive [ via] Soviet soldiers from units of Leningrad Front along with masked artillery cannon during fights on Leningrad suburbs. 1st November, 1941 [ via] The fire of anti-aircraft guns deployed in the neighborhood of St. Isaac’s cathedral during the defense of Leningrad, 1941 [ via]