Hitler Invades the Soviet Union and Churchill Pledges Support

June 22th marks the anniversary of the British pledge to aid the Russians in stopping a German assault on Russian soil. It is also the day that Hitler launched his attack on Russia, famously known as Operation Barbarossa.

Operation Barbarossa changed the face and trajectory of World War II. Considered one of the largest and bloodiest invasions in history, it prompted the Allied Powers to intervene on the side of the Russians. Britain and its allies were called in to prevent what might have turned out to be a catastrophe in modern war history.

June 22, 1941 saw Hitler going through with his planned attack on the Soviet Union. The attack was initially scheduled for May 1941 but the dates were revised due to the Nazi army’s commitments in other parts of Eastern Europe.

Operation Barbarossa was a campaign that consisted of a massive Germany army of three million soldiers. It was part of Hitler’s onslaught against Soviet communism and his plan to create lebensraum for Germany. For Hitler, the war against the Soviet Union was his chance to destroy the three big enemies of Nazi Germany which were Bolsheviks, the Slavic people and Jews. He saw the East as ‘waste and empty’ and Germany would shape the history and the future of this empty space.

The success of the initial German attack was aided by the continual behavior of Stalin who ignored warning signs and intelligence of the German attack. The Germans did not declare war and the surprise attack was more successful because Stalin did not listen to calls to prepare the Red Army for Nazi aggression, the jpost.com reports.

Britain’s response to the German offensive was swift. On the day of Operation Barbarossa, Winston Churchill made a radio broadcast to the people of Britain assuring them that “any man or state who fights against Nazism will have our aid”.

Churchill’s message was clear, even his anti-communist sentiments would not stop him from declaring Britain’s full support of the Soviet Union. In the broadcast, Churchill proclaimed that “We (the British) are resolved to destroy Hitler and every vestige of the Nazi regime”. Churchill also went to the length of saying “If Hitler invaded, I would at least make a favorable reference to the devil in the House of the Commons”.

Instead of separating the Allied Powers from the Soviet Union, Operation Barbarossa ended up being one of Hitler’s fatal mistakes. It gave Britain and France wiggle room to recover from the German onslaught and resulted in Germany’s defeat come 1945.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE