33 Facts About Hitler’s Invasion of the Soviet Union

Photo Credit

A quick look at the invasion of the Soviet Union by Nazi Germany in 33 facts:

1. The invasion of the Soviet Union was the most ambitious campaign of the Second World War, and yet Hitler believed that it could be won within three months with a fast, powerful blitzkrieg strike.

2. The campaign was launched with Fuhrer Directive 21. Signed on 18th of December 1940, it set out the intention to “crush Soviet Russia in one rapid campaign”.

3. In February 1941, British and American intelligence learned of the planned invasion of the USSR. Hoping to encourage Stalin to act against Hitler, they informed him of the plan. Stalin did not believe them, as he believed that Hitler would stick to the non-aggression pact the two countries had signed before the war.

4. The German navy was to play a part in the operation, blocking Soviet ships from breaking out of the Baltic Sea.

5. Ready for the invasion, the Germans mustered over 3 million soldiers in 152 divisions. This included 17 Panzer and 13 motorized divisions.

A burning village in Russia - Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-137-1032-14A / Kessler, Rudolf / CC-BY-SA 3.0
A burning village in Russia. Photo Credit

6. Transport was provided by 625,000 horses and 600,000 motor vehicles.

7. The initial invasion force included 3,350 tanks, 7,146 artillery pieces, and 1,950 aircraft.

8. The Finnish army also took part in the invasion. They supplied 17 divisions and 2 brigades. Following the Soviet invasion of Finland earlier in the war, they were eager for revenge.

9. Romania also contributed to the army, with 14 divisions, 7 brigades and one reinforced panzer regiment.

10. The German ambassador in Moscow delivered a declaration of war at 0530 on 22 June 1941, citing Soviet violations of their pact as the excuse for invasion.

11. The frontier across which the Germans invaded ran from the Baltic to the Black Sea, a distance of 1,900 miles.

12. They were divided into three army groups – Army Group South under Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt, Army Group North under Field Marshal Wilhelm von Leeb, and Army Group Centre under Field Marshal Fedor von Bock.

13. The invasion was named Operation Barbarossa after the founder of the 12th century First German Reich.

German soldiers in the Soviety Union, June 1941 - By Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1974-099-19 / Kempe / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 de, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5482774
German soldiers in the Soviet Union, June 1941. Photo Credit

14. Only 20% of the invading forces could conduct the sort of rapid mobile warfare Operation Barbarossa relied on – the rest were too slow-moving to keep up with the rapid pace of blitzkrieg.

15. Stalin was so shocked by the invasion that it was said he did not speak for eleven days.

16. The Soviets had two to three times as many tanks and planes as the Germans, but many of the planes were obsolete.

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