In Pictures: The Battle of Kursk – The Biggest Tank Battle of World War Two

German soldiers of SS-Panzer Grenadier Division 'Das Reich'.
German soldiers of SS-Panzer Grenadier Division 'Das Reich'.

The Battle of Kursk was a World War II engagement between German and Soviet forces on the Eastern Front near Kursk in the Soviet Union during July and August 1943. The German offensive was code-named Operation Citadel and led to one of the largest armoured clashes in history, the Battle of Prokhorovka.

The German offensive was countered by two Soviet counter-offensives, Operation Polkovodets Rumyantsev and Operation Kutuzov. For the Germans, the battle represented the final strategic offensive they were able to mount in the east. For the Soviets, the victory gave the Red Army the strategic initiative for the rest of the war.

A number of German war photographers were present to record the epic struggle, which was meant to be Nazi Germany’s biggest victory over Soviet Russia.

It did not turn out that way, but here are their pictures:

Schlacht um Kursk, Panzer VI (Tiger I)
Panzer IV with Waffen SS Troops – Photo Credit
Schlacht um Kursk, Panzer VI (Tiger I)
A soldier of the SS Division “Das Reich” in the turret of a Panzer Mk VI “Tiger” – Photo Credit
Tiger Tanks of the SS Division Das Reich awaiting the start of Operation Citadel, the attack on the Kursk Salient – Photo Credit 

A Tiger tank of the SS division “Das Reich” in action – Photo Credit
Kursk, Panzer Mk VI Tiger and soldiers of the Waffen-SS – Photo Credit
Schlacht um Kursk, Panzer VI (Tiger I)
Operation Citadel, soldiers of Waffen-SS division “Das Reich” in front of a Tiger tank. – Photo Credit
Russland, Kursk, Artillerie
Crew manning an artillery gun in support of operation Citadel – Photo Credit

Russland, Kursk, Infanterie
German Soldiers in front of a destroyed Russian Pz.Kpfw. KW-1A – Photo Credit
Soviet Union – “Operation Citadel” – fighting in the area Belgorod-Orel – Waffen SS Division “Das Reich”, crew during a stop in front of their Panzer III – Photo Credit
Russland, M‰nner der Waffen-SS
Waffen SS soldiers having a discussion with a Panzer Mk VI Tiger commander. – Photo Credit
Belgorod – Self-propelled guns (Stugs), Panzer Mk III and Mk IV tanks are assembling and getting ready for operation Citadel – Photo Credit

Near Pokrovka, German Motorcycle troops take cover near their vehicles – Photo Credit
Generalmajor v. Hünersdorff at operation Citadel – Photo Credit
Russland, bei Pokrowka, leichte Flak
Near Pokrovka, German motorized troops on the left and a light (20mm) FLAK gun mounted on half track on the right. – Photo Credit

Russland, Unternehmen "Zitadelle", Fahrzeuge
Vehicles advancing during operation Citadel – Photo Credit
FLAK Vierling gun firing during operation Citadel – Photo Credit

German Soldiers on a Panzer Mk VI Tiger with turret number 123 – Photo Credit
Looking down the barrel of a Panzer MK VI Tiger tank during operation Citadel – Photo Credit
Operation Citadel, a Panzer Mk VI Tiger is being towed by an 18-ton FAMO – Photo Credit

Two Panzer Mk VI Tiger tanks, a destroyed vehicle and a German on a horse – Photo Credit
Russland, Kampf- und Schützenpanzer
Operation Citadel, Panzer MK III with turret number 943 and in the foreground a Panzer MK II with turret number 914 – Photo Credit
Russland, bei Pokrowka, Panzerhaubitze "Wespe"
Near Pokrovka, a group of light field howitzers mounted on Panzer Mk II chassis, know as the Wespe or Sd.Kfz. 124 in a field near the frontline. – Photo Credit

Russland, Panzer VI (Tiger I), Munition
New shells are being loaded on a Panzer Mk VI Tiger – Photo Credit
Loading of new shells in a Panzer Mk VI Tiger tank – Photo Credit
Russland, Jagdpanzer "Marder"
Panzerjäger Marder III Ausf. H (Sd. Kfz. 138) – Photo Credit
Russland, Panzer VI "Tiger I"
Tiger 123, 1st Company sPzabt.503 – Photo Credit
Waffen SS soldiers in their vehicles. Photo Credit
Waffen SS soldiers on a Stug, followed by two Panzer MK VI Tiger tanks drive to the startline of operation Citadel – Photo Credit

Russland, "Unternehmen Zitadelle", Marder III
Operation Citadel a Marder III 7,62cm Pak on the chassis of a Czech 38(t). – Photo Credit
ADN-Bildarchiv, II. Weltkrieg 1939-1945 An der Front in der Sowjetunion: Mitte Juli 1943. Vorbei an brennenden Häusern einer Ortschaft setzen "Tiger"-Panzer der deutschen Wehrmacht während der schweren Kämpfe südlich Orel zu einem Gegenstoß an. Aufnahme: Henisch 3621-43
South of Orel, Panzer Mk VI Tiger tanks attack, in the background a building burns – Photo Credit

Joris Nieuwint

Joris Nieuwint is a battlefield guide for the Operation Market Garden area. His primary focus is on the Allied operations from September 17th, 1944 onwards. Having lived in the Market Garden area for 25 years, he has been studying the events for nearly as long. He has a deep understanding of the history and a passion for sharing the stories of the men who are no longer with us.