Caught in the Dictator’s Vise:
The Historiography of Operation Barbarossa’s Victims, 1941 – 1945
Operation Barbarossa launched Nazi Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. It ended in the complete destruction of Hitler’s empire. During the first forty years after the close of World War II, histories of this campaign relied almost totally on the recollections and records of unsuccessful Wehrmacht generals, often resulting in highly biased and self-serving accounts of operations in the occupied territories. For example, referring to Stalingrad, historian Alan Clark tells us that: “The whole question of…the fate of the 6th Army is so clouded with guilt in the German mind [that it is impossible] to find any witness who has told the whole truth.”[i]
Russian accounts were equally colored by the official propaganda of “The Great Patriotic War.” The realities behind this ideological cant began to clarify only when Glasnost permitted access to Soviet archives from the mid-1980s onward. Soviet records answered many open questions about Barbarossa, and especially enhanced our understanding of the depredations both states practiced against non-combatants.
To investigate the fate of those trapped between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, we must first have a general understanding of how the military campaign of Operation Barbarossa unfolded. It is then helpful to identify the various groups of victims and to sketch the reasons for their individual misfortunes. With this structure in place, we can trace how the perspectives and understanding of individual historians developed regarding Barbarossa’s impact on non-combatants, dividing this historiography into several distinct phases.
An Overview of the Military Campaign
Operation Barbarossa defies easy summary. For an overview of the military progress of the war, please refer to the appendices. Appendix A, “Reference Frames Prior to the Invasion”, surveys the thinking of both combatant states prior to the invasion. Appendix B, “War Planning Prior to Operation Barbarossa” examines the various ways in which both the Germans and the Russians misjudged their opponents before combat began. Appendix C, “Barbarossa – Blitzkrieg Phase” and Appendix D, “Barbarossa – The War of Attrition” trace the tactical and strategic developments of the campaign.
Briefly, the German assault on Russia began 22 June 1941 with the objective of destroying the Soviet government and capturing the territories and population of Eastern Europe between Poland and the Volga River. Captured lands would supply rich material resources to the Reich and would provide lebensraum (breathing space) for German colonists. The indigenous Slavic inhabitants would be starved to death to make room for the colonists, or would serve as an underclass of Untermenschen to work the farms and provide menial labor.
Clausewitz held that most attacks diminish in strength the longer they continue, whereupon a critical point is eventually reached where the power of the attack is superseded by the strength of the defense. Consequently, it was essential that the Germans quickly destroy the defending armies before they could retreat into the Russian hinterland. But although they won repeated tactical victories – encircling and capturing millions of troops – the Germans could not secure all their strategic objectives, nor could they break the will of the Russian government and the Russian soldier. The superior technical skill and execution of the Wehrmacht was unable to overcome the challenges of extended supply lines, weather, and the attrition of men and equipment in the captured lands. Most of all, the Germans were unable to match Russia’s ability to raise new armies and to support them with war materials. The best summary of Germany’s gamble is captured by the observation of British historian R.A.C. Parker: “By any standard of military accomplishment, except that required by Barbarossa, the achievement of the German army in Russia was incomparable” (emphasis added).[ii]
Russian resilience defied the previous experience of the German High Command. Senior German officers were convinced that the capture of huge armies and key strongholds such as Moscow were the keys to victory. General Bock wrote in his diary that “After the loss of Paris, France became a body without a head. The war was lost!”[iii] So it should have been with Russia. But the Russians did not collapse. Despite losing one major battle after another, and in contradiction of all logic, they fought on. Chief of Staff Halder wrote his wife that “The Russian simply won’t go away, like the French, when he has been operationally beaten.”[iv]
British historian Hew Strachan, commenting on the First World War, observed that “Germany … failed to secure the quick victory on which its war plan rested. From now on it was committed to a war on two fronts. With hindsight, some would say that Germany had already lost the war.”[v] Barbarossa can be viewed as a painful duplication of this experience. The power of the German war machine was enormous, but insufficient to defeat an abnormally stubborn foe. Both states began the conflict with a history of ruthlessness and an ideology that diminished their foes to inhuman status. In this cauldron of callous larceny and dashed expectations, the attitudes of the opponents rapidly degenerated to a level of savagery that brought pervasive death and suffering to millions of non-combatants throughout the region.
The Range of Non-Combatants
It is helpful to briefly identify Barbarossa’s non-combatants and to recognize the different ways in which they became victims.
Liquidated Intelligentsia: Poland’s experience provides an example of how both the Germans and Soviets preyed upon subject populations. During the joint partition of 1939, both occupiers sought to eliminate Polish political and intellectual elites through deportation and outright murder.[vi] Richard Evans observes that Nazi policies in Poland during the opening months of the war set the tone for the occupation of other parts of Eastern Europe from the middle of 1941 onwards. The principle characteristics were “expropriation, forcible deportation, imprisonment, mass shootings, murder on a hitherto unimaginable scale.”[vii] The Soviets likewise executed Polish army officers in mass killings such as those in the Katyn forest. They brutally deported two million ethnic Polish families to Siberia before Barbarossa began.[viii] Racism was evident in the behavior of both belligerents. When Germany placed its Poles in the same railway cars as Soviet POWs, the Russians murdered them.
Agricultural Communities: Occupied Russian agricultural communities suffered greatly throughout the five-year ordeal. Retreating Soviet forces burned crops and looted stores in a “scorched earth” policy. Invading German troops seized what was left. When Germans lay siege to cities like Leningrad, Stalin ordered all houses and farms within forty miles “destroyed and burned to ashes” to prevent shelter for the enemy. Neither side gave thought to the fate of Russian women and children living in those shelters. As German soldiers foraged in widening arcs to scavenge wood and straw to insulate their own dugouts against the Russian winter, the privation of farming communities multiplied. Epidemic starvation followed.[ix] The removal of three-quarters of the male population by death or into service with the Red Army further aggravated conditions. By 1944 women raised nearly eighty percent of the food supplied to Russian soldiers and civilians. Where the Germans were in control, they preserved some of the Slav population to serve as slave labor for the new master race, either in the occupied region or after transport to Germany proper. The rest were left to perish. German soldiers – sent into the approaching Russian winter without adequate clothing – stripped women and children to their underclothes, leaving them without protection from the cold.[x]
German soldiers were not innocent of overt atrocity as most later claimed. Historians Glantz and House used Soviet records to show that the first Wehrmacht troops to enter a Russian town frequently executed several people as a threat against any resistance. Nazi soldiers impressed civilians into clearing minefields or performing other dangerous military tasks.[xi]
Urban Populations: Urban populations fared no better than the farming communities. In major cities such as Moscow, announcement of the German attack created panic. Civilians swamped trains and looted abandoned shops. The Soviet apparatus re-established harsh order and drafted civilians into work gangs to prepare hasty defenses. In Leningrad, for example, Commissars required regular citizens to perform “labor service” for sixty hours a month. Stalin routinely forbade abandonment of the cities, condemning their populations to siege. When German advance units reached these urban centers, their tactics were often simple starvation of the population. As winter arrived, cold and disease compounded starvation. In the dead of winter, civilians forced into the open tried to dig shelters in the snow with their bare hands. Deaths in besieged cities like Leningrad reached 5,000 a day. Cannibalism was rampant. Over one million civilians died by the end of the siege. Wehrmacht statistics reveal German attitudes toward the civilian population. Soldiers were court-marshaled for not displaying a will to fight, but not for rape, looting, or shooting prisoners.[xii]
Throughout Russia, urban factory workers faced grueling hours, and while better fed than others, were also at risk to being charged with “sabotage” of production targets, for which the penalty was death or removal to the Gulag. Those sentenced to these labor camps also included peasants unable to fulfill grain quotas and those simply selected to fulfill camp imprisonment goals. Amazingly, through it all, the Russians responded with indomitable spirit. Those inside the cities continued to resist while those outside organized incredible resupply trails through snow and enemy fire.[xiii]
The fate of Warsaw is somewhat unique among urban populations. In the closing days of the war, as the Red Army swept west toward Germany, what remained of Polish resistance concentrated in Warsaw. Patriots seized the opportunity to rise against Nazi occupation forces. Their primary motivation was to establish a basis for negotiating independent status with the Allies. The Soviet response was predictable. The Red Army halted its advance and waited for the Germans to brutally put down the uprising, thus saving themselves the task of identifying and eliminating strong-willed Poles.[xiv]
Partisans and Trapped Soldiers: The largest civilian deaths in WWII Europe occurred in those areas where resistance movements were strongest: Western Russia, Poland, and Yugoslavia.[xv] At the beginning of Barbarossa, anti-Soviet sentiment was high in those regions of the western Soviet Union that were non-Russian. The Soviet political police, the NKVD, operated there for more than a decade before the Germans arrived, rooting out “subversives” and independent minds. When the Nazis arrived, they ignored the opportunity to employ the locals in the Barbarossa effort and instead launched their own campaign of racist degradation and carnage. Partisan groups formed spontaneously.
Russian troops encircled by the German advance fought on as independent commands, frequently combining with indigenous partisan groups. A German a soldier’s letter written in early July 1941 captured the effectiveness of these forces: “We’re losing more men to the bandits than in the fighting itself.”[xvi] The Germans expected quick victory and thus had no initial plans to deal with partisan activity, but in the early days “most partisan activity was little more than seizing food from peasants.”[xvii]
During the 1930s the Soviets had liquidated all the famous partisan leaders from the Civil War, but a new crop of leaders quickly emerged during Barbarossa. Soviet authorities believed that German reprisals “raised readiness” for resistance among “the masses” and attempted to organize these efforts by infiltrating party actives behind enemy lines. Many partisans were not volunteers, but were forcibly conscripted by NKVD operatives assigned to the occupied territories. Over time, however, their efforts caused great harm to the German advance, particularly by damaging supply lines and communications. Partisans were credited with the destruction of 65,000 vehicles and 12,000 bridges in western Russia.[xviii]
Both sides visited murderous reprisals against those who did – or did not – collaborate. German atrocities were particularly common against the families of partisans and their suspected collaborators. In July Hitler ordered a terror program to “make the population lose all interest in insubordination” and in September Halder issued the “hostage order” demanding up to one hundred hostages to be executed for every German death. Civilians were doubly threatened. When Soviet forces re-entered these same areas, they executed anyone suspected of accommodating the Germans. Both sides continued to confiscate or destroy crops and livestock, further impoverishing the communities.
POWs: Captured Russian prisoners of war became a distinct class of non-combatants. The Nazi plan for dealing with POWs was to house them in large open camps to die of malnutrition and disease. Watchdogs received fifty times the food ration of a single Russian prisoner.[xix] Richard Evans observes that “Red Army prisoners in German hands perished as a direct consequence of Nazi racial doctrines…which wrote off ‘Slavs’ as expendable subhumans, not worth keeping alive while there were hungry German mouths to feed.”[xx] The Germans selected some POWs for medical experiments and slave labor details. The extermination plan succeeded. Out of every one hundred Russian POWs, only three would survive the war. And when they were liberated by their countrymen, both Soviet POWs and citizen prisoners were first harshly interrogated, then shot or sent to labor camps for having been taken prisoner.
A somewhat different class of Russian POWs was comprised of those interred by their own government for slight infringements of military code, such as admiring a German weapon or hording food. The Red Army automatically defined such acts as “sabotage” and shot over 150,000. Others were assigned to penal battalions where they cleared minefields or made unarmed attacks against German positions.
The Russians were less prepared to care for captured soldiers, nor were they any better disposed to be humane. Regardless of weather, they kept German POWs in bare, unsheltered camps. Of the 91,000 prisoners taken in the winter after Leningrad, for example, almost half died by the time spring arrived. With the situation reversed, the surviving civilian population now despoiled the German soldier of warm clothing; the Red Army soldier took random pot-shots at the passing lines of prisoners. [xxi] Most German POWs made it to the Soviet Gulag camps, where survival rates were mixed. Contemporary estimates put the number of German prisoners at between three and four million, plus another million from Axis allies. Two million finally repatriated in the 1950s, thus perhaps two million died in Siberia from cold, exhaustion, malnutrition, and disease.
Ethnic Nationalists: Nationalist sentiments complicated the picture in some areas. Many ethnic regions had only briefly been part of the Soviet Union and many had already suffered greatly. For example, an estimated four million Ukrainians died during the Soviet-induced famine in 1933. Millions more were sent to labor camps.[xxii] Not surprisingly, some regions took advantage of the Barbarossa disorder to proclaim their independence. Ukrainians held spontaneous parades in support of “Hitler-Liberator” in the early days of German occupation. Similarly, the Cossacks and Crimean Tartars welcomed the invaders and aligned with them with the intent of creating their own national homelands. Alfred Rosenberg, Reich Minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories, planned to co-opt Ukrainians and other subject nationalities for use against the Russians. Instead, Hitler, Himmler and Goering planned a “ruthless subjugation, deportation and murder of millions” from these same territories.[xxiii]
Even before the arrival of German armies, the advent of Barbarossa accelerated Soviet plans for its minority populations. In Lvov, for instance, the NKVD began murdering thousands of Ukrainian intelligentsia within two days of the outbreak of war with Germany. Perhaps a half-million ethnic Germans were deported from various parts of the Soviet Union to more remote territories farther east.[xxiv] However, if the Soviets suspected that minority nationalities might support the Nazis, they had little to fear.
David Glantz summarized German policy in the occupied lands as appearing “deliberately intended to alienate the populace.”[xxv] Before long, the SS began to systematically round up and execute the elites in subject territories. They shot as “intellectuals” those peasants who admitted to literacy, and treated Slavs in general with distain. Reflecting Nazi racist concepts, Goering recommended that all Ukrainian men over fifteen be killed, and by the end of the war Ukrainians constituted eighty percent of all forced labor from the East. The Wehrmacht obliterated some 250 Ukrainian villages to encourage “good behavior” among the rest.[xxvi]
Eventually most of these nascent nationalist forces clashed with both totalitarian armies. This became evident as early as 22 June 1941 when an estimated 30,000 Lithuanians took advantage of Barbarossa and attacked Soviet forces in the “June Uprising.” Ethnic Lithuanians within the Red Army crossed over to join the rebels. Soon Estonia also rose against the Soviets.[xxvii]
Conditions were no better under the Germans. Despite the fact that large numbers of Ukrainian Nationalists joined German forces in the invasion of the Soviet Ukraine, the Nazis suppressed all nationalist movements, fearing they encouraged future resistance. The SS Einsatzgruppen rounded up, imprisoned, or executed nationalists of all persuasions in the Baltics, Ukraine and Belorussia.[xxviii] More than seven million ethnics from these regions were shipped to Germany to work as slaves under appalling conditions.
Many of these nationalist movements did not die out after the defeat of Germany. Guerilla war continued at various levels in Soviet-occupied Poland, Lithuania and (especially) Ukraine into the early 1950s.
German Civilians: In the closing months of the war, Red Army troops subjected German civilians to many of the same depredations suffered earlier by their own countrymen. The invaders looted homes and killed unarmed Germans at random. Alexander Solzhenitsyn said that “if the girls were German they could be raped and then shot.” Richard Overy ascribes the severity of Russian atrocities in part to the higher death rates the Red Army suffered during the final assault on the German homeland.[xxix]
Jewish Populations: The fate of Jews in the occupied regions is well known. Although Stalin had focused much of his Terror against an imagined Jewish conspiracy during the 1930s, the Nazis implemented a more comprehensive race-based extermination program.[xxx] Richard Overy argues it was the apparent Soviet collapse of 1941 that “sealed the fate of Europe’s Jews.”[xxxi] The slaughter of 33,700 Jews at Babi Yar, subsequently captured in literature and poetry, is representative of the horror. Still larger slaughters occurred in occupied areas such as Kiev, where local Romanians aided the Einsatzgruppen. The Germans swept Gypsies, hated communists and other political undesirables were often swept into the mix of victims and executed them in industrial-style killing factories along with Jews. The slower death of millions to starvation and disease was less spectacular, but just as much a part of systematic genocide.
Russian “Traitors”: Immediately upon the invasion, Stalin declared martial law and made war against both the Germans and his own people. Rather than suspend the hunt for enemies of the state, he redirected its terror. Order Number 270, issued in August 1941, declared all those captured or surrendering as “traitors to the Motherland.” Stalin’s own son became one of the first so designated.[xxxii] Officers who failed to achieve victory were equally liable to be executed as traitors. The families of arrested soldiers, a frequently overlooked category of non-combatant victims, were also suspect. In addition to declaring any captured Russian soldier a traitor, Stalin ordered that the wives of captured officers be imprisoned. Many disappeared into the Gulag.
After the war, the millions of Soviet citizens who survived German imprisonment were treated in similar fashion to those who voluntarily joined the enemy. These included those who actively resisted the Nazis and those rounded up to serve as forced labor. All were guilty of “premeditated surrender.” The penalty was death. Furthermore, these people had been politically contaminated by their exposure to western ideas that might infect the loyal Soviet population. The Allies returned about five and a half million liberated Soviet prisoners by 1953. Many were simply shot, including about half the returned officers, while the rest went into the labor camps.[xxxiii]
Russian Anti-Soviets: We can also discern a category of Russians who, although not true non-combatants, used the opportunity of the German invasion to fight for a country free of Bolshevik Communism. General Andrei Vlasov, creator of the Russian Liberation Army, led the best known of these efforts. Although a genuine patriot, his decision to side with Hitler generated deep distrust among the very anti-Soviets he hoped to enlist. The Germans cynically deployed Vlasov to work within occupied territory. Perhaps one million ethnic Russians joined Vlasov’s doomed effort, while other defectors joined the SS or roamed the countryside in smaller gangs, preying on the locals. All those not killed in action would eventually be executed by the Soviets at the end of the war.[xxxiv]
The Politically Betrayed: When the war ended, Western allies shamefully agreed to deliver Russian émigrés into Stalin’s hands. Some of these had fought with the White forces decades earlier during the Russian Civil War, but others had merely fled the revolutionary violence and were never citizens of the Soviet government. Many were now citizens of France, England and other Western states. The Allies nonetheless turned them over to the Soviets to suffer deportation to remote slave labor camps, or in many cases immediate torture and death. Some, such as the Cossacks and officers of old White armies, committed suicide rather than return.
The category of “politically betrayed” must also include a special subset of those senior Soviet officers who survived the war and helped to win the victory over Nazi Germany. The popularity of these peacetime non-combatants threatened Stalin. Just as their predecessors in the 1930s, they were arrested and mercilessly purged. Once they provided confessions of treason under torture, Stalin had them executed. Georgy Zhukov was the only prominent general to survive this process, but even he was banished to a remote command until after Stalin’s death.[xxxv]
By the close of World War Two, 84 percent of the 34.5 million men and women mobilized by Soviet Russia had been killed, wounded, or captured. Of these, military deaths accounted for 8.6 million. Other recent estimates by Soviet historians are even higher.[xxxvi]
An Overview of Operation Barbarossa Historiography
Early historic scholarship focused on major battles and on the strategic/tactical issues of the military conflict. Consequently, historians concerned themselves with identifying the critical “turning points” of the campaign, or dissecting strategic issues such as the dysfunctional relations between Hitler and his General Staff. In contrast, recent scholars present a more nuanced picture, expanding their analysis to include the consequences for those people caught in the vise created by the German onslaught and determined Soviet resistance. Accordingly, this paper investigates our evolving understanding of the fate of civilians, partisans and prisoners of war, as described by various historians. Nazi and Soviet policies and attitudes concerning race, ethnic groups, captured soldiers, and proto-nationalists play a central role in determining the fate of these non-combatants.
Both Hitler’s Nazi fascism and Stalin’s communist USSR regularly employed terror and mass extermination as tools of state formation and social control. Both benefitted from extended periods of power during which they molded the attitudes of their people through propaganda that stressed national exceptionalism and a cult of personality surrounding the leader. These ideologies fueled wartime acts we now find morally reprehensible.
It is not so much our attitudes toward these excesses as our knowledge of them that has changed. Historians of a later age have been willing to dismiss earlier claims of Wehrmacht innocence, and to probe deeper into German diaries and photographic evidence. Above all, the opening of Soviet archives and the demise of the Stalinism have permitted us to write a more accurate picture of the tragic lives of individuals subject to the whims of these two cruel regimes. This survey explores how the views of historians evolved over the past sixty years, gradually tightening focus from the grand issues of strategy and battlefield engagement, to the desperate struggle for survival by individuals caught in the interstices of Barbarossa.
Historiography Prior to Glasnost
From 1945 to the mid-1980s, western historians based their understanding of Operation Barbarossa exclusively on Allied accounts, and upon the testimonies of Wehrmacht soldiers. As is true with most military histories, these early descriptions focused on strategy and politics, providing detailed chronologies of troop movements, major battles, key tactical engagements, and logistics. In addition to getting an early opportunity to “define the conventional wisdom,” these authors competed to nominate the point at which the war “turned.” Winston Churchill got an early start with The Second World War, a six-volume work that won him the Nobel Prize in 1953. Churchill skillfully combined geopolitics, military campaigns and British triumphalism into an often entertaining, if exhausting, account. His treatment of non-combatants focused on victims of the Holocaust and clearly did not benefit from Soviet records. He incidentally chose the Battle of Britain as a key battle and spring 1943 as the turning point of the war.[xxxvii]
Churchill’s literary foray established several motifs that continued to feed subsequent Barbarossa histories. In future years historians frequently returned to the linked concepts of “the key battle” and “the turning point” to ground their analysis of the war in Europe. Richard Overy, Why The Allies Won (1996) first placed the turning point between 1942 and 1944, but then a few chapters later identified Stalingrad and the twelve following months as “the turning point of the whole war.”[xxxviii] In 2000 Mark Healy selected Kursk 1943, the massive tank battle that marked the last German armored offensive of the war.[xxxix] In 1998 Anthony Beevor nominated Stalingrad as the hinge point of Nazi fortunes, as would Geoffrey Roberts again in 2002.[xl] Many historians and journalists continue this tradition, re-fighting the Barbarossa campaign or, more often, a specific tank battle or siege, in order to ponder counterfactual outcomes.
The works of surviving German generals became a staple of early Barbarossa history. In some cases publishers dusted off earlier military works for reprint. For example, Hans Guderian, one of the few German leaders whose reputation remained largely intact, wrote Achtung-Panzer! in 1937, clearly anticipating many of the critical issues of the war.[xli] Guderian noted the critical importance of three factors for the success of armored operations: fuel, spare parts, and access to roads and highways to facilitate supply. He made other prophetic, but equally ignored assessments. For example, he wrote that “Russia possesses the strongest army in the world, numerically and in terms of the modernity of its weapons and equipment.” Achtung-Panzer! sold well again after the war. The market for “I told you so” histories was strong in the 1950s and 1960s.
Memoirs from German generals faced some practical impediments. Those who survived to write typically fought during the opening phase of 1941 – 1943, when the Soviets were still in disarray and the Wehrmacht went from victory to victory. These accounts left readers perplexed as to why Barbarossa had failed. But as noted by David Glantz and Jonathan House, “the Senior German commanders of 1944 – 1945, the period of greatest Soviet triumphs, left few memoirs.”[xlii] Many did not escape capture and death. Those who did were more reluctant to share the details of their defeat.
Memoirs from Russian generals were equally suspect. Until the death of Stalin, few dared to offer interpretations that might draw his wrath. Even after Nikita Khrushchev began de-Stalinization in the late 1950s, Barbarossa history had to adhere to the rigid ideological canon of Bolshevik communism. Even today, memoirs by Russian generals are difficult to find in the West. Complete access to Soviet war records continues to be denied to Russian as well as western historians.
Although lack of access to Soviet records impeded western historians in the 1940s to 1970s, it did not necessarily prevent them from writing about non-combatants in the occupied lands. For instance, in 1957 Alexander Dallin used the diaries and field reports of German soldiers to depict how shortfalls in all sorts of logistics forced widespread looting in the newly-conquered territories. Even before the liquidation campaigns began, the potential of local support was undermined by aggressive exploitation. Dallin quoted an SS report that “…the way the Army treats the civilian population [makes them feel] handled as an enemy people.”[xliii]
The pre-Glasnost period of scholarship suffered because the desire to excuse eventual defeat biased the accounts of Wehrmacht officers. Consequently, historians paid considerable attention to the dysfunctional relationship between Hitler and his commanders, and to the size and “barbaric” fighting style of the Soviet army. More critical and objective survivor accounts slowly appeared only as the German nation became more adjusted to the idea of war guilt in the years following its defeat.
German histories of this period often stressed Hitler’s interference with military strategy. Examples of this fixation are found in two works by Andreas Hillgruber, Hitlers Strategie, and Germany and the Two World Wars, which reiterated the position taken by many former generals that Hitler alone dominated the decision-making process, but was mentally too erratic to follow a detailed plan. In works of this genre, it was solely Hitler’s constant interference that led to most of the major military defeats.[xliv]
A.J.P. Taylor is considered by some to be one of the fathers of WWII military history. In The Origins of the Second World War, first published in 1961, he provided an excellent study of the decisions that led to the war, yet only from a British point of view. His argument that Hitler was “a simple opportunist seizing his chances as they arose,” who did not have a thoughtful plan for continued expansion throughout the war, combined two limiting influences. One was Taylor’s reliance upon Western and German sources. The other was a strong flavor of “British triumphalism,” which as the previous quote shows, persisted in viewing the Nazis – and Hitler in particular – in the most simplistic terms.[xlv]
The most thoroughly-researched accomplishment during this pre-Glasnost period may be Alan Clark’s Barbarossa, first published in 1965. Oddly, Clark began by stating that the greatest and longest land battle which mankind has ever fought was a “subject, taken as a whole, [which] has been neglected by historians.” Consistent with the historiography of the time, he dissected the Wehrmacht generals’ explanations of defeat: “The Germans…have evolved a variety of excuses, inferiority of numbers and material, and the frustrations arising from Hitler’s continual interference with his generals.” Clark saw such rationalization as self-serving and encouraged a reassessment of Hitler’s role. “Occasions when Hitler was right and the General Staff wrong are far more numerous than the apologists of the German Army allow.”[xlvi] He further charged that the German generals cynically misrepresented Hitler after the war, but nevertheless blamed the Fuhrer for not “taking the OKH staff firmly by the lapels…from the outset…”[xlvii] This attention on decision-making and lines of authority led Clark into a detailed analysis of the fluid relationship between Hitler, his generals, and the High Command.
A lack of access to Soviet records nonetheless handicapped Clark’s work. In what was at the time a comprehensive study, he drew extensively on German archives and focused on key battles to trace the rise and fall of the German advance. Using a fully conventional approach, Clark picked “four points of crisis – Moscow in the winter of 1941, Stalingrad, the Kursk offensive of 1943, and the last struggles on the Oder at the beginning of 1945.”
Despite his limitations in data, Clark nevertheless concluded that the Russians could have won the European war without the help of the other Allies. He conventionally treated his “key battles” as great heroic enterprises, and his study only occasionally penetrated down to the fate of individual soldiers and civilians. Focused as he was on German records, he chose to play amateur psychologist by proposing that the German people “suffer from a fatal flaw” that makes their society more susceptible to demagoguery and brutality.[xlviii]
One of the most prescient scholars of this period was Basil Liddell Hart, who penned his History of the Second World War in 1970.[xlix] No historian adopted a more “old school” approach to Barbarossa. In this, his last major work, Hart was typically opinionated and direct, and he characteristically took a distant, strategic point of view, detached from individual suffering. Since we know about the massive suffering this war caused among non-combatants, his distancing appears intentional. Hart’s account proceeded in a straight chronological narrative. He observed that “as in Hitler’s previous invasions everything turned on the mechanized forces” and the outcome in Russia “depended less on strategy and tactics than on space, logistics, and mechanics,” thus anticipating the conclusions that others would reaffirm decades later with access to Soviet records.[l] Nevertheless, his dispassionate approach completely neglected the non-combatants’ fortunes during Barbarossa.
In 1973, Barry Leach published German Strategy Against Russia, arguing that the post-war recollections of German generals were self-serving.[li] While he had ample evidence for this assertion based solely on western records, it would be left to later historians to corroborate his conclusions using Soviet records. Regardless, Leach’s attention, like that of Hart, was squarely on military strategy rather than on individual suffering.
Alan Clark updated and revised his earlier work in 1985, changing the title to Barbarossa: The Russian-German Conflict 1941 – 1945. Clark may have received some early unattributed access to Russian archives. Whatever the explanation, he analyzed the means by which the Soviets managed to feed a steady stream of new armies into battle, despite continued defeats. Above all, he provided insights into the willingness of Russian troops to persist under incompetent leadership and appalling conditions. Despite his use of an expanded set of sources, however, Clark’s emphasis remained on the operational aspects of the campaign. He devoted chapters to lines of advance and logistics, but considerably less analysis of human misery. For example, he mentioned that as they withdrew from Russian territory late in the war “the Germans devastated the whole countryside and razed the towns.” He did not provide further insight into what was undeniably a period of great suffering for Russian non-combatants.[lii] Instead, he fully expanded on his central theme of command dysfunction: “…the real irony…is that the time when Hitler’s grasp of military affairs was at its surest and his powers of judgment were at their most rational was the period when he had the greatest difficulty in getting full obedience from his commanders.”[liii]
Clark briefly documented specific aspects of Nazi doctrine in the occupied lands. For example he expended considerable effort to detail the operational consequences of Hitler’s Directive #33, ordering “…the liquidation of important enemy contingents” caught between the mobile units and infantry.[liv] He also mentioned that the German’s response to partisan activity was intensified terror, but in neither case did he provide detailed insight into the human cost of these practices.[lv]
Most historians who offered a comprehensive analysis of WWII investigate the suppression of political dissent within Germany during the Nazi rise to power. All cover the failure of assassination plots against Hitler. But Alan Clark was one of the few who mentioned, if briefly, internal German political repression late in the war. For example, he told us that during the post-Normandy retreat from Western Europe, there were new waves of political murders back in Germany. Clark’s treatment of this phenomenon revealed a problematic aspect of his perspective. He discerned degrees of atrocity. For instance, when referring to the entry of Russian troops into Germany itself, he described their behavior as “barbarous and horrific [but] not as bad as the German conduct in Poland in 1938 or in the Baltic in 1941.”[lvi] This debatable approach presumes a level of behavior worse than “barbarous and horrific.”
A brief survey of the articles in scholarly journals of this period suggests that they followed the same editorial choices made elsewhere by historians. The Holocaust received deserved print, but other categories of non-combatants were apparently ignored as topics. As an example of this academic myopia, Alan Wilt examined “Hitler’s Late Summer Pause in 1941” in a 1981 issue of Military Affairs.[lvii] Although Wilt provided several explanations for this often-studied decision, but he failed to consider the impact of partisan activities or to consider issues revolving around the management of non-combatants behind the front lines as contributing factors.
Mikhail Gorbachev became the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1985 and began to make rapid changes in Russian society. His reforms relaxed censorship, permitted freedom of speech, and encouraged a new “openness” (Glasnost). All of this weakened the system of internal political suppression that had kept hidden the details of the Stalinist period. Gorbachev and the Communist Party quickly lost their grip on the academy and the media. Historians now had access to previously- hidden government records, as well as contact with Red Army veterans.
Records concerning the German-Soviet War of 1941 – 1945 began to emerge in earnest during the late 1980s. Nonetheless, it remained possible to write a history of WWII and be little influenced by input from the archives. R.A.C. Parker’s Struggle for Survival (1989) was an excellent example.[lviii] By now other historians were using Soviet records to expand their view of the war, but Parker claimed “We know less about the motives and thought of the Soviet government than of any other of the great powers [because of] little documentary evidence.”[lix] His decidedly Anglo-centric account was admittedly a summary overview of the war, but its style was by now anachronistic, written with a severe emotional distance that reduced murdered non-combatants to statistics. As required by this date, the Holocaust received a dedicated chapter, rendering Jews the only category of non-combatants to be devoted any significant space. Parker implied the fate of non-Jews with two sentences: “The Polish figure [of murdered citizens] is just over 6 million from the citizens of pre-war Poland, including about 3 million Jews. Military casualties in battle came to about 150,000.” Parker’s conclusion that the Germans’ “single-minded… concentration on slaughtering Jews…had no parallel even in the German treatment of non-Jewish Poles and Russians” is accurate only in the sense that the Nazis scheduled Jews for total extermination. Otherwise the millions of murdered non-Jews must be considered as significant as any other deaths.[lx]
Parker often treated the war as an exercise of grand strategy; at other times he went into more detailed, if nonetheless detached analysis. For example, he devoted pages of Struggle for Survival to targeting problems during the British-American bombing program against Germany. There was no comparable analysis of programs targeting non-combatants. Barbarossa was properly identified as having “determined the whole course of the war” but it received no more attention than a chapter titled “D-Day and Victory in Europe” in Parker’s work.[lxi]
Other western scholars made better use of new sources. Through the 1990s they digested an increasing torrent of previously undisclosed Soviet records. These new sources made it possible for historians such as Richard Overy to present a dramatically modified view of Operation Barbarossa.[lxii] His Russia’s War: A History of the Soviet Effort: 1941 – 1945, published in 1997, began with the Russian Civil War to explore how Stalin and the Soviet machine positioned the Red Army for both its initial defeats and its eventual victory. By carefully examining Stalin’s actions, Overy showed how much of the dictator’s success was due to his temporary relaxation of the oppression inflicted on his own people. It is actually surprising that the Russians could respond so vigorously, given the decades of murderous oppression that preceded the Nazi invasion. Overy brought “The Great Patriotic War” down to reality with a chilling and thorough examination of how the Stalinist system operated.
Rather than attempt a comprehensive review of the German-Soviet war, Overy’s approach skillfully combined statistical details and accounts of key tactical confrontations with insights into the personal experiences of the participants. In doing so, Overy became part of the post-Glasnost trend to balance individual narratives with grand strategic descriptions. Of the historians reviewed, only Overy identified and addressed the fate of each non-combatant group listed in the preceding section.
Anthony Beevor’s Stalingrad, The Fateful Siege was published in the same year as Overy’s Russia’s War, and to some extent they overlapped in both subject matter and treatment.[lxiii] Beevor unfolded the confused objectives and intelligence errors of German pre-campaign planning, and provided a compressed view of the early phases of Operation Barbarossa. Beevor’s point of view moved between General Frederick Paulus, who would eventually command the hapless Sixth Army at “the fateful city,” and his Russian opponent, Marshal Georgy Zhukov. Hitler’s stubbornness condemned Paulus and his men to a slow-motion trap that sprung with glacial inevitability. Meanwhile innocent thousand died daily. The courage and desperation of the city’s civilian population received sympathetic treatment from Beevor, but so did that of the “Hiwis,” the Russians who fought with the Germans out of need or – in many cases – sincere opposition to the Soviet regime.
Beevor closely examined how the German idea of Rassenkampf, or race war, so deeply influenced the Russian campaign. Although he concluded that German soldiers “were bound to mistreat civilians after nearly nine years of…anti-Slav and anti-Semitic propaganda,” he brusquely discounted the claims of ignorance made by surviving officers, using the Sixth Army’s own files to show how they supported the predations of the SS Sonderkommando.[lxiv] In an approach similar to that of Overy, Beevor treated the fortunes of all the unfortunate participants in the Barbarossa maelstrom, whether combatant or non-combatant. His tight focus on the military aspects of the siege nonetheless meant that attention concentrated on the suffering of soldiers rather than non-combatants.
Historians with access to the same archives as Overy and Beevor often produced different results. For example, in Hitler’s Panzers East: World War II Reinterpreted, written a few years earlier in 1993, Russell Stolfi proposed that Operation Barbarossa was a perfectly reasonable plan ruined by Hitler’s constant meddling, especially his decision to halt the drive to Moscow in August 1941. Stolfi further proposed that Stalin’s purges of the Red Army had left it so weakened that Barbarossa had a realistic chance of success.[lxv] David Stahel and others opposed this conclusion, arguing that the campaign could never have succeeded, and further dismissed Stolfi’s opinion that Hitler showed “impressive decisiveness” and “indomitable will.” Stahel scathingly disparaged Stolfi’s conclusions as “a largely untenable case” built on factual errors.[lxvi] Historians David Glantz and Jonathan House likewise concluded that “the bloodletting [of the purge] tore the brain from the Red Army…and left a magnificent hollow military establishment, ripe for catastrophic defeat.”[lxvii] Disagreements as fundamental as these reveal that simple access to Soviet records did not always clarify our understanding.
In 1994 Michael C.C. Adams produced The Best War Ever: America and World War II. Adams indirectly criticized his predecessors’ obsession with battle plans when he wrote that the success of the blitzkrieg in Poland “has framed our image of World War II…as a mobile war…much like a high-tech video game.”[lxviii] As the title suggested, Adams’ aim was to examine the truths and fictions of America’s memory of the Second World War as “the good war.” Accordingly, he focused attention on the invasion of Europe and D-Day, with little mention of the Eastern front other than its diversion of German troops. He gave equal weight to the invasion of Russia, the Battle of Britain, and the entry of the United States, as the main reasons for the defeat of the Axis.[lxix] The Best War Ever illustrated how popular histories might completely ignore Barbarossa’s victims if their focus was limited to a single aspect of the European conflict.
Not surprisingly, access to Soviet collections generated a number of histories that shifted the point of view decidedly to the perspective of the Russians. For example, David Glantz and Jonathan House used the new information to produce When Titans Clashed in 1995.[lxx] They developed a fresh image in which the opposing armies moved in opposite arcs of capability, each gradually adopting the characteristics of its opponent. Over time, Stalin recognized that his personal leadership damaged the Russian war effort, and he eventually granted more initiative to his generals. The Red Army adopted many of the practices of the Wehrmacht, such as independence of command, defense in depth, and rapid concentration of force. During the same period the German army lost many of its distinctive advantages. Training and tactical independence diminished. Equipment wore out and could not be replaced. Hitler increasingly interfered with decisions. Basil Liddell Hart had offered a somewhat similar analysis twenty-five years earlier when he observed that whereas the Red Army had lost a high proportion of its best troops at the very beginning of Barbarossa, 1943 saw an increasing number of battle-experienced veterans. Meanwhile, the dynamic leadership of the Wehrmacht constantly declined.[lxxi]
Neither of these “arcs of change” directly addressed what happened to non-combatants. Glantz and House’s insightful observations about relative learning curves, while stimulating, failed to look beyond strategic issues to the level of individual suffering. We could conclude, however, that the concomitant reinforcement of Nazi ideology shored up German resolve and constantly suppressed the natural human antipathy against atrocity, thus making the non-combatant’s fate worse.
American military scholarship went into partial decline in the 1990s, perhaps as a delayed aftereffect of disillusionment with Vietnam and other failed imperial endeavors. Nevertheless, the articles that appeared in scholarly journals were still weighted towards traditional battlefield analysis and studies of command and logistics. Studies of the “social” aspects of war were largely absent. In a 1996 article in The Journal of Military History, for example, R. L. DiNardo explored the difficulties of coordinating operations between the cooperating Axis powers at the Eastern Front.[lxxii] One of those “difficulties” was in fact disagreement between Axis commanders regarding the treatment of non-combatants, from local civilians to deserters, but DiNardo preferred to concentrate on matters of material and command politics. His sole mention of these issues was that “tensions between Germany and the other Axis powers were heightened by the Holocaust. Opposition to the genocide was strongest in the Italians and Hungarians, and even the Romanians refused to turn over their indigenous Jews to the Germans.”[lxxiii] A cursory survey of scholarly journals fails to reveal articles dedicated to the fate of non-combatants.
Journalist Alexander Werth brought the decade to a close with his massive Russia at War: 1941 – 1945, published in 1999. A correspondent in Russia during the war, Werth was able to provide authoritative details of terrible civilian depredations during the German occupation of Soviet territory. His interviews with Russian survivors were unique in their candor and depth. Despite this intimacy, Werth was accused of being an apologist for the Soviet system because his history largely omitted or rationalized details of Soviet brutality. With this notable exception, his narrative was generally objective. As a non-historian, Werth’s methods lacked clear documentation and rigor, but his accounts were superior to many scholarly histories in describing the plight of the average Russian.[lxxiv]
Operation Barbarossa in the 21st Century
British historian John Keegan, one of the most respected names in military history, published his single-volume The Second World War in 2005. Keegan made his reputation interpreting the experiences of the common soldier across centuries of warfare, and he did not disappoint in this work. Nonetheless, it was the soldier in combat (typically a British soldier) who centered his attention, not the hapless non-combatant or POW. Rather than examine what he might consider peripheral actors, Keegan preferred a deep historical perspective for this book, comparing Barbarossa with the campaigns of Napoleon and Frederick the Great.[lxxv]
Scholarly journals continued to maintain a traditional “military” preference. For example, in a 2001 article in History Today, John Erickson looked at the dubious thesis of Victor Suvorov, a defector from Soviet Military Intelligence, that Stalin intentionally fomented the Eastern conflict.[lxxvi] In comparison, there were no articles in 2001 in any journals that investigated Stalin’s treatment non-combatants during the war. It is curious that print would be devoted to an easily-dismissed theory, but not to a substantive set of interrelated tragedies.
Information continued to flow from Soviet vaults. Robert Kershaw’s War Without Garlands (2008) at first appeared to follow traditional patterns by focusing on the experiences of German fighting men – typically the common soldier – using diaries, letters, and previously-ignored reports from the SS. Indirectly however, he offered expanded insights into the personal stories of non-combatants – if only as seen through the eyes of the soldier. Kershaw interspersed these accounts between the battles and sub-campaigns with which he framed his work.[lxxvii] With regard to non-combatants, he noted that into the 1980s, Wehrmacht veterans still denied participating in “excesses” during the Barbarossa campaign.[lxxviii] Indeed, the majority of accounts from both sides still told of heroic behavior by soldiers who rarely saw an atrocity. Kershaw’s agenda became in large part to explore how the ideologies of these two enemies produced enough “peer pressure” to permit the widespread atrocities that did occur. Given this orientation, it was not surprising that he included chapters with titles such as “The pressures on German soldiers.”
War Without Garlands succeeded in taking the atrocities committed against non-combatants down to the level of individual experience. In this way it embodied the major shift in historical perspectives that had occurred sometime during the 1990s, from grand strategy and dispassionate analysis, to more intimate and personal narratives. Where an earlier historian might report gross statistics of murdered Jews, Kershaw recounted the story of a single German transport driver who watched “…children with their hands bound together with wire” being led to their deaths.[lxxix]
Kershaw was also fascinated with behavior of soldiers in combat, particularly the unprecedented refusal of Russian troops to surrender even when in hopeless circumstances. These troops, hopelessly confronted with certain annihilation, defied German experience in France, preferring to sacrifice themselves.
In 2009, David Stahel published Operation Barbarossa and Germany’s Defeat in the East, drawing extensively on all available sources. Stahel refuted the popular view that the first Blitzkrieg phase of Operation Barbarossa was a “walk-over” for the Germans. Instead, he depicted the entire program as flawed from the start. His central thesis was “As early as the summer of 1941, it was evident that Barbarossa was a spent exercise, unavoidably doomed to failure,” or more specifically that “…German operations in the east had failed by the middle of August 1941.”[lxxx] Once it became clear that repeated German victories and humiliating Russian losses could not annihilate the Red Army, the campaign shifted to a war of attrition in which Russia would continually outmatch the Reich in the production of new armies and war materials. Stahel focused on the daily experiences of the leading Panzer divisions upon whose success the operation depended. He showed how, given unrealistic objectives, they were over-committed, under-supplied, and often technologically outmatched from the start.[lxxxi]
Stahel’s history illustrated a recent tendency to more closely examine the operational planning phase. He was highly critical of Germany’s pre-war strategic planning, and especially of Halder’s role in shaping flawed assessments, objectives, and expectations. In particular, Halder’s expectation of a short war distorted the views of Hitler and the other OKH generals.[lxxxii]
Stahel further complained that popular histories of Barbarossa emphasized the rapid advance of the Panzer blitzkrieg, its ability to encircle huge Russian armies, and the depth of its penetration. They ignored the reality of constant attrition, inept but draining Soviet flank attacks, and persistent partisan pressure against interior supply lines. Yet despite Stahel’s use of Soviet records, his narrative was told from the German point of view. This technique effectively dramatized the severe “fog of war” that plagued German commanders, as well as the inability of OKH generals to understand how their plans were going awry. This was clearly an editorial and structural choice to foster identification with the German perspective rather than a disregard of Soviet sources.
Stahel pointedly contradicted other recent histories such as R.H.S. Stolfi’s Hitler’s Panzers East (1993), which emphasized that it took Russia almost four years to recover from the initial onslaught of Barbarossa, and that the Germans came very close to winning the war on the eastern front – and by extension, the entire war. If Hitler had permitted the Wehrmacht to take Moscow, Stolfi argued, Leningrad and Kiev would have been isolated and taken; and the drive to Volga completed by December, forcing the Soviet government to collapse. While he built a strong case for the ability of the Wehrmacht to take Moscow, Stolfi was not convincing in his assertion that the fall of the capital would translate to the collapse of the government. In particular, he did not present the evidence studied by Stahel and others that revealed the huge manpower and industrial reserves maintained by the Russians.[lxxxiii] To the point of sources, critics have pointed out that Stolfi’s arguments were based on assessments by the notoriously inept German Abwehr intelligence service, which consistently underestimated Russian strength and resources, rather than on Soviet records. The Stahel-Stolfi disagreement thus underscored the difference between recent histories and those written – intentionally or otherwise – in ignorance of Soviet perspectives.
Despite his attention to the fate of non-combatants, Stahel stayed on-message with a theme that has perplexed historians – the dysfunction between Hitler and his OKH staff generals. Stahel offered a more in-depth analysis than his predecessors, seeing Halder’s persistent attempts to shift the attack to Moscow as leading to a series of muddled and inconsistent orders to the field commanders. Halder comes across as a duplicitous and scheming toady. Stahel provided a detailed depiction of the German’s slow realization that Russia possessed reserves of manpower and production far beyond their initial estimates. Such attention to command interactions and production assessments meant less space could be devoted to examining the fortunes of those who did not posses command or material reserves.
Stahel asserted that the image of a “sanitized” German army, one which did not participate in war crimes, is “a post-war fabrication.” He noted that the fixation of Anglo-American historians on the Western theatre, combined (until recently) with a paucity of information from Soviet archives, failed to recognize the importance of the East in the final resolution of World War Two. “The result [of relying solely on German accounts] was a scripted appraisal…that the Red Army was saved from defeat by the huge size of the Soviet Union, the harsh climate, a pitiless disregard for human life and sheer weight of numbers. The burden of blame…was typically laid squarely at the feet of Adolph Hitler.”[lxxxiv]
Stahel devoted a significant amount of print to criticizing work published during the past decade by other historians. Some of these criticisms focused on a lack of intellectual rigor, as in the case of Robert Citino, (Death of the Wehrmacht: The German Campaigns of 1942) because like many others, Citino shifted from stupendous German victories to great challenges without adequately explaining how things changed.[lxxxv] Other historians did not share Stahel’s perspective that placed Barbarossa’s critical failure point in mid-August. An example of this was Andrew Nagorski, The Greatest Battle (2007), which delayed the tipping point to October.[lxxxvi] Since these scholars wrote at the same time as Stahel and had the same broad access to archives, it is apparent that controversies of interpretation will continue.
Richard Evans published his third work on the history of the Reich in the same year as Stahel’s work. The Third Reich at War (2009) examined the ideological underpinnings of ethnic terror. Evans placed great attention on the Holocaust and on other Nazi excesses, and on how the Nazi’s racial/ethnic ideology distorted German values. He concluded that these totalitarian ideals were accepted and implemented with the willing support of the German population. Consequently, Evans depicted WWII as a war between ideologies. His history emphasized strategy, economics, and social issues rather than battlefield analysis.[lxxxvii]
Evans concluded that the Nazi regime was the logical result of state policies of racism, militarism, and authoritarianism. In particular, he saw the war years as the period when Hitler’s regime adopted far more radical goals than it started with, and employed them with even greater brutality than it had previously practiced. Evans devoted a considerable amount of text to the Holocaust and other German genocidal extremes. He cautioned that all of us are potentially corruptible.
Since his three-part series was more a cultural history than a description of military campaigns, Evans interspersed thematic chapters with straight chronological accounts. Writing for a broad audience, he inserted personal testimonies with excellent effect, but with the exception of the Jewish Holocaust, he did not treat non-combatants in any systematic manner. Despite lacking a methodical appraisal such as offered by Richard Overy, Evans devoted one hundred pages of his history to the conquest and exploitation of Poland, and to the liquidation programs developed for mental patients, Jews and random Poles. These detailed accounts prepared the reader to expect further exterminist policies when the Germans invaded Russia.[lxxxviii]
Conclusion – Historiography Struggles Towards Nuance
Over the last sixty years, Operation Barbarossa historiography widened its lens to include more participants of the conflict. Narration shifted from a limited focus on the soldier and his actions, to perspectives that now incorporate various categories of non-combatants and quasi-military operations: partisan activity, nationalist movements, exterminationist policies, ethnic killing, and the plight of POWs both during and after the war. Despite these improvements in perspective, historians still complain that full access to Soviet archives is not possible. NKVD records, for example, are still impounded.
As in all histories, personal bias and incomplete data distort the historian’s objectivity and perspective regarding Barbarossa. Many of the issues regarding this relatively recent war are still in play. First-generation participants and their children are often reluctant to deal with sordid wartime behavior. Ideological contests are not fully resolved. Some primary sources are still not fully accessible. Historians will continue to search for these sources and incorporate new perspectives as they are discovered.
Nevertheless, much more can be done with the information already available. Several subjects are promising. The post-war fate of the “politically betrayed” – those who took no part in the conflict but who were nonetheless condemned – deserves its own treatment. Further, the standards of modern historiography demand an enhanced analysis of the role of gender and class in determining non-combatant outcomes.
A broad survey of Operation Barbarossa historiography highlights the unequal handling of Holocaust victims compared to other categories of Untermenschen. The Nazis uniquely targeted Jews for total extermination as a race. Nevertheless, even granting these terrible depredations, Nazi mistreatment of tens of millions of Slavs and other “sub-human” ethnic groups resulted in equally fatal results – and an even higher number of deaths. Future historians must provide added scholarly attention to these victims.
The development of Operation Barbarossa historiography is not unique. Time dampens the significance of colorful details, permitting scholars to identify essential elements and to create broader perspectives. While individual battles are intriguing, they give way to deeper insights. We see ourselves in the fate of others; grasp the consequences of irrational passions and perverse leadership; and finally achieve the insights that history is intended to reveal.
Appendix A: Nazi and Soviet Reference Frames Prior to Invasion
Historian Richard Evans observed that the invasion of Russia “had been at the very center of Hitler’s thinking since the early 1920s.” Hitler imagined an imperial future in which the Crimea and Ukraine would become an exclusive German colony as the indigenous inhabitants were enslaved or eliminated. For the rest of conquered territory, “a handful of Englishmen had controlled millions of Indians, he said, and so it would be with the Germans in Russia.”[lxxxix] As early as February 1933 Hitler declared to his generals that the purpose of the new Wehrmacht was for “conquering new Lebensraum in the east and ruthlessly Germanizing it.”[xc]
In The Wages of Destruction (2008), J. Adam Tooze provided an economic history of the Third Reich and concluded that Hitler’s early successes deceived him into under-investing for later success. “The entire history of the war is determined in some sense and shaped by the German victory in France in May 1940.” Germany won this phase because they took risks and were lucky, and because British and French generals failed to respond aggressively to German strategy. Consequently, Hitler’s status as a war leader rose sufficiently that when he called for an invasion of the Soviet Union, his generals supported him. For Tooze, Germany lost the war before Operation Barbarossa began because Britain and France used the time between Munich and the start of the war to increase manpower and material reserves, including new equipment. Tooze also emphasized the success of the British naval blockade in denying critical materials and food from reaching Nazi-controlled Europe. These shortages forced Hitler to invade Russia to solve his material needs.[xci]
Richard Evans proposed that it was easy for Hitler and his generals to assume a quick victory. The success of the blitzkrieg in France persuaded them that “similar tactics would bring dividends in future actions, notably, the following year, in the invasion of the Soviet Union.” And after all, if the racially superior Western European nations had been crushed so easily, then what chance did the subhuman Slavs have? For his part, Stalin cooperated with Hitler because as a dogmatic Marxist-Leninist he believed Hitler’s regime “was the tool of German monopoly capitalism, so that if he made available everything German business wanted, there would be no immediate reason to invade.” Stalin was convinced that Hitler would not risk a two-front war. Reports that an invasion was imminent only convinced Stalin that Hitler was trying to extract further economic concessions.[xcii]
Poor intelligence was a major contributor to the German’s underestimation of Russian potential. Most estimates were based on obsolete reports and gross extrapolations from WWI. Troop strength estimates accounted only for forces along the frontier to a depth of about 400 km, completely ignoring units further east. Far worse, the Abwehr intelligence agency failed to anticipate Russia’s ability to raise new armies faster than they could be destroyed.
Hitler and his staff had good reason to expect a weak Soviet response. Stalin’s great purges of 1936 – 1938 eliminated millions of “disruptive” Russians and potential internal rivals, including the majority of the Red Army’s officer corps. The purges resulted in the execution of more than 30,000 Red Army personnel as “politically unreliable,” including about two-thirds of the corps and division commanders.[xciii] Stalin sacked or had executed 720 out of the 837 commanders on the 1935 lists. Out of eighty-five senior officers, seventy-one were dead by 1941.[xciv] This ruthless elimination of the old guard is eerily similar to Hitler’s purge of the SA. Alan Clark’s tally varies somewhat, but tells the same story. The victims included 75 of 80 members of the Military Soviet, all 11 Deputy Commissars of Defense, every commander of a military district, 13 of 15 army commanders, 220 of 406 brigade commanders. “Before the purge the Red Army had been a vigorous and perceptive body…now innovation slowed down to a walking pace; technique disappeared…”[xcv] This led to dismal Russian performance against the much smaller Finnish army in the 1939 – 1940 Finnish-Soviet War. When added to German experience fighting against France and Britain, these factors promised victory so rapid that there would be no need for a winter campaign.
Historian Richard Overy counters that any argument which suggests that the purges weakened the Red Army assumes that it was effective to begin with, which he assesses it was not. Further, the Wehrmacht’s difficulties in conquering eastern Russia gave time for thousands of eager young officers to take the place of the party stalwarts who were in command at the onset.
Poor decision-making also compromised important defensive works. In the 1920s and 1930s, the Russians created the Stalin Line, in places more formidable than the French Maginot Line. This was not a continuous line of fortifications, but rather a series of reinforced points that relied on the natural barriers of Western Russia. But critically, after the Nazi-Soviet Pact of August 1939, the Red Army left this line of fortifications and moved westward as Stalin came to believe that space was more important than fixed defenses.[xcvi] This proved to be another grave error.
Nevertheless, Russia was not the basket case Hitler and the OKW assumed. By 1940, rapid industrialization had raised Soviet output to a level equal to Germany’s. Meanwhile Russian military technology developed new armor, typified by the T-34 tank, the most modern in the world. Quantitative advantages in Russian armor and material exceeded those of the otherwise huge German army. Soviet aircraft likewise outnumbered German by a significant margin, although at the start of the war these were decidedly inferior machines. The dramatic difference in combat effectiveness between the opposing forces was in training, leadership, strategic design, and tactical execution. This assessment has been reinforced by multiple studies that compared the technological strengths of each force. For example, popular wisdom is that the Panzer was the best tank of the war, but as noted, the Russian T-34 tank was superior to its German counterparts. Stahel asserts that “German success in the summer of 1941 was in no small part due to astonishing Soviet ineptitude as opposed to simple German brilliance.”[xcvii] Historians David Glantz and Roger Reese echo this assessment.[xcviii]
Finally, racist concepts trapped Hitler and his entourage and rendered their thinking inflexible. Nazi ideology imagined a strict hierarchy of races with “pure” Aryan German at the top, Jews at the bottom, and various Untermenschen such as ethnic Slavs arrayed in between. “The future German Empire would be free of Jews, with the Untermenschen subjected to Helot-like serfdom.”[xcix] With this kind of ideological straightjacket, strategic options such as incorporating conquered populations into the war against Bolshevism were not possible.
Nazi racist ideology prepared Germans for exterminationist policies. When Hitler announced in March 1941 that a war of annihilation was to be conducted in the east, officers reacted with “inactive ambivalence to fervent enthusiasm.” Halder later advised that “commanders must make the sacrifice of overcoming their personal scruples.”[c] Other historians such as Omer Bartov have convincingly demonstrated that the Wehrmacht was an active and enthusiastic part of the Nazi program of oppression and extermination.[ci] Nevertheless, as David Glantz observed, when the war turned against Germany, “front line soldiers increasingly sought reassurances that they were fighting in a just and necessary cause.” Wehrmacht officers answered with the propaganda of Nazi dogma, casting the war in terms of racial and ideological necessity. Glantz argued that as they became accustomed to talking and thinking in ideological terms, German soldiers were more inclined to commit atrocities against the Untermenschen.[cii] Conversely, as the war progressed the Soviet army de-emphasized ideology in favor of nationalism. This interpretation reinforces Glantz’ thesis of the two opponents moving in mirrored arcs of change.
Appendix B: War Planning Prior to Operation Barbarossa
Hitler predicted the invasion of Russia in Mein Kampf (1924), wherein he asserted the need for Lebensraum to support German population and industrial growth. His timetable for this effort was accelerated because by the summer of 1940, Germany experienced critical shortages in key raw materials. The economy required new sources of oil. The goal of eventually occupying all of Eastern Europe would satisfy these needs, adding rich Ukrainian farmlands and Baku oilfields to the Nazi empire. Large portions of the Wehrmacht could be demobilized, returning labor to German factories. Further, the removal of the Soviet Union as a potential ally would severely weaken Britain and force it into a negotiated peace. As David Stahel summarized, “With the planned conquest of Soviet territories, Hitler stood to gain immeasurable raw materials, freeing him forever from Britain’s continental blockade and providing him with the strategic freedom to wage truly global warfare.”[ciii]
An OKW staffer proposed an alternate scenario in which the Soviets would simply absorb the initial attack and then use their reserve strength to counter-attack. This obviously emphasized the need to defeat the Soviet Union quickly, but senior officers, including Halder, discounted the warnings. Frederick Paulus, the General who would eventually be trapped at Stalingrad, also anticipated the Soviet’s ability to add troops. He assumed they could conscript another 30-40 divisions in the first three months and within six months another 100. Paulus’ war games also predicted that the German armored thrust would encounter “strong opposition on both the inner and outer flanks [from retreating armies] as they met concentrated counter-attacks from forces not previously engaged.” His warnings were not addressed, and this is what happened.[civ] German academic experts aided the casual dismissal of alternative scenarios. These experts were “profoundly influenced by entrenched stereotypes” which favored a “natural” German military superiority and which viewed the Soviets only as “barbaric hordes capable of atrocities.”[cv] Above all, as Barry Leach observed, “faith in Blitzkrieg reigned supreme.” There was little appreciation for the fundamental differences that existed between an eastern and a western theatre of war.[cvi] Plans did not account for what Clausewitz called “friction,” the sort of unanticipated problems that included supply, partisan resistance, and weather.
In the area of geopolitics, Hitler may have thought that he could invade Poland without going to war with Britain and France. Historian R.H.S. Stolfi argued that it was Hitler’s “grand political decisions” and “self-imposed military decisions” that won the war in the east, facilitated by “the German army’s war-fighting style and weapons technology.”[cvii] Nevertheless, the apparent easy success of the war in Western Europe fooled the German High Command into overestimating its own capabilities and underestimating Russian resources and resolve.
Stalin had also reacted to Germany’s success in the West. He expanded his own frontiers by occupying the Baltics and Bessarabia, and by seizing portions of Romania. When Hitler offered him the opportunity to expand the Nazi-Soviet agreement of 1939, he overplayed his hand by asking for “recognition of Soviet interest” in Hungary, Yugoslavia, Greece and Sweden.[cviii] This rapaciousness may have cemented Hitler’s plans for Barbarossa.
Despite all the warnings of impending assault, the Red Army held a terrible tactical position. Forward units had moved beyond their old defensive positions. New defensive belts were not finished. Further, these units were poorly deployed across the likely avenues of advance, permitting German panzers to quickly punch through and execute their encirclement strategy. Soviet reserves were too far in the rear to impact early operations.
Hitler’s grand designs were logical, but the details were not worked out, as captured by a note the Fuhrer sent to Chief of Staff Halder: “The quicker we smash Russia the better… Ukraine, White Russia, Baltic States to us.”[cix] There were no comprehensive plans for how these lands would be administered after victory. Such details were made up on the fly. Hitler vaguely anticipated that to “cleanse” the area for German colonists, 20 – 30 million Russians were to be starved to death in 1941 – 1942. The entire food production of the conquered areas was to feed the invading German armies and maintain nutritional standards at home.[cx] But this objective had no contingencies in which the Russians resisted these depredations.
From the start, Hitler and his generals disagreed over the priorities assigned to these tasks. Hitler favored a traditional Clausewitzian objective of annihilating enemy armies in the field, while Chief of Staff Halder and other generals saw the capture of Moscow as a primary objective. Further, strategic and logistic plans were severely decoupled. When in November 1940 the logisticians calculated best-case support for a 600 km front, the strategic planners were setting objectives up to 1750 km away.[cxi]
Planning for Operation Barbarossa called for blitzkrieg operations along three historical avenues of advance. Army Group North would thrust towards the Baltic States and the symbolic city of Leningrad. Army Group Center would take the key city of Smolensk and then the Soviet capital in Moscow, and Army Group South would capture Ukraine, the key city of Kiev, and the Caucasus. The German advance would halt along a line formed by the Volga River, leaving a disorganized and collapsed Soviet government in the distant East. The bulk of the large Russian armies were to be destroyed within the first three weeks in a series of deep encirclements as close to the border as possible. After this rapid success in the autumn, the number of German troops required would be greatly reduced to about sixty divisions. Combat operations would be completed so quickly that only these divisions would require winter clothing.
Hitler managed to position his invasion forces without drawing a Soviet response. Reports of German troop concentrations were rejected by Stalin. Thus when Barbarossa launched on 22 June 1941, Soviet forces were caught unprepared, poorly positioned, inadequately led, and without ready reserves.
Appendix C: Barbarossa – Blitzkrieg Phase
More than three million German troops launched Barbarossa with three army groups aimed at the major productive regions centered on Leningrad, Moscow, and Stalingrad. The Luftwaffe struck Soviet airfields, destroying over 2,000 aircraft on the first day with a loss of only 35. Total Soviet aircraft losses reached almost 4,000 at the end of three days![cxii] “The (numerically) strongest air force in the world had been virtually eliminated in forty-eight hours.”[cxiii] This freed the Luftwaffe to provide ground support to the advancing armored thrust.
Stalin’s response was to order his army to “annihilate” invading forces, but not to cross the border into Germany. His commands not to retreat or surrender froze his armies in place without the freedom to maneuver, thus enabling German blitzkrieg tactics. These orders simultaneously limited the response of his commanders while seemingly requiring them to launch counter attacks against the superior enemy.[cxiv] After the 1930s purges, Soviet officers were trained to only in frontal assault, even across open terrain. The results were predictable.[cxv]
By the third week of the invasion, German casualties exceeded those of the entire French blitzkrieg of 1940, but the strategy was meeting expectations.[cxvi] The Wehrmacht achieved its planned encirclements of huge Russian armies, reducing and capturing hundreds of thousands of prisoners. By the second week in July, 89 out of 164 front-line Soviet divisions had been put out of action.[cxvii] Nevertheless, the expected collapse of Russian morale never occurred. Germany’s brutal occupation of captured lands did not reduce support for the Stalinist regime, but instead enhanced it. Continual partisan action slowly bled the Wehrmacht of men and equipment, while determined resistance at Russian strongholds delayed conquest objectives. After a month of continuous fighting, German troops began to suffer from simple exhaustion. The invasion started to lose its momentum.[cxviii] Sensing the depth of the growing predicament, General Halder proclaimed in mid-July “we reckoned on about 200 enemy divisions. Now we have already counted 360.”[cxix] Nevertheless, Halder was sufficiently satisfied that he wrote on 3 July that the objective of destroying the mass of the Red Army had been accomplished, and that the campaign had been won within fourteen days.[cxx]
The evidence of impending difficulties should have been apparent. On that same day, General von Bock ominously reported “There is still shooting everywhere in the rear.”[cxxi] Halder should have recalled Clausewitz’ advice on supply lines. “These arteries then must not be permanently cut, nor must they be too long or difficult to use.”[cxxii] The rapid advance of the panzer spearheads had opened a significant gap with the trudging infantry, leaving the poorly armed supply columns exposed to attack. Improvised guerilla resistance was a natural consequence.[cxxiii] David Glantz recorded the report of a former officer of the 3rd Panzer Division, that “during the first two days of combat, unarmored troops and rear echelons suffered considerable losses inflicted by hostile enemy troops cut off from their main bodies.”[cxxiv]
The Germans slowly came to realize that the Russians were not folding. Instead, they launched what Alan Clark characterized as an “endless, aimless succession of counterattacks, eager to trade ten Russian lives for one German…” Failure to clear partisans and soldiers trapped behind the front meant that spare parts had to be flown in to the front. Long supply lines were constantly vulnerable to “surrounded Russians who attempted to find every suitable occasion to operate against the flanks of the wedges…”[cxxv]
In early August, Hitler redirected his generals to take Leningrad, after which he would strike for either Moscow or the Ukraine. Alan Clark has maintained that Hitler’s interference at this point meant that for two and a half weeks, army Group Center ”…foundered on the brink of a tremendous opportunity, while…the Russians worked unmolested to rebuild their shattered front.”[cxxvi]
Despite a slowing offensive, stubborn defense, and increasing supply problems, the Germans continued to believe that the war would be over in a week or so. This attitude permeated the army and administration of occupied Russia in 1941. But historians such as Alan Clark noted that a mere eight weeks into the invasion, the conflict between Hitler and his generals had assumed increasing importance. “The General staff was to become virtually unanimous in its desire to reinforce Bock and strike…toward Moscow.” Hitler meanwhile insisted on a Clausewitzian principle – “the methodical destruction of the enemy’s forces in the field, regardless of geographical or political objectives.”[cxxvii]
German casualties mounted. Even before the assault on Kiev, for instance, the Wehrmacht had lost nearly 400,000 killed, wounded or missing, and half the German tanks were out of commission.[cxxviii] By now the cost of poor intelligence, incomplete prewar planning, and fuzzy objectives was evident. Barbarossa was being improvised on an almost daily basis, as the consequence of a fragmented command and competing strategic conceptions.[cxxix] By mid-August it was clear that the original Barbarossa plan had failed. The German High Command now pushed for a single objective – Moscow – but Hitler resisted. He interpreted the generals’ desire for Moscow as a distracting fixation with a symbolic site, while for them it represented the standard Clausewitzian objective of total destruction of the opposing army. Field Marshall Fedor von Bock told Halder, “I don’t want to capture Moscow! I want to destroy the enemy army, and the mass of this army is standing in front of me!”[cxxx]
Rather than recognize that the Wehrmacht had already lost much of its strength in manpower and armor, Hitler’s new offensive spread the available German assets across multiple objectives. “Thereafter, one commander after another pleaded to be given shared objectives so they could concentrate resources…but few of these pleas ever reached Hitler.” Thus after only five weeks of “the decisive blitzkrieg campaign to secure hegemony in Europe” against a supposedly inferior opponent, the demands of the conflict were overwhelming the army, and the German command was expending as much energy fighting within itself as addressing the problems of the front.[cxxxi] B.H. Liddell Hart labeled the continual wrangling between Hitler and his generals as “the most fatal factor” (next to underestimating Russia’s resources) and “an amazing state of mental haziness on the topmost level.”[cxxxii]
Hitler’s detachment of forces to other objectives led to further tactical victories, but added to the number of significant Russian salients. By the time the Wehrmacht resumed its drive to Moscow, its units were too depleted, and its supply lines too interdicted, to complete the job. Infantry divisions were down to 65 percent combat efficiency and panzer units to 35 percent.[cxxxiii]
Army Group North crossed the Neman and Daugava Rivers and after encircling poorly-supplied Russian armies, approached Leningrad. Here they stopped to permit infantry to catch up. Hitler stretched this delay to a week, during which the Russians hastily built defenses with civilian labor. Meanwhile Army Group Center closed the Red Army salient between Poland and Bialystok. Stalin ordered a series of uncoordinated counter-attacks, needlessly squandering thousands.
R.H.S. Stolfi has charged that Germany’s key mistake was Hitler’s decision to “substitute limited operations with limited goals for the destruction of the Russian armed forces and the collapse of the Soviet state.” This occurred when he “abandoned the great operational concept of destroying the Soviet armed forces in the forefield of the Moscow-Gorki space…”[cxxxiv]
Germany’s operations in the South were very successful, but they were “strategically a failure” because they were unnecessary and denied the opportunity to defeat the Russians before winter. The Wehrmacht captured over six hundred thousand Russian soldiers at Kiev, nearly one third of the Soviet Army’s strength at the start of the war. By the end of September 1941, Hitler’s strategic objectives were largely fulfilled, with Leningrad isolated and the Ukraine captured, but “in the front line the prospects looked very different.”
Hitler had told Rundstedt “You have only to kick in the door, and the whole rotten structure will come crashing down.” But in practice, Soviet resistance was spirited. Unlike the French and the Poles, Russian armies did not surrender when their position was hopeless. It was clear by the end of 1941 that the Germans had badly misjudged their opponent. The Russians replaced defeated armies faster than the Germans could annihilate them. John Keegan notes that during prewar planning, whenever German planners had faced an “impossibility” regarding their designs, “they had conjured them away” by emphasizing the enemy’s supposed racial inferiority and his lack of commitment to the Soviet state.[cxxxv] Instead, the Red Army soldier fought with unexpected determination, showing an alarming willingness to sacrifice for the Motherland. “The Russian soldier; abominably led, inadequately trained, poorly equipped, he changed the course of history by his courage and tenacity in the first year of fighting.”[cxxxvi]
After dithering for days, Stalin finally decided to stay in Moscow. “No evacuation. We’ll stay here until victory.” Zhukov gathered armies from the east, bolstered by new conscription, and launched a counter-offensive against the German positions around Moscow on 5 December 1941. He bypassed the German front and moved to cut their lines of withdrawal. Although his counter-attack had mixed success, its power and audacity shocked the German High Command. “With the failure of their grand offensive, Bock and the senior commanders had little idea of what to do next.” Consequently, on 16 December 1941, Hitler replaced several of his top generals and assumed direction of military operations himself.[cxxxvii]
Operation Barbarossa has been described as “a war within a war,” the largest military operation in human history in terms of manpower committed and casualties suffered. Through1941, the advancing German forces achieved brilliant victories, capturing many of the richest economic regions, including Ukraine and Belorussia. But victory conditions had not been achieved.
Appendix D: Barbarossa – The War of Attrition
The breakdown of the original Barbarossa plan altered the entire equation of victory. Omer Bartov concluded that once blitzkrieg failed, “technological innovation had to be paralleled by quantities produced [and] in that area Germany had no chance of competing successfully with its enemies.”[cxxxviii] Even during the first year of the war, the Soviet Union out-performed Germany in the production of all classes of major armaments. Superior tactics and training could not overcome this imbalance in numbers.
By refusing to permit the Wehrmacht to withdraw into winter quarters, Hitler unnecessarily squandered men and material. (An opposing minority opinion by B.H. Liddell Hart holds that Hitler’s refusal to permit any extensive withdrawal bolstered the confidence of his troops and “probably saved them from a widespread collapse”).[cxxxix] Although the Russian counter-offensive died away out of exhaustion in February 1942, the Wehrmacht had lost more than one million men. “When the pendulum swung against them…the pattern of conflict shifted considerably… to a war of attrition, which the Axis could only loose.”[cxl] Many German divisions had been reduced to a third of their original strength and it was summer before they recovered sufficiently to attempt further offensive operations.[cxli] David Stahel summarizes by observing that the Germans could continue to win large set-piece battles “but none of this could change the fundamental disparity between Soviet staying power and German offensive strength.”[cxlii]
The prolonged Battle of Stalingrad significantly concentrated German forces and pulled in reserves that should have protected the flanks. Critical supply routes became even more vulnerable to interdiction. Concentration also made a Russian encirclement more realistic, and that is exactly what happened. The surrender of the German Sixth Army at Stalingrad caused a subsequent collapse as the victorious Russian armies attacked along the already over-extended front.[cxliii]
The Battle of Kursk in 1943 marked the last major German offensive. Despite their handicaps in men and material, even after Stalingrad and Kursk, the Germans went on to seize another 250,000 square miles of Russian territory. However, with far fewer troops to control the newly occupied territory, resistance activity escalated. Soviet production daily added to the disparity in forces. This equation prepared the Russians for success in the massive Operation Bagration counter-offensive of 1944. Hart observed that strategically “The front remained as wide as ever while the German forces were shrinking.” As a consequence, superior Russian forces advanced “with little check.”[cxliv] A series of rapid follow-up Soviet victories put the Red Army in Berlin a year later. Germany surrendered on 8 May 1945.
Alan Clark has assessed that from November 1942 onwards, the posture of the Wehrmacht in the East was fundamentally defensive. The previous aura of invincibility and “unwarranted German overconfidence” had been replaced by erratic leadership and the emotional obsession with Stalingrad. These weaknesses consequently removed the Wehrmacht’s principal strength of mobility and doomed the eastern forces to “a static process of attrition.”The Wehrmacht were forced to rely on superior training and leadership to compensate for material deficiencies.[cxlv]
Operation Barbarossa had arguably cost the Third Reich its very existence. As Rodric Braithwaite points out: “Four-fifths of all the fighting in World War II took place on Germany’s eastern front and never less than two-thirds of the German army was engaged in the war against the Soviet Union, even after D-Day.”[cxlvi] When in 1959 postwar Soviet statisticians took into account the effect of births that failed to take place because there were then only six men for every ten women, they calculated a population deficit of fifty million less than should have been achieved.[cxlvii]
[i] Alan Clark, Barbarossa: The Russian-German Conflict 1941 – 1945. New York: Harper Perennial (1985). P. 255.
[ii] R.A.C. Parker, Struggle for Survival. Oxford: Oxford University Press (1989). P. 65.
[iii] David Stahel, Operation Barbarossa and Germany’s Defeat in the East (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009). P. 291.
[iv] Stahel. P. 298.
[v] Hew Strachan, The First World War: To Arms. Oxford: Oxford University Press (2003). Pp. 261.
[vi] Parker, P. 286.
[vii] Richard J. Evans, The Third Reich at War. New York: The Penguin Press (2009). P. 759.
[viii] Richard Overy, Russia’s War. New York: Penguin Books (1997). Pp. 52-3.
[ix] Anthony Beevor, Stalingrad, The Fateful Siege: 1942 – 1943. New York: Penguin Books (1998). P. 45.
[x] Beevor, P. 175.
[xi] David M. Glantz and Jonathan House, When Titans Clashed: How the Red Army Stopped Hitler. Norman: The University Press of Kansas (1995). Pp. 56 – 7.
[xii] Evans, P. 501.
[xiii] Overy, Pp. 108 – 112.
[xiv] Basil Liddell Hart, History of the Second World War. London: Konecky and Konecky (2007). P. 583.
[xv] Parker, P. 286.
[xvi] Ben Shepherd, War in the Wild East: The German Army and Soviet Partisans. Cambridge: Harvard University Press (2004). Pp. 77-78.
[xvii] Overy, P. 144.
[xviii] Ibid, P. 151.
[xix] Robert Kershaw, War Without Garlands: Operation Barbarossa, 1941 – 1942. London: Ian Allen Publishing (2008), P. 309.
[xx] Evans, P. 185.
[xxi] Beevor, Pp. 407 – 8.
[xxii] Overy, photo interspace between Pp. 124 – 5.
[xxiii] Evans, P. 188.
[xxiv] Glantz and House, P. 55.
[xxv] Ibid, P. 56.
[xxvi] Overy, Pp. 132 – 5; 134-5.
[xxvii] Christer Bergstrom, Barbarossa – The Air Battle: July – December 1941. London: Chevron and Ian Allen (2007). P. 36.
[xxviii] Overy, P. 83.
[xxix] Ibid, Pp. 262-3.
[xxx] Ibid, P. 138.
[xxxi] Ibid, P. 139.
[xxxii] Ibid, Pp. 80-1.
[xxxiii] Ibid, Pp. 301 – 4.
[xxxiv] Ibid, Pp. 125 – 33.
[xxxv] Ibid, Pp. 304 – 10.
[xxxvi] Ibid, P. 287.
[xxxvii] Winston Churchill, The Second World War. New York: Mariner Books (1959, republished in 1986). Pp. 1 – 4736.
[xxxviii] Richard Overy, Why The Allies Won. New York: W.W. Norton & Company (1996). Pp. 17, 64.
[xxxix] Mark Healy, Kursk 1943: Tide Turns in the East. Oxford: Osprey Books (2000). Pp. 1 – 96.
[xl] Beevor, Pp. v – 493; Geoffrey Roberts, Victory at Stalingrad: The Battle That Changed History. London: Longman (2002). Pp. 1 – 280.
[xli] Hans Guderian, Achtung-Panzer! The Development of Armed Forces, Their Tactics, and Operational Potential. London: Arms and Armor (1995) P. 207
[xlii] Glantz and House, P. 1.
[xliii] Alexander Dallin, German Rule in Russia 1941-1945: A Study of Occupation Policies. London: Westview (1957). P. 215
[xliv] Andreas Hillgruber, Germany and the Two World Wars. Boston: Harvard University Press (1982). Pp. 1 – 182.
[xlv] A.J.P. Taylor, The Origins of the Second World War. New York: Simon & Schuster (1996). Pp. 1 – 320.
[xlvi] Clark, Barbarossa (1985). Pp. xix-xx.
[xlvii] Ibid, P. 189.
[xlviii] Ibid, Pp. xix, 1 – 544.
[xlix] Basil Liddell Hart, History of the Second World War. Old Saybrook, CT: Konecky & Konecky (1970). Pp. v – 766.
[l] Hart, P. 157.
[li] Barry A. Leach, Strategy Against Russia. Oxford: Oxford University Press (1973). Pp. 1 – 324.
[lii] Clark, Barbarossa (1985). P. 103.
[liii] Ibid. Pp. 127-8.
[liv] Ibid. P. 79.
[lv] Ibid. Pp. 153-5.
[lvi] Ibid. P. 416 – 8.
[lvii] Alan F. Wilt, “Hitler’s Late Summer Pause in 1941” in Military Affairs, Vol. 45, No. 4 (December 1981). Pp. 187-191.
[lviii] Parker, Pp. v – 328.
[lix] Ibid, P. 63.
[lx] Ibid, Pp. 277, 282.
[lxi] Ibid, Pp. 106, 193 – 223.
[lxii] Overy, Pp. 1 – 432.
[lxiii] Beevor, Pp. v – 493.
[lxiv] Ibid, Pp. 52 – 7.
[lxv] R. H. S. Stolfi, Hitler’s Panzers East: World War II Reinterpreted. Norman: University of Oklahoma (1993). Pp. x – 272.
[lxvi] Stahel, Pp. 17 – 18.
[lxvii] Glantz and House, P. 44.
[lxviii] Michael C.C. Adams, The Best War Ever: America and World War II. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press (1994). Pp. 43-4.
[lxix] Ibid. Pp. 47, 55 – 8.
[lxx] Glantz and J House, Pp. vii – 414.
[lxxi] Hart, P. 487.
[lxxii] R. L. DiNardo, “The Dysfunctional Coalition: The Axis Powers and the Eastern Front in World War II,” in The Journal of Military History, Vol. 60, No. 4 (October 1996). Pp. 711-30
[lxxiii] DiNardo, Pp. 729-30.
[lxxiv] Alexander Werth, Russia at War: 1941 – 1945. New York: Basic Books (1999). Pp. 1 – 1136.
[lxxv] John Keegan, The Second World War. New York: Penguin (2005). Pp. 1 – 608.
[lxxvi] Victor Suvorov, Icebreaker: Who Started the Second World War? (1990); John Erickson, “Barbarossa, June 1941: Who Attacked Whom?” in History Today (July 2001). Pp. 11-17
[lxxvii] Robert Kershaw, War Without Garlands. XXX: Ian Allen Publishing (2008). Pp. 1 – 640.
[lxxviii] Kershaw, P. xi.
[lxxix] Ibid, P. 285.
[lxxx] Stahel. Pp. 2-3.
[lxxxi] Ibid. Pp. v – 483.
[lxxxii] Ibid. Pp. v – 483.
[lxxxiii] Stolfi, Hitler’s Panzers East. P. x.
[lxxxiv] Stahel. Pp. 20-1.
[lxxxv] Robert Citino, Death of the Wehrmacht: The German Campaigns of 1942. Lawrence: The University of Oklahoma Press, (2007). Pp. 34-9.
[lxxxvi] Andrew Nagorski, The Greatest Battle: Stalin, Hitler, and the Desperate Struggle for Moscow That Changed the Course of World War II. New York: Simon & Schuster (2007). Pp. 1 – 384.
[lxxxvii] Evans, Pp. vii – 926.
[lxxxviii] Ibid, Pp. 3 – 105
[lxxxix] Ibid, Pp. 160, 171.
[xc] Stahel, P. 96.
[xci] J. Adam Tooze, The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the German Economy. New York: Penguin (2008). Pp. 1 – 848.
[xcii] Evans, Pp. 133, 161, 165; Overy, P. 71.
[xciii] David. R. Snyder, “Review of Donald Rayfield, Stalin and His Hangmen,” in The Journal of Military History, Vol. 69, No. 1 (2005). Pp. 265-6.
[xciv] Overy, Pp. 28 – 9.
[xcv] Clark, Pp. 33 – 4.
[xcvi] Alan Clark, Barbarossa: The Russian-German Conflict 1941 – 1945. New York: Harper Perennial (1985). Pp. 30 – 1.
[xcvii] Stahel, Pp. 112 – 3.
[xcviii] David Glantz, Stumbling Colossus: The Red Army on the Eve of World War. Lawrence: The University Press of Kansas (1998), Chapter 5; Roger R. Reese, Stalin’s Reluctant Soldiers: A Social History of the Red Army 1925-1941. Lawrence: The University Press of Kansas (1996), Chapter 7.
[xcix] Kershaw, P. 6.
[c] Franz Halder, The Halder War Diary: 1939-1942, Abridged English Translation, edited by Charles Burdick and Hans-Adolf Jacobsen (London, 1988). P.337
[ci] Omer Bartov, “Soldiers, Nazis, and War in the Third Reich” in Journal of Modern History 63 (1991). Pp. 44-60.
[cii] Glantz and House, P. 105.
[ciii] Stahel, P. 2.
[civ] Ibid, Pp. 55 – 6.
[cv] Ibid, Pp. 43, 45.
[cvi] Barry Leach, German Strategy Against Russia, 1939-1941, (Oxford, 1973). Pp. 88-9
[cvii] Stolfi, Hitler’s Panzers East. P. 5-6.
[cviii] Parker, P. 62.
[cix] Ibid, P. 61.
[cx] Evans, Pp. 172 – 3.
[cxi] Kershaw, P. 19.
[cxii] Bergstrom, P. 23.
[cxiii] Clark, Barbarossa. P. 40.
[cxiv] Overy, P. 74.
[cxv] Ibid, P. 87.
[cxvi] Kershaw, P. 377.
[cxvii] Evans, P. 179.
[cxviii] Evans, P. 201; Glantz, Barbarossa, P. 22.
[cxix] Beevor, P. 31.
[cxx] Stahel, Pp. 196 – 7.
[cxxi] Fedor von Bock, ‘Osten I’, Folder 13, The War Diary 1939-1945, edited by Klaus Gerbet (Atglen, 1996). P. 237.
[cxxii] Michael Howard and Peter Paret (translators), Carl von Clausewitz, On War. New York: Princeton University Press (1993). P. 412.
[cxxiii] Stahel, P. 160.
[cxxiv] Horst Zobel, “3rd Panzer Division Operations”, in David M. Glantz (ed.), The Initial Period of War on the Eastern Front 22 June-August 1941: Proceedings of the Forth Art of War Symposium. London: Routledge (1997). P. 242.
[cxxv] Clark, Pp. 55 – 6, 80.
[cxxvi] Ibid, P. 102.
[cxxvii] Ibid. P. 77.
[cxxviii] Evans, P. 203.
[cxxix] Stahel, P. 430.
[cxxx] Evans, P. 202.
[cxxxi] Stahel, Pp. 295 – 8.
[cxxxii] Hart, P. 169.
[cxxxiii] Parker, P. 71.
[cxxxiv] Stolfi, Hitler’s Panzers East. P. 4.
[cxxxv] John Keegan, Collins Atlas of World War II. New York: Harper Collins (2006). P. 42.
[cxxxvi] Alan Clark, Barbarossa: The Russian-German Conflict 1941 – 1945. New York: Harper Perennial (1985). P. xx.
[cxxxvii] Evans, Pp. 205-10.
[cxxxviii] Omer Bartov, ‘From Blitzkrieg to Total War: Controversial Links between Image and Reality’ in Ian Kershaw and Moshe Lewin (editors), Stalinism and Nazism: Dictatorships in Comparison. (Cambridge: 2003). Pp. 165-6.
[cxxxix] Hart, P. 242.
[cxl] Clark, P. 187; Michael C.C. Adams, The Best War Ever: America and World War II. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press (1994). Pp. 44, 47.
[cxli] Hart, P. 243.
[cxlii] Stahel, P. 23.
[cxliii] Hart, P. 483.
[cxliv] Ibid, P. 569.
[cxlv] Clark, Pp. 249 – 50.
[cxlvi] Rodric Braithwaite, Moscow 1941: A City and Its People at War. New York: Vintage (2007). P. 310.
[cxlvii] Parker, P. 281.
Michael C.C. Adams, The Best War Ever: America and World War II. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press (1994). Pp. vii – 189.
Omer Bartov, “Soldiers, Nazis, and War in the Third Reich” in Journal of Modern History 63 (1991).
John Barber and Mark Harrison, The Soviet Home Front 1941-1945: A Social and Economic History of the USSR in World War II. London: Longman Publishing Group (1991). Pp. 1 – 252.
Antony Beevor, Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege, 1942 – 1943. New York: Penguin (1998). Pp. 1 – 493.
Rodric Braithwaite, Moscow 1941: A City and Its People at War. New York: Vintage (2006). Pp. 1 – 448.
Winston Churchill, The Second World War: Abridged Edition. London: Mariner Books (1991). Pp. 1 – 1098.
Robert Citino, Death of the Wehrmacht: The German Campaigns of 1942. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas (2007). Pp. 1 – 431.
Alan Clark, Barbarossa: The Russian-German Conflict 1941 – 1945. London: Harper Perennial (1985). Pp. 1 – 544.
Alexander Dallin, German Rule in Russia 1941-1945: A Study of Occupation Policies. London: Westview Press (1982). Pp. 1 – 707.
- L. DiNardo, “The Dysfunctional Coalition: The Axis Powers and the Eastern Front in World War II,” in The Journal of Military History, Vol. 60, No. 4 (October 1996). Pp. 711-30.
John Erickson, “Barbarossa, June 1941: Who Attacked Whom?” in History Today (July 2001). Pp. 11-17.
Richard J. Evans, The Third Reich at War. New York: The Penguin Press (2009). Pp. vii – 926.
Jurgen Forster, Operation Barbarossa as a War of Conquest and Annihilation. (?)
Brian Fugate, Operation Barbarossa: Strategy and Tactics on the Eastern Front, 1941. Novato: Presidio Press (1984)
David Glantz, Stumbling Colossus: The Red Army on the Eve of World War. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas (1998). Pp. 1 – 408.
David Glanz and Jonathan House, When Titans Clashed: How the Red Army Stopped Hitler. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas (1995). Pp. 1 – 414.
Heinz Guderian, Achtung-Panzer! The Development of Tank Warfare. London: Cassell Military Classics (1999) Pp. 1 – 202.
Basil Liddell Hart, History of the Second World War. London: Konecky and Konecky (2007), P. 1 – 766.
Basil Liddell Hart, The Other Side of the Hill. Germany’s Generals: Their Rise and Fall, With Their Own Account of Military Events, 1939-1945. London: Pan Books (1999). Pp. 1 – 480.
Franz Halder, The Halder War Diary: 1939-1942, Abridged English Translation, edited by Charles Burdick and Hans-Adolf Jacobsen. London: Presidio Press (1988). Pp. 1 – 716.
Mark Healy, Kursk 1943: Tide Turns in the East. Oxford: Osprey (1992.) Pp. 1 – 96.
Michael Eliot Howard and Peter Paret (translators) Carl von Clausewitz, On War. New York: Princeton University Press (1993). Pp. 1 – 752.
Andreas Hillgruber, Hitlers Strategie: Politic und Kriegfuhrung, 1940 – 1941. London: Bernard (1965). Pp. 1 – 715.
Ian Kershaw and Moshe Lewin (editors), Stalinism and Nazism: Dictatorships in Comparison. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (2003). Pp. 1 – 384.
Ian Kershaw, Hitler: 1936 – 1945: Nemesis. New York: W.W. Norton & Company (2000). Pp. vii – 1115.
Robert Kershaw, War Without Garlands: Operation Barbarossa, 1941 – 1942. London: Ian Allen Publishing (2008). Pp. 1 – 626.
Barry Leach, German Strategy Against Russia, 1939-1941. Oxford: Oxford University Press (1973). Pp. 1 – 324.
Andrew Nagorski, The Greatest Battle: Stalin, Hitler, and the Desperate Struggle for Moscow That Changed the Course of World War II. New York: Simon and Schuster (2007). Pp. 1 – 384.
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