Operation BarbarossaOn June 22, 1941, almost two years after the start of World War II, Hitler’s army invaded the Soviet Union. This attack was nicknamed Operation Barbarossa and it most likely changed the course of world history. The attack caught most people, including Stalin, by surprise. Even though his military advisers gave Stalin numerous warnings about Hitler’s plans to attack, he did not listen, as Germany and the Soviet Union had signed a Nonaggression Pact in 1939. Even though the two countries secretly agreed to divide Poland and Eastern Europe between them, Hitler was determined to overtake the Soviet Union as well, despite the agreement.
Some historians have speculated that if Hitler didn’t decide to invade the Soviet Union, the two countries would have continued to work on the same side, with the Soviet Union continuing to supply Germany with weapons, machinery and maybe eventually even soldiers. If this were to happen, the outcome of the Second World War could have been very different, at least in the European theater.
Timeline of Hitler’s attack on RussiaIn the very beginning of the war, Hitler’s army was able to move through the Soviet Union very quickly, capturing vast amounts of land. The goal was, of course, to take over Moscow, and later the Ural region of Russia, where a lot of manufacturing facilities were located. However, things started to turn around when at the end of 1941-beginning of 1942 the Soviet counter-offensive attacks began to exhaust German troops. The Soviet Union was also aided by the Allies, who sent supplies to aid the USSR.
Instead of allowing the army to retreat, Hitler, who was haunted by the memory of Napoleon’s troops running from Russia, demanded that his troops stay in place and fight. Severe winter in Russia caused significant losses and damage to the army’s morale, as the troops were not dressed and equipped for winter warfare. Hitler’s army lost around ⅔ of its troops by the end of winter.
World War II victory over GermanySeveral significant victories followed: battles of Stalingrad and Kursk in 1942 and 1943 were brutal for both sides, but the victories restored the Soviet army morale. The Soviet army marched Hitler’s troops all the way back to Berlin and took over the city in May 1945. The Soviet forces were joined by the Allied troops and victory over Germany was declared on 9 May 1945. Today countries that were once part of the Soviet Union celebrate Victory Day on 9 May, military parades and celebrations are held in virtually every town no matter how small, as every family in the country was touched by the war.
|4How the invasion of the Soviet Union caused Hitler to lose World War II|