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Operation Barbarossa, Research Paper Example

Pages: 10

Words: 2664

Research Paper

Germany was a renowned fighting power and winner of wars. Still, Operation Barbarossa was a turning point for its reputation as the country moved from offense to defense against the Russian Army. Hitler named his operation to attack the Soviets in June 1941 “Operation Barbarossa.” Hitler wanted to annihilate the entire Soviet race; he referred to them as sub-people, and he wanted to give Germans a place to live for millennia to come. While Germany had won many battles under Hitler, such as the one in the previous year against France, several factors led to the defeat of Germany in the Soviet Union’s Operation Barbarossa. The operation was a gamble because Germany overlooked all the advantages that the Soviet Union had over it, such as its size, industrial capacity, and population. Therefore, Germany’s ability to win was already severely compromised because of Hitler’s decisions. This research paper will discuss operation Barbarossa, how it was carried out, what led to its failure, and the consequences of this failure for Germany in the war.

Operation Barbarossa was a surprise attack, and Germany thought it would triumph because the Russian troops were unprepared. Two years before Germany invaded Russia, leaders from the two countries had signed two pacts for economic and political strategies, and they agreed not to assault one another for at least ten years. The 1939 agreement was a surprise to the French and the British because they had initially signed the same agreement with Hitler, only to have it violated immediately. This led to the British warning the Soviet Leader, Joseph Stalin, to be prepared for an attack. Stalin did not listen to Britain because he knew that Hitler wanted to attack Poland next (Kahn 234). In their agreement, Hitler sought to neutralize the treaty that the Soviet Union had with France because he wanted the Russian army to be on his side when he attacked Poland. Stalin, a dictator, agreed to Hitler’s demands because Hitler had told him that they would share Poland, with Germany occupying the East and The Soviet Union the West. In 1939, Hitler invaded Poland, leading France and Britain to attack Germany. The war took eight months, and Germany conquered The Netherlands, Belgium, France, and Luxembourg within six weeks. However, Britain was not defeated, which led to Hitler focusing his attention on a new target: the Soviet Union. Hitler’s new dream was to expand Germany to the East to create a large area of land where generations of Germans would live comfortably, and this drove him to direct his troops to destroy the Russians in Operation Barbarossa. Stalin was unaware of this attack even when it happened in the early morning of June 22; he was initially in denial, claiming that Hitler must not be aware of the attack. He said maybe his soldiers launched a surprise attack.

The beginning of Operation Barbarossa was an encouraging moment for Hitler because his invasion was the largest in the history of warfare: over 80% of the German army participated in the attack. The seventeen German Panzer Divisions were divided into four Panzer Groups that formed the vanguard with 3500 tanks, and the Army was supported by 2,700 aircraft, making it the largest invasion to date (Sutton 6). The Germans also used 600,000 vehicles and 700,000 horses, marking the beginning of its war with the Soviets. On the morning of the attack, over four million German soldiers invaded their target from a distance of 1800 miles. Due to the surprise nature of the attack, the Nazis were quickly victorious and took over the best areas in Russia, such as Ukraine. The Germans attacked from all sides, with one army attacking East Prussia from the North and another attacking Ukraine from the South. The last army attacked from the center, invading Smolensk and Moscow. The invasion caused a high number of Russian casualties within a short time. The Germans took 30,000 prisoners, but a significant number of the Soviet soldiers escaped to the East. The Germans bombed Soviet airfields, leading them to establish air superiority. On the first day, the Germans destroyed 1,800 Soviet aircraft, leaving the Russian forces powerless.

The Failure of Operation Barbarossa

With the successful invasion and high number of casualties, Hitler began underestimating the Soviet Army. However, regardless of the catastrophic losses, the Russian defenses were starting to take root. Hitler was determined to conquer Ukraine first because it was rich with resources. When he realized that the Soviet troops were being captured, he halted the advance on Moscow and reinforced his army located at areas in the South and North of the Union. Hitler disregarded the benefit that the troops had 220 miles left to reach Moscow. By the time the armies came back to march to Moscow, the Russian troops were reinforced and ready to fight the Germans. This led Germany to lose the initial element of surprise it had when marching to Moscow initially (Novey 2). Hitler also underestimated the numbers that Stalin had to defeat him, but he had more reserves than the German had anticipated. Therefore, Germany’s mission of total destruction failed as Germans realized that the Soviets would fight to the end.

Hitler had a poor strateg, which led to the Soviets defeating the Germans. Although the Germans had resources for the attack, they were unprepared for the long-term invasion. Hitler had assumed that since the Soviet Union was unprepared, the campaign would not last long because they were sub-people and had no experience in going to war. Hitler was confident that the attack would be similar to what happened in France, where Germany only needed to knock down the door, and the country would come tumbling down. He was mistaken because, unlike France, there were vast distances between the troops and the areas of invasion, difficulties in logistics, and the Russian forces were stronger than Hitler had expected. The Soviet Army had three times the number of tanks and aircraft than the Germans. Hitler had correctly estimated that the Russian troops had 150 divisions, and if the war became more intense, it would bring out fifty more. However, as the war escalated, the Soviet Union brought out more than 200 new divisions. As the Germans succeeded in killing and taking prisoners among the original divisions, they found themselves blocked by new ones. This led to Hitler realizing that he had miscalculated the attack, which was the beginning of Operation Barbarossa’s failure.

The failure was also caused by a stubborn Soviet army that fought hard, unlike the French army that the Germans had witnessed. The Soviet troops continued to block roads after the German Army had passed through. As the Soviet troops retreated, they used the burn-to-the-ground rule policy, burning all the resources in their path to ensure that the Germans did not benefit. The Soviet troops burned their crops and bridges and evacuated people from their industries to prevent the Germans from taking employees (Alexander 6). They also destroyed their munition and steel plants in the west and shipped them to the East, where they would recover production after the war. In order to prevent Germans from following, they destroyed and moved their railroad cars. Germans could not use the Soviet railroad system because their tracks had different gauges that the German rolling stock could not utilize. The scorched earth was too hot for The Germans, making it challenging for them to capture more Soviet armies.

The weather also led to the failure of Operation Barbarossa. As the German troops approached Moscow, the weather began to change. Autumn rains began changing the roads into mud, which slowed down movement, especially for the horse-drawn transport. This led to the Germans halting their operations temporarily. The temperatures also began to drop, and the ground became frozen, causing further delays. As the Germans froze at their locations, the Soviets had time to reinforce their troops, which included bringing soldiers and reservists from Siberia. The Germans tried attacking, but they were exhausted and frozen, making them inactive. This gave the Soviet troops an advantage that led them to launch a counter-offensive.

The Soviet counter-offensive led to the failure of Operation Barbarossa. On December 5, 1941, the Soviets attacked the Germans, forcing them to retreat. Hitler insisted that the troops remain on the ground, and the generals that suggested otherwise were fired. The German army was pushed more than 200 miles away from Moscow, and the Russians killed over a thousand German soldiers in the attack. The death of these soldiers left Hitler angry with the generals in charge, and he sacked them all and made himself commander of the German army (Bell 46). The temptation of being too close to Moscow encouraged Hitler and the remaining troops to push further. However, the temperatures were sub-zero, and the German soldiers did not have any provisions for the winter because their clothing had not been made. On the other hand, the Soviets were well clad and ready for the winter, meaning that their fight was going to be more effective in the winter compared to the Germans. However, by the time November ended, more of Hitler’s soldiers had died than in any other war, including the ones they had fought in the Balkans and France, because they had over 730,000 casualties. The Siberian troops were also skilled fighters during the winter, and the Soviet Union used them for the counter-offensives against the Germans. This led to a blow at the German left. When the Soviet counter-offensive started, Operation Barbarossa failed.

Results of the Operation Barbarossa Failure

Operation Barbarossa was the beginning of Germany’s downfall in World War II because it did not really destroy the Soviet Union. Although Hitler launched a surprise attack, the Soviet Union successfully dismantled and relocated approximately 1500 factories through train to the Urals in the East (Bartov 134). This enabled the industry to continue distributing its most important resources for the war. Therefore, although there were casualties, the Germans did not affect the Soviet Union as it had expected.

A year after the operation’s failure, with Hitler in control of the German army, he conducted another summer offensive targeting oil-rich fields in Russia. Hitler called it Operation Case Blue, which also failed. Before Operation Barbarossa, Hitler purchased oil from Russia, but its remaining source was Romania, which led to Germany needing to capture more oil. Hitler made a plan to capture various Russian oil-filled areas in Maykop, Grozny, and Baku (Ruppelt 93). Hitler divided his army into two groups, where the first army would attack the Russian forces on the west of the Don River, while the other would move towards the Volga River and cover the first Army as it moved towards the three oil fields. However, Hitler made a strategic miscalculation when he ordered the second group to capture Stalingrad, an area that did not have any strategic significance. When the first group captured the Maykop oil fields, it was destroyed by retreating Russians because it had no support. This led to the second failure by Germany. When Russians attacked the Germans at Stalingrad, they killed more than two million of their citizens and soldiers.

After Germany failed to capture Russia’s oil fields, it launched an attack on Russia in the following summer. The offensive operation on the Russian forces was called Operation Citadel. The aftermath of the battle of Stalingrad created a large piece of land at an angle that extended to Germany of a large salient that extended into the German territory. Kursk, a Russian city, was located at the center of the extended land, and Hitler was targeting it to take it from the Russians. Hitler thought that recapturing Kursk would restore Germany’s glory at the Front. However, the Soviets became aware of what Hitler was planning, leading them to protect the city. Hitler’s actions caused a mechanized war between the Soviet Union and Hitler’s territory, where two sides, both equipped with a combination of 8 000 tanks, fought to reclaim the city. Ultimately, the Soviet forces were strong, and the Germans were defeated (Whitewood 306). The Russians achieved the victory that Hitler had looked forward to in the war, and the Soviets seized the initiative until World War II ended. After the Soviet’s victory, Germany was compelled to retreat. By 1945, Germany had retreated to Berlin, and it surrendered to its allies. Eighty percent of Germany’s casualties in the Second World War were on the front.

How Hitler’s Character Contributed to Barbarossa’s failure

While the Germans blamed the weather, a low number of soldiers, and the underestimation of the Soviets for their failure in the surprise attack, Hitler was the primary cause of the losses. Hitler failed Germany because he was a racist who underestimated the Soviet Union’s abilities (Kowalski 5). Hitler made a decision to take over the Soviet Union in 1925, over a decade before Operation Barbarossa. In 1939, before the onset of Operation Barbarossa, Hitler said that the next war he began would be purely a racial war. After World War II began, Hitler said that the racial war had already begun, and it would determine the governors of Europe, and with it, they would conquer the world. Hitler viewed the Soviet Union as being led by Jewish conspirators and said that it was his destiny to turn to the East as it had done over five hundred years ago. Thus, Hitler believed that his role was to enslave, deport and kill a majority of Russians and repopulate their population with Germans. The German belief in their superiority led to their troops underestimating the Soviet Army and thinking that conquering Russia would not take too long. This was not the case because the Russians launched a counter-offensive that led to the death of the largest number of soldiers in German history. The Soviet Union proved stronger than the German troops had anticipated because it had an equivalent amount of tanks and soldiers. The women, men, and children dug multiple defensive lines throughout the city, preventing the entry of German soldiers.

Conclusion

In summary, Operation Barbarossa was a surprise attack that Germany made on the Soviet Union, which failed because of the decisions that Hitler made. Although the operation was a gamble, there were initial indications that the Germans were going to win because the Soviet Union did not know that they were under attack. However, Hitler’s decisions made the operation fail. Hitler underestimated the Soviet Union because he was racist, claiming that they were sub-people that needed to be annihilated to make room for Germans. Hitler also underestimated their preparedness for war, and while this would have led Germans to success, he failed to listen to his Generals’ strategy to attack Moscow first. Moscow was the center of the Soviet’s government, and launching an attack would have paralyzed the Soviet Union, leading the Germans to victory. Based on the dictatorship in the Soviet government, Germany would also have won Operation Barbarossa if they had approached the Soviets in the resource-rich Ukraine as liberators from the Stalin regime.

Works Cited

Alexander, Bevin. How Hitler could have won World War II: The fatal errors that led to Nazi defeat. Broadway Books, 2000. 6

Bartov, Omer. “Operation Barbarossa and the origins of the Final Solution.” The Final Solution. Routledge, 2002. 129-146.

Bell, Philip. “3. Operation Barbarossa: The German Attack on the Soviet Union, 1941.” Twelve Turning Points of the Second World War. Yale University Press, 2011. 41-58.

Kahn, Martin. “‘Russia Will Assuredly Be Defeated’: Anglo-American Government Assessments of Soviet War Potential before Operation Barbarossa.” The Journal of Slavic Military Studies 25.2 (2012): 220-240.

Kowalski, Matthew. “Hitler’s Character and its Impact on Operation Barbarossa.” The Histories 2.1 (2019): 5.

Novey, Adam G. “Operation Barbarossa Interpreted in Light of the Primacy of Stalin’s Economic Plan and Trade with Germany.” Bound Away: The Liberty Journal of History 2.1 (2018): 2.

Ruppelt, Hagen H. The Crucial Role of the Operational Artist: A Case Study of Operation Barbarossa. US Army School for Advanced Military Studies Fort Leavenworth United States, (2017): 89-96

Sutton, David. “German Defeat/Red Victory: Change and Continuity in Western and Russian Accounts of June-December 1941.” (2018):6

Whitewood, Peter. “The battle for Moscow.” Canadian Slavonic Papers 58.3 (2016): 306.

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