German invasion of the Soviet Union
Germany and the Soviet Union had signed a non-aggression pact in 1939, but truth be known, neither one trusted the other nor gave it much credence. However, the Soviet Union was caught by surprise in June of 1941 when Nazi Germany, under the rule of Adolf Hitler, suddenly turned attention from battling Great Britain to invading Germany’s neighbor to the east. The Germans launched a Blitzkrieg attack into Russia through their control of Poland, Finland and Romania.
Within the first weeks, the attacks spread over 1800 miles destroyed over 4,000 aircraft, and killed, maimed and captured over 600,000 soldiers of the Red Army. Joseph Stalin was shocked but resolute; he refused to let his armies surrender and succumbed them to one of the most brutal and harsh battles of World War II. The average life span of a Red Army soldier during those days was about 24 hours. Stalin ordered deserters to be shot and condoned Partisans to kill at their discretion. Rapes, murder and beatings were common during this battle from the Germans, and when Nazis took over Russian villages, many were forced to eat dogs, rats, crows and birch bark. Over 100,000 Russians starved to death.
Hitler had thought that the Soviet Union was primitive and would be easily dominated and slaughtered. He knew the days were numbered before Great Britain and the United States would become active in the war and wanted to take out the Soviets quickly, and increase Germany’s resources. This turned out to be one of Hitler’s biggest errors and a turning point in World War II.
German troops were approaching Moscow when the Russian winter hit and forced them to a halt. Brutal fighting techniques, harsh conditions, and temperatures as cold as 43 degrees below zero prevented the Germans from succeeding in their mission.
What Hitler had thought would be a quick four month battle to victory turned the Red Army into a horrendous opponent that for the next four years, with Allied support, pushed the Germans slowly back to Berlin, where Germany surrendered and they celebrated a Soviet victory among mayhem, murder and rape.