It all began on June 22, 1941. On that fateful day German troops invaded the Soviet Union, thus opening the Eastern Front of World War II which would become a titanic struggle and the most violent and devastating theater of the war.
Hitler had never really tried to hide the fact he desired Lebensraum(living space) for Germany. He had written about it in his book Mein Kampf and even though the Soviet Union and Germany had an alliance at the time, it didn’t seem to really have much importance. In fact, He had ordered his generals to make preparations for the war since the summer of 1940. He wanted plans to quickly eliminate the Soviet Union’s capacity to do war.
Besides the over 3 million German soldiers, about 500,000 Romanian, Hungarian, Italian, Croatian, and Slovakian soldiers accompanied the Wehrmacht. Finland also joined in the attack as part of the Continuation War after the Winter War they had lost against the Soviet Union.
The initial phase of the attack proved to be extremely successful. Over the course of the first 3 months millions of Soviet prisoners of war were taken as the Soviet Union suffered disastrous defeats. However, Hitler had both greatly underestimated the Soviet Union and overestimated Germany’s logistical needs. Even though it had suffered tremendously, the Soviet Union managed to finally stall the Germans in Moscow in the winter of 1941.
In the end, although the Soviet Union’s position would remained critical onto 1942, it had finally brought down the Germans dream of a quick decisive victory and had made Hitler realize the Soviets were not as weak as he and many others had assumed. Many more vicious battles would follow such as Stalingrad and Kursk that would eventually push the Germans out of Soviet territory and conclude in the Battle of Berlin and the surrender of Germany by May 1945.