How Russia beat the German 'Blitz'

8th March 2005, Comments 0 comments

How Russia beat the German 'Blitz'By Guenther Chalupa, dpa

How Russia beat the German 'Blitz'
By Guenther Chalupa, dpa

Hamburg (dpa) - When triumphant German armies crossed the borders of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, they anticipated the Red Army would be a weak opponent.

The Red Army of workers and peasants founded in 1918 by People's Commissar Leon Trotsky initially was an easy target for the German divisions, well experienced in combat and highly mechanized.

Soviet dictator Stalin's pre-war "cleansing" of the officer corps had weakened Moscow's forces considerably.

However, with each kilometre of Soviet territory conquered by the armies of Hitler Germany, resistance grew and the fighting power of the Red Army increased.

Two factors played key roles in misjudgements by Hitler and his military intelligence: The Russian-Finnish war in 1939-1940, during which the Soviet Army, vastly superior in numbers, could defeat the small country of Finland only with great efforts, and the "cleansing" of the Red Army officer corps between 1937-1939.

Under the pretext of an alleged conspiracy amongst army leaders, the Soviet dictator ordered his military commander, Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky and seven other officers of the general staff to be executed. Shortly thereafter, about 30,000 officers were executed - almost half of the entire officer corps.

Under these circumstances, German divisions - a total of almost 3 million soldiers - penetrated quickly and deeply into Soviet territory. In the first year of the war, battles of encirclement in Kiev and Minsk with hundreds of thousands of Soviet prisoners seemed to confirm what German military strategists had expected.

When operation Typhoon for conquering Moscow started in October, however, the Germans were already running out of steam. Oversized tank traps in Moscow's suburb Chimki, about 23 kilometres from the Kremlin, today mark the high-water mark of the German offensive.

The Red Army by then had developed into a more than equal opponent to the Wehrmacht. Inspired by the call to defend "Rodina" (homeland), pushed on by fanatic propaganda commissars who spread the word that the German "Blitz" could be stopped, Red Army forces lined up against the hated "Fritz".

By the time of the showdown at Stalingrad, the aura that the German army was undefeatable was finally destroyed.

By that time, Russian armourers workshops, safely evacuated behind the Ural Mountains, delivered weapons systems in numbers that vastly surpassed production numbers on the German side.

Large groupings of Russian tanks made huge breaches in German fronts that had been softened by the artillery, called by Stalin the "goddess of the battles". Thousands of Red Army soldiers took German positions by assault, vastly outnumbering the Germans in every battle.

The new military doctrine, modified during the war, and the new generals such as Georgy Zhukov or Konstantin Rokossovsky, brought the Red Army success in what the Soviets called the "Great Patriotic War".

Military aid given by the U.S. and Great Britain in the framework of the lend-lease programme also played a considerable role in the Red Armys success, but was conveniently ignored by Soviet historians after the end of the war.

When towards the end of 1944, the Red Army reached the borders of the German Reich, the Red Army marched under the slogan "Doidjom do Berlina" ("we will reach Berlin").

Atrocities committed against German civilians have been explained by historians as deeds of cruel revenge for the Nazi's infamous actions in the USSR. Partly responsible for the attitudes of Soviet soldiers toward German civilians was the work of propagandists such as Ilya Ehrenburg, who called on troops to kill the Germans.

Conquering Berlin and advancing to the banks of the river Elbe was the final show of strength by the Red Army.

Between 15 million and 20 million men and women served in the Red Army during World War II. Historians estimate the death toll to be between seven million and ten million.

The victorious Red Army was renamed in 1946: In order to perform the last step of changing from a revolutionary militia to a regular army, its name was changed to Soviet Army.


Subject: German news 

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