Operation Barbarossa Begins, 1941
OTDJH: June 22, 1941
Operation Barbarossa began and with it, the Holocaust by bullets.
Despite the promises made in 1939 with the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, Hitler always regarded the Soviet Union as a key location to capture. On December 18, 1940, he signed the first operational orders for the invasion of the Soviet Union to take place the next year.
From the beginning, the Germans planned for the war with the Soviet Union to be a war of annihilation against “Judeo-Bolshevism”. The fighting was intended to create mass casualty that had not yet been seen in the war. Just before the invasion, the German High Command made an agreement with the SS to have mobile killing squads, known as Einsatzgruppen, march in the army’s rear.
On June 22nd, 1941, 3 German army groups totaling more than 3 million men attacked the Soviet Union across a broad front. They were supported by 650,000 additional troops from Romania and Finland. As the war went on, troops from Italy, Croatia, Slovakia, and Hungary joined the Germans in fighting.
The Einsatzgruppen were special units of the Security Police and SD responsible for "security measures" behind enemy lines. With the help of the SS and local collaborators, they carried out mass shootings against Jews, Roma, Communists, and Soviets.
1/3 all Jewish victims of the Holocaust died in these mass shootings led by the Einsatzgruppen.
Along the way, they also assisted the German army in the creation of ghettos for large numbers of Eastern European Jews. Other crimes included “liquidating” remaining psychiatric hospitals by killing patients and taking over the facility as their own, killing civilians and looting their homes for food and supplies.
For the first 6 weeks of the operation, the Soviets were devastated. However, after months of prolonged fighting, the German troops became exhausted as resistance by Soviet soldiers and citizens alike only grew. On December 6, 1941, the Soviets launched a massive counter-attack that pushed the German troops back to Moscow. This left the Germans in disarray - which many historians regard as the breaking point of the German army in WWII.
https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/invasion-of-the-soviet-union-june-1941 Beevor, Antony. Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege: 1942-1943. Norwalk, CT: The Easton Press, 2004. Kay, Alex J., and David Stahel. Mass Violence in Nazi-Occupied Europe. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2018.
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