top of page

The Operation of Ideals: Operation Barbarossa

Updated: Jan 29

Written by Arda Kizilkaya

Operation Barbarossa was a turning point in World War 2. The reason is that Operation Barbarossa started the German invasion of the Soviet Union, which later on would lead to German defeat in WW2.

The Reason Operation Barbarossa Conducted:

1) Political Reasons:

Hitler’s ideals of a “superior Aryan race” played a crucial role in preparing Operation Barbarossa, but there are a lot of important goals that led to this operation being directed towards the Russians, but the first reason that I’ll talk about is Lebensraum (Living space) is Hitler's idea of the German Aryan race needing space to grow in population and leaving the untermensch (sub-human) low in population so that the world could be “better” under the German Aryan race. The second reason is Hitler’s hatred of communism. To explain his hatred of communism we have to go back to his childhood, but the times that Hitler truly expressed his hatred is after the Great War. When Hitler was a soldier for the Deutsches Heer (the German army in the Great War) he performed greatly and so did Germany at the beginning of the war, but in 1916 after recovering from an injured leg caused by an artillery shell hitting him he found a general German populus that was hungry, angry and that grew tired of the war spread Anti-War propaganda. After the war ended a heavy treaty was placed on Germany, in which Hitler blamed the communists and Jews for spreading dissent and Anti-war propaganda to Germans and making the Treaty of Versailles signed by the government. Another reason is that the Soviet Union was one of the major powers that could defeat the German War Machine, and if the operation went as planned this would secure Lebensraum, communism would be eliminated, etc.[5]

2) Economic reasons:

Hitler wanted to make Germany an autarkic style and independent of the world economy by conquering the new “Lebensraum in the East.” He was not concerned with opening up new sources of raw materials and sales markets for capitalist private companies, for he had in mind a planned economy for the post-war period and in the conquered territories. Shortly after launching Operation Barbarossa, on July 28, 1941, Hitler said that: “A sensible employment of the powers of a nation can only be achieved with a planned economy from above.” About two weeks later he said: “As far as the planning of the economy is concerned, we are still very much at the beginning…” He repeated that around a year later: “Even after the war, we would not be able to renounce state control of the economy,” because, Hitler continued, otherwise every interest group would think exclusively of the fulfillment of its desires. The Soviets also had Ukraine otherwise known as the “breadbasket of Europe”. If the Germans controlled Ukraine that would mean that Germany would have enough food supplies for the war with the British Empire.[6]

The Preparation:

For the operation against the Soviet Union, the Germans allotted almost 150 divisions containing a total of about three million men. Among those units were 19 tank (panzer) divisions, and in total the Barbarossa force had about 3,000 tanks, 7,000 artillery pieces, and 2,500 aircraft. It was in effect the largest and most powerful invasion in human history. The Germans’ strength was further increased by more than 30 divisions of Axis, most notably Finnish and Romanian, troops. At first Hitler and his generals had scheduled the invasion of the Soviet Union for mid-May 1941, but the unforeseen necessity of invading Yugoslavia and Greece in April of that year forced them to delay the Soviet campaign to late June. Then on 22 June 1941, Operation Barbarossa started.[7] 

The Battle of Bialystok-Minsk:

The 3rd Panzer Group launched their offensive north of the Bialystok salient and had already reached the Nieman River by midday on the 23rd of June. Despite several localized counter-attacks, by 24th June leading elements of 57th Panzer Corps led by Kunztzen had reached Vilnius while 39th Panzer Corps led by Schmidt advanced rapidly towards Minsk. Meanwhile, the 9th Army led by Strauss followed in support and placed immense pressure on the Soviet 3rd and 10th Armies around Bialystok, Grodno, and then Lida. By the 26th of June, the 39th Panzer Corps was only 18 miles north of Minsk while other elements of the corps headed for Borisov to jump the Berezina River. While that was happening the 57th Panzer Corps headed towards Polotsk on the upper Dvina River. The 2nd Panzer Group punched a hole through the 4th Army defenses on the Bug River, bypassed the fortress of Brest-Litovsk, which held until 29th June, made short work of the 14th Mechanised Corps (4th Army’s armored reserve), which was destroyed as an offensive force, in just two days and rapidly proceeded north-eastwards. The 24th Panzer Corps crossed the Bug south of Brest and headed straight for Slutsk and Bobruisk on the Berezina River. Slutsk fell on the 26th of June, and Bobruisk was reached on the 28th-29th of June. By the 30th of June, the 24th Panzer Corps had secured a crossing of the Berezina River. Despite repeated counter-attacks on the bridgehead and attempts by the VSS to bomb the bridges, the 24th Panzer Corps soon crossed the Berezina River. The 47th Panzer Corps crossed the Bug north of Brest, proceeded through Slonim, which was captured after a fierce fight, and headed towards Baranovichi which was captured on 25th June. The corps then wheeled northeast towards Minsk, linking up with the 3rd Panzer Group’s 39th Panzer Corps on the 27th of June. The resultant Bialystok-Minsk pocket contained the Soviet 3rd and 10th Armies and most of the 4th and 13th Armies and their reserves that existed on 22nd June 1941. Close behind the 2nd Panzer Group’s main thrusts followed the 46th Panzer Corps led byVietinghoff and 4th Army led by Kluge. 4th Army attacked north and north-eastwards and on 28th June the 4th Army's infantry linked up with the 9th Army west of Bialystok. Thus the Bialystok-Minsk pocket was cut into two major pockets; one centered around Bialystok and the other a much larger pocket east of Minsk. It took until 8th July for these pockets to be liquidated by the German 4th and 9th Armies, yielding approximately 288 000 Prisoner of War (POW).[1]

The Largest Encirclement of Mankind: Battle of Kyiv (Kiev)

Even though Hitler's generals suggested a march on Moscow since the army group center was the only one to succeed the original goal of Barbarossa taking Minsk. Hitler decided to go for an encirclement near the east of Kyiv destroying the Russians’ southern front, and opening up the precious wheat fields, which in his view were crucial to continue the war. There was also a large number of coal fields and steel plants of eastern Ukraine would add considerably to the Reich’s ability to fight the great industrialized war that Hitler saw coming against the British and especially the United States. Stalin again played a role in turning a serious military situation into a disastrous one. Despite the serious warnings from his senior military advisors like Zhukov that there was a growing possibility of catastrophe in Ukraine, Stalin persisted in his demand that every inch of land in central and eastern Ukraine be held to the last man. His subordinates obeyed the order. The Germans took full advantage of the Soviets' mistakes and proceeded to move deep into the rear areas of eastern Ukraine. The north and south leading corps of the two panzer groups sliced down and linked up to the east of Kyiv on 16 September. The Germans estimated that they had captured 665,000 POW's by the time they had cleared up the wreckage. The Soviets admitted the loss of 4 field armies, 43 divisions, and 452,720 soldiers. It was the worst operational defeat of the Soviet Union to that point in the war. Also, the Germans mounted the worst single-day assault on Eastern Europe’s Jewish population thus far in the war. SS units, with some help from the German Army, slaughtered some 33,000 Jews along with others from those whom the Nazis regarded as untermensch.[4]

The Beginning of the Road to Moscow: Battle of Smolensk   

While the encirclement in Bialystok-Minsk was being eliminated, the 2nd and 3rd Panzer Groups pressed on. On the northern wing 3rd Panzer Group’s 57th Panzer Corps, but it was only with the 19th Panzer Division as the 12th had transferred to the 39th Panzer Corps, reached the Dzisna and by 3rd July was fighting with the 22nd Army to force a crossing. The battle to cross would continue until the 8th of July by which time the 57th Panzer Corps managed to cross the Dvina north of Polotsk. On 2nd July the 39th Panzer Corps, now with three panzer divisions, established another bridgehead over the Berezina River at Borisov and by 5th July the corps was heading north-eastwards towards Vitebsk. While that was happening 147th Panzer Corps approached the Beresina at Brodets, had stormed across by 4th July, and was heading for the Dnepr south of Orsha. The 46th Panzer Corps quickly moved up to link up with the 47th Panzer Corps and the 24th Panzer Corps, which was already across the Beresina and had reached the Dnieper River on 5th July. In addition, the Oberkommando der Heeres (OKH) had released its reserves, the 2nd Army, which was advancing behind the 2nd Panzer Group. Army Group Centre was racing forward as fast as possible to ‘jump’ the Dnepr, seize the Dvina land bridge, and prevent any attempt by the Soviets to establish strong defensive lines along the Dnieper River and around Smolensk. In the intervening period, Timoshenko had become the commander of the ‘Western Strategic Direction’ which enabled him to take control of the new Western Front, and with the control in Timoshenko, he planned a series of major counter-attacks with the strategic reserves. Timoshenko had acted upon his plan by appointing Eremenko, Pavlov’s replacement, as his deputy, and incorporating most of the Reserve Front under Budenny into the Western Front. The two most important counter-attacks were the 20th Army attacking against the Panzer Corps in the Lepel area with the 5th and 7th Mechanised Corps, and the 4th, 13th, and 21st Army attacking against the south flank of the 2nd (Guderian's) Panzer Group. Both failed and now the Germans had started their march to Moscow.[3]

A Typhoon that Would Decide History: Operation Typhoon

Battle of Moscow, code name Operation Typhoon, battle fought between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union from September 30, 1941, to January 7, 1942, during World War II. The German advance on Moscow in September 1941 would soon be a disaster because of atrocious weather conditions. The Germans were also shocked by the Soviet Union’s ability to keep bringing forward more men to the frontlines. Although some German officers thought Moscow was unattainable, they had no choice but to press forward, because they had to end the war before the fierce winter set in. German troops still managed to encircle large Soviet forces at Vyazma in October, but the Soviet determination to protect Moscow delayed the Nazi advance. German soldiers pierced the improvised defense lines on the approaches to Moscow and reached within 24 km of the city—they could see the cupolas of Saint Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square in the distance. However, the Soviet resistance kept stiffening. Joseph Stalin chose to stay in Moscow even when the Germans were 24 km from Moscow and appeared at the annual celebrations in Red Square, offering a morale boost to his people. By early November, the Wehrmacht (German army) suffered its first cases of frostbite, and soon German soldiers had difficulty firing frozen guns. Then, on December 5, Siberian troops attacked, many wearing the snow camouflage that the Germans would learn to fear. The Red Army had high hopes for this offensive, intending to encircle and destroy the Germans. They did not manage this, but they did manage to drive back the Germans up to 250 km at some points. Nazi Germany had lost its chance for a quick victory, and now the Germans were overextended. The Wehrmacht's losses during the Battle of Moscow totaled 250,000–400,000 dead or wounded, and the Red Army suffered 600,000–1,300,000 dead, wounded, or captured.[2]


  1. The Battle of Bialystok-Minsk | Operation Barbarossa. (n.d.). Retrieved from

  2. Battle of Moscow. (2022, July 6). Retrieved from

  3. The Battle of Smolensk | Operation Barbarossa. (n.d.). Retrieved from

  4. The Great Battle for Kiev, September 1941. (n.d.). Retrieved from

  5. Hitler's Character and its Impact on Operation Barbarossa. (n.d.). Retrieved from

  6. Niemietz, K. (2021, June 29). The economics behind "Operation Barbarossa". Retrieved from

  7. Operation Barbarossa. (2011, June 15). Retrieved from


bottom of page