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World War II Eastern Front Timeline

Eastern Front AOI Environment

Izak Stunf

on 29 December 2012

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Transcript of World War II Eastern Front Timeline

World War II: Eastern Front Timeline 1939 The stage for the theater of the Eastern Front is set. September 1st The German invasion of Poland
leads to the outbreak of WWII
only two days after the attack. Two weeks later, on September 17th, the Soviet troops close in on Poland from the east, closing the gap on the defeated Polish Army. By the end of the month, Poland is divided between the Germans and Soviets according to the Ribbentrop-Molotov agreement. 1940 With their back secured, the Wehrmacht turns west, launching an offensive on May 10th. The Germans take the allies by surprise, invading the Benelux States in just over 2 weeks. By bypassing the Maginot line, and advancing through the Ardennes forest, the Germans manage to outflank the allied forces and trap their armies with a pincer move. On June 4th, the British Expeditionary Forces make a close escape at the beeches of Dunkirk. On June 14th German troops walk into Paris. By the end of the month of June, France capitulates. Apart from Britain, only the Soviet Union is left standing in Europe. 1941 The Germans launch a full scale attack against the Soviet Union on the 22nd of June, breaching through the borders of the recently divided Poland.
The Germans form a combined strength 150 divisions with 5,500,000 men, 3400 tanks, 4000 planes and 7000 artillery pieces.
The operation was divided in 3 army groups... The Soviets are taken completely off guard. The Red Army has and equal number of troops at the front, but has a 3:1 advantage in mechanized infantry, tanks and planes. Although more numerous, the equipment is inferior to the German, leading to massive losses in the first weeks of battle and constant retreat of the Soviet lines.
The Red Army air force is decimated, having most of the planes destroyed while still on the ground due to unawareness of the German surprise attack resulting from bad telecommunication.
The Soviet tanks are reduced to 1/3 of the initial strike force due to lack of air cover and tactical support from the ground.
By mid September, almost all Red Army personnel has been either killed or taken prisoner by the Germans. Operation Barbarossa Within 6 days of the operation Minsk has fallen, and with it the entire western Belarus.
By the end of August, Smolensk is the first major Russian city to be occupied by the Germans, while the entire Army Group Center is at the Belarus-Russian border.
By the 9th of September the Baltic states are taken. Army Group North is at the gates of Leningrad while at the same time Army Group South has taken over the entire Ukraine. Army Group North, had the task to push through the Baltic towards Leningrad. Army Group South was order to push through the Ukraine reaching for the Caspian oil fields to the east. Army Group Center was directed to race through the Belarus towards the Soviet capital Moscow. Just as he wrote in his book "Mein Kampf", Hitler was just a step away from reaching two major goals he set to himself while spending time in prison.
Hitler managed to subdue the entire mainland Europe by Autumn 1941, achieving the task of gaining "Lebensraum" (living space) for the German nation. At the same time, he was just steps away from defeating the Communist threat in the east.
The German standards of living were flourishing, due to recent war gains that brought higher industrial productivity, financial potential and increase in income resulting from land gains. While the Red Army was in disarray, retreating along the entire 1800 miles long front, Stalin was in shock.
Although being constantly warned by Soviet intelligence, he himself did not believe it possible that Hitler would dare attack him so soon.
Within a week of the invasion, Stalin reversed the 1937 military cleansing by decommissioning or executing all politically assigned generals, and re-positioning experienced officers that survived the political purges.
By mid September, Stalin, with the help of the new Generals, managed to stabilize the Red Army front line, halting the Germans just in front of Moscow. Stalin was now embraced in a fight for survival, not only an internal political struggle. He left the Communist doctrine propaganda, and related the speeches to the Motherland, in order to revive the patriotic feelings of the weakened people. From here comes the expression: "The Great Patriotic War".

The Soviet economy was very isolated until the outbreak of the war. With the help of American loans and financial assistance, the Russians managed to transfer their industry behind the Ural mountain range. Although heavily weakened, the Soviet war machine quickly became the most productive out of all the nations involved in the conflict.

As an answer to the German Blitzkrieg tactic, the Red Army was ordered to counter the Germans with the Spartan "Scorched Earth" policy. As the Red Army was forced to retreat, they destroyed and burned all the infrastructure and resources that could be still of use to the Germans. This way the Blitzkrieg tactic which was based on quick advances and a constant supply of resources became completely impossible to undertake, stalling the German advance in its tracks.

The Soviet population found in the occupied territories suffered terribly. Millions of civilians lost their lives, while millions remained homeless. The local population experienced starvation and poverty, while terrible war crimes were being committed on the Jewish and local population. On October 2nd, the Germans launched an offensive on the Soviet Capital.
Codenamed "Operation Typhoon", the German operation was based on two simultaneous offensives, one closing in from the south and one from the north. The plan was to perform a "Pincer move", that would encircle the city and the defending Soviet troops.
According to plan, while the encirclement was being performed, two separate armies would advance on the capital directly from the west, preventing an escape route out of the city pocket.
The German strike force held almost 2 million soldiers, 1700 tanks and 600 planes. Battle of Moscow The German forces intended to flank over the Oka river in the south, and encircle the Soviet armies at Klin in the north. This time, Stalin was well prepared.
The Red Army counted 1,250,000 men, over 3200 tanks and almost 1000 aircraft.
The Red Army protecting Moscow was half encircled from the west, but at this stage of the war retreat was not an option.
Stalin called for reinforcements from all over the country, transporting elite reserve armies from Siberia and the far east of the Soviet Union.
The Soviets were well equipped for winter combat, wearing snow camouflage and wearing warm gear. The German advance began relatively swiftly, but did not resemble the Blitzkrieg as it did in the previous few months.

Until the month of November, the Germans had trouble advancing through the thick autumn mud, caused by constant rain. Large motorized movements were impossible without appropriate roads, and the new Soviet T-34 medium tanks were found hard to counter with the standard anti-tank weaponry.

On November 15th, the second all front offensive was launched. With the first snow and the freezing of previous mud roads, the Germans began their pincer offensive at Klin, just north of Moscow, and at Tula in the southern sector.

By November 24th, Klin was captured, and by the 28th a bridgehead across the Moscow-Volga Canal was secured. By surpassing the water obstacle, German tanks could now advance towards Moscow.

Just 35 kilometers from Moscow, a frontal assault along the Minsk-Moscow highway was launched on December 1st. The assault was soon halted, although a small division managed to reach the town of Kimkhi, just 8km away from suburban Moscow, the furthest any German army has got.

By December the 2nd, temperatures dropped to almost -20 °C. On December 5th, all operations directed towards Moscow were halted, as the men and equipment were unable to cope with the freezing cold and the constant Soviet opposition. The Red Army was tightly spread out across the perimeter of Moscow. With a relatively similar strength to the Germans, the retreat was relatively slow and organized, very different from the events of Barbarossa.

The Soviets were forced to slowly retreat as they were lacking supplies and men power. The supplies were arriving from behind the Ural mountain range as were the reserve armies transported from remote corners of the Soviet Union. Both processes were highly time consuming. The remaining Soviet troops defending Moscow, managed to hold back the German attackers just long enough for the reinforcements to gradually arrive. Tanks, such as the new T-34, were sent to the battlefield straight from factories still situated in the city.

With the help of the "Russian winter", the Soviet troops managed to stop the advance of the Germans by the beginning of December. On the 5th, the Soviets launched a counter offensive meant to push the Germans away from the capital. With the help of the new highly trained armies and the support of brand new tanks, the Red Army was able to push the Germans back almost 200km. By the 7th of January 1942, the Soviet armies began running out of supplies and the offensive was halted.

The Red Army managed to push the Germans back all the way to Orel and almost to Smolensk, the primary German positions before the start of their offensive on the capital. After over 3 months of fighting, Moscow was safe and out of the German reach until the end of the War. The Red Army pushed back the German almost 200km to the west of Moscow, almost to their original lines before Operation Typhoon. The failure of capturing Moscow was a disaster for Hitler and the Wehrmacht.

Hitler hoped that with the capture of Moscow the Red Army would have been obliterated and Stalin would have had to surrender. With the failure of eliminating the Soviet Union out of the war, the last chance to get Britain to become an ally of Germany disappeared.

The failure of the Operation let Hitler to become more suspicious of his generals. While the Germans were in retreat he ordered several generals to be decommissioned, especially the once that disobeyed the orders and retreated without permission. In the process several of the best German generals lost their post, while Hitler began to ignore advice of his staff.

The losses of the German army were massive. Over 250,000 dead and almost 500,000 injured. The loss of men put a heavy toll on the German army, as did the loss of equipment. The repair costs grew bigger and bigger, while Germany had fewer and fewer options of where to take bank loans.

The German civilians, both men and women, became essential for the functioning of the army, as the demand for supplies and equipment grew greater every day, especially when the German losses began to increase drastically. Hitler and the Nazi party, soon began looking at potential solutions to the much needed labor. It did not take long before labor factories and labor camps, filled with imprisoned Jews and political agitators appeared across all German occupied territories. By pushing back the enemy and saving Moscow, Stalin regained full control over the people and the political situation. If the Red Army was beaten and Moscow would have fallen, Stalin would have been forced to surrender. By saving the city and by sending the Germans into retreat over 200km to the west, Stalin showed he was slowly regaining the upper hand not only to his people and the competition, but also to all the allies.

In the defense of Moscow all the citizens were called to arms, and organized in civilian fighting forces that helped construct barricades and prepare for a potential invasion. The people were not fighting for their leader, but for "Mother Russia" and their own lives.

On November 7th, Stalin gave a public speech on the Red Square to commemorate the anniversary of the October Revolution although the Germans were just kilometers away from Moscow. With this occasion, Stalin re-gained much trust and support with his people.

The Soviet losses were enormous, almost twice as great as the German. Although the costs were enormous, the allies kept faith in Stalin, as he has managed to prove himself in very hard situations such as the Battle for Moscow. By releasing some pressure off the capital and the industrial regions, the Soviet war machine began roaring at full strength, doubling the efforts in manufacturing of weapons and supplies. The Siege of Leningrad The siege of Leningrad began on September 8th 1941, when the last land escape routes from the city itself were cut off by the Wehrmacht troops.

The Germans were supported by Finnish troops that advanced on Leningrad from the north, blocking a potential breakthrough of the Soviets through the Mannerheim line and into Finland. With the successes of Operation Barbarossa, the Germans had the entire city surrounded from the south side, while keeping a narrow corridor only a few kilometers long east of the city.

The Germans bombarded the city with planes and artillery fire to no avail. The Germans attempted to push through to the city, but the Soviet troops were dug in well in the trenches, while the tanks were of no use as the terrain was impossible to pass.

The battle around Leningrad came to a stalemate as winter came. The Germans repeatedly attempted to stop enemy supplies coming in through the Lake Lagoda, and to break through to the city themselves but they never succeeded.

On the 27th of January 1944, the Siege was finally lifted as the Soviet troops broke through the narrow corridor in the east, forcing the German troops to retreat south towards the Baltic states. The German and Soviet positions at the beginning of the Siege of Leningrad. Just as the failure of Operation Typhoon, the Siege of Stalingrad was one of the greatest failures of the German War machine, and the "mastermind" of Hitler as well. Leningrad was the symbol of Bolshevism and communist ideology in general, being named after the revolutionist Lenin. Leningrad was also the city of the Tsars, constructed by Peter I, and one of the largest and most luxurious cities in Russia.

In April 1941, Hitler had already planned the capture and final obliteration of Leningrad. He was convinced that the symbol of Lenin's might and the Russian Revolution must be destroyed.

Although a major ideological trademark of the Soviet Union, Leningrad was also home to the Soviet Baltic Fleet which was very powerful and could pose a great threat to the German units and was also a strong industrial city that contributed greatly to the Soviet war efforts.

The morale of the Germans was decreasing as the constant efforts showed no sign of success. The constant war of attrition coasted the Germans a lot of men and weaponry for no gain whatsoever in return. The even bigger disaster is, that after all the input of the Germans, Leningrad stayed in Soviet hands. Just as it was important for Hitler to destroy the symbol of Bolshevik power, it was even more important for Stalin to keep Leningrad in Soviet hands.

Stalin knew that the morale of his people was low, and the loss of such a historically glorious and industrially important city would make the crisis even bigger. By keeping Leningrad alive, Stalin kept the morale of his people by giving them hope of survival.

The costs of keeping the city supplied were enormous, for both the civilians trapped within the city and the front line soldiers protecting it. The greatest price of all was paid by the soldiers assigned to deliver food supplies into Leningrad across Lake Lagoda.

The people within the city were starving. Over a fifth of the population were evacuated beforehand at the beginning of June, while almost a million citizens died during the 872 days lasting siege. A few thousand civilians were killed by artillery fire, while the majority died due to starvation, dehydration or hypothermia.

When Soviet supplies were unable to arrive for long periods of time or were destroyed on the way to the city under siege, civilians received no more than 125 grams of bread, which was mixed with ashes and cellulose. The people trapped inside Leningrad suffered terribly for well over 2 years. Only 5 days after the Germans unexpectedly invaded the Soviet Union, the city of Leningrad began preparing for a German attack. The authorities immediately began evacuating the population, managing to get around 400,000 people out of the city before the siege, leaving 1,400,000 people in Leningrad.

The Soviets had around a million men available for the defense of the city. Although encircled, the Soviet troops protecting Leningrad turned the surrounding land into fortified tranches, preventing the Germans from advancing over their lines.

The Red Army forces that were left out of the encirclement kept constant pressure on the German weak points, especially the narrow corridor separating the Soviet lines around the city with the units in the east.

The city and the troops were dependent on the so called "Road of Life", convoys of trucks bringing in supplies over the frozen lake Lagoda in winter and with rafts in summer.

After the Germans were forced to retreat from Moscow, the Red Army received more reinforcements, managing to break through the narrow gap in the German lines on the 12th of January 1943, forming a land passage just 6km long, allowing Soviet reinforcements and supplies to come in the city, ending the siege of Leningrad. 1942 Battle of Stalingrad In the summer of 1942, the Germans were only a few hundred kilometers away from the Caspian Sea oil fields. The Volga, the Caucasus Mountains and Stalingrad still stood in their way... The Soviets began evacuating the population and securing food supplies at the end of July, while most industrial equipment was transported to the Ural mountain range, production of tanks and crucial weapons continued.

At the beginning of the conflict, less than 200,000 men were available for the defense of Stalingrad, 400 tanks and 300 aircraft. The Red Army was greatly outnumbered.

As the Germans swiftly continued their advance west of the Volga, the Soviet troops were only able to fortify the east bank of the Volga. Reinforced trenches and barricades were built throughout the city, while the infantry awaited the attack within the city, as the Soviet troops fighting Army Group Center were constantly retreating.

Stalin knew he had to hold the city, as it was a vital artery of the Soviet war machine. Oil supplies from the Caspian oil fields were a necessity for the Red Army, as were reinforcements and equipment coming in from behind the Ural mountain range. The Germans reached the Volga just north of Stalingrad by the end of August, sending first divisions towards the city at the beginning of September.

Stalingrad was a major transport trade route, linking railways from the far east, the Caspian oil fields and Moscow. Stalingrad was also a powerful industrial city, and most importantly for Hitler, it held the name of the Soviet leader Stalin. Hitler, unlike his generals, believed that it was more important to break down the Soviet industry and economy, rather than continue the efforts in capturing the capital Moscow. He believed that by breaking the Soviet war machine, Stalin would be forced to surrender.

The plan was to block Stalingrad from the west, positioning Army Group Center armies on the banks of the Volga, stopping all land escape and supply for the Red Army within the city borders. With constant air bombing raids, Hitler planned to change the city into a pile of rubble, making it impossible for the Soviets to protect the city. As the city would be half encircled, the German 6th Army under the command of General Paulus would enter the city, eliminating the remaining Soviet troops.

The German army counted around 1,000,000 men, 270,000 assigned for the attack on Stalingrad. The Luftwaffe had 1600 planes, bombers and fighters, available by mid September, while 500 tanks were available for the capture of the city. Between the 23rd and the 26th of August, the Luftwaffe conducted massive air raids, turning the city into rubble in a matter of day. With the constant bombardment and artillery shelling, not a single building in the city was left unharmed.

The Junkers 87, "Stuka", dive bombers constantly raided Soviet supplies coming across the Volga, killing reinforcements and destroying equipment and supplies.

The Germans began slowly, but constantly, advancing through the city ruins. Due to the constant bombing, tanks were unable to advance, while infantry had trouble dealing with Red Army troops hiding in the rubble. The German tactic of Blitzkrieg was not existent, while the combined-arm fire teams were formed, made of infantry fire teams with mechanized and air support.

On September 12, German units took the highest point in Stalingrad, "Mamayev Kurgan", a hill covered with bunkers and other fortifications. Throughout the battle, the hill changed sides many times. As the German troops progress towards the western bank of the Volga, close quarters urban warfare begins, where man on man fighting breaks out for every building or structure. By mid November, the 6th Army has captured 90% of the city, while the Soviets are trapped in small pockets within the industrial district next to the river banks. Violent fighting kept on spreading, with the Soviets never surrendering.

Over the winter the German 6th Army became trapped in the city, as their flank was broken through by the Soviet offensive. Soviet reinforcements began pouring in from across the Volga and north of the city. As the German units around Stalingrad were forced to retreat, the 6th Army was encircled without almost no supplies. General Paulus, against the orders of Hitler, surrendered on February 2nd 1943. Since the beginning of September, the Soviet troops were constantly forced into retreat. Although loosing ground, they put up a stubborn resistance, retreating slowly while making the advance for the Germans very costly. Assault squads were formed, adapted for urban fighting and clearing out buildings. Sniper teams constantly harassed the Germans, stalking their prey from ruined buildings. The most famous sharpshooter was "Vasily Zaytsev", that soon became a heroic icon of the Battle of Stalingrad.

On September 13th, the Soviets managed to regain Mamayev Kurgan and Railway Station n.1 which they have lost the previous day. The losses were enormous, as only around 10% of the men survived. At the same time the Railway Station n.1 changed hands 14 times in the 6 hours following the Soviet recapture. The Soviets fought for every tactical landmark, and always attempted to retake the ground previously lost.

By the end of September, the Soviet troops are trapped in two small pockets, stretching along the river bank and the industrial sector. Throughout the months of October and November, the Red Army troops inside the city make their way out of the pockets fighting for now legendary sites such as the Mamayev Kurgan, Red October Factory, Red Square, Barrikady Gun Factory, Dzerzhinsky Tractor Factory, Pavlov's House, and many more. All of the sites mentioned constantly switched sides, while for each capture brutal man to man fighting broke out, costing both sides enormous numbers of men.

On November 19th, the Soviets launched Operation Uranus. The operation consisted of a large flanking move from the north, where Soviet tanks and mechanized infantry broke through the Romanian lines covering the flank of the German 6th Army. With the penetration of the German lines, the armies around Stalingrad were forced to retreat, while the entire 6th Army was stuck inside Stalingrad, without supplies or reinforcements. With the breakthrough of the enemy lines, Soviet reinforcements and tanks were now able to arrive faster, enabling the unites within the city to completely encircle the obliterated 6th Army. The defeat at Stalingrad was the first major disaster for the Germans, and was a turning point for them in the war.

From Stalingrad on, the Wehrmacht was sent into a long retreat. Hitler's plan of capturing Stalingrad had a great impact on the political situation in Germany. Many generals began to foresee where the war was turning, and began plotting against Hitler. Hitler himself became more paranoid towards his generals.

The loss of the entire 6th Army, and the defeat in Stalingrad in general, was a shock for the public. The costs of the defeat were enormous not only in a military and economical sense, but also for morale of the nation.

With the defeat at Stalingrad, the Wehrmacht had to retreat hundreds of kilometers to reorganize their lines, losing all the gains in the southern sector. The Germans never managed to reach the Caspian oil fields, a big downturn for their war machine which did not have plenty of oil left to fuel the large needs of the mechanized units.

The defeat was not only costly for Hitler in the monetary manner, but also ideologically. The survival of Stalingrad was interpreted as the survival of Stalin, and the Soviet Union, which went against the image of Hitler being invincible.

Since the defeat at Stalingrad, the German people were encouraged by the Minister of Propaganda to take part in a total war, where all of their resources and efforts would be used to contribute to the war effort.

110,000 soldiers of the 6th Army were captured in Stalingrad, only 6,000 ever got back from captivity. Between the 23rd and the 26th of August, the Luftwaffe conducted massive air raids, turning the city into rubble in a matter of day. With the constant bombardment and artillery shelling, not a single building in the city was left unharmed.

The Junkers 87, "Stuka", dive bombers constantly raided Soviet supplies coming across the Volga, killing reinforcements and destroying equipment and supplies.

The Germans began slowly, but constantly, advancing through the city ruins. Due to the constant bombing, tanks were unable to advance, while infantry had trouble dealing with Red Army troops hiding in the rubble. The German tactic of Blitzkrieg was not existent, while the combined-arm fire teams were formed, made of infantry fire teams with mechanized and air support.

On September 12, German units took the highest point in Stalingrad, "Mamayev Kurgan", a hill covered with bunkers and other fortifications. Throughout the battle, the hill changed sides many times. As the German troops progress towards the western bank of the Volga, close quarters urban warfare begins, where man on man fighting breaks out for every building or structure. By mid November, the 6th Army has captured 90% of the city, while the Soviets are trapped in small pockets within the industrial district next to the river banks. Violent fighting kept on spreading, with the Soviets never surrendering.

Over the winter the German 6th Army became trapped in the city, as their flank was broken through by the Soviet offensive. Soviet reinforcements began pouring in from across the Volga and north of the city. As the German units around Stalingrad were forced to retreat, the 6th Army was encircled without almost no supplies. General Paulus, against the orders of Hitler, surrendered on February 2nd. The victory at Stalingrad was the first major success for Stalin. For Stalin, the battle of Stalingrad was more than just a battle to preserve the motherland and economic self-sufficiency, but it was a battle of prestige in which he competed against Hitler. By preserving the city with his name, he showed the world that the he himself, and Soviet Union, will withstand Hitler.

With the retreat of the Germans, Stalin managed to hold on to the oil fields which were a major necessity for the Soviet war machine. Although the price paid in Stalingrad was enormous, the time bought with its survival allowed the Soviet Union to recover from the damage inflicted during Barbarossa, as the industry was safely relocated and was operating with high efficiency and productivity. Because all the German efforts were concentrated on Stalingrad, armies elsewhere were resupplied and re-organized, giving the Soviets a fighting chance throughout the Soviet Union.

Stalingrad was a prime example of what people had to go through during a period of war. The people that stayed in Stalingrad were forced to hide in basements and sewers, without any electricity or heating. Their homes were turned into piles of rubble, losing all their belongings. They suffered from malnutrition and health problems, but the greatest evil that they faced was being witnesses to constant killing and death. The soldiers at the front lines were forced to fight day and night for their own survival, lacking food and sleep. Over 40,000 civilians were killed, while the Red Army experienced over 650,000 casualties. With the Soviet victory at Stalingrad, the German Army Groups South and Center were forced to retreat away from the Caucuses and back into the Ukraine. Battle of Kursk After the disaster at Stalingrad, Army Group Center prepares a retaliation at the Kursk salient On the 5th of July, the Germans launch operation citadel near the Kursk salient. The Kursk salient, often referred to as the Kursk bulge, was the result of the swift Soviet advance after the German defeat at Stalingrad. The Germans planned perform a pincer move, surrounding the large Soviet forces situated in the bulge.

Operation citadel was divided into 2 sections. In the north the 9th Army would attack towards the central front under the command of the Soviet general Rokossovsky. In the south the 4th Panzer Army would advance towards the Voronezh front under the command of general Vatutin, encircling the Soviet armies in the salient around Kursk.

The Germans had almost 800,000 men, 3000 tanks including, the brand new heavy Tiger I, over 10,000 guns and artillery and over 2000 aircraft. 1943 The Soviets knew about the German plans all along, due to information from the British and Partisan intelligence.

According to Zhukov, the Soviet armies were ordered to wait for the attack, preparing defensive positions along the entire salient. The Red Army built numerous defensive lines along the entire perimeter of potential German breakthrough.

Each defensive line was surrounded with anti-tank mines, ditches, trenches and fortified positions with anti-tank weapons. The entire defensive perimeter was facing towards the German Positions. If a line of defense was breached, the second line would take its place. The largest lines of defense would have another 7 following up. For the entire conflict, Il-2 Shturmovik dive bombers and artillery support was available for ground support.

The Red Army counted almost 1,500,000 men, over 5000 tanks and 25,000 guns and artillery pieces and almost 3000 aircraft. With the launch of the operation towards the central front, the 9th Army soon found itself in the middle of a well arranged anti-tank minefield along a 45km sector. The advance was extremely, as engineers were disabling the mines under constant Soviet artillery fire. At the end of the day the German troops managed to proceed only 8 kilometers into Soviet lines.

On July 7th the Germans advanced on the strong point of Ponyri. After 2 days of constant house-to-house fighting and exchanging of hands, the Germans got the upper hand. On July 10th the army group re-commenced the advance but ran in to brand new Soviet reinforcements, halting the advance for good.

In the south the 4th Panzer Army was better prepared, with over 1400 tanks. As the Germans launched the tank spearhead towards the Voronezh front, the advance was relatively fast. By July 6th, only two days after the launch of the operation, the Germans advanced over 25km into the Soviet lines. Day by day the advance got smaller, as the defensive lines constantly delayed the advance.

On July 12th, the Germans were planing to advance on Prokhorovka. Although inflicting enormous damage on the Russian tanks, the German advance was halted by the end of the day, due to rapidly growing losses and lack of reinforcements. On July 16th the German offensive was stopped, as the Soviets managed to hold back the Germans. When the Germans launched the attack on the central front and the Voronezh front, the Soviets were ready to defend with all means. In the northern central sector, the defensive lines have proved effective against the German tanks, which did not take the opportunity and did not advance as compactly as predicted. The German advance routes were well predicted, giving the anti-tank guns a great line of sight on the advancing tanks. The correctly placed anti-tank mines greatly helped the Soviets stop the advance of the German tanks, which were constantly knocked out or placed out of action.

In the south the defensive lines were thinner spread while the Germans had more tanks. Although the defensive perimeter managed to slow down the German advance, the Stavka, Red Army High Command, was forced to send in new reserve armies and had to sacrifice many tanks to halt the continuous German advance.

As the German advance was halted, to Soviets began a counter attack. As soon as the Germans halted Operation Citadel, the Red Army attacked the retreating German armies from the Voronezh front in the south and the Bryansk front in the north. The Soviet armies chased down the retreating German armies, inflicting and receiving heavy losses. By the end of August the Soviets broke out of the salient and advanced along the Belgorod -Kharkov front in the south and the city of Orel in the northern sector. The defeat at Kursk was the final turning point of the war. Since the Soviet victory the German army was sent into a endless retreat, never again launching a mass offensive on the Eastern front. Hitler grew more convinced than ever about the incompetence of his generals. Since the defeat at Kursk, he was the only one that could confirm orders or plans of action.

The German losses at Kursk were tremendous. Over 200,000 casualties, almost a 1000 tanks and 700 aircraft lost, was a price which Germany would not be able to repay. Since the disastrous losses and enormous costs, the Wehrmacht would never again be capable to confront the Soviet Union.

With the defeat at Kursk, the tensions in Germany increased as the morale of the people grew weary due to recent bombing raids and constant bad news from the front. Life in Germany was not as untouched as before, as more and more resources were needed for the slowly losing struggle. The Battle of Kursk was the final turning point for the Soviet campaign. For the first time during the war they managed to complete a successful operation during summer, and pushed back the Germans far behind their original positions. For Stalin the victory was a great relief. He began to trust his generals more, involving himself less in the military planning stages. The tide has turned for the better of Stalin.

Although the Red Army was victorious at Kursk, their losses were almost double the German. Unlike for the Germans, the Soviet Union continued receiving loans from the Allies, and was capable to repair the damages made with its enormous industry. With the victory at Kursk, Stalin was able to negotiate support from the allies, as until now he was on his own and demanded some favors in return.

As the Soviets re-gained lost ground, the people got back to their usual lives. Although the German oppressor was gone, there was little aid or support for the victims of war, as all resources were directed for the war effort. The aftermath of the Battle of Kursk. 1943 1944 Operation Bagration Soviet and German lines after the December 1943 operations. Following the winter operations of 1943, the Stavka began planning a summer offensive in April.

The goal of the operation was to annihilate the German Army Group Center in the Belarus, encircle and destroy Army Group North in the Baltic, while isolate Army Group South protecting the oil fields in Romania.

The plan was to create a large tactical diversion by opening the Belorussian front, in order for the Germans to concentrate all the efforts of Army Group Center to protect the bulge of the Belorussian border, allowing Soviet shock armies to advance towards Army Group North in the Baltic and towards the Vistula River in central Poland which was underneath the Army Group Center.

If the operation went as planned, Army Group North would have been encircled in the Baltic, Army Group Center would have been surpassed and the stronghold in Poland established with the bridgeheads over the Vistula. The Germans were aware that the Soviets were launching a summer offensive, but their intelligence failed to deduce the exact location. They believed the Soviets will strike on the wings of Army Group Center, and prepared defensive positions around the Moscow-Minsk highway.

Although they were aware of the direction of the Soviet strike, they did not have the capabilities to hold out against a full scale offensive, as their forces have been crippled after the failure of Operation Citadel.

To defend the Belorussian front the Germans assembled 400,000 men and 400,000 support personnel, just over 100 tanks, 400 assault guns and 600 aircraft. In comparison to the strength at Kursk, the Germans were at a enormous disadvantage. The Red Army assembled over 2,000,000 men excluding reinforcements, almost 3000 tanks, over 1000 assault guns, 25,000 artillery guns and over 5000 aircraft. The Soviets outnumbered the Germans enormously.

The offensive began on the 22nd of June, same day of Operation Barbarossa. The Soviets launched a several hours long artillery barrage across the entire front, while on the 23rd the land units advanced on the Germans.

As planned, the Red Army launched the Vitebsk-Orhsa offensive opening the 1st Baltic and 3rd Belorussian front. Their tactical breakthrough took place in the north of the Belorussian salient, flanking the 4th Panzer Army of Army Group Center. At the same time the 2nd Belorussian front was opened with the Mogilev offensive was launched south of the Salient, flanking the 9th Army. Within 2 days of the offensive, Vitebsk and Orsha were taken while the 4th Army had nowhere to retreat. In the south the 2nd Belorussian front units crossed the Dnepr river and blocked the 9th Army.

On June 28th, the Minsk offensive was launched. The Soviet 1st Belorussian front armies advanced straight for Minsk, while the exploits of the previous days enabled the complete encircling of the 4th and 9th Armies. By the beginning of July Minsk was liberated.
Following the destruction of Army Group center in Belarus, Soviet offensives continued in the Baltic and towards Brest and Lublin towards Poland. By the end of August all operations were conducted successfully. The Baltic states and Belarus were Liberated and the bridgeheads over the Vistula and into Poland were secured. The German armies were obliterated. As the Belorussian fronts were simultaneously launched, the main armies of Army Group Center were encircled before Minsk, allowing the Russians to take the city with relative ease. As the Army Group Center was decimated, the Soviets advanced on the Baltic, surrounding Army Group north.

The German army groups were reduced by over 400,000, while all territory east of Poland fell under Soviet control. Within 2 months the German Army Groups Center and North became nonexistent. The success of the Soviet summer offensive was the final nail in the coffin for Hitler and the 3rd Reich. While Italy surrendered after the Allied invasion of Sicily, and a western front was opened in Normandy, Hitler was alone in Europe. On July 20th, in the middle of Soviet operations, Hitler was almost assassinated. He immediately ordered the cleansing within the lines of his generals, eliminating anyone he deemed to be disloyal. Hitler became extremely paranoid, paying attention to no one but himself.

The loss of men was irreplaceable for the German army. Veterans of Operation Barbarossa were almost all killed in action, while young capable soldiers were nowhere to be found. The Germans lost their access to the Romanian oil fields, depriving them of the little oil that they still had. Japan was too involved in the far east, to be of any support. There was no place left from where to get financial or tactical resources.

The people in Germany were becoming victims of air raids of the allies, while all of their belongings were being taken for the fruitless war efforts. The morale was very low, as the Soviets were retaking all lost ground, and were getting nearer to Germany every day. Operation Bagration was an enormous success for the Stalin and the Soviet Union. As Stalin was progressively advancing over Eastern Europe, all the countries and Soviet control automatically fell under the Soviet sphere of influence. While eliminating the remaining German units, Stalin was gaining the underhand in European affairs, racing against the Allies which simultaneously opened a western front in Normandy.

With most of the Soviet territory liberated, the economic situation greatly improved, as the Soviet losses were not as enormous, and industry was at full capability. With the liberation of territories, Stalin was able to exploit the resources in the favor of the Soviet Union and its war machine. With the help of the Allies in the west of Europe, the expenses of the Soviet union were reduced.

The Soviet people were freed from Nazi oppression, but their standard of living was not much different as before. War was still raging on, and all efforts were directed at the front lines, while the people were left as they were. The morale in Russia was at its highest, as German prisoners of war were paraded in the streets, and the propaganda boasting about the Soviet victories spread satisfaction amongst the people. The aftermath of Operation Bagration. 1945 Battle of Berlin In the spring of 1945, the Red Army was at the gates of Berlin.

In only thing that stood in the way of the advancing soviet troops were the German defensive lines situated on the Seelow Heights.

The plan was pure and simple. The 1st Belorussian front would face the Germans head on, while the 2nd Belorussian front would flank from the north and the 1st Ukrainian front would flank from the south bypassing the defensive fortifications encircling the German units, having a clear way until Berlin.

The Red Army was formed of over 2,500,000 men, 6000 tanks, 7500, aircraft, and over 40,000 artillery pieces, of which 1,000,000 men would be dedicated for the capture of Berlin itself. The Soviet superiority was over 10:1 during the Battle of Berlin. The German army was shattered. In a last attempt to salvage the capital, a strong line of fortifications overlooking the Oder river was built on the Seelow Heights.

The German army was just a shadow of what it used to be. The Seelow Heights were protected by only 100,000 men and 600 tanks. In Berlin itself, 100,000 soldiers were available while every man, too young or too old, was conscripted to the "Volkssturmmann", a city militia equipped with the weapons still available.

The best German generals were either captured, dismissed or killed, leaving only inexperienced leaders and troops in the battlefield. The Soviet launched their offensive on April the 16th. After 4 days of fighting the Seelow Heights were cleared of German resistance, as the Germans punched through the defenses with mass artillery bombardment and tank support.

By April 23rd Berlin was fully encircled by the Soviet Armies. Constant artillery bombardments changed the city into a pile of rubble, resembling Stalingrad on German soil. As the Red Army entered the city violent close quarter fights ensued. On April 30th, the Red Army troops entered the Reichstag, and after stubborn German resistance conquered the building on May 2nd. The battle for the center of the city lasted until the German surrender.

On May 9th, Germany unconditionally surrendered to the Soviets. The German army was shattered. In a last attempt to salvage the capital, a strong line of fortifications overlooking the Oder river was built on the Seelow Heights.

The German army was just a shadow of what it used to be. The Seelow Heights were protected by only 100,000 men and 600 tanks. In Berlin itself, 100,000 soldiers were available while every man, too young or too old, was conscripted to the "Volkssturmmann", a city militia equipped with the weapons still available.

The best German generals were either captured, dismissed or killed, leaving only inexperienced leaders and troops in the battlefield. The German defensive lines of the Seelow Heights were quickly overrun, while the remaining troops were taken prisoner. The reconstituted 9th and 4th armies were once more encircled and captured.

Inside Berlin the few remaining troops put up brave resistance, but the troops mainly consisting of children and elderly were unable to hold back the Soviets for long.

On the night of May 2nd, several divisions attempted a breakthrough out of the Soviet lines, but nearly none succeeded to reach the western allies territory.

On May 9th the German was officially defeated. After almost 4 years of battle on the eastern front, the Soviet Union managed to result victorious. Against all odds, Stalin succeeded in liberating all the lost territory and furthermore extended the reach of the Soviet Union. With the capture of Berlin and the victory over Nazi Germany, Stalin made the Soviet Union a superpower, and himself a respected and feared leader. The territories that were liberated by the Soviets soon fell under the Communist sphere of influence, dictated by the Soviet Union.

With the defeat of Germany, the Soviet Union was entitled to reparations for all the damage inflected from the invaders, territorial gains and industrial equipment of newly conquered territory. With the upcoming loot, the Soviet economy would benefit a great deal.

The Soviet people had little gain from the victory over Germany. Although the invader has been defeated they received no benefits from it. Their lives changed back to what they were before the war. They had enough to survive, while they had no exceptional luxury. On April 31st, Hitler committed suicide in his Berlin bunker. In his testament, he nominated admiral Donitz as the new president of Germany. With the fall of Berlin and the death of Hitler, the period of the 3rd Reich and the Nazi domination of Europe ended. Germany was now in the hands of the allies, the eastern part being under Soviet control.

The German economy and the country itself was in shatters. The entire cities were in ruins, the people being either homeless or unemployed. The industry was almost non existent, as there were no finances or investments to be supporting it. Germany was entirely dependent on the support from the western allies and he Soviet Union. It would take years before the German economy was once more independent, while the country is still re-paying reparations from the war.

The peopled in Germany suffered terribly. The women were often abused and raped by the invading Red Army soldiers. There was shortage of food and all kinds of supplies. There was no electricity or heating. The German nation experienced what the Soviet civilians did in the previous 4 years. The prisoners of war on the eastern front were often sent to labor camps, from which they never returned. In the memory of the men and women, that fought and suffered foreign oppression on the Eastern Front.
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