Operation Barbarossa – Hitler Attacks Russia

English Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery has said: “One of the great laws of war is never invade Russia.” Nevertheless, on June 22, 1941, Hitler unleashed his long-planned attack on the USSR, which was called “Operation Barbarossa”. It was a surprise attack, directed toward Leningrad and Moscow.

The German Army assigned 148 divisions, including 19 panzer divisions, to the invasion. Total personnel strength was 3,050,000 men. Initially the armies had 3,350 tanks, 7,184 artillery pieces, 600,000 motor vehicles, and 625,000 horses; the Luftwaffe provided 2,500 aircraft of all types. There were additional forces from German allied states, e.g. Romania, Hungary and Italy. Hitler had wanted to begin the Russian campaign in May, but Germany was delayed by the need to assist Italy in the Balkans. (http://greyfalcon.us/Russia%20In%20World%20War%202.htm.)

From June to September 1941, Hitler’s forces overran Russia’s Red Army and seemed unstoppable. The Germans easily achieved tremendous and rapid victories, pushing the Russian forces far back into Soviet territory. However, the fall rains set in and for a month the advance toward Moscow slowed to a crawl as the dirt roads in Russia became impassable. In November, good weather lasted a few days, but before the month ended the temperature fell below zero; snowstorms and fog reduced visibility to a few feet. In the first days of December, the northern German force came within 21 miles of Moscow, while the southern group was 40 miles south of the city. (Id.)

It was the earliest and coldest winter in a half century. The German trucks and tanks were not winterized; the troops lacked winter clothing because, according to the war plan, the campaign should have been over before winter. On December 5, 1941, German Col. Gen. Hans Reinhardt, who was in command of the force north of Moscow, reported that his troops were exhausted; he could hold his sector only if the Russians did not attack for he had no reserves. On the same day, Col. Gen. Heinz Guderian, commanding the spearhead armor force on the south, recommended that the offensive be halted. His forward units were meeting massive resistance from the Russians, and the cold had become too severe for the troops and the vehicles. (Id.)

 “Roads to Moscow,was written and sung by Al Stewart (1973). The song appeared on his album “Past, Present and Future.” It tells the story of the German invasion of Russia during World War II as seen through the eyes of a Russian partisan. It is full of accurate facts about the German invasion, the attack on Moscow and ultimately the Russian defense of Stalingrad. (https://youtu.be/N_ZG6tRGMYk)

They crossed over the border, the hour before dawn
Moving in lines through the day
Most of our planes were destroyed on the ground where they lay
Waiting for orders we held in the wood
Word from the front never came
By evening the sound of the gunfire was miles away
Ah, softly we move through the shadows, slip away through the trees
Crossing their lines in the mists in the fields on our hands and on our knees
And all that I ever
Was able to see
The fire in the air glowing red
Silhouetting the smoke on the breeze

All summer they drove us back through the Ukraine
Smolensk and Viasma soon fell
By autumn we stood with our backs to the town of Orel
Closer and closer to Moscow they come
Riding the wind like a bell
General Guderian stands at the crest of the hill
Winter brought with her the rains, oceans of mud filled the roads
Gluing the tracks of their tanks to the ground while the sky filled with snow
And all that I ever
Was able to see
The fire in the air glowing red
Silhouetting the snow on the breeze

In the footsteps of Napoleon the shadow figures stagger through the winter
Falling back before the gates of Moscow, standing in the wings like an avenger
And far away behind their lines the partisans are stirring in the forest
Coming unexpectedly upon their outposts, growing like a promise
You’ll never know, you’ll never know which way to turn, which way to look you’ll never see us
As we’re stealing through the blackness of the night
You’ll never know, you’ll never hear us
And the evening sings in a voice of amber, the dawn is surely coming
The morning roads lead to Stalingrad, and the sky is softly humming

Two broken Tigers on fire in the night
Flicker their souls to the wind
We wait in the lines for the final approach to begin
It’s been almost four years that I’ve carried a gun
At home it will almost be spring
The flames of the Tigers are lighting the road to Berlin
Ah, quickly we move through the ruins that bow to the ground
The old men and children they send out to face us, they can’t slow us down
And all that I ever
Was able to see
The eyes of the city are opening
Now it’s the end of the dream

I’m coming home, I’m coming home, now you can taste it in the wind, the war is over
And I listen to the clicking of the train-wheels as we roll across the border
And now they ask me of the time that I was caught behind their lines and taken prisoner
“They only held me for a day, a lucky break,” I say they turn and listen closer
I’ll never know, I’ll never know why I was taken from the line and all the others
To board a special train and journey deep into the heart of holy Russia
And it’s cold and damp in the transit camp, and the air is still and sullen
And the pale sun of October whispers the snow will soon be coming
And I wonder when I’ll be home again and the morning answers “Never”
And the evening sighs, and the steely Russian skies go on forever

“General Winter, by Hail of Bullets (2008) is a heavy metal song: “…the deafening sound of hell and war…” (from YouTube comments). The music and singing may be difficult to listen to and understand, but the lyrics tell the story of the impact of the winter weather on the German advance.   (https://youtu.be/d0OVHQRy12k)

Scorched earth lies behind them
On schedule they are
Accompanied by victory
They came from very far
Drunken of the lootings
Ares on their side
Guides them to disaster
About to turn the tide

Autumn at the Eastern Front
Still they do proceed
Heavy rains are setting in
The attack is loosing speed

Eight miles left to Moscow
Her suburbs now in sight
The 3rd and 4h panzer armies
Vainly wait for their supplies
Plod on through the filth
On impassible roads
Hardly making progress
Streets turn in to floods

Winter at the Eastern Front
They do no longer proceed
Heavy cold is setting in
Forcing troops to raise the siege

Stumbling, wading through
The blizzard rage
Advance halts,
Disappears in snow and ice
Ivan laughs,
Welcoming General Winter
White scourges,
Natural mighty allies

Standing ground,
Sharpening frost, minus 40
Frozen oil, silences artillery
Swollen limbs, scorbutics,

Cracking army
Landsers cry, thousands die,

Awaiting the turning point
The Soviets launch their attack
Trying to break through
The German flanks
To encounter them at their backs
Siberians in winter uniform
And well-equipped for the fight
Offensives unleashed
From the North and the South
To cut right through
Their supply lines

Finally the order
Preparing for retreat
The Wehrmacht has to withdraw
Or else will face defeat
Despite all the losses
The Red Army has failed
An impasse at the Eastern Front
And none have prevailed

Sixty miles from Moscow
In winter positions
Exhausted from the war
But the battle rages on

Another part of the German army was focused on the Leningrad (formerly St. Petersburg) campaign. Leningrad is located at the head of the Gulf of Finland. The German Leningrad forces were as successful initially as the Moscow forces. They moved quickly to the outskirts of the city by September 1941. Efforts to take the city during the fall were unsuccessful. When winter came, hoping to starve the population and conquer the city that way, the Nazis laid siege to the city. Electricity was cut off, leaving civilians to suffer from the elements. From time to time each side launched unsuccessful offensives. However, because the city was of lesser strategic significance to the Germans and they needed their forces more in other areas (i.e. Moscow and Stalingrad), after 1941 they never committed enough men or materiel to conquer the city. The Russians began to gain the initiative at Leningrad during 1943 and the city was liberated in January 1944. The siege lasted almost 900 days. Some 632,000 citizens died of starvation and hypothermia due to being without fuel for heat. Some of these casualties included the 400,000 children who lived in the city. Mass graves and history obliterate the records; some estimate that the death toll was closer to 800,000. By the time city was liberated, nearly a million civilians had died. (Jennings and Brewster, pp. 254-258.)

“When The War Came, performed by The Decemberists, written by Colin Patrick Meloy (2006), is about the Siege of Leningrad. (https://youtu.be/Gw_A9muYKxM)

With all the grain of Babylon
To cultivate, to make us strong
And hidden here behind the walls
Our shoulders wide and timber on

‘Til the war came
‘Til the war came

A terrible autonomy
Has grafted onto you and me
Our trust put in the government
They told their lies as heaven-sent

‘Til the war came
‘Til the war came

And the war came with a curse and a caterwaul
And the war came with all the poise of a cannonball
And they’re picking out our eyes by coal and candlelight
When the war came, the war came hard

We made our oath to Vavilov
We’d not betray the solanum
The acres of asteraceae
To our own pangs of starvation

When the war came
When the war came

And the war came with a curse and a caterwaul
And the war came with all the poise of a cannonball
And they’re digging out our eyes by coal and candlelight
When the war came, the war came hard

With all the grain of Babylon
With all the grain of Babylon
With all the grain of Babylon
With all the grain of Babylon

With all the grain of Babylon
With all the grain of Babylon
With all the grain of Babylon
With all the grain of Babylon

“Battle of Leningrad,is a concept album by Ring of Fire (2014): “… based upon the historic 900 day siege of Leningrad by the Nazis during World War II. Despite the dire living conditions and substantial loss of life, nearly one million starved to death, the Russians eventually beat back their oppressors…. The music is often dramatic fitting the concept of the album. The opener ‘Mother Russia’ has a feeling of grandeur, presenting character of a proud people. The title track has a heavy, yet epic, feel as it speaks to the trauma of battle. ‘Land of Frozen Tears, with Boals’s passionate vocals, suggests the anguish of the suffering people. Also, at the start of the song, the lyrics, ‘the snowflakes go silently by outside my window,’ are given life by underlying acoustic guitar. Your mind can easily visualize the scene. That’s some very good songwriting. Another song of this caliber, being dramatic and passionate, is ‘Our World, capturing once more the anguish of a suffering people.” (From a review of the album at http://www.dangerdog.com/2014-music-reviews/ring-of-fire-battle-of-leningrad.php#.Vp5ioY-cHIU; see another review at http://hardrockhaven.net/online/2014/01/ring-of-fire-battle-of-leningrad-cd-review/)

Here is “Battle of Leningrad.(https://youtu.be/OezUplVZoP8)

The army still surrounds
Suffocating weapons pounds
900 days and nights
We’ll never give in
Everyday we’ll rise again
In freezing cold and endless night
We will survive
We will survive

Losing homes and families
Hear the children cry
Nowhere safe and warm to hide
And they wonder why
Cut down debris from buildings
Burn it to keep us warm
Better if we were never born

Angels in heaven are tolling the bell
The battle of Leningrad
One million starving souls
Are dying in hell

Oh, oh, oh!

Angels in heaven are tolling the bell
The battle of Leningrad
One million starving souls
Are dying in hell

Oh, oh, oh!

And, “Land of Frozen Tears.(https://youtu.be/d1ILRkq5hXY?list=PLT_sC6OHAp1hpkjScFqxvEcApmXebzPQO)

The snowfrakes go silently by
Outside my window
I am wondering why
Nothing changes
We try to survive
But I’m only waiting here
Waiting to die

Is this only a nightmare
Will I wake up to find
Skies that are clear
We’re all lost here somewhere
In the land of frozen tears

Feeling empty and cold to the core
It’s so impossible to just ignore
Every heart that is broken
Every moment
A lifetime of fear
Every word that is spoken
In the land of frozen tears

Every heart is still broken
Every moment
A lifetime of fear
We’re all lost here somewhere
In the land of frozen tears
The end is always near
In the land of frozen tears