Operation 'Barbarossa' and the failure of Germany in the Soviet Union (2023)

On June 22, 1941, Adolf Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union. It was the start of a campaign that would ultimately decide World War II.

At first the Germans were surprisingly successful, the panzers advancing while the Luftwaffe dominated the skies. Hundreds of thousands of Russian soldiers were killed or captured in huge siege battles. Germany looked to be on the cusp of another big win.

But the Soviet Union did not collapse as expected, and despite terrible losses, its will to fight remained strong. German casualties mounted as they came very close to taking Moscow. Just 20 miles from their objective, the Soviets launched a sudden counterattack that forced the Germans onto the defensive. It was Hitler's first defeat on land in World War II.

But how did it happen? Why was Operation Barbarossa so close to success before it hit the last hurdle? Well, before answering that question, a reminder to subscribe to the Imperial War Museum YouTube channel for more videos like this every other week.

(Video) Operation Barbarossa | Why did the GERMAN invasion of the SOVIET UNION fail?

Adolf Hitler begins planning the invasion of the Soviet Union as early as July 1940, before the Battle of Britain. Even in 'Mein Kampf' in the mid-1920s, he plans to attack the Soviet Union. This will be the battleground on which the ideology of National Socialism will win or fail.

One of the tenets of this ideology was the idea of ​​'lebensraum' or 'living space'. The creation of a Germanic Aryan Empire in Eastern Europe that would provide the necessary resources for self-sufficiency. Having defeated both France and the Netherlands in just six weeks, Germany was confident of capturing that land from the Soviet Union. Hitler believed that communist society was fundamentally weak and that it would not take much to defeat it.

His famous quote is that "all we have to do is kick in the door and the whole building will come crashing down". Not only are the Germans planning a quick Blitzkrieg campaign that will take the Soviet Union out of the war in six to eight weeks, they also need a quick victory. They cannot have a slow war of attrition because there are not enough reserves of men and materiel to turn this into a long war that we must win quickly.

To achieve this victory, Germany mustered more than three million men, the largest invasion force in the history of warfare up to that point. Three Army Groups set out for three different objectives, Army Group North going to Leningrad, Army Group Center going to Moscow and Army Group South going to Kiev.

The whole strategy is a revival of the idea of ​​Blitzkrieg, which has been so successful in France, that you win without a fight. If you want to know more about Blitzkrieg and how it works, I put a link to our video on the subject in the description.

When the operation began on June 22, 1941, this tactic worked perfectly, the advance surpassing all expectations. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers were captured when German tanks broke through Soviet defenses.

(Video) Operation Barbarossa: Hitler's failed invasion of Russia

The Germans start the campaign by basically destroying the Soviet Air Force on the ground, they are taken by surprise, the Soviet Air Force is basically destroyed. Allowing the German army to move freely across the battlefield, advance deep into the Russian countryside and encircle the border armies.

The Soviet Army was taken completely by surprise and did not have time to fortify its new frontier in Poland. While Stalin's purges of the Soviet Officers' Corps left his army astray.

During the Battle of France, the French and British armies would find themselves on the brink of isolation and decide 'it's time to withdraw'. Soviet armies are so slow, so poorly directed, that they have no time to turn back. They are surrounded completely isolated, hundreds of thousands of men. However, there is a catch.

By the time they reached this point, Germany had expected to have destroyed the Russian field armies and that the remaining advance towards Moscow would be more of a halt than a battle. But the Germans completely underestimated the size of the Soviet army.

They are going to invade with about 3 million men and expect the total of the Soviet army to be the same. Whereas, in fact, at Christmas 1941, German armies captured three million Soviet troops and are still fighting.

These great distances covered by German panzers made it increasingly difficult to supply them, while Soviet soldiers unexpectedly continued to fight.

(Video) The Biggest Mistake of Operation Barbarossa | The German Failure in the Soviet Union

So in reality these large sieges behind the German lines became a real problem as they could now attack the German lines of communication and cut them off from the front line. So at this point Hitler said 'well wait and stop'.

Despite the protests of the German generals, Army Group Center broke off its attack on Moscow and moved left and right to help destroy the Soviet pockets that were still fighting, killing or capturing hundreds of thousands of troops, more Soviets. in huge battles of annihilation. By mid-September, the Soviet field armies were finally over and the advance towards Moscow could begin.

This pause to look back and forth to allow everyone to catch up. This gives the Soviets a breathing space to redefine their own frontline and bring more units to the frontline ahead of Moscow. So now there is a whole new line of defense that the Germans have to break through when they resume the offensive.

And that wasn't Germany's only problem. Although these new troops were insufficient and poorly trained, new supplies were beginning to arrive from Britain.

Many of these divisions don't have a uniform, it's just civilian clothes, some of the divisions have to share rifles, there aren't rifles for everyone. At the same time, the first Arctic convoys are arriving in Murmansk and Archangel bringing supplies from Britain, giving the Soviets enough equipment to stay in the field.

Furthermore, the Soviets managed to move their factories in the face of the German advance into the Ural Mountains. This meant that war production was really increasing and they were able to bring more tanks like the new T-34 to the front lines. Worst of all, however, was the rapidly deteriorating Russian climate.

(Video) Operation Barbarossa Nazi Germany Invasion of the Soviet Union History Channel Documenta VeVo

Even October is Soviet autumn. So what happens is you have snow, thaw, snow, thaw, you get completely muddy swamp all over central Russia. Thus the German offensive begins to stagnate because it is faced with this new defensive line that it really did not expect. Also, the Soviet weather gets in the way, plus the fact that now most of the German formations, especially the armored formations at the tip of the spear, are now about 50 strong. the weather has now been completely changed, it is now full Soviet winter. By the end of November, there were more German soldiers in the hospital with burns than wounds.

The offensive was over, but looking at the big picture when Barbarossa stopped, Germany still looked to be in a good position. Army Group North was certain that the besieged Leningrad was about to fall. Army Group Center was at the gates of Moscow and Army Group South had taken Ukraine and Kiev. When the new year arrived, they planned to finish the job, but little did they know that the Soviets had an ace up their sleeve.

They managed to transfer most of those Russian divisions that were on the eastern side of the Soviet Union, the ones that faced Mongolia and the Japanese because they heard that the Japanese were not going to attack. These were not untrained green troops, they were proper Soviet field divisions and many of them had been trained for winter warfare because they were from Siberia.

Unlike the exhausted Germans they would face, these troops had winter camouflage and weapons that could survive extreme cold. On 6 December they counterattacked.

And they launched this great Soviet counter-offensive at the gates of Moscow and took the Germans completely by surprise and forced them back and that's the end of Barbarossa.

Hitler's ideological assumption that Soviet society would collapse when the door was broken down couldn't be further from the truth. The Germans needed a quick victory, but the Soviets managed to stay in the fight and turn the Barbarossa Blitzkrieg into a war of production.

(Video) Why Did Hitler Invade The Soviet Union? | Battles Won And Lost | Timeline

The Germans are now forced into a war of attrition. A long, exhausting, slow war in the Soviet countryside, in this case in the winter, and things look bad for the Germans because they don't have the men and materiel to take on the Soviet armies one on one. base.

Despite Barbarossa's failure to quickly wipe out the Soviets, a new German offensive began in 1942. Under Hitler's direct orders, the objective was the southern Caucasus and a city called Stalingrad. German generals wanted to resume the attack on Moscow, but Hitler insisted that Germany needed Azerbaijan's oil fields to supply its armies. Although he had escaped his generals, Hitler now realized that this was a war of attrition and material, whether he liked it or not.


Why was Operation Barbarossa a failure for Germany? ›

Operation Barbarossa was Nazi Germany's ambitious plan to conquer and subdue the western Soviet Union. Though the Germans began in an extremely strong position in the summer of 1941, Operation Barbarossa failed as a result of stretched supply lines, manpower problems and indomitable Soviet resistance.

What was Operation Barbarossa and why was it significant quizlet? ›

Operation Barbarossa was the code name for the Axis invasion of the USSR on Sunday 22nd June 1941. The operation stemmed from Nazi Germany's ideological aim to conquer eastern Europe, destroy the undesirables and repopulate the region with the German people.

What was Operation Barbarossa quizlet? ›

Operation Barbarossa (German: UnternehmenBarbarossa) was the code name for the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union, starting Sunday, 22 June 1941, during World War II.

What was the reason for Operation Barbarossa? ›

Hitler hoped to repeat the success of the blitzkrieg in Western Europe and win a quick victory over the massive nation he viewed as Germany's sworn enemy. On June 22, 1941, more than 3 million German and Axis troops invaded the Soviet Union along an 1,800-mile-long front, launching Operation Barbarossa.

What was the outcome of the battle of Barbarossa? ›

Operation 'Barbarossa' had clearly failed. Despite the serious losses inflicted on the Red Army and extensive territorial gains, the mission to completely destroy Soviet fighting power and force a capitulation was not achieved. One of the most important reasons for this was poor strategic planning.

What was Operation Barbarossa in simple terms? ›

Operation Barbarossa was the code name for Adolf Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union. Beginning in June 1941, this blitzkrieg attack on Russia and its leader Joseph Stalin would ultimately decide the Second World War.

What are 3 reasons Germany invaded the Soviet Union? ›

the destruction of the Soviet Union by military force; the permanent elimination of the perceived Communist threat to Germany; and the seizure of prime land within Soviet borders as Lebensraum (“Living space”) for long-term German settlement.

Which of the following best describes Operation Barbarossa? ›

Which of the following best describes Operation Barbarossa? The Molotov-Ribbentrop Non-Aggression Pact, in which each signatory promised not to interfere in the event of a war with a third party, was signed between the countries of Nazi Germany and in August 1939.

What was one reason the Operation Barbarossa became a turning point in the war quizlet? ›

What was one reason the Battle of Barbarossa became a turning point in the war? The German army suffered massive casualties.

What were the major causes of World War 2 Mcq? ›

What were the major causes of World War II?
  • The rise of fascism.
  • Harsh treatment of Germany by the Treaty of Versailles.
  • Rise of Nazism.
  • All of the Above.

Who Won operation of Barbarossa? ›

Operation Barbarossa
Date22 June 1941 – 7 January 1942 (6 months, 2 weeks and 2 days)
LocationCentral Europe Northeast Europe Eastern Europe Mainly the Soviet Union
ResultAxis failure Opening of the Eastern Front Axis failure to reach the A-A line Beginning of Soviet Winter counter-offensive

What did the Soviet Union do to Germany? ›

In mid-April 1945, the Soviet army launched its final assault on Nazi Germany. It captured Vienna on April 13 and encircled Berlin on April 21. On April 25, Soviet advance patrols met American troops at Torgau on the Elbe River in central Germany, effectively cutting the country in half.

Why did the Soviet Union side with Germany? ›

Additional factors that drove the Soviet Union towards a rapprochement with Germany might be the signing of a non-aggression pact between Germany, Latvia and Estonia on June 7, 1939 and the threat from Imperial Japan in the East, as evidenced by the Battle of Khalkhin Gol (May 11 – September 16, 1939).

How did the Soviet Union defeat Germany? ›

Soviet forces launched a counteroffensive against the Germans arrayed at Stalingrad in mid-November 1942. They quickly encircled an entire German army, more than 220,000 soldiers. In February 1943, after months of fierce fighting and heavy casualties, the surviving German forces—only about 91,000 soldiers—surrendered.

When did Operation Barbarossa end? ›

What Battle was the turning point and why? ›

The greatest battle of the American Civil War, Gettysburg marked the northernmost advance of the Confederate forces and is considered the war's turning point.
GettysburgPennsylvania / 1863Union / Confederacy

What was the major turning point for the war in Europe explain why? ›

The tide of the war in Europe shifted with the Soviet victory at the Battle of Stalingrad (February 1943). More than one million Soviet troops and tens of thousands of civilians died in the defense of the city, but the destruction of two entire German armies marked the beginning of the end of the Third Reich.

What was the turning point in the war between Germany and the Soviet Union? ›

The battle for Stalingrad would rage on for 163 days, from August 1942 to February 1943, before the German Sixth Army, encircled and besieged, was forced to surrender. It was the turning point of the war on the critical Eastern front of World War II in Europe.

What were the 3 main reasons for ww2? ›

The main causes of World War II include: The Treaty of Versailles following WWI. Economic depression across the world. Rise of Nazism.

Which two countries were the first to declare war on Germany? ›

On September 3, 1939, in response to Hitler's invasion of Poland, Britain and France, both allies of the overrun nation declare war on Germany.

Who fought in World War 2 simple answer? ›

World War II, also called Second World War, conflict that involved virtually every part of the world during the years 1939–45. The principal belligerents were the Axis powers—Germany, Italy, and Japan—and the Allies—France, Great Britain, the United States, the Soviet Union, and, to a lesser extent, China.

When did Operation Barbarossa start failing? ›

Operation Barbarossa
Date22 June 1941 – 7 January 1942 (6 months, 2 weeks and 2 days)
LocationCentral Europe Northeast Europe Eastern Europe Mainly the Soviet Union
ResultAxis failure Opening of the Eastern Front Axis failure to reach the A-A line Beginning of Soviet Winter counter-offensive

What was Operation Barbarossa and what did it do to Germany? ›

Operation Barbarossa, original name Operation Fritz, during World War II, code name for the German invasion of the Soviet Union, which was launched on June 22, 1941. The failure of German troops to defeat Soviet forces in the campaign signaled a crucial turning point in the war.

Was Operation Barbarossa doomed from the start? ›

Barbarossa as it was fought was doomed from the start, because Hitler and his generals had completely divergent views on the Soviet Union and how to tackle it. German generals, perhaps like generals anywhere, were trained to plan and think about tactics on the battlefield, not the overall strategy of the war.

Why did Operation Barbarossa fail reddit? ›

The Germans failed to destroy the Soviet army, they failed to take Moscow, and they failed to take Leningrad. The Germans underestimated their enemies, they overestimated the condition of Russian infrastructure, and in the end they simply didn't have the men to continue their offensive.

What were some of the consequences of Barbarossa? ›

Aftermath of Operation Barbarossa

The failure of Operation Barbarossa reversed the fortunes of Nazi Germany. Operationally, German forces achieved significant victories and occupied some of the most important economic areas of the Soviet Union (mainly in Ukraine) and inflicted, as well as sustained, heavy casualties.

What was Germany's biggest mistake in ww2? ›

Operation Barbarossa: why Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union was his greatest mistake. Launched on 22 June 1941 and named after the 12th-century Holy Roman emperor Frederick Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union represented a decisive breaking of the 1939 Nazi-Soviet pact.

What were Hitler's Germany's biggest mistakes in the Second World War? ›

What Were The Biggest Strategic Mistakes The Germans Made During World War II?
  • Letting Britain off the Hook:
  • Hubris Regarding Technology:
  • Declaring War on America:
  • The Balkan Campaign:
  • In terms of strict military strategy, the Germans made some very costly mistakes in Crete, Stalingrad, Norway, and North Africa.
Sep 4, 2012


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