On Sunday morning June 22, 1941, driven by his hatred of “Judeo-Bolshevism” and his insatiable greed for Lebensraum, Hitler treacherously broke his pact of non-aggression with Stalin and launched the invasion of the Soviet Union. Caught off guard and badly commanded, the Red Army was overwhelmed. But thanks to the heroic resistance of the Russian people, the USSR finally routed the Germans, at the cost of some twenty million dead. It was the beginning of the end for the Nazis.
This is, in broad outline, the story of Operation Barbarossa as told by the victors.
The vanquished, naturally, had a different version. At 4:30 am on the morning of the attack, the Russian ambassador in Berlin received a formal declaration of war, later read to an international news conference, justifying the attack by the “steadily increasing concentration of all available Russian armed forces along a broad front extending from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea.” It justified the attack as preemptive:
Now that the Russian general mobilization is complete, no less than 160 divisions are deployed against Germany. The results of reconnaissance carried out in recent days have shown that the deployment of Russian troops, and especially of motorized and armored units, has been carried out in such a way that the Russian High Command is ready at any moment to take aggressive action at various points against the German frontier.
The US government ignored the German justification, and claimed that Germany’s attack was part of Hitler’s evil plan “for the cruel and brutal enslavement of all peoples and for the ultimate destruction of the remaining free democracies.”
In the following months, referring to reports from the front, Hitler claimed that the Soviet forces massed on his Western border were even greater than he had thought, and proved that Stalin’s intention had been to invade not only Germany, but all of Europe. He told a large audience in Berlin on October 3, 1941:
We had no idea how gigantic the preparations of this enemy were against Germany and Europe and how immeasurably great was the danger; how we just barely escaped annihilation, not only of Germany but also of Europe. … Lord have mercy on our Volk and on the entire European world if this barbaric enemy had been able to get his tens of thousands of tanks to move before we could. All of Europe would have been lost.
Hitler repeated it to the Reichstag deputies on December 11, 1941:
Today, we have truly crushing and authentic material to prove that Russia intended to attack. … [H]ad this wave of more than twenty thousand [Soviet] tanks, hundreds of divisions, tens of thousands of guns, accompanied by more than ten thousand planes, unexpectedly started to move across the Reich, then Europe would have been lost.
This remained the line of defense of the military commanders accused of “crime against peace” before the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg in 1945-46.
Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, Chief of the Armed Forces High Command, argued that “The attack on the Soviet Union was carried out to preempt a Russian attack on Germany,” and was therefore a legal act of war.
His second, General Alfred Jodl, Chief of the Operations Staff, similarly testified: “It was undeniably a purely preventive war. What we found out later on was the certainty of enormous Russian military preparations opposite our frontier. … Russia was fully prepared for war.”
Both Keitel and Jodl were denied access to the documents that would prove their point. They were found guilty and hanged.
On June 22, 1941 [the day Germany attacked Russia], Stalin was about to launch a massive offensive on Germany and her allies, within days or weeks [the Soviets were planning their surprise attack for a mere 18 days later, on 10 July 1941].
Preparations had started in 1939, just after the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, and had accelerated at the end of 1940, with the first divisions deployed to the new expanded Soviet borders, opposite the German Reich and Romania, in February 1941. On May 5, Stalin announced to an audience of two thousand military academy graduates flanked by generals and party luminaries that the time had come to “switch from the defensive to the offensive.” Days later, he had a special directive sent to all command posts to “be prepared on a signal from General Headquarters to launch lightning strikes to rout the enemy, move military operations to his territory and seize key objectives.”
New armies were being raised in all the districts, with mobilization now reaching 5.7 million, a gigantic army impossible to sustain for long in peacetime. Close to one million parachutists — troops useful only for invasion — had been trained. Hundreds of aerodromes were built near the Western border. From June 13, an incessant movement of night trains transported thousands of tanks, millions of soldiers, and hundreds of thousands of tons of ammunition and fuel to the border.
According to Suvorov, if Hitler had not attacked first, the gigantic military power that Stalin had accumulated on the border would have enabled him to reach Berlin without major difficulty and then, in the context of the war, to take control of the continent. Only Hitler’s decision to preempt Stalin’s offensive deprived him of these resources by piercing and disrupting his lines and destroying or seizing about 65% of all his weaponry, some of it still in trains. …
I’ve read Suvorov’s book, and it does indeed present voluminous first hand evidence. I found it persuasive.
Suvorov displays an impeccable knowledge of the Red Army, and an acute expertise in military strategy. Regarding Stalin’s intentions, generally very secret, he produces numerous quotes from the 13 volumes of his writings. He sifted through mountains of archives and the memoirs of hundreds of Russian servicemen. It is not exaggerated to say that the “Suvorov thesis” has revolutionized World War II history, opening a totally new perspective to which many historians, both Russian and German, have now added details. ..
The ultimate political incorrectness: Leftist hero Stalin was the monster responsible for WW2, while Hitler, who was also barbaric, was Stalin’s cats paw but ended up saving western Europe from Soviet conquest.
Responsible for WW2. Almost succeeded in conquering western Europe for communism.
Suvorov has crossed the line by suggesting that Barbarossa saved Europe from complete sovietization. Although he expresses no sympathy for Hitler, Suvorov agrees with him that, if he had not attacked first, “Europe was lost.”
Suvorov has committed an unforgivable sin. It is an untouchable cornerstone of both Western and Russian historiography that Hitler is the embodiment of absolute Evil, and that no good whatsoever could ever have come from him. And so academic historians of the Eastern Front are expected to display their good manners by shunning Suvorov, and by not asking: What if Hitler had not attacked first? They must not suggest that Hitler ever told the truth, or that his military commanders were wrongfully hanged.
In Stalin’s own words:
In a speech to the Politburo on August 19, 1939, Stalin explained why he had finally opted for a pact with Germany: …
Comrades! It is in the interest of the USSR — the workers’ homeland — that war breaks out between the Reich and the capitalist Anglo-French bloc. Everything should be done so that this drags out as long as possible with the goal of weakening both sides. For this reason, it is imperative that we agree to conclude the pact proposed by Germany, and then work in such a way that this war, once it is declared, will be prolonged maximally. …
The benefits of the Moscow Pact for Communism were obvious. The capitalist world would soon be embroiled in a terrible war, and the USSR would be able to spread its territory substantially westward against seemingly helpless foes. All Stalin needed to do was ensure that neither Germany nor its opponents secured a decisive advantage. Once the two sides had exhausted themselves in a death struggle, the path would be clear for the armies of Communism to march in and seize the capitalist world by the throat. …
Stalin hoped that Germany would fight against France and England for two or three years before he would intervene. He therefore continued to supply Germany with raw materials, and was careful not to cut her supply of metals from Sweden, and oil from Romania, when he had the means to do so.
When the Germans launched their offensive against France on May 10, 1940, Stalin rejoiced. “Finally, Communists could enjoy watching ‘two groups of capitalist countries … having a good hard fight and weakening each other,’ as Stalin had boasted to Comintern’s general secretary Dimitrov in September 1939.” But the war turned out less bloody than he had expected. …
It was probably thanks to Operation Barbarossa that Soviet troops failed to raise the red flag over Paris, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Rome, Stockholm and possibly London.
Perhaps the most significant fact may be this: the secret protocol of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact gave two-thirds of Poland to the Soviet Union and one-third of it to Germany, despite the fact that Germany was reclaiming a sizable amount of Germany territory that contained German people, while the Soviet action was pure foreign conquest.
So why did Britain and France declare war on Germany for invading Poland, but not the Soviet Union? (The Soviets also invaded Finland, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, and part of Romania before WW2 started.) Suvorov has the answer.