Tank landing on German self-propelled guns StuG III at the beginning of Operation Barbarossa.
The war had to be quick and easy, like in Poland or France. The German leadership had absolute confidence in a lightning-fast and crushing victory over Russia.
In July 1940, in the General Staff of the Wehrmacht's ground forces, a specific development of a plan for a war with the USSR was already underway. On July 22, the Chief of the General Staff of the Ground Forces F. Halder received the task from the Commander-in-Chief of the Ground Forces to think over various options for the Russian campaign. First, this task was entrusted to the chief of staff of the 18th Army, General Erich Marx, who enjoyed Hitler's special confidence. In planning, he proceeded from the guidelines of Halder, who initiated the general into the military-political program of the Reich in the East.
On July 31, 1940, at a meeting with the high military command, Hitler formulated the general strategic objectives of the war: the first strike - on Kiev, access to the Dnieper, Odessa; the second blow - through the Baltic states to Moscow; then - an offensive from two sides, from the south and north; later - a private operation to seize the oil region of Baku.
On August 5, 1940, the original plan for the war with Russia - "Plan Fritz" was prepared by General Marx. According to this plan, the main blow to Moscow was delivered from Northern Poland and East Prussia. It was supposed to deploy Army Group North, consisting of 68 divisions (including 17 mobile formations). Army Group North was supposed to defeat the Russian troops in the western direction, occupy the northern part of Russia and take Moscow. Then it was planned to turn the main forces to the south and, in cooperation with the southern group of forces, capture the eastern part of Ukraine and the southern regions of the USSR.
The second blow was to be delivered south of the Pripyat Marshes by the forces of Army Group South, consisting of two armies of 35 divisions (including 11 tank and motorized). The goal was to defeat the Red Army in Ukraine, capture Kiev, and cross the Dnieper in the middle reaches.
Further, Army Group South was to act in conjunction with the northern group of forces. Both army groups advanced further to the northeast, east and southeast. As a result, the German armies had to reach the line of Arkhangelsk, Gorky (Nizhny Novgorod) and Rostov-on-Don. 44 divisions remained in the reserve of the main command, which were advancing behind Army Group North.
Thus, the "Fritz plan" envisaged a decisive offensive in two strategic directions, a deep dissection of the Russian front and, after crossing the Dnieper, the coverage of Soviet troops in the center of the country in giant pincers. It was emphasized that the outcome of the war depends on the effective and quick actions of mobile units.
9 weeks were allotted to defeat the Red Army and end the war. In a more unfavorable situation - 17 weeks.
The compiler of the first version of the plan of the German military campaign against the USSR, General Erich Marx.
Marx's Plan (published Aug 5, 1940), according to US government research (March 1955).
Easy walk in the East
Marx's plan showed that the German generals greatly underestimated the military-industrial potential of the USSR and the Red Army, overestimating the Wehrmacht's capabilities in achieving a lightning-fast and crushing victory in such a complex and huge theater of military operations.
The stake was placed on the inefficiency, weakness and inability of the Soviet leadership, which would simply be paralyzed by the war. That is, the German strategic intelligence simply failed the formation of such a manager and leader like Stalin. Poorly studied his political, economic and military environment.
It was assumed that the rejection of the western part of Russia would lead to the collapse of the military-industrial complex of the USSR. That is, German intelligence missed the formation of a new military-industrial base of the USSR in the eastern regions. To prevent the loss of the western part of the country, the Red Army will launch a decisive counteroffensive. The Wehrmacht will be able to destroy the main forces of the Red Army in border battles.
Russia will not be able to restore the strength of its army. And then the German troops, in an atmosphere of complete chaos, as in 1918, with a "railroad march" and small forces, will easily go far to the East.
The Germans believed that a sudden war would cause panic and chaos in Russia, the collapse of the state and political system, and possible military insurgencies and riots in the national outskirts. Moscow will not be able to organize the country, the army and the people to repel the aggressor. The USSR will collapse in a matter of months.
Interestingly, the same mistake was made not only in Berlin, but also in London and Washington. In the west, the USSR was considered a colossus with feet of clay, which would collapse at the first crushing blow of the Reich. This strategic mistake (in assessing the USSR), which was the basis of the original plan for the war with Russia, was not corrected in subsequent planning.
Thus, German intelligence and (based on its data) the top military-political leadership were unable to correctly assess the military power of the USSR. The spiritual, political, economic, military, organizational, scientific, technical and educational potential of Russia was assessed incorrectly.
Hence the subsequent mistakes. In particular, there were huge miscalculations in the determination by the Germans of the size of the Red Army in peacetime and in wartime. The Wehrmacht's assessments of the quantitative and qualitative parameters of our armored forces and the Air Force turned out to be just as incorrect. For example, the Reich intelligence believed that in 1941 the annual production of aircraft in Russia was 3500-4000 machines. In reality, from the beginning of January 1939 to June 22, 1941, the Air Force received over 17,7 thousand aircraft. During the same time, armored waxes received more than 7000 vehicles, of which over 1800 were T-34 and KV tanks. The Germans did not have such heavy tanks as the KV, and the T-34 on the battlefield became unpleasant for them. news.
Therefore, the German leadership was not going to carry out a total mobilization of the country. The war had to be quick and easy, like in Poland or France. There was absolute confidence in a lightning-fast and crushing victory.
On August 17, 1940, at a meeting at the headquarters of the Supreme High Command of the German Armed Forces (OKW), dedicated to the issue of military-economic preparation of the Eastern campaign, Field Marshal Keitel called
“It is a crime to attempt to create at present such productive capacities, which will have an effect only after 1941. You can only invest in such enterprises that are necessary to achieve the goal and will give the appropriate effect. "
Meeting at the headquarters of the high command of the ground forces.
From left to right at the table: Keitel, Brauchitsch, Hitler and Halder. 1940 g.
Further work on the plan for the war against Russia was continued by General F. Paulus. He was appointed to the post of Oberkvartirmeister - Assistant Chief of the General Staff of the Ground Forces. Generals, future chiefs of staff of army groups were also involved in the development of a plan for a war with the USSR. On September 17, they prepared their views on the Eastern campaign. Paulus received the task to summarize all the results of operational and strategic planning. On October 29, Paulus prepared a memo "On the main idea of the operation against Russia." It noted that in order to ensure a decisive superiority in forces and means over the enemy, it is necessary to achieve a surprise invasion, to encircle and destroy the Soviet troops in the border zone, not allowing them to retreat inland.
At the same time, a plan for a war with the USSR was being developed at the headquarters of the operational leadership of the Supreme High Command. At the direction of General Jodl, the development of the war plan was led by the chief of the ground forces of the operational department of the OKW headquarters, Lieutenant Colonel B. Lossberg.
By September 15, 1940, Lossberg had submitted his own version of the war plan. Many of his ideas were used in the final version of this plan: the Wehrmacht with a swift blow destroyed the main forces of the Red Army in the western part of Russia, preventing the withdrawal of combat-ready units to the east, and cut off the western part of the country from the seas. The German divisions were supposed to occupy such a line in order to secure the most important parts of Russia and have convenient positions against the Asian bloc. At the first stage of the campaign, the theater of military operations was divided into two parts - north and south of the Pripyat bogs. The German army was to develop an offensive in two operational directions.
Lossberg's plan provided for the offensive of three army groups in three strategic directions: Leningrad, Moscow and Kiev.
Army Group North struck from East Prussia across the Baltic and northwestern regions of Russia to Leningrad.
Army Group Center struck the main blow from Poland through Minsk and Smolensk to Moscow. The bulk of the armored forces was involved here. After the fall of Smolensk, the continuation of the offensive in the central direction was made dependent on the situation in the north. In the event of a delay in Army Group North, it was planned to make a pause in the center and send part of the forces of Group Center to the north.
Army Group South advanced from the region of Southern Poland with the aim of crushing the enemy in Ukraine, taking Kiev, crossing the Dnieper and establishing contact with the right flank of the Center group.
The troops of Finland and Romania were involved in the war with Russia. The German-Finnish troops formed a separate task force, which delivered the main blow to Leningrad and an auxiliary one to Murmansk.
Lossberg's plan envisaged the infliction of powerful dissecting strikes, the encirclement and destruction of large groups of Russian troops. The final line of the Wehrmacht's advance depended on whether an internal catastrophe would occur in Russia after the first successes of the German troops and when it would occur. It was believed that after the loss of the western part of the country, Russia would not be able to continue the war, even taking into account the industrial potential of the Urals. Much attention was paid to the surprise of the attack.
One of the authors of the Barbarossa plan, Friedrich Paulus.
Work on planning a war against the USSR was actively carried out in the General Staff of the Ground Forces and in the headquarters of the operational leadership of the Supreme High Command. This process continued until mid-November 1940, when the High Command of the Ground Forces (OKH) completed the development of a detailed plan for the war against Russia.
The plan was named "Otto". On November 19, it was reviewed and approved by the Commander-in-Chief of the Ground Forces, Brauchitsch. From November 29 to December 7, a war game was held under Otto's plan. On December 5, the plan was presented to Hitler. The Fuehrer approved it in principle. On December 13-14, the war with Russia was discussed at the OKH headquarters.
On December 18, 1940, Hitler signed Directive No. 21. The plan for the war with the USSR was codenamed "Barbarossa".
Note. Frederick I Barbarossa (1155-1190) - German king, emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, initiator of a series of German "crusades" campaigns to the East.
In order to maintain secrecy, the plan was made in only 9 copies. Russia was planned to be defeated during a short campaign even before the victory over England. Destroy the main Russian forces in the western part of the country with deep, swift strikes with tank formations. Prevent the Red Army from retreating to the vast expanses of the eastern part of the USSR. Enter the Arkhangelsk-Volga line, creating a barrier against the Asian part of Russia. Preparations for the start of the campaign in the East were planned to be completed by May 15, 1941.
The plan for the war with the USSR included, in addition to Directive No. 21, a number of directives and orders of the main command. In particular, the OKH directive of January 31, 1941 on the strategic concentration and deployment of troops was of particular importance. It clarified the tasks of the armed forces.
190 divisions were allocated to attack Russia. Of these, 153 German divisions (including 33 tank and motorized) and 37 divisions of Finland, Romania and Hungary, as well as 2/3 of the German Air Force, part of the forces fleet in the Baltic, the Air Force and the Allied Navy. All divisions, except for the reserve (24 of them), were deployed along the western border of Russia. The Reich put up all combat-ready formations for the war with Russia.
In the west and south, there were weakened units with low striking power and mechanization, designed to protect the occupied territories and suppress possible resistance. The only mobile reserve was two tank brigades in France, armed with captured tanks.
To Leningrad, Moscow and Kiev
The Germans delivered the main blow to the north of the Pripyat swamps. Here were located two groups of armies "North" and "Center", most of the mobile formations. Army Group Center under the command of Field Marshal F. Bock advanced in the Moscow direction. It consisted of two field armies (9th and 4th), two tank groups (3rd and 2nd), a total of 50 divisions and 2 brigades. The ground forces were supported by the 2nd Air Fleet.
The Nazis planned to carry out a deep penetration north and south of Minsk with tank groups located on the flanks. Surround and destroy the Belarusian group of the Red Army. After reaching the Smolensk region, Army Group Center could operate according to two scenarios. Reinforce Army Group North with armored divisions, if it cannot defeat the enemy itself, in the Baltics, while continuing to advance in the Moscow direction with field armies. If Army Group North itself defeats the Russians in its offensive zone, continue to move towards Moscow with all its might.
Army Group "North" Field Marshal Leeb included two field armies (16th and 18th), a tank group, a total of 29 divisions. The offensive of the ground forces was supported by the 1st Air Fleet. The Germans advanced from East Prussia, delivering the main blow to Daugavpils and Leningrad. The Nazis planned to destroy the Baltic grouping of the Red Army, seize the Baltic States, ports in the Baltic, including Leningrad and Kronstadt, deprive the Russian fleet of its bases, which led to its death (or capture).
Army Group North, together with the German-Finnish grouping, were to complete the campaign in the northern part of Russia. In Finland and Norway, the German army "Norway" and two Finnish armies were deployed, a total of 21 divisions and 3 brigades.
Finnish troops at the beginning of the war operated in the Karelian and Petrozavodsk directions. With the Germans entering the approaches to Leningrad, the Finnish army was planning to launch a decisive offensive on the Karelian Isthmus (with the aim of joining up with German troops in the Leningrad region).
German troops in the north were to develop an offensive against Murmansk and Kandalaksha. After the capture of Kandalaksha and access to the sea, the southern group received the task of advancing along the Murmansk railway and, together with the northern group, to destroy the enemy troops on the Kola Peninsula, to capture Murmansk. German-Finnish troops were supported by the 5th Air Fleet and the Finnish Air Force.
Army Group South was advancing in the Ukrainian direction under the command of Field Marshal G. Rundstet. The structure consisted of three German field armies (6th, 17th and 11th), two Romanian armies (3rd and 4th), one tank group, and a Hungarian mobile corps. Also the 4th Air Fleet, Air Force of Romania and Hungary. There are 57 divisions and 13 brigades in total, including 13 Romanian divisions, 9 Romanian brigades and 4 Hungarian ones. The Germans were going to destroy the Russian troops in Western Ukraine, cross the Dnieper and develop an offensive in the eastern part of Ukraine.
Hitler had a developed intuition and knowledge of military-economic aspects, therefore he attached great importance to the flanks (Baltic, Black Sea), outskirts (Caucasus, Ural). The Fuehrer's close attention was drawn to the southern strategic direction. He wanted to capture the most resource-rich regions of the USSR (at that time) as quickly as possible - Ukraine, Donbass, the oil regions of the Caucasus.
This made it possible to sharply increase the resource, military-economic potential of the Reich, in order to then wage a struggle for world domination. Moreover, the loss of these regions should have dealt a fatal blow to Russia. In particular, Hitler noted that Donetsk coal is the only coking coal in Russia (at least in the European part of the country), and without it, the production of Soviet tanks and ammunition in the USSR will sooner or later be paralyzed.
War of extermination
The war with Russia, as conceived by Hitler and his associates, was of a special character. It was fundamentally different from the campaigns in Poland, Belgium and France. It was a war of civilizations, Europe against "Russian barbarism."
A war to destroy the world's first socialist state. The Germans had to clear the "living space" for themselves in the East. At a meeting of the high command on March 30, 1941, Hitler noted that
“We are talking about the struggle to destroy ... This war will be very different from the war in the West. In the East, cruelty itself is good for the future. "
This was the attitude towards total genocide of the Russian people. This resulted in a number of documents, where the command demanded from the personnel of the Wehrmacht maximum cruelty towards the enemy army and the civilian population. The directive "On special jurisdiction in the Barbarossa area and on special measures for the troops" required the use of the most severe measures against the civilian population, the destruction of communists, military political workers, partisans, Jews, saboteurs, all suspicious elements. She also predetermined the destruction of Soviet prisoners of war.
The course towards total war, the extermination of the Soviet people was consistently pursued at all levels of the Wehrmacht. On May 2, 1941, in the order of the commander of the 4th Panzer Group Göpner, it was noted that the war against Russia
"Must pursue the goal of turning today's Russia into ruins, and therefore it must be fought with unheard-of cruelty."
It was planned to destroy Russia as a state, to colonize its lands. It was planned to exterminate most of the population in the occupied territory, the rest was subject to eviction to the east (doomed to death from hunger, cold and disease) and enslavement.
The Nazis set a goal
"Crush the Russians as a people"
to exterminate its political class (Bolsheviks) and the intelligentsia, as the bearer of Russian culture. In the occupied and "cleaned" from the "aborigines" territories were going to settle the German colonists.
Adolf Hitler on his birthday on April 20, 1941.
Left to right: Rechsmarshal Hermann Goering, Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel and SS Rechsfuehrer Heinrich Himmler.