Operation Barbarossa in Hindsight

Operation Barbarossa in Hindsight


On June 22, 1941 Adolf Hitler, with almost 4 million troops, ordered one of the largest attacks in human history to destroy Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union. The invasion was named as “Operation Barbarossa” and was able to achieve complete strategic surprise, due to its unpredictability. It is still a million-dollar question – why did Adolf Hitler attack Soviet Union while he was still struggling in Europe and Northern Africa? The answer to this question lies in Hitler’s book Mein Kampf (1925), in which he envisaged his plans to get more living space for the German people known as Lebensraum.

Operation Barbarossa was a deliberate attempt by Nazi Germany to put an end to communism. The German Wehrmacht established three Army Groups to invade Soviet Union. These were; army group North led by Field Marshal Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb, army group Centre led by Field Marshal Fedor von Bock and army group South led by Field Marshal Gerd von Runstedt. Apart from the army, the German air force was tasked with providing close air support and denying the enemy any air assets.

People contemplate that Operation Barbarossa and the subsequent German attacks on the Soviet Union were a total disaster. But Paul Kennedy in his international bestseller Rise and Fall of the Great Powers (1987) admitted the fact that German forces were able to kill or capture three million Soviet troops in the first four months of fighting and also captured a million square miles of Soviet territory. This assertion further clarifies that the German military forces were moving in the right direction in the pursuit of their objectives.

Apart from Hitler’s attack on Stalin, it is perceived by many that Soviets were sure that Hitler would attack them one day since Hitler was an ardent anti-communist. And some even contemplate that, had Hitler not attacked Soviet Union, Stalin would have attacked Germany in 1942. A thesis “Why the Wehrmacht should have invaded the Soviet Union in 1940” (2015) by Rodney Scott Bryan of the American Public University System, also supports the assumption that Stalin initiated massive military buildup of the Red Army before German attack. In particular, Stalin started the massive production of T-34 tank in the year 1940 that ultimately stopped German Panzers in the field.

The main German military operations collapsed in Soviet Union not because of the lack of morale, technology and firepower of the Germans, but a continuous change in objectives by the political leadership wasted precious time. Once the rainy season started it made the roads into impassable muddy paths.

The Stalinist version of communism was indeed the harshest one. What if Hitler had succeeded in his endeavor to destroy communism in Soviet Union? If he would have succeeded in crushing down Stalin, the world would have averted the death of millions of people in the Gulags of Stalin in Siberia and in the Soviet Union. There would have been no Cold War and the division of the entire world in NATO, Warsaw Pact and Non-Aligned Movement, could have been saved. While talking about that, alternatively, the world might have faced another problem with Hitler against the rest of the world.

In hindsight, it can be concluded that repeated meddling of political leadership in military operations create confusion and chaos while contributing negatively in the decision-making process. The same happened with Operation Barbarossa, in which Hitler and his political associates constantly interfered and even changed the entire course of operations. Hitler’s decision to attack Caucasian oil fields instead of attacking Moscow while standing at the gates of the Soviet capital bogged down the entire operation.