Operation Barbarossa Essay Questions

The Germans had serious deficiencies. They severely underestimated their opponent; their logistical preparations were grossly inadequate for the campaign; and German industrial preparations for a sustained war had yet to begin. But the greatest mistake that the Germans made was to come as conquerors, not as liberators–they were determined to enslave the Slavic population and exterminate the Jews. Thus, from the beginning, the war in the East became an ideological struggle, waged with a ruthlessness and mercilessness not seen in Europe since the Mongols.

In Barbarossa’s opening month, German armies bit deep into Soviet territory; panzer armies encircled large Soviet forces at Minsk and Smolensk, while armored spearheads reached two-thirds of the distance to Moscow and Leningrad. But already German logistics were unraveling, while a series of Soviet counterattacks stalled the advance. In September the Germans got enough supplies forward to renew their drives; the results were the encirclement battles of Kiev in September and Bryansk-Vyazma in October, each netting 600,000 prisoners.

Moscow seemingly lay open to a German advance, but at this point Russian weather intervened with heavy rains that turned the roads into morasses. The frosts of November solidified the mud, so that the drive could resume. Despite the lateness of the season and the fact that further advances would leave their troops with no winter clothes or supply dumps for the winter, the generals urged Hitler to continue. The Germans struggled to the gates of Moscow where Soviet counterattacks stopped them in early December. In desperate conditions, they conducted a slow retreat as Soviet attacks threatened to envelop much of their forces in a defeat as disastrous as that which befell Napoleon’s Grand Army in 1812. In the end the Soviets overreached, and the Germans restored a semblance of order to the front; the spring thaw in March 1942 brought operations to a halt. But Barbarossa had failed, and Nazi Germany confronted a two-front war that it could not win.


The Reader’s Companion to Military History. Edited by Robert Cowley and Geoffrey Parker. Copyright © 1996 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Best Answer:  1. Hitler in Mein Kampf advocated the development of a greater Germany and that the wheat fields of the Ukraine and oil fields of the Caucasus would help feed and fuel the new German reich that he envisaged. He also wanted to go down in history as a great military commander and thirdly hated communism and saw himself as the man of destiny who was born to lead Germany and create the master-race.

2. Germany lost because they bit off more than they could chew, and under-estimated the tenacity of the Russians. In addition the Luftwaffe spent too much time and lost too many planes in an abortive attempt to beat the British and the need to station troops in France and elsewhere weakened his army. He also failed to learn from history - Napoleon ran into winter and scorched earth tactics. So he needed more men, he needed to have attacked earlier in the year to maximise the use of summer and warm weather and he needed to have used every available man he had. He perhaps could have persuaded the Japanese to launch a diversionary atack in Siberia/Kamchatka province to split the defenders.

3. The destruction of Paulus's entire army at Stalingrad, the waste of millions of lives, tanks, guns and other weaponry. The German army exhausted itself in trying to batter the Russians into submission.

The general thesis is good but a bit broad - you would have to include information on what the western allies were up to.


Jay · 6 years ago

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