ϟϟ-Division „Reich“ in Heeresgruppe Mitte

Grenadiers of the SS-Division Reich
The Germans forces were the best-trained troops in the world for the rapid, blitzkrieg-style warfare that encompassed the Eastern Front, but they were unready to deal with harsh weather and the poor road network of the Soviet Union. The gravity of the beleaguered German army's situation towards the end of 1941 was due to the Red Army's increasing strength and factors that in the short run severely restricted the German forces' effectiveness. Chief among these were their overstretched deployment, a serious transport crisis and the eroded strength of most divisions.
An unidentified fallen Stabsfeldwebel
Parallels have been drawn with Napoleon's invasion of Russia. By December of 1941, SS-Division Reich and other German troops were within sight of Moscow. But, when the notorious Russian winter set in, German advances came to a halt. The Reich had lost 60 percent of its strength and was still to take part in the Battle of Moscow, and was decimated in the following Soviet offensive; the SS-Regiment Der Führer was reduced to 35 men out of the 2,000 that had started the campaign in June 1941. During the bitter fighting outside of Moscow against the Soviet counteroffensive, the Reich was virtually destroyed. By the end of this, one of the largest, deadliest military operations in history, Germany had suffered some 775,000 casualties. More than 800,000 Soviets had been killed, and an additional 6 million Soviet soldiers had been wounded or captured. Despite massive advances, Hitler's plan to conquer the Soviet Union before winter had failed. On December 24, 1941, Admiral Wilhelm Franz Canaris wrote in his personal diary: In the retreat from Moscow we had to abandon German field hospitals as well. The Russians dragged out the sick and injured, hanged them upside down, poured gasoline over them, and set them on fire. On another occasion German prisoners were beheaded and their heads laid out to form the SS symbol. Top image: Serving on the Eastern Front in winter time required camouflage. Before the introduction of purpose-made-special winter clothing camouflage was improvised from plain white cloth. The SS-Unterscharführer to the right in this photo appears on the cover of the book Loyalty Is My Honor by Gordon Williamson. Public domain. Bottom image: A Soviet T-34/76 tank crosses a snow-covered wasteland near the corpse of a fallen Stabsfeldwebel. The picture is said to have been taken in 1941. Fair use.

1 comment:

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