Operation Barbarossa, the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II, leaves emotions raw on both sides to this very day. This was the result of the extreme violence exhibited by both the Nazis and the Soviets during the entire operation, which lasted until May 8, 1945. The generations who were touched by its “boundless suffering and death” have never forgotten it.
Craig W. H. Luther, the preeminent historian on Operation Barbarossa and author of the book “Barbarossa Unleashed,” has used his extensive research to provide a detailed account of June 22, 1941, aptly titled “The First Day on the Eastern Front: Germany Invades the Soviet Union, June 22, 1941.”
Luther’s magnificent tome covers both the Nazi side and the Soviet side and the surprise on both sides when the attack occurred. The detail he provides gives the reader the personal perspectives of both the highest command levels and the lowest ranking individuals. He breaks the book up into different parts, beginning with an overview of the situation at that time.
The entire Eastern Front stretched from the Baltic Sea in the north to the Black Sea in the south, a front that was nearly 2,000 kilometers long, so the author has divided the front into three areas of interest: Nazi Army Group North, Nazi Army Group Center and Nazi Army Group South. He details the units and equipment involved and the objectives. He also details the reaction of the Soviets to an attack that was not unexpected, but was not considered probable at the time.
The author also describes the immense size of the Nazi’s attacking force: more than 3 million soldiers, 3,600 tanks and assault guns, and supported by nearly 3,000 aircraft, making it the largest attacking force the world had seen. He recounts the reaction of the Soviets, who were overrun and pretended to be dead until the Nazis passed and then became snipers, shooting the Nazis in their heads and causing great fear within the Nazi Army.
The author uses this detail to show how this day led to the closest any conflict has become to turning into “absolute war,” or the use of total violence against each other with no morals and no rules of engagement.
Luther has provided us with a well-researched, richly written book that details the beginning of the end for Hitler and the Third Reich.