Until Barbarossa, Germany and the Soviet Union had a nonaggression pact, though that was largely for reasons of expediency, since Hitler harbored deep-seated feelings of anti-Bolshevism. Originally, the invasion of the Soviet Union had been scheduled for mid-May 1941, but it was postponed to allow for a German invasion of Yugoslavia and Greece, and it was originally code named Operation Fritz. Hitler changed the name to Barbarossa, after Holy Roman emperor Frederick Barbarossa (reigned 1152–90), who sought to establish German predominance in Europe.
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 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.
Russia was defended by four army units. Though Russia had a large army, the purges had wiped out a considerable part of the army’s senior commanders.
Operation Barbarossa, original name Operation Fritz, during World War II, code name for the German invasion of the Soviet Union, which was launched on June 22, 1941. The failure of German troops to defeat Soviet forces in the campaign signaled a crucial turning point in the war.
Operation Barbarossa was the name given to Nazi Germany’s invasion of Russia on June 22nd 1941. Barbarossa the largest military attack of World War Two and was to have appalling consequences for the Russian people.
During the preliminary phase of Operation Barbarossa, the Luftwaffe virtually decimated the Soviet air force. Over 2,00 Soviet aircraft were bombed into oblivion while the Luftwaffe lost only 35 aircraft. German estimates however were conservative. According to Russian historian Kulikov, Soviet losses were considerably higher at 3,922 destroyed aircraft.
The Soviets were taken completely by surprise, and ill-prepared for the onslaught that awaited them. By the time reports finally reached the Soviet military staff it was too late to reinforce for them to reinforce the few troops already stationed at the border.
At 3:15 hours, Sunday, June 22nd, 1941 Operation Barbarossa was launched. Over three million German troops invaded Soviet-occupied Polish territory, bombing major Polish cities. The military campaign was supported by over 500,000 Axis troops from Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Croatia, Italy, a major army division from Finland and a division of Spanish Falangists.