Huge numbers of German tanks concentrate for a new attack on Soviet fortifications on July 28, , during the Battle of Kursk. After taking months to prepare for the offensive, German forces fell far short of their objectives - the Soviets, having been aware of their plans, had built massive defenses. After the German defeat at Kursk, the Red Army would effectively have the upper hand for the rest of the war. A Russian anti-tank gun crew advances towards the German positions under cover of a smoke screen, somewhere in Russia, on July 23, Captured German tanks southwest of Stalingrad, shown on April 14, A Soviet lieutenant hands cigarettes to German prisoners somewhere near Kursk, in July of The ruins of Stalingrad -- nearly completely destroyed after some six months of brutal warfare -- seen from an aircraft after the end of hostilities, in late We want to hear what you think about this article.
Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters theatlantic. The small village of Kivalina is threatened on several fronts by a warming Arctic climate, as the ground it sits on erodes, and the animals the villagers rely on become more difficult to hunt. Recent images of the hard-hit islands of the Abacos and Grand Bahama, as residents receive aid, recover what they can, and contemplate their next steps. I want to receive updates from The Atlantic about new products and offerings. Over the course of four years, more than Red Army and German divisions clashed in a series of operations along a front that extended more than 1, miles.
Some 27 million Soviet soldiers and civilians and nearly 4 million German troops lost their lives along the Eastern Front during those years of brutality. The warfare there was total and ferocious, encompassing the largest armored clash in history Battle of Kursk and the most costly siege on a modern city nearly days in Leningrad , as well as scorched earth policies, utter devastation of thousands of villages, mass deportations, mass executions, and countless atrocities attributed to both sides.
To make things even more complex, forces within the Soviet Union were often fractured among themselves -- early in the war, some groups had even welcomed the Germans and fought against the Red Army, in the hopes that Hitler's troops would liberate them from Stalin. Later, as battles became desperate, Stalin issued Order No. Commanders who sought to pull back faced tribunals, and foot soldiers faced "blocking detachments" of their own fellow soldiers, ready to gun down any who fled.
The photos gathered here cover much of , from the siege of Leningrad to the decisive Soviet victories in Stalingrad and Kursk. The vast scale of the warfare is nearly unimaginable, and nearly impossible to capture in a handful of images, so take these as a mere glimpse of the horrors of the Eastern Front. Hints: View this page full screen.
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Operation Barbarossa: 9 popular myths busted
WWII Eastern Front
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None of the conquered territories gained any measure of self-rule. Instead, the Nazi ideologues saw the future of the East as one of settlement by German colonists, with the natives killed, expelled, or reduced to slave labour. The cruel and brutally inhumane treatment of Soviet civilians, women, children and elderly, the daily bombings of civilian cities and towns, Nazi pillaging of Soviet villages and hamlets and unprecedented harsh punishment and treatment of civilians in general were some of the primary reasons for Soviet resistance to Nazi Germany's invasion.
Indeed, the Soviets viewed Germany's invasion as an act of aggression and an attempt to conquer and enslave the local population.
Regions closer to the front were managed by military powers of the region, in other areas such as the Baltic states annexed by the USSR in , Reichscommissariats were established. As a rule, the maximum in loot was extracted. His opening speech was clear about German policy: "I am known as a brutal dog Our job is to suck from Ukraine all the goods we can get hold of I am expecting from you the utmost severity towards the native population.
Atrocities against the Jewish population in the conquered areas began almost immediately, with the dispatch of Einsatzgruppen task groups to round up Jews and shoot them. The massacres of Jews and other ethnic minorities were only a part of the deaths from the Nazi occupation.
Many hundreds of thousands of Soviet civilians were executed, and millions more died from starvation as the Germans requisitioned food for their armies and fodder for their draft horses. As they retreated from Ukraine and Belarus in —44, the German occupiers systematically applied a scorched earth policy, burning towns and cities, destroying infrastructure, and leaving civilians to starve or die of exposure.
The Nazi ideology and the maltreatment of the local population and Soviet POWs encouraged partisans fighting behind the front; it motivated even anti-communists or non-Russian nationalists to ally with the Soviets and greatly delayed the formation of German-allied divisions consisting of Soviet POWs see Vlasov army. These results and missed opportunities contributed to the defeat of the Wehrmacht. Vadim Erlikman has detailed Soviet losses totaling Military losses of Civilian deaths totalled Additional famine deaths, which totalled one million during —47, are not included here.
These losses are for the entire territory of the USSR including territories annexed in — Belarus lost a quarter of its pre-war population, including practically all its intellectual elite. Following bloody encirclement battles, all of the present-day Belarus territory was occupied by the Germans by the end of August The Nazis imposed a brutal regime, deporting some , young people for slave labour, and killing hundreds of thousands civilians more.
Some recent reports raise the number of Belarusians who perished in the war to "3 million thousand people, unlike the former 2. Sixty percent of Soviet POWs died during the war. By , 80 per cent of civilians and 20 per cent of POWs were freed, others were re-drafted, or sent to labour battalions.
Two per cent of civilians and 14 per cent of the POWs were sent to the Gulag. The official Polish government report of war losses prepared in reported 6,, victims out of a population of 27,, ethnic Poles and Jews; this report excluded ethnic Ukrainian and Belarusian losses. Although the Soviet Union had not signed the Geneva Convention , it is generally accepted that it considered itself bound by the provisions of the Hague convention.
This 'note' was left unanswered by Third Reich officials. Soviet repressions also contributed into the Eastern Front's death toll. Mass repression occurred in the occupied portions of Poland as well as in the Baltic states and Bessarabia. Immediately after the start of the German invasion, the NKVD massacred large numbers of inmates in most of their prisons in Western Belarus and Western Ukraine, while the remainder was to be evacuated in death marches.
The Soviet victory owed a great deal to the ability of its war industry to outperform the German economy, despite the enormous loss of population and land. Stalin's five-year plans of the s had resulted in the industrialization of the Urals and central Asia. In , thousands of trains evacuated critical factories and workers from Belarus and Ukraine to safe areas far from the front lines. Once these facilities were reassembled east of the Urals, production could be resumed without fear of German bombing.
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As the Soviet Union's manpower reserves ran low from onwards, the great Soviet offensives had to depend more on equipment and less on the expenditure of lives. The Germans, on the other hand, could rely on a large slave workforce from the conquered countries and Soviet POWs. American exports and technical expertise also enabled the Soviets to produce goods that they wouldn't have been able to on their own. German production of explosives from — was 1. Consumption on all fronts during the same period was 1.
Soviet armored fighting vehicle production was greater than the Germans in , the Soviet Union manufactured 24, tanks and self-propelled guns to Germany's 19, The Soviets incrementally upgraded existing designs, and simplified and refined manufacturing processes to increase production, and were helped by a mass infusion of harder to produce goods such as aviation fuel, machine tools, trucks, and high-explosives from Lend-Lease, allowing them to concentrate on a few key industries.
Meanwhile, Germany had been cut off from foreign trade for years by the time it invaded the USSR, was in the middle of two extended and costly theaters at air and sea that further limited production Battle of the Atlantic and Defence of the Reich , and was forced to devote a large segment of its expenditures to goods the Soviets could cut back on such as trucks or which would never even be used against the Soviets such as ships. This included , trucks, 12, armored vehicles including 7, tanks , 11, aircraft and 1.
Five thousand tanks were provided by the British and Canada. Total British supplies were about four million tons. After the defeat at Stalingrad, Germany geared completely towards a war economy, as expounded in a speech given by Joseph Goebbels , the Nazi propaganda minister , in the Berlin Sportpalast , increasing production in subsequent years under Albert Speer 's the Reich armaments minister direction, despite the intensifying Allied bombing campaign. The fighting involved millions of Axis and Soviet troops along the broadest land front in military history.
It was by far the deadliest single theatre of the European portion of World War II with up to 10 million military deaths on the Soviet side although, depending on the criteria used, casualties in the Far East theatre may have been similar in number. Included in this figure of German losses is the majority of the 2 million German military personnel listed as missing or unaccounted for after the war. Estimated civilian deaths range from about 14 to 17 million. Over According to the Narkomat of Defence order No.