24 August 2012

Weisung Nr. 21: Fall Barbarossa (War Directive No. 21: Operation Barbarossa)

Operation Barbarossa was the code name for Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union during the Second World War. It was the largest military operation in human history in both manpower and casualties.

It began on 22 June 1941 when the Axis powers mobilised more than 3.9 million troops, 600,000 motor vehicles and 750,000 horses to invade the USSR along a 2,900 km front, the largest invasion in the history of warfare, bigger than during the Mongol Genghiz Khan's heydays.

This invasion resulted in 95% of all German Army deaths from 1941 to 1944 and 65% of all Allied military casualties accumulated throughout the war.

Its failure was a turning point in the Third Reich's fortunes. Most importantly, Operation Barbarossa opened up the Eastern Front, to which more forces were committed than in any other theater of war in world history. Regions covered by the operation became the site of some of the largest battles, deadliest atrocities, highest casualties, and most horrific conditions for Soviets and Germans alike — all of which influenced the course of both World War II and 20th century history.

The order to invade the USSR was in Adolf Hitler's letter dated 18th December 1940, entitled "War Directive No. 21: Operation Barbarossa", sent to the German High Command. In it, he stated that "The German Wehrmacht must be prepared to crush Soviet Russia in a quick campaign," and the date was set for 15th May 1941.

We all get written directives from the Boss from time to time. But of all the letters that were ever sent out, at least in the past 100 years, I'd call this the Mother of All Letters, because of its impact.

The letter had 9 pages, done in 9 copies.

The following is a scanned version of the first page of the 4th copy:

Appreciate the nuances on that first page:

- The big red "Geheime Kommandosache" at the top means "Military Secret"
- The blue "Chef Sache" means "Top Secret"
- Then at least 6 different persons wrote on it, and they mostly used what looks like coloured pencils, instead of pens - unsure if these were done by the Nazis or archivists after the war

The following is a scanned version of the last page of the 4th copy, of course bearing that infamous signature of the Fuhrer himself:

Full English translation of text

Scans of all 9 pages of the letter

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