Germany launches Operation Barbarossa—the invasion of Russia

On June 22, 1941, more than 3 million German soldiers invaded Russia in three parallel offensives, in what is the most powerful invading force in history. Nineteen panzer divisions, 3,000 tanks, 2,500 airplanes and 7,000 pieces of artillery fire on a thousand-mile front while Hitler goes to war on a second front.

Despite the fact that Germany and Russia had signed a “pact” in 1939, each guaranteeing the other a specific area of ​​influence without interference from the other, suspicion remained high. When the Soviet Union invaded Romania in 1940, Hitler saw a threat to its oil supply from the Balkans. He immediately responded by moving two armored divisions and 10 infantry divisions to Poland, posing a counter threat to Russia. But what started as a defensive movement has turned into a German first strike plan. Despite advisers’ warnings that Germany could not wage war on two fronts (as Germany’s WWI experience proved), Hitler became convinced that England resisted German attacks , refusing to surrender because she had made a secret agreement with Russia. Fearing to be “strangled” from East and West, in December 1940 he created “Directive No. 21: Barbarossa affair” – the plan to invade and occupy the very nation to which he had actually asked to join the Axis only a month before.

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