Operation Polkovodets Rumyantsev

SS-Pz.Gren.Div. Das Reich
The Soviet Operation Rumyantsev on August 1943 was to break along an axis from Belgorod to Kharkov to drive the German Army Group South back to the River Dnieper (Ukraine). To ensure the success Stalin massed 650,000 men and 2,300 tanks. They faced the 4.Panzer-Armee and Armee-Abteilung Kempf, which had received no respite since the end of Operation Citadel. They mustered only around 200,000 men and less than 300 panzers between them. The vicious fighting during the withdrawal from Kharkov cost SS-Panzergrenadier-Division Das Reich, Totenkopf and Wiking dearly and by this time they were approaching breaking points. Soviet casualties during the autumn offensives were horrendous, but the Soviet High Command was prepared to accept the losses. To prevent his soldiers deserting the front line, Stalin ordered special 'blocking detachments' to shoot all deserters, in other documented cases, the Soviet Red Army marched their own men at gunpoint through German minefields to detonate the mines. According to official Soviet sources Soviet casualties in the Belgorod–Kharkov sector during this operation were 255,566 (71,611 killed). According to German historian Karl-Heinz Frieser, Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS units suffered 25,068 casualties, including 8,933 killed and missing. Image: An SS-Unterführer (NCO) who has been incapacitated by severe burn wounds, is caringly looked after by his comrades during the death ride. Public domain.

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