|Waffen-SS MG Gunner|
Defending of Kharkov: Early February 1943
By early February 1943, Soviet tanks were pushing towards the River Dnieper. The Soviets then developed their push on Kharkov with a huge pincer movement. The Waffen-SS fell back deliberately towards Kharkov, during blizzard conditions, in waist-deep snow subjected to frequent ambushes by Soviet troops using the blizzard as cover for their movements. SS-Obergruppenführer Paul Hausser´s Waffen-SS troops held their front along the Donets with grim determination against furious attacks by the Soviet 7th and 15th Tank Corps. In their positions east of the city, Waffen-SS heavy MG-34 machine-gun detachments inflicted massive casualties on Soviet human-wave infantry attacks across the barren steppe outside Kharkov. The brunt of these assaults were borne by the SS-Panzergrenadiers, Hausser was keeping his panzer regiments well behind the frontline, ready to deal with any major enemy penetration of his front. These were desperate days for the Waffen-SS. With temperatures dropping to minus 40 degrees centigrade, it was vital to hold towns or villages to provide shelter from the elements. Retreat into the freezing night spelt disaster, so the SS-Panzergrenadiers were literally fighting for their own survival. It quickly became clear that sooner or later, Kharkov would become endangered by the Soviet advance. Credit: Gordon Williamson and Tim Ripley. Image: According to some sources, a Swedish volunteer machine gunner. Commons: Bundesarchiv.