Heeresgruppe Süd

Soviet political commissar captured by soldiers of the Leibstandarte SS
Soviet POWs were expendable and considered to be subhuman
Army Group South, under Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt, had the furthest to go and his attack also faced the stiffest Soviet resistance. Most of the Russian armour was on this front. On 8 August 1941 the Germans surrounded two Soviet armies, capturing 100,000 men in the Uman pocket, and reached the Dnieper River. The naval port of Odessa on the Black Sea was also besieged. Up to this point all seemed to be going well, the only major problem being the time needed for the infantry to catch up with the panzers and mop up pockets of Russian defence. But Soviet resistance was now stiffening, despite catastrophic losses. A German salient around Yelnya, south-east of Smolensk, was recaptured in a costly but successful counterattack. The Soviets were completely fooled by German moves. Five Soviet armies were trapped in a vast salient around Kiev. By the end of September Kiev had fallen and over 650,000 Russian troops killed or captured. The Germans pushed along the
Waffen-SS officer question Soviet prisoners
Black Sea coast and into the Crimea, laying siege to Sevastapol. In October Kharkov fell, but by now the Germans were exhausted. The fighting had severely depleted their ranks and supply lines were stretched to the limit. For now, the southern front stayed where it was. In the north too, Waffen-SS and the German forces had reached their limit. Credit: Author Ian Carter. Images: The Commissar Order (Kommissarbefehl) was an order issued by the German High Command on 6 June 1941 before Operation Barbarossa. It instructed the Wehrmacht that any Soviet Political Commissar identified among captured troops be summarily executed. These commissars were not to be recognized as soldiers. Germany engaged in a policy of deliberate maltreatment of Soviet prisoners of war, in contrast to their treatment of Western prisoners. They deliberately starved to death Soviet prisoners in staggering numbers. In the eyes of the Nazis, the war against the Soviet Union would be a war of annihilation. Top photos: SS-Hauptsturmführer Paul Augustin served as a Kriegsberichter with the Leibstandarte SS from at least 1940 until March 1943, when he was killed in action. During that period, Augustin took many hundreds of photographs of his unit, and a collection of those photographs is maintained by the US National Archives and Records Administration. Fair use.

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