Heeresgruppe Süd

Leibstandarte SS with a captured communist flag
Wehrmacht continue their advance further east
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 August 8 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 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. 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. Credit: author Ian Carter. Top image: a group of Waffen-SS men in late summer of 1941 secure the services of a local translator to explain the legend on this recently captured Soviet flag which reads: Fight for Lenin and Stalin – be prepared! The soldiers have been positively identified as members of the then SS-Hauptsturmführer Hugo Kraas Kradschützenkompanie of the Leibstandarte SS. Commons: Bundesarchiv. Middle image: Wehrmacht soldiers part of Army Group South during the beginning of Barbarossa 1941. Screenshot from the Deutsche Wochenschau. Fair use. Bottom image: Soviet Red Army soldiers captured by the Leibstandarte SS. Photo taken by Paul Augustin who served as a SS-Kriegsberichter with the Leibstandarte SS from at least 1940 until March 1943. 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. He was promoted SS-Hauptscharführer on March 1 1943 and killed in action 19 days later on March 20.

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