Unternehmen Barbarossa - the German invasion of the Soviet Union

SS-Division Totenkopf in Soviet Union 1941
SS-Division Leibstandarte SS in Soviet Union 1941
SS-Division Reich in Soviet Union 1941
After a five week delay while operations in Greece and Yugoslavia were completed, Operation Barbarossa was launched on June 22 1941. Over 3,000,000 men, more than 3,000 tanks, and over 2,000 aircraft and approximately one hundred thousand men belonged to the Waffen-SS advanced east to begin the Nazi Party's crusade to destroy Bolshevism and carve out living space for the Western Europeans, the Lebensraum programme. While the Waffen-SS represented a small percentage of troops, their role was proportionally greater than their numbers foreshadowed. Indeed, because of their power, the Leibstandarte, Reich, Totenkopf and Wiking divisions were employed within Panzergruppen, spearheads of the German offensive. During the first few weeks of the invasion, the Germans achieved staggering results, as whole Soviet armies were annihilated, thousands of aircraft were destroyed on the ground, and hundreds of thousands of enemy soldiers were captured. For the Waffen-SS the campaign in Russia was to be a crusade. The war would bring spectacular victories, but would also bring a new kind of war, one which both sides gave and received no quarter. Credit: Charles Trang, La Waffen-SS Au Combat. Top image: motorized grenadiers of the Totenkopf in a Volkswagen Kübelwagen near Lake Ilmen in the Novgorod Oblast. Photo by SS-Kriegsberichter Ernst Baumann. Middle image: SS-Kradschützen of the Leibstandarte SS in the beginning of Operation Barbarossa. Photo by SS-Kriegsberichter Paul Augustin. Top photos: US National Archives. Fair use. Bottom image: men of the Reich with a Sd.Kfz 10 half-ftrack in the beginning of the campaign in the Soviet Union. Reich fought with Panzergruppe Guderian, first in the drive on Moscow, then toward Kiev, then Moscow again. It was the first Waffen-SS division created, though the title “1st” was reserved for Adolf Hitler's elite bodyguard, the Leibstandarte SS. Photo taken by SS-Oberscharführer and Kriegsberichter Wolfgang Wiesebach. The war correspondent Wiesebach was reported as missing in action on June 9 1944 in North Bosnia. Commons: Bundesarchiv.


  1. Ivar the Boneless20/1/18

    The Soviets had massed large forces on their western frontier. They had some 5 million men available immediately and a total of 23,000 tanks.

  2. Ivar the Boneless22/1/18

    Aside from the German troops engaged in, or earmarked for, the Eastern Campaign, about 500,000 Romanian, Hungarian, Slovakian, Croatian, and Italian troops accompanied the German forces, while the Army of Finland made a major contribution in the north. Nevertheless, the Red Army had a large quantitative superiority.