After the Third Battle of Kharkov – known as the Donets Campaign

Panzerkampfwagen Tiger of SS-Pz.Gren.Div. Das Reich
Panzerkampfwagen Tiger of SS-Pz.Gren.Div. Totenkopf
After the fall of Kharkov the Soviet defense of the Donets had collapsed, but a combination of mud and exhaustion brought military operations to a halt on the Eastern Front in mid-March 1943. Both sides needed to reorganize and re-equip for forthcoming campaign season, despite Generalfeldmarschall Erich von Manstein's ambitions to also attack the Kursk salient which had been created as a result of the recapture of Kharkov and Belgorod. Following the German victory at Kharkov, Hitler was presented with two options. The first, known as the backhand method was to wait for the inevitable renewal of the Soviet offensive and conduct another operation similar to that of Kharkov - allowing the Red Army to take ground, extend itself and then counterattack and surround it. The second, or the forehand method, encompassed a major German offensive by Army Groups South and Center against the protruding Kursk salient. Ultimately, Hitler chose the forehand method, which led to the Battle of Kursk. Between April and July 1943, the Red Army took its time to rebuild its forces in the area and prepare for the German offensive. Credit: Wikipedia. Top image: a Tiger of SS-Panzergrenadier-Division Das Reich in the outskirts of Kharkov in early spring of 1943. The 88mm gun has its travel cover on and the turret is reversed. Commons: Bundesarchiv. Bottom image: a newly-arrived Tiger of SS-Panzergrenadier-Division Totenkopf required for the upcoming offensive at Kursk. This is the Tiger of company commander SS-Untersturmführer Walter Köhler. The photo is taken after its arrival in Budy southwest of Kharkov in May 1943. The tank still needs markings and camouflage paint; it would become Tiger n°911. Köhler himself was killed in action in Tiger 911 near Kljutschi at the south bank of the Psel River during the Battle of Kursk on July 12 1943. Commons: Bundesarchiv.

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