World War II: Operation Barbarossa


On June 22, 1941, Nazi Germany and its Axis allies began a massive invasion of the Soviet Union named Operation Barbarossa -- some 4.5 million troops launched a surprise attack deployed from German-controlled Poland, Finland, and Romania. Hitler had long had his eye on Soviet resources. Although Germany had signed a non-aggression pact with the USSR in 1939, both sides remained suspicious of one another, and the agreement merely gave them more time to prepare for a probable war. Even so, the Soviets were unprepared for the sudden blitzkreig attacks across a border that spanned nearly 2,900 km (1,800 mi), and they suffered horrible losses. Within a single week, German forces advanced 200 miles into Soviet territory, destroyed nearly 4,000 aircraft, and killed, captured, or wounded some 600,000 Red Army troops. By December of 1941, German troops were within sight of Moscow, and they laid siege to the city. But, when the notorious Russian winter (nicknamed "General Winter") set in, German advances came to a halt. By the end of this, one of the largest, deadliest military operations in history, Germany had suffered some 775,000 casualties. More than 800,000 Soviets had been killed, and an additional 6 million Soviet soldiers had been wounded or captured. Despite massive advances, Hitler's plan to conquer the Soviet Union before winter had failed, at great cost, and that failure would prove to be a turning point in the war. (This entry is Part 6 of a weekly 20-part retrospective of World War II)
Read more
Hints: View this page full screen. Skip to the next and previous photo by typing j/k or ←/→.

Most Recent

  • Danny Lawson / AFP / Getty

    Photos of the Week: Jedi Academy, Small Moon, Royal Wedding

    A giant glowing puppet in Australia, a cat rescued in Colombia, lava flows in Hawaii, devastation in Damascus, a balanced taxi in New York City, biking into the river in Germany, and much more.

  • Mario Tama / Getty

    Photo Updates From Kilauea: The Lava Meets the Sea

    Since Kilauea volcano began its most recent eruptive activity on Hawaii's Big Island three weeks ago, the situation has evolved and worsened.

  • Thomas Peter / Reuters

    A Changing Way of Life for Mongolia’s Dukha Reindeer Herders

    In north central Mongolia, the Dukha people have lived a nomadic life with their reindeer herds for generations—today, that way of life is under pressure.

  • Richard Seeley / Shutterstock

    Travel Monday: A Photo Trip to Southeast Alaska

    Recent images from across southeast Alaska, a narrow strip of coastal islands and mountains that stretches more than 500 miles along the Pacific Ocean.