June 22nd 63rd anniver anniversary of Nazi attack on Russia

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June 22nd 63rd anniver anniversary of Nazi attack on Russia

Unread post by Invincible » June 28th, 2004, 4:20 am

http://www.upi.com/view.cfm?StoryID=200 ... 2824-8899r

WASHINGTON, June 21 (UPI) -- Little more than two weeks after the great D-Day 60th anniversary was celebrated, two more World War II dates will be commemorated that shaped the world we still live in. Americans are oblivious to them, but they should not be.

When the late Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, Britain's greatest general of the 20th century was asked to compile a list of military blunders and elementary disasters to avoid, he put at the very top of the list, "Invading Russia. It is always a bad idea."

On June 22, 1941, Nazi Fuhrer Adolf Hitler carried out that bad idea. He launched Operation Barbarossa and in doing so unleashed the greatest, most epic and easily the bloodiest war in the history of the world.

In total in just under four years, 27 million Russian soldiers and civilians and around 5 million German soldiers died, not to mention at least a million troops of European nations allied to the Nazis in a single campaign on the flanks of the city of Stalingrad in 1942. The 63rd anniversary of that unbelievably horrific, colossal conflict -- still little appreciated or understood in the West -- will be solemnly commemorated across all the time zones of Russia Tuesday.

But another anniversary will be remembered then too. Sixty years ago, on June 22, 1944, three years to the day that Hitler unleashed Barbarossa, the Red Army launched the most crucial single military campaign of its revenge.

Named Operation Bagration, after the great military hero of the War of 1812 against another European-ruling tyrant Napoleon Bonaparte, it has gone down in history as the Battle of Belorussia. And more than Stalingrad, more than Kursk, it was the battle that broke the back of the German Army in the East.

Wehrmacht staff officers at their operational headquarters in the city of Minsk, today the capital of an independent Belarus, watched in disbelief and growing horror as the very blitzkrieg tactical concepts they had used with such devastating effectiveness from June 22, 1941 for 15 months to conquer vast swathes of European Russia were now turned around to be used against them.

In the space of a month, Army Group Center, the great center of gravity and hard strategic rock on which Nazi German domination of Russia's heartland had rested for three long, dark years, was annihilated. Sweeping Red Army tank columns surrounded 100,000 of the best troops Nazi Germany still had. In all, the Germans lost 350,000 men. It was a cataclysmic defeat on an even bigger scale than Stalingrad.

In German military history, the campaign was even named, "The Destruction of Army Group Center." It came at the same time, and in large part made possible, the great Allied victory in the West at the Battle of Normandy. The scale of destruction visited upon Army Group Center dwarfed that visited within the Falaise Pocket upon Field Marshal Gerd Von Rundstedt's formations in the West.

The military achievement of the Soviet armies was far greater too. When U.S. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower gave the green light for Operation Overlord, the climactic Allied operation of the World War II in the West, some 53 or so Wehrmacht divisions were assembled throughout Western Europe to meet it. But at the same time, Hitler had to keep more than 180 Wehrmacht divisions of much greater operational strength simultaneously fully engaged against the Red Army alone in the East.

The Battle of Belorussia did more than annihilate the German Army in the East. It also established the Soviet Union as the dominant Eurasian military power for almost half a century right down to the disintegration of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991.

Because of the Battle of Belorussia, it was inevitable that all of Central Europe from Stettin in the Baltic to the borders of Greece would fall under Soviet control before the Anglo-American armies driving in on the Third Reich from the West could get there first.

That was why the American Republican criticisms of the dying Franklin Roosevelt for "selling out" Central Europe at the 1945 Yalta conference were so unfair. There was nothing in practical terms FDR could have done otherwise.

And in any case, FDR did not make the key concessions to Soviet dictator Josef Stalin on Central Europe at all. It was the British statesman who has become the icon-hero of American internationalist conservatives who made them: Winston Churchill.

For it was Churchill, at his meeting in Moscow with Stalin many months before Yalta, who initialed the famous agreement on the back of a scrap of paper that acknowledged the Soviet dominant role in all of the Balkans except Greece. By then, Churchill knew that Poland, Hungary and most of the rest of Central Europe would fall to the Soviet armies too. The Battle of Belorussia had made sure of that.

Following the collapse of communism, all of that is history. But the Battle of Belorussia also holds a crucial lesson on the strength, endurance and resilience of the Russian people that policymakers of the Bush administration would do well to ponder today.

In three years following June 22, 1941, more than 25 million Russians had died at the hands of the Nazi invaders. Not since the Mongol heirs of Genghis Khan conquered China in the 13th century had so much loss of life been visited upon a single nation. Even a limited nuclear strike upon Russia or the United States today would not produce such comparable casualties and human suffering.

Yet on June 22, 1944 -- a date very pointedly chosen for the third anniversary of the terrible invasion -- the Russians struck back. And, unlike the Germans, they won.

The devastation and suffering the Russian people suffered during those three hideous years from June 1941 to June 1944 was far greater in scale than the impoverishment and national humiliation they have experienced over the past decade since the collapse of the Soviet system. Yet they surged back from the most nightmarish adversity to win the decisive battle of World War II and become one of the two dominant global superpowers thereafter.

If the Russian people could come back so spectacularly from the catastrophes inflicted on them by the Nazis in Barbarossa, it would be a grave mistake to assume they will remain a marginal, let alone insignificant, power in the years ahead.

That is especially the case since their current president, Vladimir Putin, has been pushing ahead with remarkable success to reestablish a powerful, authoritarian centralized governing structure while stabilizing Russian living standards after their cataclysmic decline during most of the past decade.

The lessons of Bagration taught so spectacularly to the Nazi Wehrmacht 60 years ago remain relevant today. It is never wise to count Russia down and out: Its people have a habit of coming back to win the day when everyone least expects it.

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Re: June 22nd 63rd anniver anniversary of Nazi attack on Rus

Unread post by Invincible » June 28th, 2004, 4:24 am

From Barbarossa by Alan Clark page 146:

The German soldiers felt themselves deep in the alien land. From their allies, Rumanians and Hungarians who did not regard themselves as superman, disquieting setiments began to infect the Germans fighting alongside. That you had always to kill a Russian twice over; that the Russians had never been beaten; that no man drew blood there left Russia alive. And every German, whatever part of the front he fought in, noticed an uneasy mixture of horror and admiration the conduct of the Russian wounded.

"They do not cry out, they do not groan, they do not curse. Undoubtedly there is something mysterious, something inscrutable, about their stern, stubborn silence."

As if from a spiteful determination to compel their enemies to show weakness, the Germans rendered no medical services to the prisoners and kept their food rations to a minimum, Dwinger had described below:

"Several of them burnt by flamethrowers, had no longer the semblance of a human face. They were blistered shapeless bundles of slesh. A bullet had taken away the lower jaw of one man. The scrap of flesh which sealed the wound did not hide the view of the trachea through which the breath escaped in bubbles by a kind of snoring. Five machine-gun bullets had threshed into pulp the shoulder and arm of another man, who was also without any dressings. His blood seemed to be running out through several pipes. .. I have five campaigns to my credit, but I have never seen anythign equal to this. Not a cry, not a moan escaped the lips of these wounded, who were almost seated on the grass...Hardly had the distribution of supplies began than the Russians even the dying, rose and flung themselves forward...The man without a jaw could scarcely stand upright. The one armed man clung with his arm to a tree trunk, the shapeless burnt bundles advanced as quickly as possible. Some half a dozen of them who were lying down alos rose, holding in their entrails with one hand and streching out the other with a gesture of suplication...Each of them left behind a flow of blood which spread in an ever-increasing stream."

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