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Operation Barbarossa

 1941 – 1943


Timeline of the German Invasion of the Soviet Union - Up to the Defeat at Stalingrad   




German tanks roll into the USSR

Operation Barbarossa: Was the German codename for the invasion of the USSR which took place on 22 June 1941. Launched by Hitler in violation of the existing non-aggression treaty with Stalin, it was designed to provide the Reich with 'living space in the East'.

The German dictator had advocated the conquest of the USSR as early as 1924 in his book, Mein Kampf. At the same time, the campaign was to lay the foundations for the expected conflict with the two Anglo-Saxon powers for primacy as a world power and to free Germany of the economic warfare the Allies were waging against it.

The German invasion marked the beginning of a rapacious war of annihilation and conquest in which a scorched earth policy was employed by both sides. Hitler intended a 'ruthless Germanization' of the occupied eastern territories, conducted with great severity.

Orders violating international law, such as the Kommissarbefehl, the order to execute all Red Army political commissars, and the 'Barbarossa jurisdiction Decree', which exempted German soldiers from prosecution if they committed a crime against any Soviet civilian, meant a departure from traditional military conduct for the Wehrmacht. At the same time, Einsatzgruppen were to carry out the murder of Jewish and Slav elements of the population.

1941 The Southern and Central Thrusts


June 22 1941 Operation Barbarossa begins:


Army Group North – Wilhem Ritter von Leeb


Army Group Centre – Feodor Von Bock


Army Group South – Gerd von Runstedt


Invade Soviet Territory and head for Leningrad, Moscow and Kiev respectively. Easy progress is made in the North and Centre but Runstedt meets desperate Soviet resistance in the South.


June 24 – 30 1941 Army Group Centre seals off Soviet resistance into pockets at Bialystok, Novogrudok and Volkovysk


Heinz Guderian

June 26 1941  In the centre, Brest Litovsk falls after a four day siege. Manstein’s panzers of Army Group North enter Daugavpils


July 1 1941 In the centre, Heinz Guderian’s panzers cross the Berezina. Panzer spearheads of Army Group North cross the Dvina and advance on Pskov.


July 4 1941  Army Group North captures Ostrov and reaches the pre-1939 Russian frontier.


July 9 1941  Army Group Centre ends Soviet resistance in the Minsk pocket and captures Vitebsk


July 10 -11 Panzers of Army Group Centre cross the Dniepr. In the South, a Soviet counter-offensive by 5th and 6th Armies fails. Kleist’s Panzers approach to within ten miles of Kiev.


July 15 1941 A breakthrough in the Centre leads to the encirclement and fall of Smolensk, cutting off a Soviet concentration of 300,000 men between Orsha and Smolensk.


July 20 1941 In the Centre, Bock orders Guderian to close the ring at Smolensk before any further advance to the East.


July 22 1941 After a month’s scorching advance Army Group North is checked West of Lake Ilmen by the exhaustion of the troops.


July 30 1941 In the South Kleist begins to seal off the Soviet concentration at Uman


August 3 1941 In the South, Kleist and Stulpnagel seal off the Uman pocket: the inner pincers close.


August 5 1941 End of Soviet resistance in the Smolensk pocket: Army Group Centre has succeeded in breaking out of the Smolensk land-bridge but is still faced with determined Soviet counterattacks in the South. Rumanian troops begin the 73 day siege of Odessa. 


August 12 1941 Hitler insists on the destruction of the Soviet South-West Front before resuming the advance in the Centre, as Guderian heads South towards Gomel and Starodub. Army Group North advances on Leningrad from the Luga bridgehead.


August 23 – 30 1941 Guderian heads South belatedly, the Soviet front commander Yeremenko prepares to forestall the threat to Kiev from the rear.


German advances in the Soviet Union during the early stages of Operation Barbarossa

August 25 1941 Panzers of Army Group South consolidates the Dniepr crossing at Dnepropetrovsk: path cleared for the Southern arm of the German pincer movement to engulf the Uman/ Kiev concentration.


August 30 / September 2 1941 Failure of Yeremenko’s counter-offensive against Guderian’s flank.


September 12 1941 Kleist heads North from the Cherkassy/ Kremenchug beach-heads.


September 15 1941 The outer pincers close: Panzer spearheads of Kleist and Guderian meet at Lokhvitsa, trapping four Soviet armies in the Kiev area.


September 17 1941 STAVKA belatedly orders a Soviet withdrawal from Kiev


September 18 – 27 1941 In the South, slaughter and surrenders inside the Kiev pocket. Nearly two thirds of the Red Army’s strength on the outbreak of war has already been eliminated.  


October 23 -24 1941 Army Group South enters Kharkov


November 28 1941 Army Group South is forced to retire from Rostov by heavy Soviet counter-attacks, after an occupation of eight days. 


June 22 1941 Drive in the North, Army Group North invades the USSR heading for Leningrad


June 26 1941  Army Group North captures Dugavpils and the Dvina river-crossings.


June 29 1941  Dietl’s force advances on Murmansk from Finland, but it is finally halted on the Litsa River.


July 10 1941 Mannerheim’s Karelian Army invades the USSR from Finland heading South-East to clear the Karelian Isthmus.


July 13/16 1941  Army Group North spearheads reach the Luga River, 60 miles short of Leningrad. Mannerheim’s army reaches the Northern shore of Lake Ladoga.


August 3 -4 1941 Mannerheim begins his drive to recover the Karelian Isthmus for Finland.


August 8 1941  Army Group North advances from the Luga bridgeheads.


August 16 1941 Army Group North reaches Novgorod and crosses the Volkhov River. 



Germans in Kharkov

August 27 1941 Despite successes Mannerheim refuses to act in direct co-operation with Army Group North


September 1 1941 German long-range artillery begins to bombard Leningrad


September 15 1941  Army Group North completes the encirclement of Leningrad – the siege begins


October 23 – 24 1941 Finnish Southern front stabilised


November 7 1941 Finnish advance halted on all fronts.


November 9 1941 The vital railhead at Tikhvin falls into German hands


December 6 1941  A 200 mile –long roadway from Leningrad to Zaborie built in 27 days at a cost of thousands of lives, begins operation. But as a lifeline it is almost useless, the greatest distance any lorry manages to cover in a single day is 20 miles.


December 9 1941 Soviet forces led by General Meretskov recapture Tikhvin. The railway resumes operation, bringing desperately needed supplies to Leningrad.


December 25 1941  Despite increased supplies from the outside some 3700 Leningraders starve to death on Christmas Day, bringing the total for the month to 52,000. In Moscow the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet institutes a medal for the defence of Leningrad.


The Attack on Moscow


September 26 1941 “Operation Typhoon” – the German offensive for the capture of Moscow is ordered.


October 2 1941 The offensive to capture Moscow begins in ideal weather conditions


October 7 1941  Panzer spearheads seal off the Soviet forces in the Vyazma and Bryansk pockets.


October 8 1941 Heavy rains set in. The “mud season” begins to strangle the German mobile units, except for tanks.


October 14 1941  Resistance ends in the Vyazma pocket


Soviet General Kirill Meretskov

October 19 1941 Stalin proclaims a state of siege in Moscow.


October 20 1941  Resistance ends in the Bryansk pocket, but many Soviet troops manage to escape the net.


October 20 – 25 1941  Stiffening Soviet resistance and struggling supply lines halt the original “Typhoon” offensive. New orders are issued for advances on more limited objectives to safeguard the German front line.


November 15 1941  After initial success, the second phase of the Moscow offensive is paralysed by 20 degree of frost and ever –strengthening Soviet forces.


November 27 1941 Panzer spearheads struggle to within 19 miles of the northern outskirts of Moscow, but are halted by fierce counter-attacks. South of Moscow, the advance German units reach Kashira, but are also halted.


December 5 1941  After obstinate argument, Hitler agrees to abandon the Moscow offensive for the winter. Army Group Centre begins to retreat to safer defensive positions.


December 5- 6 1941 The Soviet counter-offensive begins, at first the Kalinin / West Fronts to relieve the threat to Moscow.


December 13 1941  Moscow has been saved from the attack of Army Group Centre, but Stalin determines to extend the offensive to the entire Soviet / German front.


December 17 – 18 1941  Stalin orders Volkhov and North –Western Fronts to take the offensive against Army Group North.


December 26 – 30 1941  Red Army units land on the Kerch Peninsula to relieve Sebastopol   



January 9 - 25 1942


North – Western Volkhov, and Kalinin Fronts drive deep into the Whermacht’s rear but find their efforts too dissipated and their objectives too distant. German resistance stiffens.


January / February 1942  The Soviet offensive continues to win small victories in the Centre and North but fails in the South. By March 1942 all Soviet fronts have run out of resources – the offensive is over.


January 18 1942  Southern wing of the general Soviet winter offensive begins


January 24 1942  Barvenkovo captured


March 1942  Soviet winter offensive halts


May 8 1942  German XI Army launches its attack against the Crimean Front


May 12 1942  Russian South –West Front launches an offensive to break out of the Barvenkovo salient, thus forestalling a German offensive to liquidate it.


German soldiers at the Barvenkovo salient

May 15 1942  German forces break through on the Crimean Front and occupy the town of Kerch, forcing the Russians to evacuate the Kerch peninsula. The Crimean Front has collapsed. 


May 17 1942  German counter-offensive against the Barvenkovo salient . Army Group Kleist attacks from the North and the VI Army from the South.


May 19 1942  Soviet offensive is called off, but the German pincers cannot be halted.


May 23 1942 German forces link up, thus cutting off all Soviet troops in the salient.


June 2 1942  The Germans open up a five day barrage of Sevastopol with “super power” artillery, including 800-mm mortars.


June 7 1942  The German infantry assault on Sebastopol begins, supported by as many as 1,000 Luftwaffe sorties a day. But the Russians hold on.


June 10 – 26 1942  German offensives on the Volchansk and Kupyansk axes force the left wing of South –West Front back to the River Oskol.


June 30 1942  After 24 days of bitter fighting the Russians begin to evacuate Sebastopol. To commemorate the prolonged struggle the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet awards a special medal to the city’s defenders.




June 28 1942  The German summer offensive begins with a breakthrough at Kursk


July 5 1942  Army Group B reaches the Don River on either side of Voronezh


July 12 1942  STAVKA sets up a new “Stalingrad” Front


July 23 1942  Bock is dismissed. IV Panzer Army under Hoth is ordered to swing away from Stalingrad and assist I Panzer Army under Kleist to cross the Don.


July 25 1942   Kleist gets his light forces across the Don River. VI Army continues its advance toward Stalingrad, but fails to liquidate Russian bridgeheads on the West bank.


July 29 1942  Hoth’s Panzers cross the Don at Tsimlyanskaya. Kleist captures Proletarskaya.


August 10 1942  Von Paulus troops reach the outskirts of Stalingrad, while Hoth moves up to rejoin them.


August 19 1942  First German attempts to storm Stalingrad


August 22 1942  XIV Panzer Corps force a narrow breach in the Russian perimeter at Vertyachi


August 23 1942  Germans reach the bank of the Volga


German troops storm Stalingrad

August 23 -24  Luftwaffe makes a terror raid on Stalingrad


August 25  State of Emergency declared in Stalingrad. Heavy fighting halts the German advance.


September 13 1942  “Final” German attack on Stalingrad begins. A breakthrough in the Centre forces General Chuikov to commit his last reserves. But the German attack is halted. 


September 24 1942  Franz Halder, Chief of the OKW is dismissed by Hitler.


October 4 1942  The fourth German attack at Stalingrad, directed at the Tractor Factory, the Barrikady and the Krasny Oktyabr, begins nearly three weeks of bitter fighting.


October 14 1942  Hitler orders all forces to take the defensive and stand fast except for those in the Stalingrad area and some small sectors in the Caucasus.


Early November 1942  The Red Army prepares a plan (Plan Uranus) for the relief of Stalingrad, a large scale operation to be carried out along a front of 250 miles.


November 19 1942  At exactly 07:30 hours, some 3,500 Soviet guns and mortars open fire on the breakthrough sectors. The Soviet blow to free Stalingrad has begun. By the second day of the attack, mobile forces of South-West Front have advanced up to 25 miles.


November 20 1942  Stalingrad Front takes up the offensive.


November 21 1942  The onrush of Soviet armour forces General Paulus to move his headquarters from Golubinsky to Nizhne- Chirskaya. Hitler then orders Paulus to relocate his headquarters again near Gumrak.


November 23 1942 On the fifth day of the counter-attack, South –West and Stalingrad Fronts link up, closing the ring around 22 German divisions, a total of about 330,000 men.


November 24 1942  The Red Army launches operations to annihilate the encircled German forces. But although the Red Army forces halve the territory held by Paulus, their numbers are insufficient to destroy his army. 


December 12 1942  General Manstein launches Operation Winter Storm, a counter-strike with 13 divisions to relieve the trapped VI Army. Fighting rages for 11 days but the operation fails.


Hoth’s “storm group” is halted 25 miles from the beleagured Germans at Stalingrad. Meanwhile, Soviet South –West Front handed the Germans a crushing blow, on the middle Don, North-West of Stalingrad.


Field Marshal von Paulus surrenders at Stalingrad

December 24 1942  Soviet forces now attack Hoth’s relief group. The Germans withdraw, and by December 31 it is clear that the Red Army has fresh opportunities for a strategic offensive in the whole Southern sector.




January 4 1943  STAVKA approves the plan for “Operation Ring” – the methodical dissection, of the trapped German forces and their destruction, unit by unit.


January 8 1943  STAVKA proposes to Paulus that he capitulate, otherwise his forces will be annihilated. Paulus rejects the ultimatum.


January 10 1943  Operation Ring begins at 08:00 hours, the Red Army opens its final assault on von Paulus’ forces with a massive artillery bombardment. At 09:00 hours Don Front takes the offensive.


January 31 1943  Field- Marshall Paulus trapped in Stalingrad, surrenders the Southern group of his army. Two days later General Schreck surrenders the Northern group.  The VI Army is no more.









History of the Second World War published by Purnell & Sons 1966. 

The World at War by Richard Holmes published by Ebury Press 2007. 

The Field Men by French L MacLean published by Schiffer Military History Atglen PA 1999. 

Moscow to Stalingrad: Decision in the East. Ziemke, Earl F. Washington DC: U.S. Army Center of Military History, 1987

Holocaust Historical Society 




Copyright: Chris Webb  H.E.A.R.T 2008



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