Never has a leader so catastrophically misjudged the character of an enemy as Hitler misjudged the Soviet Union and its people prior to launching his invasion of the country on June 22, 1941.
Hitler and other top Nazis were convinced that the Soviet Union would crumble under the weight of the largest military operation ever mounted, codenamed Operation Barbarossa. German and Axis forces comprising 4 million men, 3,600 tanks, over 4,000 aircraft, and 46,000 artillery pieces attacked the Soviet Union along a 2,900-kilometer front from the Baltic in the north to the Black Sea in the south.
Hitler’s grand ideological project of colonizing Eastern Europe, granting the German and German-speaking peoples so-called “lebensraum” (living space), destroying in the process the “degenerate” and “inferior” Slav peoples, untermenschen, while crushing the threat of “Jewish Bolshevism” to his vision of a racially pure Aryan Europe, was now under way. From the outset it…
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