Today marks the 75th anniversary of Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union, Operation Barbarossa, which began on June 22, 1941.
Hitler had stated his desire to conquer the Soviets in his 1925 Mein Kampf, but in the years leading up to the invasion, the two countries had signed political and economic pacts. But Hitler had authorized the invasion in December 1940, originally planned to start in May 1941.
The Germans initially enjoyed resounding victories, pressing to the outskirts of Moscow. When they were pushed back by a Soviet counteroffensive, the war turned into a war of attrition for which Germany was unprepared.
Operation Barbarossa was the largest military operation in human history, with a total of 75 percent of the entire German military participating. The four years of fighting resulted in the deaths of more than 26 million people, more than in all other fighting of World War II. Soviet casualties in the war, both military and civilian, totalled over twenty million, out of a prewar population of about 196 million, meaning that about one Soviet in nine died as a result of the war.
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