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What was Hitler’s Winter Blunder?

Hitler was one of the most despised figures in modern history. He single-handedly orchestrated monstrous events that led to the deaths of millions of people. But despite his military prowess, did you know that he committed many major mistakes that led to his ultimate demise? 

Hitler did not get to anticipate the harsh Russian winters when he launched Operation Barbarossa. His foot soldiers wore festive Christmas outfits donated by Germans sent from home.

Operation Barbarossa

On June 22, 1941, more than 3 million Germans and other Axis troops marched towards the Soviet Union. The massive force stretched across the 1,800-mile-long front, marking the beginning of Hitler’s Operation Barbarossa. With this operation, the Nazis hoped to repeat the early success in Western Europe.

The German forces caught the Red Army by surprise because Stalin did not believe the numerous warnings stating that Hitler was planning his attack. Hitler launched a three-prong attack: over to the North toward Leningrad, to the South toward Ukraine, and in the center toward Moscow. Panzer tanks and the Luftwaffe gave the Germans an early advantage against many but poorly trained Soviet forces.

The Axis power swept millions of Soviets and held them, prisoners, while the Einsatzgruppen, known as the death squads, followed the armies, killing civilians and Soviet Jews. The operation also had the Commissar Order, authorizing the immediate execution of captured enemy officers.

By the end of August, Hitler focused his forces on Ukraine in the South despite numerous advice from his generals. He successfully captured Kyiv and cut off Leningrad from the rest of Russia. By October, he launched Operation Typhoon, his attempt to claim Moscow. However, due to his delay, the Russians could bolster their defense with about a million troops and a thousand new tanks.

By mid-November, the Germans performed a final attempt to encircle the capital. However, reinforcements from Siberia helped the Red Army fend off the Nazis. The harsh winter also played an essential role in leading the Germans to retreat. (Source: History)

The Winter Blunder

At the beginning of Operation Barbarossa, it seemed like Hitler’s prediction of a quick and successful battle was coming true. His armies were conquering city after city, marching towards the capital of the Soviet Union. However, Hitler wasn’t able to plan a long-term strategy as he anticipated a quick victory.

Hitler expected to capture Moscow by the end of summer; thus, his Wehrmacht, the infantry, only wore summer-weight uniforms, and they had no winter clothing with them. As winter approached, the soldiers were suffering from the extreme cold. Weapons malfunctioned, vehicles wouldn’t start, and the cases of frostbite were rising. (Source: History)

But despite this, the armies kept pushing forward. To help the men fight off the cold and continue marching on, German politician Paul Joseph Goebbels requested over German national radio that the citizens support their troops. The politician then verbalized his list of requests to the population, a list he called the Christmas present from the German nation to the Eastern Front.

Goebbels requested lots of winter clothing like overshoes, blankets, headgear protection, and fur. Wool is also much asked. The collection began on December 27, and by the time the collection ended on January 4, 1942, the German government was able to amass 76,232,688 pieces of clothing. (Source: Defense Media Network)

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