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WW II: Behind Closed Doors

Stalin, the Nazis and the West

Operation Barbarossa

As more than three million Axis soldiers raced eastward, the Red Army, simply too ill-trained and ill-equipped to stop the Germans, lost more than 100,000 soldiers. At this rate, the Germans would reach Moscow within a few weeks. It looked like Operation Barbarossa, Adolf Hitler's codename for the invasion, was a success.

Soviet civilians about to be hanged by German soldiers near Smolensk

Soviet civilians about to be hanged by
German soldiers near Smolensk

Our division was in the second wave of the attack. There was practically no resistance in the areas near the border. When we did encounter Russians they were dissolving and were fleeing.

- Alfred Rubbel, 29th Panzer Regiment, German Army





The Germans took two and a half million Soviet prisoners in less than four months, most of whom died in captivity. In the Soviet Union, Hitler was engaged in what he called "a war of annihilation." To him, the Slavic populations were subhuman, fit only for slavery or elimination. Approximately 27 million Soviet citizens would die during the war, including 16 million civilians.