We have brought you some of the most iconic photos from World War II. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers clashed in the ruins for several months. The fights were fierce under exhaustion, starvation, cold, hunger and what not. This side of World War II is less familiar to several people living in the West, and we have tried to narrate you through these below photographs. Make sure you can handle them.
German Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels makes a radio announcement about the war with the USSR (June 22, 1941).
People in Moscow are listening to the war announcement, stunned (June 22, 1941).
The largest invasion in human history begins. 4 million men supported by 600,000 vehicles and 750,000 horses attacked 3,000 kilometer-long front line. Photo: German soldiers crossing the USSR border (June 22, 1941).
The German attack was a complete surprise, and initial Soviet losses were catastrophic. After the first 9 days of war the Luftwaffe destroyed 1,400 Soviet airplanes in the air and 3,200 on the ground (40% of the entire USSR air force), while losing only 330 aircraft. Photo: Russian I-16 fighters destroyed at the airport near Minsk, Belarus (June, 1941).
By mid-August, the Soviets had lost 3,300 tanks, while the Germans lost 220, an astonishing 15:1 ratio. Photo: Russian BT-2 tankand its dead crew (July, 1941).
But the most devastating were human losses. By December of 1941, the USSR had lost 2.7 million soldiers killed and 3.3 million captured – its entire pre-war army. For every German soldier lost, the Soviets lost 20. Photo: Soviet soldiers surrendering(Belarus, July 1941).
The German tanks were unstoppable. During the first 7 days of the invasion they penetrated 300 km into the Soviet territory – 1/3 distance to Moscow.
“Blitzkrieg” was going well. German soldiers were having fun. Photo: a German soldier posing on a Stalin’s head.
But eventually the Soviets recovered from the shock, their resistance stiffened and German losses started piling up. If by August, 1941 the German army had lost only 46,000 men, by December 25% of the German forces were dead or wounded. A unique photo: A German soldier was photographed exactly at the moment when he was killed.
A similar famous Russian photo “Death of a Soldier”.
By November of 1941, Russia was in dire straits. Hitler declared that the war had been won, and cited the evidence: 2 million Soviet prisoners, 22,000 artillery pieces seized or smashed, 18,000 tanks destroyed, 14,500 aircraft shot down. The German army was just 10 miles away from Moscow, and the Soviets had only 90,000 men and 150 tanks left to defend it. The world regarded Moscow surrender as inevitable. To cheer people up, Stalin gave a military parade. Photo: These troops went into the battle straight from the Red Square (Moscow, November 7, 1941).
Desperate times required desperate measures. The Russians trained dogsto run under the German tanks in suicide attacks. Photo: dogs, wrapped in explosives, are walking into the battle (Moscow, 1941).
In December of 1941, the temperature fell to -35 C (-30 Fahrenheit), unusually low even for Russia. The German army was unprepared, and 130,000 cases of frostbite weakened its front line troops.
Thanks to Japan’s decision not to attack the USSR, fresh divisions from Siberia – 1 million soldiers and 1,000 tanks – were moved to Moscow, and the Russians counter-attacked.
Fresh, well-equipped troops pushed the exhausted Germans back by 100-200 km. This was the first major defeat suffered by the German army in WW2, and the bloodiest battle to date: 1 million soldiers lost their lives in the Battle of Moscow. Photo: German soldiers surrendering (Moscow, January 1942).
At the same time, German Army “North” attacked Leningrad, the second-largest USSR city of 3.3 million people. By September 19, 1941 the Germans were just 12 miles away, and their artillery began a continuous barrage of the city. Photo: an artillery shell explodes on a street of Leningrad (September, 1941).
Leningrad was heavily defended, and Hitler made a decision to besiege it and starve to death. The city was encircled and the blockade started on September 25, 1941. At the time, Leningrad had sufficient food for 20 days; by December – despite reducing rations to the minimum – for 2 days. Photo: a daily ration in Leningradduring the siege – 125 grams of bread per person. 50% of it was made from saw dust.
As a result, 600,000 – 1,000,000 civilians starved to death. People ate all dogs, cats, birds and rats in the city. 600 people were punished for cannibalism. Photo:frozen corpses of starved people on the streets of Leningrad (winter of 1942).
The hunger was especially tough on 400,000 children who got stuck in the blockade. Photo: a child collapsed and died on the stairs of her home (Leningrad, 1942).
The Siege of Leningrad lasted 900 days, and cost 2 million lives. Finally, on January 27, 1944 the blockade was broken. Photo: very emotional meeting of Leningrad defenders and break-through troops (Leningrad, January 27, 1944).
Thesentiment changed after the German Army was replaced by Einsatzgruppen – SS troops tasked with the implementation of Hitler’s occupation policies. SS started by exterminating the Jews. A famous photo made by an SS officer in the town of Vinnytsa, Ukraine: “The Last Jew of Vinnytsia” (August 25, 1942).
During the occupation, SS troops often made public executions. Photo: the first public execution on the occupied territories. The Germans hanged 2 teenagersfor helping captured Soviet soldiers (Belarus, November 26, 1941).
Credit: Andrei Kolodovski via Quora