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Mainstream, VOL L No 27, June 23, 2012

Nazi Attack on USSR and Victory over Fascism

Wednesday 27 June 2012, by Anil Rajimwale

REMEMBERING JUNE 22, 1941

The largest ever military assault on any country was made on June 22, 1941 when Nazi Germany and its allies unleashed on the Soviet Union more than 5.5 million troops in a ‘blitzkrieg’ or sudden assault in the night of that date along the longest war-borders of more than 4500 kms. The massive war machine included more than 47,000 artillery pieces, 4200 plus tanks and more than 5000 war planes. The 190 Nazi divisions were accompanied by a large number of allied fascist forces from Italy, Hungary, Austria and other countries. Facing them were the Soviet Army troops less than half this number in men and material. The Soviet Red Army began to retreat. There has never been such concentration of troops and materials till and since then.

Preparations for Attack

THE massive assault was well prepared and thought out. WW II had broken out on September 1, 1939 with the Nazi attack on Poland. The Soviet Union was the ultimate target of fascist Germany in ‘Axis’ with Italy, Japan and other countries. The Berlin-Rome-Tokyo Axis had prepared the war grounds from the far west in Europe to the far eastern tip of Asia. The Germans under Adolf Hitler, along with Mussolini’s Italy, first took over most of Europe, from Belgium to Poland. They silenced Britain into submission with a massive bombing of London in 1940. Northern France, Spain, Portugal, Austria, north Europe, the whole of eastern Europe etc. fell easily to the German and Italian onslaught, none lasting more than six weeks. Italy took over Abyssinia etc. in Africa as well as Albania and some other portions in south-east Europe. Europe became dotted with concentration camps and infamous, barbaric jails where millions came to be tortured and killed. The German and other people paid with their lives because they misunderstood and underestimated fascism, and their leaders failed to unite on time against it. Fascism should never be underestimated, forgotten and forgiven. It continues to be the greatest enemy of humanity.

Most of the resources and much of man-power were with the Nazis and fascists. There was no danger from the west, from France, Britain and the US. They in fact were egging on the Germans to attack the USSR while they would sit silently and watch and profit selling war materials. It was much later that they joined the campaign against Hitler’s war machine to share the credit of victory. The infamous Munich Pact was a monument of the Western surrender to fascism. They opened the ‘second front’ much later.

Retreat and Advance

THERE are many reasons for the retreat of the Soviet troops, including certain amount of under-estimation. Though we cannot go into details, yet we may mention that the Soviet leadership led by Stalin made certain underestimation of the Nazi danger. Stalinist repressions too took away a substantial section of the military-political leadership. Soviet military leaders like Zhukov, Vasilevsky, Chuikov etc. have discussed these aspects in their works and memoirs. Stalin though subsequently came to play a crucial role, along with others, in the victory of the Soviet forces. The attack was sudden and preparations to meet it somewhat late. Consequently, at least for one year the Red Army was on the retreat. It had to yield ground to a superior force, while in the meantime increasing its preparation, production of materials and conscription. The massive war front came to be stabilised roughly by the beginning and middle of 1942 on a line from Leningrad in the north through Moscow in the centre to Stalingrad in the south. And it was this line that the Soviet Army decided to defend at all costs. The Nazis laid siege to Leningrad, which lasted 900 days, people writing some of the most glorious chapters of human resistance. Hitler’s armies entered the outskirts of Moscow, where they were held till their retreat.

The most decisive battle of the War was fought in Stalingrad, the gateway to India and Asia. Had the Germans succeeded they would have taken over India and Asia. In fact, Germany and Japan had planned to enter India after Stalingrad and divide it among themselves. And we would then be living in a different Asia and world. The battle was fought for every street, lane, by-lane, house, even wall in Stalingrad.
It was by the first months of 1943 that the tide of the War began to turn in favour of the Soviet Union. Massive German troops were trapped in and around Stalingrad and were finally defeated by February 1943. The German Field Marshal along with around 3.3 lakh soldiers was surrounded and taken prisoner.

This eased the pressure on Moscow, Leningrad and elsewhere. Partisan warfare behind the German lines was stepped up. A new lifeline for Leningrad along Lake Ladoga was opened, accompanied by unparalleled heroism of the populace.
The Soviet Red Army began to advance for the first time in WW II, and the Nazi troops were forced to retreat, also for the first time.

Soviet Advance

THE Soviet armed forces were led by outstanding commanders. Josef Stalin was the Supreme Commander-in-Chief. On actual war fronts it was Georgi Zhukov who, as the Commander-in-Chief, directed the operations. Whole new fronts were opened and reorganised in the entire war theatre. Many of the earlier mistakes were corrected. Some of the strategic ideas of Marshal Tukhachevsky, repressed and shot in 1937, were adopted. War production was increased as never before and the whole population took part in the anti-Hitler struggle.

Victory in Stalingrad was followed by the Battle of Kursk, famous for its tank battles led by General Chuikov, who had also played a crucial role in Stalingrad. This and other battles were immortalised in Soviet and Western films. Nazi troops began to retreat from Moscow. They were locked outside Leningrad and then gradually pushed back.

The Soviet Command trapped the Nazis and allied troops in various pincers. Simultaneously, Stalin, Molotov and Gromyko made effective diplomatic and political moves for opening the second front by the Western powers, which they were refusing to, waiting and hoping for a Soviet collapse.

By the beginning and middle of 1944 the Soviet troops were crossing the Soviet borders into East Europe, liberating one country after another. Among the most important fronts were the 1st Byelorussian Front led by Marshal Zhukov, 2nd Byelorussian Front led by Marshal Rokos-sovsky and the 1st Ukrainian Front led by Marshal Konev. Besides, there were other ones like the 2nd to 4th Ukrainian Fronts, Western, South-Western, Don, Pomeranian, Far Eastern Fronts led by Marshal Blyukher, and others. It is interesting to note that Rokossovsky and Blyukher, who were in Stalin’s prison on the eve of the War, were released and put in command. They performed heroically. Blyukher faced a much worse and tragic fate at the hands of the Stalinist system later.

There is much controversy and conflict over Stalin’s role in WW II. While he played a crucial role as the Supreme Commander-in-Chief, he also used the tense war conditions to settle individual and political accounts with those he considered his rivals. This is really tragic and heart-rending. It really goes to the credit of those who were repressed to have stood their ground and held beliefs in their honest fight against fascism despite facing internal repression.

The case of the Polish Communist Party is well-known: how it was misled and destroyed and how a large number of Communists, not to talk of others, arrested and killed by the Stalinist machinery.

No credit of course can be taken away from Stalin for his positive role during the anti-fascist war and in the victory over Nazism and fascism.

It is also interesting to note the different war tactics adopted by Marshals Zhukov and Konev. The former at one point used massive search-lights over huge chunks of the front to blind the enemy, while Konev used black smoke to cover up his own troop movement. The War is full of incomparable tales of struggle and heroism, individual as well as collective, and several books have been written on them.
Countries from the Baltic to the Caspian Seas were liberated and people’s power was established in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary. Romania, Bulgaria etc. The Red Army, led by the central Fronts, ultimately reached Berlin, the very place from where fascism launched WW II. The Soviet commanders accepted the German surrender early on May 9, 1945 on behalf of the whole of the anti-German Allied Forces. Hitler had, earlier on April 30, committed suicide. Mussolini had been shot by the Italian partisans in 1943.

It was with the advance of the Soviet Army that the Western powers got worried and opened the second front on June 6, 1944 with the famous Normandy landing on the western tip of France. The War had already turned in favour of the anti-fascist forces. The Germans now had to fight on two fronts. Western and Soviet troops met in Germany in 1945. Soviet troops remained long in East Europe and even in Austria.

The Soviet Union played a decisive role in the defeat of fascism in Europe.

WW II in Far East

WAR dragged on in Asia longer. There was no need whatsoever for dropping atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They were meant more to display the US atomic might before the USSR and the whole world. The USSR entered the War in Asia after the Nazi surrender in Berlin. Japanese troops were already reeling and retrea-ting under Soviet blows in Manchuria. Marshal A.M. Vasilevsky dealt a decisive blow on the elite and most powerful Japanese Kwantung Army which surrendered to the Soviet troops on August 19, 1945.

Japan finally surrendered to the Soviet Army on September 2, 1945, thus ending WW II in the Far East.

Thus, the Soviet Union played a crucial role in saving Asia, Europe and the whole of humanity from the curse of fascism. Otherwise today we would be living in a different world resembling a huge slave camp.

Let us not forget that there are still powerful fascist forces in the world including in our own country. Fascism is always our enemy Number One, with whom there can be no compromise and whose strength must in no way be under-estimated. The Communists are the foremost anti-fascists. Let us also not forget that the leading figures of the RSS in our own country had received their training and baptism in the fascist camps of Rome, Berlin and elsewhere. Hitler and Mussolini were eulogised and worshipped by the RSS and Hindu Mahasabha. These fascists were presented as the role models for real ‘Aryans’ and ‘nationalists’!

This must not be forgotten.

Let us remind ourselves constantly of the teachings of Georgi Dimitrov on fascism and the need to form the broadest possible united front against it to finally defeat it.

This is the biggest lesson of the Second World War symbolised by June 22, 1941.

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