Blitzkrieg Russia

Blitzkrieg-Russia

The photographs are taken from five unpublished albums focussing on the German invasion of Russia in 1941 – Operation Barbarossa. Two of the albums contain shots taken by German infantrymen and include shots of combat, vehicles, knocked-out tanks and prisoners of war. Two of the other albums feature flak and artillery units in the invasion.

These include shots of artillery and flak units in action, destroyed Russian aircraft, vehicles and armor as well as Russian prisoners. The final album contains shots taken by a tank destroyer unit. In this set, there are shots of knocked out Russian armor (and abandoned armor), artillery and assault guns in action and a fascinating glimpse into the transition into the first winter. There are many exceptional photographs including rubber boats carrying troops across a river, knocked out monstrous Russian tanks, engineers at work and a range of more casual poses.

There are also some interesting studies of uniforms and equipment, abandoned vehicles, vehicles being salvaged and maintained and a host of other subjects.Some are focussed on the early war months with Russia, so there are huge columns of captured Russian prisoners, fraternization with the local peasants and a glimpse of the vast distances involved in the advances made by the Germans in the early months of the conflict.

This is the first of two shots of a bogged-down KV2, which appears to have tried to cross over a dried watercourse by using a flimsy wooden bridge. Back in December 1939, the KVI entered service and was combat tested during the Russian—Finnish war. The conclusion was that there was a need for a heavier tank with a more powerful armament, so that it could tackle bunkers, pillboxes and fortifications. Engineers worked to fit a 152mm howitzer, originally the 1909/1930 version and later the 1938/1940 model. There is a fascinating account given by an element of the 6th Panzer Division when it encountered KV2s on 25 June 194l: Unfortunately, the Russian 52-ton heavy tanks showed that it [sic] was almost insensitive to hits from the 1O.5cm. Several hits from a 15cm gun were ineffective and bounced off. However, continuous attacks by several Panzer IV managed to knock out a large number of tanks throughout the day.
This is the first of two shots of a bogged-down KV2, which appears to have tried to cross over a dried watercourse by using a flimsy wooden bridge. Back in December 1939, the KVI entered service and was combat tested during the Russian—Finnish war. The conclusion was that there was a need for a heavier tank with a more powerful armament, so that it could tackle bunkers, pillboxes and fortifications. Engineers worked to fit a 152mm howitzer, originally the 1909/1930 version and later the 1938/1940 model. There is a fascinating account given by an element of the 6th Panzer Division when it encountered KV2s on 25 June 194l:
Unfortunately, the Russian 52-ton heavy tanks showed that it [sic] was almost insensitive to hits from the 1O.5cm. Several hits from a 15cm gun were ineffective and bounced off. However, continuous attacks by several Panzer IV managed to knock out a large number of tanks throughout the day.
This sobering photograph shows the true extent of the Russians’ failure to prepare themselves for the German onslaught that was Operation Barbarossa. These Russian prisoners of war, at this early stage, are relatively fortunate, as it is clear that they have been fed. The Germans did not apply the same standard of treatment to Russian prisoners as they had to the British, French and others that they had captured in the west.  Between 1941 and 1945, around 5.7 million Russian prisoners were captured by the Germans. Around one million of these were released during the war, half a million either escaped or were liberated by their own countrymen. Some 930,000 were alive in camps at the end of the war. The remaining 3.3 million died during captivity. Figures are often disputed, but even by conservative standards upwards of 2.5 million Russians died in labour camps.
This sobering photograph shows the true extent of the Russians’ failure to prepare themselves for the German onslaught that was Operation Barbarossa. These Russian prisoners of war, at this early stage, are relatively fortunate, as it is clear that they have been fed. The Germans did not apply the same standard of treatment to Russian prisoners as they had to the British, French and others that they had captured in the west.
Between 1941 and 1945, around 5.7 million Russian prisoners were captured by the Germans. Around one million of these were released during the war, half a million either escaped or were liberated by their own countrymen. Some 930,000 were alive in camps at the end of the war. The remaining 3.3 million died during captivity. Figures are often disputed, but even by conservative standards upwards of 2.5 million Russians died in labour camps.
A German soldier is in a trench on sentry duty in this photograph. Note the two German grenades, or stielgranate, alongside the soldier's rifle. This is a characteristic German stick grenade weapon, often referred to as the ‘potato masher’, which was adopted by the Germans back in 1924.  It was officially a Model 24; a friction lighter was used to ignite the charge. There was a pull cord that ran down the hollow handle from the detonator and this was held in place by a detachable cap around the base of the stick. The soldier would remove the base cap by unscrewing it, which would let a porcelain ball and cord fall out. He would then pull the cord, which would drag a rough, steel rod through the igniter, causing it to flare. A five-second fuse would then begin to burn.  The grenade could be thrown up to 40m and the design reduced the risk of it rolling back towards the thrower in difficult terrain. They were used primarily against infantry positions, but were not that useful against armoured vehicles. For these, the grenades would be put into a bundle with six heads without their slicks, all wired up to the central stick grenade.
A German soldier is in a trench on sentry duty in this photograph. Note the two German grenades, or stielgranate, alongside the soldier’s rifle. This is a characteristic German stick grenade weapon, often referred to as the ‘potato masher’, which was adopted by the Germans back in 1924.
It was officially a Model 24; a friction lighter was used to ignite the charge. There was a pull cord that ran down the hollow handle from the detonator and this was held in place by a detachable cap around the base of the stick. The soldier would remove the base cap by unscrewing it, which would let a porcelain ball and cord fall out. He would then pull the cord, which would drag a rough, steel rod through the igniter, causing it to flare. A five-second fuse would then begin to burn.
The grenade could be thrown up to 40m and the design reduced the risk of it rolling back towards the thrower in difficult terrain. They were used primarily against infantry positions, but were not that useful against armoured vehicles. For these, the grenades would be put into a bundle with six heads without their slicks, all wired up to the central stick grenade.
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