Eastern Europe 1939-1945: Ukraine

How serious was the situation on the Eastern Front in 1942?

Time to Remember - Operation Barbarossa

ITN Ref: BP010141224703
Courtesy of ITN/Source, London.

Extract from "Time to Remember - Operation Barbarossa", newsreel showing the fighting on the Russian front in 1941

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What is this source?

This newsreel footage was shot in 1941 at the time of the German invasion of the USSR. The invasion was known as Operation Barbarossa.

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The footage shown here was used in a documentary series called ‘Time To Remember’. The scenes were probably taken at different times and places and edited together.


What's the background to this source?

By May 1940 Hitler’s forces had conquered Western Europe, apart from Britain. However, Hitler’s main aim was to create a large empire in Eastern Europe. To do this he needed to defeat the USSR. In June 1941 he launched Operation Barbarossa. This was a devastating lightning attack on the USSR.

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The Soviet forces were taken by surprise and were driven back with heavy losses. Only the arrival of a Russian winter stopped the German advance. However, in the spring of 1942 the Germans launched another series of attacks.


It's worth knowing that...

The German advance did not just use German forces. By 1942 Italian, Romanian and Hungarian forces were fighting alongside the Germans.

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The fighting in this campaign was the largest scale campaign of the war. It was also the most savage. Casualties on both sides were huge. Many prisoners were also taken but their survival rate was very low.


How will you use this source?

  1. What does this footage tell you about the nature of the fighting?
  2. Does this source help historians to tackle the question of how serious the situation was for the USSR?
  3. Does this source support the opinion of Historian 1 or Historian 2?

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