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

Time to Remember - Operation Barbarossa

Catalogue ref: BP010141224703
Courtesy of ITN/Source

But could any aid prevent the total and immediate collapse of the Soviet Union? Mile after mile, defeated Russian armies fell back, as once they had done before the Grand Armee of Napoleon. And as they withdrew they fired their fields, set light to their farms. Scorched the earth that was theirs.

For the invader, victory after victory. Encirclement, after encirclement. Soon there would be no army left even to retreat. Already the world, friend and foe alike, was beginning to count the days.

Adolf Hitler had already counted them. On October 3rd, 15 weeks after the launching of Barbarossa, he announced:

“I declare today and I declare it without reservation: the enemy in the East has been struck down and will never rise again.”

Yes. The bear was dead. All that remained was for the stupid beast to realise it lie down. But at the front, a hold up. Come on! What are we waiting for? It’s only a dead bear refusing to lie down.

Yes. Like the stubborn city of Leningrad. Home of the Revolution and vital base for the Baltic fleet. A city under fire from the German guns. A city in flames after each visit of the Heinkels and the Dorniers. A city suffering all that a city could suffer, yet refusing to give in even though three parts surrounded. Elsewhere the Red Army might fall back, but here, as in Moscow, the sticking point.

As Nazi artillery battered at her walls, Leningrad fought back. Not just as a fortress but also as one of the key arsenals of the Union. Here were to be forged the weapons that would one day make Russia, in her turn, the irresistible force. But that’s all in the future, today it’s backs to the wall. Even as completed guns are swung out, workers devote their precious spare time to practice battle. Total war. And total war too in the rear of the invaders.

In villages supposedly subdued, along vital supply lines, the lightning attacks of partisans. Now even the scorched earth seems to be rising against Hitler. Total war. And when the partisans lay hands on an informer, a traitor, a collaborator, they dispense little mercy. Only justice swift and final.

Counterattacks, spoiling attacks: a dead bear not only refusing to lie down but actually using his claws.

In her agony Russia under Stalin, like Russia under Alexander, found the passionate courage, of a people who loved their land.