07 June 2014

Erich Brandenberger and Erich von Manstein a Day Before Operation Barbarossa

Image size: 1600 x 1030 pixel. 272 KB
Date: Saturday, 21 June 1941
Place: East Prussia, Germany
Photographer: Kriegsberichter Koch from PK (Propaganda-Kompanie) 694

General der Infanterie (later Generalfeldmarschall) Fritz Erich von Manstein (November 24, 1887-June 9, 1973), Kommandierender General LVI.Armeekorps (motorisiert) / Panzergruppe 4 / Heeresgruppe Nord, and Generalmajor (later General der Panzertruppe) Erich Brandenberger (July 15, 1892-June 21, 1955), Kommandeur 8.Panzer-Division / LVI.Armeekorps (motorisiert) at left, plan the advance to the bridges over the Dubissa River at Airogola, Lithuania, on the opening day of Operation Barbarossa. The Dubissa River viaduct was a necessary step to capturing the bridges at Dvinsk, Latvia; those bridges gave the Germans access to Leningrad, Belorussia and Central Russia. 8th Panzer Division was tasked with securing bridges along the route to Dvinsk. Manstein wrote in his memoirs, "On the very first day [56th Panzer Corps] had to thrust fifty miles into enemy territory in order to capture the crossing over the Dubissa at Airogola. I knew the Dubissa sector from World War I. What we should find there was a deep, ravined valley whose slopes no tank could negotiate. In the First World War our railway engineers had labored there for months on end to span the gap with a masterly construction of timber. If the enemy now succeeded in blowing up the big road viaduct at Airogola, the corps would be hopelessly stuck and the enemy would have time on the steep far bank of the river to organize a defense which would in any case be extremely difficult to penetrate. That we could thereafter no longer expect to make a surprise descent on the Dvinsk bridges was perfectly obvious. The Airogola crossing was indispensable as a springboard. Excessive though Corps [Headquarters] requirements may appear to have been, 8th Panzer Division (General Brandenberger), with which I spent most of the day, still fulfilled its task. After breaking through the frontier positions and over-running all enemy resistance further back, it seized the Airologa crossing with a reconnaissance force by the evening of 22nd June. 290th [Infantry] Division followed, marching at record speed; and 3rd Motorized Infantry Division, which had started moving over the Memel at Noon, was directed towards a crossing south of Airogola. The first step had succeeded." By the end of the first day, 56th Panzer Corps had driven all the way to Dvinsk and seized those bridges, allowing Army Group North to head for Leningrad while occupying Latvia by July 10, 1941. 

Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-209-0086-12

06 June 2014

German Troops Remove Communist Red Star

Image size: 1600 x 1105 pixel. 574 KB
Date: Friday, 18 July 1941
Place: Soviet Union
Photographer: Unknown

German troops remove the Soviet "Red Star" emblem from a newly occupied building. The same month as this photo was taken, the Germans created the "Reichsministerium für die besetzten Ostgebiete" (Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories) under Alfred Rosenberg (January 12, 1893 - October 1946). Rosenberg oversaw Reichskommissars who were given parts of the occupied Soviet Union to administer. While Reichskommissars had different, usually self-serving agendas, they all started immediate arrests and deportations. Ghettos for Jews were established in Minsk, Riga, Lvov and elsewhere. Einsatzgruppen arrived in the occupied territories to begin shooting Jews. Many nationalities like Lithuanians, Estonians, Byelorussians, Ukrainians and others, some of whom suffered greatly under Stalinism, expected the Germans to provide better treatment than the Soviets. Not only were they quickly disabused of this idea, they were often paid less under Nazism than Communism, worked longer hours, and had much less access food and consumer goods. The Reichskommissars were shipping everything they could to Germany. The Reichskommissar's actions led to thousands of Soviets joining partisan bands roaming the occupied territories. Rosenberg argued with other Nazi leaders that embracing the anti-Communism of Stalin's oppressed would strengthen the German war effort. Rosenberg, intellectual and uncharismatic, was unable to change German policies; instead he bought into Hitler's war of annihilation. He became a major architect of the Holocaust, directly or indirectly killing millions of Jews and Soviet prisoners of war. Rosenberg was hanged after his conviction in the Nuremberg Trials.

Associated Press photo