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  • Print publication year: 2013
  • Online publication date: March 2013

Conclusion

Summary

The opening phase of Operation Typhoon confirmed Germany's enduring operational superiority in the east. Bock's new offensive soon overwhelmed the defending Soviet fronts and created two large pockets filled with anywhere between 750,000 and 1,000,000 Soviet troops. Few in the German high command doubted that another immense hole in the Soviet front – coming so soon after the great encirclement at Kiev – would permit both Bock's rapid advance to Moscow as well as threaten the flanks of the remaining Soviet fronts to the north and south. Throughout the OKH and OKW there was an overriding feeling of excitement and expectation. It appeared as though the back of the Red Army's resistance had at last been broken, and Hitler felt sufficiently confident to authorise a statement claiming that the war in the east had been ‘decided’. It appeared Moscow would fall within the coming week or two and that the war in the east would start to wind down. Yet, as we have seen, none of this happened. The campaign was far from decided, Moscow was not about to fall and, far from winding down, Germany's war in the east was only in its opening phase.

According to many of the German generals, the answer to what went wrong was simple. They were thwarted by the arrival of the autumn rains, which paralysed all movement both at the front and in the forward movement of supplies. Thus at the Red Army's nadir ‘General Mud’, aided later by ‘General Winter’, acted to save Moscow and the Soviet cause. Any accusation that the generals had left their drive on the Soviet capital too late in the year again elicited a simple explanation for their failure. In July and August the OKH as well as many of the commanders within Army Group Centre engaged in a bitter, and ultimately unsuccessful, dispute with Hitler for a continuation of the advance towards Moscow in the late summer months. This time the army's plans were thwarted by Hitler, who insisted upon the diversion of Bock's panzer divisions into Ukraine for the battle of Kiev, causing the delay that ultimately led to Operation Typhoon getting caught in the autumn rainy season. Thus, according to the popular post-war view espoused by the generals, the German army's victory in the 1941 campaign was prevented by circumstances entirely beyond their control and better judgement. Hitler's baneful interference followed by the harsh Russian weather had combined to snatch a victory for the Soviet Union from the very jaws of their defeat.

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