Adolf Hitler’s ‘Barbarossa’ Proclamation
On the morning of June 22, 1941, Reich Minister Joseph Goebbels announced to the world the startling news that German forces, together with Finnish and Romanian troops, had struck against the vast Soviet Union. On German radio he read Adolf Hitler’s historic proclamation justifying the attack. Among other things, he said that Stalin had massed some 160 divisions to strike westwards. In reality, more than 300 Soviet divisions were assembled against Germany and Europe. Hitler and his generals had thereby greatly underestimated the Soviet danger — a fateful miscalculation that ultimately proved catastrophic, and not just for Germany. To the Italian leader Benito Mussolini, Hitler wrote that deciding to attack Soviet Russia was “the most difficult decision of my life.” And even though it meant engaging Germany in a two-front war, something he had specifically warned against in Mein Kampf, this was a decision he never regretted. Hitler’s strike against the Soviet Union, code-named “Barbarossa,” has often been called his worst single military blunder because the immense clash he unleashed ended four years later, in May 1945, with his suicide in his Berlin command post, Soviet forces hoisting the Red hammer-and-sickle banner above the Reichstag, and Germany’s unconditional surrender. Hitler’s “Barbarossa” assault is often, but simplistically, portrayed as a treacherous and unprovoked surprise attack against a peaceable ally, motivated by greed, dreams of empire, loathing of Russians and other Slavic peoples, and visceral hatred of Communism. Today, 60 years later, German and Russian historians continue to grapple with the origins of this mightiest military clash in history. Because Hitler’s proclamation of June 22, 1941, helps to explain the German leader’s motives for turning against Soviet Russia, it is a document of historic importance. The text is given here in full.
– The Editor