On June 22, 1941, Nazi Germany began the largest invasion ever in the history of the world.
Some three million Axis soldiers invaded the the Soviet Union and within hours threw the Red Army’s command structure into chaos with aerial bombings and standard blitzkrieg tactics. They tore Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of non-aggression to shreds with the initial attack, and in the coming weeks as they occupied the rest of Poland and pushed onward into the Ukraine and the Baltic States.
Operation Barbarossa was the next phase of larger plan, Generalplan Ost, for the German people to colonize the conquered territories, ensuring Hitler’s dream of Lebensraum–but that the expense of millions ethnically cleansed from the region. This overall plan went back as far as 1939 with the occupation of western Poland, but probably conceptualized much earlier.
The picture, a piece of Nazi propaganda (as you’ll know if you can translate the German text) shows the deportation of ethic groups into the General Government–what was western Poland. This bit neglects to mention the enslavement and extermination of non-ethic German peoples.
While other historians see an invasion based on Nazi Ideology, I see a religious war. I see a military fighting for a religious cause (whether or not the average German Wehrmacht soldier understood this). The swastika in which the Wehrmacht fought under was (and is) a religious symbol dating back thousands of years, signifying good luck, the sun, and general prosperity.
Generalplan Ost itself is reminiscent of what the Israelites did to the native Canaanites in the Book of Joshua: entire cities annihilated, plans of resettlement. Only a few were spared (most notably the Jebusites) to do manual work. The justification: the people who lived there were the products of incest (the descendants of King Lot and his daughters), worshiped false idols, or were on the wrong side of the Table of Nations and not considered God’s Chosen.
Under Nazi Germany, the Aryan Master Race theory became religious dogma. The Aryans were reclaiming some of their old stomping grounds on the steppes north of the Black Sea. All degenerates (untermenschen) and false beliefs (Communism) had to be destroyed. (We haven’t even begun to discuss the neo-pagan/occult beliefs held by Heinrich Himmler and others of the Nazi inner circle—unlike the Israelites of the Old Testament, they were certainly not monotheists).
Operation Barbarossa ended just shy of success, but set up the Wehrmacht for later disasters. By December, German scouts reached the outskirts of Moscow and could see the domes of the Kremlin. But before this the Russian winter had set in. The Wehrmacht was not equipped for the cold. What was supposed to be a 3-month campaign to kick in the door as Hitler put it, to collapse the Soviet Union turned into a six-month slog with higher-than-expected casualties.
Energies which could have been spent to topple the Soviet Union were turned to ethnic cleansing. German Einsatzgruppen murdered a half-million Jews during this month—more than the number of Red Army soldiers reportedly killed. Ukrainians often greeted their German invaders as liberators, because they had been persecuted under Stalin’s 5-Year Plans which included planned famines and ethnic cleansing. They were to be treated in the almost the exact same fashion under the German.
Because its own religious dogma blinded its military strategy, the Third Reich lost potential allies against their struggle against the Red Army, and thus war would turn toward the Allies’ favor.