Operation Barbarossa

Adolph Hitler, Military Directive for Operation Barbarossa. December 18, 1940


The Führer and Commander-in-Chief of the German Armed Forces OKW/WFSt/Abt.L (1) Nr. 33 408/40
Military Secret
TOP SECRET Führer’s Headquarters,
BY OFFICER ONLY December 18, 1940
Directive No. 21

Operation Barbarossa

The German Armed Forces must be prepared to crush Soviet Russia in a quick campaign (Operation Barbarossa) even before the conclusion of the war against England.

For this purpose the Army will have to employ all available units, with the reservation that the occupied territories must be secured against surprise attacks.

For the Air Force it will be a matter of releasing such strong forces for the eastern campaign in support of the Army that a quick completion of the ground operations may be expected and that damage to Eastern German territory by enemy air attacks will be as slight as possible. This concentration of the main effort in the East is limited by the requirement that the entire combat and armament area dominated by us must remain adequately protected against enemy air attacks and that the offensive operations against England, particularly her supply lines, must not be permitted to break down.

The main effort of the Navy will remain unequivocally directed against England even during an eastern campaign.

I shall order the concentration against Soviet Russia possibly eight weeks before the intended beginning of operations.

Preparations requiring more time to start are to be started now-if this has not yet been done-and are to be completed by May 15, 1941.

It is to be considered of decisive importance, however, that the intention to attack is not discovered.

The preparations of the High Commands are to be made on the following basis:

1. General Purpose:

The mass of the Russian Army in Western Russia is to be destroyed in daring operations, by driving forward deep armored wedges, and the retreat of units capable of combat into the vastness of Russian territory is to be prevented.

In quick pursuit a line is then to be reached from which the Russian Air Force will no longer be able to attack German Reich territory. The ultimate objective of the operation is to establish a defense line against Asiatic Russia from a line running approximately from the Volga River to Archangel. Then, in case of necessity, the last industrial area left to Russia in the Urals can be eliminated by the Luftwaffe.

In the course of these operations the Russian Baltic Sea Fleet will quickly lose its bases and thus will no longer be able to fight.

Effective intervention by the Russian Air Force is to be prevented by powerful blows at the very beginning of the operation.

II. Probable Allies and their Tasks:

1. On the flanks of our operation we can count on the active participation of Rumania and Finland in the war against Soviet Russia.

The High Command will in due time concert and determine in what form the armed forces of the two countries will be placed under German command at the time of their intervention.

2. It will be the task of Rumania, together with the forces concentrating there, to pin down the enemy facing her and, in addition, to render auxiliary services in the rear area.

3. Finland will cover the concentration of the redeployed German North Group (parts of the XXI Group) coming from Norway and will operate jointly with it. Besides, Finland will be assigned the task of eliminating Hango.

4. It may be expected that Swedish railroads and highways will be available for the concentration of the German North Group, from the start of operations at the latest.

III. Direction of Operations:

A. Army (hereby approving the plans presented to me):

In the zone of operations divided by the Pripet Marshes into a southern and northern sector, the main effort will be made north of this area. Two Army Groups will be provided here.

The southern group of these two Army Groups-the center of the entire front-will be given the task of annihilating the forces of the enemy in White Russia by advancing from the region around and north of Warsaw with especially strong armored and motorized units. The possibility of switching strong mobile units to the North must thereby be created in order, in cooperation with the Northern Army Group operating from East Prussia in the general direction of Leningrad, to annihilate the enemy forces fighting in the Baltic. Only after having accomplished this most important task, which must be followed by the occupation of Leningrad and Kronstadt, are the offensive operations aimed at the occupation of the important traffic and armament center of Moscow to be pursued.

Only a surprisingly fast collapse of Russian resistance could justify aiming at both objectives simultaneously.

The most important assignment of the XXI Group, even during the eastern operations, will still be the protection of Norway. The additional forces available are to be employed in the north (mountain corps), first to secure the Petsamo Region and its ore mines as well as the Arctic Ocean route, and then to advance jointly with Finnish forces against the Murmansk railroad and stop the supply of the Murmansk region by land.

Whether such an operation with rather strong German forces (two or three divisions) can be conducted from the area of and south of Rovaniemi depends upon Sweden’s willingness to make the railroads available for such a concentration.

The main body of the Finnish Army will be assigned the task, in coordination with the advance of the German northern flank, of pinning down strong Russian forces by attacking west of or on both sides of Lake Ladoga and of seizing Hango.

The Army Group employed south of the Pripet Marshes is to make its main effort in the area from Lublin in the general direction of Kiev, in order to penetrate quickly with strong armored units into the deep flank and rear of the Russian forces and then to roll them up along the Dnepr River.

The German-Rumanian groups on the right flank are assigned the task of:

(a) protecting Rumanian territory and thereby the southern flank of the entire operation.

(b) pinning down the opposing enemy forces while Army Group South is attacking on its northern flank and, according to the progressive development of the situation and in conjunction with the Air Force, preventing their orderly retreat across the Dnestr during the pursuit, and in the North, of reaching Moscow quickly.

The capture of this city means a decisive success politically and economically and, beyond that, the elimination of the most important railroad center.

B. Air Force:

Its task will be to paralyze and to eliminate as far as possible the intervention of the Russian Air Force as well as to support the Army at its main points of effort, particularly those of Army Group Center and, on the flank, those of Army Group South. The Russian railroads, in the order of their importance for the operations, will be cut or the most important near-by objectives (river crossings) seized by the bold employment of parachute and airborne troops.

In order to concentrate all forces against the enemy Air Force and to give immediate support to the Army the armament industry will not be attacked during the main operations. Only after the completion of the mobile operations may such attacks be considered-primarily against the Ural Region.

C. Navy:

The Navy’s role against Soviet Russia is, while safeguarding our own coast, to prevent an escape of enemy naval units from the Baltic Sea. As the Russian Baltic Sea Fleet, once we have reached Leningrad, will be deprived of its last base and will then be in a hopeless situation, any larger naval operations are to be avoided before that time.

After the elimination of the Russian Fleet it will be a question of protecting all the traffic in the Baltic Sea, including the supply by sea of the northern flank of the Army (mine clearance!).

IV. All orders to be issued by the commanders-in-chief on the basis of this directive must clearly indicate that they are precautionary measures for the possibility that Russia should change her present attitude toward us. The number of officers to be assigned to the preparatory work at an early date is to be kept as small as possible; additional personnel should be briefed as late as possible and only to the extent required for the activity of each individual. Otherwise, through the discovery of our preparations-the date of their execution has not even been fixed-there is danger that most serious political and military disadvantages may arise.

V. I expect reports from the commanders-in-chief concerning their further plans based on this directive.

The contemplated preparations of all branches of the Armed Forces, including their progress, are to be reported to me through the High Command.


Source: Nazi-Soviet relations, 1939-1941; documents from the archives of the German Foreign Office as released by the Dept. of State (Nazi-Soviet relations, 1939-1941; documents from the archives of the German Foreign Office as released by the Dept. of State, 1948).

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