What was Germany's greatest strength during World War II

The Eastern Front

In the occupied territories behind the Eastern Front, German task forces murdered Jews, Communists, and Sinti and Roma. In addition, a bitter partisan war raged, which was waged by both sides with the highest level of brutality. The confrontation with the annihilation and a radicalization that began in every respect determined to a not inconsiderable extent the life of the soldiers in the east.

The course of the front in the north of the Soviet Union was subject to only insignificant changes between 1942 and 1944. In contrast to the northern section, the southern section of the eastern front, which was economically more important with oil deposits, was characterized by constant movement. The German sphere of influence reached its greatest expansion in the late summer of 1942 with the advance into the Caucasus and the Don. However, the German capacities and reserves were insufficient for an overstretched front line of over 2,000 kilometers in length. While the Soviets had short supply routes, the Germans suffered from insufficient food and equipment due to the huge distances and the constant partisan attacks on railway connections. From the spring of 1943 the eastern front shifted inexorably to the west. The withdrawal of the "scorched earth" carried out by German troops in accordance with the order of the Wehrmacht leadership was a futile attempt to stop the Soviet advance. At the beginning of their summer offensive in 1944, the Red Army was roughly on the line from which the German troops had started the attack three years earlier. Less than a year later, the eastern front ran along the outskirts of Berlin.

The Soviet soldiers coped much better than the Germans with the extreme climatic conditions on the Eastern Front. Heat, lack of water and huge clouds of dust put people and material under extreme stress in summer. Heavy rains and snowmelt turned the unpaved roads into impassable mud deserts in autumn and spring. During the muddy periods the fronts froze into wars of position. Trucks and even tanks got stuck in the knee-deep mud. Horse-drawn carts were almost the only operational means of transport for weeks.

Above all, however, the cold and frosty snowstorms in winter drained the German and Soviet soldiers, who were exhausted to the limits of their physical and psychological resilience. In expectation of a quick victory, the Wehrmacht was in no way equipped for a winter war in the first year. In icy temperatures below minus 40 degrees, engines and automatic weapons failed. In the winter of 1941/42, only the Red Army had fur gloves and warm fur coats and hats. It was only in the following years that the Wehrmacht was adequately equipped with white camouflage suits, felt boots or snowshoes. The field stoves delivered in the winter months of 1942/43 were mostly only an inadequate source of heat. Hundreds of thousands died agonizingly of frostbite or exhaustion in unprotected holes in the ground. Because of the frozen ground, their corpses could not be buried in winter, any more than countless dead people who remained lying in the wide area during reciprocal marches and hasty retreats and were included in the statistics as "missing persons". Over 3.8 million Germans died on the Eastern Front, well over two thirds of all German soldiers killed in World War II. 800,000 of them died in the last four months of the war alone.