Europe 1941: Battle of Moscow
In August and September, the Germans swept south to consolidate their hold over the industry rich Ukraine and deal with the huge numbers of Soviet troops that had been isolated in the initial invasion. In October, they resumed their drive on Moscow but by now winter was arriving and Soviet defences were in place.
23 Aug–26 Sep 1941 First Battle of Kiev▲
From August to September 1941, in the largest encirclement in the history of warfare (by number of troops), 544,000 German troops trapped over 450,000 Soviets around Kiev. In the ensuing battle—an unprecedented defeat for the Red Army—the Soviet Southwestern Front suffered 700,544 casualties, including 616,304 killed, captured, or missing. However, Hitler’s insistence on mounting the offensive caused the German attack on Moscow to be delayed from September until October.
8 Sep 1941 Siege of Leningrad begins▲
In August 1941 German and Finnish forces advanced to the outskirts of Leningrad, the second largest city in the Soviet Union, with the Germans cutting the last rail connection on 30 August. On 8 September the last road to the city was severed when the Germans reached Lake Ladoga at Shlisselburg, leaving just a corridor of land between Lake Ladoga and Leningrad which remained unoccupied by Axis forces. Resolved on destroying rather than occupying the city of 3 million, the Germans began a siege which would last for almost two-and-a-half years.
2 Oct 1941–7 Jan 1942 Battle of Moscow▲
In October 1941 the Germans began Operation Typhoon, launching one offensive to the north of Moscow against the Kalinin Front by the 3rd and 4th Panzer Armies, simultaneously severing the Moscow–Leningrad railway, and another to the south of Moscow Oblast against the Western Front south of Tula, by the 2nd Panzer Army, while the 4th Army advanced directly towards Moscow from the west. Fighting on a 600 km front, the Soviet forces initially conducted a strategic defence of the Moscow Oblast by constructing three defensive belts, deploying newly raised reserve armies, and bringing in troops from Siberia and the Far East. As the German offensives were halted from December, a Soviet strategic counter-offensive forced the German armies back by early January 1942 and ending the dream of a quick German victory over the Soviet Union.
13 Oct 1941–17 Nov 1943 Operation Rheinhard▲
In October 1941, in Operation Reinhard, the government of Nazi Germany secretively undertook its plan to exterminate the Jewish population of the General Government district of German-occupied Poland. This deadliest phase of the Holocaust was marked by the introduction of extermination camps, with as many as two million Jews sent to Bełżec, Sobibór, and Treblinka to be put to death in purpose-built gas chambers. Additional mass-killing facilities, using Zyklon B, were developed at about the same time at the Majdanek concentration camp and at Auschwitz II-Birkenau. The operation ended in November 1943, after which the Nazis implemented the secret Sonderaktion 1005 in an attempt to cover up all traces of the genocide.
18 Nov–30 Dec 1941 Operation Crusader▲
The British Eighth Army under newly-installed General Claude Auchinleck opened an offensive in North Africa, bypassing Axis fortress positions on the Egyptian border as they moved to relieve besieged British troops at Tobruk, Libya. The attack pushed Erwin Rommel to withdraw his German-Italian forces to Tobruk, which was finally relieved by the British advance on 10 December after a three-week battle. Defeated, Rommel retreated first to Gazala and then El Agheila, temporarily ceding Cyrenaica to the British.