The Lull in the Storm

In the years past, the arrival of spring had always heralded new German triumphs. Even the black winter of 1941-42 had been followed by a surge of fresh strength and confidence. But 1943 was different. The day of the whirlwind offensive was gone and with it the grandiose plans that less than a year earlier had included a gigantic pincers movement through the Caucasus and Egypt into the Middle East. During the winter Hitler had been forced to use the slogan "defense of the Homeland" in rallying the armies on the southern flanks of the Eastern Front. Although the front was still deep in the Soviet Union, several hundred miles from the German border, that appeal was beginning to have a literal significance that was not lost on the troops. The victory on the Donets, which ended the long winter retreat of Army Group South, and the successful withdrawals by the other army groups, restored morale at the front, but no one deluded himself into believing the next summer would see the swastika replanted on Mt. Elbrus or German outposts again looking east into Asia from the high bank of the Volga. Henceforth the war would be fought on other terms. The crucial question was to what extent, if at all, Germany would still be able to set those terms. For a time, the front settled down to an ominous quiet, waiting.

A Dark Spring

After the first week of April, when the Russians gave up their second attempt to liberate Leningrad, both sides paused to rest and regroup. The Russian spring with its mud and swollen rivers could be depended on to enforce at least a few weeks' truce. Only Army Group A had a tactical mission still to be executed. Hitler had ordered it to eliminate a beachhead the Russians had established early in February south of Novorossisk in the Kuban. He wanted to anchor the GOTENKOPF firmly at Novorossisk so as to deny the enemy the port that had formerly been an important base for the Soviet Black Sea Fleet.

After several false starts and delays caused by bad weather, the attack began on 18 April. When five days of fighting, which Seventeenth Army described as the heaviest it had experienced since the battle for Sevastopol in 1942, failed to dent the Soviet line, the attack had to be given up as too costly in men and matériel. Seventeenth Army charged much of the blame for its failure to a condition then widespread among the armies in the east: its divisions, after nearly a year of uninterrupted combat, were simply not as effective as they once had been. The divisions needed rest and time to train their replacements, who in the past months had been thrown directly into combat from the basic


training camps in Germany.1

Since June 1941 German attention had centered on the Eastern Front. Now, quite suddenly, the situation changed. Dangers that might have been disposed of handily had the campaign against the Soviet Union gone according to schedule loomed ominously all around. In January U.S. Army Air Forces flying fortresses staged the first daylight bombing attack on Germany, a massive strike at Wilhelmshaven. Two months later the British Royal Air Force (RAF) resumed night bombing, using 4-engine bombers instead of the 2-engine planes that had carried out most of the earlier raids.2 In the cities, particularly in the Ruhr, bomb damage increased alarmingly; and in one of the ironic twists of the war the army groups in the East began keeping tabs on home front morale.

As their air forces struck at the center of the so-called Fortress Europe, the British and American ground forces deployed to storm the outer defenses. A second Stalingrad had long been in the making in North Africa. After British Eighth Army broke the Mareth Line in the last week of March defeat became inevitable, and on 12 and 13 May the last elements of Fifth Panzer Army and Italian First Army surrendered in Tunisia. That the Western Allies would follow up their victory in North Africa with an invasion of southern Europe, either in Italy or in the Balkans, seemed certain. If they were committed, as it appeared, to Winston S. Churchill's strategy of attacking on the periphery, landings in Norway were also possible. There, growing hostility in Sweden added to the danger. In the west the Channel coast would probably not be threatened in 1943, but it would be foolhardy to count on more than a year's respite before the decisive battle that was to be expected there. In short, the keystone of Hitler's strategy was crumbling; he had failed to make good the boast that he would deal with his enemies one by one; Germany was confronted with a 2-front war, that old specter that had haunted the General Staff since the latter years of the nineteenth century.

Since 1939 Hitler had been fighting the "poor man's war," trying to compensate for inferior resources of manpower and personnel by relying on surprise, relentless exercise of the initiative, and his opponents' lack of preparedness. Now his enemies were on the ascendant, and the indications were that he would be hard put to meet them on their terms.

Paradoxically, of the major belligerents, Germany had been the slowest in fully mobilizing its national resources. Dazzled by cheap successes and confident that victory was just around the corner, Hitler had for the first two and a half years of the war been content to live off the lead he had gained before 1939. Early in 1942, in one of his most fortunate choices, he had appointed Dr. Albert Speer Minister for Armament and Munitions. Under Speer German war production rose sharply and continued to rise until 1945, but the production gap remained.

In the early months of 1943, influenced by a second disastrous winter, Hitler again undertook to intensify the German war effort. In January he appointed the Committee of Three, composed of the Chief, OKW, Keitel, the Chief of the Party Chancellory,


Martin Bormann, and the Chief of the Reichs Chancellory, Hans Lammers. The committee was to procure 800,000 men for the armed forces, and it was given broad powers to make the men available by eliminating nonessential industries and occupations.3 They expected to fill the 800,000-man draft by placing the civilian economy on what was called a "total war" footing. Consequently, subsequent drafts would bring the armed forces and the war industries into direct competition for men, and the OKW estimated that between October 1943 and April 1944 the armed services would need another 973,000 men. Since the new class of eighteen-year-olds would number no more than 460,000, most of the remainder would have to come from the deferred groups, a move which would cut deep into the labor force of the armament industry.4

Among the service arms, the German armored forces had long shown serious symptoms of neglect. In the winter battles of 1942-43 in the USSR the German tanks were outnumbered and, to a large extent, outclassed. The most powerful tank in quantity production, the Panzer IV, was a prewar model known since 1941 to be no match for the Soviet T34. The winter disasters forced Hitler to call back the Army's outstanding tank expert, Guderian, whom he had summarily dismissed in December 1941. He appointed Guderian Inspector General for Armor, gave him control of tank development and allocation and authorized him to devise improvements in tank tactics and the employment of panzer units.5

New tank models were on the way. The Tiger, which so far had fallen somewhat short of expectations, was in full production. The Panther, lighter and more mobile than the Tiger, was scheduled to start coming off the assembly lines in the late spring. Through the combined efforts of Speer and Guderian German tank output rose rapidly in the early months of 1943, reaching 621 units in April and 988, including 300 of the new Panthers, in May. In June and July it fell off slightly to 775 and 811, largely because of production difficulties with the Panthers.6 Impressive as they were, the figures probably fell well below the current monthly output of the Soviet Union alone and certainly far less than the combined American, British, and Soviet production. Furthermore, the gain in strength was less than appeared at first glance because the new models were being rushed to the front before they had been thoroughly tested and without fully trained crews.

In at least one phase of weapons development, however, the Germans were still far ahead of their enemies. In April 1943 they completed firing the first test series of seventeen A-4 (V-2) rockets. By July they had fired another thirteen missiles in guidance and accuracy tests, and in August they put in production the first series of missiles. In February 1943 component development was begun for the C-2, Wasserfall, a large antiaircraft rocket. It was


expected to reach the testing stage by the end of the year.7

Germany's Allies

The strongest reaction to the Germans' waning fortunes came from their allies. Late in March the recently appointed Finnish Foreign Minister, Ramsay, flew to Berlin for a conference with Reichsminister Joachim von Ribbentrop. On 20 March the U.S. State Department had offered its good offices in establishing contact between Finland and the Soviet Union for the purpose of bringing an end to hostilities between the two. Ramsay, new to diplomacy and apparently not well acquainted with the character of the German Foreign Minister, informed Ribbentrop of the American note and, while denying that Finland intended to make peace behind the Germans' back, indicated that Finnish "private circles" were coming to favor a change on the part of Finland to something like armed neutrality. Ribbentrop promptly undertook to dispel Ramsay's illusion of opening the way out of the war by a friendly agreement with Germany. The German people, he said, who were also fighting the war for Finland, would not appreciate having the Finns "cast come-hither looks" at the Russians. To drive the point home, he presented two demands: the United States' offer must be promptly and firmly rejected; and the Finnish Government must declare its intention not to conclude a separate peace without German consent.8 The second came as a considerable blow to the Finns, since to meet it meant giving up the independent status Finland claimed as a cobelligerent, not a formal ally, of Germany. Actually, the problem of Finland was not yet acute. Even if the Finns evaded a binding declaration of loyalty to Germany, it could be safely assumed that for the present they had no place to go. They were completely dependent on German economic and military assistance, and eager as they might be to leave the war, they were undoubtedly not ready to trust themselves to Soviet mercy.

For the near future Italy was a more pressing problem. That Mussolini's regime, shaken by the defeat in North Africa, would survive an invasion of the Italian mainland was highly doubtful, and to imagine that in such a case the Axis could be preserved was completely fatuous. Mussolini was worried. In December 1942 and again in March 1943 he proposed negotiating a peace with the Russians to avoid the trap of a 2-front war. "On the day the Russian campaign is liquidated," he wrote, "we can hoist the flag. Victory is ours!" As an alternative, he thought of creating an "East Wall," a permanent, fortified front in the East that would free enough troops to meet the expected British-American offensives in western and southern Europe.9

In the second week of April Hitler and Ribbentrop received Mussolini and his acting foreign minister at Schloss Klessheim


near Berchtesgaden. Hitler had already rejected the idea of negotiating with the Russians on the ground that Stalin could not be trusted and "if given a half-year's peace" would use it to prepare his revenge, but it was necessary to try to revive the Italians' confidence and set at least some of their fears to rest. Ribbentrop told the Duce that in a war of ideologies such as that between Germany and the Soviet Union compromise was out of the question; the Soviet Union was three-fourths defeated; and the German armies would take the offensive again in the coming summer. At the same time, he indicated that Germany would not stage another all-out offensive in the style of the previous two years. Instead, the strategy would be to wear down the Soviet Union gradually.10

The idea of an "East Wall," as proposed by Mussolini, had also begun to appeal to some of the German generals. After the winter battles ended, Zeitzler suggested building a fortified line to backstop the Eastern Front, but Hitler would have none of it. He claimed it would undermine the troops' will to fight. He still envisioned an eventual decline in Soviet strength to the point where the German armies could advance eastward again, perhaps to the line of the Don River, and then establish a sort of Limes Germanicus beyond which the Russians, reduced to military impotence, could be left to their own devices.11

After Mussolini came a procession of leaders of the lesser allies, first Marshal Antonescu, the Rumanian head of state, then Admiral Miklos Horthy, Regent of Hungary, and later Msgr. Joseph Tiso, the Slovakian head of state, and Ante Pavelic, the Poglavnik of Croatia. Antonescu, like Mussolini, worried about the consequences of a 2-front war, but he recommended making peace with the Western Allies in order to gain a free hand against the Soviet Union.12 The Rumanians, with a long frontier bordering on the Soviet Union, had no choice but stay in the war. The Hungarians, all along more interested in their quarrels with their immediate neighbors than in the campaign against the Soviet Union, henceforth kept their Army, except for a few token divisions, at home.13


One potential ally many Germans thought might still be able to turn the tide against the Soviet Union was the Russian people. The population of the German-occupied territories in the Soviet Union plus the millions of Russian prisoners of war constituted a potential reservoir of economic and military power second only to that of Germany itself. Given some independence and a reasonably attractive government, it appeared those people might yet prove willing to forget the years of hardship and oppression under the Germans and turn against their former masters in the Kremlin, from whose return they expected to profit little. Although the chances were not as good as in former years, it also appeared possible that the example of a non-Communist Russian state would seriously


undermine Stalin's authority in the rest of the Soviet Union.

Late in 1942 the sentiment in German military circles for an alliance with the Russian people produced the first tentative step toward a positive program. The propaganda section of the OKW and the Eastern Intelligence Branch, OKH, tried to set up the captured Soviet general, Andrei I. Vlasov, as the leader of an anti-Communist Russian national movement. He was named head of a shadow government, the Russian National Committee, and given nominal command of the Russian Army of Liberation, a miscellaneous collection of collaborator units recruited by the Germans. The Wehrmacht propaganda officers prepared a 13-point program promising the Russians private property, peasant ownership of the land, and--vaguely--national independence. When that program, published over Vlasov's signature as the so-called Smolensk Manifesto, was given limited publicity during the winter of 1942-43, the popular response appeared encouraging but also quickly revealed that, to have any lasting effect, it would have to be implemented by concrete measures, and Hitler refused to go that far. He held to the dictum he had established when he began the campaign in the USSR--that he was not fighting the war and sacrificing German men for the sake of the Russians.

Early in 1943, when it became clear that anything that promised to contribute toward restoring the German fortunes was worth a try, Hitler's stubborn hard line on the Soviet Union aroused dismay even among some who rarely allowed themselves to doubt the Fuehrer's judgment. Propaganda Minister Goebbels tried to persuade him at least to offer the Russian peasants land and freedom of worship, but without success.14 In May, Kluge, Commanding General, Army Group Center, having failed a month earlier to persuade Goebbels to approach Hitler again concerning a more liberal policy for the east, forwarded a long memorandum to the Chief of Staff, OKH, in which he set down his and his army commanders' beliefs regarding the future of German relations with the Russian people. In blunt language, Kluge, who, when it came to expressing opinions that might come to Hitler's notice was not the most outspoken of the generals, outlined the following reasons for a change in policy:

The development of the total situation is forcing, with growing insistence, the establishment of clear objectives with respect to the Russian people whose collaboration including military collaboration must be won because it will have a decisive influence on the war. The methods employed so far have failed: force is not enough. The Russian people must be won by other means and be persuaded to fight for our cause because they also see it as theirs.

Economic concessions--which would have the most reliable effect--are not at our disposal. The only possibility is to grant the Russian people a share in the administration of their country immediately in order to demonstrate that the German war aims are not limited to the worn out slogan "the crusade against Bolshevism."15

Kluge added that the Smolensk Manifesto and a recent Vlasov visit in the army group zone had aroused a favorable popular response, but he warned that it was high time to follow this up with deeds, otherwise the propaganda itself would become dangerous and have to be abandoned. He recommended


creating a Russian national committee in the Army Group Center zone that would be given a gradually increasing role in the civil administration of the occupied territory. "We will have to accept the fact," Kluge concluded, "that the last stage will be full self-government under the occupying power."16

That Kluge's memorandum had no chance of influencing Hitler was a foregone conclusion. To have accepted it would, as far as Hitler was concerned, have made nonsense out of the whole war in the Soviet Union. A month earlier, at a conference of the economic administrators for the occupied territories, Goering had laid down the policy to be followed. Maximum exploitation of the Eastern territories to meet German needs was to be the watchword. Even the subsistence requirements of the people were to be disregarded "because the Russian people cannot be won over to the German cause in any case."17

A Limited Offensive

By early March 1943 it was evident that Germany would be able to salvage two significant assets from the wreckage of the winter. Manstein's advance to the Donets would throw the Russians temporarily off balance in the zone of their main effort, and as a dividend of Operation BUEFFEL and the retreat in southern USSR, a fairly strong operational reserve would be created. These were enough to afford Hitler, at least to a limited degree, a free hand in planning.

Strategic Plans--Operations Order 5

On 13 March the plan was ready, embodied in Operations Order 5. After the end of the winter and the spring muddy season, it stated, the Russians would return to the offensive. The German armies would have to strike first in several places and, as Army Group South was currently doing, definitely seize the initiative in at least one. The spot Hitler chose was the Kursk bulge. By mid-April Army Group South was to assemble a strong panzer army for an attack north toward Kursk from the Kharkov area. (Map 12) On the northern rim of the bulge Army Group Center was to create an offensive force in the Second Panzer Army zone, using divisions released by BUEFFEL. The offensive would begin as soon as the muddy season ended and before the Russians had a chance to launch an attack of their own. Army Group A would reduce the size of the GOTENKOPF, and its primary mission would be to release troops for transfer to Army Group South.18

Although the Kursk offensive, given the code name ZITADELLE, subsequently acquired the character of a desperate and tragic gamble, it was conceived as part of a coherent and not unpromising strategy that envisioned a series of limited offensives to consolidate the German defenses. A victory in the Kursk bulge would straighten the German front and could be expected to keep the Russians off balance a while longer. In his order Hitler instructed Army Group North to be ready to follow up ZITADELLE with an operation against Leningrad.19 By taking Leningrad he intended


Map 12
March-April 1943


to tighten his hold on the Baltic Sea and northern Europe, where growing hostility on the part of Sweden and war weariness in Finland were adding to his long-standing concern over the vulnerable Norwegian coast.

During the winter he had several times talked about strengthening the forces in Norway, and in February the Army of Norway had begun work on a defense plan which included the occupation of Sweden. On 13 March, the day Operations Order 5 was issued, he told Jodl that he intended to shift a mountain division plus six battalions to Norway and planned to equip the panzer division then forming in Norway "with the heaviest assault weapons, ones against which Sweden possesses no means of defense."20

The timing was crucial. If ZITADELLE succeeded in the spring, the operation against Leningrad, using troops from ZITADELLE, could start in early summer; and once Leningrad was safely in hand, Finnish interest in the war could be expected to revive, Sweden could be dealt with at will, and Norway would become a much less attractive target for the Western Allies. If ZITADELLE were completed promptly, there would also be time and troops enough to strengthen the Mediterranean front. On the other hand, the cost of failure would run high. The two armies intended for ZITADELLE comprised the entire German strategic reserve. They were working capital which, lost or tied down in a fruitless enterprise, could not be quickly replaced.

At the time Hitler issued Operations Order 5, the front in the Army Group Center and South zones was still fluid. As so often happened, Hitler's planning was based in important particulars on conditions which did not yet exist and which might not come into being exactly as he anticipated. Army Group Center was in the midst of Operation BUEFFEL. Second Army and Second Panzer Army were struggling to stop the Russians in the bulge west and northwest of Kursk. The striking force of Army Group South, Fourth Panzer Army, was adding the finishing touches to its victory at Kharkov, but it had been on the move without pause for nearly a month, and its troops were nearly exhausted. Both army groups needed time to rest and refit before embarking on an offensive. Army Group South was already feeling the effects of the spring thaw. Farther north, in the Army Group Center zone, the thaw would set in during the next few weeks and last through April. To get ready for ZITADELLE by mid-April would be difficult, maybe impossible.


After Fourth Panzer Army, in the third week of March, cleared the right bank of the Donets north to Belgorod, Hitler temporarily left ZITADELLE in abeyance and turned his attention to the Donets line southeast of Kharkov. There, it appeared, the opportunity for a quick, relatively easy victory was beckoning. Frantic enemy activity east of the river showed the Russians were worried. From the German point of view a thrust across the Donets had tactical advantages. It would straighten and shorten the front southeast of Kharkov and, by pushing it farther east,


might discourage the Russians from again attempting to cut off the Army Group South right flank by striking at Dnepropetrovsk and Zaporozhye. It would also facilitate the execution of ZITADELLE by eliminating the danger of a counterthrust from the south into the rear of the ZITADELLE advance.

On 22 March Hitler issued an order for Operation HABICHT, an offensive thrust across the Donets, to be undertaken as soon as the river receded enough to permit a crossing. He assigned responsibility for HABICHT to First Panzer Army and Armeeabteilung Kempf. Armeeabteilung Kempf was to put one assault force across the Donets in the vicinity of Chuguyev and strike southward behind the Russian line on the river. A second force was to cross farther north and advance east to Kupyansk. First Panzer Army was to tie down the Russians around Izyum and send a force north along the west bank of the Oskol River to Kupyansk.21

Two days later Hitler directed Army Group South also to begin planning a more ambitious operation, code-named PANTHER, to be executed by the First and Fourth Panzer Armies, which would force the Russians away from the Donets and back to the line Volchansk-Kupyansk-Svatovo-Krasnaya River.22 Neither of the new operations aroused enthusiasm at the headquarters of the armies concerned. The First Panzer Army and Armeeabteilung Kempf chiefs of staff worried that Hitler would fall into his old habit of driving the armies on from victory to victory without rest until, as in previous years, they again became hopelessly overextended.23

At the end of the month, with three operations in planning, Hitler faced the problem--which to execute and when. HABICHT was comparatively minor and would hardly be worthwhile unless it could be a prelude to ZITADELLE. PANTHER, larger and tactically more profitable, would require much more time and would necessitate an indefinite postponement of ZITADELLE. One thing was certain, every week's delay reduced the chances of success no matter what the choice. The advantages on the German side were slight enough as it was. On the Armeeabteilung Kempf front alone the Russians had an estimated 1,000-1,500 tanks, more than twice the number Army Group South could muster in its entire zone.24 To achieve genuine surprise with any of the three proposed operations was already out of the question. Everything hinged on being ready to exploit the first onset of good weather in the hope of catching the enemy momentarily off guard and not solidly dug in.

On 2 April Hitler issued his "decision." HABICHT would be made ready so that it could begin on four days' notice any time after 13 April. By placing HABICHT first on the list he had virtually eliminated it. The Donets was expected to reach the flood stage in the second half of April, and Manstein had said that Army Group South could not be ready to resume the offensive by mid-April because the panzer units would have to be allowed to complete their rest and refitting "at least to a certain


degree."25 Aware of those difficulties, Hitler ordered that if HABICHT could not start by 17 April, it would be superseded by PANTHER, which would then have to be ready by 1 May; if neither HABICHT nor PANTHER could be executed, he added, Army Groups Center and South would go over to ZITADELLE.26 Three days later Manstein told his subordinate commanders the final choice would probably be ZITADELLE.27

Operations Order 6--ZITADELLE Postponed

On 15 April, Hitler announced his "definitive decision." ZITADELLE, he directed in Operations Order 6, would be ready to start on six days' notice after 28 April. PANTHER would follow, taking advantage of the confusion ZITADELLE was expected to create on the Soviet side. The special instructions for ZITADELLE reveal why Hitler had taken so long making up his mind. He was fully aware that the operation was an extremely touchy undertaking. He warned, first, that it would have to be done fast because troops were needed for other missions. Secondly, he ordered Army Groups Center and South to be on guard against Soviet attacks in the exposed sectors on either side of the Kursk bulge.28 Operation ZITADELLE, as he was painfully aware, would be launched not out of a solid front but rather out of the tips of two far from stable salients, the outer faces of which invited Soviet attention as much as the Kursk bulge did German. The danger was greater northwest of Orel but not much less south of Kharkov, where the Soviet line projected westward into the bend of the Donets below the city.

ZITADELLE could become a case of a herring intent on gulping a sardine swimming into the jaws of a shark. That had raised the question whether ZITADELLE could not more safely be conducted as a "backhand stroke" (aus der Nachhand schlagen) that would leave the first move to the Russians. Nevertheless, Hitler had suppressed his doubts and had decided to go ahead with ZITADELLE as he originally conceived it. The reason why is also to be found in Operations Order 6. "The victory at Kursk," he stated, "must have the effect of a beacon seen around the world."29 He needed a victory in the old style, a gigantic encirclement to bring in hundreds of thousands of prisoners and thousands of tons of booty. Only ZITADELLE could provide those.

No sooner did Operations Order 6 reach the front commands, than new obstacles appeared. Ninth Army, which was to command the offensive in the Army Group Center zone, protested that its deployment could not be completed by 3 May. The OKH proposed granting postponements on a day-to-day basis, but Ninth Army insisted that either its mission be reduced or ZITADELLE be put off at least to 15 May.30

On 18 April air reconnaissance reported long truck columns moving out of Moscow


toward Kursk and out of Stalingrad toward Valuyki, due east of Kharkov.31 This sign that the Russians were on the alert was scarcely needed: Army Group South estimated that from reserves already at hand the Russians could throw 8 tank, 5 mechanized, and 5 cavalry corps against its main force, Fourth Panzer Army, in the first six days of the offensive.32

On the morning of 30 April, having agreed four days earlier to postpone ZITADELLE for two days, the OKH granted four more days' delay because of heavy rains. That afternoon it ordered all directives setting a time for ZITADELLE canceled and destroyed. A new date would not be set until after Hitler had conferred with the commanding generals.33

On 3 May Hitler called Manstein, Kluge, and the Commanding General, Ninth Army, Generaloberst Walter Model, to a conference to be held the next day in Munich. The others to be present were Zeitzler, Guderian, Speer, and the Chief of Staff, OKL, Generaloberst Hans Jeschonneck.

The discussion centered on Model's report describing the problems he expected Ninth Army to encounter in breaking through the well-fortified Russian front. In particular, Model believed the Mark IV tanks, the heaviest he had except for a few Tigers, would not be able to stand up to the new Soviet antitank weapons. Hitler, who apparently had begun to have qualms on his own account, was impressed. He proposed letting ZITADELLE wait until June; by then he expected to have the newer model tanks available in quantity. Manstein, Kluge, and Zeitzler objected, maintaining that the delay would benefit the Russians more than the Germans by giving them time to recover from the winter battles and that their tank output, which was known to be higher than that of the Germans, would cancel any gains anticipated from waiting for the new tanks.

Manstein said he believed ZITADELLE could succeed if it were executed in May. He considered a longer wait dangerous for the reasons he, Kluge, and Zeitzler had given and because the collapse of German and Italian resistance in Tunisia, expected any day, would probably be followed within a matter of weeks by a British-American landing in the Mediterranean, which would create more complications. Kluge, perhaps chiefly out of annoyance at seeing one of his subordinates given direct access to Hitler, declared that Ninth Army was not as badly off as Model thought. Jeschonnek added that a delay would not benefit the Air Force.34 The others present, Guderian and Speer, objected to ZITADELLE's being executed at all, because, successful or not, it would occasion heavy tank losses and thus upset their plans for increasing German armored strength.35 Hitler closed the conference without giving a decision, but he indicated privately to Model that there would be a postponement.36


On 6 May the OKH announced that ZITADELLE was postponed to 12 June. The next day in a telephone conference with Zeitzler, Kempf protested that the delay was "undesirable" from both the psychological and operational points of view. He believed it would benefit the defender more than the attacker. Zeitzler agreed and said he was glad to have such an "observation from the front" to lay before Hitler at the next opportunity.37 But further argument proved useless; Hitler was determined to wait for the new tanks, especially the Ferdinands, ninety of which he would have in June. He expected them to increase the penetrating power of the attack.38 The Ferdinand mounted a long-barreled 88-mm. gun on a Tiger chassis. Guderian considered it a mediocre weapon because of its low speed, fixed turret, and lack of machine guns for use in close combat; but its heavy armor and powerful gun had impressed Hitler.39 He succumbed once more to his weakness for new weapons and the visions of easy victories they aroused in his imagination.

May was a troubled month. A week after the Munich conference Guderian asked Hitler why he wanted to start an offensive in the East at all in 1943. Hitler replied that he had doubts himselfthe very thought of the offensive gave him "butterflies in his stomach."40 On the 13th the last German and Italian units in Tunisia surrendered. The defeat had been inevitable for two months or more, but, as in the case of Stalingrad, Hitler, to the last, had only half-believed it could actually happen. Confronted in earnest with the necessity for strengthening Italy and the Balkans, his doubts about ZITADELLE grew. On the 14th Kluge told one of his army commanders that it was completely uncertain when ZITADELLE would begin.41 Ten days later Goebbels believed that Hitler had adopted an "After you, my dear Alphonse," attitude and intended to let the Russians make the first move.

Probably the most illuminating insight into Hitler's state of mind occurred early in May at a meeting of high Nazi Party officials. He drew a detailed comparison between the year 1932, when the party--after victories at the polls--appeared to be going down to defeat at the hands of Papen and Hindenburg, and the current situation. "In 1932," he said, "we attained victory only by stubbornness that sometimes looked like madness, so too shall we achieve it today."42 This was a theme which, over the years, he had come to regard as the first principle of his military and political leadership. It expressed his deep-seated belief, shared by many Germans, that his primary claim to greatness was his ability to achieve victory against impossible odds, sometimes almost by will power alone. As had happened several times in the past, the apparent doubts and uncertainty were a phase in the period of incubation from which he invariably emerged determined to follow the most radical course.


As Operation ZITADELLE receded farther


into the future, an unnatural quiet settled over the Eastern Front. The Russians, who for two months had appeared to be racing desperately to get in the first blow, seemed to have decided instead on a courteous "After you, my dear Gaston." During the pause Army Group Center diverted a number of line divisions, rarely available for such tasks, to antipartisan operations. Front activity, except for random local skirmishing, was restricted to Operation SILBERSTREIF, the most ambitious German propaganda campaign of the war.

SILBERSTREIF was a byproduct of the Army's desire to draw the Russian people into an alliance against the Soviet regime. In April the OKH had established in Basic Order No. 13, a policy of preferred treatment for Russian deserters. They were to be segregated from the other prisoners of war and housed in better quarters. When they crossed into the German line they were to be given a "generous" issue of rations and transported to the rear aboard trucks, not marched back on foot. Officers were to be assigned orderlies. Prisoners of war who had volunteered for German service were to be formed into units, one officer and twenty-four men for each German division. These units would conduct loudspeaker propaganda at the front and act as welcoming committees for the incoming deserters.43

SILBERSTREIF, conducted in May, June, and July, was an attempt to advertise Basic Order No. 13 to the Russian soldier. Its results were disappointing. Army Group North reported distributing forty-nine million propaganda leaflets in May and June. During the same period a total of 622 deserters came in, less than half of them directly attributable to SILBERSTREIF.44 The propaganda officers believed that SILBERSTREIF would have been more successful had it been conducted in conjunction with ZITADELLE, as was originally intended, rather than at a time when the front was stable and desertion, consequently, more difficult.45

Hitler Decides for ZITADELLE

As summer approached, tension increased on both sides of the front. Late in May Ninth Army reported that the Russians had strong reserves echeloned in depth behind the front, ready to meet any threat.46 In the first weeks of June the forces for ZITADELLE reached their peak strength. The troops were rested, and they had received 900 tanks and over 300 self-propelled assault guns since March.47 Still, as far as anyone knew, ZITADELLE was no nearer execution. A conference at the OKH on 10 June again considered the tactic of the "backhand stroke."48

On 18 June the Operations Staff, OKW, entered the picture and recommended to Hitler that ZITADELLE be abandoned. They characterized the coming summer as a period of uncertainty and proposed pulling


together all the troops that could be spared into two strong strategic reserves, one in Germany and the other, comprising the two armies for ZITADELLE, behind the Eastern Front but close to railroads so that it could be moved to Italy or the Balkans in case of need.49 On the same day, Hitler replied that although he fully appreciated the Operations Staff's point of view, he had definitely decided to go ahead with ZITADELLE.50 Two days later he announced his decision to the army groups and armies, but another five days passed before he set the time--5 July.51

In the three months after Operations Order No. 5 appeared the situation at the front had so changed that ZITADELLE would have to be fought under conditions exactly opposite those originally anticipated. The time for exploiting the enemy's temporary weakness was long past. The chances of a quick thrust were slight; the armies would have to grind through a fortified front miles deep and backed by waves of reserves. A Ninth Army report described the coming offensive as "a collision between armies at the peak of readiness on both sides" in which the skill of the German soldiers and the superiority of their leaders would have to be enough to tip the balance.52 On 26 June Fourth Panzer Army warned that the prospects of success were declining daily.53 On the other hand, from the OKH point of view, to cancel the offensive could prove worse than to go ahead and risk a setback. If ZITADELLE were given up, Hitler was certain to accept the OKW proposal concerning reserves, with the result that the OKH would lose control of Ninth Army and Fourth Panzer Army, which would probably be taken away from the Eastern Front altogether and shifted to the OKW theaters in Italy and the Balkans.54

As if the picture was not gloomy enough, ZITADELLE, coming when it did, automatically invited comparison with the German summer offensives of 1941 and 1942. In order to disguise the fact that this time Germany could only mount a limited offensive and as a hedge against the possibility that even this might miscarry, Jodl instructed Wehrmacht Propaganda to depict ZITADELLE as a counteroffensive, thereby creating the impression of a strong defensive capability and establishing an alibi in advance in case ZITADELLE failed.55

On 1 July, in a special order for the German officers down to the rank of battalion commander, Hitler summarized the reasons for ZITADELLE. It would not only strengthen the morale of the German people and make the rest of the world "take notice," it would also instill new confidence in the German soldiers. Germany's allies would gain faith in the final victory, and the neutrals would be admonished to behave with caution and restraint. The victory would snatch the initiative away from the Soviet Union for the foreseeable future


and could have extensive, "if not decisive," effects on the morale of the Soviet soldiers.56


Tactics and Forces

The tactical plan for ZITADELLE had remained the same throughout the months of delay: Ninth Army was to strike due south along the line Orel-Kursk, while Fourth Panzer Army, its flank on the east screened offensively by Armeeabteilung Kempf, advanced north from Belgorod to Kursk. (Map 13) The plan was logical to a fault; it had not the slightest chance of achieving surprise.

Recognizing that weakness, Hitler in April had thought of combining the offensive forces of Army Groups Center and South in a single thrust east from the vicinity of Rylsk to Kursk, but he had quickly given up the idea because of the tremendous difficulties involved in transferring and regrouping the units.57 Toward the end of June, Manstein had considered shifting the line of advance east toward Staraya Oskol to bypass the heavy Soviet fortifications astride the direct route to Kursk, but the drawbacks--greater distances and the need to reshuffle the forces at the last minute--outweighed the probable advantages of the change.58 In the end, the best hope was that, having expected a German offensive against Kursk for months, the Russians might have become distracted and so might yet be caught slightly off guard.59

Although the risks were obvious, ZITADELLE was not absolutely foredoomed to failure. The strengths of the three assault armies could be considered about adequate for the missions. Their divisions were in excellent shape, and they had received large numbers of new tanks, including the latest models. The Air Force, owing largely to the production genius of Armaments Minister Speer, had about 2,500 first-line combat planes on the Eastern Front, only a few hundred less than the peak strengths of previous years. Of those it was prepared to commit about half in direct support of ZITADELLE. During the last two weeks of June long-range bombers had struck nightly at the most important Soviet industrial centers within their reach, the Gor'kiy tank works, the rubber plants at Yaroslavl' and the oil refineries at Saratov and Astrakhan. Simultaneously, low-level bombers had attacked the railroads and airfields in the Kursk area.60

The Soviet commands in the Kursk bulge were, on the north, Central Front under Rokossovskiy and, in the south, Voronezh Front under Vatutin. Both fronts had concentrated about two-thirds of their artillery and tanks in the sectors where the German attacks were expected. In the main line of resistance, 2 to 3 miles deep, the armies had dug three to five trench lines and built weapons emplacements and dugouts. At depths of 6 and 18 miles, they had constructed similar secondary lines. Behind those, the first about 25 miles back,


Map 13
Operation ZITADELLE and the Withdrawal to the HAGEN Position
5 July-18 August 1943


lay another three lines that constituted the front defense zone. The Central Front alone, using troops and local civilians, had dug over 3,000 miles of trenches. Every village and every hill in the steppe had been fortified, and in the fields, that summer mostly overgrown with grass and thistles, the engineers had set 400,000 mines. Across the open eastern end of the bulge, General Armii Ivan S. Konev's Steppe Front had established three armies in a screening line to prevent the Germans from carrying the offensive east if the Soviet defense in the bulge failed. As additional insurance, an army and two tank armies were held in reserve northeast of Orel and an army and a tank army stood by east of Kharkov-Belgorod.61 The representatives of the Supreme Command were Vasilevskiy and Zhukov, the proved Stalingrad offensive-defensive team.

The Offensive Begins

On the morning of 5 July, with Fourth and Sixth Air Forces' Stukas blasting paths through the enemy line, Army Groups Center and South launched ZITADELLE. Ninth Army, its main force the heavily armored XXXVII Panzer Corps in the center, XXXI and XXXXVI Panzer Corps on the flanks, and XXIII Corps in reserve, attacked south on a 35-mile front. By the end of the first day it had broken Rokossovskiy's first line and had penetrated the second in the zone of the main effort immediately west of the Orel-Kursk railroad.62 In the Fourth Panzer Army zone, XXXXVIII Panzer Corps and II SS Panzer Corps (so designated after the SS began organizing another panzer corps in the spring of 1943) struck northward out of a 30-mile front anchored on the right at Belgorod. The two corps got off to a flying start, cutting through Vatutin's first line in two hours.

But the day brought several unpleasant surprises. No sooner had II SS Panzer Corps passed through the first line than the Russians brought it under heavy artillery fire that forced the tanks to take cover. At the same time a sudden, brief but violent thunderstorm swept the Fourth Panzer Army zone, flooding the numerous, normally dry, gullies that cut the landscape. One of these stopped XXXXVIII Panzer Corps dead, and it was near nightfall before the last tanks were gotten across. At midmorning, after Stukas had silenced the artillery, II SS Panzer Corps moved out again, expecting to reach the second line before the end of the day; but in a few hours it was stopped, this time by a mine field cleverly laid in tall grass. Meanwhile Vatutin had pulled his divisions back into the second line without heavy losses.63

South of Belgorod III Panzer Corps and Provisional Corps Raus of Armeeabteilung Kempf, after crossing the Donets, ran into a 3-mile-deep belt of fortifications between the river and the railroad. Without air support of their own and harried incessantly by Soviet planes, they inched along while their casualties mounted alarmingly.64

The faltering start of the Armeeabteilung Kempf pointed up a troublesome weakness which was to continue to plague ZITADELLE. Although the Luftwaffe maintained a rate


of 3,000 sorties per day during the offensive, it did not have air superiority over the battlefield. Because of the more pressing need for close ground support of the front-line units, it could not seriously challenge the Russians in the air. Even so, it was unable to provide simultaneous support for all of the ground units. Those slighted were usually slowed down and often had to stop. To maintain the advance at a fairly uniform pace, the air units had to shift their points of main effort from day to day.65

On the second and third days the battle appeared to be developing well enough. By nightfall on 6 July Ninth Army had gained about thirteen miles except on its right flank, where XXXVI Panzer Corps was hanging back. In the south the lead elements of II SS Panzer Corps had advanced nearly twenty-five miles. On the 7th the rate of gain declined somewhat; fierce tank battles erupted on both sides of the bulge. The Russians were committing their reserves. Rokossovskiy had put in two reserve tank corps and a guards rifle corps. Vatutin was getting two tank corps from the Stavka's reserves to beef up First Tank Army with which he was trying to hold the second line.

The Germans were mildly surprised to find the Russians reacting so fast; on the other hand, in terms of strength and performance, they were pleased to discover that the reserves appearing thus far were about what their intelligence had led them to expect. The two most troublesome developments were Armeeabteilung Kempf's failure to keep pace with Fourth Panzer Army, which forced the latter to divert an SS division to screen its flank on the east, and the rapid decline of tank strength in some of the divisions. The Grossdeutschland Division, for instance, had only 80 of its 300 tanks still fit for combat. Most of the disabled tanks were new models laid up in the shops by mechanical troubles.66

Thrust and Counterthrust

On 8 July the first clear-cut crisis developed. The center corps of Ninth Army, straining to shake off Rokossovskiy's tank reserves and strike out into the open, ran into a heavily fortified ridge southwest of Ol'khovatka. Denied air support because of bad weather, the corps was forced to stop, and that night Model reluctantly decided to wait a day and regroup for an assault on the ridge. Dismayed at finding so strong an obstacle far behind the original front, Model predicted that even after the ridge was taken there would be no quick breakthrough to Kursk. He characterized the probable future course of the offensive as a "rolling battle of attrition." After two well-prepared attempts, on 10 and 11 July, failed to carry across the ridge, Headquarters, Army Group Center, promised an additional infantry division and a panzer division to help break the deadlock.

On the morning of the 12 July, by then confident that the German reserves were tied down in the Kursk battle, Bryansk Front, under Popov, and the left flank armies of General Polkovnik Vasili D. Sokolovskiy's West Front opened a three-pronged


offensive against the north face of the Orel salient.67 Second Panzer Army, holding a 170-mile front with 14 divisions, could not prevent quick, deep penetrations. Before noon Kluge was forced to divert the 2 divisions intended for Ninth Army to Second Panzer Army, and in the afternoon and evening he had to call on Ninth Army to give up 2 panzer divisions, half of its Ferdinand tanks, and substantial quantities of artillery and rocket projectors.68

Meanwhile, Army Group South's fortunes were improving. By 11 July II SS Panzer Corps had a bridgehead north of the Psel River. Although the Russians were still hanging on obstinately south of the Psel in the XXXXVIII Panzer Corps sector, Fourth Panzer Army considered the enemy situation there hopeless. Hoth reported that he expected the going to be easier north of the river.69

Vatutin, it appeared, had about reached the end of his ready reserves.70 Manstein, on the other hand, had a trump left. He had begun moving XXIV Panzer Corps (23d Panzer Division and the SS Wiking Division) out of reserve behind First Panzer Army and into the Belgorod area, where it would be at hand when the time came to give weight to the final drive to Kursk.71

East of the Donets Armeeabteilung Kempf had made painfully slow progress in the first six days, but on 11 July in an almost desperate effort III Panzer Corps broke out to the north. The next day Vatutin threw Fifth Guards and Fifth Guards Tank Armies, the latter from the reserve, the former from Steppe Front, into a counterattack; but III Panzer Corps stayed on the move and by nightfall on the 13th had trapped a sizable Soviet force between its flank and the right flank of II SS Panzer Corps.72

Hitler Cancels ZITADELLE

On 13 July Hitler called Manstein and Kluge to Fuehrer headquarters. He had decided to Stop ZITADELLE. The Orel salient was in danger, and Soviet buildups opposite First Panzer Army and Sixth Army (formerly Armeeabteilung Hollidt, renamed in March 1943) had aroused his concern for defense of the Donets basin. But his greatest worry was Sicily, where the Americans and British had landed on 10 July. The Italians, he said, were not fighting, and it was becoming necessary to create new armies to defend Italy and the Balkans. Troops would have to be taken from the Eastern Front.

Manstein protested that ZITADELLE was just reaching its turning point. In the Army Group South zone, he insisted, the Russians could be considered defeated, and if Ninth Army resumed its offensive within the next few weeks, victory might yet be secured. But he was alone; Kluge declared that Ninth Army could not advance again and in a few days would have to withdraw to its line of departure. At the close of the conference Hitler reaffirmed his decision to stop ZITADELLE, but agreed to give Army Group South enough time to deal the Russians at least a partial defeat and so cut


down the chances of their staging a counteroffensive soon.73

To Fourth Panzer Army and Armeeabteilung Kempf, convinced that victory lay in their grasp, the order to stop ZITADELLE came as a shock. Manstein and the commanding generals of the armies at first still hoped to be able to mop up south of the Psel River, but even that satisfaction was denied them. On 17 July Hitler ordered II SS Panzer Corps out of the front. He planned to transfer the corps to Italy as soon as the threats to First Panzer and Sixth Armies were eliminated.74

On the morning of 17 July the Southwest and South Fronts opened the offensive Hitler expected on the Army Group South right flank. The Germans had for nearly a week been watching feverish activity on the other side; and on the 14th, in what at the time seemed to the army command an excess of caution, Hitler had ordered XXIV Panzer Corps shifted back behind First Panzer Army. In the first twenty-four hours' fighting two points of main effort emerged, one in the First Panzer Army zone near Izyum and the other north of Golodayevka on Sixth Army's Mius River line.

The Russians quickly scored sizable breakthroughs which they fought stubbornly to expand, and the Germans concluded with some astonishment that the offensive was actually intended to recapture the Donets basin, not merely to draw off reserves from ZITADELLE, as had been expected. During the next two weeks, although the Russians never came close to making good their bid for a decisive penetration, the battle seesawed violently and at times dangerously.

By the end of the month the offensive had lost its momentum, and the Germans moved in quickly to restore their front. Those were small battles, like so many others quickly lost in the rush of greater events, but, nevertheless, enormously costly for both sides. Sixth Army, for instance, between 17 July and 6 August captured 17,000 Russians. Its own casualties totaled 23,855.75

In the Army Group Center zone the ZITADELLE offensive, already stalled, ended on 12 July. The next day, after the conference at Fuehrer headquarters, Hitler gave Model command of both Ninth Army and Second Panzer Army, ordering him to close the breakthroughs and retake the original front.76 Model's appointment signalized the emergence of a new type of German higher commander--the specialist in stubborn defense. Hitler had once called on men like Manstein to engineer victories. After the summer of 1943 he came more and more to rely on Model and a few others because they seldom disputed his orders and because they appeared to have a knack for staving off catastrophe. Model was the best and most successful of the type. Aside from being a convinced Nazi whose faith in Hitler outlasted that of most other officers of his rank, he was a first-rate tactician. In combat he spared


neither himself nor his subordinates.

By the time Model took command in the Orel salient the Second Panzer Army front had been punctured in three places. Two of the penetrations, one due east of Orel and another south of Sukhinichi, were growing wider and deeper by the hour. On 15 July the offensive expanded into the Ninth Army sector.

A day later, as a precaution, the army group and the armies began work on the HAGEN position, a line of field fortifications across the base of the Orel salient, For once, Hitler, distracted by events in the Mediterranean and in the Army Group South zone, did not insist on a rigid linear defense. He had quickly amended his original order to call only for a continuous front, and on 22 July he agreed to let Model conduct an "elastic defense."77

In the meantime, on the 18th and 19th, relieved of the threat of ZITADELLE, the Stavka had committed powerful forces from its reserves. Popov received Third Guards Tank Army to lend weight to the thrust toward Orel, and Sokolovskiy was given the Fourth Tank and Eleventh Armies to widen the gap on the north face of the salient.78 However, heavy rains, which set in at the beginning of the third week in July, and superior German tactics, which if they could not stop the Soviet onslaughts managed most of the time to rob them of their full effects, began to take some of the power out of the offensive.

In the last week of the month Hitler's fears concerning Italy were confirmed. On the 25th the King dismissed Mussolini, who was placed under arrest as he left the palace. The Badoglio government said it


intended to continue the war, but no one at Fuehrer headquarters, least of all Hitler, believed that. Hitler set off an avalanche of planning to rescue Mussolini and to strengthen the German hold on Italy.

From the Eastern Front he called in the Commanding General, Army Group Center. When Kluge arrived at noon on 26 July Hitler explained that he was going to transfer II SS Panzer Corps from Army Group South to Italy. The politically trained SS divisions, he thought, would form a nucleus around which the fascist elements in the Italian Army could rally. The SS Adolf Hitler Division already had orders to entrain at Stalino. Army Group Center would have to provide replacements for the SS divisions and would in the near



future be expected to release other divisions, approximately two dozen in all, for transfer to Italy and the West. The only way they could be obtained was by giving up the Orel salient. The Second Panzer and Ninth Armies would have to begin moving into the HAGEN position at once. To Kluge's protests that he could not take the armies back into a line which was far from finished, Hitler replied that there was nothing else to be done. Army Group Center would have to start releasing divisions, and soon. Above all, he had to have II SS Panzer Corps, which he described as the equivalent of twenty Italian divisions.79

In three days Model had his armies ready to move, but he had to postpone their start until 1 August because of the poor state of the roads. A week and a half of heavy rains had turned even the main roads into quagmires. In some places they had become broad bands of ruts, as much as a hundred yards wide, where the vehicles had wandered off to the sides searching for firm ground. Overhead the Soviet Air Force had practically undisputed command of the sky.

Throughout it all, the armies had to move their heavy equipment and supplies. Ninth Army had hundreds of tons of supplies and ammunition originally earmarked for ZITADELLE stored in dumps around Kromy, south of Orel. The rear area commands set about destroying the rye


harvest, which was just ready to be brought in, and began herding some 250,000 civilians and their cattle, carts, and personal possessions down the side roads. In Orel demolition crews set charges in all buildings and installations which might be of use to the Russians.

The withdrawal began on time on the night of 1 August. By then the Russians were fully aware of what was going on, and unlike the BUEFFEL operation earlier, being already geared for an offensive, they could react quickly. On the nights of 3 and 4 August partisan activity flared up in the entire Army Group Center rear area. On the 4th the army group rear area command counted a total of 4,110 partisan-laid demolitions on the railroads. A day later waves of Soviet fighters and bombers swept over the front and across the clogged roads in the rear. All over the salient telephones were out for hours at a time.80

On 6 August, certain the Second Panzer and Ninth Armies were on the run, the Stavka extended the offensive north into the Fourth Army zone. Voronov, co-ordinating for the Stavka, put seven armies on West Front's left flank into an attack toward Spas-Demensk and Yel'nya. Its end objective was to take Roslavl and lift the HAGEN position off its hinges.81 During the following days the air and partisan raids multiplied, blacking out telephone communications over much of the Army Group Center zone and tying up the rail lines.

As the second week of the withdrawal began, the battle reached its climax. Model predicted that the Russians would try to overrun the HAGEN position--if they did not succeed in pushing through on its flanks before then. The Fourth Army front was strained to the breaking point. The quality of the Soviet troops was low but they came on in massive, seemingly endless, waves of infantry and tanks. One of the Fourth Army corps commanders reported that the enemy losses were five times his own but that the Russians still had the advantage because they had begun the battle with a 10:1 superiority.82 On 13 August West Front's armies took Spas-Demensk, and Voronov put two armies of Kalinin Front into an attack at the Third Panzer-Fourth Army boundary.83 That day Ninth Army took over the Second Panzer Army sector and began throwing up a switch position behind the HAGEN position.

On the 14th the first units moved into the HAGEN position. For three days the army kept as many of the divisions as it could east of the line, while the engineers, using Russian civilian laborers of both sexes, rushed ahead with the work on the still far from finished line. On the night of the 17th the last troops moved into the HAGEN position.84 The withdrawal was a major tactical achievement, but how long the line would hold was anybody's guess.

Model's retreat to the HAGEN position brought to an end the chain of events directly associated with ZITADELLE. Hitler had intended once more to make the world sit up and take notice. Instead, he had touched off a gigantic convulsion of the Eastern Front that weakened the armies in the East and left the Soviet Union in full possession of the initiative. By the time the


divisions of Army Group Center moved into the HAGEN position, the Soviet armies in the south were on the march again. The summer campaign was far from over.


Table of Contents ** Previous Chapter (VI) * Next Chapter (VIII)


1. H. Gr. A, Ia, Kriegstagebuch, Band 2, Teil 4, 1-24 Apr 43, H. Gr. A 75 126/11 file.

2. Air Ministry (British) Pamphlet 248, The Rise and Fall of the German Air Force, p. 275.

3. OKW, Stellvertretende Chef des Wehrmachtfuehrungsstabes, Kriegstagebuch vom 1.1.-31.3.43, 16, 22 Jan 43, IMT Doc 1786-PS.

4. Der Chef des Heeresstabes beim Chef OKW, Vortragsnotiz ueber die personelle Lage, 15.8.43, H 1/527 file.

5. Heinz Guderian, Erinnerungen eines Soldaten (Heidelberg, 1951), p. 258.

6. Generalinspekteur der Panzertruppen, Besprechungspunkte anlaesslich der Fuehrervortraege am 3. and 4. Mai 1943, 5.5.43, H 16/159a file.

7. OKH. Ch. H. Ruest. u.BdE, Az:72m Wa Pruef 11/HAP/Kdr., Br. Nr. 8/43. Stand der A-4--Entwicklung und Nebenentwicklungen, 12.7.43, H 1/527 file.

8. Wipert von Bluecher, Gesandter zwuischen Diktatur und Demokratie (Wiesbaden, 1951), pp. 330-31.

9. Schmidt, Aufzeichnung ueber die Unterredung zwischen dem Fuehrer and dem Grafen Ciano in Anwesenheit des Reichsmarshalls, des RAM, des Feldmarschalls Keitel, des Generals Jodl, and des Marshalls Cavallero im Fuehrer Hauptquartier am 18 Dez 1942; Brief, der Duce des Faschismus und Regierungschef an den Fuehrer, 26 Maerz 1943. Both in U.S. Dept of State, German Foreign Ministry Docs.

10. Schmidt, Aufzeichnung ueber die Unterredung zwischen dem RAM and dem Staatssekretaer Bastianini im Anwesenheit der Botschafter von Mackensen und Alfieri im Schloss Klessheim, 8 Apr 43, U.S. Dept of State, German Foreign Ministry Docs.

11. MS # P-049, Die Strategie der deutschen obersten Fuehrung im zweiten Vierteljahr 1943 (General der Artillerie a. D. Walter Warlimont), p. 4.

12. Paul Schmidt, Statist auf diplomatischer Buehne, 1923-45 (Bonn, 1949), p. 555.

13. MS # P-049 (Warlimont), p. 35.

14. Goebbels Diaries, p. 284.

15. O.B. d. H. Gr. Mitte, Ia Nr. 5440/43, an den Chef des Gen. Stabes des Heeres, 22.5.43, Pz. AOK 2 36468/1 file.

16. Ibid.

17. Wi Stab Ost, Kriegstagebuch vom 1.4-30.6.43, Stab Abt. I, Wirtschaftliche Lage im April 1943, Wi/ID 2.338 file.

18. OKH, GenStdH, Op. Abt. Nr. 430163/43, Operationsbefehl Nr. 5, 13.3.43, OCMH files.

19. Ibid.

20. OKW, Stellvertretende Chef des Wehrmachtfuehrungsstabes, Kriegstagebuch vom 1.1.-3.3.43, 13 Mar 43, IMT Doc 1786-PS.

21. O.B. d. H. Gr. Sued, Ia Nr. 0469/43, an I. Pz. Armee, an A. Abt. Kempf, 23.3.43, AOK 8 36188/20 file.

22. Pz. AOK 1, Ia, Zusaetze zum K.T.B., 24 Mar 43, Pz. AOK 1 44652/20 file.

23. Ibid.

24. AOK 8, Kriegstagebuch Nr. 1, 30 Mar 43, AOK 8 36188/8 file.

25. Ibid., 4 Apr 43; A. Abt. Kempf, Niederschrift ueber Besprechung Generalfeldm. v. Manstein mit O.B. und Chef Gen Stab Armeeabteilung am 28.3.43, AOK 8 36188/20 file.

26. O.B. d. H. Gr. Sued, 0479/43, an A. Abt. Kempf, 2.4.43, AOK 8 36188/20 file.

27. Pz. AOK 4, Ia, Kriegstagebuch, 25.3-31.7.43, 5 Apr 43, Pz. AOK 4 34888/2 file.

28. OKW, Stellvertretende Chef des Wehrmachtfuehrungsstabes, Kriegstagebuch vom 1.7-31.8.43, 5 Jul 43, IMT Doc 1792-PS.

29. Ibid., 5 Jul 43.

30. AOK 9, Fuehrungsabteilung, Kriegstagebuch Nr. 8, 16, 20 Apr 43, AOK 9 34739/2 file.

31. AOK 8, Ia, Kriegstagebuch Nr. 1, 18 Apr 43, AOK 8 36188/8 file.

32. Ob. Kdo. d. H. Gr. Sued, Ia Nr. 0505/43, Operationsbefehl fuer "ZITADELLE" Nr. 1, 20.4.43, AOK 8 36188/20 file.

33. AOK 9, Fuehrungsabteilung, Kriegstagebuch Nr. 8, 30 Apr 43, AOK 9 34739/2 file; AOK 8, Ia, Kriegstagebuch Nr. 1, 30 Apr 43, AOK 8 36188/8 file.

34. Manstein, Verlorene Siege, pp. 390-91.

35. Guderian, Erinnerungen eines Soldaten, p. 277.

36. Manstein, Verlorene Siege, p. 492; AOK 9, Fuehrungsabteilung, Kriegstagebuch Nr. 8, 4 May 43, AOK 9 34739/2 file.

37. A. Abt. Kempf, Niederschrift ueber Ferngespraech O.B./Chef GenStdH am 7.5.43, AOK 8 36188/20 file.

38. A. Abt. Kempf, Besprechung Chefs Gen. St. d. Armeen bei Heeresgruppe, 6.5.43, AOK 34739/2 file.

39. Guderian, Erinnerungen eines Soldaten, p. 271.

40. Ibid., p. 280.

41. AOK 2, Ia, Kriegstagebuch Russland, Teil II, 14 May 43, AOK 2 374 18/2 file.

42. Goebbels Diaries, pp. 352, 391.

43. OKH, GenStdH, Gen. Qu., Abt. Kriegsverw. Nr. II/2310/43, Grundlegender Befehl Nr. 13, 20.4.43; OKH, GenStdH, Org. Abt. Nr. II/12024/43, Aufstellung russ. Betreuungsstaffeln, 20.4.43. Both in H 3/473 file.

44. Political and police pressures made the desertion rate of the Soviet Army somewhat higher than that of most other armies.

45. Ob. Kdo. d. H. Gr. Nord, St. O. Prop., Propaganda Lage im Bereich der Heeresgruppe Nord, 10.7.43, H. Gr. Nord 75131/107 file.

46. AOK 9, Fuehrungsabteilung, Kriegstagebuch Nr. 8, 25 May 43, AOK 9 34739/2 file.

47. OKH, Org. Abt. (III), Beitraege zum K.T.B. 1941-43, 22.6.43, H 1/167 file.

48. AOK 9, Fuehrungsabteilung, Kriegstagebuch Nr. 8, 10 Jun 43, AOK 9 34739/2 file.

49. MS # P-049 (Warlimont), p. 161.

50. OKW, Stellvertretende Chef des Wehrmachtfuehrungsstabes, Kriegstagebuch vom 1.7.-31.8.43, 5 Jul 43, IMT Doc 1792-PS.

51. Ibid., 5 Jul 43; AOK 9, Fuehrungsabteilung, Kriegstagebuch Nr. 8, 20 Jun 43, AOK 9 34739/2 file.

52. Ibid., 12 Jun 43.

53. Pz. AOK 4, Ia, Kriegstagebuch, 25.3-31.7.43, 26 Jun 43, Pz. AOK 4 34888/2 file.

54. See MS # P-049 (Warlimont), pp. 159, 161, 162.

55. OKW, Stellvertretende Chef des Wehrmachtfuehrungsstabes, Kriegstagebuch vom 1.7.-31.8.43, 5 Jul 43, IMT Doc 1792-PS.

56. Auffrischungsstab Charkow, Ia Nr. 209/43, 2.7.43, Pz. AOK 4 34888/6 file.

57. OKW, Stellvertretende Chef des Wehrmachtfuehrungsstabes, Kriegstagebuch vom 1.7-31.8-43, 5 Jul 43, IMT Doc 1792-PS; MS # D-406, Das Ringen um die grossen Entscheidungen im zweiten Weltkriege (Generaloberst a. D. Kurt Zeitzler), pt. II, pp. 63-65.

58. AOK 8, Kriegstagebuch Nr. 1, 21 Jun 43, AOK 8 36188/8 file.

59. AOK 9, Fuehrungsabteilung, Kriegstagebuch Nr. 8, 17 Jun 43, AOK 9 34739/2 file.

60. Air Ministry (British) Pamphlet 248, Rise and Fall of the German Air Force, pp. 233-34.

61. IVOV (R), III, 249-51.

62. AOK 9, Fuehrungsabteilung, Kriegstagebuch Nr. 8, 5 Jul 43, AOK 9 34739/2 file.

63. Pz. AOK 4, Ia, Kriegstagebuch, 25.3.-31.7.43, 5 Jul 43, Pz. AOK 4 34888/2 file.

64. AOK 8, Kriegstagebuch Nr. 2, 5 Jul 43, AOK 8 44701/1 file.

65. Air Ministry (British) Pamphlet 248, Rise and Fall of the German Air Force, p. 235.

66. Pz. AOK 4, Ia, Kriegstagebuch, 25.3-31.7.43, 6, 7 Jul 43, Pz. AOK 4 34888/2 file; AOK 8, Kriegstagebuch Nr. 2, 6, 7 Jul 43, AOK 8 44701/1 file; AOK 9, Fuehrungsabteilung, Kriegstagebuch Nr. 8, 6, 7 Jul 43, AOK 9 34739/2 file.

67. IV0V (R), III, 276.

68. AOK 9, Fuehrungsabteilung, Kriegstagebuch Nr. 8, 8-12 Jul 43, AOK 9 34739/2 file.

69. Pz. AOK 4, Ia, Kriegstagebuch, 25.3.-31.7.43, 11 Jul 43, Pz. AOK 4 34888/2 file.

70. Manstein, Verlorene Siege, p. 501.

71. AOK 8, Kriegstagebuch Nr. 2, 9, 12 Jul 43, AOK 8 44701/1 file.

72. Ibid., 11-13 Jul 43; Platonov, Vtoraya Mirovaya Voyna, 1939-45, p. 460.

73. AOK 8, Kriegstagebuch Nr. 2, 15 Jul 43, AOK 8 44701/1 file; Manstein, Verlorene Siege, p. 502.

74. AOK 8, Kriegstagebuch Nr. 2, 15-17 Jul 43, AOK 8 44701/1 file; Pz. AOK 4, Ia, Kriegstagebuch, 25.3.-31.7.43, 15-17 Jul 43, Pz. AOK 4 34888/2 file.

75. Pz. AOK 1, Kriegstagebuch Nr. 11, 11-29 Jul 43, Pz. AOK 1 44652/1 file; AOK 6, Kriegstagebuch, Band 5, 17 Jul-9 Aug 43, AOK 6 35521/1 file.

76. AOK 9, Fuehrungsabteilung, Kriegstagebuch Nr. 8, 13 Jul 43, AOK 9 34739/2 file.

77. Ibid., 14-25 Jul 43.

78. IVOV (R), III, 281.

79. Stenogr. Dienst im F. H. Qu., Fragment Nr. 17, Besprechung mit Gen. Feldmarschall Kluge vom 26.7.43, OCMH files.

80. AOK 9, Fuehrungsabteilung, Kriegstagebuch Nr. 8, 26 Jul-6 Aug 43, AOK 9 34739/2 file.

81. IVOV (R), III, 363.

82. AOK 4, Kriegstagebuch Nr. 16, 3-11 Aug 43, AOK 4 41556 file.

83. IVOV (R), III, 365.

84. AOK 9, Fuehrungsabteilung, Kriegstagebuch Nr. 8, 7-18 Aug 43, AOK 9 34739/2 file.

Transcribed and formatted by Jerry Holden for the HyperWar Foundation