Despite his 1939 rapprochement with Josef Stalin, Adolf Hitler never abandoned plans for an attack on Russia, which he planned to reduce to “a German India.” In December 1940 he issued a directive for Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union. His army was not ready for a long war: many units had French or Czech equipment and were below strength, and operations in the Balkans delayed the attack. Stalin had some warning of invasion, and the disposition of Russian forces, concentrated on the frontier, induces some historians to suggest that he planned an offensive of his own. The attack, on June 22, proved brilliantly successful, but ran out of steam in December, when the Russians launched serious counteroffensives. German tanks (above) form up for the attack on the open terrain that characterized much of the Eastern Front, July 1941.
The cameraman's location and lack of uniformity amongst the gun detachment suggests that this shot of a German anti-tank gun taking on Soviet armour in July is authentic.
The German army remained two-tier, with its panzer and Panzergrenadier divisions representing the tip of a spear whose shaft comprised units which would not have looked out of place a generation earlier. German cavalry crosses a bridge in Russia, summer 1941.