We are at the dawn of day four of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and I have heard many media news readers and pundits suggesting things are going badly for the Russians and the operation is bogged down. This led me to ask, “How long did it take the Nazis to capture Ukraine following the launch of Operation Barbarossa on June 21, 1941?
The Nazis entered the 1941 version of Ukraine on the 21st of June. Note, the Nazis already controlled the city of Lvov (now Lviv), which was part of Poland at the time. Remember the Nazis launched a blitzkrieg. They did nothing to avoid inflicting civilian casualties. The German’s Army Group South, which included the First Panzer Group (Gen. Kleist) and the German Sixth (Gen. Reichenau), Seventeenth (Gen. Stülpnagel) and Eleventh Armies (Gen. Schobert), Luftlotte 1 (Keller) and the Romanian Third and Fourth Armies, had the mission of conquering Ukraine.
It took Army Group South six weeks to reach Kiev (August 7) and another seven weeks to secure its surrender (26 September 1941). There was no holding back. Cities and civilian strongholds were bombed mercilessly.
I think this is an interesting benchmark for comparing Putin’s progress in defanging the Ukrainian military. In contrast to the Nazis of 1941, the Putin’s forces are focused on hitting military targets. Yes, they have killed and wounded some civilians. But Putin has not authorized a massive attack on civilians. Worth recalling that Churchill and Roosevelt authorized devastating bombing missions on civilian population centers in Germany during WW II.
While it took the Nazis almost two months to surround Kiev, Putin’s troops appear to have done it in four days. Remains to be seen whether this will be a prolonged war of attrition and suffering or if a political solution will become tenable once Kiev is sealed.
One final, terrible note. Three days after securing the Kiev region the Nazis herded almost 34,000 Jewish men, women and children into the Babi Yar ravine in Kiev. This marked the first mass extermination of Jews as part of Hitler’s Final Solution.