What are the main factors that lead Germany to lose the campaign against Russia?

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    I'm always very skeptical about any assertion that historical event X occurred "due to". If history were so simple, it would not be worth study.
    – MCW
    Commented Sep 10, 2015 at 17:30
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    The German leadership did make many mistakes during the course of the war. The first one was probably attacking the Soviet Union before Great Britain had been beat. There were both bad planning and decisions on the German side and Soviet merit.
    – jjack
    Commented Sep 10, 2015 at 17:57
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    You could also write that Germany got even an opportunity of beating the Soviet Union due to Stalin's bad planning
    – SJuan76
    Commented Sep 10, 2015 at 18:38
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    Please vote for reopening the question. I have edited it
    – user14669
    Commented Sep 11, 2015 at 8:06
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    it's unfortunate that you received so many answers to the original question, which are now somewhat invalidated. It might be better to revert this post the original wording, and instead ask a new question. I would also suggest that you add some wording to the effect of "What are main views of historians on this topic", so that it is a historiography question instead of primarily opinion based.
    – Semaphore
    Commented Sep 13, 2015 at 10:25

4 Answers 4


Counterfactual questions are always difficult. Consider this:

  • The German leadership was not rational. They could have mucked up any campaign.
  • Many people in the western Soviet Union were ready to desert the Communists. The Nazis quickly showed them the error in their ways.
  • The Soviet Union had a larger population than Germany, more and arguably better tanks.
  • The Soviets purged their high command of any officer showing independent thought.

I would call it Soviet sacrifice, not Russian merit.

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    Regarding your point 3: The Soviet tanks in the beginning of the war, like the T-34 and the KV-1 were better than their German counterparts. Later in the war, the Tiger tank and the later Panther models were equivalent.
    – jjack
    Commented Sep 10, 2015 at 17:51
  • And regarding your point 4: I don't know what the reasons were that Soviet officers were removed from the army and killed by Stalin during the Great Purge. The reasons were probably numerous, I think it's difficult to come to the "independent thought" conclusion, which would have to show itself in military operations.
    – jjack
    Commented Sep 10, 2015 at 17:55
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    @jjack, I think Barbarossa had failed when it failed to overwhelm the Soviets in the first rush, i.e. when it failed to get to Moscow and beyond before winter. That means the Panther was too late. And while "independent thought" may be a gross oversimplification, Stalin went after all officers who looked as if they might think of resistance to his rule.
    – o.m.
    Commented Sep 10, 2015 at 20:26
  • why do you say, that the Soviet Union had a larger population? At first, I would point that the SU was waging the war not only with Germany, but only officially with Hungary, Finland, Slovakia, Romania, Italy and Chroatia. Not mention another examples, like the Blue Division from Franko's Spain, so it would be honest to count the populations of these countries too, if one is talking about manpower during that war. At second, after the retreats of the soviet troops in 1941-1942 the USSR lost 70 million of people of 196 in 1940 ( the number of 70 million is from the "order 227")
    – d.k
    Commented Sep 18, 2015 at 15:52

That could easily be argued as one of the many factors. Russia had the same factors working for it that it has had for centuries. Vast tracts are land are difficult to communicate across with unreliable technology. Think of trying to coordinate hundreds of thousands of people without being able to talk to them, without knowing where they are, and without knowing where you are exactly. This is a pre-GPS and a world without reliable telecommunications like we have today. It's a logistical nightmare on a good day and the geography of Russia just compounds it. Germany also started it's campaign later than the optimum time, running straight into the Russian winter but also the Russian muddy season exacerbating issues. I would say bad planning is one factor but not THE factor (there never is one). A campaign can overcome bad planning but combined with everything else it's very difficult.


Disagree. Firstly, the Soviets fought on two fronts from 1941 until 1943 (against Germany in the West and against Finland, Romania and Hungary in the North and South), just as the Nazis did (SU and North Africa), so that doesn't make any difference. Three main reasons why the German campaign in the Soviet Union failed were: 1. The failure of Italy to subdue the Greeks, causing Hitler to intervene, hence delaying the original campaign with about 6 weeks; 2. The unusual early occurrence of winter, starting already in the first week of October 1941, early, even for Russian standards very early in the year, grinding the German advance to a halt - logically the six weeks missed would have been enough to at least kettle Moscow. Once the progress had been stalled, the campaign was lost; 3. The vast number of troops the Soviet could engage in battle combined with the lack of Soviet respect for lives, resulting in the SU having the highest body count of all participants of the Second World War. Even if Germany would manage to capture Moscow and Leningrad, they would never have won a war with the Soviet Union - the country was simply too big.

Soviet victory is a RUSSIAN victory, based on RUSSIAN efforts based on poor performance of bad generals with the exception of Zhukov, which cost over 20 million Russian lives. Planning on the Nazi-side would never be sufficient enough, even at its best, to defeat and capture the Soviet Union. Back in the day at the University, myself and some friends made a calculation that, should Germany actually have defeated, captured and occupied the Soviet Union, this would mean that they would have to transfer ALL troops they possibly could have to there, and then there would be only a handful of soldiers per 10 km (0.6 miles, give or take) available to occupy and protect the landmass. Impossible, even leaving the fact that all the other occupied territories would have not one single German soldier present. Consequences are easily guessed.

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    It is quite a stretch to call the idle front in the far north a "second front", much less a third with Hungarians.
    – Oldcat
    Commented Sep 11, 2015 at 22:47
  • First week of October 1941 the Germans pocketed some 700000 Soviets in the early stages of Typhoon in fine weather.
    – Oldcat
    Commented Sep 11, 2015 at 22:48
  • @oldcat the first snow fell on the 10th of October - earlier than usual, even in the Soviet Union.
    – Mare Gaea
    Commented Sep 12, 2015 at 13:42
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    But sending an army to the Soviet Union in summer coats and nailed boots was pretty careless.
    – jjack
    Commented Sep 12, 2015 at 18:20
  • @jjack the Generals knew this, but Hitler persisted there would be no winter war, hence no need for winter outfits.
    – Mare Gaea
    Commented Sep 12, 2015 at 18:24

It is unlikely that any plan would have resulted in the Soviets surrendering. They were being supplied by the United States and Britain via Murmansk, the Persian corridor to the Caspian Sea (where there are multiple ports), and by the Trans-Siberian railway. Even though Japan controlled the ports of the railway, they allowed Soviet ships to go to and fro those ports importing armaments from the United States throughout the war (see "Deutschland und Japan Im Zweiten Weltkrieg" (1969) by Bernd Martin, Musterschmidt Verlag, p. 155.)

This supply would have allowed the Soviets to resist indefinitely. Conversely, Germany's logistical problems of operating over huge distances only increased as they captured territory. In the end their losses were due more to material disadvantages than to bad plans.

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    Thinking of land-lease being the main reason of German's defeat is really strange. If that was so, US and GB could win the war in 1939 without any other allies at all.
    – Matt
    Commented Sep 10, 2015 at 17:15
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    Britain also sent vast supplies to Russia via Archangel (which in winter is a frozen port). As any Royal Navy veteran, who served on those convoys, will tell you it was an utter nightmare. In summer there was nearly 24 hours of daylight and they got bombed by the Luftwaffe operating out of northern Norway. In winter they faced pack-ice and the prospect of ending up in the icy water. I seem to have read that Britain's overall war aid to the USSR was greater than the aid that we in turn received from the USA.
    – WS2
    Commented Sep 10, 2015 at 20:04
  • @user4419802 Without the USSR being in the war, it is doubtful if Britain and America could have liberated western Europe. Britain would probably have resisted invasion - they had to all intents done that before the USSR and the USA entered the war, since Germany was unable to win control of the air, and its navy was much smaller than Britain's - but it would have been a massive task to defeat the German army in the field, had the latter being fighting on only one front. Chances are it would have got bogged down as WW1 did, with the Germans undefeated.
    – WS2
    Commented Sep 10, 2015 at 20:12
  • It isn't likely that Germany would have mobilized the same number of men if they hadn't invaded the USSR. This might have done their production a lot of good. No real chance a German invasion of England would work after 7/1940.
    – Oldcat
    Commented Sep 11, 2015 at 22:51
  • @Oldcat that's "if" history. If Germany would have captured the British troops at Dunkirk instead of halting (hoping that a peace would be pssbl with GB), they would just have to "swim" to GB and walk into it to conquer. Germany had enough troops to mobilize for an invasion of GB in July 1940. It was just due to Görings assurance that the Luftwaffe could pave the way for a successful invasion.It's just Hitler's crooked way of thinking that had the Wehrmacht preparing for a war against their archenemy. Nothing else.
    – Mare Gaea
    Commented Sep 19, 2015 at 22:59