Recently I came accross what seemed to be a new thesis about the battle of Prokhorovka. I read the book Kursk of the German author and historian Roman Töppel, who explains alongside other "new facts" that the battle was not a glorious defense for the Soviet army but was actually one for the Germans.

There are several elements given to back up this thesis:

  • Opérative-level counter offensive on Orel forced the Germans to stop Citadel despite being victorious in the South
  • The tactial display, especially the antitank obstacle, put Soviet armour in bad position against SS divisions
  • German tanks were far superior to Soviet T34-76 at that time

So yes there are good reasons that made Prokhorovka a defeat. But the battle became glorious in Soviet and after Russian national history.

I understand of course that the Soviets under Stalin and after had the capability to modify history and hide their defeats. And apparently in the case of Prokhorovka Töppel explains that the modification was made by Soviet officers (Rotmistrov and Vatutin) willing to cover their errors and avoid death penalty from Stalin.

However the truth given by Roman Töppel seems very suspicious to me: he says that only four Panzer IV were lost against approximately 340 Soviet tanks. This gives a monstruous loss ratio of 1 to 85. If such a ratio is plausible on the left front of the battle were lied the antitank obstacle, on the right side the forest covered the ground so such uneven ratio is not plausible, bécasse the Soviet T-34 would have been able to engage German tanks at low distance.

I have searched other tank battles and could not find any with such ratios. The Israelis maximize to 1 to 9 ratio against the Egyptians, Rommel achieved 1 to 9 at Kasserine. But nowhere was seen a 1 to 85 ratio.

So my question is: even if the Soviets "lied" about the battle, to what extent the thesis that it was a crushing defeat is true? What was the true extent of German losses?


First answers give interesting elements:

  • The Germans suffered more than 4 tank losses, and Tiger were amongst them as well as Panzer IV
  • Soviet tanks, still, were high but the ratio comes to a 1 to 10, more "common" in lopsided tank battles

2 Answers 2



Wikipedia has a whole section dedicated to Casualties and losses which is quite reasonable (43–80 German tanks vs 300–400 Soviet tanks).

One needs to pay attention to Wehrmacht's methodology for counting and reporting equipment losses (and lack of reliable information about Soviet losses).

Also, the equipment losses of an advancing side is usually less than those of the retreating side because they have more opportunity to recover and repair damaged equipment (and Tigers were extraordinarily hard to repair due to their weight and complexity). One might imagine that the claim of "only 4 Tigers lost" means "4 Tigers completely destroyed and 70 more damaged and never recovered and repaired".

Defeat or Victory?

This is defined in terms of operational results rather than losses.

The result of the Battle of Prokhorovka was (together with Allied invasion of Sicily and Operation Kutuzov) termination of Operation Citadel which was definitely a victory for the Soviets.

Cf. Battle of Jutland which was a clear German victory if one merely counts losses, but a definite British victory if one considers the strategic implications, i.e., the preservation of the Blockade of Germany.


Consider the Battle of Chemulpo Bay which was a clear defeat - which is still celebrated in Russia for the heroism of the sailors.


When talking about losses of only four tanks on the german side, I guess Töppel is talking about the narrower picture of the actual attack at the anti-tank ditch at Prokhorovka against the II./Pz.Rgt. Leibstandarte. This attack was carried out across open terrain, not through any woods. The Soviet tanks were racing at top speed, with limited vision, until they stumbled upon that old anti-tank ditch. It must have been a turkey shoot.

A broader definition of the Battle includes the actions of neighbouring units (esp. Großdeutschland/1. Tank Army) or the preceding days, putting german losses at approx. 40-100, tanks. Sometimes, people even conflate Prokhorovka with the broader picture of the Battle of Kursk. Understandably, since the Soviet propaganda version of Prokhorovka became "common knowledge", and yet there's not much substance to it.

Note that the term "loss" is not well defined, either. It may mean anything between "total loss" and "out of action for a day". In the article that Jan linked in the comments, Töppel discusses this in detail.

For further sources: Here's an interesting read from the Österreichische Militärische Zeitschrift (in German)

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