Barbarossa 1941: A Blog about War & Peace
(With an Emphasis on the Russo-German War 1941-45)
Dr. Craig W.H. Luther
Former U.S. Air Force Historian & Author of the Critically Acclaimed "Barbarossa Unleashed"
NOTE: This site will undergo major revision in next few weeks to make it much more "user friendly." (19 May 2018)


News Post: 15 May 2018

(NOTE: I've added a second excerpt from my impending new book, The First Day on the Eastern Front. (Blog Post No. 26 below.) This post illustrates my use of Russian sources not normally used by western historians.)

My NEW BOOK, The First Day on the Eastern Front: Germany Invades the Soviet Union (June 22, 1941) (HB, 7" by 10", 448 pages) is now available for pre-order at Stackpole Books ( In his endorsement of the book, internationally recognized historian Dr David Stahel writes: "Certainly the most complete and, without question, the most thoroughly researched treatment of the first 21 hours of Operation Barbarossa. Luther has captured the drama, shock and devastation of those fateful hours like no one else." With the permission of my publisher, I have added an excerpt from The First Day on the Eastern Front to this site (see below, on the left).

A second new book of mine, a thoroughly annoted version of Dr. Heinrich Haape's iconic eastern front memoir, Moscow Tram Stop, will be published by Stackpole in 2019. Several excerpts from Haape's memoir are among my blog posts.

I welcome all my Russian guests to my web site! I have added a post specifically for all of you, which I think you will find of interest -- check out Post #23. (See the list of blog posts below and then select the "Blog" function from across the top menu bar.) (NOTE: From my statistics on Google Analytics, it appears that THIS BLOG HAS NOW BEEN BANNED IN THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION.)

See my posts for 18 November & 2 December 2016 addressing German soldiers' assessments of Red Army weaponry. 

On 27 Sep 2016, I added a set of terrific photos (28 in all) to my b/w "Barbarossa Photo Gallery." The pictures were taken by a German tank commander in Russia in 1941 (and perhaps 1942) who served with the 18 Panzer Division. Several of the photos are quite graphic and disturbing. Special thanks are in order to Herren Arne Schrader and Christian Reith of the German Federal War Graves Commission in Kassel, Germany, for enabling me to use these amazing pictures. Which had never before been published.
Fascinating WWII Photos

This link to the Flickr account of Mr Bruce Sadler contains dozens of fascinating photos. The pictures -- prewar France, the Battle of France (1940), the  Russian campaign -- were originally discovered by Bruce's father at the end of World War II in a photo album he found at Dachau. (For more details on these photos see, (guest) Post #25.)  

Special thanks to Bruce Sadler for enabling me to add these terrific photographs to my website!

Table of Contents

Greeting to my Russian viewers!

Дорогие русские читатели!

Мне очень приятно приветствовать вас в наш сайт, посвященный плану "Барбаросса" и другим темам, представляющим интерес.
Я дважды съездил в РФ (в 2005 и 2016 гг.) и восхищался красивой природой, народом и его любовью к истории.
Искренне ваш

Крэг Лютер

Introduction to Site

In this blog I will discuss in detail my decades of research into Adolf Hitler's surprise attack on Soviet Russia on Sunday, 22 June 1941. I will also from time to time examine contemporary topics of interest pertaining in the main to political issues in America and Europe.

I am a retired USAF historian (27 years) and former Fulbright Scholar (Bonn, West Germany 1979-80) who has written several books on German military operations during WWII. My most recent work is Barbarossa Unleashed. The German Blitzkrieg through Central Russia to the Gates of Moscow. June - December 1941. The book, which took nearly 13 years to complete (five trips to Germany, and one to Rzhev, Russia for research), includes more than 200 photographs (many never before published) and 22 large fold-out maps (among them sharp, color reproductions of German Army General Staff maps); it has received wonderful reviews, for which I am most grateful. You can learn more about the book by going to the Schiffer Books web site, or simply go to "" 

Another book of mine (a reprint with significant new material) is entitled "Blood and Honor. The History of the 12th SS Panzer Division 'Hitler Youth,' 1943-1945." This book, also in large 7" by 10" format, is also available through Schiffer Books. It addresses the origins, training and combat in Normandy (1944) of young Hitler Youth (average age 18 1/2), who fought with a tenacity that earned them the grudging admiration of Anglo-American forces. In my preparation for this book, I made several visits to Normandy, including a visit there with veterans of the 12th SS Pz.-Div. in 1983. Many of their stories are included in the book.   

Schiffer Books web site:

Finally, I have recently completed work on two new books, one which will appear this fall, the other in 2019. The First Day on the Eastern Front: Germany Invades the Soviet Union (22 June 1941), is scheduled for release by Stackpole Books in October/November 2018; using both German and Russian official sources it addressed the first 21 hours of Hitler's attack on the Soviet Union (the Germans attacked just after 0300 hours) in granular detail (see excerpt from the book on the left-hand side).

The book to be released in 2019 is a new, fully annotated edition of the war memoir of Dr. Heinrich Haape, a German doctor assigned to  Infantry Regiment 18 (6 Inf.Div.) who made the long march to Moscow in late 1941 and experienced the harrowing retreat in the winter of 1941/42. He would serve in Russia until spring 1943, and become one of the most highly-decorated German doctors of the war.  

Dr. Haape's memoir of the first ten months of the Russo-German War was published by Collins in 1957 and, oddly enough, with the exception of a paperback which appeared in 1959 (Panther Books), has not be reprinted in English. Two German language editions have also been marketed (1980 and 1998 by the publisher Motorbuch Verlag.) Haape's memoir is quite remarkable, and all the more so because he provides the perspective of a doctor who, given the often fragile nature of the German front line, was often drawn into the fighting (particularly in the winter of 1941/42).
I have added several posts to this blog to give the reader some insight into what Dr Haape's memoir has to offer. Title of the book is: "Moscow Tram Stop. A Doctor's Experiences with the German Spearhead in Russia--1941/42." The publisher is Stackpole Books, with publication in 2019.

On the trail of Army Group Center

I have finally posted the complete diary of my journey to Eastern Europe and Russia on the trail of Dr. Heinrich Haape's Inf.-Rgt. 18 as it drove into Russia in the summer/fall of 1941. Please see my posts 18 & 19 for an amazing vicarious journey back to the start of Operation Barbarossa in June 1941! ( Note: In "On the trail of AGC" you will find more than 100 photos from my trip.) 

Sadly, Herr Dietrich Schoening, the only German veteran who accompanied the delegation of the Kuratorium Rshew to Rzhev this past June, passed away on 3 August. He was 97 years old. A tall, regal-looking man, he had led the German delegation to Rzhev on many occasions, and done so with great tact and diplomacy. I remember him well from my first visit to Rzhev in May 2005.

Just click on the book cover for reading sample.

Click the image to read an excerpt from
(publication pending)

Just click on the book cover for reading sample.

12th SS Panzer Division in Normandy,1944

Operation Barbarossa - Invasion of Soviet Union

12.SS Pz.-Div. "Hitler Youth"

Operation Barbarossa 1941

This video trailer above by Timeline Films, LLC, tells the story of Soviet female aviators in World War Two. With the Germans advancing on Moscow in October 1941, Stalin reluctantly agreed to set up three female flying regiments, of which the most memorable was the 588th Night Bomber Regiment (later known as the "Taman" Guards Night Bomber Aviation Regiment). These brave women flew obsolete wood-and-canvas Po-2 bi-planes on bombing missions over German lines beginning in 1942. The Germans called them the "NIGHT WITCHES" (Nachthexen). Although these bombing missions rarely caused serious German losses, they drove the Germans crazy by keeping them up at night! By the end of the war, 23 of these female aviators had earned the title of Hero of the Soviet Union, while 30 of the regiment's pilots perished in combat. (I am grateful to Ms Andi Hicks, one of the project organizers, for furnishing me this wonderful video.)

Below is a List of Blog Posts Belonging to this Web Site. Simply click on "Blog" on top menu bar to select and read my posts. 

Amazing rare newsreel footage of German heaviest artillery, "Thor" and "Schwerer Gustav" in action against Soviet fortress of Sebastopol in 1942. The rail-mounted 800mm "Schwerer Gustav" was the largest artillery piece ever built.  

  • 1) The Significance of Operation "Barbarossa." (23 March 2016)
  • 2) The "Unknown Battle of Rzhev, Russia--Jan 42 - Mar 43. (24 March 2016)
  • 3) My Journey to Rzhev, Russia, in May 2005. (25 March 2016)
  • 4) General Paulus Plans   "Barbarossa," but his wife  is mortified! (Excerpt from "Barbarossa Unleashed") (27 March 2016)
  • 5) Dr. Haape fights his War: The Story of "Pan Pankowski." (Excerpt from the impending new edition of Haape's memoir, "Moscow Tram Stop.") (28 March 2016)
  • 6) My Book Review of Dr. Christian Hartmann's "Wehrmacht im Ostkrieg . . . 1941/42." (29 March 2016)
  • 7) My Recent Holocaust Lecture at UCSB  and Disturbing Encounter with "Political Correctness." (30 March 2016) 
  • 8) Why did Operation "Barbarossa" Fail? A Succinct Analysis. (1 April 2016)
  • 9) Dr. Haape fights his War: "The Long March." (Excerpt No. 2 from Dr. Haape's memoir.) (4 April 2016)
  • 10) An SS Officer's Experiences in the bloody El'nia Salient (Jul-Aug 41). (Excerpt from the memoir of Otto Skorzeny.) (15 April 2015)
  • 11) Barbarians Inside the Gates: Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and the Cultural Evisceration of the U.S. Navy. (Published 21 April 2016 as guest blog at the David Horowitz "Freedom Center;" web site: (Posted here on 24 April 2016.)
  • 12) Dr. Haape fights his War: Letters to fiancee, Martha Arazym, describing the start of Operation Barbarossa. (Excerpt No. 3 from his war memoir.) (23 April 2016)
  • 13) Contemplating War in Europe. Are the Europeans any match for a Russian assault? (Posted on 5 May 2016 at; posted here on 9 May 2016.)
  • 14) Mind-boggling Reader Reactions to my Post No. 13 "Contemplating War in Europe..." (15 May 2016)
  • 15) The Trip of a Lifetime! Following in the Footsteps of Dr. Haape's 6th Infantry Division to the Gates of Moscow!) (30 May 2016)
  • 16) Report on our remarkable Journey from Berlin to Moscow on the Trail of Dr. Haape's 6th Infantry Division (14 July 2016)
  • 17) The "Craig W.H. Luther papers, 1941-2013." This post outlines the treasure trove of original documents, rare books, photos, etc., I have donated over the years to the Hoover Archives (Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA). The collection embraces 46 manuscript boxes (as well as a single oversized box = ca. 22 linear feet of materials) used in preparation of my books "Blood and Honor" and "Barbarossa Unleashed," my "Kiev 1943" study; and my detailed chronological studies of Dr. Heinrich Haape (and his family) and his 6th Infantry Division. The collection is now open to the public. (21 August 2016)
  • 18) My Eastern Europe & Russia Travel Diary on Trail of Dr. Haape's Inf.-Rgt. 18 (Part I) ( Note: I'm finally posting the diary I kept during my trip with Dr. Haape's son, Johannes. Because the diary is long and quite detailed, I have elected to post it in two parts. See my "Color Photo Gallery" for well over 100 photos from the trip!) (17 September 2016)
  • 19) My Eastern Europe & Russia Travel Diary on Trail of Dr. Haape's Inf.-Rgt. 18 (Part II) (17 September 2016)
  • 20) The Willful Ignorance of President Barack Obama. (6 October 2016)
  • 21) Assessments of Soviet WWII Weaponry by German Eastern Front Veterans: Part I. (18 November 2016)
  • 22) Strategic Deliberations of Adolf Hitler and German High Command in Period June - November 1943. (23 November 2016)
  • 23) The Beginning of Operation "Barbarossa" -- from the Russian Perspective. (28 November 2016.)
  • 24) Assessments of Soviet WWII Weaponry by German Eastern Front Veterans: Part II. (2 December 2016)
  • 25) "Mysterious Photos Reveal an Unseen WWII," in: The Moscow Times (4 May 2012) (Article courtesy of Bruce Sadler.) (12 December 2016)
  • 26) Excerpt No. 2 from my impending new book, The First Day on the Eastern Front: Germany invades the Soviet Union, June 22, 1941 (15 May 2018)

Operation "Barbarossa:" A Photographic Gallery from Author's Collection

Note about photographs:

I have hundreds of photos gleaned over the years from the U.S. National Archives, the Bundesarchiv-Militaerarchiv  in Freiburg, Germany, as well as hundreds provided to me by German veterans of the eastern front. Most all of these photographs -- along with nearly 50 boxes of documents -- are now assigned to the "Luther Collection" at the Hoover Archives (Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA). All this material is readily available for public use. Most all of the pictures below I scanned at the National Archives and have maintained on a CD Rom (many of them were published for the first time in my "Barbarossa Unleashed"). The photographs provided me by the German veterans are all at the Hoover Archives.
( Note: At very end of this gallery see also the photographs taken by Panzerkommandanten Richard Pohl (18. Pz.-Div.) during Operation Barbarossa.) 

German forces  cross the Nemen River, 22 June 1941 (National Archives)

German 88mm AA gun in action against ground targets (summer 1941 / NA)

A Soviet T-34 tank destroyed in Lithuania on the first day of the war. (NA)

German 15 cm Nebelwerfer rocket launcher in action in July 1941. (NA)

German motorcylist roars through a typical Russian village (summer 1941) (NA)

German artillery firing on 22 June 1941.

Damage suffered by the Soviet citadel of Brest-Litovsk (July 1941) (NA)

Graves of Soviet soldiers in Brest
(30 June 1941) (NA)

5cm Pak secures the Berezina bridge (3 July 1941) (NA)

Tanks of 18 Pz.-Div. cross the Berezina River advancing on Smolensk (3 July 1941)(NA) 

2cm AA gun of 18 PD securing a bridge over the Berezina (early July 1941) (NA)

German horse-drawn transport on Autobahn Minsk-Tolotschin (July 1941) (NA)

German Engineers build a military bridge across the Berezina River (3 July 1941) (NA)

Russian civilians in White Russia (Summer 1941) (NA)

German artillery fire under observation. In the foreground a patrol moves forward (22 June 1941) (NA)

Beschenkowitschi--Church stands intact among surrounding buildings destroyed in the fighting. (July 1941) (NA)

German division staff in birch forest near Biala, between Vilnius and the Berezina River (29 June 1941) (NA)

While difficult to see, this picture shows 6 15cm Nebelwerfer rocket launchers in position 49 km SW of Vitebsk to support attack of 7th Pz.-Div. (7 July 1941) NA) 

German 21cm howitzer in action SW of Vitebsk (July 1941) (NA)

Another image of the burnt-out town of Beschenkowitschi, SW of Vitebsk (July 1941) (NA)

Russian aircraft destroyed in White Russian (mid-July 1941) (NA)

German motorcycle messanger struggles to get information from a Russian farmer. (Central Front, summer 1941) (NA)

Tactical sign of the German Nebelwerfer troops (Pz.-Rgt. 25, Russia, summer 1941) (NA)

German 21cm howitzer bombards the Stalin Line (July 41) (NA)

German soldiers operating a MG 34 heavy machine gun (Summer 1941) (NA)

German infantry on the attack (July 1941 (NA)

German motorized formation on the Russian steppe (July 1941)

Birch crosses mark a German gravesite (somewhere in Russia, summer 1941) (NA)

German tanks advance over a rise in the ground (Summer 1941)

German 88mm AA gun in use against ground targets (Summer 1941)

German infantry cross the Bug River on pneumatic boats (22 June 1941) (NA)

Assault Gun 3 (Stug 3) taking on ammunition near Dnepr River (July 1941) (NA)

Battery of German field artillery in action on eastern front  (NA)

Motorized column of 18 PD on the highway between Minsk and Borisov (3 July 1941) (NA)

German artillerists mutilated and murdered by Red Army troops (July 1941) (NA)

Russian bunker position near Desna River, some 35 km NE of Roslavl. Captured by 197 ID (2 October 1941) (NA)

A German howitzer in action on the eastern front (NA)

The German-Russian Demarkation Line. Exact location unknown (NA)

Destroyed Soviet heavy tank (KV-1?) (NA)

German infantry haul a 37mm AT gun into position (Summer 1941) (NA)

Breech mechanism & sighting equipment on a 21 cm heavy howitzer (July 1941) (NA)

Another closeup view of the 21cm heavy howitzer in firing position (July 1941) (NA)

Religious service (Gottesdienst) for German soldiers on eve of Operation Barbarossa (NA)

German motorized unit crosses makeshift bridge at Demidov (78 km east of Minsk (15 July 1941) (NA)

German troops advance down a dusty road (Summer 1941) (NA)

German motorized AT troops near Cholm (27 July 1941) (NA)

German crew digs in its 5 cm AT gun. (Geb.Jg.Rgt. 99) (Southern Russia, 24 June 1941) (NA)

Tanks of 7 Pz.-Div. on the march west of Vitebsk (7 July 1941) (NA)

German 15 cm howitzer battery in concealed position on central front (9 July 1941) (NA)

German assault gun damged by Russian artillery fire (July 1941) (NA)

German infantry on the march (30 June 1941) (NA)

Storage of bread (Kommissbrot) for German troops. Bobruisk on the Berezina River (10 August 1941) (NA)

Column of German tanks on the march (Summer 1941) (NA)

Panzer IV (17 PD) knocked out near Smolensk. The "G" on rear of the tank denotes that it belonged to Heinz Guderian's 2 Panzer Group. (D. Gardner & K. Andrew)

A battery of German 15 cm medium field howitzers (s.F.H. 18) (29 June 1941) (NA)

Stacked weapons of a German advance detachment inside Russia (24 June 1941) (NA)

Photographs of Panzerkommandanten Richard Pohl (Officer, 18th Panzer Division)
Taken in Russian Campaign during 1941/42.
(Special Thanks to the German Federal War Graves Commission for permitting me to post these photographs.)

Panzer II tank crossing the Bug River on first day of Russian campaign.

Destroyed Russian T-28 light tank.

Dead Russian horses laying near the artillery piece they had towed.

Caption reads: The KV-1 tank destroyed by Captain Kirn.

Destroyed German Pz II tank. The "G" signifies that it belongs to Guderian's Panzer Group.

Two damaged German Pz III tanks. The 18 PD began Russian campaign with 218 tanks, of which more than 100 were Pz III models.

Crew of Pz II tank enjoying a meal. Arrow may be pointing to Cdr Pohl. He ended the war in command of Pz.-Bde 106 "Feldherrnhalle" and, badly wounded, was captured in 1945 during the battle for the Ruhr pocket. 

Typical scene on Russian front of 1941 -- a forest of signs point the way to various German units. This photo most likely taken in fall of 1941.

Caption reads: "An unknown German Luftwaffe Leutnant found murdered." The date on the cross is 5 October 1941.

Abandoned Soviet artillery piece. The Red Army had lost more than 20,000 guns by the end of December 1941.

A Russian "Stalin Organ" destroyed in combat. Most likely winter 1941/42.

Most likely photo from winter 1941/42; appear to be a column of wounded soldiers on improvised sleds. An all-too common scene from the first winter of the Russo-German War.

Damaged Soviet T-34. From this photograph one can see how crudely designed the tank was; most were expected to take no more than 6 months of wear and tear. Still, the T-34 was arguably the best tank produced by any adversary during WWII.

Tanks of 18 PD w/ mounted infantry advance along a dusty road. Summer 1941.

Tanks of 18 PD being towed through the mud.

A great photo of a group of Stuka dive bombers. Army Group Center began Operation "Barbarossa" with more than 300 operational Stuka aircraft.

Pz II with the marking "R 11" figures prominently in these photographs. Most likely is Richard Pohl's tank.

The grave site of Hauptmann Kirn, who earlier in the campaign had destroyed a Soviet KV-1 tank (see photo above).

A knocked out Pz III. The photographer appears to have circled in black the point where the enemy shell penetrated the tank.

German tanks advance through a light snow. Most likely October or November 1941. (Not sure what the arrows signify.)

Nice close-up shot of a Pz II of Pz.-Rgt. 18 (18 PD).

A grave site of soldiers from Pz.-Rgt. 18 (18 PD). Most likely summer 1941. (Pz II tank in background.)  

A Soviet T-34 captured by the Germans. Many captured T-34s were incorporated into German armored forces.

Very rare photograph of night combat. It must have been unbelievably chaotic in this era before advent of effective night vision equipment.

A horrific image of a Russian tank crew member burned alive inside his tank. When Panzerkommandant Pohl and crew opened the hatch of this tank (which was largely undamaged on the outside), this is the sight that greeted them. Until this point in campaign, Pohl had tended to dehumanize the Russian enemy. This image shook him emotionally and brought home to him that the Russians were human beings, too.

A German war photographer serving with Guderian's ("G") 2 Panzer Group. Most likely filming 18. Pz.-Rgt.

Red Army soldiers (right) surrendering. Over 3 million Red Army soldiers would perish in German captivity.

A battery of German howitzers. Note tip of tank cannon at bottom of photograph. 

On the Trail of Army Group Center

Directly below are photographs from my Journey to Rzhev, Russia with the "Kuratorium Rzhev" (May 2005); they are followed by over 100 color photos of my journey to Russia in June 2016 ("On the trail of Army Group Center").

(Note: For the fighting at Rzhev in 1942/43, please see my second blog post -- 24 March 2016; for my visit to Rzhev, see the following post.)

This picture is not from Rzhev. This is me speaking in Germany in October 2008 before an organization which honors Knight's Cross holders from World War 2. 

The mighty Volga River running through Rzhev.

City of Rzhev. Photograph taken from my hotel room.

Another image of Rzhev. A bleak-looking city of about 70.000 people beset by much poverty.

The Cathedral in Rzhev just outside our hotel.

Soviet-era residential blockhouse in Rzhev.

A close-up image of a residential blockhouse in Rzhev.

The "Peace Park" at Rzhev -- with adjacent German / Russian Military Cemeteries 

Our wonderful German-Russian translator, Ursula Seyfarth.

The remains of some 600 German soldiers being laid to rest.

A plundered grave of German paratroopers, just outside Rzhev. 

Another image of the plundered grave.

Typical terrain just outside Rzhev.

A tiny village in the background.

Behind the Volga River the monastery church outside the town of Staritza. The town (ca. 175 km NW of Moscow) was captured by the Germans in October 1941 and evacuated at end of December during the retreat from Moscow. ( Note: I cannot seem to enlarge this photograph without running into problems.) 

The monastery outside Staritza, dating from about the 12th Century.

Russian school children perform for us in Rzhev.

Old men relax among the ubiquitous birch trees.

One of many Russian War Monuments in the Rzhev - Moscow area.

Edge of a dilapidated barn or farmstead -- like so many in the Rzhev region. Such wild, thick undergrowth is also encountered everywhere.

Isolated dwellings like this (some abandoned) are not uncommon in the Rzhev area, while most of the local villages consist of only a handful of houses. It is not a picture of vibrant human activity, but of palpable decline. For which one can surely blame the horrific trials of the 1418 day war with Hitler's Germany.

On the trail of Army Group Center
The photographs below were taken during our journey through eastern Europe and Russia in June 2016 on the trail of Dr. Heinrich Haape's Infantry Regiment 18 (see Blog Post #16). In Rzhev, we joined up with the German delegation of the Kuratorium Rzhev (see also Post #16 for background on the Kuratorium). We were in Rzhev on 22 June 2016 and witnessed the solemn remembrance of the 75th anniversary of the German attack on Soviet Russia.

The "General Staff" in eastern Poland, planning our moves. On left, our guide from Belarus, Sergej Stasikov; Dr Luther (me) in center, and Johannes Haape (son of Dr. Heinrich Haape) on the right.

Town in Lithuania just beyond 1941 Russo-German frontier. Bunkers outside the town were attacked by German I.R. 18 (6 ID) on 22 June 1941 at heavy cost in lives.

Remains of one of the Red Army bunkers outside Akmenynia.

Red Army bunker outside Akmenynia.

Red Army bunker outside Akmenynia.

Red Army bunker outside Akmenynia. Germans had to bring in combat engineers with flamethrowers to finish off the tenaciously defended bunkers.

Remains of Red Army bunker outside Akmenynia.

Red Army bunker outside Akmenynia.

Red Army bunker outside Akmenynia.

Remains of Synagogue in Oszmiana. Majority of Jews in town did not survive war; those few who did left the town in 1948.

Inside the abandoned Synagogue in Oszmiana. Man in photo was our guide, Sergej Stasikov.

Catholic Church in Oszmiana (Belarus). Described by Dr Haape in "Pan Pankowski" story (See Blog Post #5)

Orthodox Christian church in Oszmiana.

Soviet T-34/76 tank at the open-air Stalin Line Museum. The museum is located just outside Belorussian capital of Minsk.

Example of Red Army bunker position in Stalin Line fortified zone near Minsk.

Red Army Katyusha ("Stalin Organ") rocket launcher. This fearsome weapon was first introduced on central front in July 1941

Post-World War II Soviet main battle tanks on display at Stalin Line Museum.

Our guide, Sergej, looks out into the terrain just beyond the Stalin Line Museum.

Belarus capital of Minsk. In 1940, it had a population of ca. 300,000; today more than two million people reside in this city of massive structures and little charm. 

We push on eastward thru the endless forests of Belarus. Virtually all "highways" are undivided and clearly not up to western standards. (15 June 2016)

Red Army bunker in Stalin Line outside Fortress City of Polotsk. This bunker (and those which follow) were seized with relatively light casualties by Dr Haape's I.R. 18 on 15 July 1941.

Soviet bunker festooned with garlands. In his memoir, Dr Haape describes the storming of the Stalin Line at Polotsk in Chapter 6.

Red Army defenses in Polotsk fortified zone. These trenches clearly refurbished to show them as they were in July 1941.

Another perspective of defenses shown in the previous photograph -- large Soviet bunker at top of the hill.

The Soviets had integrated a series of lakes and marshes into their defenses outside Polotsk, no doubt in attempt to channel German advance along certain lines; these tactics, however, proved ineffective.

Red Army bunker outside Polotsk.

Red Army bunker outside Polotsk; badly damaged by German shellfire.

Red Army bunker outside Polotsk; the many hits made by German shellfire are clearly evident.

On 17 June, we visited the office of the German War Graves Commission in Smolensk. Among other things, they showed us several bags filled with the "dog tags" of German soldiers killed in combat.

One of the "dog tags" displayed here (center) reveals a bullet hole in lower-right corner.

Example of lovely, forested terrain north of Smolensk. The birch trees were ubiquitous. German soldiers were often awed by the physical beauty of the Russian landscape.

Mesha River sector, due north of Smolensk. Here, among primeval forests, Dr Haape's division fought a war of position in Aug-Sep 1941. The mosquitoes, bees and other flying insects we encountered were most unpleasant! This area was truly the End of the Earth -- inhabited by very few people.

Soviet war memorial in town of Dukovshchina, ca. 40 km N/NE of Smolensk

Large monument marking entry way into German military cemetery at Dukovshchina. 

German military cemetery in Dukovshchina. By 2013, 30,500 German war dead were buried here from Smolensk - Briansk - Kaluga regions.

German military cemetery outside Dukovshchina. According to our special War Graves Commission guide, the commission has a list of 140,000 German KIA in Smolensk area; of these, 50,000 have been identified.

Breathtaking Uspenski Cathedral (The Cathedral Church of the Assumption) -- high atop Cathedral Hill and dominating the city of Smolensk. Origins of the church reach back to the 12th Century.

Uspenski Cathedral -- a view of some of its intricate gold-covered appointments.

After capturing Smolensk in mid-July 1941, the Germans reopened the cathedral for religious services by the Russian people. 

In his memoir, Colonel Hans von Luck (7 PD) claims that, in early Aug 41, he attended the first orthodox mass in the cathedral in over 20 years..

The might Dnepr River running through Smolensk. The German 29 Inf.-Div. (mot.) roared into the city on 16 July 1941.

A breathtaking shot from deep inside the cathedral -- like all my other photos, taken surrepticiously.

Russian T-34 tanks, mounted on pedestals, are almost as ubiquitous as the birch trees in Russia. This monument, in Smolensk, is (we were told) sometimes used for weddings, the newlyweds decorating the tank with items of clothing, etc. (check the gun barrel closely!). Could one even imagine such a thing in Western Europe or America? 

From this general area, NE of Smolensk, Dr Haape's 6th Inf.-Div. launched its attack on 2 October 1941 as part of Army Group Center's Operation "Typhoon," the advance on Moscow. The terrain is most likely more heavily wooded now than it was at that time.

Another poor, dilapidated village in central Russia. We encountered 100s of them -- mostly little more than a handful of beaten down domiciles lining a rutted road. Much of central Russia is virtually depopulated -- no doubt an enduring impact of the Great Fatherland War, 1941/45.

Lovely orthodox church in Vyazma. Church was built between 1674-76. Johannes Haape is standing on far left (fumbing with camera!), and our guide, Sergej, is to his right.

Inside the orthodox church at Vyazma. Notice icons on wall on far right. As many German soldiers reported, most Russia peasant families had Christian icons inside their modest dwellings. 

A most lovely Russian woman outside church in Vyazma. Didn't let her clipboard distract me from her most fine appointments!

Johannes and Sergej speak with a 90+ year-old Russian veteran. He claims to have fought for 900 days at Leningrad; on 1 May 45 he was in Berlin and wrote his name at bottom of Reichstag. (May be so, but we would hear that story more than once!)

Procession from church in Vyazma. All weekend they were celebrating the 777th anniversary of the town!

In the distance a Russian collective farm; according to Sergej, many are still in operation today.

We cross the Dnepr River just a few kilometers north of where Dr Haape's IR 18 crossed the river in early October 1941.

German military cemetery in Rzhev. Eventually, it will hold some 40,000 German war dead.

Christian cross at heart of German military cemetery in Rzhev.

Entrance to the Russian military cemetery at Rzhev (it is directly adjacent to the German cemetery). One million or more Russian soldiers perished in fighting in Rzhev-Vyazma region from Jan 42 - Mar 43. Losses of German 9th Army defending Rzhev were about 120,000 over same period. Throughout entire war in the east, the Germans always maintained a positive casualty ratio (i.e., gave better than they got).

An abandoned collective farm not far from Rzhev -- one of many we saw in Russia.

A typical "road" we travelled in search of Dr. Haape's IR 18. Johannes' trusty Peugot SUV did not let us down!

Our hotel in Rzhev. I also stayed here in 2005. The wiring inside along the walls was so bad, it seemed like quite a fire trap to me. 

20 June 2016: We finally reach the Tma River sector, due west of Tver (Kalinin). This area, just beyond the Volga, marked the deepest penetration of Haape's 6 ID into Russia in1941. We've now driven more than 3350 km from Berlin since 10 June.

War memorials such as this are found in almost every Russian town and village.

The Tma River, Haape's Infantry Regiment 18 had established a bridgehead across the river by 26 October 1941.

Another modest Russian peasant village -- somewhere between Rzhev and Tver.

Once again, we've arrived at the End of the World. We are looking for village of Krasnovo (west of Kalinin), where Haape's 3rd Btl. launched a desperate counterattack in mid-Dec 41.

The woods in this area were so primeval, yet so beautiful.

The Volga near Ulitino (ca. 20 km NE of Staritza), where the 6 ID crossed the river on 21 Oct 41.

A stunning orthodox church in Staritza. The history of the town reaches back to the late 13th Century.

We drive into the desolate village of Schitinkovo -- site of tenacious and desperate combat involving Haape's 3rd Btl. in late Dec 41. It was here, on 29 Dec, that the great warrior Oberleutnant Graf von Kageneck was killed. Only days before his wife, the Princess of Bavaria, had given birth to twins.

In Schitinkovo we met these three adorable young girls.

In Schitinkovo, we encountered this very old woman. She was about 11 years old when the fighting took place in Dec 41, and recalled it vividly.

View across the Volga of lovely monastery church outside Staritza. I also took a photograph of this church from almost same angle in 2005 (see above).

In Staritza, we visit the grounds of the Holy Uspensky Monastery under a leaden sky.

Remains of an old church in Staritza-Nord. According to reliable information in our possession, ca. 40 meters in front of this church is a mass grave where 38 fallen German soldiers are entombed.

22 June 2016: The 75th anniversary of the German invasion. President Putin has ordered that observations of that terrible day so long ago take place throughout the country. We are up at 3.30 a.m. to witness start of events in Rzhev.

A procession moves through Rzhev on its way to the Volga.

From high above the mighty Volga, we watch as wreaths are about to be dropped into the river.

22 June 2016: At Russian military cemetery in the "Peace Park" at Rzhev, the remains of 1200 Russian war dead are about to receive their final resting place.

The shovels stacked together -- a symbolic gesture?

The remains of the 1200 Russian war dead are laid to rest. Original grave sites of Russian and German soldiers in the Rzhev - Vyazma area are constantly being discovered. Many have already been plundered by petty thieves. (See my Rzhev 2005 photos above.)

Red Army weapons on display at the museum outside the Peace Park in Rzhev.

Red Army heavy mortar at museum in Peace Park. Russian soldiers were amply outfitted with such weapons.

German weaponry and paraphernalia on display at museum in Rzhev.

Johannes and I share a toast at our "regular" restaurant just across the Volga from Hotel Rzhev. Sergej must have gone to the bathroom.

Exact location (just outside the Hotel Rzhev) where I was nearly beaten to death early on the morning of 29 May 2005. The undergrowth which was then beneath the trees -- and which concealed my attackers -- has been cleared away.

Many of the better-kept peasant houses were painted in glaring colors -- greens, purples, reds, etc. Such coatings, we were told, helped protect the domiciles during Russia's arctic winters. 

Orthodox Christian crosses such as this are quite common in and around many Russian villages..

 On 15 Dec 41, after his leave to Germany had been abruptly cancelled, Dr Haape slid down the snow on the far steep bank of the Volga, then crossed the river, to reach the regimental CP in a village NE of Staritza. From our map study, etc., we were quite sure we found the exact spot described by Haape in his memoir.

My modest attempt at an "artistic" photograph of a Russian war memorial not far from Tver (Kalinin).

The mighty Volga River running through the city of Tver (Kalinin). The city was captured by the Germans in mid-Oct 41, and liberated by the Red Army on 16 Dec 41. In fact, it was the first major city to be liberated from the Wehrmacht during World War II.

Wreaths are placed at the Russian memorial in the Peace Park in Rzhev.

Russian school children perform for members of the Kuratorium Rzhev.

Johannes Haape, Dr Luther and Dietrich Schoening at the Hotel Rzhev. The 98-year-old Herr Schoening was the only German veteran of WWII to accompany the Kuratorium on its visit this year to Rzhev. Schoening was captured by the Russians in the summer of 1944, and did not return home until July 1949. Herr Schoening passed away on 3 August 2016.

An iconic image of the German "Landser" (G.I.) in Russia -- the steel helmets of fallen soldiers atop simple birch crosses. (I shot this photo off the wall at the war museum at the Peace Park in Rzhev.)

The first known documented reference to Rzhev was apparently in 1216.

A colorful procession walks past the Rzhev Hotel celebrating 800th Anniversairy of city of Rzhev.

Both photographs shot from my hotel room, at midnight.

Celebrations of Rzhev anniversary culminate in fireworks.

A Russian musical group regales us.

A picnic on the Volga, on occasion of the Rzhev folklore fair.

We had a wonderful lunch inside a tent on this uncomfortably hot early summer day.

We enter the town of Klin, about 75km northwest of Moscow.

Another T-34 on a block of granite!

A tram line on the outskirts of Moscow, as we search for the former location of the tram stop visited by Dr Haape and Oberleutnant Kageneck in late Nov 41.

A Russian memorial in Victory Park in Moscow honoring veterans of World War One. Upon reaching Moscow, we had zick-zacked our way ca. 4600 km from Berlin!

A view looking out on Victory Park in Moscow. The park honors the Red Army's victory over Germany in World War II.

The spectacular monument that dominates the Victory Park, displaying the slaying of the German dragon.

The eternal flame at the Victory Park.

Sounding the clarion call of victory -- another image from Victory Park set against a brilliant sunset.

The breathtaking Basilica in Red Square. The famous GUM department store is on the left.

The Gum Department store was established in 1893.

Inside GUM: I inquired with a sales lady about a rather modest looking yellow hand bag for my wife. Price: About $2300.

Stunning orthodox Christian church inside Red Square.

Red Square -- The rectangular structure in center of photograph (adjacent to wall) is Lenin's Tomb. As the Germans approached Moscow in Oct 41, Russian authorities went to great lengths to evacuate Lenin's body from the city.

One of several color maps on the wall of the German War Graves Commission in Moscow showing locations of cemetaries and numbers of those interred. Since early 1990s, the commission has located and reburied in formal military cemetaries the remains of some 350,000 fallen German soldiers. Over four million German soldiers perished on the eastern front 1941/45.

The Underground in Moscow. Was used as a bomb shelter during World War II. First Luftwaffe raid on Moscow took place on night of 21/22 July 1941. In months that followed the Germans would conduct dozens of (mostly minor) aerial assaults on the Soviet capital to very little effect.

 My single room in our very nice hotel in Moscow. Throughout our trip the hotel rooms were small, even tiny, but the cost was always minimal compared to hotels in Western Europe or America.

The giant Lufthansa Airbus which flew me (and ca. 500 others) from Frankfurt to Los Angeles on 1 July 2016. It was so nice to get home -- I missed my wife and all our furry four-legged friends.

Russo-German War 1941/45
(Map Section)
Note: Many of the maps seen below are copies of original German military maps. The color maps of the German Army General Staff (such as the first one posted below) are gleaned from: K.-J. Thies, Der Zweite Weltkrieg im Kartenbild. Band 5, Teil 1.1. Der Ostfeldzug Hr.Gr. Mitte, 21.6.-6.12.1941. Biblio Verlag. Bissendorf 2001) 

Copy of an original German Army General Staff map showing position of German /Russian forces in sector of German Army Group Center on eve of Operation "Barbarossa." There are a dozen of these meticulously detailed color maps of the Army General Staff in my book "Barbarossa Unleashed," in 11" by 17" format.

This map illustrates just how close the German Ostheer got to Moscow by December 1941. (Source: D. Stahel, The Battle for Moscow. Cambridge University Press. 2015)

Positions of German 6th Infantry Division in the "Koenigsberg" Line covering Rzhev (Jan-Jul 42)

Original German battle map with positions of 6 Inf.-Div. at Rzhev, 31 Jul 1942 (BA-MA Freiburg)

Original German battle map showing positions of 6 ID at Rzhev, 5 Aug 42. (BA-MA Freiburg)

Positions of 6 ID during heavy fighting around Rzhev. The division would sustain some 3300 losses over a three-week period in August 1942, but would hold on to the city. (BA-MA Freiburg)