German Preparations for War against the USSR. July 1940 – April 1941
After the defeat of France, the Third Reich became the dominant force in continental Europe. Only the British Isles and the USSR remained outside the control of Germany and its allies. In July 1940, Hitler ordered his military commanders to plan an operation against the Soviet Union.
While discussing the attack against the USSR, different approaches to strategic problems emerged among the German military leadership. the General Staff of the German Army proposed launching the principal attack from Warsaw through the north of the Polesye and on to Moscow, which it considered to be the principal target. However, Hitler was not prone to treat the Soviet capital as the exclusive goal of the campaign. He believed that, after reaching the Dnepr on their way to Moscow, German forces should defeat the Red Army in the Baltic region and the Ukraine to cut the USSR off from the Baltic and Black Seas and deprive it of key economic regions and only then launch an offensive against Moscow. As a result, the final version of the German attack on the USSR, described in Directive of the High Command of the Wehrmacht № 21 of December 18, 1940, under the codename ‘Barbarossa’, called for three army groups to launch major offensives in the directions of Leningrad, Moscow and Kiev. Hitler counted on quickly defeating the Soviet Union, as he had previously done in France. the secret concentration and deployment of the invasion forces began in February 1941.
While preparing to attack the USSR, Germany devoted a lot of attention to planning the occupation regime in the conquered Soviet territories (Plan Ost, etc.), their economic exploitation in the interests of the Third Reich. the Nazi leadership adopted a strategy of annihilation in the war against the USSR. It planned to kill part of the Soviet population on political and racial grounds, starve another part to death, and use the rest as slaves for meeting the needs of the Arian masters.