Nazi Germany’s ground invasion of Soviet Russia was one of the greatest military offensives in history. In August 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union signed a mutual non-aggression pact. They also sealed a secret agreement that organized the invasion and subsequent partitioning of Poland. A few days later, on September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland, effectively beginning World War Two. On September 3, Britain and France entered the war in support of Poland. Italy, a German ally, did not immediately join the conflict. After conquering Poland with ease, Hitler attacked Norway, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, and France in rapid succession. Benito Mussolini, sensing an opportunity to strip Britain of its North African holdings, entered the war alongside Hitler on June 10, 1940. On June 22, 1940, France surrendered. Britain remained the only adversary for Germany and Italy.
Emboldened by success, Hitler broke the non-aggression pact with the Soviets and prepared to invade Soviet territory. The Italian army was also involved, deploying 60,000 men at the start of the campaign, a number that would later grow to 230,000. On June 22, 1941, 150 German divisions with a total of three million soldiers rolled into the Soviet Union. Within a few weeks, Soviet military divisions were beaten back and forced into retreat. But Germany and Italy were unable to clinch the victory. The Siege of Leningrad lasted 900 days, the longest such siege in modern history. The German army began tiring. In the winter, Soviet troops reclaimed some of the land they’d lost early on. The key battle occurred in the city of Stalingrad. On September 13, 1942, Nazi armies entered the city, but Red Army soldiers put up house-to-house resistance. The battle lasted more than four months and concluded with a Soviet victory on February 2, 1943. The Russians began an all-out counteroffensive, with the Germans and Italians pulling back. Defeated in Russia, Germany’s war fortunes took a turn for the worse. Both Germany and Italy were being pummeled by the Soviets in the East while in the West British and American troops landed at Normandy, in France.
World War Two was ending. Germany, Italy, and Japan were all facing defeat.