A German Counter-Attack on the Eastern Front

A Panzer V Panther in northern Russia, December 1943.


The Eastern front had seen dramatic Soviet successes throughout 1943. After the disaster at Stalingrad, the Germans had been pushed further and further back. Hitler’s last throw of the dice, at Kursk, had been a costly failure with the Soviet follow up demonstrating that they were far stronger than had been expected. In the Autumn the Red Army had re-occupied much of Ukraine.

The Germans were only moving in one direction and there could be no rational expectation that the situation would be reversed in the coming year. Yet they remained a potent fighting force all across the front. There was no sign that their forces were ready to acknowledge they were losing. At whatever the level the Germans always sought to counter any reverse with a swift counter-attack, either to regain ground or to knock the enemy off balance. An attack was the best form of defense.

They had some advantages, not least the formidable firepower of the Tiger tank which was used to spearhead this new assault. Taking part in this attack was the famous Tiger commander Michael Wittman and his crew, who already had destroyed dozens of T-34s and anti-tank guns, and would now add to their score over the following days. They were under no illusions about the nature of the fighting – a fellow tank commander from the Leibstandarte shot himself when his Tiger was disabled, rather than allow himself to be taken, prisoner.

For their senior commander it was a satisfactory episode:

At 0600 hours on 6 December, the spearheads of all three panzer divisions crossed the Zhitomir—Korosten road. Contrary to what we expected, there was a strongly manned position running along the road, although it was still in course of construction. The Russians were taken completely by surprise as they had seen absolutely nothing of our outflanking maneuver.

On this line, they offered brave but unco-ordinated resistance which was speedily broken down, particularly on the front of the 7th Panzer Division. From then onwards the thrust went on smoothly and penetrated far into hostile territory. At no time was there any crisis.

In those days we were really good at intercepting Russian wireless traffic; enemy messages were promptly deciphered and passed to Corps in time to act on them. We were kept well informed of Russian reactions to our movements, and the measures they proposed to take, and we modified our own plans accordingly.

At first, the Russians underestimated the importance of the German thrust. Later a few antitank guns were thrown into the fray. Then slowly the Russian Command got worried. Wireless calls became frantic. “Report at once where the enemy comes from. Your message is unbelievable.” Reply: “Ask the Devil’s grandmother; how should I know where the enemy comes from?” (Whenever the Devil and his near relations are mentioned in Russian signals one can assume that a crack-up is at hand.)

Towards noon the Russian Sixtieth Army went off the air, and soon afterward our tanks overran the army headquarters. By evening the Russian front had been rolled up for a length of twenty miles. The attack was brilliantly supported by the aircraft of General Seidemann, who had established his H.Q. in close vicinity to that of the 48th Panzer Corps.

The Air Liaison Officer from the 8th Fliegerkorps traveled in an armored car with our leading tanks and kept in direct wireless contact with the air squadrons. The advance continued without a halt.

During the night 7/8 December, “Leibstandarte” thrust deeply through the Russian lines. Unfortunately, the success could not be exploited, as the tanks ran out of gasoline and “Leibstandarte” was kept busy the whole day rescuing immobile tanks. First Panzer Division broke down all resistance and pushed through as far as the Teterev river. Fighting stubbornly the 7th Panzer Division smashed the Malin bridgehead on the banks of the Irscha and on 9 December the area between the two rivers was mopped up. The seventh Panzer eliminated the bridgehead south of Malin while the divisions of the 13th Corps took up positions in rear of our armor.

The results so far achieved were satisfactory. The Russian Sixtieth Army had been completely disrupted, and it was clear from their huge ammunition dumps and the intricate roadnet they had developed that we had forestalled an offensive of gigantic dimensions.

‘Tiger I’ Panzers of the ‘Das Reich’ SS Division in Northern Russia.

December 6 in German History

December 6

St. Nicholas Day in Germany. St. Nicholas Day, or Eve, is celebrated on December 6. This is the favorite holiday of all children – it’s a gift-giving day. When evening comes, St. Nicholas, a reverend gray-haired figure with a flowing beard, wearing gorgeous bishop’s garments, gold embroidered cope, miter, and pastoral staff, knocks on doors and inquires about the behavior of the children. The custom of examining the children, where they will cite a verse, sing, or otherwise show their skills, is still widespread in German-speaking countries. Each little one gets a gift for his performance.

December 6, 1834

Death of Adolf von Lützow in Berlin, Germany. After Napoleon had defeated Prussia, Lützow organized a cavalry numbering over 3,000 troops (the Lützowsche Freikorps) which operated in guerrilla fashion behind French lines. His corps continued activity until the final defeat of Napoleon.

December 6, 1894

The first meeting in the new Reichstag building in Berlin.

December 6, 1939

Werner Heisenberg submits his first research report to the German army concerning a nuclear reactor.

December 6, 1940

German armed merchant cruisers Komet and Orion stopped freighter Triona with gunfire 200 miles south of Nauru, killing 3 in the process. 54 crew and 7 passengers were taken off the ship before Orion sank Triona with a torpedo. German Navy admirals would later criticize this use of torpedo as a waste.

German submarine U-43 sank Norwegian ship Skrim 400 miles west of Ireland at 2248 hours; the entire crew of 23 was killed.

German bombers attacked Bristol, England, United Kingdom overnight.

December 6, 1941

Soviet troops launched a counteroffensive in the Moscow region in Russia at 0600 hours. Georg Hans Reinhardt ordered his 3rd Panzer Army to fall back to Klin, while Heinz Guderian’s 2nd Panzer Army held the areas near Tula south of Moscow. Field Marshal Fedor von Bock had not yet realized that he was now facing an all-out Soviet counteroffensive.

German submarine U-131 sank British ship Scottish Trader with 6 torpedoes south of Iceland, killing all 43 aboard.

December 6, 1944

Heinkel’s He 162 jet fighter made its maiden flight. Manufacture of the He 162 was protected from Allied air attack by being built in an underground factory in a former salt mine at Tarthun near Magdeburg, Germany.

Leutnant Erich Herkner of the German Kampfgeschwader 55 wing was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross.



The First Day on the Eastern Front. Germany Invades the Soviet Union, June 22, 1941

In the spirit of Martin Middlebrook’s classic First Day on the Somme, Craig Luther narrates the events of June 22, 1941, a day when German military might was at its peak and seemed as though it would easily conquer the Soviet Union, a day the common soldiers would remember for its tension and the frogs bellowing in the Polish marshlands. It was a day when the German blitzkrieg decimated Soviet command and control within hours and seemed like nothing would stop it from taking Moscow. Luther narrates June 22—one of the pivotal days of World War II—from high command down to the tanks and soldiers at the sharp end, covering strategy as well as tactics and the vivid personal stories of the men who crossed the border into the Soviet Union that fateful day, which is the Eastern Front in microcosm, representing the years of industrial-scale warfare that followed and the unremitting hostility of Germans and Soviets. In his endorsement of the book Victor Davis Hanson writes: “Craig Luther’s [new book] continues his invaluable explorations of he disastrous German invasion of the Soviet Union, by focusing on the first day of Operation Barbarossa . . . A rich scholarly resource that historians of the Eastern Front will find invaluable.”

You can purchase this book at Amazon on the link below:


Barbarossa Unleashed. The German Blitzkrieg through Central Russia to the Gates of Moscow, June-December 1941

This book examines in unprecedented detail the advance of Germany’s Army Group Center through central Russia, toward Moscow, in the summer of 1941, followed by brief accounts of the Battle of Moscow and subsequent winter battles into early 1942. Based on hundreds of veterans accounts, archival documents, and exhaustive study of the pertinent primary and secondary literature, the book offers new insights into Operation Barbarossa, Adolf Hitler s attack on Soviet Russia in June 1941. While the book meticulously explores the experiences of the German soldier in Russia, in the cauldron battles along the Minsk-Smolensk-Moscow axis, it places their experiences squarely within the strategic and operational context of the Barbarossa campaign. Controversial subjects, such as the culpability of the German eastern armies in war crimes against the Russian people, are also examined in detail. This book is the most detailed account to date of virtually all aspects of the German soldiers experiences in Russia in 1941. Writes eastern front historian David Stahel in his review of the book: “The combination of ‘top down’ and ‘bottom up’ approaches makes Luther’s work a landmark study of Operation Barbarossa.” (War in History)

Based on great reviews, we recommend this book. You can find the book at these places for sale: 

  1. barbarossa1941.com
  2. schifferbooks.com
  3. amazon.com

December 4, 1932

December 4, 1932

Through a series of calculated political moves, Kurt von Schleicher forces the chancellor Franz von Papen to resign and is able to succeed him in the position. In an attempt at revenge, von Papen will make a deal with Hitler allowing the Nazi leader to take the position of Chancellor. Von Papen believes he will be able to control him.



December 3 in German History

December 3, 1932

The former German Defence Minister and recently named German Chancellor General Kurt von Schleicher offered Gregor Strasser (the Organization leader of the NSDAP) the post of vice-chancellor in a coalition government. Hitler, sensing it was a move by Schleicher to split the Nazi Party, ordered Strasser to stop any further negotiations with the Government.

December 3, 1940

German armed merchant cruiser Kormoran departed Gotenhafen, German (Gdynia, Poland) to raid Allied shipping, carrying supplies for 12 months, 280 naval mines, 40 landmines, and spare parts and torpedoes to supply submarines.

December 3, 1941

German submarine U-124 sank the unarmed US freighter Sagadahoc in the South Atlantic with torpedoes.

Hitler issued a decree on “Simplification and Increased Efficiency in our Armaments Production” (commonly known as the Rationalization Decree) in which he chided German firms for failing to adopt the practice of large factories and simple production methods, and ordered the military to simplify and standardize the design of all weapons to make possible “mass production on modern principles”.

German 4th Army was halted at Naro-Fominsk west of Moscow, Russia, thus exposing the flank of the German 2nd Panzer Army, which was assaulting the Tula region south of Moscow.

The Axis attempt to reach Bardia in Libya and Sollum and Halfaya Pass in Egypt failed to breach the Allied positions that stood in the way.

German submarine U-124 sank US ship Sagadahoc 1,250 west of South Africa at 2147 hours; 1 was killed, 34 survived. She was to be the last American merchant ship to be lost to the German Navy before the US officially entered the war.

December 3, 1942

Adolf Hitler approved the plan to convert the captured and incomplete French cruiser De Grasse into a light aircraft carrier.


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