SECOND WORLD WAR September 1941

SECOND WORLD WAR September 1941

(Eastern Front)

During the German invasion of the Soviet Union, code named Operation Barbarossa, Leningrad was completely surrounded on the 1st September 1941. The Finnish Army, who were allied to Germany, advanced on the Soviet Union from the north whilst the German Army advanced from the south. The Siege of Leningrad began on the 8th September 1941 when the German Army severed the last road to the city. With the German forces still advancing on Leningrad, Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin appointed General Georgy Zhukov to take over the defence of the city on the 11th September 1941. Zhukov began the erection of stronger defences. On the 16th September 1941. German Dictator Adolf Hitler ordered a major artillery and bombing offensive against the city and by the 30th September 1941 the Siege of Leningrad had claimed over 4,900 civilian lives. The blockade was broken on the 18th January 1943 when the Soviet Army opened a land corridor along the coast. The siege officially ended on the 27th January 1944 when the Soviet Army expelled the German forces from the southern outskirts of the city. The siege lasted 872 days and became one of the longest and most destructed sieges in history.                                                                   

During Operation Barbarossa, Hitler ignored the advice of his Generals to advance his forces to Moscow. He believed a simultaneous attack on Leningrad in the north and the Ukrainian city of Kiev in the south would destroy the Soviet Army. His miscalculation was to cost Germany dearly and the campaign in Russia was doomed. Operation Barbarossa had been postponed for a month. The splitting of the advance on Moscow wasted valuable summer weather and the German Generals predicted disaster when the Russian winter set in. At the same time Hitler’s directive ordered the German army to attack Kiev and on the 10th September 1941 the army had surrounded the city. Commander-in-Chief of the Soviet Armed Forces Marshall Semyon Budyonny had been ordered to defend Kiev. With the German army surrounding the city, he requested permission from Stalin to evacuate. Stalin refused permission but on the 17th September 1941 permission was given. It was too late as Kiev was captured on the 18th September 1941 and the commander General Kirponos was killed. Something like half a million Russian soldiers and vast amounts of equipment was captured and German troops murdered 30,000 Jews on the outskirts of Kiev.

When Germany invaded the Soviet Union they reached Estonia in July 1941. Hopes of the Estonian people were high that the Germans were liberators from Soviet oppression and restoring Estonia’s independence. It soon became apparent that the Germans were replacing one occupation with another. Germany fully occupied Estonia on the 5th September 1941 and the Estonians began to self-govern the country on the 15th September 1941 under the guidance of the Germans.

0n the Lithuanian/Belarus border Nazi Germany established a Jewish ghetto in the Lithuanian city of Vilnius. The city was predominantly Polish and Jewish and the Lithuanians were in the minority. The German army entered Vilnius in June1941 followed by the German death squad. Local Lithuanian leaders proposed Jewish and Polish ethnic cleansing and formulated a plan to implicate the Jews and Poles as aggressors. Two civilian Lithuanians dressed as Jews broke into a Jewish apartment and fired upon German soldiers. They fled the apartment and returned with German infantry who captured two Jews and accusing them of firing at German soldiers. The Jews were beaten and then shot on the spot. In retaliation to the “Jewish offence” all Jews were driven out of the neighbourhood the Nazis had selected for the future ghetto. They were taken to Lukiškes Prison then on to Paneriai, also known as the Ponary, in Vilnius. By the 6th September 1941 between 5,000 and 10,000 Jews were murdered. The establishment of the ghetto to imprison the Jews of Vilnius was the prime objective.

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(Other Theatres)                                   

In the Balkans following the Axis invasion of Yugoslavia in April 1941, Germany placed Serbia under the authority of a military government. The Axis powers consisted of Germany, Austria and Italy decided to set up a puppet government to maintain control of the country in order not to tie up a large amount of German manpower. On the 1st September 1941 General Milan Nedić was installed as the new Prime Minister. Nedić was the former chief of staff of the Royal Yugoslav Army who was threatened that if he did not accept the position, then Germany would bring in Bulgarian troops to occupy the whole of Serbia. Nedić accepted the position and the puppet government stayed in power until October 1944 when Serbian partisans and the Soviet Army forced the occupiers to withdraw.

In Germany on the 1st September 1941, German Jews and all Jews from the age of six years were ordered to wear the “Yellow Star of David” badge. This order included Jewish citizens of the current German annexed states. The order for Jews to wear the badge in the future annexed states of Estonia, Luxemburg, Slovakia and Romania were soon to follow. From here-on all Jews were easily identified

In September 1941 the American navy was assisting the British Royal Navy in escorting merchant convoys in the North Atlantic through U-boat infested waters. The U.S. Navy destroyer U.S.S. Greer was the first American vessel to fire on a German ship on the 4th September 1941. Conflicting evidence indicates that German U-boat (U-652) fired upon S.S. Greer but did not make any contact. The identity as an American vessel was unmistakeable as she was flying the American flag. It would appear S.S. Greer immediately attacked the U-boat with depth charges. U-652 survived the attack and joined up with a wolf pack seeking British convoys. In his fireside chat on the 11th September 1941 President Franklin D. Roosevelt used this incident to declare that Germany had been guilty of an “act of piracy”. Roosevelt confirmed his order to “shoot on sight” if threatened effectively declaring naval war on Germany and Italy in the Battle of the Atlantic. On the 26th September 1941 the U.S. Navy implemented the order of all-out war on Axis shipping in U.S, waters.

In the U.S.A. the first Liberty ship S.S. Patrick Henry was launched from a shipyard in Baltimore, Maryland on the 27th September 1941. The vessels became known as Liberty ships when Roosevelt launched S.S. Patrick Henry and in his speech he quoted the phrase “Give me Liberty or give me death”. S.S. Parick Henry was launched nearly ten weeks before the United States officially entered into the war. The United States adapted the British concept of ships to replace those lost in the Atlantic convoys. Owing to low-cost of construction the ships were mass produced. Between 1941 and 1945 eighteen American shipyards built 2,710 Liberty ships (an average of three ships every two days). This was achieved because they were constructed in sections and welded together, not the traditional riveting. As America entered the war the shipyard men were enlisted in the armed forces and the shipyards employed women to replace them.

The Allied Powers of Britain and the Soviet Union invaded and occupied Iran in August 1941.  Reza Shah had been the Shah of Iran from December 1921 and encouraged German commercial policies. By the beginning of the war Germany was Iran’s largest trading partner. The Germans agreed to sell a steel factory the Shah desired whilst the Germans would have access to the oil fields. The Shah replaced the pro-British Prime Minister Ali Mansur with Mohammed Ali Foroughi. When negotiations with the British began, Foroughi implied he and the Iranian people wanted to be liberated from the Shah’s rule. Foroughi proposed handing all German nationals over to the British and Soviet Union authorities, but was planning the secret evacuation of the German nationals from Iran. On the 16th September 1941 the Red Army occupied the Iranian capital Tehran and Britain and the Soviet Union forced the Shah to abdicate in favour of his son, for having not handed German residents over to the Allies. Crown Prince Mohammed Reza Pahlavi took the oath to become the new Shah of Iran.

The uprising of the northern city of Drama in Greece began on the 28th September 1941. The Bulgarian Army entered Greece in April 1941 following Germany’s invasion of Greece. The official annexation of Greece followed when the Bulgarian government failed to bring changes to the Greek population by stealing land and houses in favour of Bulgarian settlers. Once the Bulgarian occupation of Greece had been established the uprising began. Under the guidance of the Macedonian politburo of the Communist Party of Greece a revolt broke out on the 28th September 1941. The following day, the 29th September 1941 the uprising was suppressed by the Bulgarian occupation authorities. Bulgarian retaliations were not limited to the rebels but included many citizens of Greece suspected as being involved. The suppression and subsequent massacre precipitated a mass exodus of the Greek population seeking refuge in the German occupation zone of Central Macedonia. Over 2,000 rebels and citizens died during the uprising.  

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