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World War II/The German Retreat, The Russian Advance

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During the fall and early winter of 1941, German armored divisions had advanced toward Moscow at a rapid pace, capturing hundreds of thousands of Soviet troops in the process. By late November, German armored divisions, within a day’s travel, threatened the city. But by the first week of December, snow began falling, and temperatures plunged to -40° C (-40° F). The German soldiers, not dressed for winter weather, were freezing and losing their will to fight. Their equipment also froze, becoming useless. The Russian winter finally accomplished what its military had failed to do: It halted the German offensive.

The German army had practically turned its invasion of Russia into a rout. But at the end of July 1942, Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin issued the order, “Not a step back!” The Germans assaulted the city of Stalingrad that month, a crucial city of the Soviet Union. In the ruins of Stalingrad, shown here, Soviet soldiers fought the Germans building-by-building in a savage battle for the city that lasted for five months.