The dream of a German colonial Empire between the Crimea and the Caucasus almost became reality at the end of the First world war. After the conclusion of the peace of Brest in March 1918, German and Austrian troops advanced deep into the territory of Ukraine occupied Sevastopol in the Crimea and established a protectorate in Georgia. About this concept, remember Hitler when he the spring of 1942, ordered the Wehrmacht to go on the offensive in the second blitzkrieg in the South of the USSR.
The jewel of this illusion was the Crimea. He had to be at the center of “German South”, which Hitler wanted in his war of extermination. After the expulsion of (or destruction of) the local population of German settlers was to make the Peninsula the land is ready in honor of the Germanic tribe, who in late antiquity was won Empire. As a springboard to the oil fields of the Caucasus and Sunny rear of the black sea territories of Ukraine, Crimea had become a symbol of triumph over its ideological opponents.
The problem was only that the German troops in 1941, although they were able to move to the port of Sevastopol strengthening, was given there back. The red army managed to create a bridgehead on the Kerch Peninsula in the East of the Crimea, where the item took more than 300 thousand people and hundreds of tanks. Before beginning offensive operations “Plan Blau” towards the Volga and the Caucasus of the German leadership made a bet on the capture of the Crimea. The operation, which was scheduled for may, was called “the Hunting of the great bustard”.
Although the 11-th German army General Erich von Manstein (Erich von Manstein) was supported by the Romanian troops, it was lost to the enemy, not only in the balance of power one to three. The problem lies in the fact that the successful promotion of the red army gave her the chance to deploy their superior strength in most areas. Soviet troops were concentrated in a narrow place on the Kerch Peninsula, while behind the space was much larger, and thus had the opportunity to develop the offensive.
Manstein had planned to disarm the Soviet troops in the first attack. To do this in secrecy, the emphasis was on attack in the South, while the main part of enemy forces — as shown by the exploration — was concentrated in the North. False reports on the radio and dummy artillery was to assure the commander of the Crimean front, General Dmitri Kozlov that the attack will start from the North.
The German offensive was appointed on 5 may 1942, but due to bad weather it was postponed for three days. Then everything happened very quickly. On may 15 the chief of staff of the German land forces Franz Halder (Franz Halder) wrote: “the Theme of Kerch can be considered closed”. 21 may, three Soviet armies with 21 divisions was defeated, 170 thousand red army soldiers were taken prisoner, 250 tanks and over 1000 guns in the hands of the Wehrmacht, whose losses amounted to just 3,400 people, 600 of them killed.
Sometimes rain prevented a German attack more than the opponent. The reason historians point to “wrong actions” of the Soviet leadership, which was a nightmare woven of confusion and incompetence. Conducted endless meetings, the military Council of the Crimean front in the first day of the German offensive has lost control over the conduct of the operation, writes the German military historian Bernd Wegner (Bernd Wegner). “In any case, many of its countless instructions at the time of their appearance was invalid, because not kept pace with the rapid development of the situation.”
As a result of the success of Hitler and his generals strengthened the view that the Red army can be re-circle due to the extensive operations in the previous year. But the German leadership had underestimated the ability of Stalin to learn.
His high-ranking officer in the military Council of the Crimean front was Lev Mehlis, which because of its eccentricity, cruelty and military ignorance, hated, wrote a Soviet Colonel and war correspondent Konstantin Simonov. Mehlis during the civil war he was Commissar at Tsaritsyn, later Stalingrad, he was in the inner circle of Stalin, in fact, was personal Secretary to the dictator, and later became chief editor of the party newspaper “Pravda”.
The peak of his career was the appointment in 1937, the chief of Main political administration. Being the main political red army, he started a major cleaning, and followed them with great cruelty. A large number of commanders, he was handed over to the executioners. In 1942, he led an army of workers, the number of which was 250 thousand people, which had to approve all the orders of the military leadership.
In the Crimea Mehlis was in the rank of General of the army. “He was a man of his time” — quoted by Wegner memories of Simon. “Without considering the circumstances he was considered a coward anyone who prefer a convenient position, 100 meters from the enemy uncomfortable position 30 metres from the enemy.” He showed at the front, when he traveled by car along the front lines with gun in hand, drove his men forward across the open countryside. But when the result of such tactics was only increasing losses, Mehlis shifted the responsibility to Stalin on Kozlov.
But Stalin reacted unusually sharply. “You have taken a strange position,” was the sarcastic response. “You talk like an outsider, the observer, who should not feel their responsibility for the Crimean front. This position is, of course, very convenient, but it is rotten to the core. On the Crimean front You are not an outside observer, and the representative Rate, which is responsible for all the successes and failures of the front…. You require to we replaced Kozlova someone like Hindenburg. But You actually ought to know that we have no Hindenburg”.
The subsequent deprivation of the power and the demotion Mehlis has led to major changes in Soviet military organization. The Commissars lost their powers, most of them literally burned on the front. Instead, versed in military Affairs officers once again took over the responsibility for military command. And the hour of such talents as Georgy Zhukov and Alexander Vasilevsky, who largely planned operations of the red Army, 1942.
About the change of command of the Soviet troops, the Wehrmacht would soon find out by the decreased number of prisoners. Because the generals of Stalin cared first and foremost about ensuring that their soldiers are not exhausted in meaningless operations, and gradually moved inland.