Battles of Rzhev

The battles for Rzhev (as “Rzhev meat grinder of” known), which took place between January 1942 and March 1943 were among the bloodiest battles of World War II. After the troops of the Armed Forces, represented by the 9 Army of Army Group Centre, had retreated from Moscow in late 1941, the Red Army tried in a series of operations to break through the north and east of Rzhev-standing German defenses and the divisions of the 9th Army cut off in this projecting front bow and destroy.


Rzhev as the “cornerstone” and “breakwater” the Eastern Front was the winter of 1941 to the spring of 1943 scene of a fierce series of battles material and position battles.

Staffed and inferior associations of the Wehrmacht had against the Red Army was the decisive disadvantage little to the extreme weather changes (temperature falls from thaw to freezing temperatures of less than -40 ° C) and difficult terrain (Morastboden in rainfall and thaw) prepared to be. The Central Army Group have been held numerous critical situations, especially when the supply situation, they survived thanks to Colonel General Models improvisation skills.

The battle for this important “cornerstone of the Eastern Front” lasted 15 months and consisted of three major offensives by the Red Army:

•Rzhev-Wjasma operation of 8 January to 20 April 1942

•First Rzhev-Sytschowka operation of 30 July to 1 October 1942

•Second Rzhev-Sytschowka operation (Operation Mars) of 25 November to 21 December 1942

Under the following operations can Rzhev-Wjasma operation are assigned:

•Mozhaisk Wjasma-operation of 10 January to 28 February 1942

•Toropets Chelm-operation of 9 January to 6 February 1942

•Airborne operation of Wjasma German company and Hanover from 18 January to 28 February 1942 against Soviet partisans and paratrooper forces

•Rzhev operation of 3 March to 20 April 1942

Overall, there are four major winter and summer battles in the space of Rzhev, and Sytschowka Wjasma.

It was only designed to combat the guerrillas s company Seydlitz end of July 1942 brought a temporary easing of the situation for the 9th Army in the rear room. Although the receipt of a total of 530 kilometer exposed protrusion front of Rzhev took a lot of power and a huge number of people, materials and other resources ribbon, Hitler could not decide for the purpose of this position for a long time. In his opinion, it was of great psychological importance to maintain the threat of the capital Moscow as long as possible. Only the defeat of the 6th Army at Stalingrad and the elimination of 250,000 soldiers lost any possibility of a resumption of the offensive on Moscow dwindle, this no more military resources were available. In March 1943, Hitler ordered the German retreat to the company buffalo movement, and the front bow of Rzhev was thus finally straightened. Thus, the front shortened by 230 kilometers.

The battle demanded immense casualties on both sides: On the side of the Red Army 500,000 men died, and about 1,000,000 Soviet soldiers were wounded. On the German side it was expected that 80,000 dead and two and a half to three and a half as many wounded. Presumably, the numbers are still a higher priority, and this battle is so relatively unknown even bloodier than the famous battle of Stalingrad.


Rzhev is a 180 kilometers west of Moscow, 54,000 inhabitants, capital of the district of Tver Oblast in northern Russia. Rzhev is a major transport hub from Moscow to Smolensk, Novgorod and Wjasma dar. Because of its strategic location on the upper reaches of the Volga Rzhev was military-hegemonic struggles already during the Tsarist era center. The surrounding area is of major wet mixed forest areas (alder, aspen, birch and spruce) and crossed by numerous swamps.

Military Historical representation

The aspects of the battles at Rzhev were studied by military historians of the Soviet Union only a little. After dissolution of the Soviet Union, some documents were accessible. Exact data on battle courses, participants, results, significance and losses are not fully available. A poem from the period of 1945/1946 by Alexander Twardowski reminds Trifonowitsch with the sentence: “I was killed near Rzhev.” (Я убит подо Ржевом), otherwise by the Soviets much information about.

One of the main reasons for the inadequate documentation of the fighting around Rzhev is, according to the Russian historian Igor Bunitsch, the concealment of a variety of military mistakes and the senseless and brutal sacrifice of a large number of soldiers for questionable goals. “Mjassorubka” (Eng. Mincer) means “merciless slaughter of masses of soldiers” in command of Soviet officers. The ten-fold superior Red Army failed after 14 months, taking the city of Rzhev. According to Colonel General Dmitri Volkogonov include the battles of Rzhev from October 1941 to March 1943 the biggest disasters of the Second World War.

The company buffalo movement is influenced by the polemical historiography. While the division commander of the 6th ID, General Grossmann and the war diaries of the 78th Assault Division and 98th ID consistently reported a success of the operation, provide Soviet historians represent the firm as a failure:

Early history

On 14 October 1941 was carried out in the framework of the double battle of Bryansk Wjasma and the command for the 9th Army and 3rd Panzer Group to push forward Rzhev and Kalinin. The 206 ID and education departments of 26 ID occupied the city for the first time in October 1941 and were the first German units, which reached the major traffic artery Volga. The move to Rzhev was the prelude to the advance on Moscow.

Here in the northern section of the army group met with the center tank groups 3 and 4 until the beginning of December to Kalinin and the Moscow-Volga Canal as well as the reservoir Iwankowoer ago. On 5 December began the counter-offensive of the Red Army, which was led by Georgi Zhukov’s Western Front and Kalinin Front under Ivan Konev. It was a stated goal of the Soviet military leadership, the front projection 3 and 4 formed by the German Panzer Group northwest of Moscow, at all costs to eliminate again. The reconquest of Rzhev was a main target of the Soviet winter offensive of 1941/1942.


The Soviet winter offensive of 1941/42, in the space of Rzhev

Given the increasing pressure of the Soviet Army during the winter offensive on the German front lines asked the commander of the 2nd Panzer Army General Heinz Guderian Hitler on 20 December 1941 in the Wolf’s Lair to a discussion on the situation of Army Group Center. Hitler ordered that the army had the defense lines around strategically important transport hubs and supply lines to keep absolutely. Guderian’s arguments that the up to 1.5 meters deep frozen ground in the winter does not permit any entrenchments and the anticipated battle of material would result s in fixed positions to disproportionate losses were ignored. Guderian preferred an elastic defense in light of the current offensive superiority of the Red Army, so that the associations in hopeless positions an orderly and organized retreat should be allowed on the heights of Smolensk, to avoid pointless losses in men and material, and then from rear positions more movement for new offensives to have. Hitler feared that upon release a tactical retreat could develop its own momentum, the general panic turn into a moral victory for the opponent and also a total collapse of Army Group front could mean middle. For this reason, he forbade any approaches from front shortenings and issued the following command:

The stop command Hitler was initially followed by all staff officers and army commanders. The 9th Army under the command of Colonel General Adolf Strauss was at this time on the northern flank of Army Group Centre in the room Rzhev-Kalinin. Mid-December 1941 withdrew the 9th Army already gradually from Kalinin to the southwest back since the 29th and 31 Army of the Kalinin front ushered in a large-scale counter-offensive. The troop movements were severely hampered by heavy snow and temperatures down to -30 ° C. The 29th and 31 Soviet army under the generals Shvetsov and Yushkevich directed their attacks in the early stages against the XXVII. Army Corps under General der Infanterie Alfred weigher. The 86th ID under Lieutenant-General Joachim Witthöft could strike an assault Soviet shooters using concentrated MG fire on the Volga River reservoir. On the left border, in section 162 of the ID, Siberian managed several ski battalions of burglary. Another breach in the front on the southern bank of the Volga was in the 110th sector ID obtained. The 26th ID, focus with the IR 39 under Colonel Friedrichswiese, and the 6th ID could claim over 25 kilometers long front section with great effort yet. Meanwhile, put the Red Army in regimental strength in section 110 of the ID on the Volga, a chase of III. Btl. / IR 18/6. ID failed with great losses at temperatures of -40 ° C. As a result, moving up but the enemy could be prevented, and a major supply route could be recaptured. On 16 December 1941 the Red Army conquered the city of Kalinin. The way was cleared for a pincer movement on the German front edge of Rzhev.

Colonel-General Strauss was planning an orderly disengagement of 9 Army were preceded on the rear-developed winter position Königsberg, the number of intermediate positions with the codename German cities such as Augsburg, Bremen, Coburg, Dresden, Essen, Frankfurt, Gießen, Hanau, Germany and Ilmenau. Hitler’s uncompromising hold command of 20 Ended December retraction motion, when the first troops had already reached the winter position casting. The Panzer Groups 3 and 4 were at this time at the position with Rusa Rusa and Wereja. The 18 December Fedor von Bock’s successor as the commander of Army Group Centre appointed Field Marshal Günther von Kluge reiterated in this context to support Hitler’s orders:

The XXIII. Army Corps of 9 Army Infantry General Albrecht Schubert, whose association to the 102, 206, 251, 253. and 256 Belonged ID, any retreat was forbidden to hold the front bow of Rzhev. On 22 Stormed the newly formed 39th December 1941 Soviet army under Ivan Maslennikov in a combined attack with T-34 tanks, the defense lines of the 256 ID before Rzhev. The German division was their section against a tenfold superior opponent until 29 Keep December 1941. Lieutenant Falck from the 256 Artillery Regiment distinguished itself in this time by his anti-tank from.

Colonel General Konev’s Kalinin Front met with further north towards Rzhev ago to unite with the coming of the east associations of General Zhukov. Rzhev it was viewed as a crucial cornerstone of the Eastern Front. On 31 December 1941 broke the front section of 256 ID and 206 ID together because of the increased Soviet pressure. In the 26th was Stariza ID included, and from Rzhev was one aid station, which had to take about 3,000 seriously injured. Before the village Mologino (Russian Version Мологино) concentrated strong army units of the Red Army, Colonel-General Strauss gave unconditional support command for the 256th ID from at Mologino. At that time, the trapped 256 ID under Lieutenant-General Gerhard Kauffmann only the combat strength of a single regiment, and the soldiers refused to obey the officers already partially “Beat us dead, it does not matter who slays us.Mologino is already lost. ” On 2 January 1942 tore the radio connection to the isolated soldiers in Mologino from the communication made by so-called pendulum patrols. On 3 January 1942 was Major Mummert 256 of the reconnaissance battalion command to the task of Mologino.

On 4 January 1942, the Red Army reached a break-up of the main line of the 9th Army by a 15 to 20 km wide gap between the section VI. and XXIII. Army Corps was created. Part of the 39th Soviet army arrived as the German defenders in the back of Rzhev. At the same time threatening between the VI. and XXVII. Army Corps a Soviet breakthrough on Subzow, a few kilometers east of Rzhev. Rzhev could nevertheless be maintained for the time being, but the German troops were in a precarious situation.

Balance of power

•Red Army: 688,000 soldiers from 14 armies and three cavalry corps

Wehrmacht: 625,000 soldiers from 42 Infantry – Tanks – Air Force – and SS

Rzhev-Wjasma operation (Jan 8 to 20 April 1942)

The over the winter months newly formed Red Army established in January 1942 the first blow against the 9th Army on the northern pillar of the Army Group Centre in Rzhev. The new commander of the 9th Army, General of Panzer Troops Walter Model was submitted on 12 January 1942 in his headquarters Sytschowka (Russian Сычёвка) attacked. Soon after was the 9th Army on three sides. In the east they defended a winter position and was on the “runway” in conjunction with the 4th Panzer Army. Rzhev was the key position of 9 Army and was the offensives by the 27, 22, 34 Army, 3rd and 4 Shock Army, conducted with increasing intensity, directly exposed.

To prevent encirclement of Army Group Center, which was LIX. Army Corps under Lieutenant General Kurt von der Chevallerie with 83, 205 and 330 Brought from France Infantry Division and the 3rd Panzer Army assumed. During the advance into the partisan activities of high-risk area collected the newly arrived units fleeing soldiers of the SS Cavalry Brigade, 123th and 81st Infantry Division on. Especially critical was the breach in the Red Army west of Rzhev, could seep through the nine Soviet divisions. The XXIII. Corps was surrounded and had to be supplied via the air. Further south at Wjasma threatened Soviet cavalry the German lines. The railway line Rzhev-Wjasma was the only possible supply connection for the 9th Army and was held by soldiers of the motorized SS Infantry Division “Das Reich”.

Meanwhile, the first motorized infantry fighting Panzer Division occupied by the Red Army station building of Sytschowka free again, also the connection to the airfield Novo Ougino could be restored. Model ordered to close the break point at Nikolskoje and Solomino high priority again, while the Soviet supply routes to cut and attack their flanks with Sytschowka. The trial of his predecessor Colonel Bouquet, this 8 January 1942 to reach the SS Cavalry Brigade Fegelein failed. Models concept “attack to regain the initiative, the enemy dictate the law of trade” was among the officers and soldiers of the 9th Army a great psychological effect signal. Furthermore, he had to repurpose Skijägern tank crews or put on a snowshoe company that could approach things unnoticed at patrol the enemy. The Snowshoe Company was also used to secure the railway pioneers who had to constantly repair the demolished by partisans railway line Rzhev-Wjasma. To combat partisans also came stocked with a one armored anti-aircraft battery used.

Shortly before the planned counter-offensive on the Soviet collapse point west of Rzhev, the temperatures dropped further to -45 ° C. The officers held a successful implementation of the initiative is no longer possible. Model encouraged his soldiers:

Models by strategic change was from an almost hopeless round defense an active counter-offensive with defined priorities. Sytschowka moved from the first Panzer-Division and the SS-Division “Das Reich” starting to take the tactically important location Ossuiskoje. On 22 January 1942 was a major attack of the VI. Army Corps commanded the enhanced 256 ID, artillery, tank destroyers and anti-aircraft guns included. The XXIII. Army Corps (206th ID, SS Cavalry Brigade Fegelein and Assault Gun Battalion 189) breakthrough and union with the VI. Army Corps. The double strike took place at Nikolskoje and Solomino. The result was the connection to 9 Army and restored the supply routes of 29 and 39 Soviet Army interrupted.

The SS-Regiment “Der Führer” under Lieutenant Colonel Otto Kumm was given the task of the newly created junction between VI. and XXIII. Army Corps and the land bridge of 9 Army to hold at all costs, as expressly requested model. The northern lock bolt has been strengthened, and Osuga / Sytschowka were the first Panzer Division, 86th Infantry Division, the majority of the SS Division “Das Reich”, 5th Panzer Division, IR 309, and the battle group decker under the command of General of the Armoured Corps Heinrich von Vietinghoff than XLVI. Army Corps together and marched in a northwesterly direction. From now on, originated in the snowy forests and villages fierce battles. A Soviet major offensive against the Northern Front and the 256th and 206 ID was 26 January 1942 set in motion and finally repulsed with great effort. In addition to the numerical superiority of the enemy, the extreme weather changes from short snowmelt to keep recurring snowstorms and a temperature drop to a minimum of -52 ° C caused most problems.

Although the Soviet troops had partially in their attacks on the railway line Rzhev-Olenino human losses of battalion size, it was finally secured. On 28 January 1942, it came as a result of the Soviet counter-attack to a decisive tank battle, which was connected to both sides with a disproportionately high losses. For example, put the pack leader Wagner, the last survivor of 10 Company represents the second Company of the SS-Regiment “Der Führer” was completely destroyed, and in the village Klepenino, the army command post of the 9th Army, “piled up mountains of corpses” of Soviet dead. On 4 February 1942 succeeded the 86th ID to take the key position in Ossuikoje, two days later crossed Panzer Grenadiers of the 1st PD the railway line at Tschertolino, so that the groups could unite Wietersheim and Zehender.

The fighting between Sytschowka and the “Volga bend” reached during the snow storms in February its climax until the force of the Soviet major offensive subsided. As a result, the Red Army had crossed the frozen Volga, the left wing of 9 Army and break through the XXIII. Army Corps isolated from the rest of the federation. In response, the handle XLVI. Panzer Corps and graduated from Sytschowka at the 29th Soviet army in the forest area of ​​Montschalowo. Here was of 23 January to 17 Fought in February 1942, with all Soviet relief efforts initially failed. In the course of the fighting is high losses arose, for example, had the SS-Regiment “Der Führer” at the end, only 35 soldiers available. Seven Soviet divisions were destroyed in the boiler and the winter offensive of the enemy brought a temporary halt. In OKW Wehrmacht report of 21 February 1942 were reported at 27,000 dead and 5,000 enemy prisoners. The 29th Army has been completely destroyed and the 39th Army for the most part.

Company Seydlitz (July 1942)

Since the collapse of the Red Army in front of the 9th Army on 4 January 1942 and the print on the left wing of the Army Group Centre was initiated a number of German countermeasures. A Soviet Cavalry Corps, which was one of the collapsed troops associations and threatened the German supply on the runway between Smolensk and Wjasma, the Wehrmacht could not initially be tackled effectively. The cavalry was in rough terrain sections, one of the few types of weapons which could still develop a sufficiently high mobility. The divisions assigned to the reconnaissance units were already worn out so strongly in the summer of 1942, so they were very inferior to the Soviet counterpart. Colonel General model structured around his cavalry units by example as education departments of various army corps to a cavalry commandV. Strength of three cavalry regiments brought together with five squadrons and pooled their forces. Colonel Robert Holste was given the command of the Army cavalry regiments 1 (Major Laubner), 2 (Lieutenant Colonel of Baath) and 3 (Major Briegleb).

On 2 Seydlitz began operation in July 1942 with the mission, the threat to the supply lines of the 9th Army to eliminate by Red Army soldiers or partisans. Application was the railway line Welikije Luke’s with the 1st Rzhev Panzer Division on the right and 427 Infantry Regiment on the left flank. The Soviet positions in the dense forests on the river Lutschessa were broken relatively quickly, then put a rain, which greatly restricted the mobility of the tank. On 5 July was the 39th Soviet Army and the XI. Cavalry Corps (Gorin) are encircled. Up to 16 July 1942 continued the cleanup measures in the boiler, where 50,000 Soviet soldiers and captured 230 tanks and 760 artillery pieces were captured. The success was largely the high mobility of German cavalry in the woods and swamps due to the Lutschessa River. The German historian Walter Goerlitz describes in his biography of Field Marshal Model, the company Seydlitz as a failed anti-partisan operation in truth it made ​​the supply situation for the 9th Army recovers. After completion of the company cavalry command was egV. dissolved because staff shortages at the front again and the individual sections back off at their regular unit.

Result of the company’s eleven-day Seydlitz were 50,000 captured Red Army destroyed 230 Soviet tanks, 760 guns and captured thousands of handgun AD.

First Rzhev-Sytschowka operation (30 July to 1 October 1942)

On 14 August 1942 was another major offensive of the Red Army on Rzhev, the 1st to the September 1942 led to such a threatening situation that General Günter von Kluge Hitler proposed a reduction of the front arc. Hitler rejected this on the grounds that Rzhev had great symbolic importance for the Eastern Front, and should be abandoned in any case. Using all available reserves were Wehrmacht units bring the forward movement of the Red Army in the ruins of the city of Rzhev to stop before a long period of bad weather interrupted further fighting.

In the summer of 1942 put the Red Army, their pincer movement on the salient at Rzhev on, on the one hand, to continue to put the Army Group Centre under pressure, and also to relieve through binding of the German troops in the north to the southern sector of Stalingrad and the Caucasus. For this project, 41 rifle divisions, 15 rifle brigades, 38 armored brigades with about 3,000 tanks n, thousands of artillery and air support were also mobilized to destroy Army Group Center with a preponderance of personnel and material. The STAVKA planned the final capture of the forts and Rzhev Sytschowka in a major summer offensive and parts of Army Group Center by a rapid advance to Smolensk and Wjasma.

Soviet attack on the northern sector of Rzhev

On 30 Began in July 1942, a Soviet artillery attack on the northern area of ​​Rzhev. A little later the Red Army achieved a breakthrough at the juncture between 256 and 87 ID. General large man pulled his 6th ID from the available area west of Sytschowka back to them when VI. Army Corps (General Biel) to use in the battles erupting around the city of Rzhev. Prior to the onset of steady rain turned the forest into an impassable morass grounds, so that the loading of the available space withdrawn from the infantry battalions of the 6th ID has been greatly slowed. In addition, the station area of Sytschowka was increasingly attacked by Soviet aircraft battle.

IR 58 under Colonel Furbach received the order to destroy the Red Army had broken through the room and Galachowo point 195.5 and restore the status quo of the main battle line. On 1 August 1942 it came to melee in three Soviet defense lines, including the front breakthrough could be closed immediately to the north of Rzhev in Polunino. Since 31 July 1942 fought the Reconnaissance Battalion 328 (328th ID, the 256th assumed) under Major of calving on the right border of IR 58 to the village Gribojewo. On 15 August 1942 the department was greatly reduced due to failure and had to be taken back to the south bank of the Volga. The left border was in the range of a battalion under Major Freiherr von Recum, which for 251 ID was under General Burbach and 31 July the 87th ID was assumed by General of Studnitz. On 1 August is to support Recums battalion of IR 187 at Martjukowo. Hostilities were immediately opened in the villages Gorbowo, Fedorkowo and Chanino developed tough battles. On 2 August 1942 was included in Gory Kaseki a German battalion of Red Army soldiers. Only with the help of assault guns, the battalion was freed and the attacking Soviet tanks were destroyed. On 10 August 1942, the battalion consisted of Recum only of one officer and 22 soldiers and could not be used.

The focus of the forest north of Rzhev battles at the height Gory Kaseki-Polunino sector was in the 6th ID between 256 and 87 ID, where Red Army troops stormed the German positions every day now, and wanted to force the decision. On 4 August 1942 Soviet bombers bombed the village and taught at Polunino great damage on the German position system, which was attacked by up to seven times daily combined forces from infantry and tanks. German artillery fire, which was used against massed forces targeted gatherings of the enemy, prevented a total collapse of the much-weakened defenses. Pak – and anti-aircraft combat troops, coupled with an assault cannon s, the task of combating breakthroughs of enemy infantry immediately received. On 5 August 1942 were mostly destroyed T-34 tanks in the battle section of IR 58 21st.

On 4 August 1942 had the sixth ID an artillery division of the 161 Id like to Subzow because there strong enemy formations were also broken. Two days later, the 6 Id weakened by the delivery of a squadron of horsemen to railway safety in Ossuga on. The neighboring divisions 256 and 87 ID were increasingly at risk of being overrun by the Red Army, while further Rzhev was in incessant artillery fire and was bombed at night. The aim of the Soviet army was destroying the Volga bridges to prevent the German supply permanently.

Struggle for Rschewer Volga bridges

On 10 August 1942 the Red Army undertook a further attack on the northern sector of Rzhev. For this purpose were bombers, fighter-bombers, artillery, Katyusha rocket launchers and mortars in use, which prepared the ground for a deep tiered tank attack. The army continued to receive its own air force, artillery, anti-aircraft guns, Pak, grenade launchers, mortars and assault guns. German infantrymen and cavalrymen pioneers experienced by 5 clock 15 bis 18 clock 30 non-stop waves of attack of the Red Army. The fighting was of extraordinary hardness, particularly in the area of ​​328 Reconnaissance Battalion on the left flank of the 256th ID, which using the PiBtl. Could be maintained for 6, and in section 18 of the IR with the battalion of Recum. The destruction of 39 Soviet tanks of the battalion commander, Captain Thummes fell. In the final section of the total could be maintained despite the strong superiority of the Red Army. The 20th August 1942 brought a collapse of the combat section of the 256 ID, which had to fall back on the Matjukowo bridge on the southern side of the Volga. Thus were the sixth ID, part of the 129th ID 87 and the ID the last German units were left north of Rzhev. The 24th August 1942 became another major battle for the remaining three divisions against a vastly superior Soviet superiority. After an intense artillery preparation was a lossy tank attack of 153 and 238 started Soviet Tank Brigade, which broke through the German lines in a weakened position in the field of IR 18 and rolled over their foxholes. Despite a flank attack of the I Battalion. / IR 18, the Soviet advance was halted only on the Volga. The 6th ID was from the 87th ID truncated. A total of 64 Red Army tanks were destroyed on that day. The 6th ID secured in a westerly direction and the 87th ID to the east, with the 6 Id withdrew immediately before Rzhev because of the strong enemy pressure in the New Kolberg-position. The Red Army was formed on 26 August 1942 a bridgehead on the south bank of the Volga River in Znamenskoye.

Rzhev was similar by the permanent artillery fire and bombing of a crater field, of an extent as the venue of the Somme during the First World War, has been transformed. Until September 1942, the Red Army reiterated its suicidal mass attacks that ended with countless victims without significant territorial gains. Captain Wätjen and the motorized infantry battalion “Greater Germany” presented only on 21 September 1942 to connect to the 6 ID Rzhev ago. In the city itself there were several enemy drops in the Northeast, which were extended in close combat with flamethrower n and flamethrower tanks. Here, the I Battalion suffered. / IR 18, I. / IR 37 and PiBtl. 6 extreme losses. The Red Army dug their tanks in the shell holes of the city, with the major low shots but neither inflicting damage from the air or from the ground could be tackled effectively.

Battles at the line Rzhev-Sytschowka

The XLVI. Panzer Corps defended as part of Army Group Center with the 342nd ID 36 ID (mot) 161 ID and 14 ID (mot) an approximately 100 km long front section of Samujlowo to Gridino, who was as yet relatively quiet. On 25 July 1942 reconnaissance aircraft reported large concentrations of enemy troops that took place more than ever under any camouflage measures at the beginning of Operation Barbarossa. Over loudspeakers the Soviets announced their open attack on 30 July 1942 to. The attack took place on the left flank of the armored corps and reached only minor intrusions of the expansion less a hundred feet, which were immediately sealed off by the army. On 4 August 1942 was the decisive advance of the Red Army on a division width of one to two kilometers, which drew a parade of three staggered Rifle regiments behind. Behind the two tank brigades converged with 80 to 100 battle tanks. The German defenders had to defend minimal manpower big battle sections, one company came to a section of one to two kilometers.

After strong artillery preparation, accompanied by Katyusha rocket launchers, Panzerschwadrone could roll over the thinned German lines that were ripe for attack by artillery shelling and bombing in large numbers. The Soviet 31 Army took aim at the place Pogoreloje, while the goal of 20 Army Sytschowka was. The offensive was due to weak forces are not stopped and gave a major breach in the front, of a critical situation at the 9th Army led. In the north, took Soviet rifle Subzow and separated from the connecting road Karmanowo-Subzow so that the 161 ID and 14 ID (mot) were isolated. After the Red Army changed its direction from south to cover the flank of its establishment with four to five divisions and several armored brigades. In Karmanowo the attackers broke into the headquarters of the XLVI. Panzer Corps and the 36th attempted ID (mot) under General Gollnick vain to throw out their positions. To relieve the second was Panzer Division on 5 August 1942 set in motion, but could only engage in small units in combat action without following the 36th ID (mot) to win. The 36th ID (mot) held despite great efforts at the Fronteckpfeiler Wosskressenoje to 7 August 1942. On the same day another Soviet offensive in the strength of three rifle divisions and three shooters and four armored brigades against the 342 ID. It was reported that the entire Soviet 5th Army continued to march to depress the front of the left wing.

Successful was the collapse of the Red Army on the supply line Sytschowka-Subzow and the railway line Sytschowka-Rzhev, which of the 9th Army had to be answered with immediate countermeasures. For this purpose, the IR 84 was used with the battle group Biewald and Bülowius which the forest of Tschaschnikowo put a round defense position. The collapse of the enemy on 6 August 1942 made it necessary to use close combat techniques, as previously several machine gun positions were off by Soviet rifle, both sides had to show high losses. Also on the night of 8 August came in Tschaschnikowo to several Soviet attack waves. When the strength of a company of the IR team had 84 reduced to 22 people, the retreat was ordered. Meantime the I Battalion. / IR 84, followed by the rest of the regiment and the 102nd Id (General Friessner) arrived at Ossuga so that the remains of the company could be replaced. As a result, the supply routes were freely fought back Rzhev. The horsemen of the Reconnaissance Battalion 6 fought with the support of Red Army armored train infiltrated down on the railway embankment. To 11 August, the Soviet units were annihilated in the vicinity of the village Schalamowo.

In the forest areas of the fighting Ossuga held until 15 To August 1942. On both sides the losses increased rapidly, while the German defenses were increasingly thinned out due to high load. Alone on 9 August 1942 destroyed the second Panzer-Division 64 Soviet tanks, the flak units destroyed another ten. Tried in vain to take the heights of Karmanowo many waves of attacks by the Red Army. On 10 August 1942, they achieved a major breakdown, which forced the Wehrmacht to a straightening of the front. In the meantime, the second Panzer Division encircled, but was able to free himself again. The Second Btl./113 PR of 2 PD counted on 28 August only one officer and 12 enlisted men. West of the river in Jausa Schelomiki and Krutije were three battalions of 342 ID included. The exemption was delayed by the impassable forest and Morastgelände long time. The pressure on Karmanowo held during its unabated, on a day Soviet artillery shells were fired up to 9000. The situation was extremely messy, as assaults, burglaries and counter-attacks constantly alternated. As on 21 August 1942 approached 40 tanks and 700 vehicles of the Red Army on Karmanowo, chose the 9th Army to clear the village and the soldiers buried there in the night of 22 to 23 August 1942 discontinued. The company succeeded only with the help of the Air Force, which had to intervene in the Erdkämpfe. The Red Army followed the retreating Wehrmacht until the new exchange position where a fierce fight broke out again, which drew the loss of a total of 460 Soviet tanks destroyed by itself.

The plan of the Red Army, with three rifle divisions and tank corps VIII (five tank brigades) on 13 August 1942 to push forward Wjasma failed because of the fierce resistance of the Panzer Division “Greater Germany”, which was heavily worn down over the course of the fighting. The Red Army is to force Subzow at a front edge and move up to the municipality of Rzhev, full of income failed but succeeded. Rzhev and Sytschowka remained despite immense human and material usage of the attacker in possession of 9 Army. The battles for Rzhev were characterized by rugged terrain, extreme weather fluctuations and a precarious supply situation. The Red Army lost in the costly Battle of Rzhev summer 380,000 soldiers, 13,770 prisoners, 2,956 tanks, 45 guns, 101 anti-tank guns, 227 mortars, 781 machine guns and 870 aircraft.

Second Rzhev-Sytschowka operation (25 November-21 December 1942)

In the winter fighting the Battle of Rzhev, the German soldiers encountered among other things on people’s militia militia recruited from the inhabitants of the surrounding villages and along with regular Soviet forces to pressure from three sides on the 9th Army kept up.

Also missed all these offensive military goals of the Soviet military leadership and had great losses.

Moving company buffalo

Also in January 1943, the Wehrmacht in space Rzhev, Demyansk and Leningrad incessant attacks by the Soviet army was exposed. In the operation buffalo movement of the front bow of Rzhev was finally withdrawn. Hitler issued on 6 9th February 1943 Army and elements of 4 Army permission to withdraw in an orderly manner from the Rzhev salient.

The four-week preparation of the operation buffalo motion included a huge logistical task for the Chiefs of 9 Army, on the one hand the construction of a 300 km west in the exchange position for the withdrawal of divisions, definition of resistance levels for the phased disengagement and the evacuation of about 100 km deep battle space. For this purpose, the transportation network needed to be expanded, construction crews began construction of 200 kilometers of roads for motor vehicles as well as 600 kilometers of roads for carriages and horses vehicles. The busy front projection was evacuated: 60,000 civilians were dropped off at the rear front, agricultural products, livestock and other assets were also transported by trains to leave the advancing Red Army to an “empty” space and “scorched earth”. The General Staff had should move a wide-ranging movement and march plan which 29 divisions (250,000 troops) and should be carried out either on wheeled vehicles with impassable roads or in snow on sled. The planning of the operation buffalo movement were uncovered by the secret service of the Soviet Union, so that propaganda units informed the German soldiers rushed over loudspeakers: “Your officers pack the suitcase.See that you keep up. ”

Moving company buffalo began on 1 March 1943 during the thaw. Variations in temperature, such as a night frost, slowing the rearward movement. On the Volga still remained about 2/3 of 9 Army in the original positions and the enemy should feign their supposed target strength by casting, for example, machine-gun fire from various firing positions. The Red Army proved this by punktuierte counter-attacks and forced at Lepeticha on the Volga a smaller front burglary. A day after the departure of the troops home and the retreat of the last preceding units should be done, which was answered with a larger Soviet offensive. To delay the enemy’s pursuit lasting, put German pioneers in large-scale tank and anti-personnel mines in a variety of Zündarten. For this purpose, grounds were areally mines and towns made impassable by mines and booby traps. The Soviets suffered through booby traps in Rzhev significant losses.

Within 21 days, could the 9 Army and elements of 4 Army to sell 160 kilometers behind the front line and one new, only 220 km wide line. The saving of 330 kilometers, the defense was seen as a key operating measure for obtaining the Front for the Army Group Centre. The Red Army reach the point of organized German retreat no further significant declines, edge knocks or more persecutions. Hitler took over from his headquarters at Vinnitsa by phone from the surveillance of the mine command, which on 3 March 1943 the great Volga bridge blew up at Rzhev and the Soviet advance further slowed it. Only hours after the blast Soviet patrols could get in touch with the upstream units beyond the Volga. The 9th Army reached the highly developed and planned with mines and wire obstacles secured buffalo standing on the height Spas Demensk – Dorogobusch – Duchowstschina before the start of the muddy season in the spring. Thus, the battle caused by the winter of 1942/43 crisis of Army Group Centre was alleviated, and the conditions for the battle of Kursk were now given.

Consequences for the civilian population

The civilian population of the city of Rzhev had particularly suffered.

The population was exposed to the struggles of the German and Soviet armies and the hunger. Stalin ordered the beginning of 1942, the city until the 12th January 1942 recapture. The city was completely destroyed in the fighting. More than a sixth of the city’s population was deported during the German occupation in the labor camp, and about 9000 people were killed in a concentration camp, which was built by the Germans in the city center.

- Waste

In the series of battles in the area around Rzhev, estimates of about 500,000 to 1,000,000 from Soviet dead. The German losses are estimated 300000-450000 fallen. The exact number of Soviet losses can not be quantified precisely. It is estimated that up to 2 million deaths from, according to Marshal Kulikov even 2.5 million. The high loss rates are probably due to the fact that the Soviet army would more than compensate for organizational poor planning, lack of troop control and low use of technology with a disproportionate use of people. This Red Army officers ordered their soldiers unprotected repeated assaults on the same points of the German defense line, which ended in a military fiasco. Of the 1,000 members of the 618th Rifle Regiment survived the battle two people, at the 29th and 39 Army, there was a total loss. In the first three weeks of January of 1942, 80,000 Soviet soldiers died during the fighting, often 80% of the infantrymen in an assault. The 20th Army lost 58,000 men in a very short time in the drop zone of the 8th Airborne Brigade of the Western Front were poorly planned operation in more than half of the poor prepared paratroopers killed. Even today, the remains of about a year 1000 salvaged fallen, in some places even in “seven layers one above the other”.


Stalin’s doctrine, “to be no more breathing space” the enemy was Hitler’s rigid hold command “Rzhev was an impregnable line of the leader” answer. Since it the Red Army despite great effort for not able to eliminate the German salient of Rzhev, the Battle of the STAVKA was played down to an event of local importance. However, in 1942 originally the Soviet offensive operation was only for a few days, expanded during the year to a costly trench warfare on a broad front line of which was commented impatiently from Moscow: “The liquidation of the opposing groups prefer to unacceptably long way.”


It was not until the collapse of the cavalry on a road west of Wjasma caused a partial success by the German supply lines were severely disrupted. In addition, some German bridgeheads were off on the left bank of the Volga in the summer of 1942.

In February succeeded the Wehrmacht, the 29th and 33 Encircling army, during the course of Operation Mars 1.9 million Soviet soldiers pliers attacks on 9 Army conducted. Further tests of the Wehrmacht in 1942 to promote advances in the direction of Moscow in the late summer through the use of Division “Greater Germany” fell through. The goal of the Red Army, Army Group Center to smash at Rzhev was not achieved, the 9th Army retreated in the spring of 1943 as part of Operation Buffalo movement in their rear positions back, and Rzhev, on 3 March 1943 occupied by troops of the Western Front and freed.


Since 1997, in Rzhev German-Russian youth camp under the motto “reconciliation over the graves” instead. In the Park of Peace, was built in 2002, both Soviet and German casualties were buried.


•Horst Grossmann: Rzhev, cornerstone of the Eastern Front, Podzun Verlag, Bad Nauheim, 1962, ISBN 978-3-7909-0126-9.

•Oleg Kondratieff A: The Battle of Rzhev: Half a century of silence, Arethousa-Verlag, Munich 2001, ISBN 3-934207-11-1.

•Svetlana Gerasimova: Rzhev 42: Pozitsionnaia Boinia (“The Rzhev Massacre”), Iauza, Eksmo, 2009, ISBN 978-5-699-35203-6.

•David Glantz: Zhukov’s Greatest Defeat: The Red Army’s Epic Disaster in Operation Mars, 1942, Ian Allan Publishing, 2000, ISBN 978-0-7110-2748-0.

•Otto Dess Hole: The winter battle of Rzhev, Vyazma, and Yukhnov, 1941-42, Headquarters, European Command, Office of the Chief Historian, 1947

Military operation of the German-Soviet war

Battle of the Second World War

German occupation of Russia 1941-1944



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