Hitler's directive 41



The Führer
and Supreme Commander
of the Armed Forces
Führer Headquarters
April 5, 1942

14 copies

  Directive No. 41

"Summer Campaign of 1942"

The winter battle in Russia is nearing its end. Thanks to the unequaled courage
and self-sacrificing devotion of our soldiers on the Eastern front, German arms
have achieved a great defensive success.

The enemy has suffered severe losses in men and material. In an effort to
exploit what appeared to him to be early successes, he. has expended during
the winter the bulk of reserves intended for later operations.

As soon as the weather aud the state of the terrain allows, we must seize the
initiative again, and through the superiority of German leadership and th
e German soldier force our will upon the enemy.

Our aim is to wipe out the entire defense potential remaining to the Soviets,
and to cut them off, as far as possible, from their most important centers of
war industry.

All available forces, German and allied, will be employed in this task. At the
same time, the security of occupied territories in Western and Northern Europe,
especially along the coast, will be ensured in all circumstances.

I. General Plan

In pursuit of the original plan for the Eastern campaign, the armies of the
Central sector will stand fast, those in the North will capture Leningrad and
link up with the Finns, while those on the southern flank will break through
into the Caucasus.

In view of conditions prevailing at the end of winter, the availability of troops
and resources, and transport problems, these aims can be achieved only
one at a time.

First, therefore, all available forces will be concentrated on the main operations
in the Southern sector, with the aim of destroying the enemy before the Don,
in order to secure the Caucasian oilfields and the passes through the Caucasus
mountains themselves.

The final encirclement of Leningrad and the occupation of Ingermanland may be
undertaken as soon as conditions in that area permit, or sufficient forces can
be made available from other theaters.

II. Conduct of Operations

A. The first task of the Army and Luftwaffe, when the period of thaw with its
muddy ground conditions is over, will be to establish the preliminary conditions
for carrying out our main operation.

This calls for mopping-up and consolidation on the whole Eastern front and in
the rear areas so that the greatest possible forces may be released for the
main operation. The other sectors of the front must be able to meet any attack
with the smallest possible expenditure of manpower.

Wherever, for this purpose, offensive operations with limited objectives are to
be carried out, in accordance with my orders, every effort will be made to
ensure that all available forces of the Army and Luftwaffe are ready to go into
action in overwhelming strength, in order to achieve rapid and decisive success.
Only thus shall we be able, even before the beginning of the big spring offensive,
to make our troops confident in the certainty of victory, and to instil into the
enemy a sense of his own hopeless inferiority.

B. The next task will be a mopping-up operation in the Kerch peninsulaun,
the Crimea and the capture of Sevastopol the Luftwaffe, and later the Navy,
will have the task of preparing these operations, and hindering enemy supply
traffic in the Black Sea and the Kerch Straits as energetically as possible.

In the Southern area, the enemy forces which have broken through on both
sides of Izyum (note :near Kharkov) will be cut off along the course of the
Donets river and destroyed.

Final decision concerning the mopping-up still necessary in the Central and
Northern sectors of the Eastern front must await conclusion of the present
fighting and of the muddy season. The necessary forces, however, must be
provided, as soon as the situation allows, by thinning out front-line troops.

C. The Main Operation on the Eastern Front

The purpose is, as already stated, to occupy the Caucasus front by decisively
attacking and destroying Russian forces stationed in the Voronezh area to the
south, west, or north of the Don. Because of the manner in which the available
formations must be brought up, this operation can be carried out in a series of
consecutive, but coordinated and complementary, attacks. Therefore these
attacks must be so synchronized from north to south that each individual
offensive is carried out by the largest possible concentration of army, and
particularly of air, forces which can be assured at the decisive points.

Experience has sufficiently shown that the Russians are not very vulnerable to
operational encircling movements. It is therefore of decisive importance that,
as in the double battle of Vyazma-Bryansk, individual breaches of the front
should take the form of close pincer movements.

We must avoid closing the pincers too late, thus giving the enemy the
possibility of avoiding destruction.

It must not happen that, by advancing too quickly and too far, armored and
motorized formations lose connection with the infantry following them; or
that they lose the opportunity of supporting the hard-pressed, forward-fighting
infantry by direct attacks on the rear of the encircled Russian armies.

Therefore, apart from the main object of the operation, in each individual
case, we must be absolutely sure to annihilate the enemy by the method of
attack and by the direction of the forces used.

The general operation will begin with an overall attack and, if possible, a
breakthrough from the area south of Orel in the direction of Voronezh.
Of the two armored and motorized formations forming the pincers, the
northern will be in greater strength than the southern. The object of this
breakthrough is the capture of Voronezh itself. While certain infantry divisions
will immediately establish a strong defensive front between the Orel area,
from which the attack will be launched, and Voronezh, armored and motorized
formations are to continue the attack south from Voronezh, with their left
flank on the River Don, in support of a second breakthrough to take place
towards the east, from the general area of Kharkov. Here too the primary
objective is not simply to break the Russian front but, in cooperation with
the motorized forces thrusting down the Don, to destroy the enemy armies.

The third attack in the course of these operations will be so conducted that
formations thrusting down the Don can link up in the Stalingrad area with forces
advancing from the Taganrog Artelnovsk area between the lower waters of the
Don and Voroshilovgrad across the Donets to the east. These forces should
finally establish contact with the armored forces advancing on Stalingrad.

Should opportunities arise during these operations, particularly by the
capture of undemolished bridges, to establish bridgeheads to the east or
south of the Don, advantage will be taken of them, In any event, every effort
will be made to reach Stalingrad itself, or at least to bring the city under fire
from heavy artillery so that it may no longer be of any use as an industrial or
communications center.

It would be particularly desirable if we could secure either undamaged bridges
in Rostov itself or other bridgeheads south of the Don for later operations.

In order to prevent large numbers of Russian forces north of the Don from
escaping southwards across the river, it is important that the right flank of our
forces advancing east from the Taganrog area should be strengthened by
armored and motorized troops. These will, if necessary, be formed from
improvised units.

According to the progress made in these attacks, we must not only provide
strong protection for the north-east flank of the operation; we must
immediately set about establishing positions along the Don. In this matter,
anti-tank defenses are especially important. These positions will from the first
be prepared with a view to their eventual occupation in winter, for which they
will be fully equipped.

In the first instance, units of our allies will he used to hold the Don front, which
will become longer and longer as the attack proceeds. German forces will
provide a strong supporting force between Orel and the Don, and in the
Stalingrad strip. For the rest, individual German divisions will also remain
available as reserves behind the Don front.

Allied troops will be mainly disposed so that the Hungarians are farthest north,
then the Italians, and the Rumanians furthest to the southeast.

D. The swift progress of the movements across the Don to the south, in order
to attain the operational objectives, is essential, in consideration of the season.

III. Luftwaffe

Apart from giving direct support to the Army, the task of the Air Force will be
to cover the deployment of forces in the Army Group South area by
strengthening air defences. This applies particularly to railway bridges
across the Dnieper.

If enemy forces are seen to be concentrating, the principal roads and railways
serving the concentration area will be brought under continuous attack wel
l in the enemy's rear. A first priority will be the destruction of railway bridges
across the Don.

At the opening of operations, the enemy Air Force and its ground organization
in the theater of operations will be attacked and destroyed by a concentrated
effort of all available forces.

The possibility of a hasty transfer of Luftwaffe units to the Central and Northern
fronts must be born in mind, and the necessary ground organization for this
maintained as far as possible.

IV. Navy

In the Black Sea it is the principal duty of the Navy, in so far as our combat
and escort forces and our tonnage allow, to assist in supplying the Army and
Luftwaffe by sea.

Because the battle potential of the Russian Black Sea fleet is still unbroken it is
particularly important that the light naval forces to be moved to the Black Sea
should be ready for action there as soon as possible.

The Baltic will be protected by blockading Russian naval forces in the inner
waters of the Gulf of Finland.

V. My basic order to ensure secrecy is once again to be brought to the attention
of all staffs concerned in these preparations. In this connection the attitude
to be adopted to our allies will be laid down in special instructions.

VI. The preparations planned by the various branches of the Armed Forces,
and their timetables, will be notified to me through the High Command of the
Armed Forces.