On June 22, 1941, three million soldiers of Adolf Hitler’s Wehrmacht charged into the Soviet Union, destroying or capturing one Red Army after another.
The Fuehrer, ecstatic, had waited decades to launch this invasion: “We have only to kick in the door and the whole rotten structure will come crashing down.”
That expectation proved to be false.
But then Hitler made a comment whose truth should still be noted: “At the beginning of each campaign, one pushes a door into a dark, unseen room. One can never know what is hiding inside.”
Such proved to be the case in his campaign to destroy the Soviet Union.
By December 1941, the Wehrmacht had killed 360,000 Soviet soldiers, wounded one million, and captured two million more. Red Army losses totaled around 3.4 million.
In six months, German troops and their allies had advanced 600 miles and occupied more than 500,000 square miles of Soviet territory.
And yet, in the end, Operation Barbarossa–the code name for the invasion–proved Hitler’s fatal mistake.
By the time Hitler committed suicide on April 30, 1945, Germany lay in ruins and the Wehrmacht had suffered 85% of its losses on the dreaded “Eastern front.”
Similarly, the militant group Hamas opened hostilities with Israel on July 7, apparently confident that it could defeat the awesome power of an unleashed Israeli Defense Force (IDF).
In June, 2014, three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and murdered. Israeli authorities suspected the culprits were members of Hamas, the terrorist organization that’s long called for Israel’s destruction.
In a desperate search for the missing teens, Israeli forces killed 10 Palestinians, injured 130 and arrested 500 to 600 others.
Hamas, in turn, began launching rocket attacks on Israel from the Gaza Strip, which it has controlled since June, 2007. By July 7, 100 rockets had been fired at Israel.
Israeli planes retaliated by attacking 50 targets in Gaza.
On July 8, during a 24-hour period, Hamas fired more than 140 rockets into Israel from Gaza. Saboteurs also tried to infiltrate Israel from the sea, but were intercepted.
A Hamas rocket streaks toward Israel
That same day–July 8, 2014–Israel launched Operation Protective Edge, a full-scale military attack on Gaza.
Hamas then announced that it considered “all Israelis”–including women, children, the elderly and disabled–to be legitimate targets.
On July 8, Hamas–acting as though it were laying down peace terms to an already defeated Israel–issued the following demands:
- End all attacks on Gaza;
- Release Palestinians arrested during the crackdown on the West Bank;
- Lift the blockade on Gaza; and
- Return to the cease-fire conditions of 2012.
Only then would Hamas be open to a ceasefire agreement.
Egypt offered a cease-fire proposal. Israel quickly accepted it, temporarily stopping hostilities on July 15. But Hamas claimed that it had not been consulted and rejected the agreement.
Palestinians continued to blithely launch hundreds of rockets at Israel–but went into ecstasies of grief before television cameras when one of their own was killed by Israeli return fire.
The mindset displayed by Hamas reflects that of the Wehrmacht during the titanic battle of Stalingrad, which lasted from August, 1942, to February, 1943.
German soldiers at Stalingrad
This mindset was vividly captured in the diary of Wilhelm Hoffman, one of the 150,000 Germans who died in the battle.
The document reveals how a would-be conqueror can quickly turn from arrogant euphoria in triumph to self-righteous anger and self-pity when faced by unyielding opposition.
July 29, 1942: The company commander says the Russian troops are completely broken, and cannot hold out any longer. To reach the Volga and take Stalingrad is not so difficult for us. The Fuehrer knows where the Russian weak point is. Victory is not far away.
August 10: The Fuehrer’s orders were read out to us. He expects victory of us. We are all convinced that they can’t stop us.
August 12: We are advancing toward Stalingrad along the railway line. Yesterday Russian “katush” [small rocket launchers] and then tanks halted our regiment.
“The Russians are throwing in their last forces,” Captain Werner explained to me. Large-scale help is coming up to us, and the Russians will be beaten.
This morning outstanding soldiers were presented with decorations. Will I really go back to Elsa without a decoration? I believe that for Stalingrad the Fuehrer will decorate even me.
August 27: A continuous cannonade on all sides. We are slowly advancing. Less than 20 miles to go to Stalingrad. In the daytime we can see the smoke of fires, at nighttime the bright glow.
They say that the city is on fire. On the Fuehrer’s orders our Luftwaffe [air force] has sent it up in flames. That’s what the Russians need, to stop them from resisting.
September 5: Our regiment has been ordered to attack Sadovaya station–that’s nearly in Stalingrad. Are the Russians really thinking of holding out in the city itself?
We had no peace all night from the Russian artilery and aeroplanes. Lots of wounded are being brought by. God protect me.
September 8: Two days of non-stop fighting. The Russians are defending themselves with insane stubbornness. Our regiment has lost many men from the “katyushi” [Soviet multiple rocket launchers] which belch out terrible fire.