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Führer Directive 21
by Adolf Hitler (unknown translator)
The following is a translation of Directive # 21 as written by Adolf Hitler, ordering German forces to prepare an attack on Soviet Russia in 1941, designated Operation Barbarossa. The orders also outline the overall operational goals and considerations in the coming operation for each branch of the armed forces of Germany, as well as those of their allies (primarily Finland and Romania). Launched by Hitler's order on June 22, 1941, Operation Barbarossa became the single largest land battle in history, and the stalemate and eventual defeat that resulted for Germany signalled the beginning of the end for the Third Reich.


The Führer and Supreme Commander of the Armed forces

OKW/WFSt./Abt.L(I) Nr.33 408/40 g.Kdos. 18 December 1940

9 copies

Top Secret.

Directive No. 21. Operation Barbarossa

The armed forces of Germany must be prepared, even before the conclusion of the war with England, to defeat Soviet Russia in one rapid campaign ('Operation Barbarossa').

The Army must in this case be prepared to commit all available formations, with the proviso that the occupied territories must be secured against surprise attacks.

The Air Force will have to make available for the support of the Army in the Eastern Campaign forces of adequate strength to ensure a rapid termination of land action and to give the East German territories maximum protection against enemy air raids. This making of the main effort in the east must not be carried to a point at which we can no longer adequately protect the totality of our battle and our armament zones against enemy air attacks, nor must the offensive against England, and in particular against England's supply routes, suffer in consequence.

For the Navy the point of main effort will remain consistently against England, even while the Eastern Campaign is in progress.

I shall give the order for the assembly of troops, etc., for the proposed operation against Soviet Russia, should the occasion arise, eight weeks before the operation is due to begin. Preparations that require more time than this shall - so far as they have not already been made - be begun at once and are to be completed by the 15th May, 1941.

Great stress however, must be laid on disguising any offensive intentions. Preparations by the high commands are to be based on the following considerations.


I. General Intention

The mass of the Army stationed in Western Russia is to be destroyed in bold operations involving deep penetrations by armored spearheads, and the withdrawals of elements capable of combat into the extensive Russian land spaces is to be prevented.

By means of a rapid pursuit a line is then to be reached from beyond which the Russian air force will no longer be capable of attacking German home territories. The final objective of the operation is to be the attainment of a line sealing off Asiatic Russia and running, in general, the Volga-Archangel. From such a line the one remaining Russian industrial area in the Urals can be eliminated by the Air Force should the need arise.

In the course of this operation the Russian Baltic Fleet will rapidly be deprived of its bases and thus will no longer be capable of combat.

Effective intervention by the Russian air force is to be prevented from the very beginning of the operation by means of powerful attacks against it.

II. Anticipated Allies and their Tasks

1. On the wings of our operations we can count on active co-operation in the war against Soviet Russia by Rumania and Finland. How exactly the combat forces of those two countries will be under German control when they go into action is a matter that the Armed Forces High Command will arrange and lay down at the proper time.

2. Rumania's task will be to pin down the enemy's forces opposite that sector and to give assistance in rear areas.

3. Finland will cover the movement of the Northern German Group coming from Norway (elements of Group XXI) and will then operate in conjunction with this group. The elimination of Hango will also be Finland's responsibility.

4. It may be anticipated that the Swedish railways and roads will be made available for the movement of the Northern German Group, at the latest when the operation has begun.

III. The Conduct of the Operations

(A) Army (in approbation of the intentions submitted to me):

The area of operations is divided into southern and northern halves by the Pripet Marshes. The point of main effort will be made in the northern half. Here two army groups are to be committed.

The southern of these two army groups - in the center of the whole front - will have the task of breaking out the area around and to the north of Warsaw with exceptionally strong armor and motorized formations and of destroying the enemy forces in White Russia. This will create a situation which will enable strong formations of mobile troops to swing north; such formations will then co-operate with the northern army group - advancing from East Prussia in the general direction of Leningrad - in destroying the enemy forces in the area of the Baltic states. Only after the accomplishment of these offensive operations, which must be followed by the capture of Leningrad and Kronstadt, are further offensive operations to be initiates with the objective of occupying the important center of communications and of armaments manufacture, Moscow.

Only a surprisingly rapid collapse of the Russian ability to resist could justify an attempt to achieve both objectives simultaneously.

The primary task of Group XXI, even during the eastern operations, remains the protection of Norway. Forces available other than those needed for this task (Mountain Corps) will first of all be used to protect the Petsamo area and its mines together with the Arctic road, and will then advance, in conjunction with Finnish forces, against the Murmansk railway and will cut the Murmansk area's land supply routes.

Whether an operation of this nature can be carried out by stronger German forces (two to three Divisions) coming from the area of Rovaniemi and to the south is dependent on Sweden's willingness to make the Swedish railways available for such a move.

The mass of the Finnish army will have the task, in accordance with the advance made by the northern wing of the German armies, of tying up maximum Russian strength by attacking to the west, or on both sides, of Lake Ladoga. The Finns will also capture Hango.

The army group south of the Pripet Marshes will make its point of main effort from the Lublin area in the general direction of Kiev, with the object of driving into the deep flank and rear of the Russian forces with strong armored formations and of then rolling up the enemy along the Dnieper. The German- Rumanian group on the right flank will have the task of

(a) protecting Rumanian territory and thus of covering the southern flank of the whole operation;
(b) in co-ordination with the attack by the northern of Army Group south of tying up the enemy forces on its sector of the front; then, as the situation develops, of launching a second thrust and thus, in conjunction with the air force, of preventing an orderly enemy withdrawal beyond the Dniester.

Once the battle south or north of the Pripet Marshes have been fought, the pursuit is to be undertaken with the following objectives:

In the south the rapid occupation of the economically important Donetz Basin, in the north the speedy capture of Moscow.

(B) Air Force:

It will be the task of the air force, so far as possible, to damage and destroy the effectiveness of the Russian air force, and to support the operations by the army at the points of main effort, that is to say in the sectors of the central army group and in the area where the southern army group will be making its main effort. The Russian railways will either be destroyed, or, in the case of more important objectives close to hand (i.e. railway bridges) will be captured by the bold use of parachute and air-borne troops. In order that maximum forces may be available for operations against the enemy air force and for direct support of the army, the munitions industry will not be attacked while the major operation is in progress. Only after the conclusion of the mobile operations will such attacks, and in particular attacks against the industrial area of the Urals, be considered.

(C) Navy

During the war with Soviet Russia it will be the task of the navy to protect the German coast line and to prevent any hostile naval force from breaking out of the Baltic. Since once Leningrad has been reached the Russian Baltic fleet will have lost its last base and will thus be in a hopeless position, major naval operations are to be previously avoided. After the destruction of the Russian fleet it will be the responsibility of the navy to make the Baltic fully available to carrying sea traffic, including supplies by sea to the northern wing of the army. (The sweeping of minefields!)


It is important that all Commanders-in-Chiefs make it plain that the taking of necessary measures in connection with this directive is being done as a precaution against the possibility of the Russians adopting an attitude towards us other than what it has been up to now. The number of officers engaged in the early stages on these preparations is to be kept as small as possible, and each officer is only to be given such information as is directly essential to him in the performance of his task. Otherwise the danger will arise of our preparations becoming known, when a time for the carrying out of the proposed operation has not even been decided upon. This would cause us the gravest political and military disadvantages.


I anticipate further conferences with the Commanders-in-Chief concerning their intentions as based on this directive. Reports on the progress made in the proposed preparations by all services of the armed forces will be forwarded to me through the Armed Forces High Command.

Signed: Adolf Hitler


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