Operation Barbarossa – Directive 21

The Führer and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces

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

Top Secret

Directive No. 21

Operation Barbarossa

The armed forces of Germany must be prepared, even before theconclusion of the war with England, to defeat Soviet Russia in onerapid campaign.

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

The Air Force will have to make available for the support of theArmy in the Eastern Campaign forces of adequate strength to ensurea rapid termination of land action and to give the East Germanterritories maximum protection against enemy air raids. Thismaking of the main effort in the east must not be carried to a pointat which we can no longer adequately protect the totality of ourbattle and our armament zones against enemy air attacks, nor mustthe offensive against England, and in particular against England’ssupply routes, suffer in consequences.

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

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

Great stress however, must be laid on disguising any offensiveintentions. Preparations by the high command are to be based on thefollowing considerations.

1.General Intention

The mass of the Army stationed in Western Russia is to be destroyedin bold operations involving deep penetrations by armouredspearheads, and the withdrawal of elements capable of combat intothe extensive Russian land spaces is to be prevented.

By means of a rapid pursuit a line is then to be reached from beyondwhich the Russian air force will no longer be capable of attackingGerman home territories. The final objective of the operation is tobe the attainment of a line sealing off Asiatic Russia and running, ingeneral, the Volga-Archangel. From such a line the one remainingRussian industrial area in the Urals can be eliminated by the AirForce should the need arise.

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

Effective intervention of the Russian air force is to be preventedfrom the very beginning of the operation by means of powerfulattacks against it.

2.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 andFinland. How exactly the combat forces of those two countrieswill be under German control, when they go into action is amatter that the Armed Forces High Command will arrange and laydown at the proper time.

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

3.Finland will cover the movement of the Northern German Groupcoming from Norway and will then operate in conjunction withthis group. The elimination of Hango will also be Finland’sresponsibility.

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

3.The Conduct of the Operation


The area of operations is divided into southern and northern halvesby the Pripet Marshes. The point of main effort will be made in thenorthern half. Here, two army groups have been committed.

The southern of those two army groups – in the center of the wholefront – will have the task of breaking out the area around and to thenorth of Warsaw with exceptionally strong armour and motorizedformations and of destroying the enemy forces in White Russia. Thiswill create a situation which will enable strong formations ofmobile troops to swing north; such formations will then co-operatewith the northern army group – advancing from East Prussia in thegeneral direction of Leningrad – in destroying the enemy forces inthe area of the Baltic States. Only after the accomplishment ofthese offensive operations, which must be followed by the captureof Leningrad and Kronstadt, are further offensive operations to beinitiated with the objective of occupying the important centre ofcommunications and armaments manufacture, Moscow.

Only a surprisingly rapid collapse of the Russian ability to resistcould 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 thoseneed for this task (Mountain Corps) will first of all be used toprotect the Petsamo area and its mines together with the Arcticroad, and will then advance, in conjunction with Finish forces,against the Murmansk railway and will cut the Murmansk area’s landsupply routes.

Whether an operation of this nature can be carried out by strongerGerman forces (two or three divisions) coming from the area ofRovaniemi and to the south is dependant on Sweden’s willingness tomake the Swedish railways available for such a move.

The mass of the Finish army will have the task, in accordance withthe advance made by the northern wing of the German armies, oftying up maximum Russian strength by attacking to the west or onboth sides, of Lake Ladoga. The Finns will also capture Hango.

The army group south of the Pripet Marshes will make its point ofmain effort from the Lublin area in the general direction of Kiev,with the object of driving into the deep flank and rear of the Russianforces with strong armoured formations and of then rolling up theenemy along the Dnieper. The German-Rumanian group on the rightflank will have the task of:

(a)protecting Rumanian territory and thus of covering the southernflank of the whole operation;

(b)in co-ordination with the attack by the northern Army Groupsouth of tying up the enemy forces on its sector of the front;then, as the situation develops, of launching a second thrust andthus, in conjunction with the air force, of preventing and orderlyenemy withdrawal beyond the Dnieper.

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

In the south the rapid occupation of the economically importantDonetz 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 anddestroy the effectiveness of the Russian air force, and to supportthe operations by the army at the points of main effort in thesectors of the central army group and in the area where the southernarmy group will be making its main effort. The Russian railwayswill either be destroyed, or, in the case of more importantobjectives close to hand (i.e. railway bridges) will be captured bythe bold use of parachutes and air-borne troops. In order thatmaximum forces may be available for operations against the enemyair force and for direct support of the army, the munitions industrywill not be attacked while the major operation is in progress. Onlyafter the conclusion of the mobile operations will such attacks, andin particular attacks against the industrial area of the Urals, beconsidered.

(C) Navy

During the war with Soviet Russia, it will be the task of the navy toprotect the German coastline and to prevent any hostile naval forcefrom breaking out of the Baltic. Since once Leningrad has beenreached the Russian Baltic fleet will have lost its last base and willthus be in a hopeless position, major naval operations are to bepreviously avoided. After the destruction of the Russian fleet itwill be the responsibility of the navy to make the Baltic fullyavailable to carry sea traffic, including supplies by sea to thenorthern wing of the army.


It is important that all Commanders-in-Chiefs make it plain that thetaking of necessary measures in connection with this directive isbeing done as a precaution against the possibility of the Russiansadopting an attitude toward us other than what it has been up tonow. The number of officers engaged in the early stages of thesepreparations is to be kept as small as possible, and each officer isonly to be given such information as is directly essential to him inthe performance of his task. Otherwise, the danger will arise of ourpreparations becoming known, when a time for the carrying out ofthe proposed operation has not even been decided upon. This wouldcause us the gravest political and military disadvantages.


I anticipate further conferences with the Commanders-in-Chiefsconcerning their intentions as based on this directive. Reports onthe progress made in the proposed preparations by all services ofthe armed forces will be forwarded to me through the Armed ForcesHigh Command.

signed: Adolf Hitler