Barbarossa Campaign in 1941 Hungarian perspective

In this book, I would like to introduce to our readers the first major campaign of the Royal Hungarian Army fought against the Red Army in Ukraine from July until November of 1941.

The book deals with the history of Hungary from the end of WW1 until 1941. Specially attention was given to the Hungarian Army between the wars, how it was organized, trained, equipped, and armed. The second part of the text focus on the military operation performed by the Carpathian Operational Group and the Mobile Corps in Ukraine, in 1941. A separate chapter contains the operational history of the Royal Hungarian Air Force during the campaign. The text is accompanied by original photographs, maps, and color profiles. The majority of the photos coming from the Fortepan collection added some extra photos from my collection.
The Hungarian Fortepan is a free-to-use, community photo archive where you can browse and download over a hundred thousand archive photos for free, in good quality. I do have the privilege and the opportunity to closely follow the work of the Fortepan, currently having almost 150000 photos from 1900 until 1989. A significant part of the collection contains photos about military-related topics. I widely use Fortepan to illustrate my articles and books. Reviewing the year of 1941 at Fortepan, I did recognize a huge number of unpublished and unknown photos covering the history of the Hungarian military operation in the former Polish and Ukrainian territories concerning the fighting during the Barbarossa Campaign from late June until early November 1941.
By that time, having a camera was an interest of few. Mostly reserve officers, skilled enlisted men, and some professional soldiers; officers and NCOs took their camera to capture their journey into the “Soviet Paradise”, as it was ironically referred to by the propaganda. Most of the Fortepan photos belonged to some dedicated photographer; reserve ensign Pál Berkó served at the 151th Motorized Bridge Column, Károly Hajdú Fedő fought with the 3rd Motorized Rifle Battalion, Dániel Csorba fought with the 15th Bicycle Battalion, reserve military doctor Csaba Vargha accompanied with the III Short Range Reconnaissance Squadron.
I also attached photos from the Hungarian War Correspondent Company, an official propaganda unit organized in 1940-1941 to document the war from an official point of view, boosting the morale of the Army and the Hungarian population.
The photographs on the one hand documented the individual and small unit history of the advancing Hungarian troops, showing their equipment, weaponry as well as picturing the difficulties, casualties, and fatigue of the war. On the other hand, the Hungarians had taken photos of the enemy too. These selected photos display the hostile terrain, the demolished bridges, abandoned and destroyed Soviet vehicles, planes, and weapons as well as the prisoners of war, local civilians. The Hungarians were shocked by the everyday life of the Soviet system, the poverty of the local population, and the grandiose industrial sites surrounded by shanty towns of the workers. Unintentionally the photographers also showed the brutality of the war, which inflicted unbearable pain on the civilian population, which trapped among the Axis forces, Red Army, and the partisans.

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Operation Barbarossa
Early hours of 22 June 1941, under the codename of “Barbarossa” Germany and its allies attacked the Soviet Union. This conflict, which fought on the Eastern Front, was a total war, fought by all elements of the involving societies, because both sides aimed “to exterminate the opponent, to destroy his political existence”. Performing this total war meant cruelty, throwing away the century’s old rules of war. This conflict imposed unnecessary suffering on civilians as well as soldiers and prisoners of war.
Although, since August 1939 a German/Soviet non–aggression pact existed, it was clear for both sides that the war would be inevitable with each other. The Soviets hoped that the western powers and Nazi Germany would wear down each other and in the end, they could conquer Europe at minimum cost. But the Soviet Armed Forces was not yet ready for the war in 1941; Stalin had to keep playing for time.
Hitler’s intention to invade the Soviet Union was based on ideological and economic reasons. The Germans also recognized that sooner or later the war with the Red giant would be unavoidable. The numbers of the opposing forces clearly stated the numerical superiority of the Soviet Army of the Western Military districts itself.
At the time of the attack, approximately 3.6 million German and Axis soldiers with 3600 armored vehicles, 7100 artillery pieces, and 2700 aircraft crossed the Soviet frontier. At the beginning of the operations, the Red Army had 2.9 million soldiers, 15000 armored vehicles, 35000 artillery pieces, and 8500 planes to counter the invaders. This formidable war machine soon melted away under the Axis onslaught. Until the end of the year, almost 20000 Soviet armored vehicles, the majority of the aircraft’s were mostly destroyed on the ground, some 4 million Red Army men perished; 80% of the total strength of the Soviet Armed forces.