Führer Directive 21
|Führer Directive 21
by , translated by Office of the United States Chief of Counsel For Prosecution of Axis Criminality
|The following is a partial 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.
Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression Volume 3, pp. 407-9, doc. 446-PS.
The Fuehrer and Commander-in-Chief of the German Armed Forces
OKW/WFSt./Abt.L(I) Nr. 33 408/40 gK Chefs.
18 December 40
9 copies, 4th copy
The German Armed Forces must be prepared to crush Soviet Russia in a quick campaign before the end of the war against England (Case Barbarossa).
For this purpose the Army will have to employ all available units with the reservation that the occupied territories will have to be safeguarded against surprise attacks.
For the Eastern campaign the Airforce will have to free such strong forces for the support of the Army that a quick completion of the ground operations may be expected and that damage of the eastern German territories will be avoided as much as possible. This concentration of the main effort in the east is limited by the following reservation: That the entire battle and armament area dominated by us must remain sufficiently protected against enemy air attacks and that the attacks on England and especially the supply for them must not be permitted to break down.
Concentration of the main effort of the Navy remains unequivocally against England also during an Eastern Campaign.
If occasion arises I will order the concentration of troops for action against Soviet Russia eight weeks before the intended beginning of operations.
Preparations requiring more time to start are—if this has not yet been done—to begin presently and are to be completed by 15 May 1941.
Great caution has to be exercised that the intention of an attack will not be recognized.
The preparations of the High Command are to be made on the following basis:
I. General Purpose 
The mass of the Russian Army in Western Russia is to be destroyed in daring operations by driving forward deep wedges with tanks and the retreat of intact battle-ready troops into the wide spaces of Russia is to be prevented.
In quick pursuit a (given) line is to be reached from where the Russian Airforce will no longer be able to attack German Reich territory. The first goal of operations is the protection from Asiatic Russia from the general line Volga-Archangelsk. In case of necessity, the last industrial area in the Urals left to Russia could be eliminated by the Luftwaffe.
In the course of these operations the Russian Baltic Sea Fleet will quickly erase its bases and will no longer be ready to fight.
Effective intervention by the Russian Airforce is to be prevented through forceful blows at the beginning of the operations.
II. Probable Allies and their tasks 
1. [Introduction about possible control of Rumania and Finland by Germany omitted]
2. It will be the task of Rumania, together with the forces concentrating there, to pin down the opponent on the other side and, in addition, to render auxiliary services in the rear area.
3. [Finland's objective omitted]
4. [Possible role of Sweden omitted]
III. [Conduct of the Operations omitted] 
It must be clearly understood that all orders to be given by the commanders-in-chief on the basis of this letter of instructions are precautionary measures, in case Russia should change her present attitude toward us. The number of officers to be drafted for the preparations at an early time is to be kept as small as possible. Further co-workers are to be detailed as late as possible and only as far as each individual is needed for a specific task. Otherwise, the danger exists that our preparations (the time of their execution has not fixed) will become known and thereby grave political and military disadvantages would result.
I am expecting the reports of the commanders-in-chief on their further plans based on this letter of instructions.
The preparation planned by all branches of the Armed Forces are to be reported to me through the High Command, also in regard to their time.
[initialed by Jodl, Keitel, Warlimont and one illegible.]
- Ob. d. H. (Op. Abt.)—1. copy
- Ob. d. M. (Skl.)—2. copy
- Ob. d. L. (Lw.Fue.St.)—3. copy
- WFSt.—4. copy
- Abt.—5-9. copy
|This is a translation and has a separate copyright status from the original text. The license for the translation applies to this edition only.|
This foreign work was not registered for copyright in the United States upon first publication prior to 1964, and is not entitled to URAA restoration of copyright. It is also in the public domain in other countries and areas where the copyright terms of anonymous or pseudonymous works are 60 years or less since publication.