What was the turning point of World War II in Eastern Europe? Who defeated whom?
Generally, the battle of Stalingrad (1942-43) is regarded as the turning point after which the German Army started a steady but constant retreat. In this battle the forces of the Soviet Union defeated the German Wehrmacht practically destroying an entire army (the Sixth) plus other axis formations including Italian and Rumanian forces.
Although this is the official and accepted historical definition I sometimes doubt that the battle of Stalingrad is really the turning point. I see the halting of the German forces outside Moscow in the winter of 1941, the Battle of Moscow, as the real thing. Mind you, this is my opinion so you ought to consider it as a personal opinion. The reason why I consider this episode as the real thing is because for the first time AND on the brink of occupying the enemy capital (Moscow) the Germans were forced:
1) to stop their advance;
2) to retreat (never happened before);
3) to suffer enormous casualties and loss of hardware, weapons and tanks.
Psychologically it was even worse because the Germans discovered that the Russian army wasn't finished (they had incredible reserves of Siberian troops specifically adapted to fight in the cold) and that the Russian soldiers were more than eager to die to inflict as much damage as possible to the Germans.
[Russian civilians building defensive positions outside Moscow]
The Battle Kursk (July 1943) is often cited as the turning point in the Eastern Front. Operation Bagration (June to August 1944) made it clear how the things would work out.
Kursk was a complex and difficult battle as both the Russians and the Germans had heavy losses but there were still reserves available to the Germans.
Hitler chose to end the offensive possibly as a reaction to the invasion of Sicily (July 1943) and the possibility of Italy being knocked out of the war.
After the Battle of Kursk the Russians tended to win over the Germans, before the Battle they tended to lose. The Blitzkreig type of fighting that the Germans had used before was no longer working mostly because of increased numbers of anti-tank weapons and large numbers of tanks on the Russian side.
Kursk was notable for the unsophisticated tactics used by the Russians. Columns of tanks were driven straight at the German formations often mixing with the German tanks. It was successful because the greater ranges of the German guns were no longer an advantage. Casualties were high.
Operation Bagration is also called "The Destruction of Army Group Centre". The German Armies at central part of the German position was destroyed and the Russians advanced to Poland. Combined with the landings in Normandy(June 1944) there was little doubt about the eventual Allied victory.
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