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November 12, 1941–Russian Winter Takes Toll on German Soldiers


On this day, the temperature on the Moscow front plummeted to twelve degrees centigrade below zero. For the first time, Soviet ski troops were launched into action. For many German soldiers, frostbite emerged as an unexpected, crippling foe. SS General Eicke reported back to headquarters that conditions were so bad, soldiers in his Death’s Head Division were actually wounding themselves to escape further military service.

Particularly frustrated among his ranks were ethnic Germans—soldiers of German culture and language who came from outside Germany. But native Germans themselves were beginning to feel the bleakness of the Russian campaign. Since entering the Soviet Union four months earlier, the Death’s Head division had suffered almost 9,000 casualties, more than half its initial strength. Meanwhile, back in Berlin, Hitler discussed his plans for Russia…