The 22nd of June, 1941. With 134 divisions at full fighting strength and 73 more divisions for deployment behind the front, Nazi Germany, under the codename Operation Barbarossa, invades the Soviet Union, its ally in the war against Poland.
Hitler considers the invasion as part of his plan to provide the German nation with “Lebensraum” meaning “living space” and an opportunity to destroy Communism, which he loathes.
The Soviet Union sees catastrophic military losses in the first six weeks after the German attack but fails to collapse and fights the Germans who terrorize the local population. Among this local population is a teenager who will become known for resisting the Nazi occupants and killing more than 100 of them. Her name is Zinaida Portnova.
Zinaida Martynovna Portnova was born on 20 February 1926 in Leningrad then part of the Soviet Union. Her father worked at the Kirov Plant which after the October Revolution of November 1917 produced tractors.
The Second World War began on the 1st of September 1939 when Nazi Germany invaded Poland.
Poland found itself fighting a two front war when it was invaded by the Soviet Union from the east on the 17th of September. Warsaw officially surrendered to the Germans on the 28th of September and one day later in accordance with the secret protocol to their non-aggression pact, Germany and the Soviet Union partitioned Poland.
However this pact would not last long. Since the 1920s, core policies of the Nazi movement included:
- the destruction of the Soviet Union by military force
- the permanent elimination of the perceived Communist threat to Germany
- and the seizure of prime land within Soviet borders as Lebensraum - meaning “Living space”- for long-term German settlement
As such, Adolf Hitler had always regarded the August 23, 1939 German-Soviet nonaggression pact, commonly referred to as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, as a temporary tactical maneuver. In July 1940, just weeks after the German conquest of France and the Low Countries - Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands -, Hitler decided to attack the Soviet Union within the following year. On December 18, 1940, he signed Directive 21, code-named Operation “Barbarossa”. This was the first operational order for the invasion of the Soviet Union.
Zinaida Portnova - Nazi Slaying Soviet Teenager who Slaughtered More than 100 Nazis. Operation Barbarossa began on Sunday the 22nd of June 1941. Three million German soldiers were reinforced by Finnish, Romanian, Hungarian, Italian, Slovak, and Croatian troops. Within weeks, German divisions conquered the Baltic republics of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia.
However, after initial successes by the German troops, the advance came to a standstill in October and November 1941 due to the onset of the muddy period.
Hitler tried to conquer Leningrad which failed, and the following siege lasted 872 days from the 8th of September 1941 until the 27th of January 1944. The blockade became one of the longest and most destructive sieges in history, and it was possibly the costliest siege of all time due to the number of casualties which were suffered throughout its duration.
As a result, the Wehrmacht lacked the strength to take Moscow and a protracted war was imminent.
However, for Nazi Germany this attack was not an "ordinary" military operation. The war against the Soviet Union was both a war of annihilation between German fascism and Soviet communism as well as a racial war between German "Aryans" and subhuman Slavs and Jews.
During the siege of Leningrad, which some historians have classified it as a genocide due to the systematic starvation and intentional destruction of the city's civilian population, Zinaida Portnova was not in the city anymore. Shortly before the start of Operation Barbarossa, Zinaida, then a seventh-grade student at the 385th school in Leningrad, was together with her younger sister Galya sent to school holidays to their grandmother’s house in the village of Zui, situated near the town of Obol in northern Belarus. But soon, the war caught up with them there.
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