By July 12, 1941, the Wehrmacht had penetrated 400 kilometers into Soviet territory. Within the first six months, the Soviet Union lost over four million troops, virtually its entire pre-war army. Unprepared for the attack, the Red Army disintegrated in a massive, unorganized retreat. In the north, Germany easily conquered the Baltics, where support for the Nazis was widespread, and besieged Leningrad by September. In December the Germans almost reached the Soviet capital, but encountered relentless defense and eventually experienced their first defeat of the war in the Battle of Moscow. In the south, Hitler targeted needed resources, and in July 1942 the southern defenses of the Red Army collapsed. By September 1942 the Germans had reached Stalingrad, capturing vast territory and devastating the local inhabitants along the way. Nazi policies towards the civilian population amounted to exploitation and extermination: Jews, political officers in the military, communists and other undesirables were liquidated without mercy. Slavs were treated as slaves, with millions worked to death in forced labor camps. While suffering unparalleled human loss, the Red Army endured and continued to fight, united against a detested enemy invader.
Marching in Moscow's Red Square parade, December 1941.