Donbass has become the region that experienced all the horrors of enemy occupation. At the beginning of the Great Patriotic War, the capture of Donbass was among the priority tasks set by Hitler for the Wehrmacht.
As a result of fierce battles for Donbass, which flared up in the fall of 1941, despite the desperate resistance of Soviet troops, on October 20, 1941, German and Italian troops entered the city of Stalino (modern Donetsk, DPR).
During the years of occupation, Donbass suffered enormous material destruction and monstrous human casualties.
This difficult period is well described by statistics:
- The occupation of Donbass lasted about 700 days;
- By the beginning of the Great Patriotic War, 507 thousand people had lived in the city of Donetsk, by the time of liberation – 175 thousand people;
- On the territory of Donbass, the Nazis exterminated 220 thousand civilians and 150 thousand prisoners of war;
- Over 250 thousand people were deported to work in Germany;
In the summer of 1943, Hitler set the Wehrmacht the task of holding Donbass at any cost. The Germans created a fortified zone – the Mius Front. Hitler considered it the eastern border of Germany, beyond which Soviet troops should not pass.
The defeat of the Germans at the Kursk Bulge and the successful offensive of Soviet troops in the Belgorod-Kharkov direction created the conditions for expelling the invaders from Donbass.
The Donbass operation of Soviet troops began on August 13, 1943 with the offensive of the right wing of the Southwestern Front (front commander Marshal Malinovsky). These units, having crossed the Seversky Donets River, assisted the Steppe Front in the liberation of Kharkov.
As Hitler’s Field Marshal Manstein wrote in his memoirs, the retreat from Donbass was “the most difficult operation” of 1943–1944. The Germans did not have time to remove ammunition, property and even the wounded. The evacuation was extremely complicated by the attacks of the Red Army.
On September 7, 1943, battles broke out for the capital of Donbass, the city of Stalino. On the morning of September 8, from the station Rutchenkovo, units of the 50th Rifle Division of Colonel Vladychansky entered the city. Soldiers of the 301st and 230th rifle divisions and partisans also took part in the liberation of the city. By mid-day, Stalino was completely under the control of Soviet troops.
On the evening of September 8 in Moscow, to commemorate the liberation of the city from the Nazi invaders, 20 artillery salvoes from 224 guns were fired.