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A pair of seemingly unrecorded views of Kiev (Kyiv) made by German soldiers in the wake of the WWII Battle of Kiev (August-September 1941), whereby the Nazis captured the city after an epic month-long contest against the Red Army; the finely executed and detailed views capture the city from two different perspectives and label numerous key sites; clearly published in the Kiev area by an unidentified ‘Vermessungs- und Karten-Abteilung (Mot.)’, being a German Army Motorized Surveying & Map Detachment.





Blick v.d. Lissa Gora auf die Stadt Kijew.

[Probably Kiev area: Unidentified Vermessungs- Und Karten-Abteilung (Mot.), Autumn 1941].

Photolithogragh, printed on cheap, thin paper (Good, some light staining on both sides, long closed tear entering image in lower left but with no loss), 20.5 x 32.5 cm (8 x 13 inches).





Blick v.d. Zitadelle (Lawra) nach Osten und Nordosten.

[Kiev area: Unidentified Vermessungs- Und Karten-Abteilung (Mot.), Autumn 1941].

Photolithogragh, printed on cheap, thin paper (Very Good, some light staining left-hand side), 20.5 x 32.5 cm (8 x 13 inches).


This seemingly unrecorded and well executed pair of views of Kiev (properly ‘Kyiv’ in Ukrainian) were made in the wake of the Battle of Kiev (August 23 – September 26, 1941), one the great events of Operation Barbarossa, the first stage of the Nazi German invasion of the Soviet Union.  While the Wehrmacht succeeded in taking Kiev, this was accomplished after such strenuous effort that it is often regarded as ‘pyrrhic victory’, as it severely slowed down the progress of the German forces, knocking them off their ‘blitzkrieg’ plan.

The views were clearly executed by the same anonymous German soldier from two different vantage points, made in the late months of 1941, once the city was in Nazi hands.  Incidentally, the views were found along with other documents from the that period.

The first view, Blick v.d. Lissa Gora auf die Stadt Kijew, which translates as ‘View from the Lissa Gora on to the City of Kiev’, takes in the centre of Kiev from the perpective of the hill of Lysa Hora (Ukrainian: Лиса Гора), a few kilometres to the south.  The city (centre) is shown to rise upon the heights above the Dnipro River (right), with all major buildings and infrastructure depicted or shown in silhouette.  The key below identifies 22 key sites, both historical landmarks as well as militarily significant places.  The sites include great churches and cloisters (1-3); the Citadel (5); as well as bridges, factories, power plants, hospitals and bridges, etc.

The second view, Blick v.d. Zitadelle (Lawra) nach Osten und Nordosten, which translates as ‘View from the Citadel (Lavra) to the East and North-east’ takes in the view from the Citadel, at the heart of Kiev, looking down over the Dnieper Valley.  The key identifies 13 sites, mostly infrastructure of military significance, but also, rather chillingly, 6. Podol (Judenstadt), a Jewish neighbourhood to the north of town.

The views are printed upon cheap, thin paper, in an attractive, yet rough and ready, photolithographic technique.  They were obviously published in Kiev or vicinity by an unidentified Vermessungs- und Karten-Abteilung (Motorisiert), being a German ArmyMotorized Surveying and Map Detachment’.  These were completely integrated units of surveyors, draftsman, photographers and printers, who traveled with all their equipment to the front lines in every theatre in which the Wehrmacht fought (on many occasions they traveled aboard special trains).  The detachments were usually assigned to, and followed the progress of, specific army corps and their workshops could be instantly set up close to battle fronts where new maps and topographical views could be drafted and printed on-site, almost always in only very small quantities for immediate field use.  The views do not feature an imprint, as they were intended to be used by troops on site, for which such labelling was unnecessary.

The present views appear to be unrecorded, which is not surprising, as they would have been made in very small print runs for field use, while the survival rate of such small, fragile prints is incredibly low.


The Battle of Kiev: The Pyrrhic Victory of Operation Barbarossa 

Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941 in what was known as Operation Barbarossa, a ‘Blitzkrieg’ (Lightening Warfare) campaign that sought to conquer all the country west of the ‘A-A Line’ (the imagined meridian running from Archangel down to Astrakhan).  The Germans were highly confident as the same techniques of rapid, mechanized warfare had practically mowed down France the year before.  However, the Wehrmacht severely underestimated the extraordinary bravery and self-sacrifice of the Red Army troops and the severity of the Russian climate.  The campaign resulted in several titanic battles involving hundreds of thousands of troops on each side, and while the Germans usually prevailed, they did so always at great cost, with each showdown delaying their progress eastwards and depleting their strength.  Meanwhile, the Soviets seemed to be able to transcend unimaginable loss and suffering without losing their resolve; the Nazis eventually learned the hard way that they could not do the same.

The Battle of Kiev (August 23 – September 26, 1941), often called the First Battle of Kiev, so as not to confuse it with another showdown in 1943, was one the great events of Operation Barbarossa.  During the vicious month-long contest, the Wehrmacht encircled the Soviet Union’s third most important city (which had a population of 930,000 in the city proper), capturing or destroying the entire Soviet Southwestern Front Army.  The battle has the distinction of being the largest encirclement (in terms of number of troops involved) in military history.

To give an idea of the scope of the battle, the Germans dedicated 544,00 troops, consisting of 9 armoured divisions (with a heavy emphasis on tanks) and 25 infantry divisions, to the contest, while the city was defended by an elaborate series of fortifications and a Red Army force that initially numbered 627,000 men.  The Luftwaffe and the Germans’ heavy artillery systematically pounded the strategic infrastructure and military locations within the city to soften up resistance, but this did not bear fruit, as the Soviets bravely resisted, rushing in more troops to replenish their strength.  However, the Wehrmacht pressed hard and managed to completely encircle Kiev while raising the tempo of their bombardment.  The Soviets’ situation was hopeless, and at the end of the battle the Germans captured 452,700 Red Army troops and 2,642 Soviet artillery pieces, along with 64 tanks.  Beyond that, horrifically, the Red Army suffered around 700,000 casualties!

The Battle of Kiev was a shocking defeat for the Soviets, and while certainly a great technical victory for the Germans, its effect upon the greater war remains debatable.  While the Germans suffered 61,000 casualties and did not lose too much equipment, the month-long battle slowed the Wehrmacht’s progress towards the Volga River.  In fact, when the battle concluded, at the end of September, winter on the Steppes was nigh.  It would be argued that the Soviet’s tremendous sacrifice at Kiev did much to ensure that by the end of the 1941 campaign season, while Germany had conquered much of Ukraine and a good part of European Russia, it fell well short of its goals, failing to take Moscow or reach the Caucuses.

During the 1942 campaign season, the Nazis pursued Case Blue, a high-risk/potentially high-reward strategy that aimed to seize the Baku Oil Fields.  However, as we all know today, this would end in their disastrous defeat at the Battle of Stalingrad (August 23 – February 2, 1942), which hailed the beginning of the end of the Third Reich.


References: N/A – Views seemingly unrecorded.

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