world war ii: axis

Axis Hungarian soldiers force Russian civilians in the small village of Polnikovo to dig their own graves before being summarily executed as other villagers are forced to watch the proceedings. Days previously, two Hungarian soldiers were killed in the forest near the village. The Hungarian Army then carried out reprisal killings of all male civilians in the village who had been in or near the forest on the day the Hungarian soldiers were killed. Polnikovo, Ukolovskogo District, Voronezh Oblast (now, Krasnensky District, Belgorod Oblast), Russia, Soviet Union. July 1942.

Panzer IIIs equipped with Winterketten, not to be confused with Ostketten. During the second world war the Germans had several approaches to improve the maneuverability of their tanks in the winter time, winterketten was one of those solutions. Winterketten was just some tracks with offshoots from the side, they easily broke off because very little was there to support them. Some of the other solutions to this problem was the Mittelstollen and Hammerstollen, which basically acted as cleats for the tanks.

The Hammerstollen was fitted into the holes on either side of the track and then held in place with some pins.

Mittelstollen actually had a spring mechanism that held it in place and was clipped into place using the hole where the track guide horn was to hold itself in place. Both of these were fitted to help improve traction in snowy and icy conditions. Below is some Mittenstollen fitted to a panther.

Winterketten itself was developed in 1942 and was just regular track links with flat protrusions coming out from either side, so technically you could have a tank with alternating regular tracks and Winterketten.

More Panzer iiis equipped with Winterketten. (Circa 1943)

Here you can see Winterketten (top) and Ostketten (Bottom). Winterketten was basically a modified version of the standard tracks the Ostketten was basically a new track design entirely. Ostketten were designed in 1944 to increase performance in the Russian mud. It was basically a larger track links. It having more connection points than a standard Panzer iii/iv track, thus it was not compatible with standard track links, but with the added benefit of being stronger than Winterketten. Below is a StuG IV equipped with Ostketten.

German Wehrmacht soldiers are captured by the Soviets during the Belgorod-Khar'kov Offensive Operation, also known as the Fourth Battle of Kharkov (Kharkiv). After losing the city and surrounding area to the Germans in the First Battle of Kharkov in October 1941, it would take the Soviets three more bloody battles to finally liberate the area from Axis occupation. Near Kharkov (Kharkiv), Kharkiv Oblast, Ukraine, U.S.S.R. August 1943. Image taken by Semyon Friedland.

A group of German soldiers are taken as POWs by the U.S. Army’s 36th Infantry Division (”Arrowhead”) in German-occupied Alsace in France. Alsace-Lorraine was occupied by Germany in 1940, following the defeat of France.  Although Germany never formally annexed Alsace-Lorraine, it was incorporated into the Greater German Reich, which had been restructured into a Reichsgau (an administrative subdivision). Alsace was merged with Baden, and Lorraine with the Saarland, to become part of a planned Westmark (Germany’s future western border). Rohrwiller, Alsace (now, part of Grand Est), France. 2 April 1945.