Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkov has had a turbulent history. Since its founding in 1654, it has grown from a small fortress to a major centre of Ukrainian industry. Not surprisingly, various external powers have attempted to claim its territory and resources. During World War II, the city was the site of a series of military engagements. Between 1941 and 1943, it was captured, lost and recaptured by both German and Soviet Forces, resulting in almost total destruction and significant loss of life among its population.
Beginning with ‘Operation Barbarossa’ in June 1941, Germany’s Eastern Front campaign included four named battles in and around Kharkov: ‘First Battle of Kharkov’ (October 1941), in which German troops captured the city; ‘Second Battle of Kharkov’ (May 1942), with the Soviets attempting to retake the city; ‘Third Battle of Kharkov’ (February 1943), the Soviets being driven out and the Germans again in control; ‘Fourth Battle of Kharkov’ (August 1943), the Soviets again retaking the city. It is interesting to note that this final battle is referred to by Russians as the ‘Belgorod-Kharkov Offensive’. The third battle is noteworthy due to the exploits of the newly formed II SS Panzer Korps, comprising