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Manstein's Army Group South In Crisis, January 1944

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In January 1944, the southern group of German forces in the Ukraine had found themselves in a major crisis. The threat to the entire German front was so serious that Manstein himself would later write that “the situation was similar to that in which the Army Group had found itself during the winter of 1942-43. In fact, the next few weeks would decide whether or not the southern wing of the German armies in the east would be cut off and forced away to the south-west.” The crisis started when Nikolai Vatutin's 1st Ukrainian Front (800,000 men) launched a major offensive west of Kiev on the Christmas Eve of 1943, against Erhard Raus's 4th Panzer Army (360,000 men), belonging to Manstein's Army Group South. Known as the "Zhitomir–Berdichev Operation", this offensive marked the start of the far greater "Dnieper-Carpathian Offensive", which was aimed at smashing Army Group South. Up to 3,500,000 troops in total participated from both sides in this gigantic