By the beginning of Operation Barbarossa, the 6th Panzer Division was part of the 4th Panzer Group of General E. Gepner, and the latter, in turn, was part of Army Group North. On June 22, the 6th tank tanks crossed the Soviet border near Tilsit (now the city of Sovetsk in the Kaliningrad region) and began to develop an offensive in the direction of the Lithuanian city of Raseiniai. The division was attacked by two militant groups – Raus and Zekedorf, which on June 23 managed to cross the r.
Dubissa and take two bridgeheads on its left bank. On June 23, at 11.30, units of the 2nd tank division of the 3rd mechanized corps of the Red Army attacked the bridgehead of the Zekedorf group, liquidated it and crossed through Dubissu. At first, our division was a success. Having defeated the units of the 114th motorized regiment of the Germans, Soviet tankmen occupied Raseiniai, but were soon knocked out of it. During June 23, the city passed from hand to hand four times.
It should be noted in particular what impression the German tankers from the 6th division produced actions of heavy KV tanks: “The Russians unexpectedly counterattacked the southern bridgehead in the direction of Raseinia. They crushed the 6th motorcycle battalion, captured the bridge and moved towards the city. To stop the main enemy forces, the 114th motorized regiment, two artillery divisions and 100 tanks of the 6th tank division were put into operation.
However, they met with a battalion of heavy tanks of previously unknown type. These tanks passed through the infantry and broke into artillery positions. The shells of German guns bounced off the thick armor of enemy tanks. 100 German tanks could not stand the battle with the enemy’s 20 dreadnoughts and suffered losses. Czech tanks Pz.35 (t) were crushed by enemy monsters.
The same fate befell the battery 150 mm howitzers, which fired until the last minute. Despite numerous hits, even from a distance of 200 m, howitzers could not damage a single tank. The situation was critical. Only 88 mm anti-aircraft guns were able to knock out a few KV 1 and make the rest retreat into the forest.
The next day, fighting resumed with a new force. The report of the headquarters of the 4th tank group of June 24 said: “Attacks of heavy tanks and infantry of the enemy forced the right flank of the 41st tank corps to go on the defensive.”
However, the success of the 2nd Soviet tank division was short-lived. She acted in isolation from the main forces and was soon surrounded. On June 25 against it, in addition to the 6th Panzer Division, the German command brought into the battle units of the 1st Tank, 36th Motorized and 269th Infantry Divisions. On the night of June 25-26 and all the first half of the day, the remnants of the 2nd tank units broke through the front of the German encirclement. Few succeeded; most died or were captured.
As for the 6th German Tank Division, it together with other formations of the 4th tank group advanced on Pskov and Ostrov. In July – August she fought hard battles near Luga and on the distant approaches to Leningrad. By this time, as a result of the high intensity of hostilities, up to 25% of the division’s tanks only failed for technical reasons.
On September 17, 1941, the 6th Tank Division was transferred to the 3rd Tank Group of General Goth, advancing on Moscow. Having marched along the route Luga – Staraya Russa – Velikie Luki, the division joined the troops of the 3rd tank group. However, there is reason to doubt the authenticity of this information – Czech tanks could hardly withstand such a long march, and even on Russian roads. On this account there is other information cited in Czech sources recently. According to them, the 6th Panzer Division was transferred to the offensive zone of the Army Group Center by rail, which seems much more likely.
Already on October 4, the Pz.35 (t) tanks entered the battle in Moscow. Three days later, units of the 6th Panzer Division entered Vyazma. Then, together with the remaining units of the 3rd tank group, they attacked Kalinin, seeking to reach Moscow from the north. October 14, German tanks reached the Volga. In the framework of the second stage of the offensive on Moscow, the 3rd Panzer Group struck Klin and Solnechnogorsk against Dmitrov and Yakhroma.
On the eve of the offensive — November 15 — the 11th Panzer Regiment of the 6th Division and the 25th Panzer Regiment of the 7th Division were detained by the Germans into the Kohl Brigade. This decision was dictated by the need to create a powerful shock fist. Because of the large losses, neither the 11th nor 25th regiments separately represented such a fist. The 6th Panzer Division suffered especially heavy losses, and as the frosts intensified, the failure of the Czech Pz.35 (t) became particularly frequent – the pneumatic transmission control system froze.
On November 27, units of the 6th tank division entered Klin, and after building a bridge across the Moscow-Volga Canal, they moved to Dmitrov. True, this movement remained short-lived – on November 29, the Germans were thrown back behind the channel.
On December 5, a Soviet counteroffensive began near Moscow. To the north of the capital, especially heavy battles were fought these days against the Klin enemy grouping, which was based on the divisions of the 3rd tank group. Already on the first day of the offensive, the Soviet ski battalions supported by tanks broke through the German front at the junction of the 36th and 14th motorized divisions and at noon on December 7 appeared in front of General Shaal’s headquarters (commander of the 46th tank corps) located seven kilometers north east of Klin. Staff officers, messengers and scribes grabbed their weapons.
Three armored vehicles, several 20 mm self-propelled anti-aircraft guns, and two anti-tank guns from the corps headquarters tracking group fired non-stop. General Shaal himself lodged behind the truck and fired a carbine. In the evening, a battered company of the 14th motorized division arrived from the broken front and took up positions near the village of Bolshaya Shchapovo, where the headquarters was located.
However, already at night he was transferred to Wedge. By December 9, it became clear to the German command that the Soviet 1st I Shock and 30 I armies were striving to surround the 3rd Tank Group and all the other German troops operating on the Klin salient. Four days later, Hitler agreed to the withdrawal of troops, and the German units poured back along the only road not cut by Soviet troops – through Klin.
This is how General Shaal recalls this in his notes: “Discipline began to crumble. More and more soldiers made their way to the west without weapons, leading a calf on a rope or dragging a sled with bags of potatoes — they simply walked west without commanders. Nobody buried the soldiers who died during the bombings from the air. Subdivisions of the rear, often without officers, flooded the roads, while combat units of all branches of the military, including anti-aircraft gunners, desperately kept to the front line.
Entire columns of logistical support — with the exception of those where there was a rigid leadership — were striving to the rear in fear. Parts of the rear engulfed in psychosis, probably because in the past they were accustomed only to constant attacks and victories. Without food, shaking from the cold, in total confusion, the soldiers marched west. Among them came the wounded, who could not be sent to the rear on time. Crews of self-propelled vehicles, not wanting to wait in open places, when traffic jams would clear up on the roads, just went to the nearest villages. Such a difficult time has not yet fallen to the share of the tank corps.
Wedge was lost. The front of the 3rd tank group straightened. Tank tip, aimed at Moscow from the north, flattened out. Manpower and remnants of the equipment of the German divisions, including several Pz.35 (t) 6 th tank, moved by 90 km and took positions along the river. Lama In January 1942 they fought in the area of Zubtsov and Rzhev as part of the 9th Field Army of General Model. In these battles, the 6th Panzer Division I lost my last tanks — its soldiers turned into infantrymen and skiers. After the front stabilized in the area, the division was sent to the rear, where it was re-equipped with German-made fighting vehicles. Armed parts of the first line Pz.35 (t) were no longer in service and were used by police and security divisions in the occupied territories.