One minute before. From Signal Magazine, 1941.
3:14 AM German time, Sunday June 22, 1941. One minute before the start of Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union. On June 22nd, the same day Napoleon had invaded Russia in 1812, 3.5 million German and one million Axis troops kicked off the biggest military operation in history. They attacked on a front stretching from the Arctic Circle to the Black Sea. Hitler was convinced, and convinced his generals, that the Soviets would fall like a house of cards. Hitler considered the Red Army a racially inferior mob of Slavs led by Jewish Communists. If the Germans could defeat the mighty French Army in six weeks, then what chance did the Soviets have? It appeared from the German point of view a logical train of reasoning. There was little disagreement.
These soldiers are somewhere in what is now Eastern Poland, ready to jump off against a completely unaware and unprepared Soviet front line. The fire in the trees is probably due to a German artillery round falling short. Few of the front-line soldiers in the photo would survive the war.