Military Review

"Mini-Stalingrad" in Velikiy Luki

At the height of the great battle on the banks of the Volga, which became a turning point throughout the Second World War, the Soviet troops carried out another offensive operation, which also ended with the encirclement of the German grouping of troops, albeit of a much smaller size. We are talking about the Velikoluksky offensive operation, which the Soviet troops carried out with the aim of sacking enemy troops in the central sector of the front and liberating the cities of Velikie Luki and Novosokolniki. The operation was carried out from 25 November 1942 of the year to 20 of January 1943 of the 3-th Shock Army of the Kalinin Front, supported by units of the 3-th Air Army.

During the offensive, troops of the 3 shock army advanced to 24 kilometers in depth and to 50 kilometers along the front and 1 in January 1943 captured the city of Velikie Luki (most of it). As part of the November 28-29 offensive, the Soviet troops succeeded in closing the encirclement ring around the city, in which thousands of Nazi troops were surrounded by 8-9. At the same time, the headquarters of the 3 shock army had sufficiently complete information about the size of the encircled group and the nature of its defensive fortifications.

In Velikiye Luki, Soviet troops surrounded parts of the 83rd Infantry Division with various reinforcement units. The total number of the surrounded garrison was 8-9 thousand people with 100-120 artillery pieces and about 10-15 tanks and assault guns. The main, continuous line of defense passed through suburban settlements, each of which was adapted to conduct a circular defense. All stone buildings in the city were turned by the Germans into powerful defense centers, saturated with heavy weapons: artillery pieces and mortars. The attics of tall buildings were converted into machine-gun posts and observation posts. The separate most fortified centers of defense (which lasted the longest) were the fortress (bastion, earthen Velikie Luki fortress) and the railway junction. The Soviet command even had information that the commander of the 83rd Infantry Division T. Scherer flew out of the city, appointing Lieutenant Colonel Eduard von Sass, the commander of the 277th Infantry Regiment, as the garrison commandant.

On January 16, the German garrison surrounded in Velikie Luki was completely liquidated, and by the same day 12 only one center of resistance headquarters of the defense, headed by Lieutenant Colonel von Sass, remained under enemy control. In 15: 30, a special squad from the 249 division broke into the basement and captured 52 as a soldier and officer, including the lieutenant colonel himself. So the German garrison of the Great Bow completely ceased to exist. At the time, on the eve of the complete defeat of Paulus’s army surrounded in Stalingrad, this victory was not properly assessed, and in stories she remained forever in the shadow of the great battle on the banks of the Volga.

At the same time, the battles for the Great Luke were very fierce. The capture of the city opened the way for the Red Army to Vitebsk. The significance of this battle was understood at headquarters on both front lines. Hitler, like Paulus in Stalingrad, promised help to the garrison surrounded in the city and even promised the commandant lieutenant colonel von Sass to name the Great Luke in his honor - "Sassenstadt". It did not work, the Soviet troops did not allow.

The German historian Paul Karel called the events taking place in Velikie Luki “miniature Stalingrad”. In particular, he wrote: “Soviet rifle battalions fought in the city with amazing courage. Especially Komsomol members, fanatical young communists, who in the next few weeks glorified themselves by devotion to duty. So the ordinary 254 Guards Rifle Regiment, Alexander Matrosov, at the price of his life, earned the title of Hero of the Soviet Union. ”

Soviet soldiers in a battle on K. Liebknecht Street (K. Liebknecht intersection and Pioneer Street) in Velikiy Luki. Photo:

Soviet troops began the assault of the Great Onions almost immediately after encircling the city. By 1 January 1943, most of the city was liberated. Red Army soldiers captured the entire central part of the Great Onions, separating the enemy’s garrison into two parts - one in the old fortress, the second in the railway station area and the depot. In this case, two proposals for surrender were made to the surrounded garrison. The first is still 15 December 1942 of the year through truce. Second radio on the night of January 1 1943. Both proposals, Lieutenant Colonel von Sasse, who received Hitler’s categorical demand not to surrender the city, rejected. As a result, in the city and its environs for a long time were incessant fierce battles.

Velikolukskaya fortress was one of the strongest foci of defense in the city, its invulnerability lay in a 16 m shaft. At the bottom of the shaft, its thickness reached 35 meters. On the upper part of the shaft were trenches. Before them are the remains of another rampart, blown by the snow. For the main shaft were located counter eskarpy, equipped according to the rules of engineering science, anti-tank ditches. Behind them, the Germans installed wire barriers, equipped basements, bunkers. The existing buildings were converted into strongholds: a church, a prison, and two barracks. To the north-west, the fortress had three drainage pipes from the shaft, as well as a passage - the remains of the former gates. All the approaches to Velikoluksky fortress were under flank machine-gun fire, the Germans installed machine guns on the corner ledges. From the outside, the ramparts had icy ramps that were watered every night. The fortress was to be taken over by fighters and commanders of the 357 Infantry Division, which had participated in the Velikoluksky offensive operation of the Soviet troops from its very first day.

Trying to help the garrison surrounded in the city, the Germans were preparing a breakthrough, concentrating enough impressive forces for that. The attempted release began on January 4, 1943, of 8: 30 am. The Germans launched an offensive without waiting for the summer weather. By January 6, when the weather improved in the area, the Soviet Air Forces, which had attacked the attacking units of the nazis, also became more active. By January 9 1943 in Velikie Luki managed to break through a small detachment of German tanks, in various sources, its number varies from 8 to 15 combat vehicles. This could not help the garrison, although the situation for the Soviet troops was critical already on January 10, the Germans practically managed to pierce a long narrow corridor to the city, they were separated by only 4-5 kilometers from the unblocking group to the outskirts of Velikiy Luki German troops failed.

Military transport glider Go.242, the Germans used such gliders to supply the garrison of the city of Velikie Luki

The breakthrough of German tanks in Great Luke is described in different ways in Soviet and German sources. So Paul Karel wrote: “The last attempt to unblock the garrison of the Great Onions 9 on January 1943 was made by the strike team of Major Tribukait. The group that went to the fortress included several armored personnel carriers from the 8 tank division, tanks from the 1 battalion of the 15 tank regiment and assault guns from the 118 reinforced tank battalion. “Move and shoot!” Was the order of the group. She was ordered not to stop, the crews of the wrecked vehicles had to immediately leave them and get out on the armor of other tanks. Tribukait really managed to break through the ring of Soviet troops into the fortress. Several tanks and armored personnel carriers remained on the battlefield, but the group reached the intended target. At 15 hours, exhausted people from the Darnedda battalion, which was defending itself in the fortress, were seen from the fortress wall by German tanks. Their first reaction was jubilation. 15 combat vehicles drove into the courtyard of the fortress, among them the last three tanks of the 1 th battalion of the 15 th tank regiment. But military luck once again turned away from the battalion Darnedda. As soon as the Russians realized that the Germans had broken through, they opened up concentrated artillery fire on the fortress. Tribukait immediately ordered the tanks to get out of the small courtyard among the ruins, from which only one road led. When one of the 15 tanks passed through the gate, an 4 projectile hit it right away, and with the broken tracks, it blocked the exit of the others. As a result, Tribukait forces were trapped, becoming targets for artillery fire from all calibres. As a result, they were all victims of the Soviet bombardment, and the surviving tankers became infantrymen, joining the Darnedd battalion. On January 15, the parachute battalion tried to break through to the fortress, but this attempt ended in failure. ”

In his memoirs “Four years in overcoats. Tale of a native division "dedicated to the military way of soldiers and officers of the 357 of the Order of Suvorov 2 of the rifle division formed in the fall of 1941 of the year in Udmurtia, Udmurt writer Mikhail Andreevich Lyamin, who served in this division, described the breakthrough episode in a different way tanks in Great Luke. In his memoirs it is said that the Germans went to the trick, painting over their identification marks and drawing red stars instead. At the same time, three trophy Soviet T-34 tanks were allegedly used at the head of the column. Taking advantage of the turmoil of the battles of Malenok and Fotiev, 20 of German tanks, under cover of twilight, managed to slip into the city from the side of the former state bank building, where they themselves had already opened fire on the dugouts of the 357 rifle division artillerymen. Further, he describes the battle of artillerymen with a column of German tanks. The first to fire on enemy tanks from an anti-tank cannon was a senior sergeant Nikolai Kadyrov from Izhevsk. He managed to knock down the tracks at the head tank. Then he knocked out the second tank, trying to bypass the first one. In the enemy's convoy, confusion began, and the gunners who had jumped out of their dugouts began firing at the broken tanks from all that they had. As a result of the transient battle, the Germans lost 12 tanks, but 8 of them managed to break into the fortress.

Soviet soldiers inspect German tanks abandoned in Velikiy Luki, photo

Regardless of the circumstances of the breakthrough, he did not affect the position of the besieged garrison of Velikoluksky fortress and did not help him out of the encirclement. By 7 o'clock in the morning 16 January 1943, the fortress fell, it was taken by the soldiers of the 357 th Infantry Division. In the citadel itself, 235 was captured by German soldiers and 9 tanks (among those who broke from the outside, according to historian Alexey Valerievich Isaev), as well as a large number of different weapons. Only the most "irreconcilable" of the Germans decided to break through from the surrounded fortress, trying to leave the encirclement in small groups. Paul Karel wrote that only eight out of several hundred defenders were able to accomplish this, the rest died in battles or simply froze to death on the way. At the same time, von Sass himself was captured, and in 1946 he was convicted of war crimes and with a group of accomplices he was publicly hanged in Velikie Luki, who never became Sassenstadt.

The operation in Velikie Luki had important results. Great Luke and Stalingrad marked a qualitative change in the position of the German troops. Previously, the very fact of encirclement was a shock for the infantrymen, which was commonplace for mobile troops, who were far ahead during the offensive. In the winter of 1942, with the large-scale airborne operations, the efforts of the Soviet troops to encircle the small and large groups of German troops were virtually nullified. But in the winter of 1943, the destruction of the surrounded groups began to follow the entourage. If before this, the examples of Holm and Demyansk gave German soldiers and officers confidence in their command and stimulated stubborn retention of important operational points, then new examples of Great Onions and Stalingrad demonstrated the inability of the German command to ensure the stability of both small and large surrounded garrisons. in the new conditions, which could not but affect the overall demoralization of the German parts that fall into the new environment.

It was impossible to say that the German supply of the group surrounded in Velikiye Luki with the help of aviation was ineffective. If Stalingrad, which, due to the large number of encircled groups and the remoteness from the main parts of Army Groups B and Don, could not be fully supplied by air with proper efficiency, the Velikiye Luki Fortress was only tens of kilometers away from the outer front of the encirclement, and the size of the garrison was small. To supply the garrison, the Germans used Go.242 military transport gliders towed by Heinkel-111 bombers to the boiler area, where they detached and landed in controlled territory. With the help of transport gliders, the Germans delivered even heavy anti-tank guns to the city. The glider pilots for the next flight on the same day were taken from the city by small Fieseler Fi.156 "Storch" planes.

"Mini-Stalingrad" in Velikiy Luki
Soviet machine-gunners in a battle on Engels Street in Velikiye Luki, photo:

For example, only 28 December 1942 of the year 560 shells for light field howitzers were delivered to the city, 42 thousands of Soviet ammunition cartridges (!), 62 thousands of 7,92-mm cartridges in ribbons, and 25 thousands of cartridges in regular rifle packaging. Even on the penultimate day of the city’s defense, the Germans dropped 300 containers for the besieged garrison, from which the Nazis were able to collect all 7.

Great importance for the Soviet troops was played by the fact that the city of Velikie Luki was not only successfully surrounded, but also taken by storm, and the city’s garrison was defeated. From the theory of the use of assault groups, the Red Army increasingly proceeded to practical actions. It was a success that the Soviet troops succeeded in eliminating the city’s garrison before help from the de-blocking group could get through from outside. The total losses of the German troops only killed during the battle around the city of Velikie Luki amounted to about 17 thousand people. Of this number, roughly 5 thousands were killed in the boiler, and 12 thousands accounted for the loss of units and formations trying to break through to the aid of the surrounded grouping. At the same time, according to Soviet data, in the city 3944 were captured by German soldiers, including an officer 54. The trophies in the technique were also great in the Great Bows: 113 guns, 58 conventional mortars, 28 six-barrel mortars, up to 20 tanks and assault guns.

Information sources:
Isaev A.V. Fracture 1942. When the surprise was gone. - Moscow: Eksmo, Yauza, 2012
Lyamin MA Four years in overcoats. Tale of the native division. - Izhevsk: Udmurtia, 1970
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  1. Theodore
    Theodore 19 March 2018 06: 54
    My grandfather in those places was seriously wounded, and for him the war was over.
  2. parusnik
    parusnik 19 March 2018 07: 26
    And how many similar “Stalingrad” will be ... Time began the countdown
    1. igordok
      igordok 19 March 2018 07: 42
      And before Stalingrad and Great Luke there were Demyansk and Kholm. After all, they learned the same.
      1. Yura Yakovlev
        Yura Yakovlev 19 March 2018 12: 20
        These are all links of one chain. Where it is thin, there it breaks. After the Great Onions, the Germans had to leave the "Demyansky Cauldron". But how boasted, considering themselves masters of the situation. It seems to me that the Battle of Stalingrad cannot be considered separately, as an operation, without fighting in the North-West. It’s just that the Germans got over their burden.
    2. antivirus
      antivirus 19 March 2018 11: 20
      time start correct countdown
  3. igordok
    igordok 19 March 2018 08: 04
    In Velikiye Luki, the Estonian Rifle Corps received the baptism of 8.
  4. antivirus
    antivirus 19 March 2018 11: 19
    antivirus 3 November 20, 2016 12:36
    antivirus Today, 11: 59 ↑
    Sergei Gavrilovich Semenov, 1931, d. Maksimovo, Staritsky district of the Kalinin region: “We were under the German for a month and a half, but nearby, near Rzhev 1,5 g, they didn’t count us as people. They could easily kill us” At 10, the child understood instinctively, everyday communication, glances and beat, drove out of the hut.
    + the elder brother died at the front, and 2 more were blown up on the remaining supplies in the ground (which ones? I dismantled out of curiosity, but I don’t know)
    Reply Quote Complaint More ...
    ++ even earlier, he said-- "the first doctor to go was a military doctor, oh gut ... gave a harmonica and a chocolate bar"
  5. midshipman
    midshipman 19 March 2018 15: 18
    After the first semester of the first year of school, I, with my friend V. Botakovsky, went to him in the village of Pustoshka, next to Novosokolniki. It was 1954. In the village there were many participants in the battles for the liberation of the Great Onions. What wonderful people lived there then, as they loved their country. Seeing us cadets, they joyfully greeted us and shared their memories. These were the heroes.
    1. Andrew Qwerty
      Andrew Qwerty 19 March 2018 21: 11
      ... most likely it's about Pustoshka .... it's the same district center as Novosokolniki, and the distance there is about 50 km along M9
  6. Cat
    Cat 19 March 2018 17: 21
    Both proposals Lieutenant Colonel von Sass, who received Hitler's categorical demand not to surrender the city, rejected.

    That he did not hurt to surrender himself.
  7. Monarchist
    Monarchist 19 March 2018 18: 24
    The author is right: there are somehow few publications about this operation. It so happened that some operations seemed to be forgotten in some places where publications appeared, but in passing, they seemed to be not "fashionable". And then there were scribblers that they set up the Small Land almost higher than Stalingrad.
    Remember the humor of that time: "you still have to deal with you: did you sit out in the trenches of Stalingrad or fought on the Lesser Land?" It was at that time when the "dear Leonid Ilyich" made himself a mashaly and decorated himself with the Order of Victory
    1. Alexey RA
      Alexey RA 19 March 2018 19: 03
      Quote: Monarchist
      The author is right: there are somehow few publications about this operation. It so happened that some operations seemed to be forgotten in some places where publications appeared, but in passing, they seemed to be not "fashionable". And then there were scribblers that they set up the Small Land almost higher than Stalingrad.

      Most likely, the fact is that the Velikiye Luki operation was in fact an auxiliary blow to the ever-memorable Operation Mars. And so they decided not to stick it out much - in order to avoid mention of the failure of “Mars”.
    2. Andrew Qwerty
      Andrew Qwerty 19 March 2018 21: 43
      publications are enough, even there are memoirs in the form of a book of one of the former besieged Germans
  8. Andrew Qwerty
    Andrew Qwerty 19 March 2018 21: 14
    I will correct the name of the village in the article Fotievo on Fotevo, it is now immediately beyond the borders of the Great Onions
    1. igordok
      igordok 19 March 2018 23: 25
      On modern maps - Fotyevo. On the maps of the General Staff 1939 - Fotiev.
      1. Andrew Qwerty
        Andrew Qwerty April 1 2018 11: 02
        in our area in Velikiye Luki, approximately 40% of the names are changed. And I see no reason to indicate the old names of small villages. It is one thing Stalingrad, which is world famous, and another thing Fotievo is unknown to anyone, Why to confuse a modern reader?
        1. igordok
          igordok April 1 2018 11: 56
          Usually indicate the name that was during the described events. After all, they use documents of that time.
  9. Andrew Qwerty
    Andrew Qwerty 19 March 2018 21: 41
    ... Taking advantage of the bustle of fighting near Malenok and Fotiev, 20 German tanks managed to rush into the city from the side of the former state bank building under the cover of twilight, where they themselves opened fire on the dugouts of artillerymen of the 357th Infantry Division. there is a discrepancy, the fact is that the fortress besieged by our troops and the village of Fotyevo, from where the Germans made a breakthrough, are located almost opposite on one side of the Lovat river on which this old Petrovsky fortress is located. But the former building of the state bank is located on the other side of the river. Fishing, therefore, there is confusion. That is, the breakthrough was directly through Fotyevo.
  10. Weyland
    Weyland 19 March 2018 23: 24
    Hitler, like Paulus in Stalingrad, promised to help the garrison encircled in the city and even promised commandant Lieutenant Colonel von Sass to name the Great Luke in his honor - “Sassenstadt”.
    I remember reading as a child:
    S. Marshak
    About the Russian city and German lieutenant colonel

    Great Luke has returned
    From German to Soviet hands,
    And we were captured
    Mr. Lieutenant Colonel von Sass.

    Unknown this person
    The garrison commander
    And in the affairs of Mr. von Zass
    Secret order detected.

    Hitler writes: "Hold on, lieutenant colonel!
    If the city is taken from us,
    Defeats the main culprit
    Will you lieutenant colonel von Zass!

    Do not give up! For all your torment
    We will reward you with dignity.
    Great Luke
    They will be your loud name.

    Children and grandchildren will repeat
    This name is forever and ever.
    We will call Great Luke
    Sassenstadt, Sassenburg, Sassenhof! "

    The robber has short arms
    Despite the secret order,
    At large - Great Luke,
    And in captivity - Lieutenant Colonel von Zass!