The Red Army conduct an offensive on the Zeelovsky heights
The Agony of the Third Reich. 75 years ago, on April 16, 1945, the Berlin offensive began. The final offensive operation of the Soviet troops, during which Berlin was taken, which led to the unconditional surrender of the Third Reich.
During the Berlin operation, the Red Army put an end to the Great Patriotic War and World War II at the European theater. The operation lasted 23 days - from April 16 to May 8, 1945. At this time, Soviet troops conducted several operations: the Stettino-Rostock, Zelovo-Berlin, Cottbus-Potsdam, Strömberg-Torgauska and Brandenburg-Rathenov front operations, the assault on Berlin.
The operation was attended by the armies of three Soviet fronts: the 1st Belorussian under the command of G.K. Zhukov (central section), the 2nd Belorussian under the command of K.K. Rokossovsky (northern flank) and the 1st Ukrainian under the command of I. S Koneva (southern flank). Also, the offensive of the 1st BF was supported by the Dnieper Military flotillaand the coastal flank of the 2nd BF is the Baltic Fleet. The air support of the operation was carried out by the 4th, 16th, 18th and 2nd Air Armies.
The battle for Berlin was one of the largest in the war: on both sides, more than 3,5 million people, over 52 thousand guns and mortars, and over 7,7 thousand participated in the battle. tanks and self-propelled guns, over 10 thousand combat aircraft. The fighting took place on a 700-kilometer stretch of front from the Baltic Sea to the Sudetenland. In total, about 280 divisions participated in the battle.
The Berlin operation is divided into three stages: 1) April 16–21, 1945 - a breakthrough of the enemy defenses on the Oder and Neisse rivers; 2) April 22–25, 1945 - the development of the offensive, the dismemberment of the Berlin group of the Wehrmacht into three parts, the creation of encirclement areas in Berlin and southeast of the German capital; 3) April 26 - the beginning of May 1945 - the destruction of German troops in Western Pomerania, the assault of Berlin, the elimination of the "cauldrons" and the withdrawal of Soviet armies on a wide front to the Elbe, where a meeting with the Allies took place.
The battle ended with the complete victory of the Red Army. The powerful Berlin group of the Wehrmacht (about 1 million people) was defeated, scattered and captured. Soviet troops completely defeated 93 divisions and 11 enemy brigades, about 400 thousand people were killed, about 450 thousand people were taken prisoner. The capture of Berlin led to the collapse of the military-political elite of the Reich. Some German leaders committed suicide, while others tried to escape. Organized resistance collapsed. Only individual foci remained, where the most irreconcilable fought. The defeat in the Berlin operation led to the collapse of the Reich. The war in Europe was over.
It is worth noting that the rapid defeat of the German armed forces in the Berlin direction and the seizure of the German capital thwarted the plans of the Nazi elite to drag out the war and wait for a split in the ranks of the anti-Hitler coalition. But such an opportunity existed. On April 12, 1945, American President Franklin Roosevelt died, who was a supporter of the soft line in relations with Moscow. This event caused delight in Berlin. There were reasons for this. Washington almost immediately embarked on a confrontation with the Soviet empire. From the very beginning, London was a supporter of a tough policy towards the USSR. In the West, preparations are beginning for the third world war - against the Soviet Union. The German elite hoped that soon a conflict would begin between the former allies. And after the elimination of Hitler (the Moor has done his job, the Moor may leave), it will be possible to agree with London and Washington on joint actions against the Russians.
Thus, the rapid capture of Berlin by Soviet troops made a great impression on the Anglo-American ruling circles. The Westerners were again surprised by the military power of the Russian army. They had to restrain themselves for some time, pretending to be allies, partners of the USSR. Therefore, the meeting of the Allies on the Elbe was peaceful. Ordinary soldiers and officers, not knowing about the "big game", sincerely rejoiced.
Soviet self-propelled guns SU-76M paves the way for fighters of assault groups on the street of burning Danzig
Soviet self-propelled guns SU-76M shells a building in Vienna, in which the enemy
Submachine gunners of the Red Army in battle on the outskirts of Stettin
Features of the Berlin operation
The Berlin operation was prepared, unlike many other major operations of the Great War, in just two weeks. Other strategic operations, for example, Stalingrad and Vistula-Oder, were prepared for 1-2 months. This was largely due to big politics. The Soviet leadership needed to quickly take Berlin to put an end to the Nazis' hopes for the West and get a bargaining chip in the game with London and Washington.
The offensive was immediately led by three Soviet fronts, delivering six simultaneous and concentrated attacks on a wide front. The Soviet command created powerful strike groups, which made it possible to quickly break into the enemy defenses, dismember, encircle and destroy the Berlin group. The simultaneous offensive of the three Soviet fronts made it possible to link the enemy along the entire Oder-Neisen line and to prevent German reinforcements and reserves from coming to the aid of the capital's garrison.
High concentration of armored formations: 4 tank armies, 10 tank and mechanized corps, dozens of brigades and individual regiments. Mobile units participated at all stages of the operation: they broke through the enemy’s defense along with infantry, independently operated in the operational depths, conducted a maneuver around Berlin from the north and south, and stormed the German capital. A major role in the operation was also played by air superiority and artillery.
Soviet troops successfully used the rich experience of street fighting in Berlin in Stalingrad, Budapest and Königsberg. Soviet assault groups quickly wedged into the battle formations of the enemy, moved forward to their main targets, did not waste time completely cleaning up areas and quarters, whose garrisons could be finished off later, or captured. This made it possible to quickly break the organized resistance of the Nazis.
The commander of the 1st Belorussian Front, Marshal of the Soviet Union Georgy Konstantinovich Zhukov on the eve of the attack on Berlin
Soviet tanks T-34-85 with a tank landing on the street of Berlin
The calculation charges the BM-13 jet mortar during the last battles in Berlin
By April 1945, the German Empire was in agony. The military-strategic situation was hopeless. The war was on German territory. The Reich was sandwiched between two strategic fronts. By early April 1945, Russian troops defeated large German army groups in Poland, Silesia, Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, East Prussia and East Pomerania. There were fights for the liberation of the Czech Republic. In Latvia, the German Army Group Kurland was blocked, in East Prussia the main forces of the Army Group North were destroyed, Koenigsberg fell. The East Pomeranian group of the Wehrmacht was defeated, its remnants were finished off in the region of Gdynia and Gdansk. The South Army Group suffered a serious defeat, Soviet soldiers liberated Bratislava, Vienna and Brno. Soviet armies reached the central regions of Germany, in the central direction were only 60 kilometers from Berlin.
On the Western Front, the situation was also in favor of the anti-Hitler coalition. In the Italian direction, the French were at Nice, and the Anglo-American troops north of Florence. The German Army Group C was ousted from Northern Italy. Using the successes of the Russians and the transfer of the 6th SS Panzer Army and other formations and units from the Western Front to the Eastern, the Allies renewed the offensive in the second half of March 1945. The Allied forces crossed the Rhine, surrounded the Ruhr Wehrmacht group (the largest Wehrmacht group on the Western Front). On April 17, the commander of Army Group B, Walter Model, ordered weapon and committed suicide on the 21st. More than 300 thousand German soldiers and officers were captured. In fact, the German Western Front collapsed, Germany lost the most important military-industrial area - the Ruhr. Now the allies were moving east with almost no resistance from the enemy. The Germans resisted only in certain places. The Allied armies moved towards Hamburg, Leipzig and Prague.
American soldiers force the Rhine
The former sluggishness of the allies gave way to haste. The Anglo-American command wanted to use the fall of the Western German Front to throw at Berlin to be there before the Russians. Also, the Westerners wanted to occupy as much of the German territory as possible. Only the Russian exit to Berlin forced the Allies to abandon the idea to take the capital of Germany themselves. The distance between the Anglo-American forces and the Russians was reduced to 150-200 km. Closest to the German capital (about 100 km) the allies left in the Magdeburg region. However, the British and Americans simply did not have enough time to organize an attack on Berlin. The advance detachments reached the Elbe and seized a small bridgehead, but the main forces were far behind.
The German economy was dying. In March 1945, military output fell by 1944% compared with July 65. The military industry could no longer fully supply the army with everything necessary. For example, the production of aircraft met only about half the needs, the production of tanks fell more than two times (1944 vehicles were produced monthly in 705, 1945 in 333), and the production of artillery and small arms was at 50% of the average monthly production 1944
Germany's economic and human resources have been exhausted. East Prussia and East Pomerania, Silesia, Hungary, Slovakia and Austria with their natural resources, industry, agriculture and population were lost. Already young men aged 16-17 were called up for military service. However, the losses that the German army suffered during the battle of the winter of 1945 could only make up for 45–50%. The quality of conscripts has fallen.
Interestingly, despite the general military-political and economic catastrophe, the German leadership retained control of the population until the very end of the war. Neither the defeat in the war, nor the collapse of the economy, nor the terrible losses, nor the carpet bombing, which wiped entire cities off the face of the earth and massively destroyed the civilian population, did not cause uprisings, resistance. This was due to several factors. The Germans are a warrior nation, resistant to hardship and loss, disciplined and tough. Plus skillful propaganda using psychotechnology, which laid the idea of “infallibility of the leader”, “invincibility of the army”, “chosenness,” etc. to the masses. Therefore, there was no “fifth column” in Germany, as well as resistance to the Nazis. All the "dissent" cleaned up even before the war. Therefore, the people until the last believed either in a "miracle weapon" that would change the course of the war, or in a clash between Anglo-Americans and Russians. The soldiers and officers fought in a disciplined manner, the workers stood at the machine tools.
The Reich remained a strong adversary until the end of the war. The German leadership, until recently, hoped for a “miracle” and made every effort to prolong the war. Troops continued to be withdrawn from the Western Front in order to strengthen the defense of the Berlin region. The Reich still had quite combat-ready forces - only ground forces totaled 325 divisions (263 divisions, 14 brigades, 82 battle groups of divisions, remnants of divisions, remnants of brigades, battle groups, etc.). At the same time, the German command held the main forces on the Eastern Front: 167 divisions (including 32 tank and 13 motorized), and more than 60 battle groups, remnants of divisions, remnants of brigades, battle groups, that is, when transferred to divisions, this corresponded to 195 divisions. At the same time, weak divisions were militarily on the Western Front - they were poorly trained, armed, staffed only by 50-60%, the replenishment was of poor quality (older men and boys).
Calculation of anti-aircraft guns FlaK M39 (r) conducts fire at the Zeelovsky heights. FlaK M39 (r) - German designation of the captured Soviet 85-mm gun 52-K
Soldiers of the German 9th Parachute Division in a defensive position on the Zeelovsky Heights. In the frame are the MG 42 machine gun, the MKb.42 (H) automatic carbine and the Panzerfaust grenade launcher
German soldiers on defensive positions in the area of Zeelovsky heights
The plans and forces of the German leadership
As noted above, the German leadership did its best to prolong the war. Hitler and his entourage wanted to save the main cadres of the Nazi party, take them out, as well as the treasures looted all over Europe, gold to various "alternate airfields", for example, in Latin America. In the future, revive the "Eternal Reich", updated, "democratic." Enter into an alliance with England and the USA against the USSR.
The last hope of part of the Reich leadership was to surrender Berlin to the Anglo-American troops, not to let the Russians into the capital. Therefore, the German Western Front was weakened. The Germans fought in the West half-heartedly. Only a swift breakthrough of the Soviet troops to Berlin frustrated these plans. The British and Americans simply did not have time to get to Berlin.
The German high command concentrated a strong group on the Berlin direction. Most of the human and material resources were used to strengthen the army groups Vistula and Center. The Germans disbanded the reserve army, all spare infantry, tank, artillery and special units, schools and higher military schools. Due to the personnel, weapons and equipment of these units, the divisions of two army groups in the Berlin direction were replenished. By the beginning of the Berlin operation, there were 100 soldiers in German companies, 7-8 thousand in divisions.
Formed reserves were located north of the German capital. First of all, in late March - early April 1945, most of the mobile units were taken to the rear. First of all, they were replenished with manpower and equipment. Also, reserves were formed due to previously defeated units. Actively formed militia battalions. There were about 200 of them in the capital alone. The Nazis tried to organize large-scale guerrilla-sabotage activities behind enemy lines. But overall, this program failed. The Germans did not succeed in organizing, following the example of Russia, and launching large-scale partisan activities.
In preparation for the battle for Berlin, the Germans in the first half of April 1945 regrouped their forces. The main forces of the 3rd Panzer Army were transferred from the north-east direction closer to Berlin. In order to cover the capital from the southeast, the command of Army Group Center sent its reserves to the left wing in the band of the 4th Panzer Army.
In general, the Nazis concentrated a large group in the Berlin direction against the troops of the 2nd and 1st Belorussian and 1st Ukrainian fronts. The armies of the three Soviet fronts defended: 1) the troops of the Wisla Army Group under the command of G. Heinrici: the 3rd Panzer Army of H. Manteuffel, the 9th Army of T. Busse; troops of Army Group Center F. Scherner: 4th Panzer Army of F. Grezer, part of the 17th Army of W. Hasse. A total of 63 divisions (including 6 tank, 9 motorized) and a large number of individual infantry regiments and battalions, artillery, engineering, special and other units. The Berlin group consisted of about 1 million people (along with militias, soldiers of various paramilitary services, etc.), over 10 thousand guns and mortars, about 1500 tanks and self-propelled guns. The Nazis were able to create a fairly strong in the area of the capital aviation the group, transferring here almost all the combat forces of the Luftwaffe - more than 3300 aircraft.
To be continued ...
Two Volkssturm militia go to a position near the Oder. The next militia is armed with a MG34 machine gun, the second in the frame - with a Manlicher rifle
Volkssturm militia training in the Marzahn district of Berlin
Volkssturm militia in defensive position at Anhalt station in Berlin