Victory Banner over the Reichstag
The Agony of the Third Reich. 75 years ago, on May 2, 1945, Soviet troops captured the Reichstag. A red banner was erected on the building, which was called the “Victory Banner”. On the same day, the Berlin garrison capitulated. The Red Army stormed the capital of Germany - Berlin.
The start of the assault
On April 20, 1945, the troops of the 3rd shock army of the 1st BF in the northeast reached the distant approaches to Berlin. At 13 o’clock. 50 minutes the long-range artillery of the 79th Rifle Corps, Major General Perevertkina, opened fire on the German capital. Thus began the assault on Berlin. April 21, troops of the 3rd shock, 2nd guards tank and the 47th Army broke through to the outskirts of the German capital and started a battle for the city. The 8th Guards Army and the 1st Guards Tank Army by the end of the day also began to break through the city's defensive contour.
Meanwhile, the troops of the 1st UV also swiftly rushed to the den of the beast. On April 20, Konev’s tank armies reached the southern approaches to Berlin. On April 21, the 3rd Guards Tank Army Rybalko broke into the southern outskirts of the city. The 4th Guards Tank Army Lelyushenko went to Potsdam. On April 25, the troops of Zhukov and Konev joined west of Berlin in the Ketzin area. All of Berlin was in the ring.
Volkssturm militia armed with a Panzerschreck grenade launcher (RPzB. 54), in a trench near Berlin
Broken German 88mm Flak 36/37 anti-aircraft gun in the Tiergarten park in Berlin
German tank Pz.Kpfw. VI "Tiger" thrown at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin
Soviet tank T-34-85 forces one of the canals near Berlin
Battle for Berlin
The battle on the streets of the German capital was extremely fierce. The German high command, trying to postpone its end, threw all forces into battle. The Germans fought fiercely and stubbornly. Berlin prepared in a fierce battle. The defense was built on strong strongholds and knots of resistance, into which all powerful and strong buildings turned, on a well-organized fire system. The communications system, including underground ones, made it possible to transfer reinforcements and reserves to dangerous places, to deliver unexpected strikes, including in the rear cleared by Soviet troops. Ammunition and provisions were for a month. However, almost all reserves were located on the outskirts of the city. Therefore, with the narrowing of the encirclement ring, the situation with ammunition deteriorated sharply.
Berlin had a large garrison - about 200 thousand soldiers were blocked in the area of the city. The remnants of the broken units defending in the Berlin direction (56th Panzer Corps) retreated here. They were replenished in the city. Also, for the defense of the city, the police, civilians, all auxiliary and rear services, the Hitler Youth were mobilized, and numerous militia battalions were formed. As a result, the total number of the Berlin garrison exceeded 300 thousand people. From April 24, 1945, instead of Reiman, the defense of the city was headed by General Weidling, who had previously commanded the 56th Panzer Corps.
Soviet troops were solving a difficult task. Large city. Many strong high-rise buildings, with massive walls, bomb shelters and casemates, interconnected by underground utilities. There are many canals that had to be forced under enemy fire. Numerous desperate skilled garrison. The Spree River cut the German capital into two parts, covering the ministerial buildings in central Berlin. Each house in the center of Berlin was protected by a strong garrison, often numbering up to a battalion.
Volkssturm militia in defensive position at Anhalt station in Berlin
German soldiers in a defensive position at Kolonnenstrasse in Berlin. The foreground is armed with a StG 44 assault rifle with a ZF-4 scope
German police preparing for defensive battles on Gesslerstrasse in Berlin
German soldier with a Panzerfaust grenade launcher at a barricade on Berlin street
The Red Army used the rich experience of street fighting in Stalingrad, Budapest, Königsberg and other cities. German positions stormed day and night. All efforts were aimed at preventing the enemy from organizing a solid defense in a new position. Soviet armies were echeloned: during the day attacked the first echelon, at night - the second. Each army had its own offensive sector, units and subunits had to occupy specific streets, squares and facilities. The main objects of the capital (large strongholds) were subjected to powerful artillery and airstrike. From April 21 to May 2, 1945, 1800 thousand artillery shells were fired in the German capital. On the third day of the assault from the Silesian station arrived serfs, which fired on the central part of Berlin. Each shell weighed half a ton and destroyed the enemy’s defenses. Only on April 25 the city was bombed by 2 thousand bombers.
However, the main role in the storming of Berlin was played by assault groups and detachments, which included infantry, sappers, tanks and self-propelled guns, artillery. Almost all artillery (including 152 mm and 203 mm guns) was transmitted to the infantry and fired directly, destroying the firing positions and fortifications of the enemy. Assault units also supported tanks and self-propelled guns. Another part of the armored vehicles operated as part of tank corps and armies, which were operatively subordinate to the command of combined arms armies or had their own offensive zone. However, the decision on the participation of large mobile formations in the assault on a huge city in order to accelerate the development of the operation led to large losses of tanks from enemy artillery fire and faustpatrons (anti-tank grenade launcher).
By the end of April 25, 1945, the German garrison occupied an area of about 325 square meters. km The total front area of the Soviet troops in Berlin was about 100 kilometers. More than 450 thousand Soviet soldiers, more than 12,5 thousand guns and mortars, over 2 thousand rocket launchers, up to 1,5 thousand tanks and self-propelled guns took part in the assault on the capital.
Soviet heavy tank IS-2 on the street of burning Berlin
Soviet tanks T-34-85 with a tank landing on the street of Berlin
Soviet artillerymen prepare a BM-13 Katyusha jet mortar for a salvo during fights in Berlin
Soviet machine gunners advance along a burning house on Berlin street
Breakthrough to the city center
On April 26, 1945, Soviet troops divided the German forces into two groups: in the city itself and a smaller group, in the area of the Vanise and Potsdam islands. The commander of the Wisla Army Group, General Heinrici, asked for Bet permission to stop Steiner's army from the Oranienburg region on Berlin, as there was no hope of success. The army group needed to be transferred to save the front of the 3rd Panzer Army, which was falling apart under the blows of the Rokossovsky armies. The German High Command did not accept this offer. Hitler ordered the continuation of the offensive in order to release the capital. The Führer still hoped for a “miracle”, ordered the 9th army from the Halb “cauldron” to break through to the north, and the 12th army to go west to save Berlin.
However, the fierce attempts of the surrounded 9th German army to break out of the "cauldron" were unsuccessful. Only a few thousand German encirclers managed to make their way to the Elbe forests, where they surrendered to the Allies. The 200 thousandth German group during the fierce battles was completely destroyed by the troops of Konev and Zhukov. And the attempts of the 12th Army of Wenck to break through towards the 9th Army were not successful. As a result, the combat potential of the 12th Army was exhausted.
On April 27, Soviet troops destroyed an enemy group in the Potsdam area. Our troops took the central railway junction. The fighting went beyond the central (9th) sector of the capital. On April 28, the Red Army in a number of sectors broke into the defense of the central sector of the German capital. The 79th rifle corps of the 3rd strike army of Kuznetsov (it was advancing from the northern direction), occupied the Moabit area, went to Spree north of the central part of Tiergarten park. Thousands of imprisoned allied armies were released from the Moabit prison. Parts of the 5th shock army of Berzarin, advancing from the east, took Karlhorst, forced the Spree, occupied the Anhalt station and the building of the state printing house. Soviet soldiers made their way to Alexanderplatz square, to the palace of Emperor Wilhelm, the town hall and the imperial chancellery. The 8th Guards Army Chuikova broke through the southern shore of the Landver Canal and approached the southern part of Tiergarten. The troops of other Soviet armies advanced successfully.
The Nazis still fiercely fought. However, the hopelessness of the situation for the command was obvious. At 22 p.m. On April 28, General Weidling proposed to Hitler a plan for a breakthrough from the capital. He reported that there was only two days of ammunition left (the main depots were on the outskirts of the city). The Chief of the General Staff of the Ground Forces, General Hans Krebs, supported this idea, saying that from a military point of view, a breakthrough from Berlin is possible. As Weidling recalled, the Fuhrer thought for a long time. He understood that the situation was hopeless, but believed that when they attempt to break through, they will only get from one "boiler" to another. Field Marshal Keitel, who was at the headquarters of the Wehrmacht Supreme Command (OKW), removed General Heinrici and his chief of staff, General von Troth, from the command of the Wisla Army Group. They did not comply with Hitler's order to break through to Berlin. However, the new commander of the Wisla Army Group (from which little has been left), General Kurt von Tippelskirch, was powerless to help the capital.
On April 29, Jodl received the last telegram from Hitler. In it, the Fuhrer demanded to report to him on the situation of the 12th and 9th armies, the 41st tank corps of General Holste (as part of the 12th army), which was supposed to break through the ring of encirclement of Berlin. On April 30, Keitel replied to the Führer’s headquarters that the advance units of the 12th Army of Venk were stopped by the Russians in the area south of Lake Shvilov-Zee, the Holste corps went on the defensive, the army could not continue the attack on Berlin. The 9th Army is still surrounded.
Soviet soldiers firing from a 45-mm gun M-42 on the street of Berlin
The calculation of the Soviet 152-mm howitzer-gun ML-20 of the 1937 model fires on Berlin street
Half-gliders of the Dnieper military flotilla troops cross the Spree River in Berlin
Soviet tanks and other equipment at the bridge over the Spree in the Reichstag
The assault on the Reichstag. Victory!
At this time, the 3rd and 5th shock armies of Kuznetsov and Berzarin, the 2nd and 1st Guards Tank Armies of Bogdanov and Katukov, the 8th Guards Army of Chuikov of the 1st BF, units of the 28th Army of the Luchinsky and 3rd Rybalko 1st Guards Tank Army XNUMXst UV completed the assault on Berlin.
On the night of April 29, the 171st and 150th rifle divisions of the 79th Corps captured the only bridge on the Spree (Moltke Bridge), not destroyed by the Nazis. Having crossed the river along it, the Soviet infantry began preparing for the assault on the Reichstag, the approaches to which covered powerful stone structures, machine gun and artillery firing points. At first, the Soviet attack aircraft took the corner building southeast of the Moltke Bridge. In the morning, they started the battle for strong points on Koenigs-Platz — the building of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (the so-called Himmler’s house) and the imperial theater (Krol Opera). By the morning of April 30, Himmler’s house was cleaned from the Nazis. At the same time, stubborn battles were fought for houses that adjoined the building of the Ministry of the Interior. Also, heavy fighting went beyond the theater building, from which the Germans could bombard the building of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the bridge.
On April 30, in the middle of the day, Adolf Hitler committed suicide in a bunker under the Reich Chancellery. According to the will of the Führer, Goebbels took over as Chancellor. He stayed in this position for only one day. The post of Reich President was received by Admiral Doenitz, Bormann as Minister of Party Affairs, General Field Marshal Sherner was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Ground Forces, and General Jodl was appointed Chief of Staff.
From 11 a.m. April 30 began the assault on the Reichstag. On the same day, the remains of the Berlin garrison were cut into several parts. The Germans repelled the first attacks of parts of the 79th Corps with heavy fire. Only at 14 o’clock. 25 minutes battalions of Neustroev, Samsonov and Davydov broke into the building. Lieutenant Rakhimzhan Koshkarbaev and Private Grigory Bulatov set a red banner at the main entrance. The fight was fierce. They fought for every floor, every room and corridor, basements and attics. Skirmishes passed into hand-to-hand fights. The building burned, but the battle did not subside. At 22 p.m. 40 min a red banner was placed in the opening of the crown of the sculpture of the Goddess of Victory. However, the Germans still fought. They lost the upper floors of the Reichstag, but settled in the basements. The battle continued on May 1. Only in the morning of May 2, 1945 the remnants of the Reichstag garrison surrendered. Fighters of the 756th Infantry Regiment, Sergeant Mikhail Egorov and Junior Sergeant Meliton Kantaria, led by deputy battalion commander for political affairs, Lieutenant Alexei Berest, erected the red banner. This banner became the “Banner of Victory."
At the same time, the battle ended in other areas of the capital. Goebbels on May 1 instructed General Krebs to begin negotiations with the Soviet command. Krebs delivered to the headquarters of the 8th Guards Army a message about the death of the Führer and asked for a ceasefire in order to create the conditions for the start of peace negotiations between the Reich and the Soviet state. This was reported to Zhukov, and then to Stalin. Moscow insisted on unconditional surrender. Having received the answer and not seeing the way out, Goebbels committed suicide. On the same day, General Krebs shot himself in the Fuhrer’s bunker. Bormann committed suicide on May 2, during an attempt to break out of the city.
The chief of the general staff of the German ground forces, infantry general Krebs, who arrived on May 1 at the location of the Soviet troops in order to draw the Russians into the negotiation process. On the same day, the general shot himself
Berlin defense commander Wehrmacht artillery general Helmuth Weidling (Helmuth Weidling, 1891-1955) leaves the bunker during the surrender of the Berlin garrison
General Helmut Weidling, commander of the 2th Corps, who surrendered to the Soviet troops on May 56, together with the officers of his headquarters, (left)
View of the defeated Reichstag on May 2, 1945
After the enemy refuses to lay down weapon the assault was continued. The battle lasted another day and night. At 6 o’clock. On the morning of May 2, General Weidling surrendered. He signed the surrender of the Berlin garrison and called on the troops to lay down their arms. By 15 p.m. most of the German units laid down their arms. The 8th Guards Army completed the cleansing of the central part of the German capital. Separate German units and units (mainly SS troops), who did not want to surrender, tried to break through to the west, through the suburb of Berlin Spandau. However, they were destroyed and scattered. In total, over 130 thousand people were captured.
The victory of the Red Army in the Berlin operation was a decisive factor in the fall of the Third Reich. Zhukov’s armies, developing the offensive, went on a wide front to the Elbe, where they met with allies in the anti-Hitler coalition. The troops of the 2nd Belorussian Front under the command of Rokossovsky even earlier completed the destruction of the northern flank of the Berlin Wehrmacht group, reached the Baltic Sea, met with the British at the border of Wismar, Schwerin and Elba. With the fall of the Berlin district and other vital areas, the Reich lost its ability to resist. Only a few days are left before the war ends.
Luftwaffe soldiers, sailors and folkturmists - prisoners in Berlin
Red Army soldiers and German prisoners of war on a street of Berlin
German prisoners of war go to the assembly point past the Soviet tank T-34-85 and self-propelled guns ISU-152 on Berlin street
Half-gliders of the Dnieper military flotilla on the Spree in Berlin near the Oberbaumbrücke bridge. In the frame is the PG-111 half-glider, to the right is Lieutenant Mikhail Kalinin. May 3, 1945
Countrymen - fighters of the Red Army hug, meeting in Berlin