The Kurland Cauldron (also known as the Courland Fortress or the blockade of the Courland Group of Forces) was formed in the autumn of 1944, when the western part of Latvia (historically known as Kurland) remained occupied by the troops of Nazi Germany. In Kurland, the remnants of Army Group North were entrenched, and they were caught between two Soviet fronts along the Tukums-Liepaja line. This environment was not a “boiler” in full - the group of fascist troops was not completely blocked from the sea, therefore the troops surrounded here had the opportunity to communicate with Germany across the Baltic Sea using the ports of Liepaja and Ventspils. Thus, it was possible to supply the group with food, ammunition, medicines, the sea evacuated the wounded, and entire divisions from the group were deployed.
The German "Kurland" army, was the last group of German troops in the Soviet Union, it was formed by units of 16 and 18 of the German armies from Army Group North, which were cut off from neighboring units from Army Group Center the end of October 10, when units of the Soviet Army 51 reached the Baltic coast in the region north of Palanga. At that time, there were about 30 part-time divisions in the encircled grouping, the total number of groups was estimated at about 400 thousand people. By the time Germany surrendered, there were still from 150 to 250 thousands of soldiers and officers of the Hitler army.
All these 30 German divisions remaining in Kurland were defended by a relatively small front, approximately 200 kilometers, that is, one German division accounted for 6,6 kilometers of front. Such a density of troops was more characteristic of divisions in preparation for an offensive than in defense. The Germans had the same high density of units during the Battle of Berlin on the Seelow Heights. But Berlin was the capital of Germany, a major transport and industrial hub, the political center of the state, and behind the 400-thousandth German group of forces in Kurland there were two small seaports and a little more than 50 villages and farms located in wooded and marshy areas. Despite this, the High Command of the German Army attached particular importance to this area, calling it a “bridgehead”, a “Baltic balcony”, an “outer eastern fort of Germany”, a “breakwater”. In the order of the commander of the group Scherner said that "the defense of the Baltic States is the best defense of East Prussia." Hitler supposedly believed that in the future his troops, which were blocked in the west of Latvia, could still be used for a decisive blow on the Eastern Front.
Two German armies, which retain their fighting efficiency, could resist for a long time. They were well aware of the fact that the path of retreat to North Germany was already cut off for them, so they were ready to fight with the ferocity of the doomed. At the final stage, General of Infantry, Karl Augustus Hilpert, took over command of the encircled grouping, who became one of the main protagonists of the North group during the siege of Leningrad. This German commander possessed tremendous experience, suffice it to say that he was in the army service without interruptions starting in October 1907, and in his last position he was appointed after command of the 16 army. The rank of general was conferred on him 1 on April 1939 of the year. Karl Augustus hoped that the German divisions that had been assembled in Kurland would be able to give the Russians great trouble. Later everything happened. The German units commanded by Hilpert brought a lot of trouble and hassle to the Soviet command. The Red Army undertook large-scale offensive operations five times in order to defeat and liquidate the Courland group of German troops, but they all ended in failure.
According to the preserved memoirs of Colonel-General of the German Army Heinz Guderian, the battle for Courland should not have been in principle - the troops were ordered to withdraw 1944 from the territory of Latvia in the fall. However, the planned German offensive could not be carried out due to the mistake of the commander, Colonel General Ferdinand Schörner, who detained his armored formations in the Riga and Mitava areas instead of leading them to the area west of Shaulyai. By this he gave the Red Army the opportunity to make a breakthrough near Siauliai. This breakthrough finally cut off Army Group North from the rest of the German forces, which was the beginning of the defense of the Kurland boiler by the forces of the remaining 30 divisions. Guderian repeatedly visited Hitler personally with reports on the need for withdrawing troops from Kurland and transferring them to the defense of the German borders, but all to no avail.
As Guderian recalled later, in February 1945, Hitler almost beat him for such proposals. Adolf Hitler completely refused to withdraw parts of the Baltic states, holding on to this "last piece of Russia." Many today question the psychological health of the Nazi leader and the adequacy of his decisions at the last stage of the war. One way or another, the Germans did not succeed in completely evacuating the grouping of troops from Kurland to Germany, and until the end of the war they held impressive forces in Norway. The transfer of these troops to Germany would hardly change the course of the battle in Europe, but could delay the fall of the Third Reich.
The Red Army units in every possible way contributed to this development of the situation, not giving the Germans any respite, conducting offensive operations and preventing the withdrawal of troops to Germany. When Hitler finally decided to redeploy troops in the spring of 1945, it was already too late to take the Army Group Kurland across the Baltic Sea for at least three months.
The first attempt to break through the line of defense of the German troops, the Soviet troops made already from 16 to 19 of October immediately after the capture of Riga and the formation of the boiler itself. The Supreme Command headquarters ordered the Baltic Fronts to 1 and 2 to immediately liquidate the enemy's Kurland grouping. The most successful in this period was the 1 shock army, which was advancing along the coast of the Gulf of Riga. October 18 troops of this army crossed the river Lielupe and were able to seize the village of ериemeri, but the next day their attack was stopped near the city of Tukums. The rest of the Soviet army could not move forward, encountering fierce opposition from the enemy, who often turned into counterattacks.
The second battle for Courland took place from October 27 to October 31, 1944. The armies of the two Baltic fronts fought stubborn battles on the border of Kemeri - Gardena - Letskava - south of Liepaja. An attempt to break through the German defense with the forces of 6 combined arms and one tank the army brought only tactical successes. By November 1, 1944, the offensive was in crisis, caused by heavy losses of equipment, people and depletion of ammunition stocks.
The third attempt to break through the front in this sector was made from 21 to 25 December 1944. The edge of the blow of the Soviet connections this time was aimed at the city of Liepaja. However, now the offensive failed.
The fourth offensive operation in this area, called the Priekulsky operation, took place from February 20 to February 28, 1945. After conducting large-scale artillery preparation and delivering powerful bombing strikes against the enemy aviation Soviet troops managed to break through the front line in the Priekule area. The offensive was attended by forces of the 6th Guards and 51st Armies, which were opposed by the German 11th, 12th, 121st and 126th Infantry Divisions from the 18th Army. On the first day of the offensive, Soviet troops were able to advance to the depth of 2-3 kilometers with the most difficult battles. On the morning of February 21, right-flank formations from the 51st Army were able to occupy Priekule, but even here the advance of the Red Army did not exceed two kilometers. The main nodes of the enemy’s defense were tanks dug into the ground along the tower. According to the memoirs of General M.I. Kazakov, only large-caliber artillery (which was sorely lacking for shells) and aviation bombing could effectively deal with buried tanks.
The enemy’s resistance increased, he introduced fresh divisions of the second and third echelons into battle, using also the “Kurland fire brigade”, which was represented by the 14 armored division. The Germans replaced the 126 infantry division of February 24 seriously battered in the battles with the 132 Infantry Division, after which they managed to stop the advance of the Soviet troops, and the offensive operation of the Red Army was interrupted by February. By the evening of this day, the connections of two Soviet armies: the 28 Guards and the 6, reinforced by the 51 tank corps, were able to expand the German defense breakthrough to 19 kilometers along the front, moving deeper into the 25-9 kilometers. The troops managed to reach the Vartava River, completing the immediate task of the armies. However, the Soviet troops could not develop tactical success into operational and make a breakthrough to Liepāja, which was still 12 kilometers away, they did not have enough strength.
The fifth attempt to defeat the Courland grouping of German troops was made in March. From 17 to 28 March, 1945, the last major battle took place here. Soviet troops sought to break through the defenses of the Germans to the south of the city of Saldus. By the morning of March 18, the advance of the Red Army units was proceeding with two benches directed deep into the German defense. Some of the upcoming units were able to achieve significant success, but were forced to retreat back. This happened due to attempts of their encirclement by the enemy. At the same time, the 8-I and 29-I guards rifle divisions were still surrounded by the Zeni settlement. 25 March 1945, the 8-th Guards (Panfilov) division was surrounded by the enemy, after which she was forced to fight the hardest for two days. Only 28 of March, surrounded by Soviet units, managed to break through the encirclement and return to their own. 1 April 1945 of the year from the disbanded 2 of the Baltic Front, part of the troops were transferred to the Leningrad Front. The task of further blocking the surrounded German troops was assigned to him.
Despite the announcement of Germany’s unconditional surrender, the Kurlandia group continued to resist Soviet forces until May 15. To this date, in the boiler, apparently, all the major centers of resistance of the enemy were suppressed. At the same time, the mass surrender of the German troops began as early as 23 hours on May 8. By 8 o'clock in the morning 10 May 1945 of the year weapon The 68 578 winners of German soldiers and noncommissioned officers, 1982 officer and 13 generals, led by the commander of Army Group Kurlandia Karl August Hilpert, were laid down and surrendered to the mercy of 18. Together with him, the commander of the 16 army Lieutenant-General Bege and the commander of the 135 army Lieutenant-General Folkamer were captured. According to various data, a total of thousands of soldiers and officers of the German army, including about 203 thousands of Latvian volunteers, were captured from 14 to XNUMX.
Despite the announcement of surrender, the Germans continued to evacuate their units from Courland to German territory. On the night of May 9, the Germans sent two convoys of 23 ships and 27 boats of the 14th security guard from the port of Liepaja flotilla, a total of 6620 people left for them. After some time, the third convoy of 6 ships with 3870 people on board left Liepaja. About an hour later, the 4th convoy, consisting of 19 torpedo boats, which managed to load another 2 thousand people, managed to leave the port. During the fourth convoy entering the Baltic Sea, vanguard units of Soviet troops entered the city. After this, the evacuation from Liepaja was naturally stopped. From the port of Ventspils, the Germans also managed to send two convoys, consisting of 45 landing barges and 15 boats, on board of which there were 11 soldiers and officers of the German army.
Those who did not want to surrender and did not manage to get on the last convoys leaving Kurland had no choice but to go into the woods and make their way to East Prussia. According to some reports, the enemy’s disparate units, wandering through forests and swamps, continued to resist Soviet troops until July of the 1945 year. Today we can say that the last shot of the Great Patriotic War sounded in Kurland. The SS fighters were striving to break from Courland to East Prussia.
So a large detachment of SS men, numbering about 300 people, was destroyed by Red Army soldiers 22 in May 1945. This detachment, which broke into German territory, retreated under the banner of the 6 SS Army Corps, led by its commander Walter Krueger, who was eventually forced to shoot himself. In this battle, which occurred after the official surrender of Hitler's troops, the Red Army lost 25 fighters. Imagine how sad and bitter it was for their relatives to receive funerals after the Victory. However, the soldiers and officers of the Red Army had to fight with weapons in their hands already after 9 in May, so that the Nazi fanatics, whose hands were stained with blood, did not hide from retaliation. They did not allow them to leave Kurland at the cost of their own lives.
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