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The Battle of Berlin, designated as the Berlin Strategic Offensive Operation by the
Soviet Union The Soviet Union,. officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. (USSR),. was a that spanned during its existence from 1922 to 1991. It was nominally a of multiple national ; in practice and were highly until its final years. The ...
, and also known as the Fall of Berlin, was one of the last major
offensive Offensive may refer to: * Offensive, the former name of the Dutch political party Socialist Alternative (Netherlands), Socialist Alternative * Offensive (military), an attack * Offensive language ** Fighting words or insulting language, words that ...
s of the
European theatre of World War II #REDIRECT European theatre of World War II #REDIRECT European theatre of World War II#REDIRECT European theatre of World War II The European theatre of World War II was the main Theater (warfare), theatre of combat during World War II. It saw hea ...
. Following the Vistula–Oder Offensive of January–February 1945, the
Red Army The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army,) frequently shortened to Red Army, was the army and air force of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic The Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (Russian SFSR or RSFSR; rus, links= ...
had temporarily halted on a line east of
Berlin Berlin (; ) is the Capital city, capital and List of cities in Germany by population, largest city of Germany by both area and population. Its 3,769,495 inhabitants, as of 31 December 2019 makes it the List of cities in the European Union by ...

Berlin
. On 9 March, Germany established its defence plan for the city with Operation Clausewitz. The first defensive preparations at the outskirts of Berlin were made on 20 March, under the newly appointed commander of
Army Group Vistula Army Group Vistula () was an Army Group of the '' Wehrmacht'', formed on 24 January 1945. It lasted for 105 days, having been put together from elements of Army Group A (shattered in the Soviet Vistula-Oder Offensive), Army Group Centre (similarly ...
, General
Gotthard Heinrici Gotthard Fedor August Heinrici (25 December 1886 – 10 December 1971) was a German general during World War II. Heinrici is considered as the premier defensive expert of the ''Wehrmacht''. His final command was Army Group Vistula, formed from th ...

Gotthard Heinrici
. When the Soviet offensive resumed on 16 April, two Soviet
front Front may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Films * ''The Front'' (1943 film), a 1943 Soviet drama film * '' The Front'', 1976 film Music * The Front (band), an American rock band signed to Columbia Records and active in the 1980s and e ...
s (
army group An army group is a military A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfare War is an intense armed conflict between State (polity), states, gove ...
s) attacked Berlin from the east and south, while a third overran German forces positioned north of Berlin. Before the main battle in Berlin commenced, the Red Army encircled the city after successful battles of the
Seelow HeightsImage:Stamp_GDR_Seelower_Hoehen.jpeg, 180px, A East Germany, DDR stamp showing the Soviet memorial statue at the Seelow Heights. The Seelow Heights are situated around the town of Seelow, about east of Berlin, and overlook the Oderbruch, the western ...
and Halbe. On 20 April 1945,
Hitler's
Hitler's
birthday, the 1st Belorussian Front led by
Marshal Marshal is a term used in several official titles in various branches of society A society is a group A group is a number A number is a mathematical object used to counting, count, measurement, measure, and nominal number, label. T ...

Marshal
Georgy Zhukov Georgy Konstantinovich Zhukov (russian: Георгий Константинович Жуков; ; 1 December 1896 – 18 June 1974) was a Soviet general A general officer is an officer of high rank in the armies, and in some natio ...
, advancing from the east and north, started shelling Berlin's city centre, while Marshal
Ivan Konev Ivan Stepanovich Konev (russian: link=no, Ива́н Степа́нович Ко́нев;  – 21 May 1973) was a Soviet general and Marshal of the Soviet Union who led Red Army forces on the Eastern Front (World War II), Eastern Front d ...
's
1st Ukrainian Front The 1st Ukrainian Front (Russian Russian refers to anything related to Russia, including: *Russians (русские, ''russkiye''), an ethnic group of the East Slavic peoples, primarily living in Russia and neighboring countries *Rossiyane ( ...
broke through
Army Group Centre Army Group Centre (german: Heeresgruppe Mitte) was the name of two distinct strategic German Army Groups that fought on the Eastern Front (World War II), Eastern Front in World War II. The first Army Group Centre was created on 22 June 1941, as one ...
and advanced towards the southern suburbs of Berlin. On 23 April General
Helmuth Weidling Helmuth Otto Ludwig Weidling (2 November 1891 – 17 November 1955) was a German general during World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a global war A world war is "a war ...
assumed command of the forces within Berlin. The
garrison Garrison (from the French ''garnison'', itself from the verb ''garnir'', "to equip") is the collective term for any body of troop A troop is a military sub-subunit, originally a small formation of cavalry, subordinate to a Squadron (cav ...

garrison
consisted of several depleted and disorganised
Wehrmacht The ''Wehrmacht'' (, ) was the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the German Army (1935–1945), ''Heer'' (army), the ''Kriegsmarine'' (navy) and the ''Luftwaffe'' (air force). The designation "''Wehrmacht ...
and
Waffen-SS The ''Waffen-SS'' (, "Armed SS") was the combat branch of the Nazi Party The Nazi Party, officially the National Socialist German Workers' Party (german: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei or NSDAP), was a political party ...

Waffen-SS
divisions, along with poorly trained ''
Volkssturm The ''Volkssturm'' (, "people's storm") was a national militia established by Nazi Germany during the last months of World War II. It was not set up by the German Army (1935–1945), German Army, the ground component of the combined German ''Wehr ...

Volkssturm
'' and
Hitler Youth The Hitler Youth (german: Hitlerjugend , often abbreviated as HJ, ) was the youth organisation of the Nazi Party The Nazi Party, officially the National Socialist German Workers' Party (german: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiter ...
members. Over the course of the next week, the Red Army gradually took the entire city. On 30 April, Hitler committed suicide (with several of his officials also committing suicide shortly afterwards). The city's garrison surrendered on 2 May but fighting continued to the north-west, west, and south-west of the city until the end of the war in Europe on 8 May (9 May in the Soviet Union) as some German units fought westward so that they could surrender to the
Western Allies : Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek Chiang Kai-shek (31 October 1887 – 5 April 1975), also known as Chiang Chung-cheng and Romanization of Chinese, romanized via Mandarin Chinese, Mandarin as Chiang Chieh-shih and Jiang Jieshi, was a Chin ...
rather than to the Soviets.


Background

On 12 January 1945, the Red Army began the Vistula–Oder Offensive across the
Narew The Narew (; be, Нараў ''Naraŭ''; uk, Нарва, translit=''Narva''; Lithuanian Lithuanian may refer to: * Lithuanians Lithuanians ( lt, lietuviai, singular ''lietuvis/lietuvė'') are a Balts, Baltic ethnic group. They are native to Li ...

Narew
River; and, from Warsaw, a three-day operation on a broad front, which incorporated four army
Front Front may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Films * ''The Front'' (1943 film), a 1943 Soviet drama film * '' The Front'', 1976 film Music * The Front (band), an American rock band signed to Columbia Records and active in the 1980s and e ...
s. On the fourth day, the Red Army broke out and started moving west, up to per day, taking
East Prussia East Prussia (german: Ostpreußen, ; pl, Prusy Wschodnie; lt, Rytų Prūsija; la, Borussia orientalis; russian: Восточная Пруссия, Vostóchnaya Prússiya) was a of the from 1773 to 1829 and again from 1878 (with the Kingdom ...
,
Danzig
Danzig
, and
Poznań Poznań is a city on the Warta, River Warta in west-central Poland, within the Greater Poland region. The city is an important cultural and business centre, and one of Poland's most populous regions with many regional customs such as Saint Jo ...

Poznań
, drawing up on a line east of Berlin along the
Oder The Oder ( , ; Czech Czech may refer to: * Anything from or related to the Czech Republic The Czech Republic, also known by its short-form name Czechia and formerly known as Bohemia, is a landlocked country A landlocked country is ...

Oder
River. The newly created
Army Group Vistula Army Group Vistula () was an Army Group of the '' Wehrmacht'', formed on 24 January 1945. It lasted for 105 days, having been put together from elements of Army Group A (shattered in the Soviet Vistula-Oder Offensive), Army Group Centre (similarly ...
, under the command of ''
Reichsführer-SS (, ) was a special title and rank that existed between the years of 1925 and 1945 for the commander of the (SS). ''Reichsführer-SS'' was a title from 1925 to 1933, and from 1934 to 1945 it was the highest rank of the SS. The longest-servi ...
''
Heinrich Himmler Heinrich Luitpold Himmler (; 7 October 1900 – 23 May 1945) was of the (Protection Squadron; SS), and a leading member of the Nazi Party The Nazi Party, officially the National Socialist German Workers' Party (german: Nationa ...
, attempted a counter-attack, but this had failed by 24 February. The Red Army then drove on to
Pomerania Pomerania ( pl, Pomorze; german: Pommern; Kashubian: ''Pòmòrskô'') is a historical region on the southern shore of the Baltic Sea The Baltic Sea is an arm of the , enclosed by , , , , , , northeast , , and the . The sea stretches fr ...

Pomerania
, clearing the right bank of the Oder River, thereby reaching into
Silesia Silesia (, also , ) is a historical region Historical regions (or historical areas) are geographical Geography (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), o ...

Silesia
. In the south the
Siege of Budapest The siege of Budapest or Battle of Budapest was the 50-day-long encirclement by Soviet The Soviet Union,. officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. (USSR),. was a federal socialist state in Northern Eurasia Eurasia () i ...
took place. Three German divisions' attempts to relieve the encircled Hungarian capital city failed, and Budapest fell to the Soviets on 13 February.
Adolf Hitler Adolf Hitler (; 20 April 188930 April 1945) was an Austrian-born German politician who was the dictator of Nazi Germany, Germany from 1933 to 1945. Adolf Hitler's rise to power, He rose to power as the leader of the Nazi Party, becoming Cha ...

Adolf Hitler
insisted on a counter-attack to recapture the Drau-Danube triangle. The goal was to secure the oil region of
Nagykanizsa Nagykanizsa (, or just Kanizsa; hr, Velika Kaniža/Velika Kanjiža, or just ''Kaniža/Kanjiža''; german: Großkirchen, Groß-Kanizsa; it, Canissa; sl, Velika Kaniža; tr, Kanije) is a medium-sized city in Zala County in southwestern Hungary ...
and regain the
Danube The Danube ( ; ) is the List of rivers of Europe#Longest rivers, second-longest river in Europe, after the Volga in Russia. It flows through much of Central Europe, Central and Southeastern Europe, from the Black Forest into the Black Sea. It ...

Danube
River for future operations, but the depleted German forces had been given an impossible task. By 16 March, the German
Lake Balaton Offensive Operation Spring Awakening (german: Unternehmen Frühlingserwachen) was the last major German offensive of World War II. The operation was referred to in Nazi Germany, Germany as the Plattensee offensive and in the Soviet Union as the Balaton defe ...
had failed, and a counter-attack by the Red Army took back in 24 hours everything the Germans had taken ten days to gain. On 30 March, the Soviets entered Austria; and in the Vienna Offensive they captured
Vienna Vienna ( ; german: Wien ; bar, Wean, label=Bavarian language, Austro-Bavarian ) is the Capital city, national capital, largest city, and one of States of Austria, nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's List of cities and towns in Austria, mos ...

Vienna
on 13 April. Between June and September 1944, the
Wehrmacht The ''Wehrmacht'' (, ) was the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the German Army (1935–1945), ''Heer'' (army), the ''Kriegsmarine'' (navy) and the ''Luftwaffe'' (air force). The designation "''Wehrmacht ...
had lost more than a million men, and it lacked the fuel and armaments needed to operate effectively. On 12 April 1945, Hitler, who had earlier decided to remain in the city against the wishes of his advisers, heard the news that the American President
Franklin D. Roosevelt Franklin Delano Roosevelt (, ; January 30, 1882April 12, 1945), often referred to by his initials FDR, was an American politician who served as the 32nd president of the United States from 1933 until his death in 1945. A member of the De ...

Franklin D. Roosevelt
had died. This briefly raised false hopes in the ''
Führerbunker The ''Führerbunker'' () was an air raid shelter File:Kleine Berlin Trieste 1.jpg, 280px, Kleines Berlin ('Little Berlin' in German) is the complex of underground air-raid tunnels dating to World War II, which still exists in Trieste, Ita ...
'' that there might yet be a falling out among the Allies and that Berlin would be saved at the last moment, as had happened once before when Berlin was threatened (see the
Miracle of the House of Brandenburg The Miracle of the House of Brandenburg is the name given by Frederick the Great, Frederick II of Prussia to the failure of Russian Empire, Russia and Habsburg Monarchy, Austria to follow up their victory over him at the Battle of Kunersdorf on 12& ...
). No plans were made by the
Western Allies : Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek Chiang Kai-shek (31 October 1887 – 5 April 1975), also known as Chiang Chung-cheng and Romanization of Chinese, romanized via Mandarin Chinese, Mandarin as Chiang Chieh-shih and Jiang Jieshi, was a Chin ...
to seize the city by a ground operation. The Supreme Commander [Western] Allied Expeditionary Force, General Eisenhower lost interest in the race to Berlin and saw no further need to suffer casualties by attacking a city that would be in the Soviet
sphere of influence In the field of international relations, a sphere of influence (SOI) is a spatial region or concept division over which a state or organization has a level of cultural Culture () is an umbrella term which encompasses the social behavior and ...
after the war, envisioning excessive
friendly fire Friendly fire is an attack by a military force on friendly or neutral troops while attempting to attack the enemy. Examples include misidentifying the target as hostile, cross-fire while engaging an enemy, long range ranging errors or inaccurac ...
if both armies attempted to occupy the city at once. The major Western Allied contribution to the battle was the bombing of Berlin during 1945. During 1945 the
United States Army Air Forces The United States Army Air Forces (USAAF or AAF) was the major land-based aerial warfare Aerial warfare is the use of military aircraft A military aircraft is any fixed-wing A fixed-wing aircraft is a heavier-than-air flying machi ...
launched very large daytime raids on Berlin and for 36 nights in succession, scores of
RAF "Through Adversity to the Stars" , colours = , colours_label = , march = Royal Air Force March Past , mascot = , anniversaries = , e ...
Mosquito Mosquitoes are members of a group of almost 3,600 species In biology, a species is the basic unit of biological classification, classification and a taxonomic rank of an organism, as well as a unit of biodiversity. A species is often defin ...

Mosquito
s bombed the German capital, ending on the night of 20/21 April 1945 just before the Soviets entered the city.


Preparations

The Soviet offensive into central Germany, what later became
East Germany East Germany, officially the German Democratic Republic (GDR; german: Deutsche Demokratische Republik, , DDR, ), was a state that existed from 1949 to 1990 in eastern Eastern may refer to: Transportation *China Eastern Airlines, a current ...
, had two objectives.
Stalin Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin * ka, link=no, იოსებ ბესარიონის ძე სტალინი. ( – 5 March 1953) was a Georgians, Georgian revolutionary and Soviet political leader who governed the Soviet Unio ...
did not believe the Western Allies would hand over territory occupied by them in the post-war Soviet zone, so he began the offensive on a broad front and moved rapidly to meet the Western Allies as far west as possible. But the overriding objective was to capture Berlin. The two goals were complementary because possession of the zone could not be won quickly unless Berlin were taken. Another consideration was that Berlin itself held useful post-war strategic assets, including Adolf Hitler and the
German nuclear weapons program The Uranverein ( en, "Uranium Club") was a name given to the project in Germany ) , image_map = , map_caption = , map_width = 250px , capital = Berlin Berlin (; ) is the Capital city, capital and List of cities in Germany ...
. On 6 March, Hitler appointed
Lieutenant General Lieutenant general (Lt Gen, LTG and similar) is a three-star rank, three-star military rank (NATO code OF-8) used in many countries. The rank traces its origins to the Middle Ages, where the title of lieutenant general was held by the second-in ...

Lieutenant General
Helmuth Reymann Hellmuth Reymann (24 November 1892 – 8 December 1988) was an Officer (armed forces), officer in the German Army (''German Army (Wehrmacht), Heer'') during World War II. Reymann was one of the last commanders of the Berlin Defense Area during the ...
commander of the Berlin Defence Area, replacing Lieutenant General Bruno Ritter von Hauenschild. On 20 March, General
Gotthard Heinrici Gotthard Fedor August Heinrici (25 December 1886 – 10 December 1971) was a German general during World War II. Heinrici is considered as the premier defensive expert of the ''Wehrmacht''. His final command was Army Group Vistula, formed from th ...

Gotthard Heinrici
was appointed Commander-in-Chief of Army Group Vistula replacing Himmler. Heinrici was one of the best defensive tacticians in the German army, and he immediately started to lay defensive plans. Heinrici correctly assessed that the main Soviet thrust would be made over the
Oder The Oder ( , ; Czech Czech may refer to: * Anything from or related to the Czech Republic The Czech Republic, also known by its short-form name Czechia and formerly known as Bohemia, is a landlocked country A landlocked country is ...

Oder
River and along the main east-west Autobahn. He decided not to try to defend the banks of the Oder with anything more than a light
skirmishing Skirmishers are light infantry or light cavalry soldier A soldier is one who fights as part of a military A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for ...
screen. Instead, Heinrici arranged for
engineers Engineers, as practitioners of engineering Engineering is the use of scientific principles to design and build machines, structures, and other items, including bridges, tunnels, roads, vehicles, and buildings. The discipline of enginee ...
to fortify the
Seelow HeightsImage:Stamp_GDR_Seelower_Hoehen.jpeg, 180px, A East Germany, DDR stamp showing the Soviet memorial statue at the Seelow Heights. The Seelow Heights are situated around the town of Seelow, about east of Berlin, and overlook the Oderbruch, the western ...
, which overlooked the Oder River at the point where the Autobahn crossed them. This was some distance west of the Oder and east of Berlin. Heinrici thinned out the line in other areas to increase the manpower available to defend the heights. German engineers turned the Oder's flood plain, already saturated by the spring thaw, into a
swamp A swamp is a forested wetland A wetland is a distinct ecosystem that is flooded by water, either permanently (for years or decades) or seasonally (for weeks or months). Flooding results in oxygen-free (Anoxic waters, anoxic) processes pre ...

swamp
by releasing the water from a
reservoir A reservoir (; from French ''réservoir'' ) is most commonly an enlarged natural or artificial lake A lake is an area filled with water, localized in a basin, surrounded by land Land is the solid surface of Earth that is not per ...
upstream. Behind the plain on the plateau, the engineers built three belts of defensive emplacements reaching back towards the outskirts of Berlin (the lines nearer to Berlin were called the ''Wotan'' position). These lines consisted of
anti-tank Anti-tank warfare originated from the need to develop technology and Military tactics, tactics to destroy tanks during World War I (1914–1918). Since the Triple Entente developed the first tanks in 1916 but did not deploy them in battle until ...
ditches, anti-tank gun emplacements, and an extensive network of
trenches A gas main being laid in a trench A trench is a type of excavation or depression in the ground that is generally deeper than it is wide (as opposed to a wider gully A gully is a landform A landform is a natural or artificial feature of the s ...

trenches
and
bunkers A hazard is an area of a golf course A golf course is the grounds where the sport of golf Golf is a club-and-ball sport Sport pertains to any form of Competition, competitive physical activity or game that aims to use, maintain ...
. On 9 April, after a long resistance,
Königsberg Königsberg (, , ) was the name for the historic Prussian city that is now Kaliningrad, Russia. Königsberg was founded in 1255 on the site of the ancient Old Prussian settlement ''Twangste'' by the Teutonic Knights during the Northern Crusade ...

Königsberg
in East Prussia fell to the Red Army. This freed up Marshal Rokossovsky's 2nd Belorussian Front to move west to the east bank of the Oder river. Marshal
Georgy Zhukov Georgy Konstantinovich Zhukov (russian: Георгий Константинович Жуков; ; 1 December 1896 – 18 June 1974) was a Soviet general A general officer is an officer of high rank in the armies, and in some natio ...
concentrated his 1st Belorussian Front, which had been deployed along the Oder river from
Frankfurt (Oder) Frankfurt (Oder) (also known as Frankfurt an der Oder, ; abbreviated ', 'Frankfurt on the Oder The Oder ( , ; Czech Czech may refer to: * Anything from or related to the Czech Republic The Czech Republic, also known by its short-fo ...
in the south to the Baltic, into an area in front of the Seelow Heights. The 2nd Belorussian Front moved into the positions being vacated by the 1st Belorussian Front north of the Seelow Heights. While this redeployment was in progress, gaps were left in the lines; and the remnants of General
Dietrich von Saucken Dietrich Friedrich Eduard Kasimir von Saucken (16 May 1892 – 27 September 1980) was a German general during World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a World war, global war that last ...
's German II Army, which had been bottled up in a pocket near
Danzig
Danzig
, managed to escape into the
Vistula The Vistula (; pl, Wisła, , german: Weichsel) is the longest river in Poland Poland, officially the Republic of Poland, is a country located in Central Europe. It is divided into 16 Voivodeships of Poland, administrative provinc ...

Vistula
delta. To the south, Marshal Konev shifted the main weight of the
1st Ukrainian Front The 1st Ukrainian Front (Russian Russian refers to anything related to Russia, including: *Russians (русские, ''russkiye''), an ethnic group of the East Slavic peoples, primarily living in Russia and neighboring countries *Rossiyane ( ...
out of
Upper Silesia Upper Silesia ( pl, Górny Śląsk; szl, Gōrny Ślōnsk; cs, Horní Slezsko; german: Oberschlesien; Silesian German: ; la, Silesia Superior) is the southeastern part of the historical and geographical region of Silesia, located mostly in Poland ...
and north-west to the
Neisse The Lusatian Neisse (german: Lausitzer Neiße; pl, Nysa Łużycka; cs, Lužická Nisa; Upper Sorbian: ''Łužiska Nysa''; Lower Sorbian Lower may refer to: *Lower (surname)Lower is a surname. Notable people with the surname include: * Art ...
River. The three Soviet fronts had altogether 2.5 million men (including 78,556 soldiers of the 1st Polish Army), 6,250 tanks, 7,500 aircraft, 41,600
artillery Artillery is a class of heavy military ranged weapons built to launch Ammunition, munitions far beyond the range and power of infantry firearms. Early artillery development focused on the ability to breach defensive walls and fortifications dur ...

artillery
pieces and
mortar Mortar may refer to: * Mortar (weapon), an indirect-fire infantry weapon * Mortar (masonry), a material used to fill the gaps between blocks and bind them together * Mortar and pestle, a tool pair used to crush or grind * Mortar, Bihar, a village in ...
s, 3,255 truck-mounted
Katyusha rocket launcher The Katyusha multiple rocket launcher ( rus, Катю́ша, p=kɐˈtʲuʂə, a=Ru-Катюша.ogg) is a type of rocket artillery Rocket artillery is artillery Artillery is a class of heavy military ranged weapons built to launch Ammunit ...
s (nicknamed 'Stalin's Pipe Organs'), and 95,383 motor vehicles, many manufactured in the US.


Opposing forces

Northern Sector German : Third Panzer Army : General of Panzer
Hasso von Manteuffel Hasso Eccard von Manteuffel (14 January 1897 – 24 September 1978) was a German general during World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a World war, global war that lasted from 1939 to ...
:* 4 infantry divisions :* 3 naval divisions :* 2 volksgrenadier divisions Soviet : Second Belorussian Front : Marshal
Konstantin Rokossovsky Konstantin Konstantinovich (Xaverevich) Rokossovsky (Russian Russian refers to anything related to Russia, including: *Russians (русские, ''russkiye''), an ethnic group of the East Slavic peoples, primarily living in Russia and neighbori ...
:* 31 rifle divisions :*   7 guards rifle divisions :*   1 motorized rifle battalion :*   3 tank battalions Middle Sector German :
Army Group Vistula Army Group Vistula () was an Army Group of the '' Wehrmacht'', formed on 24 January 1945. It lasted for 105 days, having been put together from elements of Army Group A (shattered in the Soviet Vistula-Oder Offensive), Army Group Centre (similarly ...
: Colonel General
Gotthard Heinrici Gotthard Fedor August Heinrici (25 December 1886 – 10 December 1971) was a German general during World War II. Heinrici is considered as the premier defensive expert of the ''Wehrmacht''. His final command was Army Group Vistula, formed from th ...

Gotthard Heinrici
:* 15 infantry divisions :*   6 panzer divisions :*   2 motorized infantry divisions : Ninth Army : General of Infantry
Theodor Busse Ernst Hermann August Theodor Busse (15 December 1897 – 21 October 1986) was a German German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany * Germans, Germanic ethnic group, citizens of Germany or people of German ancestry * For ci ...

Theodor Busse
:*   5 infantry divisions :*   4 panzergrenadier divisions :*   1 panzer division :*   1 SS grenadier division :*   1 security division :*   1 Jäger division :*   1 parachute division :*   1 Kampfgruppe Soviet :
First Belorussian Front The 1st Belorussian Front (Russian language, Russian: Пéрвый Белорусский фронт, alternative spellings are 1st Byelorussian SSR, Byelorussian Front) was a Front (military formation), major formation of the Soviet Army during ...
: Marshal
Georgy Zhukov Georgy Konstantinovich Zhukov (russian: Георгий Константинович Жуков; ; 1 December 1896 – 18 June 1974) was a Soviet general A general officer is an officer of high rank in the armies, and in some natio ...
:* 54 rifle divisions :* 16 guards rifle divisions :*   5 infantry divisions (Polish) :*   3 guards cavalry divisions :*   3 mechanized brigades :*   6 guards mechanized brigades :*   7 tank brigades :* 10 guards tank brigades :*   1 armored brigade (Polish) :*   2 motorized rifle brigades Southern Sector German :
Army Group Centre Army Group Centre (german: Heeresgruppe Mitte) was the name of two distinct strategic German Army Groups that fought on the Eastern Front (World War II), Eastern Front in World War II. The first Army Group Centre was created on 22 June 1941, as one ...
: Feldmarshal Ferdinand Schörner :* 13 infantry divisions :*   3 panzer divisions :*   1 Reichsarbeitsdienst division :*   1 SS police division :*   1 SS grenadier division :*   1 anti-aircraft division :*   2 Kampfgruppen Soviet * First Ukrainian Front : Marshal
Ivan Konev Ivan Stepanovich Konev (russian: link=no, Ива́н Степа́нович Ко́нев;  – 21 May 1973) was a Soviet general and Marshal of the Soviet Union who led Red Army forces on the Eastern Front (World War II), Eastern Front d ...
:* 26 rifle divisions :* 15 guards rifle divisions :*   5 infantry divisions (Polish) :*   3 guards cavalry divisions :*   1 guards airborne division :*   9 guards mechanized brigades :*   3 mechanized brigades :*   4 guards motorized rifle brigades :*   1 armored corps (Polish) :*   4 tank brigades :* 10 guards tank brigades :*   1 motorized rifle brigade


Battle of the Oder–Neisse

The sector in which most of the fighting in the overall offensive took place was the Seelow Heights, the last major defensive line outside Berlin. The
Battle of the Seelow Heights The Battle of the Seelow Heights (german: Schlacht um die Seelower Höhen) was part of the Berlin Offensive, Berlin Strategic Offensive Operation (16 April–2 May 1945). A pitched battle, it was one of the last assaults on large Field entrenchm ...
, fought over four days from 16 until 19 April, was one of the last
pitched battle A pitched battle or set-piece battle is a battle A battle is an occurrence of combat Combat ( French for ''fight'') is a purposeful violent conflict meant to physically harm or kill the opposition. Combat may be armed (using weapon ...
s of World War II: almost one million Red Army soldiers and more than 20,000 tanks and artillery pieces were deployed to break through the "Gates to Berlin", which were defended by about 100,000 German soldiers and 1,200 tanks and guns. The Soviet forces led by Zhukov broke through the defensive positions, having suffered about 30,000 dead, while 12,000 German personnel were killed. During 19 April, the fourth day, the 1st Belorussian Front broke through the final line of the Seelow Heights; and nothing but broken German formations lay between them and Berlin. The 1st Ukrainian Front, having captured Forst the day before, was fanning out into open country. One powerful thrust by Gordov's 3rd Guards Army and Rybalko's 3rd and Lelyushenko's 4th Tank Army (Soviet Union), 4th Guards Tank Armies were heading north-east towards Berlin while other armies headed west towards a section of the United States Army's front line south-west of Berlin on the Elbe. With these advances, the Soviet forces drove a wedge between Army Group Vistula in the north and
Army Group Centre Army Group Centre (german: Heeresgruppe Mitte) was the name of two distinct strategic German Army Groups that fought on the Eastern Front (World War II), Eastern Front in World War II. The first Army Group Centre was created on 22 June 1941, as one ...
in the south. By the end of the day, the German eastern front line north of Frankfurt around Seelow and to the south around Forst had ceased to exist. These breakthroughs allowed the two Soviet Fronts to double-envelopment, envelop the German 9th Army (Wehrmacht), 9th Army in a large pocket west of Frankfurt. Attempts by the 9th Army to break out to the west resulted in the Battle of Halbe. The cost to the Soviet forces had been very high, with over 2,807 tanks lost between 1 and 19 April, including at least 727 at the Seelow Heights. In the meantime, RAF Mosquitos were conducting large Tactical bombing, tactical air raids against German positions inside Berlin on the nights of 15 April (105 bombers), 17 April (61 bombers), 18 April (57 bombers), 19 April (79 bombers), and 20 April (78 bombers).


Encirclement of Berlin

On 20 April 1945, Hitler's 56th birthday, Soviet artillery of the 1st Belorussian Front began shelling Berlin and did not stop until the city surrendered. The weight of ordnance delivered by Soviet artillery during the battle was greater than the total tonnage dropped by Western Allied bombers on the city. While the 1st Belorussian Front advanced towards the east and north-east of the city, the 1st Ukrainian Front pushed through the last formations of the northern wing of Army Group Centre and passed north of Juterbog, well over halfway to the American front line on the river Elbe at Magdeburg. To the north between Stettin and Schwedt, the 2nd Belorussian Front attacked the northern flank of Army Group Vistula, held by
Hasso von Manteuffel Hasso Eccard von Manteuffel (14 January 1897 – 24 September 1978) was a German general during World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a World war, global war that lasted from 1939 to ...
's 3rd Panzer Army, III Panzer Army. The next day, Semen Bogdanov, Bogdanov's 2nd Guards Tank Army advanced nearly north of Berlin and then attacked south-west of Werneuchen. The Soviet plan was to encircle Berlin first and then envelop the IX Army. The command of the German V Corps, trapped with the IX Army north of Forst, passed from the IV Panzer Army to the IX Army. The corps was still holding on to the Berlin-Cottbus highway front line. Field Marshal Ferdinand Schörner's Army Group Centre launched a counter-offensive aimed at breaking through to Berlin from the south and making a successful initial incursion (the Battle of Bautzen (1945), Battle of Bautzen) in the 1st Ukrainian Front region, engaging the Polish Second Army, 2nd Polish Army and elements of the Red Army's 52nd Army (Soviet Union), 52nd Army and 5th Guards Army. When the old southern flank of the IV Panzer Army had some local successes counter-attacking north against the 1st Ukrainian Front, Hitler gave orders that showed his grasp of military reality was completely gone. He ordered the IX Army to hold Cottbus and set up a front facing west. Then they were to attack the Soviet columns advancing north. This would supposedly allow them to form a northern pincer that would meet the IV Panzer Army coming from the south and envelop the 1st Ukrainian Front before destroying it. They were to anticipate a southward attack by the III Panzer Army and be ready to be the southern arm of a pincer attack that would envelop 1st Belorussian Front, which would be destroyed by SS-General Felix Steiner's Army Detachment Steiner, Army Detachment advancing from north of Berlin. Later in the day, when Steiner explained that he did not have the divisions to do this, Heinrici made it clear to Hitler's staff that unless the IX Army retreated immediately, it would be enveloped by the Soviets. He stressed that it was already too late for it to move north-west to Berlin and would have to retreat west. Heinrici went on to say that if Hitler did not allow it to move west, he would ask to be relieved of his command. On 22 April 1945, at his afternoon situation conference, Hitler fell into a tearful rage when he realised that his plans, prepared the previous day, could not be achieved. He declared that the war was lost, blaming the generals for the defeat and that he would remain in Berlin until the end and then kill himself. In an attempt to coax Hitler out of his rage, General Alfred Jodl speculated that General Walther Wenck's 12th Army (Wehrmacht), XII Army, which was facing the Americans, could move to Berlin because the Americans, already on the Elbe River, were unlikely to move further east. This assumption was based on his viewing of the captured Eclipse documents, which organised the partition of Germany among the Allies. Hitler immediately grasped the idea, and within hours Wenck was ordered to disengage from the Americans and move the XII Army north-east to support Berlin. It was then realised that if the IX Army moved west, it could link up with the XII Army. In the evening Heinrici was given permission to make the link-up. Elsewhere, the 2nd Belorussian Front had established a bridgehead deep on the west bank of the Oder and was heavily engaged with the III Panzer Army. The IX Army had lost Cottbus and was being pressed from the east. A Soviet tank spearhead was on the Havel River to the east of Berlin, and another had at one point penetrated the inner defensive ring of Berlin. The capital was now within range of field artillery. A Soviet war correspondent, in the style of World War II Soviet journalism, gave the following account of an important event which took place on 22 April 1945 at 08:30 local time: On 23 April 1945, the Soviet 1st Belorussian Front and 1st Ukrainian Front continued to tighten the encirclement, severing the last link between the German IX Army and the city. Elements of the 1st Ukrainian Front continued to move westward and started to engage the German XII Army moving towards Berlin. On this same day, Hitler appointed General
Helmuth Weidling Helmuth Otto Ludwig Weidling (2 November 1891 – 17 November 1955) was a German general during World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a global war A world war is "a war ...
as the commander of the Berlin Defence Area, replacing Lieutenant General Reymann. Meanwhile, by 24 April 1945 elements of 1st Belorussian Front and 1st Ukrainian Front had completed the encirclement of the city. Within the next day, 25 April 1945, the Soviet investment (military), investment of Berlin was consolidated, with leading Soviet units probing and penetrating the S-Bahn defensive ring. By the end of the day, it was clear that the German defence of the city could not do anything but temporarily delay the capture of the city by the Soviets, since the decisive stages of the battle had already been fought and lost by the Germans outside the city. By that time, Schörner's offensive, initially successful, had mostly been thwarted, although he did manage to inflict significant casualties on the opposing Polish and Soviet units, slowing down their progress.


Battle in Berlin

The forces available to General Weidling for the city's defence included roughly 45,000 soldiers in several severely depleted German Army (Wehrmacht), German Army and
Waffen-SS The ''Waffen-SS'' (, "Armed SS") was the combat branch of the Nazi Party The Nazi Party, officially the National Socialist German Workers' Party (german: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei or NSDAP), was a political party ...

Waffen-SS
divisions. These divisions were supplemented by the Berlin Police, police force, child soldier, boys in the compulsory
Hitler Youth The Hitler Youth (german: Hitlerjugend , often abbreviated as HJ, ) was the youth organisation of the Nazi Party The Nazi Party, officially the National Socialist German Workers' Party (german: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiter ...
, and the ''
Volkssturm The ''Volkssturm'' (, "people's storm") was a national militia established by Nazi Germany during the last months of World War II. It was not set up by the German Army (1935–1945), German Army, the ground component of the combined German ''Wehr ...

Volkssturm
''. Many of the 40,000 elderly men of the ''Volkssturm'' had been in the army as young men and some were veterans of World War I. Hitler appointed ''SS Brigadeführer'' Wilhelm Mohnke the Battle Commander for the central government district that included the Reich Chancellery and ''Führerbunker''. He had over 2,000 men under his command. Weidling organised the defences into eight sectors designated 'A' through to 'H' each one commanded by a colonel or a general, but most had no combat experience. To the west of the city was the German 20th Motorized Infantry Division, 20th Infantry Division. To the north of the city was the 9th Parachute Division (Germany), 9th Parachute Division. To the north-east of the city was the German Panzer Division Muncheberg, Panzer Division ''Müncheberg''. To the south-east of the city and to the east of Tempelhof Airport was the 11th SS Volunteer Panzergrenadier Division Nordland, 11th SS Panzergrenadier Division ''Nordland''. The reserve, 18th Panzergrenadier Division, was in Berlin's central district. On 23 April, Nikolai Berzarin, Berzarin's 5th Shock Army and Mikhail Katukov, Katukov's 1st Guards Tank Army assaulted Berlin from the south-east and, after overcoming a counter-attack by the German LVI Panzer Corps, reached the Berlin S-Bahn ring railway on the north side of the Teltow Canal by the evening of 24 April. During the same period, of all the German forces ordered to reinforce the inner defences of the city by Hitler, only a small contingent of 33rd Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS Charlemagne (1st French), French SS volunteers under the command of ''SS Brigadeführer'' Gustav Krukenberg arrived in Berlin. During 25 April, Krukenberg was appointed as the commander of Defence Sector C, the sector under the most pressure from the Soviet assault on the city. On 26 April, Vasily Chuikov, Chuikov's 8th Guards Army and the 1st Guards Tank Army fought their way through the southern suburbs and attacked Tempelhof Airport, just inside the S-Bahn defensive ring, where they met stiff resistance from the ''Müncheberg'' Division. But by 27 April, the two understrength divisions (''Müncheberg'' and ''Nordland'') that were defending the south-east, now facing five Soviet armies—from east to west, the 5th Shock Army, the 8th Guards Army, the 1st Guards Tank Army and Pavel Rybalko, Rybalko's 3rd Guards Tank Army (part of the 1st Ukrainian Front)—were forced back towards the centre, taking up new defensive positions around Hermannplatz. Krukenberg informed General Hans Krebs (Wehrmacht general), Hans Krebs, Chief of staff (military), Chief of the German General Staff, General Staff of (Oberkommando des Heeres, OKH) that within 24 hours the ''Nordland'' would have to fall back to the centre sector Z (for ''Zentrum''). The Soviet advance to the city centre was along these main axes: from the south-east, along the Frankfurter Allee (ending and stopped at the Alexanderplatz); from the south along Sonnenallee (Berlin), Sonnenallee ending north of the Belle-Alliance-Platz, from the south ending near the Potsdamer Platz#World War II, Potsdamer Platz and from the north ending near the Reichstag (building), Reichstag. The Reichstag, the Moltke bridge, Alexanderplatz, and the Havel bridges at Spandau saw the heaviest fighting, with house-to-house and hand-to-hand combat. The foreign contingents of the SS fought particularly hard, because they were ideologically motivated and they believed that they would not live if captured.


Battle for the Reichstag

In the early hours of 29 April the Soviet 3rd Shock Army (Soviet Union), 3rd Shock Army crossed the Moltke bridge and started to fan out into the surrounding streets and buildings. The initial assaults on buildings, including the Ministry of the Interior, were hampered by the lack of supporting artillery. It was not until the damaged bridges were repaired that artillery could be moved up in support. At 04:00 hours, in the ''Führerbunker'', Hitler signed his last will and testament of Adolf Hitler, last will and testament and, shortly afterwards, married Eva Braun. At dawn the Soviets pressed on with their assault in the south-east. After very heavy fighting they managed to capture Gestapo headquarters on Prinz-Albrechtstrasse, but a ''Waffen-SS'' counter-attack forced the Soviets to withdraw from the building. To the south-west the 8th Guards Army attacked north across the Landwehr canal into the Tiergarten. By the next day, 30 April, the Soviets had solved their bridging problems and with artillery support at 06:00 they launched an attack on the Reichstag, but because of German entrenchments and support from 12.8 cm FlaK 40, 12.8 cm guns away on the roof of the Zoo flak tower, close by Berlin Zoo, it was not until that evening that the Soviets were able to enter the building. The Reichstag had not been in use since it had Reichstag fire, burned in February 1933 and its interior resembled a rubble heap more than a government building. The German troops inside made excellent use of this and were heavily entrenched. Fierce room-to-room fighting ensued. At that point there was still a large contingent of German soldiers in the basement who launched counter-attacks against the Red Army. On 2 May 1945 the Red Army controlled the building entirely. The famous photo of the two soldiers planting the flag on the roof of the building is a re-enactment photo taken the day after the building was taken. To the Soviets the event as represented by the photo became symbolic of their victory demonstrating that the Battle of Berlin, as well as the Eastern Front hostilities as a whole, ended with the total Soviet victory. As the 756th Regiment's commander Fedor Zinchenko, Zinchenko had stated in his order to Battalion Commander Stepan Neustroev, Neustroev "... the Supreme High Command ... and the entire Soviet People order you to erect the victory banner on the roof above Berlin".


Battle for the centre

During the early hours of 30 April, Weidling informed Hitler in person that the defenders would probably exhaust their ammunition during the night. Hitler granted him permission to attempt a Breakout (military), breakout through the encircling Red Army lines. That afternoon, Hitler and Braun committed Death of Hitler, suicide and their bodies were cremated not far from the bunker. In accordance with Hitler's last will and testament, Admiral Karl Dönitz became the "President of Germany (1919–1945), President of the Reich" (''Reichspräsident'') and Joseph Goebbels became the new Chancellor of the Reich (''Reichskanzler''). As the perimeter shrank and the surviving defenders fell back, they became concentrated into a small area in the city centre. By now there were about 10,000 German soldiers in the city centre, which was being assaulted from all sides. One of the other main thrusts was along Wilhelmstrasse on which the Air Ministry, built of reinforced concrete, was pounded by large concentrations of Soviet artillery. The remaining German Tiger tanks of the Hermann von Salza battalion took up positions in the east of the Tiergarten to defend the centre against Vasily Kuznetsov (general), Kuznetsov's 3rd Shock Army (which although heavily engaged around the Reichstag was also flanking the area by advancing through the northern Tiergarten) and the 8th Guards Army advancing through the south of the Tiergarten. These Soviet forces had effectively cut the sausage-shaped area held by the Germans in half and made any escape attempt to the west for German troops in the centre much more difficult. During the early hours of 1 May, Krebs talked to General Chuikov, commander of the Soviet 8th Guards Army, informing him of Hitler's death and a willingness to negotiate a citywide surrender. They could not agree on terms because of Soviet insistence on unconditional surrender and Krebs' claim that he lacked authorisation to agree to that. Goebbels was against surrender. In the afternoon, Goebbels and his wife Goebbels children#Last days, killed their children and then themselves. Goebbels's death removed the last impediment which prevented Weidling from accepting the terms of unconditional surrender of his garrison, but he chose to delay the surrender until the next morning to allow the planned breakout to take place under the cover of darkness.


Breakout and surrender

On the night of 1/2 May, most of the remnants of the Berlin garrison attempted to break out of the city centre in three different directions. Only those that went west through the Tiergarten and crossed the Charlottenbrücke (a bridge over the Havel) into Spandau succeeded in breaching Soviet lines. Only a handful of those who survived the initial breakout made it to the lines of the Western Allies—most were either killed or captured by the Red Army's outer encirclement forces west of the city. Early in the morning of 2 May, the Soviets captured the Reich Chancellery. General Weidling surrendered with his staff at 06:00 hours. He was taken to see General Vasily Chuikov at 08:23, where Weidling ordered the city's defenders to surrender to the Soviets. The 350-strong garrison of the Zoo flak tower left the building. There was sporadic fighting in a few isolated buildings where some SS troops still refused to surrender, but the Soviets reduced such buildings to rubble.


Hitler's Nero Decree

The city's food supplies had been largely destroyed on Hitler's orders. 128 of the 226 bridges had been blown up and 87 pumps rendered inoperative. "A quarter of the subway stations were under water, flooded on Hitler's orders. Thousands and thousands who had sought shelter in them had drowned when the SS had carried out the blowing up of the protective devices on the Landwehr Canal." Workers had sabotaged and prevented the blowing up of the Klingenberg power station, the Johannisthal waterworks, and other pumping stations, railroad facilities, and bridges prepared with dynamite by the SS in the last days of the war.


Battle outside Berlin

At some point on 28 April or 29 April, General Heinrici, Commander-in-Chief of Army Group Vistula, was relieved of his command after disobeying Hitler's direct orders to hold Berlin at all costs and never order a retreat, and was replaced by General Kurt Arthur Benno Student, Kurt Student. General Kurt von Tippelskirch was named as Heinrici's interim replacement until Student could arrive and assume control. There remains some confusion as to who was in command, as some references say that Student was captured by the British and never arrived. Regardless of whether von Tippelskirch or Student was in command of Army Group Vistula, the rapidly deteriorating situation that the Germans faced meant that Army Group Vistula's coordination of the armies under its nominal command during the last few days of the war was of little significance. On the evening of 29 April, Krebs contacted General Alfred Jodl (Supreme Army Command) by radio: In the early morning of 30 April, Jodl replied to Krebs:


North

While the 1st Belorussian Front and the 1st Ukrainian Front #Encirclement of Berlin, encircled Berlin, and started #Battle in Berlin, the battle for the city itself, Rokossovsky's 2nd Belorussian Front started his offensive to the north of Berlin. On 20 April between Stettin and Schwedt, Rokossovsky's 2nd Belorussian Front attacked the northern flank of Army Group Vistula, held by the III Panzer Army. By 22 April, the 2nd Belorussian Front had established a bridgehead on the east bank of the Oder that was over deep and was heavily engaged with the III Panzer Army. On 25 April, the 2nd Belorussian Front broke through III Panzer Army's line around the bridgehead south of Stettin, crossed the ''Randowbruch'' Swamp, and were now free to move west towards Bernard Montgomery, Montgomery's British 21st Army Group and north towards the Baltic port of Stralsund. The German III Panzer Army and the 21st Army (Wehrmacht), German XXI Army situated to the north of Berlin retreated westwards under relentless pressure from Rokossovsky's 2nd Belorussian Front, and was eventually pushed into a pocket wide that stretched from the Elbe to the coast. To their west was the British 21st Army Group (which on 1 May broke out of its Elbe bridgehead and had raced to the coast capturing Wismar and Lübeck), to their east Rokossovsky's 2nd Belorussian Front and to the south was the United States Ninth Army which had penetrated as far east as Ludwigslust and Schwerin.


South

The successes of the 1st Ukrainian Front during the first nine days of the battle meant that by 25 April, they were occupying large swathes of the area south and south-west of Berlin. Their spearheads had met elements of the 1st Belorussian Front west of Berlin, completing the investment of the city. Meanwhile, the 58th Guards Rifle Division of the 5th Guards Army (Soviet Union), 5th Guards Army in 1st Ukrainian Front Elbe Day, made contact with the 69th Infantry Division (United States) of the United States First Army near Torgau, on the Elbe River. These manoeuvres had broken the German forces south of Berlin into three parts. The German IX Army was surrounded in the Halbe pocket. Wenck's XII Army, obeying Hitler's command of 22 April, was attempting to force its way into Berlin from the south-west but met stiff resistance from 1st Ukrainian Front around Potsdam. Schörner's Army Group Centre was forced to withdraw from the Battle of Berlin, along its lines of communications towards Czechoslovakia. Between 24 April and 1 May, the IX Army fought a desperate action to break out of the pocket in an attempt to link up with the XII Army. Hitler assumed that after a successful breakout from the pocket, the IX Army could combine forces with the XII Army and would be able to relieve Berlin. There is no evidence to suggest that Generals Heinrici, Busse, or Wenck thought that this was even remotely strategically feasible, but Hitler's agreement to allow the IX Army to break through Soviet lines allowed many German soldiers to escape to the west and surrender to the United States Army. At dawn on 28 April, the youth divisions ''Panzer Division Clausewitz, Clausewitz'', ''Scharnhorst Division, Scharnhorst'', and ''Theodor Körner Division, Theodor Körner'' attacked from the south-west toward the direction of Berlin. They were part of Wenck's XX Army Corps (Wehrmacht), XX Corps and were made up of men from the officer training schools, making them some of the best units the Germans had in reserve. They covered a distance of about , before being halted at the tip of Lake Schwielow, south-west of Potsdam and still from Berlin. During the night, General Wenck reported to the German Supreme Army Command in Fuerstenberg that his XII Army had been forced back along the entire front. According to Wenck, no attack on Berlin was possible. At that point, support from the IX Army could no longer be expected. In the meantime, about 25,000 German soldiers of the IX Army, along with several thousand civilians, succeeded in reaching the lines of the XII Army after breaking out of the Halbe pocket. The casualties on both sides were very high. Nearly 30,000 Germans were buried after the battle in the cemetery at Halbe. About 20,000 soldiers of the Red Army also died trying to stop the breakout; most are buried at a cemetery next to the Baruth-Zossen road. These are the known dead, but the remains of more who died in the battle are found every year, so the total of those who died will never be known. Nobody knows how many civilians died but it could have been as high as 10,000. Having failed to break through to Berlin, Wenck's XII Army made a fighting retreat back towards the Elbe and American lines after providing the IX Army survivors with surplus transport. By 6 May many German Army units and individuals had crossed the Elbe and surrendered to the US Ninth Army. Meanwhile, the XII Army's bridgehead, with its headquarters in the park of Schönhausen, came under heavy Soviet artillery bombardment and was compressed into an area eight by two kilometres (five by one and a quarter miles).


Surrender

On the night of 2–3 May, General von Manteuffel, commander of the III Panzer Army along with General von Tippelskirch, commander of the XXI Army, surrendered to the US Army. Von Saucken's II Army, that had been fighting north-east of Berlin in the Vistula Delta, surrendered to the Soviets on 9 May. On the morning of 7 May, the perimeter of the XII Army's bridgehead began to collapse. Wenck crossed the Elbe under small arms fire that afternoon and surrendered to the American Ninth Army.


Aftermath

According to Grigoriy Krivosheev's work based on declassified archival data, Soviet forces sustained 81,116 dead for the entire operation, which included the battles of Seelow Heights and the Halbe; another 280,251 were reported wounded or sick during the operational period. The operation also cost the Soviets about 1,997 tanks and SPGs. Krivosheev noted: "All losses of arms and equipment are counted as irrecoverable losses, i.e. beyond economic repair or no longer serviceable". Soviet estimates based on kill claims placed German losses at 458,080 killed and 479,298 captured, but German research puts the number of dead at approximately 92,000 – 100,000. The number of civilian casualties is unknown, but 125,000 are estimated to have perished during the entire operation. In those areas that the Red Army had captured and before the fighting in the centre of the city had stopped, the Soviet authorities took measures to start restoring essential services. Almost all transport in and out of the city had been rendered inoperative, and bombed-out sewers had contaminated the city's water supplies. The Soviet authorities appointed local Germans to head each city block, and organised the cleaning-up. The Red Army made a major effort to feed the residents of the city. Most Germans, both soldiers and civilians, were grateful to receive food issued at Red Army soup kitchens, which began on Colonel-General Berzarin's orders. After the capitulation the Soviets went house to house, arresting and imprisoning anyone in a uniform including firemen and railwaymen. During and immediately following the assault, in many areas of the city, vengeful Soviet troops (often rear echelon units) engaged in Rape during the occupation of Germany, mass rape, pillage and murder. Oleg Budnitskii, historian at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, told a BBC Radio programme that Red Army soldiers were astounded when they reached Germany. "For the first time in their lives, eight million Soviet people came abroad, the Soviet Union was a closed country. All they knew about foreign countries was there was unemployment, starvation and exploitation. And when they came to Europe they saw something very different from Stalinist Russia ... especially Germany. They were really furious, they could not understand why being so rich, Germans came to Russia". Other authors question the narrative of sexual violence by red army soldiers being more than what was sad normality from all sides during the war, including the western allies. Nikolai Berzarin, commander of the red army in Berlin introduced penalties up to death penalty for looting and rape quickly. Engelmann, Bernt, Berlin - eine Stadt wie keine andere, Bertelsmannverlag, München 1986, S. 267 Nevertheless red army soldiers kept an infamous reputation even in the years after surrender. Despite Soviet efforts to supply food and rebuild the city, starvation remained a problem. In June 1945, one month after the surrender, the average Berliner was getting only 64 percent of a daily ration of . Across the city over a million people were without homes.


Commemoration

All told, 402 Red Army personnel were bestowed the USSR's highest degree of distinction, the title Hero of the Soviet Union (HSU), for their valor in Berlin's immediate suburbs and in the city itself. Marshals of the Soviet Union Zhukov and Konev received their third and second HSU awards respectively, for their roles in the battle's outcome. Combat medic Guards Senior Sergeant Lyudmila Kravets, Lyudmila S. Kravets, was the Battle of Berlin's only female HSU recipient for her valorous actions while serving in 1st Rifle Battalion, 63rd Guards Rifle Regiment, 23rd Guards Rifle Division (subordinate to 3rd Shock Army). Additionally, 280 Red Army enlisted personnel would earn the Soviet Order of Glory First Class and attain status as Full Cavaliers of the Order of Glory for their heroism during the Battle of Berlin. In Soviet society, Full Cavaliers of the Order of Glory were accorded the same rights and privileges as those accorded to Heroes of the Soviet Union. 1,100,000 Soviet personnel who took part in the capture of Berlin from 22 April to 2 May 1945 were awarded the Medal "For the Capture of Berlin". The design of the Victory Banner to be used for celebrations of the Soviet Victory Day (Eastern Europe), Victory Day was defined by a federal law of Russia on 7 May 2007. Poland's official Flag Day is held each year on 2 May, the last day of the battle in Berlin, when the Polish Army hoisted its flag on the Berlin Victory Column.


See also

* Siege of Breslau * German Instrument of Surrender and Berlin Declaration (1945) * German World War II strongholds * Mikhail Minin * Panzerbär * Prague Offensive * Soviet war crimes * Stunde Null


Notes


References

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Originally published in "World War II" at Suite101.com on 1 May 1999. Revised edition published in "Articles On War" a
OnWar.com
on 1 July 2003.


Further reading

* — Includes the Order of Battle for the Battle for Berlin () * * * Marta Hillers, Anonymous; ''A Woman in Berlin: Six Weeks in the Conquered City'' Translated by Anthes Bell, * * * * * * * * — Alternative account of crimes against civilians * RT (TV network), (official channel on YouTube). . 27 June 2010. 26-minute video. {{DEFAULTSORT:Berlin Battle of Berlin, Conflicts in 1945 1945 in Germany 1945 in military history 1940s in Berlin Encirclements in World War II Last stands, Berlin Battles of World War II involving Germany Battles of World War II involving the Soviet Union April 1945 events May 1945 events