Battle of Berlin

Battle of Berlin

:"For the bombing campaign on Berlin by the RAF from November 1943 to March 1944, see Battle of Berlin (air)."Infobox Military Conflict
conflict = Battle of Berlin

caption = Soviet soldiers raising the Soviet flag over the Reichstag after its capture
partof=the Eastern Front of World War II
place = Berlin, Germany
date = 16 April – 2 May 1945
result = Decisive Soviet victory
combatant2 = flag|Nazi Germany|name=Germany
combatant1 = flag|Soviet Union|1923flagicon|Poland Poland
commander1 = 1st Belorussian Frontflagicon|Soviet Union|1923 Georgy Zhukov
2nd Belorussian Frontflagicon|Soviet Union|1923 Konstantin Rokossovsky
1st Ukrainian Front
flagicon|Soviet Union|1923 Ivan Konev

flagicon|Poland Konstanty Rokossowski
strength2=Total strength
766,750 soldiers,
1,519 AFVs, [Wagner, p. 346]
2,224 aircraft [Bergstrom, p. 117.]
9,303 artillery piecesGlantz, p. 373] Initial Soviet estimates had placed the total strength at 1 million men, but this was an overestimate (Glantz, p. 258)]
In the Berlin Defence Area about 45,000 soldiers, supplemented by the police force, Hitler Youth, and 40,000 "Volkssturm".Beevor (2002), p. 287] A large number of the 45,000 were troops of the LVI Panzer Corps that were at the start of the battle part of the German IX Army on the Seelow Heights]
commander2 = Army Group Vistulaflagicon|Germany|Nazi Gotthard Heinrici then flagicon|Germany|Nazi Kurt von TippelskirchHeinrici was replaced by General Kurt Student on 28 April. General Kurt von Tippelskirch was named as Heinrici's interim replacement until Student could arrive and assume control. Student was captured by the British and never arrived.]
Army Group Centre

flagicon|Germany|Nazi Ferdinand Schörner
Berlin Defence Area –

flagicon|Germany|Nazi Hellmuth Reymann then

flagicon|Germany|Nazi Helmuth WeidlingPOWWeidling replaced Oberstleutnant Ernst Kaether as commander of Berlin who only held the post for one day having taken command from Reymann.]
strength1 = Total strength
2,500,000 soldiers,
6,250 tanks,
7,500 aircraft,
41,600 artillery pieces. [Ziemke (1969), p. 71] [Murray, p. 482]
For the investment and assault on the Berlin Defence Area about 1,500,000 soldiers.
casualties2 = Initial Soviet estimate
458,080 killed,
479,298 captured [Glantz, p. 271]
Berlin Defence Area:
22,000 civilian dead,
about 22,000 military dead [Antill, p. 85]
casualties1 =Archival research
81,116 dead or missingKhrivosheev, pp. 219,220.] (including 2,825 Polish)
280,251 sick or wounded
Total casualties 361,367 men
1,997 tanks,
2,108 artillery pieces,
917 aircraft

The Battle of Berlin (German, "Schlacht um Berlin"; Russian, "Битва за Берлин") is a common name for the final strategic offensivesThe last major offensive was the Prague Offensive on 6–11 May 1945, when the Soviet Army with the help of Polish, Romanian, and Czechoslovak forces defeated the parts of Army Group Centre which continued to resist in Czechoslovakia. The operation involved about three million personnel from both sides. The last battle in Europe was the Georgian Uprising of Texel, 5 April – 20 May 1945. See The end of World War II in Europe for details on these final days of the war.] of the European Theatre of World War II, and is known to Soviet historians as the Berlin Strategic Offensive Operation.

Starting on 16 January 1945, the Red Army breached through the German front as a result of the Vistula–Oder Offensive and rapidly advanced westward as fast as 30–40 kilometres a day, through East Prussia, Lower Silesia, East Pomerania and Upper Silesia, temporarily halting on a line 60 kilometres east of Berlin along the Oder River. During the offensive, two Soviet Fronts (army groups) attacked Berlin from the east and south, while a third overran German forces positioned north of Berlin. The Battle in Berlin lasted from late 20 April 1945 until the morning of 2 May and was one of the bloodiest battles in history.

The first defensive preparations at the outskirts of Berlin were on 20 March, when the newly appointed commander of the Army Group Vistula, General Gotthard Heinrici, correctly anticipated that the main Soviet thrust would be made over the Oder River. Before the main battle in Berlin commenced, the Soviets managed to encircle the city as a result to the smaller Battles of the Seelow Heights and Halbe. During 20 April 1945, the 1st Belorussian Front led by Marshal Georgy Zhukov started shelling Berlin's city centre, while Konev's 1st Ukrainian Front had pushed in the north through the last formations of Army Group Centre. The German defences were mainly led by Helmuth Weidling and consisted of several depleted, badly equipped and disorganised Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS divisions, as well as many "Volkssturm" and Hitler Youth members. Within the next days, the Soviets were rapidly advancing through the city and were reaching the city centre, conquering the Reichstag on 30 April after fierce fighting.

Before the battle was over, German dictator Adolf Hitler and many of his followers committed suicide. The city's defenders finally surrendered on 2 May. However, 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 USSR) as German units fought westward so that they could surrender to the Western Allies rather than to the Soviets.


Starting on 12 January 1945, the Red Army began the Vistula-Oder offensive across the Narew River and, from Warsaw, a three-day operation on a broad front which incorporated four army Fronts. [Duffy, pp. 24,25] On the fourth day, the Red Army broke out and started moving west, up to thirty to forty kilometres per day, taking the Baltic states, Gdańsk, East Prussia, and Poznań, drawing up on a line sixty kilometres east of Berlin along the Oder River.Hastings, p. 295]

The newly created Army Group Vistula, under the command of "Reichsführer-SS" Heinrich Himmler, [Beevor (2002), p. 52] attempted a counter-attack but failed by 24 February. [Duffy, pp. 176–188] The Red Army then drove on to Pomerania, clearing the right bank of the Oder River, thereby reaching into Silesia.

In the south the Battle of Budapest raged. Three German attempts to relieve the encircled Hungarian capital city failed and Budapest fell to the Soviets on 13 February. [Duffy, p. 293] The Germans counter-attacked again, Adolf Hitler insisting on the impossible task of regaining the Danube River. [Beevor (2002), p. 9] Clarifyme|date=October 2008 By 16 March, the Germans' Lake Balaton Offensive had failed, and within twenty-four hours a counter-attack by the Red Army took back everything the Germans had gained in ten days. [Dollinger, p. 198] On 30 March, the Soviets entered Austria and, during the Vienna Offensive, they finally captured Vienna on 13 April. [Beevor (2002), p. 196]

Between June and September 1944 the Wehrmacht had lost more than a million men, lacking fuel and armament needed in order to operate effectively. [Williams, p. 213] On 12 April, Adolf Hitler, who decided earlier to remain in the city against the wishes of his advisers, heard the news that the American President Franklin D. Roosevelt had died. [Bullock, p. 753] This briefly raised false hopes in the Führerbunker 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). [Bullock, pp. 778–781]

No plans were made by the Western Allies to seize the city by a ground operation.Beevor (2002), p. 194] U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower lost his interest in the race to Berlin and saw no further need to suffer casualties in attacking a city that would be in the Soviet sphere of influence after the war. [Williams, pp. 310,311] General Eisenhower foresaw excessive friendly fire if both armies attempted to occupy the city at once. [Ryan, p. 135] The major Western Allied contribution to the battle was the strategic bombing of Berlin during 1945. [Milward, p. 303] During 1945 the United States Army Air Forces launched a number of very large daytime raids on Berlin, and for 36 nights in succession scores of RAF Mosquitos bombed the German capital, ending on the night of 20/21 April 1945 just before the Soviets entered the city. [ "History of the de Havilland Mosquito"] , Royal Australian Air Force. Retrieved on 13 September 2008.]


The Soviet offensive into central Germany—what later became East Germany—had two objectives. Stalin 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. [Beevor (2003), p. 219] The two were complementary because possession of the zone could not be won quickly unless Berlin was taken. Another consideration was that Berlin itself held useful post-war strategic assets, including Adolf Hitler and the German atomic bomb programme. [Beevor (2002), Preface xxxiv, and pp. 138,325] On 6 March, Hitler appointed Lieutenant General Helmuth Reymann as the commander of the Berlin Defence Area replacing Lieutenant General Bruno Ritter von Hauenschild. [Beevor (2003), p. 166]

On 20 March, General Gotthard Heinrici was appointed Commander-in-Chief of Army Group Vistula replacing "Reichsführer-SS" Heinrich Himmler. [Beevor (2003), p. 140] 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 River and along the main east-west Autobahn. [Williams, p. 292] He decided not to try to defend the banks of the Oder with anything more than a light skirmishing screen. Instead, Heinrici arranged for engineers to fortify the Seelow Heights which overlooked the Oder River at the point where the Autobahn crossed it. This was some 17 kilometres west of the Oder and 90 kilometres 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 by releasing the waters in a reservoir upstream. Behind this the engineers built three belts of defensive emplacements. These emplacements reached back towards the outskirts of Berlin (the lines nearer to Berlin were called the "Wotan" position). These lines consisted of anti-tank ditches, anti-tank gun emplacements, and an extensive network of trenches and bunkers.Ziemke (1969), p. 76]

On 9 April, after a long resistance Königsberg in East Prussia finally fell to the Red Army.Williams, p. 293] This freed up Marshal Rokossovsky's 2nd Belorussian Front to move west to the east bank of the Oder river. Marshal Georgy Zhukov concentrated his 1st Belorussian Front which had been deployed along the Oder river from Frankfurt in the south to the Baltic, into an area in front of the Seelow Heights. [Williams, p. 322] 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's German II Army, which had been bottled up in a pocket near Danzig, managed to escape into the Vistula Delta. [Beevor (2003), p. 426] To the south, Marshal Konev shifted the main weight of the 1st Ukrainian Front out of Upper Silesia north-west to the Neisse River.Ziemke (1969), p. 71]

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 pieces and mortars, 3,255 truck-mounted Katyusha rocket launchers (nicknamed 'Stalin's Pipe Organs'), and 95,383 motor vehicles, many manufactured in the USA.

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, fought over four days from 16 April until 19 April, was one of the last pitched battles of World War II, given that it required a commitment of almost one million Red Army troops and more than 20,000 tanks and artillery pieces were in action to break through the "Gates to Berlin" which was defended by about 100,000 German soldiers and 1,200 tanks and guns.Beevor (2002), pp. 217–233] However, the Soviet forces led by Zhukov eventually broke through the defensive positions, having suffered about 30,000 casualties, while the Germans lost 12,000 personnel. [It is the norm to expect for the attacker to suffer greater casualties than the defender in almost any war, and certainly the Second World War on all fronts; Beevor (2002), p. 274]

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. [Beevor (2003), p. 255] One powerful thrust by Gordov's 3rd Guards Army and Rybalko's 3rd and Lelyushenko's 4th Guards tank armies were heading north east towards Berlin while other armies headed west towards a section of United States Army front line south west of Berlin on the Elbe.Beevor (2002), pp. 312–314] In doing so, the Soviet forces were driving a wedge between the German Army Group Vistula in the north and Army Group Centre 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 envelop the German IX Army in a large pocket west of Frankfurt. Attempts by the IX Army to break out to the west would result in the Battle of Halbe. The cost to the Soviet forces had been very high between 1 April and 19 April, with over 2,807 tanks lost, including at least 727 at the Seelow Heights.Ziemke (1969), p. 84]

Encirclement of Berlin

On 20 April, Hitler's birthday, Soviet artillery of 1st Belorussian Front began to shell the centre of Berlin and did not stop until the city surrendered (the weight of ordnance delivered by Soviet artillery during the battle was greater than the tonnage dropped by the Western Allied bombers on the city). [Antony Beevor speaking as himself in the documentary [ "Revealed" Hitler's Secret Bunkers (2008)] ] While the 1st Belorussian Front advanced towards the east and north-east of the City, the 1st Ukrainian Front had pushed through the last formations of the northern wing of Army Group Centre and had passed north of Juterbog well over halfway to the American front lines on the river Elbe at Magdeburg.Beevor (2002), p. 337] To the north between Stettin and Schwedt, 2nd Belorussian Front attacked the northern flank of Army Group Vistula, held by Hasso von Manteuffel's III Panzer Army. During the next day, the Bogdanov's 2nd Guards Tank Army advanced nearly 50 km north of Berlin and then attacked south west of Werneuchen. The Soviet plan was to encircle Berlin first and then envelop the IX Army.Ziemke (1969), p. 88]

The command of the V Corps trapped with the IX Army north of Forst, passed from IV Panzer Army to the IX Army. The corps was still holding onto the Berlin-Cottbus highway front line. [Simons, p. 78] When the old southern flank of IV Panzer Army had some local successes counter attacking north against 1st Ukrainian Front, Hitler gave orders which showed that his grasp of military reality had gone and ordered IX Army to hold Cottbus and set up a front facing west. [Beevor (2002), p. 345] Then they were to attack into the Soviet columns advancing north. This would allow them to form the northern pincer which would meet with the IV Panzer Army coming from the south and envelop the 1st Ukrainian Front before destroying it. [Beevor (2003), p. 248] They were to anticipate an attack south by the III Panzer Army and to be ready to be the southern arm of a pincer attack which would envelop 1st Belorussian Front which would be destroyed by SS-General Felix Steiner's Army Detachment advancing from north of Berlin. Later in the day, when Steiner made it plain 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 was about to be enveloped by the Soviets and he stressed it was already too late for it to move north-west to Berlin and would have to retreat west.Beevor (2002), p. 310–312] Heinrici went on to say that if Hitler did not allow it to move west he would ask to be relieved of his command.Ziemke (1969), pp. 87,88]

On 22 April, at his afternoon situation conference Hitler fell into a tearful rage when he realised that his plans of the day before were not going to be realised. He declared that the war was lost, he blamed the generals and announced that he would stay on in Berlin until the end and then kill himself. In an attempt to coax Hitler out of his rage, General Alfred Jodl speculated that the XII Army, under the command of General Walther Wenck, that was facing the Americans, could move to Berlin because the Americans, already on the Elbe River, were unlikely to move further east. 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.Ziemke (1969), p. 89]

Elsewhere, the 2nd Belorussian Front had established a bridgehead on the east bank of the Oder over 15 km deep and was heavily engaged with the III Panzer Army.Beevor (2003), p. 353] 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.Ziemke (1969), p. 92]

A Soviet war correspondent gave this account, in the style of World War Two Russian journalism, of an important event that day—the capital was now within range of field artillery: [Lewis, p. 465] quote|On the walls of the houses we saw Goebbels' appeals, hurriedly scrawled in white paint: 'Every German will defend his capital. We shall stop the Red hordes at the walls of our Berlin.' Just try and stop them!
Steel pillboxes, barricades, mines, traps, suicide squads with grenades clutched in their hands—all are swept aside before the tidal wave.
Drizzling rain began to fall. Near Bisdorf I saw batteries preparing to open fire.
'What are the targets?' I asked the battery commander.
Centre of Berlin, Spree bridges, and the northern and Stettin railway stations,' he answered.
Then came the tremendous words of command: 'Open fire at the capital of Fascist Germany.'
I noted the time. It was exactly 8:30 a.m. on 22 April. Ninety-six shells fell in the centre of Berlin in the course of a few minutes.

On 23 April, the Soviet 1st Belorussian Front and 1st Ukrainian Front continued to tighten the encirclement, including severing the last link that the German IX Army had with the city. Elements of 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 as the commander of the Berlin Defence Area replacing Lieutenant General Reymann. [Beevor (2002), p. 294] Meanwhile, by 24 April elements of 1st Belorussian Front and 1st Ukrainian Front had completed the encirclement of the city.Ziemke (1969), pp. 92–94] Within the next day, 25 April, the Soviet investment of Berlin was consolidated with leading Soviet units probing and penetrating the S-Bahn defensive ring. [Beevor (2003), p. 313] By the end of the day there was no prospect that the German defence of the city could do anything but temporarily delay the capture of the city by the Soviets as the decisive stages of the battle had already been fought and lost by the Germans outside the city.Ziemke (1969), p. 111]

Battle in Berlin

The forces available to Weidling for the city's defence included several severely depleted "Wehrmacht" and "Waffen-SS" divisions, in all about 45,000 men. These divisions were supplemented by the police force, boys in the compulsory Hitler Youth, and the "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. The commander of the central district, "SS Brigadeführer" Wilhelm Mohnke, who had been appointed to this position by Hitler, had over 2,000 men under his command.The Soviets later estimated the number as 180,000, but this was from the number of prisoners that they took, and included many unarmed men in uniform, such as railway officials and members of the Reich Labour Service.(Beevor (2002), p. 287)] 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 XX Infantry Division. To the north of the city was the IX Parachute Division. [Beevor (2002), p. 223] To the north-east of the city was the Panzer Division "Müncheberg". To the south-east of the city and to the east of Tempelhof Airport was the XI SS "Panzergrenadier" Division "Nordland". [Beevor (2002), p. 243] The reserve, XVIII "Panzergrenadier" Division, was in Berlin's central district. [Ziemke (1969), p. 93]

Berlin's fate was sealed, given that the decisive stages of the battle were fought outside the city, but the resistance inside continued. On 23 April Berzarin's 5th Shock Army and Katukov's 1st Guards Tank Army assaulted Berlin from the south east and after overcoming a counter attack by the German LVI Panzer Corps had by the evening of the 24 April reached the Berlin S-Bahn ring railway on the north side of the Teltow Canal. 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 French SS volunteers under the command of "Brigadeführer" Gustav Krukenberg arrived in Berlin.Beevor (2002), pp. 259,297] 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.Beevor (2002), pp. 291,292, 302]

On 26 April German "General der Artillerie" Helmuth Weidling was appointed commander of the Berlin Defence Area.Dollinger, p. 228] 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 the 27 April the two understrength "Müncheberg" "Norland" divisions defending the south east, now facing five Soviet armies—from east to west they were the 5th Shock Army, the 8th Guards Army, the 1st Guards Tank Army and 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. [Beevor (2002), pp. 246,247] Krukenberg informed General Hans Krebs Chief of the General Staff of (OKH) that within 24 hours the "Nordland" would have to fall back to the centre sector Z (for "Zentrum").Beevor (2002), pp. 303,304] 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 Sonnen Allee ending north of the Belle Alliance Platz, from the south ending near the Potsdamer Platz and from the north ending near the Reichstag.Beevor (2002), p. 340] The Reichstag, the Moltke bridge, Alexanderplatz, and the Havel bridges at Spandau were the places where the fighting was heaviest, 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.Beevor (2002), pp. 257,258]

Battle for the Reichstag

In the early hours of the 29 April the Soviet 3rd Shock Army crossed the Moltke bridge and started to fan out into the surrounding streets and buildings. [Beevor (2003), p. 371–373] 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.Beevor (2002), p. 349] At 04:00 hours, in the Führerbunker, Hitler signed his last will and testament and, shortly afterwards, married Eva Braun. [Beevor (2002), p. 343] At dawn the Soviets pressed on with their assault in the south east. After very heavy fighting they managed to capture the Gestapo headquarters on Prinz-Albrechtstrasse, but a Waffen SS counter-attack forced the Soviets to withdraw from the building.Beevor (2003), p. 375] To the south west the 8th Guards Army attacked north across the Landwehr canal into the Tiergarten.Beevor (2003), p. 377]

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 88 mm guns two kilometres away on the Berlin Zoo flak tower it was not until that evening that the Soviets were able to enter the building.Beevor (2003), p. 380] The Reichstag had not been in use since 1934 when it burned and the insides resembled a rubble heap more than a government building. The German troops inside had made excellent use of this and lay heavily entrenched waiting. Fierce room-to-room fighting ensued and it was not until two days later that the Red Army controlled the building entirely. [Beevor (2003), pp. 390–397] 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. [,1518,551972,00.html "Iconic Red Army Reichstag Photo Faked"] , Spiegel Online, 7 May 2008. Retrieved on 13 September 2008.] However another flag was planted earlier by two different soldiers during the fight itself which was immediately flown to Moscow.

Battle for the centre

During the early hours morning of 30 April, Weidling informed Hitler in person that the defenders would probably exhaust their ammunition through the night. Hitler gave him the permission to attempt a breakout through the encircling Red Army lines. [Beevor (2002), p. 358] That afternoon, Hitler and Braun committed suicide and their bodies were cremated not far from the bunker. [Bullock, pp. 799,800] In accordance to Hitler's last will and testament, Admiral Karl Dönitz became the "President of Germany" ("Reichspräsident") in the new Flensburg government, and Joseph Goebbels became the new Chancellor of Germany ("Reichskanzler"). [Williams, pp. 324,325]

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 Kutznetsov'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. [Beevor (2003), p. 381] 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.Beevor (2002), pp. 385,386]

During the early hours of 1 May, Krebs talked to General Chuikov, commander of the Soviet 8th Guards Army,Dollinger (p.239) states 3am, and Beevor (2003) p. 391) 4am, for Krebs' meeting with Chuikov] informing him of Hitler's death and a willingness to negotiate a city wide surrender. [Beevor (2003), p. 391] However, they could not agree on terms because of Soviet insistence on unconditional surrender and Krebs' claim that he lacked authorisation to agree to that. [Dollinger, p. 239] In the afternoon Goebbels (who was against surrender) and his family killed themselves. [Beevor (2003), p. 405] Goebbels's suicide removed the last impediment preventing Weidling's being able to accept the terms of unconditional surrender of his garrison, but he chose to delay the surrender until the next morning to give some time until dark for the planned breakout. [Beevor (2003), p. 406]

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.Beevor (2002), pp. 383–389] However, 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.Ziemke (1969), pp. 125,126] Early in the morning of 2 May, the Soviets captured the Reich Chancellery. The military historian Antony Beevor points out that as most of the German combat troops had left the area in the breakouts the night before, the resistance must have been far less than it had been inside the Reichstag. [Beevor (2002), p. 388] General Weidling finally surrendered with his staff at 06:00 hours. He was taken to see General Vasily Chuikov at 08:23. Weidling agreed to order the city's defenders to surrender to the Soviets. [Beevor (2002), p. 386] Under General Chuikov's and Vasily Sokolovsky's direction, Weidling put his order to surrender in writing.

The 350-strong garrison of the Zoo flak tower finally left the building. While there was sporadic fighting in a few isolated buildings where some SS troops still refused to surrender, the Soviets simply reduced such buildings to rubble. [Beevor (2002), p. 409] Beevor suggests that most Germans, both soldiers and civilians, were grateful to receive food issued at Red Army soup kitchens. The Soviets went house to house and rounded up anyone in a uniform including firemen and railway-men and marched them all eastward as prisoners of war.Beevor (2002), pp. 388–393]

Battle outside Berlin

At some point on 28 April or 29 April, General Gotthard 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 Student.Beevor (2002), p. 338] General Kurt von Tippelskirch was named as Heinrici's interim replacement until Student could arrive and assume control, while there remains some confusion as to who was actually 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 coordination of the armies under its nominal command during the last few days of the war was of little significance.Ziemke (1969), p. 128]

On the evening of 29 April, Krebs contacted General Alfred Jodl (Supreme Army Command) by radio: bquote|Request immediate report. Firstly of the whereabouts of Wenck's spearheads. Secondly of time intended to attack. Thirdly of the location of the IX Army. Fourthly of the precise place in which the IX Army will break through. Fifthly of the whereabouts of General Rudolf Holste's spearhead.

In the early morning of 30 April, Jodl replied to Krebs: bquote|Firstly, Wenck's spearhead bogged down south of Schwielow Lake. Secondly, XII Army therefore unable to continue attack on Berlin. Thirdly, bulk of IX Army surrounded. Fourthly, Holste's Corps on the defensive.


While the 1st Belorussian Front and the 1st Ukrainian Front encircled Berlin, and started the battle for the city itself, Rokossovsky's 2nd Belorussian Front started his offensive to the north of Berlin. On the 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 15 km deep and was heavily engaged with the III Panzer Army.Ziemke (1969), p. 92] 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 Montgomery's British 21st Army Group and north towards the Baltic port of Stralsund.Ziemke (1969), p. 94]

The German III Panzer Army and the 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 20 miles (32 km) 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 Ninth United States Army which had penetrated as far east as Ludwigslust and Schwerin.Ziemke (1969), p. 129]


The successes of the 1st Ukrainian Front during the first nine days of the battle meant that by 25 April, they were in occupying large swaths 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 1st Ukrainian Front's 58th Guards Division of the 5th Guards Army made contact with the US 69th Infantry Division of the 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. [Beevor (2003), p. 350] Wenck's XII Army, obeying Hitler's command of the 22 April, was attempting to force its way into Berlin from the south west but met stiff resistance from units of the 1st Ukrainian Front in the area of Potsdam. [Beevor (2003), pp. 345,346] Schörner's Army Group Centre was forced to withdraw from the Battle of Berlin, along its lines of communications towards Czechoslovakia. [Beevor (2003), p. 426]

Between 24 April and 1 May, the German IX Army fought a desperate action to break out of the pocket in an attempt to link up with the German XII Army. [Le Tissier, p. 117] 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.Le Tissier, pp. 89,90] However 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 did provide a window of opportunity through which sizable numbers of German troops were able to escape west and surrender to the United States Army.Beevor (2002), p. 330]

At dawn on 28 April, the youth divisions "Clausewitz", "Scharnhorst" and "Theodor Körner", attacked from the south west toward the direction of Berlin. They were part of Wenck's 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 24 kilometres (15 miles), before being halted at the tip of Lake Schwielow, south-west of Potsdam and still 32 kilometres (20 miles) from Berlin.Ziemke (1969), p. 119] 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 now possible. This was even more so as support from the IX Army could no longer be expected at this point.Dollinger, p. 239] 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. There are about 30,000 Germans buried 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 Mark-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.Beevor (2002), p. 337]

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.Beevor (2002), p. 395] By 6 May many German Army units and individuals had crossed the Elbe and surrendered to the US Ninth Army. Meanwhile, the XII's bridgehead with its headquarters in the park of Schönhausen, had come under heavy Soviet artillery bombardment and had been compressed into an area eight by two kilometres (five by one and a quarter miles).Beevor (2002), p. 397]


On the night of 2/3 May, General Hasso von Manteuffel, commander of the III Panzer Army along with General Kurt von Tippelskirch, commander of the XXI Army, surrendered to the US Army.Ziemke (1969), p. 128] 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 Wenck's XII Army's bridgehead began to collapse. Wenck crossed the Elbe under small arms fire that afternoon and surrendered to the American Ninth Army.


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; some earlier Western estimates are much higher. Another 280,251 were reported wounded or sick during the operational period. Included in that total are Polish forces, which lost 2,825 killed or missing and 6,067 wounded in the operation. The operation also cost the Soviets about 2,000 armored vehicles, though the number of irrevocable losses (write-offs) is not known. Initial Soviet estimates based on kill claims placed German losses at 458,080 killed and 479,298 captured.captured prisoners included many unarmed men in uniform, such as railway officials and members of the Reich Labour Service.(Beevor (2002), p. 287)] The number of civilian casualties is unknown. [Glantz, p. 271]

The Red Army made a major effort to feed the residents of the city. [Beevor (2002), p. 409] However, in many areas of the city, vengeful Soviet troops (often rear echelon units [Beevor (2002), pp. 326,327] ) looted, raped an estimated 100,000 women and murdered civilians for several weeks (see Red Army atrocities).Beevor, Antony. [,3604,707835,00.html "They raped every German female from eight to 8"] , The Guardian, 1 May 2002. Retrieved on 13 September 2008.] In the preceding months, as the Red Army began its offensives into Germany proper, STAVKA recognised the potential for lapses in discipline involving vengeful troops and had been able to check such behavior to a certain extent. Marshal Konev, in a 27 January order near the conclusion of the Vistula-Oder Offensive supplied a long list of commanders to be reassigned to penal battalions for looting, drunkenness, and excesses against civilians.Duffy, p. 275] The initial chaos in the aftermath of Berlin, however, was far too widespread to be deterred or controlled. Some Soviet officers resorted to punishing or even shooting offending troops on the spot in the streets.Moeller, pp. 42–63] After the summer of 1945, Soviet authorities regained discipline over their troops, and Soviet soldiers caught raping were usually officially punished to various degrees. [Naimark, p. 92] However, Berlin had been suffering food shortages for many months, caused by Allied strategic bombing and exacerbated by the final military assault on the city.Kuby, p. 159] Despite serious Soviet efforts to supply food and rebuild the city, starvation remained a problem.White, p. 126] Almost all the transport in and out of the city had been rendered inoperative, and bombed-out sewers had contaminated the city's water supplies. In June of 1945, one month after the surrender, when the Americans arrived in their sector of Berlin they found that average calorie intake of Berliners was low as they were getting only 64 percent of a 1,240-calorie daily ration. [Ziemke (1990), p. 303] Varying degrees of coerced sex, particularly in the Soviet occupation zone, became ways through which some women managed to secure the necessities of day-to-day life. [Ziemke (1969), pp. 149,153] Grossman, Atina. "A Question of Silence: The Rape of German Women by Occupation Soldiers." "October", Vol. 72 (Spring, 1995), pp. 42-63. In the years following the end of the war in Europe, abortions were mostly granted to women who claimed they were raped by foreigners. The rapists in most of these claims were Soviet troops. American and French soldiers and foreign workers were also accused of the crime in several other cases.] Rapes continued until the winter of 1947–48, when the Soviet occupation authorities finally eliminated the problem by confining the Soviet troops to strictly guarded posts and camps. [Naimark, p. 79]

ee also

* Battle of Breslau
* German Instrument of Surrender, 1945 and Berlin Declaration (1945)
* German World War II strongholds
* Leonidas Squadron
* National Redoubt
* Mikhail Minin





*Grossman, Atina. "A Question of Silence: The Rape of German Women by Occupation Soldiers." October, Vol. 72 (Spring, 1995), pp. 42-63.
* cite book| author= Ziemke, Earl F |title= Battle for Berlin End of the Third Reich Ballantine's Illustrated History of World War II (Battle Book #6) |publisher= Ballantine Books |year= 1969 |isbn= |pages=
*Ziemke Earl F.(1990) " [ The U.S. Army in the occupation of Germany 1944-1946] ", Center of Military History, United States Army, Washington, D. C., 1990, Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 75-619027. " [ Chapter 17 Zone and Sector] "

Further reading

*Antill, P. [ Battle for Berlin: April – May 1945] . Includes the Order of Battle for the Battle for Berlin (Le Tissier, T. "The Battle of Berlin 1945", Jonathan Cape, London, 1988.
*Anonymous; "" Translated by Anthes Bell, ISBN 0-8050-7540-2
*Read, Anthony and Fisher, David; "The Fall of Berlin", London: Pimlico, 1993. ISBN 0-7126-0695-5
*Sanders, Ian J. ; [ Photos of World War 2 Berlin Locations today]
*Shepardson, Donald E.; "The Fall of Berlin and the Rise of a Myth", "The Journal of Military History", Vol. 62, No. 1. (1998), pp. 135–153.
*Remme, Tilman; " [ The Battle for Berlin in World War Two] " BBC article
* White, Osmar [ By the eyes of a war correspondent] Alternative account of crimes against civilians


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