- Helmuth Weidling
Infobox Military Person
name=Helmuth Otto Ludwig Weidling
2 November 1891– death date and age|1955|11|17|1891|11|2
Halberstadt, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany
Vladimir, Soviet Union
German Empire(to 1918)
Weimar Republic(to 1933)
serviceyears=1911 — 1945
XL Panzer Corps XLI Panzer Corps LVI Panzer Corps
Berlin Defense Area
World War I World War II
Knight's Crossof the Iron Crosswith Oak Leaves and Swords
Helmuth Otto Ludwig Weidling (
2 November 1891– 17 November 1955) was an officer in the German Army(" Wehrmacht Heer") before and during World War II. Weidling was the last commander of the BerlinDefense Area during the Battle of Berlin, defending the city against Soviet forces and finally surrendering just before the end of World War II in Europe.
During Weidling's military career he was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords (see also
Weidling was born in
Halberstadt, Province of Saxony. He entered the military in 1911.
Poland, France, and Russia
In November 1938, Weidling became a
Colonel(" Oberst") of the 56th ArtilleryRegiment. He fought with this regiment in the Polish Campaignof 1939. In April 1940, Weidling was appointed Artillery Commander of the XL Tank Corps ("XL Panzer Korps"). He fought with this corps during the Battle of Franceand during the early stages of Operation Barbarossa.
1 January 1942, still on the Eastern Front, Weidling was appointed to command the 86th InfantryDivision. One month later he was promoted to the rank of Major-General(" Generalmajor"). On 1 January 1943, Weidling was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-General(" Generalleutnant").
XLI tank corps
15 October 1943, Weidling became the Commanding General of the XLI Tank Corps ("XLI Panzer Korps"). He was to hold this command to 10 April 1945. There was a short break from 19 June 1944to 1 July 1944when Lieutenant-General ("Generalleutnant") Edmund Hoffmeistercommanded the tank corps. Weidling was given command of the XLI Tank Corps after the unit took part in the Battle of Kursk( 4 Julyto 20 July). Two months after being given command of the XLI Tank Corps, Weidling was promoted to rank of Artillery General("General der Artillerie").
10 April 1945, Weidling was relieved of his command and transferred to the Officer Reserve ("Führerreserve") of the Army High Command ("Oberkommando des Heeres" or OKH). Two days later, he was appointed as commander of the LVI Tank Corps ("LVI Panzer Korps"). The LVI Tank Corps was part of Gotthard Heinrici's Army Group Vistula("Heeresgruppe Weichsel"). As commander of this tank corps, Weidling began his involvement in the Battle of Berlin.
LVI tank corps
16 April, Weidling prepared to take part in the Battle of the Seelow Heightswhich was part of the broader Battle of the Oder-Neisse. Weidling's LVI Tank Corps was in the center with the CI Army Corps to his left and the XI SSTank Corps to his right. All three corps were part of General Theodor Busse's 9th Army which was defending the heights above the Oder River. While all three corps were in generally good defensive positions, all three were conspicuously short of tanks. Weidling's commander, Heinrici, had seen that earlier in the day, Hitler had transferred three tank divisions from Army Group Vistula to the command of recently promoted Field Marshal(" Generalfeldmarschall") Ferdinand Schörner. [Beevor, Antony. "Berlin: The Downfall 1945", Penguin Books, 2002, ISBN 0-670-88695-5, Page 2250]
Oberst") Theodor von Dufvingwas Weidling's Chief-of-Staff and Colonel (" Oberst") Hans-Oscar Wöhlermannwas his Artillery Officer during the time that Weidling commanded the LVI Tank Corps.
19 April, Schörner's Army Group Centrewas collapsing and the position of Army Group Vistula was becoming untenable. Heinrici was forced to pull back what was left of his forces, including Weidling's LVI Tank Corps. The defensive line on the Seelow Heights was the last major defensive line outside of Berlin. With the loss of this position, the road to Berlin lay wide open. To escape envelopment and total annihilation, Weidling pulled his corps back with the rest of Army Group Vistula.
Commander of the Berlin Defense Area
22 April, German dictator Adolf Hitlerordered that Weidling be executedby firing squad. Hitler believed that, as commander of the LVI Tank Corps, Weidling had ordered his tank corps to retreat in the face of advancing Soviet forces. Ordering a retreat would be in defiance of Hitler's standing orders to the contrary. As such, Weidling's actions required a death sentence. This situation turned out to be a misunderstanding and it was cleared up before Weidling's execution could take place.
23 April, Hitler appointed Weidling as the commander of the BerlinDefense Area. He replaced Lieutenant General ("Generalleutnant") Helmuth Reymann, Colonel (" Oberst") Ernst Kaether, and Hitler himself. Reymann had only held the position since 6 March. Starting 22 April, Kaether had held the position for less than one day. For a short period of time, Hitler took personal control of Berlin's defenses with Major General Erich Bärenfängeras his deputy. Weidling was ordered by Hitler to defend the city of Berlin. Specifically, he was ordered not to surrender and to fight to the last man.
The forces available to Weidling for the city's defence included roughly 45,000 soldiers in several severely depleted German Army ("
Wehrmacht Heer") and Armed SS(" Waffen-SS") divisions. These depleted divisions were supplemented by the Berlin policeforce, boys in the compulsory Hitler Youth, and about 40,000 elderly men of the Home Guard (" Volkssturm"). The commander of the central district was Protective Squadron (" Schutzstaffel", SS) Brigade Leader (" SS Brigadeführer") Wilhelm Mohnke. Mohnke had been appointed to his position by Hitler himself and he had over 2,000 men under his direct command. The Soviets were to later estimate the number of defenders in Berlin at 180,000. But this was based on the number of prisoners that they took. The prisoners included many unarmed men in uniform, such as railway officials and members of the Reich Labour Service (" Reichsarbeitsdienst"). Weidling organized the defences into eight sectors designated "A" through to "H". Each sector was commanded by a colonel or a general. But most of the colonels and generals had no combat experience. To the west of the city was the 20th Motorized Infantry Division. To the north of the city was the 9th Parachute Division. To the north-east of the city was the "Müncheberg" Tank Division (" Panzer Division Müncheberg"). To the south-east of the city and to the east of Tempelhof Airportwas the 11th SS Volunteer Armored Infantry Division "Nordland" ("SS Nordland Panzergrenadier Division"). Weidling's reserve, the 18th Armored Infantry Division ("18th Panzergrenadier Division"), was in Berlin's central district.
25 April, Weidling ordered Major-Generalof the Reserve ("Generalmajor der Reserve") Werner Mummert, commander of "Müncheberg" to take command of the German LVI Army Corps. Weidling ordered that the command of "Müncheberg" be handed over to Colonel (" Oberst") Hans-Oscar Wöhlermann. Wöhlermann was the artillery commander for the city.
26 April, Weildling ordered "Müncheberg" and "Nordland" to attack towards Tempelhof Airport and Neukölln. At first, with its last ten tanks, "Müncheberg" made good progress against a surprised Soviet foe. However, the surprise wore off and was replaced with fierce defensive fire and several local counter-attacks. These soon halted the tank division's advance.
26 April 1945, Weidling chose as his headquarters the old army headquarters on the Bendlestrasse, the " Bendlerblock." It possessed well-equipped air-raid shelters and it was close to the Reich Chancellery. In the depths of the Bendlerblock, his staff did not know whether it was day or night.Beevor, Antony. "Berlin: The Downfall 1945", Penguin Books, 2002, ISBN 0-670-88695-5, Page 320]
Flooding of the Berlin underground
Around noon on
26 April, Weidling relieved Wöhlermann of command and Mummert was reinstated as commander of the "Müncheberg" Tank Division. The following is from the diary of an officer with "Müncheberg" and describes the evening of 26 April.
"Scarlet night. Heavy artillery fire. Uncanny silence. We get shot at from many houses. Foreign workers, no doubt. From the Air Ministry comes news that Major General
Erich Bärenfängerhas been relieved of his post of commander of the Berlin garrison. One hour later we hear that General Weidling is our new commander. General Mummert takes charge of the Tank Corps . . ."Dollinger, Hans. "The Decline and Fall of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan", Library of Congress Catalogue Card # 67-27047, Page 232]
Late in the evening of
26 April, Weidling presented Hitler with a detailed proposal for a breakout from Berlin. When Weidling finished, Hitler shook his head and said: "Your proposal is perfectly all right. But what is the point of it all? I have no intentions of wandering around in the woods. I am staying here and I will fall at the head of my troops. You, for your part, will carry on with your defence." On 27 April, very early in the morning, Hitler ordered the flooding of the Berlin underground to slow the advancing Soviets. Hitler's order resulted in the drowning of thousands of German soldiers under Weidling's command and civilians who had taken refuge in the tunnels. The diary of the officer with the "Müncheberg" Tank Division went on to describe the flooding.
"New command post: Anhalter subway station. Platforms and control rooms look like an armed camp. Women and children huddle in niches and corners. Others sit about in deck chairs. They all listen for the sounds of battle . . . Suddenly water starts to pour into the station. Screams, sobs, curses. People fighting around the ladders that run through the air shafts up to the streets. Masses of gurgling water rush over the stairs. Children and wounded are abandoned and trampled to death. The water covers them, rises three feet or more and then slowly goes down. The panic lasts for hours. Many are drowned. Reason: On somebody's orders, engineers have blasted the locks of the canal between Schoeneburg and
MockernBridges to flood the tunnels against the advancing Russians. Meanwhile heavy fighting has been going on above ground level. Change of position to Potsdamer Platz subway station in the late afternoon. Command post on the first floor, as tunnels still under water. Direct hits on the roof. Heavy losses among wounded and civilians. Smoke pours in through the shell holes. Outside, stacks of Panzerfausts go up in the air. Another direct hit, one flight below street level. A horrible sight: Men, soldiers, women, and children are literally glued to the wall."
Weidling wrote the following in his diary:
"At 0500 hours, after a violent bombardment and with very strong air support, the Russians attacked on both sides of the Hohernzollerndamm. Defence Zone Headquarters was under heavy fire. The account for the sins of past years had arrived.
Potsdamer Platzand Leipzigerstrasse were under heavy artillery bombardment. Brick and stone dust hung in the air like a thick fog. The car in which I was driving to Major General Erich Bärenfängercould only make slow progress. Shells were bursting on all sides. We were showered with splinters of stone. Near the Castle we halted the car and walked the last part of the way to the Alexanderplatz.
Everywhere the streets were full of craters and broken brickwork, and streets and squares lay desolate. To reach cover from a Russian heavy mortar bombardment, we had to cross the Alexanderplatz to the Underground in short rushes. In the spacious, two-level Underground station the populace had taken refuge. Masses of scared people were standing and lying packed together. It was a shattering sight . . . .
During the day we lost both Tempelhof and Gatow airports, and that put a stop to the landing of airborne supplies. Although an emergency landing strip had been prepared in the Zoo, only small machines could land there. By
28 Aprilwe could no longer use this landing strip because of deep shell-holes. In my afternoon situation report I spoke of the sufferings of the population and the wounded, and about everything I had seen with my own eyes during the course of the day . . . . "
The diary of the officer with the "Müncheberg" Tank Division also described the "flying
courts-martial" prevalent at this time.
"Flying courts-martial unusually prominent today. Most of them very young SS officers. Hardly a decoration among them. Blind and fanatical. The hope of relief and the fear of these courts bring men back to the fighting. General Mummert refuses to allow any further courts-martial in the sector under his command . . . He is determined to shoot down personally any courts-martial that appears . . . We cannot hold the Potsdamer Platz and move through the subway tunnel to Nollendorferplatz. In the tunnel next to ours, the Russians are advancing in the opposite direction."
By the end of the day on
27 April, Weidling and the forces under his command in Berlin found themselves to be completely cut off from the rest of Germany. As "Müncheberg" was engaged in desperate fighting in Wilmersdorf, the encirclement of Berlin was completed and the remnants of the city's defenders were trapped. The Soviet Information Bureau announced that troops of the 1st Belorussian Fronthad broken through strong German defenses around Berlin and, approaching from the east and from the south, had linked up in Berlin and northwest of Potsdam. These link ups cut Berlin off from the outside world. The Soviet Information Bureau went on to announce that troops of the 1st Belorussian Front took Gartenstadt, Siemenstadt, and the Goerlitzer Railway Station in eastern Berlin. [Dollinger, Hans. "The Decline and Fall of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan", Library of Congress Catalogue Card # 67-27047, Page 233]
When Weidling discovered that a major part of the last line of the German defenses in Berlin were "manned" by Hitler Youth, he ordered German Youth Leader ("
Reichsjugendführer") Artur Axmannto disband the Hitler Youth combat formations in the city. But, in the confusion, his order was never carried out. In the end, many German youths did die defending Berlin. The following is from an account of an interview with a member of the Hitler Youth who was preparing to defend a bridge over the Havel. The interview took place on either 28 Aprilor 29 April. When the Hitler Youth was asked how it was that he was fighting at this bridge when he was only thirteen years old, he pointed at his comrades (many of them from Oranienburg) and said:
"The Head Banner Leader ("Hauptbannfuehrer", or district leader), Frischefskly, had all of us fetched from our homes by policemen and ordered us to report to the
SSbarracks and on the Castle Square. Then we were divided into two separate squads and attached to various SS and Volkssturm units. We were detailed to fight north and east of the town. Most of us were killed by rifle fire, when we were ordered to attack across an open field. Later the fighting shifted to the center of the town. This lasted for two days. During these two days and nights, Oranienburgchanged hands several times. Nearly all of us died. Then the Russians started to hammer us with their Stalin Organs. And, when we called it a day and headed for home, we were stopped and had to go along to Eden, across the canal. My Youth-Group Leader, who refused, was hanged on the nearest tree by a few Protective Squad (" Schutzstaffel", SS) men and one Storm Division (" Sturmabteilung", SA, "Brownshirts") man. He was fifteen. Then the rest of our squad —- eight of the original one-hundred-and-twenty —- decided to do as we were told. Soon after the bridge across the canal was blown up, and they left us in peace. I met a few schoolmates who told me that the "Hauptbannfuehrer" himself, his girlfriend, and Hitler Youth Leader Schiller of the Aerotechnical School had made off to the West two days earlier on bicycles. I then walked to Veltenand tried to make for Henningsdorf, where I have an aunt. But, just before I got there, I was picked up. Then I had to fight in Reinickendorf, on the Spandauroad. Then we pulled out. This morning we were picked up again and ordered to fight right here." [Dollinger, Hans. "The Decline and Fall of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan", Library of Congress Catalogue Card # 67-27047, Page 235]
29 April, the Soviet Information Bureau announced that troops of the 1st Belorussian Front continued to clear the streets of Berlin, occupied the northwest sector of Charlottenburgas far as Bismark Street, the west half of Moabit, and the east part of Schoeneberg. Troops of the 1st Ukrainian Frontoccupied Friedenauand Grunewaldin northwest Berlin.Dollinger, Hans. "The Decline and Fall of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan", Library of Congress Catalogue Card # 67-27047, Page 238]
During the evening of
29 April, Weidling's headquarters in the Bendlerblockwas now within metres of the front line. Weidling discussed with his divisional commanders the possibility of breaking out to the southwest to link up with the Wenck's Army. Wenck's spearhead had reached the village of Ferch on the banks of the Schwielowseenear Potsdam. The breakout was planned to start the next night at 22:00. [Beevor, Antony. "Berlin: The Downfall 1945", Penguin Books, 2002, ISBN 0-670-88695-5, Page 352]
30 April, the Soviet Information Bureau announced that troops of the 1st Belorussian Front captured Moabit, Anhalter Railway Station, Joachimsthalto the north of Berlin, and Neukölln, Marienwerder, and Liebenwalde. Troops of the 1st Ukrainian Front occupied the southern part of Wilmersdorf, Hohenzollerndamm, and Halensee Railway Station.
Late in the morning of
April 30, with the Soviets less than 500 metres from the bunker, Hitler had a meeting with Weidling who informed Hitler that the Berlin garrison would probably run out of ammunition that night. Weidling asked Hitler for permission to break out, a request he had made unsuccessfully before. Hitler did not answer at first and Weidling went back to his headquarters in the Bendlerblockwhere at about 13:00 he got Hitler's permission to try a breakout that night. [Beevor, Antony. "Berlin: The Downfall 1945", Penguin Books, 2002, ISBN 0-670-88695-5, p.358]
Hitler and Braun committed
suicide, Braun by taking cyanideand Hitler by simultaneously taking cyanide and shooting himself. Some witnesses later reported hearing a loud gunshot at around 15:30. Per instructions, their bodies were burned.
Afterwards, when Weidling reached the Führerbunker, he was met by Goebbels, Bormann, and Krebs. They took him to Hitler's room, where the couple had committed suicide. They told him that their bodies had been burned and buried in a shell crater in the garden above. Weidling was forced to swear that he would not repeat this news to anybody. The only person in the outside world who was to be informed was
Joseph Stalin. An attempt would be made that night to arrange an armistice, and General Krebs would inform the Soviet commander so that he could inform the Kremlin.Beevor, Antony. "Berlin: The Downfall 1945", Penguin Books, 2002, ISBN 0-670-88695-5, Page 364]
A rather dazed Weidling rang Colonel
Hans Refior, his civil Chief of Staff, in the Bendlerblockheadquarters soon afterward. Weidling said that he could not tell him what had happened, but he needed various members of his staff to join him immediately, including Colonel Theodor von Dufving, his military Chief-of-Staff.
In accordance with Hitler's last will and testament,
Joseph Goebbels, the Minister for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, became the new " Head of Government" and Chancellor of Germany(" Reichskanzler"). On 1 Mayat 03:15, "Reichskanzler" Goebbels and Bormann (head of the Party Chancellery("Parteikanzlei") and private secretary to Hitler) sent a radio message to Admiral Karl Dönitzinforming him of Hitler's death. Per Hitler's last wishes, Dönitz was appointed as the new "President of Germany" (" Reichspräsident").
1 May, within hours of Hitler's suicide, "Reichskanzler" Joseph Goebbels sent German General Hans Krebsand Weidling's Chief-of-Staff, von Dufving, under a white flagto talk with General Vasily Chuikov. Chuikov, as commander of the Soviet 8th Guards Army, commanded the Soviet forces in central Berlin. Krebs arrived shortly before 04:00, taking Chuikov by surprise. Krebs spoke Russian fluently and informed Chuikov that Hitler and Eva Braun, his wife, had killed themselves in the Führerbunker. Chuikov, who was not aware that there was a bunker under the Reich Chancelleryor that Hitler was married, calmly said that he already knew. Chuikov was not, however, prepared to negotiate with Krebs. The Soviets were unwilling to accept anything other than unconditional surrender. Krebs was not authorized by Goebbels to agree to an unconditional surrender.Dollinger, Hans. "The Decline and Fall of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan", Library of Congress Catalogue Card # 67-27047, Page 239]
The meeting between Krebs and Chuikov ended with no agreement. According to Hitler's personal private secretary Traudl Junge, Krebs returned to the bunker looking "worn out, exhausted". The surrender of Berlin was thus delayed until Goebbels himself committed suicide.
In the late afternoon of
1 May, the Goebbels childrenwere poisoned by their father and mother. At about 20:30, Goebbels ordered an SS guard to accompany him to the garden of the Reich Chancellery. He also ordered the guard to shoot both him and his wife and to burn the bodies.
It was now up to Weidling to negotiate with the
Surrender to Chuikov
Chuikov: "You are the commander of the Berlin garrison?"
Weidling: "Yes, I am the commander of the LVI Tank Corps."
Chuikov: "Where is Krebs?"
Weidling: "I saw him yesterday in the
Reich Chancellery. I thought he would commit suicide. At first he (Krebs) criticized me because unofficial capitulation started yesterday. The order regarding capitulation has been issued today."
Vasily Sokolovskyentered with an immediate question. The conversation continued:
Weidling: "So far as I know, Goebbels and his family were to commit suicide. The Fuehrer took poison on
April 30. His wife also poisoned herself."
Chuikov: "Did you hear that or see that?"
Weidling: "I was in the Reich Chancellery on the evening of
April 30. Krebs, Bormann, and Goebbels told me about it."
Chuikov: "So the war is over?"
Sokolovsky: "Issue an order regarding complete surrender, so that there will be no resistance in individual sectors. Better late than never."
Weidling: "We have neither ammunition nor heavy weapons. Therefore resistance cannot last long. All the Germans have become confused, and they will not believe me that the Fuehrer is dead."
Chuikov: "Write an order regarding complete capitulation. Then your conscience will be clear."Dollinger, Hans. "The Decline and Fall of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan", Library of Congress Catalogue Card # 67-27047, Page 240]
"On April 30, 1945, the Fuehrer committed suicide, and thus abandoned those who had sworn loyalty to him. According to the Fuehrer's order, you German soldiers would have had to go on fighting for Berlin despite the fact that our ammunition has run out and despite the general situation which makes our further resistance meaningless. I order the immediate cessation of resistance. WEIDLING, General of Artillery, former District Commandant in the defence of Berlin"
Chuikov and Sokolovsky reviewed what Weidling had written and the conversation continued.
Chuikov: "There is no need to say 'former'. You are still commandant."
Weidling: "Jawohl!" How shall it be headed, as an appeal or an order?"
The meeting between Weidling and Chuikov ended at 8:23 am on
2 May 1945. Later that same day, loudspeakers announced Weidling's surrender and copies of his order were distributed to the remaining defenders. With the exception of scattered areas of resistance and of desperate efforts to break out, the Battle for Berlinwas over.
The Soviet forces took Weidling into custody as a
prisoner of warand flew him to the Soviet Union. He never returned to Germany alive.
27 February 1952, a Soviet military tribunal in Moscow sentenced Weidling to 25 years of imprisonment for not surrendering Berlin sooner. Fact|date=January 2008 Weidling died on 17 November 1955, apparently in the custody of the KGBin Vladimir. KGB records listed the cause of death as "arterial and cardiac sclerosis along with circulatory collapse."
* Beevor, Antony. "Berlin: The Downfall 1945", Penguin Books, 2002, ISBN 0-670-88695-5
* Dollinger, Hans. "The Decline and Fall of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan", Library of Congress Catalogue Card Number 67-27047
Portrayal in the media
Helmuth Weidling has been portrayed by the following actors in film and television productions.
Michael Goodliffein the 1973 British film "".cite web | url = http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0070184/ | title = Hitler: The Last Ten Days (1973) | accessdate = May 8 | accessdaymonth = | accessmonthday = | accessyear = 2008 | author = | last = | first = | authorlink = | coauthors = | date = | year = | month = | format = | work = | publisher = IMDb.com| pages = | doi = | archiveurl = | archivedate = | quote = ]
Michael Mendlin the 2004 German film "Downfall" ("Der Untergang").cite web | url = http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0363163/ | title = Untergang, Der (2004) | accessdate = May 8 | accessdaymonth = | accessmonthday = | accessyear = 2008 | author = | last = | first = | authorlink = | coauthors = | date = | year = | month = | format = | work = | publisher = IMDb.com| pages = | doi = | archiveurl = | archivedate = | quote = ]
* Documentary film "Der Todeskampf der Reichshauptstadt" (The Death Struggle of the Reich Capital) (1995) [http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0194453/maindetails IMDB entry] ISBN 3-937163-70-0
* Invasion of Poland - 1939
Battle of France- 1940
Operation Barbarossa- 1941
* Eastern Front - 1941 to 1945
Battle for Berlin- 1945
Hans Krebs, German General and Chief-of-Staff
Theodor Busse, Commander of the German 9th Army
Walther Wenck, Commander of the German 12th Army
Gotthard Heinrici, Commander of Army Group Vistula- 20 Marchto 28 April 1945
Hans Refior, Weidling's "Civil" Chief-of-Staff
Theodor von Dufving, Weidling's "Military" Chief-of-Staff
Siegfried Knappe, Weidling's adjutant during the Battle for Berlin
* [http://www.aeronautics.ru/archive/wwii/books/panzertruppen/web_gallery/pages/color_027.htm Picture of Helmuth Weidling]
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