The Defense of the Reich
For the German people, the first week of February was the darkest of the war. The coming months would bring despair and destruction but not another shock equal to the sudden appearance of the Russians on the Oder River. Three weeks earlier, the front had still been deep in Poland and nowhere on German soil. Now Upper Silesia was lost; in East Prussia a German army group was being cut to pieces; West Prussia and Pomerania were being defended by a skeleton army group under a novice commander; and the defense of the Oder would have to be entrusted to armies that had already been defeated on the Vistula and chased across Poland. If the Russians maintained their rate of advance, and there seemed to be no reason why they could not, they would be on the Rhine in another three weeks.
In the depths of a crisis, Hitler had always found relief and refuge in the untrammeled power of decision and the illusion of being able to determine the outcome. He did so again that first week of February. To Himmler's Army Group Vistula he gave four missions: to establish a solid front on the Oder upstream from Schwedt; to stop the Russians south and west of Stargard and hold a staging area there for an attack into the flank of Second Guards Tank Army, which was leading the advance to the Oder; to keep his front anchored on the Vistula in the east; and, lastly, to prevent the Russians from pushing north into Pomerania and West Prussia. As a postscript Hitler added that after the Elbing road had been cleared Second Army was to "resume" the advance toward Army Group North.1 In his orders to that army group he did not mention restoring contact with Second Army. He told Rendulic to place his main effort in the north, in the Koenigsberg area, and on the southwest to hold the line Braunsberg-Wormditt and prevent Fourth Army's being pushed away from the coast.2
The directive to Army Group Courland, which on 3 February had successfully seen through what was called the Fourth Battle of Courland, instructed it to finish transferring two infantry divisions to Army Group Vistula and one to North (ordered on 1 February) and prepare to take out a fourth division.3 Generaloberst Heinrich-Gottfried von Vietinghoff genannt Scheel, Rendulic's successor, answered that losing another division gave him "a fright," his
front was becoming so thin. On the other hand, he observed, the army group was not tying down an equal proportion of Soviet strength, and he, therefore, did not believe holding Courland served a militarily useful purpose. He hinted that the whole army group ought to be evacuated before, with the advent of spring, the days began to lengthen.4
On the southern half of the front, Army Group Center's mission, to try to get a front on the Oder, was obvious without a directive. In the Army Group South zone, even though Hitler ranked the Nagykanizsa oil fields as the strategically most vital area on the whole Eastern Front, it appeared that for the near future, at least, the initiative would have to be surrendered to the Russians. The Budapest relief had failed, and Hitler had no further interest in the garrison except to have it hold out as long as possible. On the night of 5 February he again refused to permit a breakout, claiming that it could not succeed anyway.5
The I and II SS Panzer Corps were on the way to Austria, but troop movements by rail across Germany were taking more time than had once been required to reach central U.S.S.R. The Western Theater Command reported that frequently the stations were bombed out before the troops reached them; the trains had to be made up and loaded at night without any lights; the rolling stock was in poor condition; sometimes tanks and trucks broke through the car beds; up to one-third of the cars were unusable.6 The days when a main line could be cleared for troop trains were past; even the existence of a continuous line of any kind to the destination could not be guaranteed from hour to hour.
On 6 February, Hitler ordered Woehler to station four of the SS divisions near Györ and the fifth behind Nagykanizsa. Their presence was to be kept secret, and they would stay under the control of the OKH., The Russians, Hitler predicted, were ready to strike toward Vienna. The mission of the army group was to hold Nagykanizsa, Szekesfehervar, and Komarno and prevent the breakthrough to Vienna.7
In three weeks the Soviet Army had accomplished its most spectacular victory of the war. Stalin could go to Yalta with Poland in his pocket. While his armies stood scarcely more than a day's march away from the German capital, the Allied armies on the west were still fighting to retake ground they had lost during the Ardennes offensive. On 26 January, Zhukov reported that, if he were allowed four days to bring up fresh troops, supplies, and some new equipment, he could be ready by 1 or 2 February to attack toward Berlin. Konev stated that he could be ready two or three days later to carry the offensive across the Oder in his sector.8
The offensive had run thus far without a hitch. The Soviet armor and other mechanical equipment, no doubt, needed
to be replenished and repaired.9 The infantry, on the other hand, particularly that of Zhukov's and Konev's fronts, had engaged in comparatively little heavy fighting. Soviet casualties in January, the Germans calculated, were close to 20 percent less than the average monthly losses during the four months' 1944 summer offensive. Because of the relatively light Soviet casualties and the splitting off of additional German forces, the offensive, German Intelligence concluded, "Has imposed an enormously greater strain on our own strength than it has on that of the enemy."10 The January thaw, which a former Soviet correspondent remembers as "Bringing out the snowdrops and purple crocuses in neglected gardens," was the most untoward occurrence of the offensive thus far.11 The ice breaking up in the Oder made the river more of an obstacle than it might otherwise have been, and the mud slowed the Soviet tanks and possibly increased the effectiveness of Hitler's bicycle-mounted Panzerjaeger against them, but those were petty annoyances.
In response to Zhukov's proposal to strike toward Berlin in the first days of February, Stalin raised only one objection. He told Zhukov that he was worried about the thinly held 90-mile sector between the First Belorussian and Second Belorussian Fronts' flanks and instructed him to wait until Rokossovskiy had come farther west. He thought that would take ten days or two weeks.12 The Stavka then ordered Zhukov to shift his front's weight west as Rokossovkiy advanced and to concentrate on expanding the bridgeheads flanking Kuestrin.
Meanwhile, the other fronts were to keep moving. The Stavka transferred Rokossovskiy's three right flank armies to Third Belorussian Front, thereby relieving him of any concern with the cleaning out of East Prussia, and directed him to use his remaining armies plus an army from the reserve to occupy West Prussia and Pomerania from Danzig to Stettin. Konev, under orders to push toward Dresden, in seven days shifted three armies, including Third Guards Tank Army, from Upper Silesia to the Steinau bridgehead north of Breslau.13
The Soviet Offensive Falters
Konev Stops on the Neisse
On 8 February First Ukrainian Front attacked out of the Steinau bridgehead between Glogau and Breslau with five armies, two of them tank armies. (Map 39) German Intelligence had detected the shift from Upper Silesia early, and the OKH had put three divisions, two of them still rebuilding, at Schoerner's disposal. Schoerner also had to worry about the Brieg-Ohlau bridgehead south of Breslau, where two armies and two tank corps had for several days been threatening to break away and cut the army group's lateral
The Soviet Offensive Falters
4-24 February 1945
communications lines forward of the Sudeten. He had relocated the Fourth Panzer-Seventeenth Army boundary to give the former responsibility for the Steinau bridgehead and the latter for the Brieg-Ohlau bridgehead.
On the first day, the 8th, Third Guards Tank Army battered its way out of the southern end of the Steinau bridgehead and the adjoining small Leubus bridgehead. By nightfall it reached the outskirts of Liegnitz and began turning elements southwest behind Breslau.14 On the 10th the army went past Liegnitz to the Bober River below Bunzlau. To the north Fourth Tank Army overran Panzer Corps Grossdeutschland and took Primkenau, seven miles east of the Bober. To frustrate Fourth Panzer and Seventeenth Armies' attempts to prevent the thrusts out of the bridgeheads from meeting behind Breslau, Konev then resorted to the maneuver he had employed east of the Oder in January. He turned Third Guards Tank Army south and in three days' heavy fighting encircled Breslau; 35,000 troops and 116,000 civilians stayed in the city.15 The main thrust continued west to and across the Queiss River and northwest across the lower Bober north of Sagan. The fortress Glogau (4,100 soldiers and 7,800 civilians) was encircled.16
Relieved temporarily by Third Guards Tank Army's turning south, Fourth Panzer Army, on 14 and 15 February, counterattacked along the Bober north of Sagan, cutting behind Fourth Tank Army, which was driving toward the Neisse. By the 16th Third Guards Tank Army had turned west again and was ready to strike across the Queiss toward Goerlitz. Schoerner threw one panzer division into a flank attack from the south, but that could not even slow the tank army. By the 18th Fourth Tank Army had cleared its lines to the rear, and in the next three days five Soviet armies closed to the Neisse from its confluence with the Oder to five miles north of Goerlitz; from there the front angled east and slightly south in an almost straight line to the Oder at Oppeln.
On 21 February the OKH advised Army Groups Vistula and Center that the Soviet main effort would be on the Oder-Neisse line between Schwedt (on the right flank of Army Group Vistula's Oder front) and Goerlitz; the expected thrusts toward Berlin and Dresden would probably be accompanied by secondary offensives into Pomerania and toward Moravska Ostrava.17 Five days earlier the Eastern Intelligence Branch, OKH, had concluded that because of the progress of operations in Lower Silesia and Pomerania the Stavka had decided it did not need to worry about the flanks any longer and could go ahead with the offensive into central Germany.
Agent reports on 15 February indicated that First Belorussian Front was drawing infantry off the front in Pomerania to relieve the First and Second Guards Tank Armies along the Oder. By the 17th the two tank armies were out of the Oder front and appeared to be regrouping in the rear for an attack west. Along the river,
SOVIET INFANTRYMEN APPROACH A DISABLED GERMAN TANK
agents and air reconnaissance were picking up numerous other clues to an offensive in the making: heavy artillery and antiaircraft batteries were moving up, mine fields were being cleared, changes were being made in radio traffic patterns, and new tanks and trucks were being brought in.
In the Army Group Center zone Third Guards Tank Army's fast about-face west of Breslau showed it was obviously in a hurry to get to the Neisse. Air reconnaissance disclosed that the Polish railroads had been relaid to east of Poznan (the Poznan fortress held out until 23 February) and east of Breslau. In Lower Silesia the Soviet engineers were rushing to build bridges on the recently crossed rivers, an indication that the First Ukrainian Front planned to keep the offensive rolling. From one of the Soviet tank corps the Germans captured maps covering the area between the Elbe and the Neisse.18
Crossing the Neisse against the six divisions Fourth Panzer Army had on the river should not have been difficult; nevertheless, on 21 February Konev called a halt. Perhaps the offensive had not gone as well as he had expected. The Germans two or three times had created at least inconvenient situations, and the tank armies had not achieved a full-scale operational breakthrough.
Most likely, however, the decision to stop First Ukrainian Front on the Neisse was part of a fundamental revision of Soviet strategy brought on by developments of which the operation in Lower Silesia was only a part.
The Oder, West Prussia, and East Prussia
While the First Ukrainian Front was engaged between the Oder and the Neisse, the First and Second Belorussian Fronts had been grappling for elbow room against Army Group Vistula. Zhukov had used the infantry armies on his right flank to clean out the pockets at Arnswalde, Schneidemuehl, and Deutsch-Krone and had ordered his first echelon to enlarge the Oder bridgeheads.19 With four untested, incomplete divisions--Doeberitz, Kurmark, Gross-Berlin, and 30 Januar--and two panzer divisions from the Western Theater, Ninth Army had put up a stiff fight on the river.
In the first week of the month the Russians had joined the three small bridgeheads at Guestebiese, Kienitz, and Genschmar north of Kuestrin, expanded the Aurith bridgehead south of Frankfurt, and taken a new one at Goeritz in which they pushed far enough north and west to cut off the Kuestrin fortress. But on 9 February a Ninth Army counterattack had reopened a corridor to Kuestrin. Even though the army was nowhere near strong enough to execute the order Hitler had issued the next day, to "smash" all the Oder bridgeheads within forty-eight hours, it had held its ground, in places gained a little, and might have done better had it not had to transfer a panzer division to Army Group Center.
On 10 February Second Belorussian Front had attacked west of Grudziadz. In the West Prussian woods and swamps the thaw had made the going rough, and Second Army had fought hard to stave off the fate that had befallen its neighbors to the east. Advancing slowly, the Russians had reached Choinice on the 14th. A breakthrough there would have cut off Second Army in West Prussia; the army's center now dipped southeast of Grudziadz. When Weiss asked permission to evacuate Grudziadz, contending that he could either keep the contact on his right or defend West Prussia and the ports, Danzig and Gdynia, but not do both, Himmler had answered that Second Army had three missions: keep a secure contact on its right, protect the ports, and hold Grudziaz. In the latter instance it was to follow the "great example" of Courbière. Examples from the Seven Years' War and the Napoleonic Wars had recently become popular in Hitler's circle, and, unfortunately for many a German soldier, it seemed that nearly every old Prussian city had successfully withstood a siege in one war or the other.20 On the 15th Second Belorussian Front had pushed north and east between Choinice
and Grudziadz; but after gaining another five or so miles on the west and twenty on the east without achieving a breakthrough, Rokossovskiy had stopped the offensive on 19 February.
In East Prussia, by 13 February, Third Belorussian Front had pushed Fourth Army out of the Heilsberg triangle. First Baltic Front had forced the remnants of Third Panzer Army, renamed Armeeabteilung Samland, back to the tip of the Samland Peninsula. Together, the two fronts had isolated Koenigsberg. In another week, Third Belorussian Front had confined Fourth Army to a 35- by 15-mile beachhead around Heiligenbeil. In the fighting the front commander, Chernyakovskiy, was killed and Vasilevskiy took command. Though the German position was hopeless, that of the Russians was at least frustrating. Heavy snowfalls early in the month followed by a sudden thaw had snarled Soviet supply movements and interfered with air operations. First Baltic Front, short on equipment and ammunition from the start, did not have first class troops or leadership. The presence of two major commands operating against three separate groups in a small area induced on the Soviet side something like a musclebound condition.
Toward the end of the third week in the month, the Stavka, after some urging, got Bagramyan to disregard Koenigsberg for the time being and concentrate his forces against the Germans on Samland while Vasilevskiy did the same against the Heiligenbeil pocket. But on the 20th, two days before Bagramyan's push was to begin, Armeeabteilung Samland launched a spoiling attack that caught the Russians off guard and carried all the way to Koenigsberg. The end of the battle for East Prussia, to the Russians the "cradle of German militarism," was not yet in sight. The Stavka abolished First Baltic Front, joined its units to Third Belorussian Front as the Samland Group, and gave Vasilevskiy a month to reorganize and clean out the German pockets.21
By the end of the third week in February the great Soviet 1945 winter offensive had come to a dead halt. Caution was in the air. Obviously, the Stavka had decided that the time to deliver the death blow was not yet. The Stavka's decision coincided exactly with two incidents: one took place at Stargard in Pomerania, the other on the Hron River in Hungary.
The Stargard offensive ranks as one of the war's closest approaches to a planned fiasco. The idea of a two-pronged counterattack east of the Oder to pinch off the tip of the Soviet spearhead aimed at Berlin was Guderian's. It was an attractive variant of Hitler's pet formula for stopping breakthroughs--hold the corner posts and counterattack on the flanks. But, to evade the compelling logic of Guderian's argument that Sixth SS Panzer Army should be one of the attack groups, Hitler opted for a single-pronged offensive out of the Stargard area.22
Having lost the southern half of his offensive, Guderian became all the more determined to see through the half that was left. He demanded breadth (three attack groups on a 30-mile front), depth, and speed. Above all, speed. The offensive, he insisted, had to be readied and executed "like lightning" before the Russians could get a firm hold on the Oder. Himmler, at first, when all he saw was the chance for a brilliant victory, was enthusiastic.23
In what, for the time, was itself a remarkable feat, the OKH scraped together two corps headquarters and ten divisions, seven of them panzer divisions, for the Stargard offensive. To bring together quickly a force that size over railroads operating, when they ran at all, at about 40 percent of normal efficiency because the engines were burning lignite, and to outfit and supply it in the face of catastrophic equipment, ammunition, and gasoline shortages was all but impossible. By 10 February, the eighth day of the assembly, of the trains loaded less than half had arrived.24
Headquarters, Third Panzer Army, was ordered out of Samland to take command, but because it arrived late the command stayed in the hands of the newly created Headquarters, Eleventh SS Panzer Army. Under a strict injunction not to commit any of the forces allocated for the offensive prematurely, the army group was hard put to hold the assembly area and finally had to put several of the new divisions into the front anyway. The upshot was that the army group staff and the OKH soon diverged in their thinking as to when the offensive could start.
Talking to Himmler on 9 February, Guderian, in an offhand manner he sometimes affected, remarked, by way of soliciting the actual decision, that he expected the offensive would be in progress by the 16th. Himmler replied that he was not ready to commit himself to a specific date and wanted to await the next several days' developments before making a decision.25 Unfortunately for Himmler, his patent lack of qualifications as an army group commander left his judgment open to question even when it appeared sound. In Guderian he met an antagonist whose own judgment was less than impeccable. Guderian apparently convinced himself that Himmler was stalling to conceal his incompetence.26 The idea was not difficult to come by since Himmler, in moving his headquarters behind the Oder and refusing to show himself anywhere near the front, had revealed a deficiency of combative spirit that contrasted sharply with the martial tone he cultivated in speaking and writing.
On 13 February Guderian arranged a showdown and, in Hitler's presence, demanded that his deputy, General der Panzertruppen Walter Wenck, be given a special mandate to command the Army Group Vistula offensive.27 At the end
Hitler told Wenck that he was to go to Army Group Vistula with a "special mandate," but he did not say what Wenck's authority was.28 The effect was to take the power of final decision away from Himmler without specifically giving it to Wenck, which probably suited Guderian exactly, since he seems to have been intent mainly on using Wenck to force his own concepts on the army group.
Wenck, on his arrival at Army Group Vistula, and after paying his respects to Himmler, went across the Oder to Eleventh SS Panzer Army to inspect the preparations in person--a worthwhile undertaking since Himmler had thus far not taken the trouble to do it and the Eleventh SS Panzer Army staff, an upgraded corps staff under SS-Oberstgruppenfuehrer (General) Felix Steiner, fell short of being the ideal instrument for conducting a major offensive. After satisfying himself that the units for the offensive were in fact not fully assembled or equipped, Wenck resorted to the unpromising alternative of starting piecemeal, mostly, it would appear, to satisfy Guderian. On the night of 14 February Eleventh SS Panzer Army reported that on the basis of the total Eastern Front situation, as Wenck described it, the army realized that even a small attack was urgently needed; it intended, therefore, to make a thrust toward Arnswalde (seven miles off the front with a small encircled German garrison) the next morning.29
The one-division Arnswalde attack caught the Russians unawares; the division's point reached the town in the early afternoon. It would have taken more self-control than Army Group Vistula and the OKH shared between them to throw away so tempting a start. The army group ordered the whole operation, hopefully code-named SONNENWENDE (Solstice), to begin the next day.
Unready and inexperienced, Eleventh SS Panzer Army wasted the 16th trying to feel out the enemy. It was not until the afternoon of the 16th that the army command was prepared to decide tentatively where to concentrate its effort; by then, even though Steiner insisted he could get rolling within another two days, the offensive was stuck.30 That night, on the way back from a conference with Hitler, Wenck was severely injured in an automobile accident. That he could have salvaged SONNENWENDE, as Guderian later claimed, is doubtful.
Rain and mud confined the tanks to the roads. Himmler ordered the attack to continue through the night of the 17th, but that did not help.31 The next day mine fields and strong antitank defenses brought SONNENWENDE to its inglorious conclusion. Eleventh SS Panzer Army had gained at the most two to three miles by the night of the 18th, when by a "directive for regroupment," Himmler stopped the offensive.32
As far as the Germans could tell, the offensive had hardly evoked a ripple behind the Soviet front. Ninth army reported on the 19th that the Oder sector was "conspicuously" quiet; all the signs indicated
that First Belorussian Front would attack toward Berlin within the next few days. Ninth Army predicted that, off its right flank, First Ukrainian Front would be crossing the Neisse in a day.33 On the 21st, in conjunction with the directive issued to Army Groups Vistula and Center on that day, Hitler officially ended SONNENWENDE and ordered Himmler to transfer a corps headquarters and three of the divisions to Army Group Center.34 Headquarters, Third Panzer Army, took command of the divisions that were left, and Steiner and his staff, currently not in favor with Himmler, moved across the Oder to act as a central collecting agency for stragglers.35
Unknown to the Germans SONNENWENDE had achieved an impact on the Soviet side altogether out of proportion to the befuddlement that had surrounded the operation since its inception. A complete failure on the ground, it, nevertheless, hit exactly the most fragile feaure of the Soviet plan, the requirement for a certain amount of daring in the second phase of the offensive. At mid-February, unless the Germans were deliberately deceived, which is unlikely because it would have been pointless, the First Belorussian and First Ukrainian Fronts were fully deployed for the attack toward Berlin. SONNENWENDE, as the Germans observed, did not disturb the deployment; but on 17 February the Stavka suddenly scrapped the whole original plan and ordered Zhukov to turn north and join Rokossovskiy against Army Group Vistula.36 Four days later Konev stopped on the Neisse.
The Hron Bridgehead
Before SONNENWENDE had run its brief and ragged course, Army Group South had begun laying the last small roadblock on the Soviet road to victory. On 10 February Woehler had returned from Berlin with Hitler's permission to use I SS Panzer Corps in a drive against the Hron River bridgehead to deny the Russians that platform for an attack toward Bratislava and Vienna.37 The chance looked too good to miss; nearly all of the Soviet armor was out of the front, refitting.
Hitler in the meantime had all but forgotten Budapest. The pocket in Buda, encompassing the government buildings and the royal castle and protected on the east by the river, had proved a strong fortress. The populace had become apathetic, and what internal disturbance there was came almost entirely from the armed bands of Arrow-Cross Party members, who shunned combat and devoted themselves to murder and plundering. Troop morale had stayed relatively high as long as the relief appeared to have even the barest chance of succeeding. Rations for the fighting troops had had to be reduced to horse-meat soup and a third of a pound of bread per day. The wounded in the cavernous cellars of the royal castle received only thin soup. On 29 January, the German national holiday celebrating Hitler's accession to power, Himmler had sent what was announced as
a special added ration. When the airdrop containers were opened they were found to contain canned horse meat, cookies, and cigarettes.
On 10 February Hitler had conferred the oak leaf cluster to the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross upon Pfeffer-Wildenbruch. That last-minute gesture to stiffen the morale of the commanding general was, if at all, only relatively more effective than the similar attempt had been in the case of Paulus at Stalingrad.38 The garrison was down to its last ammunition and rations and split into two pockets, both too small for airdrops. On the morning of the 11th Pfeffer-Wildenbruch had issued orders for a breakout to the west. That night the defenders had attempted to force their way out along the Italian Boulevard (subsequently renamed Malinovskiy Boulevard). The staffs took a roughly parallel route through a subterranean drainage canal. Many were killed coming out of the castle gates, and few had gotten as far as the suburbs. Of close to 30,000 Germans and Hungarians--10,600 wounded were left behind--less than 700 reached the German lines.39
The Hron bridgehead offensive began on 17 February and achieved a complete surprise. In a week the Germans pushed the front east to the river. The success was dimmed slightly by a suspicion that the Russians, after being caught off guard initially, had deliberately sacrificed the bridgehead rather than disrupt their armor's refitting. Encouraged, nevertheless, Woehler, on 21 February, revived the planning for a major offensive in the Balaton-Drava-Danube triangle.
Under its original concept of taking some mild risks on the flanks, the Stavka had intended to dispatch Second Ukrainian Front toward Brno and Vienna in the wake of Zhukov's and Konev's main thrusts.40 On 17 February, the day the Berlin operation was canceled and the day the Germans hit the Hron bridgehead, a new order went out to Timoshenko instructing him to plan and co-ordinate an independent offensive by both of his fronts against the German south flank.41 For the time being, the Germans having shown some bite, the Russians decided to wait.
The German Condition
For Germany the blunting of the Soviet winter offensive could be no more than a reprieve. By mid-February the Replacement Army no longer had enough small arms to equip the new divisions. The manufacture of powder had fallen below the level required to maintain ammunition production. Against a monthly demand of 1,500,000 tank and antitank artillery rounds, January output was 367,000. For lack of aviation gasoline, the OKW was forced to order a radical reduction in the combat employment of aircraft; the planes were to be used only at decisive points and then only when nothing else was practicable.42
On the west the defense of the Rhineland was beginning to crumble.
Parry and Thrust--Vienna
On 22 February Woehler submitted to Hitler four outline plans for an offensive to be executed under the wistful cover name FRUEHLINGSERWACHEN (Awakening of Spring). (Map 40) The objective, ostensibly, was to put a more substantial buffer between the Russians and the Nagykanizsa oil fields. This required a main thrust to the southeast out of the area between Lake Balaton and Velencze Lake, but the Russians were strongest west of Budapest, in the flank and rear of such a thrust. For lack of time and forces, Woehler had to reject at the outset the tactically soundest approach: to clear out the Budapest-Velencze Lake-Vertes Mountains area before striking between Lake Balaton and the Danube. He recommended a compromise, a short initial phase that would get a solid front facing north between Velencze Lake and the Danube to be followed by a turn and thrust south. At a conference in Berlin on 25 February Hitler decided to place the main effort from the start into an attack southeast between the Sarviz Canal and the Danube because it promised the best opportunity for a big gain fast.43
"The Awakening of Spring"
No one--except, possibly, those diligent students of past experience, the Russians--noticed that the stage was set for a second ZITADELLE. Again at the end of a disastrous winter the enemy pressure had suddenly relaxed and Hitler found himself holding an uncommitted reserve. Again Hitler decided to try for a prestige victory. Again the Stavka let him have the next move.
The Germans played out their part with near somnambulistic unconcern. Woehler dutifully called attention to the danger on the north flank and to Sixth SS Panzer Army's weakness in infantry, but no one protested the pointlessness of conducting a major offensive merely to gain ground that most likely could not be defended. The Operations Staff, OKW, questioned whether in view of all the other threats and dangers Sixth SS Panzer Army could justifiably be tied down in Hungary until mid-April or beyond, but followed up with an imprecise proposal for a truncated offensive that would have gained nothing except, perhaps, a slight savings in time; the suggestion was consigned directly to the files.44
FRUEHLINGSERWACHEN began at midnight on 5 March when Army Group F troops took bridgeheads on the Drava opposite Donji Miholjac and Valpovo. The next morning Second Panzer Army attacked out of its center toward Kaposvar. Sixth SS Panzer Army, deploying in mud and driving wet snow, had reported it would be ready to start that morning, but as often the case with estimates by SS commands, when morning came only I SS Panzer Corps on the west side of the Sarviz Canal was ready. II SS Panzer Corps, in the crucial sector east of the canal, did not
The Vienna Offensive
start until the following morning.
The weather was warm; the snow had melted; off the roads the mud was deep; and the roads themselves were mined and swept by Soviet antitank fire.45 Elaborate security precautions had failed to keep secret the build-up that had taken more than a month.
Except for aircraft, the Stavka had left its own offensive build-up in the Second Ukrainian Front zone intact. Third Ukrainian Front, which it had heavily reinforced with aircraft, artillery, and antitank guns, had built a broad belt of mine and artillery-protected defenses between Lake Balaton and the Danube. In December, when drifting ice endangered boat traffic on the river, Third Ukrainian Front's engineers, using the supports of a destroyed bridge at Baja, had erected a cableway capable of carrying 600 tons every twenty-four hours. After the river froze solid, the engineers had also laid a road and gasoline pipeline over the ice.46
On 7 and 8 March I SS Panzer Corps cut through successive defense lines on the west side of the Sarviz Canal and gained nearly twenty miles. By then Tolbukhin had committed his second echelon, Twenty-seventh Army and almost all his reserves--three rifle corps, a tank corps, a mechanized corps, and a guards cavalry corps.47 Because he had spread his armor thin he still could not mount a bid for the initiative anywhere. On the fourth day he asked for the strategic reserve, Ninth Guards Army, which had recently been moved into the Kecskemet area as a precaution, but the Stavka decided it was essential to save the army for its own projected offensive.48
On the 10th, in snow and rain, I SS Panzer Corps closed to the Sio Canal and the next night took two small bridgeheads. The advance revealed how well dug in the Russians were, which augered ill for II SS Panzer Corps. On the east side of the Sarviz Canal the corps had gained no more than five miles by 12 February.
On the 13th, having pulled together his armor, Tolbukhin counterattacked on both sides of the Sarviz Canal. To keep the initiative, Woehler proposed taking out II SS Panzer Corps, which was attracting the heaviest counterattacks, and putting the weight of both SS corps east of the canal, where the sandy ground would make the going somewhat easier for the tanks. Hitler withheld approval until late on the night of the 15th; he suspected, correctly as it turned out, that II SS Panzer Corps would be diverted to meet the coming Soviet offensive.
The Soviet Counteroffensive Begins
On the afternoon of 16 March the Soviet offensive began in snow and fog--and therefore without substantial armor or air support--against IV SS Panzer Corps and the south flank of Hungarian Third Army on the front between Velencze Lake and Bicske. The original plan had been to dispatch Second Ukrainian Front toward Vienna in an advance straddling the Danube, but to exploit the chance to trap Sixth SS Panzer Army east of Lake Balaton, the main effort had been shifted south to Third Ukrainian Front's right flank.
The thrust was aimed west and northwest along the line Szekesfehervar-Varpalota-Papa-Sopron-Vienna. Inside it Second Ukrainian Front would attack along the Danube toward Györ.49
On the second day, Hungarian Third Army's flank collapsed and the Russians pushed through the Vertes Moutains north of Mor. Neither of the large mobile forces, Sixth Guards Tank Army or First Guards Cavalry-Mechanized Group (formerly Cavalry-Mechanized Group Pliyev), had appeared yet to exploit the breakthrough. Army Group South decided to cancel the attack east of the Sarviz Canal "for the time being," and send I SS Panzer Corps into the area southwest of Szekesfehervar for a counterattack. By day's end it was also getting II SS Panzer Corps ready to turn around and move north.
Malinovskiy began turning his left flank army north toward Komarno behind Hungarian Third Army on the 18th. On the same day Tolbukhin's Ninth and Fourth Guards Armies broke through IV SS Panzer Corps between Mor and Velencze Lake. Tolbukhin was slow in taking advantage of the latter breakthrough: Sixth Guards Tank Army was not ready because it had had to regroup south after the change in plans.50 During the day Woehler decided to attempt a castling maneuver: he ordered 6th SS Panzer Army and its two corps to shift north into the sector between Velencze Lake and the Danube and gave Sixth Army command between Velencze Lake and Lake Balaton. Sixth SS Panzer Army successfully made its way out between the lakes, but I SS Panzer Corps failed to get a firm front in its new sector on the edge of the Bakony Forest west of Varpalota.
On 20 February Sixth Guards Tank Army attacked between Varpalota and Szekesfehervar toward the tip of Lake Balaton. Hitler demanded that Szekesfehervar be held, which meant in effect that Sixth Army had to stay east of Lake Balaton. On the 21st, except for a tenuous corridor along the lake shore, Sixth Army was encircled. Hitler refused to let go of Szekesfehervar. The OKH explained he was afraid that if he did, the whole front would start to "slip," which was what was happening in any event. Woehler replied that he did not dare risk another encirclement; the memory of Budapest was too recent; the armies were already infected with the Kessel (pocket) psychosis. Varpalota fell in the afternoon, and that night, Hitler's protests notwithstanding, Szekesfehervar fell.
For the next twenty-four hours Sixth Army ran a gantlet between the Russians and the lake. No one could tell from hour to hour how much longer the pocket might stay open. The army command lost track of IV SS Panzer Corps completely--of deserters rounded up 75 percent were SS-men. That the army survived at all probably has to be charged mostly to Sixth Guards Tank Army's late and uncertain start.
By 23 February Sixth Army was west of the lake, but still in trouble. During the day Tolbukhin's troops took Veszprem, the key point and main road junction in the Bakony Forest. Malinovskiy's forces on that day split the bridgehead Hungarian Third Army was holding west of Esztergom and forced the army to retreat across the
river. On the south Army Group F evacuated its two bridgeheads on the Drava. Second Panzer Army, still attacking, gained some five miles south of Lake Balaton--an exercise in futility. At day's end Hitler gave Woehler permission to take a division, no more, from Second Panzer Army.51 During the day the Stavka had issued orders for the next phase of the offensive. The Ninth Guards and Sixth Guards Tank Armies were to strike toward Köszeg, Twenty-sixth Army toward Szombathely, and Twenty-seventh Army toward Zalaegerszeg.52
From the Commanding General, Sixth Army, Balck, came an ominous report. He said the troops were not fighting the way they should. Some were saying the war was lost anyway, and they did not want to be the last to die. All were afraid of being encircled. The loss of confidence was spreading into the higher commands.53
On 25 February the Russians completed the breakthrough phase of the offensive. Sixth Guards Tank Army came out of the Bakony Forest east of Papa. Sixth SS Panzer Army held a front from Papa north to the Danube at Komarno, but the army, although numerically relatively strong, was showing astonishing shortcomings. The SS-men from top to bottom appeared unable to adjust to conditions in which they did not have ample equipment and supplies and plenty of time to plot every move. Sixth Army had the impossible mission of holding its right flank on Lake Balaton to protect Second Panzer Army and maintaining contact with Sixth SS Panzer Army on its left. South of Papa the gap between the armies' flanks was ten miles wide, and Woehler told Guderian he could think of no way to close it. Replying to a demand from Guderian that Sixth Army "finally come to a stop," Balck insisted that the tactical crisis by itself could be mastered were it not for an acute loss of faith in the leadership, rooted, he said, in Stalingrad and Budapest: the troops simply would not hold. To add to the Germans' troubles, Second Ukrainian Front began attacking across the Hron that day.54
The next day the Second and Third Ukrainian Fronts began what Soviet accounts later described as the pursuit, an adequate enough term except that it implies on the enemy side either a planned retreat or a rout. Hitler would not have permitted the former, and the Russians never quite achieved the latter. A more precise description would be an attempted active defense with wholly inadequate means and inappropriate objectives.
On 27 March the Sixth Guards Tank, Fourth Guards, and Ninth Guards Armies crossed to the Raab River on a broad front west of Köszeg. The meager reinforcements coming to Army Group South were destined--because of Hitler's concern for the oil--for the flanks, two divisions to Second Panzer Army and one to Eighth Army. After hearing that Hitler continued to insist on holding Komarno for the oil refineries, the army group chief of staff told the OKH to have him look at an aerial photograph. There was nothing there anymore but bomb craters. Second Panzer
Army, which had so far been spared, reported that it expected an attack soon. Its Hungarians were deserting "in droves," and it asked to go back to the main defense line between the Drava and Lake Balaton. When the army group forwarded the request with its endorsement, Guderian answered that to lay the matter before Hitler was a waste of time, for him the words "oil fields" were "spelled in capitals."55
In another two days Sixth Guards Tank Army had crossed the Raab between the Sixth and Sixth SS Panzer Armies' flanks and drawn up to the Austrian border in the Köszeg-Szombathely area. Hitler let the two armies withdraw to the Austrian border defenses but made the armies on their flanks stay put. At nightfall on the 29th Eighth Army still had a tenous hold on Komarno. Second Panzer Army, attacked for the first time during the day, had lost Nagybajom in the center of its front south of Lake Balaton and had taken command of Sixth Army's right flank corps at the southern tip of the lake to protect its deep flank and rear.
On 30 March, Sixth Guards Tank Army crossed the border and turned north toward the corridor between the mountains west of Wiener Neustadt and the Neusiedler Lake. On its right Ninth Guards Army and Fourth Guards Army began to wheel northwest toward Vienna. Hitler demanded a counterattack to close the gap behind the tank army; Woehler replied that neither Sixth Army nor Sixth SS Panzer Army had the slightest prospect of even starting a counterattack. The army group would consider itself lucky if Sixth SS Panzer Army could create, ahead of the Russians, some kind of a front between Wiener Neustadt and the lake. He had sent officers of his staff out to the troops; they had all reported that the men were exhausted and morale was low; to expect them to stage a counterattack was futile. Sixth Army, moreover, was in almost as much trouble on its right as on its left. It had broken away from Second Panzer Army's flank, and Twenty-seventh Army was pushing south.56
At the end of the month Tolbukhin and Malinovskiy closed in on Vienna. Second Ukrainian Front north of the Danube went to Bratislava. The Third Ukrainian Front right flank pushed into the narrows between the Danube at Bratislava and Neusiedler Lake. On 2 April Sixth Guards Tank Army thrust past Wiener Neustadt toward Vienna. Second Panzer Army had retreated west of Nagykanizsa to a line in the heights that barely contained the oil fields.
To defend Vienna, Hitler sent the 25th Panzer Division and the Fuehrer Grenadier Division. On the 3d he ordered Woehler "finally" to attack the flanks of the breakthrough and to give up trying to oppose the Soviet armored spearheads frontally.57 After Woehler replied that the army group was in no condition to counterattack and had to put something in front of the Russians to keep them from breaking away "into the infinite," Hitler called Rendulic in from Courland and gave him command of Army Group South.58
When Rendulic arrived at the army group headquarters in the Alps southwest of St. Poelten at midnight on 7 April--even army group commanders did not travel fast in Germany any more--the Russians were in Vienna to the Guertelstrasse and on the Danube west of the city.59 Third Ukrainian Front had brought Forty-sixth Army across the Danube to the north bank and was advancing beyond the Morava to envelop Vienna on the north.
In those last days Skorzeny, on a special mission from Hitler, appeared in Vienna, hanged three officers on the Floridsdorf Bridge, and claimed that the situation in the city was "dismal," no orders were being given, and despondency and other "signs of disintegration" were widespread.60 Rendulic, who, whatever else he was, did not associate himself with the nihilistic bitter-enders of the SS, protested that Vienna was no different from any other large city with street fighting and a disaffected population and threw Skorzeny out.61 The battle went on in the city until the afternoon of 13 April but without any attempt to create another Budapest.
At the end of the second week in April, Sixth SS Panzer, Sixth, and Second Panzer Armies had an almost continuous front in the outlying Alps from west of St. Poelten to the Drava east of Varazdin. The loss of the Hungarian oil fields had gone almost unnoticed in the greater excitement over Vienna. After they crossed the Hungarian border the Russians relaxed their pressure against the two southern armies.
In the second half of the month, the weight of the offensive shifted north of the Danube. The First Guards Cavalry-Mechanized Group attacked across the Morava toward Brno, and Fourth Ukrainian Front bore in toward Olomouc against the bulging Army Group Center right flank. Hitler ordered Army Group South to retake the small Austrian oil field at Zistersdorf twenty-five miles north of Vienna. The attempt was not made.
The abortive Stargard operation brought the Germans a substantial, unexpected, and unearned dividend of time that, while it appeared to do no more than prolong the agony, may have profoundly affected Germany's future. In the fit of caution that took hold in mid-February, the Stavka dismantled its preparations for an advance to Berlin and beyond into central Germany and committed its main forces in marginal, wholly unspectacular clearing operations on the flanks in Pomerania and Silesia. For nearly a month and a half, Berlin and the German territory west of the Oder appear to have dropped out of the sight even of the Stavka. No doubt, observing that the Allies were still west of the Rhine, which they did not cross anywhere until the end of the first week in March, the Soviet command concluded it had time enough. This could have provided a rationale for cleaning out the flanks in anticipation of a deeper thrust into Germany than originally intended and, meanwhile, letting the Allies bleed themselves out; but the sequence of events in March indicates that caution and a consequent inability to decide upon a clean-cut, direct solution to
the final strategic problem also weighed heavily.
Zhukov and Rokossovskiy Against Army Group Vistula
In a major intelligence estimate submitted to Hitler on 26 February, the Eastern Intelligence Branch, OKH, predicted that the Soviet main effort would be "concentrated exclusively in the decisive direction--toward the west." It seemed obvious that the Soviet Command would concentrate exclusively on perpetuating the crisis on the German side in order to effect a decision in the war. The intelligence analysts found it difficult to imagine that the Stavka would let itself be deflected from the supreme objective by illusory threats to its flanks, especially after the Stargard failure. Moreover, with better than six million men against the Germans' two million, it appeared the Russians could handily cope with any diversions the Germans might attempt and at the same time carry the advance forward in the main direction.62 In terms of combat readiness the Soviet armies were in good shape; the estimated 680,000 casualties in January had been less than the Soviet forces had sustained in any of their other recent major offensives.63 The prediction was wrong, but the logic of the situation on which it was based was ultimately compelling for both sides, and for the Germans, as long as the war lasted, it was inescapable.
On 25 February the deployment of the First Belorussian and First Ukrainian Fronts' four tank armies indicated that both fronts were oriented west. (Map 41) The First and Second Guards Tank Armies of First Belorussian Front were out of the line, and, although both were north of the Warthe, neither had intervened in the Stargard battle. Fourth Tank Army was on the Neisse between Guben and Forst, and Third Guards Tank Army was west of Goerlitz.
Between 24 and 26 February the Germans picked up the first signs of a change in the Soviet intentions. On the 24th Second Belorussian Front launched heavy probing attacks along its whole front west of the Vistula. On the extreme left flank, at the Third Panzer Army-Second Army boundary, Nineteenth Army, newly arrived from Finland, struck a weak spot, broke in on the first day, and by the 26th, when it took Bublitz, had covered about half the distance to the Baltic coast. On the 26th agent reports from the First Ukrainian Front zone confirmed that Fourth Tank Army had left the Guben-Forst area and moved south to Liegnitz.64 The Germans
24 February-30 March 1945
concluded that as a brief prelude to the main offensive the Stavka had decided to eliminate all semblances of threats to the flanks. In Pomerania the OKH expected the Russians would be content with splitting apart the Third Panzer and Second Armies and breaking the land communications to Danzig and Gdynia. In Silesia it expected them to attempt to force the Seventeenth Army and the Armeegruppe Heinrici back to the Sudeten Mountains and as a dividend, if it could be done fast, take the Moravska Ostrava industrial complex.65
A map captured on February revealed that Second Belorussian Front was in fact aiming for the coast east of Koeslin to split the Third Panzer and Second Armies.66 Army Group Vistula ordered a counterattack into the Russian flanks east and west of Bublitz, but Second Army was dangerously short of artillery ammunition and gasoline, and the army group had trouble finding gas for the armor it was bringing in on the west. During the last two days of the month, Rokossovskiy reined in on his armor and set his infantry to opening the flanks. On 1 March, while the German counterattack made minor progress east of Bublitz, III Guards Tank Corps crossed the road and railroad east of Koeslin, cutting the communications to Second Army and to Danzig and Gdynia, the main bases of supply for Army Groups North and Courland.67
On 1 March, after apparently waiting to see whether the Germans would repeat the Stargard attempt, First Belorussian Front attacked Third Panzer Army's center at Reetz. Third Shock Army made the breakthrough, and the First and Second Guards Tank Armies followed, the former going north toward Kolberg and the latter northwest toward the lower Oder. Only weeks before, the Goebbels propagandists had released the movie Kolberg, a color epic--the most lavish ever made in Germany--depicting Gneisenau's successful defense of the city against the French in 1807.
On 4 March First Guards Tank Army reached the coast, isolated Kolberg, and made contact with the left flank of Second Belorussian Front, which took Koeslin on that day. Third Panzer Army's left flank was trapped and was breaking up into small pockets. Hitler ordered the army to counterattack to close the "gap." General Kinzel, the one-time Army Group North chief of staff recently called in as Himmler's "second chief" to replace Wenck, told Guderian's deputy to tell the Fuehrer he was fighting the war "on paper" and not in accordance with reality; the situation was hopeless; and the only thing left to do was to save what could be saved of the army for the battle on the Oder.68
The following day First Guards Tank Army joined Second Belorussian Front to give it an assist against Second Army, and
Zhukov turned his flank west toward the Oder.69 During the next few days, while Hitler went on talking about a counterattack, Third Panzer Army was pushed into a bridgehead east of Stettin. After a quiet day on the 12th, Hitler instructed Army Group Vistula to consider how it could expand the bridgehead enough to open the port of Stettin for contact by sea with Danzig and Gdynia.70
When the Russians resumed the assault against the bridgehead on the 15th, Hitler ordered Third Panzer Army to stay on the defensive and release several divisions as reinforcements for Ninth Army.71 Late on the afternoon of the 19th General der Panzertruppen Hasso-Eccard von Manteuffel, whom Hitler had put in command of Third Panzer Army several days earlier after taking a sudden dislike to Raus, reported that the battle in the bridgehead was at an end one way or the other: Hitler could either give up the bridgehead before the day's end "or lose everything tomorrow." Hitler gave his approval an hour later.72
Goebbels' propaganda epic about Kolberg barely escaped being also engulfed in the Third Panzer Army's disaster. The old city on the Baltic, which had surrendered only one of the three times the Russians besieged it in the Seven Years' War and had stood off Napoleon's troops, though lost at least did not capitulate. The garrison held out until the 18th. By then 80,000 inhabitants and refugees had been evacuated by sea, and the last few hundred soldiers escaped on board a destroyer.
Rokossovskiy's operation against Second Army took longer and could not be brought to as clean-cut a conclusion. By 11 March Second Belorussian Front had reached a line skirting the west half of the Bay of Danzig about ten miles in from the coast. A day later First Guards Tank Army broke through to the coast at Puck and cut off the northernmost German corps, which subsequently withdrew to the Hel Peninsula.
On the 13th, in a command shuffle occasioned by command changes in the West and in Italy, von Vietinghoff returned to Italy, Rendulic returned to Army Group Courland, and Weiss was appointed Commanding General, Army Group North. At the same time, Second Army, General der Panzertruppen Dietrich von Saucken commanding, was transferred to Army Group North. Hitler told Weiss to hold the Hel Peninsula, Gdynia, Danzig, Pillau, the Frische Nehrung, and enough ground on the mainland in East Prussia to keep contact with Koenigsberg.73 Hitler and Doenitz still considered the Baltic ports essential for the Navy.
For ten more days Second Army held its own against the full weight of Rokossovskiy's front. On 13 March the Russians finally reached the coast at Sopot, splitting Gdynia off from the German main force
at and east of Danzig. From that entering wedge, they took Gdynia on the 28th and Danzig two days later. The Second Army survivors retreated east into the Vistula delta.
After 13 March Third Belorussian Front had pushed Fourth Army into a ten by two mile beachhead west of Heiligenbeil before Hitler on the 29th finally allowed the army to retreat across the Frisches Haff to the Nehrung. By then the army had left 60,000 able-bodied men and 70,000 wounded. Hitler ordered the army to keep all but the most seriously wounded for use as replacements as they recovered.74 At the end of the month, Army Group North precariously straddled the Bay of Danzig from Samland and Koenigsberg to the mouth of the Vistula; the remnants of two corps held small beachheads north of Gdynia on the Hel Peninsula.75
The Soviet advance from the Vistula to the Oder had astonishingly little visible effect in Berlin. Life in the capital and its close environs, which housed the entire central government and the highest Wehrmacht commands with their main communications centers, continued in its accustomed routine that by then had long included the frequent American and British bombing raids. The exodus of governmental officers, siege preparations, and panic that had marked the German approach to Moscow in October 1941 were completely absent. Russian tanks might be on the Oder, scarcely a day's running time away, but what was to be done in Berlin still depended entirely upon the Fuehrer. Even the questions when and how the city would be evacuated or defended could not safely be raised without a cue from Hitler, and he was thinking of retaking Budapest, not of defending Berlin. At the end of January, in fact, very little had been done to prepare defenses anywhere west of the Oder. For political and psychological reasons, Hitler had insisted that military operational control not be imposed on German territory until the very latest possible time. Therefore, the OKW had waited until 14 January before giving the OKH authority to issue directives concerning fortification and defensive preparations to Wehrkreis III, the military district which included Berlin and a broad band of territory on either side of the city east to the Oder.76
On 2 February Keitel issued the first written order concerning Berlin. In it he made the Commanding General, Wehrkreis III, responsible for defending the city. The Wehrkreis was a housekeeping and administrative command without permanently assigned tactical troops. The Keitel order merely increased the Wehrkreis commander's authority over troops that might be stationed in his area and gave him command "for ground combat" of the 1st Flak Division, the Berlin antiaircraft artillery. For his tactical orders the Wehrkreis commander would report directly to Hitler at the daily situation conferences.77
At the end of the third week in February,
Hitler still had not expressed a decision on Berlin. An OKW inquiry to the Reichs Chancellory regarding the "intentions of the highest governmental agencies in the event of a battle for Berlin" brought the reply that the only instructions issued so far were to stay in Berlin. That the city might become involved in the fighting "or even encircled" had not been discussed. Women and children were being allowed to leave, but no public announcement would be made.78
Early in March, beginning with the transfer of Wehrkreis III's responsibility to Generalleutnant Hellmuth Reymann as Commander, Berlin Defense Area, the planning for Berlin assumed a somewhat more concrete aspect. Reymann's title indicated how little had been accomplished until then: the term "defense area" was applied to "exceptional cases of fortresses not yet completed."79
On the 9th Reymann signed the Basic Order for the Preparations to Defend the Capital. In parts of it Hitler's rhetoric stands out unmistakably. The mission was to be to defend the capital "to the last man and the last shot." The battle was to be fought "with fanaticism, imagination; every means of deception, cunning, and deceit; and with improvisations of all kinds . . . on, above, and under the ground." "Every block, every house, every story, every hedge, every shell hole" was to be defended "to the utmost." That each defender was trained in the fine points of the use of weapons was less important than that "each . . . be filled with a fanatical desire to fight, that he knows the world is holding its breath as it watches this battle and that the battle for Berlin can decide the war."80
Berlin was to be another fortress, the last in a chain that had stretched east to Stalingrad. The outer defense perimeter was plotted about twenty miles from the center of the city. Inside it were two more rings, one about ten miles from the city's center, the other following the S-Bahn, the suburban belt railway. In each of eight pie-slice-shaped sectors a commandant was appointed. A small inner ring around the government quarter was designated Sector Z (ZITADELLE, or citadel). The troop dispositions, however, indicate that Hitler really considered the fortress as a marginal affair. Aside from the 1st Flak Division, which would remain in the antiaircraft defense until ground fighting began, Reymann had as reserves six battalions, two of them Volkssturm, one a guard battalion, and the rest SS and police. The sector commandants would not actually command any troops until the code word CLAUSEWITZ, the enemy approach warning, was given. They would then assume command of the Volkssturm and any troop units that happened to be in their sectors and of whatever troops came in or were driven in from the outside.81
Hitler was, no doubt, fully aware that the capital and the German heartland could be defended, if at all, only on the Oder-Neisse line, not on the Berlin S-Bahn. As long as he imagined that he still had strategic choices--as recently as the competition between the Stargard and Budapest
operations, for instance--he had neglected the Berlin sector. As a consequence, the front on the Oder and Neisse was only little less of a sham than the Berlin fortress.
By early March Hitler and the rest of the German Command were agreed that a Soviet breakthrough toward Berlin was the greatest danger they faced, partly because the Russians had lately been moving much faster than the Americans and British but equally because they could conceive no greater horror than having the Russians march into the center of Germany. On the other hand, Hitler claimed knowledge that the Russians were not completely settled on Berlin and central Germany as the next objectives. That was Zhukov's intention, he maintained, but Stalin wanted a two-pronged offensive into western Czechoslovakia via Moravska Ostrava and the Moravian Gate on the north and Bratislava-Brno from the south, to be executed either before or simultaneously with the Berlin offensive.82
Late as it was, the Oder-Neisse defense would have been neglected longer had not Hitler decided on 15 March in a flash of "intuition" that the Russians would choose the Berlin operation, which presumably, since every threat to their right flank was eliminated, they could begin almost any day.83 That night he conferred with Himmler, Guderian, and Busse. If he had time before the Russians moved, he wanted Ninth Army to strike north out of its own bridgehead at Frankfurt and "smash" the Soviet concentration south of Kuestrin.84 The next day he told Himmler to get ready for battle on the lower Oder and particularly to strengthen the Kuestrin-Frankfurt-Guben sector.85
The apparent imminence of the crucial battle agitated the German command. Guderian and Speer, in an attempt to avoid adding to the approaching final defeat a complete internal dislocation in Germany, ordered that henceforth during withdrawals roads, bridges, and railroads were to be rendered temporarily unusable but not destroyed--allegedly to facilitate their restoration when the lost territory was retaken.86 Hitler, on 19 March, branding as an "error" the idea that temporary disruption of communications would be enough, ordered a full-scale scorched-earth policy and canceled "all directives to the contrary."87 Four days later, however, when Goebbels in his capacity as Gauleiter of Berlin proposed to convert the Charlottenburger Chausee into a landing strip, Hitler, displaying another of his characteristic vagaries, forbade him to cut down the trees flanking the boulevard in the Tiergarten.88
When Guderian secured lukewarm backing from Doenitz in an attempt to persuade Hitler to evacuate Courland and bring the troops back to Germany, Hitler refused on the ground that besides causing heavy
German losses, it would release a large number of enemy divisions. Rendulic's return to Courland underscored Hitler's determination to hold out there. On 13 March the so-called Fifth Battle of Courland, begun on 27 February, had ended. Von Vietinghoff had reported that the army group probably could not withstand another really determined onslaught.89
In a different direction, an effort to remove Himmler from the Army Group Vistula command, Guderian had more success. At the middle of the month Himmler almost gladly accepted Guderian's offer to propose his retirement. After the Stargard fiasco and the consequent loss of favor with Hitler, he had evaded direct responsibility for the army group and had finally withdrawn under his physician's care to his estate at Hohenlychen, claiming to be suffering from angina pectoris. On 20 March Generaloberst Heinrici took command of Army Group Vistula, and two days later Hitler agreed to let Guderian bring in the Army Group F staff to replace most of Himmler's staff.90
Guderian's own tenure was nearing an end. Hitler had resolved to give him "a long leave for his health" and was waiting impatiently for Wenck to recover sufficiently to assume the duties of Chief of Staff, OKH.91 Lately, Hitler had indicated that he would have preferred to dispense with conventional military organizations and leadership altogether. What he needed, he said, were men like those who had created the Freikorps (freebooting detachments) after World War I, men who could hammer together units on their own. The best such officers he had at the moment, he thought, were the SS-men von dem Bach, Skorzeny, and Reinefarth. The two Army generals he rated highest were unavailable, both having recently been jailed for illegally appropriating captured property.92
Before Ninth Army could organize its spoiling attack out of the Frankfurt bridgehead, First Belorussian Front, on 22 March, irrupted from its bridgeheads flanking Kuestrin and encircled the garrison in the Kuestrin Alt Stadt (the Kuestrin Neu Stadt, east of the Oder, had fallen earlier in the month). A counterattack by two panzer divisions that had been earmarked for the Frankfurt operation failed on the 24th. After that, Heinrici and Busse concluded it would be better to forego a second attempt and conserve their strength, but Hitler read Heinrici a lecture on "the futility of always being a move behind the enemy" and demanded the attack, to "smash" the Soviet build-up before it was completed.
On 27 March the second attempt to relieve Kuestrin failed. After an angry interview with Busse and Guderian the next day, Hitler gave Guderian six weeks' "sick leave" and made General der Infanterie Hans Krebs, Wenck's substitute, acting Chief of Staff, OKH. Krebs, who had been Busch's and more recently Model's
chief of staff, was known for his unquenchable optimism and his chameleonlike ability to adapt to the views of his superiors. On 30 March the commandant in Kuestrin, Reinefarth, decided against a heroic demise and ordered the breakout from the Alt Stadt.93
Konev in Upper Silesia
The Soviet Upper Silesian offensive, as it developed in late March, appeared to confirm Hitler's assumption that the Russians planned a large operation in Czechoslovakia as a prelude or a companion piece to the thrust to Berlin and into central Germany. Indeed, the Upper Silesian offensive remains difficult to explain in any other terms. The Soviet authorities maintain that nothing more was intended than was accomplished, namely, to force Army Group Center away from the Oder above Oppeln and back to the edge of the Sudeten.94 Although the operation did remove a possible, though remote, danger to Konev's deep right flank and shortened his front somewhat, it fell far short of improving the situation in the south as radically as was being done in Pomerania and West Prussia. Such an improvement could only have been accomplished by a deep thrust into Czechoslovakia to Olomouc, Brno, and in the Prague direction behind Army Group Center.
First Ukrainian Front had been slow getting the offensive ready to move. Apparently its armor had needed refitting; on 14 March all of the larger armored units were out of the front. But by then Fourth Tank Army, out of action for nearly three weeks, was rested, refitted, and, together with Twenty-first Army, was deployed and ready for the offensive in the Grottkau area west of Oppeln. The Fifty-ninth and Sixtieth Armies were likewise ready in the Oder bridgehead north of Ratibor. East of Moravska Ostrava the reinforced right flank of Fourth Ukrainian Front had run a preliminary attack for three days beginning on 10 March. The Germans, watching the build-up, had trouble deciding what to make of it, particularly after the rapid success against Army Group Vistula east of the Oder made it appear that the offensive across the Oder and Neisse could come soon.95
On 15 March First Ukrainian Front attacked south of Grottkau and west out of the bridgehead north of Ratibor. Fourth Ukrainian Front resumed its thrust toward Moravska Ostrava. In a day or two, Fourth Ukrainian Front's attack stalled.
Konev's armies, because of their overwhelming matériel superiority, had the upper hand from the start but did not make, from the Army Group Center point of view, alarming progress until the afternoon of the 17th, when Fourth Tank Army sluiced a tank corps through a small gap east of Neisse, and linking up with the force coming west out of the Ratibor bridgehead, encircled LVI Panzer Corps southwest of Oppeln. That the Commanding
General, Seventeenth Army, General der Infanterie Friedrich Wilhelm Schultz, was caught in the breakthrough and chivied across the Silesian landscape until almost nightfall by Soviet tanks did not enhance the speed of the German reaction. On the 20th LVI Panzer Corps escaped from the pocket with heavy losses.96
On 22 March Konev turned his attack south toward Opava, and Fourth Ukrainian Front began striking west toward Ratibor. To the Germans it appeared that the main phase of the offensive was just beginning. The thrusts in both directions were being gradually reinforced, and by the 26th Konev had brought Fourth Tank Army down from the Neisse area.97
On the 30th Schoerner had to give up Ratibor to prevent a breakthrough to Moravska Ostrava. He reported that the Russians appeared as intent as ever on forcing their way past Opava and Moravska Ostrava into the Moravian basin.98 In the Army Group South zone the First Guards Cavalry-Mechanized Group was heading northwest through Slovakia toward Moravia. Then a day later, without having reached any of their apparent objectives, the First and Fourth Ukrainian Fronts stopped the offensive.
Table of Contents ** Previous Chapter (XIX) * Next Chapter (XXI)
1. OKH, GenStdH, Op. Abt., Ia Nr. 450 067/45, Weisung fuer H. Gr. Weichsel, 2.2.45, H. Gr. Weichsel 75122/2 file.
2. OKH, GenStdH, Op. Abt., Ia Nr. 450 081/45, Weisung fuer H. Gr. Nord, 7.2.45, H 22/392a file.
3. OKH, GenStdH, Fuehrungsgruppe, Chef, Weisung fuer H. Gr. Kurland, 7.2.45, H 22/392a file.
4. Ltr, von Vietinghoff to Guderian, 8 Feb 45, in MS # P-114a (Sixt), Teil V, Anlagen.
5. OKH, GenStdH, Op. Abt. (IN), Fuehrervortrag Nacht 5./6.2.45, 6.2.45, H 22/5 file.
6. O.B. West, Chef des Gen. Stabes, Ia Nr. 359/45, Abtransport der Pz.-Verbaende nach dem Osten, 11.2.45, H 22/5 file.
7. OKH, GenStdH, Op. Abt., Ia Nr. 450077/45, Weisung fuer den Abwehrkampf der H. Gr. Sued, 6.2.45, H 22/392a file.
8. Shtemenko, "Kak planirovalas poslednyaya kampaniya po razgrom gitlerovskiy Germanii," Voyenno-istoricheskiy Zhurnal (May, 1965).
9. G. Zhukov, "Na Berlinskom napravlenii," Voyenno-istoricheskiy Zhurnal (June, 1965).
10. OKH, GenStdH, FHO, Nr. 45/45, Beurteilung der Feindlage vor deutscher Ostfront im Grossen, 25.2.45, H 3/196 file.
11. Ilya Ehrenburg, The War: 1941-1945 (Cleveland, 1964), p. 162.
12. Zhukov, "Na Berlinskom napravlenii," Voyenno-istoricheskiy Zhurnal (June, 1965).
13. Platonov, Vtoraya Mirovaya Voyna, 1939-45, p. 705; Zhilin, ed., Vazhneyshiye Operatsii Ochestvennoy Voyny, p. 488; MS # P114c (Hauck), Teil VIII, p. 58.
14. OKH, GenStdH, Op. Abt. (I/M), Tagesmeldung der H. Gr. Mitte, 8.2.45, H 22/18 file.
15. OKH, GenStdH, Op. Abt. (I/M), Vortragsnotiz Btr: Festung Breslau, 17.2.45, H 22/5 file.
16. OKH, GenStdH, Op. Abt. (I/M), Tagesmeldung der H. Gr. Mitte vom 13.2.45, 14.2.45, H 22/19 file.
17. OKH, GenStdH, Op. Abt. Ia Nr. 450 138/45, Weisung fuer die Fortfuehrung der Operationen bei den Heeresgruppen Mitte und Weichsel 21.2.45, H. Gr. Weichsel 75122/3 file.
18. OKH, GenStdH, Fremde Heere Ost (I), Nr. 817/45, 832/45, 873/45, 896/45, 909/45, 934/45, Kurze Beurteilung der Feindlage vom 12.2.45, 31.2.45, 15.2.45, 16.2.45. 17.2.45, 18.2.45, H 22/19 file.
19. Himmler, not always so perceptive in military matters, had quickly appreciated the disadvantages in establishing his headquarters at Deutsch-Krone and had moved behind the Oder to an alternate SS command post in the woods south of Prenzlau. There, with the river between him and the Russians and with a full retinue, including masseur and private physician, he could hold court in the style befitting the Reichsfuehrer-SS, keep in touch with affairs in Berlin, forty-five miles away by autobahn, and still be at least a part-time army group commander.
20. Unterlagen fuer das Fernschreibgespraech RF SS/O.B. AOK 2, 16.2.45 and RFSS and O.B. H. Gr. Weichsel, an O.B. 2. Armee, 18.2.45, H. Gr. Weichsel 75122/3 file.
21. IVOV (R), V, 165-171.
22. In the first week of February part of Headquarters, Sixth SS Panzer Army, moved in briefly behind Ninth Army; and the commanding general, Oberstgruppenfuehrer (General) Josef (Sepp) Dietrich, submitted a rough plan for an attack from the Guben-Crossen area to meet the Stargard force on the Warthe at Landsberg east of Kuestrin. By then his panzer divisions were headed toward Hungary, and an announced "separate order" assigning him divisions from the West was never issued. OKH, GenStdH, Op. Abt., Ia Nr. 430 073/45, an H. Gr. Weichsel, 4.2.45; SS-Pz. AOK 6, Ia Nr. 287/45, an H. Gr. Weichsel, 8.2.45. Both in H. Gr. Weichsel 75122/2 file.
23. MS # D-408 (Eismann), p. 80.
24. Jodl Diary, 10 Feb 45.
25. Gespraech Reichsfuehrer-SS--General Guderian am 9.2.45, H. Gr. Weichsel 75122/2 file.
26. Guderian, Erinnerungen eines Soldaten, p. 375.
27. Wenck, long-time Sixth Army chief of staff and one of the top-rated General Staff officers, was officially chief of the Command Group (Fuehrungsgruppe), OKH, a post Guderian created after his own appointment as Chief of Staff, OKH.
28. MS # P-114b (Hofmann), Teil IX, Anhang 31, p. 51.
29. SS Pz. AOK 11, Abendorientierung, 14.2.45, H. Gr. Weichsel 75122/2 file.
30. AOK, Ia, Lageorientierung, 17.2.45, H. Gr. Weichsel 75122/3 file.
31. H. Gr. Weichsel, Ia Nr. 1501/45, an O.B. 11. Armee, 17.2.45, H. Gr. Weichsel 75122/3 file.
32. H. Gr. Weichsel, Ia Nr. 1520/45, Weisung fuer Vorbereitung der Umgruppierung im Abschnitt des AOK 11, H. Gr. Weichsel 75122/3 file.
33. AOK 9, Ia, Abendorientierung am 19.2.45, H. Gr. Weichsel 75122/3 file.
34. See above, p. 442.
35. OKH, GenStdH, Op. Abt., Ia Nr. 450 134/45, an H. Gr. Weichsel, 21.2.45; H. Gr. Weichsel, Ia, Vermerk ueber Ferngespraech Gruppenfuehrer Lammerding mit Oberst i. G. Eismann am 21.2.45. Both in H. G. Weichsel 75122/3 file.
36. See Platonov, Vtoraya Mirovaya Voyna, 1939-45, pp. 703-704; Zhilin, ed., Vazhneyshiye Operatsii Otechestvennoy Voyny, p. 490.
37. H. Gr. Sued, Ia Kriegstagebuch, Febr. 45, 1. Haelfte, 10 Feb 45, H. Gr. A 75126/53 file.
38. Gosztony, "Der Kampf um Budapest 1944/45 (V)," Wehrwissenschaftliche Rundschau (December, 1963).
39. OKH, Gen. StdH, Op. Abt. I/S, Funkspruch des IX. SS-Geb. A.K., 12.2.45, H 22/5 file; H. Gr. Sued, Ia Kriegstagebuch, Febr. 45., 1. Haelfte, 14 Feb 45, H. Gr. A. 75126/53 file.
40. Shtemenko, "Kak planirovalas poslednyaya kampaniya po razgromu gitlerovskoy Germanii," Voyenno-istoricheskiy Zhurnal (May, 1965).
41. IVOV (R), V, 192. See also Platonov, Vtoraya Mirovaya Voyna, 1939-45, p. 707.
42. OKW, WFSt, K.T.B. Ausarbeitung Jan.-Febr. 45, 11, 15, 18, 20 Feb 45, OCMH files.
43. Obkdo. d. H. Gr. Sued, Ia Nr. 64/45, Vorschlaege fuer Angriff "FRUEHLINGSERWACHEN," 22.2.45, H 22/6b file; H. Gr. Sued, Ia Kriegstagebuch, Feb. 45, 2. Haelfte, 25 and 27 Feb 45, H. Gr. A 75126/55 file.
44. OKW, WFSt, K.T.B. Ausarbeitung Jan.-Febr. 45, 22 Feb 45, OCMH files.
45. H. Gr. Sued, Ia Kriegstagebuch, Maerz 45, 1. Haelfte, 5, 6 Mar 45, H. Gr. A 75126/58 file.
46. Zhilin, ed., Vazhneyshiye Operatsii Otechestvennoy Voyny, p. 508; IVOV (R), IV, 406.
47. IVOV (R), V, 200.
48. Ibid., p. 200; Zhilin, ed., Vazhneyshiye Operatsii Otechestvennoy Voyny, p. 511.
49. Zhilin, ed., Vazhneyshiye Operatsii Otechestvennoy Voyny, p. 533.
50. Ibid., p. 535.
51. H. Gr. Sued, Ia Kriegstagebuch, Maerz 45, 2. Haelfte, 16-23 Mar 45, H. Gr. A 75126/60 file.
52. IVOV (R), V, 207.
53. Ibid., 23 Mar 45.
54. Ibid., 25 Mar 45.
55. Ibid., 27 Mar 45.
56. Ibid., 30 Mar 45; OKH, GenStdH, Op. Abt./IIIb, Pruef. Nr. 73504, Lage Ost, Stand 30.3.45 abds.
57. OKH, GenStdH, Op. Abt., Ia Nr. 450 256/45. an den O.B. d. H. Gr. Sued, 3.4.45, H 22/390a file.
58. H. Gr. Sued, Ia Nr. 133/45, an OKH, Gen StdH. Op. Abt., 3.4.45, H 22/389 file.
59. Lothar Rendulic, Gekaempft, Gesiegt, Geschlagen (Heidelberg, 1952), p. 370.
60. OKH, GenStdH, Op. Abt. Nr. 4444/45, an H. Gr. Sued, 10.4.45, file H 22/8b.
61. O.B. d. H. Gr. Sued, Ia Nr. 136/45, an OKH, GenStdH, Op. Abt., 10.4.45, H 22/389 file.
62. At 2 million the German strength was slightly higher than on 1 January 1943. The increase was in the form of new divisions and divisions transferred from other theaters. Of 660,000 German casualties in January and February less than half had been replaced, which meant a further "burning out" of the old Eastern Front divisions. A fourth of the total German strength in the east (556,000 men) was bottled up in Courland and East Prussia. OKH, GenStdH, Org. Abt. (I), Tages-und Gefechtsstaerke der H. Gr. des Ostheeres, Stand 28.2.45, H 1/450e file; OKH, GenStdH, Org. Abt. Nr. 1493/45, Personalle Auswertung Heer fuer Jan.-Feb. 1945, 23.3.45, H 1/454 file.
63. OKH, GenStdH, Abt. Fremde Heere Ost, Nr. 45/45 Beurteilung der Feindlage vor deutscher Ostfront im grossen, Stand 25.2.45, H 3/196 file.
64. Obkdo. d. H. Gr. Weichsel, Ic/AO, Stellungnahme der H. Gr. Weichsel zur Frage der feindlichen Entschlussfassung fuer die Operation gegen West-Pommern, 6.3.4,5; OKH, GenStdH, FHO, Vortragsnotiz zur Beurteilung der Frage ueber eine Entschlussaenderung im Bereich der 1. Ukrainischen und 1. und 2. Weissrussischen Front im Verlauf der Kaempfe ende Februar-Anfang Maerz, 5.3.45. Both in H 3/196 file.
65. OKH, GenStdH, Op. Abt., Ia Nr. 450 159/45. an H. Gr. Weichsel, 27.2.45; OKH, GenStdH, Op. Abt., Ia Nr. 450 158/45, an H. Gr. Mitte, 27.2.45. Both in H 22/6b file.
66. Obkdo. H. Gr. Weichsel, Allgemeine Lage Stand 28.2.45 00.00 Uhr, H. Gr. Weichsel 75122/3 file.
67. AOK 2, Ia Nr. 0387, an H. Gr. Weichsel, 25.2.45; H. Gr. Weichsel, Ia Nr. 2059/45, Weisung fuer Kampffuehrung an der Naht 3. Pz. Armee und 2. Armee, 27.2.45; H. Gr. Weichsel, Allgemeine Lage Stand 1.3.45 00.00 Uhr (both in H. Gr. Weichsel 75122/3 file); OKH, GenStdH, Op. Abt./IIIb Pruef. Nr. 64346, Lage Ost Stand 1.3.45 abds.
68. Obkdo. H. Gr. Weichsel, Allgemeine Lage Stand 2.3.45 00.00 Uhr; Allgemeine Lage Stand 5.3.45 00.00 Uhr; and Gespraech Chef d. Operationsabt., Gen. Krebs, Mit Gen. Lt. Kinzel, 4.3.45, H. Gr. Weichsel 75122/4 file.
69. Zhilin, Vazhneyshiye Operatsii Otechestvennoy Voyny, p. 494.
70. Obkdo. H. Gr. Weichsel, Ia Nr. 2984/45, Tagesmeldung, 12.3.45; OKH, GenStdH, Op. Abt., Ia Nr. 450184/45 an H. Gr. Weichsel, 13.3.45. Both in H. Gr. Weichsel 75122/4 file.
71. OKH, GenStdH, Op. Abt., Ia Nr. 450 189/45, Weisung fuer die Vorbereitung der Abwehrschlacht an der unteren Oder, 16.3.45; H. Gr. Weichsel, Ia, Vermerk, 15.3.45. Both in H Gr. Weichsel 75122/5 file.
72. H. Gr. Weichsel, Vermerk, Ferngespraech Gen. Kinzel-Gen. Krebs, 19.3.45, 17, 50 Uhr, H. Gr. Weichsel 75122/5 file.
73. OKH, GenStdH, Op. Abt., Ia Nr. 450 183/45, an H. Gr. Nord, 11.3.45, H. Gr. Weichsel 75122/5 file.
74. Obkdo. H. Gr. Nord, Ia Nr. 2556/45, an OKH, GenStdH, Op. Abt., 29.3.45, H 22/7a file; OKH, GenStdH, Op. Abt., Ia Nr. 450 255/45 an den O.B. der 4. Armee, 3.4.45, H 22/389 file.
75. OKH, GenStdH, Op. Abt. IIIb, Pruef-Nr. 73504, Lage Ost Stand 30.3.45 abds.
76. Schramm, ed., Kriegstagebuch des Oberkommandos der Wehrmacht IV, 1290.
77. Ibid., p. 1291.
78. Ibid., p. 1327.
79. Ibid., p. 1304.
80. Verteidigungsbereich Berlin, Ia, Op. Nr. 400/45, Grundsaetzlicher Befehl fuer die Vorbereitungen zur Verteidigung der Reichshauptstadt, 9.3.45, Zeitschrift fuer Militaergeschichte, 2/1965, pp. 177-94.
82. OKH, GenStdH, Op. Abt., Notizen nach Fuehrervortrag am 19.3 nachmittags, H 22/7b file.
83. H. Gr. Weichsel, Ia, Velmerk, 15.3.45, H. Gr. Weichsel 75122/5 file.
84. Jodl Diary, 15 May 45.
85. OKH, GenStdH, Op. Abt., Ia Nr. 450/45, Weisung fuer die Vorbereitung der Abwehrschlacht an der unteren Oder, 16.3.45; Obkdo. H. Gr. Weichsel, Abt. Ia Nr. 54/45, Weisung fuer die Vorbereitung der Abwehrschlacht an der unteren Oder, 17.3.45. Both in H. Gr. Weichsel 75122/5 file.
86. OKH, GenStdH, Op. Abt., Ia, Notiz, 10.3.45, file H 22/7b.
87. OKW, WFSt, Op. Qu. 2 Nr. 002711/45, 19.3.45, H 22/7b file.
88. Stenogr. Dienst im F.H. Qu., Lagebesprechung am Abend des 29.3.45, OCMH files.
89. Office, Chief of Naval Operations, Fuehrer Conferences on Matters Dealing With the German Navy, 1945, p. 85; Obkdo. H. Gr. Kurland, Ia Nr. 956/45. Lage nach 20-taegiger Dauer 5. Kurlandschlacht, 7.3.45 and OKH, GenStdH, Op. Abt., Ia Nr. 3249/45, Notiz nach Fuehrervortrag am 17.3. nachmittags, H 22/7b file.
90. OKH, GenStdH, Op. Abt., Notiz nach Fuehrervortrag am 22.3.45 nachmittags, H 22/7b file.
91. Stenogr. Dienst im F.H. Qu., Lagebesprechung am Abend des 23.3.45, OCMH files.
92. Stenogr. Dienst im F.H. Qu., Einzelne Seiten einer Lagebesprechung, Feb.-Maerz 1945, OCMH files.
93. Guderian, Erinnerungen eines Soldaten, p. 389; Obkdo. d. H. Gr. Weichsel, Ia Nr. 4405/45, Tagesmeldung, 22.3.45; Obkdo. H. Gr. Weichsel, Ia Nr. 4496/45, Tagesmeldung, 24.3.45, Obkdo. H. Gr. Weichsel, Ia Nr. 4684/45, Tagesmeldung, 27.3.45 O.B. H. Gr. Weichsel, Notizen, 26.3.45. Last two in H. Gr. Weichsel 75122/5 file.
94. Zhilin, Die wichtigsten Operationen des Grossen Vaterlaendischen Krieges, p. 597.
95. OKH, GenStdH, Abt. Fremde Heere Ost, Nr. 1321/45, Kurze Beurteilung der Feindlage vom 8.3.45, H 3/211 file.
96. H. Gr. Mitte, Ia Nr. 1631/45, an den Fuehrer, 17.3.45 H. Gr. Mitte, Fernspruch an den Fuehrer, 18.3.45; OKH, GenStdH, Op. Abt., Ia Nr. 3347/45. Fernspruch H. Gr. Mitte Nr. 1633/45, 20.3.45. Both in H 22/386 file.
97. OKH, GenStdH, Abt. Fremde Heere Ost, Nr. 1776/45, Kurze Beurteilung der Feindlage vom 26.3.45, H 3/211 file.
98. H. Gr. Mitte, Ia Nr. 1930/45, an den Fuehrer und Obersten Befehlshaber der Wehrmacht, 30.3.45, H 22/7a file.