Crumbling Empire: The German Defeat in the East, 1944

Crumbling Empire The German Defeat in the East, 1944
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To destroy the Third Reich, the Allies needed to defeat the German Wehrmacht militarily, and the decisive victories of this period occurred on the Russian Front. More German soldiers were lost in White Russia than at Stalingrad; more troops were lost in Rumania in a brief ten days than in the entire Normandy campaign; and German losses in Hungary were greater than the Battle of the Bulge. The most mobile army in the world in , the German Army was the "least" mobile by , and Hitler's stand fast and fortified place policies imposed a paralysis that neither senior German generals nor the High Command of the Army were able to overcome.

The meeting engagement at Prochorovka was a Soviet defensive success, albeit at heavy cost. Tank losses on both sides have been the source of controversy ever since. Although the 5th Guards Tank Army did not attain its objectives, the German advance had been halted. At the end of the day both sides had fought each other to a standstill, but regardless of the German failure in the north Erich von Manstein proposed he continue the attack with the 4th Panzer Army.

The Red Army started the strong offensive operation in the northern Orel salient and achieved a breakthrough on the flank of the German 9th Army. Also worried by the Allies' landing in Sicily on 10 July, Hitler made the decision to halt the offensive even as the German 9th Army was rapidly giving ground in the north.

The Germans' final strategic offensive in the Soviet Union ended with their defence against a major Soviet counteroffensive that lasted into August. The Kursk offensive was the last on the scale of and that the Wehrmacht was able to launch; subsequent offensives would represent only a shadow of previous German offensive might. The Soviet multi-stage summer offensive started with the advance into the Orel salient.

Although intense battles of movement throughout late July and into August saw the Tigers blunting Soviet tank attacks on one axis, they were soon outflanked on another line to the west as the Soviet forces advanced down the Psel , and Kharkov was abandoned for the final time on 22 August.

The German forces on the Mius , now comprising the 1st Panzer Army and a reconstituted 6th Army, were by August too weak to repulse a Soviet attack on their own front, and when the Red Army hit them they retreated all the way through the Donbass industrial region to the Dnieper, losing half the farmland that Germany had invaded the Soviet Union to exploit. At this time Hitler agreed to a general withdrawal to the Dnieper line, along which was meant to be the Ostwall , a line of defence similar to the Westwall Siegfried Line of fortifications along the German frontier in the west.

The main problem for the Wehrmacht was that these defences had not yet been built; by the time Army Group South had evacuated eastern Ukraine and begun withdrawing across the Dnieper during September, the Soviet forces were hard behind them. A second attempt by the Red Army to gain land using parachutists, mounted at Kaniv on 24 September, proved as disappointing as at Dorogobuzh eighteen months previously.

World War 2: The Tide Turns (Russian German War)

The paratroopers were soon repelled — but not until still more Red Army troops had used the cover they provided to get themselves over the Dnieper and securely dug in. As September ended and October started, the Germans found the Dnieper line impossible to hold as the Soviet bridgeheads grew.

Important Dnieper towns started to fall, with Zaporozhye the first to go, followed by Dnepropetrovsk.

Samuel W. Mitcham

Finally, early in November the Red Army broke out of its bridgeheads on either side of Kiev and captured the Ukrainian capital, at that time the third largest city in the Soviet Union. Eighty miles west of Kiev, the 4th Panzer Army, still convinced that the Red Army was a spent force, was able to mount a successful riposte at Zhytomyr during the middle of November, weakening the Soviet bridgehead by a daring outflanking strike mounted by the SS Panzer Corps along the river Teterev.

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This battle also enabled Army Group South to recapture Korosten and gain some time to rest. However, on Christmas Eve the retreat began anew when the First Ukrainian Front renamed from the Voronezh Front struck them in the same place. The Soviet advance continued along the railway line until the Polish—Soviet border was reached on 3 January In the second week of January they swung north, meeting Vatutin's tank forces which had swung south from their penetration into Poland and surrounding ten German divisions at Korsun—Shevchenkovsky, west of Cherkassy. Hitler's insistence on holding the Dnieper line, even when facing the prospect of catastrophic defeat, was compounded by his conviction that the Cherkassy pocket could break out and even advance to Kiev, but Manstein was more concerned about being able to advance to the edge of the pocket and then implore the surrounded forces to break out.

By 16 February the first stage was complete, with panzers separated from the contracting Cherkassy pocket only by the swollen Gniloy Tikich river. Under shellfire and pursued by Soviet tanks, the surrounded German troops, among whom were the 5th SS Panzer Division Wiking , fought their way across the river to safety, although at the cost of half their number and all their equipment. They assumed the Red Army would not attack again, with the spring approaching, but on 3 March the Soviet Ukrainian Front went over to the offensive.

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Having already isolated the Crimea by severing the Perekop isthmus , Malinovsky's forces advanced across the mud to the Romanian border, not stopping on the river Prut. One final move in the south completed the —44 campaigning season, which had wrapped up a Soviet advance of over miles. After two weeks' of heavy fighting, the 1st Panzer managed to escape the pocket, at the cost of losing almost the entire heavy equipment. At this point, Hitler sacked several prominent generals, Manstein included. In April, the Red Army took back Odessa , followed by 4th Ukrainian Front's campaign to restore control over the Crimea, which culminated in the capture of Sevastopol on 10 May.

Along Army Group Centre's front, August saw this force pushed back from the Hagen line slowly, ceding comparatively little territory, but the loss of Bryansk, and more importantly Smolensk, on 25 September cost the Wehrmacht the keystone of the entire German defensive system. The 4th and 9th armies and 3rd Panzer Army still held their own east of the upper Dnieper, stifling Soviet attempts to reach Vitebsk. In a lightning campaign, the Germans were pushed back from Leningrad and Novgorod was captured by Soviet forces.

The context

Details the massive battles on the Eastern Front from the summer of until the fall of Budapest in early The last place a German soldier wanted to be in was the Russian front. The last place a German soldier wanted to be in was the Russian front. That summer, Stalin hurled into battle more than six million men and 9, tanks.

After a mile advance in January and February, the Leningrad Front had reached the borders of Estonia. To Stalin, the Baltic Sea seemed the quickest way to take the battles to the German territory in East Prussia and seize control of Finland. The German army group "Narwa" included Estonian conscripts , defending the re-establishment of Estonian independence. Wehrmacht planners were convinced that the Red Army would attack again in the south, where the front was fifty miles from Lviv and offered the most direct route to Berlin.

Accordingly, they stripped troops from Army Group Centre, whose front still protruded deep into the Soviet Union. The Germans had transferred some units to France to counter the invasion of Normandy two weeks before. The Belorussian Offensive codenamed Operation Bagration , which was agreed upon by Allies at the Tehran Conference in December and launched on 22 June , was a massive Soviet attack, consisting of four Soviet army groups totalling over divisions that smashed into a thinly held German line.

More than 2.

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During the mids, after the Nazis took power in Germany, the SS acquired police powers, first in Bavaria and then across Germany. Next day the U. In Italy, enemy counter-attacks subsided after failing to dislodge our beachhead at Anzio. China entered her seventh year of war supported by the U. In one recorded incident, a trek leader even made disparaging remarks in front of a refugee group about how he as one SS man in Germany was worth more than the thousands of them. At the Tripartite Conference at Yalta, plans for the final destruction of German military power were coordinated and ratified. While Allied planes inflicted disastrous losses on the retreating enemy, fast-moving ground forces swept across the Seine and raced north and east toward the frontier.

At the points of attack, the numerical and quality advantages of the Soviet forces were overwhelming. The Red Army achieved a ratio of ten to one in tanks and seven to one in aircraft over their enemy. The Germans crumbled. The capital of Belarus , Minsk , was taken on 3 July, trapping some , Germans. Ten days later the Red Army reached the prewar Polish border.

Bagration was, by any measure, one of the largest single operations of the war. The offensive at Estonia claimed another , Soviet soldiers, , of them classed as dead. The Soviet advance in the south continued into Romania and, following a coup against the Axis-allied government of Romania on 23 August, the Red Army occupied Bucharest on 31 August. Romania and the Soviet Union signed an armistice on 12 September. The rapid progress of Operation Bagration threatened to cut off and isolate the German units of Army Group North bitterly resisting the Soviet advance towards Tallinn.

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Three armies were pitted there against the Finns, among them several experienced guards rifle formations. The attack breached the Finnish front line of defence in Valkeasaari on 10 June and the Finnish forces retreated to their secondary defence line, the VT-line. The Soviet attack was supported by a heavy artillery barrage, air bombardments and armoured forces. After heavy fighting in the battles of Tali-Ihantala and Ilomantsi , Finnish troops finally managed to halt the Soviet attack. Whether Stalin was unable or unwilling to come to the aid of the Polish resistance is disputed.

Two months later, the Soviet forces won the battle and entered Slovakia. The Soviet Union finally entered Warsaw on 17 January , after the city was destroyed and abandoned by the Germans.

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Over three days, on a broad front incorporating four army fronts , the Red Army launched the Vistula—Oder Offensive across the Narew River and from Warsaw. The Soviets outnumbered the Germans on average by 5— in troops, in artillery, in tanks and in self-propelled artillery. During the full course of the Vistula—Oder operation 23 days , the Red Army forces sustained , total casualties killed, wounded and missing and lost 1, tanks and assault guns.

On 25 January , Hitler renamed three army groups. In the south, the German attempts, in Operation Konrad , to relieve the encircled garrison at Budapest failed and the city fell on 13 February. On 6 March, the Germans launched what would be their final major offensive of the war, Operation Spring Awakening , which failed by 16 March.

enter site OKW claim German losses of 77, killed, , wounded and , missing, with a total of , men, on the Eastern Front during January and February The East Prussian operation , though often overshadowed by the Vistula—Oder operation and the later battle for Berlin, was in fact one of the largest and costliest operations fought by the Red Army throughout the war. During the period it lasted 13 January — 25 April , it cost the Red Army , casualties, and 3, tanks and assault guns.

During the first two weeks of April, the Red Army performed their fastest front redeployment of the war. While this redeployment was in progress, gaps were left in the lines and the remnants of the German 2nd Army, which had been bottled up in a pocket near Danzig, managed to escape across the Oder.

The Soviet offensive had two objectives. Because of Stalin's suspicions about the intentions of the Western Allies to hand over territory occupied by them in the post-war Soviet sphere of influence , the offensive was to be on a broad front and was to move as rapidly as possible to the west, to meet the Western Allies as far west as possible. But the over-riding objective was to capture Berlin. The two were complementary because possession of the zone could not be won quickly unless Berlin was taken.

Another consideration was that Berlin itself held strategic assets, including Adolf Hitler and part of the German atomic bomb program.

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The offensive to capture central Germany and Berlin started on 16 April with an assault on the German front lines on the Oder and Neisse rivers. After several days of heavy fighting the Soviet 1BF and 1UF punched holes through the German front line and were fanning out across central Germany. They were now free to move west towards the British 21st Army Group and north towards the Baltic port of Stralsund. On 29 and 30 April, as the Soviet forces fought their way into the centre of Berlin, Adolf Hitler married Eva Braun and then committed suicide by taking cyanide and shooting himself.

Helmuth Weidling , defence commandant of Berlin, surrendered the city to the Soviet forces on 2 May. German losses in this period of the war remain impossible to determine with any reliability.

Lvov–Sandomierz Offensive

It included the phrase All forces under German control to cease active operations at hours Central European time on 8 May The war in Europe was over. In the Soviet Union the end of the war is considered to be 9 May, when the surrender took effect Moscow time. This date is celebrated as a national holiday — Victory Day — in Russia as part of a two-day 8—9 May holiday and some other post-Soviet countries.

The ceremonial Victory parade was held in Moscow on 24 June. The German Army Group Centre initially refused to surrender and continued to fight in Czechoslovakia until about 11 May. A small German garrison on the Danish island of Bornholm refused to surrender until they were bombed and invaded by the Soviets.