The Collapse of the Center
Deception and Delusion
In the first week of May 1944, looking beyond the lull then settling in along the Eastern Front, the Eastern Intelligence Branch, OKH, forecast two possible Soviet offensives: one across the line Kovel'-Lutsk cutting deep behind Army Groups North and Center via Warsaw to the Baltic coast; the other through Rumania, Hungary, and Slovakia into the Balkans. Believing the former would require so high a level of tactical proficiency that the Stavka would probably not attempt it, the Eastern Intelligence Branch concluded that the Soviet main effort would continue in the south toward the Balkans, where it could take advantage of the already shaky state of Germany's allies and finally establish the long-coveted Soviet hegemony in southeastern Europe. North of the Pripyat Marshes, the Eastern Intelligence Branch predicted, the front would stay quiet.1
The intelligence estimate jibed almost exactly with the thinking of the OKH and the army group staffs. The one difference was that Army Groups Center and North Ukraine were concerned over very heavy railroad traffic and other signs of a buildup in the Kovel'-Ternopol area. Zeitzler agreed that the activity off the inner flanks of the two army groups was not to be taken lightly, and he proposed taking units from Army Group Center and Army Group North to create a reserve army so that "then one would be able to do something if a big attack were to come." In early May, Army Group Center began reinforcing its right flank corps, LVI Panzer Corps, with tanks, self-propelled assault guns, and artillery. On 12 May the Eastern Intelligence Branch revised its estimate: the main effort would still be in the south, between the Carpathians and the Black Sea, toward the Balkans, but a large offensive force was also being assembled between the Carpathians and the Pripyat Marshes to attack toward L'vov, Lublin, and Brest.2
The prospect of a secondary offensive between the Carpathians and the Pripyat Marshes had one almost attractive aspect: if the rest of the Army Group Center front stayed quiet as predicted, the attack would come at a place where the Germans for once could bring considerable strength to bear. On 10 May Zeitzler suggested using the projected reserve army of which LVI Panzer Corps would form the nucleus, to strike first. The Army Group Center and North Ukraine staffs, apprehensive of another fiasco like Operation ZITADELLE, were cold to the idea, but Model saw in it a chance to employ his
Schild und Schwert theory of active defense and, presumably, an opportunity to euchre his less alert colleague, Busch, out of the very substantial array of strength then being assembled under Headquarters, LVI Panzer Corps.
On the 15th, Model asked Hitler to let him have LVI Panzer Corps to try "an offensive solution." That the thought would appeal to Hitler was obvious. During the next several days reports from Model's headquarters prompted a change in the intelligence picture: it suddenly became clear that the offensive north of the Carpathians would miss Army Group Center completely. On 20 May Hitler transferred LVI Panzer Corps to Army Group North Ukraine. Army Group Center thereby gave up 6 percent of its front and lost 15 percent of its divisions, 88 percent of its tanks, 23 percent of its self-propelled assault guns, 50 percent of its tank destroyers, and 33 percent of its heavy artillery.3
Busch, who had ignored a warning from Weiss, the Commanding General, Second Army, that Model was trying to get his hands on LVI Panzer Corps, surrendered the corps without a protest. As if that did not fully reveal his passive philosophy of leadership, Busch called in the army commanders on 24 May and told them the main, in fact the only, point of the meeting was to impress on them the Fuehrer's unshakable determination to hold the line in the East under all circumstances. He ordered the armies to curtail drastically all work behind the front and concentrate everything on the main line of resistance.4 As it was, the army group had only one major switch position, the BIBER plan on the Beresina River, designated neither "line" nor "position" out of regard for Hitler's easily aroused suspicion that the armies were "looking backward" and because it actually did not amount to much.
The Germans played exactly into the Russians' hands. The Soviet Command had a completely free strategic choice; it had the enemy hopelessly on the defensive and the forces and matériel to deploy in overwhelming strength anywhere on the front. In the third week of April, allegedly on the basis of a State Defense Committee decision that it was "necessary" to eliminate the residual threat posed by the German occupation of Belorussia, the Stavka initiated a covert build-up opposite Army Group Center and an elaborate deception that would mislead the Germans into assuming the summer offensive would again be in the south.5 The opportunity for such a deception was there. During the winter the offensive deployment, including the tank armies, had been away from the center. The desired impression was already convincingly established; all that was needed was to build up the center without too much disturbing it.
Around the first of May, at the same time the German attention was beginning to linger south of the Pripyat Marshes, the build-up began opposite Army Group Center from the Third Panzer Army left flank east of Polotsk to the Ninth Army right between the Dnepr and the Beresina south of Zhlobin. During May and the first three weeks in June the First Baltic and the First, Second, and Third Belorussian Fronts received increases of 60 percent in troop strength, 300 percent in tanks and self-propelled guns, 85 percent in artillery
and mortars, and 62 percent in supporting air strength. Between 1 and 22 June more than 75,000 railroad carloads of troops, supplies, and ammunition were dispatched to the four fronts.6
When the build-up was completed the number of Soviet combat troops in the offensive zone, from west of Vitebsk to south of Bobruysk, was 1.2 million--against an Army Group Center total strength of slightly over 700,000. All told, the number of Soviet troops readied to participate in the offensive, including reserves held back by the Stavka until the operation was in progress, was 2.5 million. Four thousand tanks, 24,400 cannon and mortars, and 5,300 aircraft gave the Soviet forces armored, artillery, and air superiorities ranging upward from 10:1 at the initial assault points.7
The Russians concealed their movements skillfully, and the Germans did not begin to detect the activity opposite Army Group Center until 30 May, when Ninth Army reported a build-up north of Rogatchev.8
Thereafter the signs multiplied rapidly as the deployment went into high gear, but they were not enough to divert the OKH's attention from Army Group North Ukraine, where Model was readying his "offensive solution" under the appropriate cover name SCHILD UND SCHWERT. The Eastern Intelligence Branch dismissed the activity opposite Army Group Center as "apparently a deception."9 The Army Group Center command noted the changes on the Soviet side in the Third Panzer, Fourth, and Ninth Army sectors but scarcely reacted to them at all. Busch was more worried about Second Army's deep right flank and the chances of getting back LVI Panzer Corps after Model had finished with it.
On 14 June, Zeitzler called the army group and army chiefs of staff to a conference. In advance he stated that what was to be said "would not particularly concern Army Group Center." The expected offensive against Army Group North Ukraine continued to preoccupy the OKH; even the predicted Balkan operation had receded into the background. At the meeting the chief of the Eastern Intelligence Branch warned that simultaneous attacks on Army Groups Center and South Ukraine could be expected as preliminaries to the big offensive against Army Group North Ukraine.10
During the next week the portents of trouble on the Army Group Center east front multiplied. The armies reported new Soviet units in their sectors. A downed Russian pilot confirmed rumors picked up by agents that Zhukov was in command. Prisoners stated that in the political indoctrination the emphasis was on retaking all the Soviet land as the first objective. On the night of 19 June partisans planted over 5,000 mines on the roads and railroads behind the Second and Fourth Armies.11 At Army Group Center headquarters the reports aroused no excitement and only routine interest. A brief entry in the army group war diary under the date 20 June states that the stepped-up partisan activity "makes it appear that an early start of the
offensive cannot be ruled out." On the afternoon of that day Busch flew to Germany where he intended to see Hitler at the Berghof on the 22d about administrative matters.12
As the often-repeated slogan "nur keine Schema" implied, a cardinal principle of German general staff doctrine was the avoidance of rigid or schematic tactical and operating conceptions. In June 1944 on the Eastern Front that rule was forgotten. To a Soviet deception, the German commands added an almost hypnotic self-induced delusion: the main offensive would come against Army Group North Ukraine because that was where they were ready to meet it.
Under Busch, Headquarters, Army Group Center, had become a mindless instrument for transmitting the Fuehrer's will. Busch did not intend to exercise any leadership outside the very narrow bounds of Hitler's order to hold the front exactly where it was. The state into which the army group had fallen was described by General der Infanterie Hans Jordan, in a 22 June 1944 entry in his Ninth Army war diary:
Ninth Army stands on the eve of another great battle, unpredictable in extent and duration. One thing is certain: in the last few weeks the enemy has completed an assembly on the very greatest scale opposite the army, and the army is convinced that that assembly overshadows the concentration of forces off the north flank of Army Group North Ukraine. . . . The army has felt bound to point out repeatedly that it considers the massing of strength on its front to constitute the preparation for this year's main Soviet offensive, which will have as its object the reconquest of Belorussia.
The army believes that, even under the present conditions, it would be possible to stop the enemy offensive, but not under the present directives which require an absolutely rigid defense. . . . there can be no doubt . . . if a Soviet offensive breaks out the army will either have to go over to a mobile defense or see its front smashed. . . .
The army considers the orders establishing the "fortified places" particularly dangerous.
The army, therefore, looks ahead to the coming battle with bitterness, knowing that it is bound by orders to tactical measures which it cannot in good conscience accept as correct and which in our own earlier victorious campaigns were the causes of the enemy defeats--one recalls the great breakthrough and encirclement battles in Poland and France.
The Commanding General and Chief of Staff presented these thoughts to the army group in numerous conferences, but there, apparently, the courage was lacking to carry them higher up, for no counterarguments other than references to OKH orders were given. And that is the fundamental source of the anxiety with which the army views the future.13
The Battle for Belorussia
Plans and Forces
The final directives for the offensive against Army Group Center went to the front commands on 31 May. (Map 27) The strategic objectives the Stavka set were to liberate Belorussia and advance to the Vistula and the border of East Prussia.14 Marshals Zhukov and Vasilevskiy were made responsible for planning the operation and were each to co-ordinate two fronts in its execution; Vasilevskiy, the
The Battle for Belorussia
22 June-18 July 1944
First Baltic and Third Belorussian Fronts and Zhukov, the Second and First Belorussian Fronts. The offensive was to be sprung on a wide, 300-mile expanse from south of Polotsk to south of Bobruysk. The first phase objective was to chop out the German strongpoints and communications hubs, Vitebsk, Orsha, Mogilev, and Bobruysk. After that, the forces on the flanks would close in upon Minsk from the northeast and southeast, following the Orsha-Minsk and Bobruysk-Minsk roads, to envelop Fourth Army. Strong columns would go north past Minsk to Molodechno and from Bobruysk via Slutsk' to Baranovichi to block the escape routes from Minsk and to get control of passages through the chain of swamps and forests formed by the Pripyat Marshes, the Nalibocka Forest west of Minsk, and the swampy lowland north of Molodechno between the Viliya and Dvina Rivers.
Their lines of thrust converging on Minsk, the fronts were deployed in a sweeping arc. First Baltic Front, about half of its sector facing Army Group North, from north of Polotsk to Vitebsk; Third Belorussian Front from Vitebsk to south of Orsha; Second Belorussian Front on both sides of Mogilev from south of Orsha to north of Rogatchev; First Belorussian Front from north of Rogatchev to south of Kovel'. First Belorussian Front's sector was broader than those of the other three together, but only its right flank would be engaged.
First Baltic Front, under General Armii Ivan K. Bagramyan, was to attack northwest of Vitebsk with the Sixth Guards and Forty-third Armies, cross the Dvina, and envelop Vitebsk from the west; as the offensive proceeded it would provide flank cover on the north. Third Belorussian Front, commanded by General Polkovnik I. D. Chernyakovskiy, was split into two assault groups. On the north the Thirty-ninth and Fifth Armies were to break through south of Vitebsk, complete the envelopment, and advance southwestward to Senno. On the south the Eleventh Guards and Thirty-first Armies would attack on both sides of the road toward Orsha. After the armies had broken across the Luchesa River, the Cavalry-Mechanized Group Oslikovskiy would begin a fast drive due west past Senno.15 Third Belorussian Front held Fifth Guards Tank Army in reserve to be committed later behind either the north or south group, depending on how the battle developed.
Subsequently, Chernyakovskiy, his main effort north of the Minsk-Orsha road, would advance via Borisov to Minsk and north of Minsk to Molodechno. Second Belorussian Front, composed of the Thirty-third, Forty-ninth, and Fiftieth Armies, under the command of General Armii Matvei V. Zakharov, was to break open the center of the Fourth Army bridgehead east of the Dnepr, take Mogilev, and wall in the pocket around Minsk from the east. Rokossovskiy's First Belorussian Front (formerly Belorussian Front) would employ the Third and Forty-eighth Armies east of the Beresina and Sixty-fifth Army, Twenty-eighth Army, and the Cavalry-Mechanized Group Pliyev west of the river to encircle Bobruysk. Having accomplished that, it would send one force northwest toward
Minsk and another west via Slutsk' to Baranovichi.16
The build-up for the offensive was accomplished with a minimum of unit shuffling. Toward the end of May the Germans became aware that West Front had been supplanted by the Second and Third Belorussian Fronts--which should have alerted them but did not. Three new armies--Sixth Guards, Fifth Guards Tank, and Twenty-eighth--were put into the front. Up to 22 June German intelligence had not identified any of these. Apparently the manpower build-up was actually not as massive as in the previous offensives, and it was accomplished mainly by reinforcing units already in the front. By then the Soviet commands at all levels were capable of handling larger numbers of troops, and reintroduction of the rifle corps helped by extending the army's span of control.
Except for the lengthening of its right flank along the Pripyat River, the Army Group Center front had not undergone important changes after late 1943. On the left Third Panzer Army held a sector on both sides of Vitebsk tying to Army Group North near Polotsk. Fourth Army tied in with Third Panzer Army north of Orsha and with the Ninth Army north of Rogatchev and held a bulging, 25- by 80-mile bridgehead east of the Dnepr. On its left Ninth Army covered around Bobruysk and to the southwest on a line that followed the Prut and Dnepr to south of Zhlobin and then veered southwest across the Beresina to the lower Ptich' and the Pripyat. The Second Army front followed the Pripyat upstream and joined the Army Group North Ukraine left flank north of Kovel'.
Army Group Center had 38 divisions, one of them Hungarian, in the front, 3 panzer or panzer grenadier divisions and 2 infantry divisions in reserve, and 3 Hungarian and 5 security divisions stationed in the rear. Though still numerically the strongest army group, it also held by far the longest front, 488 miles. Army Group North Ukraine, by comparison, had 35 German and 10 Hungarian divisions, including 8 panzer divisions, and held a 219-mile front. Army Groups North Ukraine and South Ukraine together had 18 panzer or panzer grenadier divisions (including 1 Hungarian and 1 Rumanian armored division) as against Army Group Center's 3.17 The distribution of air support was similarly unbalanced. Of 2,085 combat aircraft on the Eastern Front, Sixth Air Force, supporting Army Group Center, had 775 and Fourth Air Force, supporting Army Groups North Ukraine and South Ukraine, had 845, but the Sixth Air Force strength included 405 long-range bombers and reconnaissance planes intended for strategic missions. Fourth Air Force, on the other hand, had 670 fighters and ground support bombers while Sixth Air Force had 275.18
On the morning of 22 June, the third anniversary of the invasion, the offensive against Army Group Center began.19 The First Baltic and Third Belorussian Fronts attacked northwest and southeast of
SOVIET MOTORCYCLE TROOPS DASH FORWARD
Vitebsk. Northwest of the city, Sixth Guards Army, which had moved in undetected, took Third Panzer Army completely by surprise. From the outset Third Panzer Army was in desperate trouble; the army group had to commit one of its reserve infantry divisions, and the OKH released a reserve division standing by in the Army Group North zone near Polotsk. Busch, who received the news at the Berghof, headed back to his headquarters at Minsk without waiting for his interview with Hitler.
The next day the Russians tore through Third Panzer Army and closed in behind Vitebsk. Extending the offensive south against Fourth Army, the Third and Second Belorussian Fronts drove toward Orsha end Mogilev, and by day's end Fourth Army's front was near breaking. During the day Busch reported that he could see no way of closing the Third Panzer Army front without giving up Vitebsk or getting new units from somewhere else. The OKH was not willing to take divisions from Army Group North Ukraine, and Busch did not want to take any from Second Army because he was still worried about an attack toward Brest.20
On the 24th First Belorussian Front hit Ninth Army and penetrated along its north boundary and south of the Beresina. Fourth Army's left flank corps was beginning to fall apart. In the Third Panzer Army sector,
the Russians reached Senno and east of there had tanks turning south behind the Fourth Army flank. Busch secured Hitler's permission to let four of the five divisions encircled at Vitebsk break out--too late.
Everywhere else Busch held to his and Hitler's original idea of a rigid defense. He refused two requests to take back the Fourth Army bridgehead front, and the next day, when the Commanding General, Fourth Army, General der Infanterie Kurt von Tippelskirch, took matters into his own hands and ordered the withdrawal, Busch attempted to reverse the order and to force the units to retake their old front.21 When Ninth Army, on 25 June, wanted to take its main force out of the trap forming between the Dnepr and the Beresina, Busch answered that the army's mission was to hold every foot of ground and not give up anything on its own initiative.22 In the army war diary, the Commanding General, Ninth Army, Jordan, noted, "Having made a responsible report, one must accept the orders of his superiors even when he is convinced of the opposite. What is worse is to know that the completely inadequate directive from the army group is not a product of purposeful leadership trying to do its utmost but merely an attempt to carry out orders long overtaken by events."23
By the end of the fourth day Army Group Center had committed all its reserves without stopping or delaying the Russians anywhere. Five divisions were encircled and as good as lost at Vitebsk. Third Panzer Army was trying to hold on the Dvina and Ulla Rivers fifty miles west of Vitebsk. Fourth Army had taken command of Third Panzer Army's right flank corps, remnants of five divisions that were rapidly being pushed south out of a widening gap west and south of Senno. The Fourth Army front on the bridgehead could hold together only as long as it kept withdrawing. In the Ninth Army sector, Rokossovskiy's armies were heading toward Bobruysk from the east and the south.
In executing the breakthroughs, the Russians showed elegance in their tactical conceptions, economy of force, and control that did not fall short of the Germans' own performance in the early war years. They used tightly concentrated infantry and artillery to breach the front on, by their previous standards, narrow sectors. The tanks stayed out of sight until an opening was ready, then went straight through without bothering about their flanks.
The Soviet air support was concentrated against the German artillery, which, because the danger from the air had not been great in the past, was stationed close to the front in open emplacements that gave wide fields for direct antitank fire but no protection against air strikes.24 The Russians had overwhelming air superiority. By contrast, German Sixth Air Force, nearly paralyzed by shortages of planes and gasoline, had, according to one account, only 40 fighters in working order on 22 June and not enough gas to keep them flying.25
A RUSSIAN WOMAN ATTACKS A GERMAN PRISONER
The Bobruysk Pocket
Ninth Army was the first to succumb. On 26 June the Russians were three miles southwest of Bobruysk and across the Mogilev road twelve miles north of the city. The injunction to hold every foot of ground stayed in force throughout the day. Early the next morning the army received permission to retreat to Bobruysk and the Beresina, which was what the army had wanted to do two days earlier and which could at least have been used as an excuse to maneuver for an escape northward toward Fourth Army. Before the army could act, however, an order arrived forbidding any sort of withdrawal.
In the afternoon the OKH authorized a breakout to the north, but followed it with several sharply worded admonishments through the army group to hold the "fortified place" Bobruysk under all circumstances. By then it was too late. Ten Soviet divisions had closed the pocket. Two corps, a total of 70,000 German troops, were trapped in and east of Bobruysk. In the city thousands of leaderless troops milled about, panicky and confused. Headquarters, Ninth Army, outside the pocket, transferred its one intact corps to Second Army and, with no troops except half of the 12th Panzer Division coming in through Minsk, moved back to Marina Gorka, thirty miles southeast of Minsk, to try to hold open an escape route for Fourth Army. Rokossovskiy, just beginning to hit his stride, lost no
time in striking out for Minsk and behind Second Army toward Slutsk'.26
The Minsk Pocket
In the Fourth Army sector Zakharov's lead elements crossed the Dnepr north of Mogilev on 26 June. By then the neighboring fronts were deep into the army's flanks. Tippelskirch on his own responsibility ordered his army to go behind the Dnepr. To the west, behind the army, lay a 40-mile wide band of swamp and forest between the Prut and the Beresina traversed only by the Mogilev-Beresino-Minsk road. If it retreated any farther, the whole army would have to go on that road and across one 8-ton bridge at Beresino. Radio monitors already had picked up messages to Soviet tank spearheads off the north flank ordering them to take the Beresina crossing.
On the morning of the 27th Fourth Army radioed to army group, "Army requests directive whether to fight its way west or let large elements be encircled." At noon the army group intelligence officer arrived at Fourth Army headquarters in a light plane with an order to hold the Dnepr line and the "fortified places" Orsha and Mogilev. If it was forced back, the army was to set up another line on the Prut. Tippelskirch was certain he would have to withdraw, and in the afternoon, after receiving a report that the Russians were coming around the south flank, so directed. At the last minute Busch interposed an order that Mogilev was to remain a "fortified place." By then the Russians were in Orsha.
On 28 June the Fourth Army staff moved from Belynichi to Beresino over the road the army would have to take. The 30-mile trip lasted nine hours. Columns of barely moving trucks choked the road, and between daylight and dark Soviet planes attacked the Beresino bridge twenty-five times. During the day two corps commanders were killed. To move at all the army staff had to organize details to clear burning trucks and dead horses off the road.
At Beresino, Tippelskirch found waiting for him an injunction from Busch to get Fourth Army behind the Beresina fast. In his personal diary he noted, "This order has come too late!" Toward midnight another message from Busch relayed Hitler's decision to let Mogilev be given up. Nothing had been heard from that "fortified place" for twenty-four hours.27
On the morning of the 28th Busch gave Zeitzler a situation report. Ninth Army was smashed; Fourth Army was retreating; and Third Panzer Army, one corps left out of its original three, was pierced in numerous places. Nevertheless, Busch intended to execute Operations Order 8, which had come in during the night, to the letter. In that order Hitler, apparently using a ruler, had laid out a line due north and south of Beresino on which he demanded that all three armies stop.
Busch was satisfied to have another line to try to hold. He told Reinhardt, whose divisions were already west of the line, to attack because the army group was "iron" bound to the operations order. He instructed
Ninth Army, also west of the line, to commit its half a panzer division "offensively."
During the day the army group and the Operations Branch, OKH, concluded that the offensive against Army Group Center was more ambitious than they had previously assumed and probably was aimed at retaking Minsk, but the OKH believed a more powerful blow might yet be expected against Army Group North Ukraine. To resolve the dilemma, Hitler announced in the afternoon that Model would take command of Army Group Center the next day and at the same time retain command of Army Group North Ukraine to facilitate exchanges of forces between the two. Giving Model command of Army Group Center was for Hitler also a handy way to sidetrack an OKH proposal to take Army Group North back to the line Dvinsk-Riga and so gain divisions for the battle in the center.28
The change in command pleased the armies for other reasons. Ninth Army, in which General der Panzertruppen Nikolaus von Vormann had replaced Jordan as commanding general, received the news with "satisfaction and renewed confidence."29 Tippelskirch, in his last conversation with Busch, "could not resist expressing his bitterness over the developments which had resulted from the way the army group had been led."30 The irony of Model's being called on to rescue Army Group Center from a disaster in which he was substantially, if indirectly, implicated was overshadowed by the fact that he was obviously the man for the job. In the first place, the reinforcements from Army Group North Ukraine would otherwise have come slowly if at all; in the second, he was, next to Rundstedt, who was busy enough in France, the best tactical mind the Germans still had in active command.
During the day of the 29th a Soviet plane scored a hit that blew away thirty feet of the Beresino bridge. After that was repaired, another hit knocked down forty-five feet of the span. Truck columns two and three abreast lined the road for thirty miles to the east. Behind Fourth Army, Headquarters, Ninth Army, had a thin screening line set up southeast of Marina Gorka, but deeper in the rear, off Fourth Army's north and south flanks, spearheads of the Third and First Belorussian Fronts that day they reached Borisov and Slutsk'.
Fourth Army's fate was sealed on 30 June. The Russians had tanks and self-propelled artillery within range of the Beresino bridge. Even to get the troops across the river without their equipment appeared nearly hopeless.31 Elsewhere the army group gained a day's respite when the Russians stopped before Borisov and Slutsk'. Model told Hitler he might be able to hold both places if he could get divisions from Army Group North, which could spare two or three divisions if it pulled back its right flank, then still east of Polotsk. He also wanted Army Group North to extend its flank south and restore contact with Third Panzer Army, which had broken away two days before. Hitler ignored the proposals but instructed Model to start swinging Second
Army back to cover Slutsk' and Baranovichi.32
When the morning air reconnaissance on 1 July showed a column estimated at 35,000 German troops moving north out of Bobruysk along the west bank of the Beresina, Ninth Army sent a panzer regiment that opened a corridor from the west. The German luck did not hold. While the hoops from the pocket funneled through on foot to the railroad at Marina Gorka, Rokossovskiy's tank and motorized spearheads pushed past Slutsk' and Borisov toward Baranovichi and Molodechno. When word came that the Russians were at Bobovnya, thirty miles northwest of Slutsk', the Ninth Army staff pulled out of Marina Gorka toward Stolbtsy, on the railroad half way between Baranovichi and Minsk, where it hoped to hold the Neman River crossing, the last escape route south of Minsk. On the way it was stopped for several hours by troops streaming east and claiming the Russians were behind them. Around Minsk the roads were crammed with service troops and vehicles. Panic gripped the city.
To open the road south of Minsk Ninth Army on 2 July directed the panzer division at Marina Gorka to strike toward Stolbtsy. The army staff had tried but failed to organize a scratch force of stragglers to defend the town. The stragglers, officers and men alike, disappeared as fast as they could be assembled. On the north Fifth Guards Tank Army was approaching Minsk. In the pocket some of the troops who had escaped from Bobruysk were aboard trains trying to get out through Minsk and Molodechno; the majority, on foot, plodded in heat and dust toward Stolbtsy. Except for a rear guard all of Fourth Army was across the Beresina, but its forward elements were stopped east of Minsk. During the day Headquarters, Fourth Army, went to Molodechno to try to hold open the railroad there. Ninth Army's panzer division did not get to Stolbtsy, which the Russians had entered in the morning, but some of the troops from the pocket found a crossing farther downstream on the Neman.
The next day Rokossovskiy's and Chernyakovskiy's troops took Minsk. Ninth Army tried and again failed to open the bridge at Stolbtsy. On 4 July the Russians going toward Baranovichi forced Ninth Army to center its effort there, and after that the only troops to get out of the pocket were individuals and small groups who made their way through the Nalibocka Forest, sometimes helped by the Polish peasants.
In twelve days Army Group Center had lost 25 divisions. Of its original 165,000-man strength, Fourth Army lost 130,000. Third Panzer Army lost 10 divisions. Ninth Army had held the pocket open long enough for some thousands, possibly as many as 10,000-15,000, of its troops to escape. By the time it reached Baranovichi Headquarters, Ninth Army, did not have enough of its staff and communications equipment left to command the divisions being sent north from Second Army. After a few days of trying to operate through Second Army's communications net, it was taken out and sent to the rear to reorganize.33
By 1 July Model was certain the most easterly line he could try to hold was between Baranovichi and Molodechno. He expected some advantage from earthworks and trenches left there from World War I, but told Hitler he would need several divisions from Army Group North to defend Molodechno. He was worried most about his left flank. Between the Army Group North flank, "nailed down" at Polotsk by Hitler's orders, and the Third Panzer Army left flank northeast of Minsk, a 50-mile gap had opened. A gap nearly as wide separated the panzer army's right flank and the Fourth Army short line around Molodechno. Third Panzer Army could be encircled or simply swept away any time the Russians wanted to make the effort, and thereafter the road to Riga and the Baltic coast would be open.
Although Model branded it "a futile experiment," Hitler insisted that Army Group North hold Polotsk and strike to the southwest from there to regain contact with Third Panzer Army. The Commanding General, Army Group North, Lindemann, reported that with two divisions, all he could spare if his flank had to stay at Polotsk, he could not attack. When on 3 July, after receiving permission to go back a short distance from Polotsk, Lindemann continued to insist he could not attack, Hitler dismissed him and appointed Friessner in his place.
When the Russians reached Minsk, Army Group Center, judging by past experience, assumed that they had attained their first major objective and, having gone 125 miles, more than their usual limit on one issue of supplies, would pause at least several days to regroup and resupply.34 The army group was mistaken. The first objective, indeed, had been reached, but the Stavka had ordered the offensive carried west on a broad front without stopping. First Baltic Front was to go toward Dvinsk, Third Belorussian Front to Molodechno and then via Vil'nyus and Lida to the Neman, and First Belorussian Front to Baranovichi and west toward Brest. Second Belorussian Front stayed behind to mop up around Minsk.35
The Russians moved faster than Army Group Center could deploy its meager forces even to attempt a stand. Russian troops were through the narrows south and east of Molodechno by 6 July, and the army group reported that they had full freedom of movement toward Vil'nyus. Second Army committed enough troops around Baranovichi to brake the advance a few days, but one panzer division and a Hungarian cavalry division could not stop four Soviet tank corps backed by infantry. Baranovichi fell on 8 July as did Lida, the road and rail junction west of the Nalibocka Forest.
By stretching its front west, Army Group North narrowed the gap to Third Panzer Army to about twenty miles. Friessner was going to attack south with three divisions, but First Baltic Front's Fourth Shock and Sixth Guards Armies began pressing toward Dvinsk and thus tied down everything on the army group's flank. Friessner then proposed as a "small solution" to let
SOVIET MACHINE GUN CREW IN VIL'NYUS
Sixteenth Army withdraw to the LITHUANIA position, a line being constructed from Kraslava east of Dvinsk to Ostrov; Hitler refused to consider going more than half that distance.
On the 8th Model reported that he could not hold the line Vil'nyus-Lida-Baranovichi--in fact, the attempt had already failed completely. The first town was surrounded and the latter two were lost. Since he did not expect any reinforcements within the next eight days, he could not attempt to stop the Russians anywhere. He asked for an audience with Hitler the next day.
At Fuehrer headquarters, Hitler proposed giving him a panzer division from Germany and two divisions from Army Group North right away, two more later. With these Third Panzer Army was to attack north and close the gap. On the question of the "big solution," taking Army Group North back to the Riga-Dvinsk-Dvina River line, which was what Model wanted most, Hitler was adamant. Admiral Doenitz, he said, had submitted a report proving such a withdrawal ruinous for the Navy.36
For the next several days the Army Group Center front drifted west toward Kaunas, the Neman River, and Bialystok. The help from Army Group North did not come. Friessner could neither release the divisions promised Army Group Center nor
attack south himself. Between the Dvina and the Velikaya, Second Baltic Front and the right flank army of Third Baltic Front were engaging Sixteenth Army in a series of vicious and costly battles. South of the Dvina, around Dvinsk, First Baltic Front troops cracked the line in two places.
On 12 July Friessner reported to Hitler that he still proposed to attack south toward Third Panzer Army, but even if the attack succeeded it would have no lasting effect. Bagramyan's armies would keep on going west. Moreover, he could no longer maintain a stable defense anywhere on his own front south of Ostrov. He urged--"if one wants to save the armies of Army Group North"--taking Armeeabteilung Narva back to Reval and from there by sea to Riga, Liepaja, or Memel and withdrawing the Sixteenth and Eighteenth Armies to the line Riga-Kaunas. "I cannot," Friessner wrote, "reconcile with my conscience not having made every effort in this fateful hour to spare these loyal troops the worst that could befall them and not having found for them an employment that would make it possible to hold the enemy away from the eastern border of our Homeland." If Hitler could not give him freedom of action he asked to be relieved of his command.37
Hitler, who rejected Friessner's proposal emphatically, had another plan. He intended to give Model five panzer divisions, including the big Hermann Goering Parachute Panzer Division, and have them assembled behind Kaunas to attack and close the gap between the army groups. The OKH operations chief pointed out that the battle was moving too fast; in the time it would take to assemble the divisions, the front would undoubtedly change so greatly that the attack would be impossible.
On 13 July Model reported that he would try to stop the Russians forward of the Kaunas-Neman River-Grodno-Brest line, but he would have to use the fresh panzer divisions to do it. Counting new arrivals expected through 21 July, he would then only have 16 fully combat-worthy divisions against 160 Russian divisions and brigades. In a conference at Fuehrer headquarters in Rastenburg on the 14th, Hitler changed his mind to the extent of giving Model the dual mission of first halting the offensive and then creating an attack force on the north flank.38
During the third week of the month the Third Panzer and Fourth Armies managed to come to stop on a line from Ukmerge south past Kaunas and along the Neman to south of Grodno. Second Army, echeloned east, was consolidating as it drew back toward Bialystok. The Ninth Army staff supervised work on a line protecting the East Prussian border and organized blocking detachments to catch stragglers. The army group was beginning to regain its balance.
The Russians, having covered better than 200 miles without a pause, had for the time being outrun their supplies. They were now deep in territory ravaged by recent fighting, and bridges had to be rebuilt and rails relaid.39 Where there had been time to use it, the Germans' Schienenwolf (rail wolf), a massive steel plow towed by a locomotive had, as on other similar occasions,
turned long stretches of railroad into tangles of twisted rails and broken ties.
A Threat to Army Group North
On the 17th, the day the Russians marched 57,000 German prisoners through the main streets of Moscow to mark the victory in Belorussia, Army Group Center radio monitors intercepted messages to Soviet tank units north of Vil'nyus telling them to attack into the gap between Army Groups Center and North. Another, possibly greater, German disaster seemed to be at hand. Model advised the OKH he could not assemble the projected attack force in time to stop the Soviet armor; Army Group North would have to do it or suffer the consequences.40
Army Group North was fully occupied trying to get into the LITHUANIA position, which was beginning to crack at the points where it had been reached. On 16 July Friessner informed Hitler that it was "a marvel" that the Russians had not already sent a force toward Riga to envelop the army group flank. He had nothing to use against them. He was taking one division out of the front at Narva; but it would be fully committed by the 10th; after that he would have no more reserves. "From then on," he concluded, "that the front will fall apart must be taken into account."41
In a conference with Model and Friessner on 18 July, Hitler ordered the fighting in the gap conducted with mobile forces. He would have two self-propelled assault gun brigades there in four days, and by that time Goering would have strong air units ready to help. The army groups would each supply some infantry and a half dozen or so panzer and self-propelled artillery battalions. Goering, who was present, for once screwed up his courage and remarked that one had to speak out, the only way to get forces was to go back to the Dvina line. Hitler agreed that would be the simplest. But, he contended, it would lose him the Latvian oil, Swedish iron ore, and Finnish nickel; therefore, Army Group North's mission would be to hold the front where it was "by every means and employing every imaginable improvisation."42 Trying for the last time to talk Hitler around, Zeitzler carried his argument to the point of offering his resignation and, finally, reporting himself sick. Hitler countered with an order forbidding officers to relinquish their posts voluntarily.43
The Battle Expands to the Flanks
By mid-July, when the frontal advance against Army Group Center began to lose momentum, the Stavka was ready to apply pressure against the flanks. In the north the gap between the Third Panzer and Sixteenth Armies, the "Baltic Gap," offered a ready-made opportunity. First Baltic Front, given the Second Guards and Fifty-first Armies, which had been moved up from the Crimea, deployed them for a strike west toward Shaulyay and from there north toward Riga.
On the south, Army Group North Ukraine was still strong, by current German
GERMAN POW'S BEING PARADED THROUGH MOSCOW, 17 JULY 1944
standards, but it was not the massive "block" that had been created in May and June. It had lost three panzer and two infantry divisions outright and in exchanges had received several divisions that were not battle tested. In the southern three-quarters of the North Ukraine zone, Konev's First Ukrainian Front had ten armies, three of them tank armies. In the northern quarter First Belorussian Front had three armies, reinforced during the second week of July by a guards army and a tank army transferred from the two southern fronts and the Polish First Army, a token force of four divisions. Apparently using the operation against Army Group Center as a model, Rokossovskiy and Konev had positioned their armies for thrusts in the north toward Brest and Lublin, in the center toward Rava Russkaya and L'vov, and in the south toward Stanislav.44
Army Group North Ukraine Broken Through
The Army Group Center disaster mitigated the Army Group North Ukraine command problem somewhat in that it produced a slightly more flexible attitude in the highest headquarters. At the end of June Hitler lifted the "fortified place" designations on Kovel' and Brody and a week later allowed Fourth Panzer Army to give
Army Group North Ukraine and the Ninth Army
14 July-15 September 1944
up Kovel' and go into a shorter line fifteen miles west of the city. In the second week of July he also allowed the army to straighten a bulge on its right flank around Torchin.
When Fourth Panzer Army started back from Torchin, Konev, hoping to catch the Germans off balance, opened his attack toward Rava Russkaya on 13 July, a day earlier than planned. (Map 28) That move disconcerted both sides. Third Guards Army made a ragged start. The German divisions in motion stopped where they were supposed to, but a division a few miles farther south crumbled and a panzer division ordered to backstop it was slowed by air attacks. Next day Thirteenth Army found the weak spot and worked in deeper.45
On 14 July two armies hit the First Panzer Army left flank due east of L'vov. The army had two reserve panzer divisions close behind the front. On the 15th they counterattacked from the south, stopped Thirty-eighth Army, and even drove it back a mile or two. But farther north Sixtieth Army opened a small breach in the German line.
Without waiting for the gaps to be widened, Konev on 16 July committed First Guards Tank Army to the fighting on the Fourth Panzer Army right flank and a day later did the same with Third Guards Tank Army on the First Panzer Army left flank. The two German armies took their flanks back fifteen miles to a switch position named the PRINZ EUGEN, but before that was done the Russians penetrated the new front at the two crucial points. Elsewhere the withdrawal did not shorten the line enough to release troops either to close the gaps or to stop the westward rolling tank columns.
On the 18th Soviet armored spearheads from the north and south met on the Bug River thirty miles west of L'vov.46 Behind them XIII Corps (five German divisions and the SS Division Galicia), was encircled. During the same day First Guards Tank Army, going toward Rava Russkaya, crossed the Bug near Krystynopol. That night Fourth Panzer Army began taking its whole front back to the Bug. The withdrawal was necessary both because of the breakthrough in the south and because Second Army, its neighbor on the north, was being forced back toward Brest. Fourth Panzer Army reported that it had 20 tanks and 154 self-propelled assault guns in working order; the Russians had between 500 and 600 tanks. The army's 12 divisions faced 34 Soviet rifle divisions, 2 mechanized corps, and 2 tank corps. The Russians had 10 rifle divisions, 2 cavalry corps, and 4 independent tank regiments in reserve.
After 18 July the whole Army Group North Ukraine front from Stanislav north was in motion. Having waited for Fourth Panzer Army to start toward the Bug, First Belorussian Front began its thrust to Lublin. On the 10th Eighth Guards Army forced its way across the river nearly to Chelm.
That day, First Guards Tank Army, striking between the Fourth and First Panzer Armies, reached Rava Russkaya, and Third Guards Tank Army passed north of L'vov, while the newly committed Fourth Tank Army closed up to the city from the east. XIII Corps, encircled forty miles east of L'vov, was drawing its divisions together for an attempt to escape to the south before
the right half of the First Panzer Army front was pushed too far west.
On 22 July the Second Army right flank went into the Brest defense ring. Against Fourth Panzer Army Soviet tanks rammed through at Chelm in the morning, covered the forty miles to Lublin by afternoon, and after nightfall 70 enemy tanks and 300 to 400 trucks were reported going northwest past Lublin. Hitler refused to lift the "fortified place" designation, and the 900-man garrison stayed in the city. In the gap between the Fourth and First Panzer Armies, by then thirty miles wide, First Guards Tank Army had an open road to the San River. Fourth Panzer Army told the army group that the only way it could save itself was to withdraw behind the Vistula and San Rivers without delay.47 During the day XIII Corps staged its breakout attempt, but it had too far to go. Of 30,000 men in the pocket no more than 5,000 escaped. Around L'vov First Panzer Army resisted more strongly than the Russians expected, which probably explains why Konev did not launch his planned thrust toward Stanislav.
The Baltic Gap
By 18 July the increased weight against the adjacent flanks of Army Groups Center and North was also being felt. (Map 29) A captured Soviet officer said that he had seen Second Guards Army moving west toward the Third Panzer Army north flank. Fifth Guards Tank Army, with Thirty-third Army close behind, had closed up to the Third Panzer Army front east of Kaunas and along the Neman River south of the city. Reinhardt, who had a weak panzer division and 4 infantry divisions facing 18 rifle divisions, 3 tank corps, a mechanized corps, and 3 independent tank brigades, reported that he saw no chance of restoring contact with Army Group North and proposed that he be allowed to take back his flank on the north enough at least to get a strong front around Kaunas. Model, having returned from the day's conference with Hitler, told him the army would have to stay where it was. Stretching the facts slightly, he said Army Group North would take care of closing the gap. He promised Reinhardt the Herman Goering Division.
During the next three days, while Fifth Tank Army increased its threat to Kaunas by working its way into several bridgeheads on the Neman, Second Guards Army moved west into the Baltic Gap and began pushing the Third Panzer Army flank south. By 22 July the flank division, trying to hold off six guards rifle divisions, was beginning to fall apart, and the gap had opened to a width of thirty-six miles. During the day Second Guards Army's advance elements reached Panevezhis, forty miles behind the Third Panzer Army front. The army was down to a combat effective strength of 13,850 men, but Model again refused a request to go back. As far as reinforcements were concerned, he told Reinhardt, the army would have to withstand the "drought" for two or three more days.48
Sixteenth Army, meanwhile, had completed its withdrawal into the LITHUANIA position on 19 July but had not been able to stop the Russians there. On the 22d Friessner ordered the army back another five to ten miles, which meant giving up its
The North Flank of Army Group Center and Army Group North
18 July-31 August 1944
northern anchor at Pskov. To Hitler he sent word there was no other way of holding the army together; the new line also would not hold, and then he would have to go back again. Soon, he added, the front would lose its Pskov Lake-Lake Peipus tie-in, and getting behind the Dvina would then become a "question of life or death" for the whole army group.49
In the Fuehrer headquarters on 20 July the Attentat (attempted assassination) against Hitler had taken place. A time-bomb had injured all nineteen of the officers at the afternoon situation conference, three of them fatally, and had demolished the building in which the meeting was being held; but Hitler had escaped with minor burns, bruises, and an ear injury.50 In the first few hours after the explosion, a widespread anti-Hitler conspiracy centered in the Army and reaching into the highest command echelons, especially the Army General Staff, came to light. It was quickly smashed, and before the day was out Hitler had placed new men in a number of key posts. The most significant change as far as the Eastern Front was concerned was Guderian's appointment as Acting Chief of Staff, OKH.
Guderian got the appointment by default. In fact, Hitler's first choice was General der Infanterie Walter Buhle, who was among those wounded in the assassination attempt, and now could not assume the post until he had recovered.51 Hitler never completely forgave a general who had once failed him, but on 20 July 1944 Guderian was perhaps the only general in the OKH not under direct suspicion. Although his motives were not entirely clear, Guderian had been the officer who, in Berlin on the afternoon of the assassination attempt, had turned back the tank battalion drawn up to take the SS headquarters on the Fehrbelliner Platz. He had, moreover, lately been full of ideas for winning the war, and he had not attempted to dissemble his low opinion of the field generalship on the Eastern Front since the time he had been relieved of command there. His recent charges of defeatism in the General Staff made it appear unlikely that he had been a member of the conspiracy.
On his appointment, Guderian moved swiftly to give fresh evidence of loyalty to the Fuehrer and to dissociate himself from his predecessors. In an order to all General Staff officers, he demanded of them an "exemplary [Nazi] attitude" on political questions and that publicly. Those who could not comply were to request to be removed from the General Staff. "In order to ease the transition to, for them, possibly new lines of thought," he directed further, that all General Staff officers were to be given opportunities to hear political lectures and were to be detailed to National Socialist leadership discussions.52
On his first day in his new post Guderian demonstrated how he proposed to conduct
the war on the Eastern Front. When the Army Group North chief of staff told him Friessner was convinced the course Hitler was following would lose him the Baltic States and the Sixteenth and Eighteenth Armies to boot, Guderian dismissed the statement with a sneer, saying he expected "General Friessner will be man enough to give the necessary orders [to surrender] in the event of a catastrophe."53
After Friessner sent in his 22 July report his hours in command of Army Group North were numbered. The next day, at Guderian's behest, Friessner and Schoerner traded commands. Guderian told Model he was confident Schoerner would "put things in order" at Army Group North. It was time, he added, also to stiffen the Army Group North Ukraine command's backbone.54
Schoerner went to Army Group North with a special patent from Hitler giving him command authority over all combat forces of the three Wehrmacht branches, the Waffen-SS, and the party and civil offices in the Baltic States.55 Unusual as such sweeping power was, substantively it did not amount to much. It placed at Schoerner's disposal a few thousand men who could be committed in the gap on the army group's south flank; otherwise, its main effect was to underscore Hitler's determination to hold what was left of the Baltic States.
"The thrust is the best parry"
Worried by the threatening developments the day before on his front and flanks, Model, early on 23 July, predicted that the Russians would strike via L'vov to the San River, thrust past Lublin to Warsaw, encircle Second Army at Brest, advance on East Prussia across the Bialystok-Grodno line and by way of Kaunas, and attack past the army group left flank via Shaulyay to Memel or Riga. During the day Model's concern, particularly for his south flank, grew to alarm as the Russians moved north rapidly between the Vistula and the Bug toward Siedlce, the main road junction between Warsaw and Brest. In the late afternoon, after several of his reports had gone unanswered, Model called to tell the Operations Branch, OKH, it was "no use sitting on one's hands, there could be only one decision and that was to retreat to the Vistula-San line." The branch chief replied that he agreed, but Guderian wanted to set a different objective. Later the army group chief of staff talked to Guderian, who quickly took up a proposal to create a strong tank force around Siedlce but would not hear of giving up any of the most threatened points. "We must take the offensive everywhere!" he demanded, "To retreat any farther is absolutely not tolerable."
Before daylight the next morning Guderian had completed a directive which was issued over Hitler's signature. Army Groups North and North Ukraine were to halt where they were and start attacking to close the gaps. Army Group Center was to create a solid front on the line Kaunas-Bialystok-Brest and assemble strong forces on both its flanks. These would strike north and south to restore contact with the
neighboring army groups. All three army groups were promised reinforcements. The directive ended with the aphorism "The thrust is the best parry" (der Hieb ist die beste Parade). After reading the directive Model's chief of staff told the OKH operations chief it would be seven days before the army groups would get any sizable reinforcements--in that time much could happen.56
During the last week in the month the Soviet armies rolled west through the shattered German front. On 24 July First Panzer Army still held L'vov and its front to the south, but behind the panzer army's flank, 50 miles west of L'vov, First Tank Army, Third Guards Tank Army, and the Cavalry-Mechanized Group Baranov had four tank and mechanized corps closing to the San River on the stretch between Jaroslaw and Przemysl. That day Fourth Panzer Army fell back 25 miles to a 40-mile front on the Wieprz River southeast of Lublin; off both its flanks the Russians tore open the front for a distance of 65 miles in the south and 55 miles in the north. Second Army had drawn its three right flank corps back to form a horizontal V with the point at Brest. Behind the army a Second Tank Army spearhead reached the outskirts of Siedlce at nightfall on the 24th, and during the day Forty-seventh and Seventieth Armies had turned in against the south flank.
To defend Siedlce, Warsaw, and the Vistula south to Pulawy, Model, on the 24th, returned Headquarters, Ninth Army, to the front and gave it the Hermann Goering Division, the SS Totenkopf Division, and two infantry divisions, the latter three divisions still in transit. From the long columns coming west across the Vistula, the army began screening out what troops it could. In Warsaw it expected an uprising any day.
The next day Fourth Tank Army crossed the San between Jaroslaw and Przemysl. To try to stop that thrust, Army Group North Ukraine, on orders from the OKH, took two divisions from Fourth Panzer Army and gave the army permission to withdraw to the Vistula. In the Ninth Army sector Rokossovskiy's armor pierced a thin screening line around the Vistula crossings at Deblin and Pulawy and reached the east bank of the river.
Morning air reconnaissance on the 26th reported 1,400 Soviet trucks and tanks heading north past Deblin on the Warsaw road. At the same time, on the Army Group Center north flank reconnaissance planes located "endless" motorized columns moving west out of Panevezhis behind Third Panzer Army. During the day Second Army declared it could not hold Brest any longer, but Hitler and Guderian refused a decision until after midnight, by which time the corps in and around the city were virtually encircled.
In two more days First Panzer Army lost L'vov and fell back to the southwest toward the Carpathians. Fourth Panzer Army went behind the Vistula and beat off several attempts to carry the pursuit across the river. Ninth Army threw all the forces it could muster east of Warsaw to defend the city, hold Siedlce, and keep open a route to the west for the divisions coming out of Brest. South of Pulawy two Soviet platoons crossed the Vistula and created a bridgehead; Ninth Army noted that the Russians were expert at building on such small beginnings.
IMMOBILIZED GERMAN TANK NEAR WARSAW
In the gap between Army Groups Center and North, Bagramyan's motorized columns passed through Shaulyay, turned north, covered the fifty miles to Jelgava, and cut the last rail line to Army Group North. In a desperate attempt to slow that advance, Third Panzer Army dispatched one panzer division on a thrust toward Panevezhis. Hitler wanted two more divisions put in, but they could only have come from the front on the Neman, where the army was already losing its struggle to hold Kaunas.
The 29th brought Army Group Center fresh troubles. Nine rifle divisions and two guards tank corps hit the Third Panzer Army right flank on the Neman front south of Kaunas. Rokossovskiy's armor drove north past Warsaw, cutting the road and rail connections between the Ninth and Second Armies and setting the stage for converging attacks on Warsaw from the southeast, east, and north.
On the 30th the Third Panzer Army flank collapsed, the Russians advanced to Mariampol, twenty miles from the East Prussian border, and could have gone even farther had they so desired. Between Mariampol and Kaunas the front was shattered. In Kaunas and in the World War I fortifications east of the city two divisions were in danger of being ground to pieces as the enemy swung in behind them from the south. Model told Reinhardt that the army group could not grant permission to give up the city and it was
useless to ask the OKH. Reinhardt replied, "Very well, if that is how things stand, I will save my troops"; at ten minutes after midnight he ordered the corps holding Kaunas to retreat to the Nevayazha River ten miles to the west.
On the Warsaw approaches during the day Second Tank Army came within seven miles of the city on the southeast and took Wolomin eight miles to the northeast. In the city shooting erupted in numerous places. In the San-Vistula triangle First Tank Army stabbed past Fourth Army and headed northwest toward an open stretch of the Vistula on both sides of Baranow. Off the tank army's south flank the OKH gave the Headquarters, Seventeenth Army, command of two and a half divisions to try to plug the gap between Fourth Army and First Panzer Army.
On the last day of the month elements of a guards mechanized corps reached the Gulf of Riga west of Riga. Forty miles south of Warsaw Eighth Guards Army took a small bridgehead near Magnuszew. Between the Fourth and Seventeenth Armies, First Tank Army began taking its armor across the Vistula at Baranow. That day, too, for the first time, the offensive faltered: Bagramyan did not move to expand his handhold on the Baltic; apparently short of gasoline, the tanks attacking toward Warsaw suddenly slowed almost to a stop; a German counterattack west from Siedlce began to make progress; and Chernyakovskiy did not take advantage of the opening between Mariampol and Kaunas.57
At midnight on 31 July Hitler reviewed the total German situation in a long, erratic, monologue delivered to Jodl and a handful of other officers. The news from the West was also grim: there the Allies were breaking out of the Cotentin Peninsula, and on the 31st U.S. First Army had passed Avranches. Nevertheless, the most immediate danger, Hitler said, was in the East, because if the fighting reached into Upper Silesia or East Prussia, the psychological effects in Germany would be severe. As it was, the retreat was arousing apprehension in Finland and the Balkan countries, and Turkey was on the verge of abandoning its neutrality. What was needed was to stabilize the front and, possibly, win a battle or two to restore German prestige.58
The deeper problem, as Hitler saw it, was "this human, this moral crisis," in other words, the recently revealed officers' conspiracy against him; he went on:
In the final analysis, what can we expect of a front . . . . if one now sees that in the rear the most important posts were occupied by downright destructionists, not defeatists but destructionists. One does not even know how long they have been conspiring with the enemy or with those people over there [Seydliz's League of German Officers]. In a year or two the Russians have not become that much better; we have become worse because we have that outfit over there constantly spreading poison by means of the General Staff, the Quartermaster General, the Chief of Communications, and so on. If we overcome
this moral crisis . . . in my opnion we will be able to set things right in the East.
Fifteen new grenadier divisions and ten panzer brigades being set up, he predicted, would be enough to stabilize the Eastern Front.59 Being pushed into a relatively narrow space, he thought, was not entirely bad; it reduced the Army's need for manpower-consuming service and support organizations.60
In predicting that the front could be stabilized, Hitler came close to the mark. In fact, even his expressed wish for a victory or two was about to be partially gratified. Model was keeping his forces in hand, and he was gradually gaining strength. Having advanced, in some instances more than 150 miles, the Soviet armies were again getting ahead of their supplies. The flood had reached its crest. It would do more damage; but in places it could also be dammed and diverted.
On 1 August Third Panzer Army, not yet recovered from the beating it had taken between Kaunas and Mariampol, shifted the right half of its front into the East Prussia defense position. Third Belorussian Front, following close, cut through this last line forward of German territory in three places and took Vilkavishkis, ten miles east of the border. The general commanding the corps in the weakened sector warned that the Russians could be in East Prussia in another day.
The panzer army staff, set up in Schlossberg on the west side of the border, found being in an "orderly little German city almost incomprehensible after three years on Soviet soil." But Reinhardt was shaken, almost horrified, when he discovered that the Gauleiter of East Prussia, Erich Koch, who was also civil defense commissioner for East Prussia, had not so much as established a plan for evacuating women and children from the areas closest to the front. The army group chief of staff said that he had been protesting daily and had been ignored; apparently Koch was carrying out a Fuehrer directive.61
In Warsaw on 1 August the Polish Armia Krajowa (Home Army), under General Tadeusz Bor-Komorowski, staged an insurrection. The Poles were trained and well armed. They moved quickly to take over the heart of the city and the through streets, but the key points the insurgents needed to establish contact with the Russians, the four Vistula bridges and Praga, the suburb on the east bank, stayed in German hands. Worse yet for the insurgents, south of Wolomin the Hermann Goering Division, 19th Panzer Division, and SS Wiking Division closed in behind the III Tank Corps, which after sweeping north past Warsaw
had slowed to a near stop on 31 July. In the next two or three days, while the German divisions set about destroying III Tank Corps, Second Tank Army shifted its effort away from Warsaw and began to concentrate on enlarging the bridgehead at Magnuszew, thirty-five miles to the south.62
Stalin was obviously not interested in helping the insurgents achieve their objectives: a share in liberating the Polish capital and, based on that, a claim to a stronger voice in the postwar settlement for Premier Stanislaw Mikolajczyk's British-and-American-supported exile government. On 22 July the Soviet Union had established in Lublin the hand-picked Polish Committee of National Liberation, which as one of its first official acts came out wholeheartedly in favor of the Soviet-proposed border on the old Curzon Line, the main point of contention between the Soviet Union and the Mikolajczyk government. That Mikolajczyk was then in Moscow (he had arrived on 30 July) negotiating for a free and independent Poland added urgency to the revolt but at the same time reduced the insurgents in Soviet eyes to the status of inconvenient political pawns.63
Army Group North Ukraine on 1 August was in the second day of a counterattack, which had originally aimed at clearing the entire San-Vistula triangle, but which had been reduced before it started to an attempt to cut off the First Tank Army elements that had crossed the Vistula at Baranow.64 Although Seventeenth Army and Fourth Panzer Army both gained ground, they did not slow or, for that matter, much disturb Konev's thrust across the Vistula. A dozen large ponton ferries, capable of floating up to sixty tons, were transporting troops, tanks, equipment, and supplies of Third Guards Tank and Thirteenth Armies across the river.65 By the end of the day Fourth Panzer Army had gone as far as it could. The next afternoon the army group had to call a halt altogether. The divisions were needed west of the river where First Tank Army, backed by Third Guards Tank Army and Thirteenth Army, had forces strong enough to strike, if it chose, north toward Radom or southwest toward Krakow.66
On the night of 3 August Model sent Hitler a cautiously optimistic report. Army Group Center, he said, had set up a continuous front from south of Shaulyay to the right boundary on the Vistula near Pulawy. It was thin--on the 420 miles of front thirty-nine German divisions and brigades faced an estimated third of the total Soviet strength--but it seemed that the time had come when the army group could hold its own, react deliberately, and start planning to take the initiative itself. Model proposed to take the 19th Panzer Division and the Hermann Goering Division behind the Vistula to seal off the Magnuszew bridgehead, to move a panzer division into the Tilsit area to support the Army Group North flank, and to use the Grossdeutschland Division, coming from Army Group South Ukraine, to counterattack at Vilkavishkis. He planned to free two panzer divisions by letting Second Army and the right flank of Fourth Army withdraw toward the Narew River. With luck,
he thought, these missions could be completed by 15 August. After that, he could assemble six panzer divisions on the north flank and attack to regain contact with Army Group North.67
For a change, fortune half-favored the Germans. The Hermann Goering Division and the 15th Panzer Division boxed in the Magnuszew bridgehead. Against the promise of a replacement in a week or so, Model gave up the panzer division he had expected to station near Tilsit.68 The division went to Army Group North Ukraine where Konev, after relinquishing the left half of his front to the reconstituted Headquarters, Fourth Ukrainian Front, under General Polkovnik Ivan Y. Petrov, was now also pushing Fourth Tank Army into the Baranow bridgehead. The bridgehead continued to expand like a growing boil but not as rapidly as might have been expected considering the inequality of the opposing forces.69
In the second week of the month three grenadier divisions and two panzer brigades arrived at Army Group Center. On 9 August the Grossdeutschland Division attacked south of Vilkavishkis. Through their agents the Russians were forewarned. They were ready with heavy air support and two fresh divisions. This opposition blunted the German attack somewhat, but the Grossdeutschland Division took Vilkavishkis, even though it could not completely eliminate the salient north of the town before it was taken out and sent north on 10 August.70
A Corridor to Army Group North
In the first week of August the most urgent question was whether help could be brought to Army Group North before it collapsed completely. On 6 August Schoerner told Hitler that his front would hold until Army Group Center had restored contact, provided "not too much time elapsed" in the interval; his troops were exhausted, and the Russians were relentlessly driving them back by pouring in troops, often 14-year-old boys and old men, at every weak point on the long, thickly forested front.71 To Guderian he said that if Army Group Center could not attack soon, all that was left was to retreat south and go back to a line Riga-Shaulyay-Kaunas, and even that was becoming more difficult every day.72
On 10 August Third Baltic and Second Baltic Fronts launched massive air and artillery-supported assaults against Eighteenth Army below Pskov Lake and north of the Dvina. They broke through in both places on the first day. Having no reserves worth mentioning, Schoerner applied his talent for wringing the last drop of effort out of the troops. To one of the division commanders he sent the message: "Generalleutnant Chales de Beaulieu is to be told that he is to restore his own and his division's honor by a courageous deed or I will chase him out in disgrace. Furthermore, he is to report by 2100 which commanders he has had shot or is having shot for cowardice." From the Commanding General, Eighteenth Army, he demanded "Draconian intervention" and "ruthlessness
to the point of brutality."
To boost morale in Schoerner's command, the Air Force sent the Stuka squadron commanded by Major Hans Rudel, the famous Panzerknacker (tank cracker), who a few days before had chalked up his 300th Soviet tank destroyed by dive bombing. Hitler sent word on the 12th that Army Group Center would attack two days earlier than planned. From Koenigsberg the OKH had a grenadier division airlifted to Eighteenth Army.73
Army Group Center began the relief operation on 16 August. Two panzer corps, neither fully assembled, jumped off west and north of Shaulyay. Simultaneously, Third Belorussian Front threw the Fifth, Thirty-third, and Eleventh Guards Armies against Third Panzer Army's right flank and retook Vilkavishkis. During the day Model received an order appointing him to command the Western Theater. Reinhardt, the senior army commander, took command of the army group, and Generaloberst Erhard Raus replaced him as Commanding General, Third Panzer Army.
The next day, while the offensive on the north flank rolled ahead, Chernyakovskiy's thrust reached the East Prussian border northwest of Vilkavishkis. One platoon, wiped out before the day's end, crossed the border and for the first time carried the war to German soil. In the next two days the Russians came perilously close to breaking into East Prussia.
On the extreme north flank of Third Panzer Army two panzer brigades, with artillery support from the cruiser Prinz Eugen standing offshore in the Gulf of Riga, on the 10th took Tukums and made contact with Army Group North. On orders from the OKH, the brigades were immediately put aboard trains in Riga and dispatched to the front below Lake Peipus. The next day Third Panzer Army took a firmer foothold along the coast from Tukums east and dispatched a truck column with supplies for Army Group North. On the East Prussian border the army's front was weak and beginning to waver, but the Russians were by then concentrating entirely on the north and did not make the bid to enter German territory. Reinhardt told Guderian during the day that to expand the corridor and get control of the railroad to Army Group North through Jelgava would take too long. He recommended evacuating Army Group North. Guderian replied that he himself agreed but that Hitler refused on political grounds. The offensive continued through 27 August, when Hitler ordered a panzer division transferred to Army Group North.
At the end, the contact with Army Group North was still restricted to an 18-mile-wide coastal corridor. For the time being that was enough. On the last day of the month the Second and Third Baltic Fronts suddenly went over to the defensive.74
The Battle Subsides
Throughout the zones of Army Groups Center and North Ukraine, the Soviet offensive, as the month ended, trailed off into random swirls and eddies. After taking Sandomierz on 18 August First Ukrainian
Front gradually shifted to the defensive even though it had four full armies, three of them tank armies, jammed into its Vistula bridgehead.75 North of Warsaw First Belorussian Front had harried Second Army mercilessly as it withdrew toward the Narew, and in the first week of September, when the army went behind the river, took sizable bridgeheads at Serock and Rozan. But for more than two weeks Rokossovskiy evinced no interest in the bridgehead around Warsaw, which Ninth Army was left holding after Second Army withdrew.76
In Warsaw at the turn of the month the uprising seemed to be nearing its end. One reason why the insurgents had held out as long as they did was that the Germans had been unable and unwilling to employ regular troops in the house-to-house fighting. They had brought up various remote-controlled demolition vehicles, rocket projectors, and artillery--including a 24-inch howitzer--and had turned the operations against the insurgents over to General von dem Bach-Zelewski and SS-Gruppenfuehrer Heinz Reinefarth. The units engaged were mostly SS and police and included such oddments as the Kaminski Brigade and the Dirlewanger Brigade.77 As a consequence, the fighting was carried on at an unprecedented level of viciousness without commensurate tactical results.78
On 2 September Polish resistance in the city center collapsed and 50,000 civilians passed through the German lines. On the 9th Bor-Komorowski sent out two officer parliamentaries, and the Germans offered prisoner of war treatment for the members of the Armia Krajowa. The next day, in a lukewarm effort to keep the uprising alive, the Soviet Forty-seventh Army attacked the Warsaw bridgehead, and the Poles did not reply to the German offer. Under the attack, the 73d Infantry Division, a hastily rebuilt Crimea division, collapsed and in another two days Ninth Army had to give up the bridgehead, evacuate Praga, and destroy the Vistula bridges. The success apparently was bigger than the Stavka had
wanted; on the 14th, even though 100 U.S. 4-motored bombers flew a support mission for the insurgents, the fighting subsided.79 Until 10 September the Soviet Government had refused to open its airfields to American planes flying supplies to the insurgents. On 18 September American planes flew a shuttle mission, but the areas under insurgent control were by then too small for accurate drops and a second planned mission had to be canceled.80
During the night of 16-17 September Polish First Army, its Soviet support limited to artillery fire from the east bank, staged crossings into Warsaw. The Soviet account claims that half a dozen battalions of a planned three-division force were put across.81 The German estimates put the strength at no more than a few companies, and Ninth Army observed that the whole operation became dormant on the second day. The Poles who had crossed were evacuated on 23 September. On the 26th Bor-Komorowski sent parliamentaries a second time, and on 2 October his representatives signed the capitulation.82
The psychological reverberations of the summer's disasters continued after the battles died down. In September Reinhardt wrote Guderian that rumors in Germany concerning Busch's alleged disgrace, demotion, suicide, and even desertion were undermining the nation's confidence in Army Group Center. He asked that Busch be given some sort of public token of the Fuehrer's continuing esteem.83 In the first week of October, Busch was permitted to give an address at the funeral of Hitler's chief adjutant, Schmundt, who had died of wounds he received on 20 July. If that restored public confidence, it was certainly no mark of Hitler's renewed faith either in Busch or in the generals as a class. He had already placed Busch on the select list of generals who were not to be considered for future assignments as army or army group commanders. After most of the eighteen generals captured by the Russians during the retreat joined the Soviet-sponsored League of German Officers, Hitler also decreed that henceforth none of the higher decorations were to be awarded to Army Group Center officers.84
Where Hitler saw treason in high places, others saw more widespread, more virulent, more disabling maladies: the fear of being encircled and captured and the fear of being wounded and abandoned. The German soldier was being pursued by the specters of Stalingrad, Cherkassy, and the Crimea. Once, he could not even imagine the ultimate disaster--now he expected it.
Table of Contents ** Previous Chapter (XIV) * Next Chapter (XVI)
1. OKH, GenStdH, 1428/44, Zusammenfassende Beurteilung der Feindlage vor der deutschen Ostfront im Grossen, Stand 3.5.44, H 3/185 file.
2. H. Gr. Mitte, Ia, Kriegstagebuch, 1.-31.5.44, 5-12 May 44, OCMH files.
3. Ibid., 13-20, 29 May 44.
4. Ibid., 24 May 44.
5. IVOV (R), IV, 127.
6. Platonov, Vtoraya Mirovaya Voyna, 1939-45, p. 587.
7. IVOV (R), IV, 163.
8. AOK 9, Fuehrungsabteilung, Kriegstagebuch Nr. 10, 30 May 44, AOK 9 59691/1 file.
9. OKH, GenStdH, FHO Nr. 1794/44, Auszug aus kurze Beurteilung der Feindlage der Heeresgruppe Mitte vom 2.6.44-3.6.44 H 3/185 file.
10. H. Gr. Mitte, Ia, Kriegstagebuch, 1.-30.6.44, 14 Jun 44, OCMH files.
11. AOK 9, Fuehrungsabteilung, Kriegstagebuch Nr. 10, 15-20 Jun 44, AOK 9 59691/1 file.
12. H. Gr. Mitte, Ia, Kriegstagebuch, 1.-30.6.44, 20 Jun 44, OCMH files.
13. AOK 9 Fuehrungsabteitung, Kriegstagebuch Nr. 10, 22 Jun 44, AOK 9 39691/10 file.
14. The objectives are those given in Soviet sources, which almost always set the end objectives exactly on the line on which a given operation ended.
15. The cavalry-mechanized groups first appeared as independent commands in the summer of 1944. Each had one tank or mechanized corps and one cavalry corps. They took their designations from the names of their commanding generals, in this instance General Leytenant N. S. Oslikovskiy. Substantially smaller than the tank armies, they were primarily intended for the rapid exploitation of breakthroughs.
16. Telpuchowski, Die sowjetische Geschichte des Grossen Vaterlaendischen Krieges, pp. 365-67; Zhilin, Vazhneyshiye Operatsii Otechestvennoy Voyny, pp. 347-48; IVOV (R), IV, 158-60.
17. GenStdH, Op. Abt/IIIb Pruef-Nr. 98046, Lage Ost, Stand 22.6.44 abds.
18. Air Ministry (British) Pamphlet 248, Rise and Fall of the German Air Force, p. 357.
19. The first Soviet communiqué, issued on 24 June 1944, gave as the starting date 23 June, since then used as such by all Soviet accounts.
20. H. Gr. Mitte, Ia, Kriegstagebuch, 1.-30.6.44, 22, 23 Jun 44, OCMH files.
21. AOK 4, Ia Nr. 2050/44, Die Entwicklung der Lage bei der 4. Armee waehrend der russischen Sommeroffensive 1944, pp. 3-8, AOK 4 67188 file.
22. AOK 9, Sonderanlage zum Kriegstagebuch des AOK 9 Nr. 10, Gefechtsbericht, Schlacht in Weissruthenien vom 24.6-10.4.44, p. 6, AOK 5 59691/26 file.
23. AOK 9, Fuehrungsabteilung, Kriegstagebuch Nr. 10, 1.1.-10.7.44, 25 Jun 44, AOK 9 59691/1 file.
24. AOK 9, Ia Nr. 4565/44, Begriffsbestimmung der Artl.--Schutzstellung, 11.9.44, in Akte V, H. Gr. Mitte 65004/18 file.
25. Tippelskirch, Geschichte des Zweiten Weltkrieges, p. 462.
26. AOK 9, Sonderanlage zum Kriegstagebuch des AOK 9 Nr. 10, Gefechtsbericht, Schlacht in Weissruthenien vom 24.6-10.7.44, pp. 7f, AOK 9 59691/26 file.
27. AOK 4, Ia Nr. 2050/44, Die Entwicklung der Lage bei der 4. Armee waehrend der russischen Sommeroffensive 1944, pp. 14-36, AOK 4 64188 file.
28. H. Gr. Mitte, Ia Kriegstagebuch, 1.-30.6.44, 28 Jun 44, OCMH files.
29. AOK 9 Fuehrungsabteilung Kriegstagebuch Nr. 10, 28 Jun 44, AOK 9 59691/1 file.
30. AOK 4, Ia Nr. 2050/44, Die Entwicklung der Lage bei der 4. Armee waehrend der russischen Sommeroffensive 1944, p. 36, AOK 4 64188 file.
31. Ibid., p. 51.
32. H. Gr. Mitte, Ia Kriegstagebuch 1.-30.6.44, 30 Jun 44, OCMH files.
33. AOK 9, Sonderanlage zum Kriegstagebuch des AOK 9 Nr. 10, Gefechtsbericht, Schlacht in Weissruthenien vom 24.6.-10.7.44, pp. 19-20, AOK 9 59691/26 file; AOK 4, Ia Nr. 2050/44, Die Entwicklung der Lage bei der 4. Armee waehrend der russischen Sommeroffensive 1944, pp. 55-78, AOK 4 64188 file.
34. H. Gr. Mitte, Ia Kriegstagebuch, 1.-31.7.44, 1-3 Jul 44, OCMH files.
35. Zhilin, ed., Vazhneyshiye Operatsii Otechestvennoy Voyny, p. 353.
36. H. Gr. Mitte, Ia Kriegstagebuch, 1-31.7.44, 5-8 Jul 44, OCMH files.
37. O. B. H. Gr. Nord, Meldung an den Fuehrer, 12.7.44, in MS # P-114a (Sixt), Teil V, Anlagen.
38. H. Gr. Mitte, Ia Kriegstagebuch, 1.-31.7.44, 12-14 Jul 44, OCMH files.
39. Zhilin, Vazhneyshiye Operatsii Otechestvennoy Voyny, p. 422; IVOV (R), IV, 190.
40. H. Gr. Mitte, Ia Kriegstagebuch, 1.-31.7.44, 14-17 Jul 44, OCMH files.
41. O. B. H. Gr. Nord, Meldung an den Fuehrer als ObdH, 16.7.44, in MS # P-114a (Sixt), Teil V, Anlagen.
42. H. Gr. Nord, K.T.B., Bericht ueber den Fuehrer-Vortrag im Wolfsschanze am 18.7.44, in MS # P-114a, (Sixt), Teil V, Anlagen.
43. Taetigkeitsbericht des Chefs des Heerespersonalamts, 18 Jul 44, H4/12 file.
44. Platonov, Vtoraya Mirovaya Voyna, 1939-45, pp. 594-96; IVOV (R), IV, 206-08.
45. Pz. AOK 4, Ia Kriegstagebuch, 1.7.-15.8.44, 1-14 Jul 44, Pz. AOK 4 63015/1 file.
46. Platonov, Vtoraya Mirovaya Voyna, 1939-45, p. 598.
47. Pz. AOK 4, Ia Kriegstagebuch, 1.7.-15.8.44, 18-22 Jul 44, Pz. AOK 4 63013/1 file.
48. Pz. AOK 3, Ia Kriegstagebuch, 11.-31.7.44, 18-23 Jul 44, Pz. AOK 3 64190/4 file.
49. H. Gr. Nord, Ia Nr. 126/44, 22.7.44, AOK 18 64843/1 file.
50. Hitler later said that after the explosion the tremors in his left leg, which had long bothered him, almost disappeared, but, he added, the treatment was not one he would recommend. Kg., Wh., S 121/44, Besprechung des Fuehrers mit Generaloberst Jodl am 31.7.44 in der Wolfsschanze, EAP 13-m-10/1 file.
51. Taetigkeitsbericht des Chefs des Heerespersonalamts, 20 Jul 44, H4/12 file.
52. Der Chef des Generalstabes des Heeres, an alle Generalstabsoffiziere, 29.7.44, EAP 21-c-12/5e file.
53. Vortrag des Chefs des Gen. St. der H. Gr. Nord beim Chef des Gen. St. d. H. am 21.7.44, in MS # P-114a (Sixt), Teil V, Anlagen.
54. Army Group North Ukraine was under Generaloberst Josef Harpe as Model's deputy. H. Gr. Mitte, Ia Kriegstagebuch, 1.-31.7.44, 24 Jul 44, OCMH files.
55. Der Fuehrer, OKW, WFSt, Qu.2 (Ost) Verw. 1 Nr. 007984/44, an GenStdH, Gen Qu., H. Gr. Nord, 24.7.44, H. Gr. Mitte 65004/4 file.
56. H. Gr. Mitte, Ia Kriegstagebuch, 1.-31.7.44, 23, 24 Jul 44, OCMH files.
57. H. Gr. Mitte, Ia Kriegstagebuch, 1.-31.7.44, 24-31 Jul 44, OCMH files; Pz. AOK 4, Ia Kriegstagebuch, 1.7.-15.8.44, 24-31 Jul 44, Pz. AOK 4 63015/1; Pz. AOK 3, Ia Kriegstagebuch, 11.-31.7.44, 24-31 Jul 44, Pz. AOK 3 64190/4 file; AOK 9 Fuehrungsabteilung Kriegstagebuch Nr. 11, 24-31 Jul 44, AOK 9 64802/1 file; MS # 114a (Sixt), Teil IV, pp. 740-44; MS # 114b (Hofmann), Teil VII, pp. 78-81; MS # 114a (Hauck), pp. 38-39.
58. That afternoon Guderian had told the Army Group Center chief of staff that an attack on both flanks absolutely had to be made in order to influence the current negotiations with Turkey. H. Gr. Mitte, Ia Kriegstagebuch, 1.-31.7.44, 31 Jul 44, OCMH files.
59. On 7 July Hitler had ordered the new divisions created. Most of the grenadier divisions were built around the staffs and supply and service elements of divisions that had lost all or nearly all their combat troops in the early weeks of the Soviet offensive. To get the personnel for the grenadier divisions and the panzer brigades, the Army had to use all the replacements scheduled for the Eastern Front in July and August and 45,000 men released from hospitals. Org. Abt. (I) Nr. 1/7272/44, Notiz, 8.7.44, H1/220 file; Org. Abt. Nr. 1 2/46654/44, Notiz, 9.9.44, H 1/222 file.
60. Kg. Wh., S 121/44, Besprechung des Fuehrers mit Generaloberst Jodl am 31.7.44 in der Wolfsschanze, EAP 13-m-10/1 file.
61. Pz. AOK 3, Ia Kriegstagebuch, 1.-20.8.44, 1 Aug 44, Pz. AOK 3 64190/5 file.
62. AOK 9, Fuehrungsabteilung Kriegstagebuch Nr. 11, 1 Aug 44, AOK 9 64802/1 file.
63. Werner Markert, Osteuropa-Handbuch, Polen (Koeln-Graz, 1959), pp. 210-13.
64. Obkdo. H. Gr. Nordukraine, Ia Nr. 0852/44, an nachr. Pz. AOK 4, 29.7.44, Pz. AOK 4 63015/3 file.
65. IVOV (R), IV, 220.
66. Pz. AOK 4, Ia Kriegstagebuch, 1.7.-15.8.44, 29 Jul-2 Aug 44, Pz. AOK 4 63015/1 file.
67. H. Gr. Mitte, Ia Kriegstagebuch, 1.-31.8.44, 4 Aug 44, OCMH files.
68. Ibid., 5 Aug 44.
69. Pz. AOK 4, Ia Kriegstagebuch, 1.7.-15.8.44, 3-15 Aug 44, Pz. AOK 4 63015/1 file.
70. Pz. AOK 3, Ia Kriegstagebuch, 1.-20.8.44, 9, 10 Aug 44, Pz. AOK 3 64190/3 file.
71. Oberbefehlshaber der H. Gr. Nord, "Mein Fuehrer!" 6.8.44, H. Gr. Nord 75137/2 file.
72. H. Gr. Nord, Beurteilung der Lage durch H. Gr. am 6.8.44 an OKH, in MS # P-114a (Sixt), Teil V, Anlagen.
73. AOK 18, Ia Kriegstagebuch, Teil 4h, Band I, 10-12 Aug 44, AOK 18 60251/2 file.
74. H. Gr. Mitte, Ia Kriegstagebuch, 1.-31.8.44, 16-31 Aug 44, OCMH files; Pz. AOK 3, Ia Kriegstagebuch, 1.-20.8.44, 16-20 Aug 44, Pz. AOK 3 64190/5 file; Pz. AOK 3, Ia Kriegstagebuch, 21.-31.8.44, 21-28 Aug 44, Pz. AOK 3 64190/6; MS # 114a (Sixt), Teil IV, p. 768.
75. Pz. AOK 4, Ia Kriegstagebuch, 16.8-3.10.44, 18 Aug-1 Sep 44, Pz. AOK 4 63015/2 file.
76. H. Gr. Mitte, Ia Kriegstagebuch, 1.-31.8.44, 15-31 Aug 44, OCMH files; H. Gr. Mitte, Ia Kriegstagebuch, 1.-30.9.44, 1-9 Sep 44, OCMH files.
77. The Kaminski Brigade, under Mieczyslaw Kaminski, a Pole who claimed Russian nationality and had attempted to create a Russian Nazi Party with himself as its Fuehrer, was composed of Cossacks and other Russians including Soviet Army deserters. Until the fall of 1943 it had held the so-called Self-Government Area Lokot in the heavily partisan-infested Bryansk Forest. After Lokot was lost, the 7,000-man brigade, with over 20,000 camp followers and dependents, had gradually drifted westward with the retreating Germans, marauding as they went. Undisciplined and haphazardly armed and uniformed, the brigade resembled a 16th or 17th century band of mercenaries more than a modern military unit. In the fourth week of the uprising the Germans had Kaminski shot because he refused to accept any kind of authority.
The Dirlewanger Brigade, under SS-Standartenfuehrer (Col.) Oscar Dirlewanger, was composed, except for the officers and a few others, of men from the concentration camps, some of them communists and other political prisoners, most of them common criminals. Dirlewanger was a drunkard who had once been expelled from the SS after being convicted of a serious moral offense. He had shaped the brigade in his own brutal image. Had it not been for Himmler's protection, he would more than once have been court-martialed for atrocities committed in and out of combat.
78. The greatest atrocities, the massacres of men, women, and children in the Wola and Ochota Quarters on 5 and 6 August 1944, were committed before the operations against the insurgents actually began. Hitler and Himmler at first welcomed the uprising as an opportunity to destroy the capital of an ancient enemy and to create an object lesson for other conquered countries. Harms von Krannhals, Der Warschauer Aufstand 1944 (Frankfurt a. M., 1962), pp. 308-12.
79. AOK 9 Fuehrungsabteilung, Kriegstagebuch Nr. 11, 30 Aug-14 Sep 44, AOK 9 64902/1 file.
80. Markert, Osteuropa-Handbuch, Polen, p. 213; Cordell Hull, The Memoirs of Cordell Hull (New York, 1948), II, 1447.
81. IVOV (R), IV, 245.
82. AOK 9, Fuehrungsabteilung, Kriegstagebuch Nr. 11, 16 Sep-5 Oct 44, AOK 9 64802/1 file.
83. O.B. d. H. Gr. Mitte, an den Chef des Gen StdH, 10.9.44, in H. Gr. Mitte, Ia Akte V, H. Gr. Mitte 65004/18 file.
84. Taetigkeitsbericht des Chefs des Heerespersonalamts, 27 Jul, 1, 5 Aug 44, H 4/12 file.