The January Offensive
Two Fronts, the Fuehrer's Will, and German Resources
On Christmas Eve, 1944, Guderian dined at the Adlerhorst, the Fuehrer headquarters in the Taunus Mountains ten miles northwest of Bad Nauheim. Hitler had left Rastenburg early in the month and after a short stay in Berlin had, before the Ardennes offensive began, moved to the headquarters from which he had directed the victorious 1940 campaign against France. Guderian had arrived that morning after an overnight trip in his command train from the OKH headquarters at the Maybachlager in Zossen, south of Berlin. He was there to ask Hitler to call off the offensive in the West and send the surplus strength east. During the past forty-eight hours it had become certain that the Ardennes operation would not achieve its planned objective, and on the Eastern Front north of the Carpathians the Russians had completed the heaviest buildup of the war.
Hitler refused to surrender the initiative in the West and scoffed at the OKH's figures on the Soviet forces deployed against Army Groups A and Center. He called the build-up "the greatest bluff since Genghis Kahn." He refused to consider creating reserves for the East either by taking units from the West, from Norway, or from Courland; the Eastern Front would have to shift for itself. At dinner that night, Himmler, who had lately embarked on a military career as an army group commander in the West, advised Guderian not to worry so much; the Russians, he insisted, would not attack; they were trying "a gigantic bluff." All Guderian's visit accomplished was that Hitler waited until the next day, when the Chief of Staff was on the way back to Zossen and out of touch for several hours, to order Headquarters, IV SS Panzer Corps, and two panzer grenadier divisions transferred to Army Group South to relieve Budapest.1
For Germany in the last days of 1944 the end did in fact not seem as near as it had in midsummer. The vise the Allies and the Soviet Union had talked about was not closing. The Ardennes offensive was not going to be a strategic blow that would give Germany a free hand against the Soviet Union; but the Germans had the initiative, and it would be a while before the Allies could take up their march into the heart of the Reich. North of the Carpathians the Russians had made no substantial advance in two and a half months, and, after being almost completely
destroyed in August, Army Group South was so close to holding its own in Hungary that a relief of Budapest did not appear impossible. Army Group E was in the last stage of its withdrawal from Greece, Albania, and southern Yugoslavia. In Italy, Army Group C had stopped the British and Americans at the Gothic Line.
Nevertheless, Hitler's strategy was bankrupt. He was rigidly committed to holding everything he still had. He had put his last block of liquid military assets into the attempt to bail himself out in the West and failed. He could only fight for time, and he knew it. In late December he told one of the generals, "The war will not last as long again as it has lasted. That is absolutely certain. Nobody can endure it; we cannot and the others cannot. The only question is, who will endure longer? It must be he who has everything at stake. We have everything at stake."2 But even so, he did not have nearly as much time as he apparently imagined; the German capacity to hold out, to endure, was heading into an irreversible downward spiral.
Both on the east and the west, Germany's enemies had unmatchable matériel superiority. German industrial output had withstood the ravages of the bombing surprisingly well, but it was on a seesaw that progressively dipped lower, stayed down longer, and rose more slowly. The aircraft plants had turned out 3,000 fighters in September 1944, a wartime high. In October jet fighters had begun to come off the lines. In December fighter production was still higher than in any month before May 1944.3 Armored vehicle production, including tanks, assault guns, and self-propelled assault guns, reached its wartime peak of 1,854 units in December 1944, but mainly because the heavy components had long lead times and therefore had been put into the production pipeline months earlier. On the other hand, the base of the industrial pyramid was crumbling. Heavy bombing of the Ruhr in December reduced pig iron, crude steel, and rolling mill production for that month to about half of the September 1944 level and one-third that of January 1944.4 The bombing had also by late 1944, according to the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey, so severely damaged the German railroad system that the country "could not hope to sustain, over any period of time, a high level of war production."5
Industries with short lead times were already feeling the pinch. The motor vehicle industry was hard hit both by bomb damage to its plants and by the breakdown of the railroads. In October and November 1944 the assembly plants turned out 12,000 trucks by rebuilding all the disabled Army trucks that could be found in Germany. In December only 3,300 of the 6,000 new trucks needed were produced, and Hitler earmarked 70 percent for the offensive in the West.6 In January the truck strengths authorized for panzer and panzer grenadier divisions would have to be reduced 25 percent, and the Army would
have to begin mounting the panzer grenadiers on bicycles.7 Hitler tried to console himself with thoughts that the armored divisions had too many vehicles anyway, that the time of the sweeping maneuver was past, and that, if it came down to cases, the infantry divisions could move faster than the so-called mobile divisions, which he said only created traffic jams.8
Militarily, what hurt most was the catastrophic decline in oil production that had begun in May 1944. In spite of the top-priority Geilenberg program to disperse, repair, and build synthetic oil plants, output had fallen during the summer. In September, because of the bombings, no synthetic plants had operated. The Rumanian oil had been lost at the end of August. In October and November synthetic oil production had resumed at a low rate, but by the end of December, renewed heavy bombing had knocked out all but one of the large plants, and 20 percent of the small ones.9 Army Group South held the Hungarian fields at Nagykanizsa, but, owing to loss of the refineries at Budapest and resistance by the workers, the gasoline output was not enough to meet the army group's own requirements.10 In June 1944 the German Air Force had consumed 180,000 metric tons of aviation gasoline; its total supply for the rest of the war amounted to no more than 197,000 metric tons.11 Although aircraft production stayed high through the end of the year, the Air Force lacked enough gasoline to give the pilots adequate training and to employ the planes effectively. The shortage of motor fuel was almost as stringent, and the Army had similar troubles with its armored vehicles.
Although the downturn in military manpower had begun earlier than the decline in production, it had to a degree been amenable to various palliative measures; by late 1944 most of these that showed any promise, and some that did not, had been or were being tried, and they were not bringing in enough men to prevent the German Army's burning out at the core. Between June and November 1944 the total German irrecoverable losses on all fronts were 1,457,000, and of these 903,000 were lost on the Eastern Front.12 On 1 October 1944 the Eastern Front strength stood at 1,790,138, about 150,000 of these Hiwis (Russian auxiliaries).13 This was some 400,000 men less than in June and nearly 700,000 less than in January 1944, when the Western Theater could still be regarded as a semireserve.
The manpower shortage was affecting most the old and experienced divisions. In the period 1 September to 31 December 1944 one-third of the replacements for all fronts, 500,000 men, went into new or completely rebuilt divisions. At the end of the same period the old divisions had over 800,000 unfilled authorized spaces--after a 700,000-space reduction in the 1944 tables of organization.14
In August 1944 Hitler had called on Goebbels, as Reichs Plenipotentiary for Total War, to procure a million men through party channels. They were to be used to create new divisions and were to be called up without regard for previous draft status. At the year's end Goebbels had secured 300,000 new recruits and about 200,000 interservice transfers.15 In October Hitler had activated the Volkssturm--a home guard--under party leadership, composed of men aged 16 to 60 otherwise draft-exempt. The members were to be put into Army uniforms, if available; if not, they were to wear the party uniform or civilian clothes.16 He had also authorized the "Gneisenau" and "Bluecher" programs whereby some 200,000 men were to be organized into territorial divisions in the eastern military districts. In November, for the first time, he had agreed to allow Russian collaborator troops to fight on the front in the East and actually to constitute the long-talked-about Russian Army of Liberation with Vlasov as its commanding general.17 In the attempt to sustain the Army's combat strength, Hitler was not above permitting some organizational and arithmetical sleight of hand. He authorized artillery corps with brigade strengths, panzer brigades of two battalions, and panzer Jaeger brigades with one battalion. For the months August through December, the number of men called up (1,569,000) slightly exceeded the total decline in field strength for the same period, but a closer look revealed that 956,000 of the recruits would not reach the field until well after 1 January 1945.18
In October and November 1944, the Organization Branch, OKH, had called for combat-condition reports from the armies and army groups. As was to be expected, they all agreed that what they needed most were more replacements. They reported that troop morale was "affected" by the recent losses of prewar German territory in the West and in East Prussia and by the "terror bombing." The general attitude of the troops was still confident, but for the "great majority" the confidence was grounded "exclusively" on the hope that soon new weapons would appear which could stop the air raids and break the enemy ground superiority.19
How deeply in trouble Germany was Hitler knew better than the poor Landsers and grenadiers who still believed in secret weapons. He also knew exactly what he was going to do--in fact, had known all along. He had, in the past, wavered, even lost his nerve completely, when his fortune was at a crest but never when it was in a trough. On 28 December 1944 in the Adlerhorst, addressing the commanding generals of the divisions that were to open an offensive on New Year's Day in northern Alsace, he admitted that the Ardennes offensive had failed and that Germany would henceforth be fighting for its naked existence. Then he went on:
I would like to interpose immediately, gentlemen, when I say that, you should not infer that I am thinking of losing the war even in the slightest. I have never in my life learned the meaning of the word capitulation, and I am one of those men who has worked his way up from nothing. For me, therefore, the circumstances in which we find ourselves today are nothing new. The situation for me was once altogether different and much worse. I say that only so you can judge why I pursue my goal with such fanaticism and why nothing can break me down. I could be yet so tortured by worries and, as far as I am concerned, my health could be destroyed by worry without its in the slightest changing my decison to fight until in the end the balance tips to our side.20
The refrain was an old one, but formerly, even in a similar speech to the generals on the eve of the Ardennes offensive, it had a strong political and strategic counterpoint. Hitler then still spoke as a statesman and strategist bringing his will into play to accomplish purportedly rational objectives. Now his will alone was all that counted; armies and battles were secondary; what was important and all that was important was that he not weaken. He went on to tell the generals that history refuted the argument that one had to look at impending defeat from the sober military point of view; in the last analysis, it was the strength and determination of the leadership that decided whether wars were won or lost. He cited Cannae and "the miracle of the House of Brandenburg" when Frederick the Great, defeated in the Seven Years' War, regained by the Peace of Hubertusburg all the territory he had lost and some to boot after the coalition against him fell apart. Hundreds of thousands were to die while Hitler awaited the second such miracle.
Guderian Goes to the Eastern Front
On 5 January 1945 Guderian visited the Army Group South headquarters in Eszterhaza. During the following night his train took him north across Czechoslovakia to the Army Group A headquarters, in Krakow. It was no ordinary inspection tour. He was deeply troubled. The Budapest relief operation was taking more time than could prudently be spared for it, and Army Groups A and Center were expecting an offensive, more powerful than any they had experienced, to start in the middle of the month.
North of the Carpathians the Eastern Front had not changed significantly since the end of summer. (Map 37) Between Christmas and New Year's Army Group North in Courland had beaten off the third Soviet attempt in three months to break
The January 1945 Offensive Against Army Groups A (Center) and Center (North)
open its front. Elsewhere the front had been calm since the first week in November, when a Fourth Army counterattack drove the Soviet armies in the sector east of Gumbinnen off all but a fifteen-mile by fifty-mile strip of East Prussian territory.
The outstanding features of the Army Group A and Center fronts were the five Soviet bridgeheads: Rozan and Serock on the Narew; Magnuszew, Pulawy, and Baranow on the Vistula. They were the wedges that could splinter all the rest. In November Army Group A had taken command of Ninth Army; thereafter its zone reached from Modlin to the northern border of Hungary. Its armies--Ninth, Fourth Panzer, Seventeenth, and Armeegruppe Heinrici (First Panzer Army and Hungarian First Army)--straddled the direct routes of attack into Germany proper. Army Group Center, with the Third Panzer, Fourth, and Second Armies, covered the East Prussia-Danzig area. The months of quiet had given the army groups time to build a close-meshed network of field fortifications extending back from the Vistula and Narew to the Oder. The major road junctions were ringed with defenses and designated as fortresses.
The Eastern Intelligence Branch, OKH, at first had thought that the next Soviet offensives would be aimed at taking East Prussia and clearing the lower Vistula and at taking Upper Silesia and Vienna in a wide pincers movement that would also engulf Czechoslovakia.21 In December the estimate changed: the main effort, the intelligence branch predicted, would be by the First Belorussian and First Ukrainian Fronts against Army Group A, and the attack would go west and northwest. A simultaneous thrust against Army Group Center was to be expected, possibly with a more limited objective than the full conquest of East Prussia, because the efforts to smash Army Group North had so far not succeeded.22 By early January it appeared that the Russians would also go for the "big solution" against Army Group Center, the thrust to the lower Vistula, and that against Army Group A they intended to go deep, possibly as far as Berlin.23
Strength comparisons showed that opposite 160 German units of roughly division or brigade size on the whole Eastern Front the Russians had 414 units in the front, 261 in front reserves, and 219 in reserves in depth.24 Even with allowances for a Soviet unit size 30 percent smaller than the
SOVIET PLANES ON A MISSION
German and an over-all 40 percent under authorized strengths (with no similar understrength allowance for the German units), the Soviet superiority worked out at over 2.3:1. The actual ratio was in fact higher, and at the crucial points it was overwhelming. Against Army Group Center the Second and Third Belorussian Fronts had 1,670,000 men, over 28,000 artillery pieces and mortars, and 3,300 tanks and self-propelled artillery, which gave them over-all superiorities Of 2.8:1 in troops, 3.4:1 in artillery, and 4.7:1 in armor.25 In their sectors opposite Army Group A, the First Belorussian and First Ukrainian Fronts had a total of 2,200,000 troops, 6,400 tanks and self-propelled artillery, and 46,000 artillery pieces (including heavy mortars and rocket launchers). Against these the German Ninth, Fourth Panzer, and Seventeenth Armies could field about 400,000 troops, 4,100 artillery pieces, and 1,150 tanks.26 At their points of attack, the bridgeheads, the First Belorussian and First Ukrainian Fronts had the Germans outnumbered on the average by 9:1 in troops, 9-10:1 in artillery, and 10:1 in tanks and self-propelled artillery. In the Magnuszew bridgehead alone First Belorussian Front had 400,000 troops, 8,700 artillery pieces and mortars, and 1,700 tanks.27
In the air on 1 January 1945, the Germans could put up 1,900 planes on the Western Front, and 1,875 on the Eastern Front. The main effort was still in the West. North of the Carpathians the First and Sixth Air Forces had some 1,300 planes. The Russians had over 10,000.28
The Army Group A staff had a plan ready to present to Guderian when he arrived in Krakow. The outlook, no matter what the army group did, was not good. In December, prompted by the loss of two reserve divisions to Army Group South, the army group chief of staff had conducted a war game which showed that the Russians could break through and reach the Silesian border in six days and that they could be stopped on the Oder was by no means certain. A subsequent study showed that the most the army group could do was to give itself what might be a fighting chance. The first major switch position, the so-called HUBERTUS line, paralleled the western face of the Baranow bridgehead about five miles to its rear and then ran in an almost straight line north to the western tip of the Magnuszew bridgehead. The army group proposed to pull back to the HUBERTUS line in the two nights before the offensive began--to get the inner flanks of the Fourth Panzer and Ninth Armies out of probable encirclement, get Fourth Panzer Army's right flank out of the front on the Baranow bridgehead before the Soviet artillery preparation started, shorten the front, and give the army group some reserves. Guderian reviewed the plan and approved it on 8 January, but that Hitler would do likewise was scarcely to be expected.29
On the 9th, after having also received an Army Group Center proposal to go back from the Narew to the line on the East Prussian border, Guderian reported to Hitler in the Adlerhorst. According to Guderian's account, Hitler refused to believe the intelligence estimates of Soviet strength and told him whoever had concocted them ought to be placed in an asylum. He also rejected both army groups' proposals.30 The surviving fragment of the stenographic record contains rambling remarks by Hitler on the folly of having given ground in Russia in the first place and an admonishment that those who were "beginning to whine" ought to look at the example of what the Russians had gone through at Leningrad.31
That night, after Guderian had gone, Hitler was still thinking of arguments to refute the intelligence figures. The enemy needed 3:1 numerical superiority in tanks, he said, just to stay even; the Russians could not have as many guns as Guderian claimed; they were not "made of artillery"; and, even if they did have the guns, How many rounds could they fire? Ten or a dozen per piece. Referring, apparently, to the Army Group A plan, he grumbled, "This operational idea--to go back here [pointing], create two groups, and attack with them--is downright dangerous."32
Whether Hitler wanted to believe it or not, the respite was over. On 3 January
he had officialy abandoned the objectives of the Ardennes offensive; on the 8th he had issued an order to let the spearhead army, the Sixth SS Panzer Army, fall back and become a reserve to meet Allied counterattacks.33 The offensive in northern Alsace was still on, but it had, at most, nuisance value. On 7 January Army Group A detected fresh Soviet units moving into the front on the west face of the Baranow bridgehead. In the Pulawy and Magnuszew bridgeheads the Russians were reinforcing their artillery. The final deployment was obviously under way.34
The Stavka's Plans
The Stavka had prepared two offensives, related but separated geographically by the course of the Vistula west of Warsaw. The stronger of the two was to be opened between Warsaw and the Carpathians by the First Belorussian and First Ukrainian Fronts with an assist on the left from Fourth Ukrainian Front. First Belorussian Front, Zhukov commanding, was to strike out of the Pulawy bridgehead toward Lodz, out of the Magnuszew bridgehead toward Kutno, and on its right flank encircle Warsaw. Konev's First Ukrainian Front was to break out of the Baranow bridgehead westward toward Radomsko, turning one force northwest to collaborate with the First Belorussian Front left flank in destroying the Germans in the Kielce-Radom area and another southwest toward Krakow and the Upper Silesian industrial area. Subsequently, both fronts were to advance abreast west and northwest toward the Oder. North of the Vistula bend Second Belorussian Front, Rokossovskiy in command, was to break out of the Serock and Rozan bridgeheads, strike northwest to the Baltic coast, cut off East Prussia, and clear the line of the lower Vistula. On Rokossovskiy's right, Chernyakovskiy's Third Belorussian Front was to attack due west south of the Pregel River toward Koenigsberg, split Third Panzer Army off from the Army Group Center main force, and envelop Fourth Army among and west of the Masurian Lakes.35
Strategically, the Stavka intended nothing less than to end the war--in about a 45-day operation, according to its estimates. Following standard general staff practice, the detailed plan covered only the initial phase. Its success was considered certain, and no more than 15 days were allotted to it. The second phase would require somewhat more daring and time, but not much more of either. The Stavka knew that the German center, the Army Group A zone, was dangerously weak. The forces on the flanks, particularly Army Group Center in East Prussia, appeared relatively stronger, but in the least favorable situation they could be immobilized. Therefore, in the second phase, for which 30 days were allowed and which would follow the first without a full stop, the Stavka intended to run the First Belorussian and First Ukrainian Fronts straight through to Berlin and the Elbe River.36
During the four months, September to January, the Soviet Command provided
massive logistical support for the coming offensive. The railroads in eastern Poland were converted to the Russian gauge and, at the Vistula bridgeheads, were extended across the river. First Belorussian Front received over 68,000 carloads of supplies, only 10 percent less than had been sent to all four fronts before the June 1944 offensive against Army Group Center. Over 64,000 carloads went to First Ukrainian Front. At the Magnuszew bridgehead, First Belorussian Front stockpiled 2.5 million artillery and mortar shells and at the Pulawy bridgehead 1.3 million. By comparison, in the whole Stalingrad operation Don Front had fired less than a million artillery and mortar rounds. Together, First Belorussian and First Ukrainian Front's gasoline and diesel oil stocks amounted to more than 30 million gallons. Second and Third Belorussian Fronts, located off the main road and railroad nets and having less crucial missions, would have to economize somewhat on motor fuel and rations but not on ammunition. Together the two fronts had as initial issues 9 million artillery and mortar rounds, of which two-fifths were earmarked for the opening barrage.37
In preparing for the offensive, the Soviet Command had recast its troop indoctrination program. For a year or more, the central theme had been the liberation of Soviet territory, but henceforth the Soviet armies everywhere would be fighting on foreign soil. The new theme, in a word, was Vengeance! It was disseminated in meetings, by slogans, on signs posted along the roads, and in articles and leaflets authored by prominent Soviet literary figures. Political officers recounted stories of crimes the Germans had committed against Russian women and children and of German looting and destruction in the Soviet Union. Soldiers and officers told what had happened to their own families. The objective was to give each man the feeling that he had a personal score to settle.38
The starting date for the offensives, according to Soviet accounts, had originally been 20 January. After Churchill, on the 6th, asked Stalin what he could do on the east to take some of the pressure off the Allies, it was moved ahead eight days to the 12th.39 In December, except for the sideshow going on around Budapest, the Eastern Front, from the Allies' point of view, had been dismayingly quiet. At midmonth Stalin had told U.S. Ambassador W. Averell Harriman that a winter offensive would be launched, but he did not offer more precise information. On 15 January Stalin talked to Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur W. Tedder, who headed a SHAEF (Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force) party sent to learn the Soviet intentions. Stalin explained that the offensive had been delayed by the weather but had been started earlier than intended because of the Allies' difficulties in the west; his objective was to reach the line of the Oder.40
German intelligence reports confirm that after mid-December the Stavka had probably been waiting for a change in the weather. The winter was colder than the one before, but snow, fog, and clouds interfered with air activity and artillery observation.
Starting early undoubtedly cost the Russians something; on the other hand, with the Yalta Conference in the offing, it was no disadvantage to Stalin to have his armies on the move, Poland in his pocket, the Soviet-supported Lublin government safely established in Warsaw, and the Allies in his debt for a favor rendered a shade late.
From the Vistula to the Oder
On the west face of the Baranow bridgehead, between the Vistula and the Lysogory, XXXXVIII Panzer Corps had three divisions, one man for each fifteen yards of front. The divisions had a dozen self-propelled assault guns apiece, and each corps held about 100 in reserve. The front was no more than a chain of strongpoints. Fifteen miles back, the reserve corps, XXIV Panzer Corps, had deployed two panzer divisions, and it had stationed two more panzer divisions off the north face of the bridgehead. To make the breakout, First Ukrainian Front had five armies, two tank armies, and better than a thousand tanks.
In the early hours of 12 January the temperature stood a few degrees above freezing. The roads were icy. Low-hanging clouds and fog would, as they had for several days past, keep the aircraft grounded. Before dawn the massed Soviet artillery, estimated at 420 pieces per mile, laid a barrage on the northern two-thirds (approximately twenty miles) of XXXXVIII Panzer Corps' front. After three hours the fire shifted to a strip pattern and the infantry moved out into the openings. The Germans were caught forward of the main battle line; they had expected the Russians to wait for better weather. During the morning the Russian infantry drove in deep; by noon it had opened gaps wide enough for the armor to come through. XXXXVIII Panzer Corps' three divisions were cut up and destroyed. XXIV Panzer Corps had orders to counterattack, but its two divisions west of the bridgehead were overrun in their assembly areas.
On the 13th Fourth Tank Army wheeled northwest toward Checiny, and Fifty-second Army and Third Guards Tank Army pushed due west past Chmielnik. During the night some of the tank spearheads had reached the Nida River. Across the Nida a 40-mile-wide path to Upper Silesia and the Oder was open. On the north flank XXIV Panzer Corps, what was left of it, dug in around Kielce.41
Ninth Army expected the attacks out of the Magnuszew and Pulawy bridgeheads when they came on 14 January, but it fared only slightly better. The Russians broke into the German artillery positions, and both defending corps lost half their strengths on the first day.
On the 15th Forty-seventh Army on the First Belorussian Front right flank broke through north of Warsaw to Modlin, and Thirty-eighth Army, the right flank army of Fourth Ukrainian Front, began pushing west toward Krakow. During the day Thirteenth, Fourth Tank, and Third Guards Armies pushed XXIV Panzer Corps out of Kielce, thereby removing that
not very significant threat to First Ukrainian Front's flank.
On the 13th Hitler had ordered two infantry divisions transferred from the West. The next day, in a move that was to hurt Army Group Center, which was also under attack, more than it benefited Army Group A, he ordered Center to give up Panzer Corps Grossdeutschland and its two divisions to Army Group A. On the 15th he ordered Army Group South to send two panzer divisions to Army Group A.
From Zossen, on the second and third days of the battle, Guderian sent two situation estimates to the Adlerhorst. The tenor of both was the same: the Eastern Front could not survive without reinforcements from the West; at the very least the Army Group South offensive would have to be stopped and the armored divisions sent to Army Group A.42 The intelligence estimate of 15 January stated flatly that the offensive against Army Group A could not be stopped with the forces then on the Eastern Front.43 Hitler refused either to stop Army Group South or to send more divisions from the West.
On the night of the 15th Hitler moved his headquarters from the Adlerhorst to the Reichs Chancellory in Berlin. Minutes before the departure, Guderian called and, as Jodl recorded it, "Requested urgently that everything be thrown east."44 The next day, when Guderian talked to him in Berlin, Hitler said that he was going to send Sixth SS Panzer Army's two corps, the most readily available reserves in the West, to the Eastern Front, but to Army Group South in Hungary, not to Army Group A. He had decided that the outcome of the war hinged on holding the Hungarian oil fields.45
Back in Berlin, Hitler took the Eastern Front directly in hand. On 16 January he relieved Generaloberst Joseph Harpe and gave Schoerner command of Army Group A, calling Rendulic in from Norway to take over Army Group North. During the day, apparently before Hitler had arrived in Berlin, the OKH had issued a directive giving Army Group A freedom of decision in the great bend of the Vistula, including authority to evacuate Warsaw. When Hitler saw the directive he ordered a new one written to supersede it. Fighting from the map, as was his habit, he demanded "as a minimum" that Army Group A stop on, or regain, a line from east of Krakow to west of Radomsko and thence along the Pilica River to the vicinity of Warsaw; Warsaw and the Vistula to Modlin were to be held. The army group was to be told that the two panzer divisions from Army Group South would be the last it would get for two weeks; by way of a concession, it could let Seventeenth Army and Armeegruppe Heinrici go far enough back in the Carpathians to release a division or two.46
On 17 January the Russians completed the breakout phase of the offensive. First Belorussian and First Ukrainian Fronts had cleared the entire line of the Vistula from east of Krakow to west of Modlin. On that day XXIV Panzer Corps, the last island of resistance between the two fronts, broke loose northwest of Kielce and began to drift erratically as it fought its way west to the Pilica. Konev's spearheads were across the Pilica and up to Czestochowa and Radomsko. First Belorussian Front took Warsaw. The Stavka ordered Zhukov and Konev to accelerate the thrusts toward the Oder and instructed Konev to use his second echelon, mostly infantry which had not yet been in action, and his left flank units to take Krakow and the Upper Silesian industrial area.47
The failure to hold Warsaw set off an explosion in Berlin. Army Group A reported that the revised directive had come too late; the Warsaw garrison had destroyed its supplies and was leaving the city by the time it arrived. Hitler suspected sabotage--not without reason, by his lights: the original OKH directive was hardly one which any officer acquainted with Hitler could have expected him to approve. On 18 January he had the three senior officers in the Operations Branch, OKH, arrested. The next day he signed an order that took away the last shreds of discretion left to the field commanders. Henceforth every army group, army, corps, or division commander was to be personally responsible for seeing to it that every decision for an operational movement, whether attack or withdrawal, was reported in time for a counterorder to be given. The first principle in combat would be to keep open the communication channels, and all attempts to gloss over the facts would be met with Draconian punishment.48
Schoerner, as always, made his presence felt from the moment he took command. One of his first acts was to dismiss the Commanding General, Ninth Army, General der Panzertruppen Smilo Freiherr von Luettwitz, on the charge that on the day Warsaw was lost his conduct of operations had been insufficiently "clear and rigorous."49 General der Infanterie Theodor Busse took command of the army. Schoerner had given the army group the first taste of his by then well enough known ruthlessness; others in all ranks were to feel it before the battle ended.
Also in the Schoerner style, the reports and orders coming out of army group headquarters began to exude confidence. The daily report of 18 January stated that the mission of defending the Upper Silesian industrial area could be "successfully" accomplished if the two panzer divisions coming from Army Group South arrived soon. The Soviet thrust toward Posen, going into a gap between Fourth Panzer Army and Ninth Army, would require "a speedy
development of new forces," but it, too, could then be stopped and counterattacks could be begun on its flanks. The report did not indicate where the army group proposed to get the new forces.
The next day Schoerner gave Seventeenth Army the mission of defending Upper Silesia, ordered Fourth Panzer Army to stop the Russians west of Czestochowa and on the line of advance toward Breslau, and ordered Ninth Army to hold between Lodz and the Vistula and at the same time counterattack south off its right flank. If the assignments to Seventeenth Army and Ninth Army had at least theoretical substance, the mission given to Fourth Panzer Army bore slight relationship to hard reality. The army had nothing left but parts of two divisions and one or two brigades; XXIV Panzer Corps and the remnants of the army's left flank divisions were still encircled and fighting their way northwest into the Ninth Army sector.50
By 19 January the offensives against Army Groups A and Center were both running full tilt. The army groups had lost contact with each other, and in the Army Group A zone broad gaps had opened between the Ninth and Fourth Panzer and between the Fourth Panzer and Seventeenth Armies. South of Lodz Ninth Army's XXXX Panzer Corps and Panzer Corps Grossdeutschland were trying to hold a short line until XXIV Panzer Corps (Gruppe Nehring) could cross the Pilica. East of Breslau Fourth Panzer Army was being thrown back to the German border; at Namslau and east of Oppeln the Russians were across the border.51 Seventeenth Army had a nearly continuous 40-mile front on the eastern border of the Upper Silesian industrial area; but it lost Krakow on the 19th.
The Soviet armies moved in columns on the roads, the tank armies averaging 25-30 miles a day and the infantry armies 18 miles. First Belorussian Front's main force struck past Lodz toward Poznan, First Ukrainian Front's toward Breslau while its infantry turned off the flank toward Upper Silesia.52 The weather had cleared and the overwhelming Soviet air superiority added to the Germans' troubles. The Luftwaffe had begun shifting fighter and ground support aircraft east after 14 January, but the losses, mostly in planes captured on the ground when their landing fields were overrun, outnumbered the new arrivals. Aircraft repair and assembly plants dispersed in Poland to escape the Allied bombing were falling into the Russians' hands.53
Behind the front vehicles of all descriptions jammed the roads leading into Germany. In the mass of humanity fleeing westward were civilian refugees, party and administrative personnel, and not a few stragglers from combat units; Army Group A did not have enough military police even to begin screening out the latter. The
refugee treks, a long-familiar sight on the Eastern Front, for the first time were composed of Germans. For the first time, too, the treks did not need to be urged onward; they were propelled by sheer terror. The Russian vengeance on German civilians was swift, personal, merciless and, more often than not, brutal. To debate here whether the misery and destruction the Germans visited on half of European Russia in the execution of Nazi occupation policy exceeded the rape, arson, pillage, and wanton murder that accompanied the Russian march into Eastern Germany would be profitless. Certainly thousands on thousands of Germans and Russians suffered horribly and most of them innocently. The sheer, massive inhumanity of the war on the Eastern Front in World War II has no equal in modern history.
The cluster of industrial cities in Upper Silesia had succeeded the bombed-out Ruhr as Germany's number one coal- and basic-metals-producing center. At the end of the third week in January the factories and mines were still going full blast. To the east Seventeenth Army's left flank stood like a windbreak, but it was open on the north where Fourth Panzer Army was being shoved west toward the Oder. On 21 January Konev turned Third Guards Tank Army at Namslau and sent it doubling back to the southeast along the Oder behind Seventeenth Army's flank.
On 22 January XXIV Panzer Corps made contact with Panzer Corps Grossdeutschland on the Warthe River near Sieradz. Caught in the Russian tide, both corps continued to drift west. On the same day the First Ukrainian Front left flank reached the Oder. During the next three days Konev's armies closed up to the river on a 140-mile stretch between Cosel and Glogau. At Breslau Fourth Panzer Army held a bridgehead; upstream and downstream from the city the Russians crossed the river in half a dozen places. Schoerner ordered counterattacks; the armies could not execute them.54
Army Group Vistula
On the 25th First Belorussian Front's main force passed Poznan heading due west toward Kuestrin on the Oder. Its advance was now taking it away at a right angle from Second Belorussian Front, which had turned north along the east bank of the Vistula. On that lengthening front between the Vistula and the Oder Hitler had put in the newly created Army Group Vistula and given Himmler command.
Guderian had wanted to bring Weichs and his headquarters up from Yugoslavia to command Army Group Vistula, but Hitler professed to see signs of authentic if late-blooming military talent in Himmler's recent handling of Army Group Oberrhein. Hitler gave Himmler the mission of closing the gap between Army Groups Center and A, preventing breakthroughs to Danzig and Poznan, and holding open a corridor to East Prussia. He gave Himmler the further responsibility of organizing the national defense behind the whole Eastern Front.55
When Himmler arrived on the scene on 23 January, one of the missions was already
obsolete; Second Army had broken away from the Army Group Center flank and the Russians were closing up to the Baltic coast at the mouth of the Vistula; Army Group Center was cut off. Second Army had a front along the lower Vistula, but west of the river all the way to the Oder, as Himmler reported, there was "nothing but a big hole."56 By 25 January another of the missions was beyond executing; on that day the Russians passed Poznan.
Himmler had come east in the Steiermark, his tremendously long and elegantly outfitted special train. It was parked at first in the station at Deutsch-Krone. In it he had a mobile command post from which he controlled his vast personal empire. He carried along with him skeleton staffs for his functions as Reichsfuehrer-SS, Minister of the Interior, Chief of the German Police, and Commanding General of the Replacement Army, to mention only the most important. Each of the staffs had its own clerks and files. The train was outfitted with radio and teletype, but the sets, fully occupied with administrative traffic, could not also carry that of an army group command. Himmler, moreover, would not have neglected his political interests for the sake of the army group. As an army group commander he had nothing--no communications with his front line units, no staff, virtually no troops, and no vehicles. For several days on his island of luxury, which contrasted grotesquely with the columns of refugees wandering through the snow and cold outside, he had no more contact with the war than he could get from occasional, mostly outdated, situation reports. The first of his military staff to arrive was the operations officer, an Army colonel, who made the trip from Berlin by car. Several days later the chief of staff, an SS general with no staff experience, arrived.57
On 26 January, for no discernible purpose, unless it was to confuse students of the war, Army Group North was renamed Army Group Courland, Army Group Center became Army Group North, and Army Group A became Army Group Center. The next day Army Group Vistula took command of Ninth Army, thereby extending its zone south to Glogau on the Oder. The army group front, if it could be called a front at all, followed the Vistula from its mouth south to Kulm, then veered west north of the Netze River until it turned south again on the Tirschtiegel switch position, which, following a chain of lakes, was about fifty miles east of Kuestrin on the north, and at its south end tied in on the Oder above Glogau.
The rivers and lakes, though plentiful in the army group zone, afforded no defensive advantages. Nearly all were frozen solid enough to carry heavy tanks. To defend the 160-mile line north of the Netze and the Tirschtiegel switch position Himmler had, on 27 January, two improvised SS corps headquarters, one provisional corps headquarters, three divisions (one of them a newly formed Latvian SS division), and assorted odds and ends, Ninth Army remnants, Volkssturm, and whatever else could be scraped up locally or behind the Oder. Off the front, two divisions were encircled
in the fortress Thorn (Torun) and an equally strong force was encircled in Poznan. Headquarters, Ninth Army, brought with it one corps headquarters and little more than the staffs of three divisions. XXIV Panzer Corps and Panzer Corps Grossdeutschland, still fighting their way out, had gone under Army Group Center.
Reinforcements were starting to flow east: Gneisenau battle groups set up by the Replacement Army and battalions composed of the personnel of training centers, NCO, and weapons schools. Hitler had refused Guderian's repeated requests to evacuate Army Group North (Courland), but on 17 January he had ordered out of Courland a panzer division and 2 infantry divisions and, five days later, an SS Corps headquarters and 2 SS divisions. The corps headquarters and the 5 divisions were to go to Army Group Vistula. By 25 January one of the divisions had reached Gdynia. On the 22d Hitler had ordered the Western Theater to give up Sixth SS Panzer Army and an additional panzer corps: all together 6 panzer divisions, a volks-grenadier division, 2 brigades, and several volks artillery corps.58 He still intended, however, to send the stronger part of those forces, the I and II SS Panzer Corps, to Army Group South.
By 27 January four of Fourth Ukrainian Front's armies had closed in on and almost encircled the Upper Silesian industrial area. Third Guards Tank Army, bearing down from the northwest, deliberately left the southern end of the pocket open to let the Germans escape and thus avoid a last-ditch battle that would have destroyed the mines and factories.59 Between the 28th and the 30th Seventeenth Army retreated out of the pocket. Because of his known ruthlessness, Schoerner could sometimes order retreats that Hitler would have forbidden to any other general. In the meantime, Ameegruppe Heinrici had begun withdrawing in Czechoslovakia to behind the High Tatra.
On 27 and 28 January a blizzard blew across central Europe piling deep snowdrifts on the roads in the Army Groups Vistula and Center zones. Then, at the turn of the month, the temperature rose rapidly; the snow melted; and the ground, a few days before frozen rock hard, began to thaw. On 1 February Himmler wrote to Guderian, "In the present stage of the war the thawing weather is for us a gift of fate. God has not forgotten the courageous German people." The Germans, he went on, were fighting in their own country (he added, "unfortunately") where they had good road and railroad networks; the Russians were having to bring their supplies forward long distances either by truck, over much poorer roads, or by air. The warm weather, he thought, would give the Germans a chance to bring in and deploy their reinforcements, would slow the Soviet tanks, make them more vulnerable, and might even afford opportunities to "retake pieces of precious German ground."60
The thaw, coming when it did, was in fact something of a gift of fate.
Zhukov was beginning to worry about his lengthening north flank (the old Soviet flank sensitivity); his troops had, moreover, covered more than 250 miles without a pause. Konev's right flank had gone nearly as far. On the Oder Schoerner was hammering together something like a front. The thrust toward Berlin between the Oder and the Army Group Vistula front in Pomerania was becoming too narrow for the Soviet taste. On 4 February, in a teletype message to Hitler, Schoerner wrote, "My Fuehrer: I can report that the first onslaught of the great Russian offensive against Army Group Center has been substantially intercepted. The front is still under pressure in many places, but in others we are making local counterattacks."61 By then a semicoherent front was also beginning to take shape in the Army Group Vistula zone.
After putting in most of its second echelon and reserves on the north flank, First Belorussian Front had reached the Oder north of Kuestrin on 31 January. By 3 February it had closed to the Oder from Zehden south to its left boundary, but then it stopped. At Kuestrin and Frankfurt the Russians were forty miles from Berlin. The Germans held bridgeheads at both places, and the Russians had bridgeheads north of Kuestrin and south of Frankfurt.62
At the beginning of December 1944 Army Group Center had 33 infantry divisions and 12 panzer or panzer grenadier divisions. Of the latter 3 were in the front, 9 in reserve. The army group held a 360-mile front, roughly ten miles of frontage per division, about as good a ratio as the Germans were accustomed to at that stage of the war. To the rear, in East Prussia, it had an extensive system of field fortifications and on the border of East Prussia and around Koenigsberg some concrete emplacements; the latter had been built before the war and would have been more valuable if in the meantime the guns and barbed wire had not been removed and installed elsewhere, in the Atlantic Wall, for instance.
In early December Army Group Center could have faced an attack with confidence; by the turn of the year it no longer could; in the interval it had lost 5 panzer divisions and 2 cavalry brigades by transfers. On 4 January Reinhardt estimated that the Russians had 5 armies on the Narew and an equally strong group of 50-60 divisions south of the Neman in the Goldap-Schillfelde area. Since he was on notice to give up another panzer division (ordered a few days later), he concluded, with obvious irony, that the OKH considered East Prussia less important than other areas and was willing to risk a large loss of territory there. He asked for a directive telling him what part of East Prussia had to be held so that he could deploy the reserves he still had.63 He did not get an answer.
Army Group Center Isolated
On 12 January, in an attempt to mislead the Germans and tie down their reserves,
the Russians attacked Fourth Army north and south of the Romintener Heide. The next day, opening the offensive in earnest, Third Belorussian Front hit Third Panzer Army at Stallupoenen and Pil'kallen. On the 14th Second Belorussian Front attacked Second Army out of the Serock and Rozan bridgeheads. Both armies held up well in the first two days, went into the main battle line, and patched the holes. Fog prevented the Russians from bringing their air power and armor into play.64 Unfortunately for the army group, this momentary success--especially by comparison with what Army Group A was experiencing, looked almost like a defensive victory. On the 14th, when Guderian reported to Hitler that apparently Army Group Center could prevent an operational breakthrough on the Narew and into East Prussia, Hitler ordered Panzer Corps Grossdeutschland and its two panzer divisions transferred to Army Group A.65
On 15 January Second Army was pushed back to the first switch position. In the north the weather was clearing, and during the day heavy air and tank attacks forced Third Panzer Army to start drawing in the front south of Pil'kallen to prevent its breaking apart. The next day the weather cleared in the Second Army sector, and a tank spearhead broke through past Nowo Miasto. Second Belorussian Front's main force, five armies, one of them a tank army, plus a tank corps, a mechanized corps, and a cavalry corps, was beginning to move out of the Rozan bridgehead. From Nowo Miasto it aimed northeastward toward the mouth of the Vistula. The two armies and a tank corps, pushing out of the Serock bridgehead to provide cover on the left in the direction of Bielsk and Bromberg, would have no trouble; the Army Group A flank south of the Vistula had broken away. Third Belorussian Front, having failed to break through on a broad front, began shifting its weight north to the Pil'kallen area. For Army Group Center the obvious next move was to start pulling back the still untouched Fourth Army so as to get divisions to close the breakthrough against Second Army and prevent, if it could, the envelopment of its right flank. Reinhardt proposed this on the 16th.
By the 17th Second Army was clearly strained to the limit. After Guderian told him that afternoon that Hitler refused to let Fourth Army withdraw, Reinhardt called Hitler and was treated to the Fuehrer's standard lecture on the futility of voluntary withdrawals. The most Hitler would agree to was taking two divisions from Fourth Army by thinning its front.
On 18 January Second Army's front snapped, opening a gap on both sides of Mlawa. Reinhardt put in a panzer corps headquarters and the entire army group reserve, seven divisions, but knew they were not likely to be enough. The next day the leading Soviet tanks stood south of Gilgenburg; Fifth Guards Tank Army was ready for the dash to the coast. On that day, too, Third Panzer Army's front broke open north of the Pregel River.
The 20th was a relatively quiet day; Rokossovskiy and Chernyakovskiy were getting ready to shift into high gear. Hitler again refused to let Fourth Army move.
He promised a panzer division from Army Group North and twenty naval replacement battalions from Denmark.
The offensive picked up speed on 21 January. Against Second Army, Second Belorussian Front went as far as Deutsch Eylau and turned a force north toward Allenstein. Third Belorussian Front took Gumbinnen, removing that obstacle on the route to Koenigsberg along the Pregel. The thrust to the coast to cut off the army group was developing; Second Army reported that it might delay but could not prevent it. More alarming, the attacks south of the Pregel and toward Allenstein seemed to presage an attempt to force the whole army group away from the coast and into an encirclement in the interior of East Prussia. Fourth Army was already lying in the bottom of a lopsided sack 130 miles from the coast.
After Reinhardt reported that all the lower commands were pressing for relief and that a complete loss of confidence in the higher leadership was impending, Hitler finally agreed to let Fourth Army withdraw to the eastern edge of the Masurian Lakes. This was something, but far from enough. Reinhardt noted in his diary that in the long run the army group would have to take everything back to the Heilsberg triangle, the line of fortifications built in the 1920's when all the 100,000-man Reichswehr expected to be able to defend in the event of war was Koenigsberg and a foothold in East Prussia. For ten years no one had imagined that relic of German weakness would ever again figure in a military plan.
By nightfall on 23 January Second Belorussian Front had cut all the roads and railroads crossing the Vistula except the coast road through Elbing. After dark, Fifth Guards Army's lead tank detachment approached the city. Finding that it had not been alerted--the streetcars were running and on one street German soldiers from a local armored school were marching in formation--the Russian crews turned on the headlights of their tanks and rolled through the main streets firing as they went. By daylight, when the next wave of Soviet tanks arrived, the Germans in Elbing had recovered enough to fight them off and force them to detour east around the city. In the meantime, however, the Russian lead detachment reached the coast, and Army Group Center was isolated.
Reinhardt reported that he would put all the troops he could muster into counterattacks from east and west to restore contact. Hitler, anticipating withdrawals elsewhere to get the troops, countered with an order forbidding Reinhardt to take Fourth Army farther west than Loetzen and Ortelsburg. As reinforcements, he offered instead the two divisions at Memel, which he had insisted until then on holding as "a springboard to Army Group North." The divisions would have to be brought south by small boats or over the Kurische Nehrung, the narrow, 60-mile-long tongue of sand hills spanning the Bay of Courland.
For nine days Third Panzer Army had managed to preserve a front of sorts by retreating gradually toward Koenigsberg; but on 24 January the Russians broke through south of the Pregel and threatened to cut off Koenigsberg on the south. The army group command was trapped between reality and Hitler's illusions. Reinhardt knew he could not hold Koenigsberg and the Samland Peninsula, let the Fourth
Army front continue to bulge eastward to the Masurian Lakes, and still counterattack to the west. But he could not bring himself to confront Hitler with those issues and he went so far as to transfer to Third Panzer Army two divisions Fourth Army had taken out for the counterattack. When Fourth Army evacuated the outer defenses of Loetzen without permission during the day on the 24th, Reinhardt said nothing; he knew the army would have to go back farther, much farther; but he also accepted without protest Hitler's angry demand for a full-scale investigation.66
On the afternoon of the 24th the Commanding General, Fourth Army, General der Infanterie Friedrich Hossbach, acting independently, called in three of his corps commanders. He told them that the army's land communications with Germany were cut and no relief could be expected, therefore, he had decided to break out to the west. The breakout and retreat would begin on the night of the 26th, or on the next day. He intended to put the whole army into it and to give up East Prussia. The civilians would have to stay behind. That sounded horrible, he said, but it could not be changed; the paramount objective had to be to get the army back to Germany proper with its combat potential intact.67 He did not mention Third Panzer Army. Probably he assumed that this army would have to make its own choice whether to go or to stay when the time came. On the necessity for an attack to the west he and Reinhardt agreed in general terms, and the withdrawal east of Loetzen had showed that Reinhardt was not determined to hold on the east. Hossbach apparently concluded that it was not worthwhile to tell him more.
On the 25th Chernyakovskiy's troops got to within twelve miles of Koenigsberg on the southeast. They seemed again to be intent on pinching off the neck of the sack. Fourth Army's east front was ninety miles from the coast; on the coast the Fourth and Third Panzer Armies' fronts, back to back, were less than forty miles apart. That night Reinhardt, who had been wounded in an air raid during the day, tried to persuade Guderian that the time had come to reduce the bulge. Guderian insisted that the front stay where it was; he refused to hear of any further withdrawals. During the day the army group had been renamed Army Group North and Second Army had been transferred to Army Group Vistula.
Fifth Guards Tank Army had a solid hold on Baltic coast northeast of Elbing by 26 January. On its right Fourth Army deployed divisions for the breakout. The movement west weakened the army's southeast and northeast fronts; Loetzen was lost, and the Russians, crossing the frozen lakes, punched numerous holes in the front. Before noon the army group reported that it was about to order Fourth Army to withdraw
thirty miles to the line Wartenburg-Bischofsburg-Schippenbeil-Friedland. Talking to Hitler, Reinhardt added that he intended, further, to break out to the west and take the front into the Heilsberg triangle. Hitler replied that he would give a decision later and hung up.
Realizing that he was being presented with a fait accompli, Hitler fell into a rage. He told Guderian what Reinhardt projected, diametrically opposed his, Hitler's, basic plan and was treason. He demanded that Reinhardt and Hossbach be relieved immediately. To the army group he sent an order forbidding any withdrawal beyond the line Wartenburg-Nikolaiken--which would only have cut a narrow slice off the southeastern tip of the bulge. Thereafter communications with the OKH suddenly ceased; no one with any authority would talk to the army group. Finally, at 1915, Reinhardt decided on his own responsibility to let Fourth Army withdraw to the line he had originally proposed. He tried to sweeten the dose by reporting that the army group would try to get a solid front "at the latest" in the line Wartenburg-Bischofsburg-Schippenbeil-Friedland. Two hours later a telegram came through relieving him and his chief of staff.
Before noon the next day Rendulic was in command. He had orders from Hitler to hold Koenigsberg and what was left of East Prussia. The counterattack to the west had begun during the night, although by then it was wasted effort. Only the breakout and retreat that Hossbach had planned could have succeeded, and with Rendulic in command and Hitler alerted that was impossible.
At the end of the month, General der Infanterie Friedrich Mueller, who had made a reputation as an improvisor during the retreat from Greece, replaced Hossbach. The withdrawal Reinhardt had ordered before he was dismissed took some of the pressure off Fourth Army's east front, but on the north Bagramyan's First Baltic Front had added its weight to the advance on Koenigsberg and had pushed Third Panzer Army onto the Samland Peninsula. On the south Fourth Army held open a narrow corridor into Koenigsberg. The greatest danger was that the Russians in Samland might go the remaining fifteen or so miles to Pillau on the Frische Nehrung and cut the army group's sea supply line. (From Pillau trucks could cross the frozen bay to Heiligenbeil.)
On 1 February Fourth Army made a last attempt to break through to Elbing. It ran into a strong counterattack and was stopped dead.68
During the succeeding days the flood of civilian refugees out of East Prussia reached its peak. Some were taken out by boat, most walked to Danzig across the Frische Nehrung and the Vistula delta. By mid-February 1,300,000 of the 2,300,000 total population were evacuated; of those who stayed about half were Volkssturm and others absorbed into the Wehrmacht.69
Rendulic, in the few months left in the war, was setting out to carve for himself a niche in history next to Schoerner. One characteristic remarked on by all of his former superiors had been his absolute nervelessness. For him, keeping the army group in East Prussia raised no questions
other than how it could best be accomplished. In one order he made the battalion and regimental commanders responsible for every "foot of ground" voluntarily given up and appended the example of a captain he had ordered shot the day before for taking his battalion back a mile after it had been broken through.70 In another, he ordered "flying courts-martial" created to scour the rear areas. Every soldier not wounded, picked up outside his unit area, was to be tried and shot on the spot.71
The Budapest Relief
While Soviet armies marched on Germany north of the Carpathians, a tragic drama played to a gruesome finish on the Danube at Budapest. In sheer horror nothing since Stalingrad compared with the Budapest siege. Almost the entire population, normally over a million, was trapped in the city without the barest provision for subsistence or health, driven to the cellars by air and artillery bombardments. In most quarters, the electricity, gas, and water services failed in the first days. The garrison had less than the fragmentary supply and medical services that had remained with Sixth Army at Stalingrad. Faulty staff work in the IX SS Mountain Corps headquarters had lost most of its supply stockpile, including 450 tons of ammunition and 300,000 rations, to the Russians the day the pocket closed.72 On 31 December Army Group South sent a river boat loaded with 400 tons of supplies down the Danube; it ran aground upstream from the city. The air supply was an old story: winter weather, gasoline shortages, and lack of airstrips in the pocket reduced the flow to a mere trickle.
Consequently, the foreseeable margin of time for the relief operation was very narrow, so narrow that the army group immediately began to consider a breakout and evacuation. The apparent pressure of time also strongly influenced the army group's choice of its approach route. (Map 38) From the front southeast of Komarno the distance to Budapest was about thirty miles, about half of it through the Vertes Mountains. Northeast of Szekesfehervar, though the distance was ten miles greater, the terrain was good for tanks; but the assembly would have taken five days longer and would have required more gasoline. Against strong doubts, the savings in time and gasoline prevailed, and at the end of December the army group and the OKH agreed on the approach from Komarno.73 The OKH directive contemplated a breakout "in the most extreme case" but reserved the decision to Hitler.74
The operation began on New Year's Day. During the night an infantry division crossed the ice-choked Danube five miles west of Esztergom and, striking behind the Russians south of the river, gave IV SS Panzer Corps a quick start along the Komarno-Budapest road. In the mountains a start was not enough. On the second day, the prospects several times appeared good, but the Russians always had just enough infantry and antitank guns to
The Budapest Relief Operation
1-26 January 1945
keep IV SS Panzer Corps from shaking itself loose. In another twenty-four hours the Russians had the defense tightly in hand, and by the time Guderian arrived at the Army Group South headquarters, on 5 January, Sixth Guards Tank Army was ready to counter north of the Danube with an advance across the Hron River toward Komarno.
Guderian, nevertheless, brought with him a set of objectives that raised the relief operation, so far not glowingly successful, to the status of a major offensive, The army group was first to retake Budapest and the line Lake Balaton-Velencze Lake-Ercsi and then turn south to destroy the enemy west of the Danube.75 On 6 January, the day Guderian left, IV SS Panzer Corps came up against a solid front; the offensive had run tight.76 During the day, too, the Sixth Guards Tank and Seventh Guards Armies attacked, gaining better than eight miles, and threatened the IV Panzer Corps rear from north of the Danube.77
On 7 January, in an attempt to catch the Russians off guard, I Cavalry Corps broke into their line northwest of Szekesfehervar. The momentary surprise was not enough; Fourth Guards Army reacted fast and before nightfall was contesting every yard of ground. The day was a dark one for the army group. Both of its attacks were stalled.78
In the meantime, at Budapest in the week since New Year's, the Russians had smashed the old bridgehead front around Pest, the half of the city east of the Danube. In the ensuing house-to-house battle, the wounded could not be cared for, the fires put out, or the dead buried. Describing the scene, a German war correspondent wrote, "A nauseating stench of decaying corpses is carried with a rain of sparks over the ruins."79 In numerous places where they had driven deep into the city, the Russians mounted loudspeakers that they used, whenever the noise of battle subsided, to announce where the next artillery salvos or aerial bombs would fall or to call on the Germans and Hungarians to surrender while they still could.
On the 7th, the Budapest garrison appeared to be rapidly approaching the end of its strength. Driving snow and low-hanging clouds kept the supply planes grounded; artillery and small arms ammunition were running short; the city population was hostile; and the Hungarians were deserting. Balck believed the order to break out would have to be given within twenty-four hours. Woehler decided to take his chances north of the Danube, let the IV SS Panzer Corps and I Cavalry Corps operations go on for another day, and try a quick infantry thrust through the Pilis Mountains, off the IV SS Panzer Corps north flank, that might at least give the breakout a better prospect of success.
The next day Hitler refused to approve a breakout. This left the army group no choice but to keep on trying to punch through the front. Woehler then began to prepare what he called "a hussars' ride,"
a fast thrust through to Budapest by a motorized battalion. It might, for a few hours, open a corridor through which supplies could be sent into the city or through which the garrison could escape if Hitler changed his mind.
For the army group, getting a relief column through to Budapest was the first objective; Hitler's primary, perhaps only, concern was to get the front out to the Danube. On the 9th he talked about shifting IV SS Panzer Corps south for a try between Lake Balaton and Velencze Lake. The next day, a counterattack north of the river eliminated the threat to Komarno, but the "hussars' ride" failed. On the 11th Hitler awarded SS-Oberstgruppenfuehrer Pfeffer-Wildenbruch the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross and renewed the order to hold Budapest. The next morning he ordered the army group to shift IV SS Panzer Corps south.
In five days, over mountain roads and through snowdrifts, IV SS Panzer Corps marched seventy miles to the northern tip of Lake Balaton. On 18 January it jumped off east, and by nightfall the next day it had covered the forty miles to the Danube at Dunapentele. The Germans appeared to have recovered their touch, and the IV SS Panzer Corps staff predicted a fast push to Budapest even though Third Ukrainian Front had put in a tank corps and had two guards mechanized corps still uncommitted.
Elsewhere, the day's developments were less encouraging. North of the Danube the last elements of two panzer divisions being transferred to Army Group A departed, leaving the front east of Komarno to be held by one infantry division. In the Budapest pocket, during the night and early morning hours, Pfeffer-Wildenbruch had evacuated Pest, a move that was long overdue but for which he had received Hitler's permission only the day before. In crossing the bridges, which were raked the whole time by Soviet fire, the troops from Pest took heavy losses. Nevertheless, the bridges stayed jammed with humanity--men, women, and children, young and old, wounded who could barely walk, and vehicles of all descriptions from trucks to baby carriages--until, shortly before daylight, the charges were set off that destroyed the elegant spans that had been the pride of Budapest.
For the next three days the Russians fought hard to hold a front flanking Velencze Lake on both sides. The German panzer divisions chewed their way through, taking Szekesfehervar and reaching the Vali River on 22 January, but by then they had lost most of their initial momentum.80 In the meantime Woehler and Balck had become uncomfortably aware that the Headquarters, IV SS Panzer Corps, in spite of its good showing on the 18th, was not competent to command a large-scale offensive. The commanding general, Obergruppenfuehrer (Lt. Gen.) Herbert Gille, was a well-meaning bumbler who spent most of his time at the front. The chief of staff took a lighthearted attitude toward paper work, so lighthearted that on the 22d Balck had to go out himself to find out where the front was. Woehler decided to keep Gille, who was at least something of a morale builder, and get rid of the chief of staff.81
On 22 January Guderian urged Woehler to consider whether he could clean out the whole west side of the Danube with his own forces and some help from the Southeastern Theater. The success so far had whetted Hitler's appetite for a victory, and Guderian was obviously worried about having to divert more forces to the south. The question was a very serious one, he said, "a matter of conscience." He did not reveal what he knew by then, namely, that Hitler intended to send Sixth SS Panzer Army's two SS corps into Austria behind Army Group South.
IV SS Panzer Corps wasted the day of the 23d sorting out its units east of Szekesfehervar. The next day it closed to the Vali on a broad front but failed to get across. Woehler proposed that Second Panzer Army attack toward Kaposvar from south of Lake Balaton to siphon some of the Soviet strength away from IV SS Panzer Corps. The OKH told him not to; Hitler was nervous about the oil fields and was afraid Second Panzer Army would get into trouble.
After a probing attack upstream along the Vali on 25 January failed to create an opening, Woehler reported the next day that a fast breakthrough to Budapest was impossible; the Russians had reinforced every likely point of attack. Guderian then proposed turning IV SS Panzer Corps south to join Second Panzer Army in an offensive between Lake Balaton and the Danube. The army group asked whether, since in that case the advance toward Budapest would be stopped, the order to break out should not be given.
The answer came on the 27th when Hitler in an order of the day again called on IX SS Mountain Corps to hold out until it was relieved. The pocket was then about three miles wide and four miles long. Into it were jammed 34,000 German and Hungarian troops, 10,000 wounded, and 300,000 Hungarian civilians.82
On their side, for several days past, the Second and Third Ukrainian Fronts had ominously reshuffled units. Malinovskiy had taken Sixth Guards Tank Army out of the Hron River bridgehead. Its neighbor on the north, the Cavalry-Mechanized Group Pliyev, had been relieved by Bulgarian divisions. German Intelligence had lost track of both the tank army and the cavalry-mechanized group. Northeast of Szekesfehervar and northwest of Dunafoldvar, Tolbukhin had pushed through heavy armored build-ups.83
On 27 January a dozen rifle divisions with strong armor behind them hit the southeastern face of the IV SS Panzer Corps salient between Dunapentele and the Sarviz Canal. When Guderian brought in the first reports that afternoon, Hitler ordered the Budapest relief stopped. It no longer made sense, he said. Ignoring Guderian's remarks about the garrison, he asked whether Sixth SS Panzer Army's two corps were moving--snow and gasoline shortages had delayed their getting out of the Ardennes and back to the railheads. Jodl said one corps would reach Vienna in fourteen days, the other four or five days later. Relieved, Hitler remarked, "They will arrive just in time; the next crisis will be down there."84
Table of Contents ** Previous Chapter (XVIII) * Next Chapter (XX)
1. Guderian, Erinnerungen eines Soldaten, pp. 345-49.
2. Stenogr. Dienst im F. H. Qu., Besprechung des Fuehrers mit Gen. Maj. Thomale am 28.12.44 im Adlerhorst. OCMH files.
3. Air Ministry (British) Pamphlet 248, Rise and Fall of the German Air Force, p. 309.
4. U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey, The Effects of Strategic Bombing on the German War Economy, 31 October 1945, pp. 249, 257, 263, 279.
5. U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey, Over-all Report (European War), 30 September 1945, p. 64.
6. OKH, GenStdH, Org. Abt. IIIb, Kriegstagebuch, 1.5.44-10.2.45, 5, 6 Dec 44, H 1/454 file.
7. OKH, GenStdH, Gen. Insp. d. Pz. Tr./Org Abt Nr. 1/427/45, Herabsetzung des LKW Solls bei Pz.-u. Pz. Gren. Divn., 22.1.45, H 1/37 file.
8. Stenogr. Dienst im F. H. Qu., Besprechung des Fuehrers mit Gen. Maj. Thomale am 29.12.44 im Adlerhorst, OCMH files.
9. Air Ministry (British) Pamphlet 248, Rise and Fall of the German Air Force, p. 352.
10. H. Gr. Sued, Kriegstagebuch, Dez. 44, 2, Haelfte, 27 Dec 44, H. Gr. A 75126/45 file.
11. USSBS, Effects of Strategic Bombing on the German War Economy, p. 81.
12. The breakdown was as follows: Western Theater 440,000, Southwestern Theater (Italy), 97,000; Southeastern Theater (the Balkans), 17,000; Army Group North, 94,000; Army Group Center, 435,000; Army Group A, 117,000; Army Group South, 243,000; Twentieth Mountain Army, 14,000. OKH, GenStdH, Org. Abt. Nr. 1/15412/44, Aufschluesselung der unwiederbringlichen Verluste Juni-November 1944 nach Kriegsschauplaetze, 2.12.44, H 1/450m file.
13. The army group strengths on 1 October 1944 were as follows: Army Group North, 420,844; Army Group Center, 694,812; Army Group A, 457,679; and Army Group South, 216,803. OKH GenStdH, Org. Abt. (I) Nr. 1/11854/44, an OKW, W, Ag., I, 12.1.45, H 1/562 file.
14. OKH, GenStdH, Op. Abt., Gesamt Zu-und Abgaenge des Feldheeres vom 1.9.43-31.12.44; OKH, GenStdH, Org. Abt. z.b.V., Zusammenstellung der bisher erfassten Einsparungen von Planstellen, 29.8.44. Both in OCMH files.
15. Allgemeines Heeresamt, Stab II, Stand der Goebbels-Aktion vom 5.1.45, 6.1.45, H 1/35 file.
16. OKH, GenStdH, Org. Abt., Kriegstagebuch, 1.10.-31.10.44, 8 Oct 44, H 1/233 file.
17. On 10 February 1945, when the first division created was turned over to Vlasov, it lacked 55 percent of its clothing and equipment and 85 percent of its motor vehicles. OKH, GenStdH, Org. Abt. Kriegstagebuch, 1.11.-31.11.44, 23 Nov 44, H 1/224 file; Gen. d. Freiw. Verb. im OKH Nr. 1031/45, an Chef des Gen. Stabes des Heeres, 10.2.45, OCMH files.
18. Oberbefehlshaber des Ersatzheeres, AHA Stab II (I) Nr. 450/45, Personelle Auswertung Heer fuer Dezember 1945, H 1/35 file.
19. OKH, GenStdH, Org. Abt. Nr. 12/47810/44, Auszug aus den Stellungnahme der Oberbefehlshaber der Armeen und Heeresgruppen zu den Zustandsbericht von 1.10.44, 7.11.44, H 1/224 file.
20. Stenogr. Dienst im F. H. Qu., Ansprache des Fuehrers vor Divisionskommandeuren a. 28.12.44, OCMH files.
21. OKH, GenStdH, Abt. Fremde Heere Ost (I) Nr. 4012/44, Beurteilung der Feindlage vor deutscher Ostfront im Grossen, 10.11.44, H 3/185 file.
22. OKH, GenStdH, Abt. Fremde Heere Ost (I) Nr. 4404144, Zusammenfassende Auswertung der wichtigsten Gefangenenaussagen und Meldungen des Geheimen Meldedienstes und der Frontaufklaerung, 5.12.44, H 3/185 file.
23. OKH, GenStdH, Abt. Fremde Heere Ost (I) Nr. 81/45, Beurteilung der Feindlage vor deutscher Ostfront im Grossen, 5.1.45, H 3/185 file.
24. The breakdown of Soviet forces was as follows:
Units in the Front Front Reserves Reserves in Depth Total 414 Total 261 Total 219 Rifle divisions 253 Rifle divisions 119 Rifle divisions 67 Rifle brigades 30 Rifle brigades 14 Rifle brigades 13 Cavalry divisions 13 Cavalry divisions 3 Cavalry divisions 6 Tank brigades 29 Tank brigades 44 Tank brigades 42 Tank regiments 46 Tank regiments 31 Tank regiments 47 Assault gun regiments 43 Assault gun regiments 50 Assault gun regiments 44
OKH, GenStdH, F.H.O. (IIc) Preufnummer 2032,Kraeftegegenueberstellung Stand 12.1.45, H 3/120 file.
25. IVOV (R), V, 97.
26. "Vislo-Oderskaya operatsiya v tsilrakh," Voyenno-istoricheskiy Zhurnal (February, 1965).
27. IVOV (R), V, 61.
28. Air Ministry (British) Pamphlet 248, Rise and Fall of the German Air Force, p. 386; MS # P-114c (Hauck), Teil VIII, p. 8.
29. MS # P-114c (Hauck), Teil VIII, p. 12.
30. Guderian, Erinnerungen eines Soldaten, p. 351.
31. Stenogr. Dienst im F. H. Qu., Teil einer Lagebesprechung von Anfang Januar, 1945, OCMH files.
32. Stenogr. Dienst im F. H. Qu., Abendlage vom 9 Januar 1945 im Adlerhorst, OCMH files.
33. OKW, WFSt, Uebersicht ueber die Akten des WFSt aus dem Jan.-Feb. 1945, OCMH files.
34. OKH, GenStdH, Op. Abt., Ia Kriegstagebuch, Bd. 13, 7 Jan 45, H 22/12 file.
35. Zhilin, Vazhneyshiye Operatsii Otechestvennoy Voyny, pp. 466, 486.
36. S. Shtemenko, "Kak planirovalas poslednyaya kampaniya po razgromu gitlerovskoy Germanii," Voyenno-istoricheskiy Zhurnal (May, 1965).
37. IVOV (R), V, 64, 102.
38. Ibid., V, 67, 104.
39. Churchill, Triumph and Tragedy, pp. 278-80.
40. Forrest C. Pogue, The Supreme Command, UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II (Washington, 1954), pp. 405-07.
41. Obkdo. H. Gr. Mitte, Ia Nr. 339/45; AOK 4, 12.1.45 (both in AOK 4 65728/1 file); MS # P-114c (Hauck), Teil VIII, pp. 16-20; Platonov, Vtoraya Mirovaya Voyna, 1939-45, p. 688.
42. OKH, GenStdH, Op. Abt., Ia Nr. 450010/45, An den Fuehrer und Obersten Befehlshaber der Wehrmacht, 14.1.45; OKH, GenStdH, Op. Abt., Ia Nr. 450 011/45, An den Fuehrer und Obersten Befehlshaber der Wehrmacht, 15.1.45. Both in H 22/66 file.
43. OKH, GenStdH, FHO Nr. 2/45, Beurteilung der Gesamtfeindlage im Osten vom 15.1.45, H 22/66 file.
44. Jodl Diary, 15 Jan 45.
45. Guderian, Erinnerungen eines Soldaten, p. 357.
46. OKH, GenStdH, Op. Abt., Ia Kriegstagebuch Bd. 135, 16 Jan 45, H 22/15 file; OKH, GenStdH, Op. Abt. Ia Nr. 45001/45. Weisung fuer die weitere Kampffuehrung bei Heeresgruppen A und Mitte, 6.1.45, H 22/66 file.
47. Zhilin, Vazhneyshiye Operatsii Otechestvennoy, Voyny, p. 474; IVOV (R), VI, 80.
48. On 23 January the OKH issued an implementing directive which stated that special radio teams would be stationed with selected army and corps headquarters. Through them the commanders were to report all important events immediately and report at least four times a day "all the facts that may be necessary for decision making by the highest leadership." Der Fuehrer, Nr. 00688/45, an die Oberbefehlshaber der Kriegsschauplaetze, der Heeresgruppen and Armeen, 19.1.45, H 22/4 file; Obkdo. d. H. Gr. Mitte, Ia Nr. 404/45, an AOK 4, 23.1.45, AOK 4 65728/1 file.
49. Schoerner's comment of 2 February 1945 in von Luettwitz's personnel file.
50. MS # P-114a (Hauck), Teil VIII, pp. 30-31.
51. In the former German territory east of the Oder and Neisse Rivers and in East Prussia, Polish, in some instances Russian, names have been substituted for all the German place names. Between 1939 and 1945 the Germans changed the place names in the Polish territory absorbed into the Reich. In this narrative the pre-1939 place names are used.
52. OKH, GenStdH, Op. Abt., Ia Kriegstagebuch, Bd. 135, 19 Jan 45. H 22/15 file; OKH, GenStdH. Op. Abt/IIIb, Pruef-Nr. 52831, Lage Ost, Stand 19.1.45 Abends; Platonov, Vtoraya Mirovaya Voyna, 1939-45, p. 649.
53. Air Ministry (British) Pamphlet 248, Rise and Fall of the German Air Force, p. 386.
54. OKH, GenStdH, Op. Abt., I/M Nr. 1059/45, Weisung fuer die Fortfuehrung der Schlacht in Schlesien. 26.1.45 (25.1.45), H 22/4 file.
55. OKH, WFSt, Uebersicht ueber die Akten des WFSt aus dem Jan.-Feb. 1945, 21 Jan 45, OCMH files.
56. Abschrift Fernschreiben des Reichsfuehrers-SS an SS-Gruppenfuehrer Fegelein, 23.1.45, H 22/4 file.
57. MS #-408, Aufzeichnungen Oberst i.G. Eismann als Ia der Heeresgruppe "Weichsel" (Oberst i. G. a. D. Hans Georg Eismann), pp. 11-35.
58. OKW, WFSt, Op. (H) Nr. 88149/45 an O.B. West, 22.1.45 in OKH, GenStdH, Op. Abt., K.T.B. Anlagen, Bd. 4, H 22/6b file.
59. Zhilin, Vazhneyshiye Operatsii Otechestvennoy Voyny, p. 479; Platonov, Vtoraya Mirovaya Voyna, 1939-45, p. 695.
60. RFSS Nr. 101/211730, nachr. Herrn Gen. Obst. Guderian, 1.2.45, H 22/5 file.
61. OKH, GenStdH, Op. Abt., I.M. Abschrift Fernschreiben Gen. Obst. Schoerner an den Chef des GenStdH, 4.2.45, H 22/5 file.
62. Zhilin, Vazhneyshiye Operatsii Otechestvennoy Voyny, p. 476.
63. Obkdo. d. H. Gr. Mitte, Ia Nr. 111/45, an OKH, GenStdH, Op. Abt., 4.1.45, H 22/4 file.
64. MS # P-114b (Hofmann), Teil IX, pp. 10-12.
65. OKH, GenStdH, Op. Abt., Ia Nr. 450 010/45, An den Fuehrer und Obersten Belehlshaber der Wehrmacht, 14.1.45, H 22/6b file.
66. MS # P-114b (Hofmann), Teil IX, pp. 13-41; OKH, GenStdH, Op. Abt., Ia Kriegstagebuch Bd. 135, 15-21 Jan 45, H 22/15 file; OKH, Gen StdH, Op. Abt., Ia Kriegstagebuch Bd. 136, 22-24 Jan 45, H 22/16 file; Platonov, Vtoraya Mirovaya Voyna, 1939-45, pp. 672-84; I. S. Korotkow, Die Zerschlagung der Ostpreussen-Gruppierung der deutschfaschistischen Truppen, in P. A. Shilin, ed., Die wichtigsten Operationen des Grossen Vaterlaendischen Krieges (Berlin, 1958), pp. 555-59.
67. Transcript in AOK 4, Ia, Beilagen zum K.T.B., Notizen ueber Ferngespraeche, 14.1.-25.1.45, AOK 4 64185/1 file.
68. MS # P-114b (Hofmann), Teil IX, pp. 45-60.
69. OKH, WFSt, Uebersicht ueber die Akten des WFSt aus dem Jan.-Feb. 1945, 15 Feb 45, OCMH files.
70. AOK 4, Ia Nr. 1371/45, Nachstehender Befehl zur Kenntnis, 2.2.45, AOK 4 65728/1 file.
71. AOK 4, Ia Nr. 1350/45, Nachstehender Befehl zur Kenntnis und weiteren Veranlassung, 2.2.45, AOK 4 65728/1 file.
72. O. B. d. Armeegruppe Balck, Ia Nr. 791/45, an 0bkdo. H. Gr. Sued, 30.1.45, H. Gr. A 75126/54 file.
73. H. Gr. Sued, Ia Kriegstagebuch, Dez. 44, 2. Haelfte, 20-31 Dec 44, H. Gr. A 75126/45 file.
74. H. Gr. Sued, Ia Nr. 1/45, an Armeegruppe Balck, 1.1.45, H. Gr. A 75126/49 file.
75. H. Gr. Sued, Ia, Bemerkungen Gen. Obst. Guderian anlaesslich seines Besuches am 5.1.45, H. Gr. A 75126/49 file.
76. H. Gr. Sued, Ia Kriegstagebuch, Jan. 45, 1. Haelfte, 1-6 Jan 45, H. Gr. A 74126/48 file.
77. IVOV (R), IV, 399.
78. H. Gr. Sued, Ia Kriegstagebuch, Jan. 45, 1. Haelfte, 7 Jan 45, H. Gr. A 74126/48 file.
79. Peter Gosztony, "Der Kampf um Budapest 1944/45 (V)," in Wehrwissenschaftliche Rundschau (December, 1963), pp. 92-105.
80. H. Gr. Sued, Ia Kriegstagebuch, Jan 45, 1. Haelfte, 7-22 Jan 45, H. Gr. A 74126/48 file.
81. O. B. d. H. Gr. Sued, fuer K.T.B., 26.1.45 in H. Gr. Sued, Ia Anlagen Jan 45, 2. Haelfte, H. Gr. A 75126/51 file.
82. H. Gr. Sued, Ia Kriegstagebuch, Jan. 45, 2. Haelfte, 22-27 Jan 45, H. Gr. A 75126/50 file.
83. OKH, GenStdH, F.H.O. Nr. 527/45, Kurze Beurteilung der Feindlage vom 28.1.45, H 22/16 file.
84. Stenogr. Dienst im F. H. Qu., Lagebesprechung vom 27.1.45, OCMH files.