The Eve of the Battle

While the Russians conducted their sideshows in Pomerania, West Prussia, and Silesia, the Allies took charge in the center ring in a style that by the end of March had completely changed the strategic picture in Germany. They had closed to the Rhine along its whole length, had deep bridgeheads across the river, and were rapidly completing an encirclement of the Ruhr that would chop Army Group B out of the German front, opening for them a broad boulevard east to the Elbe. In Switzerland they had entered into secret negotiations looking toward the surrender of the German forces in Italy. From these the Russians, though informed, were excluded.

The Soviet Decision To Take Berlin

In Moscow on the night of 31 March the Allied representatives presented to Stalin a message from General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower outlining the Allied Supreme Commander's plans for his operations in central Germany. Eisenhower stated that his next objective, after he had encircled and destroyed the Germans in the Ruhr, would be to split the enemy forces by making a junction with the Soviet armies. He believed that could best be accomplished by a thrust along the line Erfurt-Leipzig-Dresden. As soon as he could, he would make a secondary advance to meet the Russians in the Regensburg-Linz area and so prevent the Germans from establishing a redoubt in southern Germany.

Replying--with altogether unusual alacrity--the next day, Stalin agreed that the Allied and Soviet forces should meet as Eisenhower proposed in the Erfurt-Leipzig-Dresden and Regensburg-Linz areas. Berlin, he added, had lost its former strategic significance, and the Soviet Supreme Command planned only to allot secondary forces in that direction. The Soviet main offensive, he stated, would probably be resumed in the second half of May.1

Even as Stalin wrote, the Soviet armies from north of Opava to the mouth of the Vistula were beginning, in almost frantic haste, the redeployment for an operation that had Berlin as its primary objective. In Upper Silesia, where First Ukrainian Front's offensive ended on 31 March with the abruptness already noted, Fourth Tank Army, redesignated "Guards," was pulling its units out of the front, getting ready for the move north to the Neisse. The air units that had flown support missions on the First Ukrainian Front left flank were


Map 42
16 April-7 May 1945


moving north as was Fifth Guards Army from the area west of Breslau. Second Belorussian Front, which with First Guards Tank Army still attached was fully committed against the remnants of German Second Army on the Bay of Danzig on 30 March, was starting a fast about-face and a march to the lower Oder.2

The true mood of the Soviet Command, disguised in the deliberate tone of Stalin's reply to Eisenhower, was revealed on 3 April when Stalin, protesting the negotiations in Switzerland, wrote to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, "As regards my military colleagues, they, on the basis of information in their possession, are sure that negotiations did take place and that they ended in an agreement with the Germans, whereby the German Commander on the Western Front, Marshal Kesselring [Generalfeldmarschall Albert Kesselring] is to open the front to the Anglo-American troops and let them move east, while the British and Americans have promised, in exchange, to ease the armistice terms for the Germans." Sounding very much like a man who had just discovered that he had for some time been looking in the wrong direction--and drawing false conclusions from his original faulty assumption--Stalin added almost plaintively, "I realize that there are certain advantages resulting to the Anglo-American troops . . . seeing that the Anglo-American troops are enabled to advance into the heart of Germany almost without resistance; but why conceal this from the Russians, and why were the Russians, their allies, not forewarned?"3

Hitler Worries About the Flanks

On 30 March, Hitler had warned Army Group Vistula that the developments on the Western Front could induce the Russians to attack across the Oder without waiting to redeploy their forces from East and West Prussia. (Map 42) He directed the army group to construct a main battle line two to four miles behind its front and emplace the artillery so that it could lay down barrages between the two lines.4 But he apparently still was not convinced that the decisive battle would be at Berlin. He had ordered the 10th SS Panzer Division transferred from Army Group Vistula to Army Group Center and stationed southeast of Goerlitz, where it appeared that Third Guards Tank Army might attempt a breakthrough south toward Prague. On 2 and 3 April he transferred the Fuehrer Grenadier Division and the 25th Panzer Division to Army Group South for the defense of Vienna.5 The transfers cost Army Group Vistula half of its armored and mobile forces.

In orders to Army Groups North and Courland, Hitler re-emphasized their missions of tying down enemy forces away from the main front and denying the Russians access to the Baltic ports. Too late


to save the garrison, much less the civilians, he authorized a breakout from the Glogau fortress on 30 March.6 He demanded that Breslau hold out as "an example for the whole German people" and "the surety for a change in the East."7

On 2 April Headquarters, Army Group North, was recalled, and the Second and Fourth Armies went under the direct command of the OKH. After Second Belorussian Front turned west, the Soviet strength opposing Second Army sank rapidly, leveling off in the second week of the month at about nine divisions against the Germans' six.8

On 3 April the sixth and last Courland battle ended (begun 17 March). Although Army Group Courland was badly weakened, Hitler instructed it to stay in the front it then held in order to draw the maximum enemy forces against itself and, presumably, away from the front in Germany.9

Koenigsberg had become a prestige objective for Hitler and for the Russians. On 6 April Vasilevskiy threw four armies into a converging attack, and on the 9th the city surrendered.10 Hitler had the fortress commandant, General der Infanterie Otto Lasch, condemned in absentia to death by hanging. After Koenigsberg fell, Hitler, partly as an expression of his displeasure and partly because there was no longer any need for two army commands in the area, sent Headquarters, Fourth Army, out of East Prussia and combined what was left of the army with Second Army to form the Army of East Prussia.

Soviet Redeployment and Plans

In the first two weeks of April the Russians executed, apparently under Zhukov's direction, their fastest major redeployment of the war. First Belorussian Front pulled its boundary down from the Baltic coast to the level of Schwedt as Second Belorussian Front moved in on its right; First Ukrainian Front shifted its main weight from its left and center to its right. The three Soviet fronts had all together 2.5 million men, 6,250 tanks, 7,500 aircraft, 41,600 artillery pieces and mortars, 3,255 multiple rocket projectors, and 95,383 motor vehicles.11

In view of the dark suspicions aroused by the recent Allied successes, the redeployment and the coming offensive had one overriding objective: to take possession at top speed of at least the German territory east of the Elbe, the projected Soviet occupation zone. To do that, even disregarding--though the Russians undoubtedly did not--the likelihood that if the Allies had made a deal their occupying Berlin was part of it, the main effort had to be against Berlin because, strategic objective or not, the battle for possession of the Soviet zone could not be won, above all not won quickly, until and unless the city was taken.

The plan for the offensive was a three-way compromise: it centered the main weight of the attack on Berlin but provided


for simultaneous maximum breadth and depth of penetration. To achieve an early start, it accepted the handicap of Second Belorussian Front's starting several days late. It also left open a chance for a quick turn south into Czechoslovakia off the left flank.

First Belorussian Front positioned its main force, five armies including the First and Second Guards Tank Armies, for a frontal attack toward Berlin out of the Kuestrin bridgehead. At the eastern edge of the city the armor was to veer north and south, forming the northern arm of a close-in encirclement and supporting the encirclement on the south. Second Belorussian Front was to cross the Oder north of Schwedt and strike toward Neustrelitz. This thrust was to force Third Panzer Army back against the coast and cover the advance toward Berlin on the north; but because Rokossovskiy needed more time for his deployment and would start at least four days late, First Belorussian Front ordered two of its armies to provide flank cover on the north by a thrust south of the Finow Canal to Fehrbellin. A second 2-army force was to attack toward Brandenburg out of the bridgehead north of Frankfurt, cover the main force on the south, complete the southern arm of the Berlin encirclement, and, in conjunction with First Ukrainian Front forces, envelop what was left of the Ninth and Fourth Panzer Armies on the Oder and lower Neisse.

First Ukrainian Front planned two thrusts: one, by the Third and Fourth Guards Tank Armies plus three infantry armies, to go across the Neisse between Forst and Muskau and to carry via Spremberg west and northwest, the other, by two armies, from north of Goerlitz to Dresden. Konev's primary mission was to close to the Elbe on the stretch from Dresden to Wittenberg where the junction with the Americans was expected. He intended to carry the advance as far north and west as Belzig and from there furnish elements to support the First Belorussian Front right flank at and south of Berlin. The object apparently was to hold to the minimum the First Ukrainian Front forces that would become tied down in the fighting around Berlin in order to permit an early regroupment south for an advance via Dresden toward Prague; but the tank armies on the north flank were an insurance and a variant of the plan provided for their being turned sharply north toward Berlin.12 The responsibility for co-ordinating the whole offensive was Zhukov's. In early April he turned command of First Belorussian Front over to Sokolovskiy.13

Hitler Prepares for the Battle

The Germans no longer had the manpower, war plant, or transportation to accomplish a true build-up on the Oder-Neisse line. To defend the sector directly east of Berlin, Ninth Army had 14 divisions. Opposite it, First Belorussian Front deployed 18 Soviet armies with a complement of 77 rifle divisions, 7 tank and mechanized corps, 8 artillery divisions, and an extensive assortment of artillery and rocket launcher brigades and regiments. Third Panzer Army, on Ninth Army's left, had 11 divisions; Second Belorussian Front


moving in against it had 8 armies totaling 33 rifle divisions, 4 tank and mechanized corps, and 3 artillery divisions plus a mixture of artillery and rocket launcher brigrades and regiments. First Belorussian Front had 3,155 tanks and self-propelled guns; Second Belorussian Front had 951; Ninth Army and Third Panzer Army had 512 and 242, respectively. First Belorussian Front had 16,934 artillery pieces to Ninth Army's 344 pieces of regular artillery and 300 to 400 antiaircraft guns. Third Panzer Army had practically no artillery other than 600 to 700 antiaircraft guns. Second Belorussian Front had 6,642 artillery pieces.14 In spite of strict conservation, motor fuel and ammunition stocks could not be accumulated at anywhere near the rate required for a major operation. On 11 April the artillery ammunition in the Army Group Vistula zone stood at .9 of a basic load. First and Second Belorussian Fronts had 3.2 and 1.9 basic loads as initial issues for their vastly greater arrays of artillery.15

Hitler did little to compensate for deficiencies. He ordered the antiaircraft guns, most of which were taken from the Berlin air defense, emplaced so that they could fire on ground targets. The armies added depth to the front by constructing the WOTAN position ten to fifteen miles to the rear. To replace the Panzer divisions transferred to Army Groups South and Center, Hitler promised Heinrici 100,000 troops but only delivered about 35,000 untrained Air Force and Navy men.

The total German situation was too uncertain to permit any coherent planning in the event the defense on the rivers failed. The one overriding objective left was to prolong the war. Hitler had never been more firmly in command, and as long as he lived there was no way out short of total defeat in the field or the miracle he predicted. Anticipating an Allied-Soviet junction that would split Germany in two, Hitler, on 10 and 14 April, issued orders naming Doenitz commander in chief in the north and Kesselring in the south. The appointments were to take effect after the contact between the two areas was broken. Hitler expected to retain the supreme command in one or the other himself.16

On the 15th Hitler transferred command of the Berlin city defense to Army Group Vistula; until then it had been directly under him. That night at the army group headquarters the Berlin commander, Reymann, took part in what for him must have been a dismayingly painful conference. Speer, there on a mission of his own--to oppose Hitler's scorched-earth policy--told Reymann that the destruction of the bridges and other facilities in the city would have doubtful military value but was certain to cause starvation, epidemics, and an economic collapse that might take years to overcome. Heinrici agreed and added that, if it came to that, the army group did not propose to fight in the city; Ninth Army would retreat past it on both sides.17


At midmonth, aside from the by then obvious First Belorussian Front concentration east of Berlin, the Germans had only a hazy and, in one important respect, completely false picture of the Soviet deployment and intentions. Hitler and Schoerner--who took his cue from the Fuehrer--had become convinced in late March that the Russians would try both the so-called Zhukov (Berlin) and Stalin (Prague) offensive solutions. In April German Intelligence lost track of Third Guards Tank Army, placing it east of Bunzlau where it would have been deployed had it intended to attack south toward Zittau into the gap between the Erzgebirge and the Sudeten and thence toward Prague.18 On 10 April Schoerner, awarded his marshal's baton five days before, told Hitler, "It is to be assumed that the enemy attack will be centered in the area between Goerlitz and Loewenberg [that is, southwest of Bunzlau]."19 The Eastern Intelligence Branch estimate of 13 April hedged a bit on the question of where the attack would come but reached essentially the same conclusion, namely, that First Ukrainian Front's main offensive concentration was northeast of Goerlitz-Loewenberg.20 Consequently, when the Soviet offensive began, Schoerner was holding half of his reserves, two panzer divisions, fifty miles southeast of the Soviet main effort.

On 11 April Hitler advised Heinrici to order his army group into its main battle formation that night or the next. The Americans, he explained, had reached the Elbe at Magdeburg that day; the Russians, if they wanted to take their share of central Germany, might be forced to attack before they were ready.21 (The vanguard of U.S. Ninth Army reached Magdeburg on the 11th, and after crossing the Elbe was fifty-three miles from Berlin at nightfall the next day.)

On the 12th Krebs told the Army Group Vistula operations officer that the Fuehrer was convinced the army group would have a "colossal" victory; nowhere in Germany was a front so strongly held or so well supplied with ammunition. The operations officer replied that the Fuehrer should also consider the enemy's strength, that the ammunition the army group had could hardly last for the expected long fight, and that its motor fuel was already short.22

On the 14th five Soviet divisions and 200 tanks tried unsuccessfully to storm the Seelow Heights west of Kuestrin. When the attempt was not repeated the following day, Heinrici concluded that the Russians might have decided to wait a while longer. He considered ordering the troops out of the main battle line and into the original front, but decided not to because the previous day's attack had showed that they were "clinging" to the main battle line and needed every physical support they could be given.23 Hitler in an order of the day on 14 April ranted about traitorous German


officers in Russian pay and German women reduced to barracks whores and pretended to see the hand of a benign power in the "death of the greatest war criminal of all time" (Roosevelt), and boasted that he had done so much since January to strengthen the front "that the Bolsheviks this time too will suffer the old fate of Asia and bleed to death before the German capital." He called for the defense "not of the empty concept of a Fatherland but of your homes, your women, your children, and thereby our future."24

The Encirclement

Konev Breaks Through

First Belorussian and First Ukrainian Fronts attacked before dawn on 16 April. First Belorussian Front, the stronger, also had by far the tougher assignment. Its main force, deployed in a 20-mile sector between Wriezen and Seelow, had to cross the marshy bottomland of the Oder and Alte Oder and take the Seelow Heights. The attack, begun in darkness, was intended to achieve surprise, and batteries of powerful searchlights had been positioned to illuminate the German line and blind the defenders. The infantry moved out behind a shattering artillery preparation, but the lights did not have the expected effect. In the mud, smoke, and darkness the waves of infantry piled up on each other. By daylight, the confusion was complete. The Russians were lucky that the Germans, nervous and preoccupied, failed to appreciate what had happened and so left them to work out the problems by themselves.

During the day, apparently on orders from Stalin, Sokolovskiy committed the First and Second Guards Tank Armies, which could not help tactically, since the German line was not broken anywhere, but which added mightily to the tangle as the armor tried to push forward. At nightfall the divisions that had charged in the morning behind unfurled banners were all still in front of the German main battle line. To make the day complete, neither of First Belorussian Front's two flanking forces had any success.25

The performance was comic opera played by five armies on a 20-mile stage. But the Russians could afford their mistakes, and the Germans could not afford theirs. Against Fourth Panzer Army on Schoerner's left flank, Konev's infantry crossed the Neisse between Muskau and Forst and north of Goerlitz, breaking in as deep as six miles.

After the Third and Fifth Shock Armies and Eighth Guards Army again failed to get moving on the morning of the second day, Sokolovskiy threw in a reserve army--the Forty-seventh--and both tank armies and zeroed in on two small areas, southeast of Wriezen and at Seelow. Two reserve panzer divisions, slowed by air attacks, arrived just in time to hold them to minor gains.26

On the 18th Sokolovskiy drew his armor together more tightly and broke in ten to twelve miles west of Wriezen and southwest


of Seelow. Ninth Army held its front together through the day. Heinrici reported that the battle was approaching its climax and would soon be decided.27

The Russians were straining to the utmost, putting service troops into the front and threatening the death penalty for failure to advance on orders.28 Zhukov--according to the Soviet official history, the Stavka--had changed the plan on the second day and had ordered the Third and Fourth Guards Tank Armies to strike for Berlin as soon as they broke through. He ordered Second Belorussian Front, not yet in action, to direct its advance southwest instead of northwest so as to complete the Berlin encirclement from the north in case First Belorussian Front failed to get through.29

At the end of the third day First Ukrainian Front's northern force was on the Spree north and south of Spremberg and across the river south of the city. Its southern force was approaching Bautzen. Schoerner also reported that the battle was reaching its climax in his zone. He thought the Russians' extremely heavy losses might be exhausting their ability to keep up the attack, and he intended to put his last troop and ammunition reserves into counterattacks the next day.30

At Fuehrer headquarters 18 April was a day of optimism. During the situation conference held in the small hours of the morning, Hitler expressed the belief that the offensive against Fourth Panzer Army had "substantially" run itself tight.31 Doenitz's adjutant recorded that the "voices of hope were loud." As far as he could determine, however, much of the optimism seemed to be based on Keitel's dubious rule of thumb that offensives stalled if they had not made the breakthrough by the end of the third day.32 Hitler told Generaloberst Karl Hilpert, Commanding General, Army Group Courland, that his army group would have to hold out "until the turn that has occurred in every war has taken place."33

The next day the south group of First Belorussian Front's main force got as far as Muencheberg. The north group, Second Guards Tank Army in the van, broke through west of Wriezen. It could have gone faster and farther, but the flank covering force was not yet out of the bridgehead. Hitler, "determined" to fight out the battle of Berlin on the Ninth Army front, gave Heinrici permission to take all the combat-worthy troops he could find out of the Berlin defenses.34

Meanwhile, First Ukrainian Front was putting its armor across the Spree north and south of Spremberg. South of Spremberg


the Fourth Panzer Army still had a vestige of a front; north of the city almost the whole Third Guards Tank Army was across the Spree. Schoerner reported that he had "hopes" of stopping Konev's southern thrust toward Bautzen. He intended to try again to close the front on the north, but, he added, "The laboriously organized defense in depth has only in a few places accomplished what one was forced to promise oneself from it."35

On the 20th, Hitler's birthday, the battle for Berlin was lost. The Third and Fourth Guards Tank Armies pulled away from the Army Group Center flank and by day's end had strong armored spearheads thrusting north past Jueterbog, the Army's largest ammunition depot, and closing up to the German screening line ten miles south of Zossen. Second Belorussian Front attacked across the Oder from Schwedt to Stettin under the cover of smoke and created several bridgeheads. North of Berlin Second Guards Tank Army reached Bernau. The south group of First Belorussian Front's main force was still having trouble pushing toward Berlin, but it got a spearhead through to the southwest past Muencheberg to Fuerstenwalde behind Ninth Army.

Busse, the Commanding General, Ninth Army, reported in the morning that the only way he could get a solid line east of Berlin was by taking his front back from the Oder at and south of Frankfurt.36 No reply came from Fuehrer headquarters until late in the afternoon when Krebs called Heinrici to say that Hitler doubted whether the troops, particularly the heavy antiaircraft guns, could be gotten away from the Oder and wanted to talk to him before making a decision. The army group chief of staff replied that Heinrici was away at the front but had said that he could not be responsible for mastering the situation if the order were not given soon.37

By then the Russians were approaching Fuerstenwalde. During the early half of the night, by telephoned commands relayed through Krebs and the Operations Branch, OKH, Hitler tried to juggle divisions to stop the Russians at Bernau and Fuerstenwalde. Half an hour after midnight Heinrici returned, called Krebs, and told him that he now had orders to hold everywhere and at the same time take out troops to support the threatened deep flanks. He was convinced that the mission could not be fulfilled and would "never succeed." He proposed to go to the Fuehrer, tell him so, and ask to be relieved and allowed to "take up a rifle and face the enemy."38

Hitler Decides To See the Battle Through

The observance of the Fuehrer's birthday before the afternoon situation conference had been subdued. The Chief of Staff, OKL, Generaloberst Karl Koller, had brought word that the last roads south would not stay open many hours longer. Those who were to go south would have to leave shortly by automobile because the


Air Force did not have the planes to fly them out.39

During the night General der Gebirgstruppe August Winter, Jodl's deputy, who was to be chief of staff of Command Staff B (the southern command post), departed with most of the essential personnel of the Operations Staff, OKW, and the Operations Branch, OKH. Goering left at high speed after midnight, having had to take cover for several hours in the public air raid shelters in Berlin, where he had a last opportunity to wring some laughs out of his old joke stemming from a speech he had made early in the war in which he had told the Germans they could "call me Meyer if the Allies ever bomb Berlin."40 It was expected that Hitler would also leave Berlin, probably for the south, because there was not enough of a staff left in the city and because after the big Army communications center at Zossen was lost, which could happen almost any hour, command from the capital would be impossible.41 Hitler had that day given Doenitz full power over matériel resources and manpower in the northern area.42

The 21st, although the First Russian artillery shells fell in Berlin that day, brought a glimmer of good news; Fourth Panzer Army made some local progress in a counterattack northwest of Goerlitz. Hitler saw in it the makings of a major thrust that would close the 40-mile gap between the Army Group Vistula-Army Group Center flanks, and from that illusion he derived a "basic order" which Krebs transmitted to the army group by phone in the midafternoon. The "successful" attack at Army Group Center would soon close the front at Spremberg; therefore, it was "absolutely necessary" to hold the corner post at Cottbus. (Ninth Army had taken command the day before of Fourth Panzer Army's left flank corps at and north of Cottbus.) Ninth Army would set up a front facing west between Koenigswusterhausen and Cottbus and attack west into the flank of the Russians going toward Berlin from the south. Steiner would command an operation to close the front north of Berlin on the line of the Berlin-Stettin autobahn. Third Panzer Army would eliminate "every last bridgehead on the Oder" and get ready to attack south.43 Reymann, relieved as Berlin commandant, would command the front south of Berlin.44

Heinrici had given Steiner's III SS Panzer Corps headquarters, which had no troops of its own, the task of scraping together enough to set up a screening line on Third Panzer Army's flank along the Finow Canal. In the order that went out to Steiner in the late afternoon, Hitler elevated Steiner's command to an Armeeabteilung and gave him the 4th SS Police Division, the 5th Jaeger Division, and the 25th Panzer Grenadier Division, all north of the Finow Canal, and LVI Panzer Corps, standing east of Berlin with its north flank just below Werneuchen. With the three divisions Steiner was to attack south from Eberswalde on the canal to the LVI Panzer Corps flank and close the front.


To the tactical directive Hitler added, "Officers who do not accept this order without reservation are to be arrested and shot instantly. You yourself I make responsible with your head for its execution."45

As soon as he received the order Steiner called the army group headquarters to report that it could not be carried out. Of the 7th SS Police Division only two battalions were at hand, and they were not armed for combat. The 5th Jaeger and 25th Panzer Grenadier Divisions were tied down in the front and could not be used until the 3d Naval Division arrived from the coast to relieve them.46

When Krebs phoned a résumé of the Steiner order to the army group headquarters, Heinrici asked him to impress on Hitler the necessity for taking back Ninth Army, which was being encircled and even then could no longer withdraw toward Berlin but would have to go around the lake chain south of the capital. If Hitler insisted on keeping his previous orders in force, then Heinrici asked to be relieved because he could not execute them and he could not reconcile them with his conscience and his responsibility to the troops. Krebs answered that the Fuehrer took the responsibility for his own orders.47

On 21 April Second Guards Tank Army gained nearly thirty miles north of Berlin, and an attack southwest of Werneuchen carried to the Berlin outer defense ring. North of Mueggel Lake the First Guards Tank and Eighth Guards Armies also reached the outer defense ring. Between Mueggel Lake and Fuerstenwalde Ninth Army observed a strong build-up in progress, but the Russians did not continue the attack to the southwest to cut the army off from the city. Behind Ninth Army the point of Third Guards Tank Army reached Koenigswusterhausen.48

The Soviet command decisions on the 21st were intended, first, to accomplish the encirclement of Berlin and, in the second order of business, to envelop Ninth Army. North of the capital the two armies that had been assigned the flank thrust were finally making enough speed to take over their screening mission, and Sokolovskiy ordered the Second Guards Tank and Forty-seventh Armies to concentrate on completing the encirclement. Approaching Berlin, First Guards Tank and Eighth Guards Armies had slowed down and then come almost to a stop on the outer defense ring, which delayed the encirclement of Ninth Army southwest of the line Mueggel Lake-Fuerstenwalde. First Belorussian Front's 2-army force in the Frankfurt bridgehead had not accomplished anything; its original mission had become superfluous and it was, therefore, assigned to assist in the encirclement of Ninth Army. The Third Guards Tank and Thirteenth Armies' rapid advance had stretched thin the enveloping front behind Ninth Army and had tended to draw the two Soviet armies east. On the 21st Konev put in Twenty-eighth Army from the reserve to take over part of the front against Ninth Army and free the Third Guards Tank and


Thirteenth Armies to close in on Berlin from the south while Fourth Guards Tank Army attacked toward Potsdam.49

At the afternoon situation conference on the 22d Hitler broke down. When, having waited impatiently through the morning and early afternoon for a report from Steiner, he learned that Steiner had not attacked, he fell into a tearful rage, declared that the war was lost, blamed it all on the generals, and announced that he would stay in Berlin to the end and kill himself before the Russians could take him prisoner. Keitel and Jodl refused an order to fly out to the southern command post and pledged themselves to stand by him.

As had happened many times before, the emotional storm passed quickly. Jodl remembered that they had the newly created Twelfth Army, of which Wenck had assumed command after his recovery, facing west on a line southeast of Magdeburg but not yet solidly tied down.50 Hitler first rejected as a waste of time a suggestion that they turn the army around and have it attack east. Then, in a few minutes, be took up the idea and was off on another round of planning.

During his breakdown, Hitler had finally admitted that his regime was utterly bankrupt. For him and his close associates all that was left was the consolation they could draw from keeping the machinery running even though it could accomplish nothing. Keitel was the outstanding example. Filled with purposeless dedication, he took on himself the role of field marshal-messenger and set out to carry the turn-around order to Wenck, a task which could be and, in fact, was accomplished far more quickly by phone.51

Before the conference ended, Krebs was on the phone to Heinrici telling him the Fuehrer was making the decision; Schoerner and Wenck would be briefed; Wenck would attack east; Schoerner's attack east of Bautzen was succeeding; Ninth Army would have to hold Cottbus and the Oder line to the south of Frankfurt. In short, Hitler was back at trying to build a front east of Berlin.

The reports coming in from the front revealed how slim the chances were. Steiner called after dark to report that he had not been able to attack because his troops were not assembled. Heinrici ordered him to attack that night, ready or not. Against Third Panzer Army, Second Belorussian Front had, by nightfall, taken a bridgehead ten miles long above Stettin. Ninth Army lost Cottbus and was broken through south of Frankfurt. North of Berlin Russian tank points were on the Havel River, and on the east the Russians


had at one point penetrated the inner defense ring.

But when Krebs called Heinrici again at nine o'clock, he was full of optimism. The Wenck attack would bring relief fast, he said; one division would attack that night. Heinrici disagreed. Wenck had a long way to go. Heinrici wanted at least to take Ninth Army back twenty miles or so out of the bulge on the Oder upstream from Frankfurt. "Tell the Fuehrer," he added, "I do not ask this because I am against him but because I am for him."52 Finally, at midnight, Heinrici was authorized to let Ninth Army withdraw to a line from north of Cottbus to Lieberose, Beeskow, and the Spree. In doing so, Busse was to free divisions for an attack west to meet Twelfth Army.53

Completing the Circle

The next day, the 23d, the encirclement of Berlin entered its final stage. First Belorussian Front committed its second echelon, Third Army, to cut the narrow corridor connecting Ninth Army with Berlin. From the south the Third Guards Tank and Thirteenth Armies closed to the outer defense ring, and Fourth Guards Tank Army approached Potsdam. North of Berlin Second Guards Tank Army crossed the Havel below Oranienburg and began turning south. In the city that afternoon Hitler held his last big situation conference. When it broke up, Keitel went out to bring his "personal influence" to bear on Twelfth Army, and Jodl headed north with the OKW staff to Neu Roofen, behind Third Panzer Army.54

In the afternoon Hitler ordered General der Artillerie Helmuth Weidling, Commanding General, LVI Panzer Corps, to take over with his troops, which Busse had wanted to use to protect Ninth Army's north flank, the eastern and southeastern defenses of the city. Hitler later also made Weidling, whom he had only the day before intended to have shot, defense commandant of all Berlin. When Krebs announced the appointment, Weidling said he would rather they had shot him.55

After the situation conference, Heinrici received a telephoned order to stop the Steiner attack "at once," give up the Eberswalde bridgehead, and shift Steiner's headquarters and all the troops that could be released west of Oranienburg for an attack into the flank of the Russians crossing the Havel. The order added that Twelfth Army was sending XXXXI Panzer Corps to hem the Russians in from the west.56 Steiner had made some progress south of Eberswalde early in the day but far short of enough to have any effect.

By the end of the day, Hitler, through his order pulling LVI Panzer Corps into Berlin, had made it a certainty that Ninth Army would soon be completely isolated and encircled. When Heinrici talked to


Busse that night, after the telephone connections had been out all day, the latter reported that he would have to make the breakout to the west with small arms, since artillery ammunition was exhausted. His north front was disintegrating because it was losing the support it had been getting from Berlin. He summed up his predicament in a sentence, "I was kept forward too long." Heinrici replied, "That was a crime." When they finished, Heinrici called Wenck and told him he must rescue his "old friend," Busse.57

On the 24th the Russians worked systematically to complete the great circle of steel and fire around Berlin. The battle was lost; it would have been given up but for one man, who, prematurely aged, palsied, and buried under 20 feet of earth and concrete out of sight and hearing of the destruction rolling in on him, demanded and got absolute obedience. Berlin was no Stalingrad. It might hold out, through fanaticism and terror, for a few days, no more. On the north and east the Russians were approaching the S-Bahn defense ring. During the day the First Belorussian and First Ukrainian Fronts' forces met at Bohnsdorf to close the encirclement on the southeast and isolate Ninth Army. Fourth Guards Tank Army reached the lakes flanking Potsdam, and Second Guards Tank Army, coming from the north, went as far as Nauen and south almost to Spandau. In the city LVI Panzer Corps occupied the southeast sector; the rest was held by Volkssturm, SS, and Hitler Youth formations. The four massive flak towers stood like stranded concrete battleships, powerful yet helpless. Weidling discovered that his predecessors had tried to exercise command through the public telephone system.58

Deprived of all but the last remnants of his once elaborate command apparatus, Hitler, nevertheless, ordered, "The OKW . . . will command in accordance with my directives which I will transmit through the Chief of Staff, OKH, who is with me." He terminated the OKH command functions and undertook to command in the north directly through the Operations Staff, OKW, and in the south more loosely through the Command Staff B and the army groups. For the south he issued a halfhearted directive to create, as far as that could still be accomplished, a redoubt in the Alps. His conception of how that should be done did not go much beyond the general statement that it was to be "envisioned as the final bulwark of fanatical resistance and so prepared." For him the war had narrowed down to Berlin. He established as "the main mission" of the OKW to attack from the northwest, southwest, and south to regain contact with Berlin and "so decide the battle for the capital victoriously."59

In Jodl and Keitel, Hitler had ideal collaborators in futility. Neither gave a thought to anything beyond getting through to the Fuehrer, above all not to the question, Why?. Before the day was out Jodl had changed the directions of the Ninth and Twelfth Armies; the one was



to attack northeast, the other northwest toward Berlin.60

On 25 April the Soviet spearheads met northwest of Potsdam. On the Elbe, U.S. First Army and Soviet Fifth Guards Army made contact at Torgau. In an order to Doenitz, Hitler described the fighting in and around Berlin as the "battle for the German fate," all other fronts and missions being secondary. He instructed the Admiral to send reinforcements to Berlin by air and to the fronts around the city "by land and by sea."61 The OKW had already directed the theater commanders to regard the conflict with the Soviet forces as paramount and to accept "greater losses of territory to the Anglo-Americans" for the sake of releasing units to be committed against the Russians.62

To the extent that the German fate still remained to be decided, the day's most significant development was neither at Berlin nor on the Elbe but on the Oder, where Second Belorussian Front, completing the


breakout it had begun the day before from its bridgehead south of Stettin, crossed the Randow Swamp toward Prenzlau.

The Last Act

"A Day of Hopes"

Half an hour after midnight on the night of 25 April a directive that Hitler had written the evening before reached the OKW headquarters at Neu Roofen. It called for the "fastest execution of all relief attacks, without regard for flanks and neighbors." Although he must have known that his time was running pitifully short, Hitler still insisted on attempting nothing less than to restore a complete and solid front on the east. Twelfth Army was to attack northwest from Belzig to Ferch at the tip of the twin lakes south of Potsdam while Ninth Army attacked west to meet it. After they had joined, both armies were to advance toward Berlin from the south "on a broad front." Ninth Army, meanwhile, was also to hold its eastern front so that Army Group Center could close up from the south. Steiner was to attack toward Berlin from northwest of Oranienburg with the 25th Panzer Grenadier Division, the 3d Naval Division, and the 7th Panzer Division. Third Panzer Army was to "prevent an expansion of the Oder bridgehead."63

Jodl answered that all the relief attacks had begun or were about to begin. He also called attention to the Second Belorussian Front threat east of Prenzlau and a 21 Army Group (British) build-up southeast of Hamburg that indicated a thrust toward Luebeck. To counter those he proposed withdrawing the German forces on the coast west of the Elbe.64

Weidling remembered 26 April as "the day of hopes"; Krebs repeatedly phoned him at his command post in the Bendlerstrasse to announce good news.65 The naval liaison officer's morning report to Doenitz reflected the interpretation that was being put on Jodl's message in the Fuehrer bunker: the Ninth and Twelfth Armies were having "gratifying successes"; Steiner was "making progress"; and Schoerner's attack at Bautzen showed that "when the will is there, the enemy can be defeated even today."66 Hitler's resurgent confidence found expression in his reply to Jodl. He wanted the Elbe line held and the "bridgehead" east of Prenzlau not only contained but reduced. He did not object to taking forces from west of the Elbe, but it should be done without losing the ports, Emden, Wilhelmshaven, and Wesermuende, or losing the use of the Kaiser Wilhelm (Kiel) Canal.67

In the evening the telephone lines to Berlin went dead, and the communications to and from the pocket were shifted to line-of-sight short wave received and transmitted from a balloon run up near the OKW headquarters. In a spirit of self-immolation, Jodl and Keitel intended to fly into the city that night for one more situation conference, but the landing strip in the Tiergarten was closed by smoke, shell


holes, and wrecked aircraft. The last to land that night were Generaloberst Robert Ritter von Greim and Hanna Reitsch, the daredevil woman test pilot. Hitler promoted von Greim to Generalfeldmarschall and appointed him Commander in Chief, OKL.68

During the day on the 26th the German commands launched into the pursuit of two incompatible and, considering the state of the German forces, mutually exclusive objectives: Heinrici became intent on holding together what was left of his front and rescuing Ninth Army, while Keitel and Jodl concentrated entirely on the Berlin relief. Heinrici wanted to save what could still be saved. Keitel and Jodl tried to force reality to submit to the Fuehrer's will. To them this was nothing new. They had watched him sacrifice armies in an almost unbroken succession of similar attempts since Stalingrad. It was the essence of the Fuehrer principle; it was Hitler's formula for victory; and it had one fault--it never worked.

Steiner had advanced and taken a small bridgehead on the Havel west of Oranienburg during the night, but after daylight he was stopped. All he had was the 25th Panzer Grenadier Division. The 3d Naval Division was strung out on the railroads between Oranienburg and the coast, and the 7th Panzer Division, brought into Swinemuende by sea from Danzig only days before, had no vehicles with which to move out of its assembly area west of Neubrandenburg. Before noon Heinrici proposed giving up the Steiner attack, because it could not be expected to succeed, and using the divisions against the breakthrough east of Prenzlau. Jodl refused.69

By late afternoon Second Belorussian Front had chewed through Third Panzer Army's last reserves and was approaching Prenzlau. Manteuffel started taking back his flanks to get troops to put into the gap opening in his center. Heinrici concluded that a decision had to be made concerning Steiner; his operation could not influence the fate of Berlin and it was tying down the army group's "last and only" motorized division. The question was, where could the decision come from? By direct interference Jodl and Keitel had practically removed Steiner from Heinrici's command.70

Twelfth Army, the mainstay of the relief operation, did not expect to accomplish more than to get a wedge through that would allow the Berlin civilians and garrison to escape. After several changes, its assigned missions were to assist the Steiner operation from the west with XXXXI Panzer Corps, cover the Elbe line and defend Brandenburg--to hold open a corridor between the Russians and the Americans--and advance northeast from Belzig. On the 26th, XX Corps, the relief corps, was engaged in defending the line Brandenburg-Belzig-Wittenberg to protect its staging area.71

Ninth Army began its breakout with a thrust west to the Baruth-Zossen road. Its


strength was sinking fast. The night before, all the promised air supply had been diverted to Berlin. Jodl, after his last telephone conversation with Hitler, was still determined to "make clear to Ninth Army that it must turn sharply [north] together with Twelfth Army to relieve Berlin."72 Jodl and Heinrici argued over where the air supply, such as it might be, should go. Heinrici maintained that the army deserved the aid because the higher commands were responsible for its being where it was. Jodl insisted that the people of Berlin and the "Head of State" could not be left in the lurch and suggested that any thought to the contrary was treason.73 Off Ninth Army's south flank, Schoerner's attack, having made about fifteen miles in six days, was close to a standstill with forty miles yet to go.

Keitel and Jodl in Command

During the night of the 26th Third Panzer Army withdrew to the Uecker River and the line of the lakes south of Prenzlau. It was the army's last chance to keep from being overrun, and it failed. The next morning Rokossovskiy's tanks broke through past Prenzlau and his infantry streamed into the gap behind them. In the afternoon Heinrici's chief of staff went to Doenitz's headquarters in Ploen to report to the admiral that the army group was defeated, could not stop the Russians, and was retreating west through Mecklenburg.

If Heinrici expected a decision from Doenitz, he was disappointed. At a situation conference several hours before--at which Doenitz and Himmler, to their mutual chagrin, both insisted on receiving Keitel's and Jodl's reports seated as was Hitler's practice--it had been decided that Doenitz would not exercise military command until it became impossible for the OKW to secure its orders from Hitler. In any event, nothing much could have been expected of Doenitz's military judgment; he had lately begun to quibble about holding Stettin and Swinemuende, where Third Panzer Army's north flank was threatened with encirclement, so that the Navy could keep contact with Army Group Courland.74 Doenitz might have stretched his civil powers to include negotiating a surrender; but he was not the man for that; though less ostentatiously, he counted himself among Hitler's paladins as much as did Jodl and Keitel.

The OKW, marking time on 27 April, issued commands in all directions. To stop the Prenzlau breakthrough, Headquarters, Twenty-first Army (the former Fourth Army Staff), under General Tippelskirch, was to be put in with two regiments, neither of them available for at least another twenty-four hours.75 Hitler had lost faith in Steiner, and an order went out for XXXXI Panzer Corps to take command of the Oranienburg attack, but the corps headquarters was too far away to assume effective command.76 Hitler had called on the Ninth and Twelfth Armies to do their duty, to unite and attack toward Berlin,



and so attain "the decisive turning point of the war."77 To the order to the armies Keitel added, "History and the German people will despise everyone who does not do his utmost to save the situation and the Fuehrer."78 Keitel directed Schoerner, in case contact with the OKW was lost, to keep on attacking north from Bautzen toward the Ninth and Twelfth Armies.79

Late in the afternoon Jodl at last concluded, "The enemy clearly has broken through Third Panzer Army at Prenzlau." He decided, "onerous as it is," to stop the Steiner attack; but he could not, even yet, bring himself to give it up completely. The order to Heinrici stated that he could have the 25th Panzer Grenadier Division and the 7th Panzer Division for a counterattack into the Russian flank from the southwest. Presumably, afterwards the divisions


were to be turned south toward Berlin again.80

An hour and a half before midnight Manteuffel called the army group and reported that half of his divisions and the flak artillery had quit fighting. A hundred thousand men were fleeing west. He had not seen anything like it even in 1918, Manteuffel said; it would take hundreds of officers to stop them. The war was over, he added; the soldiers had "spoken"; some of the officers would stand and let themselves be shot, but that would not accomplish anything. He proposed sending Jodl out to see for himself what a waste of time it was to talk about relieving Berlin; all that was left was to negotiate, preferably with the Allies, and meanwhile retreat west fast enough to hold the remnants of the army together.81

The next morning, 28 April, Keitel set out toward the front intending to lend the stimulus of his presence to the preparations for the counterattack on the Third Panzer Army flank. At Zehdenick on the Havel, to his huge astonishment and dismay, he encountered a rear party of the 5th Jaeger Division surveying a defense line on the river. He had thought the front was twenty miles farther east and, complying with his orders, would stay there. Subsequently he also learned that the counterattack from Templin would not be made. Heinrici and Manteuffel had decided the evening before that the 7th Panzer Division and 25th Panzer Grenadier Division could not be assembled there in time and, therefore, should be put in farther north, east of Neubrandenburg and Neustrelitz, to oppose the Russians frontally.

In the afternoon Keitel met with Heinrici and Manteuffel. By then Jodl had been on the phone to Heinrici talking of treason and threatening the "ultimate consequences" if Heinrici did not execute orders as they were given. In what Heinrici described as a "colossal discussion" and an "atrocious development," Keitel ordered the army group to stand and to counterattack southeast of Neustrelitz.

Keitel gave the order to stand in the midst of a front that was disintegrating all around him--Heinrici took three hours covering the twenty or so miles back to his headquarters. The roads were clogged with refugees and retreating troops; Neubrandenburg was completely blocked. The troops, Heinrici observed, were "marching home in columns."

After midnight Heinrici called Keitel and told him that the Russians had reached the Havel on Third Panzer Army's south flank. Keitel replied that that was what happened when "one gives up positions voluntarily." Heinrici protested that he had been deprived of the authority to make decisions within his own command. Keitel answered that it had been necessary because the Fuehrer's orders were not being carried out and therewith relieved Heinrici, ordering him to turn the command over to Manteuffel as the senior army commander.82


In and around Berlin on that day, 28 April, the end was approaching rapidly. Keitel kept alive the fiction of an attack from Oranienburg, but the only one of the relief operations that had any prospect of being executed was Wenck's. Ninth Army's breakout failed; the tank point in the lead became separated and was not heard from again. Busse reported that the army was neither in condition to make another concerted attempt nor to hold out much longer.83 In Berlin eight Soviet armies had begun attacking through the S-Bahn ring on the 26th, after heavy bombings during the previous day and night. By nightfall on the 27th the Russians had cut off Reymann's force in Potsdam and pushed the Berlin defenders into a pocket nine and a half miles long from east to west and from one to three miles wide. On the west the pocket still reached nearly to the Havel River, but the Russians had closed the crossings. In the center, the Soviet armies competed for the honor of taking the Reichstag--which to the Russians, even though it had been a charred ruin since 1933, was the symbol of the Third Reich--and had driven in spearheads from the north and the south to the edges of the government quarter.84

Too Late for a Miracle

The battle for Berlin was fought outside the city; what went on in the capital was hardly more than a contested mop-up. The fortress had never come into existence. When SS-Brigadefuehrer (Brig. Gen.) Gustav Krukenberg came into Berlin on 24 April to take command of the SS Nordland Division, he found the Havel bridges near Spandau barricaded but not defended. From there he drove through all of west Berlin "without encountering soldiers or defense installations of any kind." In the Fuehrer bunker, Krebs told him that the ninety volunteers from the Charlemagne Division Krukenberg had brought with him were the only ones who had arrived of numerous officers and troop units ordered into Berlin. The Nordland Division, Krukenberg discovered, had the strength of about a battalion. Three days later, when he became a sector commander in the center of the city, his command post was a subway car with neither telephone nor lights.85 The fighting in Berlin lasted as long as it did because a great metropolis, bombed out though it might be and no matter how amateurishly fortified, cannot be quickly taken even against a lame defense, particularly not by troops who know the war is over and intend to see their homes again.

Berlin did not go down, as Hitler had imagined, in a Wagnerian burst of glory but in a ragged wave of destruction and despair. Corpses hanging in the streets, the work of single-officer flying courts-martial that passed only death sentences, showed soldiers and civilians what they



could expect of their own leadership. But that leadership was operating on residual momentum, it could no longer formulate, deliver, or enforce purposeful orders. Individuals might be hanged; whole units could hide out. With rockets and artillery, the Russians evened the scores for Leningrad and Stalingrad as far as they could. But in the cellars in which Berlin life had centered for months (Berlin was heavily bombed 83 times between 1 February and 21 April) Soviet shells had nowhere near the effect that Allied bombs had had, nor did they greatly add to the damage already inflicted on the city.86

Scenes of horror were commonplace; but the most famous, the alleged deliberate flooding of subway tunnels filled with wounded and civilians, appears to have been mostly invented. The official who was in charge when the subways were pumped out in October 1945 has stated that the flooding was gradual and none of the bodies found showed evidence of drowning. All apparently had died of wounds before being placed in the tunnels.87

In an attempt to stiffen the Berliner's resistance, Goebbels had, since January, saturated


the news broadcasts with refugees' accounts of Russian atrocities, among them the pathetic instance of a woman who insisted that she had been raped exactly twenty-four times. What had happened in East Prussia, Pomerania, and Silesia also happened in Berlin, but by then Soviet policy discouraged personal acts of license and vengeance. As indication of an intent, at least, to restore order quickly, General Polkovnik N. Z. Berzarin took control as city commandant on 28 April.

Hitler did not concern himself with the human aspect of the fighting in Berlin any more than he had when the front was deep in Russia. The concrete Fuehrer bunker and the steady roar of the diesel-driven ventilating system provided almost perfect insulation against sight and sound; nevertheless, occasionally, shell explosions close by shook the bunker and the ventilators drew in dust and fumes. The tiny bunker rooms were more crowded than ever, mostly with persons engaged in caring for and protecting Hitler, or in maintaining his contact with the outside. Of the top Nazi hierarchy only Goebbels and Bormann stayed, Goebbels out of loyalty to the Fuehrer and because he had vague faith in the miracle, Bormann to promote his own interests and do what damage he could to his rivals. The parade of generals had ended. Until the 27th Hitler continued to hold the regular situation conferences. Although he attempted still to maintain the tone of a strategist, his span of practical concern had narrowed to such decisions as the appointment of a detachment that was to act "in case a Russian tank by some sly trick or other digs me out of here." A recurring theme in his rambling discourses was the correctness of his decision to stay in Berlin--as an object lesson to all the generals who had ordered retreats and as the only means of achieving a "moral" victory that would convince the British and Americans of his value to them in the, in his opinion, forthcoming conflict with the Russians.88

During the night of 28 April Weidling brought a breakout plan to Hitler. The Fuehrer listened with some interest but then declared it was better that he stay where he was, otherwise he would only have to await the end "somewhere under the open sky or in a farmhouse."89 Hitler had made his last military decision. At midnight Doenitz's liaison officer in the bunker radioed, "We will hold out to the end."90 Greim and Hanna Reitsch flew out that night in an old training plane a Luftwaffe pilot managed somehow to land and get off the ground again. Greim had orders to organize air support for Wenck's attack.

During the evening, news had reached the bunker of Himmler's attempt to negotiate an armistice through Count Folke Bernadotte, and in the early morning Bormann dispatched the following radio message to Doenitz: "The foreign press reports fresh treason. The Fuehrer expects that you will act with lightning speed and iron severity against all traitors in the North German area. Without exception, Schoerner, Wenck, and others must give evidence of their loyalty through the quickest relief of the Fuehrer."91


At daylight on the 29th Wenck's XX Corps attacked with the Clausewitz, Scharnhorst, and Theodor Koerner Divisions, all so-called youth divisions made up of men from the officer training schools. To a dismal scene, they added a last flash of the old German élan and by afternoon covered fifteen miles to the tip of Schwielow Lake southwest of Potsdam; but the flanks were open and the Lehnin Forest behind them was filled with Russians who were rapidly recovering from the initial surprise and shock. To continue the advance toward Berlin, still twenty miles away, was clearly out of the question. After dark the Potsdam garrison made contact and began coming out by rowboats across the lakes.92 Later in the night Keitel authorized Wenck to stop the attack, "If the Commanding General, Twelfth Army, in full knowledge of his present situation at XX Corps and despite the high historical and moral responsibility that he carries considers continuing the attack toward Berlin not executable . . . ."93

Through the better part of the day on 29 April Army Group Vistula was without an effective command. Heinrici refused to order any withdrawals, which meant in effect that he gave no orders at all. He learned during the day that Jodl had intervened in the internal workings of the army group to the extent of instructing at least one of the corps on the south flank to report to him immediately any withdrawal orders coming from the army group.94 In the morning Manteuffel declined to take command, stating in his message to Keitel, "Beg not at this time of crisis in own army to be charged with the mission that the [present] commanding general, who has the full confidence of all commanders, is alleged not to have carried out."95 The army commanders, Manteuffel and Tippelskirch, whose Headquarters, Twenty-first Army, was then taking over the south front from Steiner, had agreed beforehand not to let the command be taken out of Heinrici's hands.

In the afternoon, Keitel and Jodl, knowing that Tippelskirch also intended to refuse, went to Tippelskirch's command post and in an interview that took place between 1600 and 1700 prevailed on him to take acting command until Generaloberst Kurt Student could arrive from Holland. Keitel "reminded Tippelskirch of his duty most forcefully." Tippelskirch, although he, like most German generals found it virtually impossible to refuse a direct order, was no coward and had shown independence of judgment before, notably as Commanding General, Fourth Army, during the 1944 collapse of Army Group Center. Apparently what convinced him to desert Heinrici was Jodl's argument that the army group had to hold as much territory as it still could, not for the sake of relieving Berlin, but to give the political authorities something with which to bargain.96

During the day Second Belorussian Front's offensive carried past Anklam on the north, past Neubrandenburg and Neustrelitz in the center, and across the Havel in the Zehdenick-Liebenwalde sector in the


south. Behind Army Group Vistula, Field Marshal Sir Bernard L. Montgomery's 21 Army Group established a bridgehead across the Elbe at Lauenburg upstream from Hamburg. Doenitz, worried by the threat of a thrust from Lauenburg toward Hamburg and Luebeck, asked that the reinforcements for Army Group Vistula and Twelfth Army be committed on the Elbe instead.97 Shortly after noon, the balloon being used to beam voice transmissions into Berlin was shot down. Since its headquarters by then was practically in the front, the OKW began moving north from Neu Roofen several hours later.

In the Fuehrer bunker the 29th was a day of waiting while, above ground, destruction rained down on all sides. Hitler had married his long-time mistress Eva Braun the night before and in the early morning hours had written his personal and political testaments. In the latter he named Doenitz his successor as Reichs President and the head of state and, dictator to the last, appointed a Cabinet to take office under the admiral with Goebbels as Chancellor and Bormann, Party Minister. He knew almost to the hour how much time he had left. Weidling had reported that the planes had dropped only a few tons of supplies during the night; in the coming night he expected none at all; most likely, the ammunition would run out by nightfall on the 30th.98

Before midnight Hitler dispatched his last message. In five short questions addressed to Jodl he reached for the miracle one more time:

  1. Where are Wenck's spearheads?
  2. When will they attack again?
  3. Where is the Ninth Army?
  4. To where is it breaking through?
  5. Where are Holste's [XXXXI Panzer Corps] spearheads?99

There would be no miracle; the Fuehrer had to be told; and Keitel, conscious of history, took the responsibility. In the dry, impersonal language of a situation report he put a period to one of the greatest and most disastrous military adventures the world had ever seen:

To 1. Wenck's point is stopped south of Schwielow Lake. Strong Soviet attacks on the whole east flank.

To 2. As a consequence Twelfth Army cannot continue the attack toward Berlin.

To 3 and 4. Ninth Army is encircled. A panzer group has broken out west. Location unknown.

To 5. Corps Holste is forced to the defensive from Brandenburg via Rathenow to Kremmen.

The attack toward Berlin has not progressed at any point since Army Group Vistula was also forced to the defensive on its whole front from north of Oranienburg via [Neu] Brandenburg to Anklam.100

On the afternoon of the 30th, between 1500 and 1530, Hitler and his wife committed suicide. The SS guards carried the bodies outside, tried to burn them in gasoline, and when that failed and the gasoline ran out, buried the remains in a nearby shell hole. A quarter mile away the Russians were storming the Reichstag. Bormann sent a radio message to Doenitz telling him that he was appointed Hitler's successor and was "empowered immediately to


take all of the measures required by the current situation."101 Bormann did not, however, include the most vital piece of information, namely, that the Fuehrer was dead. That was a trump he was not ready to let out of his hand.

The Sand Runs Out

At exactly the time the SS-men were disposing of Hitler's body behind the pile of rubble that had been the Reichs Chancellory, Keitel transmitted a directive to Winter at the Command Staff B. The first sentence read: "The attempt to relieve Berlin has failed." In the north, Keitel continued, the intention was to have Twelfth Army fight its way north to Army Group Vistula and thereafter, with the combined forces, to hold a line from the mouth of the Elbe to Havelberg (at the confluence of the Havel and the Elbe) and thence north to Rostock. The mission for the south was to form "a great ring" with the main effort in the east "to preserve as much territory as possible from Bolshevism." "The battle to win political time," the directive concluded, "must be continued. Every attempt at military or political dissolution must be put down with ruthless force."102

Those who were left in the Fuehrer bunker that night still held three assets, which they hoped to use to their own advantage: the knowledge that the Fuehrer was dead, the seat of the government (what was left of it), and what could have been the two most powerful offices in the successor government. At 0100 1 May Krebs went through the lines to carry for Stalin's exclusive information the news of Hitler's death and to try to negotiate an armistice that would allow the successor German Government to function in the capital. He was taken to Eighth Guards Army's forward command post, where the Commanding General, Chuikov, heard his proposal. Later, probably with instructions from Moscow, Sokolovskiy arrived to interview Krebs and give him his answer.103

At 1000, possibly because it appeared that Krebs had not gotten through, Bormann sent a second radio message to Doenitz. Laconic as the first, it stated only that the testament was in force; Bormann would come to Ploen; and he advised not making the information public until he arrived.104 At noon Krebs returned. The Russians had agreed to let Doenitz come back to Berlin and assemble the government there, but they demanded capitulation and would not grant an armistice. Goebbels insisted that in accordance with Hitler's wishes there be no capitulation and reiterated his already announced resolve to share the Fuehrer's fate.

In the afternoon, just twenty-four hours after the event, a message signed by Goebbels and Bormann informed Doenitz that the Fuehrer was dead and named the major appointments Hitler had made in addition to Doenitz's own.105 (Three couriers carrying copies of the testament for Doenitz and for Schoerner--whom Hitler had appointed his successor as Commander in Chief, Army--had left the bunker on the 29th. None of them



reached his destination.) Goebbels and his wife committed suicide after killing their children. Bormann probably was killed trying to make his way out of Berlin to claim his post in Doenitz's Cabinet. Krebs and Generaloberst Wilhelm Burgdorf declared that they intended to commit suicide and probably did.

Weidling considered a breakout, but he had neither the room nor the means to organize it. At five o'clock on the morning of 2 May he crossed the lines and surrendered the city.106 It was another two days before the fighting died completely.

Doenitz, on 1 May before he knew Hitler was dead, had pledged "immutable loyalty" to the Fuehrer and "to conduct this war to its end in the manner the unique, heroic struggle of the German people demands."107 But Doenitz's loyalty was professional not sentimental. The next day he determined that the German military situation was hopeless, a conclusion which until then he seems successfully to have avoided. In directives issued during the day he established as his policy to continue the war against the Soviet Union in order to keep as many Germans as possible



from falling into Soviet hands and to offer resistance to the Americans and British only to the extent that they interfered with the attainment of the first objective. He decided to attempt to evade the unconditional surrender by negotiating piecemeal surrenders "at the army group level." As a first step, he appointed Generaladmiral Hans-Georg von Friedeburg head of a delegation to negotiate an agreement with Montgomery to spare Hamburg and "to discuss farther-reaching questions."108

For Army Group Vistula the end came quickly and more mercifully than the Germans could have expected. The 21 Army Group, after breaking out of its Elbe bridgehead the day before, on 2 May reached the Baltic coast at Luebeck and Wismar. Elements of U.S. Ninth Army pushed east to Ludwigslust and Schwerin. In Schwerin the American armored troops captured the Army Group Vistula quartermaster section. Student, who had taken command on the 1st, escaped just ahead of the American tanks. Second Belorussian Front reached Wittenberge, Parchim, and Bad Doberan. Between the two fronts the Third Panzer and Twenty-first Armies were squeezed into a corridor fifteen to


twenty miles wide, stretching from the Elbe to the coast. During the night Manteuffel and Tippelskirch surrendered their armies, which by then had almost completely disintegrated, to the Americans.109 Jodl had drafted an order authorizing such a move, but it went into the files with the notation "Could no longer be transmitted."110

Twelfth Army's XX Corps had begun falling back southwest of Potsdam during the night of 1 May. In the morning it had taken through its line 30,000 Ninth Army survivors whom, by means of radio contact established the day before, it had guided away from the strongest Russian concentrations. On the afternoon of the 3d Wenck sent General der Panzertruppen Maximilian Freiherr von Edelsheim across the Elbe to U.S. Ninth Army to negotiate a surrender. The next morning Ninth Army consented to let as many of the German Ninth and Twelfth Armies' troops cross the Elbe as could without (except for the wounded) assistance from the Americans. Between the morning of the 5th and the night of the 7th most of Wenck's force found refuge behind the American line.111

Army Groups Center and Courland and Army of East Prussia, those monuments to Hitler's strategy, posed greater problems. Doenitz's first impulse had been to order Army Group Center to start retreating westward at once; but he had been dissuaded by Keitel who, drawing the wrong conclusions to the last, had argued that if the army group left built-up lines, it would not be able to preserve a solid front. To Army Group Courland and Army of East Prussia, Doenitz sent word that he intended to secure British and American toleration of, "under certain circumstances support for," an evacuation that would return to Germany 50,000 men from Army Group Courland and as many as 100,000 from Army of East Prussia "in the first ten days."112 On 4 May, when von Friedeburg reported that Montgomery had agreed to accept the surrender of all the German forces in Holland, Denmark, and north Germany, Doenitz instructed him to contact Eisenhower for the purpose of negotiating another partial capitulation. He was "above all to explain to Eisenhower why a total capitulation on all fronts appears impossible to the Grand Admiral." On the 6th von Friedeburg reported that Eisenhower insisted on an immediate and simultaneous unconditional surrender.


On the afternoon of the 6th Jodl arrived at the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces in Reims. Doenitz had sent him with instructions to lay before Eisenhower again "completely and openly" the reasons why a total capitulation was impossible. Failing of success in that, he was to try to get a phased capitulation with as long an interval as possible between the time the fighting terminated and the time



the troops had to surrender their arms and cease all movements. Fifteen minutes after midnight Doenitz received a radio message from Jodl stating that Eisenhower insisted the total capitulation be signed "today" to take effect at midnight on the night of 8 May; otherwise, he would close all the Allied fronts to Germans, including individuals coming from the east. Jodl added, "I see no way out but to sign."

Doenitz concluded that Jodl, who before his departure had been the one who argued most strongly against the total capitulation, must have become convinced that no better terms could be attained. He empowered Jodl to sign, and at 1245 the new Foreign Minister, Graf Lutz Schwerin von Krosigk, announced the surrender over the German radio.113 At 0130 Doenitz ordered Schoerner, Rendulic, and Loehr to take their fronts west as fast as they could and to "fight their way through the Russians" if they had to; all hostilities against the Allies were to stop at once.114 At 0141 Jodl placed his signature on the Act of Military Surrender. The time for all German forces to cease active operations and "to remain


in the positions occupied at that time" was set at 2301 Central European Time on 8 May. (The formal ratification was completed in Berlin a half hour before midnight on 8 May.)115

Having signed the surrender, Doenitz and the OKW were not certain they could enforce it in the east. That uncertainty was undoubtedly in part inspired by their own desire to see the terms concerning surrender to the Russians evaded to the greatest extent possible without incurring severe reprisals. Jodl had taken out some advance insurance by securing a statement from Eisenhower's chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Walter Bedell Smith, that the OKW would not be held responsible if "individual soldiers and some troop units" did not follow orders and refused to surrender to the Russians.116

The source of most concern was Army Group Center, because it was the largest single force still on the Eastern Front, because it had the farthest to go to reach the Allied lines (of those that had any chance of doing so at all), and because no one knew how Schoerner would react to the surrender. Schoerner had reported on 2 May that he had a tight hold on his troops and was starting to manufacture his own ammunition and motor fuel.117 The last that had been heard from him was that he intended to fight his army group through to the line of the Elbe and Vltava (Moldau) before surrendering.118 On the 8th an OKW staff colonel with an American officer escort went to Schoerner's headquarters. The colonel reported that Schoerner had ordered the surrender terms observed but claimed he did not have the means to make certain they were carried out everywhere. The colonel "assured him that the command difficulties would be brought to the attention of the Americans and the OKW."119 The OKW need neither have worried that Schoerner would attempt a last-ditch battle nor have hoped that he would find a means to extricate his army group. Schoerner deserted his troops on the 8th and in civilian clothes flew a light plane out of Czechoslovakia. He was arrested in Austria ten days later by First Panzer Army troops and turned over to the Americans.120

The OKW calculated the actual strengths (Army, Navy, Waffen-SS, and Air Force) on the Eastern Front at the hour the surrender went into effect as follows:121

Command Strength
     Total 1,510,000
Southeastern Theater 180,000
Army Group Ostmark (formerly South) 430,000
Army Group Center 600,000
Army of East Prussia 100,000
Army Group Courland 200,000



Only Army Group Ostmark succeeded in saving a major part of its force from Soviet (or Yugoslav) captivity. For the approximately one and a quarter million troops who became prisoners of war in the East after the surrender it was to be a long way home.


Table of Contents ** Previous Chapter (XX) * Next Chapter (XXII)


1. Herbert Feis, Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin (Princeton, 1957), pp. 604-05; Ehrman, Grand Strategy, VI, 132, 142.

2. OKH, GenStdH, Fremde Heere Ost, Nr. 1909/45, Kurze Beurteilung der Feindlage vom 1.4.45; Nr. 1966/45, Kurze Beurteilung der Feindlage vom 3.4.45. Both in H 3/211 file.

3. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the U.S.S.R., Correspondence Between the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the U.S.S.R. and the President of the U.S.A. and the Prime Minister of Great Britain During the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945 (Moscow, 1957), II, 160.

4. OKH, GenStdH, Op. Abt., Ia Nr. 450243/45 an H. Gr. Weichsel, 30.3.45, H 22/390a file.

5. OKH, GenStdH, Op. Abt., Kriegstagebuch 2.-8.4.45. 2, 3 Apr 45. H 22/1 file.

6. OKH, GenStdH, Op. Abt., Ia Nr. 3941/45, an H. Gr. Mitte, 30.3.45, H 22/7a file.

7. Der Fuehrer, an den Kommandanten der Festung Breslau, Gen. d. Inf. Niehoff, 6.4.45, H 22/8b file.

8. AOK 2, Ia Nr. 747/45, an OKH, Op. Abt., H 22/66 file.

9. OKH, GenStdH, Op. Abt., Ia Nr. 450 246/45, an H. Gr. Kurland, 31.3.45, H 22/6a file.

10. AOK 4, Ia Nr. 4721/45, an OKH, Op. Abt., 10.4.45, H 22/86 file; Platonov, Vtoraya Mirovaya Voyna, 1939-45. p. 702.

11. "Berlinskaya operatsiya v tsifrakh," Voyenno-istoricheskiy Zhurnal (April, 1965).

12. Platonov, Vtoraya Mirovaya Voyna, 1939-45, pp. 720-23; Zhilin, Vazhneyshiye Operatsii Otechestvennoy Voyny, p. 554.

13. OKH, GenStdH, F.H.O. Nr. 2166/45, Wesentliche Merkmale des Feindbildes vom 15.4.45, H 3/1035 file.

14. "Berlinskaya operatsiya v tsifrakh," Voyennoistoricheskiy Zhurnal (April, 1965); MS # P-114b (Hofmann), Teil IX, pp. 52, 123.

15. OKH, GenStdH, Op. Abt. I/W, Morgenmeldung der H. Gr. Weichsel, 11.4.45, H 22/387 file.

16. Draft for a White Book pertaining to the Doenitz Government (cited hereafter as Draft White Book), OKW/1892 file.

17. OKH, GenStdH, Op. Abt., Ia Nr. 15174/45, an H. Gr. Weichsel, 15.4.45; H. Gr. Weichsel, Aktennotiz, Besprechung Reichsminister Speer and Kdt. Festungsbereich Berlin, 15.4.45. Both in H. Gr. Weichsel 75122/6 file.

18. OKH, GenStdH, Op. Abt., IIIb Pruef. Nr. 78929, Lage Ost, Stand 16.4.45 abds.

19. H. Gr. Mitte, Ia Nr. 2160/45, an Fuehrer and Obersten Befehlshaber der Wehrmacht, 10.4.45, H 22/8b file.

20. OKH, GenStdH, F.H.O. Nr. 2133/45. Wesentliche Merkmale des Feindbildes vom 13.4.45, H 3/1035 file.

21. H. Gr. Weichsel, Ia, Anruf Ia Op. Abt. an Ia H. Gr. Weichsel, H. Gr. Weichsel 75122/6 file.

22. H. Gr. Weichsel, Ia, Ferngespraech zwischen Chef d. GenStdH und Ia der H. Gr. Weichsel, 12.4.45, H. Gr. Weichsel 75122/6 file.

23. H. Gr. Weichsel, Ic/A.O., Aktennotiz zum Vortrag beim O.B. am 15.4.45, H. Gr. Weichsel 75122/6 file.

24. OKH, GenStdH, Op. Abt., Ia Nr. 1368/45, an den O.B. H. Gr. Sued, etc., 14.4.45, H 22/8b file.

25. OKH, GenStdH, Op. Abt., Ia Kriegstagebuch, 16.-24.4.45, 16 Apr 45, H 22/3; Zhilin, Vazhneyshiye Operatsii Otechestvennoy Voyny, p. 556.

26. H. Gr. Weichsel, Ia, Tagesmeldung, 17.4.45, 18.4.45, H Gr. Weichsel 75122/6 file; Platonov, Vtoraya Mirovaya Voyna, 1939-45, p. 723.

27. OKH, GenStdH, Op. Abt., Ia Kriegstagebuch, 1.-19.4.45, 18 Apr 45, H 22/3 file; H. Gr. Weichsel, Ia, Tagesmeldung, 18.4.45, 19.4.45, H. Gr. Weichsel 75122/6 file.

28. OKH, GenStdH, F.H.O. Nr. 2215/45, Wesentliche Merkmale des Feindbildes vom 18.4.45, H 3/217 file.

29. Platonov, Vtoraya Mirovaya Voyna, 1939-45, p. 724; IVOV (R), V, 266.

30. OKH, GenStdH, Op. Abt., I/M, Tagesmeldung der H. Gr. Mitte vom 18.4.45, 19.4.45, H 22/392h file.

31. OKH, GenStdH, Op. Abt., Ia Nr. 4810/45, Notizen nach Fuehrervortrag Nacht 17/18.4, 18.4.45, H 22/388 file.

32. Walter Luedde-Neurath, Regierung Doenitz (Goettingen, 1951), p. 25.

33. H. Gr. Courland, Besprechung O.B. der H. G. Kurland-Fuehrer am 18.4.45, MS # P-114a (Sixt), Teil V, Anlagen.

34. OKH, GenStdH, Adjutant des Chefs des Generalstabes des Heeres, Nr. 1458/45, Notizen nach Fuehrer Vortrag am 19.4.45, nachm, H 22/8a file.

35. OKH, GenStdH, Op. Abt., Fernspruch des Oberbefehlshabers der Heeresgruppe Mitte, Ia Nr. 2363/45, an den Fuehrer und Obersten Befehlshaber der Wehrmacht, 19.4.45, H 22/8a file.

36. H. Gr. Weichsel, Ia, Orientierung Gen. Busse-Chef, 20.4.45, H. Gr. Weichsel 75122/7 file.

37. H. Gr. Weichsel, Ia, Notizen ueber am 20.4.45 gefuehrte Ferngespraeche, H. Gr. Weichsel 75122/7 file.

38. H. Gr. Weichsel, Notizen des Obstlts. v. Wienkowski ueber am 20.4.45 gefuehrte Ferngespraeche, H. Gr. Weichsel 75122/7 file.

39. Karl Koller, Der letzte Monat (Mannheim, 1949), p. 16.

40. Ibid., p. 19.

41. Joachim Schultz, Die letzten 30 Tage (Stuttgart, 1951), pp. 16-19.

42. Draft White Book, OKW/1892 file.

43. H. Gr. Weichsel, Ia, Vermerk, 21.4.45, H. Gr. Weichsel 75122/7 file.

44. H. Gr. Weichsel, Ia, Notizen ueber am 20.4.45 gefuehrte Ferngespraeche, H. Gr. Weichsel 75122/7 file.

45. OKH, GenStdH, Op. Abt., Ia Nr. 4887/45, 21.4.45, H. Gr. Weichsel 75122/7 file.

46. H. Gr. Weichsel, Notizen des Obstlts, v. Wienkowski ueber am 21.4.45 gefuehrte Ferngespraeche, H. Gr. Weichsel 75122/7 file.

47. Ibid.

48. OKH, GenStdH, Op. Abt. (III) Nr. 4898/45, Tagesmeldung vom 21.4.45, 22.4.45, H 22/3 file.

49. Platonov, Vtoraya Mirovaya Voyna, 1939-45, p. 725; Zhilin, Vazhneyshiye Operatsii Otechestvennoy Voyny, p. 561.

50. Twelfth Army was created in early April 1945. It had seven divisions, including a panzer and a motorized division, all newly formed from the tank and officer training schools in central Germany. Its initial mission had been to assemble in the Harz Mountains and attack west to relieve Army Group B. By 12 April, the day on which the army headquarters assumed effective command, the offensive in the Harz had become all but impossible, and in the succeeding days, while organizing its divisions, the army had assumed the mission of defending the general line of the Elbe and Mulda Rivers from north of Magdeburg to south of Leipzig. The army's single notable asset, for the time a considerable one, was the youth and high morale of its troops. MS # B-606, The Last Rally, Battles Fought by the German Twelfth Army in the Heart of Germany (Oberst a. D. Guenther Reichheim).

51. Schultz, Die letzten 30 Tage, p. 21; Koller, Der letzte Monat, pp. 27-31.

52. H. Gr. Weichsel, Notizen des Obstlts. v. Wienkowski ueber am 22.4.45 gefuehrte Ferngespraeche, H. Gr. Weichsel 75122/7 file; OKH, GenStdH, Op. Abt./IW, Tagesmeldung H Gr. Weichsel vom 22.4.45, H 22/3 file.

53. H. Gr. Weichsel, Ia Nr. 6019/45, an AOK 9, 22.4.45, H. Gr. Weichsel 75122/7 file.

54. Schultz, Die Letzlen 30 Tage, p. 24; Zhilin, Vazhneyshiye Operatsii Otechestvennoy Voyny, p. 562; IVOV (R), V, 275.

55. "Agoniya fashistskoi kliki v Berlinye," Voyenno-istoricheskiy Zhurnal (October, November, 1961).

56. H. Gr. Weichsel, Ia, Fernmuendlicher Befehl OKH, GenStdH, 23.4.45; H. Gr. Weichsel, Ia Nr. 6039/45, an Pz. AOK 3, 23.4.45. Both in H. Gr. Weichsel 75122/7 file.

57. H. Gr. Weichsel, Notizen des Obstlts. u Wienkowski ueber am 23.4.45 gefuehrte Ferngespraeche, H. Gr. Weichsel 75122/7 file.

58. "Agoniya fashistskoi kliki u Berlinye," Voyenno-istoricheskiy Zhurnal (October, November, 1961).

59. Der Fuehrer, OKW, WFSt, Op. Nr. 88875/45, an Ob. d. L. R.M. Goering, 24.4.45; Der Fuehrer, OKW, WFSt, Op. Nr. 88854/45, 24.4.45. Both in H 22/389 file.

60. OKW, WFSt, Op. (H), and 12. Armee, 25.4.45, H 22/8a file; H. Gr. Weichsel, Notizen des Obstlts. v. Wienkowski ueber am 24.4.45 gefuehrte Ferngespraeche, H. Gr. Weichsel 75122/7 file.

61. OKW, WFSt, Op., Adolf Hitler an Grossadmiral Doenitz, 25.4.45, OKW/6 file.

62. OKW, WFSt, Op. Nr. 88/45 an Gen Feldm. Kesselring, 24.4.45, OKW/6 file.

63. OKW, WFSt, Op., an Chef WFSt, 26.4.45, H 22/389 file.

64. OKW, WFSt, Op. Nr. 88885/45, an Reichskanzlei Berlin, 26.4.45, H 22/389 file.

65. "Agoniya fashistskoi kliki v Berlinye," Voyenno-istoricheskiy Zhurnal (October, November, 1961).

66. Adm. FH Qu. Voss, V Adm. 21/45, Lagebeurteilung 26.4.45, OKW/1889 file.

67. OKW, WFSt, Op. Nr. 694/45, an Chef WFSt, 26.4.45, H 22/389 file.

68. Hitler had, two days before, dismissed Goering from all his official posts (including, as Bormann put it, that of Reichs Chief Hunter) and had him arrested. Goering, who until then considered himself Hitler's anointed political heir and successor, had been misled, by a remark of Hitler's that he would "leave the negotiating to Goering," into inquiring whether Hitler intended by his decision to stay in Berlin to turn the powers of government over to him.

69. Jodl Diary, 26 Apr 45.

70. H. Gr. Weichsel, Notizen des Obstlts. v. Wienkowski ueber am 26.4.45 gefuehrte Ferngespraeche, H. Gr. Weichsel 75122/7 file.

71. MS # B-606 (Reichheim).

72. Jodl Diary, 26 Apr 45.

73. H. Gr. Weichsel, Notizen des Obstlts. v. Wienkowski ueber am 26.4.45 gefuehrte Ferngespraeche, H. Gr. Weichsel 75122/7 file.

74. OKM, Admiral beim Ob. d. M., Kriegstagebuch des Ob. d. M., 27 Apr 45, OKM/4 file.

75. OKW, WFSt, Op. (H) Nord Ost Nr. 3821/45, an H. Gr. Weichsel, 27.4.45, H. Gr. Weichsel 75122/7 file.

76. Jodl Diary, 27 Apr 45.

77. OKW, WFSt, Krebs an Chef WFSt, 27.4.45, H 22/389 file.

78. OKW, WFSt, Op. Nr. 88861/45, an H. Gr. Weichsel, 9. Armee, 12. Armee, 27.4.45, H 22/389 file.

79. OKW, WFSt, Op. Nr. 88866/45, Weisung fuer die Kampffuehrung im Suedraum fuer den Fall, dass unmittelbare Fuehrung durch Chef OKW nicht mehr gewahrleistet ist, 27.4.45, H 22/389 file.

80. Jodl Diary, 27 Apr 45; Schultz, Die letzten 30 Tage, p. 37; OKW, WFSt, Op. Nr. 88862/45, an H. Gr. Weichsel, 27.4.45, H 22/389 file.

81. H. Gr. Weichsel, Ia, Aktennotiz, Ferngespraech Gen. v. Manteufel mit Gen. Maj. v. Trotha, 27.4.45, H. Gr. Weichsel 75122/7 file.

82. H. Gr. Weichsel, Notizen des Obstlts. v. Wienkowski ueber am 28.4.45 gefuehrte Ferngespraeche, H. Gr. Weichsel 75122/7 file. Various accounts have been given of the incidents leading up to Heinrici's dismissal. Some maintain that Heinrici had decided to retreat west and surrender to the Americans. Manteuffel had, in effect, proposed doing that on the night of 27 April. Although the ultimate effect would have been the same, it appears from the Army Group Vistula records that Heinrici's decisions on 27 and 28 April were made in the light of the immediate tactical situation and not as part of a farther reaching plan. See also Schultz, Die letzten 30 Tage, p. 47; Goerlitz, Der Zweite Weltkrieg, 1939-45, p. 363; Tippelskirch, Geschichte des Zweiten Weltkrieges, p. 578.

83. H. Gr. Weichsel, Morgenmeldung 28.4.45, H. Gr. Weichsel 75122/7 file.

84. I. W. Parotkin, "Der Letzte Schlag," Zeitschrift fuer Militaergeschichte, 3/1965.

85. Erich Kuby, "Die Russen in Berlin, 1945," Der Spiegel (May 26, 1965), pp. 94-96.

86. Ibid., May 5, 1965, p. 84.

87. Ibid., May 26, 1965, p. 100.

88. Lagebesprechungen, 23, 25, 27 Apr 45, in Der Spiegel, January 10, 1966.

89. "Agoniya fashistskoi kliki v Berlinye," Voyenno-istoricheskiy Zhurnal (October, November, 1961).

90. Fuehrerhauptquartier, Adm. Voss, B. Nr. 1/SKL 8051/45, an Ob. d. M., 29.4.45, OKW 1889 file.

91. Bormann, an Grossadm. Doenitz, 29.4.45, OKW/1889 file.

92. MS # B-606 (Reichheim).

93. OKW, WFSt, Op. Nr. 88863/45, an AOK 12, 29.4.45, H 22/389 file.

94. H. Gr. Weichsel, Notizen des Obstlts. v. Wienkowski ueber am 29.4.45 gefuehrte Ferngespraeche, H. Gr. Weichsel 75122/7 file.

95. Pz. AOK 3, Ia Nr. 3550/45 an Chef OKW, 29.4.45, OKW/6 file.

96. AOK 21, Kriegstagebuch 31.10.44-30.5.45, 29 Apr 45, EAP-21-x-13 file; OKW, WFSt, Verlauf des 29.4.45, OKW/6 file.

97. OKW, WFSt, Verlauf des 29.4.45, OKW/6 file.

98. "Agoniya fashistskoi kliki v Berlinye," Voyenno-istoricheskiy Zhurnal (October, November, 1961).

99. MNA/SKL, Adolf Hitler fuer Gen. Obst. Jodl (Zeppelin), 29.4.45, OKW/6 file.

100. OKW, WFSt, Op. Nr. 88868/45, an Reichskanzlei, 30.4.45, OKW/6 file.

101. Der Oberbefehlshaber der Kriegsmarine, Abschrift, Geschl. FT 1807/30/AG 14 v. 30.4., 30.4.45, OKW/1889 file.

102. OKW, WFSt, Op. Nr. 88868, an Gen. Lt. Winter, Fuehrungsstab B, 30.4.45, OKW/6 file.

103. IVOV (R), V, 286.

104. Funkspruch, Abschrift, Bormann fuer Grossadmiral Doenitz, 1.5.45, OKW/1889 file.

105. White Book, OKW/1892 file.

106. "Agoniya fashistskoi kliki v Berlinye," Voyenno-istoricheskiy Zhurnal (October, November, 1961).

107. Grossadmiral Doenitz, an Fuehrerhauptquartier, 1.5.45, OKW/1889 file.

108. OKW, WFSt, Op. (H) Nr. 88800/45, an Fuehrungsstab B, 2.5.45, OKW/6 file; White Book, OKW/1892 file.

109. Tippelskirch, Geschichte des Zweiten Weltkrieges, p. 580; MS # D-408 (Eismann), pp. 274-80.

110. OKW, WFSt, Op. (H) Nr. 004210/45, an H. Gr. Weichsel, 2.5.45, OKW/6 file.

111. MS # B-220, Die Kapitulationsverhandlungen der 12. (deutschen) Armee mit der 9. (americanischen) Armee am 4. Mai in Stendal (General der Panzertruppen a. D. Maximilian Freiherr von Edelsheim); MS # B-606 (Reichheim).

112. de Maiziere, Obstlt. i.G., Punkte fuer den muendlichen Vortrag bei den Ob. und Chefs der H. Gr. Kurland und des A.O.K. Ostpreussen, 3.5.45, OKW/6 file.

113. Draft White Book, OKW/1892 file; Karl Doenitz, Zehn Jahre und zwanzig Tage (Bonn, 1958), p. 462.

114. OKW, WFSt, Nr. 89002/45, an Ob. Sued, 7.5.45, OKW/6 file.

115. Pogue, Supreme Command, pp. 488-93.

116. OKW, WFSt, Nr. 0010010/45, an Generalfeldm. Kesselring, 8.5.45, OKW/6 file.

117. H. Gr. Mitte, an OKW, WFSt, Op., 2.5.45, OKW/6 file.

118. Kesselring, an OKW, Feldmarschall Keitel, 8.5.45, OKW/6 file.

119. Beilage zu Adlage 7 OKW, WFSt, Ia Nr. 010840/45, Aufzeichnung ueber die Dienstreise des Oberst i. G. Meyer-Detring zu Feldmarschall Schoerner am 8.5.45, 10.5.45, OKW/1887 file.

120. New York Times, May 21, 1945.

121. The ration strengths, which included various auxiliaries, were in most cases substantially higher. Beilage I zu Anlage 4 OKW, WFSt, Ia Nr. 010840/45, Staerken der Ostfront, Schaetzung Stand 8.5.45, 0000 Uhr, 11.5.45, OKW/1887 file; OKW, Gen. Qu., An die Ueberwachungskommission beim OKW, 22.5.45, OKW/9 file.

Transcribed and formatted by Jerry Holden for the HyperWar Foundation