The twelfth Army had a legendary reputation: In the beginning of war, the Army of Greece, which humiliated Italians for 6 months, fell to the same German twelfth’s army. But that was in 1941. Now, it was ordered to break through the Soviet Army, which by the end of the war, in 1945, was a juggernaut. The twelfth Army was ordered to leave the Western front and establish a corridor into Berlin. There was but a minor problem with Hitler’s otherwise “brilliant plan” of the surprise attack from the West – the Soviet 2nd Ukranian front, although surprised at first, quickly bogged down the advance of the twelfth Army and began driving it back.
Amply supplied with Panzerfausts and Faustpatrone, the Hitlerjugcnd boys lay alone or in pairs at irregular intervals in the trenches and foxholes on either side of the Heerstrasse in front of the Pichelsdorf bridges. The boys held off the Soviet tanks for 5 days, their mission senseless, their lives sacrificed for naught: the twelfth army was not fighting eastward into Berlin – it was fleeing westward. The Soviet tanks streamed into Berlin from all directions, via numerous alternative routs, leaving a contingent behind before the Pichelsdorf Bridges. It was methodically destroying the Hitlerjugend regiment, shelling its positions from a safe distance.
Much history of the Second World War goes largely unreported or under reported. especially in the West. especially if it involves Germans in 1945.
One such event happened at the Pichelsdorf Bridge near Berlin Berlin, April 23, 1945. Dying days of war in Germany. The Russians were closing into Berlin from all sides inexorably. Hitler and Artur Axmann learnt that the Red Army was in the outskirts of Berlin and was about to cross the Havel river. Since there were no Wehrmacht troops to spare, about 4500 Hitler Youth boys, many hardly into their teens, were sent to protect the Pichelsdorf Bridge ("Pichelsdorfen Brücke" in German).
The boys armed with only panzerfausts and light arms stopped Russian tanks in their tracks for two days. It was only after the Red Army used heavy arms that it could cross the bridge.
Of the 4500 boys, only 500 lived. Others died fighting.
One of these wounded boys, carried into a hospital was told by a doctor, "You dummy! Look at what this has gotten you!" The boy straightened up, spit in the doctor's face, and said, "Long live the Fuhrer!" Such was their fanaticism, even at the end.
Not all were fanatics. Some fought in desperation because of peer pressure or from fear of what the Russians were doing to their mothers and sisters.
These boys fought desperately for two days, all the while hearing the screams of German girls and women being raped by the Red Army soldiers.
After the war, Axmann was convicted for sending boys into battle.
A nightmare. For the German people who have suffered no less than others because of the Nazis.
There is hardly any mention (except for a paragraph) in English books or websites of the Pichelsdorf massacre. I wonder why?
It is because the thinking in the West is that the Germans did evil things wherever they went between 1939-45 and so deserved what they got. But why not discuss it threadbare, just for the sake of history?
So that such things do not happen again.
If anyone has more resources (books or websites) on this topic kindly let us know. It will only enrich the discussion.
The Russians by now were roaring toward Berlin, capitol of Nazi Germany, where Hitler had chosen to make his last stand. On April 23rd, battalions made up entirely of Hitler Youths were formed to hold the Pichelsdorf bridges by the Havel River. These bridges in Berlin were supposed to be used by General Wenck's relief army coming from the south. That army, unknown to the boys, had already been destroyed and now existed on paper only. It was one of several phantom armies being commanded by Hitler to save encircled Berlin.
At the Pichelsdorf bridges, 5,000 boys, wearing man-sized uniforms several sizes too big and helmets that flopped around on their heads, stood by with rifles and Panzerfausts, ready to oppose the Russian Army. Within five days of battle, 4,500 had been killed or wounded.
1. Der Spiegel
1. Das kann doch nicht das Ende sein: Hitlers letzter Reichsjugenfuhrer erinnert sich (German Edition) by ARTUR AXMANN
The Germans blew up the bridge in 1945
The Pichelsdorf Bridge in 2009 before a new one was built in its place.
The new Pichelsdorfer Brucke (Now called Freybrucke) as it stands today