Review of "The Fall of Berlin, 1945" by Anthony Beevor (Salon.com)A Tiger Panzer lies desolate near the Potsdam station
If anything, German resistance was surprisingly feeble, or as a German prisoner quoted by Beevor phrased it, "Morale is being completely destroyed by warfare on German territory ... we are told to fight to the death, but it is a complete blind alley." There are no real surprises here -- if you didn't know anything about World War II, you could guess from the first couple of chapters that Germany is doomed. And yet, Beevor has wrenched a better book from the fall of Berlin than he was able to from the siege of Stalingrad.
During the withdrawal into the centre of Berlin, the SS execution squads went about their hangman's work with an increased urgency and cold fanaticism. Around the Kurfürstendamm, SS squads entered houses where white flags had appeared and shot down any men they found. Goebbels, terrified of the momentum of collapse, described these signs of surrender as a 'plague bacillus'. Yet General Mummert, the commander of the Muncheberg Panzer Division, ordered the SS and Feldgendarmerie squads out of his sector round the Anhalter Bahnhof and Potsdamerplatz. He threatened to shoot executioners on the spot.
From Berlin Downfall 1945 by ANTONY BEEVOR
One of the last photos of Hitler. On his left is the head of Hitler Youth, Arthur Aksmann
The last days of Nazi rule in Berlin is a grim saga of hopelessness and desperation.
Battle for Berlin
The forces available for the city's defense included several severely depleted Army and Waffen-SS divisions, supplemented by the police force, boys in the compulsory Hitler Youth, and the Volkssturm which consisted of elderly men, many of whom had been in the army as young men and some were veterans of World War I.
To the west the XX Infantry Division, to the north the IX Parachute Division, to the north-east Panzer Division Müncheberg, XI SS Panzergrenadier Division Nordland were to the south-east, (east of Tempelhof Airport) and XVIII Panzergrenadier Division, the reserve, were in the central district.
Berlin's fate was sealed, but the resistance continued. The Soviet advance to the city centre was along these main axes: from the south-east, along the Frankfurter Allee (ending and stopped at the Alexanderplatz); from the south along Sonnen Allee ending north of the Belle Alliance Platz, from the south ending near the Potsdamer Platz and from the north ending near the Reichstag. The Reichstag, the Moltke bridge, Alexanderplatz, and the Havel bridges at Spandau were the places where the fighting was heaviest, with house-to-house and hand-to-hand combat. The foreign contingents of the SS fought particularly hard, because they were ideologically motivated and they believed that they would not live if captured.
On April 28 Heinrici rejected Hitler's command to hold Berlin at all costs, so he was relieved of his command and replaced by General Kurt Student the next day. On April 30, as the Soviet forces fought their way into the centre of Berlin, Adolf Hitler married Eva Braun and then committed suicide by taking cyanide and shooting himself. General Weidling, defence commandant of Berlin, surrendered the city to the Soviets on May 2.
A German soldier on the steps of Rayhskantselyarii. In its basement was a hospital with some 500 seriously wounded SS soldiers, as well as civilian women and children, who harassed the Red Army which demolished the building
These children were Hitler's last line of defence for Berlin. A pathetic sight.
The once proud German soldiers stumble through the streets of Berlin
This was not lucky enough to be alive
PERSONAL ACCOUNT (eyewitnesstohistory.com)Neither were these
"White flags were hanging out of windows..."
In the closing days of the war, Charles Lindbergh was dispatched to Germany to gather information on the new aircraft the German Luftwaffe had developed such as the jet fighter and the rocket plane. He arrived in Germany just days after its surrender and roamed the countryside looking for information. He kept a journal of of his experience that provides us a glimpse of a nation that had aspired to conquer the world but was pulverized into defeat.
"Friday May 18, 1945
White flags were hanging out of windows in villages we passed on the way, just as they had been hanging out of many of the windows in Munich. At one point we stopped to ask directions from a group of young German soldiers - in uniform but disarmed and apparently plodding along on their way home - a half-dozen young men, courteous, giving us directions as best they could, -showing no trace of hatred or resentment, or of being whipped in battle. They looked like farmers' sons.
We were on the wrong road. We turned around, and I dropped a package of cigarettes as we passed them by. Regulations forbid our giving rides to Germans. There is to be 'no fraternization.' One is not supposed even to shake hands with them or give a bit of food or candy to the children...
The winding, stone-paved road up the mountainside to Hitler's headquarters was filled with American military vehicles - jeeps and trucks filled with soldiers, WACS, and Army nurses, apparently bent on seeing where der Fuhrer had lived and operated.
...Hitler's quarters and the surrounding buildings had been heavily bombed - gutted, roofs fallen, in ruins. Craters from misses dotted the nearby hillsides. The pine forest around the buildings was stripped of limbs-trunks broken off, split, shattered...
We parked our jeep at the side of the building and climbed up over rubble to a gaping doorway. A few yards up the road I watched a German officer (in charge of the soldiers cleaning up) salute an American officer who passed nearby, bowing his head slightly as he did so. The American officer sauntered by, obviously taking no notice whatever, although the German held the salute until he had passed. I shall never forget the expressions of those two men.
Most of the walls of the building, being thickly built of stone, were standing firmly. Inside, rubble covered the floors, and part of the wooden furnishings had burned. We made our way over the debris on the floor of the room said to be Hitler's office to the great oblong gap which was once filled with a plate-glass window. It framed almost perfectly a high Alpine range - sharp crags, white fields of snow, saw-tooth peaks against a blue sky, sunlight on the boulders, a storm forming up the valley. It was one of the most beautiful mountain locations I have ever seen.
...We made our way back into the rear chamber. There was the stench of the dead-bodies somewhere only partly buried. We climbed up the mortar-strewn stairs, the end open to the sky where the roof had been blown off. Down again and to the kitchen, edging past a line of doughboys coming in, rifles over shoulders. The floor was covered with twisted utensils and broken dishes; the stoves, with rubble thrown up by the bombs and fallen down from the ceiling."
"There was no hostility in her eyes..."
"As we approached Zell-am-See we entered territory still ruled by the German Army. Officers and soldiers were still armed and still directing what little traffic passed over the roads. Groups of soldiers stared at us as we passed but made no gesture. I could detect neither friendship nor hostility. In every instance where we asked directions, they responded with courtesy. The two of us in an American jeep drove through divisions of the Germany Army as though there had been no war.
On arriving at Zell-am-See in the late afternoon, we stopped at the newly installed local American Army headquarters to arrange for billets for the night... We were assigned a room in a nearby house which had been occupied by a German doctor. The family had been given notice to evacuate only a few hours before. (When our Army moves into an occupied village, the most desirable houses are selected and the occupants ordered out. They are permitted to take their clothing and certain household utensils and furniture - not essential furniture or beds. Where they go for food or shelter is considered none of the conquering army's concern. One of our officers told me that the G.I.'s in his organization simply threw out of the windows any articles they didn't want to keep in the rooms they were occupying.)
As I carried my barracks bag in through the door I met a young German woman carrying her belongings out. There was no hostility in her eyes as they met mine, simply sadness and acceptance. Behind her were three children, two little girls and a little boy, all less than ten years old. They stole glances at me, angry and a little frightened, like children who had been unfairly punished. Their arms were full of childhood belongings or light articles they were carrying out to help their mother."
This eyewitness account appears in: Lindbergh, Charles, A., The Wartime Journals of Charles A. Lindbergh (1970); Ziemke, Earl F., The U.S. Army in the Occupation of Germany 1944-1946 (1975).
LOSING GERMANY. DESPERATE HITLER
In the spring of 1944, a Soviet invasion of Germany became a real possibility, as Soviet troops pursued the retreating German army. Hitler ordered the citizens of Germany to destroy anything that the enemy could put to good use. Embittered by defeats, he later turned against the Germans themselves. 'If the German people lose the war, then they will have proved themselves unworthy of me.'
Hitler suffered his greatest military setback of the war in the summer of 1944. More destructive by far than the D-Day landings, Stalin's Operation Bagration in Belorussia eliminated three times more German army divisions than the Allies did in Normandy. Hitler retaliated by demanding specific divisions of the German army stand fast to the last man - the very tactic that Stalin had deployed so disastrously in the early days of the war. Defeat for Germany was only months away.
The commandant of Berlin Defense, Lieutenant General Helmut Reiman (in trench)
In the centre of Berlin that night the flames in bombarded buildings cast strange shadow sand a red glow on the otherwise dark streets. The soot and dust in the air made it almost unbreathable. From time to time there was the thunder of masonry collapsing. And to add to the terrifying effect, searchlight beams moved around above, searching a night sky in which the Luftwaffe had ceased to exist.
An exhausted group of foreign Waffen SS soldiers sought shelter in the cellars of the Hotel Continental. The place was already full of women and children who eyed the battle-worn soldiers uneasily. The manager approached them and asked if they would go instead to the air-raid shelter in the Jakobstrasse. The SS volunteers felt a bitter resentment that they who had been sacrificing their lives were now cold-shouldered.They turned and left. Fighting soldiers found themselves treated as pariahs. They were no longer brave defenders, but a danger. In hospitals, including one of the military Lazarette,nurses immediately confiscated weapons so that when the Russians arrived, they had no excuse to shoot the wounded.
A anti-aircraft gun lies near the Reichstag
Magda Goebbels took both the gold party badge which Hitler had given her on 27 Aprilin token of his admiration and also her gold cigarette case inscribed 'Adolf Hitler, 29 May1934'. Goebbels and his wife then went upstairs to the garden, accompanied by his adjutant, Günther Schwaegermann. They took two Walther pistols. Joseph and Magda Goebbels stood next to each other, a few metres from where the bodies of Hitler and his wife had been burned and then buried in a shell crater. They crunched on glass cyanide ampoules and either they shot themselves with the pistols at the same moment, or else Schwaegermann shot both of them immediately afterwards as a precautionary coup de grace
The two pistols were left with the bodies, which Schwaegermann doused in petrol from jerry cans, as he had promised. He then ignited the last funeral pyre of the Third Reich.
1945. People of Berlin suffer.WW2: After Germany lost the war
Brandenburg Gate, Berlin. 1945
Berlin, after it fell to the Russians in 1945: WW2
Last days of Nazis in Berlin
When Berlin fell in 1945: Second World War
Berlin in 1945: First hand account: Notes from the diary of Charles Deutmann
The making of the Berlin Wall in 1961
A broken Berlin. 1945. After Germany lost WW2