Battle for Berlin: April – May 1945

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Introduction
Allied Plans
Stalin's Deception
A New Offensive is Planned
Operation Berlin starts
Berlin under Siege
The Reichstag in Sight
Aftermath
Bibliography and Further Reading
Appendix 1: Soviet Order of Battle for the Battle for Berlin (Le Tissier, pp. 196 – 207)
Appendix 2: German Order of Battle for Operation Berlin (Le Tissier, pp. 208 – 214)

Introduction

The Battle for Berlin in April – May 1945 may not have been the final battle of the World War II in Europe, but it was certainly the concluding one. It was the culmination of the Soviet Union, having wrested the strategic initiative away from the Germans after the Battle of Kursk in July 1943, remorselessly pushing the Germans out of Mother Russia and then westwards out of Eastern Europe. By August 1944 they had reached the outskirts of Warsaw (but failed to lend any assistance to the Polish Home Army as it rose against the Germans) having decimated Army Group Centre in Operation Bagration in July and captured Bucharest on 31 August. The rest of 1944 and early 1945 was spent occupying East Prussia, Courland, Pomerania and the Baltic States. The offensive restarted in January with an advance from the River Vistula to the River Oder that saw the Soviets clearing the remaining German forces from Poland, although Admiral Karl Dönitz masterminded a successful seaborne evacuation of over 2 million civilians and military personnel from the clutches of the Soviets.

Allied Plans

For Soviet Premier Josef Stalin, Berlin was the major prize and he feared that the Red Army might be beaten to the city by Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery’s 21st Army Group that was advancing rapidly from Holland into North Germany after German resistance in the west had more or less collapsed after the failure of the Ardennes offensive in December 1944 and the surrounding of Army Group B in the Ruhr Pocket in March 1945. This was averted however, by General Dwight D. Eisenhower's (Supreme Allied Commander) change of mind. In September 1944 he had outlined his belief in a letter to his two principle subordinate commanders, Montgomery and General Omar Bradley, that " . . . . Berlin is the main prize . . . . There is no doubt whatsoever, in my mind, that we should concentrate all our energies and resources on a rapid thrust to Berlin" and "it is my desire to move on Berlin by the most direct and expeditious route". (Strawson, pp. 103 – 4) Montgomery wrote back and urged the Supreme Commander to decide what was necessary to go for Berlin, plan and organise the operation and then undertake it to "finish the war". (Strawson, p. 104) While plans existed for crossing the Rhine and at the same time encircling the Ruhr, something that would be effected by the US 9th Army under Montgomery's 21st Army Group and the US 1st Army from Bradley's 12th Army Group, there were no real plan for what was to happen afterwards.

Eisenhower's strategy had always favoured a broad front advance but there was a lack of decision on what would happen once the Allied forces had rejoined and created a unified front again, roughly in the area of Kassel, apart from a vague notion of making a "great thrust to the eastward". (Strawson, p. 104) The British had always viewed Berlin as the central objective and had envisaged that their forces, 21st Army Group, would be the ones to make the main thrust to the north and east. Indeed, Montgomery had already issued orders that after the encirclement of the Ruhr was complete, the British 2nd and US 9th Armies would advance with maximum speed to the River Elbe via Hamburg and Magdeburg while the Canadian 1st Army cleared Holland. Eisenhower effectively demolished this plan by continuing to plan for a broad front offensive with the US 9th Army reverting to Bradley's command in order to help conduct mopping up operations in the Ruhr and then advance eastwards to an Erfurt – Leipzig – Dresden line with Montgomery's 21st Army Group protecting the northern flank and General Jacob Devers' 6th Army Group protecting the southern flank. Eisenhower thus intended to concentrate the Western Allies' advance in the centre with Bradley in order to meet the Soviet advance around Dresden and cut Germany in two – as far as he was concerned, Berlin had become "nothing but a geographical location; I have never been interested in those. My purpose is to destroy the enemy forces and his power to resist." While it is easy to see Eisenhower's decision in light of the fact that at the time it was made, Montgomery's 21st Army Group was still 300 miles from Berlin and the Soviets, who had reached the River Oder, were less than 50 miles from the city; that Model's Army Group B in the Ruhr should be properly dealt with so that there was no chance of them breaking out and reforming a coherent defensive line in the centre; or that Hitler might retire to the 'National Redoubt' in the Bavarian and Austrian mountains that might require many months and the expenditure of large resources to reduce. What is not so easy to understand is that, given Eisenhower's insistence that military operations should be in pursuit of political aims (and therefore in line with Clausewitz's dictum of "war is the continuation of state policy by other means"), and given Berlin's enormous importance as a political objective, why he suddenly made a complete turnabout and pronounced it as having no significance, as well as it having the one military objective that would destroy the German will to resist with its capture or demise – Adolf Hitler.

The pleasure with which this change of mind was received (in a communication sent to Stalin, the Combined Chiefs of Staff and the British Chiefs of Staff on 28 March) in Moscow was equal to the consternation in London. The British Chiefs of Staff were upset as they thought that:

While Churchill had some sympathy for these views, he knew very well that Eisenhower's prestige in Washington at that moment was very high and knew that it was vital to try and elicit from the Soviets their views as to the best points of contact between the two armies. Churchill criticised the change of plan because it shifted the axis of advance – the continuation of the drive on Berlin was of paramount importance as the rapid advances by the Western Allies had surprised and annoyed the Soviets and that "Nothing will exert a psychological effect of despair upon all German forces or resistance equal to that of the fall of Berlin". (Strawson, p. 110) Churchill had already seen, not only the ending of the current great conflict, but the beginnings of the next, with the Soviets already going back on things that had been agreed at Yalta – the Allied Armies had to meet the Soviets as far east as they could get, and if possible take Berlin, as it was very likely that the Soviets would take Vienna. Eisenhower however, remained steadfast, supported by both Bradley and the US Combined Chiefs of Staff. Writing later, Bradley comments "We were less concerned with postwar political alignments than destruction of what remained of the German Army . . . . As soldiers we looked naively on this British inclination to complicate the war with political foresight and non military objectives." (Strawson, p. 111) Naivety indeed - so much for Clausewitz's dictum.

Stalin's Deception

Stalin's reply to Eisenhower broadly agreed with the Supreme Allied Commander's plan, with the exception of the use of liaison officers, in that: It is obvious that the second and third points were in fact deliberate falsifications by Stalin to try and hide what he was really planning – to enhance Soviet prestige and establish the Communist domination of Eastern and Central Europe by the Soviet Union by entering Berlin first. This was born out by what happened in reality – a sequence of events that bore no resemblance to the message and something that even Churchill commented on. Stalin, while at the Soviet Main Planning Conference with Marshal Georgi K. Zhukov (Commander, 1st Byelorussian Front), Marshal Ivan S. Koniev (Commander, 1st Ukrainian Front), General Antonev (Soviet General Staff) and General Shtemenko (Main Operations Directorate) on 1 April, asked Shtemenko to read out a telegram that indicated that the Western Allies were planning an operation to seize Berlin and that with Montgomery's 21st Army Group already approaching the Elbe, they could get to the city before the Red Army (whether this was faulty intelligence or just a ploy of Stalin's is open to question). Both front commanders readily declared that they should be the one to take Berlin. Zhukov lay in the better position, immediately east of Berlin with Koniev to his south who would only be able to directly assault the German capital after a considerable degree of redeployment. Stalin, always willing to stoke the rivalry between the two men, knew that the operational boundary between the two fronts, as drawn by the Soviet General Staff, ran from just south of Guben on the River Neisse via Michendorf to Schönebeck on the River Elbe and so silently erased it after Lübben on the River Spree implying that after this point, whatever happened was up to the commanders - whoever reached there first, would have the first crack at the capital. To the north of Zhukov, the 2nd Byelorussian Front under Marshal Konstantin K. Rokossovsky was still engaged in East Prussia but would continue its advance westward to the north of Berlin as soon as it was practicable. To the south of Koniev, the 4th (under Col Gen I. E. Petrov, then General I. A. Yeremenko) and 2nd (under Marshal Rodion Y. Malinovsky) Ukrainian Fronts would continue to advance into Czechoslovakia and to the south of them, the 3rd Ukrainian Front under Marshal Fedor I. Tolbukhin would continue to drive west through Hungary and into Austria.

A New Offensive is Planned

Berlin 1945: Theatres of Operation
Berlin 1945:
Theatres of Operation
Both men had just forty-eight hours to come up with a draft plan. After weeks of heavy fighting, they had hoped to be able to stop, rest, re-equip and reinforce their commands before the start of the next big offensive in May (something that Stalin had indicated to Eisenhower as well) but it was obvious that Stalin intended them to move much sooner. The two commanders, who would be vying for first place in Berlin, approached the task in different ways. Zhukov, whose 1st Byelorussian Front was only 50 miles directly east of Berlin, already had a small bridgehead across the River Oder at Küstrin and would use over 140 searchlights to blind the defenders and almost 10,000 artillery pieces in a short sharp barrage of 30 minutes. Concealment was a real problem for Zhukov as the initial assault elements of the front (which contained four field and two tank armies, with another four field armies supporting the flanks) was packed into the small bridgehead and spring had come late this year with many trees still leafless and the ground sodden. Koniev on the other hand prepared to attack under cover of darkness with a barrage that would last 145 minutes. Overall, the Soviets deployed one gun for every thirteen feet of front. The targets for the bombardment and initial assaults were targeted with as much precision as possible, but despite extensive aerial and ground reconnaissance, Zhukov failed to identify the main line of resistance on the Seelöw Heights.

Operation Berlin starts

Berlin: The Initial Soviet Drive, 16-18 April 1945
Berlin: The Initial
Soviet Drive,
16-18 April 1945
Zhukov's 1st Byelorussian Front attacked at 05.00 on the 16th April and Koniev's 1st Ukrainian Front at 06.15. Although Koniev's attack across the River Neisse went well, Zhuvok's forces soon ran into trouble. The battle just west of the River Oder proved to be no walkover as the Seelöw Heights were a critical defensive position in Army Group Vistula's sector, and the Germans, under no illusions as to what a Soviet breakthrough would mean, fought desperately. The Army Group had been under Col Gen G. Heinrici since the end of March after Hitler replaced Himmler with Heinrici, a veteran of the Eastern Front and expert on defensive tactics. He had pulled his men back from the forward positions just before the start of the attack and thus the artillery bombardment hit only empty positions while the searchlights merely lit up the Soviet tanks and infantry for the German gunners to rake with murderous fire. Stalin was furious at the delay, as well as Zhukov's attempt to overcome it – the deployment of his mobile reserves, the 1st and 2nd Guards Tank Armies – that contravened Stavka's (the Soviet High Command) orders. After fierce fighting, Zhukov overcame the positions on the Seelöw Heights but because of German reinforcements (Col Gen Helmuth Weidling’s LVI Panzer Corps) still found the going tough. As a result, Stalin ordered Koniev to direct his armoured forces directly at Berlin with the result that two Soviet Fronts were advancing for the city.

Berlin: Breakout and Encirclement, 18-25 April 1945
Berlin: Breakout
and Encirclement,
18-25 April 1945
All this proved too much for General Theodor Busse's 9th Army and by 20 April, the German forces defending the approaches to Berlin had been overrun or routed, with Zhukov having cracked the three defensive lines in the Oder-Neisse area and had taken the Seelöw Heights and Müncheberg. Rokossovsky's 2nd Byelorussian Front also started its attack westwards forcing General Hasso von Manteuffel’s 3rd Panzer Army into retreat. Koniev ordered his two tank armies (3rd and 4th Guards) to break into Berlin and both he and Zhukov tasked spearhead elements to continue westwards where contact was first made with American forces near Torgau on 25 April. Soviet long-range artillery had already started to pound what remained of Berlin to rubble, already heavily damaged by Anglo-American aerial bombardment, and, as the Soviets knew, rubble could make a formidable fortress. On 23 April, Stalin decreed that Zhukov had won the race and placed the front boundary line 150m west of the Reichstag, the main prize, placing it in 1st Byelorussian Front's sector. Berlin was completely encircled by the 25 April, as was Busse's 9th Army and elements of General F. Gräser's 4th Panzer Army, in the area between Lübben, Zossen and Beeskow. Hitler had sent an impassioned plea for assistance to Gen Wenck to disengage his 12th Army from the Elbe near Magdeburg and march to the relief of Berlin. It is to Wenck’s credit that not only did he attempt this manoeuvre but managed to reach Potsdam before encountering Soviet resistance that was just too strong. He picked up the Potsdam Garrison and over 30,000 survivors of the 9th Army and withdrew westwards, hoping to surrender to the Americans.

Berlin under Siege

While this was going on, Zhukov and Koniev had completed the encirclement of the city by 25 April and started to close in to what Goebbel's Propaganda Ministry was describing as 'Fortress Berlin'. While the city had been preparing for a siege since January, the defences were still rudimentary and makeshift due to the lack of resources – certainly no match for the forces that were about to assault them but the defending forces could muster almost 100,000 troops (including the LVI Panzer Corps, reinforced by the 18th Panzergrenadier and 11th SS ‘Nordland’ Panzergrenadier Divisions) in a variety of makeshift formations. Certainly the urban terrain, with its many canals and rivers and damage done by bombing and artillery fire, naturally favoured the defence. The main attack started the next day, with the Germans fighting tenaciously, making skilful use of buildings and rubble to conduct sniping, counterattacks and ambushes, while many of the high flak towers were able to fire down onto the advancing Soviet forces. After two days of bitter fighting, Zhukov's forces had reached Charlottenburg in the west and the River Spree in the Moabit area further east. His forces, in clockwise order, were the 47th Army (advancing towards the Ketzin – Spandau area, eventually joining up with 4th Guards Tank Army from Koniev's 1st Ukrainian Front), 2nd Guards Tank Army (Charlottenburg and Moabit), 3rd Shock Army (advancing south from the Pankow area), 5th Shock Army (advancing west from the Lichtenburg area), 8th Guards Army and 1st Guards Tank Army (advancing northwest from the Neukölln and Tempelhof areas). To the west of the 8th Guards Army lay Koniev's forces with 28th Army (advancing from the Steglitz area), 3rd Guards Tank Army (advancing from the Teltow area) and 4th Guards Tank Army (advancing towards the Ketzin – Spandau area).

Berlin: The Soviets advance into the city
Berlin: The Soviets advance into the city
The bridge on the Potsdamerstrasse was seized on the 28th and in the face of fierce opposition from the SS 'Anhalt' Regiment, the attack began on the Tiergarten (Zoo). Maj Gen S. I. Perevertkin prepared his 79th Rifle Corps (comprising the 150th, 171st and 207th Rifle Divisions) to storm the Reichstag, but first the Soviets would have to overcome some serious obstacles. In front of the Reichstag lay Königsplatz, across which there lay a water-filled antitank ditch and behind this numerous gun pits, artillery emplacements and trenches connected to the Reichstag itself. Additional mortars and artillery pieces were sited in the Tiergarten and the whole area was mined. As with every other building in the area, the Reichstag itself had been heavily fortified with the lower storeys being reinforced with steel rails and concrete and the doors and windows bricked up to provide loopholes. It also had street-level cellar windows, which proved to be natural gun embrasures and the construction site for the abandoned U-Bahn (Underground) tunnel nearby was readily incorporated into the defence system. The area was defended by between 5 and 6,000 German troops of all kinds, including Army regulars, SS, Allgemeine-SS (defending the Ministry of the Interior), Volkssturm and 250 sailors from the 'Grossadmiral Dönitz' Naval Battalion, reinforced with large numbers of stragglers and some tanks from the 11th 'Herman von Salza' Tank Battalion, the majority of whom were in the Reichstag itself.

The Reichstag in Sight

By the early morning of the 30th, the Soviets had seized the Moltke Bridge over the River Spree (despite German attempts to blow it), the western half of the Diplomatic Quarter and the Ministry of Internal Affairs, all of which were taken with heavy casualties. By this time, the Garrison had been squeezed into a long thin pocket running almost directly east to west from Charlottenburg in the west to the Prenzlauer Alee in the east. With the area to the northwest secured, the three divisions of the 79th Rifle Corps began their attack towards the Reichstag on the morning of 30 April. The 171st Rifle Division (380th, 525th and 783rd Rifle Regiments) headed east then south following the River Spree in order to flank the Reichstag, 150th Rifle Division (469th, 674th and 756th Rifle Regiments) headed south then east across Königsplatz to assault the Reichstag from the front and 207th Rifle Division (594th, 597th and 598th Rifle Regiments) headed southwest past the Kroll Opera towards the Charlottenburger Chausee. Three assaults at 04.30, 11.30 and 13.00 were beaten back with heavy losses although the 171st Rifle Division managed to clear the eastern half of the Diplomatic Quarter and secure the southern end of the Kronprinzen Bridge against possible German counterattacks from across the river. It also enabled the Soviets to introduce tanks and self-propelled artillery forward of the antitank ditch to help the exposed infantry.

Berlin: Battle for the Reichstag, 30 April-2 May 1945
Berlin: Battle for the Reichstag, 30 April-2 May 1945
At 14.25, Maj Gen V. M. Shatilov (Commander, 150th Rifle Division) reported that he thought he had seen a Red Flag over the steps of the Reichstag near the right-hand column. As the leading battalions contained a number of groups eager to have a go at planting a flag on the Reichstag, including a group of volunteers from Corps Headquarters under his aide, Major M. M. Bondar with the 380th Rifle Regiment and some gunners under Captain V. N. Makov with the 756th, this report did not seem too unlikely. The wild enthusiasm with which the report was sent resulted in Zhukov issuing Operation Order No. 6 of that that read "Units of the 3rd Shock Army . . . having broken the resistance of the enemy, have captured the Reichstag and hoisted our Soviet Flag on it today, April 30th, 1945, at 14.25 hours." (Le Tissier, p. 168) This false report was sent to Moscow and abroad but when war correspondents converged on the Reichstag, they found Soviet infantry had only advanced halfway across Königsplatz. Aware of his error, Shatilov ordered his division to raise a flag or pennant on the building, whatever the cost.

The attack was renewed at 18.00 with the support of armour and artillery and after heavy casualties, Soviet infantry managed to make it to the front steps of the building with its still intact bricked-up doorways. Fortunately, they carried two light mortars with them and so managed to blast a small hole in the brickwork allowing them in. What followed was desperate hand-to-hand fighting as the Soviets sought to expand the bridgehead. By the time they had established telephone communications with regimental headquarters, they had managed to fight their regimental and battalion standards up to the second floor. As more and more Soviet troops broke in, close quarters fighting spread out over the whole building with the Germans putting up very stiff resistance, using every weapon they could lay their hands on and the Soviets trying to find their way in the darkened, unfamiliar rooms. Finally, the special banner party with Red Banner No. 5 containing Sergeants M. A. Yegorov and M. V. Kantaria managed to find their way around to the rear of the building where there was a stairway up to the roof. Finding a mounted statue, they wedged the staff of their banner into a convenient crevice and thus the Red Flag, at 22.50 on 30 April 1945, finally flew over the Reichstag (Red Army Target No. 105), and therefore Berlin. Bitter German resistance continued however, and it would not be until the morning of 2 May that fighting finally ceased in the Reichstag, with the remaining 2,500 defenders surrendering to Soviet forces.

By then, German resistance in the city as a whole was crumbling with elements of the 5th Shock Army, 8th Guards Army and 1st Guards Tank Army approaching the Reich Chancellery and the Führerbunker having crossed Potsdamer Strasser and reached Potsdam Station to the southwest, crossed Kopenicker Strasse and the Landwehr Canal to the southeast and having crossed Lanberger Strasse to the east, were advancing down the Unter Den Linden. With no possibility of relief, Hitler had vowed to take his own life, rather than be captured by the Soviets. He named Admiral Dönitz his successor and stripped Göring and Himmler of their offices, the former for trying to take power, the latter for putting out peace feelers. After dictating his will and political testament, Hitler and Eva Braun, his wife for one day, retired to their quarters in the Führerbunker and committed suicide. The exact manner of their deaths and what happened immediately afterwards has always been something historians have argued over, but the general consensus being that Hitler shot himself and Eva Braun took poison, their bodies being hastily cremated just outside the bunker. Goebbels followed suit on the 1 May and Weidling drafted an order for the remainder of the garrison to lay down its arms on the morning of 2 May 1945, and signalled such to Col Gen V. I. Chuikov. A number of refugee groups, including both civilian and military personnel managed to break out and flee westwards, but at 15.00 the Soviet artillery stopped firing, the sudden silence as they say, was deafening. The Battle for Berlin was over.

Aftermath

Two days later, at 18.20 on 4 May 1945, General E. Kinzel (Field Marshal Busch's Chief of Staff) and Admiral H. G. von Friedeburg (the new head of the Kriegsmarine) signed the surrender documents relating to the German forces in the Netherlands, northwest Germany, the Friesian Islands, Heligoland and Schleswig-Holstein, at Montgomery's 21st Army Group headquarters on Lüneburg Heath. The same happened three days later, at 02.41 on 7 May 1945 at the Rheims school that housed SHAEF headquarters. Col Gen Jodl (Wehrmacht), Admiral Friedeburg (Kriegsmarine) and Major Oxenius (Luftwaffe) signed the surrender document, along with Lt Gen Walter Bedell Smith (Eisenhower's Chief of Staff), Lt Gen Sir Frederick Morgan (for the UK), General Sévez (For France) and Maj Gen Susloparov (for the Soviet Union). They were followed by Lt Gen Carl A. Spaatz, Vice Admiral Harold M. Burrough and Air Marshal J. M. Robb signing for the US Army Air Force, the Royal Navy and RAF respectively. The next day saw Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Tedder, along with Lt Gen Spaatz flying to Berlin for the final act of surrender. The ceremony took place at 1st Byelorussian Front's headquarters. Field Marshal Keitel (Wehrmacht), Admiral Friedeburg (Kriegsmarine) and General Stumpff (Luftwaffe) appeared before Marshal Zhukov, General de Lattre de Tassigny, Tedder and Spaatz. All had signed the surrender documents by 00.28. With the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany, the European part of World War II would end at 23.01, 8 May 1945.

Although the time between the various signings was short, hundreds of thousands of German troops managed to make their way west to surrender to the Western Allies, and the Kriegsmarine evacuated its Baltic positions. The Allied armies had exercised their 'right of pursuit' and followed the retreating German forces well past the demarcation line as set out in the Yalta Agreement, Montgomery by about forty-five miles and Bradley by about 125 miles. The day after the signing of the official surrenders, Stalin insisted on the implementation of the undertakings given at Yalta. Had he kept his own promises though? Clearly the Soviet NKVD were in the process of eliminating any possible opposition to the setting up of Communist regimes in Eastern Europe, particularly in respect of Poland, where the commission set up in the Kremlin after Yalta to oversee the reorganisation of the Government was paralysed by Molotov's obstruction. In these circumstances, Churchill wrote on 4 June to the new US President, Harry Truman, indicating that the retreat of the Western Allied armies to their demarcation lines should not be undertaken without having a number of these outstanding issues between the Great Powers resolved. The behaviour of the Soviet occupation authorities in Austria and the interference with the missions of the Western Powers caused Churchill to write again on 9 June. Truman ignored these arguments and decided that the US Army would start withdrawing on 21 June while the military chiefs would sort out the quadripartite occupation of Berlin and the access to it by road, rail and air. On 15 July 1945 when the Potsdam conference had begun, the Red Army had already taken up its advanced positions thirty miles from the centre of Hamburg, within artillery range of Kassel and less than eighty miles from Mainz on the Rhine. Churchill wrote "It was a fateful decision". (Bauer, p. 618)

Bibliography and Further Reading


Beevor, Anthony, Battle for Berlin cover cover cover

In the Ruins of the Reich , Botting, D., Grafton, London, 1986. cover cover cover

The Russo-German Conflict 1941 – 1945 , Clark, A. Barbarossa, Hutchinson & Co, London, 1965 (Reprinted by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1995 and Cassell Military, 2002). A classic work by Alan Clark, later to become a Conservative MP famous for his diaries. cover cover cover

Fallen Eagle , Cross, R., Michael O’Mara Books, London, 1995. cover cover cover

Red Storm on the Reich , Duffy, C., Routledge, London. 1991. cover cover cover

The Road to Berlin , Erickson, J., Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 1983 (Reprinted by Grafton Books, 1985 and Cassell Military, 2003). cover cover cover

The Last Days of Hitler , Joachimsthaler, A., Cassell Military, London, 2000. cover cover cover

Atlas of the Second World War , Keegan, J. (Ed), Times Books / Guild Publishing, London, 1989. cover cover cover

The Russians and Berlin 1945 , Kuby, E., Heinemann, London, 1968. cover cover

Race for the Reichstag , Le Tissier, T., Frank Cass, London, 1999. cover cover cover

Last Days of the Reich , Lucas, J., Grafton, London, 1987. cover cover cover

The Berlin Bunker , O'Donnell, J., Arrow, London, 1979. cover cover cover

The Fall of Berlin , Read, A & Fisher, D., Hutchinson / BCA, London, 1992. cover cover cover

The Russo-German War 1941 – 45 , Seaton, A., Arthur Baker Ltd, London, 1971. cover cover cover

Battlefield Berlin: Siege, Surrender and Occupation 1945 , Slowe, P & Woods, R., Robert Hale, London, 1988. cover cover cover

The Last Thirty Days: The War Diary of the German Armed Forces High Command from April to May 1945 , Schultz-Nauman, J., Madison Books, London, 1991. cover cover cover

Atlas of the Second World War , Young, Brig P. (Ed), Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 1973. cover cover cover

Stalingrad to Berlin: The German Defeat in the East , Ziemke, E., US Army Center of Military History, Washington DC, 1968. cover cover cover

Berlin – Dance of Death , Helmut Altner, Casemate, Havertown, PA, 2002. cover cover cover

Great Battles of World War II , Macdonald, John, Guild Publishing (BCA), London, 1986. cover cover cover

Remme, T. 'The Battle for Berlin' on BBC History Website

Other Books

Bauer, Lt Col E. The History of World War II, Orbis Publishing, London, 1979 (Revised Edition).]
Bell, K. 'Bloody Battle for Berlin' in World War II, March 1998, pp. 22 – 29.
Figes, O. 'The Bloody Fall of the Third Reich' in The Sunday Times, 14 April 2002, p. 33.
Goodenough, S. War Maps, MacDonald & Co, London, 1982.
Keegan, J. 'Berlin' in Military History Quarterly, Winter 1990, pp. 72 – 83.
Le Tissier, T. The Battle of Berlin 1945, Jonathan Cape, London, 1988.

Ryan, C. The Last Battle, Touchstone, New York, 1995.
Strawson, J. The Battle for Berlin, Batsford Press, London, 1974.
Ziemke, E. The Battle for Berlin: End of the Third Reich, MacDonald & Co, London, 1969 (Purnell's History of the Second World War, Battle Book No. 6).
Zvenzlovsky, Col A. 'The Berlin Operation' in Soviet Military Review, April 1980, pp. 17 – 19.

Appendix 1: Soviet Order of Battle for the Battle for Berlin (Le Tissier, pp. 196 – 207)

Units are listed as they were deployed from north to south on 16 April 1945, with those having assaulted the city in greater detail.

2ND BYELORUSSIAN FRONT (Marshal K. K. Rokossovsky)

2nd Shock Army (Col Gen I. I. Fedyurinsky)
108th & 116th Rifle Corps

65th Army (Col Gen P. I. Batov)
18th, 46th & 105th Rifle Corps

70th Army (Col Gen V. S. Popov)
47th, 96th & 114th Rifle Corps

49th Army (Col Gen I. T. Grishin)
70th & 121st Rifle Corps
191st, 200th & 330th Rifle Divisions

19th Army
40th Guards, 132nd & 134th Rifle Corps

5th Guards Tank Army
29th Tank Corps
1st Tank & 4th Mechanised Bdes

4th Air Army (Col Gen K. A. Vershinin)
4th Air Assault, 5th Air Bomber and 8th Air Fighter Corps

1ST BYELORUSSIAN FRONT (Marshal G. K. Zhukov)

61st Army (Col Gen P. A. Belov)
9th Guards, 80th & 89th Rifle Corps

1st Polish Army (Lt Gen S. G. Poplowski)
1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th & 6th Polish Infantry Divisions
1st Polish Cavalry Bde
4th Polish Heavy Tank Bde
13th Polish SP Assault Artillery Bde
7th Polish Assault Artillery Btn

47th Army (Lt Gen F. I. Perkhorovitch)
77th, 125th & 129th Rifle Corps
70th Guards Independent Tank Regt
334th, 1204th, 1416th, 1825th & 1892nd SP Assault Artillery Regts

3rd Shock Army (Col Gen V. I. Kutznetsov)
7th Rifle Corps (Maj Gen V. A. Christov / Col Gen Y. T. Chyervichenko)
146th, 265th & 364th Rifle Divisions
12th Guards Rifle Corps (Lt Gen A. F. Kazanin / Maj Gen A. A. Filatov)
23rd Guards, 52nd Guards & 33rd Rifle Divisions
79th Rifle Corps (Maj Gen S. I. Perevertkin)
150th Rifle Division (Maj Gen V. M. Shatilov)
469th, 674th & 756th Rifle Regts
171st Rifle Division (Col A. P. Negoda)
380th, 525th & 783rd Rifle Regts
207th Rifle Division (Col V. M. Asafov)
594th, 597th & 598th Rifle Regts
9th Tank Corps (Lt Gen I. F. Kirichenko)
23rd, 95th & 108th Tank Bdes
8th Motorised Rifle Regt
1455th & 1508th SP Assault Artillery Regts

5th Shock Army (Gen / Col Gen N. E. Berzarin)
9th Rifle Corps (Maj Gen / Lt Gen I. P. Rossly)
230th, 248th & 301st Rife Divisions
26th Guards Corps (Maj Gen P. A. Firsov)
89th Guards, 94th Guards & 266th Rifle Divisions
32nd Rifle Corps (Lt Gen D. S. Zherebin)
60th Guards, 295th & 416th Rifle Divisions
11th, 67th Guards & 220th Tank Bdes
92nd Independent Tank Regt
396th Guards & 1504th SP Assault Artillery Regts

8th Guards Army (Col Gen V. I. Chuikov)
4th Guards Rifle Corps (Lt Gen V. A. Glazonov)
35th Guards, 47th Guards & 57th Guards Rifle Divisions
28th Guards Rifle Corps (Lt Gen V. M. Shugeyev)
39th Guards, 79th Guards & 88th Guards Rifle Divisions
29th Guards Rifle Corps (Maj Gen P. I. Zalizyuk)
27th Guards, 74th Guards & 82nd Guards Rifle Divisions
7th Guards Tank Bde
84th Guards, 65th & 259th Independent Tank Regts
371st, 374th Guards, 694th, 1026th, 1061st, 1087th & 1200th SP Assault Artillery Regts

69th Army (Col Gen V. Y. Kolpakchi)
25th, 61st & 91st Rifle Corps
117th & 283rd Rifle Divisions
68th Tank Bde
12th SP Assault Artillery Bde
344th Guards, 1205th, 1206th & 1221st SP Assault Artillery Regts

33rd Army (Col Gen V. D. Svotaev)
16th, 38th & 62nd Rifle Corps
2nd Guards Cavalry Corps
95th Rifle Division
257th Independent Tank Regt
360th & 361st SP Assault Artillery Regts

16th Air Army (Col Gen S. I. Rudenko)
6th & 9th Air Assault Corps
3rd & 6th Air Bomber Corps
1st Guards, 3rd, 6th & 13th Air Fighter Corps
1st Guards, 240th, 282nd & 286th Air Fighter Divisions
2nd & 11th Guards Air Assault Divisions
113th, 183rd, 188th & 221st Air Bomber Divisions
9th Guards & 242nd Air Night Bomber Divisions
16th & 72nd Air Reconnaissance Regts
93rd & 98th Air Observation Regts
176th Guards Air Fighter Regt
226th Air Transport Regt

18th Air Army (AVM A. Y. Golovanov)
1st Guards, 2nd, 3rd & 4th Air Bomber Corps
45th Air Bomber Division
56th Air Fighter Division
742nd Air Reconnaissance Regt

1st Guards Tank Army (Col Gen M. Y. Katukov)
8th Guards Mechanised Corps (Maj Gen I. F. Drygemov)
19th, 20th & 21st Guards Mechanised Bdes
1st Guards Tank Bde
48th Guards Tank Regt
353rd & 400th Guards SP Assault Artillery Regts
8th Guards M/C Btn
11th Guards Tank Corps (Col A. H. Babadshanian)
40th, 44th & 45th Guards Tank Bdes
27th Guards Mechanised Bde
362nd, 399th Guards & 1454 SP Assault Artillery Regts
9th Guards M/C Btn
11th Tank Corps (Maj Gen I. I. Jushuk)
20th, 36th & 65th Tank Bdes
12th Motorised Rifle Bde
50th Guards Tank Regt
1461st & 1493rd SP Assault Artillery Regts
64th Guards Tank Bde
19th SP Assault Artillery Bde
11th Guards Independent Tank Regt
12th Guards M/C Btn

2nd Guards Tank Army (Col Gen S. I. Bogdanov)
1st Mechanised Corps (Lt Gen S. I. Krivosheina)
19th, 35th & 37th Mechanised Bdes
219th Tank Bde
347th Guards, 75th & 1822nd SP Assault Artillery Regts
57th M/C Btn
9th Guards Tank Corps (Maj Gen A. F. Popov)
47th, 50th & 65th Guards Tank Bdes
33rd Guards Mechanised Bde
341st, 369th & 386th Guards SP Assault artillery Regts
17th Guards M/C Btn
12th Guards Tank Corps (Maj Gen M. K. Teltakov / Col A. T. Shevchenko)
48th, 49th & 66th Guards Tank Bdes
34th Guards Mechanised Bde
79th Guards Tank Regt
387th & 393rd Guards SP Assault Artillery Regts
6th Guards Independent Tank Regt
5th Guards M/C Regt
16th Guards M/C Btn

3rd Army (Col Gen A. V. Gorbatov)
35th, 40th & 41st Rifle Corps
1812th, 1888th & 1901st SP Assault Artillery Regts
2nd, 3rd & 7th Guards Cavalry Corps
3rd & 8th Guards Tank Corps
244th Independent Tank Regt
31st, 39th, 51st & 55th Independent Armoured Train Btns

1ST UKRAINIAN FRONT (Marshal I. S. Koniev)

3rd Guards Army (Col Gen V. N. Gordov)
21st, 76th & 120th Rifle Corps
25th Tank Corps
389th Rifle Division
87th Guards Independent Tank Regt
938th SP Assault Artillery Regt

13th Army (Col Gen N. P. Phukov)
24th, 27th & 102nd Rifle Corps
88th Independent Tank Regt
327th, 372nd Guards, 768th & 1228th SP Assault Artillery Regts

5th Guards Army (Col Gen A. S. Zhadov)
32nd, 33rd & 34th Guards Rifle Corps
4th Guards Tank Corps

2nd Polish Army (Lt Gen K. K. Swiersczewski)
5th, 7th, 8th, 9th & 10th Polish Infantry Divisions
1st Polish Tank Corps
16th Polish Tank Bde
5th Polish Independent Tank Regt
28th polish SP Assault Artillery Regt

52nd Army (Col Gen K. A. Koroteyev)
48th, 73rd & 78th Rifle Corps
7th Guards Mechanised Corps
213th Rifle Division
8th SP Assault Artillery Bde
124th Independent Tank Regt
1198th SP Assault Artillery Regt

2nd Air Army (Col Gen S. A. Krasovsky)
1st Guards, 2nd Guards & 3rd Air Assault Corps
4th & 6th Guards Air Bomber Corps
2nd, 5th & 6th Air Fighter Corps
208th Air Night Bomber Division
98th & 193rd Guards Air Reconnaissance Regts
222nd Air Transport Regt

3rd Guards Tank Army (Col Gen P. S. Rybalko)
6th Guards Tank Corps (Maj Gen V. A. Mitrofanov)
51st, 52nd & 53rd Guards Tank Bdes
22nd Guards Motorised Rifle Bde
385th Guards, 1893rd & 1894th SP Assault Artillery Regts
3rd Guards M/C Btn
7th Guards Tank Corps (Maj Gen V. V. Novikov)
54th, 55th & 56th Guards Tank Bdes
23rd Guards Motorised Rifle Bde
384th Guards, 702nd & 1977th SP Assault Artillery Regts
4th Guards M/C Btn
9th Mechanised Corps (Lt Gen I. P. Suchov)
69th, 70th & 71st Mechanised Bdes
91st Tank Bde
383rd Guards, 1507th & 1978th SP Assault Artillery Regts
100th M/C Btn
16th SP Assault Artillery Bde
57th Guards & 90th Independent Tank Regts
50th M/C Regt

4th Guards Tank Army (Col Gen D. D. Lelyushenko)
5th & 6th Guards Mechanised Corps
10th Guards Tank Corps
68th Guards Tank Bde
70th Guards SP Assault Artillery Bde
13th & 119th Guards Independent Tank Regts
7th Guards M/C Regt

28th Army (Lt Gen A. A. Luchinsky)
20th, 38th Guards & 128th Rifle Corps

31st Army
1st Guards Cavalry Corps (Lt Gen V. K. Baranov)
152nd Tank Bde
98th Independent Tank Regt
368th Guards, 416th & 1976th SP Assault Artillery Regts
21st, 45th, 49th & 58th Independent Armoured Train Btns

Appendix 2: German Order of Battle for Operation Berlin (Le Tissier, pp. 208 – 214)

Those units directly involved with the defence of Berlin are shown in more detail.

OKW RESERVE (later allocated to the LVI Panzer Corps, 9th Army)

18th Panzergrenadier Division (Maj Gen Josef Rauch)
30th & 51st Panzergrenadier Regts
118th Panzer Regt (part)
18th Artillery Regt

ARMY GROUP ‘VISTULA’ (Col Gen Gotthard Heinrici)

III SS ‘Germanic’ Panzer Corps (SS Lt Gen Felix Steiner)
(divisions later allocated to the 9th Army)
11th SS ‘Nordland’ Panzergrenadier Division (SS Maj Gen Jurgen Ziegler / SS Maj Gen Dr Gustav Krukenburg)
23rd ‘Norge’ Panzergrenadier Regt
24th ‘Danmark’ Panzergrenadier Regt
11th SS ‘Hermann von Salza’ Panzer Btn
503rd SS Heavy Tank Btn
11th SS ‘Nordland’ Armoured Reconnaissance Btn
23rd SS ‘Nederland’ Panzergrenadier Division (SS Maj Gen Wagner)
(divisions later allocated to the 3rd Panzer Army)
27th SS ‘Langemarck’ Grenadier Division
28th SS ‘Wallonien’ Grenadier Division

3rd Panzer Army (Gen Hasso von Manteuffel)
‘Swinemunde’ Corps (Lt Gen Ansat)
402nd & 2nd Naval Divisions
XXXII Corps (Lt Gen Schack)
‘Voigt’ & 281st Infantry Divisions
549th Volksgrenadier Division
Stettin Garrison
‘Oder’ Corps (SS Lt Gen von dem Bach / Gen Hörnlein)
610th & ‘Klossek’ Infantry Divisions
XXXXVI Panzer Corps (Gen Martin Gareis)
547th Volksgrenadier Division
1st Naval Division

9th Army (Gen Theodor Busse)

156th Infantry Division
541st Volksgrenadier Division
404th Volks Artillery Corps
406th Volks Artillery Corps
408th Volks Artillery Corps

CI Corps (Gen Wilhelm Berlin / Lt Gen Friedrich Sixt)
5th Light Infantry Division
606th Infantry Division
309th ‘Berlin’ Infantry Division
25th Panzergrenadier Division
111th SPG Training Bde
‘1001 Nights’ Combat Group
LVI Panzer Corps (Gen Helmuth Weidling)
9th Fallschirmjäger Division (Gen Bruno Braüer / Col Harry Herrmann)
25th, 26th & 27th Fallschirmjäger Regts
9th Fallschirmjäger Artillery Regt
20th Panzergrenadier Division (Col / Maj Gen Georg Scholze)
76th & 90th Panzergrenadier Regts
8th Panzer Btn
20th Artillery Regt
‘Müncheberg’ Panzer Division (Maj Gen Werner Mummert)
1st & 2nd ‘Müncheberg’ Panzergrenadier Regts
‘Müncheberg’ Panzer Regt
‘Müncheburg’ Armoured Artillery Regt
920th SPG Training Bde
XI SS Panzer Corps (SS Gen Mathias Kleinheisterkamp)
303rd ‘Döberitz’ Infantry Division
169th Infantry Division
712th Infantry Division
‘Kurmark’ Panzergrenadier Division
502nd SS Heavy Tank Btn
Frankfurt an der Oder Garrison (Col / Maj Gen Ernst Biehler)
V SS Mountain Corps (SS Gen Friedrich Jackeln)
286th Infantry Division
32nd SS ’30. Januar’ Volksgrenadier Division
391st Sy Division
561st SS Tank Hunting Btn

ARMY GROUP CENTRE (Field Marshal Ferdinand Schörner)

4th Panzer Army (Gen Fritz-Herbert Gräser)
(later transferred to the 9th Army)
V Corps (Lt Gen Wagner)
35th SS Police Grenadier Division
36th SS Grenadier Division
275th Infantry Division
342nd Infantry Division
21st Panzer Division

12th Army (Gen Walter Wenck)
XX Corps (Gen Carl-Erik Koehler)
‘Theodor Körner’ RAD Division
‘Ulrich von Hutten’ Infantry Division
‘Ferdinand von Schill’ Infantry Division
‘Scharnhorst’ Infantry Division
XXXIX Panzer Corps (Lt Gen Karl Arndt)
(12 – 21 April 1945 under OKW with the following structure)
‘Clausewitz’ Panzer Division
‘Schlageter’ RAD Division
84th Infantry Division
(21 – 26 April 1945 under 12th Army with the following structure)
‘Clausewitz’ Panzer Division
84th Infantry Division
‘Hamburg’ Reserve Infantry Division
‘Meyer’ Infantry Division
XXXXI Panzer Corps (Lt Gen Holste)
‘von Hake’ Infantry Division
199th Infantry Division
‘V-Weapons’ Infantry Division
1st HJ Tank Destroyer Bde
‘Hermann Göring’ Jagdpanzer Bde
XXXXVIII Panzer Corps (Gen Maximillian Reichsherr von Edelscheim)
14th Flak Division
‘Leipzig’ Battle Group
‘Halle’ Battle Group

Ungrouped Formations

‘Friedrich Ludwig Jahn’ RAD Division (Col Gerhard Klein / Col Franz Weller)
‘Potsdam’ Infantry Division (Col Erich Lorenz)

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How to cite this article:Antill, P., Battle for Berlin: April – May 1945, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_berlin.html

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