Soviet Army rolled up the Germans 60 years ago

22nd February 2005, Comments 0 comments

22 February 2005, MOSCOW - Joseph Stalin saw 23 February 1945 as a key day for the Soviet army, as it rolled up the German forces in central Europe. "We mark the 27th anniversary of the Red Army with new and historic victories over the enemy," he wrote in the orders of the day to his commanders. Since the middle of January, Stalin's vastly superior troops had pushed forward through Poland and the eastern part of the German Reich. The death and destruction wrought by the Germans since the start of the war i

22 February 2005

MOSCOW - Joseph Stalin saw 23 February 1945 as a key day for the Soviet army, as it rolled up the German forces in central Europe.

"We mark the 27th anniversary of the Red Army with new and historic victories over the enemy," he wrote in the orders of the day to his commanders.

Since the middle of January, Stalin's vastly superior troops had pushed forward through Poland and the eastern part of the German Reich.

The death and destruction wrought by the Germans since the start of the war in 1939 was now finally turned on the attackers themselves.

In January 1945, ethnic Germans began fleeing en masse from East Prussia, Pommerania and Silesia. On 30 January a Soviet submarine sank the "Wilhelm Gustloff", taking the lives of 5,300 people, most of them refugees from the fighting.

Hitler's generals were powerless to halt the Soviet winter offensive. Soviet troops of the First Belarussian Front under Marshal Georgi Zhukov had taken Warsaw and created bridgeheads across the Oder River.

Other Red Army groups were pushing towards the Baltic and sealing off East Prussia. Poznan fell following four weeks of resistance.

On 26 February the Red Army broke through to the Baltic, and six days later, Soviet tanks reached the coast at Kolobrzeg.

In the south, the First Ukrainian Front under Marshal Ivan Koniev pushed forward, laying siege to Wroclaw from 27 January, which the Nazis had pledged to defend.

The defenders - mainly old men and boys - hung on until 6 May.

But by the end of February Soviet troops had seized almost intact the Upper Silesian industrial region, which Stalin described as "gold".

German troops in occupied Poland, were wiped out over hundreds of kilometres or surrounded by the Soviets.

There was no longer a continuous German defence line. Kolobrzeg, which was made the subject of a Nazi propaganda film urging the Germans to hold on, fell on March 18.

Hitler's Wehrmacht capitulated in Gdansk on 30 March. Kaliningrad, which was almost completely destroyed, followed on 9 April.

The final months of the war brought the worst casualties on all sides, but neither the military collapse on Germany's eastern front, nor the apocalyptic scenes of fleeing refugees and the Allied bombing attacks on German cities could bring the German Fuehrer to his senses.

In a radio broadcast right at the end of February, Hitler's propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels called on the German people to hold on. "We would rather die than capitulate," he said.

Even at the end of March that year, Hitler was rejecting as a "myth" the notion that the Red Army could take Berlin.

But by mid-April, Soviet forces were across the Oder, and girding themselves for the final onslaught on Nazi Germany.

Urged on by the Soviet leader, the Russian generals Zhukov, Koniev and Konstantin Rokossovsky were engaged in a bloody competition to see who would be first to get to the German capital just 80 kilometres away.

DPA

Subject: German news

 

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