Breakout through Hell’s Gate (Korsun-Cherkassy Kessel)
Knight's Cross Holder SS-Unterscharführer Gerhard Fischer, Zugführer of 3.Kompanie/SS-Panzerjäger-Abteilung 5 (5.SS-Panzer-Division Wiking), wearing the crusher cap with his assault gun uniform. He was awarded the Knight's Cross for his actions when the Wiking spearheaded the last desperate breakout of Korsun-Cherkassy on February 16 1944. Forming up in two columns they flocked into two parallel ravines in the surrounding countryside, and where the two ravines met, the troops emerged into open country and headed out towards Lysianka. There, disaster struck as the Soviet troops, under General Konev, were waiting. Soon after 06:00 the slaughter began. Soviet tanks drove into the German columns crushing hundreds under their tracks. Fleeing troops were confronted by units of Cossack cavalry and hands were lopped off of those who approached with their arms raised in surrender. There was no time to take Prisoners of War and the carnage continued till it was all over. In the short space of three hours, over 19,000 German soldiers lay dead or was taken prisoner. Platoon commander Gerhard Fischer is born on November 12 1922 in Zwickau and is still alive in 2011. Image: Private collection.