Heeresgruppe Kurland (Kurland-Kessel/Courland Pocket)

SS-Pz.Abt.11 Herman von Salza
Stalin ordered repeated attacks into the Kurland cauldron, disregarding heavy losses. Soviet launched six major offensives against the Wehrmacht, Waffen-SS and Latvian forces entrenched in the pocket between October 15 1944 and April 4 1945. According to a communiqué from Heeresgruppe Kurland of March 16 1945, the Soviets lost 320,000 soldiers, 2,388 tanks, 659 planes, 900 cannons, through the first five battles for Kurland. The Soviets are estimated to have lost an additional 74,000 in the sixth and last battle, as waves of tens of thousands of Soviet attackers were slaughtered at Liepāja. All units of Heeresgruppe Kurland were ordered to surrender by the capitulated Wehrmacht command on May 8 1945. According to recent scholarship, 181,000 German and Latvian troops were taken prisoner and taken to camps in the USSR interior and imprisoned for years. The Soviets detained all males between the ages of 16 and 60 in Latvia. Grenadiers of the Latvian Legion (19.Waffen-Grenadier-Division der SS) who surrendered along with the Germans or were captured were treated as traitors under the pretext that Latvia was part of the Soviet Union and summarily executed. Some of those who escaped continued fighting the Soviets as Forest Brothers. The conflict between the Soviets and the Forest Brothers lasted over a decade and cost at least 50,000 lives. First image: Scandinavian volunteers, possible Danes, taking cover in the Battle for Courland 1944. Fair use. Second image: a shot of a SS-Panzer-Abteilung 11 "Herman von Salza" Panther being rearmed in 1944. Seen in this picture is the Austrian SS-Hauptsturmführer Rudolf Rott and the Swedish SS-Untersturmführer Per-Sigurd Baecklund (former Das Reich). Rott was killed in action in Pomerania on February 12 1945. He won the Knight's Cross 16 days after his death. Baecklund survived WWII and returned to Sweden.  Photo: SS-Kriegsberichter Hans Truöl. Fair use.

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