Seelow-Berlin Offensive Operation – Battle of the Seelow Heights and Battle of Halbe

SS-Brigadeführer Jürgen Wagner at the Elbe River
An unidentified SS-Untersturmführer
Surrender at the Elbe River
The last major defensive line outside Berlin was the Seelow Heights. Close to one million Soviet troops and more than 20,000 tanks and artillery pieces commanded by Marshal Georgi Zhukov, attacked the position known as the Gates of Berlin between April 16 and April 19 1945. They were opposed by about 110,000 German Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS troops and 1,200 tanks and guns, commanded by General Theodor Busse. The Soviet forces broke through the defensive positions, having suffered about 30,000 casualties, while the Germans lost 12,000 personnel. It was only one of several crossing points along the Oder and Neisse rivers where the Soviets attacked which led to the encirclement of General Theodor Busse´s 9. Armee and the Battle of Halbe, also known as the Slaughter at Halbe. The Battle of the Oder-Neisse was itself only the opening phase of the Battle of Berlin. On the night of April 28 1945, the German forces broke through the Soviet 50th Guards Rifle Division and created a corridor from Halbe to the west. Losses on both sides were very high. The remnants and several thousand civilians then retreated westwards towards the Elbe so that they could surrender to American forces on the west bank of the river. Nobody knows how many civilians died, but it could have been as high as 10,000. The most astonishing part of the story is not the numbers who died or were forced to surrender but the 25,000 soldiers and several thousand civilians who succeeded in getting through three lines of Soviet troops. Top clip: Knight's Cross holder with Oakleaves SS-Brigadeführer and Generalmajor of the Waffen-SS Jürgen Wagner listens intently while being interrogated by Americans on the Elbe River in early May 1945. Wagner joined the Leibstandarte in 1933 and transferred to SS-Standarte Deutschland in 1939. He commanded SS-Panzergrenadier-Regiment Germania of the Wiking Division from 1942 and 23.SS-Freiwilligen-Panzergrenadier-Division Nederland from 1943. Wagner was extradited to communist Yugoslavia in 1947. He was sentenced to death and executed on June 27 1947. It is not precisely known for what he was indicted for. Bottom clips: an unidentified SS-Untersturmführer surrenders to American soldiers of the 102nd Infantry Division at the rickety ruins of the bridge across the Elbe River at Tangermünde between 4 May and 7 May 1945. Fair use.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous1/3/14

    Thank you for this post! And blessings to Arne Johansson on this 69th anniversary of his honorable death ! :)