|Waffen-SS Marder III|
Evacuation of Kharkov: February 15 1943
By the evening of February 14 1943, Soviet forces had penetrated into the suburbs of Kharkov. Elements of SS-Panzergrenadier-Division Das Reich, however inflicted heavy losses on the enemy and temporarily halted the Soviet push. SS-Obergruppenführer Paul Hausser had received orders from Hitler that the city of Kharkov be held at all costs. Hausser was well aware that Kharkov was doomed. Hausser was a realist and would not willingly see his SS-Panzerkorps sacrificed in a pointless defence of a city he already knew was lost. Kharkov was virtually surrounded. Hausser feared that his corps and Panzergrenadier-Division Großdeutschland would share the same fate as Generalfeldmarschall Friedrich Paulus at Stalingrad. He wanted to order an evacuation through a narrow corridor to the southwest. Repeated orders from Hitler to hold the city to the last man and bullet were treated with the contempt they deserved. Hausser bluntly replied that it was too late: It is already settled, Kharkov is being evacuated. He would not countenance the destruction of his corps in a pointless attempt to save Kharkov. He issued orders to pull out on February 15 1943. The corridor linking the city to German-held territory farther west was now only 1.5 kilometers wide at the best. The Soviets were overjoyed at their success in outing the Germans from this strategically important city, but the tenacious defence put up by the Germans had cost the lives of many thousands of their men. Credit: Gordon Williamson and Tim Ripley. Image: SS-Grenadiers with a Marder III attached to a reconnaissance battalion prepares for further action. Commons: Bundesarchiv.