Der Untergang – the fall of Berlin

Berlin in April 1945
Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin ordered 20 armies, 8,500 aircraft, and 6,300 tanks to march toward Berlin in April 1945. According to the author and historian Antony Beevor about 1,500,000 Soviet soldiers took part in the assault on the Berlin Defence Area. The forces available to General Helmuth Weidling for the city's defence included roughly 45,000 soldiers in several severely depleted German Army and Waffen-SS divisions. These divisions were supplemented by the police force, boys in the compulsory Hitlerjugend, and 40,000 elderly men of the Volkssturm. Civilian life in Berlin continued despite what is sometimes described as the largest artillery bombardment in history. The weight of ordnance delivered by Soviet artillery during the battle of Berlin was greater than the total tonnage dropped by Western Allied bombers on the city. People struggled to work in their offices, shops, and factories, while housewives lined up to exchange their ration tickets for the last amounts of food in the city. The most amazing feat accomplished by the people of Berlin was perhaps the fact that even at this time the post office still delivered letters to residents of the city. In the meantime, RAF Mosquitos were conducting large tactical air raids against German positions inside Berlin on the nights of April 1945 and only over a 5-day period a total of 380 bombers were targeting the Berlin Defence Area. As the perimeter shrank and the surviving defenders fell back, they became concentrated into a small area in the city centre. By then there were about 10,000 German soldiers in the city centre, which was being assaulted from all sides. The Soviet Red Army committed heinous atrocities during, and in the days immediately following the assault in many areas of the city, vengeful Soviet troops engaged in mass rape, pillage and murder. They looted stores and banks, shot innocent civilians, and raped countless number of women. Over 90,000 women visited doctors in Berlin as a result of rape. Berliners, especially women anxiously waited and prayed for Allied troops to come and liberate them from the systematic rape and torture of the Red Army. But American and British troops did not arrive to help them, not before a two-month long Red Army occupation. According to the author Peter Antill the number of German losses in Berlin was about 22,000 military dead and 22,000 civilian dead. In A Statistical Reference to Casualty and Other Figures by the author Micheal Clodfelter, the number of civilian casualties is unknown, but 125,000 are estimated to have perished during the entire operation which included the battles of Seelow Heights and the Halbe. Image: screenshot showing downtown Berlin in April 1945. Public domain.
Panzerkampfwagen Königstiger n°101 of s.SS-Pz.Abt.503 in the ruins of Berlin
The Battle of Berlin is well known not only for being a fierce and bitter battle, but because a great number of its last defenders were not German, but were foreign volunteers particularly from Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden. An extraordinary very close comradeship had grown up among the Waffen-SS foreign volunteers defending Berlin in the final battle of the World War II in Europe. Author Theodor Hartmann writes in the conclusion of the book Waffen-SS: Its Divisional Insignia: By 1945, the Waffen-SS had proved by its combat success that European people could exist together, but as long as they recognized and accepted the national differences between one another. It had been in the Waffen-SS that, for the first time, Dutch had been commanded by Germans and Germans by Belgians. It was this idealism, dearly bought on the roads of Russia and later in its slave labor camps, that created an outstanding spirit of comradeship and combatant ability among all members, regardless of nationality or rank. Image: a Panzerkampfwagen Tiger II known under the informal name Königstiger belonging to schwere SS-Panzer-Abteilung 503 near the Columbushaus in Potsdamer Platz in Berlin in May 1945. On April 28 1945 this Kingtiger n°101 attached to 11.SS-Freiwilligen-Panzergrenadier-Division Nordland and commanded by SS-Oberscharführer Karl-Heinz Turk were ordered to stage an attack from the Potsdamer Station. They became engaged in a day-long melee with Soviet T-34-85 and IS-2 tanks. On the morning of April 30 1945 Turk's tank was hit on the right front corner. The immobile Kingtiger was abandoned in the evening on May 1 1945 after running out of ammunition. Public domain.

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