3rd Belorussian Front
The 3rd Belorussian Front was a Front of the Red Army during the Second World War. The 3rd Belorussian Front was created on April 24, 1944, from forces assigned to the Western Front. Over 381 days in combat, the 3rd Belorussian Front suffered 166,838 killed, 9,292 missing, 667,297 wounded and frostbitten personnel while advancing from the region some 50 kilometers southeast of Vitebsk in Russia to Königsberg in East Prussia. Operations the 3rd Belorussian Front took part in include the Belorussian Offensive Operation, the Baltic Offensive Operation, the East Prussian Offensive Operation. Although costly, the advance of the 3rd Belorussian Front was in great part victorious, with one of the few defeats occurring during the Gumbinnen Operation in October 1944. 3rd Belorussian Front was formally disbanded on August 15, 1945. Colonel General Ivan Chernyakhovsky Marshal of the Soviet Union Aleksandr Vasilevsky General Hovhannes Bagramyan
Georg-Hans Reinhardt was a German general and war criminal during World War II. He commanded the 3rd Panzer Army from 1941 to 1944, Army Group Centre in 1944 and 1945, reaching the rank of colonel general. Following the war, Reinhardt was tried in the High Command Trial, as part of the Subsequent Nuremberg Trials, he was sentenced to 15 years. He was released in 1952. Born in 1887, Reinhardt fought during World War I, he commanded the 4th Panzer Division during the Invasion of Poland in September 1939. In the 1940 Battle of France, Reinhardt commanded the XXXXI Panzer Corps. In 1941, Reinhardt and XLI Panzer Corps were deployed on the Eastern Front for Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union in June, his force led the advance of Army Group North to the outskirts of Leningrad in October. As all German corps on the Eastern Front, Reinhardt's corps implemented the criminal Commissar Order. According to reports from subordinate units, the order was carried out on a widespread basis. On October 5 Reinhardt was given command of the 3rd Panzer Army in Army Group Centre and took part in Operation Typhoon, the advance towards Moscow.
After the German defeat in the Battle of Moscow, his army was driven back by Soviet counter-attack during the winter of 1941−42. Troops under Reinhardt's command implemented the OKH policy of "liquidating" mentally infirm. From early 1942 until June 1944, the 3rd Panzer Army operated around Smolensk. In the course of rear-security operations in the area, troops under Reinhardt command destroyed entire communities. A report of February 1943 stated: In order to keep bands from resettling in this territory, the population of villages and farms in this area were killed without exception to the last baby. All homes were burned down; the army engaged in deportations of civilians to concentration camps. Between September and December 1943, nearly 4,000 civilians were deported from Vitebsk and surrounding areas, because they were suspected of helping "bands"; the action was conducted in cooperation with units of the SD. In June 1944, during Operation Bagration, the Third Panzer and the rest of Army Group Centre were shattered by the Red Army and driven back into Poland and East Prussia.
On 16 August 1944, Reinhardt was given command of Army Group Centre. In December, renewed Soviet attacks drove Army Group Centre out of Poland into northern Prussia. Reinhardt was retired from active duty in January 1945. In June 1945, Reinhardt was arrested by the United States Army. In 1948, he was tried as part of the Subsequent Nuremberg Trials. Reinhardt was found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder and mis-treatment of Soviet prisoners of war, of murder and hostage-taking of civilians in occupied countries, he was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment, served time in the Landsberg Prison. His sentence was reviewed with no changes. Reinhardt was released in 1952 on compassionate grounds. From 1954. Reinhardt served as president of the Gesellschaft für Wehrkunde, present-day Gesellschaft für Sicherheitspolitik, he was awarded the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1962. Iron Cross 2nd Class & 1st Class Clasp to the Iron Cross 2nd Class & 1st Class Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords Knight's Cross on 27 October 1939 as Generalleutnant and commander of 4.
Panzer-Division Oak Leaves on 17 February 1942 as General der Panzertruppe and commander of 3. Panzergruppe Swords on 26 May 1944 as Generaloberst and commander of 3. Panzer-Armee Great Cross of Merit US Military Tribunal Nuremberg. "High Command Trial, Judgment of 27 October 1948". Retrieved 30 May 2016
East Prussia was a province of the Kingdom of Prussia from 1773 to 1829 and again from 1878. Its capital city was Königsberg. East Prussia was the main part of the region of Prussia along the southeastern Baltic Coast; the bulk of the ancestral lands of the Baltic Old Prussians were enclosed within East Prussia. During the 13th century, the native Prussians were conquered by the crusading Teutonic Knights. After the conquest the indigenous Balts were converted to Christianity; because of Germanization and colonisation over the following centuries, Germans became the dominant ethnic group, while Masurians and Lithuanians formed minorities. From the 13th century, East Prussia was part of the monastic state of the Teutonic Knights. After the Second Peace of Thorn in 1466 it became a fief of the Kingdom of Poland. In 1525, with the Prussian Homage, the province became the Duchy of Prussia; the Old Prussian language had become extinct by early 18th century. Because the duchy was outside of the core Holy Roman Empire, the prince-electors of Brandenburg were able to proclaim themselves King beginning in 1701.
After the annexation of most of western Royal Prussia in the First Partition of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1772, eastern Prussia was connected by land with the rest of the Prussian state and was reorganized as a province the following year. Between 1829 and 1878, the Province of East Prussia was joined with West Prussia to form the Province of Prussia; the Kingdom of Prussia became the leading state of the German Empire after its creation in 1871. However, the Treaty of Versailles following World War I granted West Prussia to Poland and made East Prussia an exclave of Weimar Germany, while the Memel Territory was detached and annexed by Lithuania in 1923. Following Nazi Germany's defeat in World War II in 1945, war-torn East Prussia was divided at Joseph Stalin's insistence between the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of Poland; the capital city Königsberg was renamed Kaliningrad in 1946. The German population of the province was evacuated during the war or expelled shortly afterwards in the expulsion of Germans after World War II.
An estimated 300,000 died either in war time bombing raids, in the battles to defend the province, or through mistreatment by the Red Army. At the instigation of Duke Konrad I of Masovia, the Teutonic Knights took possession of Prussia in the 13th century and created a monastic state to administer the conquered Old Prussians. Local Old-Prussian and Polish toponyms were Germanised; the Knights' expansionist policies, including occupation of Polish Pomerania with Gdańsk/Danzig and western Lithuania, brought them into conflict with the Kingdom of Poland and embroiled them in several wars, culminating in the Polish-Lithuanian-Teutonic War, whereby the united armies of Poland and Lithuania, defeated the Teutonic Order at the Battle of Grunwald in 1410. Its defeat was formalised in the Second Treaty of Thorn in 1466 ending the Thirteen Years' War, leaving the former Polish region Pomerania/Pomerelia under Polish control. Together with Warmia it formed the province of Royal Prussia. Eastern Prussia as a fief of Poland.
1466 and 1525 arrangements by kings of Poland were not verified by the Holy Roman Empire as well as the previous gains of the Teutonic Knights were not verified. The Teutonic Order lost eastern Prussia when Grand Master Albert of Brandenburg-Ansbach converted to Lutheranism and secularized the Prussian branch of the Teutonic Order in 1525. Albert established himself as the first duke of the Duchy of Prussia and a vassal of the Polish crown by the Prussian Homage. Walter von Cronberg, the next Grand Master, was enfeoffed with the title to Prussia after the Diet of Augsburg in 1530, but the Order never regained possession of the territory. In 1569 the Hohenzollern prince-electors of the Margraviate of Brandenburg became co-regents with Albert's son, the feeble-minded Albert Frederick; the Administrator of Prussia, the grandmaster of the Teutonic Order Maximilian III, son of emperor Maximilian II died in 1618. When Maximilian died, Albert's line died out, the Duchy of Prussia passed to the Electors of Brandenburg, forming Brandenburg-Prussia.
Taking advantage of the Swedish invasion of Poland in 1655, instead of fulfilling his vassal's duties towards the Polish Kingdom, by joining forces with the Swedes and subsequent treaties of Wehlau and Oliva, Elector and Duke Frederick William succeeded in revoking the king of Poland's sovereignty over the Duchy of Prussia in 1660. The absolutist elector subdued the noble estates of Prussia. Although Brandenburg was a part of the Holy Roman Empire, the Prussian lands were not within the Holy Roman Empire and were with the administration by the Teutonic Order grandmasters under jurisdiction of the Emperor. In return for supporting Emperor Leopold I in the War of the Spanish Succession, Elector Frederick III was allowed to crown himself "King in Prussia" in 1701; the new kingdom ruled by the Hohenzollern dynasty became known as the Kingdom of Prussia. The designation "Kingdom of Prussia" was applied to the
The Nemmersdorf massacre was a civilian massacre perpetrated by Red Army soldiers in the late stages of World War II. Nemmersdorf was one of the first pre-war ethnic German villages to fall to the advancing Red Army in World War II. On 21 October 1944, Soviet soldiers killed many German civilians as well as French and Belgian noncombatants; the 2nd Battalion, 25th Guards Tank Brigade, belonging to the 2nd Guards Tank Corps of the 11th Guards Army, crossed the Angerapp bridge and established a bridgehead on the western bank of the river on 21 October 1944. German forces tried to retake the bridge, but several attacks were repelled by the Soviet tanks and the supporting infantry. During an air attack, a number of Soviet soldiers took shelter in an improvised bunker occupied by 14 local men and women. According to the testimony of a injured woman, Gerda Meczulat, when a Soviet officer arrived and ordered everybody out, the Russians shot and killed the German civilians at close range. During the night, the Soviet 25th Tank Brigade was ordered to retreat back across the river and take defensive positions along the Rominte.
The Wehrmacht discovered the massacre. German authorities organized an international commission to investigate, headed by Estonian Hjalmar Mäe and other representatives of neutral countries, such as Francoist Spain and Switzerland; the commission heard the report from a medical commission. It reported; the Nazi Propaganda Ministry used the Völkischer Beobachter and the cinema news series Wochenschau to accuse the Soviet Army of having killed dozens of civilians at Nemmersdorf and having summarily executed about 50 French and Belgian noncombatant POWs, ordered to take care of thoroughbred horses but had been blocked by the bridge. The civilians were killed by blows with shovels or gun butts; the former chief of staff of the German Fourth Army, Major General Erich Dethleffsen, testified on 5 July 1946 before an American tribunal in Neu-Ulm. He said: When in October, 1944, Russian units temporarily entered Nemmersdorf, they tortured the civilians they nailed them to barn doors, shot them. A large number of women were raped and shot.
During this massacre, the Russian soldiers shot some fifty French prisoners of war. Within forty-eight hours the Germans re-occupied the area. Karl Potrek of Königsberg, leader of a Volkssturm company present when the German Army took back the village, testified in a 1953 report: In the farmyard stood a cart, to which more naked women were nailed through their hands in a cruciform position... Near a large inn, the'Roter Krug', stood a barn and to each of its two doors a naked woman was nailed through the hands, in a crucified posture.... In the dwellings we found a total of 72 women, including children, one old man, 74, all dead.... Some babies had their heads bashed in. At the time, the Nazi Propaganda Ministry disseminated a graphic description of the events in order to fanaticise German soldiers. On the home front, civilians reacted with an increase in the number of volunteers joining the Volkssturm. A larger number of civilians responded with panic, started to leave the area en masse. To many Germans, "Nemmersdorf" became a symbol of war crimes committed by the Red Army, an example of the worst behavior in Eastern Germany.
Marion Gräfin Dönhoff, the post-war co-publisher of the weekly Die Zeit, at the time of the reports lived in the village of Quittainen in western East Prussia, near Preussisch Holland. She wrote in 1962 that: In those years one was so accustomed to everything, published or reported being lies that at first I took the pictures from Nemmersdorf to be falsified. However, it turned out that, not the case. After 1991 and the fall of the Soviet Union, new sources became available and the dominant view among scholars became that the massacre was embellished, exploited, by Goebbels in an attempt to stir up civilian resistance to the advancing Soviet Army. Bernhard Fisch, in his book, October 1944. What happened in East Prussia was the first to present this picture of the events. Fisch, a native of East Prussia who had served as a Wehrmacht soldier during the war, had been in Nemmersdorf a few days after it was re-taken and remembered a different scene from the one depicted by the Wochenschau series shown in cinemas.
He separate fact from fiction. He interviewed many witnesses still alive on both sides and crossing out faulty memories against each other, he found out some disturbing details: the German army itself was responsible for destroying the strong German defensive position in front of Nemmersdorf, after the event no attempt had been made to identify the photographed victims by name, he was able to conclude that liberties were taken with at least some of the photographs, that some victims on the photographs were from other East Prussian villages, that the notorious crucifixion barn doors were not in Nemmersdorf. There was the tight time schedule of witness Joachim Reisch, reducing the Soviet presence at Nemmersdorf to less than four hours of heavy fighting in front of the bridge. Another writer, Joachim Reisch, claimed to have been at the scene of the bridge when the event was supposed to have occurred, he has said. Sir Ian Kershaw is among those historians who believe that the Soviet fo
Operation Solstice known as Unternehmen Husarenritt or the Stargard tank battle, was one of the last German armoured offensive operations on the Eastern Front in World War II. It was planned as a major offensive but was executed as a limited attack, due to hasty planning by the Germans and it being compromised by Soviet military intelligence. Intended to relieve the city of Küstrin, Sonnenwende was launched on 15 February 1945 from Stargard, Pomerania. By 18 February, the Soviet 1st Belorussian Front led by Georgy Zhukov had defeated the attack, prompting the Germans to call off the offensive. Despite its failure, the operation had forced Soviet High Command to postpone the planned attack on Berlin from February to April, focusing forces on the East Pomeranian Offensive, launched on 24 February and not concluded until 4 April; the operation took place in response to the Soviet advance on Berlin in early 1945. Launched January 12, 1945, the Soviet Vistula-Oder Offensive had ripped open a gap hundreds of kilometers long in German defensive lines, the Soviets had subsequently pushed from the Vistula River to the Oder River.
As the Soviet advance to the west reached its farthest point, its apex narrowed, leaving long northern and southern flanks into which retreating German formations had moved and along which the Germans were attempting to reestablish a cohesive defensive line. General Heinz Guderian had planned to execute a major offensive against the 1st Belorussian Front, cutting off the leading elements of Georgy Zhukov's forces east of the Oder; the Soviet forces were to be attacked from Stargard in the north as well as from Glogau and Guben in the south. In order to carry out these plans, he requested that the Courland Pocket be evacuated to make available the divisions trapped there, removed troops from Italy and Norway, involved Sepp Dietrich's 6th Panzer Army, intended for counter-attacks in Hungary. In a meeting with Guderian Hitler insisted that Courland be held and that the army continue with its planned attacks in Hungary. After agreeing on a more limited counter-offensive and Guderian proceeded to have an more heated argument when Guderian insisted that Walther Wenck direct the offensive rather than Heinrich Himmler.
Hitler, despite "almost screaming", according to Guderian's account, gave in on this point. In its final form, Operation Solstice consisted of a more limited counter-attack than had been planned by the three corps of the Eleventh SS Panzer Army, being assembled in Pomerania, against the spearheads of the 1st Belorussian Front; the German forces would first attack along a fifty-kilometre front around Stargard south-eastwards towards Arnswalde where a small garrison had been encircled with their ultimate objective being the relief of Küstrin. The Wehrmacht codenamed the operation Husarenritt, but the SS insisted on the name Sonnenwende. Zhukov had been made aware of a buildup of German forces opposing his 61st and 2nd Guards Tank Armies, but did not have information as to the exact timing and nature of the attack; the Stavka of the Supreme Main Command had noted with concern that while the Germans had moved thirteen divisions between the main Soviet forces and Berlin, thirty-three divisions had concentrated in Pomerania, lending credence to the possibility of a German strike from Pomerania into the exposed northern flank of the 1st Belorussian Front.
Over 300 tanks were allocated to the offensive. In addition, due to serious shortages, only three days' ammunition and fuel were available. German forces had suffered heavy losses during the January combat in East Prussia and Poland. German sources admitted to 198,000 dead and missing for the first two months of 1945 in the region between the Baltic Sea and the Carpathian Mountains. Soviet sources state that operations by the 1st Ukrainian and Belorussian Fronts during the Vistula-Oder Offensive alone resulted in the deaths of 150,000 German troops. In Deutsche militärische Verluste im Zweiten Weltkrieg, author Rüdiger Overmans estimates overall German military deaths in January 1945 were 451,742 and believes up to 2/3 of these losses occurred in combat on the eastern front. While the Germans were able to make good some of the losses through measures such as the mass mobilization of Volkssturm, the German forces in the east had suffered both significant quantitative and qualitative losses as a result of the two Soviet major offensives in January 1945.
While the 1st and 2nd Belorussian Fronts were impressively large formations, the Soviet forces had suffered serious losses in the Vistula-Oder Offensive. At the beginning of February 1945, the strength of rifle divisions in the 1st BRF averaged around 4,000 troops and those of the 2nd BRF between 3,000 - 4,000. Soviet army strength was further weakened by the need to besiege encircled groups of German soldiers in Elbing, Deutsch-Krone, Schneidemühl. Armored strength was weakened by the recent offensive operations. During the period January 12 - February 3, 1945, the 1st BRF suffered 77,342 casualties while during the East Prussian Offensive of January 13 - February 10, 1945, the 2nd BRF took 159,490 casualties. In the same periods, the 1st Belorussian and Ukrainian Fronts lost 1,267 armored fighting vehicles while the 2nd and 3rd Belorussian Fronts lost 3,525. Gun and mortar losses for the two groups
Battle of Poznań (1945)
The Battle of Poznań during World War II in 1945 was a massive assault by the Soviet Union's Red Army that had as its objective the elimination of the Nazi German garrison in the stronghold city of Poznań in occupied Poland. The defeat of the German garrison required an entire month of painstaking reduction of fortified positions, intense urban combat, a final assault on the city's citadel by the Red Army, complete with medieval touches; the city of Poznań lay in the western part of Poland, annexed by Nazi Germany following their invasion of Poland in 1939, was the chief city of Reichsgau Wartheland. By 1945, the Red Army advances on the Eastern Front had driven the Germans out of eastern Poland as far as the Vistula River; the Red Army launched the Vistula-Oder Offensive on 12 January 1945, inflicted a huge defeat on the defending German forces, advanced into western Poland and eastern Germany. Certain cities which lay on the path of the Soviet advance were declared by Hitler to be Festungen, where the garrisons were ordered to mount last-ditch stands.
Hitler hoped the Festung cities could hold out behind Soviet lines and interfere with the movement of supplies and lines of communication. Poznań was declared a Festung in January 1945; the city was defended by 40,000 German troops from a great variety of units including Volkssturm, Luftwaffe ground forces and motivated officer candidates. Facing them were the experienced Guards Rifle troops of General V. I Chuikov's 8th Guards Army – the victors of Stalingrad; the defenders made use of some of the surviving Festung Posen fortifications, built during Prussian rule in the 19th century. The Fort Winiary citadel stood on a hill to the north of the city centre. Around the perimeter of the city were 18 massively-built forts, spaced at intervals of about 2 kilometres in a ring with a radius of about 5 kilometres. General Chuikov described the forts as... underground structures each with several storeys, the whole projecting above the surrounding terrain. Only a mound was visible above ground -- the layer of earth covering the rest.
Each fort was ringed by a ditch ten metres wide and eight metres deep, with walls revetted with brickwork. Across the ditch was a bridge, leading to one of the upper storeys. Among the forts, to the rear, there were one-storey brick bunkers; these were clad in concrete a full metre thick, were used as stores. The upper works of the forts were sufficiently strong to provide reliable protection against heavy artillery fire.... The enemy would be able to direct fire of all kinds against us both on the approaches to the forts and within them, on the rampart; the embrasures were such that flanking fire from rifles and machine-guns could be directed from them. Poznań lay on the main route between Warsaw and Berlin, in German hands, it was a serious obstacle to any Soviet operation against the German capital. Thus, the Red Army had to clear the city of German troops before the final assaults designed to capture Berlin and end the war could begin. On 21 January 1945 the Soviet 1st Guards Tank Army forced a crossing of the Warta River north of the city, but by 24 January these bridgeheads had been abandoned in favor of better bridgeheads south of Poznań.
Meanwhile, Red Army tank units had swept north and south of the city, capturing hundreds of German aircraft in the process. Moving further west, the Soviet tank units left the capture of the city to other Red Army forces. By 25 January, the Soviet 8th Guards Army had arrived and began a systematic reduction of the fortress; the following day, two of Poznań's forts in the south fell to a hasty assault conducted by the 27th and 74th Guards Rifle Divisions. This initial success allowed Chuikov's troops to penetrate the ring of forts and attack other forts from inside the city. On 28 January, the German high command relieved Generalmajor Ernst Mattern as the fortress commander and replaced him with a dedicated Nazi, Generalmajor Ernst Gonell. Gonell imposed draconian discipline on the German garrison. In some instances, German troops attempting to surrender were shot by their own side; the reduction of Festung Posen consumed the efforts of four divisions from Chuikov's army and two divisions of Colonel-General V. Ia.
Kolpakchi's 69th Army. The 117th and 312th Rifle Divisions of the 91st Rifle Corps of 69th Army were deployed on the east side of the city. To the north, the 39th Guards Rifle Division of Chuikov's 28th Guards Rifle Corps, to the south, Chuikov's 29th Guards Rifle Corps composed of the 27th, 74th, 82nd Guards Rifle Divisions were arrayed against the Festung. By the southwestern suburb of Junikowo, the 11th Guards Tank Corps took up positions to block any German attempt at retreat. In bitter combat that saw the outlying forts reduced and city blocks seized, the Soviets succeeded in pushing the German defenders towards the city center and the citadel. By the beginning of February 1945, most of the city had been captured, by 12 February, the Germans held only the imposing citadel. Generalmajor Gonell had believed that other German forces would attack and relieve his besieged forces, but by 15 February came to the realization that this was not going to happen. Incensed, he ordered his troops that were east of the Warta River to attempt to break out, some 2,000 German soldiers managed to infiltrate the Red Army lines and head west on the following night.
Arrayed against the citadel was the 29th Guards Rifle Corps, with the 27th Guards Rifle Division on the north, the 82nd Guards Rifle Division on the southwest, the 74th Guards Rifle Division on the southeast. The final Soviet assault on the citadel started on 18 February. Before the Red Army troops lay a deep ditch matched by a steep