A senior air warrior, graduate from the Staff College, and a PG in military studies. He is qualified to write on war and allied matters
The Soviet conquest of East Germany was a sledgehammer drive against an enemy that was motivated by hatred and race theories. Adolf Hitler in his personal story "Mien Kampf (my struggle)" had laid the groundwork of the Nazi philosophy. It is a 1925 autobiographical manifesto. Nazism considered the Germans to be the superior race. The philosophy extolled the idea that the eastern territories were all to be occupied and exploited for the benefit of the German people. This was perhaps the reason that the German advance in the East was extremely brutal and they killed millions of civilians and POWs. The chivalry associated with a soldier-warrior from time immemorial was simply bludgeoned by the Nazi war machine. Despite all protestations of innocence, the top generals were culpable in the atrocities on the occupied territories in the east.
Hitler had everything going for him in 1939 when he signed the non-aggression pact with Russia. He should have stuck to it for another two years and by that time should have defeated Great Britain. Fortunately, he was infatuated with his race theories. He shelved the plan to invade the British isle and turned his attention to the Soviet Union. He wanted to put into effect his obsession with the superiority of the German race and their right to rule over the eastern people. When the tide turned against the Germans and the Soviets regrouped and counter attacked the Germans deployed their best troops to face them and more than three-fourths of their army was facing the Russians on the eastern front.
In contrast, the western front was very lightly held and only about 25% of the Army was utilized to throw the allies back into the Atlantic Ocean. The German's conduct of the war was more civilized in the West, except for the rounding up of the Jews from Holland and other places. All along they had tried to have a separate peace with the West so they could continue fighting the Soviets. One cannot gauge the amount of hatred the Germans had against eastern Slav races but the atrocities are mind-boggling including the slaughtering of prisoners of war.
When the Wehrmacht went into retreat in the East their sole purpose at that time was to hold the Russians for as long as possible so that they could surrender to the American and British command. At the back of their mind was the fear that because of the atrocities they had committed on the Russians and the Slavs they would be paid back in their coin and hence they had a one-point plan to just stop the Russians and put their best effort in that direction.
The German army deployed their elite troops and the majority of their soldiery against the USSR and all along we're trying for a separate peace with the West. The West should be thankful to the Russians because in case Hitler had unleashed his entire power against Great Britain, whatever the caliber of Winston Churchill, England may have been erased from the map of Europe.
Thus when the Soviet army entered Germany there was great fear in the German army and population bordering on dread at the entry of the Soviet forces.
Advance into East Germany
The commander of the Russian army was General Zhukov. He was instructed by Stalin to make a dash to capture Berlin before the Americans. With this in view, General Zhukov made plans to capture Berlin. The start of this plan was the battle of the Baltic Sea when the Russian army bottled up a German army group in the Peninsula of Courland. This was in the period August-October 1944. The German's resistance was basically to try and evacuate as many personnel and civilians from Courland by Sea to Germany.
Zhukov did not waste time on Courland and continued the advance forward leading to 2 major battles at Budapest and Belgrade. This was in December 1944. Slightly North the Germans between sixth October and 28th October put in their best troops in the battle of Debrecen. They had some initial success as the German Army Group Fretter-Pico surrounded and destroyed the Soviet Mobile group of the 2nd Ukrainian Front. In mid-August 1944, Generaloberst (Colonel General) Johannes Friessner's Army Group South Ukraine was on the brink of collapse. To the north, the Red Army's Operation Bagration was completing the destruction of Army Group Centre. The subsequent drive of Soviet General Fedor Tolbukhin's 3rd Ukrainian Front into Romania destroyed any semblance of an organized defensive line
Martin Zhukov now ordered what is known as the Vistula-Oder Offensive between 01 Jan -02 Feb. 45.
The soviet army advanced from Poland deep within the borders of Germany (seen from the location of the borders then). This was a traumatic moment for the Germans as now it was clear that the Russians are heading into German territory.
From the second February to 13th March began the East Prussian Offensive. The Soviet forces advanced in East Prussia and besieged Konigsberg.
The East Prussian Offensive lasted from 13 January to 25 April 1945, though some German units did not surrender until 9 May. The Battle of Konigsberg was a major part of the offensive, which ended in victory for the Red Army. The Russians now began the Siege of Breslau which ended on 5 May 45.
The Germans launched their last offensive on the eastern front. known as the Lake Balaton offensive. The offensive began in great secrecy on 6 March 1945 with an offensive near Lake Balaton, an area with the last significant oil reserves still available to the Axis. The operation involved many German units withdrawn from the failed Ardennes Offensive and included units of the 6th Panzer Army and Waffen-SS. The operation was a failure
The battle of the Seelow Heights now began This was part of the Berlin Strategic Offensive Operation. It was an assault on large entrenched defensive positions of the Second World War. It was fought over three days, from 16–19 April 1945. Close to 1,000,000 Soviet soldiers of the 1st Belorussian Front, commanded by Marshal Georgi Zhukov, attacked the position known as the "Gates of Berlin". They were opposed by about 110,000 soldiers of the German 9th Army, commanded by General Theodor Busse, as part of the Army Group Vistula.
It was a costly battle and the Russians suffered heavy casualties but they were able to enter Berlin on 4 April 1945 and then started one month of street fighting in the German capital. Zhukov was happy that he had entered Berlin before the Americans.
.On April 30 April Hitler committed suicide when the shells of the Russian army were landing close to his underground bunker. Towards the end of April 1945 elements of the German 9th Army tried to escape to the west. They were encircled and destroyed. This is known as the Battle of Halbe. It was now all over for the third reach and Hitler's successor Donitz agreed for unconditional surrender on 8 May 45.
The end of the war brought forward many points. The first was the fanatical resistance of the German army on the Russian front. As already pointed out the bulk of the German army in the east was as we say in cricket the first 11. The Germans had far fewer troops on the Western front which was the second 11. Had the German fought on the Western front with the same fanaticism as in the eastern front; as a historian, I cannot see how the Americans and the British could have a rollercoaster ride across France.
The Germans were almost petrified of surrendering to the Russians and feared their control. The German general staff knew of the atrocities committed by the German Army on the Jews and the Russian prisoners of war and were thus extremely scared of a similar punishment to them. The aim in the East was to delay the Russians as much as possible and if possible to win a few victories so that overtures to the West could be made for a separate peace.
They were not aware of the strong resolve of Winston Churchill and Roosevelt to finish the war and would not countenance negotiations with what they felt was a gangster regime. All their overtures for a separate peace were rejected. Even Rudolf Hess who escaped in a Messerschmitt 109 to England to negotiate peace was arrested put on trial at Nuremberg and sentenced to life imprisonment. He died as a lonely prisoner at Spandau.
The Russians captured hundreds and thousands of German soldiers as prisoners of war and they were taken to labor camps in Siberia where the conditions were very poor and almost 40% of them died. The German generals captured were relatively better treated and many of them to save the skin began to toe Stalin line. This was helpful as the Russians set up the state of East Germany as a rival to West Germany.
The war is now over but we must learn lessons from it. Theories of race and religion have no meaning and must be discarded but it does appear that this is not happening. .An example is the People's Republic of China which has colonized Tibet and Xinjiang and the Buddhist and Muslim populations who are in majority are facing programs similar to the type which were put into effect by Hitler. Yet the western world has allowed this to happen and it's anybody's guess what will happen next.
MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on October 01, 2020:
Thank you, Tom.
tom on September 30, 2020:
this is correct
MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on September 30, 2020:
Tom, Stalin was also scared of Zhukov's popularity and sidelined him, he made a come back only after his death
tom on September 29, 2020:
east prussia,beame kalningrad russian enclave between poland ukraine,kalnin former president of ussr
tom on September 29, 2020:
zhukov opposedpoiltical officers commisars ,thats why he was sacked,this is true.photo shows zhukov and montygomery
MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on September 16, 2020:
Tom, I am not sure about it. Zhukov was a great leader.
tom jose on September 16, 2020:
bulganin was prime minister .1957 kruschev sacked zhukov ,i have read his memoirs
MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on September 05, 2020:
Tom, thanks for this bit of information. I think at that time Nikolai Bulganin was the prime minister.
tom jose on September 05, 2020:
zhukov became defence minister and visited india in 1955
MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on September 05, 2020:
Liz, Thank you for a thought provoking comment.
Liz Westwood from UK on September 04, 2020:
This is a very interesting and thought-provoking article. I grew up in a world with a divided Germany. I once looked across at the East/West border. Your article gives the background to this geographical split and makes valid points for today.