In April 1945, Hitler envisaged the Seelow Heights as a ‘wavebreaker’ for the flood of the Red Army. This is how the Oderbruch area, just 50 kilometres east of Berlin, became the biggest battlefield in Germany. The rivalling Soviet marshals Zhukov and Konyev were supposed to conquer the ‘trophy’ Berlin.
The war on the way to Hitler’s capital turned into a race. The marshals had simultaneously started their offensive on the rivers Oder and Neisse. A huge enclosure turned all of Branenburg and especially greater Berlin into a huge death trap – not least because the Wehrmacht had orders not to give up a metre of land and was determined to fight until the end.
On both sides 100,000 soldiers died in those last few days of the war. Hitler’s mania of ‘all or nothing’ , of ‘victory or downfall’ claimed victims until the bitter end. No other German landscape was so ploughed through and drenched in blood – 12,000 German soldiers fell near Seelow and the Red Army mourned 33,000 men.
After the Soviet’s breakthrough, the beaten German 9th army retreated from the Oder and was closed in on 23rd April in the forests near Halbe. Following this was a demolishment of unimaginable scale: it brought death to 60,000 Germans; 120,000 were taken prisoners here alone. The total of this battle still shocks today.
The extensive forests near Halbe, south of Berlin, are the location of Germany’s largest cemetery for soldiers – 25,000 mainly unknown soldiers are buried here. Countless bodies were never discovered and still lie buried in the Brandenburg’s forests – victims that had a horrible end in the last big death trap of WWII, together with thousands of Soviet soldiers who lost their lives so close to the end of the war.
Tags: World war 2, WW2, hitlers war, Hitlers last army, Nazis, national socialists, eastern front, Stalin, communists, bolsheviks, holocaust, world at war, Allies, occupation, soviet union, europe, asia, suicide, global conflict, red army, downfall, Germany, PO
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