Winter 1945: The victorious Red Army in Eastern Prussia, Pomerania and Silesia
by Olivia Kroth
From January to March 1945, a broad Red Army offensive conquered the territories of Eastern Prussia, Pomerania and Silesia, driving the Nazis out. This operation was the last phase before the final Battle of Berlin during the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945).The Sowjets encircled and occupied all major strategic locations quickly. In April 1945, the Red Army stood near Berlin, capital of the Nazi “Reich”.
More than 2.5 million Soviet soldiers participated in this offensive. Altogether, 6.250 tanks, 7.500 aircraft, 41.600 artillery pieces, 3.255 Katyusha rocket launchers, nicknamed “Stalin organs”, were used. Already in the 1930s, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin had laid the foundation by rapid industrialization of the Soviet Union, a top priority for the subsequent success of the Red Army. Soviet tank production was the largest worldwide. Furthermore, Joseph Stalin’s military strategy proved to be successful, occupying new territories as the troops moved westward. Regions close to the front were administrated by Soviet military powers.
The Soviet offensive was carried out by several fronts: the 1st Belorussian Front with Georgy Zhukov and the 2nd Belorussian Front with Konstantin Rokossovsky in Pomerania; the 1st Baltic Front under Ivan Bagramyan, the 3rd Belorussian Front under Ivan Chernyakovsky, the 2nd Belorussian Front under Konstantin Rokossovsky in Eastern Prussia; the 1st Ukrainian Front with Ivan Konev and the 1st Belorussian Front with Georgy Zhukov in Silesia.
Soviet soldier in Breslau:
The offensive in Eastern Prussia began on the 13th of January 1945, when the 2nd Belorussian Front with Konstantin Rokossovsky attacked the Wehrmacht near the Narew River and drove them out of the area. The Narew River flows through Belarus and Poland. On the 22nd of January, Allenstein in Eastern Prussia was occupied. Lötzen was taken on the 24th and Memel on the 28th of January by the 1st Baltic Front of Ivan Bagramyan.
Meanwhile, the 2nd Belorussian Front with Konstantin Rokossovsky moved through Pomerania towards Danzig. The Soviets took Neustettin on the 26th and Baldenburg on the 27th of February. Georgy Zhukov and the 1st Belorussian Front occupied Reetz in Pomerania on the 1st of March, 1945. Soviet tanks reached the Baltic Sea on the 4th of March. From the 9th to the 28th of March, Konstantin Rokossovsky and the 2nd Belorussian Front sieged Marienburg, which had to be evacuated.
Soviet soldiers in Pillau:
On the 10th of March, the Red Army took Elbing. On the 18th of March, Kolberg fell, followed by Zoppot, on the 19th, and Gotenhagen, on the 26th of March. Pomerania’s capital Danzig was sieged from the 9th to the 28th of March 1945. In the Battle of Danzig 40.000 Nazi soldiers were killed, 10.000 were made prisoners when the Soviets finally took Danzig on the 28th of March, 1945.
Two more Red Army operations were conducted in Silesia: the Lower Silesian Offensive, from the 8th to 24th of February, and the Upper Silesian Offensive, from the 15th to 31st of March. The 1st Ukrainian Front under Ivan Konev advanced westward through Silesia. Their aim was to protect the left flank of the 1st Belorussian Front, which rolled towards Berlin. In the Upper Silesian Offensive the Soviets killed 40.000 Wehrmacht soldiers. Another 14.000 were captured.
With the fall of Königsberg in Eastern Prussia, on the 9th of April, the end of the Great Patriotic War was near. Stavka, the Soviet military high command, decided to attack Berlin, the centre of fascism in Europe. Stavka proved to be highly efficient. It was the most competent military command and control organization in this war. Stavka’s effective planning made it possible for the Red Army to occupy Berlin, ending Hitler’s fascist “Reich”. Instead of the promised “thousand years”, it only lasted little more than a decade.
Soviet Army in Insterburg:
Olivia Kroth: The journalist and author of four books lives in Southern France. Her blog: https://olivia2010kroth.wordpress.com