- Point of Interest
- Reichstagsgebäude, Platz der Republik 1, 10557 Berlin, Allemagne
On 16 April 1945, the Soviet forces started to encircle Berlin in a pincer movement. Five days later first Soviet units entered Berlin from the east and fought their way to the city center. On 2 May, two days after Adolf Hitler committed suicide, all remaining German forces in Berlin were ordered to surrender.
On 16 April 1945, the Soviet forces under the command of Marshal Konstantin Rokossovsky, Marshal Georgy Zhukov and Marshal Ivan Konev, started to encircle Berlin in a pincer movement from the north, the east and the south. But rather than achieving a fast advance, it took several days to breach the German defenses.
On 21 April, first Soviet units entered Berlin from the east and slowly made their way to the city center. Desperate German resistance and widespread house-to-house fighting caused thousands of casualties on both sides. But the German forces, made up of regulars, SS and Volkssturm units could not stop the final Soviet advance.
Early on 29 April, the Soviet troops managed to cross the Moltke Bridge and attacked the Interior Ministry. After capturing the Secret State Police headquarters later that day, the Soviets pressed on to the Reichstag.
The Battle for the Reichstag was one of the last fights in the conquest of Berlin. After seizing the iconic building, two Soviet soldiers raised the Soviet flag on the top of the Reichstag. A further two days were needed to conquer the building completely.
The city’s remaining 10.000 German soldiers under General Helmuth Weidling were forced into a shrinking area in the city center. On 2 May, two days after Adolf Hitler committed suicide, all remaining German forces in Berlin were ordered to surrender to the Soviet troops.
Feelings of revenge were common among the Soviet soldiers. Many German women were raped and a lot of them died or committed suicide. After the surrender the Soviet military administration tried to restrain acts of violence and to re-establish civilian life.
Gisela Stange experienced the Battle of Berlin up close when she was 16 years old and assigned to the Volkssturm medical service as a Gesundheitsdienstmädel, a member of the League of German Girls trained in first aid. She risked death rescuing and nursing wounded soldiers and assisting in operations.
Soviet Colonel-General Nikolai Berzarin commanded the 5th Shock Army during the Berlin campaign that lasted from 16 April until 2 May 1945. As the first city commandant of Berlin he worked hard to get the city moving again. He died in a motorcycle accident on 16 June 1945.
Ralph Neumann grew up in Berlin as the son of Jewish parents. In early 1943, the then 16 year old Neumann eluded deportation to a concentration camp and went underground. Two weeks before the capitulation of Nazi Germany, he participated in an action of resistance in Berlin against the regime’s morale-boosting slogans.
After Italy announced its withdrawal from the Second World War in early September 1943, the Wehrmacht deported Italian soldiers to the German Reich. They were deployed as forced labourers in the industry. The Italian military radio operator Ugo Brilli was one of them. He was interned at the forced labour camp in Schöneweide.
Wilhelm Keitel served as chief of the Supreme Command of the Wehrmacht from 1938 to 1945. He loyally supported Hitler’s policies and shared responsibility for the war of annihilation in eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. On 8 May 1945 he signed the unconditional surrender of the German armed forces in Berlin. In November 1945 he stood trial in Nuremberg.
The battle of Berlin was one of the last battles of the Second World War in Europe. The war that had proceeded from Berlin returned to the city. Many soldiers and civilians died in widespread house-to-house fighting.
The 20-year-old Pole Czeslawa Sidor was one of the tens of thousands of women conscripted into forced labour in Berlin. During the chaos of the Battle of Berlin at the end of April 1945, she set off on foot for her home country.
The Second World War in Europe ended in the spring of 1945 with the Allied victory over Nazi Germany. The fate of the German people now lay in the hands of the four victorious powers, the USA, the Soviet Union, Great Britain and France. Germany and Berlin were placed under a shared four-party administration.
On 1 July 1945, Colonel Frank Howley arrived in Berlin with an advanced detachment of the U.S. Army. His mission was to build the American military administration in Berlin.
In mid-April 1945, the Red Army launched its final offensive: the Berlin Strategic Offensive Operation (“Battle of Berlin”), with the goal of not only taking the German capital but also ending the war in Europe.
Josef Brettschneider took part in the Battle of Berlin as a young lieutenant. In a hopeless situation, he had to fight with a Volkssturm unit in a city sur-rounded by Soviet troops.