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Timeline of the Fall of Berlin (April 16th, 1945 - May 2nd, 1945)

Timeline of the Fall of Berlin (April 16th, 1945 - May 2nd, 1945)

The Soviet Army held little interest in taking prisoners - which seemingly played well into the German directive of "fighting to the last".





The Who
Adolf Hitler, Leader and Reichs Chancellor of Germany; Wladyslaw Raczkiewicz, President of Poland ; Josef Stalin, Leader of the Soviet Union


The When and Where
September 1st, 1939 to October 6th, 1939. The German offensive in the West began on September 1st and was later followed by the Soviet offensive in the East on September 17th.


The What
German leader Adolf Hitler understood that his overall conquest of Europe relied on neutralizing Poland in the East, gaining a non-aggression assurance from the Soviets and preparing for battle against Britain and France in the West. From there, the final push would be against its one-time ally in the Soviet Union giving Hitler's Reich all of the slave manpower, agricultural resources and natural resources that it required.


The nation of Poland was a sovereign state before World War 1 (1914-1918) and ultimately cannibalized by German, Austrian and Russian power during the 1800s. It was only after the war, and the dismantling of the German, Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires that Poland was made whole once more. This time, it was given tracts of land from the fallen empires (including that of Tsarist Russia, which evolved - through an internal revolution - to become the Soviet Union in the 1920s. One of the key tracts allowed Poland access to the Baltic Sea in the north though this territory now divided Germany proper from its holdings in East Prussia. The Germans also lost the port city of Danzig which now lay under the control and protection of the League of Nations as a "free city" with no true national owner to be had.


To avoid another long and costly war, Britain and France - the major players in European politics at the time - sought the route of negotiation over war in an effort to contain the whims of Hitler, having already granted him Czechoslovakia. For Britain and France, there proved an understanding that, if Poland was attacked, both nations would commit militarily to the side of the Poles.


The Numbers
On the brink of war, Hitler's German forces numbered 60 divisions with 2,750 tanks, 2,315 aircraft and 9,000 artillery pieces against a Polish force of 39 divisions covering 880 tanks, 400 aircraft and 4,300 artillery systems. When the Soviet Union committed to the action, it brought with it 33 divisions numbering 4,736 tanks, 3,300 aircraft and 5,000 field guns of all types. Total manpower committed was 1.5 million German soldiers, 466,500 Red Army troops and 51,300 Slovakian soldiers against a smaller Polish threat.


At the end of the fighting, 66,000 Polish defenders would be killed with a further 133,700 to 200,000 wounded in action. To this was added the humiliation of 694,000 Polish soldiers taken as Prisoners of War (POW) to see certain death through starvation, abuse or execution across the many prison camps and death marches instituted after the invasion. In turn, the German Army managed losses of 16,300 with 30,300 wounded in the fighting while the Soviets fared better with 1,475 to 5,300 killed and 2,380 wounded in fewer weeks of fighting. Slovakian forces lost 37 with 114 wounded.


What Happened?
Adolph Hitler had already devised his plans apart from Britain and French involvement and these were finalized by his commanders on August 26th, 1939. A non-aggression pact had already been signed with the Soviets that same month and the final order to invade was given on August 31st, 1939. On September 1st, 1939, German forces crossed into Polish territory to officially begin World War 2.


Hitler's campaign was built upon technological superiority and excellent command in the first modern war. His offensives were executed under the "blitzkrieg" doctrine which involving skillful use of mechanized ground forces in concert with overwhelming air power to ensure a short campaign. Luftwaffe bombers neutralized key Polish infrastructure and fighters countered Polish fighters in turn. German armor negotiated roads and key choke points leading up to strategic Polish villages, towns and cities in their march to the capital city of Warsaw. Despite objections from Britain and France, Hitler continued his assaults and the promised military support for the Poles never came from its allies. The Poles did manage valiant defenses where possible though tactical movements by the Germans ensnared masses of Polish defenders in sweeping movements. Whatever elements were not caught in the German umbrella retreated eastwards towards the capital. On September 17th, the situation for Poland grew grim when the Soviet Union unleashed its army from the east.


Against insurmountable odds, the last Polish defenders surrendered on October 6th, ending the German-Soviet campaign against Poland. The government then existed only in exile.


The joint German-Soviet offensive ended with a near-perfect vertical division of Poland with the Soviet Union laying claim to the eastern and the Germans claiming the western half. East Prussia was now connected to German territory and the port of Danzig was under German control. The nation of Poland ceased to exist once more and this would remain as such until the end of the war in 1945. After this period, the country would fall under Soviet-influenced communist rule before seeing its independence once more in 1989 amidst the fall of the Soviet Empire.


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There are a total of (31) entries in the Timeline of the Fall of Berlin (April 16th, 1945 - May 2nd, 1945). Entries are listed below by date of occurrence ascending.


1945
Monday
April 16th

The Soviet Army begins its Berlin campaign with spectacular display of artillery, exploding targets throughout Berlin and its surrounding areas. The bombardment signals the beginning of the offensive to take the German capital.

1945
Monday
April 20th

Soviet Army groups advance against German defenses at the Oder River.

1945
Monday
April 20th

Adolf Hitler celebrates his final (56th) birthday, seemingly unaware of the fate to befall him and his Germany.

1945
Tuesday
April 21st

General Zhukov and his 1st Belorussian army break into the Berlin suburbs.

1945
Wednesday
April 22nd

Soviet leader Stalin sends his final assault orders to generals Zhukov and Koniev.

1945
Thursday
April 23rd

The Berlin suburbs gradually fall under Soviet control as fighting rages on everywhere.

1945
Friday
April 24th

German General Wenck of the 12th Army launches a futile counter-offensive against the Soviet onslaught.

1945
Friday
April 24th

The British Royal Air Force slow down the 12th Army offensive through intense bombing.

1945
Saturday
April 25th

The 1st Belorussian Front meets up with the st Ukranian Front, formally encircling Berlin.

1945
Saturday
April 25th

All access points west of the German capital are cutt off by Soviet forces.

1945
Saturday
April 25th

Over 2 million Berlin civilians hunker down for the violent fighting ahead.

1945
Saturday
April 25th

Some 30,000 German soldiers ready themselves for the bloody business of the day.

1945
Saturday
April 25th

Elements of the 5th Guards Army reach the Elbe River at Torgau and celebrate with the arriving US 1st Army.

1945
Sunday
April 26th

Twin Soviet offensives break the final defensive fronts of the Germans.

1945
Sunday
April 26th

Soviet forces advance across the Spree River.

1945
Sunday
April 26th

Soviet forces advance towards Unter den Linden.

1945
Monday
April 27th

General Wenck's 12th Army is halted by the Soviet Army.

1945
Monday
April 27th

The Soviet Army remains just 15 miles from the center of Berlin.

1945
Monday
April 27th

German soldiers set up defensive areas across a small 10 mile long front for their ultimate "last stand".

1945
Monday
April 30th

The Soviets capture the Reichstag.

1945
Monday
April 30th

German leader Adolf Hitler weds his mistress, Eva Braun, in his underground bunker under Berlin. After giving a final speech to his remaining supporters, he poisons his dog, then Braun and ultimately takes his own life. In his will, he leaves his authority to Admiral Doenitz.

1945
Monday
April 30th

The bodies of Adolph Hitler and Eva Braun are taken to the Chancellery Gardens and incinerated under previous orders from Hitler, this to avoid capture and ultimate humiliation at the hands of the progressing Soviet Army.

1945
Tuesday
May 1st

Soviet artillery opens up once again, this time in a massive barrage against the Chancellery and surrounding areas.

1945
Tuesday
May 1st

German propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels murders his wife and six children before taking his own life.

1945
Tuesday
May 1st

General Chuikov makes his way into the center of Berlin.

1945
Tuesday
May 1st

German Generaloberst Hans Krebs approaches Chuikov with the formal German surrender.

1945
Tuesday
May 1st

Berlin formally and unconditionally surrenders to the Soviet legions and Western Allies. General Jodl signs for the defeated Germans and Generals Bedell Smith and Suslaparov for the Allies.

1945
Wednesday
May 2nd

German forces across Berlin begin surrendering.

1945
Wednesday
May 2nd

The Fall of Berlin is complete - Soviet forces occupy all major sections of the German capital.

1945
Wednesday
May 2nd

The war in Europe officially comes to a close.

1945
Tuesday
May 8th

This day is formally announced as "VE Day" and celebrations break out across the world, though fighting in the Pacific against the Japanese Empire is ongoing.