East Prussian Operation (1945)

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Battle for East Prussia
Eastern front in early 1945
Eastern front in early 1945
date January 13 to April 25, 1945
place East Prussia
output Soviet victory
Parties to the conflict

German Reich NSGerman Reich (Nazi era) German Empire

Soviet Union 1923Soviet Union Soviet Union


Georg-Hans Reinhardt
Erhard Raus
Friedrich Hoßbach
Friedrich-Wilhelm Müller
Dietrich von Saucken

Alexander Wassilewski
Hovhannes Baghramjan
Iwan Tschernjachowski
Konstantin Rokossowski

Troop strength
Army Group Middle
3rd Panzer Army
4th Army
(41 divisions and 6 brigades)
580,000 men (Wehrmacht)
200,000 men (Volkssturm)
8,200 guns
700 tanks
700 aircraft
2nd Belarusian Front
3rd Belarusian Front
43rd Army
1st Baltic Front
1,670,000 soldiers
25,000 guns,
3,000 tanks,
3,000 aircraft

min. 25 divisions, 220,000 prisoners

584,774 losses, of
which 126,464 dead, 3,525 tanks and self-propelled guns and 1,450 aircraft

The Battle of East Prussia took place from January 13 to April 25, 1945 and was the bloodiest and longest battle of the year. During the East Prussian Operation ( Russian Восточно-Прусская операция ) the Red Army carried out six sub-operations: the Insterburg –Königsberger, Mlawa - Elbinger , Heilsberger , Braunsberger , Samlander and the Königsberg operation.


In the summer of 1944, the Soviet troops succeeded in breaking up Army Group Center , and the Red Army advanced almost unstoppably to the eastern border of the German Reich . The province of East Prussia, which lies far to the east, first felt the horrors of the war. The first major attack by the Soviet 11th Guard Army (General Galitzki ) broke out on October 16, 1944 during the Gumbinnen-Goldaper operation and was able to break through to the Angerapp in the area south of Gumbinnen . The break-ins at the front of the XXVI. and XXVII. Army corps could by counter-attacks of the XXXIX. Panzer Corps to be cordoned off until the end of October. Nevertheless, the Soviets had encompassed the East Prussian border between Memel and Rominter Heide to a width of about 130 kilometers and took German soil in the Schirwindt - Eydtkau - Trakehnen - Rominten area up to 40 kilometers into their hands. At the end of October, the front stabilized itself on the line Augustow - Goldap - Großwaltersdorf - Grünweiden - Schloßberg , along the Memel via Tilsit to the Curonian Lagoon . The massacre of Nemmersdorf by Soviet troops served Nazi propaganda to encourage the frightened population to persevere.

On January 12, 1945, the Vistula-Oder operation began the major Soviet offensive against Army Group A, which was holding the Vistula line between Warsaw and Sandomierz . According to the correct assessment of the Stawka , the German eastern front was stripped of almost all reserves because of the Ardennes offensive on the western front . Even before the operational breakthrough in southern Poland was achieved, it was decided to attack the northern front armies in East Prussia at the same time, which was to take place a day later. The eastern front between the Baltic Sea and the Carpathian Mountains was under attack. The major battle, which was now extended to half of the Eastern Front, completely exceeded the military resources of the Wehrmacht . The Volksgrenadier divisions that had been newly established since the winter of 1944 were not a replacement for the divisions that had been broken up by the Red Army the previous year.

Troop strength

East Prussia and parts of northern Poland were defended by the 3rd Panzer Army under Erhard Raus and the 4th Army under Friedrich Hoßbach (from January 30th under Friedrich-Wilhelm Müller ) in the northern section of the German Army Group Center under Georg-Hans Reinhardt . They had 580,000 soldiers and 200,000 members of the Volkssturm , 8,200 artillery pieces, 700 tanks and 700 aircraft (41 divisions and 6 brigades). Opposite them were the 2nd Belarusian Front under Konstantin Rokossowski , the 3rd Belarusian Front under Ivan Chernyachovsky (from February 20 under Alexander Vasilevsky ) and the 43rd Army of the 1st Baltic Front under Hovhannes Baghramjan with a total strength of 1.67 million Soldiers, 25,000 guns, 3,000 tanks and 3,000 airplanes.


Tilsit-Insterburger operation

The fighting area in East Prussia

On January 13, the attack of the 3rd Belarusian Front, initiated by strong artillery fire, began, which was extended north of the Memel by the southern wing of the 1st Baltic Front . Chernyakhovsky's intention was initially to break through the German defensive position south between Schloßberg and Ebenrode and to advance to Konigsberg via Insterburg . The Soviet 43rd Army under General Beloborodow , standing between Ruß and Schmalleningken , attacked on a broad front from the northern bank of the frozen Memel to the south. Opposite, the IX defended on the German side . Army corps under General Wuthmann with a security division deployed on the lagoon and three newly established Volksgrenadier divisions . The 39th Soviet Army under Lieutenant General Ljudnikow had deployed to the left of the 43rd Army between Schillfelde and Trappen and was attacking Haselberg in the direction of the Inster .

The main thrust was against the positions of the German XXVI. Army corps directed under General der Infantry Matzky . Despite strong tank support , the Soviet 28th Army (General AA Lutschinski ) encountered successful defenses in its attack on Gumbinnen . It was not until the evening of January 16 that the Red Army soldiers were able to break through the deeply tiered defense system. Schloßberg was surrounded by the Soviet 5th Army (General NI Krylow ) and had to be given up by the East Prussian 1st Infantry Division . In order not to be cut off, the XXVI. Army Corps retreat towards Tilsit on the night of January 17th . This withdrawal movement made it possible for the 39th Soviet Army to pursue the Scheschuppe and take Haselberg. In addition, the 1st Panzer Corps under General Butkow , which was in reserve near Eydtkau, was introduced into the gap in the front. It crossed the Inster on January 17th and formed a bridgehead . The 5th Panzer Division kept the Reichsstrasse to Taplacken open. The 69th Infantry Division had to fight back via Tapiau and arrived in Koenigsberg on January 27th. The division commander Lieutenant General Rein was killed on January 16, 1945 in retreat fighting around Hohensalzburg .

The Soviet 11th Guard Army only achieved its operational breakthrough on January 18 in the area south of Gumbinnen. The German 4th Army on the left wing (XXVI. Army Corps) on the Inster was already outflanked by the 39th Army. General Hoßbach had to give up the still intact front (VI. AK and XXXXI. Pz.K.) between Goldap and the Narew as quickly as possible, after the front initially held by the 2nd Army had collapsed. On January 20th, the Soviet 43rd Army was able to penetrate Tilsit . On the same day, tanks of the 11th Guard Army broke through between Kreuzingen and Aulenbach , the Soviets had broken into the German line before Norkitten and Taplacken. The German withdrawal from the Nordenbug-Pentlack position became necessary. On January 21, Insterburg fell into the hands of the 36th Guards Rifle Corps under Major General Koschewoi . In between, the worn out remnants of the defeated German 3rd Panzer Army tried to get behind Pregel and Deine and to get to Konigsberg. The army high command that had become vacant was withdrawn from the sea and later took over command on the northern Oder front.

At the same time, Baghramjan's 1st Baltic Front in western Courland ended the siege of the port city of Memel . The still against the Soviet 51st Army in the bridgehead Memel holding XXVIII. Army Corps (58th and 95th Infantry Divisions) under General Gollnick was deployed over the Fresh Spit to Samland on January 22nd .

Mlawa-Elbingen operation

The German XXVII. Army Corps maintained contact with the left wing of the 9th Army across from the Serok bridgehead of the Soviet 65th Army . Between Narew and Vistula, the 542nd People's Grenadier Division covered the area against the Soviet 47th Army in the Modlin area , while the 252nd and 35th Infantry Divisions were deployed to the north of it . Because of the bad weather, the southern attack by the 2nd Belarusian Front from the Narew bridgeheads of Serok ( 65th and 70th Army ) and Różan (48th Army) had to be postponed twice and could not begin until January 14th. The Mlawa-Elbingen operation, led by Rokossowski's troops, initially fell far short of expectations. The resistance of the German 2nd Army was stronger than expected at the beginning and only allowed the Soviets to proceed from a depth of 7-8 kilometers on the first day of the attack. Only when Rokossowski decided to introduce the 2nd shock army under General Fedjuninsky into the battle did the breakthrough in a north-westerly direction towards Neidenburg succeed . On January 17 and 18, Modlin , Płońsk and Płock fell into Soviet hands. The XX. and XXIII. Army Corps of the 2nd Army evacuated Ciechanow and Przasnysz on January 17th and also gave up Mława and the army headquarters in Proskowo on January 18th . As a result, the right wing ( LV. Army Corps ) of the 4th Army still holding in the area north of Lomscha and the Bober in the north became untenable. The bulk of the 2nd Army (XXIII. And XXVII. Army Corps) was able to evade the threatening encirclement in the Pultusk area by pulling General Command VII Panzer Corps from the reserve and moving north of the Vistula towards Graudenz withdrew to later take over the defense in West Prussia. Rokossowski's front carried out the planned turn to the north on January 20th and advanced via Allenstein to the Frischen Haff . On January 21, Osterode and Hohenstein fell into the hands of the Soviets. The Tannenberg memorial was blown up by pioneers of the 299th Infantry Division and the remains of Hindenburg and his wife were transported across the Baltic Sea to Stettin .

On the evening of January 23, the advance guard of the 5th Guards Armored Army broke into the city of Elbing , from January 26th the Baltic Sea was reached and the 4th Army's retreat to the west was cut off. Of the larger cities in East and West Prussia, only Königsberg, Elbing, Marienburg , Graudenz and Thorn were in German hands at the end of January . The thin front of the 2nd Army was reinforced by the 31st Volksgrenadier , 32nd and 227th Infantry Divisions brought up from the Courland Basin . The 4th Panzer Division under General Betzel became the mainstay of the defensive battles on the threatened southern front of the 2nd Army. After the land connection to Stettin was lost , only the ports of Danzig and Gotenhafen were available to this group for supplies , where the VII Panzer Corps under General von Kessel took over. On January 31, the Thorn Group (31st and 73rd Infantry Divisions), which had been cut off from Soviet troops, began to break out in the direction of Schwetz in order to reunite with the bulk of the 2nd Army on the Vistula. Thorn fell into Soviet hands on February 1, and the remnants of the XXVII succeeded on February 3. Army Corps to reach the Vistula.

By February 8, the 2nd Belarusian Front had rearranged the bulk of its armies for the conquest of East Pomerania ; after the start of the East Pomeranian operation, it was reinforced by the 19th Army. The German 2nd Army ( XXIII. And XXVII. Army Corps ) tried to build up a new front between the Vistula, Stolp and Preussisch Friedland .

Consequences for the civilian population

Embarkation of refugees and soldiers

The consequences of the Soviet breakthrough turned into a catastrophe for the residents of East Prussia. Due to the advance of the Red Army from the area north of Warsaw to Elbing and the Baltic Sea , East Prussia was cut off from the German Reich at the end of January 1945 . But it was not until January 21 that the evacuation order was issued to the population. People tried to make their way west in treks or to reach the Baltic ports in order to travel west on ships of the navy . For those who were overtaken or run over by the Red Army, in most cases this meant abducted, raped or killed.

It is estimated that of the 2.4 million residents of East Prussia at the end of the war, around 300,000 perished in miserable conditions while fleeing. Among the people who died in the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff (January 30), the General von Steuben (February 10) and the Goya (April 16) were many refugees from East Prussia, several thousand per ship. At the beginning of April there were still around 400,000 civilians in the last regions held by the Wehrmacht, most of them in Pillau . After Königsberg's surrender on April 9th, the transports were essentially just a shuttle service to Hela , not to the safe west. With the capture of Samland by the Red Army on April 25, the transports from Pillau came to an end.

General retreat to Königsberg

On January 25 was against the express orders of Hitler Lötzen and the Masurian lakes position abandoned the north subsequent Angerapp -line was already untenable. On the same day, Zinten was lost in the area of ​​the 2nd Parachute Panzer Division "Hermann Göring" . The withdrawal of the 4th Army, ordered against the Führer order, cost Colonel-General Reinhardt and General Hoßbach the command. Hitler had appointed Colonel-General Rendulic as the new Commander-in-Chief of the Army Group . On January 26th, Soviet troops penetrated south of Tolkemit to the Baltic Sea , which began an irregular flight of the population from the Königsberg area. By January 29, the troops of the 3rd Byelorussian Front had reached Groß Heydekrug in the Fresh Lagoon west of Koenigsberg. Thus initially three boilers were created, with up to 30 divisions: at Heiligenbeil (4th Army) as well as around Königsberg and in Samland (Gollnick Corps). The last two were able to reunite on February 19 and thus enable supplies from or evacuation from Königsberg to Pillau . The Metgethen massacre was discovered in the recaptured area .

On January 25, Hitler ordered the regrouping of the now isolated German troops in the northern area of ​​the Eastern Front: the remnants of Army Group Center in East Prussia were renamed Army Group North , the former Army Group North , which was enclosed in the Kurland pocket , became Army Group Kurland and in East Pomerania became Army Group Vistula formed. At the same time, several commanders were exchanged and Königsberg was declared a fortress .

Chernyachovsky was fatally wounded in an attack on the Heiligenbeil cauldron on February 18 at Mehlsack . His successor as commander of the 3rd Belarusian Front was Alexander Vasilevsky , who had previously worked in the General Staff and who also had the 1st Baltic Front renamed "Samland Group" was assumed. Wassilewski did not continue the offensive immediately, but expected reinforcements, while Rokossovsky's 2nd Belarusian Front fought the battle for East Pomerania .

The end in the Heiligenbeiler Kessel and in Samland

The coast of East Prussia between Elbing and Königsberg

The final defeat of the troops encircled in East Prussia began on March 13, 1945 with the attack by the 3rd Belarusian Front on the Heiligenbeiler Kessel (Braunsberg attack operation, March 13 to April 25). The Soviets deployed 7 armies to smash around 16 enclosed German divisions: on the left against Braunsberg , the 48th Army attacked VI. Army Corps , between Breitlinde and Zinten the 3rd, 50th and 31st Army were compared to the XX. Army Corps concentrated. Following on the right, the XXXXI. Opposite the Panzer Corps, the 28th Army extended the boiler front up to the level of Kreuzburg . Then heading northwards, the 5th Army under General Krylow, starting between Kobbelbude and Altenberg , tried to cut off the land connection to Königsberg. The troops of the 48th Army were able to conquer Braunsberg on March 20, the basin was narrowed further, but the connection with Königsberg still maintained by the Panzer Grenadier Division Greater Germany was already cut off by the Soviet 5th Army at Heide-Maulen.

At the end of March, the remains of the 4th Army and many refugees were huddled together on the narrow coastal spur between Balga and Kahlholz and in the direct range of fire from Soviet artillery. General Müller had already had himself transferred to Pillau, but demanded that the remaining crew persevere in order to be able to evacuate as many refugees as possible by sea. At the same time in West Prussia, Gotenhafen and Danzig were lost to the 2nd Belarusian Front in the area of ​​the 2nd Army .

On April 6, the battle of Königsberg began, and the 39th Soviet Army managed to interrupt the Königsberg-Pillau railway line again. The 39th Army penetrated the city, which had been declared a fortress, where Gauleiter Erich Koch , who had deposed himself in time, had called for fanatical resistance. After two days of heavy fighting, the town's garrison was cut off from the Samland Army Division (General Gollnick) , which was to the north and had been pushed away by the 43rd Army . The city commandant General Lasch applied to AOK 4 to deploy the 5th Panzer Division from the west for relief. General Friedrich-Wilhelm Müller , the commander in chief of the 4th Army, forbade the occupation to break out to the west, whereby the civilian population was to be taken along. On April 8, the trapped occupation refused the city's surrender offered by the Soviet Union. After heavy fire, the Soviet 11th Guards, 39th and 48th Armies, supported by 1,500 aircraft, attacked the city center on April 9, forcing the garrison to surrender. 42,000 German soldiers had died and another 92,000 were taken prisoner by the Soviets . The freed forces of the 2nd Belarusian Front were transferred west to the northern Oder front for the Berlin operation .

The German 2nd Army under its new Commander in Chief General von Saucken had already been renamed the East Prussian Army on April 7th and was responsible for the defense of the remaining coastal strips in West and East Prussia after the destruction of the 4th Army until the end of the war . The remaining Soviet forces were able to wipe out the remains of the Samland Army Detachment (remains IX. And XXVI. AK) by April 25. Pillau also fell into Soviet hands on April 25th, and the fight for the fresh spit continued until the end of the war.

Losses and consequences

The Red Army conquered East Prussia, reportedly destroyed 25 German divisions completely (another 12 lost 50 to 70 percent of their strength) and took 220,000 German soldiers prisoner. Large amounts of military equipment, around 5,000 guns, 400 tanks and 300 aircraft were captured or destroyed. According to Soviet data, the Red Army lost 584,774 soldiers (including 126,464 dead), 3,525 tanks and self-propelled guns and 1,450 aircraft.

See also


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. a b c David M. Glantz , Jonathan House: When Titans Clashed. University of Kansas Press, Lawrence 1995, p. 300.
  2. soldat.ru ( Memento from September 27, 2003 in the Internet Archive )
  3. ^ Steven H. Newton: Panzer Operations: The Eastern Front Memoir of General Raus 1941-1945. Da Capo Press, Cambridge 2003, pp. 311 and 312
  4. WI Festjkow, KA Kalashnikov: Красная Армия в победах и поражениях 1941–1945. Moskwa 2003, pp. 150-160.
  5. The Great Ploetz. Freiburg i. B. 2008.
  6. ^ "Eviction order!" , Märkische Kreiszeitung from January 20, 2015, my parents u. Grandparents only on January 25th - private records
  7. The Great Ploetz. Freiburg i. B. 2008, p. 839.
  8. East Prussian Operation 1945 ( Memento from April 30, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) in Russian civilization (Russian)