Chronology – January to June 1945:

12th January Red Army winter offensive begins. Konev’s 1st Ukrainian Front attacks on Vistula.
13th January General Chernyakhovsky’s 3rd Belorussian Front attacks East Prussia.
14th January Marshal Rokossovsky’s 2ndBelorussian Front attacks East Prussia. Zhukov’s 1st Belorussian Front attacks from Vistula.
16th January Hitler returns to Berlin.
17th January Ninth Army abandons Warsaw.
18th January The Polish ‘Provisional Government’ from Lublin moves to Warsaw.
23rd January Erwin Planck, the son of Max Planck, executed.
24th January Himmler appointed commander in chief  Army Group Vistula.
27th January Russians liberate Auschwitz.
30th January ‘Der Tag der Machtergreifung’. Nazi anniversary of taking power.
31st January Zhukov’s troops reach the Oder less than sixty miles from Berlin.
1st February Berlin declared a Festung.
3rd February Devastating Allied air raid on Berlin.
4th February Yalta Conference begins. Lasts until 11 February.
11th February Red Army captures Budapest.
13th-14th February Bombing of Dresden. 40,000 to 60,000 killed.
15th February Breslau surrounded by 1st Ukrainian Front.
19th February Himmler makes first contact with Count Bernadotte.
22nd February German counter-attack near Budapest.
23rd February ‘Fortress’ Posen falls to 8th Guards Army. US Ninth Army attacks north-east from Ruhr pocket.
24th February 1st and 2nd Belorussian Fronts attack in Pomerania. German Second Army cut off.
26th February Himmler’s decree on summary executions.
3rd March Canadian First Army reaches Xanten. US Third Army takes Trier. Finland declares war on Germany.
6th March German offensive in Hungary.
7th March Allies cross the Rhine at Remagen.
8th March Zhukov summoned to Moscow by Stalin. SS Obergruppenführer Wolf in secret talks with Allies over North Italy.
12th March Heldengedenktag.
15th March Hitler orders clearance of Oder bridgeheads.
16th March Soviet counter-attack in Hungary.
19th March Hitler’s ‘Nero’ or ‘Verbrannte Erde’-Befehl.
21st March Heinrici appointed commander in chief Army Group Vistula.
22nd March Failed attempt by Ninth Army to smash Soviet bridgehead near Küstrin.
23rd March 2nd Belorussian Front attack on Second Army in Danzig area.
26th March US First Army (Hodges) smashes Fifteenth Army in Westerwald.
28th March Fall of Danzig.
29th March US Third Army takes Frankfurt-am-Main.
30th March Fall of Danzig  [Good Friday]
1st April [Easter] Stavkameeting in Moscow with Stalin, Zhukov and Konev. US First and Ninth Armies join near Lippstadt. Ruhr pocket sealed.
4th April French First Army occupies Karlsruhe.
7th April Operation Werwolf. Luftwaffe jets attack US bombers.
9th April Red Army takes Königsberg after a 59 day siege. General Lasch sentenced to death by Hitler and his family to Sippenhaft reprisals. Admiral Canaris and Generalmajor Oster executed in Flossenburg and Ewald von Kleist-Schmenzin executed. RAF night raid on Kiel sinks Admiral Scheer.
10th April An RAF-USAAF raid on Oranienburg kills 250 prisoners in Sachsenhausen. US Ninth Army takes Essen and Hannover.
11th April Buchenwald and Nordhausen concentration camps liberated.
12th April Death of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Order signed by Himmler, Bormann and Keitel on defending all German towns to the very last.
13th April Friday, Goebbels tells Hitler of death of Roosevelt. Soviet capture of Vienna. US tanks reach the Elbe near Wittenburg and Magdeburg.
14th April Himmler’s order that no prisoner should be left alive when evacuating concentration camps. Ruhr pocket crushed by US First and Ninth Armies. British air raid on Potsdam killes 7,000 people.
15th April Wenck’s Army attacks US bridgeheads on east bank of Elbe. British liberate Belsen.
16th April Soviet offensive on the Oder and Neisse fronts begins.
18th April US Ninth Army takes Magdeburg. US troops occupy Halle and Leipzig. Last British air raid on Berlin.
19th April Soviet tanks reach Strausberg. British Second Army reaches Elbe at Lauenburg.
20th April Hitler’s 56th birthday. 2nd Belorussian Front offensive across the lower Oder. 3rd Guards Tank Army approaches southern flank of Berlin. Soviet artillery fires on Berlin for first time.
21st April Field Marshal Model commits suicide. Signature of agreement between USSR and the puppet Polish Communist government. Hitler orders SS General Felix Steiner to attack towards Berlin.Death march of 30,000 prisoners from Sachsenhausen towards Mecklenburg. 6,000 are killed or die on the way. In Lederwarenfabrik Blankenburg Army Group Red Army soldiers discover in a leather factory huge quantities of shoes from men women and children killed in the main extermination camps.Himmler meets the representative of the World Jewish Congress Masur near Berlin. Frees a thousand Jewish women.
22nd April Hitler’s decision to stay in Berlin.
23rd April Hitler deprives Goering of all rank and responsibility.British Second Army reaches outskirts of Hamburg.During night of 23-24, Gestapo murder all except seven prisoners in the Prinz-Albrechtstrasse cellars.
24th April German Ninth Army surrounded west of Frankfurt.Keitel and Jodl move OKW headquarters to Rheinsberg.Russians reach transmitter broadcasting Werwolf propaganda at Nauen 20 miles west of Berlin.Execution in Flossenburg by SS of Guttenberg, part of Canaris network.
24th-25th April Himmler meets Count Bernadotte in Lübeck.
25th April Encirclement of Berlin completed.Elements from US First Army and 5th Guards Army meet at Torgau.
26th April Twelfth Army launches attack towards Potsdam. Two Ju 52s land in Berlin with ammunition.2nd Belorussian Front takes Stettin.
27th-28th April Putsch attempt in Munich, the so-called ‘Fasanenjagd’.
28th April Twelfth Army attacks towards Potsdam.Soviet breakthrough to Prenzlau. General Heinrici relieved of his command by Keitel.US Seventh Army takes Augsburg.
29th April Mussolini executed.General Student appointed commander in chief Army Group Vistula.Capitulation of Army Group C signed in Caserta. Hitler marries Eva Braun and prepares his political testament.Kremlin announces provisional government of Austria without consulting the western allies.
30th April Ritter von Greim and Hanna Reitsch fly out of Berlin.Hitler and Eva Braun commit suicide at around 3.30 p.m.Ulbricht group advance party arrives from Moscow. US Army occupies Munich.Ravensbruck concentration camp liberated.
1st May Dönitz radio broadcast, having received signal from Bormann on Hitler’s death.Goebbels and wife commit suicide after killing their children.
2nd May Weidling’s surrender in Berlin.British 6th Airborne Division meets up with Soviet 70th Army near Wismar.
2nd-3rd May Last RAF raid on Germany on Kiel harbour.
3rd May British enter Hamburg.
4th May German forces in Holland, NW Germany and Denmark surrender to Field Marshal Montgomery on Luneberg Heath.
5th-9th May German evacuation by warship continue from Hela.
6th May Soviet offensive against Army Group Centre.Breslau surrenders. Eisenhower orders US Third Army  to halt its advance into Czechoslovakia.
7th May Rheims signature by Jodl of surrender document.US Ninth Army abandons its bridgehead on the east bank of the Elbe.
8th May VE-Day in western Europe and United States. Keitel, Stumpff and Admiral von Friedeburg fly to Berlin to surrender to Marshal Zhukov.
9th May Signature of surrender at Karlshorst signature by Keitel, Stumpff and Admiral von Friedeburg.
10th May Surrender of German Sixteenth and Eighteenth Armies in Courland.Capture of Prague by Third Guards Tank Army.
13th May Arrest of Field Marshal Keitel.
14th May Surrender of last forces in East Prussia under General von Saucken.
23rd May Himmler’s suicide after capture by the British.
17th July Potsdam conference begins. Lasts until 2 August.

 

Glossary:

BdM Bund deutscher Mädel, League of German Girls, female equivalent of Hitler Youth.

Fritz Russian name for a German soldier. The plural was used for Germans in general.

frontovik Red Army soldier with frontline experience.

Ivan (or Iwan in German), an ordinary Soviet soldier. Term used by Red Army as well as Germans.

Jabo Jagdbomber, or fighter bomber.

SBZ Sowjetische Besatzungszone, or Soviet occupation zone

Kessel (German for a cauldron) a group of forces encircled by the enemy.

Landser an ordinary German soldier with front-line experience. The equivalent of the Red Army frontovik.

NKVD Soviet secret police under control of Beria. Military NKVD units – NKVD rifle divisions made up mostly of NKVD frontier guards regiments – were attached to each Soviet Front command. The NKVD and SMERSH chief with each Front was answerable only to Beria and Stalin, not to the military chain of command.

OKH Oberkommando des Heeres, in theory the supreme headquarters of the German army, but in the later stages of the war its most important role was operational command of the Eastern Front.

OKW Oberkommando der Wehrmacht, the supreme headquarters of all the armed forces, Army, Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine, controlled directly by Hitler through Field Marshal Keitel and General Jodl. It controlled operations on all fronts except for the Eastern Front.

political department a political officer (politruk) was responsible for the political education of all soldiers. The political department of each Soviet army and Front came under the Main Political Administration of the Red Army (GlavPURRKA).

S-Bahn city and suburban railway, mostly on the surface, but some of it underground.

SBZ Sowjetische Besatzungszone, the post-Potsdam Soviet zone of occupation

SMAD Sowjetische Militäradminstration in Deutschland, the Soviet military administration of Germany, based at Karlshorst.

7th Department an organization at each Soviet army headquarters whose main task was to demoralize the enemy. German Communists worked under Soviet officers, and also many German prisoners of war who had undergone ‘anti-fascist’ training in Soviet camps. They were known by the Germans as ‘Seydlitz troops’ after General von Seydlitz Kurzbach, who had surrendered at Stalingrad and helped form the so-called National Committee for a Free Germany, which was completely under NKVD control.

SHAEF Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force Europe.

shtraf company or battalion, the Soviet copy of German Straf (penal) units. Disgraced officers, deserters and defaulters were condemned to these penal units, where they were in theory offered the chance to redeem ‘their guilt with their blood’. This meant that they were used for the almost suicidal tasks, such as advancing first through a minefield. Straf units always had an escort ready to shoot any members who disobeyed orders.

SMERSH, the acronym for smert shpionam (death to spies), a name allegedly chosen by Stalin himself for the counter-intelligence organization of the NKVD attached to Red Army units and formations. Until April 1943, when Viktor Abakumov became its chief, it had been known as the ‘special department’ of the NKVD.

Stavka the Soviet supreme headquarters of the armed forces, directly under Stalin’s control. The chief of staff in 1945 was General Antonov.

U-Bahn underground railway.

Verkhovny commander-in-chief, the term which Zhukov and other senior commanders used to refer to Stalin.

 

Military Organization:

Military Organization Army Group and Front A German ‘Army Group’ or a Red Army ‘Front’ represented a collection of armies under a single commander-in-chief. Depending on circumstances, strengths could vary enormously – anything from 250,000 to over a million men.

Army  Each German army, usually varying in strength between 40,000 and over 100,000 men, has its name written in full in the text: e.g. Ninth Army or Third Panzer Army. Soviet armies, generally smaller, are written thus: 47th Army or 2nd Guards Tank Army. Most armies usually consisted of two or three corps. A Soviet tank army had in theory 620 tanks and 188 self-propelled assault guns.

Corps  A corps consisted of several divisions, usually between two and four. A Soviet tank corps, however, consisted of three tank brigades of sixty-five tanks each and was closer in size to a full-strength German panzer division.

Division Divisions varied greatly in size. A Soviet Rifle Division in theory should have mustered 11,780 men, but most had between 3,000 and 7,000 men. German Infantry Divisions were often even more understrength by 1945.

Brigade  This formation, between a regiment and a division, was used more by the US Army and the British than by the Germans and Red Army, both of which had at least two or three regiments to a division. The Red Army, however, had three tank brigades to each tank corps.

Regiment  This consisted of at least two or three battalions, with anything up to 700 men each, but often much less.

Battalion Each battalion consisted of at least three rifle companies – each one theoretically around eighty men strong – as well as support companies, with machine guns, mortars or anti-tank guns, and then transport and supply companies.

 

Military Rank Equivalents:

British Army Wehrmacht Waffen-SS
Private Grenadier SS-Mann
Lance Corporal Gefreiter Sturmmann
Corporal Obergefreiter Rottenführer
Sergeant Unterfeldwebel Unterscharführer
Colour or Staff Sergeant Feldwebel Scharführer
Company Sergeant Major Kompanie Feldwebel Hauptscharführer
Regimental Sergeant Major Stabsfeldwebel Sturmscharführer
Second Lieutenant Leutnant Untersturmführer
Lieutenant Oberleutnant Obersturmführer
Captain Hauptmann Hauptsturmführer
Major Major Sturmbannführer
Lieutenant Colonel Oberstleutnant Obersturmbannführer
Colonel/Brigadier Oberst Standartenführer
Brigadier/Major General Generalmajor Brigadeführer
Major General Generalleutnant Gruppenführer
Lieutenant General General der Infanterie etc. Obergruppenführer
General Generaloberst Oberstgruppenführer
Field Marshal General Feldmarschall Reichsführer SS