Battle of Berlin
The Battle of Berlin was the final major offensive of the European Theater of World War II. It was fought between Germany and the Soviet Union with the help of the Polish Army. The battle started on April 20, 1945 and ended by May 2, 1945. However, while most of the city’s defenders surrendered on May 2 some fighting still continued throughout the decimated city until May 9 when Germany finally surrendered to the Western Allies and the Soviet Union, thus ending the European Theater of the war.
Soviet leader Joseph Stalin had ordered his two leading generals, Georgy Zhukov and Ivan Konev that they must get to the German capital before the Western allies. The main reason was that Stalin did not trust or believe the Western Allies would hand over territory occupied by them after the conclusion of the war. So he made sure the offensive operation was broad and moved quickly to meet the Western Allies as far west as possible. However, the overriding and main objective was to capture Berlin
For the battle Germany managed to muster 766,750 soldiers, 1,519 AFVs(Armored Fighting Vehicle), 2,224 aircraft, 9,303 artillery pieces, also about 45,000 soldiers, which were supplemented by the police force, Hitler Youth, and 40,000 Volkssturm(People’s Militia) for the Berlin Defence Area. On the other hand the Soviet Union managed to muster 2,500,000 soldiers, along with at least 155,900 soldiers from the Polish Army, 6,250 tanks and SP guns, 7,500 aircraft, 41,600 artillery pieces. Finally for the assault on the Berlin Defence Area about 1,500,000 soldiers were mustered.
As the battle began on April the 20th which ironically was also Hitler’s birthday, The Soviet Union’s artillery of the 1st Belorussian Front began to shell Berlin and would continue non-stop until the city surrendered. Almost simultaneously General Ivan Konev’s 1st Ukrainian Front pushed in the north through the last formations of the German Army Group Centre. The German defence was for the most part led by Helmuth Weidling and consisted mostly of several badly organized, horribly equipped, and depleted Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS divisions, as well as several Hitler Youth members, and also many Volkssturm. The Soviet Army advanced quickly through the city the next few days, and reached the city center where close combat continued to rage on.
As the battle raged on, German Führer Adolf Hitler along with his long-time mistress Eva Braun married and soon after committed suicide on April 30, 1945 about two days before the battle ended. Several number of Hitler’s followers committed suicide as well, one notable example being Joseph Goebbels the Minister of Propaganda, who before killing himself first killed his six young children with the help of his wife who also committed suicide along with her husband.
What remain of the city’s defenders finally surrendered on May 2. However, fighting continued throughout the city, for the most part because the German units continued to fight westward so that they could surrender to the Western Allies rather than to the Soviets. The war in Europe finally ended on May 8 when German president Karl Dönitz finally signed the unconditional surrender of Germany also commonly called V-E Day, thus ending the European Theater of World War II.