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11-08-2015, 19:04

The Defeat and Surrender of Germany

By the end of the winter of 1944, Hitler's Europe had dwindled to very little. On the Eastern front, East Prussia had fallen and the Wehrmacht was left with a few bits of Poland, Hungary, and Italy and nearly all of Czechoslovakia. In the west, the outlook was as grave. Except for half of Holland and part of Alsace, German troops were defending their own borders. It was clear that the Allies were about to launch the final assault. Hitler decided to attempt a large-scale westward offensive. His army would cross the Ardennes again and heave on towards Antwerp, the centre of Allied food supplies. He hoped to win time and then to turn his main force against the Russians. At the end of December 1944, the German offensive caught the Americans off guard. Flying bombs and rockets (Vi's and V2's) rained down on Antwerp. By January, however, the German advance had been halted. Again the British and the Americans disagreed about how to proceed. Montgomery repeated his proposal that a concentrated force should cross the northern plain, while Eisenhower preferred not to take the risk and to advance only as far as the Rhine. Since the American force was by far the larger, the Americans were in a position to have their own wray. In February 1945 the Colmar pocket fell to the French First Army. The British and the Americans implemented then plan within six weeks, while Hitler repeated the classical error of ordering his troops to resist rather than putting the protection of the Rhine between themselves and the enemy. On 7 March, the Allies luckily captured a bridge intact at Remagen. The die wTas cast. The principal attack would strike across the centre of Germany. First ten thousand bombers dropped ",0,000 tons of bombs on the Ruhr, which the Allies then began to occupy. The Russians were held outside Budapest. Although the Germans continued to resist at a number of points on the Baltic coast, where the latest models of the electric submarines were under construction, elsewhere the Red Army continued its advance towards the main target - Berlin. In January it reached the middle Oder between Breslau and Kuestrin. Here it halted while pockets of German resistance were cleared away, particularly at the mouth of the Vistula. In the meantime, it made slow progress across Slovakia, and rapid progress towards Vienna. By the beginning of April 1945, although the Anglo-American army was closer to Berlin, and closer still to Prague than the Red Army, it did not try to reach Berlin first. Churchill alone discerned the political importance of this. After Roosevelt's illness and death, decisions were left to Eisenhower, who was only interested by military problems. His main worry was to link up with the Red Army without exposing either army to attack. He expected a last defensive operation from German strongholds in the Tyrol. Nazi Germany had begun to disintegrate. One after another, arms factories came to a standstill. Planes and tanks ran out of petrol. Hordes of refugees fled before the Russians. Whole cities had been reduced to rubble and death. Some of Hitler's immediate subordinates, including Himmler, deemed that it was time to surrender to the Western Allies, in the hope of splitting up the 'strange Alliance'. The Germans continued fiercely to resist the Russians, but frequently thev surrendered to the Western Allies. Until the very last moment Hitler counted on new weapons secretly being developed, including the electric submarines, rockets, jet aeroplanes, and perhaps the atomic bomb. But it was too late. Roosevelt's death did not revive the 'miracle of the house of Brandenburg.' In April German defences collapsed in every sector. In Italy, Alexander's troops reached the Po Valley. Vienna fell. The American and Russian forces linked up at Torgau on the Elbe. On 22 April Berlin was surrounded and bombarded by 25,000 heavy guns; it surrendered on 2 May. On 30 April Hitler committed suicide in his bunker 500 yards from the Russian lines. The German army surrendered unconditionally on all fronts, despite the efforts of Admiral Doenitz, Hitler's successor, to delay the defeat. On 7 May at Rheims, Jodl signed Nazi Germany's death certificate in Eisenhower's presence; Keitel in Zhukov's presence the next day at Berlin.