Last Russian Winter Offensive
On January 12, 1945 the 1st Byelorussian Front (Marshal Zhukov) and the 1st Ukrainian Front (Marshal Konev) attacked on a wide front line from Warsaw to Jaslo. At the same time, north of Warsaw, Rokossowskis 2nd Byelorussian Front attacked with nine armies against the German 2nd Army.
The German troops in a strength of 569,000 men, with 8,230 guns, 700 tanks (most of the German tanks were used in the Battle of the Bulge at this time) and 1,300 aircrafts were standing against 1.5 million Russian soldiers together with 28,000 guns, 3,300 tanks and 10,000 aircrafts.
For the Red Army this was the last great effort in WW2. To increase the fighting moral, millions of leaflets had been distributed, who called the Russian soldier to kill the fascist beast in his cave and rape the Germanic woman. The death hour of the German population in the East has beaten.
Even more dramatic than in front of the Warka bridgehead was the struggle at the Pulawy bridgehead, where the LVI Panzer corps was located. Already in the morning hours, the Russian 33rd Army did a large break through the 214th Infantry Division, which resulted in the capturing of Ciepielov, approx. 9 miles west of the front line. A counter-attack with improvised tactical reserves under the personal leadership of the division commander was unsuccessful. The arriving of the battle group of the 10th Panzer Grenadier Division of the General Command of the LVI Panzer Corps from 10.00 clock reached the reconquest of a dominant position in Ciepielov. But after this, the battle group has been increasingly pushed into the defense and split into several groups, so that they could only done a fighting retreat in the direction of Radom.
Together with the Russian 69th Army, the 11th Panzer Corps was attacking from 13.00 hours, which brought through the seam between the 17th and 214th Infantry Division and captured the traffic junction at Zwoleii. This meant, that the rear positions of the LVI Panzer Corps were destroyed. Towards the evening, the advancing elements of the Russian 11th Panzer Corps reached the city of Radom. This not only resulted in the breakthrough into the German hinterland, but also meant the imminent inclusion of the still fighting 17th Infantry Division and 45th Volksgrenadier (People’s Grenadier) division at the river Vistula.
It was one of the strangest and cruelest battles of the war, in which particular the German troops fought desperately. However, already after the first day of the offensive, the 4th Panzer Army was completely shattered. Most of the 214th Infantry Division was destroyed in a trapped pocket near Starachowice.
After the strongest and with the highest losses, but also the fastest advances of WW2, Zhukov reached the river Oder, only 50 miles from Berlin, on 31 January 1945.
Those members of the 214th Infantry Division who escaped from the battle were formed in a battalion in Silesia, to rebuild the division.
The grandfather of the author was among with this lucky soldiers, but lost his camera and the last WW2 pictures. Since he was only be able to bring his photos during holiday trips to home (of course, photography was not always allowed) the last pictures were lost, unfortunately.
But instead will follow a page with some interesting official original documents from Nazi Germany and from the captivity at Warsaw, Poland.
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