The ruins of the Reichstag satisfied
Sightseeing historical tour of the city of Berlin, dedicated to the 70th anniversary of the Victory.
The storming of Berlin April 21 - May 2, 1945 refers to unique events in the world history of wars.
It was a battle for a very large city with a lot of solid stone buildings.
Air defense tower near the zoo. Large ground concrete bunkers, armed with air defense artillery, used by the Luftwaffe during the Second World War to concentrate large-caliber anti-aircraft gun groups in order to protect strategically important cities from aerial bombardment of the anti-Hitler coalition. They were also used to coordinate air defense and served as bomb shelters.
"The tower turned out to be a tough nut. Shelling with its 152-mm artillery was completely inconclusive. Then 105 concrete-piercing shells of 203 mm caliber were fired directly at the flakturm. As a result, the corner of the tower was destroyed, but it continued to live until the garrison surrendered. Until the last moment, "Weidling's command post was located there. Our troops went around the air defense towers in Gumbolthayn and Fridrishayn, and until surrender these structures remained on the German-controlled territory of the city." Alexey Isaev is a historian. In the foreground, the destroyed IS-2!
Tempelhof Airport. Marshal Chuykov: “An hour before the start of the artillery bombardment for taking Tempelhof airfield, the denominator of the 220th Guards Rifle Regiment of the 79th Guards Rifle Division, Sergeant Nikolai Masalov brought the banner of the regiment to the Landver Canal. ... The path to the center of Tiergarten from the south was blocked with deep concrete The bridges and the approaches to it are densely mined and densely covered by machine gun fire ... Fifty minutes remained before the attack of the guards. There was silence, like before a storm - alarming, intense. And suddenly, in this silence, broken only the sound of a child’s cry was heard with a crash of fires. As if from somewhere out of the ground, the child’s voice was muffled and invitingly crying, he repeated one word that everyone understood: "Mutter, mutter ..." "It seems that this is on the other side of the channel," said to his comrades Masalov, he approached the commander: “Allow me to save the child, I know where he is.” It was dangerous to crawl to the Brokeback Bridge. The area in front of the bridge was shot by machine guns and automatic cannons, not to mention mines and landmines hidden underground. Sergeant Masalov crawled forward, clinging to the asphalt, sometimes hiding in shallow craters from shells and mines. ... So he crossed the embankment and took refuge behind the ledge of the concrete wall of the canal. And then again I heard a child. He called his mother plaintively, persistently. He seemed to rush Masalov. Then the guardsman rose to his full height - tall, powerful. Combat orders shone on his chest. Neither bullets nor fragments will stop this ...
Masalov spread over the channel barrier ... A few more minutes passed. For a moment, the enemy machine guns fell silent. Holding their breath, the guards waited for the voice of the child, but it was quiet. They waited five, ten minutes ... Was Masalov risking it in vain? .. Several guardsmen, without saying a word, prepared for the throw. And at that time everyone heard Masalov’s voice: “Attention! I am with a child. Cover me with fire. Machine gun on the right, on the balcony of the house with columns. Plug his throat! ... ”Then the artillery bombardment began. Thousands of shells and thousands of mines seemed to cover the exit of the Soviet soldier from the death zone with a three-year-old German girl in her arms. Her mother probably tried to escape from Tiergarten, saving her daughter, she took refuge under the bridge and died there. Passing the girl over to the orderlies, Sergeant Masalov again stood at the banner of the regiment, ready to throw forward. "
The river Spree, with its high stone banks, crosses Berlin from its south-eastern outskirts to the north-western and passes through the city center. In the city, Spree had to force both the troops advancing from the north and the troops advancing from the east. Colonel-General Berzarin was the first to approach the Spree in Berlin. In the photo: in front of the Reichstag, the foundation pit of the unfinished line of the Berlin metro was excavated.
One of the "finds" of the Germans in the defense of their capital was the tank company "Berlin", assembled from tanks not capable of independent movement. They were dug at the intersections of streets and used as fixed firing points in the west and east of the city. Such a pillbox could connect with the basements of neighboring houses. The crew consisted of a gunner, loader and commander. Altogether, the Berlin company included 10 Panther tanks and 12 Pz tanks. IV.
Technique in the battles for Berlin: Storming Berlin
Even the struggle for Stalingrad is inferior to the battles for Berlin in the main quantitative and qualitative indicators: the number of troops involved in the battles, the number of military equipment involved, as well as the size of the city and the nature of its development.
To some extent, with the assault on Berlin, we compare the assault on Budapest in January-February and Koenigsberg in April 1945. The battles of our time, for example the battles for Beirut in 1982, remain a pale shadow of the grandiose battles of the Second World War.
The Germans had 2.5 months to prepare Berlin for defense, during which the front stood on the Oder, 70 km from the city. This training was by no means improvised. The Germans developed a whole system of turning their own and foreign cities into “festoons” - fortresses. This is the strategy that Hitler followed in the second half of the war. Cities-"fortresses" were to defend themselves in isolation, supplied by air. Their goal is to retain road junctions and other important points.
The Berlin fortifications of April-May 1945 are quite typical of the German "festoons" - massive barricades, as well as residential and administrative buildings prepared for defense. Barricades in Germany were built on an industrial level and had nothing to do with the piles of trash that block the streets during the period of revolutionary unrest. Berlin, as a rule, had 2? 2.5 m in height and 2? 2.2 m in thickness. They were built of wood, stone, sometimes rail and shaped iron. Such a barricade could easily withstand the shots of tank guns and even divisional artillery with a caliber of 76? 122 mm.
Part of the streets was completely blocked by barricades, without even leaving a driveway. On the main highways, the barricades nevertheless had a three-meter-wide passage, prepared for a quick closure by a wagon with earth, stones and other materials. Approaches to the barricades were mined. This is not to say that these Berlin fortifications were a masterpiece of engineering. In the Breslau area, Soviet troops were faced with truly cyclopean barricades, entirely cast from concrete. Their design provided for huge moving parts, discharged across the passage. In Berlin, nothing like this has ever happened. The reason is quite simple: German military leaders believed that the fate of the city would be decided on the Oder front. Accordingly, the main efforts of the engineering troops were concentrated there, on the Zeelovsky heights and on the perimeter of the Soviet Kyustrinsky bridgehead.
Company of motionless tanks
Barricades also had approaches to bridges over canals and exits from bridges. In buildings, which were to become strongholds of defense, bricked window openings. One or two embrasures were left in the masonry for firing small arms and anti-tank grenade launchers - Faustpatrons. Of course, not all Berlin houses have undergone such a restructuring. But the Reichstag, for example, prepared well for defense: the huge windows of the German parliament building were walled up.
One of the "finds" of the Germans in the defense of their capital was the tank company "Berlin", assembled from tanks not capable of independent movement. They were dug at the intersections of streets and used as fixed firing points in the west and east of the city. Altogether, the Berlin company included 10 Panther tanks and 12 Pz tanks. IV.
In addition to special defensive structures, the city had air defense facilities suitable for ground battles. This is primarily about the so-called flacturms - massive concrete towers about 40 m high, on the roof of which anti-aircraft gun installations up to 128-mm caliber were equipped. Three such gigantic structures were built in Berlin. These are Flakturm I in the zoo area, Flakturm II in Friedrichshain in the east of the city and Flakturm III in Gumbolthein in the north. (About the anti-aircraft towers of the Third Reich, “PM” wrote in detail in No. 3 for 2009. - Ed.)
Forces of the Berlin Fortress
However, any engineering structures are absolutely useless if there is no one to defend them. This was the biggest problem for the Germans. In Soviet times, the number of defenders of the capital of the Reich was usually estimated at 200,000. However, this figure seems to be very high. The testimony of the last commandant of Berlin, General Weidling and other captive officers of the Berlin garrison, leads to a figure of 100-120 thousand people and 50-60 tanks at the beginning of the assault. For the defense of Berlin, such a number of defenders was clearly not enough. For professionals, this was obvious from the very beginning. The summary of the general combat experience of the storming city of the 8th Guards Army stated: “To defend such a large city, surrounded on all sides, there was not enough strength to defend each building, as was the case in other cities, so the enemy defended mainly groups quarters, and inside them are separate buildings and objects ... ”The Soviet troops stormed Berlin, totaled, according to April 26, 1945, 464,000 people and about 1,500 tanks. The 1st and 2nd Guards Tank Armies, the 3rd and 5th Attack Armies, the 8th Guards Army (all the 1st Belorussian Front), as well as the 3rd Guards Tank and part of the forces took part in the storming of the city 28th Army (1st Ukrainian Front). In the last two days of the assault, units of the 1st Polish Army participated in the battles.
One of the mysteries of the battles for Berlin is the preservation of many bridges over the Spree and the Landver Canal. Given that the banks of the Spree in central Berlin were stone-clad, crossing the river outside the bridges would be a daunting task. The answer was given by General Weidling in Soviet captivity. He recalled: “Not one of the bridges was prepared for the explosion. Goebbels assigned this to the Spur organization, due to the fact that during the bombing of bridges by military units, economic damage was caused to the surrounding estates. It turned out that all the materials for preparing the bridges for the explosion, as well as the ammunition prepared for this, were removed from Berlin during the evacuation of the Shpur institutions. It should be noted that this concerned bridges in the central part of the city. On the outskirts, things were different. For example, all bridges across the Berlin-Spandauer-Schiffarts canal in the northern part of the city were blown up. The troops of the 3rd shock army and the 2nd guards tank army had to direct crossings. In general, it can be noted that the first days of the struggle for Berlin are associated with the forcing of water barriers on its outskirts.
In the thick of quarters
By April 27, Soviet troops had basically overcome areas with low-rise and sparse buildings and delved into the densely built-up central areas of Berlin. The Soviet tank and combined-arms armies advancing from different directions were aiming at one point in the city center - the Reichstag. In 1945, it had long since lost its political significance and had conditional value as a military object. However, it was the Reichstag that appears in orders as the goal of the offensive of Soviet formations and associations. In any case, moving from different directions to the Reichstag, the Red Army troops threatened the Fuhrer’s bunker near the Reich Chancellery.
The central figure in street battles was the assault group. Zhukov’s directive recommended that 8? 12 guns with a caliber from 45 to 203 mm and 4? 6 mortars 82? 120 mm be included in the assault detachments. The assault groups included sappers and “chemists” with smoke bombs and flamethrowers. Tanks also became invariable members of these groups. It is well known that their main enemy in urban battles in 1945 was the hand-held anti-tank weapon - Faust cartridges. Shortly before the Berlin operation, troops conducted experiments on shielding tanks. However, they did not give a positive result: even when the Faustpatron grenade was detonated on the screen, the armor of the tank made its way. Nevertheless, in some parts of the screens were still installed - more for the psychological support of the crew than for real protection.
Did the “Faustians” burn tank armies?
The losses of tank armies in the battles for the city can be estimated as moderate, especially in comparison with battles in the open area against tanks and anti-tank artillery. So, the 2nd Guards Tank Army of Bogdanov lost about 70 tanks from the Faustpatrons in battles for the city. At the same time, she acted in isolation from the combined arms armies, relying only on her motorized infantry. The share of tanks knocked out by the “Faustniks” in other armies was less. In total, during the street battles in Berlin from April 22 to May 2, Bogdanov’s army irretrievably lost 104 tanks and self-propelled guns (16% of the number of combat vehicles at the beginning of the operation). During the street battles, the 1st Guards Tank Army of Katukov also irretrievably lost 104 armored units (15% of combat vehicles that were in service by the beginning of the operation). The 3rd Guards Tank Army Rybalko in Berlin itself from April 23 to May 2 irretrievably lost 99 tanks and 15 self-propelled guns (23%). The total losses of the Red Army from the Faustpatrons in Berlin can be estimated at 200–250 tanks and self-propelled guns out of almost 1800 lost during the operation as a whole. In a word, there is no reason to say that the Soviet tank armies were burned by the “Faustians” in Berlin.
However, in any case, the massive use of faustpatrons made it difficult to use tanks, and if the Soviet troops relied only on armored vehicles, fighting for the city would have become much more bloody. It should be noted that the Faustpatrons were used by the Germans not only against tanks, but also against infantry. Forced to go ahead of the armored vehicles, the infantrymen fell under the hail of shots of the “Faustniki”. Therefore, invaluable assistance in the assault was provided by the barrel and rocket artillery. The specificity of urban battles forced to put divisional and attached artillery for direct fire. Paradoxical as it may sound, but direct-fire guns were sometimes more effective than tanks. The report of the 44th Guards Cannon Artillery Brigade on the Berlin operation stated: “The use of 'Panzerfausts' by the enemy led to a sharp increase in losses in tanks - limited visibility makes them easily vulnerable. Direct-fire guns do not suffer from this drawback, their losses, compared to tanks, are small. ” This was not an unfounded statement: the brigade lost only two guns in street battles, one of them was struck by the enemy with a Faustpatron.
The brigade was armed with a 152-mm ML-20 howitzer gun. The actions of the gunners can be illustrated by the following example. The battle for the barricade on Sarland Strasse did not begin very successfully. The Faustniks knocked out two IS-2 tanks. Then the gun of the 44th brigade was put on direct fire 180 meters from the fortification. Having fired 12 shells, the gunners pierced the passage in the barricade and destroyed its garrison. The brigade’s tools were also used to destroy the buildings turned into strongholds.
From the Katyusha direct fire
It has already been said above that the Berlin garrison defended only a few buildings. If such a strong point could not be taken by an assault group, it was simply destroyed by direct artillery. So, from one strong point to another, the assault went to the city center. In the end, even Katyusha began to put on direct fire. The frames of the M-31 large-caliber rockets were installed in the houses on the windowsills and shot at the buildings opposite. A distance of 100–150 m was considered optimal. The projectile managed to accelerate, break through the wall and explode already inside the building. This led to the collapse of partitions and ceilings and, as a consequence, the death of the garrison. At shorter distances, the wall did not break through and the matter was limited to cracks in the facade. It is here that one of the answers to the question of why the 3rd strike army of Kuznetsov came out first came to the Reichstag. Units of this army paved their way along Berlin streets with 150 direct-fire shells fired by M-31UK (improved accuracy). Other armies also shot dozens of M-31 shells from direct fire.
To victory - right through!
Another “destroyer of buildings” was heavy artillery. As indicated in the report on the artillery operations of the 1st Belorussian Front, "in the battles for the Poznan fortress and in the Berlin operation, both during the operation itself and especially in the battles for the city of Berlin, artillery of great and special power was crucial." In total, during the assault on the German capital, 38 high-power guns were put up for direct fire, that is, 203-mm B-4 howitzers of the 1931 model. These powerful crawler-mounted guns often appear in the newsreel dedicated to the battles for the German capital. B-4 calculations acted boldly, even boldly. For example, one of the guns was installed at the intersection of Lieden-Strasse and Ritter-Strasse 100-150 m from the enemy. Six shells fired enough to destroy a house prepared for defense. Completing the gun, the battery commander destroyed three more stone buildings.
In Berlin, there was only one building that withstood the B-4 strike - it was the Flakturm am Zoo anti-aircraft defense tower, also known as Flakturm I. Parts of the 8th Guards and 1st Guards Tank Armies entered the area of the Berlin Zoo. The tower turned out to be a tough nut for them. The shelling of her 152 mm artillery was completely inconclusive. Then, 105 concrete-piercing shells of 203 mm caliber were fired directly at the flakturm. As a result, the corner of the tower was collapsed, but it continued to live until the surrender of the garrison. Until the last moment, it housed the Weidling command post. Our troops bypassed the air defense towers in Gumbolthayn and Fridrishayn, and until surrender these structures remained on the German-controlled territory of the city.
The Flakturm am Zoo garrison was somewhat lucky. The tower did not fall under the fire of Soviet artillery of special power, the 280-mm mortar Br-5 and the 305-mm howitzers Br-18 of the 1939 model. Nobody set these guns for direct fire. They fired from positions 7-10 km from the battlefield. The 8th Guards Army was given the 34th separate division of special power. His 280-mm mortars in the last days of the assault on Berlin hit the Potsdam station. Two of these shells pierced the asphalt of the street, floors and exploded in the underground halls of the station, located at a depth of 15 m.
Why didn’t they “smear” Hitler?
Three divisions of 280-mm and 305-mm guns were concentrated in the 5th shock army. Berzarin’s army was advancing to the right of Chuikov’s army in the historical center of Berlin. Heavy guns were used to destroy solid stone buildings. The 280-mm mortar division hit the Gestapo building, fired more than a hundred shells and made six direct hits. A division of 305-mm howitzers only on the penultimate day of the assault, May 1, shot 110 shells. In fact, only the lack of accurate information about the location of the Fuhrer bunker prevented the early completion of the fighting. The Soviet heavy artillery had the technical ability to bury Hitler and his retinue in a bunker or even smear them with a thin layer in the labyrinths of the last refuge of the "possessed Führer."
It was Berzarin’s army, advancing in the direction of the Reichstag, that came closest to Hitler’s bunker. This caused the latest surge in the activity of the Luftwaffe in the battles for the city. On April 29, groups of FV-190 attack aircraft and Me-262 fighter jets attacked the battle formations of the troops of the 5th shock army. The jet messerschmitts belonged to the 1st group of the JG7 squadron from the Reich air defense, but they could no longer significantly influence the course of hostilities. The next day, April 30, the Fuhrer committed suicide. On the morning of May 2, the Berlin garrison capitulated.
The total losses of the two fronts in the battle of Berlin can be estimated at 50-60 thousand people killed, wounded and missing. Were these losses justified? Of course. The fall of Berlin and the death of Hitler meant the demoralization of the German army and its surrender. Undoubtedly, without the active use of various techniques, the losses of Soviet troops in street battles would have been much higher.
Alexei Isaev - Ph.D. in History, author of many books on the history of the Great Patriotic War Via popmech.ru
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