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The effect of German fortifications in the Battle for Berlin

Discussion in 'Eastern Europe February 1943 to End of War' started by T. A. Gardner, Jul 19, 2005.

  1. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    Prior to the start of WW II Germany built some fairly impressive fortifications on their eastern frontier. Since these were still in existance and, likely mostly intact in late 1944 what effect did these have on the Soviet final push to Berlin? None of the major common texts on this period of the war make any real mention of these fortifications and none state what effect they had on the battle outcome.
    It would be interesting to know more about how these fortifications effected the battle.
     
  2. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    Actually don´t remember these being discussed much, at least in the books I´ve read. I think the main weight has been on the fortress cities but if anyone had more info on the use of these earlier fortifications that would be interesting to hear!
     
  3. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    These fortifications must have had some effect. The main line of them was called the OWB (Oder-Warthe Bend) and was centered on Frankfurt am Oder. The line extended north and south from there to cover the direct approaches to Berlin anchoring on the North on the Warthe River and on the Odra river in the South.
    This line included some very large works comparable to those in the Maginot Line. A typical large bunker in this line might be PanzerWerk 717 "Scharnhorst." It was a two story self-contained structure that had three cupolas for machine guns (2 in each), an automatic 50mm mortar and, a pop up flamethrower. The entry also had a machine gun in a flanking position covering it. It also had its own power and water system. The design was supposed to be able to resist 220mm fire or a 500 kg bomb hit. The concrete was 2 meters thick minimum with the cupolas being 250mm cast steel. The specification was based on what Poland had for artillery so, compared to the Maginot line the bunkers were a bit less resistant.
    There were at least a dozen such positions as massive or more so in the OWB line alone. Many had connecting tunnels and there were over 30 km of these constructed. I don't know the number of smaller bunkers housing machineguns, 37mm AT guns or, 75mm howitzers but, it must have been similar to the West Wall in numbers and was probably well over 100.
    There were lesser systems North and South of this one as well. All included lots of dragon's teeth and mines. River crossings were generally well defended and most, if not all bridges, were designed to be removed or destroyed along with having covering bunkers defending them.
    The Scharnhorst bunker shows obvious signs of having been heavily shot up in photos I have seen of it. So, it must have been manned and used in the final days of the war.
     
  4. FramerT

    FramerT Ace

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    What is 'this' book,TA?
    Have never read about these forts.
    Never knew Germany had anything there. :confused:
     
  5. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    I don´t know if the speed of Russian advance might have helped the Red Army? To me it seems that the east wall never stopped the Red Army as much as the West wall did to the allied troops (?).

    Fron the Red Army night operations:

    The Soviets also used forward detachments for pursuit operations in the Vistula-Oder campaign (12 January-7 February).

    A second example occurred on the night of 29-30 January, when the 44th Brigade, a forward detachment of the 11th Guards Tank Corps, succeeded in breaching the Meseritz fortified area, between Poznan and Kustrin. This operation was significant because it was undertaken on the initiative of the brigade commander, who was functioning as the vanguard of the 1st Tank Army. The army commander described Meseritz as

    "...a city of ferro-conerete and steel with underground railways, factories and electric power stations. It could hold a whole army. Armored shafts went underground to a depth of 30-40 meters. On the surface the approaches were blocked with anti-tank obstacles covering many kilometers. Dozens of low domes of the permanent weapons emplacements were studded with gun and machine-gun barrels. The nearby lakes were connected with a system of dams, which in case of need, could flood any sections of the fortified area."

    The brigade thus slipped through a supposedly "impenetrable area" without losing a tank and was able to conduct a successful ambush the next morning before linking up with Soviet forces bypassing the once again "impenetrable" Meseritz fortified area.

    The Soviets and their Polish allies advanced 310 miles in twenty-three days, an average advance of twelve to fourteen miles a day.

    http://www-cgsc.army.mil/carl/resources/csi/Sasso/SASSO.asp#Berlin
     
  6. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    LAST LAURELS. THE GERMAN DEFENCE OF UPPER SILESIA, JANUARY-MAY 1945

    Author: Gunter, G.

    http://www.helion.co.uk/product.php?xProd=1659&xSec=1601119

    claims that Germans did not have the men to occupy the defence system which consisted of several belts of defence systems from Poland to the river Oder. Actually the author goes as far as saying that the Russians " had only the ice of the river Oder to fear..."

    Actually Hitler´s logic seems rather weak here : sending men to the western front ( Ardennes ) and Hungary instead of putting them in front of Berlin...The main strike by Red army to the Czech and not Berlin?? No wonder Guderian was quite p****d off.
     
  7. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    I have two on fortifications that discuss the construction aspects of these lines but not their combat history:

    Fortress Third Reich by Kaufmann and Kaufmann.

    and

    The Architecture of War by well, I can't find the book right at the moment. The wife "cleaned" the study.......it could be anywhere at this point...... [​IMG]
     
  8. TA152

    TA152 Ace

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    The other night they had a show on the History Channel about the final push to Berlin and General Zuekolf (can't spell), but it said that the German general in charge of Berlin flooded a low lying area and that made all the Russian vehicles have to use the roads in the area and the Germans concentrated all their firepower on the roads and took a great toll. It slowed the Russians down but did not help much in the end. They said the German general orginazed his defence in three rings near the river.

    Again this is from the History Channel and their "facts" have been leaving alot to be desired lately.
     
  9. FramerT

    FramerT Ace

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    I don't believe Hitler had any 'logic' at this stage.
    Thinking the allies would sue for peace even if The Bulge was a success...than transfering troops to the East

    Thanks for the book titles TA,BTW.

    I read how the Russians would sink tanks in rivers and use them as 'invisible' bridges....nothing was going to stop them. :eek:
     
  10. bigiceman

    bigiceman Member

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    I think the motivation and determination of the Russians is why these defenses don't show up much. Like FramerT said, nothing was going to stop them. Their use of manpower to overcome any shortcoming in mechanization could also have been a factor.

    I would be interested to know if any of them are still in existance. There was a photo gallery on webshots a while back that was full of a collection of current photos of WWII fortifications in France and Belguim.
     
  11. Friedrich

    Friedrich Expert

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    In fact, the decision for the Battle of the Bulge is one of the most idiotic decisions of the whole war! Hitler wanted to assert a fatal blow to one of the three Allies. He respected the British and knew the Red Army was too powerful at that stage, so he chose the 'rookie' Yanks. However, instead of choosing the exhausted Soviets or British, he chose to attack the Allied Army with best healing and recovery systems, which was relatively fresh and in a stable state of growing. So, Germany threw her last blow against the enemy that could resist the blow better and soon overcome it and even gain strenght.

    Also, the strategic consideration for the offensive was that a Soviet winter offensive was not likely! This means you're betting on the Red Army (which had launched massive winter offensives in 1941, 1942, 1943 and 1944 and massive summer offensives in 1943 and 1944), some 3 million men strong, within sight of Berlin, would not attack your most vulnerable flank. :eek: :eek: :rolleyes: :rolleyes:
     
  12. bigiceman

    bigiceman Member

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    Said it before and will say it again, thank God for Hitler!
     
  13. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    Found a copy of the Kaufmann/Kaufmann book hevily discounted in London today. If TA hadn't mentioned it here, I might have passed it by. It looks to be a very interesting overview of German bunkers, including the mysterious underground factories - a subject which hasn't been well-covered in the English language.
     
  14. Gerard

    Gerard Member

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    That fact is indeed True and it was Gen Oberst Gotthard Heinrici who organised this by flooding the Oder Bruch and turning the area into a swamp. Given that the Germans mobile capacity was almost zero it didnt hamper them at all unlike the Russians.
     
  15. PzJgr

    PzJgr Drill Instructor

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    Of all the books I have read about the final battles in the East, no real mention of significant fortifications as obstacles for the Russians. If any existed, they were lightly manned by raw recruits and of no real value. The only significant defense was put up at the Seelow Heights. I am even surprised the Battle of Berlin was as intense as it was manned by the leftovers.
     
  16. Gerard

    Gerard Member

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    Other than the festung towns of Breslau, Pillau, and Kustrin there was very little in the way of organised defences. As for the forces involved in the Battles here is the order of battle for the Germans at the time:

    OKW RESERVE (later allocated to the LVI Panzer Corps, 9th Army)

    18th Panzergrenadier Division (Maj Gen Josef Rauch)
    30th & 51st Panzergrenadier Regts
    118th Panzer Regt (part)
    18th Artillery Regt

    ARMY GROUP ‘VISTULA’ (Col Gen Gotthard Heinrici)

    III SS ‘Germanic’ Panzer Corps (SS Lt Gen Felix Steiner)
    (divisions later allocated to the 9th Army)
    11th SS ‘Nordland’ Panzergrenadier Division (SS Maj Gen Jurgen Ziegler / SS Maj Gen Dr Gustav Krukenburg)
    23rd ‘Norge’ Panzergrenadier Regt
    24th ‘Danmark’ Panzergrenadier Regt
    11th SS ‘Hermann von Salza’ Panzer Btn
    503rd SS Heavy Tank Btn
    11th SS ‘Nordland’ Armoured Reconnaissance Btn
    23rd SS ‘Nederland’ Panzergrenadier Division (SS Maj Gen Wagner)
    (divisions later allocated to the 3rd Panzer Army)
    27th SS ‘Langemarck’ Grenadier Division
    28th SS ‘Wallonien’ Grenadier Division

    3rd Panzer Army (Gen Hasso von Manteuffel)
    ‘Swinemunde’ Corps (Lt Gen Ansat)
    402nd & 2nd Naval Divisions
    XXXII Corps (Lt Gen Schack)
    ‘Voigt’ & 281st Infantry Divisions
    549th Volksgrenadier Division
    Stettin Garrison
    ‘Oder’ Corps (SS Lt Gen von dem Bach / Gen Hörnlein)
    610th & ‘Klossek’ Infantry Divisions
    XXXXVI Panzer Corps (Gen Martin Gareis)
    547th Volksgrenadier Division
    1st Naval Division

    9th Army (Gen Theodor Busse)

    156th Infantry Division
    541st Volksgrenadier Division
    404th Volks Artillery Corps
    406th Volks Artillery Corps
    408th Volks Artillery Corps

    CI Corps (Gen Wilhelm Berlin / Lt Gen Friedrich Sixt)
    5th Light Infantry Division
    606th Infantry Division
    309th ‘Berlin’ Infantry Division
    25th Panzergrenadier Division
    111th SPG Training Bde
    ‘1001 Nights’ Combat Group
    LVI Panzer Corps (Gen Helmuth Weidling)
    9th Fallschirmjäger Division (Gen Bruno Braüer / Col Harry Herrmann)
    25th, 26th & 27th Fallschirmjäger Regts
    9th Fallschirmjäger Artillery Regt
    20th Panzergrenadier Division (Col / Maj Gen Georg Scholze)
    76th & 90th Panzergrenadier Regts
    8th Panzer Btn
    20th Artillery Regt
    ‘Müncheberg’ Panzer Division (Maj Gen Werner Mummert)
    1st & 2nd ‘Müncheberg’ Panzergrenadier Regts
    ‘Müncheberg’ Panzer Regt
    ‘Müncheburg’ Armoured Artillery Regt
    920th SPG Training Bde
    XI SS Panzer Corps (SS Gen Mathias Kleinheisterkamp)
    303rd ‘Döberitz’ Infantry Division
    169th Infantry Division
    712th Infantry Division
    ‘Kurmark’ Panzergrenadier Division
    502nd SS Heavy Tank Btn
    Frankfurt an der Oder Garrison (Col / Maj Gen Ernst Biehler)
    V SS Mountain Corps (SS Gen Friedrich Jackeln)
    286th Infantry Division
    32nd SS ’30. Januar’ Volksgrenadier Division
    391st Sy Division
    561st SS Tank Hunting Btn

    ARMY GROUP CENTRE (Field Marshal Ferdinand Schörner)

    4th Panzer Army (Gen Fritz-Herbert Gräser)
    (later transferred to the 9th Army)
    V Corps (Lt Gen Wagner)
    35th SS Police Grenadier Division
    36th SS Grenadier Division
    275th Infantry Division
    342nd Infantry Division
    21st Panzer Division

    12th Army (Gen Walter Wenck)
    XX Corps (Gen Carl-Erik Koehler)
    ‘Theodor Körner’ RAD Division
    ‘Ulrich von Hutten’ Infantry Division
    ‘Ferdinand von Schill’ Infantry Division
    ‘Scharnhorst’ Infantry Division
    XXXIX Panzer Corps (Lt Gen Karl Arndt)
    (12 – 21 April 1945 under OKW with the following structure)
    ‘Clausewitz’ Panzer Division
    ‘Schlageter’ RAD Division
    84th Infantry Division
    (21 – 26 April 1945 under 12th Army with the following structure)
    ‘Clausewitz’ Panzer Division
    84th Infantry Division
    ‘Hamburg’ Reserve Infantry Division
    ‘Meyer’ Infantry Division
    XXXXI Panzer Corps (Lt Gen Holste)
    ‘von Hake’ Infantry Division
    199th Infantry Division
    ‘V-Weapons’ Infantry Division
    1st HJ Tank Destroyer Bde
    ‘Hermann Göring’ Jagdpanzer Bde
    XXXXVIII Panzer Corps (Gen Maximillian Reichsherr von Edelscheim)
    14th Flak Division
    ‘Leipzig’ Battle Group
    ‘Halle’ Battle Group


    Ungrouped Formations

    ‘Friedrich Ludwig Jahn’ RAD Division (Col Gerhard Klein / Col Franz Weller)
    ‘Potsdam’ Infantry Division (Col Erich Lorenz)
     
  17. Matt Bentley

    Matt Bentley recruit

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    Hi just to mention i visted the Meseritz fortified line (now in Poland) last week snd had aguided tour of a section of PzWerke 717 Scharnhorst group. it is an amazing place. i have a pictures if anyone is interested. the damage seen wass actually caused by the russians after they captured it, to see how strong it was, the plan to complete the section visted (near the village of Kalawa) with heavy artillery was never completed but inside the finished bunker you can see the blanked off walls of tunnels never completed. The polish guide stated it was manned by an ear battalion.
    As for the battle when the 1st guards tank army broke through the line on the 29/01/45 some German units managed to get underground before the Main soviet army followed up and the battle lasted 2 days.

    Please email for more info or photos, and if you get the chance it is well worth a visit

    Matt
     
  18. jpatterson

    jpatterson Member

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    While reading all of these posts one thing stuck in the back of my mind. That was the German invasion of France and the lowlands in 1940. Did the Germans possibly get a taste of their own medicine, with the Russians simply using their heads and lessons from early in the war and bypassing all or most of these fortifications?? Remember the effectiveness of the Maginot Line.

    Later
     
  19. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    Definitely the Red Army had started to use some of the Blitzkrieg methods in their offensive system but I think "maskirovka" that is masking the main attack from the enemy truly worked here. Hitler did not believe the attack would come to Berlin in 1945 (?!) and in the summer 1944 the Red Army attacked "in the wrong place" as well.

    The fortifications did keep big numbers of Red Army men tied to them but Stalin had troops to use while Hitler did not.
     
  20. Suppressive_Fire

    Suppressive_Fire recruit

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    I don't really know much about this subject, but, here goes. Common sense would leave us to believe that, if anything, the Germans would learn from their own experiences and therefore not build a fortified line that would just defend a segment of the Eastern front, as the French did with the Maginot line. So, therefore, wouldn't the Germans build a concentrated string of fortresses to the East of Berlin?

    Interesting subject- would like to find out more.
     

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