1945: The Russians Were Coming: East Prussia And Battle Of KOENIGSBERG(Large Images)

East Prussia was the first German region visited by the Red Army, and to some extent the worst treated. The first incursion, at Nemmersdorf on 21 October 1944, was to be a foretaste. In the course of a single night the Red Army killed seventy-two women and one man. Most of the women had been raped, of whom the oldest was eighty-four. Some of the victims had been crucified. Gauleiter Koch refused to allow the population to flee. Hitler wanted East Prussia to prove the resilience of the German people. That autumn the East Prussians watched the departure of the birds: ‘Yes, you are now flying away! And us? What is to become of us and our land?

After The Reich by GILES MACDONOGH


Their Gauleiter (district Party leader)  Erich Koch, had declared that East Prussia would never fall into the hands of the Russians and had forbidden flight to the west; but once Chemyakhovsky smashed across the border, a few courageous district officials openly defied Koch and ordered their people to escape. They had left at a moment’s notice and now struggled through knee-deep snow, poorly clad and hungry; their hope was to stay ahead of the onrushing Red Army. One of these groups was entering the village of Nemmersdorf when Russian tanks abruptly appeared, bulldozing everything in their path. 

Dozens of carts were smashed, sideswiped, rolled over. Baggage spilled out, people were crushed. The tanks rolled ahead obliviously, but in a few minutes Dodge trucks appeared. Infantrymen jumped out and began pillaging and raping. At The White Mug restaurant four women were raped many times, dragged outside naked and nailed through the hands to a wagon. Not far away, at The Red Mug, another naked woman was nailed to a barn. When the Russians moved off, they left behind seventy-two dead civilians. 

A few miles to the west, Russians were breaking into the village of Weitzdorf. a young woman, Lotte Keuch, watched in horror as her father-in-law and six male neighbors were shot. Next a dozen French slave laborers at the manor were rounded up and their rings taken away by slicing off their fingers. Then the Frenchmen were lined up, executed. And the raping began.* Similar scenes were re-enacted in a thousand villages all over the east that day as troops of the four Red Army fronts looted, raped and killed.

From The Last 100 Days: The Tumultuous and Controversial Story of the Final Days of World War II in Europe by JOHN TOLAND


On the night of October 20, 1944, the village of Nemmersdorf  lay mantled in sleep. Dark and still, only the twinkling of street lamps suggested life in the tiny town. It was now the sixth autumn of the war. The once-mighty German nation teetered at the brink. Her cities lay in ruins, her industry had been shattered, her economy was on the verge of collapse and worse, the Allied armies of the world were locking a death-grip on the very borders of the Reich itself. No one with eyes to see or mind to think could doubt that utter defeat was not only certain, but imminent. And yet, the village of Nemmersdorf slept. 

For six years now the Third Reich had been mortally engaged in the most violent and cataclysmic war the world had ever known. Millions of Germans were already dead, millions more were crippled or maimed and many others who had survived in tact were stagger- ing toward starvation. And yet, Nemmersdorf slept. The children of the village lay snug, warm and seemingly secure beside their mothers, as they always had and as they imagined they always would; in the bedrooms below, grandfathers, now the only men remaining, coughed quietly in the night, then rose from time to time as they always had for a cup of water, a glass of shnapps or perhaps a quiet moment’s draw on the pipe. Just beyond, in the barns that adjoined most homes, milk cows rustled softly among the hay and fodder. In the dark village square, the old town clock patiently tolled the passing hours as it had night after night, year after year, century after century. Outwardly, at least, and despite a world engulfed in smoke and flame, nights in Nemmersdorf passed peacefully, predictably, as they always had. But that was about to change; all was about to be violently swept away forever. The war, like a wall of angry red lava, was rushing down on the sleeping hamlet and was only moments from arrival. 

For six hundred years East Prussia had served as the frontier outpost of Germany. Jutting eastward into often hostile Slavic lands, the old Teutonic province, unlike the rest of Germany, had faced a host of real or potential enemies for the entirety of its long existence. As a consequence, a strong military tradition had developed. It was here, in the “Breadbasket of Germany”—a fertile plain of large estates and proud, noble families—that much of the leadership for the German Army, past and present, had come. Thus, it was with no small amount of irony that despite its martial reputation, East Prussia was one of the few spots in Germany that had not been devastated by the current war. While the rest of the Reich’s urban centers had long since been reduced to smoking rubble, the cities and towns of East Prussia, beyond the range of Allied bombers, remained, for the most part, untouched. 

Although the unscathed condition of the province was envied elsewhere in Germany, Prussians, especially those nearest the eastern fron- tier, knew better than most that the war was reaching its climax. Each day the rumble to the east grew more distinct; each night the red glow on the horizon throbbed more angrily. By mid-October 1944, the Soviet Army had finally reached the Reich’s border. And yet, as was the case at Nemmersdorf, there was no panic. 

As a dedicated National Socialist, as a fanatical follower of Adolf Hitler, it was Erich Koch’s duty as district chief of East Prussia to hold the line, no matter the cost. With the battered and bleeding remnant of the German Wehrmacht now fighting desperately on the nation’s eastern approaches, Koch was determined to stamp out all forms of panic and defeatism among the populace. Except for a five- mile buffer directly behind the front, the district leader forbid any and all attempts at flight or evacuation. Civilians disregarding the order faced summary execution. Moreover, any manifestation of panic— withdrawal of bank funds, slaughtering of farm animals, packed luggage—could bring down the death penalty.

“[N]o true German would allow himself even the thought that East Prussia might fall into Russian hands,” the Nazi die-hard announced menacingly.

While Koch’s threats and iron rule were no doubt needed to bolster some nervous Prussians, for most it was not necessary. Hopeless debacle that the war had become, faith in the Fatherland and trust that the beleaguered Wehrmacht would yet hold the “East Wall” against the red tide predominated. As was the case during the First World War, there was a general feeling that in this war too, the front would stabilise on the frontier and the Russians would be ground down through attrition. Concerning the rumors of “Bolshevik bestiality” and the hor- rible hints of what might be expected should the “Asiatic hordes” overrun Germany, most Prussians only laughed. Such notions, many felt, were merely the government’s attempt to harden their will to resist.

Thus it was, that on the night of October 20, as Nemmersdorf and other communities nearest the front slept in imagined security, the unthinkable occurred. After punching a hole through the German line, the Red Army suddenly burst into the Reich. Within hours, the Soviets widened the gap and swarmed over the countryside. After several days of desperate fighting the Wehrmacht regrouped, launched a furious counterattack, then eventually drove the Russians back across the border.

What German troops found upon reclaiming the lost ground, however, was staggering. 
“[T]hey tortured civilians in many villages . . . ,” reported one German officer, “nailed some on barn doors and shot many others.” Along the roads, “treks” of fleeing refugees had been overtaken by the communists, the people pulled from their carts, then raped and murdered on the spot. It was at Nemmersdorf, though, where stunned soldiers first viewed hell on earth. 

Recorded a physician with the army, Lt. Heinrich Amberger: 
"On the road through Nemmersdorf, near the bridge . . . I saw where a whole trek of refugees had been rolled over by Russian tanks; not only the wagons and teams, but also a goodly number of civilians, mostly women and children. . . . [They] had been squashed flat by the tanks. At the edge of the road and in the farm yards lay quantities of corpses of civilians who evidently . . . had been mur- dered systematically."

Added another horrified witness: 
"In the farmyard further down the road stood a cart, to which four naked women were nailed through their hands in a cruciform position. . . . Beyond . . . stood a barn and to each of its two doors a naked woman was nailed through the hands, in a crucified posture. In the dwellings we found a total of seventy-two women, including children, and one old man, all dead . . . all murdered in a bestial manner, except only a few who had bullet holes in their necks. Some babies had their heads bashed in. In one room we found a woman, 84 years old, sitting on a sofa . . . half of whose head had been sheared off with an ax or a spade."

“Every female, including girls as young as eight, had been raped,” noted another viewer.

Old men who had feebly tried to protect their wives, daughters and granddaughters, were themselves knocked down, then sawed in half or chopped to bits. A group of over fifty French POWs and Polish workers who had instinctively stepped in to protect the people were likewise castrated and killed.

Lt. Amberger continues: 
"On the edge of a street an old woman sat hunched up, killed by a bullet in the back of the neck. Not far away lay a baby of only a few months, killed by a shot at close range through the forehead. . . . A number of men, with no other marks or fatal wounds, had been killed by blows with shovels or gun butts; their faces completely smashed. . . . [I]n the nearby villages . . . similar cases were noted after these villages were cleared of Russian troops. Neither in Nemmers- dorf nor in the other places did I find a single living German civilian."

Staggered by the enormity of the crime, German authorities requested that neutral investigators and medical personnel from Spain, Sweden and Switzerland view the sickening carnage close up. When the visitors filed their reports, however, and when word finally reached the outside world, there was only silence. By the winter of 1944, the vicious propaganda war waged against Germany had been won. By that late stage of the conflict, the war of words had reached such hideous extremes that few individuals beyond the Reich’s borders were concerned about brained German babies or crucified German women. By the final months of the war, the enemy to be destroyed was not merely Adolf Hitler, the Nazi Party or even the soldiers in the field. By the end of the war the aim of the approaching Allies was nothing less than the utter extinction of the German nation, including every man, woman and child. 

A dead German soldier lies in the foreground. Devastated Koenigsburg. April 1945. After the massive Russia assault. April 6-9, 1945


60 years ago the earth trembled at the front in the east. On 12 January 1945, the Soviet offensive on Hitler's Empire with a force that witnesses describe today as the "worst inferno". From three sides simultaneously attacked the Red Army.

The East Prussian Offensive was a strategic offensive by the Red Army against the German Wehrmacht on the Eastern Front (World War II). It lasted from 13 January to 25 April 1945, though some German units did not surrender until 9 May. The Battle of Königsberg was a major part of the offensive, which ended in victory for the Red Army. The East Prussian Offensive is known to German historians as the Second East Prussian Offensive. The First East Prussian Offensive (also known as the Gumbinnen Operation), took place from 16-27 October 1944, and was carried out by the 3rd Belorussian Front under General I.D. Chernyakhovsky as part of the Memel Offensive of the 1st Baltic Front. The Soviet forces took heavy casualties while penetrating 30–60 km (19–37 mi) into East Prussia and Poland, and the offensive was postponed until greater reserves could be gathered.

 In 1944-45 the seemingly irresistible Soviet Army stormed into German East Prussia. The German Army defending East Prussia was strong but poorly led and invariably the Soviet Army broke through. 

Numerous fortified areas covered a major portion of East Prussia. However, German Army Group North that was linked to the defense of East Prussia to the north proved invincible and was not broken by massive Soviet Army assaults. German Army Group North was transformed into Army Group Courland, which held out until after World War II ended. 

Prior to January 1945, in East Prussia, the German Army had experienced a series of Soviet Army offensives rippling across the western Soviet Union from June to August of 1944. Those Soviet offensives included the Belorussian operation, the Lvov-Sandomierz Operation, and the operations in the Baltic States. As a result, Soviet Army forces swept to the boundary of East Prussia and to the Narev and Vistula River lines north and south of Warsaw.

The Soviet threw in Zhukov and Konev's armies totalling 2.2 million soldiers, 6000 tanks and 5000 aircraft.

"The inhuman warfare troubled me the most. We heard about mass shootings, the rampage of the SS-Einsatzgruppen. But it was dangerous to talk about these changes. And so I  was silent. "

Prince Alexander of Dohna-Schlobitten

 The Russian onslaught had not begun yet. A German sentry in the center of Koenigsberg. February, 1945

The noose tightened around Königsberg on 26 January 1945. Very soon the road to the sea and Pillau was cut off. The city held out until 9 April. The first the surgeon Hans Lehndorff knew of the fall of Königsberg was when Russians soldiers broke into his hospital and robbed his patients of their watches, beating up anyone who stood in their way. Fountain pens were the next craving. The sick and injured were tipped out of their beds, bandages ripped from their wounds, and papers burned to create more light to steal by. All the hospital’s provision in food was consumed or squandered in a matter of hours.  One of the attackers, ‘a really young fellow, suddenly burst into tear because he had yet to find a watch. He struck three fingers in the air. He was going to shoot three people if he did not get one at once.’ They found him a watch. 

General Lasch  capitulated the next day and swarms of soldiers attacked the population as they ventured out of the warrens they had inhabited during the long siege. They were beaten, robbed, stripped and, if female, raped. The women’s screams could be heard everywhere: ‘Schieß doch!’ they shouted. ‘Go on, shoot!’ The sisters in the hospital were raped by ‘blood-crazed children’, sixteen years old at the most. The pious Lehndorff could feel the women’s souls dying. ‘Is not every word an accusation against me? Is there no opportunity to throw oneself between them and through it to find an honourable death?’  Some of the women were laughing hysterically. One of the conquerors was Alexander Solzhenitsyn. He wote of the rapes in a poem called ‘Prussian Nights’:

The little daughter’s on the mattress,
Dead. How many have been on it
A platoon, a company perhaps?
A girl’s been turned into a woman.
A woman turned into a corpse.

Bunkers and shelters were simply torched with flame-throwers. A very large number of Königsberger took their own lives to escape the indignity of Soviet revenge. That night the surgeon looked out into the hospital courtyard to see it filled with horses and caravans. It could have been deepest Asia. 10 Lehndorff was touched by the help he had from the French forced labourers. They too were robbed by the Red Army. ‘Adieu, docteur!’ one of them cried out as Lehndorff successfully ran away from a Russian soldier with a submachine gun who was angry that the surgeon had pushed him out of the way, making him fall on his back. Lehndorff removed his white coat, and the soldier did not recognise him again. Episodes of this sort did not make the business of treating the sick and wounded any easier. The instruments were pilfered off the operating table. One glimmer of light came when they were visited by a Russian major who wanted a wart removed. After the hospital staff cut it out, he gave them temporary protection. 


As General Reinhard Gehlen, head of the secret "Foreign Armies East," the reaction to the turn of 1944/45 threatening numbers of Soviet troop concentrations, made the self-proclaimed German commander (read Hitler) angry: The dossier was called "the biggest bluff since Genghis Khan" and advised that "idiotic editors " of the gloomy prognosis" should be immediately thrown into a mad house. But  the assessment was correct. More than a half million Red Army soldiers marched into East Prussia in January alone. The Nazi propaganda had said that not a single Soviet soldier would ever cross the frontier.


Reinhard Gehlen (3 April 1902 – 8 June 1979) was a General in the German Army during World War II, who served as chief of intelligence-gathering on the Eastern Front. After the war, he was recruited by the United States military to set up a spy ring directed against the Soviet Union (known as the Gehlen Organization), and eventually became head of the West German intelligence apparatus. He served as the first President of the Federal Intelligence Service until 1968. Gehlen is considered one of the most legendary Cold War spymasters.

(Source: Time)

For a week Berlin radio jittered with its strongest superlatives. "One of the war's bloodiest struggles," "mammoth offensive," "grand assault," "unheard-of numerical superiority," "monstrous force." For six days Moscow was officially silent, permitted correspondents to cable that "when the news is finally released it is expected to be ... sensational. . . ." But it was clear that three years and four months after Germany had invaded Russia, the Russians had invaded Germany. The battle for East Prussia — Germany's "bowels of iron and heart of steel" — had begun.

So far, history was repeating itself. Thirty years before, the Russians had driven into the bleak, lake-studded land of many a Junker overlord and his cannon-fodder peasant. In August 1914, General Paul Rennenkampf's Russian army attacked from the east, General Alexander Samsonov from the south. The Germans were routed in the first battle. 

In 1944 the Red Army confidently expected no further repetitions of World War I's East Prussian history. In 1914 the team of Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg, his brilliant chief of staff General Erich Ludendorff and chief of operations General Max Hoffmann had gone to the rescue of the Reich's defeated army, and made Hindenburg an immortal among Junkers. Among East Prussia's lakes Hindenburg trapped the Russians, cut them to pieces. 

Joseph Stalin's armies would meet no such fate. Besides their overwhelming numerical superiority, they were also well supplied, competently commanded. This time the Russian Army waited two months at East Prussia's frontier, reorganizing and piling up supplies. 

When the attack began on Oct. 16, a frightened Berlin reported: "No battle in the east has ever seen such concentration of Russian air forces and seasoned campaigners can not recall a similar surfeit of Russian artillery and tanks." 

Seven days after the offensive began, Stalin broke his silence, announced that the Red Army had reached 19 miles into East Prussia on an 88-mile front.

 German civilians. Koenigsberg. March-April 1945

The city was burning. Once the fun was over the remaining citizens were assembled for forced marches to camps. Anyone who was too old or too ill was shot there and then, either in their beds or in the gutters. On  April Lehndorff was one of those rounded up and marched out of the city. As he walked out, the Russians cheered, shouting, ‘Gitlair Kapoot!’ (Hitler’s had it!). He marched for twenty-five kilometres. With the help of Polish auxiliaries the women were dragged away from the column with cries of ‘Davai, suda!’ (Come, woman!). Before he left the hospital Lehndorff had found a female patient with a head wound who had been raped countless times without ever being aware of it.  

They were marched to camps, some of which were in Königsberg itself, like the one in the garage of the Rothenstein Barracks. On the promise of better treatment, some Germans acted as kapos – prisoners who had wormed their way into positions of trust – dealing out blows for their Soviet masters. A number of these were allegedly communists, who believed their day had come.  Had they expected to become masters of the city now that the Nazis had been deposed, they were deluding themselves. Königsberg had been awarded to the Soviet Union and it was now administered as a Soviet city. 

The German population would be at best deported, at worst exterminated. The remaining buildings that had escaped the British raid in August 1944, or which had not been filled with Soviet political bureaux – like the Kommandatura, or military command, in the Ziethenstrasse and the old Gestapo Headquarters – were rased to the ground. A Soviet city would be built on the site of the old capital of the Teutonic Knights.

 German prisoners at Zakhaymskih gates of Konigsberg, in April 1945.

It is estimated that there were as many as 110,000 Germans left in Königsberg on 9 April. When the Soviets conducted a head count in June, 73,000 remained. Graf Plettenberg maintained that the Russians had actually tied Hitler Youths to horses and torn them limb from limb, but in the absence of any other reports of this taking place in Königsberg, it has to be discounted. 17 Nonetheless, as one Königsberger maintained, ‘a man was worth less than the watch he wore’.

Exhausted Russian soldiers sleep on the street of Koenigsberg. April 1945


Almost eighty percent of the city was destroyed, first by the Royal Air Force in August 1944, and then by Soviet shelling in April 1945. According to the book The Defeat in the East, tens of thousands of females over the age of ten were raped, then murdered. German soldiers who surrendered were taken away, then shot. Almost all German residents who remained at the end of the war, an estimated 200,000 out of the city's prewar population of 316,000, were expelled from the city. After the war, following the transfer of East Prussia to the Russian SFSR, Königsberg was renamed Kaliningrad, and was installed with predominantly Russian (and, to a lesser extent, Belarusian and Ukrainian) settlers from other areas of the Soviet Union. This area is now known as the Kaliningrad Oblast.


The East Prussian city of Konigsberg, founded by the Teutonic Knights in the thirteenth century, became, seven centuries later, a key stronghold for the Third Reich. As the Russians approached it in 1945, Hitler declared that the city be held to the last man. Its governor compounded his master's folly by failing to organize any sensible evacuation plan. And so tens of thousands of refugees streamed out of the city to die of frostbite, starvation, Russian attacks, and drowning in the Baltic when they fell through its ice or when their ships sank. The remaining soldiers and civilians who didn't die in the fighting were often enslaved, either to rebuild the city or to labor in the Soviet gulag. The ruined city, renamed Kaliningrad, was incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1946, and it is now one of Lithuania's more prosperous municipalities. But it still shows scars of its ghastly ordeal in 1945. Denny fills in a gap in the historiography of World War II's European eastern front.

Those who lived in the villages of East Prussia fared no better than the townsfolk. A witness who made it to the west talked of a poor village girl who was raped by an entire tank squadron from eight in the evening to nine in the morning. One man was shot and fed to the pigs.  Another woman tried to take the last train from Mohringen, but it was derailed and the passengers proceeded on foot, only to run into the Russians. She describes these soldiers breaking into a farmhouse and finding an Iron Cross, Second Class. The owner of the decoration and his wife were taken out and shot in the back of the head. The narrator herself was raped around twenty times the night she was captured, but there was worse in store. She was carried off by two officers and seven men, whom she suspected were deserters, or temporarily estranged from their unit. They lodged her and eight other females, including a fourteen-year-old girl, in a house in the forest, where they raped them for a week. Their ordeal came to an end only when the GPU, the secret police, found the house

 Soldiers of Division "Grossdeutschland" go along the coastal cliff peninsula Balga. East Prussia, in March 1945.

Then in January 1945 the Soviet offensive began. The Russians broke through the German lines on the 17th. Insterburg was the first to fall, followed by Tilsit and Gumbinnen. Koch, who had been named commissar for the defence of the Reich, finally gave permission for the civilian population to leave. Almost simultaneously, however, the Red Army reached Elbing on the Baltic, thereby cutting East Prussia off from the Reich. 

The East Prussians resorted to every conceivable means of leaving the beleaguered territory and reaching what was believed to be the safety of the west bank of the Vistula. Trains, however, ran head on into the Russian advance and were stopped in their tracks. Passengers froze in the icy temperatures, and the dead were thrown from the windows.

Ships fared no better. They were sunk as they left the harbour of Pillau outside Königsberg. Hundreds of thousands of refugees trekked across the ice that covered the inland seas of the Frisches and Kurisches Haff in heavily laden carts and proceeded towards Danzig. The Russians warned them they would fire at the ice from their warships on 15 February. The shells hit men and horses. Where the ice was smashed, the trekkers put up temporary bridges and persevered. The night was pitch black. All they could hear was ‘Shooting, screaming and screeching’. When dawn broke they realised the full horror: body upon body, man and horse; and every now and then the chassis of a cart sticking out of the ice. Those who succeeded in making it to the thin strip of land that borders Haff and Nehrung had a choice of heading north to the ships at Pillau or south-west towards Danzig. 
Balga  was a medieval castle of the Teutonic Knights. Its ruins are in the Pogranichny municipality, Bagrationovsky District in Kaliningrad Oblast, Russia; located on the shore of the Vistula Lagoon north of Mamonovo, about 30 km (19 mi) southwest of Kaliningrad.

Until the end of World War II Balga was in the former German Province of East Prussia; it was the site of one of the final battles of the Wehrmacht with advancing Red Army forces during the East Prussian Offensive, which devastated the castle remains.


The Großdeutschland Division was a elite Heer combat unit of the Wehrmacht. The Großdeutschland was considered to be the premier unit of the German Army and as such it was one of best-equipped unit of the German Armed Forces, receiving equipment before all other units.

By March 1945, the Panzergrenadier Division Großdeutschland had been reduced to around 4,000 men. These escaped by ferry from the collapsing Memel bridgehead. They landed at Pillau and were put straight back into combat. By 25 April 1945, the division ceased to exist, having been completely destroyed in the battles around Pillau. Of the survivors only a few hundred were able to make their way to Schleswig-Holstein and surrendered to British forces. The majority of the men were left behind and were forced to surrender to the Russians where they often faced a fatal and indefinite amount of time in Russian Labor Camps (Gulags).

Last position of Division "Grossdeutschland" on the coast at Cape Peninsula BalgaEast Prussia, in March 1945

Soldiers Division "Grossdeutschland" on the positions on the peninsula of Balga. East Prussia, in March 1945.

Soldiers of Division "Grossdeutschland" evacuated from East Prussia. In March 1945.

 A devastated Koenigsberg after the Germans surrendered in April 1945


The Battle of Königsberg (also known as the Königsberg Offensive), was one of the last operations of the East Prussian Offensive during World War II. In four days of violent urban warfare, Soviet forces of the 1st Baltic Front and the 3rd Belorussian Front captured the city of Königsberg (now Kaliningrad, Russia). The siege started in late January 1945 when the Soviets initially surrounded the city. There was heavy fighting for the overland connection between Königsberg and the port of Pillau, but by March 1945 Königsberg was hundreds of kilometres behind the main front line. The battle finished when the German garrison surrendered to the Soviets on 9 April after a three day assault made their position untenable.
 "IVAN'S WAR" BY Catherine Merridale

"IVAN'S WAR" BY Catherine Merridale

The men knew that their own conduct was turning brutal. "I have to say that the war has changed me a lot," Aronov wrote. "War does not make people tender. On the contrary, it makes them reserved, rather coarse, and very cruel. That's a fact." But he was not really apologizing, and his comrades would also show little sense of shame. "Our soldiers nave not dealt with East Prussia any worse than the Germans did with Smolensk," a Russian combatant wrote home from a town inside the Prussian border. "We hate Germany and the Germans deeply. In one house, for example, our boys found a murdered woman and her two children. You can often see civilians lying dead in the street, too. But the Germans deserve the atrocities that they unleashed. You only have to think about Maidanek. . .. It's certainly cruel to have killed those children, but the cold-bloodedness of the Germans at Maidanek was a thousand times worse."
The first atrocity that Lev Kopelev would witness was the burning of a Prussian town. There was no military reason for it. Valuable food and other supplies—blankets, clothing, even medicines—were all consumed in the fire. It was this kind of profligacy, the waste of resources, that would eventually bring the great rampage across Prussia to an end. The interests of the war, as Rokossovsky would insist, called for more discipline. But military thinking seemed to have been suspended in those first wild hours—or rather, a new tactic had become widespread. The order of the day, Kopelev noted, was "smash, burn, have your revenge." Many of his fellow officers were shocked, especially at the wanton waste, but the political officer in charge dismissed the incident. "The Fritzes have plundered all over the world," he said. "That's why they've got so much. They burned down everything in our country, and now we're doing the same in theirs. We don't have to feel sorry for them." Kopelev's own concern would soon be dubbed "bourgeois humanitarianism," and within a few weeks of his first complaint he was arrested for it.

There was nothing bourgeois or humanitarian about most Soviet troops in those cold days. "In the few German areas that have been occupied by the Red Army," German intelligence reported, "the behavior of the soldiers is exactly as predicted earlier in the war—in most cases is horrifying. Brutish killings, rapes of young women and girls, as well senseless destruction are taking place on a daily basis." A prisoner of war told his German captors that a specific order from Stalin had de-creed all this by stating that revenge should be taken for German atrocities. "A confirmation of the Stalin order," the author observed, "is not available yet." It would not be, for nothing as specific as an order to rape and destroy was ever issued. Indeed, all through these months the penalty for rape and looting, technically at least, was death on the spot. But the men read license into every exhortation to revenge. "Red Army soldier!" a poster declared. "You are now on German soil. The hour of revenge has struck! "

A packet of the men's letters intercepted by German intelligence in February 1945 required no editing to make the point. "Happy is the heart as you drive through a burning German town," wrote one man to his parents. "We are taking revenge for everything, and our revenge is just. Fire for fire, blood for blood, death for death." "It was evening when we drove into Neidenburg," Kopelev wrote. It was a small town, meaner than Insterburg, and like all the others it was almost deserted. The Red Army had torched the place. Through the smoke, the officer made out the body of a dead old woman. "Her dress was ripped," he saw, and "a telephone receiver reposed between her scrawny thighs. They had apparently tried to ram it into her vagina." The pretext was that she could easily have been a spy. "They got her by the telephone booth," one of the men explained. "Why fool around?" It was the first of several murders Kopelev would witness in that cursed place. Then came Allenstein, and more fire, more death. Near the post office, he met a woman with a bandaged head, clutching the hand of a young girl with blond pigtails. Both had been crying, and the child's legs were stained with blood. "The soldiers kicked us out of our house," she told the Russian officer. "They beat us, they raped us. My daughter is only thirteen. Two of them did it to her. And many of them to me." She wanted him to help her find her little boy. Another woman begged Kopelev to shoot her.

The Germans prepare for the inevitable. The construction of fortifications, East Prussia, the middle of July 1944.


Koenigsberg had twelve large and five small forts, spaced at a distance of 3-4 km, each of which was defended by 300 to 500 soldiers and officers. But to approach it, the Soviet troops had to overcome three powerful defense zones, including the so-called "line of Daimyo" (40 kilometers from the city), equipped with the latest fortification. Directly on the outskirts of the city Soviet troops encountered two powerful defense belt and two milestones that were heavily "larded" with antitank and antipersonnel mines. Streets were blocked by anti-tank obstacles and ditches, barricades and trenches. The approaches to the fort was surrounded by deep, up to seven meters, ditches filled with water. Reinforced concrete casemates could withstand heavy artillery strikes and heavy bombs. Forts were autonomous, with its own underground power station, large stocks of ammunition and food.

The garrison of the city had about 130,000 soldiers. Everything was ready for a long defense of the city. Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels wrote in his diary that "the party held in Konigsberg, very wide-ranging measures for defense, some of which could serve as a model for us here in Berlin."

Refugees fleeing the fierce fighting at Konigsberg move towards Pillau, mid February 1945.

German soldiers in Königsberg with a MG 151/20 gun. The winter of 1945.


The MG 151 (MG 151/15) was a 15 mm autocannon produced by Waffenfabrik Mauser starting in 1940. It was in 1941 developed into the 20 mm MG 151/20 cannon which was widely used on many types of German Luftwaffe fighters, fighter bombers, night fighters, ground attack and even bombers as part of or as their main armament during World War II. The 20 mm MG 151/20 was also fitted on the Italian World War II fighter aircraft of the "Serie 5", the most effective Italian fighters of WWII.
Later, while in captivity, when asked how did he explain the rapid decline of the fortified castles of Koenigsberg, Lyash said that the Russian "secretly managed to concentrate a large amount of artillery and aircraft, the massive use of which destroyed the building and demoralized soldiers and officers. When morale is broken - it is first difficult, then impossible to fight." 
Otto von Lasch - the last German commandant of the town and fortress of Konigsberg

So Fiel Konigsberg

Königsberg zählt zu den am härtesten umkämpften Städten des Zweiten Weltkriegs. Als fünf sowjetische Armeen nach vierteljährlicher Belagerung im April 1945 zum Großangriff auf die Hauptstadt Ostpreußens antraten, stützte sich die Verteidigung im Wesentlichen auf einen alten Fortgürtel aus dem 19. Jahrhundert, der mit unzureichenden Mitteln zu einer Hauptkampflinie ausgebaut worden war. Dies ist der gleichermaßen erschütternde wie detaillierte Bericht der verlustreichen Kämpfe und der einzelnen Stadien ihrer Entwicklung, eingebettet in die verzweifelte militärische Großlage in Ostpreußen 1945. Sie stammen aus der Feder eines unmittelbar beteiligten Zeitzeugen, dessen führende Stellung ihm wohl die am tiefsten gehende Gesamtsicht der Dinge auf deutscher Seite erlaubte. Karten und ein Anhang mit Zeittafel, Aufstellung der beteiligten Verbände und Truppenteile, Stellenbesetzungen, deutschen und russischen Armeeberichten usw. ergänzen die fundierte Dokumentation.Erst im Spätherbst 1955 kehrte General Otto Lasch - seit 27. Januar 1945 Kommandant der Festung Königsberg - nach langen schweren Jahren aus russischer Kriegsgefangenschaft zurück. Dies ist sein erschütternder Bericht über das Ende der zum Bollwerk gegen die anstürmende Rote Armee gewordenen alten Hauptstadt Ostpreußens, zu deren Übergabe sich der General entgegen Hitlers Befehl entschloß, um in aussichtsloser Lage wenigstens noch Menschenleben zu retten. Die Geschichte vom Fall der Festung und die einzelnen Stadien der militärischen Entwicklung sind hier authentisch dargestellt. Zahlreiche Aussagen überlebender Zeitzeugen wurden mit verarbeitet. Dabei vermitteln vor allem die Schilderungen der mit äußerster Härte geführten Abwehrkämpfe durch beteiligte Wehrmachtssoldaten ein anschauliches Bild der dramatischen Ereignisse. Fotos, Karten und ein Anhang mit Zeittafel, Namensaufstellungen, OKW-Berichten usw. bilden eine fundierte sachliche Ergänzung. Eine Dokumentation unvorstellbaren Grauens und des Leidens von Zivilisten und Soldaten während des Kriegsgeschehens in Königsberg von Oktober 1944 bis zur Kapitulation am 9. April 1945. 

Extract From The book: "So Fiel Konigsberg" by Otto von Lasch
"Houses were burning.. Upholstered furniture, musical instruments, kitchen utensils, paintings, china - it was all thrown out of their homes. Between the burning tanks and cars, lay clothing and equipment.  Drunken Russian soldiers roamed about.. Some  shooting wildly at random, others tried to ride a bike, but fell down and remained lying unconscious in the gutters with bleeding wounds. In the house were dragged weeping, struggling women and girls. The children weeped, calling their parents. Before our eyes are brought paintings, which are impossible to describe. The roadside  was filled with corpses. The dead bodies bore traces of unimaginable brutality and rape. Lying around were a lot of dead children. They were hung on the trees - with ears cut off, eyes gouged. In all directions were German women. Drunken Russian fought for nurses. On the roadside under a tree, sat an old woman, both her legs were crushed by a car.  We heard cries for help but we could do nothing. From their homes, raising their hands in prayer, women go out, the Russian drove them back and shoot them if they refused. It was awful. This we could not even imagine.  The wounded, for whom no one cared, moaned from the pain. Almost all were tormented by hunger and thirst. From both sides in the column of prisoners of war squeezed Russian soldiers picking someone's overcoat, cap or a wallet. Everyone wanted something to profit. 'Ury, Ury! "  they shouted."

 German soldiers in camp near Pillau. East Prussia, in April 1945.

German ZSU FlaK 38. Fishhauzen, East Prussia, in March 1945
Outskirts of Konigsberg. Russian soldiers. April 1945
Here are excerpts from the book by Max Hastings 'Armageddon: The Battle for Germany, 1944-1945'  were published in the "Daily Mail" (UK) in October 2004

The first Russian invasion in the eastern part of Germany took place in October 1944 when the Red Army captured several border villages. Five days later they were knocked out, and before the eyes of Nazi soldiers appeared an indescribable picture. Hardly any one civilian escaped death at the hands of Russian soldiers. Women were crucified on the doors of sheds, raped, or crushed under tank treads. Their children, too, were brutally murdered. Forty French prisoners of war who worked on nearby farms,were shot by the liberators. The same fate befell the German Communists.

The action of the Red Army was not a manifestation of senseless violence - it was  systematic sadism, not inferior to the Nazis' own actions. 

An eyewitness account says, 'In the yard stood a farm wagon,  on which were crucified, nailed by the hand, a few naked women  Near the inn is a large barn, to each of its two doors were nailed crucified pose naked woman. In homes, we found a total of 72 women and girls, and one man 74 years - all of them were killed brutally, only a few had bullet holes in the head . Some babies had their heads smashed. "  These atrocities later caused the Russians embarrassment. The  official history of Moscow's so-called 'Great Patriotic War, is usually very discreet in such matters, recognized: "Not all Soviet soldiers properly understand how they should conduct themselves in Germany. In the first days of fighting in East Prussia were some violations of proper conduct. "

In fact, what happened during those first attacks were a harbinger of the barbaric behavior of the Red Army in the terrible months of the rapid advance deep into the Third Reich. More than 100 million people who were in the range of Nazi Germany, were in a dark labyrinth, where they waited for the horrors, far superior to anything that the Western countries had experienced during the Second World War. 

For the Russian it was  revenge for the atrocities committed by the Nazis in their own country . For three years  German troops on the territory of the Soviet Union had gone on a rampage, destroying a lot of people and causing immense suffering to its people. During the war some 8.7 million Soviet soldiers and 18 million civilians were killed. 

Russian hatred of the enemy intensified after the release of areas occupied by the Germans. Before them appeared real desert - crops destroyed in the bud, the cattle taken away, a million houses burned down, most people either killed or driven into slavery. The Soviet Army Witold Kubaschewski remembers how the soldiers of his platoon in the newly liberated country found that a stench came from from the barn near the local church. Inside, they saw that the room up to the roof had rotting corpses of local peasants. Even more horrific pictures were awaiting them at the  Nazi death camps. 

At the crematorium at the Majdanek camp in Poland Stalin's soldiers found the burnt remains of 200,000 people. Direct 'contacts' with the enemy soldiers who behaved arrogantly and self-confidence seemed to add fuel to the fire of hatred. In the field hospital, where he worked as medical officer Nikolai Senkevich, a group of German prisoners during interrogation refused to answer: 'We just took them to the side  where they were shot. " Most of the Germans surrendered and have not seen the camps for prisoners of war. 'We killed the prisoners just like that - says Captain Basil Krylov, and snaps his fingers. - If the soldiers were ordered to deliver the prisoners to the rear, they are likely to 'killed while trying to escape.'' Witold Kubaschewski recalls how intolerable it was for him to shoot the prisoners, and he tried not to look into the eyes of a doomed man. But, like everything he shot, following an order. 'In war, one rule - you go into battle, you see the enemy and the enemy for you -is not a man - says Sergeant Nicholas Tymoshenko. - Raising his hands, you will not be saved." 

What disgusted the Russian most were claims by the Germans that they belonged to a higher civilization. 

Stalin encouraged the soldiers to keep 'registers of retribution', recording data on the German atrocities, and fixing the personal contribution to the 'settling of accounts' with the enemy. Political officers in the same order was carried out 'rallies retaliation. " When the hungry horde of vengeance came to Germany, it was a terrible sight. Stalin did not care how many people  died, ensuring his victory, and the successful attack of his infantry and tanks were based more on self-sacrifice of soldiers, than clever tactics or forethought. 

The Germans were lined with four or five pieces, but in their place, always there were new tanks, and behind them came waves of infantry. recalls a German soldier: 'You would not believe - they all came and went, they just rushed the infantry on our tanks, running , with cries, even when the front of our positions had piled up mountains of corpses. A thought: 'Is it possible to stop these people?'' The numbers of Soviet losses and to this day for many veterans are the subject of unnatural pride. 'Of course, the Red Army treated with contempt for human life, - said Vladimir Gormin artillery. - No one knew how many people died, but this did not really care. " The generals threw their 'shock army' in frontal attacks, despite the danger of enemy counterattacks, or the environment. 'The Germans cut them, sometimes for weeks, they were surrounded, they ended with food, fuel, ammunition, - says a Russian officer. - But they had to break out of the ring." 

Recalls a German soldier: 'You would not believe - they all came and went, they just rushed the infantry on our tanks, running , with cries, even when the front of our positions piled up mountains of corpses. A thought: 'Is it possible to stop these people?''

Russian were ruthless in the melee, and especially formidable opponents were in a night battle. All the German soldiers who were on the Eastern front, and then find themselves in the West, in a voice note that during the fighting with the Americans and British, they could move freely at night, while the Russian was always harassing the enemy. 

One of the favorite tricks of Soviet reconnaissance groups at night, was to cut the throat of a German sentry, and then leave the mutilated corpse for their surviving comrades to see. bravery and tenacity of the Red Army were combined with the extreme lack of discipline, fueled by a monstrous drunkenness: excessive consumption of vodka was the only one way for Ivan to keep going. Even the tireless efforts of firing squad - Stalin preferred to keep their troops in check in this way - they could not keep people from the excesses.

 The road transport services  placed on the road signs 'brake or die!', But dozens of truck drivers ignored these warnings lightly - and indeed died. Vladimir Gordin once saw a convoy of three trucks, one after another fell into the abyss. Or take the following case: a soldier decided to make a joke: He put on a German helmet and jacket and stormed into the dugout, where the rest of his department,  waving his Schmeisser and shouting "Hyundai hoch! ' One of his comrades shot the 'artist', before anyone recognized him. Of course, not all Soviet soldiers were fools - or heroes. 

In the first battle of seventeen Anatoly Osminov turned gray when the armor of his tank barrage of bullets clattered. It recognizes the fact that put his pants from fear - it has happened with many of the soldiers on all fronts. 'Then you get used to the danger, as you get used to kill people - he says. - At first I thought: 'How can I kill a man?' But then I realized: either I kill him or he kills you. " Even today, many Russians - and the government itself - refuse to acknowledge the true scale of the atrocities that the Red Army perpetrated on the way to Berlin. 

However, in 1945 the Red Army command, of course, believed that its soldiers could conduct themselves on German soil as savages. Hardest hit was East Prussia - in its vast rolling plains stretch estates of many German aristocrats. In the early years of the war it was a quiet backwater, living almost as in times of peace. Now it has become a living hell. 

An eyewitness says. 'We all know that German girls were to be raped and killed - Alexander Solzhenitsyn wrote, during the war - as an artillery officer. - It was perceived almost as a difference in the fight. " He was echoed by Gabriel Temkin, who served as translator for the 78th Infantry Division: "The easiest way to get revenge - it is to master the women of the enemy."

In East Prussia, Red Army raped women in such numbers that it clearly was not a purely sexual satisfaction, and a desire to abuse the whole nation. fury of the conquerors only increased when they first saw with their  eyes how the Germans lived lavishly. "Their villages and towns, compared with ours looked like heaven on earth - said Lieutenant Gennady Klimenkoput. - Everything was so well maintained. So many beautiful buildings. They were so much richer than we are. Why did they attack us in 1941 and why were we so treated? " 

What the soldiers saw was contrary to years of propaganda about the advantages of the socialist economy. Perhaps it is the fury caused by the well-being of the enemy against their own poverty after decades of 'austerity', explains why the Soviet soldiers, went insane, destroying everything that came to hand. Looting occurred on an epic scale - and this contributed to the Red Army order that every soldier once a month could send a parcel home with trophies.  If civilians foolishly complained of looting, soldiers simply burned their homes.

In the face of this fierce offensive the German population of East Prussia fled without looking back; Leading to an outcome that was one of the darkest in history. In one of the coldest winters of the twentieth century, hundreds of thousands of civilians (lucky few - on carts, and most of the foot) rushed to the west along a narrow corridor between the snowy plains of contracting tick the Soviet offensive. Only one thing mattered - to escape from the Russians.

The roads were clogged with living and shoulder - with corpses. Dead babies lay directly on the snow. Some of the refugees coming into the horror of this deadly chaos, turned back, saying: 'Perhaps, the Russian is not so terrible as they say. " Later, they had only to regret that decision. When they came across the columns of refugees, Russian troops shot their cannons and machine guns. This was no military necessity - it was only revenge. Those who could not go by land, tried to escape by sea - it has become one of the darkest episodes of the war. In the Baltic ports of Germany, thousands of people fought for a place on the ship sailing to the West - some frustrated in the water, slipping in a stampede at the pier, some other passengers were thrown overboard.

The Tregedy of Wilhelm Gustloff

In the port of Gdynia, near Danzig, stood the ship ' Wilhelm Gustloff. But that day in the passenger list included more than 6000 souls - including  the wounded amputees from the military hospitals and pregnant women, for which the promenade deck was turned into a maternity ward. Later, when the 'Gustloff' moved away from the pier, it was surrounded by a whole flotilla of boats full of refugees, begging to be picked up - a woman raised her children with her hands. Moved with pity, they were taken aboard. It is believed that another 2000 people climbed the ship. Those who did it, experienced great relief - but, alas, they were doomed. 

Leaving the harbor, Gustloff slowly overcame the stormy waters, swaying in the Baltic sharp waves. It became an easy target for a Soviet submarine captain Alexander Marinesco, who intercepted ship and fired  torpedoes at it at point blank range, as usual, decorated with the slogan: 'For the Motherland ! ',' Over Stalingrad! ',' For the Soviet people! ". There were three deafening explosion, "Wilhelm Gustloff 'strongly tilted and sank in 70 minutes. The victims of this disaster - the largest in the history of navigation, which eclipsed the death of 'Titanic' or 'Lusitania' - were 7,000 (maybe more). 

 Even among those who managed to get into lifeboats, many froze to death, while waiting for rescuers, who arrived at the crash site at dawn. In total 949 people survived. However, the story of the terrible fate of 'Wilhelm Gustloff' was lost in the background of the global tragedy of 1945, and today only a few know about it.

On board were played terrible scenes. Hundreds of young women from the auxiliary unit of German Navy were lucky to die quickly - one of the torpedo exploded directly under the room where they were placed. The elderly, the sick and wounded could not move - their death was long and painful. cries of people trapped, as in a trap between the watertight bulkheads, which fell immediately after the explosion. The men shot their rifles and tried to curb the mad crowd, rushing upward from the lower decks. Steward, running past one of the cabins, I heard a shot. Opening the door, he saw an officer of the Navy, who was standing with a gun in his hand over the corpses of women and children: another child in terror clutched at his leg. 'Get out!' - Shouted the officer, and flight attendant closed the door without interfering. Even among those who managed to get into lifeboats, many froze to death, while waiting for rescuers, who arrived at the crash site at dawn. In total 949 people survived. However, the story of the terrible fate of 'Wilhelm Gustloff' was lost in the background of the global tragedy of 1945, and today only a few know about it.

In East Prussia,  its capital - the fortified town of Konigsberg, was still in German hands. Some of the townspeople wanted to surrender - but then saw the bodies of 80 German soldiers executed for desertion, put up for public display at the city railway station and attached to the clothing labels: "They were cowards, but still lost." Russian bombed the city to the ground, and yet assault groups had to fight for every meter, using flame throwers to destroy the defenders, who did not want to give up. 

'Never seen such a fierce resistance, as in Konigsberg "- says a Russian officer. When the Red Army finally captured the city, they massacred thousands of residents. Women were raped right in the maternity wards of hospitals. One doctor says to the desperate cries of "Shoot me! ',' Shoot me ', but the torturers to their victims chose a slow death. Michael Vick (Michael Wieck) - one of those who survived the massacre - says: 'Each man they encountered was killed, and every woman - raped. At night the cries could be heard everywhere pleading for help. People were locked in the basement and the house was set on fire. They were rounded up civilians on the former battlefields around the city, and then shot or burned them" 

Bloody Winter of East Prussia - is one of the worst episodes of World War II. The Germans still feel angry that so few people in the world know about it. A woman from East Prussia said to me: 'It was our Holocaust, but nobody gives  a damn." 

Russians attempt to justify themselves. 'Remember that the Germans were doing in our country' - they say, and indeed, for every German killed by the Red Army, we have three, four or five Russians, who fell at the hands of the Wehrmacht, Luftwaffe and SS in the days of their triumph. For the majority of Russian soldiers every feeling of pity and compassion, died earlier - on hundreds of battlefields in Russia. Yet few people can, without indignation think of the fate that befell East Prussia, the more that it was not dictated by military necessity.

A Panther from the 31st Panzer Regiment of the 5th Panzer Division of the Wehrmacht in Goldap (East Prussia), November 1944. Gołdap - one of the first settlements of East Prussia, was taken by the Red Army on October 20, 1944. But as a result of counter-attack the Germans managed to recapture the city.

A column of German tanks Pz.Kpfw. "Panther" moves to the front in East Prussia. In January 1945.

German POW captured by the Red Army in late 1944

Russian soldiers occupy Pillau. April 1945


During World War II, Pillau had a U-boat training facility. On 16 April 1945, the U-78 was sunk by Soviet artillery fire while she was docked near the electricity supply pier in the German port. This was the only U-boat to be ever sunk by land-based forces in World War II. As the Red Army entered East Prussia, more than 450,000 refugees were ferried from Pillau to central and western Germany. Pillau was eventually captured by Soviets on April 25, 1945

After the war, this part of East Prussia passed to the Soviet Union, and the German inhabitants were expelled. During the Russification campaign, the town's name was changed to Baltiysk in 1946.

The Russians are coming!  Soldiers of the 2nd Guards Taman Division  enter the town of Eylau in East Prussia. February 6, 1945

Soviet troops occupy the city of Frauenburg in East Prussia. In February 1945.


Towards and after the end of World War II the German inhabitants were either evacuated or expelled like most of the German population of East Prussia. At the end of World War II, 173 years after the partitions, the city along with the rest of southern East Prussia became again part of Poland by the decisions of the Potsdam Conference. The town was resettled by Poles, many of whom were expellees from Polish areas annexed by the Soviet Union.

APC M3A1 with the Soviet soldiers, Eastern Prussia, Koenigsberg, in April 1945

 A column of German prisoners on the streets Insterburg, April 1945


Insterburg became part of the German Empire during the 1871 unification of Germany. On 1 May 1901 it became an independent city separate from the Insterburg District. After World War I, the town was separated from the rest of Weimar Germany, as the province of East Prussia had become an exclave. The football club Yorck Boyen Insterburg was formed in 1921.

 During World War II, Insterburg was heavily bombed by the British Royal Air Force on 27 July 1944. The town was stormed by Red Army troops on January 21–22, 1945. As part of the northern part of East Prussia, Insterburg was transferred from Germany to the Soviet Union after the war as previously agreed between the victorious powers at the Potsdam Conference. The German population was either evacuated or expelled and replaced with Russians. In 1946 Insterburg was renamed Chernyakhovsk in honor of the Soviet World War II General of the army Ivan Chernyakhovsky, who was killed in the Battle of Königsberg.

A column of German prisoners on the streets Insterburg, April 1945

A German soldier armed with assault rifle StG 44 shares a smoke with a crew of gunners of an assault gun StuG III. East Prussia in January 1945. 


The StG 44 (Sturmgewehr 44, literally :"storm (or assault) rifle (model of 19)44") was an assault rifle developed in Nazi Germany during World War II and was the first of its kind to see major deployment, considered by many historians to be the first modern assault rifle. 


The Sturmgeschütz III (StuG III) assault gun was Germany's most produced armoured fighting vehicle during World War II. It was built on the chassis of the proven Panzer III tank. Initially intended as a mobile, armoured light gun for infantry support, the StuG was continually modified and was widely employed as a tank destroyer.

Transportation of the Soviet 280-mm mortars Br-5 with an artillery tractor "Voroshilovets" in East Prussia. In January 1945. The 280 mm mortar M1939 (Br-5) was a Soviet heavy artillery piece used during World War II.

 April 1945. Pillau has fallen. Russian soldiers with German civilians

In Danzig it was open season for the Russian soldiers once again. They raped, murdered and pillaged. Women between the ages of twelve and seventy-five were raped; boys who sought to rescue their mothers were pitilessly shot

 March 29, 1945. Grim looking survivors of the Grossdeutschland division in Pillau after they were evacuated from East Prussia. Only 4000 men were left. They were immediately thrown into the fighting.

 Soviet soldiers in carts pass corpses of dead German soldiers. East Prussia. 1944.

 A destroyed German Stug 3 lies near the Kronprinz Barracks. April 1945. The barracks were one of the strongest German fortifications in Koenigsberg.


The Battle of Königsberg (also known as the Königsberg Offensive), was one of the last operations of the East Prussian Offensive during World War II. In four days of violent urban warfare, Soviet forces of the 1st Baltic Front and the 3rd Belorussian Front captured the city of Königsberg (now Kaliningrad, Russia). The siege started in late January 1945 when the Soviets initially surrounded the city. There was heavy fighting for the overland connection between Königsberg and the port of Pillau, but by March 1945 Königsberg was hundreds of kilometres behind the main front line. The battle finished when the German garrison surrendered to the Soviets on 9 April after a three day assault made their position untenable.

 German POW in Koenigsberg. April 1945

 More German POW in Koenigsberg. Happy to be alive or just broken men?

A German Stug 4 in Elbing, East Prussia. February 1945

 Russian officers inspect a fortress at Koenigsberg

Russian soldiers in action on the street of Koenigsberg. April 1945

An abandoned German 10 5 mm leFH 18-42 howitzer at Koenigsberg

A German 150 mm sFH 18 heavy artillery gun lies forlorn at Koenigsberg after it was all over. April 1945.


The 15 cm schwere Feldhaubitze 18 or sFH 18 (German: "heavy field howitzer, model 18"), nicknamed Immergrün ("Evergreen"), was the basic German division-level heavy howitzer during the Second World War, serving alongside the smaller but more numerous 10.5 cm leFH 18. It was based on the earlier, First World War-era design of the 15 cm sFH 13, and while improved over that weapon, it was generally outdated compared to the weapons it faced. It was, however, the first artillery weapon equipped with rocket-assisted ammunition to increase range. The sFH 18 was also used in the self-propelled artillery piece schwere Panzerhaubitze 18/1 (more commonly known as Hummel). The sFH 18 was one of Germany's three main 15 cm calibre weapons, the others being the 15 cm Kanone 18, a corps-level heavy gun, and the 15 cm sIG 33, a short-barreled infantry gun.



At the beginning of August 1944, when the Red Army reached East Prussia, neither Stalin nor anyone else in his entourage suspected that the conquering of the easternmost province of the Third Reich would take more than eight months and would cost an enormous amount of effort and the lives of hundreds of thousands of soldiers.

The first two attempts of the young Soviet General Chernyakhovsky to penetrate deep into the enemy territory failed miserably, which, in turn, forced Stalin to redeploy considerable forces to that area and allow them to prepare thoroughly for the final assault. 

The assault in question commenced in the small hours of 13 January 1945 and continued for almost four months. It would go down in history as one of the most ferocious battles of World War II. 

This new study by the Bulgarian author Kamen Nevenkin scrutinizes that third and final attempt by powerful Soviet forces to capture East Prussia. Using a considerable number of German archival documents, as well as formerly classified Soviet General Staff studies, the author discusses in detail all aspects of the battles that took place in East Prussia from January to April 1945 including the objectives, plans and buildup prior to the offensive, the opening onslaught of the Red Army, the initial Soviet penetration of the front and subsequent breakout and onward drive, including the bitter fighting for Konigsberg, the destruction of the German 4th Army and the closing stages of the offensive around Samland. 

Special attention is paid to the decision-making processes in the headquarters of the two opposing forces. Thanks to the author's utilization of a variety of primary sources, objective answers to some central questions are given, as well as the debunking of a number of resistant myths that have emerged in the post-Second World War period.

The text is well supported by a number of photographs, maps, references, tables and detailed appendices, including orders of battle.
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Points To Ponder


It is difficult to distinguish between the quality of both the German and Russian soldiers. Both were motivated by their love for their motherland. But there were others factors that drove the two sides to such desperate fighting.

One, both sides knew that this was a no-holds bar war. Not fighting was thus not an option.

Second, both Hitler and Stalin had squads that killed any deserter. Turning away from fighting was just not possible.

Thus was seen some of the most bitter, brutal and desperate fighting on the WW2 eastern (Russian) Front.
"Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
-- George Santayana


"Be polite; write diplomatically; even in a declaration of war one observes the rules of politeness."
--Otto von Bismarck

"When the enemy advances, withdraw; when he stops, harass; when he tires, strike; when he retreats, pursue.'
--Mao Zedong


"The main thing is to make history, not to write it."
--Otto von Bismarck

"When you have to kill a man it costs nothing to be polite."
--Winston Churchill


"In time of war the loudest patriots are the greatest profiteers."
--August Bebel

"God is not on the side of the big battalions, but on the side of those who shoot best."

Quotes about War....

"Anyone who has ever looked into the glazed eyes of a soldier dying on the battlefield will think hard before starting a war."
---Otto von Bismarck


"Naturally the common people don't want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."
--Hermann Goering


"To conquer the enemy without resorting to war is the most desirable. The highest form of generalship is to conquer the enemy by strategy."
--Tzu Sun

"All men are brothers, like the seas throughout the world; So why do winds and waves clash so fiercely everywhere?"
--Emperor Hirohito