Operation Spring Awakening (Unternehmen Frühlingserwachen) (6 – 16 March 1945) was the last major German offensive of World War II. It took place in Hungary on the Eastern Front. This offensive was also referred to in Germany as the Plattensee Offensive and in the Soviet Union as the Balaton Defensive Operation (6 – 15 March 1945).
World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.
Hungary is a country in Central Europe. Spanning 93,030 square kilometres (35,920 sq mi) in the Carpathian Basin, it borders Slovakia to the north, Ukraine to the northeast, Austria to the northwest, Romania to the east, Serbia to the south, Croatia to the southwest, and Slovenia to the west. With about 10 million inhabitants, Hungary is a medium-sized member state of the European Union. The official language is Hungarian, which is the most widely spoken Uralic language in the world, and among the few non-Indo-European languages to be widely spoken in Europe. Hungary's capital and largest city is Budapest; other major urban areas include Debrecen, Szeged, Miskolc, Pécs and Győr.
The Eastern Front of World War II was a theatre of conflict between the European Axis powers and co-belligerent Finland against the Soviet Union (U.S.S.R.), Poland and other Allies, which encompassed Central Europe, Eastern Europe, Northeast Europe (Baltics), and Southeast Europe (Balkans) from 22 June 1941 to 9 May 1945. It has been known as the Great Patriotic War in the former Soviet Union and modern Russia, while in Germany it was called the Eastern Front, or the German-Soviet War by outside parties.
The offensive began in great secrecy on 6 March 1945 with an attack near Lake Balaton, the area included some of the last oil reserves still available to the Axis. The operation involved many German units withdrawn from the failed Ardennes Offensive on the Western Front, including the 6th Panzer Army and its subordinate Waffen-SS divisions. The operation was a failure for Germany.
Lake Balaton, Slovak: Blatenské jazero) is a freshwater lake in the Transdanubian region of Hungary. It is the largest lake in Central Europe, and one of the region's foremost tourist destinations. The Zala River provides the largest inflow of water to the lake, and the canalised Sió is the only outflow.
The Battle of the Bulge, also known as the Ardennes Counteroffensive, took place from 16 December 1944 to 25 January 1945, and was the last major German offensive campaign on the Western Front during World War II. It was launched through the densely forested Ardennes region of Wallonia in eastern Belgium, northeast France, and Luxembourg, towards the end of the war in Europe. The offensive was intended to stop Allied use of the Belgian port of Antwerp and to split the Allied lines, allowing the Germans to encircle and destroy four Allied armies and force the Western Allies to negotiate a peace treaty in the Axis powers' favor.
The 6th Panzer Army was a formation of the German Army, formed in the autumn of 1944. The 6th Panzer Army was first used as an offensive force during the Battle of the Bulge, in which it operated as the northernmost element of the German offensive. The army was subsequently transferred to Hungary in early 1945 and used in both offensive and defensive actions there. The final battles of the 6th Panzer Army were fought in Austria until the collapse of Nazi Germany, at which point the army was completely demoralized. The remnants of the army eventually surrendered to the United States Army. Army commander throughout the army's existence, SS-Oberstgruppenführer Josef Dietrich said in early 1945:
"We call ourselves the "6th Panzer Army", because we've only got 6 Panzers left".
After the Ardennes offensive failed, in Hitler's estimation, the Nagykanizsa oilfields southwest of Lake Balaton were the most strategically valuable reserves on the Eastern Front.Hitler ordered Sepp Dietrich's 6th SS Panzer Army to take the lead and move to Hungary in order to protect the oilfields and refineries there.
Josef Dietrich was a German politician and SS commander during the Nazi era. He joined the Nazi Party in 1928 and was elected to the Reichstag of the Weimar Republic in 1930. Prior to 1929, Dietrich was Adolf Hitler's chauffeur and bodyguard. He received rapid promotions in the SS after his participation in the extrajudicial executions of political opponents during the 1934 purge known as the Night of the Long Knives.
The Germans planned to attack against Soviet General Fyodor Tolbukhin's 3rd Ukrainian Front.The 6th Panzer Army was responsible for the primary thrust of the German attack. The army was to advance from an area north of Lake Balaton on a wide front. They were to push east through the Soviet 27th Army and to the Danube River. After reaching the river, one part of the army would turn north creating a northern spearhead. The northern spearhead would advance through the Soviet 6th Guards Tank Army and move along the Danube River to retake Budapest, which had been captured on 13 February 1945. Another part of 6th SS Panzer Army would then turn south and create a southern spearhead. The southern spearhead would move along the Sió to link up with units from German Army Group E, which was to thrust north through Mohács. If successful, the meeting of the southern spearhead and of Army Group E would encircle both the Soviet 26th Army and the Soviet 57th Army.
Fedor Ivanovich Tolbukhin was a Soviet military commander.
3rd Ukrainian Front was a Front of the Red Army during World War II.
The 27th Army was a field army of the Soviet Union's Red Army, which fought in World War II.
German 6th Army would keep the Soviet 27th Army engaged while it was surrounded. Likewise, the German 2nd Panzer Army would advance from an area south of Lake Balaton towards Kaposvár and keep the Soviet 57th Army engaged. The Hungarian Third Army was to hold the area north of the attack and to the west of Budapest.
The 2nd Panzer Army was a German armoured formation during World War II, formed from the 2nd Panzer Group on October 5, 1941.
Kaposvár is a city in the southwestern part of Hungary, south from the Lake Balaton. It is one of the leading cities of Transdanubia and it is the capital of Somogy County as well as the seat of Kaposvár District and of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Kaposvár.
By the second half of February, Soviet intelligence identified large German tank formations in western Hungary, and soon realized that preparation for a major offensive was underway. km of front in Lake Balaton area. The depth of the defense zone reached up to 25–30 km. To ensure sufficient supply of war materials and fuel, additional temporary bridges and gas pipelines were built on the Danube River.Using the experience gained in the Battle of Kursk, the Soviets built multi-layered anti-tank defenses, using 65% of available artillery to create 66 anti-tank ambush points over 83
The Battle of Kursk was a Second World War engagement between German and Soviet forces on the Eastern Front near Kursk in the Soviet Union, during July and August 1943. The battle began with the launch of the German offensive, Operation Citadel, on 5 July, which had the objective of pinching off the Kursk salient with attacks on the base of the salient from north and south simultaneously. After the German offensive stalled on the northern side of the salient, on 12 July the Soviets commenced their Kursk Strategic Offensive Operation with the launch of Operation Kutuzov against the rear of the German forces in the northern side. On the southern side, the Soviets also launched powerful counterattacks the same day, one of which led to a large armoured clash, the Battle of Prokhorovka. On 3 August, the Soviets began the second phase of the Kursk Strategic Offensive Operation with the launch of Operation Polkovodets Rumyantsev against the German forces in the southern side of the Kursk salient.
Between February 18 and March 3 the 233rd Rifle Division had dug 27 kilometers of trenches, 130 gun and mortar positions, 113 dugouts, 70 command posts and observation points, and laid 4,249 antitank and 5,058 antipersonnel mines, all this on a frontage of 5 kilometers. Although there were no tanks in this defensive zone, there was an average of 17 anti-tank guns per kilometer forming 23 tank killing grounds.
Army Group South
Army Group E
3rd Ukrainian Front
On the 6 March 1945, the German 6th Army, joined by the 6th SS Panzer Army launched a pincer movement north and south of Lake Balaton. Ten panzer and five infantry divisions, including a large number of new heavy Tiger II tanks, struck 3rd Ukrainian Front, hoping to reach the Danube and link up with the German 2nd Panzer Army forces attacking south of Lake Balaton.The attack was spearheaded by the 6th SS Panzer Army and included elite units such as the LSSAH division. Dietrich's army made "good progress" at first, but as they drew near the Danube, the combination of the muddy terrain and strong Soviet resistance had ground the German advance to a halt.
By the 14 March, Operation Spring Awakening was at risk of failure. The 6th SS Panzer Army was well short of its goals. The 2nd Panzer Army did not advance as far on the southern side of Lake Balaton as the 6th SS Panzer Army had on the northern side. Army Group E met fierce resistance from the Bulgarian First Army and Josip Broz Tito's Yugoslavian partisan army, and failed to reach its objective of Mohács.
German losses were heavy. Heeresgruppe Süd lost 15,117 casualties in the first eight days of the offensive. The 6th Panzer Army and the 6th Army had only 332 tanks operational of the original approximately 1,000 operational at the start of the offensive.
On the 15 March, strength returns on this day show the Hohenstaufen with 35 Panther tanks, 20 Panzer IVs, 32 Jagdpanzers, 25 Sturmgeschützes and 220 other self-propelled weapons and armoured cars. 42% of these vehicles were damaged, under short or long-term repair. The Das Reich Division had 27 Panthers, 22 Panzer IVs, 28 Jagdpanzers and 26 Sturmgeschützes on hand (the number of under repair are not available).
On 16 March, the Soviets forces counterattacked in strength. The Germans were driven back to the positions they had held before Operation Spring Awakening began.The overwhelming numerical superiority of the Red Army made any defense impossible, but Hitler believed victory was attainable.
On 22 March, the remnants of the 6th SS Panzer Army withdrew towards Vienna. By 30 March, the Soviet 3rd Ukrainian Front crossed from Hungary into Austria. By 4 April, the 6th SS Panzer Army was already in the Vienna area desperately setting up defensive lines against the anticipated Soviet Vienna Offensive. Approaching and encircling the Austrian capital were the Soviet 4th and 6th Guards Tank, 9th Guards, and 46th Armies.
The Soviet's Vienna Offensive ended with the fall of the city on 13 April. By 15 April, the remnants of the 6th SS Panzer Army were north of Vienna, facing the Soviet 9th Guards and 46th Armies. By 15 April, the depleted German 6th Army was north of Graz, facing the Soviet 26th and 27th Armies. The remnants of the German 2nd Panzer Army were south of Graz in the Maribor area, facing the Soviet 57th Army and the Bulgarian First Army. Between 25 April and 4 May, the 2nd Panzer Army was attacked near Nagykanizsa during the Nagykanizsa–Körmend Offensive.
Some Hungarian units survived the fall of Budapest and the destruction which followed when the Soviets counterattacked after Operation Spring Awakening. The Hungarian Szent László Infantry Division was still indicated to be attached to the German 2nd Panzer Army as late as 30 April. Between 16 and 25 March, the Hungarian Third Army had been destroyed about 40 kilometres (25 mi) west of Budapest by the Soviet 46th Army which was driving towards Bratislava and the Vienna area.
On March 19, Soviet recapture the last territory lost during the 13‑day Axis offensive. Sepp Dietrich, commander of the Sixth SS Panzer Army tasked with defending the last sources of petroleum controlled by the Germans, joked that “6th Panzer Army is well named—we have just six tanks left.”
The failure of the operation resulted in the "armband order" that was issued to Sepp Dietrich by Adolf Hitler, who claimed that the troops, and more importantly, the Leibstandarte, "did not fight as the situation demanded."As a mark of disgrace, the Waffen-SS units involved in the battle were ordered to remove their cuff titles. Dietrich did not relay the order to his troops.
Operation Citadel was a German offensive operation against Soviet forces in the Kursk salient during the Second World War on the Eastern Front that initiated the Battle of Kursk. The deliberate defensive operation that the Soviets implemented to repel the German offensive is referred to as the Kursk Strategic Defensive Operation. The German offensive was countered by two Soviet counter-offensives, Operation Polkovodets Rumyantsev and Operation Kutuzov. For the Germans, the battle was the final strategic offensive that they were able to launch on the Eastern Front. As the Allied invasion of Sicily began Adolf Hitler was forced to divert troops training in France to meet the Allied threats in the Mediterranean, rather than use them as a strategic reserve for the Eastern Front. Germany's extensive loss of men and tanks ensured that the victorious Soviet Red Army enjoyed the strategic initiative for the remainder of the war.
The 3rd SS Panzer Division "Totenkopf" was one of 38 divisions of the Waffen-SS of Nazi Germany during World War II. Its name, Totenkopf, is German for "death's head", and it is thus sometimes referred to as the Death's Head Division.
The 5th SS Panzer Division "Wiking" was a Panzer division among the thirty eight Waffen-SS divisions of Nazi Germany. It was recruited from foreign volunteers in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, the Netherlands and Belgium under the command of German officers. During the course of World War II, the division served on the Eastern Front. It surrendered in May 1945 to the American forces in Austria.
The 9th SS Panzer Division "Hohenstaufen" was a Waffen-SS armoured division of Nazi Germany during World War II. It participated in battles on both the Eastern and Western Fronts. The division was activated in December 1942. Many of the men of the division were young German conscripts, with a cadre of NCOs and staff from the SS Division Leibstandarte and other Waffen SS divisions. Hohenstaufen took part in the relief of German forces in the Kamenets-Podolsky pocket, the Normandy battles, Operation Market Garden, the Ardennes Offensive and Operation Spring Awakening. The division surrendered to the United States Army on 5 May 1945, at Steyr.
The Lvov–Sandomierz Offensive or Lvov-Sandomierz Strategic Offensive Operation was a major Red Army operation to force the German troops from Ukraine and Eastern Poland. Launched in mid-July 1944, the Red Army achieved its set objectives by the end of August.
The IV SS Panzer Corps was a panzer corps of the Waffen-SS of Nazi Germany which saw action on the Eastern Front and in the Balkans during World War II.
The Battle of Debrecen, called by the Red Army the Debrecen Offensive Operation, was a battle taking place 6–29 October 1944 on the Eastern Front during World War II.
The I SS Panzer Corps was a German armoured corps of the Waffen-SS. It saw action on both the Western and Eastern Fronts during World War II.
The Second Battle of Kiev was part of much wider Soviet offensive in Ukraine known as the Battle of the Dnieper involved three strategic operations by the Soviet Red Army, and one operational counterattack by the Wehrmacht which took place between 3 October and 22 December 1943.
Operation Kutuzov was the first of the two counteroffensives launched by the Red Army as part of the Kursk Strategic Offensive Operation. It commenced on 12 July 1943, in the Central Russian Upland, against Army Group Center of the German Wehrmacht. The operation was named after General Mikhail Kutuzov, the Russian general credited with saving Russia from Napoleon during the French invasion of Russia in 1812. Operation Kutuzov was one of two large-scale Soviet operations launched as counteroffensives against Operation Citadel. The Operation began on 12 July and ended on 18 August 1943 with the capture of Orel and collapse of the Orel bulge.
The Vienna Offensive was launched by the Soviet 2nd and 3rd Ukrainian Fronts in order to capture Vienna, Austria, during World War II. The offensive lasted from 2 April to 13 April 1945.
The Budapest Offensive was the general attack by Soviet and Romanian armies against Nazi Germany and their Axis allies from Hungary. The offensive lasted from 29 October 1944 until the fall of Budapest on 13 February 1945. This was one of the most difficult and complicated offensives that the Soviet Army carried on in Central Europe. It resulted in a decisive victory for the USSR, as it disabled the last European political ally of Nazi Germany and greatly sped up the ending of World War II in Europe.
The Battle of the Transdanubian Hills was a defensive operation of the Bulgarian First Army during Bulgaria's participation in World War II against German Wehrmacht forces, who were trying to capture the north bank of the Drava river as part of Operation Spring Awakening.
The Nagykanizsa–Körmend Offensive carried out between 26 March and 15 April 1945 was part of the 3rd Ukrainian Front's Vienna Offensive during World War II against the Army Group South forces defending the Kisbajom-Nagykorpád-Nagyatád-Heresznye defensive line north of the Drava river and west of Lake Balaton.
The 99th Guards Rifle Division was a Red Army division of World War II. It was formed from the 14th Guards Airborne Division in January 1944. It fought in the Svir-Petrozavodsk Offensive between June and August 1944. It became the 99th Guards Airborne Division in August but was converted into infantry again in December 1944 and January 1945. The division fought in the Budapest Offensive and in the defense against Operation Spring Awakening. At the end of the war it participated in the Vienna Offensive and the Prague Offensive. In August 1945 it transferred to the Far East and was converted into an airborne division in 1946. The division served in the Far East for the next decade and was disbanded in 1956.
The Donbass Strategic Offensive was a military campaign fought in the Donets Basin from 17 July 1943 and 2 August 1943 between the German and Soviet armed forces on the Eastern Front of World War II. The Germans contained the Soviet offensive in its northern portion after initial gains and pushed the southern portion back to its starting point.
Operation Konrad III was a German military offensive on the Eastern Front of the Second World War. It was the third and most ambitious of the three Konrad Operations and had the objective of relieving the siege of Budapest and recapturing the entire Transdanubia region. Achieving complete surprise, the German offensive began on 18 January 1945. Supported by the Luftwaffe, the IV SS Panzer Corps, the principal German attack formation, overran the Soviet 4th Guards Army in two days, destroying hundreds of Soviet tanks along the way, reached the Danube river on 19 January and recaptured 400 square kilometers of territory in four days. After nine days of high-intensity combat, and the destruction by the SS of nearly all Soviet tanks in the entire 3rd Ukrainian Front, the German offensive was stopped by Soviet reinforcements 25 kilometers short of Budapest on 26 January.
Operation Southwind was a German offensive operation on the Eastern Front in Hungary, from 17–24 February 1945. The Germans succeeded to eliminate the Soviet bridgehead on the west bank of the river Garam in preparation for Operation Spring Awakening. This was one of the last successful German offensives in the Second World War.