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The Silesian Offensives were two separate offensives conducted in February and March 1945 by the Soviet Red Army against the Wehrmacht on the Eastern Front in World War II to protect the flanks of the Red Army during its push to Berlin to prevent a German counterattack. It delayed the final push toward Berlin by 2 months.
The Soviet Union, officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was a socialist state in Eurasia that existed from 30 December 1922 to 26 December 1991. Nominally a union of multiple national Soviet republics, its government and economy were highly centralized. The country was a one-party state, governed by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital in its largest republic, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Other major urban centres were Leningrad, Kiev, Minsk, Alma-Ata, and Novosibirsk.
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army, frequently shortened to Red Army was the army and the air force of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, and, after 1922, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The army was established immediately after the 1917 October Revolution. The Bolsheviks raised an army to oppose the military confederations of their adversaries during the Russian Civil War. Beginning in February 1946, the Red Army, along with the Soviet Navy, embodied the main component of the Soviet Armed Forces; taking the official name of "Soviet Army", until its dissolution in December 1991.
The Wehrmacht was the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the Heer (army), the Kriegsmarine (navy) and the Luftwaffe. The designation "Wehrmacht" replaced the previously used term Reichswehr, and was the manifestation of the Nazi regime's efforts to rearm Germany to a greater extent than the Treaty of Versailles permitted.
The Lower Silesian Offensive ran from 8–24 February 1945, and the Upper Silesian Offensive from 15–31 March. Designed to flank the Soviet main advance on Berlin, the two operations pushed the Wehrmacht out of Silesia.
The Lower Silesian Offensive was a Soviet offensive on the Eastern Front of World War II in 1945, involving forces of the 1st Ukrainian Front under Marshal Ivan Konev. It cleared German troops from much of Lower Silesia and besieged a large German force in the provincial capital, Breslau. The offensive began on February 8 and continued until February 24, when the Soviets ceased their offensive having captured a small bridgehead across the Neisse River near Forst. The offensive directly succeeded the Vistula–Oder Offensive, in which Konev's troops had driven the German Army Group A from Poland, liberating Kraków and taking bridgeheads over the Oder River.
The Upper Silesian Offensive was a strategically significant Soviet offensive on the Eastern Front of World War II in 1945. It was aimed at capturing the considerable industrial and natural resources located in Upper Silesia and involved forces of the 1st Ukrainian Front under Marshal Ivan Konev. Due to the importance of the region to the Germans, considerable forces were provided to Army Group Centre for its defence and the Germans were only slowly pushed back to the Czech border. Fighting for the region lasted from mid January right until the last day of the war in Europe on May 8, 1945.
Berlin is the capital and largest city of Germany by both area and population. Its 3,723,914 (2018) inhabitants make it the second most populous city proper of the European Union after London. The city is one of Germany's 16 federal states. It is surrounded by the state of Brandenburg, and contiguous with its capital, Potsdam. The two cities are at the center of the Berlin/Brandenburg Metropolitan Region, which is, with 6,004,857 (2015) inhabitants and an area of 30,370 square km, Germany's third-largest metropolitan region after the Rhine-Ruhr and Rhine-Main regions.
According to Soviet information, the Germans lost 54,000 soldiers: 40,000 dead and 14,000 captured in the Upper Silesian Offensive.
The 1st Ukrainian Front under Ivan Konev’s command—having completed the Vistula–Oder Offensive—was to advance westward toward Silesia with the primary objective of protecting the left flank of the 1st Belorussian Front, which was pushing toward Berlin. Similarly, the East Pomeranian Offensive of the 2nd Belorussian Front in the north was tasked with protecting the 1st Belorussian Front's right flank.
The 1st Ukrainian Front was a front—a force the size of a Western Army group—of the Soviet Union's Red Army during the Second World War.
Ivan Stepanovich Konev was a Soviet military commander who led Red Army forces on the Eastern Front during World War II, retook much of Eastern Europe from occupation by the Axis Powers, and helped in the capture of Germany's capital, Berlin.
The Vistula–Oder Offensive was a successful Red Army operation on the Eastern Front in the European Theatre of World War II in January 1945. It saw the fall of Kraków, Warsaw and Poznań.
The need to secure the flanks delayed till April the Soviets' final push toward Berlin, which had originally been planned for February. By mid-April, the East Pomeranian Offensive—carried out by the 2nd, and elements of the 1st, Belorussian Fronts—had succeeded in its objectives, reaching the important German port city of Stettin (now Szczecin).
The Battle of Berlin, designated the Berlin Strategic Offensive Operation by the Soviet Union, and also known as the Fall of Berlin, was the final major offensive of the European theatre of World War II.
Szczecin is the capital and largest city of the West Pomeranian Voivodeship in Poland. Located near the Baltic Sea and the German border, it is a major seaport and Poland's seventh-largest city. As of June 2018, the population was 403,274.
Joseph Stalin's decision to delay the push toward Berlin from February to April 1945 has been a subject of controversy among Soviet generals and military historians, with one side arguing that in February the Soviets had a chance of securing Berlin much faster and with much smaller losses, and the other arguing that the possibility of large German formations (remnants of the Czech fortification system) remaining on the flanks could have resulted in a successful German counterattack and further prolonged the war. Stalin's aim in delaying the advance on Berlin had likely been political, as it allowed him to occupy substantial parts of Austria in the Vienna Offensive.
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was a Georgian revolutionary and Soviet politician. He led the Soviet Union from the mid–1920s until 1953 as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (1922–1952) and Premier (1941–1953). While initially presiding over a collective leadership as first among equals, he ultimately consolidated enough power to become the country's de facto dictator by the 1930s. A communist ideologically committed to the Leninist interpretation of Marxism, Stalin helped to formalise these ideas as Marxism–Leninism, while his own policies became known as Stalinism.
The Czechoslovak government built a system of border fortifications as well as some fortified defensive lines inland, from 1935 to 1938 as a defensive countermeasure against the rising threat of Nazi Germany. The objective of the fortifications was to prevent the taking of key areas by an enemy—not only Germany but also Hungary and Poland—by means of a sudden attack before the mobilization of the Czechoslovak Army could be completed, and to enable effective defense until allies—Britain and France, and possibly the Soviet Union—could help.
Austria, officially the Republic of Austria, is a country of nearly 9 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Hungary and Slovakia to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the west. The territory of Austria covers 83,879 km2 (32,386 sq mi). The terrain is highly mountainous, lying within the Alps; only 32% of the country is below 500 m (1,640 ft), and its highest point is 3,798 m (12,461 ft). The majority of the population speaks local Bavarian dialects as their native language, and German in its standard form is the country's official language. Other local official languages are Hungarian, Burgenland Croatian, and Slovene.
The 1st Belorussian Front was a major formation of the Soviet Army during World War II, being equivalent to a Western army group.
The Race to Berlin was a competition between two Soviet marshals, Georgy Zhukov and Ivan Konev, to be the first to enter Berlin during the final months of World War II.
The Battle of the Seelow Heights was part of the Seelow-Berlin Offensive Operation. A pitched battle, it was one of the last assaults on large entrenched defensive positions of the Second World War. It was fought over three days, from 16–19 April 1945. Close to one million Soviet soldiers of the 1st Belorussian Front, commanded by Marshal Georgi Zhukov, attacked the position known as the "Gates of Berlin". They were opposed by about 110,000 soldiers of the German 9th Army, commanded by General Theodor Busse, as part of the Army Group Vistula.
The Battle of the Oder–Neisse is the German name for the initial (operational) phase of one of the last two strategic offensives conducted by the Red Army in the Campaign in Central Europe during World War II. Its initial breakthrough phase was fought over four days, from 16 April until 19 April 1945, within the larger context of the Battle of Berlin. The Soviet military planners divide the frontal and pincer phases of the operation, named Berlin Strategic Offensive Operation into:
Semyon Moiseevich Krivoshein was a Soviet tank commander, who played a vital part in the World War II reform of the Red Army tank forces and in the momentous clash between German and Soviet tanks in the Battle of Kursk.
The East Prussian Offensive was a strategic offensive by the Soviet Red Army against the German Wehrmacht on the Eastern Front. 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 second Battle of Smolensk was a Soviet strategic offensive operation conducted by the Red Army as part of the Summer-Autumn Campaign of 1943. Staged almost simultaneously with the Lower Dnieper Offensive, the offensive lasted two months and was led by General Andrei Yeremenko, commanding the Kalinin Front, and Vasily Sokolovsky, commanding the Western Front. Its goal was to clear the German presence from the Smolensk and Bryansk regions. Smolensk had been under German occupation since the first Battle of Smolensk in 1941.
The Lublin–Brest Offensive was a part of the Operation Bagration strategic offensive by the Soviet Red Army to clear the Nazi German forces from the central‐eastern Poland. The offensive was executed by the left (southern) wing of the 1st Belorussian Front and took place during July 1944; it was opposed by the German Army Group North Ukraine and Army Group Centre.
The East Pomeranian Strategic Offensive operation was an offensive by the Soviet Red Army against the German Wehrmacht on the Eastern Front. It took place in Pomerania and West Prussia from 10 February – 4 April 1945.
Operation Solstice, also known as Unternehmen Husarenritt or the Stargard tank battle, was one of the last German armoured offensive operations on the Eastern Front in World War II.
The Dnieper–Carpathian Offensive, also known in Soviet historical sources as the liberation of right-bank Ukraine, fought from 24 December 1943 – 17 April 1944, was a strategic offensive executed by the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Ukrainian Fronts, along with the 1st Belorussian Front, against the German Army Group South, intended to retake all of the Ukrainian and Moldovian territories occupied by Axis forces.
The 70th Army was a Soviet field army during World War II. It was the last combined-arms army, and the highest-numbered, to be formed by the Stavka during the war. It was active at the Battle of Kursk, the Lublin–Brest Offensive, and the Berlin Strategic Offensive, among other actions.
The 415th Rifle Division was formed as a standard Red Army rifle division in the late summer of 1941 in the Far Eastern Front. It was considered to be a "sister" division to the 413th, and was one of the divisions of Siberians sent west to help defend Moscow during the winter of 1941-42. It spent much of the next year in the same general area, west of the capital, taking part in the mostly futile battles against the German-held salient at Rzhev. On January 14, 1944, the division shared credit with the 55th Rifle Division for the liberation of the city of Mozyr and was given its name as an honorific. The 415th had a distinguished career as a combat unit, ending its combat path near Berlin.
The 323rd Rifle Division was formed as a standard Red Army rifle division late in the summer of 1941, as part of the massive buildup of new Soviet fighting formations at that time. After a successful but costly start in the Soviet winter counteroffensive in the Tula region the division served on relatively quiet sectors into 1943, after which it joined the offensive push into German-occupied western Russia through the rest of that year, winning a battle honor for the liberation of Bryansk. In the course of the destruction of Army Group Center in the summer of 1944, the division further distinguished itself in the liberation of Bialystok in July. In 1945 the men and women of the 323rd took part in the Vistula-Oder Offensive through Poland and into Pomerania, and then finally in the Battle of Berlin, ending the war with distinction, but being disbanded soon after.
The 358th Rifle Division formed in August 1941, as a standard Red Army rifle division, at Buguruslan. It first saw action in January 1942, taking part in the offensive northwest of Moscow which carved out the salient around Toropets deep in the rear of Army Group Center. The division remained on this general sector of the front, nearly the whole time in 4th Shock Army, until March 1944, when it was withdrawn for rebuilding. It was then assigned to 21st Army north of Leningrad where it participated in the offensive that drove Finland out of the war from June into August, and remained on this front until December. It was then reassigned to the 39th Army, under which it fought in East Prussia until April 1945. During that month the entire 39th Army began moving to the Far East, where it took part in the Soviet invasion of Manchuria in August, where the 358th won its second battle honor, capping a distinguished record of service.