From Field Marshal Hermann Goering's post-war testimony before the IMT: When, after 12 January 1945, the Russian offensive pushed forward to the Oder and at the same time the Ardennes offensive had not penetrated, it was then that I was forced to realize that defeat would probably set in slowly. Up to that time I had always hoped that, on the one side, the position at the Vistula toward the East and, on the other side, the position at the West Wall towards the West, could be held until the flow of the new mass produced weapons should bring about a slackening of the Anglo-American air war ...
I knew that enemy propaganda emphasized that under no circumstances would there be negotiations with Hitler. That Hitler did not want to negotiate under any circumstances, I also knew, but not in this connection. Hitler wanted to negotiate if there were some prospect of results; but he was absolutely opposed to hopeless and futile negotiations. Because of the declaration of the enemy in the West after the landing in Africa, as far as I remember, that under no circumstances would they negotiate with Germany but would force on her unconditional surrender, Germany's resistance was stiffened to the utmost and measures had to be taken accordingly. If I have no chance of concluding a war through negotiations, then it is useless to negotiate, and I must strain every nerve to bring about a change by a call to arms ... As long as Hitler was the Fuehrer of the German people, he alone decided whether the war was to go on. As long as my enemy threatens me and demands absolutely unconditional surrender, I fight to my last breath.
January 16 1945:
Hitler departs Bad Nauheim and arrives for the final time in Berlin. He will spend the next few days above ground in his embattled capital before moving permanently into the Fuehrerbunker.
From The Arms of Krupp by William Manchester: Retreating from the Wolfsschanze, Hitler returned to the Reich Chancellery in Berlin, that enormous palace of marble, feldspar, red stone, massive doors, and baroque candelabra which he himself had designed and which, second only to Villa Huegal (the Krupp ancestral home), was the most hideous building in Germany. Each day it became less habitable. Allied raids were reducing it to a gutted skeleton. Fifty feet beneath the garden of the old chancellery, however, a shelter had been built. Approached from within the chancellery by stairs leading down to the butler's pantry, the suite comprised twelve rooms, none larger than a closet, and a curved stair descending to an even deeper (though equally cramped) second chamber. This was the Fuehrerbunker, 'the stage,' in the words of H.R. Trevor-Roper, 'on which the last act of the Nazi melodrama was played out.'
January 17, 1945:
The Red Army liberates Warsaw, whose prewar population of 1,300,000 has been reduced to almost nothing, with 90% of the city destroyed. At Mlawa, 320 Poles, mostly partisans, are shot by the Germans in one of many last-minute executions around Warsaw. In the next 18 days, Soviet troops will advance a further 300 miles into German-held territory.
From A Short History of Russia, by Nicholas V. Riasanovsky: Much has been written to explain the initial Soviet collapse and the great subsequent rally. For example, it has been argued that the Germans defeated themselves. Their beastly treatment of the Soviet population—documented in A. Dallin's study and in other works—turned friends into enemies. It has even been claimed that to win the war the Nazis had merely to arm Soviet citizens and let them fight against their own government, but Hitler was extremely reluctant to try that. The Russian Liberation Army of Andrew Vlasov, a Soviet general who had been taken prisoner by the Germans and had proceeded to organize an anti-Communist movement, received no chance to develop and prove itself in combat until it was too late. Commentators have also rightly stressed the importance of the Soviet appeal to patriotism and other traditional values.
The Communist government consciously utilized the prestige of Russian military heroes of the past and the manifold attractions of nationalism. It emphasized discipline and rank in the army, reducing the power of the commissars. Concurrently it made concessions to the practice of religion and spoke of a new and better life which would follow the end of the war. The Russians, it has been maintained, proved ready to die for their country and that new life, while they felt only hostility to the Soviet regime. These and other similar explanation of the Soviet turnabout and of the German defeat appear to contain much truth. Yet, in the last analysis, they might give as one-sided a picture of the Soviet scene as the wholesale admiration of the Soviet regime and its virtues popular during and immediately after the war in less critical Western circles. The salient fact remains that in one way or another Stalin and his system prevailed over extreme adversity.
January 18, 1945:
An internal accounting is made of the remaining prisoners in the assorted labor and concentration camps: Birkenau; 15,058 Jews remain. Auschwitz: 16,226 people remaining, mostly Poles. Monowitz; 10,233 Jews, Poles and assorted prisoners remaining. Factories of Auschwitz: Another 16,000 Jews, Poles and prisoners. The order for immediate evacuation—by forced march, if necessary—is given.
January 18, 1945:
The Red Army drive against Berlin begins. Hitler, along with his cooks, adjutants, two or three dozen support, medical and administrative staff, his senior military staff and even his dog, Blondi, move into the Fuehrerbunker, which is located underneath the Chancellery garden in Berlin.
Rochus Misch, the Bunker's telephone operator, will later write:
In the inner circle, Hitler was a good boss. In the living quarters and the work room Hitler was a very relaxed man. He had a deep and quiet voice. There was no need to be scared if you made a mistake .... Nobody saluted their higher-ranking colleagues within the building. Hitler was the only one who used the military salute. The young people called him Mein Fuehrer, the older called him Herr Hitler, or Boss. (Misch)
From The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler by Robert Payne: The Fuehrerbunker below the Chancellery in Berlin was provided with all the necessary equipment for conducting a war. It had the best telephone switchboard in Berlin, permitting Hitler to establish speedy communication with the commanders on all the diminishing fronts. Strangely, the Allies never guessed that he was there and therefore never attempted to destroy the Chancellery with saturation bombing ...
January 19, 1945:
The system of bunkers had only recently been completed, and the concrete walls were still damp, the sour smell of wet concrete hanging in the air. This complex of underground bunkers was the safest place in Berlin ... Although these quarters were cramped and spectacularly uncomfortable, Hitler had everything he needed, and he could work as well or as badly underground as he worked in the Berghof or the Reich Chancellery. Maps, secretaries, a telephone exchange, a small compact radio transmitter—he needed little more in order to conduct a war.
He liked to work in a small enclosed space, and he liked to have his servants within reach. But while the bunker was perfectly suited to his own temperament, it presented grave difficulties to his military staff, who had to travel daily along difficult and dangerous roads from the military headquarters at Zossen in order to brief him and receive his commands. Sometimes it took them two hours to come to Berlin and two more for the return journey, and so their time was frittered away. As the war drew to a close and Hitler's commands became more erratic and more unreasonable, the generals became increasingly frustrated. They wasted their energies in argument, or in listening to Hitler's exhausting monologues, or is reshaping his orders so that they appeared to be exactly as Hitler had delivered them but were in fact quite different. Hitler's concept of war had not changed. In its simplest form: 'Everyone who gives up any ground must be shot.'
Marshal Ivan Konev takes both Tarnow and Krakow. To the south, Zhukov's troops takes Lodz, and the Fourth Ukraine Front takes Nowy Sacz. Wloclawek on the Vistula also falls to the Soviets.
January 20, 1945:
The Soviet offensive in East Prussia breaks through and Tilsit is taken. In the West, Patton's Third Army takes Brandenburg.
January 20, 1945:
The Allied Control Commission
and Armistice in Hungary is instituted:
January 20, 1945:
Hungary has withdrawn from the war against the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and other United Nations, including Czechoslovakia, has severed all relations with Germany and has declared war on Germany ...
FDR, is inaugurated to his record fourth term in office as 32nd president of the United States. Harry S Truman is sworn in as Vice President. Note: The 22d Amendment to the US Constitution, ratified in 1951, will restrict the presidency to two terms.
We Americans of today, together with our allies, are passing through a period of supreme test. It is a test of our courage—of our resolve—of our wisdom—our essential democracy. If we meet that test—successfully and honorably-we shall perform a service of historic importance which men and women and children will honor throughout all time. As I stand here today, having taken the solemn oath of office in the presence of my fellow countrymen—in the presence of our God—I know that it is America's purpose that we shall not fail. In the days and in the years that are to come we shall work for a just and honorable peace, a durable peace, as today we work and fight for total victory in war. We can and we will achieve such a peace...
From Code-Name Down-Fall by Thomas R. Allen and Norman Polmar: Harry Truman had repeatedly said that he did not want to run for Vice President. But when the Democratic National Convention opened on July 19 (1944), he was a favorite. Roosevelt, hearing that Truman was balking, called the party's national chairman, Robert Hannegan, who held the telephone receiver so that others in the hotel room, including Truman, could hear the President's voice. 'Bob,' Roosevelt asked, 'have you got that fellow lined up yet?' Hannegan said he hadn't. Well,' Roosevelt replied, 'tell him that if he wants to break up the Democratic Party in the middle of the war, that's his responsibility.' Truman accepted, but he did not think it much of an honor. It was, he said, a job for a man who 'simply presides over the Senate and sits around hoping for a funeral.'
January 21, 1945:
Gumbinnen, East Prussia, is taken by the Soviets.
January 21, 1945:
Hitler orders that all commanding generals down to divisional level must inform him in advance of any operational movements by the units under their command. "They must ensure that I have time to intervene in their direction if I think fit, and that my counter-orders can reach the front-line troops in time." (Read)
January 21, 1945:
Goebbels publishes his last major anti-Semitic essay:
One could not understand this war if one did not always keep in mind the fact that International Jewry stands behind all the unnatural forces that our united enemies use to attempt to deceive the world and keep humanity in the dark. It is so to speak the mortar that holds the enemy coalition firmly together, despite its differences of class, ideology and interests. Capitalism and Bolshevism have the same Jewish roots, two branches of the same tree that in the end bear the same fruit.
International Jewry uses both in its own way to suppress the nations and keep them in its service. How deep its influence on public opinion is in all the enemy countries and many neutral nations is plain to see that it may never be named in newspapers, speeches and radio broadcasts. There is a law in the Soviet Union that punishes anti-Semitism—or in plain English, public education about the Jewish Question—by death.
The expert in these matters is in no way surprised that a leading spokesman for the Kremlin said over the New Year that the Soviet Union would not rest until this law was valid throughout the world. In other words, the enemy clearly says that its goal in this war is to put the total domination of Jewry over the nations of the earth under legal protection, and to threaten even a discussion of this shameful attempt with the death penalty ...
January 22, 1945:
The US First Army attacks along the front between Houffalize and St. Vith. The British Second Army takes St. Joost and other towns near Sittard. To the north, Insterburg, Allenstein and Deutsch Eylau are all taken by the Soviets. Gneizo is taken by Marshal Zhukov in his drive for Poznan.
January 23, 1945:
From a memorandum from the US Joint Chiefs of Staff to President Roosevelt:
Russia's entry (into the war against Japan) at as early a date as possible consistent with her ability to engage in offensive operations is necessary to provide maximum assistance to our Pacific operations. The United States will provide maximum support possible without interfering with our main effort against Japan.
January 23, 1945:
The objectives of Russia's military effort against Japan in the Far East should be the defeat of Japanese forces in Manchuria, air operations against Japan proper in collaboration with United States Air Forces based in Siberia, and maximum interference with Japanese sea traffic between Japan and the mainland of Asia. (Harriman)
St. Vith is taken in an attack by armored units of the US XVIII corps. Allied air attacks inflict extremely heavy losses to the Germans falling back over the Our River. The French First Army makes several crossings over the Ill River in Alsace.
January 24, 1945:
Harry Hopkins, FDR's advance man for the upcoming meeting of the Big Three in the Crimea, cables President Roosevelt from London:
Churchill...says that if we had spent years on research we could not have found a worse place than MAGNETO (the code name for Yalta) but that he feels that he can survive it by bringing an adequate supply of whiskey. He claims it is good for typhus and deadly on the lice which thrive in these parts... (Harriman
January 24, 1945:
Hitler approves Panzer Leader General Heinz Guderian's plan to create a new, emergency army group to be known as Army Group Vistula. Bormann had suggested to Hitler that he give the Reichsfuehrer SS the command, knowing that the chances that Himmler, his rival, will distinguish himself are nonexistent. SS leader Heinrich Himmler, who has no operational talent or experience, is now appointed by Hitler to lead Army Group Vistula, the main function of which will be to oppose the main Soviet thrusts. This is seen as an extreme insult by the German General Staff and Guderian, who blows up at the idea of 'such an idiocy being perpetrated on the Eastern Front.' (Read)
From Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel's SBS interview: It was one of the most remarkable traits of the Fuehrer that he drew a line between political and military affairs. He told his soldiers: 'Don't discuss politics, this isn't what you are here for, but do what I tell you.' In other words, don't put your fingers into every pie. Nobody was supposed to know more of any matter than was absolutely necessary for the task.
January 24, 1945:
General Guderian meets with Reich Foreign Minister von Ribbentrop. He tells him that the war is lost, and urges him to negotiate an immediate armistice in the West. Ribbentrop acts sympathetic, swears him to secrecy, and then subsequently runs to Hitler with a squealers version of Guderian's views. Two days later, Hitler will express his fury to Keitel within earshot of Guderian:
So, when the Chief of the General Staff goes to see the Foreign Minister and informs him of the situation in the East with the object of securing an armistice in the West, he is doing neither more nor less than committing high treason .... In the future, anyone who tells anyone else that the war is lost will be treated as a traitor, with all the consequences for him and his family. I will take action without regard to rank and reputation! (Read, Kershaw)
January 25, 1945:
Hitler's big gamble, the Battle of the Bulge, collapses. The last of the German reserves are now gone. German forces in East Prussia are cut off and begin evacuations by sea using the cruisers Emden and Hipper (above), as well as a large number of passenger ships and almost the entire remaining surface fleet. Many will fall victim to RAF dropped mines and submarines of the Soviet Baltic fleet.
From General Jodl's IMT testimony: I did not advise him (Hitler) to capitulate at that time. That was completely out of the question. No soldier would have done that. It would have been of no use...Not even after the failure of the Ardennes Offensive. The Fuehrer realized the situation, as a whole, as well as we did, and probably much sooner than we did. Therefore, we did not need to say anything to him in this connection ... there were many reasons for not doing this, apart from the fact that the question of capitulation or discontinuing resistance concerns only the Supreme Commander. The reasons against it were, primarily, that we had no doubt there could be only unconditional surrender, for tine' other countries left us in no doubt on that score; and even if we had had any doubt as to what faced us, it was completely removed by the fact that we captured the English 'Eclipse'—the gentlemen of the British Delegation will know what that is.
It was exact instructions about what the occupying power was to do in Germany after the capitulation. Now, unconditional surrender meant that the troops would cease to fight where they stood on all the fronts, and be captured by the enemy facing them. The same thing would happen as happened in the winter of 1941 at Viazma. Millions of prisoners would suddenly have to camp in the middle of winter in the open. Death would have taken an enormous toll. Above all, the men still on the Eastern Front, who numbered about 3+ million, would have fallen into the hands of the enemy in the East. It was our endeavor to save as many people as possible by sending them into the western area. That could only be done by drawing the two fronts closer together. Those were the purely military opinions which we held in the last stages of the war.
January 26, 1945:
The Soviets under Marshal Rokossovsky reach the Baltic north of Elbing, completely cutting off the remaining Germans in East Prussia. From a Nazi report from Koenigsberg:
It's night as we leave the house. On the old road to Pillau the wagon wheels grind endlessly as they pass by. Alongside, people of every age and position pull their sledges or push fully laden prams. No one looks back. (Kershaw)
January 27, 1945:
Patton's Third Army crosses the Our River and captures Oberhausen.
January 27, 1945:
Advancing Soviet troops, after losing 250 soldiers fighting against the camps guards, enter the Monowitz camp of the Auschwitz-Birkenau complex. They find nearly 600 sick and dying Jews, Poles and Gypsies remaining of the 850 inmates that had been left behind when the camp was evacuated on January 17. The Lithuanian port of Memel falls to the Soviets.
January 27, 1945:
From the notes of a Fuehrer conference:
Hitler: Do you think the English are enthusiastic about all the Russian developments?
Jodl: No, of course not. They have quite different plans. Perhaps we'll discover the full extent of their plans later.
Goering: They certainly didn't plan that we hold them off while the Russians conquer all of Germany... If this goes on we will get a telegram (from the English) in a few days. They were not counting on us defending ourselves step by step...holding them off like madmen while the Russians drive deeper and deeper into Germany, and practically have all of Germany now...
Jodl: The English have always regarded the Russians with suspicion.
Hitler: I have given orders that we shall play a trick on the English—an information sheet telling them the Russians are organizing 200,000 of our men (German POWs) led by German officers, all of them infected with Communism, and they will be marched into Germany. I have ordered this report to be delivered to the English. I have discussed it with the Foreign Minister (Ribbentrop). That will be like sticking them with a needle.
Goering: They entered the war to prevent us from going East, not to have the East reaching out to the Atlantic.
Hitler: That's quite clear. It is something abnormal. The English newspapers are already saying bitterly: Is there any sense in this war?
Goering: On the other hand I have read a report in Braune Blaetter that they can support the Russians with their air force. They can reach the Russian forces with their heavy bombers, even though it is a long flight. But the information comes from an absurd source.
Hitler: Tactically, the English cannot support them. Since we don't know where the Russians are and where we are, how on earth can the English know?
Hitler then assures the assembled participants that this strategy—instilling the fear of unchecked Russian expansionism in the hearts of the British and Americans—will yet prevail. However, the conference ends with no decision being made as to the defense of the Oder. (Payne, Shirer, Read)
January 27, 1945:
After the conclusion of the daily situation conference, Hitler receives an unpleasant communication from General Schoerner (above, left) at Army Group Center requesting that the evacuation of the industrial and mining region of Silesia be ordered. Hitler is silent on the other end. Schoerner continues: 'These troops have been fighting a heavy battle for two weeks, and now they're finished. If we don't relieve them, we're going to lose the whole Seventeenth Army, and the road to Bavaria will be wide open. We're moving back to the Oder, and there we will stop.' The silence on the other end of the line continues. Eventually Hitler wearily replies, 'Yes, Schoerner. If you think it's right I'll have to agree.' This is perhaps one of the last examples of Hitler actually making a rational decision. (Read)
January 27, 1945:
Goebbels is pleased that his Fuehrer is back in Berlin, and since his return he has been spending much of his time boosting the dictator's morale. Goebbels plays on Hitler's hero-worship of Frederick the Great, whose portrait (by Anton Graff) the former Austrian lance corporal keeps by his bed next to his mother Klara's one known photograph. A book on Frederick by English writer Thomas Carlyle, a 'singularly effuse and boring account of his battles,' is utilized by the master of propaganda to make the case that even in the darkest hour, some unforeseen event can still turn the tide. His efforts seem to bear some fruit this day, as Goebbels confides to his diary that Hitler said to him that he wanted 'to show himself worthy of the great examples of history. He would never be found to waver in the face of danger.' Note: Goebbels, just as Goering had done earlier, urges Hitler to fire Ribbentrop, but Hitler again refuses to do so. (Read)
From a forthcoming history of the Hohenzollerns, by Levi Bookin: From the first year of the reign of Frederick the Great in 1740, he was at war with Maria Theresa of Austria and various combinations of Austria's allies, and was undefeated until 1757. From that point on, he suffered various defeats in battle and the occupation of territory by his enemies. Despite a victory at Liegnitz on 15th August 1760, when he was outnumbered three to one, this did not prevent the Russians and Austrians from occupying Berlin, twice in September and October 1760 until they left, under the impression that Frederick was en route to relieve the capital. In December 1761, the Russians sailed nineteen ships, bearing 7,000 troops to Kolberg, on the mouth of the river Persante. There was also support on land. On 6th December nearly 3,000 Prussians surrendered to the Russians, who captured 146 guns.
In addition, the Austrians captured Schweidnitz, in Silesia. George 2nd was threatening to halt Britain's financial support to Prussia. Frederick's position was becoming untenable and he was contemplating suicide [ring a bell?]. But as Carlyle overstated it: "Brave king! Wait yet a little while, and the days of your suffering will be over. Already the sun of your good fortune stands behind the clouds, and soon will rise upon you." The [so-called] Miracle of the House of Brandenburg came to pass: on 5th January 1762 Frederick's enemy, the Tsarina Elizabeth died. The death of the Tsarina was a miracle for the House of Brandenburg, but scarcely of the House of Brandenburg. Be that as it may, her successor, Peter 3rd was an admirer of Frederick, and immediately withdrew the Russian army from Berlin and negotiated a truce between Prussia and Sweden. As a result, Frederick was free to expel the Austrians from Silesia as the result of the Battle of Freiberg on 29th October 1762.
Further Reading: Memoirs of the House of Brandenburg by Frederick the Great, A New Translation by Levi Bookin.
January 28, 1945:
Katowice is taken by Marshal Konev's forces, and in the north the First Belorussian Front enters German Pomerania.
January 28, 1945:
From the diary of a German soldier lost and hiding in Hungary:
I've now finally given up hope that the war will be won. What an enormous guilt Hitler bears. If I can't see my family again, I don't want to live any longer. Above all, a quick death would be better for them than to be deported or otherwise tortured. I've buried one hope after another in this war. But now is the worst time. What will happen? ... The biggest mistake was the war with Russia. Whatever the courage and readiness for sacrifice, you can't take on an entire world...We just bit off too much to chew. Above all our leadership. (Kershaw)
January 29, 1945
: Zhukov, more or less ignoring Himmler's army group, reaches the Oder. Himmler soon orders a counter-attack that immediately fails miserably. Bischofsburg falls to the Soviets as the Red Army continues its advance. (Read)
January 30, 1945
The German troopship Wilhelm Gustloff is torpedoed off Danzig by Soviet sub S-13. Between 4,800-9,343 are killed. Note: Operation Hannibal was a German military operation involving the evacuation of between 800,000-900,000 German troops and civilians across the Baltic Sea to Germany and German-occupied Denmark. (Sellwood)
From Grand Admiral Doenitz's IMT Testimony: At the end of the war I was given the task of organizing largescale transports in the Baltic Sea. Gradually the necessity arose to move the hundreds of thousands of poverty-stricken refugees out of the coastal areas of East and West Prussia where they were exposed to starvation, epidemics, and bombardment and to bring them to Germany. For this reason I made enquiries about merchant shipping, which was not actually under my jurisdiction; and in so doing I learned that out of eight ships ordered in Denmark, seven had been destroyed by saboteurs in the final stage of construction. I called a meeting of all the departments connected with those ships and asked them, "How can I help you so that we get shipping space and have damaged ships repaired more quickly?"
I received suggestions from various quarters outside the Navy, including a suggestion that repair work, et cetera, might be speeded up by employing prisoners from the concentration camps. By way of justification, it was pointed out, in view of the excellent food conditions, such employment would be very popular. Since I knew nothing about the methods and conditions in the concentration camps, I included these proposals in my collection as a matter of course, especially as there was no question of making conditions worse for them, since they would be given better food when working. And I know that if I had done the opposite I could have been accused here of refusing these people an opportunity of having better food. I had not the slightest reason to do this, as I knew nothing about any concentration camp methods at the time.
January 30, 1945:
On the twelfth anniversary of Hitler's rule, and after intense lobbying by Goebbels, Hitler gives his last annual message by radio:
January 30, 1945:
I particularly address myself to German youth. In vowing ourselves to one another, we are entitled to stand before the Almighty and ask Him for His grace and His blessing. No people can do more than that everybody who can fight, fights, and that everybody who can work, works, and that they all sacrifice in common, filled with but one thought: to safeguard freedom and national honor and thus the future of life. However grave the crisis may be at the moment, it will, despite everything, finally be mastered by our unalterable will...
Speer to Hitler:
After the loss of Upper Silesia, the German armament production will no longer be in a position to cover even a fraction of the requirements of the front as regards munitions, weapons and tanks, losses on the front, and equipment needed for new formations .... The material superiority of the enemy can therefore no longer be compensated, even by the bravery of our soldiers.
From Speer's IMT the testimony: At that time Hitler issued the slogan that in defense of the fatherland the soldiers' bravery would increase tremendously and that vice versa the Allied troops, after the liberation of the occupied territories, would have less will to fight. That was also the main argument employed by Goebbels and Bormann to justify the use of all means to intensify the war ...
January 31, 1945:
Guderian, the Chief of Staff of the Army, reported to Ribbentrop at that time to tell him that the war was lost. Ribbentrop reported this to Hitler. Hitler then told Guderian and myself at the beginning of February that pessimistic statements of the nature of those contained in my memorandum or the step I had taken in regard to the Reich Minister for Foreign Affairs would in future be considered as high treason and punished accordingly. In addition, some days later, in a situation conference, he forbade his other close collaborators to make any statements about the hopelessness of the situation. Anyone who disobeyed would be shot without regard for position or rank and his family would be arrested. The statements which Guderian and I made to Hitler about the hopelessness of the war situation had precisely the opposite effect from that which we desired. Early in February, a few days before the beginning of the Yalta Conference, Hitler sent for his press expert and instructed him, in my presence, to announce in the most uncompromising terms and in the entire German press, the intention of Germany never to capitulate. He declared at the same time that he was doing this so that the German people should in no case receive any offer from the enemy. The language used would have to be so strong that enemy statesmen would lose all desire to drive a wedge between himself and the German people.
At the same time Hitler once again proclaimed to the German people the slogan "Victory or Destruction." All these events took place at a time when it should have been clear to him and every intelligent member of his circle that the only thing that could happen was destruction. At a Gauleiter meeting in the summer of 1944 Hitler had already stated—and Schirach is my witness for this—that if the German people were to be defeated in the struggle it must have been too weak, it had failed to prove its mettle before history and was destined only to destruction. Now, in the hopeless situation existing in January and February 1945, Hitler made remarks which showed that these earlier statements had not been mere flowers of rhetoric. During this period he attributed the outcome of the war in an increasing degree to the failure of the German people, but he never blamed himself. He criticized severely this alleged failure of our people who made so many brave sacrifices in this war.
The Czechoslovakian Government in London recognizes the Lublin Government in Poland. The US First Army enters Germany east of St. Vith and the French First Army gains ground in Alsace near Colmar. Zhukov's forces on the Oder River are now less than 50 miles from Berlin.
February 1, 1945:
The US Army arrives at the Siegfried line (Siegfriedstellung), a line of defensive forts and tank defenses opposite the French Maginot Line that had been built by Germany during the 1930's. Note: The Germans themselves call this the Westwall.
February 2, 1945:
General de Gaulle speaks by radio to the French people:
February 2, 1945:
...our national life, within France and abroad, has gone from upheaval to upheaval for generations and each of these upheavals has been more ruinous than the preceding one. This time France nearly perished as a free nation and the sources of her activity have been cruelly affected. The rest of the world, and above all, the nations of Europe, have greatly suffered because of her weakness, since it is a kind of law that no one is safe when France is in trouble. Now, the cause of all our trials has always been Germany who was favored by errors, illusions or outside help. That is to say, not only the future but also the very life of France depends on what will be done to the defeated Germans...
President Franklin D. Roosevelt disembarks from the 'Sacred Cow' (an early version of Air Force One)—escorted by five P-38 fighters—in Malta on the way to the Yalta Conference to meet with British Prime Minister Churchill and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. He is met by Churchill, US Secretary of State Edward R. Stettinius Jr., Averell Harriman, Harry Hopkins, and Anthony Eden. The Western conference participants—700 British and American officials—soon board twenty American Skymasters and five British Yorks and continue on to Yalta. (Harriman)
From Special Envoy to Churchill and Stalin 1941-1946 by W. Averell Harriman and Elie Abel: Roosevelt had less than ten weeks to live when he reached Malta on Friday morning, February 2, 1945. His worn, wasted look alarmed both Churchill and Harriman. 'I was terribly shocked at the change since our last talks in Washington, after the November elections,' Harriman recalled. 'The signs of deterioration seemed to me unmistakable.' The Prime Minister watched with trepidation the next day as the President in his wheelchair was lowered to the ground from his new plane, the Sacred Cow, at Saki Airport in the Crimea. To him, Roosevelt looked 'frail and ill.' Rumors that the President was in failing health had been circulating even before the 1944 campaign.
February 2, 1945:
Although the White House dismissed such talk as politically inspired, Roosevelt had been suffering from abnormally high blood pressure since 1937. Not even Mrs. Roosevelt knew that since the spring of 1944 her husband was being treated for an enlarged heart and congestive heart failure. Admiral McIntire, the President's doctor, saw to it that the truth about Roosevelt's condition was kept from the country and from the Roosevelt family as well.
Suspected of participation in the 'July 20th plot' against Hitler, Mayor Karl F. Goerdeler of Leipzig is hanged. Jesuit priest Alfred Delp (a convert to Catholicism) is put to the rope and his cremated his ashes are scattered about. Klaus Bonhoeffer is sentenced to death by the German People's Court of 'Judge' Roland Freisler.
February 3, 1945:
: Allied Operation Thunderclap begins as US aircraft drop nearly 3,000 tons of explosives on the Zentrum (Berlin's city center). Nazi jurist Roland Freisler is killed running for shelter during a session of the 'Peoples Court' and Gestapo headquarters is damaged so badly that the prisoners have to be moved to quarters that still actually boast walls. The Reich Chancellery suffers a number of direct hits. Goebbels' Propaganda Ministry is wrecked. Not one of Goering's Luftwaffe fighters is observed defending the city. Goering is roundly denounced by almost everyone in the bunker, and Speer will later recall that 'For a long time he (Goering) had been made the scapegoat for all the failures of the Luftwaffe. At the situation conferences, Hitler habitually denounced him in the most violent and insulting language before the assembled officers. He must have been even nastier in the scenes he had with Goering privately. Often, waiting in the ante-room, I could hear Hitler shouting at him.' (Read, Speer)
From Keitel's SBS interview: After the attack on Hamburg and the joint attacks which killed all the cultural monuments in Germany, it was quite obvious that there was no defense against it. The concentration of flak only meant that flak had to be withdrawn from some other place. We all had to admit that the Fuehrer was right in demanding more and more flak back in the days when he argued with Todt. In that manner, he proved the predictions which we didn't take seriously enough. He was saying the only defense id flak and more flak, and this must be supplemented by extremely fast bombers that hit back with the same type of attack ...
February 3, 1945:
There were trains of thought which the Fuehrer would entirely keep to himself. We could not exercise any influence especially because it was well known that the Fuehrer himself knew all the reasons very well and had discussed all these things with Goering alone. If somebody else than Goering had been the Supreme Commander of the Air Force, he would have taken a different attitude.
Martin Bormann writes a letter from the bunker to his 'beloved Mummy-girl' (his wife) in Obersalzberg:
The Reich Chancellery garden is an amazing sight—deep craters, fallen trees, and the paths obliterated by a mass of rubble and rubbish. The Fuehrer's residence was badly hit several times; all that is left of the winter gardens and the banquet hall are fragments of the walls; and the entrance hall on the Wilhelmstrasse, where the Wehrmacht guard was usually mustered, has been completely destroyed. ...
In spite of it all, we have to go on working diligently, for the war continues on all fronts! Telephone communications are still very inadequate, and the Fuehrer's residence and the Party Chancellery still have no connection with the outside world... And to crown everything, in this so-called government quarter we still have no light, power or water supplies! We have a water cart standing in front of the Reich Chancellery, and that is our supply for cooking and washing up! And worst of all, so Mueller tells me, are the water closets. These Kommando pigs use them constantly, and not one of them thinks of taking a bucket of water with them to flush the place.
February ?, 1945:
Bormann's 'beloved Mummy-girl' pens him a letter from the rarified air of the Obersalzberg:
...the Reich of our dreams will emerge...In some ways, you know, this reminds me of the Goetterdaemmerung (the twilight of the gods) in the Edda (the ancient Norse saga)...The monsters are storming the bridge of the Gods...the citadel of the Gods crumbles, and all seems lost; and then, suddenly, a new citadel arises, more beautiful than ever before...We are not the first to engage in mortal combat with the powers of the underworld, and that we feel impelled, and are also able, to do so should give us a conviction of ultimate victory.
From Memoirs: The Reckoning by Anthony Eden: Roosevelt was, above all else, a consummate politician. Few men could see more clearly their immediate objective, or show greater artistry in obtaining it. As a price of these gifts, his long-range vision was not quite so sure. The President shared a widespread American suspicion of the British Empire as it had once been and, despite his knowledge of world affairs, he was always anxious to make it plain to Stalin that the United States was not 'ganging up' with Britain against Russia.
The outcome of this was some confusion in Anglo-American relations which profited the Soviets. Roosevelt did not confine his dislike of colonialism to the British Empire alone, for it was a principle with him, not the less cherished for its possible advantages. He hoped that former colonial territories, once free of their masters, would become politically and economically dependent upon the United States, and had no fear that other powers might fill that role.
Winston Churchill's strength lay in his vigorous sense of purpose and his courage, which carried him undismayed over obstacles daunting to lesser men. He was also generous and impulsive, but this could be a handicap at the conference table. Churchill liked to talk, he did not like to listen, and he found it difficult to wait for, and seldom let pass, his turn to speak. The spoils in the diplomatic game do not necessarily go to the man most eager to debate... The President, mistakenly as I believe, moved out of step with us, influenced by his conviction that he could get better results with Stalin direct than could the three countries negotiating together.
February 4, 1945
Feb 4-11 After a few days of unofficial get-togethers, Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill meet officially at Yalta in the Crimea. US Secretary of State, Edward R. Stettinius Jr., leads the American delegation and is accompanied by Averell Harriman. Harriman will later recall:
I felt that his (FDR's) late election campaign took a lot out of him. He didn't get up early in the morning after that. He seemed to tire when conversations wore on too long. I used to say that Roosevelt had a Dutch jaw—and when that Dutch jaw was set you couldn't move him. At Yalta, I believe, he didn't have the strength to be quite as stubborn as he liked to be. I suppose that if FDR had been in better health, he might have held out longer and got his way on a number of detailed points. But I can't believe that it would have made a great difference on, say, the Polish question. At the time of Yalta, the Red Army was in full control of the country and no amount of careful drafting could have changed that. If Stalin was determined to have his way, he was bound to bend or break the agreements, even if they had been sewn up more tightly.
From This I Remember by Eleanor Roosevelt: Franklin had high hopes that at this conference he could make real progress in strengthening the personal relationship between himself and Marshal Stalin .... He knew that negotiation invariably involved some give and take, but he was a good bargainer and a good poker player, and he loved the game of negotiation. I am sure that even at the Yalta conference, the necessity of matching his wits against other people's stimulated him and kept him alert and interested, no matter how weary he may at times have been.
February 4, 1945
At Stalin's insistence, FDR opens the first plenary session, complimenting Stalin on his hospitality and stating hopefully that 'We understand each other much better now' that they can 'frankly and freely' speak their minds face to face. At an evening dinner, the conversation leads to a discussion of the rights of the smaller, occupied nations. When Stalin opines that the idea that little Albania, for instance, should be given an equal voice with the great powers is ridiculous, Churchill takes issue with him, saying: "The eagle should permit the small birds to sing and care not wherefore they sang." FDR does not comment. (Harriman) Note: Churchill is paraphrasing Shakespeare:
Is the sun dimm'd, that gnats do fly in it?
February 5, 1945:
The eagle suffers little birds to sing,
And is not careful what they mean thereby,
Knowing that with the shadow of his wings
He can at pleasure stint their melody
The Swedish foreign minister, Christian Guenther, gives permission for Count Folke Bernadotte, second in command of the Swedish Red Cross, 'to attempt to obtain permission in Germany for the transport to Sweden or Denmark of the interned Norwegian and Danish prisoners.' (Waller)
From Dulles by Leonard Mosley: Throughout the war the Swiss government had followed an even-handed policy toward the activities of the Germans and the Allies inside its country, except that, to adapt George Orwell, it had sometimes been more even-handed toward the one rather than the other, according to the way the tide of the war was flowing. It was definitely the Allies' turn to be favored in the spring of 1945, and not simply because they were now certain to win. How soon they won, and what the Germans did before they lost, was the urgent concern of the Swiss now. They were particularly anxious that the battle in northern Italy should be brought to a conclusion as speedily as possible, before the port of Genoa, through which land-locked Switzerland received most of her supplies, was completely wrecked. And they dreaded a long-drawn-out slogging match between the two armies which would, inevitably, end with a German retreat, for that would mean the escaping troops would try to take refuge in Switzerland, where they already had all the refugees they could handle.
February 6, 1945
Poland is brought up for the first time on the conference's third day, with the respective perspectives of the participants manifesting as radically divergent. In a bid at a compromise concerning the contentious issue of the make-up of a new Polish government, FDR pens a late-evening note to Stalin:
It seems to me that it puts all of us in a bad light throughout the world to have you recognizing one government while we and the British are recognizing another in London. I am sure this state of affairs should not continue and that if it does it can only lead our people to think there is a breach between us, which is not the case. I am determined that there shall be no breach between ourselves and the Soviet Union. Surely there is a way to reconcile our differences ...
February 7, 1945
You must believe me when I tell you that our people at home look with a critical eye on what they consider a disagreement between us at this vital stage of the war. They, in effect, say that if we cannot get a meeting of minds now when our armies are converging on the common enemy, how can we get an understanding on even more vital things in the future? (Harriman)
: Dietrich Bonhoeffer is transferred to the Buchenwald Concentration Camp.
February 7, 1945
On day four, Stalin, claiming an inability to round up his Poles in to order to consider FDR's compromise solution, abruptly changes the subject by announcing that the Soviet Union is now prepared to accept the American formula for voting in the United Nations Security Council. Molotov characterizes this concession as a contribution toward assuring 'the maximum of unity among the three great powers in the question of peace and security after the war.' Churchill expresses his 'heartfelt thanks to Marshal Stalin and Mr. Molotov.' A delighted Roosevelt hails Stalin's concession as 'a great step forward which would be welcomed by all the peoples of the world.' (Harriman)
February 8, 1945
Churchill (Yalta) to Atlee:
Today [speaking of the 7th] has been much better. All the American proposals for the Dumbarton Oaks constitution were accepted by the Russians, who stated that it was largely due to our explanation that they had found themselves in a position to embrace the scheme wholeheartedly. They also cut down their demand for sixteen membership votes of the Assembly to two... Our position appears to me to be somewhat different. For us to have four or five members, six if India is included, when Russia has only one is asking a great deal of an Assembly of this kind. In view of other important concessions by them which are achieved or pending I should like to be able to make a friendly gesture to Russia in this matter. That they should have two besides their chief is not too much to ask, and we shall be in a strong position, in my judgment, because we shall not be the only multiple voter in the field. In spite of our gloomy warning and forebodings Yalta has turned out very well so far. (Note: The wartime communications presented here are dated the day they were received, not the often different day that they were actually sent.) (Churchill)
February 8, 1945
On day five, Poland again dominates the discussion as the Americans introduce a plan for a new Polish Government of National Unity. Churchill immediately withdraws his own Polish proposal, stating he is ready to get behind the American plan with a few minor amendments. Molotov and Stalin, however, immediately attack the plan, refusing to enlarge or alter the Warsaw government in any way. Churchill is eloquent in his defense of the Americans, while FDR adds nothing to the discussion. (Harriman)
February 8, 1945
From the American record of the conference session:
The Prime Minister made it clear that, speaking only for Great Britain, it would be said that the British Government had given way completely on frontiers, had accepted the Soviet view and championed it. To break altogether with the lawful government of Poland which had been recognized during all these five years of war would be an act subject to the most severe criticism in England. It would be said that we did not know what was going on in Poland—that we could not even get anyone in there to find out what was going on, and that we had accepted in toto the view of the Lublin government, Great Britain would be charged with forsaking the cause of Poland and he was bound to say that the debates in Parliament would be painful and, he might add, most dangerous to Allied unity.
Stalin counters by stating that the situation in Poland is not nearly as tragic as Churchill maintains, and compares the un-elected status of de Gaulle's regime in France—supported by Churchill—and Stalin's Lublin Poles. He suggests that his partners would be better served concentrating on 'the reconstruction of the Provisional Government rather than attempt to set up a new one.' FDR asks Stalin how long he supposes it will be before elections can be held in Poland. Stalin replies that, barring some catastrophic set-back on the battlefield, the Poles should be at the polls with a month. FDR is comforted by this assurance.
From Stalin: A Political Biography, by Isaac Deutscher: When Stalin, Churchill, and Roosevelt met at Yalta ... victory was within their grasp. They knew that it could elude them only through their own discord. This was, indeed, the only hope of Hitler, reading and rereading the story of Frederick the Great, who miraculously escaped defeat in the Seven Years War when his enemies fell out with one another. The three allied leaders, eager to inflict their last blows on the enemy, were therefore busy shelving the issues that divided them ...
In their thoughts the 'Big Three' still tended to project their present unity into the peace and to see the future in terms of their condominium and of spheres of influence ... It is curious to watch how throughout this phase of the war Stalin, on the one hand, advocated with the greatest perseverance the world condominium of the 'Big Three,' resenting any suggestions that tended to weaken it, and how, on the other, he at every step betrayed his fear and suspicion of Russia's partners in that condominium.
When Churchill and Roosevelt proposed that France be given a share in the control of Germany he objected, because 'France had opened the gates to the enemy.' It was his stock argument that the place any nation was to be allowed to keep in peace should be proportionate to the strength it had shown and the sacrifices it had borne in war. That this principle favored Russia more than any other nation goes without saying, for no other nation had borne sacrifices comparable to hers. When Churchill ironically remarked that the 'Big Three' were 'a very exclusive club, the entrance fee being at least five million soldiers or the equivalent,' Stalin must have bitterly reflected that the entrance fee that Russia had paid was many more than five million dead soldiers. He stubbornly opposed any suggestion that would allow the small nations to speak up against the great powers in the future league of nations. What he apparently feared was that the great powers might incite the small ones against Russia ...
Finally, with a singular lack of sense of humor, the 'Big Three' called from Yalta on all neutral states of the world to declare war on Germany before 1 March 1945, that is after the war had practically been won, in order to gain admittance to the founding conference of the United Nations at San Francisco. After 1 March, the box office was closed.
February 9, 1945
In a meeting of the Foreign Ministers, US Secretary of State Stettinius accepts the Soviet position that the countries who bore the heaviest burdens of the war are entitled to the first priority concerning reparations to be extracted from Germany. Molotov is delighted when Stettinius further accepts the USSR's figure of $20 billion in reparations, half of which should go to the Soviet Union. Eden, however, objects, saying that an Allied Reparations Commission should be set up in Moscow to crunch the numbers. (Harriman)
February 9, 1945
The Steuben, evacuating between 3,000 and 4,000 military personnel and civilians to Swinemuende, is sunk by S-13, just after midnight; only 300 survive. Note: The German troopship Wilhelm Gustloff had been sunk by the S-13 on January 30. (Sellwood)
February 9, 1945:
Hitler's architect, Hermann Giesler, finishes a scale model of a completely redesigned Linz, Hitler's 'home town.' Set up in the cellar of the Reich Chancellery, Hitler will visit the model twice daily accompanied by Giesler, who stays in Berlin. He will spend hours daydreaming of a redesigned city that will never be constructed, as all of Germany falls into ruins around him. Note: He may as well have taken up the lyre. (Kershaw)
February 9, 1945
Near the end of this day's session, Stalin inquires about Hess. An annoyed Churchill replies that 'events would catch up with Hess.' Churchill, in complete contrast to the Soviets, does not at this point any longer consider Hess a major war criminal. He tells Stalin that Hess and the rest of 'these men should be given a judicial trial.' (Taylor)
From Churchill by Roy Jenkins: The next major event was the Yalta conference .... It was the least successful of the wartime summits for the essential reason that the only cement which held together the Big Three, the need to defeat the massive German military machine, was rapidly losing its adhesive power. Many previous features were present, together with a few new ones, of which the most obvious was the manifest decline in health and mental power of Roosevelt ... There was one other remark made at Yalta ... Roosevelt's almost casual statement at the first plenary session that the 'United States would take all reasonable steps to preserve peace, but not at the expense of keeping a large army indefinitely in Europe, 3,000 miles away from home. That was why the American occupation was limited to two years.'
Churchill's immediate reaction was to redouble his (successful) efforts to get France not only given an occupation zone in Germany but also made a full member of the Allied Control Commission to administer the defeated enemy country. His doubts about de Gaulle, who he was thankful was not at Yalta, were as nothing compared with his fear of an exhausted Britain being left, with the Americans gone home, as the only Western powers trying to balance Russia across a devastated Germany. The French army again became necessary.
February 10, 1945
From the record of today's discussions:
The President then said that he had changed his mind in regard to the question of French participation in the Control Commission. He now agreed with the views of the Prime Minister that it would be impossible to give France an area to administer in Germany unless they were members of the Control Commission. He said he thought it would be easier to deal with the French if they were on the Commission than if they were not. Marshal Stalin said he had no objection and he agreed to this. The Prime Minister suggested that there be a joint telegram sent to de Gaulle informing him of these decisions to which there was general agreement.
From Allies at War: The Bitter Rivalry of Churchill, Roosevelt, and de Gaulle by Simon Berthon: A summit between Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin had been arranged for February of 1945 at Yalta and de Gaulle believed that he was entitled to be present. Churchill tried gently to persuade Roosevelt that he could at least attend meetings when French affairs were under discussion. Roosevelt replied sharply that de Gaulle's inclusion would 'merely introduce a complicating and undesirable factor.' Despite a visit by de Gaulle in Moscow in December and his oft-expressed pro-Russian sentiments, Stalin also dismissed the idea, wondering with withering contempt what the French had done in the war to deserve a seat at the victories' high table.
February 10, 1945
By January, Churchill, back on the love-hate switchback, had also changed his mind, writing to Eden: 'I cannot think of anything more unpleasant and impossible than having this menacing and hostile man in our midst, always trying to make himself a reputation in France by claiming a position far above what France occupies, and making faces at the Allies who are doing the work.' Despite that, Churchill, helped by the ailing Harry Hopkins, energetically defended France's position at Yalta, ensuring that she would have a place on the Allied Control Commission for Germany and become a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. Though he required persuasion, such a concession could not have been without Roosevelt's agreement. If he expected any thanks, he was mistaken. Before Yalta, the American Ambassador had given de Gaulle a personal message from Roosevelt suggesting that they meet at Algiers on his return. De Gaulle gracelessly refused, attempting to draw an unwarranted parallel with Roosevelt's inability to accept an invitation to visit Paris in November. Churchill's doctor, Lord Moran, noted: 'The dreary story of de Gaulle's gaucherie came to its melancholy climax.'
FDR pens a note to Stalin with a last minute concern about the likely reaction of US public opinion to the USSR receiving three votes in the UN:
I am somewhat concerned lest it be pointed out that the United States will have only one vote in the Assembly. It may be necessary for me, therefore, if I am to ensure wholehearted expectance by the Congress and the people ... of our participation in the World Organization, to ask for additional votes in the Assembly in order to give parity to the United States. (Harriman)
February 11, 1945
FDR receives a reply from Stalin concerning Assembly votes: "I entirely agree with you that, since the number of votes to the Soviet Union is increased to three ... the number of votes for the USA should also be increased ... If it is necessary, I am prepared officially to support this proposal." When the provision becomes public knowledge in March, American newspapers will not criticize the extra votes for Stalin, but those for the US. An embarrassed Roosevelt Administration will never actually utilize the extra votes. (Harriman)
February 11, 1945
On the morning of the last day, Harriman scribbles a note to FDR suggesting a way out of the deadlock over reparations:
The Russians have given in so much at this conference that I don't think we should let them down. Let the British disagree if they want to—and continue their disagreement at Moscow. Simply say it is all referred to the Reparations Commission with the minutes to show the British disagree about any mention of the 10 billion." Harriman will later recall: "Stalin was most insistent that they mention the figure. And Roosevelt gave in on that because, he said, 'This is just a basis for discussion. They have mentioned a figure and we're no worse off recording that they mentioned it.' The principle of the Russians getting fifty percent was not objected to, and the Russians certainly had every right to consider it a reasonable figure. That fifty percent was to plague us at Potsdam. (Harriman)
February 11, 1945
The Agreement on the Dismemberment of Germany is signed at Yalta.
It was agreed that Article 12 (a) of the Surrender terms for Germany should be amended to read as follows: The United Kingdom, the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics shall possess supreme authority with respect to Germany. In the exercise of such authority they will take such steps, including the complete dismemberment of Germany as they deem requisite for future peace and security. ...
It was agreed that a zone in Germany, to be occupied by the French forces, should be allocated France. This zone would be formed out of the British and American zones and its extent would be settled by the British and Americans in consultation with the French Provisional Government. It was also agreed that the French Provisional Government should be invited to become a member of the Allied Control Council for Germany...
1. Germany must pay in kind for the losses caused by her to the Allied nations in the course of the war. Reparations are to be received in the first instance by those countries which have borne the main burden of the war, have suffered the heaviest losses and have organized victory over the enemy.
2. Reparation in kind is to be exacted from Germany in three following forms: (a) Removals within two years from the surrender of Germany or the cessation of organized resistance from the national wealth of Germany located on the territory of Germany herself as well as outside her territory (equipment, machine tools, ships, rolling stock, German investments abroad, shares of industrial, transport and other enterprises in Germany, etc.), these removals to be carried out chiefly for the purpose of destroying the war potential of Germany. (b) Annual deliveries of goods from current production for a period to be fixed. (c) Use of German labor.
3. For the working out on the above principles of a detailed plan for exaction of reparation from Germany an Allied reparation commission will be set up in Moscow. It will consist of three representatives—one from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, one from the United Kingdom and one from the United States of America.
4. With regard to the fixing of the total sum of the reparation as well as the distribution of it among the countries which suffered from the German aggression, the Soviet and American delegations agreed as follows: "The Moscow reparation commission should take in its initial studies as a basis for discussion the suggestion of the Soviet Government that the total sum of the reparation in accordance with the points (a) and (b) of the Paragraph 2 should be 22 billion dollars and that 50 per cent should go to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
The British delegation was of the opinion that, pending consideration of the reparation question by the Moscow reparation commission, no figures of reparation should be mentioned... The conference agreed that the question of the major war criminals should be the subject of inquiry by the three Foreign Secretaries for report in due course after the close of the conference.
From I Was There by Admiral William Leahy: Stalin then brought up the question of reparations in kind and in manpower, but said he was not ready to discuss the manpower question. The latter, of course, referred to forced labor. Since the Russians were using many thousands of prisoners in what was reported to be virtual slave camps, they had little to gain by discussing the matter. Stalin then had Deputy Foreign Commissar Maisky elaborate on the Russian view of the reparations question.
The proposal in brief was: Reparations in kind should include factories, plants, communication equipment, investments abroad, etc., and should be made over a period of ten years, at the end of which time all reparations would have been paid. The total value of the reparations in kind asked by the Soviet was 10 billion dollars, to be spread over the ten year period. The German heavy industries should be cut down and 80% removed in a period of two years after the surrender. Allied control should be established over German industry, and all German industry that could be used in the production of war material should be under international control for a long period.
February 11, 1945
The Declaration of Liberated Europe is signed at Yalta:
The establishment of order in Europe and the rebuilding of national economic life must be achieved by processes which will enable the liberated peoples to destroy the last vestiges of Nazism and fascism and to create democratic institutions of their own choice. This is a principle of the Atlantic Charter—the right of all people to choose the form of government under which they will live—the restoration of sovereign rights and self-government to those peoples who have been forcibly deprived to them by the aggressor nations.
To foster the conditions in which the liberated people may exercise these rights, the three governments will jointly assist the people in any European liberated state or former Axis state in Europe where, in their judgment conditions require, (a) to establish conditions of internal peace; (b) to carry out emergency relief measures for the relief of distressed peoples; (c) to form interim governmental authorities broadly representative of all democratic elements in the population and pledged to the earliest possible establishment through free elections of Governments responsive to the will of the people; and (d) to facilitate where necessary the holding of such elections.
The three Governments will consult the other United Nations and provisional authorities or other Governments in Europe when matters of direct interest to them are under consideration. When, in the opinion of the three Governments, conditions in any European liberated state or former Axis satellite in Europe make such action necessary, they will immediately consult together on the measure necessary to discharge the joint responsibilities set forth in this declaration. By this declaration we reaffirm our faith in the principles of the Atlantic Charter, our pledge in the Declaration by the United Nations and our determination to build in cooperation with other peace-loving nations world order, under law, dedicated to peace, security, freedom and general well-being of all mankind. In issuing this declaration, the three powers express the hope that the Provisional Government of the French Republic may be associated with them in the procedure suggested. (Harriman)
Harriman will later recall: I believed at the time that Stalin meant to keep his word, at least within his own interpretation of 'free elections,' although I had always expected that we would have trouble over those words. He did not, in my judgment, sign the declaration with the intention of breaking it. It seems to me a mistake to assume that Stalin had a fixed plan to force Communist governments on all the countries of Eastern Europe. He doubtless expected that the Red Army would be welcomed everywhere as a liberating force. I'm inclined to believe that the Communist leaders in these countries greatly overestimated their popularity and reported in that vein to Moscow. In short, Stalin mistakenly believed that there was little risk in promising free elections because the Communists were popular enough to win...
He (FDR) was trying like the dickens to get Stalin to be more cooperative in other areas that he cared about, the United Nations and Poland. He didn't want to use up whatever trading position he had and he may have been trying to save his strength. Perhaps it was a combination of the two. Roosevelt never was much of a stickler for language. Even at Teheran, when his health was better, he didn't haggle with Stalin over language. It was my impression that as long as he could put his own interpretation on the language, he didn't much care what interpretations other people put on it.
February 11, 1945
The Agreement Concerning Japan is signed:
The leaders of the three great powers—the Soviet Union, the United States of America and Great Britain—have agreed that in two or three months after Germany has surrendered and the war in Europe is terminated, the Soviet Union shall enter into war against Japan on the side of the Allies on condition that:
1. The status quo in Outer Mongolia (the Mongolian People's Republic) shall be preserved.
2. The former rights of Russia violated by the treacherous attack of Japan in 1904 shall be restored, viz.: (a) The southern part of Sakhalin as well as the islands adjacent to it shall be returned to the Soviet Union; (b) The commercial port of Dairen shall be internationalized, the pre-eminent interests of the Soviet Union in this port being safeguarded, and the lease of Port Arthur as a naval base of the USSR restored; (c) The Chinese-Eastern Railroad and the South Manchurian Railroad, which provide an outlet to Dairen, shall be jointly operated by the establishment of a joint Soviet-Chinese company, it being understood that the pre-eminent interests of the Soviet Union shall be safeguarded and that China shall retain sovereignty in Manchuria;
3. The Kurile Islands shall be handed over to the Soviet Union. It is understood that the agreement concerning Outer Mongolia and the ports and railroads referred to above will require concurrence of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. The President will take measures in order to maintain this concurrence on advice from Marshal Stalin. The heads of the three great powers have agreed that these claims of the Soviet Union shall be unquestionably fulfilled after Japan has been defeated.
For its part, the Soviet Union expresses it readiness to conclude with the National Government of China a pact of friendship and alliance between the USSR and China in order to render assistance to China with its armed forces for the purpose of liberating China from the Japanese yoke." Averell Harriman will later recall: "The agreement in no way weakened him (Chiang Kai-shek). Stalin recognized Chiang as the head of the government of China. The formal agreement negotiated with Stalin by Foreign Minister T. V. Soong in July of 1945 promised to respect continuing Chinese sovereignty in Manchuria. If Chiang had been strong enough at home to hold up his end, the outcome may have been different. In my judgment it was Chiang's inherent weakness that gave the Chinese Communists their opportunity. (Harriman)
February 11, 1945
Allied Official Communique:
It is our inflexible purpose to destroy German militarism and Nazism and to ensure that Germany will never again be able to disturb the peace of the world. We are determined to bring all war criminals to just and swift punishment and exact reparations in kind for the destruction wrought by the Germans.
February 11, 1945
The Big Three sign the official Yalta
Communique at lunch. FDR suggests that the host of the conference sign first, but Stalin declines, explaining that it will be said that he had 'led' the conference. Churchill jokingly argues that he should sign first for alphabetical reasons, and the other two agree. Vice Admiral Wilson Brown, FDR's naval aid, talks the president into leaving Yalta immediately in the USS Catoctin. (Harriman)
Harriman will later recall: I was violently opposed to Brown's idea. I wanted the President to spend the night at Yalta and leave refreshed the next morning. But Roosevelt, always a Navy man, agreed to go. It was a three hour drive over twisting roads and when we reached the ship it was so hot on board that I almost collapsed myself. The President had a ghastly night and I think it affected his health. At any rate, he looked tired and worn the next morning. I was indignant that Admiral Brown should have put him through this wholly unnecessary agony. He must have thought it was a plus for the Navy.
February 12, 1945
: FDR leaves the Crimea for Egypt aboard the Sacred Cow. (Harriman)
February 13, 1945:
At the afternoon situation conference in the Fuehrerbunker—the first since the Germans received the text of the Yalta Communique—the anger of Hitler's generals over Himmler's command of Army Group Vistula boils over. Himmler, answering General Guderian's demand that a counter-attack immediately be launched against Rokossovsy, meekly stammers that it simply can't be done as he needs more fuel and supplies.
Guderian explodes: We can't wait until the last can of petrol and the last shell has been issued! By that time the Russians will be too strong!
Hitler snaps back: I will not allow you to accuse me of procrastination!
Guderian: I'm not accusing you of anything. I'm simply saying that there's no use in waiting until the last load of supplies has been issued - and the favorable moment to attack has been lost.
Hitler: I just told you that I won't allow you to accuse me of procrastinating!
Guderian: I want General Wenck at Army Group Vistula as Chief of Staff. Otherwise there is no guarantee that the attack will be successful. (Glaring at Himmler) The man can't do it. How could he do it?
Hitler: The Reichsfuehrer is man enough to lead the attack on his own.
Guderian: The Reichsfuehrer doesn't have the experience or the right staff to lead the attack without help. The presence of General Wenck is absolutely necessary.
Hitler: How dare you criticise the Reichsfuehrer! I won't have you criticize him!
Guderian: I must insist that General Wenck be transferred to the staff of Army Group Vistula to lead the operation properly.
The argument goes on for hours as most of the conference participants slip out of the room one by one. Finally, with only Hitler, Guderian, Himmler, Wenck and their adjutants remaining in the room, Hitler suddenly relents. Stopping in front of Himmler's chair he declares:
Well, Himmler, General Wenck is going to Army Group Vistula tonight, to take over as Chief of Staff. (Turning to Guderian and flashing his most charming smile) Now let us please continue with the conference. Today, Colonel-General, the General Staff has won a battle. (Read, Guderian)
From Speer's IMT testimony: Among the military leaders there were many who, each in his own sphere, told Hitler quite clearly what the situation was. Many commanders of army groups, for instance, made it clear to him how catastrophic developments were, and there were often fierce arguments during the discussions on the situation. Men like Guderian and Jodl, for instance, often talked openly about their sectors in my presence, and Hitler could see quite well what the general situation was like. But I never observed that those who were actually responsible in the group around Hitler, ever went to him and said, "The war is lost." Nor did I ever see these people who had responsibility endeavor to unite in undertaking some joint step with Hitler. I did not attempt it for my part either, except once or twice, because it would have been useless, since at this stage, Hitler had so intimidated his closest associates that they no longer had any wills of their own.
February 13-15, 1945
1,300 heavy bombers drop over 3,900 tons of high-explosive bombs and incendiary devices in four raids on the city of Dresden. Estimates vary widely, but recent scholarship has determined that somewhere between 24,000 and 40,000 civilians perished in the resulting firestorm. Himmler is informed of the first raid by the Dresden Police Chief on the 14th and writes to SS-Obergruppenfuehrer Alvesleben in Dresden: 'The attacks were obviously very severe, but every first air raid always gives the impression that the town has been destroyed. Take all necessary steps at once... All the best.' Alvesleben reiterates the vast extent and horrific effect of the raid in a subsequent communications to Himmler, and requests permission to move SS headquarters elsewhere. On the 15th the Reichsfuehrer gives him permission to move only as far as the suburbs, saying: 'Any further would make a rotten impression. Now is the time for iron steadfastness and immediate action to restore order. Set me a good example of calm and nerve!' When Goebbels hears of the devastation at Dresden, he demands that Hitler shoot '10,000 or more English and American POWs' as a reprisal, one for every German citizen killed in the air raids. Keitel, Jodl, Doenitz, and even Ribbentrop advise against the idea, and Hitler reluctantly decides against it. (Read)
February 14, 1945:
Soviet forces capture Budapest, Hungary as German forces surrender. The Germans suffer more than 50,000 casualties in the 49-day battle.
February 14, 1945:
Speer writes to the Reich Finance Minister Count Schwerin-Krosigk (above), offering to turn over 'the entire sizable increase of my personal fortune since the year 1933 for the benefit of the Reich,' an act of self-sacrifice intended to help stabilize the unstable mark. When Schwerin-Krosigk discusses the offer with Goebbels, the Propaganda Minister, perhaps fearful that he will be expected to follow suit, disallows the action. (Speer)
February 14, 1945:
Goebbels meets with Himmler and conspiratorially suggests that the two of them collude to improve the situation. Concerning peace feelers to the Allies, Goebbels suggests that it is 'more likely that something could be accomplished in the East' with the 'more realistic Stalin. Himmler disagrees, claiming the Britain may still 'come to its senses.' Goebbels suggests that Hitler is overburdened and some of the weight on his shoulders should be shifted to their own. Hitler should be the President - Head of State, Goebbels Reich Chancellor and Foreign Minister, Himmler War Minister, and Bormann as Party Minister. Himmler is noncommittal, telling Goebbels nothing of his own ripening plans to open negotiations with a Swedish Count. (Read)
February 17, 1945:
A nephew of the King of Sweden and Vice-Chairman of the Swedish Red Cross, Count Folke Bernadotte, arrives in Germany. His official mission is to negotiate the repatriation of a group of widowed or deserted Swedish woman married to Germans, as well as any Norwegian and Danish nationals interned in German concentration camps. On this account, he will soon meet with both Ribbentrop and Kaltenbrunner.
February 17, 1945:
Peenemuende is evacuated by the Germans. (Piszkiewicz)
February 19, 1945:
While Himmler relaxes in the hospital, his Chief of Staff, General Wenck, has been planning and preparing for a counterattack against Zhukov's exposed right flank. This attack, launched this day and spearheaded by the Third Panzer Army, successfully sends Zhukov's forces reeling.
February 19, 1945:
Swedish Red Cross envoy, Count Bernadotte, meets with Reichsfuehrer SS Himmler. Himmler strikes him as looking like 'quite an unimportant official, whom one would hardly have noticed if one had met him on the street.' publish an account of his negotiations later, writes that he can detect nothing 'diabolical in his appearance,' and while he 'seemed strikingly and amazingly obliging,' Himmler is initially negative to the idea of releasing and transporting the prisoners to neutral Sweden. They could very well be trained as police troops, Himmler observes, as Sweden has already done with other Norwegians and Danes. Bernadotte falls back on his secondary proposal, that the prisoners be assembled in one camp under the care of the Swedish Red Cross. Bernadotte tells Himmler that he estimates that the number of Scandinavian prisoners is about 13,000, while Himmler admits to holding only a thousand or so. (Read)
February 19-20, 1945:
From notes of a conferences between Grand Admiral Doenitz and Hitler:
The Fuehrer is considering whether or not Germany should renounce the Geneva Convention...The Fuehrer orders the Commander-in-Chief of the Navy to consider the pros and cons of this step and to state his opinion as soon as possible.
Doenitz: On the contrary, the disadvantages outweigh the advantages. Even from a general standpoint it appears to the Commander-in-Chief that this measure would bring no advantage. It would be better to carry out the measures considered necessary without warning, and at all costs to save face with the outer world. (IMT)
From Doenitz's IMT testimony: I myself was only told ... that the Fuehrer was upset because our Western Front was not holding, and men were quite pleased to become American and English prisoners of war. That was how the whole thing began; and that was the information which I originally received .... I was of the opinion that the renunciation of the Geneva Convention was in principle a great mistake and was wrong ...
February 21, 1945:
In Hitler I saw a powerful personality who had extraordinary intelligence and energy and a practically universal knowledge, from whom power seemed to emanate and who was possessed of a remarkable power of suggestion. On the other hand, I purposely very seldom went to his headquarters, for I had the feeling that I would best preserve my power of initiative that way and, secondly, because after several days, say 2 or 3 days at his headquarters, I had the feeling that I had to disengage myself from his power of suggestion.
During a second meeting with Himmler's intelligence chief, Schellenberg (above), Count Bernadotte gets word from Himmler that he accepts the proposal to assemble the Scandinavian prisoners in one camp. (Read)
February 21, 1945:
While Himmler continues to relax in the hospital, General Wenck falls asleep at the wheel while driving back to headquarters from an all-night conference with Hitler. His car is smashed into the side of a railroad bridge, trapping him inside as it busts into flames. He is pulled from the fire with five broken ribs and a fractured skull, barely surviving. Without his leadership, the counter-attack against Zhukov's Army breaks down and Himmler's stock with Hitler further plummets. (Read)
February 22, 1945:
Julius Streicher's lead article in the last issue of Der Stuermer:
February 22, 1945:
Just as the Jewish leader Moses ordered his forces to do to the conquered peoples thousands of years ago, so today the Red soldiers under the command of Jewry behave today wherever they reach through treachery or force: Men are murdered or shipped abroad as slaves, women and girls are raped and defiled! "You shall devour the peoples!" How incomprehensible is the pious order of the "god" Jehovah to the Jews! In our day it has become clear as the Red slave army of World Jewry has broken into the heart of Europe! When this terrible war finally ends, the spirits of the murdered and tortured will rise from their mass graves in eternal accusation. The millions of faces of Cain, bastards brought into the world, will join the accusations. A horror will spread across the world ...
As part of the Allied Operation Clarion—the destruction of German traffic centers in the smaller cities—the marshalling yard in Hildesheim is attacked in the afternoon. Due to good weather and clear sight the marshalling yard is heavily damaged, while the city itself receives only minor damage, with about 250 people killed.
February 23, 1945:
Churchill, after an evening of reflection on the massive bombing of German cites, comments ruefully to an associate: "What will lie between the white snows of Russia and the white cliffs of Dover?" (Jenkins)
February 24, 1945:
Rokossovsky launches a major attack north through Pomerania. Himmler, and most of the German General Staff, are completely taken by surprise; they had expected a major thrust toward Berlin.
February 24, 1945:
OSS chief Allen Dulles receives intelligence that German Ambassador Rahn and Field Marshal Kesselring are prepared to surrender and possibly "fight against Hitler, if the Allies can make it worth their while." (Waller)
February 24, 1945:
Hitler radio broadcast:
February 25, 1945:
The consciousness of my duty and my work does not allow me to leave headquarters at the moment when, for the twenty-fifth time, that date is being commemorated on which the fundamental program of our movement (The 25 Points) was proclaimed and approved in Munich. The evening of the twenty-fourth of February was, under the auspices of prudence, a development the significance of which probably only today becomes clear to us in its terrible meaning. An irreconcilable enemy was already at that time united in a common struggle against the German people, in the same manner as it is today...
From an order by Gauleiter and National Defense Commissioner of Westfalen-Sud, Albert Hoffman:
Fighter-bomber pilots who are shot down are in principle not to be protected against the fury of the people. I expect from all police officers that they will refuse to lend their protection to these gangster types. Authorities acting in contradiction to the popular sentiment will have to account to me. All police and gendarmerie officials are to be informed immediately of this, my attitude.
February 25, 1945:
Joseph Goebbels takes on the role of prophet, imagining the world two generations after German victory. Note Goebbels' coining of the term 'iron curtain.'
February 25, 1945:
The three enemy war leaders, American sources report, have agreed at the Yalta Conference to Roosevelt's proposal for an occupation program that will destroy and exterminate the German people up until the year 2000. One must grant the somewhat grandiose nature of the proposal. It reminds one of the skyscrapers in New York that soar high into the sky, and whose upper stories sway in the wind. What will the world look like in the year 2000? Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt have determined it, at least insofar as the German people are concerned. One may however doubt if they and we will act in the predicted manner. No one can predict the distant future, but there are some facts and possibilities that are clear over the coming fifty years. For example, none of the three enemy statesmen who developed this brilliant plan will still be alive, England will have at most 20 million inhabitants, our children's children will have had children, and that the events of this war will have sunk into myth. One can also predict with a high degree of certainty that Europe will be a united continent in the year 2000.
One will fly from Berlin to Paris for breakfast in fifteen minutes, and our most modern weapons will be seen as antiques, and much more. Germany, however, will still be under military occupation according to the plans of the Yalta Conference, and the English and Americans will be training its people in democracy. How empty the brains of these three charlatans must be, at least in the case of two of them! The third, Stalin, follows much more far-reaching goals than his two comrades. He certainly does not plan to announce them publicly, but he and his 200 million slaves will fight bitterly and toughly for them. He sees the world differently than do those plutocratic brains. He sees a future in which the entire world is subjected to the dictatorship of the Moscow Internationale, which means the Kremlin. His dream may seem fantastic and absurd, but if we Germans do not stop him, it will undoubtedly become reality. That will happen as follows: If the German people lay down their weapons, the Soviets, according to the agreement between Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin, would occupy all of East and Southeast Europe along with the greater part of the Reich. An iron curtain would fall over this enormous territory controlled by the Soviet Union ...
Joseph Stalin signs a decree creating special 'trophy battalions.' These specialized units soon begin establishing working relations with every Soviet Army Group in occupied Poland and Germany. Their mission is to remove all and any industrial equipment, materials and personnel deemed useful to the Red Army from both countries. By September 1945 there will be 48 trophy brigades, 23 of which will be deployed in Germany, seven in Poland and six in Czechoslovakia. (Menaul)
February 26, 1945:
At the urging of Field Marshal Kesselring, the German consul in Lugano, Alexander von Neurath, meets on the Western Front with Rundstedt's chief of staff, General Westphal, and Field Marshal Blaskowitz, commander of Army Group G. They propose to surrender the Western and Italian Fronts in return for immunity from war crime trials. (Waller)
February 26, 1945:
Berlin is subjected to very heavy bombing.
Arthur 'Bomber' Harris: Judged by the standards of our attacks on Hamburg, the Battle of Berlin did not appear to be an overwhelming success. With many times as many sorties, a far greater bomb load, and ten times as many casualties, we appeared to have succeeded in destroying about a third of the acreage destroyed in the attack on Hamburg; the actual figure, as far as it could then be estimated from air photographs, was 2180 acres over and above the 500 or so acres destroyed before the main Battle of Berlin began. But by comparison with the results of all earlier attacks on Berlin it was a devastating blow.
February 28, 1945:
Goebbels is still furious at Goering, whom he blames for the firebombing of Dresden and the inability of the Luftwaffe to do anything against the Allied air offensive. 'What a burden of guilt this parasite has brought on his own head, for his slackness and interest in his own comfort,' he tells his aides. 'Why didn't the Fuehrer listen to my earlier warnings? But I was always called a pessimist and an ignorant civilian, who could not understand military matters.' He continues, later that night, to rage against Goering to his diary: 'Fools covered with medals and vain, perfumed fops have no place in the conduct of war. Either they change or they must be eliminated.' The total number of German soldiers captured in February alone is 280,000 with a death toll of 350,000. (Semmler, Read)
February 28, 1945:
FDR returns to Washington from the Yalta Conference. (Lilianthal)
Eleanor Roosevelt will later recall: When Franklin came back from Yalta I told him how disappointed I was, and rather shocked, that Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia had been left with the Soviet Union, upon Stalin's insistence, instead of being given their independence and freedom. Franklin said—now mind you I don't say he was right or wrong, but this shows the reasoning he had in his mind—Franklin said (and I can still see his face as he said it) he had thought about this for a long time. He asked me: 'How many people in the United States do you think would be willing to go to war to free Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia?' I said I didn't suppose there would be very many. 'Well,' he said, 'if I had insisted on their being freed I would have to consider what I would do to back up that decision, which might require war. And I concluded that the American people did not care enough about the freedom of those countries to go to war about it.
February 28, 1945:
Eleanor Roosevelt writes to Joseph P. Lash:
He (FDR) says he felt well all the time & feels evidently that all went well. He liked Stalin better & felt they got on better than before. He says his one complete failure was with Ibn Saud on Palestine but says F: 'he is 75 & has been wounded 9 times, it will be easier to deal with the son who comes to power.' I believe there are 49 sons! (Lash II)
From Washington Goes to War, by David Brinkley: Roosevelt came back from Yalta aboard the Quincy, docking at the Norfolk navy yard, and then proceeded by train to Washington and the underground siding at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. He arrived at 6 AM, but stayed in bed, as was his habit, even though he was in a railroad car twenty feet under the trolleys, buses, taxis and morning commuter traffic above him on Fourteenth Street. He lay there drinking coffee and reading the newspapers until 9 AM, when he came above-ground into the daylight and drove to the White House. He spent the day working on a speech he was to make to Congress the next day, March 1, in which he would report on his meeting at Yalta.
It was one of the poorest speeches of his life. It was too long, more than an hour. He kept wandering away from the written text and ad-libbing lines that to an NBC reporter in the radio gallery on the balcony made no sense. His voice was weak and quavering. Dean Acheson of the State Department called it 'an invalid's voice.' He was even willing, as he had never been before, to refer in public to his physical disability. In the past, he had made his speeches standing and holding on to the House Chamber's podium, supported by the steel braces on his legs attached to a wide leather band around his waist. This time, he told Congress and the radio audience, he would speak on the floor of the House Chamber because, he said, after a long trip it was easier not to have the weight of ten pounds of steel around his legs.
March 1, 1945:
FDR reports to Congress on the Crimean Conference:
March 1, 1945:
...When we met at Yalta, in addition to laying our strategic and tactical plans for the complete, final military victory over Germany, there were other problems of vital political consequence. For instance, there were the problems of occupational control of Germany after victory, the complete destruction of her military power...
A US infantry regiment captures Moenchengladbach. Meanwhile, Zhukov's Army Group joins Rokossovsky's major thrust north through Pomerania. Himmler, after receiving an order from Hitler demanding that he exterminate all prisoners and destroy all remaining concentration camps to avoid them falling into the hands of the enemy, takes to his hospital bed once again, complaining of 'angina.'
March 2, 1945:
King Michael of Romania is forced by the Soviets to dismiss his government. Patton's Third Army captures Trier.
March 3, 1945:
Finland declares war on Germany.
March 5, 1945:
Lieutenant-General Helmuth Reymann takes over as military commander of Berlin. Hitler and Goebbels have been imprisoning or executing anyone expressing the 'defeatist' idea that the Soviets will be able to fight their way to Berlin, so it is not surprising that its new commander discovers that virtually nothing whatsoever has been done to prepare the city's defenses or to look after the welfare of its residents. Meanwhile in the West, US troops enter Cologne. (Read)
March 5, 1945:
The Nazis retaliate when the Dutch underground fails in its attempt to assassinate SS General Hanns Rauter near the Woeste Hoeve outside Apeldoorn. They first execute 49 men at the Rifle-Range in Amersfoort. Four days later one more person is shot at the same place to round off the total at 50.
March 5, 1945
If anyone can master the crisis, then he (Hitler) can. No one else can be found who is anywhere near touching him... The general mood in the Reich Chancellery is pretty dismal. I would rather not go again because the atmosphere is infectious. The generals hang their heads and the Fuehrer holds his head high. (Kershaw, Seward)
March 6, 1945:
Count Bernadotte arrives in Berlin to continue negotiations with the German authorities.
March 6, 1945:
The first regiment of the new Romanian Nationalist Army takes a position along the Oder River and is inspected by General Platon Chirnoaga, Minister of Defense in the new Romanian government-in-exile. Meanwhile, King Michael appoints a new government dominated by the Romanian Communist Party under Petru Groza. This is the first solid proof since Yalta that Stalin may not intend to honor his assurances about doing nothing to hinder the process of democracy in Eastern Europe.
March 7, 1945:
Tanks of the US Third Corps reach the Rhine River opposite the small German town of Remagen, Germany, and discover that the Ludendorff Bridge is still standing. Hitler is so furious to learn of the Americans' use of the intact Ludendorff Bridge that he fires General Gerd von Rundstedt as commander of western German forces. Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower will later state that the discovery of the intact bridge 'put victory just around the corner.'
March 8, 1945
Churchill to General Ismay:
Late on Monday night General Bedell Smith volunteered to me at Reims the statement that he hoped that two divisions might be available to clear Holland immediately after the passage of the Rhine. I understand he contemplated American divisions. I am of the opinion that a military plan should now be concerted to prevent the horrors which will befall the Dutch, and incidentally to extirpate the rocket-firing points in Holland at the earliest moment. I consider that if it were inevitable, which I doubt, a certain delay might be accepted in the main advance on Berlin. I am prepared to telegraph to the President on these lines, but I should like first of all to hear your views. If it is true that the German forces in Holland are now almost entirely static and that all the effective fighting units have left, there is no need to dwell upon the military task and overweight it. (Churchill)
March 9, 1945
Churchill to Eisenhower:
Let me offer you my warmest congratulations on the great victory won by the Allied armies under your command, by which the defeat or destruction of all the Germans west of the Rhine will be achieved. No one who studies war can fail to be impressed by the admirable speed and flexibility of the American armies and groups of armies, and the adaptiveness of commanders and their troops to the swiftly changing conditions of modern battles on the greatest scale. I am glad that the British and Canadian armies in the north have played a part in your far-reaching and triumphant combinations. (Churchill)
March 10, 1945
Churchill to FDR:
The Lublin Poles may well answer that their Government can alone ensure the maximum amount of political tranquility inside, that they already represent the great mass of democratic forces in Poland, and that they cannot join hands with emigre traitors to Poland or Fascist collaborators and landlords, and so on, according to the usual technique. Meanwhile we shall not be allowed inside the country or have any means of informing ourselves upon the position. It suits the Soviets very well to have a long period of delay, so that the process of liquidation of elements unfavorable to them or their puppets may run its full course. (Churchill)
March 11, 1945:
Hitler tells Goebbels: "It must be our ambition also in our times to set an example for later generations to look to in similar crisis and anxieties, just as we today have to look to the past heroes of history. The year 1918 will not repeat itself." (Kershaw)
March 11, 1945:
Goebbels, still reeling from the Allied capture of the 'Bridge Too Far' at Remagen, figuratively drops his swastika when he learns that his own home town of Rhedt has been taken by American forces without a fight. He feels personally injured when further word comes down that the Allies are setting up 'a so-called German newspaper' in his old stomping grounds. 'I'll find ways of restoring order,' he promises his diary, and proceeds to formulate plans to send a hit squad of Berlin Party members 'already trained in such acts' to infiltrate enemy lines and assassinate the Mayor of Rhedt, who has reportedly been collaborating with the Americans.' (Read)
March 11, 1945:
Markt Schellenberg, a small Alpine village near Hitler's Berghof, holds a memorial ceremony for their war dead. From a Nazi report (filed April 4, 1945) of the incident: "When the leader of the Wehrmacht unit at the end of his speech for the remembrance called for a 'Sieg Heil' for the Fuehrer, it was returned neither by the Wehrmacht present, nor by the Volkssturm, nor by the spectators of the civilian population who had turned up. 'This silence of the masses,' commented an observer from the local police, 'had a depressing effect, and probably reflects better than anything the attitudes of the population.'" (Kershaw)
March 13, 1945:
Josef Goebbels rages to his diary:
This evening's Mosquito raid was particularly disastrous for me because our Ministry was hit. The whole lovely building on the Wilhelmstrasse was totally destroyed by a bomb...The Fuehrer telephones me immediately after the raid on the Ministry. He too is very sad that it has now hit me. So far we have been lucky even during the heaviest raids on Berlin. Now, however, we have lost not only a possession but an anxiety. In future I need no longer tremble for the Ministry. All those present at the fire voiced only scorn and hatred for Goering. All were asking repeatedly why the Fuehrer does not at last do something definite about him and the Luftwaffe. The Fuehrer than asks me over for a short visit. During the interview I have with him he is very impressed by my account of things. I give him a description of the devastation which is being wrought and tell him particularly of the increasing fury of the Mosquito raids which take place every evening. I cannot prevent myself voicing sharp criticism of Goering and the Luftwaffe.
March 13, 1945:
But it is always the same story when one talks to the Fuehrer on this subject. He explains the reasons for the decay of the Luftwaffe, but he cannot make up his mind to draw the consequences therefrom. He tells me that after the recent interviews he had with him Goering was a broken man. But what is the good of that! I can have no sympathy with him. If he did lose his nerve somewhat after his recent clash with the Fuehrer, that is but a small punishment for the frightful misery he has brought and is still bringing on the German people. I beg the Fuehrer yet again to take action at last, since things cannot go on like this. We ought not, after all, to send our people to their doom because we do not possess the strength of decision to root out the cause of our misfortune. The Fuehrer tells me that new fighters and bombers are now under construction, of which he has certain hopes. But we have heard it so often before that we can no longer bring ourselves to place much hope in such statements. In any case it is now plenty late—not to say too late—to anticipate any decisive effect from such measures.
Adolf Hitler, in cynical conversation with officers of the German Ninth Army: "We have invisible aircraft, submarines, colossal tanks and cannon, unbelievably powerful rockets, and a bomb with a working that will astonish the whole world. The enemy knows this, and besieges and attempts to destroy us. But we will answer this destruction with a storm and that without unleashing a bacteriological war, for which we are also prepared.... All my words are the purest truth. That you will see!...We still have things that need to be finished, and when they are finished, they will turn the tide." From 'Das Geheimnis' by Edgar Mayer and Thomas Mehner. Note: There is some contention over the accuracy of this item.
March 13, 1945
: Queen Wilhelmina returns to Netherlands.
March 13, 1945
Churchill to FDR:
At Yalta also we agreed to take the Russian view of the frontier line. Poland lost her frontier. Is she now to lose her freedom? That is the question which will undoubtedly have to be fought out in Parliament and in public here. I do not wish to reveal a divergence between the British and United States Governments, but it would certainly be necessary for me to make it clear that we are in the presence of a great failure and an utter breakdown of what we settled at Yalta, but that we British have not the necessary strength to carry the matter further and that the limits of our capacity to act have been reached. The moment that Molotov sees that he has beaten us away from the whole process of consultations among Poles to form a new Government, he will know that we will put up with anything. On the other hand, I believe that combined dogged pressure and persistence along the lines on which we have been working and of my proposed draft message to Stalin would very likely succeed. (Churchill)
March 14, 1945:
The 617 Dambuster Squadron of the RAF drops the heaviest bomb of the war; the 22,000-pound Grand Slam bomb. The Grand Slam is so big that it can only be carried one at a time by powerful, specially refitted four-engine bombers.
March 15, 1945
FDR to Churchill:
I cannot but be concerned at the views you expressed in your message of the 13th. I do not understand what you mean by a divergence between our Governments on the Polish negotiations. From our side there is certainly no evidence of any divergence of policy. We have merely been discussing the most effective tactics and I cannot agree that we are confronted with a breakdown of the Yalta agreement until we have made every effort to overcome the obstacles incurred in the negotiations at Moscow. (Churchill)
March 15, 1945
Churchill to FDR:
I am most relieved that you do not feel that there is any fundamental divergence between us, and I agree that our differences are only about tactics. You know, I am sure, that our great desire is to keep in step with you, and we realize how hopeless the position would become for Poland if it were ever seen that we were not in full accord. At present all entry into Poland is barred to our representatives. An impenetrable veil has been drawn across the scene. This extends even to the liaison officers, British and American, who were to help in bringing out our rescued prisoners of war. According to our information, the American officers as well as the British who had reached Lublin have been requested to clear out. There is no doubt in my mind that the Soviets fear very much our seeing what is going on in Poland. It may be that, apart from the Poles, they are being very rough with the Germans. Whatever the reason, we are not allowed to see it. This is not a position that could be defended by us. (Churchill)
March 15, 1945:
The White Buses expedition gets underway as seven transports with some 2200 Danes and Norwegians are transported from captivity in Germany. Sven Frykmann, commander of one of the transports, will later write:
In general they were in relative good shape compared to other prisoners I have seen and one could not complain regarding their personal hygiene. They related that the food packs they had received from Norway and Denmark had kept their spirits up and recently the treatment had been noticeably better. They were all touching [sic] thankful and happy. I believe that all of us that have had the option of helping these poor people in Germany have experienced such an overwhelming gratitude that it is enough for the rest of our lives.
The transports will continue, with some pauses, until the May 4, 1945. According to the Swedish Red Cross a total of 15,345 prisoners are saved altogether. Negotiated by Swedish Red Cross envoy, Count Bernadotte, the White Buses expedition is a Swedish triumph and the return transports through Denmark are met by ecstatic crowds. British diplomat Peter Tennant, stationed in Stockholm during the war, will later write:
The Swedish humanitarian efforts under and after the war did much to remove the dishonor the country had got during its acrobatic exercises in neutrality policy. (Read, Persson)
March 15, 1945:
General Reymann, Berlin's military commander, meets with Goebbels, the civilian commander of Berlin, to get the facts on the current situation facing the Nazi capital. 3 million civilians remain in the city, including—tragically—120,000 children under the age of 10. When Reymann asks Goebbels what provision has been made to insure that there will be enough canned milk —forget formula, which is non-existent—for the city's infants, the propaganda minister knowingly lies, declaring that there is enough to last a good three months. In fact, he claims, there is enough of everything—food, ammunition, weapons, and manpower—to hold out for two months. With a straight face, the practitioner of propaganda opines to the skeptical general:
Taken as a whole, the situation is extraordinarily satisfactory. Eight weeks is a long time, during which a lot can happen. In any case, we have made excellent preparations and above all it must be remembered that, if the worst should happen, an enormous number of men and weapons would flow into the city and we should be in a position to use them to put up a powerful defense.
Reymann discovers that evacuation plans consist of a map with 'escape routes' highlighted, but no provisions have been made for feeding the people or for their sanitary needs. Reymann asks Goebbels how the people will be fed: 'How will we feed them,' repeats Goebbels. 'We'll bring in livestock from the surrounding countryside, that's how we'll feed them!.' Reymann immediately realizes that this is a ludicrous proposition and insists that the civilian population should be evacuated:
Surely we must consider an immediate evacuation program. We cannot wait any longer. Each day that passes will multiply the difficulties later on. We must at least move the women and children out, before it's too late.
March 15, 1945:
Goebbels: My dear general, when and if an evacuation becomes necessary, I will be the one to make the decision. But I don't intend to throw Berlin into a panic by ordering it now! There's plenty of time. Plenty of time.
Himmler, having managed to get himself up from his hospital bed and make his way to the Fuehrerbunker, receives 'an extraordinarily severe dressing-down' from his enraged Fuehrer. Hitler has learned that one of his favorite generals, SS-Oberstgruppenfuehrer Sepp Dietrich, commander of the Sixth SS-Panzer Army—whose four crack Waffen-SS divisions include the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler—has ordered his troops to retreat from the hopeless situation in Budapest. The sputtering warlord orders a petrified Himmler to force the 'traitorous' units to remove their 'loyalty is my honor' armbands.' When Himmler relays the order, Dietrich refuses to pass it down to the embattled soldiery. (Read)
March 17, 1945
Churchill to General Ismay:
I should like the Intelligence Committee to consider the possibility that Hitler, after losing Berlin and Northern Germany, will retire to the mountainous and wooded parts of Southern Germany and endeavor to prolong the fight there. The strange resistance he made at Budapest and is now making at Lake Balaton, and the retention of Kesselring's army in Italy so long, seem in harmony with such an intention. But of course he is so foolishly obstinate about everything that there may be no meaning behind these moves. Nevertheless the possibilities should be examined. (Churchill)
March 18, 1945:
Responding to a report by Commander in Chief in the West, Kesselring, that the German populace is playing a negative role in the struggle against advancing American forces, Hitler orders Keitel to draft the following order:
The presence of the population in the battle zone threatened by the enemy imposes difficulties upon the fighting troops, as it does upon the population itself. The Fuehrer therefore issues the following command: West of the Rhine, or in the Saar Palatinate, as the case may be, all inhabitants are to be evacuated at once from the area, beginning directly behind the main battle field...Removal is to take place in a general southeasterly direction...
Neither Speer, nor anyone else present at the conference, raises any objection to this ridiculous order. In fact, Bormann sends out a circular the next day with implementation instructions, including that 'in case transportation is not available, evacuation should be undertaken in horse or ox-drawn wagons. If necessary the male part of the population should proceed on foot.' (Speer)
From Speer's IMT testimony: By the middle of March 1945 the enemy troops were once more on the move. It was absolutely clear by then that quite soon those territories which had not yet been occupied would be occupied. That included the territories of Polish Upper Silesia and others outside the borders of the old Reich. The ordered destruction of all bridges during retreat was actually the greatest danger, because a bridge blown up by engineers is much more difficult to repair than a bridge which has been destroyed by an air attack. A planned destruction of bridges amounts to the destruction of the entire life of a modern state. In addition, beginning with the end of January, radical circles in the Party were making demands for the' destruction of industry; and it was also Hitler's opinion that this should be so.
In February 1945 therefore I stopped production and delivery of the so-called industrial dynamiting materials. The intention was that the stocks of explosives in the mines and in private possession should be diminished. As a witness of mine has testified, these orders were actually carried out. In the middle of March Guderian and I tried once more to stop the ordered destruction of bridges or to reduce it Pro a minimum. An order was submitted to Hitler which he refused bluntly, on the contrary demanding intensified orders for the destruction of bridges.
Simultaneously, on 18 March 1945, he had eight officers shot because they had failed to do their duty in Connection with the destruction of a bridge. He announced this fact in the Armed Forces bulletin so that it should serve as a warning for future cases. Thus it was extremely difficult to disobey orders for the destruction of bridges. In spite of this existing prohibition I sent a new memorandum to Hitler on 18 March 1945, the contents of which were very clear and in which I did not allow him any further excuses for the measures he had planned. The memorandum was brought to the attention of numerous of his associates.
March 18, 1945:
Panzer Leader General Heinz Guderian, extremely concerned that huge numbers of Waffen SS and other German troops are in danger of being surrounded and captured (and most probably killed) by the Red Army, meets with the Reichsfuehrer SS. Himmler, with no military training or aptitude whatsoever, is in command of the endangered forces, but Guderian finds him laid up 'with an attack of influenza' in a hospital. He finds him sitting up in his bed and, as the annoyed general writes in his diary, 'apparently in robust health.' Guderian, realizing that the lives of many German troops have no chance of rescue under Himmler, whose hospital stay in reality has been caused by the strain of being an incompetent officer faced with an impossible situation, attempts to convince Himmler to give up command by humoring him.
He sympathetically points out that the SS chief has far too much responsibility, and that 'such a plethora of offices was bound to be beyond the strength of any one individual.' After Guderian musters a number of further arguments, Himmler protests that he simply could not face Hitler and ask to be relieved. 'He wouldn't approve of my making such a suggestion,' he answers. Guderian offers to talk with the Fuehrer on Himmler's behalf, and Himmler soon gives his assent. Guderian meets with Hitler soon after and, explaining that Himmler is unwell and 'overburdened,' recommends that he be replaced by the commander of the 1st Panzer Army, General Heinrici. After 'a certain amount of grumbling,' Hitler agrees to the move. He will later comment ruefully that giving Himmler a military command had been a failed experiment. (Clark)
March 18, 1945:
On a beautiful Sunday morning, 1,250 American bombers with a 700 fighter escort deliver a devastating raid on Berlin. The Luftwaffe sends 28 ME-262 jet fighters into the fray—the first significant number of these jets to see action—and they succeed in shooting down a mere 15 Allied planes. 7 more US planes are brought down by flak. (Read)
March 18, 1945
Speer to Hitler:
The enemy air force has concentrated further on traffic installations. Economic transportation has thereby been considerably reduced .... In 4 to 8 weeks the final collapse of German economy must therefore be expected with certainty .... After that collapse, the war cannot even be continued militarily .... We at the head have the duty to help the nation in the difficult times which must be expected. In this connection we must soberly, and without regard for our fate, ask ourselves the question as to how this can be done even in the more remote future. If the opponent wishes to destroy the nation and the basis of its existence, then he must do the job himself. We must do everything to maintain, even if perhaps in a most primitive manner, a basis of existence for the nation to the last ...It must be insured that, if the battle advances farther into the territory of the Reich, nobody has the right to destroy industrial plants, coal mines, electric plants, and other supply facilities, as well as traffic facilities and inland shipping routes, et cetera.
The blowing-up of bridges to the extent which has been planned would mean that traffic facilities would be more thoroughly destroyed than the air attacks of the last years have been able to achieve. Their destruction means the removal of any further possibilities of existence for the German nation...We have no right, at this stage of the war, to carry out destructions on our part which might affect the life of the people. If the enemies wish to destroy this nation, which has fought with unique bravery, then this historical shame shall rest exclusively upon them. We have the obligation of leaving to the nation all possibilities which, in the more remote future, might be able to insure for it a new reconstruction.
March 18, 1945:
After reading Speer's memorandum, Hitler meets privately with Speer, telling him:
If the war is lost, the nation will also perish. This fate is inevitable. There is no necessity to take into consideration the basis which the people will need to continue a most primitive existence. On the contrary, it will be better to destroy these things ourselves because this nation will have proved to be the weaker one and the future will belong solely to the stronger eastern nation (Russia). Besides, those who remain after the battle are only the inferior ones, for the good ones have been killed." (Shirer, Payne, Speer)
March 19, 1945
The Nero Decree:
Measures for destructions in Reich Territory: The struggle of our nation for existence also forces the utilization of all means to weaken the fighting power of our enemy and to prevent further advances. Advantage must be taken of all opportunities to inflict the most enduring damage to the striking power of the enemy directly or indirectly. It is a mistake to believe in the possibility of work resumption for our own purposes of undestroyed or only temporarily paralyzed traffic, communications, industrial, and supply installations after the recapture of lost territories. On his retreat the enemy will leave behind only scorched earth and refrain from any consideration for the population. I therefore command:
March 20, 1945
1. All military traffic, communications, industrial and supply installation as well as objects on Reich territory, which the enemy might immediately or later utilize for the continuation of his fight, are to be destroyed.
2. The military commands are responsible for the execution of this destruction of all military objects including traffic and communications installations. The Gauleiters and Commissioners for Reich Defense are responsible for the destruction of the industrial and supply installations as well as of other valuable objects; the Gauleiter and Commissioners for Reich Defense are to be given necessary assistance by the troops in carrying out this task.
3. This command is to be transmitted as promptly as possible to all troop commanders; orders to the contrary are null and void. Adolf Hitler.
Molotov to Eden:
In Berne for two weeks, behind the backs of the Soviet Union, which is bearing the brunt of the war against Germany, negotiations have been going on between the representatives of the German military command (Note: Secret talks code-named Crossword, between SS Commander in Italy General Karl Wolff and Allen Dulles) on the one hand and representatives of the English and American commands on the other. (Churchill)
March 20, 1945:
Newly appointed commander of the Army Group Vistula, General Gotthard Heinrici, correctly anticipates that the main Soviet thrust will be made over the Oder River and initiates defensive preparations on the outskirts of Berlin.
March 21, 1945
Arthur Nebe, SS General and head the criminal police (KRIPO) from 1933 to 1945. Shortly after the war an amateur film showing a gas chamber supplied with gas from the exhaust of a truck was allegedly found in his former Berlin apartment.
March 22, 1945:
Himmler meets with General Heinrici, who records in his diary that the Reichsfuehrer looks 'unusually white and puffy.' During the meeting, General Ferdinand Busse, commander of the Ninth Army, telephones with the dire news that the endangered German forces have finally been surrounded by the Red Army. Himmler quickly hands the phone to Heinrici: 'You command the Army Group now. Please give the appropriate order.' Heinrici glares at the Reichsmarschall: 'I don't know a damn thing about the army group. I don't even know what troops I have or who is supposed to be where.'
When Himmler fails to reply, Heinrici realizes he will get no help from that quarter and asks General Busse what he proposes. 'I'd like to counterattack as soon as possible, to restabilize my forces around Kuestrin.' Heinrici: 'Fine. As soon as I can I'll come to see you and we'll both look over the front lines.' After replacing the receiver, Heinrici attempts to acquire some information about his new command, but Himmler, displaying a disagreeable face, leads the general over to a nearby couch, sits down, and addresses him conspiratorially, 'I want to tell you something personal. I have taken the necessary steps to negotiate a peace with the West.' Heinrici: 'Fine. But how do we get to them?' Himmler: 'Through a neutral country. I'm telling you this in absolute confidence, you understand.' Later that evening, Heinrici tells a confidant: 'He (Himmler) was only too happy to leave . He couldn't get out of here fast enough. He didn't want to be in charge when the collapse comes. No—he wanted just a simple general in for that, and I'm the scapegoat.' (Clark, Read)
March 23, 1945:
Prime Minister Winston Churchill visits Montgomery's headquarter in Straelen, as the British 7th—the Black Watch—crosses the Rhine.
March 23, 1945
Churchill to Stalin:
I am with Field-Marshal Montgomery at his HQ. He has just ordered the launching of the main battle to force the Rhine on a broad front with Wesel at the center. The operation will be supported by two thousand guns and by the landing of an air-borne corps. It is hoped to pass the river tonight and tomorrow to establish bridgeheads. Once the river has been crossed a very large reserve of armor is ready to exploit the assault. (Churchill)
March 23, 1945:
Guderian meets again with Himmler, and again urges him to take matters into his own hands and sue for peace. He tells him:
The war can no longer be won. The only problem now is finding the quickest way of putting an end to the senseless slaughter and bombing. Apart from Ribbentrop, you are the only man with contacts in foreign countries. Since the Foreign Minister is reluctant to open negotiations, you must go with me to Hitler and urge him to arrange an armistice.
March 24, 1945:
FDR forbids his staff to say anything whatsoever about Soviet guilt for Katyn.
March 25, 1945
Churchill to Eden:
Further reflection convinces me we should send no answer to the insulting letter from Molotov. I presume you have already sent a copy of it to the State Department, pointing out, in no spirit of complaint, that it was they who particularly wished that the Russians should not come to Switzerland and that Alexander should deal with the matter on a purely military basis. I am sure the right thing now is to get absolutely in line with the United States, which should be easy, and meanwhile let Molotov and his master wait. I agree with you that the whole question of the San Francisco Conference hangs in the balance. The sending of Gromyko instead of Molotov is a grimace. I should suppose the President would be much offended by this. We have had a jolly day, having crossed the Rhine. Tomorrow we go to the 15th Scottish Division, on the other side. I should think it not at all unlikely that the whole German front in the West may collapse and be broken up into blobs. There is still hard fighting going on in the North, and the brunt again seems to come from the left-hand hinge, which, as usual, we form. (Churchill)
March 26, 1945:
Hitler, concerned about the fate of the SS regiments surrounded by the Red Army, had ordered a breakthrough rescue mission. The attempt, launched this day, fails to provide any relief to the doomed soldiers. (Clark)
March 27, 1945:
Germany launches its last V-2 rocket from the Hague in the Netherlands as General Dwight Eisenhower declares the German defenses on the Western front broken. Meanwhile, Argentina declares war on Germany and Japan.
March 27, 1945
Churchill to FDR:
As you know, if we fail altogether to get a satisfactory solution on Poland and are in fact defrauded by Russia both Eden and I are pledged to report the fact openly to the House of Commons. There I advised critics of the Yalta settlement to trust Stalin. If I have to make a statement of facts to the House the whole world will draw the deduction that such advise was wrong; all the more so that our failure in Poland will result in a set-up there on the new Rumanian model. I other words, Eastern Europe will be shown to be excluded from the terms of the Declaration on Liberated Europe, and you and we shall be excluded from any jot of influence in that area. Surely we must not be maneuvered into becoming parties to imposing on Poland—and on how much more of Eastern Europe —the Russian version of democracy? There seems to be only one possible alternative to confessing our total failure. That alternative is to stand by our interpretation of the Yalta agreement. I believe therefore that if the success of San Francisco is not to be gravely imperiled we must both of us now make the strongest possible appeal top Stalin about Poland, and if necessary about a any other derogations from the harmony of the Crimea. Only so shall we have any real chance of getting the World Organization established on lines which will commend themselves to our respective public opinions. (Churchill)
March 27, 1945:
Hitler, enraged by the failure of Busse's relief attack, is fuming as Guderian defends Busse's failure, citing the high casualty rate of the failed attack. Keitel proposes that he himself visit the front to determine whether a further relief attack is 'a practical proposition.' (Clark)
March 27, 1945
Speer is more of an artist by nature. Admittedly he has great organizational talent but politically he is too inexperienced to be totally reliable in this critical time. The Fuehrer is very angry about recent statements made to him by Speer. Speer has allowed himself to be influenced by his industrialists and is continually saying that he does not intend to lift a finger to cut the German people's lifeline; this is for our enemies to do; he does not intend to take responsibility for it. The Fuehrer counters this by saying that we have to carry the responsibility anyway, that the point now is to bring the struggle for our people's existence to a successful conclusion and that tactical questions play only a subordinate role. The Fuehrer intends to summon Speer during the afternoon and face him with a stern alternative: either he must conform to the principles of present-day conduct of the war or the Fuehrer will dispense with his assistance. He says with much bitterness that he would prefer to live in a prefab or creep underground then have palaces built by a member of his staff who had proved a failure at the moment of crisis. The Fuehrer uses extraordinarily hard words about Speer. I do not think that Speer will have an easy time with him in the next few days. Above all the Fuehrer intends to put an end to Speer's speechifying which is definitely of a defeatist nature.
March 28, 1945:
Speer, after being informed that Goebbels is planning to draft the members of the Berlin Philharmonic into the Volkssturm, takes steps to protect the musicians from fruitless combat and death. Hitler, when he wanted to protect someone from conscription, would utilize the simple strategy of pulling their files from the draft board. Speer pulls this same trick, while loading up the Orchestra's library of scores and many instruments and sending them off to a secret location for safekeeping. He also makes plans with the conductor to spirit away the musicians at the proper moment in order to keep them from Goebbels' clutches. Speer, second only to Goebbels himself as the major patron of the orchestra, colludes with the groups manager to have Wagner's Goetterdaemmerung placed on the evening playlist after he sends word that the time is right for evacuation. (Read)
March 28, 1945:
Keitel, preparing to leave for the front, is called back to the Fuehrer Bunker for the afternoon conference. The long-running conflict between Hitler and his generals comes to a head as, in a scene reminiscent of a Mad-Hatter's Tea Party, Hitler dismisses General Heinz Guderian. Note: At this point in the war it hardly matters; the military situation is beyond hopeless, and, even though there are some Panzers available for action, there is little fuel for them. (Clark)
From Barbarossa, by Alan Clark: To avoid interruption from air attack, it had been customary for some time for these afternoon 'briefings,' as they were called, to be held in the corridor of Hitler's personal underground bunker, and into this confined space there crowded, at 2 PM on 28th March, Guderian and Busse, Keitel, Jodl, Burgdorf, Hitler, Bormann, and sundry adjutants, staff officers, stenographers, and men of the SS bodyguard. Soon the conference took on the character, which was to be a recurrent feature of the 'bunker period,' of a hysterical multipartite shouting match. Busse had barely started on his report when Hitler began to interrupt him with the same accusations of negligence, if not cowardice, which Guderian had protested against the previous day.
March 28, 1945
Guderian then began to interrupt, using unusually strong and dissenting language, drawing in turn murmurs of reproof from Keitel and Burgdorf. Finally Hitler brought the company to order by dismissing everyone except Guderian and Keitel, and turning to Guderian he said, 'Colonel-General, your physical health requires that you immediately take six weeks' convalescent leave.' With the dismissal of Guderian the last rational and independent influence was removed from the direction of military affairs in Germany. Only the 'Nazi soldiers' remained, all of them now in timid conformity with Brauchitsch's 'office boy' image and tied to the execution of the Fuehrer's wayward policies. It was one more paradox of the Russian campaign that at the end, when Hitler had mastered the General Staff and finally extinguished the evasions and insubordinations which had persisted among them (albeit in diminishing strength) since 1941, he began to take on all the characteristics which the generals had so long ascribed to him, and which they had used to excuse their own intermittent disobedience.
But it pains me that he (Hitler) is at present not moved to do anything so that the political crisis in the enemy camp deepens. He doesn't change personnel, either in the Reich government or in the diplomatic service. Goering stays, Ribbentrop stays. All failures - apart from the second rank - are retained, and it would in my view be so necessary to undertake here in particular a change of personnel because this would be of such decisive importance for the morale of our people. I press and press; but I can't convince the Fuehrer of the necessity of these measures that I put forward. (Kershaw)
March 28, 1945:
Top Polish political leaders go under safe conduct for discussion with Soviet officials near Warsaw. They are arrested and taken to Moscow where they are charged with 'crimes against the USSR' despite protest from Allies.
March 28, 1945:
Churchill, in spite of opposition by 'Bomber' Harris and others, orders restrictions on area bombings of German population centers, telling the war cabinet: "Otherwise, we shall come into control of an utterly ruined land... The destruction of Dresden remains a serious query against the conduct of Allied bombing." (Jenkins)
March 29, 1945
The last of the V-1 flying bomb attacks on England is launched.
March 29, 1945:
From the Chief of Transportation: "Aim is creation of a transportation wasteland in abandoned territory... ...Shortage of explosives demands resourceful utilization of all possibilities for producing lasting destruction..." (Speer)
March 29, 1945
Speer to Hitler:
When on 18 March I transmitted my letter to you, I was of the firm conviction that the conclusions which I had drawn from the present situation for the maintenance of our national power would find your unconditional approval, because you yourself had once determined that it was the task of the Government to preserve a nation from a heroic end if the war should be lost. However, during the evening you made declarations to me, the tenor of which, unless I misunderstood you, was clearly as follows: If the war were lost, the nation would also perish. This fate was inevitable. There was no necessity to take into consideration the basis which the people would need to continue a most primitive existence. On the contrary, it would be better to destroy these things ourselves, because this nation will have proved to be the weaker one and the future belongs solely to the stronger eastern nation. Besides, those who would remain after the battle were only the inferior ones, for the good ones had been killed....After these words I was profoundly shaken, and when on the next day I read the order for destruction, and shortly after that the strict order of evacuation, I saw in this the first steps toward the realization of these intentions...
March 29, 1945:
Speer is summoned to meet with Hitler after the Fuehrer reads Speer's letter (above). Speer offers to resign, but Hitler will not allow it.
From Speer's IMT testimony: I said to myself that after the war the responsibility for all these destructions would no longer fall on us, but on the next German Government, and the coming German generations... That is true (that Hitler took the position that if he couldn't survive, he didn't care whether Germany survived or not), and I would never have had the courage to make this statement before this Tribunal if I had not been able to prove it with the help of some documents, because such a statement is so monstrous. But the letter which I wrote to Hitler on 29 March, in which I confirmed this, shows that he said so himself...
March 30, 1945:
In my opinion, a state functionary has two types of responsibility. One is the responsibility for his own sector and for that, of course, he is fully responsible. But above that I think that in decisive matters there is, and must be, among the leaders a common responsibility, for who is to bear responsibility for developments, if not the close associates of the head of State? This common responsibility, however, can only be applied to fundamental matters, it cannot be applied to details connected with other ministries or other responsible departments, for otherwise the entire discipline in the life of the State would be quite confused, and no one would ever know who is individually responsible in a particular sphere. This individual responsibility in one's own sphere must, at all events, be kept clear and distinct. ...even in an authoritarian system the leaders must accept a common responsibility, and that it is impossible for them to dodge that common responsibility after the catastrophe, for if the war had been won the leaders would also presumably have laid claim to common responsibility. But to what extent that is punishable under law or ethics I cannot decide, and it was not my purpose to decide ...
On the occasion of the handing over of the memorandum Hitler knew of the contents, since I had discussed it with some of his associates. Therefore his statements are typical of his attitude toward this basic question. I would not have raised the severe accusation which I made here by saying that he wanted to draw Germany into the abyss with him, if I had not confirmed his statements in that respect in the letter of 29 March 1945 ...
I had a chance to resign on three occasions; once in April 1944, when my powers had been considerably reduced; the second time in September 1944, when Bormann and Goebbels were in favor of my resignation; and the third time on 29 March 1945, when Hitler himself demanded that I should go on permanent leave, which was equivalent to resignation. I turned down all these opportunities because, beginning with July 1944, I thought that it was my duty to remain at my post.
Speer, after much argument, convinces Hitler to allow him to determine implementation of scorched earth policies, in this way nullifying them. From Hitler's order:
To assure uniform implementation of my decree of March 19, 1945, I hereby order as follows:
March 30, 1945
1.) The orders given for destroying industrial installations are aimed exclusively at preventing the enemy from using these installations and facilities to increase his fighting strength.
2.) No measure may be taken which would impair our own fighting strength. Production must be continued up to the last possible moment, even at the risk that a factory may fall into enemy hands before it can be destroyed. Industrial installations of all sorts, including food-producing plants, may not be destroyed until they are immediately threatened by the enemy.
3.) Although bridges and other transportation installations must be destroyed to dent the enemy their use for a prolonged period, the same effect can be achieved with industrial installations by crippling them lastingly. Total destruction of particularly important plants will be ordered on my instructions by the Minister of Armaments and War Production (e.g., munitions plants, essential chemical plants, etc.).
4.) The signal for crippling or destroying industrial complexes and other plants will be given by the Gauleiter and defense commissioner, who will supervise the process. Implementation will be undertaken solely by the agencies and organs of the Minister of Armaments and War Production. All the agencies of the party, the state and the armed forces are to assist when needed. The Minister of Armaments and War Production may, with my authorization, issue instructions for implementation ...
Churchill to Eden:
Have we not told the Russians that the only purpose of the contacts in Switzerland is to arrange a meeting at our military headquarters in Italy, where military questions will be discussed in the presence, if they wish, of a Russian representative, and that if at any moment political affairs are trenched upon the whole matter can be referred to the three Governments? It looks as if the Swiss conversations may go beyond that, if indeed they have not already gone beyond it. We have decided to ignore the insulting telegrams which Molotov has sent. This however does not relieve us of our obligation as Allies on any matter which might involve peace negotiations. (Churchill)
March 30, 1945
Eisenhower to Churchill:
As soon as the US Ninth and First Armies join hands and enemy encircled in Ruhr area is incapable of further offensive action I propose driving eastward to join hands with Russians or to attain general line of Elbe. Subject to Russian intentions, the axis Kassel-Leipzig is the best for the drive, as it will ensure the overrunning of that important industrial area, into which German Ministries are believed to be moving; it will cut the German forces approximately in half, and it will not involve us in crossing of Elbe. It is designed to divide and destroy the major part of remaining enemy forces in West." (Churchill)
March 30, 1945:
FDR leaves Washington for Warm Springs. (Nash II)
FB: Horrific 20th Century History