By Karl Bahm

Berlin 1945: the ultimate Reckoning

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Additional info for Berlin 1945. The Final Reckoning

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Although many of the men were World War I veterans, they had received no training for the battle. When another such Volkssturm battalion lost its positions to the Soviets, the commander of the Ninth Army, Busse, ordered its 60-year-old commander to be court-martialled and executed (although in the chaos of those last months, the order was never carried out). Even on the western front, Allied troops were often horrified to discover that they were fighting, and killing, women and children. Lieutenant Colonel Roland Kolb of the US 84th Division battling toward the Elbe reported coming across boys aged 12 and even younger, manning artillery pieces.

While Great Britain had managed to call two-and-a-quarter million women into economic service, only just over 180,000 were similarly employed in Germany. However, sending old men and young boys to their deaths was apparently no sacrifice of a cherished ideal to the Nazis. During autumn 1944, the conscription age was amended to include boys between 15 and 18, and men between 50 and 60. This produced half a million more men for the Wehrmacht, most of whom IN BERLIN were placed in the 25 new Volksgrenadier and Volkspanzer divisions to supplement the regular army units in the West.

After 16 January 1945, he had been holed up in the Reichschancellery in Berlin. A great deal has been written about those last months in the Berlin Fuhrerbunker. It was, by all accounts, a surreal place. In this cramped, foul-smelling and gloomy concrete vault, Hitler's manic-depressive tendencies were magnified to psychotic dimensions. The Fuhrer had never been accustomed to countenance any discussion of defeat or even retreat. At the bloody battle for Stalingrad during the winter of 1942-43, he had infamously ordered General Paulus's Sixth Army to 'hold their positions to the last man and the last round and by their heroic endurance ...

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