Sunday, March 7, 2 p.m.
Presented by the German American Heritage Center
On March 7, Army Sustainment Command Historian Kevin Braafladt will host a special virtual program for the German American Heritage Center, with his presentation The Fall of Berlin detailing the strategic fighting that led to the last days of the World War II, and the surrender negotiations between the Allies and the German government that officially ended the war in Europe.
Designated “The Berlin Strategic Offensive Operation” by the Soviet Union, and also referred to as the Battle of Berlin, the Fall of Berlin was one of the last major offensives of the European theatre of World War II. Following the Vistula-Oder Offensive of January and February 1945, the Red Army had temporarily halted on a line 37 miles east of Berlin. On the ninth of March, Germany established its defense plan for the city with Operation Clausewitz, while the first defensive preparations at the outskirts of Berlin were made on March 20 under the newly appointed commander of Army Group Visula, General Gotthard Heinrici.
When the Soviet offensive resumed on April 16, two Soviet fronts attacked Berlin from the east and south, while a third overran German forces positioned north of Berlin. Before the main battle in Berlin commenced, the Red Army encircled the city after successful battles of the Seelow Heights and Halbe. On April 20 (which was Adolf Hitler's birthday), the First Belorussian Front led by Marshal Georgy Zhukov, advancing from the east and north, started shelling Berlin's city center, while Marshal Ivan Konev's First Ukrainian Front broke through Army Group Centre and advanced toward the southern suburbs of Berlin. On April 23, General Helmuth Weidling assumed command of the forces within Berlin. The garrison consisted of several depleted and disorganised Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS divisions along with poorly trained Volkssturm and Hitler Youth members, and over the course of the next week, the Red Army gradually took the entire city.
On April 30, 1945, Hitler committed suicide, as did several of his officials, and the city of Berlin's garrison surrendered on May 2. But fighting continued to the northwest, west, and southwest of the city until the end of the war in Europe on May 8, as some German units fought westward so that they could surrender to the Western Allies rather than the Soviets
The Fall of Berlin will be presented at 2 p.m. on March 7, with the live event hosted via Zoom, and although the program is free, donations are greatly appreciated. A short Q&A with Kevin Braafladt will take place immediately after the presentation, and more information on the online event is available by calling (563)322-8844 and visiting GAHC.org.