Hold hands

On April 9, 1945, Königsberg commandant Otto von Lyash capitulated to the troops of Marshal Vasilevsky.

Territory of eternal war

Among the awards established during the Great Patriotic War, there is only one that is dedicated to taking or freeing not the foreign capital, but taking the fortress city. We are talking about the medal “For the capture of Königsberg”, which was awarded to 760,000 people.

The capture of Konigsberg is one of the brightest pages in the history of the final stage of the Great Patriotic War. Hitler’s command repeatedly declared the inaccessibility of the capital of East Prussia.

The leadership of the Third Reich assigned a special role in the defense of Germany to this region. For centuries, East Prussia became the scene of fierce battles, as a result of which a considerable number of powerful fortresses were built on its territory.

With the approach of the Red Army to the borders of Germany, haste began work on the reconstruction of old fortresses in order to create a system of powerful fortifications in the region, which were to stop the advancing Soviet troops.

The Germans hoped to repeat the events of the First World War, when in August 1914 the 2nd Russian army was surrounded and defeated in East Prussia, and the rest of the Russian troops were forced to retreat.

The inevitability of the assault predetermined the stubbornness of the Germans.

The East Prussian offensive operation of the Red Army, which began in January 1945, was indeed difficult, with heavy losses, but by the beginning of spring it had become obvious that the Nazis could not retain the Soviet troops.

The Red Army increasingly pressed the enemy to the sea. The forces of the Germans were divided into several groups, which were liquidated one after another.

At the end of February, fierce fighting broke out in the area of ​​the Samland Peninsula, where a large group of Wehrmacht was concentrated. Soviet troops tried to cut off the Zemland group from Königsberg directly.

But the powerful German counter-strike allowed the Soviet offensive to be frustrated and the link between the group on the Samland Peninsula and the capital of East Prussia retained.

This fortune of the Wehrmacht actually predetermined the fate of Königsberg. Until then, the Soviet command was considering the possibility of completely isolating the city until the end of the war (something similar happened to the Wehrmacht Kurland grouping), but the potential danger posed by the Zemland group and Königsberg forced the Red Army to take seriously the elimination of this center of resistance.

Bastion City

In the summer of 1944, an event occurred, which subsequently complicated the Red Army’s capture of Konigsberg. The special 5th group of the British Air Force on the night from August 26 to August 27 and on the night from August 29 to August 30, 1944, inflicted two powerful air strikes on the capital of East Prussia. The blow fell not on the fortifications and military facilities, but on residential areas and the historical center, which were badly damaged. After that, the mood of the people of Königsberg to resist until the end was significantly strengthened.

The already powerful fortress, Königsberg, with the approach of the front to him even more strengthened.

Field fortifications were erected in the fortress and on the approaches to it. The outer bypass and the first position had two – three trenches with communication lines and shelters for personnel. 6–8 km to the east of the fortress, they merged into one defensive line (six to seven trenches with numerous communication lines throughout the 15-kilometer stretch). At this position there were 15 old forts with artillery guns, machine guns and flamethrowers, connected by a single firing system. Each fort was prepared for all-round defense and was actually a fortress with a garrison of 250–300 people. In the intervals between the forts there were 60 pillboxes and bunkers. On the outskirts of the city was the second position, which included stone buildings, barricades, reinforced concrete firing points.

The third line of defense encircled the central part of the city, having fortifications of an old building. The basements of large brick buildings were connected by underground passages, and their ventilation windows were adapted to the embrasures.

In the fortress there were large underground warehouses and arsenals, as well as underground factories producing military products. In short, all the conditions for a long-term defense were created in Konigsberg.

Russian answer

The fortress was defended by units of the Wehrmacht and Volkshturm total, according to various estimates, from 100 to 130 thousand people, who were armed with about 4,000 guns and mortars, more than 100 tanks and 170 aircraft.

Interestingly, the Hitlerite command, inspiring its soldiers, appealed to … the Soviet experience. “The Russians, relying on the weak fortifications of Sevastopol, defended the city for 250 days. The Führer’s soldiers are obliged to hold out for the same amount of time on the powerful fortifications of Königsberg! ”The Nazi propagandists exclaimed.

The Soviet side found the answer – on the eve of the storming of Königsberg through radio installations in German, the phrase was sounded: “We defended Sevastopol for 250 days, and released for four …”

The task of taking Konigsberg was entrusted 3rd Belorussian Front, Marshal Alexander Vasilevsky, joined the front command after the death of February 18 Army General Ivan Chernyakhovsky.

For the assault of Königsberg, a grouping of troops numbering more than 106 thousand people, 5,200 guns and mortars, 538 tanks and self-propelled artillery units, 2,174 aircraft was concentrated.

Appointed commandant of Konigsberg in January 1945 German General Otto von Lyash He was confident that Königsberg was able to restrain the onslaught of the Soviet troops for months. Almost all the local male population was mobilized to defend the city, its streets were littered with posters “Let us defend Koenigsberg!”

Plan Marshal Vasilevsky

Marshal Vasilevsky’s plan was to cut the garrison’s forces from the north and south in converging directions and seize the city by storm. Artillery played a very important role – more than half of the guns concentrated near Königsberg were heavy guns, as well as guns of great and special power – from 203 to 305 mm caliber. To subject the enemy defenses to incessant strikes and bomber aircraft.

For the storming of the fortifications, 26 assault squads and 104 assault groups were created — both from rifle units and engineering troops — ten engineering sapper brigades, three assault engineering sapper brigades, two motorized engineering brigades and one pontoon brigade.

In addition, chemical troops participated in the assault – 7 separate flamethrower battalions, a company of high-explosive flamethrowers and 5 separate mouths of knapsack flamethrowers. These units were divided into assault detachments and assault groups.

The assault groups attracted primarily those who had the experience of street battles, in particular the participants of the Stalingrad battle.

Artillery units began shelling the fortress on April 2, but on April 6, 1945, hell came for Koenigsberg. Soviet artillery launched an avalanche of fire on the fortress, sweeping away the fortifications of the enemy. Around noon, the assault units launched an offensive. According to the plan, the main forces bypassed the forts, which were blocked by rifle battalions or companies with the support of self-propelled guns that suppressed enemy fire, sappers who used demolition charges, and flame throwers.

The Germans fought desperately, clinging to their positions, but by the end of the day the Soviet units managed to move forward and cut the Königsberg-Pillau railway line.

Method of Lieutenant Sidorov

On the night of April 7, the Hitlerite command attempted to regroup in order to push the Soviet units back.

On this night, the epicenter of the battle was located at the forts of Charlottenburg and Lindorf. Especially heavy assault units had Charlottenburg – its walls are not pierced even 246-pound projectiles.

And here the sappers said their weighty word. Commander of a sapper platoon of the 175th separate sapper battalion Lieutenant Ivan Sidorov, taking advantage of the fact that the garrison defending the fort, took refuge on the lower floors, managed to get close to the walls of Charlottenburg. Together with the soldiers of his platoon, Sidorov from the Soviet explosives and captured mines built a special charge, the detonation of which formed a breach in the wall of impregnable Charlottenburg. The blast killed several dozen Nazis, and the assault squad that burst in through the breach in hand-to-hand combat finally suppressed the resistance of the defenders of the fort.

Hold hands

The Sidorov method was immediately applied to other forts of Konigsberg, as a result of which they began to pass into the hands of Soviet troops one by one.

By decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR of April 19, 1945, Lieutenant Ivan Sidorov was awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union with the award of the Order of Lenin and the Gold Star medal.

Feat younger brother

The decisive day of the assault was April 7th. After the fall of Charlottenburg, the Germans launched a series of counterattacks, trying to turn the tide. All available reserves were thrown into battle.

Despite this, by evening the units of the Red Army advanced another 3-4 kilometers, occupying 130 quarters. Under the control of Soviet troops passed the north-western part of the city.

Many Germans began to realize that the battle was lost. Not paying more attention to the orders of the command, the German soldiers began to surrender.

The incoming assault detachments occupied the port, the railway station, a number of important industrial facilities and finally cut off Konigsberg from the grouping of the Nazis on the Zemlandsky Peninsula.

In the battles for Konigsberg distinguished himself Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya’s younger brother Alexander. A battery of ISU-152 self-propelled artillery mounts under the command of Senior Lieutenant Kosmodemyansky with its fire broke through the wall of one of the forts. The movers, along with the infantry, rushed inside and forced the garrison of a fort of 350 people to surrender. 9 tanks, 200 cars and a fuel depot were captured. For this feat, Senior Lieutenant Alexander Kosmodemyansky was presented to the rank of Hero of the Soviet Union. The high rank was given to him, but, alas, posthumously – on April 13, Alexander Kosmodemyansky was killed in battle. He was 19 years old …

Death sentence and 25 years camps

On April 8, the Germans were driven back to the city center. Marshal Vasilevsky appealed to the commandant of Konigsberg with a proposal for surrender.

However, Otto von Lyash rejected this proposal. On the night of April 9, the Hitlerite units attempted to break out of Koenigsberg, but failed. In the morning the offensive of the Soviet troops resumed.

Wishing to continue to fight with the German side remained ever less. Tens of thousands of peaceful Germans who remained in the basement of houses, wanted one thing – that this nightmare stopped.

After the war, General von Lyash wrote in his book: “Towards the end, information began to flow more and more often that soldiers who had taken refuge with residents in basements were losing the will to resist. In some places, desperate women tried to pull weapons from soldiers and fly a white flag out of the windows to put an end to the horrors of war. ”

By the evening of April 9, in the hands of the Soviet troops were north-west, west and south of Konigsberg, the Germans continued to hold positions in the center and partially in the east of the city. At 21:30, Otto von Lyash was given a new ultimatum to the Soviet command. After hesitation, the commandant of Konigsberg ordered the cessation of resistance.

On April 10, a red flag was hoisted above the Don Tower, one of the last centers of Hitler’s resistance.

Otto von Lyash knowingly hesitated – after news about the fall of Königsberg was received in Berlin, repressions fell upon his relatives. His wife and daughters, the son-in-law who commanded the battalion were thrown into prison, recalled from the front and handed over to the Gestapo. General Hitler himself in absentia sentenced to death.

However, for the von Lyash, who was in Soviet captivity, this sentence did not mean anything. But the verdict of the Soviet court, who recognized Otto von Lyash guilty of war crimes, was important – the general received 25 years of camps, of which he left ten in the camp near Vorkuta.

After that, he was allowed to return to Germany, where he wrote memories of his own heroism and the atrocities of the Red Army – a typical enough case for the defeated Hitler commanders.

  • © AIF / Stanislav Lomakin
  • © AIF / Stanislav Lomakin
  • © AIF / Stanislav Lomakin
  • © AIF / Stanislav Lomakin
  • © AIF / Stanislav Lomakin
  • © AIF / Stanislav Lomakin
  • © AIF / Stanislav Lomakin. Exposition of the Kaliningrad Museum “Bunker”
  • © AIF / Stanislav Lomakin
  • © AIF / Stanislav Lomakin
  • © AIF / Stanislav Lomakin. Exposition of the Kaliningrad Museum “Bunker”

Salute of the highest category

The operation to take Konigsberg was carried out in a matter of days with minimal losses. According to the headquarters of the 3rd Byelorussian Front, from April 1 to 10, 1945, there were 3506 people killed, 215 went missing, 13,177 were wounded.

The losses of the defenders, according to various sources, ranged from 34 to 42 thousand killed. According to the Soviet Information Bureau, 92,000 German soldiers and officers were taken prisoner, however, according to many historians, this number included up to 20 thousand Nazis who had been captured earlier, and more than 70 thousand German soldiers and officers were captured directly during the storming of Konigsberg.

The capture of Königsberg was marked in Moscow with a salute of the highest category – 324 guns made 24 artillery volleys. In addition to the institution of the medal “For the capture of Königsberg”, which, as already mentioned, 760,000 people were awarded, 216 soldiers and officers of the Red Army were awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union for storming Königsberg, 98 military units were called “Königsberg”.

The German history of the capital of East Prussia came to an end – after the war, Königsberg became a Soviet city, which in 1946 was renamed Kaliningrad. The warlike Prussian spirit was finally crushed.

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