Kurland Pocket

In early January 1945, Hitler refused to let the General Staff evacuate Army Group North, which had been corralled in the Courland peninsula, and still had well over 300,000 troops, to strengthen German defences against the impending Soviet Vistula-Oder offensive. He contended there would be no gain because a greater number of Soviet troops would be freed. However, disasters on the approaches to Berlin late in the month compelled him to take out divisions. Stalin gave an ironic validity to Hitler’s contention. Determined to destroy Army Group Courland (as it was renamed in January 1945) before the war’s fast approaching end arrived, he ordered massive two-week-long attacks in January, February, and March, but none succeeded in more than denting the German line. In April, Hitler told the new army group commander, General Karl Hilpert, who had just relieved Rendulic, that he would have to hold out “until the turn that has occurred in every was has taken place.” By then, Stalin was wholly engrossed in what he took to be a race with his western allies for possession of Berlin. Between 1 May, the day after Hitler’s suicide, and the afternoon of 8 May, when a surrender to Marshal Govorov took effect, German naval vessels evacuated 18,000 men. Hilpert, 41 other generals, and 189,000 officers and men became Soviet prisoners of war.

Order of Battle of Heeresgruppe Kurland on 12 April 1945.

HEERESGRUPPE KURLAND (Generaloberst Karl Hilpert)

18. Armee (General der Infanterie Ehrenfried Boege); with

X. Armeekorps (General der Artillerie Siegfried Thomaschki);
121. Infanterie-Division (Generalleutnant Werner Rank until 30/5/45, then Generalmajor Ottomar Hansen).
30. Infanterie-Division (Generalleutnant Albert Henze).

I. Armeekorps (General der Infanterie Friedrich Fangohr until 21/4/45, then Generalleutnant Christian Usinger);
132. Infanterie-Division (Generalmajor Rudolf Demme).
225. Infanterie-Division (Generalleutnant Ernst Risse).

II. Armeekorps (Generalleutnant Alfred Gause);
87. Infanterie-Division (Generalleutnant Mauritz Freiherr von Strachwitz).
263. Infanterie-Division (Generalmajor Rudolf Sieckenius until 28/4/45, then Generalleutnant Ernst Risse).
126. Infanterie-Division (Generalmajor Kurt Hähling).
563. Volksgrenadier-Division (Generalmajor Werner Neumann).

L. Armeekorps (Generalleutnant Erpo Freiherr von Bodenhausen); with
290. Infanterie-Division (Generalmajor Hans-Joachim Baurmeister until 25/4/45, then Generalmajor Carl Henke until 27/4/45, then Generalleutnant Alfred Hemmann).
11. Infanterie-Division (Generalleutnant Gerhard Feyerabend).
Armee-Reserve; Festung-Libau (HQ 52. Sicherungs-Division) and 14. Panzer-Division (Oberst Karl Grässel).
16. Armee (General der Gebirgstruppen Friedrich-Jobst Volckamer von Kirchensittenbach); with

XXXVIII. Panzerkorps (General der Artillerie Horst von Mellenthin);
329. Infanterie-Division (Generalleutnant Konrad Menkel).
122. Infanterie-Division (Generalmajor Bruno Schatz).

VI. SS-Freiwilligen-Armeekorps (SS-Obergruppenführer Walter Krüger);
19. Waffen-Grenadier-Division der SS (lettische Nr.2) (SS-Gruppenführer Bruno Streckenbach).
24. Infanterie-Division (Generalmajor Harald Schultz).
12. Panzer-Division (Oberst von Usedom).

XVI. Armeekorps (Generalleutnant Gottfried Weber)
218. Infanterie-Division (Generalmajor Ingo von Collani until 1/5/45, then Generalleutnant Werner Rank).
Kampfgruppe ‘Barth’ (Generalmajor Otto Barth).
21. Luftwaffe-Feld-Division (Generalmajor Otto Barth).
205. Infanterie-Division (Generalmajor Karl Giese).
81. Infanterie-Division (Generalleutnant Franz-Eccard von Bentivegni).
Division Nr.300 (Generalmajor Anton Eberth).

Kommandeur der Nordkurland
Küste-Kommando (Ost); HQ 207. Sicherungs-Division; Küste-Kommando Nord und Nordwest; festung-Kommandant ‘Windau’; Südwest section.

Armee-Reserve: ‘Kurland’ Brigade.

Heeresgruppe-Reserve: HQ 201. Sicherungs-Division; 15. Waffen-Grenadier-Division der SS (lettische Nr.1) (SS-Oberführer Karl Burk).

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