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It has been pointed out that the defense forces originally
planned for were wholly inadequate and that it was necessary to bring in
frontline troops to defend the sprawling city. Planned operations went hand in
hand with improvisation. The organizational difficulties which resulted can be
seen from a study of the chain of command.

An attempt will be made to indicate what forces were
actually at hand. While complete data is lacking; probably not a single post
included any units at full strength.

In addition to permanent local troops and the LVI Panzer
Corps, a number of improvised forces and alert units were organized in Berlin
proper. Units were also poured into Berlin at, the last minute by the Army,
Luftwaffe, Navy, Party, SS, Police, and Labor Service. These troops were
carried in by train, motor vehicle, transport plane, or moved in on foot. Some
forces either did not reach Berlin, or else arrived only in small numbers.
Others passed through the city on their way to the forward defense position,
while still others remained outside the city and were later forced to withdraw.
Many groups moved quietly out of Berlin to the west. In addition to the
divisions of the LVI Panzer Corps, remnants of other front-line units were
swept into Berlin.

The troops listed here do not constitute forces of any
considerable size, but do represent a large number of different unit
designations. If it were possible to draw up a complete list of all units
involved, a false picture of the situation would result from the discrepancy
between actual and authorized strength. Consideration must also be given to
actual combat value. Nevertheless, it is hoped that the following survey of units
making up the defense forces provides a useful over-all estimate.


1. Staff of the Commander of the Berlin Defense Area. This
staff was set up at the beginning of February 1945 by Deputy Headquarters, III
Corps, in the III Wehrkreis Building on Hohenzollerndamm. Mention has already
been made of the successive occupants of the post of commander.

The staff was constituted as follows:

Chief of Staff: Colonel (GSC) Refior

Chief of Operational Major (GSC) Sprotte

Chief Supply Officer: Major Weiss

Artillery Commander: Lt. Colonel Platho

Signal Commandert: Lt. Colonel Fricke

Engineer Commander: Colonel (GSC) Lobeck

On 25 April, as the Russians were approaching the
Hohenzollerndamm, the staff moved to the bunker on Bendlerstrasse. The
Artillery Commander had established his command post in the flak control tower
near the Zoo.

2. The, Volkssturm. Numerically, the Volksturm was by far
the strongest component of the defense forces. Generalleutnant Reymann listed
its strength at 92 battalions (60,000 men), of which about 30 battalions,
according to his report, were moved into the forward defense position. Remnants
of these forces may have been swept back into Berlin.

a. Formation and Organization. The Volkssturm was set up in
the fall of 1944 under Party auspices by the Reich Defense Commissioner, and
was not a component part of the Army. Its mission was to protect rear areas
against minor enemy infiltrations or breakthroughs and against parachute
troops, to serve as security forces for the manning of rear positions, and to
engage in the building of fortifications. Originally Volkssturm troops were not
to be committed at the front within the framework of the Army. Their mission
could be compared to that of the British Home Guards.

Once the enemy had set foot on Reich territory, the
emergency situation at the front made it necessary to utilize the Volkssturm in
the front lines in ever increasing numbers, though it was by no means fit for
such service. With frontline commitment, difficulties resulting from divided
authority immediately arose. Undoubtedly the Volkssturm should have been
organized as a component part of the Army, a plan for which Generaloberst
Guderian had tried vainly to secure approval.

In Berlin the Volkssturm was divided into two categories,
designated Volkssturm I and Volkssturm II; Volkssturm I had only a few weapons
while Volkssturm II had none at all. Volkssturm II was intended as a manpower
reserve for Volkssturm I. The use of these forces in Berlin was planned so that
Volkssturm I would occupy a forward position – for instance, along the city
perimeter – while Volkssturm II would be close behind along a second position
to serve as a security force and as a reserve for replacing casualties. This
plan was actually followed in some sectors.

The Volkssturm was composed of men who could bear arms in
emergency, but who were not physically fit for active duty. They ranged in age
to sixty years and over, the majority being in upper age brackets. Among
members of the Volkssturm were men who had had no service and veterans of World
War I. These latter often distinguished themselves by their sense of duty. The
Volkssturm was broken down into companies and battalions. Unit commanders were
appointed by the Party; hence they were partly Party functionaries and partly
reserve officers. In one instance a staff officer who had been dismissed by
Hitler found himself a private under a commander who had never before held a
military rank.

The Volkssturm was organized on a local basis; all the male
inhabitants of a locality or section of a city were grouped in one battalion.
When not actually fighting, the men pursued their normal occupation during the
day, lived with their families, and took their meals at home.

The strength of the companies and battalions depended on the
number of eligible inhabitants in each locality; in Berlin each battalion
comprised between 600 and 1,500 men.

b. Training. Before being assigned to duty Volkssturm
members received training on weekends or in the evenings from about 1700 to
1900 hours unless they were employed in building fortifications. Training was
given in the use of rifles and machine guns, wherever such weapons were
available. Only in a few isolated instances did any practice firing take place.
The commanders received instruction and were familiarized with their local
combat duties. Three-day courses in SA training camps were also offered. The
degree of training varied greatly but was generally insufficient.

c. Equipment and Weapons. Members of the Volkssturm wore
civilian clothes with arm bands. Their weapons were as varied as they were
inadequate. Troops of Volkssturm were issued rifles, and to some extent also
machine guns. These included many European models, among them Czech, Belgian,
and Italian. A very few battalions were equipped with German rifles. The supply
of ammunition amounted in many cases to five rounds per rifle; in some cases,
however, the ammunition on hand did not fit any rifle. No heavy weapons and
only a small number of Panzerfaust were available. Apart from the
aforementioned thirty battalions, which were relatively well armed, the bulk of
the Volkssturm was practically defenseless. None of the Volkssturm units were
issued signal equipment.

Rations for the Volkssturm were provided by the population
even during the fighting, but these were usually inadequate. The Volkssturm
troops had no field kitchens or ration supply vehicles of their own, so that
outside of their own home area they found themselves without rations.

d. Combat value. Against the well-equipped and battle-tried
troops of the Red Army, the combat value of the battalions remaining in Berlin was
almost nil, in spite of the will that was frequently present. This does not
mean that detachments of Volkssturm men did not in many instances put up a
gallant fight. When it came time for serious fighting, however, the bulk of the
Volkssturm simply stayed at home. In some cases entire unarmed battalions were
dismissed by clear-sighted military commanders. However, in places where the
Russians attacked either feebly or not at all Volkssturm units were able to
occupy a sector or delay the enemy advance for some days.

3. Local Defense Forces. Schools, Replacement Units, and
Plant Protection Troops.

a. Local Defense Forces. At the beginning of January Berlin
organized a number of local defense battalions, composed of men subject to
military service who were not fit for front-line duty. They were armed with
rifles and a few machine guns, mostly captured weapons, and were issued a small
amount of ammunition. Their mission was to guard bridges, railroad stations,
military camps, and war prisoners.

Some of these battalions were shifted at the beginning of
February to the Oder front, while others moved the prisoners of war who had
been put to work in and around Berlin toward the west. Only a small number of
companies and battalions fought in Berlin. Their combat value was very slight.

b. Schools. An ordnance technician school and an ordnance
officer candidate school were located in Berlin, Courses had been discontinued
and the permanent staffs assigned to the southern perimeter of the city. The permanent
staffs of the schools in the surrounding area – at Zossen, Wuensdorf,
Doeberitz, Gatow, and other districts – were for the most part assigned to
combat duty outside Berlin.

c. Replacement Troops. The replacement troops of the Army
had all been used in February to build up the fresh contingents which were
thrown into the Oder line. At the beginning of April, however, a fairly large
number of replacement troops from the Luftwaffe were placed at the disposal of
Army Group Vistula. Because they lacked training in ground fighting and were
inadequately armed, the latter assigned them to rear positions and to the
forward defense position. Their combat value was negligible.

d. Plant Protection Troops. The large industrial firms and
the postal and railway systems each had at their disposal a few companies of
plant protection troops, armed with rifles. They were consolidated into
battalions and assigned to the battle lines, where they had little combat

4. Alert Units. Personnel of the military agencies and
staffs were organized into “alert companies.” This designation was
also given to unit’s composed of convalescents and numerous stragglers, which
were set up by the military police and the straggler interception patrols.
These soldiers were poorly armed, and their fighting spirit was low. The
stragglers, especially, could only be held together by the application of
rigorous punitive measures.

Toward the end of the battle thousands of soldiers unwilling
to fight were found in cellars and bunkers. Again it was shown that it is not
the anonymous soldier who fights battles, but the soldier who preserves his
identity through close association with his comrades and superiors.

5. Waffen-SS. The SS units thrown into Berlin were organized
under SS Brigadefuehrer Mohnke into a well-armed force of high combat value and
good morale. The brigade, comprising several thousand men, was assigned to the
government sector.

6. Permanent Local Artillery Forces. When Lt. Colonel Platho
assumed his duties as Artillery Commander of the Defense Area on 19 March 1945
he found seven light batteries and seven heavy batteries of artillery on hand.
All the guns were of foreign manufacture. Between 100 and 120 rounds of
ammunition per battery were available. At first there were no prime movers or
vehicles, but later two prime movers were located.

Among the battery commander’s there were three paymaster
officials, who were not even from the artillery, but had merely completed a
short artillery course in which each had fired a gun once. The gun crews were
made up of soldiers from all branches of the service, few of whom were
artillerymen, and of members of the Volkssturm. There was no battalion or
regimental staff.

A telephone line between the observation point and the
batteries was operated by antiaircraft artillery women auxiliaries. Orders were
transmitted by telephone through the use of the communications facilities of
the nearby flak positions. There was no other telephone equipment and not a
single radio set.

The first firing of live ammunition ordered by Lt. Colonel
Platho was discontinued because it endangered the observation post.

In the short time available the artillery commander
Increased the number of batteries to twenty by making use of the dismantled
training guns found in the Ordnance, Technician and Ordnance Officer Candidate
Schools. A few artillery officers were made available and were assigned either
to the batteries or as liaison officers to the sector command headquarters, in
place of the missing battalion staffs. Crews of the German-made guns consisted
of former search-light operators who had never fired artillery. Ammunition for
the German guns was no more plentiful than for those of foreign manufacture.

In addition to the artillery, e few rocket projectors were
set up along the most important avenues of approach. While they were fired with
good psychological effect, each projector had only enough ammunition for one

7. Antitank Defenses. One relatively battle-worthy unit was
a tank demolition battalion composed of three companies and equipped with
Volkswagens, each of which was fitted with a rack for six antitank rockets. It
could not be determined whether this battalion was employed in Berlin or
whether it was moved out to the forward defense position.

The other antitank defenses consisted of the antiaircraft
installations that were committed to ground action and the various means of
close-range antitank combat.

8. Antiaircraft Artillery. The 1st Flak Division, under
Generalmajor Sydow, was stationed in Berlin. Combat headquarters were located
at the antiaircraft control post near the Zoo.

There were four antiaircraft artillery regiments with four
or five battalions (20-mm and 128-mm guns). A few batteries with older guns of
German and foreign make were used as barrage batteries. Before the start of the
fighting a searchlight regiment was dispersed throughout the city.

The air defenses centered around the three flak towers,
located near the Zoo, in Friedrichfshain, and in Humboldthain respectively. The
batteries in the towers consisted of eight 128-ran guns each. On the terrace of
each tower were placed twelve 20/37-mm guns. Ammunition was adequate.

During the fighting the flak towers formed vital centers for
the artillery defenses. The towers were connected by underground telephone

The other antiaircraft batteries were to be deployed along
the city perimeter position. This plan failed in many instances because the
guns were mounted fast in concrete. Furthermore, the Berlin antiaircraft units
were not trained for ground action. In one instance, witnessed by General
Reymann, practice fire aimed at targets on the Mueggelsee did not even hit the

Accordingly, the combat value of the antiaircraft units
distributed along the city perimeter was slight. In many instances they were
quickly overcome by the Russian tanks and artillery. One antiaircraft group,
consisting of two battalions deployed around Tempelhof Airfield and to the
south of It kept the enemy engaged for two days. When the Russians broke
through on either side, the guns that were still serviceable were blown up and
the remnants of the gun crews were thrown into action as infantry.

9. The Hitler Youth. Besides participating in the fighting
as flak auxiliaries and in small groups attached to the regular troops and the
Volkssturm, the Hitler Youth were organized into their own battalions. Some
battalions were combined to form the Axmann Brigade and were engaged in
antitank operations east of the forward defense position. They were armed with
rifles and Panzerfaust.

The total strength of the Hitler Youth in Berlin is not
known. In the western part of the city some battalions were fighting under the
Reich Youth Leader in the radio tower sector and near Pichelsdorf, where they
held a bridgehead. Enthusiastic fighting spirit only partly made up for lack of
weapons and training.


The LVI Panzer Corps, commanded by General der Artillerie
Weidling, was moved to Berlin on 24 April 1945. The corps chief of staff was
Colonel (GSC) von Duffing. Other staff officers included Major (GSC) Knabe,
Chief of Operations; Major (GSC) Wagner, Chief Supply Officer; and Colonel
Woehlennann, commander of the corps artillery.

The following troop units were brought into Berlin under the
corps command:

1. The 20th Panzer Grenadier Division. This division had
suffered heavy casualties in the battle on the Oder. Its strength and combat
value were very low.

2. Panzer Division “Muencheberg” (Commander:
Generalmajor Mummert). Reorganized in Doeberitz in spring under the designation
Panzer Division “Doeberitz,” this division was later renamed because
of confusion with Infantry Division “Doeberitz”. Following severe
fighting west of the Oder, the division arrived in Berlin with only about half
its authorized strength and not more than twenty tanks. It was battle-weary but
still fit for action.

3. The 18th Panzer Grenadier Division (Commander:
Ganeralmajor Rauch). Rehabilitated in spring of 1945, this division was about
equal to Panzer Division “Muencheberg” in strength and combat value.

4. SS Panzer Grenadier Division “Nordland”
(Commanders SS Gruppenfuehrer Ziegler).

Complemented with volunteers from Scandinavia. It was
inferior in strength and combat value to Panzer Division

5. The 408th Volks Artillerie Corps. This unit was composed
of four light artillery battallions, two heavy artillery battalions with
Russian 152-mm guns, and one howitzer battalion with four howitzers. About 60
percent of the artillery pieces were brought to Berlin with almost no

6. Remnants of other combat units, including the 9th
Parachute Division and SS Panzer Grenadier Division “Nederland”.
These units were all low in fighting strength and combat value.


During the first days of the fighting in and around Berlin,
units of the German Luftwaffe went into action a number of times in formations
of from forty to sixty aircraft. They took part in the operations in accordance
with direct instructions from the Chief of the Luftwaffe General Staff.


1. Fighting Power. Numerically, a rough survey of all troops
available after the encirclement of the city gives the following picture: The
LVI Panzer Corps was equal to about two divisions, the Waffen SS forces to
about half a division, and all other forces in the city to from two to three
divisions a total of about four to five divisions.

The city contained an estimated 60,000 soldiers and from
fifty to sixty tanks.

There is no data from which to estimate the number of
casualties sustained; they were high owing to the nature of street fighting.

The “other forces” estimated above as
corresponding to between two and three divisions were largely splinter units of
various types. Volkssturm companies, alert units, members of the Hitler Youth,
parties of stragglers from the front, and SS units were to be found side by
side and intermingled, without any over-all organization. A Latvian battalion
in this category immediately went over to the enemy. The adjacent unit was
often completely unknown and just as often unreliable. As a result the Russians
repeatedly reached positions to the rear of valiantly fighting units. There
were no command communications channels. Messengers often took hours to proceed
a few hundred meters through the nibble-strewn streets. There were no heavy
weapons, and only here and there a single assault gun or antiaircraft
installation. The procurements of ammunition and rations depended on chance and
the ingenuity of the unit commander.

2. Fighting Spirit. Fighting spirit was sustained by fear of
the Russians and by the hope, cleverly nurtured by Goebbel’s propaganda
machine, for a shift in front by the Western Allies and for the launching of
German relief attacks. On the other hand, the excessive hardships, the
prolongation of the uninterrupted fighting, and the desperate over-all situation
produced fatigue and lethargy among the troops. The nervous strain exceeded the
limit of endurance.

Toward the end of the battle the man who still held a weapon
in his hand did so either from a sense of duty or with the courage of despair.
A great many examples of heroic resistance were shown by troops of all types —
regular army, SS, Volksstunn, Hitler Youth, and others. The number of those who
regarded surrender as treason and those who as fanatical Nazis actually
continued fighting was by no means small. Thus it was that, when the
capitulation was announced, parlementaires as well as Colonel Woehlermann and
other officers were threatened with death.

The conduct of the civilian population on the whole was
exemplary. However, a few veterans of the battle reported that in the eastern
sector of the city, where there have always been a large number of Communists,
some elements of the population fraternized with the Russians and even took up
arms to fight on the Russian side.

Forschungsmitarbeiter Mitch Williamson is a technical writer with an interest in military and naval affairs. He has published articles in Cross & Cockade International and Wartime magazines. He was research associate for the Bio-history Cross in the Sky, a book about Charles ‘Moth’ Eaton’s career, in collaboration with the flier’s son, Dr Charles S. Eaton. He also assisted in picture research for John Burton’s Fortnight of Infamy. Mitch is now publishing on the WWW various specialist websites combined with custom website design work. He enjoys working and supporting his local C3 Church. “Curate and Compile“
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