Army Group Centre

Army Group Centre

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Army Group Centre was the name of two distinct German
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 strategic army group
Army group
An army group is a military organization consisting of several field armies, which is self-sufficient for indefinite periods. It is usually responsible for a particular geographic area...

s that fought on the Eastern Front
Eastern Front (World War II)
The Eastern Front of World War II was a theatre of World War II between the European Axis powers and co-belligerent Finland against the Soviet Union, Poland, and some other Allies which encompassed Northern, Southern and Eastern Europe from 22 June 1941 to 9 May 1945...

 in World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. The first Army Group Centre was created on 22 June 1941, as one of three German Army (Wehrmacht Heer) formations assigned to the invasion of the Soviet Union
Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa was the code name for Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II that began on 22 June 1941. Over 4.5 million troops of the Axis powers invaded the USSR along a front., the largest invasion in the history of warfare...

 (Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa was the code name for Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II that began on 22 June 1941. Over 4.5 million troops of the Axis powers invaded the USSR along a front., the largest invasion in the history of warfare...

). On 25 January 1945, after it was encircled in the Königsberg
Königsberg
Königsberg was the capital of East Prussia from the Late Middle Ages until 1945 as well as the northernmost and easternmost German city with 286,666 inhabitants . Due to the multicultural society in and around the city, there are several local names for it...

 pocket, Army Group Centre was renamed Army Group North
Army Group North
Army Group North was a German strategic echelon formation commanding a grouping of Field Armies subordinated to the OKH during World War II. The army group coordinated the operations of attached separate army corps, reserve formations, rear services and logistics.- Formation :The Army Group North...

 (Heeresgruppe Nord), and Army Group A
Army Group A
Army Group A was the name of a number of German Army Groups during World War II.-Western Front, 1940:During the German invasion of the Low Countries and France Army Group A was under the command of General Gerd von Rundstedt, and was responsible for the break-out through the Ardennes...

 (Heeresgruppe A) became Army Group Centre. The latter formation retained its name until the end of the war in Europe
End of World War II in Europe
The final battles of the European Theatre of World War II as well as the German surrender to the Western Allies and the Soviet Union took place in late April and early May 1945.-Timeline of surrenders and deaths:...

.

Subordinated units


June 1941
  • Army Group HQ troops
537th Signals Regiment
537th Signals Regiment (2nd echelon)

  • Panzer Group 2 (Guderian
    Heinz Guderian
    Heinz Wilhelm Guderian was a German general during World War II. He was a pioneer in the development of armored warfare, and was the leading proponent of tanks and mechanization in the Wehrmacht . Germany's panzer forces were raised and organized under his direction as Chief of Mobile Forces...

    )
  • XXIV Panzer Corps (Geyr von Schweppenburg
    Leo Geyr von Schweppenburg
    Leo Dietrich Franz Freiherr Geyr von Schweppenburg was a German cavalry officer in World War I and a general during World War II. He was particularly noted for his expertise in armoured warfare and his command of Panzer Group West during the Invasion of Normandy.- Biography :Geyr was born in...

    )
1st Cav. Div., 3rd Pz, 4th Pz., 10th Mot.Div., 267th ID
  • XLVI Panzer Corps (von Vietinghoff
    Heinrich von Vietinghoff
    Heinrich Gottfried Otto Richard von Vietinghoff genannt Scheel was a German Colonel-General of the German Army during the Second World War....

    )
SS "Das Reich" Div., 10th Pz. Inf. Reg. "Gross Deutschland"
  • XLVII Panzer Corps
    XLVII Panzer Corps (Germany)
    The XLVII Panzer Corps was a Panzer Corps formed by Field Marshal Günther von Kluge during the Battle for Normandy, and for Operation Lüttich...

     (Lemelsen
    Joachim Lemelsen
    Joachim Hermann August Lemelsen was a German general during the Second World War. He was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves...

    )
17th Pz, 18th Pz, 29th Mot.Div., 167th ID
  • XII Army Corps (Schroth)
31st ID, 34th ID, 45th ID Reserve: 255th ID

  • 4th Army (von Kluge
    Günther von Kluge
    Günther Adolf Ferdinand “Hans” von Kluge was a German military leader. He was born in Posen into a Prussian military family. Kluge rose to the rank of Field Marshal in the Wehrmacht. He was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords...

    )
  • VII Army Corps
    VII Army Corps (Germany)
    German VII. Corps was a corps in the German Army during World War II. It was destroyed in August 1944 during the Jassy–Kishinev Offensive .-Commanders:...

     (Fahrmbacher
    Wilhelm Fahrmbacher
    Wilhelm Fahrmbacher was a highly decorated General der Artillerie in the Wehrmacht during World War II who commanded several corps. He was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or...

    )
7th ID, 23rd ID, 258th ID, 268th ID, 221st Sec.Div.
  • IX Army Corps
    IX Army Corps (Germany)
    - Commanders :* Artillery General Friedrich Dollmann, 1 October 1934 – 25 August 1939.* Infantry General Hermann Geyer, 25 August 1939 – 31 December 1941....

     (Geyer)
137th ID, 263rd ID, 292nd ID
  • XIII Army Corps (Felber)
17th ID, 78th ID
  • XLIII Army Corps (Heinrici
    Gotthard Heinrici
    Gotthard Heinrici was a general in the German Army during World War II.-Personal life:Heinrici's was born in Gumbinnen , East Prussia, on Christmas Day, 1886, to Paul Heinrici, a local Lutheran minister of the Prussian Church, and his wife Gisela, née von Rauchhaupt, who was of recent Jewish descent...

    )
131st ID, 134th ID, 252nd ID Reserve: 286th ID

  • 9th Army (Strauss
    Adolf Strauß
    Adolf Strauß was a German Generaloberst . He was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross...

    )
  • VIII Army Corps
    VIII Army Corps (Germany)
    German VIII. Corps was a corps in the German Army during World War II. It was destroyed during the Battle of Stalingrad and reformed in mid-1943.-Commanders:...

     (Heitz)
8th ID, 28th ID, 161st ID
  • XX Army Corps
    XX Army Corps (Germany)
    -Commanders:* Infantry General Friedrich Materna, October 1940 – 10 September 1942* Artillery General Rudolf Freiherr von Roman, 10 September 1942 – 14 February 1943...

     (Materna
    Friedrich Materna
    Friedrich Materna was a General in the Bundesheer in the 1930s and the German Wehrmacht during the Second World War....

    )
162nd ID, 256th ID
  • XLII Army Corps (Kuntze)
87th ID, 102nd ID, 129th ID Reserve: 403rd Sec.Div.

  • Panzer Group 3 (Hoth
    Hermann Hoth
    Hermann "Papa" Hoth was an officer in the German military from 1903 to 1945. He attained the rank of Generaloberst during World War II. He fought in France, but is most noted for his later exploits as a panzer commander on the Eastern Front...

    )
  • V Army Corps
    V Army Corps (Germany)
    -Commanders:* Infantry General Hermann Geyer, 16 May 1935 – 30 April 1939* Infantry General Richard Ruoff, 1 May 1939 – 12 January 1942...

     (Ruoff)
5th ID, 35th ID
  • VI Army Corps (Forster)
6th ID, 26th ID
  • XXXIX Panzer Corps (Schmidt)
7th Pz, 20th Pz, 14th Mot.Div., 20th Mot.Div.
  • LVII Panzer Corps (Kuntzen)
12th Pz, 18th Pz, 19th Pz

Operation Barbarossa



On 22 June 1941, Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 and its Axis
Axis Powers
The Axis powers , also known as the Axis alliance, Axis nations, Axis countries, or just the Axis, was an alignment of great powers during the mid-20th century that fought World War II against the Allies. It began in 1936 with treaties of friendship between Germany and Italy and between Germany and...

 allies launched their surprise offensive into Soviet Union. Their armies, totaling over three million men, were to advance in three geographical directions. The Army Group Centre's initial strategic goal was to defeat the Soviet armies in Belarus
Belarus
Belarus , officially the Republic of Belarus, is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe, bordered clockwise by Russia to the northeast, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest. Its capital is Minsk; other major cities include Brest, Grodno , Gomel ,...

, including occupation of Smolensk. To accomplish this, the Army Group planned for a rapid advance using Blitzkrieg
Blitzkrieg
For other uses of the word, see: Blitzkrieg Blitzkrieg is an anglicized word describing all-motorised force concentration of tanks, infantry, artillery, combat engineers and air power, concentrating overwhelming force at high speed to break through enemy lines, and, once the lines are broken,...

 operational methods for which purpose it commanded two rather than one Panzer Groups. A quick and decisive victory over the Soviet Union was expected by mid-November. The Army Group's other operational missions were to support the Army Groups to its northern and southern flanks, the Army Group boundary for the later being the Pripyat River
Pripyat River
The Pripyat River or Prypiat River is a river in Eastern Europe, approximately long. It flows east through Ukraine, Belarus, and Ukraine again, draining into the Dnieper....

.

Offensive Campaign in Belorussia


Army Group Centre was the strongest of the three German formations. Commanded by Field Marshal Fedor von Bock
Fedor von Bock
Fedor von Bock was a German Generalfeldmarshall who served in the Wehrmacht during the Second World War. As a leader who lectured his soldiers about the honor of dying for the German Fatherland, he was nicknamed "Der Sterber"...

, it included the 4th and 9th Army, the 2nd and 3rd Panzer Groups and the 2nd Air Fleet. By mid-August 1941 it had crushed Soviet forces in huge encirclement battles: Battle of Białystok-Minsk and Battle of Smolensk
Battle of Smolensk (1941)
The Battle of Smolensk was a largely successful encirclement operation by the German Army Group Centre's 2nd Panzer Group led by Heinz Guderian and the 3rd Panzer Group led by Hermann Hoth against parts of four Soviet Fronts during World War II...

. Once they had conquered the territories in the West of the Soviet Union, the Germans began their genocide regime, burning thousands of cities and villages, shooting and deporting hundreds of thousands of civilians. Soviet prisoners of war, 300,000 after the battle of Minsk alone, were either killed in concentration camps, or literally starved to death in prison camps, mostly nothing more than fields surrounded with barbed wire in the open.

July 1941

3rd Panzer Group, 9th Army, 4th Army, 2nd Panzer Group, z. Vfg. 2nd Army

August 1941

3rd Panzer Group, 9th Army, 2nd Army, Army Group of Guderian

September 1941

3rd Panzer Group, 9th Army, 4th Army, 2nd Panzer Group, 2nd Army

Early anti-partisan Campaign


In spite of terrible losses, Soviet resistance was fierce and self-sacrificing. A partisan
Partisan (military)
A partisan is a member of an irregular military force formed to oppose control of an area by a foreign power or by an army of occupation by some kind of insurgent activity...

 movement disrupted German supply lines. Bitter fighting in the Battle of Smolensk
Battle of Smolensk (1941)
The Battle of Smolensk was a largely successful encirclement operation by the German Army Group Centre's 2nd Panzer Group led by Heinz Guderian and the 3rd Panzer Group led by Hermann Hoth against parts of four Soviet Fronts during World War II...

 delayed the German advance for two months due to the Lötzen decision. The advance of Army Group Centre was further delayed as Hitler ordered a postponement of the offensive against Moscow, and to conquer Ukraine
Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

 first.

Operation Typhoon


The German offensive against Moscow was resumed on 30 September 1941.
The delays turned out to be fatal to the German forces fighting their way on the approaches to the Soviet capital. Autumn rains turned roads into mud. In November, an unusually harsh winter set in, catching the Germans ill-equipped for winter warfare. Meanwhile, Soviet resistance grew plainly desperate, as soldiers engaged in infantry combat against German tanks. Suffering tremendous losses, the Soviets finally stopped the German advance in late November 1941, when the advance elements of the German Army had the distant spires of the Moscow Kremlin
Moscow Kremlin
The Moscow Kremlin , sometimes referred to as simply The Kremlin, is a historic fortified complex at the heart of Moscow, overlooking the Moskva River , Saint Basil's Cathedral and Red Square and the Alexander Garden...

 in sight. The Soviet counter-offensive in the Battle of Moscow
Battle of Moscow
The Battle of Moscow is the name given by Soviet historians to two periods of strategically significant fighting on a sector of the Eastern Front during World War II. It took place between October 1941 and January 1942. The Soviet defensive effort frustrated Hitler's attack on Moscow, capital of...

, which started on 6 December 1941, would mark the first decisive blow against the German invaders, and the failure of the German Blitzkrieg. Army Group Centre was driven back out of reach of Moscow by April 1942. It did however hold a narrow salient (the Rzhev Salient) which still threatened Moscow and would be the subject of numerous Soviet attacks in the coming year.
October 1941
  • 2nd Army (von Weichs
    Maximilian von Weichs
    Maximilian Maria Joseph Karl Gabriel Lamoral Reichsfreiherr von Weichs zu Glon was a German Generalfeldmarschall during World War II. He was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves...

    )
  • LIII Army Corps (Weisenberger)
56th ID, 31st ID, 167th ID
  • LXIII Army Corps (Heinrici)
52nd ID, 131st ID
  • XIII Army Corps (Felber)
260th ID, 17th ID Reserve: 112th ID

  • 2nd Panzer Army (Guderian)
  • XXXIV Army Corps (Metz)
45th ID, 134th ID
  • XXXV Army Corps (Kempfe)
95th ID, 296th ID, 262nd ID, 293rd ID
  • XLVIII Panzer Corps (Kempff)
9th Pz, 16th Mot.Div., 25th Mot.Div.
  • XXIV Panzer Corps (Geyer von Schweppenburg)
3rd Pz, 4th Pz, 10th Mot.Div.
  • XLVII Panzer Corps
    XLVII Panzer Corps (Germany)
    The XLVII Panzer Corps was a Panzer Corps formed by Field Marshal Günther von Kluge during the Battle for Normandy, and for Operation Lüttich...

     (Lemelsen)
17th Pz, 18th Pz, 29th Mot.Div.

  • 4th Army (von Kluge)
  • VII Army Corps
    VII Army Corps (Germany)
    German VII. Corps was a corps in the German Army during World War II. It was destroyed in August 1944 during the Jassy–Kishinev Offensive .-Commanders:...

     (Fahrmbacher)
197th ID, 7th ID, 23rd ID, 267th ID
  • XX Army Corps
    XX Army Corps (Germany)
    -Commanders:* Infantry General Friedrich Materna, October 1940 – 10 September 1942* Artillery General Rudolf Freiherr von Roman, 10 September 1942 – 14 February 1943...

     (Materna)
268th ID, 15th, 78th ID
  • IX Army Corps
    IX Army Corps (Germany)
    - Commanders :* Artillery General Friedrich Dollmann, 1 October 1934 – 25 August 1939.* Infantry General Hermann Geyer, 25 August 1939 – 31 December 1941....

     (Geyer)
137th ID, 263rd ID, 183rd ID, 292nd ID

  • Panzer Group 4 (Hoepner), Subordinated to 4th Army
  • XII Army Corps (Schroth)
34th ID, 98th ID
  • XL Army Corps (Stumme)
10th Pz, 2ndPz, 258th ID
  • XLVI Panzer Corps (von Vietinghoff)
5th Bz, llth Pz, 252nd ID
  • LVII Panzer Corps (Kuntzen)
20th Pz, SS "Das Reich" Mot.Div., 3rd Mot.Div. [352]

  • 9th Army (Strauss)
  • XXVII Army Corps (Wager)
255th ID, 162nd ID, 86th ID
  • V Army Corps
    V Army Corps (Germany)
    -Commanders:* Infantry General Hermann Geyer, 16 May 1935 – 30 April 1939* Infantry General Richard Ruoff, 1 May 1939 – 12 January 1942...

     (Ruoff)
5th ID, 35th ID, 106th ID, 129th ID
  • VIII Army Corps
    VIII Army Corps (Germany)
    German VIII. Corps was a corps in the German Army during World War II. It was destroyed during the Battle of Stalingrad and reformed in mid-1943.-Commanders:...

     (Heitz)
8th ID, 28th ID, 87th ID
  • XXIII Army Corps
    XXIII Army Corps (Germany)
    German XXIII. Corps was a corps in the German Army during World War II.-Commanders:* Infantry General Erich Raschick, April 1939 – 26 October 1939...

     (Schubert)
251st ID, 102nd ID, 256th ID, 206th ID Reserve: 161st ID

  • Panzer Group 3 (Hoth), Subordinated to 9th Army
  • LVI Panzer Corps
    LVI Panzer Corps
    LVI Panzer Corps was a tank corps in the German Army during World War II.This corps was activated in February 1941 for the German invasion of the Soviet Union, which commenced on June 22, 1941...

     (Schaal
    Ferdinand Schaal
    Ferdinand Friedrich Schaal was a German career military officer and panzer commander in World War II. He commanded the 10th Panzer Division in the 1939 Invasion of Poland and directed the successful Siege of Calais in 1940...

    )
6th Pz, 7th Pz, 14th Mot.Div.
  • XLI Panzer Corps (Reinhardt)
1st Pz, 36th Mot.Div.
  • VI Army Corps (Forster)
110th ID, 26th ID, 6th ID


November 1941
9th Army, 3rd Panzer Group, 4th Army, 2nd Panzer Army, 2nd Army


Commanders in chief 19 December 1941 Günther von Kluge
Günther von Kluge
Günther Adolf Ferdinand “Hans” von Kluge was a German military leader. He was born in Posen into a Prussian military family. Kluge rose to the rank of Field Marshal in the Wehrmacht. He was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords...

  • for short time before Christmas 1941: Günther Blumentritt
    Günther Blumentritt
    Günther Blumentritt was a German officer in World War I, who became a Staff Officer under the Weimar Republic and went on to serve as a general for Nazi Germany during World War II...


Russian Defensive Campaign



1942 for Army Group Centre opened with continuing attacks from Soviet forces around Rzhev. The German Ninth Army was able to repel these attacks and stabilise its front, despite continuing large-scale partisan activity in its rear areas. Meanwhile the German strategic focus on the Eastern Front shifted to southern Russia, with the launching of Operation Blue
Operation Blue
Case Blue , later renamed Operation Braunschweig, was the German Armed Forces name for its plan for a 1942 strategic summer offensive in southern Russia between 28 June and November 1942....

 in June. This operation, aimed at the oilfields in the southern Caucasus
Caucasus
The Caucasus, also Caucas or Caucasia , is a geopolitical region at the border of Europe and Asia, and situated between the Black and the Caspian sea...

, involved Army Group South alone, with the other German army groups giving up troops and equipment for the offensive.

Despite the focus on the south, Army Group Centre continued to see fierce fighting throughout the year. While the Soviet attacks in early 1942 had not driven the Germans back, they had resulted in several Red Army units being trapped behind German lines. Eliminating the pocket took until July, the same month in which the Soviets made another attempt to break through the army group's front; the attempt failed, but the front line was pushed back closer to Rzhev. The largest Soviet operation in the army group's sector that year, Operation Mars
Operation Mars
Operation Mars was the codename for the Rzhev offensive operation part of the Rzhev-Vyazma strategic offensive operation launched by Soviet forces against German forces during World War II. It took place between 25 November and 20 December 1942 in a salient in the vicinity of Moscow...

, took place in November. It was launched concurrently with Operation Uranus
Operation Uranus
Operation Uranus was the codename of the Soviet strategic operation in World War II which led to the encirclement of the German Sixth Army, the Third and Fourth Romanian armies, and portions of the German Fourth Panzer Army. The operation formed part of the ongoing Battle of Stalingrad, and was...

, the counteroffensive against the German assault on Stalingrad
Battle of Stalingrad
The Battle of Stalingrad was a major battle of World War II in which Nazi Germany and its allies fought the Soviet Union for control of the city of Stalingrad in southwestern Russia. The battle took place between 23 August 1942 and 2 February 1943...

. The operation was repulsed with very heavy Soviet losses, although it did have the effect of pinning down German units that could have been sent to the fighting around Stalingrad.

January 1942
9th Army, 3rd Panzer Army, 4th Panzer Army, 4th Army, 2nd Panzer Army, 2nd Army


February 1942
3rd Panzer Army, 9th Army, 4th Panzer Army, 4th Army, 2nd Panzer Army


May 1942
9th Army, 3rd Panzer Army, 4th Army, 2nd Panzer Army


Operation Fridericus II

Battle of Voronezh (1942)
Battle of Voronezh (1942)
The Battle of Voronezh was a battle on the Eastern Front of World War II, fought in and around the strategically important city of Voronezh on the Don river, south of Moscow, from 28 June-24 July 1942, as opening move of the German summer offensive in 1942....


Campaign in Central Russia


Following the disaster of Stalingrad and poor results of the Voronezh defensive operations the OKH expected another attack on Army Group Centre in early 1943. However Hitler had decided to strike first. However, before this could be done Wehrmacht had to forestall possible Soviet offensives by carrying out their Operation Büffel
Operation Büffel
During World War II the name Büffel Bewegung was given to a series of local retreats conducted by the German Army on the Russian Front during the period 1–22 March 1943. This movement eliminated the Rzhev Salient and shortened the front by 230 kilometers, releasing twenty-one divisions for use...

 — the planned evacuation of the Rzhev Salient to shorten their lines.

January 1943
LIX AK, 9th Army, 3rd Panzer Army, 4th Army, 2nd Panzer Army

Commanders in chief 12 October 1943 Ernst Busch

February 1943
3rd Panzer Army, 9th Army, 4th Army, 2nd Panzer Army

Belorussian anti-partisan Campaign



From early in 1942 there was an intensified movement to create armed resistance to the Wehrmacht in occupied territories, and particularly the very difficult terrain of the western Belorussian region. This effort was directed by the separate Stavka Head Quarters in Moscow, utilising partisan cells trained before the war, local party officials that escaped the Gestapo, and a considerable number of Red Army troops that evaded massive encirclements of 1941. By early 1943 this movement, though only loosely interrelated within the region, numbered an estimated 250,000 combat and combat support personnel, with sophisticated bases, long range communication equipment, and increasingly disruptive to Wehrmacht's rear services
Rear services
Rear services were those agencies in Warsaw Pact and Soviet style military forces concerned with military logistics and support. The Rear Services supplied the armed forces with ammunition, fuel, spare parts, food, clothing, and other matériel. Usually a deputy minister of defense served as chief...

 and lines of communication
Lines of Communication
"Lines of Communication" is an episode from the fourth season of the science-fiction television series Babylon 5.-Synopsis:Franklin and Marcus attempt to persuade the Mars resistance to assist Sheridan in opposing President Clark...

.

Combating these partisan groups and bands demanded constant security deployment for German troops required by the increasingly personnel-starved field forces, and increasingly police volunteer personnel from the occupied territories, particularly from Ukraine and the occupied Baltic republics were used alongside special Waffen-SS and Wehrmacht units. The following major anti-partisan operations were conducted in the rear of Army Group Centre, alongside many smaller operations:
  • Operation Bamberg: conducted from 26 March 1942 – 6 April 1942 by the 707th Infantry Division supported by a Slovak
    Slovakia
    The Slovak Republic is a landlocked state in Central Europe. It has a population of over five million and an area of about . Slovakia is bordered by the Czech Republic and Austria to the west, Poland to the north, Ukraine to the east and Hungary to the south...

     regiment, south of Bobruisk. At least 5,000 people (including many civilians) were killed and agricultural produce was confiscated.

  • Operation Fruhlingsfest: conducted from 17 April 1944 – 12 May 1944 in the area of Polotsk by units of Gruppe von Gottberg. Around 7,000 deaths were recorded at the hands of German forces.

  • Operation Kormoran: conducted from 25 May 1944 – 17 June 1944 between Minsk
    Minsk
    - Ecological situation :The ecological situation is monitored by Republican Center of Radioactive and Environmental Control .During 2003–2008 the overall weight of contaminants increased from 186,000 to 247,400 tons. The change of gas as industrial fuel to mazut for financial reasons has worsened...

     and Borisov
    Borisov
    Borisov , or Borisova is a common Russian and Bulgarian last name and may refer to:-Borisov:*Alexander Alexeyevich Borisov , Russian painter*Alexander Fyodorovich Borisov , Soviet actor...

     by German security units
    Security Division (Germany)
    The Wehrmacht Security Divisions were German military units which operated during World War II.-History and organisation:...

     in the rear of Third Panzer Army. Around 7,500 deaths recorded.


Increasing coordination of the partisan activity resulted in the conducting of Operation Concert
Concert (operation)
On the 19th September 1943, an operation by Soviet partisans began under the code name “Concert.” It was one of largest of World War II in its effects on the incapacitation of railroad communications in enemy rear logistics...

 against the German forces.

Operation Citadel


In July and August 1943 the Soviets succeeded in stopping the German offensive Operation Citadel into the Kursk Salient and counterattacked towards Orel and Kharkov. In tandem with the offensive into Ukraine another offensive, the Smolensk Operation
Battle of Smolensk (1943)
The second Battle of Smolensk was a Soviet strategic offensive operation conducted by the Red Army as part of the Summer-Autumn Campaign of 1943...

, was launched against Army Group Centre between August and October 1943. The attacks made slow progress but were successful in recapturing Smolensk and the important rail junction at Nevel, forcing the German line back on a broad front, however the attack foundered on the strong German defensive works in the Vitebsk-Orsha-Mogilev area (the Ostwall defensive line).

March 1943
3rd Panzer Army, 9th Army, 4th Army, 2nd Panzer Army, 2nd Army

April 1943
3rd Panzer Army, 4th Army, 2nd Panzer Army, 2nd Army, z.Vfg. 9th Army

July 1943
3rd Panzer Army, 4th Army, 2nd Panzer Army, 9th Army, 2nd Army

Wotan Line defensive Campaign


Further Soviet offensives against Army Group Centre - the Gomel and Orsha Operations in November 1943 and the Vitebsk Operation in February 1944 were unsuccessful against the strong Ostwall defences. However, the Soviets did succeed in almost encircling the heavily fortified town of Vitebsk.

In comparison to the great Soviet victories in Ukraine since Stalingrad, Soviet progress on the central front (roughly the area Minsk - Smolensk - Moscow) in the period early 1942-early 1944 had been disappointing. Soviet planners launched several offensives hoping for a grand encirclement and destruction of Army Group Centre yet had only succeeded in forcing the German line back on a broad front with heavy Soviet casualties. There were several reasons for this comparative lack of success - the terrain here was much more heavily forested and thus favoured the defender, German units in this area had had time to prepare comprehensive fortifications and the German leadership had been good, while Soviet leadership had been uninspired.

September 1943
3rd Panzer Army, 4th Army, 9th Army, 2nd Army


November 1943
3rd Panzer Army, 4th Army, 9th Army, 2nd Army, armed forces commander east country


January 1944
3rd Panzer Army, 4th Army, 9th Army, 2nd Army

Destruction of Army Group Centre


However, all this was to change in summer 1944. In the spring of that year, the STAVKA
Stavka
Stavka was the term used to refer to a command element of the armed forces from the time of the Kievan Rus′, more formally during the history of Imperial Russia as administrative staff and General Headquarters during late 19th Century Imperial Russian armed forces and those of the Soviet Union...

 started concentrating massive forces along the frontline in central Russia for a huge summer offensive against Army Group Centre. The Soviets also carried out a masterful deception campaign to convince the Germans that the main Soviet summer offensive would be launched further south, against Army Group North Ukraine
Army Group North Ukraine
The Army Group North Ukraine was a major ground force formation of the German armed forces.It was created on the 1 April 1944 by renaming Army Group South on trial basis, in the course of the separation of troops under command of General Field Marshal Erich von Manstein and General Field Marshal...

. The German High Command was fooled and armored units were moved south out of Army Group Centre. The massive Soviet buildup opposite Army Group Centre was not detected.

The offensive, code-named Operation Bagration, was launched on 22 June 1944, the third anniversary of the German invasion and the beginning of the German-Soviet War in 1941 (this was actually a coincidence, the attack had been unexpectedly delayed several days). 185 Soviet divisions comprising about 2.5 million soldiers and 6,000 tanks smashed into the German positions on a frontline of 1,000 km. The 800,000-strong German Army Group Centre was crushed. Up to 400,000 Germans became casualties. Soviet forces raced forward, liberating Minsk
Minsk
- Ecological situation :The ecological situation is monitored by Republican Center of Radioactive and Environmental Control .During 2003–2008 the overall weight of contaminants increased from 186,000 to 247,400 tons. The change of gas as industrial fuel to mazut for financial reasons has worsened...

 and the rest of Belorussia
Byelorussian SSR
The Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic was one of fifteen constituent republics of the Soviet Union. It was one of the four original founding members of the Soviet Union in 1922, together with the Ukrainian SSR, the Transcaucasian SFSR and the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic...

, Belarus
Belarus
Belarus , officially the Republic of Belarus, is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe, bordered clockwise by Russia to the northeast, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest. Its capital is Minsk; other major cities include Brest, Grodno , Gomel ,...

 by the end of August, crossing the pre-war border and advancing into East Prussia
East Prussia
East Prussia is the main part of the region of Prussia along the southeastern Baltic Coast from the 13th century to the end of World War II in May 1945. From 1772–1829 and 1878–1945, the Province of East Prussia was part of the German state of Prussia. The capital city was Königsberg.East Prussia...

 and Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

 by the end of the year. In terms of casualties this was the greatest German defeat of the entire war.

Commanders in chief 28 June 1944 Walter Model
Walter Model
Otto Moritz Walter Model was a German general and later field marshal during World War II. He is noted for his defensive battles in the latter half of the war, mostly on the Eastern Front but also in the west, and for his close association with Adolf Hitler and Nazism...



July 1944
3rd Panzer Army, 4th Army, 2nd Army, z.Vfg. 9th Army


Commanders in chief 16 August 1944 Georg Hans Reinhardt

August 1944
3rd Panzer Army, 4th Army, 4th Army, 2nd Army, IV SS Panzer Corps
IV SS Panzer Corps
The IV.SS-Panzerkorps was a German Waffen-SS armoured corps which saw action on the Eastern Front and in the Balkans during World War II.The Panzerkorps was formed in August, 1943 in Poitiers, France...


Defensive Campaign in Poland and Slovakia


The Soviet commanders, after their inaction during the Warsaw Uprising
Warsaw Uprising
The Warsaw Uprising was a major World War II operation by the Polish resistance Home Army , to liberate Warsaw from Nazi Germany. The rebellion was timed to coincide with the Soviet Union's Red Army approaching the eastern suburbs of the city and the retreat of German forces...

, took Warsaw
Warsaw
Warsaw is the capital and largest city of Poland. It is located on the Vistula River, roughly from the Baltic Sea and from the Carpathian Mountains. Its population in 2010 was estimated at 1,716,855 residents with a greater metropolitan area of 2,631,902 residents, making Warsaw the 10th most...

 in January 1945. Over three days, the Red Army, incorporating four army Front
Front (Soviet Army)
A front was a major military organization in the Soviet Army during many wars. It was roughly equivalent to an army group in the militaries of most other countries except Germany...

s, began an offensive across the Narew
Narew
The Narew River , in western Belarus and north-eastern Poland, is a left tributary of the Vistula river...

 River and from Warsaw. The Soviets outnumbered the Germans on average by 9:1 in troops, 9 or 10:1 in artillery and 10:1 in tanks and self-propelled artillery.

Defence of the Reich Campaign


On 25 January 1945 Hitler renamed three army groups. Army Group North
Army Group North
Army Group North was a German strategic echelon formation commanding a grouping of Field Armies subordinated to the OKH during World War II. The army group coordinated the operations of attached separate army corps, reserve formations, rear services and logistics.- Formation :The Army Group North...

 became Army Group Courland
Army Group Courland
Army Group Courland was a German Army Group on the Eastern Front which was created from remnants of the Army Group North, isolated in the Courland peninsula by the advancing Soviet Army forces during the 1944 Baltic Offensive of the Second World War. The army group remained isolated until the end...

; Army Group Centre became Army Group North and Army Group A
Army Group A
Army Group A was the name of a number of German Army Groups during World War II.-Western Front, 1940:During the German invasion of the Low Countries and France Army Group A was under the command of General Gerd von Rundstedt, and was responsible for the break-out through the Ardennes...

 became Army Group Centre.

Battle of Berlin


The last Soviet campaign of the war in the European theater, which led to the fall of Berlin
Battle of Berlin
The Battle of Berlin, designated the Berlin Strategic Offensive Operation by the Soviet Union, was the final major offensive of the European Theatre of World War II....

 and the end of the war in Europe with the surrender of all German forces to the Allies. The three Soviet Fronts involved in the campaign had altogether 2.5 million men, 6,250 tanks, 7,500 aircraft, 41,600 artillery
Artillery
Originally applied to any group of infantry primarily armed with projectile weapons, artillery has over time become limited in meaning to refer only to those engines of war that operate by projection of munitions far beyond the range of effect of personal weapons...

 pieces and mortar
Mortar (weapon)
A mortar is an indirect fire weapon that fires explosive projectiles known as bombs at low velocities, short ranges, and high-arcing ballistic trajectories. It is typically muzzle-loading and has a barrel length less than 15 times its caliber....

s, 3,255 truck
Truck
A truck or lorry is a motor vehicle designed to transport cargo. Trucks vary greatly in size, power, and configuration, with the smallest being mechanically similar to an automobile...

-mounted "Katyusha" rocket launchers
Rocket
A rocket is a missile, spacecraft, aircraft or other vehicle which obtains thrust from a rocket engine. In all rockets, the exhaust is formed entirely from propellants carried within the rocket before use. Rocket engines work by action and reaction...

 (nicknamed 'Stalin Organs' by the Germans), and 95,383 motor vehicles. The campaign started with the battle of Oder-Neisse. Army Group Centre commanded by Ferdinand Schörner
Ferdinand Schörner
Ferdinand Schörner was a General and later Field Marshal in the German Army during World War II.-Early life:Schörner was born in Munich, Bavaria...

 had a front that included the river Neisse. Before dawn on the morning of 16 April 1945 the 1st Ukrainian Front
1st Ukrainian Front
The 1st Ukrainian Front was a front—a force the size of a Western Army group—of the Soviet Union's Red Army during the Second World War.-Wartime:...

 under the command of General Konev started the attack over the river Neisse with a short but massive bombardment by tens of thousands of artillery pieces.

Commanders in chief 17 January 1945 Ferdinand Schörner
Ferdinand Schörner
Ferdinand Schörner was a General and later Field Marshal in the German Army during World War II.-Early life:Schörner was born in Munich, Bavaria...



January 1945
3rd Panzer Army, 4th Army, 2nd Army


February 1945
4th Panzer Army, 17th Army (Germany)
17th Army (Germany)
The German Seventeenth Army was a World War II field army.-Commanding officers:* General der Infanterie Carl-Heinrich von Stülpnagel * Generaloberst Hermann Hoth...

, 1st Panzer Army (Germany)


May 1945
7th Army (Germany), 4th Panzer Army, 17th Army, 1st Panzer Army
Army Group Ostmark

Battle of Prague


Some of Army Group Centre continued to resist until 11 May, by which time the overwhelming force of the Soviet Armies sent to occupy Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia or Czecho-Slovakia was a sovereign state in Central Europe which existed from October 1918, when it declared its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, until 1992...

 in the Prague Offensive
Prague Offensive
The Prague Offensive was the last major Soviet operation of World War II in Europe. The offensive, and the battle for Prague, was fought on the Eastern Front from 6 May to 11 May 1945. This battle for the city is particularly noteworthy in that it ended after the Third Reich capitulated on 8 May...

 gave them no option but to surrender or be killed.
May 1945
7th Army (Germany), 4th Panzer Army, 17th Army
Army Group Ostmark

Surrender


On 7 May, the day that German Chief-of-Staff General Alfred Jodl
Alfred Jodl
Alfred Josef Ferdinand Jodl was a German military commander, attaining the position of Chief of the Operations Staff of the Armed Forces High Command during World War II, acting as deputy to Wilhelm Keitel...

 was negotiating surrender of all German forces at SHAEF, the last that the German Armed Forces High Command (AFHC) had heard from Schörner was on 2 May. He had reported that he intended to fight his way west and surrender his army group to the Americans. On 8 May, a colonel on the (AFHC), was escorted through the American lines to see Schörner. The colonel reported that Schörner had ordered the men under his operational command to observe the surrender but that he could not guarantee that he would be obeyed everywhere. Later that day Schörner deserted his command and flew to Austria
Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

where on the 18 May he was arrested by the Americans.

Further reading


The End", Ian Kershaw (New York: Penguin Press, 2011). ISBN 978-1-59420-374-5.