The End of the War

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With the “Führer’s decree” of September 25, 1944, all able-bodied men aged 16 to 60 had to be conscripted. The propaganda played up this act of desperation as a “Volkssturm” or people’s storm. In fact, only a small fraction could be mobilized. Moreover, equipment, weapons and ammunition were lacking. The military effect of the estimated 700 Volkssturm battalions remained correspondingly slight and primarily cost many people their lives.

American troops in the vicinity of Aachen reached the territory of the German Reich for the first time on September 11, 1944. Nonetheless, Germans continued putting up bitter resistance. The final German “major offensive”, the “Battle of the Bulge”, was launched on December 16 but already collapsed miserably on December 24. Allied forces advanced deeper and deeper into the German Reich from the west and the east.

Soviet troops had already taken the first East Prussian cities on October 22, 1944. They advanced in a major offensive to the Oder on January 12, 1945. German cities and towns along the front lines were reduced to rubble. One senseless order to hold out followed the next and, in the end, a “scorched earth” order was in effect – nothing more should fall into “the enemies’” hands.

The western Allies forced a crossing over the Rhine at Remagen on March 7, 1945; the Ruhr pocket was encircled on April 1. The industrial region capitulated on April 1. Soviet and western Allied troops met up at Torgau in Saxony on April 25, after Vienna had already fallen on April 19, 1945.

The Soviet assault on Berlin began on April 16, 1945. The city was completely captured a few weeks later, on May 2. Hitler had taken his own life shortly before on April 30, 1945. The unconditional surrender took place on May 7 and 9 in Reims and Berlin-Karlshorst. The weapons in Germany fell silent. A “home front” never materialized; the Allies had grossly overestimated the extent of “fanatical loyalty” with which the German populace stood behind the “Third Reich” and its leadership.

World War II ended when Japan surrendered on August 16, 1945 after atomic bombs had been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

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