Battle around the Seelower heights

with the battle around the Seelower heights concerns it the large-scale break-through attempt of the 1. Byelorussian front (marshal Schukow) by the lines of the German army group Weichsel in the context of the attack on Berlin in April 1945 in the Second World War. The battle took four days: of 16.- 19. April 1945. Scarcely 1 million Red Army soldier fought for the way by the gates of Berlin, which were defended by 100.000 German soldiers.

This battle was part of the battle around or Neisse: the Seelower heights was the section, which contests most violently was. However they were only one point, at which the Soviets exceeded the or Neisse. The battle around or Neisse formed only the first battle in the larger context of the battle around Berlin.

Gedenkstätte Seelower Höhen, Bronzeplastik von Lew Kerbel
Memorial place Seelower heights, bronze plastics of Lew Kerbel

table of contents


to 9. April fell the fortress king mountain in East Prussia. This made possible it the 2. Byelorussian front under marshal Rokossowski to advance to the west to the east bank of the or. During the first two April weeks the Red Army accomplished itself here a regrouping, with that the 1. Byelorussian front on the east bank of the or lain before the Seelower heights concentrated. The 2. Byelorussian front occupied meanwhile the abandoned positions north the heights. In the south marshal Konew shifted the bulk of the 1. Ukrainian front from Upper Silesia to northwest to the Neisse.

The three Soviet fronts had together approximately 2.5 million men, 6,250 tanks, 7,500 airplanes, 41,600 artillery cannons and mortars, 3,255 Katjuscha - rocket launchers and 95,383 motor vehicles, by whom most of the westallied had been supplied.

At the north flank of the Seelower heights up to the Baltic Sea stood the 2. Byelorussian front with approximately eight armies (33 infantry divisions, four tank and mechanical ones. - Corps, three artillery divisions and unite further artillery and rocket launcher brigades). It possessed 951 tanks and self driving cannons as well as 6,642 artillery cannons. The 1. Byelorussian front in the center consisted of 11 armies (77 infantry divisions, seven tank and mechanical ones. - Corps, eight artillery divisions and further artillery and rocket launcher brigades). Their units possessed 3,155 tanks and self driving cannons as well as 16,934 artillery cannons.

Opposite the 2. Byelorussian front stood on German side for 3. Tank army with 11 divisions and 212 tanks and practically without conventional artillery except approximately 600-700 Flak - cannons of the caliber of 8.8 cm. The German 9. Army covered the front of the Finow channel in the north until for Guben in the south. This included the Seelower heights. It consisted of 14 divisions with 512 tanks, 344 artillery and 300-400 Flakgeschützen.

To 20. March replaced colonel general Gotthard von Heinrici Heinrich Himmler as a commander of the army group Weichsel . As one of the best defensive tacticians in the German armed forces it sketched immediately plans for the defense at the or. It recognized immediately that the Soviet main thrust by the or along the Reichsstrasse1 would be made. Thus it decided to only defend the west bank of the or with a thin veil and let instead of its Seelower heights fasten, those approx. 48 meters over the or at the point lay, at which the Reichsstrasse1 crossed the river. In order to achieve necessary personnel strengths for the defense, it let the German lines thin out in other places. At the same time German army engineers transformed the Oderbruch, which was soaked by the spring flood already, by opening of a reservoir river upward into only one sump. Behind it three defense belts were put on, which near-handed to to the outlying districts of Berlin. The last line, approx. 15-20 km behind the first line, was the so-called Wotanstellung and consisted of antitank defense ditches, Pak - positions and an expanded network of ditches and shelters.

the battle

in the early morning hours 16. April the attack was introduced by the probably strongest Trommelfeuer of history. Came 16,000 to 20,000 artillery cannons, among other things many of the feared rocket launchers, to the employment. A half hour later (at 3.30 o'clock Central European Summer Time), seized the 1. Byelorussian front over the or on. At the same time the 1 broke. Ukrainian front further south over the Neisse forwards. The 1. Byelorussian front was the strongest armed force, but it had the more difficult order and faced the bulk of the German armed forces.

There however the German leadership of the army group (colonel general Heinrici) and the 9. The attack for this day, in the night before all troops from the front had expected army (general penalty) had been solved and into the prepared positions on the Seelower heights shifted. Thus the first attack of the Red Army soldiers turned out to a disaster. Schukow had prepared the use of 143 headlights, with which the German defenders should be dazzled and the battleground for the own weapons be illuminated. The light of the headlights was back-reflected however by the morning fog and the powder smoke absent-minded and on the aggressors and it thereby dazzled and led to a bright background, against which the attacking infantry and advancing tank points appeared clearly. Besides the swampy reason under the conditions of the German defensive fire proved as large obstacle. These circumstances led to enormous losses on Soviet side. Under time pressure (the operation plan saw the conquest of the heights already for the first day before) marshal Schukow threw his reserves into the fight, which should be originally used only with the break-through. In the early evening a ground gain from six kilometers was to be registered to, but the German lines had remained intact. South the heights could the 1. Ukrainian front the schedule keep. Schukow against it had to announce to Moscow that the battle did not precede according to plan around the Seelower heights. In order to propel Schukow, Stalin explained to him thereupon that it give marshal Konew permission to direct its tanks from the south against Berlin.

On the second day the staff of the 1 combed. Byelorussian front the rear area on the search for all units, which could be thrown still into the battle, since Soviet tactics of massed frontal attacks as still more involving heavy losses than normally had proven. With beginning of the dusk 17. April was still intact the German front before Schukow, stood however briefly before the collapse. In the south the army group had not shown itself center under general Ferdinand Schörner as such obstacle. Under the pressure of the attack of the 1. Ukrainian front had the 4. Tank army at the north flank back-soft. Schörner retained its two reserve armored divisions for the covering of its center, instead of with them the 4. To support tank army. This was the turning point of the battle, because with incipient crack of the night the positions had become untenable both the army group Weichsel and the southern sections of the army group center. Only immediate decreasing/going back to the line of the 4. Tank army could protect it encircling.

To 18. April continued to advance both Soviet fronts constantly, their losses remained certainly considerable. Against evening the 1 had. Byelorussian front the third and last line of the German defense reaches and the 1. Ukrainian front prepared the break-through after the conquest of forest in the open area. To 19. Schukows troops broke April by the last line of the Seelower heights. Only individual zersprengte German formations lay between them and Berlin. The remnants of the 9. Army, which had held the heights, and which 4 left. For tank army stood before the containment by 3. Guard army and 3. and 4. Guard tank army of the 1. Ukrainian front. After this had happened, these units turned northward against Berlin. Other parts of the 1. Ukrainian front moved to the west in the direction of the Americans. At the end 19. April had to exist the German east front stopped, only resistance nests had remained.

The price for the Soviet break-through was very high. Between that 1. and 19. The Soviet troops of 2,807 tanks had lost April. (In the same period the western allied ones lost 1,079 tanks). 33.000 Soviet and 12,000 German soldiers fell in the four days of the battle.


the position on the Seelower heights was the last main defense position outside of Berlin. After that 19. April lay the way to Berlin openly. To 23. April was Berlin completely enclosed and the battle around Berlin reached its high point. Two weeks later Adolf Hitler was dead and the war in Europe terminated.

After the war Schukows critics lodged a complaint that it the 1. Byelorussian front from the Reichsstrasse1 to Berlin turn away and on the route of the 1. Ukrainian front over the Neisse the German positions have gone around should, in order to avoid in this way the high losses and the delay. It must be however considered that the 1. Byelorussian front on a very close attack strip was pulled together, which made probably a detour impossible. The other front generals could go around against it this position and did it also.


  • Beevor, Antony. Berlin: the Downfall, 1945, ISBN 0670886955
  • Tieke, William, the end between or and Elbe - the fight for Berlin 1945, Stuttgart 1992, ISBN 3-87943-734-3
  • Ziemke, Earl F. Battle For Berlin: End to OF The Third realm, NY: Ballantine Books, London: Macdomald & CO, 1969.

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