German Webbing, Front View

German Webbing, Front View

German Webbing, Front View


A front view of a German army uniform, showing the rear webbing. Picture taken by Peter Antill at Bletchley Park , May 2013


Interview with World War II Historian Andrew Roberts


Andrew Roberts' new book takes an alternative look at German and Russian roles in World War II.

‘When it came to killing Germans on the ground, the Russians were far and away more effective’

Why a new history of World War II?
There is an enormous amount of Second World War scholarship, and to synthesize that seems to me to be worthwhile. Though some books are very good about covering some areas of the conflict, there didn&rsquot seem to me to be a really satisfactory one-volume history that covers the whole war comprehensively. So, I attempted to provide one. This is the culmination of 20 years of research and writing about the war, so it fitted in very well with what I wanted to do at some stage.

Did your research reveal any especially valuable new sources?
Yes, I was fortunate to come across English businessman Ian Sayer, who since the 1970s had been building up a personal archive of, by the time I met him, more than 100,000 Second World War documents&mdashdiaries, letters, photographs and so on. He&rsquod bought a lot of the material from some really serious and substantial figures, and no historian had ever asked to examine the collection. When I invited myself to his home, I discovered such new things as a 1940 letter by German Maj. Gen. Alfred Jodl that completely explodes the myth that Hitler deliberately allowed the British Expeditionary Force to escape from Dunkirk in an attempt to persuade Britain to make peace. It&rsquos every historian&rsquos dream to discover a lot of valuable new material, and there it was.

How useful were your visits to many of the World War II battlefields?
They were absolutely invaluable. Historians who write about a battle without having visited the battlefield are like detectives trying to solve a murder without visiting the scene of the crime. A sense of the topography, the sight lines, the actual distances between points of attack, the climate&mdashall of these things can only truly be appreciated if you&rsquove trod the ground yourself.

Which battlefield affected you most on an emotional level?
The site of the 1943 Battle of Kursk, in Russia. It was not only the greatest tank battle in human history, it was also the point at which Nazism really breathed its last. The dead are literally buried all around you it&rsquos impossible not to be affected by the sheer courage of those Russians who stood up against the massive German onslaught. It&rsquos a very moving place indeed, and one that really got me in the gut.

You write that Hitler&rsquos war aims were impossible&mdashhow so?
The Germans were trying to win a straightforward conventional war and, at the same time, trying to fight an ideological war: a specifically Nazi war as opposed to a German war. I believe that a true German nationalist&mdashOtto von Bismarck, say, or Helmuth von Moltke&mdashcould have won the Second World War, because he wouldn&rsquot have made the kind of demands of the German military that Hitler did, which was to win a two-front conventional war while at the same time imposing the policies of the &ldquoAryan master race.&rdquo Those aims were directly in opposition.

Could the Nazis have won, had they done something differently?
Absolutely. If they had not invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, and if they had instead thrown at the Allies even a fraction of the 3 million men they eventually unleashed against Russia, they would have chased us out of the Middle East and cut off access to 80 percent of the Allies&rsquo oil. We simply would not have been able to continue the struggle.

Was Hitler solely responsible for Germany&rsquos military blunders?
No, there were plenty of people to blame. Luftwaffe chief Hermann Göring is a perfect example: He promised Hitler that no Allied bombs would fall on Germany he promised to destroy the British Expeditionary Force at Dunkirk solely through airpower he promised to completely supply the German forces at Stalingrad by air. Yet he could not deliver on any of these promises. In the end, all of these poor military leaders were appointed or promoted by Hitler, many solely because they were Nazis, and that&rsquos no way to fight&mdashor win&mdasha war.

Had Hitler been assassinated, would Germany have sued for peace?
Not necessarily. Had Hitler been assassinated on July 20, 1944, Heinrich Himmler, Göring and Joseph Goebbels were all still alive, and any one of them&mdashor others&mdashcould have taken over and carried on the war. And remember, while Claus von Stauffenberg and his fellow conspirators were undoubtedly brave, the idea that they were somehow liberal democrats is rubbish, and we can&rsquot assume they would have ended the war. Possibly the only positive thing that would have resulted from Hitler&rsquos death, from the German point of view, is that whoever replaced him would probably have made fewer strategic blunders than he did.

Why didn&rsquot Germany and Japan cooperate more closely than they did?
The Germans saw the Japanese as adjuncts to the greater effort they were putting in. The Japanese never trusted the Germans they didn&rsquot even tell Berlin they were going to attack Pearl Harbor. Neither country put in the diplomatic work required to really coordinate their efforts. Essentially, the Second World War was two separate conflicts fought simultaneously.

Who were the most effective combat generals of the war?
The Russian Georgy Zhukov, because he was given every impossible task and succeeded at all of them. For Germany, Erich von Manstein, who came up with the &ldquosickle cut&rdquo maneuver that in May 1940 defeated France and was the most effective German general on the Eastern Front. George Patton, who seemed to have a sixth sense for war, despite the fact that by the end of the conflict he seems to have been stark, staring mad. Britain&rsquos General Sir William Slim was an astonishingly good commander, both when he led the retreat from Burma and when he led the advance back through Burma. And the greatest French combat general was the very gifted armor commander Philippe Leclerc.

What about the Soviet Union&rsquos part in the war?
The major problem with the historiography of World War II is the Cold War&mdashit was not in the West&rsquos postwar interest to acknowledge that it was the Russians who destroyed the Wehrmacht, at an unbelievable cost to themselves. We are just now beginning to acknowledge the Soviet Union&rsquos contribution. Consider that when in August 1944 the Allies closed the Falaise pocket, they captured some 35,000 Germans. At roughly the same time, during Operation Bagration, the Russians killed, wounded or captured 510,000 Germans. Statistically, the Eastern Front was where the war was won&mdashout of every five Germans killed in battlefield combat, four died on the Eastern Front. Yes, the British and Americans smashed Germany&rsquos war economy and defeated the Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine but when it came to killing Germans on the ground, the Russians were far and away more effective.


German helmet (Stahlhelm) M35

In the 1930s the nature of the war changed, also the role of modern foot troops changed - they became more mobile. So the requirements to a protective equipment changed as well. Now a steel helmet had to be less overall, but along with this it had to protect a soldier not only from a shrapnel, but also from bigger and heavier fragments, pistol bullets, jabs, butt stroke and buildings fragments. Then German constructors who designed an M16 created a modification with an M35 abbreviation.

This helmet became more compact (a peak and neck-flap became smaller) and more solid, now it could hold pressure up to 220 kg per мм 2. Such helmet was made of high-quality alloy carbon steel on a press with addition of molly. A steel sheet was 1 - 1,5 mm thick. It weighted around 1300 g.

A helmet liner consisted of eight (sometimes nine) tongues of calf skin, which made its wearing more comfortable. For example, in Soviet helmets of those times they used faux leather, which rubbed solders&rsquo heads. A liner and a chinstrap were attached to an aluminum band, which were attached to the helmet with 3 clasps. A decal with German tricolor was applied on the right side of a model M35 (on a German helmet SS there was a decal - a party shield of Deutsches Reich- attached). A decal Kriegsmarine, Wehrmacht, Polizei, SS or Luftwaffe was applied on the left side. However, since 1940 only one decal was applied on the left side of an M35 modification for the purpose of masking.

Decal versions on the right side - German tricolor and a party shield of Deutsches Reich

Decal versions on the left side side - Kriegsmarine, Wehrmacht, Polizei, SS, Luftwaffe

As a matter of fact, there were much more decal versions (Sturmabteilung, Hitler Jugend, Afrika Korps, LandesPolizei, Medic DRK, Blue Division and others), but we will certainly talk about it in another article.

By the beginning of the WW2 a German Stahlhelm M35 was considered the best one in the world. It is worth noting that for the first two years after an M35 helmet was accepted for service, they produced 1 400 000 pieces of all sizes and about 1 000 000 pieces by the year of 1940, when an M35 model was replaced by M40.


German Railways in the East

Post by Der Alte Fritz » 09 Nov 2013, 13:22

I want to start a general discussion covering the German railways in the East Soviet Union, Baltic States, Poland, etc.

There are several references available such as the FMS series:
D-139 Transportation system in Southern Russia
D-369 Rail transport for Operation Zitadelle
P-041R OKH Transportation Service
P-041S Field Transportation
P-041T Planning for Chief of Transport
P-048 Transportation system in Poland and the Baltic
P-198 Destruction and reconstruction of roads and railways

Alfred C. Mierzejewski, Pottgeisser and other German railway books.

To start with I would like to know who ran the railways in the ReichsKommisariat Ukraine and RK Ostland.
My understanding is that these areas were covered by the HBD (Haupteisenbahndirektion) Riga, Minsk, Kiev and Poltava which was part of the Reich Ministry of Transport (RVM) Operations Section under Joseph Muller. What I am unclear about is the relationship to the DRB itself (from where the personnel had been transferred to either the HBD or FeDko - Blau or Grau Eisenbahner)

Re: German Railways in the East

Post by Der Alte Fritz » 09 Nov 2013, 19:14

Re: German Railways in the East

Post by Der Alte Fritz » 13 Nov 2013, 10:10

Re: German Railways in the East

Post by LWD » 13 Nov 2013, 15:23

Re: German Railways in the East

Post by Der Alte Fritz » 14 Nov 2013, 10:57

Well by 1.1.1943, the Germans controlled Belorussia, the Ukraine and a good portion of Western Russia. According to Kovalev, the Germans controlled 48% of the pre-war Soviet network (106,100 km inc Baltic, Western Poland and Bessarabia) which is 50,000 km. According to Pottgeisser the figure for RVD Osten plus the FEKdos 30,904km. The difference is due to changes in borders plus under counting by the Germans of the low grade local networks.
The Soviet network had its highest density of rail in the west and by 1943 all they have left is the area around the hub of Moscow with one line running to Kharkov, one to Stalingrad and the Caucauses and 4 lines running to the Urals and Siberia. The Germans have the rails around the Donbass, the main lines from Brest to Smolensk and Rostov. So there is an argument that they controlled the better half of the network.

Regauging is not a serious problem after the initial advance as over and was expected to be carried out at 20km (Halder war diary) but in reality they achieved higher than this around 25km a day per Eisenbahn Battalion (Halder). Soviets achieved 30km a day with their Railway Brigades. He has 6 regiments of Eisenbahnpioniere so can allocate 2 battalions to each Army Group in 1941 (to convert their two main lines) with the rest being deployed to re-build bridges. Typically the railways are opened for the first train 2-6 weeks behind the advancing troops. By end of 1941 they had converted 15,000km (Pottgeisser) and by mid-end 1942 they had re-gauged all they wanted which was the above mentioned 30,000 km. Mid 1942 the first Ostbau programme starts to up grade key lines from 36 trains a day to 48 (Brest to Rostov line) and includes main and secondary lines using OT and engineers from the DRB brought in from Germany. Workforce at a maximum of 70,000 for a few months.

There is a difference in work force, the RVD+FEKdo employ 615,455 (1.1.1943 Pottgeisser) of whom 104,899 are German plus the Organisation Todt force (unable to get a figure of how many employed in Russia but the total for OT is around 1.8 million across Europe doing a whole variety of construction projects) plus 6 Regt Eisenbahnpioniere . The NKPS employed 2.7 million pre-war and around 4 million during the war (compared with 1.4 million in the Deutches Reichsbahn during the war) plus 30 brigades of railway troops (250,000 men on railway re-construction).

On their half of the network the Germans are running a small service as they only operate 4,671 locomotives and load 13,012 wagons daily (the DRB has 28,630 locomotives and loads 157,572 wagons daily (a good proportion of these are coal wagons for power stations) while the Soviets have 26,000 locos and load 45,700 wagons of freight daily) which perhaps shows the limited economic activity in the area and the fact that the flow was either from military supplies Germany into Russia or taking raw materials from Russia to Germany.

Re: German Railways in the East

Post by Der Alte Fritz » 17 Nov 2013, 10:27

The Ministry of Transport had direct control of "Ostbahns" and "Generalverkehrsdirektion Osten" (the railway administration in the Eastern territories). These German central government interventions in the affairs of the East Affairs by ministries were known as Sonderverwaltungen (special administrations).

This followed a pattern of administration followed since the annexation of Czechoslovakia.
The RVM (Reich Ministry of Transport) set up semi-independent railway operating companies under various titles:

HBD Haupteisenbahndirektion:
EBD Eisenbahnbetriebsdirektion (5 in Bohemia, 11 France, 1 Belgium)
HVD Hauptverkehrsdirektion (1 Belgium)

Gedob Generaldirektion der Ostbahn
OBD Ostbahn (betriebs) direktion (6 in the Government General)

GVD Generalverkehrsdirektion Osten
HBD Haupteisenbahndirektion / RVD Reichsverkehrsdirektion (5 in Russia)

WVD Wehrmachtsverkehrsdirektion
FEDko Feld-Eisenbahnkommando (Field Railway Commands - vary due to operational demand)

By and large the HBD's took over existing foreign railway companies and their rolling stock and staff such as the SNCF in France and simply put in a layer of management over the top to administer them. However this model did not work in Poland as the West of Poland was taken into the Reich and the railway sin this area were subsumed by the DRB. The railways in the Government General contained around 6,000km of track and some rolling stock but in line with racial policy towards Poland, a completely new company was set up and run by Germans. However they could not recruit enough railway men and so started to recruit Polish railway workers to actually do the manual work on the railway. Hans Frank's General-Gouvernement owned and ran the company and took the profits.

In Russia as in Poland, policy dictated the railway higher functions be run by Germans and Ukrainians, White Russians and Russians did the manual work but the railway never came under the control of the Reichskommissariats as it remained under military and then RVM control due to the continuing military operations. Haupteisenbahndirektion (HBD) Mitte and Reichsverkehrsdirektion (RVD) Mitte. Until January 1942, the HBD was under military control, even though its personnel consisted of railroad officials and employees. This control was exercised by the Oberkommando des Heeres (OKH)/Chef des Transportwesens (General Rudolf Gercke) through his Betriebsleitung Osten, under Ministerialdirigent Dr. Joseph Müller, in Warsaw. The HBD Mitte, which was one of several in the newly occupied territories of the USSR, was placed under the jurisdiction of the Transport Ministry in January 1942. The same transfer affected the other HBD's and the Betriebsleitung Osten became the Generalverkehrsdirektion (GVD) Osten.

Re: German Railways in the East

Post by Der Alte Fritz » 17 Nov 2013, 11:13

The difference between the Blau Eisenbahner and the Grau Eisenbahner was that the former worked for the HBD and the later were conscripted under military discipline and worked for the FEDko. The Eisenbahnpioniere - a military unit ran the railways in the zone of operations.

In all cases as far as I can discover the German personnel were drawn from the Deutches Reichsbahn - which lost men a) to the Wehrmacht in conscription (and provided men to the Eisenbahnpioniere) b) to the Wehrmacht FEDko (as para-military forces?) c) to the RVM to man the EBD and HDB. The DRB replaced these men as far as possible with retired DRB men and also women but later with the usual crop of forced labour as was common in German industry.

The DRB in 1.1.1942 had a workforce of 1,415,869 personnel but lost 7,000 to the Ostbahn and 104,899 (Pottgeisser) to GVD Osten but had to meet the extra work of wartime so these losses were not inconsiderable especially as they took the younger men.

Re: German Railways in the East

Post by Dieter Zinke » 19 Nov 2013, 19:24

I'm interested in the bio (and also a pic) of
Ministerialdirigent/Ministerialdirektor Dr. iur. Joseph (Josef ??) Müller !
* 06.11.1944 Weinheim
Was he a Wehrmachtbeamter in the rank of Generalmajor/Generalleutnant beim Chef des Transportwesens/OKH ??
Or was he a Ministerialdirigent/Ministerialdirektor of the Reichsbahn ?? Or did he hold both positions at the same time simultaneously ??

Anyway - he was decorated with the Ritterkreuz des Kriegsverdienstkreuzes (without swords) on 12.09.1944

Re: German Railways in the East

Post by Der Alte Fritz » 20 Nov 2013, 09:06

My understanding is that he would have been part of the Reich Ministry of Transport and Ministerialdirigent Dr. Josef Müller as the Eastern Railways were not part of the DRB and not part of the Heer either. However both Dorpmuller and Ganzenmüller held both Ministry of Transport and DRB posts at the same time (Ganzenmüller - Staatssekretär des Reichsverkehrsministeriums und stellvertretenden Generaldirektor der Reichsbahn.) so Müller was probably the same with the title Ministerialdirektor der Reichsbahn

There is this diagram from FMS D-139 Transportation in Russia - the original colouration has been lost but I have replaced it with what I think correct. The red lines show the civilian chain of command from Warsaw to the HBDs (marked Operating Divisions) and their mirrors in the military chain of command.

Re: German Railways in the East

Post by Der Alte Fritz » 20 Nov 2013, 09:15

The relationship between the DRB and the RVM is described here:

Mit dem Gesetz zur Neuregelung der Verhältnisse der Reichsbank und der Deutschen Reichsbahn vom 30. Januar 1937 übernahm das Reich die Reichsbahn wieder in seine direkte Verwaltung. Die bisherigen Reichsbahnvorstände wurden als Abteilungsleiter ins Ministerium übernommen, womit die Zahl der Abteilungen deutlich zunahm:
Verkehrs- und Tarifabteilung (E I, Leitung Paul Treibe)
Betriebs- und Bauabteilung (E II, Leitung Max Leibbrand)
Maschinentechnische und Einkaufsabteilung (E III, Leitung Werner Bergmann)
Finanz- und Rechtsabteilung (E IV, Leitung Alfred Prang)
Personalabteilung (E V, Leitung Hermann Osthoff)
Kraftverkehr (K, Leitung Ernst Brandenburg)
See- und Binnenschifffahrt (S, Leitung Max Waldeck)
Wasserbautechnik (W, Leitung Johannes Gährs)
Hinzu kamen zwei direkt dem Staatssekretär Wilhelm Kleinmann unterstehende Gruppen:
Gruppe A, Allgemeine Gruppe, für Personalfragen der höheren Beamten, internationale Angelegenheiten, Kabinettsangelegenheiten, Propaganda (Leitung Theodor Kittel)
Gruppe L, Landesverteidigung und Eisenbahnwehrmachtliche Angelegenheiten (Leitung Friedrich Ebeling)
Bis zum Ende des Zweiten Weltkriegs veränderte sich die Struktur nur mehr unwesentlich. 1940 wurde die Abteilung für See- und Binnenschifffahrt aufgeteilt, die neuen Abteilungen S I (Wirtschaftliche Führung der Seefahrt) und S II (Verbindung Seeschifffahrt-Marine) wurden dem Unterstaatssekretär Paul Wülfing von Ditten unterstellt, die Abteilung B leitete weiterhin Max Waldeck. Bereits 1939 neu eingerichtet und aus der Abteilung E II abgespalten wurde zudem eine Eisenbahn-Bauabteilung (E VI, Leitung Willy Meilicke), von 1940 bis 1942 durch eine zweite Bauabteilung E VII verstärkt.

With the Act revising the conditions of the Reichsbank and the Deutsche Reichsbahn of 30 January 1937 took over the kingdom of the Reichsbahn into its direct management. The former Reichsbahn board members were taken as a department head at the Ministry, bringing the number of departments increased significantly:
Transport and Tariff Department (EI, line Paul overuse )
Operating and construction division (E II, line Max Leibbrand )
Mechanical engineering and purchasing departments (E III, line Werner Bergmann )
Financial and Legal Division (E IV, line Alfred Prang )
Human Resources (EV line Hermann Osthoff )
Road transport (K, Ernst Brandenburg line)
Maritime and inland waterway (S, line Max Waldeck)
Hydraulic engineering (W, Conductor Johannes Gährs)
There were also two direct the Secretary Wilhelm Kleinmann Subordinate Groups:
Group A, Group General, Personnel Issues for the higher officials, International Affairs, Cabinet Affairs, Propaganda (Line Theodor coat )
Group L, national defense and Eisenbahnwehrmachtliche Affairs (line Frederick Ebeling )
By the end of World War II , the structure changed only marginally. 1940, the Department for sea and inland waterway transport has been divided, the new departments SI (Economic management of navigation) and S II (connection Maritime Navy) was the Undersecretary Paul Wülfing of Ditten assumed that Department B headed further Max Waldeck. In 1939 newly decorated and split off from the Department of E II is also a railway construction division (E VI, line was Willy ORGA ), 1940-1942 reinforced by a second building department E VII.

Re: German Railways in the East

Post by Der Alte Fritz » 21 Nov 2013, 21:22

Before proceeding to examine the performance of the HBD in Russia, I think it would be worth while to define some items. One of which is 'What is a "train" so:
Handbook on German Military Forces: TM-E-30-431

6. Supply Movement
a. RAILROAD SUPPLY TRAINS.
(1) Standard supply trains. German logistical manuals outline the use of standard rations, ammunition, and fuel supply trains with a maximum net load of 450 metric tons (or approximately 500 short tons)
on a standard gauge (4 feet 8 1/2 inches) railway. The text-book theory has generally been followed out in practice, although in some cases two or more locomotives have been sighted pulling unusually long fuel trains, and in some areas standard rations trains seldom are used. Standard equipment supply trains, with great variations in net loading weights, also are employed. In most cases, however, equipment of all kinds is loaded on the same train.
(2) Rations supply trains (Verpflegungszüge), with an average of 40 cars per train may be composed as follows:
(a) Iron rations: 300,000 full and 300,000 half iron rations, totalling 442 metric tons.
(b) Full rations with fodder: 180.000 human and 40,000 animal rations, amounting to 454 metric tons. These may be loaded into three parts, each containing 3 days' supplies for 20,000 men and 4,000 animals.
(c) Full human rations with no bread but only baking materials: 300,000 rations, totaling 450 metric tons.
(d) Flour train (Mehlzug): 833,000 rations, amounting to 450 metric tons.
(e) Oat train (Hafersug): 90,000 rations, totaling 450 metric tons.
(f) Animal trains (Viekzüge): 360 cattle weighing 180 metric tons, 1200 pigs weighing 120 metric tons, or 1800 sheep weighing 72 metric tons.
(3) Ammunition supply trains (Munitionszüge), with an average of 30 cars per train, are of three types:
(a) Unit-loaded trains, loaded according to the proportion of different types of ammunition needed by a particular division.
(b) Caliber unit trains, in which each car is loaded with approximately 15 metric tons (161/2 short tons) of ammunition of a specific caliber.
(c) Single caliber unit trains, in which all cars are loaded with ammunition of the same caliber.
(4) Fuel supply trains (Betriehstoffzüge) of two types are used:
(a) 20 gasoline tank cars, holding between 340 cubic meters (around 89,800 gallons) and 440 cubic meters (around 116,200 gallons) of fuel.
(b) 25 cars, holding gasoline in 200-liter (53-gallon) and 20-liter (5-gallon) cans and carrying 400 cubic meters (105,600 gallons) of gasoline, and five cars with oil, engine oil, gear oil, paraffin, and (in winter) anti-freeze barrels and cans.
(5) Horse supply trains (Pferdersatzzüge) consist of 55 cars, each holding eight riding or light draft horses per car or 440 horses per train six heavy draft horses per car or 330 horses per train or four very heavy horses per car or 220 horses per train.
(6) Signals and engineer construction materials trains (Baustoffzüge) average 40 cars, of which 39 are open cars, with a net tonnage of about 820 metric tons (900 short tons).
(7) Tank trains carrying up to 25 medium tanks or up to 8 heavy tanks have also been reported. The average number of cars per tank train is about 33, with widely varying net loads.
(8) Mixed equipment trains are very frequent and may contain from 25 to 60 cars with a total net tonnage of up to 850 metric tons.


The Jackboot

The jackboot and M35/40 helmet are the most symbolic and frequently shown items of the WWII German soldier. More than any other image, that of the black leather jackboot has been used to represent the conquest of Europe by the Third Reich.

As with my other posts, this will detail my cumulative observations over 30 years of handling, collecting, repairing and reproducing authentic WWII examples. Period documentation is scant, making this the best means of demonstrating what the boots actually used in the War were like.

History
The term “jackboot” is not a German one- it’s origin is unknown. The German military referred to them as Marschstiefel– Marching Boots. Although most people will christen any tall, black, pull-on boot a “jackboot”, the term more accurately applies to those with looser fitting shafts as opposed to the more fitted riding boots. Appearing in the latter 1800’s, the German military wore various styles of Marschstiefel into the 1970’s. Those used in both world wars were very similar in design, differing mainly in small details. In the 1930’s, the Reichswehr experimented with several alternative designs, but ultimately retained the previous style of boots. During WWII, the Schnurschuhe (Low boots) began to supplant the jackboots in an effort to conserve leather, but they were never entirely replaced.

Design
The jackboot is a pull-on boot, with a stitched & pegged main sole, pegged half sole, rear seam shaft, and stacked heel. Pegs and sole stitching were done both by hand or machine. Most were fitted with hobnails, heel irons and sometimes toe plates to prevent wear of the leather bottoms. Many had steel shanks, but not all.

1939 dated boots, unissued

The shaft height varied from 30cm-40cm with pre-War boots being generally taller.

Unissued SS boots made by Bata

The boots were manufactured in natural or brown leather, with the soldiers blacking and polishing them after issue.


WWII German Boot Sizing Table Sizing
Metric sizing (27, 28, 29, etc) was most common with the size representing the length of the last and, hence, the inside dimension. Some boots were sized in Paris points (49, 40, 41…) One Paris point equals 2/3 of a centimeter. Nine widths were made, represented by numerals 1-9. 1-3 were narrows, 4-6 regulars and 7-9 wides. Thus, a size 󈬍.5 6” equates to a US 11D. A 󈬍.5 2” would be an 11B and so forth.

One occasionally finds boots stamped with both size scales. This SS boot is marked both in metric 26 1/2, and Paris Points 39 3/4.

An extreme case of stamps…

The size was steel stamped on the sole in the arch, and usually steel stamped on the outside at the top of the shaft or collar, or roll stamped inside. Sometimes the size is also found inside on the heel pad. Maker names or codes, lot numbers, unit and/or Wehrkreis stamps are also commonly seen on the sole or inside the collar.

The SS
Yes, the Waffen SS had it’s own shoe production facilities. Whether or not they were able to supply the entire force or if they had to supplement their warehouses with boots made for the Heer is unknown. As far as I can see, there is no apparent pattern or design difference between Heer and SS marked jackboots.

Bata is a well known maker of SS boots

Vamp & Instep
On most, but not all jackboots, the vamp (toe) is made with the leather facing flesh side out. This is “rough” side of the hide. The reason for this is that the flesh side is considered more water repellent, a trait more important on field boots than how easy they were to shine.

The profile of the foot is determined mainly by the last used when assembling the boots. The look most sought after by modern enthusiasts are those with a sharp taper, referred to as a “shark nose toes”. Despite being very typical of authentic boots, this is by no means the one and only way they were made. On WWII boots the profile varies somewhat from this predator of the sea look, to rounder, more blunt shapes as well as a few with a decidedly square appearance. The majority of jackboots lack internal toe boxes.

Lastly, although most WWII boots are assembled with the tongue sewn on top of the shaft, a few are made with it underneath.

Shaft
The shaft is made from a single piece of leather, with an overlapping rear seam, sewn with multiple rows of stitches. Some have an internal strip inside for reinforcement, others do not. The heel cup is most always internal, sewn to the shaft, with the grain side facing the heel to prevent chaffing. The height of the shaft varies from 30-40cm, with the widest part generally at the top. On boots for mounted troops, the shafts are a bit taller, and top tapers back to more closely fit the calf.

The shaft circumference varies. Most boots have an outer circumference of 16-18 inches. However, varying sizes must have been made due to the different sizes of calves on soldiers. On East German (NVA) boots, I have encountered a few stamped “Breitschaft” inside the top, and these had shafts 3-6cm larger than other boots. So far I have not found any such markings in WWII boots, but there must have been something soldiers with thicker legs.

The boots are all equipped with two pull straps. The most typical material found is 40mm wide black HBT tape.

Example of a leather pull

Other colors of webbing or tape, as well as leather are sometimes found.

Soles
Die cut leather soles were used on nearly every German WWII boot. The full sole was usually attached first, then the heel and half sole are nailed and pegged onto it. On some WWII (and WW1) boots, the half sole is under the main sole. This prevents the separation that sometimes occurs where the boot bends, but it also makes it necessary to replace the entire main sole if the boot becomes heavily worn. When the full sole is attached, two angled channels were cut in the full sole, pulled open, and the stitches were then made in these troughs. When done, they are pushed back together (and likely glued). This is why the sole stitches are often not visible- just the two lines or “seams”. Then they are pegged by hand or pegging machine.

The stitching channels are just inboard from the outer edges of the soles. The humps in the arches are from the steel shanks.

Most original boots appear to have been assembled with steel shanks- this causes the lengthwise hump in the arch of the sole. If this is flat, then there is likely no shank.

Finally, nails are driven downward through the sole into the heel so it is actually attached from both top and bottom.

Metal
Most boots were fitted with steel hobnails and heel irons. Contrary to some social media historian foolishness, these were not for traction or use in close combat, but rather to extend the life of the boots. Marching 20 miles or more every day will rapidly wear leather soles and heels out. The metal was to prevent this- the nails and irons bore the brunt of the wear, and were to be replaced once they were worn down. Theoretically, if this was done properly, a pair of boots could last practically forever.

Hobnails were attached to the boots in rows, typically 5. The number of nails varies depending on the individual contractor, the size of the boots and possibly the mood of the worker putting them on. 35-40 nails per boots was the norm.

A size 26 1/2 (left) compared to a size 32 1/2 (right)

The hobnails came in a variety of sizes and shapes. Nails with 6 sided heads, 1cm in diameter and double prongs seem to be most commonly installed “factory” type. The double prong design works like a clinching nail- when hammered in, the prongs spread and curl, thus locking them in, a bit like a fish hook. The single prong hobnails one commonly finds today were replacements- they don’t require the special punch to make the starter hole and they help prevent the same hole from being reused.

Heel irons came in two styles. Factory boots most often use heel irons with nailing points offset from the rims. The nail heads themselves are then covered with a leather or rubber insert nailed into the heel. This style of irons prevent the nail heads from being worn away, but they are more difficult to manufacture. Many boots are also fitted with standard horse shoe type irons with the nails driven directly through the rims. Both styles were used. Many heel irons have their size stamped into their surface- 15, 16, 17 and so forth. Occasionally one finds it irons also specified for right or left as well. The number represents the measure in centimeters of the outer diameter of the rim of the heel they fit.

Toe irons are found on some boots. Most are a half moon shaped plate, attached with 3-5 nails. Some are sized 3, 4, 5, while others unmarked.

Screws are sometimes encountered (rather than nails) being used to attach toe and heel irons.

Leather
Marschstiefel and Schnurschuhe were both typically made from vegetable tanned, 2mm-3mm thick cow or horsehide leather, with the color ranging from nearly white to various medium browns.

Leather quality
Unlike officer boots, the issue boot production utilized all cuts of leather. In the leather industry, an animal hide is divided into 3 basic sections, or cuts. The back and butt is the highest quality area of the hide- it’s the thickest, hardest and least wrinkled. It’s often referred to as “Croupon” in WWII Europe. One encounters “croupon” stamped on some custom made boots, belts and other officer gear to indicate that the leather came only from the premium cut. Next is the 2nd cut, from the neck and shoulder area- usually equally tough, but often with large wrinkles and humps. The 3rd cut is from the flank or belly- this tends to be even more wrinkled and can be soft and spongy.


SS marked boot, with entire shaft made of belly leather. The wrinkles at the ankle are the due to the leather itself- the boot is unworn. The seam approximately halfway up the shaft is from a thinner piece of leather used to help firm up the soft shaft.

Nearly all of my original boots have some amount of belly leather evident. For boots, even this 3rd cut works fine, despite its uneven appearance. This is normally used on shafts and uppers rather than toes and vamps. It’s not uncommon to find jackboots with a thin lining in one or both shafts- this is usually due to belly have been used so they use a thin layer of split leather to stiffen it. The Germans have been the champions of thrift for decades- and their gear often demonstrates this.

Cookie-cutter fantasies
Some collectors and many reenactors live in a fantasy world where every boot (helmet, jacket, glove, etc) used during WWII was made to the same exacting specification and matched perfectly. A good example is the famous “shark nosed toe” fetish. In reality, boots issued to German troops came in numerous variations- keep in mind, that the vast majority of European shoe manufacturers, large and small, were contracted by the German government to make boots- millions of them.

Wolverine nose…very much original

“Wrong” heel irons, no shanks, leather pulls…all original.
Sorry Facebook History Fact Fanboys. Your narrative wasn’t relevant 1943.

Add to that the enormous stockpiles of footwear captured from other armies (mainly lowboots) that were very similar to those of the Wehrmacht and were also handed out and worn. Even with the famous jackboots, many details vary- to include the last shape which determines the toe profile- meaning many real German soldiers did not have sharks on their feet. Some had rounded toes, like manatees, and other were boxier, a bit like wolverine snout. That sounds almost as intimidating as a shark doesn’t it?


At the Site of Germany’s Biggest World War II Battle, a Changing View of History

SEELOW, Germany — In the best mellow spirit of modern Germany, the local authorities in Seelow wanted to build a bike path so the increasing number of tourists could expand their rides across the tranquil flat plain of the Oder River and into neighboring Poland.

This being the site of the biggest World War II battle on German soil, a team was chosen to scour the proposed bike path route for abandoned ordnance. Soon they turned up not munitions, but a mass grave, with the remains of as many as 28 Soviet soldiers.

The finding, in May, confirmed once more the blood-soaked nature of the Oder plain, where tens of thousands of soldiers on the Soviet and Nazi sides perished in the April 1945 battle for the Seelow Heights. The rocky outcrop rises just 100 meters above the plain, about 325 feet, but it gave some 80,000 Germans sufficient cover to dig in and slaughter many of the up to one million Soviet troops sent in waves to overwhelm the enemy and clear the way to Berlin.

This history has never ceased to leave its mark, making Seelow a showcase for that unfailing truth of war: To the victors go the spoils, especially the chance to impose their version of events.

After the Allies crushed Hitler, Seelow Heights became a showcase for Stalin. Two Soviet sculptors, Lev Kerbel and Vladimir Zigal, created a bronze statue of a Red Army soldier, gazing mournfully toward his homeland, said the monument’s director, Kerstin Niebsch.

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The figure conveys a “more in sorrow than anger” mood while leaving no doubt of superiority — moral and military — as it towers over the land of vanquished Nazi Germany. Below the statue and the cliff where it is mounted stand the neat graves of 66 fallen Soviet soldiers, as young as 19, with headstones bearing black stars, not the usual Communist red.

It is a powerful sight, bordered by trees and a stunning view of the plain where these men met their deaths. As Ms. Niebsch noted to several visitors on a recent Sunday, it is a spot that shows just how worthless human life can become. “Even really hardened men,” like a recent group of officers from Georgia, the former Soviet republic, “swallow hard.”

Next in the layers of history to peel back is the East German period, 1972 to 1989. As the Soviets in general somewhat relaxed their grip on the Communist state in Germany, control of Seelow’s memorial site passed then to the local authorities.

A museum was built of wood logs and small windows with iron grids, an echo of the trenches the Nazis dug before the Soviet charge. The East German Army held elaborate swearing-in ceremonies here, complete with torchlight parades.

The emphasis was on unbreakable Soviet-East German friendship. Red marble gravestones with the names of fallen Soviet soldiers were moved in next to the 1945 cemetery.

In a sign of the bungling that eventually led East Germany’s Communists to their fall, the remains of the Soviet veterans named on those headstones were not transferred here in the 1970s, but only in 2006 after the mistake came to light.

The East Germans also proudly displayed one of the powerful lights Marshal Georgi P. Zhukov used to illuminate the battlefield when he ordered his troops to advance in the predawn hours of April 16, 1945.

It was only after the fall of the Berlin Wall that it was openly admitted that those lights, instead of aiding the Soviet charge, in fact blinded the Red Army and highlighted Soviet silhouettes for the Nazis to shoot at because of light reflecting off clouds of battlefield smoke.

Despite his long-concealed blunders, Marshal Zhukov did eventually prevail, and took Berlin, albeit a week after Stalin’s target of May 1, the International Day of Labor.

Today, Seelow Heights reflects the post-Communist unease of a Cold War that has passed but left unfinished business.

In Russia, where political changes have long rendered the past unpredictable, the Orthodox Church, which survived atheist Communism, has emerged as a staunch supporter of honoring fallen Soviet soldiers, as a display near a magnificent dark marble Orthodox cross explains.

Like other embassies of the old Allied forces in Berlin, Russia’s maintains an attaché for war graves and the hundreds of Soviet graveyards in Germany.

Despite the many problems in the West’s dealings with the Kremlin these days, cooperation between Germans and Russians — volunteers and officials — is intact, contributing to yet another view of the significance of Seelow, as a symbol of reconciliation.

Yevgeny A. Aleshin, the Russian attaché for war graves, said he hoped the bodies found in May would be buried with due ceremony next year in a nearby cemetery. Several hundred bodies are discovered or reburied each year in this region, he noted.

Since reunification, Germany has carved out a reputation for confronting its history. The telling of the war’s chaos and horror has accorded a big role to witnesses like Günter Debski, 89, who visit schools and recount tales backed up, in his case, by carefully preserved scraps of paper, photos and a piece of shrapnel retrieved from the remnants of a backpack that saved his life.

Mr. Debski survived several brushes with death in 1945. He was forced to fight for the Nazis, was captured by the Red Army, marched to the Russian border at Brest and was then freed to make his own way back to Berlin. Eventually, he was police chief for 10 years in the East German city of Eisenhüttenstadt.

As he sat one recent morning in a local hotel, his stories sent a chill through the sunlit room.

“All of a sudden, it just erupted,” he said of the Soviet charge on Seelow Heights on April 16, 1945. “There was shooting. Everything shuddered, I just could not imagine what was happening. I thought, perhaps an earthquake. Nothing resembled it — perhaps only the bombing in Dresden,” he said, referring to the Allied air assault there in February 1945, which he also witnessed.

Unforgettable, Mr. Debski said, was the loud “hurrah” with which the Soviets charged despite the German artillery fire.

What will happen to history when the last survivors die is a big and unanswered question. Bored teenagers and other children seen in three recent visits to Seelow Heights suggested a need for a more lively 21st century presentation than the static and detailed written displays that are a staple of Germany’s painstaking chronicling of the Nazi or Communist past.

Older visitors, while too young to have known the war or the Holocaust, know why they have come to Seelow.

“Many people died here,” said Benjamin Langhammer, 54, a musician from Erfurt who had visited once 10 years ago with his father and was now stopping off during a solo bike tour.

“We had a lot of history told us” during Communist East German times, he noted. “And you always know you are only getting half the story, the one the winners tell.”

It was important to correct distortions, he said. Although “as a German, the last thing you should do is try to lecture someone else. Right?”


PHOTOS: What the Imminent German Return of Pillaged Artifacts Means for Nigerian History

*YAOUNDÉ, Cameroon — People in the West African nation of Nigeria are excited about Germany’s decision to send back valuable artifacts looted from ancestors by British soldiers and sailors during the European colonization of Africa.

Known as the Benin Bronzes, the priceless artworks—made of brass and bronze—are a group of sculptures including elaborately decorated cast plagues, commemorative heads, animal and human figures, items of royal regalia, and personal ornaments.

The Linden Museum is among several museums in Germany that have items known as Benin Bronzes in their collections, as do other museums across the world. (Thomas Niedermueller/Getty Images)

They are named after the historical Kingdom of Benin, which is in present-day Edo State in southern Nigeria.

The decision to return the artifacts follows a compromise reached by a consortium known as the Benin Dialogue Group, which brings together the Nigerian government, the Edo State government, the Royal Court of Benin, and museum directors from Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

“The participants agree that addressing German’s colonial past is an important issue for the whole society and a core task for cultural policy,” German culture minister Monika Grütters said in a statement on April 29.

German authorities recently announced that German museums will return their Benin Bronzes to Nigeria beginning next year, the first commitment with a timetable by a government to do so. (Thomas Niedermueller/Getty Images)

The statement followed an emergency meeting held by German officials on how to handle the fate of the Benin Bronzes, thousands of which are in several museum collections across the nation.

“In addition to the greatest possible transparency, we aim for substantial returns,” Grütters said. “In this way, we would like to contribute to understanding and reconciliation with the descendants of the people who were robbed of their cultural treasures during the colonial era.”

The first restitution of the Nigerian artifacts will begin next year.

“We are in support of returning the artifacts because it is part of our history,” Prince Aderemi Ajibola, a cultural enthusiast and social activist in Nigeria, told Zenger News. “Because it is history and culture that defines every community or nation.”

“Conscience is an open wound, and only the truth can heal it. Germany’s conscience has chosen the right path in returning the looted artifacts because they did not belong to them. They could never stand as their history. It can only [show the] historical side of a raid on innocent people in a foreign land.”

British soldiers stole thousands of Benin Bronzes, priceless artifacts made of brass, wood, or ivory, in a raid in 1897 from the Kingdom of Benin, located in present-day Nigeria. (Thomas Niedermueller/Getty Images)

In Germany’s capital, Berlin, the Ethnological Museum harbors many artifacts from the ancient Nigerian Kingdom, numbering 530 in total, 440 of which are bronzes.

The British Museum is home to at least 900 similar masterpieces.

The bronzes are viewed as among the best artifacts produced in Africa. Individual pieces have sold for millions of dollars at auctions abroad.

“Africa is the cradle of humanity,” Willibroad Dze-Ngwa, a political history and international studies professor at the University of Yaounde I in Cameroon, told Zenger News.

Carved elephant tusks looted by British soldiers from the Kingdom of Benin in 1897 are displayed in the “Where Is Africa” exhibition at the Linden Museum in Stuttgart, Germany. (Thomas Niedermueller/Getty Images)

“It is common knowledge that all colonial masters, whenever they found anything in Africa, were amazed about its origin and had to steal them. Other European countries have been returning these items covertly. Germany is doing it openly, which is welcome.”

“The return of African artifacts, particularly the Nigerian ones, will revalorize the items and give Africans, in general, a sense of craftsmanship.”

“It is the beginning of the recognition of Western powers that some European countries pilfered not only artifacts but also other precious items from Africa,” Dze-Ngwa said.

A 19th-century ivory, ceremonial hip mask in honor of Queen Mother Idia and looted by British soldiers from the Kingdom of Benin in 1897 hangs on display in the “Where Is Africa” exhibition at the Linden Museum, in Stuttgart, Germany. (Thomas Niedermueller/Getty Images)

History has it that in 1897, the Kingdom of Benin was attacked by the British, culminating in the king’s exile, the razing down of the city, and the looting of art objects.

Germany bought some 1,100 of the pilfered bronzes.

Repeated demands by the Kingdom of Benin to reclaim the bronzes after the British invasion met a brick wall, and so did efforts by the Nigerian government since achieving independence in 1960.

Sculptures looted by British soldiers from the Kingdom of Benin in 1897 are displayed in the “Where Is Africa” exhibition at the Linden Museum in Stuttgart, Germany. (Thomas Niedermueller/Getty Images)

The city of Benin in southern Nigeria is still littered with bronzes, as was the case during the precolonial era, said Ajibola. It is a craft handed down from generation to generation.

A project known as the Edo Museum of West African Art is afoot to house artifacts from the region.

Retired Cameroonian anthropologist Paul Nchoji Nkwi said bringing back stolen African artifacts is one thing, but putting up suitable facilities to house them is a different challenge.

A general view of Linden Museum in Stuttgart. The Museum has been a participant in the Benin Dialogue Group to participate in the planning of the new Royal Museum in Benin City. (Thomas Niedermueller/Getty Images)

“Countries that have been receiving the artifacts must possess adequate facilities or museums for their preservation,” Nkwi told Zenger News.

“It would be needless if these artifacts are brought to Africa and not properly curated and preserved. It is not just sending back the artifact, but the history, the social culture, and the spirit of these objects must be brought out. That is, using the artifacts as educational tools to teach our children the glorious past of our ancestors.”


Each Man Carried Field Dressings, Rations, Benzedrine Tablets, a 9mm Automatic Pistol, a Knife, and Grenades During the Descent.

Constant training and indoctrination fostered an esprit de corps that instilled fierce loyalty, high morale, and an aggressive self- confidence in the men, deemed the “parachutist’s spirit.” The troopers were proud to display the golden plunging eagle badge of the parachute forces on their uniforms and believed themselves to be superior to any other soldiers.

/>In battle, the Fallschirmjager, whose average age was only 18, wore a distinctive rimless helmet and long blue-gray smock over their webbing to avoid tangling equipment on the static line inside the aircraft. The men were transported to their drop zones aboard an 18-man, three-engine Junkers 52/3M transport or in the DFS 230 glider, which could carry nine fully equipped troopers.

The standard parachute was a half-globe design that opened automatically via the static line hooked on a cable in the aircraft. These parachutes did not have shroud lines and were difficult to guide. So, to drop accurately and avoid scattering, operations were to be conducted at no more than 400 feet in winds less than 14 mph.

Each man carried field dressings, rations, Benzedrine tablets, a 9mm automatic pistol, a knife, and grenades during the descent. One man in four carried a machine pistol. Supplies, rifles, and other heavy weapons would descend alongside the men in canisters fitted with special smoke markers for quick recovery and distribution.

Fire and movement coupled with an eagerness to close with the enemy were the hallmarks of the paratrooper. In battle, their mere presence commanded instant respect from their enemies. General Sir John Hackett, an airborne officer himself who had fought against the paratroopers at Monte Cassino and Arnhem, found them to be the most fiercely determined German soldiers he ever encountered many others regarded them as the finest light infantry in military history.


The German Perspective

These past twenty days have been quite the whirlwind adventure. I’ve seen London, Normandy, Paris, and I’m finishing this amazing journey in Berlin. I’ve made wonderful friends, been to the most amazing places in these cities (sometimes going underneath them) and I have gained a much better understanding of the age I’ve been devoting my History Major to since I enrolled at Ohio State.

But the greatest revelation has probably been how each country treats the war and their role in it. America has seen it as “The Good War,” where American soldiers valiantly fought for freedom and democracy. The Russians saw it as a patriotic war where they defeated the fascist forces in a clash of ideologies. The British saw it as a war of survival where they beat back an enemy poised to invade their land and destroy them. The French have dealt with the subject by trying to downplay their role as collaborators and instead focus on their role as resistors. And the Japanese have somehow gotten it into their heads that they were forced into the war and came out the greatest victims of it.

But what of the Germans? What is the attitude of the nation that thrust the world into the Second World War and manufactured one of the worst tragedies in modern history? That was probably my biggest question as we went to the German Historical Museum and the Topography of Terror Museum this past Saturday. What I found has been quite interesting: the Germans have tried to both admit their role in the war and at the same time detach themselves from it.

Let me explain this more in depth: the German Historical Museum, the Topography of Terror museum, and Sachsenhausen Prison Camp all carry the reminders, in photos and exhibits and the very buildings themselves, that Germany was the perpetrator of horrific crimes during the Nazi era. However, the focus has seemed to be on the individuals who were part of the Nazi machine, not on the German people themselves. This seems to me that perhaps the German historians, or whoever hired those historians, are trying to excuse the German people and their contemporary descendants of the guilt that has probably plagued the descendants of those who had a direct hand in the war and in the Holocaust.

Although I can understand the idea behind such a detachment—who would want to basically tell children that their ancestors perpetrated horrific deeds in the name of a racist ideology?—I’m not sure ethically it’s the right thing to do. On the one hand, the ancestors of many of today’s Germans were probably just soldiers or civilians. They may not have had that big a role in the horrible tragedies of the past. On the other hand, it can’t be denied that at the very least many citizens of Germany went along with the Nazi agenda and at the very worst outright supported it. Acknowledging that has been an important part of Germany ensuring that such tragedies as the Holocaust never again come to pass.

My first view of Sachsenhausen, a place of overwhelming despair.

Then again, German children usually visit Holocaust-related places at least twice before they finish school, so maybe that does more than any statement condemning the German people in full for World War II and the Final Solution to prevent another war or genocide or even just a fascist state from rising.

In the end, though, the thing we must take away is that Germany can’t escape its past, and that it’ll live with it until probably the end of the Earth itself. At the very least, it may ensure that the Germans and all other peoples who’ve been held accountable for the horrors of genocide will remember what has happened and not let it happen again.

Now here’s one more question: what do the Chinese think about the Second World War? Half the time they were fighting the Japanese, and half the time they were fighting each other, depending on their political allegiances. What do they think of The Good War?


Incredible battlefield relics of the Eastern Front

Germany and Russia both lost much of their territory as a result of World War I, though Russia suffered the most. Russia made peace with Germany in 1918, at the cost of Poland, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia and Finland. After the war, these land became independent nations. When Germany was defeated by the Allies, it was forced to give parts of Prussia to the newly created Republic of Poland.

After the war, both Nazi Germany and the government of Russia both wanted their lands back, which meant destroying Poland. Even though the German Fascist and Russian Communist governments hated each other, they came to an agreement over Poland in August 1939. The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, named after the diplomats who negotiated it, agreed that neither country would attack the other for ten years. There was also a secret clause in the agreement that divided Poland between Russia and Germany. Germany agreed that Russia should have all the territory it had lost in World War I.

In September 1939 Hitler invaded Poland. As Germany advanced into Poland from the west, Russia invaded from the east.

In June 1941 Germany broke the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and invaded Russia. The colossal struggle between these two great powers lasted until May 1945. It was one of the largest, bloodiest and most destructive events of history. Though it looked for a while as if the Russians might be defeated, they ultimately pushed the Germans back, all the way to Berlin.

It is to be wondered if all this horror might have been avoided if the leaders of the world had paid attention to the words of Adolf Hitler. He was quite open about his intentions. On August 11, 1939, he had told Carl Burkhardt, a Commissioner to the League of Nations ‘Everything I undertake is directed against the Russians. If the West is too stupid and blind to grasp this, then I shall be compelled to come to an agreement with the Russians, beat the West and then after their defeat turn against the Soviet Union with all my forces. I need the Ukraine so that they can’t starve us out, as happened in the last war.’

As we all know, the Eastern Front was a gigantic battlefield and comes no surprise as to the amount or relics lost and buried on this battlefield. The images below are just a ‘few’ from the Facebook page The Ghosts of the Eastern Front. There is always a debate to the digging of battlefields and that will continue forever. If you are a collector then you can buy relics from their website www.kurlandmilitaria.com

There aren’t any caption to the images as we think they don’t need any. A picture paints a thousand words………..

The two powers invaded and partitioned Poland in 1939. After Finland refused the terms of a Soviet pact of mutual assistance, the Soviet Union attacked Finland on 30 November 1939 in what became known as the Winter War – a bitter conflict that resulted in a peace treaty on 13 March 1940, with Finland maintaining its independence but losing parts of eastern Karelia. In June 1940, the Soviet Union occupied and illegally annexed the three Baltic states—an action in violation of the Hague Conventions (1899 and 1907) and numerous bi-lateral conventions and treaties signed between the Soviet Union and Baltics. The annexations were never recognized by most Western states.

The Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact ostensibly provided security to Soviets in the occupation of both the Baltics and the north and north eastern regions of Romania (Northern Bukovina and Bessarabia) although Hitler, in announcing the invasion of the Soviet Union, cited the Soviet annexations of Baltic and Romanian territory as having violated Germany’s understanding of the Pact. The annexed Romanian territory was divided between the Ukrainian and Moldavian Soviet republics.

End of the War: April–May 1945

All that was left for the Soviets to do was to launch an offensive to capture central Germany (which would eventually become East Germany after the war). The Soviet offensive had two objectives. Because of Stalin’s suspicions about the intentions of the Western Allies to hand over territory occupied by them in the post-war Soviet zone of occupation, the offensive was to be on a broad front and was to move as rapidly as possible to the west, to meet the Western Allies as far west as possible. But the overriding objective was to capture Berlin. The two were complementary because possession of the zone could not be won quickly unless Berlin was taken. Another consideration was that Berlin itself held strategic assets, including Adolf Hitler and part of the German atomic bomb program.

The offensive to capture central Germany and Berlin started on 16 April with an assault on the German front lines on the Oder and Neisse rivers. After several days of heavy fighting the Soviet 1BF and 1UF punched holes through the German front line and were fanning out across central Germany. By 24 April, elements of the 1BF and 1UF had completed the encirclement of the German capital and the Battle of Berlin entered its final stages. On 25 April the 2BF broke through the German 3rd Panzer Army’s line south of Stettin. They were now free to move west towards the British 21st Army Group and north towards the Baltic port of Stralsund. The 58th Guards Rifle Division of the 5th Guards Army made contact with the US 69th Infantry Division of the First Army near Torgau, Germany at the Elbe river.

On 29 and 30 April, as the Soviet forces fought their way into the centre of Berlin, Adolf Hitler married Eva Braun and then committed suicide by taking cyanide and shooting himself. Helmuth Weidling, defence commandant of Berlin, surrendered the city to the Soviets on 2 May. Altogether, the Berlin operation (16 April – 2 May) cost the Red Army 361,367 casualties (dead, wounded, missing and sick) and 1,997 tanks and assault guns. German losses in this period of the war remain impossible to determine with any reliability.


Watch the video: WW2: Ardennes Offensive Intense Footage