The Battle Of Berlin: What Happened And How Hitler Was Finally Defeated

By | October 1, 2020

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( Commons)

As brutal and gruesome as World War II was, the most vicious of the fighting was saved for its final days. In the Battle of Berlin, the Soviet Army pounced on the German stronghold and turned the city into rubble with no care for human life, property, or even art. As Hitler hid underground and Berliners braced for the worst, the full horror of war was on display in this final push to defeat the Nazis.

The Last Days Of World War II

At the onset of the Battle of Berlin on April 16, 1945, Hitler was living in a dreamworld in his underground bunker. After hearing about the death of FDR, he thought that it was only a matter of time before the Allies fell apart and his Nazi scientists came up with some kind of super weapon. Against the wishes of his advisors, he stayed in Berlin. He was kidding himself: The end of the war was in sight, and with supplies and resources dwindling in Germany, the Nazis readied themselves for a gruesome final stand against the Allies.

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(Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1985-092-29/Woscidlo, Wilfried /CC-BY-SA 3.0/Wikimedia Commons)

The Race To Berlin

Every country in the Allied powers wanted to get to Berlin first in spring 1945, but the U.S., Britain, and Russia were most keen. Taking the crown jewel of Germany wouldn't just put a full stop to the war; it would grant whichever country pulled it off bragging rights for years to come. The U.S. military fought through the German countryside until they reached Nuremberg, where the teenage members of the Hitler Youth kept them at bay for four days straight until the city fell on April 20. From there, they headed to Berlin, and along the way, they uncovered over 100 concentration camps, including Buchenwald and Flossenburg, littered with charred skulls, piles of personal effects, and crematoriums filled with hair and teeth.

With U.S. forces poised to take Berlin, then–Allied Supreme Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower made a bold move: He ordered his troops to stand down 50 miles outsides the city, allowing the Soviets to take it instead. Knowing that Berlin would be handed over to the Soviet Union anyway, he was committed to keeping his casualties as low as possible.