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. Beginning on 12 January 1945, the Red Army breached the German front as a result of the Vistula-Oder Offensive and advanced westward as much as 40 kilometres (25 miles) a day through East Prussia, Lower Silesia , East Pomeria, and Upper Silesia, temporarily halting on a line 60 km (37 mi) east of Berlin along the Oder River. When the offensive resumed, two Soviet fronts, army groups attacked Berlin from the east and south, while a third overran German forces positioned north of Berlin. The battle within the city lasted from 20 April until the morning of 2 May.
The three Soviet fronts had altogether 2.5 million men (including 78,556 soldiers of the 1st Polish Army), 6,250 tanks, 7,500 aircraft, 41,600 artillery pieces and mortars, 3,255 truck-mounted Katyusha rocket launchers (nicknamed ‘Stalin’s Pipe Organs’), and 95,383 motor vehicles, many manufactured in the US
The first defensive preparations at the outskirts of Berlin were made on 20 March, when the newly appointed commander of Army Group Vistula, General Gotthard Heinrici, correctly anticipated that the main Soviet thrust would be made over the Oder River. Before the main battle in Berlin commenced, the Soviets managed to encircle the city as a result of their success in the battles of the Seelow Heights and Halbe. During 20 April 1945, the 1st Belorussian Front led by Marshal Georgy Zhukov started shelling Berlin’s city centre, while Marshal Ivan Konev’s 1st Ukrainian Front had pushed from the south through the last formations of Army Group Centre under Generalfeldmarschall der Gebirgstruppe, Ferdinand Schörner. The German defences, roughly 45,000 soldiers, were mainly led by Helmuth Weidling and consisted of several depleted, badly equipped, and disorganised Wehrmacht and Waffen SS divisions, the latter of which included many SS foreign volunteers, many French, Dutch, Belgium, as well as poorly trained Volkssturm and Hitler Youth members. Within the next few days, the Soviets rapidly advanced through the city and reached the city centre where close-quarters combat raged. Helmuth Weidling died in captivity on 17-11-1955, age 64 in Russia.
Before the battle was over, German Führer Adolf Hitler and a number of his followers committed suicide. The city’s defenders finally surrendered on 2 May; however, fighting continued to the north-west, west, and south-west of the city until the end of the war in Europe on 8 May (9 May in the Soviet Union) as German units fought westward so that they could surrender to the Western Allies rather than to the Soviets.
Soviet forces sustained 81,116 dead for the entire operation, which included the battles of Seelow Heights and the Halbe; another 280,251 were reported wounded or sick during the operational period.[h] The operation also cost the Soviets about 1,997 tanks and SPGs. Krivosheev noted: “All losses of arms and equipment are counted as irrecoverable losses, i.e. beyond economic repair or no longer serviceable”. Soviet estimates based on kill claims placed German losses at 458,080 killed and 479,298 captured, but German research puts the number of dead at approximately 92,000 – 100,000. The number of civilian casualties is unknown, but 125,000 are estimated to have perished during the entire operation