Operation Spring Awaking, Frühlingserwachen (6 March 1945 – 16 March 1945) was the last major German offensive launched during World War II and was an offensive begun by the Germans in great secrecy on 6 March 1945. They launched attacks in Hungary near the Lake Balaton area on the Eastern Front. This area included some of the last oil reserves still available to the Axis. The operation involved many German units withdrawn from the failed Ardennes Offensive on the Western Front, including the 6th SS Panzer Army and the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler . Almost inevitably, Operation Spring Awakening was a failure for the German Army. Despite early gains, the operation was a perfect example of Hitler’s increasingly poor military judgement toward the end of the war. Its chief flaw was that the offensive was far too ambitious in scope.
After the failure of Operation Spring Awakening, Josef “Sepp” Dietrich’s 6th SS Panzer Army retreated in stages to the Vienna area. The Germans desperately prepared defensive positions in an attempt to hold the city against the fast arriving Soviets, in what become known as the Vienna Offensive.
This debacle is famous for the notorious Ärmelstreifen (Cuff Titles Order) or “armband order” which is said to have followed. The order was issued by Hitler to the commander of the 6th SS Panzer Army, Sepp Dietrich. It was issued when it was evident that 6th SS Panzer and, more importantly, the LSSAH had failed him. However, one must remember this so-called failure was in the face of numerically superior forces of the Red Army. Hitler claimed that the troops “did not fight as the situation demanded. As a mark of disgrace, the units involved were ordered to remove their “Adolf Hitler” cuff titles.
When Hitler instructed Himmler to deliver the order personally, he equivocated and sent the “armband order” via telegram instead. In the field Sepp Dietrich was disgusted by Hitler’s order. Dietrich told SS-Obersturmbannführer Maier that the armbands “…would stay on.” Further that the telegram would not be passed on to the troops. A myth arose that a pile of medals was returned in a chamber pot to Hitler, in the same manner as found in the Goethe play Götz von Berlichingen. In fact, most organisational cuff titles had already been removed to help camouflage Operation Spring Awakening; Heinz Wilhelm Guderian later wrote that the removal of unit cuffs from the Leibstandarte,Totenkopf, Hohenstaufen, and the Das Reich Divisions was accomplished for security reasons.
Part of the LSSAH ended its days fighting in Berlin. On 23 April 1945, Hitler appointed Brigadeführer Wilhelm Mohnke the commander for the central government district (Zitadelle sector) that included the Reich Chancellery and Führerbunker.
Mo Mohnke’s command post was under the Reich Chancellery in the bunkers therein. He formed Kampfgruppe Mohnke which was divided into two weak regiments made up of approximately 2,000 men. The core group of his fighting men were the 800 of the Leibstandarte Guard Battalion (assigned to guard the Führer). After Hitler’s suicide, they received orders to break out. Prior to the attempt, Mohnke briefed all commanders who could be reached within the Zitadelle sector about the events as to Hitler’s death and the planned breakout. It started at 2300 hours on 1 May. It was a “fateful moment” for Mohnke as he left the Reich Chancellery for he had been the first duty officer of the LSSAH at the building and was now leaving as the last operational commander in the same place. He led the first of ten main groups and attempted to head northwest towards Mecklenburg. Several very small groups managed to reach the Americans at the Elbe’s west bank, but most, including Mohnke’s group, could not get through the Soviet lines. Many were taken prisoner and some committed suicide. On 2 May hostilities officially ended by order of Helmuth Weidling , Commandant of the Berlin Defence Area. Weidling died on 17 November 1955, age 63, apparently in the custody of the KGB in Vladimir. KGB records listed the cause of death as “arterial and cardiac sclerosis along with circulatory collapse”
After Vienna was captured, the bulk of the LSSAH division surrendered to US forces in the Steyr area on 8 May 1945. The demarcation line between the Soviets and US troops was Enns. Therefore, the roads to Enns were jammed with civilians and soldiers as they hurried to get to the west before the 0100 hours deadline on 9 May when the bridges over the river would be blocked. The men of the LSSAH who made it west were marched off to different Prisoner of War camps. Most of the them went to those in the vicinity of Ebensee.