The heroic resistance of the Hitler Youth at Pichelsdorf bridge, Berlin

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sandeepmukherjee196
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The heroic resistance of the Hitler Youth at Pichelsdorf bridge, Berlin

Post by sandeepmukherjee196 » 27 Nov 2014 05:14

Hi everybody,

It is common knowledge that the German defences at Berlin in April 1945 had not been manned, equipped and organised well. These had been neglected for a long time since the very idea of retreat from the Oder front was a taboo. All available resources had been deployed at the Oder.

This matter had been made further complicated due to the conspiracy of the Heinrici-Speer-Busse-Wenck clique. They deliberately deprived Berlin of troops and ensured that German formations retreating from the Oder were diverted away from the Berlin area. In the last days, when it was clear that the US army wasnt interested in crossing the Elbe, The German High Command wanted Wenck's 12th Army to come to Berlin as a relief force. But that too never happened.

As a result the Berlin defences had to be manned with a rag tag assortment of elderly Volksturm and very young Hitler Jugend forces. They were shored up with the battered formations of the 56th Panzer Korps under General of Artillery Helmuth Weidling. BTW this formation too had been ordered by Gen Busse to fall back on a route that took them away from the city but through a series of controversial events, the Korps managed to find its way into Berlin.

The Hitler Youth ( HJ) units in Berlin, numbering 3500-5000 played an important part in its defences. When Berlin was cut off and surrounded from all sides, the Havel river bridges became a crucial life line over which outside relief/help could possibly come. These were also used to allow the escape of emissaries and couriers from the High Command on critical missions.

The Pichelsdorf bridge (now perhaps called Freybrucke?), towards the end, became a focus of last hope..like a desperate lifeline. The High Command was hourly expecting Wenck's army to appear at the banks of the Havel. If they did, they would need to cross over into Berlin with equipment and supplies. A battalion of HJ boys ( 16-17 year old), numbering 500-600, were deployed at the bridge to hold it open for as long as possible. Some say that the Reichsjugendfuherer Artur Axmann had originally tasked the HJ unit to defend the bridge for 24 hrs on 28-29th April ( some versions say that the HJ were at the bridge since April 23rd).

The HJ boys were led by RJF Hauptamtschef Dr. Schlunder. They were better off than the other typical HJ units at Berlin at this time, in so far as they had a few experienced Wehrmacht soldiers as mentors and guides amongst them .. and had been properly trained as regular infantry for many weeks. They were also properly equipped with infantry weapons including the heavy stuff. By all accounts they performed brilliantly and held the bridge against all odds till the evening of 1st May. Once the bridge was destroyed by a shell landing on it, the defence was turned irrelevant. They were also surrounded by tanks from all sides by now.

Wenck had diverted his army away from Berlin towards Busse's 9th army falling back from the Oder. But the Pichelsdorf bridge served some purpose after all when 2 groups of couriers from the Fuehrer Bunker managed to get out of Berlin through this route. They were carrying Hitler's last will and testament. It is another matter that these couriers never managed to reach Hitler's successor, Admiral Donitz at his Flensburg HQ. So like the entire horror story at Berlin this too was was futile in the end!

It is reported that the HJ were successful in slipping away into the darkness and didnt suffer horrendous casualties in battle. However other versions speak of terrible casualties ( upwards of 4000; this comes from a basic dispute about how many defended the bridge. This version talks of 5000!) and the final defeat through a hand to hand combat.
( Ref: I have drawn from Antony Beevor's Berlin The Downfall; Peter O'Donnell's The Bunker; The History Place : http://www.historyplace.com/worldwar2/h ... ldiers.htm; HJ Research : http://www.hj-research.com/forum/f86/hj ... 945-a-8524 primarily. HJ Research quotes Axmann's autobiography "Das kann doch nicht das Ende sein" and "Ein Jugendführer in Deutschland" by Günter Kaufmann.)

It must be noted that the entire Hitler Youth issue is highly politicised and the subject of bitter acrimony after the war. The decision to use them has been heavily criticised. A lot of exaggerations and high voltage emotional drama has been witnessed around this subject. So casualties and numbers involved may have been played up or played down intentionally depending on what point who was trying to prove.

Can members please throw more light on this gripping tale of valour and sacrifice ..albeit futile in the end !
Last edited by sandeepmukherjee196 on 28 Nov 2014 03:51, edited 2 times in total.

GregSingh
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Re: The heroic resistance of the Hitler Youth at Pichelsdorf bridge, Berlin

Post by GregSingh » 27 Nov 2014 09:03

A quick look at the map of the area shows that defense of Pichelsdorf bridge did not have any sense unless Stößenseebrücke some 800 meters to the east was hold as well. That bridge was blown up by Wehrmacht probably around 27-28th of April, as Soviets arrived on its east bank.
Elements of Soviet 125th Rifle Corps arrived west of Pichelsdorf bridge as early as 26th of April, blocking the way out of Berlin.
So any defense after 26th-27th-28th was only "heroic" without any military significance. Somebody just left those boys there to die...
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sandeepmukherjee196
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Re: The heroic resistance of the Hitler Youth at Pichelsdorf bridge, Berlin

Post by sandeepmukherjee196 » 28 Nov 2014 04:20

GregSingh wrote:A quick look at the map of the area shows that defense of Pichelsdorf bridge did not have any sense unless Stößenseebrücke some 800 meters to the east was hold as well. That bridge was blown up by Wehrmacht probably around 27-28th of April, as Soviets arrived on its east bank.
Elements of Soviet 125th Rifle Corps arrived west of Pichelsdorf bridge as early as 26th of April, blocking the way out of Berlin.
So any defense after 26th-27th-28th was only "heroic" without any military significance. Somebody just left those boys there to die...
Hi Greg..
Irrespective of Soviet presence west of the bridge, on 29th April Hitler's Heer adjutant Oberstleutnant i.G. Willy Johannmeyer, Bormann's adjutant SS-Standartenführer Wilhelm Zander and Chief Press Secretary (Stellvertretender Pressechef) Heinz Lorenz, successfully left the bunker, went through the HJ defences at the bridge and crossed the Havel. They had various missions..including handing over Hitler's last will and testament etc to Generalfeldmarschall Schörner, Admiral Dönitz et al.

They didnt succeed in reaching the intended recipients coz they couldnt get onto the plane sent for them...even though tantalisingly close. That in its own right reads like a tragic adventure story but its not a subject for this thread.

The matter of military significance and outcome are not something that concerns heroes in any valiant action. The outcome is for historians and people like us to ponder over at leisure later. Amidst the ruins of Berlin, those HJ boys did a magnificent job and displayed the highest degree of valour and commitment to the cause they believed in ( no value judgments here on the nature of their 'cause' ).

They showed far greater commitment and courage than the much favoured beneficiaries of the regime like Himmler, Fegelein, Kaltenbrunner or Schellenberg.

Ciao
Sandeep

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Re: The heroic resistance of the Hitler Youth at Pichelsdorf bridge, Berlin

Post by Michael Kenny » 28 Nov 2014 05:00

sandeepmukherjee196 wrote:
. They had various missions..including handing over Hitler's last will and testament etc to GeneralFeldmarschall Schorner, Admiral Donitz et al.
So the preservation of a document written by a madman was worth the senseless killing of children as young as 10?

I had a quick look through Hamilton's http://forum.axishistory.com/memberlist ... ile&u=8295 'Bloody Streets' and this so called herioc action barely gets a mention but he does note on page 259 that German soldiers at the Olympic Stadium (just behind the bridge) were surrendering 'by the dozen' and were then shot by the germans who did not surrender. Fits well with all those 'heroic' Party/HJ Members roaming the rear and hanging anyone who they felt did not have the same good reasons as them for not being in the front line.
Only in the delusional madhouse that was Berlin could it have been believed a new Germany Army was about to enter the capital and save the Fuhrer.
Hamilton records that one HJ boy in the Zoo Bunker on 28 April heard a rumour that there was a 'serious breach' between the Western Allies and the Russians and that a new secret weapon was to be deployed soon. Absolute stark raving mad the lot of them!

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Re: The heroic resistance of the Hitler Youth at Pichelsdorf bridge, Berlin

Post by GregSingh » 28 Nov 2014 05:19

Are there any reliable sources of information what actually happened there?
The story seemed to originate from Artur Axmann memoirs and then grew on itself to become more of a fiction then reality.

When Axmann decided to flee Berlin, he chose quite different route...

I am not so sure about heroic defense. It seems that Soviets did not push much there as they were happy just to block the main road, so no significant German military force was able to move either way. (There was none to do it anyway).

When the time came to "clear the area", Soviets just massacred defenders. The story about boys leaving the area when bridge was damaged is a fairy tale.
The first step to immortality is death.
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Re: The heroic resistance of the Hitler Youth at Pichelsdorf bridge, Berlin

Post by sandeepmukherjee196 » 28 Nov 2014 13:59

Hi Greg and Michael....I will, with your permission, address Greg's posting first since it deals with inormation and facts. I shall address the issues raised by Michael on philosophy and opinions subsequently please.
GregSingh wrote:Are there any reliable sources of information what actually happened there?
The story seemed to originate from Artur Axmann memoirs and then grew on itself to become more of a fiction then reality.

When Axmann decided to flee Berlin, he chose quite different route...

I am not so sure about heroic defense. It seems that Soviets did not push much there as they were happy just to block the main road, so no significant German military force was able to move either way. (There was none to do it anyway).

When the time came to "clear the area", Soviets just massacred defenders. The story about boys leaving the area when bridge was damaged is a fairy tale.
[*] I have quoted the sources in my original post please.

[*] Firstly Axmann didnt "decide to flee Berlin" on his own accord, deserting his post and his HJ boys. A planned and organised breakout was authorised explicitly by Hitler before he died on 30th April. On the evening of 1st May, General Weidling, The Berlin Commandant, agreed to the breakout by willing individuals and groups and decided to surrender the remaining forces in the morning (after daybreak) of 2nd May.

[*] So very clearly Axmann (and the others in the breakout combat groups) werent deserting irresponsibly. He stayed at his post and did his job till officially mandated to breakout.The consequences of capture in Berlin for one of the important Reich personalities was far more grave than an ordinary wehrmacht or HJ soldier. Since it would go beyond the scope of this thread, I am refraining from quoting instances of Axmann's bravery and commitment to his cause, even after his escape from Berlin to Mecklenburg and beyond.

[*] Coming to your issue about Axmann's escape route, please note that the Pichelsdorf bridge was destroyed and the HJ contingent there had disengaged (voluntarily or not) by 6.30 PM on 1st May. So for Axmann and the others, that route was no more an option by the time they started moving off (9.30 PM onwards).

[*] Can you please let us have the source for your impression that : "Soviets did not push much there as they were happy just to block the main road, so no significant German military force was able to move either way" ..... and : "When the time came to "clear the area", Soviets just massacred defenders. The story about boys leaving the area when bridge was damaged is a fairy tale" ?

Greg I must thank you for bringing up issues which bring out an exchange of historical facts and information. This is exactly the stated purpose of this thread.

Ciao

Sandeep
Last edited by sandeepmukherjee196 on 28 Nov 2014 20:15, edited 2 times in total.

sandeepmukherjee196
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Re: The heroic resistance of the Hitler Youth at Pichelsdorf bridge, Berlin

Post by sandeepmukherjee196 » 28 Nov 2014 14:24

Michael Kenny wrote:
sandeepmukherjee196 wrote:
. They had various missions..including handing over Hitler's last will and testament etc to Generalfeldmarschall Schörner, Großadmiral Dönitz et al.
So the preservation of a document written by a madman was worth the senseless killing of children as young as 10?

I had a quick look through Hamilton's http://forum.axishistory.com/memberlist ... ile&u=8295 'Bloody Streets' and this so called herioc action barely gets a mention but he does note on page 259 that German soldiers at the Olympic Stadium (just behind the bridge) were surrendering 'by the dozen' and were then shot by the germans who did not surrender. Fits well with all those 'heroic' Party/HJ Members roaming the rear and hanging anyone who they felt did not have the same good reasons as them for not being in the front line.
Only in the delusional madhouse that was Berlin could it have been believed a new Germany Army was about to enter the capital and save the Führer.
Hamilton records that one HJ boy in the Zoo Bunker on 28 April heard a rumour that there was a 'serious breach' between the Western Allies and the Russians and that a new secret weapon was to be deployed soon. Absolute stark raving mad the lot of them!
Hi Michael...

[*] Is there any source which says that 10 year olds were fighting at Pichelsdorf Bridge? (this thread is specifically about the HJ defenders at this one location).

[*] The documents written by the "madman" related to official and critical policy matters of the German State, howsoever ramshackle by this time. They were intended for those who were the successors to the top positions in the government and the military. I am not clear about what exactly is your point here? Are you saying that the HJ fighters should not have obeyed orders there? Or they should not have fought on bravely? Or their actions against heavy odds were not heroic?

[*] Are you suggesting that front line troops henceforth in the armies of various nations, should first debate and analyse the propriety of battle orders received from their command superiors before following them? And the question of the heroism involved in battle should be decided post facto by posterity depending on the right or wrong of the cause for which the front line soldiers are fighting?

[*] Are you suggesting that henceforth in the armies of the world, capital punishment should be withdrawn for soldiers who desert in the midst of a battle, in the face of the enemy? Or that this rule should only exist in the armies of the "good guys" while the armies of the "bad guys" should have a policy of laissez faire whereby troops can come and go as they please during battle?

[*] Are you saying that the HJ fighters at the Pichelsdorf bridge should have first verified whether Wenck's army was coming or not through their own sources before deciding to obey orders? Its an interesting theory to apply to our contemporary armies! E.g., should US soldiers and airmen have first tried to determine whether Iraq actually had WMDs before obeying orders to bring home shock and awe to that country?

My posting was about the fighting spirit and dedication (to their chosen cause) of the young HJ soldiers at Pichelsdorf bridge.. nothing more and nothing else !

Ciao
Sandeep

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Re: The heroic resistance of the Hitler Youth at Pichelsdorf bridge, Berlin

Post by Art » 28 Nov 2014 15:41

If someone is interested, a couple of situation maps relating to the events:
http://www.wwii-photos-maps.com/battleo ... -4-45.html
http://www.wwii-photos-maps.com/battleo ... -4-45.html
It looks like 185 or 132 Rifle Divisions operated in this area from the Soviet side.

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Re: The heroic resistance of the Hitler Youth at Pichelsdorf bridge, Berlin

Post by sandeepmukherjee196 » 28 Nov 2014 15:50

Thanks Art. Its very useful indeed.

Ciao
Sandeep

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Re: The heroic resistance of the Hitler Youth at Pichelsdorf bridge, Berlin

Post by Michael Kenny » 28 Nov 2014 20:28

shocking-photos2-horz.jpg
It is being claimed that the German soldiers in Berlin fought 'heroically'/'bravely'/'magnificently'/insert favourite superlative and I pointed out that not all of them did. More tellingly the fate of the soldiers I mentioned shows the desperate methods needed to keep the remaining soldiers in line.
Back to 'Bloody Streets. There is an account of a HJ soldier who was holed up in a building with others who fled into the street when they came under fire. Their officer forced them to go back in but by now the inhabitants of the building had bolted the doors to keep the soldiers out. They had to smash their way back in. It seems the Berliners did not share your uncritical adoration of the 'fight to the death'
Another account says that the paybooks of some HJ soldiers had been taken from them because the commander was fed up with his men/boys simply going home. There was a rumour any soldier captured without a paybook was deemed to be SS and shot out of hand. It was thought that if the HJ boys knew they would be treated this way they would not be so keen to surrender.There are also accounts of HJ officers simply telling the boys to lay down their arms and 'go home' which a lot did. Nor were the HJ boys all well trained and equiped. Some had little or no training.
It is a myth that every German soldier was lining up to lay down his life for the insane Führer.

I believe the photos I posted are more typical of these boys than overhyped self-serving accounts about a bridge to and from nowhere.

Once the chief nut case was dead then the rest of the German Army (some 100 Divisions) could (and did) lay down their arms without fear of being strung from a lampost for their sanity.
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Re: The heroic resistance of the Hitler Youth at Pichelsdorf bridge, Berlin

Post by Marcus » 28 Nov 2014 20:41

Starting a thread with a word like "heroic" invites opinions, especially when used to describe actions on an organization as HJ,but now please get back on topic.

/Marcus

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Re: The heroic resistance of the Hitler Youth at Pichelsdorf bridge, Berlin

Post by Marcus » 29 Nov 2014 14:23

Several posts continuing off track were removed.

/Marcus

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Re: The heroic resistance of the Hitler Youth at Pichelsdorf bridge, Berlin

Post by flakbait » 01 Dec 2014 01:57

The title could just as well be "The Heroic Resistance of Boy Soldiers of the Viet Cong at Hue" or "The Heroic Services of Boy Soldiers of Pol Pot in Cambodia" or perhaps "Heroic Services of Child Soldiers of Boko what ever their murderous name is in Africa"... There is nothing "heroic' in either brain washing or attempting to prop up a collapsing regime with piles of the bodies of it`s own children...

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Re: The heroic resistance of the Hitler Youth at Pichelsdorf bridge, Berlin

Post by sandeepmukherjee196 » 01 Dec 2014 13:57

How about "Heroic teenage boys in Washington's militia in the American war of independence"? or "Heroic teenagers ( boys and girls) in the anti nazi partisan groups in western europe and USSR"?

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Re: The heroic resistance of the Hitler Youth at Pichelsdorf bridge, Berlin

Post by Gary Kennedy » 01 Dec 2014 17:31

The British Army formed Young Soldier Battalions in 1940. From a very quick recce my understanding is these were 'holding' units for those who were old enough to volunteer for the army but not old enough to be conscripted. This put them in the 18-19 year old age bracket I think (just had a very quick look at this so any corrections will be required from those better versed). Had the German Army invaded the UK in 1940 then it is quite conceivable that such units could have found themselves engaging the enemy, despite the fact these units were not for overseas service and so not ordinarily expected to be in the frontline.

Theoretically then it might be argued that the HJ unit you refer to was doing exactly the same thing, defending their homeland against an enemy invader, and so should be regarded as performing a selfless act, which is perhaps another description of a hero. I think the major difference is though that, if I recall correctly, entrance into the HJ was not by virtue of volunteering but by the simple fact of being male and within the age bracket (10-18?). Once the HJ goes from being a training/indoctrination body to fielding combat units composed of those under the age for military service, you are in the very dark territory of conscripting children to fight. That, I suspect, is the line that most respondents here feel has been crossed that invalidates any attempt to portray the action as heroic. Unless the belief is this force was composed entirely of keen eyed, square jawed youngsters, each personally committed to holding back the Red Army advance, then it's a matter of giving kids rifles and them being told to hold their positions no matter the cost.

Those outside of organised militaries, such as the examples you've given, are already operating outside of a state jurisdiction, and would set their own parameters for such things. I'm not going to applaud anyone for giving a 15yr old a rifle because all the 16yr olds are gone.

I think one of the things that comes out from the accounts of western allied forces entering Nazi Germany in 1945 was the disbelief almost at the age of those sent against them, be they very old men or very young boys, who could not in ordinary circumstances be considered as of fighting age. But the Nazi system was not ordinary and accepted many things, so sending the equivalent of the Boy Scouts to resist the might of the Red Army to allow a couple of couriers out (?) was probably no great leap by April 1945. That's more tragic than heroic.

Gary

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