Back To CourseHistory 107: World Conflicts Since 1900
8 chapters | 73 lessons
As a member, you'll also get unlimited access to over 75,000 lessons in math, English, science, history, and more. Plus, get practice tests, quizzes, and personalized coaching to help you succeed.Try it risk-free
Nate Sullivan holds a M.A. in History and a M.Ed. He is an adjunct history professor, middle school history teacher, and freelance writer.
The successful Allied invasion of Normandy, France, marked the beginning of the end for Nazi Germany. Beginning on June 6th, 1944, a day popularly known as 'D-Day,' Allied forces began fighting their way through France, with the intention of crossing into Germany and destroying the Nazi regime. Adolf Hitler, the leader of Nazi Germany, made one last, desperate (but futile) attempt to thwart Allied advances during the Battle of the Bulge, throughout the winter of 1944-1945. By early 1945, Soviet advances on the Eastern Front and American advances on the Western Front spelled certain doom for Hitler and his Nazi regime. Every day the territory of the Third Reich was shrinking. The noose was tightening.
At first, it seemed like American forces might penetrate Germany and reach the capital city of Berlin before the Soviets. But American forces, under the command of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, were ordered not to drive on to Berlin but instead to allow the Soviets to capture it. Many historians regard this as a mistake. Although Berlin held little military value, as the capital city and the home to Hitler, it had enormous symbolic value. In the years to come, many American officials came to regret leaving Berlin for the Soviets, as the city became the seat of Cold War tension. Despite no hope for victory, Hitler was determined not to go down without a fight. Berlin would be defended to the last man, he ordered. It would be turned into a veritable fortress of concrete and steel.
Throughout the beginning of 1945, Soviet forces closed on the capital city. Joseph Stalin, the leader of the Soviet Union, pitted two of his best generals, Marshals Georgy Zhukov and Ivan Konev, against each other by separately encouraging each of them to be the first to capture the city. Stalin was basically playing off their pride and ambition. By allowing them to compete against each other, Stalin hoped his Red Army would achieve victory in rapid time.
The Battle of Berlin was fought between German and Soviet forces throughout April and May 1945. It proved to be the final battle of the European Theater of World War II. The battle contained some of the fiercest fighting of the war. Soviet T-34 tanks rolled through the streets, knocking over buildings and anything in their way as Germans and Soviets battled in house-to-house combat.
Because much of the German regular army had been killed off throughout the course of the war, the Nazi high command was forced to rely heavily on Volkssturm forces. The Volkssturm was a conscripted militia, made up of civilians that, more often than not, were teenagers or elderly men. Even 12- and 13-year-old Hitler Youth members were called upon to defend their city. These youngsters were often given Panzerfausts, a bazooka-type rocket designed to take out tanks. The loss of life during the Battle of Berlin was enormous. Many scholars estimate combined casualties of over 1,000,000. When it was all said and done, the city lay in ruins.
Throughout the Battle of Berlin, Hitler had taken cover in his Führerbunker , a specially-constructed underground bunker beneath the Reich Chancellery building. Following the Allied invasion of Normandy in 1944, Hitler's health began to deteriorate rapidly - as a result of stress and drugs. Now he was delusional. Trembling, he would frequently go off on angry tirades, blaming his loss on the German people. Out of touch with reality, he would vacillate between hope and despair.
With Soviet forces within miles, Hitler married his mistress, Eva Braun, on April 29th. After that, they both caught a U-boat to South America, where they lived out the rest of their years in peace and quiet, right? No way! Those kinds of conspiracy theories hold zero credibility! In reality, Hitler died in Berlin. On April 30th, with the Red Army only blocks away, he and his wife killed themselves. It is believed Hitler shot himself, while Eva bit into a cyanide capsule.
In his last will and testament, Hitler had appointed naval commander, Karl Dönitz, his successor. By that time, however, there was little Dönitz could do but surrender. By May 2nd, the Red Army controlled the German Reichstag, which was basically their capitol building. A famous photo was taken showing the Soviet's raising their flag over the Reichstag.
Sporadic fighting took place throughout the coming days, but on May 7th, and again on May 8th, 1945, the German high command formally surrendered to the Allies. In most countries, Victory in Europe Day, or 'V-E Day,' was celebrated on May 8th, with much joy, kissing, parades, and of course, the flashing of the 'victory' sign, which is the same as the modern 'peace' sign.
The Nazi regime, the regime Hitler prophesied would last 1,000 years, was no more. After 12 years of oppression, there was nothing left. The entire city of Berlin lay decimated, now under Soviet control. Enraged from years of suffering that the Nazis unleashed upon the Soviet Union, the Soviets exacted revenge by engaging in widespread rape of German women. One historian describes this tragedy as the greatest mass rape in history. It is believed by many scholars that over two million German women were raped following the Battle of Berlin.
In the years following 'V-E Day,' Nazi war criminals were rounded up and tried, and in many cases, executed. The most well-known examples of this were the Nuremberg Trials. Held throughout 1945-1946, the Nuremberg Trials involved the prosecution of 23 prominent Nazi officials, like Hermann Goering and Albert Speer. Many were hanged; others served various prison sentences.
Let's review. The Battle of Berlin was fought between German and Soviet forces throughout April and May 1945. It resulted in the death of Hitler and the complete destruction of the Nazi regime. Conscripted German civilians, often teenagers or elderly men, took part in the battle as part of a militia force called the Volkssturm. While the battle raged throughout Berlin, Adolf Hitler retreated to his underground Führerbunker , where he spent the last weeks of his life.
The Soviet victory in the Battle of Berlin prompted a German surrender on May 7th and 8th. In most countries, May 8th was celebrated as 'Victory in Europe Day,' or 'V-E Day.' During the Battle of Berlin and the following Soviet occupation, widespread rape of German women took place at the hands of Soviet soldiers. Also, following the battle, major Nazi war criminals were tried and sentenced in the Nuremberg Trials.
When this lesson is over, you should be able to:
To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account
Already a member? Log InBack
Did you know… We have over 160 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.
To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page
Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.
Back To CourseHistory 107: World Conflicts Since 1900
8 chapters | 73 lessons