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Victory in Europe: The Battle of Berlin & the Downfall of the Nazi Regime

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  • 0:01 The Beginning of the End
  • 0:57 The Battle of Berlin
  • 5:26 Victory in Europe
  • 7:12 Lesson Summary
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Instructor: Nate Sullivan

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.

In this lesson, we learn about the Battle of Berlin and the end of Germany's Nazi regime. We will place this event in historical context and we will understand its importance.

The Beginning of the End

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.

The Battle of Berlin

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.

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