A couple of days ago, when writing about Adolf Hitler’s decision to stay in his bunker and commit suicide, I said that the German army had ceased to be capable of any serious offensive action.
Well…I lied. Sort of.
In a general sense, I didn’t. The German army really wasn’t able to mount a serious challenge on a large scale. But given the right conditions, they could…in the same way that I could win a gold medal in an Olympic sport if I were the only one competing.
Of course, it couldn’t happen in Berlin, where Marshal Vasily Chuikov’s men were now approaching the heart of Nazi Germany. But in Bautzen, which sat about 20 miles west of the Polish border, a German offensive was possible. And it happened. Beginning on April 21, 1945 (the same day that Army Detachment Steiner was supposed to begin its offensive, but didn’t), a German push to capture Bautzen got underway.
About 50,000 Germans, many with significant combat experience and supported by several hundred tanks, began pressing against the 2nd Polish Army which, while outnumbering the Germans, were mostly green troops. They gave way under the strain, suffering heavy losses in both men and equipment. Marshal Ivan Konev, the Russian in overall command, sent in some Red Army reinforcements, but they also took heavy casualties.
The Battle of Bautzen ended (for all intents and purposes) on April 26, 1945 with the Germans in control of Bautzen. It was the German military’s last victory of the war. In less than a week, with much of Europe in shambles, with Berlin a pile of rubble, and its leader an unrecognizable pile of ashes, the war in Europe would be over.
And the “miracle” victories that Hitler so badly wanted would amount to a meaningless battle won a hundred miles from Berlin.
Recommended Reading: Armageddon: The Battle For Germany, 1944-1945