Common room with Christmas tree

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“By now confusion was beginning to sweep the German lines. Shortages were apparent everywhere and in everything. A critical lack of transport, an almost total absence of fuel, and roads thronged with refugees made large-scale troop movements almost impossible. This immobility was producing dire consequences: as units shifted position, their equipment, including precious artillery, had to be abandoned. Communication networks, too, were faltering and in some places no longer existed. As a result, orders were often obsolete when they reached their destinations – or even when they were issued. The chaos was compounded as officers arriving at the front to take over units discovered nothing to take over, because their commands had already been captured or annihalated. In some areas, inexperienced men, left leaderless, did not know exactly where they were or who was fighting in their flanks. Even in veteran outfits, headquarters were forced to move with such frequency that often the troops did not know where their command post was or how to contact it.”

Ryan, Cornelius. The Last Battle. 1966. p. 394

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“In all, one third of Reymann’s men were unarmed. The remainder might as well have been. ‘Their weapons,’ he was to relate, ‘came from every country that Germany had fought with or against. Besides our own issues, there were Italian, Russian, French, Czechoslovakian, Belgian, Dutch, Norwegian and English guns.’ There were no less than fifteen different types of rifles and ten kinds of machine guns. Finding ammunition for this hodgepodge of arms was almost hopeless. Battalions equipped with Italian rifles were luckier than most: there was a maximum of twenty bullets apiece for them. Belgian guns, it was discovered, would accept a certain type of Czech bullet, but Belgian ammunition was useless with Czech rifles. There were few Greek arms, but for some reason there were vast quantities of Greek munitions. So desperate was the shortage that a way was found to re-machine Greek bullets so that they could be fired in Italian rifles. But such frantic improvisations hardly alleviated the overall problem. On this opening day of the Russian attack, the average ammunition supply for each Home Guardsman was about five rounds per rifle.”

Ryan, Cornelius. The Last Battle. 1966. p. 383

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“From Speer’s office Reymann made a quick visit to one of the defense sectors on Berlin’s outskirts. Each of these inspections only served to deepen Reymann’s conviction that Berlin’s defenses were an illusion. In the strutting, triumphant years, the Nazis had never considered the possibility that one day a last stand would be made in the capital. They had built fortifications everywhere else – the Gustav Line in Italy, the Atlantic Wall along the European coast, the Sigfried Line at Germany’s western borders – but not even a trench had been built around Berlin. Not even when the Russians drove with titanic force across eastern Europe and invaded the Fatherland did Hitler and his military advisors act to fortify the city.”

Ryan, Cornelius. The Last Battle. 1966. p. 380

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Flames 2/2

December 15, 2014

in Photo of the day

Flames 2/2

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“As people waited for news, they hid their anxiety in grim humor. A new greeting swept the city. Total strangers shook hands and urged each other “Bleib übrig” – Survive. Many Berliners were burlesquing Goebbels’ broadcast of ten days before. Insisting that Germany’s fortune would undergo a sudden change, he had said: ‘The Führer knows the exact hour of its arrival. Destiny has sent us this man so that we, in this time of great external and internal stress, shall testify to the miracle.’ Now those words were being repeated everywhere, usually in a derisive imitation of the Propaganda Minister’s spellbinding style. One other saying was making the rounds. “We’ve got nothing at all to worry about,” people solemnly assured one another. ‘Gröfaz will save us.’ Gröfaz had long been the Berliner’s nickname for Hitler. It was an abbreviation of ‘Grösster Feldherr aller Zeiten‘ – the greatest general of all time.

But would barricades such as these [such as “old trucks and disused tram cars filled with stones”] stop the Russians? ‘It will take the Reds at least two hours and fifteen minutes to break through,’ a current joke went: ‘Two hours laughing their heads off and fifteen minutes smashing the barricades.'”

Ryan, Cornelius. The Last Battle. 1966. p. 371-2, 375 (italics in original)

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“It almost seemed as if the authorities were not prepared to face the fact that Berlin was endangered. Although the Red Army was now barely thirty-two miles away, no alarm had been given and no official announcement had been made. Berliners knew very well that the Russians had attacked. The muffled thunder of artillery had been the first clue; now from refugees, by telephone, by word of mouth, the news had spread. But it was still fragmentary and contradictory, and in the absence of any real information there was wild speculation and rumor. Some people said the Russians were fewer than ten miles away, others heard that they were already in the eastern suburbs. No one knew precisely what the situation was, but most Berliners now believed that the city’s days were numbered, that its death throes had begun.

And yet, astonishingly, people still went about their business. They were nervous, and it was increasingly difficult to preserve the outward appearance of normality, but everyone tried.

At every stop, milkman Richard Poganowka was besieged with questions. His customers seemed to expect him to know more than anyone else. The usually cheerful Poganowska could not provide any answers. He was as fearful as those he served. On the Kreuznacherstrasse the portrait of Adolf Hitler still hung in the living room of the Nazi postal official, but that no longer seemed reassuring to Poganowska.”

Ryan, Cornelius. The Last Battle. 1966. p. 368-9

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“Inside the fort the noise was almost intolerable. Added to the firing of the batteries was the constant rattling of automatic shell elevators, which carried ammunition in an endless stream from a ground floor arsenal to each gun. G Tower was designed not only as a gun platform but as a huge five-story warehouse, hospital and air raid shelter. The top floor, directly underneath the batteries, housed the 100-man military garrison. Beneath that was a 95-bed Luftwaffe hospital, complete with X-ray rooms and two fully equipped operating theaters. It was staffed by six doctors, twenty nurses and some thirty orderlies. The next floor down, the third, was a treasure trove. Its storerooms contained the prize exhibits of Berlin’s top museums. Housed there were the famous Pergamon sculptures, parts of the huge sacrificial altar built by King Eumenes II of the Hellenes around 180 B.C.; various other Egyptian, Greek and Roman antiquities, including statues, reliefs, vessels and vases; “The Gold Treasure of Priam,” a huge collection of gold and silver bracelets, necklaces, earrings, amulets, ornaments and jewels, excavated by the German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann in 1872 on the city of the ancient city of Troy. There were priceless Gobelin tapestries, a vast quantity of paintings – among them fine portraits of the 19th-century German artist Wilhelm Leibl – and the enormous Kaiser Wilhelm coin collection. The two lower floors of the tower were mammoth air raid shelters, with large kitchens, food storerooms and emergency quarters for the German broadcasting station, Deutschlandsender. Entirely self-contained, G Tower had its own water and power, and easily accommodated fifteen thousand people during air raids. The complex was so well stocked with supplies and ammunition that the military garrison believed that, no matter what happened to the rest of Berlin, the zoo tower could hold out for a year if need be.”

Ryan, Cornelius. The Last Battle. 1966. p. 167-8

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Flames 1/2

December 14, 2014

in Photo of the day

Flames 1/2

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Lyra’s Moment of Heroism

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