Kurland Pocket

Discussion in 'The Eastern Front' started by Gerard, Dec 13, 2006.

  1. Gerard

    Gerard Seelow/Prora

    Here is a good start to info on the Battle of Kurland and the Pocket. The article is located at the following address:

    Kurland: The Last Stand

    In the middle of October 1944, about 500,000 soldiers -- 32 German divisions and the 20,000 men of the Latvian Nineteenth Division of the Waffen–SS -- were cut off from the rest of the German army and encircled. To the east and the south was the Soviet army, to the north and the west -- the Baltic Sea. The Latvians called it Kurzemes katls, the Kurland kettle; the Germans called it Festung Kurland, Fortress Kurland.
    The Latvians trapped in Kurland were in a tragic situation. Besides the soldiers, there were also about 500,000 local inhabitants and civilian refugees from Riga and Vidzeme, altogether about a million people encircled by the Bolsheviks. Food and other supplies were scarce, and winter was approaching. Civilians and soldiers, both Latvian and German, understood that Hitler was defeated, that the Nazi Reich would soon collapse, and nothing good could be expected from the Bolsheviks.
    For the Nineteenth Division Kurland was truly the last stand. They took part in six major battles between October 12, 1944, and April 3, 1945. Together with the German army units they on the whole held the front line, keeping the Bolsheviks out of Kurland, until May 8, 1945, when Germany capitulated. These soldiers remained undefeated until the final moments of the war, im Felde unbesiegt, as the Germans say. In one of the last battles, Captain Miervaldis Adamsons' company in a single 24-hour period repelled seven attacks by the Russians, and after the battle the bodies of 400 fallen Soviet soldiers could be counted in front of the Latvians' unconquered positions.
    Soviet war historians have also written about the stubborn resistance put up by the defenders of Fortress Kurland, especially by the Latvians. Using these Soviet sources, Gershon Shapiro, a veteran of the Soviet-German war who emigrated to Israel, writes in his document collection Jews -- Heroes of the Soviet Union (in Russian, Tel Aviv 1982, pp. 359-360) that the Soviet High Command asked the commanders of the First and Second Baltic Fronts to take forceful action in Kurland, in order to drive the enemy from the northern sector of the Baltic Sea and free their units for more important positions on the Soviet-German front. The first attempt occurred on October 16, 1944, but was stopped in the area around Tukums. The next Soviet offensive took place on October 27, but met with strong resistance from the outset and did not result in any gains. November 20 saw another offensive, but the Germans and Latvians stabilized their defensive line, utilizing favorable geographic features. Equally unsuccessful were the final attempts of the First and Second Baltic Front Armies to liquidate the German Army Group "Kurland" in December of 1944 and February and April of 1945.
    Soviet documents show that Stalin threw division after division into the Kurland inferno, disregarding the appallingly high losses. According to German estimates, the Soviet army lost 320,000 soldiers -- including those fallen, wounded, and taken prisoner -- and 2388 tanks, 659 planes, 900 cannons, and 1440 machine-guns.
    When the 33 divisions (32 German and one Latvian) were forced to capitulate on May 8, 1945, some of the Latvian legionnaires refused to submit as prisoners of war and fled into the forest of Kurland, to continue fighting the Bolsheviks as partisans, or guerrillas. Knowing what dismal fate awaited them, they decided to fight until their bullets ran out, or until the international situation changed. There were those who hoped that the United States and England would finally see the situation clearly and would turn against Stalin. The Latvian national partisans, like those in Estonia, Lithuania, and the Ukraine, continued armed resistance in complete isolation until 1952, when Bolshevik "punitive expeditions" liquidated the last of the "forest brothers," as they were called.:m10:

    33 Divisions?? Thats some amount of men. No wonder Guderian wanted to evacuate the Kurland pocket but Hitler refused saying that it tied down Soviet resources. Was Hitler right? Or was Guderians advice sound??
  2. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Thanks GH.
    My pen-friend has sent me many photo-books of Latvia and the countryside looks so peaceful and tranquil.
    I have wondered what the fighting was like there. Extremely viscious by the sounds of it.
    I have read about the Forest Brothers before. I wonder what sort of support they had from the population.
    I know after the war Stalin flooded the Baltic States with Russians and deported many Latvians to the Gulags.
    Wasn't there a of Latvain Divison in the Red Army, the 183rd?
    As to your point on using the 33 Divisions elsewhere, where you they have been best used?
    They seemed to have caused tremendous trouble to the Soviets as it was.
    Would their use elsewhere have just delayed the inevitable?

    Found a good German website here.
    Kurland-Kessel 1944/45
    Click on "BILDER" for photos as it is today.
  3. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

  4. AMVAS

    AMVAS Senior Member

    I have read about the Forest Brothers before. I wonder what sort of support they had from the population.
    I know after the war Stalin flooded the Baltic States with Russians and deported many Latvians to the Gulags.

    Just a brief note, as I dislike such sort of subject.

    After the war movement of people was large not only in the Baltic territories. the war caused the same trends all over the USSR.
    Baltic territories appeared tob e attractive for Russians, as life there was much better than in many other territories. You can remember that Germans destroyed thousends of settlements in countryside of Russia, Byelorussia and Ukraine. Baltic territories suffered much less.
    Also we can't foget that life prior to the war in Baltic states were better than in the USSR...

    As for deportation of people from Baltic states to GULAG it was connected to that "forest brothers" support. Mostly members of their families were deported. In the scales of GULAG it was tiny amount of people - a few thouands only. for Latvians themselves it can be called rather large figures, because their whole population was not too large.
    But I have to say that those people were not shot, later many of them returned home...

    So, I'm stopping the discussion about this here....

  5. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

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