Operation Hannibal: The World War II Evacuation of East Prussia and the Disaster at Sea, 1945 by Michael A. EgglestonIn the closing days of World War II a crisis was emerging for German civilians trapped on the Eastern Front by the Red Army. Many lived between the Soviet advance and the Wehrmacht defense of Nazi Germany. They were fearful of Soviet retribution for the millions of Russians that had been murdered by the Nazis in the early years of the war. Since all land routes had been cut off, an evacuation by sea was the only way to provide escape for the civilians back to Germany. Such an escape was fraught with many dangers. Soviet submarines prowled the Baltic Sea where the ships would sail and the Red air force bombed the ports and ships at sea. Most of the available ports were under siege by the Red Army and civilians who tried to reach the ports were often killed or died in the winter weather. To save the civilians and some of the German soldiers, the German Navy developed a plan for the evacuation called Operation Hannibal in early 1945. This history tells the story of this flight from its start in January 1945 until it concluded the day after the end of World War II.
One of the most disturbing photos I have seen from World War II did not show any battlefield scenes, it was not of any wounded, sick or dying, fire bombed cities or death camps and had nothing to do with the Holocaust. It did not show anyone being humiliated or executed, for that matter it did not show any kind of damage whatsoever. All the photo showed was four people who had not yet been harmed. They were hurriedly making their way through the dark forests of East Prussia. The photo looks as though it was taken at night. It shows these people on the move, likely a family. Their image blurred, but not deliberately so.
Contributor: C. Peter Chen. Werner Terpitz remembered the flames. Everything I had ever owned was now ashes. Hitler chose to focus on his Ardennes Offensive in the west instead, calling the Red Army "the greatest bluff since Genghis Khan". Guderian shook his head, knowing that the German defenses in the east was "like a house of cards; if the front is broken through at one point all the rest will collapse". This was the great offensive that Guderian feared.
In the German race there is nothing but evil. Stamp out the fascist beast once and for all in its lair! Use force and break the racial pride of these German women. Take them as your lawful booty. As you storm forward. You gallant soldiers of the Red army. By February of , thousands upon thousands of panic stricken refugees who managed to survive the grueling exodus from the eastern regions flooded into Dresden and other towns and cities seeking shelter and help.
Plans to evacuate people from the territories controlled by Nazi Germany in Central and Eastern Europe , including from the former eastern territories of Germany as well as occupied territories, were prepared by German authorities only when the defeat was inevitable, resulting in utter chaos. The evacuation in most of the Nazi-occupied areas began in January , when the Red Army was already rapidly advancing westward. Up until March the Nazi authorities had evacuated from the eastern territories pre-war Germany, Poland, Hungary, Romania and Yugoslavia an estimated 10 to 15 million persons, Germans as well as citizens of other nations. Reichsdeutsche including 1 million ethnic Poles spared the expulsions , and 6. Polish historians put the number of "Germans" in early on the annexed territory of post-war Poland at 12,, 8,, on pre-war German territory, , from pre-war Poland; , ethnic Germans resettled in Poland; , administrative staff and 1,, bombing raid evacuees.
Eyewitness account No. I was picked up in the evening, and released the next morning. My genitals were completely ripped open, and I had an arm-wide sore all the way down to my knees. I could neither walk nor lie down. There were three more terrible days like this one before the Russian soldiers decided we had had enough, and chased us naked out of that hellhole. Together with other victims, she was sent on a death march -- barefoot.