Operation Hannibal: how the Nazis escaped from East Prussia

History 19/01/20 Operation “Hannibal”: as the Nazis fled from East Prussia

in late 1944, many high-ranking officials in Berlin knew that the Third Reich will inevitably lose the war. However, they do not hurry to surrender, for ideological reasons the first priority of the rulers of Germany became the salvation of the “German race” from the power of the hated Bolsheviks. For 4 months of 1945 (from 23 January to 8 may) from East Prussia and other coastal regions were evacuated, according to some estimates, 2 million civilian and military officials. “Operation Hannibal” was the largest-ever Maritime event of this kind.

political and Military situation,

the Need to evacuate arose on January 12, 1945 – the day began on the East Prussian strategic offensive operation the red Army, and immediately the German tankers were defeated by the Russians in the district of Insterburg.
In East Prussia, where Germans settled in the XIII century, there lived 2.5 million civilians. the initiator of the operation to rescue refugees became chief of the Navy Karl Doenitz.
– People flocked to the West in order not to fall into Russian hands. They know that it will bring them the Red Army. When in Russian hands fell gołdap and other towns on the border of East Prussia, the Russians treated the German population with a truly appalling brutality – described Doenitz in his memoirs the events of those days, explaining why the salvation of the German population was his “first priority”.

the Plan Doenitz

the Evacuation across the Baltic sea was to be primarily women and children. The operation began on January 23 when out of the port of Gotenhafen (Gdynia) and sailed submarines refugees (according to German historians, the name “Operation “Hannibal” refers only to this flight, and not to the entire complex of measures for the marine transportation of people).
From the personnel of the Kriegsmarine was formeds and transferred to the Eastern front naval division a total population of 50 thousand people. The sailors kept the port areas, for example, Pillau at Konigsberg until the end of April.
For the evacuation was used all existing vessels – both military and trade, the command of which was concentrated in the hands of Karl Doenitz. Kept at full capacity to work shipyards, which depended on the preparation of ships for the long voyage. While other infrastructure from March 1945 were destroyed by the Germans, ports and shipyards remained in working condition until recently.
Gradual concentration of the military and civil power in the hands of Doenitz contributed to the growth of its political influence. In the end, the Grand Admiral became head of state after the suicide of Hitler.

the Progress of the evacuation

the conduct of the operation was hampered by constant air strikes of the allies. Several transports of refugees were killed. For example, when the wreck of the ship “Goya” in the waters of the Baltic sea died 7 thousand people, and when you hit the ship “Wilhelm Gustloff” – 4 thousand. Vessels ‘ capacity is often greatly exceeded. However, as written Doenitz, 99% of the passengers were successfully delivered to the Western ports of the Baltic sea. The government of the Reich had a map of the alleged post-war division of Germany between the US, Britain and the USSR, and the Nazis wanted as many Germans at the time of surrender was to the West of the Elbe. Evacuees landed in Northern ports, for example, in the Dump (Schleswig-Holstein). There arrived inhabitants of East Prussia, Pomerania and Courland (among the evacuees were Latvians).
the Number of deployed civilian refugees amounted to 800 thousand people, and among them for conspiracy does not stand out officials, senior officials of the Nazi party and members of their families. The remaining evacuees were from the military, including 355 thousand of the wounded are in hospitals.
who Left the Eastern lands of the Germans did not forget about the role of Karl Doenitzand continued with respect to the former gross-Admiral after the war. However, modern German historians have noted that the transport of civilians, contrary to the memoirs of Doenitz, in any case not carried out to the detriment of the requirements of the military.

Timur Sagdiyev

© Russian Seven

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