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  1. #1

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    HJ at the Havel River bridges, Berlin 1945


    I'm looking for any information on the HJ units that defended the bridges over the Havel River in Berlin in 1945. So far all I know is that about 5,000 HJ defended the bridges, and that after a few days only 500 were left alive. Does anyone have any detailed info on the units involved in the fighting, what bridges they defended, and exactly how long the battle lasted?


  2. #2

    The figures you mention there are inconsistent with those given by Reichsjugendführer Axmann and other credible sources which put the total number of HJ involved in the defence of Berlin at between 3500 and 5000. The number of HJ ordered to defend the Pichelsdorf bridge over the Havel (a task ordered by Hitler) is put at between 500 and 600 depending on the source. Axmann described it as a battalion so around 500-600 would be right. Of that number, casualties were said to be low. The source for this casualty figure were local residents who were questioned about the defence of the bridge after the war.

    According to Axmann, the force defending the bridge was commanded by RJF Hauptamtschef Dr. Schlunder and consisted of 16-17 year old HJ boys who were led by a number of adult soldiers with front line experience. Axmann says that the boys had received many weeks of military training and that they were armed with heavy machine guns and Panzerfaust. The position was held until the 1st of May by which point the HJ were surrounded by the Russians. They managed to get out under cover of darkness and at around 18:00 that day the bridge received a direct hit and there was no further requirement to defend it.

    As far as units are concerned, it is likely that some of the defenders had originally been members of the 1. Panzervernichtungsbrigade Hitler-Jugend which had been raised in February as part of the III Aufgebot des Volkssturms. The remainder, now members of HJ-Volkssturm units would have come from the HJ Banne in Berlin.

  3. #3

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    Wow, good info! I'm looking at a map of Berlin and I assume that the bridge in question is now called the Freybrucke, correct?

    Does Axmann say how many days they held the bridge for? I've read anywhere from 2 to 5.

  4. #4
    That's the one Andrew. The HJ was definitely holding the position on the 29th of April because a break-out was planned for that day across the bridge. Axmann ordered the HJ to hold it for 24 hours but they eventually withdrew on the 1st of May. The number of HJ deaths during the general battle for Berlin is estimated by Günther Kaufmann (a member of the RJF staff who wrote about it after the war) as being "in the hundreds".

  5. #5

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    Okay, so the HJ were still holding the bridge well after the Soviets had actually entered the city center. Any word on what Soviet units the HJ were up against?

  6. #6
    Yes, definitely. The report says that they were forced to leave the bridge as they had Russian tanks approaching from the rear in addition to those to their front. As I say, it was the direct hit on the bridge that left them with no reason to continue in defence. Axmann says that the presence of the HJ was very important as it allowed troops and civilians to flee across the bridge. He also mentions that personnel from the Führerbunker took that route and in the post-war period the accusation was made that this was the real reason for putting the HJ in such a dangerous position.

  7. #7

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    Thanks. What books did you get your info from?

  8. #8
    No probs Andrew, Some of the information came from Axmann's autobiography "Das kann doch nicht das Ende sein" and some from "Ein Jugendführer in Deutschland" by Günter Kaufmann. The suspicion that the boys were used primarily as a shield for those escaping the Führerbunker came from a post-war article in "Der Spiegel".

  9. #9

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    Are either of those books available in English? I'm looking for all the info I can get on this particular aspect of the Battle of Berlin.

  10. #10
    Not that I'm aware of Andrew.

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