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Endkampf

Endkampf: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Death of the Third Reich

STEPHEN G. FRITZ
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 416
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt2jcv1x
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    Endkampf
    Book Description:

    At the end of World War II, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, fearing that retreating Germans would consolidate large numbers of troops in an Alpine stronghold and from there conduct a protracted guerilla war, turned U.S. forces toward the heart of Franconia, ordering them to cut off and destroy German units before they could reach the Alps. Opposing this advance was a conglomeration of German forces headed by SS-Gruppenführer Max Simon, a committed National Socialist who advocated merciless resistance. Under the direction of officers schooled in harsh combat in Russia, the Germans succeeded in bringing the American advance to a grinding halt.

    Caught in the middle were the people of Franconia. Historians have accorded little mention to this period of violence and terror, but it provides insight into the chaotic nature of life while the Nazi regime was crumbling. Neither German civilians nor foreign refugees acted simply as passive victims caught between two fronts. Throughout the region people pressured local authorities to end the senseless resistance and sought revenge for their tribulations in the "liberation" that followed.

    Stephen G. Fritz examines the predicament and outlook of American GI's, German soldiers and officials, and the civilian population caught in the arduous fighting during the waning days of World War II. Endkampf is a gripping portrait of the collapse of a society and how it affected those involved, whether they were soldiers or civilians, victors or vanquished, perpetrators or victims.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-7190-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. LIST OF MAPS
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. ABBREVIATIONS AND FOREIGN TERMS
    (pp. vii-ix)
  5. COMPARATIVE RANKS
    (pp. x-x)
  6. PREFACE
    (pp. xi-xviii)
  7. 1 WAITING FOR THE END
    (pp. 1-30)

    With German forces reeling back to theReichin disarray following the hammer blows of the Normandy and Southern France campaigns, the end of the war in Europe seemed tantalizingly near in autumn 1944. Readers of theNew York Timesthus might be forgiven if, on November 12, they read with skepticism two items that suggested otherwise. In an article entitled “The Nazis Still Hope for a Miracle,” George Axelsson, the paper’s correspondent in Stockholm, noted that the Nazi leadership understood they could no longer win the war. While Axelsson had hinted in an earlier article that the Nazis might...

  8. 2 FEARFUL ARE THE CONVULSIONS OF DEFEAT
    (pp. 31-60)

    By the spring of 1945, Adolf Hitler’s much vaunted Thousand Year Reich had become a vast battleground, a swarm of enemy tanks, jeeps, trucks, and soldiers, as Allied troops battered in from both east and west. The dead lay unburied in forests, or under the rubble of ancient cities, or in damp frontline trenches. The detritus of a disintegrating society lay remorselessly exposed: smashed boxcars, smoking locomotives, twisted rails in marshaling yards, smoldering debris in wrecked cities, long lines of forlorn refugees. The German soldier, theLandser(infantryman),watched fatalistically as the enemy threatened him constantly with sudden death from...

  9. 3 DEATH THROES
    (pp. 61-92)

    Pursued relentlessly through theOdenwald,where legend had it that the heroic Siegfried perished at the hands of a traitor, the weakened and demoralized remnants of a once formidable army straggled toward the Tauber River. Hoping for reinforcements from the last mustering of local Franconians, German commanders sought to establish a new defensive line at Königshofen that would enable them to fight a last, decisive battle. Able to summon only half the strength of their opponents, however, and unnerved by the unexpectedly rapid approach of enemy forces, leaders of the ragtag collection of German troops quickly jettisoned all plans for...

  10. 4 THROUGH THE STEIGERWALD
    (pp. 93-114)

    Having crossed the Tauber, units of the Twelfth Armored Division, primarily the Seventeenth Armored Infantry Battalion and the Twenty-third Tank Battalion, now moved rapidly eastward toward Aub, Uffenheim, and Ippesheim, hoping to skirt the ridges along the southern edge of the Steigerwald before turning south toward the Aisch River and the towns of Bad Windsheim and Neustadt, which controlled access to theFrankenhöhe.Subjected to constant American aerial attacks and strong artillery fire, faced with shortages of heavy weapons, artillery, food, and fuel, and deeply impressed by the overwhelming material superiority of its enemy, against which even personal bravery seemed...

  11. 5 RUNNING AMOK AGAINST THE REALITY OF DEFEAT
    (pp. 115-158)

    With the American breakthrough, the Germans could no longer maintain the Steigerwald line, so now began a hasty withdrawal southeast to the next line of defense, which ran along the Frankenhöhe (Franconian heights) toward Nuremberg, itself thirty miles to the southeast. Wary of the German ability to spring nasty surprises, American troops advanced slowly and cautiously. Although German commanders, aware of their own pitiful weakness, alternately expressed amazement or a mocking contempt for this American practice, the average GI, hoping only to survive this final phase of the war, was determined to make good use of his overwhelming artillery and...

  12. 6 ACROSS THE FRANKENHÖHE
    (pp. 159-194)

    Having broken the Steigerwald defense line at both its eastern and western ends, American troops noted a steady withdrawal of scattered German units under cover of the rain-soaked darkness during the night of April 12–13. As GIs of the Twenty-third Tank Battalion and 101st Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron set out in pursuit on the morning of April 13, however, two German infantry companies, supported by eight Mark V Panther tanks, launched a furious counterattack at Buchheim, a few miles west of the strategically important city of Bad Windsheim. The German tanks had hardly left their concealment, remembered Emil Gabriel, a...

  13. 7 STRUGGLE UNTIL FIVE AFTER TWELVE
    (pp. 195-222)

    During the Thirty Years War, that disastrous period of chaos and calamity between 1618 and 1648, German peasants grew increasingly weary of having their farms plundered and burned, their wives and daughters raped, and their sons taken away by the various marauding bands who fought in the service of one or another of the Great Powers of Europe. To the long-suffering peasant, it seemed irrelevant whether Catholic or Protestant laid waste in order to save his soul, or whether French, Austrian, or Swedish troops ultimately gained ascendancy. Driven to despair, a number of farmers on the Lüneberg Heath gathered in...

  14. 8 THERE CAN BE NO RETURN TO NORMALITY
    (pp. 223-266)

    Speaking with a Military Government official in the peaceful town of Heidelberg in mid-May 1945, a correspondent for theNew York Times,skeptical of the many reports of looting and violence by former displaced persons, suddenly heard a woman’s scream. Going outside, he saw a middle-aged woman “running down the tree-lined street with blood pouring from a gash in her arm. . . . She had been halted by a former Russian slave [laborer] who demanded her bicycle and who whipped out a stolen bayonet and slashed her when she refused to surrender it.” Although the specter of the Werwolf...

  15. AFTERWORD
    (pp. 267-274)

    Attempting to come to grips with the demon of National Socialism, Thomas Mann in his anguished novel from exile,Doctor Faustus(1947), reflected once again on a theme that haunted him his entire life, the dangerous German fascination with the darkly creative. Mann interspersed his tale of the composer Adrian Leverkühn with contemporary accounts of the spreading destruction of the great German cities, the physical representation of that magnificent German culture to which he clung and which the Nazis had reduced to rubble. Much of the power of his writing in this work sprang from a profound moral outrage, made...

  16. NOTES
    (pp. 275-332)
  17. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 333-370)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 371-382)
  19. Illustrations
    (pp. None)