Western Allies Drive into Germany: 12th Army Group--Harz Mountains

Figure 1.--Here a U.S. Army soldier with an M1 Garand rifle, the finst rifle of the War, speaks to a resident in an unidentified Harz Mountain village. There was some sharp fighting in the Harz, but most of the villages surrendered without a fight. Notice the white flag over this home. What is moticeanle here are the children hapily playing on the steps. In the East parents attempted to hide girls from the Red Army soldiers who raped even children and eldely women. Here the mother has no concern about the children after the Americans entered the village.

The Harz Mountains are located near the geographic center of Germany betweem the Salle and Elbe River. This was not a heavy industrialized area. German industry was concentrated in the Ruhr. As the War continued and the Allied Strategic Bombing Campaign hammered the Ruhr, the Germans began transferring priority arms projects to the Harz Mountains. Many wre located in undrground facilities and were operated with slave labour who toiled under horendous conditions. Thus SS began locating cincentration cmps in the area. The Harz mountains became the location of several hundred forced labour camps and KZs. The deadly KZ Dora near Nordhausen was located in the South Harz. KZ Mittelbau-Dora (Dora-Mittelbau / Nordhausen-Dora) was a subcamp of the infamous Buchenwald KZ. The SS under inhuman conditions forced inmates to expand existing tunnels and staff Mittelwerk Ltd., in Kohnstein near Nordhausen. This is where the V-2 balistic missle and the V-1 flying bomb were assembled. The SS constanly hanged workers and left them dangling from the rafters. Missle genius Wernher von Braun had blueprunts of his missled hidden in an abandoned mine shaft in the Harz. [Cadbury] Just before the Allies crossed the Rhine SS Reichsführer, Heinrich Himmler, ordered that the Harz Mountains become one of Hitler's fortress areas--the Harz Fortress (Harzfestung) (February 1945). It was an effort to defend central Germany. The headquarters was at Blankenburg. There was not much left to man the fortress. The primcipal garrisom unit was the badly depleted Wehrmact 11th Army. They were supported by units of the Waffen SS and the Volkssturm. The American 1st Army was the first to reach the area. They discovered Nordhausen in the southern Harz. Most of the picturesque villages in the Harz surrendered. When they advanced northward they met some resistance in the hills around the towns of Ilfeld and Ellrich. This was a rare stand after the llies crossed the Rhine. The last units of the 11th Army and Waffen SS in the Harz surrendered (May 7). A few Volkssturm troops fought on even after the NAZI surrender.


Cadbury, Deborah. Space Race (BBC Worldwide Limited: 2005).


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Created: 12:13 PM 12/26/2017
Last updated: 12:14 PM 12/26/2017