The Battle for Berlin
Now the scales of war were against Hitler, and in the summer of 1943 the Germans met with a devastating defeat in Russia at the Battle of Kursk and the German and Italian armies in Africa were destroyed. 1944 found Germany totally on the defensive with the successful Allied invasion of France and repeated loses in Russia such as Stalingrad. By the beginning of 1945, the British, Americans, and Russians were closing in on Germany. The Russians by the end of January were within 100 miles of Berlin. Hitler resolved to fight on, which resulted in even more deaths and devastation. While the war was progressing, Hitler embarked on a campaign to totally eliminate Jews and other peoples that were not to his liking. Millions were sent to extermination camps such as Auschwitz-Birkenau, Sobibor and Treblinka.
In April, 1945, the Russians were closing in on Berlin.
Hitler demanded a fight to the death and designated Berlin a "fortress" to be defended to the last. The city's commandant, Major General Hellmuth Reymann, calculated that it would take at least 200,000 experienced troops to defend the capital, however the only ones available to make up the militia were mostly old men, women, and children.
Berlin, through the efforts of the Volksstrum, was prepared for the Russian offensive. Barricades were constructed and trenches were dug to trap tanks, however Reymann saw the preparations as futile and said, "I only hope that some miracle happens to change our fortunes, or that the War ends before Berlin comes under siege. Otherwise, God help the Berliners!" Despite fortification efforts, the men and artillery needed to defend the capital never materialized. Meanwhile, 1.3 million soldiers of the Red Army stood poised to descend upon Berlin for what Marshal Georgy K. Zhukov called,