April 8th in German History: The Liberation of Crimea

crimeanoffensive
Russian infantry rejoice at the recapture of the city of Sevastopol from the German army.

April 8th, 1944, while perhaps a bad day for Germany, was a good day for the world as a whole. On that day, the Soviet Union began its offensive to retake Crimea from the Germans who had occupied it in 1942. The Soviet forces, led by Fyodor Tolbukhin, attacked combined German and Romanian forces under Erwin Jaenecke. Over the preceding two years, the Red Army had pushed the Wachermat back to the Ukraine. However, the German Army had not yet experienced Operation Bagration, and so still had some capacity to resist the Soviet Union along the Eastern Front. However, the German army was unable to prevent the Soviets from crossing into Crimea and quickly advancing to Sevastopol, reaching the city on the 16th of April. The Germans were unable to make a fortress out of Sevastopol as the city’s fortifications had not been rebuilt from their destruction in the German assault on the city. As such, they were forced to evacuate the peninsula entirely. Soviet bombers attacked the evacuating forces and shore artillery attempted to sink the Romanian and German ships. The German and Romanian navies lost several transports and light vessels, but overall did not take too heavy losses in terms of ships. They did, however, suffer 57,000 dead during the entire operation in Crimea to the Soviet’s 17,000. This is especially unbalanced when one considers that the Soviets had 460,000 men in the operation to the German’s 250,000. These casualty ratios show a sharp reversal of the pattern that held during the earlier phase of the war in which the Germans would surround and destroy massive numbers of Soviet infantry. Now, German formations were trapped in pockets and liquidated by Russian formations superior in aircraft and artillery. The Soviet recpature of Crimea was yet another step toward defeat of Nazi Germany. It secured the Russians from a German attack on their flank and gave them control of yet more ports on the Baltic sea. Further, it forever ended the possibility of a German invasion of the Caucuses. Finally, every German soldier who drowned in the Black Sea was one less who would defend the gates of Berlin against the red tide. The horrors that Germans suffered in Crimea were retribution for what they had inflicted upon the Russians previously, and they would suffer them again and again until the end of the war. They serve to remind us yet again that aggressive expansionism in the modern age does not lead to long term success or prosperity.

2 thoughts on “April 8th in German History: The Liberation of Crimea

  1. The photo is really interesting. Are the soldiers firing captured German arms or their own? Also, the German toll of 57K dead over a period of weeks’ combat in the Crimea compares rather well with the total US death in either the Korean war or the Vietnam war. It is a reminder of the intense, vast scale of the Russian front, where many separate engagements each led to more Russian casualties than the US lost during the entire WW 2.

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    1. I am no expert on weapons, but it looks to me like one of the more prominent soldiers in the picture is firing a captured German weapon and the rest are firing Russian weapons. I do agree that the scale of the Eastern front is awe-inspiring, although I think that the large numbers of casualties are also due to the tactics used by the Russians, who often lacked the degree of artillery and air support that the Western Allies had and so resorted to more manpower-intensive warfare.

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