World Battlefronts: BATTLE OF GERMANY (East): Something Bigger

Founded in 1158 as a storehouse for Bremen merchants, later a Hanseatic League port, Riga is less valuable as a harbor than Tallinn to the north or Memel to the south—because the Gulf of Riga freezes over for four months. But Riga was the last Baltic capital in Nazi hands, and therefore a great symbolic prize for the Russians.

The Nazi commander at Riga, a colonel general named Schemer, seemed bent on holding it all winter, ice or no ice. The town was girdled by a 25-mile belt of ferroconcrete pillboxes, tank traps and barbed...

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