World Battlefronts: BATTLE OF GERMANY: The Man Who Can't Surrender

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Terror came on the cold, wet wind with the sound of Russian guns. Panic came on the heels of the milling, stumbling horde of refugees. Berlin, at last, was a battle zone.

Berlin had not been captured by a foreign invader since 1806—and there was no battle then. Headed by their mayor, the citizens came out and welcomed Napoleon's Marshal Davout with open arms; the local press lavished praise on the French. In those days, good middle-class Prussians washed their hands of the Prussian soldiery.

Last week the citizens were part of the Army. The Volkssturm men who felled trees, dug trenches and fashioned barricades from bomb rubble were simply civilians with red arm bands. Women rode on the antiaircraft guns pulling out for the Oder front. The "mayor," this time, was clubfooted Paul Joseph Goebbels (Gauleiter of Berlin), who screamed defiance over the radio: "Factories will be blown up and the whole capital scorched!"

Berlin would be defended stone by stone: "We cannot let Breslau and Königsberg put us to shame, much less Warsaw, Leningrad and Moscow!"

Robert Ley, the besotted labor chief, feebly paraphrased Churchill and Clemenceau: "We will fight in front of Berlin, in Berlin, behind Berlin!"

Commentator Wilfrid von Oven: "The enemy is knocking at the door of Berlin. . . . The defenders at this point are still in a state of improvisation. Nobody should lose his head when he sees tanks appear."

"Schluss! Schlussi" The radio spewed an endless stream of exhortation to all true Germans, of threats to traitors, cowards, shirkers, defeatists. All Army "stragglers" and all males over 13 were ordered to report for Volksstürm duty. The defense of the city was laid out in three zones: 1) the suburbs, including Potsdam, Erkner, Bernau, Lankwitz; 2) the outskirts of the city proper; 3) an inner citadel based on the Potsdamer Platz and Unter den Linden. Even the zoo was fortified.

Some busses were commandeered for the refugees, and others were packed with soldiers and sent off to the front, in imitation of Gallieni's great taxicab army which helped to save Paris in 1914. Streetcars stopped running and subway service was heavily reduced. Food cards were stretched for an extra week and the potato ration was cut.

Press wires to and from neutral capitals thrummed with high-tension drama: rumors, sensations, travelers' tales. Police had fired on food rioters, it was said, and on demonstrators protesting the Volkssturm levies; the 55 and the Volkssturm had clashed; the Volkssturm had shot at refugee columns, mistaking them in the dark of night for Bolshevik invaders. Those long range airplanes which were to carry Nazi bigwigs to Japan had their engines turning over again. Goebbels, however, was carrying a vial of poison for use in case Berlin should be suddenly surrounded by Red paratroops. Officials at Tempelhof airdrome hysterically chattered that Russian patrols had appeared, taken a good look around, vanished.

Someone broke into a radio announcement by yelling, "Schluss! Schluss!" ("Finis! The End!").

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