How much did ordinary Germans know about the situation on the Eastern Front?

Reply Fri 30 Jan, 2009 05:32 am
Newspapers were published regularly even in early 1945.
But I understand that they didn't carry reports from concentration camps.
Although... the existence of such camps for opposition members must have been known. I remember watching a clip, one of few still existing, of a Nazi TV broadcast. You know, Heil Hitler at the start and then the anchor said sth about "those who can't sing in tune and will have to be taught how to".
And when Germans started to retreat - was it presented as "tactical withdrawal"? When newspapers published reports of the Nemmensdorf massacre by Soviet troops, civilian population in Eastern Prussia started to escape westwards in panic.
I also watched a Nazi chronicle which showed prostheses for legless veterans of war. So the fact that there were victims was not hidden. Anyway, families must have been receiving notices of their kin's deaths.
When the panic started in early 1945, it was like a typhoon. Gauleiter Koch told the people in Pomeranian ports that party members had the right to board the ships first. Many large ships were sunk by Soviet aircraft http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MV_Wilhelm_Gustloff
Some Germans escaped to Denmark and were put into a concentration camp there.
Soviet planes targeted the escaping population, then millions of rapes happened in Allenstein, Gdansk, Berlin.
So was this chaos partly caused by lack of proper information to civilians?
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Reply Fri 13 Mar, 2009 02:32 am
You can watch two great documentary movies on YouTube on that subject.
The Assault On East Prussia
and its sequel,
The Russians Are Coming!
About 50 minutes each.
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Reply Sun 11 Oct, 2015 01:30 am

Newspapers controlled by the Nazis ( which was all of them in Germany from shortly after their accession to power) did not print defeatist reports about the Wehrmacht.

That said, even Hitler didn't know what the status of troops was half the time. On April 28, 1945, he radioed Field Marshal Keitel:

"I expect the relief of Berlin. What is Heinrici's army doing? Where is Wenck? What is happening to the Ninth Army?"

If Hitler didn't even know that the army groups he had ordered to relieve Berlin had been liquidated or were retreating so as to be captured by the Western Allies rather than the Soviets (per Shirer), what would the average German have known about the strength and disposition of Soviet forces moving forward? I suspect that many Germans expected the American and British forces to hasten to occupy Germany before the Soviets did; and by the time it became obvious that this wasn't the case, it was too late for anything but chaos.

Admiral Doenitz was in charge of the German government in the final days, first the military situation in northern Germany and subsequently the national government as Hitler's designated successor.

In his memoirs he wrote that by May 1st "communications had broken down completely"; also that millions of Germans were fleeing westward from the oncoming Russians.

He also writes:

"Between January 23 and May 8, 1945, 2,022,602 persons from Courland, East and West Prussia, and later from Pomerania and parts of Mecklenburg were safely transported by sea to the west. The evacuations had been carried out under constant attack by British, American and Russian aircraft, by Russian submarines and light coastal forces, and through waters repeatedly and heavily mined... painful as these losses were, they represented only 1 percent of the total brought out by sea; 99 percent succeeded in arriving safely at ports on the western Baltic... Owing to a lack of shipping and inadequate port facilities in Libau only a fraction of the army in Courland could be evacuated."

Note that the last sentence makes clear that some substantial portion of these "persons" were German military.

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