Battle of Bautzen summary
The Battle of Bautzen (or Battle of Budziszyn, April 1945) was one of the last battles of the Eastern Front during World War II. It was fought on the extreme southern flank of the Spremberg-Torgau Offensive, seeing days of pitched street fighting between forces of the Polish Second Army and elements of the Soviet's 52nd Army and 5th Guards Army[a] on one side and elements of German Army Group Center in the form of the remnants of the 4th Panzer and 17th Armies on the other.
- The battle took place during Ivan Konev's 1st Ukrainian Front's push toward Berlin, which was part of the larger Soviet Berlin Offensive. The battle was fought in the town of Bautzen (Polish: Budziszyn) and the rural areas to the northeast situated primarily along the Bautzen–Niesky line. Major combat began on 21 April 1945 and continued until 26 April although isolated engagements continued to take place until 30 April. The battle took place during Ivan Konev's 1st Ukrainian Front's push toward Berlin. The Polish Second Army was under the command of Karol Świerczewski
- On 21 April, a gap had formed between the Polish infantry units (8th and 9th Infantry Divisions) and the 1st Armored Corps pushing towards Dresden, and the Polish units which were securing the Muskauer Forst region.
- The Germans took the opportunity presented to them and pushed into this gap. The events of 21 April marked the beginning of this battle. In the west 20th Panzer Division commenced its drive on Bautzen, while in the east 17th Infantry Division advanced on Niesky and Weißenberg, freeing a number of trapped German troops on its way.
- At first, Polish general Świerczewski continued with his attempt to take Dresden, which contributed to the growing chaos in the Polish forces, as many communication lines were cut.
- The Polish Second Army lost cohesion and split into four groups. Several units of the Polish Second Army found themselves surrounded
- Eventually, Świerczewski halted his force's advance on Dresden, and ordered it to pull back and secure the breach. On 22 April he ordered the 1st Armored Corps to change direction, retreat from Dresden and support the centre. The 8th Infantry Division was also recalled, however, the 9th remained near Dresden
- For a while Świerczewski was out of communication with his superiors, including Marshal Konev. Konev also sent his chief of staff, General Ivan Yefimovich Petrov, and his chief of operations, General Vladimir Ivanovich Kostylev, to look at the situation. Petrov managed to re-establish communications, and left Kostylev in charge. Świerczewski was briefly relieved of his command for incompetence. To stabilize the situation, Konev ordered eight divisions from the Ukrainian Front to reinforce the Polish positions.
- Meanwhile the German advance to the southeast of Bautzen was successful. The Soviet 294th Rifle Division was encircled at Weißenberg by the Brandenburg Division.
- In its subsequent breakout on 24 April, large parts of the 294th Division were destroyed. At the same time at Bautzen the 20th Panzer Division was able to make contact with the trapped units in the town from the south
- The German commander Bronikowski then lost no time and immediately ordered an attack into Bautzen. Coordinating with the trapped troops, he was able to break into the town.
- A hastily assembled Polish counterattack was not successful and most of Bautzen was then recaptured after several days of bloody house-to-house combat. Several remaining pockets of resistance in the town were cleared during the next days.
- Outside the town the German advance stalled, as their troops were running low on fuel supplies. The recapture of Bautzen was one of the last successful German tactical victories on the Eastern Front.
- By 25 April Polish units were able to stabilize a defense.
- The 9th Division found itself alone at the spearhead of the abandoned Polish push towards Dresden. It received orders to retreat on 26 April. Attempting to withdraw quickly and to form back with the main forces, it was intercepted by the Germans and sustained heavy losses. The units were moving with insufficient security, on the assumption that the line of retreat was safe, at the same time the Germans captured Polish orders with details of their planned withdrawal routes.
- As a result of these losses, the 9th Division ceased to be an effective force, the remaining personnel were merged into the Soviet 19th Guards Rifle Division. According to some sources, 26 April marks the end of this battle, although less severe and isolated clashes in that region continued until 30 April.