The Eastern Front in February-March 1945 according to Eva Schloss

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Hadding
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The Eastern Front in February-March 1945 according to Eva Schloss

Post by Hadding » 10 Feb 2020 22:52

Eva Schloss (née Geiringer) was a prisoner in Birkenau women's camp from May 1944 until the Germans left in January 1945. She and her mother did not participate in the evacuation, and they stayed at the camp after the had Germans left, despite the fact that nobody was keeping them there, apparently because there was food and lodging to be had, and it was a cold winter.

From the perspective of Eva Schloss at the Birkenau women's camp the "liberation of Auschwitz" was not a simple and decisive event. The first Russians arrived on 27 January 1945 but did not stay. In her account, Eva's Story (1988,2012) no permanent Soviet presence was ever established in her particular camp. She says that the Red Army appeared "every two or three days, camping for a night or two, then moving on."

Here's the part where I am looking for information: the continuing presence of the Wehrmacht in the area.

While no permanent Soviet presence was established at Birkenau women's camp in the weeks following the so-called liberation, she says that there were still German forces in the area. Specifically, around the middle of February (as I add up the time-intervals beyond 27 January that she mentions) she says that two truckloads of Wehrmacht soldiers arrived and rounded up women in the Birkenau women's camp and marched them away for some unstated purpose.

In what is probably late February, Eva and her mother and two friends decide to trek over to the Auschwitz main camp, where the men are, and where (it turns out) the Red Army has established a somewhat permanent presence. She says that on the road between Auschwitz main camp and the Birkenau women's camp there was shooting between Soviet and German forces in the area (neither of which she claims to have seen), and that tracer bullets whizzed past her head.

She says that "in the third week" (presumably the third week of her stay at the Auschwitz main camp) there was a military setback whereby Auschwitz might fall back into German hands: "We gradually realized that the Russians had suffered a severe onslaught from the Germans and had lost ground. Our mutual enemy was advancing towards us once more."

Red Army officers (it seems) then made the decision to evacuate civilians from Auschwitz main camp to Katowice. The date, according to Eva Schloss, is "in the third week" from 27 January plus 12 one-day intervals plus "a few days" plus "three or four days" plus several intervals of "two or three days." Thus, on some day that must have been well into March 1945, and perhaps even later, according to Eva Schloss, Oswiecim was in danger of being recaptured. If there was such a danger, can we put a date on it?

How do these claims mesh with the military progress of the war?

Hadding
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Re: The Eastern Front in February-March 1945 according to Eva Schloss

Post by Hadding » 12 Feb 2020 07:43

The nearest that I can figure is that there was no direct threat of Auschwitz being recaptured by the Germans, but that Operation Spring Awakening (6-16 March 1945) in Hungary showed that the Germans still had a capacity to launch offensives and made Red Army officers worry that something could happen in Poland too.

bam
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Re: The Eastern Front in February-March 1945 according to Eva Schloss

Post by bam » 21 Apr 2020 22:08

Eva must have witnessed some minor skirmishes with cut off German troops. But There were no German counter attacks towards Auschwitz, never any danger of german reconquest .
The part of silesia to the west was evacuated by FM Schorner in mid Feb, and they never tried to recapture it. The frontline then solidified around Ratibor/Mahrish Ostrava, about 170km West of Auschwitz.
The lines didn't move much until the very end of April, as this area was skillfully defended by 1st Pz Army under Gotthard Heinrici. He is one of the very few German generals who managed to use flexible tactics, and great judgement, to withdraw his troops just a few hours before the Soviet attacks, so they pulled back about 8km and avoided the killer artillery barrages, and moved into prepared fall back lines. Heinrici was the guy in charge of the 300,000 men & 600 tanks on the Oder front in April that withheld 1.5million troops and 2500 tanks of Zhukovs Armies for 3 days, by withdrawing from the front lines in the Oder valley back 8km to the Seelow escarpment. His raggity 9th Army army of conscripts, kids and volksturm held against 5 Soviet mechanised Armies.

So there were no large attacks anywhere near Auschwitz, especially not in March. I imagine she just witnessed panicky Soviet troops going on alerts against phantom threats, rumours of infiltrators, a few lost cut-off Germans etc.

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