The Surrender at Berchtesgaden

Posted on Wednesday 30th April 2014


Snow fell across Bavaria as 3rd Division prepared for the final advance towards Salzburg. The end of the war was only hours away but the division still had to complete one final task; the men had to head east towards Salzburg to stop die-hard Nazis fleeing into the Alps. The two leading Regiments were organised into fast moving task forces, with the men mounted on all kinds of vehicle. Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Chaney wanted to reach Rosenheim in the shortest time possible. Intelligence reports suggested that four battalions held Rosenheim. Rather than taking the town by force, Lieutenant Mehuron arranged a meeting with the German commander and convinced him that a huge force of infantry and tanks was about to attack. The ruse worked and Company I was soon busy organising over 1,600 prisoners.
By Andrew Rawson, extracted from In Pursuit of Hitler and reproduced by permission of Pen and Sword Books Ltd.

Beyond Rosenheim, Task Force Chaney headed east along the autobahn as the GIs marvelled at the sight of the huge inland lake, the Chiemsee, and the foothills of the Alps. To view such natural beauty after the horrors of the past few weeks was a surreal experience. Beyond the lake, the task force headed into Traunstein where it was halted as 20th Armoured Division and a French Division passed through heading for Salzburg, creating a traffic jam on the only remaining bridge in the town.
As the two Task Forces reorganised, 7th Regiment took over the advance along the autobahn, bypassing a destroyed bridge near Obersee, and 3rd Battalion fought its last battle in the town of Siegsdorf. 2nd Battalion reached the Austrian border on 3 May, finding all three bridges across the Saalach River destroyed, and it was forced to make one last assault crossing later that night. To the north, 3rd Division’s Assistant Divisional Commander, Brigadier General Robert Young, led the reconnaissance vehicles of 106th Cavalry Group into Salzburg where he accepted the surrender of the city from the garrison commander and local dignitaries.
By now news of Hitler’s death on 30 April had spread and 3rd Division was overwhelmed with prisoners as complete units surrendered (one battalion surrendered to a solitary GI who had become separated from the rest of his company). One battalion took over 3,000 prisoners including three Generals.

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German soldiers march into captivity as 3rd Division heads towards the Alps.


The end
Berchtesgaden was supposed to have been occupied by the 101st Airborne Division but General O’Daniel was determined that his men would have the honour of seizing the town and Hitler’s complex on Obersalzberg. Blown bridges had delayed 506th Parachute Regiment as it approached from the west along the picturesque Alpenstrasse so Colonel Robert Sink decided to follow 3rd Division along the autobahn. General O’Daniel personally halted the airborne troops at the only bridge across the River Saalbach; (he also stopped the 2nd French Armoured Division from crossing after a heated argument with General Le Clark). O’Daniel then ordered Colonel Heintges to send a Task Force towards Berchtesgaden and 7th Regiment’s 1st Battalion was chosen to lead the way. After taking 3,000 prisoners in Bad Reichenhall it headed towards Bischofswiesen while 3rd Battalion approached Berchtesgaden from the northeast.
As the American columns moved along the alpine passes, Theodor Jacob, the Berchtesgaden District Commissioner, was determined to make sure that his townspeople did not suffer. District leader Stredele, a fanatic Nazi, was determined to fight but the Obersalzberg’s SS commander, Bernhard Frank, and the head of the staff, Ingenieur Grethlein, both gave assurances that their men were abandoning Hitler’s mountain complex and withdrawing into the mountains. Jacob was then able to disband the town’s Volkssturm and then headed north to greet the advancing American troops.
He met an armoured column of 30th Infantry Regiment at the tiny hamlet of Winkl, north of Bischofswiesen, and declared Berchtesgaden an open town. Lieutenant Colonel Kenneth Wallace insisted that the formal surrender took place in the centre of the town and Jacob led the column of tanks and lorries through the mountains and into the heart of Berchtesgaden. He formally surrendered the community outside the town hall (Rathaus).

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Thousands of prisoners gather around planes on an abandoned airfield.

After the surrender, Colonel Wallace sent troops up the mountain to investigate Obersalzberg. They found a scene of deserted devastation. The Berghof was a smoking ruin, badly damaged during the air raid and then set ablaze as the SS garrison withdrew. The Stars and Stripes quickly replaced the swastika outside Hitler’s residence as the GIs began exploring the cratered landscape. After twelve years the Nazis’ occupation of Obersalzberg was over.
General O’Daniel let the 101st paratroopers and the French troops across the River Saalach as soon as the news reached his headquarters. They eventually reached Berchtesgaden at nightfall and set about completing their orders. 7th Infantry Regiment held an official flag-raising ceremony at the Berghof the following day and then handed the area over to 506th Parachute Regiment as visitors poured into the area looking for souvenirs. Guards were eventually posted to stop unscrupulous soldiers removing items but everything of value had already been removed, leaving Hitler’s palatial home a wrecked shell.
The Eagle’s Nest survived the bombing raid on 25 April 1945 and soldiers of the 506th Parachute Regiment were the first to climb the mountain (the tunnel was blocked by snow), taking anything they could find as souvenirs of their visit. General Maxwell Taylor was furious when he saw the damage and he ordered guards to surround the building. Over the days that followed, a procession of high-ranking officers rode up the mountain in one of Hitler’s Mercedes limousines to see the building.

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Hitler's mountain home, reduced to a smouldering ruin, is shortly to become a souvenir hunter's paradise.

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Task Force Wallace rolls into Berchtesgaden.


'As the American columns moved along the alpine passes, Theodor Jacob, the Berchtesgaden District Commissioner, was determined to make sure that his townspeople did not suffer. District leader Stredele, a fanatic Nazi, was determined to fight but the Obersalzberg's SS commander, Bernhard Frank, and the head of the staff, Ingenieur Grethlein, both gave assurances that their men were abandoning Hitler's mountain complex and withdrawing into the mountains.'

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Theodor Jacob met Colonel Wallace's men at Winkl, several miles north of Berchtesgaden.


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The Berghof before the bombing.

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The Berghof received at least two direct hits.

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Further Reading


In Pursuit of Hitler
(Hardback - 288 pages)
ISBN: 9781844155613

by Andrew Rawson
Only £19.99

This book is a chronology of the Rise and Fall of the Third Reich and the famous victory drive of the Seventh Army. It starts at the Worms' Rhine bridgehead and moves quickly onto Aschaffenburg, before describing the Hammelburg Raid to release US POWs. Driving South through Karlstadt the Army seized crossing of the River Mainz at Wurzburg (which has a fine castle). The seizure of Nuremberg was hugely symbolic and this beautiful city was the scene both of the infamous Nazi Rallies and of course the War Crimes Tribunals.…
Read more at Pen & Sword Books...

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