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Soldiers, Civilians, and the Death of the Third Reich

Stephen Fritz

Publication Year: 2004

At the end of World War II, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, fearing that retreating Germans would consolidate large numbers of troops in an Alpine stronghold and from there conduct a protracted guerilla war, turned U.S. forces toward the heart of Franconia, ordering them to cut off and destroy German units before they could reach the Alps. Opposing this advance was a conglomeration of German forces headed by SS-Gruppenführer Max Simon, a committed National Socialist who advocated merciless resistance. Under the direction of officers schooled in harsh combat in Russia, the Germans succeeded in bringing the American advance to a grinding halt. Caught in the middle were the people of Franconia. Historians have accorded little mention to this period of violence and terror, but it provides insight into the chaotic nature of life while the Nazi regime was crumbling. Neither German civilians nor foreign refugees acted simply as passive victims caught between two fronts. Throughout the region people pressured local authorities to end the senseless resistance and sought revenge for their tribulations in the “liberation” that followed. Stephen G. Fritz examines the predicament and outlook of American GI’s, German soldiers and officials, and the civilian population caught in the arduous fighting during the waning days of World War II. Endkampf is a gripping portrait of the collapse of a society and how it affected those involved, whether they were soldiers or civilians, victors or vanquished, perpetrators or victims. Stephen G. Fritz, professor of history at East Tennessee State University, is the author of Frontsoldaten: The German Soldier in World War II .

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky

Title Page

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p. iii-iii


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p. iv-iv


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p. v-v


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p. vi-vi


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pp. vii-ix


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p. x-x

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pp. xi-xviii

In assessing the dissolution of Hitler’s regime, the prominent German historian Hans Mommsen has claimed that from 1943 on, the Third Reich was in an accelerating process of internal dissolution, a situation that prompted the most radical members of the party, state, and military increasingly to assert control and assume new tasks. Further, Mommsen...

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Chapter 1

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pp. 1-30

With German forces reeling back to the Reich in disarray following the hammer blows of the Normandy and Southern France campaigns, the end of the war in Europe seemed tantalizingly near in autumn 1944. Readers of the New York Times thus might be forgiven if, on November 12, they read with skepticism two items that suggested other-wise. In an article entitled “The Nazis Still Hope for a Miracle,” George...

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Chapter 2

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pp. 31-60

By the spring of 1945, Adolf Hitler’s much vaunted Thousand Year Reich had become a vast battleground, a swarm of enemy tanks, jeeps,trucks, and soldiers, as Allied troops battered in from both east and west.The dead lay unburied in forests, or under the rubble of ancient cities, or in damp frontline trenches. The detritus of a disintegrating society lay remorselessly exposed: smashed boxcars, smoking locomotives, twisted...

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Chapter 3

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pp. 61-92

Pursued relentlessly through the Odenwald, where legend had it that the heroic Siegfried perished at the hands of a traitor, the weakened and demoralized remnants of a once formidable army straggled toward the Tauber River. Hoping for reinforcements from the last mustering of local Franconians, German commanders sought to establish a new defensive line at K

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Chapter 4

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pp. 93-114

Having crossed the Tauber, units of the Twelfth Armored Division,primarily the Seventeenth Armored Infantry Battalion and the Twenty-third Tank Battalion, now moved rapidly eastward toward Aub, Uffenheim, and Ippesheim, hoping to skirt the ridges along the southern edge of the Steigerwald before turning south toward the Aisch River and the towns of Bad Windsheim and Neustadt, which controlled access to...

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Chapter 5

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pp. 115-158

With the American breakthrough, the Germans could no longer maintain the Steigerwald line, so now began a hasty withdrawal south-east to the next line of defense, which ran along the Frankenh

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Chapter 6

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pp. 159-194

Having broken the Steigerwald defense line at both its eastern and western ends, American troops noted a steady withdrawal of scattered German units under cover of the rain-soaked darkness during the night of April 12–13. As GIs of the Twenty-third Tank Battalion and 101stCavalry Reconnaissance Squadron set out in pursuit on the morning of April 13, however, two German infantry companies, supported by eight...

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Chapter 7

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pp. 195-222

During the Thirty Years War, that disastrous period of chaos and calamity between 1618 and 1648, German peasants grew increasingly weary of having their farms plundered and burned, their wives and daughters raped, and their sons taken away by the various marauding bands who fought in the service of one or another of the Great Powers of Europe. To the long-suffering peasant, it seemed irrelevant...

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Chapter 8

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pp. 223-266

Speaking with a Military Government official in the peaceful town of Heidelberg in mid-May 1945, a correspondent for the New York Times, skeptical of the many reports of looting and violence by former displaced persons, suddenly heard a woman’s scream. Going outside, he saw a middle-aged woman “running down the tree-lined street with blood pouring from a gash in her arm. . . . She had been halted by a former...

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pp. 267-274

Attempting to come to grips with the demon of National Socialism, Tho-mas Mann in his anguished novel from exile, Doctor Faustus (1947), reflected once again on a theme that haunted him his entire life, the dangerous German fascination with the darkly creative. Mann interspersed his tale of the composer Adrian Leverk


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pp. 275-332


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pp. 333-370


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pp. 371-382


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pp. 383-399

E-ISBN-13: 9780813171906
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813123257

Page Count: 416
Publication Year: 2004

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Franconia (Germany) -- History -- 20th century.
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Campaigns -- Germany -- Franconia.
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Social aspects -- Germany.
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