I read this excellent article by a person called Roger Moorhouse at the following address: http://www.bi-secureserver.net/web/rogermo...e/article3.html Also here are some pictures of Breslau (Wroclaw) during and after the siege. http://www.wratislavia.net/festung.htm It is a town with an interesting history Here is the article Breslau (Wroclaw), the capital city of the province of Silesia, bears a rich history of mixed populations and mixed cultures. In the best Central European tradition, it defies simple categorisation. It was founded by a Bohemian prince. Its bishopric was established by a Polish king and a German Emperor over the bones of a Bohemian martyr. In the Middle Ages, it became a bastion of the German expansion to the east, but it maintained substantial Polish, Czech and Jewish minorities and indeed stood successively under the control of Kraków, Prague and Budapest. In the early decades of the 20th century, however, that multicultural quality was very much on the wane. The Czech influence had barely survived the horrors of the Hussite Wars. The Polish minority had lingered, in spite of increasing "germanisation", but by 1914 its most poignant witness was the profusion of Polish surnames in the Breslau address book. Few of those who bore those names would have called themselves Poles. The Polish community did receive a brief fillip after 1918 with the establishment of a Polish consulate and a Polish school, but it was neither the time nor the place for a Polish revival. The sole survivor of the multicultural age then was the Jewish community. Strongly assimilated and hugely successful, having contributed numerous Nobel Prize winners, Breslau Jewry stood at the peak of its powers in 1900. It produced academics and artists of European renown, and maintained the intellectual and theological rigour of the famed Jewish Theological Seminary. But within a few short decades, it would soon be peering into the abyss. By 1933, its population was already in decline, with voluntary emigration accounting for some 20% of the peak from 1930 of 30,000. As a result of Nazi persecution, those figures subsequently fell further, reaching 10,000 by 1938 and barely 4,000 in 1940. The Holocaust in Breslau was swift and brutal. No formal ghetto was built, but the remnants of the Jewish community were clustered in the district around the Storch Synagogue in the Old Town. The remaining Jewish organisations were closed down as the noose was gradually tightened. Two Breslau diarists left moving accounts of the community's final days. One showed a desperate optimism, the other was world-weary and deeply cynical. The last diary entry of the latter noted simply "murder is everywhere". Events bore out his observation. In 1941 special transit camps were established by the SS for the "care" of elderly Jews, but they lacked power and running water. The few survivors would not be spared. The main deportations began that July and lasted well into 1943. The city was cleared methodically, district by district. Deportees could lodge no protest and they were warned to comply in an orderly fashion. Their destinations included Kaunas, Riga and Izbica as well as the more familiar names of Auschwitz, Sobibor and Theresienstadt. Breslau's famous Jewish cemetery registered its last funeral on 12 August 1942. The following June, a Gestapo official reported that arrangements for the Jewish community in Breslau had been completed. Two months after that, in August 1943, the SS Inspector of Statistics declared Silesia to be 'Judenrein' - 'cleansed of Jews'. Perhaps for the first time in its history, Breslau was, statistically at least, a purely German city. Yet, the reality was very different. Germany's need for labour to serve the war economy had caused a massive influx of foreign forced labourers. A ready employer was the Krupp "Berthawerk", a state of the art munitions factory, established on the eastern outskirts of the city in the spring of 1942. A massive complex of 7 halls with a total floorspace of 120,000m², it employed nearly 10,000 labourers at its peak, most of whom were supplied by the nearby concentration camp at Fünfteichen. Another similar installation was the Anorgana plant at nearby Dyhernfurth, which produced the nerve agent Tabun. Conditions in the camps varied, but at Dyhernfurth they were especially brutal. Medical care was non-existent. Those exposed to their deadly product were left to die, or, if they were lucky, were shot. The factory was backed by the huge manpower resources of Auschwitz and Gross Rosen, so care of the workers was never a priority. A further 9 labour and concentration camps were established around Breslau, serving Germany's industrial giants, amongst them Junkers, FaMo and Rheinmetall. In the city alone, it was estimated that over 50,000 Jews and POWs were engaged in what the SS euphemistically called "camp activity". A second influx was caused by the accident of geography. Whilst Danzig and even Königsberg attracted the attentions of the RAF and USAF, Breslau, far inland, served as the unofficial "Air-raid shelter of the Reich". Industries, administrative bodies and individuals were shifted eastwards to avoid Allied bombing. Soon, refugees also began to flock westwards to escape the Soviet advance. Breslau, which was bombed only once by the western Allies, was considered by many as a safe haven. By late 1944, its population had risen to almost 1 million, a 50% increase from its peacetime figure. This overcrowded city faced the Soviet onslaught in January 1945. Though without fortifications for the best part of 150 years, it had been declared a Festung or "Fortress", and was to be defended to the last man. This was a fate that Breslau shared with many cities and towns of eastern Germany including: Danzig, Frankfurt/Oder, Kolberg, Königsberg, Küstrin, and Posen. With the luxury of hindsight, the Festung policy appears a desperate blunder: a last-ditched attempt to halt the Soviet juggernaught or even a manifestation of Hitler's wild desire for an apocalyptic end for Germany - the total destruction of a Wagnerian Götterdämmerung. Though such thoughts may have played a part, German military and political thinking in the final months of the war was not totally irrational. Hitler may have been increasingly detached from reality, but his critical faculties had not yet completely deserted him. He recognised the fundamental incompatibility of the Allies ranged against him; and he sought to exploit it. Ideally, he had hoped that the Festungen would provide the platform for a future German counter-attack. At worst, they would be sacrificed to buy Berlin time, and to encourage the latent antipathy between Germany's enemies that might conceivably cripple the Alliance. For Hitler, every day's delay was vital. Convinced by such logic, the Gauleiter of Silesia: the fanatical Karl Hanke, and the military leaders of the Breslau garrison, prepared to face the Soviets. Already on the 14th January, as news of the renewed Soviet advance reached the city, thousands of civilians had swamped the railheads. They were not permitted to evacuate until the morning of the 20th and then only in proscribed groups. First came the women and children. In desperation, and in temperatures of -10°C, some 60,000 left on foot. The following morning, the bodies of 40 children were brought to the New Market, whilst the South Park bore the graves of a further 48. 400 bodies were recovered in Breslau, on that day alone. Countless more littered the roads to the south and west. Over the following days, the process was repeated again and again, as successive sections of the population were permitted to leave. It is estimated that the initial evacuation claimed a total of 18,000 lives, mainly of the very young and the infirm. In all, some 90,000 Breslauers were to perish trying to leave the city. The fate of the civilians was mirrored by that of the city's infrastructure. Breslau's archbishop and cardinal, Adolf Bertram, left for Jauernig in Austrian Silesia. The contents of most of his churches were taken to Kamenz in Saxony. The Breslau Tax office was relocated to Liegnitz. The municipal administration was moved to Waldenburg. The concentration and labour camps were evacuated to Groß Rosen near Schweidnitz. The fortunate inmates endured forced marches. The less fortunate were shot. The University and Technical Highschool were transferred to Dresden. The radio station followed suit; its convoy arriving on the evening of February 13th just in time for the first RAF attack. Breslau was being cleared for the final showdown. Alongside a hastily assembled garrison of around 45,000 men, it is thought that around 200,000 civilians remained in the Festung. Their reasons for doing so varied. Many undoubtedly opted to remain in the city, close to the soldiers, rather than take their chances on the open roads in the depths of winter. Others refused to believe the tales of Soviet atrocities coming out of East Prussia, dismissing them as German propaganda. Some simply refused to leave their homes. In any case, the option to leave was soon removed. On the night of 15th February, the Soviet ring around the city was closed. The defence of Breslau has been described, quite simply, as an "epic". Whilst the other Festungen fell, Breslau continued to resist. The fighting was bitter, and in its brutality if not in its scale, it bears every comparison to the battle for Stalingrad. It progressed from block to block, from house to house, and from floor to floor. Atrocities became commonplace. There is evidence that chemical weapons were used. But through it all, the remaining civilians sought refuge in their cellars, or in suicide. A valiant few protested against the slaughter, but they too were murdered. When the surrender finally came, on the 6th May, after a siege of 77 days, Hitler was dead and Berlin had fallen. Alongside a hastily assembled garrison of around 45,000 men, it is thought that around 200,000 civilians remained in the Festung. Their reasons for doing so varied. Many undoubtedly opted to remain in the city, close to the soldiers, rather than take their chances on the open roads in the depths of winter. Others refused to believe the tales of Soviet atrocities coming out of East Prussia, dismissing them as German propaganda. Some simply refused to leave their homes. In any case, the option to leave was soon removed. On the night of 15th February, the Soviet ring around the city was closed. The defence of Breslau has been described, quite simply, as an "epic". Whilst the other Festungen fell, Breslau continued to resist. The fighting was bitter, and in its brutality if not in its scale, it bears every comparison to the battle for Stalingrad. It progressed from block to block, from house to house, and from floor to floor. Atrocities became commonplace. There is evidence that chemical weapons were used. But through it all, the remaining civilians sought refuge in their cellars, or in suicide. A valiant few protested against the slaughter, but they too were murdered. When the surrender finally came, on the 6th May, after a siege of 77 days, Hitler was dead and Berlin had fallen. In the aftermath, over 70% of Breslau was destroyed. The Cathedral and most of the city's churches had suffered extensive damage. 70 of the University's 104 buildings lay in ruins. The medieval New Market had been razed. Some 20,000 houses were destroyed, most of the remainder were uninhabitable. The elegant northern suburb of Scheitnig had been sacrificed to build a runway which was never used. Only a few of the city's historic buildings escaped substantial damage, and many of these would fall victim to arson and looting by the Soviets. Human losses too were substantial. Three months of fighting had cost the lives of a minimum of 6,000 German and 8,000 Soviet soldiers. The 40,000 survivors of the German garrison surrendered their weapons and trudged into Soviet captivity to feed the Gulag. Few would ever return. Civilian deaths totalled 30,000 with over 3,000 suicides. Unnoticed amongst the casualties was Breslau's cosmopolitan tradition. Admittedly it had been ailing since the late 19th century, but the elimination of its Jewish component was a blow from which it could not recover. The terrible finale of 1945 was merely the coup de grace. German Breslau had experienced the Götterdämmerung at first hand. But that Germanic twilight would be followed by a strange Slavonic dawn.