From the Feb. 12, 1945, issue of TIME
By Lily Rothman
February 3, 2015

As World War II began to draw to a close in Europe, the Feb. 12, 1945, issue of TIME reported that, “Through the smoke of fires set by R.A.F. and U.S. bombers, overcrowded Berlin could see the lightning and hear the thunder of Marshal Georgy K. Zhukov’s First White Russian Army guns.”

On Feb. 3 — 70 years ago Tuesday — the bombing of Berlin had started. Throughout that month, the air raids, hundreds of them in total, would continue. But, as TIME reported in the same issue, from which the map above is drawn, the stronghold of the Nazis was not yet prepared to surrender:

Terror came on the cold, wet wind with the sound of Russian guns. Panic came on the heels of the milling, stumbling horde of refugees. Berlin, at last, was a battle zone.

Berlin had not been captured by a foreign invader since 1806—and there was no battle then. Headed by their mayor, the citizens came out and welcomed Napoleon’s Marshal Davout with open arms; the local press lavished praise on the French. In those days, good middle-class Prussians washed their hands of the Prussian soldiery.

Last week the citizens were part of the Army. The Volkssturm men who felled trees, dug trenches and fashioned barricades from bomb rubble were simply civilians with red arm bands. Women rode on the antiaircraft guns pulling out for the Oder front. The “mayor,” this time, was clubfooted Paul Joseph Goebbels (Gauleiter of Berlin), who screamed defiance over the radio: “Factories will be blown up and the whole capital scorched!”

Berlin would be defended stone by stone: “We cannot let Breslau and Königsberg put us to shame, much less Warsaw, Leningrad and Moscow!”

Robert Ley, the besotted labor chief, feebly paraphrased Churchill and Clemenceau: “We will fight in front of Berlin, in Berlin, behind Berlin!”

Read the rest of the story here, in the TIME Vault: The Man Who Can’t Surrender


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