Hold the Corridor: General Wenck and the 12th Army

“When we quit thinking primarily about ourselves and our own self-preservation, we undergo a truly heroic transformation of consciousness.” -Joseph Campbell

There are times in history where the actions of a few can only be viewed as heroic. Those who are willing to truly live out the Biblical call that “there is no love greater than a man willing to lay down his life for his friend” -John 15:13 should be heralded as examples of courage and sacrifice by men and women of all nations. Against all odds those who are willing to put their lives on the line to save others are deserving of our praise, and that is why we should remember General Walther Wenck and the men of the German 12th Army. With their sacrifice in blood, the 12th Army was able to save hundreds of thousands of civilians from a fate worse than death, and with that act forever inscribe their names in the book of heroes for all ages.

After twelve years under the National Socialist government and six years of horrific warfare, the Third Reich was dying. The end of any war is one of desperation, and in the last days of the Second World War in the streets of Berlin it was especially frantic.

The dreams of the German people had been turned into a nightmare with the arrival of the Russian Red Army and the never-ending aerial assaults by American and British bombers on civilian targets. The once several million man strong armed forces of the German Reich had been pummeled in unceasing combat for years on end, leaving little to stand in the way of the combined Allied forces.

The combined forces of globalism had united to defeat fascist Italy, Imperial Japan, and National Socialist Germany, and the Axis Powers were not going to be let off easily.

With the end of the war clearly in sight, many high ranking Nazi officials discarded their uniforms and military passports and tried to blend in with the hordes of refugees fleeing the onslaught of the Red Army due to the knowledge of what was awaiting German officers who were captured. Jewish commissars throughout Russia had used incessant propaganda to tell the Russian people that the Germans not only needed to be defeated, but utterly destroyed.

The fact that it is alleged that over two million German women were raped in just the first several months following the surrender of the Third Reich demonstrates the cruelty awaiting any Germans who were caught by Soviet forces. While I look to the modern Russian State as one who leads the way in the defense of Tradition and the Orthodox Faith, under the sway of bloodthirsty Jewish commissars (who Stalin would himself liquidate soon after the war because of their hold on power) and after years of combat the Russian Army was not looking to play nice. Threats to Russian soldiers of themselves and their families being tortured, killed, or sent to the Gulags for not following the orders of their commissars led to a horrendous moral decision for soldiers in the Red Army. Both the Germans and the Soviets had refused to follow the rules of International Warfare, this was a conflict of truly Total War.

With Hitler immobilized in his bunker with many of his High Command and the front disintegrating, it was up to individual commanders to take care of their ever dwindling amounts of men who could fight and for the German civilians that they could care for.

In these circumstances of poor communication, high casualties, almost no supplies, and certain death approaching it would be understandable for any average man to retreat to fight another day, and that is exactly the opposite of what General Walther Wenck and his 12th Army did, and that is what makes them heroes that deserve to be remembered.

“Courage, above all things, is the first quality of a warrior.” -Carl von Clausewitz
“Courage, above all things, is the first quality of a warrior.” -Carl von Clausewitz [Photo courtesy of WW2 Gravestone]

General Wenck was known in Germany as the “Boy General” due to his young age at attaining such a high level of command. On both the Eastern and the Western Front’s he distinguished himself as being a dedicated leader, one who was in tune with his men and truly cared for them. In battle he often carefully worked to reduce casualties of his soldiers while working to provide them and civilian refugees with food and basic supplies. General Wenck exemplified the ideal of a soldier, regardless of his nationality or political affiliations.
Though serving on the front lines from the beginning of the war until the very last days, General Wenck has been justified by history as saving treated his enemies with the dignity and respect that officers are called to. Even in the post war era of the witch hunt for German officers heads, General Wenck never faced any charges of war crimes and was quickly released from a Western POW camp after the war to return to civilian life.

As the Russian forces were battling for Berlin, General Wenck ordered his men to return to Berlin to attempt to help save the trapped German forces and the hundreds of thousands of civilians who were boxed in by the advancing Russian troops.

Seeing that his men were outnumbered and had no chance of victory, General Wenck had a decision to make in how to proceed. His men had faced every imaginable torment of modern war, and to end their part of this conflict all they had to do was to abandon Berlin and move Westward to be able to surrender to American forces. The war could have been over and the bloodletting could stop, but the men of the 12th Army had one more mission, to save the people of Berlin.

Cries over open radio frequencies from the 9th Army and from civilians calling for help were heard by General Wenck and he decided to approach his subordinates and his men with a call to duty. In a message relayed to his battered forces he told his men “Comrades, you’ve got to go in once more. It’s not about Berlin any more, it’s not about the Reich any more.” The mission was not to win a military victory or commendations, it was to save lives.

After years of devoted service the men of the 12th Army decided to follow their general back into combat for one last showdown with Soviet forces. The rate of desertion for 12th Army troops was very low when compared to other German units in similar conditions, these men were dedicated to fulfilling their mission to save the civilians of Berlin and nothing was going to stop them.

With a fury, the 12th Army marched on Berlin, quickly puncturing a hole in Soviet lines which opened up a corridor for military forces of the 9th Army and for civilians to begin pouring through to the safety of the West.

It is nearly unimaginable to put oneself in the boots of the 12th Army, trading their lives in the hundreds while watching their comrades in arms and civilians pour through the hole they had made. It was a true sacrifice, and it would have huge results for hundreds of thousands. One soldier later remarked that he and his comrades felt a “feeling of loyalty, a sense of responsibility and comradeship” while trading their lives to save their comrades and countless civilians.

On a non-encoded radio broadcast, General Wenck called to the people and soldiers of Berlin telling them “Hurry up we are waiting for you.” By not putting his message in code he ensured that civilians and all military units could hear the message and move to safety, this also meant that the Soviets would hear it and work ever harder to crush the corridor that had been established by the 12th Army.

In boats, pontoons, and on foot a huge flood of humanity began pushing west towards safety. By the time the men of the 12th Army were forced to retreat, some even firing their gun barrels until they were smooth and inoperable and they had run totally out of ammunition, close to three hundred thousand soldiers and civilians had made it to safety.

As Soviet forces began to pierce the German lines, General Wenck called upon his men again to “Hold the corridor” to which the German forces threw themselves again in a bitter counterattack to keep the line of retreat open.

These fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters both young and old were saved from horrendous torment and possibly death by the sacrifice of General Wenck and the men of the 12th Army. Each life the 12th Army gave saved dozens of lives, a true demonstration of courage and of sacrifice for ones people.

Beyond politics and ideology we all must remember that we must be willing to lay down our lives for those we are charged with defending and protecting. It is never easy or seemingly sane at the moment, but we are to be judged by Almighty God and by history by the sacrifices we make to lay down our lives as Christ died for us, without distress or a second thought.

General Wenck Rest in Peace
General Wenck Rest in Peace

While looking forward to the coming end of the age, where suffering is an ever present and ever growing reality, we must learn from the examples of history, such as General Wenck and the 12th Army, in what the sacrifices of a few can do to save the lives and souls of so many more. As a humanitarian and a soldier General Wenck exemplified the virtues and values of a European man and of a Christian, we must do our best to follow in his footsteps and to be willing to give it all for Faith, family, and folk.