Operation Seilbahn

cable car

'Seilbahn' was a German operation in the Caucasus by Generaloberst Richard Ruoff’s 17th Army of Generalfeldmarschall Ewald von Kleist’s Heeresgruppe 'A' to disengage from General Ivan V. Tyulenev’s Trans-Caucasus Front and General Leytenant Ivan Ye. Petrov’s Black Sea Group of the Trans-Caucasus Front along the line linking Goryachy Klyuch and Maykop, and then to fall farther back into the Kuban lodgement (4 January 1943).

This retirement was occasioned by the facts that by December 1942 the Soviet 'Uran' offensive had trapped Generaloberst Friedrich Paulus’s 6th Army at Stalingrad and that Generalfeldmarschall Maximilian Reichsfreiherr von Weichs’s Heeresgruppe 'B', of which the 6th Army was the major component, had started to withdraw from southern Russia, and thus triggered the retreat of Heeresgruppe 'A' so that it would not be cut off in the Caucasus. However, Hitler insisted that the 17th Army should hold a sizeable lodgement in the Kuban area, across the Strait of Kerch from Crimea, and demanded the construction of a 3.2-mile (5-km) road and rail bridge across the Strait of Kerch in the spring of 1943 to support a renewed push through the Caucasus to take the oilfields which were to have been seized in 'Edelweiss', and then to drive still farther to Iran, whose occupation would have severed the major overland route by which the USSR was nourished with weapons and equipment delivered by the UK and USA.