Operation Wütende Neisse

raging Neisse river

This was the German advance to Breiteberg and Bremberg on the upper reaches of the Neisse river in Silesia by Generalmajor Otto Schury’s 100th Jägerdivision of General Friedrich Schulz’s 17th Army within Generalfeldmarschall Ferdinand Schörner’s Heeresgruppe ‘Mitte’ (26/28 April 1945).

In July 1942, the 100th leichte Division had been redesignated as the 100th Jägerdivision, and served in the southern sector of the Eastern Front, primarily in Crimea, the Caucasus, the Carpathian mountains and the Balkans. The division was the only Jäger division which fought in Stalingrad, where it was destroyed, but was then re-created in April 1943 near Belgrade in German-occupied Yugoslavia. The division was then used for anti-partisan operations in occupied Yugoslavia (including Croatia) and Albania, and also provided a coast-defence capability on the eastern side of the Strait of Otranto.

As initially established, the division comprised about two-thirds Austrian and one-third German personnel, the latter from the Silesia region, but the exigencies of the German situation later in the war meant that the division’s personnel steadily came to include elements of most of the countries over which Germany held dominion, and this included many German-speaking Walloons from Belgium. During its life of some 54 months, the division lost several times its establishment manpower, including some 6,000 men whose fates are not known.

The division’s last undertaking was ‘Wütende Neisse’ in the area of Jauer (now Jawor in Polandf) along the border between Saxony and Silesia. When the final part of the Soviet onslaught into the heart of Germany began on 16 April 1945 as the ‘Berlin Strategic Offensive Operation’, the divisional staff was directed to recommend aggressive combat actions to help relieve the pressure on the German capital. Initially all of the division’s three primary regiments (54th Jägerregiment, 227th Jägerregiment and 83rd Artillerieregiment) reported that they lacked sufficient men, ammunition and artillery support to be able to undertake any effective operations of an offensive nature. The two Jäger regiments even had difficulty in launching small-scale assaults because the Soviets had laid large minefields in front of their positions, and had constructed elaborate barbed wire obstacles.

After several reconnaissance patrols had been made, a gap was finally detected just to the west of the Breiteberg ahead of the junction of the 54th Jägerregiment and 227th Jägerregiment, and Schury ordered the 54th Jägerregiment to take the Breiteberg and the village of Bremberg.

On 24 April elements of the 54th Jägerregiment, whose personnel now included numbers of elderly Volkssturm militiamen and also young boys) moved forward, and on the following day infiltrated the wooded area to the south-west of Herrmannsdorf to reach their planned assault position to the south-west of the Breiteberg during the dusk period. Shortly before dawn an assault company, supported by flame-thrower troops, attacked with fixed bayonets and captured the Soviet position. The 2/54th Jägerregiment continued the assault and entered the village of Bremberg, from which they cleared the Soviets in house-to-house fighting. As the attack had begun, armoured fighting vehicles of a Panzerjägerabteilung drove though a gap already cleared through the minefield between Poischwitz and Bremberg, and also took part in the capture of Bremberg.

Once behind the Soviet lines, the 1/54th Jägerregiment wheeled right and attacked to the south-east along the Wütende Neisse river until it reached the the dam holding back the local reservoir, used this to cross the line of the river, and destroyed weak Soviet elements to the north of the Wacheberg. By 0.600 the area between Bremberg and the estate at Brechelshof was in German hands. In the village the men of the 54th Jägerregiment found two farmers nailed to a barn door, and the corpses of several dead, mutilated and half-naked women in one house. It was only with some difficulty that officers were able to prevent the men from killing their Soviet prisoners.

At about 09.00 the 2/54th Jägerregiment crossed the line of the railway linking Jauer and Liegnitz under cover of a smokescreen provided by the guns of the supporting artillery regiment, and the 8th Kompanie of the 54th Jägerregiment took Brechelshof railway station. The remaining elements of the 54th Jägerregiment continued their attack toward the village of Malitsch until the regimental commander ordered an end to the advance and the preparation of defensive positions between the Brechelshof estate and the railway station in anticipation of a Soviet counterattack.

The German losses up until this time had been two killed and 21 wounded, while those of the Soviets had been 80 killed and 200 taken prisoner. The Soviet counterattack which now followed forced the 54th Jägerregiment right back to its start line.