Approximately 90km from Berlin lies the Seelow Heights, where the last major defensive line outside of Berlin was situated towards the end of World War II. This area of countryside, woods and villages lies near today’s border of Germany and Poland, near the Oder and Neisse rivers. From the 16-19 April 1945, a battle was fought for passage to Berlin between 1 million Soviet soldiers of the 1st Belorussian front and 110 000 German soldiers. Between 20 000 -70 000 Soviet soldiers (according to different sources) and 12 000 German soldiers were killed, and victory was taken by the Soviets, leaving the road to Berlin open from the 19th April. By the 23rd April, Berlin was surrounded and the final Battle of Berlin began. It is estimated that more than 1 million German soldiers were killed as well as 100 000 civilians and 300 000 Soviet soldiers, and that approximately 100 000 women were raped. Within 2 weeks, Berlin was taken, Hitler committed suicide and World War II had come to an end.
Today we went for a walk in the area of Seelow Heights, stopping first at the war memorial and the Museum Seelower Höhen which explains the history of the battle. We’ve been cycling on the Oder-Neisse cycling trail before, a beautiful route, but had not known about the battle that had taken place in this area. It’s hard to imagine the fighting that went on in this tranquil place.