The Forgotten Bloody Battle for Nuremberg 1945

In April 1945 the end of the war was only weeks away but for the Allied troops in Germany, there was no obvious end in sight. In the four weeks since the crossing of the Rhine, Lieutenant General Alexander Patch’s US Seventh Army had pushed deep into southern Germany, but not without opposition.

American Armored units at Nuremberg April 1945.

Now the symbolic city of Nuremberg lay ahead; a city which was almost a shrine to the Nazi cause, having been the scene of some of the earliest and biggest Nazi Rallies in the years before WW2. Hitler had ordered that the city would never be taken and the defenders must ‘hold to the last man’. It would be a tough nut to crack, even for the experienced units under Patch’s command.

Troops march into Nuremberg April 1945.

The city of Nuremberg was part of the 13th SS Corps sector but the actual units in the city comprised of several Luftwaffe Air Defence Battalions, some Volksturm and also the civilian population had been mobilised. They were under the command of the local Gauleiter, Karl Holz. Holz was a veteran of the First World War and an early member of the Nazi Party. He knew Hitler and sent him the following message in April 1945.

“My Führer: The final struggle for the town of the party has begun. The soldiers are fighting bravely, and the population is proud and strong. I shall remain in this most German of all towns to fight and to die. In these hours my heart beats more than ever in love and faith for the wonderful German Reich and its people. The National Socialist idea shall win and conquer all diabolic schemes. Greetings from the National Socialists of the Gau Franconia who are faithful to Germany.”

Street by street, house by house, GIs of the 3rd Infantry Division fought their way through the city up against almost fanatical resistance, some of it’s strongest around the sites of the Nazi Rally Grounds. This fighting proved a severe test even for these battle-hardened veterans who had fought all the way from Normandy to the Rhineland.

The bloody battle in the streets of Nuremberg, April 1945.

As the Americans pushed into the heart of the city on 18th April 1945, Holz withdrew into a bunker with the city Mayor, Willy Liebel. There had been a long-running dispute between these men and it is believed Holz killed Liebel as he wanted to surrender to the Americans. The final stand in the bunker, which led to the collapse of the city’s defence and it’s surrender, was on 20th April: Hitler’s birthday. Holz died in the bunker, but it is unknown whether this was in combat or if he took his own life.

Knocked out Sherman tank at the Nazi Party Rally Ground in Nuremberg, April 1945.

The Bloody Battle of Nuremberg had cost the Americans more than 800 battle casualties. German casualties are difficult to estimate but one American report states that casualties in the whole region at this time were in the region of 145,000 of which over 128,000 have been taken prisoner.

American soldiers mocking the end of the ‘Thousand Year Reich’, Nuremberg April 1945.

Nuremberg was a bloody engagement but even then the fighting in Germany was not over and would spill into Czechoslovakia, where the last shots were fired on 7th May 1945.

 

8 thoughts on “The Forgotten Bloody Battle for Nuremberg 1945

  1. German casualties during the battle: 400 soldiers/military personnel plus about 500 civilians killed. That’s the numbers as registered by the city of Nuremberg in 1985.

    1. Thanks Rob. The US Official History was very vague on this so it’s useful to have these.

    1. In 1983 I was stationed
      at Merrell Barracks.
      The German
      maintenance man
      unlocked for us the
      solid Oak door that
      closed off the flooded
      entrance to the tank
      tunnel in the
      headquarters building
      basement. The U.S.
      Army (April of 1945)
      stormed the SS
      Kaserne (later named
      Merrell Barracks by the
      U.S.) and brought in
      water cannons that
      drowned all the Nazi’s
      that were attempting to
      escape in their tanks.
      There were two tunnels,
      one went to Soldiers
      Field. The other to the
      University grounds near
      downtown Nurnberg,
      where a defensive
      perimeter could be set
      up.

  2. They did flood the floors that were underground at Merrill barracks. They were flooded when I was
    stationed there 1959/63

    1. The bodies are still there? Why not list
      the names and who they are? Maybe
      remove them for burial too. Also the
      U.S Army golfcourseunderground
      hasAirForce Stuka planes there an we
      salvage them?
      Robert McCllugh

  3. In 1983 I was stationed at
    Merrell Barracks. The
    German maintenance man
    unlocked for us the solid
    Oak door that closed off
    the flooded entrance to the
    tank tunnel in the
    headquarters building
    basement. The U.S. Army
    (April of 1945) stormed
    the SS Kaserne (later
    named Merrell Barracks
    by the U.S.) and brought in
    water cannons that
    drowned all the Nazi’s that
    were attempting to escape
    in their tanks. There were
    two tunnels, one went to
    Soldiers Field. The other to
    the University grounds
    near downtown Nurnberg,
    where a defensive
    perimeter could be set up.

  4. I was stationed at Merrill ’70-’72. I never heard about that. Never heard about any tunnels. The basement below our
    barracks was where the supply rooms were. I heard that they held some SS prisoners there while they were awaiting
    trial at the Nuremberg Trials. Interesting story about the drownings.

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