The Western Allied invasion of Germany was the military overrun of Nazi Germany that was conducted by the Western Allies in the final months of the European Theatre in World War II. The invasion started with the Western Allies crossing the Rhine before fanning out and overrunning all of western Germany from the Baltic in the north to Austria in the south before the Germans surrendered on 8 May 1945. This is known as the “Central Europe Campaign” in United States military histories.
By early 1945, events favored the Allied forces in Europe. On the Western Front the Allies had been fighting in Germany since the October Battle of Aachen and by January turned back the Germans in the Battle of the Bulge. The failure of this last major German offensive exhausted much of Germany’s remaining combat strength, leaving it ill-prepared to resist the final Allied campaigns in Europe. Additional losses in the Rhineland further weakened the German Army, leaving shattered remnants of units to defend the east bank of the Rhine. By mid-March, the western Allies had pushed to the Rhine along most of the front, had seized an intact bridge at Remagen, and had even established a small bridgehead on the river’s east bank. German casualties during the Allied campaign to reach the Rhine in February–March 1945 are estimated at 400,000 men, including 280,000 men captured as prisoners of war.
On the Eastern Front, the Soviet Red Army (including the Polish Army under Soviet command) had liberated most of Poland and were nearing Berlin. The Soviets also pushed into Hungary and eastern Czechoslovakia, and temporarily halted at what is now the modern German border on the Oder-Neisse line. These rapid advances on the Eastern Front destroyed additional veteran German combat units and severely limited Adolf Hitler’s ability to reinforce his Rhine defenses. Thus, as the western Allies completed their preparations for the final drive into the heart of Germany, victory seemed within sight.
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