commanding Fourth Panzer Army
The battle for Minsk, dated July 28th 1944
I had been summoned to Army Group headquarters regarding a plot against the Fuhrer when I received the reports about the Soviet Lvov–Sandomierz offensive. This was launched by First Ukranian Front against Army Group North Ukraine and drew off most of my armour, leaving only a single Panzer division near Minsk.
My subordinate deployed in a defensive posture with his remaining infantry divisions between open woods on the left and a village on the right, the Panzer division being placed in reserve. Reports of the action are confused but apparently the Soviets made a surprise attack without their normal artillery bombardment. The attack in the centre consisted of twelve battalions of tanks including JSIIs, ISU152s and SU85s plus their supporting infantry, while additional infantry divisions advanced on the flanks. The front line buckled under this onslaught but just managed to hold its position. The counterattack of the Panzer division broke one of the Soviet tank formations, but weight of numbers meant that this was only a temporary respite.
Soon the Soviet armour broke through, surrounding many of the surviving German units and causing the retreat of those units which could do so. The koenig tigers of Panzer-Abteilung 503 are reported as being destroyed by the Red airforce. The entire Korps was effectively out of action and Soviet forces poured through the gap in Fourth Panzer Army's line.
I have been recalled to the front to stabilise the situation. Fourth Panzer Army is now in headlong retreat, two of my divisions have been completely destroyed and another will require rebuilding. The Soviets have bypassed the defence lines around Baranovichi and Bialystok, so I am planning to stop them at Brest-Litovsk, all units have been ordered to stop at that position.
The defence of the village, right flank of the panzer division can be seen on the left.Massed Soviet armour advancing in the background.