The Battle of Berlin
The Red Army had reached the bank of the river Oder near fortress of Küstrin, just 60 km away from Berlin during the first decade of February 1945. It was a result of Vistula-Oder Offensive, which started in the middle of January.
The main thrust was assigned to G. Zhukov’s 1st Belorussian Front. Its troops were to overcome German heavily fortified positions on Seelow Heights. The 1st Ukrainian Front had a task to break German defense to the south from Berlin, get in touch with allied forces, and with part of its troops to attack Berlin from the south. The 1st Belorussian Front launched the offensive on April 16 shortly before dawn. German soldiers were blinded by dozens of anti-aircraft searchlights positioned along Russian front behind advancing troops. The Red Army with a help of about 4,000 tanks and 4,000 aircrafts quickly overcame the first line of German defense. In spite of tough German resistance on Seelow Heights, the 1st Belorussian Front reached the northeastern suburbs of the city on April 21st.
At the same time formations of the 1st Ukrainian Front crossed the Neisse River. The 3rd Guards Tank Army under command of General Pavel Rybalko reached the southern suburbs of German capital on the evening of April 20.
The shock troops of the 1st Belorussian and 1st Ukrainian fronts meet near Brandenburg on April 24, thus completing encirclement of German forces in the city. Vanguard of the 1st Ukrainian Front got in touch with advanced elements of 12th American Army Group of General O. Bradley near Torgau on the bank of Elbe on April 25. Meanwhile, the main forces of the Red Army had been heading for the center of Berlin.
Marshal G. Zhukov together with representatives of American, British and French command formally accepted Nazi Germany's unconditional surrender in Berlin’s suburb of Karlshorst on late evening of May 8th. From the German side the document was signed by Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, the chief of Supreme Command of Wehrmacht.
As the fighting in Berlin had ended, thousands of city residents filled the streets searching for food. Within a short time the Red Army had set dozens of field kitchens to feed starving people. A common picture of the time was a Soviet soldier with a big ladle distributing hot soup or porridge among Berliners, first of all women, children, and elderly. Soon General Nikolai Berzarin the first Soviet commandant of Berlin established special food rations for its residents. He organized the delivery of foodstuff to the city from agricultural areas, the cleaning of rubbles from the streets, repairing of urban infrastructure.