Der letzte Wehrmachtsbericht (The last Armed Forces Report)
During the Second World War the German high command, the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW), instituted a daily mass-media report of the status of the German armed forces. The commentary was mostly aimed at the civilian population on the German home-front, being written by a professional army officer in layman’s terms so that the former could easily understand the reports.
All broadcasts had to go through the Reich Ministry of Propaganda however, ensuring that they would become a key component for control of information the war effort. The first broadcast was September 1st, 1939, giving coverage of the Invasion of Poland, the start of the Second World War.
The Wehrmachtsbericht continued on throughout the war into Operation Barbarossa, the reports of which helped craft the image of the Wehrmacht’s continual success deep into Russian territory. Even after the Red Armies Yelnya Offensive, which was the first reverse for the Wehrmacht on the Eastern front, the Wehrmachtsbericht was keen to word the setbacks in a positive manner portraying them as “front corrections” or “planned withdrawals” while pushing the narrative of massive enemy causalities.
This trend of continuing to avoid publishing bad news on the air continued even after the Red Army offensive Operation Uranus, which encircled 300,000 Axis soldiers. The report mentioned a Red Army attack in the east, but didn’t address the extent of the disaster.
Post Battle of Stalingrad the communiqués were more factual and steady, with Joseph Goebbels issuing specific instructions to use “cautious optimism” as to not set expectations too high at the home-front. Even as the apparent victories were getting closer to Germany itself, the Wehrmachtsberichts maintained giving a positive light to the situation.
The final Wehrmachtsbericht aired on May 19th, 1945. Here is the English translation:
“The High Command of the Wehrmacht announces: 8 p.m. and 3 minutes. Reichssender Flensburg and connected stations. We bring today the last Werhrmachtsreport of this war.
In East Prussia yesterday German divisions were still defending the mouth of the River Vistula and the western sector of the Frische Nehrung. The 7th Division in particular distinguished itself. General der Panzertruppe, was awarded the Diamonds to the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross in recognition of the exemplary behavior of his soldiers.
Forming an advance bulwark, Generaloberst Hilpert’s armies in Courland covered themselves with untarnished honor throughout the months of bitter fighting against vastly superior Soviet infantry and tank forces. They rejected a premature surrender. Aircraft first transported wounded and then children were evacuated to the west. Commanders and officers remained with their men. At midnight all movement and fighting ceased on the German side in accordance with the conditions laid down. The defenders of Breslau, having resisted the attacks of the Soviets for two months, bowed to the enemy superiority.
On the southeastern and eastern Fronts, from Bruenn to the Elbe near Dresden, the orders to cease fighting were obeyed. A Czech uprising covering the whole of Bohemia and Moravia may affect the implementing of the capitulation in that area. To date no reports have been received by OKW from the Löhr, Rendulic or Schörner Army Groups.
The garrisons of the Atlantic fortresses, our troops in northern Norway and the occupation forces in the Aegean islands, through their obedience and discipline have demonstrated German military honor.
From midnight the guns have been silent on all Fronts. The Grand Admiral has ordered the armed forces to cease a struggle which was hopeless.
The honorable struggle which has lasted almost six years is, therefore, at an end. It has brought us not only great victories but also heavy defeats. The German armed forces have been overcome, finally, by superior force. The German soldier, loyal to the oath he had sworn, has achieved imperishable things in this struggle for his people.
To the end the homeland supported him with all its strength, despite its own suffering. History will one day judge objectively this unique effort of the front and of the homeland. The achievements and sacrifices of German soldiers at sea, on the land and in the air cannot be denied by our opponents.
Every soldier can, therefore, lay down his weapon with pride and in this, the bitterest hour of our history, begin to work bravely and honorably for our people.
In this bitter hour the armed forces remember those comrades who fell facing the enemy. Those dead compel us to work loyally, obediently and with discipline on behalf of our fatherland which is bleeding from innumerable wounds.
We brought the words of the last Wehrmacht report of this war. It follows a radio silence of 3 minutes.“