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The people of Prague greet the Russian troops on May 9, 1945 The people of Prague greet the Russian troops on May 9, 1945

9 May

On May 9, 1945, the Soviet troops entered Prague, the capital of Czechoslovakia, as the closing part of the Prague Offensive. This battle for the city is particularly noteworthy as it was fought concurrently with the Prague uprising, and ended after the Third Reich had already capitulated on May 8, 1945.

The last few days of the World War were very eventful. From April 30 to May 1, 1945, SS Senior Group Leader and General of Police Karl Hermann Frank voiced in Prague his intention to drown any uprising in a "sea of blood.” The rumors of the Allies' impending arrival reached Prague, causing general agitation among the population. Frank instructed the German army and police forces in Prague to fire at anyone who disobeyed, but it didn’t help to restore order in Prague.

The proximity of the Soviet and American troops lifted the spirits of the Czech resistance immensely and brought a major stir to the Czech capital. On May 5, a group of Czech policemen attempted to seize the radio building, resulting in a fight with an SS regiment already stationed there. While the fight was in progress, the station resumed broadcasting, triggering the revolt among the townspeople.

The rioters, poorly armed and very inexperienced warriors, sought assistance from a division of the Russian Liberation Army (ROA). The ROA was created by former Soviet General Andrey Vlasov as an anti-communist Russian force in the combat against Bolshevism. The 1st ROA Infantry Division, under the command of General Sergey Bunyachenko, was stationed near Prague at the outbreak of the uprising. They were better equipped professionals from the Eastern Front, and in possession of armed vehicles and artillery. They lent support to the Czech partisans, but the ultimate goal of the Vlasov Army, however, was not to fight hand in hand with the insurgents up to the German defeat; they were not entirely trusted by the Czechs, and pinned their hopes on the American Army, to whom they eventually wanted to surrender, thus avoiding being seized by the Soviets.

Thousands of townspeople came out in the streets; they built barricades, seized control over the central post office, bridges, and ammo storages.

The commander of the Army Group Center, deployed in Prague, General Schörner ordered the repression of the uprising, as it seriously impeded the German retreat to the West. On May 6, the German troops, using artillery, tanks, and aviation, entered Prague and occupied a significant part of the city. The rebels, suffering huge losses, made a radio appeal to the Allies, requesting help. This critical situation demanded that the Soviet command speed up the Prague Offensive, initially scheduled for May 7.

The Soviet assault on Czechoslovakia and Prague in particular was carried out by the 1st (under Marshal Ivan Konev), the 2nd (under General Rodion Malinovsky) and the 4th Ukrainian Fronts (under General Andrey Yeremenko). These Fronts also included units of the Polish,
Romanian, and Czech armies. The Soviet Fronts totaled more than two million troops. To advance the Prague Offensive, the troops of the 1st Ukrainian Front had to make a forced march from the south of Berlin just after they had completed their mission in the Battle of Berlin.

In the meantime, the Czech partisans in collaboration with the Vlasov Army managed to clean up part of the city. Then, however, the partisans were forced to cease their cooperation with the Liberation Army, pressured by the Communists, and had to fight on their own. When Vlasov’s Army found out the Americans didn’t plan on entering the city, they just gave up fighting, and headed for the West toward the American lines. When Vlasov’s Infantry Division left the city, the insurgents couldn’t hold on to the repossessed territories, and they were reoccupied by the Germans.

On May 7, General Alfred Jodl, Chief-of-Staff of the German Armed Forces High Command, signed the surrender of all German forces to the Allied forces. Schörner did order his operational command to observe the surrender, but could not guarantee the order would be passed on. Later that day Schörner defected to Austria where on 18 May he was arrested by the Americans.

On May 9 the Soviet army entered Prague.

The Czech population was elated to see the liberators finally in their city. People greeted them with red banners and flowers, invited them to their homes. The Red Army and the Soviet Union was praised in both Czech and Russian.

The Soviet assault on Prague eradicated the last sizeable chunk of German military resistance in Europe, and relieved the Czech partisans fighting in the Prague Uprising. By May 8, the Germans fighting the Czech partisans in Prague agreed to withdraw.

General Bunyachenko and his 1st ROA Infantry Division sought refuge with the Americans. Bunyachenko, Vlasov, and the ROA forces were ,however, handed back to the Soviets. Later all of them were condemned to either death in show trials or to years of gulag death camps.

Parts of the Army Group Centre continued resistance until 11 May (some sources say 12 May). Parts of the 2nd Ukrainian Front met with troops of the US Army with George Patton, thus completing the encirclement and putting an ultimate end to World War Two. .

In the course of the Prague Offensive, the losses of the Red Army amounted to 50 thousand people, while over 140 thousand were lost in the battles for Czechoslovakia. Many units and regiments were awarded honors and medals for their performance in the operation. Many streets and squares in Prague bear names of the Soviet Soldiers. Marshal Ivan Konev, the commander of the First Ukrainian Front was named “Prague’s honored citizen." May 9 is celebrated in the Czech Republic as Liberation Day.