Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



This chronicle describes the events concerning the retreat of Field Marshal Walter Model’s Army Group B from the invasion of Normandy in June, 1944 to it’s ultimate destruction in the Ruhr Pocket in April, 1945. The author focuses on the German perspective of the Second World War, and describes the experiences of former Wehrmacht soldiers, Volkssturm conscripts, Hitler Youth members, and civilians as they witnessed the collapse of the Third Reich. The study encompasses events in northwest Germany, primarily in the lower Rhineland and the Ruhr Valley, as Model’s army group was encircled and destroyed by Allied forces. Detailed accounts of the Ardennes Offensive in Belgium, penetrating the German frontier, and the subsequent capture of the Ludendorff Bridge reveal how the impending defeat was experienced by the German defenders. An examination of the subsequent courts martial and executions of German officers by Nazi officials following the loss of the bridge at Remagen exhibit the ruthlessness and the perverse system of justice within the Third Reich. The Allied crossings of the Rhine through Operations Varsity and Plunder are described by Wehrmacht survivors, local inhabitants and refugees, many of whom had fled the Ruhr industrial area to escape the Allied strategic bombing campaign only to find themselves caught in the vicious battles on the east bank of the river as Eisenhower prepared to launch the final drive toward Berlin. Interviews with former German soldiers portray the experience of becoming prisoners of the United States Army during the closing weeks of the conflict. Accounts from witnesses reveal how local inhabitants endured marauding bands of liberated prisoners and former slave laborers while experiencing defeat, anarchy and eventual occupation by the Allies. The narrative details the dissolution of Army Group B as American forces destroyed the remnants of the Wehrmacht units trapped within the pocket. Walter Model’s final days are portrayed through interviews with the sole surviving staff officer who accompanied him as they evaded Allied forces until the field marshal chose suicide over surrender, and ended his life in a forest south of Duisburg, Germany on 21 April, 1945.



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Committee Chair

Suzanne Marchand



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History Commons