The Prague Strategic Offensive (Пражская стратегическая наступательная операция "Prague Strategic Offensive") was the last major strategic offensive operation of World War II in Europe. The offensive, and the battle for Prague, was fought on the Eastern Front from 6 May to 11 May 1945. This battle for the city is particularly noteworthy in that it ended after the Third Reich capitulated on 8 May 1945. This battle is also noteworthy in that it was fought concurrently with the Prague Uprising.
The city of Prague was ultimately liberated by the USSR during the Prague Offensive. All of the German troops of Army Group Centre (Heeresgruppe Mitte) were killed, captured, or fell into the hands of the enemy after the capitulation. The capitulation of Army Group Centre was nine days after the fall of Berlin and three days after Victory in Europe Day.
The Soviet force was opposed by at most 900,000 German troops of what was left of Army Group Centre commanded by Field Marshal Ferdinand Schörner: the First Panzer Army, the Fourth Panzer Army, the Seventh Army and the Seventeenth Army. In addition to battered remnants of Army Group Centre, the Germans opposing the Soviets around Prague included some corps-sized units of what little remained of Army Group South and known as Army Group Ostmark commanded by Dr. Lothar Rendulic.
On 7 May, General Alfred Jodl, Chief-of-Staff of Oberkommando der Wehrmacht ("German Armed Forces High Command"), signed the surrender of all German forces at SHAEF. OKW had last heard from Schörner on 2 May. He had reported he intended to fight his way west and surrender his army group to the Americans. On 8 May an OKW colonel was escorted through the American lines to see Schörner. The colonel reported Schörner had ordered his operational command to observe the surrender but could not guarantee he would be obeyed everywhere. Later that day Schörner deserted his command and flew to Austria where on 18 May he was arrested by the Americans.
When it came, the Soviet assault on Prague crushed any remaining Germans and relieved the Czech partisans fighting in the Prague Uprising. The uprising started on 5 May 1945. By 8 May, the Germans fighting the Czech partisans in Prague agreed to withdraw.
The Czech partisans were aided briefly by the 1st Infantry Division (600th German Infantry Division) of the Russian Liberation Army (ROA). The 1st ROA Infantry Division was commanded by General Sergei Bunichenko (or Bunyachenko). The 1st ROA Infantry Division was near Prague at the outbreak of the uprising and supported the Czech partisans against the Germans. The ROA was created by former Soviet General Andrey Vlasov as an anti-communist Russian force. The ROA forces were attempting to get to pre-arranged positions where they could avoid the Soviets and surrender to the Americans.
By 8 May, General Bunichenko and his 1st ROA Infantry Division sought refuge with the Americans. Bunichenko, Vlasov, and the ROA forces in general were handed back to the Soviets.
On 9 May 1945, Soviet troops entered Prague. Some remnants of Army Group Centre continued resistance until 11 May (some sources say 12 May). The left flank of the 2nd Ukrainian Front met with troops of the US Third Army (George Patton) in the regions of České Budějovice and Písek, thus completing the encirclement. Later, 1st and 2nd Ukrainian Fronts met with Americans in the regions of Karlovy Vary and Klatovy. German soldiers and civilians fleeing Prague were surprised by the advancing Soviets and completely routed. Soviet attacks on Germans and the expulsion of Germans from Czechoslovakia continued into Autumn.
On 14 May, Dr. Emil Hácha was arrested in Prague and transferred immediately to a prison hospital. Hácha was the State President of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, a German puppet state. He died in prison on 26 June.
On 22 May 1946, Karl Hermann Frank was hanged after being convicted of war crimes.
Dr. Wilhelm Frick, a prominent Nazi official, was convicted of war crimes by the Nuremberg Tribunal and executed on 16 October 1946. Frick also had held the ceremonial post of Protector of Bohemia and Moravia.
SS-Fuehrer (Oberstgruppenführer) Kurt Daluege was captured by American troops and extradited to Czechoslovakia. He was convicted of war crimes by the Czechs, and hanged on 24 October 1946. Among other titles, Daluege was an officer of the Central Reich Security Office (RSHA) and the Governor of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia.
To honor the participants of the operation, the Soviet Union instituted the Medal for the Liberation of Prague.