History - Thuringia

Sauckels "Trutzgau" was an important region for war production in the Third Reich.

1942 was a turning point in the development of the German war industry. Defeat began to loom and a re-organisation of the economy and distribution of the labour force was required. Another important change was the complete focus upon armament production. A characteristic of for the armament industry in Thuringia was the lack of major companies specialising in the production of complete systems; instead, there were numerous specialist firms producing armament components. The wide variety of the Thuringian armament industry can be clearly illustrated using examples concerning the Air Force: construction of fuselages (Gothaer Wagonfabrik), engines (BMW-Flugzeugmotorenwerk Eisenach GmbH) and the small arms production (H. Krieghoff, Suhl). In addition, there was a range of accessory-producing companies: flare pistols (E. Eckold, Suhl), heated pilot`s gloves (A. Bulling, Ilmenau), fur-lined boots (P. Hoffmann, Stadtilm) and special aviation maps (Justus Perthes, Gotha)

The Thuringian glass industry was the main supplier of glass ampoules for the German army medical service. Large companies like Carl Zeiss in Jena had more then 20,000 different military technical products in their range. Besides binoculars, distance measuring devices and submarine optical sights, the main production in Zeiss was optical devices for anti-aircraft weapons.

The different companies in the "National Socialist Industrial Foundation Wilhelm Gustloff" produced, especially in Suhl, around one quarter of the total production of machine guns for the German army. In Sömmerda and Stadtilm the Rheinmetall-Borsig AG company produced over 50,000 drive shafts every month as one of the major manufacturers. In 1943 the Thuringian armament industry produced war assets of a value of 1.6 billion Reichsmark. Major items were aircraft and spare parts, 385 million RM, and optical devices, 248 millions RM.

The daily Allied air raids were intensely tiring for the labourers in the major factories.

Starting in 1944, work started in the firms which had been integrated in the "Jägerstab aircraft production" and worked for 72 hours a week.

From 1943, the ever-increasing number of Allied air raids forced the construct of bombproof company facilities.

Best known of these "Production facilities of the last minute" are the Mittelwerk GmbH and the "Reichsmarschall Herman Göring Werke" in the Gustloff foundation (REIMAHG)". It has to be remembered that Thuringia remained one of the most important regions to the armament industry and would remain so until the end of the war.

In early 1945 the American Army reached the western border of Thuringia. Ten months previously, they had used the Normandy invasion to advance into the heart of the Third Reich. The main target of the 3rd Army was to conquer the suspected communications centre in the area comprising Ohrdruf - Gotha - Erfurt - Weimar.

The attack was also aimed at the political and military centre of the Gau: the capital Weimar.

The daily report of the Wehrmacht was clear:

Situation Report from the Wehrmacht 4th April 1945
On the junction to Army Group G, the situation in the Thuringian forests got worse; Gotha, attacked by the enemy through the autobahn, was lost. 300 tanks against Eisenach. Langensalza still free of the enemy. Vacha and Schmalkalden were lost. Meiningen is encircled. In Suhl there is still fighting. Near Ohrdruf the enemy managed a breakthrough in the Thuringian forest and continued in a southern direction. The 6th SS Mountain Division, that received the order to fight in the forest behind enemy lines, didn`t receive the order and is now returning back to the lines.

April 1st the first Americans cross into Thuringia near Creuzburg.

During the fighting, 80 % of the small town was destroyed. The Americans did not meet any further serious resistance, except in the town of Eichsfeld where there was some hand to hand last ditch combat. During the fighting, 80 % of the small town was destroyed.

The American forces split in Thuringia. One section conquered the region south of the Thuringian Forest. The territory around Schmalkalden, Meinungen and Suhl was quickly occupied.

Situation Report from the Wehrmacht 5th April 1945
Mühlhausen was lost. In the South no activity. Langensalza is still held by us. Eisenach was fired upon. South from Gotha more fighting. The enemy arrived around Ohrdruf near Arnstadt. Suhl was lost.

Other units continued in an easterly direction along the autobahn and operated in the area around Gotha and Ohrdruf.

A third part marched north and began capturing the region around Mühlhausen.

Most of the towns and villages surrendered without fighting, but there were occasional skirmishes.

Situation Report from the Wehrmacht 6th April 1945
No special events with the 11th Army. The enemy hasn`t advanced further in the area Mühlhausen - Langensalza. Further attacks in the Thuringian forest, especially against Eisenach. On the autobahn, advances from the south passing Gotha towards Erfurt. There the spearhead was stopped. Also above Suhl, enemy tanks are advancing but couldn`t join up with the combat team in Erfurt. Arnstadt still in our hands. At the south-western front no special activities.

The commander, General Patton, although he had taken much terrain, received the order to halt on the line Ohrdruf - Gotha - Mühlhausen and to await the neighbouring armies to catch up. On the 12th April the advance continued towards eastwards. On the same day, Erfurt and Weimar were taken. One day later, the Americans reached Jena. They crossed the Saale River and continued to the border of Saxony. Thuringia was now completely in American hands.