Demyansk Pocket
The Demyansk Pocket was the name given for the encirclement of German troops
The Wehrmacht – from , to defend and , the might/power) were the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the Heer , the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe .-Origin and use of the term:...

 by the Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

 around Demyansk
Demyansk is an urban locality and the administrative center of Demyansky District of Novgorod Oblast, Russia, located along the Yavon River. Population:...

 (Demjansk), south of Leningrad
Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg is a city and a federal subject of Russia located on the Neva River at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea...

, during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 on the Eastern Front. The pocket existed mainly from 8 February-21 April 1942. A much smaller pocket was simultaneously surrounded in Kholm
Kholm is a town and the administrative center of Kholmsky District of Novgorod Oblast, Russia, situated at the confluence of the Lovat and Kunya Rivers, north of Toropets, southwest of Staraya Russa, and south of Veliky Novgorod. Population:...

, about 100 km (62.1 mi) to the southwest. These were the results of German retreat following their defeat during the Battle of Moscow
Battle of Moscow
The Battle of Moscow is the name given by Soviet historians to two periods of strategically significant fighting on a sector of the Eastern Front during World War II. It took place between October 1941 and January 1942. The Soviet defensive effort frustrated Hitler's attack on Moscow, capital of...



The encirclement began as the Demyansk Offensive Operation, the first phase being carried out from 7 January-20 May 1942 on the initiative of General Lieutenant Pavel Kurochkin
Pavel Kurochkin
-Biography:Pavel Kurochkin was born in the village of Gronevo, Vyazma district, Smolensk Oblast.-Military career:He joined the Red Army in 1918. Kurochkin completed his cavalry courses in Petrograd in 1920...

, commander of Northwestern Front. The intention was to sever the link between the German Demyansk positions, and the Staraya Russa
Staraya Russa
Staraya Russa is a town in Novgorod Oblast, Russia, located south of Veliky Novgorod. It is a wharf on the Polist River in the Lake Ilmen basin. It serves as the administrative center of Starorussky District, although administratively it is not a part of it...

 railway that formed the lines of communication
Lines of Communication
"Lines of Communication" is an episode from the fourth season of the science-fiction television series Babylon 5.-Synopsis:Franklin and Marcus attempt to persuade the Mars resistance to assist Sheridan in opposing President Clark...

 of the German 16. Armee. However, owing to the very difficult wooded and swamp
A swamp is a wetland with some flooding of large areas of land by shallow bodies of water. A swamp generally has a large number of hammocks, or dry-land protrusions, covered by aquatic vegetation, or vegetation that tolerates periodical inundation. The two main types of swamp are "true" or swamp...

y terrain, and heavy snow cover, the initial advance by the Front was very modest against stubborn opposition.

On 8 January, a new offensive called the Rzhev-Vyazma Strategic Offensive Operation started. This incorporated the previous Front's planning into the Toropets-Kholm Offensive Operation between 9 January and 6 February 1942 which formed the southern pincer
Pincer may refer to:*Pincer *Pincer , part of an animal*Pincer ligand, a terdentate, often planar molecule that tightly binds a variety of metal ions.*Pingas...

 of the attack that, beginning the second phase of the northern pincer Demyansk Offensive Operation between 7 January and 20 May, which encircled the German 16th Army's (Generaloberst Ernst Busch) IInd, and parts of the Xth Army Corps (General der Artillerie Christian Hansen
Christian Hansen (general)
Christian Hansen was a highly decorated General der Artillerie in the Wehrmacht during World War II who commanded the 16. Armee. He was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful...

) during winter 1941/1942.

Trapped in the pocket were the 12th, 30th
30th Infantry Division (Germany)
The 30nd Infantry Division of the German Army was created on 1 October 1936 in Lübeck and mobilized on 26 August 1939 for the upcoming invasion of Poland...

, 32nd
32nd Infantry Division (Germany)
The 32nd Infantry Division of the German Army was mobilized on August 1, 1939 for the upcoming invasion of Poland. At that time, it consisted of the usual German infantry division elements: three infantry regiments of three battalions each, one three-battalion regiment of light artillery, one...

, 123rd and 290th infantry divisions, and the SS-Division Totenkopf, as well as RAD
The Reichsarbeitsdienst was an institution established by Nazi Germany as an agency to reduce unemployment, similar to the relief programs in other countries. During the Second World War it was an auxiliary formation which provided support for the Wehrmacht.The RAD was formed during July 1934 as...

, Police
The Ordnungspolizei or Orpo were the uniformed regular police force in Nazi Germany between 1936 and 1945. It was increasingly absorbed into the Nazi police system. Owing to their green uniforms, they were also referred to as Grüne Polizei...

, Todt
Organisation Todt
The Todt Organisation, was a Third Reich civil and military engineering group in Germany named after its founder, Fritz Todt, an engineer and senior Nazi figure...

 organization and other auxiliary units, for a total of about 90,000 German troops and around 10,000 auxiliaries. Their commander was General der Infanterie Walter Graf von Brockdorff-Ahlefeldt
Walter von Brockdorff-Ahlefeldt
Walter Graf von Brockdorff-Ahlefeldt was a German general of the Infantry, serving during World War II....

, commander of the IInd Army Corps.

Northwestern Front offensives

The intent of the Northwestern Front offensive was to encircle the entire northern flank of the 16th Army's forces, of which the 2nd Army Corps was only a small part, and the Soviet command was desperate to keep the Front moving even after this success. The first thrust was made by the 11th Army, 1st Shock Army
1st Shock Army
The 1st Shock Army was a field army established by the Soviet Union's Red Army during World War II.The 1st Shock Army was created in late 1941 and fought in the northern areas of Russia and the Baltic States until the defeat of Germany in 1945...

 and the 1st and 2nd Guards Rifle Corps released for the operation from Stavka reserve. A second thrust was executed on 12 February by the 3rd
3rd Shock Army (Soviet Union)
The 3rd Shock Army was a field army of the Red Army formed during the Second World War. The 'Shock' armies were created with the specific structure to engage and destroy significant enemy forces, and were reinforced with more armoured and artillery assets than other combined arms armies...

 and 4th Shock Armies of the Kalinin Front
Kalinin Front
The Kalinin Front was a Front of the Soviet Army during the Second World War. This sense of the term is not identical with the more general usage of military front which indicates a geographic area in wartime, although a Soviet Front may operate within designated boundaries.The Kalinin Front was...

, with the additional plan of directly attacking the encircled German forces by inserting two airborne brigades to support the advance of the 34th Army. The front soon settled as the Soviet offensive petered out due to difficult terrain and bad weather.

After being assured that the pocket could be supplied with its daily requirement of 270 ST (244.9 t) of supplies by Luftflotte 1
Luftflotte 1
Luftflotte 1 was one of the primary divisions of the German Luftwaffe in World War II. It was formed February 1, 1939 from Luftwaffengruppenkommando 1 in Berlin...

, Hitler ordered that the surrounded divisions hold their positions until relieved. The pocket contained two fairly capable airfields at Demyansk and Peski. From the middle of February, the weather improved significantly, and while there was still considerable snow on the ground at this time, resupply operations were generally very successful due to weakness of the Red Air Forces in the area. However the operation did use up all of the Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe is a generic German term for an air force. It is also the official name for two of the four historic German air forces, the Wehrmacht air arm founded in 1935 and disbanded in 1946; and the current Bundeswehr air arm founded in 1956....

s transport capability, as well as elements of their bomber force.

The Northwestern Front grew increasingly desperate to wipe out the pocket, and over the winter and spring, launched a number of assaults on the "Ramushevo corridor" that formed the tenuous link between Demyansk and Staraya Russa through the Ramushevo village that were repeatedly repulsed. In total, five Soviet Armies
Army (Soviet Army)
An army, besides the generalized meanings of ‘a country's armed forces’ or its ‘land forces’, is a type of formation in militaries of various countries, including the Soviet Union. This article serves a central point of reference for Soviet armies without individual articles, and explains some of...

 composed of 18 rifle division
Division (military)
A division is a large military unit or formation usually consisting of between 10,000 and 20,000 soldiers. In most armies, a division is composed of several regiments or brigades, and in turn several divisions typically make up a corps...

s and three brigades were tied up for four months.

However, by the end of May, the Stavka reconsidered the overall situation and decided to shift its attention to the Moscow sector, where a new German offensive was expected in the summer.

Attempted breakout

On 21 March 1942, German forces under the command of Generalleutnant Walther von Seydlitz-Kurzbach
Walther von Seydlitz-Kurzbach
Walther Kurt von Seydlitz-Kurzbach was a German general. He was born in Hamburg, Germany, into the noble Prussian Seydlitz family. He was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves...

 attempted to leave through the "Ramushevo corridor". Over the next several weeks, this corridor was widened. A battle group
Battle group
Battle group may refer to:* Battlegroup , the basic building block of an army's fighting force* Battleship battle group, a battleship and its escorts* Carrier battle group, a carrier and its escorts...

 was able to break out of the siege on 21 April, but the fighting had taken a heavy toll. Out of the approximately 100,000 men trapped, there were 3,335 lost and over 10,000 wounded. However, their strong resistance had tied up numerous Soviet units at a critical moment, units that could have been used elsewhere. Instrumental in the German breakout, was the first time use of the Mkb-42(H), which would later be re-designated the MP-43 and then finally the Mp-44.

Between the forming of the pocket in early February to the virtual abandonment of Demyansk in May, the two pockets (including Kholm
Kholm is a town and the administrative center of Kholmsky District of Novgorod Oblast, Russia, situated at the confluence of the Lovat and Kunya Rivers, north of Toropets, southwest of Staraya Russa, and south of Veliky Novgorod. Population:...

) received 65000 ST (58,967 t) of supplies (both through ground and aerial delivery), 31,000 replacement troops, and 36,000 wounded were evacuated. However, the cost was significant. The Luftwaffe lost 265 aircraft, including 106 Junkers Ju 52
Junkers Ju 52
The Junkers Ju 52 was a German transport aircraft manufactured from 1932 to 1945. It saw both civilian and military service during the 1930s and 1940s. In a civilian role, it flew with over 12 air carriers including Swissair and Deutsche Luft Hansa as an airliner and freight hauler...

, 17 Heinkel He 111
Heinkel He 111
The Heinkel He 111 was a German aircraft designed by Siegfried and Walter Günter in the early 1930s in violation of the Treaty of Versailles. Often described as a "Wolf in sheep's clothing", it masqueraded as a transport aircraft, but its purpose was to provide the Luftwaffe with a fast medium...

 and two Junkers Ju 86
Junkers Ju 86
The Junkers Ju 86 was a German monoplane bomber and civilian airliner designed in the early 1930s, and employed by both sides during World War II. The civilian model Ju 86B could carry 10 passengers. Two were delivered to Swissair and five to Luft Hansa...

 aircraft. In addition, 387 airmen were lost.

The Soviet Air Forces lost 408 aircraft, including 243 fighters, in a bid to crush the pocket.

Fighting in the area continued until 28 February 1943. The Soviets did not liberate Demyansk until 1 March 1943, with the retreat of the German troops. For his excellence in command and the particularly fierce fighting of his elite unit, 3. SS Division Totenkopf
3rd SS Division Totenkopf
The SS Division Totenkopf , also known as 3. SS-Panzergrenadier-Division Totenkopf and 3. SS-Panzer-Division Totenkopf, was one of the 38 divisions fielded by the Waffen-SS during World War II. Prior to achieving division status, the formation was known as Kampfgruppe Eicke...

, SS-Obergruppenführer
Obergruppenführer was a Nazi Party paramilitary rank that was first created in 1932 as a rank of the SA and until 1942 it was the highest SS rank inferior only to Reichsführer-SS...

Theodor Eicke
Theodor Eicke
Theodor Eicke was a SS Obergruppenführer , commander of the SS-Division Totenkopf of the Waffen-SS and one of the key figures in the establishment of concentration camps in Nazi Germany. His Nazi Party number was 114,901 and his SS number was 2,921...

 was the 88th person to be awarded the Oak Leaves
Oak Leaf
Oak leaf may refer to:Military* Oak leaf cluster, a U.S. military decoration* A bronze oak leaf device is also used to signify a Mention in Despatches or the award of the Queen's Commendation for Valuable Service in Commonwealth militaries...

 to the Knight's Cross
Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross
The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross was a grade of the 1939 version of the 1813 created Iron Cross . The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross was the highest award of Germany to recognize extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership during World War II...

 on 20 May 1942.

The success of the Luftwaffe convinced Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring
Hermann Göring
Hermann Wilhelm Göring, was a German politician, military leader, and a leading member of the Nazi Party. He was a veteran of World War I as an ace fighter pilot, and a recipient of the coveted Pour le Mérite, also known as "The Blue Max"...

 and Hitler that they could conduct effective airlift operations on the Eastern front. Göring later proposed a similar "solution" to supply the 6. Armee when it was surrounded in Stalingrad
Battle of Stalingrad
The Battle of Stalingrad was a major battle of World War II in which Nazi Germany and its allies fought the Soviet Union for control of the city of Stalingrad in southwestern Russia. The battle took place between 23 August 1942 and 2 February 1943...

. In theory, the outcome could be equally advantageous; with the 6. Armee trapped, but still in fighting condition, the Soviet army would have to use up much of its strength to keep the pocket contained. This could allow other German forces to re-group and mount a counterattack. However, the scale of the forces trapped in the two operations differed greatly. While a single corps (about ⅓ of an army) with about six divisions was encircled in Demyansk, in Stalingrad, an entire and greatly reinforced army was trapped. Whereas the Demyansk and Kholm pockets together needed around 265 t (292.1 ST) of supplies per day, the 6. Armee required an estimated daily minimum of 800 t (881.8 ST), delivered over a much-longer distance and faced by a much better organised Red Air Force. The air transport force had already suffered heavy losses, and was much further away from good infrastructure
Infrastructure is basic physical and organizational structures needed for the operation of a society or enterprise, or the services and facilities necessary for an economy to function...

. The Luftwaffe simply did not have the resources needed to supply Stalingrad.
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