Budapest, siege of.
In December 1944, as the Red Army's Second and Third Ukrainian fronts, commanded by Marshal Malinovsky and General Tolbukhin respectively, began surrounding the Hungarian capital, Hitler issued a directive that it become a fortress, that is that it must be held to the last man. Making it a fortress did not prove difficult, for Buda on the river Danube's west bank was dominated by the Gelerthey Heights and Palace Hill; while Pest on the east bank had solidly-built government buildings and factories which were easily fortified.
By 26 December the city was surrounded, but it was strongly held by four German divisions (13th Panzer, SS Feldherrnhalle, and two SS cavalry divisions), and Soviet units could not get beyond the outer suburbs. A German counter-attack, by the 4th Panzer Corps, almost succeeded and on 24 January came within 25 km. (15 mi.) of the city's southern suburbs. The German defenders could now have broken out, but Hitler wanted Budapest defended and was not interested in having its garrison rescued.
Though Tolbukhin was under severe pressure on the Danube's west bank, on the eastern side Malinovsky's troops penetrated the Pest suburbs and his artillery began pounding German defensive positions in Buda. On 12 January, when the specially formed Budapest Group Corps drove for the city centre, the Germans disputed every street and every building. It took six days for Malinovsky to take Pest and the Germans lost 35,000 killed and 62,000 taken prisoner. Then, as Tolbukhin parried further German armoured thrusts, Malinovsky mounted an attack on Buda. But the German garrison, well entrenched in the heights, held out until 13 February before capitulating. Malinovsky took another 30,000 prisoners and three days later the remnants of the garrison, some 16,000 strong, were surrounded and destroyed while attempting to break out to the north-west. See also German–Soviet war, 10 and 11.