One of the last SS units to hold out defending Hitler’s bunker in Berlin was comprised entirely of Frenchmen
Much to their surprise, the soldiers noticed the unnatural quiet atmosphere of Berlin on their first night serving there, with no sounds of fighting bar the distant sound of Soviet artillery. The soldiers proceeded to walk from West to East Berlin and reached a brewery near the Hermannplatz – which is where combat started, with the Hitler Youth firing Panzerfausts at the Soviet guards’ tanks that stood near the Tempelhof Aerodrome. The Sturmbattalion later joined them.
On 26 April, the Sturmbattalion participated in a counterattack in the Neukölln district in southeast Berlin. They joined forces with the Tiger II tanks and the 11th SS Panzer-Battalion “Hermann von Salza,” that ran into an ambush by Soviet troops using a captured German Panther tank.
This, in turn, led to half of the available troops being wiped out on the very first day. The remainder went on to defend Neukölln’s Town Hall.
With Neukölln completely invaded by Soviet forces, Krukenberg prepared fallback positions for Sector C defenders around Hermannplatz and shifted headquarters to the opera house.
With the Nordland Division’s withdrawal to Hermannplatz, the French SS and the Hitler Youth attached to their group destroyed 14 Soviet tanks using Panzerfausts, with one machine gun position by the Halensee Bridge being sufficient to hold up any Soviet advance in the area for the next 48 hours.
The Soviet invasion of Berlin consisted of massive shelling followed by assaults using battle groups consisting of around 80 men who were armed with tank escorts and artillery support. They managed to push back the remnants of Nordland Division to the central government district (Zitadelle sector) in Defence sector Z, with Krukenberg’s new Nordland headquarters being a carriage in the Stadtmitte U-Bahn station.
As of 28 April, about 108 Soviet tanks had been destroyed in south-east Berlin within the S-Bahn, 62 of which were destroyed by the Charlemagne Sturmbataillon alone, which went under the command of SS-Hauptsturmführer Henri Joseph Fenet, who was entrusted to defend Neukölln, Friedrichstrasse, Belle Alliance Platz, and Wilhelmstrasse.
A wounded Fenet with his battalion, retreated to the Reich Aviation Ministry in the central government district led by SS-Brigadeführer Wilhelm Mohnke, who awarded Fenet the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross for the battalion’s victories in the Battle in Berlin.
With the Soviets now launching a full-scale attack into the central sector, the battle became more intense than ever and involved brutal combat.
The last defenders of Hitler’s bunker, the French Charlemagne units remained until 2 May and prevented the Soviets from conquering it on May Day.
The Sturmbattalion was reduced to a mere 30 in number, as most had either been captured or had escaped Berlin. Out of these, those who reached France were sentenced to camps and jails run by the Allied forces.
Fenet, for instance, was sentenced to 20 years in prison but was later released in 1959. Others, however, were shot upon capture by the French authorities.