Spring Storm: Adolf Hitler’s Headquarters During the Invasion of Yugoslavia

During the Axis invasion of Yugoslavia that began on April 6, 1941, Adolf Hitler established his forward command headquarters in his personal train known as the Fuehrersonderzug Amerika, the Fuehrer’s Special Train “Amerika”, or FHQu Mönichkirchen. The train was stationed in the Austrian town of Monichkirchen during the Yugoslav campaign. The headquarters was codenamed “Spring Storm” or Frühlingssturm.

Mönichkirchen was a market town with a population of approximately 600 in 1941 located between Graz and Vienna. Hitler’s private train arrived in the town on April 12, 1941 during the Balkans campaign, the Axis attacks on Yugoslavia and Greece, known as Operation Marita. It stood at the exit of a tunnel, near a hotel called the Mönichkirchnerhof. Hitler stayed there for fourteen days.

The Balkanfeldzug or Balkan Campaign was coordinated from here. There is a tunnel located near the station, that could be used as a shelter if there was an air attack, but an attack never occurred. Hitler stayed in the Sonderzug or took a walk to the small hotel or hof in the town.

King Boris III of Bulgaria, Admiral Miklos Horthy, the Regent of Hungary, Italian Foreign Minister Count Galeazzo Ciano, the Hungarian ambassador to Germany, Dome Sztojay, and German Admiral Erich Raeder were all guests at the train headquarters to discuss the occupation and dismemberment of Yugoslavia.

On April 20, Hitler’s 52nd birthday was celebrated here with a concert in front of the train.

Hitler left Mönichkirchen on April 26, 1941 to travel to Graz and Marburg an-der-Drau, or Maribor, Slovenia, in northern Yugoslavia, before he returned to Berlin.

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Adolf Hitler stands in front of the Sonderzug Amerika train, the Special Train “Amerika”.

The name of the train was later changed from “Amerika” to “Brandenburg”. The Führersonderzug can be regarded as the first of his field headquarters. During the 1941 Balkan campaign, the train was Hitler’s command and control headquarters stationed in Monichkirchen between Vienna and Graz. This was the only time it was a headquarters. After the Balkans Campaign, Hitler traveled on the train between Berlin, Berchtesgaden, Munich and other headquarters.

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Spring Storm: Adolf Hitler in a cabin of the Sonderzug Amerika train examining the 1930 Gavrilo Princip plaque on his 52nd birthday, April 20, 1941 stationed in Monichkirchen, Austria, southwest of Vienna, north of Graz. Amerika was Hitler’s command and control headquarters during the invasions of Yugoslavia and Greece. The train’s closed curtains can be seen on the left as well as its low ceiling.

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The Fuehrersonderzug Amerika, the Fuehrer’s Special Train “Amerika”, can be seen in the background.

The Amerika train was well equipped to function as a mobile headquarters or forward command and control center. The components of the train were ascertained when each car was listed from June 22 to 24, 1941. The individual 17 components of the train in order were:

1)   two BR52 Class locomotives;

2)   a special Flakwagen armored anti-aircraft train flatbed car with two anti-aircraft guns, a pair of Flakvierling cannon batteries, one at each end of the car;

3)    a baggage car;

4)    the Führerwagen, which Hitler used;

5)    a Befehlswagen or command car, including a conference room and a communications center;

6)   a Begleitkommandowagen, for the accompanying Reichssicherheitsdienst;

7)   two cars for guests;

8)    a dining car;

9)    a Badewagen or bathing car;

10)               a second dining car;

11)                two sleeping cars for personnel;

12)                a Pressewagen or car for the press;

13)                a second baggage car; and,

14)                a second Flakwagen..

Heinrich Himmler, Joachim von Ribbentrop, and Hermann Goering also had special trains, as well as the OKW chief, Luftwaffe and Navy commanders, and OKH staff.

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Adolf Hitler in front of the Monichkirchnerhof or hotel in April, 1941.

Benito Mussolini did not meet with Hitler in April, 1941 while Hitler was at his headquarters in Monichkirchen. Hitler met with Mussolini on June 2, at the Brenner Pass. Their previous meeting was on October 4, 1940, also at the Brenner Pass. Mussolini was against plans to invade the Soviet Union. He was not informed of Operation Barbarossa by Hitler at the June 2 meeting.

In Hitler: A Chronology of his Life and Time, Second Revised Edition (2008 Palgrave Macmillan edition), Milan Hauner detailed Adolf Hitler’s timeline of events for April, 1941.

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Adolf Hitler in front of the Amerika train at Monichkirchen in April, 1941.

From April 1 to 10, Hitler was in Berlin. He left that evening for Munich to go to his final destination, which was the command and control headquarters known as Spring Storm in Monichkirchen, Austria, aboard his special train Amerika, to coordinate the attacks against Yugoslavia and Greece.

From April 12 to 25, Hitler was aboard his train Amerika in Monichkirchen and the hotel in the town.

On April 13, Hitler issued Directive 27 for the occupation and dismemberment of Yugoslavia as German troops entered Belgrade.

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Adolf Hitler in Monichkirchen in April, 1941.

On April 15, Hitler sent a telegram to Ante Pavelic congratulating him and Slavko Kvaternik on the proclamation of the NDH, Nezavisna Drzava Hrvatska, the Independent State of Croatia, on April 10.

On April 19, King Boris III of Bulgaria met with Hitler at the Amerika train. Count Dome Sztojay of Hungary also was a guest. Sztojay was the Hungarian ambassador to Germany. Their discussions centered on the coming dismemberment of Yugoslavia and the spoils which would accrue to Bulgaria and Hungary.

On April 20, Hitler’s 52nd birthday, Hitler was visited by Count Ciano, the Italian Foreign Minister under the Mussolini regime from 1936 to 1943. Hitler was photographed by Heinrich Hoffmann examining the 1930 Gavrilo Princip plaque given to him as a gift by German forces who had removed it after seizing Sarajevo. Count Ciano congratulated him on the surrender of Greece. German Admiral Erich Raeder was also a guest.

On April 24, Admiral Miklos Horthy, the Regent of Hungary, was a guest who met with Hitler to discuss the dismemberment of Yugoslavia.

The German newsreel Die Deutsche Wochenschau, The German Weekend Show, Nr. 556 for April 30, 1941, captured the visits by King Boris, Count Ciano, and Admiral Horthy, to Hitler’s train headquarters.

On April 26, Hitler traveled to Graz, Klagenfurt, and Maribor, Slovenia, in northern Yugoslavia, which had been incorporated into the Reich.

On April 28, Hitler returned to Berlin where he stayed until May 4.

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Adolf Hitler walking beside the Amerika special train headquarters in April, 1941, in Monichkirchen.

The Balkan campaign was over. Yugoslavia and Greece had surrendered. Hitler then focused on the planning for the next offensive, Operation Barbarossa, the attack on the Soviet Union, scheduled for June 22.

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Adolf Hitler in Maribor, Slovenia, in northern Yugoslavia, after the region was annexed by Germany, April 26, 1941.