By the 16th of February, the besieged forces of Group Stemmerman had been under siege for almost three weeks and the situation was becoming more desperate with each passing day.
Fearing that Hitler might postpone the breakout and knowing of the steadily weakening condition of the forces inside the pocket, Von Manstein made the decision to order General Stemmerman to begin the breakout attempt. The codeword was ”Parole Freiheit” (Watchword Freedom.)
His communiqué stated simply, ‘Watchword Freedom, objective Lysianka, 2300 hours.’ After issuing the order to break out, Manstein had attempted to warn Stemmerman that Hill 239 was still in enemy hands. But all radios had been destroyed and there was no further communication with the trapped troops.