BATTLE OF STALINGRAD WORLD WAR TWO

The Battle of Stalingrad is thought to have claimed more lives than any other single conflict of the Second World War.

In 1942, April 5, Hitler ordered a massive military offensive was called Operation Blue.

Army Group A and B to sweep to Stalingrad, Grozny, Astrakan, and the Caspian Sea.

If Germany captured Stalingrad, it meant the Soviet army would be cut off from oil supply.

Stalin then ordered the 64th and the 62nd Armies to take positions eight miles from Stalingrad.

The first assault on Stalingrad occured on August 19. The Germans attacked using 22 divisions with more than 700 planes, 500 tanks, 1,000 mortars, and 1,200 guns. By August 23, the German forces had reached the Volga River, north of Stalingrad.

By September the fighting was now being fought street by street, house by house. Despite what seemed overwhelming odds, the 62nd Army, commanded by General Vasily Ivanovich Chuikov held on. This was in fact the beginning of the turning point in WW11. It was the start of the End For Hitler.

A brilliant plan called Operation Uranus was devised. The Red Army secretly mobilized one million troops, 1,350 aircraft, 14,000 heavy guns, and 979 tanks to attack German flanks that were protected by weak Axis powers.

On November 19, Soviet forces attacked Romanian, Italian , and Hungarian positions. The front collapsed and the Soviet troops began encircling German Army Group B from the North and South. Within four days the German 6th and 4th Panzer armies were surrounded.

The Germans were lovked in. Supplies had to be airlifted in to the German troops.

Finally, with little food and supplies, the Germans were on the verge of starvation. Temperatures dropped to minus 30 degrees Centigrade. Starving German soldiers were forced to slaughter their horses and later still to dig up their frozen carcasses to eat the bones.

German Field Marshall Paulus was forced to surrender, the 6th Army and 4th Panzer Army. Estimates on the German lost are from 150,000 to 500,000 men, 91,000 were taken prisoner. The Soviet Army lost 500,000 men.

Hitler himself said, 'The god of war has gone over to the other side'.

The Battle of Stalingrad, conducted between Germany and its allies and the Soviet Union for the Soviet city of Stalingrad, took place between August 21, 1942 and February 2, 1943, during the Second World War. Stalingrad was known as Tsaritsyn until 1925 and today is known as Volgograd. This battle is often cited as one of the turning points of the war in the European Theater and was arguably the bloodiest battle in human history, with combined casualties estimated to be above 1.5 million. The battle was marked by brutality and disregard for military and civilian casualties by both sides. The struggle included the German siege of Stalingrad, the battle inside the city, and the Soviet counter-offensive which eventually trapped and destroyed the German Sixth Army and other Axis forces around the city.

On June 22, 1941, Nazi Germany launched Operation Barbarossa (Unternehmen Barbarossa). The armed forces of Germany and its allies invaded the Soviet Union, quickly advancing deep into Soviet territory. During December, having suffered multiple defeats during the summer and autumn, Soviet forces counter-attacked during the Battle of Moscow and successfully drove the German Army (Wehrmacht Heer) from the environs of Moscow. By spring 1942, the Germans had stabilized their front and were confident they could master the Red Army when winter weather no longer impeded their mobility. There was some substance to this belief: while Army Group Centre (Heeresgruppe Mitte) had suffered heavy punishment, 65 percent of its infantry had not been engaged during the winter fighting, and had been rested and reequipped. Part of the German military philosophy was to attack where least expected so that rapid gains could be made. An attack on Moscow was seen as too predictable by some, most notably German dictator Adolf Hitler. Along with this, the German High Command (Oberkommando des Heeres or OKH) knew that time was running out for them, as the United States had entered the war following Germany's declaration of war in support of its Japanese ally.

The capture of Stalingrad was important to Hitler for primarily two reasons. First, it was a major industrial city on the Volga River a vital transport route between the Caspian Sea and Northern Russia. Secondly, its capture would secure the left flank of the German armies as they advanced into the oil-rich Caucasus region with a goal of cutting off fuel to Stalin's war machine. That the city bore the name of Hitler’s nemesis, Joseph Stalin, would make the city’s capture an ideological and propaganda coup. Stalin realized this and ordered anyone that was strong enough to hold a rifle be sent out to war. Stalin also had an ideological and propaganda interest in defending the city which bore his name in honor of his defense of the city during the Russian Civil War, but the fact remains that Stalin was under tremendous constraints of time and resources. The Red Army, at this stage of the war, was less capable of highly mobile operations than the German Army, but the prospect of combat inside a large urban area, which would be dominated by short-range small firearms and artillery rather than armored and mechanized tactics, minimized the Red Army’s disadvantages against the Germans.

Army Group South was selected for a sprint forward through the southern Russian steppes into the Caucasus to capture the vital Soviet oil fields there. Instead of focusing his attention on the Soviet Capital of Moscow as his general staff advised, Hitler continued to send forces and supplies to the eastern Ukraine. The planned summer offensive was code-named Fall Blau (trans.: “Case Blue”). It was to include the German Sixth Army, Seventeenth Army, Fourth Panzer Army and First Panzer Army. Army Group South had overrun the Ukrainian SSR in 1941. Poised in the Eastern Ukraine, it was to spearhead the offensive. Hitler intervened, however, ordering the Army Group to be split in two. Army Group South (A), under the command of Wilhelm List, was to continue advancing south towards the Caucasus as planned with the Seventeenth Army and First Panzer Army. Army Group South (B), including Friedrich Paulus’s Sixth Army and Hermann Hoth's Fourth Panzer Army, was to move east towards the Volga and the city of Stalingrad. Army Group B was commanded initially by Field Marshal Fedor von Bock and later by General Maximilian von Weichs. The start of Operation Blau had been planned for late May 1942. However, a number of German and Romanian units that were involved in Blau were then in the process of besieging Sevastopol on the Crimean Peninsula. Delays in ending the siege pushed back the start date for Blau several times, and the city did not fall until the end of June. A smaller action was taken in the meantime, pinching off a Soviet salient in the Second Battle of Kharkov, which resulted in the pocketing of a large Soviet force on 22 May. Blau finally opened as Army Group South began its attack into southern Russia on June 28, 1942. The German offensive started well. Soviet forces offered little resistance in the vast empty steppes and started streaming eastward in disarray. Several attempts to re-establish a defensive line failed when German units outflanked them. Two major pockets were formed and destroyed: the first northeast of Kharkov on July 2 and a second, around Millerovo, Rostov Oblast, a week later. Meanwhile, the Hungarian Second Army and the German 4th Panzer Army had launched an assault on Voronezh, capturing the city on the 5th of July. The initial advance of the Sixth Army was so successful that Hitler intervened and ordered the Fourth Panzer Army to join Army Group South (A) to the south. A massive traffic jam resulted when the Fourth Panzer and the Sixth both required the few roads in the area. Both armies were stopped dead while they attempted to clear the resulting mess of thousands of vehicles. The delay was long, and it is thought that it cost the advance at least one week. With the advance now slowed, Hitler changed his mind and re-assigned the Fourth Panzer Army back to the attack on Stalingrad. By the end of July, the Germans had pushed the Soviets across the Don River. At this point, the Germans began using the armies of their Italian, Hungarian, and Romanian allies to guard their left (northern) flank. The German Sixth Army was only a few dozen kilometers from Stalingrad, and Fourth Panzer Army, now to their south, turned northwards to help take the city. To the south, Army Group A was pushing far into the Caucasus, but their advance slowed as supply lines grew overextended. The two German army groups were not positioned to support one another due to the great distances involved. After German intentions became clear in July, Stalin appointed Marshall Andrei Yeremenko as commander of the Southeastern Front on August 1, 1942. Yeremenko and Commissar Nikita Krushchev were tasked with planning the defense of Stalingrad. The eastern border of Stalingrad was the wide Volga River, and over the river additional Soviet units were deployed. This combination of units became the newly formed 62nd Army, which Yeremenko placed under the command of Lt. Gen. Vasiliy Chuikov on September 11, 1942. The 62nd Army's mission was to defend Stalingrad at all costs.

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Before the Wehrmacht reached the city itself, the Luftwaffe had rendered the Volga River, vital for bringing supplies into the city, virtually unusable to Soviet shipping. Between 25 July and 31 July, 32 Soviet ships were sunk with another nine crippled. The battle began with the heavy bombing of the city by the Generaloberst von Richthofen's Luftflotte 4, which in the summer and autumn of 1942 was the mightiest single air command in the world. Some 1,000 tons were dropped. The city was quickly turned to rubble, although some factories survived and continued production whilst workers joined in the fighting. Soviet factory workers heading to the front lines.Stalin prevented civilians from leaving the city on the premise that their presence would encourage greater resistance from the city's defenders. Civilians, including women and children, were put to work building trenchworks and protective fortifications. A massive German air bombardment on August 23 caused a firestorm, killing thousands and turning Stalingrad into a vast landscape of rubble and burnt ruins. Ninety percent of the living space in the Voroshilovskiy area was destroyed. The Soviet Air Force, the Voenno-Vozdushnye Sily (VVS), was swept aside by the Luftwaffe. The VVS unit in the immediate area lost 201 aircraft from 23-31 August, and despite meager reinforcements of some 100 aircraft in August, it was with just 192 servicable aircraft which included just 57 fighters. The Soviets poured aerial reinforcements into the Stalingrad area in late September but continued to suffer appalling losses. The Luftwaffe had complete control of the skies. The burden of the initial defense of the city fell on the 1077th Anti-Aircraft (AA) Regiment, a unit made up mainly of young women volunteers who had no training on engaging ground targets. Despite this, and with no support available from other Soviet units, the AA gunners stayed at their posts and took on the advancing Panzers. The German 16th Panzer Division reportedly had to fight the 1077th’s gunners "shot for shot" until all 37 AA batteries were destroyed or overrun. In the beginning, the Soviets relied extensively on "Workers militias" composed of workers not directly involved in war production. For a short time, tanks continued to be produced and then manned by volunteer crews of factory workers. They were driven directly from the factory floor to the front line, often without paint or even gunsights. By the end of August, Army Group South (B) had finally reached the Volga, north of Stalingrad. Another advance to the river south of the city followed. By September 1, the Soviets could only reinforce and supply their forces in Stalingrad by perilous crossings of the Volga, under constant bombardment by German artillery and aircraft. On September 5, the Soviet 24th and 66th Armies organised a massive attack against XIV. Panzerkorps. The Luftwaffe helped the German forces repulse the offensive by subjecting Soviet artillery positions and defensive lines to heavy attack. The Soviets were forced to withdraw at midday after only a few hours. Of the 120 tanks the Soviets committed, 30 were lost to air attack. Soviet operations were constantly hampered by the Luftwaffe. On 18 September, the Soviet 1st Guards and 24th Army launched an offensive against VIII Armeekorps at Kotluban. VIII. Fliegerkorps dispatched wave after wave of Stuka dive-bombers to prevent a breakthrough. The offensive was repulsed, and the Stukas claimed 41 of the 106 Soviet tanks knocked out that morning while escorting Bf 109s destroyed 77 Soviet aircraft, shattering their remaining strength. Amid the debris of the wrecked city, the Soviet 62nd and 64th Armies, which included the Soviet 13th Guards Rifle Division, anchored their defense lines with strongpoints in houses and factories. Fighting was fierce and desperate. The life expectancy of a newly-arrived Soviet private in the city dropped to less than 24 hours, while that of a Soviet officer was about 3 days. Stalin's Order No. 227 of July 27, 1942, decreed that all commanders who order unauthorized retreat should be subjects of a military tribunal. Not a step back! was the slogan. The Germans pushing forward into Stalingrad suffered heavy casualties.

German military doctrine was based on the principle of combined-arms teams and close cooperation by tanks, infantry, engineers, artillery, and ground-attack aircraft. To counter this, Soviet commanders adopted the simple expedient of always keeping the front lines as close together as physically possible. Chuikov called this tactic "hugging" the Germans. This forced the German infantry to either fight on their own or risk taking casualties from their own supporting fire; it neutralized German close air support and weakened artillery support. Bitter fighting raged for every street, every factory, every house, basement and staircase. The Germans, calling this unseen urban warfare Rattenkrieg ("war of the rats"), bitterly joked about capturing the kitchen but still fighting for the living-room. Fighting on Mamayev Kurgan, a prominent, blood-soaked hill above the city, was particularly merciless. The position changed hands many times. At the Grain Silo, a huge grain-processing complex dominated by a single enormous silo, combat was so close that at times Soviet and German soldiers could hear each other breathe. Combat raged there for weeks. When German soldiers finally took the position, only forty Soviet bodies were found, though the Germans had thought there to be many more Soviet soldiers present due to the strength of Soviet resistance. In another part of the city, a Soviet platoon under the command of Yakov Pavlov turned an apartment building into an impenetrable fortress. The building, later called Pavlov's House, oversaw a square in the city center. The soldiers surrounded it with minefields, set up machine-gun positions at the windows, and breached the walls in the basement for better communications. With no end in sight, the Germans started transferring heavy artillery to the city, including the gigantic 800 mm railroad gun nicknamed Dora. The Germans made no effort to send a force across the Volga, allowing the Soviets to build up a large number of artillery batteries there. Soviet artillery on the eastern bank continued to bombard the German positions. The Soviet defenders used the resulting ruins as defensive positions. German tanks became useless amid heaps of rubble up to 8 meters high. When they were able to move forward, they came under Soviet antitank fire from wrecked buildings.

Soviet snipers also successfully used the ruins to inflict heavy casualties on the Germans. The most successful sniper was Vasily Grigoryevich Zaytsev who is also the most famous. Vasiliy Grigor´yevich Zaytsev was credited with 242 kills during the battle/ For both Stalin and Hitler, the battle of Stalingrad became a prestige issue in addition to the actual strategic significance of the battle. The Soviet command moved the Red Army's strategic reserves from the Moscow area to the lower Volga, and transferred aircraft from the entire country to the Stalingrad region. The strain on both military commanders was immense: Paulus developed an uncontrollable tic in his eye, while Chuikov experienced an outbreak of eczema that required him to bandage his hands completely. Troops on both sides faced the constant strain of close-range combat.

Determined to crush Soviet resistance, Luftflotte 4s Stukawaffe flew 700 individual sorties against Soviet positions at the Dzherzhinskiy Tractor Factory on 5 October. Several Soviet regiments were wiped out; the entire staff of the Soviet 339th Infantry Regiment were killed the following morning during an air raid. By mid-October, the Luftwaffe intensified its efforts against remaining Red Army positions holding the west bank. By now, Soviet aerial resistance had ceased to be effective. Luftflotte 4 flew 2,000 sorties on 14 October and 600 tons of bombs were dropped while German infantry surrounded the three factories. Stukageschwader 1, 2, and 77 had silenced Soviet artillery on the eastern bank of the Volga to a large degree before turning their attention to the shipping that was once again trying to reinforce the narrowing Soviet pockets of resistance. The 62nd Army had been cut in two, and, due to intensive air attack against its supply ferries, were now being paralyzed. With the Soviets forced into a 1,000-yard (910 m) strip of land on the western bank of the Volga, over 1,208 Stuka missions were flown in an effort to eliminate them. Despite the heavy air bombardment (Stalingrad suffered heavier bombardment than that inflicted on Sedan and Sevastopol), the Soviet 62 Army, with just 47,000 men and 19 tanks, prevented the VI. Armee and IV.Panzerarmee from wrestling the west bank out of Soviet control. The Luftwaffe remained in command of the sky into early November, and Soviet aerial resistance during the day was nonexistent, but after flying 20,000 individual sorties, its original strength of 1,600 serviceable aircraft had fallen 40% to 950. The Kampfwaffe (bomber force) had been hardest hit, having only 232 out of a force of 480 left. Despite enjoying qualitative superiority against the VVS and possessing eighty percent of the Luftwaffe's resources on the Eastern Front, Luftflotte 4 could not prevent Soviet aerial power from growing. By the time of the counter-offensive, the Soviets were superior numerically. The Soviet bomber force, the Aviatsiya Dalnego Destviya (ADD), having taken crippiling losses over the past 18 months, was restricted to flying at night. The Soviets flew 11,317 sorties in this manner, from 17 July to 19 November over Stalingrad and the Don-bend sector. These raids caused little damage and were of nuisance value only. The situation for the Luftwaffe was now becoming increasingly difficult. On 8 November substantial units from Luftflotte 4 were removed to combat the American landings in North Africa. The German air-arm found itself spread thin across Europe, and struggling to maintain its strength in the other southern sectors of the Soviet-German front. After three months of carnage and slow and costly advance, the Germans finally reached the river banks, capturing 90% of the ruined city and splitting the remaining Soviet forces into two narrow pockets. In addition, ice-floes on the Volga now prevented boats and tugs from supplying the Soviet defenders across the river. Nevertheless, the fighting, especially on the slopes of Mamayev Kurgan and inside the factory area in the northern part of the city, continued as fiercely as ever. The battles for the Red October Steel Factory, the Dzerzhinsky tractor factory, and the Barrikady gun factory became world famous. While Soviet soldiers defended their positions and took the Germans under fire, factory workers repaired damaged Soviet tanks and other weapons close to the battlefield, sometimes on the battlefield itself.

During the siege, the German, Italian, Hungarian, and Romanian armies protecting Army Group South (B)'s flanks had pressed their headquarters for support. The Hungarian Second Army, consisting of mainly ill-equipped and ill-trained units, was given the task of defending a 200 km section of the front north of Stalingrad. This resulted in a very thin line of defense with some parts where 1-2 km stretches were being guarded by a single platoon. Soviet forces held several points on the south bank of the river and presented a potentially serious threat to Army Group South (B). However, Hitler was so focused on the city itself that requests from the flanks for support were refused. The chief of the Army General Staff, Franz Halder, expressed concerns about Hitler's preoccupation with the city, pointing at the Germans' weak flanks, claiming that if the situation on the flanks was not rectified then 'there would be a disaster'. Hitler, had claimed to Halder that Stalingrad would be captured and the weakened flanks would be held with 'national socialist ardour, clearly I cannot expect this of you (Halder)'. Halder was then replaced in mid-October with General Kurt Zeitzler.

In autumn the Soviet generals Aleksandr Vasilyevskiy and Georgy Zhukov, responsible for strategic planning in the Stalingrad area, concentrated massive Soviet forces in the steppes to the north and south of the city. The German northern flank was particularly vulnerable, since it was defended by Italian, Hungarian, and Romanian units that suffered from inferior training, equipment, and morale when compared with their German counterparts. This weakness was known and exploited by the Soviets, who preferred to face off against non-German troops whenever it was possible, just as the British preferred attacking Italian troops, instead of German ones, whenever possible, in North Africa. The plan was to keep pinning the Germans down in the city, then punch through the overstretched and weakly defended German flanks and surround the Germans inside Stalingrad. During the preparations for the attack, Marshal Zhukov personally visited the front, which was rare for such a high-ranking general. The operation was code-named Uranus and launched in conjunction with Operation Mars, which was directed at Army Group Center. The plan was similar to Zhukov's victory at Khalkin Gol three years before, where he had sprung a double envelopment and destroyed the 23rd Division of the Japanese army. On November 19, the Red Army unleashed Uranus. The attacking Soviet units under the command of Gen. Nikolay Vatutin consisted of three complete armies, the 1st Guards Army, 5th Tank Army, and 21st Army, including a total of 18 infantry divisions, eight tank brigades, two motorized brigades, six cavalry divisions and one anti-tank brigade. The preparations for the attack could be heard by the Romanians, who continued to push for reinforcements, only to be refused again. Thinly spread, outnumbered and poorly equipped, the Romanian Third Army, which held the northern flank of German Sixth Army, was shattered. On November 20, a second Soviet offensive (two armies) was launched to the south of Stalingrad, against points held by the Romanian IV Corps. The Romanian forces, made up primarily of infantry, collapsed almost immediately. Soviet forces raced west in a pincer movement, and met two days later near the town of Kalach, sealing the ring around Stalingrad. The Russians later reconstructed the link up for use as propaganda, and the piece of footage achieved worldwide fame.

Because of the Soviet pincer attack, about 230,000 German and Romanian soldiers, as well as some Croatian units and volunteer subsidiary troops found themselves trapped inside the resulting pocket. Inside the pocket (German: kessel) there also were the surviving Soviet civilians around 10,000, and several thousand Soviet soldiers the Germans had taken captive during the battle. Not all German soldiers from Sixth Army were trapped; 50,000 were brushed aside outside the pocket. The encircling Red Army units immediately formed two defensive fronts: a circumvallation facing 'inward', to defend against breakout attempt, and a contravallation facing 'outward' to defend against any relief attempt. Adolf Hitler had declared in a public speech (in the Berlin Sportpalast) on September 30 that the German army would never leave the city. At a meeting shortly after the Soviet encirclement, German army chiefs pushed for an immediate breakout to a new line on the west of the Don. But Hitler was at his Bavarian retreat of Obersalzberg in Berchtesgaden with the head of the Luftwaffe, Göring. When asked by Hitler, Göring replied, after being convinced by Hans Jeschonnek, that the Luftwaffe could supply the Sixth Army with an "air bridge". This would allow the Germans in the city to fight on while a relief force was assembled. A similar plan had been used successfully a year earlier at the Demyansk Pocket, albeit on a much smaller scale: it had been only an army corps at Demyansk as opposed to an entire army. Also, Soviet fighter forces had improved considerably in both quality and quantity in the intervening year. But the mention of the successful Demyansk air supply operation reinforced Hitler's own views, and was endorsed by Hermann Göring several days later. The head of the Fourth Air Fleet (Luftflotte 4), Wolfram von Richthofen, tried to have this decision overturned without success. The Sixth Army would be supplied by air. The Sixth Army was the largest unit of this type in the world, almost twice as large as a regular German army. Also trapped in the pocket was a corps of the Fourth Panzer Army. It should have been clear that supplying the pocket by air was impossible, and the maximum 117.5 tons they could deliver a day would be less than the 800 needed by the pocket[36]. To supplement the limited number of Junkers Ju 52 transports, bomber units equipped with aircraft wholly inadequate for the role, such as the He-177, (the Heinkel He-111 proved to be quite capable and was a lot faster than the Ju 52) were pressed into service. But Hitler backed Göring's plan and reiterated his order of "no surrender" to his trapped armies. The air supply mission failed. Appalling weather conditions, technical failures, heavy Soviet anti-aircraft fire and fighter interceptions led to the loss of 488 German aircraft. The Luftwaffe failed to achieve even the maximum supply capacity of 117 tons that it was capable of. An average of 94 tons of supplies per day was delivered to the trapped German Army. Even then, it was often inadequate or unnecessary; one aircraft arrived with 20 tonnes of Vodka and summer uniforms, completely useless in their current situation The transport aircraft that did land safely were used to evacuate technical specialists and sick or wounded men from the besieged enclave (some 42,000 were evacuated in all). The Sixth Army slowly starved. Pilots were shocked to find the troops assigned to offloading the planes too exhausted and hungry to unload food. General Zeitzler, moved by the troops' plight at Stalingrad, began to limit himself to their slim rations at meal times. After a few weeks of such a diet he'd grown so emaciated that Hitler, annoyed, personally ordered him to start eating regular meals again. The expense to the Transportgruppen was heavy. Some 266 Junkers Ju 52s were destroyed, one-third of the fleets strength on the Soviet-German front. The He 111 gruppen lost 165 aircraft in transport operations. Other losses included 42 Junkers Ju 86s, nine Fw 200 "Condors", five He 177 bombers and a single Ju 290. The Luftwaffe also lost close to 1,000 highly experienced bomber crew personnel.

Soviet forces consolidated their positions around Stalingrad, and fierce fighting to shrink the pocket began. An attack by a German battlegroup formed to relieve the trapped armies from the South, Operation Wintergewitter (Operation Winter Thunderstorm) was successfully fended off by the Soviets in December. The full impact of the harsh Russian winter set in. The Volga froze solid, allowing the Soviets to supply their forces in the city more easily. The trapped Germans rapidly ran out of heating fuel and medical supplies, and thousands started dying of frostbite, malnutrition and disease. On December 16, the Soviets launched a second offensive, Operation Saturn, which attempted to punch through the Axis army on the Don and take Rostov. If successful, this offensive would have trapped the remainder of Army Group South, one third of the entire German Army in Russia, in the Caucasus. The Germans set up a "mobile defense" in which small units would hold towns until supporting armor could arrive. The Soviets never got close to Rostov, but the fighting forced von Manstein to extract Army Group A from the Caucasus and restabilize the frontline some 250 km away from the city. The Tatsinskaya Raid also caused significant losses to Luftwaffe’s transport fleet. The Sixth Army now was beyond all hope of German reinforcement. The German troops in Stalingrad were not told this, however, and continued to believe that reinforcements were on their way. Some German officers requested that Paulus defy Hitler’s orders to stand fast and instead attempt to break out of the Stalingrad pocket. Paulus refused, as he abhorred the thought of disobeying orders. Also, whereas a breakout may have been possible in the first few weeks, at this late stage, Sixth Army was short of the fuel required for such a breakout. The German soldiers would have faced great difficulty breaking through the Soviet lines on foot in harsh winter conditions.

The Germans inside the pocket retreated from the suburbs of Stalingrad to the city itself. The loss of the two airfields at Pitomnik on 16 January and Gumrak on the 25 January meant an end to air supplies and to the evacuation of the wounded. The Germans were now not only starving, but running out of ammunition. Nevertheless they continued to resist stubbornly, partly because they believed the Soviets would execute those who surrendered. In particular, the so-called "HiWis", Soviet citizens fighting for the Germans, had no illusions about their fate if captured. The Soviets, in turn, were initially surprised by the large number of German forces they had trapped, and had to reinforce their encircling forces. Bloody urban warfare began again in Stalingrad, but this time it was the Germans who were pushed back to the banks of the Volga. A Soviet envoy made Paulus a generous surrender offer that if he surrendered within 24 hours, the Germans would receive a guarantee of safety for all prisoners, medical care for the German sick and wounded, a promise that prisoners would be allowed to keep their personal belongings, "normal" food rations, and repatriation to whatever country they wished to go to after the war but Paulus, ordered not to surrender by Adolf Hitler, did not reply, ensuring the destruction of the 6th Army. Hitler promoted Friedrich Paulus to Generalfeldmarschall on January 30, 1943, (the 10th anniversary of Hitler coming to power). Since no German Field Marshal had ever been taken prisoner, Hitler assumed that Paulus would fight on or take his own life. Nevertheless, when Soviet forces closed in on Paulus' headquarters in the ruined GUM department store the next day, Paulus surrendered. The remnants of the German forces in Stalingrad surrendered on February 2; 91,000 tired, ill, and starving Germans were taken captive. To the delight of the Soviet forces and the dismay of the Third Reich, the prisoners included 22 generals. Hitler was furious at the Field Marshal’s surrender and confided that "Paulus stood at the doorstep of eternal glory but made an about-face". These forces continued to resist until early March 1943, hiding in cellars and sewers of the city with their numbers being diminished at the same time by Soviet forces clearing the city of remaining enemy resistance. By March, what remained of these forces were small and isolated pockets of resistance that surrendered. According to Soviet intelligence documents shown in the documentary, 2,418 of the men were killed, and 8,646 were captured. Only 5,000 of the 91,000 German prisoners of war survived their captivity and returned home. Already weakened by disease, starvation and lack of medical care during the encirclement, they were sent to labour camps all over the Soviet Union, where most of them died of overwork and malnutrition. A handful of senior officers were taken to Moscow and used for propaganda purposes and some of them joined National Committee for a Free Germany. Some, including Paulus, signed anti-Hitler statements which were broadcast to German troops. General Walther von Seydlitz-Kurzbach offered to raise an anti-Hitler army from the Stalingrad survivors, but the Soviets did not accept this offer. It was not until 1955 that the last of the handful of survivors were repatriated. The German public was not officially told of the disaster until the end of January 1943, though positive reports in the German propaganda media about the battle had stopped in the weeks before the announcement. It was not the first major setback of the German military, but the crushing defeat at Stalingrad was unmatched in scale. On February 18, the minister of propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, gave his famous Sportpalast speech in Berlin, encouraging the Germans to accept a total war which would claim all resources and efforts from the entire population.

The battle of Stalingrad was one of the largest battles in human history. It raged for 199 days. Numbers of casualties are difficult to compile due to the vast scope of the battle and the fact that the Soviet government did not allow estimates to be made, for fear the cost would be shown to be too high. In its initial phases, the Germans inflicted heavy casualties on Soviet formations; but the Soviet encirclement by punching through the German flank, mainly held by Romanian troops, effectively besieged the remainder of German Sixth Army, which had taken heavy casualties in street fighting prior to this. At different times the Germans had held up to 90% of the city, yet the Soviet soldiers and officers fought on fiercely. Some elements of the German Fourth Panzer Army also suffered casualties in operations around Stalingrad during the Soviet counter offensive. Various scholars have estimated the Axis suffered 850,000 casualties of all types (wounded, killed, captured...etc) among all branches of the German armed forces and its allies, many of which were POWs who died in Soviet captivity between 1943 and 1955,: 400,000 Germans, 200,000 Romanians, 130,000 Italians, and 120,000 Hungarians were killed, wounded or captured. Of the 91,000 German POW's taken at Stalingrad 27,000 died within weeks and only 5,000 returned to Germany in 1955. The remainder of the POWs died in Soviet captivity. In the whole Stalingrad area the Axis lost 1.5 million killed, wounded or captured. 50,000 ex-Soviets Hiwis (local volunteers incorporated into the German forces in supporting capacities) were killed or captured by the Red Army. According to archival figures, the Red Army suffered a total of 1,129,619 total casualties; 478,741 men killed and captured and 650,878 wounded. These numbers are for the whole Stalingrad Area, in the city itself 750,000 were killed, captured, or wounded. Also, more than 40,000 Soviet civilians died in Stalingrad and its suburbs during a single week of aerial bombing as the German Fourth Panzer and Sixth armies approached the city; the total number of civilians killed in the regions outside the city is unknown. In all, the battle resulted in an estimated total of 1.7 million to 2 million Axis and Soviet casualties.

Besides being a turning point in the war, Stalingrad was also revealing in terms of the discipline and determination of both the German Wehrmacht and the Soviet Red Army, though this was often maintained by brutal enforcement of commands. The Soviets first defended Stalingrad against a fierce German onslaught. So great were Soviet losses that at times, the life expectancy of a newly arrived soldier was less than a day, and the life expectancy of a Soviet officer was three days. Their sacrifice is immortalised by a soldier of General Rodimtsev, about to die, who scratched on the wall of the main railway station (which changed hands 15 times during the battle) Rodimtsev’s Guardsmen fought and died here for their Motherland. For the heroism of the Soviet defenders of Stalingrad, the city was awarded the title Hero City in 1945. After the war, in the 1960s, a colossal monument of Mother Motherlan was erected on Mamayev Kurgan, the hill overlooking the city. The statue forms part of a memorial complex which includes ruined walls deliberately left the way they were after the battle. The Grain Silo, as well as Pavlov's House, the apartment building whose defenders eventually held out for two months until they were relieved, can still be visited. Even today, one may find bones and rusty metal splinters on Mamayev Kurgan, symbols of both the human suffering during the battle and the successful yet costly resistance against the German invasion. On the other side, the German Army showed remarkable discipline after being surrounded. It was the first time that it had operated under adverse conditions on such a scale. Short of food and clothing, during the latter part of the siege, many German soldiers starved or froze to death. Yet, discipline and obedience to authority prevailed, until the very end, when resistance no longer served any useful purpose, Generalfeldmarschall Friedrich Paulus obeyed Hitler's orders, against many of Hitler's top generals' counsel and advice, such as Von Manstein, to not attempt to break out of the city before German ammunition, supplies, and food became totally exhausted. Hitler ordered Paulus to stay, and then promoted him to Field Marshal. Hitler, acting on Göring's advice, believed the German 6th Army could be supplied by air; the Luftwaffe had successfully accomplished an aerial resupply in January 1942, when a German garrison was surrounded in Demyansk for four months by the Red Army. However, Göring and Hitler failed to see the obvious differences, in terms of the difficulty of supplying a garrison as opposed to supplying the remnants of an embattled and encircled army. By the time Hitler made him a Field Marshal, even Paulus knew Stalingrad was lost and the air lift had failed. Hitler thought that Paulus would commit suicide, the traditional German General's method of surrender; promoting him was a consolatory gesture, and further impetus for Paulus to avoid being taken by the Soviets alive. Paulus would have been the highest ranking German commander to be captured, and that was not acceptable to Hitler. However, Paulus disobeyed Hitler, shortly after being promoted to Field Marshal, saying that as a Christian he could not, in good faith, kill himself. Hitler did not find this reasonable, and openly lambasted Paulus for being the only Field Marshal in German history to surrender alive.

The extreme conditions of the battle, including the paralyzing Soviet winter that precipitated massive German fatalities due to starvation and freezing, have been immortalized in several films of German, Russian, and American origin. The struggle is also remembered and reflected upon in countless books, for its significance in thwarting the German invasion, as well as its significance as a landmark of military barbarism and human suffering in which the loss of life was unprecedented.

World War Two

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