- Lieutenant General Rokossovski - February 1943
- General Siegfried von Westphal - 1943
Early on the morning of 23 August 1942, the 16th Panzer Division raced eastwards over the steppe from the river Don. That same evening, it halted on the bank of the Volga. The tank crews gazed across towards Asia. They had reached the designated boundary of the Third Reich's eastern territories. Messerschmitt fighters performed victory rolls above their heads. Many soldiers thought that the war was won. To their right, the city of Stalingrad blazed from the first of General von Richthofen's air raids, which killed 40,000 civilians. The only resistance the panzer crews faced came from anti-aircraft guns operated by young women barely out of high school. 'We had to fight shot for shot', the division reported, 'against thirty-seven flak positions manned by tenacious fighting women until they were all destroyed.' Thus began the most pitiless, and perhaps the most important, battle in history.No this is not Hiroshima or Nagasaki. This is Stalingrad.
Hitler had told General Friedrich Paulus that with his Sixth Army, the most powerful in the Wehrmacht, he could 'storm the heavens'. But then, in a bold encirclement by Soviet armoured forces, over a quarter of a million Germans were trapped far from home, and increasingly far from help. Stalingrad marked not just the psychological turning-point of the war, it was the first major modern battle fought in a city, with thousands of helpless civilians caught up in its horrors. In this titanic struggle between Stalin and Hitler, men were driven beyond the limits of physical and mental endurance. National loyalties were also dislocated. Paulus's Sixth Army depended on 50,000 Soviet citizens in German uniform, while the NKVD used German Communist writers in its tactics to wear down the besieged.The Germans spring into action.
RUMORSThe destruction of Stalingrad as seen from the skies.
In November 1942, after failing to defeat the besieged city of Stalingrad and as the Russian winter approached, tens of thousands of German soldiers found themselves isolated, surrounded by Soviet troops, without food or any prospect of reinforcements. Against this background, various rumors developed. In the German camp, soldiers spread the story that, one night, covertly and disguised as a corporal, Hitler himself visited his despairing troops and promised them that he would quickly send them food and reinforcements and that victory was close at hand.
During this very same period, on the other side of the battlefield, rumors spread that Stalin had visited the city named after him, covertly, of course, to encourage his troops and raise their morale. He too promised them a sweeping victory.
BATTLE FOR STALINGRAD
This photo perhaps symbolises the fortunes of Nazi Germany henceforth.
PERSONAL STORIES FROM STALINGRAD
By the shore were people, including many children. Using small spades, as well
as their hands, they dug holes to hide from bullets and artillery shells. Atdawn
German planes appeared over the Volga. On a hedge-hopping flight they flew
over a ferry and bombed and opened fire from machine guns. From above, it was very well visible to the pilots, that on the shore civilians were waiting. Many
times we saw enemy pilots acting as professional assassins. They opened fire on
the unarmed women and children and selected targets so as to maximize the
number of people killed. The pilots dropped bombs in a crowd at the moment
they were beginning to board a boat, fired at the decks of the boats, and
bombed islands on which hundreds of wounded had accumulated. The people
crossed the river not only on boats and barges. They sailed on overcrowded
boats, even on logs, barrels, and boards bound with wire. And on each floating
point the fascists opened fire from the air. It was hunting of the people.
Russian soldiers have a bite to eat.
THE DEATH THROES OF THE GERMAN SIXTH ARMY IN STALINGRAD
Soviet Armies 62, 65, 66 were mobilised with full artillery support on thelast day of January and into the first day of February. The Sovietartillery had moved their guns into firing positions in close proximity tothe German lines. All available Soviet bombers had been made ready,confident of success because an effective air blockade and anti-aircrafteffort was in place. German fighter aircraft would be unable to get throughthis blockade. The soviet guns were shooting in a tiered position, one beinghigher than the other. First the lower gun would fire and then the higher.Eight artillery regiments supported the 214th infantry division and this wasin excess of what had originally been planned. At daybreak the tremendousartillery bombardment began. After three to five minutes, German soldierswere seen creeping out of their trenches, fleeing their tanks and abandoningcellars. Soldiers dropped to their knees -- lifting their arms in surrender.Others dashed back into their trenches and shelters and disappeared into thesmoke and fire. The areas around the factory had turned into flame anddestruction. The artillery barrage continued all day while the Russianbombers flew sortie after sortie unopposed. Of the German troops, both northand south, that continued to fight on against overwhelming odds, by nine o'clock on the morning of the thirty-first of January, the southern group wasno longer an effective force.
Early in the morning on February 1st, the German Generals, Rosske andSchmidt reluctantly accepted the surrender terms offered to them and gavethe order to immediately stop fighting to the southern section of the Germanarmy. The soldiers were to surrender as a group.Despite the order to surrender, one German company held out and this was600-700 meters south of the school building. Major I. M. Ryjob of the64th Soviet Intelligence Agency went with three Germans to persuade thishold-out company to surrender. As the major's automobile approached theschool, with the German translators, he was able to transmit the order ofGeneral Rosske to cease fighting immediately due to the fact that formaltalks about general capitulation were about to begin.
On February 2nd, more than 40,000 soldiers and officers of the northerngroup of German troops surrendered to the overwhelming pressure. FieldMarshal Paulus was said to have given an order that the northern army stopsfighting. At a later date he stated that he had never given such an order.General Strekker, who was the commander of the northern army, also statedthat he had never ordered them to stop fighting. During the period ofJanuary 10 to February 2, 1943, Soviet troops under the command of GeneralK. K. Rokossovsky smashed through 22 enemy divisions with more than 160different attached units of the German 6th Army. 91,000 Germans, including2,500 officers and 24 generals were captured. In these battles, the enemyhad lost nearly 140,000 soldiers and officers. The Soviet Air Force andanti-aircraft guns had damaged or destroyed more than 800 German aircraft.
STALINGRAD NOV 1942 German Wartime Newsreel
A STORY FROM STALINGRAD
Divisional commander Sokolov reported an interesting incident to me on 23 January. While entering the western reaches of the Red October settlement, his troops encountered and surrounded a heavily reinforced German position. The prevent the loss of any more lives, the German garrison was offered capitulation terms. After lengthy negotiations, the Germans asked our troops for some bread. Our troops pitied the enemy and sent over several loaves. After recieving the bread and consuming it, the Germans resumed firing.After seeing such "diplomatic relations" our troops contacted the artillerymen. They brought forward several guns and completely annihilated the German stronghold at point blank range.
V.I. Chuikov's book - "The battle of Stalingrad" .