Red Army NCO, Victory at Stalingrad
The Battle of Stalingrad, considered to have been the turning point in World War 2 in Europe; was also one of the bloodiest battles in recorded human history. The battle was marked by brutality and disregard for military and civilian casualties on both sides.
The battle is taken to include the German siege of the southern Russian city of Stalingrad, which is today Volgograd, the battle inside the city, and the Soviet counter-offensive codenamed “Operation Uranus”, a two-pronged attack which eventually trapped and destroyed the German Sixth Army and other Axis forces in and around the city.
Total casualties for both sides are estimated to be over two million. The Axis powers lost large numbers of men and equipment, and never fully recovered from the defeat. For the Soviets, who also suffered great losses during the battle, the victory at Stalingrad marked the start of the liberation of the Soviet Union, leading to eventual victory over Nazi Germany in 1945.
The Russian-born correspondent Alexander Werth of the LONDON SUNDAY TIMES documented the ghastly scenery of the city after the shooting had stopped:“Trenches ran through the factory yards and through the workshops themselves. And now at the bottom of the trenches there still lay frozen green Germans and frozen gray Russians and frozen fragments of human shapes; and there were helmets, Russian and German, lying among the brick debris, and now half-filled with snow.”
Roughly 100,000 German troops went into captivity. The catch included 22 generals, who were given good food and comfortable quarters. Alexander Werth got to interview them after the battle, finding them all clearly far better fed than their troops, though Werth noted that Paulus “looked pale and sick, with a nervous twitch in his left cheek.” The embittered Paulus would eventually perform propaganda broadcasts for the Soviets. As far as his men went, they weren’t as valuable as prizes and were treated accordingly. Only about 5,000 would ever return from Soviet prison camps.
Stalingrad was the German high tide in the East. 20 German divisions had been effectively destroyed, 6th Army had been completely wiped out, and six months’ German war production had been lost.
For the Soviets, the losses that they had suffered did not obscure the all-important fact that they had won. One soldier wrote his wife: “I’m in an exceptional mood. If you only knew, you’d be just as happy as I am. Imagine it — the Fritzes are running away from us!”