Battle of Stalingrad

Eyridiki Sellou | Feb 1, 2024

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The Battle of Stalingrad was an immense warlike confrontation between the Red Army of the Soviet Union and the Wehrmacht (Armed Forces) of Nazi Germany and its Axis allies, for the control of the Soviet city of Stalingrad, nowadays Volgograd, between August 23, 1942 and February 2, 1943. The battle took place in the course of the German invasion of the Soviet Union, within the framework of World War II. With casualties estimated at more than two million people among soldiers of both sides and Soviet civilians, the Battle of Stalingrad is considered the bloodiest battle in the history of mankind. The serious defeat of Nazi Germany and its allies in this city, meant a key and severe turning point in the final results of the war, representing the beginning of the end of Nazism in Europe, since the Wehrmacht would never recover its offensive capacity nor would it obtain more strategic victories in the Eastern Front.

The German offensive to capture Stalingrad began on July 17, 1942, as part of Operation Blue or Fall Blue, an attempt by Germany to seize the Caucasus oil wells. In mid-August, the 6th Army, supported by the 4th Panzer Army, crossed the bend of the Don River and reached Stalingrad. On August 23, a massive bombardment reduced much of the city, while the ground troops of the 6th Army began the capture of the city, leading to street fighting street by street and house by house, in what they called Rattenkrieg ('rat war'). Despite controlling most of the city, the Wehrmacht was never able to defeat the last Soviet defenders who clung tenaciously to the west bank of the Volga River.

General Georgy Zhukov, who carried out a strategy of containment and attrition of the Germans in their attempt to take the city, gathered men and weapons in the rear to undertake the counteroffensive called Operation Uranus, which began on November 19, 1942, started on the flanks and overwhelmed the Axis allied armies on the Don, and bagged the 6th German Army of General Paulus and part of the 4th Panzer Army inside Stalingrad. General Paulus' German 6th Army and part of the 4th Panzer Army inside Stalingrad, unable to escape from the encirclement, 330,000 German soldiers were enclosed and isolated, at the mercy of hunger and cold. Finally, dejected by the constant failures of General Von Manstein to try to break the encirclement, the unfulfilled promises of the Nazi authorities to supply the encircled army by air and the constant Soviet attacks would make Friedrich Paulus, disobeying Hitler's orders, surrender his 6th Army in February 1943.

The German defeat at Stalingrad confirmed what many military experts suspected: the logistical capacity of the German forces was insufficient to supply and sustain an offensive on a front stretching from the Black Sea to the Arctic Ocean. This would be confirmed shortly thereafter in the further defeat Germany would suffer at the Battle of Kursk. The military failure convinced many officers that Hitler was leading Germany to disaster, accelerating plans for his overthrow and resulting in the failed attempt on Hitler's life in 1944. The city of Stalingrad would receive the title of Heroic City.

Influenced by the geopolitician Karl Haushofer, Adolf Hitler intended to turn the lands of the Soviet Union into German colonies which he would call "Germania". Between 1939 and 1941, Nazi Germany was busy fighting its historic enemies in the West: France and the United Kingdom (Hitler, however, never lost sight of his real goal: to invade Eastern Europe and annihilate the Slavs.

On June 22, 1941, Germany invaded the Soviet Union, even though England had not been defeated. Hitler, convinced of the weakness of the Soviet state, which he regarded as a giant with feet of clay, believed that its peoples would turn against Iosif Stalin, allowing him to complete the invasion before winter, and his generals were ordered to stick to the plan, disregarding his views. His generals were ordered to stick to the plan, disregarding his opinions. Thus, one day before the invasion, some three million German soldiers awaited the start of the largest military operation to date, distributed from Finland to the Black Sea. Also some 950,000 soldiers from other nations allied with Germany.

In December 1941, the war in the Soviet Union had not developed as the German High Command had planned. Leningrad and Sevastopol continued to resist encirclement in the north and south respectively, and the offensive against Moscow had failed. Then, unexpectedly, the Germans encountered a major Soviet counteroffensive from the Russian capital and had to face the fact that, despite having annihilated and captured hundreds of thousands of Red Army soldiers in recent months, the Soviet High Command, by making a non-aggression pact with Tokyo, had managed to deploy sufficient reserves, in addition to the Siberian divisions led by General Georgy Zhukov, until then located on the border with Manchuko, to launch a major counteroffensive. Belatedly, and as had been believed for decades, the invaders would realize that the enemy reserves were apparently "inexhaustible".

Having failed to capture Moscow, Hitler - with his generals against him - decided to head for the oil wells of the Caucasus, since oil was the fundamental element, which he had at his disposal, to sustain the war and, moreover, to really weaken his enemy. Operation Blue, as the German campaign in the south of the Soviet Union was called, had as its objective the capture of strong points in the Volga first and, later, the advance on the Caucasus.

Advance towards the Don

On April 5, 1942, Hitler issued Basic Directive 41 with which he defined the planned development of the new major offensive in tactical detail and described, actually rather nebulously, the geostrategic objectives of Operation Blue (Fall Blau in German), on the basis of which he expected decisive success. The German offensive involved two groups of armies, more than a million soldiers with about 2500 tanks, supported by four Romanian, Italian and Hungarian armies (about 600 000 more men). It was to be unleashed in southern Russia with the aim of conquering the Don and Volga basins, destroying the important industries of Stalingrad (a railway and river junction and a very important center of mechanical production) and then targeting the oil wells of the Caucasus, assuring Germany sufficient energy resources to continue the war. This ambitious directive was based mainly on Hitler's erroneous assumption of a supposed irreversible material and moral exhaustion of the Red Army after the enormous losses suffered in the 1941-42 campaign.

The operation, initially scheduled for early May, suffered considerable delays due to stiff Soviet resistance during the siege of Sevastopol. On the other hand, the need to carry out some preliminary front rectification operations and to oppose some premature and ineffective Soviet spring offensive attempts in Kharkov (Second Battle of Kharkov). In fact, these German successes, which cost the Soviets less than a quarter of a million losses, greatly contributed to the initial success of Operation Blue (Fall Blue).

"For Hitler, Stalingrad was the Soviet symbol, because of its industry and because of what it represented ideologically; therefore he put a lot of emphasis on taking it, but the Soviets were aware of the consequences of defeat as well, and they were not daunted by Nazi power; the duel was served."

It was May 10. General Friedrich Paulus, commander of the German 6th Army, presented Field Marshal Fedor von Bock with an outline of "Operation Frederick". Paulus had recently taken command of the 6th Army following the death of its previous commander, Walter von Reichenau, from a heart attack suffered after exercising in the Russian countryside in sub-zero temperatures.

Operation Frederick meant the consolidation of the front in front of Kharkov, recently captured by Germany. However, Marshal Semyon Tymoshenko overtook Paulus, launching on May 12 a counter-offensive from Voronezh, whose objective was precisely the liberation of Kharkov, surrounding the 6th Army in a pincer movement. When 640,000 Soviets with 1,200 tanks rushed against Paulus' forces, Paulus found himself on the verge of collapse. Only the timely arrival of Ewald von Kleist's 1st Panzer Army reversed the offensive situation and, instead of being captured, Paulus' men helped Von Kleist's men capture the Soviet 6th and 57th Armies at Barvenkovo. On May 28, some 240,000 Soviet troops were bagged and captured, and 1250 tanks and more than 2,000 guns were seized. It was the worst Soviet defeat of the war, and ended with Timoshenko's counteroffensive.

On June 1, Adolf Hitler and Marshal Fedor von Bock presented the final plans for Operation Blue to the generals of Army Group South at their headquarters in Poltava. Paulus' 6th Army was tasked with clearing Voronezh, and then proceeding to Stalingrad accompanied by Hermann Hoth's 4th Panzer Army. Once there, they were to destroy the industrial complexes and protect the Caucasian oil refineries from the north.

All transcription of Operation Blue orders was forbidden; everything was to be communicated verbally. On June 10, the German 1st Panzerarmee and 6th Army, consisting of 33 divisions, five of them Panzerdivisionen and two motorized, began the first advances into the Volchansk and Kupians sectors; the armored forces were deployed between the right flank of Army Group South and the Smolensk-Slaviansk sector. However, on June 19, a German plane carrying General Georg Stumme's personal notes about the operation was shot down behind enemy lines, and the papers were captured by the Soviets. However, after General Filipp Golikov delivered them directly to Stalin, Stalin rejected them as forgeries, convinced that Moscow remained the main German target.

By June 26, the 1st Panzearmee and the German 6th Army, after 16 days of fighting, repulsed the left wing of the Soviet Southwest Front, pushing the Russians to the banks of the Oskol, where they took up a position.

At Sevastopol, the German 11th Army entered the ruins of the fortress, after months of Soviet resistance, as they had been delaying the German offensive (Fall Blau) into the Caucasus. The general of the 11th Army, Erich Von Manstein, was promoted to field marshal for his brilliant Crimean campaign, which culminated in the capture of the Sevastopol fortress.

Operation Blue

On June 28 the German general offensive towards the main objectives in the direction of the Voronezh began, and on June 30 in the Donetsk region of southern Russia, Army Group South began its offensive well: Soviet forces offered little resistance in the vast empty steppes and began to withdraw eastward. Several attempts to re-establish a defensive line failed as German units outflanked them. Two large pockets were formed and destroyed: the first, northeast of Kharkov, on July 2, and a second, around Milerovo, Rostov Oblast, a week later. The initial advance of the 6th Army and its Axis allies was successful. By July 5, units of Army Group B reached the Don River on both sides of the city of Voronezh, where heavy fighting ensued. Von Bock hoped the Germans would soon be able to take it, but Tymoshenko had reinforced his garrison. Hitler gave the order to stop the attack on Voronezh, and continue the Fall Blau offensive in the south. The next day, the 24th Panzerdivision and the motorized Division "Grossdeutschland" have engaged in heavy fighting with the Soviets defending Voronezh and can not retreat as ordered by Hitler, but partially capture the city. As the Russians begin to retreat, the Führer orders the city conquered, which divides the German forces of Operation Fall Blau. Units of General Hoth's 4th Panzer Army capture Voronezh on July 7 on the Don as planned in Operation Blue Fall, the German offensive in southern Russia. Tomorrow the Soviet front between the Don and the Doniets will give up, but large numbers of Russians will continue to fight the German invaders. The armies of Von Weichs make about 28 000 prisoners, and seize about 1000 tanks and 500 guns. The 6th Army takes 45,000 prisoners and seizes 200 tanks and 700 guns. The 4th Armored Army was fully engaged in the battle of Voronezh for two days, and it took the Germans some time before they could leave the line until the arrival of the Hungarian 2nd Army. On July 9, Hitler split Army Group South, as part of the second phase of the operation, ordered the 4th Panzer Army to head for the Don and Volga. However, it was subjected to a powerful counterattack by the Red Army until July 13 in the Don and Donetsk area. Hitler would later acknowledge that those two days of delays at Voronezh, combined with other avoidable delays on the southward journey and surprise ineffective Soviet attempts to stabilize the front, allowed Marshal Semyon Tymoshenko to reinforce the Don and its great meander, preventing the 4th Panzer Army from taking Stalingrad.

Since Hitler ordered to split Army Group South into two forces, he did not take into account the German fuel reserves, which were alarmingly low, and assumed that the enemy had largely exhausted its reserves in the first winter of the war. Despite the lack of reserves, Army Group A, commanded by Marshal Wilhelm List, was ordered to continue the offensive in the Caucasus, while Army Group B, including Friedrich Paulus' 6th Army and Hermann Goth's 4th Panzer Army, commanded by Marshal Maximilian von Weichs, headed for the Don and Volga.

In a report from Halder, dated July 13, to the Führer: "Von Bock's German armies, engaged in the Fall Blau Offensive in southern Russia, are unable to annihilate Marshal Tymoshenko's Soviet troops, which are retreating in perfect order to the east to avoid the German pincer maneuvers". Hitler assumed that it is a disbandment and changes the plans of the operation: he orders the 4th Panzerarmee and the 40th Panzerkorps to abandon the objective of the meander of the Don, leaving the 6th Army to go there alone.

In Moscow, the Red Army General Staff, commanded by Marshal Shaposhnikov, meets with Stalin in the Kremlin, along with Molotov, Marshal Voroshilov, and several Allied officers. It is agreed to continue the Soviet withdrawal to behind the Volga and the Caucasus and then to organize a defensive line, forcing the Germans to spend another bad winter. All factories on the other side of the Urals will be evacuated.

On July 15, Hitler and von Bock, commander of Army Group South, discussed the next steps in the operation. The heated debate about the partition of forces of Army Group South into two Army Groups, A and B, and the continuous Soviet counterattacks, which tied down the 4th Panzer Army until July 13, caused Hitler to lose his temper and dismiss von Bock.

At the front, Hoth's 4th Panzer Army headed south, as planned by the German high command (OKW), to join Army Group A, due to slow progress in the Caucasus campaign, and to assist in the capture of the remainder of Tymoshenko's forces, which was expected to take place near Rostov-on-Don, without fully succeeding. A massive traffic jam occurred in the advance as the 4th Panzer and 1st Panzer required the few roads in the area. Both armies were held up as they attempted to clear the resulting mess of thousands of vehicles. The delay was long and is believed to have cost the advance at least a week. But Rostov was attacked and recaptured by the 17th Army and the 1st Panzer Army on July 23.

"Not one step back!"

Stalin had foreseen the rapid fall of Rostov. For this reason, on July 19, he had ordered that Stalingrad be placed in a state of total siege and preparations to resist the approaching Germans begun. Civilians were not allowed to leave the city, in order to encourage the Soviet militia by keeping their relatives among the inhabitants, but skilled workers considered key to the armaments industries were sent to the Urals to continue working there.

On July 17, the German offensive towards the Don began, in charge of the 6th Army. As for the defense, Vasily Chuikov would arrive at the Stalingrad front; there he would be in charge of the 64th Soviet Army, whose main units had not yet arrived. Chuikov found his troops in very low morale, and there was little he could do to avoid being forced to cross the Don. The arrival of Russian aircraft, which kept the German Messerschmitt 109 occupied until early August, relieved the battered ground forces.

By mid-July, the Germans had pushed the Soviet troops back toward the bank of the Don River, despite a shortage of fuel. At this point, the Don and Volga rivers are only 65 km apart. In the advance the Germans left their main supply depots west of the Don, which would have repercussions later, as the Russians would position themselves strongly in the bend of the Don River. The Germans began to call on the armies of their Italian, Hungarian and Romanian allies to protect their left (northern) flank. Occasionally, Italian actions were mentioned in official German communiqués. The Italian forces were generally held in low regard by the Germans, and were accused of having low morale: in reality, the Italian divisions fought relatively well, according to a German liaison officer. The 3rd Ravenna Mountain Infantry Division and the 5th. In fact, the Italians distinguished themselves in numerous battles, such as the Battle of Nikolayevka.

On July 22, vanguard troops of Von Kleist's 1st Panzerarmee cross the Don River as part of Operation Fall Blau and advance to the southeast. General Hoth's 4th Panzerarmee will be ordered tomorrow to support Kleist in crossing the Don. On July 23, in Berlin, Hitler signed Executive Order or Directive No. 45, called Operation Braunschweig, according to which German forces are to undertake a simultaneous double operation in Stalingrad and the Caucasus. The inclusion of the occupation of the city of Stalingrad, he began to attribute propaganda value, based on the fact that it bore the name of the leader of the Soviet Union. Hitler proclaimed that after the capture of Stalingrad they would kill its male citizens and deport all women and children because its population was "thoroughly communist" and "especially dangerous". The fall of the city was also supposed to firmly secure the northern and western flanks of the German armies as they advanced on Baku, with the aim of securing these strategic oil resources for Germany. The expansion of objectives was a significant factor in Germany's failure at Stalingrad, caused by German overconfidence and an underestimation of Soviet reserves.

On July 24, the German 6th Army under General Von Paulus crossed the Don River west of Stalingrad. The next day, the Germans faced heavy resistance with a Soviet bridgehead west of Kalach. "We had to pay a heavy cost in men and material ... numerous German tanks were left on the Kalach battlefield burned or shot." That day, the bulk of Kleist's 1st Panzerarmee crosses the Don River to the south, but some straggling units would not make it until a day later.

Faced with the advance of the German 6th Army towards the city, which threatened to split the Soviet Union in two, Stalin issued to his troops of the Stalingrad Front: Order 227, on July 28, by which he ordered his commanders at the front not to allow under any circumstances the retreat of his men and ordered the formation of a line in the rear of the infantry with authorization to summarily shoot any Soviet soldier who retreated. Likewise, women were also forced to fight on a large scale. The document contained the phrase "Not a step back!", which was to become the motto of the Soviet anti-fascist resistance from then on. Order 227 decreed harsh penalties for those who turned back. Deserters and alleged simulators were captured or executed after the fighting. During the battle, the 62nd Army had the highest number of arrests and executions: 203 in total, of which 49 were executed, while 139 were sent to penal companies and battalions. The next day, armored units of General Hoth's 4th Panzerarmee cross the Don. Troops of General Kleist's 1st Panzerarmee took Proletarskaia. The Germans advancing towards Stalingrad suffered heavy casualties.

For his part, confident of the collapse of the Red Army in southern Russia, Hitler once again ignored the real state of his troops in the Caucasus and the enemy's plans to position themselves strongly in the mountains, and ordered the immediate capture of the oil wells by the reinforced Army Group A, which was determined to advance as fast as possible, until they were 100 km from the Caspian Sea; they would never get there. On August 9 the first oil field of Maikop fell, but it was found completely destroyed. The German units lacked supplies and were exhausted; the companies rarely had more than sixty men, and the Panzerdivisionen eighty tanks, without more reinforcements and without fuel, being very far from their reach the main oil fields of Baku. Hitler, exasperated, began to turn his attention to the Stalingrad front.

The failure to take the Caucasus led Hitler to drastically rethink his objectives. Without the coveted oil, he became convinced that, if he conquered the city, in addition to covering up his strategic defeat with a symbolic victory, he would once again have a chance to turn towards the Caucasus. It was not until September 3 that the German forces of Army Group A, with the 13th and 23rd Panzerdivisonen in the vanguard, began to resume their march southward into Russia, attempting to reach the Caucasus oil fields at Baku. However, the German units lack supplies and are exhausted; the companies rarely have more than sixty men, and the Panzerdivisionen have eighty tanks and can advance no further. On September 7, the Führer sent General Jodl, head of the OKW, to Stalino, where Marshal List has his headquarters, with the intention that the Group of Armies A continues advancing on all fronts, up to the Black Sea ports, Tuapse, Sochi, Sukhum, Batum, and finally, Baku, but he finds a different panorama from the one he had been informed. On September 8, at his headquarters in Vinnitsa, Ukraine, Hitler dismissed Von List, head of Army Group A. After a hard discussion with the Marshal and Jodl about the state of the troops that does not allow an offensive, he personally assumes command of his troops in the Caucasus. As for Jodl, he planned to replace him with Von Paulus, the current commander of the 6th Army.

Advance to the Volga

In early August, Hitler, enraged by General Paulus' slow progress on the Don, ordered Hoth's 4th Panzer Army to head back to Stalingrad in support of the 6th Army and finally crush the Soviet defenses at the bend of the Don River. General Hoth obeyed with concern, due to the low fuel reserves remaining after the descent into the Caucasus. On August 8, the 16th and 24th Panzerdivisionen of Von Paulus' 6th Army, advancing with the objective of reaching Stalingrad, finish encircling the troops of General Kolpakchi's Soviet 62nd Army west of Kalach, 60 km from Stalingrad. Seven divisions, two motorized brigades and two armored brigades with about 1,000 tanks and 750 artillery pieces remain encircled. By August 10, units of von Paulus' German 6th Army arrive at Stalingrad. The next day, General von Paulus' German 6th Army defeated the troops of General Kolpakchi's Soviet 62nd Army, who were putting up fierce resistance at the bend in the Don River. The Germans take about 35,000 Russian prisoners and seize 270 tanks and about 560 guns. The remnants of the 62nd Army cross the meander of the Don to the outskirts of the city. General Vladimir Kolpakchi was removed from office and replaced by General Anton Lopatin. Thus the way to Stalingrad was open for the Axis forces, but first the Germans had to wipe out the Soviet strongholds in the area: it would take about eleven days. On August 13, Stalin appointed Andrei Yeryomenko as commander of the Stalingrad Front, fed up with the continuous defeats of Marshal Tymoshenko.

On August 19, General Von Paulus orders the German 6th Army to attack the city of Stalingrad. It will do it in rings and using armored units in the wings; it has 9 infantry divisions, 5 Panzerdivisioen and 4 motorized divisions. The Russian front defending the industrial city has a length of 80 km where are the 62nd and 64th Russian Armies, with 11 infantry divisions and some motorized brigades; the Soviets conquer some positions on the Neva River.

After defeating the last pockets of Soviet resistance at Kalach, the 4th Panzerkorps penetrates the Russian lines at Vertiachi, northeast of Stalingrad, on August 22. General Wietersheim's 14th Panzerkorps breaks through the Russian front to reach the bank of the Volga; through the breakthrough penetrates Seydlitz's 51st Corps.

On August 23, Stalingrad received its first bombardment from Heinkel 111 and Junkers 88, some 600 aircraft of General Wolfram von Richthofen, chief of staff of the Condor Legion during the bombing of Guernica. They bombard during today and tomorrow the city of Stalingrad, to cover the imminent assault of the capital by Werhmacth troops. They drop about 2,000 tons of bombs, killing about 40,000 civilians and Red Army soldiers, damaging or destroying about 4,000 buildings. The Luftwaffe would lose, in total, ninety airplanes. On the same day, the vanguard of the German 6th Army reached the Volga. The soldiers were thrilled to have advanced with so many sacrifices from the meander of the Don (thanks in part to the outcome of the Isbucensky Battle and the support of the Lutfwaffe), confident of a rapid fall of Stalingrad. The 16. German Panzer-Division, commanded by General Hube, continued to cross the bend of the Don River on a pontoon mounted at Vertiachi, northeast of Stalingrad. In the afternoon, the transmission company comes in sight of the city, some 40 km away, while it is being shelled by Stukas. It proceeds through the suburbs of Spartakovka, Hinok and Latashinika, enters the suburbs of the city and entrenches on the bank of the Volga.

To the south, Hoth's advance was slower, as Yeriomenko had placed most of his forces against the 4th Panzer Army; moreover, Hitler had taken an armored corps from General Hoth and integrated it into Paulus' 6th Army.

Germans at the gates of Stalingrad

On August 24, units of the 16. Panzer-Division, under Hube's command, advance through the industrial suburbs of Spartakovka, northwest of Stalingrad, engaging in heavy fighting with troops of the 62nd Soviet Army using some newly manufactured T-34s and assisted by armed citizens, who fight on the barricades. The Germans attack the railroad, with their artillery they dominate the Volga and the Luftwaffe continues bombing the city. The 35th Soviet Division isolates the Germans, who form a hedgehog formation awaiting the arrival of more German units. Some divisions will not be able to arrive, due to an unexpected Soviet counteroffensive of great proportions, and in some weeks they will be defeated. The counterattack was carried out in the Kotluban sector north of the city, with newly formed armies: the 4th Tank, 24th and 66th armies and the 1st Soviet Guards. These new armies launched costly counterattacks on the German forces, so that entire divisions of the 6th Army near Stalingrad had to be diverted northward to contain the Soviet onslaught. Two other fresh Soviet armies, the 57th and 51st, did the same from the south, where Hoth's forces were located, relegating again the advance of Paulus and his forces to a quick capture of the city.For the defense of the city, Chuikov would count on the 62nd and 64th Armies, a total of 200,000 soldiers, plus about 100,000 militiamen or poorly armed civilians, 360 tanks, 337 aircraft and 8,000 artillery pieces. Von Paulus commands the 6th Army, with about 250,000 troops, including Romanian units, 740 tanks, about 7,000 artillery pieces and air cover of 1,200 aircraft.

Part of the German infantry arrived in the suburbs of Stalingrad, on September 1, with little mechanized support, due to the recent events north of the city. At that time converging on Stalingrad from the south were the 29th and 14th Motorized Divisions; from the west were approaching the 24th, 94th, 71st, 76th and 295th Armored Infantry Divisions; from the north and towards the center of the city, the 100th Hunter Division, the 389th and 60th Motorized Infantry Divisions, while the city was defended at that time by only about 56,000 troops. The Soviet command could provide its troops in Stalingrad only risky ferries across the Volga. Amid the ruins of the already destroyed city, the Soviet 62nd Army built defensive positions with firing points located in buildings and factories. The next day, troops of the German 6th Army and the 4th Panzerarmee reach the hills overlooking Stalingrad, cutting off the city's land communications; its garrison can only be supplied by the Volga. The commander of the 62nd Soviet Army, Lopatin, considers the city lost, and asks for authorization to flee across the river. Stalin refuses. The head of the Stalingrad Front, Eremenko replaces Lopatin with General Chuikov, recently arrived from the East. By September 3, Hoth's 4th Panzerarmee reaches the Soviet defensive circle of Stalingrad, and its vanguards meet Von Seydlitz's German 51st Army Corps, which arrives at Gumrak airfield, 8 km west of Stalingrad. The 2 Russian armies of Chuikov and Eremenko fled yesterday from the German tanks to the interior of the city, and regroup. The Soviets counterattack in the sector of Annenskoe and Gorodik. From now on there will be fierce fighting, house to house. The Soviets use the sewers and subway channels leading to the Volga, and receive reinforcements.

The Germans who moved into Stalingrad suffered heavy losses. Snipers and assault groups held off the enemy as best they could. Soviet reinforcements crossed the Volga from the east coast under constant shelling and artillery fire. In the course of time, the entire 6th Army and part of the 4th Panzer Army would be engaged in house-to-house, building-to-building and street-to-street street fighting in the city. These troops were unaware that the Red Army was preparing a full-scale offensive against the German 6th Army in the coming months.

Stalin, who urged Zhukov to meet them and intercept these enemy forces, replied:

The Kotluban offensives at the end of August and September would partially alleviate the situation regarding the north of the city. Zhukov's order was categorical: "Do not surrender Stalingrad! In these combats Lieutenant Rubén Ruiz Ibárruri, son of the famous Spanish communist leader, the Pasionaria, was killed on September 3.

The city had an important military industry (Stalingrad had the Red October, tractor and Barricady cannon factories) and possessed the crucial railway junction of the line linking Moscow, the Black Sea and the Caucasus, and there was also a river port in service for navigation on the Volga. The city stretched some 24 kilometers along the western bank of the Volga, but was less than ten kilometers wide. There was no bridge across the river, and large barges were used to connect the two banks. The eastern bank was scarcely populated. It is important to consider that the temperature in the Caucasus is very extreme both in summer and winter, during which the cold is such that the Volga freezes with a layer thick enough of ice to allow the passage of heavy vehicles.

Arrival of Zhukov and Chuikov

Marshal Georgy Zhukov, who had recently been appointed deputy commander-in-chief, second only to Stalin, arrived in Stalingrad on August 29. Zhukov had estimated that by November 1942, the balance of forces between Germany and its allies and the Soviet Union would have shifted in favor of the latter. The factories had been moved to the east and mass production of armaments restarted, the German troops had been worn out and their flanks were too extensive and thus vulnerable, while the corridor between the Don and Volga rivers opened a possibility for a successful counteroffensive, initiated as a pincer movement from the south and from the north. But for the Soviet counteroffensive to be realized, Stalingrad had to hold out until November.

Stalingrad was then a city of 600,000 inhabitants. It had been built on the right bank of the Volga River, with three main sectors: to the north, the workers' quarter, with a large number of factories and workshops, among which three large plants stood out (tractor factory, Barricadas artillery factory and the Red October steel mill), which would become natural fortresses; in the middle, the center of the city, with the strategic railway station; to the south was the most vulnerable sector, with a large grain elevator. In the central area was located the Mamáyev Kurgan hill, a strategic place, which allowed to bombard both the working class district and the city center. The task of defending the city had been assigned to the 62nd Army, commanded by General Vassili Chuikov (Anton Lopatin's replacement), which had thirteen divisions, eight brigades, twelve regiments and a tank corps, which were strategically placed to resist and prevent the Germans from completing the occupation of the city, until the Soviet troops were ready to undertake the counteroffensive.

From today, September 10, the Wehrmacht, in collaboration with the SS, uses the former Russian general Vlasov, captured that summer on the banks of the Volkhov, to demoralize the Russian soldiers. Today he signs a leaflet saying "Stalin's clique has ruined the country with the kolkhozes. We must fight his regime with all our strength..." and urges Russian soldiers to switch to the Axis troops. As a result of these actions, more than 60,000 Russians will fight in the ranks of the German 6th Army during the assault on Stalingrad.

Vasily Chuikov, a granitic, uncompromising, efficient and determined general, until then in charge of the 64th Army, deployed south of the city and who had been resisting the onslaught of Hoth's 4th Panzer Army and Kleist's Panzergruppe, personally assumed command of the 62nd Army inside the city on September 12. When Chuikov arrived at the scene of battle, Yeriomenko and Khrushchev asked him: "-What is the purpose of your mission, comrade? -To defend the city or die trying," Chuikov replied firmly.

The new commander found himself with less than 20,000 men and 60 tanks, as well as poor defenses. Chuikov reinforced the anti-aircraft defenses (manned by female soldiers) of the city and also fortified those places where it was possible to contain the enemy, especially the Mamayev Kurgan hill and the Tsaritsa river ravine. In addition, he withdrew most of his artillery to the eastern bank of the Volga and encouraged the deployment of snipers, among them the famous Vasily Zaitsev.

German assault

The same day that Chuikov took command of the 62nd Army, Paulus was in Vinnitsa, in the Wehrwolf, with Hitler, who wanted to know when the city would fall. Paulus was worried about the flanks of his 6th Army, which were devoid of mechanized units of consistency and were guarded by armies without heavy weapons of various nationalities: Romanians, Italians and Hungarians. These inferior forces would be overwhelmed, unable to secure the flanks. Chuikov, for his part, in charge of the defense of the city, has only three infantry divisions, the remains of four divisions and two tank brigades, with a total of forty tanks, which are buried for use as artillery pieces. Hitler downplayed the weakness of the flanks, convinced that the Soviet front was on the verge of collapse, a false confidence that rubbed off on Paulus.

On September 13, Von Paulus' German 6th Army begins the first massive attack to conquer Stalingrad. For this, the 71st, 76th and 295th infantry divisions advance through the center, from the Gumrak station towards the main hospital, and then take the hill of Mamayev Kurgan; on the other hand, the 94th infantry division and another motorized division attack the area of the mining suburb supported by the 14th and 24th Panzerdivisionen.

On the Soviet side, the bulk of the German assault is faced by the 244th and 399th Rifle Divisions, the 20th NKVD Division, the 23rd Tank Corps, which retreat to the edge of the city, while the 244th Division moves in from the north to reinforce the troops defending the hill. The German troops fail in their objective to conquer the city, but enter the suburbs and push the Red Army towards the western bank of the Volga.

On September 14, German troops (295th Division) take the strategic hill of Mamayev Kurgan while the 71st and 76th Divisions advance through the center to seize the railway station, coming dangerously close to the main wharf. Chuikov then sends the 13th Division to fortify the central area and prevent the Germans from taking control of the railway station and reaching the river bank. Between September 14 and 16 the station changed hands fifteen times. Soviet troops regain control of the hill. The Germans open a breach in the central sector of the Russian positions, reaching some outposts within two hundred meters of Chuikov's bunker, which moves all its tanks to stop the attack, and employs the tactic of letting the enemy tanks pass up to their positions of antitank guns. The Axis troops lose 8000 men that day; the Soviets lose 2000 soldiers and evacuate 3500 wounded across the Volga. The Germans take 5000 prisoners.

By mid-September, eight of the twenty divisions of the German 6th Army were fighting inside the city; however, the Soviets kept feeding the front with reinforcements from Siberia and Mongolia. General Paulus, ill with dysentery, was under such pressure to report the date of Stalingrad's fall that he eventually developed a twitch in his left eye, which then spread to the left side of his face.

To wear down the opponent, the measures imposed by Chuikov were extreme: for example, thousands of inexperienced soldiers were sent to seize the German trenches, taking many casualties. Soon the city was covered with a repulsive and putrid atmosphere. The reason was obvious: corpses on both sides were decomposing under the rubble. On the German side, in turn, and under such an atmosphere, the Nazi anti-Semitic policy was continued. The Feldgendarmerie (German Military Police) had been capturing Jews and taking captive civilians who were fit for work, and some 3,000 Jewish civilians of all ages were executed by the Sonderkommandos of the Einsatzgruppen. Another 60,000 were sent to Germany for forced labor. The Sonderkommandos withdrew from Stalingrad on September 15, having executed about 4,000 civilians.

At this point, German casualty statistics skyrocketed given the German soldier's inexperience in urban combat. Although Paulus knew that Soviet casualties were at least double those of the Germans, his manpower resources were quickly dissipating, as he had only one division in reserve. German commando detachments sent into street combat were common, losing 50-70% of their strength.

On this battlefield, the Germans were under constant stress, as the Soviet soldier had become a master of camouflage and ambushes were common. The night offered no rest, as the defenders of the city preferred to attack at night, neutralizing the danger of German bombers. However, it was not a limitation for the Soviet bombers, which passed over the city dropping small 400-kilogram bombs. Finally, the 6th Army asked the Luftwaffe to keep up the pressure on Soviet aircraft during the night, because "the troops have no rest." If night bombardments, anti-personnel mines and enemy infantry ambushes were not enough to keep the Germans alert in Stalingrad, snipers did manage to catch the attention of the German officers. Soviet snipers, using the ruins as shelters, also inflicted heavy damage on the Germans. Sniper Vasily Grigorievich Zaitsev during the battle killed 225 enemy soldiers and officers (including 11 snipers). The number of officers killed by snipers, especially observers, also skyrocketed and very soon premature promotions had to be resorted to, in order to replace the fallen.

The neurosis that a soldier could develop from being constantly subjected to the degree of stress of the so-called Rattenkrieg ('rat war') was no excuse for leaving the battlefield, as both Germans and Soviets did not recognize this illness and labeled it cowardice, which usually entailed immediate summary execution.

Heavy artillery became useless in this urban fighting environment, since, due to the lack of accuracy of the artillery, it was not possible to attack a house occupied by the enemy, because the neighboring houses were occupied by friendly troops. A large number of artillery batteries supported both sides of the fighting (Soviet large-caliber artillery operated from the eastern coast of the Volga), mortars up to 600 mm. There was the famous case of the so-called Pavlov's House in which the dominance of the apartments alternated bloody between the sides.

Although the initiative, the ratio of enemy casualties per capita and the best technical means corresponded to the German troops, the invading army had great difficulties in conquering a city that, having been savagely bombarded, had ideal conditions for a street-by-street defense. The combined infantry and armored attacks were useless in the chaos of urban fighting.

Hitler, who had not desired guerrilla warfare in Moscow and Leningrad, now ordered the conquest of the city on that premise: that implied street-by-street, house-by-house warfare, a type of combat for which neither the Wehrmacht nor the Waffen-SS were prepared.

Stagnation, progress and setbacks

On September 17, several Soviet divisions prevent the German 24th Division from breaking through the defenses and penetrating the center of the city. The next day, the battle in Stalingrad slows down, due to the attack from the north of several Soviet divisions sent by Zhukov, in the Gorodische area, which forced the Germans to move troops and use the air force to stop the offensive. In the south of Stalingrad, the most vulnerable zone of the defense, the German divisions 14th and 29th, force the Soviet forces to retreat towards the center, while the marines of the 92nd regiment, take shelter in a large grain elevator, hindering the advance of the German troops.

By September 19, the Soviet 1st Guards and 24th Army launched another offensive against General Walter Heitz's 8th Corps at Kotluban. VIII Fliegerkorps sent wave after wave of Stuka dive bombers to prevent a breakthrough. The offensive was repulsed. The Stukas claimed 41 of the 106 Soviet tanks destroyed that morning, while escorting Bf 109s destroyed 77 Soviet aircraft. Amid the rubble of the destroyed city, the Soviet 62nd and 64th Armies, which included the 13th Rifle Division of the Soviet Guard, anchored their lines of defense with strong points in houses and factories. Also, the Red Army manages to push the Germans back somewhat in the area of Mamayev Kurgan hill, but not enough to relieve the German pressure on the city center. The Germans managed to penetrate the defense lines in the center and south of the city, reaching the pier (76th division), a crucial place for the Soviets because it was there that the supply of food and ammunition was carried out, as well as the entry of reinforcements by ferries.The next day, German troops dominate the banks of the Tsaritsa River and have artillery a few meters from the main pier. General Chuikov was forced to move his threatened headquarters from the Tsaritsin bunker to Mamayev Kurgan. The central area of the city is stalemated, both armies are exhausted. The Soviets could still bring in reinforcements using the ferries at the northern end of the city and the subways, where they have their barracks, hospitals and shelters, unreachable for the German artillery. The city is already a pile of rubble.

Vasily Chuikov ordered the artillery to be moved to the eastern bank of the Volga and to attack behind the German lines, with the aim of destroying lines of communication and infantry formations in the rear. To know which way to shoot, an observation officer had to peek over the roof of a building in the city, which in many cases meant death at the hands of a German sniper. Only the Katiusha were left in Stalingrad, hidden on the sandbank of the Volga.

The battle in the central station of the city, especially in the conquest of Mamayev Kurgan Hill and the factories in the center of the city, lasted more than two months and turned into a bitter struggle in which the flags of both sides flew alternately, since, if the Germans controlled this hill, their artillery would dominate the Volga.

"Rat war".

German military doctrine was based on the interaction of military branches in general and particularly close interaction of infantry, sappers, artillery and dive bombers. In response, Soviet fighters tried to position themselves tens of meters from enemy positions, in which case German artillery and aircraft could not operate without the risk of destroying their own infantry. Often, the opponents were divided by a wall, floor or stairs. In this case, the German infantry had to fight on equal terms with the Soviet infantry: rifles, grenades, bayonets and knives. The fight was for every street, every factory, every house, cellar or staircase. Even individual buildings were put on the cards and got the names: Pavlov's House, Mill, Department Store, Prison, Zabolotny House, Dairy House, Specialist House, L-shaped House and others. The Red Army constantly carried out counterattacks, trying to regain previously lost positions. Several times they passed from hand to hand Mamayev Kurgan and the Stalingrad-I railroad station. Assault groups on both sides tried to use any passages to the enemy: sewers, cellars, undermining. The Germans called such clashes "rattenkrieg", "rat war".

On September 21, German troops dominate the banks of the Tsaritsa and have artillery just a few meters from the main quay. General Chuikov is forced to move his threatened headquarters from the Tsaritsin bunker to Mamayev Kurgan. The central area of the city is stalemated, both armies are exhausted. The Soviets can still bring in reinforcements using the ferries at the northern end of the city and the subways, where they have their barracks, hospitals and shelters, unreachable for the German artillery. The city is already a heap of rubble. General Zuikov has sent only 5 divisions to Stalingrad in the last week. In the rear, he trains 27 infantry divisions and prepares 19 tank brigades for a counter-offensive.

On September 23, the 95th and 284th (Siberian) divisions of the Red Army counterattack to prevent the Wehrmacht from taking control of the western bank of the Volga River, pushing it back again to the railway station, but without managing to reestablish contact with the Soviet troops defending the south of the city.

By September 25, resistance in the south of the city had virtually collapsed, being limited to two divisions (35th and 244th), enclosed in a few blocks and surrounded by German troops. The Soviets still controlled half of the center, the hill and the industrial quarter to the north, where the Red October steel plant had its own wharf.

Having controlled the south and the center, Paulus set his sights on the large factory area north of the city and on the Mamayev Kurgan hill, from which the industrial quarter could be bombarded. For this purpose he mobilized the 34th and 94th Divisions (Panzer tanks) to the north, so as to prepare eleven divisions for the attack.

On September 27, Paulus decided to accelerate the capture of the city and prepared a major offensive. The main German force attacked north of the Mamayev Kurgan, near the workers' settlements of the Red October and Barrikady factories. The Germans watched in astonishment as civilians fleeing the settlements to seek shelter in the German lines were shot down by their own soldiers. Occasionally the Germans also shot civilians assisting the Red Army. A selected division of German soldiers captured the "House of the Specialists", where they made themselves strong and began firing at the boats that came and went along the Volga bringing soldiers. The 88 mm guns, Stukas and German artillery competed in sinking the barges bringing soldiers from the other side of the Volga. Chuikov who tried to improve the Soviet position on the Mamayev Kurgan hill, all his lines on the hill and the first dwellings of the industrial quarter were razed by the Luftwaffe, totaling an advance of three kilometers. The next day, the German air force bombed the ships carrying supplies and armaments to the Red October factory, sinking five of the six ships. The battle for Mamayev Kurgan Hill became fierce and neither side controlled it. Chuikov reinforced the troops in the industrial quarter, turning every workshop into a barricade.

Between the first and second day of combat the Germans had about 2500 casualties, the Soviets about 6000. For the Soviets the losses exceeded the already high daily casualties: almost 3000 soldiers died per day (at the rate of a hundred every hour). Although the German troops managed to penetrate the city or what was left of it, they never completely took over the whole of it (the quay and the hill), since the former could not be reached, and as long as they remained in Soviet hands, the reinforcements and supplies needed to continue the battle could flow in regularly. Battalions and brigades of German commandos who tried to reach the docks were reduced to 50% of their strength.

In Berlin, in a speech at the Sports Palace on September 30, on the occasion of the beginning of the 4th Winter Relief campaign, Hitler claimed: "Stalingrad has been conquered (...) no one will ever succeed in driving us out of this position". For both Stalin and Hitler, the battle of Stalingrad became a matter of prestige in addition to the strategic importance of the city.

German offensive: Seizure of industrial zones

The battles for the Krasny Oktiabr factory, the Tractor factory and the Barricades artillery factory became known all over the world. While Soviet soldiers continued to defend their positions by firing at the Germans, factory workers were repairing damaged Soviet tanks and weapons in the vicinity of the battlefield, and sometimes on the battlefield itself. The specifics of fighting in the enterprises was the limited use of firearms due to the risk of ricochet: fights were with piercing, cutting and crushing objects, as well as hand-to-hand fighting. The Germans deployed an entire loudspeaker system inciting Soviet desertion. Many went over and became hiwis, many others were shot by action or omission in the face of desertion. For the Soviet forces at Stalingrad was probably the most critical moment of the battle. The Germans assaulted the 62nd Army in critical condition, being saved from disaster thanks to the intervention of the 13th Guards Rifle Division of General Rodimtsev (although this was later recognized) and the reactivation of the 8th Soviet Air Force, where a son of Stalin served. Soviet ground operations were constantly hampered by the Luftwaffe.

On September 29, the Germans attacked the Orlovka salient, a large area controlled by a handful of Soviet soldiers located to the north and northwest of the industrial quarter, which could allow Zhukov's troops to arrive from the north. By September 30, most of the salient had been taken, enclosing about 500 Soviet fighters. By September 30, most of the salient had been taken, enclosing about 500 Soviet fighters. In order to relieve pressure on the north of the city, the Soviets launched a series of attacks on the southern flank.

On October 4, Paulus launched his fourth and biggest offensive to take the city, setting as a central objective to take the three big factories: the Red October steelworks, the tractor plant and the Barricades cannon factory. Hitler had set October 14 as the deadline for completing the occupation of the city, and the following day, the German air force carried out two thousand bombing raids on the industrial district and the troops took the Silikat factory building, barely 200 meters from the Barricadas factory. For that day, the generals Zukov and Vassilievksi, of the Stavka or Red Army General Staff, agree with the commanders of the 3 Soviet Fronts in the Stalingrad area the operations to encircle the German 6th Army of von Paulus inside the city.

On October 7, the Soviets attempted a counterattack in the industrial quarter with poor results, which did not prevent two German divisions, supported by tanks, to advance their lines again taking several blocks of houses, approaching the stadium of the Traktor Stalingrad soccer club, only two blocks away from the tractor factory. One hundred and twenty fighters surrounded by the Germans in the Orolkov pocket managed to escape and rejoin the troops stationed in the industrial district.

At this time, Paulus' forces numbered 90,000 soldiers, 300 tanks, 1,000 aircraft and 2,000 artillery and mortar pieces, while Chuikov, in command of the 62nd Army in the city, had 55,000 combatants, 950 artillery pieces, 80 tanks and 500 mortars, and could call on the support of 101 bomber planes and 87 fighters. The Soviet general's plan was to concentrate as many troops as possible in the industrial district, in order to defend the tractor factory as a priority.

New German offensive

On the morning of October 14, Paulus launches a new general offensive, with 30,000 reserve troops who had just arrived at the front and five divisions (94, 305, 14, 389 and 24). At 4:20 p.m. German machine guns enter the tractor factory. A Soviet counterattack from the stadium fails. By nightfall the tractor factory is surrounded on three sides, forcing the Soviet divisions to enter the factory and resist inside. A few hours later they complete the seizure of the factory and surround three Soviet divisions (25th, 37th and 112th), which are cut off from the rest of the army. According to the Führer, the German soldiers are "better prepared and ready" to face this winter than they were in the past, and he considers that the Red Army is "weakened after the last battles." In short, Stalingrad must be resisted to the last man.

By October 15, German troops managed to reach the bank of the Volga River through the center of the city, splitting the 62nd Army in half. Pressed from all sides, the headquarters of the Soviet 62nd Army in the city requested reinforcements for fear of being pushed to the other side of the river. Reinforcements arrived the next day from the 138th Rifle Division under Colonel Ivan Lyudnikov, crossed the river on the north side of the city near the Barricades factory (the Germans were once again pushed back).

On October 17, the Germans manage to enter the Barricady factory from the northwest corner. At dusk on October 18, fighting meter by meter, the Germans managed to reach the western walls of the factory. The Soviet troops retreated into and around the factory, with the river behind them only 300 meters away. The Germans hoped to take the Barricady factory by the 19th, but on October 21 there was still strong Soviet resistance in and around the factory. Meanwhile the Red Army again attacked the northern and southern flanks to relieve the pressure on Stalingrad, with few results.

On October 26, the Germans advance on the south wall of Barrycady leaving the Soviet troops resisting from inside the factories (Barrycady, Red October and the chemical factory) and cornered on the bank of the Volga in a strip of little more than a hundred meters. The Wehrmacht already controlled 90% of the city.

At the end of October, the troops of Chuikov's Red Army, harassed by Von Paulus' German 6th Army and part of the 4th Panzerarmee, only dominate the ruins of 2 factories north of the city and a 2 km strip of the Volga harbor shore, through which it receives reinforcements, supplies and equipment. During this month, the Axis troops have lost 400 tanks and about 40,000 soldiers, wasting thousands of tons of ammunition.

At the beginning of November, the Volga River began to freeze, complicating the supply of ammunition and food to the Soviet troops. Paulus next targeted the chemical factory south of the Red October steelworks in order to isolate the Soviet troops stationed on the coastal strip of the industrial district, separating them from those in the center of the city. On November 9 the temperature dropped to minus 18 degrees Celsius and the first snow fell, winter had arrived and the city was submerged in a white blanket with temperatures hovering around -18 °C. At night, the opposing groups made temporary signs of truce with flags sticking out of the holes in the ruins, allowing themselves to remove some of the fallen alive in no man's land; there was also an unofficial exchange of supplies between small groups of both sides, carried out very secretly in spontaneously arranged truces. If discovered, the penalty was immediate execution for fraternizing with the enemy. By day, the fighting resumed without quarter.

New German attack

At the end of the day, on November 11, German troops launch their major attack, employing five divisions on a 500-meter front to capture the remnants of the city. They succeed in reaching the Volga near the Red October factory. After the advance, they capture part of the Barrikady gun factory, and manage to surround the 138th Rifle Division, cutting its link with the 62nd Army. The 138th Division or Lyudnikov's division held on to a 500 m wide × 200 m long stretch of territory on the banks of the Volga, which became known as "Lyudnikov's Island". Soviet divisional artillery had to be evacuated to the east bank after the encirclement of the unit. But the 138th will hold for more than two months, with a dwindling force of the fierce German assaults, as was left to prove in the reports sent to the headquarters of the 62nd Army, in a few words meant a lot: "The fighting is exceptionally hard." "14 enemy attacks repulsed by artillery fire." "Counterattack in close combat." "The enemy reaches the Volga from both sides, they throw directly on our formations." In a telephone communication between Major Sergey Gorokhov, in charge of the group of about a thousand fighters isolated behind the tractor factory to the north, and Major Ivan Liudnikov, in charge of the group isolated behind the Barrycadys factory, the latter tells him, "Hold on." Chuikov will later acknowledge that the Axis troops could have driven the Russians across the river with the attack of just one more battalion. On November 13, the German 208th and 212th divisions begin to occupy the Red October factory.

On November 17, in Berchtesgaden, Germany, Hitler spoke to his commanders of the Stalingrad front, asked them to conquer the cannon factory "Barricade" and the steel plant "Red October" in the narrow industrial town on the Volga, about 50 km long. The next day, German troops seize at the end of the day the tractor factory "Djerjinski", and a large part of the cannon factory "Barricade" (Barrikady), as well as several hundred meters of the bank of the Volga. Chuikov informs Yeryomenko that the 62nd Army only dominates 1

As a result, after three months of bloody fighting and slow advances, the Germans had managed to capture almost the entire ruined city, while Soviet forces continued to hold out in three narrow pockets. Ice floes on the Volga now prevent boats and tugboats from supplying the Soviet defenders. However, the fighting continues, especially on the slopes of Mamayev Kurgan, Red October factory and a narrow sector at the "Barrikady" gun factory, where the 138th Rifles are holding on.

In the defense of Stalingrad, the Red Army would have lost since July about 643 000 soldiers, 1400 tanks, 12 100 artillery pieces, and 2060 airplanes.from July 20 to November 20, the 6th German Army lost 76 184 men, including 16 643 killed, 56 880 wounded and 2661 missing. Similarly, the 4th Panzerarme lost 21,489 men, including 4393 killed, 16,633 wounded and 463 missing.

On November 19, the Red Army launched a counteroffensive under the code name Operation Uranus. With a force of more than a million fighters, mostly Siberian, 13. 541 artillery pieces, 894 tanks and 1115 aircraft, and attacked from the northern and southern flanks, completely encircling Paulus' troops and reversing the roles in StalingradThe Soviet spy network Red Orchestra, concentrated in Central Europe and the OKH, had reported the weakness of the flanks of the enemy army, formed by inexperienced Romanian soldiers, and equipped with French guns without spare parts and with only two howitzers each.

Operation Uranus

On November 2, STAVKA, the Red Army high command, prepares Operation Uranus aimed at pushing the Germans in the Don region westward, encircling the German 6th Army at Stalingrad, where incidentally today the 151st and 152nd Soviet Brigades launch a successful counterattack. On this day, the 151st and 152nd Soviet Brigades launched a successful counterattack to relieve German pressure on the city.

As for Hitler, he continued to ignore reports of the Soviet offensive in the Don-Volga. Despite the meeting with Zeitzler, he had informed him on November 7 that the Red Army was preparing an offensive on the Don, defended by the Italian 8th Army and the Romanian 3rd Army. The information obtained from Soviet prisoners did not allow to think that it would be of immense proportions, since the prisoners had little knowledge of what was being prepared in the rear of the Stalingrad front; this was the reason why Hitler ignored the facts. The next day, at the anniversary conference of his assassination attempt on the Löwenbraükeller brewery in Munich, Hitler told his followers that the Volga river port of the city of Stalingrad was practically in German hands; he declared: "No human force can tear us away from there. The conquest of the razed city has become a political symbol rather than a strategic objective.

It was November 19, 1942, and in the rear of Stalingrad and the Don, Zhukov's Red Army was ready, consisting of 1 005 000 soldiers, with about 13 541 guns, 894 tanks and 1115 planes, commanded by Vatutin and Rokossovsky, for the southeast and north of the Don, and Stalingrad, by Yeriomenko. At 0730 hours, the Red Army launched the long-awaited counteroffensive to push the Germans to the West, isolating them from their Stalingrad troops. The Soviets launched massive bombardments with about 3500 artillery pieces, relentlessly on the weakest enemy lines between Serafimovich and Klestkaya, which consisted of Romanian troops with little anti-tank material. After an hour of artillery fire, the rifle battalions advanced on the Romanian ranks.

General Romanenko's 5th Tank Army and General Chistiakov's 51st Army attack from the north and south. The Romanians of the 2nd and 4th Corps manage to briefly hold off the first waves of infantry, but were overwhelmed by T-34 tanks around noon. When the forts were demolished, the Romanians fled in disarray across the white plain, being pursued by Soviet waves. Although there were some attempts to respond to the attack, the 6th Army commanders underestimated the attack until it was too late. The fighting in the city of Stalingrad itself did not stop for several days after the Soviet attack began. Stukas came to support the Axis units, but the Soviet advance was by then unstoppable.

Although the southern attack was, by many factors, weaker, it worked, and the trap columns advanced without major setbacks, except for isolated counterattacks that produced only momentary halts. The objective where the pincers of the offensive converged was the small town of Kalach and its bridge, where the Germans did not possess a force to meet the threat and where their workshops and supply depots were exposed. If the Soviets reached their objectives, it would mean the encirclement of Paulus' 6th Army and part of the 4th Panzer Army in Stalingrad and its sector of 250,000 soldiers and officers, plus another 50,000 from other units (Hiwi) and 30,000 Romanian units, about 330,000 men, with about 150 tanks and about 5,000 artillery pieces. These troops were supported on their northwest and south flanks by about 700,000 Axis troops divided between the 3rd and 4th Romanian Armies, the 2nd Hungarian and the 8th Italian, the latter with 220,000 troops; about 800 km of the lines poorly garrisoned with poorly armed troops. Together they totaled about 1,040,000 troops; 10,290 guns, 275 tanks and 1,260 aircraft.

Der Kessel

On November 20, the 26th Russian Army Corps resumes the offensive arriving near the Ostrov and Plesistovsky factories. The 4th Russian Army Corps advances towards the Don, breaking the lines of the 14th Panzerkorps, reaching Golubinski; the 21st Russian Army advances towards Verjne, Formijinki and Raspopinskaia, ending the resistance in the sector; while another division harasses the 3rd and 4th Romanian Armies, which yesterday fled. From the south of Krasnoarmeisk the 51st and 57th Soviet Armies are mobilized, against which the German 29th Division holds firm, but the former manages to cross their lines in the direction of Kalach.

During the encirclement maneuver that the Red Army tries to carry out on the troops of the 6th Army at Stalingrad, Soviet forces advance from the north and south towards Kalach, where they must converge to pocket the Germans. Von Paulus is forced to move his headquarters to Gumrak airfield, 8 km east of Stalingrad. The OKW had proposed to withdraw the bulk of the 6th Army from Stalingrad southwest to the Don, and thus avoid encirclement. Such a project could still be executed as there were important gaps not yet closed, but Hitler refused to accept such a solution, and demanded Paulus and his men to stay in the conquered city by a direct counter-order, withdrawing the vanguards sent in a south-westerly direction to try to overcome the encirclement. The next day, at Stalingrad, the rear of Von Paulus' German 6th Army is in serious difficulties, the Romanian 4th Army has been crushed by General Yeriomenko's Russian troops, taking 65,000 prisoners. The change of the general's command post to Gumrak creates communication problems between the various German units. On December 22, during the Battle of Stalingrad, while the Russian 26th Corps advances towards Dobrinka and Ostrov, Major Rodin seizes at 06:00 hours the bridge over the Don sending 2 infantry companies with 1 auto-machine gun and 5 tanks. The Germans attack them, but soon Russian reinforcements arrive.

Hitler considered that the situation was not completely lost and hoped to be able to repeat the situation produced in February of that same year in the Demiansk Pocket, where a great mass of German soldiers was able to resist a prolonged Soviet encirclement by means of an air bridge. This idea reached the ears of the head of the Luftwaffe, Hermann Göring, who, without consulting his technical advisors, promised Hitler that his planes could carry out a vast supply from the air. Göring's promise exasperated Air General Von Richtofen, for the cloudy weather with snowstorms would prevent the planes from flying steadily and even make it impossible for them to take off. Under these conditions Paulus radiated a direct message to Hitler:

On 23 November at 16:00 hours, Soviet units of the 4th Armored Army Corps and units of the 4th Mechanized Army Corps link up in the vicinity of the Sovietski farm. The Red Army forces are thus west of Stalingrad, completing the encirclement of the forces of the German 6th Army under General Von Paulus and part of the 4th Panzerarmee: 22 divisions in total, about 330,000 men, in a strip with a distance between the outer and inner front of 13.5 to 19 km and about 40 km in length. To the northwest, at Raspopinskaia, the Romanian 5th Division surrendered. The Soviet pincers were closed in less than four days of fighting. On November 24, Stalingrad was under Soviet siege. The 94th Division under General Walther von Seydlitz-Kurzbach, seeing that Paulus lacked initiative, ordered his troops to evacuate his sector and force the blockade, hoping that the other divisions would follow him in his unauthorized retreat. No sooner had he left his position than the Soviet 62nd Army fell upon him and many of his battalions were unceremoniously annihilated; no prisoners were taken.

In the city are the 4th, 8th, 11th, 11th, 51st Army Corps, 14th Armored Corps; the 44th, 71st, 76th, 79th, 94th, 94th, 100th, 113th, 295th, 297th, 305th, 371st, 376th, 384th, and 389th Infantry Divisions; the 14th and 24th Motorized Divisions; the 8th. DCA Corps; the 243rd and 245th rocket launcher regiments; 12 engineer battalions; plus 149 independent formations, heavy artillery, sanitary units, postal units, etc. and many Luftwaffe ground personnel. All are encircled in an area of 10,000 square kilometers, in enormous hierarchical and logistical confusion. Hitler orders the 6th Army and other units to remain in Stalingrad. Generaloberst Von Paulus reports that he stops his maneuvers to abandon the encirclement to the southwest of the city: "... for the moment it is possible to hold out, albeit at the cost of heavy casualties and heavy material losses." To this report adds his superior, Weichs: "...sufficient air supply does not seem possible to me:" At 23:45 Paulus sends another message: "Running out of ammunition and fuel..." and again asks for permission to regroup and escape from the encirclement to the southwest.

Paulus tells Hitler that he will be able to maintain the 6th Army and other auxiliary units if he receives 750 tons a day of ammunition, fuel, fodder and provisions; 40 tons of the total would be bread. Von Richtofen, commander of the 4th Luftflotte, says that his planes can carry 350 tons a day. Feldmarschall Hermann Göring, in a telephone conversation from Paris, undertakes to deliver 500 tons a day to the encircled areas. Faced with reports warning him of the impossibility of the mission - which he received and ignored - he promised to supply the Kessel with 500 tons of supplies per day, but the planes barely managed to carry 130 tons in three days of operations at low altitude and in the midst of snowstorms. This caused that the flights were never really permanent (as it should correspond to an effective airlift) but because of the bad weather during several days the planes could not take off from their bases, or simply took off, but could not land in Stalingrad. To increase the evils, the Soviets attacked in an audacious way the main air base of supplies, the Pitomnik airfield, reaching to collapse the bases of resupply and accentuating the shortage of cargo airplanes for the operations of the airlift. In addition to the inclement weather detrimental to the Germans, the Soviets were dropping flares from newly seized positions to make the supply planes believe that there were still German soldiers at the site requesting supplies. Hitler, obsessed, told Von Richtofen: "If Paulus leaves Stalingrad, we will never take the square again". Even so, the Führer's order seemed to them a death sentence. Marshal Manstein is ordered to go to the south of the city to take command of a new Group of Armies with which an offensive towards Stalingrad will be executed.

In the early morning of November 25, in the north of the Russian Front, Marshal Zhukov launched a major offensive in the Rzhev and Sychevka sector, about 150 km west of Moscow, aimed at encircling the German 9th Army commanded by Model, as a diversionary maneuver on the Stalingrad front. The 3rd, 20th, 22nd, 29th, 31st and 41st Soviet Armies were thrown into the attack. Due to bad weather, the preparatory fire of the Russian artillery has no effect. The Germans were well dug in along the entire front line and had reserves in the rear. The German Group of Armies of the Center was the most heavily armed of the entire Eastern front. It had a total of 72 divisions, of the 266 that had Axis in Russia, which comprised of 1 680 000 soldiers and about 3500 tanks, 2

At the beginning of December, the first casualties from starvation occurred. In spite of everything, the Germans tried to maintain discipline and the organization functioned regularly.

In Axis-occupied Europe, Benito Mussolini advised Hitler to cease hostilities against the Soviet Union, asking him to "close...the chapter of the war against Russia, in one way or another, in view of the fact that there is no longer any point in continuing it". Hitler will ignore the Duce's requests.

In Stalingrad, the "Cauldron" (Der Kessel), where, without sufficient food and water, attacked by epidemics and amidst the putrid smell of decay, the Germans were prepared to suffer a long siege in the midst of the greatest hardships. Thus, some 330,000 Axis soldiers were trapped in a bag with Hitler's order not to retreat or surrender. Although Göring, Air Marshal and supreme commander of the Luftwaffe, promised to supply the troops from the air, it was almost impossible to get resources to the German troops and only a few flights were made.

The Germans were able to use the Pitomnik airfield, but it was subject to continuous Soviet attacks, the Junkers Ju 52 arrived with supplies and immediately departed back evacuating wounded. Even so, the few planes could not cope and the lucky ones who could climb up escaped from hell, the wounded hung from the doors and some desperate ones ventured to fly on the wings, where none managed to survive. After the fall of Pitomnik, on January 16, only the Gumrak airfield, smaller and in worse conditions than Pitomnik, was left as an improvised one, but Gumrak would also fall into Soviet hands on January 23. From that day on the starving German troops could only receive supplies by means of boxes parachuted by the Luftwaffe, which did not ensure that the cargo reached its destination: Soviet soldiers sometimes kept the supplies, they fell into the Volga River, or the German troops were simply too exhausted and hungry to look for supplies among the ruins of the city.

In addition, some 10,000 Soviet civilians were also trapped in the bag, never to be heard from again.

The offensive of the Don Group of Armies

In December, the encircled German soldiers had a glimmer of hope: Erich von Manstein was coming to their aid. Manstein, who had just assumed command of Army Group Don, whose purpose will be to link up with Von Paulus' German 6th Army besieged at Stalingrad. This new grouping consists for the moment of three Panzerdivisionen of General Hoth's 4th Panzerarmee, a total of 60,000 men and 300 tanks. To carry out the upcoming Operation Winter Storm, in order to liberate Von Paulus' encircled forces at Stalingrad, Marshal Erich von Manstein gets 9 more Axis divisions to leave their positions in the Caucasus, Voronezh, Oriol and France and come southwest of Stalingrad to join the Don Army Group, with them the remnants of the 3rd and 4th Romanian armies. Forming a total of 120 000 soldiers, 650 tanks and 500 airplanes, about 13 divisions.

Operation Winter Storm, which included two broad operations with a different starting point. One would come from Chirsk and the other from Kotelnikovo, 160 km from Stalingrad. Even for the most incredulous generals of the Nazi regime, the fact that Hitler would abandon the 6th Army was unthinkable, so they were hopeful of a possible rescue. Thus the Wehrmacht made sure to do everything possible to rescue this elite army encircled far from Germany. The objective is to break the encirclement of Stalingrad and rescue Von Paulus' 6th Army, which is 120 km away from Kotielnikovsky, the starting point of the attack.

The offensive began on December 12, General Hoth's 6th and 23rd Panzer Divisions, supported by infantry and aviation, follow the railroad to Stalingrad; fiercely defended by the 126th and 302nd Russian Infantry Divisions. On the night of December 13, the 23rd Panzer Division advances north of Nebikovo, having crossed Aksai, and the 23rd Panzerdivision reaches the river and secures a bridgehead on the Krugliakov road and railroad. Stalin sends the 2nd Guards Army. Temperatures range from -30º to -35º, but on December 15 they are pushed back to the river with the same name by the Russian Mechanized Army Corps. As for the 6th Panzer Division reached the village of Verjnekumski. The battles for Verjnekumski continued with varying success from December 14 to 19. Only on December 19, the strengthening of the German group by the 17th Panzer Division and the threat of encirclement forced the Soviet troops to withdraw to a new defensive line on the Myshkova River. The five-day delay of the Germans at Verkhnekumski was an undisputed success for the Soviet troops, as it bought time to bring in the 2nd Guards Army. But on December 16, began the offensive of the Voronezh Front. In the Don River area, 3 Soviet Armies will overwhelm the poorly armed Italian 8th Army, advancing towards Rostov with the possibility of isolating Marshal Manstein's Don Army Group, who are trying to make their way to Stalingrad, and Kleist's Army Group A, operating in the Caucasus. The Soviet 1st Army causes the 220,000 Italians to flee en masse; Hitler calls Mussolini asking him to order his soldiers to stop their flight and resist. Half of the Italians will be killed or taken prisoner.

Soviet tanks today storm the German airfield at Tazinskaya, from which most of the aircraft supplying the besieged at Stalingrad depart. Some 124 Luftwaffe aircraft managed to fly back before the Russians occupied the airfield.

By December 17, Marshal Manstein, commander of Army Group Don, sends the 6th Panzerdivisionen of General Hoth's 4th Panzearrmee to the lower Chir region to try to stop the Russian offensive towards Rostov. Operation Wintergewitter continues, but the Russian offensive threatens the 200,000 men of Army Group Don, along with Army Group A Caucasus and the besieged 6th Army at Stalingrad: about 1,500,000 Axis troops are in danger of being annihilated. The next day, the German forces on Hoth suffer heavy losses of men and material forcing their commander to halt their advance awaiting the arrival of the SS Viking Motorized Division. Their chances of reaching Stalingrad almost disappear. Manstein calls von Paulus asking him to try a way out of the city and contact Hoth's troops, who have been able to get as close as 50 km. Many commanders of the German 6ş Army are in favor of escaping the encirclement. They can still collect 50 000 soldiers in fighting condition and fuel for about 100 tanks and about 500 vehicles. Von Paulus refuses, as the Führer ordered him to resist.

Artillery General Nikolai Voronov arrives to the Soviet command of the Don Front, with the express mission of annihilating the German 6th Army surrounded in Stalingrad.

On December 20, the vanguard forces of General Hoth's 4th Panzerarmee crossed the Myshkova at Vasilievka, reaching 50 km from their objective, Stalingrad, but heavy losses (up to 60% motorized infantry and 230 tanks) significantly undermined the offensive potential of the Hoth group. The situation called for immediately starting a breakthrough of Paulus' army from the encirclement to the 4th Panzer Army, as Goth had no opportunity to break through the "corridor" on his own. The breakthrough was to begin with the code signal Thunderbolt. But Manstein did not dare to use the Donnerschlag Plan because he was not sure that the head of the 6th Army Friedrich Paulus would carry it out. First, according to Hitler's order, Paulus had to hold "Fortress Stalingrad", and breaking the encirclement meant abandoning the city. Secondly, the command of the 6th Army required 6 days to prepare an advance, as the available fuel would be enough to overcome only 30 km.

On December 21, Hoth's 4th Panzer Army attempts to break through the lines of General Malinovsky's 2nd Guards Army and the Soviet 7th Armored Army on the north bank of the Myshkova River to reach Stalingrad, and thus rescue the German 6th Army, surrounded and immobilized in the capital by no less than 7 Russian Armies. Some outposts arrive about 48 km from the city. Behind the combat troops marches a column with 3,000 tons of food and ammunition for the encircled.

On December 23, the 3 Panzerdivisionen of Hoth, that try to break the Russian encirclement to the troops of Von Paulus in Stalingrad, try to cross the Russian lines to the north of the Myshkova river, 50 km from the city. But exhausted, without supplies, lacking supplies, and before the impossibility that Paulus can approach to link up with them, the German units begin to retreat to Kotielnikovski. The 6th Army will be left to its fate.

The Red Army vanguard detachments reached the crossing through the Seversky Donets near the town of Kamensk-Shakhtinsky. The main task of Hollidt's group and the Romanian 3rd Army was to protect the Morozovsk and Tatsinskaya airfields, which were badly needed for the supplies of the encircled 6th Army, as well as holding important crossings across the Donets at Forkhstadt (Belaya Kalitva) and Kamensk-Shakhtinsk. The halt meant that the Soviets attacked him with everything and pushed him back a further 200 km. The attack, which was carried out by the Soviet 6th Armored Division, relentlessly at first, was threatened by another Soviet counterattack in the rear, so it was decided to retreat for good. At the same time, the Tatsinskaya airfield, the main Ju-52 refueling airfield, fell into Soviet hands.

In the following days, the situation on the Chirsk front deteriorated so much that on December 23 Manstein ordered the 6th Panzer Division to withdraw from its positions and move towards Morozovsk. At dawn on December 24, the 3rd Panzerdivisionen of the 4th Panzer Army of General Hoth, are attacked by the 2nd Guards Army of General Malinovsky, advancing towards Kotielnikovsky from the north, and the 51st Soviet Army, advancing from the northeast, breaking the defenses of the 4th Romanian Army, initiating an encircling maneuver. With the withdrawal of the German column, Malinovsky's 2nd Guards Army went on the offensive against the extended flank of the German 57th Panzer Corps. At 16:30, Soviet troops recaptured Verkhnekumski. With the forces of the 2nd Guards Army with three mechanized corps, launched another offensive on Kotelnikovo. Faced with this situation, General Hoth gave the order for a general retreat on the same day, thus eliminating any serious chance of saving the besieged troops in Stalingrad.

Violent fighting breaks out on the perimeter of Stalingrad between Russians and Germans; the troops of the 6th Army are decimated, exhausted, suffering from cold and disease. The lack of food has led the besieged to eat some 12,000 horses. Seven Soviet armies, under the command of Zhukov, surround Stalingrad and press inland to annihilate the defenders; due to their precarious air supply, from tomorrow their daily bread ration will drop from 200 to 100 g. Paulus, disgusted by the absurdity of Hitler's orders, realized that, for the Führer, the 6th Army, or what was left of it, was little more than a sacrificial piece in the game of war. The lives of the soldiers were of no importance to Hitler. For while Nazi hierarchs like Erich Koch, the Gauleiter, or governor of the occupied territories of the Ukraine, chartered a Luftwaffe plane to Rostov to bring him 200 pounds of caviar, his men were dying of starvation, typhus or dysentery on the outskirts of Stalingrad. The German hierarchs will call for their dismissal; but the Reich is infested with these corrupt politicians. The Führer defends them for their bloodthirsty and efficient ability to exploit the resources and manpower necessary for the war. The civilians in the occupied territories hate them. By December 25, in the Kessel, 1280 soldiers die of cold and starvation. For the New Year, the Soviets set up a series of kitchens and held parties on the south bank of the Volga with the dual purpose of celebrating the year and demoralizing the encircled Germans.

On December 28, due to the Russian offensive against Rostov and the Don, which threatened to cut the lines of Army Group A, General Ruoff's troops slowly retreated from the Caucasus towards Taman, in the following days they would form a bridgehead in Kuban. Hitler was against this decision, but Manstein and other officers managed to convince him. But the Rostov area continued to be besieged by Russian troops and was the scene of heavy fighting.

During the counter-offensive of the Red Army towards Kotielnovski, on December 31, the 4th Romanian Army is annihilated and the 4th Panzerarmee retreats to reach 200-240 km away from Stalingrad. The Russian forces of the Stalingrad Front reach the line Verjne -Rubezhni -Tormosin -Gluboki, having the possibility to launch a great offensive on the southern sector of the German front. But for the STAVKA, the main thing was to finish off the pocket of German forces in Stalingrad.

By January 9, two Red Army officers appeared on the western front line of the German front with an ultimatum from the Stavka to Paulus. If this ultimatum was not accepted, the Soviets would launch a final offensive against the Kessel the next day. The ultimatum was rejected. Hardships multiplied in the German 6th Army: epidemics decimated the soldiers, discipline had disappeared and hunger was so atrocious that the Germans slaughtered all their horses, as well as dogs and rats in order to feed themselves. It is noteworthy that even under these distressing conditions, the resistance of the 6th Army continued, as the front lines retreated fighting and inflicting casualties on the Soviets who were executing the ring plan to wipe out the Germans.

At 6:05 a.m., January 10, the high command of the Stalingrad Front gave the order to attack the German positions in Stalingrad. Operation Ring began with the firing of some 7000 Katyusha guns, mortars and rocket launchers, which for 55 minutes battered the German trenches. Then waves of infantrymen supported by tanks charge in. The offensive is focused on taking the Pitomnik airfield, where Ju 52s land, bringing supplies to the besieged and taking their wounded. That day, the Führer radiated to Von Paulus "I forbid capitulation. The troops must defend their positions to the last man and the last cartridge, so that with their heroic behavior they contribute to the stabilization of the front and the defense of the West". By the 16th of December the only German airfield Pitomnik would fall in Soviet hands, the Germans had to rebuild the one in Gumrak, seriously damaged by themselves, to be able to continue receiving supplies.

The Soviets again offered the encircled Stalingraders the possibility of surrendering, but Von Paulus ordered his troops to try to break the encirclement at any possible point to avoid their total annihilation. Romanian units that had formed the bulk of the 6th Army, which had been deprived of rations, were surrendering in groups on a continuous basis. Other Germans will begin to bribe pilots to fly them out of the Gumrak airfield.

On January 18, the last German mail plane leaves Stalingrad. General Von Paulus sends a letter to his wife with his wedding ring, graduation ring and medals. General Hube, the first to arrive in the city, is forced to leave in the Condor which takes off from Gumrak airfield. He protests to Hitler about the failure of the airlift, suggesting that those responsible, including Göring, be shot. Hitler ignored this, as well as much other advice.

At 04:00 hours on January 22, Gumrak, the last German airfield about 8 km from Stalingrad, is abandoned by German forces in the face of the Soviet Army's thrust. For the day January 24, in the already ruined city the German troops form in hedgehog in Gorodishche while they retreat to the east, to the remains of a tractor factory. The fighting was fierce. In the south, the Germans hold out in the suburbs. Among the ruins, some 20,000 wounded Germans crawl without help. There are thousands of corpses among them dead from cold and hunger, mostly unarmed. During the last 3 days, the Soviet forces advanced from 10 to 15 km, pushing the Germans and their allies to occupy an area of 90 square km. With the airfields lost, the Luftwaffe, in a desperate attempt to bring supplies to what was left of the 6th Army, parachuted ammunition and supplies, but these frequently fell into Soviet-held territory.

By January 26, the 62nd Army encounters Rodimtsev's 13th Rifle Division of the Soviet 21st Army on Mamayev Kurgan Hill dividing what remains of Von Paulus' 6th Army into two pockets of resistance north and south of the razed capital. Russian T 34s break through the ruins. In the north, what is left of the German 51st Corps holds out in the collapsed tractor factory. In the south, the remnants of 4 other corps fight around the ruins of Red Square, where von Paulus had moved his headquarters, in the basement of the Univermag warehouses. The next day, the 21st, 57th and 64th Soviet Armies attack the Axis troops holed up south of the city, who are protecting von Paulus. German resistance is fierce.

On January 29, in the stock exchange, the German 6th Army radios a greeting to the Führer, congratulating him in advance on his 10th anniversary of his rise to power, saying that ".... The swastika flag still flies at Stalingrad..." Hitler would do the same in a speech predicting "final victory." But he secretly called on his Axis allies, Italy and Hungary, to withdraw their respective troops from the Don front. However, the Italians had already been on the run for days, and the inexperienced Hungarians had lost some 80,000 soldiers and another 63,000 were wounded in the last ten days.

On January 30; The Führer promotes General von Paulus to the rank of Field Marshal, Hitler confesses to Keitel: "-In the history of war there is no recorded case in which a field marshal has accepted to be taken prisoner...". In reality, this promotion was met with another suicide order. Paulus then declared: "-I have no intention of shooting myself for this Bohemian corporal", in reference to Hitler, and informed other generals (such as Arthur Schmidt, Seydlitz, Jaenecke, and Strecker) that he would not commit suicide and the other officers were forbidden to do so in order to follow the fate of their soldiers.

Soviet troops enter tonight the former urban center of Stalingrad, Red Square, now reduced to a pile of rubble. German positions succumb to successive Red Army waves. A Soviet tank approached Paulus' headquarters, in which came an interpreter who had been sent by Paulus, Major Winrich Behr. On January 31, at 05:45, Paulus surrendered to the Red Army. Among the ruins lay some 80 000 dead, 23 generals, some 2000 officers, 91 000 soldiers and 40 000 auxiliaries of Russian origin surrendered to the Soviets; less than 6000 of them will return alive after the war. They will be reunited in captivity with the 16,800 who were already captured during the battle; some 42,000 were luckier and could be evacuated as wounded earlier. General Streker's group of Germans, north of the demolished city, still held out. But on February 2, the 51st Army Corps under General Streker or Schrenck surrendered. Thus the 6th Army was destroyed, Von Paulus was the first marshal to capitulate in German history, thus disobeying Hitler, overwhelmed by the Soviet troops, the lack of food and the polar cold of the Russian steppe, for which his troops did not have enough material, contrary to what Hitler claimed. An unprecedented gesture.

Thus ended the battle for the razed city, the largest battle of World War II. Since January 10, the Red Army eliminated 22 divisions of the Werhmacht, and another 160 units sent to the relief of the 6th Army. Some 11,000 German soldiers did not comply with the surrender and continued to fight until the end, in early March the Soviets wiped out the last remnants of resistance in the cellars and tunnels.

The Third Reich lost at Stalingrad its best army, with which Hitler boasted that "he could storm the skies". The losses also included part of the 4th Panzer Army and the Group of Armies Don and countless material resources that could not be replaced with the same ease available to the USSR. In fact, between dead, wounded, missing or fallen prisoners, the Wehrmacht had lost from July 1942 until the end of the battle, more than 400,000 fighters, many of them experienced, elite troops that could only be replaced mostly by conscripts. If the losses of Army Group A, Army Group Don and German units of Army Group B during the period from June 28, 1942 to February 2, 1943 are included, the German casualties were more than 600,000. The Axis Allied armies, on the other hand, suffered similar devastating losses, being the breaking point in the relations of the satellites with Germany.

The Germans also lost 900 aircraft (including 274 cargo planes and 165 bombers), as well as 500 tanks and 6000 pieces of artillery. According to a Soviet report of the time, Soviet forces confiscated 5762 artillery pieces, 1312 mortars, 744 aircraft, 1666 tanks and assault guns, 261 other armored vehicles, 571 semi-tracked vehicles, 10 722 trucks, 10 679 motorcycles, 12 701 heavy machine guns, 80 438 machine guns, 156 987 rifles. The losses of the Hungarian, Italian and Romanian sides are unknown.

The Soviets, apart from having secured a practically destroyed city, had suffered more than a million casualties. Of these, some "13,000 had been executed by their own countrymen", accused of cowardice, desertion, collaborationism, etc. However, Soviet NKVD reports cite only 278 executions. The excessive figure provided by Western historians may well have been the more than 52,000 hiwis (Soviet soldiers dressed in German uniform), who died or were taken prisoner in the battle of Stalingrad, although they were taken prisoner, but their final whereabouts are unknown. It is noteworthy that it was not until the fall of the USSR that Russian historians were able to openly discuss the casualty figures of the battle, for fear of acknowledging that the sacrifice of lives was excessive. while these will never be exact (due to the absence of reliable records and the proliferation of unaccounted mass graves), it is believed that they were very high, perhaps more than considered, echoing that phrase of the Soviet generals "Time is blood". According to the highest estimate, if all forces fighting on the Volga and Don are included, 756 668 Axis soldiers were killed, missing and wounded and 108 890 were captured, about 1 130 000 Soviet soldiers (including prisoners killed in captivity, killed in combat, wounded after evacuation, missing or captured) and more than 300 000 civilians disappeared or met their end (including refugees and people living in villages and towns where they also fought). It should be noted that a quarter of a million civilians were evacuated to the east of the country.

When the German 6th Army surrendered with more than 91,000 soldiers, they were condemned to walk in the snow on the so-called "death march", 40,000 perished from walking and beatings. The rest were interned in the concentration camps of Lunovo, Suzdal, Krasnogorsk, Yelabuga, Bekedal, Usman, Astrakhan, Basianovsky, Oranki and Karaganda, and even 3500 of them in Stalingrad itself to rebuild the city. Most of them, in temperatures of -25 and -30 °C below zero, fell ill with typhus, dysentery, jaundice, diphtheria, scurvy, tuberculosis, dropsy and malaria. Of the 91,000 prisoners, only 5,000 survived.

The consequences of this catastrophe were immense and far-reaching. The tragedy could not be hidden from the German people, who declared three days of national mourning. For the first time, Germany lost the initiative of the war and had to go on the defensive. In fact, the Wehrmacht already lacked the necessary logistical elements to advance further east, the banks of the Volga being the easternmost point reached by German troops in Europe. After this battle, the Soviet Union emerged in a great state of aggrandizement and with the initiative of the war in the hands of its leaders. In addition, the commander of the Luftwaffe, Hermann Göring, fell in disgrace before Hitler, losing credit among the elite of the Nazi regime, as well as prestige among the military, when he was unable to fulfill the order to supply the encircled German forces by air, as he had promised.

As for the Führer, the surrender of Von Paulus in Stalingrad and the great breach opened in the Eastern Front will cause in Adolf Hitler an acute depressive crisis. He will take sleeping pills every night, and will have nightmares about the encirclement, until almost the end of the war.

Marshal Paulus survived the war and returned to Germany in 1952, living in the Soviet occupation zone and later in the GDR.

The historical Soviet general; Zhukov claimed for himself the success of Stalingrad, but all credit was given to Vasili Chuikov, who was promoted to captain general and put in charge of an army that would later march to Berlin. However, the battle of Stalingrad was a real military catastrophe for the Nazis and one of their major defeats in World War II, marking the turning point in the war, after which they would not stop falling back to the Soviets until they surrendered to Zhukov in Berlin itself two and a half years later.

The triumph of this battle transcended the boundaries of the Soviet Union and inspired all the Allies. The 62nd Army, commanded by Vasily Chuikov, was encouraging resistance everywhere. King George VI of England presented the city with a sword specially forged in its honor, and even the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda wrote the poem "Canto de amor a Stalingrad", first recited on September 30, 1942, and the poem "Nuevo canto de amor a Stalingrad" in 1943, celebrating the victory, which transformed this fight into a symbol and a turning point for the whole war. Today Western historians consider the Battle of Stalingrad as Germany's second Verdun.

The Medal for the Defense of Stalingrad was awarded to all members of the Soviet armed forces and also to civilians who were directly involved in the defense of Stalingrad from July 12 to November 19, 1942. As of January 1, 1995, this medal had been awarded 759 561 times. In the staff building of unit no. 22220 in Volgograd, the huge mural is determined by the depiction of the medal. It shows a group of soldiers with rifles pointing forward and bayonets planted under a waving flag. On the left can be seen the outline of tanks and a squadron of aircraft, above it the Soviet five-pointed star.

Russian commemorative coins

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the end of the battle, a commemorative coin honoring the city of Stalingrad was issued in 1993 with a face value of 3 copper rubles.

On the occasion of the celebrations on the 55th anniversary of the end of the war, a coin honoring the heroic city of Stalingrad was also released in 2000 as part of the Heldenstädte series. The coin with the inscription "СТАЛИННГРАД" (Stalingrad) shows attacking soldiers and a heavy rolling tank in front of the ruins of houses.

Commemoration in Germany

At the main cemetery of Limburg an der Lahn, the central German memorial was unveiled on October 18, 1964 to commemorate all soldiers who died at Stalingrad and died in captivity. In 1988, the city of Limburg took over the "Foundation of Stalingrad Fighters", thus ensuring the maintenance and care of the Stalingrad Memorial through the existence of the "German Association of Former Stalingrad Fighters". The federal government decided to dissolve it in 2004.

For many people, one image remains associated with the Battle of Stalingrad: that of the Virgin of Stalingrad. The image painted in 1942 by Protestant pastor, physician and artist Kurt Reuber in a shelter in Stalingrad with charcoal on the back of a Soviet map, bears the inscription "1942 Christmas in the cauldron - Fortress of Stalingrad - Light, life, love". Although Reuber himself did not survive captivity, the image came into the family's hands with one of the last planes, which Federal President Karl Carstens suggested to the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in 1983 in Berlin to commemorate the fallen and remember peace. In the church (on the wall behind the rows of chairs on the right side), hangs an image of Mary that encourages remembrance and prayer. The Madonna is the motif on the coat of arms of the Medical Regiment 2 of the Bundeswehr Medical Service.

Commemoration in Austria

Every February in Austria, Stalingrad memorial services take place in many churches, which are usually organized by the Austrian Comrades Association or other traditional associations. In addition, numerous objects from the battle are on display at the Museum of Military History in Vienna, including war relics such as steel helmets, boots and equipment that were recovered from the Stalingrad battlefield.

Commemoration in France

There is a Stalingrad metro station in Paris. It is located at Place de la Bataille-de-Stalingrad.

Commemoration in Italy

In Italy, there are several streets named after Via Stalingrad in various cities.

Temporary renaming of the city from Volgograd to Stalingrad

75 years after the end of the Battle of Stalingrad, the Volgograd City Council decided at the end of January 2013, that the city should return to its former name of Stalingrad six days a year. War veterans had requested this. The decision provoked heated discussions in Russia. Human rights official Vladimir Lukin condemned the temporary name change and called it an "insult to the fallen of Stalingrad." They deserve appreciation, "but not in this way." Communists in Russia are calling for a permanent return to the city's former name.


  1. Battle of Stalingrad
  2. Batalla de Stalingrado
  3. Este Grupo de Ejércitos se creó el 21 de noviembre de 1942 a partir de partes del Grupo de Ejércitos B para que mantuviera la línea entre el Grupo de Ejércitos A (en el Cáucaso) y el resto del Grupo de Ejércitos B contra el contraataque soviético.
  4. La composición y la nomenclatura del frente soviética cambió varias veces durante la batalla. La batalla empezó con el "Frente Suroeste". Más tardé se renombró a "Frente de Stalingrado", y luego el "Frente del Don" se separó.
  5. El Frente fue reformado con ejércitos de reserva el 22 de octubre de 1942.
  6. El número de aeronaves aumentó a 1600 por la retirada alemana de Kuban y la región meridional del Caúcaso en septiembre de 1942
  7. Au 20 mars 1942 les pertes allemandes s'élèvent à 225 559 tués, 50 991 disparus et 796 516 blessés, dont plus de la moitié ne pourront pas reprendre le combat ; cela représente 35 % de l'effectif de Barbarossa mais 50 % des officiers qui comptent 32 485 pertes[3].
  8. 1 551 chars et canons d'assaut disponibles en mars 1942 contre 3 648 au début de Barbarossa[3].
  9. Στην ελληνική και δυτική βιβλιογραφία, η πόλη προφέρεται ως «Στάλινγκραντ». Ωστόσο, η ορθή προφορά από τα ρωσικά είναι «Σταλινγκράντ» (ρωσ.Сталингра́д).
  10. ^ Around 6,000 men of the Croatian Home Guard served in the German 6th Army as the 369th Infantry Regiment and in the Italian 8th Army as the Light Transport Brigade.
  11. ^ Some German holdouts continued to operate in the city and resist until early March 1943.
  12. ^ This Army Group was created on 21 November 1942 from parts of Army Group B in order for it to hold the line between Army Group A (in the Caucasus) and the remainder of Army Group B against the Soviet counterattack.

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