Hitler and the principal generals of OKW were lingering on in the pleasant Alpine surroundings of Berchtesgaden when the first news of the Russian counteroffensive on the Don reached them a few hours after it had been launched in a blizzard at dawn on November 19. Though a Soviet attack in this region had been expected it was not believed at OKW that it would amount to enough to warrant Hitler and his chief military advisers, Keitel and Jodl, hurrying back to headquarters in East Prussia after the Fuehrer’s ringing beerhouse speech to the old party comrades in Munich on the evening of November 8. So they had puttered about on the Obersalzberg taking in the mountain air.
Their peace and quiet was abruptly broken by an urgent telephone call from General Zeitzler, the new Chief of the Army General Staff, who had remained behind at Rastenburg. He had what the OKW Diary recorded as “alarming news.” In the very first hours of the attack an overwhelming Russian armored force had broken clean through the Rumanian Third Army between Serafimovich and Kletskaya on the Don just northwest of Stalingrad. South of the besieged city other powerful Soviet forces were attacking strongly against the German Fourth Panzer Army and the Rumanian Fourth Army and threatening to pierce their fronts.
The Russian objective was obvious to anyone who looked at a map and especially obvious to Zeitzler who, from Army intelligence, knew that the enemy had massed thirteen armies, with thousands of tanks, in the south to achieve it. The Russians were clearly driving in great strength from the north and the south to cut off Stalingrad and to force the German Sixth Army there to either beat a hasty retreat to the west or see itself surrounded. Zeitzler later contended that as soon as he saw what was happening he urged Hitler to permit the Sixth Army to withdraw from Stalingrad to the Don bend, where the broken front could be restored. The mere suggestion threw the Fuehrer into a tantrum.
“I won’t leave the Volga! I won’t go back from the Volga!” he shouted, and that was that. This decision, taken in such a fit of frenzy, led promptly to disaster. The Fuehrer personally ordered the Sixth Army to stand fast around Stalingrad.25
Hitler and his staff returned to headquarters on November 22. By this time, the fourth day of the attack, the news was catastrophic. The two Soviet forces from the north and south had met at Kalach, forty miles west of Stalingrad on the Don bend. In the evening a wireless message arrived from General Paulus, commander of the Sixth Army, confirming that his troops were now surrounded. Hitler promptly radioed back, telling Paulus to move his headquarters into the city and form a hedgehog defense. The Sixth Army would be supplied by air until it could be relieved.
But this was futile talk. There were now twenty German and two Rumanian divisions cut off at Stalingrad. Paulus radioed that they would need a minimum of 750 tons of supplies a day flown in. This was far beyond the capacity of the Luftwaffe, which lacked the required number of transport planes. Even if they had been available, not all of them could have got through in the blizzardy weather and over an area where the Russians had now established fighter superiority. Nevertheless, Goering assured Hitler that the Air Force could do the job. It never began to.
The relief of the Sixth Army was a more practical and encouraging possibility. On November 25 Hitler had recalled Field Marshal von Manstein, the most gifted of his field commanders, from the Leningrad front and put him in charge of a newly created formation, Army Group Don. His assignment was to push through from the southwest and relieve the Sixth Army at Stalingrad.
But now the Fuehrer imposed impossible conditions on his new commander. Manstein tried to explain to him that the only chance of success lay in the Sixth Army’s breaking out of Stalingrad to the west while his own forces, led by the Fourth Panzer Army, pressed northeast against the Russian armies which lay between the two German forces. But once again Hitler refused to draw back from the Volga. The Sixth Army must remain in Stalingrad and Manstein must fight his way to it there.
This, as Manstein tried to argue with the Supreme warlord, could not be done. The Russians were too strong. Nevertheless, with a heavy heart, Manstein launched his attack on December 12. It was called, appropriately, “Operation Winter Gale,” for the full fury of the Russian winter had now hit the southern steppes, piling up the snow in drifts and dropping the temperature below zero. At first the offensive made good progress, the Fourth Panzer Army, under General Hoth, driving northeast up both sides of the railroad from Kotelnikovski toward Stalingrad, some seventy-five miles away. By December 19 it had advanced to within some forty miles of the southern perimeter of the city; by the twenty-first it was within thirty miles, and across the snowy steppes the besieged troops of the Sixth Army could see at night the signal flares of their rescuers.
At this moment, according to the later testimony of the German generals, a breakout from Stalingrad of the Sixth Army toward the advancing lines of the Fourth Panzer Army would almost certainly have succeeded. But once again Hitler forbade it. On December 21, Zeitzler had wrung permission from the Leader for the troops of Paulus to break out provided they also held on to Stalingrad. This piece of foolishness, the General Staff Chief says, nearly drove him insane.
“On the following evening,” Zeitzler related later, “I begged Hitler to authorize the breakout. I pointed out that this was absolutely our last chance to save the two hundred thousand men of Paulus’ army.”
Hitler would not give way. In vain I described to him conditions inside the so-called fortress: the despair of the starving soldiers, their loss of confidence in the Supreme Command, the wounded expiring for lack of proper attention while thousands froze to death. He remained as impervious to arguments of this sort as to those others which I had advanced.
In the face of increasing Russian resistance in front of him and on his flanks General Hoth lacked the strength to negotiate that last thirty miles to Stalingrad. He believed that if the Sixth Army broke out he could still make a junction with it and then both forces could withdraw to Kotelnikovski. This at least would save a couple of hundred thousand German lives.* Probably for a day or two—between December 21 and 23—this could have been done, but by the latter date it had become impossible. For unknown to Hoth the Red Army had struck farther north and was now endangering the left flank of Manstein’s whole Army Group Don. On the night of December 22, Manstein telephoned Hoth to prepare himself for drastic new orders. The next day they came. Hoth was to abandon his drive on Stalingrad, dispatch one of his three panzer divisions to the Don front on the north, and defend himself where he was and with what he had left as well as he could.
The attempt to relieve Stalingrad had failed.
Manstein’s drastic new orders had come as the result of alarming news that reached him on December 17. On the morning of that day a Soviet army had broken through the Italian Eighth Army farther up the Don at Boguchar and by evening opened a gap twenty-seven miles deep. Within three days the hole was ninety miles wide, the Italians were fleeing in panic and the Rumanian Third Army to the south, which already had been badly pummeled on the opening day of the Russian offensive on November 19, was also disintegrating. No wonder Manstein had had to take part of Hoth’s armored forces to help stem the gap. A chain reaction followed.
Not only the Don armies fell back but also Hoth’s forces, which had come so close to Stalingrad. These retreats in turn endangered the German Army in the Caucasus, which would be cut off if the Russians reached Rostov on the Sea of Azov. A day or two after Christmas Zeitzler pointed out to Hitler, “Unless you order a withdrawal from the Caucasus now, we shall soon have a second Stalingrad on our hands.” Reluctantly the Supreme Commander issued the necessary instructions on December 29 to Kleist’s Army Group A, which comprised the First Panzer and Seventeentharmies, and which had failed in its mission to grab the rich oil fields of Grozny. It too began a long retreat after having been within sight of its goal.
The reverses of the Germans in Russia and of the Italo–German armies in North Africa stirred Mussolini to thought. Hitler had invited him to come to Salzburg for a talk around the middle of December and the ailing Duce, now on a strict diet for stomach disorders, had accepted, though, as he told Ciano, he would go on one condition only: that he take his meals alone “because he does not want a lot of ravenous Germans to notice that he is compelled to live on rice and milk.”
The time had come, Mussolini decided, to tell Hitler to cut his losses in the East, make some sort of deal with Stalin and concentrate Axis strength on defending the rest of North Africa, the Balkans and Western Europe. “Nineteen forty-three will be the year of the Anglo–American effort,” he told Ciano. Hitler was unable to leave his Eastern headquarters in order to meet Mussolini, so Ciano made the long journey to Rastenburg on December 18 on his behalf, repeating to the Nazi leader the Duce’s proposals. Hitler scorned them and assured the Italian Foreign Minister that without at all weakening the Russian front he could send additional forces to North Africa, which must, he said, be held. Ciano found German spirits at a low ebb at headquarters, despite Hitler’s confident assurances.
The atmosphere is heavy. To the bad news there should perhaps be added the sadness of that humid forest and the boredom of collective living in the barracks … No one tries to conceal from me the unhappiness over the news of the breakthrough on the Russian front. There were open attempts to put the blame on us.
At that very moment the survivors of the Italian Eighth Army on the Don were scurrying for their lives, and when one member of Ciano’s party asked an OKW officer whether the Italians had suffered heavy losses he was told, “No losses at all: they are running.”26
The German troops in the Caucasus and on the Don, if not running, were getting out as quickly as they could to avoid being cut off. Each day, as the year 1943 began, they withdrew a little farther from Stalingrad. The time had now come for the Russians to finish off the Germans there. But first they gave the doomed soldiers of the Sixth Army an opportunity to save their lives.
On the morning of January 8, 1943, three young Red Army officers, bearing a white flag, entered the German lines on the northern perimeter of Stalingrad and presented General Paulus with an ultimatum from General Rokossovski, commander of the Soviet forces on the Don front. After reminding him that his army was cut off and could not be relieved or kept supplied from the air, the note said:
The situation of your troops is desperate. They are suffering from hunger, sickness and cold. The cruel Russian winter has scarcely yet begun. Hard frosts, cold winds and blizzards still lie ahead. Your soldiers are unprovided with winter clothing and are living in appalling sanitary conditions … Your situation is hopeless, and any further resistance senseless.
In view of [this] and in order to avoid unnecessary bloodshed, we propose that you accept the following terms of surrender …
They were honorable terms. All prisoners would be given “normal rations.” The wounded, sick and frostbitten would receive medical treatment. All prisoners could retain their badges of rank, decorations and personal belongings. Paulus was given twenty-four hours to reply.
He immediately radioed the text of the ultimatum to Hitler and asked for freedom of action. His request was curtly dismissed by the Supreme warlord. Twenty-four hours after the expiration of the time limit on the demand for surrender, on the morning of January 10, the Russians opened the last phase of the Battle of Stalingrad with an artillery bombardment from five thousand guns.
The fighting was bitter and bloody. Both sides fought with incredible bravery and recklessness over the frozen wasteland of the city’s rubble—but not for long. Within six days the German pocket had been reduced by half, to an area fifteen miles long and nine miles deep at its widest. By January 24 it had been split in two and the last small emergency airstrip lost. The planes which had brought in some supplies, especially medicines for the sick and wounded, and which had flown out 29,000 hospital cases, could no longer land.
Once more the Russians gave their courageous enemy a chance to surrender. Soviet emissaries arrived at the German lines on January 24 with a new offer. Again Paulus, torn between his duty to obey the mad Fuehrer and his obligation to save his own surviving troops from annihilation, appealed to Hitler.
Troops without ammunition [he radioed on the twenty-fourth] or food … Effective command no longer possible … 18,000 wounded without any supplies or dressings or drugs … Further defense senseless. Collapse inevitable. Army requests immediate permission to surrender in order to save lives of remaining troops.
Hitler’s answer has been preserved.
Surrender is forbidden. Sixth Army will hold their positions to the last man and the last round and by their heroic endurance will make an unforgettable contribution toward the establishment of a defensive front and the salvation of the Western world.
The Western world! It was a bitter pill for the men of the Sixth Army who had fought against that world in France and Flanders but a short time ago.
Further resistance was not only senseless and futile but impossible, and as the month of January 1943 approached its end the epic battle wore itself out, expiring like the flame of an expended candle which sputters and dies. By January 28 what was left of a once great army was split into three small pockets, in the southern one of which General Paulus had his headquarters in the cellar of the ruins of the once thriving Univermag department store. According to one eyewitness the commander in chief sat on his camp bed in a darkened corner in a state of near collapse.
He was scarcely in the mood, nor were his soldiers, to appreciate the flood of congratulatory radiograms that now began to pour in. Goering, who had whiled away a good part of the winter in sunny Italy, strutting about in his great fur coat and fingering his jewels, sent a radio message on January 28.
The fight put up by the Sixth Army will go down in history, and future generations will speak proudly of a Langemarck of daredeviltry, an Alcázar of tenacity, a Narvik of courage and a Stalingrad of self-sacrifice.
Nor were they cheered when on the last evening, January 30, 1943, the tenth anniversary of the Nazis’ coming to power, they listened to the fat Reich Marshal’s bombastic broadcast.
A thousand years hence Germans will speak of this battle [of Stalingrad] with reverence and awe, and will remember that in spite of everything Germany’s ultimate victory was decided there … In years to come it will be said of the heroic battle on the Volga: When you come to Germany, say that you have seen us lying at Stalingrad, as our honor and our leaders ordained that we should, for the greater glory of Germany.
The glory and the horrible agony of the Sixth Army had now come to an end. On January 30, Paulus radioed Hitler: “Final collapse cannot be delayed more than twenty-four hours.”
This signal prompted the Supreme Commander to shower a series of promotions on the doomed officers in Stalingrad, apparently in the hope that such honors would strengthen their resolve to die gloriously at their bloody posts. “There is no record in military history of a German Field Marshal being taken prisoner,” Hitler remarked to Jodl, and thereupon conferred on Paulus, by radio, the coveted marshal’s baton. Some 117 other officers were jumped up a grade. It was a macabre gesture.
The end itself was anticlimactic. Late on the last day of January Paulus got off his final message to headquarters.
The Sixth Army, true to their oath and conscious of the lofty importance of their mission, have held their position to the last man and the last round for Fuehrer and Fatherland unto the end.
At 7:45 P.M. the radio operator at Sixth Army headquarters sent a last message on his own: “The Russians are at the door of our bunker. We are destroying our equipment.” He added the letters “CL”—the international wireless code signifying “This station will no longer transmit.”
There was no last-minute fighting at headquarters. Paulus and his staff did not hold out to the last man. A squad of Russians led by a junior officer peered into the commander in chief’s darkened hole in the cellar. The Russians demanded surrender and the Sixth Army’s chief of staff, General Schmidt, accepted. Paulus sat dejected on his camp bed. When Schmidt addressed him—“May I ask the Field Marshal if there is anything more to be said?”—Paulus was too weary to answer.
Farther north a small German pocket, containing all that was left of two panzer and four infantry divisions, still held out in the ruins of a tractor factory. On the night of February 1 it received a message from Hitler’s headquarters.
The German people expect you to do your duty exactly as did the troops holding the southern fortress. Every day and every hour that you continue to fight facilitates the building of a new front.
Just before noon on February 2, this group surrendered after a last message to the Supreme Commander: “… Have fought to the last man against vastly superior forces. Long live Germany!”
Silence at last settled on the snow-covered, blood-spattered shambles of the battlefield. At 2:46 P.M. on February 2 a German reconnaissance plane flew high over the city and radioed back: “No sign of any fighting at Stalingrad.”
By that time 91,000 German soldiers, including twenty-four generals, half-starved, frostbitten, many of them wounded, all of them dazed and broken, were hobbling over the ice and snow, clutching their blood-caked blankets over their heads against the 24-degrees-below-zero cold toward the dreary, frozen prisoner-of-war camps of Siberia. Except for some 20,000 Rumanians and the 29,000 wounded who had been evacuated by air they were all that was left of a conquering army that had numbered 285,000 men two months before. The rest had been slaughtered. And of those 91,000 Germans who began the weary march into captivity that winter day, only 5,000 were destined ever to see the Fatherland again.*
Meanwhile back in the well-heated headquarters in East Prussia the Nazi warlord, whose stubbornness and stupidity were responsible for this disaster, berated his generals at Stalingrad for not knowing how and when to die. The records of a conference held by Hitler at OKW with his generals on February 1 survive and shed enlightenment on the nature of the German dictator at this trying period in his life and that of his Army and country.
They have surrendered there—formally and absolutely. Otherwise they would have closed ranks, formed a hedgehog, and shot themselves with their last bullet … The man [Paulus] should have shot himself just as the old commanders who threw themselves on their swords when they saw that the cause was lost … Even Varus gave his slave the order: “Now kill me!”
Hitler’s venom toward Paulus for deciding to live became more poisonous as he ranted on.
You have to imagine: he’ll be brought to Moscow—and imagine that rat-trap there. There he will sign anything. He’ll make confessions, make proclamations—you’ll see. They will now walk down the slope of spiritual bankruptcy to its lowest depths … You’ll see—it won’t be a week before Seydlitz and Schmidt and even Paulus are talking over the radio† … They are going to be put into the Liublanka, and there the rats will eat them. How can one be so cowardly? I don’t understand it …
What is life? Life is the Nation. The individual must die anyway. Beyond the life of the individual is the Nation. But how can anyone be afraid of this moment of death, with which he can free himself from this misery, if his duty doesn’t chain him to this Vale of Tears. Na!
… So many people have to die, and then a man like that besmirches the heroism of so many others at the last minute. He could have freed himself from all sorrow and ascended into eternity and national immortality, but he prefers to go to Moscow! …
What hurts me most, personally, is that I still promoted him to field marshal. I wanted to give him this final satisfaction. That’s the last field marshal I shall appoint in this war. You mustn’t count your chickens before they’re hatched.27
There followed a brief exchange between Hitler and General Zeitzler on how to break the news of the surrender to the German people. On February 3, three days after the act, OKW issued a special communiqué:
The battle of Stalingrad has ended. True to their oath to fight to the last breath, the Sixth Army under the exemplary leadership of Field Marshal Paulus has been overcome by the superiority of the enemy and by the unfavorable circumstances confronting our forces.
The reading of the communiqué over the German radio was preceded by the roll of muffled drums and followed by the playing of the second movement of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Hitler proclaimed four days of national mourning. All theaters, movies and variety halls were closed until it was over.
Stalingrad, wrote Walter Goerlitz, the German historian, in his work on the General Staff, “was a second Jena and was certainly the greatest defeat that a German army had ever undergone.”28
But it was more than that. Coupled with El Alamein and the British-American landings in North Africa it marked the great turning point in World War II. The high tide of Nazi conquest which had rolled over most of Europe to the frontier of Asia on the Volga and in Africa almost to the Nile had now begun to ebb and it would never flow back again. The time of the great Nazi blitz offensives, with thousands of tanks and planes spreading terror in the ranks of the enemy armies and cutting them to pieces, had come to an end. There would be, to be sure, desperate local thrusts—at Kharkov in the spring of 1943, in the Ardennes at Christmas time in 1944—but they formed part of a defensive struggle which the Germans were to carry out with great tenacity and valor during the next two—and last—years of the war. The initiative had passed from Hitler’s hands, never to return. It was his enemies who seized it now, and held it. And not only on land but in the air. Already on the night of May 30, 1942, the British had carried out their first one-thousand-plane bombing of Cologne, and more followed on other cities during the eventful summer. For the first time the civilian German people, like the German soldiers at Stalingrad and El Alamein, were to experience the horrors which their armed forces had inflicted on others up to now.
And finally, in the snows of Stalingrad and in the burning sands of the North African desert, a great and terrible Nazi dream was destroyed. Not only was the Third Reich doomed by the disasters to Paulus and Rommel but also the gruesome and grotesque so-called New Order which Hitler and his S.S. thugs had been busy setting up in the conquered lands. Before we turn to the final chapter, the fall of the Third Reich, it might be well to pause and see what this New Order was like—in theory and in barbarous practice—and what this ancient and civilized continent of Europe barely escaped after a brief nightmare of experiencing its first horrors. It must necessarily be for this book, as it was for the good Europeans who lived through it, or were massacred before it ended, the darkest chapter of all in the history of the Third Reich.
* Among those retired, it will be recalled, were Field Marshal von Brauchitsch, the Commander in Chief of the Army, and Field Marshals von Rundstedt and von Bock, who led the southern and central army groups, respectively, and General Guderian, the genius of the panzer corps. The commander of the army group in the north, Field Marshal von Leeb, soon followed, being relieved of his post on January 18, 1942. The day before, Field Marshal von Reichenau, who had taken over Rundstedt’s command, died of a stroke. General Udet of the Luftwaffe shot himself to death on November 17, 1941. Moreover, some thirty-five corps and divisional commanders were replaced during the winter retreat.
This, of course, was only a beginning. Field Marshal von Manstein summed up at Nuremberg what happened to the generals when they started losing battles or finally got up enough courage to oppose Hitler. “Of seventeen field marshals,” he told the tribunal, “ten were sent home during the war and three lost their lives as a result of July 20, 1944 [the plot against Hitler—W.L.S.]. Only one field marshal managed to get through the war and keep his position. Of thirty-six full generals [Generalobersten] eighteen were sent home, and five died as a result of July 20 or were dishonorably discharged. Only three full generals survived the war in their positions.”1
* Lehndorff was executed by the Nazis on September 4, 1944.
* The Prussian King often complained about this malady, which he found hampered his mental facilities as well as his physical activities.
* Prince Wilhelm, the oldest son, had died of battle wounds in France on May 26, 1940.
* Jens Peter Jessen, a professor of economics at the University of Berlin, was one of the brains of the circle. He had become an ardent Nazi during the period between 1931 and 1933 and was one of the few genuine intellectuals in the party. He was quickly disillusioned after 1933 and soon became a fanatical anti-Nazi. Arrested for complicity in the July 20, 1944, plot against Hitler, he was executed at the Ploetzensee prison in Berlin in November of that year.
* Goebbels had seen Hitler a month before at headquarters and expressed shock in his diary at his ailing. “1 noted that he has already become quite gray … He told me he has had to fight off severe attacks of giddiness … The Fuehrer this time truly worries me.” He had, Goebbels added, a “physical revulsion against frost and snow … What worries and torments the Fuehrer most is that the country is still covered with snow …” (The Goebbels Diaries, pp. 131–37.)
* In a savage series of battles with the British in November and December 1941, Rommel’s forces had been driven back clear across Cyrenaica to the El Agheila line at its western borders. But bounding back with his customary resilience in January 1942, Rommel recaptured half of the ground lost, in a swift seventeen-day campaign which brought him back to El Gazala, from where the new drive of the end of May 1942 began.
* Hitler’s naming Rommel a field marshal the day after the capture of Tobruk caused Mussolini “much pain” because, as Ciano noted, it accentuated “the German character of the battle.” The Duce left immediately for Libya to grab some honors for himself, believing that he could enter Alexandria, Ciano says, “in fifteen days.” On July 2 he contacted Hitler by wire about “the question of the future political government of Egypt,” proposing Rommel as the military commander and an Italian as “civilian delegate.” Hitler replied that he did not consider the matter “urgent.” (Ciano Diaries, pp. 502–04.)
“Mussolini was waiting impatiently in Derna [behind the front],” General Fritz Bayerlein, chief of staff to Rommel, later recalled, “for the day when he might take the salute at a parade of Axis tanks beneath the shadow of the Pyramids.” (The Fatal Decisions, ed. Freidin and Richardson, p. 103.)
* According to General Bayerlein’s postwar testimony. He probably exaggerated his losses. Allied intelligence gave Rommel 125 tanks.
* This had taken place on February 11–12, 1942, and had caught the British by surprise. Only weak naval and aircraft forces were rounded up in time to attack the German fleet and they inflicted little damage. “Vice-Admiral Ciliax [who led the dash],” commented the Times of London, “has succeeded where the Duke of Medina Sidonia failed … Nothing more mortifying to the pride of sea power has happened in Home Waters since the 17th Century.”
* Kleist confirmed this to Liddell Hart: “The Fourth Panzer Army … could have taken Stalingrad without a fight at the end of July, but was diverted south to help me in crossing the Don. I did not need its aid, and it merely congested the roads I was using. When it turned north again a fortnight later the Russians had gathered just sufficient forces at Stalingrad to check it.” By that time Kleist needed the additional tank force. “We could have reached our goal [the Grozny oil] if my forces had not been drawn away … to help the attack on Stalingrad,” he added. (Liddell Hart, The German Generals Talk, pp. 169–71.)
* Halder relates that “quite by accident” he came across in the Ukraine about that time a book about Stalin’s defeat of General Denikin between the Don bend and Stalingrad during the Russian Civil War. He says the situation then was very similar to that of 1942 and that Stalin exploited “masterfully” Denikin’s weak defenses along the Don. “Hence,” he adds, “came the changing of the name of the city from ‘Tsaritsyn’ to ‘Stalingrad.’”
* The sacking of Halder was a loss not only to the Army but to historians of the Third Reich, for his invaluable diary ends on September 24, 1942. He was eventually arrested, placed in the concentration camp at Dachau along with such illustrious prisoners as Schuschnigg and Schacht and liberated by U.S. forces at Niederdorf, South Tyrol, on April 28, 1945. Since then, up to the time of writing, he has collaborated with the U.S. Army in a number of military historical studies of World War II. His generosity to this writer in answering queries and pointing out sources has already been noted.
† The faithful and fanatically loyal General Jodl, Chief of Operations at OKW, also was in Hitler’s doghouse at this time. He had opposed the sacking of Field Marshal List and General Halder and his defense of them sent Hitler into such a rage that for months he refused to shake hands with Jodl or dine with him or any other staff officer. Hitler was on the point of firing Jodl at the end of January 1943 and replacing him with General Paulus, but it was too late. Paulus, as we shall shortly see, was no longer available.
* Stumme, who was acting commander in the absence of Rommel, had died of a heart attack the first night of the British offensive while fleeing on foot over the desert from a British patrol that had almost captured him.
† The next day, November 4—after telling Bayerlein, “Hitler’s order is a piece of unparalleled madness. I can’t go along with this any longer”—General von Thoma donned a clean uniform, with the insignia of his rank and his decorations, stood by his burning tank until a British unit arrived, surrendered and in the evening dined with Montgomery at his headquarters mess.
* Rommel’s losses at El Alamein were 59,000 killed, wounded and captured, of whom 34,000 were Germans, out of a total force of 96,000 men.
* I learn from Hitler’s captured daily calendar book that the celebration had been moved from the old Buergerbräukeller, where the putsch had taken place, to a more elegant beer hall in Munich, the Loewenbräukeller. The Buergerbräukeller, it will be remembered, had been wrecked by a time bomb which had just missed killing the Fuehrer on the night of November 8, 1939.
* General Giraud at that moment was arriving in Algiers. He had escaped from a German POW camp and settled in the south of France, where he was taken off by a British submarine on November 5 and brought to Gibraltar to confer with Eisenhower just before the landings.
† “During the night,” Ciano wrote in his diary on November 9, “Ribbentrop telephoned. Either the Duce or I must go to Munich as soon as possible. Laval will also be there. I wake up the Duce. He is not very anxious to leave, especially since he is not feeling very well. I shall go.”
* It is only fair to point out that Hitler strongly suspected, not without reason, that the French fleet might try to sail for Algeria and join the Allies. Despite his treacherous dealings with the Germans and his violent hatred of the British, Admiral Darlan, who happened to be visiting an ailing son at Algiers, had been pressed into service by Eisenhower as French commander in North Africa not only because he seemed to be the only officer who could get the French Army and Navy to cease resisting the Anglo–American landings but also in the hope that he could get the admiral commanding in Tunisia to oppose the German landings there and also induce the French fleet in Toulon to make a dash for North Africa. The hopes proved vain, although Darlan tried. To his message ordering Admiral de Laborde to bring the fleet over from Toulon he received an answer in one expressive—if indelicate—word: “Merde.” (See the Procès du M. Pétain.)
* Some 125,000 Germans, according to General Eisenhower, out of a total of 240,000 Axis troops, the rest being Italian. This number includes only those who surrendered during the last week of the campaign—May 5 to 12, 1943. (Crusade in Europe, p. 156.)
* In his postwar memoirs, Field Marshal von Manstein says that on December 19, in disobedience to Hitler’s orders, he actually directed the Sixth Army to begin to break out of Stalingrad to the southwest and make a junction with the Fourth Panzer Army. He publishes the text of the directive. But it contained certain reservations and Paulus, who still was under orders from Hitler not to break out, must have been greatly confused by it. “This,” declares Manstein, “was our one and only chance of saving the Sixth Army.” (Manstein, Lost Victories, pp. 336–41, 562–63.)
* According to the figure given by the Bonn government in 1958. Many of the prisoners died during an epidemic of typhus in the following spring.
† Hitler was correct in his forecast, except for the timing. By July of the following summer Paulus and Seydlitz, who became the leaders of the so-called National Committee of Free Germany, did take to the air over the Moscow radio to urge the Army to eliminate Hitler.