Military history

The Sword of Stalingrad

In November 1943, one year after Operation Uranus, a Douglas transport plane flew low over Stalingrad. The Soviet diplomats on board were on their way from Moscow to meet the American and the British leaders at Tehran. One of the passengers was Valentin Berezhkov, who had been Dekanozov’s interpreter in Berlin on the eve of Barbarossa.

‘We pressed to the windows in silence,’ he wrote later. ‘First individual houses scattered in the snow came into view, and then a kind of unbelievable chaos began: lumps of walls, boxes of half-ruined buildings, piles of rubble, isolated chimneys.’ They could, however, distinguish signs of life. ‘Visible against the snow were the black figures of people and every now and then there was evidence of new buildings.’ Out over the steppe again, they spotted the rusty skeletons of tanks.

At the Tehran conference, Churchill presented the Sword of Stalingrad to ‘the Soviet people’. The blade bore the engraved dedication: ‘To the steelhearted citizens of Stalingrad, a gift from King George VI as a token of the homage of the British people.’ Churchill made the ceremony memorable by his oratory. Stalin, who accepted the sword with both hands, lifted it to his lips to kiss the scabbard. He then passed it to Marshal Voroshilov, who clumsily let the sword slide out of the scabbard. It clattered loudly on the floor.

That evening, Stalin raised his glass after dinner. ‘I propose a salute’, he said, ‘to the swiftest possible justice for all Germany’s war criminals… I drink to our unity in dispatching them as fast as we catch them, all of them, and there must be quite a few of them.’ Some sources say that he proposed the execution of 50,000 Wehrmacht officers to destroy German military power for good. Churchill stood up angrily and declared that the British people would never ‘stand for such mass murder’. Nobody should be shot without a proper trial. He walked out. Stalin, amused at the reaction he had provoked, went after him. Placing both hands on his shoulders, he claimed that he had been joking and cajoled Churchill into returning.

The Tehran conference determined Allied strategy for the rest of the war. Churchill’s plan for an invasion through the Balkans was vetoed for sound military reasons. The Western Allies’ main effort had to be devoted to north-west Europe. But this strategic logic left the fate of eastern and central Europe entirely in Stalin’s hands. Churchill, with a strong inkling of the consequences, could do nothing. Red Army sacrifices and the terrible suffering of Russian civilians allowed Stalin to manipulate the Western Allies through a sort of blood guilt because their losses had been minimal in comparison. Several historians charting the Soviet Union’s rise to superpower status have rightly pointed to the victory at Stalingrad as the basis for Stalin’s success at Tehran.

Stalin, capitalizing on his new aura of great statesman, and as a deliberate sop to Roosevelt, had announced the abolition of the Comintern on 15 May 1943. It was an easy pawn to pretend to sacrifice. Georgi Dimitrov stayed in place, running a rump Comintern under a different name: the International Section of the Central Committee. Meanwhile, the Soviet victory at Stalingrad had been the greatest boost imaginable to Communist propaganda throughout the world. It was an inspiration even to those who had lost their faith after the Stalinist inquisition in the Spanish Civil War or the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939. The story roused left-wing sculptors, painters, novelists and poets, such as Pablo Neruda, who in his Nuevo Canto de Amor a Stalingrado wrote a poem of international love to a city whose name had brought hope to the world.


For the German prisoners captured at Stalingrad, the future was correspondingly bleak. Some, still dreaming of great counter-attacks which would free them, became convinced at night that they could hear the guns of an advancing army. They were the least likely to survive the years ahead in the prisoner-of-war camps, constructed according to NKVD standards with perimeter fences consisting of ten horizontal strands of barbed wire.

Captivity was almost as uncertain a fate as fighting. It also had its share of the ironies of war. Dibold, the Austrian doctor from the 44th Infantry Division, was astonished when three new patients reached his prison hospital. This trio, who looked Jewish, wore German uniforms with eagles and swastikas. One of them smiled at his confusion. ‘Doctor, the miracle of the twentieth century: a Jew as one of Adolf Hitler’s soldiers.’ They were from a Hungarian labour battalion. Their Russian captors had clothed them from captured stores.

Although prison camp rations had improved in the summer of 1943, they were still uneven, varying from camp to camp. Rations were often stolen by corrupt quartermasters who exchanged them for vodka, or by guards whose own families received little more than the German prisoners. Most of the ill-treatment came from a lack of imagination, monumental incompetence, and above all, that Russian tolerance of suffering which Marxist-Leninist doctrine had managed to exploit so successfully. Nothing, however, was predictable. Prisoners testified how guards, on seeing a photograph of their children, would soften. At a prison hospital outside Stalingrad, after inmates had become used to the idea of men being shot or left to die on the march, Russian guards inexplicably spared three prisoners recaptured after a futile attempt to escape.

Even when conditions improved in the spring of 1943, the death rate in most prison hospitals was at least one per cent per day. The problems were still enormous, especially in the Stalingrad region, with pellagra, tuberculosis, dropsy and scurvy added to the other diseases. A Soviet woman doctor told her German counterparts that Stalingrad civilians were suffering more from scurvy than the German prisoners, but she gave permission for foraging parties to be sent out to collect herbs and other greenstuff, from which the German doctors, in their dispensary, made vitamin concentrates. The inventiveness of prisoner-of-war doctors produced brilliant improvisations. One created out of scrap metal a sphygmomanometer for testing blood pressure. Doctors manufactured their own inoculation against typhus, which consisted of injecting an extract of lice guts. Any article of silk was unpicked to provide surgical thread and scalpels were made out of sharpened tin lids.

Prisoners, suddenly transformed into an underclass, had to learn quickly. They pilfered and fashioned numerous ingenious gadgets. They also learned to make the most of their rations, for example, roasting fish bones from the soup on the stove, and then crushing them up. Some made terrible mistakes. At Ilmen, prisoners reduced to eating reeds and water-hemlock died rapidly as a result. And one prisoner who managed to grab a handful of butter in the kitchen died in agony because his stomach was so unused to fats.

The bad diet on top of the weeks of starvation in the Kessel was the main reason for patients in the prison hospitals failing to recover. They lost nearly all their hair, and their neck muscles became too feeble to raise their heads. Those dying shunned the daylight, as if preparing themselves for perpetual darkness.

Death could often be a deliverance, almost like sleep for the exhausted. A number slipped away quite suddenly, just when doctors thought them over the worst. Sick men would share beds for warmth, even though a number woke up to find themselves next to a corpse. Some had succumbed rapidly. Helmuth Groscurth died of typhus on 7 April 1943 in the officers’ camp of Frolovo where 4,000 inmates died out of 5,000. It was three years before his family received news of his death. Kurt Reuber died on 20 January 1944, in Yelabuga camp only a few weeks after he had drawn another Madonna for Christmas with the same words: ‘Light, Life, Love’.

A few, after having survived the worst, suddenly killed themselves unexpectedly. In a prison hospital, one officer woke to find a friend in the next bed sitting up motionless. He had managed to kill himself by ‘thrusting a long thin shard of glass from a broken window straight up into the heart’.

Even the comparatively healthy had little hope of surviving. Their rations – such as unground millet which ran right through the stomach – gave them little strength for the heavy work which the NKVD intended to extract from them through Stakhanovite work programmes. Materialism, as one of them put it, meant that ‘man was just another material’ to be used and discarded. Prisoners were used as pack animals. They first had to build their own camps in almost virgin forest. They were not allowed huts, but underground bunkers, which flooded in spring and autumn. Once the camp was established, their life was one of heavy labour, cutting and dragging timber, and sometimes peat-cutting for winter fuel. Those kept in the Stalingrad area, rebuilding the city and recovering sunken ships from the Volga, were later put to work, along with other Gulag prisoners, digging that Stalinist showpiece, the Volga-Don canal.

Soon after its triumph at Stalingrad, the Soviet state made plans to undermine the Nazi regime and replace it with a puppet Communist state. Prisoners of all ranks were to be divided into ‘anti-fascists’ and ‘fascists’.

In the spring and summer of 1943, senior officers were moved from a camp at Krasnogorsk to the monastery at Suzdal, and then to what became their semi-permanent base: Camp 48 at Voikovo, an old inn and health spa, which was dubbed ‘the Castle’, because of its relative luxury. The NKVD moved the implacable Schmidt away from Paulus, because he was seen as a bad influence.

The NKVD department in charge of prisoners of war first organized an umbrella organization, the National Committee for Free Germany. To run it, Beria’s men used their tame German Communists. Two months later, another group, the League of German Officers, was set up to attract anti-Nazis unwilling to support the National Committee.

Major-General Melnikov, the vice-chief of the department, controlled these activities. Although very much part of Beria’s empire, Melnikov also worked closely with the International Section of the Central Committee. Dmitry Manuilsky, Stalin’s former spy on the Comintern with special responsibility for German affairs, had been given another watching brief, which may explain his curious visit to Stalingrad during the latter part of the battle, when Chuikov refused him permission to cross to the west bank.

On 19 August 1943, three Stalingrad generals, Seydlitz, Lattmann and Korfes, who had been identified from interrogations as likely collaborators, were taken from Voikovo to a ‘re-education centre’ at Lunovo. Seydlitz appears to have been emotionally overwhelmed by what he believed was a collective change of heart of many officers, all wanting to save Germany from the Hitlerian apocalypse. He saw himself as their natural leader.

Early in September, Melnikov sent Seydlitz, Korfes and Lattmann back to Voikovo to win over the other Stalingrad generals. Their arrival late at night brought the generals out of their rooms in their pyjamas, intrigued to hear what all the excitement was about. But when Seydlitz announced melodramatically that this was the day of the ‘new Tauroggen’, General Strecker turned away angrily. And next day, when Seydlitz and Lattmann urged them to join in calling for a revolt against Hitler’s regime, Strecker, Sixt von Arnim, Roden-burg and Pfeffer accused them angrily of treason. Seydlitz and his colleagues did, however, win over Generals Edler von Daniels, Drebber and Schlömer.

Seydlitz, in his moral outrage against Hitler and conviction that they had to join the tide of history to save Germany, failed to recognize the dangers. They had left their opposition to the Nazi regime so late that the Allies would never listen to them or give them any say in the fate of their country. Meanwhile, their organizers (he does not even appear to have realized that Melnikov belonged to the NKVD) would simply exploit them for Soviet interests.

Soviet documents show that on 17 September 1943 Seydlitz, as president of the League of German Officers, presented a plan to General Melnikov which proposed raising an army corps of 30,000 men from those captured at Stalingrad. ‘According to Seydlitz’s idea,’ Melnikov reported back to Beria, ‘this corps will be the base for the new government after Hitler is overthrown.’

‘Seydlitz’, Melnikov added, ‘considers himself a candidate for the job of chief commander of the armed forces of Free Germany in the future.’ He apparently also promised to prepare a plan for a press and radio propaganda campaign, ‘sending men to the German rear to win over formation commanders to our side and to organize joint action against Hitler’s regime’. Seydlitz would send messages to ‘his personal friends, the commander of the Central Front, von Kluge, and General Thomas who is responsible for Hitler’s headquarters staff’.

Seydlitz, accompanied by Generals Lattmann and Korfes, and Colonel Günter van Hooven, presented his plan on 22 September. He expected the Soviet authorities to help them form ‘a small army from prisoners of war which could be used by a new German government to seize power.’ They called for one army staff, two corps staffs, four full divisions, and a supporting aviation force with three bomber squadrons, four fighter squadrons and an air reconnaissance group: in all seven generals, 1,650 officers and 42,000 soldiers. Seydlitz appears to have had no idea of the death rate of Stalingrad prisoners after the surrender.

At a subsequent meeting, Seydlitz recommended ‘that all the contingents should be flown into Germany, perhaps Berlin’. The NKVD officer present pointed out ‘the technical difficulties of flying such a number of troops into Germany but von Seydlitz replied that it was up to the Russians to sort out the details’. General Korfes, however, did not conceal his exasperation with such a pipe dream. ‘It’s utterly Utopian’, he said, ‘to think that all the units could be carried by air.’ He added: ‘Russian air force commanders would consider such a proposal to be proof that German generals are fantasists.’*

Seydlitz appears to have been oblivious to the anger and ill-feelings which he and his colleagues stirred up. Officers bitterly opposed to the anti-fascists set up a court of honour, sentencing those who collaborated with the Russians to be shunned in perpetuity. As a gesture of defiance, they began to use the raised-hand salute. This polarization made life very hard for those who wanted nothing to do either with ‘anti-fascists’ or with Hitler loyalists. One lieutenant found himself forced to sleep on the floor for weeks because the rival groups would not allow him a bunk.

In February 1944, Russian aircraft started dropping leaflets over Germany and front-line troops, signed by Seydlitz and his colleagues. The Gestapo provided an urgent report for Himmler verifying that Seydlitz’s signature was genuine. General Gille of the Waffen SS, whose troops in the Cherkassy salient were showered with leaflets from the National Committee, sent copies back to Germany. He also passed back personal letters addressed to him from Generals Seydlitz and Korfes, who had been sent to his part of the front by Shcherbakov. The handwriting was again analysed by the Gestapo and confirmed as accurate.

The leaflets caused panic. Hitler summoned Himmler for a meeting, then sent General Schmundt off with a declaration of loyalty for field marshals to sign. Even this was not enough to reassure him. On 19 March, Rundstedt, Rommel, Kleist, Busch, Weichs and Manstein were summoned from their duties to the Berghof to read out a message condemning General von Seydlitz-Kurzbach, ‘the contemptible traitor to our holy cause’, and emphasizing their support for Hitler.

Melnikov’s department, on the other hand, started to have doubts. Recruitment had tailed away, while the propaganda efforts had not won over a single major unit, even when the Wehrmacht was suffering massive defeats. Seydlitz attributed ‘the absence of significant success’ to ‘the lack of inclination in Germans for revolution, a system of police violence and the complete suppression of opinion, the absence of any capable resistance organization, and the total fear of defeat and its consequences, fanned for so long by the fear of bolshevism’. Despite these failures, he still wanted the Soviet Union to ‘recognize officially’ the National Committee as a government in waiting. But Dmitry Manuilsky, in a typically Stalinist twist, warned that Seydlitz’s memorandum, ‘compiled in a devious way’, was a ‘provocative attempt’ to ‘exacerbate our relations with our allies’. ‘There is no doubt’, he wrote, ‘that the recognition of the National Committee by the Soviet government would provoke in Great Britain and the United States a whole campaign directed to show the position of the Soviet Union as pro-German.’ The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact clearly cast long shadows in Soviet memories. Manuilsky suspected that Seydlitz was being manipulated by General Rodenburg and the ‘former military intelligence chief, Colonel van Hooven (who was in fact a signals officer).

Stalinist paranoia became worse. In May 1944, Weinert, the President of the National Committee, sent three German officers to the Leningrad Front to carry out propaganda for the Red Army. Two of the officers, Captain Stolz and Lieutenant Willimzig, refused to do what they were ordered. They were brought back to Moscow under close escort to be interrogated by Weinert, Ulbricht, General von Seydlitz and General Lattmann. After four days they are said to have confessed to being ‘members of an illegal fascist organization inside the League of German Officers’. Both men were arrested by the NKVD as double agents working for the Nazis, and taken away for further interrogation. Other German officers, including General Rodenburg, were arrested and ‘confessed’ in their turn. Manuilsky, pretending that his earlier suspicions of a plot were now justified, immediately gave the order that all German officers should be removed from propaganda duties at the front. Clearly Stalin had decided that these unsuccessful efforts were simply not worth provoking any trouble with the Western Allies at such a stage of the war, when he needed all their help.

Seydlitz at this time suffered bouts of severe depression. In an attempt to bolster his morale, NKVD officers organized a birthday cake for him with four red marzipan roses to represent his four daughters. But like all manic-depressives, he also underwent irrational bursts of optimism. The assassination attempt against Hitler on 20 July may have been a failure, but the ensuing Gestapo repression revealed the degree of opposition within the German Army at home. Even Strecker, on hearing of the execution of Field Marshal von Witzleben, was persuaded to sign an appeal against Hitler, but he still despised Seydlitz.

On 8 August 1944, Beria reported triumphantly to Stalin that Paulus had finally signed a declaration to the German people. Paulus’s subsequent appeal to Army Group North to surrender was entirely drafted by the NKVD ‘on Comrade Shcherbakov’s instructions’, and signed on 21 August by Paulus and twenty-nine captured generals.

Paulus’s declarations triggered Hitler’s rage again at having made him a field marshal. The Führer’s suspicion that he would give in to his Soviet captors appeared to be confirmed. Yet clearly, Paulus, after nearly a year and a half of imprisonment, had not made his decision on the spur of the moment. His son Friedrich, a captain, had been killed at Anzio in February 1944, and he had no doubt come to see his duty differently. He wanted to help shorten a lost war and diminish the number of senseless deaths. His other son, Ernst Alexander, also a captain, was subsequently arrested under the Sippenhaft decree. That autumn, their Romanian mother, Elena Constance Paulus, who had always distrusted the Nazis, was told by Gestapo officers that she would be spared if she renounced his name. She is said to have turned her back on them scornfully. She was arrested and held in a camp.

Paulus, cut off from reliable news, requested meetings with a member of the Central Committee ‘who could explain the principles of Soviet policy towards a conquered Germany’. He ‘and the other generals held prisoner bore a heavy responsibility calling for the overthrow of Hitler’s government, and therefore had a moral right to know the position of the Soviet government towards Germany’.

He expressed his hopes that Germany might be saved from annihilation during a series of interviews in February 1945, with Lieutenant-General Krivemko, the chief of the NKVD Department for Prisoners of War, and Amyak Zakharovich Kobulov, who ran the Third Directorate of the Ministry of State Security. (Kobulov, the NKVD resident in Berlin just before the launch of Operation Barbarossa, had operated Dekanozov’s torture and execution chamber within the Soviet Embassy.) ‘It should be mentioned’, Krivemko and Kobulov wrote in their report to Beria, ‘that with military operations carried on to German territory, the mood among German general prisoners of war is severely depressed. General of Artillery von Seydlitz was greatly upset by news of the meeting of leaders of the Three Powers [at Yalta]. Seydlitz declared that Germany looked as though it was going to be divided between the USA, Great Britain, the USSR and France. Germany will be left in shreds and the best way out would be to join the USSR “as the seventeenth Soviet Republic”.’

When news of Germany’s unconditional surrender broke in Moscow on 9 May 1945, and a thousand-gun salute boomed out monotonously from the Kremlin, Strecker recorded how he and his colleagues suffered ‘spiritual depression… listening to the victorious Russian announcements and the songs of drunken Soviet soldiers’.

For Russians, on the other hand, it was the proud yet sad end of a nightmare which had begun almost four years before and cost the Red Army nearly 9 million dead and 18 million wounded. (Only 1.8 million prisoners of war returned alive out of more than 4.5 million taken by the Wehrmacht.) Civilian casualties are much harder to assess, but they are thought to run to nearly 18 million, bringing the total war dead of the Soviet Union to over 26 million, more than five times the total of German war dead.

In 1946, Paulus appeared as a witness at the Nuremberg tribunal. The Soviet Press referred to him as ‘the ghost of Stalingrad’. Afterwards, he was lodged in a villa in Moscow, where he played cards and wrote his version of events. He had aged rapidly and his tic was worse than ever. In 1947 his wife died in Baden-Baden, without having seen her husband again. One can only speculate as to her feelings about the disaster which the battle of Stalingrad signified for Romania, the country of her birth, as well as for her own family.

In November 1947, when the Cold War was rapidly intensifying, the Soviet authorities decided that those deemed guilty of war crimes under the ukase of 13 April 1943, ‘irrespective of their physical condition’, would be sent on forced labour to Vorkhuta at the northern end of the Urals. Former members of the SA, the SS, camp guards, the Secret Field Police and the Feldgendarmerie – in some cases even the Hitler Youth – were transferred to ‘special regime’ camps. The definition of war crimes extended from atrocities against civilians to the looting of chickens and fodder for horses.

As the future structure of the German Democratic Republic (the DDR) began to be assembled in the Soviet-occupied zone of Germany, some senior officers from Stalingrad, including Lattmann, Korfes, Müller and Steidle were allotted roles, several joining the Volkspolizei. General Arno von Lenski’s conversion to Communism led to his being chosen as a member of the Politburo. Colonel Adam, still a fellow traveller, was appointed to a post in the tame Social Unity Party. General von Seydlitz, however, lost out in every direction.

In 1949, another wave of Stalinist purges swept the Soviet Union. German prisoners of war suddenly faced manufactured ‘war crimes’ trials. The Cold War, following the siege of West Berlin, was at its most volatile stage. The fighter ace, Erich Hartmann, was charged with destroying aircraft, the property of the Soviet government. General Strecker was taken back to Stalingrad, where a court martial found him guilty of destroying the tractor factory, even though his corps had been nowhere near the place until the very end of the battle, by which time it had long been a ruin. Like the majority accused in this wave, he received a death sentence, automatically commuted to twenty-five years’ imprisonment. Lieutenant Gottfried von Bismarck was condemned to twenty-five years’ hard labour because Russian prisoners of war had worked on his family’s estate in Pomerania. In July 1950, the thoroughly disillusioned and embittered General von Seydlitz was arrested and sentenced to twenty-five years’ imprisonment as a war criminal and ‘revanchist reactionary general’.

Less controversial prisoners found peace of a sort, often thanks to the compassion of Russian women. In some cases, it formed part of an old tradition. Past the prison camp of Kamshkovo, between Moscow and Gorky, ran the Vladimirskaya, the old road along which tsarist exiles were marched to Siberia. Peasants had come out to give them water or even to carry their burdens along the road for them. A similar humanity, untouched by ideology, still existed.

The Austrian doctor, Hans Dibold, was deeply moved by the sympathy of Russians when one of their most respected medical officers, Dr Richard Speiler, from the Weizsäcker hospital in Heidelberg, fell ill suddenly in the early spring of 1946. He had survived typhus, typhoid and diphtheria in the Ilmen camp. His colleagues were convinced at first that he had malaria. In fact it was blood poisoning picked up during his work. His colleagues were tormented by the idea that their misdiagnosis was leading to his death. They gave him sulphonamides and the last of their penicillin. The two Russian dispensary assistants also handed over the last of their penicillin, which had been allocated for Russian patients, but he died just the same.

The hospital cemetery was approached by a track with low pines and juniper bushes on each side. Behind lay the forest. The Russian doctors paid their respects and the commandant allowed Speiler’s colleagues to organize his funeral in the forest cemetery exactly as they wished. Speiler had returned to the Christian faith in his last few days. The Russian doctors, paying no heed to the possible reactions of a commissar, also attended the funeral service, conducted by a tall, frail pastor. For survivors of the Sixth Army present that day, the service ‘was valid not only for the one dead man there, but for all who lay outside, and all those others far to the south, in Stalingrad and in the steppe between the Don and the Volga, and whom no Christian word had accompanied to their last rest’.

Since 1945, some 3,000 or so of the Stalingrad prisoners had been released, either individually or in batches and allowed home, usually because they were deemed unfit for labour. In 1955 there were still 9,626 German prisoners of war, or ‘convicted war criminals’ as Khrushchev described them, of whom some 2,000 were survivors of Stalingrad. These prisoners were finally set free after Chancellor Konrad Adenauer’s visit to Moscow in September 1955. They included Generals Strecker, Seydlitz, Schmidt and Rodenburg, and Lieutenant Gottfried von Bismarck, who, almost thirteen years before, had flown into the Kessel to rejoin his unit after that dinner with Field Marshal von Manstein. Just to have survived, he wrote, was ‘sufficient reason to be thankful in the face of fate’.

Seydlitz, when their journey ended in Friedland bei Göttingen, knew that he faced a difficult future in the atmosphere of the Cold War. In April 1944, he had been condemned in absentia as a traitor, and all his possessions were confiscated. This ruling was overturned by a court in 1956, but the new Bundeswehr refused to restore his rank and pension. The fact that he had cooperated with the Communist enemy put him, in the eyes of many, in a different league from those officers who tried to assassinate Hitler, even though General Achim Oster, one of the few survivors of the July Plot, recognized Seydlitz as belonging to their ranks. He died, like his cavalry ancestor, ‘a very unhappy man’.

As the historical events were raked over in the post-war years, the mutual recriminations over responsibility for the sacrifice of the Sixth Army became increasingly bitter. Schmidt, who contrary to Hitler’s expectations had always refused to cooperate with his captors, remained ferociously hostile to officers in the Free Germany movement. Colonel Adam, who had accused him of forcing Paulus to fight to the end, was treated witheringly in return as a ‘pensioner of the Soviet-occupied zone’.

Paulus, in East Germany, tried vainly to defend himself from accusations of having been subservient to Hitler and indecisive. After his release from captivity in the autumn of 1953, he lived in the Soviet zone, where he wrote paper after paper explaining the situation he had faced. A long, painful illness led to his death in Dresden in 1957. His body was brought to the west, and buried next to that of his wife, in Baden-Baden.

His opponent at Stalingrad, General Chuikov, whose 62nd Army had followed the long road to Berlin as the 8th Guards Army, became commander of the occupation forces, a Marshal of the Soviet Union and deputy minister of defence under Khrushchev, who had appointed him on that September night of crisis by the Volga. The thousands of Soviet soldiers executed at Stalingrad on his orders never received a marked grave. As statistics, they were lost among the other battle casualties, which has a certain unintended justice.


1. (Previous page) Autumn 1941. Soviet prisoners of war being herded to the rear.


2. July 1942. German infantry marching towards Stalingrad.


3. A village destroyed in the advance.


4. German tanks on the Don steppe.


5. August 1942. German artillery outside Stalingrad.


6. Dr Alois Beck, chaplain of the 297th Infantry Division, writing letters for the wounded.


7. Paulus, Hitler, Keitel, Haider and Brauchitsch at the Wolfsschanze, near Rastenburg.


8. September 1942. Tanks of the 24th Panzer Division advancing into the outskirts of Stalingrad.


9. September 1942. Red Army tank troops listening to a speech from Khrushchev before going into battle.


10. The view which greeted Russian reinforcements about to cross the Volga into battle.


11. German officer and soldiers attacking factory buildings in northern Stalingrad.


12. Russian infantry defending.


13. October 1942. Round-up of Stalingrad civilians.


14. 62nd Army HQ. Krylov, Chuikov, Gurov and Rodimtsev.


15. (Overleaf) Red Army assault squad in the ‘Stalingrad Academy of street-fighting’.


16. (Previous page) One of Chuikov’s divisional commanders during the battle, with a young woman signaller.


17. October 1942. German infantry occupying a destroyed workshop in the factory district.


18. ‘Noble Sniper’ Zaitsev (left) from the Siberian 284th Rifle Division explains the doctrine of ‘sniperism’.



19 and 20. November 1942. Operation Uranus: the encirclement of the Sixth Army.


21. Junkers 52 transport taking off.


22. December 1942. German artillery from Hoth’s Fourth Panzer Army after the failure of Operation Winter Storm to relieve the Sixth Army.


23. Trapped Sixth Army soldiers retrieve parachute canisters.


24. 10 January 1943. General Rokossovsky awaits the opening barrage for Operation Ring to crush the Kessel.


25. 11 January 1943. German infantry retreating through a blizzard.


26. 28 January 1943. General Edler von Daniels marches into captivity past the body of one of his soldiers.


27. 30 January 1943. Goering on the tenth anniversary of Hitler’s assumption of power, having just broadcast ‘the funeral oration’ of the Sixth Army.


28. 31 January 1943. Field Marshal Paulus and General Schmidt at 64th Army HQ after surrendering.


29. A German soldier booted and prodded out of a bunker.


30. Remnants of the Sixth Army marched off to captivity.


31. German and Romanian prisoners.

If you find an error please notify us in the comments. Thank you!