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Stalingrad: After The Battle

The more famous images (Such as Paulus surrendering) have been wilfully avoided

The ones who survived and surrendered. The remnants of German Sixth Army. Some 90,000 German soldiers surrendered out of which only 6000 returned to Germany after the war.


On January 31 Hitler showered promotions on the officers. Paulus was promoted to field marshal. This was a purely Hitlerian ploy, designed to persuade Paulus to commit suicide, because as everyone knew, no German field marshal had ever surrendered.

But that day Paulus surrendered to a Russian lieutenant who came into the 6th Army headquarters. He was taken away in a car to the headquarters of General Mikhail Shumilov, commander of the Soviet 64th Army. There he was offered food from an enormous buffet, but refused to eat until he had been assured that his men would receive rations and medical care.



While the Russians were promising these things, other Russians in Stalingrad were cleaning up the ruins. They set fire to the old Soviet military garrison building which the Germans had converted to a hospital. Hundreds of wounded were burned to death. Russian soldiers wandered around the town taking prisoners and stripping them of their valuables. In a cellar north of Red Square fifty German wounded were doused with gasoline and turned into human torches.


Dead frozen German soldiers at Stalingrad (Click to enlarge image)


One of the German soldiers in Stalingrad radioed, "We are the last seven survivors in this place. Four of us are wounded. We have been entrenched in the wreckage of the tractor factory for four days. We have not had any food for four days. I have just opened the last magazine for my automatic. In ten minutes the Bolsheviks will overrun us. Tell my father that I have done my duty, and that I shall know how to die. Long live Germany. Heil Hitler."
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The days of the German surrender at Stalingrad, January 31 and February 1, 1943, were days of resurgence for the Red Army, and everyone in Russia knew it. They had captured a German field marshal and twenty German generals. No German field marshal had ever been captured before—by anybody in the world! The Red Army claimed now to have overnight become the greatest fighting machine in existence.

Stalin declared himself to be a Marshal of the Soviet Union and began wearing a marshal's uniform, which he did thereafter for the rest of his life. He claimed a lion's share of the credit for the victory at Stalingrad.

--------------------------------------------



A group of foreign war correspondents was brought to Stalingrad after the surrender. They met several Soviet correspondents who had witnessed the fighting. One of them, who had been in Gumrak during the fighting, told them about it:


The biggest slaughter of Germans ever. The place is just littered with thousands of them; we got them well encircled, and our katyushas let fly. God, what a massacre! And there are thousands and thousands of lorries and cars, most of them dumped in the ravines; they had neither the time nor the means to destroy them, and thousands of guns. . . . Sixty or seventy percent of the lorries and guns can be repaired and used again. . . .



Another survivor talked of Pitomnik airfield:



The place is now littered with thousands of dead frozen Fritzes. Before the war Pitomnik was a wonderful fruit tree nursery, the finest apple, pear and cherry trees were grown there; now everything is destroyed. He told of finding there a camp for Russian prisoners:



Open air, with barbed wire round it. It was dreadful. There were originally 1400 men there, whom the Germans forced to work on fortifications. Only 102 survived. You might say the Germans had nothing to eat themselves, but the starvation of the prisoners began long before the encirclement. . . .Correspondent Alexander Werth was one of the visitors. He wrote:



It wasn't quite what I had expected. For a moment I was dazzled by the sun shining on the snow. We were in one of those Garden Cities which the Russians had lost in September. . . . Most of the cottages and trees had been completely smashed. To the right, in the distance, there were large imposing looking blocks of five or six story buildings; they were in reality the shells of the buildings of central Stalingrad. . . . On the left, a couple of miles away, there rose a large number of enormously high factory chimneys; one had the impression that there was over there, a live industrial town, but under the chimneys there was nothing but the ruins of the Tractor Plant. Chimneys are hard to hit, and these were standing, seemingly untouched. . . .



They traveled down toward the Volga past smashed warehouses and railroad buildings. A few frozen Germans were still lying by the roadside. They crossed the rail line and saw railway cars and engines piled on top of each other. The oil tanks, high and cylindrical, were crumpled like cardboard and riddled with shell holes. On the other side of the road they saw a honeycomb of trenches and dugouts and shell holes; beyond was the road, and before them was the road, and before them was the Volga, white and icebound. The temperature was forty below.


February 1, 1943. Soviet soldiers atop a captured German Panzer 4 tank.


They walked down the main street of Stalingrad, running south, between enormous blocks of burned-out buildings toward the other square. In the middle of the pavement they saw a dead German who was running when the shell hit him. His legs still seemed to be running, though one was cut off by the shell, and splintered white bone stuck out through the flesh. The face was a bloody frozen mess, and beside it was a frozen pool of blood.

They went to the Univermag department store, all the upper floors burned out, where General Paulus had surrendered, and they crossed the square to the yard of the Red Army House. Here they had a glimpse of the last days of Stalingrad for the Germans.



In the porch lay the skeleton of a horse, with only a few scraps of meat still clinging to its ribs. Then we came into the yard. Here lay more horses' skeletons and, to the right, there was an enormous horrible cesspool—fortunately frozen solid. And then suddenly at the far end I caught sight of a human figure. He had been crouching over another cesspool, and now, noticing us, he was hastily pulling up his pants, and then he slunk away into the door of a basement. But as he passed, I caught a glimpse of the wretch's face—with its mixture of suffering and idiot-like incomprehension. For a moment I wished the whole of Germany were there to see it. The man was perhaps already dying. In that basement into which he had slunk there were perhaps still two hundred Germans. . . .

The Russians had not yet had time to deal with them. Correspondent Werth's mind leaped back to photographs of Hitler "smirking as he stood on the steps of the Madeleine in Paris and the weary days of '38 and '39 when a jittery Europe would tune in to Berlin and hear Hitler's yells accompanied by the cannibal roar of the German mob. And there seemed a rough but divine justice in those frozen cesspools with their diarrhea, and their horses' bones, and those starved yellow corpses in the yard of the Red Army House at Stalingrad."


A German Heinkel 111 bomber which crashed into Stalingrad. Images 1943


When the Russians sprang their trap in the bend of the Don on November 19, 1942, they caught 330,000 Axis soldiers in it. Units of Germans, Italians, Hungarians, Romanians, and Croatians were surrounded and decimated, and the survivors were made prisoner. Very few of them ever saw their homeland again.

When the Battle of Stalingrad ended in February 1943, ninety-one thousand soldiers, mostly Germans, marched out of the city of Stalingrad to captivity. In the first few weeks of their captivity they were treated without sympathy and thousands died. Tens of thousands had died of hunger earlier, and more died under the Russians. But the major reason for the deaths was typhus. The disease the German doctors had noticed before the capitulation reached epidemic proportions, and fifty thousand men died of it. Later, when the prisoners were moved to Asian prison camps, more died from the journey and from malnutrition.



General Paulus and his senior officers lived near Moscow in comfortable quarters. One reason for their good treatment was the propaganda value the Russians could make of them. But as for the rank and file, there are tales of murder and cannibalism about these times. No matter what promises were made, the German, Italian, and other prisoners did not get enough food. They were put to forced labor, and in the end when the last of the Germans went home in 1955, there were only five thousand survivors. Thus Stalingrad became the burial place of the German 6th Army.

Dead soldiers of 4th Romanian army at Barmatsak. The Red Army smashed through it and other Axis allies armies and encircled Stalingrad

STALIN AND ZHUKOV

By the summer of 1942, when Stalin realized that Stalingrad would determine the fate of Russia and that he did not know enough to lead the armies to victory himself, he gave Zhukov a free hand. General P. A. Belov got the impression that Zhukov was giving the orders that summer, and Stalin was listening. Alexander Yakolev, aircraft designer who became an intimate of Stalin's in the way that Albert Speer the architect became an intimate of Hitler's, wrote that one day at lunch in the Stalin dacha Zhukov sat down and, like the peasant he was, wolfed down his lunch without a word. Only then did he join the general discussion that was going on at Stalin's table. Stalin never said a word in complaint at the high-handed treatment.

When, after Stalingrad, the war turned around, Stalin resumed his old habit of ordering people around but not Zhukov. The marshal remained as deputy supreme commander of the Russian armies until the end of the war. Just afterward, however, he was relegated to a provincial command. Eventually disgraced, he was only rehabilitated after Stalin's death. Stalin would not defer to anyone for long. After Zhukov had won the war for him, Zhukov was expendable. More than that, Stalin saw him as a threat, and Stalin never countenanced even the suggestion of a threat.
German soldiers from the 11th Infantry Corps, led by Colonel-General Karl Strecker, surrender February 2, 1943. (Click to enlarge image)


But the most important asset of the Russians, and it showed nowhere better than at Stalingrad, was what Dittmar called "the soulless indifference of the troops—it was something more than fatalism." He called it "extraordinary stolidity." Another way of putting it was extraordinary willingness to sacrifice. Again and again at Stalingrad the willingness of the Russians to sacrifice and die was shown in the battles for the town and the factories.

As for Stalingraders, they paid in blood for the hard-fought victory. In five months of fighting, the city was 99 percent destroyed. Three hundred factories, forty-one thousand homes, and more than one hundred hospitals and schools had been destroyed. Of the 500,000 inhabitants of Stalingrad, only 1,500 remained. The rest were either dead or scattered across Russia as far as Vladivostok.
Stalingrad after the battle. 1943


Stalingrad was the most important battle of the war against Hitler, and his defeat here paved the way for his final defeat.

But it was more than that. From that first summer day when the planes of the Luftwaffe set out to destroy a city and then destroyed it, until that last German paroxysm in the early days of February, when the last Germans went down fighting in the Red October factory, the battle for Stalingrad added up to more than the sum of its parts.



From some point in the middle of the fight for Stalingrad and its factory complexes the Germans began to realize that here was the proof of what Stalin had said on the anniversary of the October Revolution:



"The German invaders want a war of extermination against the peoples of the USSR. Well, if the Germans want a war of extermination, they shall have it."



Stalingrad was a part of Stalin's fulfillment of that promise, and by the end every German in Russia knew what Stalingrad meant and every German was afraid.


German self-propelled Marder guns in Soviet hands after the capitulation of Paulus' army


On February 3, the official day of the capitulation of the Germans in Stalingrad, two planeloads of western war correspondents were flown into the city by the exultant Russian leaders, who were, for once, so proud of their achievement that they relaxed their iron discipline of the press. The temperature was four below zero, but the temperature began falling and ultimately hit thirty below. What the correspondents saw were smashed houses of the garden cities, many, many lonely chimneys, which had once stood above busy buildings, and stood now above piles of rubble, and miles of frozen earth, covered partly by snow, wrecked vehicles and equipment. Along the roadsides and in what had been German and Russian defensive positions, rubble was everywhere. One correspondent was reminded of the Warsaw Ghetto after it had been leveled by the Germans, although in Warsaw the act had been deliberate, the random destruction of the battle worse, and the area of destruction much larger.

As for what was recognizable in the wreckage, it was the devil's spoils of war: railroad carriages mixed with bent and broken rusted rails and smashed locomotives and parts of locomotives in the railyard, oil tanks along the river crumpled and battered. The ground was honeycombed by now smashed trenches whose sides had fallen in, and the wreckage of pillboxes and bunkers. Dugouts and shell holes pocked the whole countryside, and the carcasses and partial carcasses of thousands of horses lay frozen and twisted on the ground. Along the Volga the banks were lined with smashed steamers and barges and the hulks of little craft. Mamayev Hill, the scene of the fiercest and longest fighting, was scattered with human bones. Once it had been the central height in a woody park where lovers liked to come in evenings to enjoy the shaded privacy. Anywhere at all, you might come across a body frozen in the attitude of death, or part of a body, sometimes unidentifiable.



The whole area was a wasteland. It looked as though it had been swept by fire and then ravaged by an earthquake and finished off with a volcanic eruption. There was virtually no relationship to what was once human workmanship. This frozen desert was unrecognizable as the corpse of a working city. There was no visible line where the town ended and the countryside began. It was all rubble and ruin. If one had to imagine what must be done to rehabilitate Stalingrad, one would have to decide that it was much, much worse than starting from scratch. First the live ammunition, the unexploded hardware, would have to be removed, and this would mean digging down many feet for the big shells and big bombs. Then the whole would have to be leveled, and fill brought in to erase the enormous craters. Topsoil would have to be generated if anything was ever to grow here again, and then the arduous process of engineering and building a new city would have to begin. Yes, it was going to be much, much worse than starting from scratch.


German and Romanian POW being ferried to the other side of the Volga. Many Romanians joined the Red Army allied new Romanian Vladimirescu Division. For the Germans it was either labor camps or death.


A group of foreign war correspondents was brought to Stalingrad after the surrender. They met several Soviet correspondents who had witnessed the fighting. One of them, who had been in Gumrak during the fighting, told them about it: 


The biggest slaughter of Germans ever. The place is just littered with thousands
of them; we got them well encircled, and our katyushas let fly. God, what a
massacre! And there are thousands and thousands of lorries and cars, most of
them dumped in the ravines; they had neither the time nor the means to destroy
them, and thousands of guns. . . . Sixty or seventy percent of the lorries and guns
can be repaired and used again. . . . 


Another survivor talked of Pitomnik airfield: 


The place is now littered with thousands of dead frozen Fritzes. Before the war
Pitomnik was a wonderful fruit tree nursery, the finest apple, pear and cherry
trees were grown there; now everything is destroyed. 


He told of finding there a camp for Russian prisoners: 


Open air, with barbed wire round it. It was dreadful. There were originally 1400
men there, whom the Germans forced to work on fortifications. Only 102
survived. You might say the Germans had nothing to eat themselves
A group of German soldiers after the surrender. Seydlitz Kurzbach (fourth from left) later turned virulently anti-Nazi.


1947. Stalingrad. Some of the German POW on way to work to rebuild the city that was destroyed four years ago.


1947. German POW at work in Stalingrad


RELATED

Sad End To German Soldiers In Stalingrad

Battle Of Stalingrad (July 17, 1942 - February 2, 1943): In Pictures

Rare Images From Stalingrad: 1942-43: Initial Stages

Battle for Stalingrad

Unseen Rare Images From Battle Of Stalingrad: Large Pictures: Part 2

Daily Diary: STALINGRAD: July 17, 1942

The Russians At Stalingrad: A Pictorial



Suggested Reading

EXCERPT PAGE 384


The surrender at Stalingrad produced a volatility in which the fate of a German was utterly unpredictable. Soviet soldiers, whether deliberately or by accident, set fire to the improvised hospital full of wounded in the pioneer barracks by the airfield. Two Luftwaffe flak officers, who had been escorted to an upstairs room by Russian soldiers, in the belief that the red patches on their collars signified high rank, escaped by jumping out of a shattered window. They landed by the latrine, and when soldiers appeared ready to shoot them, the younger lieutenant saved both their lives by quick thinking and acute psychology. He told his companion to pull down his trousers. The Russians laughed and spared them. They could not shoot men with their trousers down.
Suggested Watching



Reference



--------------------------------------------------------------


199 Days: The Battle Of Stalingrad By Edwin Hoyt

Excerpts" Epilogue


When the Russians sprang their trap in the bend of the Don on November 19, 1942,  they caught 330,000 Axis soldiers in it. Units of Germans, Italians, Hungarians,  Romanians, and Croatians were surrounded and decimated, and the survivors were made prisoner. Very few of them ever saw their homeland again. 


When the Battle of Stalingrad ended in February 1943, ninety-one thousand soldiers,  mostly Germans, marched out of the city of Stalingrad to captivity. In the first few weeks of their captivity they were treated without sympathy and thousands died. Tens of thousands had died of hunger earlier, and more died under the Russians. But the major reason for the deaths was typhus. The disease the German doctors had noticed before the capitulation reached epidemic proportions, and fifty thousand men died of it. Later, when the prisoners were moved to Asian prison camps, more died from the journey and from malnutrition. 


General Paulus and his senior officers lived near Moscow in comfortable quarters. One reason for their good treatment was the propaganda value the Russians could make of them. But as for the rank and file, there are tales of murder and cannibalism about these times. No matter what promises were made, the German, Italian, and other prisoners did not get enough food. They were put to forced labor, and in the end when the last of the Germans went home in 1955, there were only five thousand survivors. Thus Stalingrad became the burial place of the German 6th Army.

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Unknown said...

VEry interesting read

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