Friday, November 25, 2011

Battle of Stalingrad 23 August 1942 – 2 February 1943


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The Battle of Stalingrad was a major battle of World War II in which Nazi Germany and its allies fought the Soviet Union for control of the city of Stalingrad (now Volgograd) in southwestern Russia. The battle took place between 23 August 1942 and 2 February 1943.

videoIt is the largest battle on the Eastern Front and was marked by its brutality and disregard for military and civilian casualties. It is among the bloodiest battles in the history of warfare, with the higher estimates of combined casualties amounting to nearly two million. In its defeat, the crippling losses suffered by Germany's military proved to be insurmountable for the war. The battle was a turning point in the war, after which the German forces attained no further strategic victories in the East.


The German offensive to capture Stalingrad commenced in late summer 1942, supported by intensive Luftwaffe bombing which reduced much of the city to rubble. The German offensive eventually became bogged down in house-to-house fighting; and despite controlling over 90% of the city at times, the Wehrmacht was unable to dislodge the last Soviet defenders clinging tenaciously to the west bank of the Volga River.
videoIn November 1942, the Red Army launched Operation Uranus; a two-pronged attack, targeted at the inferior Romanian and Italian forces which were protecting the German 6th Army flanks. The success of these attacks caused the weakly held flanks to collapse and the 6th Army to be cut off and surrounded inside Stalingrad.



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As the Russian winter set in, the 6th Army weakened rapidly from cold, starvation and ongoing Soviet attacks. Command ambiguity coupled with Adolf Hitler's resolute belief in the "power of the will" and the value of "standing fast" further compounded the German predicament. Eventually, the failure to break the encirclement by relieving German forces, coupled with the failure of re-supply by air, caused the final collapse. By early February 1943, German resistance in Stalingrad had ceased and the remaining elements of the surrounded 6th Army had either surrendered or had been destroyed.

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Of more than 91,000 German prisoners captured in Stalingrad, only about 5,000 ever returned. Already weakened by disease, starvation and lack of medical care during the encirclement, they were sent to labour camps all over the Soviet Union, where most of them died of their wounds, disease (particularly typhus), cold, overwork, mistreatment, and malnutrition. Some were kept in the city to help with rebuilding. In March 1943, 40,000 Germans were buried in a mass grave, victims of a typhus epidemic. A handful of senior officers were taken to Moscow and used for propaganda purposes, and some of them joined the National Committee for a Free Germany. Some, including Paulus, signed anti-Hitler statements which were broadcast to German troops. Paulus lived in the Soviet Union until 1952, then moved to Dresden in East Germany, where he spent the remainder of his days defending his actions at Stalingrad and was quoted as saying that Communism was the best hope for postwar Europe. General Walther von Seydlitz-Kurzbach offered to raise an anti-Hitler army from the Stalingrad survivors, but the Soviets did not accept. It was not until 1955 that the last of the 5-6,000 survivors were repatriated after a plea to the Politburo by Konrad Adenauer.

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