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Oh Stalingrad ! August 5, 2006

Posted by Sharath Rao in geo-politics, history.

Wars make our history books bloody, but bloody interesting. We have always heard of the Battle of Stalingrad. Today somehow I read much of its detailed description and would definitely rank as one of the most interesting reads of recent weeks. Its ironic that stories of death and destruction make interesting reading and become unputdownables or in the internet world – unscrolldownable/un-Alt-F4-able/un-back-buttonable !

On a somewhat related note, I feel the most exciting region of the world since the 1500s has been Europe – voyages of discovery, renaissance, music, art, science, mathematics, industrial revolution, war, destruction – everything that mattered happened in Europe !

Read the detailed account of the war here.

Or some excerpts :

Amid the debris of the wrecked city, the Soviet 62nd Army anchored their defense lines with strongpoints in houses and factories. Fighting was fierce and desperate. The life expectancy of a newly-arrived Soviet private in the city dropped to less than twenty-four hours. Stalin’s Order No. 227 of July 27, 1942 decreed that all those who retreated or otherwise left their positions without orders could be summarily shot. “Not a step back!” was the slogan. The Germans pushing forward into Stalingrad suffered heavy casualties.

German military doctrine was based on the principle of combined-arms teams and close co-operation by tanks, infantry, engineers, artillery; and ground-attack aircraft. To counter this, Soviet commanders adopted the simple expedient of always keeping the front lines as close together as physically possible. Chuikov called this tactic “hugging” the Germans. This forced the German infantrymen to either fight on their own or risk taking casualties from their own supporting fire; it neutralized German close air support and weakened their artillery support. Bitter fighting raged for every street, every factory, every house, basement and staircase. The Germans, calling this unseen urban warfare Rattenkrieg (“rat-war”), bitterly joked about capturing the kitchen but still fighting for the living-room.


Fighting on Mamayev Kurgan, a prominent, blood-soaked hill above the city, was particularly merciless. The height changed hands many times. During one Soviet counter-attack, they lost an entire division of 10,000 men in one day.


Nevertheless the fighting, especially on the slopes of Mamayev Kurgan and inside the factory area in the northern part of the city, continued as fiercely as ever. The battles for the Red October steel factory, the Dzerzhinsky tractor factory and the Barrikady gun factory became world famous. While Soviet soldiers defended their positions and took the Germans under fire, factory workers repaired damaged Soviet tanks and other weapons close to the battlefield, sometimes on the battlefield itself.


The encircling Red Army units immediately formed two defensive fronts: one facing ‘inward’ to defend against breakout attempt by the surrounded Germans, the other facing ‘outward’ to defend against any relief attempt.


Hitler promoted Paulus to Generalfeldmarschall on January 30, 1943 (the 10th anniversary of Hitler coming to power). Since no German field marshal had ever been taken prisoner, Hitler assumed that Paulus would fight on or take his own life. Nevertheless, when Soviet forces closed in on Paulus’ headquarters in the ruined GUM department store, Paulus surrendered.


Only 6,000 of the 91,000 German prisoners of war survived their captivity and returned home. 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 overwork and malnutrition. A handful of senior officers were taken to Moscow and used for propaganda purposes. Some, including Paulus, signed anti-Hitler statements which were broadcast to German troops. General Walther von Seydlitz-Kurzbach offered to raise an anti-Hitler army from the Stalingrad survivors, but the Soviets did not accept this offer. It was not until 1955 that the last of the handful of survivors were repatriated.


The battle of Stalingrad was the largest single battle in human history. It raged for 199 days. Various scholars have estimated the Axis suffered 850,000 casualties of all types among all branches of the German armed forces and its allies: 400,000 Germans, 200,000 Romanians, 130,000 Italians, 120,000 Hungarians were killed, wounded or captured. In addition, and as many as 50,000 turncoat Soviets were killed or captured by the Red Army. According to archival figures, the Red Army suffered 478,741 men killed and 650,878 wounded (for a total of 1,129,619). These numbers; however, include a wide scope of operations.


In all, a total of anywhere from 1.7 million to 2 million Axis and Soviet casualties resulted from the battle, making it by far the largest in human history.

Oh Stalingrad !



1. Aswin Cletus D'Souza - August 11, 2006

just a suggestion , sharath … having links in your posts make the articles less readable.

i read that the addition of every single math formula into stephen hawking’s book would reduce sales drastically. it’s similar … 2 or 3 links is fine .. anything more, unreadable.

For eg. there was no need for wikipedia links on ‘scholars’ and ‘turncoat’. i assume that readers of a blog as intellectual as yours would know the meanings of these terms 🙂 [ of if they really wanted to , they’d just google it ]

2. Sharath Rao - August 12, 2006

hey aswin,

yeah i remember reading in the preface of hawking’s book abt how the readership will reduce by every million or so for every equation that were to appear..

this one is from wikipedia …i linked to the main article ..plus I copied and pasted excerpts from there…those links will carry over here…we can disable that option of carrying links over i think by using some non-html stuff or so ( not sure ) or just pasting in notepad and copying again pasting here…but that means i wud lose all the links….is why i erred on the plentier side 😉

but yeah shud be more discrete abt this stuff i guess…

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