19 Followers
37 Following
veeral

veeral

Currently reading

A Feast for Crows
George R.R. Martin
Japan at War: An Oral History
Haruko Taya Cook, Theodore F. Cook
Armageddon: A Novel of Berlin
Leon Uris
Falling Free (Vorkosigan Saga, #4)
Lois McMaster Bujold
Century Rain
Alastair Reynolds
The Bounty: The True Story of the Mutiny on the Bounty
Caroline Alexander
Rite of Passage
Alexei Panshin
Over the Edge of the World: Magellan's Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe
Laurence Bergreen
The 900 Days: The Siege of Leningrad
Harrison E. Salisbury
The Forsaken: From The Great Depression To The Gulags: Hope And Betrayal In Stalin's Russia
Tim Tzouliadis
Enemy At The Gates: The Battle for Stalingrad - William Craig One would not be entirely correct if one thinks that the movie Enemy At The Gates was based on this book, even though the movie posters claims it to be so. Somehow, it resembles more with the book [b:War of the Rats|42615|War of the Rats|David L. Robbins|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1320420684s/42615.jpg|42087] by [a:David L. Robbins|23977|David L. Robbins|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1292065669p2/23977.jpg], which is a fictionalized account of the duel between two sharpshooters in the warzone of Stalingrad. In my opinion, Stalingrad (1993) is a way better movie than the Hollywood one.

This book in fact covers the whole battle of Stalingrad from the German perspective.



Following statistics shows the magnitude of horror that perpetrated at Stalingrad which makes a personal duel between two sharpshooters relatively inconsequential if one looks at the whole picture.

Lives lost at Stalingrad:
Russians: 750,000 men killed, wounded or missing in action.
Germans: almost 400,000 men lost.
Italians: 130,000 men lost out of 200,000 total.
Hungarians: 120,000 men killed.
Rumanians: 200,000 men lost.

Civilian population of Stalingrad: There were 500,000 people prior to the outbreak of War. After the war ended, a census found only 1,515 people who had lived in Stalingrad in 1942. Sure, many were evacuated before the siege, but it has to be noted that about 40,000 civilians were known to have died in the first two days of bombing in the city.

In five months of fighting and bombings, 99 percent of the city had been reduced to rubble. More than forty-one thousand homes, three hundred factories, 113 hospitals and schools had been destroyed.


But with hindsight, one wonders, why try to capture Stalingrad at all?

Infact, the original plans for Case Blue (Fall Blau) did not call for the capture of Stalingrad. The city was not even a primary target for attack. As originally conceived, the strike force was to consist of two groups of armies, A and B. Army Group A, under the command of Field Marshal List, included the Seventeenth and First Panzer armies. Army Group B, under Fedor von Bock, boasted the Fourth Panzer and Sixth armies, which were to be aided by the Hungarians in support of their rear echelons.

The army groups were to move eastward on a broad front to the line of the Volga River "in the area of" the city of Stalingrad. After "neutralizing" Russian war production in that region by bombing and artillery fire, and after cutting the vital transportation line on the Volga, both army groups were to turn south and drive on the oil fields of the Caucasus.

But Hitler himself had altered the scope of the campaign after German intelligence reported that the Russians had few reliable divisions on the west bank of the Volga. The Armed Forces High Command also determined that the defense lines between the Don and Volga were primitive at best.

Hitler concluded that the Red Army was not about to make a major stand at Stalingrad, and he ordered Sixth Army to seize the city by force as soon as possible.

Thus the onus of conquering Stalingrad fell upon the shoulders of Col. Gen. Friedrich von Paulus, commander of the Sixth Army. Paulus (as indicated by William Craig) stopped annihilation of the Jews by the 6th Army which was done by clockwork precision until Paulus took over the command from his predecessor. And until the fiasco of Stalingrad, Nazis were considered invincible by almost everybody. The battle of Stalingrad changed that. For the first time the Allies realized that after all, Germans were not supermen.

But one has to take into account the fact that the battle of Stalingrad was totally different from other theaters. And the serious shortcomings of the Nazi War Machine were exposed at Stalingrad. As they relied heavily on U-Boats in the naval warfare while ignoring the superior power of aircraft carriers, similarly at the land arena, Germans depended heavily on their Blitzkrieg tactics which were rendered useless in the street fighting of Stalingrad. The Russians in Stalingrad hid in cellars and used the sewer systems to good advantage. And the mighty Russian Winter also played a huge role in the German defeat.

For example, the Dzerhezinsky Tractor Works in Stalingrad, the assembly point for thousands of farm machines, which since the war was one of the principal producers of T-34 tanks for the Red Army, ran for more than a mile along the main north-south road. Its internal network of railroad tracks measured almost ten miles. And Stalingrad was full of such factories which was a real achievement for the socialist regime. For once, the name "Stalin" was attached to something in which the Soviet citizens took real pride - Stalingrad.

As I said earlier, the movie of the same name only addresses a minor event that took place at Stalingrad, and true to its commercial "Hollywoodian" nature, the script only tells a fraction of the truth. Even if you overlook the British accent of Jude Law while depicting a real life Russian hero Vassili Zaitsev (He could have at least tried to sound more like a Russian, to give the movie an authentic feel), the film never fails to disappoint.

Yes, there truly was a 15 year old boy named Sacha Fillipov who lived in the suburb of Dar Goya with his family. While his parents and ten year old brother stayed inside their house, the diminutive, frail Sacha went out to fraternize with the enemy. A master cobbler from his training at trade school, Sacha introduced himself to German officers occupying a nearby building and offered his services to them while infact he was working as a double agent and was pointing out the precise locations of the German army to the Russians. His end was bad as depicted in the movie but more depressing. He was hanged in front of his parents alongwith two other boys by the retreating Germans when his true purpose was found out.

And Tania Chernova was more badass than the film leads one to believe. She embarked on a relentless war against the enemy, whom she always referred to as "sticks" that one broke because she refused to think of them as human beings. As a partisan, she had broken several "sticks" in the forests of Byelorussia and the Ukraine until she came to Stalingrad to break more “sticks”.

The famous sharpshooter, Vassili Zaitsev had killed nearly forty Germans in ten days time, and correspondents gloatingly wrote of his amazing ability to destroy his enemies with a single bullet. Tania Chernova was one of his students. They also became lovers. But alas, after the war, they were separated as Tania was told incorrectly that Vassili Zaitsev was killed in action. But he survived and Tania came to know of his survival only after more than two decades. But by then, Zaitsev was married for more than 15 years to another woman.

As Zaitsev was a national hero, and as his fame spread across no-man's-land, the Germans took an inordinate interest in him. They called a Major Konings out from Berlin to kill him. Unaware of the German plan, Zaitsev continued his one-man war and began to teach thirty other Russians his specialty. The third morning, Zaitsev had a new visitor, a political agitator named Danilov, who came along to witness the contest. At first light, the heavy guns began their normal barrage and while shells whistled over their heads, the Russians eyed the landscape for a telltale presence. Danilov suddenly raised himself up, shouting: "There he is. I'll point him out to you." Konings shot him in the shoulder. As stretcher bearers took Danilov to the hospital, Vassili Zaitsev stayed very low and finally was able to kill Konings once his hiding place was revealed to him. With a total of 240 confirmed kills by the end of the war, Vassili Zaitsev became one of the most well known Russian shooters of World War II.

Zaitsev and Tania were even sent on a mission to kill Paulus at his 6th army headquarters but he was not there.

The book follows many such brave heroes that fought on both sides.

On the Russian side, Vasily Ivanovich Chuikov was made commanding general of the 62nd Army, which was to hold Stalingrad itself. He developed the important tactic of “hugging the enemy,” by which under-armed Soviet soldiers kept the German army so close to them as to minimize the superior firepower enjoyed by the Wehrmacht. This tactic also rendered the German Luftwaffe ineffective, since they could not attack Red Army positions without firing upon their own forces.

Dr. Ottmar Kohler, a surgeon in the German army, kept treating wounded soldiers even though he broke his upper jaw in Russian shelling. He held his jaws together by inserting a cork into his mouth while treating the wounded. He had moved his hospital to within a half mile of the front. Stubbornly insisting that all German aid stations treat men within minutes of their being wounded, he had fought the traditions of the German Army.

And one of the most famous “sites” of the battle of Stalingrad was perhaps “Pavlov’s House” where a relentless Russian soldier named Jacob Pavlov had created a stronghold in the central part of Stalingrad.



Once four tanks came and fired pointblank into the building. But the wily Pavlov was ready for them. Because the tanks could neither elevate nor depress their cannon at such close range, he had moved some of his men to the fourth floor and others to the cellar. A single shot from his lone antitank gun put one enemy panzer out of action and machine-gun fire scattered the German infantry. As the foot soldiers bolted, the tanks skidded back to safety around the corner. “Pavlov’s House” became a beacon of resilience for Russian soldiers fighting for Stalingrad.

Captain Ignacy Changar was an expert guerrilla fighter and preferred to work with a knife—a technique he had perfected in the forests of the Ukraine, where he spent months during the first year of the war. There he had seen the Germans at their worst and the experience affected him deeply. One of his skirmishes with the Germans at Stalingrad is worth mentioning here.

Ordered to occupy a half-demolished building west of the Barrikady Plant, he had led fifty men into it only to find a sizable German force entrenched in a large room across a ten-foot-wide hallway. The corridor was impassable. No one on either side dared mount a rush, and Changar tried to estimate the size of the opposition. From the babble of voices, he judged it sufficient to hold him in check. Days went by. Food and ammunition were passed in through the windows. Changar assumed the Germans were doing the same so he ordered special equipment: spades, shovels, and 170 pounds of dynamite. The Russians broke through the concrete floor and started a tunnel. Digging two at a time, they slowly worked a passageway under the corridor. To mask the noise of the tools, they sang songs at the top of their voices. The Germans also burst into song from time to time, and Changar immediately figured the enemy was planning to blow him up, too. On the eleventh day, Changar ordered a halt to further excavation. After carefully placing the dynamite at the end of the tunnel, he cut and lined a fuse along the dirt passage up into the main room. The Germans were singing again, and someone on the other side of the hall had added a harmonica as accompaniment. While his men sang a last lusty ballad, Captain Changar lit the fuse and hollered to the two men still in the hole to "run like hell." With the fuse sputtering, everyone tumbled out the low windows and scattered hastily across the yard, but the explosion came too quickly. It picked them up and hurled them down again with stunning force. The shaken Changar looked back to see the strongpoint rising slowly into the air. It expanded outward, then broke into hundreds of pieces. A huge ball of fire catapulted up from the debris. He rose and called for his men. Only two had failed to get clear, the men who had been in the hole. Changar realized he had cut the fuse too short and he worried about the error until the next day, when he went back to examine his handiwork. He counted three hundred sixty legs before he lost interest and left, satisfied that the 180 dead Germans were a partial payment for his error.


While the street fighting was ongoing, Russians had already launched a major offensive to take Stalingrad back, Operation Uranus.

Despite severe casualties, Paulus’s requests of the German retreat were repeatedly refused by Hitler, even though Stalingrad was no longer worth the price. If it (6th Army) left Stalingrad, Hitler declared, "we'll never get it back again."

The 6th army needed to retreat immediately before the Russians gathered enough forces to crush it under its pincer movements. Even to hold out until relief arrived from north under Field Marshal Erich von Manstein, 200 tons of air supplies were required daily, as supply from land had become impossible. No German soldier believed that the Luftwaffe was upto that daunting task and the final decision of a timely retreat depended on that decision. Hermann Göring – much to the chagrin of everybody else except Hitler – promised loftily to fulfill the 200 ton quota of daily requirement of the 6th army through air drops. As expected, he failed miserably. But by then, the chance of retreat has passed as the 6th army was now completely surrounded by the Russians. There was no way out anymore.

Even the "freedom of action" on Russian ultimatum of surrender was denied to Paulus by Hitler. The Führer was insisting on a fight to the death, because "…every day the Army holds out helps the entire front…." Hitler was now looking for a glorious chapter of German martyrdom which, according to him, would resonate with the battle of Thermopylae.

The battle of Stalingrad had eventually degenerated into a personal struggle between the egos of Stalin and Hitler.

Finally the combination of pincer tactics adopted by the mighty Red army and the great Russian winter proved too much for the Germans. Paulus surrendered to the Russian army on 31 January 1943, thus starting a chain of events that would end with the suicide of Adolf Hitler and the eventual fall of Berlin henceforth obliging World War-II historians to rightly note that, Stalingrad was the beginning of the end for the Third Reich.