Friday, January 24, 2014

This Day in WWII History: Jan 24, 1943: Von Paulus to Hitler: Let us surrender!

 Adolf Hitler at the headquarters of Army Group South in Poltava.
From right to left: Hitler, General der Infanterie Georg von Sodenstern, General der Panzertruppe Friedrich Paulus, Generalmajor Adolf Heusinger. June 1942

On this day, German Gen. Friedrich von Paulus, commander in chief of the German 6th Army at Stalingrad, urgently requests permission from Adolf Hitler to surrender his position there, but Hitler refuses.

The Battle of Stalingrad began in the summer of 1942, as German forces assaulted the city, a major industrial center and a prized strategic coup. But despite repeated attempts and having pushed the Soviets almost to the Volga River in mid-October and encircling Stalingrad, the 6th Army, under Paulus, and part of the 4th Panzer Army could not break past the adamantine defense of the Soviet 62nd Army.

Germans at Stalingrad: Rare Pictures

File:Bundesarchiv Bild 183-B0130-0050-004, Russland, Kesselschlacht Stalingrad.jpg

Diminishing resources, partisan guerilla attacks, and the cruelty of the Russian winter began to take their toll on the Germans. On November 19, the Soviets made their move, launching a counteroffensive that began with a massive artillery bombardment of the German position. The Soviets then assaulted the weakest link in the German force-inexperienced Romanian troops. Sixty-five thousand were ultimately taken prisoner by the Soviets.

The Soviets then made a bold strategic move, encircling the enemy, and launching pincer movements from north and south simultaneously, even as the Germans encircled Stalingrad.

File:Map Battle of Stalingrad-en.svg

File:Stalingrad-dead bodies.jpg

The Germans should have withdrawn, but Hitler wouldn't allow it. He wanted his armies to hold out until they could be reinforced. By the time those fresh troops arrived in December, it was too late. The Soviet position was too strong, and the Germans were exhausted.

Another soldier raises a Red flag over Stalingrad, finally the bitter struggle was over.

By January 24, the Soviets had overrun Paulus' last airfield. His position was untenable and surrender was the only hope for survival. Hitler wouldn't hear of it: "The 6th Army will hold its positions to the last man and the last round." Paulus held out until January 31, when he finally surrendered.
File:Bundesarchiv Bild 183-F0316-0204-005, Russland, Paulus in Kriegsgefangenschaft.jpg

File:RIAN archive 602161 Center of Stalingrad after liberation.jpg

Of more than 280,000 men under Paulus' command, half were already dead or dying, about 35,000 had been evacuated from the front, and the remaining 91,000 were hauled off to Soviet POW camps.

Some of the 91,000 German troops taken prisoner at Stalingrad. within a matter of weeks over a quarter of them would be dead. Less than 6,000 survived the Soviet labour camps and returned to Germany in the early 1950s.

German soldiers surrender at Stalingrad in February 1943 - the battle of Stalingrad was the turning point of the war

Paulus eventually sold out to the Soviets altogether, joining the National Committee for Free Germany and urging German troops to surrender. Testifying at Nuremberg for the Soviets, he was released and spent the rest of his life in East Germany.

File:Bundesarchiv Bild 183-25343-0001, Berlin, Pressekonferenz, Friedrich Paulus.jpg

Taken from: [24.01.2014]

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