Stalingrad, now called as Volgograd: the city of tears, loss, resistance and remembrance after the Soviet leader, has witnessed one of the longest and most brutal battles in the history.
Started in the summer of 1942 (23 August 1942), it was the skirmish of World War II in which Germany and its Allies (the countries in opposition to Austria- Hungary, Turkey, and Germany in world war II) fought for control of Stalingrad.
Russians consider it as the bloodiest battles of their Great Patriotic War, which was marked by the fierce scuffle and direct assaults on the civilians in air raids and bombing. The fight raged for over 200 days with the loss of around two million German, Soviet soldiers and civilians. It later deteriorated to house-to-house fighting, and the continued attacks have reduced the city to a dilapidated condition.
200-Day-Long Battle and Stalingrad
The picture was taken in 1942 of Soviet soldiers during the battle of Volgograd. (Photo credit AFP/Getty Images)
Stretching about 50 km along the banks of Volga River, Stalingrad was the largest industrial city producing artillery, tractors and other essential goods for troops. The Volga River was used as the shipping route connecting to the other distant eastern regions of the country.
Hitler and the Wehrmacht had their sight on Stalingrad. Hitler wanted the armed forces to occupy the country, stating that it carry Stalin’s name.
Previously, under the leadership of Joseph Stalin, the Russian forces have rebuffed a German attack which aimed to take Moscow. After that, the Stalin and his generals expected another attack to be aimed at Moscow. However, Hitler has plans to occupy Stalingrad and Caucasus.
Hitler also proclaimed that after taking the city, male citizens would be killed while the women will be deported. After this, the Stalin ordered Russians to get a rifle in defense of the city.
No Stepping Back- Fight!
Battle of Stalingrad during the fall of 1942. (Photo by Sovfoto/UIG via Getty Images)
Despite heavy losses and causalities, Stalin and his forces resorted to fighting. Decreeing order: “Not a Step Back!” Stalin instructed his troops to wrestle. Further, those who surrendered face execution and would subject to the trial by military tribunals.
With over 20,000 troops and approximately than 100 tanks, Stalin began sending support in the city and its surrounding areas. Fighting raged in Stalingrad with snipers bombing the city’s buildings and streets.
Stalingrad. USSR. A view of the railway station square damaged after the attack of German Air Force. (Photo ITAR-TASS/ Emmanuil Yevzerikhin) (Photo by TASS via Getty Images)
Russian generals Aleksandr and Georgy Zhukov organized Russian troops. They ordered the troops to settle in the mountains to the west of the city as well as to the north. From there the forces initiated Soviet strategic operation called Operation Uranus.
Red Army on November 19 launched Uranus under the command of Gen. Nikolay Vatutin. The operation aims to destroy the German forces in and surrounding the city of Stalingrad.
The operation was both indecisive and chaotic as no preparations were made in response to the fights. The attacks penetrated deep in the flanks. By late November, the two German armies successfully build the defensive trap, trapping around 300,000 other and Axis troops. With winter setting in, the main supplies like food and medical supplies began dwindling making the forces starve and become weaker.
The Fight in Russia’s Bone-Chilling Winters
Commander of Stalingrad Front, Soviet general Andrey Yeryomenko (R) and Nikita Khrushchev (L) in 1942 in Stalingrad, Russia. Battle of Stalingrad, one of the major and strategically decisive battles of World War II, during which Nazi Germany forces fought the Soviet Union for control of the Soviet city of Stalingrad from August 23, 1942, till February 2, 1943. (Photo by Laski Diffusion/Getty Images)
As brutal Russia’s winter began, Germans fail to fight in the weather they were not accustomed to. Later, the German general abandons all efforts to relieve the under-pressured, and the drained forces get trapped in Stalingrad.
The End of the Battle
World war 2, the battle of Stalingrad, the center of Stalingrad showing widespread devastation, Feb, 2, 1943. (Photo by Sovfoto/UIG via Getty Images)
With Soviets closing in, the situation started becoming tensed, and the 6th army got surrounded. On February 2, the last 91,000 frozen, weak and starving men surrendered to the Soviet army.
Later, the army recovered around 250,000 German and Romanian dead bodies in and around the Stalingrad. The Axis suffered around 647,000-800,000 (killed, captured or wounded).
Further, of over 100,000 men who surrendered, some 5000-6000 return their homelands, some got missing and rested died in the Soviet prisons and other labor camps.
The Structures of Remembrance
The Mother Russia statue in Volgograd, Russia, 21 August 2017. Volgograd is one of the Russian cities which will host soccer matches during the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Photo: Marius Becker/DPA (Photo by Marius Becker/picture alliance via Getty Images)
The statue of Mother Russia brandishing a sword that towers over the city pays tribute to the soldiers and civilian who were killed during the battle. The Mother Calls is a 52-meter high statue of a female holding the sword aloft, which is approximately 85 meter into the air. The statue stands at the crest of the hill that offers the magnificent view across the Volga River to the East.
Pavlov’s House – It was a fortified building, which Red Army defenders used for about 60 days to fight against Wehrmacht offensive forces during the battle. The house was positioned on the cross-street, thereby giving defenders a 1km sight to the South, North, and West. It also served in guarding the Volga bank.
Of late, it becomes the symbol of dogged resistance and stubbornness of Russian forces during the battle, which eventually ended as the victory for the Soviet forces after months. This house was rebuilt after the battle and is now used as an apartment. There’s an attached memorial made from bricks, which was picked up after the battle, on the East facing of the Volga.
The Hall Of Warrior Glory
The eternal flame in the memorial on Mamayev Hill built to honor those who died in the Stalingrad Battle, in the Russian city of Volgograd, formerly Stalingrad. (Photo credit ALEXANDER ZEMLIANICHENKO/AFP/Getty Images)
The hall of the warrior glory is one of the large memorial complexes on the Mamayev hill, which was the highest point in the Stalingrad. Fighting for this hill began on September 1942, when German troops start assaulting the hill, which later was defended by the Soviet. Today, the hill features a large complex with the hand in the middle holding the Eternal fire. There are also 43 mosaic banners with the names of around 7, 2000 fallen defenders of the Stalingrad.
Stalingrad battle was one of the most critical battles in the World War II. The poor tactics, Hitler’s misleading and the misguided strategy is what made the 6th army doomed to defeat at Stalingrad.