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Epilogue to Stalingrad the Resistance of German Troops in Pockets After Surrender

MG Singh- early retired Airforce senior officer who is now a corporate advisor. He is also a global traveler and writer

epilogue-to-stalingrad-the-resistance-of-german-troops-in-pockets-after-surrender

The end and the beginning

As per history on 2 February 1943, the battle of Stalingrad was over. Earlier on 31st January, the Russians discovered Field Marshal Von Paulos operational headquarters in the basement of a building in central Stalingrad. Later Paulos claimed that he had not surrendered but had been captured. The fact is that the German army was in dire straits with the lack of supplies and mounting casualties and wounded. At one-time Paulos had commanded an army of 300,000 which was now reduced to just 100,000. Paulos had made repeated requests to Adolf Hitler to allow him to surrender but Hitler had his own bizarre logic and promoted him as Field Marshal. Hitler was of the opinion that no Field Marshal of the German army had ever surrendered and he expected Paulos to die fighting or commit suicide. The German commander did not do any of these things and quietly handed himself over to the Russians. One of the reasons was that Paulos was a Roman Catholic who did not believe in suicide.

Paulos was taken to the Russian headquarters at Stalingrad where he and his chief of staff were interrogated. During the interrogation, Russians requested Paulos to ask the German soldiers who were still holding out to surrender. He did not agree to issue any appeal and merely stated that he could not pass such orders as he was a prisoner of the Russians and not a free man. On being pressed he stated that he had observed that Russian soldiers had fought to the last man and bullet and not surrendered at many places and it was up to the soldiers themselves if they wanted to surrender.

Though almost 93000 soldiers had surrendered, yet about 11,000 soldiers hiding in pockets in Stalingrad refused to surrender. They carried on fighting. The reason for this was the fear that in case they fell into Russian hands it would be certain death. They were aware that they had treated the Russian POWs abominably and at least 2 million had been starved to death. They thus fought on.



epilogue-to-stalingrad-the-resistance-of-german-troops-in-pockets-after-surrender

Battles by the die-hards

On 31 January 1943, Paulos's headquarters in a pocket of central Stalingrad was captured, along with the newly promoted field Marshal. His headquarters was in the basement of the GUM department store. He refused to issue an order to soldiers in the northern pocket to surrender. The reason he told the Russians was that he had not surrendered but had been captured and was their prisoner.

General Karl Strecker who commanded the northern pocket issued an order to his officers in the final days that any soldier seen breaking away from their unit and moving toward Soviet positions was to be shot dead. On the first February, he came to know of the surrender of Paulos. Strecker gathered his staff and told them that the military situation was hopeless and that all troops under his command had the freedom to act as their conscience saw fit. The next morning Strecker surrendered his 11th Corps to Soviet troops. Thousands of troops of the 11th Corps however decided to continue fighting as they feared Soviet captivity. If figures have a meaning almost 11,000 soldiers continued fighting the Russian army in the ruins of Stalingrad.

The German soldiers formed small groups and hid in the basements and sewers and sometimes came out to snipe at the Russians. They scavenged on food and overall operated in small clusters at various places in the city. The soldiers who had nobody to report to continued their precarious existence and at several places when confronted put up a fight. This existence was preferable to the soldiers then surrendering to the Russians and being marched to their labor camps and certain death.

The soldiers remained an important threat to the Russian army and the NKVD troops were ordered to search each building and flush out the German soldiers. Orders were given to either kill them or capture them. Despite this order, these remnants of the German Sixth Army continued to hold out well into late March 43.

The 10th NKVD division had been in the area for the last six months to capture and execute Russian deserters. The NKVD troops were assisted by the 252 rifle division and they searched the city pockets and basements for the hidden German soldiers. Some of the German soldiers were captured from sewers in savers and flushed out. During the entire month of February, almost 2418 German soldiers were killed.

Some of the German soldiers tried to escape through the Russian lines to German-held territory. They entered the villages and changed clothing and at other places, they robbed and murdered. The NKVD did a thorough job and as per the reports, 8600 soldiers were captured. This included some soldiers who had escaped from the nearby prison camps.

The soldiers dreaded capture by the Red Army and continued fighting. Their fears were not unfounded and though the Russians respectably treated the generals it was not so with the other ranks and officers. At the end of the war and after 10 years in captivity only 6000 Germans set foot in Germany again. There cannot be much sympathy for these soldiers because they were instrumental in perpetrating terrible atrocities on the Russian POWs






epilogue-to-stalingrad-the-resistance-of-german-troops-in-pockets-after-surrender

Annihilation

The battle of Stalingrad is a sad story for the German armyThe general opinion of the Russians about Von Paulos is that he was an honorable `Field Marshal. He was kept in a dacha in Moscow and had even sought a meeting with Stalin. After the July plot to assassinate Hitler, he began to make broadcasts on radio Moscow. In 1953 he came back to Germany and met Walter Ulbricht the first secretary of the German Communist Party. 22 generals were taken into captivity and a majority of them sided with the Russians especially after the July bomb plot. For a student of history and the world war, the bigger battles are known to all but it is these smaller incidents that make this entire period so interesting.

Comments

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on October 08, 2020:

I think Hitler had a warped sense of what is right and wrong. Despite all that has been written I am still not clear as to what was his grouse racially against the Slavs. I can understand his logic as far as the Jews is concerned and he blamed them for the loss of Germany in World War I. I do not know how he came to admire the Japanese because he had never been in touch with any Japanese before and had never visited Japan. There is an age-old theory that the Aryans migrated to Germany and northern India from Central Asia. He latched onto it to justify propping up Subhas Chandra Bose and the India Legion. The swastika is a very important emblem of the Hindus and also has a lot of spiritual significance. I wonder how he latched on to this swastika as an emblem for the Nazis. I think it was adopted by Rosenberg who is supposed to be the high priest of the nazi philosophy.

Throughout his life, Hitler had a very cluttered existence. This was so right from the days when he was a painter in Vienna. What carried the day for him was his magnetic personality and his theatrical actions that seemed to mesmerize the listeners. He had a great opportunity to became perhaps the greatest man in History but his racial theories and warped mind led him instead to doom.

Alan R Lancaster from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on October 08, 2020:

As far as the Japanese were concerned, they were a warlike nation - so the Germans reasoned - who breathed 'battle' and were fatalistic toward death. The Indians at the time - Hindu, Sikh, Muslim - were seen to be Indo-Aryan, the 'ancestors' of the modern Europeans being Aryan. Don't ask me how they came to that conclusion, as it was Himmler and his SS group who studied these things from old text translations, the 'Ahnen' as they reckoned. There's a lot of mumbo-jumbo involved. The 'Swastika' has a bearing, being the Hindu symbol of life... is that right? Something to do with the movement of the sun and revolving life-cycle...You'd have to live on coffee and cake like a Viennese 'hausfrau' to understand the goings-on inside his head. He was abstinent, didn't smoke or drink and his daily round was late rising, late to bed and indolence on a grand scale. Where Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin ran their business with regularity, Hitler left the thinking and organising to others. He just spouted and the Germans just gaped in adoration... until the bombs dropped around the clock and gunfire could be heard coming from east, south and west. Then I think they woke up with a jerk as if their alarm clocks had gone off together.

One of the greatest men in Europe - Scandinavia to be exact - was Knut Sveinson, a.k.a, Cnut or Canute, whose empire extended from Dublin in the west to S W Sweden (Skaane and Gotaland) in the east. He had the respect of the Holy Roman Emperor whose coronation in Rome he attended as an elector in AD 1034 (I think), and kept the peace without having to be heavy-handed. Fair to all (but woe betide you if you crossed him!), he was crowned king of England first in 1016, then in his native Denmark two years on. When he died in AD 1035 his empire went its own way. His sons Svein, Harold 'Harefoot' and Harthaknut were hard put to step into his shoes. He was the man to be like.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on October 07, 2020:

Alan, First things first. You have given very interesting information and accurate also regarding the word SLAV. I had a vague idea of the Slav race but never went into the nitty-gritty of their origin. However, I would like to know like the Germans are the Aryan race what race is the Slav? How come the Nazi theorist Rosenberg came up with the idea and Hitler picked it up that these Slav people are inferior. As an aside, the Slav girls are very beautiful and the harems of the Middle East Muslims Emirs and Caliph's first preference was for Slav girls. Hitler obviously had nothing against the Asians. He signed the pact of steel with Japan and radio Berlin always spread the Japanese victories. He also authorized the formation of the India Legion which later became part of the SS. I have done some deep study on this and have come to the conclusion that the Germans treated the India Legion with a lot of respect. Maybe it had something to do with the swastika which is basically a Hindu emblem.

Alan R Lancaster from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on October 07, 2020:

it is interesting about German attitudes toward their eastern neighbours. It's endemic among Austrians of a generation later than the 1930s as well. As I mentioned on another page of yours earlier, the borderlands in the south of Carinthia, along the Woerthersee (Lake Woerther) west of Klagenfurt in the early 1920's had to fight off an incursion by troops of the young Yugoslav state whose leaders claimed the land up to the lake to be historically Slav territory. The state government in Vienna offered a plebiscite and the largely Slovenic people in the region voted to stay with Austria.

Subsequent generations of German Austrians may have been ignorant of the gesture and called the Slavs 'Tschuschen' (don't know what it means literally but it ain't complimentary). They directed the insult at all Yugoslavs who went north to work in Austria after WWII, and gave them menial jobs. When Austria joined the EU the Slovenes (not to be confused with the Slovaks north of eastern Austria) followed suit and approached the Austrian government about the idea of being allowed back into Austria, as it was until 1918 or 1920 when it was absorbed into the infant Yugoslavia. The Austrian government seemed to be lukewarm about the idea. I don't think that was received well.

'Slav' isn't the German word for slave, it's 'Sklave' (pronounced 'sclarve'). Are you ready for this: 'Slave' comes through Middle English from mediaeval Latin 'sclavus', which originates in Byzantine Greek for 'slave'. There you have it emge. Slavs who inhabited large tracts of Eastern Europe were taken by Iberian Muslims in the 9th Century and that's where the word 'slave' comes from. My wife, Kath read it out to me while I typed it here. You can read the definition in Google, where she got it from.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on October 07, 2020:

yes, that was in the middle ages but is not relevant now

tom on October 05, 2020:

slav is a german word which means slave,hapsburgs ruled eastern europe.western europeans despised easterners as barbaraians

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on October 04, 2020:

Alan probably this man had not forgotten the old days. There is no doubt that even when you watch the parades of the SS and the macho image they create one is in awe of that period. We know however that it was all sham and underneath was plain and simple gangster regime. I have not been able to understand the hatred of the Germans for the Slav race. They are all whites so I wonder what is the problem? Another point is that this hatred is not confined to only the Nazi members but to ALL Germans. Hitler till 1942 had tremendous support for his policies from the masses. Surprisingly the SS treated the Indians much better and they were part of the Waffen SS. There are so many pages in the archives of Boise and the India Legion. This is a surprise to me. I have another point. In 1815 Napoleon was the most hated man in Europe and things changed after a few decades. Just food for thought !

Alan R Lancaster from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on October 03, 2020:

As I've commented on another of your pages on this theme, I came to know an Austrian who'd been taken with the 6th Army into captivity. He'd probably been released in the mid-50's but was in such a mentally depressive state still that he depressed everyone around him. The younger men like as not didn't understand, maybe didn't wish to know what he'd endured in the 1940s-50's. It's possible he was a real gung-ho Nazi before being transported east to whichever Gulag, and the Russians had 'worked' on him. There were a lot of second generation Nazis in Vienna, misguided in their beliefs and dangerous to themselves. Maybe their fathers or grandfathers had spouted about the 'glory' of the Third Reich and they'd been seduced by all the razzmatazz, the goose-stepping Waffen and Death's Head SS, the 'schellenbaum'- carrying parade leaders showing off, the cymbal-clashing (you saw it in 'The Longest Day'). There was still widespread suspicion of communists on one hand by the right, and left-wing dislike of the right on the other, red flags on May 1st and so on in much of working class Vienna. I was surprised their police managed to keep both parties apart on May 1st.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on October 03, 2020:

Alan, the Russians were very clever. They separated the generals from the soldiers and officers. They began to brainwash the generals to form a free German front. Paulos was made the head and he preferred Russian captivity. Hitler was keen to get his hands on his general and an offer was made to Stalin to hand his son(he had been captured) back to the Russians in return for Paulos. Stalin did not agree for the exchange and his son was executed.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on October 03, 2020:

TOM, thanks for commenting and the information on Nikita Khruschev.

tom on October 03, 2020:

after battle of kursk german retreat

Alan R Lancaster from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on October 03, 2020:

Dead right, emge. There were unspeakable atrocities carried out on the Russian civilians, not only by the Waffen SS but by Wehrmacht soldiers. Possibility was that in being paraded through Moscow someone would recognise them and point them out as war criminals. SS men captured by Soviet forces were summarily (rightly) hanged on the spot after a short 'trial'. A large number of the 6th Army were formerly Austrians (1938-45 Austria ceased to exist as a separate state) of the former Kaiser-Koenigliche Infantrie Regiment - K&K that fought in the east against the Russians in WWI and Serbs in the south-east.

tom on October 03, 2020:

kruschev toppled by corrupt brezhnev ,a stalinist ruled from 1964 -1982,ruined soviet economy.1953 1964 krushcev era good economy,his three volume memoirs criticise stalin,1956 20th party congress secret speech,played acrucial role in stalingrad battle,1955 visited india

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on October 03, 2020:

Tom, Nikita Khrushchev is one of the men I admire in Russia on my many visits there. I found people don't remember him but he in my book is the man who broke the myth of Stalin by his1956 secret speech to the Supreme Soviet. He brought in the dismantling of the police state and also released the prisoners.

tom on October 03, 2020:

stalingrad now volgagrad ,gateway to caucasia

tom on October 03, 2020:

paulus settled in east germany ,trained east german army and north korean army before korean war.he died in 1956,his memoirs are published,1955 krushchev released all pows