Focus question: Examine the battle of Stalingrad as well causes, course of the engagement and focus also on events leading up to the battle and extreme loss of life.
The fight for Stalingrad in 1942-43 was a great turning point in the Second World War as for the first time the German army was comprehensively defeated, so destroying the myth of Nazi invincibility. After Stalingrad, German expansionism was over, with defeats coming in North Africa and Italy; they now slowly began to retreat on all fronts until their eventual submission in May 1945
The name ‘Stalingrad’ became an obsession with Hitler. It overshadowed his strategic objective of gaining access to the Caucasian oil fields, which he saw as essential is supplying fuel for the Nazi military machine and depriving the soviets of their resources. Hitler insisted in taking complete control of the campaign, ignoring his generals more logical approach. Refusing all notions of making tactical with-drawals, Hitler’s stubbornness resulted in the annihilation of the whole of his 6th Army.
Stalingrad was fought between two egotistical dictators, neither of whome had any possibility of retreat. Their troops were told to fight to the death. Such was the ferocity of the engagement, that at the end of the battle no building remained intact.
Hitler had revealed his aggressive ambitions for a German empire in the east in the 1920’s in his book Mein Kampf (my struggle). The push eastwards began the Second World War, with the German invasion of Poland in September 1939 and continued with Operation Barbarossa, the attack on the Soviet Union in June 1941, which stunned Stalin, who thought he had a non-aggression pact with Hitler. The ease which the Nazis had invaded Western Europe, had made Hitler overconfident. The Nazis completely underestimated the Russian terrain, Weather conditions, infrastructure, numerical odds of the Red Army and Soviet’s manufacturing capabilities.
Although Hitler’s generals had favoured a renewed attack on Moscow, after the initial success of the invasion, Hitler wanted access to the Caucasian oil-fields and hoped to encircle Moscow later. This resulted in the Nazi capability being split and one of the most brutal conflicts the world has ever seen take place.
On an early Sunday morning 22nd June 1941, Operation Barbarossa began. 3,050,000 German along with pro-axis troops from Rumania, Austria and Italy bringing a total of 4 million, had amassed on the Soviet border. Hitler wished to establish a line from the Volga River to Arkhangelsk. The Luftwaffe were to then finish of the last of Russia’s industry in the Ural Mountains. The huge build up was mainly in East Prussia and the Polish border and was under radio silence right up until the last day, many German soldiers believed that it was all part of an elaborate diversion to the real plan which was to invade Brittan.
Hitler launched another Blitzkrieg (lightning war) with 121divisions on a 3,200 kilometre front, from the black sea to the Baltic in the north, the Germans moved towards Leningrad via the Baltic States. In the centre the target was Moscow via Smolensk. In the south the Germans marched towards the Ukraine and Kiev they intended to then turn south to the Crimea and cross the river Don on to the Caucasus and then onto Stalingrad by the river Volga.
Hitler thought that the whole communist edifice would come “crashing to the ground” once attacked, as it was “rotten to the core”. This view was widely shared amongst many foreign observers as Stalin’s purges, which began in 1937 had dismissed, imprisoned or executed 36,671 officers. Of 706 officers held the rank of brigade commander or above, over 400 had been persecuted. Russia’s war with Finland in 1939-40 suggested that it was only their vast numerical strength which won through.
Hitler’s pretext for invading was that the Soviets were planning an invasion themselves. This was completely false...
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