On This Day

battle of Stalingrad, Stalingrad, Stalingrad fighting
German Federal Archive
Fighting amid the ruins of Stalingrad, January 1943.

On This Day: Nazi Surrender Ends Battle of Stalingrad

February 02, 2012 05:00 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
On Feb. 2, 1943, the remainder of the encircled Nazi forces at Stalingrad surrendered to Soviet forces, thereby ending one of the fiercest and bloodiest battles in the history of war.

The Battle of Stalingrad

The war between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union began in June 1941, when the Nazis disregarded a non-aggression pact and launched a surprise invasion. Nazi forces advanced deep into Soviet territory, but the Russian winter prevented them from reaching Moscow. In June 1942, the Nazi leadership decided to launch its second offensive not toward Moscow, but toward the industrial city of Stalingrad and the oil-rich Caucasus region.

The Nazi forces advanced quickly and in August began a massive bombing campaign that destroyed much of the city. Nazi ground forces advanced into the city in September, but faced stiff resistance from Soviet men who were willing to fight hand-to-hand amid the ruins of the bombed-out city.

In November, the Soviets received reinforcements and launched a counter-offensive, Operation Uranus, that within days destroyed the Romanian forces defending the Nazis’ northern and southern flanks. The collapse of the flanks allowed the Soviet forces to converge at the rear of the Nazi line and encircle more than 250,000 men of the Nazi 6th Army. Mistakenly believing that the trapped forces could be supplied by air and saved by other forces, Hitler ordered Friedrich Paulus, commander of the 6th Army, not to attempt a break out.

Over the next two months, the encircled Nazi forces faced intense cold, starvation and dwindling supplies as they desperately tried to hold out. Meanwhile, outside the pocket, Nazi forces were being driven back by a Soviet offensive, further isolating the Nazi pocket from its support. The Soviets offered Paulus the opportunity to surrender in January, but Hitler would not let him.

On Jan. 30, Hitler promoted Paulus to field marshal. In German history, no field marshal had ever surrendered; Hitler assumed that Paulus would either fight to the death or commit suicide, but Paulus chose neither. On Jan. 31, he surrendered his troops in the southern part of the city and on Feb. 2 he surrendered his remaining troops. There were only 91,000 Nazi men still alive. They were all taken prisoner and of those, about 5,000 survived the Soviet labor camps to return home.

Historical Context: World War II

Ultimately, World War II was the bloodiest in history, with a death toll of more than 62 million. Battles were fought in Europe, the Middle East, China, Japan and Africa. Germany surrendered May 7, 1945; after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan surrendered on Aug. 15, 1945.

The findingDulcinea Web Guide to World War II links to the most comprehensive and reliable sources on the war.

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