At 3:18 pm on Sunday, 23 August 1942 the first bombs fell on Stalingrad. The Germans had concentrated the bulk of the Luftwaffe in the east for the assault – and they began a systematic block by block destruction of the city that lasted for five days. The Soviets had resisted evacuating the civilians from the city as it was a centre for war production – as a consequence over 40,000 would die in these early stages of the battle.
Nikolai Razuvayev was serving in the city at the time:
The twenty-third of August 1942 is a day I will never forget.The unit I was serving in was deployed in Stalingrad, in the market district beyond the river Tsaritsa.
It was around three or four in the afternoon, and I remember that the market was still buzzing with people, and children were bustling around the Prizyv cinema, waiting for the performance to start.
All of a sudden, a voice boomed out ofa loud-speaker: ‘Attention, citizens – air-raid warning!’ The people thronging the market and walking along the streets looked up anxiously, but didn’t particularly hurry to get to the shelters, as they were already used to such alarms.
Two or three minutes later, anti-aircraft guns opened up, and five minutes after that thousands of bombs started dropping on the city.
After ten minutes the sun was blocked out; everything was covered in smoke and dust. The ground beneath my feet was shaking. There was a continuous roaring on all sides, and fragments of bombs and broken stone were falling from the sky.
It went on like this until darkness fell. The voice from the 1oud~speaker was still saying: ‘Citizens, the air-raid warning is still in effect!’
As a tactic the bombing may not have achieved what Germans wanted. The city was turned into a pile of rubble that made the advance of the Panzers all the more difficult. At the same time it provided cover for the defending forces, creating a landscape in which every inch of the city was to be contested and fought over.
German newsreel footage of the bombing: