The 30th January was the anniversary of the Nazi regime taking power. It was always a cause for celebration in the Nazi party, usually with Hitler addressing a mass rally of the party faithful. The 10th anniversary, falling in 1943, should have been a particularly special event. It very nearly had been the opportunity to show that the party was at the height of its powers, with German forces occupying virtually the whole of Europe.
But the tide of war had turned – even though it would not be clearly seen as a definite reversal for some time. The change in fortunes was almost imperceptible to most Germans at the time, the Nazi regime would only admit to temporary setbacks. Yet the looming defeat at Stalingrad was very difficult to present as just a temporary setback. German radio had started playing sombre music as part of the preparations for the announcement that must inevitably come.
But the ‘Stalingrad Fortress’ could not be allowed to disrupt the Nazi party celebrations by surrendering too soon. The task of disrupting the speeches fell to the RAF – with a long range daylight bombing mission all the way to Berlin. It was a less than subtle hint that the war was coming to German territory, and to ordinary Germans, in much more terrible ways than before. The German forces would be falling back in Russia and in North Africa but the task of opening a ‘Second Front’ against them fell, for the moment, to the RAF and the USAAF.
None of this was of any deterrence to Hitler. For him any setback merely meant more determination was needed – the will of the ‘Volk’ would overcome. This was now total war for everyone in Germany, it was an all or nothing struggle. This was the message that Hitler had for the German people:
In this mightiest struggle of all time, we cannot expect that Providence give us victory as a present. Each and every people will be weighed, and what is judged too light will fall. On September 1, 1939, I declared that, come what may, neither time nor the force of arms will defeat the German nation.
The past ten years were therefore not only filled with tremendous accomplishments in peaceful work in all spheres, cultural progress, and social recovery, but also by military deeds of unique greatness. The victories that the German Wehrmacht and its allies have gained in this war are without equal in history.
In view of the realization that there will not be victors and defeated in this war but only survivors and annihilated, the National Socialist state will continue the fight with the same zealousness that the movement has called its own from the moment when it began to take power in Germany.
I have already said on January 30, 1942, that any weakling can bear victories, but it is fate that first tests the strong by its blows. Last winter, the Jewish leaders of the plutocracies already rejoiced about the collapse of the German Wehrmacht, which had become inevitable in their eyes. Things developed differently.
They may hope for the same again this winter. They will live to see that the force of the National Socialist idea is much stronger than their yearning.
The longer the war lasts, the more this idea will unite this Volk, give it faith, and increase its achievements. This idea will inspire everybody to fulfill his duty. It will destroy whoever attempts to shirk his duties. It will wage this fight until a clear result is obtained, a new January 30, namely, the unambiguous victory.
It was a warning that this was a struggle to the death, a far more desperate struggle than he had led the German people to believe until now.
He only made a passing reference to the the beleaguered 6th Army in Stalingrad, although he knew full well it was in its’ death throes. But now not even the word Stalingrad could be mentioned.
The heroic struggle of our soldiers at the Volga should serve as a reminder to everyone that he must do his utmost in Germany’s struggle for freedom, for the future of our Volk, and, in a broader sense, for the preservation of our entire continent.
It was left to Field Marshal Goering to address the nation about Stalingrad in a radio broadcast on the evening of the 30th:
Every German will one day speak in solemn awe of this battle, and will recall that in spite of everything the foundation of Germany‘s victory was laid here. They will speak of a Langemarck of daring, an Alcazar of tenacity, a Narvik of courage, and a Stalingrad of sacrifice.
In days to come it will be said thus: when you come home to Germany, tell them that you have seen us lying at Stalingrad, as the rule of honour and the conduct of war have ordained that we must do, for Germany’s sake.
It may sound harsh to say that a soldier has to lay down his life at Stalingrad, in the deserts of Africa or in the icy wastelands of the North, but if we soldiers are not prepared to risk our lives, then we would do better to get ourselves to a monastery.
The speech did nothing to help those listening inside Stalingrad, it was seen by some as a ‘premature funeral oration’. A fairly accurate prediction as it turned out.
There was now one more Field Marshal in the Reich. General Paulus, the commander of the 6th Army in Stalingrad, was now created Field Marshal. No German Field Marshal had ever lived long enough to surrender – it was a clear invitation to Friedrich Paulus to act accordingly.