German 6th Army surrenders at Stalingrad

Soviet troops in one of the last attacks inside Stalingrad advance over the bodies of German troops left amidst the frozen debris. The man on the right carries the Red flag.

Soviet troops in one of the last attacks inside Stalingrad advance over the bodies of German troops left amidst the frozen debris. The man on the right carries a Red flag.

Another soldier raises a Red flag over Stalingrad, finally the bitter struggle was over.

The Red flag is raised over Stalingrad, finally the bitter struggle was over.

The newly promoted Field Marshal Friedrich Paulus, commander of the 6th Army, surrendered on January 31, 1943, against Hitler’s orders. This photograph shows Paulus with his chief of staff, Lieutenant Arthur Schmidt, and his adjutant, Colonel Wilhelm Adam, as they arrive at the headquarters of the 64th Soviet Army at Beketovka to surrender. As a POW, Paulus joined the “National Committee for a Free Germany” [Nationalkomitee Freies Deutschland], which called upon German troops on the Eastern Front to defect and thus bring the war to an end as soon as possible. During the Nuremberg Trials, he testified as a witness for the Soviet Union. He was released from captivity in 1953 and lived in the GDR until his death in 1957.

The newly promoted Field Marshal Friedrich Paulus, surrendered on January 31, 1943, against Hitler’s orders. This photograph shows Paulus with his chief of staff, Lieutenant Arthur Schmidt, and his adjutant, Colonel Wilhelm Adam, as they arrive at the headquarters of the 64th Soviet Army at Beketovka to surrender. As a POW, Paulus joined the “National Committee for a Free Germany” [Nationalkomitee Freies Deutschland], which called upon German troops on the Eastern Front to defect and thus bring the war to an end as soon as possible. During the Nuremberg Trials, he testified as a witness for the Soviet Union. He was released from captivity in 1953 and lived in the GDR until his death in 1957.

Finally the end had come. As soon as he had sent his personal congratulations to Hitler on his 10 years in power, on the 30th January Paulus ordered that contact be made with the Soviet forces.

The Soviet delegations entered the basement of the ruined Univermag Department store where the 6th Army had established its HQ. Fighting was still continuing only 500 yards away. It was a dimly lit warren of corridors with rubbish lying around, but the German guards were heavily armed and the Swastika banners were prominently on display.

Jonathan Bastable has pieced together several accounts of how the surrender was conducted, including that of the Soviet General Mutin. They were not allowed to go directly to Paulus at first:

From the outset, General Schmidt came across as an inveterate fascist. All his clothes were ironed and polished to a sparkle, he was clean-shaven, his hair was combed and greased, he had a little black Hitler moustache, thin lips and small, black, round eyes that kept darting about, and his pronunciation was clipped like a dog’s bark.

Outwardly, he was all pomposity, but on the inside he was trembling in some kind of agony, as if in his death throes, waiting for something terrible to happen.

Colonel Adam was very quiet, and did not join in the conversation. He was taciturn and worried-looking, and as soon as the introductions were out ofthe way he went off to his room on the pretext of gathering some things that he needed.

We insisted that Lieutenant-General Schmidt notify Field Marshal von Paulus of the arrival of our delegation for negotiations, and that von Paulus himself receive us and sign the order for the capituladon of the German forces. Lieutenant-General Schmidt immediately carried out our demand, and reported everything to von Paulus.

Von Paulus confirmed, through General Schmidt, that he was no longer in command of the army, that he was a private citizen and would therefore not sign the capitulation order, He refused to receive our delegation, but asked that, as a field marshal, he be personally taken prisoner and escorted by one of our generals.

General Laskin was therefore bought in to personally arrest Paulus. He was accompanied by General Mutin. Together they decided that they had to search Paulus:

The reason this had to be done was that some German generals had committed suicide rather than be taken prisoner. So we had to take all precautions to stop von Paulus doing the same thing.

Although he seemed a little put out by the search, he did not offer any resistance or objection. And then, when General Laskin asked von Paulus whether he was ill, he replied that he was well but had been affected by the poor diet and the long drawn-out, agonizing experience of the ignominious capitulation of his army.

And then he took out of his trouser pocket some small cubes of baked bread, like we used to make with oil. He showed them to us and said: ‘A hundred and fifty grams a day – that`s all I’ve had to eat for many days now. I’ve been sharing my starvation rations with my soldiers, who only get fifty grams a day.’

Not every unit obeyed the order to surrender and more Soviet troops would die in the next few days dealing with fanatical defenders. For several accounts see ‘Voices from Stalingrad‘.

Some of the 91,000 German troops taken prisoner at Stalingrad. within a matter of weeks over a quarter of them would be dead. Less than 6,000 survived the Soviet labour camps and returned to Germany in the early 1950s.

Some of the 91,000 German troops taken prisoner at Stalingrad. Within a matter of weeks over a quarter of them would be dead. Less than 6,000 survived the Soviet labour camps and returned to Germany in the early 1950s.

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Chuck Halverson January 31, 2013 at 10:17 pm

Great post. As long as I have been following this blog, its amazing in terms of time length perspective to come across this anniversary with the thought of of this battle starting last Fall.

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