The encirclement of the German 6th Army at Stalingrad in mid-November 1942 and its final collapse in February 1943 was a signature defeat for Hitler, as more than 100,000 of his soldiers were marched off into captivity. Frank Ellis tackles this oft-told tale from the unique perspective of the German officers and men trapped inside the Red Army's ever-closing ring of forces. This approach makes palpable the growing desperation of an army that began its campaign confident of victory but that long before the end could see how hopeless their situation had become.
Highlighting these pages are three previously unpublished German army division accounts, translated here for the first time by Ellis. Each of these translations follows the combat experiences of a specific division-the 76th Infantry, the 94th Infantry, and the 16th Panzer-and take readers into the cauldron (or Kessel) that was Stalingrad. Together they provide a ground-level view of the horrific fighting and yield insights into everything from tactics and weapons to internal disputes, the debilitating effects of extreme cold and hunger, and the Germans' astonishing sense of duty and the abilities of their junior leaders.
Along with these first-hand accounts, Ellis himself takes a new and closer look at a number of fascinating but somewhat neglected or misunderstood aspects of the Stalingrad cauldron including sniping, desertion, spying, and the fate of German prisoners. His coverage of sniping is especially notable for new insights concerning the duel that allegedly took place between Soviet sniper Vasilii Zaitsev and a German sniper, Major Konings, a story told in the film Enemy at the Gates (2001). Ellis also includes an incisive reading of Oberst Arthur Boje's published account of his capture, interrogation, and conviction for war crimes, and explores the theme of reconciliation in the works of two Stalingrad veterans, Kurt Reuber and Vasilii Grossman.
Rich in anecdotal detail and revealing moments, Ellis's historical mosaic showcases an army that managed to display a vital resilience and professionalism in the face of inevitable defeat brought on by its leaders. It makes for compelling reading for anyone interested in one of the Eastern Front's monumental battles. 44 photographs, 50 tables