REALLY Old News: Stalingrade

By Teddy Walker

On Febuary 2nd, 1943, Nazi forces surrendered to the Soviet army following the battle of Stalingrad, marking the first major German defeat of the war. This put an end to the Nazi advance on the eastern front and forced them to send reinforcements from the west.

 

Now this may come as a shock to you, but war is pretty bad. The Stalingrad kerfuffle was especially bad as battles go, and many historians consider it to be the greatest battle in the second world war. The battle lasted for over five months and resulted in the deaths of almost two million people, making it one of the bloodiest battles in human history.

 

The Nazi attack on the Soviet Union wasn’t really supposed to happen .The war broke a non-aggression pact that the two nations had agreed to shortly before the war, making it a breach of international law. Not that Hitler much cared what the international community thought of him, mind you.On the 23rd of August, 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, named after the foreign ministers of the two nations. According to the pact, they were not to make any hostile action against each other for the next ten years.

 

On June 22nd, 1942, Hitler launched operation Barbarossa, the secret plan to invade the Soviet Union. Doing so, he committed one of the classic blunders, he got involved in a land war in Asia. At least he didn’t go up against any Sicilians when death was on the line

 

(At least, not until Italy was liberated). The operation was named after the former emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. Funnily enough for an operation that was a total failure, its namesake died in the 3rd crusade after falling in a river in full armor. The plan failed for a multitude of reasons including underestimation of Soviet reinforcements (they expected 50 extra divisions, the Russians produced 200) and underestimation of Soviet allegiance to the state (the Nazis thought the Soviet Union would collapse within six months).

 

The city of Stalingrad was a site of large strategic importance for both sides. The Nazis intended to use it as a staging ground for further assaults into the caucasus and the Soviets wanted to defend it as it was an important center of industry and communication. It was not just for its strategic value that the city was important though. As the only city named after Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, it would be a huge blow to the morale of the Soviet army if it were to fall.

 

The Nazi army had planned for the attack on Stalingrad to be relatively quick and didn’t expect the high level of fortification and resistance within the city. It took the Nazis about a month to reach the center of the city, but they were unable to push the Soviets out of the industrial zones as new reinforcements continued to arrive. A few weeks later, when the Nazis were running low on supplies and manpower, the Soviets launched their counteroffensive. The Nazis were encircled and were unable to try to retreat due to orders from high command telling them to stand their ground. Attempts to resupply the cut-off invaders were unsuccessful and the attacking force surrendered on February 2nd, 1943, six months after the start of the attack.

 

Sources:

https://www.britannica.com/event/Operation-Barbarossa

https://www.britannica.com/event/Battle-of-Stalingrad

http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/battle-of-stalingrad

 

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