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In this podcast by Dan Carlin's Hardcore history show, Dan mentions that there are areas inside of the Stalingrad pocket where human remains are openly visible above ground, exposed to the weather. For anyone familiar with the area, is this true?

If so, why weren't the remains buried?

On a side note - what is the status of those areas today?

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    Why refer to the present-day city as Stalingrad rather than Volgograd? – Ben Crowell Feb 8 '15 at 21:15
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In a thread on his site's now-deleted forum, Dan cited:

Donovan Webster, Aftermath: The Remnants of War: From Landmines to Chemical Warfare — The Devastating Effects of Modern Combat

The other main source, whom I think Dan mentions in that show, is Walter Seledec, an Austrian TV editor/official (and apparently brigadier) who brought footage of the remains at Volgograd back to Austria.

He was interviewed for a 1993 New Yorker article on the complicated legacy of Stalingrad and efforts to reinter the Austrian and German war dead. When the author visited Peschanka (a village west of Volgograd) in January of 1993, he only saw steppes covered in snow; but writes that he saw Seledec's photos, and quotes Seledec's Russian guide (who helped German and Austrian organisations find and identify the dead) describing his childhood playing amongst skeletons and war wreckage, and how children are still injured or killed by unexploded ordnance.

Hundreds of thousands of men on both sides were unburied, buried in mass graves, and on the German side, buried in shallow icy graves by starving frostbitten men. According to the article, shallow graves were exposed by erosion and winter thaw or by farmers' tractors, and looted for militaria.

Some cemeteries marked on military maps from the period have been dug up, but reinterment and memorialisation are contentious issues. The article quotes Seledec saying that until 1992, Russia considered the Stalingrad battlefields a "sensitive area" and were "difficult" for foreigners to access. The Austrian government was able to push for the reinterment of their war dead because they were "identified by the Allies as 'the first victim' of National Socialist aggression" (author's words, not Seledec's), whereas Germany garnered less sympathy and the understandably bitter opposition of Red Army veterans.

I haven't tried to track down Seledec's documentary, but this paragraph mentions articles which could be looked up for more information:

Seledec's revelations caused a sensation in the Austrian press. Across the country, newspapers ran front-page stories bolstered by images of the scattered skeletons. The daily Kurier published a full-page story with the headline "THE DEATH FIELDS OF STALINGRAD." In the central province of Steiermark, a local paper headlined its report "BONE-LITTERED BATTLEFIELDS." Another daily paper, under the headline "BONES WITH IDENTITY TAGS," reported, "Skulls lie in helmets, decayed bones still stand in boots, on the spines hang the identity tags." Wiener, a popular monthly magazine, featured a story accompanied by a full-page color photograph of a skeleton lying in an open field, its arms at its sides. …

Seledec has been accused of crossing the line between commemorating ordinary Wehrmacht soldiers and celebrating Nazis. (Der Standard, Haaretz)

More recently:

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Yes, the bone fields are still there. Especially around the Pitomnik Airfield, where balkas - eroded river banks - aren't plowed like the fields around them, and are littered with bones. I can show photos. I was there. There are still bones everywhere. You just have to slow down and look.

Still, as of 1996, the Germans were allowed in to begin the business of identifying and burying the Wehrmacht dead with the help of Russians who know the landscape. It continues.

Before that time, the USSR would not allow the bones to be moved, except by farmers plowing their fields and the uniforms the skeletal remains still wore clogged the tines of their plows. Still, since that time, many people have visited there after reading "Aftermath: The Remnants of War," and have tried to take home grisly souvenirs of the war. They are often found out at Russian customs during departure, and are often taken into Russian custody, to await trial and justice. This stuff is still taken very seriously.

As for Walter Seledec, he was in the film "Aftermath: The Remnants of War," but was not interviewed in the book.

How do I know? I wrote the book, was credited as a writer in the film, and have been back to see the changes, which are moving along, but are far from completed.

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    It could be argued that at least in modern times, no people have suffered like the Russians in war (and the soldiers and people of other republics) than in ww2 and no people have managed to defeat, basically alone for much of it, a worse, more monstrous enemy which killed civilians as policy. So, yes, the Russians take this seriously even now. – Jeff Apr 6 '17 at 6:06
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    "no people have suffered like the Russians in war" The Poles may have something to say about that. – inappropriateCode Apr 10 '17 at 14:07
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    Not too often we get an answer where the poster can source himself as the main reference. – Twelfth Feb 8 '18 at 22:44
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Two main questions here:

  • Why weren't remains buried? They weren't buried because there simply was no opportunity. The Soviets could possibly evacuate part of their corpses during the battle, the Germans had nowhere to go. And during the winter months, the only thing to do was pile them up in heaps and cover them with rubble as best you can (if you had the time).
  • Are they still visible now? Highly unlikely. Anything left behind will have long since weathered away, been chewed up by animals, or picked up by souvenir hunters and post-battle grave details. And remember the area is now once again a large city, most of the original battle area has been plowed up, built over, cultivated for decades.
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There's clips on YouTube of the Pitomnik taken by tourists over the past few years. In them you'll see small remnants of mines, but no human remains.

This isn't to say that there aren't any remains, but I was envisioning vast fields of bones from the way Dan described them in the podcast.

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I was there in November of 1998 in Pitomnik and Peschanka. Pitomnik still has remains in large areas where it is hard to walk without stepping on human bones. I tried not to wherever possible but I tried to show as much respect for the bones of all these young men. It was shocking. Not only that; German boots in pretty amazing condition, bullets, shells, mines, helmet fragments, debris of war everywhere.

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I went on a Stalingrad tour in 2000 and one day we were taken out to see old dugouts and foxholes. At one point near the northwest boundary of the pocket we were allowed to look around and some of us wandered to a field where farmers were working.

In the drainage ditch next to the farm we saw remnants of bones. I wasn't sure they were human until someone pointed out part of a jawbone with teeth still in it. All the bone fragments were small, none bigger than 3 inches except the 4 inch jawbone with teeth.

I can believe the story about large bones by the hundreds seen 30 years before. While we were there several Russian soldiers were found and buried in a huge ceremony.

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No, There aren't. But its a nice tourist idea for the former Soviet Union to think that there is. 70yrs of rain and weather and there wouldn't be a bone in sight. The WW1 battlefields of Europe have been around longer and the only bones found are those plowed up. Nothing was visible. And any relics left would have been picked clean and sold on Ebay by now.

Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.

  • 3
    Is this personal experience of the site or do you have other evidence that this is a fabrication? – Steve Bird Jun 28 '17 at 11:07

protected by T.E.D. Apr 18 '18 at 22:45

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