The Germans spent a large amount of manpower in adverse territory for this city, even after long exhausting continuous combat.

After the war, Kliest wrote:

The capture of Stalingrad was subsidiary to the main aim. It was only of importance as a convenient place, in the bottleneck between Don and the Volga, where we could block an attack on our flank by Russian forces coming from the East. At the start, Stalingrad was no more than a name on the map to us.

Yes it is a fact that Stalingrad was not significantly resourceful to fight for. Why then did the Germans, after seeing that it was to be a long affair, not just encircle the city? Instead they kept fighting for it in close quarter combat for the city's buildings, which is almost always a disadvantageous, slowing and depleting affair for an invading force. Considering the momentum of their initial advance, could they have fared better by crossing the Volga, and laying siege to city?

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    Do you have any estimate of the number of vessels that the Germans had available? That deep in Russia and with no other points of the Volga under control, my guess would be a number between none and zero, and the Volga is a BIG river.
    – SJuan76
    Commented Jul 28, 2015 at 15:03
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    I think you mean Kleist. Also, his last word is 'us'. Creepy.
    – mart
    Commented Jul 30, 2015 at 6:49
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    Just what the Germans needed - more flanks for Romanians to guard and a major river to retreat over.
    – Oldcat
    Commented Jul 30, 2015 at 16:45
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  • The Germans were in the process, in 1942, of demonstrating to the world, and the Soviets, that they were the masters of static warfare, just as they were the masters of mobile warfare. The Battle of Sevastopol had been touted as such a symbolic victory with its ostentatious use of massive siege guns, and the Battle of Stalingrad was readily engaged as a slug-fest with the intention of underlining the point further. The war had changed and Germany could fight and win a war of attrition.... only not. Commented Feb 21, 2020 at 13:20

8 Answers 8


A number of things went wrong in the German advance on Stalingrad. One of them is that after Paulus made it to the Volga in late August, 1942, he was supposed to chase the Russians into Stalingrad where the Luftwaffe would supposedly bomb them to death. But the Luftwaffe bombed Stalingrad before the Russians retreated, which is to say that most of them survived, and then fortified the ruins, which made excellent cover, instead of killing them.

Then there was the issue that the Sixth Army consisted of only 18 divisions, less than the Germans had used in previous sieges. To "encircle and besiege" Stalingrad, they needed more units, which Hoth's Fourth Army could have supplied-- if it had not been shuttled back and forth between Stalingrad and the Caucasus.

Third, the Russians actually concentrated most of their defensive strength OUTSIDE Stalingrad, on the flanks, which effectively prevented a German encirclement, and led to the later Russian encirclement of the Germans.

Basically, the "path of least resistance" for the Sixth Army was through Stalingrad itself, if the Luftwaffe had timed the bombing of the defenders properly. The Germans almost pushed through the survivors, and would probably have prevailed against a "lesser" number.

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    Accepted for the close reference to on-field conditions.
    – Rohit
    Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 10:21
  • great answer, a few extra notes: (1) the general staff (especially Halder) were convinced the city would be taken under 10 days (2) the 6th army was completely exhausted of manpower supplies and had few tanks left by the time they reached the city after a few weeks of constant fighting (3) the russians started using tactics specifically designed to exploit the weaknesses of german doctrine (like tiny localized urban actions, and disrupting the typical german attack pattern) (4) the german flanks were guarded by lower quality romanian units
    – jajdoo
    Commented Sep 19, 2021 at 7:13

The answer is Hitler.

He was obsessed with the political damage the falling of a city named "Stalingrad" would have upon Stalin and the USSR, and wanted it more or less destroyed, so he explicitly ordered von Paulus not to encircle the city and wait for it to die(as the normal procedure would be), but to capture and raze it. Paulus was hesitant, but obedient, and he did as he was bid, which was a grave and fatal mistake, as we all know, and should have been apparent to anybody even back then.

Source: memories from a few books of Bevin Alexander, common knowledge, Wikipedia, tales

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    Another source for this is Antony Beevor's book "Stalingrad". Although the logistical problems highlighted in other answers no doubt played a big part too. Hitler might have been more willing to listen to Paulus, and indeed Paulus might have been less spineless in his objections, if there was a stronger case for encircling or bypassing the city.
    – Bob Tway
    Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 8:54
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    Sorry, but while it seems true that Hitler ordered the assault of Stalingrad against his generals' judgement, it doesn't look like its encirclement was in the original plans. For the siege the Germans would need to cross Volga twice, which is... well, about twice as hard as crossing it once after capturing the city. On the contrary, original plans were a lot less ambitious and called simply for establishing a foothold somewhere on Volga, preventing its use to transport goods from Caspian Sea.
    – IMil
    Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 16:41
  • I disagree with the "Hitler" made the mistake: the necessity to go on Stalingrad came also from the OKH that was afraid of leaving its North flank established, and was right to think that. As Tom Au's answer says, encircling would have been also a rude affair for German logistics. Also, overall, the 6th Army did not spend that much of its forces in the city itself Commented Mar 5, 2023 at 10:12

The problem was that Stalingrad is actually a huge city. It lies for miles on the west bank of the Volga. The Volga in many places is a mile wide or more and if defenders are in the city it would be easy to supply them by barge from the river. Establishing a force on the east bank would have been pointless because there was nothing to attack there and there would have been no way to supply those troops.

One of the big problems is that the Germans had little heavy weaponry and ammunition. Normally, if defenders are holing up in a city like that, you can easily defeat them just by blasting them to smithereens with heavy guns, but the Germans simply did not have the ammunition supply necessary to do that, so they were running around fighting with rifles street to street which was useless. The Red Army won the battle because they improved their artillery supply to a decisive degree.

  • In the other shore there was heavy artillery support, logistics, reinforcements waiting to cross, headquarters. Hardly "nothing to attack". Anyway, the point that an operation through a mile long river is quite difficult is right.
    – SJuan76
    Commented Jul 28, 2015 at 15:04
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    The Volga at what is now Volgograd is not "a mile wide or more". Google Maps clearly shows that it's less than a kilometer wide along the whole length of Volgograd, except for a very short section at the extreme northern end that probably wasn't even within the city, seventy-five years ago. Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 8:23
  • a far bigger problem than the river allowing resupply of the city was the German lack of river crossing and bridging equipment which they'd have needed to get their forces across and keep them supplied. Tanks and field guns on the banks could (and at times did) effectively have engaged Soviet supply efforts (as could the Luftwaffe, speaking in a hypothetical case where the Germans had got across the river the Luftwaffe might also have built forward bases close to the city after all).
    – jwenting
    Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 11:20
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    "Just a mere kilometer wide river" - how easy to throw bridges in the mind over these tiny obstacles (twice) and draw lines and arrows on a blank map. This kind of strategizing got the Germans out on a limb in Stalingrad and the Caucasus in the first place.
    – Oldcat
    Commented Jul 30, 2015 at 16:48

Hitler intended to fight in Stalingrad; it was not a mistake. At one point, the German 6th Army was tying down 60 Russian divisions, this allowed the rest of Army Group South to reach the oil fields almost unchallenged; however, the mountain terrain added weeks to the objective - weeks which the army group were supposed to have returned north to relieve 6th Army at Stalingrad.

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    This answer would benefit from sources (and punctuation and capitalization).
    – MCW
    Commented Apr 21, 2016 at 11:10

Germany never attempted to cross the Volga at any point during the campaign. It was simply not part of the plan at any time, on any level. The Maykop oil fields was the main objective of Fall Blau, and Stalingrad was chosen as an optional objective only because it was a communications hub on the Volga that would make a convenient spot for the northern anchor to the Blau campaign.

Kleist later said after the war: The capture of Stalingrad was subsidiary to the main aim. It was only of importance as a convenient place, in the bottleneck between Don and the Volga, where we could block an attack on our flank by Russian forces coming from the east. At the start, Stalingrad was no more than a name on the map to us.

Hitler changed his mind a number of times about the objectives of Army group B (the norther arm of Blau). First Voronezh was optional. Then Voronezh became a target for an on the fly capture, which the Germans did manage. Then the 4th panzer army was diverted to support Army Group A. Then Hitler changed his mind again and redirected the 4th panzer army back to Army Group B to support the attack on Stalingrad (but not before giving 1/2 its forces to Army Group A)

Basically all this is to illustrate that the main goal was the oil fields in the south. And the German high command had very ambivalent/vague attitudes towards the goal of the Army Group B.

In truth, Army Group B had just one job. Protect the flank of Army group A.

Therefore, Voronezh was optional, and so was Stalingrad.

  • No sources no upvote. Please attribute your quote. Was it this thebattleofstalingrad1942-1943.weebly.com/… ? Commented Dec 4, 2018 at 17:13
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    You never know if someone is actually interested in how you came to know my most secret desires, or not. After all, I never told anyone and you could make all that up? Commented Dec 4, 2018 at 18:11

If I could attempt to summarize in a few bullets what seems to have occurred, (Death by Powerpoint!), I see it like this;

  1. Nobody in their right mind (at least in modern warfare) attacks a major city directly, especially when it can be reinforced and resupplied from outside the city. A modern, mechanized army loses all advantages when it attempts to attack a huge pile of ruins that is defended by determined troops. The smart answer (as even the dumbest 2nd LT in the US Army knows, which is saying something) is to surround it and wait for the defenders to starve.

  2. Crossing the river wasn't that big a deal. Both Armies did it on a regular basis in Russia. Large north south rivers are practically the only natural defenses in Russia west of the Urals. The engineers of both armies routinely crossed large rivers with pontoon bridges and that sort of thing.

  3. A much more probable series of causes was as follows;

a. 6th Army was at the end of its logistical tether and had serious shortages of men and material that could not be made up in time. This did not allow it to attempt an operation of this size and scope.

b. If they were that short of men and materiel (and they were), then they damn sure didn't have the resources to successfully assault the city directly. If so, why did they try?

c. This gets closer to the heart of what I believe to be the real problems: Lack of a clear and focused strategic objective (Hitler), coupled with a baffling habit of changing objectives every week or 2 (as in 4th Panzer Army, again, Hitler) and dispersing their efforts instead of concentrating them.

d. A substitution of fuzzy emotional objectives (death to the city named after Stalin!) as opposed to clear, logical, pragmatic military objectives (again, Hitler).

e. Spineless Generals who would not stand up to Hitler and say no. But then, they all knew that would almost certainly get them fired, imprisoned, or shot (again, Hitler).

f. Hitler's unwillingness to listen to his own military professionals, who were actually usually pretty smart. If Hitler had listened to Guderian in 1941 and gone straight for Moscow right off the bat, screw everything else, they might well have won the war right then. But then, all that got Guderian was getting fired for a couple of years. Again, obviously, Hitler.


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    Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    Commented Mar 4, 2023 at 23:01

Well, the problem with encircling Stalingrad is that; it is located on the far bank of the "River Volga". So, it's nearly impossible to encircle a city that is located on the far side of a river. But, the germans could have just surrounded the area outside of Stalingrad, and that is possibly the closest they will get to "encircling Stalingrad". Moreover, if Hitler wanted to capture the oilfields of Baku, it would be extremely difficult because Germany's supply lines would have been stretched too far out. But, let's just say they capture the oil fields. Well, bringing the oil back is another issue. It is back the Baku is more than 1,000 km from Stalingrad and MORE THAN 3700 KM FROM BERLIN! So, that means they will have to get past Partisan Movements, through Soviet counterattacks, through ariel raids, and through the harsh environment. I don't know about you guys, but if I was Adolph Hitler, I would have listened to my generals to not be obsessed over Stalingrad, and go for the main target the Caucasus. Also, if I could not capture the Caucasus, I would just bomb it. I know this will sound crazy too many of you. But, it is strategically correct. The Soviet got approximately 75% of their oil from the Baku. So, if there is no oil in Baku, then there is no way the Soviet can continue the war. I don't know about you guys. But, if the Soviets are low on oil, and oil from the Baku is vital for them. I would just snatch it away. It definitely will not be the best thing to do. But, as long as the Russians aren't getting any oil, I am okay with that

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    As I remember, Stalingrad was on the side of the Volga that the Germans were coming from. Commented Dec 4, 2018 at 18:10
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    @DavidThornley Your memory is largely correct, but not entirely: imgur.com/gallery/4X80q Commented Dec 5, 2018 at 10:37

Hitler split up his Eastern Front army... Bad decision.. He should have kept his army intact, took the oil fields of southern Russia and while having his army intact, he could have taken and kept Stalingrad... He tried to swallow a huge 5 course meal in one bite and inevitably choked to death.

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    Four sentences isn't really enough to critique a country's whole strategy during a four-year war. The situation was clearly more nuanced than you suggest and more detail would be very helpful. But an answer that seems to be saying that Germany would trivially have conquered the USSR if only they'd used this simple strategy that is obvious to everyone has essentially no credibility. It's never that easy. (And my comment is already longer than your answer.) Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 8:27
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    @DavidRicherby The number of sentences is irrelevant. It is all about the detail and quality of the answer (not length). Using some facts that support your theory would greatly improve your answer. Since this is a History community, I am guessing they would want more fact based answers. You could be correct, but there is nothing to support your claim. Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 13:36

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