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When the German Sixth Army was surrounded at Stalingrad, there were something like 330,000 soldiers. Perhaps 91,000 survived the siege to surrender two and half months later, and of these, about 5,000 survived the war, a less than 2% survival rate.

Within this group, survival chances were very unequal, by rank. It would not surprise me that most, if not all of the 24 generals survived; they got special rations* during the siege and were treated relatively well in captivity. To a lesser extent, the same would be true for other officers, especially colonels and lieutenant colonels, etc. Even "non-commissioned" officers would have more privileges, and hence more survival chances than junior enlisted soldiers.

I read of the survival and homecoming of one Emil Metzger in "Barbarians at the Gates," but he was a second lieutenant. He was also a small man, about minimum size for a soldier, meaning that his food rations went further than they would for most others.

Were there accounts of the lowest ranking junior enlisted soldiers ("privates") surviving both the siege and captivity, and if so, how? Did they work in some "strategic" area such as food processing? Did they make a deal with their Soviet captors?

*One exception to the rule was Chief of Staff, General Kurt Zeitzler, in Berlin, who put himself on soldier's rations of four ounces of bread and four ounces of meat a day during the siege--until Hitler noted his weight loss and ordered him to stop.

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    @MarkC.Wallace: I meant a "buck" private. As opposed to an officer, a "non-com" or even private first class. I thought the context was clear, but maybe it wasn't. – Tom Au Apr 28 '16 at 16:33
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    generally speaking, they are simply called privates, not private soldiers. I've replaced "private soldier" with "junior enlisted solder"; if you disagree, roll me back and I'll delete this comment. – CGCampbell Apr 28 '16 at 18:00
  • I read several such accounts. In Russian. Are you interested in Russian translations or in the German originals? – Alex Apr 28 '16 at 20:41
  • @Alex: The German. I've studied both languages, but as you can see from my site statistics, my German is much better. – Tom Au Apr 28 '16 at 22:38
  • OK, I will try to find them. The memoir I read is mostly about the stay of the author in captivity. He was captured in Stalingrad. After the war he was repatriated and wrote a book. He wrote with sympathy to Russians and thus his book was translated. – Alex Apr 29 '16 at 2:43
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Sapp, F. Gefangen in Stalingrad (1943 bis 1946). — Steyr: Ennsthaler, 1998. This satisfies your criteria completely, except that the soldier is Austrian.

Fritzsche K. Das Ziel - überleben: Sechs Jahre hinter Stacheldraht. — Zweibrücken VDM Heinz Nickel, 2002. This guy is German who spent 6 years in captivity, not a "simple soldier", but a pilot, leutenant.

Zieser B. The Road то Stalingrad. — New York: Ballantine Books, 1956. German soldier, captured in Stalingrad.

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    Being Austrian was helpful. They were considered "less bad" than the Germans by the Soviets, and were occasionally cut a break or two. – Tom Au Apr 29 '16 at 14:33
  • I had thought it was exactly the opposite due to Hitler's nationality and the disproportionately large number of Austrians in the hated Einsatzgruppen. – bigbadmouse Jun 12 '18 at 7:55
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In 2002, I had the occasion to speak with a German Army survivor of Soviet POW captivity (my wife's godmother's husband). His rank was no higher than a non-com but I don't remember exactly what it was and he had served as a Pioneer.

When he learned I was an amateur blacksmith he related to me how he survived captivity by using smithing skills he had learned as an apprentice machinist. He told me the group of smiths he worked with had a quota of four axe heads per day. These were forged out of the cut up barrels of artillery pieces. However, the real quota was five axe heads since the guards took one to barter with the locals for vodka.

  • This is interesting. Was he a survivor of the Stalingrad siege? – axsvl77 Mar 8 '17 at 16:32
  • @axsvl77 - I am not sure. My wife's paternal grandfather was lost there however. – Matt Balent Mar 8 '17 at 16:43
  • @MattBalent - Even though he probably had better rations than other prisioners due to his skills, I'd be interesting to know whether he was big or small man. Because several sources describe that the rations were standard and big people died first. – Santiago Mar 8 '17 at 17:00
  • @Santiago - Granted he was in his 70's when I met him he was of 'normal' stature. I'd guess 5'8" in his younger days. – Matt Balent Mar 8 '17 at 17:08
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Try "After Stalingrad: Seven years as a prisoner of war" by Adelbert Holl, Pen & Sword Military, 2016.

  • Lt Holl was not a Junior Enlisted (Private), but this is good reading anyway. – CGCampbell Apr 30 '16 at 21:15

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