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.

  • 1
    @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
    Commented Apr 28, 2016 at 16:33
  • 3
    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
    Commented Apr 28, 2016 at 18:00
  • I read several such accounts. In Russian. Are you interested in Russian translations or in the German originals?
    – Alex
    Commented Apr 28, 2016 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
    Commented Apr 28, 2016 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
    Commented Apr 29, 2016 at 2:43

4 Answers 4


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.

  • 2
    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
    Commented Apr 29, 2016 at 14:33
  • 1
    I had thought it was exactly the opposite due to Hitler's nationality and the disproportionately large number of Austrians in the hated Einsatzgruppen. Commented Jun 12, 2018 at 7:55

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? Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 16:32
  • @axsvl77 - I am not sure. My wife's paternal grandfather was lost there however. Commented Mar 8, 2017 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
    Commented Mar 8, 2017 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. Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 17:08

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
    Commented Apr 30, 2016 at 21:15

My mother's cousin's husband was one of the 5,000 survivors who were repatriated. While he lived into his 80s, he had emotional/psychological problems for the rest of his life. On the other hand, another cousin was one of the casualties of Stalingrad.

  • 2
    Was he a junior enlisted soldier and did he write an account of his experiences?
    – Steve Bird
    Commented Sep 16, 2023 at 16:54

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.