Wilhelm Hoffman was a Wehrmacht soldier trapped in Stalingrad, whose diary survived the war and provides a rare look at what it was like to be an average German soldier on the Eastern Front.

My question is, what happened to him? Did he survive the war? Do we even know?

I see that the wiki article states he was killed, but I'm not sure I trust it. The source the wiki article cites just states it with no further discussion. I'm hesitant because it could be a situation like what happened with Albert Blithe in Stephen Ambrose's Band of Brothers. Ambrose said Blithe died shortly after the war, having never recovered from his injuries, when in reality he lived into the 1970's.

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    Doesn't the Wikipedia article you linked to answer this? It says "While the exact fate of Hoffman is unknown, it is believed that he parished[sic] not long after in the bitter fighting." Commented Mar 2, 2020 at 4:37
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    Please add this to your question. Otherwise, people are likely to vote to close. Commented Mar 2, 2020 at 6:02
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    Any reason to doubt the Wikipedia article? Does it conflict with what you know?
    – Jos
    Commented Mar 2, 2020 at 6:35
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    In addition to the answer below: Chuikov quotes the diary and then says "That was the end of the diary, and presumably of its author." (Battle for Stalingrad, p. 275).
    – Tomas By
    Commented Mar 2, 2020 at 18:07
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    Is there any evidence that Hoffman actually existed at all, in German records of his regiment or division ? Also his wife and his captain Werner ? Whole diary seems like corny Soviet propaganda, usual for that time, and Hoffman is almost stereotypical (Russian untermensch, complete belief in Fuhrer, then gradual disillusion and desperation) .
    – rs.29
    Commented Mar 3, 2020 at 8:14

1 Answer 1


You pose an interesting question. Short of investigating the German military archives, & assuming that they have complete records for Wilhelm Hoffman (the German government did have a notable problem of keeping its records intact in 1945), we'll have to deal with probabilities.

According to the Wikipedia article on the Battle of Stalingrad, as many as 400,000 German soldiers were involved in the Battle of Stalingrad; the article claims as many as 400,000 soldiers were killed, wounded or captured. Yes, the toll on human life was horrendous. In short, few, if any, managed to escape the encirclement & find their way back to German lines. So any survivors would have been amongst the 91,000 who surrendered 2 February 1943.

These were taken into Soviet POW camps where conditions were equivalent to the notorious Gulag Archipelago. The toll in loss of German life continued; many of the prisoners arrived in poor condition -- sick, wounded, starving -- & the inhospitable environment of the camps doubtlessly hastened their demise. By the time these soldiers were released from their captivity in 1955, only 5,000-6,000 were still alive.

So assuming that Hoffman did exist, the chances that he survived the following weeks until the surrender are slim, worse than 1 in 3. If he managed to survive to one of the Soviet POW camps, chances that he lived to return to Germany are 1 in 18 -- all in all, less than 2% chance of survival. So unless it can be proven he had somehow survived the battle, Hoffman can be presumed to have perished there.

BTW, the question arises: how did this diary survive the destruction of the war to be found & at least partly published? A bit of sleuthing reveals that Vasili Chuikov published a translation of it in his book "The Beginning of the Road" (originally published in 1959, first English translation in 1963), claiming it came from his files. Whether or not Chuikov's book is a reliable source I can't say, but as a Russian general at the Battle of Stalingrad he was in a good position to have obtained this diary, if it is an authentic witness to that battle.

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    A particular thanks for the "bit of sleuthing".
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Mar 2, 2020 at 17:35

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