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I'm quite interested in Stalingrad and have started reading a bit regarding the battle itself and have seen that weather had played quite a significant factor in halting the German advance. (Reading Stalingrad by Beevor at the moment)

I'm quite keen on seeing the German perspective regarding their difficulties with Stalingrad but I'm afraid I haven't found any. A quick search on Wikipedia (sorry!) yields: "... The next day he made a six page situation report to the general staff...", with the citation as Kehrig, Manfred Stalingrad, Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlags Anstalt, 1974 pages 279,311-312,575 but I'm afraid I can't read German so I can't peruse that.

I was hoping someone from History SE could help me on this.

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    Beevor is revisionist and anti-Soviet propagandist. You should not expect anything different from him.
    – Anixx
    Dec 10, 2012 at 3:08
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    @Anixx: Absolutely not. He is an honest historian. You are just repeating the party line in this instance, I am afraid. It's all explained here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antony_Beevor#Criticism. Dec 10, 2012 at 12:06
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    @Felix Goldberg I just know what he writes and what sources he uses. He is not historian. He is propagandist.
    – Anixx
    Dec 10, 2012 at 12:53
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    @Anixx: Can you give an example? Generally speaking, not everybody who writes something "controversial" is a "propagandist"... Dec 10, 2012 at 13:23
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    @Felix Goldberg yes. Create a question, please, and I will answer.
    – Anixx
    Dec 10, 2012 at 13:26

5 Answers 5

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I am from Germany and can add an anecdotal answer. Stalingrad is, I think, seen as a gruesome battle with much loss of life – with an emphasis on the German soldiers. At least up to the early 1990s, serious magazines would discuss the mistakes of the Wehrmacht and so on.

My feeling is that the dominant narrative is one of German soldiers dying in a pointless, brutal and traumatic battle. Bear in mind that until the mid-1990s, it was not widely acknowledged in Germany that the Wehrmacht (Armed Forces, in contrast to the SS) was involved in the Holocaust and other mass murders on a wide level. So, pointing to the German soldiers who died could have the function to talk about supposedly relatively innocent German victims of the war.

There is an alternative, minority viewpoint (shared by me): Some see Stalingrad as a turning point in the Nazis' war of extermination, as the moment where those living in the eastern occupied territories could look forward to being liberated from the Nazis. Should you ever come to Germany and see t-shirts with "Stalingrad 42" prints in the style of soccer-shirts, this is what they are about.

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  • I recall reading in German press recollections of individuals who were still children during the war, and overheard the adults discussing the Stalingrad . Apparently there was clear difference in the offiucial reports and the public perception of casualties, the scope of the disaster as understood by public. This might have contributed to the fall of the regime.
    – Roger V.
    Jan 4 at 8:07
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Major General Hans Doerr has written extensively about Stalingrad from the German point of view.

He has described in considerable detail why attacking there (and trying to cut off Russia's oil) seemed like a good idea at the time, and why the plan apparently failed narrowly due to bad luck and some miscues on the part of the Germans.

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    +1 , but I'm sure Soviet military activity had a little something to do with it as well...
    – T.E.D.
    Jan 25, 2013 at 17:01
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    well, the bad luck of course was in no small part caused by Soviet weapons actually working better than German ones (especially being more reliable under the weather and terrain conditions encountered in the area) :)
    – jwenting
    Jan 28, 2013 at 8:05
  • Could you transcribe what he wrote? Can't read German :( Aug 4, 2013 at 16:57
  • The Soviets had stalemated the Germans in the city long before it got cold.
    – Oldcat
    Sep 10, 2015 at 0:06
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JFW

I'm not sure what you're asking for here, 'the German perspective' in what sense?

The German army made some serious strategic errors in their attempt to 'take' Stalingrad most of which I might add were fueled by Hitlers arrogance in his own military ability, a mistrust in his own Generals' ability and his petulance in wanting to take Stalingrad as quickly as possible to 'teach Stalin a lesson' and break the will of the Russian people.

The Germans used their usual 'blitzkreig' tactics of hitting the city with Panzer divisions and infantry supported by the luftwaffe but made the fatal mistake of almost bombing the city into oblivion which hindered their later progress of clearing the city of Russian resistance which basically took too long.

The Russians (what was left of them) dug in and fought a guerilla war in the bombed out remains of the city which meant that the two most powerful parts of the German military machine, the Panzers and Luftwaffe could not be deployed. The harsh winter weather played its part in effectively cutting off the German supply lines and they had to be increasingly resupplied by air which wasn't practical in terms of the weather.

This allowed the Russians sufficient time to move other Russian armies into position to encircle the Germans both inside and outside Stalingrad thus cutting off any hope of the trapped German armies inside Stalingrad from being reinforced or evacuated.

The Germans made too many mistakes and underestimated the resolve (and sheer quantity of potential reinforcements) of the Russian army.

If you want any one particular reason it was Hitlers arrogance and over-confidence.

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    Hitlers hubris.
    – user202
    Jan 20, 2013 at 14:40
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    voted down because this answer follows the romanticized version of events. The Germans didn't Blitzkrieg into Stalingrad, otherwise they would've bypassed it as doctrine states. Nor did the winter cause the resupply by air - the Soviets cut them off, and besides by that time the Germans largely had adequate winter clothing. Aug 4, 2013 at 16:56
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    You can't call the brutal close combat the Soviets did in the city "Guerilla" by any stretching of the term. The Luftwaffe was actually fairly effective in aiding German assaults in the city. The Soviets learned to deploy as close as possible to the German lines to mitigate the planes ability to target them.
    – Oldcat
    Sep 10, 2015 at 0:09
  • @spiceyokooko As other comments stated, your answer is not correct in many senses: the term of guerilla, putting all the responsibility of mistakes on Hitler and not his generals, stating Luftwaffe was inefficient at Stalingrad, stating weather had such an effect while it mostly played a role after the counteroffensive... Dec 31, 2023 at 18:07
  • As the recent events in Mariupol demonstrated, bombing wasn't necessarily a mistake. Cities, bombed or otherwise, are simply very good terrain for the defenders.
    – Mark
    Jan 9 at 1:49
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Heinrich Gerlach was a participant of the Battle of Stalingrad. In captivity he started to write a book on this topic, which was confiscated by the Soviets. Back in Germany he tried to reconstruct the book, which was published in 1957 under the title "Die verratene Armee" (the forsaken army).

In 2012, the original manuscript was found in the Military Archives in Moscow. This manuscript was published in 2016 under the title Durchbruch bei Stalingrad (break-through at Stalingrad).

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The question could be made more clearer on what is meant by German perspective. I will answer it the way I understood it, and rephrased in the sense I understood it the question becomes:

"What was the German military understanding of the situation at Stalingrad before and during the battle of Stalingrad?"

Note: German forces in all the text below should be considered as Axis forces since Romanian, Hungarian, Italian and Slovakian armies fought in Fall Blau and during the Stalingrad campaign

Before:

Before the battle of Stalingrad itself, the Germans had a variable vision of Stalingrad and how it would be important for the war.

Initially in Fall Blau (the strategic plan for 1942), Stalingrad was not considered as a specific target. The Don and maybe the Volga were considered as stop-points to establish a flanking defense in order to protect the advance on Caucasus.

When Fall Blau started and met successes inside the Don's circle and up to the fall of Rostov, German high command remained in a similar perspective. The importance of the flanking defense was just enhanced a little bit because of Voronej's difficult capture.

Later on, the fight on the Don became harder and harder, with good resistance of some Soviet armies and massive though poorly led counter-attacks by Soviet tank armies: thus, the flanking defence again raised in importance, but the eventual success led to confidence that more could be taken on the East: namely, blocking ship transport on the Volga and capturing Astrakhan. This goal required taking Stalingrad.

Again, later in the summer, the Caucasus front faced difficulty in taking its final objectives: the Black Sea coast resisted, some oil fields were taken but found destroyed, and some were unreachable. Losses started to rise in mountain fighting, logistics there was in difficulty and Fall Blau was about to fail in meeting its target. Because of that situation, in all German high command, including Hitler, Stalingrad became the new target with three reasons for which the city was found useful:

  • Block oil shipping on the Volga
  • Allow further progress to Astrakhan
  • Later in 1943: prepare next strategic plan which would iterate Fall Blau in the Caucasus

Because of that, new efforts were put in to reach the city of Stalingrad, notably with the all-in attack of the 6th Army and the 4th Panzer Army. Note that heavy Soviet resistance was met and that this led to problems in achieving the target.

During:

During the battle of Stalingrad, the Germans made three mistakes:

  • First: They did not fully understand that urban fighting would be that difficult, and even if they tried to adapt tactically, they never considered that the timeframe was enlarged and that their strategy should adapt as well, which means the strategy should considered the fighting was to continue in winter 1943. Propaganda was reflecting the thinking of German command when it said all the time that the "final offensive" was about to be launched, that Stalingrad was "almost taken", and so on
  • Second: Their adaptation was only tactical (they brought on heavier assault guns for example), but it did not include further air interdiction of the Eastern shore of Volga. Note that such an action was difficult because the Eastern shore was partly covered with forests, through which Soviet reinforcements came in
  • Three: Because of the Soviet constant harassment on the North flank of the 6th Army through failed counterattacks led by Jukov, and because of the action against Rhjev salient, German intelligence failed to consider the multiple "little reports" of local German, Italian and Romanian commanders posted West and East of Don and who were subjected to Soviet attacks preparing the counteroffensive

Eventually when the Soviets succeeded in the initial counter-offensive, German high command was always late in understanding its full potential. To put it in a comical way:

  • Germans think the Soviet counter-offensive will be blocked, but it achieves circling of their troops
  • Germans think their 6th Army will liberate herself, but the Soviets block her
  • Germans think the Soviets had sent all their efforts in, but by continued attacks the Soviets break their efforts to re establih a front (destroying by the way an Italian and a Slovakian army)
  • Germans think a counter-attack will save the 6th army, but the Soviets block her and thus more of German troops are in danger of being trapped

Conclusion:

Because of initial successes and 1941-like failed Soviet tank counter-attacks, the Germans were encouraged in thinking Fall Blau would become a big success. As long as elements piled on stating that there would be problems, the Germans failed to acknowkedge them in time. Frustrated of the failure of their initial objectives, they started to focus on Stalingrad. Again, this focus lessened elements stating the Soviets were still an offensive power and thus the Germans failed in reinforcing and defending themselves correctly.

As a sidenote, a similar process had occurred in China during the battle of Taierzhuang which saw a Japanese defeat.

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