January 1943

 

 

01
Hitler issued his New Year's message to General Paulus and the men of Stalingrad.
"You and your soldiers should begin the new year with a strong faith that I and the German Wehrmacht will use all strength to relieve the defenders of Stalingrad and make their long wait the highest achievement of German war history.
The front was stirred by action again. All the human and horse meat piled up around
the battlefields inside the pocket had caused the rat and mouse population to explode and the rodents to become bolder and bolder. In the daily hours the Germans fought the Russians and at night they fought mice and rats. The rats attacked the soldiers while they slept. One infantryman with frostbitten feet lost two toes to a rat one night and did not even know it until the morning.

02
The German held airstrip at Morozovskaya, under the same orders not to evacuate as was Tatsinskaya, is seized by 3rd Guards Army. As the need for more supplies for the freezing, and starving troops inside Stalingrad grows, the ability of the Luftwaffe to provide them shrinks.

03
General Rokossovsky was ordered by Stalin to destroy the German pocket at Stalingrad.
(Operation Ring) German observations reports told that the Russian were building up a major force on the southern and western borders of the encircled 6th Army. (Preparation of Operation Ring). Hundreds of T-34 tanks, kashyushas (Stalin organs) and thousands of heavy artillery pieces like.210 mm Howitzer. There was no reaction from the German side, they were short of ammunition.

04
General Rokossovskiy had 212.000 men, 6500 pieces of artillery, 250 tank and 300
aircrafts to destroy the German pocket. In their enormous field-kitchens the Russians prepared hot meals for the Red Army soldiers. The smell of food prepared by the Russians, knowing that the Germans were powerless against them, was smelled by the Germans who were dying from starvation.

05
Manstein's attention was focused on the specific problems of extricating Army Group A from the Caucasus. His method was to leave General Hoth's 4th Panzer Army in position south of Stalingrad, with freedom to pull back gradually toward Rostov while keeping open the line of retreat for Army Group A. But this too depended on the ability of Paulus to hold out for one month. Hoth was doing a magnificent job of fighting a delaying action, moving a little bit toward Rostov and stopping to delay the Russians again. But this was not Hitler's way of fighting. Hoth must stand firm said Hitler. When Manstein got that message he promptly offered to resign his command. Hitler backed down and Hoth's campaign of evasion and attack went on.

06
Army Group A continues to withdraw in good order, and the Stalingrad front is quiet.
Though 6th Army reported deterioration in the supplysituation and condition of the troops, critical shortages of fuel and ammunition

07
The order was given to transfer six divisions from the Western Front to Army Group Center or North in the East, so that experienced eastern divisions could be transferred to Army Group South of the Eastern Front, commanded by Field-Marshal Erich von Manstein. In the meanwhile the Red Army were building up forces around the surrounded German 6th Army.

08
Because the Russians knew that the Germans were still very powerfull within the pocket, and that the process to defeating them would be extremely costly in terms of lives and material, they made one last attempt to avoid the battle. General Voronov, on behalf of the Red Army supreme command, and General Rokossovsky, commander of the Don Front, called the Germans to surrender. In the morning, under a white flag of truce, three Russian representativs walked through the German lines and delivered an ultimatum to the 6th Army. If the ultimatum was rejected "the Red Army and Air Fore will be compielled to wipe out the surrounded German troops." (Operation Ring)
The ultimatum stated that General Paulus's representatives were to travel by car with a white flag to the Russian lines at ten o'clock on the morning of January 9.

09
The Russians waited through the whole they but no answer came.
Paulus asked Hitler again for freedom of action but it was refused.
Hitler told Paulus that every day the 6th Army holds out, it helps the entire front.
What that meant was that as long as the 6th Army tied up hundreds of thousands of enemy troops at Stalingrad, Army Group A ,in the Caucasus, had a better chance of escaping a Russian trap (Russian Operation Saturn). Paulus refuses to surrender, committing the Army to fight to its death.

10
But when now answer came at eight o'clock in the morning the Russians started Operation Ring. The Russians had prepared well. In some places the density of guns and mortars reached 170 per kilometer-0.6 miles, General Rokossovski, commander of the Russian Don Front, with seven armies at his disposal, launches a drive across the Volga to relieve Chuikov’s heroic soldiers defending Stalingrad. Due to the typically smaller size of a Russian Front, and the extraordinarily large size of 6th Army, the opposing forces
are not quite as widely disparate in manpower as the number of opposing formations might indicate. Still, Rokossovski has 212,000 well equipped and provisioned men, compared to some 191,000 starving wretches in Paulus’ much weakened command.
After an hour long bombardment by thousands of artillery pieces and mortars, supplemented by the attack of Soviet aircrafts, bombing the center of the pocket, the Soviet ground attack on 6th Army begins.

11
The Germans suffered enormous casualties. The 76th Division, for example, was now
reduced from its pre-Stalingrad strenght of ten thousand men to six hundred men.
Since 25 November 1942 untill today 24.910 wounded(?) soldiers left the Stalingrad pocket by plane. Also since 25 November, the daily average of supplies brought in by the luftwaffe was 104.7 tons. At least 550 tons a day was needed.

12
General Malinovsky's 2nd Guards Army command was south of the pocket.
Allied newspaper correspondents were allowed to visit the General. They asked
him question about the drive to crush the 6th Army. The General answered :
"Stalingrad is an armed prisoners camp and its situation is hopeless."
Surrounded inside Stalingrad, the German 29th Motorized Division, along with the 3rd Motorized Division faces a concentrated attack by several divisions of Russian armor, and together they manage to destroy dozens of the enemy tanks in their fight to the death. The Russians compress 6th Army to the east, up against 62nd Army and the Volga. In much the same way as he had assigned Manstein the absurd task of rescuing the trapped army with little more than the already beaten remnants that were supposed to have been guarding 6th Army in the first place, Hitler now appoints Milch to personally take command of the aerial resupply effort. Upon his arrival at Richthofen’s Luftflotte 4 HQ, at Taganrog, he finds less than 30% of the aircraft are operational.
General Paulus issued orders to his men to stand fast at their positions. He sent congratulations to the 44th Austrian Infantry Division, which was holding the approaches to the airfield at Pitomnik.

13
In the early morning the 1st Battalion of the 134 Infantry Regiment held its position
with some help from two antiaircraft guns which they turned level. During the morning they had to withdraw and leave the guns behind. They had captured jeeps but they had no fuel to run them. One gun after another was blown up.
The situation at Pitomnik airport was disastrous. Dead men, wrecked aircrafts, dead horses and dead vehicles were everywhere. Two dressing stations were crammed with wounded men, some of them being hit by incoming Russian shells. And all the while aircraft were coming down, unloading, loading up and flying off again.

14
Pitomnik; the primary airstrip needed to supply Stalingrad is taken by the Russians. The Luftwaffe now resorts to airdrops, and attempts to fly supplies into Gumrak, which is under constant fire.

15
General Milch had taken personal charge of the airlift, and he decreed that it should go on, no matter the cost to the Luftwaffe.

16
From this day on, untill the surrender of 6th army, 364 German soldiers were executed, a penalty for theft, insubordination, murder, self-inflicted wounds, etc...

17
The Russians completed the first phase of their attack on the Stalingrad pocket., stabilizing along a line that ran from Rossoshka on the north to Voronopovo Station in the south. The Stalingrad pocket had been reduced about two-thirds.

18
After the 18 th of january the 29 Mot. Div were still able to destroy, north of Karpowka and south of Pitomnik, 137 Russians panzers.

19
The 9. Flak Div. has shot down their 63rd Russian aircraft. The Russians on the Voronezh Front continued to make progress. Vauyki Vrazavo fell to the Russians and the Hungarians were driven from Ostrogozhsk.

20
Aircrafts carried out hundreds of men who were not wounded and not sick, whose papers were in order. Valuable personnel who were being sent out of the pocket to go back to Germany and form new divisions and fight again. Some of the Generals went out too. General Erwin Jaenecke, commander of the 389th Infantry Division and the 4th Corps who was badly wounded with sixteen shrapnel holes in his body and General Heinz Valentin Hube, commander of the 16th Panzer Division, and also lesser officers, one of them, Captain Eberhard Wagemann, carrying General Schmidt's will. Major Coelistin von Zitzewitz was carrying a few medals of General Paulus.
Hitler called up from the Eastern Front the Death's Head Panzers, who only two weeks before had been told they would remain in Germany. The reason the Death's Head was so sorely needed was that there was almost a collapse of the Axis armies.

21
Paulus began to realize that the German forces in the Caucasus had retreated to
safety and were not immediately treatened. His attention was now focused on the idea of surrendering to the Russians. He was losing one man every seven seconds and his army was no longer of any value to the Reich.

22
After another huge Soviet artillery barrage announcing the start of renewed attacks, Sixth Army’s airstrip, at Gumrak, is assaulted by the Russians, and is soon lost, as Paulus evacuates his headquarters and moves into the city itself. (Univermag department store) He asked Hitler the permission to surrender. "Absolutely not" thundered Hitler. Manstein backed the Paulus request, but Hitler would not budge.
Italian and Hungarian forces in Russia were placed under German command, their own Headquarters being withdrawn to "reoganize".

23
Paulus added the argument that his ammunition was almost all gone, and repeated the request for authority to negotiate a surrender of 6th Army. Hitler refused again. He argued that it must fight to the last in order to gain time. (for what is not so clear), and informed Paulus of this personally by radio.

24
The Russians again offered surrender terms.
Paulus reports that his Army can only hold out for another couple of days, and asks   for permission to try and save some of his men, by filtering them out to the southwest. Again, Hitler resolutely refuses even this attempt to salvage anything of 6th Army, in spite of the fact that they are literally without food and ammunition. Now, the fighting in Stalingrad is sporadic and hopeless.

25
General Schmidt reported Paulus that a number of the generals were conspiring to disobey orders and arrange a mass surrender of the troops.
He went to the NKVD prison, where a number of the German generals were housed. He told them they would do nothing of the sort and that they would continue to hold out.
Then he turned his back on them and left. The plan to surrender was not discussed again. Again Manstein telephoned to Hitler explaining him that the 6th Army was no longer able to tie down any appreciable Russian force and pleased Hitler to order Paulus to surrender and save the lives of those who were left. But Hitler would not relent. The 6th Army must continue to hold Stalingrad.

26
Rokossovski’s tanks from the 21st Army have reached and taken the heights of Mamayev-Kugan, that overlook Stalingrad, just west of the north/south rail line.
In the hell that has been Stalingrad, General Stempel, commanding the 371st Division, shoots himself in the head, General Drebber of the 297th Division takes the 1,800 survivors of his 10,000 man 297th Division, and leads them into Soviet captivity, and General Hartmann, in charge of the 71st Division, stands erect on a railroad
embankment and fires into the Russian lines, until he is cut down. The Russian 65th Army is first to establish a link from the west with Chuikov’s tenacious 62nd Army inside the city. Soon afterward, the 21st and 64th do likewise.

27
General Paulus received a letter from General Drebber, who surrendered to the Russians the day before, telling him he was being well treated. Paulus wanted to believe it, but General Schmidt persuaded him the letter was written under compulsion and that the Russians would kill them all if they surrendered too.

28
The Russians divided the city into three sectors. In one sector the Russian XI Corps surrounded the tractor factory, the VIII and the LI Corps were in the Mamayev Hill area
and the IV Corps surrounded the downtown business district. Inside Stalingrad, the Germans stop feeding the wounded and ill, so that the men capable of fighting may have something to eat.

29
Where there were German wounded, and this was everywhere in the city, the doctors
placed the most serious cases in the hallways and near the doors, where they would
frreeze to death quickly.The temperature was 39-40 below zero (Celsius). Hundreds of wounded committed suicide, most of them using pistols and hand grenades.

30
The tenth anniversary of the "Thousand Year Reich". Hitler gave the honor to speak
to the nation to Marshal Goering, who lionized the men of Stalingrad.
"Rising above the gigantic battle like a mighty monument is Stalingrad. One day it will be recognized as the greatest battle in our history...
General Paulus sent a message to Hitler, congratulating him on the anniversary and swearing that the Stalingrad battle would be a lesson to future generations that the Germans never surrendered.General Von Seydlitz-Kurzbach is taken prisoner by the Russians in the middle of Stalingrad. He will go on to help form a group of Germans in Russian captivity dedicated to the defeat of Hitler.
General Roske's 71st Division manned the posts around the Univermag department store
told General Schmidt that the division could no longer help. Russian tanks were coming toward the department store. Shortly before midnight Pauls slept.

31
Hitler, in a bizarre effort to get Paulus and his men to die where they stand, promotes the General to the rank of a Field Marshal, since no-one of that rank has ever surrendered before. 118 other officers were also promoted, many of them had already surrendered. But Paulus surrendered to a Russian lieutenant who came into the 6th Army headquarters. Paulus was taken away by a car to the Headquartes of General Mikhail Shumilov, commander of the Soviet 64th Army. There he was offered food from an enormous buffet, but refused to eat until he had been assured that his men would receive rations and medical care.
While the Russian were promising these things, other Russians in Stalingrad were cleaning up the ruins. They set fire to the old Soviet military garrison building which the Germans had converted to a hospital. Hundreds of wounded were burned to death.
Russian soldiers wandered around the town taking prisoners and stripping them of
their valuables. In a cellar north of the Red Square fifty German wounded were doused with gasoline and turned into human torches.
At the Fuehrer headquarters in East Prussia Hitler was furious when he heared of the
surrender of Paulus and vowed that he would not create another Field-Marshal because nobody could be trusted. The center pocket was wiped out and their was no longer communication with the southern pocket in Stalingrad.