Generalfeldmarschall Friedrich Paulus



Paulus and Stalingrad; the names are always linked, the German commander who suffered 
one of the greatest military defeats in history and the hitherto unknown Russian city where that 
defeat took place. 

Friedrich Paulus was born in 1890, in that narrow window of time which brought him to the 
First World War as a junior officer and to the Second as a general. His birthplace was 
Breitenau, a little country town deep in Hesse. His ancestors were of basic country stock 
but some became minor public servants; Paulus's father was the cashier of an approved 
school. He inherited good health, a fine physique and a noble bearing from those forebears 
but he was far from being a 'von' a prefix frequently but mistakenly attributed to him. He 
soon suffered from his lack of social status. After performing well at school, he applied for 
a cadetship in the Imperial Navy but was refused. Disappointed, he turned to the study of law 
at Marburg University but was quickly released from this when the German Army started to 
expand in 1910 and to widen the social spectrum from which new officers came. He was 
accepted as an officer cadet by a provincial unit, the IIIth infantry Regiment, a unit which also 
carried the earlier title of 'Markgraf Ludwig's 3rd Baden Regiment'. Within two years, he 
was a lieutenant and it was then that he met his future wife, Elena Rosetti-Solescu, a beautiful 
young woman one year his senior, from a wealthy and aristocratic Romanian family. Her two 
brothers were serving in Paulus's regiment and it was through them that Paulus met his bride 
while all were on leave together in the Black Forest. Their first child, a daughter, was born 
in 1914, the year in which Paulus went off to war. 

The IIIth Infantry Regiment was part of the 28th Infantry Division, 14th Corps, 7th Army. 
The 7th Army was not part of the great drive through Belgium of the Schlieffen Plan but 
performed the more mundane task of pushing out from the Rhine through the Vosges to 
confront the right-flank French forces on the frontier and hold them there by steady action 
to prevent the French high command transferring forces to their threatened left flank. The 
French, in turn, had their own plan for a violent general offensive in Lorraine, and there 
followed the 'Battles of the Frontier' in which the French attacks were cut to ribbons. 
Paulus's position at this time was Adjutant of his regiment's 3rd Battalion. In October 
1914, after the Battle of the Marne, and the extension of the Western Front towards the 
coast, the Army found itself north of Arras where the four-year-long trench warfare was 
beginning. Paulus's regiment may have been in action against British troops on the 
Vermelles sector in late October but the sources are conflicting and it may be that the French 
were his only opponents in this hectic opening phase. 

Paulus had to leave the front in November because of illness and he never returned to his 
first regiment. His next posting was as Regimental Staff Officer to a much more prestigious 
unit, the 2nd Prussian Jager Regiment. This was part of the Alpenkorps, a formation roughly 
the strength of an enlarged division, which was not normally used for routine trench holding 
but was reserved for fighting in mountainous country or for use as shock troops. Paulus 
remained with the Alpenkorps for the remainder of the war, moving to the corps 
headquarters in 1917 and carrying out staff duties throughout. He never commanded any 
unit of any size at any time in the war. 

The Alpenkorps served in Romania and Macedonia in 1915 and early 1916 but in June of 
that year was flung into violent action in the later stages of the Battle of Verdun, making a 
particularly successful advance against the village at Fleury. The Alpenkorps took 2,000 
French prisoners but two-thirds of its own strength of 12,000 men became casualties during 
this period. The corps remained on sectors facing the French until May 1917 until withdrawn 
for a rest. The next major action was during the series of great German offensives in the 
spring of 1918. On 9 April, the Alpenkorps took part in the attack on the mainly British 
sector on the Lys. After a further rest in Belgium, the corps was back in action, in defence 
this time, against the British counter-offensive on the Somme which started on 8 August. 
The corps had to be withdrawn after a particularly hard fight at Epehy and spent the final 
weeks of the war in Serbia. 

The Armistice found Paulus holding the rank of captain and with only the routine decorations 
of the Iron Cross Classes I and II. Little is known of the next few years, except that he 
managed to stay in the small post-war army which the Allies allowed Germany to retain. 
He served a two-year spell as a rifle company commander in the 13th Infantry Regiment 
at Stuttgart (the commander of the Machine-Gun Company was Captain Erwin Rommel) 
but Paulus spent much more time on Staff duties than with troops. 

It was already clear that he lacked the qualities of command. After one exercise in which he 
did have to command a regiment, the directing staff reported: 'This officer lacks decisiveness. 
A personal report from his commanding officer at this period gives an exceptionally clear, 
and even prophetic, appreciation of Paulus's personality and talents: 

A typical Staff officer of the old school. Tall, and in outward appearance painstakingly well 
groomed. Modest, perhaps too modest, amiable, with extremely courteous manners, and 
a good comrade, anxious not to offend anyone. Exceptionally talented and interested in 
military matters, and a meticulous desk worker, with a passion for war-games and 
formulating plans on the map-board or sand-table. At this he displays considerable talent, 
considering every decision at length and with careful deliberation before giving the appro- 
priate orders. 

His career in the 1930's took him increasingly into the realm of mechanized forces. He 
commanded one of the earliest motorized battalions in 1934 and in the following year became 
Chief of Staff at the new Panzer Headquarters in Berlin. He adapted well to the new ideas 
coming forward about mobile warfare. He was no fervent Nazi and had nothing to do with 
the formation of the Party or its coming to power. But, coming from the middle class himself, 
he probably approved of Hitler's 'man-of-the-people' background, his spurning of the old, 
rigid aristocratic class, and the policies which brought work and prosperity toGermany and 
new life to the Army. 

Paulus's rise continued. He was a major-general in 1939 and held the position of Chief of 
Staff in the newly formed 10th Army at Leipzig on the eve of the attack on Poland. 

Paulus was to spend exactly one year in his new position. His army commander was General 
Walther von Reichenau, a blunt, forceful, ambitious man and a very able battlefield commander. 
Culturally, Paulus had little in common with his chief but, professionally, they were a near 
perfect combination. Reichenau hated routine work, preferring to be out with his forward units. 
Paulus kept all routine matters running smoothly. The 10 th Army was soon renumbered, 
and as 6th Army built a fine reputation for itself. It swept through Poland without great difficulty 
and was then transferred to the west for the great 1940 offensive. On 10 May, the three corps 
under command advanced across the narrow neck of lower Holland and on into Belgium. 
Little opposition was met until the British Expeditionary Force was encountered on the line of 
the River Dyle. Thereafter it was harder fighting, pushing the British back all the way to the 
outskirts of Dunkirk. The high point for Paulus was his presence when Reichenau and King 
Leopold signed the terms of surrender of the Belgian Army on 28 May. 

The 6th Army was not required for further operations before France capitulated three weeks 
later. It became part of the force earmarked for Operation Sealion, the invasion of southern 
England. The 6th Army's role was to embark at Le Havre and form the left flank of the 
landing, in the Brighton-Worthing area. Paulus prepared the plans and there was a rehearsal 
at St. Malo in mid-August. But this part of the invasion entailed the longest sea crossing and, 
as there were insufficient landing craft available, 6th Army's part in the operation was cancelled. 

Paulus now received a new posting and became Deputy Chief of Staff and Chief of the 
Operations Section at Oberkommando des Heeres (OKH, the headquarters directing all 
operations of the German Army); a considerable advancement for Paulus. OKH was at 
Fountainebleau when Paulus joined on 3 September 1940 but soon moved to Zossen near 
Berlin when the plans to invade England were abandoned completely. 

Paulus was immediately given the task of preparing outline plans lor a venture which would lead to his own fate and that of Germany. Hitler ordered plans to be prepared for an invasion of 
Russia the following spring. Paulus was one of the first to be involved in that mammoth project. 
He impressed Halder, the Chief of the General Staff, as businesslike and intellectually sharp. 
The fact that Russia was a nation with which Germany still had a non-aggression pact and with 
which Germany had shared the conquest of Poland does not seem to have troubled Paulus and 
there is no record of his advancing any moral or military objection. His wife realized on what 
project he was working; she had earlier declared her view on the immorality of invading 
Poland and now expressed the same view about the Russian venture. Paulus told her he had no say in the matter; it was purely a political matter and he, as a soldier, must obey his orders. It 
was the standard response of the professional officer. 

All that winter Paulus and his Staff laboured on the planning for Operation Barbarossa. The 
objective was the swift destruction of the Russia Army which stood between Poland and 
Moscow. Three Army Groups would carry out the attack. The main thrust would be against 
Moscow, 600 miles away. The two flanking Army Groups were to capture Leningrad in the 
norrh and the Ukraine in the south. Paulus's old 6th Army, still under Reicheneau be part of 
von Rundstedt's Army Group South. Once Hitler had confirmed his decision to invade Russia 
and active preparations commenced, the planning phase Paulus's work eased. Paulus was 
sent to see Rommel in North Africa at the end of April 1941 and remained there for more than 
two weeks He observed an attack on the besieged British garrison at Tobruk, which failed and 
both studied Rommel's style of command and consulted with him on future plans. Paulus 
returned to OKH reporting that Rommel was too headstrong and that, unless curbed, would 
require further reinforcement and thus imperil the coming Russian operation. Paulus toyed with 
the idea of asking for a field command now that the plans for Barbarossa were almost complete. 
He is believed to have considered advising Rommel's replacement by himself but his wife 
warned him against it, saying that his career would not prosper in North Africa. 

The invasion of Russia began on 22 June 1941 with dramatic advances by the German mobile 
columns. It was the start of a quieter time for Paulus, for OKH was not planning any further 
major operations elsewhere. Barbarossa, it was hoped, would bring the war to a close. Paulus 
watched with particular interest the progress of the 6th Army. It took part in the great battle 
which led to the capture of over half a million Russians at Kiev. He and his old army commander, Reichenau, exchanged letters. Reichenau was obviously in his element, often up with the head of his leading unit. In August, Paulus was sent on a tour of the various headquarters in Russia, to assess on behalf of OKH the competing claims for resources by the commanders. 

Paulus's career took an abrupt change of direction early in December. Barbarossa had ground 
to a halt in the conditions of the Russian winter. Moscow and Leningrad held out, and Army 
Group South had not reached the Caucasus. Its commander, Field-Marshal von Rundstedt, 
wanted to withdraw to a shorter line from which to see out the winter, but Hitler refused 
permission. Rundstedt resigned and Reichenau was promoted to fill the vacancy. Reichenau 
asked that his old colleague, Paulus, should become the new commander of the 6th Army, 
rather than one of the experienced front-line corps commanders. Hitler and Halder, Chief of 
the General Staff and Paulus's direct superior, agreed and, on 5 January 1942, the man who 
had commanded a rifle company for two years in peacetime and then, briefly, a battalion but 
had never commanded any unit in war, was given the direct responsibility for an army of more 
than a quarter of a million men. It was a fatefully ill-judged appointment. Even before Paulus 
reached his headquarters, his old commander and patron, Reichenau, the Commander-in- 
Chief, Army Group South, suffered a heart attack and was replaced by Field-Marshal von 
Bock, who took command of the Army Group on the same day that Paulus reached his own 
new headquarters. 

The new commanders found a depressing situation. Their troops, ill prepared for a Russian 
winter, were under fierce attack from a reinvigorated Russian Army. The plans which Paulus 
had prepared for Barbarossa had not envisaged such a situation. Hitler ordered that no 
further withdrawals should take place. Von Bock passed the orders on to his army 
commanders. Paulus fought a conventional defensive battle but he made a shaky start. 
Von Bock judged that he did not handle a Russian attack at Kharkov well, with not enough 
vigour being displayed. Von Bock persuaded OKH to replace Paulus's Chief of Staff and a 
new man, Major-General Arthur Schmidt, arrived; he was a staunch Nazi who would be 
Paulus's Chief of Staff until the end. 

But Kharkov was held and it was the Russians who sustained the greater loss when their final 
attack was beaten off in May. Paulus was awarded the Knight's Cross and received 
favourable publicity at home. The weather improved and great plans were afoot for the 
resumption of the German advance in the coming summer. Paulus's son, Ernst, a junior tank 
officer, was wounded at Kharkov and returned to Germany for hospital treatment; he would 
thus be absent when the 6th Army marched forward again and would so survive the war. 
A second son, Friedrich, would be killed in February 1944 at the Anzio beachhead in Italy. 

The plans for the summer of 1942 were of the utmost importance and their results represent 
the watershed between Germany's years of victory and of defeat. This period also marked the 
removal from influence at the highest level of the 'old guard' of professional German 
commanders and their replacement by generals more compliant to Hitler, and the advent of 
Hitler himself to direct command of Army operations. It was a time when the last remnants 
of common sense gave way to crass over-optimism. 

The old Barbarossa plan of 1941 was abandoned; there were not enough troops remaining 
after the winter losses to press ahead on all fronts. The destruction of the Red Army remained 
the only realistic hope and the South, the least important of the 1941 sectors, was where 
attention turned. Several variations of plan were considered but Plan Blue eventually emerged. 
After clearing its existing positions to secure a more favourable jumpmg-off line, Army Group 
South was to be split into two parts. Army Group A under Field-Marshal List was to push 
south-eastwards to encircle the Russian forces near Rostov and then thrust on to capture the 
Caucasus oilfields. Army Group B, whose main component was Paulus's 6th Army, was to 
push due east as far as the River Volga at Stalingrad but not to capture that city, in order to 
prevent Russian reserves moving into the Caucasus. Field-Marshal von Bock objected to 
the splitting-up of Army Group South and was sacked for his pains; General von Weichs 
took his place in command of Army Group B. Hitler and his advisers still believed that the 
hitherto irresistible Wehrmacht could destroy all before it; the Russian defence of Moscow 
during the past winter together with the results of the more recent Battle of Kharkov were 

believed to have been so costly that the Russian Army was a spent force. The 6th Army 
moved forward on 28 June 1942. It was the largest German army on the Eastern Front with 
5 corps (one of them Panzer) containing 14 divisions, 2 infantry, 2 panzer and 1 motorized. 
It had 350 miles to go to Stalingrad. Initially all went well. The Russian front line was swept 
away and the panzers sped across the steppe, pausing only to wait for fuel convoys to catch 
up. The infantry trudged behind. The Russians mostly melted away and avoided a stand; 
Paulus's attempt to encircle them only succeeded once when, after a three-day battle on the 
River Don, 40.000 Russians were taken prisoner. It was hot, wearying work. Paulus caught 
dysentry but performed his duties efficiently. There were constant anxieties about supplies 
and about the huge, exposed left flank which was opening up with every mile of the advance. 

Hitler now changed the plans, strengthening the northern drive towards Stalingrad and 
enlarging its objectives. The 4th Panzer Army was diverted from the Caucasus drive and sent 
north towards Stalingrad with orders to join with Paulus's 6th Army, and actually capture the 
city of Stalingrad, not merely cut the Russian communications by driving to the River Volga. 
Hitler wished to deprive the Russians of the large tank factory at Stalingrad and also to gain 
the psychological victory of taking the city which bore the name of the adversary who had 
denied him the capture of Moscow the previous summer. In this way Paulus and his army 
were sucked into the Stalingrad graveyard. 

Having crossed the River Don on 21 August, Paulus set off on the last 60 miles to Stalingrad. 
Two days later, his 14th Panzer Corps reached the Volga, north of the city. But the infantry 
was still straggling behind and the tanks were short of fuel. The Panzer Corps commander 
believed that he was in danger and sought permission to withdraw; he was isolated at the 
point of a long corridor far deeper into Russia than any German had ventured, even in 1941. 
Paulus sacked the Corps commander and ordered the divisional commander who replaced 
him to stand on the Volga, where support soon reached him. A few days later, the head of 
General Hoth's Panzer Army, diverted from the Caucasus offensive, came up from the south 
and reached the Volga south of the city. The two armies met on 3 September and the 
Russians in Stalingrad were 'encircled', with the Germans on their front and flanks and the 
wide River Volga behind. 

Hitler's determination to take Stalingrad was matched by that of the Russian High Command 
to hold the city. Stalin ordered that the civilians should not be evacuated. Soldiers and civilians 
alike prepared the city for defence. Marshal Zhukov, the best of Stalin's commanders, and his 
Staff moved down from the Moscow front. The local party chairman was Nikita Khrushchev, 
who would one day become the leader of all Russia. The decisive battle of the Second World 
War was about to take place with Paulus at the centre of the stage. He was the senior of the 
two Army commanders present and would thus be in overall command on the Stalingrad front 
from first to last. 

He attacked on 21 August, as soon as his army had been concentrated, a straightforward 
offensive on all sectors. Every German bomber available was sent to raid the city on the night 
of 23 August, some crews making three sorties. Unopposed, the Luftwaffe bombed Stalingrad 
from end to end. The Russians would turn many of the ruins into little fortresses. Nine 
German infantry divisions then attacked in the centre, with 5 panzer and 4 motorized divisions 
on the flanks. The Russians stood and fought, and the city held. Two days later, Hitler repeated  his orders: Stalingrad must be taken. 

September was an important month for the whole German Army, with the drain of senior 
officers who had challenged Hitler's policies continuing. Field Marshal List, the commander of 
Army Group A, fighting in the Caucasus far to the south of Stalingrad, was anxious about the 
failure to capture the summer's objectives and the lateness of the season. He was sacked. 
On 12 September Paulus flew out of Stalingrad, met up with his own Army Group 
commander, von Weichs, and the two went to Hitler and pointed out the long, exposed 
northern flank of Paulus's command, the long lines of communications, and the lack of 
reserves and reinforcements for Stalingrad. The two generals were not as forceful in 
expressing their views as List, were apparently satisfied by Hitler's promises of support and his 
belief that the Russians were nearly finished, and they returned to the front. Later in the month, 
Halder, Chief of Staff at OKH, also urged Hitler to respond to the seriousness of the 
situation in southern Russia. But Hitler refused to listen and Halder, too, was sacked. His 
replacement, General Zeitzler, was never allowed the influence of Halder; Hitler had, in effect, 
now taken over direct control of operations. He was as determined as ever to press on with 
the capture of Stalingrad despite all the warnings of the professionals. 

Back at Stalingrad, Paulus was finding that the capture of the city was turning out to be a long 
and costly affair, and winter was approaching. He wished to halt his offensive, and withdraw 
14th Panzer Corps to form a reserve. But Hitler insisted that 6th Army must employ all its s 
trength to take Stalingrad. Paulus made no further protest but got on with the task at 
Stalingrad. Would Hitler have listened if the general had been less courteous, modest and 
intellectual and more of a Reichenau or Rommel? No one can say. It is certain that there 
was now no one around Hitler powerful enough to persuade him to call off the offensive. 

Paulus's nominal strength was actually increased at this time. Two formations of Romanian 
troops - the 3rd and 4th Armies - were sent up to hold the static fronts on either side of 
Stalingrad, releasing German troops to fight in the city. A new 'Romanian-German Army 
Group' was envisaged to include the Romanian troops and the German 4th Panzer and 
6th Armies. Paulus himself was actually being considered for a new Staff position in Berlin 
at this time but, because of his Romanian wife and relatives, was kept at the front, 
earmarked to be Deputy Commander of the new grouping which, in the outcome, never 
came into existence. Another possible release route for Paulus was his own health he was 
suffering continuing dysentery and a general rundown in health. He was urged to take sick 
leave in Germany but refused. 

The attacks on Stalingrad continued. A major offensive had started on 13 September, Paulus 
ordering that the city be cut in two by a drive through the centre to the river bank. This was 
successful but suffered heavy casualties. Professional historians later judged that it would 
have been better to attack from either flank and advance up the bank of the Volga, cutting 
of the Russians in the city from their nightly flow of supplies across the river. Two panzer 
corps commanders protested at the way their tanks were being used in the city and added 
their voices to the warnings of the general danger of the situation. Paulus sacked them. The 
fighting became vicious; it has often been described as an urban version of Verdun. It was 
close-quarter, room-to-room, cellar-to-cellar, ruin-to-ruin fighting. Paulus's units wasted 
away at the rate of 20,000 casualties a week. By the end of October, only one tenth of 
Stalingrad still held out, in the north of the city. But the balance of strength was changing; 
the earlier German superiority had gone. Stalingrad was the first priority for Russian reserves. 
Sufficient Russian troops were fed into the city to keep the fight going there, but the 
remainder were placed as secretly as possible well to the north and south for a planned 
counter-stroke. Paulus received a mere five battalions of assault pioneers, flown in as 
street-fighting specialists. At the end of October Paulus warned Army Group B that the 
Russians were gathering on his flanks, and Hitler was informed. In early November, the 
winter came. In the middle of the month. Hitler sent Paulus a message urging one last effort 
to complete the capture of Stalingrad. 

On 19 November, the Russians struck (operation Uranus). The attacks fell on weakly held 
sectors north and south of the city, manned mainly by Romanian forces in the north and by 
a mixture of further Romanians and units of the 4th Panzer Army in the south. The Russian 
plan was a simple one, to encircle all of the German forces in the Stalingrad area. They 
soon broke through the thin defences, particularly in the north. Even the lowest private in 
the German Army could see that the 6th Army at Stalingrad was in serious danger. It was 
the vital moment. Decisive action now could have saved the situation. If Paulus had acted 
boldly, sending some units north and south to hold the Russians while withdrawing the bulk 
of his force from the ruins of Stalingrad, then much of his army would have been saved. 
He should have acted quickly by giving his orders and then either sent Hitler a signal, 
'In anticipation of your approval, I have ...', or he could have flown out to demand either that 
his action be sanctioned or that he be allowed to resign. Slow to comprehend the danger, 
Paulus did nothing. On the third day of the Russian offensive, Zeitzler formally advised Hitler 
that Paulus should be given orders to withdraw. While Hitler was making up his mind, 
Göring, through Jeschonnek, his Chief of Staff, promised that the Luftwaffe could keep 
Paulus supplied. Hitler accepted Göring's assurance, not that of his senior army adviser. 
He ordered Paulus and his men to remain in Stalingrad as a forward 'fortress' until the 
following spring. Zeitzler informed Paulus of the decision that day and Hitler followed with 
a personal order on 22 November, the fourth day of the crisis. 

The Russians closed the ring on 23 November and Paulus found himself cut off, with the 
entire strength of his own 6th Army that had survived the fighting in Stalingrad and also with 
part of Hoth's 4th Panzer Army and the remnants of some of the Romanian divisions from 
the flanks. Also present were a mass of supply and rear echelons, a Luftwaffe FLAK 
division and two airfield organizations, a complete fighter Gruppe, part of a Stuka Gruppe 
and other air units. There were between 250,000 and 300,000 men in an area nearly 
30 miles long by 20 miles wide, with its front still in Stalingrad but most of its rear out on 
the open steppe. 

Paulus was now prodded by subordinate generals into radioing Hitler for complete freedom 
of action. Hitler replied on 24. November with a Führer order: 'Create a pocket. Present 
Volga front and present northern front to be held at all costs. Supplies coming by air.' This 
was to prove ultimately the death sentence of the 6th Army. The only officer at Stalingrad 
to show any independence of action was General von Seydlitz-Kurzbach, the most senior 
of the corps commanders, who urged Paulus, in a memorandum, to withdraw without delay 
before escape became impossible: 'The complete annihilation of 200,000 fighting men and 
their entire equipment is at stake. There is no other choice. But Paulus, ever obedient to 
superiors, refused to listen to him. 

After closing the ring, the Russians almost ignored the Stalingrad pocket, concentrating on 
pushing the German forces in the Don bend back as far as possible in order to increase the 
gap between Paulus and any relief force. 

The rest was slow descent into catastrophe. The Luftwaffe never achieved a sufficient rate of 
supply, with the result that Paulus's force steadily declined in its ability to defend itself, let 
alone break out. Field-Marshal von Manstein was appointed to yet another new Army Group, 
Army Group Don, with orders from Hitler to link up again with Paulus, but it was nearly a 
month before this effort could begin, on 12 December 1942. Von Manstein sent an emissary 
by air to urge Paulus to do all he could to attempt a break-out and meet the relief force. All 
day the arguments revolved in Paulus's headquarters, with Russian shells landing nearby. It 
was the last chance for Paulus. In the end, as ever the intellectual Staff officer rather than the 
ruthless man of action, he refused to move, quoting Hitler's orders that thepresent positions at 
Stalingrad should be held. Von Manstein's valiant offensive petered out and all hope was gone 
by Christmas. 

The Russians were ready to deal with Stalingrad by 8 January 1943- They sent Paulus an 
ultimatum, offering the alternative of honourable surrender or complete annihilation. No guns 
fired on 9 January while the terms were considered. It is assumed that Paulus consulted Hitler; 
there was a direct radio link. Paulus refused to surrender, once again following his orders to 
the letter without any regard to local conditions. The Russians attacked the next day. The final 
agony of Paulus's troops lasted for three weeks. The Russians advanced from west to east, 
pressing the Germans back into the city. They captured half of the pocket in the first week 
and then again paused to demand surrender. Again Paulus refused. By the end of the month, 
it was nearly all over. Stalingrad was cut into isolated German positions. The defenders, 
particularly the German troops, fought fiercely despite the appalling privations. The last 
wounded were evacuated by air on 24. January. 

Even Hitler must have realized by now that there was no hope. He awarded Paulus the 
Oakleaves grade of Knight's Cross on 15 January and then promotedPaulus to Field-Marshal. 
Knowing that no German soldier of that rank had ever surrendered, he expected Paulus to 
commit suicide after a last stand. On 31 January, Russian troops reached the building in 
which Paulus had his headquarters. A young Russian officer entered and demanded, on 
behalf of his superiors, that the Germans surrender. After much parleying with Paulus's 
staff, the Russian was finally led to Paulus, who was lying listlessly on a bed. Through an 
interpreter, the Russian demanded the surrender. Paulus merely nodded. The newsreel film 
of Paulus signing the surrender shows a haggard, anxious man at the end of his tether. 

A few units held out until 3 February but then it was all over. Of the original garrison, 42,000, 
mostly wounded, had been evacuated by air. The Russians counted 107,800 prisoners 16,800 
in the fighting and 91,000 in the final surrender. There were twenty-four generals among them. 
The number of Germans quoted as killed varies between 72,000 and 100.000. The great 
mass of prisoners suffered unspeakable misery and privation. Only 6,000 ever returned home, 
several years after the war. 

The unrelenting Russians held Paulus for nearly eleven years. He was kept under what might 
be termed 'close house arrest' in Moscow and was not harshly treated, although he was 
subjected to the same pressure as was exerted on all of the captured generals to form a 
movement renouncing Hitler. Paulus held firm against this until after the July 1944 bomb plot, 
when he finally gave is support to the movement. Hitler was furious that the most senior 
German officer in captivity should turn on him in this way. Paulus's wife was urged to renounce 
his name; she refused. His surviving son was detained but survived the war. 

Paulus never saw his wife again; she died in West Germany in 1949. Paulus was released in 
November 1953, but only to residence in communist East Germany at Dresden. Two years 
later he contracted amyelstrophic lateral sclerosis (motor neuron disease) and he died in a 
Dresden clinic on 1 February 1957 at the age of sixty-seven. 

History gives a simple and unkind verdict on Friedrich Paulus: gifted Staff officer, uninspired 
commander, an unquestioning general of the 'orders-are-orders' type. He was a man who 
enjoyed the intellectual aspects of the profession of war; he never questioned Nazism and 
was willing to do almost anything ordered by Hitler. Finally, when the fate of a quarter of a 
million men rested in his hands, he 'froze' and did little but let events take their course to the 
complete destruction of his army and the miserable deaths of most of his soldiers. 

Source : Hitler's Generals by Correlli Barnett