The final battles of Stalingrad as seen by the Nazi press of the time
Battle of Stalingrad. One of the greatest and bloodiest battles of the twentieth century. Hailed by the Russians as a glorious victory, the Germans considered one of the greatest German tragedies of this century.
Someone said that history is written by winners. But now let's try to look at the war through the eyes of the defeated. How did the then press see the end of the Battle of Stalingrad? How did the Nazi newspapers describe the struggle of the German army? From the palette of " glazed " printed materials, I chose the reactions of the Elbetalzeitung newspaper (the periodical official daily of the NSDAP Sudeten County for the districts of Ústí nad Labem and Litoměřice ).
At least for an idea of what could also be read in the territory of pre-Munich Czechoslovakia. I have selected the most interesting articles from January and the beginning of February 1943. (The cited information from the press is printed in italics for better clarity. )
The year 1943 came. The beginning of the end of the Axis forces. Germany slowly but surely remained alone in Europe. The year 1942 was an experience for the ground forces with several major setbacks. After the defeat of the Afrikakorps at el-Alamein, the Wehrmacht's position on the Eastern Front continued to deteriorate. The previous year brought failure near Moscow, the year 1942 was marked by fighting in the south of the USSR. While the attack on the Caucasus was rather out of the media's attention, everything focused on the massive strike of the 6th Army on Stalingrad. Among other things, thanks to its name. What could Hitler want more than to subdue a city bearing the name of his archenemy. That is why the interest of the media was directed to the Don area.
The German newspaper Elbetalzeitung begins in 1943, otherwise than by balancing. At that time, the newspaper was published on January 1. They mention that the nation has only one idea - " Victory " - so at least he saw it in his speech in the newspaper Konrad Henlein.
The printed daily report of the OKW ( Wehrmacht High Command ) from January 2 announced that " in the Terek, Stalingrad and Don area, the enemy suffered heavy losses in continuing his futile attack ... ".
This day also brings the results of the German naval war. The fighting near Stalingrad is, at least for a while, forgotten. The newspaper brings the famous success of the submarine war. It must be stated that the submarine weapon is rightly praised here, because if Hitler could be really satisfied with something in 1942, then it could only be German submarines. There is talk of almost 9 million tons of GRT sunk by enemy ship tonnage. Although the results are slightly overestimated, there was probably no intention in doing so. Here, propaganda really did not have to transform the results into its own image.
Fighting through the eyes of the press
From January 5, almost daily information on the situation in the southern sector of the Eastern Front will begin. Most of them are reports published by OKW, but there are also classic articles full of propaganda. On that day (January 5, 1943 ) an article appeared entitled " High losses of the Soviets in the Don region ". The author rejoices in the individual selected successes of the German army. The report on the sinking of a Soviet steamer by a German submarine, which in itself is a really secondary issue due to the heavy fighting of the German infantry, is supplemented by information about the shooting down of 16 British bombers - again subordination, moreover, it is not specified where hard to verify.
A day later, there is a report of a 170th decorated German soldier who can attach Oak Branches to his Knight's Cross. When good news is not received, announcements of new promoters become a daily propaganda routine. From this day ( January 6 ) let us mention the article " German heroism in difficult defense ". There is talk of " repelling Soviet counterattacks " (the situation of the Russians is not bad if they are able to counterattack ) and the success of one of the tank divisions, which destroyed 31 Soviet tanks.
In the next issue ( January 7 ), the article " Soviet attacks on the Don repulsed " appears.There is talk of destroying 20 enemy tanks and the success of German fighters and flak. The Eastern Front as a whole is then evaluated by the OKW report. It also describes the icy journey of a starving enemy near Leningrad.
The January 8 newspaper seemed to be copying news from earlier days. Again, there is talk of " successful defensive battles in the east ." If you want to understand the real situation, you have to watch the wording carefully. For several days now, there has been talk of " defensive " fighting. This means that Paulus's 6th Army is only defending itself. And so the card turns in this battle. The wording "the Luftwaffe shot down 32 aircraft without its own losses " can tell us a lot. Here the term self-loss appears. They are silent about them. Reports of the downing of 44 aircraft ( January 7 ) did not use the deadline. So that means there were some losses. If they weren't, it would certainly appear in the January 7 report. Such a huge success would certainly not be concealed. So we won't read about our own losses, if there really are any, in the press!
On January 8, the article " Flexible Fighting " appears. This mentions that, in contrast to other, rigid fronts, the fighting on the Eastern Front is very flexible due to the huge space. It allows freer movement of reconnaissance troops and it is easier to obtain information about the enemy. According to the article, it is important for the result of the fighting that " densely populated industrial areas and existentially important cereals are firmly in German hands and important cut-off Soviet supply routes cannot be affected by any counterattack ... "
In order not to make the reports from the battle so dull, the Elbetalzeitung in the same issue focuses on submarine warfare. There is an attempt to overshadow the poor situation of the German troops with the success of German submarines. However, the article " The Battle of the Atlantic Decides the Fate of the World " can only be called nonsense. The propaganda here is based on the statement of a British commentator, who was supposed to state: " ... I believe that the fate of the world will be decided by the struggle in the Atlantic. The United Nations will lose the war if they lose the war in the Atlantic. "
The significance of submarine warfare is exaggerated and, as the name suggests, brought ad absurdum. However, in order to talk about the ground force of the German army, an article " Defender of the Halfáj Pass Dead " appears about the death of Major Bach, bearer of the Knight's Cross, in a British prisoner of war camp. Major Bach became a famous hero of Rommel's Afrikakorps as a brave defender of the Hafaya Pass in North Africa. The celebration of the heroes is a grateful subject of all propaganda: " When in the middle of January 1942 the enemy attacked with a superiority, Captain Bach was one of the brave ... who gave up resistance only when they ran out of ammunition. Then fell Captain Bach who was of English captivity, in which - meanwhile promoted to major - now died. His name will be forever associated with the defense of the Halfaya Pass for all soldiers and Africa and will not be forgotten. "
An OKW report on January 10 announced: " The defensive battle in the south of the Eastern Front continues with undiminished intransigence. All enemy attacks were repulsed. During the counterattack by German troops, 26 enemy tanks were destroyed. At one point, infantry and tank unions destroyed the enemy regiment ... Fighters shot down 12 Soviet fighters without their own losses. "It simply came to our notice then. Although this is an official report, there are often redundant adjectives ( " undiminished intransigence " ). The play on words is typical of the totalitarian press.
The issue of January 11 loosely follows the previous article on the success of German submarines and mentions the sinking of 13 ships. To this he adds the " exemplary cooperation " of the Luftwaffe and tanks in the destruction of 60 Soviet tanks. Of course, they are silent about their own losses again. OKW announces: " At Stalingrad, the continuing attacks were several times repulsed by the Soviet superiority of Soviet infantry and tanks. "
The January 12 newspaper is marked by Herman Göring's 50th birthday celebrations.OKW's monotonous report once again describes the success of the defensive battles near Stalingrad. However, the issue from that day is remarkable for another report. For the first time, there is also talk of US-Japanese fighting in the South Pacific. The article " Roosevelt Finally Admits Heavy Defeats " describes the events of October 26, 1942. ( Published in January 1943 - apparently an attempt to bring positive news from anywhere and however old. ) The article returns to the naval battle of aircraft carriers off the Santa Cruz Islands, in which the Americans they lost the pride of their navy, the aircraft carrier Hornet. The report is therefore more than two months old. Moreover, it was the success of the Japanese - not German weapons. This only illustrates the desperate situation of the Germans and their zero number of positive messages. The technical data (armament, displacement, number of aircraft, etc. ) of the Hornet even appear in this issue, which looks really absurd. The technical parameters are not talked about even in connection with German weapons, and suddenly there is talk of the parameters of an American aircraft carrier.
January 13 is again full of information about the success of the submarine war ( after all, there are no others ). The article " Still Strike After Strike " appears, talking about the " new successes of German submarines " and the fact that " Eisenhower's offensive is already torpedoed in the Atlantic. The article told the nation that success in the form of sunken ships of one of the convoys to North Africa would reach the " famous annals of the German submarine weapon. "It was supposed to be a big blow to the Allies, and it's no wonder" it's no wonder there's excitement in Washington and London and it's hard to cover up the anger that caused the devastating blows in the plutocratic camp ... "This was to indicate that the Americans were incapable to transport reinforcements to North Africa. However, the opposite was true. Moreover, the camp of the Western Allies is very remarkably described as " plutocratic ." That Nazi anti-Americanism is very suspiciously similar to the anti-Americanism of today's European left, not to mention the communist propaganda of the time.
The January 15 newspaper unexpectedly focuses on the destruction of the Hornet again. A report by a United States war correspondent entitled " Deadly Strike for the Hornet " is printed here. In addition to this foreign report, an article from the Swiss newspaper La Suisse is also quoted here. The author of the article, incidentally marked as impartial, comments on the course of the submarine war: " After 40 months of war at sea, no real weapon was found on the side of the Allies, with which it would be possible to defend against the activities of German submarines. "
In addition, there is an official report concerning the commander of the German 6th Army, Colonel General Paulus. Paulus was honored and received a congratulatory telegram from the leader: “ In grateful appreciation for your heroic commitment to the fight for the future of our nation, as the 178th soldier of the German army, I will grant you Oak Branches with Swords and Diamonds to the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. ( Signed by Adolf Hitler ). In the next issue, Paulus' photograph will appear on the front page of the newspaper.
The OKW report states: " In the Stalingrad area, German troops are defending themselves from heavy enemy attacks in fierce fighting. In the January 16 report, the word "non- stop " is added to the report on the same content before the phrase " heavy attacks". The attentive eye should not miss the fact that there is another shift. There is talk of " heavy attacks " in connection with the enemy. Previously, the term " heavy attack " was used exclusively in connection with German attacks. It is again a game with words, masterfully executed by German propaganda, which is to slowly prepare the reader for a possible final defeat.
On January 18, in addition to Paulus's photograph, an article " Heroic Defensive Fight Around Stalingrad " appears in the newspaper. There is talk of a culmination of the fighting. There are also some changes in their description. It is mentioned that what was possible turned German troops into defensive positions.It is written that " Soviet troops are attacking from all directions, regardless of their own loss of people and material ." And the article continues: " ... In a struggle that requires nerves, fists and steel, all formations have gained immortal fame: Grenadiers, engineers, tankers and artillery ... " From this it is clear that the true state of affairs is gradually acknowledged. The preparation of the population for slaughter is evidenced by the phrase " gained immortal glory ." In these words, the absolute predominance of the Russians is indicated. Both material and human potential. Gone are Göring's boasting promises of an air bridge that will hold the 6th Army.
In order to overshadow the true state of affairs, evergreen - the success of German submarines - reappears. In the article " Heavy Strikes of Our Submarines ", the reader can read about a successful week ( January 8-15, 1943 ), in which 34 enemy ships were sunk. The letter also quotes Admiral Bernotti's speech: " ... Enemy agitators tried to calm public opinion in the United States and especially in England by allowing the United States to balance the number of sunken ships with the number of newly built ones. However, the German and Italian submarines will make all enemy efforts impossible, and the submarine war will ultimately lead to a decision. "Cynically speaking, Bernotti was right. However, if he had only guessed that already in May 1943 he would bring a cruel defeat of German submarines and affect such a war in the Atlantic ...
However, the headline " Submarine War is the Key to Victory " is worth thinking about. It is clear that only submarines are considered the key to victory. Not long ago not a ground army or air force. It is not written much about the Air Force ( only sometimes some downing of enemy aircraft, practically only on the Eastern Front, or an announcement of the jubilee downing of an ace of air ), in connection with ground troops speaks only of " heroic defensive battles ". It is a very sad picture of the invincible Wehrmacht a few months ago.
There is not much talk about the suffering and conditions in which he fights. The article "How the Eastern Army Prepares for Winter " still appears in the January 18 issue. It states that " supplies, armaments and training are prerequisites for active warfare ." The article goes on to say: "The term ' winter preparation ' generally gives the impression that it is a purely material preparation ... This is largely the right premise, but it must not be forgotten that battles are won by people and not by material. When a soldier is internally prepared and equipped for war in winter ... then he has the upper hand over the enemy, provided that he has all the tools at his disposal that allow him to march and fight in the winter ... "
In another issue ( January 19 ), the OKW report states that " heavy Soviet strikes were repulsed ." And as usual, “the enemy was inflicted heavy losses on tanks, aircraft and people. "
There is also a mention of another front, which was practically displaced for a long time. This is, of course, North Africa. There is talk of " forced resistance of the German-Italian tank army ", which indicates a desperate situation on this front.
For " relaxation ", the reader is informed here about the bombing of London by Luftwaffe forces, which took place in several waves. This information is not false propaganda. On the night of January 17-18, 118 Luftwaffe bombers actually bombed London. The Germans then lost only six aircraft. It was the first night raid on London since May 11, 1941.
The next day ( January 20 ) there is talk of more Soviet strikes, or nothing new. Only another term appears - " heroic resistance of Stalingrad fighters ". The newspaper also brought photos from the fighting near Stalingrad.
The real change and turn in a completely different direction appears on the Elbetalzeitung website on 22 January. The article " For 20 years ... " with the subtitle " How the Soviet Union planned and cunningly prepared an attack on European culture " is published here.The article states, among other things, that we will only be able to realize the "horror of the giant struggles " in the East when we understand with how ... ruthless brutality and cold contempt for all human dignified conditions Bolshevism prepared for decades a devastating attack on Europe. " after military failures, the paper switched to a proven ideology. It is perhaps only interesting what dictionary is used. As one totalitarian ideology describes another. They have nothing to blame each other in this regard. Reckless brutality is common to both dictatorships.
The only positive information for the propaganda is the 50th night victory of Major Lent's fighter ace. Helmut Lent finally recorded over 100 of them at night!
On January 25, we will see on the title page the article " Heroic epic about Stalingrad " and the subtitle " The greatest commitment and dedication of frontline fighters - an example for the homeland ". Among other things, the article states: " As long as the winter battle is raging on the front line, the brave defenders of Stalingrad will be at the forefront until then. Their readiness for commitment, their dedication and their heroism are incomparable. For over two months, Bolshevik weapons have been attacking German front positions. The hardest pressure on the troops in the Stalingrad area has been binding for over two months ... “It is no longer written about the course of the fighting. Now informing about the battle becomes a purely emotional affair. There is talk of how the Bolsheviks have been encountering German front positions for two months now. In other words, that the Germans have only been defending themselves for two months.
The next day ( January 26 ), the article " A handful of grenadiers " talks about " friendship and bravery of soldiers ", the headlines for the OKW report announce that "the 6th Army attaches immortal honor to its flag ." Translated into understandable language - this is defeat.
On January 27, the article " Europe or Bolshevism " appears. In it, he quotes from the publications of friendly countries. For all, at least the Bulgarian newspaper " Today ": " The greatest heroic epic known to human history is written by warriors from Stalingrad. A nation that has such sons of war and that has so many brave deeds must carry the ultimate victory. This heroism cannot go down in history in vain, but it will bear fruit in the future for the good of all humanity ... "
Interestingly interesting is the headline " Ironly solid fateful community of the Pact of the Three Powers in the fight against the Soviets ." In fact, there are no longer three powers. It is impossible to count on the help of Italy - half a year later he will even be deposed by the Mussolins. The Pact of the Three Powers will turn into a defensive struggle between Germany and Japan, which will in no way coordinate joint action. Well, actually no more pacts.
The article " Europe honors the heroes of Stalingrad " is another lie. The propaganda is trying to tell people ( and quite possibly itself ) that this is a struggle of the whole of Europe against communism. In fact, Germany is already practically alone at this time (the only state truly capable of fighting ) and over time it will be abandoned by all its allies.
Proof of hopelessness is the celebration of the 149th air victory of the German fighter ace Heinz Bär. ( He shot down a total of 220 aircraft, 124 of them in the west! ) Apparently there was already such an acute lack of good news that his 150th victory was not even expected.
Unexpectedly, he still optimistically describes the situation of the OKW report: " In Stalingrad, the heroic resistance of the defenders is unbroken. The Soviet attacks on the Western and Southern fronts failed with heavy losses for the enemy. "
But the propaganda continues to lie. On January 29, 1943, the headline " All Soviet Mass Attacks Repelled " appears. The subtitle " Despite the biggest shortcomings, the defenders of Stalingrad face multiple enemy superiority " can no longer be taken seriously. However, the term " defenders of Stalingrad " is very interesting. After all, the Germans were the attackers, not the defenders.This " appropriation " of Stalingrad is another typical propaganda chimera. The Germans can defend Berlin, but not the city of their invaded state. Then they must be labeled as attackers.
There is also an article “ Why Stalingrad? “. It says that "the heroes of the 6th Army are still fighting in the ruins of destroyed positions and cellar pits of the former town of Stalingrad ... ". The article continues: “ The consequences of the German military successes of the autumn of 1942 became apparent very early on and are now being shown more and more daily. In the rear of the fighting Bolsheviks, the specter of misery grins, and from this misery a massive, desperate winter offensive of the Bolsheviks was born ... "In conclusion, he adds that now" all forces are gathered for a new march, towards a victorious decision . "
If, until then, there had been a newspaper reader who could not " decipher " the word games that prepared the people for defeat, the meaning of the phrase "the heroes of the 6th Army are still fighting " must be understandable to everyone.
The article "The Japanese position guarantees the final victory " adds a crown to everything. Apparently, the German army was no longer trusted in the press either. Moreover, the Germans could not, of course, suspect that a few days after the surrender at Stalingrad, the Japanese would evacuate their troops from Guadalcanal. It will mark a turning point in the war in the Pacific. The Battle of Guadalcanal can be described with a bit of exaggeration as " Stalingrad Pacific ".
The OKW report only states that " in Stalingrad, fierce enemy attacks are taking place against the southern front, which, despite the greatest hardships and multiple enemy superiority, the troops are still facing. "
In the newspapers from 30.-31. January, you can find a photograph of Adolf Hitler during his speech on the front page. He is watched by hundreds of people. The photo comes with a caption. " People huddled around their leader ." Below the photo is:
This was the case when A. Hitler took power 10 years ago.
This was the case when A. Hitler 6.7. In 1940 he returned as the winner of the French field campaign.
This is the case today, when the front and home in the greatest commitment are joyfully fighting for the ultimate victory.
This will always be the case, because the Leader's path became the path of Great Germany to freedom.
( If anyone is looking for a difference between Nazi and Communist propaganda - the Nazis fought happily, the Communists joyfully built. )
The article " The fight in Stalingrad continues " is also published. He states that “ no one is alone in the fight. From the general to the grenadier, they are all united by a brave, uncompromising will to succeed in the struggle for life and death ... "
In the newspaper from February 1, everything is already preparing for a total war. The words: " There can be no winner and loser in this war, but only those who will survive and those who will be destroyed " speak absolutely clearly.
Finally, the first words about the real defeat also appear in the article " Heroic Struggle in Stalingrad ". It reads: " The fight of the 6th Army in Stalingrad, under the personal command of its commander-in-chief, General Field Marshal Paulus, has been progressing more and more heartbreaking and dramatic hour by hour ... Enemy tanks are moving through the ruins of the city ... Bolshevik infantry in defensive fire. Only when parts of the southern fighting groups fired the last ammunition did they fall into captivity after heroic resistance in a man-to-man fight ... ”A new word - captivity - for the first time in connection with the capture of German soldiers.
You can also read in the press about the promotion of Colonel General Paulus to field marshal. Colonels Kleist, Weichs and Busch were also promoted to the same.
And again, quite incomprehensibly, the paper mentions the battles of Guadalcanal. Information about the battle of Rennel Island appears here. It celebrates Japanese success crowned by the sinking of two battleships and three cruisers. In fact, the Americans lost only one cruiser here.However, German information apparently relied on Japanese propaganda, which was much more false than German propaganda.
An OKW report from January 2 announces: In Stalingrad, after heavy artillery training with enormous force of troops, the enemy attacked the last bastion of defenders ... the circle he had held together so far. "
Elbetalzetung also notices the " heroes of Stalingrad ". The greatest respect is enjoyed by General Strecker, commander of the northern cauldron at Stalingrad, who managed to hold on until February 2. An article in the letter of February 3 " Soldiers from all German counties " is devoted to him and his men. He reports that " north of Stalingrad, on February 1, soldiers from all German counties under General Strecker demonstrated how German men can fight and resist in the most difficult conditions ... " Paulus is not being talked about at the moment.
However, the fundamental words about the German surrender on January 31, 1943 have still not appeared!
The end of Paulus's army near Stalingrad is not mentioned in the newspaper until February 4. That day, the article " Faithful to the Flag is published" states, among other things: " It is so. It had been certain for two weeks that the heroes of Stalingrad could not be rescued or supplied, that these men were in lost positions, but they had to fulfill the task on which they depended ... the fate of Europe, the fate of the world ... ”Strange words. 14 days ago, there was talk of " heavy attacks " by the enemy, but so far not a word has been said about the impossibility of supply. Again, a classic demonstration of a lie. Göring's words are also quoted in the article that the soldiers held 60-70 Soviet divisions, and " if these divisions broke through then, Bolshevism would probably achieve its goal. They're too late now. The German defenses could be consolidated. "
It was not possible to read about the losses in the article. The OKW report of January 3 ( printed on January 4 ) referred to the headline of the " famous end of the 6th Army ." The report itself said: " The fight near Stalingrad is over. True to its flag to the last breath, the 6th Army, under the exemplary command of Field Marshal General Paulus, succumbed to the superiority of the enemy and adverse conditions. "
The commander of the 6th Army, now Field Marshal Paulus, is not mentioned until February 5. Paulus' words are quoted here: “ In the hardest fight, we have fulfilled our obligations to the last man. "
On the same day, the article "The Legacy of the Stalingrad Heroes " was published, the last major article on Stalingrad. He states, among other things: "The heroic struggle in Stalingrad, which is now over, became more and more difficult and furious in the second half of January. Only short radio messages connected the defenders with the outside world. Their words were firm and clear. It was the speech of men whose brave will was not broken either by many months of hard fighting and suffering or by the superiority of the enemy ... "
A small attempt to justify the defeat came in a letter of February 6 in the article " The enemy would never defeat you ", which describes the causes of failure. These were allegedly mainly "the supply situation, the lack of ammunition and fuel ". Starting the next day, the Battle of Stalingrad is no longer mentioned.
Battle of Stalingrad. Bloody slaughterhouse in the south of the USSR. The question arises - Did it bring anything to the Germans? Were the victims useless? With a bit of cynical pragmatism, it must be said that it was probably necessary to fight to the end. Paulus missed the possibility of withdrawal in November, perhaps still in December 1942. After that, the loop around the 6th Army finally withdrew. However, the only German army was able to attract several Soviet armies throughout January 1943. Thanks to that, they could not be deployed elsewhere. From this point of view, the fight to the last man was important.
It was not possible to get an objective picture of the events from the Nazi press. Perhaps only he who was able to read between the lines could recognize the true state of affairs by the end.But even if the reality was known to most readers, there was still no way to change anything. At the same time as these articles date, an Allied conference was held in Cassablanca. Here the decision was made to fight Germany until its capitulation. There was nowhere to retreat, so soldiers and propagandists in the press fought to the bitter end.
Finally, let's look at the German losses in this bloody Stalingrad battle. Thanks to transport planes, 42,000 more wounded soldiers were evacuated on January 24, rescued at the last minute. However, the vast majority of others were not so lucky. German losses vary from source to source. The maximum loss estimates are 150,000 men. On January 31, 1943, 91,000 men were captured in Soviet captivity. To this must be added another less than 20,000 captives from before 31 January. Of these roughly 110,000, only 6,000 returned after the war! And not in 1945 or 1946, but only in the mid-1950s after the intervention of Federal Chancellor Konrad Adenauer!
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