|Stalingrad February 1943|
Destruction of 6.Armee (Wehrmacht)
The Israeli historian Omer Bartov noted that of 11,237 letters sent by soldiers inside of Stalingrad between December 20 1942 and January 16 1943 to their families in Germany, almost every letter expressed belief in Germany's ultimate victory, and their willingness to fight and die at Stalingrad to achieve that victory. Bartov reported that a great many of the soldiers were well aware that they would not be able to escape from Stalingrad. Over 11,000 Wehrmacht soldiers refused to lay down their arms at the official surrender on February 2 1943, presumably believing that fighting to the death was better than a slow end in Soviet camps. Of the 91,000 German prisoners captured in Stalingrad, only about 5,000 ever returned to Europe. Already weakened by disease, starvation and lack of medical care during the encirclement, they were sent to labour camps all over the Soviet Union, where most of them died of mistreatment and malnutrition. 27,000 German prisoners of war died within weeks. It was not until 1955 that the last of the handful of survivors were repatriated after a plea to the Politburo by Chancellor of West Germany Konrad Adenauer. Image: Soviet soldier marches a German soldier into captivity. Stalingrad February 1943. Public domain.