Nazi General Friedrich Paulus Surrenders

German field marshal Friedrich Paulus, the highest-ranking German officer to surrender during World War II
German field marshal Friedrich Paulus, the highest-ranking German officer to surrender during World War II

Historical Context

The Battle of Stalingrad was a turning-point during WWII. It was the largest battle of the war with 2.2 million combatants and one of the largest ever battles in history. The eventual defeat of Nazi Germany's 6th Army in the streets of the Soviet city not only resulted in a huge loss of life but proved that the German advance could be halted on the deadly Eastern Front.

Friedrich Paulus, the commander of the German 6th Army on the Eastern Front, commandeered 250,000 soldiers, and it was he who led the drive to Stalingrad during the summer of 1942. In November 1942 the Soviets launched a massive counterattack, code-named Operation Uranus, and Paulua suddenly found himself completely surrounded. Adolf Hitler ordered him to maintain his position in the city at all costs.

During January 1943 the German position weakened severely, and Paulus requested the chance to surrender, which Hitler refused believing they should fight until death. Hitler then promoted Paulus to field marshal, noting that there had never been a field marshal who surrendered. He also implied that Paulus should kill himself rather than be captured.

On January 31, 1943, Paulus was captured by the Russians, and he surrendered. The remainder of his army capitulated in the following days. Hitler flew into a rage upon learning this and vowed never to appoint a field marshal again (though he made seven more before the war was over.)

The 6th Army became the first German field army to be completely destroyed in battle; some 107,000 German soldiers entered Soviet captivity after the loss of the battle, and only about 6,000 would survive this. Paulus himself survived captivity, and lived until 1957 before dying in Dresden.

Photo Info

Photographer: probably Georgi Lipskerow
Date taken: January 31, 1943
Location taken: Stalingrad, Soviet Union

Source: Wikimedia Commons

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