battle of stalingrad

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February 2nd 1943: Battle of Stalingrad ends

On this day in 19423 during the Second World War, German troops surrendered to the Soviet Red Army in Stalingrad, thus ending five months of fighting. The battle began in August 1942 during the Nazi invasion of Russia - codenamed Operation Barbarossa - and Adolf Hitler ordered an attack on the major city of Stalingrad. Stalingrad became a major playing field of the war, as Soviet leader Stalin was determined to save the city which bore his name. Under the leadership of General Paulus, German bombing destroyed much of the city and troops captured areas through hand-to-hand urban warfare. In November, Marshal Zhukov assembled six Russian armies to surround Stalingrad and trap the Germans in the city, barring provisions and troops from reaching them. Many German soldiers died of starvation and frostbite following the onset of the harsh Russian winter, with temperatures down to -30°C, but Hitler insisted they fight until the last man. After five months, the Russian Red Army claimed victory when the remaining German troops surrendered in February 1943. 91,000 Germans were taken prisoner, including twenty-two generals; this was all that remained of the 330,000 strong German force who arrived at Stalingrad. The Battle of Stalingrad is among the bloodiest battles of the Second World War, causing nearly two million casualties. The disaster depleted the German army’s supply of men and equipment, allowing the Allies to gain the advantage, which enabled them to invade Germany and win the war.

“The God of war has gone over to the other side”
- Adolf Hitler upon hearing of the German surrender at Stalingrad

I wanted to write you a long letter, but my thoughts constantly disintegrate like houses which collapse under shellfire. I still have ten hours, then this letter has to be turned in. Ten hours is a long time for people who are waiting, but short for those in love.
—  An excerpt from a letter from a German soldier during the Battle of Stalingrad (1942-43)
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Gesichter der Ostfront

Hauptmann Friedrich Konrad Winkler 

Friedrich Winkler was born on August 22nd, 1909 in Worms, Germany. Little is known about his early life, aside from that he was a long time professional soldier in the Wehrmacht, with 12 years of service at the time of the Battle of Stalingrad. 

Winkler was promoted to Oberleutnant on November 1st, 1941, a few months after the start of Operation Barbarossa. He received the rank of Hauptmann in December of the following year. His decorations include the Iron Cross 1st and 2nd class, the Wound-badge in Silver, the Eastern Front Campaign Medal, the War Merit Cross 2nd Class, and the Infantry Assault Badge in Silver. 

Note that Hauptmann Winkler’s Assault Badge is broken. This was done intentionally, as some of those who had earned the decoration in Stalingrad felt it was above earning it elsewhere in the war, and wish to distinguish it as such.

He eventually become Kompanieführer of the 6. Kompanie/Grenadier-Regiment 577 during the battle of Stalingrad. His company was engaged in heavy fighting at the Barrikady Gun Factory against the Soviet 138th Rifle Division, some photos of which are featured above. 

By January 1943, the tide had fully turned against the German 6th Army, and his regiment was destroyed. Hauptmann Winkler was wounded in February, and was captured shortly thereafter.  

Friedrich Winkler died in captivity in August 1943 in Kriegsgefangenenlager Beketowka. He was 34 years old. 

The fate of Winkler was one of many in the German Sixth Army. Of the over 91,000 captured, only 5,000 would return to Germany after the war. 

Negotiation Table

“Before we begin, I want to be sure of a few things. This device you’ve provided us with, it is 100% effective at understanding and translating languages, correct?”

“Nearly. We occasionally find a race with one or two concepts that it has trouble with, but that’s easily smoothed over.”

“One or two…okay. That’s odd.”

“Have you already found something it can’t translate?”

“Of a sort, yes. Mind humoring me for a few minutes?”

“Certainly. After all, it can take years to accept a race into the Federation.”

“Excellent. This shouldn’t take much time. I mentioned that we found some issues with your device. Allow me to demonstrate: Espionage.”

“ERROR: NO ANALOGUE FOUND”

“Reverse Engineering.”

“ERROR: NO ANALOGUE FOUND”

“Spycraft.”

“ERROR: NO ANALOGUE FO-”

“Overwhelming Force”

“ERROR: NO-”

“Scorched Earth”

“ER-”

“Kamikaze”

“E-”

Blitzkrieg, Stealth, Mutually Assured Destruction, Acceptable Losses, Pyrrhic Victory, Guerilla Warfare, Encirclement, Entrenchment, Siege.”

“TOO MANY ERRORS DETECTED. REBOOTING. RUNNING SELF DIAGNOSTIC. NO DISCREPANCIES FOUND,”

“Xenocide”

“Why do you have a word for…what was all that just now?”

“We were confused about that too. So we took a look at the information you sent as part of first contact with us. We noticed something interesting. Every single race in your Federation is carnivorous. Why is that?”

“First contact has always been made after sapient races make it to multiple worlds. We’ve never found a sapient herbivorous race which failed to destroy themselves in resource wars and aggressive action. We’ve never found herbivores capable of surviving long enough to leave their own world.”

“And the races you have found, while commonly using threat displays, do not waste resources on wars they cannot easily win, correct?”

“Wasted resources means decreased likelihood of survival.”

“And yet herbivores constantly waste resources on aggression, on movement, on having more young than will possibly survive.”

“And they die for it. That’s exactly why we’ve never encountered spacefaring herbivores. Their inherent aggression is their own demise.”

“Indeed. Now, back to the subject at hand. I’ll ask you before we continue: what can you offer humans for joining your Federation?”

“We’ve already sent the offer. You’ve seen that, I’m sure.”

“And I’m asking, what else do you have to offer?”

“Nothing. I’m not sure why you’re-”

“May I have permission to connect my datapad with my ship’s computers?”

“Yes, if you like.”

“Computer, show video: Hiroshima”

“That’s…you’re using weapons of that scale on a population center? How recent was this?”

“Three centuries ago. Prior to our invention of spaceflight. Part of a much larger conflict. This is a relatively minor example of “overwhelming force”“

“ERROR: NO A-”

“Shut it. Computer, show infosheet: Battle of Stalingrad.”

“That…what purpose would that…why w-”

“Because Stalingrad was an advantageous location and the people who died there were considered ‘Acceptable losses’“

“ERRO-”

“Computer, show gallery: General Sherman’s March to the Sea.”

“So much waste…that can’t be intentional, can it?”

“It was intentional.”

“But…why?”

“Because it rendered the enemy unable to use resources Sherman couldn’t keep. Computer, assemble and show video grouping: RTS Games”

“The translator can’t have gotten that right. Those are military tactical simulations. Higher level than anything I’ve ever seen or heard of.”

“No. They aren’t. Those are games. Toys. For. Fun. And they’re a couple hundred years out of date. From what I’ve seen, nearly every human capable of coherent speech is capable of tactically overwhelming your Federation. And since we’re already here, in space, it’s too late for you to say no. So, I’ll ask again:

What do you have to offer us?”

Democratia Aut Mors, Sed Non Imperium

Frantically posting a story I wrote a year ago (seriously, a year ago) in order to appease the people who just started following my blog (I’m alive I swear)

We were the pride of the Ytrian Imperial Fleet. Five hundred ships, more than most species had in their possession, military and civilian. Five hundred ships, tens of thousands of sailors. So we did what we do best, what empires do best, we expanded our territory.

We expanded, and our rule was benevolent. We built hypergates, expanded trade, ensured the naked were clothed and the hungry were fed. We did this for those who we conquered, and in time they came to love us. A line of emperors a hundred generations long unmarred by a succession war, a line of emperors a hundred generations long each educated from birth to know they served the people. We had perfected the rule of a monarch, we had perfected the hereditary leadership, by getting rid of the only issue it had. Unreliable monarchs.

So when we came to the edge of a Republic, we were amused. Many species that now lived and died in the borders of our great empire had experimented with democracy at one point in time, and now all had renounced such failings and were happily in servitude to our glorious leader, Emperor Ytriax'us the Forty Third of His Name, Light of the Empire, Great Servant of the People.

So when we came to the edge of a Republic, we did what we always did. We gave them a choice. Submit to us peacefully, or submit to us through war. We will give you all the boons of the empire, or grind your armies away and restructure your planets to better serve.

The first of the Republic’s planets came to us, and they accepted our benevolent offer. They were enfolded in the arms of the empire, and loved as all our people are loved. They were given boons of technology such as their planet had never seen.

Then came the second, the third, and eventually the fifteenth planet of the Republic to submit to our glorious empire. We grew ever stronger, as was our destiny, as was our duty.

The other planets of the Republic, they would not submit. So we marshaled our great fleet, our five hundred ships, and we sent them to war.

The Republic met us in combat, and the Republic fell in combat. And the Republic was absorbed into our benevolent empire as dozens of species before it had been absorbed into our empire.

That is, they were going to be. But right as our great fleet, still with four hundred and sixty six great ships of combat was about to finish off the flagship of the Republic, and bring the predictable end to this predictably tragic combat, four massive ships jumped into the system.

All four were huge ships, many times larger than any of our battleships, and all were emblazoned with similar words, hated words, words I have come to dread hearing. The Yorktown, the Waterloo, the Normandy, the Gettysburg. A pale skinned biped came onto the screen.

“You sailors, soldiers, and ships of the Ytrian Empire. You will visit no more violence upon these people. You will depart this system and all systems which did not voluntarily join your empire now, or I swear you will suffer the consequences. These ships are those of the Knights Terra, as are those that will follow, and you will visit no more war upon those peaceful stars.”

We laughed, shocked by the presumption of these four ships. What paltry force this was, to presume to issue demands to us. We were the Ytrian Empire, and we knew no master but our Emperor, may he reign forever.

So our Admiral, great Ytriax'an, cousin to the Emperor Most High, amused by their impertinence, deigned to speak to the scum.

“You who are the Knights Terra, we know not of you, but you clearly know of us. We are the ships of the Ytrian Empire, and we will not permit you to stand in the way of progress. All will come under our benevolent rule, by peace or by force the choice is yours.”

After that, after that there was violence. Sudden, immediate, overwhelming violence. We had no idea the Terrans were in range for their weapons. We had no idea their missiles were capable of destroying one of our Battleships with a single blow. We handful of survivors fled, ran for the safety of home and Empire.

As we left that system, they broadcast a single message to us.

“Democratia aut mors, sed non imperium.”

We’ve spent the last decade decrypting that message. It is in a Terran tongue that was dead a thousand years ago, but they stubbornly refuse to let go entirely. Loosely translated it means “Democracy or Death, but never Tyranny”. It is the motto of the Knights Terra, who have rained death and destruction upon our Empire.

To your battle stations now crew, the Stalingrad just warped into the system, to join her sisters the Madrid, the Bull Run and the Kursk.

Defend the Emperor, prepare to meet your ancestors with dignity, and when our Empire dies remember those who destroyed it. Remember those who shattered our rule, who would not suffer our Emperor to spread his rule throughout the galaxy.

Remember the Terrans

“Soviet infantrymen move across snow-covered hills around Stalingrad, on their advance to lift the German siege of the city in early 1943. The Red Army eventually encircled the German Sixth Army, trapping nearly 300,000 German and Romanian soldiers in a narrow pocket.”

(AP)

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Stalingrad, a 3 episodes documentary by Pascale Lamche and Daniel Khamdamov, 2015, Roches Noires Prod., Fondation Aleksandr

Broadcast by the Belgian and French TV on March and May 2015, I highly recommend to watch this powerful, breathtaking, even lyrical documentary about the Battle of Stalingrad.

Exclusively made of original footage of the battle, with emotional first hand account by Vassili Grossman, Alexander Werth and common Russian and German soldiers, this is the most realistic and profound documentary I saw about war.

We have to make justice to the Soviet people and the Russians for the high price they paid in defeating Hitler. The Cold War almost made us forget that they were the ones who entered Berlin long before the Americans.

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The Motherland Calls (Russian: Родина-мать зовёт! Rodina-Mat’ zovyot!), also called Mother Motherland, Mother Motherland Is Calling, simply The Motherland, or The Mamayev Monument, is a statue in Mamayev Kurgan in Volgograd, Russia, commemorating the Battle of Stalingrad. It was designed by sculptor Yevgeny Vuchetich and structural engineer Nikolai Nikitin, and declared the largest statue in the world in 1967.

Compared with the later higher statues, The Motherland Calls is significantly more complex from an engineering point of view, due to its characteristic posture with a sword raised high in the right hand and the left hand extended in a calling gesture. The technology behind the statue is based on a combination of prestressed concrete with wire ropes structure, a solution which can be found also in another work of Nikitin’s, the super-tall Ostankino Tower in Moscow.