A young girl barely the age of 14, Zinaida Portnova experienced the horror of living under German occupation during World War II. When the German Army passed through her home town in Belorussia, they beat her elderly grandparents, hit her over the head with a rifle butt, and stole her cow. Determined to get revenge, Zinaida joined a local resistance group called the “Young Avengers”. Posing as a harmless little girl, she worked as a cook’s aid in a German Army camp where she would secretly poison the food. When suspicion fell upon her, she tasted the food to “prove her innocence” making herself sick but giving her time to escape. Eventually the Gestapo (secret police) caught up and arrested her. During her interrogation, the Gestapo interrogator laid down a pistol in the middle of the table in an attempt to frighten her. She picked up the pistol and shot him, then shot two guards who rushed into the room. Zinaida escaped the prison but was recaptured. She was executed on January 15th, 1944 (age 17), and posthumously awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union.
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
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
Nikolay Belyaev, last living survivor of the Red Army’s 756th Regiment and the last living Soviet soldier to have stormed the Reichstag in 1945, in his uniform and bearing the 3rd Shock Army’s “Victory Banner” atop the modern German Bundestag. He passed away at the age of 93 in 2015.