World War II: Stalingrad--The Aftermath (March 1943)

Figure 1.--As the Red Army retook Stalingrad block by block, starving civilians emerged from the rubble of the once thriving city. Unlike German cities, there was no system of bomb shelters in Stalingrad. And even if there had been, they would have been overrun by the Germans. Here we see survivors with the Germans gone clinging to life amidst the rubble of a destroyed city. The photograph is undated, but was probably taken in March. Notice that there is no snow. Image courtesy of the Military History of the 20th century website.

Stalin's vast industrial city was virtually leveled by Luftwaffe bombing, German artillery, and the ground fighting. Somewhere from 25,000-40,000 Soviet civilians died in Stalingrad and its suburbs during the first week of Luftwaffe bombing. And this was just the beginning of the terrible battle. The total number of civilians killed in Stalingrad and the surrounding area is unknown. Too often historians stress the damage and destruction done to German cities by the Allied strategic bombing campaign. Sometimes lost to history are the cities in the East destroyed by the Germans. Stalingrad is just the largest and best known of the cities, towns, and villages destroyed in the East. Not only were the buildings destroyed, but the populations were decimated, killed or fled into the countryside. The Germans fed only those who were working for them. As the Stalingrad battle developed, civilians retre ated into the rubble and cellars. Large numbers of civilians, as the battle developed, were trapped in the city. Stalin did not order an evacuation. Some civilians did escape the Stalingrad kessel, but Stalin believed the garrison would fight harder if there were civilians to protect. Most accounts of the battle focus on military casualties. Much of the civilian population would perish. Stalingrad was also one of the battles when huge numbers of civilians were killed or died of starvation or the cold. Little food was available. The Soviet supplies that trickled into the city were for the soldiers, not for the surviving population. Some civilians lived off the generosity of the Red Army soldiers. With gradual liberation of the city, the traumatized civilians who survived began coming out of the rubble.


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Created: 3:46 PM 11/24/2013
Spell checked: 7:55 PM 11/24/2013
Last updated: 7:55 PM 11/24/2013