How were the Germans defeated in Stalingrad

Myth and Truth About Stalingrad

Exactly 70 years ago, on February 2, 1943, the battle for Stalingrad ended. She is considered one of the bloodiest of World War II. The word "Stalingrad" has become the epitome of the horrors of war around the world.

Weapons and equipment of Soviet soldiers

Stalingrad: This name of the city, which is now called Volgograd, has long since disappeared on the maps of the world. But "Stalingrad" has not disappeared from people's consciousness. Why haven't other battles of the Second World War such as those around Moscow or Kursk become so firmly anchored in the public eye? A special exhibition is currently taking place in the Military History Museum of the Bundeswehr in Dresden, which is dedicated to the Battle of Stalingrad. The organizers are trying to find answers to this question.

Stalingrad as a media event

There are of course machine guns and tanks with flak on display in the exhibition. But not only. There is also a harmonica that was a trophy and a decorated artificial fir tree. In the winter of 1942, Luftwaffe Commander in Chief Hermann Göring had such Christmas trees sent to Stalingrad in order to maintain the morale of the freezing officers of the Reich.

Herman Göring sent artificial Christmas trees to the front

But the most important feature of the exhibition is that it documents how Stalingrad was made a myth long before the battle began. The exhibits include German newspapers, which in April 1942 assumed an imminent victory on the Volga. You can also see Soviet leaflets against Hitler in German, as well as British newspapers that were hopeful of a victory for the Soviet troops.

All of these things are meant to illustrate how the myth of Stalingrad was created in the public consciousness. The "Stalingrad picture" was created consciously and also used for propaganda purposes by the respective sides.

The most important battle of the world war?

Historians suggest that Stalingrad may not have been the decisive battle in World War II. Jens Wehner, chief curator of the exhibition, does not consider it to be the most important on the German-Soviet front either.

Jens Wehner does not consider the battle for Stalingrad to be the most important of the Second World War

"If you look at the year 1941, that is, the German attack on the Soviet Union, how the war went up to the battle for Moscow, then the decision will actually be made there," he said in an interview with DW. The Soviet Union had thereby gained time to mobilize its forces. The strong resistance of the Red Army in 1941 caused all of Hitler's plans to fail. He didn't have a plan B. "Well, if you absolutely want to look for a decisive battle, it was the one around Moscow in 1941," emphasizes the employee of the Military History Museum of the Bundeswehr in Dresden.

But Hitler needed a great victory to stabilize the situation in Germany and at the front. Stalin, in turn, wanted to convince his allies in Great Britain and the United States that the "Third Reich" was to be defeated. Neither of them just needed a victory, they needed a brilliant and epoch-making triumph. Therefore, even before the battle for Stalingrad began, everything was done to get this topic into the media around the world. In addition, Stalingrad was the city named after Hitler's main enemy.

Stalingrad as a symbol

Stalingrad street and house number plate from around 1942

The battle of Stalingrad is still remembered today when it comes to major military operations. The city that was able to repel the attack by the Wehrmacht has become a symbol that musicians, filmmakers and developers of computer games use to this day. A puppet made in China from the year 2000 can be seen in the exhibition in Dresden. It bears the name of the Commander-in-Chief of the Sixth Army, General Friedrich Paulus. Even if it sounds cynical, Stalingrad is now almost something of a brand that you can even do business with. The exhibition shows that too.