The Unrivalled Inside Story of the German Army in WWII
Street Fighting in Stalingrad
“My briefing is short: the last hundred metres to the River Volga are at stake; they have to be taken! Everywhere bullets and shells strike the walls still standing. Onward, onward! Over shattered rails, through hollows with loose stones and iron beams that have come down, and again through factory halls, where parts of machines, work benches and materials of all sorts lie around, toppled, destroyed. From the iron girders that are still standing hang wavy metal plates and wiring.”
“And then it is time. In front of us is the administration building of the ‘Bread Factory’. We’re attacking! Metre by metre we crawl forward, following the bombs that the Stukas are dropping in front of us. We are deafened by the howling of sirens and explosions. Fountains of mud caused by the exploding bombs erupt all around us, forcing us to take cover. More howls overhead – our own artillery! But also over from the other side! A whole series of salvoes by Soviet artillery makes the earth shake. With an exploding sound the shells impact against the factory walls that still are standing. The noise is like that of an underground train entering a station. Unbelievable, one cannot understand anything anymore. We continue to jump from shell crater to shell crater, from earth pile to the remains of a wall. Now quickly to the remains of a house, to the next cover. And once again they come down on us – Soviet shells. Onward. We have to seize the last hundred metres to the Volga!”
Leutnant Joachim Stempel, a company commander in the 103rd Panzergrenadier Regiment, provides a gripping account of the brutal house-to-house fighting that characterised the Battle of Stalingrad. To military historians the Battle of Stalingrad is the pivot on which the course of World War II turned – the climax of Hitler’s flawed Operation Blau which saw Friedrich Paulus’s Sixth Army grappling for control of the ruined city against Vasily Chuikov’s Sixty-Second Army. For the ordinary Russian or German soldier, however, it was simply chaos. Drawing heavily on the eyewitness testimony of Stempel’s own account, this book looks at the battle as it appeared to the average soldier, and explains the tactical approaches developed by both sides as they adapted to the realities of modern urban warfare.
(5.00 out of 5 stars)
An incredible story told by someone who was actually there. A must read.
Urban warfare is a nasty business. This short book illustrates that point better than most. Street Fighting in Stalingrad doesn't make the mistake that many accounts do by talking about Stalingrad like it was a regular field battle. There are no lengthy descriptions of largely theoretical military movements here, no confusing discussions of who held what factory, or what street. Instead, the author provides only a bare-bones introduction before jumping into the personal account of a German soldier, Joachim Stempel. From Stempel we see the battle as the soldiers on the ground saw it – a bewildering melee with no obvious frontlines. Stempel describes the horrors of a city where artillery pummels everything down to ruins, where snipers can strike at any time and where 'rat soldiers', who crawl through sewers and drains, can be waiting for you anywhere.This book is well worth reading. It would be great if they also came out with a companion volume written by a Soviet soldier as, while fairly even handed in his treatment of the battle, Stempel only saw one side of it.