In February 1943, the German Army surrendered at Stalingrad, Was Hitler’s interference the main reason for this defeat? Essay

On 22nd June 1941 Hitler put into action ‘Operation Barbarossa’. In this attack it would capture key cities in Russia; Leningrad, Moscow and Stalingrad. This attack was inevitable as the German race needed; space for living, resources such as the oil Caucasus in the South, and Russia’s dominance in Europe. It was also seen as a racism attack on the Jews who occupied parts of Russia. It was launched on 22nd 1941 due to the; non-aggression pact with Russia that ended in 1941, the Polish and French campaigns from 1939 to 1941, and spring operation retribution in Yugoslavia.

Hitler needed to attack Russia in a quick time due to the upcoming weather conditions. Therefore it began in the late spring of 1941. They aimed small armies at Stalingrad and Leningrad and put strong forces on Moscow which would support the two smaller armies once Moscow fell. Stalingrad was chosen to be attacked as it was named after the Russian leader and to Hitler it would seem a suitable target to take as it was the centre of communications and manufacturing. Von Paulus leading the 6th Army and supported by the 4th Panzer Army were order by Hitler to take the city.

However when attacking Stalingrad the army failed and in the following writing I am going to determine whether Hitler’s interference is to blame for the failed attack. When Germany set out for their attack on Russia they knew that they would have to complete the assault in a short period. They set off to complete Barbarossa in June 1941 which left them until the winter before the attack would become increasingly harder. When Stalingrad was engaged in fighting on 17th July 1942, they did not have much time to attack and overrun the city.

However the Russian’s gave resistance that was not expected and the time that they expected to complete the attack was much pro-longed. With the winter months it made the attack much harder for the German’s army that was lead by Von Paulus and the 6th army with support from the 4th Panzer army. The weather conditions that would face the Germans were to be so cold that the oil in the engines of tanks and trucks would freeze and make them unusable. The German army that Hitler had said to be motorised, was in fact a myth created by him.

This did not help the attack on Stalingrad as it meant that they would reach the city slower than they would have if they were motorised. It was found that on many occasions the troops had to wait for the support to come which was following them, therefore they were slow advancing. This lack technology that the Germans had also meant that the communications between the entire German’s forces was hard as the further they went into Russia the further they got split apart.

Also another limiting factor that meant the army was not as strong as it could have been is the Russian’s ‘Scorched Earth Policy’. The policy set out by the Russians would mean that when retreating they would destroy anything that could be used to benefit the attackers. A key phrase that the Russians’ used was ‘time for Land’ which meant that they would retreat and give land in order for them to gain time. This policy denied the Germans from using recourses that the Russians would leave behind on retreat.

This also drew out the attack on Russia as with the time spent, the weather that would hold the Germans back was approaching. A further issue that caused Germans problems was that their tanks were not suited to cold weather whereas the Russians would put anti-freeze in there diesel which would allow their tanks to continue through the cold weather. An additional drawback was that the oil fields in Romania that was supplying the Germans with oil was not given them sufficient amounts for them to carry out this attack with succession.

Therefore these factors meant that the arriving army that attacked Stalingrad would be getting there much later than they would want to and also they would not be as strong as they wanted as there resources were limited. The German army prior to the attack on Russia had been on an ongoing streak of winning attacks and the attacks Hitler ordered were working. Examples of this are; the invasion of France which took 6 weeks, the invasion of Poland which was relatively quick and easy and the invasion of Yugoslavia which also took around 6 weeks.

Due to the lack of opposition that faced the German army, it made them appear, to themselves, an invincible army and this made them arrogant in there attacks. So when it came to attacking Russia, and more importantly Stalingrad, they did not expect much resistance but resistance is what the Russians gave them. As the German army was so smug about there victories it was that they were lazy in there attack of Stalingrad and I believe that this had an important part to play in there failure.

However Hitler also believed that his army was unbeatable so this meant that he did not put much effort into or planning into his attacks as he did not think that he would be knocked back, which we know he was at Stalingrad. Therefore when the resilient Russians fought back he and the army was not ready and it shocked them and left them on the back foot. Therefore I can associate the arrogance of Hitler and his armies, to the fact that Hitler did not allow much time for the attack as he thought Russia would fall with ease.

However this didn’t happen and the fighting carried on into the cold winter months which impacted the Germans attack. When looking at the failings of Stalingrad it is not possible to blame the German army and Hitler, entirely. This is because the Russians put up a tremendous effort to defend the city. The first positive aspect that the Soviets had against the Germans is that the Russians were better at fighting house to house than the Germans. The Germans had not encountered this type of fighting before so therefore the Russians had an advantage over the Germans.

Another reason why the Russians put up such a good fight is that they had no where to retreat to once the Germans pushed them back to Stalingrad. The Vulgar sat behind them so therefore there was no option of retreat. An additional reason for their hard fighting is that they were patriotic about the city and didn’t want to loose it to Germans. The Russians did not mind loosing ground at the borders as their country is so vast, but as soon as they begin to attack the central cities and important location it is then when they put up a fight. The soviets battle planning was also of a very high standard.

The soviets only put into the city enough troops to keep the Germans occupied. This therefore meant that the German forces were sucked in and engaged so that the Russians could use there quantities of free men to devise a plan in order to surround them. After the initial attack on Stalingrad the soviet forces re-organised. They built many new T34 tanks which were much more dispensable than the expensive German’s tiger tanks. There were also 6 fresh armies with 450 T34’s. In addition 2,000 artillery guns were concentrated at the city itself.

As well as this general Zhukov was ordering the Russians and previously he had successfully defended Moscow and then he was at Stalingrad. When the Germans attacked they managed to gain streets during the day but at night they were taken back. This meant that were constantly in dead lock and it was during this that on the 19th November Zhukov could launch a counter-offensive. He organised 6 armies of 1,000,000 men to surround the city and cut off the bulk of Von Paulus and the 6th army in the city of Stalingrad, which was around 300,000 men.

It is here that Hitler did not allow Von Paulus to surrender and the trapped German army was slowly whittled down. However the soviets did not allow for the Germans to re-supply the encircled forces as they pushed the Germans further and further away which decreased the chance of rescue for Von Paulus. Von Paulus did eventually surrender against the orders of Hitler and that was when Stalingrad failed. However Hitler had many options in saving the situation and improving their position. Firstly the German front line was much unorganised and it was in the shape of a bulge.

At this point it would have made sense to pull back and make a much stronger straight line. However in doing so it would have meant that Hitler would have to sacrifice the oil Caucasus and to Hitler this was not an option as he needed the oil for supplies in the war. It was from here that the Russians set up their counter attack and when Von Paulus asked to retreat, Hitler denied him and told Von Paulus to wait until support arrived, which unfortunately to German Forces, was being pushed back by the soviets. From here, The Trapped army was in need of being supplied but the only way was doing it by plane.

They needed 800 tons a week of supplies, and according to Goering he said they could get in 500 tons, but this was too little for them to have any chance of salvaging the ever depreciating battle. This was both Hitler’s fault for not sending enough supplies, but also Goering was being much too ambitious. Prior to the battle Hitler had also made some wrong decisions. He firstly decided to secure the oil caucuses before securing Stalingrad which meant that it would be easier for the Oil Caucuses to be cut off. He also deprived Von Paulus and the 6th army its 4th panzer army in order for it to be used in the securing of the oil caucuses.

This meant that the 6th army were disadvantaged from the onset, and this can be linked to the complacency of the German army, which believed that they could take Stalingrad with just Von Paulus’ army. When attacking the city, it was also chosen by Hitler for the Luftwaffe to bomb the city in order for it to be ‘softened up’. This however only created problems for the Germans as the streets that they were fighting in were much too cluttered dup with rubble for any tank support to get in. Furthermore Hitler assumed that a direct attack on the city would work as they had the Vulgar behind them and they couldn’t retreat.

This wasn’t the best plan though as it meant that Russians could easily surround them. Hitler also gave the attack a short deadline which was 2 months, which can be associated with the army’s arrogance as they didn’t expect the resistance they got. In conclusion to looking at the reasons why Stalingrad failed, it is easy to see that many of the causes are linked. Firstly the time that Hitler allowed would not have been so short if the German army wasn’t complacent. Also he would have given more time if he knew that the Russians were going to put up such a good fight.

This also correlates to the weather conditions that the German armies faced as the time given was not sufficient. Also they may have had more time if the army was in fact motorised instead of supplies being carried by horse and the supplies arriving later than the troops. Another string of reasons is that Von Paulus would not have been in such a desperate situation if Hitler hadn’t taken away his 4th Panzer army. This was caused by the wrong way in which Hitler went about defeating Russia, by taking the Oil Caucuses first then the city.

If it was played out in a different order, maybe the city would have been able to be taken if Hitler put more focus on the city, but it is because the German army was complacent that they didn’t think they needed that amount of force. Therefore I can see that all the reasons are of different importance but many of them have a knock on effect to others, which in the end turns the attack on Stalingrad to be a failure. Blaming Hitler is not as easy as it seems as the Russians defended the city with great force and Hitler did not expect this.

But Hitler can be blamed for some ridiculous decision such as not allowing Von Paulus to retreat or surrender, but the position in which they were left in made the failure inevitable. To conclude I believe that it was a combined effort of all factors that lead to the failure but all factors bare different importance and it is Hitler’s decisions I feel that have the most significance to the defeat as if he had planned the attack out from the beginning with better strategies then maybe the attack would have been successful.