The Stalingrad Cauldron: Inside the Encirclement and Destruction of the 6th Army

The Stalingrad Cauldron: Inside the Encirclement and Destruction of the 6th Army Book Cover The Stalingrad Cauldron: Inside the Encirclement and Destruction of the 6th Army
Frank Ellis
Military History
University Press of Kansas
2013
Hardcover
512

Maybe I didn't read the other reviews carefully enough, but I bought this book expecting to read an account of the "encirclement and destruction of the 6th Army," in other words a standard military history of this campaign. This is not that book.

In fact, this book is not a military history of the campaign at all, but rather ten chapters dealing with various narrow topics relating to the battle. These chapters (topics) are as follows (I've paraphrased the chapter titles below):
1) the battle in the post-cold war persepective;
2) diary of 16th panzer division officer at Stalingrad;
3) diary of 94th infantry division officer at Stalingrad;
4) diary of 76th infantry division officer at Stalingrad;
5) German and Soviet snipers at Stalingrad;
6) Soviets working on the German side on the eastern front;
7) espionage and counter-espionage at Stalingrad;
8) German POWs in Soviet camps;
9) materials relating to Arthur Boje, a German colonel, in Soviet captivity; and
10) work of the German graves registration bodies, etc. after the war.

The author spends a lot of time (text) on certain topics which seem near to his heart, such as Stalin's order 227, the supposed sniper duel in Stalingrad, Hiwis helping the Germans, etc. Some of this is interesting, but some of it is wholly unconvincing.

As one example, on page 368 the author shows a table taken from Soviet records listing different categories of Soviets arrested for various reasons. One of the categories is "Volunteers in the German Army", which to me clearly means the Hiwis. I quote the author's reaction:

"The interesting thing here...is the total absence of any reference to Hiwis...one must ask why there was no reference to Hiwis in this and similar reports. 'Volunteers in the German Army could be a euphanism for "Hiwis'. It is as if the use of the word 'Hiwi' had been banned from Soviet documents so as not to draw attention to them. Was this intended to hide something sinister?"

I'm not sure why the author finds it strange that the Soviets do not use a German word in Soviet documents, and I don't know how much clearer the term "Volunteers in German Army" could be...and yet the author supposes some "sinister" intent behind the Soviet's failure to use a German expression. There are many similar examples where the author refuses to accept Soviet explanations, documents, etc.

Another odd thing is that in the chapter on espionage and counter-espionage at Stalingrad the author avoids mentioning the elephant in the room--how the Germans overlooked, or ignored, or whatever, the massive Soviet buildup on their flanks.

In any event, the author has done quite a bit of research and the book would probably be useful for anyone studying Stalingrad in depth, but I would not recommend it for the general reader looking for an account of the battle.

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