Friday book # 6: Stalingrad

This week’s book is Stalingrad by another British Army officer turned historian, Antony Beevor. What I remember most about the book is the revelation that during the Battle of Stalingrad the Soviet Army executed 13,500 of its own soldiers. Extraordinary.

stalingrad

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9 thoughts on “Friday book # 6: Stalingrad”

  1. Again, for what it is worth, I read that a German historian claimed that this figure is very much at odds with the Russian archival figures held in Moscow. My memory is that these figures, which admittedly did not cover the complete period of the fighting, implied that Beevor was out by a factor of about 30. I am sorry that I cannot provide a reference.

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  2. An actal quote (sorry, I have only Russian version):

    “За время Сталинградской битвы 13 500 советских военнослужащих были приговорены военным трибуналом к смертной казни. Расстреливали за отступления без приказа, за “самострельные” ранения, за дезертирство, за переход на сторону противника, мародерство и антисоветскую агитацию. Солдаты также считались виновными, если не открывали огонь по дезертиру или бойцу, намеревающемуся сдаться в плен. Интересный случай произошел в конце сентября. Немецкие танки вынуждены были своей броней прикрывать группу солдат, пожелавших сдаться в плен, так как с советской стороны на них обрушился массированный огонь. “

    – Chapter 11.

    No surces. No proof. Typical Beevor.

    I take that Beevor (and all so-called Russian liberals and anti-Sovietists) were actually against the mere thought that traitors must be shot. That marauders must be shot. That defeatists spreading anti-soviet propaganda on a frontline must be shot. That this is “not civilized”, proving that Russians are “barbarians” – as oppose to aRacially and Culturally superior Westerners.

    Oh, and this “big scary number” – 13 500 is encountered only in Beevor’s scriblings. According to archival data by late 1942 (i.e. about 3.5 months before the end of Stalingrad battle) only 300 Red Army soldiers were summarily executed. This number is provided in the “Stalingrad’s Protocols” (“Die Stalingrad-Protokolle: Sowjetische Augenzeugen berichten aus der Schlacht”, 2012) by the German historian Jochen Hellbeck, who was given access to Russian archives while he was working on his book.

    So, yes, I agree with you, Paul. Beevor lies. Extraordinary.

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    1. According the Wikipedia entry on “Battle of Stalingrad”, G I Krivosheev estimates, in his 1971 book “Soviet Casualties and Combat Losses in the Twentieth Century”, that 14000 were executed by the Soviets. Perhaps John Erickson heard discussion of this, presumably, very inflated figure.

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    1. Or, just another tried and tested trick in the arsenal of the anti-Sovietists/Russophobes. To conflate all “repressed” and arrested with executed. Thus you will have your desired Big Scary Numbers.

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  3. There is a new book on Stalingrad, http://www.amazon.com/STALINGRAD-How-Red-Army-Triumphed/dp/1848842015

    by Michael Jones.

    I cannot recommend this book enough. And yes, Beevors 13.500 is quite likely bunkum. Especially in Beevor believed to be talking about the west side of the Volga, where people seriously didnt have enough troops or ammunition to even consider expending your ammunition on your own troops.

    Thing is, once you were on the west side of the Volga, there was no way out but victory. Surrender means death, fleeing means death, and not even the commanding general had leave to pass the Volga again.

    It also goes on about some very basic rank and file ingenuity the Soviets apparently had. When doing building assaults, the Russians agreed on shouting “Ja pervi” (I am the first) as a parole to make clear that they are Russians, and to reduce friendly fire. When they told Chuikov about it, Chuikov asked “well, what if some fucking Fritz is smart and shouts “Ja vtoroi” (I am the second) because that would be pretty obvious?”, the soldier said “well, then we know from his voice where he is and can easily shoot him, because the correct anwser to “Ja pervi” is also “Ja pervi”, and we are counting on the Fritzes overthinking things”.

    Thing is, had I been a Wehrmacht soldier in Stalingrad, I would have totally fallen for this.

    Also, the book provided me with the number one tool to correctly translate what Russian/Soviet soldiers said in propaganda movies to what they really said. Remove all references to Communism, replace them with copious and gratitious insults implying the presence of all manner of farm animals in the ancestry trees of the Germans they were fighting.

    As an apocrycphal aside, my grandfather remarked that the the signal intelligence of his unit was once laid low by the opposing Soviets using such a profane insult laden slang in their radio communications, that the Germans who were listening in on that (and only had knowledge of formal Russian) did not get anything out of it.

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    1. Hellbeck says the following about the 13,500 figure: Beevor ‘does not provide convincing proof. He merely cites military historian John Erickson who speaks of 13,500 “reportedly” executed by firing squad. Recently declassified materials, however show that in the period August 1 to October 15, 1942 … 278 Soviet soldiers were executed.’

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    2. Russian mat is incredibly versatile and has many, many military uses. I can attest to that. 🙂

      And only my very cultural, intilligentsia upbringing prevents me now from providing the most well-know example of communicating using just one Russian profane word in its manifold forms.

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