Saturday, March 19, 2011

Stalingrad. Ranking Death.

Tverskaya Street, corner with Gazetny Pereulok

Read the Russian version of this post here.

Every time I rode in a trolleybus down Tverskaya (Gorki) Street in Moscow, my father or grandfather would point out a building and say: 'Ah, this one was built/rebuilt by the Germans after the war'. As a little boy I was always impressed at how neat and solid the huge blocks of red-brown granite looked.

Another phrase I often heard was that German POWs were treated in camps better than our own people outside. It was said with bitter irony.

It appears the impression was wrong. English historian Antony Beevor mentions in Stalingrad a figure that astonished me – the death rate among German POWs:
Altogether some 235,000 former members of the Sixth Army and the Fourth Panzer Army, including those captured during Manstein's attempted relief operation in December, as well as Romanians and other allies, had been held in around twenty camps and prison hospitals in the region.
Chances of survival proved brutally depedent on rank. Over 95 percent of soldiers and NCOs died, 55 percent of junior officers and just 5 percent of senior officers. ... The privileged treatment which the generals received, however, was a revealing testimony to the Soviet Union's sense of hierarchy.

Out of one convoy of 1,800 men in March, 1,200 died.

(p.415 in the Penguin paperback)

The full translation of Stalingrad is on Militera website here.

I've blogged on Beevor in Russian here and in English here and here. And read my review of The Battle for Spain.

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