Soviet soldiers at Stalingrad (Photo: Hulton Archives/Getty Images)
By: Cassandra Burris
On June 22, 1941, Nazi Germany launched a massive invasion into the USSR, despite making a pact in 1939 in which the USSR agreed to not support Great Britain in the war and Germany promised not to attack the USSR. Up to this point Germany and the USSR had a mutual understanding to stay out of each other’s business. Using their superior air force, it was easy for the Germans to push hard and fast through Soviet territory, causing many casualties for the Soviet army and its citizens. Germany also called upon their Axis allies to help conquer vast amounts of territories throughout the USSR, and by mid-October they started the attack on Leningrad and Moscow. The people of the USSR were not going to give up without a fight. The harsh winters of the USSR caused the Nazi army to pause their assault until summer. The summer would bring even more death, with approximately 40,000 civilians losing their lives.
Stalin was determined to protect the city that was his namesake Stalingrad, and in November of 1941 he ordered massive reinforcements. General Zhukov of the USSR launched an attack that was underestimated by the German forces and quickly overwhelmed those occupying the Stalingrad area and had to retreat to the airports they occupied cities. The Italian and Romanian troops that had been occupying the Southern parts of the USSR quickly surrendered, but the Germans held on to the airports they still occupied. Hunger and the bitter Russian winter claimed as many Axis lives as the Soviet army did. On January 21, 1943, the last of the airports held by the Germans fell to the Soviets, cutting the Germans off from supplies.
It was then on January 31, 1943 that the German General Von Paulus surrendered and on February 2nd that all the German troops fully surrendered and were taken to prisoner camps. Of the 90,000 troops that were held in prison camps, only 5,000 made it back to Germany after the war. The Battle of Stalingrad is considered to be a major turning point for the Allies eventual success in World War II.
The Battle of Stalingrad is considered to be a major turning point for the Allies. What made this battle such an important one? What were some of the other turning points in the war? How do we know they are turning points?