Field Marshal Friedrich Wilhelm Ernst Paulus ( 1890- 1957 )

Friedrich Paulus was born in the parish of Brieitemnau-Gershagen on September 23rd. 1890. His father a Civil Service bookkeeper, thus the future Field Marshal was no blue blood born with a silver spoon in his mouth. 

He graduated from Wilhelms-Gymnasium at Kassel in 1909 to be refused a Navy Officer place through lack of an aristocratic blood line, he turned to study law but briefly at the University of Munich. 

Now he tried the Army, joining the 111th. 3rd. Baden Infantry Regiment as an Officer-Cadet on February 18th. 1910, to be commissioned as a Second Lieutenant 20 months later. 

Field Marshal Friedrich Wilhelm Ernst Paulus
Field Marshal Paulus.

As a Lieutenant in 1912, he married a 21 year old Rumanian aristocrat, Elena " Coca " Rosetti-Solescu, reportedly a beautiful, graceful but strong - willed woman, always ambitious for her husband. They had three children, a girl Olga in 1914, and twin boys, Friedrich and Alexander in 1918. Both were made Captains in Hitler's Army, with Friedrich killed at Anzio, and his brother wounded at Stalingrad, and after his father worked with the Russians in 1944, Alexander was arrested by the Nazis and placed in a detention camp until the war ended. But I am getting ahead of the story here. 

As the first world war started Paulus was the adjutant of the III Battalion, 3rd. Baden Infantry. He finished the war as a Captain having seen service on both the Eastern and Western fronts and in Rumania. 

He was now selected as one of the 4,000 Officer Corps allowed by the Treaty of Versailles, and became adjutant of the 14th. Infantry Regiment at Konstanz.

He carried out General Staff training in Berlin to be a General Staff Officer in Stuttgart over 1924-1927 with Wehrkreis V. 

Over the twenties his efficiency reports indicated he was at pains to avoid making enemies, he was slow but methodical, he was apt to work all night using both coffee and cigarettes to support him, not a good trait for a future Field Marshal. 

Paulus became a Major in 1930 up another rung to Lieutenant Colonel in 1934 when he was made Commander of Motor Transport Section 3, a unit designed to change into one of Germany's first Panzer/Reconnaissance battalions.

He made it to Colonel on June 1st. 1935 and chief of staff to General Oswald Lutz, the boss of Mechanized Forces in Berlin. 

He began to make a name for himself as an expert on motorized warfare attracting the attention of General Walter von Reichenau Chief of the Armed Forces Office in the Ministry of War, he too was an advocate of armoured warfare.

Another promotion.
He now was promoted to Major General in 1939, with WW2 just around the corner he was named as Chief of Staff to Reichenau's 10th. Army, the spearhead for the invasion of Poland.

He was the complete foil to his dashing energetic commander, the slow but methodical staff officer following up on the paper trail diligently,a good combination. They were together in Poland, Belgium and France, 10th. Army now named 6th. Army.

In September 1940, Paulus was rewarded with a promotion to Lieutenant General, now responsible for all Army training and organisation. 

He conducted a strategic survey for the invasion of the Soviet Union, indicating to win against the Russians Germany must not allow the Soviet forces to retreat into the interior.

The campaign needed to be concluded by late October when the rainy season was due to begin.

Russian Campaign.
Field Marshal Reichenau was named C-in-C of Army Group South on December 1, 1941, he convinced Hitler that Paulus should takeover from him command of the 6th. Army, and was made General of Panzer troops the following month.

Now no doubt Reichenau intended to look after his former Chief of Staff, but he unfortunately suffered a heart attack and died on January 17th. 1942, to be replaced by the not so accommodating Fedor von Bock.

High Command.
It is hard to imagine a general such as Paulus less suited to be catapulted into a high field command. He was a solid and proficient staff officer, devoted to a desk job, he was indecisive, believed that Hitler was a military genius, a dangerous combination, but not cut out in any way for command of a fighting Army pitted against the Russians.

Paulus fought his battle against Timoshenko's advance on the Dneiper, and halted the Russian winter offensive in the southern sector. 

By February 10th. 1942 both sides were utterly exhausted, and the Soviet salient at Izyum being sealed off from the west, it became a race to resupply, with a marked advantage going to the first to attack in the coming spring.

The Russians are Coming.
On May 9th. the Russians struck first, with Timoshenko using 640,000 men and some 1,200 tanks, hurling Paulus' 6th. Army back towards Karkov, with the Russians employing far more troops than Germany.

The intervention of Group Kleist saved 6th. Army from extinction, linking up with Kleist west of Karkov they encircled the main Soviet force to capture 240,00 men, 2,026 tanks and 1,249 guns. Paulus was awarded the Knight's Cross for his part in this victory, he had been lucky to have Kleist to bail him out.

In the summer of 1942, Paulus and his 6th. Army moved east with 20 divisions towards Stalingrad, but the advance was slow, Hitler had given the bulk of fuel available to Army Group South and their move to the Caucas arena.

Stalingrad may well have been taken without much of a fight by the end of July, but Paulus was out of fuel 150 miles west of Kalach to be halted until August 7th.

He then attacked two Soviet armies west of the Don , by the 11th. 50,000 Soviet troops were either captured or killed along with a vast amount of tanks and armoured vehicles.

Within another week Stalingrad was but 35 miles distant, but again no fuel available for the final push, after five more days he advanced with a single corps, von Wietershem's XIV Panzer, who found themselves at the end of a narrow two mile corridor that was 30 miles long.

The Soviets attacked the length of this corridor, and from troops on Paulus's left flank, he could not spare any infantry to secure this corridor until after Hoth's 4th. Panzer Army coming onto Stalingrad from the south had freed up his right flank. 

The Battle for Stalingrad.
Now Hitler had changed his mind, the emphasis that had centred on the Caucasus  in the south shifted to Stalingrad, the third largest industrial city in the Soviet Union, with 500,000 people. Paulus believed it was an easy target, and began his siege on September 2nd.

Russians moving artillery at Stalingrad
Russians moving artillery at Stalingrad

Weichs wanted to attack at once before Stalin could reinforce his forces within the city but Paulus was held up by Soviet counter attacks on his northern flank, and did not launch his move on Stalingrad. This hesitation later was to cost him and his troops dearly, and  perhaps even victory, as Stalin used this pause to push in thousands of reinforcements. 

Paulus was not one to take risks, and he paid the price for his timidity.

The Germans move on Stalingrad at last.
Now on September 7th, at last General Walter von Seydlitz-Kurzbach took his two divisions towards Mamayev Hill a 300 foot height in the centre of Stalingrad, but his troops had to battle for every building as the Russians defended grimly, it took 6 days to secure the hill.

Another period passed before the Volga River was reached to cut the Soviet Sixty Second Army in two on September 20th.

Further south, General Kempf's XL III Panzer Corps from the 4th. Panzer Army joined in the fight on September 10th. to link up with Seydlitz's LI Corps, now Paulus used XLVIII Panzers to clear the southern half of Stalingrad, a task totally unsuitable for a mobile Panzer group, it was a job for the foot soldier grunts, and casualties were high, the job done by September 26th.

A swastika flag flew proudly over Soviet government buildings on Red Square. But by no means was the battle finally over.

Stalingrad, a battle fought in rubble.
The Luftwaffe had pounded the city over two months dropping tons of bombs, leaving thousands dead, craters, and ruined buildings, the Russians used these areas to fill them with platoons, squads, fire teams and sniper groups.

6th.Army had to clear out each of these strongholds one by one, few prisoners were taken by either side, and the Germans called it Rattenkreik: A War of the Rats.

Hitler had put his reputation on the line that Stalingrad would fall to his forces, but with Army Group A in the vicinity of the Caucasus, there were not sufficient German troops to really cover Paulus's flanks.

6th. Army stood at the top of a large bulge from the Don to the Volga, Roumanians, Italians, and Hungarians covered its sides, the fighting ability of these foreign troops was questionable at any time, let alone  to stand fast against heavy Russian attacks.

Dissention in the German Command.
The Commander of IV Corps General Victor von Schwelder called on Hitler to give the push for Stalingrad away, and was sacked for this advice. The Commander of XIV Panzer Corps questioned how the Battle was being conducted to be sacked by Paulus and replaced by Hans Valentin Hube, a one armed veteran from 16th. Panzer Division.

The battle raged on, no doubt Stalin quite pleased that Hitler had allowed his forces to be sucked into a fight of attrition within a fortified urban area, where all advantages were with the defenders.

Stalin threw in another nine infantry divisions two tank brigades and a rifle brigade, as the 6th. Army was bleeding to death.

Since crossing the Don Paulus had lost 40,000 men mostly from his infantry, his use of ammunition amazing, 25 million rounds of small arms ammunition, 500,000 anti tank shells, and 750,000 artillery projectiles, mostly to no avail.

Battle for Stalingrad extended beyond the city limits.
North of the city, Stalin threw in 3 more Armies, and Paulus was forced to divert VIII and XI Corps to cope with this new threat which was halted.

The Commander of the 4th. Air Fleet, Baron Wolfram von Richtofen was critical of the way Paulus was handling this Stalingrad battle calling for his replacement, but nothing eventuated.

By the first week into November Paulus had 90% of the city or what was left of it in his hands, but he was almost out of ammunition, and had probably shot his bolt.

Stalin threw in more troops, Paulus attacked again on November 10th, using four newly arrived engineer battalions, one broke through, but soon they were all cut to pieces within 48 hours, the last offensive by Paulus had failed.

Russian offensive against the Rumanians.
On November 19th. the Russian offensive against the Rumanian 3rd. Army got under way, the next day, XLVIII Panzer Corps commanded by Lieutenant General Ferdinand Heim was routed, and the Rumanian 4th. Army on Paulus's southern flank fell apart, thus splitting 4th. Panzer Army in two. Paulus covered his rear and withdrew XI Corps on his left to a shorter defensive position, but could not stop his impending encirclement.

On November 21st. the Red Armies in the north swung 90 degrees, close to the rear of the German 6th. Army, and were soon in sight of Paulus's command post at Golubinsky.

General Paulus and his staff hurried southwards to establish a new CP at Gumrak Airfield.

Hitler orders 6th. Army to stay put.
Now Hitler ordered the 6th. Army to stand fast, we will resupply you with the Luftwaffe. However the Commander of VIII Air Corps, General Martin Fiebig thought the ordered airlift was impossible, it did appear that 6th. Army was in dire straits and likely to be encircled.

Soviet Armies close the net.
On November 22nd. two Soviet spearheads joined up at Kalach to close the ring around the 6th. Army caught in a pocket, 30 miles long by 24 miles wide. In the north, XI Corps were practically overwhelmed by Russian attacks, and were forced to retreat towards Stalingrad.

Soviet troops advance in the rubble of Stalingrad.
Soviet troops advance in the rubble of Stalingrad.

Now Paulus met with his Chief of Staff and some of his generals and Luftwaffe Major General Wolfgang Pickert, who was informed that the 6th. Army had insufficient fuel to break out of Stalingrad, and the Luftwaffe would have to supply the force by air, but Pickert argued that a breakout to the south west should immediately be tried as his airforce could not resupply on such a massive scale in a Russian winter.

Of course the time to make an attempt at a breakout is immediately after an encirclement is achieved, and before the enemy has time to consolidate his positions.

Paulus's generals were urging him to defy Hitler's orders to stay put and order a breakout, but it was not in his nature to be either take a chance, or go against his beloved Fuerher's orders, and he did nothing.

His Chief of Staff decided to bypass his boss and appealed to the Commander of Group Army B, Baron Maximilian von Weichs to order a breakout on his own initiative, but he remained unmoved.

Stalingrad Airlift fails.
Without enough aircraft, hampered by both bad weather and the Russian Air Force the Luftwaffe could but deliver some 70 tons of supplies a day, where the need was for 750 tons a day, and the airlift failed.

Parlous state of the German troops.
Of the 270,000 trapped in the pocket, the effective infantry strength stood at a mere 40,000, the weather dreadful, many sleeping in a shell hole or on the frozen ground with but a single blanket.

Tens of thousands suffered frost bite, and thousands more just froze to death, the Russian winter surely on the Soviet side.

Field Marshal Manstein to the rescue.
HQ Army Group Don was set up under Field Marshal Erich von Manstein to rescue the beleagured 6th. Army, and he pushed a relief column from the 4th. Panzer Army to a point 30 miles from Stalingrad, but was now halted by the enemy.

Now he called on Paulus to break out, and even Hitler was moved to give his provisional approval, but Paulus saying he only had enough fuel to travel 18 miles refused to budge.

Manstein sent off a Major to try and get Paulus off his behind, but without avail.

By Christmas of 1942, 28,000 German troops had died at Stalingrad, the army strength was 246,000 which included 13,000 Rumanians and 19,300 Russian Auxiliaries, as the temperature now fell to minus 5 degrees Fahrenheit.

Now on December 27th. the relief column was forced to withdraw as they were in danger of being encircled.

Demand to surrender rejected.
Two demands to surrender made on January 8th. and 9th. 1943 were both rejected, and the Russians decided to finish this battle and threw into the attack, 7 Soviet Armies, capturing the better of the last two airstrips still held by the Germans.

Gaps appeared in the front and Paulus was unable to close them, he was down to less than 100 tanks, and fuel and ammunition were almost exhausted.

The last airfield at Gumrack was lost on January 22nd, and the Russians broke through the western perimeter the next day, isolating XI Corps in the north.

12,000 unattended wounded lay in the streets, Paulus ordered that the wounded be no longer fed, if you could not fight, you did not eat. By the 25th. of January 20,000 wounded lay in the streets.

Now more disaster, the southern pocket was cut in half on January 28th. two days later Paulus signalled Hitler: " On the anniversary of your assumption of power, the 6th. Army sends greetings to the Fuehrer. The swastika still flutters over Stalingrad. May our struggle stand as an example to generations yet unborn never to surrender, no matter how desperate the odds. Then Germany will be victorious. Heil, Mein Fuehrer."

Paulus promoted to Field Marshal on January 30th. 1943.
With some misgivings on the night of January 30th. 1943 Hitler elevated Paulus to the rank of Field Marsal, at the same time, reminding him that no German Field Marshal had ever been captured, thereby inviting Paulus to commit suicide.

The Russians hammering on the door.
On the morning of January 31st. the radio operator at 6th. Army HQ signalled the Russians were outside the door, the last transmission came in an hour later indicating the radio equipment had been destroyed. The end was nigh!

Paulus surrenders.
Notwithstanding Hitler's hope that Paulus would not be captured, early on the morning of January 31st. he made German Armed Forces history by becoming the first, albeit newly minted Field Marshal to be captured when he surrendered.

Paulus surrenders
Paulus surrenders

Paulus as POW in centre
Paulus as POW in centre

The Battle for Stalingrad at last over.

Of the 274,000 encircled on November 22nd, 91,000 surrendered, some 25,000 German sick and wounded having been flown out, thus about 150,000 Germans were killed or had died in the Stalingrad seige.

This was a disaster of major proportions.

The Russians who never made public their casuality figures also suffered enormous losses.

6th. Army death march to Siberia.
The survivors of the defeated 6th.Army were forced to march to POW camps in Siberia, only half made it there, and a mere 7,000 lived to go home a decade later.

Paulus a Russian propagandist.
At first refusing to cooperate with his Russian captors to make anti-Nazi broadcasts, in ]944 he was persuaded to call on Officers of Army Group North to desert or disobey Hitler's " murderous orders."

His family back home were all arrested on Hitler's orders under the prevailing doctrine of collective family responsibility.

Paulus appeared at the Nuremberg Trials in 1946 as a witness for the Russian prosecution.

In 1949 his wife had died, and the Field Marshal was not released from prison until 1953, when he settled in Dresden for a time to become an Inspector in the People's Police.

He died in Saxony reportedly from cancer on February 1st. 1957.

Scroll from USA presented to Stalingrad Signed by President Franklin Roosevelt.

Promoted to Field Marshal in unusual circumstances, and made Military history by being the first to hold that rank and be captured, never to be forgiven by Hitler.

A fairly pedestrian Commander who had his moments of triumph in Poland and France early on in WW2, but his slavish belief in Hitler let him down, and his stubborn refusal to break out at Stalingrad resulted in horrendous losses amongst the troops under his command. At his level of competency probably should have remained a Staff Officer, not at all an attractive character.


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