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Friedrich Wilhelm Ernst Paulus
23 September 1890(1890-09-23) – 1 February 1957 (aged 66)
Paulus photo.jpg
Generalfeldmarschall Friedrich Paulus (shown in General's uniform)
Place of birth Breitenau, Hesse-Nassau
Place of death Dresden, Germany
Allegiance German Empire German Empire (to 1918)
Germany Weimar Republic (to 1933)
Nazi Germany Nazi Germany (to 1943)

East Germany German Democratic Republic

Years of service 1910 - 1943
Rank Generalfeldmarschall
Commands held Tenth Army
Sixth Army
Battles/wars World War I

World War II

Awards Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves

Friedrich Wilhelm Ernst Paulus (23 September 1890 – 1 February 1957) was an officer in the German military from 1910 to 1943, attaining the rank of Generalfeldmarschall (field marshal) during World War II. He is best known for commanding the Sixth Army's assault on Stalingrad during Operation Blue in 1942. The battle ended in disaster for Nazi Germany when approximately 270,000 soldiers of the Wehrmacht, Axis allies, and Hilfswillige were encircled and defeated in a massive Soviet counterattack in November 1942, with casualties reaching as high as 740,000.

Paulus surrendered to Soviet forces in Stalingrad on 31 January 1943, a day after he was promoted to the rank of Generalfeldmarschall by Adolf Hitler. Hitler expected Paulus to commit suicide, citing that there was no record of a German field marshal ever surrendering to enemy forces. While in Soviet captivity during the war he became a vocal critic of the Nazi regime and joined the Russian-sponsored National Committee for a Free Germany. He would not be released until 1953.

Contents

Early life

Paulus was born in Breitenau, Hesse-Nassau, the son of a school teacher.

He tried, unsuccessfully, to secure a cadetship in the Kaiserliche Marine, and briefly studied law at Marburg University.

Military career

After leaving the university without a degree, he joined the 111th Infantry Regiment as an officer cadet in February 1910. He married Elena Rosetti-Solescu on 4 July 1912.

When World War I began, Paulus's regiment was part of the thrust into France, and he saw action in the Vosges and around Arras in the autumn of 1914. After a leave of absence due to illness, he joined the Alpenkorps as a staff officer, serving in Macedonia, France, and Serbia. By the end of the war, he was a captain.

After the Armistice Paulus fought with the Freikorps in the east as a brigade adjutant. He remained in the scaled-down Reichswehr that came into being after the Treaty of Versailles and was assigned to the 13th Infantry Regiment at Stuttgart as a company commander. He served in various staff positions for over a decade (1921–1933) and then briefly commanded a motorized battalion (1934–1935) before being named chief of staff for the Panzer headquarters in October 1935, a new formation under Lutz that directed the training and development of the army’s three panzer divisions.

In February 1938 Paulus was appointed Chef des Generalstabes to Guderian’s new XVI Armeekorps (Motorisiert), which replaced Lutz’s command. Guderian described him as ‘brilliantly clever, conscientious, hard working, original and talented’ but already had doubts about his decisiveness, toughness and lack of command experience. He remained in that post until May 1939, when he was promoted to Major General and became Chief of Staff for the German Tenth Army, with which he saw service in Poland, the Netherlands, and Belgium (by the latter two campaigns, the army had been renumbered as the Sixth Army).

Paulus was promoted to Lieutenant General in August 1940 and the following month he was named deputy chief of the German General Staff (OQu I). In that role he helped draft the plans for the invasion of the Soviet Union.

Stalingrad

Paulus in Southern Russia.

Paulus was promoted to General der Panzertruppe and became commander of the German Sixth Army in January 1942 and led the drive on Stalingrad.

Paulus followed Adolf Hitler's orders to hold the Army's position in Stalingrad under all circumstances, despite the fact that by November he was completely surrounded by strong Russian formations. A relief effort by Army Group Don under Field Marshal Erich von Manstein failed, inevitably: insufficient force was available to challenge the Soviet forces encircling the German 6th Army, and Hitler refused to allow Paulus to break out of Stalingrad despite Manstein telling him it was the only way the effort would succeed. By this time, Paulus's remaining armour had only sufficient fuel for a 12 mile advance anyway. In any event, Paulus was refused permission to break out of the encirclement. Kurt Zeitzler, the newly appointed chief of the Army General Staff, eventually got Hitler to allow Paulus to break out—provided they held onto Stalingrad, an impossible task.

For the next two months, Paulus and his men fought on. However, the lack of ammunition, equipment attrition and deteriorating physical condition of the German troops prevented them from defending effectively against the Red Army. The battle was fought with terrible losses on both sides and unimaginable (and perhaps unparalleled) suffering.

Paulus (right), and his aides Generalleutnant Arthur Schmidt (m.) and Wilhelm Adam (left), after their surrender (image horizontally flipped, note jacket buttonings).

On 8 January 1943, General Konstantin Rokossovsky, commander of the Red Army on the Don front, offered Paulus's men generous surrender terms—normal rations, medical treatment for the ill and wounded, permission to retain their badges, decorations, uniforms, and personal effects, and repatriation to any country they wished after the war. Rokossovsky also noted that Paulus was in a nearly impossible situation. By this time, there was no hope for Paulus to be relieved or supplied by air, and his men had no winter clothing. However, when Paulus asked Hitler for permission to surrender, Hitler rejected this request almost out of hand and ordered him to hold Stalingrad to the last man.

After a heavy Russian offensive cut off the last emergency airstrip, the Russians again offered Paulus a chance to surrender. Once again, Hitler ordered Paulus to hold Stalingrad to the death. By 30 January, Paulus informed Hitler that his men were hours from collapse. Hitler responded by showering a raft of field promotions by radio on Paulus's officers to build up their spirits and steel their will to hold their ground. Most significantly, he promoted Paulus to field marshal. In deciding to promote Paulus, Hitler noted that there was no known record of a Prussian or German field marshal having surrendered. The implication was clear—Paulus was to commit suicide. If Paulus surrendered, he would shame Germany's military history.

Paulus's interrogation at Don Front HQ: General Rokossovsky, Marshal Voronov, translator Nikolay Dyatlenko and Paulus (left to right)

Despite this, and to the disgust of Hitler, Paulus and his staff surrendered the next day, 31 January. On the 2 February 1943 the remainder of the Sixth Army capitulated. Speaking about the surrender of Paulus, Hitler told his staff:

In peacetime Germany, about 18,000 or 20,000 people a year chose to commit suicide, even without being in such a position. Here is a man who sees 50,000 or 60,000 of his soldiers die defending themselves bravely to the end. How can he surrender himself to the Bolshevists?![1]

Paulus, who as a Roman Catholic was opposed to suicide, said according to General Pfeffer, of Hitler's expectation: "I have no intention of shooting myself for this Bohemian corporal".[2] Another general told the NKVD that he had said "It looks like an invitation to commit suicide, but I will not do this favour for him." He also forbade his soldiers from standing on top of their trenches in order to be shot by the enemy.[3]

Paulus speaking at a press conference in Berlin in 1954

Although he at first refused to collaborate with the Soviets, after the attempted assassination of Hitler on 20 July 1944, Paulus became a vocal critic of the Nazi regime while in Soviet captivity, joining the Russian-sponsored National Committee for a Free Germany and appealing to Germans to surrender. He later acted as a witness for the prosecution at the Nuremberg trials. He was released in 1953, two years before the repatriation of the remaining German POWs (mostly other Stalingrad veterans) who had been designated war criminals by the Soviets.

During the Nuremberg trials Paulus was asked about the Stalingrad prisoners by a journalist. Paulus told the journalist to tell the wives and mothers that their husbands and sons were well, even though he knew that over 90% of them were already dead. Of the 91,000 German prisoners taken at Stalingrad, half would die in a march to Siberian prisoner camps, nearly as many died in captivity, only about 6,000 would return home.

Paulus served as an inspector of police in Dresden in the German Democratic Republic. Here he developed motor neuron disease and was eventually left paralyzed. He died in Dresden 1 February 1957. His body was brought for burial in Baden Baden next to that of his wife, who had died in 1947 not having seen her husband since his surrender.

Quote

"Ask Paulus if he knows he is a traitor. Ask him if he has taken out Russian citizenship papers." — Hermann Göring to his lawyer at the Nuremberg Trials.

Footnotes

  1. ^ Overy 1997, p. 185.
  2. ^ Beevor p. 381
  3. ^ Beevor p. 381

References

Military offices
Preceded by
Generalfeldmarschall Walther von Reichenau
Commander of 6. Armee
30 December 1941 – 3 February 1943
Succeeded by
General Karl Adolf Hollidt

Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

The Sixth Army, true to their oath and conscious of the lofty importance of their mission, have held their position to the last man and the last round for Führer and Fatherland unto the end.

Friedrich Wilhelm Ernst Paulus (23 September 18901 February 1957) was an officer in the German military from 1910 to 1943, attaining the rank of Generalfeldmarschall during World War II. He is most known for commanding the Sixth Army's assault on Stalingrad during Operation Blue in 1942. The battle ended in disaster for Nazi Germany when approximately 300,000 German soldiers were encircled and defeated in a massive Soviet counter attack in November 1942. Paulus surrendered to Soviet forces in Stalingrad on January 31, 1943, a day after he was promoted to the rank of Generalfeldmarschall by Adolf Hitler. Paulus served as an inspector of police after his release and died in Dresden, East Germany.

Contents

Sourced

  • Troops without ammunition or food. Effective command no longer possible. 18,000 wounded without any supplies or dressings or drugs. Further defence senseless. Collapse inevitable. Army requests immediate permission to surrender in order to save lives of remaining troops.
    • Radio message to Adolf Hitler, January 24, 1943. Quoted in "The World Changers" - Page 171 - by Bruce Bliven - 1965
  • The Sixth Army, true to their oath and conscious of the lofty importance of their mission, have held their position to the last man and the last round for Führer and Fatherland unto the end.
    • Radio message to Adolf Hitler, January 31, 1943. Quoted in "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany" - Page 931 - by William Lawrence Shirer - Germany - 1990
  • You are talking to dead men here.
    • To a Luftwaffe officer sent to Stalingrad. Quoted in "Voices From The Third Reich: An Oral History" - Page 152 - by Johannes Steinhoff, Peter Pechel, Helmut D. Schmidt, Dennis E. Showalter - History - 1994
  • Everything you say, Reichenau, is totally unmilitaristic.
    • To Walther von Reichenau. Quoted in "Hitler's Generals" - Page 210 - by Correlli Barnett - History - 2003

Unsourced

  • I have no intention of shooting myself for that Bohemian corporal.
    • About his refusal to kill himself instead of surrender.

About Paulus

  • What hurts me the most, personally, is that I still promoted him to field marshal. I wanted to give him this final satisfaction... a man like that besmirches the heroism of so many others at the last moment. He could have freed himself from all sorrow and ascended into eternity and national immortality, but he prefers to go to Moscow.
    • Adolf Hitler, about Paulus surrendering instead of committing suicide.
  • A very clever man though perhaps not a very strong character.
    • Erich von Manstein to Leon Goldensohn, June 14, 1946.
  • He is at pains to avoid making enemies. He is slow, but very methodical. He displays marked tactical ability, though he is inclined to spend overmuch time on his appreciation.
    • Report about Friedrich Paulus by German Army soldier in 1927
  • Surrender is forbidden. Sixth Army will hold their positions to the last man and the last round and by their heroic endurance will make an unforgettable contribution toward the establishment of a defensive front and the salvation of the Western world.
    • Adolf Hitler, radio response to Paulus, January 24, 1943

External links

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