Posts Tagged ‘Color Photos Stalingrad’

This blog is admittedly a steep departure from my usual topics, but I feel it so historically significant and interesting that it is has to be shared. For a little bit of background, another interest/hobby of mine since my childhood has been World War 2. That interest led me to begin collecting authentic World War 2 photographs, having bought my first over 30 years ago at the age of 12. Over my three decades of collecting World War 2 photos, I have accumulated thousands of images, private snapshots taken by frontline soldiers of all nations, most of which have never been published. I also have a smaller collection of what is known as “Press Corps” photos which were taken by professional war correspondent photographers.

On rare ocassions, when the subject matter warrants it, I will purchase copies/reprints of photographs when either the “original” photo is not for sale, or the price of the original photo is prohibitive, as a rule though, I really try to avoid copies/reprints. Recently though, my source in Germany (an estate broker and antique dealer) came into possession of roughly 300 color slides (known as farbdias) of the Battle of Stalingrad which was fought between August 1942 and February 1943. These farbdias are attributed to Dr. Chaplain Alois Beck, a Catholic Priest and Doctor of Austrian birth, who was drafted into the German Army in 1939. Dr. Beck held the rank of Kriegspfarrer (War Chaplain) and was assigned to a field hospital unit attached to the 297th Infantry Division of the German 6th Army, and, as an amateur photographer, documented the unit’s advance across the Soviet steppe and into the city of Stalingrad in the late-summer of 1942. Dr. Beck conducted Catholic Mass for soldiers preparing to enter battle, wrote letters home for wounded and dying soldiers, performed Last Rites, collected the identifications of the dead, and delivered eulogies for the fallen. He was also credited with establishing and overseeing 21 cemeteries in Stalingard for soldiers killed in the battle. Obviously, this was a case where my “hobby” budget would not allow for the purchase of the originals, so I purchased photographic copies of 45 of Dr. Beck’s farbdias. Dr. Beck and his farbdias survived the Battle of Stalingrad through a twist of fate- In the autumn of 1942, Dr. Beck contracted hepatitis and fell seriously ill. He and his belongings were airlifted out of the battlefield and removed to the safety of a hospital far behind the front lines.

Dr. Chaplain Alois Beck, photo from the public domain

Shortly after Dr. Beck was airlifted to safety, the Red Army launched a counter offensive which cut off and encircled the German 6th Army between the Don and Volga Rivers, in what would become known as the “Stalingrad Kessel” or “Stalingrad cauldron.” German, Rumanian, Italian, and Hungarian axis troops in the “kessel” fell back from their positions on the Don River Steppe and consolidated with the German forces inside Stalingrad and its suburbs. Surrounded on all sides by the Soviets, and cutoff from supply columns on the ground, the Axis troops in Stalingrad faced a grim fate. Aerial supply drops intended to keep the entrapped the 6th Army alive until German ground forces could attempt a rescue operation were hamstrung by horrible winter weather, and were largely unsuccessful.

Axis troops in the besieged city were shelled mercilessly by the Red Army artillery, and endless attacks were launched by Soviet foot soldiers., many of whom entered the battle without guns, simply scavenging rifles from the corpses of the dead within the cauldron. On the northern end of Stalingrad, in the factory district, Soviet workers at the Dzerzhinsky Tractor Works assembled tanks and drove them directly onto the battelfield, the front lines being just outside the doors of the facility. The most horrific and savage hand-to-hand combat ever winessed by humanity took place in the fatories, apartments, cellars, and sewers of Stalingrad. It was not uncommon for German and Soviet soldiers to occupy different floors or rooms of the same building.

Temperatures soon dropped below zero, and with little shelter, no food, inadequate clothing, and little water, Axis soldiers slowly began showing the effects of starvation and exposure. A German panzer force attempted to break through the encirclement and rescue the trapped 6th Army, but was reprelled by superior Soviet armor. Many Axis troops knowing there was now no way out of Stalingrad other than the long march to a gulag in Siberia chose to commit suicide with their last bullet, others simply took off their helmets and calmly walked into Soviet gunfire. Some resorted to cannibalism as a means of survival. Thousands more held on, but succumbed to starvation and hypothermia in the closing days of the battle. Of the 190,000 who survived the battle and marched into Soviet captivity in February 1943, only 5,000 would ever return home to Germany. Photos taken following the battle show mountains of German corpses stacked like cordwood on the outkirts of the city. When the spring thaw came, the bodies of dead soldiers, both Soviet and German, clogged the Volga River like jams.

Having narrowly escaped this grim fate, Dr. Beck returned home after the war and continued his duties with the Catholic Church. Dr. Beck authored two books (both in the German language) one titled “Messerkl√§rungNach dem Rundschreiben Papst Pius XII. Mediator Dei”  (1953) a religous text, and the second titled “Bis Stalingrad” (1983) which documented his military service and showcased many of his farbdias. Both books are exceedingly rare and hardto find today. Dr. Beck is said to have delivered over 700 public speeches following the war, but he only displayed his farbdias of Stalingrad around a dozen times.

Here are some of the 45 copies of Dr. Alois Beck’s farbdias that I recently purchased, as well as additional black and white photographs of the Battle of Stalingrad from my personal collection which I have acquired over the years. I have provided descriptions of the photos when possible as well as crediting the original photographer/source when possible. Also included is the translation of a single page from an unkown German veteran’s diary/memoir I acquired detailing his experiences at Stalingrad.

The Battle of Stalingrad raged from August 23, 1942 to Febraury 2, 1943 and is recognized as the deadliest battle in the history of human conflict. Nearly 2,000,000 (two million) wounded and dead were recorded by the warring factions, as well as 40,000 civilian dead. Of the 190,000 German prisoners taken following the February 2, 1943 surrender, a further 185,000 would die in Soviet captivity, the 5,000 survivors would be released from Soviet POW camps between 1949 and 1955. Stalingrad marked the turning point of World War 2, giving the Soviets the upper hand.

German Panzers on the steppe as the 6th Army advances towards Stalingrad. Dr. Alois Beck photo
Soviet KV-2 and T-34 tanks mired in an irrigation ditch on the steppe. Dr. Alois Beck photo
“General Pfeffer Bridge” in the Ukraine as the 6th Army advances towards the Volga and Stralingrad. Dr. Alois Beck photo
Sunflowers on the Don River steppe, taken by an unknown soldier of the 295th Infantry Division which was destroyed at Stalingrad. There is one account of a Stalingrad survivor who had filled every pocket of his tunic with sunflower seeds as the 6th Army crossed the steppe. After food supplies were cutoff to Stalingrad in November 1942, the man stayed alive by eating these seeds. Photo: J.Eberle Collection
A destroyed Soviet Polikarpov I-16 “Rata” fighter plane on the steppe just outside Stalingrad, August 1942. Photo: J.Eberle Collection
Destroyed Soviet BT series tanks. Dr. Alois Beck photo
A German 6th Army solcier inspects a knocked out Soviet KV-1 heavy tank. Dr. Alois Beck photo
Red Army POWs taken during the advance on Stalingrad. Dr. Alois Beck photo
Soldiers of the ill-fated 295th Infantry Division. Photo: J. Eberle collection
Soldiers of the 295th Infantry Division pose for a group photo in the summer of 1942. Photo: J.Eberle collection
Wounded Soviet POWs being interrogated by German Officers. Dr. Alois Beck photo
German soldiers trailed by Soviet “HiWis” or “volunteers: carrying ammunition boxes. HiWis were POWs who volunteered to serve in the German Army doing menial taks in exchange for better treatment and larger food rations. Hundreds of thousands of HiWis served in the German Army during the war, and most were executed by the Soviet government as collaborators following the conflict. Dr. Alois Beck photo
A German General (left) possibly Moritz von Drebber, confers with another Officer. Don River Steppe. Dr. Alois Beck photo
A Soviet soldier, merely a child, taken prisoner on the Don Steppe, summer 1942. Dr. Alois Beck photo
Soviet T-34 tanks entrenched as a defensive barrier along a railroad track between the Don River and Kalmyk Steppe. Dr. Alois Beck photo
A German soldier gallops through a village near Stalingrad, summer 1942. Photo: J.Eberle Collection
6th Army soldiers relax in a village, unaware of the hell that awaits them in coming months. Photo: J.Eberle collection
A Soviet bomber captured intact during the advance on the Volga. Dr. Alois Beck photo
German artillery troops enter the suburbs of Stalingrad, the outskirts of the city just visible in the distance. Dr. Alois Beck photo
German artillery advances past a burning dwelling. August 1942. Dr. Alois Beck photo
A German foxhole on the steppe outside of Stalingrad. Dr. Alois Beck photo
A German Officer, winner of the Knight’s Cross, poses at the door of his bunker. A bear skin hangs from a pole. Dr. Alois Beck photo
Two German Generals and staff Officers discuss the situation in the suburbs of Stalingrad, August 1942. The round-faced General second from left is Hans Hube, who would was adored by his men, and never backed away from a fight. Hube had lost an arm in World War One and was fitted with a prosthetic limb. During the street fighting in Stalingrad, Hube confronted a Soviet T-34 tank face-to-face, the Soviet tank crew leveled their 76mm canon at Hube and fired, it blew his fake arm off, and Hube, unphased, calmly drew his pistol with good arm, and walked toward the Soviet tank firing at it. The Soviet tank commander, terrified by the seemingly invincible German soldier, ordered his driver to retreat. Dr. Beck photo
General Friedrich Paulus confers with Officers as Battle Stalingrad Commences. Dr. Alois Beck photo
Stalingrad “the city on the Volga” from the outskirts. The grain elevator which would play a central role in the battle can be seen clearly in the center/left of the photo with a black smoke plume rising behind it. The Volga River is the whitish/gray stripe along the uper center/right of the photo. The heaviest fighting would take place just beyind the grain elevator in the facotry district. Dr. Alois Beck photo
General Paulus and General Alexander Edler von Daniels (?) in the suburbs of Stalingrad. Dr. Alois Beck photo
Dr. Alois Beck performs Mass for soldiers about to launch an attack on the city of Stalingrad. Dr. Alois Beck photo
Generals Hans Hube and Moritz von Drebber, outskirts of Stalingrad. Photo: J. Eberle Collection
The Tsaritsyn (Zariza) Gorge and suburb south of Stalingrad by the same name. German troops would dig into the sandy clay of the gorge, and this would become both home and graveyard to thousands of soldiers during the battle. Dr. Alois Beck photo
A German warning sign on the edge of the Tsaritsyn (Zariza) suburb. It reads “Venturing into the city (Stalingrad) forbidden. Curiosity endangers your own life as well as the lives of your comrades. DETOUR” Photo: J.Eberle collection
Another view of Stalingrad from the vicinity of Tsaritsyn. Dr. Alois Beck photo
German troops advance through the rubble. The grain elevator in the distance. Photo: Public Domain
German soldiers at Stalingrad. Dr. Alois Beck photo
Major Rolf Wuthmann (left,front) and General Otto Korfes (right) walk past “Pavlov’s House” in Stalingrad. Photo: J. Eberle Collection
The remaining wall of “pavlove’s House” today- Now a war memorial. Photo: Public Domain
Artillery troops using a range finder among the rubble of Stalingrad. Photo: J. Eberle Collection
Another view of Stalingrad and the grain elevator. Dr. Alois Beck photo
German artillery fires near the grain elevator. Photo: Public Domain
Motorcycle troop in Stalingrad as civilians and livestock flee the fighting. Photo; J.Eberle collection
Chimneys remain where homes once stood in Stalingrad. Dr. Alois Beck photo
An interesting juxtaposition of freshly planted flowers as smoke clouds billow in the distance. Dr. Beck photo
Civilians flee the coming armageddon in Stalingrad. Dr. Alois Beck photo
A Children’s Khorovod (dance) statue in Stalingrad with fresh German graves and destoryed houses in the background. One of several such sculptures to be found in the city, which gave a macabre, surreal, aspect to the post-apacolyptic hell of the battle, Dr. Alois Beck photo
The most famous Children’s Khorovod statue in Stalingrad was outside of the train station. Photo: Public Domain
General Paulus and General von Daniels (2nd and 3rd from left) walk through the Stalingrad rubble. Photo: J.Eberle Collection

Diary/Memoir of an Unknown Soldier in My Collection (translated from German)

“After November I was relocated to a platoon in the city of Stalingrad. Our position was located on the Volga River where it had been relatively quiet. To our left the Soviets had established a small bridgehead. The Soviets arrived at our position on Christmas and broke through our flank. My unit was pulled out of the city, and we recieved seven days rest.

On January 7th I was reactivated, this time to the north end of the city, in the area of the Red October factory. It was a long, rough journey to get through the city. The Soviets were well-informed of our movements, and were all over our radio waves for the next few days. They knew we were desperately in need of repalcements around Red October.

My company was situated among the remnants of a bread factory. My platoon stayed in the old kitchen area. My platoon consisted of six Germans and four Rumanian soldiers. The Rumanians had fought gallantly throughout the entire battle. There was very little left of the bread factory, just the rubble of the outer walls. I held a machinegun position in a window hole, open and exposed to the enemy.

At 5:30 am (no date given) the Soviets began a long bombardment that lasted three hours. They pounded us with every concievable weapon. Through my window hole they even tossed hand grenades. In short, it was hell.  The Soviets were about 45 feet away from our positions, and a German platoon even occupied half of the building the Soviets were in.”

The entry ends at this point (next page(s) missing) and picks up in March 1943 after the soldier was transferred to Rzhew, indicating he was one of the lucky ones who was airlifted out of Stalingrad after the encirclement.

German soldiers cautiously advance through a workshop in the factory district of northern Stalingrad. Photo: Public Domain
Dr. Alois Beck holds Mass for soldiers about to enter the battle. Dr. Alois Beck photo
German dugouts in the Tsaritsyn Gorge south of Stalingrad. Dr. Alois Beck photo
German dugouts and shanties at Tsaritsyn Gorge made of scavenged wreckage from the battlefield. Photo: J.Eberle Collection
Dr. Beck performs a funeral service on the steppe. Dr. Alois Beck photo
Wounded soldiers from the battle are unloaded at field hospital in the suburbs. The grim faces on the men say it all. Dr. Alois Beck photo
Dr. Beck watches as severely wounded men are loaded onto a plane to be airlifted out of Stalingrad. These men would later prove to be the lucky ones, as nearly all of those wholived to tell about the battle were those who were airlifted out. Dr. Alois Beck photo
Dr. Beck writing letters home for wounded soldiers at a field hospital. Dr. Alois Beck photo.
Dr. Beck performing a funeral service. Dr. Alois Beck photo
A German mass grave. Dr. Beck established and cared for 21 such cemeteries around Stalingrad. Dr. Alois Beck photo
German trucks arrive at the train station. Photo: J.Eberle collection
Soviet prisoners taken in the battle are evacuated to the rear. Dr. Alois Beck photo
Wpunded men mull around the perimeter of a field hospital. Dr. Alois Beck photo
Dr. Beck records the identities of soldiers killed in the battle. Dr. Alois Beck photo
Fores rage in Stalingrad after dark. Survivors of both the German and Soviet armies often described the constant red glow and the howl of the fires that never stopped burning in the city during the six month battle. During the day, smoke from the fires would block out the sun. Dr. Alois Beck Photo
Stalingrad, late-1942 Photo: Public Domain
German troops at the Stalingrad railyards after the first snows. Photo: J.Eberle collection
Soldiers with whitewashed snow camo helmets in formation prior to entering battle. Photo: J.Eberle collection
Troops at the railyards. Photo: J.Eberle collection
A destroyed train. Photo: J.Eberle collection
Destruction of the city of Stalingrad. Photo: J. Eberle collection
A view of the city center from a German position. Photo: J.Eberle collection
Red Army soldiers advance through the wreckage of the city. Photo: Public Domain
Soldiers trapped on the steppe with a Russian HiWi. Winter 1942. Photo: J.Eberle collection
Soldiers trapped on the steppe. Winter 1942. Photo: J.Eberle collection
Soldiers in village near Stalingrad. Winter 1942. Photo: J.Eberle collection
6th Army soldiers trapped inside the city. Winter 1942. Photo: J.Eberle collection
German troop column retreating from the steppe towards Stalingrad after the Soviet encirclement. Canned food dropped in boxes by the Luftwaffe to sustain the soldiers can be seen in the center of photo. Photo: J.Eberle collection
Soviet troops in rooftop positions in the city. Photo: Public Domain
Freshly promoted to the rank of Field Marshall, Friedrich Paulus surrenders the remnants of the once mighty 6th Army to Soviet forces 2-3-1943 Photo: Public Domain
AP Wire Photo of captured German, Rumanian, and Italian Generals at Stalingrad. February 1943. Photo: J. Eberle Collection
German prisoners taken in the suburbs of Stalingrad, February 1943. Photo: J. Eberle Collection
Prisoners begin the long trek into Soviet captivity in SIberia. Photo: J. Eberle Collection
The march into captivity, February 1943. Photo: J. Eberle Collection
Mounds of dead German soldiers stacked on the outskirts of the city. February 1942. Photo: Public Domain
Remnants of the German 6th Army, February 1943. Photo: Public Domain
German POWs being marched out of the ruins of Stalingrad, February 1943. Photo: Public Domain.
German POWs ecorted past the grain elevator by Red Army guard. Photo: Public Domain
Rumanian POWs at Stalingrad. Of the 190,000 Axis POWs taken in1943, only 5,000 would survive and return home. Photo: Public Domain
After the battle, orphaned children were put to work collecting the arms discarded and dropped among the rubble. Photo: J.Eberle Collection