Here is an analysis of the book: Enemy at the Gates by William Craig (was written before the movie)
This was an amazing book. It opened my eyes to the horrors of the battle at Stalingrad. It was well written and went in great depth as to the conditions of the fight. At the beginning of the battle, the Germans had a severe edge. Although having heavy casualties pushing east towards Moscow, the Nazis continued to march over the steppes. Stalingrad was a heavily industrialized city and very important to the Soviet war machine. It didn’t seem like the place where the fate of a war would be determined, but quickly the world watched and realized that it would. The Germans were pounding the Russians with their Blitzkrieg tactics up until Stalingrad. There, the leaders at Moscow knew that if Stalingrad fell, then Russia would be lost. For that reason, when it appeared that the Nazis would overrun Stalingrad, they through the youth of their nation across the Volga and hoped for the best.
At a time, it only seemed like the Soviets could hold their tiny piece of the city for a few days more. The stalemate eventually wore at the Germans and they started taking heavier casualties. One element that added to their demise was their supply lines being stretched out so far. As the Russian winter set in, it appeared as though the Germans might not take Stalingrad. The Russians fought valiantly, although they took immense losses, both civilian and military. Hitler continued to demand the taking of the city, but the 6th Army just couldn’t gain the last foothold held by the Soviets. The Germans were not prepared for the Russian winter as it quickly became colder and snow began to pile up. Later in the winter, the Russians performed a classic surrounding maneuver by breaking through the weak flanks of the 6th Army consisting of Italian regulars and other less powerful groups. They took the Nazis completely by surprise and held them at bay inside a wide circle. The Germans were taking heavy losses and it appeared as though the 6th Army might never leave Stalingrad.
Goering, a high commander who sought to reconcile his reputation, decided to take action when he heard Hitler and his adjutants talking of the impossibility of supplying the entire surrounded army by air. Georing’s reputation was recently tarnished after a blunder in decision making and a high loss of men. Goering proudly claimed he could supply the army, which affected the final outcome of the battle. The reason of this is, it gave Hitler an out so to speak, when other generals urged him to let the 6th Army retreat to a more defensive position outside of the encirclement. Hitler refused to let the army leave and “give up what they had been fighting for the last year.”
When Goering tried to airlift supplies, he found the weather wreaking havoc on the planes. Russian anti-aircraft batteries also shot down a high number. Although the Army required 700 tons a day to survive, they received at the most 200 a day, and sometimes none at all. Paulus, the leader of the 6th Army, urged all who would listen to give the order for a retreat. After a failed attempt to rescue the Army by Von Manstein and his tank corps., Paulus continued to beg for the order. Hitler balked, however and gave up too much time to order a withdraw when he finally issued one. Between these times, the conditions inside the encirclement worsened. In extreme cases, soldiers would resort to cannibalism in order to stay alive. Many thousands starved while thousands of others were killed by the constant onslaught by the Russians. The battle raged for weeks until the terrible loss of men compelled a surrender by the remnants of the 6th Army. In the end, it seemed as though they could have broken out at the early stage of the battle, but Hitler’s horrible battle plans wrote up the fate of a quarter of a million men. This started the fall of the 3rd Reich, and it seems that if the Nazis could have taken the city of Stalingrad before the Volga froze over and enemy reinforcements were aloud to freely cross the river, it could have been a different story.