As the Nazi war machine continued to dominate in World War II the Soviet Union’s forces were getting pushed farther and farther back. Hope began to dwindle down as the German forces continued to win decisive victories over the Soviets. As Hitler’s confidence grew, so did his ego. Instead of focusing his army to the oil fields in Baku, which were a necessary fuel source for the Soviets, Hitler commanded that his forces be sent to siege the city of Stalingrad. Hitler viewed that taking a city that bore the name of the enemy would demoralize the Soviet army and humiliate Joseph Stalin. This would prove to be a fatal mistake for the egotistical Hitler.
On August 21st 1942 German forces officially began their march and siege of Stalingrad. The Nazi forces bombarded, infiltrated, and destroyed almost all of the city within two months. Russian soldiers were losing hope and were slowly getting starved out of the city. Previously in July Joseph Stalin knew that if Stalingrad was taken then there would be little hope of a happy end to the war for the Soviets. In order to boost morale and keep his forces from fleeing the city Stalin issued Order No. 227. This order informed the Russian officers and soldiers about how although Russia is a large and beautiful land, resources are not infinite. The Russian armies cannot be continuously pushed back losing areas of resourceful value. Stalingrad needed to be kept in Soviet control to stop the Nazi armies from reaching resource rich areas of Russia. Stalin commanded his forces to never retreat. In his order Stalin had this to say:
‘We need to protect every strongpoint, every meter of Soviet soil stubbornly, till the last droplet of blood, grab every piece of our soil and defend it as long as it is possible. Our Motherland is going through hard times. We have to stop, and then throw back and destroy the enemy, whatever it might cost us. The Germans are not as strong as the panic-mongers say. They are stretching their strength to the limit. To withstand their blow now means to ensure victory in the future.”
Stalin created the slogan “Not One Step Back” and made sure every single soldier in the Red Army knew that retreat was no longer an option. Morale was then boosted and soldiers began to rally to what seemed like the Soviet Union’s last hope. In a war diary kept by a German soldier, William Hoffman, an entry was made describing the mentality of a captured Russian infantryman. After being interrogated and beaten the Russian soldier continuously asserted that “the Russians would fight for Stalingrad to the last round.”
Eventually it reached a point where the Russian soldiers decided to go for one last hail mary offensive. On November 19th under the leadership of General Zhukov the Soviet soldiers went on the counter offensive. With an estimated one million soldiers Zhukov organized to attack the Germans from the East and West pinching them in the middle. The offensive was highly successful for the Russians as after a few days of skirmishing, the German forces had to surrender. It is estimated that approximately of the original 400,000 soldiers 110,000 of the Nazi forces were forced to surrender after the counter attack was concluded.
After the surrender of the German forces in Stalingrad, Russian forces began to steamroll their way into Germany, eventually taking the capitol Berlin. The Battle of Stalingrad was the turning point in the war for the Soviet Union but at a great cost. Approximately 750,000 Russian soldiers were killed or wounded in the battle. The city itself was practically destroyed and reduced to rubble. Without the brave soldiers and wisdom of General Zhukov the Soviet Union would not have maintained possession of Stalingrad and could have potentially fallen under the control of the Germans.