3.  The End    In the morning hours of January 10, it was eerily silent on all fronts.
     Then, all at once, loudspeakers from the other side began to spew out wild propaganda, blaring music and an invitation to give up the hopeless battle.  It was emphasized again and again that, in contrast to what the Germans had told us, every prisoner would receive fair treatment and could count on returning home soon after the war ended.  Any further fighting was useless; this was the message of their final offer.
      That morning, Russian intermediaries were picked up at previously arranged locations, blindfolded and brought to the commanding general's headquarters by military car.  There, they were dealt with briefly, and it would be made clear to them on the spot that capitulation was out of the question.  It was also suggested that they would be wise give up any further attempts of this kind, as otherwise no guarantees could be made for the safety of their lives.
     Their answer to this rebuff was not long in coming.  An all-out extermination fire of all calibers and all kinds of heavy bombs rained down upon us, lasting several hours.  The offensive consisted of numerous air units with bombs and air weapons which transformed the pocket into a veritable living hell.
     And this was just the beginning.  After this massive preparation, the Russian troops simultaneously attacked all fronts in a huge assault.  Their purpose was to overtake and destroy "P", the only remaining German airfield.
     The German soldiers fought with every last ounce of strength, first to maintain the front and then, as this became impossible in the face of the pressing superiority of the Russian attack, at least to move the airfield in an orderly manner.  However, even this became impossible; the Russians were overpowering. Within just a few short hours, they had already come within artillery firing range of the runway and its surrounding makeshift buildings.
     Terrible chaos resulted.  We had to clear everything out as fast as possible.  The screams of the wounded could be heard for miles around during the rushed, unplanned and unorganized clearing under enemy fire.  No one tried to move them anywhere, since there was no place they could be taken to.  Anyone who was mobile at all used his last bits of energy to drag himself out of the immediate danger zone and towards Stalingrad.  There, these few stragglers were deposited in hastily-erected emergency shelters.  Once again, our retreat path was strewn right and left with torn-apart vehicles, dying horses and fallen soldiers.
       One truck garrison suffered a particularly gruesome fate: losing their way in the deep snow, they chanced to drive over a large pond covered with ice.  In the middle of this pond, the vehicle broke through the ice, and the whole garrison disappeared into the freezing water.


      Near Stalingrad, an emergency airfield was hastily set up after the fall of "P."  Day landings had become impossible; airplanes landed now only at night.  Even then, aircraft were often fired upon and ended up for the most part dropping their supplies down over the city.  These supplies, however, came nowhere near being sufficient.  So, as there was no more food of any kind available for the horses anyway, more and more of these were slaughtered to provide nourishment for the men.
     In order to compensate for the enormous losses in fighting troops, several expendable officers' positions were dissolved and, after a short training period of just a few days, these men were thrown into the melee.  I, too, was assigned with a group of ex-officers to the northern front of Stalingrad, near the Volga.
      The endgame had begun.  Our connections with the homeland had been severed for days.  No mail came in any longer, and none was carried out.  Down to the last soldier, each one of us knew that the terrible end was near.
     The encirclement grew smaller and smaller each day, so that it was now only the city itself and a small belt of land surrounding it.  Our only emergency airfield was suddenly taken by surprise by the Russians, and provisions of all kinds which had not had time to be loaded onto the supply trucks fell into enemy hands.  Countless wounded soldiers were also left to uncertain fates.
     In the night, we dug new trenches and worked feverishly in order to get a snow barricade completed by dawn of the next morning.  There was no other possible course of action here on the very front lines, and no relief troops were available.  During the day, in the heat of the battle, and at night restless in the bitter cold, each one of us tried to escape the gruesome prospect of freezing to death.  Our meager supplies, which could brought out only at night, were cold and mostly frozen through.  There was no longer even one peaceful hour.  If our positions could not be held any longer, we retreated and dug in new trenches -- trenches which in this terrible cold could not have been of any military value whatsoever.
     After a few days, my originally 16-man strong group had shrunk to three.  Finally, I myself was injured by a bullet in a renewed Russian offensive and found myself in the emergency medical hospital in Stalingrad with a severe thigh wound.   In spite of my extreme pain, I used all my reserve energy to drag myself alone that night back to the command post.  There my boot, which had frozen fast to my leg, was cut away by the doctor.  After being bandaged, I was taken -- with severe frostbite on both feet in addition to my wound -- to the basement of a bunker in the middle of the city.
      I found out a few days later that our General Field Marshall von Paulus had radioed to the headquarters of the Fuhrer, pleading for permission to make his own decision regarding the situation, as there were neither supplies nor munitions available, and tens of thousands of wounded men to care for.
     Who can forget the answer that came soon afterwards?  "Surrender out of the question.  Fight to the last man!"
     With this, the fate of the 6th Army was sealed.  The front lines had retreated to the borders of the city, and the Russians pressed on, day and night, from all sides, towards the surrounded German soldiers.  Artillery, Stalinorgel, grenade bombs of all calibers, tanks and air weapons made a burning hell out of the city, and gruesome scenes repeated themselves everywhere.
     The Russians crossed the Volga -- which had by that time completely frozen over -- and streamed into the center of the city.  Street fights soon developed with a ferocity and intensity as none ever before experienced.  The overpowering force of the Russians was becoming more and more evident.
      So came the 30th of January, when Hermann Goering finally announced  the surrender of the German 6th Army by radio.   We had been given up on, lied to and betrayed.
      At that instant, in the hearts of even those who still believed that they had been fighting for the fatherland, there occurred a bitter change.  They had been abandoned by everyone; not the least by their own commanders, who had fled the coop by airplane just in time.  All considered, the complete disillusionment of these betrayed men was more than justified.
     It was one of the greatest tragedies of this event that nothing of the incredible misery and loneliness of these soldiers in these last hours was ever reported, neither in our homeland nor on other German fronts.  Perhaps if it had been, more of our countrymen would have realized in time just how unscrupulous the Nazis were -- these men who would end up sacrificing an entire ethnic population simply to prolong their power for a short time.