ar was and still is hell no matter where it is fought and who takes part in it. This is something that was proven multiple times during World War I and World War II. Soldiers describe war as a different lifestyle because they still have to think they are alive, even if their actions are inhumane. Seeing war from this perspective was the only way to keep sane after living the horrors of war on a daily basis.
It is considered by many historians that the front of Stalingrad was the worst of them all for both the Allies as well as the Axis in the Second World War. The Soviet Army was suffering a great loss of morale whilst the German Army was running low on supplies.
The best way to portray any event is through the words of people whose eyes personally touched upon those horrors, that is why I have put together some letters from the Eastern front from Axis soldiers that depict their thoughts and hardships on the front. I am still in the process of trying to find some letters from the Soviet soldiers, but as they were fighting on their land they would rarely send letters, which makes the search quite difficult, but as soon as I find enough to present I shall write another article.
Here are some letters as well as diary entries mainly from German Soldiers of World War II from the Eastern Front.
Letters From the Eastern Front
Please take into consideration that these letters have been translated from German so the grammar may not be on point.
“…Stalingrad is hell on Earth, Verdun, red Verdun, with new weapons. We attack daily. If we are able to take in the morning 20 meters in the evening the Russians throw us back…”
From a letter of corporal Walter Opperman, p/n 44111, brother 18.XI.1942
“…Yes, here we have to thank God for every hour that you stay alive. Here nobody will escape his destiny. The worst thing that you have to meekly wait till your hour. Or sanitary train home or instant and horrible death to the underworld. Only a few, God’s chosen lucky people safely survive the war on the battlefront at Stalingrad…”
From the letter of a soldier Paul Bolz Mary Smud. 18.XI.1942
“…Yesterday we got vodka. At that time we actually cut up a dog, and the vodka really came in handy. Hetti, I have already cut up four dogs, yet my comrades can’t eat their fill. One day I shot a magpie and cooked it.…”
From the letter of soldier Otto Segitiga, 1st Company of the 1st Battalion of the 227th Infantry Regiment of the 100th Easy-Infantry Division, p/n 10521, Hetty Kaminskaya. 29.XII.1942
“ . . . When we got to Stalingrad, there were 140 of us, but by September 1, after two weeks of battle, only 16 remained. All the rest were wounded and killed. We don’t have a single officer, and the non-commissioned officer had to take over the command of the division. Up to a thousand wounded soldiers, a day are taken back to the rear from Stalingrad. . . .”
Part of Heinrich Malchus’ letter, a soldier, no. 17189, dated November 13, 1942 to Private First Class Karl Weitzel
“ . . . November 19. If we lose this war, they’ll take revenge on us for everything we did. We killed thousands of Russians and Jews with wives and children around Kiev and Kharkov. This is simply unbelievable. But it is for precisely this reason that we need to exert all our strength in order to win the war.
December 6. The weather is getting worse and worse. Clothing freezes on our bodies. We haven’t eaten or slept in three days. Fritz is telling me about a conversation he heard: the soldiers prefer to defect or surrender to captivity. . . .”
Diary entries of Field Gendarmerie Sergeant Helmut Megenburg
“ . . . January 15. . . . In just the last two days, our battalion has lost 60 killed, injured and frostbitten men; more than 30 men have escaped; there is only enough ammunition to last until evening; the soldiers have not eaten at all in three days, and many of them have frostbitten feet. A question looms before us: what should be done? On the morning of January 10 we read a pamphlet that contained an ultimatum. This could not fail to influence our decision. We decided to give ourselves up to capture in order to save our soldiers’ lives. . . .”
A portion of the testimony of captured Captain Kurt Mandelhelm, commander of the 2nd Battalion of the 518th Infantry Regiment of the 295th Infantry Division, and his adjutant, Lieutenant Karl Gottschaldt, January 15, 1943
“. . . The operation to surround and liquidate the German 6th Army is a strategic masterpiece. The defeat of the German troops in the vicinity of Stalingrad will have a major influence on how the war proceeds. Making up for colossal losses in people, equipment and ammunition sustained by the German armed forces as a result of the perishing of the 6th Army will require huge effort and a lot of time. . . .”
Fragment of Lieutenant General Alexander von Daniel’s testimony, commander of the German 376th Infantry Division
From these diary entries as well as letters we can see that by September 1942, when the German Army pushed into Stalingrad, most of the German troops were done and ready to surrender. By that point, it seems that they had realized no weapon or tactic of theirs could defeat the large numbers of the Soviet Army.
The Soviet Army would bomb any supply trucks that tried to reach the 6th German Army pushing into Stalingrad, not only leaving the German soldiers with no food but also no ammunition to keep on fighting. We can see from the letter of soldier Otto Segitiga how dire the hunger of a soldier could be, so much so that they started eating dogs and other animals just to keep fed whilst getting drunk to gain the will to do such inhumane things.
Another important aspect of these letters is the awareness the German soldiers had of where the war was heading. Their admiration of the military tactics used by the Soviet Army does not only show the respect soldiers had for the other side as soldiers but also that there was no way for them to defeat the Soviet Army so the best option was to surrender.
I know that many of you will say that they are German soldiers and that they should not be shown any mercy for what they did and you are right. Just as presented by Field Gendarmerie Sergeant Helmut Megenburg, they knew what they deserved for their actions. The idea is not to look at these entries as coming from German soldiers or Axis soldiers, but as soldiers that were captive in a war, in the sense that they didn’t have a rational choice.
As I mentioned in many of my other articles related to World War II, the Wehrmacht never had the option to not fight for their country as they were too indoctrinated.
The experiences on the Eastern Front described by these soldiers apply to most soldiers of all nations who took part in World War II, but as mentioned before, Stalingrad is considered the worst front for both sides.