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nlike what some historians think, Stalingrad held a lot more value than what meets the eye at first sight. Hitler was aware of the vast resources within Stalingrad therefore his temper tantrum over the performance of Operation Barbarosa was justified. A key to Stalingrad’s importance lies in its industrial might developed during the 1930s. A big country creates high demands that were to be met. Once the war came about, these demands changed making tractor factories produce tanks.

The largest industrial plants

Stalingrad was home to the Dzerhinsky Tractor Plant, at the time known as the biggest factory within the Soviet Union and possibly within Europe. Surprisingly enough, the plant was originally built in the United States and shipped to the Soviet Union. The factory produced the highest volume of tanks in the entire world during the WWII era and it is also considered by many historians as the biggest tank factory in the world.

By the middle of 1942, the Soviets hit a huge struggle as many challenges had risen whilst converting tractor factories into tank factories. Along the Gorky Automotive Plant and the colossal tractor plant which looked more like a small city, Stalingrad consistently met the Red Army’s immense requirements. The Dzerzhinsky plant on its own would have been a major reason to conquer Stalingrad. This would not only mean shutting down the Red Army’s major supplier of war equipment but also the potential for the German Army to expand its own military structures.

Dzerzhinsky Tractor Plant pictured from air, 1942 (Source: Public Domain)

Another major industrial facility homed by Stalingrad was the equally gigantic Red October Steel Works. In partnership with the Barrikady Gun Foundry, the Red October Steel Works would produce most of the Red Army’s weaponry as well as ammunition. These factories were churning out immense amounts of war material. The lesser-known Lazur Chemical Plant was also housed within Stalingrad. This plant was producing phosgene, chloropicrin, and hydrocyanic acid which are all classified as chemical weapons.

Major lines of transportation

Whilst not as significant as Moscow, Stalingrad was a major regional transport hub. It was the origin point of the main rail line to and from Astrakhan. With the west of Don lost to the Germans in 1942, all rail connections between the Voronezh area to the northwest and anywhere south of Stalingrad had to go through Stalingrad or divert far into the northwest in order to reach Astrakhan. As long as the German Army would have held onto Rostov, the only rail line within a reasonable distance from the Caucasus, Tambov or Voronezh would have been through Stalingrad.

Rail map of the Stalingrad area from the 1940s (Source: Public Domain)

The loss of Stalingrad to the German Army would have cut off all major rail lines which were supplying the rest of the Soviet Union with not only military equipment but other common necessities. This would also mean a cut-off to the Volga river traffic, a vital transport avenue that was mainline of transportation for oil as well as lend-lease materials from the rest of the Soviet Union. Air transportation would have been futile as the Caucasus region was swarmed by two German Armies and one Romanian Army with fortified anti-aircraft armament.

Strategic defensive position

The Don river around Stalingrad offered the perfect defensive stronghold against the Axis Armies. The German Army was just scared of how dangerous Stalingrad would be to take, because of the structure of the region, their Blitzkrieg tactic would not function very well. At the same time, the Germans knew that this would be the most heavily fortified and protected city within the Soviet Union. The Don was sixty kilometers away from Stalingrad. There was no way to go around so building a bridge would be the only solution.

German tanks crossing the Don near Kalach 1942 (Source: Public Domain)

In the Summer of 1942, the Germans started building bridges over the Don. The German Army had a weak spot open as they knew that the Red Army could commence a strong offensive and even if they were to destroy the offensive, the factories which resupplied the Red Army were just 40 kilometers away. The German Army knew that any way they would try to approach Stalingrad, they would face heavy casualties.

Taking into consideration all of those factors, Stalingrad was of high importance to the Soviet Union and highly desired by the Germans. From the events that followed to take place, Stalingrad was not worth the military risk the Germans took in trying to seize the city. Justifying that Stalingrad has drained the German Army to the point where they had to retreat for the first time.

Soviet defenders among the ruins of the Red October Steel Works (Winter 1942) (Source: Public Domain)

However, the importance of Stalingrad to the Soviet Union did not stand in the industrial might, the transportation routes or the excellent defensive position it offered, but for the name that it held. By this point, the Soviet population was so indoctrinated by Communism to the point where Joseph Stalin, the leader of the Soviet Union was the most important asset they held and could defend.

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