This German battlefield drama, released on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the climactic 1943 defeat of the Nazi forces at Stalingrad in Russia, does not paint a pretty picture either of war itself or of the Germans fighting in that war. Out of hundreds of thousands of previously victorious German soldiers who took part in this most crucial battle of WWII, a mere six thousand ruined men survived. Today, the word "Stalingrad" is used by Germans to signify any particularly ruinous reversal or defeat. In the story, the lives of several German soldiers are followed as they are transformed from arrogant and victorious killers into demoralized cowards who will do anything at all in order to survive, usually without success. Due to a political climate of resurgent sympathy for the fascists at the time this film was made, is was particularly important to the filmmakers to show the soldiers as lacking any shred of military dignity or real courage. Thus, though this big budget, well-made film did well in Germany, its lack of any truly sympathetic characters made it less popular elsewhere.