Enemy at the Gates: The Battle for Stalingrad

Enemy at the Gates: The Battle for Stalingrad

by William Craig


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The bloodiest battle in the history of warfare, Stalingrad was perhaps the single most important engagement of World War II. A major loss for the Axis powers, the battle for Stalingrad signaled the beginning of the end for the Third Reich of Adolf Hitler.

During the five years William Craig spent researching the battle for Stalingrad, he traveled extensively on three continents, studying documents and interviewing hundreds of survivors, both military and civilian. This unique account is their story, and the stories of the nearly two million men and women who lost their lives.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780142000007
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/28/2001
Pages: 480
Sales rank: 279,397
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

William Craig (1929-1997), a native of Concord, Massachusetts, was educated at Columbia University. His first book, The Fall of Japan, was a documentary account of the last weeks of the Second World War in the Pacific. His first novel, The Tashkent Crisis, a thriller about espionage and international politics, was published in 1971. His Enemy at the Gates, an examination of the battle for Stalingrad, marked the culmination of five years of research, during which he traveled on three continents, studying documents and interviewing hundreds of survivors of Stalingrad.

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Enemy at the Gates

The Battle for Stalingrad

By William Craig


Copyright © 1973 William Craig
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5040-2134-0


Parched by the blazing sun of summer, the grassy plain of the steppe country is light brown in hue. From the vicinity of Lugansk in the west to Kazakhstan in the east, the barren tableland stretches more than six hundred miles across southern Russia. Only a few rectangular patches of cultivated farmland, kolkhozi, relieve the desolation and, from them, ribbons of road run straight to the horizon.

Two majestic rivers, running roughly north to south, scour the land. The erratic Don gouges a convulsive path to the city of Rostov on the Sea of Azov. Farther east, the mighty Volga bends more gently on its way to a rendezvous with the Caspian Sea at Astrakhan. Only at one place do the rivers run parallel to each other, and here they are forty miles apart. After that brief attempt at union, they flow relentlessly on their lonely journeys to different destinations, giving but brief respite to the harsh terrain. Otherwise, the suffocating heat of the region cracks the ground and paralyzes life.

It has been that way for centuries on the steppe. But on August 5, 1942, a malevolent presence intruded on the timeless scene. From the west, from the far-off Ukraine, came giant pillars of dust. The whirling clouds advanced fitfully across the prairie, slowing only for short periods before moving on toward the east and the Don River barrier. From a distance they resembled tornadoes, those natural phenomena that plague the open areas of the earth. But these spiraling clouds hid the German Sixth Army, an elite legion dispatched by Adolf Hitler to destroy the Soviet Army and the Communist state led by Joseph Stalin. Its men were supremely confident; during three years of warfare, they had never suffered defeat.

In Poland, the Sixth Army had made the word blitzkrieg ("lightning war") a synonym for Nazi omnipotence. At Dunkirk, it helped cripple the British Expeditionary Force, sending the Tommies back to England without rifles or artillery. Chosen to spearhead the cross-channel invasion, the Sixth Army practiced amphibious landings until Hitler lost enthusiasm for the assault and sent it instead to Yugoslavia, which it conquered in a matter of weeks.

Then, in the summer of 1941, the Sixth Army began its Russian campaign and completely mastered the enemy. It quickly "liberated" several million square miles of the Ukraine and attained a level of professional excellence unmatched in modern warfare. Increasingly arrogant about their successes on the battlefield, its soldiers reached the conclusion that "Russland ist kaputt." This conviction was buttressed by propaganda emanating from the Führerhauptquartier (Field Headquarters of the OKW). For with the unleashing in late June 1942 of Operation Blue, the knockout blow, Adolf Hitler had promised his soldiers an end to the war.

Most Germans on the steppe agreed with their Führer's prophecies of triumph, especially when they noted the slackening resistance of the Red Army. Now, on this stifling August morning, the Sixth Army prepared to spring another trap. Two battered Soviet armies, the First Tank and the Sixty-second Infantry, lay penned up against the cliffs that dominate the western bank of the Don.

Fingers of steel had already reached out on either side of the Russians. Packs of German Mark III and Mark IV tanks, coated with dust, roamed the land. From hundreds of turrets, tank commanders issued curt orders to gunners who swiveled their weapons around to fire on targets of opportunity.

Terrified Russian soldiers, lacking faith in their officers and in the Red Army itself, rushed to join a swelling throng of deserters. The Germans herded them into ragged columns that marched west, away from the sounds of war. The Russians were happy. Capture meant they had survived.

The Germans had little time to care for their prisoners. In regimental and divisional command posts, senior officers drew new lines on maps, wrote out new directives and gave them to couriers who gunned their motorcycles past jammed lines of trucks moving men and supplies ever closer to the Don River. Inside the transports, infantrymen tied handkerchiefs over their faces to ward off the clouds of dirt that engulfed them. Their gray green uniforms were coated with steppe soil; their eyes were bloodshot. They were miserable, but since they were winning, morale was high. Strident marching songs drifted out from the lorries as the motorcyclists roared by.

When the couriers reached the main line of resistance, they handed messages to weary battalion and company commanders, some of whom had not rested for more than thirty days. Their appearance reflected the strain of constant combat: faces were pinched, their once-neat uniforms stuck to their bodies and held the accumulated grime of the steppe. Helmets were a monstrous hindrance, a magnet for the sun that beat on them and sent perspiration pouring down inside their collars.

Still the officers shrugged off the discomfort and shouted new commands to their bedraggled men. The landsers stubbed out cigarettes, shouldered rifles and machine pistols, and fell into the inevitable columns pointing east, always east into the heartland of the Soviet Union.

Contrary to popular belief at the time, German armies were far from total mechanization. In Sixth Army alone, more than twenty-five thousand horses moved guns and supplies. They were everywhere: huge Belgian draft horses, small Russian panjes, not much bigger than donkeys and native to the steppe. Their flanks heaved from exertion, and their eyes rolled as they bucked in fear at sudden explosions. The marching soldiers stepped in the manure and cursed violently at this additional affront to their sensibilities.

But they marched on and quickly reached the edge of no-man's-land where burned and gutted tanks stood mute, their treads twisted crazily and gun barrels snapped off. Amidst this desolation, the troops dug shallow foxholes and waited for the signal to attack.

Russian shrapnel sprayed the newly arrived; human debris collected quickly. Medics loaded the wounded into ambulances, which raced toward field hospitals located safely in the rear. Trucks, tanks, and motorcycles pulled to the roadside to let the "meat wagons" pass, while inside, attendants bent over mutilated bodies strapped tightly onto stretchers.

At the field hospitals, the atmosphere was almost tranquil. Only the gravediggers disturbed the hushed quiet as, behind the hospital tents, they methodically lowered one coffin after another into the ground. Army chaplains intoned appropriate prayers, then an honor guard fired quick volleys into the air. Moments later, a team of men began hammering wooden crosses into the ground at the head of each grave, marking by name, rank, and unit, the soldier who was now buried beneath foreign soil. A passing courier noticed that groups of cemeteries were spreading across the steppe like clumps of wild mushrooms.

Three miles from the front, a battery of 150-millimeter nebelwerfers, those fearsomely squat, six-barreled mortars mounted on rubber-tired gun carriages, was strangely silent. Throughout the morning, as the gun crews huddled in slit trenches to escape the terrible back blast of their weapons, the mortars had spat series of 78-pound high-explosive shells toward an unseen foe. Now out of ammunition, the men were relaxing and their commander, Lt. Emil Metzger, squatted in the shade of a truck. Taking a pad of paper from his jacket pocket, he began to scribble a message to his wife in Frankfurt: "Liebe Kaethe...."

How could he break the news that he had decided to give up his first furlough in two years so that one of his friends could go home in his place and get married? As he pondered the question, Emil paused to rub the stubble of his three-day-old beard. He was proud of what he had accomplished since that day back in 1933 when he had first joined the fledgling Reichswehr for a twelve-year hitch, because he "wanted to do something for the Fatherland." During the invasion of Poland in 1939, Metzger's aggressiveness, his gymnast's quickness and ability to withstand physical hardship, had earned him promotion to sergeant. The next year he and his men had fought across France and were hardened by the horrors they saw on the roads surrounding Dunkirk. He now wore the Iron Cross Second Class, and was an officer. It was a far cry from the apprenticeship that he had been supposed to serve while learning the career of master butcher. Patriotism had not been his only reason for joining the army. His other reason for enlisting was that he was sickened by the killing of animals.

Emil wondered if he should confide in his letter that his curly black hair was suddenly touched with gray. His brown eyes crinkled at the corners as he recalled the dance at which he had met Kaethe Bausch. They had married shortly afterward, in a brief span of time between fighting in 1940, and they had spent only four nights together before he had gone off again to battle. It was difficult to find the proper, soothing words to explain why he was not coming home, but he was sure Kaethe would understand. There was no reason for her to worry. According to the latest rumors the war was nearly over. The Soviet Army had been routed; one more battle should end the killing. In closing, he said, "I should be home for Christmas."

He sealed the letter and handed it to an orderly to mail just as the supply truck pulled up with a fresh stock of shells. Tying a handkerchief across his nose and mouth, the lieutenant ordered the battery to join the line of march. They were headed, Emil had been told, for a place on the Volga River called Stalingrad.

Other men shared Emil Metzger's optimism. At Sixth Army Field Headquarters, thirty miles west of the fluid front, officers read maps and mentally subtracted two more armies from the Russian Order of Battle. It was obvious that when the German tanks linked up, the last escape route to the Don would close and the rabble trapped within the pincers would cease to exist. Now what concerned the strategists was the plotting for the next phase of the offensive: fording the Don and moving forty miles further east to the Volga.

The original plans for Operation Blue did not call for the capture of Stalingrad. In fact, the city was not even a primary target for attack. As originally conceived, the strike force was to consist of two groups of armies, A and B. Army Group A, under the command of Field Marshal List, included the Seventeenth and First Panzer armies; Army Group B, under Fedor von Bock, boasted the Fourth Panzer and Sixth armies, which were to be aided by the Hungarians in support of their rear echelons. The army groups were to move eastward on a broad front to the line of the Volga River "in the area of" the city of Stalingrad. After "neutralizing" Russian war production in that region by bombing and artillery fire, and after cutting the vital transportation line on the Volga, both army groups were to turn south and drive on the oil fields of the Caucasus.

But in July, the Führer himself had subtly altered the scope of the campaign after German intelligence reported that the Russians had few reliable divisions on the west bank of the Volga. Boat traffic on the river had not increased, which indicated that theSoviet High Command was not yet pouring reinforcements into the city from the Urals or Siberia. Furthermore, the Armed Forces High Command (OKW) determined that the defense lines between the Don and Volga were primitive at best, though it appeared that some Russian work battalions were out on the steppe, throwing up hasty antitank fortifications. Thus, Hitler concluded, the Red Army was not about to make a major stand at Stalingrad, and he ordered Sixth Army to seize the city by force as soon as possible.

In his cramped, field-gray tent, the commander of the Sixth Army, Col. Gen. Friedrich von Paulus, was rejoicing quietly. A cautious man, who disdained public emotion, he relaxed for a few moments by listening to Beethoven on a gramophone. Music was the best catalyst for his moody, introspective personality. Tall and darkly handsome, the fifty-two-year-old general was the classic example of a German General Staff officer. Apolitical, trained only to do his job in the army, he left diplomacy to the party in power. He thought Adolf Hitler an excellent leader for the German people, a man who had contributed greatly to the development of the state. After watching him evolve the strategies that conquered Poland, France, and most of Europe, Paulus was awed by Hitler's grasp of the technical aspects of warfare. He considered him a genius.

His wife did not share his beliefs. The former Elena Constance Rosetti-Solescu, Coca to her friends, a descendant of one of Rumania's royal houses, had married Paulus in 1912 and borne him a daughter and twin sons. Both boys now served in the army. She detested the Nazi regime and told her husband he was far too good for the likes of men such as Keitel and the other "lackeys" who surrounded Hitler. When Germany attacked Poland, she vehemently condemned it as an unjust act. Paulus did not argue with her. Content with his role, he merely carried out orders. When, in the fall of 1940, he brought home maps and other memoranda related to the planned invasion of Russia, Coca found them and confronted Paulus, saying a war against the Soviet Union was completely unjustified. He tried to avoid discussing the matter with her, but she persisted.

"What will become of us all? Who will survive to the end?" she asked.

Attempting to calm her fears, Paulus had said the war with Russia would be over in about six weeks' time. She was not appeased. Just as she had feared, the new campaign dragged on past the six-week deadline and into the awful winter of 1941 on the Moscow front. Yet despite the setbacks, despite the horrendous losses suffered by the German Army because of the climate and ferocious Russian resistance, Paulus retained one unshakable belief: Hitler was invincible.

In January 1942, when his superior, Field Marshal Reichenau died suddenly, Paulus finally got his life's desire: command of an army in the field. The two men could not have been more dissimilar. Reichenau, an ardent Nazi, had been coarse in manner and unkempt in appearance. Paulus was impeccably groomed at all times. He even wore gloves in the field because he abhorred dirt; he bathed and changed his uniforms twice a day.

Despite such glaring differences, Paulus had sublimated his retiring manner to the volatile Reichenau. A master of detail, fascinated with figures and grand strategy, he handled the administration of the Sixth Army while Reichenau led charges at the front. In return, Reichenau treated Paulus like a son and always trusted his judgment. The two men agreed on all but one important policy. It marked the great gulf between them in heritage and philosophy.

Reichenau had been a ruthless believer in Hitler's thesis of racial supremacy and had supported the Führer's infamous "Commissar Order," which ordained the killing of all captured Russian political officers without benefit of trial. He even went a step further by introducing within Sixth Army Command what came to be known as the "Severity Order." It read in part:

... The most important objective of this campaign against the Jewish-Bolshevik system is the complete destruction of its sources of power and the extermination of the Asiatic influence in European civilization.... In this eastern theatre, the soldier is not only a man fighting in accordance with the rules of the art of war, but also the ruthless standard bearer of a national conception.... For this reason the soldier must learn fully to appreciate the necessity for the severe but just retribution that must be meted out to the subhuman species of Jewry....

Reichenau's insistence on "retribution" had resulted in monstrous crimes. After the front-line troops of Sixth Army divisions passed through towns, a motley collection of homicidal maniacs came in their wake and systematically tried to eliminate the Jewish population.

Divided into four Einsatzgruppen (special extermination squads) across Russia, they numbered approximately three thousand sadists, who had been recruited mostly from the ranks of Himmler's police forces, the Schutzstaffeln, or SS (Elite Guard) and Sicherheitsdienst, or SD (Security Service). Others wandered in from punishment battalions and psychiatric hospitals. At a training center in Saxony they had been taught to use the rifle and machine pistol and told explicitly what to do with them in the Soviet Union. Dressed in black uniforms, they traveled by truck convoy, and terrified villagers soon referred to them as the "Black Crows."


Excerpted from Enemy at the Gates by William Craig. Copyright © 1973 William Craig. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Enemy at the Gates: The Battle for Stalingrad 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Emma Backe should stick to studying economics, and stop sniping heroic historic snipers; paricularly Russian women. Russia's female snipers were some of the greatest the world has ever seen. One example: Ludmilla Pavlichenko, a history graduate from Kiev University fought at the Battle of Odessa for 21 months. She then fought at Sevastopol for 8 months. She had 309 confirmed kills, of which 36 were German snipers themselves. One of the German snipers Pavlichenko killed had more than 500 French, English and Russian confirmed kills. Buy the book! War may not be romantic; but people like Ludmilla Pavlichenko are certainly inspiring.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i STRONGLY disagree with Miss. Back of what all she says!!! First of all snipers had a very large effect in the war..expecially in Stalingrad. Women did battle if they were skilled in the war, but not many. Vassili Zaitsev killed about or more than 300,000 germans. The book is true and also there was not enough equipment for the men so they had to stand in front of tanks and guns and weopons trying to block them..they were run over and more. if you tried to run..the russians shoot you in the back!!In some war one man can make a difference..in this situation Vassili Zaitsev did make a difference..without him Stalingrad would have been captured..russia would have been in control by germany..world war 11 would have a different ending..there could be no more of U.S. that we live in..it could be different. He did make a difference..and he was only one man..like frank churchill..he made a differece..he was important..snipers are important and you are wrong cause i come from the UCCP and my parents met Vassili Zaitsev and they have his stories of the war.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I storngly disagree with Ms.Backe,one good sniper can do so much to break a soldiers will to fight if he is always afraid to stick up his head for fear of getting it blown off. If there was no real value or need for snipers then the Military would not still have sniper training. During the Viet Nam war large rewards of rice and money were put on the head of one sniper by the name of Carlos Hathcock because the V.C. feared his ability and the impact on their soldiers moral.As for the book Enemy at the Gate i thought it was a very good book and to read such a good book is far better then any movie.
Guest More than 1 year ago
After you finish this book, you will never forget about this Soviet Union hero, Vassili.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an outstanding book. The entire time you feel like you are on the Volga, at the center of Stalingrad. This book is both dramatic and sombering. A must have.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The updated cover makes this book appear to be based on the movie, but reading it you'll find that the 'real' story of the battle for Stalingrad is much more intense. The movie is about 3 pages of the book. Loved the personal points of view, the short vignettes, and the detail from both sides.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book provides an inside look at the Battle of Stalingrad through the words of the soldiers from each side. Instead of a normal history book's telling of which army, division, corps or platoon attacked so-in-so, this book uses actual letters, documents and interviews to walk the reader through the battle and the ordeal that each side had to live through. This book is not an account of the battle between the Russian Sniper, Chief Master Sergeant Vasily Zaitsev and German Sniper, SS Colonel Heinz Tborvald, though they are mentioned a few times. Those interested in the sniper duel should read 'War of the Rats,' which is mixture of facts and fiction, providing a remarkably accurate account of the two snipers.
Guest More than 1 year ago
William Craig made his exelent book one of the best in my mind. I recomend it to all the Stalingrad and World War II buffs. An All-Star read!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I never knew much about the eastern front during WWII. I got this book because I wanted to know more about the Stalingrad battle. This is a very good book. There are periods where it reads slow and fast, but it is a great history of what battle was like on that front. The author's description of the fighting, the weather, and the logistical problems that the German army had really tell the story well. This book is very balanced between the German and the Russian view of the conflict. I would recommend it for the credible work that the author does. This book was not written recently, but has been repackaged due to the upcoming movie. Still, I would rather have the book instead of the movie.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a great book (which has been turned into a movie) about a legendary duel between the top Russian and German snipers in Stalingrad. Lots of details about the battle in and outside of the city. I also recommend Grandfather's Tale-the Tale of a German Sniper.
meegeekai on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Part of a 4 book set. I did not read this particular edition, but read a paperback edition about the time the movie came out. The movie was a good rendition of Stalingrad, but this book is so much more. The fate of the German and Italians is almost incomprehensible . Stalingrad and El Alamein were the turning points of the war and this was way early in the war, the US had just joined at this point.
writerssoul2001 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is by far the best narrative non-fiction WWII history book I've ever read. It expresses the profound drama of combat between Germans and Russians and the feelings, motivations and despair of the participants.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
i hate when people write reviews and have no idea of their history. Vassili Zaytsev has 242 confirmed kills. They say he has more than 400 unconfirmed kills. Not 3,000 or 30,000. Although he did open a sniper school later and trained men and they helped kill 3,000 people. As far as women in the Red Army..women DID play a large role. There were over 2,000 women alone in Rifle Division. That's a large number of women actually picking up a rifle and fighting along side men. Especially when you think back to WWII and what women did in that war [nurses]. Lyudmila Pavilichenko had 300 kills confirmed. If that isnt a women playing a role I dont know what is!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enemy at the Gates: The Battle for Stalingrad is an enthralling look at the chronology of events before and during the battle for Stalingrad. The author William Craig successfully weaves the different viewpoints of both the Russian and German participants in this battle to give the reader an excellent analysis of one of the key battles during the German offensive in to Russia during World War Two. Craig has taken the different testimonies of both officers and enlisted men, as well as official messages, to provide a very in-depth look in to both the tactics and the realities of the battle. It was evident from the beginning of this book that the author tried to take no definite stance on which side was morally or ethically responsible for the atrocities and losses; he shows the best and worst of both sides. This is possibly the greatest achievement of this book. By relying on testimonials and data has allowed Craig to refrain from coloring the novel with his own views. This is perhaps one of the greatest compliments one can give to a historian. Despite the very analytical approach taken by Craig in informing the reader about the battle of Stalingrad, he still manages to convey the raw emotion of the conflict. Craig includes stories ranging from the hopeful and uplifting to graphic and nauseating. These glimpses in to the realities of warfare help lend this piece a feeling of authenticity. These glimpses complement the tactical descriptions in the book to help the reader truly understand the battle for Stalingrad both tactically and psychologically. The tracking of so many different characters in the book reveals the different perceptions of the battle, as well as the war as a whole. Craig excels at taking the reader and putting them in the position of the characters in the story. He succeeds in showing that there was no true right and wrong, black and white, divide. In short, he humanized both sides. Although this book excels in most fields, there are are some lackluster elements. William Craig introduced multitudes of characters, and it was very difficult to keep all of the characters and their names separate. However, as the story progressed it became much easier. Also, there was little flow to the novel. Craig simply jumped from one testimonial to another, and sometimes the reason for the change of topic was not easily tangible. Nevertheless, this is an excellent book. The author clearly succeeds in retelling the battle of Stalingrad. There are some flaws, but they do not keep the brilliance of this book from shining through.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is one of the best about Stalingrad. The sniper duel is only a small part of it, though. There are other books with more details about WW2 snipers, like War of the Rats, and Grandfather's Tale: the Tale of a German Sniper. Enemy at the Gates tells a lot more about things like Italian and Hungarian forces, etc.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A great read about the greatest battle of the 20th century,just don't expect a novel here.This book reads like a history book which isn't a bad thing granted that's what you're looking for.It's just a account of the battle from the people that were in it.Also it has very little incommon with the movie(Zaitsev apears only thrice).But still if you want Stalingrad look no further than 'Enemy at the Gates'.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Read 'War of the Rats' by David L. Robbins. This novel was published a couple of years ago and the two stories would seem to have an uncanny similarity. Granted, they are based on the same situation.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have to start this short review by writing that I did not enjoy this book at all. It has no historical relevance allthough the author tried to make the book give a serious impression. In fact, no woman was ever even considered being a sniper and the situation for these snipers where everything but romantic or glamorous. And these two words, last mentioned, decribes the fictive situation for the snipers in this book. An additional problem with the story is that the author gives to much credit to these snipers. An army does not consist only generals or pilots or -like in this case: snipers, not one person can make such a big differens. In war the individual accomplish very little, but the collective can make anything and everything happen. If someone is interested in the situation for the russian snipers, among others ofcourse, I suggest you find another book -that might be Anthony Beevor's Stalingrad.