Friedrich Paulus (Friedrich Wilhelm Ernst Paulus)
BiographyGuxhagen, Hesse, Germany
Fredrich von Paulus was born in Germany in 1890 and joined the military academy in Berlin when he was around 18. He rose through the ranks from private to officer within 20 years. When World War II broke out in 1939, he was a member of the German general staff, a position he held during the 1940 invasion of France. In September 1940 he was appointed Quartermaster General of the General Staff. In 1942 he was promoted to Colonel-General and given command of the German 6th Army for the summer drive in the south of Russia, which started in June. Read more... was an experienced and capable staff officer, but only an average field commander who was intimidated by his superiors, and who fatally underestimated the Russian strength at Stalingrad, where his men were drawn into savage and costly street fighting by defending Russian troops. On November 19, 1942, the Soviets began a counteroffensive aimed at recapturing Stalingrad and trapping the 6th Army--about 270,000 strong--within the city. Von Paulus followed orders to stay put rather than to break out of the encirclement. For over two months he and his men were forced further and further back into the city by the rapidly increasing numbers of Soviet troops, while their supply lines were slowly being cut off, resulting in severe shortages of everything from food to clothes to ammunition. During the siege Adolf Hitler promoted von Paulus to General and announced that he was awarding him the Iron Cross for his stubborn defense. He also ordered von Paulus to fight to the last man and not to surrender one German soldier or piece of equipment to the Russians. On January 30, 1943, with the imminent defeat of the 6th Army at hand, Hitler promoted von Paulus to Field Marshal, stating that no German commander of that rank had ever surrendered. However, the very next day von Paulus surrendered the remnants of the once powerful 6th Army, now reduced to demoralized, starving, freezing, ill and half-clothed soldiers, to the Russians. He spent the remainder of the war under house arrest near Moscow while his men were marched off to harsh Soviet POW camps, from which only a very few survived. After the war ended von Paulus remained for a few years as a prisoner in the USSR until his release in 1947. Prior to his release he was brought to Germany to testify in the Nuremberg war crimes tribunal, and gave testimony against many of the Nazi officials on trial there. After his release from Russian custody von Paulus, by now sympathetic to communism, retired to East Germany, where he died in 1957.