Gloom and despair in Hitler's bunker
28th December 1942: It is becoming increasingly obvious that nothing can be done to save the 6th Army in Stalingrad - and that a terrible disaster looms
Only the seriously wounded were being flown out of Stalingrad now. Eighteen-year-old Eitel-Heinz Fenske had been the only survivor when a shell hit his seven-man squad on the 12th December (his account is one of several dozen gathered in Survivors of Stalingrad). He had been lucky not to have had his leg amputated after 48 shrapnel wounds became infected - but recovered sufficiently to be placed on the list to be flown out:
December 28th was the day of my transfer-out. We were wrapped in so- called air-transport sacks, three-layered paper sacks about two metres long, so that we did not freeze to death in temperatures of -50°C whilst in the air. So, as one lay, one was put into the sack.
We kept thinking, they've forgotten us. Then suddenly the sound of engines - was it the Russians or the long-awaited medic?
A medic drove several times from our 'steppe-pony's hut' to the airstrip: first the married men with children, then those without, and if there was still any room in the aircraft, the others took their chances. It lasted many hours: our little house was almost deserted, just a few wounded in their packages on the straw.
We kept thinking, they've forgotten us. Then suddenly the sound of engines - was it the Russians or the long-awaited medic? It was the latter!
For those not wounded, there was no such ‘luck’. The gloom that descended upon the troops within Stalingrad, as they realised that there was to be no escape, was echoed at Hitler's HQ.
The Chief of Staff, General Kurt Zeitzler, even put himself on the 'same' rations as the average soldier within the 'Kessel' or cauldron. They were now on two slices of thin bread and a little tinned meat, with watery soup if they were lucky. He did not have to resort to partially decomposed horse meat dug up from below the snow as some men were now doing, as starvation began to get a grip.
Reports were filtering in of incompetence in the delivery of supplies into the besieged city, two planes had apparently arrived with four tons of spices. Perhaps someone thought it would go with the horse meat.
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