One of my favorite things about summer is the chance it gives me to read... a lot. My first project this summer was to finish the book 'Stalingrad' by Antony Beevor (a book I was theoretically supposed to read all of in class this semester, but only got halfway through). So, I finished the book today, and wow, what a sad, sad story.
The battle of Stalingrad took place during World War II between 1942 and 1943. Estimates put the number of casualties from both sides at more than 1.5 million. ONE POINT FIVE MILLION. That's incredible. Beevor's book recounts in detail the suffering of soldiers (and civilians) on both sides who beyond the physical violence of war, underwent starvation, extreme frostbite, and debilitating disease.
The part that really got to me was this: Towards the end of the battle it became obvious that the Germans were going to lose. They were encircled by the Soviets, trapped, starved, and severely under-provisioned by fuel and arms. The suffering of both armies, but in this case specifically the German, was beyond belief. A surrender would have saved countless lives of those who had miraculously survived thus far. Hitler's order was this:
"Surrender out of the question. Troops fight on to the end. If possible, hold reduced Fortress with troops still battleworthy. Bravery and tenacity of Fortress have provided the opportunity to establish a new front and launch counter-attacks. Sixth Army has thus fulfilled its historical contribution in the greatest passage in German history."
Surrender out of the question.
How extraordinarily sad.