Stalingrad, 1942-1943

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Stalingrad, 1942-1943

In a short four months, in a single large Russian city – Stalingrad – in a bitterly cold winter, two million Russian and German soldiers died during WWII. Just as Moscow was the turning point in Napoleon’s war against Russia over one hundred years earlier, Stalingrad was the turning point in Germany’s war against Russia during WWII. Hitler, after his conquest of most of Europe (1939-1941) ordered Germany’s gigantic army to attack the Soviet Union in Operation Barbarossa. It was late spring and Hitler was confident that his army could easily conquer its large neighbor to the east. The attack was carefully planned – his troops went to war with plenty of airplanes, tanks, and troops. But Hitler did not add one thing into his plans: the Russian winter. Hitler sent his troops into Russia without any winter clothing. He was confident that his army could conquer Russia before winter started. When the fury of the Russian winter hit, the German army was not prepared. The generals of his army asked Hitler to pull back and camp for the winter; he refused and told his army to continue its attack. Hundreds of thousands of German soldiers froze to death at Stalingrad. The bitter winter was a major factor in Germany’s loss of Stalingrad and eventually all of WWII. In addition to the winter, racism was a factor in the Nazi loss. They considered the ethnic group of Russians (Slavic) to be inferior to their own. Many Russian Slavic people were willing to fight with the Nazis to rid themselves of the rule of Joseph Stalin, the harsh dictator of the USSR. Millions of the USSR’s soldiers tried to join the Germans in their fight, but were refused as “inferior” people. The Germans felt they could win the war with the USSR alone. When the Germans lost the battle and turned back toward Germany, it was clear that they were beginning to lose the war. Without the racism of the Nazis, and with several million more soldiers fighting for Hitler, the Battle of Stalingrad and the result of WWII might have been very different.

Modified from:

Pahl, Ron H. Breaking Away from the Textbook


  1. Create a T chart comparing the rationale of the Germans on one side for not using the Russian volunteers during the war and the rationale of the Russians who were willing to fight for the Germans against Stalin. Label the two sides “Rationale of the Russians” and “Rationale of the Nazis.” In your opinion, who has the better argument?

  1. Write a paragraph (at LEAST 4 sentences) describing which factor, the Russian winter or the Nazi racism, which most influenced the Nazi loss at Stalingrad. Describe why you think this factor caused the downfall of the Nazis at Stalingrad more than the other factor.

  1. Bumper Sticker: Create a bumper sticker for the back of a Nazi tank, calling for either the withdrawal of the troops before winter or the inclusion of willing Soviet fighters into your forces.

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