From the archive, 1943: The Germans have suffered a humiliation at Stalingrad

Credit: PA News

Today marks the 80th anniversary of the German defeat at Stalingrad. Below is The Spectator’s piece from February 1943, available on our fully-digitised archive.

Now that the battle of Stalingrad has at length closed it begins to be possible to form an estimate of the nature and dimensions of the German defeat. It could scarcely be more complete and unqualified. The capture or destruction of 330,000 men is an immense achievement ; and when the account is swelled by the vast amount of material which Germany has lost this must be recognised as one of the worst defeats German arms have ever suffered. The circumstances that led up to it merely swell its importance. Hitler has made so many boasts with impunity, and either he or his commissioned spokesmen have burned their boats so lavishly that it might be concluded they have nothing further to lose. But the flagrant manner in which Hider associated his name with Stalingrad, and pledged his word that it would fall and be held, list now have repercussions on his prestige. He established himself in power by proving his generals wrong and himself the greater leader. It cannot be thought that this disaster will leave his prestige undiminished.

He has claimed, and it must be admitted, that the long-drawn-out defence has served him well. For long it locked up the through-traffic on three important railways. Until the final chapter it detained about Stalingrad powerful Russian forces with all their equipment. They were not only numerically strong, but they formed part of the elite of the Russian command, and, as the staff quite irghtly left nothing to chance, they were well provided with every sort of material at Russia’s disposal. Of course, it has paid a splendid interest ; but think what that force might have accomplished if it had been flung in west of Voronezh when the enemy dam gave way last week, or on the Salsk front when the German resistance faltered.

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‘Strategicus’ was The Spectator’s war correspondent, a pseudonym for the soldier, journalist and historian H.C. O’Neill.

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