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Chuikov and Paulus

LAURENCE REES: How would you compare and contrast the different approaches of Chuikov, the Soviet Commander, and Paulus, the German Commander, to the battle of Stalingrad?

ANTONY BEEVOR: Paulus was a weak character in many ways. He was a brilliant staff officer, which everybody has acknowledged, but he was also a huge admirer of Hitler, and actually at the very first battle of Kharkov Paulus had feared that the battle was lost and Hitler had insisted on an attack. In fact it wasn’t Hitler’s plan, but he immediately spotted the opportunity. Paulus realised that Hitler had been right and he’d been wrong and so therefore he followed everything that Hitler told him slavishly. The biggest mistake he made was to follow Hitler’s orders of throwing tank crews into the street fighting in Stalingrad in October in a last desperate effort to capture the town before winter came, and this was the real disaster, because there were already indications and hints through intelligence that the Russians were preparing a counteroffensive. If he had kept some of his tank divisions back from the city as a counteroffensive striking force then there’s a distinct possibility that the Soviet encirclement may not have worked, but he didn’t. And that was why when the encirclement came they had no forces capable of preventing it.