Stalingrad: Hunde, wolt ihr ewig leben? (Stalingrad: Dogs, Do you Want to Live Forever?) (1959)

 

 

Director:     Frank Wisbar. 

Cast:     Joachim Hansen (Oberleutnant Wisse), Ernst Wilhelm Borchert (Gen. Friedrich Paulus), Wolfgang Preiss (Major Linkmann), Carl Lange (General von Seydlitz), Horst Frank (Feldwebel Bse), Peter Carsten (Gefreiter Krmer), Richard Mnch (Oberstleutnant Kesselbach), Gnter Pfitzmann (Wachtmeister Kunowski), Sonja Ziemann (Katja), Gunnar Mller (Leutnant Fuhrmann), Ernst von Klipstein (Ein General), Armin Dahlen (Major Stanescu), Paul Hoffmann (General Codreanu), Karl John (Generaloberst Hoth), Alexander Kerst (Kriegspfarrer Busch).

battle of Stalingrad from German perspective

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie. 

A German soldier reports that there are 1,000 tanks at the Volga River.  The German 6th Army arrived at the end of summer.  The Germans are aware that they cannot resist a tank assault by the enemy.  But Hitler thought these warnings were just more idiotic pessimism.  He orders General Paulus, the commandant of the 6th Army, to take the city of Stalingrad.  Only a few Germans would come back to Germany from Russia to tell the story of the life and death of the 6th Army. 

The city of Charkov, 250 kilometers behind the frontline.  German artillery Lt. Col. Wisse is trying to get his assignment straight with headquarters.  A female Russian translator named Katja is trying to find work through headquarters at the same time.  Lt. Col. Wisse asks her about her situation and she tells him that if she does not get a job by tomorrow, she will be deported to Germany.  The Lt. Col. offers her some help.  He asks his friend Lt. Fuhrmann to try to get Katja a job.  The Lt. thinks that there might be work in the library.  Wisse is heading out for Stalingrad.  Katja shows up at the train station to thank him for getting her a job and to say good-bye.

Wisse is sent to the Rumanians as a liaison officer.  Forty km from Kalatsch, the train is stopped.  The Partisans have blown up the rails.  Wisse gets a ride in a car to his destination.  There he learns that the Russians are cooking up something nasty.  The captain that Wisse is replacing tells him that the Rumanians are good soldiers.  He also warns Wisse of a difficult German officer, Major Linkmann.  Wisse will be working with Sgt. Bosse.    The Sergeant mentions that he wishes that he were leaving along with the captain.  After tonight there will be no more leaves. 

Wisse meets Major Linkmann, who tells him:  "I hope you are smarter than Scherer."  They are part of the 51st Army Corps under General von Steiglitz.  Linkman also says that the Rumanians are bad soldiers with bad training. 

Wisse also speaks with Gen. Kutriano of the Rumanian army.  He tells Wisse that the Rumanians have no tanks, no heavy weapons and no anti-tank weapons. For weeks they have known that the Russians are deploying at full force. 

November 11, 1942.  Gen. Kutriano says that the Russian attack is set for 6 a.m.  He calls headquarters to make sure that the Germans will back up the Rumanians if they get into trouble.  At 2:30 a.m. Lt. Col. Kesselback is ordered to take his Panzers out to assist the Rumanians. 

The battle begins and soon the Rumanians are running away.  Wisse bravely risks his life to blow up a tank by himself.  German tanks arrive.  The Rumanians are told to withdraw.  They retreated all right, but eastward deeper into the Soviet Union.  Wisse clears the way for the soldiers to take out the supplies they need from the supply depot before it gets blown up.  They burn the depot down as soon as Wisse finishes. 

Gen. Paulus says that the scope of the Russian breach exceeds his worst fears.  They are now behind the 6th Army.  Both arms of a pincers movement will meet a Kalatsch.  Almost 250,000 German soldiers are surrounded.  And they are without winter clothes.  Everyone tells Hitler that the Germans at Stalingrad must be allowed to break ranks and bust out of the encirclement.  A catastrophe looms over the 6th Army.  But Hitler tells the men to dig in and stay put.  The defeated Rumanian division sets up in a ravine.  An airlift is tried, but it is too little, too late.  The only hopeful occurrence is that Col. Hooth is coming with his Panzers to set up a new defensive line.  He is then going to head to the relief of the surrounded men.  News arrives that Hooth is now only 50 km away.  But when the Russians break through the Italian lines, Hooth can no long continue for fear of an attack on his flanks.  An appeal to Paulus is made to disobey Hitler and break ranks, but the General refuses. 

The Rumanians are placed under the German 6th Army.  Therefore the liaison officers are no longer needed.  Wisse is given the order to be a battery commander at Stanlingrad.  Bosse and Kramer are to go with him.  General Kutriano pins a medal on Wisse, the Rumanian Order of Courage.  Wisse reports to the third battery and finds out the unit commander is Linkmann, who Wisse does not like.  Linkmann tells him that they only have 4 guns, 38 men, 1 officer and 4 non-commissioned officers.  Wisse meets Lt. Fuhrman and learns that there are only 12 rounds per artillery piece. 

Wisse goes to the forward observatory post in downtown Stalingrad.  Kramer and Fuhrman go with him.  The Russians attack, but Wisse and the men hold.  A thirty minute ceasefire is declared so that both sides can collect their wounded and dead. 

January 10, 1943, the Russians attack in full force.  They breach the German defenses at three points in the pocket.  Linkmann sends Wisse to Gomrak for food,  ammunition and shirkers.  Wisse arrives only to find there is no food and ammunition available.  And food now will only go to the men who are actually fighting. A lot of the German soldiers trying to get out of Stalingrad mob an airplane leaving the area.  Kanowksy tries to get on but has no luck.  He hangs onto the plane, but when he finally lets go, he is hit by a tailfin and killed.  Later Wisse finds Lt. Fuhrman in the hospital.  He also dies.  Linkmann had told Wisse to pick up some shirkers to bring back to fight.  But Wisse discovers that there are no shirkers at the hospital. 

Back at Stalingrad the Russians chase Wisse.  He puts on a Russian hat and coat and gets into a Russian soup line.  There he sees Katja serving the soup.  Katja recognizes him.  She tells him to come with her.  She shows Wisse the way to get to the German side.  She also tells him that there is no hope for a relationship between two people on different sides in the war.  Back with his men Wisse finds that Bosse is dead.  Wisse visits Linkmann and calls his commander a coward and a pig.  He asks Linkmann:  "If you've got the courage, come out with the men and fight."  Linkmann is not interested.  Instead, he tries to give himself up to the Russians.  Kramer sees Linkmann head to the Russians and he shoots him in the back. 

General Paulus remarks:  "So, it's the end."  Paulus is promoted to Field Marshal.  The Germans surrender.  More than 90,000 soldiers surrender, including 26 Generals.  The 6th Army is dead.  The Germans start walking on what proves to be a death march.

Pretty good movie.  I am conflicted.  You do identify a little with some of the good Germans in uniform, but then you keep remembering all the war crimes committed by the Germans.  So you can't be very sympathetic even with the good ones.  One of the major reasons for the defeat was Hitler's idiocy and refusal to let the Germans retreat and reform.  Another reason was the great deficiency of  arms and supplies.  Another factor was the viciousness of the Russian winter and the German lack of winter clothing.  The movie is a bit like those dealing with American General Custer's last stand.  You know the German defeat is coming and you watch as it unfolds.  It still feels good to see the Germans completely and totally defeated.  

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 

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