(1880 - 1957)
Friedrich Paulus was born
in Breitenau, Germany, on September 23,
1890. The son of a treasurer, Paulus attempted
to become an officer-cadet in the German
Navy but was rejected because of his lack
of aristocratic blood. After briefly studying
law at the University of Marburg he joined
the German Army in 1910. The following year
he was commissioned as a second lieutenant
in the 3rd Baden Infantry Regiment.
On the outbreak of the First World War Paulus was adjutant
of the III Battalion. In 1915 he was assigned to the staff of the 2nd
Prussian Jaeger Regiment and two years later to the operations staff
of the Alpine Corps. During the war he served on the Eastern Front and
the Western Front.
Paulus remained in the army after the war and was appointed
adjutant to the 14th Infantry Regiment at Konstanz. In 1922, he was
given general staff training and the following year joined Army Group
2 at Kassel. From 1924 to 1927, he was a General Staff officer with
Wehrkreis V at Stuttgart. One senior officer commented that Paulus was:
"slow, but very methodical". Another complained that he "lacked
decisiveness". However, he continued to be promoted and, in 1930,
he became a tactics instructor with the 5th Infantry Division.
Paulus was promoted to the rank of lieutenant
colonel and appointed commander of Motor
Transport Section 3. In September 1935, Paulus succeeded Heinz
Guderian as chief of staff to the commander of Germany's Mechanized
Forces. Considered to be an expert on motorized warfare, Paulus was
promoted to major general and became director of training for Germany's
four light divisions in 1939. This included two motorized infantry regiments,
a reconnaissance regiment and a motorized artillery regiment.
Just before the outbreak of the Second
World War, Paulus
became chief of staff of the 10th Army. Serving under General Walther
von Reichenau, Paulus took part in the invasion of Poland in September 1939. This was followed by the Western Offensive in Belgium and France.
In June 1940, Paulus was promoted to lieutenant general
and three months later became deputy chief of the General Staff. He
visited General Erwin Rommel in North Africa on a fact-finding tour. His report was highly critical
of Rommel and the Deutsches Afrika Korps but this was not acted upon
by Adolf Hitler.
Paulus then carried out a strategic survey on the Soviet
Union for the proposed Operation
Barbarossa. The main advice given by Paulus to Hitler was to make
sure that after the invasion the Red Army did not retreat into the interior.
For the campaign to be successful he argued for battles of encirclement.
He also suggested that the main thrust should be made north of the Pripyat
Marshes in order to capture Moscow.
In December 1941, Hitler agreed to the suggestion made
by Field Marshal Walther
von Reichenau that Paulus should be given command of the 6th Army.
Promoted to general, Paulus took up his appointment on 1st January 1942
and fought his first battle at Dnepropetrovsk in the Soviet Union. The
advance of the 6th Army was halted by the Red Army and the following
month Paulus was forced to order his men to move back in search of better
On May 9, 1942, General Semen Timoshenko, with 640,000
men, attacked the 6th Army at Volchansk. Paulus, seriously outnumbered,
decided to move his troops back toward Kharkov. The 6th Army was rescued
by General Paul von Kleist and his 1st Panzer Army when they struck
Timoshenko's exposed southern flank on 17th May. Paulus was now able
to launch a counter-attack on 20th May and by the end of the month all
Soviet resistance had come to an end. A total of 240,000 Soviet soldiers
were killed or captured and Paulus was awarded the Knights' Cross.
In the summer of 1942, Paulus advanced toward Stalingrad
with 250,000 men, 500 tanks, 7,000 guns and mortars, and 25,000 horses.
Progress was slow because fuel was rationed and Army Group A were given
priority. At the end of July 1942, a lack of fuel brought Paulus to
a halt at Kalach. It was not until August 7 that he had received the
supplies needed to continue with his advance. Over the next few weeks
his troops killed or captured 50,000 Soviet troops but on 18th August,
Paulus, now only thirty-five miles from Stalingrad, ran out of fuel
When fresh supplies reached him, Paulus decided to
preserve fuel by move forward with only his XIV Panzer corps. The Red
Army now attacked the advance party and they were brought to a halt
just short of Stalingrad. The rest of his forces were brought up and
Paulus now circled the city. As his northern flank came under attack
Paulus decided to delay the attack on the city until 7th September.
While he was waiting the Luftwaffe bombed the city killing thousands
As the German Army advanced into Stalingrad the Soviets
fought for every building. The deeper the troops got into the city,
the more difficult the street fighting became and casualties increased
dramatically. The German tanks were less effective in a fortified urban
area as it involved house-to-house fighting with rifles, pistols, machine-guns
and hand grenades. The Germans had particularly problems with cleverly
camouflaged artillery positions and machine-gun nests. The Soviets also
made good use of sniper detachments deployed in the bombed out buildings
in the city. On the 26th September the 6th Army was able to raise the
swastika flag over the government buildings in Red Square but the street
Adolf Hitler now ordered Paulus to take Stalingrad
whatever the cost to German forces. On the radio Hitler told the German
people: "You may rest assured that nobody will ever drive us out
of Stalingrad." When General Gustav von Wietersheim, commander
of the XIV Panzer Corps, complained about the high casualty rates, Paulus
replaced him with General Hans
Hube. However, Paulus, who had lost 40,000
soldiers since entering the city, was running out of fighting men and
on 4th October he made a desperate plea to Hitler for reinforcements.
A few days later five engineer battalions and a panzer
division arrived in Stalingrad. Fighting a war of attrition, Joseph
Stalin responded by ordering three more armies to the city. Soviet losses
were much higher than those of the Germans, but Stalin had more men
at his disposal than Paulus.
The heavy rains of October turned the roads into seas
of mud and the 6th Army's supply conveys began to get bogged down. On
19th October the rain turned to snow. Paulus continued to make progress
and by the beginning of November he controlled 90 per cent of the city.
However, his men were now running short of ammunition and food. Despite
these problems Paulus decided to order another major offensive on 10th
November. The German Army took heavy casualties for the next two days
and then the Red Army launched a counterattack Paulus was forced to
retreat southward but when he reached Gumrak Airfield, Hitler ordered him to stop and stand fast despite the danger of
encirclement. Hitler told him that Hermann
Goering had promised that the Luftwaffe would provide the necessary
supplies by air.
Senior officers under Paulus
argued that they doubted if the scale of
the airlift required could be achieved during
a Russian winter. All of the corps commanders
argued for a breakout before the Red Army
were able to consolidate its positions. General Walter
von Seydlitz told
Paulus: "A breakout is our only chance." Paulus responded
by saying that he had to obey Hitler's orders.
Throughout December the Luftwaffe dropped an average
of 70 tons of supplies a day. The encircled German Army needed a minimum
of 300 tons a day. The soldiers were put on one-third rations and began
to kill and eat their horses. By December 7, the 6th Army were living
on one loaf of bread for every five men.
Now aware that the 6th Army
was in danger of being starved into surrender, Hitler ordered Field Marshal Erich
von Manstein and the 4th Panzer Army to launch a rescue attempt.
Manstein managed to get within thirty miles of Stalingrad but was then
brought to a halt by the Red Army. On December 27, 1942, Manstein decided
to withdraw as he was also in danger of being encircled by Soviet troops.
In Stalingrad, more than
28,000 German soldiers had died in just
over a month and another 12,000 were wounded.
With little food left, only those who could
fight were given their rations. Erich
von Manstein wanted Paulus to try for
On January 30, 1943, Hitler promoted to Paulus to field marshal.
Hitler was hoping Paulus would
commit suicide; instead, Paulus surrendered
to the Red Army the following
day. The last of the Germans
surrendered on February 2.
The battle for Stalingrad
was over. More than 91,000 men were captured,
45,000 were evacuated by air, and
100,000 died during the siege. The German
prisoners were forced marched into captivity.
About 45,000 died during the march to the
prisoner of war camps and only about 9,000
survived the war.
Paulus was taken into custody
and at first refused to cooperate with the
Soviets. However, after he discovered that
his friends, Erich Hoepner and Erwin
von Witzleben, had been executed after
Plot, he agreed to make anti-Nazi broadcasts.
This included calls for German general
officers to disobey Hitler's
orders. As a result of these broadcasts
Hitler ordered that Paulus' entire family
should be imprisoned in a concentration
In 1946, Paulus appeared
at Nuremberg as a witness for the prosecution. Although
he admitted he had been guilty of a the
attack on the Soviet Union, he refused to
Jodl or Wilhelm
Keitel. Paulus remained in a Soviet
Union prison until being released in 1953.
He settled in Dresden, East Germany, where
he became ill from cerebral sclerosis.
Friedrich Paulus died on
February 1, 1957.
Dr. Alexander Paulus