Since the German group was surrounded at Stalingrad, our scouts began to hunt for Paulus, commander of the 6 of the German army.
Underground workers reported that his rate was in the village of Golubinskaya, 120-150 km from Stalingrad. As later recalled the adjutant of the commander, Colonel Adam, the shots of the Soviet tanks, breaking into the German rear and closing the giant ring of encirclement, were completely unexpected for the command of the group and Paulus himself. Fearing to be captured, Paulus, together with his headquarters, left the village of Golubinskaya under cover of tanks at night. As it became known later, General Paulus reached Stalingrad, where he hid in the basement of a former department store. ”
Friedrich Paulus was a remarkable figure among the German generals. Hitler declared that Paulus always accompanies victory. Divisions under his command invaded Poland in the year 1939, and in the year 1940 occupied Belgium and the Netherlands. General Paulus became one of the developers of the monstrous Barbarossa Plan, which, during the Blitzkrieg, envisaged the defeat of the Red Army and the implementation of the total genocide of the Soviet people.
In the summer of 1942, a powerful group under the command of Paulus, developing speed in the steppes, rushed to the Volga, to Stalingrad, where events occurred that would then shake the whole world.
It would seem that until the victory of the German troops was left alone, the last shot. However, the defenders of the city imposed their tactics on the enemy. The battles were for every street, for every house. The divisions of the Red Army fought, being surrounded, when 300-500 meters remained to the Volga. General Paulus was unable to assess the extent of the preparation of the encirclement of the German troops. And now, at the end of January 1943, after all his dizzying victories, he sat, driven into the basement, waiting for his fate ...
Once, as a war correspondent, veterans of Stalingrad called me: “General I.A. Laskin, who is famous for capturing Field Marshal Paulus in Stalingrad. ” I have often met the name of General Laskin in military literature. In the days of the heroic defense of Sevastopol, he commanded one of the divisions, marked by many feats. In Stalingrad, I.A. Laskin headed the headquarters of the 64 Army defending the southern areas of the city. I called the general and we met soon.
“How do we know where Paulus is?” - began his story I.A. Laskin. - In the war a lot of things decide. 30 January 1943, the staff officer of the 38 Rifle Brigade, Fedor Ilchenko arrived at the front line with another order. The fighters of the brigade were heavy fighting, moving to the center of the city. In one of the houses they captured a German major and brought him to Ilchenko. After interrogation, the German major reported that General Paulus was nearby, in the basement of the central square of Stalingrad.
Senior Lieutenant Ilchenko immediately transmitted this information to the brigade commander by radio. A few minutes later the text of this message was in the army headquarters. Fyodor Ilchenko was given the appropriate powers. ”
... early morning 31 January 1943 of the year. In the twilight of the square, rockets were slowly extinguished, illuminating with enormous ruin bulbs, fallen pillars, clotted soot at the edges of the craters with a dead light. Lieutenant Ilchenko, through an interpreter, handed over to the mouthpiece: “We suggest a cease-fire! We propose to begin negotiations on the surrender of the surrounded German army! ”After some time, a German officer came out of the department store building with a stick in his hands, on which a white rag was fastened. Senior Lieutenant Ilchenko, together with Lieutenant Mezhirko, a translator and several submachine gunners, crossed the leading edge and entered the square. No one could know what awaits them beyond the walls of a building that is plunged into the dark.
General I.A. Laskin said: “We have received a message from Ilchenko. He met with representatives of the German command. However, the chief of staff, Schmidt, told him that Paulus would negotiate only with senior officers equal to him in rank. I was ordered to go to the basement of a department store. We were in a hurry. After all, every hour of the fighting claimed the lives of soldiers.
Nobody was going from the defeated General Paulus to listen to any special conditions of surrender. We felt like winners.
We had one goal: to accept the complete and unconditional surrender of the German troops in Stalingrad.
We were driving along a snow-covered road, on the sides of which the sappers set up shields: “Be careful, mines!” The gunfire rang out closer, the sound of machine guns. In the central square, hiding behind a pile of stones, we watched for a while. In the windows of the department store, laid bricks and bags - firing points. As they later learned, the building was defended by three thousand soldiers and officers. Through a translator, we conveyed to the mouthpiece that representatives of the Red Army were coming. However, no one came to meet us. On the square one path was visible, the other approaches to the building, as we were warned, were mined. We decided not to wait for our sappers to work, and along the same path that Ilchenko walked, we moved to a fascist den.
There were five of us, along with me — the battalion commander Latyshev, the translator Stepanov, and two machine gunners. They gave the order - if necessary, cover us with fire. When we approached the entrance to the building, we saw a dense chain of German officers, who, closing the entrance to the basement, looked sullenly at us. Even when our group came close to them, they did not budge. What to do? We shouldered them away from the entrance. Fearing a shot in the back, they began to descend into a dark basement. ”
The group of General Laskin went to accept the surrender on behalf of hundreds of thousands of city dwellers: the Germans broke into Stalingrad as punitive. Bomb strikes and shells destroyed homes, schools, hospitals, theaters, museums.
On the burnt streets in earthen holes, people prayed: "Just not to get to the Germans ..."
Approaching the shelter, where mostly women with children hid, German soldiers without warning threw down grenades. The wounded were shot on the spot, alive, pushing butts, driven into the steppe. Some then got into concentration camps, others - to hard labor in Germany.
“Once in the basement, which was packed with the Nazis, we absolutely did not know which way we should go,” General IA continued. Laskin. - Moved in silence. They were afraid that when they heard the Russian language, the Germans would start shooting at a fright. We walked in the dark, holding onto the wall, hoping that we would eventually run into some kind of door. Finally, they grabbed the handle and entered the lighted room. Immediately noticed on the uniforms of the military were generals and colonel's shoulder straps. I walked up to the table in the center of the room and, loudly through a translator, said to everyone present: “We are representatives of the Red Army. Stand up! To pass weapon! ”Some got up, others hesitated. I sharply repeated the command again. None of them offered any resistance. One after another, the Germans began to give their names. Indoors were the chief of staff, General Schmidt, the commander of the southern group of troops, General Rosske, and other top military ranks.
General Rosske said that Commander Paulus had transferred him the power to negotiate. I demanded an immediate meeting with Paulus. “This is impossible,” said Schmidt. - The commander was raised by Hitler to the rank of field marshal, but at this time he does not command the army. Besides, he is unwell. ” Lightning flashed the thought: “Maybe some kind of game is going on here, and they managed to transfer Paulus to another place?” However, gradually during the interrogation of German generals, it turned out that Paulus was nearby, in the basement. I demanded that the Chief of Staff Schmidt go to him and convey our terms of the surrender of the German troops. According to my order, the battalion of Latyshev followed Schmidt in order to establish our post at Paulus's office. Do not let anyone in and out. At the door stood Private Peter Altukhov.
By that time, our group, authorized to accept the surrender of the German troops, had expanded considerably. We were joined by G.S. Lukin, head of the intelligence department, I.M. Ryzhov, commander of the 38 th infantry brigade I.D. Burmakov and other officers. And also a group of scouts.
We demanded that Generals Schmidt and Rossk immediately give orders to all troops surrounded at Stalingrad to cease fire and all resistance.
General Rosske sat down at the typewriter. In the meantime, our officers began to disarm the German military. In the corner piled into a pile of pistols, machine guns. It was a truly symbolic picture.
We took control of the telephone network, which was located at headquarters, in order to monitor what orders were given to the troops.
General Rosske gave us the text of the order, which he called “farewell.” Here is its content: “Hunger, cold, and the arbitrary capitulation of individual parts made it impossible to continue to lead the troops. To prevent the total death of our soldiers, we decided to enter into negotiations on the cessation of hostilities. Human treatment in captivity and the opportunity to return home after the end of the war is guaranteed by the Soviet Union. Such an end is the very fate that all soldiers must submit to.
Immediately lay down their arms. Soldiers and officers can take with them all the necessary things ... "
After reading this order, I told General Rosske that it should be clearly stated: “To all soldiers and officers to surrender in an organized manner.” Rosske sat down at the typewriter again and added this important indication. However, he told us that they have no connection with the northern group of troops, and the fighting continues there. Before our eyes, the headquarters of the German army began to move. For the last time in Stalingrad. On many telephones, German telecom operators gave hoarse, cold voices to the troops the text of the order.
Following the adjutant Adam, we entered Paulus.
The basement room was small, like a crypt. Having laid his hands behind his back, the field marshal walked along the concrete wall like a hunted beast.
I called myself and declared him a prisoner. Paulus, in broken Russian, uttered, apparently, a long-prepared phrase: "Field Marshal Paulus surrenders to the Red Army captive." What surprised us then was his statement about his uniform. In this situation, he found it possible to tell us that just two days ago he was promoted to field marshal. New form of clothing does not have. Therefore, it seems to us in the form of a colonel-general. Paulus said that he was acquainted with the text of the order of surrender and agreed with him. We asked him about the last orders Hitler gave him. Paulus replied that Hitler ordered to fight on the Volga and wait for the arrival of tank groups. Since we were informed that the headquarters of the German army did not have contact with a group of its troops that continued to conduct battles in the northern regions of Stalingrad, I demanded that Paulus send officers there who would deliver the order of surrender. However, Paulus refused, saying that now he is a prisoner and has no right to give orders to his soldiers.
After the defeat of German troops near Stalingrad in Germany, a three-day mourning was declared. Which historical lesson! Listening to the story of I.A. Laskin, I suddenly thought of such a different fate for two generals - V. Chuikov and F. Paulus.
IN AND. Chuikov commanded the 62-th army. Being all the days of defense in the dugout on the Volga escarpment, he shared many soldiers. He told me at the meeting:
- What were the hardest days? They are even difficult to distinguish in a series of continuous attacks. Once the Germans set fire to the oil tanks, which stood on the banks of the Volga. Burning oil gushed down a steep slope, sweeping away everything in its path. We barely jumped out of the dugout. Sheltered aside, in a ravine. And my hair, as they say, stirred on my head: what if in this situation the command and control of troops would be disturbed? They began to call the commanders of divisions and brigades on the radio, so that they knew that the command of the army remained in place and led the fighting. Our dugouts, where the army headquarters were located, were just one or two kilometers from the foot of Mamayev Kurgan. The German machine gunners used to break through so close that the headquarters security officers entered the battle.
I must say frankly: I, the chief of staff Krylov and a member of the military council Gurov were sitting with pistols in their hands, ready to commit suicide. Do not surrender in captivity!
General Chuikov, commanding the 8-th Guards Army, will reach Berlin. It so happens that at his command post, near the Reichstag, for the first time comes a truce from the fascist Reich Chancellery. He will report on the readiness of the German troops to capitulate, as well as on the fact that Hitler committed suicide. IN AND. Chuikov will be a marshal, twice Hero of the Soviet Union. He will leave a testament: to bury him on Mamayev Kurgan, next to the mass graves of his soldiers.
Field Marshal Paulus in Soviet captivity will have to go through a dramatic way. In 1944, he will join the German Free Officers movement. Even before the end of the war, Paulus will sign a statement to the German people: “For Germany, the war is lost. Germany must renounce Adolf Hitler and establish a new state power that will stop the war and create conditions for our people to live and establish peaceful, even friendly relations with our current opponents. ” At the Nuremberg Trials, Paulus appeared as a witness, citing facts that exposed the leaders of the fascist Reich. By a strange coincidence, he will leave this world through 17 years after the war on the next anniversary of the defeat of the German troops in Stalingrad.
“We rose from the basement,” said IA Laskin. - Paulus and a group of captured generals we had to take to the location of the headquarters of the 64 Army. But then I paid attention to the environment. How everything changed here while we were in the fascist headquarters. There was no German guard around the building. She was captured by our soldiers under the command of Col. I.D. Burmakova. Red Army men stood on the adjacent streets. ” Subsequently, Colonel Adam will write in his memoirs:
“The appearance of the Red Army soldiers seemed symbolic to me - it was the image of the winners. Our soldiers were not beaten or shot. Soviet soldiers among the destroyed city were pulled out of their pockets and gave pieces of bread to hungry prisoners of war. ”
The war in the city looked from the empty eye sockets of burnt houses, from each funnel, from the hillocks of mass graves covered with snow. How to understand this mercy of our fighters to prisoners who were aiming at them just yesterday?
These feelings of human dignity shown by Soviet soldiers are also part of our history, which is as significant as the memory of the great victory in Stalingrad.
In those days, radio stations around the world broadcast messages about victory on the Volga. Many congratulations came to the military leadership of the country and to Stalingrad:
"One hundred and sixty-two days of epic defense for the city, as well as the decisive result that all Americans celebrate today, will be one of the most beautiful chapters in this war of nations united against Nazism."
Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States.
"The grateful hearts of the peoples of the world enthusiastically beat and greet the fighters of the Red Army who won in Stalingrad."
From the Yugoslav newspaper "Borba".
"The victorious defense of Stalingrad is one of the exploits of which history will always speak with the greatest reverence." Writer Thomas Mann.
"Stalingrad - the Order of courage on the chest of the planet."
Poet Pablo Neruda.
The King of Great Britain sent a sword of offering, on which was inscribed:
"Citizens of Stalingrad, strong as steel, from King George VI as a sign of the deep admiration of the British people."
... And in the pictures taken in Stalingrad on that victorious day and stored now in different museums of the world, there were modest and unassuming pictures. Perched on a shell box, a fighter writes a letter. Soldiers gathered around the harmonist. From the earthen cracks the surviving inhabitants take out their children. They stretch from the pots to the field kitchen, which smokes against the background of the destroyed wall. In the snow, the soldiers are sleeping side by side, clasping their rifles. For the first time in six months, no guns are hooting; bombs are not being torn. Silent sounds of war. Silence was the first award to the soldiers of the victorious city. Wounded Stalingrad returned to life.
PS I recently read in “Arguments and Facts” that Paulus in the last years of his life apologized to the inhabitants of Stalingrad. It was strange for me to read a similar message. Only one of our kind in Stalingrad suffered terrible losses - fourteen people died under bombs and shelling. I remember their faces and voices. I saw how bombs were thrown from airplanes on the burning houses of our street. Paulus’s apology appeared only because our fighters eventually drove him into the Stalingrad basement and forced him to surrender. Otherwise, this commander would continue to exert his efforts in the implementation of the atrocious plan "Barbarossa". Later, after returning from captivity, he repeated: “The Russian people cannot be defeated by anyone!”
How captivated Paulus. Eyewitness accounts of the last days of the great battle
- Lyudmila Ovchinnikova