"Over the visible traces of the dead, starved, frozen German soldiers will never be a cross, a gravestone will not be hoisted." These lines about the crushing final for the invaders of the Battle of Stalingrad were later written by Field Marshal Erich von Manstein. According to him, only the memory of inexpressible sufferings and death remained.
That was the end for one of the best in the German Wehrmacht, the 6 Army, commanded by Field Marshal Friedrich Paulus. Unprecedented in scale, bitterness, and military and political consequences, the Stalingrad Battle of 2 in February of 1943 ended in a complete victory for the Soviet troops.
Those of the soldiers of 6 Army Paulus, who, after passing through the captivity, returned home and lived to this day, talk about the vision that visited them on Christmas Eve 1942 of the year. There, in the Stalingrad "cauldron", in trenches and dugouts covered in snow, the icon of the Mother of God appeared before their eyes. Exhausted by cold and hunger, embraced by a sense of doom, people initially perceived it as a mystical vision, and some of the officers decided that it was a hallucination.
But the icon really was. At the request of its weakened "camerendeen", it was created by a military doctor from the 16th tank Division Kurt Roiber. He was an intellectual, a well-educated person: doctor, artist, theologian. In the division, he also performed the duties of a pastor. On the back of the Russian geographical map for schoolchildren, Roiber painted the Virgin with the sleeping little Jesus. Virgin Mary holds the baby in her arms, gently clutching it to her to warm. On the perimeter of the charcoal painted icon is the inscription: “Light, life, love. Christmas in the "cauldron". Fortress of Stalingrad, 1942. " Later, the icon of Roiber began to be called the "Stalingrad Madonna."
But even before the colleagues asked Kurt to paint the icon, he, as a pastor, was already internally prepared for this, seeing not only their deprivation, but also the suffering of the local population. “I constantly look into their faces,” Roiber said in his letters to his relatives. - The Russian man remains a mystery to me in everything. You constantly face the Slavic soul as an impenetrable wall of fog. And you never know what you will see when it opens: a soft warm light or even greater darkness. ”
Roiber perceived the soul of the prayers of civilians for salvation. In the prayers of the pastor, according to the recollections of German veterans, the thought was sounded that mankind would learn to distinguish between good and evil. But when he began writing the “Madonna”, his compatriots had to pray for salvation. The ring of encirclement in Stalingrad around the 6 Army shrank inexorably. Tank formations under the command of Colonel-General Herman Goth attempted to break through the Soviet ring and unlock the surrounded Paulus group. But in the course of the Kotelnikovo and Middle-Don operations conducted by the Soviet troops, they were not only stopped, but also far back. 23 December 1942, on the eve of the Catholic Christmas Eve, hope for outside help has collapsed.
At first, Roiber posted his creation in his dugout. Here is how he himself commented on the reaction of his colleagues: “When the door opened and my comrades entered, they stopped dug in reverent silence, struck by a picture hanging on a clay wall, under which a fire burned on a log in an earthen wall. The whole Christmas festival was impressed by the drawing and the words framing it: light, life, love. ”
The dugout, where the Madonna was located, became a place of pilgrimage for German soldiers. And then the doctor and priest Roiber began to go around the other frozen soldier’s dugouts with the icon, in order to encourage them before Christmas.
It would seem that later for tens of thousands of captured German soldiers, Paulus’s army was no longer up to the icon of Roiber. The last of them returned to the postwar Vaterland only in 1956 year. But all these years they remembered her, spoke in the camp barracks during the long winter evenings. The author of the Stalingrad Madonna himself was also in Soviet captivity. He was sent to the NKVD camp No. 97 in the Elabugi area. This is a small old town in Tatarstan, surrounded by forests, on the right bank of the Kama, in 215 km east of Kazan. There, near Elabuga, January 20 1944, Kurt Roiber died. But the self-portrait of Roiber is preserved (his photocopy is in my collection).
And most importantly, the Stalingrad Madonna itself has been preserved. Kurt Roiber's friend, who was injured, was evacuated from Stalingrad, among other wounded officers. It was he who brought the icon from the Stalingrad "boiler" on the last plane to Germany. In 1983, Reiber’s relatives transferred it to the Berlin Protestant church, Kaiser Wilhelm. It is known as the Temple of Commemoration. The icon of Kurt Roiber is recognized as canonical. It was consecrated by church hierarchs of three European cities: Archbishop Volsky and Saratov Pimen and church representatives of cities seriously affected during the Second World War: English Coventry (sister of Volgograd) and German Berlin.
Recently, schoolchildren from Volgograd Gymnasium No. 9 visited Germany. The trip took place within the framework of the Russian-German project “Art in the Trenches”. Volgograd schoolchildren knowledgeably told German peers about the "Stalingrad Madonnas". Its copy is in the Volgograd Catholic Church of St. Nicholas. It was presented to the temple by former Wehrmacht soldiers who came to the city on the Volga from Austria. They also talked about a picture by local artist Vladislav Koval dedicated to the icon of Roiber. It depicts four bowed, haggard German soldiers in a trench. Two in helmets, two others wrapped with scarves. Bowed over Jesus, the Virgin Mary is outlined by a circle that exudes light. It is the light of life, hope and peace.
Stalingrad Madonna. Not in the power of God, but in truth
- Vladimir Timofeevich Roshchupkin