In late 1942, the Nazi propaganda department was preparing for the fall of Stalingrad. They planned to spin it as the final German victory, leaving just some light mopping up before the war was won. Every newspaper in Germany and the occupied countries had been given a list of celebratory headlines. They were just waiting for the green light.
The press division of the occupying forces in Norway were also gearing up for the great news. They commissioned this poster from artist Alexei Zaitzow (1896-1958). A Russian nobleman targeted by the Bolsheviks, he fled Russia for Norway after the revolution. In 1942, shortly after Germany declared war on Stalin, he joined the Nazi Party. An accomplished artist, he made his talents available to the Nazi cause. This poster was to be his most famous contribution. The text reads “Stalingrad is conquered!” The dagger is the standard Wehrmacht bayonet, an image all too recognizable to the population of occupied Norway. 50,000 copies were printed, ready to be plastered everywhere as soon as the news broke. But towards by Christmas 1942 it became evident the German army was being annihilated. In January, propaganda writers instead had to explain the defeat as a “tactical” or “courageous” retreat. Close to every original poster was destroyed. Only a few ones survived because printers pocketed them as souvenirs. One original is owned today by the Norwegian Army Museum.
The Battle of Stalingrad (23 August 1942 – 2 February 1943) was a major battle on the Eastern Front of World War II in which Nazi Germany and its allies fought the Soviet Union for control of the city of Stalingrad (now Volgograd) in Southern Russia, on the eastern boundary of Europe.
Marked by fierce close quarters combat and direct assaults on civilians by air raids, it is often regarded as one of the single largest (nearly 2.2 million personnel) and bloodiest (1.7–2 million wounded, killed or captured) battles in the history of warfare. German forces never regained the initiative in the East and withdrew a vast military force from the West to replace their losses.
The German offensive to capture Stalingrad began in August 1942, using the German 6th Army and elements of the 4th Panzer Army. The attack was supported by intensive Luftwaffe bombing that reduced much of the city to rubble. The fighting degenerated into house-to-house fighting, and both sides poured reinforcements into the city. By mid-November 1942, the Germans had pushed the Soviet defenders back at great cost into narrow zones along the west bank of the Volga River.
On 19 November 1942, the Red Army launched Operation Uranus, a two-pronged attack targeting the weaker Romanian and Hungarian armies protecting the German 6th Army’s flanks. The Axis forces on the flanks were overrun and the 6th Army was cut off and surrounded in the Stalingrad area. Adolf Hitler ordered that the army stay in Stalingrad and make no attempt to break out; instead, attempts were made to supply the army by air and to break the encirclement from the outside. Heavy fighting continued for another two months. By the beginning of February 1943, the Axis forces in Stalingrad had exhausted their ammunition and food. The remaining units of the 6th Army surrendered. The battle lasted five months, one week, and three days.
The calculation of casualties depends on what scope is given to the Battle of Stalingrad. The scope can vary from the fighting in the city and suburbs to the inclusion of almost all fighting on the southern wing of the Soviet–German front from the spring of 1942 to the end of the fighting in the city in the winter of 1943. Scholars have produced different estimates depending on their definition of the scope of the battle. The difference is comparing the city against the region. The Axis suffered 850,000 total casualties (wounded, killed, captured) among all branches of the German armed forces and its allies; 400,000 Germans, 200,000 Romanians, 130,000 Italians and 120,000 Hungarians were killed, wounded or captured.
The Germans lost 900 aircraft (including 274 transports and 165 bombers used as transports), 500 tanks and 6,000 artillery pieces. According to a contemporary Soviet report, 5,762 guns, 1,312 mortars, 12,701 heavy machine guns, 156,987 rifles, 80,438 sub-machine guns, 10,722 trucks, 744 aircraft; 1,666 tanks, 261 other armored vehicles, 571 half-tracks and 10,679 motorcycles were captured by the Soviets. An unknown amount of Hungarian, Italian, and Romanian materiel was lost. The USSR, according to archival figures, suffered 1,129,619 total casualties; 478,741 personnel killed or missing, and 650,878 wounded or sick. The USSR lost 4,341 tanks destroyed or damaged, 15,728 artillery pieces and 2,769 combat aircraft. 955 Soviet civilians died in Stalingrad and its suburbs from aerial bombing by Luftflotte 4 as the German 4th Panzer and 6th Armies approached the city.