"Clearing Russia of Fascists"
|"German Field Marshal Friedrich Paulus surrendering at the Battle of Stalingrad, January 31, 1943" (source)|
(For more, see the complete 1943 Moscow reports)
February 9, 1943
The Russian blow at Kursk was so fierce and the threat of encirclement so great that the Germans fled frantically, throwing away quantities of equipment. However, suicide rearguard regiments put up the usual hopeless and violent last stand battles in the streets. (This key German winter base went down with the same amount of bloody fighting that has characterized the Nazi retreat all during the winter offensive.)
Red Star also revealed today that the Russian winter offensive is being spearheaded by special motorized tank units formed and trained since the German attack on Russia nineteen months ago. It was these new, special troops which I saw at Stalingrad three days ago.
(The common characteristic of these troops is the spirit of youth which runs from the highest general to the lowest private.)
Typical of the daring, devil-may-care spirit of these new Red Army forces was the almost comic capture of Field Marshal Von Paulus. Von Paulus, the only German field marshal ever to be made a prisoner of war, was taken after initial negotiations conducted by a 21-year-old Red Army first lieutenant. He is Fyodor Yelchenko, a Ukrainian kid with a grin a mile wide.
I talked with Senior Lieutenant Yelchenko in the narrow, bare room where Von Paulus had his headquarters in the basement of Stalingrad's biggest department store. Only the basement of this big five-story building was intact.
Yelchenko was leading a group of fifteen Tommy gunners (which were part of a force which surrounded) against the German Sixth Army headquarters. The lieutenant (who grinned all the time as he told the story) said that, after the initial artillery barrage on the headquarters, a delegation of German soldiers carrying a white flag approached his group.
"They said they wanted to talk with a Russian big chief who would talk with me," the lieutenant said. "I was the officer in command so I went along. Since Germans are still Germans, I took along two men. The guards led me (through the minefields protecting the building, and I went) into the basement. There, Major General Roske and Lieutenant General Schmidt stood at the table. Von Paulus was lying on a narrow iron bed in another room. They asked what were our terms, and told them they were complete surrender as outlined by our command several days earlier. Schmidt kept running back and forth to Von Paulus as we talked.
"Then they asked if I wanted to see Field Marshal Paulus and ask him any questions. We had settled all the questions, but I had a look at him anyway. He was lying on his bed looking very sad, and he needed a shave, but he wore all his decorations."
Fyodor Yelchenko, a farm boy from Ukraine, is typical of the "Soviet men of decision" who are pledged to clear Russia of fascists.