On January 6 General Konstantin Rokossovsky offered terms of surrender to the surrounded Sixth Army. On January 10, after receiving no response from Field Marshal Paulus, the Soviets began a major offensive. In two weeks they had reduced the size of the Kessel considerably, driving enemy troops inside the city limits. On January 26 the Soviets divided the encircled Germans into a southern pocket in the city center and a northern pocket in the industrial district. Soviet leaders suspected that the army high command (AOK 6) was in the southern group but were not sure whether Paulus had fled Stalingrad in the meantime. On January 28, the 38th Motorized Rifle Brigade joined forces with the 29th and the 36th Rifle Divisions and pushed into the city center from the south.137 In the early morning hours of January 31, German peace envoys approached soldiers from the brigade and led them to a department store basement, where the Soviets were surprised to find Paulus and his staff. The basement had initially been a command post for the 71st Infantry Division under Major General Friedrich Roske.138 In the final days of January, Paulus and the 250 remaining officers and staff of AOK 6139 sought refuge there after abandoning their previous quarters—in Gumrak, an airfield west of the city, and in a ravine at the southwest edge of the city.140 As many of his fellow officers later testified, Paulus had not expressly opposed Hitler’s order that the army hold out to the last man, but neither did he enforce it across the board; rather, on January 29 he informed his unit commanders to use their own discretion.141 Furthermore, Paulus defied Hitler’s command to die a “hero’s death.” As noted in the Introduction, Hitler’s promotion of Paulus to field marshal in the early morning hours of January 31 was a roundabout way of telling him to commit suicide or fight to the death, given that no German field marshal had ever been taken alive. Paulus hardly reacted to news of his “promotion.” When the Soviets entered the basement, they found him lying in a bed next to Roske’s room, where other German officers were negotiating the terms of surrender. Paulus had declared himself a “private” civilian to Roske and his officers, and as such he considered himself not responsible for the German surrender.

On the evening of January 29 Roske reported that the department store could not be held much longer. The army’s chief of staff, Arthur Schmidt, urged the officers not to put down their weapons, since the next day marked the tenth anniversary of the Nazi seizure of power. Nevertheless, on January 30 several German officers made contact with the enemy in an attempt to stop the fighting. That evening Colonel Günther Ludwig, the commander of the artillery regiment of the 14th Panzer Division, was received by the battalion command of the 29th Rifle Division. When Ludwig later told Schmidt about his unauthorized actions, Schmidt did not reprimand him; instead, he asked him to arrange for the Soviets to send peace envoys to AOK 6 the following morning.142

The Stalingrad transcripts are the first published records to show how the Soviets perceived German efforts to broker a cease-fire and how they responded. They document multiple negotiation attempts between representatives from different units on January 30–31 and explain the confusion that resulted when on the morning of January 31 soldiers from the 38th Rifle Division appeared at the same site to which Colonel Ludwig had asked the command of the 29th Rifle Division to dispatch high-ranking peace envoys. The transcripts also reveal the rivalry between the Soviet units, each wanting to be the first to find Field Marshal Paulus. The interviews contain the reports of proud soldiers of the 38th Rifle Brigade as well as several representatives of the 36th Rifle Division, who came up short in the hunt for Stalingrad’s most important trophy.

For most of the Red Army soldiers in the department store basement it was the first time they had seen German officers up close. Informed by Marxist ideas of class, they believed that German generals and officers were all members of the noble elite.143 Only a few seemed to know that the man they called “General fon Paulyus” grew up the son of a schoolteacher. The supreme high commander of the 64th Army, Mikhail Shumilov, also fell victim to this misconception. The first thing Shumilov did when Paulus arrived at his command post in Beketovka was thoroughly inspect the field marshal’s identity card. “The card said,” he later explained to the Moscow historians, “that he served in the German army and was von Paulus—the soldier of the German army von Paulus.”144

The Soviet commanders, most of whom rose from humble origins,145 were impressed by the German officers’ medals and demeanor. Some remarked approvingly on the Wehrmacht’s discipline and the respect the officers enjoyed (the implication being that Red Army officers were not held in the same regard). Divisional Commander Roske—one Soviet eyewitness noted his “Aryan blue eyes”—left a lasting impression when he demonstrated his largesse by offering cigars to the “gentlemen” in attendance before the negotiations.146 But the cultural superiority stereotypically ascribed to the Germans was at odds with the filth and stench Red Army soldiers found in the department store basement. Together with the Nazi racial ideology—Soviet soldiers later recalled that the Germans required their Russian helpers to use separate toilets—this squalor belied the idea of Germany as a great cultural nation.

Postwar German historians have stressed the fatigue and defeatism that prevailed in much of the Wehrmacht during the final days of the battle. The Stalingrad transcripts paint a very different picture, at least in part. Though many captured soldiers called out “Hitler kaput” to avoid being shot, the level of armed resistance the Soviets encountered in “Fortress Stalingrad” was extraordinarily high. Major Anatoly Soldatov explained to historians that at the end of February his soldiers found six Wehrmacht officers in a bombed-out house with a three-week supply of butter and canned food. An NKVD report noted that on March 5, 1943, uniformed German soldiers attacked a senior lieutenant and a sergeant. In a subsequent manhunt Red Army soldiers found and killed eight German officers equipped with pistols and a radio transmitter.147 The Romanians, Czechoslovakians, and Greeks who fought alongside the Germans expressed relief when captured; for them the war was over.148 By contrast, many of the Germans, particularly officers, were cavalier, confident that the Germans would eventually prevail.

The interviews below took place on February 28, 1943, and after. Some occurred in Beketovka, where the main headquarters of the 64th Army was located, others at the department store in Stalingrad. The interviews were conducted by Esfir Genkina and transcribed by stenographer Olga Roslyakova.


38th Motor Rifle Brigade

Major General Ivan Dmitrievich Burmakov149—Commander of the 38th Motor Rifle Brigade

Lieutenant Colonel Leonid Abovich Vinokur—Deputy commander for political affairs

Major Alexander Georgievich Yegorov—Chief of the political section

Major Anatoly Gavrilovich Soldatov—Deputy chief of the political section, secretary of the brigade party committee

Captain Ivan Zakharovich Bukharov—Political section instructor

Captain Lukyan Petrovich Morozov—Deputy commander for political affairs, 1st Battalion

Junior Lieutenant Georgy Grigorievich Garin—Reconnaissance platoon commander

Junior Lieutenant Nikolai Petrovich Karpov—Executive secretary for the Komsomol, 3rd Battalion

Junior Lieutenant Nikolai Alexandrovich Timofeyev—Reconnaissance company commander

Senior Sergeant Alexander Ivanovich Parkhomenko—Scout

Junior Sergeant Alexander Semyonovich Duka—Mortar man, 2nd Battalion

Junior Sergeant Mikhail Ivanovich Gurov—Submachine gunner and signaler

36th Guards Rifle Division

Major General Mikhail Ivanovich Denisenko—Commander of the 36th Guards Rifle Division

Guards Colonel Ivan Vasilievich Kudryavtsev—Deputy commander for political affairs

Senior Lieutenant Fyodor Ivanovich Fyodorov—Commander of the 6th Battery, 65th Guards Artillery Regiment

Command Staff of the 64th Army (which includes the 38th Mortar Rifle Brigade and the 36th Guards Rifle Division)

Lieutenant General Mikhail Stepanovich Shumilov—Commander of the 64th Army

Major General Konstantin Kirikovich Abramov—Member of the Military Council

Colonel Matvei Petrovich Smolyanov—Chief of the political section

Captain Yakov Mironovich Golovchiner—Chief of the political section’s 7th Section150

Major General Ivan Dmitrievich Burmakov (Commander of the 38th Motor Rifle Brigade): We were recently held in reserve for the 64th Army. We were held back for two weeks. Even during this great breakthrough151 they still held us in reserve. We all resented it. Several times I asked the commander to send us in, but he said: “I know what I’m doing, don’t tell me what to do! You get ready to fight!”

Lieutenant General Mikhail Stepanovich Shumilov (Commander of the 64th Army): The front commander ordered us to turn to the northwest again and attack along the Volga together with 62nd Army and clear the city as far as the Long Ravine. [ . . . ] We cleared the enemy out of all parts of the city south of the Tsaritsa River. But we didn’t manage to cross the Tsaritsa. It’s such an excellent natural barrier—tall, steep banks. Stone buildings housed the German army’s officer and gendarme regiments, who had taken up the defense. Those units offered strong resistance, and we weren’t able to get past the Tsaritsa that day.

We had to reorganize the attack some other way, and in any case we’d taken so many losses—riflemen, for the most part—that we needed reinforcements and reserves. They sent in the 38th Motor Rifle Brigade, which was ordered up from the army’s left flank. They were to advance along the railroad and force their way into the city center, thereby assisting the attacking forces of the 29th and 36th divisions on the left flank. The 36th Division and the 38th Motor Rifle Brigade managed to cross the Tsaritsa. Nine tanks crossed and started moving toward the center of the city.

[ . . . ] We didn’t have enough manpower, so we brought in the artillery. We’d bring twenty to forty guns—even the 122mm guns—to fire directly at a single building. After one salvo we’d tell the Germans to surrender. If they refused, we’d fire another one or two before telling them to surrender again. Two or three salvoes were usually enough. Their strongholds in the buildings fell one after the other.

Captain Lukyan Petrovich Morozov (Deputy commander for political affairs, 1st Battalion): On January 28, 1943, I got a field order. [ . . . ] We took it to every soldier, held party and Komsomol meetings, spoke individually with the men. As part of our daily party-political work we studied comrade Stalin’s Order no. 345 and his report from November 7. Every soldier knew both of these. This improved their iron military discipline, increased the authority of their commanders, and raised the men’s self-awareness.

We held a meeting right before the battle. After the meeting forty-six people applied for party membership. These were the best of our soldiers and officers, everyone who was going into combat. The men and officers had an incredible desire to fight. They all felt responsible for the motherland, knew their duty, and were proving their love and devotion to their country.

Junior Sergeant Alexander Semyonovich Duka (Mortar man, 2nd Battalion): On January 28 we got our orders: engage the enemy in the streets. Before we went I applied for party membership. I’d joined the Komsomol in the 178th Regiment. At nine o’clock we got our battle orders. We set out, taking a break on the way. The one thing I wanted was to know that if I died, I’d die a Bolshevik. So I decided to apply for candidate membership. I handed in my application to the party organization, to Lieutenant—I can’t remember his name. During that break there was a party meeting. I wasn’t the only one who was applying—eight of us from the battery were nominated. Two of them died in combat. Demchenko and Kovalenko were accepted, as were platoon commander Lieutenant Borisov, Tsukanov, Sergeant Kutyanin, and someone else. All this was around noon. It was freezing cold. They said that we were going into battle that day, that we would prove ourselves in battle and show the Germans they couldn’t come any farther into our land. It was our duty to crush them. When I became a party candidate I thought: I must prove myself in this battle. It all happened so fast.

Major Alexander Georgievich Yegorov (Chief of the political section): The enemy was holding the train station. They’d had it for a long time. The walls there were quite thick. It required a lot of painstaking work with the Katyushas and the big guns. They did all right there. And with this we were able to wedge ourselves fairly deep into the enemy formation. The buildings were being defended by very small groups, on the order of seven or eight men. They were using grenades primarily. Our men were given plenty of revolvers. [ . . . ] Before that they didn’t have revolvers—and they were really happy to be given them. Sometimes, especially when you’re in a pitch-dark basement, a submachine gun isn’t much use. It was so hard to work out who was who that the men had to keep close, elbow to elbow, so they wouldn’t shoot each another at night.

The fighting went on day and night.

The darkness helped us because the Germans didn’t know how many were in the basements. Brave men like Karpov, Duka—the excellent secretary of 2nd Battalion’s Komsomol organization—they’d give the order right away: Company, open fire! Sometimes he’d pretend it was a whole battalion. The German soldier doesn’t know Russian very well, but he knows the words for company and battalion. Duka took about five hundred prisoners. Major Soldatov assisted him. Together they took hundreds. They just burst into the basement, and there the Germans all were, stuffed inside like sardines. They could have literally torn Soldatov and Duka to pieces. But what the Germans heard was a strong, determined voice that would allow no challenges or delays. And if they resisted, Duka would toss in a few grenades and create such a panic that they’d all be howling. They would bring whole groups of them out of the cellars at once. Once, though, not far from the candy factory they gave us a bit of a thrashing. Not too bad, but a thrashing all the same. There was a fair number of them, about a thousand men, and we had fifteen. So we decided to attack at night with more noise and more shooting. [ . . . ]

We had two mortar battalions. Once they got the call saying that some building needed to be shot at, two mortar battalions would start shooting. Can you imagine it? It demoralizes the enemy. And on top of that, they all yell “Hurrah!” Especially at night, and in the basements. When a few of you yell “Hurrah!” at the same time, it makes an impression. The men did it like this: they’d block off a building, take out the firing points. The Germans inside were in a terrible situation. They fought until they were destroyed, until there was no floor, no ceiling. There’d be nothing left but a steel girder. So then the German would get up on that and start shooting. You had to work out which window he was shooting from.

Junior Sergeant Alexander Semyonovich Duka (Mortar man, 2nd Battalion): One night we went to battalion HQ, and the commander gave us a mission. Our 4th Company needed to take this big building and push the Germans out from the basement.

We headed over there. Five men were sent up front with Lieutenant Borisov, our platoon commander. We came up close to the building we were meant to attack. We had to find the 4th Company. The platoon commander sent me to look for them. I found them. I asked for Lieutenant Nechayev, the company commander, and said twenty-five men had come to help him. He showed me that we should take this building from the street, clear it, and then attack the other building from another street.

The Germans were happily throwing grenades from there. Lieutenant Borisov was wounded in the mouth by a shell splinter and had to go to the aid station, so I was the ranking soldier in the mortar battery. There were four of us. We started attacking the building before dawn. We ran across the street to one corner of the building, and from there we went around the other side. We saw someone running away. We kept creeping our way along the wall. We made it. I noticed smoke coming from a chimney and realized they must be in there. Then a second man ran out. Once we were in the courtyard, we [ . . . ] entered the basement and told the Germans to surrender. I yelled: “Geben Sie Wachen!”152 and told them to surrender. They said nothing. Not a word. We decided to drop a grenade down the chimney, but then this old Russian man came out from the basement. He said there were civilians down there. There turned out to be eleven Germans, five wounded. We told them to put down their weapons and come out. And they did start coming out one by one. The wounded stayed where they were. Then we searched the basement. They’d brought their wounded to this basement. The woman living there helped them: she cleaned their wounds, bandaged them. While the prisoners were leaving, I was covering my guys in the basement. Then this guy runs out from a corner and shoots. He killed Sklyarov, our machine gunner, and another soldier who just collapsed there on the basement stairs.

It was just starting to get light outside. We needed to get around to the other side of this submachine gunner. We took turns running—first one, then the second, then the third. Eleven of us got across, one was wounded. It was bright by then. We were spotted by a machine-gunner in another building and he began firing on us. The rest of the men couldn’t get across. So there was just eleven of us. We couldn’t move forward.

The company commander told us to wait for support. Then our artillery started shooting. The shells were exploding close by, about twenty meters. Then they started hitting another building. We were under such heavy fire that we couldn’t move, couldn’t do anything. We were in a crater and kept our heads down, while the Germans stayed in the building. A wall came down here, and over there. We had nowhere to go. On one side there was a sniper at a window, and they were shooting from the other side too, and the machine gun was shooting from a third side. We sat like that for twelve hours. Then an infantry company went around and into the rear of the building where the machine gun was firing from. Then a tank rolled up. We started to watch its assault. We waited for the tank to come close enough that we could get behind and move forward. It started to attack another building. We watched as it took one building, moved prisoners, then took another building, until finally they took the building where the machine gun was. We watched the whole thing. Then we started climbing our way out, up one wall and down the next. [ . . . ] When I ran over there, I saw that the building where the machine gun was had been occupied. [ . . . ] Then I saw someone run out from another corner of the building with a revolver. I aimed at him. He jumped back so fast I wasn’t able to shoot. I went right over, submachine gun at the ready. I went inside. I could see carts and horses. Then these Germans were pushing toward me, shouting. There were also Russian prisoners. I told them to get out of here. These Red Army men got out: “Oh, how we’ve been waiting for you!” said one. Another said: “There’s a hole over there, then some stairs going down to a cellar. That’s where their officers are.” Then a major came running into the courtyard—I don’t know his name—along with Komsomol member Chadov, a senior sergeant. Chadov was busy with something down where the drivers were, and I was here. The major came over to me. I said: “There’s Russian prisoners here.” He said: “Bring them over.” I told them three times to come, but they didn’t. God knows what they were doing. I cocked my weapon. I went down the stairs, and one prisoner tells me: “Don’t go, don’t go, they’ll kill you.” He grabbed a revolver from someone and came with me. I went down to the basement and opened the door. It’s packed full, Germans everywhere, and this was a large basement, two rooms. I could see they’ve got batteries and headlights from cars, but at the time it was dark. I told them to turn on the lights. At first, when I entered, I shouted: “Bang!” They said: “No bang, no bang!” I stood by the door and told them to turn on the lights. They got them going from the battery. I told them: “Get ready to go.” They started tying blankets together. I started sending them out. They started handing over their weapons: they’d bring one from over here, one from over there. I said: “Leave them next to me.” They started piling them up. I started searching them, not all of them, but there were sergeant majors there, and I searched them, sent them through quickly. There was more than a thousand of them. The other room was also packed full. I started moving them out of there. We got every one of them out. The major collected them, and I put the weapons together in a pile, and the major sent them out. I went out into the courtyard, where there were cartridges on the ground, drum magazines from submachine guns. I picked them up too and put them in a pile. There was a lot of revolvers, semiautomatics, and other weapons. When I went into the courtyard they could’ve easily killed me—Bang!—and that would have been that. I went into the courtyard—nobody there. I was all on my own. The major was gone too, and so was the commissar. I went out to the street. I passed the corner where my battalion was attacking, but they’d moved on. While I was trying to work out what was going on, I saw our commissar lying dead in the street. I didn’t know where our battalion had gone.

Captain Lukyan Petrovich Morozov (Deputy commander for political affairs, 1st Battalion): At around 5:00 P.M. on the 28th we took possession of two large buildings: the candy factory and a brick building next to the railroad, not far from the crossing. We took those two buildings. The Germans had turned them into a stronghold.

We lost ten men that day to machine guns and antitank rifles.

Seventy Germans were killed, and six hundred taken prisoner. We captured weapons: light machine guns, a lot of grenades and submachine guns. There was a large basement in the candy factory. We took that basement. There was a German hospital there. We took two hundred prisoners. That basically became our command post. When we occupied that basement, up on the right was this big white brick building, just enormous, shaped like the letter L—this was one of the enemy’s central strongholds. They’d placed heavy machine guns in the basements, cut embrasures in the walls. You couldn’t see any of it from outside. The square was open to fire from multiple directions. To take the building we’d have to launch an assault at night. On the night of the 29th we tried several times to take this L-shaped building. Nothing came of it. By the end of the 30th the building was ours, and we’d taken some eight hundred prisoners. We did lose men there, not just us, but other battalions. We had to surround them on three sides. [ . . . ] On the night of the 30th our battalion reached the theater. We took a German radio installation and four hundred prisoners. We got vehicles, supplies, and weapons—submachine guns, pistols, rifles. There were a lot of prisoners there. I captured prisoners myself, along with a representative from the special department. In one basement I captured six hundred men, including a Romanian general, a divisional commander. It was just the two of us. We didn’t have any men. We had to put them in columns. We got this crowd of soldiers into formation, and then some captain came up and led them away.

Major General Ivan Dmitrievich Burmakov (Commander of the 38th Motor Rifle Brigade): How did we take prisoners? My orders were that they shouldn’t wait until all of them started laying down their weapons. If a hundred men put down their weapons, then they’re off to the rear. And just one man to go with them. It’s a shame to waste manpower. At that time I had around eight hundred prisoners, and by the 30th it was around two thousand. I was already sick of them. I had to use an antiaircraft division, but what you can you do?

Junior Lieutenant Nikolai Petrovich Karpov (Executive secretary for the Komsomol, 3rd Battalion): By then we were attacking during the day. We’d take a building with only ten men, and we’d drag out three or four hundred prisoners. The thing was, all the Germans were in the basements, though they’d keep half a dozen snipers on the roof shooting with submachine guns.

Captain Ivan Zakharovich Bukharov (Political section instructor, 38th Motor Rifle Brigade): Urban combat is very difficult. Every rock is out to get you. The Germans would set up machine guns, camouflage them, and shoot. And to top that off they put snipers on the rooftops. We’d have to run across streets, squares, alleys. We were taking casualties, but not like they were.

Here’s what they’d do: They’d settle down in a building, place their machine guns, their sniper-submachine gunners, their mortar men. The rest would stay in the basement to keep down their losses.

And we in turn would place our own submachine gunners and antitank riflemen, who did a good job of destroying those firing points. All of them had grenades. As soon as there was enemy fire, we’d hit that location and take it out. Our men advanced whenever the shooting died down. We were throwing a lot of grenades into basements.

Senior Lieutenant Fyodor Ivanovich Fyodorov (Commander of the 6th Battery, 65th Guards Artillery Regiment, 36th Guards Rifle Division): We started smoking them out of their bunkers. One time we pulled out fifteen Germans and took one aside. We gave him a smoke and sent him back into the bunker to bring out whoever else was there. He went and brought out more people. We didn’t do anything to them, but when the others poked their heads out of the bunker, we shot at them.

Lieutenant Colonel Leonid Abovich Vinokur (Deputy commander for political affairs): How were we fighting? We’d shoot five or six times with the big guns and then send an envoy. If they didn’t surrender, we’d shoot another five or six times, send the envoy. If that didn’t do it, we shot at them again. Then they’d start to line up and beg to be taken prisoner.

Major General Ivan Dmitrievich Burmakov (Commander of the 38th Motor Rifle Brigade): By the evening of the 29th we’d taken around eight hundred prisoners. That evening we captured a German hospital. There were wounded officers, including a regimental commander, a major. This got reported to me. I went right away to ask him where the German group headquarters was located.

There were rumors that Paulus had been flown out.

I asked the major where Paulus was.

He said that Paulus wasn’t there.

Somehow that major was dead by morning. Apparently he’d been strangled by our men.

The fighting continued at night. At dawn on the 30th we started to approach and surround the Regional Party Committee building, the building of the Regional Executive Committee, the City Theater, and the buildings to the east. We fought during the day, we fought at night.

Shumilov called me: “Why have you taken so little?” Denisenko has just called to say that he’d taken the theater and the gardens.

“Comrade General, how can Denisenko have just taken the theater? I was in the gardens by the theater and took eight hundred prisoners.”

Sure, maybe Denisenko wasn’t to blame. It’s not easy to know where you are if you don’t know the city.

I knew the city, and most of my men knew the city, but these new people didn’t.

The fighting continued. We’d take a building and capture 150–200 men. The enemy offered fierce resistance. There were two hundred men defending this building while I was attacking with four hundred. We were all firing away at one another. Their resistance on the 30th was unbelievable. I said: “We’re going to need to take every last building.”

But we had some tricks up our sleeves. We started sending back prisoners. I telephoned all the battalion commanders, the deputies for political affairs.

I told them if they captured small groups of Germans, twenty or so, then they had to send them back. If the Germans in a building won’t surrender, and you’ve already captured a hundred of them, then take twenty or thirty and send them back. That helped.

Major Alexander Georgievich Yegorov (Chief of the political section): We took 1,500 prisoners, picked out twenty of them, talked with them a bit and then sent them back. Generally, if we captured a single soldier—or two or three—we sent them back, saying that we weren’t going to take them one by one. If you want us to take you prisoner, then get your comrades and come on back. I’ve got to say, this strategy got some fairly good results. [ . . . ] There was a directive from the army political section that called on us to speed up our shipments of prisoners. It was in connection with this that we launched an assault on the night of January 29–30, at midnight. I left the command post with Colonel Vinokur, the deputy brigade commander, and we arrived just as they had finished occupying the basement of the Univermag department store, which was their hospital. There were about fifty men there: wounded, sick, frostbitten. There were majors, captains. One major asked for my revolver so he could shoot himself—obviously a true believer.

Our men were in high spirits. On January 30 we took the train station. When we were inspecting our units before the attack, we knew for sure that they’d had the right training. These men were ready to fight, they were burning with desire. There was perfect certainty that the task they’d been given the day before would be completed.

But there was still no word on Paulus. We heard he’d flown out. Then, when we started getting large groups of prisoners, the officers told us that Paulus was in some basement with his staff. This of course had its effect on our men and officers. It would be something to capture him. We dragged out a group of two thousand prisoners and brought them to where our command post was. There we carried out a search, sorted them, and pulled out the officers. We got confirmation from this group. Paulus was here in Stalingrad.

Major General Ivan Dmitrievich Burmakov (Commander of the 38th Motor Rifle Brigade): The long and short of it was this: we fought, and we fought, and we fought. In the evening [of January 30] I was told that the building of the Regional Committee, the City Theater, and the adjacent buildings—which we had already surrounded—had agreed to negotiate their surrender, but they asked to wait until 6:00 A.M. Ilchenko reported this to me. I said: “We’ve got to start immediately!” We sent another messenger. They wouldn’t agree. I wondered what the problem was. They asked to hold off until 4:00 A.M.

“Let’s give them until 4:00 A.M.”

I thought this would be a good chance to lie down, seeing as I didn’t get any sleep the night of the 28th–29th. We’d fought all the 29th and all the night of the 29th–30th. We had to get a little rest. After all, there’s a limit to a man’s strength.

General Shumlilov called: “Sector 101 has been taken.”—This was where Paulus was—“Denisenko is there!”

I couldn’t take it. I said: “Comrade General, allow me to send my representatives.”

I went to check for myself.

Denisenko’s men were one and two hundred meters to my left and rear. How could they have taken Sector 101? The unit on my right was occupying Sector 100. I think to myself, it’s not possible that they took Sector 101. But if they did, then it’s all the more important we attack these buildings.

Major General Mikhail Ivanovich Denisenko (Commander of the 36th Guards Rifle Division): Then the 38th Motor Rifle Brigade was sent to our area. [ . . . ] It’s hard to know who it was exactly that surrounded Paulus’s headquarters, but the 38th Brigade got the credit.

Guards Colonel Ivan Vasilievich Kudryavtsev (Deputy commander for political affairs, 36th Guards Rifle Division): Our division captured about six thousand men. Paulus was captured by some new reserve unit that had only just entered combat.

Captain Yakov Mironovich Golovchiner (Chief of the political section’s 7th Section, 64th Army): On the night of January 31 the 29th Division entered negotiations with Colonel Ludwig, the commander of the enemy’s 14th Panzer Division. At first we spoke via radio, and then he came to our headquarters. We agreed that at 6:00 A.M. on January 31, 1943, the remnants of the 14th Panzer Division would be lined up on the square by the theater, where they would surrender to us. During the negotiations he mentioned that he could mediate negotiations with Field Marshal Paulus, who was in the department store. Now it was clear where Paulus was. Until then this was not confirmed. When this was reported up the chain of command, orders were issued to find Paulus’s headquarters right away and to send our people there.

That night the 97th Brigade of the 7th Corps did the following: they got a group of captured German officers and told them to go with our man to Paulus’s headquarters and begin negotiations. It was a long time before they agreed. But after the meeting with the officers, two men were chosen: Plate and Lange. They and Lieutenant Vasiliev, chief of intelligence for the 97th Brigade, set off for Paulus’s headquarters. They got there, negotiated, and agreed that at 10:00 A.M. they would try to make all the legal arrangements. So he could prove that he’d been there, they gave Vasiliev and pistol and a Nazi banner.

That same night, representatives of the 29th Division (they have a training battalion and a training regiment) were also negotiating with Paulus’s staff.153 At that time I was at the 20th Division’s headquarters. When they told me that these negotiations were going on, I went over there. I arrived at the department store building by morning. When I arrived, the building was already surrounded by elements of the 38th Brigade. The sentries outside were from the 38th Brigade, and the ones inside were Germans. As it happened, the 106th Regiment of the 29th Division had gone around the department store and kept going. The 38th Brigade came up and, in orderly fashion, surrounded the building where the headquarters was.

Major General Ivan Dmitrievich Burmakov (Commander of the 38th Motor Rifle Brigade): So, by 4:00 A.M. on January 31, 1943, I’d taken 1,800 prisoners. There were about two hundred officers among them. Then Ilchenko called to say that three of them were battalion commanders. I said: “Question them immediately and find out where their Stalingrad group headquarters is.”

Ilchenko called back: “They’ve confirmed that von Paulus and his headquarters are in the center of the city, in a basement on the other side of Red Square.154

I said: “Sector 101.”

Right then I called the battalion commanders and deputies and had them get this message to every soldier: locate and encircle this building. I knew that the department store and the hotel were around there somewhere. I told them there was a square. The Square of the Fallen Warriors. Surround this building immediately. It won’t be easy getting in there. Bring in the mortars, open fire, and let’s make quick work of it.

Captain Lukyan Petrovich Morozov (Deputy commander for political affairs, 1st Battalion): We destroyed their last stronghold on the approach to the department store and captured forty-eight men, including one translator. I was where the barricade had been built. When our men had occupied the building and started moving the prisoners, I went straight to the battalion and followed the left flank toward the department store. Everything around the gateway was mined. We brought in a heavy machine gun, antitank rifles, submachine gunners. 3rd Battalion and another battalion were advancing on our right. We’d basically surrounded the entire block. Artillery was firing from behind the Volga. When we got to the theater the artillery stopped because we were close enough to the enemy that we might get hit too.

I stayed with the 2nd Platoon. The commander of 1st Company, Captain Savchuk, ran up to me and said an officer was requesting a senior officer for negotiations. “I told them I was an officer, but they said, ‘No, we need someone from the high command, go find them, talk to them!’” I went straight to that translator we’d taken with that group of forty-eight and then went to the officer. I said I was the brigade’s deputy chief of staff. The translator relayed this to him. He said they needed someone higher up. I told him that I was authorized by our high command. He said there were generals there. Well, all right if that’s how things stand! That’s when Ilchenko arrived: a senior lieutenant, deputy chief of staff for operations. The brigade commander was having him lead the battle. He was always with us at the battalion, and he gave instructions to our battalion and some others as well. I said: “Well then, comrade Ilchenko, shall we negotiate?” Then Ryabov, an agent from the Special Department, arrived. We set off. We were warned: this area is mined, don’t stop. We walked right up to the entrance of the department store basement. There were lieutenants with rifles and submachine guns, and also some machine guns. Someone came out, a duty officer or something. They announced the visitors, saying that we were here for negotiations. We didn’t have a white flag, nothing like that. Then Captain Bukharov appeared out of nowhere. He’d already gone in when we were in the courtyard. The Special Department agent left two men in the courtyard. Then Captain Rybak came. Three people went inside: me, Lieutenant Ilchenko, and Captain Rybak, and I suppose Ryabov too.

Captain Ivan Zakharovich Bukharov (Political section instructor, 38th Motor Rifle Brigade): We knew that Paulus was there, we knew that he hadn’t been flown out. We’d heard that they had a plane circling all the time, we heard all kinds of things. Paulus’s headquarters was in this district. We knew that much, but I wasn’t sure which basement he was in. Then this German officer comes out and asks which one of us is the ranking officer. We say we’ve got captains and a senior lieutenant. We told them they should surrender. We said they were surrounded, and that if they didn’t give up we’d throw everything we had at them, that we’d eliminate them down to the last man. He said that he wasn’t the one to decide such things, that there were men higher up than him. And then he tells us that Field Marshal Paulus is here. We went up to the main entrance. It was me, Morozov, Ilchenko, and Ryabov, the representative from the Special Department. We went in. The courtyard was packed full of Germans. When we entered the courtyard, we were stopped near the entrance to the basement. The chief of staff came out with a captain who spoke excellent Russian, even knew Russian sayings: “God only knows,” “my darling,” things like that.155 He said that Paulus required that we report to higher authorities, officials who could carry out negotiations. We discussed this. We agreed that Ilchenko and I would go and the others would stay. We went to call our battalion command post and the brigade. They told us to leave and report this to the higher authorities. Then I went back to the building. They already knew me there. There were only five of us, not too hard to remember. So I was there, but our men were attacking all around. We were ready for anything. To tell you the truth, it was dangerous being there with them. Any bastard could get you. But at the time it didn’t even occur to me to be worried.

Captain Lukyan Petrovich Morozov (Deputy commander for political affairs, 1st Battalion): General Schmidt, the chief of staff, said that they were concerned for the life of the general, that someone might run in and throw a grenade, so he asked if someone would remain at the entrance. Ryabov went. Bukharov was sent to get in touch with brigade headquarters. Now it was just Ilchenko, Captain Rybak—the deputy commander of 3rd Battalion—and me. We started negotiations with Schmidt in a colonel’s office that was next to Paulus’s room. The general and a translator came in. The translator spoke good Russian. Schmidt asked for Ilchenko’s ID. Schmidt said: “May I see your papers?” Ilchenko had said that he was the brigade’s chief of staff. But the position listed on his papers didn’t correspond with what he’d said. They said they had to have a representative of Rokossovsky, the army commander. Ilchenko said: “I’m the chief of staff now. You’re all worried about this small detail, but what matters is the larger picture: what you now have at your disposal, the position you are now in and the position we are now in.” But they still demanded a more senior representative. Then Ilchenko said: “I’ll go radio for a colonel.” He left with Rybak. I stayed in the room with the general and the translator. The general would ask the translator a question, and then the translator would ask me: “Is it true that since they introduced new rank insignia, the Red Army will be known not as the Red Army, but as the Russian Army?” I said: “No, that’s not right—the Red Army is not being renamed the Russian Army.” I asked him if he knew whether the Red Army was having success on all fronts. “Yes, we’ve heard that on the radio lately.” He asked, among other things, about my rank and position. Then he said: “Do not think that our German army is weak. We are still strong, still very powerful, and we are equipped with first-rate weaponry.” I said that, if we were defeating such first-rate weaponry, this was all the more a credit to the Red Army. He said: “You have probably also had the experience of being surrounded.” I said that my division had never been encircled. I hadn’t personally been in such a situation. He said that they were getting a hundred grams of bread, that they had no other food. Then he asked how long our winter would last. I told him there would be severe frosts until mid-March or so. Then I asked him a question: “You think the German army is so civilized, especially your army staff, but why do you live in such filth?” He replied: “We’ve been stuck inside lately because of your Katyushas and airplanes. That is the explanation for everything.”

They had something like fifty kilos of sausage in there. They pounced on those sausages like jackals: officers pushing soldiers out of the way, soldiers pushing officers.

General Schmidt said through his translator that they were concerned for General Paulus’s safety. “We’ll give you a captain and ask that you remain by the doors.” I said: “Certainly.” And I left.

Major General Ivan Dmitrievich Burmakov (Commander of the 38th Motor Rifle Brigade): We opened fire, and then Ilchenko called me out of nowhere to say that Paulus’s aide had asked for the most senior officer for negotiations.

“And you’re not important enough to negotiate?”

“No,” he said, “they only want to talk with someone from army headquarters.”

“If they don’t want to talk, tell the bastards we’re going to throw everything we have at them! Their building will be isolated. Try to get the negotiations started, but if it comes down to it we can talk with grenades, semiautomatics, and mortars.”

Colonel Ivan Burmakov

Colonel Ivan Burmakov and his political deputy, Colonel Leonid Vinokur, in front of the Stalingrad department store, February 1943.

“Understood!” said Ilchenko.

I called Shumilov right away and told him what was going on. He said: “Stay at your command post for now. Colonel Lukin and chief of staff Laskin156 are on their way.”

That was when Vinokur rushed in. “I’m off!”

“Get going already! Paulus needs to be captured. Do whatever is necessary as the situation unfolds.”

I’ve always been able to rely on Vinokur.

He drove off, and I stayed to wait for Lukin. Just as Lukin arrived I got a call from Ilchenko: “We’re already in the department store basement. They’re asking for a cease-fire.”

I said: “Go ahead and instruct them to cease fire, and I’ll call Shumilov.”

We stopped firing, and I called Shumilov: “Paulus is asking for a cease-fire. He’s also going to order his men to stop.”

Shumilov said: “I’ll send out the order right away.”

But during the negotiations there was still some activity from airplanes and mortars.

Lieutenant Colonel Leonid Abovich Vinokur (Deputy commander for political affairs): When we were surrounding the department store our command post was by the train station. Once we had them surrounded, we decided to ask for the German garrison’s immediate surrender. We kept shooting a few shells at a time, and we sent an envoy with a white flag. We knew from prisoner interrogations that the 6th Army’s headquarters was there, as was Schmidt, the chief of staff. Ilchenko went as our envoy with a white handkerchief and demanded that they surrender. He went with a translator, one of theirs. They refused. Then the brigade commander ordered three shots from our mortars. The building was already surrounded by all our battalions. Including the 1st Mortar Battalion. They let off three warning shots. We did, of course, do a lot of damage ourselves. The Regional Committee building, for example. We had shelled it very heavily. About fifteen minutes later their representative came and asked for a representative from our high command. Ilchenko told me this on the phone right away. And I headed over there right away. I told Burmakov: “You call Shumilov’s staff. I’m going over there now.”

Junior Sergeant Mikhail Ivanovich Gurov (Submachine gunner and signaler, 38th Motor Rifle Brigade): They called us from the battalion and said our guys had the building surrounded. Me and the colonel and the political chief got in a car and went over there. We were on our way, and then—Bam!—we’re out of gas. It was around nine or ten in the morning, maybe eight. We had a spare can in the trunk. We filled her up and drove over there fast. Then we stopped the car, didn’t know where to go. We found some of our men who showed us the way.

Major General Ivan Dmitrievich Burmakov (Commander of the 38th Motor Rifle Brigade): Shumilov gave his order and said that Laskin was coming and that I was to go with him. I waited for Laskin. They called me for the third time. Our men had stopped shooting, but the 57th was still at it. Paulus had asked for a cease-fire. And Vinokur still wasn’t there yet. Again I called Shumilov, asked him to make sure the whole front got the message so the 57th would stop shooting. Until that got through to them. [ . . . ]

The telephone operators were sitting all around us listening, and then they were hearing from everyone: “Paulus! The 38th has got Paulus!” Where? In the basement of the department store. I waited for Laskin.

Lieutenant Colonel Leonid Abovich Vinokur (Deputy commander for political affairs): I got there. Our forces had encircled the entire building. Ilchenko explained the situation. I came because they’d asked for a representative from high command. I brought along Ilchenko, Yegorov, Rybak, Morozov, and a few submachine gunners. We entered the courtyard. We didn’t have any white flags. I wasn’t about to go there with a flag. We went into the courtyard. As you can see, there’s the entrance to the basement. They had submachine gunners posted in the courtyard. They let us past, but kept their weapons at the ready. I’ve got to admit, I was thinking to myself: Now they’ve got you, you fool. There were machine guns at the entrance, where some of their officers were standing.157

Junior Sergeant Mikhail Ivanovich Gurov (Submachine gunner and signaler, 38th Motor Rifle Brigade): There were German soldiers there, all of them armed. Not many of our guys at all. Ours were down the way a bit. Ilchenko brought us here. We went into the basement. It was almost all officers speaking German. And of course I don’t know a word of German. All of them up top were armed, and the ones down in the basement all had guns too.

Major Alexander Georgievich Yegorov (Chief of the political section): At seven or eight in the morning on January 31, Lieutenant Ilchenko called to say they’d started surrounding the department store building, which, according to our intel, was the location of Paulus’s headquarters. There was fierce shooting from their side. The building was nearly encircled. We were going to try to negotiate. The deputy commander [Vinokur] said: “Let’s go.” We got in the car and headed over there. We couldn’t get all the way there in the car, so we got out and walked. When we got to the department store, Lieutenant Ilchenko told us that one of their staff officers had come out and said that Paulus wanted to negotiate, that he wanted someone who could speak on behalf of Rokossovsky. Ilchenko was too junior to negotiate with them. I went with the colonel and posted sentries—both us and them had sentries standing there. We put together a group of officers, eight men. We had grenades in our pockets. We went into the courtyard. It was full of men and officers, lots of them. They stopped us at the entrance to the basement. It was impossible to go any farther. The colonel said: “Negotiations are all very well—but we need to be careful. Make sure that the entire building is surrounded. I’ll go.”

He walked over and introduced himself as an envoy from Rokossovsky. They asked him for identification. But his papers said that he was Rokossovsky’s deputy, a political officer. The Germans questioned this. “These papers,” he said, “are out of date. Rokossovsky himself authorized me to conduct negotiations under the terms dictated in the ultimatum. Is that clear?”

What was clear was that this question had already been answered, given the hopeless position they were now in. They gave in. Colonel Vinokur had a report sent back immediately. We had about a battalion’s worth of men. The report was sent to the brigade commander and army headquarters.

Lieutenant Colonel Leonid Abovich Vinokur (Deputy commander for political affairs): Through the translator I demanded the immediate presence of a representative from their command. The representative came and asked who we were. “I am the representative of the high command, the political department.”

“Are you authorized to negotiate?”


He left and passed this on. After a few minutes they brought me in. It was dark in there. They had a generator from the power station. There was a large radio station in their headquarters. When I went in I said to the adjutant through the translator: “Where are we going? How much farther?”

The adjutant took me by the arm and guided me. I had four submachine gunners with me, plus Ilchenko. The gunners stayed in the corridor.

Junior Sergeant Mikhail Ivanovich Gurov (Submachine gunner and signaler, 38th Motor Rifle Brigade): I went with the commissar to where Paulus was.158 Then they all got up and said something. The commissar answered them. I don’t remember what he said. Then he told me to leave the room. I had an F-1 grenade in my pocket and a German Browning. I thought, “What can I do if they come at us?” The officers couldn’t see me. One of them came out of the room, with a medal of some kind, said something. Then he went down to the other end, reported something, and went back to the room. He did this a lot. I figured it wouldn’t be a good thing if I tried to stop him. My first thought was that maybe he was running away or something, maybe the commissar would be angry if I let him go. I decided not to do anything. Let him do what he wants, I’m just going to stand here quietly.

But I was still worried about the commissar. I could tell that they were up to something. I wasn’t concerned for myself, I don’t value my own life very highly.

Lieutenant Colonel Leonid Abovich Vinokur (Deputy commander for political affairs): I went into the room with Ilchenko, we didn’t have anyone else. A round table, four chairs, a radio, two telephones. I was greeted by Roske: a short man, very thin, maybe forty-four or forty-five. I could see he was nervous. General Schmidt was sitting on his left. The entire staff was there. When I entered the room, Roske stood up and greeted me. I answered him.159 He asked if I wanted to take off my coat. I was wearing a sheepskin coat. Even though it was warm in that room, I declined. I said it didn’t feel too warm. Then we started talking. Roske let us know right away that he was not negotiating on behalf of the field marshal. Those were literally his first words.

Paulus’s room was dark. The filth was unbelievable. Paulus stood up when I went in. He hadn’t shaved in a few weeks and he looked defeated.

“How old would you say he is?” Roske asked me. I said:


“No. He’s fifty-three.”

I apologized. The room was filthy. He was lying on the bed when I went in. He immediately got up when I got there. He’d been lying there in his coat and cap. He handed over his sidearm to Roske. That was the same weapon I gave to Nikita Sergeyevich [Khrushchev] when he arrived.

Roske did most of the negotiating. Their telephones were working all the time. People had been saying that all their lines had been cut. But none of that was true. We took the telephones ourselves. The station still worked, so we passed it along to the front. The Germans wrote that their garrison was destroyed—none of that was true. [ . . . ] Roske looked very sharp and clean. He made the best impression of the group.

They didn’t say why they were surrendering. On the contrary, he said that they could still resist, that they still had men. But he didn’t want any more bloodshed, and in his order he said that he came to this decision because some units had betrayed them.

Chief of staff Schmidt, who looked very neat and tidy, ran back and forth between Roske and Paulus, keeping him informed of the course of the negotiations. I didn’t get a good look at him—he was there for three or four minutes at most. All of Roske’s other aides looked neat. All of them with dozens of medals. When I asked them to surrender their weapons, Roske gave me his own, Paulus’s, and Schmidt’s.

Major Alexander Georgievich Yegorov (Chief of the political section): I was in the room with Roske. How did he behave? They knew how to behave. It wouldn’t be right to say that his will was broken. He had a great sense of dignity.

Captain Yakov Mironovich Golovchiner (Chief of the political section’s 7th Section, 64th Army): Roske was sitting at the table facing us. On his left was General Schmidt, Paulus’s chief of staff, sitting on a bed. Facing them was the translator and another one of Paulus’s aides and his entire retinue, all in full dress. Vinokur and Lukin were sitting across the table from Roske, and Colonel Lutovin, the deputy political chief, was standing on the left.

What was Roske like? A tall and slender man, with Aryan blue eyes, a rather decisive character, very energetic. He was wearing a general’s dress uniform with a Knight’s Cross around his neck. He made an impression. Roske was the commander of the 71st Division.

When we all sat down, he took out a pack of cigars and offered them around. The negotiations had begun.

General Schmidt is tall. He doesn’t have a very lively face. I’d even say he looked weak-willed. He’s maybe fifty-four, dark-haired, unshaven. Paulus could have done with a bit more life in his chief of staff. He kept trying to get one over us during the negotiations, but it didn’t work.

Captain Lukyan Petrovich Morozov (Deputy commander for political affairs, 1st Battalion): [ . . . ] It was the colonel who finally captured General Paulus. Before then they had been asking for a cease-fire. “Who’s shooting?” Comrade Bukharov took a car. A German officer was sent with him. They drove around the district trying to get people to stop shooting. Wherever they had a guard posted, we put three or four men with a machine gun. They warned us that they had mines all around: “We’ll all get blown sky-high.” But that didn’t scare us. When the colonel arrived, the whole courtyard was crowded with our men and commanders. General Laskin came later. He arrived when all of this was being wrapped up. Later Paulus and his staff were put in cars and driven away.

Captain Ivan Zakharovich Bukharov (Political section instructor, 38th Motor Rifle Brigade): Then I saw him coming—comrade Vinokur, the political chief. They told him that Paulus had asked for our men to cease fire during the negotiations. Our guns and mortars were still shooting. Paulus asked for our men to stop, and in turn they were telling their own men to stop. Major Yegorov sent me: “Comrade Bukharov, get going.” The Germans provided us with an officer, their translator, and a car and driver. We got in the car and drove off. They all had revolvers. We hadn’t taken them. I was alone with the three of them. We hadn’t thought to take a white flag. We just got in and left. We drove past our troops, and they stayed put. Then this one machine-gunner fired at us. I told the translator to stop the car. I said: “What are you shooting for?”

“Comrade Commander, we thought these Germans had captured you and were taking you away, so I started shooting.”

I said: “You’ve got to stop shooting. We’re telling people to cease fire because of the negotiations. We’re trying to find a peaceful solution without more bloodshed.” We drove over to Major Telegin. We talked, and he came with me. We left the car and went on foot. I said that we’d been instructed by army headquarters to call a halt to our attacks and cease fire because they were in negotiations with Paulus. I drove around to the other units. They had a garrison located in two buildings by the railroad. We drove there. The strip of land between our units and theirs was under fire. But we made it through unharmed. The German major called for an officer and gave him the order. Their sentries were standing behind a wall. I didn’t go down to the basement. There were a lot of soldiers. There were machine guns, submachine gunners—and everything was aimed at us. He gave the order to cease fire. Of course, on both sides there were individual snipers and submachine gunners who kept shooting, because they hadn’t all gotten the message. After that we drove back.

Major General Ivan Dmitrievich Burmakov (Commander of the 38th Motor Rifle Brigade): Vinokur began the negotiations. Vinokur organized a tour of the units. He sent Bukharov to take care of that. Bukharov said that he’d been put in a terrible position. I told him I understood the dangers. This is war. He went in a German car with two German officers and a driver, and he was sitting in between them. Our guys would see this, think that he was either a prisoner or a traitor, and shoot. [ . . . ] Laskin arrived. We went over there together. Our men were everywhere. There were loads of soldiers in the courtyard. We got there around 7:00 or 7:30 in the morning—probably more like 7:00. We went into the basement. It was dark.

A crowd of soldiers was in the courtyard. I didn’t like this, all of them were armed. I said: “Would you stop here, I have orders for you.” I told Laskin to break up the group of German soldiers in the courtyard immediately and to get some of our own submachine gunners in there in case things got out of hand, so we had them covered from all sides.

We went to see Roske. We were introduced, and comrade Vinokur reported the terms of surrender he had given them. Laskin, as the senior officer, gave his consent. They had requested that they retain their sidearms. Vinokur had allowed this. But Laskin did not agree—they needed to hand them over. Then we went to see Paulus. We were told in advance that Paulus was no longer in command. When we arrived we said that the Northern Group should surrender. Vinokur said he’d already brought this up. They said that they had nothing to do with the Northern Group. As of yesterday the field marshal was no longer in command. The group was now operating independently. The field marshal had given up his command, and no one had authority over them.

I went out to the courtyard to check that the submachine gunners were all still at their posts. I could see that my instructions had been carried out. Our men divided them into groups. They divided them into three groups, each of which was surrounded by our men.

Other units had arrived by then. But the very moment the negotiations had been concluded, the 29th Division launched an attack to the right of the hotel building. Our men in the department store yelled out: “What are you doing?”

No one had been shooting, but the Germans had gone onto the attack, opening fire and almost getting some of our men in the department store.

People started gathering on the square.

Even before they had an order I immediately took steps to disarm these groups. But they didn’t want to hand over their weapons without an order. I asked Roske to order them to hand over their weapons immediately. He gave the order. They began handing them over. I tried to get rid of these people as soon as possible. I told my men: “If you’ve got a group together, take them away, push them back to the rear!”

I asked Roske how many men they had. Around seven thousand. I said: “Write out an order to the units and send it out.” The translator told him. The order was typed up. The translator came. Roske stood up and asked me through the translator to let his officers to distribute the order. Their officers were afraid of our submachine gunners. I told the translator: “Tell the general that his request will be granted. My officers will be here soon, and they’re not afraid of going to the Germans’ units.”

Before that he’d asked Vinokur to have our representatives drive out to the units. Vinokur said: “Fine, let them go.” He gave him Bukharov.

Major Alexander Georgievich Yegorov (Chief of the political section): The deputy commander wrote a message telling me that, according to Roske, there were eight hundred people somewhere around here, including two generals, who wanted to give themselves up. I was to go with this German major and get them.

In came the German major. “I’ll be damned,” I said to myself. “This area has nothing to do with us, it’s the responsibility of the 36th Guards.” And in any case, going on your own to take generals is a bit frightening. I thought, this is a German major, and who knows what might enter the head of a German major at the wrong moment? I decided to take all the grenades I could and go with him. I thought: I’ll let him go ahead, I’ll walk behind. He took me to a bunker. One of our guys was standing there. “What’s going on?” “We just came here, we’ve been under fire. I didn’t know what to do. If I move they’ll kill me. I don’t know where my commander is.”

“Why are we waiting for the commander? I’m going in.” I let the major go ahead of me. He started yelling something in German at the door, probably so he didn’t get shot. We went into the basement, and the smell was terrible. I saw one of our own dead soldiers. I went in.

I asked them who shot this soldier. We kept going. There were three dead German officers. Then, a bit farther on, I could hear some rustling. The major opened the door, and there were four girls, good light, and a wine bottle and orange peels on the table, tinned meat, sausage. Two of the girls were completely drunk. I asked who had shot the soldier. He’d been fully armed. One of them pointed: “That one, the fool!”

“What for?”

“Because he killed those three.”

I kept my talk with them brief. I asked the one who still had her wits about her whether anyone else was there. “Nobody, just the three officers.”

I looked and saw no generals, just regular officers. Officers were of no use to me when I needed generals.

When we left, the major showed me to another bunker. All right, I thought, let’s go. It was about two hundred meters to the second bunker. It was full of soldiers from the 36th Brigade. Nothing for me to do there. So I didn’t find the generals. We went back. And that was the end of my mission.

Major General Ivan Dmitrievich Burmakov (Commander of the 38th Motor Rifle Brigade): They distributed the order and reported back. A German officer saluted me and said: “Mission accomplished.” He gave his report through the translator. He asked that we wait until eleven o’clock to allow Paulus to gather his things. Paulus’s officers and staff would be going with him. I said to Laskin: “I ask that you arrange for the Southern Group staff to stay in place until the handover is complete. I would leave Roske until he gives us the complete surrender, and anyway I need to check out the mine fields.”

I asked Roske to call for his mine layers. They had it all on the map, and I asked that their mine layers clear all of it. Vinokur told me later that the building itself was mined. Roske told Vinokur that, whatever happened, he [Roske] was responsible to the Führer for the safety of the field marshal. Anything untoward and we’d all get blown up. I asked that they defuse all of it immediately.

He [Roske] asked that he be given his own submachine gunners and his car. Laskin said that the field marshal would be going in my own car, so there was nothing to be afraid of. I said I’d have a car with submachine gunners going just in front of us. Then we set out. We led all of the soldiers out. They showed us the minefields and cleared the mines. The thing about the building being mined was not true. The corridors were mined, and the entrance was mined, but the building itself wasn’t. They entered all the minefields on the map, and at 5:00 P.M. Roske told me that he was ready to go.

Vinokur brought him from his HQ. He’d asked for two cars, and I had two jeeps. I put him in my car and his officers in a truck. We were polite the whole time.

By nine o’clock we’d essentially ended all combat operations. Paulus’s capture had completely ended the war in Stalingrad, at least in the southern part of the city. The surrender was immediately followed by a kind of pilgrimage. Representatives of the local authorities were arriving. There were tons of weapons. The men started taking them. By that evening you couldn’t find a soldier without two or three revolvers.

Many of the Germans had simply dropped their weapons and gone out onto the square unarmed.

Roske asked for and received permission to say farewell to his officers. I put together a group of officers.

By the way, one of the men there was the city commandant, a Russian. He’d also been in the basement. Roske’s translator said that there were a number of officers, including the city commandant, and also eight women, all in the basement. One of the women started crying and asked if she could bid farewell to the commandant. They came to me.

“Comrade Colonel, this bitch would like to know if she can say good-bye to the commandant.”

“Is she one of ours?” I asked.

“No, anything but, though she is Russian. The bitch even has the nerve to weep.”

That really made me mad. All the other Russian prisoners were packed off either to the special section or to the NKVD.

I’d say Roske is about forty-six, forty-seven. Paulus is older. Roske has five children.

What was Paulus like? He seemed like a cornered animal. He was obviously very unhappy about all that had happened. He was thin, unshaven, sloppily dressed. I didn’t like him. His room was filthy. Roske’s room was more or less clean. That’s where Schmidt was, the chief of staff.

When Paulus was leaving, he asked to be taken out through the back gate. As he was driving away, he looked around with such a stupid, pathetic smile. He was clearly upset.

There was so much filth in the basement, Paulus’s room included. The courtyard was a nightmare. We cleared up the mess.

I couldn’t believe the filth that Roske had allowed in such a high-level headquarters. I asked him about it. They started talking, and then came the translation: “Your Katyushas and artillery prevented us from going out during the day. We were forced to take care of our bodily functions in the basement. This could only be removed at night, and even then the men were afraid to go out.” He blushed slightly. He was clearly a sophisticated man, a seasoned officer.

Major Anatoly Gavrilovich Soldatov (Deputy chief of the political section, secretary of the brigade party committee): [ . . . ] it was unbelievably filthy, you couldn’t get through the front or back doors, the filth came up to your chest, along with human waste and who knows what else. The stench was unbelievable. There were two latrines, and both had written on them: “No Russians allowed.” Whether they ever used these latrines is hard to say—the corridors were all one big latrine. There were times when the Germans shot better than us, but we never made latrines out of our living quarters.

Major General Ivan Dmitrievich Burmakov (Commander of the 38th Motor Rifle Brigade): I was surprised when the German radio said that all of them had committed suicide. I ran over there to take a look. Paulus was there in his room, along with my orderlies. There were two submachine gunners, and the four of us. Everything was in order.

When I was getting ready to set Roske’s group, I had all of them lay their weapons on the table, Roske included. They all had their weapons until 5:00 P.M. Then they started taking weapons out of their suitcases. They were well able to shoot themselves, and Paulus could even have blown himself up.

On the contrary, Roske was constantly frightened that he was going to be killed, he kept telling me that he was responsible to the Führer for the field marshal’s life. He was frightened that there might be some mistake. He asked me to have my own car go ahead of his. Comrade Laskin said: “Don’t worry—Paulus will be going in my car.” Then Roske stood up and thanked him: “Thank you, thank you.”

How could any of them die by their own hand when they’re such cowards? They weren’t brave enough to die.

I’d just shaved the day before. When I, the commander of the 38th Brigade, was presented as his captor, Roske stood up. He’s older than me. He’s actually only a little bit older. I may look young, but I’m the same age: forty-four. I’ve been in the army since 1918. I was among those who fought for Shchors, the Ukrainian. He blushed a little. “Do you recognize me?” I asked him.

“Yes, gut gut.”

He was a brave one, Roske. He came right out and said that he had some bad commanders. He knew our units well. He was asked a question about one commander. He said he’d acted improperly, poorly. This general knows military matters. Roske was commander of the Southern Group. Schmidt was chief of staff of the 6th Army. Roske led the negotiations. Schmidt acted as intermediary between Roske and Paulus. He kept Paulus informed of the progress of the negotiations and the surrender. He passed on Paulus’s personal request that we spare his life, that we not shoot him.

Roske was also taken to Beketovka. He got angry with me. When he was being driven out, I didn’t show him the proper respect. I could see he was waiting there for me to come shake hands and so on. He waited awhile in the car, twisting and turning, and I waved at him like it was no big deal.

Lieutenant Colonel Leonid Abovich Vinokur (Deputy commander for political affairs): We sent Paulus away at 11:00 A.M. on January 31, 1943, and at 5:00 P.M. we sent Roske to Shumilov at Beketovka. That’s where Paulus had been taken. The Northern Group surrendered the next evening.

Major General Konstantin Kirikovich Abramov (Member of the Military Council, 64th Army): I was still in bed when Shumilov called me at six in the morning saying that Paulus was being taken prisoner, that someone had to be sent. I got dressed and went to see Shumilov at the office. We wondered who to send. We decided on Laskin. When he couldn’t be found we sent Colonel Lukin, who was deputy chief of staff and and the chief of the NKVD. He drove off. Then Laskin turned up, and he was sent to Colonel Lukin. By nine o’clock we hadn’t heard a thing. We started to worry. Then I went there myself together with Serdyuk.

But we didn’t know exactly where the 38th Brigade was, and we didn’t know the city, so we missed the 38th Brigade’s headquarters and came out onto the square at the department store. We drove around in circles for a while before getting worried that they might already have been sent off to our HQ, so we turned around and went back.

It was about an hour later that Laskin brought Paulus. He delivered him to Shumilov’s office. At first Shumilov drafted a list of questions. [ . . . ] Chief of staff Laskin was walking in front when they brought him in. They drove him over in an Emka.160 Shumilov was there, and so was I, Serdyuk, Chuyankov, and Trubnikov, the deputy chief of the front political administration. The chief of staff reported: “We’ve brought von Paulus, field marshal of the German army.”

They asked him if he’d like to take off his coat in the hallway. He did. Then Paulus, Shumilov, and Adams came in and shook hands with all of us. Shumilov asked us to sit. We sat. Shumilov asked for Paulus’s documents. Paulus produced his service book. Shumilov looked it over, then asked whether there was a document to show that he was a field marshal. Paulus said he had no such documents, but that his chief of staff would confirm that they had received a radio message saying he was now a field marshal.

General Mikhail Shumilov

General Mikhail Shumilov inspects the papers of Field Marshal Paulus. Frames from the Soviet newsreel Soiuzkinozhurnal 1943, no. 8.

Paulus was unshaven, bearded, but he was wearing his iron crosses. Everything was as it should be.

He’d already surrendered his sidearm. He was questioned. They asked whether he had ordered his forces to surrender. He said that he had, that they were surrendering. They asked why he was surrendering. He said they were out of ammunition and food, that there was no point in resisting any longer. When they were being photographed they shook their heads, as if to say no.

The whole thing took four or five minutes. Then we decided to get them some food. Laskin and I took them along. Shumilov stayed where he was. We took them along and said: “Sit down, eat.” We talked with them for two hours. Then Shumilov, Serdyuk, and Trubnikov joined us. At first Paulus refused to drink. Then I pushed him to take a glass. He said: “I can’t, I haven’t eaten.” Then he said: “We’re not accustomed to drinking vodka.” Then he drank a glass, then a second. Shumilov arrived. He drank to our health. We’d been talking for a while already, just sitting there. I asked him why he didn’t get out of the encirclement when he was free to leave. He said: “That’s for history to decide.”

He was asked what his objective had been, how he regarded the destruction of his army. Shumilov told him that we once had the keys to Berlin, but that the Germans had never had the keys to Moscow.161 And now we were again going to have the keys to Berlin, while they would never have the keys to Moscow. He made a face during this but didn’t say a thing. He’s fifty-four. He asked me how old I am. I said I was thirty-six. Again he made a face.

Schmidt took part in the conversation. He’s an intelligent man, very direct. We didn’t really have anything to ask them about. What they could say about their army meant nothing to us because we had them in our grip. And anyway, they knew less about the current situation than we did. Paulus didn’t ask any questions. I’m sure he thought we were going to have him shot. We asked him why they destroyed Stalingrad. He said: “You did as much to destroy Stalingrad as we did.” We said: “We wouldn’t have been doing anything to Stalingrad if it hadn’t been for you.” He had nothing to say to that.

Shumilov was discreet. Paulus was nervous, his face was twitching, lips pressed tight. He was an old man, nothing more. [ . . . ] There was something a bit servile and ingratiating about his manner, in the way he praised us, how he smiled and bowed.

When he came to the dining room, he sat down and asked that no one write anything or take photographs. I said that we weren’t going to, but that there were people in the other room who were recording everything. But there weren’t any photographers.

Lieutenant General Mikhail Stepanovich Shumilov (Commander of the 64th Army): After Field Marshal Paulus was taken to army headquarters, I let him in, and he gave me some information. After that I asked him for something that would prove that he really was Field Marshal von Paulus. He presented me with his service book, where it was written that he was in the German army and that he was von Paulus, a soldier of the German army.

When I’d taken a look at the booklet, I asked my next question, saying that I’d just been told that yesterday or the day before that he’d been given the rank of field marshal, and that I’d like to see documentation to that effect.

General Shumilov in

General Shumilov in Stalingrad, January 31 or March 3, 1943. Photographer: Georgy Lipskerov

He told me that he had no written confirmation but that he had indeed gotten a telegram from Hitler saying that he was now a field marshal. His chief of staff and his adjutant, who had been with him the whole time, would confirm this.

Then I asked him another question: May I report to my government that I’ve captured not a colonel general, but a field marshal?

He said: “I would ask that you tell your government I am a field marshal.”

For the next question, the field marshal was asked to explain why the elite German forces were concentrated in Stalingrad while inferior units, such as Romanians and Hungarians, had been placed on the flanks. I asked whether our high command had gauged the situation correctly when they first defeated these flanks and avoided the elite German forces in Stalingrad. He replied: “That was the mistake of the German army.” Incidentally, Paulus never said this himself, but General Roske and the other generals said that after a series of unsuccessful assaults on Stalingrad and Beketovka, Field Marshal von Paulus had asked Hitler for permission to withdraw his forces behind the Don for the winter. Apparently he asked Hitler twice at the request of General Roske and the other generals, but Hitler wouldn’t allow his forces to fall back to the Don. That was near the end of October, beginning of November. Before the encirclement.

In answer to the question of whether the surrounded German army could have kept up its resistance, he told me that, after his defenses broke on the Voroponovo––Peschanka—Staraya Dubovka Front, he had thought further conflict was pointless, as their cargo planes had nowhere to land to supply the group with ammunition and food. But, he said, he was a soldier, and he’d been ordered to keep fighting to the last man. Only the complete encirclement of his headquarters had compelled him to surrender.

As for why he hadn’t committed suicide—that is something I never asked him.162

The German newspapers said that Paulus kept poison and a revolver in every pocket. A search produced only one of these revolvers, and no poison of any kind was found. Paulus was taken unharmed, he wasn’t wounded, and he didn’t get harassed in any way by our command staff during his capture. He arrived at the 64th Army headquarters with his own car and entourage.

Captain Yakov Mironovich Golovchiner (Chief of the political section’s 7th Section, 64th Army): Paulus is tall, slightly bent old man, around sixty, with grayish eyes, very dignified, as you’d expect for a field marshal, unshaved. He was depressed, and he looked unhealthy. According to him, his second adjutant had recently come down with something very bad.

On January 29 Paulus relieved himself of command. On the 31st there was an announcement that the field marshal had turned over command of the Southern Group of forces in Stalingrad to General Roske. Paulus declared himself a private individual via his chief of staff, and he transferred all of his responsibilities to General Roske. [ . . . ] I spoke with Paulus’s staff officers on the road and then here (in Beketovka). They all blamed Paulus for being soft and weak-willed. They said they could have resisted for a substantial amount of time. They still had a lot of men, but he did not show enough resolve. On top of that, they thought, Paulus’s staff had made a series of major tactical errors when they were still some distance from Stalingrad. If it weren’t for those major errors, then they’d have been able to resist more effectively, they said.

Guards Colonel Ivan Vasilievich Kudryavtsev (Deputy commander for political affairs, 36th Guards Rifle Division): The Germans didn’t believe they were surrounded, and their officers weren’t telling them about it. They found out it was true when they were left with nothing to eat. They started saying it looked like they were surrounded. Not even the officers knew about the ultimatum, and the soldiers knew absolutely nothing.

Captain Yakov Mironovich Golovchiner (Chief of the political section’s 7th Section, 64th Army): Until the very end the German officers were entranced by the confidence they had in their strength, by their confidence in victory. And they maintained control over their men. The soldier obeys his officer without question. [ . . . ] To the German soldier, anything an officer says or commands is law. They have a very strong sense of discipline.

Senior Lieutenant Fyodor Ivanovich Fyodorov (Commander of the 6th Battery, 65th Guards Artillery Regiment, 36th Guards Rifle Division): Then came the command to stop shooting altogether. All the Fritzes were giving up. The order to cease fire came between nine and eleven o’clock on February 1, 1943. By then they were surrendering by the hundred. They yelled, “Hitler kaput!” Prisoners were being brought out with frostbitten feet, bandaged heads. Most of them were wrapped up in blankets and just went like that. By February 1, I was done using my artillery. But I did use my pistol to finish off their wounded in the basements.

The Square of

The Square of the Fallen Heroes, with view of department store, March 1943. The sign on the right reads: “Death to the German-fascist invaders and their state, their army, and their new ‘order.’”163 Photographer: Sergei Strunnikov

Major Anatoly Gavrilovich Soldatov (Deputy chief of the political section, secretary of the brigade party committee): Czechs, Greeks, Czechoslovakians, and of course the Romanians—they all gave up easily, but the Germans were so damned proud. You’d often hear them saying that our success at Stalingrad was all due to chance. Here they’ve gone and surrendered, and they’re still saying these things. Our commandant grabbed one of them by the sleeve, dragged him off, and shot him. He’s known for doing that sort of thing.164

Lieutenant Colonel Leonid Abovich Vinokur (Deputy commander for political affairs): There was a motorcyclist, someone from army intelligence, and he was there next to a German driver who was wearing a Red Army jacket. I said to the company commander: “Why’d you give him a jacket?”

“He was cold.”

“And when exactly did you die so he could pull it off your corpse?”

Major Alexander Georgievich Yegorov (Chief of the political section): We liberated our own POWs here in the Regional Committee building. We decided to get some use out of them right away. We held short interviews, told them that they’d committed a crime for which the legal punishment was a bullet. “The only way you can turn this around is with your own blood.” They very joyfully took up their weapons, and we warned them that the least sign of panic or cowardice or attempt to surrender, even if this was only on the part of one or two of them, would result in all of them being shot. Sometimes we got quite a lot out of them.

Colonel Matvei Petrovich Smolyanov (Chief of the political section, 64th Army): The first and most fundamental task was to bring ourselves, our units, and our party organizations back in line. An order came down from Army giving everyone five days’ leave. Our task during that leave period was to organize, in addition to the basic activities—getting a shave and a haircut, making repairs—various cultural activities. In line with our party and political work we thoroughly discussed these matters and recommended that we hold a series of meetings with separate worker collectives, at which we would discuss what the experience of the fighting at Stalingrad had taught us. This subject was the central question of all meetings and gatherings.

Major General Ivan Dmitrievich Burmakov (Commander of the 38th Motor Rifle Brigade): N. S. Khrushchev arrived the next day. He knew our brigade well. The first time we met was in Stalingrad. That happened while we were preparing to break out in November. We met on the march and shared our impressions. He kept saying: “Well, boys, don’t let us down! You’ve all done good.”

Nikita Khrushchev in

Nikita Khrushchev in front of the Stalingrad department store, February 1943.

Victory rally on

Victory rally on the Square of the Fallen Heroes, February 4, 1943.

Shumilov and N. S. Khrushchev arrived the day after Paulus was captured. Khrushchev was hugging and kissing us. “Thank you, thanks to all of you! It’s not often you capture a field marshal. Generals you can get, but a field marshal’s a rare thing.”

It meant a lot to us to have Khrushchev’s gratitude. [ . . . ]

Then he came here, to this basement, and sat down. Chuyanov arrived. Representatives of the local authorities arrived. People began coming in droves. Khrushchev thanked everyone, and Shumilov pointed at me and said: “This is the guy who was angry with me for not ordering him into battle. I know when it’s the right time to do that!”

After the rally on February 4 we had a party.

Khrushchev came and praised us again.

I don’t mean to brag, but we got them, we did a good job, and I’m pleased that we did this job, I’m pleased that our brigade did so well. To me that’s what matters most.

I spoke and welcomed the guests on behalf of our brigade. I think we fought pretty well. Khrushchev stood up and said: “He’s just being modest. Thank you for bringing us Paulus!”

They were all there, everyone who had been competing with me for this prize.

Entrance to department

Entrance to department store basement, 1944. Photographer: Samari Gurari

In February 1943 a cardboard sign was hung at the entrance to the room in the department store basement where the terms of surrender were negotiated. It read: “Here on January 31, 1943, at 7:00 AM the supreme commander of the Sixth German Army, General Field Marshal von Paulus, and his staff, led by Lieutenant General Schmidt, were captured by the 38th Motorized Rifle Brigade.” Below were the names of Colonel Ivan Burmakov and his political deputy, Senior Lieutenant Leonid Vinokur. In the same year another sign—identical except for omitting the aristocratic “von” from Paulus’s name—was placed at the side entrance of the department store, next to the basement stairwell. As the photograph below shows, it continued to draw visitors in the summer of 1944.

In the basement

In the basement of the Stalingrad department store. Photographer: Sergei Strunnikov

In 1951 the sign was replaced by a bronze plaque that painted the events leading up to January 31, 1943 in an epic light. It described the opponent as a “Stalingrad army group [ . . . ] that was encircled and routed in the great battle of Stalingrad by the glorious Red Army.” The plaque honored the 38th Rifle Brigade under the command of Colonel Burmakov, but did not mention Vinokur, whose name had been expunged from Soviet annals in the wake of the anti-Semitic campaigns of the late Stalin era.

The plaque has since been removed, but in the 1990s a local historian dedicated a small museum to the battle in the basement. A few years ago the museum became entangled in a legal dispute with the owners of the department store, who wanted to turn the basement into a restaurant. In May 2012 a judge ruled that the basement was to become part of the state museum complex on the battle of Stalingrad. The new memorial site opened in fall 2012, on the seventieth anniversary of the battle.

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