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The Stalingrad Cauldron: Inside the Encirclement and Destruction of the 6th Army, by Frank Ellis

Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2013. Pp. xvi, 542. Illus., tables, appends., notes, biblio., index. $39.95. ISBN: 0700619011.

An Unusual Look at Stalingrad

The Stalingrad Cauldron is an unusual work, and one difficult to classify. Strictly speaking it is not a history of the battle for Stalingrad, though one can learn a great deal about that momentous struggle from it.  This may disappoint some readers looking for a linear narrative of the battle, but will rewarding reading for anyone interesting in delving deeply into the experience and importance of Stalingrad.

Ellis, previously the author of The Damned and the Dead: The Eastern Front through the Eyes of the Soviet and Russian Novelists, takes aspects of the battle and delves deeply into them, in ways that not only throw fresh light on the battle, but also on the larger war of which it was a part, and on the nature of remembrance and of historiography. 

After a chapter exploring interpretations of Stalingrad in the Post-Cold War era, Ellis opens with the war diaries of three German divisions, the 16th Panzer, the 94th Infantry, and the 76th Infantry. He follows these with a revealing look at the sniper’s war and the famous – if now questioned – “duel”  between Russian sniper Zaitsev and German expert Konings. In subsequent chapters Ellis looks at German recruitment of Soviet minorities, espionage and counter-espionage during the battle, the horrific experiences of German prisoners-of-war, an interesting look at a war crimes case, and even a final chapter on “reconciliation.” Among the several appendices are several documents related to the use of snipers in the campaign, including a chapter from Vasilii Zaitsev’s memoirs. In this way, Ellis drills into some of the many different ways in which Stalingrad was experienced, primarily by German soldiers. 

A volume in the University Press of Kansas series “Modern War Studies”,The Stalingrad Cauldron is a very interesting and unusual contribution to the literature on Stalingrad and the Eastern Front.

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Reviewer: A.A. Nofi, Review Editor   


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