In Jim Cook's Archive


I have an affinity for books about the conflict between Russia and Germany during World War II. On a recent visit to the bookstore, I found a new book by a Russian soldier titled, Red Road from Stalingrad. Books authored by Russian infantry men are rare, and even rarer are books written by soldiers who fought at Stalingrad. This greatest battle in history was fought with unimaginable ferocity. The average lifespan of a Russian recruit at Stalingrad was 2 days. On September 28, 1942, a fresh division of 5,000 Russian soldiers entered the struggle. By October 1, 1942, 4,400 of them had been killed or severely wounded.

The book began with these words, “‘This must never happen again!’ Such was the slogan proclaimed after the Great Victory, which became an important principle in Soviet domestic and foreign policy. Winning, together with its allies, the bloodiest war in history, the country suffered enormous losses. Almost 27 million people perished (almost 15 percent of the peacetime population). Millions of compatriots were killed in action, ended their lives in German concentration camps, starved or froze to death.”

The victory at Stalingrad enabled Russia to go on the offensive and put Germany on the defensive for the balance of the war. The lessons of Stalingrad are apparently lost on the current Russian leadership. Throughout history, the defenders of their homeland against invaders have frequently been victorious. Germany had a bigger and better-trained army with more and better equipment at Stalingrad, but their army was destroyed by the determined Russian forces.

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