arts / Bradford / Communism / Drama / Media / Politics / Russia / Save the National Media Museum

Russian Stalingrad 3D movie now on general release


But Bradford’s not showing it on the IMAX Screen.

The nearest IMAX showing is at Birmingham Cineworld.

StaklingradBRUM

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Vicar Lane, Bradford Leisure Exchange, Bradford
‎11:25‎  ‎14:30‎  ‎17:30‎  ‎20:30‎
Birstall, Gelderd Road, Batley
‎21:55‎

Bradford showings are not IMAX

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Why Stalingrad should always be called Stalingrad

In 1961 they renamed the city Volgograd because the hard man they named it after in 1925 was no longer so admired.

Yet the way the battle was fought and won may not be so easily forgotten.

A million Red Army soldiers perished fighting for six months through the bitter winter that froze the Volga solid.

Some of them were as young as 14.

The women who questioned the few Germans taken prisoner during the battle were said to be harsher than the men.

At least one became a top agent in SMERSH, Soviet counter-intelligence, later, during the Cold War.

Punitive battalions were sent in, criminals and dissidents given the option to redeem themselves with their own blood.

If they did not fight they were shot for cowardice, even if they were wounded.

It had been an easy ride for the Panzer divisions up to then and Hitler knew that if he could secure the Volga then the whole steppeland would fall like a red apple into his hand.

In August 1942 Friedrich Von Paulus advanced into the suburbs with 200,000 men of the Wehrmacht Sixth Armée.

They were handsome, well supplied, confident.

Just nine days before, they had defeated the Soviet 62nd Army and the proud new First Armoured Army, capturing 270 tanks and 35,000 soldiers.
At home, they were expected back for Christmas.

But when they began to cross the Volga each man carried so much equipment, that more died in the icy waters than ever reached the other side.

Each man had a greatcoat, two grenades, gas mask, ammunition, and a machine gun.

The merciless Soviet shelling and bombing sank their transports and threw hundreds into the Volga.

Many drowned there without firing off a single round.

Stalin had decreed a new strategy.

Up to then the Red Army had withdrawn before the Nazi blitzkrieg, burning farmhouses and cornfields in a scorched earth policy that stretched the Wehrmacht supply lines thin to breaking point.

But in Stalingrad each house, each apartment building was defended, and the Germans lost many men for just a few metres’ advance.

In hand-to-hand fighting the Russians saved their bullets, using the spades they’d dug in with like mighty battle-axes.

This was a new kind of fighting for the Germans.

They’d been used to sweeping across frontiers in their mighty battle tanks, speeding through villages and cities.

This urban environment, where each stairwell could conceal a child with a grenade, a Baboushka with a sub-machinegun, was something they’d never fought in before, and it took some getting used to.

The Nazis continued to advance, however, city block by city block, building by building, floor by floor.

The Soviet 62nd Army was becoming isolated.

By September 3 the 71st Wehrmacht Infantry Division was five miles from the centre of the city.

A thousand Nazi bombers hammered the defenders.

The population was not evacuated.

They hid in cellars, unable to emerge even for food, growing weak from hunger as the months went by.

There was no heating, of course.

A family of three children was typical; separated from their parents, they crept into a bed together to keep each other warm.

The soldiers retreated into the sewers and waded through the shit and ice to emerge where least expected.

The factories continued working within earshot of the battle and the tractor factory turned out tanks awaiting the November offensive.

Later it was overrun, but the tanks were waiting, safe in the rear, where thousands of troops are being held ready to attack.

Von Paulus launched his last offensive; six days later his mass attack had been slowed to a standstill by small, mobile groups of Soviet fighters.

It was ridiculous.

Everyone knew the Russian winter would close down the war until the spring thaw but in November the Red Army did begin its advance.

Up to then they had been led by General Chuikov, a rude, coarse man, his soldiers said.

He kept a cane by his side with which to beat recalcitrant officers.

Romanian troops were sent to bolster the German and Italian divisions fighting in Stalingrad, but they were inexperienced, especially in this new kind of urban warfare, armed with anti-aircraft guns on horse-drawn carriages; no match for the Russian winter.

When they were attacked on November 19, in fog and heavy snow, the Soviet troops were led now by Marshall Georgi Zhukov: half a million men, nearly a thousand of the new T34 tanks, supported by a thousand low-level attack aircraft.

They began to encircle the enemy.

First to surrender were the Romanian Third Army at Raspopinskaya.

Then Von Paulus, too, is encircled, with his 200,000 men, 10,000 vehicles, and 1,800 artillery.

Hold on, says Hitler, I’m sending Field Marshal von Manstein to relieve you, and we’ll supply you from the air.

The sky is full of falling aircraft, slow, defenceless transports, at the mercy of the anti-aircraft guns and Red Air Force MIG fighters.

Only 180 tons of supplies reach the beleaguered battalions, and sixty per cent of the German supply planes are shot down.

Manstein moves on December 12, taking a longer southern route to reach the city.

He has four Panzer and ten infantry divisions, with the remnants of the Romanian forces.

The Italian Eighth Army is annihilated by a sudden Soviet attack.

Manstein is bogged down in the snow and the mud.

Hitler changes the orders and instructs Von Paulus to attempt a break out.

He refuses, since his tanks are short of fuel.

The Volga freezes solid, and Soviet troops now flood across the ice to the west bank.

Their tanks take the Tazinskaya airfield, capturing many of the aircraft which had been making flights to drop supplies to Von Paulus.

Manstein is retreating.

On January 8 the Soviets offer Von Paulus an honourable surrender.

He refuses.

He now controls a mere 250 square miles of territory.

Sixteen days later the last remaining supply airfield, at Gumrak, is overrun.

On January 25, two Soviet thrusts meet up in the centre of Stalingrad.

Hitler promotes Von Paulus to Field Marshal, hoping he will commit suicide rather than surrender; no German Field-Marshal has ever surrendered.

Von Paulus was a Christian, and suicide a sin he could not even consider, but he did not tell this to his Führer.

On January 31, Von Paulus surrenders, but General Stecker continues to fight on the Northern Sector.

He surrenders two days later.

Hitler declares three days of national mourning.

In Stalingrad, the people emerge from their cellars and ruined homes.

The three children huddle in their bed, weak from cold and hunger, barely able even to cry out.

Someone outside shouts: Look out, there may be Germans in there.

They might shoot.

The door to their bedroom opens slowly.

The room was dark, and the young soldier cannot see at first.

The boy in the bed cries: Don’t shoot us. We’re Russians.

Hey lads, the soldier shouts to his comrades, there are kids in here.

The girl, now an old woman, remembers: When they saw us, they started crying.

Then they sent for a doctor.

And so Stalingrad was liberated.

The Red Army gathered in thousands among the ruins to remember their dead, and what had been accomplished.

And the reconstruction began.

Half a million people were homeless, a hundred thousand head of cattle had perished in the countryside around the city.

Even before the war ended, the factory had turned from tanks to tractors.

Before the end of 1944, 100,000 people had been rehoused.

Trainloads of building materials were sent to Stalingrad from Moscow, from Leningrad (devastated itself, during the siege), from Gorky and Satatov, from Kuibyshev and Sverdlov, Irkutsk, Baku and Astrakhan.

In 1961 they renamed the city and moved the bones of Stalin from Red Square.

And on December, 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed.

  • This poem was performed as part of Red October, a celebration of the Russian Revolution, staged at the Priestley (now the New Bradford Playhouse) on Saturday, November 13, 1999.

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