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The city of Volgograd, better for its previous name Stalingrad, was founded in 1569 as a fortress. The city fell to the Cossack rebel armies of Stenka Razin (1670)and Pugachev (1774). It was renamed Stalingrad in 1925. Before bolshevik's takeover it was known as Tsaritsyn. One of the biggest and most decisive battles of World War II was focused here. The city was virtually destroyed. The true numbers may never be known, but at least hundred thousands Russians and 250.000 Germans died in the Battle for Stalingrad. After the turning point at Stalingrad, Soviet forces took the offensive on the eastern front. This heavily industrialized port, rail junction and regional capital has been built from scratch since 1945. Now today Volgograd is the administrative and economic center of the Lower Volga Region and is also the major transport center of this area. The Volga-Don Canal connects the Volga and the Don rivers and so makes Volgograd a port of five seas: the Caspian, the Black, the Azov, the Baltic and the White. The city was renamed Volgograd in 1961.

The City of Stalin

In those early months of 1942 Stalingrad was very much on Hitler's mind, although he had not yet been able to determine exactly the place it would occupy in his war policy. In Hitler's preoccupation with Stalin as the supreme dictator, he had mentioned several times the importance of the Germans taking the city of Stalin, partly for its propaganda value as Stalin's namesake, partly because of its importance as the industrial center of the Don basin and the Volga. But there was more to it than that. The symbolism of Stalingrad was always high in Hitler's mind, although to his generals it was just a place on the map. As the winter turned to spring, urged by his various advisors to various courses of action, Hitler's mind kept coming back to Stalingrad.

Citizen soldiers

After General Richthofen's 4th Airfleet had demolished the city of Stalingrad, political commissar Krushchev feared the Red Army would collapse. He organized five thousand members of the Red October Metallurgical Works to fight beside the troops of the 62nd Arm. Five thousand rifles were rounded up, and the men were split into brigades. The whole operation was supervised by the NKVD, which had been keeping a sharp eye on the factory workersfor years. This was a Soviet factory, not a western one, and most of the workerswere single men who lived in barracks. Their daily lives were not so very different from those of the Russian soldier, even before the war. Most of them had been assigned by this factoryand would stay there during their workaday lives. The factory had it's "garden city" about which the gouverment had made much, but the wooden houses and quiet little gardens represented a minority of the workers, the privileged few. As for the orders, the NKVD prison in the center of town was a grim reminder of what happened to those who did not follow instructions. In this desperate hour the prisoners were turned out to feight for their freedom, under the eyes of the NKVD companies.

Stalingrad must die

Hitler's preoccupation with Stalingrad had now become intense. After the 4th Panzer Army reached the banks of the Volga on August 23 he kept pressing General Paulus to hurry up and capture Stalingrad. Goering showed up for the situation meetings and announced that his Luftwaffe's air reconnaissance to the north of Stalingrad had not uncovered any Soviet troop concentrations worth bothering about. So what was the delay all about ? Hitler could not understand. The more he thought about Stalingrad, the more determined he became to make an example of the city, and that had been carried out admirably. Just as soon as Paulus captured Stalingrad the female population was to be deported to become slave laborers and whores for the Germans, and the male population was to be exterminated.

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