Paulus, Friedrich von
Friedrich Paulus, born 23-09-1890 in Breitenau, Hesse-Nassau, the son of a school teacher. He tried, unsuccessfully, to secure a cadetship in the Kaiserliche Marine and briefly studied law at Marburg University. After leaving the university without a degree, he joined the 111th Infantry Regiment as an officer cadet in February 1910. He married Elena Rosetti-Solescu on 04-07-1912. When World War I began, Paulus's regiment was part of the thrust into France, and he saw action in the Vosges and around Arras in the autumn of 1914. After a leave of absence due to illness, he joined the Alpenkorps as a staff officer, serving in Macedonia, France, and Serbia. By the end of the war, he was a captain. After the Armistice Paulus fought with the Freikorps in the east as a brigade adjutant. He remained in the scaled-down Reichswehr that came into being after the Treaty of Versailles and was assigned to the 13th Infantry Regiment at Stuttgart as a company commander. He served in various staff positions for over a decade (1921–1933) and then briefly commanded a motorized battalion (1934–1935) before being named chief of staff for the Panzer headquarters in October 1935, a new formation under Lutze (see Lutze) that directed the training and development of the army's three panzer divisions. In February 1938 Paulus was appointed Chef des Generalstabes to Guderian’s (see Guderian) new XVI Armeekorps, which replaced Lutze's command. Guderian described him as ‘brilliantly clever, conscientious, hard working, original and talented’ but already had doubts about his decisiveness, toughness and lack of command experience. He remained in that post until May 1939, when he was promoted to Major General and became Chief of Staff for the German Tenth Army, with which he saw service in Poland, the Netherlands (see About), and Belgium. Paulus was promoted to Lieutenant General in August 1940 and the following month he was named deputy chief of the German General Staff. In that role he helped draft the plans for the invasion of the Soviet Union. Paulus was promoted to General of the Armoured Troops and became commander of the German Sixth Army in January 1942 and led the drive on Stalingrad during that summer. Paulus' troops fought the defending Soviet troops holding Stalingrad over three months in increasingly brutal urban warfare. In November 1942, when the Soviet Red Army launched a massive counter-offensive, code named Operation Uranus, Paulus found himself surrounded by an entire Soviet Army Group. Paulus followed Adolf Hitler's (see Adolf Hitler) orders to hold the Army's position in Stalingrad under all circumstances, despite the fact that he was completely surrounded by strong Russian formations. A relief effort by Army Group Don under Field Marshal Erich von Manstein (see Manstein) failed in December, inevitably: insufficient force was available to challenge the Soviet forces encircling the German 6th Army, and Hitler (see Did you know) refused to allow Paulus to break out of Stalingrad despite Manstein telling him it was the only way the effort would succeed. By this time, Paulus' remaining armour had only sufficient fuel for a 12-mile advance anyway. In any event, Paulus was refused permission to break out of the encirclement. Kurt Zeitzler, he died age 68, on 25-09-1963,
the newly appointed chief of the Army General Staff, eventually got Hitler to allow Paulus to break out—provided they held onto Stalingrad, an impossible task. For the next two months, Paulus and his men fought on. However, the lack of ammunition, equipment attrition and deteriorating physical condition of the German troops prevented them from defending effectively against the Red Army. The battle was fought with terrible losses on both sides and great suffering. On 08-01-1943, General Konstantin Rokossovsky (see Rokossovsky), commander of the Red Army on the Don front, called a cease fire and offered Paulus' men generous surrender terms—normal rations, medical treatment for the ill and wounded, permission to retain their badges, decorations, uniforms, and personal effects, and repatriation to any country they wished after the war. Rokossovsky also noted that Paulus was in a nearly impossible situation. By this time, there was no hope for Paulus to be relieved or supplied by air, and most of his men had no winter clothing. However, when Paulus asked Hitler for permission to surrender, Hitler rejected this request almost out of hand and ordered him to hold Stalingrad to the last man. Hitler promoted Paulus to Field Marshal. In deciding to promote Paulus, Hitler noted that there was no known record of a Prussian or German field marshal having surrendered. The implication was clear: Paulus was to commit suicide. If Paulus surrendered, he would shame Germany's military history. Paulus, a Roman Catholic, was opposed to suicide. During his captivity, according to General Pfeffer (see Pfeffer), Paulus said of Hitler's expectation: "I have no intention of shooting myself for this Bohemian corporal". Another General told the NKVD that Paulus had told him about his promotion to Field Marshal and said: "It looks like an invitation to commit suicide, but I will not do this favour for him." Paulus also forbade his soldiers from standing on top of their trenches in order to be shot by the enemy. Although he at first refused to collaborate with the Soviets, after the attempted assassination of Hitler on 20-07-1944, Paulus became a vocal critic of the Nazi regime while in Soviet captivity, joining the Russian-sponsored National Committee for a Free Germany, with General Seydlitz-Kurzbach (see Seydlitz-Kurzbach) and appealing to Germans to surrender. He later acted as a witness for the prosecution at the Nuremberg trials. From 1953 to 1956, he lived in Dresden, East Germany, where he worked as the civilian chief of the East German Military History Research Institute and not, as often wrongly described, as an inspector of police. In late 1956, he developed motor neuron disease and was eventually left paralyzed. He died in Dresden on 01-02-1957, age 76 of cancer, exactly 14 years after he surrendered at Stalingrad. His body was brought for burial in Baden-Baden on the Hauptfriedhof next to that of his wife, who had died in 1949 having not seen her husband since his surrender. General Choltitz (see Choltitz) is buried close by.