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The Battle of Stalingrad as never seen before: Photographs reveal how Hitler's bombers decimated the city... and show the general who defied the Fuhrer's order to fight to the death (34 Pics)

  • Never-before-seen photographs show the annihilation of the city of Stalingrad before the Nazis were crushed 
  • The pictures belonged to Field Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen, cousin of First World War ace the Red Baron
  • Also shown are desperate refugees fleeing after city was bombed and became the scene of vicious fighting
  • Nazis lost 728,000 men and the Soviets over a million in the battle, which marked a turning point in the war

  • Field Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen, who was the cousin of the First World War air ace known as the Red Baron, was a commanding officer in the German Luftwaffe during Operation Barbarossa - the invasion of the Soviet Union. His photos include haunting, never-before-seen images of the shockingly brutal Battle of Stalingrad in 1942, which is regarded by historians as the beginning of the end of Hitler's empire. Pictured: One of von Richthofen's snaps shows Stalingrad ablaze in the summer of 1942

    The battle for Stalingrad was the turning point of the Second World War. After the German invasion of Russia — codenamed Operation Barbarossa, which began in June 1941 — the Wehrmacht continued to head eastward, destroying whole Soviet armies and capturing two million prisoners, most of whom they starved to death. Von Richtofen also designed the so-called Jericho trumpet, the propeller-driven high-pitched sirens on Stuka dive bombers which sent a shudder down the spine of their victims. Pictured: Stukas raiding Stalingrad during the battle 

    There are before and after images of Stalingrad, which was flattened by a relentless German aerial bombardment, and poignant photos of people displaced by the brutal fighting (pictured). The Nazis lost 728,000 men and the Soviets over a million in gruesome street fighting that descended into savagery and starvation as soldiers fought hand-to-hand and froze in the Russian winter

    In Washington and London, leaders wondered gloomily how long the Russians could stave off absolute defeat after the Germans launched their invasion of the Soviet Union. In the spring of 1942, Hitler’s legions drove deeper into the Russian heartland, besieging St Petersburg, over-running the Crimea, and threatening the oilfields of the Caucasus. The Fuhrer was convinced the Russians were at their last gasp. He was exultant when in June ‘Operation Blue’ enabled his armies to occupy new swathes of central Russia. Pictured: Lenin Square in Kursk, seized by the Nazis during the invasion 

    There is also a photo of Richthofen with General Freidrich Paulus (pictured right with von Richtofen opposite), commander of the Sixth German Army, who incensed Hitler when he surrendered at Stalingrad - rather than fight to the last man as the Fuhrer had ordered

    The battle cost the German army a quarter of everything it possessed by way of material - guns, tanks and munitions. It was a defeat from which it never recovered and for days afterwards in Berlin all shops and restaurants were closed as a mark of respect. Pictured: A horse pulling bombs to a Heinkel 111 in the bitter winter of 1941-2

    Scenting final victory, Hitler deputed General Friedrich Paulus (right), a staff officer eager to prove himself as a fighting commander, to lead a dash for the city on the Volga that was named after Stalin, and secure a symbolic triumph, while another German army group swung southwards to grab the oilfields. Hitler’s top soldiers were appalled by the perils of splitting the Wehrmacht merely to capture Stalingrad, which was strategically unimportant. Their protests were ignored: the Fuhrer insisted

    Pictured: Von Richthofen Stukas taking off on another raid in the summer of 1942 as the Germans swept on towards Stalingrad

    The first German air attacks killed between 10,000 and 40,000 people — almost as many as died in the entire London blitz. Shellfire and bombs rained down on the city, day after day and week upon week

    Both sides were chronically short of food and water. The few surviving civilians suffered terribly, eking a troglodyte existence in cellars. Pictured: Russian prisoners of war in summer 1942 

    Each night, up to three thousand Russian wounded were ferried eastward from the city, while a matching stream of reinforcements, ammunition and supplies reached the defenders. Pictured: A bridge across the River Don during the winter of 1941-2

    Some soldiers were reduced to cannibalism in order to stay alive in the ruins of Stalingrad as the mercury plunged to -40C. Pictured: A burnt out Russian tank in Kursk, taken during the invasion of Soviet Union by Wolfram von Richthofen

    Stuka pilot Herbert Pabst wrote of the bombing of Stalingrad: ‘It is incomprehensible to me how people can continue to live in that hell, but the Russians are firmly established in the wreckage, in ravines, cellars, and in a chaos of twisted skeletons of factories’

    General Vasily Chuikov, commanding Stalin’s 62nd Army in the city, wrote: ‘The streets of the city are dead. There is not a single green twig on the trees; everything has perished in the flames.’ Pictured: Russian prisoners held by the Germans 

    Of the 110,000 Germans who surrendered, only 5,000 would survive Stalin's gulags to return to a defeated Germany. Pictured: A grave with a helmet on top of the cross 

    Richthofen survived the war but died of a brain tumour in July 1945 and was never put on trial at Nuremberg. Pictured: Some of his Stukas laying waste to Stalingrad in the summer of 1942

    This picture is titled 'Children as soldiers'. Auctioneers Dickins, of Middle Claydon, Buckinghamshire, are now selling the three historic albums, which have been consigned by a private collector from Maidenhead, Berkshire, for an estimated £40,000

    The albums cover the winter of 1941 as well as the doomed siege of Stalingrad. John Dickins, of Dickins Auctioneers, said: 'It is quite incredible to actually handle the personal album of a field marshal of his calibre'.Fuel depot

    A flattened factory
    Dickins went on: 'He was the youngest field marshal in the German army and he would have gone further had he not had disagreements with his superior'. Pictured: Stukas raiding Stalingrad

    On September 3, 1942, the German Sixth Army reached the outskirts of Stalingrad. They expected to take the city without major alarm, but discovered that the Russians had built up their defences. In mid-November, as the Germans were running out of men and ammunition, Russian general Georgy Zhukov launched his counter attack to encircle the invaders. Pictured : Captured weapons.

    Food for Russian prisoners 
    On February 2, 1943, General Paulus surrendered. About 150,000 Germans (who were joined in the battle by their Hungarian, Italian, Romanian and Croatian allies) had died in the fighting, almost two thirds of his men. Of the 110,000 German prisoners taken at Stalingrad, half died on the march to Siberian prison camps and nearly as many died in captivity. Only about 5,000 men survived and returned home. Pictured: Men struggle to unload a plane during the winter of 1941-2

    Wolfram (pictured) was inadvertently responsible for the Red Baron's death as Manfred was shot down while trying to defend the novice pilot during his first flight in 1918

    The Russians, buoyed by their success at Stalingrad, hit back on the Eastern Front and pushed the enemy back towards Germany. Pictured: Stalingrad in ruins after bombings 

    The Russians initially held a perimeter 30 miles by 18, which shrank relentlessly as Paulus’s men thrust forward to within a few hundred yards of the Volga. Pictured : A soldier attempts to unfreeze the diesel in a truck by lighting a fire under the engine.

    A Stuka bombing raid on a Russian monastery in the winter of 1941-2

    Captured mortars. Dickins said the battle shattered the myth of the Nazi empire's invulnerability. He explained: 'Up until then Hitler thought he was invincible - Stalingrad proved he definitely was not'

    In Moscow, when the German objective became plain, Russia’s dictator Josef Stalin gave the order that ‘his’ city must be held at any cost. Thus the stage was set for one of history’s most terrible clashes of arms, in which on the two sides more than a million men became locked in strife between the autumn of 1942 and the following spring. Pictured: Von Richthofen, who liked to fly himself around the battlefields in his Stork aircraft

    Dickins added: 'The aerial shots of Stalingrad show the devastation of the war and the images of the prisoners and refugees are very poignant'

    Pictured: Stalingrad before it was flattened by Nazi bombers in the buildup to the main battle in the city 

    New Russian units were thrust into the battle as fast as they arrived, to join duels in the ruins that often became hand-to-hand death grapples. Pictured: Stalingrad flattened by bombs

    After the Battle of Stalingrad, the Nazis were pushed back from the east by the Soviets until the Red Army reached Berlin in 1945. Pictured: A flattened factory during the battle 

    Field Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen's three albums will be auctioned on November 3

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