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Anatoli K., born in 1933: "Just after the first bombings, we received an authorization to evacuate the city and to go to the other side of the Volga. Arriving at the quay, another bombing started. We couldn't get on board the boat. The boats that had already left fell under the German bombs. An entire boat, filled with children, sank. Upon the arrival of the Germans, we were sent to the camp of Belaya Kalitva. We managed to escape by bribing a policeman. But no villager was able to hide us because it was forbidden to shelter Jews and refugees of Stalingrad." (Witness n°593R, interviewed in Volgograd, on November 13, 2015)
"The troops of the German invaders broke into the Stalingrad region in the middle of 1942. At the end of August 1942, they approached Stalingrad. [...] Before the Germans’ arrival, the population of the region numbered 785,000 inhabitants, including 525,000 city population and 260,000 rural population. [...] During the presence of the German-Fascist invaders within the limits of the Stalingrad region, 1,744 people were shot, 108 hanged, 1,598 people were subjected to abuse, rape, and torture, 23,145 people were sent into slavery in Germany, 42,797 people died as a result of bombing and heavy artillery fire." [Act drawn up by Soviet Extraordinary Commission (ChGK); GARF: Fond 7021, Opis 45, Delo 236]
Volgograd, formerly Tsaritsyn from 1589 to 1925, is the largest city and the administrative center of the Volgograd Oblast, Russia. The city lies on the western bank of the Volga. The city was founded as the fortress of Tsaritsyn in 1589. By the nineteenth century, Tsaritsyn had become an important river port and commercial center, leading to its population expanding rapidly. In 1897, 55,000 people lived there, including 893 Jews. In 1904, the Jewish community built a synagogue. The majority of Jews were involved in commerce and owning small businesses. On April 10, 1925, the city was renamed Stalingrad in honor of Joseph Stalin and kept its name until 1961. The city of Stalingrad was home to Russians, Ukrainians, Germans, Jews, and some nomad Roma who would come to settle in for a season.
Following the invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, fighting on the eastern front was continuous. After failing to take Moscow in late 1941, German forces reorganized and counterattacked. On August 23, 1942, the Germans launched an offensive to seize the city of Stalingrad in south-west Russia. The battle was one of the largest and most brutal in history. It was also one of the only battles of the Second World War to feature hand-to-hand combat. The city of Stalingrad was a strategic point for German troops for two reasons. Firstly, it was a major industrial city on the Volga River, a vital transport route between the Caspian Sea and northern Russia. Secondly, its capture would secure the left flank of the German armies as they advanced into the oil-rich Caucasus region -- with the goal of cutting off fuel to Stalin’s war machine. The fact that the city bore the name of Hitler’s nemesis, Joseph Stalin, would make its capture an ideological and propaganda coup. After heavy bombings and air attacks by the Luftwaffe, the Germans occupied the city on September 12, 1942. By September 30, 1942, they occupied two thirds of the city. The battles continued for 199 days, in addition to continuous air bombing, until February 2, 1943. According to archival figures, the Red Army suffered a total of 1,129,619 total casualties, with 478,741 men killed and captured and 650,878 wounded. These numbers are for the whole Stalingrad area; in the city itself, 750,000 people were killed, captured, or wounded. Also, more than 43,000 Soviet civilians died in Stalingrad and its suburbs during a single week of aerial bombing as the German Fourth Panzer and Sixth armies approached the city. The total number of civilians killed in the regions outside the city is unknown. In all, the battle resulted in an estimated total of 1.7 million to 2 million German and Soviet casualties.
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