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127 of 129 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hell on Earth at Stalingrad., 28 Sept. 2009
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This review is from: Stalingrad [2005] [DVD] (DVD)
Few people in the west are aware that during the last world war at no time after June 1941 did the Western allies face more than 30% of Hitler's war machine. The outcome of the war was largely decided in the East, on the Russian front between Nazi Germany its allies and Russia. It was also a titanic clash of ideologies and two iron fisted dictators wielding immense power, both inflexible and iron hard, neither willing to give an inch of ground. At the city that was known as Stalingrad on the Volga river where Europe meets Asia, they met like two irresistibly destructive juggernauts in a cataclysmic collision that would change the course of history. Stalin wanted to hold the city named after him at all costs, whilst Hitler decreed that it was taken at all costs. Something and someone had to give. In this once beautiful city, scenes of almost apocalyptic carnage were played out on a vast canvas, in an area reduced to crumbling ruins where men fought the most primitive kind of warfare. The German 6th army and its battle hardened troops had known nothing but momentum and victory, but at Stalingrad the Russian bear was unleashed upon them and it was a frightful thing to behold. The Blitzkrieg was ended and the German soldier had to learn the harsh realities of street fighting. Even the spade was still a useful weapon in this inferno.

This wonderful documentary covers this epic battle in three parts, all of about 55 minutes. In part one, we have the initial approach and assault on the city. The German soldiers are shown in a happy and triumphant mood. Some of the colour film is remarkably good. In part two we follow the disaster that befell the 6th army when they were encircled by the Russian army. In part three the final destruction of this army is described in all its gruesome detail. In all three parts we are shown the personal testimonies of the men who fought at Stalingrad. These are mainly German although there are some interesting Russians, particularly an Asiatic sniper. Their testimonies make riveting viewing and even sixty years later these men are still moved to tears. One man describes how something inside him broke at Stalingrad that could never ever be repaired. Many of these old veterans are erudite in their speech and paint a vivid picture of the scenes they bore witness to. They must also have been iron hard individuals to have come through such trauma both physically and mentally intact, although the scars are still evident. These voices are destined to become those of the distant past echoing through history, and their historical importance will only grow over the years.

To give a balanced overview I must point out that these documentaries may not please the strategic experts or the nuts and bolts military historian, as they do rely so heavily on personal testimony. Although it should also be said that there is some eye opening new footage obtained from Russian archives only recently accessed. I was also surprised that no mention was made of Mamayev Kurgan and the Tractor Works. These are legendary place names in the annals of Stalingrad, due to the ferocity of the fighting around them. I was also a little disappointed at the quality of the rather dodgy looking basic maps. They were very crude representations of the front that would only please someone with a less enquiring mind. But these are minor blemishes given the overall power of these films.

These are perhaps the most salient facts of all. After the capture of the remnants of the 6th army only 10% survived the first winter. The survivors were used as slave labour in the Siberian mines and forests. Only a tiny fraction ever returned home. But if this sounds appalling enough then consider the sacrifice it took of the Russian people to achieve this victory. 700,000 Soviet soldiers and civilians perished for this victory, if one can call it such given these staggering losses. One plain truth comes through crystalline clear, war truly is hell. This is mesmeric viewing from beginning to end. It is also well worth reading Antony Beevor's excellent and informative book "Stalingrad" as an accompaniment to this DVD. This DVD has excellent picture quality and is professionally presented.

"Don't rejoice in his defeat, you men. For though the world stood up and stopped the Bastard, the Bitch that bore him is in heat again." Bertolt Brecht
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Showing 1-10 of 11 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 13 Apr 2010 17:02:08 BDT
What an excellent review.

In reply to an earlier post on 6 Apr 2011 18:26:31 BDT
Dougal Three says:
I totally agree. Speaking as a professional writer, it's a pleasure to see such a potent combination of clarity and passion in something as 'simple' as an Amazon review - great job.

Posted on 9 Sep 2012 11:07:21 BDT
Tony Howard says:
Thanks for this thoroughly analytical & inspiring review. I have just bought the book you cite & will now buy this DVD. T Howard

Posted on 27 Nov 2012 19:30:45 GMT
Marvellous review. I will buy on your recommendation. Great to see a Brecht quote too. He is right as usual, we can see only to clearly now, the beast is once again raising its vile head.

Posted on 8 May 2014 17:28:26 BDT
Last edited by the author on 8 May 2014 17:38:28 BDT
Terry Mac says:
First class review. hope the docu film is as good as Beevor's book. It should be noted though, that the American's supplied the entire Russian war effort with truck's, food and tele communications. Without that aid there would not have been a victory at Stalingrad, well at least not for another year or two.

Even to this day the Russian's are loathe to accept the fact the the Americans and to a lesser degree the British helped them. Its that long since I have read Beevor's book, but I think he points this out. That and the fact that 13000 Russians soldiers fought on the German side at Stalingrad.

What a battle, 15 men a second died, and the battle lasted 5 months.

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Jun 2015 21:48:15 BDT
Ian says:
15 men a second sounds like a lot?
60 * 60 * 24 = 86,400 seconds in a day
86400 * 30 * 5 = 12,960,000 seconds in 5 months
* 15 per second = 194,400,000

From wikipedia -
In all, the battle resulted in an estimated total of 1.7-2 million Axis and Soviet casualties.

In reply to an earlier post on 4 Jun 2015 09:28:34 BDT
Terry Mac says:
15 men a second at the height of the battle not continous throughout 5 months.

In reply to an earlier post on 6 Jun 2015 11:31:17 BDT
Ian says:
Hi Terry,
Thanks for reply, I just read your comment and thought it sounded like a lot!
Cheers, Ian

In reply to an earlier post on 6 Jun 2015 11:47:58 BDT
Terry Mac says:
My fault for being ambiguous. Strange though, I get your text on ny mobile phone as I am sat in front of the tv watching ww2 operation coincidental and weird is

In reply to an earlier post on 6 Jun 2015 16:30:23 BDT
Ian says:
He heh! :-)
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Review Details



Bob Salter

Location: Wiltshire, England

Top Reviewer Ranking: 137