While this may sound like criticism, its not; I enjoyed this book immensely. This is not a comprehensive study of the operational aspects of the battle for Stalingrad like you have read from David Glantz. This is a specialty book, a niche book that Mr Ellis, with topics meticulously chosen, has developed. Its main theme concerns urban warfare and what life was like for the trapped men of 6th Army though there is minor, initial coverage of crossing the Don and transversing the land bridge to Stalingrad and the subsequent defense of the extreme flanks by Italian, Hungarian and Rumanian troops. The importance of controlling the Volga is also shown.
The opening chapter is ideal for setting the stage for the rest of the book by describing the horrific fighting in the city for both sides before the November 19 counter offensive. Though this narrative is generally German driven, much is said in this chapter on Stalin's Order # 227 (Not one step back), the impact it had on the Russian soldier and the involvement of the NKVD in prosecuting this order. The author clearly shows Stalin and his security division had much less concern for the welfare of the Soviet soldier with the implementation of this unreasonable order that saw thousands killed or inprisoned. The author also believes the German soldier and especially the cadre of junior officers were better trained and disciplined over its counterpart to fight an urban battle and was a prime reason why more Soviet forces were lost than German forces but it was also pointed out several times how both sides learned from this dreadful fighting.
Besides the terrible battle conditions, its shown how long term deteriorating logistical and psychological conditions impacted the troops of both sides but especially the German side. As a relevant but secondary issue after the trap was sprung, I particular enjoyed the insightfulness of General Seyditz-Kurzbach and his argument to General Paulus for disobeying Hitler's order to remain in Stalingrad and to make a breakout attempt in the last week of November to the south toward Kotelnikovo. Seyditz knew that 6th Army could never be resupplied by air so deep in enemy territory and that it would be doomed if it stayed at Stalingrad.
To support the author's opening overview, the war diaries of 16th PzD, 94th ID, 76th ID are presented to show the deteriorating conditions of fighting and living conditions in the cauldron during the bitter winter with little food or ammunition against a relentless foe.
Another interesting chapter concerns sniping. Over the decades, myths and legends have risen about the superiority of Soviet snipers over German snipers. The author presents the case the two sides were more or less equal and that thousands of victims were taken from long range on both sides. First presenting a brief history of sniping going back to WWI, the author then presents what he believes is the true history of the contribution of sniping in general as well as the duels between Konings vs Zaitsev and many others that fought there.
There are also other interesting chapters on battlefield espionage, deception, propaganda and war crimes. The recruitment of Russian minorities by the Germans to support and in a few cases to fight in the trenches was also noteworthy. There are many topics covered and positions defended in this book that are absent or barely touched on in other books that make this book worthy of your consideration. Mr Ellis clearly shows his knowledge of Stalingrad by the topics chosen along with providing quality commentary and analysis. The author has clearly done his homework and has tried not to heavily duplicate earlier works yet still presents pertinent information to the interested student.
In addition to the select narrative, the Notes Section is especially informative and helpful as is the six part Appendix. Though the author gives praise to the works by David Glantz, David Stone, Antony Beever and V Grossman, most of the author's references are either German or Russian as the Bibliography clearly points out. There is also a small but worthy photo gallery; at least half of the photos I haven't seen before and were appreciated. There are many informational tables but no maps. Thats too bad; it would have been interesting seeing a series of maps showing the shrinking pocket.
The battle for Stalin's city and the Volga was one of the landmark events of the War. I would suggest that "The Stalingrad Cauldron" would make an excellent, even must have supplement to the traditional works by Glantz, Jason, Hayward and Bergstrom etc if you're looking for a well rounded knowledge of the Stalingrad Battle. This book is therefore highly recommended to all Stalingrad students.
I can only endorse the previous, very detailed review. There are now many 'Stalingrad' books out there, some excellent, some 'potboilers'. This book certainly is in the first category. I would not recommend it as an introduction to the battle ; really it's for the enthusiast/student who already has good background knowledge. But what a treat it is for those people ! The book is deeply researched and offers many fascinating details and insights into the experience of the Germans at Stalingrad. I found it quite absorbing and recommend it highly.