[CELEBRATING THE END OF THE DEADLIEST BATTLE IN THE HISTORY OF WARFARE] A panorama of the public rally held to celebrate the Soviet victory in the Battle of Stalingrad in 1943.
The panorama consists of 3 numbered photographs; apparently, the fourth one (numbered #1) is missing. The size of each photograph: 18x24 cm. Each photo with the Russian caption on the back side: ‘4/II 1943. A Rally in Stalingrad. Photo by Gr. Ostrovsky. Photo № (corresponding number)’. Near fine.
The rally occurred on February 4, 1943, two days after the Soviet victory in the deadliest military campaign of the Second World War. According to archival figures, the USSR suffered 1,129,619 total casualties in addition to hundreds of thousands of evacuated, perished, and exiled Soviet citizens. By the time these photographs were taken, there were almost no civilians in the city, and most rally participants were surviving soldiers from the Battle of Stalingrad. Thus, it is highly likely that the person who took the photographs was either a frontline photographer from Stalingrad or a photographer invited from another city. The rally was attended by the prominent party leader Nikita Khrushchev (1894-1971) and two army commanders, General Chuikov and General Shumilov. The photos show the ruins of Stalingrad - the aftermath of the heavy bombing in the first days of the battle. The city was firebombed with 1,000 tons of high explosives and incendiaries in 1,600 sorties on 23 August. The destruction was monumental, turning Stalingrad into a sea of fire and killing thousands of civilians and soldiers.
A turning point in World War II, the Battle of Stalingrad, was one of the bloodiest confrontations in the history of warfare, with an estimated 2 million total casualties from August 1942 through February 1943.
By the spring of 1942, the Wehrmacht had captured vast expanses of Soviet territory, including Ukraine and Belarus. With the extremely successful initial operations, the Nazis directed their summer campaign at the southern parts of the Soviet Union. The initial objectives in the region around Stalingrad were to destroy the city's industrial capacity and block the Volga River traffic connecting the Caucasus and Caspian Sea to central Russia. On July 23, 1942, Hitler personally rewrote the operational objectives for the 1942 campaign, greatly expanding them to include the occupation of Stalingrad. Hitler proclaimed that after Stalingrad’s capture, its male citizens were to be killed, and all women and children were to be deported.
The battle began on August 23 with the heavy bombing of Stalingrad. Much of the city was smashed to rubble, and around 40,000 civilians were taken to Germany as slave workers. By the end of August, Army Group South (B) had finally reached the Volga, north of Stalingrad. After three months of slow advance, the Germans finally reached the river banks, capturing 90% of the ruined city and splitting the remaining Soviet forces into two narrow pockets. Recognizing that German troops were ill-prepared for offensive operations, Soviet forces launched a counteroffensive in mid-November 1942. The Soviets quickly encircled an entire German army, and, in February 1943, after months of fierce fighting and heavy casualties, the surviving German forces surrendered.
After the victory at Stalingrad, the Red Army remained on the offensive, liberating most of Ukraine and virtually all of Russia and eastern Belarus in 1943. The battle for the city of Stalingrad proved a decisive psychological turning point, ending a string of German victories in the summer of 1942.