Birthday: September 23, 1890
Died At Age: 66
Sun Sign: Libra
Also Known As: Friedrich Wilhelm Ernst Paulus
Born Country: Germany
Born in: Guxhagen, Germany
Famous as: Military Officer
Spouse/Ex-: Elena Rosetti-Solescu (m. 1912 – 1949)
father: Ernst Alexander Paulus
mother: Bertha Nettelbeck
children: Ernst Alexander Paulus, Friedrich Paulus, Olga von Kutzschenbach
Died on: February 1, 1957
place of death: Dresden, Germany
Cause of Death: Cancer
education: University of Marburg
Who was Friedrich Paulus?
Friedrich Paulus was a German field marshal during World War II whose advance on Stalingrad and subsequent surrender to the Red Army marked the turning point of the war. He was commanding the 6th Army during the Battle of Stalingrad, and was able to capture most of the city at severe losses to his army. Following a misadventure, he was surrounded by the Soviets and was denied the option of retreat by German leader Adolf Hitler. Hitler promoted him to field marshal in the face of certain defeat, implying that he should commit suicide rather than surrender, but he chose the latter. He subsequently agreed to work as a propagandist for Moscow and was released from captivity in 1953. He had previously served in the First World War in France and the Balkans. Described as "clever, conscientious, hardworking, original and talented", he rose up the ranks quickly, even though some thought that he had lacked decisiveness, toughness and command experience.
Childhood & Early Life
Friedrich Wilhelm Ernst Paulus was born on September 23, 1890 in Guxhagen, German Empire, and was raised by his treasurer father in Kassel, Hesse-Nassau.
After failing to secure a cadetship in the Imperial German Navy because of his lack of aristocratic blood, Friedrich Paulus briefly studied law at Marburg University.
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Friedrich Paulus left university without a degree and joined the 111th Infantry Regiment of the German Army as an officer cadet in February 1910. The following year, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the 3rd Baden Infantry Regiment.
When the First World War started, Paulus was adjutant of the III Battalion, which was sent to France, where he saw action in the Vosges and around Arras in the autumn of 1914. He was assigned to the staff of the 2nd Prussian Jaeger Regiment in 1915, and following brief absence due to illness, joined the Alpenkorps as a staff officer, serving in Macedonia, France, Romania and Serbia.
Paulus, who had reached the rank of captain during the war, remained in the army after the Armistice and was appointed adjutant to the 14th Infantry Regiment at Konstanz. He was one of only 4,000 officers to serve in the Reichswehr and was assigned a company commander to the 13th Infantry Regiment at Stuttgart.
He continued to be promoted throughout the 1920s, and became a tactics instructor with the 5th Infantry Division in 1930. He offered guest lectures in Moscow, Soviet Union, as part of the military cooperation between Weimar Republic and Soviet Union to escape Treaty of Versailles.
In 1934, he became a lieutenant colonel and was appointed commander of Motor Transport Section 3, and in 1935, succeeded Heinz Guderian as chief of staff to the commander of Germany's Mechanized Forces. Considered an expert on motorized warfare, he earned promotion to major general and became director of training for Germany's four light divisions in 1939.
World War II
Friedrich Paulus, who was appointed Chief of the General Staff in February 1938, became chief of staff for the German Tenth Army in May 1939, just before the outbreak of the Second World War.
In September 1939, he participated in the invasion of Poland, under General Walther von Reichenau, followed by the Netherlands and Belgium in 1940, after it was renamed the Sixth Army.
He was promoted to lieutenant general in August 1940, and in September, was named deputy chief of the German General Staff, following which he surveyed the Soviet Union for the proposed Operation Barbarossa. He also went to North Africa for inspection, but his highly critical report of General Erwin Rommel and the Deutsches Afrika Korps was not acted upon by Adolf Hitler.
In December 1941, at the suggestion of Field Marshal Reichenau, Paulus was made general of the 6th Army and subsequently fought his first battle at Dnepropetrovsk in the Soviet Union. He was forced to move troops back after the advancing Red Army, led by General Semen Timoshenko, attacked on May 9, 1942.
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The Sixth Army was rescued by General Paul von Kleist's 1st Panzer Army, which attacked Timoshenko's exposed southern flank on 17th May. Paulus, now able to launch a counter attack, tackled the Soviet resistance by the end of the month, killing and capturing about 240,000 Soviet soldiers, for which he was awarded the Knights' Cross.
In the summer of 1942, he led 250,000 men, 500 tanks, 7,000 guns and mortars, and 25,000 horses towards Stalingrad, a journey which was halted several times due to lack of fuel. He faced severe resistance from the Soviets as he advanced deeper into the fortified urban area, but was able to raise the swastika flag over the government buildings in Red Square on September 26th.
Hitler ordered Friedrich Paulus to take Stalingrad at any cost, which he followed at huge losses to his army, successfully occupying 90 percent of the city by November 1942. However, his next major offensive on November 10th failed, following which he faced certain encirclement by the Soviets, but again followed Hitler's order of holding ground over his commanders' suggestion for a breakout.
In January 1943, Friedrich Paulus requested Hitler for permission to surrender as his army received insufficient supplies via airdrop, and an attempt by Field Marshal Erich von Manstein to launch a rescue attempt had also failed. Hitler made him field marshal on January 30, 1943, hoping he would commit suicide as no German field marshal had ever surrendered, but Paulus surrendered to the Red Army the following day.
Friedrich Paulus, who initially refused to cooperate with the Soviets, agreed to make anti-Nazi broadcasts after learning that his friends, Erich Hoepner and Erwin von Witzleben, had been executed following the attempted assassination of Hitler. He joined the Soviet-sponsored National Committee for a Free Germany, appealing to Germans to surrender, for which Hitler ordered that his entire family be imprisoned in a concentration camp.
In 1946, he appeared as a witness for the prosecution at the Nuremberg Trials, where he admitted to being guilty of attack on the Soviet Union, but refused to incriminate Alfred Jodl or Wilhelm Keitel. In 1953, he was allowed to move to the German Democratic Republic.
Personal Life & Legacy
On July 4, 1912, Friedrich Paulus married Elena Rosetti-Solescu, a Romanian woman who was the sister of a colleague who served in the 111th Infantry Regiment. He saw her last in 1942, as she died in 1949, when he was in captivity, but he had sent his wedding ring back to her before surrendering to the Red Army.
After his release from the Soviet Union, he settled in Dresden, East Germany, where he worked as the civilian chief of the East German Military History Research Institute. He developed amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in late 1956, and died on February 1, 1957, following which his body was buried next to his wife's in Baden-Baden, West Germany, as per his wish.
Talking about his promotion to field marshal, Friedrich Paulus mentioned, "It looks like an invitation to commit suicide, but I will not do this favor for him." A Roman Catholic, he was opposed to committing suicide, and told during his imprisonment that he had "no intention of shooting myself for this Bohemian corporal".