Today marks 74 years to the day that the German Army surrendered at Stalingrad. One of the bloodiest battles in human history saw the starved, ill-prepared, low-moraled Axis alliance of the German, Italian, Croatian, Romanian and Estonian armies fight against the equally freezing and poorly organised troops of the Soviet 28th, 51st, 58th, 62nd and 64th armies.
The conflict raged for over 5 months and gave way to close-quarters combat by the Soviets in an attempt to nullify the Axis air superiority. Though this tactic would ultimately allow the Soviets to encircle the Nazi forces, it led to the loss of nearly 500,000 men and 5,000 tanks. The 6th Army of the Nazis and the 4th Panzer division suffered even more catastrophically. Over 730,000 soldiers were wounded, dead or missing by the battle’s end and of the 91,000 German prisoners of war, only 5,000 would return home.
Examples of such complete, total war, in which individuals living in the city now renamed Volgograd, were forced to barricade their homes to slow the German offensive, remind us of the unrivalled destructive power of man, and the lengths they will go to survive.
It must also remind us of our humanity and progress as a society. As was seen in this battle, civilian casualties became the price of the war, with both sides ready to pay. In the Syrian civil war today, that price is again being asked. I suggest that we do not continue to remunerate.