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World War Two Sources Questions Essay

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1) Source A is a primary source. It’s a message sent by Commander Paulus (of Sixth Army) to the Germany Army High Command, on 24th January 1943. We expect to find that the source is genuine and unbiased, considering the message has been sent from one German to another. The message was also not an attempt of propaganda as it was kept top secret between army generals.

The information is regarding the surrender of the Sixth Army in Stalingrad in 1943. The German Army was losing considerably and couldn’t keep up the strong fighting, as known in 1939 onwards. The source tells us that supplies were gravely low, and command was no longer possible. It is a very adequate explanation of why the German Army had to surrender. One main reason for the defeat of Russia was to do with the strategic positioning of the army. Almost half of the original army going to Stalingrad was redirected to the Caucacus.

This caused problems later on. We also know that the Luftwaffe wasn’t delivering the required amount of supplies, although Goering had promised. Not nearly half of the ammunition, food and medical supplies were being flown in. The source tells us that the front lines were crumbling. We understand that the German Army had conquered approximately nine tenths of Stalingrad, but still couldn’t manage to hold the most important area, the banks of the Volga. Russians were bringing in fresh troops and supplies constantly during the night, and the Luftwaffe wasn’t strong enough to eradicate the Russians during the day. The Germans were eventually pushed further back out of the city as the army’s numbers dwindled.

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There could be however, one false interpretation of the source. Paulus asks the High Command if he could have permission to surrender (in order to save lives). This could be interpreted as the reason why they finally surrendered, but in actual fact it wasn’t. Hitler had denied the request of Paulus, he expect Paulus to fight till death; every last solider. The final collapse of the Sixth Army was when Stalin and Zhukov decided to finish the Germans off. Two Russian armies went around the city from either side, eventually meeting up in the centre. They had the Germans surrounded. On the 10th of January the Russians opened fire and thousands of Germans were killed, many more taken prisoners. Finally on 31st of January 1943, Soviet troops captured Paulus’s headquarters in the basement of the Univermag department store on Red Square. He and his generals and the remaining troops in the city surrendered without a fight.

Therefore we can see that the source gives us a very good explanation of the background information as to why the Germans surrendered. However, the actual surrender could be misleading, and we also need to know of the Russians participating role in the whole situation.

2) Source B is a photograph of Stalingrad, entitled “The Russians recapture Stalingrad”. It is a primary source, however we have to be careful, because photographs can be false. They can be changed in anyway for propaganda purposes. Stalin was well known for this. Photographs are also only an instant in time, and could be misleading in many ways (we don’t get to see the whole picture). Because Stalin was renowned for his propaganda methods, it is probably that the picture was taken for such an effect. Stalin wanted to show the people that Russia was strong and powerful. In the picture we can a Russian soldier holding the Soviet flag. Stalin is trying to convey the message that although Germany conquered Western Europe, Russia will never be defeated. It symbolises victory to the nation, and raises the morale after so many people had died.

The buildings in the background seem to be quite stable and healthy looking, whereas we know that most of the city was covered in rubble. This was probably to give the message that the Germans didn’t actually do that much damage. In the background on the picture, we can see military vehicles. It is also hard to decipher whether or not they are Russian or German vehicles. If they are German, then they were put there to show people that the Russian army is strong and powerful, and have managed to round up the German troops and keep them under control. However, I think it is more probable that they are Russian. They are military and supply vehicles. Just to re-reinforce the fact that they are able to get resources in for their people, and to make a stand. A little like when a flag is put in the centre of a newly conquered territory. To let the other side know it belongs to them.

Therefore all in all, I think that the photograph was another method of propaganda, to raise the morale of the civilians. To let them know that Russia will not be conquered. The photograph shows us that.

3) Source C, a letter from an unknown soldier in 1943, is another primary source, again expected to be genuine (because it was sent from one German to another and was not a form of propaganda). The source isn’t really useful in telling us why and how the defeat of the Germans came about. It doesn’t mention the Russian army, or the lack of supplies and men. However, it does show us what the view of a German soldier is at the time. We can see that many Germans were dying “I have seen hundreds fall and die”. The Germans felt helpless and deserted. They had the view that Hitler had let them down, failed to keep his promises. The soldier now realises that Hitler had deceived them in many ways. The source can show an historian that the defeat of the German army was terrible and severe in Stalingrad. We can see that the morale had disappeared and were ready for surrendering.

Source D, a cartoon by David Low (British newspaper cartoonist), is also a primary source, but a method of propaganda. We can see how the interpretation of the defeat of the German Army was being conveyed to the British public. It is quite important to an historian because it shows the outcome of the war and also Britain’s role in the war. The British were obviously supporting Russia, as we know that they were sending in troops. But also that the cartoon shows us that Russia was greater than Germany. Russia was really an enemy to Britain, but Germany was more of a threat to Britain (so they took the side of Russia). The cartoon shows us that the German army was small in comparison to the Russians. We can also see that it was the Russian civilians who were fighting. This is depicted by the man with a scythe and hammer in his hands, representing the industrial and agricultural workers. They were strong and brave.

I think both sources are just as useful as each other. Source C shows an interpretation of the Germans, and Source D shows the interpretation of the British. But that’s all, therefore I think the limitations outweigh the positive values. We don’t see why it happened or how. However, there are a limited amount of sources which are able to tell all three qualities, why, how and the effects. We do however, have the valuable explanation of the effects. How people were feeling in 1943.

4) The two interpretations of why the Battle of Stalingrad came to an end, are different because the authors intended different points of view to go to a different class of audience. Source E, a primary German broadcast, is intended for the German public, therefore biased and another method of propaganda. This is contrasted with the selected piece from a Russian textbook, a secondary source, therefore biased towards the Russians.

Source E, is explaining to the German public that the war had come to and end, with the German Sixth Army being defeated. That the soldiers were brave and the war was not a waste of time. The German Army had held out for a long time. The broadcast tries to get the view across that the German Army is still strong and the reason for their failure was the encirclement of the army and “unfavourable circumstances” confronting the forces.

The reason why this interpretation is different to Source F is because the media had to send out information to make the public still feel safe, and for them not to lose their morale. They make Germany out to still be strong and that they should re-unite even further. Because it needs to give the public a sense of gain instead of loss, it leaves out the bad parts of the war. That the army wasn’t supplied well enough. And that Hitler hadn’t let them surrender in order to save thousands of lives. The source therefore is giving a biased view on the battle, favoured more for the German government.

This is then compared with Source F, which is also biased, in favouring Russia. The source talks about a “Great Patriotic” war, making them seem more important than the Germans. Most of the source is correct according to the facts, for example that Hitler refused the surrender of the Sixth Army. However, it is written to interpret the German Army as being incompetent compared to the Russian civilians. However, there are limitations to the source. It says that the battle of Stalingrad was the greatest military and political event of the second world war. We know that it was the first turning point, and helped stopping Japan becoming even more involved than it already was. However, there were many important battles and turning points in the war (for example the U.S.A’s nuclear attack on Japan), therefore the source is biased favouring the Russians as the most important country at that time in the world.

Therefore the reason as to why the two sources differ in many ways is because they were intended for different audiences. The Germans had to raise the morale of the civilians, and Russia wanted to make its people think it had the most important role in the war. Neither of the sources committing truth to the facts.

5) “The Nazi defeat at Stalingrad was more important to the Russians than to the Germans.”

This statement is both true and false. In many ways both countries needed to win for many different reasons. For the Germans as a whole the defeat of Stalingrad was not really a necessary thing. Source G, a British secondary source tells us that maybe the battle wasn’t a decisive turning point in the second world war, and that Germany was still strong.

The Germans had already taken over the Caucacus, receiving the benefits of Russia’s main coal supplies. However, it was Hitler who had an urge to take over Stalingrad. It was mainly because the industrial town bore the name of the countries leader and possibly held an important position. It was also quite an important town to Russia, and the defeat of it would give Hitler even more power. We know that it didn’t really have much benefit to Germany as a whole, as they ended up taking over most of the town with no beneficial effects occurring. As seen is sources A and C, all that happened was that thousands of men were captured and over a quarter of a million men were killed, in the biggest military blow to Germany during the second world war.

However, it would have stood them in good stead for the take over of Russia. Germany failed because there weren’t enough supplies as the reinforcements couldn’t keep up, plus the winter had a great catastrophic effect. If Germany had won, then there may have been different consequences. Russia for sure would have been turned into a superpower, with possibly billions of people under the control of Hitler. Britain’s hopes of winning the war could possibly be over too. If Russia was out of the war, that would strongly increase Japan’s power, possibly even conquering the U.S.A.

Hitler occupied a huge part of Europe. He had to make sure that he kept everyone happy, especially in Germany where revolts and rebellions could have serious consequences. He had to keep the public morale high, which he had done up to now. However, the defeat of Russia would have raised morale even more. Source E and H confirms this view. Source E tells us of the type of propaganda used, and how it needed to be used to keep the people at peace. Source H a second British secondary source which states that the German people started to have doubts about their Fuehrer. They had been following him blindly, receiving victory after victory and now this, the first crisis. This is also backed up by source C, the letter from a German soldier saying he had been deceived and tricked.

For Russia the defeat of the Germans was also quite important. Stalingrad was an important industrial town. It would have also been an important step for Germany to taking over the whole of Russia. The town was also not evacuated, it gave the Red Army an incentive to fight for. Also Stalin needed to keep the hopes of the Russian people of a communist state alive. He needed victory for support.

Sources B and F show us how important the public view of Russia is. Source B, was predicted to be a propaganda method, trying to make the Russians look good and patriotic. It helped the Soviet morale grow stronger. Source F, which is written much later not only supports the facts but gives a biased view as well. Even years later they seem to need to make themselves look good. All this propaganda is helped again with source D. It shows the united Russia, of agricultural and industrial workers, working to fight the Germans off their territory. They were strong and patriotic.

From this we can see that the take over of Stalingrad was necessary for both sides but for the different factors mentioned. Hitler needed the area for a further attack and then finally the elimination of Britain and the U.S.A in the war. Stalin needed to keep Stalingrad as it was a main industrial area and the morale and support of the people needed to be kept high. It was also quite a crucial turning point in the history of the second world war.

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