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[[File: Stalingrad one.jpg|thumbnail|350px|Fighting at Stalingrad]]
The Battle of Stalingrad, between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, is considered not only the most important in World War II, but one of the most important in military history. The battle proved to be decisive for the Soviet Union and fundamentally changed altered the course of the war. Germany's defeat at Stalingrad not only lead to catastrophic German losses, but put the Nazi war machine was on the defensive for he rest of the war. Why were the Germans defeated at the Battle of Stalingrad and what lead to the Soviet victory? The German was hobbled by Hitler's micromanaging and tactics, his personal intransigence, and poor German battlefield leadership. The Soviet's benefitted from superior Soviet leadership, numbers, and tactics.
In June 1940, Germany invaded the Soviet Union. It was a surprise attack that violated the Molotov-Ribbentrop treaty signed in 1939 between Germany and the Soviet Union. The agreeement was a non-aggression pact between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union that was intended to ensure that neither country attacked the other.<ref> Antill, Peter, ''Stalingrad 1942'' (Osprey Publishing, London, 2007), p. 18</ref> Up to one million German soldiers and their allies pushed into western Soviet Union on the first day of the German invasion. As a result of their tactical surprise, the German army achieved a series of spectacular victories. Despite heroic Soviet resistance, Germany seized much of present day Belorussia, Ukraine and the Baltic States.<ref> Bellamy, Chris, ''Absolute War: Soviet Russia in the Second World War''. New York: Alfred A. Knopf & Random House.2007), p. 23</ref> The Red army suffered spectacular reverses and sustained massive losses. Hundreds of thousands of Soviet troops were killed and up to a million and a half taken, prisoner. A quarter of a million men surrendered during the German capture of Kiev, alone.<ref>Antill, p. 18</ref>
The Nazi invasion had been facilitated by the indecisiveness of Stalin who was taken aback by Hitler’s betrayal. He initially refused to believe the reports of a German invasion. The supreme leader of the Soviets possibly suffered a nervous breakdown in the early stages of the Nazi invasion. However, after a period of time, he helped direct the Soviet counter-attack. By the autumn of 1941, it appeared that Germany’s ''blitzkrieg'' tactics would lead to the defeat of the Red army. However, winter arrived early that year and this slowed down the German advance. Russians spoke of ‘General Winter’- who would help them to win the war. <ref>Bellamy, p. 67</ref> The Soviet people were well aware that the severe Russian winters would slow if not halt the German advance, just as it had stopped Napoleon and Charles XII of Sweden, during previous invasions. By December 1941, the German’s vanguard was ‘some fifty miles from Moscow.’<ref>Antill, p. 45</ref> However, the weather was cold and German soldiers had begun to suffer in the harsh conditions. The Soviet’s used the weather to their advantage. The Soviets stationed huge forces in the east in to defend Siberia from a Japanese invasion. He withdrew them and under General George Zhukov. They were then organized into a strike force aimed at repelling the German advance on Moscow. On December 12th, Zhukov’s army launched a surprise attack on the German frontline and pushed them back with heavy losses some one hundred miles from Moscow.<ref> MacDonald, John. ''Great Battles of World War II'' (London, Michael Joseph books, 1986), p. 245</ref> The Soviet Capital had been saved. However, despite the setback, the Germans had a secure hold over much of western Soviet Union and had laid siege to the city of Leningrad.