NKVD Officer on Gen. Paulus, excerpts from the diary

Below are excerpts from historical document, a diary of NKVD special-service officer, senior lieutenant Tarabrin, who spent several days with captured German generals and wrote down their dialogues.

F. Paulus - During 1942 - 1943 commanded over 6th Army. Gen. of Armored Forces. since January 1942, General-oberst since November 1942, General Field Marshall since January 1943. Prisoner of war in USSR during 1943 - 1953. A. Schmidt - During 1942 - 1943, chief of staff of the 6th Army, Gen.-Major since 1942, Gen.-Lieutenant since 1943. Prisoner of war in USSR during 1943 - 1955. V. Adam - 1st adjutant of Paulus, colonel. Prisoner of war in USSR during 1943 - 1948.

February 3, 1943

I came to Paulus, Schmidt and Adam at 11 a.m. They were sleeping when I came in. Paulus woke up and nodded to me. Schmidt also wakes up.

Schmidt: "Good morning, have you seen any dreams?"

Paulus: "What dreams can a captured Field Marshall see? Adam, you started shaving already? Leave me some hot water."

They shave and wash themselves. Then they have breakfast and smoke their usual cigars. Yesterday Paulus was at the interrogation, and it seems he is still under impression.

Paulus: "Strange people. They ask captured soldier about operational matters". Schmidt: "It's useless. No one of us will tell them anything. It's not 1918, when everybody thought that Germany is separate from its government and army is separate from both. We are not going to make that mistake again".

Paulus: "I agree with you, Schmidt".

They keep silence for quite some time. Schmidt goes to bed, and falls asleep. Paulus goes to bed too. Adam takes out his note-pad with Russian words, reads and repeats. Then he goes to bed too. Suddenly Yakimovitch arrives and proposes generals to visit bath-house. Paulus and Adam agree, Schmidt after short hesitation (he's afraid to catch cold), decides to join them. It was Paulus who finally convinced them by saying that Russian bath-houses are very healthy and it's always hot in them. All the four went to bath house. Generals and Adam took the car, Hein on a truck. HQ security officers went with them. They returned in an hour and a half, all in a very good mood. They exchange opinions on advantages of Russian bath-houses before others. They wait for the dinner so that they could get some sleep afterwards. In the meantime, several cars approach the building. Head of the intelligence service Gen.-Major Vinogradov with interpreter enter the room and says to Paulus that he'll meet German generals who were also captured by Red Army. While interpreter is talking, Vinogradov tells me they planned to make a documentary footage of captured generalship (on a side note, parts of this footage are included in one of the Stalingrad cut-scenes). Although Paulus, Schmidt and Adam are a bit disappointed that they will have to get outside after the bath, they dress up quickly to meet other generals. They don't know yet that they will be filmed. Schmidt and Paulus leave the building, cameramen shoot first frames.

Paulus: "This is not necessary"

Schmidt: "This is just disgusting" (both turn away from cameras)

They take their seats in cars and proceed to neighbor building, where other generals wait. From the other direction, another car with captured generals arrive with Gen.-Colonel Geitz and the rest. They meet each other, cameramen around are shooting. Paulus shakes hands with all generals, tells them: "Hello my friends, please show your dignity and high spirit". Shooting continues. Generals split up in groups and chat. Mostly, they talk about who is present at this meeting and who is not.

Central group - Paulus, Geitz, Schmidt. Cameramen are shooting them. Paulus remains calm. He looks straight into the camera. Schmidt looks nervous, tries to turn away. When one energetic cameraman approaches too close, he gives a fiendish smile and closes lens with a hand. Seems like the shooting doesn't bother the rest of the generals. However, some of them try not to be filmed together with Paulus. One colonel nervously walks back and forth, repeating: "It's alright, it's alright. Everyone is alive, and that's what matters most". Nobody pays any attention. The shooting is over. Generals are leaving. Paulus, Schmidt and Adam return home.

Schmidt: "Well, that's quite much fun, I should say. Now we are going to catch cold for sure, after this bath-house. They did it on purpose to get us ill."

Paulus: "This shooting is disgusting. What a shame! Marshal (Voronov) doesn't seem to know about it, that's for sure. What a dishonor! But there's nothing we can do, we are POWs ".

Schmidt: "I hate German journalists, and here we go with Russian ones! Horrible!".

They interrupt conversation because of dinner. They praise the cuisine. Their mood picks up. After dinner, they sleep almost until supper. Again they like the food. After supper, they smoke in silence, watch rings of smoke. Sound of shattering glass from the other room. Hein has broken a sugar bowl.

Paulus: That's Hein. What a clumsy teddybear!

Schmidt: "He is all thumbs. I wonder how did he steer a wheel. Hein! Have you ever lost a steering wheel?".

Hein: "No, Lieutenant General. But I was in a different mood back then".

Schmidt: "Your mood is your mood, but utensils is utensils. And it's not ours either".

Paulus: "He was a favorite of Field Marshal Reihenau, who died on his hands".

Schmidt: "By the way, how did he die?".

Paulus: "It was a heart attack after a hunt. Hein, deliver us the details".

Hein: "That day we went hunting with Field Marshal. He was in a very good mood and felt good. He was having a lunch, I brought him coffee. That was when that heart attack happened. HQ doctor said we had to get to Leipzig to some professor immediately. We found a plane in no time. Took off, four of us: Field Marshal, pilot, doctor and I. The course was set for Lvov. After an hour, he died right in the plane. It was very unlucky flight, more misfortunes were ahead. In Lvov, pilot tried to land, but then took off again. We made two circles over the airstrip. When he tried to land for the second time, he went by the wind, against all rules. So we crashed into one of the airport buildings. I was the only survivor".

Everybody is silent for about an hour. They smoke and reflect on something. Finally Paulus raises his head.

Paulus: "I wonder what the news are".

Adam: "I guess Russians are advancing. They can do that now".

Schmidt: "And what's next? That's a big question! I believe this war will end suddenly, like it started. It won't be a military victory, it would be all about politics. It's clear for now that we can't defeat Russians, but they can't defeat us either.

Paulus: "Politics is none of our business. We are soldiers. Marshal asked me yesterday why we were struggling without ammo and supplies, in desperate situation? I said I had my orders. Whatever the situation is, orders are orders. We are soldiers. Discipline, orders, obedience, that's the core of the army. He agreed with me. And it's ridiculous after all, as if I was in position to change something. By the way, Marshal leaves very goof impression. He is intelligent man. He understands the situation pretty well. He asked Schlefer about the 29th Regiment, where no one was captured. He memorizes even minor details". Schmidt: "Well, the fortune is skittish". Paulus: "It's good we don't know our fate beforehand. If I knew I would be a Field Marshal and then become prisoner of war... You know, I'd call such a play in theatre a bullshit.

They prepare to go to bed.

February 4, 1943

Morning. Paulus and Schmidt are still in their beds. Adam enters the room. He already shaved himself. He stretches out his left hand, says "Heil!".

Paulus: "Memorizing a roman greeting, this means that you, Adam, have nothing against me. You have no weapon.

Adam and Schmidt laugh.

Schmidt: "It sounds like "morituri te salutant" in latin.

Paulus: "They were just like us".

He takes out a cigarette.

Schmidt: "Don't smoke before meal, it's bad for your health".

Paulus: "It's okay, being a prisoner is much worse".

Schmidt: "You must be patient".

They get up. Morning toilet, breakfast. Major Ozerianski arrives from intelligence department, for Schmidt. They want to interrogate him.

Schmidt: "Finally they are interested in me too". (He felt a bit offended that they didn't want to interrogate him earlier).

Schmidt leaves. Paulus and Adam go to bead. Smoke, then they have a nap. They wait for a dinner. Schmidt returns in a couple of hours.

Schmidt: "Same questions. Why we resisted, refused to capitulate and so forth. It was difficult to talk, the interpreter was bad. She hardly understood me. And I didn't understand her either. The final question was how do I estimate operational art of Russians and Germans. I refused to answer, I said it could be an ill service for my motherland. Such questions should be posed after the war.

Paulus: "That's right. I said the same thing".

Schmidt: "It's getting aggravating. Don't they understand that no German officer would go against his country".

Paulus: "It's simply impolite to pose this kind of questions before us soldiers. No one is going to answer them now".

Schmidt: "Don't forget about propaganda, they say we should do it for the country, against the government. As I said earlier, only fools in 1918 separated people from the government.

Paulus: "Propaganda remains propaganda anyway. They don't even have an objective course.

Schmidt: "Is there an objective interpretation of history? Of course not. Take the beginning of the war for example. Who started it? Who is in charge? Why start it? Who can answer?"

Adam: "Only archives, many years after".

Paulus: "Soldiers remain soldiers. They fight because of the call of duty. They don't think about reasons, they only reason for them being loyalty oath. The beginning and the end of war is politics' business, they act as the situation on the front dictates them.

Then they started talking about the history of Greece, Rome and so on. They speak about the art and archeology. Adam tells about expeditions he took part in. Schmidt, talking about the pictorial art, says competently that best German artist is Rembrandt (?!), because Netherlands, Holland and Flanders are all "old German provinces". They speak up until the supper and go to sleep afterwards.

On February 5 morning I received an order to return back to the department for redeployment. My stay with generals is over.