Arguably the most decisive confrontation of World War II, the Battle of Stalingrad raged for more than five months, between August 23, 1942, and February 2, 1943. Driving south to reach the rich oil fields of the Caspian Sea, German armies were brought to a standstill by Soviet forces marshaled on the banks of the Volga at Stalingrad, a major industrial and transportation hub. The ensuing battle—waged block by block and house by house throughout the city—was one of the bloodiest in history, resulting in more than two million casualties.
In November 1942, the Red Army launched Operation Uranus, a massive undertaking that successfully sealed the German Sixth Army within the smoldering ruins of the city. The harsh winter, a woefully inadequate supply line, and Hitler’s refusal to let his soldiers retreat contributed to catastrophic German losses. On February 2, 1943, Generalfeldmarschall Friedrich Paulus and the 91,000 remaining German soldiers surrendered, bringing the Battle of Stalingrad to a conclusion.
Soviet artists designed numerous posters addressing the ongoing campaign to turn back the German army at Stalingrad. Among the most notable of these is the Kukryniksy’s satirical depiction of Germany’s fanatical devotion to Hitler’s enormously destructive military tactics, The Metamorphosis of the “Fritzes” (TASS 640). Despite Joseph Goebbels’s best efforts to conceal it, news of the disastrous campaign at Stalingrad immediately reverberated throughout the Third Reich. Nevertheless, official memorial posters devoted to it were not issued in Germany until late 1943.
Petr Mitrofanovich Shukhmin. Not a Step Back!, October 27, 1942. Ne boltai! Collection, 0574.