Coelestin von Zitzewitz,
spy of the German High Command ?
On November 23, 1942, the
telephone rang on Major von Zitzewitz's desk. Zeitzler speaking.
I want to see you at once. A quarter of an hour later the Major
was standing before the Chief
of the Army General Staff. The General led the Major across to the
table where the situation
map was laid out.
morning the Sixth Army is encircled. You will fly to Stalingrad
today, taking with
you a wireless section of the Supreme Command Signals Regiment.
What I want you to do is
to send direct to me, by radio, a rapid report on the situation
there. Make it as full as possible.
You have no command powers of any sort. We're not worried about
that, and have the fullest
confidence in General Paulus's ability. Any questions?"
"Tell General Paulus we're doing everything in our power to
"Thank you very much."
On November 24th a
wireless section, consisting of one NCO and four men from the
Supreme Command Signals Regiment and equipped with a 70-watt short
and a 15-watt ultra-short-wave transmitter, landed at Pitomnik.
Two hours later Major von
Zitzewitz reported to Major-General Schmidt. The General spoke
only a few words to him.
glanced at his orders and instructions, and directed that all
wireless messages which Major
Zitzewitz intended to transmit should first be submitted to him
received Major von Zitzewitz in his bunker and recalled that in
January of 1942 he had himself sent the Major on a similar mission
to the Ninth Army in the
Rjev area. General Paulus had then said to him:
"Before the war
with Russia broke out, the General Staff told me to work out the
plan of campaign and to set down in writing what I anticipated
would be the course of
events. Everything has turned out exactly as I foresaw. Over there
in that safe," and he
pointed to a corner, "it's all down on paper. I am wondering,
should I ever have the time,
whether I'd have a good night's sleep at last, or whether I'd
glance through those papers again.
I rather think the latter." It was these words that Major von
Zitzewitz recalled on this day
of late November, ten months later.
The thoughts of the
Commander-in-Chief, however, ran in other channels. How and by
means did the Army High Command propose to supply the Sixth Army,
since that Army
had reported that they would need five hundred tons of supplies
per day? General Paulus
would like to know what his Army was supposed to fight with and
what his men were to
Major von Zitzewitz
could give no answer to these questions, nor was he able to
the course of events which thence-forth formed part of his daily
life. His job was merely
to report. But his reports contained nothing new. Sixth Army had
lost its entire supply
organisation, all its reserve stocks and almost all its supply
personnel during the fighting
west of the Don. Five hundred tons was really the minimum daily
requirement, but only one
hundred and fifty tons had been flown in during the last
twenty-four hours, which represented
less than one-half of the absolute minimum that they needed.
He reported on Sixth
Army's wood problem and on how the building wood and firewood
collected in the ruins of Stalingrad city was divided and part
delivered to those divisions
which lay some distance from the city. He listed all the needs and
grievances of the army
in one wireless report, so that those in authority might build up
a picture of the ceaseless
worries and endless problems which were bound to produce a marked
effect on officers
and men alike during the impending defensive battle which had been
ordered by the
All wireless messages
went over General Schmidt's desk, but when one day the Chief
of Staff modified an outspoken message with the comment that it
was not yet time to send so
pessimistic a report. Major von Zitzewitz determined, after
consultation with the GSOl,
to find a means whereby the most important wireless messages could
be sent off at his dis-
cretion, without a copy being first shown to the Chief of Staff.
Thenceforth such messages
were sent at night, when the Chief of Staff was asleep with orders
not to be disturbed;
they went to an officer in the Operations Department of the Army
High Command, a personal
friend of Major von Zitzewitz. Major von Zitzewitz knew that this
officer could be trusted,
despite the fact that the messages were addressed to him
personally, to see that they were
read at the highest levels. This arrangement had an additional
advantage in that the 'Army
High Command spy' was not compelled to choose his words with the
care necessary in
drafting official reports.
Every day about a
hundred men went sick from each of the Stalingrad divisions with
or dysentry. This amounted to a daily loss of some 2400 men from
the twenty-four divisions.
To keep up the Sixth Army's combat strength it was therefore
necessary to comb the
non-combatant units for replacements.The Commander of the l6th
Panzer Division was
given this assignment. Men taken from the rear area units were
trained and formed into
'Fortress Battalions'. Major von Zitzewitz reported how the
Divisional Commanders spoke
with contempt of the Rumanian troops. Time and again he had heard
that it was impossible to
commit these troops into battle on their own. But he also referred
to General Dimitrescu as an
especially skilful and discerning officer.
The so-called 'tank
state' took up an important part of the radio messages he sent to
so too did the Commanders' opinions on the possibility of holding
out. There was also strong
criticism of the way in which the news was being handled and of
the Armed Forces High
Major von Zitzewitz
kept his eyes open as he went the rounds; he did not talk much,
was a good listener. Whenever something he had heard or seen
seemed to clarify the difficult
situation of the Sixth Army, he radioed it to the 'Wolf's Lair'.
Major von Zitzewitz
was to be met in the steppe, when a bright sun was shining and
was deep in snow without tree or bush to be seen and an icy wind
raged across its bleak
white face. He was to be met on the Northern Front and amongst the
ruins of the city by the
Volga, in the Commander-in-Chief's car, and with the Army doctor
at the airfield. He talked
to supply officers, commissaries, specialists and officials of all
sorts, front-line soldiers.
He asked about stocks of equipment, fuel, weapons, ammunition and
food, in fact about the
whole supply problem. Nor did the personal griefs and anxieties of
the soldiers escape his
It required no great
perspicacity in Stalingrad Fortress to unearth matters worthy of
it was far harder properly to assign significance and draw
When the relief
offensive of Hoth's Army needed support, his reports repeatedly
home one point. At that time the Commander-in-Chief of the Sixth
Army was asserting al-
most every day that his Army would be better employed helping to
restore the position on
the Eastern Front where it had ' been broken through between
Rostov and Voronesh and in
holding that front, than here at Stalingrad where he could only
achieve a limited measure of
success by pinning down comparatively small enemy forces, since he
lacked the resources to
enable him to do more than this.
All the departments of
Sixth Army staff were busy in completing their preparations for
break-out, and were under no delusions concerning the significance
of the situation de-
veloping inside the Fortress.
It was not possible to
obtain a clear picture of the situation of Army Group Don as a
and this was of great, even of paramount, importance for the
implementation of the south-
ward attack which was being planned.
As has been said.
Major von Zitzevritz gave an unequivocal description in his
messages of the privations endured by the troops. The rations had
to be cut again, supphes
of fuel were totally inadequate and the arrangements for flying
out the wounded were
Some of the days he
spent in the Fortress are of special interest. That was the period
December 20th, when the relief army came nearest to the Stalingrad
Fortress and Sixth Army
received the following wireless message:
'While continuing to
hold Stalingrad, Sixth Army will attack with all available forces
the Hoth Army, in order to reduce the pressure on the van of the
advancing troops who are
being heavily engaged.'
conversations with Major von Zitzewitz the Commander-in-Chief
opinion that it was not possible to carry out this double task.
Either Stalingrad could be held
or the troops could be used to attack, but to do both at once was
impossible. This was a basic
military principle, applicable to strategy as to tactics. No
objective could be achieved if there
were simultaneously two points of main effort. This had been
proved once again by the
examples of Leningrad and Moscow, of Stalingrad and the Caucasus.
On December 21st the
Supreme Command demanded an exact return of the Army's fuel
supplies and Colonel-General Paulus gave the precise figure. In
terms of distances, this fuel
return revealed that it was possible for Sixth Army's tanks to
travel eighteen miles. And it was
this figure of eighteen miles which finally caused Hitler to
forbid, for the second time, the
attempt to break out.
Wherever he went,
Major von Zitzewitz found the same conditions, namely an army that
hungry, frozen and short of ammunition.
On January 4th the
Commander-in-Chief of the Sixth Army received a puzzling wireless
message from the Chief of the Army General Staff. It requested
that the authenticity of the
wireless messages sent by Major von Zitzewitz's transmitter should
be tested by radioing a short
signal referring to some common experiences shared a long time ago
and intelligible only to the
parties concerned. By way of reply General Paulus referred to a
holiday that he and General
Zeitzier had spent together at the seaside before the war. It was
not until several weeks later
that Major von Zitzewitz discovered what lay behind this.
The picture presented
to the Supreme Command during the next few days was one of enemy
breakthroughs and fronts torn asunder, of the infiltration
of hostile tanks, of the lack of armour
and anti-tank guns and, as always, of no food.
arrived from all the centres where the wounded were collected; the
hospitals were filled to overflowing and there was no possibility
of giving these men the care
and attention they needed.
On January 20th, the
headquarters of the Army High Command ordered Major von Zitzewitz
to report back at once, 'for the Chief of the Army General Staff
requires his presence to help
give Hitler a description of the situation at Stalingrad'.
Thus did the fourth
emissary, albeit an unofficial one, now leave the Golgotha that
Stalingrad. In his briefcase was a small parcel containing the
and decorations, and in his breast pocket he carried the Chief of
Staff's authorisation for him
to make the flight. He bore with him very little hope for any
improvement of the desperate
wireless message can now be explained. Major von Zitzewitz was
it a couple of hours after arriving at Hitler's headquarters.
When the Major's clear
and factual reports describing the hopeless situation in
presented and discussed at Hitler's headquarters, Reich Marshal
Goering had expressed his
opinion of them in the following words:
"It is impossible
that any German officer could be responsible for defeatist
messages of this
sort. The only possible explanation is that the enemy has captured
his transmitter and has sent
later General Zeitler and Major von Zitzewitz entered the Supreme
"You come from a
tragic and terrible place," said Adolf Hitler. Then he
launched into a long
exposition of the situation, pointing repeatedly at the map, and
staling that consideration was
being given to the possibihty of sending a battalion of the new
Tiger tanks straight through the
Russian lines and across enemy-held territory to Stalingrad, and
thus supplying the encircled
Major von Zitzewitz
repeated the facts which he had sent over the air again and again
his stay inside the Fortress. He spoke of hunger and exhaustion,
of the enemy's overwhelming
superiority in tanks, the general lack of supplies, and the
feeling of the Sixth Army that it had
"My Fuhrer, I
have to report that the soldiers at Stalingrad can no longer be
ordered to fight
to the last round, first because they are not physically capable
of fighting any more and secondly
because the last rounds have already been fired."
To this Hitler could
only find one abrupt sentence by way of answer:
"Human beings have great powers of recuperation."