Last Letters from Stalingrad

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Last Letters from Stalingrad (German: Letzte Briefe aus Stalingrad) is an anthology of letters from German soldiers who took part in the Battle for Stalingrad during World War II. Originally published in West Germany in 1950, the book was translated into many languages (into English by Anthony G. Powell in 1956),[1] and has been issued in numerous editions.

The German High Command wished to gauge the morale of the troops of the encircled 6th Army, so they allowed the soldiers to write and send the letters which became the basis for Last Letters from Stalingrad. The letters were then impounded, opened, stripped of identification and sorted by content, before eventually being stored in archives.[2]

Unlike the usual military history accounts focusing on mass armies of anonymous men, the reader is presented with the personal tragedies of individual soldiers, the "single human being ... in the face of death", getting a tangible impression of the horrors of war. The letters are a "human document which bares the soul of the man at his worst hour", and by softening the identification of Germany with Nazism the book helped Germany to take its place in the Western post-war community of nations.[citation needed]

French president François Mitterrand supposedly carried the French edition with him in the last months of his life, and drew inspiration from it in writing his speech for the 50th anniversary of the end of the war on the 8 May 1995.[citation needed]

German jurist and legal scholar Wilhelm Raimund Beyer has questioned the authenticity of the letters. He questions their authenticity based on the textual style and based on his own experiences during the Battle of Stalingrad.[citation needed][3][circular reference] The letters refuse to admit the complete hopelessness of the 6th Army, and in fact (cited from letters never to be delivered, either pulled from corpses or retained by advancing Soviet troops), even the German Luftwaffe were being mauled by inadequate Russian fighter planes. These last pathetic realizations were censored by postmasters so as not to stain German invincibility at home. Publishing edited versions could stir up nationalism and hatred of the enemy

Adaptations[edit]

The book inspired two works of contemporary music theater: a chamber music piece by New York composer Elias Tanenbaum,[4] and the 1998 Symphonie No.10 "Letzte briefe aus Stalingrad" of French composer Aubert Lemeland, a collage of music and recitation.[5]

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