The more prolonged the failure to capture the city, and the more wearing, exhausting and damaging the battle of attrition, the greater was the decline of German morale. This can be charted in extracts from the captured diary of Wilhelm Hoffman of the 6th Army’s 94th Infantry Division:
‘September 5. Our regiment has been ordered to attack Sadovaya Station – that’s nearly in Stalingrad. Are the Russians really thinking of holding out in the city itself ? . . .
September 8. Two days of non-stop fighting. The Russians are defending themselves with insane stubbornness . . .
September 11. Our battalion is fighting in the suburbs of Stalingrad. We can already see the Volga; firing is going on all the time. Wherever you look is fire and flames . . . Russian cannon and machine-guns are firing out of the burning city. Fanatics . . .
September 16. Our battalion, plus tanks, is attacking the [grain] elevator, from which smoke is pouring – the grain in it is burning, the Russians seem to have set it light themselves. Barbarism . . . The elevator is occupied not by men, but by devils that no flames or bullets can destroy . . .
September 26. Our regiment is involved in constant heavy fighting. After the elevator was taken the Russians continued to defend themselves just as stubbornly. You don’t see them at all, they have established themselves in houses and cellars and are firing on all sides, including from our rear – barbarians, they use gangster methods . . . Stalingrad is hell . . .
October 4. Our regiment is attacking the Barrikady settlement . . .
October 17. Fighting has been going on continuously for four days, with unprecedented ferocity. During this time our regiment has advanced barely half a mile. The Russian firing is causing us heavy losses. Men and officers alike have become bitter and silent . . .
October 22. Our regiment has failed to break into the factory. We have lost many men; every time you move you have to jump over bodies . . . soldiers are calling Stalingrad the mass grave of the Wehrmacht . . .
October 27. Our troops have captured the whole of the Barrikady factory, but we cannot break through to the Volga. The Russians are not men, but some kind of cast-iron creatures; they never get tired and are not afraid of fire . . .
October 28. Every soldier sees himself as a condemned man. The only hope is to be wounded and taken back to the rear . . .
October 30. We have had no rest . . . Everyone is depressed. Stalingrad has turned us into beings without feelings – we are tired, exhausted, bitter.’
The source for the diary is Chuikov who says: ‘I have in front of me the diary . . . It looks impressive, with stout binding. I have the diary in my personal files.’ (1963, p.248 and the following pages for the diary extract.) As a source the diary is almost too good to be true, but other descriptions and reports confirm its documentation of the German agony at Stalingrad.