The film

Enemy At The Gates


the Battle of Stalingrad

By Paul Seymore

(* I did not include the story plot, so that anyone can read this without worrying about the spoiler!)
DVD is available at from $3.94.

Historical Background

The battle of Stalingrad was arguably the bloodiest single battle in Russian history, if not in human history. The battle lasted for 199 days, and casualties were estimated somewhere between 1.7 million to 2.2 million. Exact number is not known, because Stalin prohibited the Soviet government to even calculate the number of casualities for fear the cost would have proven too high. The battle was the turning points of World War II.

A Russian train that brings soldiers. The average life expectancy of soldiers were less than 24 hours once they arrived at the Stalingrad !


Battle Scenes

Here, you are looking at the Volga River from the East bank. I assume this is either late August or early September. West bank was occupied by German. Only way to reach the West bank is to cross the river by the boat. However, during winter, Volga froze solid on which the Soviet force walked cross the river.


German fighter planes attack the boat.

All the Russian soldiers who retreated were shot by their own troops. This is historicaly accurate based on Stalin's notorious Order No. 227 of July 27 , 1942 . Hitler also ordered his German army not to surrender.

The movie shows German headquarters only briefly. One of the key figure in the battle, German general Friedrich Paulus of the 6 th Army explaining that his army was not designed for this type of battle, but no one can disobey the Fuhler. Paulus was promoted later to a Field Marshall on January 1943, but surrendered to the Soviets on February 2, 1943. He became the first Field Marshall to be captured alive, which made Hitler furious.



Vasily Grigoryevich Zaitsev (Jude Law)

A legendary Russian sniper , who was credited with 149 kills during the battle. His rifle can still be seen at the Stalingrad History Museum .

Major Koenig (Ed Harris).

A renowned German sniper. However, a cat and mouse game between Koenig and Zaitsev in the film is a fiction. The left cross belongs to the Major, the right one belong to his son, who was killed in the battle.


  Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchof (Bob Hoskins)

was sent by Stalin to oversee the defense of the city. He was a political officer with the equivalent rank of Lieutenant General . Later he became a First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1953 to 1964 . He was depicted as a very boorish person in the film, which was based on history.


This scene is ironic considering Khrushchof later denounced the "cult of personality " that surrounded Stalin later in 50's and 60's.


Tania (Rachel Weisz)

A Russian Jew, who studied German at the university. Her family was planning to move to Palestine after the war, but her parents were killed by Nazis. She volunteered to become a sniper.


Bombardment sequence was impressive. On August 23, 1942, 80% of the city was destroyed by German bombardment. Even after the bombardment, Stalin never allowed civilians to leave the city.


This is where Russian soldiers eat and sleep.



A Russian officer announces to the crowd who is trying to flee Stalingrad , “By the order of comrade Stalin, no civilian can leave the city.EThis cruel policy was to enforce the civilians to join the fight.


German Surrender

(February 2 nd , 1943)

The end of the battle. Unfortunately, the movie doesn't show any major battle scenes.


Russian people dance on the street.


German forces surrendered on February 2 , 1943 ; Only 6,000 of the 91,000 German prisoners of war survived their captivity and returned home.

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