A Christmas tree, complete with tinsel and stars, seems an incongruous inclusion in an exhibition dedicated to one of the most appalling battles of World War II. The object in question, slightly sparse but still glittering, was one of several that were delivered to German troops in the Russian city of Stalingrad in December 1942. It’s one of the more unexpected items on display in an exhibition titled “Stalingrad,” currently on show at the Militärhistorischen Museum der Bundeswehr in Dresden, Germany.
More than 70 years have passed since the battle officially ended, on February 2, 1943, but it remains synonymous with the worst excesses of World War II. The battle is commonly referred to as a turning point, after which Allied forces rarely suffered a serious setback. The city of Stalingrad, today Volgograd, lies 901 kilometers (560 miles) southeast of Moscow and suffered six months of fierce fighting as the German Sixth Army attempted to push through to Russia’s Caucasus oil fields.
The battle is estimated to have cost as many as 1.2 million Russian and 400,000 German lives — as well as those of tens of thousands of Romanians, Croats, Italians and other German allies.