• a link between Britain, Russia and Germany

    In July 1942, German armies set out reach the Volga River on their Russian front and take the city of Stalingrad. But by December 1942 winter had set in, the Russians refused to surrender and mounted a strong counter attack. Hitler refused to let the Germans give in, even though they were encircled, so they fought on to the end.

    Kurt Reuber, aged 36, was a theologian, pastor and amateur artist serving as a doctor with the 16th Panzer Division. By Christmas 1942 he had converted his tiny bunker north-west of Stalingrad into a studio and began to draw on the back of a captured Russian map.

    His drawing of a mother and child has down one side the words 'light, life, love'. It became the focus of the soldiers' Christmas celebrations, although on Christmas Eve there was heavy fighting with many casualties.On 9 January 1943, the last flight with wounded and sick officers left Stalingrad and Reuber entrusted his pictures and letters to the battalion commander. His last letter to his wife was realistic,

    'Scarcely an earthly hope remains.'

    He died of typhus on 20 January 1944 in the Russian PoW camp at Yelabuga.

    Another officer at Stalingrad with the 48th Panzer Corps was General Ferdinand Heim. When he defied Hitler by refusing to push his poorly equipped and under-resourced men further into a suicidal confrontation, he was castigated by the Führer for,

    'a crime of negligence hitherto unparalleled in the course of this war.'

    Heim was immediately dismissed from the Army, stripped of his decorations, and flown to the Army prison at Moabit. He was kept in solitary confinement until April 1943, and was never charged, interrogated, or tried. Some months later his dismissal was cancelled and he was 'retired'.

    In August 1944 he was brought out of retirement to command forces fighting in France. He surrendered to the Canadians a month later and was taken prisoner. In 1946 he went to Featherstone Park to be the German spokesman for officer PoW there. He worked closely with Herbert Sulzbach, who said of him,

    'There could have been no finer, nor more harmonious co-operation than between General Heim and me.'

    Kurt Reuber's original picture hangs in the Kaiser Memorial Church in Berlin, and copies are displayed in Coventry Cathedral and in Volgograd (formerly Stalingrad).

    (photo: copy of 'The Stalingrad Madonna' by Kurt Reuber in the Millenium Chapel at Coventry Cathedral)

    © text Ainslie Hepburn © photo Ainslie Hepburn

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