This is the sixth article of the cycle. Start here
While Stalingrad stands out as one of the most significant symbols of the Great Patriotic War, Pavlov's House is the cornerstone of this symbol. It is widely known through official history that an international garrison held a building in city center for 58 days, repelling numerous German attacks. According to Marshal Chuikov, Pavlov's group of fighters destroyed more Germans than they lost in the capture of Paris, and General Rodimtsev wrote that this ordinary Stalingrad four-story building was featured on Paulus's personal map as a fortress. But, like most of wartime legends created by bureaucrats in the Main Political Directorate of the Soviet Army and Soviet Navy (GlavPUR), the official history of the defense of «Pavlov House» has little to do with reality. In addition, much more significant episodes of the battle for Stalingrad remained in the shadow of this legend, and whereas the name of one person became history, the names of others fell into oblivion. Let's try to correct this injustice.
The origins of the legend
The real events that took place in the autumn of 1942 on 9 January Square and the narrow strip of land along the Volga in the city center have gradually faded from memory. For many years, only isolated episodes were encrypted in the most famous Stalingrad photographs of war correspondent Georgy Zelma. These pictures are mandatory in every book, article or publication about this legendary battle, but almost no one knows what exactly is depicted on them. However, the participants themselves, fighters and commanders of 13th Guards Rifle Division, attached much more importance to these events than to the notorious legend. They deserve their story to be told without distortion.
After a series of heavy strikes from two German divisions, which reached their peak on 22 September, 13th Guards Division found itself in a very difficult position. Of its three regiments, one was completely defeated, and the other had a unique battalion left out of three. The situation was so critical that on the night of September 22-23, the divisional commander, Major General A.I. Rodimtsev, together with the headquarters, was forced to evacuate from his dugout opposite the NKVD Complex of buildings and move to the area of the Banny ravine. But the division stood fast, half-encircled and pressed against the Volga, holding several blocks in the city center.
The long-awaited reinforcements soon arrived: 193rd Rifle Division’s 685th Regiment was transferred to Rodimtsev's disposal, and the bloodless 34th Guards regiment of Lieutenant Colonel D.I. Panikhin, in which 48 «active bayonets» remained on the evening of September 22, was reinforced with a marching company of about 1,300 men.
For the next two days a relative calm installed in the division's sector, only to the south gunfire could be heard: there, in the area of the City Garden and the mouth of the Tsaritsa, German units finished off the remnants of 62nd Army’s left flank. To the north, behind the Dolgiy and Krutoy ravines, oil tanks were smoking and a fierce firefight was heard: the naval infantry of 284th Rifle Division was trying to recapture the burning Oil Syndicate and the Metiz Factory.
On September 23 and 24 both opponents probed the frontline, which gradually materialized itself, out of exchanges of fire and skirmishes. The left flank of Rodimtsev's division rested against the Volga, on the cliff of which stood the high-rise buildings of the State Bank and the «House of Specialists» captured by the Germans. A hundred meters from the State Bank lay the ruins of the brewery, where soldiers of 39th Guards Regiment entrenched.
In the middle of the sector held by 13th Guards Rifle Division was the huge complex of departmental and residential buildings of the NKVD, which occupied an entire quarter. Labyrinths of ruins, strong walls and the huge cellars of the prison were the best suited for urban battles, and the buildings of the NKVD became the cornerstone in Rodimtsev's division’s defense system. Opposite the complex, separated by the large Republican Street and some scorched wooden-built quarters, stood two German strongholds: the four-story Shool number 6 and the five-story “Voentorg” military building. Until then the buildings had repeatedly passed from hand to hand, but on September 22 they were captured by the Germans.
Slightly north of the NKVD buildings stood Mill #4, a solid four-story structure with reliable basements. There were the positions of the last of the battalions of 42nd Guards Regiment, the 3rd of Captain A.E. Zhukov. Behind the warehouse buildings and the wide neutral strip of Penza Street, began the huge empty area of 9 January square, where two buildings stood out, yet unnamed and unremarkable.
The right flank of the Rodimtsev division was held by the soldiers of 34th Guards Rifle Regiment. The line of defense was extremely unfortunate: it ran along the edge of a high cliff. Nearby stood the huge five- and six-story buildings occupied by German infantry: the House of Railway Workers and the L-shaped House. These rather tall buildings dominated the surrounding area, and German spotters had a good view over positions of the Soviet troops, as well as the bank and section of river nearby. In addition, the two deep Dolgiy and Krutoy ravines came out to the Volga, literally cutting off 13th Guards Division from 284th Rifle Division of Colonel N.F. Batyuk, its right neighbor, and the rest of the 62nd Army. Very soon these circumstances would play their dramatic role.
From the morning of September 25, following the order of the army headquarters, 13th Guards Rifle Division tried to improve their positions «in small groups, using grenades, bottles with flammable mixture and mortars of all calibers». The third battalion of 39th Guards Rifle Regiment managed to get out and gain a foothold along Republican Street, and the soldiers of 34th Guards Rifle Regiment managed to clear several wooden houses in the area of the 2nd Embankment. Attached to the division, 685th Regiment tried to advance in the direction of 9 January Square and School number 6, but suffering losses from heavy machine-gun and artillery fire from the western side of the square, was not successful.
The Guardsmen of 42nd Guards Regiment’s 3rd battalion from the group of junior lieutenant N.E. Zabolotny, digging a trench through Solnechnaya Street, managed to occupy the ruins of a four-story building, which will later be referred to as «Zabolotny's House». There were no losses since there were no Germans in the ruins. The next night, Junior Sergeant I.F. Pavlov received an order from the commander of the 7th company, senior lieutenant I.I. Naumov to scout out the four-story building on 9 January Square, which stood next to the ruins of “Zabolotny’s house”. Pavlov had already proved himself an excellent fighter: a week earlier, together with Zabolotny and a group of fighters, he cleared the house of the Voentorg form the Germans, for which he later received the medal «For Courage». The day before, Pavlov barely made it from an unsuccessful reconnaissance, whose aim was to break through to the surrounded 1st battalion.
The 25-year-old junior sergeant selected three soldiers from his squad, V.S. Glushchenko, A.P. Alexandrov, N. Ya. Chernogolov, and then, having waited for darkness, proceeded to the task. The progress of the small group was followed from the observation post by the battalion commander Zhukov, who had received the order of the regiment commander a little earlier to seize the house on the square. The group was supported by machine-gun and mortar fire from the entire regiment, and then neighbors on the right and left joined as well. In a confusing fire, dashing from crater to crater, the four fighters crossed the distance from the mill warehouses to the four-story building and disappeared into the entrance.
What happened next is known only from the words of Iakov Pavlov himself. While clearing the entrance, the four Red Army men noticed German soldiers in one of the apartments. At that moment, Pavlov made a fateful decision: not only to scout the house, but also to try to seize it on his own. The surprise effect combined with a few F-1 grenades and bursts from the PPSh decided the outcome of this short fight: the house was captured.
But in Zhukov's post-war memoirs, everything looks somewhat different. In correspondence with fellow soldiers, the battalion commander claimed that Pavlov had captured «his» house without a fight: there were simply no Germans in the building, just like in the neighboring " Zabolotny’s House». One way or another, but it was Zhukov who designated this new landmark for the artillerymen as «Pavlov's House», which laid the first stone in the foundation of the legend. A couple of days later, the regiment's agitator, senior political instructor L.P. Koren would write a short note to the political department of 62nd Army about a rather ordinary episode of those days, and history will begin to wait in the wings.
A small island of tranquility
For two days Pavlov and three fighters held the building, while battalion commander Zhukov and company commander Naumov gathered fighters in the depleted battalion to reinforce the new stronghold. The garrison consisted of a «Maxim» machine gun crew under command of Lieutenant I.F. Afanasev, a squad of three anti-tank rifles under sergeant Andrei Sobgaida and two mortar crews under junior lieutenant Alexei Chernushenko. Together with the machine gunners, the garrison consisted of about 30 soldiers. As the most senior in rank, Lieutenant Afanasev became the commander.
In addition to the fighters, civilians huddled in the basement of the house: old people, women and children. In total there were more than 50 in the building, so a commandant was required. Junior Sergeant Pavlov rightfully took this role. When it turned out that German positions were visible from the upper floors of the house for several kilometers, a communication line was drawn into the building, and spotters settled in the attic. The strong point received the call sign «Mayak» and became one of the main ones in the defense system of 13th Guards Rifle Division.
On September 26, the first assault on Stalingrad ended, during which the Germans destroyed the last centers of resistance on the left flank of 62nd Army. The German command rightly believed that the tasks of the infantry divisions in the center of the city were completely fulfilled: the bank of the Volga was reached, the main river crossing was disabled. The second assault began on September 27, and the main events and hostilities moved to the workers' settlements north of Mamaev Kurgan. South of the mound, in the central and southern districts of the city captured by the Germans, 6th Army’s command left 71st and 295th Infantry Divisions, depleted in the September battles and only suitable for defense. The small foothold of 13th Guards Rifle Division ended up on the sidelines of the main events, literally on the outskirts of the legendary battle for Stalingrad.
At the end of September, Rodimtsev's division was assigned the task, together with 685th Rifle Regiment and the two mortar companies attached to it, “to hold the occupied area and destroy the enemy in the captured buildings using small assault groups.” Chuikov’s direct order forbade offensive operations by entire units (company or battalion) which resulted in heavy losses. 62nd Army was beginning to learn urban fighting tactics.
Both sides of Rodimtsev's division were surrounded by German strongholds located in strong and tall buildings. On the left flank were the four and five-story «Houses of Specialists» and the State Bank building. On September 19 Soviet soldiers had already tried to recapture the latter: sappers destroyed the wall and the assault group managed to occupy part of the building, but during the September 22 attack, German infantry recaptured it. In a few days the Germans managed to thoroughly strengthen themselves: the ruins were not only equipped with machine-gun nests, but also with small-caliber guns, and barbed wire was pulled along the walls.
On the night of September 29, the scouts of 39th Guards Rifle Regiment managed to secretly get to the building and threw cocktails Molotov at the windows. Several rooms were engulfed in fire, a heavy machine gun and a 37-mm gun were destroyed, and the forward group engaged in fighting. But the bulk of the soldiers were newly arrived recruits from Central Asia, and they did not go into the attack. The squad leaders literally pulled the resisting soldiers out of the trenches to help the advanced assault group, but it was too late. It was not possible to seize the State Bank, many experienced soldiers and veteran scouts were killed. The problem of the quality of replenishments was very acute during this period: at the end of September in 39th Guards Rifle Regiment, six «Uzbeks» were shot for self-inflicted wounds. This is how 62nd Army called all nationalities from Central Asia.
On the right flank, where the positions of the 34th Guards Rifle Regiment were located, the situation was even worse. Not far from the steep bank there were two huge buildings captured by the Germans: the so-called «House of Railway Workers» and «L-shaped House». The first was not completed before the war, only the foundation and the northern wing were built. The «L-shaped House» was a five-six-story «Stalinka» building, from the upper floors of which German spotters could view almost the entire bridgehead of 13th Guards Rifle Division. Both these huge structures were heavily fortified and looked more like impregnable fortresses. In this area, the positions of 295th Infantry Division came closest to the steep bank, under which only a narrow strip of land connected Rodimtsev's division with the rest of 62nd Army. The fate of the division hung in the balance, and the recapture of these two fortified buildings became an obsession for the headquarters of 13th Guards Rifle Division and its commander for the next three months.
Blocking detachment as a last argument
September was coming to an end. Exhausted opponents dug deeper into the ground. Every night, the clang of shovels and the clatter of pickaxes were heard, and reports were full of figures such as dug earth cubes and running meters of trenches. Barricades and communication trenches were erected across streets and open places, while sappers mined dangerous directions. The window openings were covered with bricks, and embrasures were made in the walls. After the fire in the State Bank, the Germans began to close the windows of the upper floors with bed nets: the likelihood of being burnt out at night from a Molotov cocktail or a thermite ampoule gun was very high.
The lull did not last long. October 1 was almost the last day for the defenders of the small bridgehead. On the eve, 295th Infantry Division received replenishments and the task of finally reaching the Volga in its area. To support the offensive, a sapper battalion arrived from the group of Chief Engineers 6th Army, Oberst Max von Stiotta. The strike was planned in the most vulnerable place of the defense of Rodimtsev's division: the area of the Dolgiy and Krutoy ravines, which made the junction with 284th Rifle Division. In addition, the Germans decided to put aside their favorite tactics of a concentrated artillery fire and air strike followed by the clearing of the area: a surprise night attack should bring better success.
At 00:30 Berlin time, soldiers of 295th Infantry Regiment and attached units secretly assembled west of the bridge and began to slip through the drainpipe in the embankment along the slopes of the Krutoy ravine to the Volga bank. Having crushed the outposts, the German infantry came close to the positions of 34th Guards Rifle Regiment. Shooting at the Soviets caught unawares, the Germans seized one trench after another, moving rapidly forward. Explosions of grenades and heavy charges were heard: sappers destroyed the dugouts of Soviet soldiers. From a bunker on the slope a “Maxim” barked, and in response a flamethrower jet splashed towards the embrasure. A hand-to-hand fight was going on near the headquarters dugouts, the Russians and Germans, their faces twisted with rage, killed each other. Increasing the feeling of madness, a jazz melody was suddenly heard in the darkness, and then from the bank of the Volga calls for surrender sounded in broken German.
By five o'clock in the morning, a critical situation developed for Rodimtsev's division. Strike groups of 295th Infantry Division, crushing the defenses of 34th Guards Rifle Regiment, reached the Volga near the mouth of the Krutoy ravine. The commander and commissar of the 2nd battalion were killed in the battle. Continuing the offensive, the German infantry began to move in two directions: to the north, where the headquarters of 13th Guards Rifle Division was located, and to the south towards the mortar positions and rear of the surrounded 39th and 42nd Guards Regiments. Soon Rodimtsev lost contact with the rest of the division: the Germans had cut the cable running along the coast.
One of the mortar companies was commanded by Senior Lieutenant G.E. Brik. The Germans came close to the positions of the company, the opponents were only separated by railway tracks crowded with wagons. In violation of all instructions, the commander ordered the mortar barrels to be placed almost vertically. Having fired off their last shells, the crews under the command of Grigory Brik climbed onto the Germans in a bayonet attack.
The last reserve of Rodimtsev consisted in 30 soldiers of the blocking detachment under the command of Lieutenant A.T. Stroganov. He received the task to drive out the Germans from the positions of 34th Guards Rifle Regiment in the area of the mouth of the Dolgy ravine. Having gathered the retreating and demoralized fighters of 3rd battalion, the lieutenant led a counterattack on the Germans breaking through to the division headquarters. A skirmish ensued under the steep bank, where the warehouses, the piers of the oil factory and the coastal railway were located. The Germans could not go further. Lieutenant Alexander Stroganov was nominated for the Order of Lenin, but the command of 62nd Army reduced the award to the Medal For Courage.
By 06:00, pulling up all collected reserves, units of the 13th Guards Rifle Division launched a counterattack. It was finally possible to make contact with the artillerymen on the other side of the Volga: the area of the Krutoy ravine, along which the Germans were pulling up reinforcements, was enveloped in dust from the explosions of large-caliber shells. 295th Infantry Regiment’s detachments that had broken through to the Volga fell into a trap on the shore, wavered and began to retreat along the ravine back to the bridge. Pursuing their enemy, Soviet fighters were able to free up several groups of captured Red Army men. Soon the situation of the Rodimtsev division was restored. In 6th Army’s war diary, the unsuccessful attack of the 295th IR is summarized in a few lines:
«The offensive of 295th Infantry Division, support by Group Stiotta, was a serious success at first but then was called off under heavy fire. As a result of shelling by small arms from the north and from unsuppressed pockets of resistance in the rear, it was necessary to retreat to the original positions. The front line of the defense positions is under constant artillery fire."
Later, according to reports from the field, interesting distinguishing marks were found on the Germans killed on the coast: paratroopers, veterans of the landing on Crete, participated in this night attack. It was also reported that some of the German soldiers were wearing Red Army uniforms.
For two days 13th Guards Rifle Division put itself in order. 34th Guards Rifle Regiment, for the second time under the pressure of the German offensive, suffered the greatest damage. In the reports of the regiment about irrecoverable losses, it was noted: on October 1, 77 Red Army soldiers were missing and 130 were killed, on October 2, another 18 and 83 respectively. Ironically, it was on October 1 that the Army newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda (Red Star) published the article “Heroes of Stalingrad” with a letter-oath from Rodimtsev's guardsmen, which was literally sealed in blood.
After the unsuccessful attack on the night of October 1, the Germans no longer undertook such large-scale offensives against 13th Guards Rifle Division, limiting themselves to local skirmishes. The struggle for this small section of the city center took on a positional character: the opponents exchanged artillery and mortar shells, the number of those killed by sniper fire increased sharply.
At night, the small bridgehead came to life and resembled an anthill: fighters hastily unloaded boats with ammunition, while commanders directed small reinforcement groups to their positions. After the landing, the rear services of the division were able to establish supplies, and Rodimtsev had his own small fleet: about 30 row boats and cutters. It was the inability to provide supplies that destroyed 92nd Brigade a few days before in September.
During the day, the streets and ruins of the city died out. Any move, even a fighter running from one door to another, or a civilian in search of food caused fire. There were cases when German soldiers, in order to cross the area under fire, changed into women's clothing. All places of potential concentration of enemy troops, as well as field kitchens and water sources, became the objects of close attention of well-aimed shooters on both sides. Huge ruins of buildings, open spaces and a stable frontline made the ruined city center a suitable arena for sniper duels.
Among the snipers of 13th Division’s 39th Guards Rifle Regiment was detachment commander Sergeant A.I. Chekhov. Having graduated honorably from the Central School of Sniper Instructors, Chekhov was not only a good shooter, but also knew how to teach this skill to his comrades, many of whom later surpassed him. When Vasily Grossman was in Rodimtsev's division, he talked for a long time with a “modest and thoughtful guy, aged 19, forced to become an excellent killing machine”. The writer was so struck by this soldier’s sincere interest in life, thoughtful approach to work and hatred of the invaders, that he dedicated one of the first essays about the Battle of Stalingrad to Anatoly Chekhov.
It so happened that the sergeant lost his last sniper duel. He and the German fired at the same time: both missed, but the German bullet ricocheted and nevertheless reached the target. Chekhov, with a chest wound, was transported to a hospital on the left bank, but a few days later the sergeant reappeared at the positions of the regiment and chalked up three more Germans. When fever overtook him in the evening, it turned out that Chekhov had escaped from the hospital, and he had not yet had an operation.
An Exemplary Defense
On October 11, in the area of 34th Guards Rifle Regiment, a group of 35 Red Army men tried to storm an unfinished four-story building. This was the beginning of an epic battle for two buildings, the names of which from that moment began to appear more often than others in war diaries: The «House of Railwaymen» and the «L-shaped House».
For two months, units of 34th and 42nd Guards Rifle Regiments tried to dislodge the Germans from these fortified points. In October, two attempts to capture the «House of Railwaymen» failed. In the first case, with the support of artillery and mortar fire, the assault squad was able to reach the building and even get inside, ending with a grenade fight. But the approach of reinforcing soldiers was blocked by non-suppressed German firing points from the flanks, from the neighboring «L-shaped House» and from other buildings. The assault group had to withdraw, during the assault the company commander was killed and the battalion commander wounded.
On October 24, during the second attack, the «House of Railwaymen» was preliminarily fired upon by 152-mm howitzers from the left bank of the Volga. After the artillery preparation, 18 soldiers of the assault group rushed to the huge ruins, but were met with flanking machine gun fire, and then the approaches to the house were fired at by mortars from the depths of the German defense. Suffering losses, the group retreated this time too.
The third assault in a row followed on November 1. At 16:00, after heavy shelling, small groups from 34th and 42nd Guards Rifle Regiments once again tried to capture the «House of Railwaymen», but on the way to the building they were met with strong rifle and machine-gun fire and returned to their original positions. At 20:00, the attack resumed. Having reached the wall, the Soviet soldiers stumbled upon a barbed-wire fence and came under intense machine-gun fire. From the ruins, the Germans threw bundles of grenades and bottles with flammables at the guards, pinned to the ground. Unable to succeed, the surviving soldiers of the assault group were only able to crawl out to their trenches at night.
Despite the fact that the main German positions in the newly built northern wing of the «House of Railwaymen» were not captured, the Red Army men managed to seize the foundation of the southern wing, predetermining the tactical plan of the next assault.
Throughout October, whereas 13th Guards Rifle Division tried to improve its position on the bridgehead, Army Commander Chuikov suffered defeat after defeat north of Mamaev Kurgan. During the second and third assaults on the city, the Germans captured the «Red October» and «Barricades» workers' settlements, the village of Rykov, the Sculptures Park, the “Mountain” settlement, and the Stalingrad Tractor Factory. By the end of October, the enemy had almost completely occupied the Barrikady and Krasny Oktyabr factories. German large-caliber artillery swept away the wooden quarters of the workers' settlements, the multi-storey buildings and the huge workshops, while the aviation of 4th Air Fleet relentlessly bombed the positions of the Soviet troops. Suffering huge losses, whole divisions burned out in a few days: the 138th, 193rd and 308th Rifle, and 37th Guards…
During all this time, the area of Rodimtsev's division was the quietest place along 62nd Army’s entire line of defense, and soon writers and journalists were drawn there. Stalingrad was practically lost, which meant that evidence of the opposite was required: examples of a long and successful defense… The journalists visited positions, talked with commanders and political workers, among whom was the agitator of 42nd Guards Rifle Regiment Leonid Koren. The division's strongholds in the ruins of the brewery and in the cellars of the NKVD prison were poorly suited for an article about the heroic defenders of Stalingrad; the Germans were firmly seated in the «House of Railwaymen» and «L-shaped House». So that the political instructor’s story about the capture of a four-story building on January 9 Square at the end of September was a real find for the GlavpUR (Political Directorate of the Soviet Army and Navy).
The first publication appeared on October 31, 1942 in 62nd Army’s newspaper «Stalinskoe Znamya», an article by junior political instructor Yu.P. Chepurin's titled «Pavlov's House». The article took up an entire spread and was a great example of army propaganda. It colorfully described the fighting for the house, noted the initiative of the junior and the role of the senior command staff, the “international garrison” also stood out, and even its fighters were listed: «Russians Pavlov, Aleksandrov, Afanasev, Ukrainians Sobgaida, Glushchenko, Georgians Mosiyashvili, Stepanoshvili, Uzbek Turgunov, Kazakh Murzaev, Abkhazian Sukba, Tajik Turdyev, Tatar Romazanov and dozens of their fighting friends." The author immediately identified Junior Sergeant Pavlov as «homeowner», whereas garrison commander, Lieutenant Afanasev, was left out.
In early November, the Moscow journalists D.F. Akulshin and V.N. Kuprin crossed over to Stalingrad and settled down in the dugout of 42nd Guards Rifle Regiment’s propagandist Leonid Koren. Once Koren entered his room and found his guests leafing through his diary notes. He was bewildered, yet before he could express his anger, the journalists not only reassured but also persuaded him to publish in the central newspaper. As early as November 19, Pravda published a series of essays by Koren, “The Stalingrad Days”, the last of which was called “Pavlov's House”. The series quickly became popular, it was read on the radio by Yuri Levitan, the national and legendary speaker. This example by an ordinary sergeant was really motivating ordinary soldiers, and the whole country recognized Yakov Pavlov.
Significantly, in the first stories about the capture of “House No. 61 on Penza Street”, it was clearly stated that the Germans were not there. Nevertheless, all other components of the future legend were already in place, and this detail was subsequently “corrected”.
While the employees of the GlavPUR were working on the ideological front, events took their course at the positions of Rodimtsev's division. In late October — early November, the exhausted opponents practically ended active hostilities in city center. Judging by the testimony of the doctors of 13th Guards Rifle Division, most of the soldiers were killed by shrapnel wounds. The operating room was in a sewer pipe on the slope of the steep bank of the Volga, the division headquarters was located near the mouth of the Dolgy ravine. The seriously wounded were transported to the other side at night, where, under the leadership of Colonel I.I. Okhlobystin worked the divisional medical battalion.
For the November 7 celebrations, distinguished fighters of 13th Guards Rifle Division received awards while the divisional musical ensemble performed, political meetings were held in dugouts and basements of strong points, baths were organized on the shore and winter uniforms were issued. Despite the daily artillery and mortar shelling, life continued on the bridgehead.
While the guardsmen were preparing for the celebrations on November 7, in the defense sector of 42nd Guards Regiment, the sapper platoon of Lieutenant I.I. Chumakov worked tirelessly. A mine gallery was dug from the southern part of the basement of the «House of Railwaymen» recaptured from the Germans at a depth of five meters towards the still German-held northern wing. The work was carried out in complete darkness, and due to the lack of special tools, sappers dug with small infantry shovels. Then three tons of explosives were put at the end of the 42-meter tunnel.
On November 10, at two o'clock in the morning, a deafening explosion was heard: the «House of Railwaymen” flew into the air. The north wing was half swept away by the blast. Heavy pieces of foundation and frozen ground fell on the positions of the opposing sides for a full minute, and a huge crater with a diameter of more than 30 meters gaped right in the middle of the unfinished building.
A minute and a half after the explosion, Soviet assault groups rushed into attack from covered trenches 130-150 meters from the objective. According to the plan, three groups with a total of about 40 men were supposed to break into the building from three directions, but in the darkness and confusion of the battle it was not possible to act smoothly. Some of the soldiers encountered the remnants of a wire fence and could not reach the walls.
Another group tried to enter the basement through the smoking funnel, but the surviving wall of the boiler room prevented. Due to the indecision of the commander, this group did not go into the attack, remaining in cover. Time was running out inexorably: the Germans were already pulling up reinforcements along the trenches to help the stunned and shell-shocked garrison. A series of rocket flares highlighted the ruins of the building and the battlefield in front of it, the German machine guns came to life, pressing the hesitating Red Army soldiers to the ground. The attempt to seize the «House of Railwaymen» was not crowned with success this time again.
The answer was not long in coming: on November 11, in the sector of 39th Guards Rifle Regiment southeast of the State Bank, German infantry tried to smash down a Soviet outpost, but the attack was repelled by rifle and machine gun fire. Artillery shelling of the crossing intensified, three boats with food supplies were sunk. As a result of a raid by German aircraft, depots with ammunition and uniforms located on the shore burned down. The division began to experience major supply issues.
In the harsh conditions of the frost and meager rations in the ruined city, the Red Army men settled their modest life. Gunsmiths worked on the shore, craftsmen repaired clocks, made stoves, lamps and other household items. In the frozen basements, trenches and dugouts, the Soviet pulled from the destroyed apartments everything that could create some appearance of comfort: beds and armchairs, carpets and paintings. Valuable finds were musical instruments, gramophones and records, books, board games: everything that helped to brighten up leisure.
And so it was in «Pavlov’s House». In their free time from duty, orders and engineering work, the garrison gathered in the basement of the building. For a couple of months of positional defense, the fighters got used to each other and represented a well-coordinated fighting mechanism. Intelligent junior commanders and competent political workers contributed a lot to this. As a result, newly recruited, often uneducated and poorly Russian-speaking recruits became good and reliable fighters. By the will of fate, these Russians, Ukrainians, Tatars, Jews, Kazakhs, Georgians, Abkhazians, Uzbeks, Kalmyks, gathered on this piece of Stalingrad land, were united as never before in the face of a common enemy and were deeply tied to the fall of their comrades.
The first half of November had passed, wet snow began to fall, and sludge began to flow down the Volga: small pieces of the first autumn ice. The food supply became very tight, there was not enough ammunition and medicines. The wounded and sick could not be evacuated, the boats could not break through to the shore. A case of desertion was recorded in the division: from the positions of 39th Guards Rifle Regiment, two Red Army men ran over to the Germans.
From defense to offensive
On the morning of November 19, there was an unusual excitement at the headquarters dugouts: the commanders kept going out, standing for a long time and smoking, as if listening to something. The next day, the political instructors were already reading the order of the Military Council of the Stalingrad Front to the soldiers: Soviet troops had launched the long-awaited counteroffensive. Operation Uranus began.
On November 21, in accordance with the order of the 62nd Army, Rodimtsev's division began active operations. The command of the encircled 6th Army was forced to form a new front facing west, withdrawing units from their positions in the city. It was necessary to identify the composition of German units opposing 13th Guards Rifle Division, and in the morning a reconnaissance group of 16 fighters and four flamethrowers raided the German dugouts in order to capture a prisoner for interrogation. But the scouts were discovered, the Germans summoned mortar fire, and, having suffered losses, the reconnaissance group returned.
On November 22, in the areas of the upcoming offensive, subunits of the division led reconnaissance in force: seven reconnaissance groups of 25 fighters, under cover of mortars and machine guns, simulated an attack in order to reveal the firing defense system of 295th Infantry Division. Observation established that the fire system remained the same as before, and that with the beginning of the attack, the Germans pulled up to the frontline groups of 10-15 men, but their artillery fire noticeably weakened.
Had the reconnaissance group been able to capture his prisoner-informer, the headquarters of 13th Guards Division would have learned that 295th Infantry Division’s 517th IR and the headquarters units had been removed from positions by 6th Army’s command. The fighting formations were consolidated at the expense of units from 71st Infantry Division, located on the left flank.
Despite a significant shortage of personnel, 13th Guards Rifle Division, like the rest of the 62nd Army, received an order to go over to the offensive «with the task of destroying the enemy and reaching the western outskirts of Stalingrad." Rodimtsev planned to attack the positions of 295th ID with the reinforced 42nd Guards Rifle Regiment advancing from the edge of the 9 January Square, then to break through the German defenses and reach the railway line. 34th and 39th Guards Regiments were supposed to support the offensive of their neighbors in the center with fire. Also in its sector, one company of 34th GRR and one company of a training battalion participated in the offensive. The German strongholds were supposed not to be assaulted, but rather blocked with fire and the Soviet detachments were to move forward. The divisional artillery was tasked with suppressing the German fire system in the areas of the Krutoy and Dolgy ravines, the «House of Railwaymen» and the northern part of 9 January Square, to provide fire for the advance of the infantry and prevent enemy counterattacks.
On the night of November 24, «Pavlov's House» was overcrowded: the infantry occupied not only all the compartments of the basement, but also the rooms on the first floor. Sappers cleared the passages on 9 January Square, soldiers prepared weapons, stuffed ammunition pouches and overcoat pockets. A little further off, the details of the upcoming attack were discussed by the commanders of 42nd GRR: the commander of 3rd Battalion, Captain A.E. Zhukov, the commander of 7th Company, senior lieutenant I.I. Naumov, the commanders and commissars of subunits, senior lieutenant V.D. Avagimov, Lieutenant I.F. Afanasev, junior lieutenant A.I. Anikin and others. The Pavlov House garrison was disbanded that night, and the soldiers formally returned to their units.
A piercing wind with sleet was blowing from the Volga. Even before dawn, 7th Company’s guardsmen crawled out onto the square, scattering at the frontline in craters and ruins. Lieutenant Afanasev led the fighters out of Pavlov House, and Junior Lieutenant Alexei Anikin from the neighboring ruins of Zabolotny House. Junior lieutenant Nikolai Zabolotny himself was killed the day before in reconnaissance in force. By 07:00 everything was ready.
Bloody «Milk House»
At 10:00 the order was given, and under cover of artillery battalions 42nd Guards Rifle Regiment went on the attack. However, it was not possible to completely suppress the German firing points, and in the open space of the square, the fighters of 3rd Battalion immediately came under crossfire from the south, from the buildings of the Voentorg (military organization) and school No. 6, and from the north, from German positions in the burnt-out wooden quarters of Tobolskaya Street. By 14:00, Captain V.G. Andrianov’s 2nd Battalion managed to crawl forward and seize trenches on Kutaisskaya and Tambovskaya Streets just north of a huge wasteland. The companies of 34th Guards Regiment and the training battalion advancing at the ravines managed 30-50 meters only. They were prevented from going further by intense machine-gun fire from a German resistance nest: two huge oil tanks enclosed by a concrete fence. In the evening, the battalions made two more unsuccessful attempts to move forward.
The results of the first day of the offensive were disappointing: it was not possible to break through the defense of 295th Infantry Division outright. For two months the Germans equipped and improved their positions, and Rodimtsev's bloodless division could not reach the railway line. But no one canceled the order, so the assigned tasks had to be solved. The main problem was the firing points in the area of the Voentorg and School number 6, so the capture of these strongholds became the primary goal in order to cover the left flank of the advancing 42nd Guards Rifle Regiment.
Early in the morning of November 25, an assault group of 39th GRR was able to clean up the five-story building of the Voentorg military department. Wasting no time, a group of machine gunners under the command of senior lieutenant I.Y. Podpokaya ran up to the brick two-story buildings on Nizhegorodskaya Street and began throwing grenades at the Germans in the building of School number 6. Unable to withstand the onslaught, the infantry from of 295th ID’s 518th IR retreated to the neighboring ruins and, having regrouped there, launched a counterattack. The Germans twice tried to recapture the school building, but both times they were thrown back.
In the morning twilight, the Red Army men of Naumov's company, under fire, were able to reach the tracks on the western side of 9 January Square. Directly behind them blackened the window openings a destroyed three-story building that, because of the peeling plaster that covered it, was designated in the reports of 13th Guards Rifle Division as the «Milk House». On the upper floor of the surviving left wing, a German machine gunner sat down, pushing the guardsmen into the pitted asphalt in long bursts of fire. 30 meters in front of the house stood the burnt-out carcass of a lorry, and in a funnel next to it was installed the machine-gun crew of senior sergeant I.V. Voronov. Having waited for the right moment, the soldiers carried their «Maxim» out of cover, and the senior sergeant directed several bursts into the window openings, from where returning shots flashed back. The German machine gun soon fell silent and, their cold throats wheezing with cries of «Hurray», Red soldiers burst into the «Milk House».
The Germans who did not have time to leave were finished off in hand-to-hand fighting. An order of Captain Zhukov followed: to keep the «Milk House» at all costs. The entire 7th Company then moved into its ruins. The soldiers hastily filled up the openings in the western wall with rubble and prepared firing points on the upper floors. From the German trenches near the building, grenades were already flying out, whereas mortar shelling intensified. At that moment, an unpleasant circumstance emerged: there was no basement in the house. The incoming shells and grenades, exploding in the burnt-out structure, flogged the soldiers with shrapnel from which there was no escape. Casualties soon appeared: the Milk House became a deadly trap.
The battle for the ruins lasted all day. German infantrymen tried several times to get inside, but each time they were thrown back. Then the mortar shelling resumed, grenades flew again into the windows, and several defenders were out of action. Under the stairs, where it was possible to somehow hide from the shrapnel, 23-year-old nurse Maria Ulyanova was dragging the wounded. With the onset of day, it became impossible to send up reinforcements and ammunition through the bombed out wasteland. The Germans rolled a field gun into the destroyed end of the three-story building next to the Milk House and smashed down the last machine gun in Ilya Voronov’s company with a direct fire. The sergeant received multiple wounds and subsequently lost his leg, crewman Idel Hait was killed on the spot, Niko Mosiashvili was wounded. Mortars commander Lieutenant Alexei Chernyshenko and armor-piercing squad commander Sergeant Andrei Sobgaida were killed, corporal Glushchenko, machine gunners Bondarenko and Svirin were wounded. At the end of the day, a shrapnel wounded Junior Sergeant Pavlov in the leg and Lieutenant Afanasev was received a severe concussion.
Senior Lieutenant Ivan Naumov was killed trying to cross the square and report the desperate situation of his company. By the end of the day, when the grenades and cartridges ran out, the surviving defenders of the Milk House literally fought off the advancing Germans with bricks, shouting out loud to create the appearance of large numbers.
Seeing the catastrophic situation, battalion commander Zhukov convinced the head of 42nd Guards Rifle Regiment, Colonel I.P. Yelin to give the order to retreat, and with the onset of darkness a liaison officer managed to get through to the building with the order to leave the ruins that had been won with such difficulty. In the battle for the Milk House most of the soldiers of 7th Company, from which the garrison of Pavlov’s House was formed, were killed or wounded, but these circumstances did not find any place in the canonical legend of the «heroic defense».
On November 26, the fighting in the square began to subside. And although the tasks set by the command remained the same, Rodimtsev’s bloodless regiments were not able to fulfill them. Leaving their outposts on the captured lines, the company commanders took the surviving fighters back to their former positions. By the end of the day, after repeated attacks, German infantry nevertheless dislodged the Soviets from school No. 6: “The enemy several times attacked the school building occupied by 39th Guards Rifle Regiment. In the last attack with a force of up to a company with two tanks, he destroyed the defending group and captured the building. Moreover, the Germans acted impudently, walking drunk." According to reports from 13th Guards Rifle Division, the Red soldiers managed to keep the five-story building of the Voentorg military department standing nearby.
In the November attacks, Rodimtsev's division suffered terrible losses. For example, on November 24-26 in the units of 42nd Guards Rifle Regiment, 119 soldiers and commanders were killed or went missing, not counting the wounded. In the report of 62nd Army to the Front headquarters following the results of the offensive, there was only a mean line: «13th Guards Rifle Division did not fulfill its task."
The overall results of the offensive were disappointing: none of the units of 62nd Army, with the exception of the group of Colonel S.F. Gorokhov, achieved their goals. Nonetheless Chuikov issued a negative assessment to 13th Guards Rifle Division only. The grounds for this discrepancy were the animosity between the two commanders. Almost more was written about the famous “Rodimtsev Division” and its commander in the central newspapers than about the entire 62nd Army, and the ambitious Chuikov became irritated by the fame of his subordinate, which soon turned into open dislike.
An Army-Scale Victory
On December 1, Chuikov signed the order to resume the offensive. The divisions and brigades of 62nd Army were assigned the same tasks: to defeat the enemy and reach the western outskirts of Stalingrad. The goals of 13th Guards Division remained the same: to reach the railway with its right flank, up to Sovnarkomovskaya and Zheleznodorozhnaya Streets, and to gain a foothold at the achieved line.
Rodimtsev understood perfectly well that first of all it was necessary to solve the problem that had been the division's nightmare for two months: recapture the German strongholds in the ruins of the «House of Railwaymen» and «L-shaped House». Numerous attempts to storm them had failed. In an unsuccessful offensive on November 24-26, the Soviets tried to block these strongholds with artillery fire, outflank them and cut off their communications. But the two buildings, well adapted for all-round defense, helped by unsuppressed machine gun nests, snapped back fire at the Red soldiers advancing in the square and along the ravines. Those two once beautiful architectural achievements of the «Stalin Empire», now turned into ruins, haunted the dreams of 13th Guards Division HQ staff members and its commander.
Preparations for the decisive assault began immediately after the unsuccessful offensive. Lessons were learned from previous assaults, and a detailed scheme of the German defense and firing points was drawn up. To capture the «L-shaped House», a detachment of 60 men under Senior Lieutenant V.I. Sidelnikov and his deputy Lieutenant A.G. Isaev was assembled from soldiers of 34th GRR. The detachment was divided into three assault groups of 12 men each (submachine gunners and flamethrowers), as well as a reinforcement group (infantry, ATR crews, heavy and light machine guns), a support group (sappers and scouts) and a service group (signalmen).
At the same time, 42nd GRR’s 2nd Battalion prepared for the assault on the «House of Railwaymen». The groups of fighters were divided into three echelons. To bring the line of attack as close as possible, trenches were secretly dug to the buildings. The work was carried out at night, during the day the trenches were masked. It was decided to concentrate on the frontline before dawn, to break in under cover of darkness, and to fight in the building already in daylight.
On December 3, at four o'clock in the morning, the assault groups began to move towards the front line. Suddenly a heavy snowfall began. Large flakes of snow quickly swept the ground dug by craters; the commanders had to urgently look for camouflage coats and change the soldiers' clothes. The last preparations were coming to an end, guardsmen were assembling hand and anti-tank grenades, bottles with flammable and thermite balls from ampoule guns. Anti-tank rifle crews under the command of Lieutenant Y.E. Dorosh were aiming at windows in the eastern wing of the «L-shaped House», the flamethrowers crawled to the end of the building and took aim at the embrasures pierced in the wall. By 06:00 everything was ready.
At 06:40, three red rockets took off into the sky, and a moment later the German machine-gun points at the end of the «L-shaped House» were flooded with jets of flamethrowers. Sidelnikov was the first to jump out of the trench and rush to the house, while submachine gunners of the forward detachment silently ran after him. The plan proved successful: the Germans did not have time to recover, and the Red soldiers, throwing grenades into the windows and embrasures in the walls, burst into the building without losses.
In the huge building, a maze of burned-out apartments, narrow corridors and collapsed staircases, small groups of Red Army soldiers slowly cleaned the rooms and floors of the east wing. The German garrison, which regained its senses, was already taking up positions in the barricaded passages: the stronghold was divided into inside sections perfectly suited for defense. The fierce fighting broke out with renewed vigor. Squad leaders, launching flares, illuminated the rooms and dark corners: in the reflections of short flashes, the Germans and Russians threw grenades at each other, colliding point-blank, converged in hand-to-hand fighting, the outcome of which was decided in time by a knife taken out, a brick that turned up under the arm, or a comrade who came to the rescue. In the walls of the apartments, where the Germans were shooting back, Soviet fighters punched holes with crowbars and threw bottles with a flammable and thermite balls inside. Ceilings were blown up by charges, flamethrowers burned rooms and basements.
By 10:00 the assault groups of 34th Guards Regiment completely occupied the eastern wing of the «L-shaped House», having lost half of their composition. The wounded detachment commander Senior Lieutenant Vasily Sidelnikov and his deputy Lieutenant Alexei Isaev were dragged out of the ruins. Lieutenant Yuri Dorosh was killed and lay on a pile of bricks with a torn jaw and an empty «TT» in his hand. The sergeants took over command.
While the battle for the «L-shaped house» was in full swing, at 08:00 the neighboring «House of Railwaymen» was subjected to heavy shelling from the artillery battalion and mortar companies. By the end of the two-hour artillery barrage from the nearest trenches, sappers threw smoke bombs at the approaches to the building, and a series of red flares soared into the sky. The mortar shelling was moved behind the smoking ruins, blocking the approaches of reinforcements to the strong point, and the assault groups went on the attack.
The fighters of the vanguard, bursting into the building and crushing the watchmen of the garrison, occupied the premises of the first floor. The German infantrymen fiercely resisted, retreating to the second floor and into the basement. The second echelon groups that came up next blocked the remnants of the German garrison, destroying the centers of resistance with explosives and flamethrowers. While the battle was still going on in the basement and on the upper floors, the reinforcement group had already equipped positions for heavy and light machine guns, cutting off counterattacks by German infantry trying to reach their comrades trapped inside. By 13:20, the «House of Railwaymen» was completely cleared of the Germans. The fighters of the second echelon also managed to capture five dugouts located near the building.
In the «L-shaped house» the fierce battle dragged on until the evening. Having occupied the eastern wing, the Red Army men could not advance further: a solid load-bearing wall interfered. It was not possible to outflank it from the outside: the Germans occupied the well-fortified basement, keeping the approaches to the northern wing under fire. At night, when the shooting died down, the sappers brought in boxes of explosives and laid 250 kg of them against the wall on the first floor. While preparations were underway, the soldiers of the assault detachment were taken out of the building.
On the morning of December 4 at 04:00, there was a powerful explosion, and an entire section of the huge house collapsed in a cloud of dust. Without wasting a minute, the Red Army men rushed back. Making their way through the huge rubble, groups of fighters again occupied the east, and then cleared out the northern wing: the remnants of the garrison retreated without a fight.
The long-awaited news of the capture of the main enemy's resistance center was so overwhelming that the division headquarters did not believe in it. Only when observers from the divisional outpost noticed the Red soldiers waving their hands in the windows of the «L-shaped house» did it become clear that the goal had been achieved. For two months, drenched in sweat and blood, Rodimtsev's guards stormed German strongholds to no avail, losing their comrades in numerous attacks. Through trial and error, in a bitter struggle, the Soviet soldiers finally won.
The success achieved was a significant event not only for the division, but also for the entire 62nd Army. Cameraman V.I. Orlyankin filmed the staged storming of both German strongholds, then these shots were included in the documentary film «Battle of Stalingrad» in 1943. The excerpt combined all the episodes of numerous attacks on both houses, and the order for the capture was given by the commander of the army Chuikov himself.
Having cleared the «House of Railwaymen», the assault groups of 42nd Guards Rifle Regiment tried to build on their success and quickly kick the Germans out of another stronghold: the four-story School #38, which stood 30 meters from the «L-shaped house». But the bloodless units were no longer able to achieve this task, and the ruins of the school were captured by the Red Army only three weeks later, on December 26. In the sector of the Dolgy and Krutoy ravines, the training and barrage battalions of the Rodimtsev division that participated in the offensive on December 3-4 did not achieve their goals either and retreated to their original positions.
The Last Fight
After the fighting on December 3-4, silence fell in the center of Stalingrad. The wind covered with snow the ground pitted with funnels, the disfigured ruins of buildings and the fallen soldiers. On the bridgehead of Rodimtsev's division, it was calm, artillery and mortar shelling of the enemy had ceased: the Germans were running out of ammunition and food, the agony of the 6th Army was approaching.
In 42nd Guards Rifle Regiment, a lot has changed in the sector of “Pavlov's House”. The commander of 7th Company replacing Naumov was Senior Lieutenant A.K. Dragan, who returned from being wounded, a participant in the fighting for the Central Station. Almost no one was left from the old garrison, most of the soldiers were killed or wounded in the battle for the Milk House. After three months, Pavlov's House had turned into a real fortress, a stronghold that stood at the front line of the Soviet defense. Washing their hands in blood, with the constant danger of being killed by a stray bullet or shrapnel, the soldiers of the garrison dug trenches, underground tunnels and communication passages for days, equipped reserve positions and bunkers, sappers set mines and wire fences on the square. Yet no one tried to storm this fortress…
Then came 1943. In the first half of January, the regiments of the Rodimtsev division were transferred to the right flank of 284th Rifle Division north of Mamaev Kurgan, and instructed to kick the enemy out of the workers village of the Krasny Oktyabr plant and advance in the direction of Height 107.5. The Germans resisted with the despair of the doomed: in the burnt-out ruins of the wooden blocks covered with snow, each basement or dugout had to be recaptured in hard fighting. In the January offensive, in the last days of the Battle for Stalingrad, the division again suffered heavy losses: many fighters and commanders who managed to survive in the fierce fighting of September and the positional warfare of October-December 1942 were wounded and killed.
On the morning of January 26, on the northwestern slopes of Mamaev Kurgan, Rodimtsev's guards met with the soldiers of Colonel N.D. Kozin’s 52nd Guards Rifle Division. The northern group of Germans was cut off from the main forces of 6th Army, but stubbornly resisted the attacks of the Soviet troops for a whole week, until February 2, led by the will of its commander, General Strecker.
At the same time, the Red soldiers of 284th RD were advancing from the southern slopes of the mound to the center of Stalingrad, breaking into the defenses of German 295th IR from the flank. From the sector of the Tsaritsa, the forward units of Lieutenant General M.S. Shumilov’s 64th Army captured the main trophy: on January 31, in the basement of the department store on the Square of Fallen Fighters, 6th Army’s commander Field Marshal Paulus surrendered. The southern group capitulated.
In February, 13th Guards Rifle Division was returned to its old positions in the center of Stalingrad. The sappers cleared the ground strewn with metal, removed the barbed wire. The guards gathered and buried their fallen comrades: a huge mass grave appeared on 9th January Square. From about 1,800 soldiers and commanders buried there, the names of only 80 are known.
Soon, the ruins of buildings and former strongholds were covered with inscriptions. Political workers armed with paint drew slogans and appeals, marked the numbers of the units that fought back or defended one or another line. Thanks to the efforts of Soviet writers and journalists, the wall of «Pavlov's House» also had its own inscription.
Soon, the ruins of buildings and former strongholds were covered with inscriptions. Political workers armed with paint drew slogans and appeals, marked the numbers of the units that fought back or defended one or another line. Thanks to the efforts of Soviet writers and journalists, the wall of «Pavlov's House» also had its own inscription.
In the summer of 1943 began the rebuilding of the city, disfigured during the long months of fighting and in ruins. One of the first to be repaired was Pavlov's House, which was practically not damaged during the Battle of Stalingrad: only the end overlooking the square was destroyed.
After the November offensive and the battle for the Milk House, the wounded soldiers of the garrison were scattered among field hospitals, and many never returned to Rodimtsev's division. Guard junior sergeant Yakov Pavlov, after being wounded, fought valiantly in an anti-tank artillery regiment and received many awards. Newspapers published articles about the famous Stalingrad house, and the legend was overgrown with new heroic details. In the summer of 1945, the eminent «homeowner» was overtaken by more weighty fame. Along with lieutenant's shoulder straps, Pavlov was awarded the Star of Hero of the Soviet Union and the Order of Lenin: Yakov Fedotovich, who passed through «fire and water», pulled out his lucky ticket.
Sergeant Pavlov’s Award List:
«On 10.10.42, the Germans, throwing more and more forces, pressed our units to the VOLGA. On January 9, the Germans seized a house on 9th January Square, which was of particular strategic importance. From this house one could see almost all of STALINGRAD and fire at the crossing on the river.
The command of the regiment and division set the task to seize this house. The Germans also perfectly understood the importance of this house, and therefore strenuously defended it. The task of capturing this house was entrusted to the commander of machine-gun section of the Guard, Sergeant Iakov PAVLOV.
Along with three fighters, Pavlov went to perform this most difficult mission. Noticing those crawling to the house across the asphalt street, the Germans opened a hurricane of fire on them, but the daredevils were already at the walls of the house. Bursting into the house, PAVLOV left one soldier at the entrance (the house had three entrances), and with another soldier, looking through the rooms on the first floor, found in one of them a group of 8 Germans. Carefully sneaking up to the room, they threw grenades and destroyed this group. Looking through the next rooms PAVLOV found a group of 7 Germans in the basement of the house. With automatic fire, PAVLOV also dealt with this group of Germans. The house was gradually cleared of the Germans and was occupied by the four brave men. Having installed captured machine guns left by the Germans, PAVLOV took up a defense perimeter. Defending the house from three sides, the four brave men held for 30 days, repelling more than 40 counterattacks and destroying up to a battalion of German infantry. PAVLOV himself destroyed more than 90 Germans. The house was held until the complete liquidation of the encircled group of Germans. On 25.11.42 during the fighting in Stalingrad, Comrade PAVLOV was wounded and evacuated to the hospital.
In honor of Pavlov’s heroic feat, the workers of STALINGRAD chose to rebuild «DOM PAVLOVA» among the first buildings, and erected a memorial plaque on it.
The name of Iakov PAVLOV has entered the history of the Heroic Defense of STALINGRAD forever. «PAVLOV’s House» is described by writers I. Erenburg and V. Grossman, and cameramen filmed the HERO PAVLOV on the house he occupied and shared it in the film «STALINGRAD». Far beyond the borders of our Motherland the world talks about BATTLE OF STALINGRAD HERO PAVLOV».
After the war, the history of the legendary defense of «Pavlov's House» was literally modified more than once, and the four-story building itself became the center of the architectural ensemble on the new Defense Square. In 1985, a memorial wall-monument was erected at the end of the house, on which the names of the soldiers of the garrison appeared. By that time, fighter A. Sugbu, who deserted on November 23 and whose name also appeared in the ROA lists (Vlasov’s army), had been removed from the wall. It was there because in the first release of Pavlov's memoirs, Red Army soldier Sugba died heroically. The defense of the house was “reduced” to 58 days, during which there were really minimal losses in the garrison: propagandists preferred not to remember the bloody massacre that followed in the Milk House. The edited legend fits perfectly into the created pantheon of the Battle of Stalingrad, eventually taking the main place in it.
The true history of the fighting of General Rodimtsev’s 13th Guards Rifle Division, with all the many days of fierce assaults on strongholds, the unsuccessful attacks, the heavy losses and the difficult victories gradually faded into oblivion, remaining for a long time unclaimed, meager lines from archival documents or nameless photos.
If we talk about the value of «Pavlov's House» for the German command, then there was practically none. At the operational level, the Germans not only did not notice this specific house in the square, but did not attach any importance to the small bridgehead of Rodimtsev's division at all. 6th Army’s documents refer to individual Stalingrad buildings for which there were especially stubborn fighting, but «Pavlov's House» is not among them. The story of the «Paulus map», on which the house was marked as a fortress, was told by colleagues of Y.Y. Rosenman, chief of intelligence 42nd Guards Rifle Regiment, who allegedly saw this map himself. The story seems made of, since no other sources mention this mythical map.
In 13th Guards Rifle Division’s reports, the phrase «Pavlov's House» is found only a couple of times: as an observation post for artillerymen and as a place where one of the soldiers was killed. There are also no reports of numerous enemy attacks across 9th January Square. According to operational reports, the Germans mainly attacked in the area of the State Bank (71st ID) and the ravines (295th ID). After the end of the Battle of Stalingrad, Rodimtsev's headquarters compiled a «Brief Description of the Defense of 13th Guards Rifle Division». In this brochure, Pavlov’s House appears on the map of strong points, but by that time the building had already gained all-Union fame. During the battles of autumn 1942 — winter 1943 Rodimtsev's division did not attach particular importance to Pavlov’s House.
In the post-war years, the topic of «legendary defense» was scrupulously studied by writer L.I. Savelyev, collecting information and correspondence with the surviving veterans of 42nd Guards Rifle Regiment. The repeatedly republished book «House of Sergeant Pavlov» described in an artistic form the events that took place in the sector of Rodimtsev’s division in the center of Stalingrad. The author collected invaluable information about soldiers and commanders of 42nd Guards Regiment, his correspondence with veterans and relatives of the victims is stored in the State Archives of the Russian Federation in Moscow.
It is worth mentioning the famous novel by Vasily Grossman «Life and Fate», where the defense of the building on Penzenskaya Street became one of the main plot lines. However, if we compare the diary that Grossman kept during the battle, and the novel written later, it is clear that the behavior and motivation of Soviet soldiers in the diary notes are strikingly different from the post-war reflection of the famous writer.
Any good story has its own collision, and the defense of «Pavlov's House» is no exception. Former comrades in arms, commandant of the house Pavlov and commander of the garrison Afanasev, have become antagonists. While Pavlov was rapidly moving up the party ladder and reaping the fruits of the glory that had fallen on him, Ivan Filippovich Afanasev, who was blinded after a shell wound, struggled to write a book in which he tried to mention all the defenders of the famous house. As for Yakov Fedotovich Pavlov, he increasingly distanced himself from his colleagues and ceased attending post-war meetings, realizing that the number of places in the official pantheon of the heroes of the Battle of Stalingrad was very limited.
It seemed that as a result, justice was done, when after 12 long years, thanks to the efforts of doctors, Afanasev's eyesight was restored. His book “House of Soldiers' Glory” was published in spite of the official “Pavlov’s House”, and the commander of the legendary garrison himself accompanied the eternal flame torch at the opening of the memorial complex on Mamaev Kurgan, taking a place of honor in the solemn procession. However, in popular culture, “Pavlov’s House” remained a symbol of the heroism and dedication of Soviet soldiers.
Volgograd journalist Y.M. Beledin published the correspondence of the participants in the defense of the famous house. It covered many details that were inconvenient for the official version back then. In the letters of the soldiers of the garrison, there was blatant bewilderment at how Pavlov became the main character of their common story. But the position of the leadership of the museum of the Battle of Stalingrad was unshakable, and no one was going to rewrite the official version.
Along with the surviving soldiers of the garrison, former commander of 3rd Battalion, Alexei Efimovich Zhukov, wrote to the museum administration, having witnessed the events with his own eyes. The lines of his letter are valid to this day: «Stalingrad does not know the truth and is afraid of it."