The Grain Elevator – Stalingrad


As Gruppe Edelsheim reaches the southern railway station around 1600 hours they pass close to what would become perhaps the most iconic building of the Battle of Stalingrad: the Grain Elevator, seen rising here in the background. It lay in the sector of the neighbouring 94. Division but they were held up and still a long way from it. However, realising its tactical importance, Gruppe Edelsheim sent a small force across the divisional boundary to take control of the building, which they found unoccupied.


However, German tenure of the huge silo was short-lived. Led by Senior-Lieutenant Polyakov, a group of 27 soldiers from the Soviet 10th Rifle Brigade attacked in the late afternoon and recaptured the building, eliminating the last German defenders, who had holed up on the second floor, early on the 16th. Shortly after, Infanterie-Regiment 267 of the 94. Division arrived in the area and launched an immediate attack in the hope of regaining the storage tower. However, every assault was driven off with heavy losses. Infanterie-Regiment 274 took over on the 17th, but with equally little success, so a decision was taken to pummel the building into submission with artillery and Stuka dive-bombers. Howitzers, 8.8cm flak guns (from Flak-Abteilung 602) and heavy mortars were hauled into the area and began an uninterrupted pounding of the structure. Here a 10.5cm l. F. H. 18 from Artillerie-Regiment 194 has just fired off a round. In spite of the devastating fire unleashed against them, the Russian defenders cooped up inside the elevator (which also included remnants of the 35th Guards Rifle and 10th NKVD Divisions, reinforced during the night of September 16/17 by naval troops of the 92nd Rifle Brigade ferried across the river) stubbornly held on for four more days, resisting numerous assaults with tanks and flame-throwers, and it was not until the evening of September 21 that a surprise attack from the north-west by Infanterie- Regiment 274 managed to rush the building, forcing the survivors of the Soviet garrison to break out. The 29. Infanterie- Division (mot.), which by then held the southern half of the cordon around the structure, took 104 of them prisoner but several small groups of Russians managed to escape across the river. By midnight, the grain elevator was finally in German hands.


This city plan of Stalingrad was produced by the Reichsamt für Landesaufnahme (Reich Survey and Mapping Office), on the basis of aerial photographs in September 1942. We have indicated the main locations that featured in the battle. [1] Dzerzhinsky Tractor Factory. [2] Barrikady Gun Factory. [3] Red October Factory. [4] Schnellhefter Block. [5] Railway Loop (`The Tennis Racket’). [6] Lazur Chemical Plant. [7] Mamayev Kurgan (Hill 102). [8] Central Train Station. [9] Square of Fallen Heroes (`Red Square’). [10] Tsaritsa River. [11] Southern Train Station. [12] Grain Elevator.


16-21 September 1942

In the south of Staingrad, battle groups from the 24. Panzer-Division (Generalmajor Arno von Lenski) and 94. Infanterie- Division (Generalleutnant Georg Pfeiffer) were involved in smashing Soviet resistance near the southern train station, while the 29. Infanterie-Division (mot.) (Generalmajor Max Fremery) and 14. Panzer-Division (Generalmajor Ferdinand Heim) were clearing the Russians from the Leather Factory in Kuporosnoye. The defenders in the south were augmented by the presence of an armoured train yet by the 16th the Soviets had retreated to the Grain Elevator. This massive concrete structure dominated the whole of the city south of the Tsaritsa Gorge, and it quickly moved high on the German list of objectives as from this vantage point, accurate artillery fire could be brought down on every German unit operating to the east and south of Minina.

As the 24. Panzer-Division struck north through the railway yard to link up with von Hartmann, the 94. Infanterie-Division ran into increasing difficulties with Soviet troops in the Grain Elevator. Although by the 16th they were only 30 strong (the 35th Guards Rifle Division began the battle with 250 men), they were causing a real headache for the Germans. Following an urgent call for help, the 92nd Naval Rifle Brigade arrived that night and was immediately dispatched to Rodimtsev’s left flank with a platoon being sent to reinforce the Grain Elevator.

For the next few days, the defenders in the huge silo stalled the 94. Infanterie-Division and thus left the right flank of the 24. Panzer-Division exposed to a counter-attack as it sliced its way north. After a German call to surrender was rejected, on the 18th the Germans brought up 88mm flak guns and 105mm howitzers and began pulverising the structure. On the following day the Germans made ten assaults with infantry and tanks but all were to no avail. The Soviet resistance had held yet the defenders had taken losses. The grain had caught fire choking those inside; water both for the men as well as for cooling the machine guns had been depleted, and supplies of anti-tank rifle ammunition and grenades were nearly finished. Also, the only radio was out of action. After two more days of shelling, the Germans again went forward with 12 tanks and 200 assault troops. When the two Soviet Maxim machine guns were finally put out of action, the defence started to crumble. Although the Germans managed to enter part of the building, it was still difficult to locate and eliminate the defenders but that evening those remaining withdrew for lack of ammunition. Only a few men are known to have survived.

After the fall of the silo on the 21st, Soviet reinforcements poured into the city under the cover of darkness. By now the 92nd Naval Brigade had been cut off and lay isolated along with the 42nd Rifle Brigade and 270th NKVD Regiment with their backs to the Volga on a miniscule strip of land just south of the Tsaritsa. As the 29. Infanterie- Division (mot.) and 94. Infanterie-Division kept them penned in against the river, German air and artillery pounded the pocket mercilessly. Chuikov had relocated his command post on the 17th to a position 800 metres north of the landing stage at the Red October Factory and now had received additional reinforcements, namely the 95th Rifle Division (Colonel Vasily Gorishny); the 137th Tank Brigade with just over a dozen T- 60 tanks; the 284th Siberian Rifle Division (Colonel Nikolai Batyuk), and the 193rd Rifle Division (Major-General Fedor Smekhotvorov). These badly needed units were immediately rushed to the three active areas of the fighting: the Grain Elevator, the Central District, and the Mamayev Kurgan, the 95th Rifle Division successfully gaining control of the hilltop on September 19.

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