Life and Fate Read Along, Part 3 Chapter 44

This post, covering Part 3, Chapter 44 is part of The Slavic Literature Pod’s chapter a day read along of Vasily Grossman’s Life and Fate. Learn more about our project here.

Nearing the end of the war’s action, today Paulus and his adjutant, Colonel Adam, are quickly clearing traces of important documents in the office.

It seems that both the Germans and the documents share the same grim fate. The narrator describes how “They had spent the night burning papers in the field-marshal’s office. They had even burnt Paulus’s own large map, something Adam looked on as a sacred relic of the war,” (p. 791). The map, a physical symbol of the Nazi army’s progress, is destroyed practically on the steps of Stalingrad.

Although Paulus had requested permission from Hitler to retreat multiple times, it had been denied. After the last request, Paulus received a promotion. This strikes him as strange—usually those who advocate against Hitler’s orders do not remain in their positions for long. But, “It gradually dawned on him that Hitler was treating him as a dead man: it had been a posthumous promotion, a posthumous award of the Knight’s Cross. His existence now served only one purpose: to create a heroic image of the defender of Stalingrad,” (p. 792). Paulus is effectively a dead man walking.