By December 1942 265,000 Axis troops were trapped in the city of Stalingrad, and General Paulus, aware that his troops were doomed, requested to be allowed to surrender, but Hitler refused. In January the Germans began to retreat from the outer suburbs, congregating in the city. The loss of two airfields, at Pitomnik and Gumrak, meant that the injured could no longer be evacuated, and supplies could not reach the trapped troops. The Germans were starving and their ammunition was running out. Street to street fighting was piling up casualties, yet still Hitler insisted that the 6th Army’s last stand was a “heroic drama”. On 26 January, German troops within Stalingrad were split into two pockets, unable to communicate with each other. Two days later, they fragmented further into three parts. On 31 January the southern and central pockets surrendered, although General Paulus claimed they had done so without his knowledge. The third pocket in the north of the city, commanded by General Strecker, held out. On 2 February, Strecker was informed that his officers had independently negotiated surrender terms with the Soviets and he subsequently surrendered. Some 91,000 German prisoners were taken, including 22 generals. Some 10,000 German troops continued to resist in the shattered city, hiding underground, but the last remnants were eradicated by the beginning of March.
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