The city of Stalingrad was retaken from the German Army by Soviet forces on this day in 1943 – a major turning point in the European theatre of World War II.

As is chronicled in the video above, the battle for control of the city and the siege that followed was the most intense and bloody of the conflict, claiming as many as two million lives and leaving the region devastated.

German forces had entered the city in late summer 1942, supported by heavy Luftwaffe bombing that turned much of it into rubble and pushed the defending Red Army to the west banks of the Volga River.

Every able-bodied Russian able who could carry a rifle was asked to defend the city. Heavy reinforcement of their positions and a German concentration on the city itself allowed a Russian counteroffensive, Operation Uranus, which attacked the Axis Powers’ less-strongly defended flanks.

Soviet soldiers fight in the streets during the battle of Stalingrad

These were soon overrun, allowing the encirclement of the German 6th Army, who were ill-prepared for the harsh Russian winter and whose supplies could not be replenished easily by air.

By January 1943, their ammunition and food was running low, with hunger, frostbite and continuous intense fighting contributing to a collapse in morale. The loss of two small airfields, used for supplies and the evacuation of wounded men, made the situation even worse.

On January 30 the remaining German pocket of resistance collapsed, and the following day Field Marshal Friedrich Paulus was captured and the city returned to Russian control. Some 91,000 soldiers of the 6th Army surrendered two days later.

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