As winter approached, the German troops were at a potential disadvantage. No one liked the idea of spending Christmas with few supplies in a pitiful camp near the city of Stalingrad.
The Germans were ill-equipped. Letters which survive reflect the soldiers' despair. Most German troops had expected to be long-gone before the brutal Russian winter set in.
But German soldiers were better off than citizens still alive in the city. Starving women, children and soldiers endured endless agonies. Lice-laden, frost-bitten people gave in to cannibalism as frozen corpses mounted while food supplies dwindled.
Despite the ghastly scene of human despair, the people of Stalingrad held on. Soviet snipers systematically targeted German officers. Using leveled buildings as hiding spots, they took aim with their Russian Mosin-Nagant 91/30 sniper rifles. The more "kills" they achieved, the greater their fame.
Vasily Zaitsev, the most famous sniper of all, had arrived in Stalingrad with the 284th Division on September 20, 1942. Using the skills he had learned as a boy, growing up in the Siberian taiga, he inspired his comrades to stand firm and to eliminate one enemy at a time.