Paulus was nonetheless promoted to Generalmajor (U.S. equiv. brigadier general) in 1939 and was appointed chief of staff of General Walther von Reichenau's Tenth Army. He participated in the conquest of Poland and the 1940 offensive into Belgium and France. When Operation sea lion was canceled, Paulus became deputy chief of staff for the Supreme Army Command and helped plan Operation barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union.
In January 1942, at Field Marshal Reichenau's request, Paulus was promoted to general of panzer troops and assigned command of the Sixth Army (formerly Tenth Army), which was part of Army Group South. After an initial success at Dniepropetrovsk, Paulus was forced to retreat to better defensive positions before counterattacking. The Sixth Army then advanced slowly on Stalingrad over the summer, reaching the Volga River north of the city on 23 August 1942. From 24 August, a great battle raged over the city. Fighting was fierce, but Adolf Hitler ordered Paulus to take Stalin's namesake city at any cost. In the end, the Sixth Army was trapped there.
Paulus has been much blamed for refusing to disobey Hitler and withdraw before it was too late, but his and Hitler's greatest failure lay in not anticipating the Soviet encirclement, Operation uranus, begun on 19 November. Although relief efforts failed, Hitler refused Paulus permission to try to break out, ordering him instead to hold all ground taken. On 24 January 1943, Hitler denied Paulus's request for permission to surrender and promoted him to field marshal. Paulus surrendered nonetheless on 31 January, claiming he was "taken by surprise" but refusing his men the same option. Paulus was the first German field marshal to be captured in battle.
In the aftermath of the failed July 1944 Bomb Plot intended to kill Hitler, Paulus made anti-Nazi broadcasts for the Soviets. Hitler ordered Paulus's entire family jailed. Paulus appeared as a witness for the prosecution at the Nuremberg Trials, but he remained in a Soviet prison until 1953. On his release, he became an inspector in the East German Volkspolizei in Dresden. He died in that city on 1 February 1957.
Timothy C. Dowling
Middlebrook, Martin. "Paulus." In Correlli Barnett, ed., Hitler's Generals, 223–240. New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1989.; Mitcham, Samuel W., Jr. "Friedrich Paulus." In Hitler's Field Marshals and Their Battles, 223–240. Chelsea, MI: Scarborough House, 1990.; Truscott, Lucian K., Jr. The Twilight of the U.S. Cavalry: Life in the Old Army, 1917–1942. Edited and with Preface by Lucian K. Truscott III and Foreword by Edward M. Coffman. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1989.