Story behind a famous Stalingrad photograph

It’s an image you have seen thousands of times while searching or viewing media from the Battle of Stalingrad. However do you know who this officer is? And why one of his award is broken? Meet … Friedrich Winkler.

Friedrich Konrad Winkler was born on August 22, 1909 in Worms, Germany. He was a professional soldier (Berufssoldat) with 12 years of service in the Wehrmacht known as a “Zwölfender“. He started the war in Infanterie-Regiment 56, before he was transferred to the 305. Infanterie-Division, serving in the Stabskompanie/ Infanterie-Regiment 577 (from October 15 designated to Grenadier-Regiment 577).

He later on became Kompanieführer (Company Commander) of the 6. Kompanie/ Grenadier-Regiment 577 during the fightings at Barrikady Gun Factory in northern Stalingrad against the Soviet 138th Rifle Division. In January 1943, the German Grenadier-Regiment 577 was destroyed in Stalingrad. Friedrich Konrad Winkler was captured in February 1943 after the 6. Armee had capitulated under the command of Generalfeldmarschall Friedrich Paulus. However he died shortly after his capture, at the age of 34 on February 8, 1943 in Kriegsgefangenlager Beketowka.

Hauptmann Friedrich Winkler
Hauptmann Friedrich Winkler in Stalingrad, 1942.

Friedrich Winkler was promoted to Oberleutnant on the November 1, 1941 and later promoted to Hauptmann on the December 1, 1942. He was awarded the Infanterie-Sturmabzeichen in Silber (Infantry Assault Badge in Silver), Eisernes Kreuz 2. u. 1 Klasse (Iron Cross 2nd Class and 1st Class), Verwundetenabzeichen in Silber (Wound Badge in Silver), Medaille “Winterschlacht im Osten 1942/42” (Medal for the Winter Campaign in Russia 1941/42) and the Kriegsverdienstkreuz 2. Klasse (War Merit Cross 2nd Class).

The Infantry Assault Badge (on his uniform, the first award starting from the left) is broken. Breaking the assault badge was commonly done by Stalingrad veterans as a indication that earning the assault badge in Stalingrad was a different level of achievement than earning it somewhere else.

Friedrich Konrad Winker in Stalingrad, 1942.
Another photograph from Friedrich Konrad Winker in Stalingrad, 1942.

Excellent reference and literature to the Battle of Stalingrad are Jason Mark’s books. The best photograhical book on Stalingrad is Angriff: The German Attack on Stalingrad In Photos (US) (UK Citizens click here) and a detailed account of the Battle for the Barrikady Gun Factory can be found in Island Of Fire: The Battle For the Barrikady Gun Factory In Stalingrad November 1942 – February 1943 (US) (UK Citizens click here). 

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