The Little House That Could

The Nazis lost more Soldiers trying to take this little house in Stalingrad than they did in all of Paris.

Editor’s Note: I realize that Bernie Supporters are feeling a bit despondent and hopeless. However, I am hoping this story can inspire them to continue to fight regardless of the odds.

Heroic acts of courage during the Nazi occupation of Europe is something we should remember. We have already covered the stories of Jørgen Haagen Schmith who single-handedly took down a few Nazi battalions and Georg Elser who tried to assassinate Hitler. Sadly, both of those men sacrificed their lives for the greater good. However, this time, I think people need to hear about the “happy endings” when the good guys win.

The Nazis lost more Soldiers trying to take this little house in Stalingrad than they did in all of Paris.

That’s because of one simple man named Yakov Pavlov.

Yakov Pavlov was a child of the Russian Revolution. He was born on October 4, 1917, which was a few weeks before the Bolshevik Revolution, in a small village in the Novorod area. His family were true “peasant folk.” He only studied until middle school and later joined the village farm during his teenage years. In 1938, at the age 21, he joined the Red Army, as they prepared for their fight against fascism.

In the summer of 1942, after the failed attempt of Operation Barbarosa, Nazi Germany launched another strike aimed at the heart of the USSR. It involved the most brutal invasion of the city of Stalingrad. Aerial bombings destroyed most of the buildings in the city.

The Red Army was overwhelmed, trying to fight the battle in various cities. During this time, they were suffering the Siege of Leningrad. They had barely pushed back the Nazi army in Moscow. They managed to evacuate many Jewish civilians from Nazi-occupied territories, while trying to survive a deliberate famine created by the Nazis.

Nazi Germany's scorched-earth policy in the Soviet Union, 1943. Photograph taken by a Wehrmacht propaganda company; original 1943 caption reads: "Russia. Burning houses / huts in village"

In short, it was do or die time. If Hitler managed to conquer Russia, he would have had an easy passage to conquer Asia and the rest of the world.

In August 1942, Yakov Pavlov was trained in a nearby city learning how to use the machine guns and anti-tank rifles. Because they needed every soldier they could get, young Sgt. Pavlov was deployed into Stalingrad on September 26.

The entire downtown of the city had been reduced to rubble. The only house standing was a four-story apartment building. The house had no remarkable features other than the fact it was standing.

On that day, Pavlov and 30 other soldiers were commissioned in that city. As the city had been reduced to rubble, Pavlov and his friends were sitting ducks for the Nazis. Unfortunately, the Nazi gunners methodically killed all the other soldiers except for Yakov and three other people. They entered the only building in the area that was not reduced to rubble for cover.

Because he was the only NCO who wasn’t dead, this young graduate became the senior ranking officer in his unit. He was shocked to discover that there were nearly 10 civilians hiding in the basement and some of them were Jewish. Vasily Zaytsev, another sniper, who was at the Pavlov’s house later testified about their will to protect these civilians: "One sees the young girls, the children who hang from trees in the park – this has a tremendous impact."

He was in charge of organizing the defense. He, along with 12 other men, set up the defensive position. He gave one set of orders to his men:

DO NOT LET THE GERMANS TAKE THE STRUCTURE.

DO NOT LET THEM REACH THE RIVER. HOLD UNTIL DEATH.

KEEP HOLDING AFTER DEATH, IF POSSIBLE.

What Pavlov lacked in weaponry, he made up for in creativity. Pavlov surrounded the building with four layers of barbed wire and minefields. He also set up machine-gun posts from every window that was facing the square. Pavlov mounted his PTRS-41 anti-tank rifle on the roof. He hid on the roof until the tanks approached really close to the building. If they were within 25 meters, his rifle blew up the tanks and they were not able to elevate their weapons to retaliate.

An example of an anti-tank rifle that was used by the Red Army during World War 2.

For the next 52 days, whenever a German infantry attacked or tried to cross the square, Pavlov’s soldiers fired and shot them down. According to one of the eyewitnesses, around mid-November, Pavlov and his team had to go outside the building and drag out the heaped piles of dead Nazi soldiers so they could not be used as cover (again, this is a legend).

Eventually, Pavlov and his soldiers held out until they got more reinforcements from the Red Army. The Red Army pushed the Nazis out of Stalingrad and got the entire Nazi forces (who were left alive) to surrender.

For Pavlov, his creativity and brilliance earned him worldwide accolades. The house was rebuilt and now is a monument to his courage. It has been renamed “Pavlov’s House.”

In 1957, he was elected to the Russian Duma from his small town. He also got married and had two children: a son and a daughter. Here is a photo of him in 1968!

And even today, people still live in this four-story apartment! This fact alone, should remind us that even against all the odds, it is worth it to just stay in the fight.