The date was 31 January, 1943. The place was the basement of the shell-shattered Univermag department store in the Soviet city of Stalingrad. And it wasn't the forlorn and exhausted faces of the Nazis that stuck in the minds of the soldiers from the Soviet Red Army, as they opened the underground warren in which Adolf Hitler's traumatised military commanders were hiding.
"The filth and human excrement and who knows what else was piled up waist high," recalled Major Anatoly Zoldatov. "It stank beyond belief. There were two toilets and signs above them both read 'No Russians allowed'."
The legendary yet horrifically decisive battle of the same name had just ended in bitter and humiliating defeat for Hitler's 6th Army. It was to be only a matter of time before Nazi Germany capitulated.
Lieutenant Colonel Leonid Vinokur was the first to spot the decorated commander of the German troops lying in a corner. "He lay on the bed when I entered. He lay there in a coat with his cap on. He had two-week-old stubble and seemed to have lost all courage," he remembered. The commanding officer was Field Marshal Friedrich Paulus.