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Although Hitler may have had much cause for concern after Germany's horrific defeat at Stalingrad, he was by no means ready to give up his struggle against the Soviet Union. After all, the defeat of communism and the supposedly subhuman Slavic peoples of the Soviet Union had always been a central goal of Nazi ideology. Hitler had, moreover, faced considerable adversity in the past, but in the end he had always triumphed over any difficulties. As a young man, he had been wounded during Germany's ill-fated attempt to defeat the Allies in World War I; in the political sphere, his first major offensive -the so-called Beer Hall Putsch of 1923 in Munich - had ended with a jail sentence. Now, two decades later, Hitler faced bleak prospects once again. Furthermore, the magnitude of the disaster at Stalingrad, where what was left of the encircled German 6th Army surrendered to the Soviet Red Army on 2 February 1943, was, of course, far greater than the setback he had suffered years earlier in his attempt to seize power in Munich. Still, Hitler refused to believe that all was lost, and he took comfort in the way German forces under the direction of Field Marshal Erich von Manstein had regained much lost territory in the wake of the surrender at Stalingrad. In fact, by June of 1943, he found himself confronted with a very tempting strategic opportunity: a great bulge in the enemy lines centred on Kursk, a town best known before the war for its destruction at the hands of Mongols in 1240, and for the iron-ore deposits below its soil that rendered compasses useless.
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