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Why didn’t the Germans just encircle Stalingrad and starve out the Russians?

I’m guessing that the Volga was a bit of a problem. That and establishing a line of supply and communications as the rest of the German forces head for the ultimate objective – Baku and the oil fields.

They didn’t need to do any of it except mask the Russian formations with a ‘flank guard’ whilst driving into the Caucasus.  There was absolutely no reason to go anywhere near Stalingrad, except for Hitler’s obsession with the name’s symbolism.