Vassili Zaitsev
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Biography for
Vassili Zaitsev (Character)
from Enemy at the Gates (2001)

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Vassili Zaitsev was born on March 23, 1915 Yeleninskoye in the Russian Empire. He grew up in the Ural Mountains as a Shepherd. His surname is based on the Russian word zayats which means "hare." He served in the Soviet Navy as a clerk, but upon reading about the brutality of the fighting in Stalingrad, volunteered for front-line duty. Zaytsev served in the 1047th Rifle Regiment of the 284th Rifle Division of the 62nd Army. In 1942 Prior to November 10th during WW II, he had already killed 32 Axis soldiers with a standard issue Mosin Nagant rifle. He soon became the focus of a Soviet Propaganda campaign and between the dates of October 1942 and January 1943 he made 242 verified kills. The real number was probably higher. Due to the Propaganda involved and the terrible record keeping, the real number may never be known. Suffice it to say he killed a lot of people who never saw it coming. About the duel of the snipers, there is some controversy as to weather or not Major Erwin Knig ever existed. A three-day duel between Zaytsev and a talented German sniper may have actually taken place as he indicates in his own memoirs, however, as historians often like to comment: "the winner writes the history." Since the Germans lost much of their documentation in the Battle of Stalingrad, (as it was either destroyed or captured by the Soviets), if there was a Major Knig, he was lost to the ashes of time. It does make sense that the Germans would send someone after Zaytsev. He was a hazard. He was dangerous and needed to be eliminated, so one can believe that something like this did take place. According to Zaytsev, he went after the German sniper. Not the other way around. This all happened in a short period of four months. In January of 1943, he was injured by a mortar attack that struck his eyes. A Professor Filatov managed to restore his sight and subsequently on February 22, 1943, Zaytsev was awarded the title "Hero of the Soviet Union." He then received military rank of Captain and was returned to the front to finish the war on the Dniestr River. After the end of the war he fulfilled his dream and managed a factory in Kiev. He remained in that city until he died in 1991 at the age of 76, just ten days before the final dissolution of the Soviet Union. He was married and had four daughters. I could not not find the names of the wife or daughters. Born: March 23, 1915 (1915-03-23) Died: December 15, 1991 (aged 76) The sniper group that Zaitsev formed were called "The Hares."

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