(Leningrad/Saint Petersburg, Russia) From the start, the Siege of Leningrad was a war waged with food. Hitler’s intent was not to occupy the city previously and now again known as Saint Petersburg, he wanted to destroy it completely virtually, wiping it from the face of the earth. In cabled orders to Army Group North, Nazi leader Adolf Hitler made it clear that no surrender was to be accepted. Leningrad was to be starved because accepting a surrender would place responsibility for feeding the population on the shoulders of the German Army.
At the height of the siege the death toll was reported to be between 700 and 1,000 civilians daily. It is estimated that between 1.5 to 1.75 million civilians died during the 900 day siege making it the deadliest blockade in history. Over three quarters of a million of those deaths were from starvation.
Almost 900 long days, from 8 September 1941 until 27 January 1944, residents of Leningrad were starved, cut off from the outside world except for valiant acts by the Red Army and their British and American allies. Over 800 allied ships attempted the journey across the lake, the largest in Europe. Lake Ladoga was the lifeline and used as a highway when frozen over in winter. Thousands were killed while attempted to break thru the blockades on Lake Ladoga.
During the siege no one could leave the city and the only food delivered was by air or across Lake Ladoga. As many of the former Romanov palaces were outside the main defended part of the city, Hitler ordered the palaces to be sacked and priceless works of art were transported to Germany.
Many had given up on Leningrad, including Josef Stalin who declared the situation hopeless and wrote the city off as a lost cause. However on this day in history Operation Iskra finally succeeded breaking the lines and a land connection to Leningrad was opened. The siege had been defeated although air bombardments by the Germans continued into March 1944.
After the war was over, Stalin had many of Leningrad’s military and political leaders arrested and shot, an event kept secret from the Soviet people for years until after Stalin’s death. This final chapter of Stalin’s brutality to his own military leaders became known as the “Leningrad Affair.”
Learn more about the heroic defense of Leningrad: http://leningradpobeda.ru/home
Movie recommendation: Attack on Leningrad