September 8, 1941 was the day that would mark the beginning of a horrific two and a half years for the City of Leningrad(modern day St. Petersburg). General Ritter von Leeb who was the commander of Germany’s Army Group North had severed the city’s last main road and began bombarding targets, the harshest lethal siege in history began on this day. Hitler’s goal was to “terrorize and starve the population into surrender” (900 Days) and he believed that Leningrad would “drop like a leaf.” Hitler was incorrect about Leningrad “dropping like a leaf” but once the siege began the civilians did begin to start dying off quickly due to lack of food, heat, and supplies. One citizen of Leningrad wrote in their diary that, “We have returned to prehistoric times: life has been reduced to one thing — the hunt for food.” (900 Days)
As the cold weather started to arrive it really made things turn for the worse. Fuel supplies began to disappear which in turn caused the public transportation to stop. The electric and heat were turned off which forced the residents to chop down trees and dismantle wooden houses for warmth. When the Germans cut the last rail connection Leningrad had to the rest of the country it made it so their only way for goods to teach them be over a frozen Lake Ladoga. All of this caused food rations to be decreased many times causing thousands to die of starvation. At one point the food rations were lowered to 1/3 of the daily amount needed for an adult. The people of Leningrad would eat anything to keep them alive including, rats, dogs, horses, cats, tooth powder, glue and there are many cases of people eating human flesh. (900 days) To make it worse even though they were already dealing with starvation and the cold they still had to deal with the air and artillery bombings that were always occurring.
One of the parts that I found very interesting was that even though the people of Leningrad were going through a very strenuous time and people were dying all the time the government authorities and party activists still did things to try to keep up the morale of their citizens. They did things like having competitions at work and awarded them with extra rations of food if they won, they had poetry recitals and concerts that they broadcasted over the radio. The people of Leningrad were going through the worst times but they still were not going to let the Germans take over and they were willing to do whatever it took to survive and not surrender.
The Siege of Leningrad lasted almost 900 days and took the lives of more than 1 million civilians and 300,000 Soviet soldiers. As Freeze says in the book “By January 1944 the Red Army had raised the siege of Leningrad and had crossed the old 1939 border.” (Freeze, 382) What Hitler hoped was going to be an easy place to take over ended up being a place that would never surrender to the German forces even though it cost so many lives and so much hardship.
- Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: A History. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1997. Print
- “900 Days.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History. 2015. Web. 20 Mar. 2016. <http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1943-2/900-days/>.
- “The Siege of Leningrad, 1941 – 1944” EyeWitness to History, http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com (2006).
- “St. Petersburg (Leningrad) during the Great Patriotic War and the Siege (1941-1945).” History of St. Petersburg during World War II. Web. 20 Mar. 2016. <http://www.saint-petersburg.com/history/great-patriotic-war-and-siege-of-leningrad/>.