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- Two women collect the remains of a dead horse for food, Siege of Leningrad, 1941
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Eastern front 1941 manual meat
The siege lasted from September 8, , to January 27, , and was one of the longest and most destructive sieges in history, devastating the city of Leningrad.
As Soviet records during the war were incomplete, the ultimate number of casualties during the siege is disputed. After the war, the Soviet government reported about , registered deaths from to January , explained as resulting mostly from starvation, stress and exposure. Some independent studies suggest a much higher death toll of between , and 1. Many of these victims, estimated at being at least half a million, were buried in the Piskarevskoye Cemetery.
Hundreds of thousands of civilians who were unregistered with the city authorities and lived in the city before the war, or had become refugees there, perished during the siege with no record at all. About half a million people, both military and civilians, from Latvia, Estonia, Pskov and Novgorod, fled from the advancing Nazis and came to Leningrad at the beginning of the war.
The flow of refugees to the city stopped with the beginning of the siege. During the siege, part of the civilian population was evacuated from Leningrad, although many died in the process.
Unregistered people died in numerous air-raids and from starvation and cold while trying to escape from the city. Their bodies were never buried or counted under the severe circumstances of constant bombing and other attacks by the Nazi forces.
Two women collect the remains of a dead horse for food, Siege of Leningrad, 1941
The total number of human losses during the 29 months of the siege of Leningrad is estimated as 1. Among them were soldiers, workers, surviving children and women.
German Winter on the Eastern Front 1941-42 - Wehrmacht, Operation Barbarossa 32530a HD
Of the , survivors, about , were soldiers who came from other parts of the country to help in the besieged city. By the end of the siege, Leningrad had become an empty "ghost-city" with thousands of ruined and abandoned homes. After heavy German bombing in August, September, and October , all main food warehouses were destroyed and burned in massive fires. Huge amounts of stored food reserves, such as grain, flour and sugar, as well as other stored food, were completely destroyed.
In one instance, melted sugar from the warehouses had flowed through the floors into the surrounding soil. Desperate citizens began digging up the frozen earth in an attempt to extract the sugar. This soil was on sale in the 'Haymarket' to housewives who tried to melt the earth to separate the sugar or to others who merely mixed this earth with flour. Soon all restaurants closed, food rationing became the only way to save lives, money became obsolete. The carnage in the city from shelling and starvation especially in the first winter was appalling.
At least nine of the staff at the seedbank set up by Nikolai I.
Eastern Front 1941 (Atari)
Vavilov starved to death surrounded by edible seeds so that its more than , items would be available to future generations. It was calculated that the provisions both for army and civilians would last as follows on September 12, :. Rations of meat and groats were also reduced, but the issue of sugar, confectionery and fats was increased instead. The army and the Baltic Fleet had some emergency rations, but these were not sufficient, and were used up in weeks.
The flotilla of Lake Ladoga was not well equipped for war, and was almost destroyed in bombing by the German Luftwaffe. Several barges with grain were sunk in Lake Ladoga in September alone, later recovered from the water by divers.
This grain was delivered to Leningrad at night, and was used for baking bread. When the city ran out of reserves of malt flour, other substitutes, such as finished cellulose and cotton-cake, were used. Oats meant for horses were also used, while the horses were fed wood leaves. When 2, tons of mutton guts had been found in the seaport, a food grade galantine was made of them.
When the meat became unavailable, it was replaced by that galantine and by stinking [ clarification needed ] calf skins , which many survivors remembered until the end of their lives.
During the first year of the siege, the city survived five food reductions: two reductions in September , one in October, and two reductions in November. The effects of starvation lead to the consumption of zoo animals and household pets. People began to strip the walls of rooms, removing the paste, and boiling it to make soup.
Old leathers were also boiled and eaten.
Effect of siege on Leningrad
The Nazis cut almost all supplies to Leningrad, garment industries and retailers closed, most schools as well as most public services became obsolete, causing a massive exodus of women and children. During all three winters of the siege —42, —43, and —44 , water pipelines were constantly destroyed by the bombing and artillery bombardments. Women sought water under the icy ground.
During the siege, winters were the time of the highest mortality rates among the civilian population.
Tens of thousands of civilians froze to death in Leningrad. Due to a lack of power supplies, many factories were closed down and, in November, all public transportation services became unavailable.
The construction of the pre-war designed metro system was stopped, some unfinished tunnels were used as public shelters during aerial bombing and artillery bombardments.
The use of power was forbidden everywhere except at the General Staff headquarters, Smolny , district committees, air defense bases, and in some other institutions. By the end of September, oil and coal supplies had run out.
The only energy option left was to fell trees. Almost all public transportation in Leningrad was destroyed as a result of massive air and artillery bombardments in August—September Three million people were trapped in the city. Leningrad, as a main military-industrial center in Russia, was populated by military-industrial engineers, technicians, and other workers with their civilian families. The only means of evacuation was on foot, with little opportunity to do so before the expected encirclement by the Wehrmacht and Finnish forces.
Most industrial capacities, engines and power equipment, instruments and tools, were moved by the workers. Some defense industries, such as the LMZ , the Admiralty Shipyard , and the Kirov Plant , were left in the city, and were still producing armor and ammunition for the defenders. Evacuation was organized by Kliment Voroshilov and Georgi Zhukov and was managed by engineers and workers of Leningrad's 86 major industries, which were themselves also evacuated from the city, by using every means of transportation available.
The total number of civilians evacuated was about 1. Severe destruction of homes was caused by the Nazi bombing, as well as by daily artillery bombardments. Major destruction was done during August and September , when artillery bombardments were almost constant for several weeks in a row.
Regular bombing continued through , , and Most heavy artillery bombardments resumed in , and increased six times in comparison with the beginning of the war. Hitler and the Nazi leadership were angered by their failure to take Leningrad by force. Hitler's directive No. Petersburg must be erased from the face of the Earth" and "we have no interest in saving lives of the civilian population.
The Siege of Leningrad's blockade lasted about days. The city sustained damage due to artillery attacks, air raids, and the struggle of famine. Although the city took significant damage, Alexander Werth, a Leningrad native, claims the city took less damage than any other major city affected by the war.
Cities like Rotterdam , Warsaw , and Coventry sustained far more damage than Leningrad did. Leningrad suffered less damage than most German occupied USSR cities, such as Stalingrad , which later was burned to ashes. They also targeted their infrastructure, destroying streets and water and sewage pipes.
Eastern Front 1941
Not all houses were destroyed but every single structure had some kind of damage to it that gives each house a historic-artistic value. Since the city was blockaded, nothing can move in or out of the city. The only time people could get food delivered was when Lake Ladoga froze over and soldiers could come in to help the civilians.
Public utilities were completely cut off from Leningrad.
The resistance of the surviving civilian population of Leningrad provided crucial support for military operations during the battle of Leningrad. The total number of civilian volunteers helping the military is estimated to be equal to the number of civilians left in the city — about , of them were fire-watching.
Many women and children risked their lives helping military operations at the front line. The Nazis had a special intelligence unit that operated in secrecy, focused on causing more death and destruction in Leningrad through sabotage to destroy the morale and spirit of its citizens. Some of the Nazi secret agents were arsonists, arrested while setting fires at storage facilities.
Water and food supplies were often found poisoned by the Nazis who had infiltrated the city. Volunteer militia brigades were involved in assisting civilians — mainly women and children.
While the population of Leningrad was depressed by the long and exhausting siege, people still tried to lift their spirits in the time when they were struggling to survive. The popular film star Boris Babochkin made many visits to the city. He gave numerous stage performances; he delivered several copies of the classic film Chapayev , which was a highly popular movie.
Symphony performances for survivors of the siege were rare, but attendance was high, regardless of the risks and exhaustion of everybody. Perhaps the most important booster of morale was Shostakovich's Seventh Symphony , entitled "Leningrad". The symphony did much to raise the spirits of the defenders. At its Leningrad premiere , Marshal Zhukov ensured that what was called the "eighty minutes of silence," when the soldiers at the Front did their utmost to stop the city bombing so as to not interrupt the performance.
At rare times when music was not broadcast, a metronome was placed before the radio microphone to assure the people that the resistance was ongoing.
Eastern Front Maps of World War II
Poets Olga Bergholz and Anna Akhmatova contributed their talents to support the morale of civilians and military personnel fighting in the city. Following Germany's capitulation in May , a concerted effort was made in Germany to search for the collections removed from the museums and palaces of Leningrad's surrounding areas during the war.
In September , the Leningrad Philharmonic returned to the city from Siberia where it was evacuated during the war to give its first peacetime concert performances. For the defense of the city and tenacity of the civilian survivors of the siege, Leningrad was the first city in the former Soviet Union to be awarded the title of Hero City in Economic and human losses caused incalculable damage to the city's historic sites and cultural landmarks, with much of the damage still visible today.
Some ruins are preserved to commemorate those who gave their lives to save the city. As of , there were still empty spaces in St. Petersburg suburbs where buildings had stood before the siege. The siege caused major trauma for several generations after the war. Petersburg as the cultural capital, suffered incomparable human losses and the destruction of famous landmarks.
While conditions in the city were appalling and starvation was constantly with the besieged, the city resisted for nearly three years.