Siege of Leningrad

For those who are unaware, Leningrad is now known as St. Petersburg. During World War 2 Leningrad was put under siege by the German army, the siege lasted 900 days. Hitler planned to stay at the Astoria Hotel once he took over the city, which never happened. When I was in St. Petersburg I had the opportunity to visit the museum for the siege, which like most Russian memorials was very good.

Here is some history of the siege: On June 22, 1941 Hitler’s secret plan for the invasion of the Soviet Union, Operation Barbarossa began. The Russians were slow to respond and within 4 months the Germans were outside Moscow and laid siege on Leningrad in September 1941. To counter the effects of the German invasion Stalin released restrictions on the church and appealed to patriotism to rally for the cause – the Russians are good at rallying and being treated badly. Russians were able to bring in some supplies and do some evacuation of the city via Lake Ladoga by watercraft in the summer and ice/snow road in the winter, though this was very dangerous. Leningrad held out for 900 days, but never surrendered. As many as a million people may have died during the siege.

On my tour we first stopped at the Siege of Leningrad Memorial, which is quite grand and respectful of those who lived it. Downstairs they have a museum, they showed a video, without sound, of the hardships the residents of Leningrad, our tour guide explained everything in the video. The city was under siege for 900 days, and over 1 million people died, despite the fact that many people were able to leave the city. At one point the daily rations consisted of 175grams (a small loaf of wonder white bread is 340 grams) of sawdust laden bread people supplemented by eating pets, rats, birds, wallpaper paste, leather belts and eventually some resorted to cannibalism. Some days as many as 30,000 people died, many just falling over in the street. Despite the hardships they never surrendered and human spirit remained alive, including acts of kindness. It was a very moving experience and the museum gave a good reference of life under the siege, even though it was so harsh that one could barely imagine what it would be like.

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