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The diary of Tanya Savicheva, a girl of 11, her notes about starvation and deaths of her sister, then grandmother, then brother, then uncle, then another uncle, then mother. The last three notes say “Savichevs died”, “Everyone died” and “Only Tanya is left.” She died of progressive dystrophy shortly after the siege. Her diary was shown at the Nuremberg trials.

The Siege of Leningrad

When Germans encircled Leningrad they planned to quickly freeze and starve the city. They had no idea the devastation and horror that the people of Leningrad would be willing to endure without ever giving in. The siege is one of the longest in history and one of the deadliest as well.

Leningrad, the old imperial capital, was the most beautiful city in Russia and had for centuries been her cultural heartland. Founded as Czar Peter the Great?s window on the West, it had known many agonies throughout its turbulent history, but in 1941 geography and pragmatic military strategy would see Leningrad engulfed in a tragedy unparalleled in modern history.

With most of Europe already under the heel of Nazi Germany, Hitler turned his attention eastward toward the vast expanse of the Soviet Union and on the morning of June 22, 1941, launched Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of Russia. Spearheaded by three Army groups, German forces stormed across the Russian frontier and completely overwhelmed the Red Army units in their path. With clinical precision, the world?s largest army was being systematically annihilated and, after just 18 days of fighting, the Russians had lost over three million men, 6,000 tanks, and most of their aircraft.

Germany and her allies attempted to strangle the life out of the historic Soviet city of Leningrad – the heart of the Russian Revolution

It would be no exaggeration to say that the family of every native citizen of St. Petersburg was touched by the blockade, which lasted almost 900 days, from September, 1941 to January, 1944. During that time nearly a third of the population at the siege?s beginning, starved to death. Roughly one in three. Many of them in the streets.

Few people outside realised what the siege was like. For years afterwards Stalin kept?people in the dark. Deaths were underestimated. Its party leaders were purged. For decades, details of the blockade have been little known in the West. Stalin suppressed the facts of the siege and twisted its history.

Many in Leningrad had expected the Germans to attack and occupy the city. However, a resolute Russian defence and inadequate German manpower, meant that the Germans could not successfully achieve this ? hence the siege.?By September 8th, German tanks were just 10 miles from Leningrad and the city was cut-off from the rest of Russia by any form of land communication. Supply lines existed in the air and by river ? but both were under constant attack. The Germans continually bombarded the city, putting out of action power stations that supplied Leningrad with electricity. The city also quickly became short of food.

When the Germans invaded Russia the population of Leningrad was about 2,500,000. However, as the Germans advanced into Russia, a further 100,000 refugees entered the city. The area that the city authorities controlled produced just 1/3rd of what was needed for grain, 1/3rd of what was needed for coal, 1/12th of what was needed for sugar and half of what was needed with regards to meat ? if the supply lines could be kept open. On September 12th, those in charge of the city estimated that they had the following supplies:

flour for 35 days

cereals for 30 days

meat for 33 days

fats for 45 days

sugar for 60 days

The nearest rail head outside of the city was about 100 miles to the east at Tikhvin ? but this was soon to fall to the Germans on November 9th. By mid-September (two weeks into the siege), Leningrad was effectively surrounded and cut-off from the rest of Russia with minimal food and energy supplies for her population.?While the city had a rail network of sorts, Stalin ordered that all vital goods in the city that could help defend Moscow be moved out of Leningrad and to the capital.

Rationing had been introduced almost immediately. Soldiers and manual workers got the most of what was available, followed by office workers then by non-working dependents and children. The city authorities found it difficult to grasp just how serious their situation was. While certain food was rationed, restaurants continued to serve non-rationed food in their ?normal? way. The authorities also failed to inform people in Leningrad just how much food there was ? this was probably done so as not to panic people, but if people had known the true situation, they could have planned accordingly. The number of shops handling food was drastically cut to allow for better control ? but it also meant that people had to queue for much longer. There is also evidence that money could buy food away from rationing and the black market thrived where it could away from prying eyes.

It was horrific. The siege of Leningrad (the modern-day St. Petersburg) lasted almost two and one-half years and cost the lives of an estimated 1,000,000 city residents. It began on September 8, 1941 when German troops completed their encirclement of the city. As his blitzkrieg rushed towards Moscow, Hitler made the strategic decision to bypass Leningrad and strangle the city into submission rather than commit valuable resources to attacking it directly.

Hunger and cold became the city’s greatest enemies. By the end of September, the city’s oil and coal supplies were exhausted. This meant that the city was without any central heating. As the brutal Russian winter approached, water pipes froze and broke, denying the residents drinking water.

Food supplies were cut. By November, individual rations were lowered to 1/3 of the daily amount needed by an adult. The city’s population of dogs, cats, horses, rats and crows disappeared as they became the main course on many dinner tables. Reports of cannibalism began to appear. Thousands died – an estimated 11,000 in November increasing to 53,000 in December. The frozen earth meant their bodies could not be buried. Corpses accumulated in the city’s streets, parks and other open areas.

To compound the misery, the Germans incessantly bombarded the city with air and artillery attacks.

The Russian winter had one positive effect. It froze Lake Ladoga to the city’s east and created a life-line over which caravans of trucks hauled a meager amount of food and supplies. It also provided an evacuation route for thousands of the city’s weak and elderly. The loss of population through death and evacuation decreased the strain on the remaining inhabitants. Food rations were increased and the city’s situation stabilized. By January 1944, the Red Army had pushed the German army beyond Leningrad allowing the city to celebrate the end of its siege.

The fallen: Only one passer-by seems to notice these victims of the siege

The siege of Leningrad is perceived as one of the darkest moments in Russian history.

Early in Sep 1941, German troops marched in the suburbs of Leningrad while Finnish troops threatened the city from the north. The city felt the threat long ago, however, and starting early in the summer of 1941, the civilians of the city were summoned to construct an elaborate system of defenses around the city: wooden blockages, barbed wire, anti-tank ditches, and trenches of various sizes. The responsibility of defending the city was given to Georgi Zhukov. German preparations for invasion started on 4 Sep when artillery shells began to rain on the city, and aircraft dropped bombs beginning on 6 Sep. Zhukov’s preparations saved the city from a quick assault; the German troops dug in around the city, and the siege of Russia’s second largest city had begun.

Despite the constant shelling and bombing of the city, the Russia defenses fought on valiantly. On 7 Oct, Adolf Hitler and Alfred Jodl issued an order that Leningrad must be taken without giving the Russians any chance to surrender. “The Fuhrer has decided to wipe St. Petersburg off the face of the earth”, said a document from Adolf Hitler’s office. The German?Luftwaffe?had the chance to carry out Hitler’s orders first, dropping?”thousands of incendiary bombs on the Badayev warehouses, a two-hectare site of wooden buildings that held much of the city’s remaining food supplies; the next morning the whole city was suffused with the smell of burning meat, flour, lard and sugar. All food storage facilities were destroyed. The food literally burned in front of the eyes of starving people. After one bomb sugar melted into the ground and desperate citizens dug up the earth and tried to separate the sugar and earth to be able to eat the sugar. Others just mixed the sweetened dirt with flour and cooked with it.?After this disaster the people of Leningrad had only a few weeks’ supply of food left and there was little hope of receiving any more.”

There was no heat and very little electricity in the city during the siege and the winter of 1941 was the hardest winter of the siege. Temperatures dropped below -40 degrees Fahrenheit. There was no way to keep warm except by burning things in the stove. People would burn everything in their home from the shelves to the furniture. They would burn whatever clothes they were not wearing to keep warm. Then the people turned to the books in their libraries and the art on their walls. Some of the wealthy citizens of Leningrad recalled burning first editions or rare copies of books as a last resort to keep warm against the bitter cold.

The Winter War that Russia was fighting with Finland had taken a unfavorable turn for the Russians as the Finns marched toward Leningrad from the northwest. The Finnish leader Carl Gustav Emil Mannerheim halted his advance at the Finnish-Russian border of 1939 and refused to go any further. On 4 Sep, Jodl attempted to, unsuccessfully, convince Mannerheim to press on his attack to aid the German efforts in the northern arm of Operation Barbarossa. As a result, although the Finns remained a threat to the Russians until Finland left the Axis alliance in Sep 1944, the Russian defenses were able to put more focus on the German front.

Supplies were of the most critical issue in the defense of Leningrad. Rationing of food was employed immediately as the food situation took a bad start immediately after the German attack: several barges full of grain were sunk at the beginning of the siege (some were recovered by divers later during the siege to alleviate the situation), while a depot with a large stock of food burned from German bombings. The food situation never improved in the next few months, as the Russian leaders in the city feared but yet expected. Food rations had reduced several times since the beginning of the siege, and now had reached starvation levels. At the end of Dec 1941, 3,000 people starved to death daily.

People were forced to eat rats, cats, earth and glue. Some resorted to cannibalism. One mother fed her 12-year-old daughter with the remains of her dead three-year-old daughter, to save at least one child. Dead bodies littered the streets of Leningrad for days as the survivors were too weak to bury the dead.

The official daily ration was 125 grams of bread, about the weight of a bar of soap. Leningrad’s ?supplemented it with anything they could: with everything from the birdseed to the canary itself.”

They scraped wallpaper down and ate the paste, which was supposedly made from potatoes. They extracted the same paste from bookbindings, or drank it straight from the glue jar. They boiled leather belts and briefcases to make an edible jelly, and plucked and pickled grasses and weeds.

They ate cats and dogs, petroleum jelly and lipstick, spices and medicines, fur coats and leather caps. Some made face-powder pancakes; others munched grimy crystallized sugar, dug out from under the sugar warehouses leveled by German firebombs.?Historians have recorded 22 different dishes made out of pigskin and have collected menus from military factory cafeterias where choices ranged from fern-leaf soup to puree of nettles and milk-curd pancakes.

A starving man holds his daily ration in his hand.

Four Train Cars of Cats Were Brought to Save the Food Supplies

It might seem like they were meant as food but when cats were shipped by train to be sent to Leningrad it was not as a means for food. The cats were meant to save the little food that the city had. The besieged city had one substantial problem (of many) in 1942 that was making survival hard and that was rats. With the number of dead bodies in the streets (the ground was frozen during the winter and they could not be buried or people were too weak to dig graves) rats were flourishing. There were several attempts to catch and kill the rats, but reports credit the roving gangs of rats as ?organized, intelligent and brutal.? Nothing worked and the rats often found their way to the mill to eat the small bit of food that was found there.

By this time starvation through the winter meant that most citizens had eaten their cats (families would trade cats so as not to have to eat their own pet) so there were no cats to control the rats. Once the blockade was broken in 1944 the gangs of rats had to be dealt with before they ate all the food that was now being delivered to the starved city. Four train cars of cats were sent to Leningrad. Some of the cats were just released onto the streets, others were given to residents. The beloved creatures were in such high demand after the suffering of the siege that some were willing to pay 50 rubles for one or give up some of their precious bread for a kitten.

The cats were a success and quickly dispatched of the rodent problem. Today there are even statues in Saint Petersburg (formally Leningrad) that honor the cats that helped to bring the city back from the brink of death and destruction.

In its suffering Leningrad became a source of symbolic national pride, of good conquering evil. The story of the siege is one of heroic resistance and stoical?survival but?it also one of unimaginable suffering and extreme deprivation.

In the immediate aftermath of the siege, Leningrad, awarded the Order of Lenin, was held up as the pinnacle of Soviet endurance, spirit and heroic suffering. It was given the accolade, ?Hero City?, which not even Moscow had achieved. The one million that died, did so nobly ? ?on the altar of the Motherland?. Those who had survived were awarded the?Defence?of Leningrad Medal.

Yes, the city had?suffered but?that it survived was a testament to the political strength of its people and their belief in Communism which had triumphed over Hitler?s fascist hoards. At least that?s the version?perpetuated?by?Joseph Stalin. Leningrad?s torment became a banner for propaganda.

But there is nothing noble about death in such circumstances, nothing ideological about the city?s survival. The real stories that emerged from the siege had to be repressed. No one dared write or mention aloud the darkest aspects of the siege. Any mention of cannibalism was taboo. Diaries too explicit in the truth were confiscated, their authors labelled enemies of the people. A museum dedicated to the siege, opened in 1946, was deemed too bleak in its honest portrayal of what happened and was closed within three years, its director arrested. Stalin required suffering on a heroic scale, not the sordid, pitying suffering endured by so many for so long.

Many people kept diaries during the siege of Leningrad, they distracted themselves from their hunger, wrote down what they ate each day in detail to discipline themselves and not eat their whole ration of bread at once.? Hence, there are many personal testimonies of horror, as the opening of more Russian archives in the 1990s demonstrated.

Anna Andreievna – Manager Astoria Hotel:

“The Astoria looks like a hotel now, but you should have seen it during the famine! It was turned into a hospital – just hell. They used to bring here all sorts of people, mostly intellectuals, who were dying of hunger. Gave them vitamin tablets, tried to pep them up a bit. But a lot of them were too far gone, and died almost the moment they got here. I know what it is to be hungry. I was so weak I could, hardly walk. Had to use a walking stick to support me. My home is only mile away, in the Sadovaya…I’d have to stop and sit down every hundred yards…Took me sometimes over an hour to get home…

You don’t know what it was like. You just stepped over corpses in the street and on the stairs. You simply stopped taking any. It was no use worrying. Terrible things used to happen. Some people went quite insane with hunger. And the practice of hiding the dead somewhere in the house and using their ration cards was very common indeed. There were so many people dying all over the place authorities couldn’t keep track of all the deaths… You should have seen me in February 1942. Oh, Lord, I looked funny! My weight dropped from seventy kilos to forty kilos in four months! Now I’m back to sixty-two – feeling quite plump…”

Hitler had special plans for Leningrad, now known as St. Petersberg, a city that was once the Russian capital and the birthplace of Russian communism. He even had plans for a party at the Hotel Astoria and wanted to rename the city??Adolfsburg??? although he was also considering burning it to the ground.

Tanya Savicheva

Twelve-year old Tanya Savicheva started her diary just before Anne Frank. They were of almost the same age and wrote about the same things ? about the horrors of fascism. And, again, both these girls died without seeing victory day ? Tanya died in July of 1944 and Anne in March of 1945. ?The Diary of Anne Frank? was published all over the world and told the author?s story to many people. ?The Diary of Tanya Savicheva? was not published at all ? it contains only seven scary notes about the deaths of her family members in Leningrad at the time of the Blockade. This small notebook was presented at the Nuremberg trials as a document condemning the terrors of fascism.

Tanya was the youngest child in the family of a baker father, Nikolay Rodionovich Savichev, and a seamstress mother, Mariya Ignatievna Savicheva. Her father died when Tanya was six, leaving his widow with five children: three girls ? Tanya, Zhenya (Yevgenia) and Nina ? and two boys ? Mikhail and Leka (Leonid).

The family planned to spend the summer of 1941 in the countryside, but the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union on 22 June disrupted their plans. All, except Mikhail (Misha), who had already left, decided to stay in Leningrad. Each of them worked to support the army: Mariya Ignatievna sewed uniforms, Leka worked as a plane operator at the Admiralty Plant, Zhenya worked at the munitions factory, Nina worked at the construction of city defences, and Uncle Vasya and Uncle Lesha served in the anti-aircraft defence. Tanya, then 11 years old, dug trenches and put out firebombs. One day Nina went to work and never came back; she was sent to Lake Ladoga and then urgently evacuated. The family was unaware of this and thought she had died.

After a few days in memory of Nina, Mariya Ignatievna gave to Tanya a small notebook that belonged to her sister and that would later become Tanya’s diary. Tanya had a real diary once, a thick notebook in which she recorded everything important in her life. She burned it when nothing was left to heat the stove in winter, but she spared her sister’s notebook.

Tanya first wrote in the diary on 28 December; her account was about her older sister, Zhenya. Each day she rose before the sun and walked seven kilometers to the plant, where she worked for two shifts every day making mine cases. After the work, she would donate blood. Her weakened body could not endure the repeated donations, and she died at the plant where she worked. Shortly thereafter, most of Tanya’s family also died in succession – her grandmother Yevdokiya Grigorievna, her brother Leka, two of her uncles, and finally her mother.

In August 1942, Tanya was one of the 140 children who were rescued from Leningrad and brought to the village of Krasny Bor. Anastasiya Karpova, a teacher in the Krasny Bor orphanage, wrote to Tanya’s brother Mikhail, who happened to be outside of Leningrad in 1941: “Tanya is now alive, but she doesn’t look healthy. A doctor, who visited her recently, says she is very ill. She needs rest, special care, nutrition, better climate and, most of all, tender motherly care.” Tanya never found out that not all the Savichevs died. Her sister Nina was saved and transported away from the front line. In 1945, she returned to her home city, to her house. There, amidst bare walls and complete ruin, she found Tanya?s notebook. Tanya?s brother Misha also survived after suffering severe injuries at the war.

Tanya herself was discovered by special nursing brigades who went around the houses of Leningrad . She was barely alive. Along with about 140 children who were in a similar state, she was transported to Gorkovskaya region, to a village called Shatki. The villagers gave the children what they could and tried to make them feel better. Many of the children did get better and were able to stand and walk again, finally. But Tanya could not. Doctors battled for her life for two years, but could not do anything against the deadly processes that began in her body. Tanya?s arms and legs shook, she had horrible pains in her head. Tanya died on the 1st?of July 1944. She was buried at the village cemetery.

Year two of the siege: Leningrad residents must leave their homes following an air raid | Photo: RIA Novosti archive image

In 2015, President Vladimir Putin wrote?an article for Russky Pioner?(Russian Pioneer) magazine, describing the hardships his parents went through during World War II. The Russian leader also recounted the fate of his brother and wrote about why neither his father nor his mother never felt any hatred towards German soldiers.

Vladimir Putin’s parents suffered terribly during the siege. His father was the sole survivor of an NKVD commando unit and was permanently wounded. His father found Putin’s mother in the mortuary, expected to die, and got her out of there and back to life. His 3 yr old brother Victor died of starvation and dysentery.

During?the Siege of Leningrad, Putin?s brother succumbed to diphtheria, and his parents didn?t even know where he was buried. It was only several years later that they learned the boy was interred at Piskarevskoye Cemetery, which became the final resting place for over 500,000 people in the years of the Siege ?? both soldiers fallen in battle and civilians who died of disease and starvation.

Putin also told the story of his mother?s almost miraculous salvation. While returning home from the hospital, as he approached his apartment block, his father saw paramedics taking out corpses on stretchers, and recognized his wife among the perished. Convinced that she was still alive, he asked the paramedics to stop, but they replied she wouldn?t make it and would ?pass over along the way.?

?He told me he lashed out at them with his crutches and made them lift her back to their apartment,? wrote Putin, adding that his father had nursed her back to health and that she had lived to see 1999. His father passed away one year earlier.

Vladimir Putin relates that his father had six brothers and five of them died in the war. Some of his mother?s relatives were also killed in the conflict. At the same time, he emphasized that his parents had no hatred for the German soldiers. ?How can anyone hate those soldiers? They were ordinary people and they also died in battle. (…) They are labourers, just like us. They were sent to the front too,? his mother told him.

Belle The Hippo During The Siege Of Leningrad. Of all the horrors of war, a destitute hippo is one of the last sights you?d expect to see.?Belle survived the war thanks to her caretaker, Yevdokia Dashina. In 1941 water was turned off throughout the city and Belle?s pool was empty, so her skin began to dry out and crack. Every day, Dashina would drag a 40-liter barrel of water from the Neva river and rub the suffering hippo with camphor oil. Eventually, Belle?s skin healed and she was able to hide underwater through the air raids.?

An adult hippo should receive from 36 to 40 kg of feed. But during the blockade she ate 4-6 kg of a mixture of herbs, vegetables and press cake, adding there 30 kg filings, just to fill her stomach. (The zoo workers also shared their rations with the animals.) If you see this picture of Belle from 1935 you can tell that she lost a lot of weight. So she probably didn?t have ?enough to eat?, but enough not to starve to death.

Irina Bogdanova, who was eight and was left alone in the family flat when her mother, aunt and grandmother died one by one from dysentery in February, 1942. She was found ten days later and handed in to an orphanage where she woke up to realise that the girl sharing her bed was dead. The days Irina spent along with her dead family were a total blank.

The toll of that first winter is staggering. Leningrad was totally unprepared for siege – as Russia was for the German attack. It took only 12 weeks for the German and Finnish armies to cut off the city. In that time the evacuation of civilians and obtaining of food supplies were hugely bungled.

Andrei Zhdanov, the city?s Communist Party chief, actually telephoned Stalin to tell him that their warehouses were full – in order that he should look prepared. So several relief food trains were diverted elsewhere.?Over a million children and dependants were still in the city when the ring closed. In all there were 3.3?million mouths to feed.

Quite soon the bread ration had to be halved. By mid-November manual workers received 250?grams a day, the rest only half of that. But the bread had been adulterated with pine shavings. So people were existing (or failing to) on 400, even 300 calories.?Pet owners swapped cats in order to avoid eating their own. There wasn?t a dog to be seen. Only the zoo preserved its star attractions, like ?Beauty? the hippopotamus, with special rations of hay.?People searched desperately for substitute food. Cottonseed cake (usually burned in ships? boilers), ?macaroni? made from flax seed for cattle, ?meat jelly? produced from boiling bones and calf skins, ?yeast soup? from fermented sawdust, joiners? glue boiled and jellified, toothpaste, cough mixture and cold cream – anything that contained calories.

Next to food itself, a ration card became the most valuable item in Leningrad. Not having one was a virtual death sentence. The black market provided many illegal vouchers, forcing Pavlov to take drastic measures to ensure that every one in use belonged to the rightful owners. The clampdown uncovered more than 300,000 unauthorized cards. As the siege worsened, anyone caught using a forged card or one belonging to a dead relative faced possible execution.

Most in Leningrad understood why supplies were so scarce and carried themselves with great dignity, courage, and compassion. They knew that no one could help them, and they tried to make rations go further. Half the food they ate was nearly inedible. In spite of Zhdanov?s security measures, the social fabric of the city was unraveling as gnawing hunger, bitter cold, and savage German shelling drove many to the brink of insanity. The people resorted to eating anything to fill their stomachs?wallpaper, leather, plaster, pets.

Throughout the city, gangs of murderers began roaming the streets targeting the old and frail for food and ration cards, but it was not only criminals and deserters who resorted to violence. With thousands of people dying of hunger every day, many decent citizens also found themselves capable of unspeakable acts to survive. One girl pulled out her dead father?s gold teeth to barter for food. Trade in human flesh was not uncommon, and in an insidious development, small children were thought to have been kidnapped and eaten.

As the weeks passed without relief, people became susceptible to disease and quickly died. A bout of diarrhea was often fatal. Every day the temperature dropped and the number of corpses on the streets increased. There seemed to be a macabre order in which starvation gathered its grim harvest. Men would go before women, healthy people succumbed before the chronically ill, and the very young slipped away before the very old. ?Today it is simple to die,? wrote Yelena Skrybina. ?You just begin to lose interest, then you lie on the bed and you never again get up.? A city of music, gaiety, and culture was rapidly being transformed into a massive frozen tomb from which there was no escape. A pall of utter despair had descended over Leningrad. The city of life was dying.

The Germans had methodically sealed off all land avenues and, as the days grew colder and food supplies dried up, Lake Ladoga offered the only hope of survival. When the lake finally froze, a road 20 to 30 miles long was built over it to bring in food from the outside. On November 20, the first convoy set out with 350 horse-drawn sleighs. Eventually, over one thousand sleighs would be utilized, but their cargo would barely meet Leningrad?s needs. When the ice had hardened enough, convoys of trucks replaced sleighs, but many broke through the surface and sank.

The fate of millions rested with the ice road, or the ?road of life? as it became known. The city, however, required a minimum of 1,000 tons of food a day and the road of life averaged barely a third of this.?Tens of thousands were soon being evacuated across the ice, which allowed more food for the rest, but in reality the people were still going to starve to death. It would just take a little longer. In November, 11,000 died and in December the figure rose to nearly 53,000, yet rations had to be brutally cut again. At this time, people began dying so quickly that mountains of bodies were soon choking the city. Graves were rarely dug as few had the strength to dig them, so thousands of corpses, often carried on children?s sleds, were simply dumped in the snow, in the streets, or piled at the cemetery. Those who had transported the victims often fell dead themselves. Finally, Army sappers began to blow huge communal graves to accommodate the dead. Nonetheless, many would remain forgotten and unburied until the spring thaw.

By 1944, Army Group North, bled white in battle and harassed by ceaseless partisan operations, was in no condition to withstand a major attack. The Red Army had seized the strategic initiative and in January launched its winter offensive to drive the Germans from Leningrad. After days of heavy combat, Soviet troops finally succeeded in breaking the German stranglehold on the city. On January 27, 1944, after almost 900 days, the siege was lifted. The nightmare was over.

After three years of war, Leningrad bore little resemblance to the grandiose city of prewar 1941. Historic buildings had been destroyed, the streets were piled with rubble, and over 15 million square feet of housing lay in ruins. The human cost had been appalling. ?Western scholars believe it approached nearly 1.5 million, while Red Army losses were estimated to be in excess of 3.4 million.?All others had died or been evacuated. For the credit of the people of Leningrad, they never gave up and even as they were starving they did everything they could to help the army defeat the Germans.

Liberation for some brought temporary relief from scars that would never heal. Others felt elation and a rekindled love of life, but many were left harboring an unbearable sadness. They had lost everything that really mattered?their wives, their husbands, their children.

Despite Joseph Stalin?s attempts to downplay the city?s role in the Great Patriotic War, the devastating Battle of Leningrad stands as a lasting testament to the spirit, self-sacrifice, and heroism of the Leningraders themselves and the pivotal role they played in the war?s final outcome. No city in modern times had ever suffered more, and never had a city?s population risen in triumph over such overwhelming odds. ?If you make nails of these people,? one Leningrader wrote, ?there will be no harder nails in the world.?

The full horror of the siege of Leningrad is finally revealed

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