German-Russian Siege of Leningrad

By the June of 1941, Germany felt invincible, as much of the west was under their control, with the exception of Britain, she who was surrounded by water on all sides and Russia.

Hitler and Nazi Germany turned their forces on Russia on the 22nd June 1941, as some three million German soldiers, streamed across the Soviet border heading eastwards to Volga, giving Stalin no option but to retreat as the Soviet Union was cut in two.

Hitler, was well aware that any battle against the Soviet Union, Leningrad would play a key objective, for it was the home base of Russia’s Baltic Fleet.

On the 31st August 1941, German forces captured the town of Mga, cutting off Leningrad’s last remaining rail connection, next they took Shlisselburg cutting off the last open roadway.  By the 8th September, their only connection to the outside world was by water; via Lake Ladoga.  Leningrad had been completely encircled by Germans and Finnish allies from the north.

The German advance carried on until late September when Soviet forces brought a halt to Russian forces, in the northern suburbs of Leningrad.  The German army became bottled up in trench warfare, which led Hitler to change strategy as he prepared his forces to settle in for a siege.  Hitler sent out an order, that surrender negotiations were to be ignored, since he had no intention of feeding Leningrad’s three million strong, city’s population, he would simply wait for them to starve to death.

The German forces had started a military campaign, shelling Leningrad into submission.  Germany’s Luftwaffe air force conducted regular bombing raids on the city. An incendiary attack took place on September 8th, causing many fires and destruction of oil and food supplies.  On September 19th 2,500 high explosive and incendiary bombs were dropped on Leningrad.

Enemy fire would be responsible for the killing or wounding some 50,000 civilians during the siege.  Leningrad faced a most serious problem; 600,000 evacuated before Germans had sealed city off, with a further 2.5 million still remaining in the city.  Soviets had no choice, but to bring in fresh food supplies across Lake Ladoga.  Food and fuel arrived by barge until the lake froze, when trucks were used.  By November, food shortages saw the city rations cut to 250 grams, and children and elderly reduced to 125 grams per person.  It is believed as much as 100,000 starved each and every month of the siege.

The city of Leningrad held out against the Nazi siege, and in 1942, the Soviets evacuated 500,000 civilians across the lake.  By January of 1943, the Red Army had built a special railway link, and by the end of the year, close to 500 million tons of food had been shuttled into Leningrad.

The long-awaited breakthrough came in early 1944, as 1.25 million men and 1600 tanks over ran German lines.  On the 27th January 1944, Leningrad was free.

The Soviet’s counter-offensive carried them to the west, meeting the Anglo-American troops who had landed in Normandy in the June of 1944.

By the April of 1945, the Russians were in Berlin and Hitler’s Third Reich was destroyed and the Second World War came to an end on the 7th May 1945, and came into effect at midnight on the 8th May 1945.

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