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siege of Leningrad

The siege of Leningrad was a consequence of Adolf Hitler's incursion into the Soviet Union during Operation Barbarossa. Although one of the most tragic periods of World War II, the siege (or Blokada) was also a triumph in spirit against the brutal circumstances of battle.

No less than two months after Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union, Nazi troops were already approaching Leningrad on maneuvers to take Moscow. Three million residents and soldiers were encircled and entrapped by the the German Sixth Army, and the Russian Red Army was overpowered. On September 8, 1941, the Nazis began surrounding Leningrad and launched their siege on the urban port city. The entire population of Leningrad was enlisted to fortify the city's perimeters in support of the 200,000-strong Red Army.

By November, the city was completely surrounded and isolated from the rest of the Soviet Union. In addition, all rail connections and roadways were severed; the Nazis effectively blockaded all supply routes into and out of the city. As a result, all public transportation ceased, and food and fuel stocks became very limited. By the winter of 1941, there was no heating, no water supply, virtually no electricity, and very little food for the more than 3 million residents and soldiers.

By January 1942, food rations had sunk to only 125 grams (or a quarter of a pound) of bread per person, per day. People starved, froze, drowned, were run over by tanks, walked into mine fields, succumbed to a wide range of disease, were murdered by German soldiers, and sometimes were caught in artillery fire. Many times, if the Nazis did not kill residents, the communists would. In the two months of January and February 1942, more than 200,000 people perished of cold (at times -30°C) and starvation. Yet the production of military arms continued, and tanks rolled off the assembly line directly into combat.

Despite their hardships, the Red Army and the citizens of Leningrad refused to surrender. Fighting on the front continued, supported by the inhabitants, who did everything from digging ditches to caring for the wounded—in the midst of their own struggle to survive.

In an attempt to stave off further catastrophe, several thousand people were evacuated from Leningrad across the frozen Lake Lagoda via the "road of life." It was the only route that remained open; however, it was under constant Nazi bombardment. The Soviets were also able to acquire supplies through the same route.

By January 1943, the siege was broken, and a year later on January 27, 1944, it was completely lifted. In all, more than 1.5 million Soviet civilians and soldiers were killed, but ultimately, it was the Nazis who met their demise. The people of Leningrad did not merely endure; they prevailed against incredible odds.

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