In early September 1941 the Siege of Leningrad by the German Army Group North began. The Germans cut off the city from outside aid by severing it’s main rail line from Moscow, thus leaving the citizens of Leningrad to fend for themselves. The Germans proceeded to attack other rail lines and bombard various targets within the city with artillery in order to terrorize Leningraders with the hopes of eventually provoking a surrender. In doing so the Germans had encircled the city and cut off Leningrad’s lines of communication. By November there was virtually no feasible way to transport supplies into Leningrad other than across a frozen lake which was often subject to strafing runs by German planes.
The people of Leningrad were reduced to eating anything they could find (rodents, dogs, cats, bark, glue, and even human flesh) due to the continuous reduction of food rations in the city. In January of 1943 the inhabitants of Leningrad were able to break the encirclement of the city during operation Iskra, in which the Red Army was able to destroy German fortifications at the outskirts of the city in order to provide a route through which supplies could be transported. However, it would be another year before the siege completely ended. By the time time the siege was finally over in January of 1944, over 1,000,000 people had died as a result of starvation, exhaustion, or defending the city from attacks.
The siege of Leningrad is believed to be the largest loss of life ever incurred on a modern city with death estimates ranging from 1 million to over 4 million. Despite this massive loss of life, the ability of the inhabitants of Leningrad to keep control of their city combined with the victory at Stalingrad would prove to be a crucial turning point for the Allied forces in the European campaign during the Second World War.
Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: A History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. 375-382. Print.