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A City Under Nazi Siege: Leningrad and Cannibalism, 1941
During WW2, in 1941, the German army had fairly quickly reached the outskirts of Russia's urban area, Leningrad. The rapid collapse of the Russian armies that tried to slow their advance down had only bought time for those in the rear. The Germans were vastly superior to the Russians in 1941 in just about all categories. At the time, America was not even in the war.
Of course, the German generals knew that fighting and defeating the Russians in the field was far different than conducting house to house fighting for an urban area like Leningrad, so the German juggernaut began to slow as it crept closer and closer to it in September. The Russian authorities in the city had take truly some Draconian measures to ensure Leningrad would not fall to the Germans at the expense of its millions of inhabitants. But, the failure of the Germans in taking the city is misleading. Much of the reasons for the city to lay under German siege for over two years is Hitler. At first, he insisted on taking, then, he changed his mind and changed army directives hoping authorities would surrender. Then, there was the issue of long supply lines and keeping German troops on the front lines clothed and fed. Hitler no longer sought to take the city as bad as say, Stalingrad, a year later. Had the Germans really wanted it, it could have been theirs. Russian troops and rearguards holding the line around the city were ragtag in comparison. The city officials did many odd things as the Germans edged closer:
- All inhabitants had to hand in any city maps, radios, guidebooks
- All street signs were removed
- All private phone service cutoff
- 50,000 civilians were sent to the front to dig huge trenches
- All children were evacuated to east Russia
- Much of the city's water and electricity was cutoff
- Food was stockpiled in warehouses and troops on the frontlines got food first before civilians
- Because of food issues, over 750,000 starved
- Thousands were jailed or deported who had foreign connections or knew a foreign language
What is even more horrible is the ordeal of those who survived on:
- cotton seed cakes
- sheep guts
- calf skins
- fermented birch sawdust turned into yeast extract and made soup
- chewed leather from boiled boots
- eat rats
And when one did die, their body was left to rot or be eaten-not by dogs-by humans. It truly was a Day of the Dead. Bodies would be dug up from their graves and eaten. Hospital staff took home amputated limbs for dinner. Unsuspected persons would be lured somewhere (no doubt fat and plump) murdered and eaten. The police still attempted to maintain law and order making over 2000 arrests for cannibalism, which is much lower than reality.
Leningrad was no longer under siege in late 1942, those who had survived no doubt had tales of horror to keep secret.