When the German High Command encircled Leningrad it was a deliberate policy to eradicate the city’s civilian population by starving them to death. As winter set in and food supplies dwindled, starvation and panic set in.
A specialist in battle psychology and the vital role of morale in desperate circumstances, Michael Jones tells the human story of Leningrad. Drawing on newly available eyewitness accounts and diaries, he shows Leningrad in its every dimension including taboo truths, long-suppressed by the Soviets, such as looting, criminal gangs and cannibalism.
But, for many ordinary citizens, Leningrad marked the triumph of the human spirit. They drew deeply on their inner resources to inspire, comfort and help one another. At the height of the siege an extraordinary live performance of Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony profoundly strengthened the city's will to resist. When German troops heard it in their trenches one remarked: ‘We began to understand we would never take Leningrad.
Yet, Leningrad’s self-defence came at a huge price. When the 900-day siege ended in 1944 almost a million people had died and those who survived would be permanently marked by what they had endured, as this superbly insightful and moving history shows.
British military historian Jones (Stalingrad) explores the physical and psychological depths of the 872-day siege of Leningrad during WWII "one of the most horrific sieges in history" in this sobering chronicle. Leningrad, a city of 2.5 million, was a major objective of Hitler because of its economic, military and symbolic significance (as the "birthplace of the Bolshevik Revolution"). Besieged and poorly served by the corrupt and incompetent city administration, Leningrad descended into starvation, "widespread looting and cannibalism" and deadly epidemics. Despite the appalling conditions, says Jones, "a remarkable humanity still survived," and Leningrad miraculously managed to hold out until the Soviet Army liberated the city in January 1944. It's likely that more than one million civilians perished during the siege. Following in the footsteps of Harrison Salisbury's classic 1969 account, The 900 Days, Jones draws extensively from the diaries of siege victims and interviews with survivors for a harrowing portrait of life reduced to a single pursuit: "the hunt for food." Readers interested in military history, the Soviet Union or the psychology of survival will appreciate this unforgettable saga. 35 b&w illus., 5 maps.